Who: Ignatius converted at a young age and later became Bishop of Antioch. A friend of Polycarp and fellow disciple of John, there is a long standing tradition that Ignatius was the child that Jesus held in his arms and blessed in Mark 10:13-16
What: A defence against the heresy of Docetism and an intriguing insight into the possible origins of evil spirits!
Why: Ignatius wrote a series of letters to the churches in Asia Minor whilst en route to Rome to face martyrdom by wild beasts in the Colosseum around 108 AD.
When: Around 107-108 AD
The opening chapters of this letter pulls no punches in regards to the heresy of Docetism. Ignatius commends this church for “being fully persuaded” in the truth of Christ – that he was born of a virgin, was baptised and truly did suffer and die on the cross for us; not, as some were saying, that “He only seemed to suffer”. To these, Ignatius says that they “only seem to be [Christians]” because of their false teaching!
He defends the resurrection by telling of how the Apostles ate and drank with, and touched the risen Christ since “He was still possessed of flesh”, but to this he also adds that he believes Jesus is still possessing a body of flesh, whilst being spiritually “united to the Father”. I'm not sure if he means this in the same way we might today when we talk about the glorified/resurrected bodies, since you don't often hear people say they are “flesh”, but it's probably just a semantics issue here.
With regards to the unbelievers who taught that Jesus wasn't really in the flesh, Ignatius gives us a strange insight into a belief about where evil spirits come from. Because they teach that Jesus only seemed to have a real body after his resurrection, so these people will also only seem to as well; they will essentially reap what they sow and “shall be divested of their bodies, and be mere evil spirits”! That is definitely an intriguing insight, but I'm not sure how common this belief was in the early church, or whether this is actually the implication that Ignatius meant.
But there is still hope for these people, and by extension, any today who preach heresy. Stay away from them, Ignatius says, and only pray to God for these people so that they may be brought to repentance, although this “will be very difficult”, but Jesus has the power to make this happen if he wills.
Following on from this there is a comment about this belief in regards to the Eucharist and how these unbelievers say that it is not “the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ” – an early reference to the doctrine of the Real Presence or maybe transubstantiation? Either way, the heretics taught that the bread and wine were not the flesh and blood and were condemned for it, which obviously has implications on those today who hold these to be merely symbols, if there's any weight to Ignatius's words or to early doctrine. It's something to ponder on at the very least.
The closing chapters are similar to the other letters: they praise the bishop and the church for their faith and for being steadfast against the heresies Ignatius condemns. Whilst the previous letters all say the same thing about listening to the bishop and to not do anything apart from him, this letter goes one further and says that, “he who does anything without the knowledge of the bishop, does [in reality] serve the devil”!
That's some strong words and really shows the emphasis on the church hierarchy in these early days, and the seriousness of the positions of these church leaders, as though they were acting in place of Jesus and the Apostles to the individual churches, which is often how Ignatius describes it.
Like the others, this letter of Ignatius really offers some interesting viewpoints to think about and maybe gives us a glimpse of where certain doctrines had their origins.
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Luke J. Wilson | 25th March 2018 | Lent
So often we hear this phrase said about Jesus, that he was “the lamb of God” and that he “takes away the sins of the world” — but what do those things mean and how did he take away sin? John 1:29The next day [John] saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (cf. Jn 1:36) The New Testament writers repeatedly refer to Jesus as a lamb; but not only that — as a ransom too. Jesus even introduces himself that way at one point: Mark 10:45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many. (cf. Matthew 20:28) To better understand the terminology and analogy we need to go back to the Torah, the Old Testament, and look at this from a Jewish perspective and what the sacrificial lamb initially meant. The main comparison that is drawn between Jesus and the old sacrifices, is that of the Passover lamb. The link between the two is really quite amazing and to be honest, I didn't realise just how much of this Jesus fulfilled in himself until I was writing this. First we need to go back to the very first Passover to see what it meant for Israel. The whole story can be found in Exodus 12, but the relevant parts to the lamb are about how it should look and be prepared, and the reason for the blood covering: Exodus 12:5-7, 13 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. […] The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. The instructions about the Passover meal also go on to say that no bones of the lamb may be broken (v. 46) and that nothing must be left overnight (v. 10). Already I’m sure you can see some of the parallels with Jesus and other prophecies and Scripture concerning him in these ways, primarily in the Psalms, and specifically John 19:33; Numbers 9:12 and Psalm 34:20 concerning his bones not being broken. But it doesn’t end there — even the day that Jesus was crucified aligned with the Passover sacrifice of the 14th of Nisan (by our calendar, April), and later died that evening. The Jews asked Pilate to let them take the bodies down that same day (which was unusual, but done because of the Sabbath), so that meant that Jesus wasn’t left overnight, thus fulfilling the obligations of the Passover ritual! The apostles obviously recognised these parallels, as they refer to them in their epistles — see 1 Peter 1:18-20, 1 Corinthians 5:7 and basically all of Revelation. But how does this help us in our sins? The Passover wasn’t a sin offering, yet somehow the death of Jesus in this way saves us from our sins. To better understand this, and to grasp why in various places Jesus is called our “ransom”, we need to go back to the reason for the original Passover, not the ritual. Passover was what God did when he delivered his people from the slavery of the Egyptians. The blood of the lamb was the symbol that they belonged to God, and so escaped death. Originally the paschal lamb was about Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and slavery, now Jesus is the greater lamb who rescues us from slavery and bondage to sin by his blood. The blood on the doorposts covered the Israelites from the angel of death, and now by Christ's blood that covers us, we are saved from eternal death (Hebrews 9:11- 14)! Paul covers this topic of sin as our master which we are slaves to quite often (Romans 6:16-18), and how through Jesus we have been set free by being baptised into his death, so that we are dead to sin and alive in Christ (Romans 6:4-6). Romans 6:11 So you also mus...
