Josh Robinson Blog Has Moved

Josh Robinson Blog has moved. Please visit to receive Josh’s new blog posts. We are currently in the process of moving over older blog posts to the new site. Thanks to all those who have subscribed, and we hope to see you over at the new blog!


Please subscribe to receive updates on Josh’s new posts!


John Frame on The Law/Gospel Distinction

58739611_640This original article can be found at

I found this article to be quiet helpful on this topic, and I hope that it can be helpful to you as well. Grace and blessings!

Law and Gospel

It has become increasingly common in Reformed circles, as it has long been in Lutheran circles, to say that the distinction between law and gospel is the key to sound theology, even to say that to differ with certain traditional formulations of this distinction is to deny the gospel itself.

Sometimes this argument employs Scripture passages like Rom. 3:21-31, emphasizing that we are saved by God’s grace, through faith alone, apart from the works of the law. In my judgment, however, none of the parties to the debate questions that justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, by the imputed righteousness of Christ alone. But it is one thing to distinguish between faith and works, a different thing to distinguish law and gospel.

 1. The Traditional Distinction

The distinction between law and gospel is not a distinction between a false and a true way of salvation. Rather, it is a distinction between two messages, one that supposedly consists exclusively of commands, threats, and therefore terrors, the other that consists exclusively of promises and comforts. Although I believe that we are saved entirely by God’s grace and not by works, I do not believe that there are two entirely different messages of God in Scripture, one exclusively of command (“law”) and the other exclusively of promise (“gospel”). In Scripture itself, commands and promises are typically found together. With God’s promises come commands to repent of sin and believe the promise. The commands, typically, are not merely announcements of judgment, but God’s gracious opportunities to repent of sin and believe in him. As the Psalmist says, “be gracious to me through your law,” Psm. 119:29.

The view that I oppose, which sharply separates the two messages, comes mainly out of Lutheran theology, though similar statements can be found in Calvin and in other Reformed writers.1 The Epitome of the Lutheran Formula of Concord, at V, 5, recognizes that gospel is used in different senses in Scripture, and it cites Mark 1:15 and Acts 20:21 as passages in which gospel preaching “correctly” includes a command to repent of sin. But in section 6, it does something really strange. It says,

But when the Law and the Gospel are compared together, as well as Moses himself, the teacher of the Law, and Christ the teacher of the Gospel, we believe, teach, and confess that the Gospel is not a preaching of repentance, convicting of sins, but that it is properly nothing else than a certain most joyful message and preaching full of consolation, not convicting or terrifying, inasmuch as it comforts the conscience against the terrors of the Law, and bids it look at the merit of Christ alone…

I say this is strange, because the Formula gives no biblical support at all for this distinction, and what it says here about the “gospel” flatly contradicts what it  conceded earlier in section 5. What it describes as “correct” in section five contradicts what it calls “proper” in section 6. What section 6 does is to suggest something “improper” about what it admits to be the biblical description of the content of gospel, as in Mark 1:15 and Acts 14:15.2 Mark 1:15 is correct, but not proper.

 2. Law and Gospel in Scripture

I have been told that proper at this point in the Formula means, not “incorrect” or “wrong,” but simply “more common or usual.” I have, however, looked through the uses of the euaggel- terms in the NT, and I cannot find one instance in which the context excludes a demand for repentance (that is, a command of God, a law) as part of the gospel content. That is to say, I cannot find one instance of what the Formula calls the “proper” meaning of gospel, a message of pure comfort, without any suggestion of obligation. And there are important theological reasons why that use does not occur.

Essentially, the “gospel” in the NT is the good news that the kingdom of God has come in Jesus (Matt. 4:239:35Mark 1:14Luke 4:43Acts 20:24f).3 “Kingdom” is (1) God’s sovereign power, (2) his sovereign authority, and (3) his coming into history to defeat Satan and bring about salvation with all its consequences.4 God’s kingdom power includes all his mighty acts in history, especially including the Resurrection of Christ.

God’s kingdom authority is the reiteration of his commandments. When the kingdom appears in power, it is time for people to repent. They must obey (hupakouo) the gospel (2 Thess. 1:8, compare apeitheo in 1 Pet. 4:17). The gospel itself requires a certain kind of conduct (Acts 14:15Gal. 2:14Phil. 1:27; cf. Rom 2:16).

When God comes into history, he brings his power and authority to bear on his creatures. In kingdom power, he establishes peace. So NT writers frequently refer to the “gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15; cf. Acts 10:36Rom. 10:15), sometimes referring to the “mystery” of God bringing Gentiles and Jews together in one body (Rom. 16:25Eph. 6:19).

It is this whole complex: God’s power to save, the reiteration of God’s commands, and his coming into history to execute his plan, that is the gospel. It is good news to know that God is bringing his good plans to fruition.

Consider Isa. 52:7, one of the most important background passages for the New Testament concept of gospel:

How beautiful upon the mountains

Are the feet of him who brings good news,

Who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,

Who publishes salvation,

Who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” (ESV)

It is the reign of God that is good news, news that ensures peace and salvation.

Even the demand for repentance is good news, because in context it implies that God, though coming in power to claim his rights, is willing to forgive for Christ’s sake.

So gospel includes law in an important sense: God’s kingdom authority, his demand to repent. Even on the view of those most committed to the law/gospel distinction, the gospel includes a command tobelieve. We tend to think of that command as in a different class from the commands of the decalogue. But that too is a command, after all. Generically it is law. And, like the decalogue, that law can be terrifying to someone who wants to trust only on his own resources, rather than resting on the mercy of another. And the demand of faith includes other requirements: the conduct becoming the gospel that I mentioned earlier. Faith itself works through love (Gal. 5:6) and is dead without good works (James 2:17).

Having faith does not merit salvation for anyone, any more than any other human act merits salvation. Thus we speak of faith, not as the ground of salvation, but as the instrument. Faith saves, not because it merits salvation, but because it reaches out to receive God’s grace in Christ. Nevertheless, faith is an obligation, and in that respect the command to believe is like other divine commands. So it is impossible to say that command, or law, is excluded from the message of the gospel.

It is also true that law includes gospel. God gives his law as part of a covenant, and that covenant is a gift of God’s grace. The decalogue begins, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land ofEgypt, out of the house of slavery.” Only after proclaiming his saving grace does God then issue his commands to Israel. So the decalogue as a whole has the function of offering Israel a new way of life, conferred by grace (cf. Deut. 7:7-89:4-6). Is the decalogue “law” or “gospel?” Surely it is both. Israel was terrified upon hearing it, to be sure (Ex. 20:18-21). But in fact it offers blessing (note verse 6) and promise (verse 12). Moses and the Prophets are sufficient to keep sinners from perishing in Hell (Matt. 16:31).

So the definitions that sharply separate law and gospel break down on careful analysis. In both law and gospel, then, God proclaims his saving work, and he demands that his people respond by obeying his commands. The terms “law” and “gospel” differ in emphasis, but they overlap and intersect. They present the whole Word of God from different perspectives. Indeed, we can say that our Bible as a whole is both law (because as a whole it speaks with divine authority and requires belief) and gospel (because as a whole it is good news to fallen creatures). Each concept is meaningless apart from the other. Each implies the other.

The law often brings terror, to be sure. Israel was frightened by the Sinai display of God’s wrath against sin (Ex. 20:18-21). But it also brings delight to the redeemed heart (Psm. 1:2; compare 119:34-36, 47, 92, 93, 97, 130, 131, Rom. 7:22). Similarly, the gospel brings comfort and joy; but (as less often noted in the theological literature) it also brings condemnation. Paul says that his gospel preaching is, to those who perish, “a fragrance from death to death” and, to those who believe, “a fragrance from life to life” (2 Cor. 2:15-16; compare 1 Cor. 1:18,2327-292 Cor. 4:3-4Rom. 9:32). The gospel is good news to those who believe. But to those who are intent on saving themselves by their own righteousness, it is bad news. It is God’s condemnation upon them, a rock of offense.

 3. Which Comes First?

In discussions of law and gospel, one commonly hears that it is important, not only to preach both law and gospel, but also to preach the law first and the gospel second. We are told that people must be frightened by the law before they can be driven to seek salvation in Christ. Certainly there is a great need to preach God’s standards, man’s disobedience, and God’s wrath against sin, especially in an age such as ours where people think God will let them behave as they like. And very often people have been driven to their knees in repentance when the Spirit has convicted them of their transgressions of law.

But as we have seen, it is really impossible truly to present law without gospel or gospel without law, though various relative emphases are possible. And among those relative emphases, the biblical pattern tends to put the gospel first. That is the pattern of the decalogue, as we have seen: God proclaims that he has redeemed his people (gospel), then asks them to behave as his covenant people (law). Since both gospel and law are aspects of God’s covenants, that pattern pervades Scripture.

