"THE BOOK OF PROVERBS" Wisdom Regarding Marriage (2) INTRODUCTION 1. We saw in our previous lesson that Proverbs can be a helpful guide in selecting a good spouse 2. In this study, we will consider what it says about being a good spouse 3. The importance of this subject should be evident... a. Happiness in life is greatly affected by how successful we are in marriage b. Even our usefulness to the Lord is affected by the relationship between husbands and wives c. For example, a husband's prayers can be hindered by his treatment of his wife - 1Pe 3:7 [Appreciating the importance of a good marriage, let's begin with that beautiful passage in Proverbs 31 where we read about...] I. THE VIRTUOUS WIFE A. THE IDEAL WIFE... 1. Trustworthy - Pr 31:11 a. The husband can safely entrust her with his income b. She will not squander what he gives her, but use it in a manner that benefits them both 2. Filled with an enduring love - Pr 31:12 a. Devoted to doing her husband good all her life b. Just as she vowed in the wedding ceremony 3. Has practical skills - Pr 31:13-15,21-22 a. Such as sewing b. And cooking 4. Industrious - Pr 31:16,24 a. Makes investments (buys land and plants a vineyard) b. Provides extra income (makes clothing and sells to merchants) 5. Compassionate - Pr 31:20 a. Helping the poor b. Reaching out to the needy 6. Strong character - Pr 31:25 a. Character matters, and she has developed a strong one b. Just as Peter stressed in 1Pe 3:3-4 7. Speaks words of wisdom and kindness - Pr 31:26 a. She is thus concerned about what proceeds from her mouth b. Just as Paul stressed in Ep 4:29 8. Diligently sees to her family's need - Pr 31:27 a. Makes whatever preparation necessary - cf. Pr 31:15 b. So that her family does not go in want - cf. Pr 31:21 9. Fears the Lord - Pr 31:29-30 a. She understands that this quality is more important and praiseworthy than physical beauty b. With the fear of the Lord, she has the potential for great wisdom - Pr 1:7 -- Such are the qualities of being a good spouse B. WHAT A WIFE DOES NOT WANT TO BE... 1. Contentious - cf. Pr 21:9,19 2. Hateful - Pr 30:21-23 -- Both make it where the husband does not want to be around her [Enough about being a good wife; where can we go in Proverbs to learn about being a good husband...?] II. THE VIRTUOUS HUSBAND A. WHERE'S THE PASSAGE DESCRIBING THE VIRTUOUS MAN...? 1. A question often raised by women, sometimes suggesting there is none 2. But bear in mind that the Proverbs are primarily addressed to the man! a. There is half a chapter describing the virtuous woman b. There are thirty plus chapters describing the virtuous man! -- The entire book, if followed, produces a husband any woman would love B. THE IDEAL HUSBAND... 1. Values his wife highly - Pr 18:22; 19:14 a. He realizes that she is a gift from God b. Especially when she proves to be prudent 2. Gives his wife her due - Pr 31:31 a. Allows his wife the opportunity to develop her own abilities b. Lets her reap the benefits of her own labors c. I.e., does not treat her simply as an appendage of himself 3. Praises his wife profusely - Pr 31:28b-29 a. Praises her frequently b. Does not take her for granted 4. Trusts his wife implicitly - Pr 31:11 a. Demonstrates a willingness to trust her b. In such areas as her intelligence, her faithfulness, her abilities c. Is not jealous or suspicious 5. Content with his wife's love - Pr 5:15-21 a. Does not look elsewhere b. Will save him and his family much harm -- A few examples of how Proverbs can help a man be a good spouse CONCLUSION 1. So much of the joy and meaning of life that God would have us enjoy is lost if there is not a good marriage 2. As Solomon wrote in another book of wisdom... "Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun." - Ec 9:9 The book Of Proverbs can also guide us in developing wholesome families. Our next study shall consider examples of inspired advice on providing for a family and raising children...
"THE BOOK OF PROVERBS" Wisdom Regarding Marriage (1) INTRODUCTION 1. The value of Proverbs is that it provides wisdom from God to guide us in every realm of life 2. Whether it be family, business, social or spiritual relationships, we find inspired advice that enables us to walk in wisdom, "redeeming the time, because the days are evil" - cf. Ep 5:15-17 [Let's examine what wisdom the Proverbs has to reveal regarding marriage, beginning with...] I. THE SELECTION OF A WIFE A. THE IMPORTANCE OF MAKING THE RIGHT CHOICE... 1. Much happiness in life depends upon make the right choice - Pro 12:4 a. A good choice greatly enhances the life of the husband b. But the wrong choice can destroy a man from the inside out! 2. It is folly to think that a mistake in this area can be easily corrected a. Many think divorce can be an easy solution b. But God hates divorce and remarriage may not be a viable option for the disciple of Christ - cf. Mal 2:16; Mt 19:8-9 c. Even when it is, if there are children the selection you made will always be the mother of your children (for better or worse!) -- A man needs wisdom from God in choosing whom to marry! B. GUIDELINES FOR FINDING A GOOD WIFE... 1. Seek help from God - Pr 19:14 a. Success in this venture may depend more upon God than we think! b. In view of the seriousness of this matter, dare we go about it alone? 2. Do not place priority on good looks alone - Pr 31:30 a. Beauty is skin-deep, temporary, to which we can easily grow accustomed b. It is therefore a poor foundation upon which to build a life-long relationship c. Sadly, most marriages are built on little more than physical attraction 3. Instead, look for these characteristics in a woman: a. The fear of the Lord - Pr 31:30 1) Such a woman possesses the beginning of wisdom - Pr 1:7 2) Having a wife who is a devout Christian should be the primary concern b. Discretion - Pr 11:22 1) This is the ability to do the right thing at the right time 2) Without this, beauty is worthless, and can even be the object of ridicule (e.g., dumb blonde jokes) c. Wisdom - Pr 14:1 1) With this virtue in a woman, a good home can be built 2) Without it, efforts by the husband will be undermined by the wife! 4. Avoid a woman who is contentious (argumentative)! a. Picturesque descriptions of such a woman are found in Pro 19:13; 27:15-16 b. My grandmother (a faithful Christian who as a widow raised six children through the Great Depression, and remained a widow for over fifty years), pointed out these two verses to me when I was a teen-ager: Pr 21:9,19 -- It is better to be single and alone, than to be married to the wrong person! [To be married to a godly woman, however, is a wonderful blessing from the Lord (Pr 18:22). With the aid of Proverbs, we are more likely to find a good spouse. The same is true for women in...] II. THE SELECTION OF A HUSBAND A. THERE ARE WAYS TO LEARN ABOUT A MAN... 1. How does he treat animals? This reveals a lot about his character - Pr 12:10 2. Does he listen to the advice of others? That will tell you whether he is a fool, or a wise person - Pr 12:15 3. What type of company does he keep? You might be destroyed along with him - Pr 13:20 4. Is he quick-tempered? That reveals whether he is a person of understanding - Pr 14:29 5. How does he make money? You will suffer the consequences of his actions - Pr 15:27 6. Does he feel like he always has to put in his "two-cents" worth? If so, he lacks knowledge and a calm spirit - Pr 17: 27-28 7. Does he have compassion for the poor? If so, his prayers will be answered - Pr 21:13 -- See how the Proverbs can guide a woman in deciding whom to marry? B. MEN TO DEFINITELY AVOID... 1. A womanizer a. He will destroy himself and hurt all those involved - Pr 6: 27-29 b. If he flaunts God's will before he is married, what assurance is there he will not flaunt God's will after he is married? 2. A quick-tempered man a. You will become like him and destroy yourself as well - Pro 22:24-25 b. Men are usually on their best behavior before marriage, think of what an angry man will be like after marriage! 3. A drinker a. Alcohol has destroyed many good men - Pr 23:29-30 b. Most husbands become verbally and physically abusive after drinking -- Again, it is better to be single and alone, than to be married to the wrong person! CONCLUSION 1. Among the most important decisions we make in life will be these two... a. With whom shall I spend my life? 1) Divorce and remarriage is not an option for the faithful Christian - Mt 19:6 2) With one exception - Mt 19:9 b. Who shall be the father or mother of my children? 1) This choice cannot be undone once the children are born 2) Divorce is a violent action, with long-lasting effects - Mal2:16 2. Dare we make such decisions without consulting the wisdom found in God's Word...? a. This certainly does not exhaust all that Proverbs has to say about selecting a spouse b. But I trust that we see that the Proverbs are extremely practical, worthy of careful study In our next lesson, we shall consider gems of wisdom in regards to being a good spouse...
