"THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES" Concluding Thoughts People have often searched for the meaning of life. From philosopher to the common man they have asked questions like: "Why am I here?" or "What is my purpose for life?" Presuming there is no God nor life after death, many have concluded there is no purpose for living, and fallen into despair or hedonism. But a search that begins with wrong assumptions invariably leads to wrong conclusions. If what we see in this life is all there is, then truly "vanity of vanities, all is vanity!" The Preacher, with his personal experiences and God-given wisdom, has demonstrated that, yes, life from an earthly perspective alone ("life under the sun") is truly vanity! But he has also declared that by fearing God and keeping His commandments one can endure the many vanities and perplexities of life, all the while enjoying the good things in life that God give us! As expressed by the Preacher himself: "What profit has the worker from that in which he labors? I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied." "He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end." "I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor--it is the gift of God." Ecclesiastes 3:9-13 May we like the Preacher, then, continue to seek out "acceptable words", "words of truth" (12:10) that will serve as goads to direct us, and as well-driven nails with which to build our lives. Especially those truths from Jesus, who has come and spoken words designed to help us weather the storms of life: "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:" "and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock." Matthew 7:24-25 With the help of the Preacher and the Savior, we can find meaning and hope in this vain world in which we live!
"THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES" Chapter Twelve OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To consider what further counsel the Preacher offers to the young 2) To note what happens to the spirit when the body dies 3) To hear the Preacher's conclusion after his search for the meaning of life "under the sun" SUMMARY The final chapter begins with a continuation of advice directed to the young. They are told to remember God in their youth, before difficult days come in which there will be found little pleasure. Such days are described through a series of illustrations that depict the feebleness of old age and eventual death. When the inevitable happens, the body will decay back to dust, and the spirit will return to God who gave it (1-7). The Preacher brings his "sermon" to a close by restating his theme: "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." An epilogue is added that informs the reader of the work the Preacher continued to do after concluding his search for the meaning of life. Because of his wisdom, he still taught the people and sought to set in order many proverbs. He sought to find acceptable and upright words, words of truth. Such words of the wise and scholarly are described as goads and well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd. One is to be admonished by these words, yet be aware that there is no end to the making of many books, and much study is wearisome to the flesh (8-12). Finally, we are told the "grand conclusion" of the whole matter. The Preacher ends his search for meaning by concluding that the whole purpose for man's existence is to fear God and keep His commandments. That is because God will bring into judgment everything we have done (13-14). OUTLINE I. ADVICE TO THE YOUNG (12:1-7) A. REMEMBER GOD IN YOUR YOUTH (1-2) 1. Before the difficult days come 2. Before the years come in which you find little pleasure 3. While the sun, moon, and stars are not darkened 4. While the clouds do not return after the rain B. REFLECT UPON WHAT IS COMING (3-7) 1. The day is coming in which: a. The keepers of the house tremble (the arms weaken) b. The strong men bow down (the legs become frail) c. The grinders cease because they are few (the teeth fall out) d. Those that look through the windows grow dim (the eyes lose their sight) e. The doors are shut in the streets (the ears become hard of hearing) f. The sound of the grinding is low (the mouth and speech become unintelligible) g. When one rises up at the sound of a bird (the elderly easily awakened) h. And all the daughters of music are brought low (the voice no longer able to sing) i. They are afraid of height (the fear of falling) j. And of terrors in the way (no longer feeling invincible) k. When the almond tree blossoms (the wakefulness of old age setting in) l. The grasshopper is a burden (an old man, bowed like the insect, able to move only with some difficulty) m. And desire fails (fleshly desires wane) n. Man goes to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets (death) 2. Remember your Creator before: a. Before the silver cord (the spinal cord) is loosed b. The golden bowl (the skull) is broken c. The pitcher (the heart) shattered at the fountain d. The wheel (the pelvis) broken at the well -- Figures alluding to decay of the body 3. When finally: a. The body returns to the dust b. The spirit returns to God who gave it II. EPILOGUE AND CONCLUSION (12:8-14) A. THE EPILOGUE (8-12) 1. The grand theme restated: "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity..." 2. The Preacher's ongoing work (because he was wise) a. He continued to teach others b. He pondered and sought to find many proverbs, upright words of truth 3. The value of such words of truth a. The words of the wise are like goads b. The words of the scholars are like well-driven nails -- Such truth comes from One Shepherd 4. It is good to be admonished by such words a. Though there is no end to the making of many books b. Though much study is wearisome to the flesh B. THE GRAND CONCLUSION (13-14) 1. The conclusion of the whole matter a. Fear God and keep His commandments b. This is man's all (the whole duty of man) 2. For God will bring every work into judgment a. Every secret thing b. Whether good or evil REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - Advice to the young (1-7) - Epilogue and conclusion (8-14) 2) What advice does the Preacher give to the young person? (1) - Remember God in the days of your youth - While things are going well, before the difficult days come 3) What thirteen illustrations are used to depict one growing old and feeble? (3-5) - The keepers of the house tremble (the arms weaken) - The strong men bow down (the legs become frail) - The grinders cease because they are few (the teeth fall out) - Those that look through the windows grow dim (the eyes lose their sight) - The doors are shut in the streets (the ears become hard of hearing) - The sound of the grinding is low (the mouth and speech become unintelligible) - When one rises up at the sound of a bird (the elderly easily awakened) - And all the daughters of music are brought low (the voice no longer able to sing) - They are afraid of height (the fear of falling) - And of terrors in the way (no longer feeling invincible) - When the almond tree blossoms (the wakefulness of old age setting in) - The grasshopper is a burden (an old man, bowed like the insect, able to move only with difficulty) - And desire fails (fleshly desires wane) 4) How is death depicted at the end of verse 5? - Man goes to his eternal home - Mourners to about the streets 5) What four illustrations are used to depict the decaying of the body? (6) - Before the silver cord (the spinal cord) is loosed - The golden bowl (the skull) is broken - The pitcher (the heart) shattered at the fountain - The wheel (the pelvis) broken at the well 6) What occurs at death as described in verse 7? - The dust returns to the earth as it was - The spirit returns to God who gave it 7) What is the recurring theme throughout this book, as restated in verse 8? - "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." 8) What did the Preacher continue to do? (9-10) - He taught the people knowledge - He pondered and sought out and set in order many proverbs - He sought to find acceptable and upright words, words of truth 9) What are the words of the wise and scholarly like? (11) - Goads and well-driven nails - Given by one Shepherd 10) What did the Preacher encourage his son? (12) - To be admonished by the words of wisdom and truth 11) Yet what two things should one keep in mind? (12) - There is no end to the making of many books - Much study is wearisome to the flesh 12) What does the Preacher offer as the conclusion to his search for meaning? (13) - Fear God and keep His commandments - This is the whole duty of man 13) Why is this his conclusion? (14) - For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, wither good or evil
"THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES" Chapter Eleven OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To appreciate the value of benevolence and diligence in preparing for the future 2) To glean what counsel the Preacher offers for those who are young SUMMARY In this chapter the Preacher begins with encouraging benevolence and diligence as ways to guard against the uncertain future. By casting our bread upon the waters, willing to offer servings to many, and not withholding our hands in the evening, our benevolence may serve us well in the future should evil befall us. Likewise, things may happen beyond our ability to control or comprehend, but diligence in sowing seed and being mindful of the dark days to come can help to prepare us for their coming (1-8). This chapter also introduces counsel from the Preacher designed especially for the young. The young man is encouraged to rejoice, letting his heart cheer him. He is told to walk in the ways of his heart and in the sight of his eyes, yet with the knowledge that God will hold him accountable for all that he does. So remove sorrow (i.e., rejoice!). But also put away evil during the fleeting years of childhood and youth (9-10). OUTLINE I. THE VALUE OF BENEVOLENCE AND DILIGENCE (11:1-8) A. AN EXHORTATION TO BENEVOLENCE (1-2) 1. Cast your bread upon the waters, you will find it after many days 2. Give servings to seven, and to eight, for you do not know what evil will come B. AN EXHORTATION TO DILIGENCE (3-8) 1. Many things (like rain and wind storms) are inevitable (3-4) a. We cannot stop the clouds full of rain from falling b. Trees will lie wherever they fall c. If we spend our time just watching and not doing, we will not sow and reap 2. There are things we cannot comprehend (5-6) a. Like the way of the wind (or spirit) b. Like the development of the child in the womb c. We cannot comprehend God's working; therefore do not restrict your efforts 3. There will be days of darkness (7-8) a. It is great to be alive when one is well 1) The light is sweet 2) It is pleasant to behold the sun b. But even if one lives many joyful days, they should know that evil days will come II. ADVICE TO THE YOUNG (11:9-10) A. REJOICE IN YOUR YOUTH (9a) 1. Let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth 2. Walk in the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes B. DON'T LOSE SIGHT OF THE JUDGMENT (9b) 1. God will bring you into judgment 2. You will answer for all that you do C. REMOVE SORROW AND EVIL (10) 1. Remove sorrow from your heart 2. Put away evil from your flesh 3. For childhood and youth are vanity REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - The value of benevolence and diligence (1-8) - Advice to the young (9-10) 2) Why does the Preacher encourage you to "cast your bread upon the waters"? (1) - It will come back to you after many days 3) Why does the Preacher counsel you to "give a serving to seven, and also to eight"? (2) - You do not know what evil will be on the earth 4) What is the point of these two admonitions? - To be liberal and largesse in your benevolence, for it may help you during difficult days in the future 5) What two examples are given of things that are inevitable? (3) - Clouds full of rain will empty themselves on the earth - Where a tree falls, there it will lie 6) What does the Preacher caution against? (4) - Watching the wind and clouds to the neglect of sowing and reaping 7) What two examples illustrate our limited ability to comprehend the ways of God? (5) - The way of the wind - How the bones of a child grow in the womb 8) How does the Preacher encourage diligence and benevolence? (6) - In the morning, sow your seed (diligence) - In the evening, do not withhold your hand (benevolence) 9) Why does he encourage diligence and benevolence? (6) - For we don't know which of the two will prosper, perhaps even both 10) What is described as sweet and pleasant? (7) - Light is sweet, and it is pleasant to behold the sun 11) If one is blessed to live many joyful years, what should he still bear in mind? (8) - The days of darkness, for they will be many and all that is coming is vanity 12) What does the Preacher encourage the young man to do? (9) - Rejoice in his youth - Let his heart cheer him in the days of his youth - Walk in the ways of his heart and in the sight of his eyes 13) Yet what does the Preacher also encourage him to remember? (9) - God will bring him into judgment for the things he does 14) So what else the Preacher counsel the young man to do? Why? (10) - Remove sorrow from his heart, put away evil from his flesh - Childhood and youth are vanity (fleeting)
"THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES" Chapter Ten OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To compare the harm of folly and the value of wisdom 2) To see the impact of folly on one's reputation, the government, and in business SUMMARY The Preacher continues to share wisdom that can help endure the many vanities in life. This chapter is filled with proverbial statements, in which he first deplores folly and the affect it can have on one's reputation (1-3). The Preacher also describes how folly is often manifested in government, and in one's life and labors. The land suffers when governed by foolish men, and labor is made even more difficult. Yet wisdom can bring success to one's endeavors, and blessings to the land when found in the conduct of those who lead (4-20). OUTLINE I. FOLLY DEPLORED (10:1-3) A. IT MARS THE FINEST OF REPUTATIONS (1) 1. Like dead flies putrefy the perfumer's ointment 2. So folly is to one respected for wisdom and honor B. IT SERVES AS AN UNSAFE GUIDE (2) 1. The wise man's heart is at his right hand 2. The fool's heart is at his left hand (in the wrong place) C. IT BETRAYS ITS OWN STUPIDITY (3) 1. A fool walks along the way without wisdom 2. He shows everyone that he is a fool II. FOLLY MANIFESTED (10:4-20) A. WHEN THE SPIRIT OF THE RULER RISES AGAINST YOU (4) 1. Do not leave your post 2. Allow conciliation to pacify great offense B. WHEN FOLLY IS MANIFESTED IN GOVERNMENT AND LABOR (5-20) 1. An evil observed by the Preacher (5-7) a. Error proceeding from the ruler b. Folly exalted while the rich are debased c. Servants in power while true princes are humbled 2. Those who labor with foolishness hurt and hinder themselves (8-10) a. As illustrated through several examples given by the Preacher b. The wisdom of the wise will know how to expedite his labors 3. The foolish seldom know how to restrain themselves (11-15) a. They do not know how to hold their tongues b. They do not know how to direct their labor 4. How folly and wisdom affect the condition of the country (16-19) a. Woe to the land whose leaders... 1) Are childish and feast in the morning 2) Are lazy, resulting in broken down buildings b. Blessed is the land whose leaders... 