Welcome message

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 29, 2013

Jesus Christ--our true calling - A guest post by Heather Schopp

Dear friends,

I am really happy to have wonderful guest post here from Heather Schopp. Heather can often be found on Karen Campbell's wonderful page - www.thatmom.com - Heather has a number of lectures on Karen's page from some of the conferences that she has taken part in. My recommendation? Listen to everything from Heather and Karen that you can get your ears around!

Heather is one of the most powerful and elegant writers you will find anywhere on God's great blogosphere. Check out some of her work here below.   

Jesus Christ--our true calling

We tend to make rigid fences of our denominations. The denomination's list of doctrines become the acceptable "truth"--anyone outside that fence is at best not as Christian, at worst condemned. People within the fence sometimes throw the word "heretic" at anyone who doesn't interpret the Bible according to their code. So we stand behind our fences and feel safe as the "chosen" or the "one true church."

But who am I to think I have the corner on truth?

My friend said it well: "I'm a Christian first, and I happen to feel comfortable practicing my faith as a Lutheran." ....not because Luther had all the correct answers, not because non-Lutherans are all wrong -- but simply because she feels content there and is growing in her faith. I too attend a denominational church, and I think it's natural and appropriate to find a place where it feels comfortable to worship, where one shares a common belief system with other attenders.

We are called not to take on the identity of our pastor or priest or church or denomination -- but to take on the identity of Jesus Christ. We have been given minds that question and doubt and are capable of learning and growing and changing -- are we allowing those questions to spring forth, the doubts to arise, that learning and changing and growing to happen? If we sit in our churches as mindless vessels, letting the speaker pour in his/her thoughts, we have set aside the instincts, the beautiful minds God has given us. How can that be honoring to Him? He alone has the corner on truth, is Truth itself.

More and more I see knowing Jesus, understanding truth, as a process. There is not a certain magic prayer that flips a switch and makes one a Christian, not a code that when followed grants a heavenly entrance, not a list of doctrines that when accepted puts a person on the "right path."

Jesus will is to draw all men to Himself -- we can resist, we can misunderstand, but He will not stop drawing and revealing His light. Our churches and denominations should enhance that process, should help us to understand and love Jesus and love others more.

When we let churches/denominations define our faith, when we allow them to put a barrier between us and other Christians, between us and the world, we do a disservice to our faith, to others, to the truth, to Jesus Christ. We should not fear questions of faith and doctrine, differences of beliefs and convictions -- they are opportunities for us to grow and draw closer to Jesus, Who remains the unchanging truth.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Greet each other with a holy kiss

"Greet each other with a holy kiss"

When I still lived in America, I spent quite a bit of my time there living in Southern California. During that time, when I was in my mid-20's, I had a close friend who attended a very conservative Amish-type church. This church was a part of a group of similar churches located in the SW part of America and the church had its roots if I remember correctly in the German tradition. 

On several occasions, I had the pleasure of visiting the church and worshipping with the community.Upon arrival and before the service commenced, they gave you food to eat. You would sit down at a type of lunch counter they had in the church and have a sandwich before the service. 

These dear people were very conservative Biblically. The women kept their hair covered, wore very conservative plain clothing, no make-up or jewelry or the like. Men wore very simple conservative suits and simple clothes.It was a community of believers really seeking to live out the Christian life as they understood it.
When it came time to enter the service, we would go inside and then the men and women would be separated and sat on separate sides of the church.Then, the service would begin with the preaching elder standing up and he would then randomly open a King James Version of the Bible to any section of Scripture and start to give a message ad-hoc on whatever text he turned to.

Everything seemed fine, until ....

Everything about the church and the people seemed totally fine, but then something happened which absolutely caused me to do a double take.

We had arrived at the church early and had gone in to eat something before others, but when we were done and were moving to the sanctuary, I saw something that caused the eye brows to be raised, and not slightly. I was walking by two grown men who proceeded to kiss each other on the mouth!

