Tuesday, March 18, 2014

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What Day Did Christ Die?


A common claimed contradiction and/or discrepancy in the Bible that skeptics bring up is the question of when Jesus was actually crucified.

1. Did Jesus Christ's crucifixion occur the day before the Passover meal was eaten, as John explicitly says, or did it occur after it was eaten as Mark explicitly says? (paraphrase of skeptic Bart Ehrman's often asked question)

2. Was the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday?

For a long while in my Christian youth I rejected a Friday crucifixion. But after doing a bit more study, I've concluded that the traditional position of a Friday crucifixion fits all of the available Biblical data better. What really helped me come to the traditional view was James White's discussion on the topic which can be purchased at his website (the current direct link is here). When it comes to other finer details, I haven't come to any firm conclusions. However, the following quotes and articles can help people come to their own conclusions.







April 3, AD 33 by Andreas J. Köstenberger and Justin Taylor




The Jewish Calendar, A Lunar Eclipse and the Date of Christ's Crucifixion by Colin J. Humphreys and W.G. Waddington



Friday crucifixion Sunday resurrection 
↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑ Read the warning below about this link↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑↑
While there are many doctrinal issues that I disagree with from the website that the above article comes from, this particular article argues persuasively for a Friday crucifixion (even if not all its facts are accurate). The creators of the website are sub-Evangelical. I recommend one reads this article after one reads the following quotes.





MARK 14:12ff- Did Jesus institute the Lord's Supper on the day of the Passover or the day before?

PROBLEM: If the first three Gospels (synoptics) are correct, then Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper "on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover lamb" (cf. Matt. 26:17; Luke 22:1). But John places it "before the feast of the Passover" (13:1), the day before the crucifixion on which "they might eat the Passover" (18:28).
SOLUTION: There are two basic positions embraced by evangelical scholars on this point. Those who hold that Jesus ate the Passover lamb (and instituted the Lord's Supper at the end of it) on the same day it was observed by the Jews, support their view as follows: (1) It was the day required by the OT Law, and Jesus said He did not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17-18). (2) It seems to be the meaning of Mark 14:12 which says it was "on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover lamb." (3) When John 19:14 speaks of it being "the Preparation Day of the Passover" they take this to mean simply the preparation for the Sabbath which occurred in that paschal week.
    Other scholars contend that Jesus ate the Passover lamb on the day before the Jews did because: (1) He had to eat it a day early (Thursday) in order that He might offer Himself the next day (Good Friday) as the Passover Lamb (cf. John 1:29) to the Jews, in fulfillment of OT type on the very day they were eating the Passover lamb (1 Cor. 5:7). (2) The plain reading of John 19:14 is that it was "the Preparation Day of the Passover" [not the Sabbath], or in other words, the day before the Passover was eaten by the Jews. (3) Likewise, John 18:28 affirms that the Jews did not want to be defiled on the day Jesus was crucified "that they might eat the Passover."
    Either view is possible without contradiction. However, the latter view seems to explain the texts forthrightly.

- From The Big Book of Bible Difficulties by Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe page 375 (previously titled When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties)




Lord's supper instituted at Passover.
Matt. xxvi. 17-30; Mark xiv. 12-26;
Luke xxii. 1, 13-20.
Upon the preceding day.
John xiii. 1,2; xviii. 28.


Of the two leading theories the first is, that the Lord's supper was instituted on the evening following the fourteenth day of Nisan, at the legal time of the passover. Robinson4 maintains that the term "passover" sometimes comprises the whole paschal festival, or the feast of unleavened bread which began with the passover proper; that the expression "to eat the passover" may mean "to keep the paschal festival"; and that the "preparation of the passover," John xix. 14, denotes simply the customary "preparation" for the Sabbath, which occurred in that paschal week. In this view, which relieves the difficulty, a host of critics5 substantially concur.


4 English Harmony, pp. 200-205.
5 So Andrews, Bochart, Davidson, Fairbairn, Gardiner, Hengstenberg, Lange, Lewin, Lightfoot, Milligan, Norton, Olshausen, Robinson, Schoettgen, Stier, Tholuck, and Wieseler.

-From Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible by John W. Haley p. 423





Was Christ crucified on Thursday or Friday?