Luke J. Wilson | 18th March 2018 | Lent
Sometimes the question, or accusation/criticism maybe, is posed by atheists and critics of Christianity that Jesus didn’t really sacrifice anything because he is God and also because he got his life back three days later. So where’s the sacrifice if you know that what you give up will be given back, and given back even better than you previously had it? It’s an interesting question, and one that should cause us to stop and think about what we, as Christians, say to non-believers in case the question is ever given to us. Most people will say Jesus gave up his life for us – but is that such a big deal if he knew he’d have it back in three days; and then to be taken up to heaven and resume his Godly-divine status he had before the incarnation? Well, yes. Obviously all the pain and suffering that Jesus had to endure before his death was a big deal, and it showed, as we can see from the Gospels when Jesus says to his disciples that he is “deeply grieved, even to death” (Matt 26:38). Luke 22:42-44‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.’ Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. We can see from the quote above that Jesus really wasn’t looking forward to this, despite knowing its purpose. He even needed an angel to come to physically come to him to give him the strength to go on with this plan! Suggesting that this was a walk in the park for Jesus and making light of what he was about to go through is just ignorance of the reality of the situation. There’s also a significant detail in the Luke passage above which gives us a medical insight into what Jesus was going through in these moments: the sweat of blood. This is actually a rare condition known as Hematidrosis, and in certain conditions of extreme physical or emotional stress and/or mental anxiety, the blood vessels that feed the sweat glands break and result in actual blood seeping through. This in itself shows just how much stress Jesus was under in the lead up to his execution to cause such a thing to happen. Modern day research also shows that this condition still manifests in people awaiting execution today. So even if you knew that you would be resurrected in a few days time, I am sure that you wouldn’t really want to go through a Roman flogging and crucifixion – some of the most brutal ways to be tortured and executed in human history! There’s lots of atheist memes on the internet making digs at this idea of what it means that Jesus sacrificed himself. “Jesus came back to life, so he basically sacrificed his weekend for you”, or similar types of jabs, totally missing the point. Typical atheist meme So what did Jesus sacrifice if he only lost his life temporarily? Everything about his pre-incarnate self. Where once a spirit, now a glorified body. Where once only divine, now fully God and fully man. The incarnation had eternal consequences for the Godhead. Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t just about dying, it was about taking on our humanity eternally. The eternal God now united forever with humanity. Jesus wasn’t only the “visible image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) whilst on earth, no; he is forever that now. Like John says in his opening chapter about the coming of the Word into our world: he became flesh (John 1:14) and has stayed that way. This is the “mystery of godliness” (as some translations have it) that Paul talks about in 1 Tim 3:16, where he states that Jesus was “revealed” or “manifested in flesh” and later taken up in glory. Look at when Jesus was taken up into heaven in Acts 1:11, the angels say to the disciples watching that they will see Jesus “come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” – ie., bodily. But we know from the accounts in the Gospels that Jesus’ body was no lon...
