"THE FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN" Chapter One John begins his first epistle like he does his gospel: with a prologue regarding the Word of Life (Jesus Christ) who dwelt in the flesh among men and made fellowship with the Father possible (1-4). Fellowship with God is maintained as we walk in the light and confess our sins that we might enjoy continual cleansing through the blood of Jesus (5-10). POINTS TO PONDER * The witness of John concerning the Word of Life * The nature of the evidence for faith in Jesus * The basis of our fellowship with God REVIEW QUESTIONS 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - Prologue: The Word of Life - 1Jn 1:1-4 - Fellowship with God - 1Jn 1:5-10 2) How is John’s beginning in this epistle similar to his gospel? (1-4, cf. Jn 1:1-14) - Both begin with a prologue regarding the Word who became flesh 3) How does John describe the pre-incarnation of Jesus? (1) - As "that which was from the beginning" 4) What empirical evidence does John provide concerning the Word? (1) - He has heard, seen with his eyes, handled with hands 5) What does John declare? What does he want to share? Why does he write? (2-4) - Eternal life; fellowship with the Father and His Son; that our joy may be full 6) What message has John heard that he now declares to us? (5) - That God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all 7) If we say we have fellowship with God but walk in darkness, what are we? (6) - Liars who do not practice the truth 8) What do we enjoy as we walk in the light together with God? (7) - Cleansing of all sin by the blood of Christ 9) What if we say that we have no sin? (8,10) - We deceive ourselves, make God a liar, His word and the truth are not in us 10) What’s required to be forgiven of sin and cleansed of all unrighteousness? (9) - To confess our sins
"THE FIRST EPISTLE OF JOHN" Introduction When Jesus to earth, He came not only to live a life, but to give life: "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." - Jn 10:10 The Gospel of John was designed to produce faith so that we might have life (Jn 20:30-31). However, it is The First Epistle of John which describes the nature of that life in greater detail (e.g., 1Jn 3:14). That we might be sure to live the sort of life God offers through His Son Jesus Christ, a careful study of The First Epistle Of John is in order. AUTHOR It is assumed in this study that the author is John, the beloved disciple of Jesus (Jn 13:23; 19:26-27; 20:2; 21:7,20). Similarities in style, vocabulary, and themes in both this epistle and the Gospel of John certainly offer internal evidence for this conclusion. There is also external evidence that John is the author. Polycarp, a close associate of John, appears to make reference to this epistle in a letter to the Philippians at the beginning of the second century. Irenaeus, a student of Polycarp, quoted from the epistle and attributed it to John. RECIPIENTS No one is specifically mentioned by name. John may have been in Ephesus at the time, and some think this was a general epistle to Christians throughout Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). Comments in 1Jn 2:20,27 could imply that John was addressing a specific group of Christians that possessed certain spiritual (miraculous) gifts. DATE Estimates range from 60 A.D. to 100 A.D. Most modern scholarship places it around 95 A.D., but there are also good reasons for believing it was written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (Re-dating The New Testament, John A. T. Robinson). PURPOSE AND THEME In his epistle John frequently states why he was writing: * "these things we write to you that your joy may be full" - 1Jn 1:4 * "these things I write to you, that you may not sin" - 1Jn 2:1 * "these things I have written to you...that you may know that you have eternal life" - 1Jn 5:13 * "these things I have written to you...that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God" - 1Jn 5:13 While these reasons may state the positive purpose for John's letter, it appears he was also responding to errors prevalent at the time ("these things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you" - 1Jn 2:26). If not fully developed in John’s day, there was at least a precursor to Gnosticism. Those who later came to be called Gnostics claimed to have a superior knowledge (the Greek word for knowledge is gnosis). A fundamental presupposition was that all matter was evil. Therefore they believed that God did not create or have anything to do with the material universe (rather, it was created by a demi-god). Also, that Christ could not have come in the flesh (cf. 1Jn 4:1-3). One branch of Gnosticism, Docetism (dokein, "to seem"), taught that Jesus only seemed to be physical (contrast that with John’s statement in 1Jn 1:1). Cerinthus, a contemporary of John, taught that "Jesus" was physical, but that the "Christ" came upon Him at his baptism, and then left before His death, so that the "Christ-spirit" never suffered (cf. 1Jn 5:6). The Gnostics’ application to everyday living took two different directions. Since all matter was considered evil, some taught one should abstain altogether from anything that would satisfy the flesh. Others claimed it did not matter what one did in the flesh (it was evil anyway), and to have "full knowledge" it was proper to explore everything. John’s purpose therefore appears to be two-fold: * Assure Christians that they have eternal life (1Jn 5:13) * Counter those who denied that Jesus had come in the flesh (1Jn 4:1-6) As the theme of this epistle, may I suggest: Eternal life is in Jesus Christ, who has come in the flesh OUTLINE Here is an outline of the book, from the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary... Prologue: The Word of Life (1:1-4) 1. God Is Light (1:5-3:10) a. Walk in the Light (1:5-2:2) 1) God is Light (1:5-7) 2) Resist sin (1:8-2:2) b. Obey the command to love (2:3-11) 1) Know God and keep His commands (2:3-6) 2) Learn the new command and love others (2:7-11) c. Know your spiritual status (2:12-14) d. Be warned of enemies of the faith (2:15-27) 1) Beware of the world (2:15-17) 2) Beware of the antichrists (2:18-27) e. Live like children of God (2:28-3:10) 1) Be confident and ready for His coming (2:28-3:3) 2) Be righteous and do not sin (3:4-10) 2. God Is Love (3:11-5:12) a. Love one another: part one (3:11-24) 1) Love in action (3:11-18) 2) Live in confidence (3:19-24) b. Test the spirits (4:1-6) c. Love one another: part two (4:7-21) 1) Love others because God loves you (4:7-10) 2) Love others because God lives in you (4:11-21) d. Obey God and experience the victory of faith (5:1-5) e. Believe in the Son and enjoy eternal life (5:6-12) Conclusion: Confidence and Characteristics of the Child of God (5:13-21) a. Know you have eternal life (5:13) b. Be confident in prayer (5:14-17) c. Do not continue in sin (5:18-20) d. Keep yourself from idols (5:21) REVIEW QUESTIONS 1) Who is author of The First Epistle Of John? - John the apostle, the beloved disciple who also wrote The Gospel Of John 2) Who were the original recipients of this epistle? - Christians in general, likely in Ephesus or scattered throughout Asia Minor (Turkey) 3) When was it written? - Most date it in 90s A.D. 4) List four reasons John stated for writing this epistle. (1:4; 2:1; 5:13) - "that your joy may be full" - "that you may not sin" - "that you may know that you have eternal life" - "that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God" 5) List another reason John wrote this epistle. (2:26) - "Concerning those who try to deceive you" 6) What doctrine later found in Gnosticism is addressed in this epistle? - Jesus Christ did not come in the flesh 7) What has been suggested as its two-fold purpose? - Assure Christians that they have eternal life - Counter those who denied that Jesus had come in the flesh 8) What has been suggested as its theme? - Eternal life is in Jesus Christ, who has come in the flesh 9) What are the main divisions of this epistle as outlined above? - Prologue: The Word of Life (1:1-4) - God Is Light (1:5-3:10) - God Is Love (3:11-5:12) - Conclusion: Confidence and Characteristics of the Child of God (5:13-21)
Hell and the Quran
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
The classic Christian doctrine of hell receives a most interesting treatment in the Quran, providing a number of fanciful particulars and whimsical embellishments. On the Day of Judgment, unbelievers will be “dragged into the Fire upon their faces” (Surah 54:48) “by their scalps” (Surah 70:16, Dawood, Sale, and Rodwell translations). Their faces will be “blackened” (Surah 39:60). They will have manacles, chains, and yokes placed upon them (Surah 34:33; 40:71; 76:4). One surah even declares that the wife of Abu Lahab (one of Muhammad’s bitter opponents) “will have upon her neck a halter of palm-fibre” (Surah 111:5)—apparently fireproof palm fiber.
According to the Quran, hell is a place of raging, fiercely blazing fire (Surah 73:12; 92:14; 101:11) with leaping, piercing, burning flames (Surah 4:10; 17:97; 25:11; 37:10; 48:13; 77:30-31; 85:10; 104:6-7), in which people “neither die nor live” (Surah 87:12-13). In addition to flames, hell also contains scorching winds, black smoke (Surah 56:42-43), and boiling hot water through which the disbelievers will be dragged (Surah 40:71-72; 55:44). In fact, unbelievers will both drink and be drenched with boiling water:
Lo! We have prepared for disbelievers Fire. Its tent encloseth them. If they ask for showers, they will be showered with water like to molten lead which burneth the faces. Calamitous the drink and ill the resting-place! (Surah 18:30, emp. added).The ingested boiling water will cut and tear the bowels (Surah 47:15). Yet the drinking of boiling water apparently will be accompanied by an occasional cold drink: “Hell, where they will burn, an evil resting place. Here is a boiling and an ice-cold draught, so let them taste it, and other (torment) of the kind in pairs (the two extremes)!” (Surah 38:57-59, emp. added; cf. 78:24-25). Ali renders the phrase: “a boiling fluid, and a fluid dark, murky, intensely cold!”
These twain (the believers and the disbelievers) are two opponents who contend concerning their Lord. But as for those who disbelieve, garments of fire will be cut out for them; boiling fluid will be poured down on their heads. Whereby that which is in their bellies, and their skins too, will be melted; And for them are hooked rods of iron. Whenever, in their anguish, they would go forth from thence they are driven back therein and (it is said unto them): Taste the doom of burning (Surah 22:19-22, emp. added; cf. 6:70; 10:5; 37:67; 44:48; 56:54,93)
In addition to liquid, the diet of the unbeliever will include some solid food: “On that day (many) faces will be downcast, toiling, weary, scorched by burning fire, drinking from a boiling spring, no food for them save bitter thorn-fruit which doth not nourish nor release from hunger” (Surah 88:2-7, emp. added). The Quran alleges the existence of a specific tree from which hell’s occupants will eat:
Is this better as a welcome, or the tree of Zaqqum? Lo! We have appointed it a torment for wrong-doers. Lo! it is a tree that springeth in the heart of hell. Its crop is as it were the heads of devils. And lo! they verily must eat thereof, and fill (their) bellies therewith. And afterward, lo! thereupon they have a drink of boiling water (Surah 37:62-67).Uninspired Jewish folklore postulated the same tree (cf. Sukkah 32).
All will certainly be gathered together for the meeting appointed for a Day well-known. Then will you truly—O you that go wrong, and treat (Truth) as Falsehood!—you will surely taste of the Tree of Zaqqum. Then will you fill your insides therewith, and drink Boiling Water on top of it: Indeed you shall drink like diseased camels raging with thirst! Such will be their entertainment on the Day of Requital! (Surah 56:50-56, Ali’s translation).
Lo! the tree of Zaqqum, the food of the sinner! Like molten brass, it seetheth in their bellies as the seething of boiling water (Surah 44:43-46).
The Quran also claims that hell possesses “keepers” or “guardians” (Surah 40:49; 96:18). Malic is the primary angel in charge of hell who presides over the torments inflicted on unbelievers: “The sinners will be in the punishment of Hell, to dwell therein (forever)…. They will cry: ‘O Malik! Would that your Lord put an end to us!’ He will say, ‘Nay, but you shall abide!’ ” (Surah 43:74,77). Of course, the Bible says nothing of any so-called guardians of hell. In fact, the Bible teaches that even Satan is not presently in hell. Rather, “our adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8; cf. Job 1:7; 2:2). The Bible appears to indicate that some angels are being confined in a waiting place prior to the Day of Judgment: “And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day” (Jude 6). But Satan and his angels will be thrown into the lake of fire at the end of time (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:10).
Additional allusions in the Quran to unbiblical (and outlandish) concepts regarding hell (also borrowed from uninspired ancient rabbinical literature) include: (1) a veil between hell and Paradise (Surah 7:46), drawn from the legend recorded in the Midrash on Ecclesiastes 7:14 (cf. Tisdall, 1905, p. 124), as well as a place between the two that enables a “crier” to communicate with both sides (Surah 7:44); and (2) the report of angels who eavesdrop on God (Surah 15:18; 37:8; 67:5; cf. Hagigah 6.1).
Even giving the Quran’s allowance for the difficulty of representing a nonphysical, eternal realm in language that enables humans to derive a sufficient understanding of the horror of hell, the Quran makes the mistake of depicting hell as a place for physical bodies. It offers an abundance of detail that removes the impression of hell being a spiritual realm. It shows no understanding or awareness of eternity involving a spiritual, nonmaterial realm where human spirits will be clothed with new, spiritual bodies. The Bible, on the other hand, provides clarification on just such matters, giving just enough information for the honest, objective reader to grasp this very point—i.e., that it will be a nonphysical realm, but will entail unending pain and suffering for the spiritual body (Matthew 25:31-46; Luke 12:4-5; John 5:28; 1 Corinthians 15:35-55). The Bible is sufficiently generic to be credible. The Quran suffers from the embellishment that one would expect from an uninspired, human author. Its myriad of detail on this subject cannot be dismissed as merely figurative.
Next to the doctrine of monotheism, the doctrine of hell and punishment receives more attention than any other doctrine in the Quran—maybe even more than monotheism. In fact, to the unbiased reader, the Quran is positively top-heavy—completely unbalanced—in its almost constant emphasis on fire, torment, and eternal punishment. Keeping in mind there are 114 surahs in the Quran, observe that the word “hell” occurs 102 times in Pickthall’s translation (95 in Ali’s) in 54 surahs. “Fire” occurs 161 times (203 in Ali) in 65 surahs. “Punish/punishment” occurs 115 times (169 in Ali) in 43 surahs. “Doom” occurs 215 times in Pickthall in 62 surahs. This means that the Quran refers to hell, fire, doom, and punishment in 92 of its 114 surahs—which is 80 percent of the Quran! In sharp contrast, the New Testament—which approximates the Quran in length—uses the word “hell” (gehenna) only 12 times (Matthew 5:22,29,30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15,33; Mark 9:43,45,47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6). While the Bible certainly emphasizes the certainty and inevitability of eternal punishment, it places the subject in proper perspective and provides a divinely balanced treatment. The Quran, on the other hand, is thoroughly preoccupied with incessant threats of punishment ad infinitum. Its inordinate fixation on hell, fire, torment, and punishment is another proof of its human origin.
REFERENCESAli, Abdullah Yusuf (1934), The Qur’an (Elmhurst, NY: Tahrike Tarsile Quran), ninth edition.
Pickthall, Mohammed M. (n.d.), The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (New York: Mentor).
Rodwell, J.M., trans. (1950 reprint), The Koran (London: J.M. Dent and Sons).
Dawood, N.J., trans. (1976 reprint), The Koran (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin).
Sale, George, trans. (no date), The Koran (New York: Hurst).
Tisdall, W. St. Clair (1905), The Original Sources of the Quran (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge).
Believing What Jesus Believed
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
It has become increasingly popular to accept certain parts of the Bible and to reject other parts. Such amazing events as the miracle of Creation, Jonah’s being swallowed by a sea creature, and the Flood of Noah often are brushed aside as mere myth, while more “credible” things such as the teachings of Jesus are accepted as fact. Although this line of reasoning might have some initial appeal to our “enlightened” society that rejects biblical miracles off hand, it contains a major flaw. When the teachings of Jesus are analyzed, it can be shown that Jesus Himself believed and taught the Old Testament stories that some label as myth.
For instance, the story of Jonah has come under attack due to its extraordinary details. According to the Old Testament Scriptures, God’s prophet Jonah disobeyed the Lord and was swallowed by a great sea creature. For three days, he dwelt as a damp denizen of that creature’s belly, until finally he was vomited onto the land and given another chance to obey God. To certain scholars, the story of Jonah finds a place in the Scriptures, not as a factual narrative of a specific historical account, but as a myth or allegory. What did Jesus believe about the story of Jonah? His sentiments in this regard were emphatically stated.
Then certain of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, Teacher, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given it but the sign of Jonah the prophet: for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall stand up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, a greater than Jonah is here (Matthew 12:38-41).Quite clearly, Jesus accepted the story of Jonah as an accurate description of a real, historical event. He included not only the fact that Jonah spent three days in the belly of the fish, but also affirmed that the city of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah. If the story of Jonah were simply an allegory or myth, Jesus’ entire point about being in the belly of the Earth for as long as Jonah was in the belly of the fish would be weakened to the point of ridiculousness. For, if Jonah wasn’t ever really in the belly of the fish, then what would that say about the Son of Man actually being in the belly of the Earth?
Another story endorsed by Christ is the formation of man and woman at the beginning of Creation. Some scholars, in an attempt to find a compromise between the Bible and organic evolution, have postulated that the Creation account of Genesis need not be taken literally, and that room can be found in Genesis to accommodate the idea that humans evolved gradually in Earth’s recent past. What did Jesus say about this idea?
During His earthly sojourn, Christ spoke explicitly regarding Creation. In Mark 10:6, for example, He declared: “But from the beginning of the creation, male and female made he them.” Note these three paramount truths: (1) The first couple was “made”; they were not biological accidents. Interestingly, the verb “made” in the Greek is in the aorist tense, implying point action, rather than progressive development (which would be characteristic of evolutionary activity). W.E. Vine made this very observation with reference to the composition of the human body in his comments on 1 Corinthians 12:18 (1951, p. 173). (2) The original pair was fashioned “male and female”; they were not initially an asexual “blob” that eventually experienced sexual diversion. (3) Adam and Eve existed “from the beginning of the creation.” The Greek word for “beginning” is arché, and is used of “absolute, denoting the beginning of the world and of its history, the beginning of creation.” The Greek word for “creation” is ktiseos, and denotes the “sum-total of what God has created” (Cremer, 1962, pp. 113,114,381, emp. in orig.). Christ certainly did not subscribe to the notion that the Earth is millions or billions of years older than humanity.
Accepting the testimony of Jesus Christ further demands that the global Flood of Noah be taken as a literal, historic event. The Lord Himself addressed the topic of the great Flood in Luke 17:26-30 (cf. Matthew 24:39) when He drew the following parallel:
And as it came to pass in the days of Noah, even so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They ate, they drank, they married, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise even as it came to pass in the days of Lot; they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but in the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all: after the same manner shall it be in the day that the Son of man is revealed (emp. added).The Lord depicted an impending doom that was to befall the Jews of His day who would not heed the Word of God. For the purpose of this article, however, note the context in which Jesus discussed the Flood destruction of Genesis 6-8. He placed the Flood alongside the destruction of Sodom, and He also placed it alongside the destruction of the ungodly at His Second Coming. John Whitcomb correctly noted that the word “all” must refer to the totality of people on the entire Earth in Noah’s day, and in Sodom during Lot’s time. Jesus’ argument would be weakened considerably if some of the people on the Earth, besides Noah’s family, escaped the Flood, or if certain Sodomites survived the fiery destruction sent from Heaven (1973, pp. 21-22). It is evident from the text that Jesus affirmed that the same number of ungodly sinners who escaped the Flood will be the same number of disobedient people who escape destruction at His Second Coming—none. From His remarks, one can clearly see that Jesus accepted the Genesis account of a global flood as a historical fact.
The sayings of Jesus contain numerous references to some of the Old Testament’s most extraordinary events. A person cannot consistently maintain a belief in Jesus and His teachings, while denying the details of the accounts that He endorsed as factual. The testimony of Jesus and the factual accuracy of the stories He commended stand together.
REFERENCESCremer, H. (1962), Biblico-Theological Lexicon of New Testament Greek (London: T & T Clark).
Vine, W.E. (1951), First Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Whitcomb, John C. (1973), The World That Perished (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
American Astronauts: From Belief to Unbelief
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
The “space race” between the Soviet Union and the United States was in full swing. I was four years old when my father took me outside on a dark Arizona night in October 1957, to peer upward in hopes of catching a glimpse of the first manmade object to orbit the Earth—Russia’s Sputnik 1. Sure enough, it streaked across the heavens as a pinpoint of light. By April of 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel into space aboard Vostok 1. Peering through the window of his spacecraft, Gagarin was reported to have made the comment, “I don’t see any God up here” (“Yuri Gagarin...,” n.d.). [NOTE: Yuri’s colleague and good friend, Colonel Valentin Petrov, later insisted that Yuri never made such a statement, though it came to be attributed to him, but was actually the result of a comment by Russian Premiere Nikita Khrushchev in an anti-religious propaganda speech before the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party: “At that time Khrushchev gave all the Party and Komsomol organizations the task to promote this propaganda and said: ‘Why should you clutch at God? Look, Gagarin flew in space and saw no God’” (“Gagarin Never Said...,” 2006).] Russian astronaut Valery Bykovsky told newsmen in 1963 that no Soviet cosmonaut believed in God and none of them had seen anything to change their minds during their space flights (“Soviet Cosmonauts...,” 1963, p. D7, emp. added). At the time, the spiritual and religious sensibilities of most Americans were shocked by such blatant, unmitigated unbelief.
Indeed, a sharp contrast may be drawn between the Russians and their American counterparts. For example, it was Christmas Eve,
Apollo 8 crew just after splashdown
Photo Credit: NASA
Seven months later, on July 20, 1969, with the largest worldwide television audience in history watching, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong became the first two humans to visit another world when they stepped onto the Moon from their Apollo 11 Lunar Module Eagle. Since the infamous atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair had filed suit against NASA (a suit eventually rejected by the courts) due to the Apollo 8 crew reading from Genesis, Aldrin was asked to forego his plan to read publicly from the Bible while on the Moon’s surface. Nevertheless, while still on the Moon, he radioed to Earth the following: “Houston. This is Eagle, the LM Pilot speaking. I would like to request a few moments of silence. Over. I would like to invite each person listening in, wherever and whomever he may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his own individual way” (“Apollo 11 Astronaut...,” 2007). While still on the Moon, Aldrin read John 15:5 to himself and then observed the Lord’s Supper (2007). During a television broadcast by the astronauts the evening before splashdown, Aldrin quoted Psalm 8:3-4—“When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou has ordained; What is man that thou art mindful of him? And the Son of Man, that thou visitest Him?” (2007).
Two years later, astronaut James B. Irwin walked on the moon during the Apollo 15 mission in July 1971. Concerning that lunar mission, Irwin declared, “I felt the power of God as I’d never felt it before” (Wilford, 1991). At the end of the first day of exploring the rugged lunar highlands, Irwin said he was reminded of “my favorite Biblical passage from Psalms,” which he then quoted by radio to Mission Control in Houston: “I’ll look unto the hills from whence cometh my help” (Wilford).
Of course, America’s brave astronauts merely reflected the religious convictions shared by the bulk of American culture at the time—extending all the way back to the beginning of the country. Tragically, that spiritual conviction, so characteristic of American civilization then, has since experienced extensive erosion. Contrast the astronauts in the early days of America’s space program with more recent ones. Returning from a 16-day mission in March 2008, crew members of Endeavor stated that as space exploration forges ahead, they believed the human race will find life elsewhere in the Universe (“Astronauts Say...,” 2008).
Buzz Aldrin on the Moon
Photo Credit: NASA
Another astronaut, Gregory Johnson, asserted: “I personally believe that we are going to find something that we can’t explain.... There is probably something out there but I’ve never seen it” (“Astronauts Say...”). The crew commander, Dominic Gorie, compared their space adventure to explorers in past eras who knew not what they would encounter when they sailed the uncharted seas of the Earth. “As we travel in the space, we don’t know what we’ll find. That’s the beauty of what we do. I hope that someday we’ll find what we don’t understand” (“Astronauts Say...”). Richard Linnehan, a fellow mission specialist, admitted that it could take a while before human beings come into contact with extraterrestrial life (“Astronauts Say...”). Here is yet another indication of America’s drift from God in exchange for fanciful theory and meaningless pursuits. Rather than being dazzled by the marvels of the Universe and acknowledging God as the great Creator, some of our astronauts now are filled with thoughts of little green men. Paul’s words form a sad commentary on the transition that has transpired:
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools (Romans 1:20-22, emp. added).
“Astronauts Say There Must Be Life in Space” (2008), Space Daily, May 12, [On-line], URL: http://www.spacedaily.com/2006/080512063010.m60tu6xh.html.
“Gagarin Never Said He Did Not See God in Space—His Friend, An Air Force Colonel” (2006), Interfax, April 12, [On-line], URL: http://www.interfax-religion.ru/orthodoxy/?act=interview&div=73 &domain=1.
“Soviet Cosmonauts Called Unbelievers” (1963), The Washington Post, p. D7, December 11, [On-line], URL: http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/washingtonpost_historical/access/179980282 .html?dids=179980282:179980282&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&date= DEC+11%2C+1963&author=&pub=The+Washington+Post&desc=Soviet +Cosmonauts+Called+Unbelievers&pqatl=google.
Stein, Ben and Kevin Miller (2008), Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (Premise Media).
Wilford, John N. (1991), “James B. Irwin, 61, Ex-Astronaut; Founded Religious Organization,” The New York Times, August 10, [On-line], URL: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CE3DD173DF933A2575B C0A967958260.
Williams, David (2007), “The Apollo Christmas Eve Broadcast,” NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, [On-line], URL: http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/lunar/apollo8_xmas.html.
“Yuri Gagarin Biography” (no date), Biography Base, [On-line], URL: http://www.biographybase.com/biography/Gagarin_Yuri.html.
An Investigation of the Biblical Evidence Against Homosexuality by Dave Miller, Ph.D. Brad Harrub, Ph.D.
An Investigation of the Biblical Evidence Against Homosexuality
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.
Brad Harrub, Ph.D.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of a two-part series that we authored on the issue of homosexuality. The first part (“ ‘This is the Way God Made Me’—A Scientific Examination of Homosexuality and the ‘Gay Gene’ ”) appeared in the August 2004 issue of Reason & Revelation.]
Nothing less than “complete and total acceptance!” This often is the answer given when homosexual activists are asked what they are seeking from the public in general. Such activists equate acceptance with civil liberties and equality. They believe that those individuals who do not accept the homosexual “lifestyle” are committing the unpardonable sin—the sin of intolerance (see Bloom, 1987, p. 25). In fact, certain school systems today actively teach youngsters the idea that we must embrace every concept that society popularizes, else we will be unloving and intolerant. Thus, many children are quietly convinced from a very young age that if they do not give everyone “complete and total acceptance,” then they are bigoted and mean spirited.
Using books like Heather Has Two Mommies or Daddy’s Roommate, teachers have begun instructing that there are essentially no right or wrong actions when it comes to relationships and families. Anything goes, as long as “love” is the ultimate motivation. Consider the message that children receive when they sit in classrooms filled with pictures of family units composed of two female “parents” or two male “parents,” alongside a picture of a husband and wife. [James Dobson, of Focus on the Family, has suggested: “The number one issue for the family today is the homosexual activist agenda“ (as quoted in Floyd, 2004, p. 49).] Homosexual activists argue that some homosexual couples show more love than heterosexual couples, so where is the harm? By focusing attention on love and acceptance, homosexual activists have successfully taken the spotlight off of their immoral behavior and abnormal acts. Students are told that homosexual parents are “normal,” and that they should be “accepted.” If a student rejects that tact, then he or she is labeled as (gulp!) “intolerant.”
Those who actually graduate from the halls of academia, and yet still object to homosexuality, are castigated as “homophobes,” “hatemongers,” “bigots,” “sexists,” “puritanical fanatics,” “religious fundamentalists,” etc. Homosexuality no longer is referred to as sodomy (the longtime historical term for same-sex relations), but rather as an “alternative lifestyle.” The media do not view homosexuality as sin, but rather as a valuable contribution to “diversity.” Individuals (or organizations) who dare to speak out against homosexuality in order to expose it as an immoral practice, often are confronted by militant activists who work diligently to spin the issue back into a “civil rights” matter.
Unfortunately, the success of the homosexual movement in this area has resulted in numerous Christians remaining silent, for fear of being labeled as hatemongers—or worse. Some Christians seem to have forgotten the words of the Savior:
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake (Matthew 5:10-11).Yet, the homosexual’s quest for “complete and total acceptance” often goes unchallenged because the Scriptures have been twisted and perverted to accept “alternative lifestyles,” while believers in Bible morality have been effectively silenced. That silence has allowed the social engineers of “political correctness” to achieve significant success in reversing the historically universal rejection by American civilization of the legality, political legitimacy, and social propriety of homosexuality, with the most recent being “gay marriages.”
Monday, May 17, 2004, was a day that will live in moral and spiritual infamy. Homosexual and lesbian couples were granted by the state of Massachusetts the right to marry—the first state in U.S. history to do so. On November 18, 2003, four activist justices of the Massachusetts Supreme Court paved the way for this occurrence by ruling that the Commonwealth must recognize the right of homosexual couples to marry (“Is Homosexual Marriage...?,” 2003). Perhaps this should not be surprising, since only five months earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its historically and constitutionally unprecedented elimination of state sodomy laws (“Lawrence...,” 2003)—a reversal of the high court’s own 1986 decision that upheld state sodomy laws and reinforced the historic stance that homosexuality is not a constitutional right (“Bowers...,” 1986).
In the midst of this reshaping of societal sensibilities, some who wish to retain their affiliation with the Bible, but also maintain political correctness, insist that the Bible itself teaches that same-sex relations are not inherently sinful. They argue that the Bible, in fact, condones homosexuality in the same way, and to the same extent, that it approves of heterosexuality.
CONFUSION EVEN WITHIN RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS
On March 7, 2004, V. Gene Robinson—an open homosexual who has lived with his “partner” Mark Andrew—became the ninth bishop of New Hampshire for the Episcopal Church. During his investiture, he remarked: “Journeys of faith, you know, are a risky business. God is always calling us out of our comfort zone” (see Diocese of New Hampshire, 2004). At the conclusion of that service, Robinson disclosed: “I’m just having the best time being your bishop. The rest of the world is watching us. This is going to be a great adventure.” Adventure indeed! Currently Michael W. Hopkins and Susan N. Blue, two priests who favor same-sex blessings, are leading an Episcopal diocesan task force to develop a same-sex “blessing ceremony” (Benson, 2004, p. 19). The Episcopal Church is struggling to prevent a major split in that denomination between those who disagree with Robinson’s appointment as bishop, and the new direction that the Episcopal Church is going. As Ronnie Floyd put it in his book, The Gay Agenda, when the decision to accept Robinson as a church bishop was made, “both rejoicing and lamentation broke out in that denomination as never before” (2004, p. 14).
This major news story fell on the heels of other denominations that already have begun to accept homosexual preachers or priests. In America, five of the major denominations openly “ordain” homosexuals as ministers, and recognize same-sex marriages (Floyd, p. 46). In Australia, the Uniting Church—the third largest church in the country—has become that country’s first mainstream denomination to accept homosexual priests (Little, 2003). The president of Australia’s Uniting church, Dean Drayton, said that the church had been living in what he referred to as “the messy middle” for six years, and thus has voted to formalize the unofficial tolerance and allow the ordination of openly gay ministers (Little, 2003).
The United Methodist Church (UMC) also is trying to maintain some sense of direction, having “been in turmoil over the issue for decades” (Floyd, p. 48). In fact, in early 2004, the UMC carried out an ecclesiastical trial (and subsequent exoneration!) of self-professed lesbian “minister” Karen Dammann. The Methodist Book of Discipline contains a number of clauses relating to homosexuality, such as, “Since the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, self-avowed practicing homosexuals* are not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.” The asterisk (*) by the word “homosexuals” refers to a footnote at the bottom of the page, which reads as follows: “ ‘Self-avowed practicing homosexual’ is understood to mean that a person openly acknowledges to a bishop, district superintendent, district committee of ordained ministry, board of ordained ministry or clergy session that the person is a practicing homosexual” (Par. 304.3). And yet, 13 ministers from Dammann’s own conference did not uphold these basic tenets. Her defense counsel, Robert Ward, observed that the Church should not elevate “a few, select paragraphs” of the Discipline above another passage that spoke in vague terms of “inclusiveness” (Vitagliano, 2004). Georgia Methodist bishops Michael Watson and Lindsey Davis protested vociferously:
[I]t is a clear sign of rebellion when a group chooses to flagrantly ignore [The Book of Discipline], substituting their own perspective for the corporate wisdom [of the church] (Vitagliano).In many instances, the Bible has been completely discarded, as many denominations not only overlook the sin of homosexuality, but even embrace it. Groups such as “More Light” (a Presbyterian organization that is “seeking the full participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of faith in the life, ministry and witness of the Presbyterian Church”) are becoming common within denominations that are trying to bolster their numbers. Church slogans with words like tolerance, inclusiveness, and love are now being touted, and are paraded on banners and in commercials—neglecting any precepts from the Word of God. Thus, religious groups all over the world are scrambling to determine on which side of the homosexual fence they want to be found.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
Homosexuality in the Patriarchal PeriodWhat, precisely, is God’s will concerning human sexuality? That will was demonstrated originally in the creation of the first human beings: “Male and female created He them” (Genesis 1:27). God’s decision to create a female counterpart to the male was not coincidental. The female uniquely met three essential criteria: (1) “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18); (2) a helper, suitable to him, was needed (Genesis 2:18,20); and (3) the human race was to be perpetuated through sexual union (Genesis 1:28). Both Jesus and Paul reiterated this same understanding (Matthew 19:4-6; 1 Corinthians 7:2). So the woman was: (a) the divine antidote to Adam’s loneliness; (b) a helper fit for him; and (c) the means of the propagation of the human race. Here, we see the divine arrangement for the human species.
Not long after God set into motion the created order—which He had pronounced as “very good” (Genesis 1:31)—man began to tamper with the divine will, and altered God’s original intentions concerning human sexuality. Lamech—not God—introduced polygamy into the world (Genesis 4:19). God could have created two women for Adam, but He did not. Rather, He made one man for one woman for life. That is the divine will—“male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27; cf. Matthew 19:1-9). Genesis 19:1-11 now comes into view.
Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.” So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him, and said, “Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly! See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof.” And they said, “Stand back!” Then they said, “This one came in to sojourn, and he keeps acting as a judge; now we will deal worse with you than with them.” So they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near to break down the door. But the men reached out their hands and pulled Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. And they struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they became weary trying to find the door (vss. 4-11).Defenders of homosexuality who seek justification for their viewpoint from the Bible have pursued a revisionist interpretation of the account of the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (along with Admah and Zeboiim, Deuteronomy 29:23). This passage has traditionally been understood to be a denunciation of homosexuality. This understanding has been so universal that the word “sodomy” was incorporated into English vernacular as referring to “any of various forms of sexual intercourse held to be unnatural or abnormal, especially anal intercourse or bestiality” (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 2000, p. 1651). How may the account of Sodom be reinterpreted to place same-sex relationships in a favorable light? Two explanations have been offered in an effort to promote the biblical legitimacy of homosexuality.
(1) Inhospitality or Homosexuality?The first claim maintains that the men of Sodom simply were guilty of inhospitality. The text says that the men of Sodom insisted on Lot bringing the angelic visitors out to them, “that we may know them” (Genesis 19:5). It thus is argued that “know” refers to their intention to meet, greet, get to know, or become acquainted with the visitors. However, contextual indicators exclude the feasibility of this interpretation.
First, while the Hebrew verb translated “know” (yada) has a wide range of meanings, including “to get to know” or “to become acquainted” (for the most part, the nuances of the Hebrew verb parallel the corresponding English verb), Hebrew, in common with other ancient languages, also used “know” as a euphemism for sexual intercourse (Genesis 4:1; 19:8). Other Semitic euphemisms similarly used include “lie with” (2 Samuel 11:4), “uncover the nakedness of ” (Leviticus 18), “go in unto” (Genesis 16:2; 38:2), and “touch” (Genesis 20:6; Proverbs 6:29; 1 Corinthians 7:1). Ancient languages that shared this figurative use of “know” included Egyptian, Akkadian, and Ugaritic (Botterweck, 1986, pp. 455-456,460), as well as Syriac, Arabic, Ethiopic, and Greek (Gesenius, 1979, p. 334). When Hebrew scholars define “know,” as used in Genesis 19:5, they use terminology like “sexual perversion” (Harris, et al., 1980, 1:366), “homosexual intercourse” (Botterweck, 1986, 5:464), and “crimes against nature” (Gesenius, p. 334).
Second, if “know” simply means “to get acquainted,” why did the Bible writers repeatedly use forms of the word “wicked” to refer to the actions of the Sodomites? Lot pleaded, “Do not do so wickedly!” (Genesis 19:7). Moses, by inspiration, already had given God’s assessment in the words, “But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord” (Genesis 13:13); “their sin is very grievous” (Genesis 18:20). Peter referred to the “filthy conduct of the wicked” sodomites and their “lawless deeds” (2 Peter 2:7-8). But “getting acquainted” is not “wicked”! In fact, if the men of Sodom were nothing more than a group of friendly, civic-minded neighbors who sought to make the visitors welcome to their city, God surely would have commended them—not condemned them!
Third, if “know” simply means “to get to know,” then why did Lot offer his virgin daughters to the men? He would not have offered his daughters for the purpose of the men “getting to know” or “becoming acquainted” with them. The daughters were already residents of Sodom, and would have been known to the men. Lot was offering his daughters to the men as sexual alternatives. Lot specifically said: “I have two daughters who have not known a man” (Genesis 19:8, emp. added). “Known” is another reference to sexual intercourse. Lot referred to their sexual status for the very reason that these men were interested in sexual impropriety. As astonishing and objectionable to us as it may seem for a father to sacrifice his own daughters in such a fashion, it verifies the fact that the unnatural lust of homosexuality was considered far more repugnant than even illicit heterosexuality. Scholars have further noted that in antiquity, a host was to protect his guests at the cost of his own life (Whitelaw, 1950, 1:253).
Fourth, the men of Sodom threatened Lot with the words, “we will deal worse with you than with them” (Genesis 19:9). If their intention was simply to “get to know” the male visitors, what would “dealing worse” with Lot entail? Perhaps it would have entailed their becoming so thoroughly “acquainted” with Lot that they would perpetually remain in his presence and make a pest of themselves? Maybe they intended to impose on Lot’s hospitality to the point that they would monopolize his living room couch, consume all of his snack foods, and refuse to vacate his home at a courteous hour?
In a further effort to achieve sanction for homosexuality, attention has been directed to the words of Jesus in His commissioning of the Seventy. He instructed them, in their evangelistic travels, to enter into those cities that would receive them and to feel free to partake of their hospitality (Luke 10:7-8). However, should a city fail to receive them, they were to shake the dust off their feet against the city (Luke 10:10-11). Jesus then declared: “It will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city” (Luke 10:12). Defenders and practitioners of same-sex relations claim that Jesus was drawing a comparison between the inhospitality of Sodom and the cities that the disciples would encounter. They claim that the inhospitality of a city that would reject Christ’s emissaries would be a greater evil than Sodom’s inhospitable treatment of the angelic visitors.
However, if “hospitality” was the issue at stake in Sodom, the Sodomites should have been commended, since they only wanted to “get to know” and be hospitable to the visitors. In fact, Lot should have been the one condemned, since he attempted to deter the hospitable overtures of the “Welcome Wagon.” In reality, the words of Jesus in Luke 10 were not directed against the cities’ refusal to be hospitable toward the disciples. Rather, He condemned them for their refusal to accept the teaching of the disciples. Jesus pinpointed their task when He warned: “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me” (Luke 10:16). Jesus placed Sodom at the top of the list of the most notoriously wicked cities of antiquity. He stressed the fact that to reject Christ and the Gospel would be a far greater offense than what the most wicked city in human history ever did. What the inhabitants of Sodom did was repulsive, repugnant, disgusting, and incredibly depraved. But to reject the antidote to sin is the ultimate insult and the final infraction against God!
Yet another argument marshaled in an effort to justify homosexuality concerns the allusions in the prophets to Sodom. Isaiah (3:9), Jeremiah (23:14), and Ezekiel (16:49) all refer to the sinfulness of Sodom, but none explicitly mentioned homosexuality as the problem. In fact, Ezekiel pinpointed the specific sins of “pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness,” as well as her unwillingness to aid the poor and needy. In response, we should not be surprised that a city that was guilty of sexual perversion also would be guilty of additional violations of God’s will.
Isaiah, in his discussion of Sodom, did not specify a particular sin, but merely noted how brazen and open the Sodomites were with their sin: “The look on their countenance witnesses against them, and they declare their sin as Sodom; they do not hide it.” Interestingly, this depiction is very apropos of the “in-your-face” attitude of those who seek to advance the homosexual agenda in our day. Jeremiah made essentially the same point in his comparison between Judah and Sodom when he wrote that “no one turns back from his wickedness.” He, too, was noting the sodomites’ blatant, unbending, determined intention to proceed with their sin. Ezekiel, though mentioning the additional sins that we have listed above, nevertheless referred repeatedly to Sodom’s “abomination” (16:50; cf., vs. 43,47,51,52,58). Moses also linked “abomination” with homosexual activity (Leviticus 18:22).
(2) Homosexual Rape?The second explanation offered to justify homosexual relations is that the men of Sodom were not condemned for their homosexuality, but for their inhospitable intention to engage in homosexual rape. Rape, some suggest (whether homosexual or heterosexual), being nonconsensual, is wrong, and is worthy of condemnation. However, this extension of the inhospitality quibble is likewise contextually indefensible. First, if gang rape was the issue, why did Lot offer his daughters in exchange for the visitors? Rape would have been at issue in both cases. Lot’s offer of his daughters indicated his clear concern over gender and same-sex relations. Second, the men of Sodom were declared wicked and guilty of “very grievous” sin before the visitors ever came to town (Genesis 18:20).
Third, Jude cinched the matter in his discussion of the sin of Sodom. He wrote that Sodom and her sister cities had “given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh” (Jude 7). “Given themselves over to sexual immorality” is a translation of the compound word ekporneusasai, which combines the verb porneuo (to commit illicit sexual intercourse) with the preposition ek (out of). The attachment of the prepositional prefix indicates intensification, i.e., that the men of Sodom possessed “a lust that gluts itself” (Thayer, 1977, p. 199). Their sexual appetites took them beyond the range of normal sexual activity. The idea of force or coercion is not in the meaning of the word. “Strange” refers to “one not of the same nature, form, class, kind” (Thayer, p. 254), and so pertains to the indulgence of passions that are “contrary to nature” (Barnes, 1949, p. 392)—“a departure from the laws of nature in the impurities practiced” (Salmond, 1950, 22:7). The frequent allusion to “nature” by scholars is interesting, in view of the fact that Scripture elsewhere links same-sex relations with that which is “against nature” (Romans 1:26-27) or unnatural, i.e., out of harmony with God’s original arrangement of nature (e.g., Genesis 1:27; 2:22; Matthew 19:4-6). Summarizing, Jude asserted that the sin of Sodom was homosexual relations—not homosexual rape.
Fourth, homosexuality itself is specifically condemned in Scripture. Under the Law of Moses, God made homosexuality a capital crime, and stipulated that both participants in the illicit sexual activity were to be put to death (Leviticus 20:13). God would not have required the innocent victim of homosexual rape to be executed along with the rapist.
American culture may well reach the point where the majority approves of homosexuality as acceptable behavior. And those who disapprove may well be accused of being “politically incorrect,” intolerant, and “homophobic.” It surely is reminiscent of our day to observe that when Lot urged the sodomites not to do “so wickedly,” the men accused Lot of being judgmental (Genesis 19:9; cf. Deuteronomy 23:17-18). Nevertheless, the objective, unbiased reader of the Bible is forced to conclude that God destroyed the men of Sodom on account of their sinful practice of homosexuality.
Homosexuality in the Mosaic PeriodIn addition to the pre-Mosaic, Patriarchal Period of history, God made clear His will on this matter when He handed down the Law of Moses to the Israelite nation. In a chapter dealing almost exclusively with sexual regulations, His words are explicit and unmistakable.
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.... Do not defile yourselves with any of these things,...lest the land vomit you out also when you defile it, as it vomited out the nations that were before you (Leviticus 18:22-30).
If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them (Leviticus 20:13).We suggest that a reader would need help to misunderstand these injunctions.
Another graphic account is presented during the period of the judges, which was a time of spiritual and moral depravity and decay—the “Dark Ages” of Jewish history. Judges 19 records that “sons of Belial” (i.e., wicked scoundrels) surrounded a house where travelers had taken refuge for the night. As in Sodom, they desired to “know” the male guests (vs. 22). The host, like Lot, knew exactly what they meant, as is evident from the fact that, like Lot, he offered them a sexual alternative (which, of course, God did not approve). Their sexual desire was labeled as “wickedness,” “outrage,” “vileness,” “lewdness,” and “evil” (Judges 19:23-24; 20:3,6,10,12,13). The rest of the Old Testament corroborates this judgment of same-sex relations. For example, during the period of the kings, Josiah instituted sweeping moral and religious reforms, including tearing down the homes of the Sodomites (2 Kings 23:7).
Homosexuality in the New Testament PeriodThe New Testament is equally definitive in its uncompromising and unquestioned condemnation of illicit sexual activity. Paul summarized the “unrighteous” and “ungodly” behavior of the Gentile nations, and declared:
For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting. ...who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them (Romans 1:26-32, emp. added).Observe that “God gave them up” to “vile passions.” Other renderings include “lusts of dishonor” (Bengel, 1971, 2:26), “passions of dishonor” (Lenski, 1951, p. 113), and “passions which bring dishonour” (Cranfield, 1985, p. 125). The passions to which the heathen nations were given are declared to be vile and debased. Barrett observed: “No feature of pagan society filled the Jew with greater loathing than the toleration, or rather admiration, of homosexual practices” (1967, p. 39). In fact, Melina noted that homosexuality is the sin that lies at the heart of idolatry. Therefore the Jews despised this practice that defiled both the soul as well as the body (1998, 25:57-68). The “women” and “men” (i.e., the “females” and “males” of verse 26) had descended “to the brutish level of being nothing but creatures of sex” (Lenski, p. 113; Bengel, 2:26).
The contrast between the “natural” and the “unnatural” shows that the Gentiles had “left aside and thus discarded” the natural form of intercourse between a man and his wife (Lenski, p. 113). The fact that this exchange involved sexual intercourse is well established (Bauer, 1979, p. 886; Cranfield, p. 125). And Lenski adds, “It was bad enough to sin with males, vastly worse and the very limit of vice to sin as they did” (p. 114). Kent Hughes observed that Paul singled out homosexuality “because it is obviously unnatural and therefore underlines the extent to which sin takes mankind” (1991, p. 43). Indeed, same-sex relations were “quite prevalent in the Greco-Roman society in which he [Paul] lived” (Fitzmyer, 1993, p. 275).
Paul’s observation that homosexual activity goes “against nature” harks back to the Creation model when God created the first human beings (Genesis 1:26). Homosexual practices go against the natural pattern established by God when He created “male and female” (Deyoung, 1988, pp. 429-441). Such behavior is “contrary to the intention of the Creator” (Cranfield, p. 123). Therefore, homosexuality goes against the natural order of marriage, not of Jews or Gentiles; the marriage bed should be undefiled in all nationalities and cultures.
The males mentioned in verse 27 are equally as debased as their previously discussed female counterparts. Being “set on fire” with lust for each other, one must realize that “[t]he moment God is taken out of the control in men’s life, the stench of sex aberration is bound to arise. It is so in the world to this day. Without God sex runs wild” (Lenski, p. 115). One of the consequences that follows for those who engage in homosexual relations is that they receive “in themselves the penalty of their error which was due”—“the vicious effect of the unnatural sexual vices upon men’s own bodies and their minds, corruption, destroying, disintegrating” (p. 116).
Such forthright words—“set on fire”—from an inspired apostle are set against a specific social and cultural milieu. In his survey of homosexuality in Western Europe from the beginning of the Christian era to the 14th century, John Boswell depicted how Rome had a severe problem with homosexuality, contributing significantly to the glorification and proliferation of homosexual activity. He noted that 14 out of the first 15 Roman emperors were homosexuals, and spent 25 pages detailing facts that prove Rome to have been a hotbed of homosexual activity. For example, during the Augustan reign, the government not only allowed male homosexual prostitutes to operate on her streets, but also taxed them and gave them a national day off work (1980, p. 70). The Emperor Hadrian, called by some “the most outstanding of the ‘five good emperors,’ ” according to Boswell, “appears to have been exclusively gay” (p. 84). Dupont adds that “it was said of Caesar that he was the ‘husband of all women and the wife of all husbands,’ ” identifying his bisexual nature (1993, p. 117). One needs only peruse any reputable historical account of the life and times of the average Roman citizen to see that homosexual activity played a major role in the politics, recreations, and commerce of the first century. It is no surprise then that the apostle Paul spoke so stringently on such practices.
Those who attempt to soften or contradict the clear teaching of Paul in Romans 1 regarding the sinfulness of homosexuality sometimes attempt to sidestep the clear import of the passage by insisting that it applied only to its original recipients. Boswell claimed that the idea of the passage is not to “stigmatize sexual behavior but to condemn Gentiles for their general infidelity” (p. 108). Martin has suggested that Paul referred to the Gentile culture, not the “universal human condition” (1995, p. 338). But is Romans 1:26-27 a “cultural chastisement,” or a universal condemnation? The immediate context (1:18-3:20) consists of God’s pronouncement that all humans in every culture and nation are under sin—“all the world” (3:19). In fact, the entire book of Romans is the New Testament’s flagship declaration of the means of justification for all persons—“everyone” (Romans 1:16). Hence, the condemnation of homosexuality in Romans 1 is parallel to its like condemnation of murder, deceit, covetousness, and all the other sins itemized by Paul.
One final observation regarding Romans 1 is noteworthy. Not only is God displeased with those who participate in homosexual behavior, but Paul indicates that He is equally displeased with those who are supportive of such conduct—even if they do not engage in the activity themselves. The wording is: “[T]hose who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them” (vs. 32). On this count alone, many have earned the disapproval of God.
Compare Paul’s remarks to the church at Rome with the question he posed to the Corinthian church:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, emp. added).The Greek word translated “homosexual” in this passage is a metaphorical use of a term that literally means “soft,” and when referring to people, refers to males allowing themselves to be used sexually by other males. Again, lexicographers apply the term to the person who is a “catamite,” i.e., a male who submits his body to another male for unnatural lewdness—i.e., homosexually (Thayer, p. 387; Arndt and Gingrich, 1957, p. 489).
“Sodomites” (“abusers of themselves with mankind” in the KJV) is a translation of the term arsenokoitai. It derives from two words: arsein (a male) and koitei (a bed), and refers to one who engages in sex with a male as with a female (Thayer, p. 75). Paul used the same term when he wrote to Timothy to discuss certain behaviors that are both “contrary to sound doctrine” and characteristic of the one who is not “a righteous man” (1 Timothy 1:9-10).
As D. Gene West correctly observed regarding Paul’s letter to Timothy:
We can see from the context that homosexual activities are classed with such sins as patricide, matricide, homicide, kidnapping, and perjury. If we accept that any of these things are sins, we must accept that all are sins. If it is a sin to be a whoremonger, to pursue a lascivious life with prostitutes, then it is likewise a sin to engage in homosexual acts. There is no way to escape that conclusion. If it is a sin to murder one’s father, or mother, or some other human being, then it is a sin for both males and females to “cohabitate” (2004).When Paul said to the Christians at Corinth, “such were some of you,” he proved not only that homosexuals may be forgiven, but that they can cease such sinful activity. Here we have a clear biblical indication that someone can change their sexual orientation, and can be forgiven of a past immoral lifestyle. We are forced to conclude that sexual activity between persons of the same sex is not a matter of genetics; but is a behavioral phenomenon associated largely with environmental factors (see the August 2004 issue of Reason and Revelation).
Encouraging young people simply to “take precautions” only encourages additional illicit behavior. It encourages more promiscuity. It contributes to an increase—not a decrease—in the number of pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Despite several decades of having inundated our schools with sex education and the promotion of so-called “safe sex,” the statisticians inform us that in the next thirty days alone, 83,850 unwed girls will become pregnant in this country (“Teens in Crisis,” 2001, p. 1). The liberals’ “solution” has not worked. In fact, the problem has greatly worsened.
The depths to which our country has slumped morally is evinced by the legality of the distribution birth control devices to students, and the illegality to distribute Bibles or to teach Bible principles. The time has come for our nation to wake up, and for all citizens to understand that freedom requires restraint. Rights require personal responsibility. People must take responsibility for their personal choices, and accept the consequences of their own actions. Paul declared: “flee fornication” (1 Corinthians 6:18). He did not write, “engage in ‘safe’ fornication”! There is no such thing as “safe” sin or “safe” immorality, because all sin is damning (James 1:15). God said a person must run away from it, resist it, and reject it (2 Corinthians 6:18). To a youth, Paul said: “Keep yourself pure” (1 Timothy 5:22). The writer of Hebrews insisted that the marriage bed is to be kept “undefiled.” “[F]ornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4). There should not be so much as a hint of sexual immorality among Christians (Ephesians 5:3).
Please understand: God loves all sinners—regardless of the specific sins they have committed. But it is imperative that we be about the business of alerting those who are engaged in sexual sin regarding God’s will, in an effort to “snatch them out of the fire” (Jude 23), and to “save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:20). One day it will be too late for both those who “not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:32). Indeed, the “sexually immoral...shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone” (Revelation 21:8).
Sexual sin undoubtedly will go down in history as one of the major contributors to the moral and spiritual deterioration, decline, and downfall of American society. Homosexuality is one more glaring proof of the sexual anarchy that prevails in American civilization. One wonders how much longer such widespread unchastity can continue in our land before God will “visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants” (Leviticus 18:25). We know today that homosexuality is not caused by genetics (see Harrub, et al., 2004). It is not “nature,” but “nurture” that is responsible. It is not a life “style,” but rather a life “choice.” And it is wrong.
Every society in human history that has followed a course of moral and spiritual depravity has either been destroyed by God or has imploded from within. Like these previous civilized nations, our society will not be permitted to survive indefinitely into the future—unless, of course, God is prepared to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.
Arndt, William and F.W. Gingrich (1957), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).
Barnes, Albert (1949 reprint), Barnes’ Notes on the Old and New Testaments—James-Jude (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Barrett, C.K. (1967), A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, ed. Henry Chadwick (London: Black).
Bauer, Walter (1979), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, trans., rev., and ed. William F. Arndt, F. Wilbur Gingrich, and Frederick W. Danker (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press), second edition.
Bengel, John Albert (1971), New Testament Word Studies, trans. Charlton Lewis and Marvin Vincent (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel).
Benson, Rusty (2004), “Paper vs. Practice,” AFA Journal, 28:17-19, May.
Bloom, Allan (1987), The Closing of the American Mind (New York: Simon and Schuster).
Boswell, John (1980), Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).
Botterweck, G. Johannes and Helmer Ringgren (1986), Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
“Bowers v. Hardwick et al.” (1986), [On-line], URL: http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0478_0186_ZS.html.
Cranfield, C.E.B. (1985), A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, ed. J.A. Emmerton and C.E.B. Cranfield (Edinburgh: Clark).