    The uniform impression conveyed by the synoptic Gospels is that the Crucifixion took place on Friday of Holy Week. If it were not for John 19:14, the point would never have come up for debate. But John 19:14 says (according to NASB): "Now it was the day of preparation [paraskeuē] for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he [Pilate] said to the Jews, 'Behold, your King!' " The NIV suggests a somewhat less difficult handling of the apparent discrepancy: "It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour." This latter translation takes note of two very important matters of usage. First, the word paraskeuē had already by the first century A.D. become a technical term for "Friday," since every Friday was the day of preparation for Saturday, that is, the Sabbath. In Modern Greek the word for "Friday" is paraskeuē.
    Second, the Greek term tou pascha (lit., "of the Passover") is taken to be equivalent to the Passover Week. This refers to the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread (Heb. maṣṣôṯ) that immediately followed the initial slaughtering and eating of the Passover lamb on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month Abib, which by Hebrew reckoning would mean the commencement of the fifteenth day, right after sunset. The week of maṣṣô-t, coming right on the heels of Passover itself (during which maṣṣô-t were actually eaten, along with the lamb, bitter herbs, etc.) very naturally came to be known as Passover Week (cf. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 14th ed., 12:1041), extending from the fifteenth to the twenty-first of Abib, inclusively. (Arndt and Gingrich [Greek-English Lexicon, pp. 638-39] state: "This [i.e., Passover] was followed immediately by the Feast of Unleavened Bread...on the 15th to the 21st. Popular usage merged the two festivals and treated them as a unity, as they were for practical purposes.") It was unnecessary to insert a specific term for "week" (such as šā-bȗaʻ) for it to be understood as such. Therefore, that which might be translated literally as "the preparation of the Passover" must in this context be rendered "Friday of Passover Week."
    It turns out, therefore, that John affirms just as clearly as the Synoptics that Christ was crucified on Friday and that His sacrificial death represented an antitypical fulfillment of the Passover ordinance itself, which was instituted by God in the days of the Exodus as a means of making Calvary available by faith to the ancient people of God even before the coming of Christ.
    Note that in 1 Corinthians 5:7 Jesus is referred to as the Passover Lamb for believers: "Purge out the old leaven, so that you may be a new lump, just as you were unleavened. For Christ our Lamb was sacrificed for us." The statement of E. C. Hoskyns on John 19:14 is very appropriate here: "The hour of double sacrifice is drawing near. It is midday. The Passover lambs are being prepared for sacrifice, and the Lamb of God is likewise sentenced to death" (The Fourth Gospel [London: Farber and Farber, 1940], ad loc.). It simply needs to be pointed out that the lambs referred to here are not those that were slaughtered and eaten in private homes--a rite Jesus had already observed with His disciples the night before ("Maundy Thursday")--but the lambs to be offered on the altar of the Lord on behalf of the whole nation of Israel. (For the household observance on the evening of the fourteenth of Abib, cf. Exod. 12:6; for the public sacrifice on the altar, cf. Exod. 12:16-17; Lev. 23:4-8; 2 Chron. 30:15-19; 35:11-16. These were all known as Passover sacrifices, since they were presented during Passover week.)
    Thus it turns out that there has been a simple misunderstanding of the phrase paraskeuē tou pascha that has occasioned such perplexity that even Guthrie (New Bible Commentary, p. 964) deduced an original error, for which he had no solution to offer. The various ingenious explantions offered by others, that Christ held His personal Passover a night early, knowing that He would be crucified before the evening of the fourteenth; that Christ and His movement held to a different calendar, reckoning the fourteenth to be a day earlier than the calendar of the official Jerusalem priesthood; or that He was following a revised calendar observed by the Essenes at Qumran--all these theories are quite improbable and altogether unnecessary. There is no contradiction whatever between John and the Synoptics as to the day on which Christ died--it was Friday.

- From Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties by Gleason L. Archer pp. 375-376.




14. The Length of Our Lord's Stay in the Tomb

Quite an effort is made in some quarters to show that Jesus remained in the tomb seventy-two hours, three full days and nights. The effort seems due to a desire to give full value to the expression "three days" and to vindicate scripture. But a minutely literal interpretation of this phrase makes "on the third day" flatly erroneous. A good deal of labor has been expended in the impossible attempt to make three and four equal to each other. There are three sets of expressions used about the matter, besides the express statements of the Gospels about the days of the crucifixion, and resurrection. Let us examine these lines of evidence. 1. Luke settles the matter pointedly by mentioning all the time between the crucifixion and the resurrection (Luke 23:50-24:3). The burial took place Friday afternoon just before the Sabbath drew on (Luke 23:54). The women rested on the Sabbath (Saturday) (Luke 23:56), and went to the sepulchre early Sunday morning, the first day of the week (Luke 24:1). There is no escaping this piece of chronology. This is all the time there was between the two events. Jesus then lay in the tomb from late in the afternoon of Friday till early Sunday morning. The other Gospels agree with this reckoning of the time, as we have already seen. 2. But how about the prediction of Jesus, repeatedly made, and once illustrated by the case of Jonah, that he would rise after three days? Are two nights and a day and two pieces of days three days? Let us see. (a) The well-known custom of the Jews was to count a part of a day as a whole day of twenty-four hours. Hence a part of a day or night would be counted as a whole day, the term day obviously having two senses, as night and day, or day contrasted with night. So then the part of Friday would count as one day, Saturday another, and the part of Sunday the third day. This method of reckoning gives no trouble to a Jew or to modern men, for that matter. In free vernacular we speak the same way today. (b) Besides, the phrase "on the third day" is obliged to mean that the resurrection took place on that day, for, if it occurred after the third day, it would be on the fourth day and not on the third. Now it so happens that this term "third day" is applied seven times to the resurrection of Christ (Matt. 16:21; Matt. 17:23; Matt. 20:19; Luke 27:7, 21, 46; 1 Cor. 15:4). These numerous passages of Scripture, both prophecy and statement of history, agree with the record of the fact that Jesus did rise on the third day. (Luke 24:7.) (c) Moreover, the phrase "after three days" is used by the same writers (Matthew and Luke) in connection with the former one, "the third day," as meaning the same thing. Hence the definite and clear expressions must explain the one that is less so. The chief priests and Pharisees remember (Matt. 27:63) that Jesus said, after three days I rise again. Hence they urge Pilate to keep a guard over the tomb until the third day (Matt. 27:64). This is their own interpretation of the Saviour's words. Besides, in parallel passages in the different Gospels, one will have one expression and another the other, naturally suggesting that they regarded them as equivalent. (Cf . Mark 8:31 with Matt. 16:21, Luke 9:22 with Mark 10:34.) On the third day cannot mean on the fourth day, while after three days can be used as meaning on the third day. (d) Matthew 12:40 is urged as conclusive the other way. But the "three days and three nights" may be nothing more than a longer way of saying three days, using day in its long sense. And we have already seen that the Jews counted any part of this full day (day and night) as a whole day (day and night). Hence this passage may mean nothing more than the common "after three days" above mentioned, and, like that expression, must be interpreted in accordance with the definite term "on the third day" and with the clear chronological data given by Luke and the rest. They seemed to be conscious of no discrepancy in these various expressions. Most likely they understood them as well as we do at any rate.

