"THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS" Chapter Three Having demonstrated Jesus' superiority to prophets and angels, the author now compares Jesus to Moses (1-6). The comparison is followed with a reference to Israel's unfaithfulness in wilderness which leads to the second of six warnings in this epistle: a warning against departing from the living God by developing an evil heart of unbelief (7-19). POINTS TO PONDER * How Jesus compares to Moses * The very real danger of departing from the living God REVIEW QUESTIONS 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - Jesus' superiority over Moses - He 3:1-6 - A warning against departing - He 3:7-19 2) How are the original recipients of this epistle described? And Jesus? (1) - Holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling; Apostle and High Priest 3) How are Moses and Jesus compared in this chapter? (3-6) - Moses: faithful as a servant in the house of God - Jesus: faithful as a Son over and builder of the house of God (worthy of more glory) 4) Whose house are we? Under what conditions? (6) - The Son's house; if we hold fast the confidence and joy of hope firm to the end 5) What period of Israel's history is referred to in Psalms 95? (7-11) - 40 years of wilderness wanderings 6) What three things can lead the Christian to fall away? (12-13) - Developing an evil heart of unbelief - Departing from the living God - Becoming hardened through the deceitfulness of sin 7) What three things can serve as an antidote preventing apostasy? (12-14) - Beware of unbelief - Exhort one another daily - Hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end 8) Who rebelled in the wilderness and did not enter the Promised Land? (16-18) - Those led by Moses out of Egypt, who did not obey 9) Why were they not permitted to enter? (19) - Because of unbelief
"THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS" Chapter Two The author interrupts his comparison of Christ with angels with his first of six warnings in this epistle: a warning against drifting by neglecting our great salvation (1-4). He then illustrates Jesus' superiority to angels by being made lower than the angels, whereby He became the perfect captain of our salvation and a merciful and faithful High Priest (5-18). POINTS TO PONDER * The very real danger of drifting and neglecting our salvation * Man's fall from his exalted position over creation * Jesus' humanity and its impact on His role as Savior and High Priest REVIEW QUESTIONS 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - A warning against drifting - He 2:1-4 - Jesus' superiority over the angels by virtue of His humanity - He 2:5-18 2) How can we avoid drifting away? (1) - By giving earnest heed to the things we have heard 3) What proves we cannot escape judgment if we neglect our great salvation? (2-3) - Disobedience to angels was punished, much more so if we neglect the Lord Himself 4) How was this great salvation revealed and confirmed to us? (3-4) - Spoken by the Lord Himself at first - Confirmed by those who heard Him (i.e., the apostles) - God bearing witness through signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit 5) What does Psalms 8:4-6 reveal about the creation of man? (6-8) - He was made lower than angels, but placed over all God's works 6) Has man maintained his authority over all things? (8) - No, now we do not see all things put under him 7) List eight reasons Jesus was made lower than angels (became flesh). (9-18) - To taste death for every one - To bring many sons to glory - To be made perfect through sufferings - To destroy the devil who had the power of death - To release those subject to bondage through fear of death - To give aid to the seed of Abraham - To be a merciful and faithful High Priest - To aid those who are tempted, having suffered temptation Himself
"THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS" Chapter One Dispensing with greetings and salutations typical of letters at that time, the epistle to the Hebrews begins like a sermon, with the author immediately declaring the superiority of Jesus. While God spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, He now speaks to us through His Son (1-3). Jesus is also demonstrated to be much better than angels (4-14). POINTS TO PONDER * How Jesus is superior to OT prophets * How Jesus is superior to angels REVIEW QUESTIONS 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - Jesus’ superiority over prophets as spokesman - He 1:1-3 - Jesus’ superiority over angels by virtue of His deity - He 1:4-14 2) How did God speak in time past? How does He speak today? (1-2) - By the prophets at various times and in various ways; by His Son 3) List seven things that describe the Son. (2-3) - He is the appointed heir of all things - Through Him God made the worlds - He is the brightness of God’s glory - He is the express image of God’s person - He upholds all things by the word of His power - He purged our sins - He is now seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high 4) List five ways that Jesus is superior to the angels. (4-14) - He is the "Son", angels are not - He is "the firstborn" who receives worship from angels - He is "God" enthroned and anointed, angels are merely servants - He is "LORD" (Yahweh) who is the eternal Creator - He is "sovereign" seated at the right hand of God, angels are ministering spirits 5) For whom have the angels been sent forth to minister? (14) - Those who will inherit salvation 6) List the Old Testament passages that are referenced to in this chapter. (5-13) - Ps 2:7 and 2Sa 7:14 in verse 5 - Deut 32:43 (Septuagint) in verse 6 - Ps 104:4 in verse 7 - Ps 45:6-7 in verses 8-9 - Ps 102:25-27 in verses 10-12 - Ps 110:1 in verse 13
"THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS" Introduction The epistle to the Hebrews is a unique book in the New Testament. It begins as an essay (He 1:1-2), progresses as a sermon (He 2:1-4), and ends as a letter (He 13:23-25). Its contents are deep and challenging. Many Christians find it difficult; some equate its difficulty with the book of Revelation. But for Christians willing to take the time to read and reflect upon it, they will be: * Reminded of how blessed they are to have trusted in Christ * Impressed with the superiority of Christ and His New Covenant over Moses and the Old Covenant * Warned of the danger of apostasy and the need for steadfastness in their faith AUTHOR The author does not identify himself. Many believe it to be the apostle Paul (e.g., Clement of Alexandria) and have offered arguments in his favor (cf. Commentary on Hebrews, Robert Milligan, p. 5-19). Yet it seems unlikely when you consider the author’s statement, "...was confirmed to us by those who heard Him" (He 2:3). This suggests the author received the gospel message second-hand, while Paul declared that he had not received the gospel from or through men (Ga 1:11-12). Other names have been proposed over the years: Barnabas (suggested by Tertullian), Apollos (suggested by Luther), even Priscilla (suggested by Harnack). Perhaps Origen says it best, "But who wrote the epistle, to be sure, only God knows." RECIPIENTS The general consensus is that this letter was written to Jewish Christians. There is uncertainty as to where they and the author were at the time of composition. Many believe the recipients were in Palestine, and the author in Rome. Others suggest the readers were in Rome and the author elsewhere, based upon a possible implication in He 13:24. In any case, they were Jewish Christians whom the author knew personally (He 10:34; 13:19). DATE We know the epistle was written prior to 96 A.D., because Clement of Rome quotes from Hebrews in his letter that was written at that time. There are certainly strong indications that it was written prior to 70 A.D.... * There is no mention of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple * The author writes as though priests were still offering sacrifices - He 8:4; 10:11 If the Jewish Christians were in Palestine, it was likely before or at the beginning of the Jewish Wars (ca. 66-70 A.D.; cf. He 12:4). The time frame of 63-65 A.D. is often suggested. PURPOSE AND THEME The author wrote this epistle to prevent his readers from abandoning their faith in Christ (He 2:1-4). To encourage his Jewish brethren not to go back to the Old Law, he endeavored to show the superiority of Christ and His Covenant (He 8:1-2,6). A key word found throughout the epistle is "better": * Christ is "better than the angels" - He 1:4 * We enjoy "the bringing in of a better hope" - He 7:19 * Jesus has become "the surety of a better covenant" - He 7:22 * He is also "the Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises" - He 8:6 * The heavenly things benefit from "better sacrifices" - He 9:23 Indeed, the purpose of this epistle was to exhort his readers to remain faithful to the much better things they have in Christ (He 13:22). As for its theme, I suggest the following: The Superiority Of Christ and The New Covenant OUTLINE Here is a simple outline of the book, with its main divisions... 1. The superiority of Christ - He 1:1-8:6 a. Better than the prophets, as a much better Spokesman - He 1:1-3 b. Better than the angels, by virtue of His Deity and humanity - He 1:4-2:18 c. Better than Moses, for He is the Son who provides a heavenly rest - He 3:1-4:13 d. Better than Aaron, as His priesthood is a superior one - He 4:16-8:6 2. The superiority of the New Covenant - He 8:7-10:18 a. For it is based upon better promises - He 8:7-13 b. For it is based upon a better sanctuary - He 9:1-28 c. For it is based upon a better sacrifice - He 10:1-18 3. Exhortations drawn from this superiority - He 10:19-13:25 a. Draw near to God and hold fast - He 10:19-39 b. Run the race of faith with endurance - He 11:1-12:29 c. Miscellaneous exhortations - He 13:1-25 KEY WARNINGS A unique feature of the epistle to the Hebrews are the warnings throughout the book. As we conclude this introduction, perhaps it may be profitable to summarize them. 1. The warning against drifting - He 2:1-4 a. Through neglect we can easily drift away b. The solution is to give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard 2. The warning against departing - He 3:12-15 a. Through sin’s deceitfulness we can become hardened and develop a lack of faith by which we can depart from the living God b. The solution is exhort one another daily and remain steadfast 3. The warning against disobedience - He 4:11-13 a. Like Israel in the wilderness, we can fail to enter our rest through disobedience b. The solution is diligence and heeding the Word of God 4. The warning against dullness - He 5:11-6:6 a. Dullness of hearing can make it difficult for us to appreciate the extent of our blessings in Christ, and even falling away to the point of crucifying the Son of God afresh! b. The solution is grasping the first principles of the oracles of God, and then pressing on to spiritual maturity and perfection 5. The warning against despising - He 10:26-39 a. It is possible to so despise God’s grace as to no longer have a sacrifice for sins, but only a certain fearful expectation of judgment b. The solution is to hold unto our confidence in Christ, and believe with endurance 6. The warning against defying - He 12:25-29 a. It is possible to refuse to listen to the One who now speaks from heaven! b. The solution is to look diligently to the grace of God, receiving it in such a way so we may serve Him acceptably with reverence and godly fear With such warnings, this book is indeed a "word of exhortation" (He 13:22)! REVIEW QUESTIONS 1) Who is author of the book of Hebrews? - Only God knows 2) Who were the original recipients of this epistle? - Jewish Christians, possibly in Palestine or Italy 3) When was it written? - Likely between 63-65 A.D. 4) What has been suggested as its purpose? Its theme? - An exhortation to remain faithful to Christ - The superiority of Christ and the New Covenant 5) What are the three main divisions of this epistle? - The superiority of Christ - He 1:1-8:6 - The superiority of the New Covenant - He 8:7-10:18 - Exhortations drawn from this superiority - He 10:19-13:25 6) List the six warnings found in this epistle. - The warning against drifting - He 2:1-4 - The warning against departing - He 3:12-15 - The warning against disobedience - He 4:11-13 - The warning against dullness - He 5:11-6:6 - The warning against despising - He 10:26-39 - The warning against defying - He 12:25-29
Elisha and the Lads of Bethel
|by||Wayne Jackson, M.A.|
In 2 Kings 2, forty-two boys made fun of Elisha for being bald. The prophet then called bears out of the woods to attack the boys as punishment for their disrespect. Isn’t this morally evil—for God’s representative to take vengeance on these boys for such an insignificant thing?
