Hebrews Lesson 84 April 5, 2007
NKJ Psalm 119:9 How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.
We are in Hebrews 7. Now as we get into the next few verses in Hebrews, we have to have a little review of what is going on here. Chapter 7 is the beginning of a lengthy section dealing with the significance of Jesus Christ's high priesthood. He is our High Priest. What does that mean? Why is that significant? How does that affect the believer's life? This is a foundation for us because in His priestly ministry as part of His mediatorial ministries, He is seated at the right hand of the Father. By virtue of our position in Christ, we are seated at the right hand of the Father with Him. We are in Him and we are all believer priests because of that identification with Jesus Christ. Now the question that apparently was at issue with these Jewish background believers that were the object of this epistle is that they had questions about the significance of Christ's priesthood and how He could even be a priest because He is not from the tribe of Levi. So how does all of this work out? I have got about 6 points of review here to get our minds back into this particular topic.
- We have to realize that the Levitical priesthood was based on tribal relationship to Levi. Levi was one of Jacob's 12 sons. So the priesthood was based on tribal relationship to Levi, but it wasn't established until the Mosaic Covenant. That is important background for understanding this passage. Levi wasn't a priest. Levi's descendents all the way down to Aaron were not priests. Aaron is the first high priest. It is at the Exodus generation where you first have the Levitical priesthood established. The Levites were priests; only those who were direct descendents from Aaron were high priests.
- Jesus Christ was a descendent from the tribe of Judah so He wasn't qualified to serve as priest or high priest. He came from the line of Judah through David. That wasn't the priestly line. If Jesus Christ is going to be a priest or a high priest, then how does that work?
- The Levitical priesthood was a priesthood that was limited in space and time. It is a limited or temporary priesthood. Under the Mosaic Law it was temporary. It is limited in space and time. What do I mean by that? First of all, it is limited in space. The Levitical priesthood was only for the Jewish nation. So it is limited in space. It is not for Gentiles. It is not for everybody on the earth. It is only for the Jews so that limited it in space. The Levitical priesthood was part of the temporary Mosaic Law. So it is limited in time. Now what we will see when we get into chapter 8 is that the writer of Hebrews goes into the terminology related to the New Covenant out of Jeremiah 31 and says that the significance of the New Covenant by being called a New Covenant is that it shows that the old covenant (or the Mosaic Covenant) was always intended to be a temporary. It never was intended to be a permanent situation. Now whenever you have (and this is part of what the argument is going to be in chapter 8) a contract change, there is a change in priesthood. What happens is you have the high priesthood of Christ, but something else is going to happen. When we get there we are going to have to figure out how all this goes together. That is that there is a resurrection of a branch of the Levitical priesthood for service in the millennial temple that is built during the 1,000 years Millennial Kingdom. So that priesthood comes into play. There are actually a couple of priesthoods operational in the Millennial Kingdom because we (as resurrected-raptured-returned Church Age believers) will be serving as kings and priests in the Millennial Kingdom. We won't be serving as priests in the millennial temple. That is reserved for descendents from one particular line of Aaron. So the Levitical priesthood in terms of its establishment in the Mosaic Covenant is temporary in time. Once that covenant ended, that ended the Levitical priesthood. The priesthood that comes in during the Millennial Kingdom is going to come in under the New Covenant in relationship to Israel. So we see that the Levitical priesthood was part of the temporary Mosaic Law so it is limited in time and it is limited in space. It was only for Israel during the period of the Mosaic Law.
- For the Messiah to have a universal priesthood to represent all mankind to God, it would have to be a different priesthood and one that was not one that was limited by space or time. The Messianic priesthood would have to be one that was not limited in space or time. It would have to be a universal priesthood. So therefore the precedent, the basis for this priesthood had to come from something else.