Now, let's be clear. They did so in a very kind of dignified way and they sort of closed their lips and just kind of "kissed" each other very quickly and simply. It was did not involve any other body contact at all, just the simple "kiss," but it was two men kissing each other on the mouth!

"What did I just see?"

Upon seeing this, I sort of turned to my friend and said: "I just saw those two guys sort of kiss each other? What in the heck is going on with that?" Then he told me, "Oh yeah, it's no big deal, they are just following Paul command to "Greet each other with a holy kiss." (This is no small matter either because it is mentioned in the New Testament four times - Romans 16:16; I Corinthians 16:20; II Corinthians 13:12; I Thessalonians 5:26)

But I came back and said: "But, they are dudes and they are sort of kissing each other in a very kind of creepy way?" He said, "Well, to them, that is how they have been taught to do it and it is perfectly fine and in fact, it is "holy." 

Now, note that only the men greeted each other in this fashion. No male/female kissing of any kind took place at all. 

But this example points to a very important issue of how culture shapes how we look at the Biblical text.According to the tradition of this church, this is how their founding community interpreted these verses and the way in which the "kiss" was undertaken was on the lips between male members of the church. 

A more authentic approach according to what Paul was talking about 

Now, I think that most people will admit that people here in Israel are probably closer to the way that things were done in ancient times by sheer geography. It should not be unreasonable to think that after two thousand years, the people who live in Jerusalem today probably have a closer connection to the ancient Biblical traditions than do people living in Southern California, everything else being equal. A good example of this is as follows.

Recently, I was on my way to Jerusalem and as I waited for a bus to come, I saw a car stop in front of me and a young man about 18 got out and greeted another young man right in front of me. He did so using the traditional Arab “kiss”, a cheek to cheek approach. Generally speaking, you find men doing it to relatives or friends at special occasions or when they have not seen each other in some time. 

Normally, the parties will “kiss” the other person's cheek two or three times, but for relatives or very special events like weddings or the like, you will see them “kissing” each other more than two or three times. Such was the case of these two young men who looked as if they were not related, but that they had not seen each other in some time. I heard what they were talking about and one boy told the other that he was going to visit a nearby village and his friend insisted very vigorously that he allow him to take him to his destination. Then, they both got in the car and left. 

So, now how does all of this relate to the issue that serves as the heading for this short section: “Greet each other with a holy kiss?” The point is, we find this phrase used by Paul four times. These are: Romans 16:16; I Corinthians 16:20; II Corinthians 13:12 and I Thessalonians 5:26. Now isn’t it interesting that Paul encouraged these Gentile churches to greet each other in this fashion. Certainly, they did touch each other in the process and more importantly, Paul himself must have been “greeting people with a holy kiss”; that is, he was physically touching Gentile people! Note in I Corinthians 16:19, he even mentions “Aquila and Prisca (a woman)" and then he urges them to greet each other in this fashion.

Now, we can get into long discussions about the issues of family purity and what may have been taking place, but what is clear is that people interpret Paul very differently based upon their own experience and what they think he means with the phrase "Greet each other with a holy kiss" and to some people, it means that in the 21st century, some Christian communities in America have men kissing each other on the mouth and here in the Middle East, referring to the same text, you have people "kissing" each other cheek to cheek.

In my view, I am more in favor of the Middle Eastern model.
Now, let's ask ourselves to compare this issue to that of corporal punishment/spanking/smacking?
Here we have to ask ourselves? How do we understand the texts in Proverbs? Do we understand them according to the way St. Paul did (the Middle Eastern way)? Or are we off in a kind of late European way of understanding?

We have an example of what Paul thought of the rod in fact when he said:

"What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?" (I Corinthians 4:21)

We really have to search our hearts and ask ourselves do we really know what the Bible means today and can we really be sure that we are just not like two dudes kissing each other on the lips? 