In the book of 2 Kings, there is an intriguing narrative that has generated considerable controversy. Concerning the prophet Elisha, the text reads as follows.
And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them (2 Kings 2:23-24).
Atheists have appealed to this incident in an attempt to involve the Bible in moral difficulty. A careful consideration of the facts, however, will dissolve the problem.
First, the translation, “there came forth little children out of the city” (KJV) is an unfortunate rendition (cf. “young lads”—ASV, or “youths”—NIV, NKJV). The Hebrew word rendered “children” derives from na’ar—used 235 times in the Old Testament. Na’ar is a very broad root word, and can have reference to anyone from a newborn child to an adult. Further, the Hebrew word rendered “little” comes from qatan, and generally means young or small. In commenting on this term in 2 Kings 2:23, the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament remarked:
Elisha being taunted (cf. qalas, qarah) by young lads (perhaps teen-age ruffians) (II Kgs 2:23) who as members of covenant families ought to have been taught God’s law whereby cursing his servant was tantamount to cursing him and rightly punishable by death (qalal) (Harris, et al., 1980, 2:795).
Obviously, therefore, the immediate context in which na’ar is used will determine the maturity of the subject so designated.
Second, the young men of Bethel mocked Elisha. The Hebrew word qalas means to scoff at, ridicule, or scorn. The term does not suggest innocent conduct. Note the Lord’s comment elsewhere: “They mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and scoffed at his prophets, until the wrath of Jehovah arose against his people, till there was no remedy” (2 Chronicles 36:16).
Too, the expression, “Go up...Go up,” is held by many scholars to reflect the wish of these young men that the prophet go ahead and ascend (as did Elijah—2 Kings 2:11), i.e., leave the Earth, that they might be rid of him! Also, the taunt, “thou bald head,” was likely a reproach. Old Testament scholar John Whitcomb has suggested that this was an expression “of extreme contempt. They were pronouncing a divine curse upon him, for which baldness was often the outward sign (cf. Isaiah 3:17a,24)” (1971, p. 68).
Third, when it is said that Elisha “cursed them,” there is no implication of profanity (as our modern word suggests), nor was this a venting of passion for personal revenge. Holy men of God sometimes were empowered with divine authority to pronounce an impending judgment upon rebellious persons (cf. Genesis 9:25, 49:7, Deuteronomy 27:15ff., and Joshua 6:26). Christ uttered a curse upon the barren fig tree (Mark 11:21) as an object lesson of the doom that was to be visited upon Jerusalem. Also, it is stated clearly that Elisha’s curse upon them was “in the name of the Lord,” meaning by “divine appointment, inspiration, authority” (see Orr, 1956, 4:2112).
Fourth, the tragedy that befell these young men obviously was of divine design. Elisha, as a mere man, would have no power to call forth wild animals out of the woods merely at his bidding. But the sovereignty of Jehovah over the animal kingdom frequently is affirmed in the Scriptures. God sent fiery serpents to bite the Israelites (Numbers 21:6); the Lord slew a disobedient young prophet by means of a lion (1 Kings 13:24ff.); yet, He shut the lions’ mouths to protect Daniel (Daniel 6:22). He prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah (Jonah 1:17), and guided one to Peter’s hook (Matthew 17:24ff.). Clearly, therefore, it was Jehovah who brought those bears out of the forest.
Additionally, if, when the divine record says that the bears “tare” the lads, it means they were killed (and not all scholars are sure that death is indicated), then it was a divine punishment. As Alfred Edersheim has written: “[I]t should be noticed that it was not Elisha who slew those forty-two youths, but the Lord in His Providence, just as it had been Jehovah, not the prophet, who had healed the waters of Jericho” (n.d., 6:107).
It is the general view of conservative Bible scholars that the young men of Bethel likely were idolaters whose reproaches upon Elisha were expressions of contempt for his prophetic office, and thus, ultimately directed at the God Whom he served. Thus, their punishment was a divine judgment intended to serve as a dramatic example in horribly wicked times.
Edersheim, Albert (no date), The Bible History—Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Harris, R.L., G.L. Archer, and B.K. Waltke (1980), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament(Chicago, IL: Moody).
Orr, James, ed. (1956), International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Whitcomb, John C. (1971), Solomon to the Exile (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Does the Holy Spirit Know When Jesus Will Return?
