Why is the Christian life a constant mix of joy and woe?

Why does our experience of Christian life often seem so contradictory, so paradoxical? Why do we so often seem to move from experiences of triumph and wonder to experiences of doubt and failure? (I have a sense that this is a universal question, and not just a function of my getting older and more grumpy…!) An answer can be found in a curious textual detail in the Book of Revelation.

The structure of the first half of Revelation goes as follows:

a. Opening ‘epistolary’ introduction and vision of Jesus (ch 1)

b. Messages from Jesus to the assemblies in the seven cities (chs 2–3)

c. Worship of God and of the lamb (chs 4–5)

d. Opening of six of the seven seals of the lamb’s scroll (ch 6)

e. First interlude: vision of the Jewish-Gentile people of God (ch 7)

f. Opening of the seventh seal; blowing of six of the seven trumpets (chs 8–9)

g. Second interlude: the commission to prophesy and testify (chs 10–11.13)

In the second interlude to the series of seven judgements, in Rev 10, John is handed a scroll which he is to eat.

Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: “Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but ‘in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.’”  I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. (Rev 10.8–10)

There is much debate about how this ‘little scroll’ relates to the scroll in the right hand of the one seated on the throne in Rev 5. I am not persuaded by those who think it is the same one, since John uses a different word for it (biblaridion instead of biblion) and introduces it without a definite article (‘a little scroll’) whereas he consistently refers back to things that have already been mentioned with a definite article (e.g. ‘the scroll’). John uses his words very carefully, and so we need to pay attention to these kinds of detail.

But the two are closely related, not least in the way they are presented. The mighty angel ‘was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand’ (Rev 10.2) and we first meet the scroll of chapter 5 not ‘in the hand’ but ‘upon [epi] the hand’ of the one seated on the throne (Rev 5.1) as if it is held out, to be taken. If the first scroll reveals the will of God for the world, then the little scroll represents the task of communicating his will; as soon as John has swallowed it, he is commanded to ‘prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings’ (Rev 10.11). The first is the universal message of the gospel and God’s will for his world; the second is the particularly expression of that that John has been given for his own context. And, though it really is good news (and so tastes sweet), there are aspects that he literally finds it hard to stomach.

But what is fascinating here is the way that John makes use of the OT background. The idea of taking and swallowing a scroll comes directly from Ezek 3.3—so clearly so that some English translations put quotation marks around the phrase ‘in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey’. But John makes two changes in using the text from Ezekiel. Firstly, Ezekiel is told not to speak to ‘peoples of strange tongues’ but only to the house of Israel, where John must prophesy to ‘many peoples…and tongues’. This shift is something that occurs all the way through Revelation, so (for example) in chapter 7 the Israel of God is both numbered as the twelve tribes (what John hears) but also an unnumbered people from ‘every nation, tribe, people, and language’ (Rev 7.9). Salvation is from the Jews (John 4.22) but it is for the nations. And this movement is precisely what we have been exploring in reading through the Gospel according to Matthew; in Matt 10.6, the disciples are only to go to Israel, but in the later parallel commission, in Matt 28.19, they are to go to all nations.

Even more striking is the contrast between Ezekiel’s experience and John’s. For the former, the scroll is sweet-tasting, but for the latter, whilst it tastes sweet in his mouth, it is bitter in his stomach—an idea that John has added as an entirely novel aspect of the trope of swallowing. And it is emphasised in the text by its chiastic (that is, inverted) repetition:

“Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but ‘in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.’” 

I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it.

It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. (Rev 10.9–10)

There is in fact a double, repeated chiasm in Greek: sour/stomach—mouth/sweet; mouth/sweet; sour/stomach.

There are quite a few examples of holy people being given sacred food or objects to ingest in the ancient world, and that such ingestion allows them to speak words of holy wisdom. But none of them offers any kind of close parallel to this account in Rev 10; we can interpret this quite fully in its relation to the idea in Ezekiel.

John’s adaption of the Ezekiel text is entirely characteristic of his use of the OT. In general terms, John is continually adapting OT ideas and reinterpreting them in the light of what God has done in Christ and his visionary experience of that. But in particular, he consistently ‘dichotomises’ them, so that where they might mean one thing in the OT, in his adaptation they not only mean something else, but they might even mean both the same and the opposite at the same time.