Jesus reflects that pattern in his own evangelism. In John 4, Jesus tells the Samaritan woman that he can give her living water that will take away all thirst. Only after offering that gift does he proclaim the law to her, exposing her adultery. Some have cited Luke 18:18—30 as an example of the contrary order: Jesus expounds the commandments, and only afterward tells the rich ruler to follow him. But in this passage Jesus does not use the law alone to terrorize the man or to plunge him into despair. The man does go sadly away only after Jesus has called him to discipleship, which, though itself a command, is the gospel of this passage.

 4. The “New Perspective” and Paul’s Gospel

Since the apostle Paul is most often in the forefront in discussions of the meaning of gospel, something should perhaps be said here about the “new perspective on Paul” in recent scholarship, based on writings of Krister Stendahl, E. P. Sanders, James D. G. Dunn, and others. In that perspective, the problem with Judaism, according to Paul, was not works righteousness, but its failure to accept God’s new covenant in Christ, which embraced Gentiles as well as Jews. On this perspective, Paul’s gospel is not an answer to the troubled conscience of someone who can’t meet God’s demands. Rather, it is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham to bless all nations. The “works of the law” against which Paul contends are not man’s attempts to satisfy God’s moral law, but the distinctions between Jews and Gentiles such as circumcision, food laws, and cleansings.

Discussions of this new perspective are very complex, entering into details about the nature of Palestinian Judaism at the time of Paul, Paul’s own history, and the exegesis of crucial texts. I cannot enter this controversy in a short paper. I do agree with those who believe that Sanders and others have been too selective in their references to Palestinian Judaism, and I believe that the new perspective fails to deal adequately with a number of Pauline passages, such as Rom. 4:4-511:6Eph. 2:8-10Phil. 3:9, which make plain that Paul rejects, not only legal barriers between Jew and Gentile, but also all attempts of people to save themselves by their works. Luther’s doctrines of sola gratia and sola fide are fully scriptural and fully Pauline.5

But the new perspective legitimately warns us against reducing Paul’s gospel to soteric justification by faith. Paul’s confrontation with the Jews was on several fronts. And his gospel deals with a number of different issues, as my earlier discussion also implies.

 5. Legitimate Use of the Traditional Distinction

Now if people want to define gospel more narrowly for a specific theological purpose, I won’t object too strongly. Scripture does not give us a glossary of English usage. A number of technical theological terms don’t mean exactly what similar terms sometimes mean in the Bible. Regeneration and election are examples, as is covenant.6 We can define our English terms pretty much as we like, as long as those definitions don’t create confusion in our readers.

Over the years, we have come to think of gospel as correlative with faith and law as correlative with works. In this usage, law is what condemns and gospel is what saves. Although this distinction differs from the biblical uses of the terms, it does become useful in some contexts. For example, we all know a type of preaching that merely expounds moral obligations (as we usually think of them: don’t kill, don’t steal) and does not give its hearers the knowledge of Christ they need to have in order to be saved. That kind of preaching (especially when it is not balanced by other preaching emphases) we often describe as a preaching of merelaw, legalism, or moralism. There is no good news in it. So, we are inclined to say, it is not preaching of the gospel. So in this general way we come to distinguish the preaching of law from the preaching of gospel. That is, I think, the main concern of the Formula: to remind us that we need to do both things.

We should be reminded of course that there is also an opposite extreme: preaching “gospel” in such a way as to suggest that Christ makes no demands on one’s life. We call that “cheap grace” or “easy believism.” We might also call it preaching “gospel without law.” Taken to an extreme, it is antinomianism, the rejection of God’s law. The traditional law/gospel distinction is not itself antinomian, but those who hold it tend to be more sensitive to the dangers of legalism than to the dangers of antinomianism.

Such considerations may lead us to distinguish in a rough-and-ready way between preaching of the law and preaching of the gospel. Of course, even in making that distinction, our intention ought to be to bring these together. None of these considerations requires us to posit a sharp distinction. And certainly, this rough-and-ready distinction should never be used to cast doubt on the integration of command and promise that pervades the Scriptures themselves.

It should be evident that “legalist” preaching as described above is not true preaching of law, any more than it is true preaching of the gospel.  For as I indicated earlier, law itself in Scripture comes to us wrapped in grace.

6. Law/Gospel and the Christian Life

The Formula’s distinction between law and gospel has unfortunate consequences for the Christian life. The document does warrant preaching of the law to the regenerate,7 but only as threat and terror, to drive them to Christ Epitome, VI, 4. There is nothing here about the law as the delight of the redeemed heart (Psm. 1:2; compare 119:34-36, 47, 92, 93, 97, 130, 131, Rom. 7:22).

The Formula then goes on to say that believers do conform to the law under the influence of the Spirit, but only as follows:

Fruits of the Spirit, however, are the works which the Spirit of God who dwells in believers works through the regenerate, and which are done by believers so far as they are regenerate [spontaneously and freely], as though they knew of no command, threat, or reward; for in this manner the children of God live in the Law and walk according to the Law of God, which [mode of living] St. Paul in his epistles calls the Law of Christ and the Law of the mind, Rom. 72587Rom. 82Gal. 62. (Epitome, VI, 5).

So the law may threaten us to drive us to Christ. But truly good works are never motivated by any command, threat or reward.

In my view, this teaching is simply unbiblical. It suggests that when you do something in obedience to a divine command, threat, or promise of reward, it is to that extent tainted, unrighteous, something less than a truly good work. I agree that our best works are tainted by sin, but certainly not for this reason. When Scripture presents us with a command, obedience to that command is a righteous action. Indeed, our righteousness is measured by our obedience to God’s commands. When God threatens punishment, and we turn from wickedness to do what he asks, that is not a sin, but a righteous response. When God promises reward, it is a good thing for us to embrace that reward.

The notion that we should conduct our lives completely apart from the admonitions of God’s word is a terrible notion. To ignore God’s revelation of his righteousness is, indeed, essentially sinful. To read Scripture, but refuse to allow its commands to influence one’s conduct, is the essence of sin.

And what, then, does motivate good works, if not the commands, threats, and promises of reward in Scripture? The Formula doesn’t say. What it suggests is that the Spirit simply brings about obedience from within us. I believe the Spirit does exactly that. But the Formula seems to assume that the Spirit works that way without any decision on our part to act according to the commands of God. That I think is wrong. “Quietism” is the view that Christians should be entirely passive, waiting for the Spirit of God to act in them. This view of the Christian life is unbiblical. The Christian life is a battle, a race. It requires decision and effort. I am not saying that the Formula is quietist (Lutheranism rejected quietism after some controversy in its ranks), but as we read the position of the Formula, it does seem that quietism lies around the corner from it.

 7. The Objective and the Subjective

Part of the motivation for this view of the Christian life, I believe, is the thought that one’s life should be based on something objective, rather than something subjective. On this view, our life is built on what Christ has done for us, objectively in history, not on anything arising from our own subjectivity or inwardness. So in this view, gospel is a recitation of what God has done for us, not a command to provoke our subjective response.

This understanding focuses on justification: God regards us as objectively righteous for Christ’s sake, apart from anything in us. But it tends to neglect regeneration and sanctification: that God does work real subjective changes in the justified.

I have no quarrel with this understanding of justification. But in Scripture, though justification is based on the work of Christ external to us, it is embraced by faith, which is subjective. And faith, in turn, is the result of the Spirit’s subjective work of regeneration (John 3:3).8 So nobody is objectively justified who has not been subjectively changed by God’s grace.

So the Westminster Confession of Faith 18.2, even in speaking of assurance of salvation, refers not only to the truth of God’s promises (objective), but also to the “inward evidence of those graces” and “the testimony of the Spirit of adoption,” which are in some measure subjective.

In fact, we cannot separate the objective and the subjective. Objective truths are subjectively apprehended. We cannot have objective knowledge, confidence, or assurance, unless we are subjectively enabled to perceive what God has objectively given us.

 8. The Two Kingdoms

We should also note the “two kingdoms” view of Christ and culture, that draws on the sharp distinction between law and gospel.9 In general, that view states that there are two kingdoms of God, one, as Luther put it, the kingdom of God’s left hand, the other the kingdom of his right hand. The former is secular, the latter sacred. In the former, God rules by law, in the latter, by his word and Spirit.