1) Feast at the proper time 2) Successfully rule, providing for true happiness and meeting every need 5. Be careful what you say (20) a. Do not curse the king b. Do not curse the rich c. For what you say will likely reach their ears REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - Folly deplored (1-3) - Folly manifested (4-20) 2) What comparison is used to illustrate how folly ruins the reputation of the wise? (1) - As dead flies cause the perfumer's ointment to give off a foul odor 3) Where is the heart of a wise man? The heart of the foolish man? (2) - At his right hand; at his left hand 4) When does the fool display his folly to everyone? (3) - Even when he walks along the way 5) How should one respond when the spirit of the ruler rises against them? (4) - By remaining at their post (i.e., maintaining their faithfulness) - By seeking conciliation 6) What evil had the Preacher seen under the sun pertaining to government? (5-7) - Error proceeding from the ruler - Folly set in great dignity while the rich are set in a lowly place - Servants on horses while princes walk on the ground 7) What four illustrations appear to depict the lack of wisdom in business? (8-9) - Digging a pit, then falling into it - Breaking through a wall, only to be bit by a serpent - Being hurt by the stone one quarries - Endangered by the wood one splits 8) When the ax is dull, what is required? What will bring success? (10) - More strength; wisdom 9) To what is a babbler compared? (11) - A serpent that may bite when not charmed 10) How are the words of the wise? What will the lips of a fool do to him? (12) - Gracious - Swallow him up 11) What do the words of a fool begin with? How do they end? (13) - Foolishness; with raving madness 12) What else is said about a fool? (14-15) - He multiplies his words - His labor wearies him 13) When is there woe upon the land? (16) - When the king is a child, and the princes feast in the morning 14) When is a land blessed? (17) - When the king is the son of nobles, and princes feast at the proper time 15) What is evidence of laziness and idleness? (18) - Decaying buildings and leaking houses 16) What observations are made about feasting, wine and money? (19) - Feasting is made for laughter - Wine makes merry - Money answers everything 17) Why should one not curse the king nor the rich? (20) - What you say (even in private) may eventually get back to them
"THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES" Chapter Nine OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To reflect upon the inevitability of death, and the uncertainty of life 2) To consider how time and chance happens to all 3) To appreciate the importance of a joyful, diligent life, and heeding the words of the wise SUMMARY The Preacher continues to share counsel gleaned from observations on life made during his search for meaning. He noted that all things come alike to all, it matters not that you are righteous or wicked. One thing that certainly happens to all is death, after which one is soon forgotten and has no share in this life (things done "under the sun"). Should one therefore despair? No, the Preacher again encourages us to live joyfully, especially with the wife of our youth, and to work diligently in what time we have in this life. Once you die, you won't be able to continue your efforts in the grave. This is our portion in life, and God has already accepted our works (1-10). The Preacher also observed that time and chance happens to all, and that evil times come suddenly. The uncertainty of life can be softened with the aid of wisdom, which the Preacher praises as better than strength and the weapons of war. Thus the words of the wise should be heard, even when spoken softly, or coming from a poor man (11-18). OUTLINE I. ENDURING THE INEVITABILITY OF DEATH (9:1-10) A. DEATH HAPPENS TO ALL (1-6) 1. It happens to both the righteous and the wicked a. While the righteous are in God's hands b. And the sons of men are full of evil 2. While we live, there is hope; when we die... a. We know nothing of what goes on here on earth b. Others' memory of us soon fades B. ENJOY LIFE (7-10) 1. While death is inevitable, we should still enjoy life 2. Live joyfully with the wife God has given you 3. Work diligently while you are here; you won't be able to do anymore after you die II. ENDURING THE UNCERTAINTY OF LIFE (9:11-18) A. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED (11-12) 1. Time and chance happens to all a. Being swift and strong does not mean you will always win b. Being wise, understanding, and skillful does not always ensure food, riches, or favor 2. Sometimes death will come unexpectedly, like animals caught in a trap B. ESTEEM WISDOM (13-18) 1. The Preacher saw how wisdom saved a city a. Even though found in a poor man b. Even though the man was soon forgotten 2. Therefore he praises the value of wisdom a. As better than strength, though a poor man's wisdom is often despised b. As better than weapons of war, though spoken quietly by the wise REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - Enduring the inevitability of death (1-10) - Enduring the uncertainty of life (11-18) 2) What did the Preacher consider about the righteous and the wise? (1) - They and their works are in the hand of God 3) What two observations did he make regarding the righteous and the wicked? (2-3) - All things come alike to all - One thing happens to all 4) What one event does he discuss that happens to everyone? (3-5) - Death 5) What two things does he see in the hearts of men? What happens to them? (3) - Evil, madness; they die 6) Who still has hope? Why? (4-5) - Those who are living - For they know they will die 7) What is said of the dead? (5-6) - They know nothing, they have no more reward - The memory of them is forgotten - Their love, hatred, and envy have perished - They no longer have a share in things done "under the sun" 8) What does the Preacher counsel the living to do? (7-10) - Eat and drink your food with joy - Adorn yourself with good apparel - Live joyfully with the wife of your youth - Work diligently 9) What reasons does he give for such counsel? (7-10) - God has already accepted your works - That is your portion in life - There is no work, device, knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave 10) What other observations did the Preacher make about life? (11-12) - Time and chance happen to all men, despite their strength, wisdom, or skill - Evil times often come suddenly upon men 11) What observations did he make about the value of wisdom? (13-18) - Wisdom is better than strength - A poor man's wisdom is often despised - Quiet words of the wise should be heard rather than the shout of a ruler of fools - Wisdom is better than weapons of war
"THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES" Chapter Eight OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To glean wisdom for enduring evil and oppressive governments 2) To note the similarity between the Preacher's conclusion and the book of Job about the inability of man to discern all of the work of God SUMMARY Among the "vanities" in life is living in circumstances over which we have little control. Such as the kind of government ruling the country in which we live. The Preacher observed that evil men are often in positions of power, and offers his counsel for enduring such "vanity." Wisdom is helpful, capable of softening one's countenance (so one is not overly troubled?). Submitting to governing authorities is important, especially in view of the power wielded by those in authority. There will be times when the wicked rule, bringing misery. Be patient, while judgment against such evil may be delayed it will come in its own time and the wicked will soon be forgotten after their demise. In the meantime, it is best to fear God (1-13). Another "vanity" is how the righteous sometimes suffer while the wicked prosper. The Preacher reiterates his conclusion that it is best to seek to enjoy what good God gives in one's labor under the sun. Even the wisest man is unable to discern all that God is doing, no matter how hard he tries. A lesson similar to the one taught in the book of Job (14-17). OUTLINE I. ENDURING THE GOVERNMENTS OF MEN (8:1-13) A. SUBMIT TO AUTHORITIES (1-8) 1. Wisdom has its value, able to change one's countenance 2. Obey the king's command, for God's sake a. Don't be hasty to leave the king's presence b. Don't take your stand for an evil thing c. Respect his power, and you will be unharmed 3. A wise man will understand that judgment will come in it's own time, so don't resort to wickedness (i.e., rebellion) to alleviate misery - cf. Ro 13:1-7; 1Pe 2:11-17 B. ANTICIPATE WICKED RULERS (9-13) 1. There will be times when men rule to their own detriment 2. They will soon be forgotten after their demise 3. Why do some persist in their evil? a. Because their judgment does not occur immediately b. Even so, it is still better to fear God II. ENDURING THE VANITY IN LIFE (8:14-17) A. EXPECT PERPLEXITY (14, 16-17) 1. Sometimes the righteous suffer, and the wicked prosper, which is vanity 2. One cannot always understand why things happen the way they do (remember Job?) B. ENJOY LIFE (15) 1. Delight in the fruits of your own labor a. Eat, drink, and be merry b. As you labor in the days God has given you in life under the sun 2. The advice given throughout this book - 2:24-26; 3:12-13; 5: 18-20 REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - Enduring the governments of men (1-13) - Enduring the vanity in life (14-17) 2) What benefit does wisdom have? (1) - It can make the face of a man to shine, softening its sternness 3) Why should one be in submission to the king (i.e., government)? (2-4) - For God's sake - Because of the power which the king has at his disposal 4) Generally speaking, what will one experience who heeds the king's command? (5) - Nothing harmful 5) What will a wise man discern even though misery may increase greatly? (5-7) - There is a time and judgment for every matter 6) What is said of those who are given to wickedness? (8) - Wickedness will not deliver them 7) What had the Preacher observed about the rule of men? (9) - There is a time when a man rules over another to his own hurt 8) What did he observe about the wicked who had come and gone from the place of holiness? (10) - They were soon forgotten after their death 9) Why were the hearts of some men set to do evil? (11) - Because the sentence against evil was not executed speedily 10) What did the Preacher conclude about a sinner whose days are prolonged? (12-13) - It will be well for those who fear God - It will not be well with the wicked 11) What did the Preacher describe as a vanity which occurs on the earth? (14) - There are just men who receive what should be for the wicked - There are wicked men who receive what should be for the righteous 12) In view of such vanity, what does the Preacher commend? Why? (15) - To eat, drink, and be merry (i.e., enjoy life) - For this is what God gives to man as he labors in life under the sun 13) What did the Preacher conclude after diligently observing the business that is done on the earth? (16-17) - That no one can know all of the work of God, even if one is wise
Christianity, Islam, and Science
|by||Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.|
The Roman Empire was terminally ill by the end of the second century A.D. It had used its skills in administration, engineering, and military strategy to dominate a region spanning three continents. But its heart was weakened by the rise of an absolutist monarchy led, all too frequently, by weak, ineffectual emperors. Slowly, the Roman armies abandoned the most distant outposts and could not prevent the Vandals, Goths, and Huns from penetrating the innermost parts of the Empire. The Goths sacked major Greek cities in 268, gave the same treatment to Rome in 410, and in 476 deposed the last Western Roman Emperor. Deprived of Roman law and economy, much of the region plunged into disorder and poverty.
Lost from the scene was a significant portion of classical Greek science, including Ptolemy’s astronomy, Euclid’s mathematics, Galen’s anatomy, and Aristotle’s naturalistic writings. But it hardly could be said that nothing was going on in these “Dark Ages,” as some are inclined to characterize the next few hundred years. In particular, the establishment of monasteries in the sixth century provided a means for religious training. Literacy improved because instruction depended on readings from the Bible, commentaries, and works of the church Fathers.
Monasteries also provided access to the relatively scant classical works available in Latin. Through the writings of Augustine (354-430), scholars were especially familiar with Plato’s Timaeus. This work lent itself to Christian interpretation because it argued that the Universe had a first cause—an eternal self-mover—that created motion and order. Further, because Plato’s god was good, he created a world that was good for us, the creature. Unlike the Christian God, this self-mover was not a personal god; he did not love man, he was not omnipotent, and he was not the object of worship. However, Plato’s arguments for a Creator-God, combined with biblically based expectations of seeing God’s handiwork in creation (e.g., Psalm 19:1, Romans 1:20), encouraged medieval theologians to affirm the fundamental intelligibility of God’s creation. Although Augustine frowned upon the systematic study of nature, the concept of nature’s basic orderliness provided an important key to the development of modern science (Jones, 1969, p. 133).
During this same period, Arabic-Islamic science had reached tremendous heights. It led the world in mathematics, physics, optics, astronomy, and medicine. The stability and wealth brought by the spread of Islamic power in the seventh and eighth centuries fostered patronage of higher learning. In 762, al-Mansur established Baghdad as his new capital, and “cultivated a religious climate that was relatively intellectual, secularized, and tolerant” (Lindberg, 1992, p. 168). Over the next few generations, Arab scholars enhanced their own knowledge with medicine from Persia, mathematics from India and China, and the classical Greek heritage preserved in Byzantium. Much emphasis was given to knowledge that had special utility for Islamic culture. For example, the Chinese abacus, and the Hindu system of numbers and place-valued decimal notation, were used to advance trigonometry and Ptolemy’s astronomy. These, in turn, could be used to determine the direction to Mecca and the times of prayer for any town in the Muslim world.
Crucial to the development of Arabic science was a massive translation program begun by Hunayn ibn Ishaq (808-73), a member of the Nestorian Christian sect. Arabs filled their numerous libraries with tens- or hundreds-of-thousands of books, whereas the Sorbonne in Paris could boast of a paltry two thousand as late as the fourteenth century (Huff, 1993, p. 74). Despite this clear superiority, why did modern science arise in Western Europe, and not in the Islamic world?
Some Muslim leaders, like some of their counterparts in early medieval Europe, had a low regard for the study of nature. Academic pursuits were tolerated, but learning was divided into traditional studies based on the Qur’an, and “foreign” studies based on knowledge obtained from the Greeks. Although there were Arabic rationalists, there were also those who saw in this rationalism a threat to the authority of the holy writings. A conservative reaction in the late tenth century, together with a decline in peace and prosperity, impeded further scientific advance in the Muslim world (Lindberg, 1992, pp. 180-181). According to the emerging Islamic orthodoxy, man was not a fully rational creature, and no room was allowed for a purely rational investigation of God’s creation (Huff, 1993, pp. 100,115).
It was in this very early period of decline that the baton of science began to pass gradually into the hands of the Europeans, especially those who came into contact with the wealth of Islamic knowledge in Spain. Perhaps the next most significant event was the fall of Muslim-held Toledo in 1085. Many important Arabic and classical works from its vast library were translated into Latin. Within a century, these had begun to filter into centers of learning all over Europe. They arrived at a time when scholars such as Anselm (1033-1109) already were reviving the role of reason in faith. Their arrival coincided also with the development of the university as a legal entity with political and intellectual autonomy (Huff, 1993, p. 335). No similar institution appeared in the Arabic world until the twentieth century due, in part, to the orthodox Muslim concept of nature and reason. Religious constraints also played a role in late medieval Europe, but an academic world committed to the biblical views of man’s rationality and freedom of choice provided a fertile ground for the rise of modern science.
Huff, Toby E. (1993), The Rise of Early Modern Science (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press).
Jones, W.T. (1969), The Medieval Mind (Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, second edition).
Lindberg, David C. (1992), The Beginnings of Western Science (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).
