Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ordination - Evidence from the New Testament - 1 Timothy 5:22 - Part 5 of many

While lacking any terminology referring to the appointing/calling/choosing of elders, this passage is often assumed to refer to elder commissioning. The understanding of commissioning derives from the assumptions made about the other two passages in the personal letters of Paul containing laying on of hands terminology (as will be seen below), combined with the general use of the laying on of hands terminology (as seen in the discussion above). The context of the passage seems to indicate that the people being commissioned are elders.[1] Whether this passage refers to the commissioning of elders in general or to the commissioning of replacement elders in particular cannot be ascertained by the text.[2] Towner further comments that the second person singular of epitithēmi “envisions Timothy as taking the lead in the procedures (though it is not necessary to rule out participation by others in leadership).”[3] The personal note of the letter does diminish the certainty of this conclusion, though, and there is nothing in this passage that warrants the limiting of participation to only the leadership. Regardless of who is performing the commissioning, the text does furnish another important insight into the laying on of hands. This laying on of hands must not be done “hastily” for it might result in sharing “in other people’s sins.” [4] We do not see here a pouring of one’s personality into the person on whom one is laying his hands (contrary to some of the understanding of Daube’s samakh concept), but the reverse process might be seen where the sin of the one receiving the imposition of hands affects the one imposing his hands. This could point to a pattern of “creating a representative or substitute,” for the sin of a representative reflects on the one he represents. Again, this passage does not deal with transference or impartation of authority.

[1] Verses 17-20 clearly refer to elders, and since the consensus from commentators is that v. 21 refers to vv. 19-20, and not to the whole chapter, it logically follows that v. 22 has to continue the train of thought about elders. See Philip H. Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 372; William D. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 46 (Nashville: Nelson, 2000), 316; and George W. Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles, NIGTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 237. The fact that the concept of sin flows throughout this entire section (vv. 20, 22, 24) also serves to confirm this tie.

[2] It does seem unlikely that this passage refers “to the later church ritual of reinstating a penitent sinner” (Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 317; see also Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, 374n72).

[3] Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, 374. One has to wonder if Towner’s limiting the action of laying on of hands to the leadership is anachronistic or due to his perceived understanding of 1 Tim 4:14.

[4] For this causal interpretation, see the discussion on μηδὲ in Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 317-18 or Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, 374n73.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Community Mentoring - David Nelson

". . .[I] note that it was a variety of members of God’s church who formed my life as a disciple of Jesus. And among those examples, some of them influenced me concurrently – the body of Christ was used by the Spirit to shape my life. . . . life in the community of faith, the cultivation of a liturgical life, and the enactment of faith as a way of life is the stuff of real discipleship. And the church should be diligent and intentional about shaping the life of the community to allow for relationships that form mature disciples. . . .And I’ll note that this is what happened to me the past month while joined together to learn with my friends from overseas. We together, in community – studying together, arguing together, eating together, living together – helped to form one another in Christ."

These are but a few sentences from David Nelson's blog post entitled I Was Never “Mentored”: A Report from the Field, Part 3, where he opines on the appropriateness of community mentoring versus one-on-one mentoring, or the Paul/Timothy model, as some would call it. It is nice to see yet another great theologian (for another example see Community of Theologians - Malcom B. Yarnell III) point believers to the importance of the community. Now, what are we going to do about it?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Ordination - Evidence from the New Testament - Acts 13:3 - Part 4 of many

Acts 13:3 uses the same terminology for the laying on of hands as Acts 6:6. Preceding this practice, the Holy Spirit had instructed the believers at Antioch to aphorizô, “set apart, appoint,” Paul and Barnabas for the work to which He had called them. Therefore the first element to note in this passage is that there was a prophetic word from the Holy Spirit (v. 2). The second is that prayer and fasting was central to the event (v. 3). Third, as in the Acts 6 passage, there is ambiguity as to who laid hands on them: the prophets and teachers or the congregation.[1] Fourth, as in the passage above, the commissioning in this passage does not seem to denote any transfer of power, but could be interpreted as the creation of representatives of the church in Antioch. The return to Antioch of Paul and Barnabas to give a report to the church about the work that God had been doing through them (Acts 14:26-27) could give credence to a representative understanding of their commissioning.