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
One question that various individuals have submitted toApologetics Press in recent years involves the Second Coming of Christ and the omniscience of the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4) and thus omniscient (Psalm 139), why did Jesus say about His return, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, butonly the Father” (Mark 13:32, emp. added)? Why would the “Father alone” (Matthew 24:36, NASB) be aware of the time of Jesus’ Second Coming? Does this awareness exclude the Holy Spirit?
When Jesus came to Earth in the flesh, He willingly “made Himself of no reputation” (Philippians 2:7; He “emptied Himself”—NASB). He moved from the spiritual realm to put on flesh (John 1:14) and voluntarily became subject to such burdens as hunger, thirst, weariness, and pain. Our omnipotent, omniscient, holy God chose to come into this world as a helpless babe Who, for the first time in His eternal existence, “increased in wisdom” (Luke 2:52). While on Earth in the flesh, Jesus was voluntarily in a subordinate position to the Father (cf. Jackson, 1995).
It has been suggested that, similar to how Jesus chose not to know certain information while on Earth, including the date of His return, perhaps the Holy Spirit also willingly restricted Himself to some degree during the first century (see Holding, 2012). Perhaps the special role of the Holy Spirit in the first century in regards to spiritual and miraculous gifts (Acts 2:38; 1 Corinthians 12:7), special revelation (John 14:26; 16:13), divine inspiration (2 Timothy 3:16), intercession (Romans 8:26), etc., is somewhat similar to the role that Christ played. That is, could it be that both God the Son and God the Spirit voluntarily restricted their knowledge on Earth in the first century? And thus, could that be why Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32, emp. added)? Considering that a number of Christians and scholars believe that even God the Father may freely choose to limit His own knowledge of certain things (cf. Brents, 1874, pp. 74-87; Camp, n.d.), many would likely explain Mark 13:32 and Matthew 24:36 by contending that the Holy Spirit freely limited His knowledge for a time regarding Christ’s return.
Given especially the indisputable fact that the Son of God voluntarily chose not to know certain things for a time, it may be possible that the Holy Spirit could choose the same. However, the Holy Spirit Himself revealed through the apostle Paul that He, the Spirit, “searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10-11). Furthermore, there are no explicit statements in Scripture about the Holy Spirit’s willful unawareness of certain things as there are about Jesus (Mark 13:32; cf. Luke 2:52). All one can cite is Jesus’ statement about “only the Father” knowing the date of the Son’s return and conclude that this declaration implies the Spirit of God was unaware of that day. What’s more, in context, Jesus placed much more emphasis on the words “no one knows” than the qualifying statements “not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son.” Jesus wanted His hearers to understand that just as those in Noah’s day “did not know” the day of the Flood (Matthew 24:39, emp. added) and just as the servants in the parable of the servants “do not know when the master of the house is coming” (Mark 13:35, emp. added; Matthew 24:50), so “you do not knowwhat hour the Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42, emp. added; Mark 13:33). Thus, Jesus taught the all-important central message in these chapters of “watching” and being “ready” for the unknown time of Christ’s return (Matthew 24:36-25:46; Mark 13:32-37). Even though we may learn something of the Messiah’s voluntary, self-imposed emptying of some of His omniscience (Mark 13:32), Jesus’ “purpose was not to define the limits of his theological knowledge, but to indicate that vigilance, not calculation, is required” (Lane, 1974, p. 482)—a lesson that all “end-of-time” false prophets need to learn.
Rather than quickly dismiss the omniscience of the Holy Spirit during a particular period of time in human history, a better explanation exists: expressions such as “no one,” “only,” “except,” “all,” etc. are oftentimes used in a limited sense. Consider what Paul revealed in Romans 3: “Jews and Greeks…are all under sin. As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one…. They haveall turned aside… there is none who does good, no, not one” (vss. 9,10,12, emp. added). In this passage, Paul was stressing the fact that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), but he was using these inclusive and exclusive terms (e.g., “all,” “none”) in a somewhat limited sense. Paul was obviously not including Jesus in this passage, as elsewhere he wrote that Jesus “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21; cf. Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 1:19). Neither was he including infants (see Butt, 2003), the mentally challenged, or angels. Who then has sinned? All humans of an accountable mind and age (see Miller, 2003), with the obvious exception being the sinless Son of God.
In John 17:3, Jesus prayed to the Father, saying, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3, emp. added). Are we to believe, as some do (cf. “Is There Only…?” 2009), that Jesus was implying neither He nor the Holy Spirit is divine? Not at all. Rather, when the Bible reveals that there is only one God, one Savior, one Lord, one Creator (Isaiah 44:24; John 1:3), etc., reason and revelation demand that we understand the inspired writers to be excluding everyone and everything—other than the members of the Godhead (see Lyons, 2008). Throughout the Gospel of John, the writer repeatedly referred to Jesus’ deity (1:1,3,23; 4:25; 9:38; 10:30-33; 20:28)—Jesus most certainly was not denying it in John 17:3. Unless the biblical text specifically mentions what a member of the Godhead does not know or do, we should be careful alleging ignorance, limited power, etc.
In Matthew 11:27, Jesus stated: “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (emp. added). Are we to believe that the Spirit of God does not fully comprehend the Son of God or God the Father? After all, Jesus said, “[N]o one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son.” Once again, the terms “no one,” “anyone,” and “except” must be understood in a limited sense. Jesus was in no way suggesting that the Spirit of God, Who “searches all things, yes, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10), does not fully understand the Father as Jesus does. The Son of God was revealing that aside from the “one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27), “no man or angel clearly and fully comprehends the character of the infinite God…. None but God fullyknows Him” (Barnes, 1997, emp. in orig.). Once again, Jesus was alluding to His deity. Mere humans cannot truthfully speak in this manner. “The full comprehension and acknowledgment of the Godhead, and the mystery of the Trinity, belong to God alone” (Clarke, 1996). Jesus was and is God. We should no more exclude the Holy Spirit from Jesus’ statement about Himself and God the Father in Matthew 11:27 than we should exclude the Father or the Son from Paul’s statement about the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 2:10-11.
It is unnecessary to conclude that the Holy Spirit must at one time have given up some of His omniscience because Jesus stated of His return. “[N]o one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” In light of the way in which God and the Bible writers oftentimes used exclusive terms in limited senses, especially as those terms relate to the Godhead, it cannot be proven that Jesus was excluding the Spirit of God in this statement. If we should not exclude Jesus and the Holy Spirit from the God that Jesus praised in John 17:3, and we should not exclude the Holy Spirit from the Divine that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 11:27, it seems entirely unnecessary to infer that in Mark 13:32 and Matthew 24:36 Christ was implying that the Holy Spirit was unaware of the day of His return.
Barnes, Albert (1997), Barnes’ Notes (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Brents, T.W. (1874), The Gospel Plan of Salvation (Bowling Green, KY: Guardian of Truth Foundation, 1987 reprint).
Butt, Kyle (2003), “Do Babies Go to Hell When They Die?” Apologetics Press,http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=1201.
Camp, Franklin (no date) “1 Peter 1:1-2,” Redemption Through the Bible (Adamsville, AL: Brother’s).
Clarke, Adam (1996), Adam Clarke’s Commentary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Holding, James (2012), “Mark 13:32 and the Holy Spirit,” Tekton, http://www.tektonics.org/lp/mk1332.html.
“Is There Only One True God?” (2009), Jehovah’s Witnesses Official Web Site, http://www.watchtower.org/e/200602b/article_01.htm.
Jackson, Wayne (1995), “Did Jesus Exist in the Form of God While on Earth?” Reason & Revelation, 15:21-22, March, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=10&article=354.
Lane, William (1974), The Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Lyons, Eric (2008), “The Only True God,” Apologetics Press,http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=10&article=983#.
Miller, Dave (2003), “The Age of Accountability,” Apologetics Press,http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=1202.
Did God Approve of the Extermination of Humans?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Skeptics have been especially critical of the Bible’s portrayal of God ordering the execution of entire populations—including women and children—during the Israelite conquest of Canaan. The Hebrew term herem found, for instance, in Joshua 5:7, refers to the total dedication or giving over of the enemy to God as a sacrifice, involving the extermination of the populace. It is alleged that the God of the Bible is as barbaric and cruel as any of the pagan gods. But this assessment simply is not true. Please consider the following observations.
In the first place, in the Decalogue that was given to the Israelites, the command, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13) undoubtedly referred to murder. It is so translated in most English versions (e.g., NKJV, NIV, NASB, etc.). In other words, the Old Covenant given to the Jews forbade taking the law into one’s own hands and murdering one’s fellow man. The Law of Moses certainly never intended for this commandment to be understood that the taking of human life always is wrong, regardless of the circumstance. In fact, the law itself made provision for implementing the death penalty in at least sixteen cases (see Miller, 2002). But these provisions entailed judicial execution based upon due process—not murder (even as it exists in our own society). The wording of Leviticus 24:17 (“Whoever kills any man shall surely be put to death”) clarifies this point. The passage forbids taking life by individuals who are acting without legal authority—which, itself, brought the death penalty. Both murder and the death penalty are in the same verse, verifying the necessity of making a distinction between the two. God, Himself, implemented the death penalty directly on various people throughout human history (as evinced in the 1 Samuel 6:19 list), and required others to do it (as in 1 Samuel 15).
In the second place, if the critic would take the time to study the Bible and make an honest evaluation of the principles of God’s justice, wrath, and love, he or she would see the perfect and harmonious relationship between them. God’s vengeance is not like the impulsive, irrational, emotional outbursts of pagan deities or human beings. He is perfect in all His attributes. He possesses His attributes to a perfect degree, and each attribute exists in perfect balance and synchronization with every other attribute—a perfect blending. He therefore is perfect in justice, love, and anger. Just as God’s ultimate and final condemnation of sinners to eternal punishment will be just and appropriate (Matthew 13:41-42; 25:41), so this temporal judgment of wicked people in the Old Testament is ethical and fair. Human beings do not have an accurate grasp on the gravity of sin and the deplorable nature of evil and wickedness. Human sentimentality is hardly a qualified measuring stick for divine truth and spiritual reality.
Ironically, the atheist, the agnostic, the skeptic, and the liberal attempt to stand in judgment on the ethical behavior of God when, if their position is correct, there is no such thing as an absolute, objective, authoritative standard by which to pronounce anything right or wrong! As the French existentialist philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre, admitted: if there is no God, everything is permitted. The atheist and agnostic have absolutely no platform on which to stand from which to make moral or ethical distinctions—except as the result of subjective, purely personal preference. The very fact that they concede the existence of objective evil is an unwitting concession that there is a God Who has established an absolute framework of moral certainty.
The facts of the matter are that the Canaanites, whom God’s people were commanded to destroy, were destroyed for their own wickedness (Deuteronomy 9:4; 18:9-12; Leviticus 18:24-25,27-28). Canaanite culture and religion in the second millennium B.C. were polluted, corrupt, and unbelievably perverted. No doubt the people were physically diseased from their illicit behavior. There simply was no viable solution to their condition except destruction. Their moral depravity was “full” (Genesis 15:16). They had slumped to such an immoral, depraved state, with no hope of recovery, that their existence on this Earth had to be ended. A similar predicament existed in Noah’s day when God waited while Noah preached for years but was unable to divert the world’s population from its wickedness (Genesis 6:3,5-7; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 3:5-9). Including the children in the destruction of such populations actually spared them from a worse condition—that of being reared to be as wicked as their parents, thereby facing eternal punishment. All persons who die in childhood, according to the Bible, are ushered to Paradise and, ultimately will reside in heaven. Children with evil parents must naturally suffer innocently while on Earth (e.g., Exodus 20:5; Numbers 14:33).
Those who disagree with God’s annihilation of the wicked in the Old Testament have the same liberal attitude that has prevailed in society for the last forty years. That attitude typically has opposed capital punishment as well as the corporal punishment of children. Such a person simply cannot see the rightness of evildoers being punished by execution or physical pain. This aberrant view has resulted in the rest of society being forced to live with the outcome of such skewed thinking, i.e., undisciplined, out-of-control children who grow to adulthood and wreak havoc on society by perpetrating crime—crime that has risen to historically all-time high levels.
Miller, Dave (2002), “Capital Punishment and the Bible,”http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/1974.
The Passion and Antisemitism: Who Murdered Jesus?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
The furor surrounding Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ preceded by many months the release of the movie on February 25. The official Web site states: “Passion is a vivid depiction of the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ’s life” (Passion Web site). Special emphasis is placed on the physical suffering Christ endured. Throughout the film, the language spoken is the first-century Jewish language, Aramaic, except when the Romans speak their language, i.e., Latin (Novak, 2003). Gibson, who both produced and directed the film, sank $25 million of his own money into the venture.
Much of the stir over the film stems from the role of the Jews in their involvement in Christ’s crucifixion. In fact, outcries of “anti-Semitism” have been vociferous, especially from representatives of the Anti-Defamation League. Their contention is that Jews are depicted in the film as “bloodthirsty, sadistic, money-hungry enemies of God” who are portrayed as “the ones responsible for the decision to crucify Jesus” (as quoted in Hudson, 2003; cf. Zoll, 2003). The fear is that the film will fuel hatred and bigotry against Jews. A committee of nine Jewish and Catholic scholars unanimously found the film to project a uniformly negative picture of Jews (“ADL and Mel…”). The Vatican early avoided offering an endorsement of the film by declining to make an official statement (“Vatican Has Not…”; cf. “Mel Gibson’s…”). This action is to be expected in view of the conciliatory tone manifested by Vatican II (Abbott, 1955, pp. 663-667). Even Twentieth Century Fox decided not to participate in the distribution of the film (“20thDecides…”; cf. “Legislator Tries…”; O’Reilly…”).
Separate from the controversy generated by Gibson’s film, the more central issue concerns to what extent the Jewish generation of the first century contributed to, or participated in, the death of Christ. If the New Testament is the verbally inspired Word of God, then it is an accurate and reliable report of the facts, and its depiction of the details surrounding the crucifixion are normative and final. That being the case, how does the New Testament represent the role of the Jews in the death of Christ?
A great many verses allude to the role played by the Jews, especially the leadership, in the death of Jesus. For some time prior to the crucifixion, the Jewish authorities were determined to oppose Jesus. This persecution was aimed at achieving His death:
So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff (Luke 4:28-30, emp. added).Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God (John 5:18-19, emp. added).After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him… “Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law? Why do you seek to kill Me?” (John 7:1-2,19, emp. added).“I know that you are Abraham's descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.” They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this.” Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by (John 8:37-41,59, emp. added).Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him…. Therefore they sought again to seize Him, but He escaped out of their hand (John 10:31-32,39, emp. added).Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death…. Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a command, that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it, that they might seize Him (John 11:53, 57, emp. added).And He was teaching daily in the temple. But the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people sought to destroy Him, and were unable to do anything; for all the people were very attentive to hear Him (Luke 19:47-48, emp. added).And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might kill Him, for they feared the people (Luke 22:2, emp. added).Then the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people assembled at the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and plotted to take Jesus by trickery and kill Him (Matthew 26:3-4, emp. added).
