"THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PETER" Chapter Five OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To examine the duties of elders, in their role as shepherds (pastors) and overseers (bishops) 2) To note the importance of submission and humility in our relation to elders, one another, and God 3) To consider how we might best counter our adversary, the devil 4) To glean how Peter sought to encourage his brethren in their suffering SUMMARY The final chapter contains charges to elders and their respective flocks. As a fellow elder, Peter commands elders to shepherd the flock of God among them, serving as overseers. Doing so willingly and eagerly, they were to serve as examples to the flock. The younger members of the flock are then commanded to submit to their elders and to one another, with humility (1-5). They were to also humble themselves under the mighty hand of God and cast their cares upon Him, trusting that He would exalt them in due time because He cares for them. Since their adversary the devil walks about like a lion seeking to devour them, they are to be sober and vigilant, resisting him steadfast in the faith. They can take courage in knowing that other brethren are likewise suffering (6-9). The epistle draws to a close, first with a prayer that God will eventually perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle them. Mention is made of Silvanus, and Peter's purpose in writing. Greetings are sent by "she who is in Babylon" and "Mark, my son". Finally, a command to greet one another with a kiss of love is given, along with a prayer for peace to all who are in Christ Jesus (10-14). OUTLINE I. THE DUTIES OF SHEPHERDS AND THE FLOCK (1-5) A. THE ELDERS' DUTIES AS SHEPHERDS (1-4) 1. As exhorted by a fellow elder a. A witness of the sufferings of Christ b. A partaker of the glory that will be revealed 2. To shepherd the flock of God among them a. Serving as overseers 1) Not be compulsion but willingly 2) Not for dishonest gain but eagerly 3) Not as lords but as examples b. So when the Chief Shepherd appears, they will receive the unfading crown of glory B. THE YOUNGERS' DUTIES AS THE FLOCK (5) 1. Submit yourselves a. To your elders b. To one another 3. Clothe yourselves with humility a. For God resists the proud b. For God gives grace to the humble II. THE DUTIES TO GOD AND SATAN (6-9) A. DUTIES REGARDING GOD (6-7) 1. Humble yourselves under His mighty hand, that He may exalt you in due time 2. Cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you B. DUTIES REGARDING SATAN (8-9) 1. Be sober and vigilant of your adversary a. The devil walks about like a roaring lion b. The devil seeks whom he may devour 2. Resist your adversary a. Remaining steadfast in the faith b. Knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by brethren in the world III. CONCLUDING REMARKS (10-14) A. CLOSING PRAYER (10-11) 1. May the God of all grace perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you a. Who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus b. After you have suffered a while 2. To Him be the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen B. CLOSING GREETINGS (12-14) 1. Peter has written to them briefly a. By Silvanus, a faithful brother b. Exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God in which they stand 2. Greetings from: a. She who is in Babylon, elect together with you b. Mark, his son 3. Greet one another with a kiss of love 4. Peace to you all who are in Christ Jesus. Amen REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - The duties of shepherds and the flock (1-5) - The duties to God and Satan (6-9) - Concluding remarks (10-14) 2) How does Peter identify himself as he exhorts the elders? (1) - As a fellow elder - As a witness of the sufferings of Christ - As a partaker of the glory that will be revealed 3) What is the duty of the elders? (2) - To shepherd the flock of God among them 4) How were they to serve as elders? (3-4) - As overseers - Not by compulsion, but willingly - Not for dishonest gain, but eagerly - Not as lords, but as examples to the flock 5) What reward can elders look forward to when the Chief Shepherd appears? (5) - The crown of glory that does not fade away 6) What twofold duty is enjoined upon those who are younger? (5) - To submit to the elders and to one another - To be clothed with humility 7) What were they commanded to do in relation to God? (6-7) - Humble themselves under the mighty hand of God - Cast all their care upon Him 8) Why were they to do this? (6-7) - That God might exalt them in due time - Because He cares for them 9) Who is their adversary? What is he doing? (8) - The devil; walking about like a lion, seeking whom he may devour 10) What should they do in regards to their adversary? (8-9) - Be sober, be vigilant - Resist him, steadfast in the faith 11) What should encourage them in their suffering? (9-10) - Knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by their brethren in the world - That after they have suffered a while, God will perfect, establish, strengthen and settle them 12) By whom has Peter penned this epistle? (12) - Silvanus, a faithful brother 13) What has been Peter's purpose in writing this epistle? (12) - To exhort and testify that this is the true grace of God in which they stand 14) Who sends them greetings? (13) - She who is in Babylon, elect together with them - Mark, his son 15) What final charge does Peter give? What final prayer? (14) - Greet one another with a kiss of love - Peace to all who are in Christ Jesus
"THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PETER" Chapter Four OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To notice the attitudes one should have in suffering for righteousness' sake 2) To review how we should serve God as we live in the "end times" SUMMARY The theme of suffering for righteousness' sake continues. Just as Christ was willing to suffer for us in the flesh, we should have the same attitude and strive to live for the will of God instead of the lusts of men. When we give up sins like lewdness, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, etc., those in the world make think it strange. Yet they themselves will give an account to Him who will judge both the living and the dead by the gospel preached to those who are dead (1-6). Living in the end times, Peter admonishes Christians to be serious and watchful in their prayers, fervent in their love for one another, and hospitable to one another without grumbling. They are to make use of their gifts as good stewards of God's manifold grace, whether it be in speaking or serving, using such abilities to glorify God through Christ who has all authority and power (7-11). Suffering for Christ should not be considered a strange thing, but an occasion to rejoice. Those who partake of Christ's sufferings will be exceedingly glad when His glory is revealed. In the meantime, they are blessed because the Spirit of God rests upon those who glorify Christ by their suffering. While they should not suffer for doing evil, there is nothing shameful about suffering for Christ. As God's judgment draws near, those who do not obey the gospel have no hope, whereas those who suffer according to God's will can commit their souls in doing good to Him who is a faithful Creator (12-19). OUTLINE I. OUR DUTIES AS SUFFERERS FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS' SAKE (1-6) A. TO HAVE THE MIND OF CHRIST (1-3) 1. Who suffered for us in the flesh a. Therefore we should arm ourselves with the same mind b. For he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin c. That he should no longer live in the flesh 1) For the lusts of men 2) But for will of God 2. No longer doing the will of the Gentiles a. Which we have done enough in our past b. Walking in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries B. NOT DAUNTED BY THE OPPOSITION (4-6) 1. They may think us strange a. That you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation b. Speaking evil of you 2. They will give an account a. To Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead b. For which reason the gospel was preached to those who are dead 1) That they might be judged according to men in the flesh 2) But live according to God in the spirit II. OUR DUTIES AS THOSE WAITING THE COMING OF CHRIST (7-19) A. TO PRAY, LOVE, AND SERVE (7-11) 1. Because the end of all things is at hand... a. Be serious and watchful in your prayers b. Above all things, have fervent love for one another, which covers a multitude of sins c. Be hospitable to one another without grumbling d. Minister your gifts to one another as good stewards of God's manifold grace 1) Those who speak should do so as the oracles of God 2) Those who serve should do so with the ability God provides 3) That in all things God may be glorified through Jesus, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever B. TO REJOICE AND GLORIFY GOD (12-16) 1. Rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings a. Don't think the fiery trial to come as some strange thing b. When His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy c. You are blessed if reproached for the name of Christ 1) For the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you 2) On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified 2. Glorify God through such suffering a. Do not suffer as a murderer, thief, evildoer, or busybody b. Do not be ashamed for suffering as a Christian C. TO TRUST IN THE WILL OF GOD (17-19) 1. The time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God a. If it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? b. If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and sinner appear? 2. Let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him a. In doing good b. As to a faithful Creator REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - Our duties as sufferers for righteousness' sake (1-6) - Our duties as those waiting for coming of Christ (7-19) 2) What two reasons are given for us to have the "mind of Christ" regarding suffering? (1) - Christ suffered for us in the flesh - He who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin 3) How should one live in whatever time they have left in the flesh? (2) - For the will of God, not the lusts of the flesh 4) What sins are mentioned as being "the will of the Gentiles"? (3) - Lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, abominable idolatries 5) How do people in the world react when you no longer do such things? (4) - They think it strange - They speak evil of you 6) To whom shall they have to answer? (5) - He who is ready to judge the living and the dead 7) Why was the gospel preached to those who are dead? (6) - That they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit 8) In view of the end of all things being at hand, how should we live? (7-10) - Serious and watchful in our prayers - With fervent love for one another - Hospitable to one another without grumbling - Ministering our gifts to one another, as good stewards of God's manifold grace 9) How should one speak? How should one serve? Why? (11) - As the oracles of God - With the ability God supplies - That in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ 10) What should be our reactions to any fiery trial that may come our way? (12-13) - Don't think it strange - Rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's suffering 11) What do those who suffer for Christ have to look forward to? (13) - Exceeding joy when Christ's glory is revealed 12) Why is one who suffers for Christ blessed? (14) - The Spirit of God rests upon them - On their part Christ is glorified 13) For what reasons should a Christian not suffer? (15) - As a murderer, thief, evildoer, busybody in other people's matters 14) How should one react if they suffer as a Christian? (16) - Do not be ashamed; glorify God in this matter 15) Upon whom does the judgment of God begin? Who will face the greater judgment? (17) - The house of God - Those who obey not the gospel of Christ 16) Who will be "scarcely saved"? (18) - The righteous 17) What should those who suffer according to the will of God do? (19) - Commit their souls to God in doing good - Commit their souls to God as to a faithful Creator
"THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PETER" Chapter Three OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To examine the duties of wives and husbands to each other 2) To consider the duties that we have to one another as brethren in Christ 3) To see how one should prepare for persecution, motivated by the example of Christ 4) To note how and in what way baptism now saves us SUMMARY Peter continues to describe the duties of Christians living as sojourners and pilgrims in this world. He counsels wives to be submissive to their husbands and to focus their adornment on the development of a meek and quiet spirit, like the holy women in the past who trusted in God (such as Sarah). For those whose husbands are not believers, their chaste and respectful conduct may influence them to respond to the gospel. Husbands are then instructed to live with their wives in an understanding way, honoring them as the weaker vessel and as fellow heirs of the grace of life. Such treatment would ensure that their prayers were not hindered (1-7). Duties toward brethren are then summarized, stressing unity, compassion, love, kindness, and simple courtesy. When mistreated by brethren, the proper response is to extend a blessing, for to such conduct we were called, that we might inherit a blessing. As motivation for such conduct, Peter quotes Psalms 34:12-16 which offers advice to loving life and seeing good days. The key is to turn from evil and do good, to seek peace and pursue it. Those who do so have the assurance that the Lord watches over them and hears their prayers (8-12). Peter then turns to the theme of suffering for righteousness' sake. In most circumstances, no one will harm you for doing good. If one suffers for doing good, they are blessed (cf. 2:19-20; 4:14). To prepare for persecution, one should sanctify the Lord God in their heart and be ready to meekly provide the reason for their hope. With clear conscience and good conduct, those who defame and revile them will likely be ashamed. If it is God's will that they suffer, let it be for doing good and not evil (13-17). To appreciate how suffering for righteousness' sake can be for good, Peter relates how Jesus suffered for our sins. Though put to death in the flesh, Jesus was made alive by the Spirit (cf. Ro 1:4), in which He preached to spirits in prison who were disobedient in the days of Noah, and ultimately exalted at the right hand of God with angels, authorities and powers made subject to Him. Alluding to the example of Noah's salvation, Peter says baptism now saves us as an appeal for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (18-22). OUTLINE I. OUR DUTIES AS WIVES AND HUSBANDS (1-7) A. THE DUTIES OF WIVES (1-6) 1. Be submissive to your husbands a. That you might win those who are not believers b. As they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear 2. Adorn yourselves properly a. Not merely outward - arranging the hair, wearing gold, putting on of fine apparel b. With the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, precious in God's sight c. As holy women in the past who trusted God 1) Adorned themselves 2) Submitted to their husbands d. As Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord 1) Whose daughters you are 2) If you do good, not afraid with any terror B. THE DUTIES OF HUSBANDS (7) 1. Dwell with your wives with understanding 2. Give honor to your wives a. As to the weaker vessel b. As being heirs together of the grace of life c. So your prayers may not be hindered II. OUR DUTIES AS BRETHREN (8-12) A. OUR DUTIES TO EACH OTHER (8-9) 1. Be of one mind 2. Have compassion for one another 3. Love one another as brethren 4. Tenderhearted, courteous 5. Not returning evil for evil, or reviling for reviling a. On the contrary, respond with a blessing b. Knowing that you were called to this, that you might inherit a blessing B. MOTIVATION TO FULFILL SUCH DUTIES (10-12) 1. If you would love life and see good days a. Refrain your tongue from evil and lips from speaking deceit b. Turn from evil and do good c. Seek peace and pursue it 2. If you would desire the Lord's favor a. For His eyes are on the righteous b. For His ears are open to their prayers c. But His face is against those who do evil III. OUR DUTIES AS SUFFERERS FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS' SAKE (13-22) A. THINGS TO REMEMBER (13-17) 1. Who will harm you if you do what is good? a. Even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you are blessed b. So don't be afraid of threats, nor be troubled 2. Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts 3. Always be ready to give a defense a. To everyone who asks b. For a reason for the hope that is in your c. With meekness and fear 4. Maintain a good conscience a. That when others may defame you as evildoers b. Those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed 5. It is better, if it is the will of God... a. To suffer for doing good b. Than to suffer for doing evil B. REASONS TO REMEMBER (18-22) 1. Christ also suffered once for sins a. The just for the unjust b. That He might bring us to God 2. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive by the Spirit a. By whom He went and preached to the spirits in prison who were formerly disobedient 1) During the longsuffering of God 2) In the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared a) In which eight souls were saved through water b) Which was a type of baptism which now saves us 1] Not the removal of the filth of the flesh 2] But the answer of a good conscience toward God 3] Through the resurrection of Christ b. Who has gone in to heaven 1) And is at the right hand of God 2) Where angels, authorities, and powers have been made subject to Him REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - Our duties as wives and husbands (1-7) - Our duties as brethren (8-12) - Our duties as sufferers for righteousness' sake (13-22) 2) What are wives told to be in regards to their husbands? Why? (1) - Submissive; to convert those husbands who are not yet Christians 3) What does Peter hope the unbelieving husbands will observe in their wives? (2) - Their chaste conduct accompanied by fear 4) What should not be the focus of their adornment? (3) - That which is outward: arranging the hair, wearing gold, their apparel 5) What should be the focus of their adornment (4) - The hidden person of the heart: the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit 6) What other women so adorned themselves and were submissive to their husbands? (5-6) - Holy women of God in the past who trusted in God; specifically, Sarah 7) How are husbands to treat their wives? (7) - With understanding and honor - As to the weaker vessel - As heirs together of the grace of life 8) Why should husbands treat their wives so kindly? (7) - That their prayers not be hindered 9) What duties do we as brethren have to one another? (8) - To be of one mind - To have compassion for one another and love as brethren - To be tenderhearted, courteous 10) How are we to respond when mistreated by brethren? Why? (9) - With blessing; we were called to so respond, that we may inherit a blessing 11) What proscription is offered for those who would love life and see good days? (10-11) - Refrain the tongue from evil, the lips from speaking deceit - Turn away from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it 12) What is said of the righteous? Of those who do evil? (12) - The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers - The face of the Lord is against those who do evil 13) What is the general principle regarding persecution? (13) - If you do good, you will not be harmed 14) What is said of those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake? (14) - They are blessed 15) How should one prepare themselves for possible persecution? (15-16) - Sanctify the Lord God in your heart - Be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for your hope - Have a good conscience 16) If we maintain good conduct, what will happen to those who defame and revile us? (16) - They will be ashamed 17) If we suffer according to God's will, what is better? (17) - To suffer for doing good than for doing evil 18) Who also suffered for righteousness' sake? For what reason? (18) - Christ, the just for the unjust - For sins, that He might bring us to God 19) Though put to death in the flesh, what was He able to do by the Spirit? (18-19) - Preach to the spirits in prison 20) When were such "spirits" disobedient? (20) - In the days of Noah, during the longsuffering of God - While the ark was preparing 21) Of what is the salvation of eight souls through water a "type"? (21) - Baptism which now saves us 22) How does baptism not save us? How does it save us? (21) - Not by the removal of the filth of the flesh - As the answer (or plea) of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus 23) What was the final outcome of Jesus who suffered for righteousness' sake? (22) - He has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God - Angels, authorities, and powers have been made subject to Him
"THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PETER" Chapter Two OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To note what is necessary in order to grow spiritually 2) To reflect upon our privilege and duties as God's special people, living as sojourners and pilgrims in a world not our home 3) To review our duty to submit to governmental authorities, and to make application of the instructions to slaves in our lives as employees SUMMARY Having described how they were born again by the incorruptible Word of God, Peter admonishes his readers to put aside sinful attitudes and to grow spiritually with an infant-like longing for the Word (1-3). He then depicts Jesus as a living stone, and Christians as living stones. The latter are being built up as a spiritual house and holy priesthood in order to offer spiritual sacrifices through Christ. As foretold in the Scriptures, Jesus is the chief cornerstone that is precious to those who believe, while a stone of stumbling to those who are disobedient. Christians are called on to proclaim the praises of God as they are now a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people who have now obtained mercy (4-10). As the people of God, Christians are sojourners and pilgrims in this world. Their duties as such involve abstaining from fleshly lusts, and keeping their conduct honorable among the Gentiles (nations) through good works designed to glorify God. They are to honor and submit to governmental authorities, and honor all people while loving the brethren and fearing God (11-17). Christian slaves are told to submit to their masters, even when they are harsh and cause them to suffer grief wrongly. Peter reveals that such submission is commendable before God and follows the example of Jesus whose own suffering delivered us from sin (18-25). OUTLINE I. A CALL TO SPIRITUAL GROWTH (1-3) A. WHAT TO LAY ASIDE (1) 1. All malice, all deceit 2. Hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking B. WHAT TO DESIRE (2-3) 1. The pure milk of the word a. As newborn babes b. That you may grow thereby 2. If indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious II. OUR PRIVILEGE IN CHRIST (4-10) A. AS LIVING STONES (4-8) 1. Coming to Christ as to a living stone a. Who was rejected by men b. Who is chosen by God and precious 2. We as living stones are being built up as a spiritual house a. To be a holy priesthood b. To offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ 3. Christ is the precious cornerstone a. As foretold in Isaiah 28:16 1) God would lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious 2) He who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame 3) Precious to those who believe b. As foretold in Psalms 118:22 and Isaiah 8:14 1) A stone rejected by the builders, which has become the chief cornerstone 2) A stone of stumbling and rock of offense to those who are disobedient 3) To which they were appointed B. AS PEOPLE OF GOD (9-10) 1. They are now: a. A chosen generation b. A royal priesthood c. A holy nation d. His own special people 2. They are now: a. To proclaim the praises of God, who called them: 1) Out of darkness 2) Into His marvelous light b. The people of God, who once were not the people of God 1) Who had not obtained mercy 2) But now have obtained mercy III. OUR DUTIES IN CHRIST (11-25) A. AS SOJOURNERS (11-12) 1. To abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul 2. To have conduct honorable among the Gentiles a. That when they speak against you as evildoers b. They may glorify God in the day of visitation c. Because of your good works they observe B. AS CITIZENS (13-17) 1. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake a. To the king as supreme b. To governors as those sent by the king 1) For the punishment of evildoers 2) For the praise of those who do good 2. For this is the will of God, as bondservants of God a. That by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men b. As free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice 3. Therefore: a. Honor all b. Love the brotherhood c. Fear God d. Honor the king C. AS SERVANTS (18-25) 1. Submissive to your masters with all fear a. Not only to the good and gentle b. But also to the harsh 2. For this is commendable before God a. If because of conscience before God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully b. What credit is there when beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? c. If when you do good and suffer, yet take it patiently, that is commendable 3. For we were called to Follow in the steps of Jesus our example a. Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth (Isaiah 53:9) 1) When He was reviled, did not revile in return 2) When He suffered, He did not threaten 3) He committed Himself to Him who judges righteously b. Who bore our sins in His own body on the tree 1) That we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness 2) By whose stripes you were healed 3) You were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - A call to spiritual growth (1-3) - Our privilege in Christ (4-10) - Our duties in Christ (11-25) 2) What must we lay aside to grow spiritually? (1) - All malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking 3) How should we long for the Word if we want to grow spiritually? (2) - As newborn babes desire milk 4) What should motivate us to desire the Word with such longing? (3) - If we have already tasted that the Lord is gracious 5) What kind of stone is used to describe Jesus? (4) - A living stone - Rejected by men, but chosen by God and precious 6) What two metaphors are used to describe Christians? (5) - Living stones, being built up as a spiritual house - A holy priesthood, offering up spiritual sacrifices to God through Christ 7) What prophecy foretells the laying of a chief cornerstone in Zion? (6) - Isaiah 28:16 8) What is Jesus to those who believe in Him? To those who do not believe? (6-8) - The chief cornerstone, elect, precious - A stone of stumbling, a rock of offense 9) What is the appointed end of those who do not believe and are disobedient? (8) - They stumble 10) How are Christians described by Peter? What is their duty? Why? (9-10) - A chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people - To proclaim the praises of Him who called them out of darkness into His marvelous light - They are now the people of God who have obtained mercy 11) What is our duty as sojourners and pilgrims in this world? Why? (11-12) - Abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul - Conduct ourselves honorably among the Gentiles - That they might glorify God in the day of visitation because of our good works 12) What is our duty toward the governments of men? Why? (13-15) - Submit to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake - That by doing good we might silence the ignorance of foolish men 13) How are we use our freedom in Christ? (16) - Not as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God 14) What four admonitions summarize our duties to others? (17) - Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king 15) What is the duty of servants to their masters? (18) - Be submissive with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh 16) What is commendable before God? (19-20) - To endure grief, suffering wrongfully though doing good, because of conscience toward God 17) To what have we been called? (21) - To follow in the steps of Christ, who suffered for us and left us an example 18) How did Jesus suffer wrongly and bear it patiently? (22-23) - He committed no sin nor was deceit found in his mouth - When reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten - He committed Himself to God who judges righteously 20) What good did Jesus accomplish by suffering such abuse? (24-25) - He bore our sins in His own body on the tree - Making it possible for us to die to sin and live for righteousness (by His strips we were healed) - Like sheep gone astray, we have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls
"THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PETER" Chapter One OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To consider terms used by Peter to describe the people of God: "Pilgrims of the Dispersion", "elect", "obedient children" 2) To reflect upon the salvation, inheritance, and grace to come at the revelation of Jesus Christ 3) To note how we have been served by prophets, apostles, angels, the Holy Spirit, and Christ 4) To be reminded of the need to live holy lives, conducted with reverence toward God and with fervent and sincere love toward brethren SUMMARY Peter begins his first epistle to Christians in Asia Minor by acknowledging their election according to God's foreknowledge, made possible by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, and for obedience and sprinkling by the blood of Jesus (1-2). He then praises God for their living hope, incorruptible inheritance, and glorious salvation to be revealed at the coming of Christ. Despite grievous trials, the power of God and their genuine faith protects them and gives them inexpressible joy. Their salvation to come was foretold by the prophets, and preached in the gospel by those inspired by the Holy Spirit (3-12). In view of this salvation, Peter prescribes conduct becoming the people of God. They are to focus their mind and hope on the grace that will brought to them at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, they should conduct themselves in holiness and fear, imitating their holy Father who judges without partiality, ever mindful they have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ through whom their faith and hope are in God. They are to love one another fervently with pure hearts, since they have purified their souls for that very purpose through their obedience to the truth, and have been born again by the incorruptible Word of God which lives and abides forever (13-25). OUTLINE I. INTRODUCTION (1-2) A. THE AUTHOR (1a) 1. Peter 2. An apostle of Jesus Christ B. THE RECIPIENTS (1b-2b) 1. Pilgrims of the Dispersion 2. In Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia 3. Elect (chosen)... a. According to the foreknowledge of God the Father b. In sanctification of the Spirit c. For obedience and sprinkling of blood of Jesus Christ C. GREETINGS (2c) 1. Grace and peace 2. Be multiplied II. OUR SALVATION IN CHRIST (3-12) A. BORN AGAIN TO A LIVING HOPE (3-5) 1. Because of God's abundant mercy 2. Because Jesus has been raised from the dead 3. Because of our wonderful inheritance a. Incorruptible, undefiled, and that does not fade away b. Reserved in heaven 4. Because of being safely kept a. By the power of God through faith b. For salvation ready to be revealed in the last time B. PRODUCING JOY IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING (6-9) 1. Great joy, though for a little while grieved by various trials 2. The genuineness of faith tested by fire a. Proving more precious than gold that perishes b. May be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ 3. Rejoicing with joy inexpressible and full of glory a. For loving Him whom you have not seen b. For believing Him whom you have not seen 4. Receiving the end of such faith - the salvation of your souls C. SERVED BY PROPHETS AND APOSTLES (10-12) 1. Regarding our salvation the prophets inquired and searched diligently a. Wondering what and when the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating b. When He testified beforehand of the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow 2. They were ministering such things not to themselves, but to us a. Things now reported by those who preached the gospel by the Holy Spirit b. Things which angels desire to look into III. OUR DUTY IN CHRIST (13-25) A. HOLY CONDUCT (13-21) 1. Gird up the loins of your mind a. Be sober b. Rest your hope fully upon the grace to be brought at the revelation of Jesus Christ 2. Be holy in all your conduct a. As obedient children b. Not conforming to former lusts done in ignorance c. As He who called you is holy, just as it is written 3. Conduct yourselves during your stay in fear a. Since you call on the Father who judges each one without partiality b. Knowing that you redeemed 1) Not with corruptible things like silver and gold 2) From your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers 3) With the precious blood of Christ a) As of a lamb without blemish and without spot b) Foreordained before the foundation of the world c) Manifest in these last times for you d) Through whom you believe in God 1] Who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory 2] So that your faith and hope are in God B. FERVENT AND PURE LOVE (22-25) 1. Since you have purified your souls a. In obeying the truth through the Spirit b. In sincere love of the brethren 2. Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible a. Through the word of God which lives and abide forever 1) All flesh is as grass, all the glory of man as the flower of the grass 2) The grass withers, its flower falls away 3) The word of the Lord endures forever b. The word which by the gospel was preached to you REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - Introduction (1-2) - Our salvation in Christ (3-12) - Our duty in Christ (13-25) 2) To whom does Peter address this epistle? Where were they located? (1) - To the pilgrims of the Dispersion; Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, Bithynia 3) What three things are said concerning their election? (2) - According to the foreknowledge of God - In sanctification of the Spirit - For obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ 4) What has God done for us according to His abundant mercy? How was this done? (3) - Begotten us against to a living hope - Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead 5) What kind of inheritance does the Christian have? Where is it now? (4) - Incorruptible, undefiled, and that does not fade away; reserved in heaven 6) How are Christians kept (guarded) for their salvation? (5) - By the power of God - Through faith 7) In what do Christians greatly rejoice? (5-6) - Their salvation ready to be revealed in the last time 8) What benefits can come out of enduring grievous trials? (6-7) - The testing of genuine faith - Praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ 9) Though they had not seen Jesus, what is said about Peter's readers? (8) - They loved Jesus - They believed Jesus - They rejoiced with joy inexpressible and full of glory 10) What would they receive as the end of their faith? (9) - The salvation of their souls 11) What did the prophets of old testify about? (10-11) - Of the salvation and grace that would come - Of the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow 12) When these prophets wondered about they were prophesying, what were they told? (12) - They were not serving themselves, but us (Christians) - They were ministering things that have now been reported by those who preached the gospel 13) Upon what are Christians to rest their hope? (13) - The grace to be brought at the revelation of Jesus Christ 14) As obedient children, what three admonitions are given to Christians? ( 14-17) - Do not conform to the former lusts - Be holy in all your conduct - Conduct yourselves during your sojourn in fear 15) What three reasons are given to obey these admonitions (14-19) - God is holy - The Father judges each one's work without partiality - We were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ 16) What four things are said about Christ? (20-21) - He was foreordained before the foundation of the world - He was manifest in these last times for us - He was raised from the dead and given glory - Through Him we believe and have hope in God 17) What did God do to Jesus so that our faith and hope are in God? (21) - Raised Him from the dead (resurrection) and gave Him glory (ascension) 18) What two reasons are given for us to love one another fervently with a pure heart? (22-23) - We have purified our souls in obeying the truth - We have been born again of the Word of God 19) What is said of the Word of God? (23-25) - Incorruptible seed - Lives and abides forever - Endures forever - By the gospel was preached to them 20) What is said about flesh and the glory of man? (24) - Flesh is as grass which withers; the glory of man as the flower which falls away
"THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PETER" Introduction AUTHOR The apostle Peter, as stated in the salutation (1:1). Internal evidence supports Peter as the author, for it was written by one who was "a witness of the sufferings of Christ" (5:1). Early sources in church history that attribute this letter to Peter include Irenaeus (185 A.D.), Clement of Alexandria (200 A.D.), Tertullian (200 A.D.), and Eusebius (300 A.D.). Peter was assisted by Silvanus, also known as Silas (5:12), a well-known prophet and missionary in the early church (cf. Ac 15: 32-34,40; 16:19-25; 17:14) who also joined with Paul in writing some of his epistles (cf. 1Th 1:1; 2Th 1:1). RECIPIENTS Peter refers to the recipients of his letter as "pilgrims of the Dispersion" (1:1). The term "Dispersion" is found in Jn 7:35 and was used to describe Israelites who had been "scattered" following the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities (ca. 700-500 B.C.). This leads many to suppose that the epistle was written to Jewish Christians, as was the case of James' epistle (cf. Jm 1:1). However, there is indication some of his readers were Gentile converts who had come to believe in God through Jesus (cf. 1:21), and that Peter applies the term "dispersion" to Christians in general, just as he applied other designations to the church that were formerly applied to the nation of Israel (cf. 2:9-10). Peter's initial audience were Christian "pilgrims" (cf. 2:11) who were living in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, provinces in what is now Turkey. Paul had traveled extensively in some of these areas (Bithynia a notable exception, cf. Ac 16:7), so the gospel had been given much opportunity to spread throughout the region. TIME AND PLACE OF WRITING It is generally accepted that Peter died during the reign of Nero. Since Nero committed suicide in 68 A.D., the epistle must be dated before then. A common view is the epistle was written on the eve of the Neronian persecution (perhaps alluded to in 4:12-19), placing its composition around 63-64 A.D. Peter indicates he wrote from "Babylon" (5:13). It is questionable whether he refers to literal Babylon, or is using the name as a code word for Rome or perhaps even Jerusalem. Barnes, Lightfoot, and JFB (Jaimeson, Faussett, Brown) argue that literal Babylon is meant. Others (such as Kistemaker) point out that Mark (cf. 5:13) had been in Rome with Paul during his first (Col 4:10) and second (2Ti 4:11) imprisonment, and that Peter is linked to Rome by such writers as Papias (125 A.D.) and Irenaeus (185 A.D.). While possibly Rome (or even Jerusalem), I am content to say the epistle was written from Babylon (letting others debate whether it was literal Babylon or not). PURPOSE OF THE EPISTLE It is apparent from the epistle that Christians in Asia Minor had experienced persecution (1:6), and more suffering was on the way (4:12-19). Throughout the epistle Peter encourages them to remain steadfast (1:13; 4:16; 5:8,9). He reminds them of their blessings and duties that are incumbent upon them as God's "elect" (1:2), "His own special people" (2:9). Therefore, Peter writes: * To encourage steadfastness in the face of persecution (5:10) * To remind them of their special privilege as God's "holy nation" (2:9) * To instruct them as to their proper conduct (2:11-12) THEME OF THE EPISTLE The epistle is filled with practical admonitions concerning their conduct, especially as sojourners in a hostile land. They are told how to behave in the midst of those who speak evil of them, who abuse them, who do not believe their message, simply because they are Christians. An appropriate theme for this epistle might therefore be: "CONDUCT BECOMING THE PEOPLE OF GOD" KEY VERSES: 1 Peter 2:11-12 "Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation." OUTLINE INTRODUCTION (1:1-2) 1. From Peter, an apostle of Christ (1:1a) 2. To pilgrims of the Dispersion, God's elect (1:1b-2) I. OUR SALVATION IN CHRIST (1:3-12) A. BORN AGAIN TO A LIVING HOPE (1:3-5) B. PRODUCING JOY IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING (1:6-9) C. SERVED BY PROPHETS AND APOSTLES (1:10-12) II. OUR DUTIES IN CHRIST (1:13-5:11) A. IN VIEW OF OUR PRIVILEGES (1:13-2:10) 1. A call to holiness (1:13-21) 2. A call to brotherly love (1:22-25) 3. A call to spiritual growth (2:1-10) B. IN VIEW OF OUR POSITION (2:11-4:11) 1. As sojourners (2:11-12) 2. As citizens (2:13-17) 3. As servants (2:18-25) 4. As wives and husbands (3:1-7) 5. As brethren (3:8-12) 6. As sufferers for righteousness' sake (3:13-4:6) 7. As those awaiting the coming of Christ (4:7-11) C. IN VIEW OF OUR PERSECUTION (4:12-5:11) 1. To rejoice and glorify God (4:12-17) 2. To trust in the will of God (4:18-19) 3. To fulfill our special roles (5:1-5) a. The elders' duties as shepherds b. The youngers' duties as the flock 4. To humble ourselves before God (5:6-7) 5. To resist the devil (5:8-9) CONCLUSION (5:10-14) 1. A prayer for God's blessing (5:10-11) 2. Final greetings and bestowal of peace (5:12-14) REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE INTRODUCTION 1) To whom was this first epistle of Peter written? (1:1) - To pilgrims of the Dispersion - Living in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia 2) What internal evidence suggests these "pilgrims" may have included Gentile Christians? (1:21) - They had come to believe in God through Jesus 3) What country today makes up the region where these Christians lived? - Turkey 4) Who assisted Peter in this epistle? What other name is this person called? (5:12) - Silvanus; Silas 5) When was this epistle possibly written? - 63-64 A.D. 6) Where was Peter when he wrote this epistle? (5:13) - Babylon 7) What other places might this city symbolize? - Rome, or possibly Jerusalem 8) What threefold purpose did Peter have in writing this epistle? - To encourage steadfastness in the face of persecution (5:10) - To remind them of their special privilege as God's "holy nation" (2:9) - To instruct them as to their proper conduct (2:11-12) 9) What is suggested as the theme of this epistle? - Conduct becoming the people of God 10) What is suggested as the key verses in this epistle? - 1Pe 2:11-12 11) According to the outline offered above, what are two main divisions of this epistle? - Our salvation in Christ - Our duties in Christ
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Scientists all over the world are constantly looking for better materials with which to build things. Companies need stronger metals, more flexible nylon, and tougher fabrics. This intense demand for better “building blocks” often makes it difficult for scientists to originate new ideas fast enough to keep pace. One approach that has greatly enhanced scientists’ ability to supply fresh, practical ideas has been to turn to nature and copy the structures found there. Copying design in nature has become so prevalent that the scientific community has named the field of study “biomimicry.” From the research done in this field, it has become obvious that nature’s Designer is possessed of far more creative ability than anything humanity has been able to produce.
Specific examples of excellent design in nature abound. In an article for Technology Review,Katherine Bourzac recently detailed one such example. In her article, titled “Ceramics That Won’t Shatter,” she mentioned the challenge that materials scientists face when working with ceramics. Ceramics can be an excellent construction material since they are hard and lightweight. One major drawback of using ceramics, however, is the fact that they fracture and break, much like a flower pot or dinner plate. Bourzac summarized this difficulty by saying that scientists are trying to find ceramics “that combine strength (a measure of resistance to deformation) withtoughness (a measure of resistance to fracture)” (2008). Interestingly, researchers have discovered exactly what they are looking for in “the porous but resilient material called nacre that lines abalone shells.”
Bourzac explained the marvelous design of nacre, also known as mother-of-pearl. It is a combination of calcium carbonate, which breaks very easily, and special natural glue. Combined, these two substances are “3,000 times tougher than either constituent.” The efficiency of this composite material is amazing. Robert Ritchie, a scientist from the University of California who co-led the research and development of the new biomimetic ceramic, said: “When nature makes composites, the properties are better” (as quoted in Bourzac). The list of possible applications for the new ceramic is virtually endless. The new material could be used to make lightweight automobile frames, airplane hulls, bulletproof vests, and military vehicle armor.
Ritchie and his team are still working to perfect the new ceramic that is based on the natural mother-of-pearl structure. He noted that in nature, the ceramic has structures that are “smaller and closer together,” qualities that the team hopes to mimic in newer versions of their ceramic. The researchers are optimistically hopeful that they can come even closer to designing a ceramic that can be mass-produced, and that combines the strength and toughness of the natural material.
While the discovery of a new, efficient ceramic is interesting, it pales to insignificance in light of the necessary implication that should be drawn from such a discovery. If brilliant scientists have only recently discovered this technological wonder of the natural world, and they cannot mimic the structure as effectively as nature constructs it, then it must be admitted by the honest observer that nature’s Designer possesses superior mental abilities to those of the scientists. And yet, as clear and straightforward as this implication is, millions of people will utilize technology based on God’s original designs, but claim that random, chance processes of evolution should be given the credit.
In the Old Testament book of Job, the Bible records one of the most interesting verbal exchanges in all of human history (chapters 38-42). Job wanted an answer from God about why he was suffering. God spoke to Job with a series of questions that Job could not possibly answer. God asked where was Job when God hung the foundation of the world on nothing (38:4)? Could Job command the morning to occur or cause the dawn to break (38:12)? Could Job count the clouds (38:37) or cause the hawk to fly (39:26)? After God’s intense questioning, Job realized that he could not begin to answer God’s questions, much less possess the power to accomplish the things that are necessary for the Universe to continue to exist. Job responded to God by saying: “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.... Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me which I did not know” (42:2-3, emp. added). We in the 21st century would do well to learn from Job’s wise response. The fact that we are just now scratching the surface of the technology found in a “simple” abalone shell should force us to humble ourselves and worship nature’s divine Designer.
Bourzac, Katherine (2008), “Ceramics That Won’t Shatter,” Technology Review, [On-line], URL:http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/21767/?nlid=1561&a=f.
Dragonfly Flight and the Designer
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
More proof of the existence of the Master Designer comes from research conducted by Z. Jane Wang, professor of theoretical and applied mechanics at Cornell University (Gold, 2006). Centering on flying systems and fluid dynamics, Dr. Wang notes that the best way to learn about flight is by first looking at what happens naturally. Interesting. In order for the complex human mind to comprehend the principles of flight, that mind must focus on the natural order—the Creation. So mind must learn from that which, according to evolutionists, came into being and developed without any mind. Intelligence is dependent on non-intelligence. Who can believe it?
Reporting her findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Dr. Wang observed that her research calls into question the conventional wisdom that ascribes to airplanes (human inventions) more flight efficiency than the flying creatures of the natural realm. Dragonflies, for example, are “a marvel of engineering” (Gold, 2006). “Marvel of engineering”—without an Engineer? So claims the evolutionist—despite the irrationality of such a conclusion.
Indeed, the dragonfly possesses four wings, instead of the standard two, enabling it to dash forward at speeds approaching 60 kph. Its unusual pitching stroke allows this amazing insect to hover and even shift into reverse. According to Wang: “Dragonflies have a very odd stroke. It’s an up-and-down stroke instead of a back-and-forth stroke.... Dragonflies are one of the most maneuverable insects, so if they’re doing that they’re probably doing it for a reason” (Gold, 2006, emp. added). “For a reason”? But doesn’t “a reason” imply a reasonable mind behind the reason that thinks and assigns a logical rationale to specific phenomena?
The more scientists study dragonflies the more they are impressed with these “marvels of flight engineering” (“How Do Things...,” n.d.). They appear to twist their wings on the downward stroke, creating a whirlwind of air that flows across the wings, facilitating the lift that keeps them flying. Even more amazing, one Australian scientist, Akiko Mizutani, of the Centre for Visual Science at the Australian National University, has studied dragonflies at length in the past few years. She observes that, while chasing its prey, dragonflies “shadow their enemies in complex manoeuvres that military fighter pilots can only dream of. Their tricks create the visual illusion that they’re not moving” (as quoted in “How Stealthy...,” 2003, 2398:26, emp. added). In fact, according to Dr. Javaan Chahl, the quick aerial movements allow the dragonfly to disguise itself as a motionless object (“Military Looks to Mimic...,” 2003, emp. added). These insights are not lost on the military establishment. They recognize the incredible implications for technological development—from the ability of fighter aircraft to approach the enemy undetected, to greater maneuverability, to enhanced helicopter logistics. Indeed, “scientists believe the insect’s flight control could have applications in new planes and helicopters” (2003). Is it any wonder that one of the very first helicopters produced was named “Dragonfly” (“Sikorsky...,” 2003)? If no one considers the helicopter as the product of time and chance, why would any reasonable person believe that the insect to which scientists are looking for an understanding of principles of flight evolved from mindless, mechanistic forces of nature?
If the human mind, with all of its complexity and ingenious design, is necessary to engineer flight capability (e.g., airplanes), what must be said for the Mind behind the human mind? If scores of intelligent scientists must expend vast amounts of time, energy, intention, deliberation, knowledge, and thought in order to discover the secrets of the “efficient motions” of the dragonfly, what must have been required to create that dragonfly in the first place? Mindless, non-intelligent, unconscious, non-purposive “evolutionary forces”? Ridiculous! Time and chancedo not and cannot account for the amazing design found in insects like the dragonfly. The only logical, plausible explanation is that dragonflies were designed by the God of the Bible, and they testify to His wisdom: “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” (Revelation 4:11).
Gold, Lauren (2006), “On the Wings of Dragonflies: Flapping Insect Uses Drag to Carry its Weight, Offering Insight into Intricacies of Flight,” Cornell University Chronicle, February 19, [On-line], URL: http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/Feb06/AAAS.dragonflies.lg.html.
“How Do Things Fly?” (no date), Boeing, [On-line], URL: http://www.boeing.com/compan yoffices/aboutus/wonder_of_flight/dragon.html.
“Military Looks to Mimic Dragonflies” (2003), ABC News, June 5, [On-line], URL: http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200306/s872489.htm.
“How Stealthy Insects Outsmart Their Foe” (2003), New Scientist, 2398:26, June 7.
“Sikorsky HO2S-1/HO3S-1G ‘Dragonfly’” (2003), USCG Homepage, [On-line], URL: http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g-cp/history/WEBAIRCRAFT/AC_Sikorsky_HO3S.html.
Did Jesus Sweat Blood?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
The observant viewer of Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ, will note that in the garden scene, one manifestation of the agony of Jesus was the tiny blotches of blood that surfaced on His facial skin. This feature of Christ’s suffering is alluded to by Luke, the author of the New Testament books of Luke and Acts, who himself, by profession, was a physician. His writings manifest an intimate acquaintance with the technical language of the Greek medical schools of Asia Minor.
Of the four gospel writers, only Dr. Luke referred to Jesus’ ordeal as “agony” (agonia). It is because of this agony over things to come that we learn during His prayer “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). Only Luke referred to Jesus’ sweat (idros)—a much-used term in medical language. And only Luke referred to Jesus’ sweat as consisting of great drops of blood (thromboi haimatos)—a medical condition alluded to by both Aristotle and Theophrastus (Hobart, 1882, pp. 80-84). The Greek term thromboi (from which we get thrombus, thrombin, et al.) refers to clots of blood (Nicoll, n.d., 1:631; Vincent, 1887, 1:425). Bible scholar Richard Lenski commented on the use of this term: “ ‘As clots,’ thromboi, means that the blood mingled with the sweat and thickened the globules so that they fell to the ground in little clots and did not merely stain the skin” (1961, p. 1077).
The Greek word hosei (“as it were”) refers to condition, not comparison, as Greek scholar Henry Alford observed:
The intention of the Evangelist seems clearly to be, to convey the idea that the sweat was (not fell like, but was) like drops of blood;—i.e., coloured with blood,—for so I understand the hosei, as just distinguishing the drops highly coloured with blood, frompure blood…. To suppose that it only fell like drops of blood (why not drops of any thing else? And drops of blood from what, and where?) is to nullify the force of the sentence, and make the insertion of haimatos not only superfluous but absurd (1874, 1:648, italics and parenthetical items in orig.; cf. Robertson, 1934, p. 1140).
We can conclude quite justifiably that the terminology used by the gospel writer to refer to the severe mental distress experienced by Jesus was intended to taken literally—i.e., that the sweat of Jesus became bloody (cf. Robertson, 1930, 2:272).
A thorough search of the medical literature demonstrates that such a condition, while admittedly rare, does occur in humans. Commonly referred to as hematidrosis or hemohidrosis (Allen, 1967, pp. 745-747), this condition results in the excretion of blood or blood pigment in the sweat. Under conditions of great emotional stress, tiny capillaries in the sweat glands can rupture (Lumpkin, 1978), thus mixing blood with perspiration. This condition has been reported in extreme instances of stress (see Sutton, 1956, pp. 1393-1394). During the waning years of the twentieth century, 76 cases of hematidrosis were studied and classified into categories according to causative factors: “Acute fear and intense mental contemplation were found to be the most frequent inciting causes” (Holoubek and Holoubek, 1996). While the extent of blood loss generally is minimal, hematidrosis also results in the skin becoming extremely tender and fragile (Barbet, 1953, pp. 74-75; Lumpkin, 1978), which would have made Christ’s pending physical insults even more painful.
From these factors, it is evident that even before Jesus endured the torture of the cross, He suffered far beyond what most of us will ever suffer. His penetrating awareness of the heinous nature of sin, its destructive and deadly effects, the sorrow and heartache that it inflicts, and the extreme measure necessary to deal with it, make the passion of Christ beyond all comprehension.
Alford, Henry (1874), Alford’s Greek Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1980 reprint).
Allen, A.C. (1967), The Skin: A Clinicopathological Treatise (New York: Grune and Stratton), second edition.
Barbet, P. (1953), A Doctor at Calvary: The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ as Described by a Surgeon (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Image Books).
Hobart, William K. (1882), The Medical Language of St. Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1954 reprint).
Holoubek, J.E. and A.B. Holoubek (1996), “Blood, Sweat, and Fear. ‘A Classification of Hematidrosis,’ ” Journal of Medicine, 27[3-4]:115-33.
Lenski, R.C.H. (1961), The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
Lumpkin, R. (1978), “The Physical Suffering of Christ,” Journal of Medical Association of Alabama, 47:8-10.
Nicoll, W. Robertson, ed. (no date), The Expositor’s Greek Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Robertson, A.T. (1930), Word Pictures in the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Robertson, A.T. (1934), A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (Nashville, TN: Broadman).
Sutton, R.L. Jr. (1956), Diseases of the Skin (St. Louis, MO: Mosby College Publishing), eleventh edition.
Vincent, M.R. (1887), Word Studies in the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1946 reprint).
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
In all likelihood, most of you reading this month’s issue of Reason and Revelation already have made up your minds about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Truth be told, the majority of you probably believe that Jesus Christ lived on this Earth for approximately 33 years, died at the hand of the Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate, was buried in a new tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea, and miraculously defeated death by His resurrection three days later.
But there may be some of you who have lingering doubts about the truthfulness of the resurrection of Christ. In fact, many people have much more than lingering doubts; they already have made up their minds that the story of the resurrection happened too long ago, was witnessed by too few people, has not been proven scientifically, and thus should be discarded as an unreliable legend.
Regardless of which position best describes your view of Christ’s resurrection, what we all must do is check our prejudice at the door and openly and honestly examine the historical facts attending the resurrection.
FACT—JESUS CHRIST LIVED
Determining whether Jesus Christ actually lived is something that must be established before one can begin to discuss His resurrection. If it cannot be proved beyond reasonable doubt that He did walk this Earth, then any discussion about whether or not He arose from the dead digresses quickly into an exercise in yarn stringing based on little more than guesswork and human imagination. Fortunately, the fact that Jesus lived is practically universally accepted. A host of hostile witnesses testified of His life, and the New Testament documents in intricate detail His existence. [Even if one does not accept the New Testament as inspired of God, he or she cannot deny that its books contain historical information regarding a person by the name of Jesus Christ Who really did live in the first century A.D.] The honest historian is forced to admit that documentation for the existence, and life, of Jesus runs deep and wide (for an in-depth study on the historicity of Christ, see Butt, 2000). Thus, knowing that Jesus Christ existed allows us to move farther into the subject of His resurrection.
FACT—JESUS CHRIST DIED
For most people, coming to the conclusion that Jesus died is not difficult, due to either of two reasons. First, the Bible believer accepts the fact that Jesus died because several different biblical writers confirm it. Second, the unbeliever accepts the idea, based not upon biblical evidence, but rather on the idea that the natural order of things which he has experienced in this life is for a person to live and eventually die. Once evidence sufficient to prove Christ’s existence in history has been established, the naturalist/empiricist has no trouble accepting His death. However, in order to provide such people with a few more inches of common ground on this matter, it would be good to note that several secular writers substantiated the fact that Jesus Christ did die. Tacitus, the ancient Roman historian writing in approximately A.D. 115, documented Christ’s physical demise when he wrote concerning the Christians that “their originator, Christ, had been executed in Tiberius’ reign by the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilatus” (1952, 15.44).
In addition to Roman sources, early Jewish rabbis whose opinions are recorded in the Talmud acknowledged the death of Jesus. According to the earlier rabbis,
Jesus of Nazareth was a transgressor in Israel who practised magic, scorned the words of the wise, led the people astray, and said that he had not come to destroy the law but to add to it. He was hanged on Passover Eve for heresy and misleading the people (Bruce, 1953, p. 102, emp. added).
Likewise, Jewish historian Josephus wrote:
[T]here arose about this time Jesus, a wise man.... And when Pilate had condemned him to the cross on his impeachment by the chief men among us, those who had loved him at first did not cease (Antiquities of the Jews, 18.3.3).
The fact that Pilate condemned Christ to the cross is an undisputed historical fact. As archaeologist Edwin Yamauchi stated:
Even if we did not have the New Testament or Christian writings, we would be able to conclude from such non-Christian writings such as Josephus, the Talmud, Tacitus, and Pliny the Younger that...he [Jesus—KB] was crucified under Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius (1995, p. 222).
It is at this point in our study that some would suggest that Hugh Schonfield’s infamous “Swoon Theory” should be considered. Schonfield (1965) postulated that Christ did not die on the cross; rather, He merely fainted or “swooned.” Later, after being laid on a cold slab in the dark tomb, He revived and exited His rock-hewn grave. Such a theory, however, fails to take into account the heinous nature of the scourging (sometimes referred to as an “intermediate death”) that Christ had endured at the hand of Roman lictors, or the finely honed skills of those Roman soldiers whose job it was to inflict such gruesome punishment prior to a prisoner’s actual crucifixion. To press the point, in the March 1986 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association,William Edwards and his coauthors penned an article, “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ,” that employed modern medical insight to provide an exhaustive description of Jesus’ death (256:1455-1463). Sixteen years later, Brad Harrub and Bert Thompson coauthored an updated review (“An Examination of the Medical Evidence for the Physical Death of Jesus Christ”) of the extensive scientific evidence surrounding Christ’s physical death (2002). After reading such in-depth, medically based descriptions of the horrors to which Christ was exposed, and the condition of His ravaged body, the Swoon Theory quickly fades into oblivion (where it rightly belongs). Jesus died. Upon this, we all most certainly can agree.
FACT—THE TOMB OF CHRIST WAS EMPTY
Around the year A.D. 165, Justin Martyr penned his Dialogue with Trypho. At the beginning of chapter 108 of this work, he recorded a letter that the Jewish community had been circulating concerning the empty tomb of Christ:
A godless and lawless heresy had sprung from one Jesus, a Galilaean deceiver, whom we crucified, but his disciples stole him by night from the tomb where he was laid when unfastened from the cross, and now deceive men by asserting that he has risen from the dead and ascended to heaven.
Somewhere around the sixth century, another caustic treatise written to defame Christ circulated among the Jewish community. In this narrative, known as Toledoth Yeshu, Jesus was described as the illegitimate son of a soldier named Joseph Pandera. He also was labeled as a disrespectful deceiver who led many away from the truth. Near the end of the treatise, under a discussion of His death, the following paragraph can be found:
A diligent search was made and he [Jesus—KB] was not found in the grave where he had been buried. A gardener had taken him from the grave and had brought him into his garden and buried him in the sand over which the waters flowed into the garden.
Upon reading Justin Martyr’s description of one Jewish theory regarding the tomb of Christ, and another premise from Toledoth Yeshu, it becomes clear that a single common thread unites them both—the tomb of Christ had no body in it!
All parties involved recognized the fact that Christ’s tomb laid empty on the third day. Feeling compelled to give reasons for this unexpected vacancy, Jewish authorities apparently concocted several different theories to explain the body’s disappearance. The most commonly accepted one seems to be that the disciples of Jesus stole His body away by night while the guards slept (Matthew 28:13). Yet, how could the soldiers identify the thieves if they had been asleep? And why were the sentinels not punished by death for sleeping on the job and thereby losing their charge (cf. Acts 12:6-19)? And an even more pressing question comes to mind—why did the soldiers need to explain anything if a body was still in the tomb?
When Peter stood up on the Day of Pentecost, after the resurrection of Christ, the crux of his sermon rested on the facts that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again on the third day. In order to silence Peter, and stop a mass conversion, the Jewish leaders needed simply to produce the body of Christ. Why did not the Jewish leaders take the short walk to the garden and produce the body? Simply because they could not; the tomb was empty—a fact the Jews recognized and tried to explain away. The apostles knew it, and preached it boldly in the city of Jerusalem. And thousands of inhabitants of Jerusalem knew it and converted to Christianity. John Warwick Montgomery accurately assessed the matter when he wrote:
It passes the bounds of credibility that the early Christians could have manufactured such a tale and then preached it among those who might easily have refuted it simply by producing the body of Jesus (1964, p. 78).
The tomb of Jesus was empty, and that is a fact.
FACT—THE APOSTLES PREACHED THAT
JESUS PHYSICALLY ROSE FROM THE DEAD
Regardless of whether or not one believes that Christ rose from the dead, one thing that cannot be denied is the fact His apostles preached that they saw Jesus after He physically rose from the dead. The New Testament book of Acts stresses this issue almost to the point of redundancy. Acts 1:22, as one example, finds Peter and the other apostles choosing an apostle who was to “become a witness” of the resurrection of Christ. Then, on the Day of Pentecost, Peter insisted in his sermon to the multitude that had assembled to hear him that “God raised up” Jesus and thus loosed Him from the pangs of death (Acts 2:24). And to make sure that his audience understood that it was a physical resurrection, Peter stated specifically that Jesus’ “flesh did not see corruption” (Acts 2:31). His point was clear: Jesus had been physically raised from the dead and the apostles had witnessed the resurrected Christ. [Other passages which document that the central theme of the apostles’ preaching was the bodily resurrection of Christ include: Acts 3:15; 3:26; 4:2,10,33; and 5:30.] Furthermore, the entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 15 (especially verse 14) verifies that the preaching of the apostle Paul centered on the resurrection.
Even Joseph McCabe, one of the early twentieth century’s most outspoken infidels, remarked: “Paul was absolutely convinced of the resurrection; and this proves that it was widely believed not many years after the death of Jesus” (1993, p. 24). The skeptical modernist Shirley Jackson Case of the University of Chicago was forced to concede: “The testimony of Paul alone is sufficient to convince us, beyond any reasonable doubt, that this was the commonly accepted opinion in his day—an opinion at that time supported by the highest authority imaginable, the eye-witnesses themselves” (1909, pp. 171-172). C.S. Lewis correctly stated: “In the earliest days of Christianity an ‘apostle’ was first and foremost a man who claimed to be an eyewitness of the Resurrection” (1975, p. 188).
It has been suggested by some critics that the apostles and other witnesses did not actually see Christ, but merely hallucinated. However, Gary Habermas had this to say about such a fanciful idea:
[H]allucinations are comparably rare. They’re usually caused by drugs or bodily deprivation. Chances are, you don’t know anybody who’s ever had a hallucination not caused by one of those two things. Yet we’re supposed to believe that over a course of many weeks, people from all sorts of backgrounds, all kinds of temperaments, in various places, all experienced hallucinations? That strains the hypothesis quite a bit, doesn’t it? (as quoted in Strobel, 1998, p. 239).
Indeed, the hallucination theory is a feeble attempt to undermine the fact that the apostles (and other first-century eyewitnesses of a risen Christ) preached the message that they really hadseen a resurrected Jesus.
The apostles preached that Christ physically rose, and those who heard the apostles verified that they preached the resurrection. Apart from what a person believes about the resurrection of Christ, he or she cannot deny (legitimately) the fact that the apostles traveled far and wide to preach one central message—“Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
FACT—THE APOSTLES SUFFERED AND
DIED BECAUSE OF THEIR TEACHINGS
ABOUT THE RESURRECTION
As the list of facts continues, one that must be enumerated is the verified historical fact that the majority of the apostles suffered cruel, tortuous deaths because they preached that Christ rose from the dead. Documenting these persecutions is no difficult task. Fox’s Book of Martyrs relates that Paul was beheaded, Peter was crucified (probably upside down), Thomas was thrust through with a spear, Matthew was slain with a halberd, Matthias was stoned and beheaded, Andrew was crucified, and the list proceeds to describe the martyr’s death of every one of the Lord’s faithful apostles except John the brother of James (Forbush, 1954, pp. 2-5).
Additional testimony comes from the early church fathers. Eusebius, who was born about A.D.260 and died about 340, wrote that Paul was beheaded in Rome and that Peter was crucified there (Ecclesiastical History, 2.25). [Exactly how and where Peter was martyred is unclear from history; the fact that he was martyred is not.] Clement of Rome (who died about A.D. 100), in chapter five of his First Epistle to the Corinthians, also mentioned the martyrs’ deaths of Peter and Paul. Luke, the writer of the book of Acts, documented the death of James when he stated: “Now about that time Herod the king put forth his hand to afflict certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword” (Acts 12:1-2). The apostle Paul perhaps summed it up best when he said:
For, I think, God hath set forth us the apostles last of all, as men doomed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, both to angels and men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye have glory, but we have dishonor. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place; and we toil, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things, even until now (1 Corinthians 4:9-13).
Wayne Jackson correctly noted that “while men may die out of religious deception, they do not willingly go to their deaths knowing they are perpetrating a hoax” (1982, 2:34).
Some ill-advised attempts have been made to deny that Christ’s apostles actually died because of their belief in, and preaching of, the resurrection. For example, it has been proposed that the apostles died because they were political instigators or rabble-rousers. However, combining the high moral quality of their teachings with the testimony of the early church fathers, and acknowledging the fact that their primary task was to be witnesses of the resurrection, it is historically inaccurate to imply that the apostles suffered for any reason other than their confession of the resurrection. The fact of the matter is, the apostles died because they refused to stop preaching that they had seen the Lord alive after His death.
FACT—THE BIBLE IS THE MOST HISTORICALLY
ACCURATE BOOK OF ANTIQUITY
Sir William Ramsay was a one-time unbeliever and world-class archaeologist. His extensive education had ingrained within him the keenest sense of scholarship. But along with that scholarship came a built-in prejudice about the supposed inaccuracy of the Bible (specifically the book of Acts). As Ramsay himself remarked:
[A]bout 1880 to 1890, the book of the Acts was regarded as the weakest part of the New Testament. No one that had any regard for his reputation as a scholar cared to say a word in its defence. The most conservative of theological scholars, as a rule, thought the wisest plan of defence for the New Testament as a whole was to say as little as possible about the Acts (1915, p. 38).
As could be expected of someone who had been trained by such “scholars,” Ramsay held the same view. He eventually abandoned it, however, because he was willing to do what few people of his time dared to do—explore the Bible lands themselves with an archaeologist’s pick in one hand and an open Bible in the other. His self-stated intention was to prove the inaccuracy of Luke’s history as recorded in the book of Acts. But, much to his surprise, the book of Acts passed every test that any historical narrative could be asked to pass. In fact, after years of literally digging through the evidence in Asia Minor, Ramsay concluded that Luke was an exemplary historian. Lee S. Wheeler, in his classic work, Famous Infidels Who Found Christ, recounted Ramsay’s life story in great detail (1931, pp. 102-106), and then quoted the famed archaeologist, who ultimately admitted:
The more I have studied the narrative of the Acts, and the more I have learned year after year about Graeco-Roman society and thoughts and fashions, and organization in those provinces, the more I admire and the better I understand. I set out to look for truth on the borderland where Greece and Asia meet, and found it here [in the book of Acts—KB]. You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian’s, and they stand the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment, provided always that the critic knows the subject and does not go beyond the limits of science and of justice (Ramsey, 1915, p. 89).
In his book, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament,Ramsay was constrained to admit:
Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy, he is possessed of the true historic sense.... In short, this author should be placed along with the very greatest historians (1915, p. 222; cf. also Ramsay’s 1908 work, Luke the Physician).
Indeed, Luke, the writer of the book of Acts, is widely acknowledged as an extremely accurate historian in his own right—so much so that Ramsay converted to Christianity as a result of his personal examination of the preciseness of Luke’s historical record. It is of interest, then, to note what Luke himself wrote concerning Christ’s resurrection:
The former treatise I made, O Theophilus, concerning all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, until the day in which he was received up, after that he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom he also showed himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing unto them by the space of forty days, and speaking the things concerning the kingdom of God (Acts 1:1-3).
What legitimate reason is there to reject Luke’s testimony regarding Christ’s resurrection when his testimony on every other subject he presented is so amazingly accurate? As Wayne Jackson noted:
In Acts, Luke mentions thirty-two countries, fifty-four cities, and nine Mediterranean islands. He also mentions ninety-five persons, sixty-two of which are not named elsewhere in the New Testament. And his references, where checkable, are always correct. This is truly remarkable, in view of the fact that the political/territorial situation of his day was in a state of almost constant change (1991, 27:2).
Other Bible critics have suggested that Luke misspoke when he designated Sergius Paulus as proconsul of Cyprus (Acts 13:7). Their claim was that Cyprus was governed by a propraetor (also referred to as a consular legate), not a proconsul. Upon further examination, such a charge can be seen to be completely vacuous, as the late Thomas Eaves documented:
As we turn to the writers of history for that period, Dia Cassius (Roman History) and Strabo (The Geography of Strabo), we learn that there were two periods of Cyprus’ history: first, it was an imperial province governed by a propraetor, and later in 22 B.C., it was made a senatorial province governed by a proconsul. Therefore, the historians support Luke in his statement that Cyprus was ruled by a proconsul, for it was betweenA.D. 40-50 when Paul made his first missionary journey. If we accept secular history as being true, we must also accept biblical history, for they are in agreement (1980, p. 234).
The science of archaeology seems to have outdone itself in verifying the Scriptures. Eminent archaeologist William F. Albright wrote: “There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of the Old Testament tradition” (1953, p. 176). The late Nelson Glueck, himself a pillar within the archaeological community, said:
It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible (1959, p. 31).
Such statements—offered 40+ years ago—are as true today as the day they were made.
Please note, however, that this argument is not being introduced here to claim that the New Testament is inspired (although certain writers have used it in this way quite effectively). Rather, it is inserted at this point in the discussion to illustrate that the books which talk the most about the resurrection have proven to be accurate when confronted with any verifiable fact. Travel to the Holy Lands and see for yourself if you doubt biblical accuracy. Carry with you an honest, open mind and an open Bible, and I assure you that you will respect the New Testament writers as accurate historians.
ON SUPPOSED CONTRADICTIONS
WITHIN THE GOSPELS
Maybe the New Testament documents are accurate when they discuss historical and geographical information. But what about all the alleged “contradictions” among the gospel accounts of the resurrection? Charles Templeton, who worked for many years with the Billy Graham Crusade but eventually abandoned his faith, used several pages of his book, Farewell to God, to compare and contrast the statements within the four gospels, and then concluded: “The entire resurrection story is not credible” (1996, p. 122). Another well-known preacher-turned-skeptic, Dan Barker, has drawn personal delight in attempting to locate contradictions within the four accounts of the resurrection. In his book, Losing Faith in Faith, he filled seven pages with a list of the “contradictions” he believes he has uncovered. Eventually he stated: “Christians, either tell me exactly what happened on Easter Sunday, or let’s leave the Jesus myth buried” (1992, p. 181).
It is interesting, is it not, that Barker demands to know “exactly what happened” on a day in ancient history that occurred almost 2,000 years ago? Such a request speaks loudly of the historical legitimacy of the resurrection story, since no other day in ancient history ever has been examined with such scrutiny. Historians today cannot tell “exactly what happened” on July 4, 1776 or April 12, 1861, yet Christians are expected to provide the “exact” details of Christ’s resurrection? Fortunately, the gospel writers described “exactly what happened”—without contradiction. Examine the following evidence.
“Collusion: A secret agreement between two or more parties for a fraudulent, illegal, or deceitful purpose” (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 2000, p. 363). Even if we never had heard the word collusion before, most of us still would understand the situation it describes. Suppose, for example, that five bank robbers don their nylon-hose masks, rob the city bank, and stash the cash in a nearby cave. Each robber then goes back to his respective house until the police search is concluded. The first robber hears a knock at his door and, upon opening it, finds a policeman who “just wants to ask him a few questions.” The officer then inquires, “Where were you, and what where you doing, on the night of February 1, 2002?” The thief promptly responds, “I was at Joe Smith’s house watching television with four other friends.” The policeman obtains the four friends’ names and addresses and visits each one of their homes. Every single robber, in turn, tells exactly the same story. Was it true? Absolutely not! But did the stories all sound exactly the same, with seemingly no contradictions? Yes.
Now, let’s examine this principle in light of our discussion of the resurrection. If every single narrative describing the resurrection sounded exactly the same, what do you think would be said about those narratives? “They must have copied each other!” In fact, in other areas of Christ’s life besides the resurrection, when the books of Matthew and Luke give the same information as the book of Mark, critics today claim that Matthew and Luke must have copied Mark because it is thought to be the earliest of the three books. Another raging question in today’s upper echelons of biblical “scholarship” is whether Peter copied Jude in 2 Peter 2:4-17 (or whether Jude copied Peter), because the two segments of scripture sound so similar.
Amazingly, however, the Bible has not left open the prospect of collusion in regard to the resurrection narratives. Indeed, it cannot be denied (legitimately) that the resurrection accounts have come to us from independent sources. In his book, Science vs. Religion, Tad S. Clements vigorously denied that there is enough evidence to justify a personal belief in the resurrection. He did acknowledge, however: “There isn’t merely one account of Christ’s resurrection but rather an embarrassing multitude of stories...” (1990, p. 193). While he opined that these stories “disagree in significant respects,” he nevertheless made it clear that the gospels are separate accounts of the same story. Dan Barker admitted the same when he boldly stated: “Since Easter [his wording for the resurrection account—KB] is told by five different writers, it gives one of the best chances to confirm or disconfirm the account” (1992, p. 179). One door that everyone on both sides of the resurrection freely admits has been locked forever by the gospel accounts is the dead-bolted door against collusion.
Dealing With “Contradictions”
Of course it will not be possible, in these few paragraphs, to deal with every alleged discrepancy between the resurrection accounts. But I would like to set forth some helpful principles that can be used to show that no genuine contradiction between the resurrection narratives has been documented.
Addition Does Not a Contradiction Make
Suppose a man is telling a story about the time he and his wife went shopping at the mall. The man mentions all the great places in the mall to buy hunting supplies and cinnamon rolls. But the wife tells about the same shopping trip, yet mentions only the places to buy clothes. Is there a contradiction just because the wife mentioned only clothing stores, while the husband mentioned only cinnamon rolls and hunting supplies? No. They simply are adding to (or supplementing) each other’s story to make it more complete. That same type of thing occurs quite frequently in the resurrection accounts.
As an example, Matthew’s gospel refers to “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary” as women who visited the tomb early on the first day of the week (Matthew 28:1). Mark cites Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome as the callers (Mark 16:1). Luke mentions Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and “the other women” (Luke 24:10). Yet John writes only about Mary Magdalene visiting Christ’s tomb early on Sunday (John 20:1). Dan Barker cited these different names as discrepancies and/or contradictions on page 182 of his book. But do these different lists truly contradict one another? No, they do not. They are supplementary (with each writer adding names to make the list more complete), but they are not contradictory. If John had said “only Mary Magdalene visited the tomb,” or if Matthew had stated that “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were the only women to visit the tomb,” then there would be a contradiction. As it stands, however, no contradiction occurs. To further illustrate this point, suppose you have 10 one-dollar bills in your pocket. Someone comes up to you and asks, “Do you have a dollar bill in your pocket?” Naturally, you respond in the affirmative. Suppose another person asks, “Do you have five dollars in your pocket?” and again you say that you do. Finally, another person asks, “Do you have ten dollars in your pocket?” and you say yes for the third time. Did you tell the truth every time? Yes, you did. Were all three statements about the contents of your pockets different? Yes, they were. But were any of your answers contradictory? No, they were not. How so? The fact is: supplementation does not equal contradiction!
Also fitting into this discussion about supplementation are the angels, men, and young man described in the different resurrection accounts. Two different “problems” arise with the entrance of the “holy heralds” at the empty tomb of Christ. First, exactly how many were there? Second, were they angels or men? Since the former question deals with supplementation, I will discuss it first. The account in Matthew cites “an angel of the Lord who descended from heaven” and whose “appearance was as lightning, and his raiment white as snow” (28:2-5). Mark’s account presents a slightly different picture of “a young man sitting on the right side, arrayed in a white robe” (16:5). But Luke mentions that “two men stood by them [the women—KB] in dazzling apparel” (24:4). And, finally, John writes about “two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain” (20:12). Are any of these accounts contradictory as to the number of men or angels at the tomb? Factoring in the supplementation rule, we must answer in the negative. Although the accounts are different, they are not contradictory as to the number of messengers. Mark does not mention “only a young man” and Luke does not say there were “exactly two angels.” Was there one messenger at the tomb? Yes, there was. Were there two as well? Yes, there were. Once again, note that supplementation does not equal contradiction.
Were They Men or Angels?
The second question concerning the messengers is their identity: Were they angels or men? Most people who are familiar with the Old Testament have no problem answering this question. Genesis chapters 18 and 19 mention three “men” who came to visit Abraham and Sarah. These men remained for a short time, and then two of them continued on to visit the city of Sodom. The Bible tells us in Genesis 19:1 that these “men” actually were angels. Yet when the men of Sodom came to do violence to these angels, the city dwellers asked: “Where are the men that came in to thee this night?” (Genesis 19:5). Throughout the two chapters, the messengers are referred to both as men and as angels with equal accuracy. They looked like, talked like, walked like, and sounded like men. Then could they be referred to (legitimately) as men? Yes. But were they in fact angels? Yes.
To illustrate, suppose you saw a man sit down at a park bench and take off his right shoe. As you watched, he began to pull out an antenna from the toe of the shoe and a number pad from the heel. He proceeded to dial a number and began to talk to someone over his “shoe phone.” If you were going to write down what you had seen, could you accurately say that the man dialed a number on his shoe? Yes. Could you also say that he dialed a number on his phone? Indeed you could. The shoe had a heel, sole, toe, and everything else germane to a shoe, but in actuality it was much more than a shoe. In the same way, the messengers at the tomb could be described accurately as men. They had a head perched on two shoulders and held in place by a neck, and they had a body that was complete with arms and legs, etc. So, they were men. But, in truth, they were much more than men because they were angels—holy messengers sent from God’s throne to deliver an announcement to certain people. Taking into account the fact that the Old Testament often uses the term “men” to describe angels who have assumed a human form, it is fairly easy to show that no contradiction exists concerning the identity of the messengers.
Perspective Plays a Part
What we continue to see in the independent resurrection narratives is not contradiction, but merely a difference in perspective. For instance, suppose a man had a 4x6 index card that was solid red on one side and solid white on the other. Further suppose that he stood in front of a large crowd, asked all the men to close their eyes, showed the women in the audience the red side of the card, and then had them scribble down what they saw. Further suppose that he had all the women close their eyes while he showed the men the white side of the card and had them write down what they saw. One group saw a red card and one group saw a white card. When their answers are compared, at first it would look like they were contradictory, yet they were not. The descriptions appeared contradictory because the two groups had a different perspective, since each had seen a different side of the same card. The perspective phenomenon plays a big part in everyday life. In the same way that no two witnesses ever see a car accident in exactly the same way, none of the witnesses of the resurrected Jesus saw the events from the same angle as the others.
Obviously, I have not dealt with every alleged discrepancy concerning the resurrection accounts. However, I have mentioned some of the major ones, which can be explained quite easily via the principles of supplementation or difference of perspective. An honest study of the remaining “problems” reveals that not a single legitimate contradiction exists between the narratives; they may be different in some aspects, but they are not contradictory. Furthermore, whatever differences do exist prove that no collusion took place and document the diversity that would be expected from different individuals witnessing the same event.
THE PROBLEM WITH MIRACLES
Based on historical grounds, the resurrection of Jesus Christ has as much or more evidence to verify its credibility than any other event in ancient history. Unfortunately, this evidence often gets tossed aside by those who deny the possibility of miracles. Using a strictly empirical approach, some have decided what is, and what is not, possible in this world, and miracles such as the resurrection do not fall into their “possible” category. Since they never have seen anyone raised from the dead, and since no scientific experiments can be performed on a resurrected body, they then assume that the gospel resurrection accounts must have some natural explanation(s). In an article titled “Why I Don’t Buy the Resurrection,” Richard Carrier embodied the gist of this argument in the following comment:
No amount of argument can convince me to trust a 2000-year-old second-hand report over what I see, myself, directly, here and now, with my own eyes. If I observe facts which entail that I will cease to exist when I die, then the Jesus story can never override that observation, being infinitely weaker as a proof. And yet all the evidence before my senses confirms my mortality.... A 2000-year-old second-hand tale from the backwaters of an illiterate and ignorant land can never overpower these facts. I see no one returning to life after their brain has completely died from lack of oxygen. I have had no conversations with spirits of the dead. What I see is quite the opposite of everything this tall tale claims. How can it command more respect than my own two eyes? It cannot (2000).
Although such an argument at first may appear perfectly plausible, it encounters two insurmountable difficulties. First, there are things that took place in the past that no one alive today has seen or ever will see, yet they still are accepted as fact. The origin of life on this planet provides a good example. Regardless of whether a person believes in creation or evolution, he or she must admit that some things happened in the past that are not still occurring today (or at least that have not been witnessed). To evolutionists, I pose the question: “Have you ever personally used your five senses to establish that a nonliving thing can give rise to a living thing.” Of course, evolutionists must admit that they never have seen such happen, in spite of all the origin-of-life experiments that have been performed over the last fifty years. Does such an admission mean, then, that evolutionists do not accept the idea that life came from nonliving matter, just because they never have witnessed such an event? Of course not. Instead, we are asked to consider “ancient evidence” (like the geologic column and the fossil record) that evolutionists believe leads to such a conclusion. Still, the hard fact remains that no one alive today (or, for that matter, anyone who ever lived in the past) has witnessed something living come from something nonliving.
Following this same line of reasoning, those who believe in creation freely admit that the creation of life on Earth is an event that has not been witnessed by anyone alive today (or, for that matter, anyone else of the past, except possibly Adam). It was a unique, one-time-only event that cannot be duplicated by experiment and cannot currently be detected by the five human senses. As with evolutionists, creationists ask us to examine evidence such as the fossil record, the inherent design of the Universe and its inhabitants, the Law of Cause and Effect, the Law of Biogenesis, etc., which they believe leads to the conclusion that life was created at some point in the past by an intelligent Creator. But, before we drift too far from our primary topic of the resurrection, let me remind you that this brief discussion concerning creation and evolution is inserted only to establish one point—everyone must admit that he or she accepts some concepts from the distant past without having personally inspected them using the empirical senses.
Second, it is true that a dead person rising from the dead would be an amazing and, yes, empirically astonishing event. People do not normally rise from the dead in the everyday scheme of things. Yet, was not that the very point the apostles and other witnesses of the resurrection were trying to get people to understand? If Jesus of Nazareth truly rose from the grave never to die again—thereby accomplishing something that no mortal man ever had accomplished—would not that be enough to prove that He was the Son of God as He had claimed (see Mark 14:61-62)? He had predicted that He would be raised from the dead (John 2:19). And He was!
Those first-century onlookers certainly understood that a person rising from the dead was not natural, because even they understood how the laws of nature worked. As C.S. Lewis explained:
But there is one thing often said about our ancestors which we must not say. We must not say “They believed in miracles because they did not know the Laws of Nature.” This is nonsense. When St. Joseph discovered that his bride was pregnant, he “was minded to put her away.” He knew enough about biology for that.... When the disciples saw Christ walking on the water they were frightened; they would not have been frightened unless they had known the Laws of Nature and known that this was an exception (1970, p. 26).
The apostle Paul underscored this point in Romans 1:4 when he stated that Jesus Christ was “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” The entire point of Christ’s resurrection was, and is, that it proved His deity. As I stated earlier, most people who deny the resurrection do so because they refuse to believe in a God Who performs miracles, not because the historical evidence is insufficient.
FACE THE FACTS
When dealing with the resurrection of Christ, we must concentrate on the facts. Jesus of Nazareth lived. He died. His tomb was empty. The apostles preached that they saw Him after He physically rose from the dead. The apostles suffered and died because they preached, and refused to deny, the resurrection. Their message is preserved in the most accurate document of which ancient history can boast. Independent witnesses addressed the resurrection in their writings—with enough diversity (yet without a single legitimate contradiction) to prove that no collusion took place.
The primary argument against the resurrection, of course, is that during the normal course of events, dead people do not arise from the grave—which was the very point being made by the apostles. But when all the evidence is weighed and it is revealed that the apostles never buckled under torture, the New Testament never crumples under scrutiny, and the secular, historical witnesses refuse to be drowned in a sea of criticism, then it is evident that the resurrection of Jesus Christ demands its rightful place in the annals of history as the most important event this world has ever seen. To quote the immortal words of the Holy Spirit as spoken through the apostle Paul to King Agrippa in the great long ago: “Why is it judged incredible with you, if God doth raise the dead?” (Acts 26:8).
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