Saturday, February 28, 2009

Rice Haggard's Influential Pamphlet

This is the last post I'll do about Rice Haggard, for now anyway. I hope that this series helps to show that his role in early American Restorationism is probably more significant than our surveys usually suggest. For one thing, although younger than and not as prominent as James O'Kelly, Haggard was significant in the break with Francis Asbury and the Methodists. Later, he provided leadership among the Republican Methodists who became the Christian Church. Too, though he has not been remembered as a leader among the Kentucky Christians of the Stone movement, the facts speak otherwise. In addition, as this post helps to show, Haggard provided some help to the New England movement, associated with Elias Smith and Abner Jones, which came to be known as the Christian Connexion.

A short, far-from-complete list of resources for further study (with links) can be found at the end of this post. I'd be glad to hear your reactions to any of this.

The call for a return to the Bible and undenominational Christianity spread during the early years of the newly-formed United States. An early-American "restoration plea" was heard not only in places like Virginia and Kentucky, but also in the New England states.

One prominent reformer in the Northeast was Connecticut-born Elias Smith. A preacher and publisher, Smith drank deeply of primitive restorationism. In 1803--when Alexander Campbell was about 14 years old and still in Ireland-- Smith was excommunicated by the Baptist Church of Woburn, Massachusetts. On that occasion he said:

If you wish to know what denomination I belong to, I tell you, . . . I am a Christian; as a preacher, [I am] a minister of Christ; calling no man father or master.

In 1816, he wrote:

The Holy Scriptures are the only sure authentic and infallible rule of faith and practice; the name Christian is the only proper one of the believer; in all essentials the scriptures are plain to be understood.

Smith has been remembered for his founding of the Herald of Gospel Liberty, often touted as the world's first religious newspaper. When Smith started the newspaper in 1808, his list of subscribers numbered only 274. But within just a few years that number had grown to 1,500. In the issue for Friday, August 18, 1809, Smith wrote:

We have received a small, but valuable work, from one of our Brethren in Virginia . . . which we think will be read with pleasure by many.

The article that followed was not complete. It was merely the first installment of a series. More sections appeared in the months that followed until the anonymous work was concluded in the issue dated February 2, 1810.

It wasn't until a century and a half rolled by that someone finally realized what Smith had published in the pages of the Herald. John W. Neth, Jr., then a budding church historian, identified who had written the series of articles. Years before, Neth had taken a church history class in which the professor noted that Rice Haggard's pamphlet on the sacred origin of the name Christian was no longer available. Neth turned to a classmate and bragged that he would someday discover the lost pamphlet. It turned out to be a prophecy.

Years later, as he worked his way through old issues of the Herald, Neth suddenly suspected that the series of articles was a reprint of the long-lost Rice Haggard pamphlet. Careful research in the early 1950s confirmed the identity of the articles, and Haggard's pamphlet was republished in 1954--along with an interesting preface--by the Disciples of Christ Historical Society in Nashville.

Haggard titled his work, An Address to the Different Religious Societies, on the Sacred Import of the Christian Name. Throughout, Haggard focused on the blight of religious division and importance of Christian unity. As he saw it, nothing was more harmful to the cause of Christ than the disunity of His followers:

To me it appears, that if the wisdom and subtlety of all the devils in hell had been engaged in ceaseless counsels from eternity, they could not have devised a more complete plan to advance their kingdom than to divide the members of Christ's body.

Haggard also believed that a vital step in restoring Christian unity was for all to wear the name Christian. But this was not merely a practical thing. It was primarily a matter of ascribing to our Lord the honor that only He deserves:

If our religion be the religion of Jesus Christ, both justice and propriety demand, that it should be called by his name. Otherwise, he will be the author of a good, and other will have the honor of it.

In another passage, Haggard spoke against the practice of wearing a man's name simply because one embraces what that man taught:

I believe some things which great and good men have believed and taught; but I believe them not on their authority, but solely on the authority of Jesus Christ. It would therefore be iniquity in me to rob him, in order to compliment them.

The tested reformer fully realized that Christian unity would never come merely as the result of all believers adopting the Christian name. Unity would come as the result of everyone standing together in truth:

Would to God, that those distinctions, which have so long abounded and troubled [the church], were vanished away, never to return! and that union, the church communion, were every where established upon the original simple principles of the gospel!

Confident that Christian unity would take hold and ultimately prevail, Haggard concluded on a note of hope: 

Brethren, we are expecting happier times than the church has ever yet seen; when she shall "look forth" as the morning, fair as the moon, "clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners."

Haggard's pamphlet was first published in 1804 by Joseph Charless of Lexington, Kentucky. After it appeared in serial form in the Herald of Gospel Liberty, it was reprinted in pamphlet form in 1815 at Dayton, Ohio. It was, thus, one of the most widely-circulated religious tracts of the early 1800s, and no doubt made an impact for the cause of uniting believers under the name Christian.

