Author Archives: jacobhalvorson

Perform Accurate Original Language Searches in Logos Bible Software

If you have a basic knowledge of Biblical languages, you can follow this guide to search the Bible for the exact phrase you’re looking for. Practice so that after a minute of typing you will be able to say with confidence how many times a phrase appears in the NT and in the LXX. I will use my recent search for the relevant passages in the “faith in Christ” vs. “faithfulness of Christ” debate as an example.

1. Find a Lemma

Start by typing “lemma:” to make sure you find all the variations of the word. Then type “g:” for Greek or “h:” for Hebrew, and start typing the transliteration of your word (e.g. pistis for πίστις). Logos will give you a few options to transform your transliteration into real Greek or Hebrew,

2. Use BEFORE to Connect Another Word

The search above means that Logos will look for “faith” before the word “Christ,” and the maximum distance will be two words. Examples of these being two words apart would be pistis Iesou Christou or pistis tou Christou. Instead of words, you can specify a distance of characters; Logos likes to use BEFORE 4 CHARS to find words right next to each other, but to me it seems better to specify words. (Why include the atricle o but not tou?) Instead of BEFORE, you can use WITHIN if you’re not picky about order.

3. Use @ to Specify Part of Speech

Above, I type “@” directly after Christos to select the genitive case. You can also use “@” by itself to select any genitive noun, for example.

Use OR to broaden your search

Here I want to also find the phrase “faith of Jesus.” If I want to be thorough, I can use OR to also look for the verb form of faith, pisteuo. You can also narrow your search by using AND.

Switch to the Septuagint

Once you’ve crafted your perfect search, easily switch from the New Testament to the LXX or Josephus or whatever else you want to search.

This step doesn’t make much sense for the example I’ve been using, but when I use “@” without a lemma I can look for any genitive after pistis; shot in the dark, but the 1 Maccabees verse looks relevant. Note that I switch to NRSV to translate this one.

How Thomas Aquinas Defines Theology

I have often wondered why theology covers so many subjects. Aquinas explains the boundaries of theology: it is always ultimately about God, and it rests on the Bible. The following quotes are from this Kindle version, pages 45-48.

Theology Studies God

“For it is called theology, as treating of God. Therefore God is the object of this science.”

Theology Studies Creation Only as it Relates to God

In sacred science, all things are treated of under the aspect of God: either because they are God Himself or because they refer to God as their beginning and end.

Scripture is the Sole Infallible Rule of Faith

Sacred doctrine… properly uses the authority of the canonical Scriptures as an incontrovertible proof, and the authority of the doctors of the Church as one that may properly be used, yet merely as probable. For our faith rests upon the revelation made to the apostles and prophets who wrote the canonical books, and not on the revelations (if any such there are) made to other doctors. Hence Augustine says (Epis. ad Hieron. xix, 1): “Only those books of Scripture which are called canonical have I learned to hold in such honor as to believe their authors have not erred in any way in writing them. But other authors I so read as not to deem everything in their works to be true, merely on account of their having so thought and written, whatever may have been their holiness and learning.”

Biden Sends Navy in Search of White Whale

Since his inauguration, President Biden has thought of little other than the white whale whom he calls Covi Dick.

Some doubt the existence of the whale, and others think it was genetically engineered by the Chinese military. Some see it as a divine judgment against humanity, and others think it is a force of nature that can’t be stopped. But the president is sure that this whale is a mask for Satan himself, and that it is his destiny to kill it.

Critics are questioning whether this is a proper use of the military, and whether hunting whales is an enumerated power of the executive branch. But the president will hear no dissent. “You can build more boats, you can have more sons, but there is only one whale, and one Biden to kill him.”

The Navy was hesitant at first, but Biden offered them plenty of money to head toward the whale at “warp speed.” Some generals tried commanding their fleets to stay and defend the United States, but Biden “got them out of the way.” Now, hundreds of miles from the coast, some sailors are questioning whether this is what they really signed up for when they joined the Navy.

The president assured the sailors that they are completely safe, and that he understands their anger at those who endangered them by refusing to volunteer for the Navy.

Fruit

Fruit is a product of labor that is produced organically instead of by a mechanical process. In the beginning, God gave fruit to man and animals (Gen 1:30). Man was made to work and keep the garden of Eden (Genesis 2:5), but not to assemble its fruit. Fruit is produced through relationships and health as well as by labor, and a farmer cannot completely control it. Literal fruit is a result of rain sent by God, soil with organic matter, animal pollination, and light. With these conditions, a healthy plant grows fruit according to its nature. A child, the fruit of the womb, is similarly a gift from God produced through relationship and labor.

God’s old covenant people are sometimes described as his vineyard which He works and cares for. The fruit which they are meant to produce is not only wine, grain, oil, flocks, and children, but also justice and righteousness (Isaiah 5:7). All of these blessings depend on being in right relationship with God by keeping his commandments, and they are especially threatened by idolatry. A great description of the Old Testament picture of fruitfulness is the blessings described in Deuteronomy 28:1–13.

While Israel and Judah are often judged for their lack of fruit, God’s new covenant people fill the whole world with fruit (Isaiah 27:6, Matthew 21:43). The New Testament continues to stress the importance of producing the fruit of righteousness (Matthew 3:8, Romans 6:22, Ephesians 5:9, Philippians 1:11, Colossians 1:10, Hebrews 12:11, James 3:17–18), and also discusses ministry in terms of sowing and reaping (e.g. John 4:35–38). The way that we produce all of this fruit is by remaining connected to Jesus in a relationship of faith (see What Does it Mean to Abide in Christ?), as our Father prunes us to make us fruitful. Like a healthy tree, the fruit we bear should multiply through ministry, so that others will bear the same fruit of righteousness.

CDC Recommends Wearing Masks While Eating Big Macs

August 15 – Due to alarming numbers of deaths from heart disease, the CDC has released new guidance to slow the spread of cholesterol.

Since March of 2020, about 1 million Americans have died of heart disease, compared to 600,000 COVID deaths. But recent studies show that cloth masks, while not very effective at blocking viruses, are very effective at keeping out salt and trans fats.

When asked about the CDC’s guidance, Dr. Anthony Fauci commented “I’m no cardiologist, but it is logical that very little meat will be able to get through a cloth mask. If you wear a cloth mask over an N95, I would say that the risk of consuming harmful substances is negligible.”

Depending on how many people comply with the guidance, it might be necessary to require masks for all Big Mac consumers who do not show proof of healthy blood pressure. The CDC may also declare a nation-wide cook-at-home order. Experts say it will be worth it all if it saves one life.

Why will we meet Jesus in the sky?

While watching a video of a dispensationalist preacher mocking a post-tribulation rapture by comparing it to a bungie cord (we go up, then right back down), I realized that there are a lot of Christians who do not understand why we will meet Jesus in the sky when he comes. This preacher’s own view of the “coming” of Christ in 1 Thessalonians 4 might be compared to a bungie cord (Jesus comes down, then right back up), but in reality there are no bungie cords in this passage.

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

The Greek word for “meet” here is a somewhat technical term that often means “the action of going out to meet an arrival, especially as a mark of honour” (Liddell, Scott, and Jones). The noun and verb forms are used in 4 other places in the New Testament. A man goes out to meet Jesus’ disciples to show them to the upper room where they will celebrate Passover on the night Jesus is betrayed (Mark 14:13). Ten lepers go out to meet Jesus when he arrives in their village (Luke 17:12). When Paul arrives in Rome, Christians come from all over Rome to meet him (Acts 28:15). But the most relevant passage is the parable of the ten virgins, discussed in the next paragraph.

Jesus compares his coming to a bridegroom coming to his wedding feast. Ten virgins go out to meet him, although in the end only five are there to meet him. The purpose of going out to meet him seems to be hospitality and celebration. They are welcoming the bridegroom into the feast, and they walk with him into it. Like Jepthah’s daughter “came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances” (Judges 11:34), the virgins celebrate Jesus’ arrival and make it a joyful occasion.

There is one more reason why we’ll want to be in the sky when Jesus comes. Jesus also compares his coming to the flood that swept away the people of Noah’s day (Matthew 24:38–39). As Noah floated above the waters of God’s judgment, we will float above the earth as Jesus comes in judgment. When the bride is ready for the wedding feast, Jesus will come “to strike down the nations” (Revelation 19).

More Blessed to Give

“I think I’m mad at God.” It took less than 7 hours for this anger to turn into grateful joy. My friend texted me this afternoon to say it’s been hard to have faith that God can turn his situation around. “And the more I hear about how good he is, I’m just like, ‘yeah, to you….'”

Last week he was enjoying the freedom of self-employment, until he found his bank account below zero. This brought back a feeling of scarcity that he’s been fighting for a long time. The Lord had allowed him to struggle financially for years, and it was hard to believe that this would ever change.

And so, like Dmitri Karamazov, he went on a desperate hunt for money. He sold a computer monitor and a book to a shop for $6. “Six dollars for a monitor?!” It was hardly worth the gas to get there, but he took the money anyway.

What changed? The first thing is just how you might expect God to turn this around: a $30 tip. But he found that what turned things around the most was not receiving, but giving.

