dianoigo blog

Saturday 22 December 2012

Monday 26 November 2012

The Accuser of our Brethren, Part 9: Satan and Angels

This video discusses the relationship between Satan and angels, and argues that Satan himself is an angelic being, according to the Bible. Key passages include Matthew 25:41, Revelation 12:7-9 and 2 Corinthians 11:14.

Revelation 12:7-9 makes a lot more sense against the background of Daniel 10, which teaches that angelic princes (both good and evil) are involved in human political affairs. For an excellent discussion of this topic, see the article Daniel 10 and the Notion of Territorial Spirits, by DE Stevens.

Monday 19 November 2012

The Accuser of our Brethren, Part 8: Satan, Beelzebul and Demons

This video discusses the connection between Satan and demons, with a particular focus on the Beelzebul Controversy recorded in Mark 3:22-30, Matthew 12:24-32 and Luke 11:14-22.

For the paper about demons referred to in the video, see Demon-Possession and Exorcism in the New Testament, by James D.G. Dunn and Graham H. Twelftree.

Monday 12 November 2012

The Accuser of our Brethren, Part 7: Is the devil an allegory?

Christadelphians believe the devil is an allegory - a personification of sin. Is this position supported by the biblical record? In this five minute video we look at two of Jesus' parables which have a bearing on this subject.

Wednesday 7 November 2012

The Accuser of our Brethren, Part 6: The Temptations of Christ

The next video in this series seeks to answer the question, who was the devil that tempted Christ (as per the accounts in Mark 1:12-13, Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13)?

Wednesday 31 October 2012

The Accuser of our Brethren, Part 5: Satan in Job 1-2

Five videos into this series, I've finally managed to figure out how to edit out the annoying 'white noise' in the background. I hope this will create a more pleasant listening experience from now on. Special thanks to the developers of three free software packages that have come in handy: Avidemux, Audacity and Youtube Movie Maker.

Thursday 25 October 2012

The Accuser of our Brethren, Part 4: New Testament Overview

The latest video in this series about the Biblical devil provides several observations that will be fundamental to interpreting the words Satan and devil in the New Testament.

Reminder: the full study can be downloaded in written form from www.dianoigo.com.

Saturday 20 October 2012

The Accuser of our Brethren, Part 3: Old Testament Overview

Here is the third installment of my video blog series highlighting the main points in my paper, The Accuser of our Brethren: Unmasking the Biblical Devil. This part gives a very brief overview of the devil and Satan in the Old Testament. I hope you find it enlightening.

Tuesday 9 October 2012

The Accuser of our Brethren, Part 2: Presuppositions

In this second installment of the series entitled, "The Accuser of our Brethren: Unmasking the Biblical Devil" we examine our presuppositions with the aim of keeping them in check.

Once again, if you would like to read the study in its entirety, please visit www.dianoigo.com.

Friday 5 October 2012

The Accuser of our Brethren: Unmasking the Biblical Devil (Part 1)

I've decided to go the video route for the next few blogs in order to present my lengthy study on the devil and Satan in an accessible way. If you're interested in reading the full study, you can download it from www.dianoigo.com

Here is the first video installment:

Tuesday 25 September 2012

Godly Fear vs. Guilty Fear

Fear is usually regarded as a negative emotion; and yet the Bible commands Christians to fear God. Preachers sometimes explain this by saying that 'fear' really refers to reverence or awe. But the Greek word used is phobos, from which we get the term phobia. And Paul commands believers to fear and tremble (Philippians 2:12). 

So what exactly is godly fear? And how can we reconcile it with another well-known Bible verse which says that love casts out fear (1 John 4:18)?

These questions are addressed in my latest paper on www.dianoigo.com. It's my shortest ever, too - barely three pages!

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Previously unreleased material, direct to the public

OK, this is unlikely to generate the same kind of buzz as the postmortem release of recordings from a platinum-selling musician.

However, I'm happy to announce that I've posted a new theological article on my website. It was actually written almost three years ago but has languished in "My Documents" since then, so this is the first time it's available for public consumption.