So the scroll is sweet in Ezekiel, but it is both sweet and bitter for John. In a similar way (but in the opposite direction) the ‘time, times and half a time’ or three and a half years in Daniel 7.25 is a time of intense tribulation, but in Revelation (through John’s re-expression of it as 1,260 days or 42 months) it also becomes a time of witnessing and of God’s protection. The anticipated anointed deliverer (‘messiah’) will be a lion from the tribe of Judah (derived from Gen 49.9), but in Rev 5.5 the lion is a lamb—the all-powerful conquering champion is a suffering and slain victim. (I am not sure whether this feature has been noted previously in studies of Revelation’s use of the Old Testament.)

You can find the same dynamic in the messages to the assemblies in the seven cities; the exalted Jesus brings a message which you might think offers encouragement, but it brings stern warnings to many of the readers, and even to those who are without rebuke, the word is often ‘You are going to suffer, but that’s ok.’ And this sense of paradoxical dichotomy continues right through to the end. The New Jerusalem has its gates open day and night, so that no-one is ever refused entry (Rev 21.25) but entry will be refused to anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful (Rev 21.27); the city is both radically inclusive and radically exclusive at one and the same time. And John himself shares in fellowship with all those who follow the lamb both the ‘kingdom’ and the ‘suffering’ that are ours in Jesus (Rev 1.9).

It would be possible to suppose that at each of these points, John was simply being inconsistent and contradictory, and in the past some commentators have decided that there are multiple texts which have been patched together rather badly for just that reason. The problem with this idea is that this ‘dichotomising’ is a completely consistent feature of the text. Like an impressionist painter, John creates the overall picture using a large number of different brushstrokes. Each brushstroke, each individual piece of text, includes this idea of dichotomy and paradox, and it creates an overall picture which says ‘To be a follower of the lion/lamb is to live a paradoxical life, one of victory and suffering, one of triumph and defeat, one of acclaim and vilification.’ This painting is one which, in every section, has startlingly bright colours right next to threateningly dark ones, and it is this contrast which contributes to its dramatic and emotive power as a text.

In doing this, John is emphasising something that we find all through the New Testament, though elsewhere in a more muted form. Paul’s understanding of Christian ministry in 2 Cor 4 is that it is both life giving and death dealing:

‘So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you’ (2 Cor 4.12).

But the contradictions are true for all disciples, not just leaders. The radical freedom we have in Christ can easily enslave us if we use it to indulge our ‘natural’ instincts, and we only experience it as freedom if we allow it to lead us to the disciplined life of conformity to the Spirit (Gal 3–5). Paul’s whole life appears to be marked by the juxtaposition of contrasting experiences, as he sets out to the Philippians:

For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. (Phil 4.11–12).

And when Paul is preaching, he talks of the power and purpose that comes from ‘the good news about Jesus and the resurrection’ (Acts 17.18), but of course he was very clear that ‘We must go through many tribulations to enter the kingdom of God’ (Acts 14.22). And in preaching in this way, Paul is simply matching the preaching of Jesus, who came to give life in all its fulness (John 10.10) but whose followers must face daily the possibility of death (Mark 8.28). These are the realities expressed in Jesus’ own life, so that (on the one hand) we frequently find him in the gospels full of joy, feasting at parties and revelling in friendships, but also (on the other hand) we find him downcast and burdened, a ‘man of sorrows’.

The theological reason for this comes down to the eschatology of the New Testament: the promised new age of the messiah’s reign has come, breaking into this age, but this age persists, and so discipleship always means living in the uncomfortable tension between the two. Revelation is most explicit in its eschatological focus, so this tension, expressed in the dichotomies of Christian living, is set out most clearly.

But I also wonder whether Revelation paints this picture mostly clearly because it is a later text. Both in the gospels and Acts, and Paul’s letters, we are observing the process of the good news being proclaimed, so the focus leans towards the positive even whilst the counter-point of suffering is ever present. But in Revelation, Christian communities are now established, and they are wrestling with what it means to persist in the Christian life. In that sense, they are just a little closer to our own situation.