- excerpt from A Harmony of the Gospels For Students of the Life of Christ by A.T. Robertson
https://archive.org/details/harmonyofthegosp012598mbp




...The Jews take a particular notice of the third day as remarkable for many things they observe {e}, as

"of the third day Abraham lift up his eyes, Ge 22:4 of the third day of the tribes, Ge 42:18 of the third day of the spies, Jos 2:16 of the third day of the giving of the law, Ex 19:16 of the third day of Jonah, Jon 1:17 of the third day of them that came out of the captivity, Ezr 8:15 of the third day of the resurrection of the dead, as it is written, Ho 6:2 "after two days will he revive us, in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight".''

From which passage, it is clear, that they under stood the prophecy in Hosea of the resurrection of the dead; and it is observable, that among the remarkable third days they take notice of, are the two instances of Isaac's and Jonah's deliverances, which were Scripture types of Christ's resurrection. From which observations they establish this as a maxim {f}, that

"God does not leave the righteous in distress more than three days.''...

- John Gill's comments on 1 Cor. 15:4http://www.studylight.org/com/geb/view.cgi?bk=45&ch=15




...That Christ means himself by the "son of man", there is no reason to doubt; and his being laid in a tomb, dug out of a rock, is sufficient to answer this phrase, "the heart of the earth", in distinction from the surface of it; but some difficulty arises about the time of his continuing there, and the prediction here made agreeable to the type: for it was on the sixth day of the week, we commonly call "Friday", towards the close, on the day of the preparation for the sabbath, and when the sabbath drew on, that the body of Christ was laid in the sepulchre; where it lay all the next day, which was the sabbath of the Jews, and what we commonly call "Saturday"; and early on the first of the week, usually called "Sunday", or the Lord's day, he rose from the dead; so that he was but one whole day, and part of two, in the grave. To solve this difficulty, and set the matter in a clear light, let it be observed, that the three days and three nights, mean three natural days, consisting of day and night, or twenty four hours, and are what the Greeks call nucyhmera, "night days"; but the Jews have no other way of expressing them, but as here; and with them it is a well known rule, and used on all occasions, as in the computation of their feasts and times of mourning, in the observance of the passover, circumcision, and divers purifications, that wlwkk Mwyh tuqm, "a part of a day is as the whole" {n}: and so, whatever was done before sun setting, or after, if but an hour, or ever so small a time, before or after it, it was reckoned as the whole preceding, or following day; and whether this was in the night part, or day part of the night day, or natural day, it mattered not, it was accounted as the whole night day: by this rule, the case here is easily adjusted; Christ was laid in the grave towards the close of the sixth day, a little before sun setting, and this being a part of the night day preceding, is reckoned as the whole; he continued there the whole night day following, being the seventh day; and rose again early on the first day, which being after sun setting, though it might be even before sun rising, yet being a part of the night day following, is to be esteemed as the whole; and thus the son of man was to be, and was three days and three nights in the grave; and which was very easy to be understood by the Jews; and it is a question whether Jonas was longer in the belly of the fish.

{l} R. David Kimchi & Jarchi, in Jonah i. 17. & ii. 1. Zohar in Exod. fol. 20. 3. & 78. 3. {m} Antiq. 1. 9. c. 18. {n} T. Hieros. Pesach. fol. 31. 2. T. Bab. Moed. Katon, fol. 16. 2. 17. 2. 19. 2. & 20. 2. Bechorot, fol. 20. 2. & 21. 1, Nidda, fol. 33. 1. Maimon. Hilch. Ebel, c. 7. sect. 1, 2, 3. Aben Ezra in Lev. xii. 3....

- John Gill's comments on Matt. 12:40
http://www.studylight.org/com/geb/view.cgi?bk=39&ch=12




Verse 40. Three days and three nights] Our Lord rose from the grave on the day but one after his crucifixion: so that, in the computation in this verse, the part of the day on which he was crucified, and the part of that on which he rose again, are severally estimated as an entire day; and this, no doubt, exactly corresponded to the time in which Jonah was in the belly of the fish. Our Lord says, As Jonah was, so shall the Son of man be, &c.

Evening and morning, or night and day, is the Hebrew phrase for a natural day, which the Greeks termed nuxqhmeron, nuchthemeron. The very same quantity of time which is here termed three days and three nights, and which, in reality, was only one whole day, a part of two others, and two whole nights, is termed three days and three nights, in the book of Esther: Go; neither eat nor drink THREE DAYS, NIGHT or DAY, and so I will go in unto the king: Esth. iv. 16. Afterwards it follows, Esther v. 1. On the THIRD DAY, Esther stood in the inner court of the king's house. Many examples might be produced, from both the sacred and profane writers, in vindication of the propriety of the expression in the text. For farther satisfaction, the reader, if he please, may consult Whitby and Wakefield, and take the following from Lightfoot.

"I. The Jewish writers extend that memorable station of the unmoving sun, at Joshua's prayer, to six and thirty hours; for so Kimchi upon that place: 'According to more exact interpretation, the sun and moon stood still for six and thirty hours: for when the fight was on the eve of the Sabbath, Joshua feared lest the Israelites might break the Sabbath; therefore he spread abroad his hands, that the sun might stand still on the sixth day, according to the measure of the day of the Sabbath, and the moon according to the measure of the night of the Sabbath, and of the going out of the Sabbath, which amounts to six and thirty hours.' "II. If you number the hours that pass from our saviour's giving up the ghost upon the cross to his resurrection, you shall find almost the same number of hours; and yet that space is called by him three days and three nights, whereas two nights only came between, and one complete day.

Nevertheless, while he speaks these words, he is not without the consent both of the Jewish schools and their computation. Weigh well that which is disputed in the tract Scabbath, concerning the separation of a woman for three days; where many things are discussed by the Gemarists, concerning the computation of this space of three days. Among other things these words occur: R. Ismael saith, Sometimes it contains four hwnwa onoth, sometimes five, sometimes six. But how much is the space of an hnwa onah? R. Jochanan saith, Either a day or a night. And so also the Jerusalem Talmud: 'R. Akiba fixed a DAY for an onah, and a NIGHT for an onah.' But the tradition is, that R. Eliazar ben Azariah said, A day and a night make an onah: and a PART of an onah is as the WHOLE. And a little after, R.

Ismael computed a part of the onah for the whole." Thus, then, three days and three nights, according to this Jewish method of reckoning, included any part of the first day; the whole of the following night; the next day and its night; and any part of the succeeding or third day...

- Adam Clarke's comments on Matt. 12:40
http://www.studylight.org/com/acc/view.cgi?bk=39&ch=12




Other Resources:

John's Passion week chronology by Steve Hays

Inerrancy and the Resurrection by William Lane Craig (this article addresses the issue along with other issues).





Dying You Shall Die




It has often been suggested that God was wrong in telling Adam that in the very day in which he would eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that he would, THAT VERY DAY, physically die. The following quotes demonstrate that that alleged discrepancy is false. Portions have been highlighted in red for emphasis.



2:17 Why Didn't Adam and Eve Die at Once?

Why did not Adam and Eve drop dead the same day that they disobeyed God and ate of the forbidden fruit? Adam lived to be 930 years old according to Genesis 5:5. Was Satan's word in Genesis 3:4-"You will not surely die"-a more accurate assessment of the real state of affairs than what God had said in Genesis 2:17-"When you eat of it you will surely die"? Is Satan more scrupulously honest than God himself?
    This hard saying calls for an examination of at least three different concepts embraced within the quotation from Genesis 2:17-(1) the tree of the knowedge of good and evil; (2) the meaning of the phrase "when [more literally, in the day] you eat of it"; and (3) the meaning of the phrase "you will surely die."
    First the tree. There are no grounds whatsoever for believing that the tree was a magical symbol for that it contained a secret enzyme which would automatically induce a wide  body of knowledge that embraced the whole gamut of good and evil. Instead it is safer to assume that the tree functioned much as the New Testament ordinance or sacrament of the Lord's Supper or Eucharist does. The tree was a symbol embodied in an actual tree, just as the bread and wine of the Eucharist are symbols embodied in real bread and wine. In a similar way the tree of life was also a real tree, yet symbolized the fact that life was a special gift given to individuals from God. That is also why participants are warned not to partake of the elements of the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner, for when the elements are eaten and drunk in a flippant manner and when a person has not truly confessed Christ as Savior, the unworthy partaking of tehse rather ordinary elements (ordinary at least from all outward appearances) will cause illness and, in some cases, death (1 Cor. 11:30).
    In the same way, the tree was a symbol to test the first human couple's actions. Would they obey God or would they assert their own wills in opposition to God's clear command? To argue that the tree had magical power to confer knowledge of good and evil would be to miss the divine point: the tree was a test of the couple's intention to obey God. That men and women can attain the knowledge of good and evil is not in itself either undesireable or blameworthy; knowledge per se was not what was being forbidden here. The tree only represents the possibility that creatures made in God's image could refuse to obey him. The tree served as the concrete expression of that rebellion.
    It is just as naive to insist that the phrase "in the day" means that on that very day death would occur. A little knowledge of the Hebrew idiom will relieve the tension here as well. For example, in 1 Kings 2:37 King Solomon warned a seditious Shimei, "The day you leave [Jerusalem] and cross the Kidron Valley [which is immediately outside the city walls on the east side of the city], you can be sure you will die." Neither the 1 Kings nor the Genesis text implies immediacy of action on that very same day; instead they point to the certainty of the predicted consequence that would be set in motion by the act initiated on that day. Alternate wordings include at the time when, at that time, now when and the day [when] (see Gen. 5:1; Ex. 6:28; 10:28; 32:34).
    The final concern is over the definition of death. Scripture refers to three different types of death. Often only the context helps distinguish which is intended. There are physical death, spiritual death (the kind that forces guilty persons to hide from the presence of God, as this couple did when it was time for fellowship in the Garden, Gen. 3:8) and the "second death" (to which Rev. 20:14) refers, when a person is finally, totally and eternally separated from God without hope of reversal, after a lifetime of rejecting God).
    In this case, spiritual death was the immediate outcome of disobedience demonstrated by a deliberate snatching of real fruit from a real tree in a real garden. Death ensued immediately: They became "dead in...transgressions and s ins" (Eph. 2:1). But such separation and isolation from God eventually resulted in physical death as well. This, however, was more a byproduct than a direct result of their sin. Spiritual death was the real killer!
- Hard Sayings of the Bible by Walter Kaiser pages 91-92





We must also see what is the cause of death, namely alienation from God. Thence it follows, that under the name of death is comprehended all those miseries in which Adam involved himself by his defection; for as soon as he revolted from God, the fountain of life, he was cast down from his former state, in order that he might perceive the life of man without God to be wretched and lost, and therefore differing nothing from death. Hence the condition of man after his sin is not improperly called both the privation of life, and death. The miseries and evils both of soul and body, with which man is beset so long as he is on earth, are a kind of entrance into death, till death itself entirely absorbs him; for the Scripture everywhere calls those dead who, being oppressed by the tyranny of sin and Satan, breath nothing but their own destruction. Wherefore the question is superfluous, how it was that God threatened death to Adam on the day in which he should touch the fruit, when he long deferred the punishment? For then was Adam consigned to death, and death began its reign in him, until supervening grace should bring a remedy.
- selection from Calvin's commentary on Genesis (2:17)
http://www.studylight.org/com/cal/print.cgi?bk=0&ch=2&vs=19






Thou shalt surely die.] twmt twm moth tamuth; Literally, a death thou shalt die; or, dying thou shalt die. Thou shalt not only die spiritually, by losing the life of God, but from that moment thou shalt become mortal, and shalt continue in a dying state till thou die. This we find literally accomplished; every moment of man's life may be considered as an act of dying, till soul and body are separated. Other meanings have been given of this passage, but they are in general either fanciful or incorrect.
-Adam Clarke's commentary on Gen. 2:17
http://www.studylight.org/com/acc/view.cgi?bk=0&ch=2




"for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die"; or "in dying, die" {z}; which denotes the certainty of it, as our version expresses it; and may have regard to more deaths than one; not only a corporeal one, which in some sense immediately took place, man became at once a mortal creature, who otherwise continuing in a state of innocence, and by eating of the tree of life, he was allowed to do, would have lived an immortal life
-selection from John Gill's Commentary on Gen. 2:17
http://www.studylight.org/com/geb/view.cgi?bk=0&ch=2




Perhaps Lee is alluding to the timeframe: “on the day.” But that’s a Hebrew idiom for "when." And, in fact, Adam and Eve did die. They lost the hope of immortality.
- Steve Hays from the blog  Randolph is mentally incompetent-http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/08/evan-is-mentally-incompetent.html





Gen. 2:17 (also Gen. 2:4, and 1 Kings 2:37) has a preposition before the word "day" (bay yom) which qualifies it so that it means "when".


Excerpt from The Bondage of the Will (near the ending)


Excerpt from The Bondage of the Will
(or On the Enslaved Will)
by Martin Luther



From the last few paragraphs of the book..


     I frankly confess that, for myself, even if it could be, I should not want 'free-will' to be given me, nor anything to be left in my own hands to enable me to endeavour after salvation; not merely because in face of so many dangers, and adversities, and assaults of devils, I could not stand my ground and hold fast my 'free-will' (for one devil is stronger than all men, and on these terms no man could be saved); but because, even were there no dangers, adversities, or devils, I should still be forced to labour with no guarantee of success, and to beat my fists at the air. If I lived and worked to all eternity, my conscience would never reach comfortable certainty as to how much it must do to satisfy God. Whatever work I had done, there would still be a nagging doubt [scrupulus] as to whether it pleased God, or whether He required something more. The experience of all who seek righteousness by works proves that; and I learned it well enough myself over a period of many years, to my own great hurt. But now that God has taken my salvation out of the control of my own will, and put it under the control of His, and promised to save me, not according to my working or running, but according to His own grace and mercy, I have the comfortable certainty that He is faithful and will not lie to me, and that He is also great and powerful, so that no devils or opposition can break Him or pluck me from Him. 'No one,' He says, 'shall pluck them out of my hand, because my Father which gave them me is greater than all' (John 10:28-29). Thus it is that, if not all, yet some, indeed many, are saved; whereas, by the power of 'free-will' none at all could be saved, but every one of us would perish.

     Furthermore, I have the comfortable certainty that I please God, not by reason of the merit of my works, but by reason of His merciful favour promised to me; so that, if I work too little, or badly, He does not impute it to me, but with fatherly compassion pardons me and makes me better. This is the glorying of all the saints in their God.

     You may be worried that it is hard to defend the mercy and equity of God in damning the undeserving, that is, ungodly persons, who, being born in ungodliness, can by no means avoid being ungodly, and staying so, and being damned, but are compelled by natural necessity to sin and perish; as Paul says: 'We were all the children of wrath, even as others' (Eph. 2:3), created such by God Himself from a seed that had been corrupted by the sin of the one man, Adam. But here God must be reverenced and held in awe, as being most merciful to those whom He justifies and saves in their own utter unworthiness; and we must show some measure of deference to His Divine wisdom by believing Him just when to us He seems unjust. If His justice were such as could be adjudged just by human reckoning, it clearly would not be Divine; it would in no way differ from human justice. But inasmuch as He is the one true God, wholly incomprehensible, and inaccessible to man's understanding, it is reasonable, indeed inevitable, that His justice also should be incomprehensible; as Paul cries, saying: 'O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgements, and His ways past finding out!' (Rom. 11:33). They would not, however, be 'unsearchable' if we could at every point grasp the grounds on which they are just. What is man compared with God? How much can our power achieve compared with His power? What is our strength compared with His strength? What is our knowledge compared with His wisdom? What is our substance compared with His substance? In a word, what is all that we are compared with all that He is? If, now even nature teaches us to acknowledge that human power, strength, wisdom, knowledge and substance, and all that is ours, is as nothing compared with the Divine power, strength, wisdom, knowledge and substance, what perversity is it on our part to worry at the justice and the judgment of the only God, and to arrogate so much to our own judgment as to presume to comprehend, judge and evaluate God's judgment! Why do we not in like manner say at this point: 'Our judgment is nothing compared with God's judgment'? Ask reason whether force of conviction does not compel her to acknowledge herself foolish and rash for not allowing God's judgment to be incomprehensible, when she confesses that all the other things of God are incomprehensible! In everything else, we allow God His Divine Majesty; in the single case of His judgment, we are ready to deny it! To think that we cannot for a little while believe that He is just, when He has actually promised us that when He reveals His glory we shall all clearly see that He both was and is just!

     I will give a parallel case, in order to strengthen our faith in God's justice, and to reassure that 'evil eye' which holds Him under suspicion of injustice. Behold! God governs the external affairs of the world in such a way that, if you regard and follow the judgment of human reason, you are forced to say, either that there is no God, or that God is unjust; as the poet said: 'I am often tempted to think there are no gods.' See the great prosperity of the wicked, and by contrast the great adversity of the good. Proverbs, and experience, the parent of proverbs, bear record that the more abandoned men are, the more successful they are. 'The tabernacle of robbers prosper,' says Job (12:6), and Ps. 72 complains that sinners in the world are full of riches (Ps. 73:12). Is it not, pray, universally held to be most unjust that bad men should prosper, and good men be afflicted? Yet that is the way of the world. Hereupon some of the greatest minds have fallen into denying the existence of God, and imagining that Chance governs all things at random. Such were the Epicureans, and Pliny. And Aristotle, wishing to set his 'prime Being' free from misery, holds that he sees nothing but himself; for Aristotle supposes that it would be very irksome to such a Being to behold so many evils and injustices! And the Prophets, who believed in God's existence, were still more tempted concerning the injustice of God. Jeremiah, Job, David, Asaph and others are cases in point. What do you suppose Demosthenes and Cicero thought, when, having done all they could, they received as their reward an unhappy death? Yet all this, which looks so much like injustice in God, and is traduced as such by arguments which no reason or light of nature can resist, is most easily cleared up by the light of the gospel and the knowledge of grace, which teaches us that though the wicked flourish in their bodies, yet they perish in their souls. And a summary explanation of this whole inexplicable problem is found in a single little word: There is a life after this life; and all that is not punished and repaid here will be punished and repaid there; for this life is nothing more than a precursor, or, rather, a beginning, of the life that is to come.

     If, now this problem, which was debated in every age but never solved, is swept away and settled so easily by the light of the gospel, which shines only in the Word and to faith, how do you think it will be when the light of the Word and faith shall cease, and the real facts, and the Majesty of God, shall be revealed as they are? Do you not think that the light of glory will be able with the greatest ease to solve problems that are insoluble in the light of the word and grace, now that the light of grace has so easily solved this problem, which that was insoluble by the light of nature?

     Keep in view three lights: the light of nature, the light of grace, and the light of glory (this is a common and a good distinction). By the light of nature, it is inexplicable that it should be just for the good to be afflicted and the bad to prosper; but the light of grace explains it. By the light of grace, it is inexplicable how God can damn him who by his own strength can do nothing but sin and become guilty. Both the light of nature and the light of grace here insist that the fault lies not in the wretchedness of man, but in the injustice of God; nor can they judge otherwise of a God who crowns the ungodly freely, without merit, and does not crown, but damns another, who is perhaps less, and certainly not more, ungodly. But the light of glory insists otherwise, and will one day reveal God, to whom alone belongs a judgment whose justice is incomprehensible, as a God Whose justice is most righteous and evident - provided only that in the meanwhile we believe it, as we are instructed and encouraged to do by the example of the light of grace explaining what was a puzzle of the same order to the light of nature.

     I shall here end this book, ready though I am to pursue the matter further, if need be; but I think that abundant satisfaction has here been afforded for the godly man who is willing to yield to truth without stubborn resistance. For if we believe it to be true that God foreknows and foreordains all things; that He cannot be deceived or obstructed in His foreknowledge and predestination; and that nothing happens but at His will (which reason itself is compelled to grant); then, on reason's own testimony, there can be no 'free-will' in man, or angel, or in any creature.

     So, if we believe that Satan is the prince of this world, ever ensnaring and opposing the kingdom of Christ with all his strength, and that he does not let his prisoners go unless he is driven out by the power of the Divine Spirit, it is again apparent that there can be no 'free-will'.

     So, if we believe that original sin has ruined us to such an extent that even in the godly, who are led by the Spirit, it causes abundance of trouble by striving against good, it is clear that in a man who lacks the Spirit nothing is left that can turn itself to good, but only evil.

     Again, if the Jews, who followed after righteousness with all their powers, fell into unrighteousness instead, while the Gentiles, who followed after unrighteousness, attained to an un-hoped-for righteousness, by God's free gift, it is equally apparent from their very works and experience that man without grace can will nothing but evil.

     And, finally, if we believe that Christ redeemed men by His blood, we are forced to confess that all of man was lost; otherwise, we make Christ either wholly superfluous, or else the redeemer of the least valuable part of man only; which is blasphemy, and sacrilege.


CONCLUSION


     Now, my good Erasmus, I entreat you for Christ's sake to keep your promise at last. You promised that you would yield to him who taught better than yourself. Lay aside respect of persons! I acknowledge that you are a great man, adorned with many of God's noblest gifts, - wit, learning and an almost miraculous eloquence, to say nothing of the rest; whereas I have and am nothing, save that I would glory in being a Christian. Moreover, I give you hearty praise and commendation on this further account - that you alone, in contrast with all others, have attacked the real thing, that is, the essential issue. You have not wearied me with those extraneous [alienis] issues about the Papacy, purgatory, indulgences and such like - trifles, rather than issues - in respect of which almost all to date have sought my blood (though without success); you, and you alone, have seen the hinge on which all turns, and aimed for the vital spot [ipsum iugulum petisti]. For that I heartily thank you; for it is more gratifying to me to deal with this issue, insofar as time and leisure permit me to do so. If those who have attacked me in the past had done as you have done, and if those who now boast of new spirits and revelations would do the same also, we should have less sedition and sects and more peace and concord. But thus it is that God, through Satan, has punished our unthankfulness.

     However, if you cannot treat of this issue in a different way from your treatment of it in this Diatribe, it is my earnest wish that you would remain content with your own gift, and confine yourself to pursuing, adorning and promoting the study of literature and languages; as hitherto you have done, to great advantage and with much credit. By your studies you have rendered me also some service, and I confess myself much indebted to you; certainly, in that regard, I unfeignedly honour and sincerely respect you. But God has not yet willed nor granted that you should be equal to the subject of our present debate. Please do not think that any arrogance lies behind my words when I say that I pray that the Lord will speedily make you as much my superior in this as you already are in all other respects. It is no new thing for God to instruct a Moses by a Jethro, or to teach a Paul by an Ananias. You say that 'you have wandered far from the mark, if you are ignorant of Christ.' I think that you yourself see how the matter stands. But not all will go astray if you or I go astray. God is One Who is proclaimed as wonderful among His saints, so that we may regard as saints persons that are very far from sanctity. Nor is it hard to believe that you, as being a man, should fail to understand aright, and to note with sufficient care, the Scriptures, or the sayings of the fathers, under whose guidance you think that you are holding to the mark. That you have thus failed is clear enough from your saying that you assert nothing, but have 'made comparisons'. He who sees to the heart of the matter and properly understands it does not write like that. Now I, in this book of mine, HAVE NOT 'MADE COMPARISONS', BUT HAVE ASSERTED, AND DO ASSERT; and I do not want judgment to rest with anyone, but I urge all men to submit! May the Lord, whose cause this is, enlighten you and make you a vessel to honour and glory. Amen.

Excerpt taken from the popular modern translation done by J.I. Packer and O.R. Johnston.

An older (public domain?) translation can be accessed HERE.The above quotation begins in section 164 (around here).

"Three Lights" Analogy by Luther

The following is an excerpt of the ending of Luther's Bondage of the Will. A longer excerpt of the ending can be found HERE. Luther addresses how people can reconcile the apparent injustice of election and reprobation.


I will give a parallel case, in order to strengthen our faith in God's justice, and to reassure that 'evil eye' which holds Him under suspicion of injustice. Behold! God governs the external affairs of the world in such a way that, if you regard and follow the judgment of human reason, you are forced to say, either that there is no God, or that God is unjust; as the poet said: 'I am often tempted to think there are no gods.' See the great prosperity of the wicked, and by contrast the great adversity of the good. Proverbs, and experience, the parent of proverbs, bear record that the more abandoned men are, the more successful they are. 'The tabernacle of robbers prosper,' says Job (12:6), and Ps. 72 complains that sinners in the world are full of riches (Ps. 73:12). Is it not, pray, universally held to be most unjust that bad men should prosper, and good men be afflicted? Yet that is the way of the world. Hereupon some of the greatest minds have fallen into denying the existence of God, and imagining that Chance governs all things at random. Such were the Epicureans, and Pliny. And Aristotle, wishing to set his 'prime Being' free from misery, holds that he sees nothing but himself; for Aristotle supposes that it would be very irksome to such a Being to behold so many evils and injustices! And the Prophets, who believed in God's existence, were still more tempted concerning the injustice of God. Jeremiah, Job, David, Asaph and others are cases in point. What do you suppose Demosthenes and Cicero thought, when, having done all they could, they received as their reward an unhappy death? Yet all this, which looks so much like injustice in God, and is traduced as such by arguments which no reason or light of nature can resist, is most easily cleared up by the light of the gospel and the knowledge of grace, which teaches us that though the wicked flourish in their bodies, yet they perish in their souls. And a summary explanation of this whole inexplicable problem is found in a single little word: There is a life after this life; and all that is not punished and repaid here will be punished and repaid there; for this life is nothing more than a precursor, or, rather, a beginning, of the life that is to come.

     If, now this problem, which was debated in every age but never solved, is swept away and settled so easily by the light of the gospel, which shines only in the Word and to faith, how do you think it will be when the light of the Word and faith shall cease, and the real facts, and the Majesty of God, shall be revealed as they are? Do you not think that the light of glory will be able with the greatest ease to solve problems that are insoluble in the light of the word and grace, now that the light of grace has so easily solved this problem, which that was insoluble by the light of nature?

     Keep in view three lights: the light of nature, the light of grace, and the light of glory (this is a common and a good distinction). By the light of nature, it is inexplicable that it should be just for the good to be afflicted and the bad to prosper; but the light of grace explains it. By the light of grace, it is inexplicable how God can damn him who by his own strength can do nothing but sin and become guilty. Both the light of nature and the light of grace here insist that the fault lies not in the wretchedness of man, but in the injustice of God; nor can they judge otherwise of a God who crowns the ungodly freely, without merit, and does not crown, but damns another, who is perhaps less, and certainly not more, ungodly. But the light of glory insists otherwise, and will one day reveal God, to whom alone belongs a judgment whose justice is incomprehensible, as a God Whose justice is most righteous and evident - provided only that in the meanwhile we believe it, as we are instructed and encouraged to do by the example of the light of grace explaining what was a puzzle of the same order to the light of nature. - The Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther (as translated by J.I. Packer and O.R. Johnston)




The following is another version of the same passage as translated by Henry Cole in a free online version of the entire book HERE.

Sect. 166.—BUT I will produce an example that may go to confirm this faith, and to console that "evil eye" which suspects God of injustice.—Behold! God so governs this corporal world in external things, that, according to human reason and judgment, you must be compelled to say, either that there is no God, or that God is unjust: as a certain one saith, 'I am often tempted to think there is no God.' For see the great prosperity of the wicked, and on the contrary the great adversity of the good; according to the testimony of the proverbs, and of experience the parent of all proverbs. The more abandoned men are, the more successful! "The tabernacles of robbers (saith Job) prosper." And Psalm lxxiii, complains, that the sinners of the world abound in riches. Is it not, I pray you, in the judgment of all, most unjust, that the evil should be prosperous, and the good afflicted? Yet so it is in the events of the world. And here it is, that the most exalted minds have so fallen, as to deny that there is any God at all; and to fable, that fortune disposes of all things at random: such were Epicurus and Pliny. And Aristotle, in order that he might make his 'First-cause Being' free from every kind of misery, is of opinion, that he thinks of nothing whatever but himself; because he considers, that it must be most irksome to him, to see so many evils and so many injuries.

But the Prophets themselves, who believed there is a God, were tempted still more concerning the injustice of God, as Jeremiah, Job, David, Asaph, and others. And what do you suppose Demosthenes and Cicero thought, who, after they had done all they could, received no other reward than a miserable death? And yet all this, which is so very much like injustice in God, when set forth in those arguments which no reason or light of nature can resist, is most easily cleared up by the light of the Gospel, and the knowledge of grace: by which, we are taught, that the wicked flourish in their bodies, but lose their souls! And the whole of this insolvable question is solved in one word—There is a life after this life: in which will be punished and repaid, every thing that is not punished and repaid here: for this life is nothing more than an entrance on, and a beginning of, the life which is to come!

If then even the light of the Gospel, which stands in the word and in the faith only, is able to effect so much as with ease to do away with, and settle, this question which has been agitated through so many ages and never solved; how do you suppose matters will appear, when the light of the word and of faith shall cease, and the essential Truth itself shall be revealed in the Divine Majesty? Do you not suppose that the light of glory will then most easily solve that question, which is now insolvable by the light of the word and of grace, even as the light of grace now easily solves that question, which is insolvable by the light of nature?

Let us therefore hold in consideration the three lights—the light of nature, the light of grace, and the light of glory; which is the common, and a very good distinction. By the light of nature, it is insolvable how it can be just, that the good man should be afflicted and the wicked should prosper: but this is solved by the light of grace. By the light of grace it is insolvable, how God can damn him, who, by his own powers, can do nothing but sin and become guilty. Both the light of nature and the light of grace here say, that the fault is not in the miserable man, but in the unjust God: nor can they judge otherwise of that God, who crowns the wicked man freely without any merit, and yet crowns not, but damns another, who is perhaps less, or at least not more wicked. But the light of glory speaks otherwise.—That will shew, that God, to whom alone belongeth the judgment of incomprehensible righteousness, is of righteousness most perfect and most manifest; in order that we may, in the meantime, believe it, being admonished and confirmed by that example of the light of grace, which solves that, which is as great a miracle to the light of nature!