Thursday 23 August 2012

The Hub of Global Christianity - where?

I haven't posted in about six weeks mainly because I got married in the interim. It's a pretty good excuse, right? Going forward I'm hoping to post more frequent, but brief, insights on God, the Christian faith, life, and how they all fit together.

The first of these hopefully pithy observations is about global demographic shifts in Christianity. If you were looking at a map of the world and had to put a push-pin in the location that represents the hub of global Christianity, where would you put it?

Tuesday 3 July 2012

New article available on www.dianoigo.com

Those who come to my blog regularly might wonder why I haven't posted any content lately. There are two main reasons for this. One is, I'm getting married in a month and so my time is limited. The other is that I've been working on two larger writing projects. One is an indepth study of the biblical devil, and the other is an indepth study of Hebrews 1:10-12 and the biblical themes that it evokes.

The latter study, entitled You, Lord, in the beginning, is now available for download from www.dianoigo.com. Be warned, it is not particularly light reading. However, if you are like me and find it fascinating to explore biblical revelation about the person of Jesus Christ, I think you might learn a lot from it.

Friday 8 June 2012

Great tools for the serious Bible student (2)

My second recommendation in this vein is simply to get ahold of some good textbooks on Biblical Greek in order to gain a basic understanding of this ancient language. The ones I have, which I understand are among the most commonly used texts for first and second Greek courses in seminaries, are Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, by William D. Mounce, and Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, by Daniel B. Wallace.

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Great tools for the serious Bible student (1)

In the next few blogs I am going to take a break from Bible study itself in order to recommend some tools (both printed and web-based) that I have found very helpful in my own studies.

The first recommendation is

Wednesday 16 May 2012

The Ten Commandments Test

In the previous ten articles we took stock of each of the Ten Commandments. With help from the rest of Scripture, we reached some surprising conclusions about what these commandments are really saying. Now it’s time to take the Ten Commandments test: have you kept the Ten Commandments? Note that if you have broken even one of the Ten Commandments on one occasion, you fail the test. As it is written in James 2:10, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.”

Tuesday 8 May 2012

You shall not covet

The last of the Ten Commandments reads, in Exodus 20:17, like this: “You shall not covet your neighbour's house; you shall not covet your neighbour's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbour's.”

Saturday 28 April 2012

You shall not bear false witness

The Ninth Commandment reads, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour” (Exodus 20:16). This commandment is often paraphrased simply as, “You shall not lie.” This is not strictly accurate, as it refers to lying in a legal setting (often called perjury) rather than general cases of lying. This doesn’t mean lying isn’t a serious sin in God’s eyes; we shall see that it is. However, the Ten Commandments were part of a human legal system, and (like modern criminal codes) set down perjury as a crime because this kind of lie has particularly serious consequences.

Monday 23 April 2012

You shall not steal

I would venture that there are few, if any people in the world who reach adulthood without experiencing theft of their personal possessions. Burglary, smash and grab, pick-pocketing, fraud, and many other strategies are used to take what belongs to someone else. We all feel violated and outraged when we are victimized by any of these crimes. Beyond the pain of losing money or valuables, we react sharply to the feeling of injustice.

However, if we are honest with ourselves, we will probably have to admit that we have also been guilty of the Eighth Commandment, which reads simply, “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15). We may not have committed any of the crimes listed above, but there are many forms of theft that are more subtle and passive.
For example, you might borrow something (such as a book or a CD) from a friend and never get around to returning it. You may damage someone else’s property and cover it up rather than offering to fix or replace it. In the digital age, millions have openly stolen from the comfort of their own homes via piracy of movies, music and software.

So perhaps we are a bit hypocritical when we become so outraged about stealing. As the Apostle Paul wrote, "You preach, "Do not steal"---but do you yourself steal?" (Romans 2:21b)

The Bible names and prohibits many different types of theft, most of which are still prevalent today in some form. Leviticus 6:1-5 describes theft through deceit (such as failing to return a deposit, or failing to return a lost-and-found item). Indeed, the close relationship between theft and deceit is apparent throughout Scripture (Leviticus 19:11; Proverbs 11:1). Modern crimes that combine deceit and theft include fraud, ‘phishing,’ and identity theft.