- The Melchizedekean priesthood was a royal high priesthood that was universal in space and time and was not limited by either ethnic or temporal qualifications. That is why you have these statements earlier in the chapter that emphasize the fact that within Scripture there is no mention or emphasis on the parentage or the genealogy or the beginning or the end of Melchizedek's life. Time and ethnicity are not factors in qualifying Melchizedek's priesthood. So therefore his was a universal priesthood, a gentile priesthood that related to all humanity.
- This is why the writer of Hebrews refers to this as the pattern for the royal high priesthood of Jesus Christ.
So let's just pick up the argument. The interesting thing here is in these first 10 verses there is no mention of Jesus Christ. There is no mention of the Lord at all. He is building a tight intricate argument leading up to recognition that there is another and a superior priesthood than the Levitical priesthood and a superior priesthood to the Levitical priesthood. Once he can establish that (which he does in these 10 verses) then he will transition to applying that to the Lord Jesus Christ. So he begins with an explanation in verse 1.
NKJ Hebrews 7:1 For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him,
He had just mentioned Melchizedek at the end of chapter 6.
He reminds them that he is the King of Salem because this puts him in a position of authority over Abraham. He is a ruler. He is more than simple aristocracy. He was the King of Salem, an older term for the city of Jerusalem.
The "Most High God" is El Elyon as He is described in the Old Testament. So Melchizedek is a royal priest.
Most of what we have in these first 4 verses is a rehearsal of what occurred back in
This is very important. He blesses him. It is a specific kind of blessing indicating the superiority of Melchizedek over Abraham because he blesses him.
NKJ Hebrews 7:2 to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated "king of righteousness," and then also king of Salem, meaning "king of peace,"
That is to Melchizedek.
Now this tithe that Abraham gave was as I pointed out before a freewill gift. It is a one time thing. It is a tithe not from all of Abraham's possessions but from that which was taken (the plunder that was taken) when he defeated the Chedorlaomer alliance. He gives that as a tribute. This was standard operating procedure in the ancient world. When there was a ruler, an emperor, or a king and when someone had victory of this type, then a tribute was paid.
Remember that Abraham doesn't own any land in the land of Canaan. So this would be a tribute payment to someone in authority. Bringing this out is what the writer of Hebrews is doing. He is emphasizing the superiority of Melchizedek to Abraham. So Abraham gave him a tenth part of all.
His name is first translated King of Righteousness and then King of Salem meaning King of Peace. These are titles. It is brought up to the writer of Hebrews to emphasize his royalty and thus his authority and superiority to Abraham. That is where his argument is going in these 10 verses. On the basis of what happens, it shows that Abraham and thus anyone who comes from Abraham (thus anyone who is Abraham's descendents) is inferior or subordinate to the king. This is why he can say that the Levitical priesthood is subordinate to the Melchizedekean priesthood.
NKJ Hebrews 7:3 without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.
This is a description of Melchizedek to reinforce the fact that his priesthood is not based on genealogy.
It doesn't mean that he didn't have parents. It doesn't mean that he was deity - that this was the pre-incarnate Christ. That is not true because he was flesh and blood. The pre-incarnate Christ when He appears in the Old Testament isn't true humanity. He is a human. But the text doesn't describe his parentage. The Old Testament record doesn't give his father or mother in the sense that he has to have a particular lineage in order to qualify for priesthood which the Levitical priesthood had. His birth and death aren't mentioned. Why is that important? Under the Levitical qualifications for a priest, a priest did not take office (was not inaugurated in his office) until he was 30. When he was 50 he had to retire. He only had 20 years of service. So time was a factor in the service of a Levitical priest. But time is not a factor for Melchizedek. It didn't matter when he was born or when he died. This wasn't a factor. So the kinds of qualifications that you have in the Mosaic Law to qualify a serving Levitical priest were not mentioned anywhere in Scripture. They are not relevant to the Melchizedekean priesthood.
He is made like the Son of God. It is a comparative statement. It doesn't say he is the Son of God. If it were the pre-incarnate Christ (because He is eternally the Son of God) (We have studied that out of Psalm 2) the writer of Hebrews would have to say that he was the Son of God. He couldn't say the Son of God is like the Son of God if Melchizedek were the pre-incarnate Christ. It is clear that Melchizedek was a human being. He says that he would remain a priest continually. Once again there weren't temporal factors indicating when his priesthood would end. Now all of that is important for laying out the conclusion that he is going to get to in verse 4 through 10.