The problem is that the two-kingdom doctrine claims a duality, not only between law and gospel as such, but also in God’s standards, his norms. There are secular values and religious values, secular norms and religious norms. Secular society is responsible only to natural laws, the morality found in nature. So, Gene Veith says, “morality is not a matter of religion.”10 The church is subject primarily to the gospel, but in a secondary sense (as we have seen above) subject to both law and gospel, the whole content of the word of God. Therefore, although the Christian can participate in the general culture, he should not seek to Christianize it, to turn it into a Christian culture. There is no such thing as a Christian culture; there is only secular culture, and a Christian church. Nor, of course, should he try to bring secular standards into the church: secular music, for instance.11

It is true that we should not try to force unregenerate people to become Christians through civil power. The church does not have the power of the sword. Nevertheless, there are not two sets of divine norms for civil society, only one. And those norms are in the Bible. Morality is most emphatically a matter of religion. The unregenerate have some knowledge of God’s law through natural revelation (Rom. 1:32), but believers see that law more clearly through the spectacles of Scripture. The biblical view of civil government does not require us to force unbelievers to behave as Christians in every way, but it does call upon us to restrain their (and our!) sin in certain areas. We should be active in society to promote those godly standards.12

 Concluding Observation

The sharp distinction between law and gospel is becoming popular in Reformed, as well as Lutheran circles. It is the view of Westminster Seminary California, Modern Reformation magazine, and the White Horse Inn radio broadcast. The leaders of these organizations are very insistent that theirs is the only biblical view of the matter. One has recently claimed that people who hold a different view repudiate the Reformation and even deny the gospel itself. On that view, we must use the term gospel only in what the Formula calls the “proper” sense, not in the biblical sense. I believe that we should stand with the Scriptures against this tradition.


Lutheran theologians, however, frequently complain that Reformed theology “confuses” law and gospel, which is in the Lutheran view a grave error. The main difference is that for the Reformed law is not merely an accuser, but also a message of divine comfort, a delight of the redeemed heart (Psm. 1:2). Also, the Reformed generally do not give the law/gospel distinction as much prominence within their systematic theological formulations. And, historically, they have been more open to the broader biblical language which the Lutheran Formula of Concord calls “correct” but not “proper” (see below).

The passage cited by the formula, Acts 20:21, does not use the euaggello rootthe usual term for “gospel” and “gospel preaching,” but the term diamarturomai. But Acts 20:21 is nevertheless significant, since it gives a general description of what Paul did in his preaching to “both Jews and Greeks.” That preaching was certainly gospel preaching. Paul resolved in his preaching to “know nothing but Christ and him crucified.” Luke 24:47 is also significant, for it includes both repentance and forgiveness of sins as the content Jesus gives his disciples to preach (kerusso) to all nations.

N. T. Wright believes that this use of gospel has a double root: “On the one hand, the gospel Paul preached was the fulfilment of the message of Isaiah 40 and 52, the message of comfort for Israel and of hope for the whole world, because YHWH, the god of Israel, was returning to Zion to judge and redeem. On the other hand, in the context into which Paul was speaking, “gospel” would mean the celebration of the accession, or birth, of a king or emperor. Though no doubt petty kingdoms might use the word for themselves, in Paul’s world the main ‘gospel’ was the news of, or the celebration of, Caesar,” “Paul’s Gospel and Caesar’s Empire,” available at Of course both of these uses focus on the rule of God as Lord, and both involve what is traditionally called law.

This a triad of the sort expounded in my Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (Phillipsburg: P&R Publications, 1987), Doctrine of God (forthcoming from the same publisher in 2002) and elsewhere.

Although I am critical of the general stance of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and their publication Modern Reformation on this issue, I would strongly recommend Kim Riddlebarger’s essay, “Reformed Confessionalism and the ‘New Perspective’ on Paul,” available at the Alliance web site,, as an excellent introduction to this discussion. I fully endorse the conclusions of that article.

The phrases “covenant of works” and “covenant of grace” found in the Westminster Confession of Faith, 7.2-4 are not found anywhere in Scripture. Covenant in Scripture refers to particular historical relationships between God and his people, mediated by Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus. “Covenant of grace” generalizes the common features of these historical covenants, seeing them as successive manifestations of God’s redemptive Lordship. “Covenant of works” finds in God’s relation to our first parents features identical to his later covenants with, of course, significant differences.

Theological literature speaks of three “uses of the law” : (1) to restrain sin in society, (2) to terrorize people in order to drive them to Christ, and (3) as a guide to believers. In Lutheranism (not in Reformed circles) there has been controversy over the third use, though the Formula affirms it. But in Lutheranism, it is often said that “the law always accuses.” So the third use is essentially the second use directed at believers, driving us to Christ again and again and away from our residual unbelief. Reformed writers do not deny our continual need for Christ and the importance of hearing again and again that we are saved only by his grace. But in Reformed theology, the law also plays a more direct role, giving us specific guidance in God’s delightful paths.

So, again, saving faith works through love (Gal. 5:6) and is dead without works (James 2:14-26).

See, for example, Gene Veith, “Christianity and Culture: God’s Double Sovereignty,” from The Whirlpool (Jan.-Feb., 1997), available at

10 Ibid.

11 There are, of course, reasons to criticize the use of secular music in the church other than the two-kingdoms concept. But if that concept is rejected, then the distinction between sacred and secular is relativized somewhat, and one must evaluate “secular” music piece-by-piece, rather than as a general category.

12 In terms of the categories of H. Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture (NY: Harper, 1951), we should be “transformationalists,” not “dualists.”

Tullian Tchvidjian Removed From The Gospel Coalition List Of Contributors

tgclogoAs I woke up this morning, I began my morning routine. I began to fix some breakfast, do some light devotional reading, and begin reading my favorite blogs. As I got to The Gospel Coalition site, I noticed a newly renovated site (looks good!). As I began probing around the new site, it didn’t take me long to find that Tullian Tchvidjian was no longer listed as a contributor to the Gospel Coalition. Matter of factly, if you type in Tullian’s name in the search bar, only 5 total results show up. All of his blog posts have been removed.

Why did The Gospel Coalition remove Tullian as a contributor?

I don’t know for sure, but I’ve got a pretty good idea why.

Because he holds to the Law/Gospel distinction, and because his views differ on sanctification, and because he calls people out when they’re being legalistic.

So, now I’m beginning to think: would TGC have allowed Luther to post? What about Calvin for that matter? While in Strassburg, Calvin signed the Augsburg Confession (1539 or 1540), and was generally considered a Lutheran! Beza? Spurgeon? These are all great men of God that held to a distinction between Law and Gospel and would have probably disagreed with TGC views on sanctification.

Is the exclusivism necessary? Is TGC guilty of being legalistic in a sense themselves?

Some interesting thoughts to ponder…What say you?

Why Evangelize If God Is Sovereign?

blogpicWhy should we as Christians spend our time and energy evangelizing if God has already predetermined before the foundations of the world who will be saved and who will not be? If God has an elect group of people, will they not just come to faith no matter what happens? Why do we need to preach the Gospel? These were all questions that I had prior to becoming a Calvinist. I’m sure there are many people out there today that are asking similar questions (I know, because I see them in anti-Calvinist threads on an almost daily basis!).

As a young Christian, I had vehemently opposed the idea that God had predetermined the fate of humanity before the foundation of the world. It just did not sit right with me (partly because of my pride, and partly because I didn’t understand my own sinfulness at the time). I could not for the life of me understand why we were commanded to evangelize if it was all a “done deal”.

To make a long story short, God in His grace began to peel back the layers of my own pride and ego, and began to show me my own sinfulness before Him. Over time, I came to understand that the sovereignty of God and evangelism actually are not enemies at all, but rather they are the very best of friends. It is my intention to help others that may be struggling as I was to understand how God’s sovereignty and evangelism are actually friends, rather than enemies.

Why Evangelize If God Is Sovereign? 

God ordains not only the end, but He also ordains the means to that end. The Apostle Paul in Romans 1:16 tells us that the Gospel is “God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes”. In Romans 10:13, he tells us that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”. So we see that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes, and that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. From there, the apostle begins to delve deeper. He asks “but how will they call on Him they have not believed in and how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14-15 HCSB).

To lay out Paul’s thinking, it would look similar to this:

  1. The Gospel is the power of God for salvation,
  2. and all that call on the name of the Lord will be saved.
  3. But, how can they call on the name of the Lord if they haven’t heard about him to begin with?
  4. How can they hear about Him and this power without a preacher?
  5. How can they preach about Him and this power for salvation if they are not sent out?

Paul knew that God is sovereign, and had already ordained the end. But, he knew that the means was essential to get to that end.  He talks about God’s glorious and mighty sovereignty so strongly in chapters 8, 9, and 11 of Romans. But here in chapter 10, smashed right in between those chapters, he addresses the importance of sending out preachers of the Gospel to evangelize; “how will they call on Him they have no believed in, and how can they believe without hearing about Him? How can they even hear about Him and what He did for sinners without a preacher?” (1)

The Gospel – The Ordained Means For Salvation

This is why we evangelize. God is indeed sovereign, and he has ordained the end and the means to that end. That means is the proclamation of the Gospel. The elect of God cannot come to God without believing in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and they cannot respond to this Gospel message without hearing it being preached. We do not know who the elect are. They are scattered all throughout the world. They are a part of every tongue, tribe, and nation. So, we preach indiscriminately to all and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, just as Jesus commanded.





