"THE BOOK OF PROVERBS" Beware Of Evil Companions (1:10-19) INTRODUCTION 1. In our study of Proverbs thus far, we have seen that wisdom requires... a. Fearing the Lord, so that we heed His Word - Pr 1:7 b. Respecting our parents, so that we listen to their advice - Pr 1: 8-9 2. What about our friends...? a. Our peers with whom we spend so much time? b. Might they not be a source of good counsel, i.e., wisdom? [Indeed they can (cf. Pr 27:9). But the wrong kind of friends must be avoided. This is illustrated in our text for this study (Pr 1:10-19) which contains...] I. FATHERLY WARNING CONCERNING EVIL COMPANIONS A. DO NOT CONSENT TO THEIR COUNSEL... 1. A father’s advice: "If sinners entice you, do not consent" - Pr 1:10 2. Especially when they seek to entice you to do evil - Pr 1: 11-12 3. When they tempt you with promises of easy gain - Pr 1:13-14 -- The example is enticement to murder and robbery B. DO NOT WALK WITH THEM... 1. Keep away from such "friends" who are quick to do evil - Pr 1: 15-16 2. Their efforts are ultimately in vain - Pr 1:17 3. Eventually they will pay with their own lives - Pr 1:18-19 -- Such is the way of greed; it destroys those who possess it [While the example in our text pertains to murder and robbery, the principle holds to true to all kinds of sinful conduct. So let’s expand on the lesson to be learned here...] II. THE DANGER OF EVIL COMPANIONS A. THEY PERSUADE THROUGH ENTICEMENT... 1. Like the serpent tempted Eve, sinful friends will appeal to: a. The lust of the flesh ("good for food") b. The lust of the eyes ("pleasant to the eyes") c. The pride of life ("desirable to make one wise") - cf. Gen 3:6 2. Evil friends will offer easy gain a. Such as wealth without work b. Such as pleasure without commitment c. Such as companionship without cost -- It sounds so good and easy, doesn’t it? B. THEY IGNORE THE COST OF SIN... 1. That sin destroys those who possess it a. So called "friends" will eventually turn on one another b. If they will sin with you, how do you know they won’t sin against you? c. They will be friends only as long as it benefits themselves 2. That sin eventually exposes those who continue in it a. "Be sure your sin will find you out" - Num 32:23 b. Sin requires lies and deception; eventually one gets caught in their web of lies c. Sin often carries a physical price that cannot be hidden 1) Addiction (drugs) 2) Disease (STDs) 3) Unwanted pregnancy -- Evil companions never talk about the cost of sin, do they? [Finally, let's glean from our text what is...] III. THE SOLUTION TO EVIL COMPANIONS A. DON’T LISTEN TO THEM... 1. "Do not consent..." - Pr 1:10 2. What they promise they cannot really deliver, at least for long 3. The truly blessed man does not walk in their counsel - Ps 1:1 -- Be wise enough not to heed their enticing words B. STAY AWAY FROM THEM... 1. "Do not walk in the way with them, keep your foot from their path" - Pr 1:15 2. Do not let them be your companions - Pr 13:20 3. Especially if they are unbelievers - 2Co 6:14-18 -- Be even wiser to avoid letting them become your companions CONCLUSION 1. This is not to say that we cannot try to save them... a. We must be separate from the world, but we cannot isolate ourselves - cf. 1Co 5:9-11 b. Even Jesus was a friend to sinners - Mt 11:19 2. But we must be honest with ourselves... a. Do we influence them more than they do to us? b. If not, then we should stay away until we are strong enough to be a positive influence What we have studied in Pr 1:10-19 perhaps is best summarized by the apostle Paul: Do not be deceived: "Evil company corrupts good habits." - 1Co 15:33 To be wise, we must know who to listen to (God, parents, and good friends), and who not to listen to (anyone who would entice us to do evil)...
"THE BOOK OF PROVERBS" Listen To Your Parents (1:8-9) INTRODUCTION 1. We saw that the beginning (principal part) of knowledge is to fear the Lord... - Pr 1:7 a. You will more likely heed His counsel b. Unlike fools who despise wisdom and instruction 2. In addition to the Lord, we should listen to our parents... - Pr 1: 8-9 a. Counsel that follows right after an admonition to fear (yara') the Lord b. In fact, the same word (yara') is used elsewhere in regards to parents - Lev 19:3 [The admonition to listen to one's parents is repeated throughout the book (Pr 4:1; 6:20; 23:22). Consider some reasons why it is wise to heed our parents...] I. THE WISDOM OF LISTENING TO YOUR PARENTS A. THEIR KNOWLEDGE... 1. Your parents know you better than anyone a. They fed you, clothed you, changed your diapers b. They saw you grow, how you responded to crisis, know your personality 2. Parents have the potential to provide better advice than anyone else a. Unlike teachers, counselors, who see you only for a few minutes or hours b. Unlike friends who may be motivated to tell you what they want you to hear -- No one has a better opportunity to know what you need than your parents! B. THEIR EXPERIENCE... 1. They have been where you are 2. They are now where you are headed (if you should live as long) 3. They are like sergeants leading their squads a. Sergeants are older, more experienced, more likely battle-hardy b. They have survived what new recruits have yet to experience c. It would be folly for a private to not listen to his sergeant -- Children with parents are blessed to have advice from those who traveled the same road, only much farther C. THEIR WISDOM... 1. Their own experience provides one source of wisdom 2. Their wisdom often includes that of their parents (your grandparents) a. Most people eventually appreciate their parents' advice - e.g., Pr 4:1-4 1) "The greatest teacher I ever had was my mother." - George Washington 2) "All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother." - Abraham Lincoln b. Especially when their own kids come along c. So parents often have the accumulated wisdom of several generations 3. Their wisdom may also include the wisdom of God! a. Especially if one is blessed to have Christian parents b. Who have studied that inspired wisdom passed down for many generations -- Children with Christian parents are blessed with wisdom from many sources! [The wisdom of listening to your parents should be a no-brainer. Only the foolish and immature despise the advice and counsel of their parents (Pr 15:5). But there is not only the wisdom, there is also...] II. THE BEAUTY OF LISTENING TO YOUR PARENTS A. THEIR WISDOM IS LIKE GRACEFUL JEWELRY... 1. "a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck" - ESV 2. "a graceful wreath to your head and ornaments about your neck" - NASB -- Like accessories worn to make one more attractive, beautiful, or handsome B. CHILDREN MADE ATTRACTIVE BY THEIR PARENTS' WISDOM... 1. "That is, filial respect and obedience will be as ornamental to thee as crowns, diadems, and golden chains and pearls are to others." - Adam Clarke 2. "The instructions and laws of parents being attended unto and obeyed by children, render them more lovely and amiable than any beautiful ornament whatever that can be put upon their heads;" - John Gill -- Children who revere their parents by heeding their counsel are made more attractive and appealing to others by such counsel C. COMPARE THE UGLINESS OF PARENTAL DISRESPECT... 1. As expressed by King Agur, many children do not honor their parents - Pr 30:1,11 2. Proverbs warn of the tragic end of those who dishonor parents - Pr 30:17; 20:20 3. Perhaps influenced by the decrees found in the Law of Moses - Deut 27:16 a. The penalty for cursing parents was death - Lev 20:9 b. The penalty for a rebellious son was likewise - Deut 21:18-21 -- Children who did not honor their parents were harshly judged by God in OT times CONCLUSION 1. Fortunately, we live under the law of Christ... a. A time of grace, longsuffering, and mercy b. But a time where despising God's mercy will eventually be called into account - Ro 2:4-6 2. The law of Christ still expects children to respect their parents... a. To obey and honor them - Ep 6:1-2 b. Even as Jesus honored His earthly parents - Lk 2:51-52 Note that as Jesus increased in wisdom, so He did in favor with God and man. His own example illustrates the truth of our lesson, and that written later in Proverbs: "My son, do not forget my law, but let your heart keep my commands; for length of days and long life and peace they will add to you. Let not mercy and truth forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, and so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man." - Pr 3:1-4 May the wisdom of your own parents grace your neck, having been written on your heart ...!
