Tag Archives: ANE

Conceptual Realities: Giving Thanks to God

“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise; be thankful unto Him and bless His name (Psalm 100:4)”.

As we look to all that God has provided for those who love Him, namely all things pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), and prayerfully are continuing to relish the time we spent with family and the great food we ate yesterday, it is customary to offer up a “thanksgiving offering”. I spent some of my day yesterday not only digesting Thanksgiving food and enjoying fellowship with those I love, but also digesting some study about how the Bible speaks of thanksgiving.
Surely there are plenty of Bible verses that speak of giving thanks, expressing thankfulness, and thanksgiving is mentioned specifically in 28 verses of the King James Version. However, in my searching out some God-breathed words from God, I desired to go a bit deeper into understanding my thankfulness to God and the grace we have through Jesus Christ, just looking up the words and verses would not suffice.
Believe it or not the American tradition of “Thanksgiving” is not too far from the Old Testament tradition of a “thanksgiving offering”. The Hebrew word for thanksgiving is todah, which is derived from the Hebrew word yadah meaning “praise”. To be a bit more specific, the praise this speaks of is the type of awe that leads one to fall on the floor and lay prostrate. In Leviticus 7:11-21, we read about the offering that is given with an “expression of thankfulness”, which is an “aroma pleasing to God”, and is commenced with a sharing of the meat from the sacrifice in a communal manner (something that makes it different than the other offerings which were not to be eaten by the offerer or others). This is seen as a sort of divine meal.
Many feel that talking through and understanding the sacrifices of the Old Testament are irrelevant to us today. I will readily admit we are well past the culture and demand for such sacrifices, however the shadows of such sacrifices are cast into the realities we know in and through Jesus Christ. Interestingly enough, a Jewish midrash (rabbinic teaching) that comes from the 9th century AD notes “In the coming Messianic age, all sacrifices will cease except the todah sacrifice (thanksgiving). This will never cease in all eternity” (Peshiqta part 1). When we cross-reference this thought with the God-inspired truth of Hebrews 13:15-16, we gain an amazing understanding of how this applies to a life in Jesus Christ. The passage reads:

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased”.

As one of my favorite Bible teachers Dr. Don K. Preston would note, “Catch the power of that!”.
What we learn from this is that the fulfillment of the thanksgiving offering that was required of God’s people under the Old Covenant has been and is accomplished through thankfulness toward all that Jesus Christ has offered. The response to this is to do good and share with others. As simple as that may seem the implications have potential to change the world. This is what the prophets continually told Israel of, namely their role in the world to serve God by serving others (cf. Psalm 51:16; Hosea 6:6; Isaiah 1:11-17).
Let us say, thank God in and through the mighty name of Jesus Christ.
That brings me to the focal point of my giving thanks and what I want to share with you today.
What are you thanking God for giving? Thanks-For-Giving. Praise Him for it right now!

 

In my desire to carry this thankfulness for what I have in and through Jesus Christ forward, I want to highlight the blessing of serving and fellowshipping with The Blue Point Bible Church. Our motto is #AThinkingFaith. The hashtag at the beginning represents our desire to share and make known the truth regarding the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ, which is exemplified through a searched out, well studied, discussed, and proven faith (in short – A Thinking Faith). This is vital because ultimately this is what God was developing in and through His people from the very beginning (The Genesis).
The Biblical understanding of God’s solution to the world’s ills, is that instead of causing us to obsess about life elsewhere or causing us to fantasize about life outside of the existence we already know (being human), the One True God breathes life into His creation by “renewing their minds” according to His truth and standard (i.e., conceptual realities). This stands in contrast to “otherworld spirituality” which obsesses about things of an otherworld, something it would seem a proper reading and understanding of Scripture stands against. An otherworld mighty very well exist, as I often say that “Heaven is a dimension incompatible with this very natural, present realm”, yet the whole of Scripture does not point to understanding of these things, nor a focus on these things as the source of healing. Rather, what the Scriptures reveal is that the Hebrew people were called to have a Spirituality marked by mental/conceptual realities that defined reality based on faith in the will of God, rather than trusting in and defining the world by their own wicked understandings, or the idolatrous thoughts of the otherworld. I explain much of this in chapters 4-5 of my recently published book Wicked.

“God gave the Hebrew people (later to be called Israel), the oracles of God/ mental concepts to provide them with a God-led worldview/narrative in contrast to the narrative that they would make up or come to be led captive to due to surrounding cultures/ idol worshippers”.

I primarily thank God, of course, for being able to discern these things in accordance with diligent study and His Spirit. However, I believe it to be imperative to offer this “thanksgiving praise” for The Blue Point Bible Church. The grace and open, honest Bible discussions that have been happening there since the early 90’s demonstrates the church’s being on the brink of a reformation which has been and is happening within the entire Christian church worldwide. As I have said many times before, local churches stand as outposts of the Kingdom, collectively we represent Him!
Unfortunately, a large majority of the Christian Church, which has been called and equipped to make known the truth of God, has more often than not allowed man’s wisdom based upon personal interpretation or traditions to lead the way, thus confusion continues to run rampant. The common arguments/debates that take place within Christian circles displays our ignorance in understanding these things. Not only that, but, the world watches and thus develops attitudes that reflect a distaste for the Truth by regarding it as irrelevant or noting the variety of confused applications. Thanks be to God that He has given us everything pertaining to life and godliness which I believe is summed up in understanding the “conceptual realities” understood through “rightly dividing the word of truth (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15-16).
I will close with providing an example of a “conceptual reality” that is often misunderstood. However, I also encourage you to get a copy of Wicked (www.wickedthingsexplained.wordpress.com) , as well as continue to pay attention to resources from The Blue Point Bible Church (www.bluepointbiblechurch.org) as we seek to gain a clear understanding of “Thinking Through Scripture” in 2018.
Famed “Prince of Preachers”, Charles Spurgeon, once noted, “I may know all the doctrines of the Bible, but unless I know Christ, not one of them can save me”. This is a statement all Christians should be able to stand upon and advocate for, especially since knowing Christ is essentially, eternal life (cf. John 17:3).

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”.

Knowing Jesus Christ and possessing eternal life has little to nothing to do with where we will go when we biologically die, nor obsession with or influence over the “supernatural realm” (unfortunately many Christians misunderstand it in this manner). Rather, “knowing Christ” and eternal life has everything to do with how we mentally acknowledge and thus act out our understanding of God and His will for the world (i.e., conceptual realities), which leads us to be a blessed people indeed!

As we come to study these details further and demonstrate #AThinkingFaith, I pray you will experience all that the Apostle Paul prayed for the church as Ephesus:

“…that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God”

Thank God for Eternal Life!

Your brother in Christ,
Pastor Michael Miano

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Man of Dust – Genesis & Ancient Near Eastern Origins

Recently, I have been in discussion with someone regarding the “dust” and “death” found in the beginning of Genesis, specifically Adam (man) being made of the “dust” of the ground and thus returning to it. What is this saying?

Before I start, please allow me to assert that I believe in a honest handling of God’s Word, and the need to “study to show ourselves approved RIGHTLY DIVIDING THE WORLD OF TRUTH” (2 Timothy 2:15). That being noted, I do not want to impose an understanding that is not there, and I want to find the most “literal” understanding of the text possible, what is known as ‘sensus literalis’.

The words of Mr. R.C. Sproul, a well known Bible teacher, fit rightly here:

There is much confusion regarding the “literal” sense of Scripture…To interpret the Bible “literally” in the classic sense requires that we learn to recognize in Scripture different genres of literature. Poetry is to be interpreted as poetry, and didactic passages are to be interpreted according to the grammar of the didactic. Historical narrative must not be treated as parable, nor parable as strict historical narrative. Much of Bible prophecy is cast in an apocalyptic genre that employs graphic imaginative language and often mixes elements of common historical narrative with the figurative language.” (1)

This is where we must do the proper legwork. Sure, we can just pick up Genesis as 21st century Westerners and demand that the Scriptures make the points we want them to make about the things we want them to detail, as many do. Or….we can be honest and humble in our reading and studying and realize the ancient world is vastly different than ours. The concerns of those times are different than ours, and therefore the details of writing are as well.

Coming to an agreement concerning what type of genre the book of Genesis comes to us as is an rather intriguing study. The book ‘Beyond Creation Science’ by Tim Martin and Jeff Vaughn, first opened my eyes to taking a step back and really looking at the culture from which Genesis comes and the details it notes- finding Genesis to be more prophetic and apocalyptic than I had initially thought. Then reading through Dr. John Walton’s lectures on Youtube surely opened my eyes to understanding the concept of Genesis as a ‘temple text’ and it’s details in that environment rather than what I initially thought they meant.

Again….we must decide…do we really want the truth out of the text, essentially what it “literally” says, or are we content with just making things up and keeping our own view? That is exactly what has spurned by studies, and led me to the views I hold today.

Author Robert Gundry exhorts us in this regard:

…we must presume that the text as it stands had a meaning for the author and his first readers. We want to discover that meaning. The path to discovery lies along the line of historical- grammatical interpretation, which assumes that the language of the Biblical text, including its symbolic language, grows out of and speaks to the historical situation of the writer and his readers. To take a non-referential view of language, may open up possibilities of contemporary interest and deconstruction play, but it blocks the path of historical understanding.”

