Textual Criticism 101

November 5, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

This Sunday we come to a text in the Gospel of John whose authenticity has been questioned. Your Bible probably has a statement when you come to John 7:53 like, “The earliest manuscripts do not include 7:53-8:11.” This is the account, well-loved by many, of the woman caught in adultery. What does this statement mean and how does it impact how we consider this portion of John’s Gospel? Let me begin with a brief primer on textual criticism. Textual Criticism is the science of analyzing manuscript copies of ancient texts in order to discern what the original manuscript said and what may be variants from the original. For most ancient texts (e.g. Iliad by Homer), we do not have the author’s original manuscript; we have only copies. This is true for all of the books of the Bible. Between many of the copies, there are minor, and sometimes major, variants in the text. Brandon Crowe, professor of New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary, explains what textual criticism means for the Bible: “[It] means thinking critically about manuscripts and variations in the biblical texts found in those manuscripts, in order to identify the original reading of the Bible.” What criteria does a textual critic use to “identify the original reading of the Bible”? There are both internal and external criteria used in the process. Internally, textual critics look at vocabulary and grammatical structures. They look for consistency with other portions of the author’s writings. Externally, textual critics look for both historical and geographical attestation to a reading. Just like the game Telephone, copies of the original are subject to more variations the farther (timewise) they are from the original. So older copies are more trustworthy. Geographically, a reading is more trustworthy if multiple locations producing copies agree on the reading.... Keep Reading

Do You Thirst?

October 29, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Jesus makes one of the most beautiful invitations of the Gospels in John 7:37. “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” This invitation is comparable to Jesus’ in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Jesus appeals to the “thirsty” and the “heavy laden” to come to him. These invitations are sweet and savored by those who are well acquainted with their thirst and burdens. We have to ask, therefore, what does Jesus mean by “thirsts”? On a natural level, we understand what it means to thirst. One day while on vacation, my family did some hiking in Joshua Tree National Park. As we approached the park, we were confronted with many signs warning that there was no drinking water in the park; we needed to have all the water for our day with us. We stopped and purchased water bottles, at extorted prices, before entering. We were thankful, though, as a long day hiking in the hot sun left us thirsty. Our bodies felt the need for water. ... Keep Reading

Grace for the Battle

October 22, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Every year, I preach several sermons in January on the means of grace. The means of grace are God’s appointed avenues to bring his grace into our lives. The primary means of grace are God’s word (preached, memorized, studied, meditated upon, etc.), prayer, and the sacraments. Question 85 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism clarifies why the means of grace are so important. It asks and answers: What does God require of us, that we may escape his wrath and curse, due to us for sin? To escape the wrath and curse of God, due to us for sin, God requires of us faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with the diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption. We are saved by faith, but our faith is never alone. We are called to make “diligent use” of the means of grace. These feed our faith. And, by these means, God passes along “to us the benefits of redemption,” like peace, hope, reconciliation, comfort, power, etc. The means of grace are the gateway God gives to us to enjoy all that he has for us in Jesus. ... Keep Reading

You Will Vote for a Sinner

October 15, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

I don’t like election seasons. The rhetoric is filled with everything that Paul calls believers to put away: bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice (Eph. 4:31). Political tensions seem to be a breeding ground for the works of the flesh: rivalries, dissensions, divisions (Gal. 5:19-20). Even Christians seem to forget that we are called to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32). And then there is the anxiety that is enflamed by the rhetoric we hear around the election. That which is a blessing to our nation, the process of democracy, becomes a source of turmoil. In spite of the fact that I dislike the election season, I do plan to vote, and I encourage you to vote. We have the privilege to use our votes to allow biblical values to shape and influence our nation, even if we find ourselves increasingly in the minority. As you go to the voting booth, let me encourage you to keep in mind the following: ... Keep Reading

