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Friday, October 1, 2021

Why Mormonism shouldn't be tolerated in Utah

When people think of Utah they typically associate this with Mormonism (Latter Day Saints). This is because Mormons set up their headquarters in Salt Lake City, where they have been for about 150 years, shortly after Joseph Smith died in 1844 in Illinois. However, what most people don't realize is that Mormonism was never meant to be in Utah. This realization I came upon accidentally, which I have never heard anyone else share, but I think is extremely valuable in witnessing to Mormons and refuting Mormonism. 

The standard apologetic that Catholics have used against Mormons is that their cornerstone (Protestant) doctrine, the Great Apostasy (which demands the Church needed restoration in later times), is simply untenable since it: (1) goes against the promise of Jesus to never abandon His Church; including (2) prophecies such as Daniel 2 talked about HERE; also (3) there is no Biblical evidence for the Great Apostasy; and (4) it doesn't fit within the historical record, hence why Great Apostasy advocates cannot even give the century when it occurred. This is all well and good, but the Catholic fixation on the Great Apostasy doesn't do well against the principally emotionally driven Mormon (and Protestant) mindset. So here is where my new apologetics argument has a lot of potential, which I'll now discuss. 

Mormons are very aware that Joseph Smith never came to Utah, though many non-Mormons don't know  this. For most of us non-Mormons, we aren't even sure how the Mormons ended up in Utah, though many people know Brigham Young played a role in getting the Mormons there. Official Mormon history teaches that Joseph Smith began the Mormon Church in New York in around 1830, and after traveling nearly 1,000 miles, Smith had moved the congregation to settle down in the city of Independence, Missouri (just outside Kansas City) around 1836. Why did Smith settle down officially in Independence, Missouri? Because Smith had some visions of divine revelation how Independence was actually the official location of the Garden of Eden! Not only that, Smith received further divine revelation this same city was to be the official site of the Second Coming of Jesus! And further divine revelation revealed that this was to be the true City of Zion (since in the Bible Jerusalem was located on Mt Zion). See what the Mormon Scriptures say (all are divinely revealed to Joseph Smith):
Doctrine & Covenants ch57: 1 Hearken, O ye elders of my church, saith the Lord your God, who have assembled yourselves together, according to my commandments, in this land, which is the land of Missouri, which is the land which I have appointed and consecrated for the gathering of the saints. 2 Wherefore, this is the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion. 3 Behold, the place which is now called Independence is the center place; and a spot for the temple is lying westward, upon a lot which is not far from the courthouse. 4 Wherefore, it is wisdom that the land should be purchased by the saints, and also every tract lying westward, even unto the line running directly between Jew and Gentile; 5 And also every tract bordering by the prairies, inasmuch as my disciples are enabled to buy lands. Behold, this is wisdom, that they may obtain it for an everlasting inheritance.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Was Abraham wicked in Genesis 15:6? (Another look at Rom 4:5)

Continuing on the same Romans 4:5 "justifies the ungodly" theme, since this verse is seen as a Protestant stronghold for Imputation of Christ's Righteousness, I want to present multiple reasons why the Protestant reading is untenable. Just as a reminder, the Protestant side insists that "justifies the ungodly" means that Abraham was a wicked ungodly unregenerate vile man at the time of Genesis 15:6, and thus had no good works of any kind to justify himself, and thus the only way God was able to justify Abraham is by imputing the Righteousness of Christ to Abraham. But if Romans 4:5 is not actually saying Abraham was wicked (such that he had no righteousness within or righteous behavior), then the Reformed reading of Genesis 15:6 fails, and thus so does Romans 4:3-5, their chief proof text for Justification by Faith Alone and Imputation. 

To prove that I'm not making this Protestant 'interpretation' up, consider the words of some respected Protestant scholars:
  • Dr R. Scott Clark (12/2018 on his blog):
    There have been times when the church has given the impression to her members and to others that only the perfect are welcome. She did that in the Middle Ages when many of their theologians concluded that we are right with God (justified) only to the degree we are holy (sanctified). In the Protestant Reformation the story was clarified to a great degree. Martin Luther (1483–1546) helped us see that Scripture teaches that all believers are at the same time sinful and declared righteous (simul iustus et peccator) by God, that, as Paul says, Christ justifies the ungodly (Rom 4:5).
  • Dr Sam Waldron (Spring 2021 in a Reformed academic journal):
    The word “ungodly” implies that Abraham himself was not justified because he was the paradigm of obedience. Instead, he was the ungodly person justified by faith. . . . It is a significant mistake for Hays, who follows Sanders and others, to bring the concept of the merits of the patriarchs to the discussion of Abraham in Romans 4. He says, “Abraham’s faithfulness was reckoned by God to the benefit not only of Israel (as in the rabbinic exegetical tradition) but also of the Gentiles.” To speak of “the vicarious effects of Abraham’s faithfulness” is to obscure or miss the whole point. Abraham is the ungodly man - not the faithful man - in Romans 4. He is not a Christ-figure with a treasury of merit, but a sinner with no merit in need of justification. His faith is not admirable faithfulness, but empty-handed reliance on the promise of God. . . . The tension between Abraham the obedient (James 2:21–23) and Abraham the ungodly (Rom 4:3–5) must be considered. . . . But what of the assertion that Paul in Romans 4:5 refers to Abraham as ungodly in Genesis 15:6? The plain record of Abraham’s grievous failures after his calling are relevant to the question at hand. These grievous manifestations of remaining sin are a reminder of what Abraham had been, what he was by nature, and that his standing before God was not grounded on the very imperfect obedience which grew out of his faith in God’s promises. Thus, for the purposes of being justified by God, Abraham was (from the standpoint of the stringent requirements of God’s law) ungodly not only before his call, but afterwards.
  • Dr John Fesko (Essay on Imputation):
    Abraham’s righteousness was not native to him; in fact, Paul says he was “ungodly.” So how did God consider him righteous? Because Abraham laid hold of Christ’s righteousness by faith. God therefore imputed Christ’s righteousness to Abraham. . . . This scriptural teaching stands in stark contrast to the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, which teaches that God justifies sinners on the basis of inherent, rather than imputed, righteousness. In other words, a person must actually be holy in order to receive the verdict of righteous before the divine bar. Yet, such an opinion conflicts with Paul’s testimony that God justifies the “ungodly” (Rom. 4:5).
  • Dr DA Carson (The Vindication of Imputation pdf):
    More importantly, it does not bear in mind Paul’s own powerful conclusion: it is the wicked person to whom the Lord imputes righteousness. In the context, that label is applied to Abraham no less than to anyone else. In Paul’s understanding, then, God’s imputation of Abraham’s faith to Abraham as righteousness cannot be grounded in the assumption that that faith is itself intrinsically righteous. If God is counting faith to Abraham as righteousness, he is counting him righteous — not because Abraham is righteous in some inherent way (How can he be? He is asebes / ungodly), but simply because Abraham trusts God and his gracious promise.
  • Dr Charles Hodge (Essay on Justification):
    As this righteousness is not our own, as we are sinners, ungodly, without works, it must be the righteousness of another, even of Him who is our righteousness.
  • Dr Joel Beeke (The relation of Faith to Justification):
    In the final analysis, if we base our justification on our faith, our works, or anything else of our own, the very foundations of justification must crumble. Inevitably the agonizing, perplexing, and hopeless questions of having "enough" would surface; Is my faith strong enough? Are the fruits of grace in my life fruitful enough? Are my experiences deep enough, clear enough, persistent enough? Every detected inadequacy in my faith is going to shake the very foundations of my spiritual life. My best believing is always defective. I am always too ungodly even in my faith.

