"STUDIES IN THE MINOR PROPHETS" Amos - The Country Prophet (1:1-2:16) INTRODUCTION 1. In our survey of "The Minor Prophets", we have already considered... a. Obadiah, who prophesied of the judgment to befall Edom b. Joel, who proclaimed a locust plague as a harbinger of "the day of the Lord" c. Jonah, God's messenger to the Assyrian city of Nineveh 2. Our next prophet is Amos... a. A shepherd and gatherer of sycamore fruit called by God to prophesy - Am 7:14-15 b. Who proclaimed God's message concerning eight nations, with an emphasis on the northern kingdom of Israel 3. His book is divided into three sections... a. A series of "oracles" concerning sin and judgment of eight nations (ch. 1-2) b. A series of "sermons" concerning the sin and judgment of Israel (ch. 3-6) c. A series of "visions" regarding the sin and judgment of Israel (ch. 7-9) [This lesson will examine the first section, with a look at the "oracles" Amos proclaimed against eight nations. We begin with a reading of Am 1:1-2, which serves as an...] I. INTRODUCTION (1:1-2) A. THE MAN... 1. NAME - Amos means "burden-bearer" 2. HOME - The village of Tekoa a. 12 miles south of Jerusalem, 18 miles west of the Dead Sea b. Near the wilderness of Judea, a very rugged area -- So while he was Judah, he primarily prophesied against Israel in the north 3. OCCUPATION - "a sheepbreeder and a tender of sycamore fruit." (Am 7:14) a. An outdoorsman, accustomed to the wilds of nature, and of hard, honest toil b. It would be easy for him to have little sympathy for the lazy and materialistic conduct of his northern kinsman 4. CHARACTER a. Not known for his sympathy or warmth, but for his sense of justice and right b. "Not a sob is to be found in his book for the nation of wicked apostates, and there is only a sigh for the poor" (Hailey) c. He is reminiscent of John the Baptist B. THE DATE... 1. He prophesied in the days of: a. Uzziah, king of Judah b. Jeroboam II of Israel 2. Two years before an earthquake 3. While the actual date is unknown, 755 B.C. is often suggested C. THE PEOPLE... 1. His audience is primarily the northern kingdom of Israel 2. Conditions which characterized them at this time: a. Wealthy, enjoying great luxury b. Morally, religiously, and politically corrupt D. HIS MESSAGE... 1. In Am 1:2, we see a vivid picture of the Lord as a lion whose roar to the north reaches all the way to Mt. Carmel 2. This describes what God is doing through Amos, proclaiming a fiery message of condemnation and judgment against Israel and the surrounding nations 3. "The people of Israel were now at the summit of worldly prosperity, but were rapidly filling up the measure of their sins. The mission of Amos was, therefore, rather to threaten than to console. He rebukes, among other things, the corruption of their manners, which kept pace with their prosperity; he charges the great men with partiality as judges, and violence towards the poor; and he foretells, as a punishment from God, the captivity of the ten tribes in a foreign country..." - The Bible Handbook, Angus and Green [With verse 2 as a good preview of the nature of Amos' prophecy, let's now survey the first main section of the book of Amos...] II. THE "ORACLES" OF SIN AND JUDGMENT UPON THE NATIONS (1:3-2:16) A. DAMASCUS - Am 1:3-5 1. SIN - cruelty toward the inhabitants of Gilead (the tribes of Gad and Reuben) 2. JUDGMENT - destruction and captivity a. Hazael was the murderer of Ben-Hadad I, and usurper of his throne - 2Ki 8:7-15 b. Ben-Hadad II was the son of Hazel - cf. 2Ki 13:3,22-25 3. FULFILLMENT - by the Assyrians - cf. 2Ki 16:1-9 B. GAZA (PHILISTIA) - Am 1:6-8 1. SIN - engaging in slave traffic 2. JUDGMENT - total devastation 3. FULFILLMENT - by the Assyrians C. TYRE - Am 1:9-10 1. SIN - slave traffic; did not remember the covenant of "brotherhood" (between Solomon and Hiram? - cf. 1Ki 5:12) 2. JUDGMENT - destruction 3. FULFILLMENT - started by Nebuchadnezzar; finished by Alexander the Great D. EDOM - Am 1:11-12 1. SIN - cruelty to brethren - cf. Ob 1:10-12 2. JUDGMENT - destruction upon Teman (capital) and Bozrah (another chief city) 3. FULFILLMENT - by the Nabateans, ca 400 B.C. E. AMMON - Am 1:13-15 1. SIN - murder of pregnant women in Gilead (the tribes of Gad and Reuben) 2. JUDGMENT - destruction of Rabbah (capital) and captivity 3. FULFILLMENT - by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon F. MOAB - Am 2:1-3 1. SIN - burned the king of Edom's bones to lime 2. JUDGMENT - destruction of the chief city of Kerioth 3. FULFILLMENT - by the Babylonians G. JUDAH - Am 2:4-5 1. SIN - apostasy from the Law 2. JUDGMENT - Jerusalem (the capital) to be destroyed 3. FULFILLMENT - by Nebuchadnezzar, 586 B.C. H. ISRAEL - Am 2:6-16 1. SIN - several sins are listed... a. Social injustice (slave trade and abuse of the poor) b. Immorality (prostitution) c. Idolatry (worshipping other gods) d. Rebellion against God, who... a. Cast out the Amorites before them b. Delivered them from the land of Egypt c. Gave them prophets and Nazarites, whom they corrupted -- The effect of which weighed God down like a cart full of sheaves - Am 2:13 2. JUDGMENT - their inability to flee when destruction comes upon them 3. FULFILLMENT - by the Assyrians in 722-721 B.C. - 2Ki 17:5-23 [It is apparent that the focus in this section is primarily upon the northern kingdom of Israel, even though Judah did not escape condemnation. What lessons might we glean from these first two chapters...?] III. LESSONS FROM THE "ORACLES" OF AMOS A. GOD HOLDS THE NATIONS OF MEN ACCOUNTABLE... 1. He was not just concerned with His covenant people of Israel 2. As we saw with Obadiah and Jonah, God judged the surrounding nations as well 3 As Farrar says of Amos: "His whole message centers in the common prophetic conviction that God is the sole and righteous Governor of the world, judging the people righteously, and when they rebel, dashing them to pieces like a potter's vessel." 2. The same authority is given to Christ today! - cf. Mt 28:18; Re 1:5; 2:26-27 B. APOSTASY AND CRUELTY TREATED ALIKE... 1. God condemned: a. The heathens for their cruelty b. Judah and Israel for their apostasy from the Law 2. But their judgments were basically the same! C. THE STANDARDS TO WHICH NATIONS WERE HELD ACCOUNTABLE... 1. The heathen were judged for their violation of basic principles of righteousness 2. The people of God were judged by their faithfulness to God's revealed Word! -- Akin to what we find Paul writing in Ro 2:12-15 CONCLUSION 1. In our next lesson we will continue our study of Amos... a. Looking at chapters 3-6, which concentrate on the sins and judgment of Israel b. Where more lessons can be gleaned for us to apply today 2. Having read the judgments God pronounced upon the eight nations... a. We are reminded that God is a righteous GOD b. One who holds men and nations accountable for their actions Are we ready for that great Day of Judgment, in which we will one day be held accountable for our actions? As Paul wrote: "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men..." (2Co 5:10-11a) Are you willing to let the Word of God persuade you to do what is right?