"THE BOOK OF PROVERBS" Wisdom Regarding Friendship INTRODUCTION 1. Living on an inhabited planet, it is impossible to avoid associations with fellow humans 2. In His all-sufficient Word, God has provided the wisdom necessary whereby we can... a. Develop good relations with those around us b. Avoid the pitfalls that too often destroy good friendships [A good portion of this wisdom is found in Proverbs, where much is revealed regarding the subject of friendships. For example, note what is revealed about...] I. THE VALUE OF FRIENDS A. SOURCE OF COMFORT... 1. In good times and in bad times - Pr 17:17 2. In some cases, even better than that provided by a brother - Pr 18:24b B. SOURCE OF GOOD COUNSEL... 1. Counsel that can "delight the heart" - Pr 27:9 2. The value of counsel in general is seen in Pr 11:14 [A friend who offers comfort and can be trusted to provide good counsel is certainly a blessing. But we must choose our friends carefully (Pro 12:26). Consider therefore, some advice on...] II. THE CHOICE OF FRIENDS A. FRIENDS YOU DO NOT WANT... 1. Gossips - Pr 20:19 2. Short-tempered - Pr 22:24-25 3. Those given to drinking and gluttony - Pr 23:20-21 4. Those given to change - Pr 24:21-22 5. Liars, those untrustworthy, and those inconsiderate - Pr 25: 18-20 6. Those given to violence - Pr 1:10-19 B. FRIENDS YOU DO WANT... 1. Those who display wisdom themselves - Pr 13:20 2. For their teaching (counsel) will help lead you in the right way - cf. Pr 13:14 [The wrong kind of friends can be a corrupting influence (cf. 1Co 15:33), but a friend who is good and wise is one you want to hold on to! To avoid losing good friends, here is some wisdom on...] III. MAINTAINING FRIENDSHIPS A. THINGS WHICH DISRUPT FRIENDSHIPS... 1. Repeating everything you hear - Pr 17:9 2. Getting into senseless arguments - Pr 17:14 3. Overstaying your welcome - Pr 25:17 4. Meddling in affairs not your own - Pr 26:17 5. Playing bad jokes - Pr 26:18-19 6. Being a "talebearer" - Pr 26:20 7. Being contentious - Pr 26:21 8. Engaging in insincere flattery - Pr 27:14 [Following such advice, one is less likely to offend his or her friends. But sometimes we do, and regaining their confidence is not easy (cf. Pr 18:19). What can be done? Consider...] B. SOLVING PROBLEMS WITH OUR FRIENDS... 1. Make sure that you are at peace with the Lord - cf. Pr 16:7 2. Be slow to anger - Pr 15:18; cf. Jm 1:19-20 3. Be slow to respond - Pr 18:13 4. Avoid quarreling - Pr 20:3 5. Speak gently - Pr 15:1 6. Speak briefly - Pr 10:19 7. Be quick to show love - Pr 10:12 8. But if necessary, rebuke rather than flatter - Pr 28:23 CONCLUSION 1. Properly applying the wisdom of God found in His Word can assure that... a. We enjoy the blessings of good friends in this life b. We can look forward to enjoying these dear friends in life eternal! 2. Rather than depend upon "trial and error" to learn "how to win friends and influence people", let God's Word be your guide! But of all the friendships we could possible develop, none can excel the one we can have with Him who truly "sticks closer than a brother" - our Lord Jesus Christ! Have you become His friend? Consider what He has done for us... "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." (Jn 15:13) Consider what He asks of us... "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you." (Jn 15:14) Have you done what He commands? - cf. Mt 28:18-20; Mk 16:15-16
The Quran and the Muslim Bomb Blast In Pakistan
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
At least 72 people were killed and hundreds more were injured when a Muslim suicide bomber detonated the explosives he was wearing in a park where Christians were celebrating Easter by picnicking in a park.1 According to the spokesman representing the terrorist group that claimed responsibility, Ehsanullah Ehsan, “It was our people who attacked the Christians in Lahore, celebrating Easter. It’s our message to the government that we will carry out such attacks again until sharia is imposed in the country.”2
Perhaps at some point, the politically correct crowd reconsider their flawed notion that “Islam is a religion of peace, and such behavior does not represent true Islam.” This naïve, inaccurate depiction is inexcusable and unbelievably bizarre in view of the 1,400-year-long history of Islam throughout the world. It is fashionable to refer to the terrorists as “extremists” and “radicalized”—implying that they do not represent true Islam and the Quran. They are characterized as being guilty of embracing a “literalist” interpretation of the Quran. But this allegation fails to face the fact that the Quranic texts that advocate violence and killing to advance Islam are clearly literal and have been so taken by the vast majority of Islamic scholars for the last 1,400 years.3 Setting aside the Hadith which forthrightly promote violence, the Quran itself is riddled with admonitions for Muslims to commit precisely the violent actions and bloodshed being committed by the Islamic terrorists.
