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Dear friends,

Welcome to my blog. I am honored to have you visit. I hope you'll find my articles a blessing. I welcome your input and especially comments and questions.

I write as a Christian from Jerusalem, Israel about Biblical subjects.

I am particularly interested in the subjects of children, families, women's issues, corporal punishment, science and nature as these subjects relate to the Holy Scriptures.

For more information, see my website: www.biblechild.com

With every good wish - Samuel Martin

Friday, March 30, 2012

“Do not withhold correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and deliver his soul from hell. - Extended excerpt from my book

Note: Due to the interest in the most recent series of posts, I am going to post an extended excerpt from chapter 7 of my book "Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy." Ordering information is referenced at the end of this excerpt. Links to the whole book for free are also given.
Chapter 7 - 
Will a smacking save your child from going to Hell?
(Note: Throughout this article I use the British term "smacking" which is the equivalent of the American term "spanking")
The thought of eternal punishment is an extremely frightening idea. The idea that people will be eternally separated from God and will suffer in an ever burning hell fire has to be one of the scariest thoughts that the imagination can conjure up. One cannot think of a more frightening thing. It is safe to say that if one knew that one could guarantee one’s children a place in heaven, one would be willing to do almost anything.[1] This especially is the case when one thinks that one’s actions could have some influence in saving their children from the fate of eternal punishment. This idea creates a huge sense of responsibility that has been placed upon the parent.
Among numerous Christian groups, a teaching has emerged that smacking your children is not only capable of saving them from an eternity in Hell, but smacking is the central means to see that this never takes place. Because of this teaching, numerous Christian teachers have whole-heartedly advocated for smacking children from the earliest of ages to save them from going to Hell.
Where did this responsibility have its origin? It is found in one Biblical verse that is the sole source for this concept. There is no doubt that on the basis, primarily, of this one verse, many thousands of Christian parents have lived lives of supreme pain and immense suffering over their wayward children and the thought that their children will be assigned a place in eternal torment. This is no doubt true, but how does this Biblical verse stand up to the scrutiny of an academic examination?
            In this chapter we are going to look at this verse under the microscope. The microscope we will use will be a simple but thorough examination of the Bible to better understand this verse and what it means. We’ll also consider the comments of some learned scholars to help us understand what this verse means. Before we begin, let us first look at the Biblical verse in question. It is found in the book of Proverbs and it directly relates the idea of smacking children with their eternal destination. It reads as follows: “Do not withhold correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and deliver his soul from hell.[2]
Let me say from the beginning, that I believe this Scripture to be true if we interpret it correctly. This, however, is where the problem comes in and the problem really finds its origin primarily in one word in the verse. It is the use of the word “Hell.” (There is a second word that relates to this first word “Hell” that influences this interpretation in this verse and we shall deal with it shortly.)
            It is the use of this word “Hell” in this verse that Christian smacking advocates have taken literally and they have created the doctrine that a smacking can save your child from going to Hell. It is this precise meaning that many influential conservative Christian groups, prominent Christian psychologists and Bible teachers assign to this verse. For example, one prominent Christian teaches refers to this idea by saying: “God has ordained issues of the greatest importance to hinge upon the discipline of the rod – even involving the child’s eternal salvation.”[3] Another modern pastor says the following: “The parent who spanks the child keeps him from going to hell. … The parent has kept his child from hell by teaching him truths that can be learned only by discipline and the use of the rod.”[4]
            Modern Bible interpreters are not alone in their understanding of this verse. We find that many influential conservative Protestant theologians since the time of the Protestant Reformation have embraced this idea.[5] An example of this idea is referred to in the following quote: “The gentle rod of the mother is a very soft and gentle thing: it will break neither bone nor skin; yet by the blessing of God with it, and upon wise application of it, it would break the bond that bindeth up corruption in the heart … Withhold not correction from the child, for it thou beatest him with the rod he shall not die, that shalt beat him with the rod and deliver his soul from hell.”[6]
            I believe that all of these individuals quoting this passage and interpreting it in the way that they are doing it are deeply sincere Christian people. It is not their sincerity or commitment to God, however, that needs questioning here. It is the interpretation of this verse.
Does this verse really mean that by smacking your children, you will save them from the eternity of an ever-burning hell fire? It seems a sensible approach to look at this matter of such importance carefully and truly examine what the Bible means.
            To begin, let us look behind the English word “hell” in Proverbs 23:13-14 to the Hebrew original. The entire book of Proverbs was written in ancient Hebrew and it is this language that is translated into English in our modern Bibles. Now what is the word that is translated “hell” in this verse from Proverbs? It is the Hebrew word “sh’ol.” Now, this word is translated as “hell” 28 times in the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament).[7] This, however, is not the most interesting thing about this word. This word, “sh’ol” is found 65 times in the Hebrew Bible.[8] So we have 37 instances in the Hebrew Bible where this word “sh’ol” is translated by another word, not by the English word “hell.” This is significant. Could it be that this word “sh’ol” in Hebrew does not specifically refer exactly to the common concept of hell?