One of the more remarkable things about the pamphlet is that it was lost for so very long. At the very beginning, Haggard reveals only this about himself:

Some may, perhaps, be anxious to know who the author of the following pages is, his name, and to what denomination he belongs. Let it suffice to say, that he considers himself connected with no party, nor wishes to be known by the name of any -- he feels himself united to that one body of which Christ is the head, and all his people fellow members.

I used to believe that those words were motivated by pure modesty on the part of Haggard. Since then, however, I have learned that his tract has at least two antecedents:

1. A booklet by Benjamin Grosvenor (1676-1758), An Essay on the Christian Name: It's Origin, Import, Obligation, and Preference to all Party-Denominations. London: John Clark and Richard Hett, 1728.

2. A sermon by Samuel Davies (1724-1761), later president of Princeton University, titled "The Sacred Import of the Christian Name."

It's clear that Haggard's ideas, and even their specific wording, were not his own. Any credit, I believe, belongs to Grosvenor. Upon reading Haggard's work, one realizes that he knew how to document his ideas. He even does it a few times. But for him to truly document his reliance on Grosvenor and/or Davies, he should have placed a footnote and Ibid. after many of his sentences.
Of course, that would have been quite a distraction in a pamphlet that Haggard believed was vital. If he was going to do so much copying, he'd have to do it anonymously. That's my theory for now, anyway.

Rice Haggard died in 1819 somewhere around Xenia, Ohio, and was buried in an unmarked grave. He was only 50 years old. Appropriately enough, at the time of his death he was doing what he believed was most important, taking the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of what was then the western frontier of the United States.

For Further Study: In addition to the Haggard pamphlet, I have quoted from various parts of The Centennial of Religious Journalism, edited by J. Pressley Barrett, Dayton, OH: Christian Publishing Association, 1908. This is a fascinating source for people who enjoy reading about Restoration History. It includes, for example, a short biography of Elias Smith, from which I've quoted here, on pp. 314-16. Remembrances of Haggard, stemming from various sources, can be found on pp. 15-21 and 269-83.

Also, P. J. Kernodle's book Lives of Christian Ministers (1909) contains a short biography of Rice Haggard.

The obituary notice for Nancy Haggard, the widow of Rice, was submitted by Isaac T. Reneau and can be found in the Millennial Harbinger, vol. 6, no. 2 (February 1863), pp. 94-95.

The only book-length treatment is Rice Haggard: The American Frontier Evangelist Who Revived the Name Christian, by historian extraordinaire, the late Colby D. Hall.

I've mentioned already the article by R. L. Roberts, "Rice Haggard (1769-1819) 'A Name Rever'd'," in Discipliana 54 (Fall 1994), pp. 67-81. Because Roberts used the oldest and best authorities available, his article is by far the best secondary source.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rice Haggard, Barton W. Stone, and the Christians of Kentucky

From the mid-1790s until the beginning of the 1800s, Rice Haggard was a preacher and leader among the former Republican Methodists. In August of 1794, the group adopted by name "the Christian Church."

It was likely in 1803 that Haggard made a trip westward from Virginia to Kentucky. One of his reasons for going there was to visit his brother David who, like Rice, had also served as a Methodist preacher. As early as 1791, David Haggard had been assigned to ride the circuit of Lexington, Kentucky. A few years later, he decided to settle in the newly-formed state.

Another of Rice Haggard's reasons for going to Kentucky was to arrange for the purchase of land, which he must have heard about from his brother. According to the records of Cumberland County, in 1798 David Haggard was granted 200 acres of land on the Little Renox Creek. The next year he was granted an additional 300 acres in the same vicinity. [1]

During his trip to see David, Rice Haggard met Barton W. Stone, a leader of the newly-formed Springfield Presbytery. The relationship between these two men, as well as the relationship between the former Republican Methodists in Virginia and the Christians in Kentucky, is not well known for the most part.

However, we do have the record of Joseph Thomas, known by his distinctive outfit and called by many in his day "the White Pilgrim." Thomas, a Kentucky preacher of the early 1800s, gives us some important first-hand information. Recounting the actions of Stone and the Springfield Presbytery in the early months of 1804, Thomas writes:

About this time R. Haggard, a minister of the christian church in Virginia, heard of them. At that time he found them a wise, candid people, enquiring after the plain simple truth as it was laid down in the scriptures. And at a great meeting held by them at Bethel he proposed to them publicly the name by which they should distinguish themselves as the followers of Christ. -- "And the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch."-- "And that the scriptures were all sufficient to govern the church of Christ, and that any other written rules or laws were spurious and only calculated to separate and keep apart the lambs of Christ." They then saw that the day of the redeemed had come, and that the day star, with all the shining beams of truth had shined into their hearts. With great joy and thankfulness they received this name, as being sent down from heaven for them to be called by. I will observe that in the time of the interview of R. Haggard with these people, I am induced to think that he received a greater and more perfect understanding of some of the doctrine of the gospel than he ever before received. . . .