The Baha'i Movement
|by||Wayne Jackson, M.A.|
One of the rapidly growing religious movements today is the Baha’i group. Originating in Iran in 1844, this cult has been established in thousands of places around the world. The founder was Mirza ‘Ali Muhammed, who claimed to be the forerunner of one who would be known as the great World Teacher. This Teacher, it is alleged, would be the only holy prophet who would usher in the latest revelation from the Divine Source. He would unite the human family into a conglomeration of diverse peoples and inaugurate an era of peace.
In 1863, a man named Mirza Husayn ‘Ali announced that he was that Great Teacher. He adopted the name Bah ’u’ll h (“The Glory of God”), from which the term Baha’i is derived. After Bah ’u’ll h’s death in 1892, the organization was led by his oldest son for the next 29 years. He, in turn, was succeeded by a grandson who led the movement until 1957. Since then, the Baha’is have been governed by a group called “Hands of the Cause,” with world headquarters being in Haifa, Israel. The Baha’i movement is anti-biblical from numerous vantage points.
1. Baha’ism denies the uniqueness of Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of God. The New Testament teaches that Christ is the Father’s “only begotten Son.” The Greek word for “only begotten” is monogenes, a term employed with reference to Christ to indicate that “He was the sole representative of the Being and character of the One who sent Him” (Vine, 1940, 3:40). Bah ’u’ll h, however, claimed that Christ was but one manifestation of God! He contended that he himself was “a later manifestation.”
2. Christ declared: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one comes unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). The Lord shed His blood for one church (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:4), and He is the Savior of that body exclusively (Ephesians 5:26). Yet devotees of the Baha’i philosophy seek to unify all religions upon the basis of doctrinal compromise, and at the expense of the plain teaching of Christ. Allegedly, advocates of this system revere the teaching of Jesus, Mohammed, Bah ’u’ll h, and all other great “prophets.”
3. The Son of God taught that only the truth can set you free from sin (John 8:32), and that truth is embodied in the words that came from God through Christ, and through His inspired spokesmen (John 17:8,17; Luke 10:16). The New Testament, sealed by the Savior’s blood (Matthew 26:28), contains that revelation, and was to be God’s final communication to humanity (Jude 3). Baha’ism advocates a subjectivism, asserting that “truth is continuous and relative, not final and absolute.” This system of confusion cannot be from God (1 Corinthians 14:33).
4. Baha’ism repudiates the New Testament doctrine of a visible, audible return of Christ to judge the world (Matthew 25:31ff.; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). The doctrine of the Baha’i cult contends that the prophecies regarding the second coming of Christ were fulfilled with the arrival of Bah ’u’ll h. Such a theory, of course, is void of any evidence.
The Baha’i movement is greatly at variance with biblical revelation. The system must be opposed. Its sincere disciples should be exposed to the truth as it is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
Daniel’s Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks
|by||Wayne Jackson, M.A.|
Jesus Christ emphatically declared that the Old Testament Scriptures contained prophecies He would fulfill (Luke 24:27,44). Biblical scholars have catalogued more than 300 amazing prophecies that find precise fulfillment in the life and labor of the Son of God. One of these predictive declarations is found in Daniel 9:24-27, commonly referred to as the prophecy of “Daniel’s Seventy Weeks.” In this article, I would like to consider this important Old Testament oracle.
A proper analysis of Daniel 9:24ff. involves several factors. First, one should reflect upon the historical background out of which the prophetic utterance arose. Second, consideration should be given to the theological aspects of the Messiah’s work that are set forth in this passage. Third, the chronology of the prophecy must be noted carefully; it represents a prime example of the precision of divine prediction. Finally, one should contemplate the sobering judgment that was to be visited upon the Jewish nation in the wake of its rejection of the Christ. Let us give some attention to each of these issues.
THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT
The law of Moses had commanded the Israelites to acknowledge every seventh year as a sabbatical year. The ground was to lie at rest (Leviticus 25:1-7). Apparently, across the centuries Israel had ignored that divinely imposed regulation. In their pre-captivity history, there seems to be no example of their ever having honored the sabbath-year law. Thus, according to the testimony of one biblical writer, the seventy years of the Babylonian captivity was assigned “until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths” (2 Chronicles 36:21).
If each of the seventy captivity-years represented a violation of the sabbatical-year requirement (every seventh year), as 2 Chronicles 36:21 appears to suggest, this would indicate that Israel had neglected the divine injunction for approximately 490 years. The captivity era therefore looked backward upon five centuries of sinful neglect. At the same time, Daniel’s prophecy telescoped forward to a time—some 490 years into the future—when the “Anointed One” would “make an end of sins” (9:24). Daniel’s prophecy seems to mark a sort of “mid-way” point in the historical scheme of things.
In the first year of Darius, who had been appointed king over the realm of the Chaldeans (c. 538 B.C.), Daniel, reflecting upon the time span suggested by Jeremiah’s prophecies, calculated that the captivity period almost was over (9:1-2). He thus approached Jehovah in prayer. The prophet confessed his sins, and those of the nation as well. He petitioned Jehovah to turn away His wrath from Jerusalem, and permit the temple to be rebuilt (9:16-17). The Lord responded to Daniel’s prayer in a message delivered by the angel Gabriel (9:24-27). The house of God would be rebuilt. A more significant blessing would come, however, in the Person of the Anointed One (Christ), Who is greater than the temple (cf. Matthew 12:6). This prophecy was a delightful message of consolation to the despondent Hebrews in captivity.
THE MESSIAH’S MISSION
The advent of Christ did not put an “end” to sin in the sense that wickedness was eradicated from the Earth. Rather, the work of the Savior was to introduce a system that could provide effectually and permanently a solution to the human sin predicament. This is one of the themes of the book of Hebrews. Jesus’ death was a “once-for-all” event (see Hebrews 9:26). The Lord never will have to return to the Earth to repeat the Calvary experience.
It is interesting to note that Daniel emphasized that the Anointed One would address the problems of “transgression,” “sin,” and “iniquity”—as if to suggest that the Lord is capable of dealing with evil in all of its hideous forms. Similarly, the prophet Isaiah, in the 53rd chapter of his narrative, revealed that the Messiah would sacrifice Himself for “transgression” (5,8,12), “sin” (10,12), and “iniquity” (5,6,11).
It is worthy of mention at this point that Isaiah 53 frequently is quoted in the New Testament in conjunction with the Lord’s atoning work at the time of His first coming. Since Daniel 9:24ff. quite obviously has an identical thrust, it, too, must focus upon the Savior’s work at the cross, and not upon Jesus’ second coming—as is alleged by premillennialists.
Second, in addition to His redemptive work in connection with sin, Daniel showed that the Messiah would usher in an era of “everlasting righteousness.” This obviously is a reference to the Gospel dispensation. In the pages of the New Testament, Paul forcefully argued that Heaven’s plan for accounting man as “righteous” was made known “at this present season” (Roman 3:21-26) through the Gospel (Romans 1:16-17).
Third, the angel’s message suggested that as a result of the Messiah’s work, “vision and prophecy” would be sealed up. The Hebrew term denotes that which is brought to a “conclusion” or is finished (Gesenius, 1979, p. 315). It should be emphasized that the major burden of the Old Testament was to proclaim the coming of God’s Son. Peter declared that the prophets of ancient times heralded the “sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow them.” He affirmed that this message now is announced in the Gospel (1 Peter 1:10-12). Here is a crucial point. With the coming of the Savior to effect human redemption, and with the completion of the New Testament record which sets forth that message, the need for “vision and prophecy” became obsolete. As a result, “prophecy” (and other revelatory gifts) have “ceased” (see 1 Corinthians 13:8-13; Ephesians 4:11-16). There are no supernatural “visions” and “prophecies” being given by God in this age. [For further study, see Judisch (1978, Chapter 5), and Jackson (1990, pp. 114-124).]
