"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS" Chapter Nine OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To be impressed with Paul's own example of restricting his liberty in Christ so as to save others 2) To understand the Biblical authority for supporting those who labor in the preaching of the gospel 3) To see the importance of self-control, and the danger of apostasy SUMMARY After warning in chapter eight that the improper exercise of one's liberty in Christ might lead to the damnation of those who are weak in faith and conscience, Paul now illustrates how he was willing to exercise restraint even when it came to the liberties he had as an apostle of Jesus Christ. Though he had the right to have a believing wife and be supported in the preaching the gospel (1-14), he freely chose not to exercise these and other rights. One reason was so he might be able to freely offer some sort of service to the Lord (15-18), but it also was because he desired to save others (19-23). There was also the realization that self-restraint was a necessary quality to assure his own salvation as well (24-27)! OUTLINE I. PAUL'S LIBERTY AS AN APOSTLE (1-14) A. AN AFFIRMATION OF HIS APOSTLESHIP AND LIBERTY (1-2) 1. By virtue of being an eyewitness of the Lord (1a) 2. By virtue of his work among the Corinthians (1b-2) B. VARIOUS LIBERTIES AVAILABLE TO PAUL (3-14) 1. The right to eat and drink (4) 2. The right to take along a believing wife, as other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas were doing (5) 3. The right to refrain from working and be supported by others (6-14) a. Illustrations of a soldier, farmer, and shepherd (7) b. As illustrated by the Law of Moses (8-10) c. An exchange of spiritual things for material things (11) d. If others could, why not Paul, if he wanted? (12) e. The example of priests in the temple (13) f. The clear decree of the Lord Himself (14) II. PAUL'S EXAMPLE OF RESTRICTING HIS LIBERTY TO SAVE OTHERS AND HIMSELF (15-27) A. WHY HE CHOSE NOT TO EXERCISE HIS LIBERTY CONCERNING SUPPORT (15-18) 1. His purpose in writing is not to raise support, for that would make his boasting void (15) 2. Preaching the gospel was a necessity laid upon him by the Lord (16-17) a. He had no choice, he would be lost if he did not (16) b. If he had chosen to preach on his own, he would have a reward (17a) c. But he was like a slave, entrusted with a stewardship regardless of his will (17b) 3. But by choosing to present the gospel without charge, he could have a reward, and also not abuse his authority in the gospel (18) B. HIS EXAMPLE OF SERVITUDE TOWARDS OTHERS (19-23) 1. Though free from all men, he made himself a servant to all to save them (19-22a) a. To the Jews and those under the Law (20) b. To those not under the Law (21) c. To the weak (22a) 2. He became all things to all men, desiring to save them and share the gospel with them (22b-23) C. ANOTHER REASON TO EXERCISE RESTRAINT: THE POSSIBILITY OF APOSTASY (24-27) 1. Not all who run in a race win a prize, so one needs to run so as to win (24) 2. Those who compete for perishable crowns exercise self-control in all things, how much more should we who seek for an imperishable crown! (25) 3. So Paul runs his race, and fights the good fight, with determined discipline and control over his own body (26-27a) 4. For he knows he could be lost (disqualified) after preaching to others! (27b) REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) List the main points of this chapter - Paul's Liberty As An Apostle (1-14) - Paul's Example Of Restricting His Liberty To Save Others And Himself (15-27) 2) What two things helped to verify Paul's apostleship? (1-2) - He had seen the Lord - The conversion of the Corinthians 3) What were two things that the apostles had the right to do? (5-6) - To take along a believing wife - To refrain from working 4) What arguments does Paul make to justify preachers receiving support? (7-14) - Illustrations of a soldier, farmer, and shepherd - Illustrated by the Law of Moses - An exchange of spiritual things for material things - The fact others were receiving support - The example of priests in the temple - The clear decree of the Lord Himself 5) Why did Paul choose not to accept support? (15-18) - So he might receive a reward for doing something willingly, not out of necessity 6) Why was Paul willing to make himself a servant to all men? (19,22) - So he could save some of them 7) What two athletic events did Paul compare with the Christian life? (24-26) - Running a race - Boxing 8) Why was Paul so concerned about exercising self-control? (27) - He was aware of the real possibility of being "disqualified" himself after having preached to others
"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS" Chapter Eight OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To see the relationship between knowledge and love 2) To understand how we might misuse the liberty we have in Christ 3) To realize the responsibility we have to our brethren who may be weak or lacking in knowledge SUMMARY In this chapter and the two to follow, Paul addresses the matter of Christians eating things that had been sacrificed to idols. Though in the tenth chapter he will conclude with specific warnings concerning this issue (10:18-33), he begins by arguing on the basis of the supremacy of love over knowledge (1-3). While concurring that some might have correct knowledge about God and idols, he points out that all might not, and it would be very easy by an abuse of "liberty" to cause those with weak consciences to stumble (4-10). Such would be a serious offense, even against Christ, prompting Paul to say how far he would go to avoid causing a brother to stumble (11-13). OUTLINE I. KNOWLEDGE, LOVE, AND EATING THINGS OFFERED TO IDOLS (1-6) A. THE SUPREMACY OF LOVE OVER KNOWLEDGE (1-3) 1. Knowledge puffs up, while love edifies (1) 2. Knowledge can lead one to think he knows more than he really does (2) 3. While he who loves God is known by Him (3) B. KNOWLEDGE IN RELATION TO THINGS OFFERED TO IDOLS (4-6) 1. Knowledge concurs that an idol is nothing, and that there is only one God and one Lord (4-6a) 2. For Christians that means the Father, and Jesus Christ (6b) II. APPLYING LOVE TOWARD THOSE WHOSE CONSCIENCES ARE WEAK (8-13) A. NOT ALL HAVE CORRECT KNOWLEDGE, OR STRONG CONSCIENCES (7) 1. Some eat things that were offered to idols with consciousness of the idol (7a) 2. In so doing, they defile their weak consciences (7b) B. DO NOT LET THAT WHICH IS INCONSEQUENTIAL BECOME A STUMBLINGBLOCK (8-9) 1. Food or the lack of it does not effect our relationship with God (8) 2. But if we are not careful, our liberty concerning food can become a stumblingblock to others (9) C. ABUSE OF KNOWLEDGE AND LIBERTY CAN LEAD TO SIN AGAINST CHRIST! (10-12) 1. Through improper exercise of knowledge and liberty, our example might encourage others to violate their weak conscience (10) 2. Through improper exercise of knowledge and liberty, we may cause others to perish, which is a sin against Christ! (11-12) D. PAUL'S OWN APPLICATION (13) 1. If food makes his brother to stumble, he will never again eat meat (13a) 2. Lest he make his brother stumble (13b) REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) List the main points of this chapter - Knowledge, Love, And Eating Things Offered To Idols (1-7) - Applying Love Toward Those Whose Consciences Are Weak (8-13) 2) What is the danger of knowledge? (1) - It can lead to being "puffed up" or arrogant 3) What is the power of love? (1) - It can build another person up 4) What attribute is important in regards to knowledge? (2) - Humility 5) How can one abuse their liberty in Christ? (9-11) - By allowing their example to encourage others whose consciences are weak to do that which would violate their consciences (even in matters that are lawful in of themselves) 6) What happens if we sin against our brothers? (12) - We sin against Christ! 7) How far should we be willing to go out of consideration for our brethren who are weak in faith? (13) - Even if it means to restrict what liberty we might have in Christ!