Read Surah 47:4 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).4No one should be perplexed or surprised by the incessant practice of beheadings by ISIS and all terrorists, who are in a perpetual war with Christendom. The admonition to behead others comes straight from the Quran (cf. Surah 8:12). Abdullah Yusuf Ali makes the following comment on this passage in his widely reputable Muslim translation:
When once the fight (Jihad) is entered upon, carry it out with the utmost vigour, and strike home your blows at the most vital points (smite at their necks), both literally and figuratively. You cannot wage war with kid gloves (italics and parenthetical items in orig.).5Many other verses in the Quran forthrightly endorse armed conflict and war to advance Islam (e.g., Surah 2:190ff.; 8:39ff.; 9:1-5,29; 22:39; 61:4; 4:101-104). 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.6 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.”7
Islam stands in stark contrast to the religion of 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 Islamic teaching and practice. 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). Indeed, New Testament Christianity enjoins love for enemies (Matthew 5:44-46; Luke 6:27-36), returning good for evil, and overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:14,17-21).
So why does the politically correct crowd seem intent on ignoring 1,400 years of historical reality and unmistakable declarations within the Quran itself? It would appear that such blatant disregard is rooted in a single reason: an irrational regard for pluralism and bitter disdain for Christianity’s moral principles.
1 Annie Gowen, Shaiq Hussain, and Erin Cunningham (2016), “Death Toll in Pakistan Bombing Climbs Past 70,” The Washington Post, March 28, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/death-toll-in-pakistan-easter-suicide-attack-rises-to-72-authorities-vow-to-hunt-down-perpetrators/2016/03/28/037a2e18-f46a-11e5-958d-d038dac6e718_story.html.
3 Nabeel Qureshi (2016), “The Quran’s Deadly Role in Inspiring Belgian Slaughter: Column,” USA Today, March 22, http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/03/22/radicalization-isil-islam-sacred-texts-literal-interpretation-column/81808560/.
4 Mohammed Pickthall (no date), The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (New York: Mentor).
5 Abdullah Yusuf Ali (1934), The Meaning of the Holy Quran (Beltsville, MD: Amana Publications), 2002 reprint, p. 1315.
6 cf. Martin Lings (1983), Muhammad (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International), pp. 86,111.7 p. xxvi.
Did Shakespeare Slip His Name in Psalm 46?
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Amazing! Incredible! Unbelievable! William Shakespeare left his mark on the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. At least that is the rumor going around. According to a host of Websites and books, William Shakespeare was called upon to add his artistic touch to the English translation of the Bible done at the behest of King James, which was finished in 1611. As proof for this idea, proponents point to Psalm 46, and allege that Shakespeare slipped his name into the text. Here is how the story goes. Since Shakespeare was born in the year 1564, then he would have been 46 years old during 1610 when the finishing touches were being put on the KJV. In the King James Version, if you count down 46 words from the top (not counting the title) you read the word “shake,” then, if you omit the word “selah” and count 46 words from the bottom you find the word “spear.” Voilà! Shakespeare must have tinkered with the text and subtly added his signature. How else could one account for all of these 46s to work out so well? To top it all off, William Shakespeare is an anagram of “Here was I, like a psalm.”
First, it should be noted that, although Shakespeare did live at the same time the King James Version was being translated, there is no evidence that he had anything to do with the translation. The events and dates in the life of Shakespeare are fairly well known, and in all of the established facts about his life, not a single piece of paper or document puts him anywhere near the translation process of the King James Version.
Second, in order to get the “perfect” 46s out of Psalm 46, the word “selah” must be omitted from the text. Since the word “selah” seems to be used in many of the psalms as a type of musical punctuation, then the proponents of the Shakespeare rumor think that it would be acceptable not to count the word in order to obtain the desired result. However, the word is in the original text of the psalm. If Shakespeare were involved in translating Psalm 46, he mostly likely would have had the manuscripts before him that contained the word “selah,” since it is in the text. Why, then, would he have arbitrarily decided not to count the word? And, if the word “spear” had come one word later in the text, would the propagators of this rumor simply say that Shakespeare did count the word “selah.” Needless to say, you can make numbers do anything you want them to do if you conveniently omit anything that you do not want to count.
Third, Shakespeare could not have subjectively inserted the words into the text in order to get his name in, since the Hebrew words for “shake” and “spear” had been there for thousands of years prior to 1611. Also, the word “shake” is a commonly used word in the KJV (as is the word “spear”). Finding the two words together in one psalm is unremarkable.
Finally, numbers like these 46s, and coincidences of this kind, are a dime a dozen. A person can pull numerical shenanigans all day long. My wife’s name is Bethany, and at this writing, she is 26 years old. In the New King James Version in the twenty-sixth chapter of Matthew in verse 6, the name Bethany appears. It happens to be the sixth word from the beginning of the verse, which is the exact age my wife would have been for the majority of the year 1982, which was the year the New King James Version hit the market. That must mean that she helped translate that particular section of scripture. Or maybe it just means that numbers can be made to say just about anything.
Let’s stop trying to discover “secret” codes and names in the Bible, and let’s start reading it to see what God really is saying to us. When we do, we will not find secret codes and mysterious names, but instead, we will see God’s straightforward plan for righteous living.
[For additional reading on this topic, see: http://www.kjvonly.org/aisi/2002/aisi_5_2_02.htm]
Can God Do Everything?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Q:Can God do everything?
A:Both Christians and atheists generally have assumed that if the God depicted in the Bible exists, He can do anything—since He is represented as being all-powerful. However, this assumption is incorrect. The Bible does not claim that the omnipotence of God implies that He can do anything and everything. In reality, “omnipotence” by definition does not, and cannot, apply to that which does not lend itself to power. Skeptics and atheists have posed queries that they feel nullify the notion of omnipotence, thereby demonstrating the nonexistence of God. For example, “Can God create a boulder so large that He, Himself, cannot lift it?”
Separate and apart from the fact that God is not, Himself, physical, and that He created the entire physical Universe, though He is metaphysical and transcendent of the Universe, the question is a conceptual absurdity. It’s like asking, “Can God create a round square or a four-sided triangle?” No, He cannot—but not for the reasons implied by the atheist: that He does not exist or that He is not omnipotent. Rather, it is because the question is, itself, self-contradictory and incoherent. It is nonsensical terminology. Rather than saying God cannot do such things, it would be more in harmony with reality to say that such things simply cannot be done at all. God is infinite in power, but power meaningfully relates only to what can be done, to what is possible of accomplishment—not to what is impossible! It is absurd to speak of any power (even infinite power) being able to do what simply cannot be done. Logical absurdities do not lend themselves to being accomplished, and so, are not subject to power, not even to infinite power (see Warren, 1972, pp. 27ff.).
Further, to suggest that God is deficient or limited in power if He cannot create a rock so large that He cannot lift, is to imply that He could do so if He simply had more power. But this is false. Creating a rock that He, Himself, cannot lift, or creating a four-sided triangle, or making a ball that is at the same time both white all over and black all over, or creating a 90-year-old teenager, or making a car that is larger on the inside than it is on the outside—to propose such things is to affirm logical contradictions and absurdities. Such propositions do not really say anything at all. Though one can imagine logical absurdities that cannot be accomplished, they do not constitute a telling blow against the view that God is infinite in power.
So, no, the concept of “omnipotence” does not mean that there are no limits to what an omnipotent being can do. While God can do whatever is possible to be done, in reality, He will do only what is in harmony with His nature. In fact, the Bible pinpoints specific things that God cannot do. For example, the Bible states unequivocally that God cannot lie (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; 2 Timothy 2:13; Titus 1:2). He is a Being whose very essence entails truthfulness. Falsehood is completely out of harmony with His divine nature.
Another impossibility pertaining to God’s power is the fact that He shows no partiality or favoritism (Deuteronomy 10:17; Romans 2:11; Colossians 3:25; 1 Peter 1:17). He is “open and above board”—evenhanded—with all His creatures. He can be counted on to interact with human beings as He said He would. His treatment of us centers on our own self-chosen behavior—not on our ethnicity or skin color (Acts 10:34-35; 1 Samuel 16:7).
A third instance that qualifies the meaning of “omnipotent” is seen in God’s inability to forgive the individual who will not repent and forsake sin (Joshua 24:19; Proverbs 28:13; Matthew 6:15; 18:35; Luke 13:3,5). As great and as magnificent as the mercy and forgiveness of God are, it is impossible for Him to bestow forgiveness upon the person who does not seek that forgiveness by meeting the pre-conditions of remission. God is literally powerless to bestow forgiveness through any other avenue than the blood of Jesus and obedience to the Gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16; 2:8; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17; John 3:5).
The more one studies the Bible, examining the attributes and characteristics of the God depicted there, the more one is struck with (1) the inspiration of the Bible—since its skillful handling of such matters places it beyond the charge of successful contradiction, and (2) awe at the infinitude of God. Not one of the factors discussed in this article reflects adversely upon the reality of God’s omnipotence. But it is abundantly clear that a person may so live as to render the God of heaven incapable of coming to that person’s aid. It is imperative that every human being recognizes the need to understand His will and to conform one’s behavior to that will. It is imperative that every individual avoid placing self in the precarious position of being in need of that which God cannot do.
REFERENCEWarren, Thomas B. (1972), Have Atheists Proved There Is No God (Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press).
Can the Book of Mormon Pass the Test?
|by||Brad Bromling, D.Min.|
Is the Book of Mormon from God? The four million members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day-Saints (Mormons) claim that it is. They believe that Joseph Smith Jr. (1805-1844) was a prophet commissioned by God to translate the book from golden plates delivered to him by an angel. As such, the Book of Mormon is one of a relatively few number of books in the world that are considered Holy Scripture. The Bible teaches us to “Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). The Book of Mormon claims to be inspired; when tested on this claim, does it pass or fail?
Since God is by definition all-knowing and all-powerful, we would expect a book from Him to be free from mistakes. Humans often err; God does not. When tested on this point, the Book of Mormon faces serious difficulties. It contains numerous errors that may be discussed under two categories.
First, when it was issued from the press in 1830, the book was riddled with thousands of grammatical mistakes. An occasional error of this kind might be attributed to the typesetter, but the grammar problems of the first edition were systematic in nature, indicating that its author simply lacked education. Note these few examples:
“And he beheld that they did contain the five Books of Moses, which gave an account of the creation of the world, and also of Adam and Eve, which was our first parents...” (p. 15). “And thus ended the record of Alma, which was wrote upon the plates of Nephi” (p. 347; see also pp. 49,66,195, et al.).
“but behold, the Lamanites were exceeding fraid, insomuch that they would not hearken to the words of those dissenters” (p. 415; see also pp. 354,392).
“yea, if my days could have been in them days...” (p. 427).
“and behold, we have took of their wine, and brought with us” (p. 379).
“And when Moroni had said these words, he went forth among the people, waving the rent of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing which he had wrote upon the rent, and crying with a loud voice...” (p. 351).
[NOTE: The above quotations from the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon are from the 1958 reprint issued by Mormon historian Wilford C. Wood under the title Joseph Smith Begins his Work: Volume 1. All emphases added.]This challenge to the Book of Mormon might be met with the response that it was God’s will to employ the vocabulary of Joseph Smith since his lack of education is proof that he could not have composed the book without divine guidance. This response is problematic, since Mormon writers like historian Brigham H. Roberts have argued that the “plates have been revealed by the power of God, and they have been translated by the power of God. The translation of them is correct...” (1930, 1:54-55). Besides, the Mormon Church has carefully removed most of these imperfections in subsequent editions. If it was the will of God to employ Smith’s vocabulary in the original translation, by what authority was it changed? Did God make a mistake that men had to correct?
Second, the Book of Mormon contains many blunders of content. Some are merely oddities. For example, the Nephites are said to have used a compass about 550 B.C. (1 Nephi 18:12); but the instrument was not invented until ca. A.D. 1100. Another anomaly of this nature is the appearance of the French word adieu in Jacob 7:27. It strains credulity to believe that this is the correct English translation of a “reformed Egyptian” word written upon metal plates by a Hebrew living on American soil in 421 B.C. (which is the claim being made by Mormonism).
Other errors are more serious since they contradict the Bible. Notice these few examples:
Alma predicted in about 83 B.C. that Jesus would be born in Jerusalem (Alma 7:10). However, in keeping with Micah’s prophecy, Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Luke 2:4).
Nephi called the Savior “Jesus Christ, the Son of God” almost 600 years before His birth (2 Nephi 25:19). This is curious since the angel told Mary: You “shall call his name Jesus” and he “shall be called the son of God” (Luke 1:31,35). Further, “Christ” is not a name; it is the Greek word that means “anointed”—corresponding to the Hebrew word “messiah.” Joseph Smith is asking us to believe that the correct English translation of a reformed Egyptian word is the Anglicized Greek word Christ. This is asking too much.
