Category Archives: Church

Where Does Deuteronomy Really Belong?

When asked who I believe wrote the book of Hebrews, I often respond with tongue firmly in cheek that it was Cleopas. After all, it was Cleopas who heard from Jesus’ own mouth, “and beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself,” (Luke 24:27, ESV). One could almost say that my theory is about as plausible as those who developed the theory involving Israel’s history. Yet a man by the name of Martin Noth took a theory that seemed nearly incoherent and developed a succinct understanding of how the books of Deuteronomy through 2 Kings combine to make one whole historical account.  It commonly known as the Deuteronomistic History. “The content of the Deuteronomistic History is the story of Israel’s emergence, success and ultimate failures as an independent political entity in the land of Canaan.”[1] While Noth is not the originator of the theory, he is certainly the one to make it more cogent. According to Noth, the books in question were written by someone, a redactor or editor—known as “Deuteronomist”, who accumulated source materials and then put them into a historical narrative. Like any narrative, these collections of books rise, have a climax, and fall. One can easily recognize the rises within the narrative by the three main characters’ speeches given within the books: Joshua’s speeches in Joshua 1:11-15 and 23:2-30, Samuel’s speech in 1 Samuel 12:1-24, and Solomon’s prayer in 1 Kigns 8:12:51.[2] “Noth’s evidence for his singular trident included the repetition of similar phraseology apparent throughout the Deuteronomistic History [Deut-2 Kings]. . .the prophecy/fulfillment schema of the history; the strategic appearance and function of unifying speeches and narratives by the leading characters,”[3] and various other evidences. To Noth’s credit, he claimed that the Deuteronomist was not seeking to entertain or slant evidence, but “intended to teach the truth meaning of the history of Israel from the occupation to the destruction of the old order.”[4] Noth seemed to want to remain as true to the text and its truth as possible. In fact, with some questions, Noth’s argument and understanding are quite appealing. There does seem to be a link between Deuteronomy and much of the historical books. If one was inclined not to believe or at minimum have doubts in future prophecy, Deuteronomistic History would be quite appealing as it allows for God’s work to continue to be done throughout Israel’s beginnings through her monarchial history. The same could be said about those who find Deuteronomy to be a book different the rest of those which it normally is association: the traditional understanding of the Pentateuch. Rather than having a Pentateuch (5 books of the Law), one would have the Tetrateuch (4 books of the Law) and the Deuteronomistic History (Deuteronomy-2 Kings).

As interesting as Noth’s ideas are, they are not without their flaws. In fact, many later scholars would bring these flaws to light. The result has been disastrous for the Deuteronomistic History. As one scholar wrote, “the concept of the Deuteronimism has become so amorphous that it no longer has any analytical precision and out to be abandoned (R. Wilson, 82).”[5] Noth does not answer in any real way about other speeches within the Deuteronomistic History such as the prophetic words by Nathan and the speech by David, which goes along with his seeming to focus more on the pessimistic view of the narratives than the optimistic. Noth argued, “We cannot possibly claim that the latter section [speaking of Nathan’s prophecy] is Deuteronomistic, since neither the prohibition of temple-building not the strong emphasis on the value of the manarcy are in the spirit of Dtr [the Deuteronomist writer]” (Noth, 55).”[6] In other words, as it would seem to me, Noth disregards the prophecy and speech because it doesn’t actually fit into his understanding of who the Deuteronimist writer would be or what he would write about; if something doesn’t fit into his narrative, he simply seeks to explain it away.

Obviously, such questions and explanations would lead to other theories about the Deuteronomistic understanding of Scripture. Suddenly, there was not simply one editor/redactor, but two, and then three, and so forth. At one point, the theorists began noticing that certain aspects of the books seemed to be in opposition. As if parts supported David and the monarchy and other parts were against it. “Veijola concludes that the apparently contradictory messages regarding the monarchy may be resolved by understanding DtrH as pro-David and promonarchy, DtrP as generally antimonoarchy, and DtrN as pro-David but generally anti-monarchy.”[7] Thus there are three Deuteronomist writers, and they oppose one another within the Scriptures themselves. It must be admitted at this point that when one calls into question Scriptures authenticity and authority in one place, it calls into question all of Scripture. If one is apt to disregard this concern, one only need to see that Noth’s concise theory (though not solely on the head of Noth) led to the likes of Peckham who does not limit the Deuteronomistic History to only Deuteronomy-2 Kings, but includes the whole Pentateuch and the Former Prophets (those prophets within Joshua-2 Kings).[8] If this expansion of the Scripture’s authorial authenticity is not bad enough, Van Seters’s claim that “the sources that the Deuteronomistic Historian refers to within history may be only a literary device—these ‘sources,’ and therefore the Deuteronomistic History itself, may be completely fictional (Van Seters, 43-49),”[9] take one to its logical conclusion: the Scriptures cannot be trusted because they are fictitious.