"STUDIES IN THE MINOR PROPHETS" Jonah - Messenger To Nineveh (1:1-4:11) INTRODUCTION 1. We now come to the most well known of "The Minor Prophets": Jonah, whose name means "Dove" 2. His book does not contain prophecy per se, rather it contains the history of a prophet... a. A prophet reluctant to fulfill the mission God assigned him b. A prophet who complained when his mission proved successful -- What kind of prophet is that? Perhaps one that reveals what may be true of ourselves! 3. This short book of "Jonah" easily falls into four sections... a. "Running Away From God" (chapter one) b. "Running To God" (chapter two) c. "Running With God" (chapter three) d. "Running Ahead of God" (chapter four) 4. In this brief survey of the book, we will simply read our way through it... a. Making observations as we go along b. Offering lessons that can be glean from each section [With the first chapter then, we soon find Jonah...] I. "RUNNING AWAY FROM GOD" (1:1-17) A. AN OUTLINE OF THE CHAPTER... 1. God commissions Jonah to preach in Nineveh - 1:1-2 2. Jonah rebels against God's plan - 1:3 3. God has a plan for Jonah - 1:4-17 a. He sends "a great wind on the sea" - 1:4-16 b. He prepares "a great fish" - 1:17 B. OBSERVATIONS IN READING THE TEXT... 1. Jonah is also mentioned in 2Ki 14:23-25 a. He prophesied during the reign of Jeroboam II (ca. 793-753 B.C.) b. He was from Gath Hepher (4 miles NE of what was later Nazareth in Galilee) 2. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria a. It was located about 220 NNW of the present city of Baghdad b. The Assyrians were noted for their cruelty, especially to prisoners 3. The city of Tarshish a. A Phoenician outpost in SW Spain b. On the edge of the Mediterranean world, Jonah was running in the opposite direction of Nineveh 4. In retrieving Jonah, God gained some converts (the sailors) - cf. 1:14-16 C. LESSONS FROM CHAPTER ONE... 1. God concerns Himself with the wickedness of heathen nations - 1:2 2. One cannot run away from God! - cf. Ps 139:7-11 3. God is able to use incidents in the lives of His servants for His glory - cf. 1:5 with 1:14-16 [With the end of chapter one, Jonah is now in the belly of the great fish. Having run away from God, we now find him...] II. "RUNNING TO GOD" (2:1-10) A. AN OUTLINE OF THE CHAPTER... 1. Jonah's prayer - 2:1-9 2. Jonah's deliverance - 2:10 B. OBSERVATIONS IN READING THE TEXT... 1. The prayer is written like a psalm; its present form may have been composed after the fact, looking back 2. Jonah realized that what happened was God's doing - 1:3 3. It is interesting to note that his prayer is more of a THANKSGIVING, than a petition C. LESSONS FROM CHAPTER TWO... 1. "Someone has observed that there are times when we must be made to go into the lowest depths that we may regain a living faith" (Hailey) 2. Prayers in time of need should be made with an attitude of thanksgiving as well as petition - cf. Php 4:6 [Having learned his lesson, Jonah is now ready to do God's will; so we next see him...] III. "RUNNING WITH GOD" (3:1-10) A. AN OUTLINE OF THE CHAPTER... 1. The Lord again commissions Jonah to preach in Nineveh - 3:1-2 2. Jonah obeys and proclaims God's message - 3:3-4 3. The people of Nineveh are moved to repent, including the king - 3:5-9 4. The Lord takes notice, and relents of the disaster He had intended to bring - 3:10 B. OBSERVATIONS IN READING THE TEXT... 1. Jonah's message was brief, yet clear - 3:4 2. An unusual fast is proclaimed - 3:5-7 a. Three days without food AND water b. For both man AND beast 3. With sackcloth for both man and beast, the king calls for a true change of behavior - 3:8-9 4. The king of Assyria reasons like the prophet Joel - cf. 3:9 with Joel 2:14 5. Nineveh's example of repentance is a rebuke of Israel... a. Israel in Jonah's own day - cf. 2Ki 17:13-14,18; 2Ch36:15-16 b. Israel in the days of Jesus - cf. Mt 12:41 C. LESSONS FROM CHAPTER THREE... 1. Such preaching of condemnation is often conditional-cf. Jer18:7-10 2. The least likely prospects might be the ones who will convert - e.g., 1Co 6:9-11 3. We see the place of fasting and prayer, as one seeks to petition God - e.g., Ezr 8:21-23 [Jonah's mission was a success! Souls headed for destruction were saved! You would think that Jonah would have been elated. But in the final chapter we are surprised to see this prophet...] IV. "RUNNING AHEAD OF GOD" (4:1-11) A. AN OUTLINE OF THE CHAPTER... 1. Jonah vents his anger - 4:1-4 a. Angry because he knew that God would relent - 4:1-2 b. So angry that he desires to die - 4:3-4 2. God uses a plant, a worm, and a hot east wind to teach Jonah - 4:5-11 a. A plant to provide shade for Jonah - 4:5-6 b. A worm to destroy the plant - 4:7 c. A vehement east wind that with the sun exhausts Jonah - 4:8 3. God uses the plant to teach Jonah an object lesson - 4:9-11 a. Jonah is angry about the plant - 4:9 b. Shouldn't he have similar pity on Nineveh? - 4:10-11 B. OBSERVATIONS IN READING THE TEXT... 1. We find Jonah manifesting a sectarian spirit a. Perhaps there was an underlying racism in Jonah's heart b. This may explain why he fled to Tarshish in the beginning 2. He possessed the same spirit as: a. The elder brother of the prodigal son - cf. Lk 15:11-32 b. The Pharisees toward Jesus eating with sinners - Mt 9:10-11 3. Jonah is shown to have more compassion for a plant, than for innocent children! C. LESSONS FROM CHAPTER FOUR... 1. We learn the danger of a sectarian spirit a. It makes us to be petty b. It blinds us to matters of greater importance 2. We see God's nature a. He is gracious, merciful, slow to anger b. Abundant in lovingkindness, He is willing to relent when there is repentance CONCLUSION 1. The book of Jonah is of value to PREACHERS... a. Never prejudge an audience b. Don't try to avoid the responsibility God has placed on you 2. The book of Jonah is of value to ALL CHRISTIANS... a. Don't have a selfish, narrow-minded, sectarian spirit b. Be concerned for all the wicked, whoever and wherever they are 3. The book of Jonah is of value to SINNERS... a. God loves you b. Destruction is coming... 1) But He sent Christ and the apostles to reveal His will and save you 2) Today He has His preachers and teachers to warn you c. Salvation is available wherever there is true repentance and obedience! Finally, may the example of Nineveh's repentance remind us of what Jesus said: "The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here." (Mt 12:41) Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah; have we repented at the preaching of One (Jesus) Who is much greater?