Fourth, Daniel stated that the “most holy” would be anointed. What is the meaning of this expression? Dispensational premillennialists interpret this as a reference to the rebuilding of the Jewish temple during the so-called “millennium.” But the premillennial concept is not supported by the facts.
Any view that one adopts regarding this phraseology must be consistent with other biblical data. The expression “most holy” probably is an allusion to Christ Himself, and the “anointing” a reference to the Lord’s endowment with the Holy Spirit at the commencement of His ministry (Matthew 3:16; Acts 10:38). Consider the following factors. (1) While it is possible that the grammar can reflect a “most holy” thing or place (i.e., in a neuter form), it also can yield a masculine sense—“Most Holy One.” The immediate context tips the scales toward the masculine since the “anointed one, the prince” is mentioned in verse 25. (2) The “anointing” obviously belongs to the same time frame as the events previously mentioned, hence is associated with the Lord’s first coming, not the second one. (3) Thompson has observed that the act of anointing never was associated with the temple’s “most holy” place in the Old Testament (1950, p. 268). (4) Anointing was practiced in the Old Testament period as a rite of inauguration and consecration to the offices of prophet (1 Kings 19:16), priest (Exodus 28:41), and king (1 Samuel 10:1). Significantly, Christ functions in each of these roles (see Acts 3:20-23; Hebrews 3:1; Matthew 21:5). (5) The anointing of Jesus was foretold elsewhere in the Old Testament (Isaiah 61:1), and, in fact, the very title, “Christ,” means anointed.
Fifth, the Anointed One was to “make a firm covenant with many” (Daniel 9:27a, ASV). A better rendition would be: “Make a covenant firm....” The meaning seems to be: the Messiah’s covenant surely will remain firm, i.e., prevail, even though He is killed. The “covenant,” as E.J. Young observed, “is the covenant of grace wherein the Messiah, by His life and death, obtains salvation for His people” (1954, p. 679).
Sixth, as a result of Christ’s death, “the sacrifice and the oblation” would cease (9:27a). This is an allusion to the cessation of the Jewish sacrifices as a consequence of Jesus’ ultimate sacrificial offering at Golgotha. When the Lord died, the Mosaic law was “nailed to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). That “middle wall of partition” was abolished (Ephesians 2:13-17), and the “first covenant” was replaced by the “second” one (Hebrews 10:9-10). This was the “new covenant” of Jeremiah’s famous prophecy (Jeremiah 31:31-34; cf. Hebrews 8:7ff.), and was ratified by the blood of Jesus Himself (Matthew 26:28). This context is a rich depository of truth concerning the accomplishments of Christ by means of His redemptive work.
THE PROPHETIC CHRONOLOGY
The beginning point was to coincide with a command to “restore and rebuild Jerusalem.” The time span between the starting point and the concluding event was specified as “seventy weeks.” This would be seventy weeks of seven days each—a total of 490 days. Each day was to represent a year in prophetic history. Most conservative scholars hold that the symbolism denotes a period of approximately 490 years (Payne, 1973, p. 383; Archer, 1964, p. 387; cf. RSV). Finally, the terminal event would be the “cutting off,” (i.e., the death) of the Anointed One (9:26). [NOTE: Actually, the chronology is divided into three segments, the total of which represents 486½ years. This would be the span between the command to restore Jerusalem, and the Messiah’s death.]
If one is able to determine the date of the commencement point of this prophecy, it then becomes a relatively simple matter to add to that the time-duration specified in the text, thus concluding the precise time when the Lord was to be slain. Let us therefore narrow our focus regarding this matter.
There are but three possible dates for the commencement of the seventy-week calendar. First, Zerubbabel led a group of Hebrews out of captivity in 536 B.C. This seems to be an unlikely beginning point, however, because 486 years from 536 B.C. would end at 50 B.C., which was eighty years prior to Jesus’ death. Second, Nehemiah led a band back to Canaan in 444 B.C. Is this the commencement point for computing the prophecy? Probably not, for 486 years after 444 B.C. ends at A.D. 42—a dozen years after the death of Christ. However, in 457 B.C., Ezra took a company from Babylon back to Jerusalem. Does this date work mathematically? Indeed. If one starts at 457 B.C., and goes forward for 486½ years, the resulting date is A.D. 30—the very year of Christ’s crucifixion! This is the common view (Scott, 1975, 5:364).
The strongest objection to this argument is the claim that Ezra issued no charge to rebuild the city of Jerusalem, and so the starting point of the prophecy could not date from the time of his return. Noted scholar Gleason Archer has responded to this allegation by affirming that Ezra’s commission:
...apparently included authority to restore and build the city of Jerusalem (as we may deduce from Ezra 7:6,7, and also 9:9, which states, “God...hath extended lovingkindness unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of God, and to repair the ruins thereof, and to give us a wall in Judea and in Jerusalem,” ASV). Even though Ezra did not actually succeed in accomplishing the rebuilding of the walls till Nehemiah arrived thirteen years later, it is logical to understand 457 B.C. as the terminus a quo for the decree predicted in Daniel 9:25 (1964, p. 387, emp. in orig.).In “the midst” of the seventieth week, i.e., after the fulfillment of the 486½ years, the Anointed One was to be “cut off.” This is a reference to the death of Jesus. Isaiah similarly foretold that Christ would be “cut off out of the land of the living” (Isaiah 53:8).
But why are the “seventy weeks” of Daniel’s prophecy divided into three segments—seven weeks, 62 weeks, and the “midst” of one week? There was purpose in this breakdown. (1) The first division of “seven weeks” (literally, forty-nine years) covers that period of time during which the actual rebuilding of Jerusalem would be underway, following the Hebrews’ return to Palestine (9:25b). This was the answer to Daniel’s prayer (9:16). That reconstruction era was to be one of “troublous times.” The Jews’ enemies had harassed them in earlier days (see Ezra 4:1-6), and they continued to do so in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. [For further discussion of this circumstance, see Whitcomb (1962, p. 435).] (2) The second segment of sixty-two weeks (434 years), when added to the previous forty-nine, yields a total of 483 years. When this figure is computed from 457 B.C., it terminates at A.D. 26. This was the year of Jesus’ baptism and the beginning of His public ministry. (3) Finally, the “midst of the week” (3½ years) reflects the time of the Lord’s preaching ministry. This segment of the prophecy concludes in A.D. 30—the year of the Savior’s death.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF REJECTING CHRIST
Daniel’s prophecy depicted the Roman invasion of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Jewish temple. The prophet spoke of a certain “prince that shall come,” who would “destroy the city and the sanctuary” like an overwhelming flood (9:26b). All of this was “determined” (see 9:26b, 9:27b) by God because of the Jews’ rejection of His Son [Matthew 21:37-41; 22:1-7; see Young (1954, p. 679)].
The interpretation of this portion of the prophecy is beyond dispute. Jesus, in His Olivet discourse concerning the destruction of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:1-34), talked about “the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet” (24:15). The Lord was alluding to Daniel 9:27. The “abomination that makes desolate” was the Roman army, under its commander, Titus (“the prince”—9:26b), who vanquished Jerusalem in A.D. 70. [NOTE: The “prince” of verse 26a is not the same as the anointed “prince” of verse 25a. The “prince” of verse 26 comes after the anointed Prince has been cut off.]