A century before the resurrection of Christ, some Nephites were praised for being “firm in the faith of Christ, even unto the end” (Alma 27:27). They even were called Christians (Alma 46:13-16). Related to this is the contention that the religion of Alma was called the “church of Christ” almost 200 years before Jesus built His church (Mosiah 18:17; cf. Matthew 16:18)! These teachings contradict the Bible which says, “the disciples were divinely called ‘Christians’ first at Antioch” (Acts 11:26, McCord). Besides, how could people living during the Mosaic Covenant be Christians and in the church of Christ (which implies their part in the New Covenant)? It was necessary for Christ to die before His Covenant could come into effect (Hebrews 9:11-17).
In about 600 B.C. the prophet Nephi is shown a vision of the virgin Mary. According to the 1830 edition she is called “the mother of God,” and her Son is called “the Eternal Father.” However, in the modern editions these statements read: “the mother of the Son of God” and “the Son of the Eternal Father” (1 Nephi 11:18,21). These “corrections” convey a different meaning from the original. Changes of this nature strongly contradict Mormon inspiration claims.
Any book that purports to be from God should be able to pass a test for accuracy. Since God does not make mistakes, no book from His hand will contain factual or doctrinal errors. Like all humans, Joseph Smith erred. Unfortunately, his assertion that the Book of Mormon was divinely translated implies that God is the author of its mistakes. That claim is self-contradictory.
FOR FURTHER READING
Bromling, Brad T. (1992) “The Book of Ether—A Mormon Myth Examined,” Reasoning from Revelation, 4:21, November.
Crouch, Brodie (1968), The Myth of Mormon Inspiration (Shreveport, LA: Lambert).
Fraser, Gordon H. (1978), Joseph and the Golden Plates (Eugene OR: Industrial Litho).
Ropp, Harry L. (1977), The Mormon Papers (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity).
Tanner, Jerald and Sandra (1972), Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? (Salt Lake City, UT: Modern Microfilm Company).
Reasoning About the Resurrection of Christ
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
The resurrection of Christ is central to the faith of every Christian. Without a firm belief that “God has raised Him from the dead” (Romans 10:9), salvation from sin is impossible. Paul wrote: “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). Without the good news of Jesus’ defeat of death, the Gospel is void of its power to save mankind (cf. Romans 1:16). If Christ was not “raised from the dead by the glory of the Father,” there would be no “newness of life” (Romans 6:4). Rather, every accountable person would lie “dead in trespasses” (Ephesians 2:1,5) without hope of becoming “a new creation” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Truly, the resurrection of Christ provides the substance for the Christian’s hope and the solid foundation on which to build his faith.
Is it any surprise, then, that first-century evangelists put so much emphasis on Jesus’ resurrection? Peter specifically mentioned how the apostle chosen to take the place of Judas was to become a witness of Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 1:22). A short while later, Peter preached to thousands of Jews in Jerusalem a sermon that hinged on the empty tomb of Christ (Acts 2:24,31-32). He then spoke in the temple about the Lord’s resurrection (Acts 3:15,26), and afterward witnessed to this fact before the highest court of the Jews (4:10; 5:29-32). The apostle similarly witnessed to the Gentiles, beginning with Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:30). Paul repeatedly spoke of the resurrection of Christ in Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:30,33,34,37), reasoned from the Scriptures about it in Thessalonica (Acts 17:3), and then gave testimony of this fact before both Festus and Agrippa (Acts 26:22-25).
First-century Christians frequently discussed the resurrection of Christ and were prepared to defend it using logical arguments comprised of sufficient evidence (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8; Acts 1:3; 26:22-23). Christ’s resurrection was fundamental to their faith and prominent in their preaching. It should be no less today. Hundreds of millions of people on Earth disbelieve in Jesus’ death-defying power. Skeptics scoff at the idea of Jesus coming back to life. Infidels in classrooms and media outlets throughout the world adamantly argue against it, alleging that “the bodily resurrection of Jesus did not happen on good biblical grounds,” and it certainly “did not happen on good historical grounds” (Barker, 1996).
In the past, we have discussed various irrefutable proofs for the resurrection of Christ (see Butt, 2002). In this issue of Reason & Revelation, we respond to four questions that skeptics are fond of asking as they attempt to discredit the Bible’s portrayal of this earth-shaking event (Matthew 28:2).
WHAT’S SO IMPORTANT ABOUT JESUS’ RESURRECTION?
All of these people died and later rose to live again. Although some of the individuals arose very shortly after death, Lazarus and (most likely) the saints who were raised after the resurrection of Jesus were entombed longer than was Jesus. In view of all of these resurrections, some have asked, “What is so important about Jesus’ resurrection?” If others in the past have died to live again, what makes His resurrection so special? The former editor of Biblical Errancy, Dennis McKinsey, once mockingly asked:
Why would it [Jesus’ resurrection—EL] be of any consequence since...many others rose before Jesus? By the time he rose this was a rather common occurrence. I would think it would have been met by a resounding yawn rather than surprise followed by: So what else can you do? Adam’s act of coming into the world as a full grown adult is more spectacular (n.d.).Given the fact that Jesus is not the only person ever to come back to life, what is it that makes His resurrection unique? Why is the resurrection of Jesus more significant than any other?
First, the resurrection of Jesus is more significant than any other resurrection simply because the inspired apostles and prophets said that it was. Critics may sneer at this response, but it is a valid point. Jesus did certain things that others did, including being raised from the dead, but His actions were more significant because of the statements attached to them. Consider the miracles Jesus performed in order to set Himself apart as the Son of God and promised Messiah. Many people throughout the Bible worked miracles in order to confirm their divine message (cf. Mark 16:20; Hebrews 2:1-4), but only Jesus did them as proof of His divine nature. Once, during the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, a group of Jews surrounded Jesus and asked, “How long do you keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly” (John 10:24)? Jesus responded to them saying, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me.... I and My Father are one” (John 10:25,30). These Jews understood that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God in the flesh (cf. 10:33,36), and Jesus wanted them to understand that this truth could be confirmed by the miracles that He worked.
The miracles testified to His deity (John 20:30-31). Why? Because He said they did (10:25,35-38; cf. John 5:36). The miracles that Jesus performed bore witness to the fact that He was from the Father (John 5:36), because He said He was from the Father. A miracle in and of itself did not mean the person who worked it was deity. Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Peter, Paul, and a host of others worked miracles, with some even raising people from the dead. But none did so for the purpose of proving they were God in the flesh. The apostles and prophets of the New Testament worked miracles to confirm their message that Jesus was the Son of God, not to prove that they were God (cf. Acts 14:8-18). Jesus, on the other hand, performed miracles to bear witness that He was the Son of God, just as He claimed to be (cf. John 9:35-38).
Similarly, one fundamental reason that Jesus’ miraculous resurrection is more important to a Christian than the resurrections of Lazarus, Tabitha, Eutychus, or anyone else who was raised from the dead, is simply because the Bible writers explained that it was more important. There is no record of anyone alleging that Lazarus was God’s Son based on his resurrection, nor did the early church claim divinity for Eutychus or Tabitha because they died and came back to life. None of the aforementioned individuals who was resurrected ever claimed that the resurrection was proof of deity, nor did any inspired prophet or apostle. On the other hand, Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power...by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). His resurrection was different because of Who He was—the Son of God. Thus, just as the miracles He worked during His earthly ministry testified of His divine message, and hence His divine nature, so did His resurrection.
A second reason why Jesus’ resurrection stands out above all others is because it alone was specifically foretold in the Old Testament. In his sermon on the day of Pentecost, Peter affirmed that God had raised Jesus from the dead because it was not possible for the grave to hold Him. As proof, he quoted Psalm 16:8‑11 in the following words:
I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence (Acts 2:25-28).Peter then explained this quote from the book of Psalms by saying:
Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses (Acts 2:29-32).The apostle Paul also believed that the psalmist bore witness to Christ, and spoke of His resurrection. In his address at Antioch of Pisidia, he said:
And we declare to you glad tidings—that promise which was made to the fathers. God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: “You are My Son, today I have begotten You.” And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: “I will give you the sure mercies of David.” Therefore He also says in another Psalm: “You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.” For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption; but He whom God raised up saw no corruption. Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses (Acts 13:32‑39).Where is the prophecy for the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter? When did the prophets ever foretell of Eutychus or Tabitha’s resurrection? They did not. No resurrected person other than Jesus had his or her resurrection foretold by an Old Testament prophet, nor did any inspired apostle or prophet in the first century apply Old Testament prophecies to them. This certainly makes Jesus’ resurrection unique.
Third, Jesus’ resurrection is more significant than any other because He prophesied numerous times that He would rise from the dead, even foretelling the exact day on which it would occur. Jesus told some scribes and Pharisees on one occasion, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40, emp. added). Matthew, Mark, and Luke all recorded how Jesus “began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day (Matthew 16:21, emp. added; cf. Mark 8:31-32; Luke 9:22). While Jesus and His disciples were in Galilee, Jesus reminded them, saying, “The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up” (Matthew 17:22-23, emp. added).
Christians do not serve a lifeless lord, but a Risen Redeemer Whose tomb was found empty nearly 2,000 years ago.
Where are the prophecies from the widow’s son of Zarephath? Did he prophesy of his resurrection prior to his death? Or what about the son of the Shunammite woman that Elisha raised from the dead? Where are his personal prophecies? Truly, no one who rose from the dead except Jesus prophesied about his or her own resurrection. And certainly no one ever prophesied about the exact day on which he or she would rise from the dead, save Jesus. This prior knowledge and prophecy makes His resurrection a significant event. He overcame death, just as He predicted. He did exactly what he said He was going to do, on the exact day He said He would do it.
Fourth, the uniqueness of Jesus’ resurrection is seen in the fact that He is the only resurrected person ever to have lived and died without having committed one sin during His lifetime. He was “pure” and “righteous” (1 John 3:3; 2:1), “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:22). He was “a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19), “Who knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). No one else who has risen from the dead ever lived a perfect life, and then died prior to his or her resurrection for the purpose of taking away the sins of the world (cf. John 1:29). Because Jesus lived a sinless life, died, and then overcame death in His resurrection, He alone has the honor of being called “the Lamb of God” and the “great High Priest” (Hebrews 4:14). “Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many,” and because of His resurrection, “those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Hebrews 9:28).
Finally, and perhaps most important, the significance of Jesus’ resurrection is seen in the fact that He was the first to rise from the dead never to die again. Since no one who has risen from the dead is still living on Earth, and since there is no evidence in the Bible that God ever took someone who had risen from the dead into heaven without his dying again, it is reasonable to conclude that all who ever rose from the dead, died in later years. Jesus, however, never died again. He rose from the grave to live forevermore. All others who previously were raised from the dead, died again, and are among those who “sleep” and continue to wait for the bodily resurrection. Only Jesus truly has conquered death. Only His bodily resurrection was followed by eternal life, rather than another physical death.
Skeptics have argued that “it’s the Resurrection, per se, that matters, not the fact that Jesus never died again” (see McKinsey, 1983, p. 1, emp. added). However, the inspired apostles said otherwise. Paul actually linked the two together while preaching in Antioch of Pisidia, saying, God “raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption.... He whom God raised saw no corruption” (Acts 13:34,37, emp. added). Paul also impressed upon the minds of the Christians in Rome how Jesus, “having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him” (Romans 6:9, emp. added). [Is it any wonder Paul testified before Agrippa and Festus how Jesus was “the first to rise from the dead” (Acts 26:23)? “[H]e was the first who rose again from the dead to return no more into the empire of death” (Clarke, 1996).] Jesus said of Himself: “I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore” (Revelation 1:17-18, emp. added). Furthermore, the writer of Hebrews argued for a better life through Jesus on the basis of His termination of death. One reason for the inadequacy of the old priesthood was because “they were prevented by death.” Jesus, however, because He rose never to die again, “continues forever” in “an unchangeable priesthood,” and lives to make intercession for His people (Hebrews 7:23-25). As so often is the case, skeptics comment on the Bible without really knowing what the Bible says. To say, that “it’s the Resurrection, per se, that matters, not the fact that Jesus never died again” (McKinsey, 1983, p. 1), is to deny (or ignore) what the apostles and prophets actually stated.
Whether or not Eutychus, Tabitha, Lazarus, etc., rose from the grave, our relationship with God is not affected. Without Jesus’ resurrection, however, there would be no “Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31). Without Jesus’ resurrection, no suitable High Priest would be able to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25). Without Jesus’ resurrection, we would have no assurance of His coming and subsequent judgment (Acts 17:31). Without Jesus’ resurrection, “we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Corinthians 15:19).
Jesus’ resurrection is significant—more so than any other resurrection. Only Jesus’ resurrection was verbalized by inspired men as proof of His deity. Only Jesus’ resurrection was prophesied in the Old Testament. Only Jesus foretold of the precise day on which He would rise from the grave—and then fulfilled that prediction. Only Jesus’ resurrection was preceded by a perfect life—a life lived, given up, and restored in the resurrection for the purpose of becoming man’s Prince, Savior, and Mediator. And, only Jesus rose never to die again.
WHY IS CHRIST CALLED THE “FIRST FRUITS”?
