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Thu, May 17, 2007

88 - John the Baptist [c]

Hebrews 7:4-10 by Robert Dean
Series:Hebrews (2005)
Duration:53 mins 55 secs

Hebrews Lesson 88  May 17, 2007 


NKJ Psalm 119:9 How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.


We got started in this subject about 6 weeks ago – had a couple of breaks when I went out of town and due to weather and some other things. We are basically coming out of a controversial passage in Hebrews 7:9-10. There we read…


NKJ Hebrews 7:9 Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak,


Or literally "in a manner of speaking" indicating that the writer of Hebrews is writing in figurative language. 


This thing about figurative language is really important because as I have gone through a number of things trying to handle some of the more difficult phrases and passages related to this whole issue of when does life begin, the origin of the soul, the transmission of the soul - one of the things that come up is this idea of idioms and figures of speech. It's tough to try to understand some of those concepts because we are so far removed from the spoken language. It is difficult sometimes to figure out when things are idiomatic because once a phrase becomes idiomatic, then breaking it down syntactically can really lead you in a wrong direction. If someone were to tell you to go jump in the lake, if you were to take that and break that down in terms of a wooden literal interpretation and break it down in terms of its grammar and syntax; it wouldn't lead you to a correct understanding of the meaning of the phrase.  The same thing is true with other clauses. 


This is one of the things that is developed in Bible study since the advent of computers especially in the last twenty years. That is not just studying words and terms which has always been a part of word studies, but to recognize that in many instances clauses or phrases or idiomatic phrases become greater than the sum of the parts. So you can spend all the time in the world exegeting two words in a clause or a phrase but recognize that a phrase takes on the meaning of its own that is different from just a breakdown of the individual terms that are in there. That can lead you to some misapplication and misunderstanding of some passages. So that is all part of this. 


I keep going back and reading more and more things and trying to work through different aspects of this to kind of flesh out some of the problems because there are a lot of problems in understanding these passages. There have been a lot of steps and missteps. I think there have been people – it is a very emotional subject as to when full life actually begins. Is it at conception? It is at birth? Is it transmitted physically? Just how does this all work? I think there are passages that have not been dealt with honestly and openly on both sides of this particular controversy.


Last time (in case you weren't here) we started off going back to Genesis 2:7 and focusing on a few key ideas related to the fact that God formed man and that verb yatsar indicates the fashioning, the forming the shaping of the external part of man. 


Now if I can remember this because I was doing a lot of tangential reading right before I came to class tonight which did not necessarily make into my notes but hopefully somehow it got engraved for at least 30 minutes on my mental hard drive. 


I want you to turn to Job 1. No, it's not there. Okay, we will pick it up and grab it at some other point as we go through the night I am sure. 


Just another statement of where Job is talking about how God formed his body and then dressed the muscles and the bones and the sinews. I was going there for an example of how God shapes the physical body. But in that passage it speaks as if God is directly involved much like the passage we looked at in Psalm 139. See we come in and we talk about how God is directly involved in the creation and impartation of the soul, but that He indirectly or mediately generates the physical body because humans are involved in the act of procreation. But even though God is mediately involved in something the Scriptures still speak as if God is directly doing it because God is the author of both the soul life and the physical life – the development of the body within the womb. That is what yatsar focuses on. 


God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. I just pointed out last time that God's breathing is anthropomorphic because God doesn't breathe. He doesn't have lungs. But the breath of life in relationship to man is to be understood literally. There have been those who want to claim that this breathing of life (the word neshamah that is used here) is sort of a one-time pattern – the initial creation of life in the garden. Certainly this is distinctive. Adam doesn't have a circulatory system. He doesn't have any sort of neurological system. He doesn't have any development of musculature going at all on prior to the breathing of God and the impartation of the soul, which is what happens with the development of biological life - the development of the body in the womb. It is a progressive thing. It develops. There is not a one-to-one correspondence there. We acknowledge that. That's true.


But, this phrase "breath of life" (and  neshamah) is used again and again throughout Scripture as being indicative of when life is present. We talked about Genesis 2:7 and Deuteronomy 22:16 and Joshua 10:40 and 11:11 and Psalm 150:6. 


Then we have the phrase nephesh hajah which is one of those clauses that it is not just nephesh which is sometimes translated soul. It is not that it becomes a living soul. It is not just hajah; but it is the phrase nehpesh hajah. Nehpesh hajah is used in Genesis 1:20 for birds, in Genesis 1:21 for sea creatures and in Genesis 1:24 for animals. So this is not a term or a phrase that is distinctive to a human soul. And so it is more correct to say that this simply means he becomes a living entity. He is alive. He wasn't alive before. There is life. 


So that is another difference between the progress of a biological development, development of the body in the womb because it is alive as biological life.  It is living. There is circulation. There is the development of neurological pathways. There is response to external stimuli. If you had given any kind of external stimuli to the body of Adam lying there on the ground before God breathed into him, there wouldn't have been any response. It was completely inanimate and lifeless. So these are aspects of this that we must take into account. 


I pointed out again in terms of review is that the key issues become determining how the Bible expresses the parameters of life. I had concluded in the lesson before that that the position that I am articulating is that you don't have full life – you have a progressive development – the progressive development of the body in the womb prior to birth. But it is at birth when the soul is given. That is when you have full human life – only at birth. The parameters in the Scripture are birth and death as I pointed out. 


So to illustrate that and to show that I am not making this stuff up out of thin air - see there are a number of evangelicals who really react to this. But if you go Judaism and you go back to the Talmud, you go back to the Mishnah and I quoted from the Encyclopedia of Judaism that they articulate this same position. It is not full life, human life until it is nephesh at birth. I am not going to quote the whole article like I did last week. Just in review in that article it states…


The commentators explain that the fetus is not considered to be a nephesh or person until it has left the womb and entered the air of the world; one is therefore permitted to destroy it to save the mother's life.


That is the only exception because in Judaism and the Talmud and the Mishnah, they understand that what is going on in the womb is human. It is not just a mass of cells that is non-human. God is involved in that process and that you don't interfere with it and stop it at all. It may not be murder; but it is just short of murder. Unless you have to make a decision between the life of the mother and the life of the infant in the womb, there is no interference whatsoever – no abortion. This has been the traditional view in Judaism and it was the view of the early church. In fact there were some early church fathers that even went so far as to say it was murder. Now they hadn't refined at that point (That is the early second century) of distinction between Traducianism and creationism. None of those things had been developed. 


Then I went to a modern anti- abortionist Harold O. J. Brown who is a well-known evangelical scholar who is really at the forefront of the whole right to life, the protestant right to life anti-abortion crusade. He wrote an article that came out in the early 90's in the Trinity Theological Journal out of Trinity Seminary. He makes some astounding statements in this particular article. One of the statements he made is that the discussion of ensoulment for all practical purposes is necessarily confined to those religious circles especially but not only Christian ones who do believe that man has a soul. He goes on to say that the question of ensoulment cannot be answered scripturally. 


Now I think it can be answered scripturally. 


But he is claiming from his position as an anti-abortionist, as a right-to-lifer he is claiming, "Well, we don't know." 


Well, if you don't know from your study of Scripture, and I went through all of his academic last time - he is an extremely well-educated, biblically educated individual. 


He is saying, "We can't know." 


Well, if you don't know how can you base law on something you can't know as a Christian? When you have access by the Holy Spirit to the completed canon of Scripture and if you say you can't know, how can you go out and insist that abortion is murder? The presupposition of that is that a soul is there. 


He does make a point in discussing this whole issue that he can't imagine – he doesn't give one shred of support for the statement – he can't imagine how any Christian could ever think that the fetus could go a full 9 months without ever having a soul. He presuppositionally rejects the creationists' at birth position because he doesn't think it makes any sense whatsoever. 


So I concluded with him last time by making three points of what he is saying. 