Not long after this, at a memorable meeting, held at Cane Ridge in 1804, the Springfield Presbytery dissolved their body by a mutual and unanimous consent. [2]

Here, Thomas confirms for us two important facts about the Springfield Presbytery. First, Rice Haggard's counsel at the meeting at Bethel in April 1804 led to their adoption of the name Christian. Second, Haggard's influence among the Presbytery contributed to its eventual demise. It was no mere coincidence that the Bethel meeting took place in April and that the breakup came two months later on June 28th. In fact, the words of Stone himself relate that Haggard directly influenced him and his colleagues:

Under the name of the Springfield Presbytery we went forward preaching, and constituting churches; but we had not worn our name more than one year before we saw it savored of a party spirit. With the man-made creeds we threw it overboard, and took the name Christian--the name given to the disciples by divine appointment first at Antioch. We published a pamphlet on this name, written by Elder Rice Haggard, who had lately united with us. Having divested ourselves of all party creeds, and party names, and trusting alone in God, and the word of his grace, we became a byword and laughing stock to the sects around. Yet from this period I date the commencement of that reformation, which has progressed to this day. [3]

Notice how Stone acknowledges the leadership of Haggard in that "reformation" with which Stone was associated.

Finally, the place of Haggard as a leader among the Kentucky Christians--not only in his suggestion of the name Christian, but also in more-general teaching--is confirmed for us by the remarks of Robert L. Davidson, a historian of the Presbyterian Church, who sarcastically wrote:

Filled with the pleasing dream of an approaching universal kingdom which was to embrace the whole earth, they proposed to establish a grand communion, which should agree to united upon the simplest fundamental principles according to a plan drawn up by Rice Haggard, such as worshiping one God, acknowledging Jesus Christ as the Saviour, taking the Bible for the sole confession of faith and organizing on the New Testament model. To this union, all disciples of Christ, they gave the name "The Christian Church" and would recognize no sectarian appellation. Their views were communicated to the world in the promised "Observations of Church Government" and An Address to the Different Religious Societies on the Sacred Import of the Christian Name. [4]

That Davidson knew of what he spoke is verified by a comparison of his description of the "plan drawn up by Rice Haggard" to what Haggard actually published in his pamphlet in 1804.

Of course, no one doubts that the leading personality among the Kentucky Christians was Barton W. Stone. But what hasn't always been recognized is that, in 1804, when Stone and his brethren were searching for answers, the veteran reformer Rice Haggard offered biblical counsel and timely suggestions. Indeed, it is said by Davidson that it was the plan drawn up by Haggard which was approved and adopted by the Springfield Presbytery.

Considering that description, a person has to wonder how the Stone Movement might have been different had it not been for the timely influence of Rice Haggard.

[1] For more about this, see the outstanding article by R. L. Roberts, "Rice Haggard (1769-1819) 'A Name Rever'd'," Discipliana 54 (Fall 1994), pp. 67-81.

[2] Joseph Thomas, The Travels and Gospel Labors of Joseph Thomas (Winchester, VA: J. Foster, 1812), p. 26.

[3] Barton W. Stone, Biography of Eld. Barton Warren Stone (Cincinnati: J. A. and U. P. James, 1847), p. 50.

[4] Robert L. Davidson, History of the Presbyterian Church in the State of Kentucky (New York: R. Carter, 1847), p. 198.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Rice Haggard Among the Methodists

The beginning of the Rice Haggard story takes us back at least as far as December 1784, when the Christmas Conference of the Wesleyan Societies in America was held in Baltimore. At that conference Thomas Coke, who had been sent to America by John Wesley (pictured here), ordained Francis Asbury. Then, both Coke and Asbury were elected general superintendents in America, and the Methodist Episcopal Church began. In the last paragraph of his letter to the conference, John Wesley said:

As our American brethren are now totally disentangled both from the State and from the English hierarchy, we dare not entangle them again either with one or the other. They are now at full liberty simply to follow the Scriptures and the primitive church. And we judge it best that they should stand fast in liberty wherewith God has so strangely made them free. [1]

The words of Wesley electrified the conference, especially those freedom-loving preachers among the Methodists like James O'Kelly who would later write:

We perceived the counsel in the circular letter to be good; because we were directed to follow the Scripture and the primitive church; and to stand fast in our liberties, seeing we were free from the power of kings and bishops. [2]

But such liberty within the newly-formed church would soon be lost. Not long after the Methodists became an independent group, Francis Asbury emphasized the monarchical aspect of their church government (as opposed to the democratic aspect), and set out to seize control. In defense of Asbury it might be argued that he had been sent by Wesley with some measure of authority. Yet these later actions were a step beyond what Wesley himself had in mind. Sometime later, he sent a rebuke to Asbury, the self-proclaimed bishop:

How can you, how dare you suffer yourself to be called bishop? I shudder, I start, at the very thought. Men may call me a knave, a rascal, a scoundrel, and I am content; but they shall never, by my consent call me a bishop. For my sake, for God's sake, put a full end to this. [3]

History bears the sad testimony that Francis Asbury rejected Wesley's appeal.