[1] Culpepper, “The Biblical Basis for Ordination,” 479. For example, note that Culpepper leans toward the whole congregation while Bruce believes it is their “colleagues” who laid their hands on them (F.F. Bruce, The Book of the Acts, 246).

Friday, February 12, 2010

Global Warming 2010

Fort Worth, TX, just received 12.6" (32cm) in a 24 hour period.

The dogs really enjoyed frolicking in the snow.

We enjoyed paying tribute to our favorite Calvin and Hobbes series:

Hobbes: "Snow Sharks?" Calvin: "That guy's a goner."

Ordination - Evidence from the New Testament - Acts 6:1-7 - Part 3 of many

Acts 6:1-7 recounts the appointing, kathistēmi, “to assign someone a position of authority” (v. 4), of the seven over the business of daily food distribution. Associated with this appointing, the New Testament records the action of the church and of the apostles in their commissioning of the seven. There are multiple elements to be noted in this passage. First, those chosen were to be from among the church in Jerusalem, and they were to be “of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom” (v. 3). Second, prayer was central to the event (v. 6). Third, hands were laid on the seven (v. 6). The laying on of hands terminology used here is epitithēmi, “to lay/put upon,” used in conjunction with the term for hand, cheir, cheiros. This terminology is repeated in Acts 13:1-3, 1 Timothy 5:22, and with a slight variation in 1 Timothy 4:14 and 2 Timothy 1:6, that is with the use of epithesis, “laying on,” instead of epitithēmi. Fourth, this text does have some ambiguity about whose hands it is referring to: the apostles’ or the congregation’s.[1] Many commentators believe the hands in question to be the apostles’. Out of those, some see this as a congregational decision, but not a congregational laying on of hands,[2] and some seem to focus mainly on the apostles’ role.[3] On the other hand, the text does allow for the antecedent to be the ones who set them in front of the apostles, making this a congregational practice.[4] Fifth, while Culpepper sees a clear parallel in the structure of this passage with the structure of the Numbers 27:16-23 inauguration of Joshua by Moses,[5] this passage does not indicate that any power was transferred from the apostles to the seven. Sixth, Culpepper also notes a topical parallel with the Numbers 8:10 dedication of the Levites. [6] An argument could be made here that the apostles or the people were creating representatives to take care of a specific issue on their behalf.

[1] See Beverly Roberts Gaventa, The Acts of the Apostles, Abingdon New Testament Commentaries (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003), 115.

[2] See for example F.F. Bruce, The Book of the Acts, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 122, who states that “it was the community as a whole that selected these seven men and presented them to the apostles for their approbation; it was the apostles who installed them in office”; Culpepper, “The Biblical Basis for Ordination,” 478, states that “the insertion of Codex Bezae makes it clear that only the apostles laid hands on the seven, but the sense of the text is that the whole congregation performed this rite”.

[3] See for examples: Daube, The New Testament and Rabbinical Judaism, 237, believes that this is samakh performed by the apostles; Ammonius Catena on the Acts of the Apostles 6.6 in Francis Martin, ed., Acts, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, NT V (Downers Grove: IVP, 2006), 71; Jaroslav Pelikan, Acts, Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2005), 94-5.

[4] Jerome D. Quinn and William C. Wacker, The First and Second Letters to Timothy, The Eerdmans Critical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 398, suggest that “the text as it stands probably means that the whole assembly, including the Twelve, prayed and performed the rite.” Cf. Harrison, in Everett Falconer Harrison, Acts: The Expanding Church (Chicago: Moody, 1975), 106-7, is among many commentators who point this out as a possibility, but then argues against it. Harrison’s argument centers on the apostle’s statement in v. 3: “whom we may appoint over this business” (emphasis mine).

[5] Culpepper, “The Biblical Basis for Ordination,” 478.

[6] Ibid.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ordination - Evidence from the New Testament - χειροτονεω - Part 2 of many

A few words should be said about one of these terms: χειροτονεω (cheirotoneô), “to elect or choose someone for definite offices or tasks.” The nineteenth century Baptist theologian John Gill, based on comments made by Beza, Erasmus, Vatablus, and H. Stephanus,[1] states:

ordinary officers, as elders and pastors of churches, were chosen and ordained by the votes of the people, expressed by stretching of their hands; thus it is said of the apostles, Acts xiv. 23, When they had ordained them elders in every church, χειροτονησαντες, by taking the suffrages and votes of members of the churches, shown by the stretching out of their hands, as the word signifies; and which they directed them to and upon it declared the elders duly elected and ordained.[2]

While this understanding of cheirotoneô is supported by BDAG, which states that it is “lit[erally] ‘stretch out the hand’ in voting,” and agrees with this understanding as used in 2 Corinthians 8:19, BDAG does suggest that the text of Acts 14:23 “does not involve a choice by the group; here the word means appoint, install, w[ith] the apostles as subj[ects].”[3] Based on the rest of the writings of Gill in this section of his work, it is evident that he was very careful not to allow anything that could open the door for hierarchical-archbishopcy. This could be the reason for his insistence on a congregational use of cheirotoneô in a passage that does not support it.[4] Nevertheless, this corporate understanding of cheirotoneô and its tie to hand raising should be kept in mind when thinking about the topic at hand.

More central to the present discussion are two passages in that list found in the book of Acts: Acts 6:1-7 and Acts 13:1-3, where the church commissions[5] some believers for a specific task. In the next post we will begin looking at New Testament passages starting with these two.

[1] Gill, in John Gill, Complete Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity, new ed., vol. 2 (London: Bradbury and Evans, 1839), 581nx, states that “Χειροτονησαντες, per suffragia delegissent, creassent: so Beza, Erasmus, Vatablus, H. Stephanus. Ortum est hoc verbum ex Græcorum consuetudine, qui porrectis manibus suffragia ferebant – Beza in Act 14,23.”

[2] Ibid., 581.

[3] BDAG, s.v. χειροτονεω.

[4] Gill further states that “though there was χειροτονια, a stretching out of the hands; yet there was no χειροθεσια, imposition of hands, used at the ordination; neither of extraordinary officers, as apostles; nor of ordinary pastors or elders of churches, in the times of Christ and his apostles” (Gill, Complete Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity, 581). While Gill’s comment is technically correct, for χειροθεσια is not found in the Greek New Testament or in the LXX, here again, it seems that Gill is pressing his point by apparently ignoring the possible parallel use of επιθεσις in conjunction with χειρ in 1 Tim 4:14 and 2 Tim 1:6, so as not to allow for the ordination practices of the Roman church.

[5] For the time being, the term ‘commission’ will be used instead of ‘ordain’, so as not to confuse or bias the discussion.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Ordination - Evidence from the New Testament - Part 1 of many

If you are thinking that things are not very clear so far, you might be looking forward to looking at the New Testament evidence for some clarity. Sorry, things are not much clearer in the New Testament record. As mentioned earlier, a lexical investigation of the English word ‘ordain’ in the NKJV reveals that it is used to translate seven different Hebrew and Greek terms, and in none of the New Testament passages in which ‘ordain’ appears is it used with the meaning of “to appoint or admit to the ministry of the Church.” A New Testament understanding of ordination will therefore have to be gleaned from passages which seem to offer a pattern of appointing or setting aside and their associated Greek terms. Passages in the New Testament dealing with appointing/calling/choosing for a specific task include: the appointing of the twelve (Mark 3:14; Luke 6:12-13), the appointing of the seventy (Luke 10:1), the choosing/appointing of the seven (Acts 6:1-7), the setting aside/appointing of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:1-3), the appointing of elders (Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5), the choosing of emissaries by the churches (such as Acts 15:22; 2 Cor 8:19), and the appointing of Paul (1 Tim 2:7; 2 Tim 1:11). In addition, as indicated earlier, if there are any parallels between the New Testament practices and the Old Testament practices of ordination, they may be found in the practice of laying on of hands.[1] Attention, therefore, traditionally has been placed on additional passages that refer to the laying on of hands also, even though these passages might not explicitly relate to appointing practices (1 Tim 4:14; 5:22; 2 Tim 1:6).

In the above list of Scripture passages, one discerns a clear grouping of passages that affirm the concept of appointing/calling/choosing, but which furnish no information as to praxis.[2] These passages are not totally void of benefits for the present discussion. They provide insight as to who did the choosing and who was chosen and for what purpose: Jesus appointed the apostles, the seventy others, and Paul in some of the above passages; in other passages, the apostles, the elders, and/or the whole church chose messengers, helpers, and traveling companions; Paul and Barnabas, as well as Titus, appointed elders. In addition, these passages also provide a list of terms associated with appointing/calling/choosing, whose lexical variety demonstrates the lack of a single unifying term used for this concept of appointing/ calling/choosing.

In the next several days/weeks we will look at these terms and these passages to try to make some sense of the New Testament evidence.

[1] Culpepper goes as far as seeing the laying on of hands as “central in ceremonies of Christian ordination” (Culpepper, “The Biblical Basis for Ordination,” 471).

[2] These passages include Jesus’ appointing of the twelve in Mark 3:14, which uses ποιεω, “make, do, or cause,” but which BDAG suggests could be translated “appoint” as in Hebrews 3:2; and Jesus’ choosing of the twelve in Luke 6:13, which uses εκλεγομαι, “to choose (for oneself).” This latter term is also used in Acts 15:22 for the choosing of the men who were supposed to travel to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas and report the advice given by the church of Jerusalem by word of mouth. Likewise, Luke 10:1, just states that Jesus also appointed seventy others; here αναδεικνυμι, “to assign to a task or position,” is used. In both 1 Tim 2:7 and 2 Tim 1:11, Paul speaks of his appointing as a preacher, etc. and uses the term τιθημι, “to assign to some task or function.” The choosing of traveling companions is described by χειροτονεω, “to elect or choose someone for definite offices or tasks,” in 2 Cor 8:19. The same term is used of Paul’s and Barnabas’ appointing elders in every church. Καθιστημι, “to assign someone a position of authority,” is used in Titus 1:5 for Titus’ responsibility to appoint elders in every city. All definitions are from Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, ed. and trans. William F. Arndt, F. Wilber Gingrich, and Frederick W. Danker [BDAG], 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000).

Friday, February 5, 2010

Ordination - Evidence in the Pre New Testament Context - Rabbinic Judaism

Some have suggested that the New Testament practice of ordination has its roots in rabbinic Judaism’s practices;[1] therefore, while heeding Culpepper’s warning to take “special care,” pre 70 A.D. Jewish practices will be briefly examined. According to Stancil, Löhse argues for a connection between the rabbinic practice and the New Testament practice stemming from the similar practice of laying on of hands.[2] Daube concurs and emphasizes that in rabbinic times samakh was “restricted to two uses,” one of which was “the ordination of a Rabbi.”[3] Daube thus proceeds to imply that the New Testament practices were based on the rabbinical practices. Culpepper disagrees, stating that “evidence for the laying on of hands prior to A.D. 70 as a ceremony in which individual teachers authorized their students to teach is lacking, and whether it was practiced at this time is debated.”[4] Due to the uncertain historicity of the practice of laying on of hands at the time of the writing of the New Testament, and due to the clearer evidence found in Old Testament practices, it would seem wise to disregard rabbinic evidence about the laying on of hands for the research at hand. This does not imply ignoring all rabbinic tradition, since other practices and traditions might be enlightening for one’s understanding of the New Testament.

Stancil highlights that there existed other similarities and some significant differences between ordination in rabbinic Judaism and in the New Testament, besides the laying on of hands. The similarities he points to are the New Testament existence of the office of elder, which he believes “was a direct borrowing from Judaism,” and that the ordination of a rabbi made a rabbi’s ministry universally valid in any synagogue, as he assumes was the case with the ordination of an elder.[5] If historically valid, the first similarity might point to some validity in using rabbinic tradition to inform the New Testament tradition. As for the second similarity, it is only beneficial if a direct relationship between the rabbinic and New Testament practices is found. With regard to differences, Stancil identifies the following: the rabbinic ceremony granted new authority to the new rabbi, the want-to-be rabbis were required to complete a course of study before their ordination, rabbinic practices lacked the accompaniment of prayer, and there was a lack of focus on the impartation of the Spirit in the rabbinic rite.[6] While his comments are thought provoking, the presence of differences coupled with the lack of concrete evidence for similarities suggests that the best approach is not to focus on rabbinic tradition for the research at hand.

There are other initiation ceremonies that existed in pre 70 A.D. rabbinical practices. Culpepper describes the “elevation to the chair” rite of appointment to the Sanhedrin and lesser courts, which, while interesting, finds no parallel in the New Testament and therefore is of no interest to the research at hand, even if this were, according to Philo, the type of ordination associated with the seventy elders (zāqēn, presbyteros) of Numbers 11:16ff.[7] Moreover, Daube mentions that he sees a tie between the seven chosen in Acts 6 and the ‘Seven of a City’: seven dignitaries chosen to look after the affairs of a Palestinian city who had power of administration, so much so that “the Seven of a City are as if they were the city itself.” Daube unfortunately does not give any specifics of the ceremony associated with the inauguration of the seven, except for the fact that he categorically states that it did not include the rite of samakh.[8] The absence of the rite of samakh renders the inauguration of the seven unhelpful for this research. At the end of the day, the arguments for the rabbinic roots of New Testament ordination lack substance.

In the next several posts we will look at New Testament "data" and then we will finally put it all together.

[1] This is the main hypothesis of the work of Daube in Daube, The New Testament and Rabbinical Judaism. Stancil also refers to the work of Edward Löhse in Edward Löhse, Die Ordination im Spätjudentum und im Neuen Testament (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1951). In regard to the word of Löhse, Culpepper suggests that Löhse’s “anachronism and over-generalization in this area, . . . provoked vigorous discussion since the publication of” his work in 1951. “In particular, Lohse’s conclusion that ‘Christian ordination was modeled on the pattern of that of Jewish scholars, although early Christianity filled it with a new covenant’ has been sharply challenged” (Culpepper, “The Biblical Basis for Ordination,” 474).

[2] Stancil, “The Practice of Ministerial Ordination among Southern Baptists,” 18.

[3] Daube, The New Testament and Rabbinical Judaism, 229.

[4] Culpepper, “The Biblical Basis for Ordination,” 475. Culpepper asserts that “most evidence dates from A.D. 200 or later and at points tendentiously attempts to root prevailing practices in the past” (Ibid., 474). He also concludes his section on “Jewish Procedures” by calling for more research to sort out and clarify the evidence and stating that “until the origins of various traditions are determined more accurately, one cannot be dogmatic” (Ibid., 476).

[5] Stancil, “The Practice of Ministerial Ordination among Southern Baptists,” 22. One has to wonder if Stancil is not being anachronistic when he makes a parallel to present practice when dealing with ordination “extending beyond the confines of the ordaining congregation.” There is no evidence in his writing that he is here pointing to New Testament or early church evidences for such a practice.