An Inspiring Glimpse into the Text of the Dead Sea Scrolls
|by||Thomas Tarpley, B.S.|
Thanks to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, we are able, with greater confidence, to believe in the Bible, knowing beyond any doubt that it is authentic. The significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls, in relation to biblical studies, can be separated into different areas. In this article, I would like to examine specifically the matter of the Old Testament text. As we study that text, we find that, prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, witnesses of the Old Testament text and canon were confined mainly to the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible.
For many years, scholars doubted that extremely ancient manuscripts of the Old Testament would ever be found. Sir Frederick Kenyon, in the 1948 printing of Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts,stated: “There is indeed, no probability that we shall ever find manuscripts of the Hebrew text going back to a period before the formation of the text which we know as Masoretic. We can only arrive at an idea of it by a study of the earliest translations made from it.…” Ironically, as his book was being printed, evidence that would invalidate such statements was being uncovered (see Pfeiffer, 1969).
Until the year 1947, the earliest manuscripts we possessed dated back to only around the tenth century A.D. These manuscripts composed what is known as the Masoretic Text, which was put into a fixed form in approximately A.D. 500. In the year 1947, a significant-yet-unexpected event occurred that would help document the authenticity of our present-day Bible. This special event took place in the northwestern corner of the Dead Sea, at a place known as Qumran. In a cave at Qumran, a young Bedouin boy accidentally stumbled upon a treasure trove of clay jars containing several ancient manuscripts—a find that proved to be one of the greatest discoveries of all time. These manuscripts take us back 1,000 years earlier than the Masoretic Text, to the first century B.C. The manuscripts, which are part of the Qumran library, are known collectively as the Dead Sea Scrolls. There are several lines of evidence that have put to rest the question of how old they are. This evidence was confirmed by paleography (the study and interpretations of ancient writings), orthography (the study of letters and their sequences in words), and archaeology.
Because these manuscripts have been proven to be so old, some initially questioned their quality (Geisler and Nix, 1986). Admittedly, there is indeed a scarcity of very ancient Hebrew manuscripts, due to the mere fact of how old and fragile, by necessity, they would be. Such documents would have to survive for two to three thousand years—a very long time considering the destructive nature of the elements (and man). Exactly how good, then, are the surviving manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls?
The quality of the Old Testament manuscripts from Qumran is actually very good, because there are relatively few variants in the texts. After the Masoretes copied manuscripts, they destroyed the old copies. The documents from which the Masoretes copied were handed down from two ancient sources. The first was the work of a man called Rabbi Akiba. He was a leader in the movement of biblical interpretation who, toward the end of establishing an official text, was assisted by a man named Aquila. This process of establishing an official text was completed in Palestine between the years A.D. 132-135, which was fairly close to the time the Qumran texts were written (Pfeiffer, 1969). The second source was the work of the sopherim. The term sopherim, as used in the second and third centuries, referred to the rabbis. In studying early rabbinical writings, we can see a clear picture of their work. While studying the text of Scripture that had been passed on to them, they attempted to “set” the pronunciation of certain words, and remove what they deemed insignificant pieces of the text. In the margins of the Scriptures, they made notes, indicating changes they felt should be made, and they placed points above letters or words that they thought were unneeded. Scholars are not always in agreement with the rabbis’ judgments, but the traditions they represent are helpful in the study of textual problems.
The Jews possessed a great reverence for the Bible, and as a result, they laid down numerous exact specifications for the process of copying the Scriptures. These specifications related to the kinds of skin that were to be used, the types of ink, the size of columns, the spacing of words, and the fact that nothing could be written from memory. There also was a ritual that had to be performed before they could write the name of God. The lines, and even the letters, were counted methodically. If a manuscript was found to contain even one mistake, it was systematically destroyed. This scribal formalism accounts for the extreme care in copying the Scriptures (Geisler and Nix, 1986).
In accordance with scribal formalism, the extreme care for the Scriptures was carried over to the Masoretes. The work that is associated with Akiba and the sopherim was placed into its final form by the Masoretes, whose work was completed about the tenth century. They strove diligently to preserve the text that had been handed down to them. The traditional pronunciation was indicated by a system of vowels and accents. Hebrew (along with other Semitic languages) is written with a consonantal alphabet. Numerous precautions were taken by the Masoretes to ensure the purity of the text, including such things as counting the verses, the words, and even the letters of the books of the Old Testament. The Masoretes recorded how often the same word appeared at the beginning, middle, or end of a verse. They also recorded the middle verse, middle word, and middle letter of each book. The corrections suggested by the sopherim were carefully noted in the margins, but the integrity of the text itself remained basically unaltered. We today owe a great debt to the Masoretes for their strictness and care in safeguarding the text of God’s Word so carefully for so many centuries.
Another line of evidence that supports the innate quality of the Qumran manuscripts is the duplication of passages within the Masoretic text itself. Several psalms occur more than once; much of Isaiah 36-39 is also found in 2 Kings 18-20; Isaiah 2:2-4 is parallel to Micah 4:1-3; Jeremiah 52 is a repeat of 2 Kings 25; and large parts of Chronicles are found in Samuel and Kings. When examined, these passages not only show textual agreement but, in many cases, there is word-for-word identity (see Geisler and Nix, 1986).
The nature of the Dead Sea Scrolls is crucial to the establishment and confirmation of the true text. Because the Dead Sea Scrolls contain countless fragments of every book in the Old Testament except for Esther, there are plenty of samples with which to make comparisons to the Masoretic Text. But why would we need to compare the Dead Sea Scrolls with the Masoretic Text? What would such a comparison reveal? The purpose in making such a comparison is to determine if the Dead Sea Scrolls are similar to the Masoretic Text, and if so, in what ways. The evidence of these comparisons actually ends up providing an overwhelming confirmation of the fidelity of the Masoretic Text. Millar Burrows, writing in his book, The Dead Sea Scrolls, concluded: “It is a matter of wonder that through something like a thousand years the text underwent so little alteration. As I said in my first article on the scroll, ‘Herein lies its chief importance, supporting the fidelity of the Masoretic tradition’ ” (1955, p. 304).
Other scholars have noted that the differences between the standard text of A.D. 900 and the text from 100 B.C. are extremely minor. Gleason Archer, in his work, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, observed that two copies of Isaiah from cave 1 of Qumran “proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95% of the text. The 5% of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling” (1974, p. 44). Further studies have supported the conclusion that the Dead Sea Scrolls are very similar to the Masoretic Text, which leads us to conclude that today’s Hebrew text faithfully represents the original as was written by the authors of the Old Testament.
There are other lines of evidence that I will not have the space to discuss in this brief article, such as support from archeology, the close parallel between the LXX and the Masoretic Text, and the agreement of the Qumran manuscripts with the Samaritan Pentateuch. As a result of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, scholars now have access to ancient Hebrew manuscripts that are 1,000 years older than the Masoretic Text manuscripts, which has enabled scholars to confirm the incredible accuracy of the Hebrew Text. In fact, a comparison of the standard Hebrew texts with that of the Dead Sea scrolls has revealed that the two are virtually identical. The variations (about 5%) occurred only in minor spelling differences and minute copyists’ mistakes. Thus, as Rene Paché noted: “Since it can be demonstrated that the text of the old Testament was accurately transmitted for the last 2,000 years, one may reasonably suppose that it had been so transmitted from the beginning” (1971, p. 191).