These quotes are representative of mainstream conservative Protestant scholarship. These Protestant scholars are well aware of challenges to their interpretation of Romans 4:5, but the Protestant side is so stuck and has bet everything on Romans 4:5 in order to uphold Imputation that they cannot afford to budge. I can confidently say that the highest academic levels of conservative Protestant scholarship has no other hope than their desperate reading of Romans 4:5.

Here are some reasons I have gathered as to why “ungodly” in the case of Abraham in Genesis 15:6 refers merely to Gentile (i.e. uncircumcised) status and does not likely refer to something more severe or “morally corrupt” in Romans 4:5. These reasons are not mutually exclusive, but can overlap:

Friday, September 10, 2021

Justification of the Ungodly - a Reformed admission

I came across a wonderful admission from a Reformed article online [1] of something I've been saying for a while regarding the problematic situation of the Reformed reading of "justifies the ungodly" (Rom 4:5) that I'd like to share. The article is short, but I trimmed it down at spots to capture the most important points:
One of the most striking and comforting expressions in the Scriptures is that God justifies the ungodly (Rom. 4:5). Nonetheless, this statement creates a theological conundrum of sorts and has led in part some Reformed theologians, including puritans, to at least suggest if not advocate a subtle form of justification before faith. So what then is the problem?

Placing regeneration and faith before justification, as the Reformed do, appears to be incompatible with the fact that God justifies the ungodly. For how can a regenerated, holy sinner who exercises sincere faith and repentance be viewed as ungodly? Yet, placing regeneration after justification has its own problems, chiefly, how can a sinner dead in sins turn to Christ in true faith and repentance?

The Reformed officially teach that before a person can even believe, the Holy Spirit must first come and cause a radical transformation inside that person, taking them from spiritual death to spiritual life (Eph 2:5), born again (Jn 3:5), giving them a new heart (Rom 2:29), making them a new creation (2 Cor 5:17), and enabling them to exercise the gift of faith. This is called "Regeneration" or "Effectual Calling" in classical Reformed language. Only after Regeneration can they then believe in the Gospel and then get Justified. But this raises the question, how can someone so powerfully transformed inside by the Holy Spirit still remain "ungodly" in any reasonable sense? To remain "ungodly" would suggest that sin is more powerful than grace, which cannot be. So the Reformed must now explain how there can be an "ungodly" in the first place when it comes to the believer getting Justified.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Did God reckon Abraham's heart as faithful? (Nehemiah 9:8 and 13:13)

As you probably know, Protestants claim that since Abraham was "ungodly" he couldn't be justified before God by his sinful actions, and instead had to use his faith to receive the "imputed Righteousness of Christ" in order to appear righteous before God. While there are numerous proofs against Protestantism's perverted reading of Genesis 15:6 (Rom 4:3), I want to present two 'new' Biblical proofs that Protestant scholars and apologists quietly ignore. Both texts are from the book of Nehemiah, which is a fascinating new use for this book in apologetics.

The first text is:

Neh 9: 7 You are the Lord, the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and gave him the name Abraham. 8 You found his heart faithful before you, and made with him the covenant to give to his offspring the land of the Canaanite. And you have kept your promise, for you are righteous.
The term "faithful" here is the same term used in Genesis 15:6 - and in fact is the only time the term is used of Abraham in Genesis. The Hebrew term often means "faithful" and not merely believing. The connection to Abraham's "heart" being good further suggests that Abraham was not "ungodly" in the Protestant claim of being morally depraved, but rather being merely a Gentile (cf Rom 4:9-12). Also, the verse ends with God keeping his Promise (cf Rom 4:13), because God is "righteous". The connection with Promise Keeping and Righteousness suggests that the Righteousness in question here is more of a "faithfulness," rather than the Protetant error that claims Biblical "righteousness" means a lifetime of perfectly keeping the commandments (which doesn't even make sense when speaking of the Father's righteousness).