Flawless Food Laws
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Food regulations enumerated in the first five books of the Old Testament have been scrutinized repeatedly by credentialed professionals in the fields of dietary and pathological research. The regulations have proven to coincide with modern science’s understanding of various aspects of health and disease prevention. Old Testament food laws exhibit knowledge of bacteria, food preparation, and pathogen awareness that surpasses anything from cultures contemporary with the ancient Israelites. Furthermore, there is no evidence that the knowledge inherent in the laws was, or could have been, gathered experimentally by the Israelite nation. Thus, the Israelites could not have copied these laws from nations around them, nor did they arrive at them through their own experimental, scientific research. Where, then, did such amazingly accurate laws originate? Moses repeatedly acknowledged that the laws came from the Lord (Deuteronomy 10:4-5). A closer look into various Old Testament food regulations reveals the evident truthfulness of Moses’ claim.
FINS AND SCALES
The BlowfishThe blowfish has fins but does not have scales. Thus, it would not have been edible under the Old Testament laws—fortunately for the Israelites. The blowfish can contain toxin in its ovaries, liver, and other organs that is highly potent and deadly. This toxin, called tetrodotoxin, is thought to be “1250 times more deadly than cyanide” and 160,000 times more potent than cocaine. A tiny amount of it can kill 30 grown adults (Dilion, 2005). As odd as it sounds, blowfish is served as a delicacy all over the world, especially in Japan and other far eastern countries. As a delicacy, it is called fugu, and is prepared by certified, licensed chefs. The toxins can be removed successfully, making the food edible, but the procedure often goes awry. Some who have researched fugu say that it is a food connoisseur’s version of Russian roulette. Due to the extreme danger involved in eating fugu, it is illegal to serve it to the Emperor of Japan! The Mosaic instructions concerning edible fish would have helped the Israelites avoid the dangerous blowfish, as well as danger posed by eating other toxic sea creatures such as certain jelly fish, sea anemones, and octopi.
ShellfishAlthough shellfish are edible today, there are inherent dangers in eating ill-prepared types such as oysters. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has produced a twelve-page tract warning people about the dangers of eating raw or partially cooked oysters (“Carlos’ Tragic...,” 2003). In the tract, the FDA warns that some raw oysters contain the bacteria Vibrio vulnificus. In regard to this dangerous bacteria, the tract states:
Oysters are sometimes contaminated with the naturally occurring bacteria Vibrio vulnificus. Oysters contaminated with Vibrio vulnificus can’t be detected by smell or sight; they look like other oysters. Eating raw oysters containing Vibrio vulnificus is very dangerous for those with pre-existing medical conditions such as liver disease, diabetes, hepatitis, cancer and HIV.... 50 percent of people who are infected with Vibrio vulnificus as a result of eating raw contaminated oysters die (2003).Eating oysters if they are not cooked properly can be potentially fatal, says the FDA. Thus, the wisdom of the Mosaic prohibition is evident to an honest observer. In a time when proper handling and preparation procedures were difficult to achieve, the best course of action simply would have been to avoid the risk of eating potentially contaminated foods, especially since the contamination cannot be detected by smell or sight.
REPTILES AND SALMONELLA
Interestingly, reptiles have a much higher rate of carrying Salmonella bacteria than do most mammals, especially those listed as clean in the Old Law. The Center for Disease Control has repeatedly warned people about the possibility of being infected with Salmonella passed through reptiles. In summarizing the CDC’s 2003 report, Lianne McLeod noted that the CDC estimates over 70,000 cases of human Salmonella infection a year are related to the handling of reptiles and amphibians (2007). The CDC recommends that homes with children under five should not have reptiles as pets. Furthermore, while other animals such as cats and dogs can pass Salmonella, McLeod noted:
As high as 90% of reptiles are natural carriers of Salmonella bacteria, harboring strains specific to reptiles without any symptoms of disease in the reptile. While it is true that many pets can carry Salmonella, the problem with reptiles (and apparently amphibians) is that they carry Salmonella with such high frequency. It is prudent to assume that all reptiles and amphibians can be a potential source of Salmonella (2007, emp. added).In light of such evidence, the prudence of the Mosaic prohibition to eat or handle reptile carcasses is clearly evident.
Of further interest is the fact that reptilian Salmonella contamination can occur without even touching a reptile. If a person touches something that has touched a reptile the bacteria can spread. The ARAV (Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians) made this statement: “Salmonella bacteria are easily spread from reptiles to humans. Humans may become infected when they place their hands on objects, including food items, that have been in contact with the stool of reptiles, in their mouths” (“Salmonella Bacteria...,” 2007).
When this statement by the ARAV is compared with the injunctions in Leviticus 11:32-47, the astounding accuracy of the Old Testament regulation is again confirmed.
Anything on which any of them falls, when they are dead shall be unclean, whether it is any item of wood or clothing or skin or sack, whatever item it is, in which any work is done, it must be put in water. And it shall be unclean until evening; then it shall be clean. Any earthen vessel into which any of them falls you shall break; and whatever is in it shall be unclean: in such a vessel, any edible food upon which water falls becomes unclean, and any drink that may be drunk from it becomes unclean (Leviticus 11:32-34).After reading Leviticus 11:32-34, it seems as though a microbiologist was present with Moses to explain the perfect procedures to avoid spreading Salmonella and other bacteria from reptiles to humans. How could Moses have accurately laid down such precise regulations that belie a superior understanding of bacteria? An honest reader must conclude that he had divine assistance.
BATS AND RABIES
“Carlos’ Tragic and Mysterious Illness: How Carlos Almost Died by Eating Contaminated Raw Oysters” (2003), U.S. Food and Drug Administration, [On-line], URL: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~acrobat/vvfoto.pdf.
Macht, David I. (1953), “An Experimental Pharmacological Appreciatioin of Leviticus XI and Deuteronomy XIV,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine, September-October: 27:5.
McLeod, Lianne (2007), “Salmonella and Reptiles,” [On-line], URL: http://exoticpets.about.com/cs/reptiles/a/reptsalmonella.htm.
“Salmonella Bacteria and Reptiles” (2007), ARAV, [On-line], URL: http://www.arav.org/SalmonellaOwner.htm.
“Human Rabies Often Caused by Undetected, Tiny Bat Bites” (2002), Science Daily, [On-line], URL: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/05/020506074445.htm.
Does God Accept Human Sacrifice?
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Twelve minutes and 45 seconds into Dan Barker’s opening statement in our Darwin Day debate on February 12, 2009, he claimed that the God of the Bible cannot exist because the Bible presents contradictory information about God’s acceptance of human sacrifice. Barker said: “Does He [God—KB] accept human sacrifice? In some verses, ‘Yes,’ in some verses, ‘No.’ Remember the thing about when [sic] Abraham; He asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac” (Butt and Barker, 2009).
This brief statement is the only one that he gave as “evidence” of this alleged Bible contradiction. In our debate he did not cite any verses that he believes show this contradiction. But in chapter 13 of his book godless, he made the same claim and listed several verses. On page 240, he quoted Deuteronomy 12:31: “Thou shalt not do so unto the Lord thy God: for every abomination to the Lord, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods.” Barker then quoted Genesis 22:2: “And he [God—KB] said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of” (KJV). Dan does not offer any comments on these two verses, other than to list them as contradictory.
On close inspection, however, it becomes evident that these two verses cannot be contradictory. From the biblical narrative in Genesis 22, it is clear that God never intended to allow Abraham to kill his son. When Abraham got to the top of the appointed mountain, before he killed his son, God stopped him and showed him a ram caught in a thicket that was provided as a sacrifice instead of Isaac. God knew that He would stop Abraham before the sacrifice (see Lyons, 2009), and thus, never planned to accept a human sacrifice in this instance. If Isaac was never sacrificed, due to God’s intervention, then it cannot be claimed that God accepted human sacrifice on this occasion. In fact, since God stepped in and commanded Abraham not to sacrifice his son (Genesis 22:12), Abraham would have been sinning if he had continued with the sacrifice. It is impossible to claim that God accepted the human sacrifice of Isaac when the Bible specifically states that He prevented it. [NOTE: At this point in the discussion, Barker generally changes the argument, and demands that it was immoral for Abraham to follow God’s commands. That allegation will be dealt with in a future article. It is important to stay focused on Barker’s original allegation of contradiction before moving on to refute his allegation that God is immoral.]
Exodus 22:29 was never intended to mean that the Israelites were supposed to sacrifice their firstborn sons to God. In fact, Exodus 13:13 says, “And all the firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem.” What did it mean to redeem the firstborn son? It meant that the Israelites were to give to the Lord five skekels of silver when the firstborn son was one month old (see Numbers 18:16). What was the purpose of redeeming the firstborn son? Moses explained that it was a memorial of the process by which God delivered the Israelites from Egyptian bondage (Exodus 13:14-15). It is inexcusably poor scholarship for any person who has read the book of Exodus to make such an uninformed statement as to demand that Exodus 22:29 speaks of human sacrifice. We should remember, however, that Barker has admitted his belief that honesty is not always the best tactic for dealing with Christianity or the Bible (Butt, 2003).
In regard to Jephthah’s vow, there are several insurmountable problems with presenting this as an example of God accepting human sacrifice. First, there is considerable evidence that the girl was not killed, she simply was dedicated to the Lord, remained unmarried, and had no children (for a more thorough discussion of Jephthah’s vow, see Miller, 2003). Second, there is no indication that God approved of Jephthah’s vow. If Jephthah offered his daughter as a literal burnt offering, he disobeyed God’s instructions in the Law of Moses (Leviticus 18:21; 20:2-5; Deuteronomy 12:31; 18:10). The Jephthah incident cannot be used to show that God either asked for human sacrifice, or approved of it.
Notice that the text indicates that the ones who were hanged were “men” (2 Samuel 21:6), who would have been old enough to be responsible for their moral decisions. Furthermore, notice that the text indicates that Saul’s “house” or “household” was a bloodthirsty house (2 Samuel 21:1), apparently implying that many of his relatives were involved in his murderous plots. In 2 Samuel 16:5-14, the Bible introduces a wicked man named Shimei who was “from the family of the house of Saul” (2 Samuel 16:5). And Saul’s wickedness is documented throughout the book of 1 Samuel. Could it be that Saul’s descendants who were hanged had followed in the wicked paths of many from the “house of Saul” and deserved the death penalty? Yes. Thus, it is once again impossible to use this passage to “prove” that God accepted human sacrifice.
"THE DEATH OF CHRIST
Barker is well aware of this truth. In fact, he has spoken in other places about Christ’s atoning sacrifice. In his book Losing Faith in Faith, Barker stated:
Christians do know how to think; but they don’t start deep enough. A thoughtful conclusion is the synthesis of antecedent presuppositions or conclusions. The propitiatory nature of Christ’s sacrificial atonement, for example, is very logical. Logical, that is, if you first accept the existence of sin, the fall of humankind, the wrath of God and divine judgment. If you don’t buy the premises, then, of course, the conclusion cannot be logical (1992, p. 60).Barker, of course, does not “buy the premises,” but his denial of them does not make them any less logical or true. And if they are true, then he acknowledges that the sacrifice of Christ, although perpetrated by sinful men acting against God’s will, fits logically into the scheme of redemption.
Barker, Dan (2008), godless (Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press).
Butt, Kyle (2003), “What ‘We All Know’ About a Lie,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/1839.
Butt, Kyle and Dan Barker (2009), Butt/Barker Debate: Does the God of the Bible Exist? (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Lyons, Eric (2009), “Does God Really Know Everything?”, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/607.
Miller, Dave (2002), “Capital Punishment and the Bible,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/1974.
Miller, Dave (2003), “Jephthah’s Daughter,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/4709.
Deuteronomy 22:28-29 and Rape
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
One prevalent idea in skeptical circles is that the God of the Old Testament is cruel and condones practices that are immoral. Each example that skeptics have provided to prove this thesis, however, has been shown to be false. We see time and again that the God of the Old Testament is the same God of love that we observe in the life and personality of Jesus Christ. One passage that is incorrectly used to impugn God’s character is Deuteronomy 22:28-29. Moses wrote:
If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is not betrothed, and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out, then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall not be permitted to divorce her all his days.According to the skeptic, these verses teach that a man who rapes a woman gets to have her as his wife. The skeptic then demands that any God who would reward a rapist with the woman he rapes is wicked and immoral. Thus the God of the Bible cannot be the loving God Christians say He is.
The reason the skeptic at first glance seems to have something of a case is simply because most English translations of these verses do not accurately render the original intent of the Hebrew. To be fair, this issue causes even those who are not skeptically minded some difficulty. When most English speakers hear that a person has “seized” another person, we necessarily jump to the conclusion that it is a violent action against the will of the other person. This problem has been aggravated by the fact that some translations inaccurately and mistakenly translate the word as “rape.” The truth is, however, the Hebrew word in this case translated “seizes” (tapas) can mean many things. Here are some examples of the way it is translated in Deuteronomy 22:28 in several different English translations:
- “lay hold on her” (ASV)
- “taking her” (DRA)
- “and takes her” (NLV/NAB)
- “and hath caught her” (YLT).
The Hebrew word tapas (“lay hold of her,” emphasized above) simply means to take hold of something, grasp it in hand, and (by application) to capture or seize something. It is the verb used for “handling” the harp and flute (Gen. 4:21), the sword (Ezek. 21:11; 30:21), the sickle (Jer. 50:16), the shield (Jer. 46:9), the oars (Ezek. 27:29), and the bow (Amos 2:15). It is likewise used for “taking” God’s name (Prov. 30:9) or “dealing” with the law of God (Jer. 2:8). Joseph’s garment was “grasped” (Gen. 39:12; cf. 1 Kings 11:30), even as Moses “took” the two tablets of the law (Deut. 9:17)… [T]he Hebrew verb “to handle, grasp, capture” does not in itself indicate anything about the use of force (italics in orig.).In truth, we use English words in this way on a regular basis. For instance, a brief look at the English word “take” illustrates the point. You can take someone’s cookie, or take a person’s wife, or take a bride to be your wife. The idea of force is not inherent in the word at all. If you take a person in your arms, what have you done? Or if a young man takes a young woman to be his wife, is there force involved? No. Also, think about the English word “hold.” You can take hold of something in a number of ways. We often say that a woman will hold the child in her arms, or a bridegroom takes a bride to “have and to hold.” The Hebrew word tapas is acting in exactly the same way as the English words “hold” and “take” are.