Deyoung, James B. (1988), “The Meaning of ‘Nature’ in Romans and Its Implications for Biblical Proscriptions of Homosexual Behavior,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 31:429-441.
Diocese of New Hampshire (2004), “Our Search Process,” [On-line], URL: http://www.nh episcopal.org/BishopSearch/bishop_search_news.htm.
Dupont, Florence (1993), Daily Life in Ancient Rome, trans. Christopher Woodall (Cambridge: Blackwell).
Fitzmyer, Joseph A. (1993), Romans: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New York: Doubleday).
Floyd, Ronnie W. (2004), The Gay Agenda (Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Press).
Gesenius, William (1979), Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Gomes, Peter J. (1996), The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart (New York: William Morrow).
Harris, R. Laird, Gleason Archer Jr., and Bruce Waltke, eds. (1980), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago, IL: Moody).
Harrub, Brad and Dave Miller (2004), “ ‘This is the Way God Made Me’—A Scientific Examination of Homosexuality and the ‘Gay Gene,’ ” Reason & Revelation, 24:73-79, August.
Hughes, R. Kent (1991), Righteousness from Heaven (Wheaton, IL: Crossway).
“Is Homosexual Marriage a Constitutional Right?” (2003), The Bill of Rights Institute, [On-line], URL: http://www.billofrightsinstitute.org/print.php?sid=430.
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Lenski, R. C. H. (1951), The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Columbus, OH: Wartburg).
Little, Jane (2003), “Australia Church Accepts Gay Priests,” BBC NEWS, [On-line], URL: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/3075739.stm.
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Melina, Livio (1998), “Homosexual Inclination as an Objective Disorder: Reflections of Theological Anthropology,” Communio-International Catholic Review, 25:57-68.
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“Teens in Crisis” (2001), Teen Help (Las Vegas, NV: World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools).
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Vitagliano, Ed (2004), “Mutiny Among the Methodists,” AFA Journal, 28:20-21, May.
West, D. Gene (2004), “Homosexuality, Alternative or Deviate Lifestyle” [a tract], (Moundsville, WV).
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Did Moses Make a Scientific Mistake?
|by||Wayne Jackson, M.A.|
Q.The Bible speaks of two animals, the coney and the hare, as “chewing the cud.” Isn't the Bible mistaken on this point? These animals do not actually chew the cud, do they?
A.An infidel once wrote: “Something that has long perplexed me is the way that inerrancy proponents can so easily find ‘scientific foreknowledge’ in obscurely worded Bible passages but seem completely unable to see scientific error in statements that were rather plainly written.” This skeptic then cited Leviticus 11:5-6, where the coney and the hare are said to chew the cud, and boasted that since these animals do not have compartmentalized stomachs like those in ruminants (e.g., the cow), Moses clearly made a mistake. What shall we say to this charge?
First, no scientific mistake can be attributed to the Bible unless all of the facts are fully known. In such an alleged case, the biblical assertion must be unambiguous. The scientific information must be factual. And an indisputable conflict must prevent any harmonization of the two. Do these criteria obtain in this matter? They do not.
Second, we must note that the words “coney” (Hebrew shaphan) and “hare” (arnebeth) are rare and difficult words in the Old Testament. The former is found but four times, and the latter only twice. The etymology of the terms is obscure. In the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament), shaphan is rendered by dasupoda, meaning “rough foot,” and arnebeth becomes choirogrullion, literally, “swine-pig.” Hence, identification becomes a factor. It is commonly believed, however, that the arnebeth is some species of hare, and that shaphan denotes the Syrian hyrax.
But, so it is claimed, neither of these chews the cud. A number of scholars have noted that both of these animals, even when at rest, masticate, much like the cow or sheep, and that Moses thus employed phenomenal language (i.e., describing something as it appears), for the purpose of ready identification, inasmuch as these creatures were ceremonially unclean and thus prohibited for use as food (Archer, 1982, p. 126).
That is not an impossible solution. Bats, for example, are listed along with birds in Leviticus 11, not because both are mammals, but simply because both fly. The Scriptures do not necessarily follow the arbitrary classification systems of man. When Christ said that the mustard seed is “less than all seeds,” (Matthew 13:33), He was speaking from the vantage point of the Palestinian citizen—not that of a modern botanist. We today employ phenomenal jargon when we speak of the Sun “rising and setting.” Technically, it is not correct to refer to a woman’s amniotic fluid as “water,” and yet doctors employ this language frequently. Why do we not allow the biblical writers as much literary license as we ourselves employ? The bias of agnosticism is utterly incredible.
There is, however, another factor that must be taken into consideration. Rumination does not necessarily involve a compartmentalized stomach system. One definition of “ruminate” is simply “to chew again that which has been swallowed” (Webster’s Dictionary). And oddly enough, that is precisely what the hare does. Though the hare does not have a multi-chambered stomach—which is characteristic of most ruminants—it does chew its food a second time. It has been learned rather recently that hares pass two types of fecal material.
In addition to normal waste, they pass a second type of pellet known as a caecotroph. The very instant the caecotroph is passed, it is grabbed and chewed again.... As soon as the caecotroph is chewed thoroughly and swallowed, it aggregates in the cardiac region of the stomach where it undergoes a second digestion (Morton, 1978, pp. 179-181).This complicated process provides the rabbit with 100% more riboflavin, 80% more niacin, 160% more pantothenic acid, and a little in excess of 40% more vitamin B12 (Harrison, 1980, p. 121). In a comparative study of cows and rabbits, Jules Carles concluded that rumination should not be defined from an anatomical point of view (e.g., the presence of a four-part stomach); rather, it should be viewed from the standpoint of a mechanism for breeding bacteria to improve food. Cows and rabbits are similar in that both possess a fermentation chamber with microorganisms that digest otherwise indigestible plant material, converting it into nutrients. Some of the microorganisms in these two animals are the same, or very similar. Carles has stated that on this basis “it is difficult to deny that rabbits are ruminants” (as quoted in Brand, 1977, p. 104). Dr. Bernard Grzimek, Director of the Frankfurt Zoological Gardens in Germany, likewise has classified the hare as a ruminant (1975, pp. 421-422).
On the other hand, the hyrax also is considered by some to be a ruminant, based upon the fact that it has a multiple digestive process.
The hyrax has a very long protrusion, a caecum, and two additional caeca near the colon. At least one of these protrusions participates in decomposition of cellulose. It contributes certain enzymes necessary for breakdown of the cellulose (Morton, 1978, p. 184).Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia (1975) considers the hyrax as a ruminant. Professor Joseph Fischel of the University of California has suggested that the biblical allusion to the coney as a cud-chewer probably was due “to the structure of its digestive system, the protuberances in its large stomach together with its appendix and maw possibly being regarded as analogous to a ruminant’s four stomachs” (1971, p. 1144). In his significant study of the intestinal microflora in herbivores, scientist Richard McBee observed that the hyrax has a fermentation chamber for the digestion of grass by microorganisms (as quoted in Brand, 1977, p. 103).
Finally, the precise meaning of gerah, rendered “chewing the cud” in most versions, is uncertain. Many orthodox Jews consider it simply to mean a second mastication, or the semblance of chewing. Samuel Clark stated that the meaning of gerah “became expanded, and the rodents and pachyderms, which have a habit of grinding with their jaws, were familiarly spoken of as ruminating animals” (1981, 1:546).
In view of the foregoing facts, it is extremely presumptuous to suggest that the Mosaic account contains an error relative to these creatures. A sensible interpretive procedure and/or an acquaintance with accurate information would have eliminated such a rash and unwarranted conclusion.
Brand, Leonard R. (1977), “Do Rabbits Chew the Cud?,” Origins, 4(2):102-104.
Clark, Samuel (1981), “Leviticus,” The Bible Commentary, ed. F.C. Cook (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Fischel, Joseph W. (1971), “Hyrax,” Encyclopedia Judaica (New York: Macmillan).
Grzimek, Bernard, ed. (1975), Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold).
Harrison, R.K. (1980), Leviticus (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press).
Morton, Jean Sloat (1978), Science in the Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody).