Archive | Dan Wallace – Contra Mundane

Avoid Every Appearance of Evil

When Christian leaders talk about how to live a godly life, they eventually turn to the gray areas of those things that are right for some but wrong for others. You know the list: drinking, smoking, watching R rated movies, playing cards, dancing, using colorful language, listening to Country-Western music (OK that last one is not a gray area; it should be taboo for everyone), etc. That’s the short list. And the way instruction on such matters goes is all too often along these lines: First, our freedoms in Christ are articulated, clearly stated, appreciated. Next come the qualifiers: but don’t exercise your freedom in Christ, if it will make someone uncomfortable, cause someone to judge you, is not entirely loving, etc. The situation would be bad enough, if it just ended there. By the time all the qualifications are stated, the freedoms that we allegedly have are almost all stripped away. Paralysis begins to set in. But the coup de grace comes with a single verse from 1 Thessalonians, frequently utilized as a weapon against all those who enjoy their lives in Christ: But even if what you do is loving, makes no one uncomfortable, doesn’t cause anyone to judge you, remember that you are responsible to avoid every appearance of evil. So, when in doubt, don’t do it!

That’s how the verse reads in the KJV: Avoid every appearance of evil. It’s 1 Thess 5.22 and it puts a damper on everything. Wait a minute. Does it really mean this? Does it really mean that even if something looks like it’s evil to some, we can’t enjoy it? Hardly.

The Greek text really should be translated, abstain from every form of evil. There is a genuine correspondence between form and the state of being evil: that is, stay away from evil things. But the reason that form (or, in the KJV, appearance) was used is because Paul is speaking about false doctrine. This verse, in fact, was more often attributed to Jesus than to Paul in the early church, suggesting that Paul got this line from the Lord and that it was one of the sayings which for some reason didn’t make it into the gospels, but was nevertheless an authentic saying of Jesus. It was used with literal reference to coins. Thus, to abstain from every form of evil was to avoid counterfeit teaching. Further, in the context, it seems clear that Paul is speaking about false teaching. Verses 19-22 read as follows:

Do not quench the Spirit;
Do not despise prophecies;
But examine all things: cling to the good, abstain from every form of evil.

In context, Paul is saying that false teaching should be avoided, but true teaching should be what believers follow. They shouldn’t be duped, shouldn’t become gullible, but must test prophets and see whether they are from the Lord. They need to examine all these teachings and cling to the good and throw out the bad.

If we look at the broader context of the New Testament as a whole, we see that Paul was certainly not speaking about avoiding every appearance of evil in 1 Thessalonians 5. His own mission was governed by the mantra, I have become all things to all people, so that by all means I might save some (1 Cor 9.22).

Further, consider the life of Jesus. The distinct impression one gets from the gospels is that Jesus simply did not have the same scruples about his associations that the religious leaders of the day had. They avoided the appearance of evil at all costs; Jesus seems to have had almost the opposite approach to life and ministry (see, e.g., Luke 7:39). Even his disciples had been oppressed by all the rules and traditions of men. However, Jesus freed them from such nonsense. In Matt. 15, the Pharisees were stunned that Jesus’ disciples did not perform the Jewish hand-washing ritual before they ate. They hammered on the disciples, and on Jesus, for not obeying the oral commandments. Jesus did not say, “Sorry, boys. I didn’t mean to cause offense. It won’t happen again.” Instead, he very boldly pointed out that these religious leaders had exchanged the laws of God for their own self-made rules. He called them hypocrites who had no heart for God. The most remarkable verse in this whole pericope is seen in verse 12: Jesus’ disciples came to their Master and said, “Did you know that the Pharisees were offended by what you just said?” Didn’t they know that offending the Pharisees was part of Jesus’ job description!

To wield 1 Thess 5.22 as a weapon to restrict a believer’s personal freedom is against the general tenor of the New Testament and of the Lord’s life in particular. Ironically, to avoid every appearance of evil is far more in keeping with the Pharisees’ model of righteousness than with Jesus’! I like John Piper’s notion of Christian hedonism for it falls in line with the Westminster Confession’s statement that our prime objective is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Gee, maybe that’s what the Christian faith is all about? What a novel concept!

A Bibliology Grounded in Christology

The center of all theology, of the entirety of the Christian faith, is Christ himself. The Christ-event—in particular his death and resurrection—is the center of time: everything before it leads up to it; everything after it is shaped by it. If Christ were not God in the flesh, he would not have been raised from the dead. And if he were not raised from the dead, none of us would have any hope. My theology grows out from Christ, is based on Christ, and focuses on Christ.

Years ago, I would have naïvely believed that all Christians could give their hearty amens to the previous paragraph. This is no longer the case; perhaps it never was. There are many whose starting point and foundation for Christian theology is bibliology. They begin with the assumption that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. I can understand that. Starting one’s doctrinal statement with the Bible gives one assurances that the primary source of theology, the scriptures, is both true and trustworthy. I don’t start there, however. I have come to believe that the incarnation is both more central than inspiration and provides a methodological imperative for historical investigation of the claims of the Bible.

Sometimes the reason why doctrinal statements begin with scripture is because the framers believe that without an inerrant Bible we can’t know anything about Jesus Christ. They often ask the question, “How can we be sure that anything in the Bible is true? How can we be sure that Jesus Christ is who he said he was, or even that he existed, if the Bible is not inerrant?”

Inductive vs. Deductive Approaches to Inerrancy

My response to the above question is twofold. First, before the New Testament was written, how did people come to faith in Christ? To assume that having a complete Bible is necessary before we can know anything about Christ is both anachronistic and counterproductive. Our epistemology has to wrestle with the spread of the gospel before the Gospels were penned. The very fact that it spread so fast—even though the apostles were not always regarded highly—is strong testimony both to the work of the Spirit and to the historical evidence that the eyewitnesses affirmed.

Second, we can know about Christ because the Bible is a historical document. (Even if one has a very low regard for the Bible’s historicity, he or she has to admit that quite a bit of it is historically accurate.) If we demand inerrancy of the Bible before we can believe that any of it is true, what are we to say about other ancient historical documents? We don’t demand that they be inerrant, yet no evangelical would be totally skeptical about all of ancient history. Why put the Bible in a different category before we can believe it at all? As one scholar wisely articulated many years ago, we treat the Bible like any other book to show that it is not like any other book. Continue Reading →

The Chester Beatty Papyri at CSNTM!

The Chester Beatty papyri, published in the 1930s and 1950s, are some of the oldest and most important biblical manuscripts known to exist. Housed at the Chester Beatty Library (CBL) in Dublin, they have attracted countless visitors every year. It is safe to say that the only Greek biblical manuscripts that might receive more visitors are Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Alexandrinus, both on display at the British Library.

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) is pleased to announce that a six-person team, in a four-week expedition during July–August 2013, digitized all the Greek biblical papyri at the Chester Beatty Library. The CBL has granted permission to CSNTM to post the images on their website (, which will happen before the end of the year.

The New Testament papyri at the CBL include the oldest manuscript of Paul’s letters (dated c. AD 200), the oldest manuscript of Mark’s Gospel and portions of the other Gospels and Acts (third century), and the oldest manuscript of Revelation (third century). One or two of the Old Testament papyri are as old as the second century AD.

Using state-of-the-art digital equipment, CSNTM photographed each manuscript against white and black backgrounds. The result was stunning. Each image is over 120 megabytes. The photographs reveal some text that has not been seen before.

Besides the papyri, CSNTM also digitized all of the Greek New Testament manuscripts at the CBL as well as several others, including some early apocryphal texts. The total number of images came to more than 5100.

CSNTM is grateful to the CBL for the privilege of digitizing these priceless treasures. The staff were extremely competent and a joy to work with. Kudos to Dr. Fionnuala Croke, Director of CBL, for such a superb staff! This kind of collaboration is needed both for the preservation of biblical manuscripts and their accessibility by scholars.


Daniel B. Wallace, PhD

Executive Director

Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts

Just 24 Hours Left! – Credo Course – #1 Reason to Love Textual Criticism: The Enemies of the Gospel know Textual Criticism

Yesterday I was on an atheist forum. It was amazing to me what I saw. It was a discussion about textual criticism. These atheists were discussing how the text of the Bible had changed so much that there was no way anyone in their right mind would believe it. They were even going so far as to question the very existence of Jesus as a historical figure. Why? Well, from their point of view the testimony of the Scriptures is unreliable since the manuscripts that the stories come from were corrupted and, therefore, beyond rational belief. They brought up many points of textual criticism made by Agnostic scholar Bart Ehrman.

You see, Bart Ehrman knows about textual criticism. In fact, he is the only person in the history of the world to write a bestselling book about this subject. But his conclusions are irresponsible, imbalanced, and outright wrong. But, as I saw on the forum, most Christians have never studied the subject so it becomes a prime target for atheists to attack. After all, if there are so many errors, changes, and lies about the story of Jesus presented in the text, where do we turn to to get the Gospel?

The fact is that textual criticism is not a subject that the enemies of the Gospel should be able to use against Christianity. But if Christians are not informed about this subject, they will quickly get steamrolled as this is one of the primary ways that people use to attack the Bible. You should love textual criticism because you love the defense of the Gospel.

And this is the reason why we want you involved in this project. This project is about defending the Gospel against the very concerted attack of the enemy. Join with us at whatever level you can. Yes, we are funded for the minimal amount. But the more support we get, the more we will be able to produce this course at a high level and the best price you will be able to get the course.