Luke J. Wilson | 11th March 2018 | Lent
So now we are at the end of the temptations that Jesus endured in the desert, and I wanted to look at what happens at the end. So often I think this aspect is overlooked when we read of this time in Scripture. Let’s take a look at the text: Matthew 4:11Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him. Luke 4:13When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time. The two Gospel accounts both give us a varying perspective with different details. Afterwards, the devil leaves and angels “suddenly” come. This is almost a temptation in itself; one to think we are all good and safe now we've won the battles. But look: the devil left him “until an opportune time”. We are never beyond being tempted, or far from that tempter who ‘prowls around like a roaring lion’ (1 Peter 5:8). Christ withstood his temptations, and as a model for us, so can we. But it's a constant battle. 1 Corinthians 10:12So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. As Paul writes in the quote above, we must watch ourselves and not get too confident that we think we're strong enough not to get tripped up. Temptation can strike at any time, and if we're not prepared it could lead us into sin (James 1:14-15). James 1:12A man who endures trials is blessed, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him. This is why we mustn't get complacent in our situations just when it seems, or feels, like we have it all together. We must always “put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11) and make as little “opportune” times as possible for the enemy to strike at us. Remember, Jesus lived as a human to know what it was like to be a human; he went through these temptations, and others no doubt, as he lived out his life. That is why the writer of Hebrews says that he is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses” and has “in every respect has been tested as we are” — yet Jesus didn't sin (Heb 4:15). When we do get get tempted, or if we do fall into sin, we can always turn to Jesus in our moments of weakness knowing that he understands what it's like. 1 Corinthians 10:13No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. Everything we experience as humans, Jesus knows also. Although we don’t angels physically coming and waiting on us after we go through hard times, we have the Holy Spirit in us – the comforter! God’s very own Spirit is here with us through it all, helping us and convicting us to lead us back out of our complacency to the narrow path, focusing our minds back on Christ and his example. And while the devil may come and go, and wait on those “opportune times” to get at us, we shouldn’t fret or worry because God has said he will never leave nor abandon us – no matter what, God loves us and is daily conforming us into the image and mind of Christ (Rom 8:29; 12:2; Deut 31:6; Heb 13:5). Keep running the race, working out your salvation with fear and trembling and go with the love of God. Amen....
Luke J. Wilson | 04th March 2018 | Lent
Here we are at the final temptation that the devil directly attacks Jesus with (I say directly, because next week I’m going to look at the more subtle attacks and temptations we can face). Let’s begin with the text: Matthew 4:5-7 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (cf. Luke 4:9-12) There’s quite a few things wrapped up in these few short verses. For a start, the devil took Jesus to the “holy city” (ie. Jerusalem) – but whether this was in body or in spirit, we just don’t know and can’t say for certain; maybe it was in a similar way to how Philip was transported in Acts 8:39. Intrigued by this though, I decided to look up a few details to see just how far they travelled (however it happened). Jesus was baptised by John in the river Jordan, and according to Mark, the Spirit “immediately” drove Jesus into the wilderness from there (Mark 1:9, 12). According to Google maps (and more likely, Church tradition), the spot where he was baptised is close to Jericho. Directly next to this area is the Judaean Desert, which would be the wilderness where Jesus spent his time. On the other side of this desert is Jerusalem, which is about 27 miles away from the spot by the Jordan where the baptism took place. I’ve put together a quick map so you can get a better idea of locations: Approx. locations of events Anyway, I digress slightly. The point being, is that where Jesus was and where he was taken was not exactly just around the corner! Coupled with the fact that the devil took Jesus up to the pinnacle of the Temple, this was quite a journey. Now the other thing to pull out of this passage is that the word “pinnacle” here doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing as we might think of today: the top most point of something. Otherwise Jesus would be standing on the spikes of the roof! No, in this case the pinnacle means a specific wing on the top most side of the temple, most likely being Herod's royal portico which was overhanging the ravine of Kedron, at the valley of Hinnom. Now this point was so high up, and the drop below so deep, that even the first century historian Josephus makes mention of this. He wrote that, “if any one looked down from the top of the battlements, or down both those altitudes, he would be giddy”! Other commentaries say that this wing or porch was about 350 feet above the valley – so that ought to give some context about what the devil was asking of Jesus. So by this point, Satan has really amped up his game. Jesus has refuted him twice now with Scripture, and so instead, the devil takes him somewhere dangerous and then uses Scripture as part of his temptation as though to try and use Jesus’ weapon against him. This is similar to what Paul writes about the devil in 2 Cor 11:14 when he says that even Satan “disguises himself as an angel of light”. We must be ever vigilant and discerning so that we may not get tricked by misapplied and twisted Scripture. Paul again, in his wisdom, when writing to Timothy also instructed him in these things when he said to study and know the Word of God to “rightly [explain] the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). If we are immersed in the Scriptures and know them inside and out, then when things get misquoted or twisted to be applied in situations where the original context doesn’t allow, we will know it and not be led astray. This is exactly what the devil tries with Jesus. He may be quoting Scripture, but he’s using it wrong. In this passage we see that the devil quotes from Psalm 91:11-12 but with one main difference – he misses out...
