Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: Christmas

Saved through childbearing

And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety (1 Timothy 2:14-15).

These are Christmas verses. Here is why. In verse 14 and the first part of verse 15, the Apostle Paul speaks of the woman being in the transgression and the woman being saved in childbearing. I believe this speaks of two women, taken as the embodiment of all womankind. The first was Eve, by whose disobedience sin came into the world. The second was Mary, by whose obedience the remedy for sin came into the world.

Mary’s obedience has taken away the reproach that had fallen upon women by Eve’s disobedience. Through the birth of Jesus, the seed of the woman, the head of the serpent has been crushed (Genesis 3:15). 1 Timothy 2:15 switches from she to they after the comma. She refers to Mary as representative of all womankind, they refers to women as individuals and describes the evidence of salvation for each one.

Other attempts to explain these verses are not very satisfactory. The difficulty arises from extracting a verse or two from the Scripture and attempting to explain them without reference to the rest of Holy Writ. To suppose that the salvation of women depends on bearing children creates more questions than it answers. What about those who have never borne children? The idea that women’s lives will be spared during childbirth is just as problematic. What about faithful Christian women who did die in childbirth?

The explanation I have given follows that given by Daniel Whedon and Adam Clarke in their commentaries. Jamieson, Fausset & Brown and Matthew Henry only hint at it. (Matthew Henry had finished his commentary to the end of the Acts of the Apostles when he died suddenly of a stroke. The commentaries on the remaining books of the New Testament were done by thirteen other writers.)

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Christmas Eve thoughts

I don’t believe that Jesus was born on December 25. I don’t believe any of the cunningly devised fables that have attached themselves to the story of His birth. I don’t appreciate the crass commercialism of this season. I cannot comprehend how giving gifts at Christmas time has any connection with the birth of the Saviour.

Some folks talk about putting Christ back in Christmas. It often sounds like they want to leave Him in the midst of all the pagan borrowings and just give Him a little higher place of honour. I would be glad to be rid of all the pagan borrowings and honour Christ alone.

Nevertheless, if I spend too much time looking on the negative side I will become a Scrooge. I do believe that the birth of Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, did take place in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago and that this seemingly inauspicious event changed everything. Therefore, my wife and I will be in church tomorrow morning to sing the old songs and hear some aspect of the Scriptural account read and expounded.

I also believe that families are important in God’s eyes and we will get together with our daughter and son-in-law, and our four grandchildren, for dinner and a good part of the day tomorrow. And yes, we will be bringing gifts for them all. I don’t believe that it dishonours our Lord in any way to give good things to those we love..

The message of the angels was that the birth of the Christ child was glad tidings of great joy, for all people. They spoke of giving glory to God, of peace on earth and good will to men. (I believe the modern versions which speak of “peace to men of good will” have got it wrong. The angels message was of  good will to all men.)

I wish a joyous Christmas to all those who chance to read this.

Brad Wall’s Christmas message

Seven hundred years before the First Christmas, one of many promises by Old Testament prophets was made about the coming of the Christ.

“For unto us a child is born,” wrote Isaiah, “unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”

Peace? Isn’t that the promise of Christmas? Not just peace between nations but between each of us . . . toward each of us . . . for each of us.


These are the beginning words of the Christmas message of Brad Wall, Premier of Saskatchewan, which is printed in most newspapers in our province.

We are told that we live in a post-Christian era, a time when most people are not familiar with the Bible and don’t want to hear anything about what it says. Yet for several years now our premier’s Christmas message has had a distinctly Biblical and Christian theme.  Nevertheless, when surveys are done of the population’s approval of government leaders across Canada, Brad Wall’s name usually heads the list.

The Politically Incorrect Messiah

The sceptre had truly departed from Judah. There was once more a king in Jerusalem who ruled over Judah, but he was not of the lineage of David, nor of Judah, not even of Jacob. Herod was an Edomite, a descendant of Esau. Surely the time was ripe for the coming of Messiah.

When Messiah came he would throw off the ignominy of this foreign king and all he stood for. For Herod had been appointed by Caesar and was really just a puppet of Rome. The shame of it all was fertile breeding ground for the Zealots, whose support seemed to increase daily. The Zealots considered it a sin to in any way acknowledge the rule of the uncircumcised, heathen Romans. Messiah would soon come and sweep away all the shame of Israel. He would establish his throne in Jerusalem and his reign would spread far and wide, as far as Rome. The Zealots were preparing to be Messiah’s conquering army.

Then Jesus was born, of the lineage of David, in the city of David, yet in the most obscure and humble circumstances possible. The Bible says “there was no room for them in the inn.” “Inn” in this verse simply means a guest chamber. Joseph and Mary will have travelled slowly, because of Mary’s condition. It is quite likely that when they arrived at their relatives the house was already full with other family who had come to Bethlehem to be properly counted on the tax rolls. There was no privacy to be found in such a crowded home for the birth of a baby. So Joseph and Mary were led to the stable, either adjoined to the house or in a cave adjacent to the house. Most likely the midwife was called and other women of the house would have helped. Nevertheless, baby Jesus’ first bed was a manger.

The visit of the shepherds, recounting their angelic visitation, should have erased any shame attached to the circumstances of Jesus’ birth. The visit of the magi will have further established his credentials as the promised Messiah. Yet all of this happened in an out of the way place, far from Jerusalem which was supposed to be the real seat of power.

When Jesus embarked on His ministry some thirty years later, disgust with Roman rule had increased, and with it the influence of the Zealots. Many people were ready to consider Jesus’ claim to be Messiah, if only He would come out and proclaim that He had come to set things right in Israel. That is just what He did, but in a way that was completely contrary to the peoples expectations.

When Jesus first taught about the nature of the kingdom of God, He spoke of the blessedness of being meek and merciful, of being peacemakers and of suffering persecution for righteousness’ sake. He told them they should rejoice if they were mocked and reviled because they believed in Him. He told them that the kingdom of God was for the pure in heart and for those who loved their enemies. In short, He told them that the Zealots completely misunderstood the nature of the kingdom of God.

Nearly two thousand years have passed and Jesus’ kingdom still stands. It is not a political kingdom where submission to Christ is enforced by a sword of steel, but a spiritual kingdom where the love of God rules in the hearts of born again people who submit to Christ of their own free will. How could a literal earthly reign of Christ, enforced by might and brawn, be any better than this? The true nature of the kingdom is fully described in the Sermon on the Mount.

Papa Martin, conclusion

The hours went by, the passers-by also. The little stove continued to rumble and Martin, in his chair, still watched the street.

The Master did not appear.

He had seen a young priest pass by with blond hair and blue eyes, just like Christ is depicted in the portraits in the church. However, while passing by his shop, the priest had murmured: mea culpa. Obviously Christ would not have accused Himself. That couldn’t be Him.

Young men, old men, sailors, workers, housewives, great ladies, they all passed in front of him. Many beggars approached the old man; his kindly look seemed to promise something. They were not disappointed.

Nevertheless, the Master did not appear.

His eyes were tired, his heart grew faint. The days pass quickly in December. Already the shadows were growing long in the square, already the lamplighter could be seen in the distance, already the windows across the street began to glow joyously and the aroma of roasted turkey, the traditional food of the Marseillais, arose from all the kitchens.

And the Master did not appear.

Finally the night came, and with it a fog. It was useless to stay any longer by the window; the rare passers-by were unrecognizable in the fog. The old man went sadly to his stove and began to prepare his supper.

“It was just a dream,” he murmured. “Yet I had so much hoped.”

His meal finished, he opened his book and tried to read. But his sadness prevented him.

All of a sudden his room was lit with a supernatural light, and without the door being opened the little shop was filled with people. The street sweeper was there, the young woman with her child was there, and each said to the old man:

“Didn’t you see me?”

