Original Sin (Part 1/3): Introduction

A. Original Sin Defined
Society is in a mess. Evil abounds. It’s manifestation ranges from cases of small time swindlers cheating gullible investors in Ponzi schemes to big corporations exploiting helpless workers. Evil is magnified when terrorists massacre defenseless villagers and the authorities abuse the law to punish innocent citizens. The list goes on.

The Christian doctrine of Original Sin explains that evil entered human society during the Fall when Adam and Eve sinned and disobeyed God’s command at the Garden of Eden. The result is that every descendant of Adam has become morally corrupt and stands guilty before God. We are powerless to rehabilitate ourselves. Only God can rescue us from this moral quagmire.

The scope of the doctrine of Original Sin includes : 1) the guilt of the first sin in Adam, (2) the corruption of human nature resulting from the first sin, and (3) actual transgressions or sinful actions which result from corruption of human nature. Continue reading “Original Sin (Part 1/3): Introduction”

How to Misread the Bible in the Name of Paleo-Hebrew 3 (Full Article)

Gezer Calendar (925 BC)

Written by Dr. Leong Tien Fock*

Link to the executive summary – How to Misread the Bible in the Name of Paleo-Hebrew 2
Link to Introduction which sets the context – How to Misread the Bible in the Name of Paleo-Hebrew 1

In 1994 Frank T. Seekins published a book entitled Hebrew Word Pictures: How Does the Hebrew Alphabet Reveal Prophetic Truths? It unleashed a phenomenon involving a method of reading the Hebrew Bible based on an assumption about the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Since the term “Paleo-Hebrew” is associated with it, we will call it the Paleo-Hebrew phenomenon, and it involves the Paleo-Hebrew method, which is based on the Paleo-Hebrew assumption. If the claims of the proponents of this phenomenon are correct, it changes significantly how we understand not only the Old Testament but also the New Testament.

According to Seekins, “When Hebrew was first written, each letter represented both a sound and a picture.” Let us consider the first two letters of the Hebrew alphabet (in the Aramaic “square” script): א‬ (Aleph) and ב‬ (Bet),which eventually became “a” and “b” respectively in the Roman alphabet. There is no dispute that א‬ and ב‬ each represents a sound just as “a” and “b” each represents a sound. But neither א‬ nor ב (nor any of the other letters of the Hebrew alphabet) seems to represent a picture. Seekins’ claim is that “When Hebrew was first written” the letters did represent pictures as well. Hebrew scholars generally agree that the Hebrew Bible (until the time of the Babylonian exile) was originally written using a script called Paleo-Hebrew, which is similar to the Phoenician script. The first two Paleo-Hebrew letters looked like this:  . This script was changed to the Aramaic script that we have today during the Babylonian exile. But both these (as well as the other) letters in this script still do not seem to represent pictures:

Actually the claim that the Hebrew letters originally represented pictures in addition to sounds is based not on the Paleo-Hebrew script but a precursor of this script, known as the Proto-Sinaitic script: Continue reading “How to Misread the Bible in the Name of Paleo-Hebrew 3 (Full Article)”

How to Misread the Bible in the Name of Paleo-Hebrew 2 (Executive Summary)

Gezer Calendar (925 BC)

Written by Dr. Leong Tien Fock*

[This summary of major points contains spoilers]
Link to the Full Article: How to Misread the Bible in the Name of Paleo-Hebrew 3

Link to Introduction which sets the context: How to Misread the Bible in the Name of Paleo-Hebrew 1

The Paleo-Hebrew phenomenon involves a method of reading Hebrew words based on the assumption that, unlike the letters of other alphabets, the letters of the Hebrew alphabet represent not only sound but also meaning. Hebrew words then have “deeper meanings” missed by even Hebrew scholars who do not use this method in reading the Hebrew Bible.

For instance, consider the word (Aleph-Bet, ’āb), which means “father” when read based on the sound of the word indicated by the letters (the ordinary way of reading it). But according to the Paleo-Hebrew method, this word has a deeper meaning when read based on the meaning each letter supposedly represents: Aleph (= “strength/leader”) + Bet (= “house”). In other words the “father” (ordinary meaning) is the “strength or leader of the house” (deeper meaning).

If the Paleo-Hebrew assumption is true, Biblical Hebrew is unlike any other language of the world, whether ancient or modern. This is in fact a claim made by a prominent practitioner of the Paleo-Hebrew method who has written a Study Bible based on this method. And if the method is valid, it will change significantly how we understand not only the Old Testament but also the New Testament.

A graphic demonstration of how the letters of an alphabet actually work to form written words to represent the respective spoken words shows starkly that if the assumption is true, Biblical Hebrew has somehow managed to overcome what is linguistically impossible with an alphabetic writing system—that the letters can somehow represent not only sound but also meaning.

So does the Paleo-Hebrew method actually work when tested against the available evidence? It seems to work in the selected Hebrew words presented by practitioners, which have impressed an increasing number of Bible believers. But we get a different impression when two different Hebrew words which share the same letters written in the same order are taken into consideration. Continue reading “How to Misread the Bible in the Name of Paleo-Hebrew 2 (Executive Summary)”

How to Misread the Bible in the Name of Paleo-Hebrew 1 (Introduction)

Dr. Leong Tien Fock* has written a scholarly and conclusive refutation of the Paleo-Hebrew movement.

