"STUDIES IN THE MINOR PROPHETS" Amos - The Country Prophet (7:1-9:15) INTRODUCTION 1. In the first two studies on the book of Amos, we briefly surveyed... a. The "Oracles" of Amos, concerning sin and judgment of eight nations (ch. 1-2) b. The "Sermons" of Amos, concerning the sin and judgment of Israel (ch. 3-6) 2. In this third and final lesson on Amos, we will... a. Focus our attention on the last three chapters which contain... 1) Five "Visions" of Amos 2) An "interlude" in which Amos defends his prophetic role 3) A closing glimpse of a brighter future b. Offer a summary of lessons gleaned from the book of Amos [Let's begin, then by noting...] I. THE "VISIONS" OF AMOS (7:1-9:15) A. THE VISION OF THE LOCUSTS (7:1-3) 1. The vision and the Lord's response to Amos' prayer... a. The Lord shows Amos a swarm of locusts devastating the crops b. Amos cries out in behalf of Jacob (Israel) c. The Lord hears, and relents so that the locust plague will not happen 2. The meaning of the vision... a. Some take the locust plague to be a figurative symbol of an invading army b. Whether literal or figurative, the judgment it represented is averted by the pleading of the prophet c. It is reminiscent of what we saw in Joel, how the nation's repentance averted the reoccurrence of the "locust invasion" - cf. Joel 2:1-24 B. THE VISION OF THE FIRE (7:4-6) 1. The vision and the Lord's response to Amos' prayer... a. The Lord shows Amos a fire consuming the "great deep" and the territory b. Once again Amos cries out in behalf of Jacob (Israel) c. The Lord again hears, and relents from bringing the conflagration upon Israel 2. The meaning of the vision... a. Clearly figurative, for the "great deep" is likely the Mediterranean Sea b. Whatever judgment it represents is also averted by the prayer of Amos c. These first two visions appear to illustrate God's longsuffering due to the prayers of the righteous C. THE VISION OF THE PLUMB LINE (7:7-9) 1. The vision and the Lord's explanation... a. The Lord is standing on a wall with a plumb line in hand b. The Lord explains He is setting a plumb line in the midst of Israel, and will now bring destruction upon: 1) The places of idolatrous worship ("high places" and "sanctuaries") 2) The house of Jeroboam (the ruling king of Israel, cf. Am 1:1) 2. The meaning of the vision... a. A plumb line is used to measure the correctness of any construction b. God has so measured Israel, and found her so defective that He cannot overlook her anymore c. The judgment will involve destruction of her religious and political leaders D. AN INTERLUDE: AMAZIAH'S COMPLAINT AGAINST AMOS (7:10-17) 1. Amaziah, priest of Bethel (center of idolatrous worship), accuses Amos of conspiracy against Jeroboam king of Israel - Am 7:10-11 2. Amaziah tells Amos to leave Bethel and go back to his own country of Judah - Am 7:12-13 3. Amos defends his prophetic mission - Am 7:14-15 4. Amos then prophesies against Amaziah and Israel - Am 7:16-17 E. THE VISION OF THE SUMMER FRUIT (8:1-14) 1. The vision and the Lord's explanation - Am 8:1-3 a. Amos is shown a basket of summer fruit (evidently quite ripened) b. The Lord reveals that Israel's end is near, and is ripe for judgment 2. Once again, the nature of Israel's sin is described - Am 8:4-6 a. Oppression of the poor and needy - cf. Am 2:6-7 b. Disdain for religious observances, because they hinder economic enterprise c. Dishonest economic practices, to further abuse the poor and needy 3. The nature of Israel's judgment is described - Am 8:7-14 a. A day of mourning is coming - Am 8:7-10 b. A day of famine for the word of God is coming - Am 8:11-12 c. Those who trust in idolatry will fall and never rise again - Am 8:13-14 F. THE VISION OF THE LORD BY THE ALTAR (9:1-10) 1. Is this the altar of Jerusalem, or Bethel? (I suspect the latter) 2. The altar shall be destroyed, and none shall escape - Am 9:1-4 3. The One who shall accomplish this is described - Am 9:5-6 4. Israel has become little different than the heathen nations - Am 9:7 5. The careful, discriminate, nature of the Lord's judgment - Am 9:8-10 a. The "kingdom" will be utterly destroyed b. But the "house of Jacob" will not c. What little is good will be spared, as grain sifted in a sieve d. But the sinners shall not escape, despite their claims to the contrary G. A GLIMPSE OF A BRIGHTER FUTURE - Am 9:11-15 1. The restoration of the tabernacle of David is foretold, in which even the remnant of Edom and Gentiles who are called by His name are possessed - Am 9:11-12 2. The restoration described in terms of agricultural abundance - Am 9:13-15 3. James applied the fulfillment of this prophecy to the church and the inclusion of the Gentiles by the gospel - cf. Ac 15: 13-17 4. So the prophecy is figurative... a. Given in terms especially comforting to those of Amos' day b. Yet actually referring to spiritual blessings found in Christ today! [Visions in the Bible often are designed to impact more the heart of man rather than his mind. So it is with these visions of Amos: depicting God's longsuffering, His judgment upon the nation of Israel, and His promise of future blessings for Israel and the nations (the last fulfilled with the coming of Christ). Before we close, let's review...] II. A SUMMARY OF LESSONS GLEANED FROM AMOS A. CONCERNING GOD... 1. He rules over the nations, and holds them accountable - Am 1,2 2. His omnipotence may be seen in: a. His acts of creation - Am 4:3; 5:8 b. His control over the forces of nature - Am 4:6-11 c. His supremacy over the nations - Am 1,2 3. His omnipresence is plainly taught (Am 9:2-4), also His omniscience (Am 4:13) 4. The righteousness of God is constantly emphasized by Amos - e.g., Am 5:24 B. CONCERNING ISRAEL... 1. They were the people of God, having a special relationship with God - Am 3:1-2 2. They should have reflected the glory of God - cf. Am 5:14-15, 24 3. They failed, and so judgment would follow; but a remnant would be spared that would later bless the Gentiles - Am 9:11-12 C. MISCELLANEOUS LESSONS... 1. Justice between man and man is one of the divine foundations of society 2. Privilege implies responsibility a. Israel had enjoyed special privileges b. Therefore she had been give special responsibilities 3. Failure to recognize and accept responsibility is sure to bring God's judgment 4. The most elaborate worship is but an insult to God when offered by those who have no mind to conform to His commands -- These lessons were offered by Homer Hailey in his book, "A Commentary On The Minor Prophets" (Baker Book House) CONCLUSION 1. Many other lessons can likely be gleaned from a book like Amos; the "Disciples' Study Bible" offers these: a. Merely observing proper forms of worship is not sufficient for a right relation with God (pure religion takes into consideration one's treatment of the poor and needy - cf. Jm 1:27) b. Being a part of God's people does not guarantee exemption from judgment (Israel and Judah certainly weren't exempt) c. Not all judgment seeks to penalize and hurt (many were designed to restore man back to God, Am 4:6-11) 2. Can we not see the value of studying the Old Testament prophets? a. They are truly "written for our admonition" - 1Co 10:11 b. They are truly "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness," - 2Ti 3:16 In Am 8:11-12, we read of a famine for the Word of the Lord that would befall Israel, which occurred when they were taken into Assyrian captivity. Let's be sure that we do not experience a self-imposed famine of the Word by neglecting to study and glean from such prophets like Amos!