It was during this period that Rice Haggard converted to Methodism in 1787, then only eighteen years old. Two years later, he delivered his first sermon. A year after that, in 1790, he received an assignment to ride the Bedford circuit in Virginia. In 1791, he was ordained by Francis Asbury and rode the Cumberland circuit; in 1792, the Micklenburg circuit. [4]

Rice Haggard worked hard and made a good bit of progress among the Methodists. So it was natural for him to attend their Baltimore conference of November 1792. By that time, Francis Asbury had made great strides in his quest to control the church. But there was among the Methodists a group who believed that Asbury had stepped over the line, and they wanted to be controlled by no one but God.

At issue in 1792 was the right of a Methodist minister to reject the assignment given to him by Bishop Asbury. Though that was the particular point, men like James O'Kelly believed that there was a much larger question at stake. Would they be free to follow the Word of God, or would their first allegiance be to a man? During the sessions of debate, Rice Haggard looked on as James O'Kelly, brimful of passion, took a New Testament in hand and said,

Brethren hearken unto me, and put away all other books, and forms and let this be the only criterion and that will satisfy me. [5]

But soon the conference turned not on the authority of the Scriptures, but on the question of Asbury's character. This was a natural move for the Methodists. Their short history had been the story of the leadership of Wesley. It seems that their implicit reasoning went as follows: If, on the other side of the Atlantic, the Methodists had entrusted themselves to the benevolent rule of John Wesley, then why couldn't they do the same in America under Francis Asbury? With that question on the table, an elder stood up and asked,

[W]here is the man that will say [that Francis Asbury] ever injured a preacher?

After the question was repeated, a young man whose name was Rice, assured the conference that he had known two preachers who were injured by Asbury. Later, Haggard said, I am the man he has injured. After the right of appeal was rejected by the council, Rice Haggard walked out of the Baltimore Conference along with James O'Kelly and others. [6]

Nine months later, on August 2, 1793, O'Kelly and his colleages met at Piney Grove in Chesterfield County, Virginia, and sent a letter to Asbury. They requested a meeting at which everyone could examine the existing form of church government in the light of the Scriptures. On Christmas Day of that year, the O'Kelly group convened at Manakin Town to receive Asbury's reply. It read:

I have no power to call such a meeting as you wish, therefore if 500 preachers would come on their knees before me I would not do it. [7]

It seemed that Asbury assumed the power to make binding appointments, but had no such power to call a meeting to discuss the policy! It was then that O'Kelly, Haggard, and like-minded leaders saw no other option but to separate entirely from the Methodists and form another religious group which they called the Republican Methodist Church.

By 1801, they had not only adopted the name Christian for themselves as individuals, but had come to call the new body the Christian Church. [8] Interestingly enough, besides James O'Kelly, the only dissenter among the former Methodist preachers to stay the course was Rice Haggard.


[1] As quoted in Colby D. Hall, Rice Haggard: The American Frontier Evangelist Who Revived the Name Christian (Fort Worth, TX: University Christian Church, 1957), p. 24.

[2] Hall, Rice Haggard, p. 24.

[3] Hall, Rice Haggard, p. 24.

[4] Hall, Rice Haggard, p. 23. See also R. L. Roberts, "Rice Haggard(1769-1819) 'A Name Rever'd'," Discipliana 54 (Fall 1994), pp. 68-69.

[5] Roberts, "Rice Haggard," p. 69.

[6] Roberts, "Rice Haggard," p. 69.

[7] Roberts, "Rice Haggard," p. 69.

[8] Earl I. West, Search for the Ancient Order, vol. 1, reprint ed. (Germantown, TN: Religious Book Service, 1990), p. 10.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Remembering Rice Haggard

On Monday, August 4th, 1794, a group of about thirty preachers met at the Old Lebanon Church near Surrey, Virginia. There just a few miles from the James River they searched together for truth.

The first and most important question before them was, "What should we call ourselves? By what name should we be known to the world?" Less than a year had passed since the group had adopted the name Republican (meaning "free" or "independent") Methodists. But standing by their commitment to the authority of the Scriptures, they searched for a name that was biblically approved. In the course of their meeting, they considered and debated several resolutions. Finally, a young man named Rice Haggard stood up with a copy of the New Testament in his hand and said:

Brethren, this is a sufficient rule of faith and practice, and by it we are told that the disciples were called Christians, and I move that henceforth and forever the followers of Christ be known as Christians simply.

The conference unanimously adopted the proposal, and from that time on they wore no other name. [1]

Most of the standard textbooks on Restoration history associate Rice Haggard with the Republican Methodists and their leading figure, James O'Kelly. And it is the story just told for which Haggard's name has barely been remembered. [2]

But the larger picture of Haggard's life and influence have all but been forgotten. Few people recognize his name. Even fewer recognize that of the three earliest attempts to return to primitive Christianity on American soil, he alone exerted a direct influence on each one. More than two centuries later, it's time we rediscovered this giant of faith to whom we owe so much.