This is a reasonable question that all advocating corporal punishment/smacking/spanking need to ask themselves because the stakes are so much higher than some guy seeing something take place and feeling a bit odd.

Download Samuel Martin's free ebook - Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy here - http://whynottrainachild.com/2013/06/22/download-martins-book/


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Was Saint Paul really a “tentmaker” as we understand this idea today?

Was Saint Paul really a “tentmaker” as we understand this idea today?

I think that we are all fairly familiar with the general history of St. Paul and his life. We understand from the New Testament that St. Paul’s family, as far as the Jewish world was concerned, must have been considered quite well off. They were Roman citizens. In fact, he went to study Jewish law and jurisprudence in Jerusalem from an early age. He even mentions that he “studied at the feel of Gamliel.” (Acts 22:3) Note the following synopsis.

“In this article we aren’t so much interested in Paul’s biography as we are in relating his theological background to his role as apostle of grace. We know that Paul (then Saul) was born in Tarsus, the son of a Pharisee who was also a Roman citizen. Paul went to Jerusalem early in life to study with the great rabbi Gamaliel. In his first Jerusalem trial (Acts 22:2), Paul introduced himself to the Sanhedrin as he who learned "at the feet of Gamaliel." This phrase means more than we would take it for at first glance. It sounds like Paul is giving homage to his teacher, and that he hung on Gamaliel’s every word. Actually, Paul used this figure of speech to remind the Sanhedrin just how important a figure Saul of Tarsus was, even from his earliest years in Jerusalem. In the synagogues, students sat in an arrangement that reflected their academic position. We have a description of a typical academic synagogue setting in which Paul would have studied:

"The academy head presided, seated on a chair or on special mats. In the front rows opposite him sat the important scholars, including his colleagues or outstanding pupils, and behind them all the other scholars. When the academies grew larger, particularly in Palestine, the order of the seating was based on a precisely defined hierarchy. In the first row sat the great scholars, in the second row the less important sages, and so on" (Adin Steinsaltz, The Essential Talmud).

We can, therefore, picture the apostle as a young man, seated front and center, at the very feet of the renowned and revered Gamaliel. Already at the top of his class, he was on his way to becoming the leading Pharisee.

Paul also wrote to the Galatians (1:14) that he was extremely zealous for the law, and his academic accomplishments exceeded that of many of his peers. This may have been a humble way of saying that he really excelled above everyone when it came to legalistic knowledge. Along with other mentions of his "qualifications" (Phil. 3:4-6, Acts 22:3, 23:6) we can assume that Paul had no superiors in the world of Pharisaism. Had not God intervened in his life, he was destined to become the next great rabbinical leader. Just as men like Gamaliel, Hillel, Rabbi Akiba, and many others have become Talmudic legends, so also Saul of Tarsus would have doubtless joined the list. Perhaps he may have achieved the great title of Rabbi Saul of Tarsus.” (http://www.tidings.org/studies/legalism1199.htm)

No doubt, of the people who make up the writers of the Holy Bible, St. Paul was certainly the most educated. But did he make physical tents for a living? According to the book of Acts, Paul is termed as a “tentmaker.” (Greek: skenopoios) However, isn’t it interesting that find this word used only one time in the Bible? In addition, note that according to the Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature, in the article “Paul,” vol. VII, pg. 789, it says: “This trade is described by Luke as that of a skenopoios, a word regarding the meaning of which there has been no small difference of opinion.” Maybe this word does not actually mean “tentmaker?”

Yes, Paul may very well have been an actual tentmaker, but note what Ronald Hock of UCLA says: “That Paul was a tentmaker (skenopoios) we learn only from Luke (cf. Acts 18:3). Although there is no reason to doubt Luke at this point (cf. E. Haenchen; The Acts of the Apostles: A Commentary [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1971] 538), the nature of Paul’s trade is still not clear. Of the two options – weaving tent clothe from goat’s hair (cilicium) or cutting and sewing leather to make tents – the latter is to be preferred.”[1]

We can see from these points that it is not exactly clear what Paul’s precise occupation was. However, it appears to have involved leather cutting, which may have been used in the fashioning of tents.

Let us be clear though on one thing. St. Paul, being that most educated of all of the Biblical writers, he no doubt was involved in the transmission of written records (including his own) to the Christian Church. Note the following discussion that my father made concerning Paul and his academic pursuits, which related in a practical way to the construction of codex form books. Those of you who have read the book Restoring the Original Bible will remember this important discussion:

“Timothy and John Mark were asked by Paul to fetch three important items and bring them to Rome. "When you come, bring the cloak [Greek: phelonen] I left with Carpus, and the scrolls, especially the parchments" (II Timothy 4:13). It is interesting that the phelonen, usually considered to be a heavy outer garment, would be mentioned alongside the paper scrolls (actually scrolls made from the papyrus plant) and the parchments (these were animal skins on which permanent documents were normally written). It seems odd that a heavy coat would be in the same context with literary documents. Most scholars, however, point out that Paul wanted Timothy and Mark to hurry to Rome before winter (verse 21) and that he probably wanted the phelonen which he left with Carpus in order to keep himself warm when the cold would set in.

This may be the case, but there are some difficulties with this interpretation. The truth is, the word phelonen had another meaning in the Greek world at the time, and it is one that is intimately connected with scrolls and parchments.

Vincent, in his Word Studies in the New Testament, has this to say about the word phelonen.  "Hesychius explains it as originally a case for keeping the mouthpieces of wind-instruments; thence, generally, a box. Phrynicus, a Greek sophist of the second half of the third century, defines it as ‘a receptacle for books, clothes, silver, or anything else.' Phelonen was a wrapper of parchments, and was translated figuratively in Latin by toga or paenula ‘a cloak,' sometimes of leather; also the wrapping which a shopkeeper put round fish or olives; also the parchment cover for papyrus rolls.

Accordingly it is claimed that Timothy in 4:13 is bidden to bring, not a cloak, but a roll-case. So the Syriac Version." (p.326)

The fact is, the word phelonen can mean either a cloak (and it is commonly used that way in Greek literature) or it could mean a receptacle for the placement of scrolls and parchments. It is the context which must determine what the apostle Paul meant by the use of phelonen in II Timothy 4:13. Since the word is found right next to scrolls and parchments, the immediate context would suggest a "book cover" a "book case" or "book slip" into which scrolls or pages of books were placed. As Vincent stated, the Syriac Version of the New Testament understood it in that manner.

Chrysostom, in the fourth century, commented on this very reference of Paul's and stated that some thought Paul meant a "book case" a receptacle for books (Hom. in loc. vol. XI, p.780, ed. Gaume). Even Jerome mentioned this point (Epist. 36, ad Damasum).

What is meant can only be determined by the context, because the word can signify either a heavy outer coat, a book case or some outer cover for books. Even in our modern times we have problems in interpreting similar words unless a proper context is provided. Let me give two illustrations to show the difficulty.

In these examples we will consider the modern words jacket, wrap and cover, Suppose a letter were found in which a woman college student wrote her mother. She said that she wanted her mother to "go to the closet and get out my heavy jacket and send it to me. It will provide the cover I need from the cold. I am now using the wrap you gave me for my birthday and it is not warm enough."

If such a letter were found, the context makes it clear that the girl is talking about outer garments in all instances. But what if the following letter were found, "Go to the bookstore and buy the latest fiction book you wrote me about. Take the jacket off, because dust wraps on the books annoy me. Make sure, however, that the book has a hard cover because I don't like paperbacks."