[6] Ibid., 22-4.

[7] Culpepper, “The Biblical Basis for Ordination,” 474-5. Culpepper is more comfortable with this ordination evidence because it is drawn from a tradition described in the Assumption of Moses which “dates from the opening decades of the first century A.D. or earlier and is the only evidence for ordination in pre-Christian Judaism.” Here, interestingly, “no laying on of hands is mentioned.”

[8] Daube, The New Testament and Rabbinical Judaism, 237.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Ordination - Evidence in the Pre New Testament Context - Old Testament Part III

As mentioned in the last post we will now look at four interesting uses of samakh in conjunction with yad as found in Numbers 8:10; 27:18, 23; and Deuteronomy 34:9.

The Numbers 8:10 passage deals with the cleansing and dedication of the Levites, where we read that “the children of Israel shall lay their hands on the Levites” (Num 8:10).[1] The first relevant feature to be observed is that this is a congregational laying on of hands. The second feature has to do with the purpose of the laying on of hands, which the rest of the chapter explains. God had taken the Levites, instead of the first born of Israel, and had “given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his sons from among the children of Israel, to do the work for the children of Israel in the tabernacle of meeting, and to make atonement for the children of Israel” (Num 8:19). One therefore could possibly see this ceremony as “creating a representative or substitute” for the children of Israel (to use Daube’s category), and the laying on of hands could be a symbolical representation of this transference.[2] Third, while one could argue that, due to their newfound position, the Levites had power over the Israelites, there is nothing in this ceremony or in their new position which implies that this dedication imparted authority to them.

The other three passages (Num 27:18, 23; Deut 34:9) deal with the inauguration of Joshua. Here we find that Moses was to take Joshua son of Nun, a man filled by the Spirit, and lay his hands on him to inaugurate him and give some of his authority to him. That being the case, the pattern seen in this passage is different. First, this is an individual laying on of hands, not a congregational one. Second, the laying on of hands is central to the ceremony.[3] Third, the purpose of this inauguration is a transfer of authority. This is evidenced in Deuteronomy 34:9 where it is implied that the children of Israel heeded Joshua, because Moses had laid his hands on him. Mattingly further suggests that Moses’ “hand became a visible representation of YHWH’s communication and of YHWH’s power,” and therefore his “act of laying his hands on Joshua became a visible enactment of the ‘word’ of YHWH with all of its attendant concepts of power.”[4] Some suggest that Deuteronomy 34:9 supports the idea that the Spirit that filled Joshua was there as a result of Moses’ laying on of hands; to this notion, Stancil rightly argues that the Numbers passage clearly stated that Joshua already had the Spirit in him before Moses’ laying on of hands.[5] In any case, this is not, as Daube would understand it, a “pouring of one’s personality into another being.”

Later on we will come back to this "data" combined with "data" from Rabbinic Judaism (which we will tackle in the next post), and "data" from the New Testament, and analyze what Scripture has to say. For the time being, can you think of any other Old Testament "data" that I should have considered?

[1] Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) of the Bible.

[2] In any case, there is definitely no indication in the text that this is an act of the children of Israel “pouring of one’s personality” into the Levites, the other definition for Daube’s samakh category.

[3] Mattingly, in Keith Mattingly, “The Significance of Joshua’s Reception of the Laying on of Hands in Numbers 27:12-23,” Andrews University Seminary Studies 39.2 (Autumn 2001): 198, through a careful textual and structural analysis, makes a convincing argument that “YHWH appears to be stating that all the other actions depend on” hand-laying.

[4] Ibid., 207-8.

[5] Wilburn Thomas Stancil, “The Practice of Ministerial Ordination among Southern Baptists: a Theological Analysis” (Ph.D. diss., Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1979), 17.

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