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming (1 Corinthians 15:20-23, emp. added).In view of the fact that Jesus was not the first person ever to rise from the dead (as previously discussed), some have questioned why Paul twice described Jesus as “the firstfruits” from the dead. Did Paul err? Was he ignorant of all of the previous resurrections? In what sense did Paul speak of Christ as “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep”?
One could respond reasonably to these questions by pointing out the aforementioned fact that Jesus was the first to rise from the dead—never to die again. In this sense, Christ is “the firstborn from the dead” (Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5). Another (and perhaps better) explanation to the question surrounding 1 Corinthians 15:20,23 and Paul’s use of the word “firstfruits” (Greek aparche) is to recognize the metaphor Paul employed. Under the old law, the firstfruits were the earliest gathered grains, fruits, and vegetables that the people dedicated to God in recognition of His faithfulness for providing the necessities of life. The Israelites were to offer to God a sheaf of the first grain that was harvested on the day after the Sabbath following the Passover feast (Leviticus 23:9-14). Paul used the term “firstfruits” in this letter to the Corinthian church to reinforce the certainty of the resurrection. Just as the term “firstfruits” indicates that “the first sheaf of the forthcoming grain harvest will be followed by the rest of the sheaves, Christ, the firstfruits raised from the dead, is the guarantee for all those who belong to him that they also will share in his resurrection” (Kistemaker, 1993, p. 548). Jesus is God’s “firstfruits” of the resurrection. And, like the Israelites, God will gather the rest of the harvest at the final resurrection. Paul seemingly wanted the Corinthians to understand (by way of metaphor) that Christ’s resurrection is a pledge of our resurrection. It is inevitable—a full harvest guaranteed by God Himself.
ON WHAT DAY DID JESUS RISE FROM THE DEAD?
In an attempt to solve this difficulty, some seemingly well-meaning individuals have espoused the idea that Jesus must have been crucified on Wednesday or Thursday, rather than on Friday (eg., Scroggie, 1948, pp. 569-577; Rusk, 1974, pp. 4-6). Because Jesus could not possibly have been in the grave for three nights if He died on Friday and rose on Sunday, some believe He must have died a day or two earlier. However, this is highly improbable. First, Mark 15:42 states that the evening of Christ’s crucifixion “was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath,” and “[b]oth the Scriptures (Matt 27:62; Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54; John 19:14,31,42) and Josephus indicate the day of preparation is the day before the weekly Sabbaths, namely, Friday” (Hoehner, 1974, 131:245; cf. Josephus, 16:6:2). Second, if Jesus died on Wednesday and rose on Sunday then He must have risen from the grave on the fourth day rather than “the third day.” What’s more, all attempts to place Jesus’ crucifixion and burial on Wednesday or Thursday instead of Friday are based more on a misunderstanding of a Hebrew idiom concerning time than actual evidence.
While statements such as “on the third day,” “after three days,” and “three days and three nights” may appear contradictory at first glance, in reality they harmonize perfectly if one understands the more liberal methods ancients used to reckon time. In the first century, any part of a day could be computed for the whole day and the night following it (cf. Lightfoot, 1979, pp. 210-211). The Jerusalem Talmud quotes rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah, who lived around A.D. 100, as saying: “A day and night are an Onah [‘a portion of time’] and the portion of an Onah is as the whole of it” (Shabbath ix. 3, as quoted in Hoehner, 1974, 131:248-249, bracketed comment in orig.). Azariah indicated that a portion of a twenty-four hour period could be considered the same “as the whole of it.” Thus, in Jesus’ time one would have been correct in teaching that Jesus’ burial would last “three days and three nights,” even though it was not three complete 24-hour days.
Scripture is peppered with references which demonstrate that a part of a day was oftentimes equivalent to a whole day.
According to Genesis 7:12, the rain of the Noahic Flood was upon the
Earth “forty days and forty nights.” Verse seventeen of that same
chapter says it was on the Earth for just “forty days.” Obviously,
“forty days” and “forty days and forty nights” refer to the same time
period in this context.
During the reign of King Ahab, Israel and Syria “encamped opposite each other for seven days” (1 Kings 20:29, emp. added). Yet, “on
the seventh day the battle was joined” and Israel killed 100,000 Syrian
foot soldiers (20:29). Clearly, the two armies did not occupy their
camps for a full seven days, but for six days and a part of the seventh.
The remainder of day seven was spent in battle.
When Joseph’s brothers came to visit him for the first time since
selling him into Egyptian bondage more than a decade earlier (Genesis
37:12-36), Joseph incarcerated them for “three days” (Genesis 42:17).
The text then reveals that he spoke to them “the third
day,” and 42:18-24 represents them as being released that day—i.e., the
third day. If Joseph’s brothers (with the exception of Simeon, 42:24)
were released on day three of their imprisonment, then the “three days”
they spent in the prison (42:17) are not equivalent to three 24-hour
periods, but rather parts of three days.
When the Israelites visited King Rehoboam and asked him to lighten
their burdens (2 Chronicles 10:3-4), he wanted time to contemplate their
request, so he instructed Jeroboam and the people of Israel to return “after
three days” (10:5, emp. added). Verse twelve of that chapter indicates
that Jeroboam and the people of Israel came to Rehoboam “on the third day, as the king had directed, saying, ‘Come back to me the third day’” (emp. added). Fascinating, is it not, that even though Rehoboam instructed his people to return “after three days,” they understood him to mean “on the third day” (cf. 1 Kings 12:5,12).
When Queen Esther was about to risk her life by going before King
Ahasuerus uninvited, she instructed her fellow Jews to follow her
example by not eating or drinking “for three days, night or day” (Esther 4:16, emp. added). Yet, the text then tells us that Esther went in to the king “on the third day” (5:1, emp. added).
From Acts 10, we can glean further insight into the ancient practice of counting consecutive days (in part or in whole) as complete days. Luke recorded how an angel appeared to Cornelius at “about the ninth hour of the day” (approximately 3:00 p.m.; 10:3). “The next day” (10:9) Peter received a vision from God and welcomed visitors sent by Cornelius. “On the next day” (10:23) Peter and the servants of Cornelius departed for Caesarea. “And the following day they entered Caesarea” where Peter taught Cornelius and his household the Gospel (10:24). At one point during Peter’s visit, Cornelius spoke about his encounter with the angel of God. Notice carefully how he began the rehearsal of the event. He stated: “Four days ago to this hour, I was praying in my house during the ninth hour...” (10:30, NASB, emp. added). Although the event really had occurred only 72 hours (or three literal days) earlier, Cornelius spoke of it as taking place “four days ago to this hour.” Why four days instead of three? Because according to the first-century method of reckoning time, a part of the first day and a part of the fourth day were counted as whole days. Surely one can see how this information aligns itself perfectly with Jesus’ burial taking place on Friday and His resurrection occurring on Sunday. A part of Friday, all day Saturday, and a part of Sunday would be considered three days in ancient times, not one or two.