"STUDIES IN THE MINOR PROPHETS" Amos - The Country Prophet (3:1-6:14) INTRODUCTION 1. In our previous study we began our survey of the book of Amos a. A prophet of God, who was... 1) A country shepherd and gatherer of sycamore fruit - Am 7:14-15 2) Called to proclaim God's judgments on the nations, especially Israel b. Whose book is divided into three sections, in which we find... 1) "Oracles" concerning sin and judgment of eight nations (ch. 1-2) 2) "Sermons" concerning the sin and judgment of Israel (ch. 3-6) 3) "Visions" regarding the sin and judgment of Israel (ch. 7-9) c. In his "oracles", we saw that God pronounced judgment upon... 1) Heathen nations, such as Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, and Moab 2) The people of God, both Judah and Israel -- With emphasis placed upon the sins and judgment of the northern kingdom of Israel 2. In this lesson, we shall direct our attention to the "sermons" in chapters 3-6 a. There are three sermons, each beginning with "Hear this word..." - 3:1; 4:1; 5:1 b. The focus of these sermons is Israel, the kingdom in the north [From an outline by Ryrie, the first "sermon" could be entitled...] I. THE DOOM OF ISRAEL (3:1-15) A. AMOS DEFENDS HIS RIGHT TO PROPHESY... 1. The Lord has spoken against Israel - Am 3:1-2 a. With whom He has had a special relationship b. Whom He now will punish for their sins 2. Seven questions with obvious answers - Am 3:3-6 a. The purpose and meaning of these questions have been variously interpreted b. But their intent appears to enforce the logic of what follows in the next two verses 3. Can a prophet remain silent when God speaks? - Am 3:7-8 a. The Lord does nothing unless He reveals it by one of His prophets b. Like a lion that has roared (cf. Am 1:2), God has spoken and Amos must prophesy! B. ISRAEL'S DOOM... 1. Ashdod and Egypt are called to witness Israel's wickedness - Am 3:9-10 2. Israel will be plundered by an adversary - Am 3:11-15 a. Though never identified by Amos, Isaiah declared that it would be Assyria b. Concerning Israel's coming punishment: 1) Only a remnant will survive of those who dwell in luxury, like a piece of lamb left over after being ravaged by a lion 2) Destruction will come upon the altars of Bethel (cf. Jeroboam's idolatry) 3) Destruction will befall their luxurious homes [With this first "sermon", destruction is pronounced upon Israel. The sin of some of the men was mentioned earlier (Am 2:6-8), with the next "sermon" we see the wickedness of the women...] II. THE DEPRAVITY OF THE WOMEN OF ISRAEL (4:1-13) A. THE "COWS OF BASHAN", THEY ARE INSATIABLE... 1. Living in Samaria (Israel) they were: a. Oppressing the poor and needy - Am 4:1 b. Crying out for wine - Am 4:2 2. For which they will suffer painful deportation to a foreign land - Am 4:3 B. A SARCASTIC CALL TO WORSHIP... 1. To worship their false gods at Bethel and Gilgal - Am 4:4-5 2. Designed to show how far they have departed from God C. THEY HAD REJECTED GOD'S CHATISEMENTS... 1. They had failed to respond to God's efforts to get them to repent a. Famine - Am 4:6 b. Drought - Am 4:7-8 c. Pestilence - Am 4:9 d. Plague and war - Am 4:10 e. Earthquake, or perhaps volcanic eruptions - Am 4:11 2. Therefore they must prepare to meet their God! a. Who is bringing such judgments upon them - Am 4:12 b. Whose name is "The LORD God of hosts" - Am 4:13 [In light of such a judgment to befall Israel, it is not surprising to see that the third "sermon" is in the form of a lamentation...] III. A DIRGE OVER ISRAEL (5:1-6:14) A. A LAMENTATION FOR THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL... 1. In view of her coming fall - Am 5:1-2 2. In which only a remnant will be left - Am 5:3 B. A CALL TO REPENTANCE, FOR THERE IS STILL HOPE... 1. Seek the Lord and live, lest He come with fiery judgment! - Am 5:4-7 2. Seek Him who is all powerful! - Am 5:8-9 3. For He knows your manifold sins! - Am 5:10-13 4. Seek that which is good, not evil; perhaps God will gracious! - Am 5:14-15 C. THE COMING DAY OF THE LORD... 1. The Lord is coming, and there shall be wailing in the streets and fields - Am 5:16-17 2. The day of the Lord is not to be desired by sinful men a. For it will be a day of darkness - Am 5:18-20 b. For God is repelled by their show of religion, when there should be righteousness and justice - Am 5:21-24 c. For they have never really served God, even in the wilderness - Am 5:25-26 3. Therefore they will be taken "beyond Damascus" (Assyria!) - Am 5:25-27 D. A WARNING EVEN TO THOSE IN ZION... 1. Woe to those who are at ease, trusting in Samaria (i.e., the northern kingdom of Israel) - Am 6:1-2 a. Perhaps to defend them? b. Consider what happened to kingdoms far greater! 2. Woe to those who say the day of the Lord is far off - Am 6:3-6 a. Who bask in their luxury b. While their brethren are afflicted 3. They shall be among the first to go into captivity - Am 6:7 E. THE EXTENT OF THE COMING DESTRUCTION... 1. Coming because God hates their pride - Am 6:8 2. A destruction where men will be scarce, and their houses destroyed - Am 6:9-11 3. Why? Because they perverted justice and righteousness, priding themselves in their own strength - Am 6:12-13 4. But God will raise up a nation (Assyria) against them, who will afflict them from the north ("the entrance of Hamath") to the south ("the Valley of the Arabah") - Am 6:14 [So ends the third of these three "sermons" of Amos. Before we conclude our study, let me share some...] IV. OBSERVATIONS FROM THE "SERMONS" OF AMOS A. THE RECURRING THEMES OF JUSTICE AND RIGHTEOUSNESS... 1. Several times we find references to justice and righteousness - Am 5:7,15,24; 6:12 2. Their opposites are also mentioned: oppression and evil - Am 3:10; 4:1; 5:10-12 3. Lacking justice and righteousness, all their religion, wealth, and power were in vain! -- Is there not a lesson for us to learn here? - cf. Mt 5:23-24 B. ISRAEL'S FAILURE TO HEED GOD'S CHASTISEMENTS... 1. That God used natural calamity to get their attention is evident - Am 4:6-11 2. Why did they not heed God's efforts? a. Perhaps they did not make the connection b. Perhaps they assumed is was just a coincidence 3. One would be amiss to always attribute natural calamities to God's working; yet... a. Should we not be open to the possibility that God may be saying something? b. Should we not at least use such occasions to reflect on our relationship with God? C. REGARDING THE DAY OF THE LORD... 1. The "day of the Lord" is a day of judgment, and a day of darkness - Am 5:18 a. In Amos it has reference to God's judgment upon Israel, which came when Assyria took them into captivity b. But such judgment prefigures the Final Judgment, the "day of the Lord" 1) In which Christ will come to judge the world - Ac 17: 30-31 2) It too will be a day of "darkness" - cf. 2Pe 3:7,10-12 2. While we might not desire that "day" per se, we do look forward to what is to follow - cf. 2Pe 3:13-14 D. GOD'S GRACIOUS OFFER OF REPENTANCE... 1. Even with the pronouncement of judgment, there is an offer to have life if one repents - Am 5:4-6,14-15 2. As we saw with Joel and Jonah, God was willing to relent for those who repented 3. Even today, while the gospel proclaims judgment to come, it also offers salvation! - cf. 2Co 6:1-2 CONCLUSION 1. Unfortunately, not many heeded the warnings of Amos - cf. 2Ki 17: 13-23 a. Within thirty years (722 B.C.), Israel was taken into captivity b. Under the cruel hand of the Assyrians, they experienced the righteous judgment of God 2. What about us, will we heed the warnings of Christ and His apostles? a. Their message is really not that different ("seek the Lord and live", "seek good and not evil") b. They too call upon us to repent and seek the Lord through faith and obedience, though it is obedience to the gospel of Christ and not the Law of Moses Remember that the book of Amos, along with the rest of the Old Testament, was: "...written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come." (1Co 10:11) Are we willing to learn from its admonition, such as those found in the prophecies of Amos?