            Now, one would think that when one is talking about the concept of “hell” in the Bible, we are dealing with a very clear and straightforward idea. Hell is a place of burning fire and it is where sinners go to burn there forever. There is no way to get out once you go there and you stay there forever. Now this is your standard definition of “hell.” With this in mind, now, let us look at the use of this word “sh’ol” in the Bible to see how this word relates to the standard definition of “hell.”
The use of “sh’ol” in the Bible
The first time we encounter the use of the word “sh’ol” is in the book of Genesis. The story in question concerns the response of the patriarch Jacob who was told that his son, Joseph, had been killed. Let us look at this text. The Bible says the following: “And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth on his loins, and mourned for his son many days. And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down to my son mourning into the grave. Thus his father wept for him.”[9]
            Now I said that this word “sh’ol” appears in this verse in the book of Genesis? It is the italicised word mentioned just near the end of the verse. It is the word “grave.” From this verse, we see that the patriarch Jacob believed that he, himself, would “go down to my son mourning into the grave.” (Hebrew: sh’ol) Based upon what Jacob said, he clearly believed that his son Joseph was now in “the grave.” (Hebrew: sh’ol) This is a fact that is not disputed. Now, I think that any objective person examining this text would agree that Jacob and Joseph are not presently burning in “hell” on the basis of this verse? The text does not indicate this.  However, it must be understood that the word here translated “grave” and the word translated “hell” in Proverbs 23:13-14 are exactly the same word in the original Hebrew language. Now how is it that the word “grave” and the word “hell” are translated by the same word from the Hebrew language? Before we answer this question let us look at some more examples of the use of this word “sh’ol.”
            One of the most interesting texts concerning the use of this word “sh’ol” concerns that surrounding an incident in the life of Jonah the prophet. Most people are fairly familiar with the story of Jonah. A fish swallowed him. Now while in the belly of the fish, Jonah said the following: “Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly, and said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and He heard me; out of the belly of hell (Hebrew: sh’ol) cried I, and thou heardest my voice.”[10] This is the exact same word that Jacob spoke of as “the grave.” Here Jonah calls it “hell.” He clearly is referring to the belly of the fish as a type of “hell” because this location is nowhere near the traditional description of hell because Jonah returned from it after leaving the belly of the fish. He did not spend eternity there, so this usage does not refer to an eternal state.
            This word “sh’ol” is also translated by another word in English. It is the word “pit.” We find this taking place in only three verses. Two times this takes place in the following quotation: “But if the LORD make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit (Hebrew: sh’ol); then ye shall understand that these men have provoked the LORD. And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them: And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit (Hebrew: sh’ol), and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation.”[11] Now, clearly the verse shows that the people lost their lives, but this idea doesn’t really seem to relate to the traditional teaching of “hell.” The text doesn’t mention anything about them remaining there for eternity. It just says that the people went down “alive into the pit.” The point with this whole discussion is that the Biblical meaning of the word “sh’ol” is not universally an ever-burning hell fire.
            To make the matter even more confusing, we not only find the word “sh’ol” translated as “hell,” “pit,” and “grave,” but it is also translated by two of these words in one single verse! The following quote is one of the most interesting of this group of verses that actually features this word “sh’ol” several times. It comes from the book of Job. Let us look at it here: “If I wait, the grave (Hebrew: sh’ol) is mine house: I have made my bed in the darkness. I have said to corruption, Thou art my father: to the worm, Thou art my mother, and my sister. And where is now my hope? As for my hope, who shall see it? They shall go down to the bars of the pit (Hebrew: sh’ol), when our rest together is in the dust.”[12] In this verse, we find the same word in Hebrew (sh’ol) translated by two different English words. They are “grave” and “pit.” If you look at the context of this verse, Job is clearly speaking about the day he will die and will go and meet his family who had already died. They would one day be in the same place “when our rest together is in the dust.”[13] Clearly, this verse in no way points to a traditional conception of hell at all. This is the reason why the translators of the King James Version did not place the word “hell” for the word “sh’ol” in this verse. Clearly, Job identified “sh’ol” with the resting place of the dead. Additionally, in one Bible version, the word translated as “corruption” in the above verses is also translated by the word “pit” as well.[14] Now this just adds to the confusion.
            The point in this whole discussion is that this word translated as “hell” clearly does not always mean an ever-burning hell fire. This is what the great Christian theologian and scholar H.A. Ironside pointed out in his commentary on the book of Proverbs. Commenting on this specific verse in question, he said: “Sheol is not exactly hell. It is the world of the spirits.”[15] Another prominent Christian commentator on the book of Proverbs refers to this passage and specifically avoids that use of the word hell in this verse. Note the following: “Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from Sheol.”[16] Dr. Randall Heskett, Professor of Old Testament at the Toronto School of Theology in his excellent article titled: Proverbs 23:13-14 also specifically avoids translating this word “sh’ol” as “hell.”[17] This is where the problem comes in saying that in Proverbs 23:13-14 the word “sh’ol” means an ever burning hell fire. There is no clear justification for this interpretation outside of looking at the King James Version translation and simply just saying that is what it means. The Biblical information regarding this word simply won’t support this thesis.