Let God’s Grace Humble You

October 8, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

For the last two Sundays we have been studying Jesus’ “I am the bread of life” sermon. So much is richly packed into this passage. One of the truths that we highlighted was the necessity of God’s grace for our salvation. We are saved by grace alone. While the word “grace” does not appear in John 6, the truth is emphasized in three verses: Verse 37: All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. Verse 44: No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. Verse 65: And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” How do these verses emphasize grace? A definition of grace is helpful. John Frame defines God’s grace as “his sovereign, unmerited favor, given to those who deserve his wrath.” There are four components to grace in this definition. Let me explain each as we see them in John 6. ... Keep Reading

Raised on the Last Day

October 1, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

What do you look forward to? I remember as a kid looking forward to Saturday morning cartoons. As I grew up, I looked forward to getting my driver’s license, going to college, and getting married. We all have events, holidays, and things that we look forward to. These things give us hope so that we can endure trial or hardship in the present. Did you know that it is a core character quality of Christians to look forward? Christians are to be people looking forward to the return of Christ. This longing ought to shape how we live today and what we value as important and how we endure hardship. The apostle Paul celebrates the conversion of the Thessalonians by highlighting their longing for Christ’s return. In 1 Thessalonians 1 he commends, “How you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven” (v. 9-10). New values and longings of the heart turned these idol worshippers into people who wait for Jesus. Are you marked by a waiting for Jesus?... Keep Reading

Do Not Grumble

September 24, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Do you like to grumble? I can’t say I like to grumble, but I do find it easy to grumble. I grumble about the traffic. I grumble when my kids do not do what I want. I grumble when the computer boots too slowly. And I grumble about more significant matters. I grumble almost on a daily basis. Philippians 2:14 says, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” Ouch! As with every sin, we must understand the root in order to fight against it. The root of grumbling is blindness to God’s grace. ... Keep Reading

Where Are You Going?

September 17, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Do you have a destination in mind for your life? I’m not talking about a physical location, necessarily, but an objective that you are striving after. Some may call these life goals. What are you aiming for? As followers of Christ who believe the Bible is God’s inerrant and authoritative word, we believe that God is leading our lives. Paul says that God “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11) and “all things work together for good” (Rom. 8:28). This is affirmed throughout the Bible (cf. Is. 55:11; Ps. 139:16). So, where is God leading you? Does your life goal match God’s life goal for you? ... Keep Reading

To Love is to Serve

September 10, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

This past Sunday I mentioned my first missions trip. It was to Jamaica to help build a school for deaf children. I was fifteen years old. The long-term missionary led our devotions each morning and he repeated the phrase, “To love is to serve.” If we are going to love people, we must serve people. That phrase was cemented into my mind and has shaped my life and ministry since. In 1 Peter 4:8-10, the apostle calls the church to “keep loving one another,” “show hospitality to one another,” and “serve one another.” As I learned so many years ago, there is a link between loving someone and serving that person. I have also learned there is another link between love and serving. To serve together increases our love for one another. That trip to Jamaica was not my last missions trip. I returned to Jamaica three more times to work at the school for the deaf. I have been to Mexico a dozen times to help build homes and churches for migrant native Mexicans. I have been to Warm Springs twice to serve with Sacred Road. I have traveled to Athens, Haiti, and Cameroon to serve in the education of indigenous ministers. In all these missions trips, this principle has been reaffirmed every time: To serve together increases our love for one another. The teams I traveled with always came home with a greater love and affection for one another.... Keep Reading

The Cardinal Virtue of Self-Control

September 3, 2020 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

In my Scripture reading and sermon study over the past few months, a particular word has been catching my attention. The word is “self-control,” a single word in the Greek. In my recollection, “self-control” does not receive much attention in Christian circles. Other virtues and character qualities are often highlighted before self-control, like love, joy, peace, humility, patience, mercy, etc. Such underemphasis can lead to a lack of appreciation and understanding of this core virtue. Consider how essential “self-control” is to the Christian life: In Acts 24:25, when Paul is explaining faith in Christ to governor Felix, “he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment.” Self-control came up in an introduction to Christianity. In Galatians 5:23, Paul lists “self-control” as one of the nine fruit of the Spirit. ... Keep Reading

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