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Exegetical Paper on Mark 12:28–34 –– Student Paper

Exegetical Paper on Mark 12:28–34 –– Student Paper

Below is a paper written by Rachel Carlson, a student at Calvary University. Rachel recently completed the paper for BI115, Bible Study/Hermeneutics.

Introduction

The Gospel of Mark is a beautiful account of the humility and love of Christ. This author shall attempt to show the importance of man’s love of God and of others and of humility in man’s relationships, first with God, then with his fellow human beings. Mark 12:28–34, the specific passage under exegesis, especially illustrates the importance of these concepts, and the author shall attempt to clearly explain the significance of this passage within the book as a whole, and to draw out the author’s intended meaning so that the reader may better comprehend the passage’s impact on the message of the book.

Step Two: Identify Cultural and Historical Background

It seems likely that the author was either one of Jesus’ followers, or interviewed one or more of the Twelve disciples since his book gives so much detail of this group’s emotions and struggles by describing private moments when only the Twelve were with Jesus. Since the writer also gives a detailed account of Jesus’ transfiguration, the author may have been Peter, James, or John. Two other possibilities are Levi and Andrew, as these two disciples, along with the other three previously listed, are the only disciples Jesus calls in the Gospel of Mark (Mark 1:16–21; 2:14).

However, John and Levi, or Matthew (Cf. Mark 2:13–14; Matt 9:9), each have a Gospel named after them, so it is unlikely that they were the authors. James was killed early in the church’s timeline (Acts 12:1–3), making him unlikely to be the author. This leaves either Peter  or Andrew as the most likely candidate. Between these two, Peter seems a far more likely candidate than Andrew, as his name is recorded twenty-six times in the Gospel of Mark, nineteen times as Peter and seven times as Simon, while in comparison Andrew’s name only appears four times in the entire book. Peter, therefore, seems the most likely author, since, if the author or interviewee was recalling his own experiences, his name would be likely to appear more often than the name of another.

However, the Gospel of Mark is not calledthe “Gospel of Peter,” but the “Gospel of Mark,” raising the questions, “Who is Mark? Why is this Gospel named after him?” Well, Peter did have a close relationship with a man named Mark, or John Mark (Acts 12:12; 1 Peter 5:12– 13). There are references to this Mark,also called John, scattered throughout the New Testament. Sometimes only the name Mark is recorded (Col 4:10–11; 1 Pet 5:12–13) making ita little difficult, judging by the immediate context, to discern if this isthe same man. However, there is  a recognizable pattern in this man’s actions wherever his name appears.

This Mark was a Jewish believer in Christ (Col 4:10–11), as the author of the Gospel of Mark also appears to be due to his apparent familiarity with the Jewish religion and traditions, and with the geographical setting of his narrative. Mark was near-consistently involved in ministry. He appears to have been from Jerusalem (Acts 12), and to have served with Paul, Barnabas, and Peter (Acts 12:25; 13:5; 15:36–41; 2 Tim 4:11; 1 Pet 5:12–13). In this last reference, Peter refers to Mark as his “son” (1 Pet 5:12–13), however, as he otherwise uses terms of affection, for example, calling Silvanus “brother” (1 Pet 5:12) and his audience “beloved” (1 Per 2:11), this does not necessarily mean that Mark was his biological son, thus not terminating the possibility of this being the same Mark as the one recorded in the previous passages. Unger suggests that Peter may refer to Mark as his son because Mark may have come to Christ under Peter’s teachings.1

The relationship between Peter and Mark being established, the question arises, “Why couldn’t Peter write the book himself?” It should be noted that Peter was a simple fisherman before Jesus called him (Mark 1:16; 3:16), so he may not have known how to write, in which case Mark may have penned this book during his time with Peter in 1 Pet 5:1–13. There is simplicity to the author’s style which could come from Peter if he was dictating, or possibly if the author copied Peter’s style when he wrote. This could represent that Peter, if he indeed did not know how to write, was not concerned with constructing his narrative with any specific artistic touches such as an experienced writer might have done. Therefore, if Mark was the author, it seems likely that he interviewed Peter, recording the disciple’s experiences, and thus authored the Gospel of Mark.

Mark’s audience may have been predominantly Jewish, since he does not always explain specific geographic, cultural and religious information, such as detail about what King Herod rules over, who Elijah and Moses are (Mark 9:4–5), or what exactly the Pharisees, who are mentioned many times in the book, believed. His audience may also consist of some Gentiles, as he does briefly explain some Jewish religious practices (Mark 7:1–4; 9–13).