How Incurable God-Lovers Should Discuss Theology

hqdefaultAn incurable God-lover is that rare and supernaturally changed person we call a Christian. He is someone whom God called out of the darkness of unbelief and self-centeredness into the light of knowing God and living for Him. An incurable God-lover has come to understand that he has rebelled against the God of heaven and earth and that he deserves God’s unending wrath. He recognizes that when he sins against God, it is not simply breaking a rule in God’s book, but it is a personal offense against God Himself. He understands “in his bones” that sin grieves God. He is not only remorseful over sin, but he desires never to do it again. An incurable God-lover lives and breathes grace. This person feasts on the fact that God showered His love on an undeserving sinner and rebel. He delights in the truth that Jesus Christ bore the wrath of God in his place. When he commits a sin, this grace of God is that which causes him to repent of his sin and redouble his efforts to live for Christ. An incurable God-lover has the Spirit of God in his life pushing him on to continue to love God more than sin until he dies.

How to Go About Discussing Theology

Over the years we at In-Depth Studies have been involved in more than our fair share of controversial theological discussion and we have received more than our fair share of black eyes and uncharitable responses. I am not writing this to tell you how awful those who disagree with me have behaved. My involvement in discussing theology has brought to light something far more disturbing than that. I have perceived my own motives for discussing theology turning more and more sinful as I have received both negative and positive responses to my writing and speaking. I find myself wanting to belittle my opponents rather than putting their interests above my own. In addition, I find that I desire people’s praise far too much. In short, I find myself discussing theology for the wrong reasons and, at times, in the wrong manner. So this leads to the question: How should incurable God-lovers discuss theology?

Theology is not a hobby or a game. It is not about getting every point right, although it is important to have correct theology. Theology is about knowing God through the Scriptures. The stakes are high because theology not only affects how we live now, but the theology we embrace is directly related to where we spend eternity. Theology is the most important field of study that exists because God is the most important person that exists. When someone has wrong theology they not only dishonor God by misrepresenting Him, but their lack of understanding can lead other people astray. In short, wrong theology can smear God’s good name and can hurt His people.

I am not for blind ecumenicalism in which you are limited to small talk about sports because you disagree violently about everything else. I believe it is necessary to divide over important theological issues and to create different local church bodies that clearly teach and live out what they believe Scripture says. But neither am I for churches that are hermetically sealed off so that we have no exposure to those who differ from us. I believe it is of vital importance that we talk about, laugh, discuss, and wrestle through our differing theologies. If you are a Preterist, a Covenant Theologian, a Premillenialist, a Pentecostal, a Charismatic, an Arminian, or a Calvinist, you should strive to be talking with those who differ with you. But you should also strive to be talking with those who differ with you in a way that honors God and displays His wonderful grace and mercy.

It seems as if many times the theology most people embrace is wrong. I say this not because their stated theology always differs from mine, but rather because the way they go about discussing this most important of subjects reveals their unstated theology. The normal fare in theological dialogue can range from an unwillingness to listen to the point of view of others, to name calling and harshness, and sadly, arrogance. It is not at all unusual that our actions and our stated theology can be in conflict because of the way we discuss theology. But if this happens, God is being dishonored by the manner in which we try to defend His truth. The goal is that our stated theology and our actions so harmonize that we give evidence that what we understand about God, we actually believe! As basic as this may sound, a great need in Christian circles is that we actually live out our theology when we are speaking about the things of God with other people. This will revolutionize the way we discuss theology with those with whom we disagree and even the way we divide from others.

I must admit that it is frustrating to talk to someone who I am sure holds the wrong view about something. It is even more frustrating to talk to someone that I know is wrong when he thinks that he is right and is unwilling to listen. It is tempting to think that I know what I am talking about and the person I am discussing theology with is “ignorant”. But such thinking is sinful and wrong. Perhaps I have the knowledge and the intellect to run rings around someone. Perhaps I have the theological weight with which to squash him like a bug. Now, what do I owe this “ignorant” person with whom I am discussing theology? This is a theological question that should be answered before I ever begin to have a theological discussion.

If I am a believer (that is, if I am an incurable God-lover), then I have been saved by grace. I was so helplessly and hopelessly locked up in my own self-centered God-hating little world that I didn’t realize or didn’t care that the God of the universe was my enemy. My whole life was an offense to our perfect Creator. He sees and knows every sinful and shameful thing I have ever thought or done. He is always right in all of his judgments and action and, well, I’m not. If you were to call me an ignorant twit in comparison to God, it would be the highest compliment you could pay me and it would far overestimate my abilities and virtues. God is not only able to squash me like a bug, but I deserve to be squashed. I deserve to be in hell forever and ever because I have rebelled against God. But God, “who is rich in mercy,” decided not to squash me like a bug. While I was still insulting God and living as His enemy, God decided to give me mercy. He decided to satisfy His wrath, which He was storing up for me, on His innocent Son so that I might live for Him and enjoy Him forever. I received grace—the undeserved, unearned and inexhaustible love of God. As we stand basking in the love and mercy shown us through the cross of Christ, let me ask the question again: What do I owe someone with whom I am discussing theology? If the answer hasn’t leapt to your mind just yet, let’s consider some Scripture that might help us grasp just what we owe everyone with whom we interact:

1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father – (Philippians 2:1-11).

34 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. – (John 13:34-35).

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. – (Ephesians 4:29-32).

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 Thisis love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us – (1 John 4:7-12)

Listening to Understand: The First Step in Theological Discussion

It seems rather obvious, but since it is violated so often (as I write this I am cringing at the memory of my own sin in this area) it is worth making some remarks about. How can I put the needs of the person I am talking with above my own if I am not willing to actually listen, understand, and consider his point of view? How can I claim to love my brother and yet not be willing to let him fully explain himself? If I am actually going to seek to love the person with whom I am discussing theology, I need to understand his point of view thoroughly. I may disagree with every part of his theological position, but I need to understand his point of view so well that I am able to explain it to him in such a way that he can honestly say, “I couldn’t have represented my view better myself.”

For those of us who are theological veterans, there is a danger in dismissing this point. There are few theological positions that we have not been exposed to and do not thoroughly understand. If someone tells me he does not believe in limited atonement, I can be fairly certain that I know all of the texts that the person will go to in order to prove his point of view and I am also pretty sure how he will attempt to explain away all those texts that seem to point in the other direction. Why should I bother listening to him explain a point of view I already understand perhaps better than he does? The reason I need to bother listening to him is because God has commanded me to love him self-sacrificially. Even if I have heard his theological position stated a thousand times before by other people, there is no excuse for me not to listen to him state his point of view with the patience and attention that I owe him (always keeping in mind how God is so patient and attentive to me).

But we can’t stop simply at listening in order to understand someone’s theological position. In order to truly love this person, I need to do more than simply understand his point of view academically. I need to understand how he understands his point of view. I need to draw out of him why he believes it and what he thinks the implications of his view are. If I am actually striving to love this person (which, as a Christian is my obligation to everyone, even to my enemies) then I desire to serve him in some way in our discussion about the things of God. This means that I need to get to know what makes him tick.

A person’s theology is not formed in an academic vacuum. Our lives actually inform our theology just as our theology informs our lives. For example, some time ago I had a discussion with a very bright man who is an able interpreter of Scripture about the biblical basis for the doctrine commonly called “the age of accountability,” wherein some believe that Scripture teaches that young children automatically go to heaven up to a certain age. They believe that when children reach an age when they have a clear understanding of right and wrong, only then does God holds children accountable for sin (their own sin and the imputed sin of Adam). We examined several passages of Scripture and I was shocked at what I believed were flimsy and irrational arguments. It made little sense to me how such a bright and knowledgeable person could hold what was a theological position seemingly without biblical warrant. Then we began to chat about his family and he told me about how his wife had one miscarriage and his first child died soon after birth. Suddenly I understood that his theological conviction was most likely not grounded in Scripture but in a traumatic experience. I was then able to point him away from the “age of accountability” and toward the hope that Scripture gives us in the midst of such a tragedy like losing a child. The point is simply this: theological discussion is not only about the text but about the person as well. It is not only about winning a point but also about showing love and concern for one of God’s servants. It is about listening to understand the point of view and the person.

Honoring God With Our Intentions

The way we speak to one another is as important as the truth of our theological point of view. We have already established that Christ has commanded us to love one another. We are not only to love fellow believers, but our enemies as well. We have also established that in order to live out the command to love one another, we need to strive to understand the point of view of the person with whom we are discussing theology. Understanding usually involves listening and a bit of speaking in order to clarify what is being said. Now we need to consider those situations when we have to open our big mouths to present our point of view, to point out errors, and to defend what we believe the Scriptures teach.

Are we going to choose “adjectives” to the glory of God, or are we going to allow our tongues to wreak havoc and dishonor God? That is the simple choice we need to make. Are we going to put our love for God, our love for our brothers, and even our love for our enemies as our first priority, or are we going to choose to live for ourselves by feeding our pride and dishonoring our Lord? The book of Proverbs and the book of James are full of admonitions to be very careful about how we speak to others. Jesus says that the words that we speak reveal what is in our hearts. The things that we say reveal who our Lord really is: No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:43-45).