The historical facts are these. In A.D. 66, the Jews, who were subject to Rome, revolted against the empire. This plunged the Hebrews into several years of bloody conflict with the Romans. Titus, son and successor of the famous Vespasian, overthrew the city of Jerusalem (after a five-month siege) in the summer of A.D. 70. The holy city was burned (cf. Matthew 22:7), and the “sanctuary” (temple) was demolished. Christ had informed His disciples that the day was coming when the Jews’ “house” would be left desolate (Matthew 23:38); indeed, not one stone would be left upon another (Matthew 24:2). Significantly, only one stone from that temple, and parts of another, have been identified positively by archaeologists (Frank, 1972, p. 249). J.N. Geldenhuys summarized this situation by noting that Titus
...overran the city with his army, destroyed and plundered the temple, and slew the Jews—men, women and children—by tens of thousands. When their lust for blood had been sated, the Romans carried off into captivity all the able-bodied remnant of the Jews (for they had done away with all the weaklings and the aged), so that not a single Jew was left alive in the city or its vicinity. Only on one day in the year—the day of remembrance of the destruction of the temple—were they allowed to mourn over the city from the neighboring hill-tops (1960, 3:141).This event was referred to by Daniel as the “abomination of desolation” because the city of David was desolated by the Roman army—an abominable force because of its idolatrous fabric. It is not without considerable interest that apparently even the Jews recognized that the destruction of the Hebrew nation was a fulfillment of Daniel’s remarkable prophecy. Josephus, the Jewish historian, stated that “Daniel also wrote concerning the Roman government, and that our country should be made desolate by them” (Antiquities, X.XI.7).
[NOTE: For a more thorough analysis and refutation of the premillennial-dispensational view of Daniel 9:24ff., see my extended essay on this subject, available in the Apologetics Press Research Article Series.]
Frank, Harry Thomas (1972), An Archaeological Companion to the Bible (London: SCM Press).
Geldenhuys, J. Norval (1960), “Luke,” The Biblical Expositor, ed. Carl F. H. Henry (Philadelphia, PA: Holman).
Gesenius, William (1979 reprint), Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Jackson, Wayne (1990), “Miracles,” Giving a Reason for Our Hope, ed. Winford Claiborne (Henderson, TN: Freed-Hardeman University).
Judisch, Douglas (1978), An Evaluation of Claims to the Charismatic Gifts (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Payne, J. Barton (1973), The Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy (New York: Harper & Row).
Scott, J.B. (1975), “Seventy Weeks,” Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Merrill C. Tenney (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Thompson, J.E.H. (1950 reprint), “Daniel,” The Pulpit Commentary, ed. H.D.M. Spence and Joseph Exell (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Whitcomb, John C., Jr. (1962), “Nehemiah,” The Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody).
Young, Edward J. (1954), “Daniel,” The New Bible Commentary, ed. F. Davidson (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Belief in God and “Gut Feelings”
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
In September of this year, Stephanie Pappas wrote an article for LiveScience titled, “Belief in God Boils Down to a Gut Feeling.” In that article, she explained that researchers from Harvard University recently “discovered” that people who are more apt to trust their first intuitions are more likely to believe in God than those people who stop and reflect on those intuitions. In order to test this idea, the researchers gave participants a math test that consisted of three problems with questions such as: “A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?” (Pappas, 2011). As Pappas explained, the intuitive answer is 10 cents, but that is wrong. Those who gave answers such as 10 cents, instead of the correct answer of 5 cents for the test were “one-and-a-half times more likely to believe in God than those who got all the answers right” (Pappas, emp. added). Using this and other test results, the researchers concluded that intuitive thinkers, or those who follow their gut feelings, are more likely to believe in God than more reflective types. David Rand, one of the researchers, stated: “It’s not that one way is better than the other. Intuitions are important and reflection is important, and you want some balance of the two. Where you are on that spectrum affects how you come out in terms of belief in God” (Pappas).
Now let us take a critical look at what is really going on with this most recent Harvard “study.” First, why do you think LiveScience is reporting on a study about belief in God? Do you think it is because the scientific community has had a sudden change of heart and now believes the concept of God to be one that can be verified scientifically? Of course not. On the contrary, this “study” is in LiveScience in an attempt to reduce belief in God to a function of a certain type of brain chemistry or thought process—and an inferior one at that. Notice that David Rand concludes that “where you are on the spectrum affects how you come out in terms of belief in God.” If it so happens that you are an intuitive thinker, then you do not really control whether you believe in God or not, it is just that your thinking is more open to the possibility. If you are a more “reflective” thinker, then there is a good chance you cannot help your lack of a belief in God; it is just the way you think. In other words, belief in God is a function of your physical chemistry (an ultimately evolution) rather than your God-given ability to rationally make a choice.
Furthermore, notice that while the researchers were quick to say that one way of thinking is not superior to the other, it was the “intuitive” thinkers who got the very simple math problems wrong, and those are the people who tend to believe in God more. Observe the implied deficiency associated with a belief in God. Those who are more likely to believe in God cannot even answer simple math problems. It should be noted that this “study” was of an extremely small group of people and had no substantial “scientific” information to add to the question about belief in God.
Unfortunately, it is true that many in the religious world erroneously believe in God due to emotions and feelings rather than reason and evidence. True biblical faith is not founded on personal feelings and emotions, instead it is based on reflection (i.e., reason and evidence, 1 Thessalonians 5:21). While the Harvard study may hint at how some people in the religious world come to belief in God, the study fails to account for those whose faith is legitimate—being based on reflection of the evidence. Further, in the same way that many believe in God based on “intuition” rather than “reflection,” a fair assessment would be to note that there are just as many people who fail to believe in God because they are unwilling to draw the conclusions that come from proper reflection of the evidence (e.g., design in the Universe, causality, etc.). An appropriate counter study to this Harvard research, which would provide a more complete picture of the truth, would be to determine how many do not believe in God because of an inherent bias against Him (due, for instance, to some event in their past or a desire to live without moral restraint) and/or because those individuals have a tendency in their lives to not draw appropriate conclusions that are warranted by the evidence (in contradiction to the Law of Rationality; Ruby, 1960, pp. 130-131).
Attempts by the atheistic scientific community to reduce belief in God to genetics, brain cells, digestion, or the color of a person’s eyes are legion—and all equally unsuccessful. The bottom line is that belief in God will never be successfully linked to any physical trait, pattern of brain cells, genetic variation, and certainly not to a method of reasoning that causes a person to miss simple math problems. On the contrary, all those who sincerely desire to use proper reasoning (Acts 26:24) to follow the truth where it leads (John 18:37), will arrive at the correct conclusion that God exists (Miller, 2011). If people do not believe in God, it is not because of their genes or their “reflective” capacities; it is because they have refused to properly assess the evidence that God has provided. Sadly, those people will be “without excuse” on the Day of Judgment (Romans 1:20).
REFERENCESMiller, Dave (2011), “Is Christianity Rational?” http://www.apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=977.
Pappas, Stephani (2011), “Belief in God Boils Down to a Gut Feeling,” LiveScience, http://news.yahoo.com/belief-god-boils-down-gut-feeling-104403461.html.
Ruby, Lionel (1960), Logic: An Introduction (Chicago, IL: J.B. Lippincott).
Biblical Miracles: Fact or Fiction?
|by||Garry K. Brantley, M.A., M.Div.|
One cannot read the Bible for long without confronting events that defy strictly naturalistic explanations. A nation of slaves escaping bondage by walking on dry ground through a parted sea, an ax head floating and persons walking on water, and men rising from the dead are but a sampling of the miracles recorded in both the Old and New Testaments. Certainly, these are extraordinary phenomena not experienced in present reality. Thus, the factuality of such events depends on the general reliability of the Bible as a historical document. Unfortunately, the Bible’s credibility is under a thick cloud of suspicion in some theological circles today.
Liberal theologians generally have dismissed the historicity of miraculous events, considering them to be the mythological interpretations of natural incidents by two ancient communities: Israel and the early church. Such an approach suggests that the Bible expresses how its authors perceived events, but does not necessarily reflect how they actually happened (Borg, 1993a, 9:9). Accordingly, we should not conclude from Genesis that God actually created the Universe in six, literal days, or that Adam and Eve, as the first human couple, lived in a real Edenic paradise. These are powerfully symbolic tales whose “...primary purpose and place in the Hebrew Bible is theological, not historical” (Dever, 1990, 16:52). Thus, the Genesis account of creation presents the theological truth that “everything comes from God,” but it does not reflect actual occurrences in remote antiquity.
Biblical religion, however, is rooted in God’s acts in human history, not in lofty, abstract ideas or ideals. The crucial issues are: (a) is the Bible historically reliable or not?; (b) should we read the Bible with confidence or skepticism?; and (c) why do many theologians cast suspicion on the historicity of the Bible?
THE HISTORICAL-CRITICAL METHOD
This new, rationalistic approach to the world eventually spawned a radically different attitude toward the Bible. In the second half of the eighteenth century, in connection with the intellectual movement of the Enlightenment, the Bible began to lose its status as the unique and authoritative “Word of God.” Scholars approached the Bible as a mere human production that, “...like any product of the human mind, can properly be made understandable only from the times in which it appeared and therefore only with the methods of historical science” (Kümmel, 1973, p. 14).
The controls of historical science to which Kümmel referred began to guide biblical interpretation during this period, and continue to exert tremendous influence on theology in mainstream scholarship. When applied to the Bible, the generally accepted “historical-critical” method that grew out of the Enlightenment subverts the biblical concept of verbal inspiration (see Anderson, 1993, 9:9). Therefore, we need to analyze carefully the procedures and presuppositions of current historical criticism.
Basic AssumptionsThough different scholars use the method with different sets of assumptions, thus obtaining different results, one can speak justifiably of a specific historical-critical method that is guided by a specific set of shared presuppositions (Gredainus, 1988, p. 25). Ernst Troeltsch, in his 1898 seminal essay on Historical and Dogmatic Method in Theology, articulated the three fundamental principles of this method: (1) criticism/probability; (2) analogy; and (3) correlation.
ResultsSome aspects of this approach to the Bible were consistent with sound methods of exegesis. For example, it placed proper literary and historical constraints on biblical interpretation. It appropriately emphasized the fact that the Bible was written in certain historical and cultural contexts by different men with varying literary styles. And, it is correct exegetical procedure to interpret texts in light of the historical circumstances under which they were written and in keeping with contemporary cultural norms. Further, we recognize that the Bible contains different kinds of literature (e.g., narrative, poetry, etc.) and that the literary style of Paul differs significantly from that of Peter. These are legitimate factors to consider when approaching any text and, when used judiciously, they do not militate against the biblical doctrine of verbal inspiration (see Hamann, 1977, pp. 74-75).
In general, however, the historical-critical method—with its underlying presuppositions—has resulted in an extreme skepticism regarding the historicity of biblical events. Since research is conducted “...as if there were no God” (Linnemann, 1990, p. 84), this method repudiated the divine nature of the biblical text. This fundamental presupposition produced at least two destructive results. First, it excluded the possibility of God’s acting in history, demanding that all supernatural events in the Bible be given natural explanations. Second, scholars considered the Bible to be the end product of a long, evolutionary process of mere human literary genius. For instance, Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918) denied the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch and alleged that it was an amalgamation of different sources (both oral and written) compiled by a redactor (editor), and thus had no real historical underpinning. Modern critics continue to hold to such a fragmentary view of the Pentateuch (Davis, 1993, 19:54). Therefore, many scholars do not consider the Old Testament to be a unique, divine revelation; it is just one body of ancient, sacred literature among a myriad of others.
This has compelled many scholars to draw a sharp distinction between “actual” and “theological” history in the Bible. Such a distinction has led many biblical students to dismiss historical investigations of the Old and New Testaments, and to seek instead theological or canonical meanings (cf. Anderson, 1994 and Childs, 1985, p. 6). For example, Gerhard von Rad, an influential Old Testament scholar, contrasted “history” and “story” in the Hebrew Bible. He argued that critical historical scholarship eliminates the possibility that all Israel was at Sinai, or crossed the Red Sea as the Bible indicates. Though something actually happened in Israel’s past, these stories were the constructions of Israel’s faith (1962, 1:106-107). Thus, one must peel off the layers of elaborate embellishments from biblical narratives to arrive at actual history. For example, one should not accept naively that God actually parted the Red Sea. This was a mythological explanation of some natural event in Israel’s past. Accordingly, biblical scholars must recognize the minimum historical core of Old Testament stories while they pursue their maximum theological meanings.
Similarly, New Testament scholars draw a line of distinction between the historical Jesus and the Jesus presented in the Gospels. Such critics argue that many of the words and events attributed to Jesus actually were put into His mouth by the early church to deal with a specific problem it faced (Bultmann, 1958, p. 63; cf. Koester, 1993 and Borg, 1993b, 9:10,62). For example, this idea suggests that the confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees regarding Roman taxation (Mark 12:13-17) was not an actual occurrence in Jesus’ life. It was a story invented by the early church to address a crucial contemporary issue: “Is it consistent with Christian principles to pay Roman taxes?” This contrived episode provided authority for paying such taxes.
Additionally, Jesus’ miracles recorded in the Gospels are considered to be the result of the early church’s theological reflection on, and proclamation of, Jesus’ ministry (see Fossum, 1994). For example, Marcus Borg (who denies the historical factuality of the virgin birth, the star of Bethlehem, the journey of the wisemen, and the shepherds’ visit to the manger; see 1992, 8:4), offered this interpretation of the resurrection narratives:
I would argue that the truth of Easter does not depend on whether there really was an empty tomb, or whether anything happened to the body of Jesus. The truth of Easter is that Jesus continued to be experienced as a living reality after his death, though in a radically new way, and not just in the time of his first followers but to this day. It is because Jesus is known as a living reality that we take Easter stories seriously, not the other way around. And taking them seriously need not mean taking them literally (1993a, 9:9).To Borg, and other scholars of kindred spirit, the truth of Christianity depends merely on the internal consistency of its doctrines, not on the historicity of its miraculous claims (e.g., Jesus’ resurrection). Thus, to be a Christian, one simply should “...live within [the Bible’s] images and stories and vision of life,” which are not necessarily historically authentic (see Borg, 1993a, 9:54). Paul, however, perceived and cautioned against the destructive implications of such an approach: “And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). For Paul, Jesus’ resurrection was more than a symbolic expression of his subjective, continued experience of Jesus as a living reality (see Borg, 1994, 10:15); it was an actual event in history that authenticated Christianity.
APPRAISAL OF THE METHOD
This does not mean that the Bible should be exempt from legitimate historical investigation. God revealed His Word to humankind in human form. As such, it can be subjected to the same critical questions as other ancient documents. However, one should not apply more harsh criteria to the Bible, as is often the case, than those applied to other historical traditions. Additionally, any method used to assess the historicity of the Bible must allow for the possibility of all events—natural and supernatural—or it is insufficient.
Is the generally accepted historical-critical method a proper tool with which to evaluate the history of Israel and the real, historical Jesus? A close analysis of this method exposes its insufficiencies for biblical investigation. Consider some of them.
Radical SkepticismOne problem with this method is its radical skepticism regarding the reliability of historical documents. Certainly, since some documents are spurious, one should not gullibly accept as true all historical statements. Thus, a measure of doubt is in order when one investigates a historical document. But the historical-critical method presses this to the extreme. It has shifted the burden on the Bible to prove its own historical accuracy. Yet, despite the Bible’s many marks of historicity (see Moreland, 1987, pp. 133-157), these do not satisfy the critic’s persistent skepticism. The underlying principles of this critical method disallow the historical accuracy of the Bible. Accordingly, this method condemns the Bible as historically specious regardless of the proof it offers for its own credibility, which is not a fair treatment of the evidence.
SubjectiveThe historical-critical method purports to be a scientific, rigidly objective investigation of historical documents. However, as Gerhard Hasel correctly observed, “...it turns out to be in the grip of its own dogmatic presuppositions and philosophical premises about the nature of history” (1991, p. 198). For example, the idea that all past events must be explained by prior historical causes (correlation), and understood in terms of analogy to other historical experiences, is subjective. This places the authenticity of any reported event ultimately at the mercy of the historian’s experience. So, the fate of an alleged event rests upon the broadness or narrowness of the critic’s experience (Gredainus, 1988, p. 31).
Proves too muchAdditionally, even if critics approach the idea of analogy with a broader scope than one’s personal experience (i.e., from the experience of contemporary humanity), this does not solve its difficulties. When pressed to its logical end, this method screens out all unique historical events, whether miraculous or nonmiraculous. Accordingly, when something happens for the first time in history, and there is no previous analogy, it must be dismissed as unhistorical despite eyewitness testimony. Such a method cannot confirm the historicity of the first human landing on the Moon, or any other historical first, though we know such occurred. In short, a strict application of analogy “...will tend to declare as unhistorical what we know as a matter of fact to be historical” (Gredainus, 1988, p. 31; cf. Geisler, 1976, pp. 302-304). Anything that proves too much proves nothing at all.
BiasedFinally, the presuppositions of this method do not give the Bible a fair hearing because the method’s guiding principles are inherently biased against miraculous events. Taking their cue from the philosophical skepticism of David Hume and René Descartes, the architects of this method eliminate a priori the miraculous from the realm of historical possibility. Clearly, this disallows the prospect of God’s acting in history before considering the evidence. In essence, it says, the crossing of the Red Sea could not happen like the Bible says because we know it could not happen that way. This reasoning actually begs the question in favor of a naturalistic interpretation of all historical events, which is far from an impartial investigation of biblical data (Geisler, 1976, p. 302). A method that excludes the possibility of divine intervention in the affairs of humankind is woefully inadequate to evaluate the testimony of scripture (Hasel, 1991, p. 198).
Additionally, one should not attempt to place theology over against history, as many historical critics frequently do. It is true that the Gospel writers, for instance, had a theological purpose behind their inspired presentations of Jesus’ life. Also, some of Jesus’ miracles, no doubt, had theological meanings attached to them. For instance, conservative scholars have long recognized that the cursing of the barren fig tree represented the vacuous piety of the Jewish nation, for which it was destroyed (Mark 11:12-14). However, such theological purpose and meaning do not negate the fact that miracles actually occurred.
Finally, the historicity of the Bible’s miraculous claims is contingent on the general reliability of the Bible. Any method employed to investigate its historicity must include the possibility of the miraculous. Gerhard Hasel has summarized this point well:
If the reality of the Biblical text testifies to a supra-historical dimension which transcends the self-imposed limitations of the historical-critical method, then one must employ a method that can account for this dimension and can probe into all the layers of depth of historical experience and deal adequately and properly with the Scripture’s claim to truth (1991, p. 199).We should consider legitimate questions of the biblical text (linguistic, literary, cultural, historical) as we investigate the meaning of God’s Word. Yet, we must recognize that humanly contrived methods are subject to both error and abuse. Recognizing this, we should listen with cautious skepticism when such methods repudiate the truth of Bible.
Anderson, Bernhard (1994), “The Changing Scene in Biblical Theology,” Bible Review, 10:17,63, February.
Borg, Marcus (1992), “The First Christmas,” Bible Review, 8:4,10, December.
Borg, Marcus (1993a), “Faith and Scholarship,” Bible Review, 9:9,54, August.
Borg, Marcus (1993b), “Jesus in Four Colors,” Bible Review, 9:10,62, December.
Borg, Marcus (1994), “Thinking About Easter,” Bible Review, 10:15, April.
Bultmann, Rudolph (1958), Jesus and the Word (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons).
Childs, Brevard (1985), Old Testament Theology in a Canonical Context (Philadelphia: Fortress).
Davis, Thomas (1993), “Faith and Archaeology: A Brief History to the Present,” Biblical Archaeology Review, 19:54-59, March/April.
Dever, William (1990), “Archaeology and the Bible,” Biblical Archaeology Review, 16:52-58,62, May/June.
Fossum, Jarl (1994), “Understanding Jesus’ Miracles,” Bible Review, 10:16-23,50, April.
Geisler, Norman (1976), Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Greidanus, Sidney (1988), The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text: Interpreting and Preaching Biblical Literature (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Hamann, Henry P. (1977), A Popular Guide to New Testament Criticism (St. Louis, MO: Concordia).
Hasel, Gerhard (1991), Old Testament Theology: Basic Issues in the Current Debate (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Koester, Helmut (1993), “Recovering the Original Meaning of Matthew’s Parables,” Bible Review, 9:11,52, June.
Krentz, Edgar (1975), The Historical-Critical Method (Philadelphia: Fortress).
Kümmel, Georg Werner (1973), The Theology of the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Abingdon).
Linnemann, Eta (1990), Historical Criticism of the Bible: Methodology or Ideology? (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Marty, Martin E. (1994), “Literalism vs. Everything Else,” Bible Review, 10:38-43,50, April.
Moreland, J.P. (1987), Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Rad, Gerhard von (1962), Old Testament Theology, (New York: Harper and Brothers).
Troeltsch, Ernst (1898), Religion in History (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1991 reprint).
Jesus, the Syrophoenician Woman, and Little Dogs
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Any honest student of the Bible must admit certain biblical episodes seem to be problematic when encountered for the first time. Upon further investigation, however, the apparent difficulties in the text vanish and the meanings become increasingly clear. One episode in the life of Jesus that historically has been misunderstood by some Bible believers and misrepresented by the skeptic is Jesus’ encounter with the Syrophoenician woman. Mark records the episode as follows:
For a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about Him [Jesus—KB], and she came and fell at His feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. But Jesus said to her, “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” And she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.” Then He said to her, “For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.” And when she had come to her house, she found the demon gone out, and her daughter lying on the bed (7:25-30; see also Matthew 15:21-28).Based on a cursory reading of the text, one may be startled that Jesus referred to this Gentile woman as a “little dog.”
Jesus’ statement in this context certainly has not escaped the notice of the skeptical community. The prolific infidel Steve Wells documented hundreds of cases of alleged intolerance in the biblical text. Jesus’ encounter with the Syrophoenician women is number 421 on his list. Of the episode, Wells wrote: “Jesus initially refuses to cast out a devil from a Syrophoenician woman’s daughter, calling the woman a ‘dog’. After much pleading, he finally agrees to cast out the devil” (2006).
Even many religious writers and speakers view Jesus’ statements to the woman as unkind, intolerant, racially slurred, and offensive. Dean Breidenthal, in a sermon posted under the auspices of the Princeton University Office of Religious Life, said concerning Jesus’ comment: “I suspect we would not be so bothered by Jesus’ unkind words to the Syrophoenician woman if they were not directed against the Gentile community. Those of us who are Gentile Christians have less trouble with Jesus’ invectives when they are directed against the Jewish leadership of his day” (2003, emp. added). Please do not miss the implication of Breidenthal’s comment. If the statement made by Jesus actually could be construed as unkind, then Jesus would be guilty of violating one of the primary characteristics of love, since love “suffers long and is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4), which would cast doubt on His deity. Is it true that Jesus exhibited an unkind attitude in His treatment of the Syrophoenician woman?
To the Jews First and Also to the GreeksIn order for one to understand Jesus’ statement, he or she must recognize the primary purpose of the comment. Jesus was passing through the land of the Gentiles (Greeks) and was approached by a woman who was not a Jew. While Jesus’ message would eventually reach the Gentile world, it is evident from the Scriptures that the Jewish nation would be the initial recipient of that message. In his account of Jesus’ encounter with the Syrophoenician woman, Matthew recorded that Jesus said: “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (15:24). When Jesus sent the twelve apostles on the “limited commission,” He told them: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5-6).