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Why could Moses not enter the Promise Land?

We all know that Moses was one of God's most beloved and important servants of all Salvation History, yet there is something unsettling about God excluding Moses from entering the Promise Land. We know from Numbers 20 and Deuteronomy 32 that God's reasoning for not allowing Moses to enter was because Moses lost his temper at the Israelites and in frustration struck the rock from which water flowed. 
Deut 32:48-52 & 34:1-12. The Lord spoke to Moses, “Go up this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, and view the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel for a possession. And die on the mountain which you go up, because you broke faith with me in the midst of the people of Israel at the waters of Meribah and because you did not treat me as holy in the midst of the people of Israel. For you shall see the land before you, but you shall not go there.” Then Moses went up to Mount Nebo. And the Lord showed him all the land of Judah as far as the western sea. And the Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab. And the people of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days. And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed Joshua.
This seems unfair to us that Moses had to put up with so much sin, complaining, and drama from the Israelites for 40 long years, and that he devoted his heart and soul to serving God, that this one time that Moses slips up he loses everything. It just doesn't sit well with us. Many people over the years try to rationalize it, explaining why God was justified in punishing Moses. But I think there's a more satisfying explanation that the Catholic tradition has long been aware of.

As a rule of thumb, when something strange, outrageous, or even troubling happens in the Old Testament, this is often a sign that there is a New Testament lesson hidden therein (this is called Typology). A good example is when God told Abraham to sacrifice his only-begotten son Isaac, which is an outrageous command for God to tell someone to do. Yet, we see from this outrageous event that it was preparing us for an even more outrageous event, namely God giving His Son die on the Cross. In this case of Moses not being able to enter the Promise Land, there's a wonderful Catholic Youtube / blog called Reason & Theology (subscribe to it!) wherein the host Michael Lofton explains:
It was fitting that God prevented Moses from entering the Promised Land, so that we would know the Law of Moses could not bring us to the eternal Promised Land, but merely pointed us to it. It was, in fact, Joshua who brought the people to the Promised Land, so that we would know another Joshua (Yehoshua) would bring us to our eternal reward.
The second-in-command for Moses was Joshua, which in Hebrew is the same name for Jesus. He was ordained by Moses to become the new leader of Israel, who will mightily lead them into the Promise Land. So hidden within this apparently unfair narrative of excluding Moses is the bigger lesson that the Law of Moses only gets us to a certain point in Salvation (e.g. recognition of our sinfulness), and it is up to Jesus to take us the rest of the way (i.e. Heaven). If you don't see this New Testament lesson as the primary point of Moses being excluded, then I don't think you can ever come to a satisfying answer.
 
As a funny but very relevant side note, today the Times of Israel published a story of some "controversial remarks" from Pope Francis! It turns out some Rabbis were upset with what Francis had said in a homily! Here's the relevant portion: 
Francis said: “The Law does not give life, it does not offer the fulfillment of the promise because it is not capable of being able to fulfill it. The Law is a journey, a journey that leads toward an encounter… Those who seek life need to look to the promise and to its fulfillment in Christ.”

Rabbi Arusi sent a letter on behalf of the Chief Rabbinate to Cardinal Kurt Koch, whose Vatican department includes a commission for religious relations with Jews. “In his homily, the pope presents the Christian faith as not just superseding the Torah; but asserts that the latter no longer gives life, implying that Jewish religious practice in the present era is rendered obsolete,” Arusi reportedly wrote in the letter. “This is in effect part and parcel of the ‘teaching of contempt’ towards Jews and Judaism that we had thought had been fully repudiated by the Church.”
In a humorous twist of events, this is a time when Pope Francis says something controversial that all Christians and Protestants can agree upon!
 
Moses ordaining Joshua as his successor

 
 

Saturday, July 10, 2021

King David and the Sacraments - a beautiful example of typology in the OT

I came across a passage which I believe testifies to the Catholic approach to reading the OT, namely seeing New Testament signs hidden therein. This is known as OT 'typology', which some Protestants might cringe at but I think is perfectly legitimate:

2 Sam 12: 19 But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David understood that the child was dead. 20 Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. He then went to his own house. And when he asked, they set food before him, and he ate.
David was being punished for his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah, and had been fasting while his infant son was sick. When the fasting/penance period was over, David got up, washed, anointed, changed, worshiped, ate. This to me sounds like the traditional Christian practice of conversion, namely fasting as you desire to leave your old life behind, then baptism, anointing with oil (Confirmation), and putting on clean robe (Baptismal Garment), then gathering for the Mass to receive the Eucharist. I'm sure that I'm not the first to notice this, but strangely enough I've never seen anyone mention it. I just 'accidentally' came across it recently while reading the narrative. This is all I have to share for now, but I think this passage fits within my "reconsidered" understanding of the Justification narrative of Romans 4:6-8, which I've discussed (here).

Nathan telling David, "You're the man!" (not a compliment)


Monday, June 7, 2021

A quickie apologetic on Papal Infallibility

I was in a discussion with a Protestant who was arguing that Catholic converts have a mental disorder because they seek a level of certainty that only God is capable of. His goal was to show that seeking after a Infallible Magisterium is nonsense because nobody can know the Bible the way God knows the Bible. Admittedly, that's a bizarre way of objecting to the idea of Infallibility, but it led me to show him how his claim was bogus. I asked him if Peter was infallible when he interpreted various OT passages in his epistles 1 & 2 Peter. He was forced to admit Yes, Peter was infallible when interpreting the OT. I then explained that he just refuted his main thesis, because Peter was able to infallibly interpret the OT on behalf of others.

This Protestant got very embarrassed and to save face kept bringing up that Peter acted sinfully and followed false authority (Judaizers) in the incident at Antioch when Paul rebuked Peter (recorded in Galatians 2). I merely had to reaffirm that Peter acting sinfully in one circumstance doesn't mean he couldn't be infallible in other circumstances, as was already proven. I then pointed out that the Peter example actually supports the Catholic claim on infallibility, whereby we see in the example of Peter that acting sinfully in certain circumstances does not preclude a person from being infallible in other circumstances. The Catholic claim has always been the Pope is only infallible under certain circumstances, never under all circumstances! 

I'll hopefully have another post this month in a week or two.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Is Peace (Shalom) unconditional in the Bible? (Romans 5:1)

Protestant apologist James White has a few claims he regularly brings up against Catholicism, and which many Protestants blindly repeat. The two most common claims I've seen him make are asking Catholics "who is the Blessed Man of Romans 4:8?" and "Roman Catholicism cannot provide the true peace which the Gospel provides us". White says in his book and website (see here):
There can be no doubt what lies behind Paul’s use of the term peace in this [Romans 5:1] passage. The Hebrew steeped in Scripture knew full well the meaning of shalom. It does not refer merely to a cessation of hostilities. It is not a temporary cease-fire. The term shalom would not refer to a situation where two armed forces face each other across a border, ready for conflict, but not yet at war. Shalom refers to a fullness of peace, a wellness of relationship. Those systems [e.g. Roman Catholicism] that proclaim a man-centered scheme of justification cannot explain the richness of this word. They cannot provide peace because a relationship that finds its source and origin in the actions of imperfect sinners will always be imperfect itself. The phrase "we have peace" [Rom 5:1] in regard to God, properly means, God is at peace with us, his wrath towards us is removed.
This all sounds well and good, but all too often it turns out that things that sound good to human ears are often not actually what the Bible teaches (cf 2 Tim 4:3). White's lack of Biblical analysis in his presentation of how the Bible uses the term "peace" was suspicious to me, so I decided to see for myself how the Bible uses the Greek/Hebrew terms Peace/Shalom (here). Does the Bible speak of Peace/Shalom as something that is permanent and unconditional the way White makes it out to be? Here are some texts I've found that use the same Greek/Hebrew term "peace" as in Romans 5:1 that I think cast serious doubt on White's bold assertions: 

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Did Jesus forbid "vain repetitions"?

There are plenty of Catholic articles that address the issue of "vain repetition" which Jesus forbade in Matthew 6:7, so rather than repeat them I want to share some unique findings that most of those articles don't tell you. 
 
First of all, it is shocking how everyone automatically assumes "vain repetition" is even an accurate  translation in the first place! The Greek word that Matthew uses for "vain repetitions" is a single term, battalogeo (see here). This Greek word is found nowhere else in the Bible, and apparently nowhere else in Greek literature (see here). This detail alone means we cannot be too dogmatic about the meaning. The Greek term is a compound of "batta" and "words". You can look to see that scholars admit they aren't sure what "batta" means, so they can only propose various theories based on the rest of the verse! So not only does the Greek term not clearly suggest "repetition," much less "vain," there's actually plenty of room to propose other meanings. Scholars seem divided on whether "batta" refers to an ancient pagan king who "stuttered" (which could mean various things), or whether "batta" refers to a pagan poet who wrote long drawn out poems, or whether "batta" is a made up word and equivalent to our term "blah blah blah" (i.e. babbling). The last option seems the most reasonable if the word appears nowhere else, and thus Jesus was saying something along the lines of: "When you pray, do not pray blah blah blah like the pagans".

From this first point onward, we should stop giving the so-called translation "vain repetition" any credibility at all. The origin of "vain repetitions" seems to actually be a Protestant agenda to "translate" the Bible into English with an anti-Catholic spin. This is one reason Catholics were always suspicious of Protestant Bibles. Think about it, how often "vain repetition" is turned into an instant attack on the Rosary, when this one Greek term doesn't actually clearly say anything about "vain repetition"? This Protestant bias is confirmed in the fact the King James Version is what translated "vain repetitions," whereas some honest mainstream Protestant translations use other phrases (see here), such as "do not keep on babbling like pagans" (NIV), or "do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do" (ESV). The Catholic Bibles that I consulted say "speak not much, as the heathens" (Douay-Rheims and Latin Vulgate), and "do not babble like the pagans" (NAB), and "empty phrases" (RSVCE). Again, using the word "repetition" in one's translation is disingenuous per the limited data we have, and can really only signify anti-Catholic bias.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Augustine's insights on Genesis 15 - Revisiting Abraham's faith reckoned as righteousness - Part 5

Since my radical reevaluation of Genesis 15 last year, which I have in my "Revisiting Abraham's faith reckoned as righteousness" series (Here), I have recently come across a fabulous commentary by St Augustine on this situation which I feel further vindicates my position. I truly believe this will change the way most informed folks read and comment upon Genesis 15 and Romans 4. Let's jump right into it, with this passage from St Augustine's masterpiece, City of God (Book 16; Section 26):
After these things in Gen 16, Ishmael was born of Hagar; and Abraham might think that in Ishmael was fulfilled what God had promised him in Gen 15, after Abraham originally wished to adopt his home-born servant Eliezer (Gen 15:2), to which God said "This servant shall not be your heir; but he that shall come forth from your own loins, he shall be your heir." (Gen 15:4) Therefore, lest Abraham should think that what was promised in Genesis 15:4 was fulfilled in Ishmael the handmaid's son in Genesis 16, God appeared to Abraham in Genesis 17 to promise the birth of Isaac, and said "I am God; be well-pleasing in my sight, and be without complaint, and I will make my covenant between me and you, and will fill you exceedingly."