With just 24 hours left, please help us kick-start Textual Criticism in a Big Way!

Keep the Faith. It is a cross to bear, but it is true.

Michael Patton
President, Credo House Ministries

Seven Reasons to Love Textual Criticism #2: Because of all the people who have died for the Bible

Here are all 7 reasons to love textual criticism:

  1. Because the Enemies of the Gospel Know Textual Criticism
  2. Because of All the People Who Have Died for the Bible YOU’RE HERE
  3. Correcting Misconceptions About the History of the Bible

During the early forth-century Christianity suffered its worst time of persecution yet. Emperor Diocletian set out to destroy Christianity completely. The focus of this persecution was on the clergy, church buildings, and the Christian Scriptures. The Roman persecutors believed that if they destroyed all Scriptures, then Christianity would eventually fall.

Textual Criticism Bundle by Dr. Daniel Wallace

Thousands of Christians across the empire were rounded up and placed in prisons. Eusebius writes that prisons were so filled with Christian leaders that ordinary criminals were crowded out, and had to be released. Many were killed, being burned alive. Others lost limbs, eyes, and ears. But what is certain is that these Christians suffered such pains so that we could have the Scriptures. They believed that the very words of the Bible are worth giving up their lives for.

Textual criticism is the science and art of reconstructing the very words that saints of the past have died for. We should love textual criticism because, like those who have died for the Bible, we love the text of the Bible and every word is important.

Seven Reasons to Love Textual Criticism: #3 – Correcting Misconceptions About the History of the Bible

Have you ever heard someone say that the scribes who copied the Bible never made any mistakes? That they counted the words of each line, wrote in a certain color ink, and burned the manuscript if there was ever a single mistake? Well, this is not really true.

There are so many things that I have believed and even taught that were not true. Please forgive me, but this is true. Often, I have wanted Christianity to be true so badly that I believed anything that confirmed my prejudice. This was not responsible at all. Dan Wallace taught me very early that we are seekers of the truth, not prejudice. And we have to be honest with the evidence, even if it does not support our faith.

The great thing about studying textual criticism is that, when all is said and done, our faith is strengthened a great deal. While the story about the scribes above may not be true, we don’t need it to be confident in the Bible. There are so many ways we can test the manuscripts and discover which best represents the original.

Dan Wallace, in this course on textual criticism, corrects misconceptions and teaches through the details of how we can know what the Bible really said. But you are going to have to join our project to find out.

Keep the Faith. It is a cross to bear, but it is true.

Michael Patton
President, Credo House Ministries

Seven Reasons to Love Textual Criticism: #4 P52

Reason Number 4: P52

Never heard of P52 (also known as Rylands Library Papyrus)? Don’t worry . . . Most Christians have not. P52 is the earliest known manuscript of the New Testament. It is a little piece of the Gospel of John that dates to the early second century. The significance of this little manuscript for the Christian faith is incredible. You see, before its discovery in the early twentieth-century, most liberal theologians were dead set against dating the book of John anywhere before A.D. 150. This would mean, among other things, that John could not have been the author of this Gospel (much less an eye-witness). Once this discovery was made, this pushed the origin of the Gospel back to the dating orthodox Christians have always believed.

P52 is one of the great apologetic defenses of the origin of the Gospels. It may be a little fragment, but this fragment says so much.

During this course with Dan Wallace, you will learn not only many more details about P52, but also of P66, Codex Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, and many more manuscripts that help build our faith. Their discoveries are amazing and, believe me, Dan Wallace has all the insight.

Join our mission today.

Keep the Faith. It is a cross to bear, but it is true.

Michael Patton
President, Credo House Ministries

Seven Reasons to Love Textual Criticism: #5 Daniel B. Wallace is a Modern Indiana Jones

Here we are, just five days left to go to join our movement and strengthen minds through understanding.

Reason #5: Daniel B. Wallace is a Modern Indiana Jones

Normally, we have to read about discoveries or watch them dramatized on the big screen. The Indiana Jones movies are among the most successful of all time because people love adventure. People love discovery. People love the possibility of possibilities. However, life does not have to be lived “normally.”

Dr. Daniel Wallace is a real life adventure/scholar. He may not be swinging on a whip fighting Nazis, but he is traveling to old monasteries, being lifted over walls in baskets, and spending long hours in dusty basements looking at treasure that no one has laid eyes on in many years. By day he is a professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. By night, he is an adventurer traveling the world photographing ancient New Testament manuscripts with his organization The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (

During this class on textual criticism, you will hear amazing stories of how manuscripts are discovered, catalogued, and photographed from a real Indiana Jones.

Join us by contributing to the campaign and you will join the adventure.

Keep the Faith. It is a cross to bear, but it is true.

Michael Patton
President, Credo House Ministries