In First Peter 5:13, Peter is giving his farewell greetings to his audience. However, the first person he records the greetings of is not himself. Instead, he uses the third person pronoun “she,” when referring to the first greeting he lists.2 This “she” may refer to the church.3 Peter writes that “she” is in “Babylon” by which he probably meant Rome, as this corrupt city was the capital of the Roman empire. Therefore, if Peter is indeed referencing the church with his use of shethen it is likely that Peter and Mark were in Rome at the time this book was written.

The Gospel of Mark was likely written between A.D. 68–70.4 Obviously, the book must have been written after Jesus’ ascension, as at the end of the Gospel Christ’s ascension is recorded. This last chapter also records that the disciples “went out and preached everywhere…” (Mark 16:20). So, the book must have been written sometime after the apostles had begun their ministries, which did not happen until Acts 2. The most likely thing seems to be that Mark wrote the book while he was with Peter (1 Pet 5:12–13) in Rome, after the “Dispersion” (1 Peter 1:1), with this term likely referringto the scattering of the believers (Acts 8:1; 11:19) as it seems likely that they may have eventually traveled farther than those areas listed in the previous two passages.

The purpose of the book, in brief, is to record the ministry of Christ, the Son of God and man, and the suffering Servant, and thereby to make known the salvation that He offers. The occasion of the writing is unclear but it is possible that, if the Gospel of Mark was written around the same time as 1 Peter, and Peter was Mark’s interviewee, that Peter may have wanted to encourage believers by reminding them to be humble, suffer persecution patiently, and serve one another as Christ did, as the believers he was writing to in 1 Peter were suffering under persecution, and so, therefore, may have been Mark’s audience. However, this author has not found any circumstances that she can definitely affirm to have been the cause(s) of this Gospel having been written.

Society in general was still under Roman rule, as, within the Gospel, Mark seems to expect his audience to be familiar with Romans (see Mark 15:15–20), and, obviously, if this Gospel was written around the same time as 1 Peter, then the Roman Empire was still strong. The Gentile unbelievers of this time period were living ungodly lives and were pressuring the believers in Christ to join them in their sins, which included “…living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry (1 Pet 4:3). They were surprised that the believers wouldn’t join them and persecuted them because they stood out as salt and light in the world (1 Pet 4:1–5). They rejected the flame of Christ’s redeeming love that was shining in the midst of their darkness, because it showed them their faults and failing, their evils and wickedness.

Itis also logical to assumethat Mark’s audience may have been under Jewish persecution, considering the Jews’ reaction to Jesus. This is corroborated by the fact that, throughout almost the entire book of Acts, the unsaved Jews were persecuting believers, and so it seems probable that Mark’s audience was also under Jewish persecution, likely including pressure regarding their witness of Christ (Acts 8:1; 9:1–2, 23–25) association with Gentiles (Acts 11:1–3), and also the Jewish religious practice of circumcision and the observance of the Mosaic Law (Acts 15:1–2, 5; 18:12–13;21:27–28).

Step Three: Identify Structural Keys

There are two key phrases in the Gospel of Mark that can help the reader to understand the passage. The first is Son of Man which appears fourteen times in the book. This appellation is generally used in reference to Jesus’ position as a humble servant come to suffer and die (Mark 8:31; 9:12; 10:45), or to emphasize his sovereignty as God even though he is also human (Mark 2:9–12, 23–28; 9:9; 13:26–27). The second phrase is kingdom of God which also appears fourteen times in Mark. Jesus appears to expect his audiences to know what the kingdom is though he does not define it. However, he does describe the kingdom, emphasizing the necessity of humility and servanthood. Mark uses Son of Man to designate Jesus as a suffering servant and as the risen, victorious, and sovereign Savior.

These two words relate, then, to Jesus’ response to the scribe in Mark 12:34. The scribes were religious teachers (Mark 1:22), who both observed and upheld traditional religiouscustoms, valuing these traditions even above the law. (Mark 7:1–13). As a group, they were fond of public recognition and acclaim, but were actually cruel and false (Mark 12:38–40), aiding even in  Jesus’ demise (Mark 14:53, 63–65; 15:29–32). The scribe in Mark 12:28–34 is not like his fellows. Although he questions Jesus, he recognizes that Jesus answers him correctly. He understands that loving God ismore important than religious practices. Unlike the other scribes, who are arrogant and who place tradition above the law, he is humble. His attitude is the reason Jesus, who is both the humble Son of Man and the King of the kingdom of God, tells him, “ʻYou are not farfrom the kingdom of God’” (Mark 12:34 cf.10:14–15).

The outline below may help in understanding the flow of argumentation in the book of Mark, and thus lend fuller comprehension of the specific passage under observation.

Within the passage under observation, all is repeated nine times, seven of these usages denote to what capacity one is to love God. One usage states that loving God and one’s neighbor is more important than “all” sacrifices (Mark 12:33).

The word love is used four times, referring to the love of both God and men. The word heart, the first listed part of one’s being with which one is to love God is used twice. Heart seems to imply emotions and feelings.

While the words mind and understanding are each used one time only, the scribe seems to mean the same thing by understanding as Jesus did by mind, thus referring to a knowing love, a love not just felt, nor a love controlled by feelings,  but, possibly, a choice to love regardless of a presence of emotions, or a lack thereof, along with a consistent desire to better know the object of one’slove.

The word strength appears twice and may refer to the physical side of the love of God, that is, while one feels love toward God, and desires to know him better, one uses one’s physical abilities to serve him, thereby demonstrating this love. Interestingly, only Jesus uses the word soul, while the scribe does not, so that this word appears but once. Soulindicates that one’s love of God is deeper than just that of desire, cognitive understanding, and physical service—that one loves God with one’s very soul.

Step Four: Identify Grammatical and Syntactical Keys

There are two clauses within the passage that can aid the reader’s understanding. They are both causal. The first is “seeing that [Jesus] answered them well” (Mark 12:28). The scribe is the one observing Jesus, and this clause that shows the cause of his response is followed immediately by his response itself. The scribe asks Jesus which precept he believes to be the greatest. Jesus replies that the mandate to love God is chief, quoting Deut 6:4–5, that God is one, and that loving God is to be one’s highest priority and consuming focus. Within his quotation of Deut 6:4–5, “and” appears four times, emphasizing that this love of God must be not just emotional, or just mental, etc, but all of the listed aspects of the love of God combined.

Jesus adds that next after the foremost precept, stands Lev 19:18, the mandate to love one’s neighbor “as” oneself (Mark 12:31). So, along with the comparison of the two different precepts, there is a comparison, within the second precept, of one’s love for one’s neighbor being like the love of one’s own self. Jesus ties these two precepts together by stating that there are not any other commandments that can rival these two: The person’s love toward God is to be supreme, and his love of God should inform and mold his relationships with others.

The scribe affirms that Jesus has answered correctly, echoing his answer and adding that God himself is supreme and that the love of God and neighbor is more important than oblations made to God. He uses the specific term “burnt offerings” (Mark 12:33), referring to a Jewish religious practice commanded by God, the details of which are given in Leviticus 1. One thing that should be noted is that these burnt offerings were necessary for atonement of sin (Lev 1:4). The scribe is not implying that atonement for sin is unnecessary, but acknowledging the fact that the most important aspect of the sacrifice is not the customary practice of it, but the heart attitude of the individual, who, loving God, repents of his sin and offers the sacrifice in humility, desiring restoration to a right relationship with God. If the sacrifice was only performed as a routine rite, but without true humility and repentance, then it was not worth anything.

The second clause is “when Jesus saw that he answered wisely” (Mark 12:34). This clause shows the reader why Jesus replies that the scribe is close tounderstanding “the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34). He sees that the scribe has grasped the key, foundational aspects of the kingdom, which are the necessities of humility before God, and, flowing from this humility, service to him. At the end of the passage, in the last sentence of Mark 12:34, the text records that the religious leaders were unwilling to risk asking Jesus questions “after that” likely out of fear of the Jewish people’s reactions to Jesus’ attitude toward themselves (Cf. Mark 12:37;14:1–2).

Step Five: Identify Lexical Keys

There are several lexical keys in Mark 12:28–34 that the reader should understand so that he may gain a fuller comprehension of the text. These keys will be defined to aid the reader’s understanding. Within the passage under observation, the KJV, NKJV, NIV, ESV, NASB consistently translated each lexical key identically to the ESV’s translation.

The first of these lexical keys, then, is love, (vv. 30–31, 33). The Greek verb used here is ἀγαπάω 5 which this author believes, judging by the surrounding context, to mean an active love. Therefore, within this passage, its meaning is “to welcome,…to be fond of, to love dearly” and “to be well pleased, to be contented at or with…”6 This word appears four times within the Gospel of Mark, once as “loved” (Mark 10:21), and the other three times as “love” within the passage under study.

The second lexical key is heart (vv. 30, 33) or καρδία, which, in the context of loving God, “denotes the centre of all physical and spiritual life” and “…of the soul as the seat of the sensibilities, affections, emotions, desires, appetites, passions.”7 Constable describes heart as “the control center of human personality”8 The word heart isused eleven times in the book. Next comes ψυχή or soul (v. 30), which is “life” and is “…regarded as a moral being designed for everlasting life.”9 Constable defines this word as “the self-conscious thought life”10 Mark employs this word seven times in his Gospel, with ψυχή appearing but once in this passage.

Oneis toemploy not only his καρδία and ψυχή, but also his διάνοια or mind (v. 30) in his love of God. In the context of the passage, διάνοια here connotes “the mind as a faculty of understanding, feeling, desiring.”11 Mark only uses διάνοια this one time. Now comes the last aspect of this active loveof God: ἰσχύς, that is, strength (vv. 30, 33). Its meaning is“ability, force, strength, might.”12  This Greek word for strength appears only twice in the Gospel of Mark.

In verse thirty-one, a second object of ἀγαπάω, which is πλησίον, that is, neighbor (vv.31–33) enters upon the scene. This word’s meaning was “…according to the Jews, any member of the Hebrew nation and commonwealth” and “according to Christ, any other man irrespective of nation or religion…”13 Mark uses the word neighbor twice in his Gospel.

In this passage it can be clearly seen that loving God and one’s neighbor is no light matter. The loving is not simply a conceptual construct, but a commandment. It is not a love that loves blindly, but with understanding, as well as strong emotion, applying itself through physical service of God andman.

Step Six: Identify Biblical Context

The theme of the Gospel of Mark is that the Son of Man is the humble Servant-King come to suffer and die so that he might save the lost, thereby bringing glory to God. Mark 10:45 encapsulates this concept of Jesus’ identity and purpose, poignantly capturing His humility and love. The concept of God’s glorification through the salvation of sinners, is seen in Mark 13:26– 27.

The Gospel of Mark does not expound upon the doctrines of salvation, grace, or faith as do many of the epistles, but it does lay the groundwork necessary to these same epistles by relating the ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Son of God and man, thus opening the way to better understanding the epistles and other books that fall further along in the progression of revelation by showing the reader who Christ is and what he has done. Therefore, the Gospel of Mark falls into the early part of the progressive revelation of the New Testament.

The specific passage under exegesis serves to illustrate the overall message of the Gospel of Mark, which is one of humility and service done in love, with the purpose of glorifying God. Jesus’ conversation with the scribe clearly illustrates that loving God requires humility. One who is humble before God will glorify him, obeying his commands by loving and serving him as foremost, and then by loving his neighbor as himself.

Step Seven: Identify Theological Context

The first theological key that stands out to this author are the repeated references to the Lord’s being “one” (Mark 12:29, 32). This concept falls under the branch of theology known as theology proper. The implication behind this repeated concept is that God is all-powerful and supreme. The Bible Knowledge Commentary says that the meaning of one in this context is “unique.”14 Because God is the unique supreme One, one is to love him with all of one’s being. Simply put: God is deserving of love and honor because he is who he is.

Another theological implication this passage carries is shown by the repetition of the word “love” in reference to loving God and, anthropologically, one’s neighbor. The scribe affirms this love to be more important than physical sacrifices to God, which recalls Hosea 6:6, where God had affirmed exactly this concept to his people. The reader then sees a parallel between the arrogance of the religious leaders, who, as a group reject Christ in the Gospel of Mark, and the Jews God is speaking to in the book of Hosea, who are also rejecting the Lord.

This gives a broader picture of the Jewish rejection of Christ, showing that the Jews’ arrogance and pride toward God was not a recent problem, but had existed long before Jesus himself came on the scene. Understanding this once again draws a sharp contrast between Jesus’ love and humility and the religious leaders’ arrogance and brings into focus the concept that humility and love are necessary qualities of a true follower of God. Jesus beautifully illustrates the outworking of this love in his parable in Luke 10:25–37, especially in the context of the relationship between the Jews and the Samaritans (John 4:9; 8:48).

Step Eight: Provide Interpretation

Mark’s overall purpose in writing this Gospel seems to have been to make a record of the earthly ministry of Christ that would highlight his power, authority, and compassionate love.

Paradoxically, Mark accomplishes this by emphasizing Jesus’ humanity, his humble, servant- hearted attitude, and his patient suffering at the hands of evil people. He uses man’s wickedness to emphasize Christ’s purity.

By showing the darkness and shadows that surrounded the Son of Man among men, Mark creates what is almost a reverse silhouette of Jesus. Mark does not frame Jesus’ character in glory and power, leaving his humanity as a shadow but briefly glimpsed between rays of light as Christ stands, backlit by His splendor as God’s Son. Instead, Mark outlines the character of Jesus with the sins, frailties, and failings of humanity. Just as the flame of a candle is seen better and shines brighter in darkness, so also does the character of Jesus as Mark sets him against the backdrop of sinful mankind. The reader who comes truly seeking to know God is left dazzled by the radiance of a man of such purity, compassion, and humility of spirit that, the longer he looks upon him, the less he wants to ever look away.

Step Nine: Correlation

Wiersbe considers the concept of being close to the kingdom of God from a slightly different perspective than does this author. He writes that to be near to the kingdom is to be a truth-seeker, that is, someone who is seeking to know the truths of God’s Word without letting his own viewpoints or pressure from others interfere with his quest for truth. This person will be courageous, defending his beliefs against opposition.15 This author agrees with this evaluation of what it means to be close to the kingdom of God since a truth-seeker who puts God’s Word above his own prejudices or desires must be humble, desiring above everything else to know and serve God.

Step Ten: Application

The primary application of this passage would be for Mark’s audience to obey the commands God had given, using Christ as their example and pattern. They were to fulfill their duty to love God as foremost, loving him with every aspect of their being. Secondly, they were to love their neighbors. This meant loving not only each other, but also their enemies and those who were persecuting them as much as they loved themselves. They were to be humble, serving God and others in love.

One secondary application that this author sees that she can apply to herselfis tofollow these same commands. This writer lives in a multicultural environment where it is quite easy for miscommunications and misunderstandings to happen and for offense or insult to begiven or taken due to language and cultural barriers. However, this author sees that if she seeks to love God with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength, she will necessarily be more focused upon him than upon cultural differences or tensions. She will seek to prioritize her time, desiring to spend it in loving God and striving to deepen her relationship with him. Her love for God will overflow into her relationships with people, helping to create a healthy environment for everyone to work together to serve God.

She can practice loving her brothers and sisters in Christ by not only seeking to gain somewhat of an understanding of their different cultures, but also by seeking to value their cultural viewpoints as much as she values her own and humbly submitting to a different culture when it is good and needful to do so. Her purpose should be to encourage her coworkers in the Lord, and to follow Jesus’ example of humble service and love of others as her life pattern.

Footnotes

1 Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1957), 695.

2 Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations in this study are taken from the English Standard Version, copyright 2001, Crossway Bibles.

3 William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to Mark, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1975), 9.

4 David E. Garland, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 3.

5 All Greek words have been retrieved from BlueLetterBible.org.

6 Blue Letter Bible. “G25 – ἀγαπάω – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (ESV),” copyright 2020. Accessed May 6, 2020, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G25&t=ESV.

7 BlueLetterBible. “G2588 – καρδία – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (ESV),” copyright 2020. Accessed May 6, 2020, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2588&t=ESV.

8 Thomas L. Constable, “Notes on Mark,” 2020 ed. Accessed May 7, 2020, https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/mark/mark.htm#_ftn749.

9 BlueLetterBible. “G5590 – ψυχή – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (ESV),” copyright 2020. Accessed May 6, 2020, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G5590&t=ESV.

10Thomas L. Constable, “Notes on Mark,” 2020 ed. Accessed May 7, 2020, https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/mark/mark.htm#_ftn749.

11 BlueLetterBible. “G1271 – διάνοια – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (ESV),” copyright 2020. Accessed May 6, 2020,https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1271&t=ESV.

12 BlueLetterBible. “G2479 – ἰσχύς – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (ESV),” copyright 2020. Accessed May 6, 2020,https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2479&t=ESV.

13 BlueLetterBible. “G4139 – πλησίον – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (ESV),” copyright 2020. Accessed May 6, 2020, https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/mar/12/31/t_conc_969031.

14 John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament ed. (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983), 164.

15Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Diligent (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1987), 119.

Bibliography

BlueLetterBible. “Strong’s Greek Lexicon (ESV),” Copyright 2020. Accessed May 6, 2020, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2588&t=ESV.

Constable, Thomas L. “Notes on Mark.” 2020 ed. Accessed May 7, 2020, https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/mark/mark.htm#ftn749.

Garland, David E. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Mark. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002.

Hendriksen, William. Exposition of the Gospel According to Mark. New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1975.

Unger, Merrill F. Unger’s Bible Dictionary. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1957.

Walvoord, John F. and Roy B. Zuck, eds. The Bible Knowledge Commentary. New Testament ed. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983.

Wiersbe, Warren W. Be Diligent. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1987.

CU-backed Film Being Honored

CU-backed Film Being Honored

“Faith on the Edge” to compete for Feature Documentary Award

Faith on the Edge,” a documentary film backed by Calvary University in 2019, has been honored as an official selection by the Christian Worldview Film Festival based in Nashville, Tennessee.

The film was produced and directed by The Creation Guys, Pat Roy and Kyle Justice, who said, “We’re excited and honored that ‘Faith on the Edge’ has been selected to compete for the Feature Documentary Award in the Christian Worldview Film Festival.”

Roy and Justice created the film to address a new wave of Christians who are converting to a belief in the flat earth. It was designed to equip Christians to give Biblical and scientific answers to questions that they say “will inevitably come from family and friends.”

The film featured several experts and real-life experiments, including a weather balloon carrying a 360˚ camera 22.75 miles up into the atmosphere. This is how Calvary got involved.

Dr. Steven Boyd was one of the experts featured in the film. Boyd is considered an expert on the related subjects, especially the Hebrew text of the Old Testament. He holds a Master’s in Physics from Drexel University, a Master of Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary as well as a Master’s and a PhD in Hebraic and Cognate studies from Hebrew Union College. He is the Director of the Cataclysm Chronology Research Group and a specialist in Old Testament and Semitic Languages.

A generous donation from Calvary University also helped with the spectacular balloon launch in Johnstown, Ohio. The balloon went several miles into the atmosphere, carrying a 3D 8K camera. The Creation Guys videotaped the launch and included the footage in “Faith on the Edge” in order to “demonstrate the curvature of the Earth.”

Justice called the nomination, “Very cool!”  “Faith on the Edge” will be played to an audience attending the film festival March 18-20. “The evening of the 20th,” he said, “there is an awards ceremony where we’ll see if it wins for ‘Feature Documentary.'” 

The Baby’s Name

The Baby’s Name

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us… And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah 9:5-6

When I first heard the magnificent strains of “Unto Us a Child is Born” from Handel’s Messiah, I didn’t know that its text was drawn from the sublime poetry of Isaiah in chapter 9, verses 5–6 (verses 4–5 in the Hebrew text). I have since learned that in those verses, Isaiah introduces the Child-Son, whose four-fold compound Name refers not only to His humanity but also to His deity.

The first Name, often translated as two, ‘Wonderful’ and ‘Counsellor’, is better understood as one phrase: “Wonder Purposer.” The first part of the Name refers to the quality of the supernatural from a verb which means ‘adviser’. But to Isaiah, it connotes the unthwartable plans and purposes of God which shall certainly come to pass.

“Mighty God” is best translated as, “God the Hero.” The word I translate “Hero” is used of one characterized as powerful, hence a ‘hero’ in the sense of a mighty warrior. Isaiah depicts God as a mighty warrior donning armor to save His people (Isaiah 59:15–17; 63:1). It is a name akin to “Jesus,” which in Hebrew means “the one who will give victory.”

The third name, “Father of Eternity,” can be understood in two ways: (1) the One who is eternally a Father and (2) the Progenitor of eternity. An approximate New Testament analog is “through whom He made the ages” (Hebrews 1:2).

Finally, He is called “Prince of Peace” (“Monarch of Well-being”) which speaks of the Child’s purpose in bringing reconciliation between God and man. The word usually translated “prince” is connected to the Akkadian word for king, and the word often translated “peace,” refers to a wholeness, an unbrokenness which He restores by taking our punishment upon Himself (Isa. 53:5–6)—the “peace offering” which celebrates the return to “at-one-ment” with God!

A Blessed Christmas to all in His Name!

 ***

Waiting

Waiting

“Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.”

Psalm 37:7

Karen Hange is the Program Director of Elementary Education and Assistant Professor of Elementary Education at Calvary University

Waiting.

It is not something many of us like to do. We live in a world where we try to minimize our waiting time by calling ahead for reservations, ordering our groceries online, and quickly becoming impatient in the drive-through with the cars ahead of us. We fret at the red lights and look for the shortest line at the checkout. We tap our fingers incessantly when being put on hold and sometimes decide to hang up and call back later. Waiting is something we all try to avoid.

Waiting is sometimes the way God teaches His biggest lessons.

The Israelites were waiting for centuries for a coming Messiah. Simeon was waiting in the Temple to see the One promised by the Holy Spirit. Believers today are waiting for the second coming and return of our King.

But how do we wait?

We are told to wait patiently. Isaiah 40:31 says that strength is renewed for those who wait. Isaiah 26:8 says that as we wait for the Lord, his Name should be the desire of our souls.  Can you feel the expectancy…not in an impatient way, but in a way that eagerly anticipates the good things that God has in store?

It seems a bit like the picture of the children waiting for Christmas….gazing expectantly under the tree…waiting for the good things that they know are hidden beneath the brightly wrapped paper and bows. They are so eager. They can hardly contain their joy. They wait expectantly.

This Christmas, as we wrap our gifts so that the recipients can experience the joy of the anticipation of unwrapping, may we be reminded of the joy that God desires as we wait expectantly for His return. Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.

***

What’s in a Name?

What’s in a Name?

The names and titles for God found in the Bible are carefully brushed strokes on the canvas of God’s most awesome work: The revelation of Himself.

Shakespeare’s Juliet asked, “What’s in a name?” 

The irony of the question lies in the fact that her name was her biggest problem! The reason she could not be with her Romeo was precisely because her name was Capulet and his was Montague. Capulets didn’t love Montagues — they hated them. But Juliet protested:

“That which we call a rose, by any other word would smell as sweet. So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called, retain that dear perfection which he owes without that title.”

Juliet didn’t think his name mattered at all — what mattered was the person. And perhaps in that case, she was right. And perhaps in many cases, the name or title of something makes no difference whatsoever.

Ask for the whatchmacallit or the doohickey or the thingamajig and you’ll probably get what you want. Call him Santa Claus, Father Christmas or Saint Nick — it doesn’t matter. Name your son Austin, Peter or Max — it probably makes no difference. 

But not so with God. 

If Juliet was speaking of God and said, “What’s in a name? Call Him whatever you like,” she would be dead wrong. It’s true that this “Rose” — the true and living God — would “retain that dear perfection which He owes without (the Biblical) titles.” But, the names and titles of God found in the Bible were not given to us in a random and pointless way. They are not incidental. 

The names and titles for God found in the Bible are carefully brushed strokes on the canvas of God’s most awesome work: The revelation of Himself.

Each time we come across a name or title of God in the Bible, we learn another great truth about the God who created us. 

“YHWH” tells us He is eternal and personal. 

“Father” tells us He is the perfection of love and discipline.

“Shepherd” tells us He is our protector and provider and guide.

On and on it goes. The more we encounter these one-word revelations, the more we know Him, the more we appreciate Him, the more we — along with the psalm writers — see that “His name alone is exalted” (Psalm 148:13) and we want to “sing praises to His name for it is lovely” (Psalm 135:3). 

When we come to the stories of the birth of Jesus, we find them rich with names and titles for the newborn King. He is…

“The Messiah…son of David, son of Abraham…Jesus Christ…Immanuel…King of the Jews…a Ruler who will shepherd…son of Mary” in Matthew 1-2. 

“Jesus…great…Son of the Most High…the Holy Child…the Son of God…A Savior…Christ the Lord…her (Mary’s) firstborn son…a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” in Luke 1-2.

“The Word…light…life…the Only Begotten God (God the One and Only, NIV), who is in the bosom of the Father” in John 1.

“Jesus” is just one example of how each of these names is like a blast from God’s trumpet of revelation. The “angel of the Lord” told Joseph to give this name to the Boy because “He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). “Jesus” is a Hebrew name that means “Jehovah is salvation.”

Notice the word “son” popping up several times: “Son of David…Abraham…the Most High God.” He is called Mary’s “firstborn son”. All the “Son” references add up to tell us that He alone was qualified to fulfill two of the greatest covenants God ever made with humans — the Davidic and Abrahamic covenants (see the very first verse of the New Testament). As Mary’s Son, He not only took on human flesh that He might bleed human blood for the sins of the world, but He also became Heir to the promises God made to David and Abraham. 

“Son of the Most High…God” tells us His life did not begin in Bethlehem — He has always existed in an eternal relationship with the Father. This explains what kind of King can have a kingdom that will last forever: the Eternal King, God’s only, unique Son.

Or what about “Word”. What is a “word” for? Communication! What did this “Word” do, according to John? He wasn’t just another self-proclaimed guru speculating about things he didn’t understand. His perspective is like no other: “No one has ever seen God. But the one and only Son is himself God and is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us” (John 1:18, NLT).

With all this in mind, read the Birth Narratives as part of your Christmas celebration. And when you do, let God’s Self-revelation — through His names and titles — renew your mind as you celebrate Christmas. Stop and enjoy every name. Underline every title. Each one is a delicate brush stroke deserving of close examination. But when seen together, they are a jaw-dropping revelation that should result in nothing less than what the Magi did when they saw the Child in His mother’s arms: “They fell to the ground and worshipped Him (Matthew 2:11).”

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Shaun LePage is the Ministry Studies Department Chair and Assistant Professor in Ministry Studies and Bible and Theology. He also serves as Associate Vice President of the CU Marketing and Communications Department. 

 

Norm Baker Named 2019 Alumnus of the Year

Norm Baker Named 2019 Alumnus of the Year

“It was all for God’s glory!”

Norm Baker, adjunct faculty member in the Bible and Theology Department, was given the Calvary University (CU) Alumnus of the Year Award at the 2019 Commencement ceremony on May 11.

“It was all for God’s glory,” said Baker as he accepted the honor.

“You are what we all want to be,” said Dr. Christopher Cone, President of CU. “You have been trustworthy in the classroom, you have taught the word faithfully, and that’s all any of us are after. So, thank you for your example. Thank you for serving the Lord.”

Unfortunately for the students of CU, Baker has decided to retire. However, he will continue to serve the CU community with a pen.

“He has his next assignment,” said Dr. Cone, “which is to write for Calvary University Press and we’re very excited about that.”

CU Press is a new venture being developed this year. Dr. Mike Dodds will be stepping away from his familiar roles as Dean of the College and Department Chair for Ministry Studies, to become the first director of CU Press. He will continue to teach as a Professor of Ministry Studies. Baker has been asked to be a regular contributor to CU Press.

Baker was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1950. Soon after, his family moved across the country to upstate New York. As a young boy he enjoyed riding on trains with his father and grandfather who worked for the New York Central Railroad. His uncle owned a Christian book store, and Baker enjoyed browsing while having a popsicle. He speculates that this is where he first developed a love for books.

After his family moved to Aurora, Colorado, a few year later, Baker attended Aurora Central High School. His sister started going to the youth group at Aurora Bible Church. When she told him some cute girls were there, he decided to go with her. It was there that Baker heard the gospel message preached and received Christ as his personal Savior. Shortly after that, his parents rededicated their lives to Christ, and the Bakers started attending church as a family.

While in high school, Baker often heard evangelists and missionaries speak of the need to reach the lost for Christ. He dedicated his life to serve wherever God called him. His teachers encouraged him to go into an acting career because he loved drama. However, Baker sensed God leading him in a different direction, and after graduating from high school in 1967, he went to Frontier School of the Bible to prepare for overseas ministry.

During his time at Frontier, Baker heard about the work in Africa from missionaries with Gospel Missionary Union (now Avant Ministries). In 1971, he was accepted as a missionary with GMU to go to Mali, West Africa. During the missionary candidate training he met his future wife, Mary Alice, and they were married on September 18, 1971.

After raising support, they left for Switzerland to study French in April 1972 and then headed to Mali in July 1973. The next couple of years were spent learning the Bambara language and the culture. Baker particularly enjoyed hearing the Malian proverbs and stories that had been passed down verbally for many generations. He quickly developed a love and deep respect for the Bambara people.

Norm and Mary Alice served with Gospel Missionary Union for fifteen years. They raised their family of three sons and one daughter while living in the bush. Baker helped with church planting and discipleship training. He translated discipleship materials and assisted with a new revision of the Bambara Bible. During their last few years in Mali, Baker taught at the Mana Bible Institute, training Malian pastors and church leaders.

In 1986, Baker received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Calvary Bible College (CBC). He then served as the Missionary in Residence there from 1986 to 1987. He became the pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church where he served from 1987 to 1991. During that time Baker received his Master of Divinity degree from Trinity Theological Seminary. The Baker family then moved to Dallas, Texas, where Norm attended Dallas Theological Seminary and graduated with a Master of Theology degree in 1998. He also became the pastor of Stanley Bible Church in Overland Park, Kansas, in 1998, where he served for ten years.

In addition to pastoring, Baker taught Bible & Theology classes at Calvary from 2001 to 2005. He returned as an adjunct professor in January 2012, a total of twelve and a half years of service at Calvary. He has also enjoyed supporting CU’s theatre department as well as attending athletic events.

On the CU campus, Baker is fondly referred to as “Stormin’ Norman.” His love for studying and teaching the Word of God has been his life-long passion. He has had a sincere love for his students, as evidenced in his one-on-one interactions with them as he continues to disciple and prepare others for ministry. And, his students have returned that love. At Baker’s retirement party, student after student shared how much he has influenced their lives.

“Each one of these students,” Baker said, “helped me be a better teacher by their attitude in the classroom. That’s all I can say.”

The Alumnus of the Year award is given annually to a CU graduate who has shown faithfulness in ministry and has maintained a strong connection with the school in the years since graduation.

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Special thanks to Sara Klassen for compiling the biographical data for this article.

The Alumni of the Year Award was presented to Norm Baker at the 2019 Commencement ceremony on May 11. The award is given annually to a CU graduate who has shown faithfulness in ministry and has maintained a strong connection with the school in the years since graduation.

Norm Baker (top right) played a part in the 2018 Calvary University theatre production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Baker has enjoyed supporting the CU theatre department and attending athletic events in addition to his service in Calvary classrooms. 

“It was all for God’s glory,” said Norm Baker as he accepted the Alumni of the Year Award at the 2019 Commencement ceremony on May 11.