Here in Genesis 17 there are more distinct promises about the calling of the nations in Isaac, that is, in the son of the promise, by which grace is signified, and not nature; for the son is promised from an old man and a barren old woman [Rom 4:19]. For although God effects even the natural course of procreation, yet where the agency of God is manifest, through the decay or failure of nature, grace is more plainly discerned. And because this was to be brought about, not by generation, but by regeneration, circumcision was enjoined now, when a son was promised of Sarah. For what else does circumcision signify than a nature renewed on the putting off of the old? And what else does the eighth day mean than Christ, who rose again when the week was completed, that is, after the Sabbath? The very names of the parents are changed [Gen 17:5; Rom 4:17]: all these details proclaim newness, and the new covenant is shadowed forth in the old. For what does the term old covenant imply but the concealing of the new? And what does the term new covenant imply but the revealing of the old?
Wow, if only this passage of St Augustine was more well-known, it might have changed the course of Catholic & Protestant dialog a long time ago and completely changed the way we read Romans 4. This passage confirms a lot of what my own 'regenerated' understanding of Romans 4 seems to be about as I've explained in my Revisiting series. As a summary: I do not see Romans 4 as about Abraham converting in Genesis 15, nor about him getting justified a second time after Genesis 12. I do not necessarily even see circumcision as portrayed as a "work" (more on this in an upcoming post). Rather, I think the only feasible reading of Rom 4:2 "if Abraham was justified by works" can refer to is bringing about the Promised Heir of Gen 15:4 by natural human means, namely Abraham sleeping with Hagar in Genesis 16, right after the Covenant was established in Genesis 15. It makes little to no sense contextually or logically for "works" of Abraham in Rom 4 to be sins, good deeds, or even circumcision itself, much less the ceremonial works of Moses. If you do a simple substitution of any of those meanings of "works", the train of thought for Paul makes no sense. It is possible that Paul is saying Abraham's "work" of sleeping with Hagar was a "type" for the merely natural "works of the Mosaic Law" which lacked grace. Abraham truly Believed God's promise in Genesis 12 that his offspring would be great and bless the whole world, but his natural, earthly, human "Reason" was unable to see how this was to actually be. Perhaps it was Eliezer, Abraham's distant relative would be the heir. So God showed up go clarify in Genesis 15 that it was not Eliezer, but rather someone "from his own loins" (15:4b). Perhaps then it was Ishmael, Abraham's actual biological child. So God showed up again to clarify in Genesis 17 that it wasn't Ishmael, but rather a miraculous birth, made possible by regenerative circumcision. In all this, we see types/shadows/images of the insufficiency of the Old Covenant and the need to make way for the New Covenant. Paul is far more concerned with Divine Revelation unfolding, seeing Genesis with the Glasses of Faith, that he is with some silly, shallow Protestant debate on faith "versus" deeds. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Is it reasonable to believe Mary & Joseph had other children besides Jesus?

In nearly every discussion about the Perpetual Virginity of Mary that I've come across, the debate almost always comes down to whether the "brothers and sisters" mentioned a few times in the Gospels were biological children or if this was just an ancient way of referring to cousins (which I hold to). But what if it was neither? The past few days, I got the inspiration to realize that there is indeed another possibility that Protestants don't consider: adoption! Why not? Remember that the underlying actual goal of the Protestant side is to attack Catholicism by attacking Mary, so if the "brothers and sisters" aren't biological children then their anti-Catholic mission has failed. The adoption possibility doesn't seem to be an explanation that I've ever come across, which is strange because it easily counters the Protestant when they reject the standard Catholic cousin explanation. It was actually very common in ancient times for parents to die of diseases and such, since there wasn't modern medicine or sanitation. So it was not uncommon for children of the same region, neighborhood, relatives, tribe, etc, to adopt those orphaned children. Could this be why James, the "brother" of Jesus, speaks so highly of taking care of orphans? (James 1:27) The genealogy lists that Matthew and Luke give list different forefathers at some points, but this is easily explained by the reality that some of those sons/fathers were adopted, and thus lineages crossed, but since it was all within the same Tribe of Judah, it was ultimately the same lineage. What is a Protestant really going to do if you respond by saying "yes, but these were adopted children"? The Protestant will realize that they cannot simply presume, and thus their argument is instantly deflated. Plus, we are all truly the brothers of Jesus by adoption in the spiritual sense, and would even extend that into being adopted by Mary (and Joseph), which is how many Catholic spiritual writers have understood the "rest of her children" in reference to Mary in Revelation 12:17.

Monday, February 1, 2021

"They were not yet born, nor done anything good nor bad" - a fresh look at Romans 9:10-13

I wanted to share some further insights I've had on Romans 9, stemming from an earlier series (here). This time we will focus on the famous passage in Romans 9:10-13, which says:

10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad - in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls - 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
This passage has been the subject of considerable debate for centuries. One camp has tended to read the text as a cold, hard assertion of God's Sovereignty, where God elects us to salvation or damnation before we existed, apart from any consideration of our good/bad behavior. At first glance, it does seem to read that way. But I think this is a serious distortion of the text as well as the other themes of Scripture. Consider the following points.

First, Paul introduces this section by calling upon "our forefather Isaac" (9:10), which not only continues the same lesson of Abraham in the prior verses (9:7-9), but has the same phraseology as the "our forefather Abraham" in Romans 4:1. Recall that in Romans 4 the issue was also "not of works," as it is here in Romans 9:11. I believe I have convincingly shown in my Revisiting Abraham's reckoned as righteousness series, particularly part 2 (here), that Paul's real focus in Romans 4 was about how Abraham tried to bring about the promised heir of Genesis 15 by sleeping with Hagar in Genesis 16, thus producing the illegitimate heir Ishmael, who was technically Abraham's biological son. In the lesson of Abraham, Paul is saying mere biological descent isn't sufficient to determine who make up God's Chosen Children. Paul uses the language of "flesh" and "works" as closely related, with works meant to show the Israelite superior biological lineage over that of the inferior Gentiles (here). What this means is that when Paul shifts to "also our father Isaac," the same theme continues: now differentiating between Isaac's biological children, Jacob and Esau. So the lesson thus far is not about unconditionally sending people to heaven or hell apart from their deeds, but rather a more practical yet mysterious looking back at a biological/ancestry issue.

Second, we now turn to the most controversial point "though they were not yet born," which most people mistakenly interpret to mean "before they even existed". The reality is, when this situation took place, both Jacob and Esau fully existed, as babies within Rebekah's womb:
Genesis 25: 21 And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren, and Rebekah conceived. 22 The children struggled together within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” 23 And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.”
Once you admit the fact that God said this while the children were alive and active within Rebekah's womb, the "before the even existed" reading is instantly discredited. What of the "before they had done anything good or bad"? They were alive and active, yet it wasn't until later in life when they did in fact do good/bad actions. So God was simply making a prophecy during Rebekah's pregnancy of how things would turn out. The "struggling within her" certainly means Jacob and Esau were in some manner fighting each other to be firstborn, with the stronger man winning the birth war, thus Esau being born first. This biological superiority plays out with their "works" showing their dominant physical features. This again ties to the firstborn-yet-not-heir theme as Abraham with Ishmael, and God prophetically saying the older Ishmael will serve the younger Isaac.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Were "those whom God foreknew" the OT saints? (Rom 8:29)

While writing my article on Romans 11:6 (here), something jumped out at me in Romans 11:2, where Paul says: "God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew." This statement sounds very similar to a few chapters prior, in Romans 8:29, where Paul famously says: "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son". While I've already discussed Romans 8:29-30 in an older post (here), I haven't looked at it through this "foreknow" lens, so I'll do that today.

In the context of Rom 11:2, the "God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew" is clearly referring to the Israelites, at least those who were faithful, as the prior verse 11:1 asks "has God therefore rejected his people?" as he then lists off marks of Israelite identity. Using the principle of "Scripture interprets Scripture," would suggest that the Israelites of Rom 11:2, "his [chosen/elect] people," at least the faithful ones, are who Paul has principally in mind in Rom 8:29 when he says "those whom He foreknew". In other words, Rom 8:29-30 is actually focused on the Old Testament saints. Others have suggested this is what 8:29 means, but now that I've come across this link to Rom 11:2, I now think the claim has better merit.

If the OT Saints are in view in 8:29, this would better explain why Paul speaks of "those" instead of "us/we" whom God foreknew. It would also better explain why God puts the "called, predestined, justified," and "glorified" all in the past tense, since it would mean the OT Saints already experienced these things. We could even say Paul's repeated use of "also" is to suggest the OT saints "also" experience these blessings along with the NT saints, thus Paul isn't so much speaking of a chain of events, but rather simply saying every blessing the Gentiles experience in Christ, the OT saints "also" experience them. Given the context of Romans 8:29 being about enduring suffering, calling upon the example of the OT saints is an excellent lesson for Paul to draw upon, since we have historical proof of OT saints having to endure trials, and see how God helped them get through it. And, finally, since Paul is concerned about Jew-Gentile tensions, it helps to show the OT saints are blessed, so that the NT saints don't feel superior to them.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Isaiah's prophecy of the New Testament priesthood.

There's a fascinating prophecy in Isaiah that clearly points to an upcoming Gentile priesthood within the New Testament Church. This is a good verse to keep in mind when talking to Protestants, who strongly resist the idea of a New Testament sacrificial priesthood:

Isaiah 66: 20 And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the Lord, on horses and in chariots and in litters and on mules and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the Lord, just as the Israelites bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord. 21 And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites, says the Lord.

To fully appreciate what Isaiah is saying, recall that in the Old Testament under the Mosaic Law, the priesthood was hereditary, tied strictly to the biological lineage of Levi. Within the Tribe of Levi, only Aaron's biological sons were priests, while the rest of the Levites were assistants, which we would call Deacons (see here). So for Isaiah to say there will come a time when men from 'every nation' will be called to the priesthood, that's very radical.

We would certainly expect Protestants to object to this text, but the good news is that they actually agree with this prophecy! The Reformed Protestant tradition teaches within the Westminster Standards on Form of Church Government:

That the ministers of the gospel have as ample a charge and commission to dispense the word, as well as other ordinances, as the priests and Levites had under the law, proved, Isaiah lxvi. 21. Matt. xxiii. 34. where our Saviour entitleth the officers of the New Testament, whom he will send forth, by the same names of the teachers of the Old.
And also a little bit later:
To administer the sacraments. To bless the people from God, Numb. vi. 23, 24, 25, 26. Compared with Rev. i.4, 5, (where the same blessings, and persons from whom they come, are ex mentioned,) Isa. lxvi. 21, where, under the names of Priests and Levites to be continued under the gospel, are meant evangelical pastors, who therefore are by office to bless the people.

What is ironic here is that the Reformed Protestant tradition basically makes the case for the Catholic priesthood for us, but the Reformed Protestant refuses to admit it (or doesn't want to deal with it).

Another noteworthy prophecy is seen when Jesus goes in to cleanse the Temple: "And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”" This quote is taken from Isaiah 56, which says:

6 “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant: 7 these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

Again, the same theme as Isaiah 66:21 above. Those from all nations, no longer only the Levites, will be welcome to minister to God in liturgical worship, including offering sacrifices. This is no small prophecy, but rather one which the Christian Church is heavily based upon for our own worship even today, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (see here).

Monday, November 30, 2020

Was Abraham kosher before God? (Modern Judaism)

I recently met someone who had come back to the Church after having been fallen away for about 20 years, and he was given the icon pictured here by someone at his Confirmation earlier this year. He wasn't sure what this icon was about, so he asked me. I immediately recognized the "three angels" from a more famous version of the icon that you've probably seen (here), but I hadn't seen this 'version' with the two people in the background. I turned to the passage in Genesis 18, known as "The Hospitality of Abraham," where this event took place and I showed him the story:

(Genesis 18:1-21) 1 The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. 2 He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth 3 and said, “O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. 4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, 5 while I bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.”6 And Abraham went quickly into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quick! Three cups of fine flour! Knead it, and make cakes.” 7 And Abraham ran to the herd and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to a young man, who prepared it quickly. 8 Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them. And he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

9 They said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “She is in the tent.” 10 The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.”

16 Then the men set out from there, and they looked down toward Sodom. And Abraham went with them to set them on their way. 17 The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” 20 Then the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”
22 So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord.

A surface level reading of this passage is pretty straightforward, but the more you know about the OT and Salvation History, you cannot help but struggle to get through it, since you feel like you must stop and ponder each of the many mysterious "details". For example, who are these "three men"? Are they angels? Are they, at least symbolically, the Three Persons of the Trinity? Or is one of them the Pre-Incarnate Son (as I've noted in an earlier post here)? There are various opinions on this matter, but under my limited meditation, personally I think the "three men" can on a 'symbolic' level refer to the Trinity, while on the 'exegetical' level refers to the Pre-Incarnate Son and two angels. The main reasons for my conclusion is that: (1) it certainly seems God Himself is talking to Abraham from among these three men, without the three men being mere accessory individuals; (2) we see chapter 19:1 begin by speaking of "the two angels" arriving in Sodom, suggesting the "third man" was someone more than an angel, thus God the Son; and (3) I recall St Justin martyr pointing out Gen 19:24 speaks of 'two Yahwehs', or two LORD's, one on earth and one in heaven, raining down fire upon Sodom, which at least hints at the idea of Father and Son. You can read St Justin's thoughts on using Genesis 18 as prooftext in his Dialog with Trypho the Jew, ch56 (here). Also, this passage is speaking about a miraculous conception of a promised son who will bring about promised blessings, which I discuss in detail on my Romans 4 article (here in the comments box).

Friday, November 20, 2020

The righteous shall live by (God's) faithfulness - Part 3 (Hab 2:4; Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38)

One benefit of discussing your theological reflections with others (both Catholic and Protestant) is that, through their feedback, you can often further refine your original conclusions. In the case of Paul's mysterious appeal to the obscure text of Habakkuk 2:4 in key junctures of Romans and Galatians, I have come to write this unexpected Part 3 of this The Righteous Shall Life By Faith series (Part 2 is HERE). This time, I will try to bring the truths of the prior reflections together to form a fully cohesive understanding of why Paul appealed to such an obscure OT text if his goal was to make a convincing argument to his audience, both friend and foe.

First, let us recall that in Galatians 3:11, Paul says: "It is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith." I'll be honest, there is nothing obvious about how this brief phrase from Habakkuk evidently proves faith justifies while the law does not justify. I'm sure that if other folks were honest, they would admit this phrase is more mysterious than it is clear. Most commentaries that I have come across take the very simplistic approach of saying something akin to "Habakkuk says faith gives life, so that's all there is to salvation." Sorry, but I think that's an immature approach to the text, and is full of problems. For one, we already noted in Part 2 that "faith" in Hab 2:4 is more accurately translated/understood as "faithfulness," and nothing in the text or context suggest a person is incapable of doing good works or that everyone is unrighteous (e.g. God did not consider Habakkuk as unrighteous). And the way Hab2:4 is quoted in Hebrews 10:32-39, "you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised," there is nothing in Paul's lesson here that in any way suggests faith alone or "once saved always saved". (Protestants have shamefully and intentionally avoided the rule of "Scriptures interprets Scripture" by refusing to take Hebrews 10:38 into consideration when interpreting Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11.)

On top of that, there are many texts in the Bible that link having life, righteousness, etc, to obeying God's commandments, e.g., Proverbs 4:4; 7:2; 11:19; Eze 18:22; as well as very relevant passages similar in nature to Habakkuk, such as Ezekiel 14:12-14,
And the word of the Lord came to me: “When a land sins against me by acting faithlessly, and I stretch out my hand against it and break it, and send famine, and cut off from it man and beast, even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord God.
The plain logic here is that when the bulk of the people turn to evil for a sustained time, then even the most righteous saints in OT history wouldn't be able to intervene, and rather such saints would only spare their own life by their righteous behavior. So do we really think that Paul was so intellectually weak that Paul simply mined the OT until he found a text that sounded good to him? Any Jew would laugh at pulling out such an obscure OT text such as Hab 2:4, and they would easily throw a number of OT texts against Paul. Surely we cannot mock Paul's intelligence and gift of the Spirit by thinking he couldn't make a convincing argument! So we are forced to do some reflection and thus discover why Paul's appeal to Habakkuk 2 is actually a pretty solid argument.

To begin finding a satisfying answer, I think we should consider the key phrases which Paul uses when he appeals to Hab 2:4. First, as noted above in Galatians 3:11, Paul says Hab 2:4 somehow demonstrates that 'works of the law do not justify'. Second, in Romans 1:17, Paul says Hab 2:4 somehow demonstrates that 'the righteousness of God is revealed'. I think the answer that addresses both is a proof text along the lines of showing the Mosaic Law was broken and thus put the Israelites in a hopeless condition, yet which nonetheless God promises to rescue/save His people. The book Habakkuk was written to address the national punishment coming upon Judah for its unfaithfulness to the Mosaic Covenant, which did not contain any provision for atonement of major sins. Yet, despite providing no means of un-breaking the Mosaic Law, somehow throughout the OT prophets we are told God promises to rescue His people. This can only mean the Works of the Law do not justify (in the sense of saving a person from their sins and giving them spiritual life or even heaven). It also means that God's Righteousness, that is His promises to correct the issue of sin and bring about salvation, is promised in the prophets to come about in His due time by some other basis than the Law. Thus, when Paul brings up Habakkuk 2:4 to his Jewish opponents, they are reminded of their national disobedience to the Mosaic Law, requiring punishment since the Law does not allow them a second chance, while at the same time promising them a second chance at living through some other merciful provision apart from the Works of the Law. This "other merciful provision" is only revealed at the time of the Apostles, wherein Jesus arrives to deal with sin, and this message is known simply as the Gospel.

This would also explain why in both contexts, Romans 1:16-18 and Galatians 3:10-13, Paul quotes Habakukk right in the middle of talking about God's "wrath" due to disobedient behavior and "curses" for breaking the Law. Habakkuk, and the OT prophets as a whole, are precisely about God's wrath due to breaking the Law. But within Habakkuk and the OT prophets as a whole, there are also prophecies about how God will still have mercy and save. 

It is also possible that Paul was saying that Habakkuk was speaking of a time when it wasn't even possible to practice the Mosaic Law since the Israelites were now in exile and thus couldn't even live out the works of the Law due to living under pagans. Both then and in 70AD, the Temple was destroyed, meaning the Israelites couldn't even carry out their routine Levitical duties regarding sacrifices, purification, holidays, etc. Thus, they must live some other way than by the Law if they want to continue their religion and relationship with God, and that way must be common to both Gentiles and Jews (e.g. not restricted to the geographic land of Jerusalem). Within the context of Christianity, we are also living among the pagans, namely those outside forces that are constantly trying to persecute us, which we must suffer for now and persevere in faithfulness to God.  
 
Next to reflect upon what Habakkuk meant by "live," we should be able to at least assume this "life" was something more than just earthly comfort, since at the time of exile there was no comfy life on the horizon. If Habakkuk himself was going to suffer exile, he certainly wasn't "living" in any satisfying manner. Thus, his "faith(fulness)" had to be leading to some other kind of life, such as life in heavenly paradise. Just as the Jew was for the foreseen future going to endure life in a fallen world (i.e. Babylonian exile), so too Christians for the foreseen future are going to live life in a fallen world, and thus our faithfulness during this time must be looking to something more than earthly comfort.

One final point to consider is that, as with other posts on this blog, we see in Habakkuk 2:4 that the Greek OT (LXX) text contains inspired elaborations upon the Hebrew OT text. Consider the two OT texts of Habakkuk 2:3-4 and how they differ:
Greek Habakkuk: (3a) For the vision is yet for a time, and it shall shoot forth at the end, and not in vain: (3b) though he should tarry, wait for him; for he will surely come, and will not tarry. (4a) If he should draw back, my soul has no pleasure in him: (4b) but the just shall live by my faith.

Hebrew Habakkuk: (3a) For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end, it will not lie. (3b) If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. (4a) Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, (4b) but the righteous shall live by his faith.
For both texts, verse 3a is pretty similar, Habakkuk is given an prophecy of the future by God. In verse 3b, is not immediately clear if this is the return from Babylonian exile or if it is a prophecy of the arrival of Jesus, or perhaps both. The Greek rendering of "he" will come sounds a lot life the arrival of Jesus, either first or second coming, though "it" can mean the same thing, as in 'this prophecy will come to fulfillment'. In 4a, there is a remarkable difference in texts, though I maintain we should always assume differences in texts are merely difference in wording rather than in essential meaning (especially since the Hebrew terms can often be more broad in meaning). In this case of 4a in both, it seems certain that the prideful person whose soul is puffed up in the Hebrew text is to be understood as the one who draws back and has God's favor removed in the Greek. And given that, it means the (already) righteous individual of 4b is going to live by faithfulness. If there is any question as to whose faithfulness, you could read it either as God's Faithfulness, and thus more accurately God's Righteousness, or as man's faithfulness to God's commands. But even here, perhaps both God and man's faithfulness is in view. Thankfully, we have the New Testament book of Hebrews, chapter 10, that gives a better look at this:
Hebrews 10: 19 We have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For [as Habakkuk says],

“Yet a little while, and the Coming One will come and will not delay;
38 but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”

39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation.
Within this text, we see Paul touch upon many of the themes we've already discussed. We see Paul talking about God's Judgment that is coming, and the reward for those who are obedient. We see that the Mosaic dispensation did not provide for forgiveness, and thus when it was broken there was only wrath to look forward to, while the New Covenant has more opportunities for mercy and greater rewards...though also greater punishments as well. We see that Hebrews definitely is looking to the Greek Habakkuk, showing that what was in mind was "the Coming One," that is He Who Is Coming, which can only be God, in Jesus Christ.

Paul was thus quoting Habakkuk as a prophecy of Jesus' Second Coming (or at least the judgment in AD70, or both), while we are in a time of exile, and the Mosaic Law has expired, leaving us to live by new Covenant rules and regulations. This applies to the Jew and Gentile alike, and thus "from faith to faith" means there is an analogy of our conditions found in the lesson of the OT conditions of Habakkuk and the Babylonian Exile. To me, this is a far more satisfying explanation of Paul's proof text than a mere surface level reading of a few words.