In addition, it is clearly evident from the immediate context of Deuteronomy 22 that rape is not being discussed in verses 28-29. We know that for two primary reasons. First, verses 25-27 give a clear instance in which rape is being discussed. In that case, a man raped a woman, she “cried out” (v. 27), but she was in the country and no one was there to help her. The text says that the man who committed the crime “shall die” (v. 25), but the Israelites were supposed to “do nothing to the young woman” since “there is in the young woman no sin worthy of death” (v. 26). It is of great interest that in this clear case of rape, the text uses a completely different word. The word translated “forces her” in verse 25 is the Hebrew word chazaq and yet in verse 28, the verb has been intentionally changed to tapas (see Shamoun, 2015). Second, the natural reading of verses 28-29 makes it evident that both parties are guilty of at least some of the blame. Notice that at the end of verse 28 the text says, “and they are found out.” When the passage discusses the obvious case of rape, the text specifically only mentions the man in verse 25 when it says “then only the man who lay with her,” and conspicuously leaves out any indication of “they” being involved in the sin. Dr. Bahsen compares Deuteronomy 22:28-29 to Exodus 22:16, which reads, “If a man entices a virgin who is not betrothed, and lies with her, he shall surely pay the bride-price for her to be his wife” (1992). Notice that in this verse in Exodus, there is no force and both parties shoulder some of the guilt.
The practical value of God’s instruction in Deuteronomy 22:28-29 is easy to see. A man has sexual intercourse with a young woman who is not betrothed to anyone. There is no force involved, and it is not rape. But their action has been discovered. Now, who in the land of Israel wanted to marry a young girl who has not kept herself pure? The man cannot walk away from his sin. He has put the young woman in a very difficult life situation, in which there would be few (or no) other men who would want to marry her. Since it was often the case that women had an extremely difficult time financially without the help of a husband, this would be even more devastating to the young woman. God holds both the parties accountable, instructing them to get married and stay together, both suffer the shame, and work through the difficulties that they have brought on themselves. Nothing could be more moral, loving, and wise than these instructions. Once again, the skeptical charge against God’s love is without foundation.
REFERENCESBahnsen, Greg (1992), “Premarital Sexual Relations: What is the Moral Obligation When Repeated Incidents are Confessed,” Covenant Media Foundation, http://www.cmfnow.com/articles/pe152.htm.
Shamoun, Sam (2015), “The Old Testament and Rape,” http://www.answering-islam.org/Shamoun/ot_and_rape.htm.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
In all likelihood, most of you reading this month’s issue of Reason and Revelation already have made up your minds about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Truth be told, the majority of you probably believe that Jesus Christ lived on this Earth for approximately 33 years, died at the hand of the Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate, was buried in a new tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea, and miraculously defeated death by His resurrection three days later.
But there may be some of you who have lingering doubts about the truthfulness of the resurrection of Christ. In fact, many people have much more than lingering doubts; they already have made up their minds that the story of the resurrection happened too long ago, was witnessed by too few people, has not been proven scientifically, and thus should be discarded as an unreliable legend.
Regardless of which position best describes your view of Christ’s resurrection, what we all must do is check our prejudice at the door and openly and honestly examine the historical facts attending the resurrection.
FACT—JESUS CHRIST LIVED
FACT—JESUS CHRIST DIED
In addition to Roman sources, early Jewish rabbis whose opinions are recorded in the Talmud acknowledged the death of Jesus. According to the earlier rabbis,
Jesus of Nazareth was a transgressor in Israel who practised magic, scorned the words of the wise, led the people astray, and said that he had not come to destroy the law but to add to it. He was hanged on Passover Eve for heresy and misleading the people (Bruce, 1953, p. 102, emp. added).Likewise, Jewish historian Josephus wrote:
[T]here arose about this time Jesus, a wise man.... And when Pilate had condemned him to the cross on his impeachment by the chief men among us, those who had loved him at first did not cease (Antiquities of the Jews, 18.3.3).The fact that Pilate condemned Christ to the cross is an undisputed historical fact. As archaeologist Edwin Yamauchi stated:
Even if we did not have the New Testament or Christian writings, we would be able to conclude from such non-Christian writings such as Josephus, the Talmud, Tacitus, and Pliny the Younger that...he [Jesus—KB] was crucified under Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius (1995, p. 222).It is at this point in our study that some would suggest that Hugh Schonfield’s infamous “Swoon Theory” should be considered. Schonfield (1965) postulated that Christ did not die on the cross; rather, He merely fainted or “swooned.” Later, after being laid on a cold slab in the dark tomb, He revived and exited His rock-hewn grave. Such a theory, however, fails to take into account the heinous nature of the scourging (sometimes referred to as an “intermediate death”) that Christ had endured at the hand of Roman lictors, or the finely honed skills of those Roman soldiers whose job it was to inflict such gruesome punishment prior to a prisoner’s actual crucifixion. To press the point, in the March 1986 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, William Edwards and his coauthors penned an article, “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ,” that employed modern medical insight to provide an exhaustive description of Jesus’ death (256:1455-1463). Sixteen years later, Brad Harrub and Bert Thompson coauthored an updated review (“An Examination of the Medical Evidence for the Physical Death of Jesus Christ”) of the extensive scientific evidence surrounding Christ’s physical death (2002). After reading such in-depth, medically based descriptions of the horrors to which Christ was exposed, and the condition of His ravaged body, the Swoon Theory quickly fades into oblivion (where it rightly belongs). Jesus died. Upon this, we all most certainly can agree.
FACT—THE TOMB OF CHRIST WAS EMPTY
A godless and lawless heresy had sprung from one Jesus, a Galilaean deceiver, whom we crucified, but his disciples stole him by night from the tomb where he was laid when unfastened from the cross, and now deceive men by asserting that he has risen from the dead and ascended to heaven.Somewhere around the sixth century, another caustic treatise written to defame Christ circulated among the Jewish community. In this narrative, known as Toledoth Yeshu, Jesus was described as the illegitimate son of a soldier named Joseph Pandera. He also was labeled as a disrespectful deceiver who led many away from the truth. Near the end of the treatise, under a discussion of His death, the following paragraph can be found:
A diligent search was made and he [Jesus—KB] was not found in the grave where he had been buried. A gardener had taken him from the grave and had brought him into his garden and buried him in the sand over which the waters flowed into the garden.Upon reading Justin Martyr’s description of one Jewish theory regarding the tomb of Christ, and another premise from Toledoth Yeshu, it becomes clear that a single common thread unites them both—the tomb of Christ had no body in it!
All parties involved recognized the fact that Christ’s tomb laid empty on the third day. Feeling compelled to give reasons for this unexpected vacancy, Jewish authorities apparently concocted several different theories to explain the body’s disappearance. The most commonly accepted one seems to be that the disciples of Jesus stole His body away by night while the guards slept (Matthew 28:13). Yet, how could the soldiers identify the thieves if they had been asleep? And why were the sentinels not punished by death for sleeping on the job and thereby losing their charge (cf. Acts 12:6-19)? And an even more pressing question comes to mind—why did the soldiers need to explain anything if a body was still in the tomb?
