"THE EPISTLE OF JUDE" Chapter One Following his salutation (1-2), Jude explains the purpose for writing (3-4). He reminds his readers of God’s judgments in the past (5-7), then describes the character and ultimate doom of false teachers (8-19). Exhorting them to build up their most holy faith (20-23), he concludes with praise to God (24-25). POINTS TO PONDER The faith revealed once for all (literally, one time for all time) * The character of false teachers * How to build up our most holy faith REVIEW QUESTIONS 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - Greetings - Jude 1:1-2 - Purpose for writing - Jude 1:3-4 - God’s judgments in time past - Jude 1:5-7 - Character and doom of false teachers - Jude 1:8-19 - Exhortations to build their faith - Jude 1:20-23 - Concluding doxology - Jude 1:24-25 2) How does Jude describe the recipients of his epistle? (1) - Called, sanctified, preserved 3) What did Jude find necessary to exhort his readers? Why? (3-4) - To contend earnestly for the faith delivered once for all to the saints - Some were turning God’s grace into lewdness, denying God and Jesus 4) List both biblical and extra-biblical examples given by Jude. (5-7,9,11) - Israelites, angels who sinned, Sodom and Gomorrah, Cain, Balaam, Korah - Michael contending with the devil, Enoch and his prophesy 5) List the qualities of the false teachers are condemned in this epistle. (8-19) - Defile the flesh, reject authority, speak evil of dignitaries - Speak evil of what they do not know, corrupt themselves in what they know naturally - Serve only themselves, grumblers, complainers, sensual, devoid of the Spirit 6) What counsel does Jude give to build oneself up in the faith? (20-21) - Remain in the love of God, pray in the Holy Spirit, look for mercy unto eternal life - With compassion and fear try to save others 7) In his doxology, what does Jude say God is able to do? (24) - Keep us from stumbling, present us faultless before His glory with exceeding joy
"THE EPISTLE OF JUDE" Introduction In several passages throughout the New Testament, we find serious warnings about impending apostasy... * Jesus warned that false prophets would arise, the love of many would grow cold, and only those who endure to the end would be saved - Mt 24:11-13 * Paul foretold of many disciples being drawn away - Ac 20:29-30 * Peter warned about the rise of false teachers, and how many would follow their destructive ways - 2Pe 2:1-3 By the time the epistles of John and Jude were written, the danger was no longer pending, it was very much in existence... • Antichrists were present, and false prophets were in the world - 1Jn 2:18; 4:1; 2Jn 1:7 • Jude was forced to change his original purpose to deal with the crisis - Jude 1:3-4 If the danger of apostasy was already present in the 1st century A.D., we should not be surprised that the danger exists in the 21st century. We would do well to pay close heed to those epistles written to tell us how to deal with apostasy, and that makes The Epistle Of Jude especially relevant. AUTHOR Jude, as stated in the salutation (Jude 1:1). That he does not identify himself as an apostle, and appears to distinguish himself from the apostles (Jude 1:17), suggests he was not the apostle Jude (cf. Lk 6:16; Ac 1:13). His self-identification as "the brother of James" leads many to believe the author to be Judas, brother of James and also of the Lord Jesus (cf. Mt 13:55). Like James, Jude chose not to accentuate his physical relation to Jesus, but his spiritual one ("a bondservant of Jesus Christ," cf. Jude 1:1; Jm 1:1). RECIPIENTS The letter is addressed "to those who are called" (Jude 1:1) without any specific designation as to who they were or where they lived. The references to Old Testament incidents and extra-biblical sources (cf. Jude 1:5-7,9,11,14) strongly suggests that the original readers were Jewish Christians, perhaps living in Palestine. DATE Similarities between the Epistle of Jude and the Second Epistle of Peter indicate one author may have influenced the other. Since Peter wrote of false teachers who were to come (cf. 2Pe 2:1) and Jude warned of those who had already "crept in unnoticed" (cf. Jude 1:4), it is possible that that Jude wrote after Peter. Peter’s death in during the reign of Nero (which ended in 68 A.D.) places his own epistle sometime before 67 A.D. The lack of any mention of the destruction of Jerusalem (which occurred during the fall of 70 A.D.) suggests that Jude wrote before that notable event. If so, then the date of composition may have been between 67-70 A.D. PURPOSE AND THEME Jude’s original purpose in penning this epistle was to write of the common salvation he and his readers shared (Jude 1:3). But the presence of ungodly men and the danger of them leading Christians astray forced a change in purpose: * To encourage his readers to contend earnestly for the faith that had been delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3) As for the theme, Jude’s first admonition serves us well: Contend earnestly for the faith OUTLINE Here is a simple outline of the book... Greetings (1-2) 1. Purpose for writing (3-4) 2. God’s judgments in time past (5-7) 3. Character and doom of false teachers (8-19) 4. Exhortations to build their faith (20-23) Concluding doxology (24-25) REVIEW QUESTIONS 1) Who is author of The Epistle Of Jude? (1) - Jude, brother of James (likely the half-brothers of Jesus, Mt 13:55) 2) Who were the recipients of this epistle? - "Those who were called", possibly Jewish Christians 3) When was it written? - Most date it between 67-70 A.D. 4) What has been suggested as its purpose? - To encourage his readers to contend earnestly for the faith that had been delivered to the saints 5) What has been suggested as its theme? - Contend earnestly for the faith 6) What are the main divisions of this epistle as outlined above? - Greetings (1-2) - Purpose for writing (3-4) - God’s judgments in time past (5-7) - Character and doom of false teachers (8-19) - Exhortations to build their faith (20-23) - Concluding doxology (24-25)
London Terrorists, Violence, and the Quran
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
For the second time within two weeks, Muslim terrorists have targeted innocent Londoners in an incessant desire to strike out at alleged enemies (Fleming, 2005). British Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed the perception of many of the people of the world when he said that such acts by Islamic terrorists should not reflect negatively on Britain’s large Muslim population. In fact, he insisted: “We know that these people act in the name of Islam, but we also know that the vast and overwhelming majority of Muslims, here and abroad, are decent and law-abiding people who abhor this act of terrorism every bit as we do” (“Hunt Intensifies...,” 2005, emp. added).
This almost irrational refusal to link terrorism with Islam is apparently widespread even among mainstream Muslims. For example, the secretary-general for the Muslim Council of Britain pointed to “alienation” and “segregation” as among the potential incentives for Islamic suicide bombers (Manji, 2005, p. 78). Nevertheless, some Muslims appear a little more willing to entertain the possibility that perhaps Islam and the Quran are responsible for the terrorists’ behavior: “For too long, we Muslims have been sticking fingers in our ears and chanting ‘Islam means peace’ to drown out the negative noise from our holy book. Far better to own up to it” (Manji, p. 78).
Own up to it, indeed. It may well be true that the vast majority of Muslims disapprove of the wanton acts of violence by Islamic terrorists. But the Quran—the holy book of Islam that 1.3 billion Muslims believe to be the word of God—is replete with explicit and implicit sanction and promotion of armed conflict, violence, and bloodshed by Muslims. Difficult to believe? Then read for yourself the following sections of the Quran from the celebrated translation by Muslim scholar Mohammed Pickthall:
Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks until, when ye have routed them, then making fast of bonds; and afterward either grace or ransom till the war lay down its burdens. That (is the ordinance). And if Allah willed He could have punished them (without you) but (thus it is ordained) that He may try some of you by means of others. And those who are slain in the way of Allah, He rendereth not their actions vain (Surah 47:4, emp. added).Muhammad was informed that warfare was prescribed for him! Though he may have hated warfare, it was actually good for him, and what he loved, i.e., non-warfare, was actually bad for him! And though under normal circumstances, fighting is not appropriate during sacred months, killing was warranted against those who sought to prevent Muslims from practicing their religion. Killing is better than being persecuted! A similar injunction states: “Sanction is given unto those who fight because they have been wronged; and Allah is indeed Able to give them victory” (Surah 22:39, emp. added). In fact, “Allah loveth those who battle for His cause in ranks, as if they were a solid structure” (Surah 61:4, emp. added).
Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors. And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter. And fight not with them at the Inviolable Place of Worship until they first attack you there, but if they attack you (there) then slay them. Such is the reward of disbelievers. But if they desist, then lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah. But if they desist, then let there be no hostility except against wrongdoers. The forbidden month for the forbidden month, and forbidden things in retaliation. And one who attacketh you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you. Observe your duty to Allah, and know that Allah is with those who ward off (evil) (Surah 2:190-194, emp. added).
Warfare is ordained for you, though it is hateful unto you; but it may happen that ye hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that ye love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knoweth, ye know not. They question thee (O Muhammad) with regard to warfare in the sacred month. Say: Warfare therein is a great (transgression), but to turn (men) from the way of Allah, and to disbelieve in Him and in the Inviolable Place of Worship, and to expel his people thence, is a greater with Allah; for persecution is worse that killing. And they will not cease from fighting against you till they have made you renegades from your religion, if they can (Surah 2:216-217, emp. added).
In a surah titled “Repentance” that issues stern measures to be taken against idolaters, the requirement to engage in carnal warfare is apparent:
Freedom from obligation (is proclaimed) from Allah and His messenger toward those of the idolaters with whom ye made a treaty: Travel freely in the land four months, and know that ye cannot escape Allah and that Allah will confound the disbelievers (in His guidance). And a proclamation from Allah and His messenger to all men on the day of the Greater Pilgrimage that Allah is free from obligation to the idolaters, and (so is) His messenger. So, if ye repent, it will be better for you; but if ye are averse, then know that ye cannot escape Allah. Give tidings (O Muhammad) of a painful doom to those who disbelieve. Excepting those of the idolaters with whom ye (Muslims) have a treaty, and who have since abated nothing of your right nor have supported anyone against you. (As for these), fulfill their treaty to them till their term. Lo! Allah loveth those who keep their duty (unto Him). Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful (Surah 9:1-5, emp. added).The ancient Muslim histories elaborate on the occasion of these admonitions: “[T]he idolaters were given four months’ respite to come and go as they pleased in safety, but after that God and His Messenger would be free from any obligation towards them. War was declared upon them, and they were to be slain or taken captive wherever they were found” (Lings, 1983, p. 323).
Later in the same surah, “Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the religion of truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low” (Surah 9:29, emp. added). “Those who have been given the Scripture” is a reference to Jews and Christians. The surah advocates coercion against Jews and Christians in order to physically force them to pay the jizyah—a special religious tax imposed on religious minorities (see Nasr, 2002, p. 166). Muslim translator Mohammed Pickthall explained the historical setting of this quranic utterance: “It signified the end of idolatry in Arabia. The Christian Byzantine Empire had begun to move against the growing Muslim power, and this Surah contains mention of a greater war to come, and instructions with regard to it” (p. 145). Indeed, the final verse of Surah 2 calls upon Allah to give Muslims “victory over the disbelieving folk” (vs. 286), rendered by Rodwell: “give us victory therefore over the infidel nations.” That this stance by the Quran was to be expected is evident from the formulation of the Second Pledge of Aqabah, in which the men pledged their loyalty and their commitment to protecting Muhammad from all opponents. This pledge included duties of war, and was taken only by the males. Consequently, the First Aqabah pact, which contained no mention of war, became known as the “pledge of the women” (Lings, p. 112).
Additional allusions to warfare in the Quran are seen in the surah, “The Spoils,” dated in the second year of the Hijrah (A.D. 623), within a month after the Battle of Badr:
And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah.... If thou comest on them in the war, deal with them so as to strike fear in those who are behind them.... And let not those who disbelieve suppose that they can outstrip (Allah’s purpose). Lo! they cannot escape. Make ready for them all thou canst of (armed) force and of horses tethered, that thereby ye may dismay the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others beside them whom ye know not.... O Prophet! Exhort the believers to fight. If there be of you twenty stedfast they shall overcome two hundred, and if there be of you a hundred stedfast they shall overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve, because they (the disbelievers) are a folk without intelligence.... It is not for any Prophet to have captives until he hath made slaughter in the land. Ye desire the lure of this world and Allah desireth (for you) the Hereafter, and Allah is Mighty, Wise. Had it not been for an ordinance of Allah which had gone before, an awful doom had come upon you on account of what ye took. Now enjoy what ye have won, as lawful and good, and keep your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful (Surah 8:39,57,59-60,65,67-69, emp. added; cf. 33:26).Muslim scholar Pickthall readily concedes the context of these verses:
vv. 67-69 were revealed when the Prophet had decided to spare the lives of the prisoners taken at Badr and hold them to ransom, against the wish of Omar, who would have executed them for their past crimes. The Prophet took the verses as a reproof, and they are generally understood to mean that no quarter ought to have been given in that first battle (p. 144, emp. added).So the Quran indicates that at the Battle of Badr, no captives should have been taken. The enemy should have been completely slaughtered, with no quarter given. This very fate awaited the Jewish Bani Qurayzah, when some 700 men were beheaded by the Muslims with Muhammad’s approval (Lings, p. 232). Likewise, members of a clan of the Bani Nadir were executed in Khaybar for concealing their treasure rather than forfeiting it to the Muslims (Lings, p. 267).
Another surah describes how allowances respecting the daily prayers were to be made for Muhammad’s Muslim warriors when engaged in military action:
And when ye go forth in the land, it is no sin for you to curtail (your) worship if ye fear that those who disbelieve may attack you. In truth the disbelievers are an open enemy to you. And when thou (O Muhammad) art among them and arrangest (their) worship for them, let only a party of them stand with thee (to worship) and let them take their arms. Then when they have performed their prostrations let them fall to the rear and let another party come that hath not worshipped and let them worship with thee, and let them take their precaution and their arms. Those who disbelieve long for you to neglect your arms and your baggage that they may attack you once for all. It is no sin for you to lay aside your arms, if rain impedeth you or ye are sick. But take your precaution. Lo! Allah prepareth for the disbelievers shameful punishment. When ye have performed the act of worship, remember Allah, standing, sitting and reclining. And when ye are in safety, observe proper worship. Worship at fixed hours hath been enjoined on the believers. Relent not in pursuit of the enemy (Surah 4:101-104, emp. added; cf. 73:20).These verses show that the Quran implicitly endorses armed conflict and war to advance Islam.
Muslim historical sources themselves report the background details of those armed conflicts that have characterized Islam from its inception—including Muhammad’s own warring tendencies involving personal participation in and endorsement of military campaigns (cf. Lings, pp. 86,111). Muslim scholar Pickthall’s own summary of Muhammad’s war record is an eye-opener: “The number of the campaigns which he led in person during the last ten years of his life is twenty-seven, in nine of which there was hard fighting. The number of the expeditions which he planned and sent out under other leaders is thirty-eight” (n.d., p. xxvi).
What a contrast with Jesus—Who never once took up the sword or encouraged anyone else to do so! The one time that one of His close followers took it upon himself to do so, the disciple was soundly reprimanded and ordered to put the sword away, with the added warning: “all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). Indeed, when Pilate quizzed Jesus regarding His intentions, He responded: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36)—the very opposite of the Aqabah pact. And whereas the Quran boldly declares, “And one who attacks you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you” (Surah 2:194; cf. 22:60), Jesus counters, “But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” and “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:39,44). The New Testament record presents a far higher, more noble and godly ethic on the matter of violence and armed conflict. In fact, the following verses demonstrate how irrevocably deep the chasm is between the Quran and the New Testament on this point:
[L]ove your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? (Matthew 5:44-46).What an amazing contrast! The New Testament says to love, bless, do good to, and pray for those who persecute you. The Quran says that “persecution is worse than killing” (Surah 2:217)—i.e., it is better to kill your persecutors than to endure their persecutions!
But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful (Luke 6:27-36).
The standard Muslim attempt to justify the Quran’s endorsement of violence is that such violence was undertaken in self-defense (e.g., Surah 42:41). Consider the following Muslim explanation:
At the time when this surah (Surah 2—DM) was revealed at Al-Madinah, the Prophet’s own tribe, the pagan Qureysh at Mecca, were preparing to attack the Muslims in their place of refuge. Cruel persecution was the lot of Muslims who had stayed in Meccan territory or who journeyed thither, and Muslims were being prevented from performing the pilgrimage. The possible necessity of fighting had been foreseen in the terms of the oath, taken at Al-Aqabah by the Muslims of Yathrib before the Flight, to defend the Prophet as they would their own wives and children, and the first commandment to fight was revealed to the Prophet before his flight from Mecca; but there was no actual fighting by the Muslims until the battle of Badr. Many of them were reluctant, having before been subject to a rule of strict non-violence. It was with difficulty that they could accept the idea of fighting even in self-defence [sic].... (Pickthall, p. 33, emp. added).Apart from the fact that the claim that Muhammad’s advocacy of fighting was justifiable on the ground of self-defense is contrary to the historical facts (since the wars waged by Muhammad and the territorial expansion of Islam achieved by his subsequent followers cannot all be dismissed as defensive), this explanation fails to come to grips with the propriety of shedding of blood and inflicting violence—regardless of the reason. Muslim scholar Seyyed Nasr seems unconscious of the inherent self-contradiction apparent in his own remark:
The spread of Islam occurred in waves. In less than a century after the establishment of the first Islamic society in Medina by the Prophet, Arab armies had conquered a land stretching from the Indus River to France and brought with them Islam, which, contrary to popular Western conceptions, was not, however, forced on the people by the sword (2003, p. 17, emp. added).In other words, Muslim armies physically conquered—by military force and bloodshed—various nations, forcing the population to submit to Muslim rule, but did not require them to become Muslims! One suspects that, at the time, the distinction escaped the citizens of those conquered countries, even as it surely does the reader.
True Christianity (i.e., that which is based strictly on the New Testament) dictates peace and non-retaliatory promotion of itself. The “absolute imperative” (Rahman, 1979, p. 22) of Islam is the submission/conversion of the whole world. In stark contrast, the absolute imperative of New Testament Christianity is the evangelism of the whole world, i.e., the dissemination of the message of salvation—whether people embrace it or not (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47). Absolutely no coercion is admissible from the Christian (i.e., New Testament) viewpoint. The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and all other violent activities undertaken in the name of Christ and Christianity have been in complete conflict with the teaching of the New Testament. The perpetrators acted without the authority and sanction of Christ.
Islam seeks to bring the entire world into submission to Allah and the Quran—even using jihad, coercion, and force; Christianity seeks to go into the entire world and to announce the “good news” that God loves every individual, that Jesus Christ died for the sins of everyone, and that He offers salvation, forgiveness, and reconciliation. But, each person has free choice to accept or reject without any retaliation by Christians against those who choose to reject. Jesus taught His disciples, when faced with opposition and resistance, simply to walk away: “And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet” (Matthew 10:14). In fact, on one occasion when a Samaritan village was particularly nonreceptive, some of Jesus’ disciples wished to command fire to come down from heaven to consume them! But Jesus rebuked them and said, “‘You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.’ And they went to another village” (Luke 9:55). Muhammad and the Quran stand in diametrical opposition to Jesus and the New Testament.
If the majority of Muslims were violent, that would not prove that Islam is a religion of violence. The vast majority of those who claim to be “Christian” are practicing a corrupted form of the Christian faith. So the validity of any religion is determined ultimately not by the imperfect, inaccurate practice of the religion by even a majority of its adherents, but by the official authority or standard upon which it is based, i.e., its Scriptures. The present discussion in the world regarding whether or not jihad includes physical force in the advancement of Islam is ultimately irrelevant (cf. Nasr, 2002, pp. 256-266). The Quran unquestionably endorses violence, war, and armed conflict. No wonder the Muslim terrorists who perpetrated the London bombings, America’s 9/11, and many similar incidents over the years, manifest a maniacal, reckless abandon in their willingness to die by sacrificing their lives in order to kill as many “infidels” (especially Israelis, Brits, and Americans) as possible. They have read the following:
Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks.... And those who are slain in the way of Allah, He rendereth not their actions vain. He will guide them and improve their state, and bring them in unto the Garden [Paradise—DM] which He hath made known to them (Surah 47:4-6, emp. added).Even if the vast majority of Muslims in the world reject violence and refrain from terrorist activity (which would appear to be the case), it is still a fact that the Quran (as well as the example of Muhammad himself) endorses the advancement of Islam through physical force. While Muslim apologist Seyyed Hossein Nasr insists that “the traditional norms based on peace and openness to others” characterize true Islam and the majority of Muslims, in contradistinction, he freely admits that at times Islam “has been forced to take recourse to physical action in the form of defense” (Nasr, 2002, pp. 112,110). This concession cannot be successfully denied in view of the Quran’s own declarations. Hence, the Muslim is forced to maintain the self-contradictory position that, yes, there have been times that Islam has been properly violent and, yes, the Quran does endorse violence, but, no, most Muslims are not violent, and then only in self-defense. As reprehensible and cowardly as Islamic terrorists have shown themselves to be in recent years, an honest reading of the Quran leads one to believe that they, at least, are more consistent with, and true to, their own Scriptures—as revolting an idea as that may be.
O ye who believe! Be not as those who disbelieved and said of their brethren who went abroad in the land or were fighting in the field: If they had been (here) with us they would not have died or been killed.... And what though ye be slain in Allah’s way or die therein? Surely pardon from Allah and mercy are better than all that they amass. What though ye be slain or die, when unto Allah ye are gathered?.... So those who...fought and were slain, verily I shall remit their evil deeds from them and verily I shall bring them into Gardens underneath which rivers flow—a reward from Allah (Surah 3:156-158,195, emp. added).
“Hunt Intensifies for London Terrorists” (2005), Fox News, July, 7, [On-line], URL: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,161840,00.html.
Lings, Martin (1983), Muhammad (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International).
Manji, Irshad (2005), “When Denial Can Kill,” Time, 166:78, July 25.
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein (2002), The Heart of Islam (New York: HarperCollins).
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein (2003), Islam (New York: HarperCollins).
Pickthall, Mohammed M. (no date), The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (New York: Mentor).
Rahman, Fazlur (1979), Islam (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press), second edition.
Rodwell, J.M., trans. (1950 reprint), The Koran (London: J.M. Dent and Sons).
Born Among History
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
How do we know that the New Testament is not a book of myths and lies? How can people born 1,900 years this side of its completion have total confidence in the New Testament’s accuracy? What is it that causes so many of us to believe in the truthfulness of this book?
One thing that makes the New Testament such a unique work is how many times the events recorded therein are verified by other independent historical witnesses. Repeatedly, history has shown itself to be an ally, rather than an enemy, to the twenty-seven books that make up the New Testament. As a person reads through these books, he will find names of kings and queens, governors and priests. He will read of cities and villages, and sometimes even learn of the roads and passageways that connected them. The New Testament was born among historical people, places, and events, which allows twenty-first-century readers opportunities to inquire about its trustworthiness.
Consider just one example. As a non-Christian reads through the New Testament book of Acts, he comes to the account where Herod is addressing a group of people from Tyre and Sidon (Acts 12:20-23). In verses 21-23, he reads:
So on a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat on his throne and gave an oration to them. And the people kept shouting, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died.Perhaps the person reading this account begins struggling with whether or not “this whole Christian thing is for me,” and whether there is any evidence that corroborates the information found in the New Testament. How much more open to the truth of God’s Word might this skeptical gentlemen be if he could come in contact with the vast amount of historical data that supports the facts found therein? In this particular case, he might find it very helpful to learn that a well-educated, first-century Jewish historian by the name of Josephus gave a detailed account of Herod’s death in his work, The Antiquities of the Jews (18:8:2). Notice how the two accounts stand side by side.
- Where Luke wrote that Herod was “arrayed in royal apparel,” Josephus wrote that “he put on a garment made wholly of silver, and of a contexture truly wonderful.”
- Where Luke wrote that “the people kept shouting, ‘The voice of a god and not of a man!,’ ” Josephus mentioned that “his flatterers cried out…that he was a god; and they added, ‘Be thou merciful to us; for although we have hitherto reverenced thee only as a man, yet shall we henceforth own thee as superior to mortal nature.’ Upon this the king did neither rebuke them, nor reject their impious flattery.”
- And finally, where Luke recorded: “Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died,” Josephus wrote: “A severe pain also arose in his belly, and began in a most violent manner. He therefore looked upon his friends, and said, ‘I whom you call a god, am commanded presently to depart this life….’ [H]is pain was become violent…. And when he had been quite worn out by the pain in his belly for five days, he departed this life.”
Acts 12:20-23 represents only one of many examples in Scripture where secular history upholds its reliability. Over the past 1,900 years, the Bible has been examined more critically than any other book in the world, and yet it repeatedly is found to be historically accurate. Such accuracy surely gives the skeptic something important to consider in his examination of Scripture.
REFERENCESJosephus, Flavius (1987 edition), Antiquities of the Jews, in The Life and Works of Flavius Josephus, transl. William Whiston (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).
Atheism and Liberal, Missouri
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
In the summer of 1880, George H. Walser founded the town of Liberal in southwest Missouri. Named after the Liberal League in Lamar, Missouri (to which the town’s organizer belonged), Walser’s objective was “to found a town without a church, [w]here unbelievers could bring up their children without religious training,” and where Christians were not allowed (Thompson, 1895; Becker, 1895). “His idea was to build up a town that should exclusively be the home of Infidels...a town that should have neither God, Hell, Church, nor Saloon” (Brand, 1895). Some of the early inhabitants of Liberal even encouraged other infidels to move to their town by publishing an advertisement which boasted that Liberal “is the only town of its size in the United States without a priest, preacher, church, saloon, God, Jesus, hell or devil” (Keller, 1885, p. 5). Walser and his “freethinking” associates were openly optimistic about their new town. Excitement was in the air, and atheism was at its core. They believed that their godless town of “sober, trustworthy and industrious” individuals would thrive for years on end. But, as one young resident of that town, Bessie Thompson, wrote about Liberal in 1895, “...like all other unworthy causes, it had its day and passed away.” Bessie did not mean that the actual town of Liberal ceased to exist, but that the idea of having a “good, godless” city is a contradiction in terms. A town built upon “trustworthy” atheistic ideals eventually will reek of the rotten, immoral fruits of infidelity. Such fruits were witnessed and reported firsthand by Clark Braden in 1885.
|St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Saturday, May 2, 1885|
In an article that appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on May 2, 1885, titled “An Infidel Experiment,” Braden reported the following.
The boast about the sobriety of the town is false. But few of the infidels are total abstainers. Liquor can be obtained at three different places in this town of 300 inhabitants. More drunken infidels can be seen in a year in Liberal than drunken Christians among one hundred times as many church members during the same time. Swearing is the common form of speech in Liberal, and nearly every inhabitant, old and young, swears habitually. Girls and boys swear on the streets, playground, and at home. Fully half of the females will swear, and a large number swear habitually.... Lack of reverence for parents and of obedience to them is the rule. There are more grass widows, grass widowers and people living together, who have former companions living, than in any other town of ten times the population.... A good portion of the few books that are read are of the class that decency keeps under lock and key....
These infidels...can spend for dances and shows ten times as much as they spend on their liberalism. These dances are corrupting the youth of the surrounding country with infidelity and immorality. There is no lack of loose women at these dances.
Since Liberal was started there has not been an average of one birth per year of infidel parents. Feticide is universal. The physicians of the place say that a large portion of their practice has been trying to save females from consequences of feticide. In no town is slander more prevalent, or the charges more vile. If one were to accept what the inhabitants say of each other, he would conclude that there is a hell, including all Liberal, and that its inhabitants are the devils (as quoted in Keller, 1885, p. 5).According to Braden, “[s]uch are the facts concerning this infidel paradise.... Every one who has visited Liberal, and knows the facts, knows that such is the case” (p. 5).
As one can imagine, Braden’s comments did not sit well with some of the townspeople of Liberal. In fact, a few days after Braden’s observations appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he was arrested for criminal libel and tried on May 18, 1885. According to Braden, “After the prosecution had presented their evidence, the case was submitted to the jury without any rebutting evidence by the defence (sic), and the jury speedily brought in a verdict of ‘No cause for action’ ” (as quoted in Mouton, n.d., pp. 36-37). Unfortunately for Braden, however, the controversy was not over. On the following day (May 19, 1885), a civil suit was filed by one of the townsmen—S.C. Thayer, a hotel operator in Liberal. The petition for damages of $25,000 alleged that Clark Braden and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an article in which they had made false, malicious, and libelous statements against the National Hotel in Liberal, managed by Mr. Thayer. He claimed that Braden’s remarks, published in the St. Louise Post-Dispatch on May 2, 1885, “greatly and irreparably injured and ruined” his business (Thayer v. Braden). However, when the prosecution learned that the defense was thoroughly prepared to prove that Liberal was a den of infamy, and that its hotels were little more than houses of prostitution, the suit was dismissed on September 17, 1886 by the plaintiff at his own cost (Thayer v. Braden). Braden was exonerated in everything he had written. Indeed, the details Braden originally reported about Liberal, Missouri, on May 2, 1885 were found to be completely factual.
It took only a few short years for Liberal’s unattractiveness and inconsistency to be exposed. People cannot exclude God from the equation, and expect to remain a “sober, trustworthy” town. Godlessness equals unruliness, which in turn makes a repugnant, immoral people. The town of Liberal was a failure. Only five years after its establishment, Braden indicated that “[n]ine-tenths of those now in town would leave if they could sell their property. More property has been lost by locating in the town than has been made in it.... Hundreds have been deceived and injured and ruined financially” (Keller, p. 5). Apparently, “doing business with the devil” did not pay the kind of dividends George Walser (the town’s founder) and the early inhabitants of Liberal desired. It appears that even committed atheists found living in Liberal in the early days intolerable. Truly, as has been observed in the past, “An infidel surrounded by Christians may spout his infidelity and be able to endure it, but a whole town of atheists is too horrible to contemplate.” It is one thing to espouse a desire to live in a place where there is no God, but it is an entirely different thing for such a place actually to exist. For it to become a reality is more than the atheist can handle. Adolf Hitler took atheism to its logical conclusion in Nazi Germany, and created a world that even most atheists detested. Although atheists want no part of living according to the standards set out by Jesus and His apostles in the New Testament, the real fruits of evolutionary atheism also are too horrible for them to contemplate.
Although the town of Liberal still exists today (with a population of about 800 people), and although vestiges of its atheistic heritage are readily apparent, it is not the same town it was in 1895. At present, at least seven religious groups associated with Christianity exist within this city that once banned Christianity and all that it represents. Numerous other churches meet in the surrounding areas. According to one of the religious leaders in the town, “a survey of Liberal recently indicated that 50% of the people are actively involved with some church” (Abbott, 2003)—a far cry from where Liberal began.
There is no doubt that the moral, legal, and educational systems of Liberal, Missouri, in the twenty-first century are the fruits of biblical teaching, not atheism. When Christianity and all of the ideals that the New Testament teaches are effectively put into action, people will value human life, honor their parents, respect their neighbors, and live within the moral guidelines given by God in the Bible. A city comprised of faithful Christians would be mostly void of such horrors as sexually transmitted diseases, murder, drunken fathers who beat their wives and children, drunk drivers who turn automobiles into lethal weapons, and heartache caused by such things as divorce, adultery, and covetousness. (Only those who broke God’s commandments intended for man’s benefit would cause undesirable fruit to be reaped.)
On the other hand, when atheism and all of its tenets are taken to their logical conclusion, people will reap some of the same miserable fruit once harvested by the early citizens of Liberal, Missouri (and sadly, some of the same fruit being reaped by many cities in the world today). Men and women will attempt to cover up sexual sins by aborting babies, children will disrespect their parents, students will “run wild” at home and in school because of the lack of discipline, and “sexual freedom” (which leads to sexually transmitted diseases) will be valued, whereas human life will be devalued. Such are the fruits of atheism: a society in which everyone does that which is right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6)—a society in which no sensible person wants to live.
Barnes, Pamela (2003), St. Louis Post-Dispatch, telephone conversation, March 12.
Becker, Hathe (1895), “Liberal,” Liberal Enterprise, December 5,12, [On-line], URL: http://lyndonirwin.com/libhist1.htm.
Brand, Ida (1895), “Liberal,” Liberal Enterprise, December 5,12, [On-line], URL: http://lyndonirwin.com/libhist1.htm.
Carpenter, L.L. (1909), “The President’s Address,” in Centennial Convention Report, ed. W.R. Warren, (Cincinnati, OH: Standard Publishing Company), pp. 317-332. [On-line], URL: http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/texts/wwarren/ccr/CCR15B.HTM.
Haynes, Nathaniel S. (1915), History of the Disciples of Christ in Illinois 1819-1914 (Cincinnati, OH: Standard Publishing Company), [On-line], URL: http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/texts/nhaynes/hdcib/braden01.htm, 1996.
Keller, Samuel (1885), “An Infidel Experiment,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Special Correspondence with Clark Braden, May 2, p. 5.
Moore, J.P. (1963), This Strange Town—Liberal, Missouri (Liberal, MO: The Liberal News).
Mouton, Boyce (no date), George H. Walser and Liberal, Missouri: An Historical Overview.
Thayer, S.C. v. Clark Braden, et. al. Filed on May 19, 1885 in Barton County Missouri. Dismissed September 10, 1886.
Thompson, Bessie (1895), “Liberal,” Liberal Enterprise, December 5,12, [On-line], URL: http://lyndonirwin.com/libhist1.htm.
Are the Genealogies of the Bible Useful Chronologies?
|by||Bert Thompson, Ph.D.|
Q.I have heard it said that biblical genealogies are so filled with gaps that they are “useless” in matters of chronology. Is this true, or do the genealogies provide accurate chronological information as well? Can these genealogies be trusted in matters of chronology?
A.Through the years, religionists who have become enamored with (and who have ardently defended) pseudoscientific attempts to date the Earth in evolutionary terms of billions of years, have stated that the biblical genealogies must not be used for chronological purposes because they allegedly contain “huge gaps” that render them ineffective for that purpose. In so commenting, most writers reference the classic work of William H. Green (1890) in this area. The work of Green on Old Testament genealogies usually is highly acclaimed, and accepted uncritically, by those who wish to place “gaps” (of whatever size) in the biblical genealogies. The argument usually goes something like this (to quote one writer): “Unfortunately for those who wish to attach a precise date on some historical events by using genealogies, their attempts are thwarted.” Thus, we are asked to believe that the genealogies are relatively useless in matters of chronology.
However, these same writers usually evince a complete omission of more recent work in this area—work which has shown that much of what Green had to say is at best incomplete, and at worst, irrelevant. When one discusses the genealogies, he does his audience (or reader) a disservice if he omits a discussion of Luke’s genealogy. Some are quick to talk about Genesis 5 and 11, but rarely do you see a discussion of Luke’s material (often it is conspicuously missing from any such discussions on genealogical materials). One performs a further disservice if he does not point out two very important points that come to bear on this whole discussion. First, to use the words of Arthur C. Custance:
We are told again and again that some of these genealogies contain gaps: but what is never pointed out by those who lay the emphasis on these gaps, is that they only know of the existence of these gaps because the Bible elsewhere fills them in. How otherwise could one know of them? But if they are filled in, they are not gaps at all! Thus, in the final analysis the argument is completely without foundation (1967, p 3).If anyone should want to find “gaps” in the genealogies, it certainly would be a man like Custance, who spent his life desperately searching for ways to allow the Bible to contain an “old Earth” scenario. Yet even he admitted that the argument that the genealogies contain sizable gaps is ill-founded.
Second, and this point cannot be overemphasized, even if there were gaps in the genealogies, there would not necessarily be gaps in the chronologies therein recorded. The question of chronology is not the same as that of genealogy! This is a major point overlooked by those who accuse the genealogies of being “useless” in matters of chronology. The “more recent work” alluded to above, which sheds additional light on the accuracy of the genealogies, comes from James B. Jordan’s timely articles (1979, 1980). Jordan has done an extensive review of the work of Green, and has shown Green’s arguments to be untrustworthy in several important respects. To quote Jordan:
Gaps in genealogies, however, do not prove gaps in chronologies. The known gaps all occur in non-chronological genealogies. Moreover, even if there were gaps in the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11, this would not affect the chronological information therein recorded, for even if Enosh were the great-grandson of Seth, it would still be the case that Seth was 105 years old when Enosh was born, according to a simple reading of the text. Thus, genealogy and chronology are distinct problems with distinct characteristics. They ought not to be confused (p. 12).Much recent material has confused these two issues. For example, one writer stated: “Obviously, abridgment of the genealogies has taken place and these genealogies cannot be chronologies,” when exactly the opposite is true, as Jordan’s work accurately documents. Matthew, for example, was at liberty to arrange his genealogy of Christ in three groups of 14 (making some “omissions”) because his genealogy was derived from complete lists found in the Old Testament. In the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11, remember also that the inclusion of the father’s age at the time of his son’s birth is wholly without meaning unless chronology is intended! Else why would the Holy Spirit provide such “irrelevant” information?
There can be little doubt that some have painted a distorted picture for audiences and readers when suggesting to them that substantial “gaps” occur in the biblical genealogies. Such distortion occurs, for example, when it is suggested that genealogy and chronology are one and the same, for they most certainly are not.
In addition, there are other major points that should be made available on these topics. Observe the following information in chart form. Speaking in round figures, from the present to Jesus is 2,000 years—a matter of historical record that no one doubts. From Jesus to Abraham is 2,000 years; that, too, is a matter of historical record which is well known. Each of those figures is extractable from secular history.
|Present to Jesus||2,000 years|
|Jesus to Abraham||2,000 years|
|Abraham to Adam||? years|
The figure for the time span between Abraham and Adam, of course, is not obtainable from secular history, since those records were destroyed in the Great Flood. Fortunately, however, we are not dependent on the records of secular history for such information; the biblical record provides that material for us. Note the following (and this is why Luke’s genealogy is so critically important in this discussion). In Luke’s genealogy, he listed 55 generations between Jesus and Abraham. We know from secular history (as documented by archaeology—see Kitchen and Douglas, 1982, p. 189) that this time frame covered only about 2,000 years. Between Abraham and Adam, Luke listed only twenty generations. And no one doubts that from the present to Jesus has been about 2,000 years. So, our chart now looks like this:
|Present to Jesus||2,000 years|
|Jesus to Abraham||2,000 years (55 generations)|
|Abraham to Adam||? years (20 generations)|
|Present to Jesus||2,000 years|
|Jesus to Abraham||2,000 years (55 generations)|
|Abraham to Adam||2,000 years (20 generations)|
And therein lies the point. While it may be true on the one hand to say that a precise age of the Earth is unobtainable from the genealogies, at the same time let us hasten to point out that using the best information available to us from Scripture, the genealogies hardly can be extended (via “gaps”) to anything much beyond 6,000 to 7,000 years. For someone to leave the impression (even if inadvertently) that the genealogies do not contain legitimate chronological information, or that the genealogies are full of “gaps” that render them impotent, is to misrepresent the case and distort the facts.
Green, William H. (1890), “Primeval Chronology,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 47:294-295, April. Reprinted in Classical Evangelical Essays in Old Testament Interpretation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1972).
Jackson, Wayne (1978), “The Antiquity of Human History,” Words of Truth, 14:1, April 14.
Jordan, James B. (1979) Creation Social Sciences & Humanities Quarterly, 2:9-15.
Jordan, James B. (1980) Creation Social Sciences & Humanities Quarterly, 2:17-26.
Kitchen, K.A. and J.D. Douglas, eds. (1982) The New Bible Dictionary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale), second edition.
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Imagine your mother asking you to do something for a neighbor, and you responding to her by saying, “Woman, what does that have to do with me?” If your mother is anything like mine, she probably would have given you “the look” (among other things) as she pondered how her son could be so rude. Responding to a mother’s (or any woman’s) request in twenty-first-century America with the refrain, “Woman…,” sounds impolite and offensive. Furthermore, a Christian, who is commanded to “honor” his “father and mother” (Ephesians 6:2), would be out of line in most situations when using such an expression while talking directly to his mother.
In light of the ill-mannered use of the word “woman” in certain contexts today, some question how Jesus could have spoken to His mother 2,000 years ago using this term without breaking the commandment to “[h]onor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12; cf. Matthew 15:4; Matthew 5:17-20). When Jesus, His disciples, and His mother were at the wedding in Cana of Galilee where there was a depletion of wine, Mary said to Jesus, “They have no wine” (John 2:3). Jesus then responded to His mother, saying, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4). Notice what one skeptic has written regarding what Jesus said in this verse.
In Matt. 15:4 he [Jesus—EL] told people to “Honor thy father and thy mother”; yet, he was one of the first to ignore his own maxim by saying to his mother in John 2:4, “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” (McKinsey, 1995, p. 44).As one can see, Mr. McKinsey is adamant that Jesus erred. He used such words to describe Jesus as disrespectful, insolent, unloving, and rude. Is he correct?
Imagine someone talking to his own mother is such a disrespectful manner and addressing her by such an impersonal noun as “woman.” Talk about an insolent offspring! (1995, p. 134).
Jesus needs to practice some parental respect… (2000, p. 251).
Apparently Jesus’ love escaped him (n.d., “Jesus…”).
Why was Jesus disrespectful of his mother? In John 2:4, Jesus uses the same words with his mother that demons use when they meet Jesus. Surely the son of God knew that Mary had the blessing of the Father, didn’t he, (and she was the mother of God—Ed.) not to mention the fact that the son of God would never be rude? (n.d., “Problems…”, parenthetical comment in orig.).
As with most Bible critics, Mr. McKinsey is guilty of judging Jesus’ words by what is common in twenty-first-century English vernacular, rather than putting Jesus’ comments in its proper first-century setting. It was not rude or inappropriate for a man in the first century to speak to a lady by saying, “Woman (gunai)….” This “was a highly respectful and affectionate mode of address” (Vincent, 1997) “with no idea of censure” (Robertson, 1932, p. 34). The New International Version correctly captures the meaning of this word in John 2:4: “ ‘Dear woman, why do you involve me?’ ” (NIV, emp. added). Jesus used this word when complimenting the Syrophoenician woman’s great faith (Matthew 15:28), when affectionately addressing Mary Magdalene after His resurrection (John 20:15), and when speaking to His disconsolate mother one last time from the cross (John 19:26). Paul used this same word when addressing Christian women (1 Corinthians 7:16). As Adam Clarke noted: “[C]ertainly no kind of disrespect is intended, but, on the contrary, complaisance, affability, tenderness, and concern, and in this sense it is used in the best Greek writers” (1996).
As to why Jesus used the term “woman” (gunai) instead of “mother” (meetros) when speaking to Mary (which even in first-century Hebrew and Greek cultures was an unusual way to address one’s mother), Leon Morris noted that Jesus most likely was indicating
that there is a new relationship between them as he enters his public ministry…. Evidently Mary thought of the intimate relations of the home at Nazareth as persisting. But Jesus in his public ministry was not only or primarily the son of Mary, but “the Son of Man” who was to bring the realities of heaven to people on earth (1:51). A new relationship was established (Morris, 1995, p. 159).R.C.H. Lenski added: “[W]hile Mary will forever remain his [Jesus’—EL] mother, in his calling Jesus knows no mother or earthly relative, he is their Lord and Savior as well as of all men. The common earthly relation is swallowed up in the divine” (1961, p. 189). It seems best to conclude that Jesus was simply “informing” His mother in a loving-yet-firm manner that as He began performing miracles for the purpose of proving His deity and the divine origin of His message (see Miller, 2003, pp. 17-23), His relationship to His mother was about to change.
Finally, the point also must be stressed that honoring fathers and mothers does not mean that a son or daughter never can correct his or her parents. Correction and honor are no more opposites than correction and love. One of the greatest ways parents disclose their love to their children is by correcting them when they make mistakes. Similarly, one of the ways in which a mature son might honor his parents is by taking them aside when they have erred, and lovingly pointing out their mistake or oversight in a certain matter. How much more honorable would this action be than to take no action and allow them to continue in a path of error without informing them of such. We must keep in mind that even though Mary was a great woman “who found favor with God” (Luke 1:30), she was not perfect (cf. Romans 3:10,23). She was not God, nor the “mother of God” (viz., she did not originate Jesus or bring Him into existence). But, she was the one chosen to carry the Son of God in her womb. Who better to correct any misunderstanding she may had had than this Son?
REFERENCESClarke, Adam (1996), Adam Clarke’s Commentary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Lenski, R.C.H. (1961), The Interpretation of the St. John’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
McKinsey, C. Dennis (no date), “Jesus, Imperfect Beacon,” Biblical Errancy [On-line], URL: http://members.aol.com/ckbloomfld/bepart11.html#issref113.
McKinsey, C. Dennis (no date), “Problems with the Credentials and Character of Jesus,” Biblical Errancy [On-line], URL: http://mywebpages.comcast.net/errancy/issues/iss190.htm.
McKinsey, C. Dennis (1995), The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy (Amherst, NY: Prometheus).
McKinsey, C. Dennis (2000), Biblical Errancy (Amherst, NY: Prometheus).
Miller, Dave (2003), “Modern-day Miracles, Tongue-Speaking, and Holy Spirit Baptism: A Refutation,” Reason & Revelation, 23:17-24, March.
Morris, Leon (1995), The Gospel According to St. John (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), revised edition.
Robertson, A.T. (1932), Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman).
Vincent, Marvin R. (1997), Word Studies in the New Testament (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
“So We Make Up Stories” About Human Evolution
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Dr. Richard Lewontin is the Alexander Agassiz Research Professor at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. Harvard University Press describes him as one of their “most brilliant evolutionary biologists.” A Harvard professor since 1973, he has impeccable academic credentials, and has gained worldwide notoriety for authoring several books, including The Triple Helix, The Genetic Basis of Evolutionary Change, and Biology as Ideology.
During the week of February 14-18, Dr. Lewontin was invited to speak at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting held in Boston, Massachusetts. Michale Balter, writing for Science magazine, reported briefly on Lewontin’s comments that caused quite a stir in the evolutionary community. Balter titled his article “How Human Intelligence Evolved—Is It Science or ‘Paleofantasy’?” (2008). In the first paragraph, Balter quipped that Lewontin really “knows how to grab an audience’s attention.”
What did Lewontin say that was so noteworthy and attention-grabbing? Lewontin “led off a session titled ‘The Mind of a Toolmaker’ by announcing that scientists know next to nothing about how humans got so smart. ‘We are missing the fossil record of human cognition,’ Lewontin said at the meeting. ‘So we make up stories’” (Balter, 2008, emp. added). While Balter spent the rest of his article scrambling to show that Lewontin’s conclusions are not recognized by all in the scientific community, Lewontin’s devastating blow to evolution’s long-cherished scenario of human development could not be papered over so easily.
James Randerson, science correspondent for the United Kingdom’s Guardian, wrote an article titled “We Know Nothing About Brain Evolution” in which he, too, reported on Lewontin’s speech. Lewontin titled his speech, “Why We Know Nothing About the Evolution of Cognition.” Randerson reported that, in the lecture, the eminent Harvard professor “systematically dismissed every assumption about the evolution of human thought, reaching the conclusion that scientists are still completely in the dark about how natural selection prompted the massive hike in human brain size in the human line” (2008, emp. added).
Lewontin then turned his attention to the fossil record. Randerson summarized Dr. Lewontin’s statements by saying: “The main problem is the poor fossil record. Despite a handful of hominid fossils stretching back 4m [million—KB] years or so, we can’t be sure that any of them are on the main ancestral line to us. Many or all of them could have been evolutionary side branches” (2008). Randerson continued, stating: “Worse, the fossils we do have are difficult to interpret. ‘I don’t have the faintest idea what the cranial capacity [of a fossil hominid] means,’ Lewontin confessed. What does a particular brain size tell us about the capabilities of the animal attached to it?” (2008).
Of course, Lewontin’s comments fly in the face of everything the general population has been led to believe about human evolution. The beautiful drawings showing ape-like creatures gradually evolving in a straight line into humans have been plastered on science-lab walls, in science textbooks, and in popular science magazines for the last five decades. We have been told that the hominid fossil record is so complete that it provides irrefutable evidence verifying human evolution. We have been told that our “ancestral” fossils indicate exactly when our ancient great-grandparents began to walk upright, when they evolved greater cognitive skills, and when they evolved into us.
Lewontin was not finished tearing into the standard evolutionary party line about hominid fossils. Randerson noted that Lewontin “is even skeptical that palaeoanthropologists can be sure which species walked upright and which dragged their knuckles. Upright posture is crucial for freeing up the hands to do other useful things” (2008).
What, then, did Lewontin conclude regarding the prevailing status of ignorance that pervades the scientific community regarding the supposed evolution of humans? He said: “We are in very serious difficulties in trying to reconstruct the evolution of cognition. I’m not even sure what we mean by the problem” (as quoted in Randerson, 2008).
The bombshell that Lewontin dropped on the 2008 AAAS annual meeting will leave devastating and lasting carnage in its wake in the evolutionary community. He debunked 50 years of orchestrated evolutionary propaganda. Randerson concluded his summary of Lewontin’s statements by observing: “All in all, despite thousands of scientific papers and countless National Geographic front covers, we have not made much progress in understanding how our most complicated and mysterious organ [brain—KB] came about” (2008).
After reviewing Lewontin’s statements and the various journal articles describing them, the writers of Creation/Evolution Headlines appropriately admonished the reader:
Remember this entry the next time you get a National Geographic cover story of a hominid with a philosopher’s gaze. Remember it when you are told stories about hominids walking upright, their hands now freed to scratch their chins and think. Remember it when you are shown a chimpanzee on NOVA performing memory tricks for a banana or smashing bugs with a rock. Remember it when a stack of erudite scientific papers on human evolution is placed on the witness table at a trial over whether students should be allowed to think critically about evolution in science class (“Paleofantasy...,” 2008).
“Paleofantasy: Brain Evolution is Mere Storytelling” (2008), Creation/Evolution Headlines, February 22, [On-line], URL: http://www.creationsafaris.com/crev200802.htm.
Randerson, James (2008), “We Know Nothing About Brain Evolution,” Guardian, [On-line], URL: http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/science/2008/02/the_distinguished_biologist _pr.html.
After This, the Judgment
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Life is not fair. Every day, in hundreds of ways, this fact makes itself abundantly clear to us. September 11, 2001 marked a day when the unfairness of this physical life became especially apparent. The entire world stood with mouth agape as it watched four hijacked United States commercial planes used as weapons against our unsuspecting nation. Within minutes, the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were rocked by the impact of these planes. Fires burned, smoke billowed, and the loss of innocent human life shocked us all. Through the carnage and terror, one primary feeling emerged from the collective mind of the United States—we will find and punish whoever did this.
When this type of tragedy occurs and the heinousness of criminal activity comes into full focus, the question always arises: Is it right in God’s eyes for humans to demand that the perpetrators be brought to justice and punished for their dastardly act of vicious cowardice? And if so, who has the authority to administer such punishment. Fortunately, the Bible provides clear answers to such questions. In Romans 13, the inspired apostle Paul explained that each citizen has an obligation to be obedient to the governing authorities because “the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” Furthermore, the government “does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil” (Romans 13:1-4).
The Bible plainly teaches that the government has the God-given authority to execute wrath on those who do evil. What does the statement “does not bear the sword in vain” mean in this context? Without a doubt, the sword in the first century (as well as in previous and subsequent centuries) was looked upon as a weapon of death. The Old Testament is replete with references to the sword being just such an instrument. Hosea 11:6 records: “And the sword shall slash in his cities, devour his districts, and consume them.” Again in Jeremiah 15:3 it is written: “ ‘And I will appoint over them four forms of destruction,’ says the Lord: ‘the sword to slay, the dogs to drag, the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the earth to devour and destroy.’ ” New Testament references support the idea as well. Revelation 6:8 states: “So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth” (emp. added). When Paul stated that the government does not bear the sword in vain, he explicitly advocated the idea that the government reserves the right to administer capital punishment.
One reason God has given this right to the government can be found in Ecclesiastes 8:11: “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” If proper punishment is not meted out to the perpetrators of crimes, then more and more people embolden themselves to commit crimes against the government and their fellow human beings.
Along with this authority, the government has been given a tremendous responsibility to administer justice properly and without partiality. The Proverbs writer commented: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice, but when a wicked man rules, the people groan” (29:2). It is true that many unrighteous rulers have taken power and misused the authority of the government. Consider Herod, for instance, who “killed the brother of John with the sword” (Acts 12:2). Or bring to mind the evil Roman Emperor Nero who captured Christians and tortured them via heinous acts of persecution. And no list of evil rulers would be complete without the infamous Hitler, who murdered over six million Jews. But even though these rulers have abused the office and authority that God gave the governing powers, the authority given to the government by God has not been lessened because of their abuse. The government “does not bear the sword in vain.”
Unfortunately, certain unalterable limitations make it impossible for the government to catch and punish every person who has committed criminal acts. Some villains inevitably slip through the cracks of the justice system and never are punished in this life. Each year thousands of parents abuse their own children physically and sexually and receive none of their just deserts. Each year hundreds of murder cases are filed away stamped “UNSOLVED,” and will stay that way. Each day thieves loot and plunder, making themselves fat and rich off of the toil and labor of their victims, yet they get away scot-free.
Because of the injustice that goes unpunished, many wonder if there is a righteous God Who sees and acts on behalf of the victims. They need wonder no more, because God “has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness” (Acts 17:31). The wicked have been warned that “God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Galatians 6:8). And: “ ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:30-31). While it is the case that God’s retributive justice is not meted out to its full extent in this present age, it is not the case that it will remain muted so forever. Paul had this to say to those who persisted in wickedness: “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who ‘will render to each one according to his deeds’: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil” (Romans 2:5-9). Some may escape the sword of the state, but they will not escape the sword of their God.
Does the Bible Contradict Itself Regarding the Day of the Crucifixion?by Jeff Miller, Ph.D.
According to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, before His crucifixion, Jesus sent disciples to prepare the Passover meal, killing the Passover lamb. They note that this task was completed on “the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread,” the 14th of Nisan on the Jewish calendar, the day before Jesus’ crucifixion (cf. Matthew 26:17; Mark 14:12; Luke 22:7)—identifying for us that the meal was prepared on a Thursday. In accordance with the Law of Moses, Jesus then ate the Passover meal that evening—Thursday night to the modern mind, but the beginning of the Jewish Friday to the Israelite (the Jewish day began at sunset). Jesus’ crucifixion then occurred the next day on Friday (the same day as the initial Passover meal to Jews), before the Jewish Sabbath Day began Friday evening (the Jews’ Saturday). [NOTE: While some believe the crucifixion, and hence the Passover meal, was earlier in the week, Mark 15:42, Luke 23:54, and Matthew 27:62 indicate that the crucifixion took place on Friday, “the day before the Sabbath,” with Jesus dying as “the Sabbath drew near.” Backing up through the synoptic narratives reveals Jesus being arrested the night before (Thursday night), while Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane immediately after His last supper with the disciples. The resurrection took place on Sunday, “three days” later, according to the Jewish idiomatic reckoning of the chronology (Mark 16:9; Matthew 28:1; Luke 24:1; cf. Lyons, 2004; Lyons, 2006; Bullinger, 1898, pp. 845-847; Robertson, 1922, pp. 289-291).] John, however, seems to indicate that Jesus’ crucifixion actually took place before the Passover even began (John 13:1; 18:28; 19:14). Thomas Nelson’s The Chronological Study Bible says, “The Synoptics [i.e., Matthew, Mark, and Luke—JM] present the Last Supper as being the Passover meal…. In John’s Gospel, the Last Supper was not the Passover meal” (2008, p. 1217). Jennifer Viegas, writing for Discovery News, said, “The synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) indicate that Jesus died before nightfall on the 15th day of Nisan…. John’s gospel differs from the synoptics; apparently indicating that Jesus died before nightfall on the 14th day of Nisan” (2012). Respected biblical scholar J.W. McGarvey highlights the debate over the matter stating that,
[s]ince the second century a great dispute has been carried on as to the apparent discrepancy between John and the synoptists in their statements concerning the passover. The synoptists…clearly represent Jesus as having eaten the passover at the proper time, and as having been arrested on the same night, while John here and elsewhere…seems to represent Jesus as being arrested before the passover (2012, CXVIII, John 13:1-20, italics in orig.).Is this a legitimate discrepancy that can be levied against the Bible?
First, what did the Law of Moses command concerning the observance of the Passover? In order for Jesus to be sinless (Hebrews 4:15), our spotless and unblemished Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7), He had to keep the Law of Moses perfectly. If He violated the Law of Moses regarding the correct observance of the Passover, our hope is vain. The Passover lamb was to be killed at twilight (i.e., sunset) on the evening of the 14th day of Nisan, the first month of the Jewish calendar (Ezekiel 45:21). The lamb was then to be eaten that same night with unleavened bread (Exodus 12:6-8; Numbers 28:16-17; Leviticus 23:5-7), leaving none of it until morning—burning any remains (Exodus 12:10). Unleavened bread was then to be eaten every day until the 21st day of the month at evening (Exodus 12:18). No leavened bread was even to be in an Israelite house for that week, or those individuals would be “cut off from the congregation of Israel” (Exodus 12:19).
The language of Matthew, Mark, and Luke leaves little doubt that the Passover lamb was killed by the apostles on Thursday afternoon of the crucifixion week, which was the 14th of Nisan, and that Jesus then immediately ate the Passover meal that evening on the 15th of Nisan in keeping with the Law of Moses (cf. Matthew 26:17-21; Mark 14:12,16-18; Luke 22:7-9). The apparent discrepancy comes when we compare various verses in the book of John.
John 13:1-2 says, “Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him.” A straightforward reading of this passage leaves the impression that the last supper that the disciples ate with Jesus was not the Passover meal, but actually “before the feast of the Passover,” as though the Passover began the next day. This would contradict the synoptic Gospels’ clear claims and imply that either John taught that the last supper was not actually the Passover meal as the other Gospel writers claimed, or that Jesus was observing the Passover early—on a different day than was commanded by God. In truth, the alleged contradiction in this case is easily dispelled by understanding that the phrase “supper being ended” (NKJV) is properly translated:
- “during supper” (ASV; ESV; RSV; McCord, 1989), or
- while the “meal was being served” (NIV), “being prepared…or going on” (Jamieson, et al., 2012, John 13:2), or “was preparing” (Clark, 2013, John 13:2), or
- “while they were at supper” (Barnes, 2012, John 13:2), or
- “there being a supper made, or he being at supper” (Henry, 2014, John 13:2).
But what about John 18:28? “Then they [i.e., the Jews] led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium, and it was early [Friday] morning. But they themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover.” This verse seems to indicate that the Jews had not yet eaten the Passover meal, which again leaves the impression that either the Passover had not yet begun, or that the Jews had failed to eat the meal at the proper time, which seems very unlikely. It is argued that “[i]n John’s sequence, the Last Supper was celebrated on Passover eve, and Jesus was tried the next day while the Jewish authorities themselves were preparing to eat the Passover meal (18:28)” (The Chronological Study Bible, p. 1217). However, a closer look at how the term “Passover” is used in the Bible, and especially by John, sheds light on this passage. Robertson notes that
it is by no means certain that the phrase “eat the Passover” means simply the paschal supper…. [T]he word “Passover” is used in three senses in the New Testament, the paschal supper, the paschal lamb, or the paschal festival. The word is used eight times in John besides this instance, and in every case the Passover festival is meant. So we may fairly infer that the usage of John must determine his own meaning rather than that of the Synoptists (pp. 281-282; cf. Jackson, p. 176).Recall that the Passover festival lasted seven days, not merely the one night when the lamb was slain and eaten (Exodus 12:6-20). The Passover week had begun the night before with a feast and would continue over the following days with more feasting. The Jews, therefore, did not want to become defiled before the next unleavened meal of the Passover week.
The verse that perhaps causes the most accusations against the biblical account of the crucifixion day regards John 19:14. Before the crucifixion, after scourging Jesus and allowing the Roman soldiers to mock Him, Pilate brought Jesus out to the Jews again. “Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, ‘Behold your King!’” Because of this text, some argue that John “suggests that Jesus was crucified on the day before Passover began—‘the Preparation Day of the Passover’” (The Chronological Study Bible, p. 1217, italics in orig.). Again, this would imply that the supper that Jesus ate the night before with His disciples was not actually the Passover meal—i.e., the synoptics are wrong.
However, the phrase “Preparation Day of the Passover” is referring to the Sabbath Preparation Day that occurs during the Passover week—i.e., Friday. Matthew, Mark, and Luke, who as stated earlier in unison clearly portray Jesus as being arrested and crucified after the Passover meal, all also state that the “Day of Preparation” was the day of Jesus’ crucifixion. They simply make it clear in context that they apply that description to the Sabbath Preparation Day (e.g., Matthew 27:62). Immediately after Jesus’ death, Luke couples the Preparation Day with the Sabbath, noting, “That day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near” (Luke 23:54). Mark defines his use of the term even more clearly, stating, “Now when evening had come, because it was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath” (15:42). Robertson notes that John also used “Preparation Day” as being coupled with the Sabbath. “John himself so uses the word in two other passages (19:31,42), in both of which haste is exercised on the Preparation, because the Sabbath was at hand” (p. 282).
Biblical scholar Gleason Archer notes that the word translated “Preparation” (paraskeuē) was the actual word for Friday in the first century. “[T]he word paraskeuē had already by the first century A.D. become a technical term for ‘Friday,’ since every Friday was the day of preparation for Saturday, that is, the Sabbath. In Modern Greek the word for ‘Friday’ is paraskeuē…. [T]hat which might be translated literally as ‘the preparation of the Passover’ must in this context be rendered ‘Friday of Passover Week’” (1982, p. 375).Robertson agreed, explaining that “the term ‘Preparation’ has long been the regular name for Friday in the Greek language, caused by the New Testament usage. It is so in the Modern Greek to-day” (p. 282). Indeed, the NIV rendering of John 19:14 helps to clear the confusion by rendering the sentence, “It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour.” John simply does not contradict the synoptic Gospels regarding Jesus’ crucifixion day.
But if Jesus was killed on Friday the 15th of Nisan, and the Passover lambs were killed Thursday the 14th of Nisan, how can He be our Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7)? Gleason responded to that question, explaining, “It simply needs to be pointed out that the lambs referred to here [i.e., in 1 Corinthians 5:7—JM] are not those that were slaughtered and eaten in private homes—a rite Jesus had already observed with His disciples the night before…—but the lambs to be offered on the altar of the Lord on behalf of the whole nation of Israel” (p. 376, italics in orig.). Gleason proceeds to illustrate the distinction between the private sacrifices (e.g., Exodus 12:6) and the public sacrifices (Exodus 12:16-17; Leviticus 23:4-8; 2 Chronicles 30:15-19; 35:11-16). He notes, “These were all known as Passover sacrifices, since they were presented during Passover week” (p. 376). Jesus is the Passover lamb for all, and therefore, it makes sense that He would be sacrificed as a public sacrifice.
Thus, as is always the case, a text which appears on the surface to contradict another biblical text, is found to harmonize perfectly with it. Amazingly, when studied further and treated fairly, alleged contradictions which are levied against the Bible are consistently found in the end to actually provide even more evidence that the Bible’s internal consistency is nothing less than supernatural. If God is indeed the Author of the Bible, as it claims (e.g., 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21), then that certainly should be the case any time the original rendering of a Scripture can be determined with confidence and translated accurately. John’s description of the crucifixion event provides even more evidence for the amazing accuracy of the Bible. [NOTE: See Butt, 2003 for further information.]
REFERENCESArcher, Gleason, L. (1982), Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Barnes, Albert (2012), Barnes’ Notes On the New Testament (Electronic Database: WORDsearch).
Bullinger, E.W. (1898), Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1968 reprint).
Butt, Kyle (2003), “What Kind of Bread did Jesus Use to Institute the Last Supper?” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=1196.
The Chronological Study Bible (2008), (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson).
Clarke, Adam (2013), Adam Clarke’s Commentary (Electronic Database: WORDsearch).
Henry, Matthew (2014), Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible (Electronic Database: WORDsearch).
Jackson, Wayne (2011), A New Testament Commentary (Stockton, CA: Christian Courier).
Jamieson, Robert, A.R. Fausset, and David Brown (2012), Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary: Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (1871) (Electronic Database: WORDsearch).
Lyons, Eric (2004), “Did Jesus Rise ‘On’ or ‘After’ the Third Day?” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=6&article=756.
Lyons, Eric (2006), “Reasoning About the Resurrection of Christ,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=228&article=3689.
McCord, Hugo (1989), McCord’s New Testament Translation of the Everlasting Gospel (Henderson, TN: Freed-Hardeman College).
McGarvey, J.W. (2012), The Four-Fold Gospel: A Harmony of the Gospels (Electronic Database: WORDsearch).
Robertson, A.T. (1922), A Harmony of the Gospels (New York: Harper & Row).
Viegas, Jennifer (2012), “Day of Jesus’ Crucifixion Believed Determined,” Discovery News, May 24, http://news.discovery.com/history/religion/jesus-crucifixion-120524.htm.