  1. He said whatever is in the womb is human. That is something that is very important. We are going to look at a passage tonight that is very important on this. We can't minimize what is in the womb from conception. Whatever is in the womb is human. That is true. Whether it is ensouled or not, it is human and is the development of the physical part of the image and likeness of God. 
  2. The second statement that he made is that the Scripture cannot answer the question as to the timing of ensoulment. That is false. I think Scripture does make a statement there and we can understand that. 
  3. This was a very good and accurate point that he made. He said that we don't want the government, the Congress or the courts attempting to decide the time of ensoulment. They can't do it apart from revelation. 


So I made a three point conclusion. I think this is the core of my presentation on this issue. Number one, only Christians have access and can understand the things of the Spirit of God – i.e. revelation. I Corinthians 2:14. If you can only know when the soul is imparted (no matter when it is) through revelation and unbelievers cannot know it because it is revelation (they can't understand the things of the Spirit of God) then you can't base law code on information that is not accessible to the unsaved mind. 


You can build all kinds of ethical systems developed totally apart from Scripture that recognize that murder is wrong, that recognize the right of private property, that recognize that thievery is wrong - all kinds of moral standards. Don't fall into a distorted evangelical distortion that says that only Christians can come up with ethics. Only Christians have a consistent basis for coming up with the ethics that they do. But there are a lot of non-biblical systems that come up with high moral standards. They are robbing. They are not consistent. We can point that out, but it doesn't mean that they don't. That doesn't mean that on the basis of reason on the basis of empiricism - you can't decide willy-nilly murder isn't a good thing. That doesn't promote stability in society.


You can come to certain conclusions about ethics just on the basis of empiricism and rationalism, but you can't determine when the soul enters the body on the basis of anything other than revelation. So you don't base law that is for believer and unbeliever on something that is knowable only to the believer. And by the way believers don't agree at all and have argued this for centuries. So why would you want to base a universal standard on disputed understanding of revelation.


As we go through this whole issue there are three passages that continuously come up in terms of the question - how can you claim whatever side you are on in light of this particular passage. 


The most difficult, the one that gives trouble to both sides (and both have to be honest with that) has to do with John the Baptist. Let's face it - there are things about the ministry of John the Baptist that are a little bit strange. John is a cousin of Jesus. He has probably heard the story of what happens in Luke 1, the story of his miraculous birth, announcement of his birth, the announcement of the birth of his cousin Jesus and the virgin birth and virgin conception of Jesus all of his life. 


Yet when he gets thrown in jail he sends a message to Jesus and says, "Are you really the Messiah?" 


There are other things about John the Baptist that are a bit unusual to understand because we don't always understand the dynamic that is going on in terms of Old Testament theology. If you don't understand Old Testament theology and the whole issue related to the kingdom, you are going to fall flat on your face with John the Baptist. 


So, let's go to Luke 1. This is the first passage people will go to. Of course first of all we have to properly translate it. Now his father is Zacharias. His mother is Elizabeth. Elizabeth has not been able to get pregnant. She is one of the 6 women in Scripture that Scripture makes a point out of their barrenness.  There is a purpose for that because God is going to make sure that she becomes pregnant in miraculous circumstances. Zacharias is his father and he is a priest. It is his turn to serve in the temple. When he goes in an angel of the Lord appears to him in verse 11. When Zacharias sees the angel of the Lord he gets extremely agitated because he figures that he is going to die. This is it. 


NKJ Luke 1:13 But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.


NKJ Luke 1:14 "And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.


We will come back to this verse in just a minute. 


You have a couple of key words there in the Greek that are very important, but the most important is the one translated "gladness". This is a word that from its Old Testament background was always associated with the joy that would come from the presence of the Messiah. When Messiah would appear and bring the kingdom there would be great exuberant joy and excitement. That is what this word has. The emphasis is it is not the mental attitude stability of the first word "joy" which is chara. It is a different word that has a very strong emphasis from the Old Testament. It is the Greek word agalliasis. So it has this nuance. When you see that word immediately you should be thinking in terms of the coming of the Messiah – eschatological joy. 


Remember we think of eschatology as what is happening in the future at the rapture and at the Second Coming. But, if you were at the time of John the Baptist and the Messiah hadn't shown up for the First Advent yet, when you are thinking eschatology you are thinking about the Messiah coming and bringing the kingdom. Remember the message of John the Baptist was going to be – prepare the way of the Lord for the kingdom of heaven is at hand and repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Then Jesus shows up and the message He starts off with is – repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Then He sends out the disciples and their message is repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. It was all eschatological. 


So this word is very important because the angel is telling him that he and Elizabeth are going to have this particular kind of eschatological exuberance. It is going to characterize him and Elizabeth. We will come back to that in a minute. 


In verse 15 he says…


NKJ Luke 1:15 "For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb.


Now wine is what we think of as wine. It is the fruit of grapes. Strong drink is beer. I know some of you are already thinking it is scotch or bourbon. But, they hadn't developed the process and abilities to distill beverages yet. That didn't come along until about the 8th or 9th century AD. So, strong drink from the Old Testament word referred to barley beer. So he is saying that he…

and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb.


Now before we look at this issue of "filled with the Holy Spirit", let's stop a minute and look at the initial announcement about his not having wine or strong drink. Who does that remind you of? Somebody who we have studied recently - who does that remind you of? Sampson. So let's go look at Sampson for a minute. Now this is going to be a tough passage for some of you. 


In Judges 13 we have a parallel situation. We have a mother who is barren. We have an announcement of a supernatural conception by the angel of the Lord. 


NKJ Judges 13:3 And the Angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, "Indeed now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and bear a son.


I made a point out of this that these are two separate words, two separate actions. Conception is the start of the process, when fertilization occurs. Giving birth is what happens at the end of the process when the child comes out of the womb.


NKJ Judges 13:4 "Now therefore, please be careful not to drink wine or similar drink, and not to eat anything unclean. 


That is to the mother. Now the angel of the Lord is not concerned with pre-natal health here. This has to do with the Nazirite vow that Sampson is going to be under. But from the moment of the announcement, (the conception is going to occur momentarily - in the next day or two) the mother is not supposed to drink wine or strong drink or to eat anything unclean. Why?


NKJ Judges 13:5 "For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines."


What we would think is that if that is just biological protoplasm in the womb and it really doesn't have great significance until there is ensoulment, then why does it matter what she does? It matters because as I have pointed out we shouldn't create this dichotomy between the body and soul, between the material and the immaterial. They are both part of the image of God. They develop separately so that this passage is showing that God is very much concerned about what happens to that which is in the womb. So for the period of her pregnancy because of who she is going to give birth to because of Sampson's future purpose she has to indicate the distinctiveness and uniqueness of his future ministry. So she too is not supposed to drink wine or beer or eat anything unclean. Verse 5 explains. 


for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb;


This is iterated there. The point that I want to make is that it shows again that we have to take into account the importance of the development of what is going on in the womb. 


There is this myth that it is part of the mother's body. It is not part of the mother's body. That is why it has in many cases the baby in the womb has a different blood type. You can fertilize an egg in a Petri dish and implant it in any womb in any female on the planet and if they are biological white parents, you can plant that in a womb of a black woman and that baby is gong to be white. That baby will have the genetic tendencies of the parents. It is going to look like the biological father and the biological mother because that entity is a distinct entity. 


It's mother dependent in the sense that for life it must get its nourishment through the placenta. But the interesting thing in God's creation is that the placenta will allow a mother with one blood type to mix her blood in with the fetus who has a different blood type. The mixing of blood types doesn't occur naturally. That is a provision of God that shows that what is in the womb is not just a tumor or hangnail or just a mass of cells.  It is something that is going to be a full human being and must be treated as sacred life. That is the Jewish position. Life is sacred. Even if it doesn't have the soul yet, it is sacred life. God treats that which is in the womb as that which is very valuable.


So let's go back to Luke 1:15 


NKJ Luke 1:15 "For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb.


That is the New King James translation. He would be filled with the Holy Spirit. That word for filling is this word which also shows up in Luke 1:41 pimpleme which means to cause to be full. It is related to but is a distinct word from pleroo. It is not the same word that is used in Ephesians 5:18 for the filling of the Spirit. It is a different word. It is pimpleme plus a genitive. See in Ephesians 5:18 when you have the command "be filled by means of the Spirit" that is a command using the verb pleroo (a different verb) plus a dative which is an instrumental dative. It should be translated "filled by means of the Spirit". That is a different operation of the Spirit than what we have going on here. This is pimpleme plus the genitive - "be filled of or from" literally – of or from the Holy Spirit. This kind of genitive can often be used for means. 


It is the same kind of ministry of the Holy Spirit that you have in the Old Testament with enduement. It is the ministry of God the Holy Spirit just as you had (but to a greater degree) because you remember John the Baptist was greater than all the Old Testament prophets. He has a greater measure and influence of the Holy Spirit than any of the Old Testament prophets; but it is the same kind of ministry to the leaders to Bezalel and Aholiab who crafted the tabernacle, to the judges, to Sampson. It is related to his role within the theocratic kingdom of God and the theocratic message that the kingdom is about to come. It is not related to his spiritual life per se. The other thing about it is that there is nobody in the Old Testament, no one in the New Testament of whom we have this phrase stated that isn't a regenerate believer. 


A precondition for having this operation of the Holy Spirit is that you have to be regenerate. The way some people want to handle this and I think they are some translations that will translate this next phrase "He will be filled with the Spirit even within his mother's womb" and that's not a good translation. The New King James translates it "even from his mother's womb" which is more literal – ek koilia. But the NIV catches the sense of this idiom in that it is from birth. 


The reason I keep belaboring this is because this is really where I think a lot of the discussion needs to be today. The Old Testament phrase was mibeten and the New Testament phrase is ek koilia


One of the things I was doing this afternoon is consulting some more technical word study dictionaries on Hebrew that are out and came up with these two statements. 


The first statement is from The New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis – long title and long abbreviation. It is evangelical in its orientation by evangelical scholars. It is edited by William Van Gemeren who is evangelical. This is not one of the more liberal based dictionaries like the second one is. It came out in the late 90's published by Zondervan. In that article under the heading of "beten" it says as the discussion of the concept from the womb… 


The writer states…


The beginning of one's life on earth is sometimes viewed as "when he comes out of his mother's womb". 


See, that is what I have been saying. It is birth that is the beginning of life. Here is an evangelical scholar in a technical Hebrew dictionary admitting that this is the thrust of this particular phrase. It is from birth. Birth is the time of the beginning of life.


Then the second quote – see he references TEDIOTE which is the Botterweck and Ringgren who were the two editors. It is a European production of the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament. They are still translating. I bought the first four volumes when I was in seminary and that was – John the Baptist was a private back then. They are still translating. I think they came out with volume XIV finally this year and they have two more to go. I might get the last two before I die. But in the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament in volume II, page 97 the writer states…


Birth, then, being the terminus a quo (that is Latin for the beginning) birth then being the beginning in life,


Here you have two different highly respected Hebrew theological dictionaries both of which affirm what I have been saying for the last several lesson is that this phrase mibeten and ek koilia is an idiom for "from birth". 


Now the reason I make this point is that there have been those who have tried to make an issue out of the use of those prepositions - the use of the min and the use of the ek. Some of you have heard that – the emphasis on the partitive use of the min and the partitive use of the ek. What I am saying here and by taking this back to my introduction is that this is an idiomatic statement. It's not based on how the preposition is used. In fact I read one critique of that position last week and he went so far in one direction in trying to explain the fact that min and ek never can have this partitive idea that he completely eviscerated his own understanding of Revelation 3:10 when Jesus says to the church of Philadelphia…


NKJ Revelation 3:10 "Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.


We went through that. That is an indication of the Rapture. You see ek and min can have several different meanings. In some contexts they clearly mean "keeping you from something never having entered into it". And in other passages it indicates source. It says you came from Philadelphia. That clearly means that at some point you were in Philadelphia. So you do have these differences. But if you start parsing the grammar in a phrase that is an idiom you are going to end up misunderstanding the whole thing. It is an idiomatic phrase because you don't have the vocabulary to say "from birth". There is no noun. I pointed that out. I just wanted to give you a little more documentation on what I have been saying.


Luke 1:15 goes on to say…


NKJ Luke 1:15 "For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb.


The NIV translates it that way as it does both of these phrases ek koilia and mibeten numerous times. So that is legitimate. It is from birth. 


Now I am going to go off the reservation here. I would love to be able to say that I have been able to demonstrate that "from birth" doesn't mean from the instant of birth. My gut feeling is that it is just a general idiom for from an early age. But, I can't document that anywhere. The closest I have been able to come is that passage over in Acts that we looked at a couple of weeks ago when it talked about the man who was born cripple and that he was crippled from birth. That is how the phrase is. 


When would you know that he was crippled? Was he going to get up and walk the first day after he was born? Unless there is a physical deformity, you wouldn't know that he wasn't going to be able to walk maybe for weeks or months. That is different from the blind man in John 9:1 who is blind from birth.  You could figure out that a baby was blind pretty quickly, but not with the crippled man. So that may take some time. I would love to be able to demonstrate this because I have a sense that it has got to be early because my big problem is and the problem you don't find anybody wrestling with on the other side of the question here is how can you have John the Baptist having a relationship with God the Holy Spirit before he is regenerate? How exactly does that work since you don't have that pattern anywhere else in Scripture? That is a serious problem with anybody (especially) claiming that this filling takes place in the womb. As I am going to point out, when you have this word pimpleme it is almost always followed by some sort of a verbal articulation. For example we will get into the next passage in Luke 1:41


NKJ Luke 1:41 And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.


What is the next thing that happened in verse 42?


NKJ Luke 1:42 Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!


You can go through every use of pimpleme in the New Testament and every tine the writer says that so-and-so was filled with the Holy Spirit, the next thing is they say something. See this is different from the sanctification ministry of the filling of the Holy Spirit of Ephesians 5:18. This has to do with revelatory information and direct guidance by God the Holy Spirit. So just exactly how is John the Baptist going to be speaking either in the womb or in the first 6 or 8 or 10 months of his life? I am not sure. I just have a lot of questions on this and nobody is addressing them. I don't think we have enough information to address them.


The next thing we need to do is go to Luke 1:41


NKJ Luke 1:41 And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.


These are three events that are stated - she hears the greeting, the baby leaps in her womb, her explanation in verse 44 indicates that there is a relationship between the two. Then subsequently or unrelatedly Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she says something in verse 42. 


There are some important observations here. 


  1. The event is precipitated by Elizabeth hearing the greeting of Mary. It's not the brephos in the womb that hears the greeting. It is Elizabeth that hears the greeting.
  2. Elizabeth is subsequently filled by the Holy Spirit, which has to do with what she is going to say in verse 42. What she says there is new information for her. 


If you go through Luke 1 you have the initial episode with the announcement to Zacharias about the birth of John the Baptist and then the conception of Elizabeth and her 5 months of pregnancy in verse 24 and the six months of her pregnancy. She doesn't know this. She is down in Judea. She is 50 miles from Nazareth. Back then they didn't have email and they didn't have text messaging. They didn't have a cell phone. They didn't have telegraph or even pony express. So at that time the angel Gabriel comes and announces to Mary up in Nazareth that Mary is going to conceive and that she is going to give birth to the promised Messiah. When that is completed, the angel tells her in verse 36…


NKJ Luke 1:36 "Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren.


NKJ Luke 1:37 "For with God nothing will be impossible."


NKJ Luke 1:38 Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.


NKJ Luke 1:39 Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah,


She gets up the next morning to go see Elizabeth. Elizabeth does not know that Mary is pregnant. Mary is barely pregnant. She does not know that Mary is pregnant with the Messiah. She has no information that way. So when Mary shows up Elizabeth's excitement over Mary is just her normal excitement over seeing her relative. That's it. She is not excited because of Messianic implications at that point because she doesn't have a clue. She didn't get the text message. So when Mary enters the house of Zacharias, it happened when Elizabeth hears the greeting of Mary that there is this activity in the womb.


Now let's talk about this activity just a little bit. The same word is used in verse 44. It is skirtao which means to leap, to spring, especially of animals, to leap for joy or to exalt. Now this is a really interesting word. It is used in the Septuagint for movement in the womb. Can you think of where that might be?  Jacob and Esau – movement in the womb - skirtao. Okay! It is also used to refer to physical exuberance because you are excited about something. Now as a result of that it became an anthropopathized in Classical Greek (if there is such a word) … It became an anthropopathic statement that was frequently ascribed to animals. 


For example in a writing of Longus who actually writes in 2nd century AD which is very close to New Testament times, he says…


  The word is used of a dog leaping for joy after getting the scent of a hare. 


Now this is really good….


The dog leaps for joy…


Does a dog leap for joy because he has emotions like a human and volition or is this because this is the instinct that is bred into him, and we are anthropopathically imputing human emotions to this exuberant leaping about? The word is frequently used of the activity of sheep and rams gambling about on the hillside or young calves leaping about in the fields. 


So it has this figure of speech idea along with it. So it comes to be an idiom again that is associated with humans leaping for joy. So the babe is leaping in the womb. Now that is that word. We have got to deal with each of these words and then we have got to deal with whether or not we have a figure of speech going on here. The babe leaps. 


Then we have that next phrase for joy. The way that is translated in most English translations makes it look as if - I would expect some different words in the Greek actually – some different prepositions. But what we have is an "en" clause. En always indicates means, usually. En is the preposition. We don't have a "hoti" clause which would be causal. It doesn't say he leaped in the womb because of joy. It is the preposition en which one use could be giving a reason for something. En plus the dative can do that. 


But according to Arndt and Gingrich, it also has a sense of explaining the surrounding circumstances. What are the circumstances that are going on around a certain activity? So you have this movement of John in the womb. 


Now are we going to say on the one hand that at six months you have fetal activity and development to the degree that this fetus hears the sound of another person outside of his mother and knows (cognitive activity) that that is Mary and that she is pregnant (she is not even showing yet, she has barely conceived) with the Messiah. Is that what we are saying? That is really what the one position is arguing - that John knows that that is Jesus' mommy there and that Jesus is in her womb. 


Now I find that to be difficult from our understanding. Now you can't hang anything on science because we are always learning new things. But at this stage we are not sure how much cognitive activity is going on in the brain in the womb. Now there is certainly development of the brain. 


I remember and you do to, back in the 80's and 90's that it was real popular for mothers to try to develop the brain activity of the fetus by playing classical music, other kinds of music. Mothers would do that. Studies came out in the late 90's showing that the connections aren't there for that to have any impact.  There is no memory - nothing. It doesn't do a cotton-picking thing because the synapses aren't connecting yet and all of this isn't happening. It doesn't really happen until 5 or 6 weeks after birth.  Hmm….


So if that is not there until after birth then how can we be arguing that what John the Baptist is engaged in is a lot of cognitive activity from deep inside his mother's womb? I am having trouble with this. So, maybe there are some other things going on here and this isn't a passage anybody ought to be going to trying to decide whether or not there is a soul in the womb. 


What happens is, there is a viable explanation for this. It seems to fit the text. The text is saying that both in both verse 41 and 44 there is the connection with what happens to the mother. In verse 41 it happened when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary. Who heard the greeting? John? No, he isn't even called. 


Here is another interesting thing – the word brephos is used for infant here. You have a number of different words used for infants and babies and children in Greek. 


Some people come along and they will say, "See in Greek brephos is used of what is in the womb and brephos is used of a baby; so there is no distinction in the New Testament between what is in the womb and what is out of the womb." 


That was a Greek word folks! That didn't come out of a biblical context. That was the Greeks' idea. They didn't believe that you had full human life inside the womb at all. They were pagan. Let's not go there. That argument isn't going to work at all. So we have to be careful. 


That is one thing that I have discovered in reading this - on both sides there are a lot of unguarded statements. There are a lot of hyperbolic statements and there are a lot of statements made that just aren't in evidence. As I pointed out last time in Job 3:3, just because it says…


NKJ Job 3:3 "May the day perish on which I was born, And the night in which it was said, 'A male child is conceived.'


People say, "See, life begins at conception."


No, that just says that at conception you can tell the difference between whether it is a girl and a boy. That's physical. That doesn't tell you that there is a soul there. It doesn't tell you that life begins there. We read into these verses too often what we want to see in the verse. 


So you have skirtao - leaping in relation to joy. Whose joy? I think it is the mother's joy because we have already been told back in Luke 1:14 that she is going to have this kind of joy. It is related to the eschatological joy of the Messiah. So her joy, her excitement at hearing Mary come even though she doesn't know anything about Mary being pregnant or the Messiah, she is just excited and that creates an environment that causes fetal stimulation. 


Now we can document this possibly. I am not going to say that this is the only explanation for fetal movement. There are all kinds of reasons that babies are going to move. But, it has been demonstrated that there is one kind of reflex called the startle reflex or moral reflex that is one of many biological and neuromuscular responses in a fetus. There was a study done at USC a number of years ago where they took an artificial larynx and put it up next to the mother's abdomen to create a three second sound and in every case there was a physical reaction by the fetus. That doesn't mean there is a soul there. That doesn't mean it is volitional. It is like hitting your leg just below the knee with a hammer. Your leg is going to jerk. It is a reflex action. It doesn't indicate volition. It doesn't indicate anything other than a response to sound. This is a possible explanation of what is going on here. 


The timing of course is supernatural because what God is indicating is this movement to gain Elizabeth's attention to make her realize - because this movement was more than probably typical fetal movement. It really got her attention and then she was filled with the Spirit. She recognizes that something has happened to Mary that is beyond her knowledge. 


Now that deals with Luke 1 in both of those instances. There is a lot that is going on in that particular passage and I am not sure that we understand all of it.  I think it is a very weak passage to go to because if you have got John the Baptist engaged in all of this cognitive activity inside the womb then you have got some other problems with him being filled with the Spirit and not being regenerate. So there are some various problems there. 


One last statement, I mentioned brephos. The term brephos is used to refer to Jesus and John until they are taken to the temple on the 8th day and dedicated. Then he is called John. He is not called John… 


In the start of this the angel tells Zacharias, "You are going to call him John." 


He doesn't start calling him John until he is dedicated on the 8th day. He is still referred to as a brephos. That is significant. He is not personalized with a personal name until he gets presented to the Lord on the 8th day of dedication, which is when he is no longer referred to as a brephos. So that would indicate under a Jewish concept that he is fully recognized as a person within the context of the covenant at the time of his circumcision on the 8th day and not before. So there is another indication that there's a distinction there. 


Well, that ought to cover most of what we have gone into in Luke 1. The other passage that is a difficult passage that people get into is Exodus 21:22 which we will come back to next time. This is the episode within the law when men are fighting and there is a pregnant woman nearby and she gets inadvertently hit and gives birth prematurely. So we have to look at that in some detail. Then when we finish that we will start wrapping this up and go to another level of the discussion. You see the next level of discussion is once you decide when the soul enters into the body, and then you have to figure out the transmission of sin and what our relationship with Adam is. Is it seminal or is it federal? This brings in a whole other ... and these two issues of whether the soul is created at birth or passed on through procreation or directly related to how theologians understand our relationship to Adam in terms of federal headship or seminalism. Once again one of the key passages in our passage in Hebrews 7:8-9. So we have to understand this crucial to understand our whole relationship to Adam and the transmission of sin. 


So we will get to that and probably not get it all of that done before I head off to Israel. Let's bow our heads in closing prayer.