When Peter stood up on the Day of Pentecost, after the resurrection of Christ, the crux of his sermon rested on the facts that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again on the third day. In order to silence Peter, and stop a mass conversion, the Jewish leaders needed simply to produce the body of Christ. Why did not the Jewish leaders take the short walk to the garden and produce the body? Simply because they could not; the tomb was empty—a fact the Jews recognized and tried to explain away. The apostles knew it, and preached it boldly in the city of Jerusalem. And thousands of inhabitants of Jerusalem knew it and converted to Christianity. John Warwick Montgomery accurately assessed the matter when he wrote:
It passes the bounds of credibility that the early Christians could have manufactured such a tale and then preached it among those who might easily have refuted it simply by producing the body of Jesus (1964, p. 78).The tomb of Jesus was empty, and that is a fact.
FACT—THE APOSTLES PREACHED THAT
JESUS PHYSICALLY ROSE FROM THE DEAD
Even Joseph McCabe, one of the early twentieth century’s most outspoken infidels, remarked: “Paul was absolutely convinced of the resurrection; and this proves that it was widely believed not many years after the death of Jesus” (1993, p. 24). The skeptical modernist Shirley Jackson Case of the University of Chicago was forced to concede: “The testimony of Paul alone is sufficient to convince us, beyond any reasonable doubt, that this was the commonly accepted opinion in his day—an opinion at that time supported by the highest authority imaginable, the eye-witnesses themselves” (1909, pp. 171-172). C.S. Lewis correctly stated: “In the earliest days of Christianity an ‘apostle’ was first and foremost a man who claimed to be an eyewitness of the Resurrection” (1975, p. 188).
It has been suggested by some critics that the apostles and other witnesses did not actually see Christ, but merely hallucinated. However, Gary Habermas had this to say about such a fanciful idea:
[H]allucinations are comparably rare. They’re usually caused by drugs or bodily deprivation. Chances are, you don’t know anybody who’s ever had a hallucination not caused by one of those two things. Yet we’re supposed to believe that over a course of many weeks, people from all sorts of backgrounds, all kinds of temperaments, in various places, all experienced hallucinations? That strains the hypothesis quite a bit, doesn’t it? (as quoted in Strobel, 1998, p. 239).Indeed, the hallucination theory is a feeble attempt to undermine the fact that the apostles (and other first-century eyewitnesses of a risen Christ) preached the message that they really had seen a resurrected Jesus.
The apostles preached that Christ physically rose, and those who heard the apostles verified that they preached the resurrection. Apart from what a person believes about the resurrection of Christ, he or she cannot deny (legitimately) the fact that the apostles traveled far and wide to preach one central message—“Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
FACT—THE APOSTLES SUFFERED AND
DIED BECAUSE OF THEIR TEACHINGS
ABOUT THE RESURRECTION
Additional testimony comes from the early church fathers. Eusebius, who was born about A.D. 260 and died about 340, wrote that Paul was beheaded in Rome and that Peter was crucified there (Ecclesiastical History, 2.25). [Exactly how and where Peter was martyred is unclear from history; the fact that he was martyred is not.] Clement of Rome (who died about A.D. 100), in chapter five of his First Epistle to the Corinthians, also mentioned the martyrs’ deaths of Peter and Paul. Luke, the writer of the book of Acts, documented the death of James when he stated: “Now about that time Herod the king put forth his hand to afflict certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword” (Acts 12:1-2). The apostle Paul perhaps summed it up best when he said:
For, I think, God hath set forth us the apostles last of all, as men doomed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, both to angels and men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye have glory, but we have dishonor. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place; and we toil, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things, even until now (1 Corinthians 4:9-13).Wayne Jackson correctly noted that “while men may die out of religious deception, they do not willingly go to their deaths knowing they are perpetrating a hoax” (1982, 2:34).
Some ill-advised attempts have been made to deny that Christ’s apostles actually died because of their belief in, and preaching of, the resurrection. For example, it has been proposed that the apostles died because they were political instigators or rabble-rousers. However, combining the high moral quality of their teachings with the testimony of the early church fathers, and acknowledging the fact that their primary task was to be witnesses of the resurrection, it is historically inaccurate to imply that the apostles suffered for any reason other than their confession of the resurrection. The fact of the matter is, the apostles died because they refused to stop preaching that they had seen the Lord alive after His death.
FACT—THE BIBLE IS THE MOST HISTORICALLY
ACCURATE BOOK OF ANTIQUITY
[A]bout 1880 to 1890, the book of the Acts was regarded as the weakest part of the New Testament. No one that had any regard for his reputation as a scholar cared to say a word in its defence. The most conservative of theological scholars, as a rule, thought the wisest plan of defence for the New Testament as a whole was to say as little as possible about the Acts (1915, p. 38).As could be expected of someone who had been trained by such “scholars,” Ramsay held the same view. He eventually abandoned it, however, because he was willing to do what few people of his time dared to do—explore the Bible lands themselves with an archaeologist’s pick in one hand and an open Bible in the other. His self-stated intention was to prove the inaccuracy of Luke’s history as recorded in the book of Acts. But, much to his surprise, the book of Acts passed every test that any historical narrative could be asked to pass. In fact, after years of literally digging through the evidence in Asia Minor, Ramsay concluded that Luke was an exemplary historian. Lee S. Wheeler, in his classic work, Famous Infidels Who Found Christ, recounted Ramsay’s life story in great detail (1931, pp. 102-106), and then quoted the famed archaeologist, who ultimately admitted:
The more I have studied the narrative of the Acts, and the more I have learned year after year about Graeco-Roman society and thoughts and fashions, and organization in those provinces, the more I admire and the better I understand. I set out to look for truth on the borderland where Greece and Asia meet, and found it here [in the book of Acts—KB]. You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian’s, and they stand the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment, provided always that the critic knows the subject and does not go beyond the limits of science and of justice (Ramsey, 1915, p. 89).In his book, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, Ramsay was constrained to admit:
Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy, he is possessed of the true historic sense.... In short, this author should be placed along with the very greatest historians (1915, p. 222; cf. also Ramsay’s 1908 work, Luke the Physician).Indeed, Luke, the writer of the book of Acts, is widely acknowledged as an extremely accurate historian in his own right—so much so that Ramsay converted to Christianity as a result of his personal examination of the preciseness of Luke’s historical record. It is of interest, then, to note what Luke himself wrote concerning Christ’s resurrection:
The former treatise I made, O Theophilus, concerning all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, until the day in which he was received up, after that he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom he also showed himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing unto them by the space of forty days, and speaking the things concerning the kingdom of God (Acts 1:1-3).What legitimate reason is there to reject Luke’s testimony regarding Christ’s resurrection when his testimony on every other subject he presented is so amazingly accurate? As Wayne Jackson noted:
In Acts, Luke mentions thirty-two countries, fifty-four cities, and nine Mediterranean islands. He also mentions ninety-five persons, sixty-two of which are not named elsewhere in the New Testament. And his references, where checkable, are always correct. This is truly remarkable, in view of the fact that the political/territorial situation of his day was in a state of almost constant change (1991, 27:2).Other Bible critics have suggested that Luke misspoke when he designated Sergius Paulus as proconsul of Cyprus (Acts 13:7). Their claim was that Cyprus was governed by a propraetor (also referred to as a consular legate), not a proconsul. Upon further examination, such a charge can be seen to be completely vacuous, as the late Thomas Eaves documented:
As we turn to the writers of history for that period, Dia Cassius (Roman History) and Strabo (The Geography of Strabo), we learn that there were two periods of Cyprus’ history: first, it was an imperial province governed by a propraetor, and later in 22 B.C., it was made a senatorial province governed by a proconsul. Therefore, the historians support Luke in his statement that Cyprus was ruled by a proconsul, for it was between A.D. 40-50 when Paul made his first missionary journey. If we accept secular history as being true, we must also accept biblical history, for they are in agreement (1980, p. 234).The science of archaeology seems to have outdone itself in verifying the Scriptures. Eminent archaeologist William F. Albright wrote: “There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of the Old Testament tradition” (1953, p. 176). The late Nelson Glueck, himself a pillar within the archaeological community, said:
It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible (1959, p. 31).Such statements—offered 40+ years ago—are as true today as the day they were made.