These (and many other) verses demonstrate unquestionable participation of the Jews in bringing about the death of Jesus. One still can hear the mournful tones of Jesus Himself, in His sadness over the Jews rejecting Him: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:37-39). He was referring to the destruction of Jerusalem and the demise of the Jewish commonwealth at the hands of the Romans in A.D. 70. Read carefully His unmistakable allusion to the reason for this holocaustic event:
Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:41-44).
He clearly attributed their national demise to their stubborn rejection of Him as the predicted Messiah, Savior, and King.
Does the Bible, then, indicate that a large percentage, perhaps even a majority, of the Jews of first century Palestine was “collectively guilty” for the death of Jesus? The inspired evidence suggests so. Listen carefully to the apostle Paul’s assessment, keeping in mind that he, himself, was a Jew—in fact, “a Hebrew of the Hebrews” (Philippians 3:5; cf. Acts 22:3; Romans 11:1; 2 Corinthians 11:22). Speaking to Thessalonian Christians, he wrote:
For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16, emp. added).
This same apostle Paul met with constant resistance from fellow Jews. After he spoke at the Jewish synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia, a crowd of people that consisted of nearly the whole city gathered to hear him expound the Word of God. Notice the reaction of the Jews in the crowd:
But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul. Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles….” But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region (Acts 13:45-46,50-51).
Paul met with the same resistance from the general Jewish public that Jesus encountered—so much so that he wrote to Gentiles concerning Jews: “Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake” (Romans 11:28). He meant that the majority of the Jews had rejected Christ and Christianity. Only a “remnant” (Romans 11:5), i.e., a small minority, embraced Christ.
What role did the Romans play in the death of Christ? It certainly is true that Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross. First-century Palestine was under the jurisdiction of Rome. Though Rome permitted the Jews to retain a king in Judea (Herod), the Jews were subject to Roman law in legal matters. In order to achieve the execution of Jesus, the Jews had to appeal to the Roman authorities for permission (John 18:31). A simple reading of the verses that pertain to Jewish attempts to acquire this permission for the execution are clear in their depiction of Roman reluctance in the matter. Pilate, the governing procurator in Jerusalem, sought literally to quell and diffuse the Jewish efforts to kill Jesus. He called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people and stated plainly to them:
“You have brought this Man to me, as one who misleads the people. And indeed, having examined Him in your presence, I have found no fault in this Man concerning those things of which you accuse Him; no, neither did Herod, for I sent you back to him; and indeed nothing deserving of death has been done by Him. I will therefore chastise Him and release Him” (for it was necessary for him to release one to them at the feast). And they all cried out at once, saying, “Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas”—who had been thrown into prison for a certain rebellion made in the city, and for murder. Pilate, therefore, wishing to release Jesus, again called out to them. But they shouted, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” Then he said to them the third time, “Why, what evil has He done? I have found no reason for death in Him. I will therefore chastise Him and let Him go.” But they were insistent, demanding with loud voices that He be crucified. And the voices of these men and of the chief priests prevailed. So Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they requested. And he released to them the one they requested, who for rebellion and murder had been thrown into prison; but he delivered Jesus to their will (Luke 23:14-25).
It is difficult to conceptualize the level of hostility possessed by the Jewish hierarchy, and even by a segment of the Jewish population, toward a man who had done nothing worthy of such hatred. It is incredible to think that they would clamor for the release of a known murderer and insurrectionist, rather than allow the release of Jesus. Yes, the Roman authority was complicit in the death of Jesus. But Pilate would have had no interest in pursuing the matter if the Jewish leaders and crowd had not pressed for it. In fact, he went to great lengths to perform a symbolic ceremony in order to communicate the fact that he was not responsible for Jesus’ death. He announced to the multitude: “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it” (Matthew 27:24). Technically, the Romans cannot rightly be said to be ultimately responsible. If the Jews had not pressed the matter, Pilate never would have conceded to having Him executed. The apostle Peter made this point very clear by placing the blame for the crucifixion of Jesus squarely on the shoulders of Jerusalem Jews:
Men of Israel…the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses (Acts 3:12-16, emp. added).
Notice that even though the Romans administered the actual crucifixion, Peter pointedly stated to his Jewish audience, not only that Pilate wanted to release Jesus, but that the Jews (“you”)—not the Romans—“killed the Prince of life.”
Does God lay the blame for the death of Christ on the Jews as an ethnic group? Of course not. Though the generation of Jews who were contemporary to Jesus cried out to Pilate, “His blood be on us and on our children” (Matthew 27:25, emp. added), it remains a biblical fact that “the son shall not bear the guilt of the father” (Ezekiel 18:20). A majority of a particular ethnic group in a particular geographical locale at a particular moment in history may band together and act in concert to perpetrate a social injustice. But such an action does not indict all individuals everywhere who share that ethnicity. “For there is no partiality with God” (Romans 2:11), and neither should there be with any of us.
In fact, the New Testament teaches that ethnicity should have nothing to do with the practice of the Christian religion—which includes how we see ourselves, as well as how we treat others. Listen carefully to Paul’s declarations on the subject: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham's seed” (Galatians 3:28-29, emp. added). Jesus obliterated the ethnic distinction between Jew and non-Jew:
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity (Ephesians 2:14-17).
In the higher sense, neither the Jews nor the Romans crucified Jesus. Oh, they were all complicit, including Judas Iscariot. But so were we. Every accountable human being who has ever lived or ever will live has committed sin that necessitated the death of Christ—if atonement was to be made so that sin could be forgiven. Since Jesus died for the sins of the whole world (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2), every sinner is responsible for His death. But that being said, the Bible is equally clear that in reality, Jesus laid down His own life for humanity: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep…. Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:11,17-18; cf. Galatians 1:4; 2:20; Ephesians 5:2; 1 John 3:16). Of course, the fact that Jesus was willing to sacrifice Himself on the behalf of humanity does not alter the fact that it still required human beings, in this case first-century Jews, exercising their own free will to kill Him. A good summary passage on this matter is Acts 4:27-28—“for of a truth in this city against thy holy Servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, were gathered together, to do whatsoever thy hand and thy council foreordained to come to pass.”
The movie is, indeed, graphic. Despite various inaccuracies and additions that usually come with an attempt to transfer a biblical narrative to the screen, The Passion of the Christ nevertheless does a credible job of reenacting the excruciating torment that Jesus endured by undergoing Roman scourging and crucifixion. The film fosters a renewed appreciation of the suffering that Jesus subjected Himself to in behalf of sinful humanity.
Anti-Semitism is sinful and unchristian. Those who crucified Jesus are to be pitied. Even Jesus said concerning them: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). But we need not deny or rewrite history in the process. We now live in a post-Christian culture. If Gibson would have produced a movie depicting Jesus as a homosexual, the liberal, “politically correct,” anti-Christian forces would have been the first to defend the undertaking under the guise of “artistic license,” “free speech,” and “creativity.” But dare to venture into spiritual reality by showing the historicity of sinful man mistreating the Son of God, and the champions of moral degradation and hedonism raise angry, bitter voices of protest. The irony of the ages is—He died even for them.
Abbott, Walter, ed. (1966), The Documents of Vatican II (New York, NY: America Press).
“ADL and Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion,’ ” [On-line], URL: http://www.adl.org/interfaith/gibson_qa.asp.
Hudson, Deal (2003), “The Gospel according to Braveheart,” The Spectator, [On-line], URL: http://www.spectator.co.uk/article.php3?table=old§ion=current&issue= 2003-09-20&id=3427&searchText=.
“Legislator Tries to Censor Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion,’ ” [On-line], URL: http://www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2003/8/27/124709.shtml.
“Mel Gibson’s ‘Passion’ Makes Waves,” [On-line], URL: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/08/08/entertainment/main567445.shtml.
Novak, Michael (2003), “Passion Play,” The Weekly Standard, [On-line], URL: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/003/014ziqma.asp.
“O’Reilly: Elite Media out to Destroy Mel Gibson,” [On-line], URL: http://www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2003/9/15/223513.shtml.
Passion Web site, [On-line], URL: http://www.passion-movie.com/english/index.html.
“20th Decides Against Distributing Gibson’s ‘The Passion,’ ” [On-line], URL: http://www.imdb.com/SB?20030829#3.
“Vatican Has Not Taken A Position on Gibson’s Film ‘The Passion,’ Top Cardinal Assures ADL,” [On-line], URL: http://www.adl.org/PresRele/VaticanJewish_96/4355_96.htm.
Zoll, Rachel (2003), “Jewish Civil Rights Leader Says Actor Mel Gibson Espouses Anti-Semitic Views,” [On-line], URL: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2003/09/19/ national1505EDT0626.DTL.
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
How old is the Earth? No one knows the exact number of times this globe has orbited the Sun. However, using biblical chronology a person can calculate the age of the Earth to be in the neighborhood of 6,000 years old.
“But the Earth looks millions of years old,” some people will protest. There are at least two responses to such a statement. First, one might ask: “Compared to what; what does a young Earth look like?” We do not have another Earth that we know is younger than this one, so how would we know what a young Earth looks like. Second, it should not surprise us if science occasionally calculates older dates for the Earth, due to a concept known as the “doctrine of apparent age.”
This idea suggests that the things God made during the Creation week were formed complete and fully functional. For instance, how old were Adam and Eve two seconds after God created them? They were two seconds old! Yet they walked, talked, and looked like adult human beings, and even had the ability to reproduce (which was one of the commands God gave them—Genesis 1:28). If a tree were cut down in the Garden of Eden one day after the Creation week, how many rings would it have had? Possibly hundreds, yet it would have been only five days old (trees and other plants, remember, were created on day three of the Creation week). So, the real age of the tree and the apparent age of the tree would have been quite different. Just because this Earth may appear older than 6,000 years, that does not mean it is older than that.
Some people have suggested that if God made the Earth appear older than it actually is, then He has deceived us because things aren’t really as old as they look. This criticism can not be true since God told us what He did! He did not leave us in the dark or try to “trick us” or “test our faith” by hiding from us important information that we would need. Rather, He was very straightforward and honest with us. Considering the material found in the first eleven chapters of Genesis (and elsewhere through the Bible), no one can justifiably accuse God of deception. If we ignore His Word regarding what He said He did, is it God’s fault? Hardly!