Behind them came the beggars to whom he had given alms, the neighbours to whom he had spoken a kind word, the children he had smiled at, and each one asked him in turn:

“Didn’t you see me?”

“But who are you then?” cried the shoemaker to all these phantoms.

Then the little child in the arms of the young woman leaned over the book of the old man and with his little pink finger pointed to this passage right where the book was open:

“For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in . . . Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. “

— the end —

Papa Martin and the young woman

[Part 3 of Ruben Saillens’ le Père Martin, translated from French.]

A few homeward bound revellers passed by, but the old shoemaker barely glanced at them. The marketplace vendors came with their small carts. He knew them too well to pay much attention to them.

After an hour or two, his attention was drawn to a young, poorly dressed woman, carrying a child in her arms. She was so pale, so thin, that the old man’s heart was touched. Perhaps she made him think of his daughter. He opened the door and called her.

“Hey, you there!”

The poor woman heard him call and turned in surprise. She saw Papa Martin beckoning her to come.

“You don’t appear to be doing well, ma belle.” (“Ma belle” is the most commonly used expression in old Marseilles. It is used indiscriminately for the fishwives of the Vivaux market, for laundry women, and all women, young or old, rich or poor, who have anything to do in these quarters.)

“I’m going to the hospital,” replied the young woman. “I hope they will admit me with my child. My husband is out at sea and I have been waiting for him for three months.”

“Like I wait for my son,” thought the shoemaker.

“He doesn’t come and now I don’t have a sou left and I’m sick. I really need to go to the hospital.”

“Poor woman,” said the old man tenderly. “You’ll have a bit of bread while you warm up, won’t you?”

“At least a cup of milk for the little one. Take this, I haven’t touched it yet. Warm yourself and let me take the little bundle. I have cared for babies in my day, I know how to handle them. He is good looking, your boy. What! Didn’t you put any shoes on him?”

“I don’t have any,” sighed the poor woman.

“Wait then. I have a pair that will just suit him.”

And the old worker, amidst the protestations and thanks of the mother, went to find the shoes that he had looked at the night before and placed them on the feet of the child. They were just the right size.

Martin stifled a sigh however, in letting go of his best workmanship, the best he had done in his life.

“Bah!” he said, “I have no more need of them for anyone now.” and he returned to the window. He searched the street in such an anxious manner that the young woman was surprised.

“What are you looking for?” she asked.

“I am waiting for my Master,” replied Martin.

The young woman did not understand, or did not care to understand.

“Do you know the Lord Jesus?” he asked.

“Certainly,” she replied while crossing herself. “It’s not such a long time ago that I learned my catechism.”

“It is Him that I am awaiting,” said the old man.

“And you believe He is going to pass by here?”

“He told me so.”

“Impossible! Oh, how I would like to stay with you to see Him myself, if it’s true. . . But you must be mistaken. And then, I need to go to be admitted to the hospital.”

“Can you read?” asked the shoemaker.

“Yes.”

“Well then, take this little book,” he said, placing a portion of the gospel in her hands. “Read it carefully, and it will not be exactly the same as if you would see Him, but it will be nearly the same thing, and perhaps you will see Him later.”

The young woman looked doubtful, but took the book and left, saying thank you, and the old man returned to his place before the window.

— to be continued

Papa Martin and the street sweeper

[Installment two of a Christmas tale by Ruben Saillens. Original title: le Père Martin. Translated from French.]

Long before daylight the little lamp of the shoemaker was lit. He put more coal into his stove, where the fire had not yet gone out and busied himself preparing his coffee. Then he hurried to make his bed, then placed himself in front of the window to catch the first glimmers of daylight and the first passers-by.

Little by little the light appeared, and Martin soon saw a street sweeper, the earliest of all workers. He hardly noticed him, really, he had more important things to do than watch a street sweeper!

Nevertheless it appeared to be cold outside, fog kept appearing on the window and the sweeper, after a few vigorous sweeps of his broom, felt a need for more vigorous exercise to warm himself by slapping his arms with all his strength and stamping the ground, first with one foot, then the other.

“The good man,” Martin said to himself, “he’s cold out there. It’s a holiday today, but not for him. Why don’t I offer him a coffee?” And he tapped the window.

The sweeper turned his head, saw Papa Martin in the window and came closer.

The shoemaker opened his door, “Come in,” he said, “come and warm yourself.”

“I won’t refuse, thank you. What miserable weather, you would think we were in Russia.”

“Will you accept a cup of coffee?”

“Oh, such a good man you are. With pleasure. Better to celebrate Christmas Eve late than not at all.”

The shoemaker quickly served his guest, then returned to the window to look up and down the street to see if anyone was passing.

“What are you looking for outside?” asked the sweeper.

“I’m waiting for my Master.”

“Your Master? You are working for a chain then? It’s too early to be out checking on his workers. Besides, it’s a holiday for you today.”

“I was speaking of another Master,” replied the shoemaker.

“Ah.”

“A Master who might come at any time and who promised to come today. You must know his name; it’s Jesus.”

“I have heard tell of him, but I don’t know him. Where does he live?”

Papa Martin then began to tell the sweeper the account he had read the past evening, adding a few details, turning toward the window as he spoke.

“And that is who you are waiting for?” said the sweeper when he understood. “I don’t think you will see him in the way you expect. But no matter, you have helped me to see Him. Could you lend me your book, Mister . . .”

“Martin,” said the shoemaker.

“Mister Martin, I guarantee that you have not wasted your time this morning, even if it is hardly day. Thank you and good-bye.”

The street sweeper went on his way and Papa Martin again placed himself in front of the window.

Papa Martin

[First instalment of a Christmas story by Ruben Saillens, original title Le Père Martin, translated from French.]

You don’t know Papa Martin? He is only a shoemaker whose workshop, living room, bedroom and kitchen are all together in a little wooden building at the corner of Place de Lenche and rue des Martégales in the centre of the old quarter of Marseilles. There he lives, not too rich, not too poor, resoling shoes for everyone in the neighbourhood, for since his eyes have grown old he doesn’t make new shoes anymore.

The fishermen know him well, and the sellers in the marketplace, as well as the schoolchildren who pass by his door in swarms.

He has repaired shoes for them all, he knows where a shoe pinches. The mothers don’t trust anyone else to put solid heels on the shoes of their children who wear out the best store bought shoes in two weeks.

Papa Martin has recently gained a reputation for being devout. Since he began going to those meetings where they sing and pray and speak of God he has changed. He has a large book which you can often see him reading if you look in the window of his shop. He appears to be happier than he was before, this book seems to be the cause.

Papa Martin has had his sorrows. His wife died more than twenty years ago. His son went to sea and hasn’t returned in six years. As for his daughter, if one asks what has become of her a shadow passes over his face and he only shakes his head.

It is Christmas Eve. Outside it is cold and damp, but the shop of Papa Martin is warm and well lit.

He has finished his work and eaten his supper. His stove rumbles and seated in his wicker arm chair, glasses on his nose, he leans over the table and reads, “There was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7).

He stops here to reflect. “No place,” he murmurs, “no place for Him!”

He looks around the clean and neat little room, “There would have been room for Him here, if He had come. What happiness it would give to receive Him! I would have given them the whole place. . . No place for Him. Oh, why doesn’t He come and ask me for a place?”

I am alone, I have no one to care about. Everyone has their family and their friends; who is there in the whole world to care about me? I would love it if He would come to keep me company.”

“What if today was the first Christmas? If this was the night for the Saviour to come into the world? What if He would choose my shop for His coming? How I would serve Him and worship Him. Why doesn’t He show Himself today like He used to?”

“What would I give Him? The Bible says the Magi brought gold, incense and myrrh. I have nothing like that, they were rich, those Magi. But what did the shepherds bring? It doesn’t say, perhaps they didn’t have time. Ah, I know what I would give Him!”

With that, Papa Martin got up and reached up to a shelf where two baby shoes were carefully wrapped.

“This is what I would give Him, my best workmanship. The mother would be happy! But what am I thinking?” He sighed, “How can I imagine such things? As if my Saviour needs my shop and my shoes!”

The old man sank into his chair. It was getting late and it appears that he fell asleep.

“Martin!” said a gentle voice close beside him.

“Who’s there?” cried the cobbler. But as he looked towards the door, he saw no one.

“Martin, you wanted to see me. Watch the street tomorrow, from dawn until evening, you will see me passing by. Try to recognize me, for I will not make myself known to you.”

The voice ceased; Martin rubbed his eyes. The oil in his lamp had run out and it was dark. Midnight sounded from all the clocks: Christmas had come.

“It was Him,” said the old man. “He promised to pass by my shop. Was it only a dream? No matter! I will wait for Him. I have never seen Him, but haven’t I admired His portrait in all the churches? I will surely recognize Him.”

With those thoughts Martin crawled into bed and for a long time his mind was occupied with the strange words that he had heard.

— To be continued —

Ruben Saillens vs Leon Tolstoy

Ruben Saillens (1855-1942) was a well-known French Baptist pastor, writer and musician. My next few posts will consist of my translation of a story written by him that was first published in France about 130 years ago. Unknown to the writer, someone translated it into English. The English version, with no name attached, then found its way to Russia where it was discovered by Leon Tolstoy. Tolstoy then proceeded to render the story into Russian, with a few minor changes including changing the setting from Marseilles to some place in Russia. When a French translation of Tolstoy’s version appeared, Ruben Saillens wrote to Tolstoy, who replied with an apology in 1888.

Ten years later, seeing that the story was being published everywhere and attributed to Tolstoy, Saillens wrote again and received the following reply:

Sir,
As I wrote to you, in all the Russian editions of my writings it is said that the tale: Where there is love, God is there, is borrowed from a translation made from French (and is none other than your tale: Le Père Martin). As for the translations which are made of your tale in America and elsewhere, it is completely impossible for me to control them, inasmuch as more than fifteen years ago I surrendered all my copyrights for all my works that have appeared since 1881 in Russia as well as other countries.
With kindest regards
Leon Tolstoy
March 20, 1899

Was Tolstoy a plagiarist? He was definitely negligent if he made no attempt to discover who wrote the original tale that he then modified and sent out under his own name. However one can’t say that he deliberately plagiarized Saillens’ story; since it came to him in English, perhaps he took it to be an old English folk tale.

Most readers will be familiar with some version of the story of Papa Panov, the old Russian cobbler. I have tried to convey Saillens’ original French story as faithfully as possible. I would be interested in hearing your opinion: do you prefer Saillens’ story or Tolstoy’s?

Tidings of comfort and joy

These words, from the chorus of “God rest ye merry, Gentlemen,” nicely sum up the intended impact of the birth of Jesus Christ. The angel who first appeared to the shepherds said, “Fear not: for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” After the shepherds had seen the Christ child with their own eyes, “they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.”

How will we celebrate the Saviour’s birth this year? We cannot bring tidings of comfort and joy, unless our own hearts and lives have been filled to overflowing with comfort and joy. Perhaps that should be the beginning of our preparation for Christmas. May we, like David, ask God to “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me . . . Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” (Psalm 51:10, 12). Then, says David, “O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise” (verse 15).

With each year that passes the world seems to be in more desperate need of tidings of comfort and joy. This is the season when every one who truly knows Jesus Christ, each in their own way, may take part in making known abroad tidings of comfort and joy. Gifts and food all have their part in this season, but they are not the essence of the season. I’m thinking more of words: words of cheerful greeting, of comfort to the lonely and sorrowing, of encouragement to the downhearted; words sung in carols and words written to those far away. May our words be words of comfort and joy.

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