In practice, this suggests some important disciplines that we need to embrace if we are to live healthy and integrated lives:

a. We need to hold together the positive and the negative in our own lives—and a key way to do that might well be to keep a spiritual journal, so that we can look back over the highs and lows and put them in perspective across all of life.

b. We need congregations that always consist of a mix of those who are new to faith and those who are some way down the path—so the first can remind the second that life is wonderful, and the second can remind the first that life is sometimes challenging. We need to do this not to dismiss the experience of the other, but to learn from it and hold the two together.

c. We need to foster connections between communities of faith in different parts of the world, so that we can be reminded that, whereas we might only see gloomy news of church decline, we can be reminded that, elsewhere, the situation is very different!

Why does our experience of Christian life often seem so contradictory? Why do we so often seem to move from experiences of triumph and wonder to experiences of doubt and failure? Not simply because I am a grumpy old man, but because this is the very nature of Christian discipleship until the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven to earth—and all things are made new.

(You can buy my commentary on Revelation from IVP on their website here, or from your favourite online retailer.)

(The image of Ezekiel eating the scroll is a detail from a 12th-century Latin manuscript BNF MS Latin 16744.)


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51 thoughts on “Why is the Christian life a constant mix of joy and woe?”

  1. Magnificent Paul
    Thanks so much. And of course we are called into this fellowship, and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ
    We are hid with Christ in God.
    I personally like
    Phil 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death. I like the way that Paul references resurrection first then suffering Rom 8:18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
    Yes we and the church sometimes experience declension,despair
    etc. But the Power of the resurrection,WOW! Jesus knows our frame and the “current” state of the Churches needing to get thier House in Order. But sends Overcomers who know the fellowship of His sufferings to get the church back on track,Resurrection!

  2. Jesus says the same: at the end of Matthew 11 he tells people that the load he puts on his followers is light and will give them peace; in John’s last supper he says they will be persecuted. Relevant points are: (1) we are on enemy territory; our home address since our conversion is heaven and we live in a world given over to Satan; and (2) we are given a new identity in Christ but we still have to contend with our fallen flesh and its desires.

    Hence the mix of joy and woe. But it will not be ever so.

  3. Pellegrino
    June 16, 2023 at 1:00 pm
    Just interested. What is it that you like about John Lennox.?
    You seem to have quite dubious tasts, as Ian has pointed out to you in previous post.

  4. What a sad day. Ian combines an excellent piece with a piece which promotes a cock fight betwean the same polerized Anglican groups whose positions are more than well known, reiterated ad nauseum.
    I begin to wonder if he has a penchant for cock fights?

    • A penchant for cock fights ?

      Don’t you mean knocking the views of some Anglican scholars into a cocked hat ? 🙂

  5. Well, I don’t think the situation described in the question ‘Why do we so often seem to move from experiences of triumph and wonder to experiences of doubt and failure?’ describes the reality of Christian life. Rev 10:8-10 does describe the reality of Christian existence; we have the joy, drive and motivation that comes from being ‘in Him’ when what we do is directed towards serving Him; while at the same time we see clearly that we’re not actually part of this world – in the sense that the priorities, aspirations, motivation of ‘the world’ are completely different from – and at odds with – our own.

    Doubt? I don’t see this. Doubting what? Doubting that I am saved? Not part of the Christian mind-set. Failure? Doubting that God will bring others around us into the number of the Saviour’s family? Well, I don’t see people professing their faith in large numbers – so perhaps such a doubt is reasonable. If ‘failure’ means failing to convince the world around to repent and turn to Jesus, then yes – and I think that is basically what is meant by the stomach turning sour. There is the joy of being ‘in Him’ and the bitterness that comes from seeing the world around us rejecting Him.

  6. No, I just point out that all battles are real, as are civil wars
    However cock fights are not the best way to fight or win battles.
    The Holy Scriptures are able to make us “wise unto Salvation”
    There is a right way and a disastrous way to fight battles.
    One of the earliest lessons we learn as children is the batte of
    David and Goliath. Breaking News “BOY BEATS BULLY GIANT”
    David was an Overcomer and placed a thought into Goliaths mind which he had never thought of before. David knew exactly how the battle would be won 1 Samuel 17:45-46
    David answered, “You come at me with sword and spear and battle-ax. I come at you in the name of God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel’s troops, whom you curse and mock. 46 This very day God is handing you over to me. I’m about to kill you, cut off your head, and serve up your body and the bodies of your Philistine buddies to the crows and coyotes. The whole earth will know that there’s an extraordinary God in Israel.