By way of conclusion, we may observe that all the thousands of Hebrew manuscripts (in whole or in part), with their confirmation by the LXX and the Samaritan Pentateuch, as well as the numerous cross references from without and within the text, give overwhelming evidence for the reliability of the Old Testament text. Therefore, it is safe to conclude, as did Sir Frederick Kenyon, that “the Christian can take the whole Bible in his hand and say without fear or hesitation that he holds in it the true word of God, handed down without essential loss from generation to generation throughout the centuries” (1948, p. 55).
Alexander, David and Pat Alexander, eds. (1973), Eerdmans’ Handbook to the Bible (Oxford, England: Lion Publishing).
Archer, Gleason (1974), Survey of Old Testament (Chicago, IL: Moody), revised edition.
Burrows, Millar (1958), The Dead Sea Scrolls (New York: Viking).
Geisler, Norman L. and William E. Nix (1986), A General Introduction to the Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody).
Kenyon, Frederick (1948), Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts (New York: Harper).
Paché, Rene (1971), The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Pfeiffer, Charles F. (1969), The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
A Higher Law
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Concomitant with the decline of the American Republic with its inherent Christian connections, has been the infiltration of various segments of society, education foremost among them, by alternative philosophies and ideologies. Indeed, though once considered unthinkable, atheism and evolution have now achieved respectability within academia. The implications of these false systems of belief are sinister and destructive to civil (i.e., Christian) society. As French existentialist philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre, openly acknowledged:
Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist, and man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside himself.... Nor, on the other hand, if God does not exist, are we provided with any values or commandsthat could legitimize our behavior (1961, p. 485, emp. added).
Or, to put it in the words of prominent evolutionist, Richard Dawkins:
I am not advocating a morality based on evolution. I am saying how things have evolved. I am not saying how we humans morally ought to behave.... My own feeling is that a human society based simply on the gene’s law of universal ruthless selfishness would be a very nasty society in which to live. But unfortunately, however much we may deplore something, it does not stop it being true (1989, pp. 2,3, emp. added).
So if atheism, and its sinister protégé, evolution, are true, no higher standard for human behavior exists than human opinion, genetic tendency, and subjective inclination—animalistic impulse.
But such thinking is utter nonsense. No sane evolutionist would want to live in a society where the behavioral implications of his theory are enacted on a thoroughgoing, widespread scale. Yet, atheists and evolutionists continue their propaganda campaign to eradicate Christian principles from civilization. Tragically, the gradual encroachment of atheistic morality is evident in American society. Not only have crime statistics exploded since the systematic elimination of God and Christianity from public schools commenced in the 1960s, many immoral behaviors are openly, blatantly vying for legal and social sanction—from same-sex marriage, polygamy, and abortion to gambling, suicide, and a host of other evils.
No atheist or evolutionist desires to embrace the logical outcome of his godless philosophy. He seeks to distance himself from those moments in history where atheistic ideology has managed to assert itself over a society. One stark example is seen in the rise of the Nazis and their Third Reich in 1930s Germany. Their agenda included the persecution and elimination of Christian and Jewish elements of society. When their regime came crashing down and they were called before the world’s tribunal, one of their attempts to justify themselves was that they were merely obeying the law of the land. They insisted that they all had to obey Hitler’s orders, which had the force of law in the German state, and, hence, obedience could not be made the basis of a criminal charge. Dr. Stahmer, the defense attorney for Hitler’s “Successor Designate No. 1,” Hermann Goering, articulated the point on July 4, 1946 at the Nuremburg Trials in Nuremburg, Germany:
From whence will they [the victorious Allies—DM] take the standard by which to decide about justice and injustice in a legal sense? In so far as such standards exist by International Law, valid up to now, further statements are not required. That a special court for the trial was created by the Charter of this Tribunal I also do not object to. I must, however, vigorously protest against its use, in so far as it is meant to create a new material law by threatening punishment for crimes which, at the time of their perpetration, at least as far as individuals are concerned, did not carry any punishment.... Can one expect that hereafter punishment will be recognized as just, if the culprit was never aware of it, because at the time he was not threatened with such punishment, and he believed to be able to derive the authorisation for his way of acting solely from the political aims pursued?... Because internationally recognized standards outside the positive International Law by which the legitimacy of States and of their aims could have been judged did not exist, any more than did an international community as such. Slogans about the legitimacy of one’s own and of the illegitimacy of foreign aspirations served only the formation of political fronts just as the efforts to brand political adversaries as disturbers of the peace. In any case they did, indeed, not create law (The Trial of..., 1946b, 18:106-107, emp. added).
In his final argument, Dr. Stahmer further asserted that Germany was operating under a dictator: “A dictator does not enter into a conspiracy with followers, he does not make any agreement with them, he dictates” (1946b, 18:111). Hitler was the law of Germany. Hence, what right did America, Britain, or Russia (the Allied powers) have to call the Nazis to account for their actions? What standard of behavior, what law code, could possibly justify their condemnation of the Nazis? How could Nazis be judged on the basis of American, British, or Russian law, seeing they were Germans—not Americans, British, or Russians? Atheists, humanists, materialists, and evolutionists can offer no legitimate answer to these questions. The very nature of their viewpoint militates against the existence of objective, absolute morality. Indeed, to the evolutionist, morality can be nothing more than a function of the human mind—an expression of personal taste, likes, and dislikes.
U.S. Supreme Court justice, and U.S. Chief of Counsel for the prosecution (Chief Prosecutor) of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg, Robert Jackson, made the following observation in his opening remarks on November 21, 1945: “The Charter of this Tribunal evidences a faith that the law is not only to govern the conduct of little men, but that even rulers are, as Lord Chief Justice Coke [said] to King James, ‘under God and the law’” (The Trial of..., 1946a, 1:78, emp. added). Similarly, on July 27, 1946, Sir Hartley Shawcross, Chief Prosecutor of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, asserted the fundamental basis for human behavior: “Ultimately the rights of men, made as all men are made in the image of God, are fundamental” (The Trial of..., 1946d, 19:470, emp. added).
On Friday, July 26, 1946, Jackson included the following comments in his closing arguments:
As a Military Tribunal, this Tribunal is a continuation of the war effort of the Allied nations. As an International Tribunal, it is not bound by the procedural and substantive refinements of our respective judicial or constitutional systems, nor will its rulings introduce precedents into any country’s internal system of civil justice. As an International Military Tribunal, it rises above the provincial and transient and seeks guidance not only from international law but also from the basic principles of jurisprudence which are assumptions of civilization and which long have found embodiment in the codes of all nations (The Trial of..., 1946c, 19:383, July 26, emp. added).
The only legal guidance and authority that transcends international law, which is responsible for the moral assumptions of civilization as embodied in the codes of all nations, and which rises above “the provincial and transient” (geographical locale and time), is the law of God! Here is the only basis upon which human behavior may be rightly measured.
Atheists typically define morality in terms of “minimizing harm and pain,” and then insist that humans naturally possess an inherent recognition of morality—mores that have characterized human civilization throughout history. But this vague, ambiguous attempt to evade the existence of objectivemorality will not do. World-renowned atheist, Antony Flew, attempted this sleight of hand in his debate with Thomas B. Warren in 1976, when he insisted that the Nazis were tried for their crimes on the basis of “International” law (p. 248). Observe that this quibble side-steps the real issue, for at least three reasons: (1) There is no such thing as “International” law, since the entire international community has never established a single law code that can be bound on all countries. Even the United Nations lacks any such law code. Nor would they ever come to an agreement on one, if they tried! (2) Even if all nations on Earth somehow united to reach consensus on right and wrong, what right would those nations’ representatives have to impose their standard of behavior on all humans? (3) And, further, even if one generation of world leaders defined right and wrong for the entire world, what would prevent the next generation of world leaders from meeting and overturning that standard? All subsequent moral frameworks and law codes would be just as legitimate as the first one—though they may differ with each other in numerous instances. In the specific case of the Nazis, if some later tribunal convened to revisit the Nuremberg verdicts, and decided to overturn those decisions and declare to the world that the Nazis’ actions were actually noble, heroic, and moral—would their action make it so? If there is no God, the atheist must answer, “Yes.”
The Founders of the American Republic insisted that human government must be established on unchanging moral principles that transcend human opinions and feelings. These unchanging moral principles are derived from and based upon the unchanging laws of God—what the Founders styled in the Declaration of Independence: “the laws of nature and of nature’s God.” As Constitution signer andU.S. Supreme Court Justice James Wilson expressed: “Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon the authority of that law which is Divine” (1804, 1:105). Or as Constitution signer Alexander Hamilton insisted: “The law...dictated by God Himself is, of course, superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times. No human laws are of any validity if contrary to this” (1961, 1:87). Noah Webster said it so well when he observed that “our citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible, particularly the New Testament, or the Christian religion” (1832, p. 6).
The truth is that all human behavior that conflicts with the law of God is sin (1 John 3:4)—the only moral evil. Any civilization that jettisons this objective standard of morality is committing ultimate, national suicide. That society is leaving itself open to unimaginable horror—the natural consequence that logically follows from the expulsion of God from the minds of the citizens. Atheism, if honestly applied, must inevitably result in hedonism. The psalmist certainly connected the dots:
The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity; There is none who does good (Psalm 53:1).
The solution? Citizens must return to the founding principles: God exists, the Bible is the Word of God, Christianity is the one true religion, and citizens must govern themselves by Christian moral principles.
Dawkins, Richard (1989), The Selfish Gene (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Hamilton, Alexander (1961), The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Harold Syrett (New York: Columbia University Press).
Sartre, Jean Paul, (1961), “Existentialism and Humanism,” French Philosophers from Descartes to Sartre, ed. Leonard M. Marsak (New York: Meridian).
The Trial of German Major War Criminals (1946a), 2nd Day: Wednesday, 21st November, 1945, (Vol. 1, Part 7 of 8), (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office), http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/imt/tgmwc/tgmwc-01/tgmwc-01-02-07.html.
The Trial of German Major War Criminals (1946b), 187th Day: Thursday, 4th July, 1946, (Vol. 18, Part 7 of 8), (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office), http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/imt/tgmwc/tgmwc-18/tgmwc-18-171-07.shtml.
The Trial of German Major War Criminals (1946c), 187th Day: Friday, 26th July, 1946, (Vol. 19, Part 1 of 12), (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office), http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/imt/tgmwc/tgmwc-19/tgmwc-19-187-01.shtml.
The Trial of German Major War Criminals (1946d), 188th Day: Saturday, 27th July, 1946, (Vol. 19, Part 8 of 8), (London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office), http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/imt/tgmwc/tgmwc-19/tgmwc-19-188-08.shtml.
Warren, Thomas and Antony Flew (1976), The Warren-Flew Debate on the Existence of God, Creation and Evolution (Ramer, TN: National Christian Press). http://www.nationalchristianpress.net/NCPcatalog.pdf.
Webster, Noah (1832), History of the United States (New Haven, CT: Durrie & Peck).
Wilson, James (1804), The Works of the Honourable James Wilson, ed. Bird Wilson (Philadelphia, PA: Lorenzo Press).
“Our God is a Consuming Fire”
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
In an effort to bolster the idea that the punishment of the wicked in the afterlife will be annihilation, proponents of annihilationism frequently have focused on the biblical terms “consume” and “consuming.” Since the Bible does indeed say that “our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29), and since the words “consume” and “consuming” can, and sometimes do, refer to the annihilation of physical matter, then many annihilationists have asserted that God will annihilate the souls of wicked humans. Homer Hailey, in his posthumously published book, God’s Judgements and Punishments, has an entire chapter titled “Our God—A Consuming Fire.” In that chapter, he deals almost entirely with the Old Testament usage of the terms “consume” and “consuming.” Concerning these terms, he remarked:
The word needing a clear definition is “consume” or “consuming.” The English word is translated from so many Hebrew words, and the Hebrew words are translated by so many English words, that it is difficult to find a precise definition for “consume.” It is best therefore to learn its meaning from usage and examples (2003, p. 136).
Hailey then proceeded to the burning bush passage, in which Moses approached the bush that “burned with fire” but “was not consumed” (Exodus 3:2). Hailey concluded: “In this instance, ‘consumed’ meant ‘burned up’ ” (p. 136). He then cited an example of a burnt offering being “consumed” on the altar (Leviticus 9:23-24) as evidence to suggest that “consumed” means to burn up.
After listing these non-human subjects of consumption, Hailey listed several Old Testament examples in which sinful humans are said to have been “consumed”: “Let sinners be consumed out of the earth. And let the wicked be no more” (Psalm 104:35); “But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of Jehovah shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; in smoke shall they consume away” (Psalm 37: 20). Hailey also listed the rebellion of Korah, where God told Moses and Aaron to get away from the rebels “that I may consume them in a moment” (Numbers 16:21). And later in the same context, God sent a plague among the people in which God made the same comment about consuming them as He did concerning the rebels in verse 21.
When it came time to summarize his chapter, Hailey placed two columns at the top of the final page, one titled “What is Said,” and the other titled “What is Not Said.” In the “What is Said” column, he listed Hebrews 12:29, Numbers 16 and Deuteronomy 4:24. Then he listed the “means of consuming,” and recorded the Earth swallowing the rebels with Korah, the plague, and fire arriving from heaven. In the “What is Not Said” column, the entire text under the column is one line that reads: “That they all burn forever” (p. 139). He obviously was attempting to lead the reader to conclude that consume and consuming must mean annihilation.