Genesis: Myth or History?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
What do we mean by “myth”? German theologian Rudolf Bultmann popularized the notion that the New Testament must be stripped of its mythical elements, specifically, its supernatural features (e.g., Jesus Christ and Mythology, 1958). “Myth,” therefore, in theological circles refers to a traditional, non-literal story in a particular culture that manifests that culture’s world view. The story serves as a vehicle to convey a truth, without necessarily being historically true. The Bible’s depictions of heaven, hell, demons, evil spirits, and Satan are viewed as symbols for deeper meanings rather than being literally existent. Many theologians, and now many Americans, insist that the Bible is a pre-scientific document that is riddled with the errors that accompanied early man’s quest for knowledge.
Along with the onset of modern scientific discovery and understanding has come a widespread tendency to compromise the biblical text of Genesis 1-11. Otherwise conservative thinking Christians have not been immune to this deadly cancer that ultimately undermines the entire Bible and one’s ability to arrive at the truth. In the 1980s, it was discovered that evolution was being taught by two Abilene Christian University professors. One of the biology professors provided his class with a handout that included a photocopy of the first page of Genesis. In the margin he scrawled the words, “Hymn, myth” (Thompson, 1986, p. 16). The university mobilized in an attempt to discredit the charge and sweep it under the proverbial carpet, but the evidence was decisive, as acknowledged even by objective outsiders (see Morris, 1987, 16:4). The fact is that evolution has been taught on other Christian college campuses as well. The lack of outcry testifies to the fact that even Christians and their children have been adversely influenced by secular education.
It is amazing, even shocking, to see the extent to which the authority of the biblical text in general, and the book of Genesis in particular, has been undermined in the minds of the average American, especially in the last half century. In virtually every corner of our country, relaxed and compromised views of the Bible prevail—even among otherwise conservative Americans and those who profess to be Christian. Before leaving office, President Bush (“W”) was interviewed by Cynthia McFadden on ABC’s “Nightline.” When asked if he believed the Bible to be literally true, he responded: “You know. Probably not.… No, I’m not a literalist, but I think you can learn a lot from it, but I do think that the New Testament for example is…has got… You know, the important lesson is ‘God sent a son’” (“Bush Says…,” 2008). When asked about creation and evolution, Bush said:
I think you can have both. I think evolution can—you’re getting me way out of my lane here. I’m just a simple president. But it’s, I think that God created the earth, created the world; I think the creation of the world is so mysterious it requires something as large as an Almighty and I don’t think it’s incompatible with the scientific proof that there is evolution (“Bush Says…”).Myriad instances could be cited in which Americans manifest the degrading effects of skepticism, atheism, evolution, and liberal theology.
What a far cry from most of America’s history. It is hard to believe that—up until the 1960s—American education was thoroughly saturated with the biblical account of Creation (e.g., New England Primer, 1805, pp. 31-32; Webster’s The Elementary Spelling Book, 1857, p. 29). The book of Genesis was taken as a straight-forward account of the formation of the Universe and the beginning of human history. People took God at His word. Though liberal theology swept through Europe in the late 19th century, which included attacks on the verbal, inerrant inspiration of the Scriptures, and though the Creation account began to be openly challenged at the 1925 Scopes trial in Dayton, Tennessee, still, the majority of Americans continued to accept the biblical account right on up to World War II. Since then, however, sinister forces have been chipping away at belief in the inspiration and integrity of the Bible. They have succeeded in eroding confidence in its trustworthiness and authority.
But there are no excuses. The evidence is available, and it is overwhelming. No one can stand before God at the end of time and justify themselves for their rejection of Genesis as a straightforward record of literal history. Failure to take Genesis at face value can easily result in acceptance of views and/or practices that will jeopardize one’s standing with God.
New Testament Proof that Genesis is Literal HistoryIf we had no other means by which to determine whether Genesis is myth or history, the New Testament alone is ample proof. Depending on how one calculates the material, the New Testament has at least 60 allusions to Genesis 1–11, with over 100 allusions to the entire book (Cosner, 2010). Jesus and the writers of the New Testament consistently treated Genesis as literal history. As a matter of fact, every New Testament author refers to Genesis, and nearly every New Testament book does as well. Their handling of the Genesis text demonstrates that they considered the events to have actually occurred, rather than being mythical or legendary folklore that merely contained useful lessons.
JesusConsider a sampling of allusions made by Jesus:
- He indicated the foundation of the marriage institution, quoting Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 as historical precedent and proof that carte blanche divorce is unacceptable to God (Matthew 19:4-5; Mark 10:6-8). Did He mean to ground marriage on fairytales?
- Jesus mentioned Abel as a real person whose blood was shed on account of his righteous behavior, just like other historical personages in human history (Matthew 23:35). If Abel was not an actual person who lived on Earth, neither was Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom Jesus said the Jews “murdered between the temple and the altar”—an actual physical location.
- Jesus declared Satan to be a “murderer from the beginning” and the father of lies—referring to the Fall (John 8:44; Genesis 3:4,19; cf. Romans 5:12; 1 John 3:8).
- Jesus referenced Moses’ writings as genuine representations of history (John 5:46-47).
- Jesus spoke of the “days of Noah” and the Flood as an actual historical event that has many parallels to the future coming of the Son of Man in terms of what people will be doing with their time (Matthew 24:37-39).
- Jesus compared Capernaum to Sodom, saying, “for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you” (Matthew 11:23-24). Sodom would have had to have been an actual city for it to “have remained until this day” and for it to fare more tolerably in the Day of Judgment (cf. 10:15).
- The genealogical lists of Jesus’ physical lineage identify actual historical persons in the first century all the way back to persons originally named in Genesis, including Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and Tamar (Matthew 1:1-2), as well as Adam, Seth, Enoch, and Noah (Luke 3:36-37).
PaulPaul, likewise, treated persons, places, and incidents in Genesis as if historically real. Here is a sampling of some of his allusions:
- He quoted Genesis 1:3 to note how God caused light to shine out of darkness (2 Corinthians 4:6).
- Quoting Genesis 2:7, Paul said Adam was the first human being on Earth (1 Corinthians 15:45).
- He claimed that Adam was made from dust (1 Corinthians 15:47)—as Genesis records.
- He noted how the woman is “from” (ek—out of) man (1 Corinthians 11:8,12), referring to the fact that Eve was literally taken out of Adam’s body.
- Paul quoted Genesis 2:24 to verify how a man and woman “become one flesh” (1 Corinthians 6:16), comparing marriage to the church (Ephesians 5:31).
- Adam was as historically real as Christ and Moses, having introduced sin into the world, causing death to reign during the historical interval “from Adam to Moses” (Romans 5:14-15).
- Paul identified Adam and Eve by name, noting that Adam was created before the woman was created, and also noting the deception to which Eve succumbed (1 Timothy 2:13-14), which occurred via the “serpent” (2 Corinthians 11:3).
- Paul claimed that God’s deity and attributes have been evident “since the creation of the world” (Romans 1:20).
- Paul said that Jesus fulfilled the promises that had been made to “the fathers,” i.e., Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Romans 15:8).
- Paul quoted the promise God made to Abraham concerning Sarah giving birth to Isaac (Romans 9:9), and also mentions Jacob, Esau, and Rebecca by name (vss. 9-10).
PeterPeter, too, endorsed the historicity of Genesis:
- He alluded to the watery mass at Creation from Genesis 1:12,6-7,9 (2 Peter 3:5).
- He regarded the Flood as an actual historical event, mentioning Noah by name and specifying the number of survivors as eight, and the Flood’s extent being global (1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5; 3:6).
- Peter believed in the historical personage of Lot and that God actually turned “the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes” to make them “an example to those who afterward would live ungodly.” The incident also serves the purpose of demonstrating how God “knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations” (2 Peter 2:6-9). If the incident was not historical, it would serve no legitimate parallel purpose.
- Peter also noted the actual, historical relationship sustained by Sarah and Abraham (1 Peter 3:6).
HebrewsThe writer of the Hebrews letter bases his entire argument on the historicity of Genesis and the Old Testament system:
- His quotation of Psalm 102 includes the fact that even as God created the heavens and the Earth, so they will perish (1:10). Both circumstances require literal historicity.
- Alluding to the fact that God “finished” His creative activities—a direct allusion to Genesis 2:1—he then quotes Genesis 2:2 to call attention to the literal cessation of God’s actions on the seventh day of the week (4:3-4; cf. vs. 10—“as God did from His”).
- The comparison of Christ to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18) in contrast with Aaron demands that both of these figures were actual historical personages (5:1-10; 6:20; 7:1-21).
- God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 22:17 was a literal promise to a literal person (6:13-14).
- God’s creation of the Universe was by His “word” (11:3)—even as the Genesis record indicates that God spoke the created order into existence (“God said…”).
- Hebrews chapter 11 is a veritable “Who’s Who” of historical personalities from Genesis whose historicity is assumed: Cain and Abel (vs. 4), Enoch (vs. 5), Noah (vs. 7), Abraham (vss. 8-10), Sarah (vs. 11-12, who literally produced a multitude of descendents), Isaac (vss. 17-20), Jacob (vss. 20-21), and Joseph (vs. 22).
- Esau sold his birthright for food (12:16).
- Abel’s shed blood is as historically real as Christ’s (12:24).
Other N.T. WritersThe other writers show the same respect for bona fide history portrayed in Genesis. James refers to Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac (2:21). Jude mentions Cain, Enoch, and Sodom and Gomorrah (vss. 7,11,14). John notes that Cain murdered his brother because of his own sinful actions (1 John 3:12). Even the book of Revelation, though highly figurative, nevertheless contains numerous allusions to Genesis that indicate an historical understanding of the book (e.g., 5:5; 10:6; 20:2; 22:2). To suggest that the book of Genesis is actually a compilation of interesting fables, myths, folklore, popular anecdotes, and stories, rather than actual history, is to suggest that the doctrines of Christianity are rooted in and dependent on fairytales and imaginary stories. Indeed, if the events of Genesis did not historically occur, the New Testament writers—and Jesus Himself—were either in error or flat out liars, since they unquestionably referred to the events of Genesis as being historically true.
Linguistic Proof that Genesis is Literal HistoryIn addition to the New Testament’s inspired treatment of Genesis as an actual account of history, one could also simply examine the literary genre of Genesis. Many in our day insist that Genesis should not be read as literal history because it is written in poetic form and is not a literal description of actual events. But such a claim is, itself, linguistic gobbledygook. Written language, whether from man or God, can be deciphered in terms of its genre. One can identify the author’s use of linguistic elements and extract intended meaning from the words that are used. In other words, though the 50 chapters of Genesis contain figurative language—as does the entire Bible—nevertheless, one can easily distinguish between the literal and the figurative.
Entire volumes have been written on human communication, how human language functions, and how to derive meaning from written language. Many books have been produced that expound the discipline of hermeneutics—the process of interpreting language. These volumes provide self-evident, easily discernible rules and procedures for detecting figurative language. D.R. Dungan’s classic work, Hermeneutics, written in 1888, contains chapters on “Figurative Language,” “The Various Figures of the Bible,” and “Figures of Thought” (pp. 195-369). Clinton Lockhart’s 1901 volume Principles of Interpretation contains chapters on “Figurative Language,” “Poetry,” and “Types” (pp. 156-197,222-228). Christendom has produced many books that demonstrate the means by which biblical language may be understood, including Bernard Ramm’s Hermeneutics and Milton Terry’s 1883 volume Biblical Hermeneutics. Ascertaining whether Genesis and, specifically, the Creation account are “poetic,” “hymn,” or “myth” is not a matter of confusion or uncertainty—except for those who have an agenda and wish to concoct an elaborate smokescreen to avoid the obvious import of God’s Word.
Does Genesis 1 contain any figurative language? Certainly. But not anything that makes the chapter non-literal in its basic import. For example, the term “face” in Genesis 1:2, which is actually plural in the Hebrew (pah-neem—“faces”), is an idiomatic instance of pleonasm, a form of amplificatio, in which more words are used than the grammar requires: “And darkness was upon the faces of the deep.” The noun “deep” (which, itself, is a figurative term for the sea or ocean) is enhanced or emphasized by means of a second, redundant noun “faces.” Instead of simply saying, “darkness was upon the deep,” adding “faces” makes the statement “much more forcible and emphatic” (Bullinger, 1898, p. 406). The use of “saw” in Genesis 1:4,10,12,18,21,25 is the figure of speech known asanthropopatheia in which human attributes are ascribed to God, specifically in this text, human actions (Bullinger, p. 888). The expression in 1:9,10, “Let the dry appear,” is the figure of speech known as antimereia, the exchange of one part of speech for another, in this case, an adjective for a noun. “Dry” in the verses refers to the “land” (see Bullinger, p. 495). Genesis 1:11 uses polyptoton in which the same part of speech is repeated in a different inflection, specifically, the verb “seeding” is repeated by means of its cognate noun “seed”: “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed,” literally, “seeding seed” (see Bullinger, p. 275). In other words, vegetation was created by God in a state of bearing seed, and not vice versa—which militates against the notion of evolution and underscores the instantaneous nature of the Creation. Indeed, this figurative language testifies to the literal nature of the Creation week!
So, yes, Genesis 1 (and perhaps every other chapter in the Bible) contains figurative language, as does our everyday language. But that language is detectable, discernible, and decipherable—and does not necessarily imply that the overall message being conveyed is not to be taken literally. None of the language of Genesis 1 even hints that the events described were imaginary as opposed to being actual historical occurrences. In fact, simply take your Bible and turn to Genesis chapter 1 and notice how many terms are used that have an obvious, undisputable literal import, including “earth,” “darkness,” “Spirit of God,” “waters,” “light,” “day,” “night,” “evening,” “morning,” “first,” “seas,” “grass,” “herb,” “seed,” “fruit,” “tree,” “seasons,” “years,” “stars,” “fowl,” “fish,” “cattle,” etc. Distinguishing between figurative and literal language is not that difficult! [As a side note, Steven Boyd conducted a statistical analysis using logistic regression, in order to ascertain whether Genesis 1:1-2:3 is Hebrew poetry or historical narrative. He concluded: “The biblical creation account clearly is not poetry but instead is a literal description in real time of supernatural events” (2005, p. 168).]
Corroboration by Other Bible PassagesIf the events described in the book of Genesis were not intended to be understood as literal history, one would expect the rest of the Bible to give some indication of that fact. Yet, on the contrary, several passages scattered from the Old Testament to the New Testament allude to the events in such a way that their historicity is assumed. Take, for example, specific verses regarding the creation of the Universe by God. The distinct impression is given in Genesis chapter 1 that God orally spoke everything into existence, rather than using some naturalistic, time-laden process. In what is obviously an actual historical setting, reported to us in a literal context of Scripture, Moses informs the Israelites situated at the base of Mt. Sinai—
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work…. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it (Exodus 20:8-11, emp. added).No Israelite listening to this declaration would have ever conceived the notion that God created everything in the Universe over a period of millions and billions of years. The correlation between the days of Genesis 1 and the six-day work week enjoined upon people under the Law of Moses would have been unmistakable and could have been understood in no other way but literally.
Another example is seen in Psalm 33—which is certainly written in standard Hebrew metrical verse—but poetry that conveys literal truth. Speaking of God’s creative powers, David declared:
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast (Psalm 33:6-9, emp. added).The figurative elements of this poetic passage are seen in the notions of “breath” and “mouth”—physical attributes that would not literally, physically characterize God Who is “spirit” (John 4:24; cf. Luke 24:39). But the oral aspect of God speaking the physical realm into existence is literal, even as God literally and audibly spoke to people throughout history (e.g., Genesis 12:1ff.; 22:12; Exodus 3:4ff.; Matthew 3:17; 17:5).
Still another example is seen in the psalmist’s call for praise by inanimate creation:
Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts! Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all you stars of light! Praise Him, you heavens of heavens, and you waters above the heavens! (Psalm 148:1-4).Here is an excellent instance of figurative language. Obviously, the Sun, Moon, stars, and waters cannot literally, audibly praise God. Yet, having been created by God, they reflect their Maker. They manifest attributes that demonstrate their divine origin (cf. Psalm 19:1ff.). Hence, the next verse declares: “Let them praise the name of the LORD, for He commanded and they were created” (vs. 5). Here is yet another forthright indication that the impression projected by the Genesis account, that God literally spoke the Universe into existence, is an accurate impression, in spite of the fact that this truth is couched in figurative language.
We must ever remember that the Bible is unlike any other book on the planet. It reflects its own divine origin by the attributes that it possesses. It does not divulge its divine message in a sterile vacuum in which a writer expounds lofty ideals, or by means of a listing of ethical “do’s and don’ts.” Rather, by means of the Bible, God conveys His message to mankind in history (cf. Wharton, 1977). We are introduced to the beginning of the Universe, the beginning of the human race, and thereafter we are treated to a sequential, historical narrative that guides us through 4,000 years of human history, climaxing with God’s own personal visit to the Earth. This is all history! And it is clearly intended to be understood literally.
CONCLUSIONThe book of Genesis explains the Creation of the Universe, the corruption of humanity by sin, the catastrophe of the global Flood, and the confusion at Babel. Amazingly, it provides the foundation for anthropology, biology, astronomy, geology, and a host of other disciplines. Critical doctrines that impact all of humanity are rooted in the events described in Genesis, including the necessity of clothing—human modesty—and why we organize our lives in terms of a seven day week. More crucial doctrines that pertain to eternity are also approached early on, including why humans sin, why humans die, and why Jesus would have to die on the cross. The very meaning of human existence is clarified by examining the book of Genesis.
Listen carefully to Charles Darwin’s autobiographical statement regarding the shift that occurred in his thinking that led to his belief in evolution: “I had gradually come, by this time, to see that the Old Testament from its manifestly false history of the world and from its attributing to God the feelings of a revengeful tyrant, was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos, or the beliefs of any barbarian” (pp. 85-86). The integrity of the entire Bible is seriously undermined when anyone compromises the literal, historical nature of the book of Genesis, with its critical teaching on origins. Obstinately clinging to evolution, theistic or otherwise, and stubbornly insisting on a relaxed, devalued interpretation of Genesis, can only end in a diluted religion.
May we love God. May we love His Word. May we defend it against all efforts to destroy its integrity and message. May we pore over its contents—as if our lives, the lives of our family, and the lives of those we influence depend upon it. For, indeed, they do.
REFERENCESBarlow, Nora, ed. (1959), The Autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809-1882 with Original Omissions Restored (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World).
Boyd, Stephen (2005), “A Proper Reading of Genesis 1:1-2:3,” in Don DeYoung, Thousands…Not Billions (Green Forest, AR: Master Books).
Bullinger, E.W. (1898), Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1968 reprint).
Bultmann, Rudolf (1958), Jesus Christ and Mythology (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons).
“Bush Says Creation ‘Not Incompatible’ With Evolution” (2008), Fox News, December 9, http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2008/12/09/bush-says-creation-incompatible-evolution#ixzz1OWvPq9Ma.
Cosner, Lita (2010), “The Use of Genesis in the New Testament,” Creation Ministries International, http://creation.com/genesis-new-testament.
Dungan, D.R. (1888), Hermeneutics (Delight, AR: Gospel Light).
Jackson, Wayne (1986), “The Teaching of Evolution at Abilene Christian University,” Christian Courier, 21:33-35, January.
Lockhart, Clinton (1915), Principles of Interpretation (Delight, AR: Gospel Light), revised edition.
Morris, Henry, ed. (1987), “Abilene Christian University Sponsors Seminar on Creation and Age of the Earth,” Acts & Facts, 16:4, May.
New England Primer(1805), http://public.gettysburg.edu/~tshannon/his341/nep1805contents.html.
Ramm, Bernard, et al. (1987), Hermeneutics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Terry, Milton (no date), Biblical Hermeneutics (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan), reprint.
Thompson, Bert (1986), Is Genesis Myth? (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Webster, Noah (1857), The Elementary Spelling Book (New York, NY: American Book Company).
Wharton, Ed (1977), Christianity: A Clear Case of History! (West Monroe, LA: Howard Book House).
Does God’s Existence Rest Upon Human Consensus?
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Three minutes and 45 seconds into Dan Barker’s opening statement in our Darwin Day debate on February 12, 2009, he presented an argument that he has often used in other debates and writings. In his list of “probability” arguments, he included as his fifth argument against God’s existence the following comments: “There is no agreement among believers as to the nature or the moral principles of this God that they are arguing for. They all differ with each other” (Butt and Barker, 2009). According to Dan, since those professing Christianity come down on either side of moral issues such as abortion, divorce, and the death penalty, then the God Who wrote the Bible “in all probability” does not exist, and the Bible must not be a sufficient guide for human morality.
Is Dan correct in his assessment that disagreement among professed believers nullifies the existence of God? Certainly not! Barker is incorrect for a number of reasons, the majority of which are quite clear after the briefest consideration of the argument. First, we could simply say that Dan’s argument, used against his own brand of atheism, refutes itself, since he admits that atheists do not agree on moral issues. In his book godless, Barker stated: “Most atheists think that values, though not objective things in themselves, can be objectively justified by reference to the real world.... Although most atheists accept the importance of morality, this is not conceding that morality exists in the universe” (2008, p. 213-214, emp. added). Notice that Barker qualifies his statement with the word “most,” implying that some atheists do not see morality as he does. In his discussion of human free will, Barker wrote: “By the way, this contributes to my compatibilist position on human free will. (Not that all atheists agree with me.) I am an determinist, which means that I don’t think complete libertarian free will exists.... I admit that my definition of free will is subject to debate” (2008, p. 128, emp. added). If Barker’s statement about disagreement of professed believers is true, we could, with equal force, use it on atheism and say that since there is no agreement among atheists on moral issues, then atheism “in all probability” is false.
Of course, Barker does not want to extend his “truth” criterion to atheism. And his statement is inherently flawed in the first place. If two or more people disagreed on whether the holocaust happened, but they all professed to be honest historians, would their disagreement prove that there never was a holocaust? If two people, who both claim to be honest geographers, disagree on the fact that the continent of North America exists, would that negate its reality? Or if two or more people adamantly disagreed on the idea that Dan Barker exists, would his existence be jeopardized based on their disagreement? No, on every count. Agreement among people cannot be used as evidence of the truth or falsity of any proposition.