    Corinthians 15:57).
    AND verse 47 17:47 And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD’s,

    “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

    • Alan,
      King David’s battle was not s one-off event. Neither was the enemy always without, as the rest of his life shows, the sin within realed in his life. His psalms point to that. He didn’t get to build the Temple, his family life was somewhat unraveled, he disobeyed God, counting his armies.
      His life pointed to a greater King, King David’s greater son, King of Kings,, Jesus the Christ.
      Recently, I’ve been mulling over age and the transcience of life, or the incredible lightness of being, and something Tim Keller wrote, somewhere, that chimes. Biblically. It was someone like this…
      Human beings long for glory, a weightiness, a meaning, a purpose, a permanence, a name for ourselves, a place.
      And that is what God created us for: glory. But glory in Him.
      Yet we all seek it in varying ways and to varying degrees outside if Him. King David did. He started well, but ended not with a glorious victory for his people. King Jesus did in glorious victory, for us, over, our enemies: satan sin and dead.
      It was only after becoming a Christian that I was aware that there is a fierce, spiritual battle that rages.
      Yes we live in the Kingdom now…but not yet.
      Think CS Lewis said something like this; in the coming, incarnation of Jesus, God landed on enemy occupied territory.
      There is a spiriual battle and there is an armour; like king David’s but different – the amour of God which can be summed up as putting on Jesus all that He is, has done, and is doing for us.

  7. Reference ….June 16, 2023 at 4:17 pm
    As some on here spray out delight in associated themselves with gifted[?] authors with no content or substance; perhaps I might posite a view. In my reading of John Lennox he is a brilliant mind
    where other scientists are concerned and in the field of Apologetics. His contentions with the “new atheists” are brilliant.
    His forays into Scripture are somewhat to be desired , I think it is just not his field, as others have realised. Hope this is not faint

    • Alan;

      A quick note on ‘As some here spray out delight in associating themselves with gifted [?] authors with no content or substance’ –

      ” His [James D. G. Dunn’s] contribution to the field of pneumatology was significant and influential, even if not universally accepted.”

      (Bing AI).

  8. Reference …. Geoff
    June 17, 2023 at 10:40 am
    I do so agree with all. Many did run well but what does hinder them?
    My thoughts were on the right way to make war. a study of the wars in The Holy Scriptures, one could reference many jnstances
    of the right way to execute them. And Paul references the principles of war
    Eph, 6:13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
    6:14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth,
    Ex 14:13 Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD,

  9. Ref…June 17, 2023 at 11:25 am
    Now you use AI ! We were discussing Lennox, not Dunn, of whom I remember Ian dismissing to you in a previous post. Try Lennox on AI if that is all you can do.

  10. Well,
    I’m not sure what going on between you two here, but what seems to be clear that there is a significant difference between P and Dr SR, if P accepts Lennox’s teaching on creation.. SR certainly doesn’t.
    But please don’t go there on this thread.

    • To Geoff and Alan ;

      I evaluate John Lennox on his strengths, not on his weaknesses.

      In view of your request, Geoff, that is all I am saying.

      God bless you, Geoff and Alan. 🙂 🙂

      Furthermore, I don’t have the scientific ‘nous’ to properly evaluate any proposed mechanisms for supposed, ‘Theistic Evolution’, then

      • Typo Correction :

        To Geoff and Alan :

        Apologies – That last sentence in my last comment, should not have been in !

        • Not sure what you mean P, in light of my comment? Is SR your boss? Have any spiritual organisational authority over you? Don’t want to disagree with his theology?
          Is the Genisis 1 + 2 creation account factually, chronologically, correct which SR believes, or John Lennox, which is what Lennox doesn’t believe?

          • Hi, Geoff :

            I know very little about Dr. Steve Robinson, but I do know that he doesn’t believe that the first Christians believed in a Trinity (a belief, apparently also shared, by Anglican scholar and Christian Apologist, Dr. Alistair McGrath).

