. The danger of colapsing two contexts together

THE DANGER  OF COLLAPSING OF TWO CONTEXT’S TOGETHER

Image result for the cup of the lordIn looking at the various ways in which people twist the Scriptures, I shared one-way last week where two contexts are collapsed into one, and then a meaning of the text is arrived that is inaccurate. Does it really matter? I want to show you tonight that it does matter, because in collapsing the contexts together, usually causes the real meaning of the text to be diminished which plays into the hands of Satan.

Now usually the meaning of the text based on collapsed contexts sounds plausible and actually extremely exciting and God glorifying, but does that make it right and does it make the method responsible? One of our members sent me a video this week which is a tremendous illustration of the issue. Now, the contents of this video is nothing new. I have been aware of this teaching for quite a while and it is mostly propagated by leaders in our charismatic movement. The sad thing is this – this teaching is not supported by sources, which we can investigate and quote and arrive at an accurate understanding. While context is important and something that can never be overemphasised, the problem today is what I will call folklore or old wives tails where a context is presented that cannot be verified. This context, then gets widened and widened by every teacher who adds their little bit of spiritualising of context and reading into context, and modifying context at will, till the message is so far removed from the original message.

So, let’s start with the reading of the text and then we will watch a video.

Matthew 26:17-29 (ESV) “17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’ ” 19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover. 20 When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. 21 And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 25 Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.” 26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

The different Gospels differ slightly on the event, but it is not in contradiction towards one another, but simply additional information.

 

Now let’s unpack this video with some comments and then I will try and help you look at it critically.

For those reading the document, the video can be found on the Internet at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOaWb7AIVVc or just go to youtube, type in Mike Donehey and ‘Beloved’ and it will link you.

You can watch it right here:

 

Mike Donehey discusses the reason for their song ‘Beloved’. Now, the song is great, so I will not criticize it for one moment. We are not here to micromanage others, in what they say, think and do. But Biblical teaching should never escape our critical evaluation.

Donehey, says that the inspiration of the song entitled ‘Beloved’ is because Jesus calls us His bride. Do, we have a problem with that? Surely not!! And yes, he is correct, that is the teaching of Scripture, beyond a shadow of doubt.

Then he says that “one of the most unsuspecting places we find this (teaching about the bride) is at the Last Supper.” Now, let’s put on our breaks here for a moment. The very statement ‘unsuspecting places’ implies that you would not expect to find it there, which quite probably means because it isn’t. He knows and most Christians know that this is not how that text is generally viewed, so what is to follow now, is something new. This should immediately get us worried.

Donehey, then states that they are celebrating the Passover Feast. There are many discussions around that as well, but for now the conclusion remains that I have no problem with that.

He then mentions that Christ picks up the 3rd cup which is the cup of salvation as it were. He says traditionally that cup must be set aside, but Jesus offers it to His disciples which is outrageous for several reasons 1) because Jesus is declaring that He is the Messiah and is with them and 2) that when this bunch of fishermen hear him saying ’this is my covenant’, and holding to the cup with wine, what they clearly hear and understand is that Jesus is saying to them ‘will you marry me?” Big OOPS!!

Then Donehey tells us as a matter of fact, how marriage proposals were done in those days. He says that the guy would go and tell his father that he found a bride, then he will go down to the bride’s father and offer some camels or whatever. According to him, by the offering to the Father, he would simply ‘buy the chance to ask her,’ but that she had say in the matter.

Then Donehey tells us that the groom will then fill a cup with wine and say to the bride: “this is my covenant with you, take and drink it.”  At this point she had the right to either accept it or reject it. Now if she drank it that was her way of saying: ‘I do”.

Then Donehey says that she would then go back to her town (most writers actually believe that the groom would come to her house), and what is now really cool is that she will no longer be referred to by her own name but she will now be called ‘one who is bought with a price.’ Where they get this, nobody knows. For her sake we hope there were not many more girls in her community who were betrothed as you would have all these girls running around all called ‘one who is bought with a price’.

The groom then goes back to his dad’s house and builds a mansion. The meaning of the word for mansion according to him is ‘apartment’. The groom does not decide when it is finished, but the father decides when it is done. At that time the groom will take his groomsmen and go and fetch her. They would announce his arrival with the ‘shofar’, she would walk down the stairs, taking for granted her house had stairs, and basically down the aisle to be married.

Now we get to the critical part as He introduces parallels.