Setting the Context
A well-known pastor of one of the biggest churches in South East Asia preaches that Jesus is hidden in a Hebrew code word which is found throughout the Old Testament. He refers to Revelation 1:8 where Jesus describes himself as the Alpha and Omega, which are respectively the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. He asserts, “But Jesus did not speak Greek. He spoke Aramaic or Hebrew. So He would have said, “I am the Aleph and the Tav.” Aleph and tav are the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet.”

The pastor is promoting the ideas of a new movement which has gain popularity among preachers who claim they have special insights into the Bible, based on their idiosyncratic reading of ancient Hebrew script called Paleo-Hebrew. They rely on a method of reading Hebrew words based on the assumption that, unlike the letters of other alphabets, the letters of the Hebrew alphabet represent not only sound but also meaning. Hebrew words then have “deeper meanings” missed by even Hebrew scholars who do not use this method in reading the Hebrew Bible. Continue reading “How to Misread the Bible in the Name of Paleo-Hebrew 1 (Introduction)”

Doctrine of the Trinity: A Primer

The doctrine of trinity teaches that the one true God of the Old Testament has in the New Testament further revealed himself in three ways of being (Persons) in his work of redemption: as the Father who is the source of all things, as the divine Word who came in flesh to reveal the Father and redeem the fallen race, and as the Holy Spirit who gives new life to the church and unites all things in heaven and earth under God’s rule.

The premises of the doctrine of the Trinity are: (1) The unity of God taught in both the Old Testament and the New Testament and, (2) The full deity of the Son and the Holy Spirit revealed in God’s final revelation, the New Testament.

A proper biblical view of the Trinity balances the concepts of unity and distinctiveness. Two errors should be avoided: (1) Tritheism which emphasizes distinctiveness of the Godhead to the point that the Trinity is seen as three separate Gods, or a Christian polytheism, (2) Unitarianism which disregards distinctiveness within the Godhead as it gives special focus to God the Father so that Christ and the Holy Spirit are relegated to less than divine categories. Both errors compromise the effectiveness and contribution of the activity of God in redemptive history. Continue reading “Doctrine of the Trinity: A Primer”

Why Confessional Faith Must be Vigorously Defended Against Liberal Theology

Sometimes people wonder why I choose to highlight the danger of liberal theology when Christians are expected to be polite and tolerant nowadays. The concerns of these people is that polemical debates are counter-productive. Good Christians should be nice and polite and avoid any semblance of being quarrelsome. We should engage in “conversation” rather in debates.

We should be courteous in defending our faith. But is it not the case that critical thought entails serious debates, if not polemics? This is especially true when the stakes of the debates are high, as they pertain not to secondary customs and practices, but to the central truths of Christian salvation.

J. Gresham Machen, the author of the classic book, Christianity and Liberalism (1923) understood the stakes of the debate better than any of his contemporaries. I strongly recommend every church leader read his clarion call to church leaders to be faithful in discharging their duty to hold fast to the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus and guard the good deposit that is entrusted to them (2 Tim. 1:13-14). Continue reading “Why Confessional Faith Must be Vigorously Defended Against Liberal Theology”

Debunking Christianity in 5 minutes? Debunking the Debunkers

Link to Dawah video: Debunking Christianity in 5 Minutes by Abdur-Raheem Green, Zakir Naik and Shabir Ally.

The title suggests that Christians should be cowering in fear when they are confronted with a video which features how three prominent dawah polemists debunk Christianity in 5 minutes. However, their criticism fails as it is based on weak logical argument and misplaced attacks on caricatures of Christianity. The confidence of these ‘debunkers’ may mask their ignorance of the rudiments of the Christian understanding of the Incarnation. But their reliance on rhetoric and logical fallacies are easily exposed: Continue reading “Debunking Christianity in 5 minutes? Debunking the Debunkers”

Recent Scientific Studies Support Human Uniqueness and Allow Possibility of Original Human Pair

Biologist Ann Gauger, self-described rebel scientist and one of the editors of the hefty 1000 page volume Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique gave a short but powerful presentation at Biola University on how recent scientific studies support human uniqueness. Continue reading “Recent Scientific Studies Support Human Uniqueness and Allow Possibility of Original Human Pair”

Muslims Following Jesus? But Which Jesus?

Recently, some Muslims were seen wearing T-shirts bearing an eye-catching caption, “I am a Muslim and I follow Jesus. Ask me why?” There were engaging street dawah near Jalan Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur. To make good their claim, they handed out Qurans as well as the book, Jesus: Man, Messenger, Messiah written by Abu Zakariya.

The book is published by IERA (Islamic Education and Research Academy, UK), an Islamic dawah group founded by Abdur Raheem Green. This street dawah is part of their missionary initiative which included an exhibition, “Jesus – Son of Mary Exhibition held on 26 Feb 2018 at the  Selangor Golf Club, Petaling Jaya. Continue reading “Muslims Following Jesus? But Which Jesus?”

I Like Autumn: The Golden Years with Calm and Contentment

Nowadays, churches seem to focus most of their energy and resources to cater to the needs of the younger generation. The constant search is for new leaders who display youthful enthusiasm, energy and organizational skills. Meanwhile, the older Christians are expected to fade gracefully into the background. Presumably, they should feel contented now that they are free to graze peacefully at green pastures beside still waters.

The reality is that many of the older Christians feel lost and displaced, especially when they find it hard to adjust to church services where the steady and reverential flow of liturgical worship is displaced by overpowering loud and repetitive music, and where the reflective homily is supplanted by motivational talks – all in the quest for relevance to contemporary culture. Continue reading “I Like Autumn: The Golden Years with Calm and Contentment”