            I don’t know whether you, and/or, Dr. Steve, believe in :

            Young Earth Creationism?
            Old Earth Creationism?
            Six twenty-four hour day, Creationism?
            Day (Era)-Age creationism?
            Gap-Theory (i.e. A time gap between Gen. 1:1 and Gen. 1:2)?

            My position is Old Earth, Progressive Creationism – but like World famous Christian Apologist, Dr. William Lane Craig, I’m open to being wrong. 🙂

  11. Ref…. June 17, 2023 at 12:11 pm
    Yes, there is a higher intelligence than AI
    1 Cor 1:20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
    Since you use atificial intelligence beware. QUOTE Artificial intelligence is not yet as smart as a dog, Meta A.I. chief says
    Since you and Ian have referenced D G DUNN
    I agree that Dunn has a brilliant mind in some fields,that is not disputed,as with LENNOX,it is his Biblical stance that is highly questionable. James D. G. Dunn is a major figure in current scholarship, so scholars and Ph.D. students are in a sense obligated to be aware of his work, but unless one is pursuing serious scholarly research on Jesus there are better minds available.
    ” Pneumatology” is not a word we hear much mentioned on the Number 48 Omnibus so for the sake of my fellow travellers I recommend viewing
    Just in case DG DUNN’S name crops up again.

    Perhaps it is time for another thread Ian.

    • Thanks for your comments, Alan.

      As with any field of serious study, there are bound to be differences of opinion, held in good faith. One’s religion is far too important to be left largely in the hands of other people. If we can, we have to humbly think things through for ourselves, with reliance upon God and the Bible – whilst always remembering that no fallen man is intellectually infallible. Therefore, Colossians 3:13.

  12. June 17, 2023 at 2:04 pm
    *I evaluate John Lennox on his strengths, not on his weaknesses.”
    But you have not offered an evaluation of Lennox.
    I am all for serious study but you are the gift who just keeps on giving.
    In conclusion, your biblical quote, you take out of context.
    Col. 3:17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
    3:24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.
    3:25 But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.

    • Dear Alan;

      I think John Lennox is a great Christian Apologist, and a fine Christian gentleman.

      As I have no expertise in Molecular biology, Population genetics, or Paleoanthropology, I am not in a position to properly evaluate the claims of Theistic Evolution. However, my current position is ‘Old Earth, Progressive Creationism’.

      • And that’s the problem with Lennox, he also has no expertise in any of those subjects, not least biology, yet has largely rejected evolution.

        • No-you’ve got that wrong , Peter (PC1),

          John Lennox, along with Anglican scholar, N.T. (Tom) Wright both believe in Theistic Evolution. As far as I know John Lennox taught both ‘Mathematics’ and ‘The Philosophy of Science’ at Oxford University – so he’s a pretty ‘smart cookie’.

          I like John Lennox. He’s amiable, lucid, informative, godly, and engaging. 🙂

  13. Dear Pellerino,
    Thanks for understanding that John Lennox is a great Christian Apologist.
    I came across a debate he had with Dawkins in which he was kind and wise. And totally convincing. As I am sure he is to Christians with a background in Genetics and some understanding of the genome.

    • He’s very good, just a shame he seems to reject evolution. I dont think he’s ever had a debate about evolution with a convinced Christian evolutionist. But then he is a mathematician.

      • Dear Peter –

        Both N.T. Wright and John Lennox believe in Theistic Evolutionists, and both made contributions to the book :

        ” Theistic Evolution – A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique’.


        • Without entering this debate (I have my own quite lengthy essay which is utterly inappropriate here), may I recommend some books I have found useful on the subject? All of these books relate directly to the questions that actually open out the issues involved: Did God create time; Why is science beautiful; Do miracles occur; How old is the earth; Was Noah’s flood global; Who did Adam’s children marry; Do you believe that some people lived for centuries as Genesis states; What would you see if you had snapshots of your father, and his father, and so on, backwards in time? Asking these questions helps cut through lofty theological debate that doesn’t actually get anywhere.

          Above all, I recommend “Debating Darwin” by Graeme Finlay, Stephen Lloyd, Stephen Pattemore and David Swift. All four are Christians and they hold a diversity of opinions on the matter. In this book they set out their pown positions and then proceed to engage with and debate the others. It is most constructive.