[1] This would include administering a smacking.
[2] Proverbs 23:13-14 quoted from the King James Version 
[3] Larry Christenson, The Christian Family, pg. 112
[4] Rev. Jack Hyles, How to Rear Children, pgs.95-96
[5] Numerous quotes are given in this regard in Philip Greven’s book, “Spare the Child:…” and in Alice Miller’s book, “For Your Own Good.”
[6] John Eliot, The Harmony of the Gospel, Quoted in A. Miller’s “For Your Own Good,” Intro. pg. xx
[7] WEHCC, pg. 1220, under section “sh’ohl
[8] ibid., Please refer to appendix 1: “The Biblical uses of the word “sh’ol” and the variances in English translation found in the King James Version.”
[9] Genesis 37:35
[10] Jonah 2:1-2
[11] Numbers 16:30-33
[12] Job 17:13-16 King James Version
[13] Job 17:16
[14] The Jerusalem Bible, Koren Edition, pg. 838
[15] H.A. Ironside, Notes of the Book of Proverbs, pg.323, Loizeaux Brothers, Bible Truth Depot: 1907.
[16] Tyndale Old Testament Commentary, Proverbs, pg. 51, Inter-Varsity Press, 1964.
[17] Heskett, Interpretation Journal, April 2001, Pgs 183.

For more information about my book, "Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking (or Smacking) Controversy", in the USA please call 1 800 204 2063 to order your copy or the Archives Bookshop website to order yours online. For overseas, you can order your copy online.


Get it here free as an ebook - 
http://parentingfreedom.com/samuelmartin.pdf or from here - 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying. (Proverbs 19:18 - King James Version) - Some comments on this verse

Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying. (Proverbs 19:18 - King James Version)

I think we've all looked at this verse and struggled with it. It is not an easy passage to overcome for many advocates of corporal punishment. It just seems so clear, unassailable and plain. I mean it is so black and white.

So, let's look at this verse a little bit deeper because there is much more here than meets the eye.

Let us understand a couple of things about this verse.

First the original language of the verse is Hebrew. Let's look at the Hebrew now:

יסר בנך כי יש תקוה ואל המיתו אל תשא נפשך׃

Now, let us understand that there is a divergence of opinion concerning what this verse means and there is one word herein that really is the problem. It is the word - המיתו (hmito).

Now, this word is translated one of two ways. It is either "his crying" or "his death."

The King James Version favors the first meaning:

Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying. (Proverbs 19:18 - King James Version)

However, in fact, when we look at the more modern scholarship on this verse we can see a different viewpoint. Before we get into that though, let’s consider the flow of how this material was first written down and how it is reaching us today. First, let's look at the King James Version of the Bible. 

A little background about the King James Version

The book of Proverbs is a part of the King James Version and it is found among what we might call "Wisdom books." These also include Psalms and Job.

So, these books were originally composed in Hebrew and transmitted down through the ages in various textual traditions arriving today at what is known as the Masoretic text(I am going to refer to some terms here which can be Googled for more information). There are other textual traditions, but the Masoretic text is the most authoritative, standard one.

Along the way, the Old Testament was translated into Greek in Egypt. This is known as the Septuagint. This was several hundred years before the birth of Christ.

Then, after this other translations of the original Hebrew came along in other languages. Some of these main ones are: Aramaic, Armenian, Arabic, and Ethiopic and, of course, for us Westerners, the most important was the Latin.

This started about 400 or so years after the time of Christ and largely is the work of St. Jerome, who came to the Holy Land and undertook his translation into Latin, known as the Vulgate.

For many centuries, the Latin Vulgate was the Bible of Europe. Only after the Protestant Reformation and the opportunity and desire for increased Bible study did some new translations of the Bible start to appear.

We can mention many of them, but the most enduring of these is, of course, the King James Version. It was first published 401 years ago in 1611.

The King James Version has an amazing history and involved the commissioning of 54 separate scholars who contributed to its production. At the time it was produced, it was an amazing piece of scholarship, a great achievement.

However, this version had its limitations. It relied on the available scholarship that was present at that time, which was very limited. I mean we are talking about a literary production some 160 years after the first books were printed. Literary pursuits were still not in the possession of the common man on the street. It was slowly moving in that direction.

When we think about the opportunities that these 54 scholars had to compare materials, we can see the limitations right away. How could these people travel to other libraries in Europe easily and compare texts? Books were still rare. What if they did not know French or German? I mean a person can see how limited the whole process was. They were relying on a few manuscripts of the Bible and had limited opportunity to compare and check multiple versions in different languages. This is all totally contrasted to today.

Now, getting back to this verse from Proverbs, let us consider some modern versions and how they translate this passage.

Let's look at my favorite these days, the English Standard Version (ESV).

    Discipline your son, for there is hope;
        do not set your heart on putting him to death. (Proverbs 19:18 ESV)

How about some others?

If you Google "Proverbs 19:18" you will get the following as the first page that comes up. I am going to now quote selected modern versions from this list. You'll notice a trend. http://bible.cc/proverbs/19-18.htm

Description: http://bible.cc/parallel7.gif
New International Version (©1984)
Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.
New Living Translation (©2007)
Discipline your children while there is hope. Otherwise you will ruin their lives.
English Standard Version (©2001)
Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death.
New American Standard Bible (©1995)
Discipline your son while there is hope, And do not desire his death.
Aramaic Bible in Plain English (©2010)
Chasten your son because there is hope and do not cast out your soul to his shame.
GOD'S WORD® Translation (©1995)
Discipline your son while there is still hope. Do not be the one responsible for his death.
American Standard Version
Chasten thy son, seeing there is hope; and set not thy heart on his destruction.
Douay-Rheims Bible
Chastise thy son, despair not: but to the killing of him set not thy soul.
Darby Bible Translation
Chasten thy son, seeing there is hope; but set not thy soul upon killing him.
English Revised Version
Chasten thy son, seeing there is hope; and set not thy heart on his destruction.
World English Bible
Discipline your son, for there is hope; don't be a willing party to his death.
Young's Literal Translation
Chastise thy son, for there is hope, And to put him to death lift not up thy soul.