Most of us who engage in theological discussion know this, but sadly I see this truth applied far too infrequently. It wasn’t that we intended to be prideful or hurtful, we just wanted to win the argument. Of course, we don’t want to admit that winning the argument was our motive. We might refer to our prideful and arrogant way of interacting as, “defending the truth.” But notice that even this stated intention in discussing theology doesn’t mention that we should love whom we speak to and help him to understand God better. Our intention wasn’t to lay down our lives for our enemies, taking insults quietly and humbly attempting to show a more excellent way to think about the God of heaven and earth. It is a wonderful thing to “defend the truth” of the specific doctrine you are discussing, just so long as you remember that you simultaneously have to obey the other truths of Scripture like loving your brothers and loving your enemies, just as God has loved you. Without love and concern for the person you are talking to being a primary intention, there is no way you will consistently choose “adjectives” to the glory of God.

No Hotline to Heaven

Take a deep breath and repeat after me: “I could be wrong.” In the light of day it sounds crazy that we even need to discuss the fact that when we talk about theological issues we must be mindful that we are not infallible. But as crazy as it sounds, when most people enter into theological discussion, the light of day dims. We speak as if our understanding of Scripture was itself divinely inspired. There is much today that is taught about “the preacher’s authority” as he gives his holy message. Some even argue that the pastor is the modern day prophet bringing the Word of God to the people. I would love it if that were truly biblical because then I would not have to be concerned about misleading people when I teach. I could simply be faithful to repeat God’s message verbatim and I would be sure that everything I said was 100% correct. But you and I do not have a hotline to heaven giving us God’s confirmation that our well-studied interpretations of Scripture are correct. When you and I teach the Word of God in a church gathering, in a Sunday school class, or in small-group setting, we are giving everyone our “best guess” as to what Scripture means by what it says. It may be a highly educated, a well thought out, and a beautifully sculpted guess, but it is still a guess. This is also true whenever we discuss theology with someone.

Here are some common “I have a hotline to heaven” statements:

“No, you are wrong about that.”
“That is Scripture means X, and your interpretation is simply incorrect”
“Doctrine A is obviously proven by Scripture B and if you don’t see it you are simply blind.”
There is a time and place for absolute statements, but these should not be the common fare in theological discussion. The fact that we do not have a hotline to heaven but that we are all growing in our understanding of God’s Word should be evident in the words we use. Below I have reworded the absolute statements in such a way that take into account the fact that I am a fallible man striving to represent my Lord:

“It seems to me that your interpretation does not take into account Scriptures A and B. How do these Scriptures fit with your viewpoint?”
“From my perspective it appears that Scripture X means Y because of context Z, but I could be wrong about the context, what do you think?”
“That does not seem correct given Scriptures A, B, and C, but perhaps I am missing something. Do you see something that I have missed?”

Now it is certainly possible that you can go overboard using these qualifiers, but especially on points of contention it would seem that such careful and qualified language should be the norm.

A Word of Encouragement

Watch some television and consider how they portray people having disagreements. Go out into your community and listen to people as they have disagreements. Disagreement in the world can be harsh and it can be quiet. Unbelievers can argue and they can be sarcastic and they can also, on occasion, remain at peace with one another. The one thing they cannot do is lay down their lives for one another as they disagree. They do not have the God of heaven and earth at work in them causing them to love God and love others. If we as Christians love one another as we talk about the things of God, the way that we disagree will be stamped with the supernatural love and power of God. The world will take notice of us, not because we are divisive and always fighting, but because we are following in the footsteps of our Lord by loving one another more than life itself. Then, perhaps, we will have an opportunity to talk about the gospel and the world will have a reason to listen to us.

(Article originally posted at:

The Lack Of Discernment At Liberty University

As I write this, I’m watching and sifting through Glenn Beck’s Convocation speech at Liberty University last week (4/25/14). As I watch this, I find myself saying one thing over and over: “what?”

For those of you that are unaware, Glenn Beck is a Mormon. This guy believes that Joseph Smith was a prophet (Dum, dum dum, dum, dum), and that Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers. This guy believes that one day – if he lives a good enough life, he can become a god himself. He actually believes that there is a entire council of gods. Mr. Beck also believes that we’re only saved by grace after all of the good deeds that we can do. I don’t have to go into much more detail, as any discerning Christian will know that all of these doctrines directly contradict the teachings of orthodox Christianity, and the teachings found within the Bible.

In Beck’s Convocation speech, he continuously encouraged students to pour over the Scriptures. This is interesting. What Scriptures? The Bible, or the Book of Mormon? Another very interesting statement that he made came around the 14:40 mark, when he said – “I am a Christian. I come from a different denomination”. I really hope that as soon as Mr. Beck exited the stage, someone from Liberty got up and explained to the students that attended Convocation that Mr. Beck is not from “a different denomination”, but rather a cult. I can’t begin to stress just how dangerous this is to the students attending Liberty. After watching this speech, I fear that there is some young brother or sister in the faith right now that attended this specific Convocation that honestly thinks that Mormonism is just another denomination, and they’re true Christians. Heck, they may even want to check out the local Mormon church now, because Glenn Beck seemed like a sincere guy, and he did say that Mormons are just a different denomination, and the school didn’t say other wise. See where I’m going with this?

This is extremely frightening. Is Liberty University accepting Mormons as genuine brothers in the faith? It sure seems that way.

Here’s my bottom line. There is a major lack of discernment at Liberty University. Any “Christian” university that will allow someone from a cult to come and speak to their students and not even bat an eye has some major issues. I mean, why not let a successful Jehovah’s Witness speak? A Christian Scientist? A Christidelphian or heck, even a Muslim? They all believe in “a Jesus”. Obviously that’s the only requirement needed to speak at Liberty’s Convocation. I fear that Liberty is on a slippery slope which will lead to Liberalism 10 years down the road. Hopefully, I’m wrong.

A Critical View Of The “1,500 Year Old Bible” and “The Gospel of Barnabas”

Gospel of Barnabas BookTonight a friend showed me an article that some Atheists were passing around that talked about the discovery of a 1,500 year Bible that the Vatican was supposedly was wanting to keep hush-hush. After reading the article, I decided to do researching.

The “1,500 Year Old Bible” is a leather book that was recently discovered in Turkey and is said to be written in Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic. It has been speculated that this “1,500 Year Old Bible” is a copy of the Gospel of Barnabas. If this is true, then there are some problems that need to be immediately pointed out. After a few hours of researching, I have found no better article on the problems within the Gospel of Barnabas than what I found on Here are those problems:

1. The Gospel of Barnabas and the Epistle of Barnabas

There are two books which carry the name, Barnabas. There is the Gospel of Barnabas and the Epistle of Barnabas. These are two very different books. The Gospel of Barnabas is the book promoted by Muslims today, while the Epistle of Barnabas is an ancient Christian book which teaches about the lordship, death and resurrection of Jesus. The Epistle of Barnabas is freely available and thoroughly Christian. The distinction between these two books needs to be understood because sometimes people confuse them; they think that a reference to the Epistle of Barnabas is a reference to the Gospel of Barnabas, but it is not. They are two completely different books.

2. The Gospel of Barnabas and the 1st Century A.D.

The Gospel of Barnabas is promoted by Muslims as an original Gospel written by the man named Barnabas[1] who it is claimed was a disciple of Jesus (p. 2). Thus they claim it was written by a Jewish man in the 1st century A.D. who travelled with Jesus. If Barnabas really is the author then it is reasonable to expect that he would be familiar with the basic facts of Jewish life at this time. We will now consider this book to see if he does.

a/ Christ. The word (Christ) is the Greek translation for the Hebrew word (Messiah). Both these words when translated into English mean the Anointed One or the Chosen One. This word is not an obscure or rarely used word, on the contrary it is one of the most famous words in the Jewish and Christian religions. There is no doubt that a religious Jew like Barnabas would have been very familiar with this word.

At the very start of the Gospel of Barnabas Jesus is called the Christ: God has during these past days visited us by his prophet Jesus Christ (p.2). However, throughout the book Jesus denies being the Messiah: Jesus confessed and said the truth, “I am not the Messiah (chap. 42). How can Jesus be the Christ and deny being the Messiah when both words mean exactly the same thing? Whoever wrote this book did not know the Greek meaning of the word Christ is Messiah. Barnabas was a Hebrew who lived on the island of Cyprus, a Greek-speaking island, and travelled around the 1st century Greek-speaking world![2] He was Hebrew and knew Greek and could not have made this mistake with such a famous word.

b/ The Rulers of the 1st Century A.D. In chapter 3 we are told that Herod and Pilate both ruled in Judea at the time of Jesus’ birth: There reigned at that time in Judaea Herod, by decree of Caesar Augustus, and Pilate was governor. This is historically wrong for Herod and Pilate never ruled Judea at the same time. Herod ruled Judea alone from 37-4 B.C., while Pilate ruled thirty years later from 26-36 A.D.[3] The real Barnabas lived during the rule of Pilate, so if he really was the writer of this book, how could he make such a simple mistake?

c/ Geography. In chapters 20-21 of this book we are told about Jesus sailing to Nazareth and being welcomed by the seamen of that town. He then leaves Nazareth and goes up to Capernaum:

Jesus went to the sea of Galilee, and having embarked in a ship sailed to his city of Nazareth. … Having arrived at the city of Nazareth the seamen spread through the city all that Jesus wrought (done) … (then) Jesus went up to Capernaum (chaps. 20-21).

There is a major error in this account. Nazareth was not a fishing village, in fact it was about 14 km from the sea of Galilee and situated in the hills of a mountain range![4] Capernaum was the fishing village that Jesus arrived at with his disciples, not Nazareth.[5] Nazareth and Capernaum were two towns which Jesus often visited with his disciples[6] therefore any disciple of Jesus would know these towns well. However the author of this book does not! This casts doubt over the claim that he was a disciple of Jesus. It also make us doubt that he ever lived in that region.

Conclusion: the Gospel of Barnabas makes basic mistakes about the language, history and geography of the Jewish world in the 1st century A.D. These types of mistakes cast doubt over the claim that it was written by Barnabas in the 1st century.

3. The Gospel of Barnabas and Islam

The Gospel of Barnabas overwhelmingly supports the teaching of Islam. However, there are a few rare occasions when it does not.

a/ The Messiah. The Qur’an teaches that Jesus is the Messiah, and it never teaches that Muhammad is the Messiah:

Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a word from him, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary (Qur’an 3:45, Pickthall).

However, the Gospel of Barnabas denies that Jesus is the Messiah, and instead says Muhammad is the Messiah:

Jesus confessed and said the truth, “I am not the Messiah”. (chap. 42). Then said the priest: “How shall the Messiah be called?” … (Jesus answered) “Muhammed is his blessed name” (chap. 97).

Both these ideas contradict the Qur’an.

b/ Wives. Marriage in the Qur’an binds a woman to one man but it does not bind a man to one woman. Muslim men are free to have several wives (Qur’an 4:3) and an unlimited number of female servants (Qur’an 70:30). However, the Gospel of Barnabas teaches the Biblical idea of marriage, that marriage binds a man and a woman equally together:

Let a man content himself therefore with the wife whom his creator has given him, and let him forget every other woman (chap. 115).

c/ The Birth of Jesus. The Qur’an clearly teaches that Mary had pain when she gave birth to Jesus:

(A)nd she withdrew with him to a far place. And the pangs of childbirth drove her unto the trunk of the palm tree. (Qur’an 19:22-23, Pickthall)

However, the Gospel of Barnabas teaches the opposite: The virgin was surrounded by a light exceeding bright, and brought forth her son without pain (chap. 3).

d/ The Heavens. The Qur’an teaches that there are seven heavens: The seven heavens and the earth praise Him (Qur’an 17:44, Pickthall). However the Gospel of Barnabas teaches that there are nine heavens:

Verily I say unto thee that the heavens are nine, among which are set the planets, that are distant one from another five hundred years journey for a man (chap. 178).

4. The Gospel of Barnabas and the 14th Century A.D.

There is good evidence that links this Gospel of Barnabas to the 14th century A.D.

a/ The Jubilee Year. The Jubilee year is a celebration commanded by God in the Torah. It was to be observed every fifty years:

Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clan. The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you (Leviticus 25:10-11, NIV).

In the year 1300 A.D. Pope Boniface VIII falsely proclaimed that the Jubilee should be celebrated by Christians every 100 years instead of 50 years. However the next Pope, Clement VI, changed it back to every 50 years, and so it was celebrated in 1350 A.D.[7] Therefore, in the church’s history there is a 50-year period when the Jubilee was thought by many to be every 100 years. The author of the Gospel of Barnabas has unknowingly accepted the Pope’s false decree as true and included it in his book. For in the Gospel of Barnabas these words are put on Jesus’ lips:

(I)nsomuch that the year of Jubilee, which now comes every 100 years, shall by the Messiah be reduced to every year in every place (chap. 82).

Is there any other evidence that could date this book to the 14th century? There is.

b/ Dante’s Heaven. Dante was a famous and popular poet of the 14th and later centuries. Among Dante’s work is a book of poetry called, The Divine Comedy.[8] In this book he describes ascending through the heavens to reach paradise. Dante describes ascending through nine heavens, with paradise being the 10th.

The author of the Gospel of Barnabas describes, in the same way as Dante, nine heavens before paradise:

Paradise is so great that no man can measure it. Verily I say unto thee that the heavens are nine, among which are set the planets, that are distant one from another five hundred years journey for a man … and Verily I say unto thee that paradise is greater than all the earth and heavens together (chap. 178).

It appears that the author of the Gospel of Barnabas could have taken the idea of the nine heavens from reading Dante.

c/ The Manuscript Evidence. The manuscript evidence for this book is from after the 14th century. The oldest copies are written in Italian and Spanish and these are dated from the 15th century A.D. or later.[9]

5. When was the Gospel of Barnabas Written?

So far we have seen that the author of the Gospel of Barnabas was not familiar with the language, history or geography of the time of Jesus. He also has several 14th century ideas in his book and the manuscript evidence dates from the 15th century onwards. It therefore is reasonable to conclude that the Gospel of Barnabas was composed in the 14th century A.D. and not in the 1st century by a disciple of Jesus. Is this a reasonable conclusion? It seems so because even some Islamic scholars agree with this dating:

As regards the “Gospel of Barnabas” itself, there is no question that it is a medieval forgery … It contains anachronisms which can date only from the Middle Ages and not before, and shows a garbled comprehension of Islamic doctrines, calling the Prophet the “Messiah”, which Islam does not claim for him. Besides it farcical notion of sacred history, stylistically it is a mediocre parody of the Gospels, as the writings of Baha Allah are of the Koran. (Cyril Glassé, The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989, p. 65)

(The medieval period is from the 8th to the middle of the 15th century A.D.)

6. The Muslim Evidence for the Antiquity of the Gospel of Barnabas

Muslim Educational Trust (MET)<br />
LAHORE (no date)

There are no copies of the Gospel of Barnabas among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The contents of the Dead Sea Scrolls have been public knowledge for many years and you can learn for yourself what scrolls were discovered by going to any major library and reading a book on the subject. What is common knowledge is that no part of the Gospel of Barnabas has been found among these scrolls. This is an important fact to know because some Muslims have put pictures of the Dead Sea Scrolls on the cover of their editions of the Gospel of Barnabas. This is an attempt to deceive people into thinking that the Gospel of Barnabas in an ancient document. The book shown to the right is an example of this deceitful behaviour.

In many modern editions of the Gospel of Barnabas there is an introduction or appendix entitled, “How the Gospel of Barnabas Survived”.[10] This is a shortened version of what was written by Muhammad `Ata ur-Rahim in his book, Jesus a Prophet of Islam.[11] In this he seeks to demonstrate the antiquity of the Gospel of Barnabas. For many people what Rahim has written has convinced them of the antiquity of the Gospel of Barnabas. For this reason I will now examine in detail the evidence he gives.

Rahim writes:

The Gospel of Barnabas was accepted as a Canonical Gospel in the Churches of Alexandria up until till 325 A.D. (Rahim, p. 41)

Rahim makes this claim but you will notice he provides no evidence for it. I am not aware of any evidence, and until some evidence is provided this claim is baseless.

Rahim continues:

It is known that it (the Gospel of Barnabas) was being circulated in the first and second centuries after the birth of Jesus from the writings of Iranaeus (130-200 A.D.), who wrote in support of the Divine Unity. He opposed Paul whom he accused of being responsible for the assilation of the pagan Roman religion and Platonic philosophy into the original teaching of Jesus. He quoted extensively from the Gospel of Barnabas in support of his views. (Rahim, p. 41)

Again we see Rahim make a claim but not provide any evidence for it. He claims that the early church theologian, Irenaeus, quoted the gospel of Barnabas as he opposed the Apostle Paul. When this claim is investigated it is found to be false. The writings of Irenaeus are readily available[12] and I have examined them and he never quotes the Gospel of Barnabas. This is why Rahim cannot refer to where in Irenaeus’ work he quotes the Gospel of Barnabas. Nor is Irenaeus opposed to the Apostle Paul as Rahim claims. In fact he endorsed the Apostle Paul and quotes Paul’s writings as authoritative scripture. Consider what Irenaeus writes:

(God) at first narrated the formation of the world in these words: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth”(Genesis 1:1) and all other things in succession; but neither gods nor angels [had any share in the work]. Now, that this God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Paul the apostle also has declared, [saying,] “There is one God, the Father, who is above all, and through all things, and in us all” (Ephesian 4:6). I have indeed proved already that there is only one God; but I shall further demonstrate this from the apostles themselves, and from the discourses of the Lord (Jesus). (Irenaeus Against Heresies)[13]

Rahim continues:

In 325 A.D., the famous Council of Nicea was held. The doctrine of the Trinity was declared to be the official doctrine of the Pauline Church, and one of the consequences of this decision was that out of the three hundred or so Gospels exant at the time, four were chosen as the official Gospels of the Church. The remaining Gospels, including the Gospel of Barnabas, were ordered to be destroyed completely. It was also decided that all Gospels written in Hebrew should be destroyed. An edict was issued stating that anyone found in possession of an unauthorised Gospel would be put to death. (Rahim, p. 42)

This claim is total nonsense. The edicts/canons from the Council of Nicaea are freely available for you to read and I encourage you to do so.[14] There were twenty edicts issued at the Council of Nicaea. None of them were about selecting or rejecting any Gospels. Nor were there any edicts about executing a person for being “in possession of an unauthorised Gospel”. Rahim’s scholarship is very poor indeed; he seems to be inventing his own evidence.