So, Jesus asks the disciples to marry him, upon which they say I do, then Jesus says you are not going to see me for a while, and then He says, that they must not sweat as His Best man the Spirit will come and He will relay messages between them and Christ. In the meantime, you will go home and you will not know the date or the hour or the time, and you are going ‘to be referred to as one who is bought with a price.’ In the meantime, I am going to my Father’s house where there are many mansions, and I am going to prepare one for you. None of us know when that time is, but when my Father says it is ready, I will get my groomsmen, the Holy Angels and they will blow the ‘shofar’ and I will bring you home for the marriage supper of the lamb.

And what is unbelievable metaphorically, is that Jesus is proposing to all of us. And He is not just proposing to a lovely lady, but to an adulterous, unfaithful wife. He calls US that in Isaiah, Hosea, Ezekiel and all over Scripture. The issue is not whether we are going to be the perfect bride. The issue is ‘will I take it?’ (The cup). Will you drink it, because the invitation is open? Implying that salvation is up to man’s sovereign choice.

Let’s Evaluate.

Firstly, this teaching regarding how the groom approaches the father and the bride, and all the stuff they say, is foreign to Scripture. What we know about context from the Word of God, we will find in stories like Isaac who receives Rebekah, and then of course Jacob with Leah and a few other examples in Scripture. And then of course we have the story of the 5 wise and the 5 foolish maiden. There are many references regarding the church being the bride of Christ. We have no issue with that. Paul does not help us any in 1 Corinthians 7 or Ephesians 5 as far as the context is concerned, neither does the wedding feast in Revelation help us.

Secondly, it is permissible to understand Scripture from our studies of the context even from extra Biblical sources. Extra Biblical sources however can only explain Scripture better, but we can never preach those sources and draw metaphors and allegories and spiritualize them as if they are Scripture.  Those sources are not inspired, and it would be dangerous to think that Christ will enact His life purely on the basis of disputable sources, or to make sure that what he does is based on Hebrew context, but with the purpose of deriving spiritual messages from all. When He does that as with the ‘I am’ statements, Scripture is our guide to interpretation. I have read many articles and referred to books where the context of Marriage in all its phases are discussed, and there is no common agreement amongst them. What is however disputable, is the finer detail namely sayings etc. There is simply no agreement.

But, let’s say, that it is all correct. The bigger question is whether this is what is implied in the last Supper. This whole theology is built on the one event, namely the 3rd cup. What we see clearly is that Donehey, who by the way did not suck this stuff from his thumb clearly implies that the context of the Passover and the New Covenant is marriage. By implication, when Christ held up the cup, they all understood ‘will you be my bride?’ This is a long shot in the dark.

One rule in Biblical interpretation is that even when there are Metaphors that you cannot simply allegorize the metaphors. That means that you cannot simply draw direct lines. In actual fact I believe that the originators of this idea took truths about marriage, and then took the Word of Christ and read it back into culture, instead of out of culture. One author for example says that the Bride to Be, always askes the groom before he leaves, when he will return, upon which the groom will answer: ‘of that day I do not know, only my father knows.’ Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

So, we need to ask questions whether the metaphors of marriage do really imply more than Scripture actually reveals, and if that were true, what are the sources to prove this from? Of all the material I can trace on the third cup issue, I only found one who referred to his main source and that is a work done by Dr. Renald Showers, Chairman of the Pastoral Studies Dept. Philadelphia College of Bible. His work is distributed by ‘Friends of Israel’. In his biography he refers to a book entitled: “The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, ed.Isaac Landman (New York: Universal Jewish Encyclopaedia Co., Inc.,1948), 7, 372.” However, the Encyclopaedia does not say that he passes a cup of wine to her, which she can accept or reject, it actually says: “As a symbol of the covenant relationship that had been established, the groom and bride would drink from a cup of wine over which a betrothal benediction had been pronounced” So, this is an after effect of the marriage negotiations, which included the agreement for the Bridal Price etc. Now, again the Encyclopaedia does not tell us what its source is, so we need to take their word for it. One author refers to another author Richard Booker who wrote a book ‘Here comes the bride’. But even there I find no evidence for the meaning of the third cup implying that the disciples would immediately see a marriage proposal in this.

The real issue.

The real issue however is not as much the ‘wedding deal’. I definitely do not believe we have any evidence that the disciples would have understood it as such. The real deal is the Passover. Christ is dealing here with His Body broken for us and His blood shed for us which now makes undone the annual sacrifice of the Passover Lamb, as He becomes the Lamb. Surely, in introducing this to a people whose ancestors have annually sacrificed and annually have enjoyed the Passover meal as a reminder of what God did for them in Egypt, is not wanting them to think: “will you be my bride?”