The Quran and the Trinity
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
When reading the Quran, one is surprised time and time again with the fact that the Allah of the Quran conducts himself quite differently from the God of the Bible. Of course, “Allah” is simply the Arabic word for “God,” like its equivalent Old Testament Hebrew termelohim—a general term for deity that was used by the Jews to refer both to the one true God, as well as to the false deities of their pagan neighbors (e.g., Genesis 35:2; Deuteronomy 29:18; Daniel 3:25). So the term “God” in whatever language (English, Arabic, or Hebrew) is a generic term to refer to deity. Muslims claim that the Allah they worship is the same God that Abraham and the Jews worshipped. Nevertheless, it is possible for one to pay lip service to following the God of the Bible, and yet so recast Him that He ceases to be the same Being about which one reads on the pages of the Bible. The meaning and identity that each culture or religion attaches to the word may differ radically.
Many current Christian authors do this very thing when they claim to be writing about the Jesus of the New Testament. They misrepresent Jesus, recasting and refashioning the Jesus of the Bible into essentially a different Being than the One depicted on the pages of the New Testament—one who is unconcerned about obedience, and whose grace forgives just about everybody unconditionally (e.g., Lucado, 1996). But that is not the Jesus of the New Testament. They have so misrepresented the person, nature, and conduct of Jesus that for all practical purposes, their writings depict a different Jesus.
In like fashion, the Quran has Allah saying and doing things that the God of the Bible simply would not say or do. Actions and attitudes are attributed to Allah that stand in stark contradistinction to the character of the God of the Bible. Though Allah is claimed by Muslims to be the same God as the God of the Old Testament, the Quran’s depiction of deity is nevertheless sufficiently redefined as to make Allah distinct from the God of the Bible. This stark contrast is particularly evident in the biblical doctrine of the Trinity.
The Bible depicts deity as singular, i.e., there is one and only one divine essence or Being (Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 45:5; 1 Corinthians 8:6; 1 Timothy 2:5; James 2:19). However, the Bible also clearly depicts God as a triune Being—three distinct persons within the one essence—with a triune nature. For example, during the Creation week, God stated: “Letus...” (Genesis 1:26, emp. added). Both the Holy Spirit (Genesis 1:2) and Christ (John 1:1-3) were present and active at the Creation with God the Father. The New Testament alludes to the “Godhead” (Acts 17:29; Romans 1:20; Colossians 2:9). At the baptism of Jesus while He was in human form, the Father spoke audibly from heaven, and the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus (Matthew 3:16-17). All three are sometimes noted together (Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14). Each person of the Godhead is fully God, fully deity, fully divine. Jesus is repeatedly referred to as God (Matthew 1:22-23; John 1:1-3,14; 8:58; 20:28; Micah 5:2). The Holy Spirit is also divine (John 14:26; 15:26; Romans 15:19; 1 Corinthians 2:10-11; Ephesians 4:4; Hebrews 9:14).
In contrast to the biblical portrait, the Quran goes out of its way to denounce the notion of Trinity:
O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught concerning Allah save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah, and His word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers, and say not “Three”—Cease! (it is) better for you!—Allah is only One God. Far is it removed from His transcendant majesty that he should have a son. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And Allah is sufficient as Defender. The Messiah will never scorn to be a slave unto Allah, nor will the favoured angels. Whoso scorneth His service and is proud, all such will He assemble unto Him (Surah 4:171-172, emp. added).They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the Messiah, son of Mary. The Messiah (himself) said: O Children of Israel, worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord. Lo! whoso ascribeth partners unto Allah, for him Allah hath forbidden Paradise. His abode is the Fire. For evil‑doers there will be no helpers. They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the third of three; when there is no God save the One God. If they desist not from so saying a painful doom will fall on those of them who disbelieve. Will they not rather turn unto Allah and seek forgiveness of Him? For Allah is Forgiving, Merciful (Surah 5:72-74, emp. added).
The Christian is surely startled to read such forthright denunciations on those who believe in the Godhead as depicted in the Bible. The Quran declares in unmistakable terms that those who do believe in the Trinity will be excluded from paradise, and will experience a “painful doom” by burning in the fire of hell.
Regarding the third person of the Godhead, Muslims insist that the Quran knows nothing of the Holy Spirit—all seeming references simply being, in the words of Muslim scholar Mohammed Pickthall, “a term for the angel of Revelation, Gabriel (on whom be peace)” (Pickthall, p. 40). Thus the Quran denies the person of the Holy Spirit, acknowledges the existence of Jesus while denying His divinity, and insists that the person of Allah is singular in nature. The Quran and the Bible are in dire contradiction with each other on the doctrine of the Trinity.
Lucado, Max (1996), In the Grip of Grace (Dallas, TX: Word).
Pickthall, Mohammed M. (n.d.), The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (New York: Mentor).
Did the Bible Writers Commit Biological Blunders?
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
In our scientifically advanced age of cloning, biomimetics, Pentium processors, and the Internet, Americans’ skepticism of biblical inerrancy appears to have reached an all time high (see Gallup and Lindsay, 1999, p. 36), especially in regard to matters of the Bible and science. How can a book, parts of which were written 3,500 years ago, have relevant scientific data? How could the Bible writers have made accurate statements about the heavens long before the invention of telescopes and satellites? How could they have correctly classified animals before the development of Linnaean taxonomy? How could their references to zoology, botany, astronomy, and human anatomy be trustworthy?