It is no wonder that even the historical critics now see that Noth’s baby has become a monstrosity and a failure. Noth sought to understand the writings of Scripture better and to make them understandable by moving Deuteronomy away from the Pentateuch and attaching it to the historical narratives, imposing a single author for those books. As stated, part of this was due to Deuteronomy’s seeming break with the other four books. However, one does not have to see the fifth book of the Pentateuch as a separate book, but rather a book in transition. Deuteronomy is different in its literary style, but that ought not be surprising since every other book in the Pentateuch has its own style as well. Genesis-Exodus 20 tends to be historical, but Exodus 20 through Leviticus reads as a legal document, with somewhat of “case-law” or active moments in which the execution of the law was put into practice. Numbers reads much like a census document. Thus when one gets to Deuteronomy, he should not be surprised that it reads differently. It is a different document, or volume, within the Pentateuch preparing the second generation of Israelites to enter the Promised Land.

Only persons who was under 20 years of age at the first attempt of entry or those who were yet to be born stand before Moses. At best there was a vague memory of leaving that pagan land. It had been forty years since the people had left Egypt and the law had been given. Moses was about to leave them in the hands of Joshua. When one reads Deuteronomy, it comes across as an iron fist in a velvet glove: firm but soft. It is pastoral and fatherly. In fact, many would consider Moses’ speeches to be more sermonic than mere oratory. Moses stated nothing that contradicted the law, however he did explain the law in different ways. He neither negated the law nor added to the law, but simply spoke of the law to this new generation, who for the most part, did not hear it in its original form at Mount Sinai. In similar ways, one could look to the Gospel According to John and see similar evidences of John’s account being written to a new generation of believers. Unlike the Synoptics which often tell many of the same stories, John brings forth new stories and explains Synoptic stories in fresh ways. While, John is indeed a different writer than Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, his motive very well could be the same as Moses’s: teaching the new generation what the law/gospel really means before he dies.

[1] B. T. Arnold and H. G. M. Williamson, eds., Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 220.

[2] Ibid., 221.

[3] Ibid., 222.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 227.

[6] Ibid., 223.

[7] Ibid., 225.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid., 226.

The War on Sex

I’m not sure if you have noticed or not, but the issue of sex and all that goes with it has been making the news lately. In fact, it has been making news now for a few decades and it continue to grow, taking up more and more space and is becoming more and more heated. Some of the more recent news comes as the Vice President’s wife Karen Pence has taken a job at a Christian school teaching art part-time. Being a genuine Christian school, they take a firm stance on sex and sexuality. While the headlines make it all about homosexuality, the school actually takes a stance against all forms of sexual activity outside the bounds of one man to one woman marriage. Thus no pre-marital sex, no extra-marital sex, no pornography usage, no homosexuality, and the list goes on.

I’m not sure if those who are outraged are outraged that Karen Pence who claims to be a born-again Christian is living by her convictions or if they are outraged that anyone would dare have such convictions in the first place. That’s what this article seeks to address, how someone could have such convictions and why someone in this day and age would actually seek to publicly live by those convictions. To understand this reasoning, one must begin with the theology of sex. While I won’t have time to go through every biblical reference to sex, my hope is to at least give a framework toward a biblical theology of sex and sexuality.

