Responding to the Critics| Howard Denham’s Abuse of Scripture and Logic #6
The Priesthood of Christ
This is installment #6 in our series examining and refuting several syllogisms that were submitted to Steve Baisden by church of Christ minister Howard Denham. Via his series of “arguments” Denham claims that he has totally refuted Covenant Eschatology. What he has done in truth is reveal his ignorance of Biblical truth, and a lamentable willingness to abuse logic – which he professes to master. Nothing could illustrate Denham’s failure more than the syllogism that we will examine in this brief article. Here is what Denham argues:
Major Premise: If it is the case that Jesus Christ was High Priest before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, then it is the case that the law had been changed with the Law of Moses being abolished before A.D. 70. (Hebrews 7:11-16).
Minor Premise: It is the case that Jesus Christ was High Priest before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. (Hebrews 1:3; 3:1; 4:14-16; 8:1-6; 9:11-15, 23-28).
Conclusion: It therefore is the case that the law had been changed with the Law of Moses being abolished before A.D. 70.
Here is a classic example of a superficial, atomistic expression of Biblical knowledge, parading under the guise of “logic.”
Denham appeals to Hebrews 7:11f where the author takes note of the need for a change in the priesthood. Why such a need? Because of the failure of the Levitical priesthood to bring salvation (7:11): “if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should arise after the order of Melchizedek and not be called according to the order of Aaron?”
So, there was a need to replace Torah and the Levitical priesthood because Torah and Levi could not bring “perfection” i.e. salvation. So, the writer continues, “The priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.”
Take note that when he says “the priesthood being changed” this is not in the past tense, as Denham would have your believe! It is in the present active indicative! As chapter 8 clearly says, Torah had – when Hebrews was written – now grown old and was “nigh unto passing away.”
It is quite astounding to me that many in Denham’s camp are now arguing that Hebrews 8:13 means that the very moment Moses received the Law at Sinai, it was “nigh unto passing away!”
At the Bellview church of Christ lectureship, 2015, Michael Hatcher claimed that when Moses received the law it immediately began to pass away. It was “nigh unto passing.” But, that means that Torah was nigh unto passing for over 1500 years, i.e. from the moment Moses received the Law until the time of Hebrews. To say that this is specious is an understatement. Furthermore, it violates what these mean believe about the language of imminence.
Responding to the Critics| Abusing the Imminence of Hebrews 8:13
When these men write or speak against Dispensationalism, they appeal to Matthew 3:2 and Mark 1:15 / 4:17, where John and Jesus said “the kingdom of heaven has drawn near” (Literal rendering). They argue, quite forcefully, that “has drawn near” does not and cannot speak of a 2000 year period! Yet, what do they do? They argue that “nigh unto passing” in Hebrews 8:13 describes the 1500 year period from Sinai to Hebrews! Simply an amazing self-contradiction. But, let’s look closer. (For a more in-depth discussion of the argument being made here, see my book The Passing of the Law of Moses: Torah To Telos. In that book, I show how unbelievably bad the argument made by Hatcher and others of that group truly is. Words almost fail to describe how bad this argument is!)
But, what is being totally overlooked in Denham’s argument is the nature of the different priesthoods. The Levitical priesthood was centered in and confined to Jerusalem and the earthly Temple. It was an earthly priesthood. It was a priesthood concerned with physical ordinances, physical and typological sacrifices. See Hebrews 9:6f, where none of those sacrifices could make the worshiper perfect. They could never offer a clean conscience.
It cannot be overlooked that the writer of Hebrews says emphatically that Jesus could not serve in the earthly Temple. Why? Well, there were two reasons. He was of the tribe of Judah, “of which the Law said nothing concerning the priesthood” (7:14). Second, the priests in the Jerusalem Temple were still, when Hebrews was written, offering “gifts according to the law.” Jesus could not serve in that Temple because those priests were serving “according to the Law.”
Now Denham and crowd would argue: “Well, those priests just did not know the law had been abrogated, and being ignorant of that, they continued to offer those sacrifices. Further, since Jesus was of Judah, they would have prevented him from serving there.” Denham and crowd have to insert and entire presuppositional theology into the text to support their doctrine. But, the text is very clear: Jesus could not serve in that Temple because those priests were serving there “according to the law.” It was “unlawful” for him to serve there! And the fact that Torah remained valid when Hebrews was written is confirmed in chapter 9.
Consider the concept of the Most Holy Place. Of necessity, this will be brief, but, in my debate with Kurt Simmons I discuss this at length. That book is available from my websites. I will offer a syllogism to keep my thoughts succinct.
Responding to the Critics| Torah and Entrance Into the Most Holy Place
Premise #1 – As long as Torah, the law of Moses, remained valid and binding, there could be no access to the Most Holy Place (Hebrews 9:6-8).
Premise #2 – The Most Holy Place symbolized the Presence of God, i.e. heaven itself, per Howard Denham’s fellowship. (I am not aware of any major representative of Denham’s crowd that would deny this).
Premise #3 – No one today, not even the most faithful Christian, enters the MHP, i.e. heaven itself,. when they die. (Once again, I am not aware of any major representative of Denham’s crowd that would deny this).
Conclusion – Therefore, since, per Denham and crowd (if Denham agrees with premise #2-3) no man can enter the MHP today when they die, no matter how faithful they are, then it must be the case that the Law of Moses, remains valid and binding. Let me offer the following as confirmation:
If it is the case (and it is) that no man could enter the MHP (heaven) while Torah remained valid (due to the failure of Torah to provide forgiveness, Hebrews 9:6-10), and,
If is the case that no man can enter the MHP today (per the Amillennial view of Denham’s fellowship),
Then it must be true that Torah remains valid and no man today truly has the forgiveness of sin.
It is the case, per the Amillennial fellowship of Howard Denham, that no man today can enter heaven.
Therefore, it must be true that Torah remains valid, and no man today truly has the forgiveness of sin.
This is an incredible problem for Denham’s crowd, and I have never read or heard any kind of substantive response to it. But there is more.
Denham completely fails to grasp the point of Hebrews in regard to the priesthood of Jesus. The point was not that Jesus ever intended to be a priest in the Jerusalem Temple – something forbidden by Torah. No, the point is that Jesus’ priesthood had nothing to do with Torah, nothing to do with the Jerusalem Temple, nothing to do with Levi! Jesus’ priesthood was in the heavenly Temple. It was after the order of Melchizedek. And, it was to give everything that Torah could never give– life and righteousness (Galatians 3:20-21).
Notice again that Hebrews says Christ’s priesthood was the priesthood to bring perfection, thus making the Levitical priesthood obsolete.
Christ’s priesthood was in the “true tabernacle, which God pitched, and not man” (8:1). That true tabernacle was in the “heavens” where Christ was sitting at the right hand when Hebrews was written.
This raises once again the issue of the kingship of Christ. He was serving as King and Priest on the throne in fulfillment of Zechariah 6:13. Denham himself would argue that Jesus’ Throne was in heaven and that he never intended to be a king on earth in some literalistic sense. But, this being true, it means that he never intended to be priest on earth. This definitively shows that Christ’s priesthood was transcendent over the Levitical priesthood and operated in a different “realm.” Since Jesus kingship and priesthood was “in the heavenlies,” in the True Tabernacle, then he could serve as king and priest in that realm even while Torah was in its last closing days.
Yet, that Old Covenant world / priesthood did have to be changed for several reasons. We need not go into detail on that here, but suffice it to say that had that priesthood, City and Temple remained in place, functioning as always, then the claims of Hymenaeaus and Philetus would have been even more convincing! Furthermore, the Abrahamic Inheritance could not be given until the end of Torah (Galatians 3- 4. That inheritance was resurrection life (Hebrews 11:35)! This is an incredibly important issue that is seldom if ever grasped by those in Denham’s circles. See my book, The Hymenaean Heresy: Reverse the Charges! for a full discussion of these issues).
What we have seen in this installment is that:
☛Denham ignores the present active indicatives used in Hebrews 7:12 which spoke of the then on-going passing of the Law.
☛We have seen how that present active indicative agrees perfectly with Hebrews 8:13 that says the Covenant (not just the external practices or appearances of the Covenant) was “nigh unto passing.”
☛ We have shown that the dominant view in the Amillennial circle of Denham, is that no man enters the Most Holy Place today, when the die, no matter how righteous they are. That cannot take place until the so called “end of time.” But, if no man can enter the MHP today, then according to Hebrews 9:6-10, the reason no man could enter the MHP was Torah’s failure to give forgiveness of sin. Thus, as long as Torah remained valid, there was no entrance. If there is no entrance today, then Torah remains valid – there is no forgiveness of sin! In short, you cannot affirm that man today objectively possesses forgiveness of sin and yet, cannot enter the MHP!
☛ We have shown that although Christ’s ministry in the True Tabernacle was transcendent (superior) to the Levitical priesthood and he could serve in that realm, nonetheless, to demonstrate his superior priesthood, and to remove the claims of the Judaizers such as Hymenaeaus, it was necessary for that Old System to be removed – and it was – in AD 70.
So, once again, while Howard Denham pompously claimed that his syllogisms totally refute Covenant Eschatology, the reality is that all they do is expose his abuse of logic and his ignorance of Biblical truth.
More to come, as we continue in our series of Responding to the Critics.