Luke J. Wilson | 08th March 2021 | Etymology
For many people today, non-Christians and (low church) Christians alike, when they hear the word “Catholic”, certain images spring to mind: the Pope, the rosery, Catholic school, big old churches buildings, choirboys, maybe monks or statues of Mary even; and sadly more recently, sex abuse scandals. But, generally speaking, all of these are actually aspects of Roman Catholicism — a particular branch of Christianity, and not what the word “catholic” truly means as we’ll see when examining how the early church used the word and what the original Greek word means. καθολικός (katholikos) The Greek word where we get the English word “catholic” from is καθολικός (katholikos) meaning “universal”, which comes from the Greek phrase καθόλου (katholou), meaning “on the whole”, “according to the whole” or “in general” (catholicus in Latin). In non-ecclesiastical use, it still retained its root meaning in English in some literature from the 1800s, though that usage has fallen out of common use in modern times. The first Biblical reference to the word is found in Acts 9:31 when speaking about “the church throughout [all] Judea, Galilee, and Samaria…”. The words “throughout” and “all” are καθ (κατά) and ὅλης (ὅλος) respectively in Greek, which together come to form the word καθολικός. The earliest historical use of the word, in the context of the Church, is found in one of the letters of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans, written around A.D. 107, where he writes: Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. From here on we begin to see that the word “catholic” was used in reference to mean “orthodoxy” (the word “orthodox” means “right belief”) as opposed to the non-orthodox heretics who were then by definition not catholic as they were not ‘according to the whole’ which was, as Jude wrote, “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). The Catholic Church, in its original and Apostolic sense, would have meant the entirety of the Body of Christ across the world, i.e., all the believers wherever they may be, rather than it being “universal” in the physical sense that the institution of “church” should be all encompassing (like as an official, global institution that all must attend). The difference may be subtle, but it’s an important one. The development of doctrine about Jesus after Paul’s death, with all its commonalities and unifying features, is seen as an early form of “Catholicism” by modern scholars, which really begins in Ignatius (outside of the New Testament) and continues to grow and spread as time goes on, with the definition becoming more refined. Historical Use of the Term As we saw above, Ignatius was the earliest Christian writer we have who applied the word katholikos to the Church. Some people object to using Ignatius as evidence of this, as some of the letters attributed to him are considered spurious (not authentic), though scholarly opinion on this is fairly universal in which are genuine letters, as neither Eusebius nor Jerome makes any reference to the eight spurious epistles. Justo L. Gonzalez explains in his book, The Story of Christianity: Volume 1: The Early Church to the Reformation, Volume One: The original meaning of Catholic church referred to this episcopal collegiality, as well as with the multiform witness to the gospel in several canonical gospels. … It was the church “according to the whole,” that is, according to the total witness of all the apostles and all the evangelists. The various Gnostic groups were not “Catholic” because they could not claim this broad foundation. … Only the Church Catholic, the church “according to the whole,” could lay claim to the entire apostolic witness. (pp.81,82). ...
Luke J. Wilson | 11th May 2020 | General Interest
EXCITING UPDATES! Just a quick update for you about a couple of new and exciting things I am offering now! Firstly, I have now launched a new range of faith-inspired clothing, which you can see some examples of in the image banner above. If you want to proclaim Christ and your faith via what you wear (especially in these dark times where churches are closed), head on over to: https://thatancientfaith.teemill.com The second thing to mention, as you may gather from the logo above, is that I now have a YouTube channel! I have begun it by doing a read through of my book, 40 Days with the Fathers, through Lent, so you can listen to the whole book for free. I also plan to create videos discussing the topics I write about where I can go into things in more detail or explain some of the thinking behind the various topics which I can't always fit into the blogs. So if you enjoy watching things on YouTube, come on over and subscribe to my channel. That's right: I have a new book in the works! It draws on some of the series and articles I've written on this site to do with Old Testament prophecy and its links into the New Testament, the Incarnation (briefly) and the Second Coming and what we have to look forward to (or worry about). Stay tuned for updates, I'll post some more information soon when there's something more solid to show. If you want to get some insider previews or maybe some advanced reading or snippets etc. then come on over to my Patreon and sign up. Members will get advanced access to any news and updates before anyone else, plus other bonuses! That's all for now, leave a comment if you have any queries or thoughts! ...
