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, September 05, 2014

Jesus and the act of driving out the Moneychangers

Jesus and the act of driving out the Moneychangers

Some Christians are quick to point to the example of Jesus when he went to the temple in Jerusalem at the Passover season mentioned in the Gospel of John[1] as Jesus’ endorsement of bodily punishment. At that time, Jesus responded to the scene of rampant commercialism that had taken over the Temple area. In response to this scene, Jesus made “a scourge of cords.”[2] This scourge of cords was not, as the context clearly shows, designed to be used on people. The Bible indicates that “he [Jesus] made a scourge of cords, and cast all out of the temple, both the sheep and the oxen.”[3] He then “poured out the money of the changers, and overthrew their tables; and to the dove sellers he said; ‘Take these hence; make not the house of my Father a house of merchandise.”[4]

            The strong indication we get from this story was that the scourge of cords was directed at the animals, not the people. There is little evidence here that Jesus used the scourge to hit the people. In fact, it is quite possible that according to the Law of Moses, it would have been forbidden for Jesus to do so. This is because according to the Law of Moses, it is forbidden for one Jew to strike another outside of the legally sanctioned environment of the court of justice.[5] Had Jesus struck one of the people with the scourge, he could have been convicted of a crime at that time on the basis of the above-mentioned law. Those who are quick to point to this as evidence for Jesus’ approval of bodily punishment may need to reconsider this position in light of the laws that governed the actions of the Jewish people at that time. People could not just go around beating other citizens. Such behaviour was illegal at that time as it is now.    

[1] John 2:13-17
[2] John 2:15
[3] ibid.
[4] John 2:16
[5] Exodus 21:18

This text is an excerpt from Samuel Martin's free ebook - "Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy - Available free here: whynottrainachild.com/2013/06/22/download-martins-book/ or endhittingusa.org/resources/sam-martin-s-biblical-studies-about-spanking 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Comparison between Jesus Christ and the Sabbath Day of the Lord

A Comparison between Jesus Christ and the Sabbath Day of the Lord
The Sabbath Day
Jesus Christ
Mankind are urged to imitate God in their behavior, who rested on the Sabbath Day. God chose to meet and join mankind in “rest” as one on the Sabbath. (Genesis 2:3)
Jesus Christ is the meeting place between mankind and God. He is the Immanuel (God with us). He, like the Sabbath, is the meeting point where God and mankind meet. (Isaiah 7 & 8 and Matt. 1:23) "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us ... (John 1:14 ESV)
The Sabbath is a symbol of the Millennial reign of God, a 1,000 year period at the end of the age, where God and mankind will rest together (Genesis 2:3 and Psalm 90)
Jesus Christ will be God’s representative of earth and we will join with him in the Millennial age (Revelation 20:3) that will last for 1,000 years and is called a keeping of a Sabbath (Hebrews 4:9)
When the Sabbath arrives, a person enters into it. (Heschel, The Sabbath)
When a person becomes a Christian, they are said to be “in Christ.” (Galatians 3:26)
The Sabbath is a day of rest (Exodus 20:10) and those who enter into it are refreshed, renewed and reborn weekly. (Heschel, The Sabbath)
Jesus Christ is a person of rest (Matthew 11:28-30) and all who enter into a relationship with Him are reborn, refreshed and will be raised from the dead.
There are no gender differences on the Sabbath, which is a symbol of the world to come. (“but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter … Exodus 20:10 ESV)
In Christ and in heaven, there are no gender differences at all. (Galatians 3:28 – (“there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28 ESV) St. Peter also said that husbands (men) and wives (women) are “heirs together in the grace of life.” (I Peter 3:7)
There are no social distinctions of human beings on the Sabbath (no slaves and no foreigners). All are one on the Sabbath (your male servant, female servant … or the sojourner who is within your gates. (Exodus 20:10 ESV)
In Christ, there are no social differences at all. (There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28 ESV)
On the Sabbath day, “work” (understood as  ‘purposeful acts from which advantage is derived’ – Danby, The Mishnah) were forbidden. So all during the Sabbath were the same in God’s eyes.
In Christ, no one has an advantage over anyone else. (“you are all one in Christ Jesus” – Galatians 3:28 ESV)
On the Sabbath day, the “works” of mankind were to cease on that day.
In Christ, mankind also ceases to work, knowing that our “works” are not adequate for salvation.
On the Sabbath, no one could buy or sell anything and one’s economic power could not be exercised. All, in that sense, during the Sabbath, were equal. As such, this enhanced the spiritual time aspect of the Sabbath. There were serious consequences for those who violated the law of the Sabbath.
Early Christians who pursued a life “in Christ” sought to live a permanent Sabbath-like existence by rejecting material advantage and seeing to it that monetary power was not exercised in the early Church “and it (money) was distributed to each as any had need.” (Acts 4:35 ESV) There were serious consequences for those who lied to the Spirit.
The moon, which is reflected light, has no influence or part of the Sabbath. The governance of the timing of the Sabbath is totally dominated by the Sun, which is a Biblical symbol of goodness/life.
Jesus Christ, the Messiah, is called the “Sun of Righteousness” in the book of Malachi (Malachi 4:2 and Psalm 19:5)
The arrival of the Sabbath in the mystical circles of Judaism had elements of a wedding celebration associated with it (Heschel, The Sabbath)
Our attachment to Christ Jesus has elements of a marriage agreement. (Matthew 25 and Ephesians 5:32) 
The Sabbath was to be a day/time of joy/delight (Isaiah 58:13) and mirrors what heaven will be like in the future. 
Joy is a major fruit of the Holy Spirit of God and the believer and is one of God’s central attributes (Galatians 5:22,23)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I looked in the mirror today and did not like what I saw