One of my friend’s gigs is motivational phone calls to help people set and keep goals. A potential client has been working to save up money for these calls, and today my friend saw his need and decided to give him a discount. He saw how much his calls could help this person, and realized that the only reason he didn’t offer the discount sooner is that he needed the money.

Later, as he spent some of his little money on gas, a woman approached him and asked for money. He was filled with a desire to help her, and apologized that he only had $10 to give her.

Finally, a man washed his car windows, and when my friend tried to pay him $5 the man said he did it for free. My friend insisted on paying him, saying “My pastor says ‘Show your money who’s boss and give it away.'”

And so he called me tonight to tell me how his day was completely turned around. “The shift was realizing that when I focus on serving, I can see how much I’m blessed.” The call was briefly interrupted as he was almost run over while getting into his car. His car door took off the side mirror of the driver, who just kept driving, and my friend happily told a bystander “The Lord protected me!”

Christians have a natural inclination to give to the needy, and this is the antidote to covetousness. A generous heart sees past the cares of this life, and is glad to be a part of God’s story of redemption. If you’re upset about your financial situation, the strange solution might be to give something away.

And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

Acts 20:32-35

Proverbs 30:7-9, Robinson Crusoe on Middle-Class Contentment

Some aim for poverty and some aim for riches, but wisdom teaches us to aim somewhere in the middle. Agur son of Jakeh gives the following inspired advice:

Two things I ask of you, deny them not to me before I die; remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.

Proverbs 30:7-9

The goal is not to have a high or low amount of cash or property; the goal is to be holy. Riches come with temptations to pride, and poverty brings temptations to steal. Inspired by these verses, Robinson Crusoe’s father counsels him against a life at sea.

My father, a wise and grave man, gave me serious and excellent counsel against what he foresaw was my design.  He called me one morning into his chamber, where he was confined by the gout, and expostulated very warmly with me upon this subject.  He asked me what reasons, more than a mere wandering inclination, I had for leaving father’s house and my native country, where I might be well introduced, and had a prospect of raising my fortune by application and industry, with a life of ease and pleasure.  He told me it was men of desperate fortunes on one hand, or of aspiring, superior fortunes on the other, who went abroad upon adventures, to rise by enterprise, and make themselves famous in undertakings of a nature out of the common road; that these things were all either too far above me or too far below me; that mine was the middle state, or what might be called the upper station of low life, which he had found, by long experience, was the best state in the world, the most suited to human happiness, not exposed to the miseries and hardships, the labour and sufferings of the mechanic part of mankind, and not embarrassed with the pride, luxury, ambition, and envy of the upper part of mankind.  He told me I might judge of the happiness of this state by this one thing—viz. that this was the state of life which all other people envied; that kings have frequently lamented the miserable consequence of being born to great things, and wished they had been placed in the middle of the two extremes, between the mean and the great; that the wise man gave his testimony to this, as the standard of felicity, when he prayed to have neither poverty nor riches.

He bade me observe it, and I should always find that the calamities of life were shared among the upper and lower part of mankind, but that the middle station had the fewest disasters, and was not exposed to so many vicissitudes as the higher or lower part of mankind; nay, they were not subjected to so many distempers and uneasinesses, either of body or mind, as those were who, by vicious living, luxury, and extravagances on the one hand, or by hard labour, want of necessaries, and mean or insufficient diet on the other hand, bring distemper upon themselves by the natural consequences of their way of living; that the middle station of life was calculated for all kind of virtue and all kind of enjoyments; that peace and plenty were the handmaids of a middle fortune; that temperance, moderation, quietness, health, society, all agreeable diversions, and all desirable pleasures, were the blessings attending the middle station of life; that this way men went silently and smoothly through the world, and comfortably out of it, not embarrassed with the labours of the hands or of the head, not sold to a life of slavery for daily bread, nor harassed with perplexed circumstances, which rob the soul of peace and the body of rest, nor enraged with the passion of envy, or the secret burning lust of ambition for great things; but, in easy circumstances, sliding gently through the world, and sensibly tasting the sweets of living, without the bitter; feeling that they are happy, and learning by every day’s experience to know it more sensibly.

Robinson Crusoe, p. 3-4

Robinson’s father has proved by experience that the middle class life allows a man to live virtuously and enjoy God’s creation with minimal hardships. He earned his living by hard work, but he always had enough food, and his problems were much smaller than those of great men. His work did not feel like slavery to man or to ambition. After a life of hard work, he was able to offer his son the opportunity to live the same kind of life.

It is good to aspire toward this middle-class life. It is good to have possessions that can be shared with others in their time of need. It is good to raise children in a stable household. It is good to enjoy God’s blessings and praise Him. And it is good to minimize the various temptations that come from both poverty and riches.