Just before Jesus ascended to heaven after His resurrection, He informed the apostles: “[A]nd you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The sequence of places where the apostles would witness manifests the order in which the Gospel would be preached (i.e., the Jews first and then the Gentiles). In addition, the apostle Paul, in his epistle to the church at Rome, stated: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (1:16). Jesus’ statement to the Syrophoenician woman indicated that the Jewish nation was Jesus’ primary target for evangelism during His earthly ministry.
How Far Can an Animal Illustration Be Taken?To our 21st-century ears, the idea that Jesus would refer to the Gentiles as “little dogs” has the potential to sound belittling and unkind. When we consider how we often use animal terms in illustrative or idiomatic ways, however, Jesus’ comments are much more benign. For instance, suppose a particular lawyer exhibits unyielding tenacity. We might say he is a “bulldog” when he deals with the evidence. Or we might say that a person is “as cute as a puppy” or has “puppy dog eyes.” If someone has a lucky day, we might say something like “every dog has its day.” Or if an adult refuses to learn to use new technology, we might say that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” In addition, one might say that a person “works like a dog,” is the “top dog” at the office, or is “dog tired.” Obviously, to call someone “top dog” would convey no derogatory connotation.
For Jesus’ statement to be construed as unkind or wrong in some way, a person would be forced to prove that the illustration or idiom He used to refer to the Gentiles as “little dogs” must be taken in a derogatory fashion. Such cannot be proved. In fact, the term Jesus used for “little dogs” could easily be taken in an illustrative way without any type of unkind insinuation. In his commentary on Mark, renowned commentator R.C.H. Lenski translated the Greek term used by Jesus (kunaria) as “little pet dogs.” Lenski further noted concerning Jesus statement: “In the Orient dogs have no owners but run wild and serve as scavengers for all garbage and offal.... It is an entirely different conception when Jesus speaks of ‘little pet dogs’ in referring to the Gentiles. These have owners who keep them even in the house and feed them by throwing them bits from the table” (1961, p. 304). Lenski goes on to write concerning Jesus’ statement: “All that Jesus does is to ask the disciples and the woman to accept the divine plan that Jesus must work out his mission among the Jews.... Any share of Gentile individuals in any of these blessings can only be incidental during Jesus’ ministry in Israel” (pp. 304-305). In regard to the non-derogatory nature of Jesus’ comment to the Gentile woman, Allen Black wrote: “The form of his statement is proverbial. And the basis of the proverb is not an antipathy for Gentiles, but the necessary Jewish focus of Jesus’ earthly ministry” (1995, p. 137).
So before people “dog” Jesus for the way He used an animal illustration, they might need to reconsider that “their bark is much worse than their bite” when it comes to insinuating that Jesus was wrong. It seems that they are simply “barking up the wrong tree” by attempting to call Jesus’ character into question. They need to “call off the dogs” on this one and “let sleeping dogs lie.”
Breidenthal, Dean (2003), “The Children’s Bread,” [On-line], URL: http://web.princeton.edu/sites/chapel/Sermon%20Files/2003_sermons/ 090703.htm.
Lenski, R.C.H. (1961), The Interpretation of Mark’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
Wells, Steve (2006), Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, [On-line], URL: http://www.Skepticsannotatedbible.com.
A Crater of Consensus, or False Assurance?
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
According to a litany of recent news reports, “the mystery has been solved.” The riddle has been unraveled. A “dream team” of scientists now knows the answer. After much debate over the last several decades, the matter of the great dinosaur demise reportedly has been confirmed, reaffirmed, and settled. At least, that is what the main stream, pro-atheistic, evolutionary media has reported.
On what did a group of evolutionary scientists come to an agreement? The volcano theory? The hay fever theory? The poisonous plant theory? None of these. Forty-one researchers from across the globe believe that everyone can now rest assured that, as many evolutionists had previously thought, dinosaurs became extinct as a result of an asteroid that hit Mexico 65 million years ago (Watson, 2010). According to Kirk Johnson of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, “We assessed the whole picture.... The answer is quite simple.... The Chicxulub crater really is the culprit” (as quoted in Watson). Due to the impact of this seven-mile-wide asteroid and its subsequent effects, including earthquakes, tsunamis, and darkness (as a result of dust and debris), all of the dinosaurs died out.
As with the General Theory of Evolution, these scientists would like us to think that the debate is over. But the debate is far from over, as even some evolutionary scientists are unconvinced by the asteroid theory. For example, Princeton University professor Gerta Keller still believes that the crater at Chicxulub was formed long before dinosaurs became extinct. What’s more, as many creationists have been asking ever since this theory was first proposed (see Lyons and Butt, 2008, p. 210), evolutionist Norman MacLeod of the Museum of Natural History in London, “wonders why, if the asteroid strike was such a doomsday event, some classes of species survived and even thrived” (Watson, 2010).
The truth is, no one knows for sure why the last of the dinosaurs died out. The Noahic Flood certainly would have destroyed countless thousands (or millions) of dinosaurs around the world. Those that survived the Flood (on Noah’s ark) eventually became extinct for unknown reasons. Creationists have proposed logical reasons why they may have died out (see Lyons and Butt, pp. 220-223), but no one can be absolutely certain.
There is one thing that we can know for sure: dinosaur extinction in no way disproves Creation.
Watson, Traci (2010), “‘Dream Team’ Agrees Huge Asteroid Killed Dinosaurs,” March 4, [On-line], URL: http://www.aolnews.com/science/article/scientists-reaffirm-asteroid-theory-in-dinosaur-deaths/19383600?icid=main|aim|dl1|link3|http%3A%2F%2Fwww.aolnews.com%2Fscience%2Farticle%2Fscientists-reaffirm-asteroid-theory-in-dinosaur-deaths%2F19383600.
Apes Deserve Personhood?
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
“In some ways, Hiasl is like any other Viennese: He indulges a weakness for pastry, likes to paint and enjoys chilling out watching TV.” This line introduces an article written by William Kole of the Associated Press. The twist to the article is that Hiasl, who the author says is “like any other Viennese,” is not a human being—he is a chimpanzee (2007).
Animal rights activists have banded together in an attempt to have Hiasl, a 26-year-old chimpanzee, granted legal personhood. Eberhart Theuer, a lawyer fighting for Hiasl’s personhood status, stated: “Our main argument is that Hiasl is a person and has basic legal rights. We mean the right to life, the right to not be tortured, the right to freedom under certain conditions” (as quoted in Kole, 2007). Theuer and his associates need Hiasl to be regarded by the law as a person so that the chimp can own property and thus receive donations from people who want to pay for Hiasl’s living expenses. Without legal personhood, Hiasl could be sold outside of Austria, where strict animal cruelty laws protect chimps (2007).
Granting an animal personhood could “set a global legal precedent,” according to Kole. It is interesting, however, that the article deals only with granting personhood to “apes.” In fact, Kole noted that Austria is not the only nation considering such novel ideas. “Spain’s parliament is considering a bill that would endorse the Great Ape Project, a Seattle-based international initiative to extend ‘fundamental moral and legal protections’ to apes.”
The underlying assumption involved in such legislation is that the apes are closely related to humans from an evolutionary standpoint. Since, according to evolution, humans are simply a higher degree of animal, and not a different kind of being, then animals that seem to exhibit physical similarities to humans deserve to be treated like humans. Such thinking, however, fails to grasp the reality that humans are not a higher animal, but are beings of a completely different nature than animals. Only humans have been endowed with souls and created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27). If humans are simply glorified animals, why should apes be given personhood status, but not all other animals? Many dogs show an aptitude for learning tricks, cows quickly learn feeding schedules, elephants have an amazing memory, rats can navigate mazes, fleas jump long distances, mosquitoes rapidly suck blood, and certain roaches make great pets and sell for thousands of dollars. Shouldn’t these sub-human animals be granted legal personhood based on their supposed evolutionary relationship to humans?