Although the purpose of the Bible is not to provide a commentary on the physical Universe, Christians rightly conclude that, if the Bible was truly given “by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16-17; see Butt, 2007), then it should be free from the kinds of errors that books written by uninspired men contain (see Lyons, 2005, 2:5-25). The Bible may not be a textbook of biology, geology, or chemistry (the Bible is about God and redemption through Jesus Christ), but “wherever it deals with these fields, its statements are true and dependable” (MacRae, 1953, 110:134). At least common sense demands such, if the writers really were “carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21,NIV).
According to many outspoken skeptics, the Bible writers made several scientific slip-ups. In a 1991 article titled “Scientific Boo-Boos in the Bible,” Christian-turned-skeptic Farrell Till alleged: “One thing the Bible definitely is not is inerrant in matters of science.... [T]he Bible is riddled with mistakes” (1991a). Elsewhere Till challenged Christians to explain
why a divinely inspired, inerrant book has so many obvious scientific errors in it. And if the Bible is riddled with scientific errors, they should wonder too about the truth of that often parroted claim that the Bible is inerrant in all details of history, geography, chronology, etc., as well as in matters of faith and practice. It just ain’t so! (1991b).
After criticizing the sacred writers for making various “mathematical miscalculations,” Dennis McKinsey, author of The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy, began a section titled “False Science” in which he stated: “A second major area in which the Bible fails miserably concerns the large number of statements that are patently erroneous from a scientific perspective. On numerous occasions the Bible makes statements that have little or nothing to do with scientific accuracy” (1995, p. 213). According to McKinsey,
Few topics activate biblical critics more than that of biblically based scientific contradictions and inaccuracies. That is readily understandable, in view of the fact that the book is a veritable miasma of poor science, bad math, and inaccurate geography, all with a heavy overlay of mythology and folklore.... Scripture is a veritable cornucopia of scientific inaccuracies, falsehoods, and blunders (1995, pp. 209,230).
After listing 21 alleged scientific blunders in the Bible, McKinsey declared: “So that is biblical ‘science.’ Can you conceive of a more discordant deluge of deceptive delusion! Saddest of all is that most of Christianity’s most prominent spokesmen are fully cognizant of these biblical inanities, but have spared no effort to avoid them or minimize their importance” (1995, p. 216, emp. added).
The truth is, faithful, Christian apologists have no reason to avoid the questions posed by McKinsey or anyone else regarding the reliability of the Bible. We may find many of the alleged discrepancies quite trifling (e.g., “Judas died twice;” “Jesus was a thief;” cf. McKinsey, 2000, p. 236), and wonder why such allegations would even be made, but we will not avoid questions about the Bible’s inspiration and inerrancy out of fear that the Bible may not be the Word of God. In fact, this issue of R&R addresses McKinsey’s first four scientific slip-ups supposedly found in Scripture—four alleged mistakes that McKinsey believes are some of the very best proofs of the Bible’s errancy. We think you will be both disturbed and impressed by the answers—disturbed by the arrogance of skeptics’ allegations, yet impressed with how easily the truth can be discovered and error refuted.
ARE BATS BIRDS?
Everyone knows that a bat is not a bird. Bats are beakless, give birth to live young, and nurse their young with milk until they are self-sufficient. A bat’s wings are featherless, and its body is covered with hair. Based upon such characteristics, scientists classify bats as mammals, not birds. So what does the Bible have to say about these creatures?
Bats are specifically mentioned only three times in Scripture. Isaiah warned Israel of thetime when their idols would be cast away “into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth...to the moles and bats” (2:19-20). The other two occurrences are found in the Pentateuch amidst laws regarding clean and unclean animals. In the book of Leviticus, Moses wrote:
“[T]hese you shall regard as an abominationamong the birds; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, the vulture, the buzzard, the kite, and the falcon after its kind; every raven after its kind, the ostrich, the short-eared owl, the sea gull, and the hawk after its kind; the little owl, the fisher owl, and the screech owl; the white owl, the jackdaw, and the carrion vulture; the stork, the heron after its kind, the hoopoe, and the bat” (11:13-19, emp. added).
Deuteronomy 14:11-18 also lists the bat among “birds.” But bats aren’t birds; they are mammals.
According to skeptics, the Bible’s classification of bats as birds represents one of the “scientific difficulties in the Bible” (Petrich, 1990). Such categorization is supposedly “an obvious contradiction between the Bible and Science” (Khalil, 2007). Since “the bat, is, of course, a mammal, not a bird,” McKinsey listed Leviticus 11:19 as a “superb verse to use...to take enlightenment to the biblically benighted” (1995, pp. 744,14, emp. added; see also McKinsey, 2000, p. 213).
Was Moses, who “was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds” (Acts 7:22), so uninformed that he could not tell the difference between bats and birds? Was the God, Whom the Bible claims created bats and birds, unable to classify them properly? How is this not “an obvious contradiction between the Bible and Science,” as Ibrahim Khalil asserted?
The elementary answer to these questions is simply that God did not classify animals 3,500 years ago according to our modern classification system. As far back as Creation, God has divided animals into very basic, natural groups. He made aquatic and aerial creatures on day five and terrestrial animals on day six (Genesis 1:20-23,24-25). Similarly, in the first 23 verses of Leviticus 11, God divided the creatures into land animals (11:2-8), animals “that are in the water” (11:9-12), “birds” (11:13-19), and flying insects (11:20-23). He did not divide animals into mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. In fact, the group of “creeping things” mentioned later in Leviticus 11 (vss. 29-30; cf. Genesis 1:24-25) includes both mammals (e.g., mice) and reptiles (e.g., lizards). Clearly then, God divided animals according to their locomotion and environment rather than whether or not they have hair, lay eggs, and nurse their young.
Still, some may question why the English word “bird” is used for the category in which bats are listed. Why not simply call this group of animals “the flying creatures”? Actually, the term “bird” in Leviticus 11:13 (as well as Genesis 1:20-30) is translated from the Hebrew word ‘ôp, which literally means “flying creatures” (Harris, et al., 1980, p. 654; cf. Brown, et al., 1993). It is derived from ‘ûp, meaning to “fly, fly about, fly away” (Harris, et al., pp. 654-655). That this word is not used solely for “birds” is evident from Leviticus 11:20-23, where it is used with sherets in reference to “winged creeping things” (ASV), i.e., flying insects.