  1. Sex is divinely given and enjoyable. It was God who created male and female, and his first command to them was, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it,” (Genesis 1:28). Three major points: 1) God created man and woman. He gave them each their respective body parts that not only made sexual union possible, but enjoyable. He is the one who put sensitive nerve-endings on those body parts. He is the one who put the testosterone and estrogen and dopamine chemicals into our systems. It was not by accident, but by design. 2) God expected man and woman–commanded man and woman–to have lots of babies, of course the only way to make that happen is to have lots of sex. Sex is commanded (at least in the confines of one man and one woman in marriage). 3) While not a popular concept today, sex and children are linked. Until recent history (about 100 years) sex and children were linked together. Today, with contraception and nearly on-demand abortion, such is not the case. But from a biblical perspective they are.
  2. Sex was designed to be without shame. When God brought Eve to Adam, we are told, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not shamed,” (Genesis 2:25). Sin changed all of that. Once Adam and Eve rebelled against God’s commands, “the eyes of both were opened, and they knew they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths,” (Genesis 3:7). Notice, only loincloths. They didn’t cover their upper bodies, but only their sexual organs. There was now a separation, a distrust, a shame between husband and wife. From this point forward, sex was altered. Sex, in some way, had fallen when Adam and Eve fell.
  3. When sex fell, it began to be used wrongly. This would include forced sex. “When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw the daughters of man were attractive and took as their wives any they chose,” (Genesis 6:1). Many would say that the sons of God here are fallen angels, thus taking by force the daughters of man as wives. It would include homosexuality and rape. “But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lord, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them,'” (Genesis 19:4-5). Lot going out to convince them not to commit such an act, offered the alternative: “Let me bring [my virgin daughters] out to you, and do to them as you please,” (Genesis 19:8). There was incest. “Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father,” (Genesis 19:32). There is all the fun without any responsibility. Without going to much detail, Onan was taking his dead brother’s wife as his own so she could have a son by him. “But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his. So whenever he went in to his brother’s wife he would waste the semen on the ground, so as not to give offspring to his brother,” (Genesis 38:9). This is often used by some to speak against masturbation, but in reality, it is having the perks of sex without the responsibility of children. That could include masturbation, but not limited to it. It could simply be having “friends with benefits,” one-night stands, etc.  It includes prostitution and weaponizing sex. Tamar wrapped herself in garments to look like a prostitute, “When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. He turned to her at the roadside and said, ‘Come, let me come in to you,’ for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law,” (Genesis 38:15-16). Later, he found out that she was pregnant and angry because it would seem that she had extra-marital sex. When he sent word, she used his own staff and signet cord to frame him. Adultery would be included. “And after a time [Joseph’s] master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, ‘Lie with me,'” (Genesis 39:7). Joseph refused.  All of this is found in the first book of the Bible!!
  4. Laws were made to protect against the fallen-nature of sex. By the time the Israelites got out of Egypt, they had probably seen or heard about all the various sexual practices. Canaan was known for its licentiousness. God intended Israel to be a standard-bearer. They were to be distinct, different than the cultures around them. Thus he set up laws. Without going into every one of these laws, suffice it to say that they dealt with all the practices we see in Genesis and also included bestiality (see Leviticus 18).
  5. Sex is exciting. By the time one gets to the Proverbs one has a pretty good understanding about all the wrongs of sex, but not all the rights and excitement of it. Enter the Song of Songs (Song of Solomon). Here is a poetic expression of what sex is really to be like in marriage. It is fun, exciting, complicated, and enjoyable. There’s honeymoon sex, steamy sex, and even make-up sex right there in one book of the Bible. Christians don’t have a bad view of sex (at least they ought not to); we simply have an elevated view of sex. We want all that it was meant to be, not just what we can eek out.
  6. There is an emphasis on the wrongness of homosexuality, but there is a reason for it. 1) It goes against creation. God created man and woman, one man and one woman. Anything (divorce, extra-marital sex, polygamy, or homosexuality) goes against the created order. 2) Homosexuality actually goes completely in the opposite direction of the created order. While the other sexual sins deviate from the created order and are wrong, homosexuality does a complete U-turn from it (or transgenderism, lesbianism, etc.). This was Paul’s point in Romans: “For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men,” (Romans 1:26-27). For years the homosexual movement has been crying with all its might that this is not their choice; they were born this way. Lately, the transgender and fluid-gender movement has cried that they can be whomever they want to be; thus a choice. This has caused great consternation to their counterparts. Here Paul is speaking of not the choice of feelings, but the choice of actions.
  7. All Christians are called to self-restraint. Part of the teachings of the Bible are that we are to have self-control. It is, in fact, a fruit of the Holy Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23). Paul wrote to Timothy that God gave us not a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control. The pastor is to be a man of self-control. Older men are to be self-controlled. Women are to be self-controlled. This self-control is not only in the area of sex, but in all areas of life, yet it does include sex. Hence, there is the prohibition on pre-marital sex, adultery, bestiality, etc. We are to restrain our inclinations, not give in to them. Just as we see a piece of jewelry that we like, but refrain from taking it, so we are to refrain from taking the man or woman simply because we want them.

That being said. . .God has called Christians to a higher standard. As we’ve seen, Christians are the outsiders when it comes to sex. We are in the minority. The fact that this war is recent for us is an anomaly. We are feeling invaded by the sexual revolution, when in reality, Christians are aliens in a world that has been in a sexual revolution since the fall. This was the society with which Corinth, Laodicea, Ephesus, Rome, and just about every other church within Scripture dealt. Christians are meant to be the kooks; we are supposed to look strange to people. We are supposed to believe weird things (let’s not forget that Christians were called atheists until the 3rd century; and that they accused us of cannibalism as well).  But let us also remember that while we may feel like society is crumbling around us (and maybe it is), the society is simply being themselves. This is nothing new (everything we see today, happened in Genesis). We are to love the people. We are to pray for them, but we are not to cast them away.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people–not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler–not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-12).

Why purge the evil person from among us? Because 1) his sin will catch on like yeast to dough or like fire in California, 2) the church is to be an example of holiness, separation and purity (all types of purity). This is what Karen Pence is seeking to do. She believes the Bible’s doctrine on sexuality, and seeks to live by it (as all Christians are called to do). It ought not shock anyone that she is sticking to her convictions, but in case those people misunderstood the convictions she had, I hopefully have given at least a foundation to them.

I’d love to hear your feedback. Whether you agree or not. This is a hot-button issue, so I simply ask for civility and decency. If I find your comments to be the opposite (even if they’re in agreement with me), I will delete them. If they are civil and decent, even if they oppose my argument, they will remain up.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV published by Crossway Books.