Please note, however, that this argument is not being introduced here to claim that the New Testament is inspired (although certain writers have used it in this way quite effectively). Rather, it is inserted at this point in the discussion to illustrate that the books which talk the most about the resurrection have proven to be accurate when confronted with any verifiable fact. Travel to the Holy Lands and see for yourself if you doubt biblical accuracy. Carry with you an honest, open mind and an open Bible, and I assure you that you will respect the New Testament writers as accurate historians.
ON SUPPOSED CONTRADICTIONS
WITHIN THE GOSPELS
It is interesting, is it not, that Barker demands to know “exactly what happened” on a day in ancient history that occurred almost 2,000 years ago? Such a request speaks loudly of the historical legitimacy of the resurrection story, since no other day in ancient history ever has been examined with such scrutiny. Historians today cannot tell “exactly what happened” on July 4, 1776 or April 12, 1861, yet Christians are expected to provide the “exact” details of Christ’s resurrection? Fortunately, the gospel writers described “exactly what happened”—without contradiction. Examine the following evidence.
Head-on Collusion“Collusion: A secret agreement between two or more parties for a fraudulent, illegal, or deceitful purpose” (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 2000, p. 363). Even if we never had heard the word collusion before, most of us still would understand the situation it describes. Suppose, for example, that five bank robbers don their nylon-hose masks, rob the city bank, and stash the cash in a nearby cave. Each robber then goes back to his respective house until the police search is concluded. The first robber hears a knock at his door and, upon opening it, finds a policeman who “just wants to ask him a few questions.” The officer then inquires, “Where were you, and what where you doing, on the night of February 1, 2002?” The thief promptly responds, “I was at Joe Smith’s house watching television with four other friends.” The policeman obtains the four friends’ names and addresses and visits each one of their homes. Every single robber, in turn, tells exactly the same story. Was it true? Absolutely not! But did the stories all sound exactly the same, with seemingly no contradictions? Yes.
Now, let’s examine this principle in light of our discussion of the resurrection. If every single narrative describing the resurrection sounded exactly the same, what do you think would be said about those narratives? “They must have copied each other!” In fact, in other areas of Christ’s life besides the resurrection, when the books of Matthew and Luke give the same information as the book of Mark, critics today claim that Matthew and Luke must have copied Mark because it is thought to be the earliest of the three books. Another raging question in today’s upper echelons of biblical “scholarship” is whether Peter copied Jude in 2 Peter 2:4-17 (or whether Jude copied Peter), because the two segments of scripture sound so similar.
Amazingly, however, the Bible has not left open the prospect of collusion in regard to the resurrection narratives. Indeed, it cannot be denied (legitimately) that the resurrection accounts have come to us from independent sources. In his book, Science vs. Religion, Tad S. Clements vigorously denied that there is enough evidence to justify a personal belief in the resurrection. He did acknowledge, however: “There isn’t merely one account of Christ’s resurrection but rather an embarrassing multitude of stories...” (1990, p. 193). While he opined that these stories “disagree in significant respects,” he nevertheless made it clear that the gospels are separate accounts of the same story. Dan Barker admitted the same when he boldly stated: “Since Easter [his wording for the resurrection account—KB] is told by five different writers, it gives one of the best chances to confirm or disconfirm the account” (1992, p. 179). One door that everyone on both sides of the resurrection freely admits has been locked forever by the gospel accounts is the dead-bolted door against collusion.
Dealing With “Contradictions”Of course it will not be possible, in these few paragraphs, to deal with every alleged discrepancy between the resurrection accounts. But I would like to set forth some helpful principles that can be used to show that no genuine contradiction between the resurrection narratives has been documented.
Addition Does Not a Contradiction MakeSuppose a man is telling a story about the time he and his wife went shopping at the mall. The man mentions all the great places in the mall to buy hunting supplies and cinnamon rolls. But the wife tells about the same shopping trip, yet mentions only the places to buy clothes. Is there a contradiction just because the wife mentioned only clothing stores, while the husband mentioned only cinnamon rolls and hunting supplies? No. They simply are adding to (or supplementing) each other’s story to make it more complete. That same type of thing occurs quite frequently in the resurrection accounts.
As an example, Matthew’s gospel refers to “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary” as women who visited the tomb early on the first day of the week (Matthew 28:1). Mark cites Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome as the callers (Mark 16:1). Luke mentions Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and “the other women” (Luke 24:10). Yet John writes only about Mary Magdalene visiting Christ’s tomb early on Sunday (John 20:1). Dan Barker cited these different names as discrepancies and/or contradictions on page 182 of his book. But do these different lists truly contradict one another? No, they do not. They are supplementary (with each writer adding names to make the list more complete), but they are not contradictory. If John had said “only Mary Magdalene visited the tomb,” or if Matthew had stated that “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were the only women to visit the tomb,” then there would be a contradiction. As it stands, however, no contradiction occurs. To further illustrate this point, suppose you have 10 one-dollar bills in your pocket. Someone comes up to you and asks, “Do you have a dollar bill in your pocket?” Naturally, you respond in the affirmative. Suppose another person asks, “Do you have five dollars in your pocket?” and again you say that you do. Finally, another person asks, “Do you have ten dollars in your pocket?” and you say yes for the third time. Did you tell the truth every time? Yes, you did. Were all three statements about the contents of your pockets different? Yes, they were. But were any of your answers contradictory? No, they were not. How so? The fact is: supplementation does not equal contradiction!
Also fitting into this discussion about supplementation are the angels, men, and young man described in the different resurrection accounts. Two different “problems” arise with the entrance of the “holy heralds” at the empty tomb of Christ. First, exactly how many were there? Second, were they angels or men? Since the former question deals with supplementation, I will discuss it first. The account in Matthew cites “an angel of the Lord who descended from heaven” and whose “appearance was as lightning, and his raiment white as snow” (28:2-5). Mark’s account presents a slightly different picture of “a young man sitting on the right side, arrayed in a white robe” (16:5). But Luke mentions that “two men stood by them [the women—KB] in dazzling apparel” (24:4). And, finally, John writes about “two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain” (20:12). Are any of these accounts contradictory as to the number of men or angels at the tomb? Factoring in the supplementation rule, we must answer in the negative. Although the accounts are different, they are not contradictory as to the number of messengers. Mark does not mention “only a young man” and Luke does not say there were “exactly two angels.” Was there one messenger at the tomb? Yes, there was. Were there two as well? Yes, there were. Once again, note that supplementation does not equal contradiction.