I looked in the mirror today and did not like what I saw

One of my friends on Facebook wrote this morning about an incident in her life as a parent, an incident which she discussed with great pain and personal anguish. 

Parenting for most of us (I have two girls aged 11 and 7) has its times where pain and anguish happens and as much as we are trying to avoid it, it is unavoidable. 

I was really moved by what this dear sister had to say because she was really in pain and was looking at herself in a very negative way. I think we've all been there. I know I have. 

It made me remember a time a few years ago, which was very painful for me and during that time, I have a tendency to seek to feel my way out of the pain through writing. I wrote quite a lot in fact one night and when I finished I had written almost 9,000 words. A very emotional paper to be sure and I still have not gotten up the nerve to publish it yet, but in this post I am going to excerpt something from it which I hope blesses you.

So, I went through some time of personal reflection on my own writing and what I wanted it to achieve and I was not happy with some of the things I was doing and some of the things I was holding back. One day, I remember just looking in the mirror and looking back at myself and not liking the person looking back. I really felt like God has this line where we humans get to stand in which has this sign that says "SINNER" and we all get to line up and find our place in the line and on that day, yours truly was standing at the head of the line. I am sure most of you have probably felt like this at one time or another. I am sure it is a fairly normal part of the human condition.

Paul talks about this "SINNER" line and where he saw himself in that line in his first letter to Timothy saying:

“I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”  (I Timothy 1:12-15 ESV)

When my dad was alive, he also talked about this 'SINNER" line. Dad referred to this line of sinners with quite a lot of pain and anguish as well. I remember well one particularly stressful time in my dad's life and he spoke about this "SINNER" line saying that he occupied the number one position taking his reference from Paul's letter to Timothy:

“Paul here speaks to us in the present tense. He did not say he was formerly the foremost of sinners and now here he was with the big halo around his head. Oh no! That is not what he said at all. He said he was the chiefest of sinners, and he is writing in the present tense. Of course, Paul was walking a Christian walk to the best of his ability, but he knew that sin ruled in his members. That gives me some comfort because I know that I cannot be the chiefest of sinners. The Apostle Paul has that role according to Scripture, but speaking for myself, I realize that if Paul is the chiefest of sinners, I am right behind him a close second. In fact, I’ll take over the role.” (Ernest L. Martin - Private Lecture)

You know dad, I loved hearing that when you gave that message and I love thinking about it today as you sleep in Christ because it is the truth. There is only one problem now dad. Now that you’re gone, sin no longer rules in your members because you (and Paul) sleep in Christ, so the chiefest of sinners slot is open again and dad, I am taking your spot.

This is how I felt that day and this is how my dear sister felt a few days ago. We sometimes feel awful about the things we have done and it hurts.

Shortly after looking in the mirror that morning and not liking what I saw, I remembered St. Peter.

Peter is another one of us sinners just in the chiefest of sinner’s line behind me. When we look at what happened to him and what he did, I think there is some teaching here for us if we have eyes to see it and ears to hear it. 

I think it is also quite important to also note the reaction of Jesus throughout the recorded interactions He had with Peter. I think also herein we who are also God's own children have an opportunity to learn something about what true parental love is all about. 

Let us remind ourselves of some of the things that Peter said and did and how maybe we can learn something from them. Look at what he did:

Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” 35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same. (Matthew 26:31-35)

Sounded pretty dedicated to His Master along with all the rest, but what happened? After denying he knew Christ, he went on to add insult to injury and:

“he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.” (Matthew 26:74-75)

Yes, Peter really dropped the ball and that was not the end of it.

Luke 22:55 adds a little information about Peter’s denial of Jesus which is important. It involved the “kindling of a fire.” There was going to be another kindling of a fire involving Peter and Jesus later. Remember the story in John 21?

"Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off. When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. (John 21:4-14 ESV)

Now, this is such an interesting text and it is so full of hope for all of us sinners. Here is Peter, who has now just returned to his trade, back to business as usual and isn't it interesting that the Lord, in a way, catches Peter (one might say with his pants down - thanks to Dr. Stephen Pfann for that observation) just back to his normal life and what does the Lord offer? Abundance! Miracles! Service! Sustenance! He is really fulfilling Psalm 23:5, where it says:

"You prepare a table before me" ... (Psalm 23:5 ESV)

It is so interesting that another conversation is now going to take place around a fire. We all remember what happened at the last conversation that Peter had around a fire. Not too pleasant.

If this was not enough, Peter continues to drop the ball!

"When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I am fond of you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I am fond of you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, are you fond of me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Are you fond of me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I am fond of you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep." (John 21:15-17 ESV with modifications based on the Greek text)

In looking at this text, I have modified the ESV here to reflect what the Greek language indicates, because in most Bible versions, you don't catch the full force of the intent. 

The point here is that Jesus asked Peter twice, "Do you love me" using the deep spiritual term for love in Greek (agape), but Peter answered him both times using the Greek word for fondness (phile). Then, the third time, Jesus just asks Peter "are you fond of me" and Peter then gets angry and even after that, Peter could not bring himself to express himself using the deep spiritual word for love.

Isn't this how we all are with our parents and isn't this how our own children are with us? Yet, look at Jesus' words to Peter at the end of the Gospel of John.

"Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”" (John 21:18-19 ESV)

This is the kind of parent Jesus is to us. Even in our imperfections, our stumbling’s, our pride, our lack of humility, He is there ready to parent us and show love. 

But, that “bitter weeping” and those verbal missteps do not seem to have lasted too long, because less than a couple of months later, we read the following:

“But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them …” (Acts 2:14)

Peter seems to have done his “bitter weeping,” but when I read Acts 2, there is no misstep in Peter’s action. On the contrary, seems like God can use sinners who even a few short weeks before cursed and denied even knowing Him. Look at the end result of that message that dear brother Peter gave on Pentecost day:

“So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:41)

What a minute though! Maybe Peter was still not 100%? In fact, that is correct. He was not 100%. He was still the same sinner right in line behind me, but he had no dam in his spiritual river holding him back. He was not going to let one mistake stop him from allowing Jesus Christ to work with him and through him. On the contrary!

“Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. 4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.” (Acts 3:1-8)

You know, I guess Peter could have stayed in his misery and continued crying for his denial of Jesus, but that is not what he did. God had something for Peter to do and it was not to remain “crying bitterly.” There was a time for the crying and there was a time for that crying to end.

This is what occurred to me that day several years ago when I was in that moment of pain. The time for crying is over, because God has something waiting for us. Don’t get me wrong: evil is evil. But does not God want us to “overcome evil with good’? (Romans 12:21) I think the answer is "Yes."

Saturday, June 28, 2014

What Kind of a Dad Would Jesus Be by Samuel Martin

What Kind of a Dad Would Jesus Be by Samuel Martin 

1) Jesus bathes His own children. (John 13:4-14)

2) Jesus is a merciful father to His children even when they are in the wrong. (John 8:1-11)

3) The Lord Jesus prepares his own meals. (John 21:9-12)

4) The LORD wipes away tears from His children's faces. (Isaiah 25:8)

5) The LORD sets the table for His family to eat. (Psalm 23:5)

6) Jesus is a long suffering, patient parent who shows perfect love to His children, even when they don't exhibit the same feeling back to Him. (John 21:15-17)

7) Jesus is a parent who would go without food and water to care for His children. (Matthew 4:1-2)

8) Jesus uses the example of quiet correction for sin. (John 8:1-11)

9) Jesus is a father who is ready to bind up our wounds. (Matthew 9:20)

10) Jesus is a parent who would die (and did die) for His children to keep them safe. (The message of the Gospel).

Thursday, June 19, 2014

No Biblical Text Is An Island

No Biblical Text Is An Island

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting the island of Malta. What an amazing experience that was. I really enjoyed it. It was so wonderful on a whole number of levels" the people, the architecture, the climate, the geography, the language, the sea. Great all the way around. 

Now, I enjoy islands. I have always been fascinated by islands. Generally speaking, I am not too keen about living on an island (I am personally much more comfortable in Jerusalem at 2,500 feet above sea level), but I have fond memories of some trips to islands. I remember going to Maui once when I was about eight and I loved that trip. I hope to go again to visit Hana in Maui again one day.

So my recent experiences have helped me a little bit I think to put some of my own Biblical studies in perspective and it gives a good opportunity perhaps for some teaching. 

Now, on my recent trip to Malta, I was very interested to learn that Malta (the country) is in fact made up of several islands. I know this because when I visited Malta, I spent most of my time in Gozo. Now, most people who have never visited Malta have never heard of Gozo because Gozo is a smaller island just to the west of the main island of Malta.

Now the people who live in Gozo are just as much Maltese as those who live on the main island of Malta, but rest assured they are very different people. They are much more conservative and more religious in fact. But, here is a point that I think we can all relate to. 

The point is, if you wish to understand Malta, you would not for one minute think that arriving in the airport on Malta, getting in a taxi, driving to the ferry and crossing to Gozo, spending two weeks in Gozo travelling up and down and talking to people all over Gozo and then think after that, that you could just return to the airport and come home and tell all your friends that you now understand everything about Malta? Hardly.

One could say the exact same thing about the Hawaiian islands. Maui and Oahu are different in some cases different as daylight and dark.

Let's not stop there. 

I have also visited Cyprus before. It is another beautiful island in the Mediterranean. However, were a person to only visit a certain part of Cyprus they might only get a certain part of the story of what life on Cyprus is like. Why is this? It is because the northern end of Cyprus is a part of Turkey, so one could visit northern Cyprus and get a whole different point of view on what life on Cyprus is like.

Now, islands are beautiful and wonderful, but we can see I think that visiting an island has many issues connected to it if we wish to develop an accurate understanding of the individual island itself or a collection of islands. 

Now, how does all of this relate to the Bible and to our understanding of it? Very much if we just have "eyes to see" and "ears to hear."

Using an "Island" oriented approach to Biblical understanding

So, now let's look at an example of how potentially dangerous this whole issue of this kind of limited approach of compartmentalization (like visiting an island) can be when we talk about the Bible. Unfortunately, this type of approach to the Bible is so common and widespread, but be warned of these types of practitioners of "island theology". What they may be teaching may be fine, but we need to make sure that we are getting the whole picture of life on the island and not just being directed to a small corner of the island and being told that this is all we need to know about that island.

The "Spanking" texts in Proverbs and an "island" mentality among many Biblical interpreters when it comes to them

Now, most of you reading this post will have encountered well intentioned Christian interpreters of the Bible who will home in a few Bible texts in the book of Proverbs (10:13, 13:24, 19:18, 22:15, 23:13,14 and 29:15) as their main authorities for their approaches to child rearing and for the absolute necessity to follow the face value information in these texts according to how they interpret them for you the reader.

Now, this approach really resembles someone who visits Hawaii (the subject of child rearing in the Bible), goes directly to Hana, Maui (these texts in Proverbs) and leaves and then thinks that they know everything there is to know about Hawaii (biblical child rearing).

I think we can all see how potentially dangerous, reckless and in fact ridiculous this potentially is. Let's look a little deeper into the whole subject of Hawaii (child rearing in the Bible) by taking a fuller trip around all the Hawaiian Islands (the entire Bible) to help us develop a more accurate picture of this subject.

For more information on the subject of corporal punishment/spanking/smacking in the context of the Bible, please download my free ebook here - whynottrainachild.com/2013/06/22/download-martins-book/

Monday, June 09, 2014

Be careful of the "Tip of the Iceberg" theological thinking

Be careful of the "Tip of the Iceberg" theological thinking

We may not realize it so well on the surface, but we, I think are all aware of what I am talking about here.

It is those good old Bible teachers and even well intentioned lay people who use those wonderful phrases like:

"Just tell me what the Bible says!"

"I am a Biblical guy. I just like the plain and simple, straightforward meaning of Scripture."

"I prefer a literal interpretation of the Bible!"

"The Bible means what is says!" (one of my favorites)

"The Bible interprets itself"

"If the King James Version was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me!"

These are just a few phrases that I have heard over the years (and regularly continue to hear) from well intention brothers and sisters in the Lord who really mean well, but these types of statements can represent a very dangerous approach to the Bible.

Let's see this in a practical sense. 

I was engaging recently in a discussion on Facebook and a person said the following talking about what the Bible "says" in Proverbs 13:24:

"This is what it says in Proverbs 13:24 "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes." (quoting the King James Version here) However you discipline your children is up to the parents. Interpret the scripture any way you desire, it’s not my words."

It is clear from this comment that this dear friend in the Lord simply just reads the text as his beginning and ending point of attempting to develop any understanding of what the text may mean. How unfortunate this is. How simplistic this is. How almost disrespectful this. Yet how widespread and common this approach is.

What I am going to suggest is that well intentioned people who take these approaches to Biblical understanding are potentially riding on the spiritual Titanic and they do not know what they are doing and how damaging it might be. We all remember what happened to the Titanic. It hit an iceberg.

Now, iceberg's often are very small and inconsequential if looked at just from the top, but get underneath them and there is a whole different picture. Here is where I think we can have some teaching about what I call "Tip of the Iceberg" theological thinking.

So, let's see a very specific example to this issue of "Tip of the Iceberg" theological thinking. It is an extreme example, but if you were to Google this idea, you would come up with hundreds of examples of people pointing to this text and interpreting it literally. 

The text we are going to focus on is that found in Deuteronomy chapter 21:18-21. It concerns the so-called “stubborn and rebellious” son.

The text reads: “If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of the city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.”

Now, this text seems so clear and simple to understand. This is what so many people think. This text is quoted constantly by many people I come into contact with showing that we need to be tough with children in particular. Look at how someone might understand this. Here is something I just found on Google which is a good illustration of what I am talking about.

"My son is 16 years old and he has been acting rebellious lately. I've asked him to do his chores yet he refuses to do them. He's even been drinking alcohol at parties. I read the Bible a lot and I'm a very devoted Christian. So I get my morals from the Bible. As a god-fearing man I'm scared because the Bible says that I should stone my son to death for not obeying my commands in Deuteronomy 21:18-21. I'm really scared because I don't want to have to kill my son. I love God more than anyone else though so I try my best to follow his laws."

Pretty extreme that in this day and age that someone would entertain such an idea, but in fact, these ideas are widespread and one could see how such an idea could possibly get out of hand and even be used by some to justify very serious (even violent) acts against a child.

This is what I call "Tip of the Iceberg" theological thinking. It just looks at a little "tip" of something which is so much bigger, so much broader, so much deeper, so much more substantial than many may have ever considered.

So let's take a look at this text and see how big, broad, deep and substantial it is.

Point Number One - The Death Penalty in Judaism

Now it is clear in this text that we are talking about the death penalty. A capital offense! Pretty serious stuff. Not something to be undertaken without some very serious consideration and deliberation.

Now, here is a quote about this issue from my own "Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy" from page 134:

"First, the death penalty was imposed only when the Temple in Jerusalem was in existence. “Under Jewish Law capital punishment was imposed only when the Temple was still in existence, when the offerings were still brought to the altar, and when the Sanhedrin still sat in the Chamber of Hewn Stones (in the Temple). 346 This means that no matter what this text says, following the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 by the Romans, this text has never even once been applied to anyone."

Another point that we have to understand concerns the rarity of the death penalty itself in Judaism:

"Second, death sentences were not every day occurrences. We need not to rely on the images of colorful Hollywood films that perpetuate historical inaccuracies. We need to examine the historical documents to teach us what was indeed taking place based upon eyewitness testimony. Note the following: “the death sentence was imposed only after much investigation and deliberation on the part of the court of justice. The judges made every effort to avoid imposing capital punishment.  Circumstantial evidence was not accepted in trials for a capital offence and once the defendant in the such a case had been acquitted, he could not be brought to trial again for the same offence, even if direct evidence had turned up in the meantime to prove his guilt.” (ibid.)

Point Number Two - This text only took place in a court environment

If we refer back to the text above where the father is taking it upon himself to interpret the Bible himself, we will see, if we look more carefully at this matter, that this text is not to be understood as something that one could take into his own hands. It only is to be understood as taking place in a clear legal environment! This after all is a law and laws are only understood to be administered by courts and under the control and auspices of legally mandated authorities. To think that people in ancient times just simply took wayward children out and stoned them to death simply because dad thought junior was a little out of control is just absolute ridiculous nonsense, yet such ideas (as I said earlier) are so widespread and common beliefs among some well intentioned (but misinformed) Christians. (Let us also be clear. Christians don't just come up with these ideas on their own. Often such information is transmitted by well-intentioned but seriously misinformed religious authorities.)

Note the following:

"It must be pointed out here that we are speaking about a Jewish cultural background. This quote refers to “judges,” the Court of Justice,” “defendants,” and a “case.” These terms must be understood as referring to courts that were in existence to adjudicate matters of law and in this case we are talking about matters of Jewish religious law. In addition, on reading this quote, some may be reminded of the concept of “double jeopardy” which is a component of our modern Western judicial systems. Jewish legal scholars have known about “double jeopardy” for over 2000 years and it was applied in ancient times." (ibid. pgs. 134-135)

The Death Penalty was so serious major efforts took place to avoid it 

When you read the text about the Stubborn and Rebellious Son it comes across as so every day and so commonplace and something which people were seemingly doing on a regular basis. Yet this is so far from the truth. Note the following also:

"We find other sources making even stronger cases against the death penalty. Note the following: “Should the court find that the homicide was deliberate, sentence of death was passed; but there was great reluctance to resort to capital punishment and every endeavor was made to avoid it. Indeed, it was remarked: ‘A Sanhedrin which executed a person once in seven years was called destructive. Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah said, ‘Once in seventy years. Rabbi Tarphon and Rabbi Akiba said, If we were members of a Sanhedrin, never would a person be put to death.’” So, we see that the death penalty itself had very strict rules and regulations associated with it." (ibid. pg. 135)

Point Number Three - The Stubborn and Rebellious Son - How Old?

Now in the example above given by the father, he refers to a 16 year old son as meeting the criteria in his mind for the designation "Stubborn and Rebellious Son". But isn't it interesting. The text does not indicate an age. So who decides according to the Bible? The father? The mother? Hardly.

"Next, what constituted a “stubborn and rebellious son?” There is no age mentioned in the text, so who decides? Rabbi Chill shows that “who is considered a ‘stubborn and rebellious son’? Any young man three months past bar mitzvah age…” This means that this punishment was never inflicted on anyone below the age of 13 years three months." 

This matter has been established by authorized legal authorities and is to be understood as a part of interpreting this law.

Point Number Four - Death Penalty for the First Offense? No!

So, if we refer back to our father whose first thought that comes to mind is taking his son out and stoning him to death, how does this square with practice in ancient times? It really doesn't make any sense at all. Here's why:

"Rabbi Chill points out that the death penalty was not the first solution to a family choosing to apply this law to their child. “The first offence reported by the parents made the boy subject to flogging; if he repeated the offence and was again brought to the court by his parents he received the death penalty – execution by stoning.” So, we can see that ancient Israelites were not taking their children out and stoning them to death every time a boy ate too much or drank some wine. There was strict due process involved and those accused of these crimes had legal rights before the law." (ibid.)

Point Number Five - Mitigating Circumstances

When we look at this approach of this dad to the 16 year old and we review similar ideas held by many people today, we feel there is a very simplistic, one size fits all approach with no rhyme or reason, no individuality and certainly no exceptions. But wait a minute? How does this square up with historical fact? Let's see:

"Not only that, if one of his parents was lame, blind or deaf, or if one of his parents was unwilling to have him brought to court, the offender was exempt from the death penalty. This meant, in effect, that the death penalty for a ‘stubborn and rebellious son’ was very rarely carried out.” (ibid.)

Yes. You heard it correct. VERY RARELY CARRIED OUT. Why? Mitigating circumstances!

Point Number Six - Who is to really to blame? Only the child? Again No!

When we once again go back to the dad of the 16 year old, we get this feeling that this guy is absolving himself of all responsibility. A child going and drinking alcohol and parties? And where is dad? Apparently not running after his son! 

Biblical authorities will have none of this. A death penalty sentence on a child will never happen unless it can be demonstrated that the son is really himself a "bad apple", but for him to be shown to be a "bad apple," the parents have to demonstrate that they have done everything right in the eyes of a court. Note this idea:

"We also find that the child himself was not the only one on trial. The great medieval Jewish scholar Maimonides placed some of the blame for “stubborn and rebellious sons” squarely on the parents. “How does a son become ‘stubborn and rebellious’? Through the fault of the parents who are too permissive and permit him to lead a life of irresponsibility.” Parents who did not guide their children were a part of the problem and contributed to their children becoming “stubborn and rebellious.” Two giants of Jewish scholarship further echo this idea. Rabbi Moses Al Sheikh said: “He explains why the Torah insists that parents personally bring their ‘stubborn and rebellious son’ to the court of justice. In this manner, he says, the parents acknowledge that they are to blame for the way in which their son has turned out. No child becomes intractable from one day to the next. The process begins when the child is at a very early age when many parents, unfortunately, tend to view such behavior as ‘just a phase.’ This is a mistaken notion, and the parents are now asked to face the fact that they failed their child when he was in the greatest need of their guidance.” 

Rabbi Ibn Ezra puts it a little bit stronger placing some of the blame on the parents: “He is not prepared to place the burden of responsibility entirely on the child. The son can be justifiably tried and punished for his behavior only if the conduct of his parents themselves has been beyond reproach. If they did not provide a good example for him to emulate, they have no right to bring him to court for ‘stubborn
and rebellious’ conduct.” So what we find is that not only the son is on trial, the parents as well have to demonstrate that they did the right things. If not, no death penalty will ever be inflicted." (ibid. pg. 138)

So, were I one of the judges for the 16 year olds' dad above, the first question I would ask is: "Where were you when your son was allegedly out drinking alcohol? Seems were you taking a bit more care, he would be at home where most 16 year olds' belong, especially in this day and age."

To conclude, clearly, this dad (and many others out there) needs to rethink his approach to not only Deuteronomy chapter 21:18-21, but also to how well he is connected to his 16 year old. Perhaps were he to do that, he'd be thinking more about the hand that draws near rather than the hand that pushes away.

Finally, let me close with a comment that I got on my blog in response to a post I did which is linked here:


The person commented the following:

"Sam, I really am enjoying your book. It makes me realize how ignorant I am to the real depth of Scripture."

Here was my response at that time:

"Your comment about your understanding how ignorant you are to the real depth of Scripture is an important one. Join the crowd."

We all have weaknesses and flaws and need to correct these. We also have incorrect understandings of Scripture which we also need to correct if we can. To do this, we need to do the following:

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." (II Timothy 2:15 ESV)