So…in my honest study, I have begun to look at the world of the Ancient Near East. Most within ‘critical scholarship’ have now begun to point those who want to understand the Book of Genesis in this direction. Granted I have made these remarks before, have written about understanding the Bible “literally”, (2) and defended these positions in debates- yet herein I want to show the proper understanding of the creation of man and the story that tells- from the Ancient Near East to the overly Hellenistic Western world.

The ANE audience hardly was concerned nor would have attempted to explain in graphic detail how God had made man, save for understanding the function of man in the world. Genesis serves as a ‘polemic’, or argument against the cultures of the Ancient Near East, as blog writer T.E. Hanna notes,

Rather than adopting the mythologies of the surrounding Ancient Near East, the Hebrew cosmologies were written as a criticism of them. As theological education for an emerging Israelite nation, the purpose of these narratives was to emphasize the nature of the God of Israel in contrast to the surrounding polytheism, while also conveying His superiority over competing religions.”

Now that we have made ourselves somewhat aware of the context of the Book of Genesis, let’s begin to take a look.

Please turn in your Bibles to Genesis 1:24-31.

Here we read that God made all the animals and then goes about to create man – In His Image, and to have dominion over all of that which God created.

As one becomes familiar with the Ancient Near East, we would see that this Genesis story runs contrary to the contemporary understanding of that culture. As Wheaton proffessor, Dr. John Walton has noted, “In Mesopotamia the cosmos functions for the gods and in relation to them. People are an afterthought, seen as just another part of the cosmos that helps the gods to function. In Israel the cosmos functions for people and in relation to them. God does not need the cosmos, but it is his temple. It functions for people.” (3)

I have a writing on this called ‘The Ancestral Story of the ‘Image of God'(4) which can be found on the internet, and I would be remiss if I did not mention the work of Mrs. Rebekkah Devine (or Giffone as I note in my article). When I came to understand how in Genesis man was set up as the ‘image of God’ in contrast to the way the ANE viewed man, I was amazed. Man is created to display the glory of God, not the idols, nor the “created things” that man turns into idols.

Now let’s take a look at Genesis 2:4-9.

Studying out the details of “heaven and earth” in Scripture is a praiseworthy study. Verse 4 here gives us a beginning of understanding the way this phraseology was used by the ancient Hebrews, and essentially was was being ‘made’ by God in this account. Surely you don’t believe that what God is saying here is that the ‘heaven and earth’ has a genealogy, do you? Oddly some have made some strange interpretations, yet if you study out the term in its context and usage- you find this term simply applies to God’s people.

What we are reading in Genesis chapters 1-3 is the “creation story” of the one True God and how He formed His “heaven and earth”.

In Genesis 2:7 we have, God ‘forming’ man (adam) out of the ground. The text reads: ‘v’yyitzer YHWH ‘Elohim ‘et ha’adam ‘aphar min ha’adamah’ – or in the English – “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground.”

There are some who simply would rather avoid dealing with the historicity of the writing and would assert that this is talking about God materialistically forming man out of ‘dust’, just as they would say that this text is talking about the material creation of Heaven and Earth. If you are ok with imposing a foreign interpretation on the text, that would have hardly been understood by the ancients, then there is nothing I can show you. However, after searching for the definition of the term ‘dust’ (which in Hebrew is ‘aphar’ meaning ground, earth, ashes, or powder), then reading all the passages in Scripture that apply that term, I did not find much clarity as to what is saying. Therefore I turned to historical context for clarity.

It is interesting to further note that in Ancient Near Eastern literature not only is man debased, but the creation of man is usually of the clay of the ground and the blood or spit of the gods- both good and evil. In the Biblical text, man is created of the earth and then God breath’s life into him- giving man a dignity above all other created things. Surely a radical thought in the Ancient Near East that most modern people miss the point of.

A writing that further helped provide clarity pertaining to Genesis :4-7 was an internet writing by Don Stoner. You can access that writing by visiting this link: http://www.dstoner.net/Genesis_Context/Context.html

So in Genesis chapter 2, man is created by God forming him of the dust of the ground, earthy, and is animated as a ‘living soul’ once God breathes into him.

In Genesis 3:14 as well as 3:19, we read that the serpent will go on his belly and eat “dust’ all the days of his life, and Adam after the fall is told he shall return to the dust.

First of all this is where you should begin to notice that this book is a foreign text and not intended to be taken literal. If you hold to a literal walking/ talking serpent that is cursed by God to travel on the ground, then you need to consult the local psychologist.