Rahim continues:

In fact, it is known that the Pope secured a copy of the Gospel of Barnabas in 383 A.D., and kept it in his private library. (Rahim, p. 42)

Again Rahim provides no evidence for this serious claim. It is very poor scholarship to make such claims and provide no evidence. I am not aware of any evidence, and until some is provided this claim is baseless.

Rahim continues:

In the fourth year of the Emperor Zeno’s rule in 478 A.D., the remains of Barnabas were discovered, and a copy of the Gospel of Barnabas, written in his own hand, was found on his breast. This is recorded in the Acta Sanctorum, Boland Junii, Tome II, pages 422-450, published in Antwerp in 1698. (Rahim, p. 43)

When this claim is investigated it is found to be false. The Acta Sanctorum (Acts of the Saints) is available in major libraries and the internet.[15] I have read the references that Rahim refers to and they do not say what he claims. What the Acta Sanctorum actually says is:

The relics of Barnabas the Apostle were found in Cyprus under a cherry tree, having upon his breast the Gospel of St. Matthew copied by Barnabas’ own hand. (Acta Sanctorum, Jun II, p. 422.)[16]

Again we see Rahim’s poor scholarship. The story of Barnabas says he was found with the Gospel of Matthew not the Gospel of Barnabas.

In the version of Rahim’s work that is found in the introduction section of the Gospel of Barnabas we read a ridiculous claim.

The famous Vulgate Bible appears to be based on this Gospel (of Barnabas). (p. xv)

This is total nonsense and again lacks any evidence. The Vulgate Bible is a very famous early translation of the Bible into Latin. It was done by Jerome in the 4th century A.D., and has been the standard Bible used by the Roman Catholic church. It does not contain the Gospel of Barnabas nor was it based on the Gospel of Barnabas. Jerome based his translation on the books of the Old and New Testaments which he read in the original languages.[17]

Next, Rahim considers three official church documents. These documents are catalogues of which writings are regarded as scripture and which writings are not. Rahim writes:

In the Glasian (sic) Decree of 496 A.D., the Evangelium Barnabe is included in the list of forbidden books. …

Barnabas is also mentioned in the Stichometry of Nicephorus as follows:

Serial No. 3, Epistle of Barnabas … Lines 1, 300.

and again in the list of Sixty Books as follows:

Serial No. 17. Travels and teaching of the Apostles.
Serial No. 18. Epistle of Barnabas.
Serial No. 24. Gospel According to Barnabas.

(Rahim, pp. 42-43)

In this case Rahim accurately represents the sources. Barnabas is mentioned in them, and it is recorded that there was a Gospel and an epistle (letter) in this name. However, evidence is required to establish that the Gospel of Barnabas mentioned in these documents is the same book that Muslims promote today. There are in fact several reasons why we cannot just assume they are the same book.

First, as we have seen already, there is good evidence that the modern Gospel of Barnabas was composed in the 14th century A.D., a date even some Islamic scholars accept.

Second, there is the related evidence from the Epistle of Barnabas. The Epistle of Barnabas appears in these lists along with the Gospel of Barnabas. They are both attributed to Barnabas, and are recorded in the same lists at the same time. For these reasons the Epistle of Barnabas provides us with the best available evidence as to the character of the Gospel of Barnabas mentioned in the same lists. In 1859, a 4th century A.D. copy of the Epistle of Barnabas was discovered.[18] I have provided the text of this epistle for you to read.[19]

So what does the Epistle of Barnabas show? If it confirms the teaching of the Gospel of Barnabas that Muslims promote, then this would provide good evidence that this book is indeed the same Gospel mentioned in these lists. But it doesn’t. The Epistle of Barnabas is a thoroughly Christian document, though it is not to be regarded as scripture. It teaches Jesus’ sacrificial death, resurrection and lordship.

For to this end the Lord endured to deliver up His flesh to corruption, that we might be sanctified through the remission of sins, which is effected by His blood of sprinkling. (Epistle of Barnabas, ch. 5)

Therefore, the related evidence from the Epistle of Barnabas suggests that the Gospel of Barnabas mentioned in these lists was still a Christian document which taught the death, resurrection and lordship of Jesus. It is therefore a different book to the one that Muslims are promoting.

Next, Rahim appeals to an old Greek fragment of text:

There is a solitary fragment of a Greek version of the Gospel of Barnabas to be found in a museum in Athens, which is all that remains of a copy which was burnt:

(Rahim, p. 43)

The problem with this evidence is that the text on this fragment is not the text of the Gospel of Barnabas! Here is a translation of the text from the fragment.

Barnabas the Apostle said that in evil contests the victor is more wretched because he departs with more of the sin.[20]

This sentence bears no resemblance to any sentence in the Gospel of Barnabas. The fragment is from a different book altogether. Therefore this fragment does not provide any evidence for the antiquity of the Gospel of Barnabas. Again Rahim’s scholarship is found false. Rahin is making mischief.

Conclusion. There is no evidence that the Gospel of Barnabas that Muslims promote is an ancient document. Therefore the 14th century date for its composition remains valid.

7. Why was the Gospel of Barnabas Written?

Why would somebody in the 14th century A.D. write this book and pretend that it was written by Barnabas in the 1st century? What could be their motive for doing this? In order to answer this question we need to consider what the author was trying to achieve with his book; what was he trying to teach? If we can understand what he was trying to teach and convince people then we should be able to understand why he wrote the book. So what does the Gospel of Barnabas teach?

The main topic of the Gospel of Barnabas is the life of Jesus. It retells most of the events of Jesus’ life as recorded in the Biblical Gospels, but at some points there are changes and additions to these stories. These changes are not random, instead they follow a clear pattern. They are intentional changes to make the Biblical accounts conform to the teaching of the Qur’an. Consider the following changes:

a/ John, Jesus and Muhammad. In the Bible we read how John the Baptist announced the coming of Jesus:

Now this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Christ. ” They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, `Make straight the way for the Lord.'” … The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:19-29, NIV)

In the Gospel of Barnabas we see how this account has been transformed to make Jesus predict the coming of Muhammad, as the Qur’an says Jesus did (Qur’an 7:157, 61:6).

(T)hey saw many who came to find him, for the chiefs of the priests took counsel among themselves to catch him in his talk. Wherefore they sent the Levites and some of the scribes to question him, saying: “Who are you?” Jesus confessed, and said the truth: “I am not the Messiah.” They said: “Are you Elijah or Jeremiah, or any of the ancient prophets?” Jesus answered: “No.” Then said they: “Who are you? Say, in order that we may give testimony to those who sent us.” Then Jesus said: “I am a voice that cries through all Judea, and cries: “Prepare you the way for the messenger of the Lord,” even as it is written in Esaias;.” (chap. 42)

Then said the Priest: “How shall the Messiah be called …” Jesus answered: “The name of the Messiah is admirable … Mohammed is his blessed name (chap. 97).

b/ The Son of God. In the Bible the title son of God is a title given to the nation of Israel (Exodus 4:21-23) and also to all of her kings (2 Samuel 7:11-14, Psalm 2). Jesus was the promised king of Israel, the Christ, the Messiah, and so he is also given this title. In the Bible we see the apostle Peter identify Jesus as this King:

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. (Matthew 16:13-17, NIV)

Contrary to the Bible the Qur’an teaches that Jesus is not the son of God (Qur’an 9:30). In the Gospel of Barnabas we see that its author has altered Peter’s confession to conform with what the Qur’an says:

(Jesus) asked his disciples, saying: “What do men say of me?” They said: “Some say that thou art Elijah, others Jeremiah, and others one of the old prophets.” Jesus answered, “And Ye; what say ye that I am?” Peter answered: “Thou art Christ, son of God.” Then was Jesus angry, and with anger rebuked him saying: “Begone and depart from me” (chap. 70)

c/ The Death of Jesus. The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus was crucified and died.