Normally the penalty for theft, as for destruction of another person’s property, was to restore the value and then some (an additional 20% in Leviticus 6:1-5, or up to five times as much for outright stealing in Exodus 22:1-4). If, however, it was a human being who was stolen (kidnapping or human trafficking), the penalty was death (Deuteronomy 24:7).

There are certain forms of theft which are usually perpetrated by the rich toward the poor, which could be generally described as oppression or exploitation. These include withholding of a worker’s wages (Leviticus 19:13), charging interest on loans to the poor (Exodus 22:25; Deuteronomy 23:19), and false balances or scales (Leviticus19:35-37; Deuteronomy 25:13-16). In the ancient world, balances were the standard by which goods and currencies were weighed in business transactions. A dishonest businessman could rig his balances in order to cheat his customers, thereby stealing from them. Since businessmen tended to be people of privilege, this sin too was associated with oppression of the poor by the rich (Amos 8:4-6).

Another class of theft could be generally described as abuse of power or corruption. In particular, people who hold positions of influence (such as politicians and judges) are prone to bribery (Exodus 23:8; Deuteronomy 16:9; Micah 7:3). God also warns against using threats to exact money from someone else (under which fall robbery, blackmail and extortion) (Ezekiel 22:12; Luke 3:14).

Another form of theft which remains relevant in today’s society is tax evasion. Jesus commanded disciples to pay taxes to the authorities of the day (Matthew 17:24-27; 22:17-21), which was echoed by Paul (Romans 13:6-7). Obedience to God requires compliance with tax laws regardless of how the government may use (or misuse) tax revenues.

How many of us have returned everything we have ever borrowed? Paid every cent of tax that we owed? Refrained from paying or receiving a bribe when it would save us a lot of time and money? How many have never taken something that didn’t belong to us? Have never tricked another person out of their money or goods? Have never illegally downloaded a movie, song or software package? Have never scratched a rental car and returned it without informing the company, hoping they wouldn’t notice (okay, maybe it’s just me who’s done that). We may be outraged at someone who breaks into a house to steal, but are we not guilty of the same sin in some measure?

Let there be no doubt that God takes all forms of theft seriously. Jesus listed theft among the basic forms of sin (Matthew 15:19) and endorsed the Eighth Commandment as still binding (Matthew 19:18). Paul listed theft among the sins that exclude one from the kingdom of God, apart from the cleansing that comes through Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

It is probably time for all of us to pause and offer a heartfelt prayer of confession and ask God’s forgiveness. Having confidence that our sins are now forgiven on account of Jesus Christ, how do we go about “Bearing fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8)? Paul’s advice for the reformed thief was this: “If you used to rob, you must stop robbing and start working, in order to earn an honest living for yourself and to be able to help the poor” (Ephesians 4:28).

Friday 13 April 2012

You shall not commit adultery

The Seventh of the Ten Commandments reads, “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). The Commandment does not define or qualify what adultery is; nor does it prescribe a penalty for the offence. Elsewhere within the Law of Moses, however, we find both a definition for adultery and the penalty:

“If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” (Leviticus 20:10)

In the Book of Deuteronomy the definition of adultery is extended to include sexual intercourse between a man and another man’s fiancée (Deuteronomy 22:22-24), which was likewise a capital offence.

Some have claimed that the term ‘adultery’ in the Seventh Commandment refers collectively to all forms of sexual sin. However, this is not strictly correct. The Hebrew word na’aph used here refers to the breaking of wedlock by having sexual intercourse with the wife or fiancée of another man. The law did not even explicitly cover the case where a married man cheats on his wife with an unmarried woman.

This is by no means to say that other forms of sexual behaviour were permitted under the Law of Moses. Leviticus 18 and 20 prohibit a number of other types of sexual act, including homosexual sex, bestiality, various forms of incest, and sexual intercourse with a menstrual woman. All of these were punishable by death except the last (which was punishable by exile).

Premarital sex is dealt with elsewhere in the Law of Moses. Exodus 22:16-17 states that if a man seduced a virgin who was not engaged, he had to pay the bride-price for the woman and marry her. If her father refused to let him marry her, he had to pay the bride-price anyway. Deuteronomy 22:13-21 further prescribes capital punishment for a woman who was not a virgin at the time of marriage if her husband chose to formally complain.

The Law of Moses had strict and detailed statutes regarding sexual behaviour; however the Seventh Commandment concerned only one specific aspect, namely sexual intercourse of an engaged or married woman with someone other than her husband/fiancé.

Having clarified the meaning of the commandment, we must ask how to apply it today. As with previous commandments, the key is to be found in the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ day, the Jewish religious leaders had established loopholes that were not fair to women. A man could divorce his wife for any reason (Matthew 19:3) and take another wife. The bonds of marriage could be easily broken and reformed to prevent adultery from occurring by the letter of the Law.

Jesus’ teachings brought out the spirit of the adultery law:
“27 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 31 "It was also said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:27-28,31-32)
As we saw with the commandment against murder, one need not commit the physical act in order to bear the full guilt of the offence. The desire to commit the act is enough. Furthermore, to divorce a faithful wife in order to take another, or to marry another man’s wife who had been so discarded, is adultery in Jesus’ eyes. There are no loopholes with Jesus; he sees straight to the heart of the matter.

Jesus also made it clear that there was no double standard between men and women. For a man to sleep with a woman other than his wife was just as much adultery as it was for a woman to sleep with a man other than her husband (Mark 10:11-12). Both husband and wife are to honour the sanctity of marriage (Hebrews 13:4).

Jesus’ judgment of a situation where a woman was caught in adultery showed his mercy and wisdom (John 8:3-11). He had mercy on the woman, preventing her from being stoned to death although this was the punishment called for under the law. He saved her from being another victim of the gendered double standard: she had been “caught in the act of adultery” (John 8:4), which means a male must also have been present; yet no male had been apprehended.

Jesus’ mercy on this woman showed that there is hope for those who get involved in sexual sin such as adultery. However, it is still a very serious sin. We in the Western world have forgotten how serious it is, because it is no longer a crime in most Western countries (unlike “Thou shalt not kill,” “Thou shalt not steal” and “Thou shalt not bear false witness”). Yet adultery can irreparably damage relationships and destroy families.

“Do not be deceived,” wrote the Apostle Paul, before mentioning “adulterers” among the unrighteous who, apart from the cleansing that God offers through Jesus Christ, cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9).

Friday 10 February 2012

Thou shalt not kill

This Sixth Commandment is perhaps more famous in its King James Version verbiage than the modern versions which usually translate “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). Whatever dialect you say it in, this commandment stands out starkly from those that come before it. It is short and to the point. One could say it is unmistakably clear, but in fact its scope has been hotly debated.

Some have interpreted “Thou shalt not kill” in absolute terms, using the commandment as a proof text to oppose capital punishment, or even killing animals for food. However, such uses of this verse ignore the wider context in which it was written. The Law of Moses mandated capital punishment as well as the killing of animals for sacrifices and food. There is no way that the law would blatantly contradict itself in this way. Thus, without wading too far into the debate on these social issues, we can conclude that the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” does refer to the murder of a fellow human being in a civil context.

The vast majority of us live out our earthly lives without ever murdering a fellow human being. Does this make us innocent of the Sixth Commandment? It does not. Just as we saw in our studies of the Second Commandment, one need not create a physical idol in order to commit idolatry. In the same way, the commandment against murder reaches past the physical act into the thoughts of hatred, greed, envy and malice that can lead to murder.

Jesus said as much in a part of his Sermon on the Mount known to theologians as the Antitheses:
“21 You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:21-22)
John made much the same point in his first epistle:
“12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” (1 John 3:12-15)

Cain was the first murderer in the history of the world. He murdered his brother Abel out of anger because Abel’s sacrifice was more pleasing to the Lord (Genesis 4:1-8). According to Jesus and John, we can follow in Cain’s footsteps without even physically harming anyone. If we allow ourselves to be ruled by hatred, anger, insults and arrogance, we are no better than murderers. These are the same negative attitudes that spawn murder (Mark 7:20-21).

In fact, the fear of punishment is likely what keeps a lot of hateful, angry, arrogant people from committing murder. Given the opportunity to commit murder and get away with it, a person ruled by these emotions is likely to seize the chance. But God can read our hearts (Jeremiah 17:10), and in his eyes, the desire to commit sin is as bad as the sin itself. God wants his people to do good and refrain from evil, not out of fear of punishment, but out of love (1 John 4:18). This is why Paul writes that the second half of the Ten Commandments can be aptly summed up by the single commandment, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Romans 13:9).

Friday 3 February 2012

Honour your father and your mother

After a lengthy hiatus, we are continuing our series analyzing the Ten Commandments and their relevance to us as people living in the fast-paced digital world of 2012. The Fifth Commandment reads as follows:

"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12)

This commandment is a transition of sorts, since the first four commandments concerns worship and “vertical” relationship with God, while the final five commandments concern “horizontal” dealings with fellow humans. This Fifth Commandment, in a sense, is both vertical and horizontal: it concerns dealings with parents, who are fellow humans and yet are in a position of authority over us. God also relates to us as a father, and even invokes this commandment in Malachi 1:6: “"A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, 'How have we despised your name?'”

That this commandment is still fully applicable today is apparent from the teachings of Jesus. He mentioned it among the commandments which should be kept in Luke 18:20. Even more importantly, he defended the commandment against a tradition by which the scribes and Pharisees tried to circumvent it, in Matthew 15:3-6:
“3 He answered them, "And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.' 5 But you say, 'If anyone tells his father or his mother, "What you would have gained from me is given to God," 6 he need not honor his father.' So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.”
The scribes and Pharisees had a tradition whereby if one verbally committed himself to using money for God, he was freed from any responsibility for caring for his parents. Jesus condemns this behaviour and thus establishes that the commandment to honour one’s parents was still in force. Jesus exemplified the commandment himself inasmuch as he made sure his mother was cared for even as he suffered the agony of the cross (John 19:26-27).

Paul also endorses this commandment in his writings, and notes that it is the first commandment with a promise attached:
“1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 "Honor your father and mother" (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 "that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land."” (Ephesians 6:1-3)
This promise demonstrates that obedience to parental authority is a precursor to a long and happy life, both on an individual and national level. Conversely, “disobedience to parents” is mentioned among the vices that would prevail in the last days (2 Timothy 3:1-2).

A number of maxims in the Book of Proverbs enjoin sons to honour their parents, and here a particular focus is taking to heart the wisdom and instruction received from one’s parents (see, for example, Proverbs 1:8-9; Proverbs 15:5).

A survey of biblical commentary on the Fifth Commandment shows us that this commandment remains very much in force, and that it applies to the way we treat our parents both as children and as adults. As a child, we honour our parents by obeying and respecting them. (Paul’s qualifier, “in the Lord,” may reflect the fact that there are unfortunate cases where a parent does not merit obedience.)

As adults, we honour our parents by applying ourselves to the wisdom, advice and values that they instilled in us as children: “A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother” (Proverbs 10:1). We also honour our parents by making sure that, when they lose their independence in old age, we give them the same love and care that they gave us when we were dependent on them.

Once on a Saturday morning when I was about 15, my mother scolded me for my idleness and ordered me to go down to the nearest old age home and volunteer my services. This became a very memorable experience as I met a 93 year old Scottish lady named Martha with whom I developed a close and unlikely friendship. I visited her regularly for about a year until she died. Martha had nine children and was very sad that all of them were too busy to take her in and had instead banished her to spend her final days in this oblivious home. She used to tell me regularly, “Tommy I’ll give you three rules to live by: Never smoke, never drink, and never put your mother in a home!”

So, whether we are young or old, and whether our parents are young, old or even deceased, let us reflect on how we can honour them.

Note: I'm not saying it's intrinsically wrong to put an elderly parent in a home; I'm merely calling for people to think about their motives for doing so.