Is it correct to understand that the biblical use of the words “consume” and “consuming” must entail that the souls of the wicked will be annihilated? Simply put, no. First, in order to conclude that the words imply annihilation, Hailey provided examples like the burning bush and the burning of an offering that do refer to the item being consumed—burned up completely. Conspicuously missing, however, are those examples in which the item that is consumed is not burned up completely. The Hebrew words translated “to consume” can mean any number of things, including: “to eat, devour, slay, to be wasted, to be destroyed, to feed, exterminate, to cause to cease, be accomplished, and exhaust, among others” (see “Akal,” 1999; “Kalah,” 1999). Are there examples in which the terms “consume” and “consuming” do not insinuate total incineration? Certainly. For instance, in Jeremiah 14, the Lord commented that He by no means would accept the idolatrous Israelites, and then stated: “But I will consume them by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence” (14:12). Would their being consumed necessitate that their bodies would be completely burned into nonexistence? The text answered that question when it stated that the bodies of those consumed would “be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; they will have no one to bury them” (14:12). The consuming taking place in Jeremiah obviously did not entail a complete burning up, but instead a punishment of physical death in which the bodies of those who were consumed would still remain for some time to decay in the open streets.
Again, in Genesis 31:15, Rachel and Leah, in their discussion of their father’s behavior, commented: “Are we not considered strangers by him? For he has sold us, and also completely consumed our money.” Did they mean to say that their money had been burned and annihilated into nonexistence? No. Rather, it had been spent or wasted, and thus no longer was of use to them.
Genesis 31:40 serves as a final example of the various ways the word “consumed” can be used. In this text, Jacob describes the hardships he endured during his tenure with Laban.
In that discussion, Jacob stated: “There I was! In the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night, and my sleep departed from my eyes.” Was Jacob completely burned up or annihilated during the day? Not in any sense. Interestingly, the same Hebrew word is used in Genesis 31:40 that is used in Deuteronomy 4:24—which was cited by Hailey, and from which his Hebrews 12:29 quote is taken. It is evident, then, that the words “consume” and “consuming” do not necessarily connote complete annihilation, but can, and often do, make reference to a state of waste and ruin, or, as in Jacob’s case, pain, suffering and hardship.
It also is interesting to note that, among the examples given by Hailey that supposedly imply the annihilation of those things (or people) which were consumed, are the individuals who were consumed in the rebellion of Korah in Numbers 16. Yet in the New Testament, Jude offered divinely inspired commentary on certain sinful individuals, stating: “Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah” (vs. 11). Jude further commented that these sinners were “raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever” (vs. 13). Therefore, these sinners had “perished in the rebellion of Korah,” and yet their souls were not completely consumed or annihilated, but had a reservation in a place where there was “blackness of darknessforever.” From the New Testament commentary offered by Jude, it is evident that those consumed in the rebellion of Korah did not go out of existence altogether, but that their physical lives were ended and their souls awaited a punishment in darkness forever.
Once again, an appeal to incomplete word studies in an attempt to force the idea of annihilationism on the biblical text is speculative and unfounded, to say the least. The overwhelming evidence of Scripture explicitly states and implicitly teaches that the souls of the wicked will be punished in the fires of hell forever—without respite.
“Akal: 398” (1999), Logos Library System: Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Logos Research Systems: Bellingham, WA).
Hailey, Homer (2003), God’s Judgements & Punishments (Las Vegas, NV: Nevada Publications).
“Kalahl: 3615” (1999), Logos Library System: Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Logos Research Systems: Bellingham, WA).
Can We Prove Jesus Was a Real Person?
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
You may find this surprising, but there are many people in the world today who actually think that Jesus is nothing more than a fantasy figure that various secret societies created 2,000 years ago. Allegedly, His name belongs in the same fictional writings that contain such fairy-tale characters as Peter Pan, Hercules, and Snow White and the seven dwarfs. Gerald Massey, in his book, Gnostic and Historic Christianity, has “informed” us that “[w]hether considered as the God made human, or as man made divine, this character [Jesus—EL] never existed as a person” (1985, p. 22). Skeptics like Massey, Acharya (1999), and others believe that Christians have been deceived into thinking that there really was a man named Jesus, when, in fact, He never lived.
How do those of us who believe in the historicity of Jesus Christ respond to such allegations? Can we really know that there was a sinless, miracle-working, death-defying man named Jesus who lived upon the Earth approximately 2,000 years ago, or have we accepted His existence blindly?
Even though the New Testament proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that Jesus actually lived, it is by no means the only historical evidence available. Around the year A.D. 94, a Jewish historian by the name of Josephus mentioned Jesus’ name twice in his book, Antiquities of the Jews. In section 18 of that work, Josephus wrote: “And there arose about this time Jesus, a wise man, if indeed we should call him a man; for he was a doer of marvelous deeds, a teacher of men who receive the truth with pleasure” (emp. added). Then, in section 20, Josephus documented how a man named Ananus brought before the Sanhedrin “a man named James, the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ, and certain others” (emp. added).
About 20 years later, Tacitus, a Roman historian, wrote a book surveying the history of Rome. In it he described how Nero (the Roman emperor) “punished with every refinement the notoriously depraved Christians (as they were popularly called).” He went on to write that “their originator, Christ, had been executed in Tiberius’ reign by the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilatus” (Annals 15:44, emp. added). Even though Tacitus, Josephus, and other historians from the first and second centuries A.D. were not followers of Christ, they did have something to say about Him—and they even verified that Jesus was a real person Who was so famous that He even attracted the attention of the Roman emperor himself!
Another obvious reason to believe that Jesus was a real person is because our entire dating method is based upon His existence. The letters “B.C.” stand for “before Christ,” and the letters “A.D.” (standing for Anno Domini) mean “in the year of the Lord.” So when a history teacher speaks of Alexander the Great ruling much of the world in 330 B.C., he or she is admitting that Alexander lived about 330 years before Jesus was born.
Even though this is only a sampling of the evidence relating to the man known as Jesus, it is enough to prove that He was a real person, and not just some imaginary character. We do not accept His existence blindly—it is a historical fact!
Josephus, Flavius (1957 reprint), The Life and Works of Flavius Josephus, trans. William Whitson (Philadelphia, PA: John Whitson).
Massey, Gerald (1985), Gnostic and Historic Christianity (Edmond, WA: Holmes Publishing Group).
Acharya, S. (1999), The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold (Kempton, IL: Adventures Unlimited Press).
Tacitus, Cornelius P. (1952 reprint), The Annals and the Histories, trans. Michael Grant (Chicago, IL: William Benton), Great Books of the Western World Series.