Were They Men or Angels?The second question concerning the messengers is their identity: Were they angels or men? Most people who are familiar with the Old Testament have no problem answering this question. Genesis chapters 18 and 19 mention three “men” who came to visit Abraham and Sarah. These men remained for a short time, and then two of them continued on to visit the city of Sodom. The Bible tells us in Genesis 19:1 that these “men” actually were angels. Yet when the men of Sodom came to do violence to these angels, the city dwellers asked: “Where are the men that came in to thee this night?” (Genesis 19:5). Throughout the two chapters, the messengers are referred to both as men and as angels with equal accuracy. They looked like, talked like, walked like, and sounded like men. Then could they be referred to (legitimately) as men? Yes. But were they in fact angels? Yes.
To illustrate, suppose you saw a man sit down at a park bench and take off his right shoe. As you watched, he began to pull out an antenna from the toe of the shoe and a number pad from the heel. He proceeded to dial a number and began to talk to someone over his “shoe phone.” If you were going to write down what you had seen, could you accurately say that the man dialed a number on his shoe? Yes. Could you also say that he dialed a number on his phone? Indeed you could. The shoe had a heel, sole, toe, and everything else germane to a shoe, but in actuality it was much more than a shoe. In the same way, the messengers at the tomb could be described accurately as men. They had a head perched on two shoulders and held in place by a neck, and they had a body that was complete with arms and legs, etc. So, they were men. But, in truth, they were much more than men because they were angels—holy messengers sent from God’s throne to deliver an announcement to certain people. Taking into account the fact that the Old Testament often uses the term “men” to describe angels who have assumed a human form, it is fairly easy to show that no contradiction exists concerning the identity of the messengers.
Perspective Plays a PartWhat we continue to see in the independent resurrection narratives is not contradiction, but merely a difference in perspective. For instance, suppose a man had a 4x6 index card that was solid red on one side and solid white on the other. Further suppose that he stood in front of a large crowd, asked all the men to close their eyes, showed the women in the audience the red side of the card, and then had them scribble down what they saw. Further suppose that he had all the women close their eyes while he showed the men the white side of the card and had them write down what they saw. One group saw a red card and one group saw a white card. When their answers are compared, at first it would look like they were contradictory, yet they were not. The descriptions appeared contradictory because the two groups had a different perspective, since each had seen a different side of the same card. The perspective phenomenon plays a big part in everyday life. In the same way that no two witnesses ever see a car accident in exactly the same way, none of the witnesses of the resurrected Jesus saw the events from the same angle as the others.
Obviously, I have not dealt with every alleged discrepancy concerning the resurrection accounts. However, I have mentioned some of the major ones, which can be explained quite easily via the principles of supplementation or difference of perspective. An honest study of the remaining “problems” reveals that not a single legitimate contradiction exists between the narratives; they may be different in some aspects, but they are not contradictory. Furthermore, whatever differences do exist prove that no collusion took place and document the diversity that would be expected from different individuals witnessing the same event.
THE PROBLEM WITH MIRACLES
No amount of argument can convince me to trust a 2000-year-old second-hand report over what I see, myself, directly, here and now, with my own eyes. If I observe facts which entail that I will cease to exist when I die, then the Jesus story can never override that observation, being infinitely weaker as a proof. And yet all the evidence before my senses confirms my mortality.... A 2000-year-old second-hand tale from the backwaters of an illiterate and ignorant land can never overpower these facts. I see no one returning to life after their brain has completely died from lack of oxygen. I have had no conversations with spirits of the dead. What I see is quite the opposite of everything this tall tale claims. How can it command more respect than my own two eyes? It cannot (2000).Although such an argument at first may appear perfectly plausible, it encounters two insurmountable difficulties. First, there are things that took place in the past that no one alive today has seen or ever will see, yet they still are accepted as fact. The origin of life on this planet provides a good example. Regardless of whether a person believes in creation or evolution, he or she must admit that some things happened in the past that are not still occurring today (or at least that have not been witnessed). To evolutionists, I pose the question: “Have you ever personally used your five senses to establish that a nonliving thing can give rise to a living thing.” Of course, evolutionists must admit that they never have seen such happen, in spite of all the origin-of-life experiments that have been performed over the last fifty years. Does such an admission mean, then, that evolutionists do not accept the idea that life came from nonliving matter, just because they never have witnessed such an event? Of course not. Instead, we are asked to consider “ancient evidence” (like the geologic column and the fossil record) that evolutionists believe leads to such a conclusion. Still, the hard fact remains that no one alive today (or, for that matter, anyone who ever lived in the past) has witnessed something living come from something nonliving.
Following this same line of reasoning, those who believe in creation freely admit that the creation of life on Earth is an event that has not been witnessed by anyone alive today (or, for that matter, anyone else of the past, except possibly Adam). It was a unique, one-time-only event that cannot be duplicated by experiment and cannot currently be detected by the five human senses. As with evolutionists, creationists ask us to examine evidence such as the fossil record, the inherent design of the Universe and its inhabitants, the Law of Cause and Effect, the Law of Biogenesis, etc., which they believe leads to the conclusion that life was created at some point in the past by an intelligent Creator. But, before we drift too far from our primary topic of the resurrection, let me remind you that this brief discussion concerning creation and evolution is inserted only to establish one point—everyone must admit that he or she accepts some concepts from the distant past without having personally inspected them using the empirical senses.
Second, it is true that a dead person rising from the dead would be an amazing and, yes, empirically astonishing event. People do not normally rise from the dead in the everyday scheme of things. Yet, was not that the very point the apostles and other witnesses of the resurrection were trying to get people to understand? If Jesus of Nazareth truly rose from the grave never to die again—thereby accomplishing something that no mortal man ever had accomplished—would not that be enough to prove that He was the Son of God as He had claimed (see Mark 14:61-62)? He had predicted that He would be raised from the dead (John 2:19). And He was!
Those first-century onlookers certainly understood that a person rising from the dead was not natural, because even they understood how the laws of nature worked. As C.S. Lewis explained:
But there is one thing often said about our ancestors which we must not say. We must not say “They believed in miracles because they did not know the Laws of Nature.” This is nonsense. When St. Joseph discovered that his bride was pregnant, he “was minded to put her away.” He knew enough about biology for that.... When the disciples saw Christ walking on the water they were frightened; they would not have been frightened unless they had known the Laws of Nature and known that this was an exception (1970, p. 26).The apostle Paul underscored this point in Romans 1:4 when he stated that Jesus Christ was “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” The entire point of Christ’s resurrection was, and is, that it proved His deity. As I stated earlier, most people who deny the resurrection do so because they refuse to believe in a God Who performs miracles, not because the historical evidence is insufficient.
FACE THE FACTS
The primary argument against the resurrection, of course, is that during the normal course of events, dead people do not arise from the grave—which was the very point being made by the apostles. But when all the evidence is weighed and it is revealed that the apostles never buckled under torture, the New Testament never crumples under scrutiny, and the secular, historical witnesses refuse to be drowned in a sea of criticism, then it is evident that the resurrection of Jesus Christ demands its rightful place in the annals of history as the most important event this world has ever seen. To quote the immortal words of the Holy Spirit as spoken through the apostle Paul to King Agrippa in the great long ago: “Why is it judged incredible with you, if God doth raise the dead?” (Acts 26:8).
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