Barker’s atheistic colleague, Sam Harris, has eloquently written on this truth. He disagrees with many atheists about ethical questions. In spite of his atheism, he contends that objective right and wrong do exist (an impossible proposition for a true atheist to maintain, by the way). He wrote:
The fact that people of different times and cultures disagree about ethical questions should not trouble us. It suggests nothing at all about the status of moral truth. Imagine what it would be like to consult the finest thinkers of antiquity on questions of basic science: “What,” we might ask, “is fire? And how do living systems reproduce themselves? And what are the various lights we see in the night sky?” We would surely encounter a bewildering lack of consensus on these matters. Even though there was no shortage of brilliant minds in the ancient world, they simply lacked the physical and conceptual tools to answer questions of this sort. Their lack of consensus signified their ignorance of certain physical truths, not that no such truths exist (2004, p. 171, emp. added).The irony of this quote from Harris is that it manifests the atheistic community’s lack of consensus on ethical issues, which should disprove atheism according to Barker’s line of reasoning. Furthermore, it hammers home the self-evident truth that consensus among professed followers of any concept or entity has no bearing on its existence or its claim to truth. Harris further remarked: “It is quite conceivable that everyone might agree and yet be wrong about the way the world is. It is also conceivable that a single person might be right in the face of unanimous opposition” (2004, pp. 181-182, emp. added).
While it is true that the lack of consensus on moral issues by those who profess Christianity does nothing to discount the existence of God, it is appropriate to ask why such disparity exists. Again, it is ironic that Dan Barker has answered his own question in this regard. In his speech, “How to be Moral Without Religion,” given at the University of Minnesota on October 19, 2006, Barker stated: “A tendency that we all have, we look through our documents to try to find what supports our already prejudice views about what we think morality should be like.” In one succinct sentence, Barker explained why there is a lack of consensus among professed believers on moral issues. It is not because God does not exist. It is not because the Bible is hopelessly confusing and cannot be understood. It is not because there is no objective moral truth. It is simply because humans bring their already prejudiced views to the text of the Bible and try to force it to say what they “think” it should say.
Barker, Dan (2008), godless (Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press).
Butt, Kyle and Dan Barker (2009), Butt/Barker Debate: Does the God of the Bible Exist? (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Harris, Sam (2004), The End of Faith (New York: W.W. Norton).
Did David Authorize Infant Baptism?
|by||Caleb Colley, Ph.D.|
Why do many parents want to have their newborn babies baptized? Different parents have different reasons, but the most prominent reason is that parents want their children to be forgiven of sin (“Early Teachings on Infant Baptism”). But infants have no sin! Jesus said: “Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). This statement suggests that people are baptized and become Christians in order to be like little children. If little children are lost sinners, why would the Lord tell us all to be like children (see Matthew 19:14)?
Of course, little children (including infants) are not lost. They are not old enough to understand the difference between right and wrong, so they cannot intelligently choose to do wrong, and thus they cannot sin. Baptism saves us from sin (1 Peter 3:21), and babies cannot be saved from sin, since they have not yet sinned. Young children are not in need of being saved, but instead are in a safe condition. Kyle Butt offered an insightful example:
Does the Bible teach that babies go to hell when they die? In order to answer this question, we must find a biblical example in which an infant died, and in which his or her eternal destination is recorded. To do such is not difficult. In 2 Samuel 12, King David’s newborn son fell terminally ill. After seven days, the child died. In verses 22 and 23, the Bible records that David said: “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” It is clear that David’s dead infant son would never return to this Earth, but David also said that one day, he would go to be with his son. Through inspiration, David documented that his own eternal destination was going to be “in the house of the Lord” (Psalm 23:6; cf. Psalm 17:15; 103:1-5; Isaiah 37:35; Acts 13:34; Hebrews 11:32). Therefore, we can conclude that “the house of the Lord” would be the eternal destination of his infant son to whom David would one day go. King David was looking forward to the day when he would be able to meet his son in heaven. Absolutely nothing in this context gives any hint that the dead infant son’s soul would go to hell (2003).Some suggest, however, that David acknowledged inheritance of original sin, because he stated: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). An example of this erroneous approach is that of Matthew Henry, who commented on what David wrote in Psalm 51:5:
He confesses his original corruption.... David elsewhere speaks of the admirable structure of his body (Psalm 139:14,15), it was curiously wrought; and yet here he says it was shapen in iniquity, sin was twisted in with it; not as it came out of God’s hands, but as it comes through our parents’ loins. He elsewhere speaks of the piety of his mother, that she was God’s handmaid, and he pleads his relation to her (86:16;116:16), and yet here he says she conceived him in sin; for though she was, by grace, a child of God, she was, by nature, a daughter of Eve, and not excepted from the common character. Note, it is to be sadly lamented by every one of us that we brought into the world with us a corrupt nature, wretchedly degenerated from its primitive purity and rectitude; we have from our birth the snares of sin in our bodies, the seed of sin in our souls, and a stain of sin upon both. This is what we call original sin, because it is ancient as our original, and because it is the original of all our actual transgressions (n.d., 3:431, emp. in orig.).A “companion” passage to Psalm 51:5 is Psalm 58:3, where David wrote a similar statement: “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.” At first glance, it might seem that David affirmed that children are born, as it is frequently phrased, “black with sin.” Is that what David meant? If the Holy Spirit inspired David to write that infants are inherently sinful at birth, then at least some infants need the remission of sins. The truth is, there are several possible interpretations of these two verses, but none of them authorizes infant baptism.
First, notice that the context of Psalm 51:5 and Psalm 58:3 includes poetic, hyperbolic language. In verses three and four of chapter 51, David declared: “And my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned...” (emp. added). One possible meaning of Psalm 51:5 and Psalm 58:3 is this: much of David’s life was characterized by sin, and, because David was so conscious of his sin, he expressed his sorrow by using hyperbolic, figurative language (see Jackson, 1998, p. 46; see also Coffman and Coffman, 1992, p. 434). This is a strong probability, because David wrote that children speak lies “as soon as they are born” (Psalm 58:3). Since infants cannot speak lies, we can assume that David did not intend to convey a literal meaning in Psalm 58:3. Plus, that verse indicates that all wicked people speak lies, which is not necessarily true. People can sin in ways other than practicing dishonesty. Job, obviously employing hyperbole, said that he had cared for orphans and widows since he was born (Job 31:18; see Jackson, 2000). Since Psalm 58:3 lends itself heavily to the hyperbolic interpretation, then interpreting Psalm 51:5, which contains seemingly hyperbolic language, as being figurative, also is reasonable. If the language of Psalm 51:5 is taken literally, and one reads into the literal language the Calvinistic doctrine of original sin, the verse contradicts other plain passages of Scripture (Ezekiel 18:20; Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10). But the Bible does not contradict itself.
Second, when some still insist that Psalm 51:5 demonstrates that David was born “black with sin,” we should remind them that David’s mother, being an adult, was a sinner. If the language of this verse is to be understood literally, then the sin of which David wrote must be the sin of his mother. However, David did not mean that he inherited the sin of his mother (see Butt, 2004). Many people suffer from the consequences of their parents’ sin, but infants are not responsible for their parents’ sin. This is because the soul does not come from human parents, but from God (Ecclesiastes 12:7; Hebrews 12:9; see Jackson, 2000). People do not become sinful until they choose to sin, and that happens sometime after birth (see Genesis 8:21; Ecclesiastes 12:1; Jeremiah 3:25).
A third plausible interpretation of Psalm 51:5 is that David simply noted that he was conceived and born in a world in which sin is prevalent. In that sense, any of us could truthfully say, “I was born in sin,” without contradicting Scripture, or even admitting personal sin, especially in view of the fact that our parents are sinners (see Jackson, 2000).
Fourth, because David wrote Psalm 51 as a prayer of repentance, some have suggested that the Psalmist was using poetic license to put words into the mouth of the child who was conceived as a result of David’s illicit affair with Bathsheba. In that context, the text could literally read: “In sin my mother conceived me.” While the possibility that this interpretation is correct cannot be ruled out, it seems on the surface to be a “stretch”—David’s meaning is not as obvious when we use this interpretation as it is when we use others.
A fifth possibility, though remote, is that David referenced the fact that he was the tenth generation in the lineage of Judah, who had an incestuous relationship with his daughter-in-law, Tamar (see Genesis 38). Since Deuteronomy 23:2 reads: “One of the illegitimate birth shall not enter the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the Lord” (emp. added), it is possible that David simply made reference to the sin of Judah and Tamar, which haunted his family.
David never claimed that infants are sinful at birth. However, even if it could be scripturally proven (and it cannot) that children are born in sin, infants still would not be proper candidates for baptism, because belief and repentance are prerequisites for baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 3:19).
REFERENCESButt, Kyle (2003), “Do Babies Go to Hell When They Die?,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2255.
Butt, Kyle (2004), “Do Children Inherit the Sins of Their Parents?,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2543.
Coffman, James Burton and Thelma B. Coffman (1992), Commentary on Psalms (Abilene, TX: ACU Press).
“Early Teachings on Infant Baptism” (2004), Catholic Answers, [On-line], URL: http://www.catholic.com/library/Early_Teachings_of_Infant_Baptism.asp.
Henry, Matthew (no date), Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible (McLean, VA: MacDonald).
Jackson, Wayne (1998), “ ‘Yes, We Baptize Our Babies....’—A Response,” Christian Courier, 33:45-46, April.
Jackson, Wayne (2000), “ ‘Original Sin’ and a Misapplied Passage” [On-line], URL: http://www.christiancourier.com/archives/originalSin.htm.
Was Jesus Married?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
The parade of alleged gospels that purport to alter the foundational doctrines of the Christian religion is endless. Most recently, a papyrus fragment written in Coptic that dates to the fourth century has created a stir. Among its eight badly faded lines are two phrases, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife...’” and a second provocative clause that is believed to say, “she will be able to be my disciple” (Goodstein, 2012). No matter how tentative and flimsy the evidence, liberal scholars and atheists glory in any item that might discredit Christ and Christianity. Yet, even the lead expert on the fragment, historian at the Harvard Divinity School, Karen King, repeatedly cautioned that it “should not be taken as proof that Jesus, the historical person, was actually married. The text was probably written centuries after Jesus lived, and all other early, historically reliable Christian literature is silent on the question” (Goodstein, emp. added).
Many Christians and non-Christians fail to grasp the fact that the legitimacy and credibility of Christianity does not finally depend on archaeological discovery. If the Bible can be proven to possess the attributes of inspiration, demonstrating its divine origin, then no artifact will ever be discovered that will contradict that truth. If any manuscript or artifact appears to do so, it is being misinterpreted and misconstrued. Since we know that the Bible is the inspired Word of God (based on a careful and thorough analysis of its internal attributes—see the category “Inspiration of the Bible” at apologeticspress.org), then we know that Jesus never married just as the New Testament represents. [NOTE: That is not to say that the Catholic notion of celibacy finds biblical support—it does not. See Pinedo, 2008, pp. 60ff.]
Furthermore, the truth of the matter is that the textual basis of the New Testament was settled and fully authenticated many years ago. The longstanding discipline of Textual Criticism has yielded abundant evidence for the trustworthiness of the text of the New Testament. Over the last two centuries, the manuscript evidence has been thoroughly examined, resulting in complete exoneration for the integrity, genuineness, and accuracy of the Bible. Prejudiced university professors refrain from divulging to their students that the vast majority of textual variants involve minor matters that do not affect salvation nor alter any basic teaching of the New Testament. Even those variants that might be deemed doctrinally significant pertain to matters that are treated elsewhere in the Bible where the question of genuineness is unobscured. No feature of Christian doctrine is at stake. When all of the textual evidence is considered, the vast majority of discordant readings have been resolved (e.g., Metzger, 1978, p. 185). One is brought to the firm conviction that we have in our possession the Bible as God intended.
The world’s foremost textual critics have confirmed this conclusion. Sir Frederic Kenyon, longtime director and principal librarian at the British Museum, whose scholarship and expertise to make pronouncements on textual criticism was second to none, stated: “Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established” (Kenyon, 1940, p. 288). The late F.F. Bruce, longtime Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism at the University of Manchester, England, remarked: “The variant readings about which any doubt remains among textual critics of the New Testament affect no material question of historic fact or of Christian faith and practice” (1960, pp. 19-20). J.W. McGarvey, declared by the London Times to be “the ripest Bible scholar on earth” (Brigance, 1870, p. 4), conjoined: “All the authority and value possessed by these books when they were first written belong to them still” (1956, p. 17). And the eminent textual critics Westcott and Hort put the entire matter into perspective when they said:
Since textual criticism has various readings for its subject, and the discrimination of genuine readings from corruptions for its aim, discussions on textual criticism almost inevitably obscure the simple fact that variations are but secondary incidents of a fundamentally single and identical text. In the New Testament in particular it is difficult to escape an exaggerated impression as to the proportion which the words subject to variation bear to the whole text, and also, in most cases, as to their intrinsic importance. It is not superfluous therefore to state explicitly that the great bulk of the words of the New Testament stand out above all discriminative processes of criticism, because they are free from variation, and need only to be transcribed (1964, p. 564, emp. added).
Noting that the experience of two centuries of investigation and discussion had been achieved, these scholars concluded: “[T]he words in our opinion still subject to doubt can hardly amount to more than a thousandth part of the whole of the New Testament” (p. 565, emp. added).
Think of it. Men who literally spent their lives poring over ancient Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, devoting their lives to meticulous, tedious analysis of the evidence, conversant with the original languages, without peer in their expertise and qualifications, have concluded that the Bible has been transmitted accurately. No scrap of papyrus written 200+ years after the fact can overturn the last two centuries of scholarly investigation and validation—let alone the Bible’s own inspired testimony to the contrary.
REFERENCESBrigance, L.L. (1870), “J.W. McGarvey,” in A Treatise on the Eldership by J.W. McGarvey (Murfreesboro, TN: DeHoff Publications, 1962 reprint).
Bruce, F.F. (1960), The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), revised edition.
Goodstein, Laurie (2012), “A Faded Piece of Papyrus Refers to Jesus’ Wife,” The New York Times, September 18, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/19/us/historian-says-piece-of-papyrus-refers-to-jesus-wife.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120919&moc.semityn.www.
Kenyon, Sir Frederic (1940), The Bible and Archaeology (New York, NY: Harper).
McGarvey, J.W. (1956 reprint), Evidences of Christianity (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate).
Metzger, Bruce M. (1978 reprint), The Text of the New Testament (New York, NY: Oxford University Press), second edition.
Pinedo, Moises (2008), What the Bible says about the Catholic Church (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press), http://apologeticspress.org/pdfs/e-books_pdf/wtbsatcc.pdf.
Westcott, B.A. and F.J.A. Hort (1964 reprint), The New Testament in the Original Greek (New York, NY: MacMillan).
Are We “100% Sure” Goldilocks Planet has Life?
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Associated Press science writer Seth Borenstein recently reported on a new planet that seems to be in what scientists call the “Goldilocks zone.” What is the “Goldilocks zone?” Very few places in our Universe maintain conditions that are suitable for life. One of those conditions is that liquid water must be present. The “Goldilocks zone” is a specific distance from any star that is “not too hot, not too cold. Juuuust right,”—a situation that allows water to remain in its liquid form (Borenstein, 2010). According to atheistic, evolutionary ideas about the origin of the Universe, in theory, there should be hundreds, thousands, or even millions of planets in our Universe that maintain conducive conditions for life to “begin.” In fact, we are incessantly informed by the media and the scientific community that it is just a matter of time before we discover other planets where life has evolved from non-living chemicals. One would think, according to the propaganda about life arising in other places, that a little liquid water and a few amino acids thrown together will inevitably produce life.