What you find in this list is a totally different understanding of this verse. It really follows what the ESV is saying. So the reading "his death" is vastly favored over "his crying" by modern scholars. This is very important.

Now, this text reaches these versions following the same stream as the King James Version, but you have to add what has taken place since 1611 and there is, in fact, quite a lot in the field of Bible knowledge advancement that has happened since then that adds to our knowledge and this is why we see 12 modern versions all translating this passage the same way because the academic evidence is so compelling in favor of this reading against what the King James Version has. 

What has happened since 1611 in Bible Knowledge?

The issue of accessibility to the Bible in modern Languages
o   Since the invention of the Printing Press/Movable Type, books in general (including the Bible), have become cheaper/more accessible to people in the last 300 years.
The Industrial Revolution
o   The development in the world with more modern conveniences, leisure time and the explosion of scholarship that originated in Europe and America since the beginning of 1800 has meant dramatic increases in the level of learning in all fields and the field of the Bible is no exception.
New Discoveries in Biblical Knowledge – Some Highlights
o   1859 – The Discovery of the previously unknown Sinaticus Manuscript (one of the earliest known almost complete versions of the New Testament in the original Greek language dating back over 1,600 years) by Constantine Tischendorf in the Sinai Peninsula at the St. Catharine’s Monastery.
o   1896 - The discovery of the greatest literary treasures in the Jewish world was brought to light in Cairo, Egypt by the great Hebrew scholar, Solomon Schechter of Cambridge University. Previously unknown documents from numerous Biblical and Talmudic books came to light.
o   1947 – The Discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Judaean foothills by a shepherd and the subsequent coming to light of a literal treasure trove of ancient Biblical manuscripts with examples present from almost every book of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) that were previously unknown.
o   The rise of archaeology in the last 150 years which has helped illuminate the pages of the Bible as never before.
§  The discovery of the Moabite Stone
§  The discovery of the ancient tablets at Ebla
§  The discovery of thousands of ancient cuneiform texts in Iraq

The ability of the most accomplished scholars in the world of the Bible to meet and share research on the Bible and present these findings to the world in the most up-to-date and scholarly accurate Bible translations that have ever been undertaken.
o   The Authorized Version - 1911
o   The Revised Standard Version – 1952
o   The New Revised Standard Version – 1989
o   The New International Version – 1978
o   Many others could be mentioned – All with increased levels of new scholarship and the highest levels of academic research present to bring the Bible into the modern world.

While these developments are historical facts, many in the Christian world have not embraced these new historical facts.

Many in the Christian world continue to utilize and hold onto antiquated and academically disadvantaged Bible versions with the King James Version being the main Bible version in question.

So, today, we have the problem of relying on a Bible translation that was published in 1611 being the authoritative source for English speaking people throughout much of the Christian world in the 21st century and today many religious brethren are relying on this Bible version to help them to understand some Bible passages which in some cases are over 4,000 years old.

While much has indeed happened in the Biblical world in the sense of new scholarship, note the following:

“The King James Version, renowned for centuries for its majestic, rhythmic prose and poetry that can entrance those it doesn’t befuddle, was long the best-selling English version. It’s still the second-best-selling Bible in the country [USA], according to CBA (Christian Booksellers Association).”[1][1]

Note what a leading executive from the Zondervan Publishing company, one of the largest Christian publishers in the world, said in the same article: 

“We’re always looking for better ways to engage people in the Bible,” said Paul Caminiti, a vice president for Christian publisher Zondervan, headquartered in Michigan. “Plain-text Bibles are well over 1,000 pages. We’re talking about 66 different books of the Bible, and a book that was written to a culture that is 2,000 to 4,000 years old. It can be challenging for people to jump into.”[2][2]

Mr. Caminiti is right. It can be challenging for people to jump into. But, I think it is safe to say that it is harder to jump into a culture that is between 2,000 to 4,000 years old using tools which themselves are 400 years old. This is where we have major challenges. But, sadly, some well-intentioned brethren just jump right in to the Bible without taking into consideration any serious examination of the Bible that they are studying and teaching others from.

As a final thought, I would like to mention the following. One of the great textual critics of the last century, Professor Scrivener knew a little bit about the history of the Biblical text and in this case we are here discussing the New Testament. 

In his book, "Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament", he mentioned that he and his colleagues reviewed 3,791 separate Biblical manuscripts of the New Testament (in the books final edition - the fourth, which was prepared in 1894). 

Now, if Professor Scrivener living over 100 years ago could have done this, imagine what you, I and especially today's Biblical scholars can achieve? Read any introduction of a modern Bible version and compare it to the introduction of the King James Version and you'll appreciate the difference and the need for us to rely on modern Bible versions and the information we find therein. 

Get my ebook free here -http://parentingfreedom.com/samuelmartin.pdf

For more information about ordering my book in hard copy, "Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking (or Smacking) Controversy", in the USA please call 1 800 204 2063 to order your copy or the Archives Bookshop website to order yours online:



Thursday, March 22, 2012

“To Train Up a Child contains the methods of "traditional child training that parents have done for thousands of years in all cultures and all religions,"

Announcement: As of May 4, 2012, Samuel Martin's book "Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy" is now available for free - For details, please see -  http://samuelmartin.blogspot.com/2012/05/pen-is-mightier-than-punch.html

Many of you may have seen this discussion between Janet Heimlich and Michael Pearl of late. In that discussion and article which accompanies the video are some interesting quotes. One of them is as follows and will be the subject of my short discussion here.

To Train Up a Child contains the methods of "traditional child training that parents have done for thousands of years in all cultures and all religions," Pearl argued. "And it's not information primarily derived from the Bible, not at all. My parents trained me up in the way that I trained my children, and my children are now training up their children the same way." http://www.christianpost.com/news/biblical-chastisement-are-evangelical-christians-more-likely-to-abuse-video-71332/

Michael Pearl actually believes this statement, but he is dead wrong. Unfortunately, it seems that Pearl obtained a BS, but it seems he did not read too many history books along the way. Had he have, he would realize that you cannot generalize when it comes to historical facts. We should not be too surprised though because of the almost 80 quotes I could find in his book, they were all from the King James Version of the Bible with 2/3rds of these from the Old Testament. Nothing wrong with the King James Version, but if you are living in rural Tennessee trying to understand information that was happening several thousand miles away across an ocean some three thousand years ago using tools that are themselves 400 years old, you’re going to perhaps have limitations in understanding. I mean some of us are doing our best to work with Scripture in the modern world of the Internet, the IPAD and the IPHONE, while others are still using tin cans with strings attached to communicate. Anything wrong with two tin cans and string? No, but when it comes to understanding Scripture, give me an IPHONE and an IPAD over two tin cans and piece of string any day
So let’s look at his generalization referenced above: "traditional child training that parents have done for thousands of years in all cultures and all religions," Pearl argued. "And it's not information primarily derived from the Bible, not at all.

So, as Pearl tells us, he is just doing what ‘all cultures and all religions” have been doing for “thousands of years.” Well, let’s check this out.

Don’t Generalize

When I was in college, I followed the BA track and took lots of courses on history, sociology, anthropology, etc. I even earned a minor in anthropology as a part of my degree which focused on Middle Eastern studies.

Early on in my academic experience, I was given a solid lesson in not generalizing. I was writing this paper about Europe and made some really ridiculous generalizations in the paper. I was talking about what was taking place in “Europe” in the 14th century. To hear me tell it, “Europe” at that time just represented one homogeneous group with little difference or distinction and this is where I got rightfully corrected.

My teacher told me: Sam, this is an ‘A” paper, but don’t GENERALIZE. To say that what was happening in Bohemia in the 14th century was the same thing as what was taking place in Paris or Copenhagen during the same period is just really silly nonsense and my teacher was right. I remembered that lesson still today just as clear as it was now some 20 years ago when I was in university.

So generalizing is dangerous territory, but Pearl marches right in. To say that “all cultures and all religions” have done what Pearl is doing today is, with all due respect, absolutely ridiculous.

Let’s look at a case study.

There is a great book called “The Child in Christian Thought” (Eerdmans: 2000) edited by Professor Marcia Bunge who is one of the giants in the child theology movement. Professor Bunge has written a number of books and in fact we are waiting for a new one to come out this year which promises to be her most exciting offering yet and it will be not disappoint because it will be about child theology. This book contains essays from the cream of the global theological world currently dealing with the subject of child theology.

In that book, there is a chapter titled: ‘Wonderful Affection’: Seventeenth Century Missionaries to New France on Children and Childhood by Clarissa Atkinson, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the Harvard Divinity School.

Let's look at a few quotes from this article because it is very relevant to our discussion here.

“Along with the gospel, Christian missionaries carried to the New World distinct and deeply held beliefs and assumptions about children and childhood. Such beliefs and assumptions are embedded in culture, and in Christian contexts associated also with the theological anthropology of particular times, places, and religious subgroups or denominations. In the seventeenth century, the ideologies of childhood of Roman Catholic missionaries to New France drew them into close and intense encounters with people of cultures radically unlike their own. To Jesuit and Ursuline missionaries, the indigenous people of Eastern Canada held not only different but horrifyingly mistaken views about many things – notable among these, the nature, education, and discipline of children.” (pg. 227)

So, these missionaries about 400 years ago from Europe had some specific ideas about children in mind (similar in fact to those of Pearl), but what did they find in Eastern Canada? Well, according to Pearl, “all cultures and all religions” have been doing what he is today doing for “thousands of years”, all except these people in Eastern Canada that is.

This is because “the Jesuits, enthusiastic proponents of the widespread belief in physical discipline among early modern Europeans, insisted upon such punishment on their French schools. Neither their humanist tradition nor their dedication to education countered their acceptance of the general view that beating a child was a necessary and appropriate part of moral and intellectual training.” (ibid, pg. 237)

To these well intentioned French Europeans who went to Canada as missionaries among the native peoples 400 years ago, they brought their belief in corporal punishment with them. But what did they find when they arrived?

“The most striking and significant comments by Jesuits on cultural difference concern the discipline, punishment, and ‘spoiling’ of children. From the very beginning, the missionaries were both struck by the Indians’ love for their children and horrified at the way they raised them.  “They treat their children with wonderful affection, but they preserve no discipline, for they neither themselves correct them not allow others to do so.” (JR 1:277) This attitude and behavior interfered with instruction and conversion The theme is repeated over and over: children had to be taught in boarding schools away from home because their parents would not allow them to be properly trained – that is, subjected to the corporal punishment that was taken for granted in French homes and schools.” (ibid.)

This phenomenon was not limited to Canada. Note the following testimony from a Canadian missionary:

“All the Savage tribes of these quarters, and of Brazil, as we are assured, cannot chastise a child or see one chastised. How much trouble this will give us in carrying out our plans of teaching the young.” (ibid, pg. 238)

A final thought summarizes how these two groups (French missionaries and native communities looked at each other.

“The affection shows by native adults toward children looked to the missionaries like spoiling, while French discipline looked to the natives like incomprehensible brutality.” (ibid, pg. 240-241)

Let’s not put our heads in the sand though. The native communities were not always 100% kind to all children, especially orphans, but this article illustrates an important point which we are here emphasizing:
I reiterate in saying that this article helps demonstrate that to say that “all cultures and all religions” have done what Pearl is doing today is absolutely ridiculous. Just in this article we have testimony from 17th century Canada referring also to the same time period of native peoples also living in Brazil that they did not follow this European model of child rearing which had corporal punishment as a key element.

This is why our dear friend Pearl needs to stop generalizing and start learning some facts about some of the things he is asserting in his books.

Let me conclude by saying that I believe that the teachings in Mr. Michael Pearl’s books concerning corporal punishment come out of this European tradition of corporal punishment and they represent the very worst gutter theology (to quote Professor William Webb of Toronto Seminary in Canada) on the religious book market today. Those who purchase these books are warned to take care to consider alternative points of view because the point of view given by Pearl and his supporters is very narrow and lacks any serious investigation of history, culture, sociology, or anthropology, but rather relies on opening up the King James Version of the Bible and pulling out a few verses here and there and adapting it to a cultural lifestyle which is by no means necessarily connected to the Biblical context at all.

Friday, March 09, 2012

A new gender equality and role for women was an element of the Messianic age

A new gender equality and role for women was an element of the Messianic age

It is not often realized, but the Bible speaks clearly about the fact that a new role and inclusion of women in the development of the Messianic age on earth was going to happen.

The Messianic age was going to be something different. Note what Isaiah says about this time:

“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den.” (Isaiah 11:6-8) (ESV)

Relationships were not going to be the same between man and animal, between child and animal and between animal and animal. But note this. They were also not going to be the same between man and woman! This is because man and woman were going to participate jointly in the emergence of the Messianic age.

This is the exact teaching of the Apostle Peter in Acts 2, who quotes the same teaching from the book of Joel and Peter does this right at the very beginning of the Christian Church. This new movement called Christianity was going to involve men and women equally. Note what he says:

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, I will pour forth my Spirit upon all flesh: And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, And your young men shall see visions, And your elders shall dream dreams: Yes and on my bondmen and on my bondmaids in those days will I pour forth of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.” (Acts 2:17,18)

This text cannot be much clearer. There is no exclusion here. It says very clearly “daughters” and “bondmaids” and that “they will prophesy.” Luke, under the guidance here of Paul, is showing the gender equality aspect of the new teaching of Christianity. It does not stop here. Go through the rest of Acts and you will find the same thing in evidence.

Really though the place to see the seeds of this gender equality are to be found in the companion book written by Luke under Paul’s guidance: the Gospel of Luke itself. Let us first look at the Gospel of Luke and we will see an obvious focus on gender equality.

Gender equality in the Gospel of Luke

The Gospel of Luke is fundamentally different than the other two Synoptic Gospels as we have shown and one area where there are obvious differences between Matthew and Mark is in the area of its orientation towards women. This orientation has been well recognized by Christians scholars throughout the years because it is such a clear difference.

A good summary of this view is found in the following quotation:

“Most naturally also in Luke we find the most frequent allusions to that which has been one of the most striking distinctions between the old and modern world – the position of women as a fellow-heir of the kingdom of heaven, sharing in the same responsibilities and hopes,” (Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature, vol v, pg. 554. article: ‘Luke’)

Let us look at a very clear example of this in Luke’s Gospel (there are many). It is not something isolated or something that could really just be subject to one person’s interpretation. In no way! It is a cross cutting aspect of Luke’s Gospel. Women just keep be referenced in Luke in a way which is not the case for the other Synoptic Gospels.

Let’s not stop here though, many women themselves in Jerusalem knew of these prophecies and were looking for the emergence of this period of time in history. One such woman is mentioned very clearly in the Gospel of Luke. She was “Anna, a prophetess, daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher (she was of great age, having lived with a husband seven years from her virginity, and she a widow even unto eight four years), who departed not from the temple, worshipping with fastings and supplications night and day.” (Luke 2:36-38)

If we just read right over this and don’t see something being pointed out here, we are missing out its importance. Luke, under the guidance once again of St. Paul here, is showing that the Messianic age was commencing and here, not only does the prophet Simeon (Luke 2:26-31) get to bless the baby Jesus, Luke and Paul make sure that everyone knew that God was including women in this process exactly as the prophet Joel had said would take place which Peter quotes in Acts 3.

What did this great prophetess Anna do? “And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks to God, and spake of Him [Jesus] to all that were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Acts 2:38).

When we think about what kind of a woman Anna must have been? She was over 100 years old and would have commanded great respect among the people. It says that she had been fasting and praying in the Temple, day and night, for 84 years! She was called a “prophetess” and her opinion would have not been taken lightly by people.

Note: This is a small excerpt to a much larger paper I have on this subject. Over 51,000 words already. Hope to bring that out in the future.