Admittedly, bats and birds have many differences, but one major commonality—the ability to fly—is the very characteristic God used to group them together. Why are no other mammals included in this list? Because “bats are the only mammals capable of true flight” (Jones, n.d.)—another reason why Bible translators have chosen to use the term “birds” in these passages, instead of the more general terms “flying creatures.” The rationale among translators seems to be, “if 99.9% of all ‘flying creatures’ are birds, then we will use the term ‘birds’ to translate the word (‘ôp).” Since Bible students should be very familiar with the figure of speech known as synecdoche (“by which a part is put for the whole”—“Synecdoche,” 2009; see Dungan, 1888, pp. 300-309; cf. Genesis 8:4; 21:7), they should have little trouble understanding why translators continue to use the term “birds” to categorize all the flying creatures, including bats. After all, bats make up a very small percentage of all of the animals that fly.
What’s more, notice that bats are placed at the end of the list of birds and just before the list of flying insects. This placement is entirely proper for the only living “flying creature” that is neither a true bird nor an insect.
To accuse God or the Bible writers of categorizing animals incorrectly based upon Linnaeus’ taxonomy in Systema Naturae (1735), or any other modern method of classifying animals, is tantamount to criticizing people for not organizing their wardrobe or cataloging their books according to your own methods. Whether a person chooses to organize books alphabetically, sequentially, or topically, according to the Dewey Decimal Classification System or the Library of Congress Classification System, is a matter of judgment. Likewise, it is extremely unfair to judge ancient classification systems according to modern man’s arbitrary standards. Skeptics are wrong for imposing their preconceived standards back onto an ancient text. Frankly, placing bats in the category of “flying creatures,” rather than with the land animals, “all that are in the water,” or the “creeping things,” makes perfectly good sense. Bats are, after all, “the world’s most expert fliers” (Cansdale, 1970, p. 135, emp. added), not walkers, crawlers, or swimmers. For Moses’ allusion to bats to be a true error, he would have had to say something to the effect of, “bats are not flying animals.”
Sadly, one significant question often left unexplored in a discussion of the Bible’s treatment of bats and birds is why God classified bats as “unclean.” Was this simply due to many bats’ eerie outward appearance, or that they are nocturnal cave dwellers? Could there be something more? Kyle Butt addressed the wisdom of God’s instruction about bats in his book, Behold! The Word of God (2007). The fact is,
...bats often carry rabies. While it is true that many animals are susceptible to rabies, bats are especially so. The American College of Emergency Physicians documented that between 1992 and 2002, rabies passed from bats caused 24 of the 26 human deaths from rabies in the United States (“Human Rabies...,” 2002). In the Science Daily article describing this research, “Robert V. Gibbons,MD, MPH, of Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, MD, reviewed the 24 cases of humans with bat rabies.” From his research, he advised “the public to seek emergency care for preventive treatment for rabiesif direct contact with a bat occurs” (“Human Rabies...,” 2002, emp. in orig.). Moses’ instruction to avoid bats coincides perfectly with modern research. Once again, the super human wisdom imparted through Moses by God cannot be denied by the conscientious student of the Old Testament (p. 124).
ARE RABBITS REALLY RUMINANTS?
Not only is Moses ridiculed for classifying a bat as a “bird,” but supposedly he made another mistake when he categorized the hare (or rabbit, NASB, NIV) as an animal that “chews the cud” (Leviticus 11:6; Deuteronomy 14:7). Cows, goats, sheep, and deer all have three- or four-chambered stomachs and bring already-chewed and swallowed vegetation up into their mouths to masticate once more. These animals “chew the cud” and are known as ruminants (“Ruminant,” 2009). A rabbit, however, does not have a three- or four-chambered stomach, nor does it bring previously swallowed food directly back up from its stomach to its mouth to chew again. For these reasons, skeptics have repeatedly criticized the Bible’s categorization of a rabbit as an animal that “chews the cud” (cf. Morgan, 2009; Wells, 2009; McKinsey, 1995, p. 214). [NOTE: Skeptics have also charged the animal mentioned in Leviticus 11:5 (Hebrew shaphan) of not being a cud chewer. Since, however, there is disagreement over the identity of this animal (translated “coney” in the KJV, ASV, andNIV, “rock badger” in the NASB and RSV, and “rock hyrax” in the NKJV), our discussion will center solely on the rabbit. If the shaphan resembles the rabbit, as some believe (see Day, 1996), then whatever arguments made for the rabbit’s inclusion in this list might also apply to the shaphan.]
In an article titled “Bible Biology,” Farrell Till alleged: “The Leviticus writer made a serious biological error in describing them [rabbits and shaphan, which he contends are coneys—EL] as cud chewers.... [T]hey have no cuds to chew” (1991b). Elsewhere Till addressed this issue while simultaneously commenting on the scientific foreknowledge argument that Christians sometimes use as one of the proofs for the Bible’s inspiration:
Something that has long perplexed me is the way that inerrancy proponents can so easily find “scientific foreknowledge” in obscurely worded Bible passages but seem completely unable to see scientific error in statements that were rather plainly written. There are too many to discuss, but Leviticus 11:5-6 can serve as an example....They [rabbits and coneys—EL] do not have compartmentalized stomachs that ruminants must have in order to be cud-chewers. Inerrancy champions have stumbled over these passages with various attempts to explain them....Yet after all has been said on the matter, the fact remains that hares and conies are not cud-chewers. But “Moses” said that they were.
One would think that if God were going to arm his inspired writers with scientific foreknowledge...he could have easily programmed them to know the simple fact that hares and conies aren’t cud-chewers” (1990; cf. Butt, 2007, pp. 103-130).
Once again, we are told the Bible is wrong. And, if the Bible is wrong about something as basic as whether or not rabbits “chew the cud,” how could anyone really believe that it was “given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16)?
First of all, critics must acknowledge the fact that we frequently describe things as theyappear to take place and not necessarily as they actually happen. Meteorologists talk about the sun rising and setting, even though they know very well that actually the Earth is moving around the Sun, rather than vice versa. Doctors refer to a pregnant woman’s “water” breaking, when actually the liquid is amniotic fluid, and not merely H2O. Furthermore, the amniotic fluid does not break, rather the sac containing the fluid bursts. The Bible writers also referred to things as they appeared. Paul, for example, in his discussion of Jesus’ resurrection, described some of the Christians who had died as having “fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:6). Did Paul know that these Christians had died, and not merely “fallen asleep”? Most certainly. Did the Bible writers know that the bat is not a blue bird? Of course. But what about the rabbit? Why is it listed among the cud chewers? It may be simply because rabbits “appear to chew their food very thoroughly like true ruminants, and this is what the law is insisting on” (Wenham, 1979, p. 172, emp. added). Rabbits move their jaws and wiggle their noses in a way which looks like they are ruminating (Harris, 1990, 2:571). In fact, so convincing is this appearance that, according to Walter Kaiser, “Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), to whom we owe the modern system of biological classification, at first classified the coney and the hare as ruminants” (Kaiser, et al., 1996, p. 158; cf. Keil and Delitzsch, 1996). In short, it may be that rabbits were listed as “cud chewers” based on simple observation.
Interestingly, though the rabbit (or hare) does not have a three- or four-chambered stomach from which it directly regurgitates previously swallowed food for a second chewing, it does practice what modern scientists call “refection.” In his classic work titledAll of the Animals of the Bible Lands, George Cansdale addressed this process:
[A]t certain times of the day, when the hare is resting in its “form,” it passes droppings of different texture and appearance which it at once eats again, swallowing them after little or no chewing. It thus seems to be eating without taking any green stuff into its mouth. This is not, of course, the same thing as chewing the cud, but it has a similar effect. Like the ruminants, hares feed on bulky vegetable matter of which only a part can be digested, and the yield is largely the result of bacterial action inside the gut; the process of breaking down in to assimilable substances is started on the first passage through and taken a stage further on the second (1970, pp. 131-132).
According to biologist Leonard Brand, “Lagomorphs [hares and rabbits—EL] produce two kinds of fecal pellets which are produced at different times during the day. When the animals are active and feeding they produce the familiar hard pellets. When they cease their activity and retire to their burrows or resting areas, they begin producing soft pellets which they eat as soon as they are passed” (1977). So although rabbits do not regurgitate previously swallowed food, they do swallow their partly digested food a second time. In fact, rabbits reingest more than half of their feces (Brand, 1977).
Still, the skeptic contends that the refection of rabbits is not rumination. To compare the two supposedly represents a
complete failure to explain away the biological error of the Leviticus writer. After all has been said about what hares appear to be doing and how their reingesting of caecotrophic materials [caecal feces—EL] achieves the same purpose as cud-chewing, the fact still remains that hares do not chew the cud.... [T]he Leviticus writer was wrong when he said that hares and coneys “chew the cud” (Till, 1991b, emp. added).
But what did Moses mean when he used the phrase “chew the cud”? The word “cud” (Hebrew gerah) appears only 11 times in all of Scripture: seven times in Leviticus 11 and four times in Deuteronomy 14—every occurrence is in the two passages that give lists of clean and unclean animals. The rabbit is mentioned in each list as one that “chews the cud” (Leviticus 11:6; Deuteronomy 14:7). Therefore, if the only sections in Scripture where specific animals are mentioned that “chew the cud” include rabbits, then it is entirely proper to conclude that Moses simply defined “cud chewers” more broadly than modern scientists. Today, “cud chewers” (called ruminants) may be strictly defined as animals that “swallow their food without chewing it very much, store it temporarily in one of their stomach compartments, then later regurgitate it and rechew it thoroughly, and then swallow and digest it” (Wenham, 1979, pp. 171-172). It would be completely unjust, however, to force present-day definitions on a 3,500-year-old document. “As with Moses’ classification of bats as ‘birds,’ the modern definition of terms does not take away from Moses’ ability, or even his right, to use words as he sees fit to use them” (Kaiser, et al., 1996, p. 158). Moreover, Jonathan Sarfati concluded: “It is inconceivable that someone familiar with Middle-Eastern animal life would make an easily corrected mistake about rabbits, and also inconceivable that the Israelites would have accepted a book as Scripture if it were contrary to observation” (1998, 20:56), especially when the Book has so many negative things to say about the Israelites.
ARE FOUR-LEGGED FOWL FOR REAL?
Following the section in Leviticus 11 where various unclean birds are listed, verse 20 begins a new category with these words: “All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you” (KJV, emp. added). Fowls on four legs? “Whoever heard of four-legged fowl?” (McKinsey, 1995, p. 213). Surely Bible believers would agree with critics who contend that “there are no birds that go around on four legs” (Morgan, 2009), unless, of course, they are mutants. So why does Leviticus 11:20 refer to birds with four legs?
The problem in Leviticus 11:20 is not with God or His inspired writer, but with the King James Version’s translation of the verse. Moses was not referring to “birds,” but to “flying insects.” The Hebrew sherets ‘ôp is more accurately translated “winged creeping things” (ASV), “winged insects” (NASB, ESV, RSV), or “flying insects” (>NKJV,NIV). Interestingly, when these same creatures are discussed in Deuteronomy 14:19, the King James translators used the phrase “creeping thing that flieth” to translate the same Hebrew words (sherets ‘ôp) used in Leviticus 11:20. That this alleged contradiction is merely a translation issue has even been admitted by certain skeptics, including Farrell Till. Although Till chides the Bible writers elsewhere in his writings, he freely admits in this instance that “[f]our-legged fowls...would be a biological blunder indeed, but since the context clearly indicated insects in this passage, we won’t hold bibliolaters responsible for a translation flaw” (Till, 1991b, emp. added).
[NOTE: Although four-legged “fowls” are only found among mutated birds, we must not dismiss all “four-legged” flying creatures as biological impossibilities. Bats, mentioned one verse earlier (Leviticus 11:19), “crawl on all fours, with their long arms and flexible legs splayed out to the sides” (Zimmer, 1994, emp. added). What’s more, both history and the fossil record reveal that extinct flying reptiles also had arms and claws attached to membranous wings (cf. Lyons and Butt, 2008, pp. 13-46). Though scientists believe these flying reptiles mainly walked upright, at the very least their “hands” would have been used for climbing trees and handling food (Zimmer)—they would have used “all fours.” While we certainly believe that the “four-footed-fowl” difficulty surrounding Leviticus 11:20 is merely a translation problem, and not a mistake by the inspired writer, some flying mammals and reptiles currently have (or had in the past) four limbs.]