Thus, we have a report of the first Earth-like planet that could possibly “support life.” The planet, labeled Gliese 581g, is the sixth planet from a dwarf star named Gliese 581. Borenstein described the planet in the following way:
It is about three times the mass of Earth, slightly larger in width and much closer to its star—14 million miles away versus 93 million. It’s so close to its version of the sun that it orbits every 37 days. And it doesn’t rotate much, so one side is almost always bright, the other dark. Temperatures can be as hot as 160 degrees or as frigid as 25 degrees below zero, but in between—in the land of constant sunrise—it would be “shirt-sleeve weather,” said co-discoverer Steven Vogt (Borenstein, 2010).Gliese 581g is of interest, then, because there is a chance that it could have liquid water on its surface. Of course, as Borenstein noted: “It’s unknown whether water actually exists on the planet.” What, then, is so important about liquid water, as opposed to any other constraints that are necessary for life to survive? Vogt said that “chances for life on this planet are 100 percent” since “there always seems to be life on Earth where there is water.” Wow! Look at that reasoning. This new planet might have some water, so we are 100% sure there is life on the planet. We are not even 100% sure it has water. How in the world could we be sure it has life?
The false idea that finding liquid water is the equivalent of finding biological life is easy to debunk. Take some water, kill all the microscopic organisms in it so that no life exists. Add any amino acids or “building blocks” of life that you want, then shock the mixture, blow it up, heat it, cool it, or whatever else you want to do, and see if you get life. News flash—you don’t get life! Louis Pasteur proved that almost 150 years ago (Butt, 2002). Yet Vogt boldly stated: “It’s pretty hard to stop life once you give it the right conditions” (as quoted in Borenstein). And what, pray tell, are the right conditions? Vogt can’t tell you, and neither can any other human alive. Water is certainly not “the right conditions” for life, because we can supply water to any mixture of non-living chemicals all day long for the next 20 billion years and not get life.
What, in reality, are the “right conditions” for life to begin? There is really only one: an intelligent Creator must superintend the process. “In the beginning was water,” will not produce life. But “in the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth,” will supply the necessary condition for life on Earth or any other planet—God. Beware of the false assumptions that fill the media and “scientific” discussions of other planets and life in outer space.
Borentstein, Seth (2010), “Could ‘Goldilocks’ Planet Be Just Right for Life?”, http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100929/ap_on_sc/us_sci_new_earths.
Butt, Kyle (2002), “Biogenesis—The Long Arm of the Law,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/1769.
Christianity is in the Constitution
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Those who insist that America was not intended to be a “Christian nation” point to the obvious absence of specific directives regarding Christianity in the federal Constitution. The popular propaganda since the 1960s has been that “the irreligious Framers did not want the nation to retain any attachment to the Christian religion.” Such an assertion is a monstrous perversion of historical fact. The truth of the matter is that they were fearful of the potential interference by the federal government in its ability to place restrictions on the free exercise of the Christian religion. Consequently, they desired that the specifics of religion be left up to the discretion of the several states.
Nevertheless, we must not think for a moment that the federal Framers did not sanction the nation’s intimate affiliation with Christianity, or that they attempted to keep religion out of the Constitution. On the contrary, the Christian religion is inherently assumed and implicitly present in the Constitution. In fact, the United States Constitution contains a direct reference to Jesus Christ! Consider three proofs for these contentions (See Constitution of the United..., 1789).
First, consider the meaning of the First Amendment to the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof....” We have been told that, by “establishment of religion,” the Framers meant for the government to maintain complete religious neutrality and that pluralism ought to prevail, i.e., that all religions (whether Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, or Hinduism), though equally tolerated, must not be given any acknowledgement in the public sector. But such an outlandish claim is absolutely false. All one has to do is to go directly to the delegate discussions pertaining to the wording of the First Amendment in order to ascertain the context and original intent of the final wording (Annals of Congress, 1789, pp. 440ff.). The facts of the matter are that by their use of the term “religion,” the Framers had in mind the several Protestant denominations. Their concern was to prevent any single Christian denomination from being elevated above the others and made the State religion—a circumstance that the Founders had endured under British rule when the Anglican Church was the state religion of the thirteen colonies. They further sought to leave the individual States free to make their own determinations with regard to religious (i.e., Christian) matters (cf. Story, 1833, 3.1873:730-731). The “Father of the Bill of Rights,” George Mason, actually proposed the following wording for the First Amendment, which demonstrates the context of their wording:
[A]ll men have an equal, natural and unalienable right to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that no particular sect or society of Christians ought to be favored or established by law in preference to others (as quoted in Rowland, 1892, 1:244, emp. added).By “prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” the Framers intended to convey that the federal government was not to interfere with the free and public practice of the Christian religion—the very thing that the courts have been doing since the 1960s.
Second, consider the wording of a sentence from Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution: “If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it....” “Sundays excepted”? The government shuts down and does not transact business on Sunday? Why? If this provision had been made in respect of Jews, the Constitution would have read “Saturdays excepted.” If provision had been made for Muslims, the Constitution would have read “Fridays excepted.” If the Founders had intended to encourage a day of inactivity for the government without regard to any one religion, they could have chosen Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Instead, the federal Constitution reads “Sundays excepted”—proving conclusively that America was Christian in its orientation and that the Framers themselves shared the Christian worldview and gave political recognition to and accommodation of that fact.
Third, if these two allusions to Christianity are not enough, consider yet another. Immediately after Article VII, the Constitution closes with the following words:
Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth....Did you catch it? Their work was done “in the Year of our Lord.” The Christian world dates all of human history in terms of the birth of Christ. “B.C.” means “before Christ,” and “A.D.” is the abbreviation for the Latin words “anno Domini,” meaning “year of our Lord.” If the Framers were interested in being pluralistic, multi-cultural, and politically correct, they would have refrained from using the B.C./A.D. designation. Or they would have used the religionless designations “C.E.,” Common Era, and “B.C.E.,” Before the Common Era (see “Common Era,” 2008). In so doing, they would have avoided offending Jews, atheists, agnostics, and humanists. Or they could have used “A.H.” (anno hegirae—which means “in the year of the Hijrah” and refers to Muhammad’s flight from Mecca in A.D. 622), the date used by Muslims as the commencement date for the Islamic calendar. Instead, the Framers chose to utilize the dating method that indicated the worldview they shared. What’s more, their reference to “our Lord” does not refer to a generic deity, nor does it refer even to God the Father. It refers to God the Son—an explicit reference to Jesus Christ. Make no mistake: the Constitution of the United States contains an explicit reference to Jesus Christ—not Allah, Buddha, Muhammad, nor the gods of Hindus or Native Americans!
Let’s get this straight: The Declaration of Independence contains four allusions to the God of the Bible. The U.S. Constitution contains allusions to the freedom to practice the Christian religion unimpeded, the significance and priority of Sunday worship, as well as the place of Jesus Christ in history. So, according to the thinking of the ACLU and a host of liberal educators, politicians, and judges, the Constitution is—unconstitutional! Go figure.
“Common Era” (2008), Encyclopædia Britannica Online, [On-line], URL: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/128268/Common-Era.
Constitution of the United States (1789), [On-line], URL: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution.html.
Rowland, Kate (1892), The Life of George Mason (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons).
Story, Joseph (1833), Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (Boston, MA: Hilliard, Gray, & Co.), [On-line], URL: http://www.constitution.org/js/js_344.htm.