From Mark Copeland... "GROWING IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF JESUS CHRIST" Bearing Up Under Trials


                        Bearing Up Under Trials


1. We have observed that growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ...
   a. Begins with the foundation of faith (conviction and trust)
   b. To which we add the quality of virtue (striving for excellence)
   c. Manifested by increasing in knowledge (regarding God's will)
   d. To which we add the grace of self-control (mastering one's desires and passions)

2. In our text (2Pe 1:5-8), we note that to self-control we are to add perseverance...
   a. The KJV renders it patience (as does the NKJV in many places)
   b. The RSV has the word steadfastness

[What comes to mind when you hear these words?  How does this relate to
self-control?  Are you adding perseverance to your life as a Christian?  Let's begin our study with...]


      1. Literally, "an abiding under"
      2. Strong defines the word as "a cheerful (or hopeful) endurance"
      3. It implies suffering, enduring, or waiting, as a determination
         of the will and not simply under necessity (ISBE)

      1. In the passive sense, it would be like a ship anchored in a storm
         a. Under attack by the wind and waves
         b. Yet remaining secured to that one spot by the anchor
         -- This is good as far as it goes, but the word implies more!
      2. In the active sense, it is like a ship sailing despite the storm
         a. Under attack by the same wind and waves
         b. But pressing on to its destination despite the obstacles
         -- It involves more than just a "grin and bear it" attitude!
      3. Adam Clarke describes it as "bearing all trials and
         difficulties with an even mind, enduring in all, and persevering through all"
         a. Exemplified by Jesus - cf. He 12:1-2
         b. Also by Paul - cf. 2Ti 3:10-11

[Perseverance is not simply bearing with trials, but "bearing up under
trials." And it is a quality required of Christians...]


      1. We must allow patience (hupomone) to develop a mature character
         - Ro 5:4; Jm 1:4
      2. We must bear fruit with patience (hupomone) - Lk 8:15

      1. Perseverance helped the Thessalonians to endure trials - 2 Th 1:4
      2. Even as it helped Job to endure his trials - cf. Jm 5:11

      1. We must be patient (hupomone) in doing good to receive eternal
         life - Ro 2:7
      2. We must have patience (hupomone) to receive the promise - He 10:36

[If we hope to grow, endure difficulties, and eventually receive the
promise, we must "add" the quality of perseverance to our character!  How does one do this...?]


      1. The Word of God, which provides patience (hupomone) and hope 
         - Ro 15:4
      2. A strong hope, which helps us to wait eagerly with perseverance
         - Ro 8:25
      3. Prayer certainly helps, as Paul prayed for the Colossians - Co 1:11
      4. Even tribulations themselves - Ro 5:3; Jm 1:3
         a. Tribulations produce perseverance
         b. Perseverance prepares us for tribulation (as described before)     

      1. Looking to Jesus - He 12:1-4
         a. The key to running the race set before us!
         b. By considering "Him who endured such hostility", we are less likely to grumble and give up
      2. Looking to the prophets of old - Jm 5:10-11
         a. Their example of steadfastness should motivate us
         b. Consider what they patiently endured, and our excuses for
            lack of perseverance or failure to bear up under trial seem silly and foolish! - cf. He 11:32-38
      3. Looking to each other - He 3:12-14; He 10:24-25
         a. Encouragement by brethren is a powerful aid to being persistent
         b. Through daily exhortations and frequent assemblies, we are
            more likely to bear up under trials
      4. Looking at life with a positive attitude - Jm 1:2-3
         a. Trials in life are for my betterment!
         b. They mold me and make me what God would have me to be!
         c. Therefore rejoice and glory in tribulations - cf. Ro 5:3-5
      5. Looking to the future - 2Co 4:16-18
         a. Trials are short and light compared to eternal weight of glory!
         b. For those who persevere, glory awaits! - cf. Re 2:25-29; 3:1
         c. So let the promise of future glory encourage us to persevere!

[Finally, a thought or two about...]


      1. There are times when remaining active for the Lord is difficult
         a. E.g., during lingering suffering, illness, grief, etc.
         b. Many Christians make some disappointment, loss, or grief an
            excuse for shirking their duties to the Lord
      2. But to truly demonstrate perseverance...
         a. We must continue to press on in doing good
         b. We can work for God, even if we are laid up in bed (as did
            one sister, who prayed for the work being done by others)

      1. Needed when faced with earthly delights, pleasures, seductions of the world
      2. Such distractions are just as dangerous as tribulation in
         rendering us unfruitful - cf. Lk 8:14
      3. "Just as the dark clouds of trial may render us inactive, so
         may the dazzling brightness of temptations blind us and render 
         us useless." (Alexander MacLaren)


1. Perseverance involves the idea of bearing up under trials and pressing on...
   a. In times of tribulation, it means to spurn the trials
   b. In times of temptation, it means to turn our backs on them
   -- All the while continuing to do good as the Lord directs

2. In a sense, it is an extended version of self-control...
   a. Self-control is a daily exercise
   b. Perseverance is self-control exercised today, tomorrow, the next
      day, and so on
   -- Which is why we need to "add" perseverance to self-control - cf. 2Pe 1:6

3. Are we living the Christian life with perseverance?
   a. May we pray that we all have "the patience of Christ" - 2Th 3:5
   b. May we heed the admonition given to Timothy to "pursue...patience"
      - 1Ti 6:11

As we develop "the patience of Christ", we will continue to grow in the
knowledge of Jesus Christ!

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011

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From Mark Copeland... "GROWING IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF JESUS CHRIST" Controlling The Self


                          Controlling The Self


1. As people seek to grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Pe 1:5-8)...
   a. They begin with the foundation of faith:
      1) A strong conviction and trust
      2) In both God and Jesus Christ
   b. To which they add the quality of virtue:
      1) A desire for excellence
      2) Striving to become all that Jesus desires of them
   c. All the while increasing in knowledge:
      1) Gaining awareness and understanding through study and
      2) Especially regarding the will of God and the way of salvation

2. As knowledge increases, they are to add self-control (temperance,KJV); which makes sense...
   a. What good is it to grow in knowledge of good and evil...
   b. ...if we do not have the ability to make proper use of such knowledge?

[But what exactly is self-control, and how do we add it to our lives? 
Let's take a closer look at self-control...]


      1. From the word kratos, meaning "strength"
      2. As defined by various scholars:
         a. "one holding himself in" (Robertson)
         b. "the virtue of one who masters his desires and passion,
            especially his sensual appetites" (Thayer)
         c. "Where this virtue subsists (abides), temptation can have little influence" (MacKnight)

      1. Ac 24:25 - "the word follows 'righteousness', which represents
         God's claims, self-control being man's response thereto" (Vine)
      2. Ga 5:23 - it is an element of that fruit born by one who is walking by the Spirit
      3. Tit 1:8 - required of one who would serve as an elder
      4. 2Pe 1:6 - "it follows 'knowledge', suggesting that what is
         learned requires to be put into practice" (Vine)

[Self-control is therefore the discipline of one's self so as to live in
harmony with the knowledge of right and wrong that one has.  The
importance of self-control is seen as we consider...]