GRASSHOPPERS DON’T WALK “ON ALL FOURS,” DO THEY?
All flying insects that creep on all fours shall be an abomination to you. Yet these you may eat of every flying insect that creeps on all fours: those which have jointed legs above their feet with which to leap on the earth. These you may eat: the locust after its kind, the destroying locust after its kind, the cricket after its kind, and the grasshopper after its kind. But all other flying insects which have fourfeet shall be an abomination to you (Leviticus 11:20-23, emp. added).
Skeptics admit that Leviticus 11:20 is not referring to four-legged fowl, but to “flying insects.” However, as critics have repeatedly noted, insects have sixlegs, not four. About these verses, Dennis McKinsey asked: “Whoever heard of four-legged insects? In fact,whoever heard of any four-legged creeping things that fly?” (1995, p. 213). He then listed this alleged discrepancy as another “superb verse to use” when talking with Christians about the blunders in the Bible (pp. 749,14). Steve Wells, author of The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, wrote mockingly: “You’d think that since God made the insects, and so many of them (at least several million species), that he would know how many legs they have” (2009). In her article titled “Scientific Errors in the Bible,” Loren Petrich declared: “There are...scientific difficulties in the Bible.... In the part of Leviticus which lists proscribed animals, we find that...grasshoppers have four legs.... [B]ut the number of legs possessed by grasshoppers should have been easy to find, since several people in the Bible reportedly ate grasshoppers, and one can always count the number of legs a grasshopper has before eating one” (1990). Farrell Till had much to say about the wording of Leviticus 11:20-23 in his article about “Bible Biology”:
Many of the biological mistakes in the Bible were anatomical in nature. The Leviticus writer...was so unobservant, for example, that he apparently thought insects were four-legged creatures....
An immensely greater problem than linguistic and translation flaws in this passage is the fact that whoever wrote it consistently referred to winged insects as four-legged creatures, a mistake that practically any modern-day elementary student would know better than to make. What educated person today doesn’t know that insects have six legs? We have to wonder why God, who so routinely gave scientific insights to his inspired writers, couldn’t at least have opened the eyes of his earthly messenger in this case and had him count the legs on a grasshopper....
What is there about insects that would warrant writing a description (like the one in the Leviticus passage) that mentions only four of their six legs?...[T]hese insects don’t “go on all fours”; they go on all sixes. That’s a strange oversight from an author writing under the direction of an omniscient deity who routinely gave marvelous scientific insights to his inspired
As one can see, critics of the Bible’s inerrancy are not at a loss for words when they discuss the Bible’s references to insects that “creep on all fours.” But are the critics right?
Yes and no. The skeptic is right to conclude that insects such as locusts, grasshoppers, and crickets have three pairs of legs, not two pairs. But the skeptic is not correct in assuming that God or the Bible writers were unaware of this fact. The very idea that the Israelites, who during various plagues saw untold millions of insects at a time (e.g., locusts; cf. Exodus 10:1-20; Joel 1:4; Amos 4:9), were clueless about how many legs these creatures had, is outlandish—“people in biblical times could count legs just as easily as people today” (Hutchinson, 2007, p. 57). As Petrich mentioned, the Israelites not only saw insects, but they ate them (cf. Mark 1:6; Leviticus 11:22), which means they would have seen them “up close and personal.” Are we to believe that when the Israelites caught, cleaned, and put locusts up to their mouths, they never realized how many legs these insects had? The writer of Leviticus would have known this as surely as Americans know that beef comes from cows which walk on four legs.
So why did Moses use the term “four” to describe creatures with six legs? Likely for the same reason we refer to certain arthropods as having 100 or 1,000, legs—Moses was using a colloquial expression like one might hear on a farm; he was not writing a technical, scientific paper on the anatomy of insects. Idiomatic expressions were as prevalent in ancient times as they are in modern times. Today, we identify certain creatures as centipedes (meaning “hundred feet”), yet the “total number of legs in most species is closer to 30 than to 100” (“Millipedes and Centipedes,” 2008). We refer to other arthropods as millipedes (meaning “thousand feet”), but no millipede has ever been reported as having anywhere near the number of feet suggested by its name. The “most leggy” millipede discovered in modern times had only 750 legs (see “Most Leggy...,” 2006), while the vast majority of millipedes have fewer than 400 legs (“Millipede,” 2009). Yet, we still call these creatures millipedes. Why? Because numbers are often used as more of a designation than a literal number. (Have you ever purchased a “2 x 4” only to find that it was more like a “1½ x 3½”?) Just as the terms “centipede” and “millipede” signify “no more than that such insects have a great number of feet” (Clarke, 1996), the phrase “creep on all fours,” could reasonably refer to something other than insects that have literally only four legs.
Consider another example of the flexibility of names and numbers. In George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm (1946), the pigs gave the farm animals “Seven Commandments.” The first two commandments were as follows: (1) Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy; (2) Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.” Later, as the story goes, when the pigs realized that the “slower” animals (e.g., sheep) were unable to learn the Seven Commandments, they summed up the commandments of the farm with a single maxim: “Four legs good, two legs bad.” Did the pigs suddenly mean to exclude the birds from the good, four-legged animals? No. The pigs explained that by “two legs,” they meant “man,” and by “four legs,” they meant “animal” (regardless of whether the animals had four legs, or two legs and two wings).
The skeptic must admit the fact that numbers often represent something more than a literal number. But if this is the explanation to Moses’ use of the term “four” in Leviticus 11:20-23, then what did he mean? Why did he use the expression “winged creeping things that go upon all fours” (Leviticus 11:20, ASV, emp. added)? The fact is, he did not define the expression for us (though his contemporaries surely knew its meaning). The phrase likely means that, in contrast to birds (listed just previously—Leviticus 11:13-19), which walk upright, “winged creeping things” walk horizontally—they “go upon all fours.” Skeptics cannot argue with the fact that we often use similar language. If Farrell Till, Steve Wells, or other Bible critics have ever referred to centipedes and millipedes, one wonders why they would have a problem with Moses referring to the flying things that walk horizontally as “winged creeping things that go upon all fours.”