Against Shepherd Book

Book’s last words were refuted by his death: “I don’t care what you believe in, just believe in it.” These words are in line with this pastor’s ministry throughout the one season of Firefly. For example, when River tried to “fix his Bible” by rewriting parts of Genesis, he said “it’s not about it making sense. It’s about believing in something, and letting that belief be real enough to change you.” Does it not matter what you believe in, as long as you believe in something?

Refutation From Serenity

Shepherd Book was killed by an Alliance that strongly believes in something. They wanted to create a universe without sin. They believed in this strongly enough to kill children and pastors to make it a reality. They believed in this even though their first attempt at it accidentally killed an entire planet and unleashed destruction on surrounding planets. The mere fact that they believed in something did not make them better people.

Captain Mal chooses to fight the Alliance precisely because he does not hold the belief that people can be made better. In the end he is willing to die for his belief that everyone needs to know about the Alliance’s failed experiment. Mal has different beliefs than the Alliance, and that makes them mortal enemies.

Refutation From 2 John

John begins the letter by saying that “all who know the truth” love the church he is writing to (2 John 1). This is because this truth is objective and powerful, dwelling with us in the Person of the Holy Spirit (2 John 2, c.f. John 14:16–17). Faith in the truth inevitably makes one a better person.

John does not contrast love with hate, but with false teaching (2 John 6–7). When discussing men who deny the doctrine of the incarnation, John does not consider that their false beliefs might make them better people. Their ministry of deception is wicked works (2 John 11) that threaten to destroy the church (2 John 8).

Just as the different beliefs of Mal and the Alliance made them enemies, the false teachers are natural enemies of the true church. Whoever believes the false teachers “does not have God” (2 John 9). The church cannot receive these men as brothers, nor show hospitality that would support their ministry (2 John 10). This would be like harboring a mass murderer so he can continue his shooting spree.

The plot of Serenity and the Bible agree that false beliefs create enemies, and can send you to the Special Hell.

Can People Be Improved?

In the spirit of confronting false beliefs, I have to mention that Mal and the Alliance were both wrong. The Alliance thought that sin could be removed from the world by science and human power. Mal thought that people could not be improved at all, so they should be left alone. The truth taught in 2 John is that people can be improved, but only by the power of God by belief in the truth. The Bible only has transforming power because it is true. It is powerful because it was spoken by a very real God, who abides with His people forever.

Purposes of Work in Genesis

This post highlights the stories of a few men in Genesis, and the prominent purposes of their work.

Adam: Dominion and Food

Man was made to rule over the earth and the animals. We subdue the earth by working the ground. We rule over the animals by caring for them and directing them. Adam was commissioned not to keep the earth how God made it, but to subdue it. Eden was a uniquely fruitful place (Genesis 2:8–9), and Adam was put there to work it (Genesis 2:5). This would eventually mean the expansion of Eden to fill the whole world. It would involve digging up gold and precious stones (Genesis 2:12) and perhaps building something like the New Jerusalem. God man made in his own image so that he would look at God’s world and understand how to bring it to its full potential.

Working the ground would produce food for man (Genesis 1:29) and for the animals (Genesis 1:30). When the ground was cursed, this function remained, but became more difficult (Genesis 3:19). Man would work to prolong his life, but in the end he would die.

Cain: Worship, Security, and Culture

Cain fulfilled Adam’s calling to work the ground and produce fruit; and this allowed him to give an offering to God. Cain’s offering was not acceptable because of his sin (Genesis 4:7, 1 John 3:12), but if his heart had been in a better state then the offering would have been a good act of worship.

Cain built a city to protect his his family as they pursued creative endeavors. The invention of tents helped some rule over animals (Genesis 4:20), and metal instruments presumably helped others work the ground (Genesis 4:22). Musical instruments were created surprisingly early as an essential component of human culture (Genesis 4:21).

Jacob: Building a Household

Jacob did 20 years of hard labor for Laban, and left with a family and property. 14 years of this work was for the right to marry Laban’s two daughters. At least the first 7 years were a good deal for Jacob, because there was a shortage of God-fearing women, and he couldn’t start building a household without a wife. The next 7 were caused by Laban’s deceit and Jacob’s strong desire for Rachel. This kind of desire is a powerful motivation for young men to work, and it can make 7 years of labor feel like a few days (Genesis 29:20).

When the 14 years were finished, Jacob’s next step in building his household was to acquire wealth-producing assets (Genesis 30:30). God’s blessing turned a few sheep into many, which could provide clothing, milk, meat, and money to Jacob’s family.

Joseph: Using Resources Wisely

Jacob’s family was preserved not only by his own labor, but by Joseph’s wise administration in service of Pharaoh. Joseph managed available resources for the common good. He sold goods and negotiated prices, and this allowed resources to get to those in need.