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Archive for August 11th, 2005

Why the phrase “man of God” in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 does not refer to every Christian generally but to Church leaders specifically.

Earlier, I examined 2 Timothy 3:16-17 to show why Scripture cannot be said to claim for itself all-sufficiency. Here are the verses once more:

Every Scripture is God-inspired and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness, in order that the man of God may be perfect, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Thanks to a comment from Perry Robinson to me, I was compelled to look at this phrase in 2 Timothy 3:17, “man of God.” The phrase occurs more than sixty times in the Scriptures, more than forty of them in 1-2 Kings, where they refer most often to Elijah, Elisha, and the unnamed prophet out of Judah of chapter 13. In all “man of God” refers to the prophets–all instances of the phrase are to named prophets or unnamed but specific prophets–nearly fifty times, Moses (eight times), David (three times), the angel that appeared to Samson’s parents (twice), to the son of Igdaliah (Godolias in the LXX), a Levitical priest (once), to St. Timothy (once at 1 Timothy 6:11), and to the unspecified “man of God” in our text under consideration, though contextually its most proximate target would be St. Timothy.

From this follows 4 observations and a corollary:

1. “Man of God” is never used in Scripture to refer to the people of God generally, but to specific persons.
2. “Man of God” always refers to a prophet, priest, King or Church leader, never to the general people of God. Since this is so for every other occurrence, then even 2 Timothy 3:17, though it does not name a specific person, contextually can only refer to a Church leader.
3. We know from passages such as Acts 15:35; 18:11; 20:20, 28-31; Romans 12:7; Colossians 1:28; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Timothy 3:2; 2 Timothy 2:24; 4:2; Titus 1:10-14 and Hebrews 13:7 that teaching and correction was an essential part of Church leadership (though Colossians 3:16 could be construed more broadly to apply to Church members generally, and 1 Corinthians 14:26 to those with the charism of teaching, which only the more emphasizes teaching and correction as essential to Church leadership).
4. Given 1-3, then, St. Paul is telling St. Timothy that Scripture is useful for Church leaders “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness.” Whatever else we may say about Scripture and Christians generally, this specific verse is not for application to Christians generally, but to Christian leaders specifically.
5. As a corollary to 4–especially in light of such verses as Acts 15:1; 20:28-31; Colossians 2:22; Titus 1:10-14–when Christians who are not Church leaders make use of Scripture, they should ensure that their teaching conforms to the teaching of the Church leadership.

As I have indicated in my arguments elsewhere, Church leaders are responsible for the faithful transmission of the tradition of the Apostles, which ultimately means that all Scriptural interpretation, especially that of the laity, must conform to what the Church has always taught and believed from the beginning.

So, given my previous argument regarding 2 Timothy 3:16-17, that it does not claim the all-sufficiency of Scripture, and given this argument that the verses only apply to Church leaders specifically, it is now indisputable that Protestants cannot appeal to these verses for Scriptural all-sufficiency, for not only do the verses not make this claim (as I’ve previously proven), neither are they useful for any Christian generally, but for Church leaders particularly, and so even if their all-sufficiency were provisionally granted, it would not apply to all Christians indiscriminately, and therefore would violate the purported claim to be all-sufficient.

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Islam a Christian Heresy?

We are used to thinking of Islam as a religion separate from, though related to, Judaism and Christianity. Indeed, even many Christians appeal to a common heritage between these three faiths, all being so-called “Sons of Abraham.” But it would appear that Islam is not simply a separate faith that grew up out of its own soil. Rather, it would appear that it is a form of Christian heresy; and, indeed, this was how it was viewed by the Christians who knew Islam in its earliest days.

Let’s first look at Church historian Sozomen. Writing in the early part of the fifth century, about two hundred years prior to the rise of Islam, Sozomen notes:

This is the tribe which took its origin and had its name from Ishmael, the son of Abraham; and the ancients called them Ishmaelites after their progenitor. As their mother Hagar was a slave, they afterwards, to conceal the opprobrium of their origin, assumed the name of Saracens, as if they were descended from Sara, the wife of Abraham. Such being their origin, they practice circumcision like the Jews, refrain from the use of pork, and observe many other Jewish rites and customs. If, indeed, they deviate in any respect from the observances of that nation, it must be ascribed to the lapse of time, and to their intercourse with the neighboring nations. Moses, who lived many centuries after Abraham, only legislated for those whom he led out of Egypt. The inhabitants of the neighboring countries, being strongly addicted to superstition, probably soon corrupted the laws imposed upon them by their forefather Ishmael. The ancient Hebrews had their community life under this law only, using therefore unwritten customs, before the Mosaic legislation. These people certainly served the same gods as the neighboring nations, honoring and naming them similarly, so that by this likeness with their forefathers in religion, there is evidenced their departure from the laws of their forefathers. As is usual, in the lapse of time, their ancient customs fell into oblivion, and other practices gradually got the precedence among them. Some of their tribe afterwards happening to come in contact with the Jews, gathered from them the facts of their true origin, returned to their kinsmen, and inclined to the Hebrew customs and laws. From that time on, until now, many of them regulate their lives according to the Jewish precepts. Some of the Saracens were converted to Christianity not long before the present reign. They shared in the faith of Christ by intercourse with the priests and monks who dwelt near them, and practiced philosophy in the neighboring deserts, and who were distinguished by the excellence of their life, and by their miraculous works. It is said that a whole tribe, and Zocomus, their chief, were converted to Christianity and baptized about this period, under the following circumstances: Zocomus was childless, and went to a certain monk of great celebrity to complain to him of this calamity; for among the Saracens, and I believe other barbarian nations, it was accounted of great importance to have children. The monk desired Zocomus to be of good cheer, engaged in prayer on his behalf, and sent him away with the promise that if he would believe in Christ, he would have a son. When this promise was confirmed by God, and when a son was born to him, Zocomus was initiated, and all his subjects with him. From that period this tribe was peculiarly fortunate, and became strong in point of number, and formidable to the Persians as well as to the other Saracens. Such are the details that I have been enabled to collect concerning the conversion of the Saracens and their first bishop. (Ecclesiastical History 6.38)

Note what Sozomen details: a dependence upon the Jewish faith, and then a coversion of some of the Saracens to Christianity. This happened more than two centuries prior to the rise of Islam.

Now take a look at St. John of Damascus, who lived, in the eighth century, in a city and region dominated by Islam. In his work, The Fount of Knowledge, and the section on heresies, he writes:

There is also the superstition of the Ishmaelites which to this day prevails and keeps people in error, being a forerunner of the Antichrist. They are descended from Ishmael, who was born to Abraham of Agar, and for this reason they are called both Agarenes and Ishmaelites. They are also called Saracens, which is derived from [in Greek] Sarras kenoi, or destitute of Sara, because of what Agar said to the angel: “Sara has sent me away destitute.” These used to be idolaters and worshipped the morning star and Aphrodite, whom in their own language they called Khabar, which means great. And so down to the time of Heraclius they were very great idolaters. From that time to the present a false prophet named Mohammed has appeared in their midst. This man, after having chanced upon the Old and New Testaments and likewise, it seems, having conversed with an Arian monk, devised his own heresy. Then, having insinuated himself into the good graces of the people by a show of seeming piety, he gave out that a certain book had been sent down to him from heaven. He had set down some ridiculous compositions in this book of his and he gave it to them as an object of veneration. (St. John of Damascus, The Fount of Knowledge, “On Heresies,” 101)

Sozomen has already noted the dependence of certain of the Saracens on the law of Moses and a strong exposure to Christianity. St. John confirms this in his account, and even notes that Mohammed met an Arian (some say Nestorian) monk. Perhaps Islam is, after all, Christian heresy.

This Christian heresy, of course, has slaughtered untold numbers of Christians throughout its history, and is a source for the current fanatical terrorism being committed in our world.

Addendum

From the Qur’an:

It is not befitting to (the majesty of) Allah that he should beget a son. Glory be to Him! When He determines a matter, He only says to it, “Be”, and it is. (Surah 19:35)

and:

They do blaspheme who say: “God is Christ the son of Mary.” But Christ said: “O Children of Israel! worship God, my Lord and your Lord.” Whoever joins other gods with Allah,–Allah will forbid him the Garden and the Fire will be his abode. There will for the wrong-doers be no one to help.

They do blaspheme who say: God is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except one God (Allah). If they do not desist from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them. (Surah 5:72-73)

and:

O People of the Book! commit no excesses in your religion; nor say of Allah anything but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a Messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a Spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His Messengers. Do not say “Trinity”: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is One God: glory be to Him (far Exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs. (Sura 4:171)

Islam rejects the divinity of Jesus, just like Arianism.
Islam rejects the Holy Trinity, just like Sabellianism/modalism.
Islam rejects that Mary is the birthgiver of God, just like Nestorianism.

Yep. It’s all rotten with heresy.

See also this account at Fr. Joseph’s Orthodixie.

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