After noting that simply point, we can begin to search out what the text means in its proper context.

‘Dust’ as used through Scripture and historical context also carries the thought of humility and desperation. When Adam and Eve sin and suffer “the death” due to sin, they are ashamed and hide themselves from God- no longer freely roaming in the blessedness of God’s garden as He provided to them. This will later be the story of fleshly Israel as well- they violate the command God gives them and thus suffer shame.

Adam and Eve are now “dead”, as God told them the day they eat of the tree they shall surely die. God provides them with a covering and removes them from the Garden where they enjoyed God’s presence and possible “immortality” through the Tree of Life. From dust they were created, to dust they shall return.

It is when we study out the “resurrection of the dead” that these things get hopeful. The “resurrection of the dead” will undue the damage of the garden.

Adam and Eve had a beautiful & free relationship with God- based on the “covenant” of one law- don’t eat of that tree- be His image- they failed and died in that covenant relationship- thus returning to dust.

Israel inherited that story, and was provided a covering. They do the same as Adam (Hosea 6:7) and get worse and worse- suffering the fate of returning to the dust and face future judgment (Daniel chapter 12). One writer noted that the “futility” spoken about in Romans 8 is detailing the same “futility” to which creation was subjected in Genesis 3 – it has to do with the idea that it would not do that for which it was designed or intended.

All of this is to note that Genesis chapters 1-3 are not talking about the material creation of the cosmos nor of man, but rather are covenant claims. Genesis is the creation of God’s people- heaven and earth- and how that Old Covenant people were subjected to futility- being of the dust and earthy.

One poet noted, “The sons of Adam are formed from dust; if not humble as the dust, they fall short of being men.

In conclusion, let us praise God for the ‘Second Adam’ as revealed through the New Testament. We, in Christ, do not bear that “dusty” semblance and “death is defeated”! After all as 2nd century Church Father Irenaeus noted, ““The glory of God is a human being fully alive.”

This is the goal of our faith- to note that which happened “in the beginning”, the death that comes because of sin, and then rest and proclaim praise in regards Christ’s sacrifice and righteousness. To provide to who would attest to the power of this as the “Christian faith” I will use quotes from 7th century Church bishop Maximus who said, “Christianity is an entirely new way of being human”, and 20th century century German theologian and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer who remarked, “Christianity is not about religion- it’s about humanity, and making it as God intended it to be.”

Below I will provide a short list of Works Cited. As well as a list of Scriptures that mention “dust” for further study, and of course a host of links that further inform on the context of the Ancient Near East.

Works Cited

  1. R.C. Sproul, The Last Days According to Jesus
  2. https://mianogonewild.wordpress.com/2014/05/14/how-do-we-literally-understand-the-scriptures/
  3. Dr. John Walton, The Lost World of Adam and Eve
  4. http://www.academia.edu/9695120/A_Must_Read-_The_Ancestral_Story_of_the_Image_of_God_

Scriptures Pertaining to Dust:

Genesis 2:7; 3:19 – dust; Genesis 3:14; Genesis 13:16; 28:13; 1 Chron 1:9; Genesis 18:27; Genesis 26:15 – translated as earth; 1 Kings 16:2; 2 Kings 13:7 ; Num 19:17; 2 Kings 23:4 – ashes ; Job 4:19; Job 7:21; Job 10:9; Job 14:8 – ground; Job 17:16; Job 21:26; Job 30:19; Psalm 22:15, 29; Psalm 44:25; Psalm 113:17; Lev 14:42, 45 – mortar;2 kings 23:6, 15- powder; Job 42:6; Ecc 3:20; 12:7; psalm 103:14; Neh 4:2, 10 – rubbish; Isaiah 25:12; Isaiah 26:19; Isaiah 47:1; Lamentation 2:10; Nahum 3:18

Websites about the Ancient Near Eastern context of Genesis:

http://www.theologymatters.com/Novdec97.PDF

http://www.newfoundationspubl.org/dust.htm

http://questions.veritas.org/science-faith/origins/what-genre-is-genesis-1-2/

http://tehanna.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/OfDustAndKings_HebrewCosmology.pdf

http://www.indiana.edu/~jsp/docs/2013_14/Bern_Essay_winner_Bloom,%20D.pdf

https://biologos.org/blogs/jim-stump-faith-and-science-seeking-understanding/interpreting-adam-an-interview-with-john-walton

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0825439272/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0825439272&linkCode=as2&tag=michsheiscom-20&linkId=LVYPNGNYCGRJSJSD

http://davidjohnstone.net/blog/2009/12/notes-lost-world-genesis-one-john-walton

http://oyc.yale.edu/transcript/945/rlst-145

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