What does it say about skepticism when one of its leading voices over the last few decades gives four “superb” examples of Bible discrepancies that are then logically explained rather easily using everyday, common sense? McKinsey and others claim to “take enlightenment to the biblically benighted” (2000, p. 14) with the type of “discrepancies” discussed in this article. However, it is the skeptic who needs to be enlightened concerning the simple, easy-to-understand truths of God’s Word. Yes, even those statements about bats, birds, and bugs, rabbits, rodents, and rumination, are truthful, defensible, and understandable.
All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it (John 1:3-5).For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light (John 3:20-21).
Brand, Leonard (1977), “Do Rabbits Chew the Cud?” Origins, 4(2):102-104, [On-line],URL: http://www.grisda.org/origins/04102.htm.
Brown, Francis, S.R. Driver, and Charles B. Briggs (1993), A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Butt, Kyle (2007), Behold! The Word of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Cansdale, George (1970), All the Animals of the Bible Lands (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Clarke, Adam (1996), Adam Clarke’s Commentary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Day, Alfred Ely (1996), “Coney,” International Standard Bible Encyclopae-
dia (Electronic Database Biblesoft).
dia (Electronic Database Biblesoft).
Dungan, D.R. (1888), Hermeneutics (Delight, AR: Gospel Light, reprint).
Gallup, George Jr. and Michael Lindsay (1999), Surveying the Religious Landscape: Trends in U.S. Beliefs (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing).
Harris, R. Laird (1990), Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Harris, R. Laird, Gleason Archer, Jr. and Bruce Waltke, eds. (1980), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago, IL: Moody).
“Human Rabies Often Caused by Undetected, Tiny Bat Bites” (2002), Science Daily, [On-line], URL: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/05/020506074445.htm.
Hutchinson, Robert (2007), The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Bible (Washington,D.C.: Regnery).
Jones, Edwin (no date), “Bats,” Stewardship Forest, [On-line], URL:http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/forestry/pdf/www/www21.pdf.
Kaiser, Walter C. Jr., Peter H. Davids, F.F. Bruce, and Manfred T. Brauch (1996), Hard Sayings of the Bible (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press).
Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch (1996), Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament(Electronic Database: Biblesoft), new updated edition.
Khalil, Ibrahim (2007), “The Bat in Bible and Quran,” [On-line], URL:http://www.articlesbase.com/science-articles/the-bat-in-bible-and-quran-113198.html.
Linnaeus, Carolus (1735), Systema Naturae.
Lyons, Eric (2005), The Anvil Rings: Answers to Alleged Bible Discrepancies (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2008), The Dinosaur Delusion: Dismantling Evolution’s Most Cherished Icon (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
MacRae, Allen A. (1953), “The Scientific Approach to the Old Testament—Part 2,”Bibliotheca Sacra, 110:130-139, April.
McKinsey, C. Dennis (1995), The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy (Amherst, NY: Prometheus).
McKinsey, C. Dennis (2000), Biblical Errancy (Amherst, NY: Prometheus).
“Millipede” (2009), [On-line], URL:http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/invertebrates/arthropod/Millipede.shtml.
“Millipedes and Centipedes” (2008), University of California Integrated Pest Management, [On-line], URL: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7472.html.
Morgan, Donald (2009), “Bible Absurdities,” [On-line], URL:http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/donald_morgan/absurd.html.
“Most Leggy Millipede Rediscovered” (2006), BBC News, June 8, [On-line], URL:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/5052966.stm.
Orwell, George (1946), Animal Farm, [On-line], URL: http://www.george-orwell.org/Animal_Farm/index.html.
Petrich, Loren (1990), “Scientific Errors in the Bible,” [On-line], URL:http://www.skepticfiles.org/atheist/genesisd.htm.
“Ruminant” (2009), Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, [On-line], URL:http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary.
Sarfati, Jonathan (1998), “Do Rabbits Chew their Cud?” Creation, 20:56, September.
“Synecdoche” (2009), Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, [On-line], URL:http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary.
Till, Farrell (1990), “What about Scientific Foreknowledge in the Bible?” The Skeptical Review, July-August, [On-line], URL:http://www.theskepticalreview.com/tsrmag/4scien90.html.
Till, Farrell (1991a), “Scientific Boo-Boos in the Bible,” The Skeptical Review, January-February, [On-line], URL: http://www.theskepticalreview.com/tsrmag/1boobo91.html.
Till, Farrell (1991b), “Bible Biology,” The Skeptical Review, March-April, [On-line], URL:http://www.theskepticalreview.com/tsrmag/2biolo91.html.
Wells, Steve (2009), Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, [On-line], URL:http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/.
Wenham, Gordon (1979), The Book of Leviticus (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Zimmer, Carl (1994), “Masters of an Ancient Sky,” Discover, February 1, [On-line], URL:http://discovermagazine.com/1994/feb/mastersofanancie333.
Biomimicry, Butterflies, and Bank Fraud
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
From cocklebur-inspired Velcro® to robotic lobsters, scientists are increasingly looking to imitate the wonders of life. In the field of biomimicry (derived from the Greek words bios, meaning “life,” and mimesis, meaning “to imitate”) scientists, researchers, and engineers worldwide turn their attention to God’s creation to inspire new, intricately designed, man-made products to improve human life and solve various dilemmas.
Recently, professors Mathias Kolle and Ullrich Baumberg of the University of Cambridge studied the microscopic structures in the wing scales of the Swallowtail butterfly in hopes of mimicking its magnificent colors (see “Vivid...,” 2010). The colors of these tropical butterflies are strikingly bright because of the shape of the microscopic structures and because “they are made up of alternate layers of cuticle and air” (“Vivid...”). Amazingly, Kolle and Baumberg have been successful at making “structurally identical copies of the butterfly scales,” purportedly even with “the same vivid colours as the butterflies’ wings.” How exactly do Kolle and Baumberg believe these “color copies” could be used for the benefit of mankind? They believe the artificial structures “could be used to encrypt information in optical signatures on bank notes or other valuable items to protect them against forgery.... [W]e could see structures based on butterflies’ wings shining from a...note or even our passports.”