Luke J. Wilson | 29th February 2020 | Fasting
The season of Lent is here once again which of course brings up the topic of fasting, since the tradition of Lent comes from following Jesus’ example of his time in the wilderness (Luke 4:1–2). I wasn’t planning on writing anything specific this year like I have previous in previous years, but I felt inspired today at church from one of Gospel readings: Matthew 9:14–15 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” Often times when the topic of fasting, or Lent, comes up, people are quick to defend their inaction towards self-denial by claiming that, “Jesus didn’t command us to fast!”. Let’s take a look at that claim for a moment. There may be no chapter and verse you can point to where Jesus says, “Thou shalt fast” — but it was certainly implied in a couple of places when Jesus spoke on the topic, the verse from Matthew above being one of those times, when he finishes off by saying: “and then they will fast” after the “bridegroom” (ie. Jesus) is taken away (death and ascension into heaven). The other time Jesus talks about fasting is a little earlier on in Matthew’s Gospel, in chapter six: Matthew 6:16–18 And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Here we can see that Jesus clearly speaks with the expectation that his followers will fast and even gives instructions and guidance on how to do so and how to avoid being lumped together with the “hypocrites” (sometimes translated as Pharisees). When Jesus tells us how to fast and when it will be appropriate, he was making sure to raise the bar again as he did with many things he taught on. As the Jewish leaders would fast in an obvious way to make sure that everyone could witness their apparent piety, Jesus was telling his followers to go about the business like normal; to get up, have a wash and not look miserable in their hunger. Reading past the Gospels and into Acts and the Epistles, we begin to see how the Apostles and other early believers took Jesus seriously and did begin to fast once the “bridegroom” has been taken away from them. In Acts, the Church was fasting and praying when making decisions about missionary work and who to send (Acts 13:2–3), before appointing leaders (Acts 14:23) and oftentimes fasting preceded receiving visions from God, which we see in both Old and New Testaments (Acts 10:10; 11:5; 22:17). Fasting was also used for various other needs people wanted from God, like petitioning for answers in prayer, for protection, forgiveness or simply for humbling yourself (Ezra 8:21; Nehemiah 1:4; 9:1; Esther 4:3; Psalm 35:13; 69:10; Daniel 9:3; Joel 2:12; Zechariah 8:18–19). As you can see, fasting has a long and active tradition within Judaism, which passed on into Christianity quite naturally. During Second Temple Judaism, biweekly fasts were a common practice amongst Jews (see Luke 18:12 for a brief mention of it), and this is what Jesus would have been targeting in his teaching in Matt. 6. A late first century text from the early church, called The Didache (which was a sort of “church handbook”), expands on this teaching of Jesus and demonstrates to us how the earliest believers understood this and carried on the practice of fasting, taking the familiar model they were used to in Judaism, and reshaping it: But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites; for they fast...
Luke J. Wilson | 11th November 2019 | Devotional
The other week we had a series of power cuts in our town. It doesn’t happen very often here where I am, but there was particularly bad weather recently which damaged some cables; but sitting in the dark winter evening, my phone low on battery power, it made me realise just how much we rely on electricity for nearly everything these days. We don’t even have a gas supply so we were completely cut off from doing anything! Now it might sound obvious, but it’s easy to forget how dependent we are on modern conveniences until it’s suddenly taken away and you’re sat in the cold surrounded by tiny little tea-light candles. The following Sunday, the sermon at church touched on the fear of God, which got me thinking about how that concept is still kind of strange to me—God is love, He’s our Father, we’re His children… but then we are to also fear Him? What does this have to do with electricity and power cuts, I hear you say—I’ll come to that in a moment. I’ve often been taught that the word “fear” used in this context actually means “respect”, so I decided to look up the Greek and Hebrew words that are used when we see the words “fear God” in the Bible. It wasn’t exactly what I expected to find. 2 Corinthians 5:11 is where I began, as that was the verse quoted in the sermon. Knowing therefore the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are revealed to God, and I hope that we are revealed also in your consciences. I thought I may see a Greek word with a semantic range which includes “respect” or “honour” maybe, but what I found was the word φόβος (phobos) which literally means “alarm or fright; be afraid, fear, terror”. It’s also where we get our English word “phobia” from! So I went forward a couple of chapters to this verse: 2 Corinthians 7:1Having therefore these promises, beloved, let’s cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. But again, the word “phobos” was used, so now I decided to search across the New Testament for this phrase, and the next passage that came up was in Romans. Romans 3:18“There is no fear of God before their eyes.” This is part of a larger passage which ends on this verse about the fear of God (still using the same Greek word), where I saw a footnote to say it had been a quote from Psalm 36:1. Ah, I thought, maybe the Hebrew word used for “fear” will show something different! I thought wrong. This particular verse in Psalm 36 used the word פַּחַד (p̱aḥaḏ), which has a wide meaning such as: a (sudden) alarm (properly, the object feared, by implication, the feeling): — dread(-ful), fear, (thing) great (fear, greatly feared), terror. So again, the type of fear is an actual fear! A little searching through the Old Testament revealed that the word “fear” has a couple of other Hebrew words which lie underneath the English translations, one of which does also mean “reverence” as well (יָרֵא [yârê], found in Gen 22:12 and 1 Sam 12:14). So maybe there is an element of that understanding in the Greek by the time the New Testament writers came along who meant that ‘fear’ as awe and reverence as well. So this all leads me back to where I was a week or so ago, sat in church listening to a sermon, wondering when my power would be back on. As I thought about all of this, the combination of electricity and the fear of God combined into something that helped me put some perspective on it: the fear of God is like a live, sparking electric cable. I’ll clarify my thinking—if we saw an electric cable on the ground, flailing around and sparking everywhere, we should be fearful of that because touching it could kill us! But when electricity is used right, it is good for and to us; it provides power and comfort etc. Without it we lose access to pretty much everything these days and go into darkness—Much like if we lose sight of,...
Luke J. Wilson | 22nd July 2021 | Christology
Now you may be wondering about the title, or thinking “who the heck is Sophia??” — well, bear with me, and all will be revealed. It’s not as sinister or weird as it may first appear. I saw a post on my Instagram feed the other day that just got me a little riled up. I’ll admit it, I can be a little short-tempered at times, especially around the subject of Jesus and seeing him/the Christian faith misrepresented to such a degree that it could mislead others down the wrong path. I don’t normally write responses to things like this, but I felt this one deserved it, mainly just to add some clarity to a somewhat confusing topic, and so there’s a place I (or you, if you fancy sharing my posts!) can point people to if this type of ideology is going to spread. Here’s the Instagram post in question, but it’s the caption below it that got to me. I’ll quote the caption below, too, in case the embedded post doesn't work (here’s a direct link too). View this post on Instagram A post shared by Adam Ericksen (@adamericksen) Jesus had two moms.Their names areMary and Sophia.You’ve heard about Mary, but do you know about Sophia?Sophia is the Greek word for God’s Wisdom.And God’s Wisdom is a Woman. Her name is Sophia.Sophia was there at the beginning of creation. She birthed the world into existence.Deuteronomy 32 says that God gave birth to the people. That was Sophia.Christians began to associate Sophia with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is Sophia. She is the divine feminine who is the Third Person of the Trinity.Sophia is our divine Mother.God is She who loves you.❤️❤️❤️ — via @adamericksen A lot of the comments under that post seemed to find it quite affirming in some ways, others were confused as they’d never heard this before (and rightly so) but were keen to look into it. There were also a lot of references to a single author, and book, called, She Who Is, by Elizabeth A. Johnson, where this idea seemed to have originated in some form. In fact, the majority of the comments were wanting to explore this idea in more depth. So, I think maybe there’s something to be said there for the lack of female representation in the Church if it garnered this type of response, but I also thought if people are this taken by the idea, I wanted to write something to offer some Biblical and historical views on this “Sophia”, as she isn’t a new concept at all. The caption under the Instagram post sounds nice, but it’s ever so slightly off-kilter that it misrepresents everything. Let’s look at the claims line by line: Jesus had two moms.Their names areMary and Sophia. Well, not much to say here yet, but… nope. You’ve heard about Mary, but do you know about Sophia? Well, yes, I do. Maybe you, dear reader, know as well. But I began to question whether the author of the caption did. Sophia is the Greek word for God’s Wisdom. OK, finally. Getting to some facts and less conjecture. Although I would clarify that “sophia” (σοφία) is simply the Greek word for “wisdom”, not specifically “God’s wisdom” (or a name), per se. It’s a minor point though, I’m just nit-picking now. Sophia was there at the beginning of creation. She birthed the world into existence. Right, so here’s where it gets a little “squiffy”. It’s true that Wisdom, or “Sophia”, was there at the very beginning before anything was created, and that she stood beside God during creation. We can see all of this in the book of Proverbs, and it’s all very interesting. I’m sure you’ll notice parallels with John 1. But was this Sophia a separate entity from who we normally think of as being there in the beginning? Who created everything — the Word or the Holy Spirit? Proverbs 8:22–31The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,the first of his acts of long ago.Ages ago I was set up...
Luke J. Wilson | 03rd July 2021 | Hell
Welcome to Part Two of my study and examination of Conditional Immortality (aka Annihilationism). If you missed part one, you can read that one here. As with part one, this will be a long post as there is still much ground to cover before we can really grasp the bigger picture about what Scripture teaches. So with that said, I’ll pick right up where we left off. In part one, I covered a lot of New Testament texts, a few Old Testament passages, plus a look at what some of the earliest church leaders also wrote on the topic to the early church. In this one, we will be looking at a few more Old Testament examples and how they relate to the imagery used in Revelation, amongst other things. Unquenchable Fire and Undying Worms What of unquenchable fire and undying worms? Do these phrases really mean that the fuel of the fire and the worms must last forever and ever? We have a few references to shed some light on the meaning of these phrases which we can examine below: Ezekiel 20:46–48Mortal, set your face toward the south, preach against the south, and prophesy against the forest land in the Negeb; say to the forest of the Negeb, Hear the word of the Lord: Thus says the Lord God, I will kindle a fire in you, and it shall devour every green tree in you and every dry tree; the blazing flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from south to north shall be scorched by it. All flesh shall see that I the Lord have kindled it; it shall not be quenched. So, in our first example, Ezekiel was obviously not prophesying that the forests of Negeb would burn forever and never go out. Instead, fire that “shall not be quenched” is used to mean fire that cannot be interrupted or stopped in its destructive purpose. No one is able to stop a fire like this until it has run its course, or it is stopped by something greater, which is what the word “quench” actually means. It is an action performed by something external which stops the flames — what it doesn’t mean is a fire burning out naturally once it consumes its fuel. The fire will continue regardless. Jeremiah 17:27But if you do not listen to me, to keep the sabbath day holy, and to carry in no burden through the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates; it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem and shall not be quenched. Here is another reference to an unquenchable fire consuming something and not being stopped even after the object of destruction has been “devour[ed]”. The image is one of a fire which rages on and on, even after everything in it is burnt up and destroyed. Now let’s move onto the “undying worms” and see how that phrase is used. In the New Testament we see this phrase used in Mark 9:47–48, which originally comes from Isaiah, and also a similar theme in Jeremiah. Isaiah 66:24And they shall go out and look at the dead bodies of the people who have rebelled against me; for their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh. A little earlier in Isaiah 66 (v.16) we see that God executes judgement with fire and “by his sword, on all flesh”, and that the dead will be many, ending the chapter with the verse quoted above. Jeremiah picks up on a similar theme of God’s judgement, people being killed to such an extent there won’t be room to bury them. This is also where we find a reference to Gehenna, or the valley of the son of Hinnom, as its name means (also called Topheth), in chapters 7 and 19. The concept of Gehenna as a place of punishment is then picked up by Jesus in Matthew 10:28, which he uses in a more eschatological sense. Jeremiah 7:32–33Therefore, the days are surely coming, says the Lord, when it will no more be called Topheth, or the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of Slaughter: for they will bury in Topheth until there is no more room. The corpses of this people will be food for the birds of the air, and for the animals of ...
Luke J. Wilson | 22nd March 2021 | Easter
Much like any major Christian holiday, there are the usual arguments and accusations about how it’s all just pagan festivities with a “Christian mask”. Easter is no different, and usually gets hit the hardest over its so-called “pagan roots”, or in the month or so preceding it, Lent being some “invention of the Catholic Church”. Table of Contents The Lenten Fast The Easter controversy and why we celebrate it when we do Is the Name “Easter” really the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre? Chocolate eggs and bunnies? Concluding Thoughts Further Reading and Sources I like to try and observe Lent, as it is one of the most ancient customs in the Church, which led me to researching its origins, along with the Easter celebration, to see where they have their basis. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that much of the accusations against Easter and Lent as “pagan” are either fabricated or is just misinformation. So let’s examine the different aspects of Easter to see how we got from Passover to resurrection, to little bunnies and chocolate eggs! The Lenten Fast A forty day fast prior to Easter has been a long established practice within the Church dating back to possibly within the first century. This is well established from ancient letters we still have available, such as from Irenaeus in the second century: For some consider themselves bound to fast one day, others two days, others still more. In fact, others fast forty days … And this variety among observers [of the fasts] did not have its origin in our time, but long before in that of our predecessors.–Irenaeus (c.180) Notice here that Irenaeus mentions that this was a practice passed onto them by their “predecessors”, a term often used in conjunction with the Apostles themselves, or those who immediately came after them, putting the origins of this Lenten fast much earlier than when Irenaeus wrote in 180, and also possibly having Apostolic origin. The Easter controversy and why we celebrate it when we do Back in the days of the early church, there arose a controversy around the celebration of Easter (or “pascha” as it was known then). But no, before your imagination runs wild, it wasn’t quite as exciting as it sounds and still had nothing to do with “paganism”. The dispute was over which day to hold the festival! Yep, the controversy really is as mundane as that. In fact, it was one of the issues raised at the council of Nicea to be discussed and hopefully settled, and is officially known as the Quartodeciman (lit. Fourteenth) controversy/dispute. It’s called this due to the issue being over whether the Easter celebration should follow the Jewish pattern of Passover on the 14 Nisan or not and simply follow the days of the week (Friday and Sunday). It became a bigger issue when the not only the Jewish community of believers wanted to follow this method, but when the Gentile Asian communities also claimed that their Quartodeciman practice was of Apostolic origin! It was a disciple of John the Apostle, and bishop of Smyrna, called Polycarp (c.69–c.155) who followed this practice in one of the seven churches of Asia as well as Melito, bishop of Sardis (died c.180). Irenaeus tells us that, in his old age, Polycarp visited the bishop of Rome to discuss this matter with him as the Roman church had diverged from the Quartodeciman custom and celebrated the resurrection according to the day Jesus rose instead: Sunday (the first day of the week). We gain an important glimpse about this whole dispute from Irenaeus though, when he tells us of the meeting between Polycarp and Anicetus: Neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp not to observe what he had always observed with John the disciple of our Lord, and the other apostles with whom he had associated; neither could Polycarp persuade Anicetus to observe it, as he said that he ought to follow the customs of the presbyters that had preceded him. … And they parted from each...
David Jakubovic | 17th March 2021 | Book Review
This is a guest post by David Jakubovic. The views are that of the author and don't necessarily reflect the views of That Ancient Faith. A 20 year update of the 1996 book by the same name, this slim volume (211 pages) is a helpful cross-section of current evangelical thought on Final Punishment, sampling Denny Burk on Eternal Conscious Torment (ECT hereafter), John Stackhouse Jr on Conditional immortality (CI hereafter), Robin Parry on Christian Universalism (CU hereafter) and Jerry Walls on (a Protestant) Purgatory. Preston Sprinkle pens both Introduction and Conclusion, plus there are Scripture, Author and Subject indices. The Introduction sets the scene, listing the 3 historically available views along with speculation about post-mortem purgatorial sanctification, before clarifying that it is not the existence of hell that is here in doubt: “They agree that hell exists, but they differ on what this hell is like.” (11) Sprinkle lists verses used by all 4 views, then introduces the academic background of the 4 essayists. He finally issues a substantial challenge to the reader: “You, of course, will probably agree with only one of the following essays and disagree with the other three. But keep in mind: disagreement is not refutation. We must be able to refute the evidence of the views that we disagree with and then provide more compelling biblical evidence for the view that we uphold.” (15) Burk kicks off Chapter One (‘Eternal Conscious Torment’) with a startling parable. He visualizes a man torturing creatures in increasing order of complexity and dignity: first torturing a grasshopper, a frog, a bird, a puppy and finally a human baby. Burk states: “In each of the scenarios above, the ‘sin’ is the same – pulling the legs off. The only difference in each of these scenarios is the one sinned against…The seriousness of the sin is not measured merely by the sin itself (pulling off the legs) but by the value and the worth of the one being sinned against.” (19, italics his) This macabre thought-experiment is of course a gruesome version of Anselm’s ‘Status Principle’, namely that to sin against an infinitely good God merits infinite or eternal punishment. But fellow pro-ECT essayist Walls squashes this analogy: “There is profound disanalogy in the parable that undermines the central point he wants to establish. This resides in the fact that we do not have the power to do anything to God that is remotely analogous to the harm the character in the parable inflicts on helpless creatures ranging from grasshoppers to human infants. Indeed, God is so far above us in power, glory, and moral perfection that we are utterly incapable of harming him.”1 Burk even ventures that ECT “will ultimately become a source of joy and praise for the saints as they witness the infinite goodness and justice of God.” (20) Yet it is grossly incongruous to place ECT side by side with notions of ‘joy’, ‘goodness’ or ‘justice’ as these are universally understood. The very philosophical logic behind the ‘Status Principle’ is itself highly suspect, as Kronen points out when dismantling the ‘Classical Doctrine of Hell’ (CDH): “It is by no means obvious that an offense against an infinite being must be punished by the sorts of torments envisioned by CDH. One might sin more or less gravely against such a being, and in that case it does not seem that just any sin against an infinite being would merit eternal, continuous, and excruciating pain.”2 Spiegel adds that “human guilt is at most maximally great, not infinitely great”3, meaning that human guilt is still finite: “Finite guilt, however great, presumably does not warrant endless punishment in the form of ECT.” (Spiegel, op. cit. 41) He adds that, under the ‘Status Principle’, even the first sin you commit as a child is enough to incur ‘infinite guilt’, but this does not allow for the vast spectrum of p...