          Then there is “(Mis)interpreting Genesis” by Ben Stanhope, a committed evangelical who is deeply frustrated with his fundamentalist brethren and who is an expert on creation stories in the Ancient Near and Middle East – where they differ from and are similar to the Genesis account. I do not wholly agree with his take on the Bible but his criticisms of Creationists are devastating.

          And for the secular scientific view there are the excellent books of Nick Lane (“Life Ascending”, “The Vital Question” and “Transformer”). In these books he routinely shows how evolution is capable of filling in gaps that Creatoinists claim are unbridgeable.

          • Thanks for that, Anton.

            I remember that you went to Cambridge University, and you were involved in (post-doctorate ?) research. What subject(s) did you study, Anton ?

            I also remember Pauline scholar, Douglas Moo, saying that he believes that there was an historical man who was the biblical Adam, but we can’t just ignore what the paleoanthropologists are telling us.

            God bless you, Anton.

          • Dear Pellegrino, Yes, I did postdoctoral research in theoretical physics at Cambridge and elsewhere. Thank you.

          • Apologies Anton, as I don’t want to delve into this here.
            1 One of the main distinctions is whether day, is 24 hours.
            Creationists such as Answers in Genesis, say yes, based on Hebrew.
            Lennox says no. (And I was at the Keswick Convention a few years ago when Lennox gave a series of talks some of the mossy well attended talks over the years I’ve gone there). He say no, basically as the text does not have tge definite article “the” first day, but reads, “day one.”
            So he contends that it is an indefinite period of time, succh as we might say, *back in the day*.
            His talks are probably still available on the Keswick website.?
            2 As for the number of years lived, I heard various explanations, credible.
            3 Evolution. Macro or micro?
            4 I’m unsure whether one of your recommendations is relying on “God of the gaps” reasoning?

          • Geoff,

            Please, I don’t want lengthy debates about this here, but in brief YOM in Hebrew has exactly the same ambiguity as DAY in English; it can mean the duration of a full revolution of the earth about its own axis (ie 24 hours) or it can mean ‘era’, as in “the day of steam power is past”. It *must* mean ‘era’ in Job 15:23 & 18:20, for instance. 24-hour creationists then say the ambiguity is resolved by the “it was evening and it was morning” phrases in Genesis 1, but ‘morning’ is BOKER which in the original consonant-only text is BKR and could equally well be BAKARA which is translated as supervision as in Ezekiel 34:12. The root of the word for evening can also mean a disordered mixture. So each day shows a transition from darkness to light due to God’s ordering work. I believe the double meaning between evening/morning and disorder/supervision (noted by the Jewish scholar Nahmanides long before modern science) is deliberate. Unlike the double meaning of YOM/DAY it is untranslatable into English, however.

        • If you fall for the God of the gaps idea then as science progresses God retreats. It’s wrong and I don’t espouse it and nor do any of the authors I recommend. (NB Nick Lane is secular.)

          • Geoff,

            The great scholar of the Toledoth strcture is the aptly named PJ Wiseman (d. 1948). He was in the Brethren and served with the RAF in the Middle East, and his son was the scholar of Assyriology (and Christian) Donald Wiseman (d. 2010).

            PJ Wiseman recognised that Genesis is a compiled sequence of ancient texts written originally on stone tablets. Many stone tablets from Mesopotamia, dated as old as Abraham and Noah, have been uncovered, and they have their own writing conventions, which Wiseman recognised within Genesis. The retention of those conventions by the compiler – presumably Moses, who also wrote the last part of Genesis, set in Egypt – shows that he copied faithfully. Moses simply added the names of places which had changed name by his time. We even know who each tablet was written by (or for), because the earlier, Mesopotamian parts of Genesis each end (not begin!) with the phrase “These are the toledoth of…”; toledoth means “historical origins”. (For example, “these are the toledoth of Jacob” in Genesis 37:2; our chapter divisions do not match this understanding.) Each section gives information which only that man could have known or found out reliably, and runs up almost to the death of the man named yet never reaches it. There are no anachronisms.

            Wiseman wrote this up in multiple books, all basically the ssame but getting a little better each time. I have “Ancient Records and the Structure of Genesis”. Of course this work demolishes the liberal-theological “documentary hypothesis” of Wellhausen et al. about how the text came to be compiled.

          • Thanks, Anton,
            I have come across the names of Wiseman, but not really taken much more notice, and have encountered Wellhausen and documentary hypothesis as it has been assessed and refuted in, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, by Josh McDowell.
            The Local Preacher’s Faith and Worship Course, material, in the Methodist Church put forward Documentary Hypothesis, Form Criticism and Historical and Literary criticism as unopposed, accepted, reality.
            As you are likely to have noticed, there are Liberals here who continue to imbibe that teaching, Bultmann et al. and onto JA Robinson and the farrago of the Jesus Seminar and see the Gospels, not as historical but as myth, parable.
            BTW as a snippet in passing, I have an older friend, a retired dentist. When he was in the medical corps in Aden, David Pawson was his Pastor, who left a great impression on him.

          • Geoff,

            I shudder to think what John Wesley would make of today’s Methodist movement.

            Another fine short book which defends and puts the case for authorship of the other Books of Moses at Moses’ time is by Paul Lawrence, “The Books of Moses Revisited”. Lawrence also has a nice scholarly article, “Who Write Daniel” in Bible And Spade magazine vol.28.1 (2015), p4-11. The answer is of course Daniel.

            David Pawson was a superb Bible teacher and I’m glad that his Bible talks are now online.

        • I havent read that book but I understand it was written, per the title, to criticise theistic evolution, not to agree with it. It is not evidence that Lennox accepts evolution as the explanation of how life developed on earth – Ive yet to see him explicitly say that. He may accept so-called micro evolutionary processes, but he rejects the idea of new species coming into existence. Unless Im out of date on his views.

    • Dear Dick Wixley;

      Thanks for your gracious comments.

      I find John Lennox to be a man full of Christian virtues, and my heart goes out to him. I think he is a extremely learned and beloved brother in Christ. Personally, I don’t know enough to give an informed opinion on Theistic Evolution, but it wouldn’t affect my Faith in Christ if Theistic Evolution did eventually turn out to be indisputably, and scientifically true. At one time it was considered ‘heresy’ in both Protestant and Roman Catholic Churches to believe that the earth moved, and then circuited the sun. This scientific fact was only accepted by the Roman Catholic Church in 1757. Anglican Scholar N.T. Wright also believes in Theistic Evolution.

      God bless you, Dick, and cordial regards.

  14. I havent read that book but I understand it was written, per the title, to criticise theistic evolution, not to agree with it. It is not evidence that Lennox accepts evolution as the explanation of how life developed on earth – Ive yet to see him explicitly say that. He may accept so-called micro evolutionary processes, but he rejects the idea of new species coming into existence. Unless Im out of date on his views.

    • Hi, Peter;

      Would you personally prefer John Lennox to support Theistic Evolution, or repudiate it ?

      Where do you personally stand regarding Theistic Evolution?

      The world’s best known Christian Apologist, William Lane Craig, keeps an open mind regarding Theistic Evolution, and whatever opinion he may in the future adopt will have to be “evidence driven”.

      Would you essentially share William Lane Craig’s approach – or have you already made up your mind ?

      God bless you, Peter (PC1).

      • I think evolution is true. And as God exists it is the way He chose that life would develop on earth. Just as the laws of physics describe how the universe works, at least on the large scale, so evolutionary processes describe and explain how life has developed.

        The link that you referenced above is actually a critique of Lennox’s book ‘Seven Days that Divide the World’ where he criticises a literalistic understanding of Genesis 1 & 2, ie creation did not happen over a period of 6 24 hour periods etc. He believes the universe is around 14 billion years old and the earth 4 billion as do most scientists. But that is not the same as endorsing evolution. In the video youll notice he says he accepts the observations that Darwin made, but that only means for example temporary changes in the size and shape of finch beaks due to a temporarily changed environment. He made that point in his book ‘Has Science Buried God’ I think. But evolution is much more than that, so I think Lennox only accepts a small aspect of evolutionary theory. It’s a long time since I read his Seven Days book, but if memory serves me right he believes in a special creation of the first human couple, rather than common descent. Which is quite a different view from evolution.

        • Thanks for your comments, Peter.

          I’m going to have to give this a bit of thought.

          It’s all exceedingly interesting.

          God bless you.


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