It is entirely appropriate for scientists to look to nature for the inspiration of their inventions. After all, “the whole Earth is full of His [God’s] glory” (Isaiah 6:3, emp. added). The infinite, omniscient Creator made marvelous, living creatures, including butterflies, for man to use, study, and learn from in this life (Genesis 1:28). Sadly, many scientists today refuse to consider the most important thing to be learned from all of the animals and plants they study and seek to imitate: they all declare the glory of God. Nature did not assemble itself (as Kolle proposed in his discussion of the Swallowtail butterfly). Mindless matter and the random, chance processes of evolution fail on every account to explain the intricate design of even the smallest of living creatures. The designs in nature that intelligent human beings seek to copy demand an adequate explanation; they demand a grand Designer.
For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God (Hebrews 3:4).For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:20).
“Vivid Colours of Butterflies Could Help Cut Bank Fraud” (2010), The Economic Times, May 31, http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/news-by-industry/et-cetera/Vivid-colours-of-butterflies-could-help-cut-bank-fraud/articleshow/5993979.cms.
Choose the God of Your Choice?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
The Christian religion has fallen prey to the pluralistic, multi-cultural mindset of American culture. Religion is now fashioned according to the prevailing mentality that citizens have a right to make their own choices and “do their own thing.” “That’s the American way!” After all, “I have my rights!” “My view is just as good as the other guy’s.” Unfortunately, such self-centered arrogance does not prepare one for humble submission to God (James 4:10). It only encourages compliance with self-stylized religion, i.e., religion that is structured according to one’s own desires. Paul referred to this approach as “self-imposed” or “will worship,” i.e., worshipping according to one’s own will (Colossians 2:23).
Religious conditions in the first century were such that most people believed in a multiplicity of gods (e.g., Acts 17:16). But, in reality, there was only one God (Ephesians 4:6). The fact that men fabricated elaborate trappings like images, temples, etc., and took their religion seriously, did not alter the fact that they were involved in vain worship and false religion (cf. Matthew 15:9; 2 Peter 2:1). Telling them that there was only one God, or that one god was not just as good as another, would not have been a popular teaching. In fact, the doctrine of “one God” was perceived as a genuine threat to the polytheism of the day, and as a serious challenge to the Empire’s religious health. Polytheism had so permeated first-century society that acceptance of the doctrine of “one God” was virtually inconceivable for most people.
History repeats itself many times over. Our day is really no different from those first-century environmental factors. While Americans historically have rejected the notion of “many gods” (although even this foundational truth is changing), the concept of “many churches” has been embraced fully. The prevailing attitude is “attend the church of your choice,” and “one church is as good as another.” But the concept of multiple churches is as foreign to the New Testament as is the idea of multiple gods. The exact same passage that affirms only one God (Ephesians 4:6), affirms only one church (Ephesians 4:4; 1:22-23). Either out of ignorance, discontent, or pride, men have taken it upon themselves to fabricate their own churches, stylizing doctrine, organization, worship, and name according to their own desires. Some never seem to realize that Jesus did not leave anyone free to fashion his or her own church (Matthew 15:9; 16:18). All false doctrines, false teachers, and false churches will be rejected (Matthew 15:13).
Let us not encourage people to “join the church of your choice.” Rather, let us urge them to respond obediently to the Gospel of Christ—through faith, repentance, and water baptism (Acts 2:38)—so that they may be “added” (Acts 2:47) to the church of Christ’s choice (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 5:23).
Much More than an Empty Tomb!
|by||Brad Bromling, D.Min.|
As dawn broke on the third day after Christ’ crucifixion, several pious women made their way to the tomb that Joseph of Arimathea had donated for Jesus’ burial. When they arrived, they found it open and empty. Instead of seeing their Lord, they saw men (angels) dressed in dazzling clothes who announced that Jesus had been raised from the dead. The women returned to the community of Jesus’ followers and gave a full report. No one believed them. Peter and (apparently) John ran to the tomb to see for themselves. They found it as the women had said. The tomb was empty. But surprisingly, rather than spreading the exciting news that Jesus had been raised from the dead, Peter went away perplexed!
Later that day, two other disciples left Jerusalem and headed toward Emmaus, their hometown about seven miles away. As they walked, they shared their thoughts of disappointment over the death of Jesus. A stranger joined them and asked what they were talking about (they didn’t know the stranger was Jesus). They explained how that Jesus, the mighty prophet from Nazareth, had been crucified. They said, “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel,” indicating that their hopes had been dashed (Luke 24:21). They continued: “Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened.” Apparently they expected Jesus to be raised; but even after hearing testimony from the women and the two men, the disciples from Emmaus were not convinced that a resurrection had taken place.
A few hours later they were back in Jerusalem enthusiastically telling others that Jesus was raised from the dead. What moved them from hopelessness to confident proclamation? The answer is plain: they had seen the Lord! By that time, so had Peter. In fact, from that point forward, Jesus appeared repeatedly to His followers for the next forty days before He finally ascended into heaven (Acts 1:3).
The central message of the Church is not simply that Jesus’ tomb was empty—that fact alone was not enough for the original followers of the Nazarene, nor would it be enough two thousand years later. A skeptical mind can imagine many ways to explain how Jesus’ body left the tomb (all of which have been sufficiently answered; see Geisler and Brooks, 1990, pp. 123-128; Bromling, 1993, pp. 33-38; et al.); but for a believer, only one way matters—resurrection. Faith in that is based upon the reliable testimony of people who, after having seen the risen Lord, devoted the rest of their lives to telling the Good News. Jesus left more than an empty tomb; He left credible flesh-and-blood witnesses who said of Jesus, “we have heard” Him, “we have seen [Him] with our eyes,” and “our hands have handled” Him (1 John 1:1).
Maybe an empty tomb should have been enough; after all, Jesus rebuked the disciples from Emmaus for being “foolish” and “slow of heart to believe the prophets” (Luke 24:25). But the fact is, we have much more than that. We have the Good News that Jesus appeared to: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Peter, Cleopas and his fellow disciple from Emmaus, the rest of the apostles, Stephen, James, Paul, and an additional five hundred unnamed people, many of whom Paul indicated would have testified if given a chance (Matthew 28:1-20; Mark 16:9-20; Luke 24:1-50; John 20-21; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8; et al.).
Christianity is not faith in an empty cave; it is faith in a Savior Who ever lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25). It is faith in the One Who by His resurrection has the ability to promise: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
Bromling, Brad T. (1993), “What Happened to the Body?,” Reason & Revelation, 13:33-38, May.
Geisler, Norman L. and Ron Brooks (1990), When Skeptics Ask (Wheaton, IL: Victor).