This teaching by the way, of the cup implying that kind of message, was firstly brought to my intention by atheists. This appears all over their websites to claim that Christ and the Disciples were a bunch of homosexuals. So, they without questioning the metaphors, with ill intent take the metaphors even further. They mock with this. Go and visit their websites and they will tell you that Christianity is the only religion in the world where you are permitted to eat your lover. They have even through photo shopping redesigned the famous last supper painting to depict that.

When I originally researched this stuff, I thought to myself just how weak my arguments are with the atheists if I were to take the context of marriage and collapse it together with the Passover. But the Passover message in its own context shouts God’s message to the World of Christ being the only Saviour of the World, that He is our Passover Lamb and that we are now in a New Covenant relationship. Sure we are His bride, but let’s teach that from the sections that deal with that. Let’s not read it into a context where it is not implied. And then again, let’s not draw metaphors and allegories based on questionable data.

If we go as far as the bridal idea. What do you do with the statement of Christ regarding His body broken for us? Well some of these authors get around it by claiming it to be the Bride Price, labola, whatever you want to call it.

No, the Passover in the Old Testament had nothing to do with Jewish Marriage customs, and it has nothing to do with it in the New Testament either.

By the way, the third cup was called the ‘cup of blessing’. Some refer to it as the ‘cup of redemption’ or ‘salvation’. It was also not the cup that would be pushed away according to Donehey. That was the second cup with the bitters that would be poured out. Paul in 1 Corinthians 10 in verse 16 calls the 3rd cup a ‘Cup of Blessing’ and in verse 21 he calls it the ‘cup of the Lord’.

Tim Hegg in a book called “Torah Resource’ gives a good rendering on the meaning of the four cups. He deals quite a bit with the book of Henry Morris, another reputable researcher. I need to say that no reputable author and commentator that I have consulted, not even one, sees any connection between the 3rd cup and ‘marriage’, and that is how it should be. On the contrary they all do a splendid job on the whole deal of the Old and New Covenant. Some of them have commentaries that cover the Bride of Christ and there again they do a great job.

But, none of them collapse two contexts together, and then end up allegorising one of the contexts, that is not clearly implied but is seen in the words of Mike Donehey: “one of the most unsuspecting places we find this is at the Last Supper.”

The reason Mike that it is unsuspecting, is because it is not there.

Sure, Mike did not put it there, he simply was gullible to accept it as there, because others say so and because it sounds good, and it makes for a great sermonette. The problem is that 223 744 people who have viewed his clip, are now in turn spreading disinformation, that waters down the real meaning of the New Covenant. I know of at least one pastor in town who has quite an impact on young adults as he constantly reveals these teachings that nobody ever knew about. This makes him a good teacher and popular as the young adults hang on his lips, because of his vast knowledge.

In Closing.

I don’t want to continue and start nit picking but one of the weaknesses in Donehey’s theology is him confusing Israel as bride with us as bride. We are not called an adulterous and unfaithful wife as he implies from the Old Testament. On the contrary we are Holy and beloved. The last thing I contend with is the implication that the Holy Spirit is the Best Man of Christ. By the way, John the Baptist saw himself as Best Man, simply as he announced the coming of the Bridegroom, and so today, Jesus has many best men in us. But hear me, Best Men are never equal to the Bridegroom, and the Holy Spirit as part of the Godhead is no less God, than Christ. This shows the danger of allegorizing metaphors based on Jewish customs instead of staying with the Word of God. An understanding of Jewish Customs will enrich our understanding of the text, but it never becomes the text.

Let me just end with a few comments:

  1. In the Word of God, we are dealing with God’s thoughts: therefore, we are obligated to take the greatest pains to understand them truly and to explain them clearly in context. We may not impose our own generated context onto Scripture.
  1. One of the most enduring of errors, the root fallacy presupposes that every word actually has a meaning bound up with its shape or its components. Somebody once said, that every point and comma is inspired and has meaning. In this view, meaning is determined by etymology; that is, by the root or roots of a word. That is not always true.
  1. Even so, my point is that we cannot responsibly assume that etymology is related to meaning. We can only test the point by discovering the meaning of a word inductively.
  1. The fallacy involved in this case is the false assumption that one New Testament writer’s predominant usage of any word is roughly that of all other New Testament writers; very often that is not the case.

With this is mind. Let’s study God’s Word, responsibly, inductively and let us not get excited with every sermonette that sounds good and Godly.