Then in verse 4 he says…
NKJ Hebrews 7:4 Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils.
This man is Melchizedek. He wants his readers to think about this. He uses the word theoreo which is used some 58 times in the New Testament. A lot of times in the gospels it simply refers to looking and seeing something. But in many cases it has a greater sense. It is a present active imperative which means that they are being commanded to stop and think. We are all going to concentrate on this for just a minute. There are just a few verses in the Old Testament – Genesis 14 and in Psalm 110 that mention Melchizedek.
But let's stop a minute and concentrate and focus on what the text tells us. That is the idea of theoreo – to examine something closely, to visually examine it or inspect it for a purpose. Thus it came to refer to the act of mentally focusing on, concentrating on, observing the details of something. So we are going to take a little time to concentrate on what the text tells us in the Old Testament about Melchizedek and what the implications are.
So the writer of Hebrews says, "Let's think about how great this man was to whom even the patriarch Abraham (as great as Abraham was) had someone who was greater."
He gave a 10th of the spoils as a tribute to Melchizedek indicating the superior position that Melchizedek had and Abraham clearly recognized that he was the social and political inferior to Melchizedek. So Abraham gave a tithe of the spoils – paid tribute to Melchizedek.
Let's go on and build a little application. Let's move on top of that. In verse 5 we read….
NKJ Hebrews 7:5 And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham;
Now we are going to shift to the descendents of Levi – to Levitical priests.
By virtue of what? By virtue of birth. That was all to be qualified to be a Levitical priest. You had to fit certain physical qualifications. You had to be born from the tribe of Levi and you had to be qualified physically. You couldn't have various deformities or health problems. If so, you were disqualified.
You didn't have to be regenerate. There is no qualification that says these guys had to be saved. They had to get up on Shabbat and had to give their testimony of how they had come to understand who the Messiah of Israel was and to trust in Him for salvation. There is no spiritual qualification. It is all the physical qualifications to serve in the tabernacle or later in the temple. They were the sons of Levi who receive the priesthood and they have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the laws.
This refers to the mandates in the Mosaic Law which we studied in the last two or three lessons as we studied the doctrine of tithing and giving. There were three tithes spelled out in the Mosaic Law. Leviticus 27:30 explains the overall law of the tithe.
- Numbers 18:21-3 talked about an annual tithe for the support of the Levites and priests.
- Deuteronomy 14:22-24 talked about the tithe for the annual celebration.
- Deuteronomy 14:28-29 is the tithe related to the support of widows and orphans. That one was taken up every third year.
So the Levitical priests were commanded to receive certain tithes that were mandated according to the law – that is from their brethren.
Notice the point that he is making here. It is one that can easily go passed you. On the one hand, you have the Levitical priests. On the other hand, you have the other 11 tribes in Israel. Now they are all equal because they are equally sons of Jacob. None was superior to another. That's his point here. They were to receive tithes from their brethren even through they had all come equally from the loins of Abraham. There is no superiority in the relationship between the Levitical priests and the descendents of Judah or Benjamin or Issachar or Simeon or any of the others.
Then he says…
NKJ Hebrews 7:6 but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises.
In other words, there is going to be a contrast now that the one whose genealogy is not derived from them is an allusion to Melchizedek. He is restating the fact that Melchizedek's ancestry is unrelated to Levi. Melchizedek preceded Levi in time. He is not descended from Abraham. There is a complete distinction between Melchizedek and the Levites.
The point he is making is that Levi received tithes because they were mandated to do so under the Mosaic Law. That's not the case with Melchizedek. Melchizedek received tithes on a different basis. The basis is that he is superior to Abraham because of his position as the royal high priest, the King of Salem, the King of righteousness having the title Melchizedek (which was probably a title as I pointed out before not a personal name). You have this same kind of thing. There is another Canaanite mentioned later on in the time of Joshua. His name was Adonaizedek meaning lord of righteousness. So these apparently were the dynastic titles among the leaders in these various Canaanite city-states.