Though these two illustrations use exactly the same words, they signify opposite things. Obviously, no one would get confused over what was intended in either case, because the contexts are plain as to what was meant. But let us return to our word phelonen in II Timothy 4:13. It could mean either a book case, a book wrapper, a book jacket, a book cover, or it could mean a heavy outer garment. Vincent in his Word Studies had no objection to it being an ordinary cloak because, like many other modern translators, he noted that Paul asked Timothy and John Mark to come to Rome before winter (verse 21). To many scholars this provides the context in which to interpret phelonen, though admittedly the reference to winter is eight verses away from the use of the word. On the other hand, the word phelonen is found in the very verse (and context) which mentions the scrolls and parchments that Paul needed. Contextually, it would seem more logical to think of phelonen as being associated with literary documents. Indeed, it is even better to consider it that way because Luke was still with Paul in Rome and surely he could have secured for Paul any protective garment to keep away the cold during the approaching winter. Would it be necessary to fetch an outer garment all the way from Troas to keep Paul covered for the short time he was to remain alive? The fact is, Paul's reference to winter (verse 21) is by context too far away for the phelonen to mean an actual cloak. But with the word intimately connected (in a perfect context) with the literary documents which Paul was urgently requesting Timothy and John Mark to bring with them, it seems more probable that the interpretation of the Syriac Version, along with the suggestions found in Chrysostom and Jerome, happen to be correct. It appears that Paul wanted his important book case (his receptacle for carrying books) to be brought at once to Rome and the request was one of pressing necessity.” (Ernest L. Martin, Restoring the Original Bible, ASK Publication: Portland:OR, 1994 pgs. 385-387)

In this discussion, we can note the interesting point that here is Paul referring to something which could have been very well made of leather and it was used to cover books? Very interesting when we consider the whole “tentmaker” argument because my father endeavored clearly to show that St. Paul was involved in the construction of books and manuscripts and official documents related to the Christian Church. Perhaps his trade was one of a leather worker and he just transferred the knowledge that he had acquired in making leather items, like tents, to the trade of making books with leather covers and bindings utilizing leather in their construction? One thing for sure, St. Paul was certainly a highly educated man whose career path was going not into the private sector, but his destiny was to be a doctor of the law with the title of Rabbi Saul. He does not seem to have prepared himself specifically for a life of commercial enterprise. Let me know what you think on this interesting issue. 

Monday, March 04, 2013


I am asking those of you to join me now in praying the peace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on all under His sun suffering from family violence.

I believe that Jesus is calling all of us who have eyes to see and ears to hear right now to a new Crusade, a Crusade of Peace, a Crusade of Love, a Crusade of Reconciliation. Jesus said: My sheep hear my voice. Do you hear Jesus? Is He speaking to you?

I believe that the Lord is speaking to us now and calling all of us committed to "sharing the peace" that we are so used to doing on weekly holy days to get out of our places of worship and go into the world to do so, to roll up our sleeves and go to work.

Here we are not taking about an abstract thing: peace; No, not at all! We are talking about God who became man and walked among us: Jesus. Jesus is our peace. It is He who we are asking to lead us to a more peaceful world and I believe the first place to start where Jesus wants us to work is at home, in every home.

I have seen on this page something very special happen since February 26. I ask anyone to simply look at what has happened since that date. A very simple post made on that day and 'promoted" in the begining for $10.00 US Dollars (which I am still 'promoting" now) has been I believe used by Jesus Christ. I will let you judge for yourself what you think. I have sent dozens of free ebooks and profoundly connected with tens of people who I feel are simply just saying: NO MORE! NO MORE TO FAMILY VIOLENCE INFLICTED ON KIDS IN JESUS NAME! NO MORE!

From this day forward this page will have as its main focus campaigning for peace.

I have a plan of what I intend to do in this month of March. Before I talk about that, I would like to hear your view. What is Jesus saying to you? We are His sheep. Are we hearing His voice?

Download Samuel Martin's free ebook - Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy here - http://whynottrainachild.com/2013/06/22/download-martins-book/