More next time. . . .

[1] Wilbur E. MacClenney, The Life of Rev. James O'Kelly (Raleigh: Edwards and Broughton, 1910), pp. 115-16.

[2] See, for example, Earl I. West, The Search for the Ancient Order, vol. 1, reprint ed. (Germantown, TN: Religious Book Service, 1990), p. 10, and Everett Ferguson, Church History, Reformation and Modern, 2nd ed. (Abilene, TX: Biblical Research Press, 1967), p. 68.

The historical markers pictured above are located along Virginia Route 10 (also known as Colonial Trail West) near present-day Surrey, Virginia in Surrey County. Click for map.

Also, you can click on the lower photo in this post to get a better look at the text on the monument. I took these photos in the summer of 1998.

This post and the ones to follow about Haggard are an updated version of my article, "Rice Haggard: Unsung Hero of the Restoration," Gospel Advocate (March 1997), pp. 26-31.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Paul's Letter to the Galatians

The "Life of Paul" class gets a lot of my attention these days. At the end of the last class session (on Monday), we broke with three questions: Who are Paul's opponents in Galatians? How does their "gospel" differ from Paul's gospel? And what do they say about Paul himself? The students were assigned to read Galatians on their own, and to come to class tomorrow with some answers to at least one of those questions.

Since I've given that assignment, I figure it might be a good idea to come up with some answers of my own. Here's what I've written down so far. I'd be glad for you to comment on or ask about any of this. It's a work in progress. What do you think?

At both the beginning and near the end of the Letter to the Galatians, there are clear indicators that Paul's message has its detractors among the churches he's writing to:
  • "Evidently, some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ" (1:7).
  • ". . . the one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty" (5:10). From the other references to Paul's opponents, it's apparent that "the one" here means "anyone" or "everyone." Paul is not thinking of an individual here.
  • "As for those agitators . . . " (5:12).
So, who are these opponents of Paul? What sort of confusing messages do they teach? And what are they saying about the Apostle himself? A few passages give us a good bit of information that we can use to answer the second question: What do they teach?

For example, in 3:10-14, Paul speaks against any attempt to rely on one's observance of the law.

Later, in 4:8-11, he compares and contrasts "knowing God" with a very different experience in which the Galatian Christians, prior to their conversion, were enslaved by "those weak and miserable principles." Paul says he knows that the Galatians are now "turning back" because they are "observing special days and months and seasons and years." These would presumably include, above all, observance of the Sabbath, but also times like the Day of Atonement, New Moons, and the Passover, etc.

Finally, in 5:1-12, Paul argues against the requirement of circumcision for Gentile converts to Christianity. And, he makes a case against Gentiles themselves giving in to such demands.

So, it appears that the problem is, following Paul's establishment of the churches in Galatia, other Jewish Christians have arrived telling the new Christians that observance of Mosaic commands is not optional. Rather, it is mandatory. Scholars often call these teachers Judaizers, Jewish Christians who disagreed with what they regarded as Paul's overly-liberal teaching, and who contradicted that teaching.

The message of the Judaizers was news to the Galatians. Originally, they were told by Paul and Barnabas that the standard for everyone, both Jew and Gentile, was faith in Jesus Christ, and repentance and obedience towards God. This did not include biblical-traditional mandates such as Sabbath observance, circumcision for the men, and kosher dietary regulations.

Naturally, because of such differences, the Galatians would have been confused. They would have wondered which side was right. And they would have asked the judaizing teachers questions like, "If your version of the Christian message is true, then why did Paul teach us what he did, something that was very different?"

At this point, the Judaizers apparently answered by saying that Paul preached a different message because he was (a) confused and (b) driven by bad motives. From Paul's protests in the letter, we can "overhear" a handful of such accusations. It seems that Paul believes that his opponents have leveled the following charges against him:

1. Paul told you what he did because he is a people pleaser. He wants to be liked by others. And that is precisely why he lowered the standards for becoming, in Christ, a true Jew.

This seems to be what Paul is trying to deny in 1:10: "Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." But the Judaizers didn't stop there. They also said something like,

2. Paul learned the gospel from other people. What he knows of the Christian message, he was taught by someone else.

In 1:11-12, Paul shoots back. The gospel I preached, he says, is not something I received "from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ." In 1:13-14, Paul recounts his previous way of life in Judaism. Why does he do that, and at this point in the letter? He seems to be asking the Galatians, "What could possibly have knocked me off of my determined course, other than divine intervention?" Also, by relating some of his early-Christian biography, even giving specific time periods, Paul clearly intends to distance himself from Jerusalem and the Apostles who lived there. His implication is that he could not have gotten his message from them because, following his conversion, it was a long time before he even met any Apostles. But the opposition wasn't through. Apparently, they also said things like,

3. Having been taught the true gospel in Jerusalem, Paul traveled to places like Galatia where he misrepresented the message he had learned from the real Apostles.