      1. Denial of self necessary to follow Jesus - Lk 9:23
      2. It is an important element of what God's grace teaches us - Ti 2:11-12
      -- One cannot be a disciple of Jesus without exercising self-

      1. Paul realized the need to keep his body under control - 1Co 9:27
      2. Peter's condemnation of false teachers included their becoming
         enslaved again to the corruption that is in the world - cf. 2Pe 2:19-20
      -- Just as an athlete must exercise self-control to win the race,
         so we must have self-control if we desire to obtain an 
         imperishable crown - cf. 1Co 9:24-25

[Yet most would agree that controlling the self is easier said than
done.  Let's take a look at both the problem and the solution regarding...]


      1. The challenge of controlling the self is seen throughout the scriptures
         a. It is easier to capture a city than to control the spirit! 
            - Pr 16:32
         b. The tongue is just one example of how hard self-control can be - Jm 1:26; 3:2-10
      2. This challenge is faced by all men
         a. By those outside of Christ (illustrated in Paul's own life)
            1) His dilemma as one who tried to follow the Law of Moses 
               - Ro 7:14
               a) He does that which he knows is wrong - Ro 7:15-17
               b) He fails to do that which he knows is right - Ro 7: 18-19
            2) He was imprisoned by his own body! - Ro 7:22-24
               a) He couldn't control self
               b) Self controlled him!
         b. Even for those in Christ
            1) The battle rages on
               a) There is a conflict between the Spirit and our flesh 
                  - Ga 5:16-17
               b) There is a war that wages between the flesh and the
                  soul - 1Pe 2:11
            2) Yet there is hope!
               a) Hope in Christ, as Paul intimates - Ro 7:24-25
               b) We are no longer indebted to live after the flesh - Ro 8:12
               c) Those in Christ have crucified the flesh - Ga 5:24
      -- The problem is real, yet the solution comes as we "crucify" the flesh

      1. It begins in baptism
         a. In baptism, our body of sin is put to death as we are buried
            into the death of Christ - Ro 6:3-6
         b. As we rise from baptism, we are now free to live for God 
            - Ro 6:7,12-13
         c. Not that we are no longer tempted, but are free from the
            dominion (rule) of sin - cf. Ro 6:14
         d. Note the contrast between one outside of Christ, and one in Christ:
            1) Outside of Christ - cf. Ro 7:23-24
            2) In Christ - cf. Ro 8:12; 6:14
         -- In baptism we are set free from the dominion of sin; the
            battle may not be over, but now it can be won!
      2. It continues as we are led by the Spirit
         a. Without the Spirit's help, we will die spiritually - Ro 8: 12-13
         b. Walking in the Spirit, we will not succumb to the lust of
            the flesh - Ga 5:16-18
         c. How does the Spirit lead us?
            1) When we set our mind on the things of the Spirit - cf. Ro 8:5
            2) The "things of the Spirit" include that truth He was sent
               to reveal - Jn 16:13
         -- The degree to which we set our minds on what the Spirit has
            revealed (i.e., the Word of God), to that degree we are led by the Spirit!
      3. It continues as we are empowered by the Spirit
         a. We can do whatever God wills with His help - Php 4:13; 2:12-13
         b. The Spirit is His agent by which He empowers us - cf. Ep 3:16,21
         c. How does the Spirit empower us?
            1) Certainly the Word helps, as it is the sword of the
               Spirit - cf. Ep 6:17
            2) Prayer also, as Paul prayed for the Ephesians - cf. Ep 3:16
         -- What is important is not how the Spirit empowers, but that
            He does, and that we seek His strength through the Word and prayer!

[By crucifying the flesh through our union with Christ in baptism, and
then Spirit-led and Spirit-empowered, self-control will be a natural
fruit born by the Christian, Ga 5:22-23).  Finally, some thoughts in regards to...]


      1. We are to bring the body under subjection - cf. 1Co 9:27
      2. We are to deny ourselves ungodliness and worldly lusts - cf. Ti 2:11-12; 2Ti 2:22
      3. We are not to be in bondage to anything, even that which lawful
         - cf. 1Co 6:12
      4. We should be willing to deny self in service to others
         a. Denying one's pride - cf. Php 2:3-4
         b. Denying one's liberty to help the weak - cf. 1Co 8:9-13; Ro 14:14-21
      -- Controlling the self means not only the body, but also the ego!

      1. Paul warned against the wrong kind of self-control - Col 2:20-23
         a. Restrictions based upon human traditions
         b. Limitations that neglect the body
         -- Such might appear wise, but really don't limit the indulgence of the flesh
      2. Paul foretold that this would be a sign of a general apostasy 
         - 1Ti 4:1-5
         a. Not allowing marriage
         b. Not eating certain meats
         -- Such might appear spiritual, but is contrary to the truth


1. Controlling the self is a natural component to growing in the knowledge of Jesus...
   a. As faith without works is dead, so faith without self-control is meaningless
   b. Striving for excellence (virtue) is not possible without the discipline of self-control
   c. Increasing in knowledge is nothing but an academic exercise,
      unless we are able to apply that knowledge by exercising self-control

2. As we seek to develop self-control in our lives...
   a. Remember the promise of our baptism (a new life free from sin's dominion!)
   b. Walk after the Spirit (by setting your mind on the things of the Spirit)
   c. Be empowered by the Spirit through the Word of God and prayer

3. Be careful to properly channel what self-control is developed...
   a. Not to follow human traditions, nor to seek the praise of men
   b. But to humbly pursue godliness, and serve our fellow man

In this way we develop that Christ-like character, coming to truly know
Him who through self-control offered Himself in service to His Father and for sinners.

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011

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Babylon: A Test Case in Prophecy [Part II] by Wayne Jackson, M.A.


Babylon: A Test Case in Prophecy [Part II]

by Wayne Jackson, M.A.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Part I of this two-part series appeared in the November issue. Part II follows below, and picks up where the first article ended.]
In the preceding article of this two-part study, I began an investigation of certain Old Testament prophecies that focused on the famous city of Babylon. Three major points were discussed: (1) the prophets emphatically declared that wicked and arrogant Babylon would fall; (2) the providential instrument of the Lord, employed in the initial destruction of the city, would be the Medo-Persian regime; and (3) the immediate fall, and ultimate deterioration, would come after the Hebrews had languished seventy years in Babylonian captivity. In this article, I would like to highlight a number of particulars that are reflected prophetically in the biblical record.
The works of Herodotus and Xenophon are the two principal sources of historical confirmation. Herodotus (484-425 B.C.), known as the “father of history,” produced the first attempt at secular narrative history. His work, which dealt primarily with the Persian Wars, is an important source of information on the ancient world. He vividly describes the overthrow of Babylon. Xenophon (c. 430-355 B.C.), a student of Socrates, was a Greek historian born in Athens. He served in the Persian army and produced several valuable literary works. One of these, called Cyropaedia, is a sort of romance founded on the history of Cyrus the Great (559-530 B.C.). It provides considerable data on the fall of Babylon.
Again, we emphasize that one of the traits of true prophecy is that it deals in specific details, not generalities. Let us examine some of these particulars.


Babylon had been a brutal force. She was “the glory of the kingdoms” (Isaiah 13:19). She had been Jehovah’s providential “battle-axe” that had broken in pieces the nations of the ancient world (Jeremiah 51:20-24). For example, Nebuchadnezzar had defeated thoroughly the Egyptians at the battle of Carchemish (605 B.C.), and had enjoyed great success in Syria and Palestine, even subjugating “Zion” at the Lord’s bidding.
One might surmise that Babylon would have feared no one. Oddly, though, Jeremiah said: “The mighty men of Babylon have ceased fighting. They stay in the strongholds; their strength is exhausted, they are becoming like women” (Jeremiah 51:30). How remarkably this conforms to the actual history. Xenophon said that when Cyrus brought his army to Babylon, he initially was perplexed as to how he would take the city, since the Chaldean soldiers “do not come out to fight” (VII.V.7). The Babylonians fearfully remained behind their massive walls refusing, for the most part, to encounter the enemy—exactly as the prophet had indicated.


When Cyrus surveyed Babylon’s fortifications, he said: “I am unable to see how any enemy can take walls of such strength and height by assault” (Xenophon, VIII.V.7). Accordingly, he devised a brilliant strategy for capturing the city.
As I mentioned in the previous article, the Euphrates river ran under the walls through the center of Babylon. From the river, canals—quite broad and sometimes navigable—were cut in every direction. The Jews in captivity could thus lament: “By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down, yea, we wept, When we remembered Zion” (Psalm 137:1). Just to the west of the city was a huge lake-basin, some thirty-five feet deep and covering forty miles square, but which, at the time of the invasion, was but a marsh. Cyrus stationed soldiers at the point where the river entered the city, and also where it exited. At a given time, he diverted the Euphrates from its bed into the marshy lake area. His forces then entered Babylon under the city walls (Herodotus, I.191).
Consider what the prophets declared regarding Babylon’s fall. Isaiah, writing more than a century and a half earlier, referred to Jehovah’s decree. The Lord “saith to the deep: Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers, that saith of Cyrus, he is my shepherd and shall perform my pleasure” (Isaiah 44:27). Some contend that the language of this passage is an allusion to the Exodus, which occurred in Israel’s early history. That cannot be the case, however. The utterance is framed in the future tense, and the context specifically relates this matter to Cyrus. The prophecy “is usually taken as referring to the device Cyrus used in order to capture Babylon” (Fitch, 1954, p. 593).
Later, in his famous oracle against Babylon, Jeremiah exclaimed: “A drought is upon her waters, and they shall be dried up: for it is a land of graven images, and they are mad over idols” (50:38). Again, “I will dry up her sea, and make her fountain dry” (51:36). Though these passages have been interpreted in various ways, the language is quite consistent with the diversion of the river, which allowed the Persians to take the city virtually unopposed (see Wiseman, 1979, p. 849).


Concerning Babylon’s fall, Jeremiah represented the Lord as saying: “I have laid a snare for you, and you are also taken, O Babylon” (50:24). The term “snare” suggests that the citizens of the city would be taken by surprise; they “were not aware” of what was happening until it was too late (50:24b). Herodotus wrote: “Had the Babylonians been apprised of what Cyrus was about, or had they noticed their danger, they would never have allowed the Persians to enter their city” (I.191).
One aspect in the rapid conquest of the city had to do with the fact that the Babylonians, in their smug security, were engaged in drunken festivities; thus, they were wholly unconcerned about the enemy beyond their massive walls. But the Lord had declared: “When they are heated, I will make their feast, and I will make them drunken, that they may rejoice, and sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, says Jehovah” (Jeremiah 51:39). Again: “And I will make drunk her princes and her wise men, her governors and her deputies, and her mighty men; and they shall sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, says the King whose name is Jehovah of hosts” (Jeremiah 51:57).
Herodotus recorded that the citizens of the central section of the city did not know that Babylon had fallen for a good while because “they were engaged in a festival, continued dancing and revelling until they learnt the capture” (I.191). Similarly, Xenophon said that “there was a festival in Babylon, in which all the Babylonians drank and revelled the whole night” (VII.5.15).


The prophets indicated that when great Babylon was taken, her rich treasures would be looted. The Lord, speaking prophetically to Cyrus, had promised: “[A]nd I will give you the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places” (Isaiah 45:3). Jeremiah announced: “And they shall become as women: a sword is upon her treasures, and they shall be robbed” (50:37). The treasures of Babylon were splendid beyond description. Herodotus, in describing just one of the temples in the city, declared that it contained more than twenty tons of gold (I.183). It is interesting to note that when Cyrus issued his famous decree that allowed the Jews to return to their land, he endowed them with silver and gold to help finance the project, as well as returning some 5,400 vessels of gold and silver that originally had been taken from the Hebrew temple (Ezra 1:4,11).
When Jehovah beckoned the Persians to come against evil Babylon, He charged: “[O]pen up her store-houses [granaries, ASV footnote]; cast her up as heaps, and destroy her utterly; let nothing of her be left” (Jeremiah 50:26). Xenophon reports that Babylon “was furnished with provisions for more than twenty years” (VIII.5.13). No wonder they felt secure; the storehouses were bulging. But God emptied them—just as His prophet had announced!


I already have mentioned Babylon’s famous walls. An ancient historian, Diodorus, stated that it took 200,000 men a full year to construct these fortifications (Fausset, 1990 p. 181). But Jeremiah prophesied: “The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly overthrown, and her high gates shall be burned with fire” (51:58). Where are Babylon’s walls, and her one hundred gates of brass (Herodotus, I.179) today? Under the “Summary” below, I will detail more precisely the demolition of the city.


The prophets repeatedly proclaimed the eventual utter desolation of ancient Babylon. Isaiah gave the following particulars:
And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall shepherds make their flocks to lie down there. But wild beasts of the desert shall live there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and ostriches shall dwell there, and wild goats shall dance there. And wolves shall cry in their castles, and jackals in the pleasant palaces: and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged (13:19-22).
Jeremiah was equally graphic; the reader may consult chapters 50 and 51 of his book for the numerous details given there.
At this point, I would like to mention two points that I made in Part I of this series. First, there was to be aninitial defeat of Babylon. Second, afterwards there would be a gradual but progressive degeneration of the locale, which ultimately would become a site of absolute waste. In the following section, I will catalogue the destructions and degeneration of once-great Babylon.


  1. After a siege of two years, the city of Babylon was captured by Cyrus, commander of the Medo-Persian forces, in October of 539 B.C. This brought the Neo-Babylonian empire (614-539 B.C.) to a close. Significant damage to the city was not inflicted at this time, though some of the walls may have been broken down, at least partially.
  2. Following a rebellion of the Babylonian subjects, Darius Hystaspes took the city again in 520 B.C. He demolished the walls significantly and carried off the huge gates (see Jeremiah 51:58). Elsewhere I have given a detailed account of how the city was taken—again by a “snare” (Jackson, 1996). Herodotus wrote: “Thus was Babylon taken for a second time. Darius having become master of the place, destroyed the wall, and tore down all the gates; for Cyrus had done neither the one nor the other when he took Babylon” (III.159). Apparently, however, there was some subsequent repair of the walls (see McClintock and Strong, 1969, 1:596).
  3. During the reign of Xerxes (485-465 B.C.), the temple of Bel (Marduk) was plundered and destroyed. Much of the city was turned into ruins in 483 B.C., and the walls were dismantled further.
  4. Babylon again fall to Alexander the Great in 331 B.C. As Alexander neared the city, priests and nobles went out to meet him with lavish gifts, surrendering the city. Alexander proposed that he would rebuild the temple of Marduk. He employed 10,000 men to clear the dirt and rubble. They labored in vain for two months. Alexander died and the work was abandoned (Rollin, 1857, 1:575). A clay tablet has been found that confirms this enterprise. It records that in the sixth year of Alexander’s reign, he made a payment of ten manehs of silver for “clearing away the dust of E-sagila [Marduk’s great temple]” (King, 1919, 2:284-288).
  5. In 270 B.C. Antiochus Soter, a Greek ruler, restored several of the temples in Babylon, but the general decay of the city continued.
  6. In the time of Strabo (at the end of the 1st century B.C.), the site was in ruins. Jerome (fourth centuryA.D.), learned that Babylon had been used as a wild game park for the amusement of numerous Persian dignitaries (McClintock and Strong, 1969, 1:596). In the fifth century A.D., according to Cyril of Alexandria, due to the bursting of canal banks, Babylon became a swamp (Jeremias, 1911, 1:294).
  7. Volney, the French atheist who was such a militant adversary of the Bible, wrote his book, The Ruins of Empires, in 1791. Therein he stated: “Nothing is left of Babylon but heaps of earth, trodden under foot of men” (as quoted in Holman, 1926, p. 333). As Jeremiah had prophesied: “[C]ast her up as heaps” (50:26). It is ironic that a skeptic should lend support to confirming the accuracy of the biblical narrative!
  8. When archaeologist Austen Layard explored Babylon in the mid-nineteenth century, he described the heaps of rubbish that rendered the area a “naked and hideous waste” (1856, p. 413). Later, when Robert Koldewey excavated the city for eighteen seasons beginning in 1899, he said that as he gazed over the ruins, he could not help but be reminded of Jeremiah 50:39 (1914, p. 314). He reported that many of the sites were covered with forty to eighty feet of sand and rubble.
  9. A relatively modern air-view of Babylonia—once the world’s greatest city—shows only a mound of dirt and broken-down walls (Boyd, 1969, pp. 153ff.).
In recent years, Sadam Hussein attempted to build a tourist center near the site of old Babylon. The 1990 Persian Gulf War seriously impaired his plans.


The accuracy of the dozens of prophecies regarding the fall of Babylon has baffled skeptics for generations. So remarkable has been the precision of the fulfillment that critics often have resorted toredating the predictions in both Isaiah and Jeremiah so as to make them appear to be records of historyinstead of prophecy! For example, in commenting upon the oracles of Jeremiah, chapters 50-51, James Philip Hyatt wrote: “Some of the poems in this present collection seem to reflect the city’s downfall, as prophecies after the event rather than predictions...” (1956, 5:1124, emp. added). Such a view ignores the evidence for dating the books at a much earlier period.
A former professor in a Christian university has even capitulated to this liberal viewpoint. Anthony Ash asserted:
Dating chapter 50 is virtually impossible. The arrangement of the text indicates that it was a composite, probably containing materials from different periods.... The chapter may have reached this form near the mid-sixth century B.C., when the fall of Babylon appeared likely (1987, p. 309, emp. added).
Upon this basis, then, one supposes that Jeremiah—or whoever put the composite together!—simply made a lucky guess as to the fall of Babylon. Such a view is disgusting, and unworthy of any Christian writer.


The prophetic details regarding the fall of ancient Babylon, as minutely recorded in the Old Testament narratives, truly are astounding. This is but another example of the amazing evidence that demonstrates the character of the Bible as the inspired Word of God.


Ash, Anthony L. (1987), Jeremiah and Lamentations (Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press).
Boyd, Robert (1969), A Pictorial Guide to Biblical Archaeology (New York: Bonanza).
Fausset, A.R. (1990 reprint), “Jeremiah,” A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, Volume 2, Part 2, ed. Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, and David Brown (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Fitch (1954), “Isaiah,” The New Bible Commentary, ed. F. Davidson (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Herodotus (1956), The History of Herodotus, transl. by George Rawlinson (New York: Tudor).
Holman, Thomas (1926), “Prophecy Vindicated by Volney,” New Testament Christianity, ed. Z.T. Sweeney (Columbus, IN: NT Christianity Book Fund).
Hyatt, James Phillip (1956), The Interpreter’s Bible, ed. George A. Buttrick (Nashville, TN: Abindgon).
Jackson, Wayne (1996), “Zopyrus the Persian,” Christian Courier, 32[7]:27, November.
Jeremias, Alfred (1911), The Old Testament in the Light of the Ancient East (New York: Putnam’s Sons).
King, Leonard W. (1919), A History of Babylonia and Assyria (London: Chatto & Windus).
Koldewey, Robert (1914), The Excavations at Babylon (London: Macmillan).
Layard, Austen H. (1856), The Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon (New York: Harper).
McClintock, John and James Strong (1969), Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, reprint).
Rollin, Charles (1857), Ancient History (New York: Harper & Brothers).
Xenophon (1893 Edition), Cyropaedia, transl. by J.S. Watson and Henry Dale (London: George Bell & Sons).
Wiseman, D.J. (1979), “Jeremiah,” The New Layman’s Bible Commentary, ed. G.C.D. Howley, F.F. Bruce, and H.L. Ellison (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).

Babylon: A Test Case in Prophecy [Part I] by Wayne Jackson, M.A.


Babylon: A Test Case in Prophecy [Part I]

by Wayne Jackson, M.A.
It was the most remarkable community of its day—a San Francisco, New York, or London of the antique world. Herodotus (484-425 B.C.), known as the father of ancient history, once visited the great metropolis. He said that “in magnificence there is no other city that approaches to it” (I.178). It was Babylon!
Babylon’s roots reached back almost to the dawn of civilization. Its genesis was with the mighty hunter, Nimrod, who conquered men and made them his unwilling subjects (Genesis 10:10). From that ignoble origin eventually evolved the Neo-Babylonian empire (614-539 B.C.), which figures so prominently in Old Testament history.


The city of Babylon straddled the Euphrates River about fifty miles south of what is now modern Baghdad in Iraq. Herodotus claimed that the town was laid out in an exact square, approximately fifteen miles on each side. The historian suggested that the city was surrounded by a moat (more than 260 feet broad), behind which was a massive wall—some 75 feet thick and 300 feet high, with 15 large gates of brass on each side. Later writers (e.g., Strabo and Diodorus Siculus) gave somewhat smaller dimensions. But these may reflect different areas of measurement, or perhaps other historical periods (Keith, 1840, p. 271). When Jacob Abbott wrote his fascinating volume, History of Cyrus the Great, he suggested that Babylon was four or five times the size of London (1850, p. 190). Modern archaeological investigations have involved a significantly smaller area. One of the prominent features of this illustrious city was Nebuchadnezzar’s Hanging Gardens, constructed for his Median wife who was homesick for her hill-country environment. This botanical marvel was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
The Scriptures take note of the fame that characterized this community. The prophets designated Babylon as “great” (Daniel 4:30), the “glory of the kingdoms” (Isaiah 13:19), the “golden city” (Isaiah 14:4), the “lady of the kingdoms” (Isaiah 47:5) who was “abundant in treasures” (Jeremiah 51:13), and the “praise of the whole earth” (Jeremiah 51:41). Surely a kingdom of this nature could last forever.


In order to appreciate the significance of Babylon in light of Bible prophecy, one must understand something of Hebrew history. The northern kingdom of Israel had been destroyed by the Assyrians in 722-721 B.C. The southern kingdom (Judah) had been spared that catastrophe (see Isaiah 37) but, due to her progressive apostasy, was on a clear collision course with Babylon. The prophets warned that if Judah continued her rebellion, Jehovah would raise up Nebuchadnezzar as His “servant” to punish the wayward Hebrews. Many of them would be killed; others would be captured and taken away as prisoners by the marauding Babylonians (Jeremiah 25:9). The Chaldean monarch, however, would not be commended or rewarded for this endeavor; rather, after his subjugation of Judah, the Lord would punish him, and the Babylon regime would commence a journey toward oblivion. Jeremiah summed up the history of this affair in the following way:
Israel is a hunted sheep; the lions have driven him away: first, the king of Assyria devoured him; and now at last Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has broken his bones. Therefore thus says Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I have punished the king of Assyria (Jeremiah 50:17-18).
But Babylon was the epitome of arrogance. She boasted that no one would be able to conquer this powerful citadel. The Babylonians felt absolutely secure within their mighty fortress, and believed that the capital city would never be vanquished. “I shall be mistress forever.... I am, and there is none else besides me; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children” (Isaiah 47:7-8). Inscriptions from the Chaldean archives have illustrated the haughty disposition that characterized the Babylonian rulers (Millard, 1985, p. 138).


Before I discuss prophecies relating to Babylon, there are some preliminary matters that must be considered. First, there is the nature of God—the eternal “I AM” (Exodus 3:14). He is the One Who is, Who was, and Who is to come (Revelation 1:4). He, and only He, knows the future as well as the past. The Lord, therefore, is able to speak of those things that “are not” as though “they were” (Romans 4:17).
Only God can know the future. If, then, we are able to establish the fact that the prophets announced—many years in advance—truths regarding the desolation of Babylon, it would amount to a demonstration that ultimately the biblical record was given by God Himself. These matters never could have been known by mere chance.
There is an interesting passage in the book of Jeremiah that illustrates this point. On a certain occasion in the prophet’s ministry to Judah, Jeremiah was told by the Lord that his cousin, Hanamel, would arrive soon, offering to sell him a parcel of land in the town of Anathoth. Presently, Hanamel came to the prophet and made that very offer. Jeremiah subsequently uttered this significant statement: “Then I knew that this was the word of Jehovah” (Jeremiah 32:8, emp. added). When a prophecy is made—and the prediction comes to pass—one can know that God has spoken, provided other prophetic guidelines are in place.


In this two-part study, we will survey some of the prophecies that focus upon Babylon’s demise. First, though, let us remind ourselves of several principles that govern the validity of genuine prophecy. (1) True prophecies are stated emphatically; they are not couched in the jargon of contingency (unless, of course, contextual evidence suggests that one is dealing with a conditional prophecy). (2) Generally, a significant time frame must lapse between the prophetic utterance and the fulfillment, so as to exclude the possibility of “educated speculation.” (3) The prophecy must involve specific details, not vague generalities. (4) The predictive declarations must be fulfilled precisely and completely. No mere substantial percentage will suffice. One should recognize, though, that occasionally a prophecy may contain figurative terminology; this does not, however, militate against its evidential validity.
In the forthcoming reflections, we will emphasize these important points: (1) Babylon’s fall is announced unequivocally: (2) the time of the beginning of her end is declared; (3) the invading forces are specified; (4) particular details of the Chaldean destruction are chronicled; (5) the final result—Babylon’s utter dissipation—is portrayed quite graphically. These factors, considered in concert, testify eloquently to the divine inspiration of the sacred Scriptures.


In addition to the passage mentioned earlier (Jeremiah 50:17-18), there are many other prophecies that affirm the ultimate desolation of Babylon. In the early eighth century before the birth of Christ, and almost two hundred years before Cyrus conquered the “golden city,” Isaiah declared: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon; and all the graven images of her gods are broken unto the ground” (21:9). The double use of “fallen” is for emphasis. Although the verb “fallen” is in the present tense form in English, it actually is in the perfect tense in Hebrew, which represents completed action. This reflects a grammatical idiom commonly known as the “prophetic perfect,” frequently employed in the Old Testament to stress the absolute certainty of fulfillment (Freeman, 1968, pp. 122-123). The action thus is expressed confidently—as though it had been accomplished already.
Again Jehovah, through his prophet, rhetorically calls to Babylon: “Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon; sit on the ground without a throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans” (Isaiah 47:1). Babylon is designated as a “virgin” because for many years she had escaped the ravages of other nations. But that status would come to an end!
Or consider the announcements of Jeremiah: “Declare you among the nations and publish, and set up a standard; publish, and conceal not: say, Babylon is taken” (Jeremiah 50:2). “Babylon is suddenly fallen and destroyed; wail for her; take balm for her pain” (Jeremiah 51:8). Among other contexts, a survey of Isaiah, chapters 13 and 14, and Jeremiah, chapters 50 and 51, will reveal numerous declarations concerning Babylon’s impending fall and ultimate desolation.


In giving consideration to the “time” factor in prophecies regarding the destruction of Babylon, two things must be kept in view. First, there was to be an initial defeat of the superpower. Second, afterward there would be a gradual but progressive degeneration of the locale that ultimately would result in total ruin. At this point, we will consider only the first of these matters.
After Judah’s good king, Josiah (639-608 B.C.), died during the battle of Megiddo, he was succeeded by his son Jehoahaz, a miserable failure who reigned only three months. Jehoahaz was taken captive to Egypt (2 Kings 23:30-34), where, as Jeremiah prophesied, he died (Jeremiah 22:11-12). Then Jehoiakim, Josiah’s second son, came to Judah’s throne. He reigned eleven years (608-597 B.C.). During his administration, the compassionate Jeremiah, via his prophetic proclamations, was attempting to bring the southern kingdom to a state of repentance—with little success, I might add. Let us focus momentarily upon the oracles of Jeremiah, chapter 25.
First, we must observe that the material of this important chapter is dated. “The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim” (25:1). Thus, the following prophecies can be dated to 605 B.C. The prophet described the horrors that were to be visited upon Palestine by the impending Babylonian invasion. He then announced the fate of Babylon herself.
And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations [Judah and several of her neighbors—WJ] shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, says Jehovah, for their iniquity (Jeremiah 25:11-12).
Thus, almost three-quarters of a century before Babylon fell, when there was absolutely no indication of Chaldean vulnerability, Jeremiah announced the impending doom of the ancient world’s superpower, and he gave a time indicator as to when those circumstances would unfold. There simply was no natural way he could have “guessed” it.


But who would overthrow mighty Babylon? Both Isaiah and Jeremiah provide that information. In a section that concludes with: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon,” the messianic prophet wrote: “Go up, O Elam; besiege O Media; all the sighing thereof have I made to cease” (Isaiah 21:2). As I have noted elsewhere, “Elam is here used to facilitate the Hebrews’ understanding of the source of the impending invasion, since Persia was not yet prominent. Later, Elam is considered as a part of the Persian empire...” (Jackson, 1991, p. 48). Skinner observed that Elam and Media were
[t]he dominions of Cyrus. The former lay east of the Tigris and north of the Persian Gulf; Media was the mountainous district adjoining it on the north. Cyrus, according to the Babylonian records, was originally king of Anzan, in the north of Elam; in 549 he conquered Media, uniting the two in one kingdom (1963, 1:170).
Rawlinson noted that “Elam” is named because it was familiar to the Hebrews, whereas “Persia” would have been a designation alien to them at the time of Isaiah’s writing (1950, 10:336). What precision!
Again, Isaiah detailed the conquering exploits of Cyrus, leader of the Medo-Persian forces and the brilliant strategist who overthrew the city of Babylon:
Thus says Jehovah to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him, and I will loose the loins of kings; to open the doors before him, and the gates shall not be shut (45:1).
The prophecy was uttered two centuries before the birth of the Persian monarch, and yet, as I shall demonstrate subsequently, it set forth a number of remarkable events in connection with the conquest of the Chaldean capital.
Jeremiah was equally specific regarding the invaders of Babylon. “Make sharp the arrows, hold firm the shields: Jehovah has stirred up the spirit of the kings of the Medes; because his purpose is against Babylon to destroy it” (51:11). Some have suggested that this passage sarcastically urged the Babylonians to sharpen their arrows and firmly clutch their shields—as if they would be able to defend themselves against the Lord’s forces (Clarke, n.d., 4:388). Others feel that this is a rhetorical charge to the Medo-Persian soldiers to prepare their military implements for attack against the Chaldean forces (Plumptre, 1959, 5:168). “The Persians were famous among the ancients for their archers” (McClintock and Strong, 1969, 1:372). Jehovah has plans for Babylon. He will destroy it by means of the “kings” (tribal rulers) of the Medes. Again, the accuracy of the biblical text is demonstrated by the precise terminology used. As Wiseman has noted concerning Jeremiah 51:11: “Babylonian texts (Nabonidus) show that the title ‘king of the Medes’ (11) was correctly in use in 544 B.C.” (Wiseman, 1979, p. 849).
The historical facts are not disputed. The Babylonian ruler, Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 B.C.), was succeeded by his son, Evil-Merodach (562-560 B.C.), who is mentioned in 2 Kings 25:27-30 and in Jeremiah 52:31-34. Next came Neriglissar (560-556 B.C.), an evil conspirator who was defeated and slain in battle by the Medes and Persians (Sanderson, et al., 1900, 1:54). Labashi-Marduk subsequently came to the Chaldean throne in 556 B.C., but was assassinated after a few months. Finally, there was Nabonidus, who ruled from 556-539 B.C. His son, Belshazzar, was co-regent with his father. Actually it was Belshazzar who was occupying the city of Babylon when it fell (see Daniel 5:1ff.). Inscriptions have been discovered which make it clear that Nabonidus had entrusted the “kingship” of the capital city to his son while he campaigned in Arabia for about a decade (Vos, 1988, 1:276). When Cyrus advanced against Babylon, Nabonidus marched east to meet him, but fled before the Persian general’s army. Later, after Cyrus had captured the city (539 B.C.), Nabonidus surrendered to the Persians. And so, the biblical prophecies regarding the conquerors of the city of Babylon were fulfilled exactly.
In the second installment of this study, I will present some of the many details concerning the fall and deterioration of Babylon—details that were previewed prophetically by the great seers of Israel.


Abbott, Jacob (1850), History of Cyrus the Great (New York: Harper Brothers).
Clarke, Adam (n.d.), Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible (Nashville, TN: Abingdon).
Freeman, Hobart (1968), An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophets (Chicago, IL: Moody).
Herodotus (1956 reprint), The History of Herodotus, George Rawlinson, translator (New York: Tudor).
Jackson, Wayne (1991), Isaiah: God’s Prophet of Doom and Deliverance (Abilene, TX: Quality).
Keith, Alexander (1840), Evidence of the Truth of the Christian Religion Derived From Prophecy(Edinburgh, Scotland: William Shyte and Co.).
McClintock, John and James Strong (1969 reprint), Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Millard, Alan (1985), Treasures From Bible Times (Oxford, England: Lion Publishing).
Plumptre, E.H. (1959 reprint), Ellicott’s Commentaries (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Rawlinson, George (1950 Reprint), “Isaiah,” The Pulpit Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Sanderson, Edgar, J.P. Lamberton, and John McGovern (1900), The World’s History and Its Makers(Chicago, IL: Universal History Publishing Co.).
Skinner, J. (1963), “Isaiah: I-XXXIX,” The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press).
Vos, Howard (1988), “Belshazzar,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Wiseman, D.J. (1979), “Jeremiah,” The New Layman’s Bible Commentary, ed. G.C.D. Howley, F.F. Bruce, and H.L. Ellison (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).

Human Evolution [Part II] by Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.


Human Evolution [Part II]

by Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Part I of this two-part series appeared in the September issue. Part II follows below and continues, without introductory comments, where the first article ended.]
Any attempt at constructing an evolutionary family tree from molecular data faces serious questions, but at least there is no shortage of test material. The veins of every human, chimp, or other target of study provide a veritable gold mine of information for protein and DNA analysis. Genetics and molecular biology, with their detailed reports of chemical sequences, also lend an air of objectivity and precision. Nonetheless, such studies deal with only the presumed heirs of an eons-long process.


At this point we can turn to the traditional workers in this field—paleoanthropologists and paleontologists—and appraise their collection of bones, tools, and other artifacts. These largely sterile samples are not good candidates for DNA or protein analysis, and so there is room for disagreement between the experts. Many paleontologists try to incorporate molecular evidence into their interpretations of the fossil evidence, but some fundamental problems remain unresolved.

Two Evolutionary Models

Perhaps the most vigorous example of this debate centers on the origin of modern humans. The molecular evidence is, if in no other instance, unanimous in suggesting a common origin for all human populations. Of these groups, Africans show far more genetic variation than non-Africans (i.e., Asians, Europeans, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, et al.). Molecular biologists explain this greater variability by suggesting that African populations have had the most time to accumulate mutations and diverge from each other. Africa, then, is supposed to represent the ancient cradle from which all other populations have emerged (e.g., Cann, et al., 1987; see also Major, 1992).
This out-of-Africa model rocketed into public consciousness a few years ago with talk of a so-called mitochondrial Eve. In this case, the molecular data came not from the main DNA of the cell’s nucleus, but from tiny strands residing in the mitochondria (the cell’s “energy factories”). Theoretically, children inherit all this DNA from their mother, because sperm lack mitochondria. Relying solely on the maternal line, geneticists traced the family tree back to a hypothetical woman nicknamed “Eve.” Of course, the popular media could not resist the proximity of biblical metaphor to evolutionary speculations.
However, naysayers within the scientific community questioned the validity of the whole exercise. Alan Templeton and others (1992) have shown that other trees with non-African roots are possible, but that the variation among these computer-generated solutions is so great as to negate far-ranging conclusions based on mitochondrial data. This merely reinforces our general suspicion of the evolutionary premises behind the tree-constructing exercises.
Most criticisms come from paleontologists who object to the out-of-Africa theory on the basis of fossil evidence (e.g., Thorne and Wolpoff, 1992). In their multiregional model, several populations of Homo sapiens evolved independently in different parts of the world. They leave open the possibility that the immediate forbear, Homo erectus, may have had a common origin in Africa. However, they believe that people today reflect a variety of features bequeathed by different ancestral populations of H. erectus. For example, Milford Wolpoff argues that the classic protruding brow ridges of Neanderthal skulls from Krapina, Croatia, are visible in only slightly less pronounced form among relatively recent remains in the same area. To him, this demonstrates a mixing of distinctive local traits and general human features borne on migrations from many different areas. Indeed, several sites around the Middle East and Europe show Neanderthals living side-by-side with groups bearing somewhat modern features (sometimes referred to as either archaic sapiens or Homo heidelbergensis). Hence, multiregional advocates look incredulously on the idea that African emigrants could remain isolated genetically from neighboring populations of H. erectus orH. neanderthalensis.


Both views contain a kernel of truth. For example, creationists would agree with the out-of-Africa model tenet that humans share a recent common ancestry, but also would agree with the multiregional model on a continuity between ancient H. erectus and H. sapiens populations. However, creationists would argue that many of these Homo species represent ancient and living variations of a created human kind and, most important, that humans did not evolve from an ape-like creature. In the following sections, I would like to attempt a distinction between genuinely human fossils, and the fossils of extinct ape species.

Variation in Fossil and Modern Humans

We would recognize a Neanderthal walking the streets of New York or Paris by prominent brow ridges, low forehead, flat skull, weak chin, jutting midfacial region, very large nose, forward-sloping face, and short, muscular limbs—to name some of the more visible characteristics (Stringer and Gamble, 1993, pp. 76-77). The skull of H. erectus shared many of the Neanderthals’ features, but with flatter brow ridges and a less prominent midfacial region. Some H. erectus skeletons were short and stocky like the Neanderthals, but one specimen—a nine- to eleven-year-old boy from West Turkana, Kenya—was tall and slender (Andrews and Stringer, 1993, p. 242). Cranial volume varied from 850 to over 1100 milliliters for H. erectus, and 1250 to over 1740 ml for Neanderthals. One specimen of H. heidelbergensis had an estimated volume of 1300 ml. The average for modern humans is 1350 ml, but we exhibit a broad range of 700 to 2200 ml (Lubenow, 1992, p. 138).
All the Homo species mentioned so far had some vocal capacity, as indicated by the arched shape of the base of their skulls (Leakey, 1994, pp. 130-133). Other mammals have a flat skull base and a very limited capacity for vocalization. Again, there is some variation among the fossil human types that does not follow a clear evolutionary pattern. Neanderthals, for instance, appear to have had a much flatter skull base thanH. erectus. This may have limited their speech, but to what extent, we do not know. Unfortunately, the fossil record has not preserved the soft tissues of the vocal apparatus (the pharynx, larynx, tongue and lips). Other evidence (such as brain size, tool technologies, and deliberate burials) suggests that the Neanderthals were capable, thinking beings.
In general, skeletal proportions, the angularity of the face, and the shape of the brain case varied considerably among fossil humans (e.g. Figure 1). Yet differences, every bit as dramatic, occur among modern humans. Watusis today would not miss a Mbuti pygmy who strolled into their village, and an Inuit would stand out at a gathering of Australian aborigines.

Figure 1. The most likely candidates for fossil humans. From top to bottom: archaic H. sapiens(Qafzeh 9); Neanderthal (the “Old Man” of La Chapelle-aux-Saints); and Homo erectus (Sangiran 17). From Tattersall, 1995. Bars show scale of 1 cm.
Despite obvious facial features (Figure 2), both H. erectus and appear to fit within a distinct human kind. Although some specimens show a mixture of traits, there is no clear lineage from, say, H. erectus to H. sapiens. In fact, the fossil record suggests that they were contemporaries and, in some cases, neighbors (Stringer and Gamble, 1993, p. 137). The different species names are convenient for evolutionary discussions, but there is no evidence of reproductive isolation. Marvin Lubenow is one creationist who sees no problem including all these forms within a highly variable created human kind (1992, pp. 120-143).

Figure 2. Picture inspired by Earnest Hooten’s claim that no one would notice fossil men walking down modern streets if they were dressed in formal attire. Characters represent archaic H. sapiens (top right), Neanderthal (top), and H. erectus (bottom left and right).

Problematic Transition from Apes to Humans

As we have just seen, all human fossils possess fairly large brains in relation to their body size. Chimps, however, have relatively small brains, averaging around 400 ml. Humans also show a distinctive upright posture. In 1891, when Eugene Dubois found a skullcap, tooth, and leg bone in Trinil, Java, he named itPithecanthropus erectus (“upright ape-man”). Later, as much better examples came to light, paleontologists recognized their humanness and changed the genus name to Homo. Hence, the transition from apes to humans represented a shift in posture and a four-fold increase in cranial volume.
Supposedly, the first critical step in this transformation took place when a small-brained animal—an australopithecine (“southern ape”)—began to walk upright (Figure 3). Of course, many animals are able to walk on two legs, but humans are the only modern primates that rely almost exclusively on this bipedal form of locomotion. However, a growing collection of fossil finds has enabled a closer scrutiny of different hominid species and the claims surrounding them. In particular, these studies have thrown doubt on the bipedalism of Australopithecus africanus, and its evolutionary dead-end cousin, Paranthropus.

Figure 3. The most unlikely candidates for fossil humans. From top to bottom: Homo habilis (KNM-ER 1813); Australopithecus africanus (Sts 5); andAustralopithecus afarensis (reconstruction from unassociated fragments). From Tattersall, 1995. Bars show scale of 1 cm.
In order to walk upright, humans need good balance. A crucial part of this “sixth sense” resides in the bony labyrinth of the inner ear, which often is preserved in fossil remains. Fred Spoor and his colleagues (1994) used this information, and new technology in the form of CT scans, to compare the labyrinth of modern humans, great apes, and fossil hominids. Their results show a clear divide between H. erectus and H. sapiens on one side, and great apes, A. africanus, and Paranthropus robustus on the other.
Other recent evidence contrary to bipedalism includes:
  • chimp-proportioned arm bones in A. afarensis (Kimbel, et al., 1994);
  • chimp-like thumbs in A. afarensis more suited to tree climbing than tool making (Susman, 1994). This study identifies human-like thumbs in P. robustus, but this bone may belong to H. erectus instead (Aiello, 1994);
  • a nonhuman gait in “Lucy,” one of the most famous specimens of A. afarensis, based on ratio of leg size to foot size (as reported by Oliwenstein, 1995).
  • ape-like features in foot bones belonging to A. africanus or another contemporary hominid (Clarke and Tobias, 1995); and
  • human-like limb proportions in A. afarensis, but ape-like limb proportions in its successors, A. africanusand Homo habilis. One researcher went as far to suggest that A. afarensis was a failed experiment in ape bipedalism, and should be consigned to a side branch of the human evolutionary tree (as reported by Shreeve, 1996).
The overall picture is one in which alleged ape-men derail the evolutionary process by returning to the trees. This assumes, of course, that A. afarensis was fully bipedal in the first place. One piece of evidence offered in support of this view comes from the well-known footprints in volcanic ash at Laetoli. Radiometric methods dated these tracks to 3.7 million years ago, which places the deposit within the supposed time span of A. afarensis. Apart from suspicions we may entertain about such dates, there is no proof that these tracks were made by anything other than fully modern humans. After analyzing the footprints of 70 Machiguenga Indians from Peru, and examining the available fossil toe bones, Russell H. Tuttle concluded that the ape-like feet of A. afarensis could not have made the Laetoli tracks (Bower, 1989).

Figure 4. One evolutionary “best guess” of hominid evolution (from Tattersall, 1995, p. 234).
This leaves the transition from the very ape-like A. africanus to the fully human H. erectus entirely in the hands (or is that feet?) of H. habilis (Figure 4). As noted previously, H. habilis possessed the same ape-like limb proportions as A. africanus. In fact, the whole issue of its place among Homo is highly contentious, and the species has become a dumping ground for strange and out-of-place fossils. Some paleontologists have tried to impose some order by reassigning australopithecine-like specimens to Homo rudolfensis, and the most modern-looking specimens to “early African H. erectus” or Homo ergaster (to which some would assign the Turkana boy). Apart from a small difference in brain size between australopithecines (less than 550 ml) and habilines (around 500-650 ml), there are no other compelling reasons to divide them among two genera. The same cannot be said about the gap between habilines and H. erectus. The latter have much larger brains (at least 848 ml, if we count the Turkana boy), well-developed stone tools, definite upright stance, and speech capabilities. Tattersall confesses that there is only a weak link between H. habilis and H. ergaster (1995, p. 232). Andrews and Stringer offer a similar opinion, stating:
The relation between habilis and erectus is unclear. It is widely assumed that the first gave rise to the second, but since there seem to be at least two kinds of habilis, whose toolmaking skills could be independent of their successors’, there is no obvious continuity (1993, p. 242).


The debate between creation and evolution centers constantly on a sort of “half empty, half full” argument. Evolutionists draw on molecular and fossil evidence to establish a genealogical connection between humans and living apes. They emphasize the similarities, and credit differences to the vagaries of natural selection. Any shared attribute (whether genetic, morphological, or behavioral) is used as an indicator of common ancestry; the degree of similarity is used to assign an alleged ancestor to a place on the “family tree.” For their part, creationists emphasize the differences, and credit similarities to God’s use of a common design. So which of these carries the day: similarities or differences?
As we have seen, the molecular evidence is very limited in providing proof of relatedness between distant relatives. The 1% difference between chimp and human DNA really is significant, and many protein comparisons fail to support the alleged evolutionary tree. Likewise, the fossil record establishes a clear difference between humans and apes, with no good candidates for transitional forms. Overall, the argument for relatedness based on similarity is void of reasonable proof.


Aiello, Leslie C. (1994), “Thumbs Up for Our Early Ancestors,” Science, 265:1540-1541, September 9.
Andrews, Peter and Christopher Stringer (1993), “The Primates’ Progress,” The Book of Life, ed. Stephen Jay Gould (New York: W.W. Norton).
Bower, Bruce (1989), “A Walk Back Through Evolution,” Science News, 135[16]:251, April 22.
Cann, Rebecca L., Mark Stoneking, and Allan C. Wilson (1987), “Mitochondrial DNA and Human Evolution,” Nature, 325:31-36.
Clarke, Ronald J. and Phillip V. Tobias (1995), “Sterkfontein Member 2 Foot Bones of the Oldest South African Hominid,” Science, 269:521-524, July 28.
Kimbel, William, Donald C. Johanson, and Yoel Rak (1994), “The First Skull and Other New Discoveries ofAustralopithecus afarensis at Hadar, Ethiopia,” Nature, 368:449-451, March 31.
Leakey, Richard (1994), The Origin of Humankind (New York: Basic Books).
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