So the point of verse 6 is that Melchizedek had no relationship to the Levites. He received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. Who is "him who had the promises?" That's Abraham. The promise refers to the Abrahamic Covenant, the promise of land, seed and blessing that God made to Abraham as part of an eternal covenant. Remember, I have been emphasizing the point that it is not simply a difference between conditional versus unconditional which is how all of us were trained to think (in terms of the covenants). It's really an issue of permanent verse temporary.
There are conditions. The Jews could not enjoy the blessing of being in the land if they were disobedient. Right? They had to be obedient. So there is a condition to enjoy the blessing of Abraham, but there is not a condition for having that as a basic unending promise. So the Abrahamic Covenant, the land covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and the New Covenant are all permanent covenants and the Mosaic Covenant was designed to be a temporary covenant that would be superseded by the New Covenant when Jesus Christ came.
So his genealogy received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. He blesses Abraham because he is in a position of authority. The thing that the writer is emphasizing from verses 1-6 now is this authority relationship. He is the King of Salem, the King of Righteousness. He is the royal high priest. It is Abraham that pays tithes. It is Abraham that pays tribute. It is Melchizedek who blesses Abraham. All of that is simply to set up this whole thing that he is getting ready to apply.
Now we come to verse 7. We recognize that Abraham understood that he was inferior to Melchizedek. Melchizedek was in that position of authority.
So now we read…
NKJ Hebrews 7:7 Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better.
Actually it is the idea of greater. The emphasis there is on authority. So that is our conclusion. The lesser is blessed by the greater. That is our principle. You may think that we are belaboring the point, but when we get to the last part of it he is making sure that his audience understands that Abraham is not equal to Melchizedek. If you were a Jew and you had been taught to honor Abraham and always taught how great Abraham was as the father of the Jewish people, this was something that was going to have to be driven home. There is this Gentile priest-king who not only not simply equal to Abraham; he was superior to Abraham. That was really cutting at the core of Jewish pride as it existed in the first century.
Now he is going to start tying things together. We read here that opening of the verse as it is translated in the New King James…
NKJ Hebrews 7:8 Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives.
Now with the "here" and "there", he is really using these in terms of talking about the argument.
"You have got this point, this point, and this point. Now here…"
It sounds like he is almost talking. As I said in the introduction I think that this was probably originally a message, a sermon as opposed to an epistle laid out like one of the Pauline epistles and then later it was written down and mailed.
So he is saying, "Okay. Look at this point. Now we are going to compare it to that point."
That is a literal translation; however the New American Standard translates it "in this case" which brings out the idea a little better. It is a little easier to understand. It says…
NAS Hebrews 7:8 And in this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on.
Now let's take a little time to translate this so we can understand it better. In this case – that is the case of who? Now that is an interesting question.
"Mortal men". Now does that refer to Abraham receiving tithes or is it referring to the Levites? It is referring to the Levites. Why do I say that? Because, you have a plural noun here. You have anthropoi which is the plural of anthropos in the Greek. Every time you go through this section, the passed three or four verses, the plural always refers to the Levites. The singular refers to Melchizedek or to Abraham.
So you have here, that is in the sense of now. Now in this case as things exist under the Mosaic Law with the Levitical priesthood, mortal men. That is literally men capable of death. That would be the literal translation.
So he is saying, "In this case, that is in the case of Levitical priests, men capable of death.' Men who are what? Temporary. He has just been talking about this contrast in terminology with Melchizedek that back in verse 3. He was a priest continually. Now the verbiage in here – we have to stop and talk about this a minute. The verbiage here really sounds strange to our way of talking. It sounds like he is talking about the fact that Melchizedek doesn't die (that he just goes on living) and the Levites are dying. That is not what he is talking about. He is talking idiomatically. That which doesn't die is that which is permanent. That is the emphasis of the idiom. That which doesn't die is permanent. That which is subject to death is that which isn't permanent. It is subject to cessation. It is temporary. That is where he is going with this contrasting terminology.