Paul is clearly responding to that sort of accusation in 2:1-10. Notice the implicit questions in this section. Paul wants to ask two things in particular:

a. If the Apostles at Jerusalem believe that circumcision is so important, why didn't they insist on it for Titus when he was right there with them? (2:3)

b. If the leaders in Jerusalem disagree with my gospel, then why did they extend to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when I reported to them exactly what I preach? (especially 2:2 and 9).
Yes, says Paul, there are differences between myself and Peter. But those differences have nothing to do with message. They are differences only in target audience. I have been given the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, while Peter, on the other hand, has been given the task of preaching the gospel to the Jews (verse 7).

But the Judaizers had another arrow to shoot at Paul. Apparently, there was a story making the rounds. According to some, when the Apostle Peter came to Antioch while Paul was there, the two of them had a heated discussion, some sort of falling out. The agitators took this story to mean that when Peter and Paul compared notes at Antioch, they discovered that they did not, in fact, preach the same message.

Is this what Paul is responding to in 2:11-16? It seems so. Paul appears to be offering an alternate interpretation of the story the Galatians have heard. According to Paul's version, yes, he had had a spat with Peter. But it wasn't because the two of them believed different things. It was because Peter "was in the wrong" (v. 11). He had come to Antioch, where he enjoyed table fellowship with Gentile Christians. However, when "men came from James" (v. 12) Peter distanced himself from his Gentile brothers because he was afraid of what the James people would think and say. Peter's actions, says Paul, were a practical rejection of "the truth of the gospel" (v. 14). Something had to be done! So, says Paul, "I opposed him to his face" (v. 11). I said to Peter, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?" (v. 14). "Peter was acting like a hypocrite," says Paul. "And that's the reason why we got into it at Antioch."

Okay, I know, there's so much more that can be said about Galatians. But I need to stop here. Thoughts? Observations? Questions? Help?

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Pastoral Epistles, by George W. Knight III

Every once in a while, I like to write about a book that I've read thoroughly, one that I can recommend to others (or warn them about). I've recently gone back through The Pastoral Epistles, by George W. Knight III (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992). Here's an updated version of something I wrote not long after Knight's work first came out: . . .

Over the last ten years or so, students of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus have been given several nice gifts, among them a full-scale commentary by William D. Mounce in the Word series, a similar work by Luke Timothy Johnson (but which does not include Titus) in the Anchor Bible, not to mention Ben Witherington's Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians, Volume 1: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Titus, 1-2 Timothy and 1-3 John.

These latest works go a long way toward supplementing other fine books on the Pastorals like the ones by J.N.D. Kelly, Donald Guthrie, Gordon D. Fee and, of course, John Calvin.

Next on the horizon is Abraham J. Malherbe's long-awaited commentary in the Hermeneia series. While we wait for that one, another fairly-recent and very helpful treatment of the Greek text should not be overlooked: George W. Knight's The Pastoral Epistles in the New International Greek Testament Commentary series, edited by I. Howard Marshall and W. Ward Gasque.

Given the modern history of studies in the Pastorals, it comes as no surprise that the 50-page introduction focuses on the question of authorship. Knight, acknowledging the help of Donald Guthrie, fends off the arguments against Pauline authorship and upholds the traditional position. Knight argues that Paul wrote 1 Timothy and Titus during the time between his two Roman imprisonments (i.e., during the early-to-mid 60s). He wrote 2 Timothy during the second Roman imprisonment (as early as 64 and as late at 67). He was martyred in Rome around that same time.

In defending this reconstruction, Knight deals with the alleged and real differences in vocabulary, style, ecclesiology, and theology between the Pastorals and other letters ascribed to Paul. In dealing with the revived suggestion that Luke wrote these letters, Knight accepts no more than the possibility that Luke served as Paul's amanuensis.

In the commentary proper, Knight briefly introduces each section and then seriously engages the Greek text verse by verse, treating phrases and individual words. He discusses significant textual questions, carries on a conversation with the immediate and broader biblical contexts, and responds to both ancient and modern secondary literature. Instead of asserting a determined position, he discusses every exegetical alternative with thoroughness. For example, more than a page is taken up discussing whether the Greek term kyrios in 1 Tim 1:14 refers to the Father or to the Son.

In two excursuses Knight crosses the line that traditionally divides exegesis from hermeneutics. In the first, "Bishops/Presbyters and Deacons," he builds a strong case that churches of the New Testament era typically recognized the two classes of leaders (1 Tim. 3:1-13; Phil. 1:1). Indeed, sounding much like a member of the Churches of Christ, the author says that a plurality of bishops and deacons serving a congregation is the New Testament "pattern."

In the second excursus, "Motivations for Appropriate Conduct," he argues that in Titus 2:1-10 Paul insisted upon such standards not merely because their violation would be offensive to outsiders and thus hurtful to the reputation of the gospel, but also because those standards square with healthy teaching, are intrinsically right, and were recognized by many first-century Cretans as such. In taking this stance Knight rejects the view that some of the regulations (notably, the wife's submission to her husband) are purely cultural and should not be bound in more egalitarian societies like ours. (For an overview of Knight's argument on the wider question, see his article, "The Role of Women in the Church"). He also rejects the notion that the high ethical standards of Pauline Christianity and the culturally accepted norms of the Pastorals do not match. Citing the ideal of citizenship in Romans 13 and the popular ethics of 1 and 2 Thessalonians, the author denies any sort of tension between "the real Paul" and the author of the Pastorals. Furthermore, the Pastorals do not uniquely represent an "early catholicism" that upheld a sort of pedestrian, middle-class morality.

As expected, readers will find in this work any number of likes and dislikes. In my opinion, the best aspect of this commentary is its exegetical detail on the Greek text. Knight also does a better job of drawing the reader into the text than do, say, Dibelius and Conzelmann (although their commentary remains a gold mine of historical and literary parallels).

I think that the primary flaw of Knight's commentary is that its linguistic focus is so intense, other contours of the biblical text are frequently ignored. For example, on 1 Tim. 5:23 ("No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and frequent ailments"), he says nothing of wine drinking in the Greco-Roman world, nor does he respond to the common suggestion that this verse gives us a glimpse into how the ascetic demands of the false teachers at Ephesus were affecting timid Timothy. Though shorter commentaries might ignore such questions, one expects a full-length work to treat them. A second criticism is that the historical notes, as well as the reported positions of other scholars, sometimes lack precision.

These quibbles aside, Knight's commentary is a significant contribution to New Testament study. An excellent supplement and balance to more liberal works like Dibelius-Conzelmann, this work will be a help to professors and other students of the Greek text. And for preachers whose Greek is serviceable, this guide is arguably the one to turn to first after working through the text itself.

Friday, February 13, 2009

John Calvin (1509-2009)

July 10th of this year will mark the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin. It's safe to say that he changed the world.

During my undergraduate days, most everything I heard about Calvin was negative. After all, someone named Calvinism after him. And that was bad. One of my classmates was required to read part of his Institutes of the Christian Religion. My assumption was that the assignment was for the purpose of figuring out all the places where Calvin went wrong.

A few years later, when I was a graduate student, I noticed that biblical scholar Brevard Childs rarely missed an opportunity to make some glowing statement about Calvin's commentaries. I wondered how someone I respected so much could say such great things about John Calvin.

My interest at the time was the so-called Pastoral Epistles: 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus. So I started working through an English translation of Calvin's commentary of that part of the New Testament.

Wow! What I discovered in that commentary was nothing short of marvelous. Not only did Calvin offer many great observations about the text, he did something else that modern commentators avoided: He "preached." His comments were at once studious and unabashedly theological. He didn't seem to understand the modern rule that biblical scholars weren't supposed to be preachers as well. To Calvin, one thing naturally lead to the next. I loved it and wished that today's Bible scholars were a little more like him, eager to say something about God in the midst of their serious studies.

Oh, sure. There were parts of Calvin that I didn't like so much. For instance, he sometimes went out of his way to take shots at "the Papists." But those places were easy to overlook when there was so much rich material all around them.

It's been a long time, too long, since I read much of John Calvin. I still reject his predestinarian ideas and wish that they didn't have so much influence. (If you haven't noticed, Calvinism is very popular among twenty-somethings today). But the depth and the warmth of his commentaries cannot be denied. I think I'll revisit some of them this year.

How about you? Ever read much from (as opposed to about) Calvin? What did you think?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Paul: The Silent Years

Have you ever explored the "silent" or "unknown" years of Paul the Apostle? Most people remember three things about Paul:

1. Before he became an Apostle of Jesus Christ, Saul--his Jewish name--was a persecutor of Christianity.

2. But, while Saul was going to Damascus to arrest Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem as prisoners, he was confronted by the exalted Jesus Christ.

3. Later, he went on three long mission trips, traveling around the Mediterranean world, preaching the gospel and planting churches. Eventually, he was taken to Rome because he had appealed his case to Caesar.

But what happened during the ten years or more in between events 2 and 3? . . . (I'm currently teaching the "Life of Paul' class. Can you tell?)

By comparing Acts 9:1-31 with Galatians 1:11-24, we can piece together a rough outline of those years. Here's what it looks like:

1. Following his baptism, Paul preached the gospel in the synagogues of Damascus. He taught and proved that Jesus is the Son of God (Acts 9:20-22).

2. Next, Paul traveled to Arabia (Gal. 1:17). Exactly what he means by Arabia has been debated. There's also a question of how long he was there and what he was doing then.

3. He returned to Damascus (Gal. 1:17). Once again, he proclaimed the gospel there, which aggravated the unbelieving Jews to the point that they conspired to kill him (Acts 9:23). In another of his letters, Paul reflects on that event: In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands (2 Cor. 11:32-33). Paul's reference to King Aretas provides a clue (although debated) about when this must have happened. Luke seems to indicate Paul's charisma and effectiveness when he says that the Apostle was lowered through the opening in the wall by his disciples or followers (Acts 9:25).

4. From Damascus, Paul went to Jerusalem (Acts 9:26; Gal. 1:18), where he stayed for at least fifteen days and became acquainted with Peter and also with James, the brother of the Lord (Gal. 1:18-19). During this time Paul attempted to convert Hellenistic, Greek-ish Jews. But they also tried to kill him (Acts 9:29).

5. This led the Christians in Jerusalem to insist that Paul leave the city before he was murdered (like Stephen): [T]hey took him down to Caesarea, a seaport, and sent him off to Tarsus, his hometown (Acts 9:30). The information from Acts matches up with Paul's own statement that, after Jerusalem, he went to Syria and Cilicia (Gal. 1:21). Tarsus was located in Cilicia. Often the two provinces Paul speaks of are mentioned together and are regarded as one.

This is where the picture starts to get hazy. Quite a bit of time passes before Barnabas, dispatched by the Jerusalem church, sees the great work going on among Jews and Gentiles in Syrian Antioch and goes to Tarsus in order to find Paul and bring him back to Antioch (Acts 11:19-26). What was Paul doing all of that time he spent in Syria and Cilicia (Gal. 1:21)?

An answer to that question must take into account that, during the first few years after his call and commission, Paul was an energetic and successful Christian evangelist. So, during the silent years did Paul preach and teach the gospel in Tarsus and in other parts of Syria-Cilicia? It would seem very strange if he didn't.

Are there any clues that Paul, in fact, evangelized Syria-Cilicia with a good bit of success? It seems so. It might be significant that when the leaders of the so-called Council at Jerusalem issued the decision letter, they addressed it to the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia (Acts 15:23). The story of Antioch we know well. But when had Gentiles been baptized in Syria and Cilicia? It wasn't during the mission trip taken by Paul and Barnabas ("the first missionary journey"). According to Acts 13 and 14, that trip took the missionaries to Cyprus and to the regions called Pamphylia, Psidia, and Lyconia, but not to the region in question.

Furthermore, after Paul chose Silas as his partner for the second missionary journey, he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches (Acts 15:41). That Luke mentions Paul doing this, while seeming to leave out Silas, may indicated that these particular churches knew the Apostle but not his traveling companion. Note that later in the chapter, Luke describes what they-- meaning Paul, Silas, and Timothy--did (Acts 16:7).

Of course, it is entirely possible that the churches in Syria-Cilicia were planted in much the same way that the church(es) in other areas were: Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord's hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord (Acts 11:19-21).

However, it might have been that Paul himself was largely responsible for the planting of the Christian communities north of Antioch. If so, that may help to explain 2 Corinthians 11, where included in Paul's boasting about his hardships we read, Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one (verses 24-25). None of the Apostle's synagogue whippings are mentioned by Luke in the Book of Acts. It could very well be that those sad events date to Paul's time in Syria-Cilicia.

Now, what are some of your observations about this period in the life of Paul? What other texts or information might add a piece to the puzzle?

Note: Naturally, books dealing with the life and letters of Paul take up this question, if briefly. See, for example, F. F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, pp. 126-28. At least one book-length treatment has been written, Paul Between Damascus and Antioch: The Unknown Years, by Martin Hengel and Anna Maria Schwemer. I'd be interested to hear of some of the better things others have come across.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

1 Weekend, 478 Baptisms. Really.

I 'm told that the following story was recently posted on the Christian Standard website:

Christ's Church of the Valley (San Dimas, CA) celebrated 478 baptisms during services this past weekend. You read that right!

Dane Johnson, associate pastor, shares the story: "With no prior notice to the congregation, Jeff (Vines, CCV's senior pastor) presented a very clear gospel message of God's grace and our need for obedient response.

Over six services, we baptized 478 adults (in their street clothes). You should have seen the looks on people's faces who were coming in from the parking lot, having encountered people leaving church in soaking clothes!

"Many of those baptized were making first-time decisions for Christ, while some were convicted to follow Christ's example of water baptism. It was an AMAZING sight, with three baptismal pools going non-stop for 40 minutes of every service. In a couple of the services, Jeff had to stand and tell people, 'Look, we're going to continue baptizing until we're done, but the rest of you are going to have to leave so the people coming in for the next service can have parking spaces and seats! You've gotta go now!'

"To put this in perspective, our adult attendance for the entire weekend was around 3,200, so about 15% of those in attendance were baptized. (We cleared out the towel and T-shirt section of Target over the weekend-twice!) We are hearing amazing stories of life change through the moving of the Holy Spirit. A couple in Holland were watching live streaming video of the service and contacted us about being baptized!

"Please join us in praising God for this powerful moving of his Spirit!"

For some video of this event see the CCV homepage.