Even though in 21st-century America some may find this reasoning somewhat confusing, similar idiomatic expressions are used frequently today. For example, we consider a baseball game that ends after only completing 8½ innings a “9-inning game.” And even though the losing pitcher on the visiting team only pitched 8 innings (and not 9 innings like the winning pitcher from the home team), he is said to have pitched a complete game. Think about the college student who explains to his professor that he worked on a research project “day and night for four weeks.” He obviously does not mean that he worked for a solid 672 hours (24 hours x 7 days x 4 weeks) without sleeping. It may be that he worked from 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. for four weeks on the project, but not 672 sleepless hours. If he only slept five or six hours a night, and worked on the project nearly every hour he was awake, we would consider this person as one who truly did work “day and night for four weeks.” Finally, consider the guest at a hotel who checks in at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, and checks out at 3:30 p.m. Thursday—less than 24 hours later. Did the man stay one day or two days at the hotel? Technically, the guest was there for less than one full day (24-hour period), yet the hotel legally can charge him for two days since he did not leave before the mandatory 11:00 a.m. checkout time. Considering how flexible we are in measuring time, perhaps we should not be surprised at how liberal the ancients were in calculating time.
Further evidence proving that Jesus’ statements regarding His burial were not contradictory center around the fact that even His enemies did not accuse Him of contradicting Himself. No doubt this was due to their familiarity with and use of the flexible, customary method of stating time. In fact, the chief priests and Pharisees even said to Pilate the day after Jesus was crucified: “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day” (Matthew 27:63-64, emp. added). The phrase “after three days” must have been equivalent to “the third day,” else surely the Pharisees would have asked for a guard of soldiers until the fourth day. Interesting, is it not, that modern skeptics charge Jesus with contradicting Himself, but not the hypercritical Pharisees of His own day.
The idiomatic expressions that Jesus and the Bible writers employed to denote how long Jesus would remain in the grave does not mean that He literally was buried for 72 hours. If we interpret the account of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection in light of the cultural setting of the first century, and not according to the present-day (mis)understanding of skeptics, we find no errors in any of the expressions that Jesus and the gospel writers used.
DID JESUS HAVE THE SAME PHYSICAL BODY
AFTER HIS RESURRECTION AS BEFORE?
At the outset, it is incorrect to assert that “nobody recognized Him,” because Matthew 28:9,17 clearly implies that at least some of Jesus’ disciples knew Who He was and worshiped Him. Moreover, that Jesus had essentially the same body after His resurrection that He had when He died on the cross is evident from at least three different passages. In Luke 24:39, Jesus stated: “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” Jesus expected His disciples to observe His physical body. Later in the same chapter, we read that Jesus ate a meal with His disciples (24:42-43; cf. Acts 10:41). And then in John 20:25-29, which is the most frequently cited passage in defense of Christ having a physical body, Jesus asked Thomas to touch His nail-scared hands and reach into His side that had been pierced with the Roman spear.
But what about those occasions when some of His disciples did not recognize Him? Do such verses as Luke 24:31,37 and John 20:10-16 represent a contradictory element in the resurrection story? First, just because the text says that the disciples thought they had seen a spirit when they actually saw Jesus (Luke 24:37), does not indicate that He looked different. Since they knew He had been killed, seeing His resurrected body caused them to think that He was in spirit form rather than physical. On one occasion, before Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, His disciples were startled at His appearance, supposing He was a ghost (Mark 6:49). A similar thing happened to Peter when some thought his unexpected presence must have been an indication that it was “his angel” (Acts 12:15).
Second, the reason the two disciples who were traveling on the road to Emmaus failed to recognize Jesus initially was not because Jesus had a different body, but because God miraculously prevented them from recognizing Him. Luke 24:16 indicates that at the beginning of their conversation with Jesus “their eyes were restrained,” but then just before Jesus vanished from their sight, “their eyes were opened and they knew Him” (24:31). Thus, the disciples’ recognition ability failed, not because Jesus possessed a different body, but because their eyes were miraculously restrained.
A final person often mentioned as not having recognized the Savior (allegedly because Jesus had a different body) is Mary Magdalene. John 20:11-18 certainly testifies of her initial inability to identify Jesus. The question is: Was Mary’s failure to recognize Jesus her fault, or the result of Jesus having a different body? As with the above cases, there is no indication in John 20:11-18 that Jesus had anything other than His risen crucified body (cf. 20:25-29). There are at least four possibilities, however, as to why Mary failed to recognize Jesus right at first.
The Sun may not have risen all the way yet, thus making it difficult to see (cf. 20:1).
Mary was engaged in deep weeping that likely obscured her vision
(20:11,13). In fact, the first words Jesus said to Mary were, “Woman,
why are you weeping?” (vs. 15).
Considering Jesus’ clothes were taken from Him when He was crucified
(John 19:23-24), and that the linen cloths which were used in His burial
were lying in the tomb (John 20:6-7), Jesus likely was wearing clothes
that made His exact identity less conspicuous at first glance. Perhaps
His post-resurrection attire was similar to what a gardener or watchman
would wear (cf. John 20:15).
It also is possible that Mary’s eyes were restrained miraculously, as
were the eyes of the disciples with whom Jesus conversed on the road to
Barker, Dan (1996), “Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?,” Debate with Michael Horner at the University of Northern Iowa, April 2, [On-line], URL: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/dan_barker/barker_horner.html.
Butt, Kyle (2002), “Jesus Christ—Dead or Alive?,” Reason & Revelation, 22:9-15, February.
Clarke, Adam (1996), Adam Clarke’s Commentary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Hoehner, Harold W. (1974), “Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ—Part IV: The Day of Christ’s Crucifixion,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 131:241-264, July.
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Kistemaker, Simon J. (1993), Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Lightfoot, John (1979 reprint), A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
McKinsey, C. Dennis (no date), “The Bible is God’s Word?,” [On-line], URL: http://members.aol.com/ckbloomfld/pamphlets.html.
McKinsey, C. Dennis (1983), “Commentary,” Biblical Errancy, February.
McKinsey, C. Dennis (2000), Biblical Errancy (Amherst, NY: Prometheus).
Rusk, Roger (1974), “The Day He Died,” Christianity Today, March 29.
Scroggie, W. Graham (1948), A Guide to the Gospels (London: Pinkering & Inglis).