It is temporary. They are going to die. Their priesthood ends at a particular time. It is a temporary thing. They receive tithes, but in this case (with Melchizedek) he receives them.
Of whom (that is Melchizedek) it is witnessed, literally. We have our word martureo. While there is testimony that he lives. This is once again – I said it sounds strange to us. It reads weird to us, but the point of it is that the testimony is that he lives. It is a Jewish idiom expressing the point that the Melchizedekean priesthood lived on whereas the Levitical priesthood died. One is permanent; one is impermanent. One is temporary. That is the thrust of verse 8 that the men subject to death received tithes. They were subject to temporary ministry. But, the one of whom it is witnessed, he lives. He goes on. His type of priesthood was a permanent priesthood.
Now we are going to make another application. This is where it is applied to the present situation.
He says in the New King James he translates it…
NKJ Hebrews 7:9 Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak,
Now this is a really interesting verse. Some interesting things have been done with this verse over the course of the development of theology and our understanding of doctrine. So we have to address some of those particular issues. The first thing we need to note is the phrase (that we have at the end in the New King James) "so to speak" is the first phrase in the Greek. They don't wait until the end.
The first thing he says is, "And as a matter of speaking", as a way of talking. It is the only time we have this idiom in the Greek New Testament. What it means is – okay, I am going to say something in a strange way here in order to make a point. In other words he is not talking literally. But down through the course of time in church history there have been theologians who have taken this literally and used this to support the view that body and soul are both transmitted physically through procreation. This is how this verse is used. This is almost proof text for the view known as Traducianism. We will get into that in just a minute. It misses the whole point. Number 1, the writer himself says that this is an unusual way of speaking.
"I am just making a point. I am talking almost allegorically or figuratively here."
First of all the term Levi is also used in a figurative or allegorical manner here, a representative manner. Levi never literally received tithes from anybody. It was his descendents. The first Levite to ever receive tithes was going to be Aaron and the Levites at the time they were camped out around Mt. Sinai and the Mosaic Law was first instituted. So there is no literal action where Levi received tithes. In fact what we have seen in our study of Genesis is that Levi and Simeon were partners in crime literally at Shechem. They were responsible for the slaughter of all the Shechemites. They were not wonderful brothers. They have their particular set of problems. So Levi wasn't a very honorable person, certainly not a spiritual giant.
Even in a manner of speaking, Levi received tithes and paid tithes through Abraham.
Now there are those who come along and say, "See what this shows if we take it literally is that somehow Levi was actually present in Abraham because it says that Levi paid tithes. Not Abraham, but Levi did it because he is physically in the loins of Abraham. But as I am pointing out and belaboring this point is that the text says it is a figure of speech, a manner of speaking.
Secondly, even Levi is used in a non-literal sense.
The third point we need to observe here is that the writer is merely recognizing (This is the interpretation of the passage) that the descendents of a man are represented in many cases by the ancestor. The descendents of a man are clearly represented by the ancestor so that if God enters into a contract with Noah, that contract is not voided by Noah's death. It is still in effect for Noah's children and Noah's great-grandchildren and for all of humanity all the way down to the present. The same thing is true when God entered into a contract with Abraham. Abraham was representing all of his descendents. That contract is still in effect in relation to all of Abraham's descendents. That would be one biblical example.
A second biblical example would be in the book of Joshua. This would be when Joshua was about 7 or 8. Joshua is in the still in the northern campaign. There is a group of Canaanites who lived in the city of Gideon. They were scared to death because they watched what happened at Jericho. They saw what happened at Ai. So they dress up. They put on all of their costume to make it look like they are homeless. They traveled a long distance and put on their old clothes and smeared dirt all over their bodies and they looked like they have been traveling on the dirty dusty road for days and days and days.
They come to Joshua and they say, "See we have come from a long distance. We are scared to death about what you are going to do so we want to enter into a contract (a covenant) with you that you are not going to kill us."
Joshua failed to consult God.
He said, "Oh great! We are going to take them at their word. We are going to enter into a covenant with them."
Then Israel got disciplined by God because of this because they were Canaanites from just over the other side of the ridge. Joshua failed to consult God, but he had entered into a peace treaty with them that he would. So all the Jews from that point on were still responsible for what their ancestor had done in terms of fulfilling that contract. In the same way the United States at various times in its history has entered into various treaties and contracts with other nations and subsequent generations are still responsible for living up to the terms of those contracts established by previous generations. So that is all that is going on here. It is just a figure of speech for talking about the fact that the ancestor to the Levitical priest represented them.
We could formulate it this way. Abraham as the father of the Jewish people was greater than Levi who was one of his descendents. If Abraham paid tribute to Melchizedek, then Melchizedek was obviously greater than Abraham. So if Abraham was greater that his descendents, then that would mean that Melchizedek would also be greater than his descendents. It is a very simple argument that Levi as a descendent of Abraham was represented by his ancestor in the paying of the tithes. It is not to be taken literally. The writer even says that. As I stated earlier this verse is a foundational verse for those who believe that the soul is generated and passed on to the next generation by the parents.
So that leads us to an important discussion of how the soul is originated and transmitted to you in the process of birth. That is the question. We will probably spend the rest of tonight and next week talking about this because it is important.
It is as fresh as the news today. Last night Rudi Giuliani was apparently interviewed on 60 Minutes or one of these shows. He was asked if he would support federal funding of abortion. So, abortion gets back in the news and there is a lot of discussion about this today, back and forth as it always is. It is a touchy subject for a lot of people. We have to go to the Scripture. We have to talk about what the Scripture says and what the Scripture does not say in relationship to this particular topic. So we will take some time to go through this in detail to make sure we fully understand what the Scripture says because this topic is important. It is often misunderstood today. It is sort of a case of reverse exegesis. Because of the turmoil of abortion since Roe vs. Wade in 1973, a lot of theologians who have held one view flipped just because of that decision.
Not because of exegesis, but because all of a sudden they thought, "Well if I hold this position that is going to justify abortion."
Nobody came along and said, "No, this is not true."
It is shallow superficial thinking based on the emoting of the problems of our culture. So let's deal with this in a nice logic, rational manner and try to keep subjectivity out of it.
How is the soul passed from one generation to another? Is it done by procreation? Or, is it passed on directly and immediately by God as He so created at the instant of birth and simultaneously imparted to a newborn baby at the time of birth.
Two important terms that you have to understand in this discussion are mediate and immediate. Immediate means directly – that God directly creates the soul at the point of birth and passes it on simultaneously. The word mediate involves secondary causes - that God does it; but He does it through secondary causes.
For example we can say, "God creates everybody's human body."
David does that in Psalm 139. But, it is done mediately or through secondary causes of procreation and through the process of sex creates human bodies as they go from generation to generation.
So we have to understand the difference between mediate and immediate. Mediate involves secondary causes; immediate is God's direct creation. So we have to go through this.
Now the second thing that is important is understanding the terminology and its historical background. History is important because it brings a lot of perspective to what is going on today. One of the reasons we have problems in the current debate is because there hasn't been enough attention paid in my opinion to the historical background.
So history is important because as Hegel pointed out, "If we ignore history, we are doomed to repeat it."
Of course that frequently happens.
There are two positions (actually there is a third position that I am going to briefly identify) that have been a part of Christian thinking. The first view comes directly out of Platonism and it involved the pre-existence of the soul. Everybody's soul is up in heaven for a long time and it is not until God creates a body that He pushes the soul down into the body, and that just came out of paganism. So nobody who has ever been serious about the Bible other than allegory held that view so we are just going to pass by it.
The two views that have really dominated through church history are Traducianism and creationism. Those are the terms. Traducianism comes from the Latin word traducere meaning to transfer. That is where it derives. This view teaches that both the material body and the immaterial soul are transmitted through physical procreation. Now what is important about this is that the first person to really articulate this (once again the context of neo-Platonism which tended to overemphasize the spiritual in the early part of the church) was Tertullian. Now Tertullian is kind of a mixed bag. Most of you haven't spent a whole lot of time reading Tertullian. He is not in your top 10 list. You haven't gone down to catch him on the latest paperback rack at Barnes and Noble. But Tertullian was important because you use a word that he coined all the time. That is the word trinity. He coined the word trinitos in Latin to refer to the fact that God is one is essence and three in person. Prior to that time they didn't have that word. So see when you can think about the trinity and use the word trinity, you can think about God in ways that Paul could never think about God. Isn't that interesting? When you think the word hypostatic union, you are using concepts that were worked out in church history and you are using technical vocabulary that is much more precise than anything the Apostle Paul had available to him. Isn't that interesting? It gives you something to kind of chew on for a while.
God wants us in the process of studying His word to do that – to understand that to develop it, to coin vocabulary to express the concepts of His Word so that we can build a systematic theology and understand all of the relationships that are going on within His Word. So there is nothing wrong with coining words to represent biblical concepts because the church has been doing that from the very beginning. Words like trinity and rapture are not words that are found in the original text, but are coined to accurately represent and identify concepts that are in the text.
But Tertullian was a mixed bag. Tertullian was a Montanist. Now you all know what Montanists were, don't you? In the early church you had the same basic problems that you had all through Scripture all through church history. You always had in the middle your biblicists, such as they are from generation to generation. Then there is one group that always wants to take away from the Bible.
This is the group that takes out their razor blade and says, "Well, Jesus didn't say this. This really isn't the truth. That really isn't the truth."
They want to chop everything up. We would call those the liberals of the day. This is the original Jesus Seminar. In the second century that was represented by a guy named Marcion. Marcion was a rabid ant-Semite. So he thought that anything in the Bible in the New Testament that spoke positively about Jews couldn't be a part of the New Testament. So he got rid of Matthew and Mark and about a third of Luke and got rid of John and all but 11 of Paul's epistles and everything else. So he was the first to really come up with a canon. You see the church always forms theology in the context of false teaching.
Once somebody said, "This is it. This is all there is to the Bible."
Everybody else stood around and said, "You are wrong. But, wait a minute. You have a good question there. What is the New Testament?"
So they finally began to work through the issue of canonicity. It is always in the context of error.
So Marcion came along and he said, "Nah. We got to get the razor blade out and we just have a few little books here."
He is the proto-liberal.
Then on the other extreme we have those who want to add to the canon. Those want to add new revelation. We call those today Charismatics.
"God spoke to me."
We have got tongues and revelation and prophecy and all of this other stuff going on. So we always have the Montanists who were proto (that means early, primitive) -charismatics. They were following a guy who came out of what we now call Turkey or Anatolia who was the son or formerly he had been a priest of Cybele. This was the Cybele or mother-child cult that dominated in the area of Western Turkey. Of course the priests and priestesses of the Cybele Addis cult spoke in gibberish. It was a very mystical, mystery religion. So he came out of that so not unlike a lot of Charismatics today he had his two priestesses with him. He talked about how God is continuing to give him revelation. So you see you always have a problem with those who want to take away from Scripture and those who want to add to Scripture.
Tertullian was a mild Montanist. So he had his problems in the area of understanding a number of important doctrines. This is very early in the church. We are talking about dates from 155 to 220. So positively he contributes the terminology for the trinity; negatively he provides the problems with Montanists and some other things. He wrote a lot and he has some other issues. That ought to give you a little idea of who he was. Just because he said something doesn't make it so. He was the first to say that the soul was transmitted through procreation. Guess what! It is because his view was that the soul was material – not immaterial. I didn't slur that. He thought the soul was just as material as your big toe or your thumb or your left arm or your right arm. His view that the soul is transmitted through sexual activity and procreation was an outgrowth of his understanding that there really isn't anything immaterial. That was part of his reaction to neo-Platonism. That is very important to understand and a lot of people don't understand that. You never find people emphasizing that even those who are proponents of Traducianism.
Now the other view is called creationism. This isn't scientific creationism or biblical creationism in opposition to evolutionism. This is a term that has been used for centuries that teaches the view that only the body is generated physically or through procreation, but the soul is directly and immediately created by God and imparted to the infant at birth. It is an ancient view. It was the dominant view. This is what most people don't understand today.
If you a Traducianist even today, you are in the minority in terms of church history. Up until the middle of the 19th century William G. T. Shedd who was very well-known and respected conservative Presbyterian theologian wrote that he was a traducianist. He said that this was a minority position.
"Everybody else is a creationist."
But he was a Traducianist. Now if you listen most of the Moral Majority you read an article Israel My Glory that came out in this month's issue written by Reynold Showers who is a well respected theologian who is with the Friends of Israel wrote a whole article taking the Traducianist view. So this is very popular today. It became the politically correct evangelical position after Roe v. Wade.
You come along and say you are a creationist and people say, "How can you hold that position?"
Well, let's see. In all of church history probably 90% of theologians – Catholic, most Lutherans up until the 18th century, Presbyterians, - almost everybody was creationists. They didn't have the political pressure of the abortion debate. They were just dealing with the text. As you can see, my argument is going to be that the popularity of the Traducianist position has been forged in the context of the politics of the day apart from exegesis.
So for creationists, the body is created indirectly by God and the soul is created directly by God and imparted at the time of birth.
Now let's see the historical background here. Tertullian was the first to coin the word for Traducianism. Luther held to a Traducianist position. Later he shifted to creationism. In the Lutheran Concord of the 16th century, they held to a creationist position. They later changed it and went back. William G. T. Shedd held to a traducianist position. Louis Sperry Chafer held to a Traducianist position.
Chafer gets through with his whole Traducianism versus creationism and says, "The evidence in pretty equal, but I am going to say that it tips very slightly towards Traducianism."
A lot of more contemporary systematic theologies that have come out in recent years don't even discuss the issue. I was pulling books off my shelf by systematic theologies that have been written in recent years and thumbing through the index and they don't even have a reference to this debate in their index.
In creationism, Jerome who was the early church father who translated the Bible (the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament) into Latin (the Vulgate) was a creationist. He believed that life began at birth.
Who really honors Saint Jerome? He translated the Vulgate. He is one of the major fathers for the Roman Catholic Church, isn't he? So is Thomas Aquinas, the angelic doctor.
Thomas Aquinas said in his Summa Theologica, "It is heresy to think that the soul is transmitted through the semen."
This is the doctor of theology. They call him for the Roman Catholic Church. He said that Traducianism was heresy.
John Calvin was a creationist.
Charles Hodge a very famous 19th century theologian and many others were creationists as well as I pointed out. Shedd recognized that nearly every theologian up to his time was a creationist. It was unusual to be a Traducianist. Augustine was a creationist most of his life. When he got into some arguments with Pelagius he began to waffle a little bit, but he never could convince himself that Traducianism had a case. He started becoming uncertain on his creationist views, but he could never convince himself that the Traducianist view could be supported. That gives you the historical background to this debate.
One of the reasons I bring that out is because many people who hold to a creationist view today think that somehow this is an odd view.
They hear this taught and they say, "Well, I have never heard that. Every evangelical that I have ever heard said that the soul was present from conception."
That is not a recent view, but its popularity among biblical students is very recent. It is a 20th century phenomenon. I point out this history so that people realize that there is significance to this historical debate. If you take a creationist position, you are not some wild-eyed liberal weirdo that never heard of.
I talked to seminary guys when I was in seminary that had never heard anybody who took this position. It was an eye opening thing for them.
Let's bow our heads in closing prayer.