In truth, no animals deserve human rights. God gave the animals to humans to use. He even permits humans to eat animals (1 Timothy 4:4). And, while God expects humans to treat animals in a way that accords with the animals’ purpose (Proverbs 12:10), He does not consider animals to be people, nor does any rationally thinking human. Outlandish attempts to blur the lines of personhood are little more than evolutionary propaganda drenched in misplaced 21st-century sentimentalism. If activists need a cause, why don’t they fight for the rights of thousands of unborn humans who are being slaughtered on a daily basis in abortion clinics across the globe?
Was the Sun Up, Down, or In Between?by Kyle Butt, M.Div.
Attempting to cite contradictions between the resurrection accounts of the four Gospels consistently has been an endeavor long on effort and Scripture-twisting but short on evidence and valid reasoning. For example, some Bible critics demand that the time of day at which the women visited the empty tomb of Jesus is different when the Gospel of John is compared with the other three accounts. Please read for yourself the four different accounts that follow (emphasis has been added to underscore the time of day under discussion).
Matthew 28:1: Now late on the sabbath day, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
Luke 24:1: But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came unto the tomb, bringing the spices which they had prepared.
Mark 16:2: And very early on the first day of the week, they come to the tomb when the sun was risen.
John 20:1: Now on the first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, while it was yet dark, unto the tomb.
First, please understand that if these four accounts were in any ancient book other than the Bible, they hardly would be questioned as contradictory. In fact, they most likely would be considered to be in perfect agreement. Yet the Bible often is scrutinized much more strictly than any other book that records ancient history. Consider this: if the above accounts were read to a group of third graders could they understand what time of day was under discussion? To ask is to answer. Everyone who reads the accounts can see quite plainly that the women visited the tomb sometime very early on the first day of the week.
Second, it is not difficult to understand how Mary Magdalene could have arrived at the tomb while it was yet dark, and as it began to dawn, and at early dawn. The fact is, it was so early that the Sun had not fully come up, and thus a hint of darkness lingered over the scene.
This alleged contradiction is easily reconciled, proving once again that the sum of God’s Word is truth (Psalm 119:160).
May we judge our neighbor?
Listen carefully to this command of God: “You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. But in righteousness you shall judge your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:15).
Thus, God commands us to judge our neighbor! He also tells us how to judge. Our judgment is to be just, impartial and righteous.
Our competence to judge is limited.
You may be thinking, “Why did Jesus say not to judge?”
There are circumstances in which we may not judge, but there are also circumstances in which we are obligated to judge.
Jesus said: “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24).
Thus Jesus also commands us to judge! And He tells us how to judge: with righteous judgment and not according to appearances.
What do the Scriptures teach about judging?
We may not judge according to appearance.
This means that we may not judge on the basis of insufficient, superficial information. Outward appearances are often misleading.
It was night. The street was dimly lit. A man lay on the pavement with blood oozing from a wound on his head. I stood beside him with blood on my sleeve. From appearances, some might have concluded that I caused his injury. Actually, in a drunken stupor the man had collided with a lamppost while riding his bicycle. Having arrived first on the scene, I got blood on my shirt when I helped him off the road so he would not be run over by passing cars. I asked bystanders to phone an ambulance and we were waiting for its arrival.
Righteous judgment must be based on conclusive evidence: “how it is” rather than “how it looks”.
Sometimes we are personally unqualified to judge.
Jesus said, “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck out of your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5).
What if we condemn someone for something we are doing? Our judgment may be correct, but we are not qualified to judge someone else if we are under the same condemnation.
After listing sins deserving death, Paul explains: “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?” (Romans 2:1-3).
We may not judge on the basis of personal opinions.
Later in Romans, Paul discusses a situation where some Christians were vegetarians and others ate meat, a matter of personal preference: “Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:3, 4).
In the same context he says: “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way” (Romans 14:10-13).
Sinful activities are not being discussed in this passage. It is not sinful to eat meat, nor is it sinful to refrain from eating meat. In connection with personal preferences, we may not judge one another.
We may not judge when evidence is lacking.
Since only God knows the hearts of men, we can easily be mistaken.
As Paul wrote, “Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later” (1 Timothy 5:24).
When sins are evident, we must judge. Those committing hidden sins will be judged by God. We should not play God by presuming to judge things that are hidden.
As Paul wrote: “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts” (1 Corinthians 4:5).
Hidden matters must be left to God.
Our judgment must be righteous.
“The LORD our God is righteous” (Daniel 9:14). Righteous judgment is based on the righteousness of God.
If our judgment is contrary to the will of God, we are condemning God! As the Lord asked Job: “Would you indeed annul My judgment? Would you condemn Me that you may be justified?” (Job 40:3).
By judging wrongly we contradict God’s judgment. Therefore we must be extremely careful how we judge.
God requires everyone to judge righteously.
Paul explains that even the heathen - and we live in a heathen society - are responsible for judging rightly because of knowledge of the righteous judgment of God that they have from creation, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them” (Romans 1:18, 19).
After specific condemnation of idolatry, homosexuality and lesbianism (Romans 1:21-27), Paul lists other common sins of then and now: “being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:29-32).
Even the heathen ought to know that such things are wrong; yet, they not only do them but “also approve of those who practice them.” A judgment that glosses over such sins is not righteous.
Of course, evil men object when their sins are exposed. When Lot said to the homosexuals of Sodom, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly!” they replied, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge!” (Genesis 19:7, 9 ESV).
It is a gross misuse of the words of Christ when evil men say ‘Do not judge’ to ward off sanctions for their sins.
Sin in the church must be condemned.
The church at Corinth tolerated a brother who was living with his father’s wife!
Paul wrote, “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles - that a man has his father’s wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you” (1 Corinthians 5:1, 2).
“I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore ‘put away from yourselves that wicked person’” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13).
In such cases, the judgment of the church is merely the application of the righteous judgment of God. To neglect to judge is to ignore the judgment of God.
A wise brother should resolve disputes between Christians.
“Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren?” (1 Corinthians 6:1-5).
God will judge us the way we judge others.
In that list of sins deserving death in Romans chapter one we also find ‘unforgiving’ and ‘unmerciful’. If we are unmerciful, we will not receive the grace of God.
From that perspective Jesus says: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Matthew 7:1, 2). “Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:36, 37).
To receive mercy we must bestow mercy.
We want to receive mercy when we are judged. Thus we must be merciful when we judge others. This is why James says, “So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:12, 13).
We may not condemn the guiltless by neglecting mercy: “But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless” (Matthew 12:7).
Does this mean that everyone will be absolved by God? Certainly not. Jesus says that few will be saved and many will be lost (Luke 13:23, 24; Matthew 7:13, 14).
Mercy, too, must comply with the righteous judgment of God. What if we are unmerciful to those to whom God shows mercy, or if we are merciful to those to whom God does not show mercy? Thus, we must study the Scriptures so we can judge our neighbor in righteousness. “He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD” (Proverbs 17:15).
What have we learned about judging?
God commands us to judge our neighbor! Our judgment must be just and impartial. Our competence to judge is limited. We may not judge according to appearances. Sometimes we are personally unqualified to judge. We may not judge on the basis of personal opinions, and we may not judge when evidence is lacking. Our judgment must be righteous. Sin in the church must be condemned. God will judge us the way we judge others. To receive mercy we must bestow mercy.
“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24).
“You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. But in righteousness you shall judge your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:15).
The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers
unless indicated otherwise. Permission for reference use has been granted.
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers
unless indicated otherwise. Permission for reference use has been granted.
Published in The Old Paths Archive