Then he (Pilate) released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. … As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. … When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. … And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. (Matthew 27:26-50, NIV)

Contrary to the Bible, the Qur’an teaches that Jesus was not crucified and did not die on the cross (Qur’an 4:156-157). Again, in the Gospel of Barnabas we see that its author has altered Jesus’ crucifixion to conform with what the Qur’an says:

God acted wonderfully, insomuch that Judas was so changed in speech and in face to be like Jesus. The soldiers took Judas and bound him … So they led him to Mount Calvary, where they used to hang malefactors, and there they crucified him (chap. 216-217).

These examples show how the author of the Gospel of Barnabas has systematically rewritten the Biblical Gospel to make it agree with the Qur’an. Only on rare occasions does he make an error (see section 2). When we consider these changes we can understand what the author was trying to achieve. He was rewriting the Gospel so that it now agreed with the Qur’an; he was trying to convince people that Jesus taught what the Qur’an teaches.

Rewriting the Gospel to make it agree with the Qur’an has happened elsewhere. In 1979 the Muslim scholar Ahmad Shafaat rewrote the Biblical Gospel to make it Islamic. His book is called the The Gospel According to Islam.

Ahmad Shafaat says about his Gospel:

The book before you is a Gospel. It is written in the light of the revelation of God made to the prophet Muhammad. … This outline is supplemented in this book by some background material (derived mostly from the New Testament and sometimes transformed accordingly to the Qur’anic revelation) to form a Gospel of approximately the size of Mark. … As we said earlier, this book is offered as a new Gospel, a Muslim equivalent of, and alternative to, the existing Gospels. (Ahmad Shafaat, The Gospel According to Islam, New York: Vantage Press, 1979, pp. 1-2)

Ahmad Shafaat has explained very clearly what he has done. He has rewritten the Biblical Gospel by transforming it according the Qur’an. He calls his new book “a Gospel”; it is written with chapters and verses, and he offers it as an alternative to the Biblical Gospels.

Reading the Gospel According to Islam is just like reading the Gospel of Barnabas. Just as the author of the Gospel of Barnabas changes Biblical accounts to make them agree with the Qur’an so too does the Gospel According to Islam. Consider how the Gospel According to Islam rewrites the crucifixion of Jesus so that it agrees with the Qur’an:

And Pilate sent an order, that Jesus Barabbas be released. But the officers who received the order did make an error and released Jesus of Nazareth, and crucified Jesus Barabbas. And when he was released he departed for Galilee, and he met two travellers who were going to Emmaus … And Jesus answering said unto them, Lo, Jesus of Nazareth is not crucified nor dead, but he liveth. (26:21-30, The Gospel According to Islam)

And just as throughout the Gospel of Barnabas Jesus is made to predict the coming of another prophet so too in the Gospel According to Islam Jesus is made to predict another prophet:

He hath appointed me (Jesus) as a sign for men and a mercy from Him. This was a matter decreed … That I may bring to the world the good news of a messenger who will come after me as light and mercy to all the nations; his name shall be called Admirable. (2:21-3:1, The Gospel According to Islam)

And then there shall arise the Man of perfection with great power and glory; and he will build a new house of prayer … Peter therefore asked Jesus, Teacher, tell us what is that blessed named. And Jesus answering said, His name shall be Admirable, Counsellor, as it was prophesied by Esias. (23:15-20, The Gospel According to Islam)

There are still more examples of where Muslim leaders have rewritten books to make them agree with Islam. In August 2006 Turkish Muslim leaders rewrote 100 famous stories for publication in Turkey.

Pinocchio, Tom Sawyer and other characters have been converted to Islam in new versions of 100 classic stories on the Turkish school curriculum. … Pollyanna, seen by some as the embodiment of Christian forgiveness, (now) says that she believes in the end of the world as predicted in the Koran. (Malcolm Moore, The Daily Telegraph (UK), 31/08/2006)[21]

It could even be argued that Muslims have taken their inspiration for rewriting these books from Muhammad himself, for in the Qur’an we see that Muhammad transforms the stories he heard about Jesus. Consider this story about Jesus from Muhammad’s time.

Jesus spoke, and, indeed, when He was lying in His cradle said to Mary His mother: I am Jesus, the Son of God, the Logos, whom thou hast brought forth, as the Angel Gabriel announced to thee; and my Father has sent me for the salvation of the world. (Arabic Gospel of the Infancy of the Saviour)[22]

Muhammad transforms this story so that Jesus says he is a Muslim, only a prophet, and is not the son of God:

Mary pointed to the child then; but they said, “How shall we speak to one who is still in the cradle, a little child?” He (Jesus) said, “Lo, I am God’s servant; God has given me the Book, and made me a Prophet. Blessed He has made me, wherever I may be; and He has enjoined me to pray, and to give the alms, so long as I live, … ” That is Jesus, son of Mary, in word of truth, concerning which they are doubting. It is not for God to take a son unto Him. (Qur’an 19:31-35, Arberry)

Conclusion. The authors of the Gospel of Barnabas and the Gospel According to Islam have both rewritten the Biblical Gospel to make it agree with the Qur’an. The aim of these books is to try to convince people that Jesus was a Muslim and predicted the coming of Muhammad.

8. Who wrote the Gospel of Barnabas?

The content of the Gospel of Barnabas provides us with the best evidence for who wrote it. As we have seen the content, method, and style of this book are highly similar to the Gospel According to Islam written by Ahmad Shafaat. Since we know that Ahmad Shafaat is a Muslim, it is most likely that the author of the Gospel of Barnabas was also a Muslim who rewrote the Gospel in a similar way to Ahmad Shafaat. Who else but a Muslim would want to make the Gospel agree with Islam?

Some Muslims have said to me that since the Gospel of Barnabas has some minor teaching contrary to the Qur’an (section 2) this proves it was not written by a Muslim for a Muslim would not make these kinds of mistakes. However, just because an author makes a few minor mistakes about Islam does not mean he is not a Muslim. Islamic authors today still make minor errors in their writings. This does not mean they are not Muslims, it just means they are learning, as we all are. It is the same with the author of the Gospel of Barnabas. Thus it is still most likely that the author of the Gospel of Barnabas was a Muslim.

9. Conclusion

The Gospel of Barnabas is not an authentic Gospel of Jesus. The author does not understand the language, history or geography of the 1st century A.D., and there is no ancient evidence for the book. The internal evidence of the book suggests it was written in the 14th century, and there are Muslim scholars who agree with this dating. The book is a rewrite of the Biblical Gospel most likely by a Muslim who wanted to portray Jesus as a Muslim who taught Islam and predicted the coming of Muhammad. This type of rewriting has been done elsewhere by Muslims in the Gospel According to Islam. It is disgraceful for Islamic leaders to continue to publish, promote and distribute this false Scripture. It is disgraceful for them to create this deliberate confusion and make mischief.

You are invited to read a genuine Gospel.


[1] There is a Barnabas mentioned in the Bible: Acts 4:36-37, 11:19-30
[2] Acts 4:36, 14:8ff
[3] FF Bruce, Israel and the Nations, Exeter: Paternoster Press, 1973, p. 240.
[4] “Narareth”, New Bible Dictionary, England: IVP, 1987, p. 819
[5] John 6:16-21
[6] Matthew 2:23, 4:13, 8:5, 11:23, 17:24, 21:11, 26:71, Luke 4:16
[7] Herbert Thurston, The Holy Year of Jubilee, London: Sands & Co., 1900, p. 5
[8] Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, section: Paradiso.
[9] J.E. Flectchure, “The Spanish Gospel of Barnabas”, Novum Testamentum, vol. XVIII, 1976, pp. 314-320. Also, Iskandar Jadeed, The Gospel of Barnabas – A False Testimony, Switzerland: The Good Way, p. 6, not dated.
[10] “How the Gospel of Barnabas Survived”, The Gospel of Barnabas, Lahore: Islamic Publications (PVT.) Limited, 1993, pp. xv-xvi. Available online
[11] Muhammad `Ata ur-Rahim, Jesus A Prophet of Islam, Karachi: Begun Aisha Bawany Waqf, 1981, pp. 41-43.
[12] The works of Irenaeus can be found in the, Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts, D.D. & James Donaldson, LL.D.; Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 1995, vol. 1, pp. 315-578. Available online at The Early Church Fathers
[13] Ibid., “Irenaeus Against Heresies”, book 2, chapter 2, p. 362.
[14] Read the edicts of The Council of Nicaea
[15] Joannes Bollandus, et al, Acta Sanctorum. Reprint. Originally published: Antuerpiae: Apud Ioannem Meursium, 1643-. The Acta Sanctorum online
[16] Ibid., Acta Sanctorum, Jun II, p. 422. Translated from the Latin by Fr. Max Polak.
[17] Jerome and the Vulgate Bible, Catholic Encyclopedia
[18] Early Christian Writings, ed. Betty Radice; London: Penguin Books, 1987, pp. 155-158.
[19] Read the Epistle of Barnabas for yourself.
[20] Translated by John Lee.
[21] Various articles reporting the Turkish Muslim leaders rewriting the childrens stories: