"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" The Itinerant Ministry Of Jesus (4:23-25) INTRODUCTION 1. Jesus started His public ministry by moving to Capernaum - Mt 4: 12-17 a. A city on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee b. A fulfillment of the prophecy in Isa 9:1-2 c. From which He began to preach His message of the kingdom 2. But Jesus' work was not what you might call a "located ministry"... a. He did not stay in one place b. Where people might easily come to see and hear Him 3. His ministry was an "itinerant ministry"... a. He traveled from place to place b. If people wanted to hear Him more than once, they had to follow Him [In our text, Mt 4:23-25, we find a summary of "The Itinerant Ministry Of Jesus." In this study, let's begin by taking a look at...] I. THE NATURE OF JESUS' ITINERANT MINISTRY A. HE DID NOT STAY IN ONE PLACE LONG... 1. He "went about all Galilee" - Mt 4:23 2. He went about "teaching in their synagogues" - Mt 4:23 3. Luke records an example: in the synagogue at Nazareth - Lk 4: 14-30 4. But as mentioned by both Mark and Luke, Jesus felt compelled to keep moving - Mk 1:35-39; Lk 4:42-44 B. HE PROCLAIMED THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM... 1. His preaching involved "good news" about the kingdom - Mt 4: 23; cf. Mk 1:14 2. As recorded by Mark, this "good news" included the following: a. "The time is fulfilled" - the time foretold by the prophets, cf. Dan 2:44 b. "The kingdom of God is at hand" - the kingdom foretold by the prophets, cf. Dan 2:44; Lk 1:32-33 C. HE HEALED ALL KINDS OF SICKNESS AND DISEASE... 1. He healed people afflicted with various diseases and torments - Mt 4:23-24 2. Including the demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics - Mt 4:24 3. Both Mark and Luke provide more detail at this point in their gospels a. Casting out an unclean spirit - Mk 1:21-28; Lk 4:31-37 b. Healing Peter's mother-in-law - Mk 1:29-30; Lk 4:38-39 c. Healing many after a Sabbath sunset - Mk 1:32-34; Lk 4: 40-41 -- Matthew records these events after The Sermon On The Mount in his gospel D. HIS FAME SPREAD... 1. Throughout all Syria, the region to the north of Galilee - Mt 4:24 2. Evidently throughout Decapolis, Judea, and beyond the Jordan, regions to the south and east - Mt 4:25 3. The healing of a leper forced him to stay in deserted places - Mk 1:45 E. GREAT MULTITUDES FOLLOWED HIM... 1. From Galilee and regions all around - Mt 4:25 2. Mark says they came to Him from every direction - Mk 1:45 3. They came to hear Him, and to be healed by Him - Lk 5:15 II. OBSERVATIONS REGARDING JESUS' ITINERANT MINISTRY A. EVERYONE NEEDS TO HEAR THE GOSPEL... 1. Jesus' concern was not just for those in his town of Capernaum a. Compelled to preach the gospel in other cities, He went about "all Galilee" b. He later sent His disciples to preach throughout all the cities of Israel c. He finally commissioned to them to preach to every person, making disciples "of all the nations" - Mk 16:16; Mt 28:19 2. It has been said, "No one has the right to hear the gospel twice, before everyone has heard it once" a. This statement reflects a sentiment worth remembering b. Once the gospel has been shared, we are not under obligation to repeat it again and again to one not interested c. If those who hear are not interested, they have judged themselves unworthy of eternal life - e.g., Ac 13:44-47 d. As long as there are souls who have not heard, we do not always have the luxury of "spoon-feeding" the spiritually indifferent in an attempt to reach them! 3. Similarly, churches may not always have the luxury to hold on to their evangelists a. Some are like the people who tried to keep Jesus from leaving them - Lk 4:42 b. But having received the word, they need to appreciate the need for others to hear - Lk 4:43 c. Especially today, when we have Bibles to teach us, we can more liberal with letting evangelists do their work of evangelizing! - cf. Ro 10:14-15 B. THE PURPOSE OF THE HEALING MIRACLES... 1. Certainly they were an expression of Jesus' compassion - Mt 14:14; 20:29-34 2. Such miracles were also confirmation of prophecy - Mt 8:16-17 a. They were recorded that we might believe - Jn 20:30-31 b. They were intended to confirm who Jesus was - cf. Jn 5:36 3. In a similar way, the miracles done by His followers was for the purpose of confirming their message as being from God - cf. Mk 16:19-20; He 2:3-4 a. Their purpose was not to make Christians "healthy and wealthy" b. Their purpose was not for personal benefit; e.g., Paul did not heal Timothy of his stomach ailments and frequent infirmities, prescribing medicinal treatment instead - 1Ti 5:23 -- The primary purpose of such miracles, as always, was to confirm God's messengers; in this case, confirming Jesus to be the Son of God! - cf. Ac 2:22 C. AUTHENTIC MIRACLES CAN'T BE KEPT SECRET... 1. Jesus' reputation quickly spread throughout the region 2. Even His enemies had to admit His miracles were real - Jn 11: 47 3. Such was true with the miracles performed by the apostles - Ac 4:14-16 4. If one could truly heal today as Jesus and His apostles did... a. It would be on every TV network b. None would deny it, especially Christians who question the validity of what is often claimed to be miraculous today! -- The more you study the miracles of the Bible, the easier it is see that those who claim to do miracles today are either sincerely mistaken or deliberate deceivers! D. FOLLOWING JESUS REQUIRES EFFORT ON OUR PART... 1. The multitudes who wanted to hear and see Jesus had to follow Him where He went a. It required leaving their homes, probably at great expense b. It was probably very inconvenient, especially when sick and disabled! 2. Following Jesus today requires some effort also! a. Time and energy must be expended to learn and grow in the teachings of Christ b. It may not always be convenient to utilize opportunities to learn more about Jesus -- The next time you stay home because of some physical inconvenience, think of those souls who followed Jesus on His itinerant travels! CONCLUSION 1. Many Christians have often thought how wonderful it must have been to see Jesus on earth during His public ministry... a. To see the miracles, to witness the healings b. To hear His sermons proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom b. To sit at His feet, listening to His gracious words of instruction 2. In reality, it may not have been as easy as one might think... a. You would have had to leave home for an extended period of time b. Contending with the multitudes, it might have difficult to even get close to Jesus -- I wonder if many Christians today would have made the effort! 3. As we think of "The Itinerant Ministry Of Jesus", I hope we will remember... a. The importance of spreading the gospel of the kingdom today b. The compassion our Lord had for the sick and oppressed c. The effort we should be willing to make to follow the Lord 4. Perhaps most importantly, to realize... a. That once you have heard the gospel of the kingdom, no one is obligated to repeat it to you again and again b. That having heard it once, you may never have the opportunity to hear it again! It is _your_ responsibility to heed the call to repent and accept the good news concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. Have you?
"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" The Discipling Ministry Of Jesus (4:18-22) INTRODUCTION 1. We saw where the public ministry of Jesus involved "preaching"... a. Proclaiming the need to repent, for the kingdom of heaven was at hand - Mt 4:17 b. Taking this message to synagogues throughout the land - Mt 4:23 2. His ministry was not limited to preaching; it also involved "discipling"... a. In which He called select individuals to follow Him b. Creating His own group of "disciples" 1) Just as John had his disciples - Mt 9:14 2) Even the Pharisees had their disciples - Mt 22:15-16 3. We read of Jesus calling His first disciples in our text... a. The call of Peter and Andrew - Mt 4:18-20 b. The call of James and John - Mt 4:21-22 4. Throughout His public ministry... a. Jesus would call others to become His disciples - cf. Mt 9:9 b. Jesus would spend much time with His disciples c. Jesus would end His time on earth with a command for them to make more disciples - Mt 28:19-20 [Such an important subject to our Lord naturally raises some questions. For example...] I. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BECOME JESUS' DISCIPLE? A. THE WORD "DISCIPLE"... 1. The word "disciple" literally means a learner 2. According to Vine's Expository Dictionary Of New Testament Words, it denotes "one who follows another's teaching" 3. But a disciple was not only a learner, he was also an adherent 4. For this reason disciples were spoken of as imitators of their teachers -- When Jesus told Peter, Andrew, James, and John to "Follow Me" (Mt 4:19), it meant more than to just physically follow Him! B. THE GOAL IN BECOMING HIS DISCIPLE... 1. Stated by Jesus on this occasion: "I will make you fishers of men" a. Just as they had worked in going after fish, now they would be going after men! b. As indicated in the Great Commission, they would be making more disciples - Mt 28:19 2. Stated by Jesus on another occasion: to be like their teacher a. Those perfectly trained will be like their teacher - Lk 6: 40 b. Just as Christ sought to save men and make them disciples, so His disciples were to seek and save the lost [A disciple of Jesus, then, is one who desires to imitate Jesus. Since He was concerned for the lost, His disciples would be also! Another question...] II. HOW DOES ONE BECOME JESUS' DISCIPLE? A. JESUS SAID "FOLLOW ME"... 1. This command He gave to His future disciples - Mt 4:19; 9:9 a. They would spend three years following Jesus around Palestine b. During that time they would listen to what He said, observe what He did c. Eventually they would be told to carry on His work - Mt 28: 19-20 d. Their success was related to this time spent with Jesus - cf. Ac 4:13 2. To be a disciple of Jesus, then, requires that one: a. Follow Him b. Spend time with Him c. Carry on His work -- But how can we do this when He is no longer with us on earth? B. JESUS SAID "ABIDE IN MY WORD"... 1. This He said to those who believed in Him - Jn 8:31 a. By learning and observing what He taught, they would truly be His disciples b. As Jesus would say later, future disciples would be made as they were taught "to observe all things that I have commanded you" - Mt 28:20 c. It would begin with baptism, for He had just commanded His disciples to make disciples by baptizing them - Mt 28:19; cf. Mk 16:16; Ac 2:38 2. To be a disciple of Jesus, then, requires that one: a. Be baptized (having repented and confessed one's faith in Jesus) b. Follow Jesus by doing what He taught His first disciples (the apostles) -- By continuing steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine (i.e., their gospels and epistles), we can be Jesus' disciples today! - cf. Ac 2:41-42 [To follow Jesus by abiding in His word implies some degree of effort and cost. This leads to our next question...] III. WHAT DOES IT COST TO BECOME JESUS' DISCIPLE? A. HIS FIRST DISCIPLES LEFT "ALL" TO FOLLOW JESUS... 1. They left their business and family - Mt 4:20-22 2. As Peter would say later: "we have left all and followed You" - Mt 19:27 B. JESUS EXPECTED THE SAME OF OTHER DISCIPLES... 1. That He must come before family - Mt 10:37; Lk 9:59-62; 14: 25-26 2. That one must be willing to suffer hardship - Mt 10:38; Lk 9: 57-58; 14:27 3. Simply put, to forsake all to follow Him - Lk 14:33 C. JESUS EXPECTS THE SAME OF HIS DISCIPLES TODAY... 1. To seek first the kingdom of God - Mt 6:33 2. As illustrated in The Parable Of The Great Supper, family and business cannot come before accepting the call of the gospel! - Lk 14:15-24 CONCLUSION 1. In calling people to repent, Jesus was also calling people to become His disciples... a. But like John the Baptist before Him, Jesus expected that people "bear fruits worthy of repentance" - cf. Mt 3:8 b. As He would say later, "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples." - Jn 15:8 2. For those willing to accept His call, along with the cost, there is promise of great blessings... a. As Jesus told Peter - Mk 10:28-30 b. As Paul would encourage the Christians at Corinth - 1Co 15:58 3. Have we accepted the call and responsibility of discipleship, or do we just "go to church"? a. Which comes first, our families, our businesses, or Jesus Christ and His kingdom? b. Are we busy building our lives, enjoying our retirement, while the Lord's church suffers? c. Do we spend more time on fishing and other forms of recreation, than we do on fishing for men? -- How we answer such questions reveals much as to whether we are truly the disciples of Jesus! May we all be open to the call of Jesus: "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."
Homer Sometimes Nodded, but the Bible Writers Never Did!
|by||Wayne Jackson, M.A.|
Horace (65-8 B.C.), a Latin lyric poet, wrote: “Sometimes even the noble Homer nods” (Ars Poetica, 1.359). Homer was the blind Greek poet of the eighth century B.C., so well known for his works, the Iliad and the Odyssey. What Horace suggested was this: As accomplished as Homer was, he sometimes erred with reference to the facts of the incidents he mentioned.
More than a quarter of a century ago, the late B.C. Goodpasture, respected editor of the Gospel Advocate for some thirty-eight years, published an article in that journal titled “Homer Sometimes Nods” (1970). The thrust of this fascinating essay was to show that human authors, regardless of their genius and skill, are fallible. Thus, in spite of their consummate care, they will “nod” or “slip” on occasion. By way of contrast, the writers of the biblical record never “nodded.” Even though many of them were not professional scholars (cf. Acts 4:13), nonetheless they wrote with astounding precision. The only reasonable conclusion the honest student may draw is this: their work was overseen by the Spirit of God. [I acknowledge my indebtedness to the revered Goodpasture for the idea embodied in this article, and for a few of the examples that illustrate the concept developed.]
TO ERR IS HUMAN
Herodotus was a Greek historian of the fifth century B.C. Cicero called him “the father of history.” He wrote nine books dealing with the Greek and Persian wars, together with a history of the customs and geography of those empires. In one of his writings, Herodotus claimed that the reason the oxen in Sythia grew no horns was because it was too cold there (4.29). Apparently, he never had heard of reindeer!
Aristotle, the famous Greek scholar of the fourth century B.C., was renowned for his knowledge. Yet he made some colossal speculative blunders. In his work titled Parts of Animals, he argued that within the human body, man’s soul is “lodged in some substance of a fiery character.” He contended that the brain “is a compound of earth and water.” He further suggested that sleep is caused by the blood flowing into the brain, thus making it heavy. This, he declared, “is the reason why drowsy persons hang the head” (Book II, Chapter 3).
Marcus Porcius Cato was a Roman statesman who died about the mid-second century B.C. His famous work, De agri cultura (“On Farming”), has survived. In one passage (71) he gave a remedy for treating an ailing ox. It consisted of forcing down the ox a raw hen egg, swallowed whole, followed the next day by a concoction of leek and wine. However, this treatment—in order to be efficacious—absolutely had to be administered from a wooden vessel while both the ox and the administrator were standing (cited by Sarton, 1959, p. 408). It is obvious that the method of administration would have nothing to do with the curative value of Cato’s concoction. Yet such is the nature of human superstition.
Flavius Josephus was a Jewish writer who authored several works regarding the Hebrew nation, its fortunes, and its fate. Though considered a respectable historian for his day, he frequently slipped. For instance he declared that during the siege of Jerusalem (A.D. 70), a heifer, being led to be sacrificed in the temple, gave birth to a lamb (Wars, 6.3). Josephus also spoke of a certain place in Egypt where fierce serpents “ascend out of the ground unseen, and also fly in the air” (Antiquities, 2.10.2).
Samuel Johnson was the author of the first bona fide English dictionary. He also produced a Grammar of the English Tongue. In that work, the celebrated writer stated that the letter “H seldom, perhaps never, begins any but the first syllable” of a word. Regrettably he had not noticed that “h” commenced the second syllable in “perhaps.” His humiliation must have been keen.
The famous poet, Lord Byron, wrote a magnificent composition that he titled, “The Destruction of Sennacherib.” In beautiful rhyme this literary masterpiece dramatically told of the devastating deaths of the 185,000 Assyrian soldiers who once threatened Jerusalem in the days of Hezekiah, king of Judah. The poet slipped, though, because the rebel monarch Sennacherib was not destroyed when Jehovah’s messenger smote that vast heathen camp. The king was several miles away at Lachish when the destruction occurred. He eventually returned to his home in the east and was slain by his own sons—in fulfillment, incidentally, of sacred prophecy (2 Kings 19:7; 36-37).
Adam Clarke was probably the most famous scholar produced by the Methodist Church. He spent forty years writing his famous Commentary on the Holy Bible. As meticulous as he was, Clarke occasionally erred. For example, in commenting on Genesis 1:16, he suggested that the Moon has streams and vegetation, and is inhabited by intelligent beings. Our modern space explorations have proved that speculation quite erroneous. Clarke also stated that Jewish historian Josephus never mentioned the Syrian soldier, Naaman. He was wrong, though, because Josephus asserted that the warrior who mortally wounded Ahab, by shooting an arrow randomly into the air, was Naaman (Antiquities, 8.15.5).
Alexander Cruden produced a widely used concordance of the English Bible, a task for which he was well qualified by virtue of many years of scripture study (even though, at times, he suffered from emotional illness). Yet in his volume, Explanations of Scripture Terms, concerning the whale Cruden wrote: “The [whale is the] greatest of the fishes that we know of ” (1840, p. 366). He erred. Actually, the whale is a mammal, and not a fish at all.
The religion of Islam claims that the Qur’an is inspired of God. Clearly, however, it is not, for it is flawed by many examples of “nodding.” For instance, the Qur’an suggests that the human fetus results from “sperm” [no mention of an egg] that changes into “a clot of congealed blood,” which then becomes bones, later to be covered with flesh (sura 23:14). This hardly is an accurate description of fetal development.
The Book of Mormon is revered by millions of “Latter-Day Saints.” It purports to be an infallible revelation from God given to Joseph Smith Jr. by an angel of the Lord. Whoever composed the narrative, however, “nodded” more than once (one almost is tempted to say he lapsed into a coma!). For instance, in Alma 7:10 it is said that Jesus Christ was born in Jerusalem. But, as every school child knows, the Lord was born in that “little town of Bethlehem” (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1). The Spirit of God makes no such blunders. Again, according to the Book of Mormon, a man by the name of Nephi was using a “compass” to find his direction in the sixth century B.C. (1 Nephi 16:10; 2 Nephi 5:12). It is well known, of course, that the mariner’s compass was not in use until at least a thousand years after the birth of Christ. This is a critical anachronism in Mormonism’s “sacred” book. Joseph Smith Jr. also taught that there were people living on the Moon—six feet tall, dressed like Quakers, and with a life span of 1,000 years (Huntington, 1892, 3:263). Brigham Young, Smith’s successor, when asked about this matter, concurred, suggesting that such beings lived on the Sun as well (Young, 13:271).
Mary Baker Eddy founded the “Christian Science” movement. She produced a book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, which she claimed was co-authored by God. But Mrs. Eddy more than nodded when, in that volume, she wrote: “Man is not matter—made up of brains, blood, bones, and other material elements.... Man is spiritual and perfect; and because of this, he must be so understood in Christian Science.... Man is incapable of sin, sickness, and death” (1934, p. 475). In spite of her denial of human mortality, she died December 3, 1910.
I cannot conclude this section without acknowledging my own fallibility. When I penned my little book, Biblical Studies in the Light of Archaeology (1982), I stated that “Henry Winckler” of the German Orient Society discovered the ancient Hittite capital of Boghazkoy. That was a “slip.” It was “Hugo Winckler,” not “Henry.” Henry Winkler was the “Fonz” of the old “Happy Days” television show! This merely demonstrated what many had suspected already—I am not inspired of God!
(1) The first two chapters of the Bible contain the divine record of the commencement of the Universe, including the Earth and its inhabitants. Though it was penned thirty-five centuries ago, there is not a syllable in this account that is at variance with any demonstrable fact of science. Any book on astronomy or Earth science, penned fifty years ago, already is obsolete. And yet Genesis, simple and sublime, is factually flawless. The Mosaic narrative asserts that the Universe had a “beginning” (1:1), which is perfectly consistent with the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Contrast this with the Enuma Elish, the Babylonian creation tablets, which asserts the eternality of matter (see Pfeiffer, 1966, p. 226). The Genesis record affirms that creation activity was concluded by the end of the sixth day (2:1-3). Science says, as per the First Law of Thermodynamics, that nothing is being created today. No less than ten times Genesis 1 affirms that biological organisms replicate “after [their] kind.” In passing, we must note that modern pseudoscience (i.e., the theory of evolution) is dependent upon the notion that in the past organisms have reproduced after their non-kind! The biblical account, however, is perfectly in harmony with the known laws of genetics.
(2) The medical knowledge revealed in the Bible record truly is astounding. It is well known, for instance, that in the antique world, medicine was based upon myth and superstition. This was true both in Babylon and in Egypt. For example the Papyrus Ebers (from the sixteenth century B.C.), edited by Georg M. Ebers in 1874, offered some very strange remedies for various illnesses. Here is a prescription for folks who are losing their hair: “When it falls out, one remedy is to apply a mixture of six fats, namely those of the horse, the hippopotamus, the crocodile, the cat, the snake, and the ibex. To strengthen it, anoint with the tooth of a donkey crushed in honey” (as quoted in McMillen, 1963, p. 11). Even the Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus, one of the more sophisticated examples of Egyptian medical “science,” contains a spell for “transforming an old man into a youth of twenty.”
In spite of the fact that Moses was reared in an Egyptian environment, and “was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22), not one time did the great law-giver incorporate any of this magical mumbo-jumbo into the Scriptures. On the contrary, Moses was far ahead of his time in terms of medicine and sanitation. A careful study of Leviticus 13, with reference to certain skin diseases, reveals some rather modern techniques, e.g., diagnosis of certain symptoms, treatment to lessen spread (e.g., disinfection), and quarantine. No other law code in the whole of ancient history came anywhere near rivaling these health regulations. Consider, for instance, the fact that the “leper” was required to “cover his upper lip” (Leviticus 13:45). Dr. J.S. Morton has noted: “Since the leprosy bacilli are transmitted from nasal drippings and saliva, this practice of having lepers cover their upper lips was a good hygienic policy” (1978, p. 255). Concerning Moses’ procedures for quarantining, Dr. William Vis has written:
To show how far Moses was ahead of modern society we need only to remind ourselves that the word quarantine originated in the fourteenth century when the Italian ports of Venice and Genoa first refused admission to immigrants who might be harboring plague and required them to stay on board for forty days, hence the word quarantine. Even in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries leprosy spread over southern Europe until the principles of Moses were re-enacted successfully (1950, p. 244).(3) When the Encyclopaedia Britannica first was published, it had so many mistakes relative to American geography and topography that the publishers of the New American Cyclopedia issued a special pamphlet correcting the numerous blunders of its British rival. J.W. McGarvey once noted that when Tacitus wrote his celebrated work, Germany, which dealt with the geography, manners, customs, and tribes of Germany, it contained so many errors that many were inclined to doubt that this well-known Roman historian could have produced such a flawed volume (1956, 3:26-27). The Encyclopaedia Britannica stated concerning Tacitus’ work that “the geography is its weak point” (1958, 21:736).
The biblical writings contain literally hundreds of references to geography and topography relating to those lands that the prophets and apostles traversed. For example, we are quite casual in our topographical allusions. One is said to travel from Atlanta up to Chicago, whereas Chicago is almost 500 feet lower than Atlanta. Usually we speak of going “up” north and “down” south. With the biblical writers, elevation references always are precise. One travels from Jerusalem (in the south) “down” to Antioch, some 150 miles to the north (Acts 15:1-2). Not once is there a geographical or topographical blunder in the sacred volume, in spite of the fact that the ancients did not possess the sophisticated instruments that we have today.
Here is another amazing fact. In the book of Acts, the historian Luke mentions thirty-two countries, fifty-four cities, and nine of the Mediterranean islands (Metzger, 1965, p. 171). There is not the slightest mistake in any of his references. Luke has been criticized over the centuries to be sure; his influence has increased, however, while his critics’ credibility has decreased!
The Genesis record declares that while he was in Egypt, Pharaoh presented Abraham with some camels (Genesis 12:16). Liberal writers disputed this. T.K. Cheyne wrote: “The assertion that the ancient Egyptians knew of the camel is unfounded” (1899, 1:634). Professor Kenneth Kitchen has shown, however, that “the extant evidence clearly indicates that the domestic camel was known [in Egypt] by 3,000 B.C.”—long before Abraham’s time (1980, 1:228).
On several occasions in the book of Genesis it is recorded that Abraham and Isaac had associations with the Philistines (cf. Genesis 21; 26). Liberal scholars consider these references to be anachronistic (details from a later age inappropriately inserted into the patriarchal account). H.T. Frank characterized the allusions as “an historical inaccuracy” (1964, p. 323). It has been shown, however, that “Philistine” was a rather generic term and that there is no valid reason to doubt that these groups were in Canaan before the arrival of the main body in the early twelfth century B.C. (Unger, 1954, p. 91; Archer, 1964, p. 266; Harrison, 1963, p. 32). Harrison noted that the archaeological evidence “suggests that it is a mistake to regard the mention of the Philistines in the patriarchal narratives as an anachronism” (1983, p. 362).
Elsewhere, I have catalogued no less than twenty major “slips” with which the biblical writers have been charged (Jackson, 1982). Each has evaporated with the passing of time and the exhumation of evidence.
Yes, even the noble Homer may nod; those guided by the Spirit of God, however, never did. You can trust the Bible!
Cheyne, T.K. (1899), Encyclopedia Biblica (London: A. & C. Black).
Cruden, Alexander (1840), Cruden’s Explanations of Scripture Terms (London: Religious Tract Society).
Eddy, Mary Baker (1934), Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (Boston, MA: The First Church of Christ, Scientist).
Encyclopaedia Britannica, (1958), “Tacitus,” (London: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.).
Frank, H.T. (1964), An Archaeological Companion to the Bible (London: SCM Press).
Goodpasture, B.C. (1970), “Homer Sometimes Nods,” Gospel Advocate, 112:322,325.
Harrison, R.K. (1963), The Archaeology of the Old Testament (New York: Harper & Row).
Harrison, R.K. (1983), The New International Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology, ed. Edward Blaiklock and R.K. Harrison (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Huntington, Oliver B. (1892), “Inhabitants of the Moon,” Young Woman’s Journal.
Jackson, Wayne (1982), Biblical Studies in the Light of Archaeology (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Kitchen, K.A. (1980), The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, ed. J.D. Douglas (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale).
McGarvey, J.W. (1956 reprint), Evidences of Christianity (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate).
McMillen, S.I. (1963), None of These Diseases (Westwood, NJ: Revell).
Metzger, Bruce M. (1965), The New Testament: Its Background, Growth, and Content (Nashville, TN: Abingdon).
Morton, J.S. (1978), Science in the Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody).
Pfeiffer, Charles (1966), The Biblical World (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Sarton, George (1959), A History of Science (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).
Unger, Merrill (1954), Archaeology and the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Vis, William R. (1950), “Medical Science and the Bible,” Modern Science and the Christian Faith (Wheaton, IL: Van Kampen).
Young, Brigham (1854-75), Journal of Discourses (Liverpool, England: F.D. Richards).
From “In Place of God” to “God’s Place”
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Nearly one year ago we reported that many militant non-believers gathered in La Jolla, California for the first “Beyond Belief” symposium (see Lyons and Butt, 2007), which the scientific journal New Scientist called “an ‘atheist love fest’” (Reilly, 2007, 196:7). The conference was held to discuss science, religion, and God, and specifically whether science should “do away with religion” (Brooks, 2006, 192:9). New Scientist writer Michael Brooks summarized the overall attitude of the attendees in the following words: “science can take on religion and win” (p. 11, emp. added). The participants were ready to roll up their sleeves and “get on with it” (p. 11). They were ready to put science “In Place of God,” as Brooks titled his article.
Fast forward one year to “Beyond Belief II,” and it appears some of the participants approached the idea of a Supernatural Being more cautiously. Even the title of a recent New Scientist article, which reported on the symposium, changed from last year’s arrogant heading, “In Place of God,” to this year’s more sober title, “God’s Place in a Rational World” (see Reilly, 2007, 196:7, emp. added). Michael Reilly gave some insight into the meeting by recording what one attendee, Edward Slingerland of the University of British Columbia, openly acknowledged:
“Religion is not going away,” he announced. Even those of us who fancy ourselves rationalists and scientists, he said, rely on moral values—a set of distinctly unscientific beliefs.
Where, for instance, does our conviction that human rights are universal come from? “Humans’ rights to me are as mysterious as the holy trinity.... You can’t do a CT scan to show where humans’ rights are, you can’t cut someone open and show us their human rights.... It’s not an empirical thing, it’s just something we strongly believe. It’s a purely metaphysical entity” (p. 7).Although some at the conference naïvely believe that “[g]iven time and persistence, science will conquer all of nature’s mysteries” (Reilly, 2007, p. 7, emp. added), it is encouraging to know that at least one person alluded to one of the greatest proofs for God’s existence—the moral argument.
The fact is, morality exists and makes sense only if there is a God, because only God could have created it. All naturalistic explanations for the existence of morality have been shown to be inadequate. What’s more, scientists admit that they still cannot logically explain the existence of morals. In truth, the only logical explanation must be supernatural (i.e., the God of the Bible). [NOTE: To read more on the moral argument for God’s existence, see Jackson, 1995.]
Jackson, Wayne (1995), “The Case for the Existence of God [Part III],” Reason & Revelation, 15:49-55, July, [On-line], URL: http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=12&article=362.
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2007), “Militant Atheism,” Reason & Revelation, 27:1-5, January, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/3195.
Reilly, Michael (2007), “God’s Place in a Rational World,” New Scientist, 196:7, November 10.
Do the "Household Baptisms" Justify Infant Baptism?
|by||Caleb Colley, Ph.D.|
On occasion, advocates of infant baptism appeal to Acts 10, Acts 16, and 1 Corinthians 1 for proof that infant baptism is scriptural. Acts 10:24-48 relates the account of Cornelius and his “relatives and close friends” hearing the Gospel and being baptized. Acts 16 includes the accounts of two sets of baptisms: (1) the baptism of the members of Lydia’s family (verse 15); and (2) the baptism of the Philippian jailer and “all his family” (verse 33). Paul revealed that he baptized members of the household of Stephanas (1 Corinthians 1:16). These are the so-called “household baptisms” (see Coffman, 1977, p. 320; Mare, 1984, pp. 192-193). Proponents of infant baptism assume that there were children in Cornelius’ house, Lydia’s family, the jailer’s house, and Stephanas’ house, and that the infants were baptized. Since there is no mention of infants in any of these passages, those who use these passages to justify infant baptism base their claims upon two assumptions: (1) infants were present in the households; and (2) the contexts of Acts 10 and 16 allow for the baptism of infants as part of “household baptisms.”
In each example of “household baptism,” the people who were baptized were ones who had been taught what they needed to do in order to receive salvation (Acts 10:34-43; 16:14, 32; 1 Corinthians 1:16-18; 16:15-16). They were the people who could hear and understand the Word of God (Acts 10:44), believe (10:31-33), and devote themselves to the ministry of the saints (1 Corinthians 16:15). The absence of the noun “belief,” and the verb “believe,” in some of the conversion accounts, does not necessarily imply that the ones who were baptized did not, or could not, believe. Also, the context of the household conversions does not demand that any infants were baptized. Yet, some insist that infants must have been present in the “households,” and that the infants must have been baptized.
Lydia did not live in Philippi (she was from Thyatira, on the other side of the Aegean Sea). Since she was traveling, she probably did not bring her children with her, if she had any. Because oikos seems to denote “property” in this instance, it was probably Lydia’s servants who were baptized (Lydia certainly was wealthy enough to have servants; see Jackson, 2000, pp. 201-02; Lenski, 1944, p. 660). Notice also that, in the case of Lydia’s conversion, the evangelists spoke to a group of women who had “come together,” indicating that the members of Lydia’s household could have been found within that group of women (the very group who was praying and who heard Paul’s message; see Coffman, 1977, p. 313; Lenski, 1944, p. 659).
Some allege that Lydia’s family members were baptized, not because they believed, but only because they were in Lydia’s family, while Lydia herself did believe (e.g., Barnes, 1972, p. 241). This allegation rests on the fact that Acts 16:14-15 denotes Lydia’s belief, but does not specifically reveal that her family believed. The Bible clearly teaches, however, that belief must precede baptism (see Mark 16:16; Acts 8:37; Romans 10:10-11; 1 Corinthians 1:21; Ephesians 1:21), and that a sinner cannot be forgiven of sin based on the faith of another (Matthew 12:36; Romans 14:12; 1 Peter 2:7; 4:5; 1 John 3:23).
Furthermore, Acts 16:34 (part of the account of a “household baptism”) reports that the Philippian jailer’s family, at the time of the “household baptism,” was made up entirely of “believers” (excluding infants), and the accounts of both Cornelius’ and the jailer’s conversions specifically indicate that candidates for baptism were those who had “heard the word” (Acts 10:44,47). When inspired writers wrote about “hearing” the Word of God, “hearing” often denoted not only the recognition of audible sounds, of which infants are capable, but also understanding the message, of which infants are incapable (see Deuteronomy 5:1; Romans 10:17; Job 13:17; Luke 14:35). The contexts of Acts 10 and Acts 16 imply that meaning of the verb “hear” (akouo).
Some base their claim that infants of the jailer’s household were baptized, upon the assumption that there would not have been enough water in a jail to immerse adults. Thus, they say, sprinkling was the mode of baptism, which would have been appropriate for infant baptism. However, Acts 16 suggests that Paul and Silas were not in the jail at the time of the major part of the teaching and the baptism, because they had been “brought out”—likely out of the prison itself—and taken to a place where the prisoners’ stripes could be washed. It was at this place that the baptisms took place, so it is an imposition on the text to imply that Paul and Silas did not have access to enough water for immersion.
There are other examples of household conversions, whose contexts attest to the fact that, when “households” of people were baptized, infants were not baptized. When the inspired writers mentioned the so-called “household baptisms,” they said that all believers in the households were baptized. To assert otherwise is to put an unnecessary strain on the text, and to teach that which contradicts unambiguous, definitive Bible teaching (see Mark 16:16; Acts 8:37-38; Romans 10:10-11).
Coffman, James Burton (1977), Commentary on Acts (Abilene, TX: ACU Press).
Jackson, Wayne (2000), The Acts of the Apostles: From Jerusalem to Rome (Stockton, CA: Courier Publications).
Lenski, Robert C.H. (1944), The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
Mare, W. Harold (1984), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: 1 Corinthians, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Answering Christ’s Critics
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
[EDITORS’ NOTE: Unbelief & skepticism continue to expand their impact on society. Recent attacks on the person of Christ have come from The DaVinci Code as well as the so-called “gospel of Judas.” According to www.thebeastmovie.com, on June 6, 2006 (i.e., 6/6/6) a movie ridiculing the historicity of Christ (titled The Beast) is scheduled to be released in theatres worldwide. Likely many will ponder over questions that these sources raise regarding whether Jesus ever really lived, or if He did, whether He was a fraud. Others may simply choose to believe whatever they read, hear, or see. Regardless, Christians need to be prepared to give reasonable answers (cf. 1 Peter 3:15) when they are called upon to defend their faith in the Son of God. Twice in the past decade Apologetics Press has dealt extensively in Reason and Revelation with the historicity of Christ (see Jackson, 1998, 18:6-7; Butt, 2000, 20:1-6). This issue of R&R deals with questions critics of Christ often ask once they realize that His existence 2,000 years ago is indisputable. We hope that you benefit from learning how easily the allegations can be refuted.]
Once skeptics come to the realization that the evidence for the historicity of Christ and the historical accuracy of the New Testament cannot logically be explained away, the next step frequently taken by critics of Christ is to attack the Bible’s own portrayal of Jesus. If the enemies of Christ can discredit His claims of divinity by demonstrating instances of deceitfulness and inappropriate behavior in His life, then Jesus certainly could not be Who He and the Bible writers claimed that He was—God in the flesh (John 1:1,14). However, if the charges against Jesus’ life and character are proven to be fallacious or unsubstantiated, then such accusations should be dismissed, and Jesus’ true identity must either be accepted or rejected based upon the fact that the Bible’s portrayal of the life of Christ is consistent with His claims of deity.
So what have critics alleged about the Son of God? In an essay that appeared on evilbible.com, one enemy of Christ wrote: “Dear believer: ...I refuse to accept Jesus as my personal savior, for his behavior and teachings often expose one who should be escaped and not worshipped” (Schnook, n.d.). Atheist Dan Barker observed in an article titled “Why Jesus?”: “It would be more reasonable and productive to emulate real, flesh-and-blood human beings who have contributed to humanity—mothers who have given birth, scientists who have alleviated suffering, social reformers who have fought injustice—than to worship a character of such dubious qualities as Jesus” (1993). Another critic of Christ has stated: “...Jesus taught few precepts that he himself did not violate! According to the Bible, JESUS WAS A HYPOCRITE AND NOT REALLY PERFECT AFTER ALL”! (Morgan, 1996, emp. in orig.). Allegedly, Jesus did and said many questionable things throughout His ministry that should cause one to flee from Him rather than follow Him. This article addresses several of those criticisms and provides reasonable responses in defense of the deity and unblemished disposition of Christ.
DID JESUS IGNORE THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT?
Jesus responded to the criticism of His enemies by giving the truth of the matter, and at the same time revealing the Pharisees’ hypocrisy. As was somewhat customary for Jesus when being tested by His enemies (cf. Matthew 12:11-12; 15:3; 21:24-25; etc.), He responded to the Pharisees’ accusation with two questions. First, He asked: “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?” (12:3-4). Jesus reminded the Pharisees of an event in the life of David (recorded in 1 Samuel 21:1ff.), where he and others, while fleeing from king Saul, ate of the showbread, which divine law restricted to the priests (Leviticus 24:5-9). Some have unjustifiably concluded that Jesus was implying innocence on the part of David (and that God’s laws are subservient to human needs—cf. Zerr, 1952, 5:41; Dummelow, 1937, p. 666), and thus He was defending His disciples “lawless” actions with the same reasoning. Actually, however, just the opposite is true. Jesus explicitly stated that what David did was wrong (“not lawful”—12:4), and that what His disciples did was right—they were “guiltless” (12:7). Furthermore, as J.W. McGarvey observed: “If Christians may violate law when its observance would involve hardship or suffering, then there is an end to suffering for the name of Christ, and an end even of self-denial” (1875, p. 104). The disciples were not permitted by Jesus to break the law on this occasion (or any other) just because it was inconvenient (cf. Matthew 5:17-19). The Pharisees simply were wrong in their accusations. Like many of Jesus’ enemies today, “The Pharisees were out to ‘get’ Jesus; and any charge was better than none” (Coffman, 1984, p. 165). The only “law” Jesus’ disciples broke was the pharisaical interpretation of the law (which was more sacred to some Pharisees than the law itself). In response to such hyper-legalism, Burton Coffman forcefully stated: “In the Pharisees’ view, the disciples were guilty of threshing wheat! Such pedantry, nit-picking, and magnification of trifles would also have made them guilty of irrigating land, if they had chanced to knock off a few drops of dew while passing through the fields!” (p. 165, emp. added).
Jesus used the instruction of 1 Samuel 21 to cause the Pharisees to recognize their insincerity, and to exonerate His disciples. David, a man about whom the Jews ever boasted, blatantly violated God’s law by eating the showbread, and yet the Pharisees justified him. On the other hand, Jesus’ disciples merely plucked some grain on the Sabbath while walking through a field—an act that the law permitted—yet the Pharisees condemned them. Had the Pharisees not approved of David’s conduct, they could have responded by saying, “You judge yourself. You’re all sinners.” Their reaction to Jesus’ question—silence—was that of hypocrites who had been exposed.
Jesus then asked a second question, saying, “Have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?” (Matthew 12:5). Here, Jesus wanted the Pharisees to acknowledge that even the law itself condoned some work on the Sabbath day. Although the Pharisees acted as if all work was banned on this day, it was actually the busiest day of the week for priests.
They baked and changed the showbread; they performed sabbatical sacrifices (Num. xxviii. 9), and two lambs were killed on the sabbath in addition to the daily sacrifice. This involved the killing, skinning, and cleaning of the animals, and the building of the fire to consume the sacrifice. They also trimmed the gold lamps, burned incense, and performed various other duties (McGarvey, n.d., pp. 211-212).One of those “other duties” would have been to circumcise young baby boys when the child’s eighth day fell on a Sabbath (Leviticus 12:3; John 7:22-23). The purpose of Jesus citing these “profane” priestly works was to prove that the Sabbath prohibition was not unconditional. [NOTE: Jesus used the term “profane,” not because there was a real desecration of the temple by the priests as they worked, but “to express what was true according to the mistaken notions of the Pharisees as to manual works performed on the Sabbath” (Bullinger, 1898, p. 676).] The truth is, the Sabbath law “did not forbid work absolutely, but labor for worldly gain. Activity in the work of God was both allowed and commanded” (McGarvey, n.d., p. 212). Just as the priests who served God in the temple on the Sabbath were totally within the law, so likewise were Jesus’ disciples as they served the “Lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8), Whose holiness was greater than that of the temple (12:6; cf. Coffman, p. 167). Jesus did not ignore nor encourage defiance of God’s command to keep the Sabbath.
DID JESUS BREAK THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT?
In light of the ill-mannered use of the word “woman” in certain contexts today, some question how Jesus could have spoken to His mother 2,000 years ago using this term without breaking the commandment to “[h]onor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12; cf. Matthew 15:4; Matthew 5:17-20). When Jesus, His disciples, and His mother were at the wedding in Cana of Galilee where there was a depletion of wine, Mary said to Jesus, “They have no wine” (John 2:3). Jesus then responded to His mother, saying, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4). Notice what one skeptic has written regarding what Jesus said in this verse.
In Matt. 15:4 he [Jesus—EL] told people to “Honor thy father and thy mother”; yet, he was one of the first to ignore his own maxim by saying to his mother in John 2:4, “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” (McKinsey, 1995, p. 44).As one can see, Mr. McKinsey is adamant that Jesus erred. He uses such words to describe Jesus as disrespectful, insolent, unloving, and rude. Is he correct?
Imagine someone talking to his own mother in such a disrespectful manner and addressing her by such an impersonal noun as ‘woman.’ Talk about an insolent offspring! (1995, p. 134).
Jesus needs to practice some parental respect... (McKinsey, 2000, p. 251).
Apparently Jesus’ love escaped him (McKinsey, n.d., “Jesus...”).
Why was Jesus disrespectful of his mother? In John 2:4, Jesus uses the same words with his mother that demons use when they meet Jesus. Surely the son of God knew that Mary had the blessing of the Father, didn’t he, (and she was the mother of God—Ed.) not to mention the fact that the son of God would never be rude? (McKinsey, n.d., “Problems...,” parenthetical comment in orig.).
As with most of Christ’s critics, Mr. McKinsey is guilty of judging Jesus’ words by what is common in twenty-first-century English vernacular, rather than putting Jesus’ comments in their proper first-century setting. It was not rude or inappropriate for a man in the first century to speak to a lady by saying, “Woman (gunai)....” This “was a highly respectful and affectionate mode of address” (Vincent, 1997), “with no idea of censure” (Robertson, 1932, 5:34). The New International Version correctly captures the meaning of this word in John 2:4: “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” (emp. added). Jesus used this word when complimenting the Syrophoenician woman’s great faith (Matthew 15:28), when affectionately addressing Mary Magdalene after His resurrection (John 20:15), and when speaking to His disconsolate mother one last time from the cross (John 19:26). Paul used this same word when addressing Christian women (1 Corinthians 7:16). As Adam Clarke noted: “[C]ertainly no kind of disrespect is intended, but, on the contrary, complaisance, affability, tenderness, and concern, and in this sense it is used in the best Greek writers” (1996).
As to why Jesus used the term “woman” (gunai) instead of “mother” (meetros) when speaking to Mary (which even in first-century Hebrew and Greek cultures was an unusual way to address one’s mother), Leon Morris noted that Jesus most likely was indicating
that there is a new relationship between them as he enters his public ministry.... Evidently Mary thought of the intimate relations of the home at Nazareth as persisting. But Jesus in his public ministry was not only or primarily the son of Mary, but “the Son of Man” who was to bring the realities of heaven to people on earth (1:51). A new relationship was established (1995, p. 159).R.C.H. Lenski added: “[W]hile Mary will forever remain his [Jesus’—EL] mother, in his calling Jesus knows no mother or earthly relative, he is their Lord and Savior as well as of all men. The common earthly relation is swallowed up in the divine” (1961b, p. 189). It is logical to conclude that Jesus was simply “informing” His mother in a loving manner that as He began performing miracles for the purpose of proving His deity and the divine origin of His message, His relationship to her was about to change.
Finally, the point also must be stressed that honoring fathers and mothers does not mean that a son or daughter never can correct his or her parents. Correction and honor are no more opposites than correction and love. One of the greatest ways parents disclose their love to their children is by correcting them when they make mistakes (Hebrews 12:6-9; Revelation 3:19). Similarly, one of the ways in which a mature son might honor his parents is by taking them aside when they have erred, and lovingly pointing out their mistake or oversight in a certain matter. Think how much more honorable this action would be than to take no action and allow them to continue in a path of error without informing them of such. We must keep in mind that even though Mary was a great woman “who found favor with God” (Luke 1:30), she was not perfect (cf. Romans 3:10,23). She was not God, nor the “mother of God” (viz., she did not originate Jesus or bring Him into existence). But, she was the one chosen to carry the Son of God in her womb. Who better to correct any misunderstanding she may have had than this Son?
DID JESUS VIOLATE THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT BY ENCOURAGING THIEVERY?
Critics of the deity of Christ, however, assert that Jesus once commanded His disciples to steal a donkey and a colt prior to entering Jerusalem during the final week of His life. According to Matthew’s gospel account, Jesus instructed His disciples, saying, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them” (Matthew 21:1-3). Luke added: “So those who were sent went their way and found it just as He had said to them. But as they were loosing the colt, the owners of it said to them, ‘Why are you loosing the colt?’ And they said, ‘The Lord has need of him.’ Then they brought him to Jesus” (Luke 19:32-35). Regarding this story, McKinsey asked: “Are we to believe this isn’t theft? Imagine seeing a stranger driving your car away while claiming the lord needed it” (1985, p. 1). Allegedly, “Jesus told people to take a colt...without the owners’ permission.” And that, says McKinsey, is “commonly known as stealing” (2000, p. 236). Another infidel by the name of Dan Barker commented on this event in the life of Jesus in his book, Losing Faith in Faith, saying, “I was taught as a child that when you take something without asking for it, that is stealing” (1992, p. 166). But did Jesus really encourage His disciples to steal a donkey and a colt? Can His actions be explained logically in light of the numerous statements throughout Scripture that clearly condemn thievery?
Before responding to these criticisms, consider the following: If a husband were to e-mail his wife and ask her to walk to a neighbor’s house and pick up the neighbor’s truck so that he could use it to haul an old furnace to the junkyard, would someone who read his e-mail (perhaps finding a hard copy of it crumpled up in the trash) be justified in concluding that this gentleman asked his wife to steal the truck? Certainly not. Since the e-mail had no other information in it than a request for the wife concerning a neighbor’s truck, a person reading the note would have to have access to additional information in order to come to the conclusion that this man and his wife were guilty of theft. The reader may be ignorant of the fact that the husband had prearranged such a pick-up with his neighbor the previous day. Or, perhaps the neighbor had told the husband at some earlier time that he could use his truck whenever he needed it.
What Mr. McKinsey and other skeptics never seem to take into consideration in their interpretation of Scripture is that the Bible does not record every single detail of every event it mentions (cf. John 21:25). The Bible was not intended to be an exhaustive chronological timeline citing every aspect about the lives of all of the men and women mentioned within it. The New Testament book of Acts covers a period of about thirty years, but it actually is only about some of the acts of some of the early Christians. There were many more things that Paul, Peter, Silas, Luke, and other first-century Christians did that are not recorded therein. For example, Paul spent three years in Arabia and Damascus after his conversion (Galatians 1:16-18), yet Luke did not mention this detail, nor the many things Paul accomplished during these three years.
The case of Jesus telling His disciples to go locate the donkey and colt does not prove thievery, any more than Jesus’ disciples inquiring about and occupying an “upper room” makes them trespassers (cf. Mark 14:13-15). When sending His two disciples to get the requested animals, Jesus told them exactly where to go and what to say, as if He already knew the circumstances under which the donkey and colt were available. Jesus may very well have prearranged for the use of the donkeys. Neither Mr. McKinsey nor any other skeptic can prove otherwise. Similar to how a man is not obligated to go home from work every night and rehearse to his wife everything he did each hour at work, the Bible is not obligated to fill in every detail of every event, including the one regarding the attainment of two animals. No contradiction or charge of wrong is legitimate if unrelated circumstantial details may be postulated that account for explicit information that is given.
Furthermore, the innocence of Jesus and His disciples is reinforced by the fact that the disciples were able to leave with the beasts. Had the disciples really been stealing the animals, one would think that the owners would not have allowed such to happen. Also, nothing is said in the text about what happened to the animals after Jesus rode them into Jerusalem. For all we know, Jesus’ disciples could have immediately taken them back to their owners.
Skeptics who accuse the Lord of thievery have no solid ground upon which to stand. Unless it can be proven that Jesus’ disciples took the animals by force (and without prior permission), justice demands that the accusations of guilt must be withdrawn.
WAS JESUS TRUSTWORTHY?
Imagine for a moment an innocent man on trial for murder. He is judged to be guilty by the jury, even after proclaiming his innocence. (Someone had framed the defendant for the murder, and all the evidence the jury heard pointed to the defendant as the offender.) When leaving the court house, if the man who was wrongly convicted is asked by a reporter, “Are you guilty?,” and he responds by saying, “If the court says I’m guilty, I’m guilty,” has the man lied? Even though the statements, “I am guilty,” and “I am not guilty,” are totally different, they may not be contradictory, depending on the time and sense in which they are spoken. After the trial, the wrongly accused defendant simply repeated the jury’s verdict. He said, “I am guilty,” and meant, “The court has found me guilty.”
When Jesus conceded to the Jews the fact that His witness was “not true,” He was not confessing to being a liar. Rather, Jesus was reacting to a well-known law of His day. In Greek, Roman, and Jewish law, the testimony of a witness could not be received in his own case (Robertson, 1997). “Witness to anyone must always be borne by someone else” (Morris, 1995, p. 287). The Law of Moses stated: “One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established” (Deuteronomy 19:15; cf. Matthew 18:15-17). The Pharisees understood this law well, as is evident by their statement to Jesus: “You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true” (John 8:13). In John 5:31, “Jesus points to the impossibility of anyone’s being accepted on the basis of his own word.... He is asserting that if of himself he were to bear witness to himself, that would make it untrue” in a court of law (Morris, p. 287). If Jesus had no evidence in a trial regarding His deity other than His own testimony about Himself, His testimony would be inconclusive and inadmissible. Jesus understood that His audience had a right to expect more evidence than just His word. Similar to the above illustration where an innocent man accepts the guilty verdict of the jury as final, Jesus said, “My witness is not true,” and meant that, in accordance with the law, His own testimony apart from other witnesses would be considered invalid (or insufficient to establish truth).
But why is it that Jesus said to the Pharisees at a later time that His “witness is true” (John 8:14)? The difference is that, in this instance, Jesus was stressing the fact that His words were true. Even if in a court of law two witnesses are required for a fact to be established (a law Jesus enunciated in verse 17), that law does not take away the fact that Jesus was telling the truth, just as it did not take away the fact that the wrongly accused man mentioned previously was telling the truth during his trial. Jesus declared His testimony to be true for the simple reason that His testimony revealed the true facts regarding Himself (Lenski, 1961b, p. 599). He then followed this pronouncement of truth with the fact that there was another witness—the Father in heaven Who sent Him to Earth (8:16-18). Thus, in actuality, His testimony was true in two senses: (1) it was true because it was indeed factual; and (2) it was valid because it was corroborated by a second unimpeachable witness—the Father.
God the Father (John 8:18; 5:37-38), along with John the Baptizer (John 5:33), the miraculous signs of Jesus (5:36), the Scriptures (5:39), and specifically the writings of Moses (5:46), all authenticated the true statements Jesus made regarding His deity. Sadly, many of His listeners rejected the evidence then, just as people reject it today.
WAS JESUS IGNORANT OF ELIJAH’S ASCENSION?
For Jesus’ statement to contradict what the Old Testament says about Elijah, one first must presuppose that Jesus was referring to the exact same place to which Elijah ascended. Can the skeptic be certain that the “heaven” to which Jesus referred, is the same one into which the body of Elijah ascended? The words “heaven” or “heavens” appear in our English Bibles about 700 times. And yet, in many of the passages where “heaven(s)” is found, the inspired writers were not discussing the spiritual heaven with which we most often associate the word. For example, in Genesis 1 and 2 the Hebrew word for heaven appears 15 times in 14 verses. Yet in every instance, the word is referring to something besides the spiritual heaven where God dwells. The word “heaven(s)” (Hebrew shamayim, Greek ouranoi) is used by Bible writers in three different ways. It is used to refer to the atmospheric heavens in which the airplanes fly, the birds soar, and the clouds gather (Genesis 1:20; Jeremiah 4:25; Matthew 6:26, ASV). “Heaven(s)” also is used in the Bible when referring to the firmament where we find the Sun, Moon, and stars—the sidereal heavens, or outer space (Genesis 1:14-15; Psalm 19:4,6; Isaiah 13:10). The third “heaven” frequently mentioned in Scripture is the spiritual heaven in which Jehovah dwells (Psalm 2:4; Hebrews 9:24), and where, one day, the faithful will live forevermore (Revelation 21:18-23; John 14:1-3). The context of John 3 clearly indicates that Jesus is referring to the spiritual heavens wherein God dwells (cf. John 3:27). The passage in 2 Kings 2:11, however, is not as clear. The writer of 2 Kings easily could have meant that the body of Elijah miraculously ascended up high into the air, never to be seen by anyone on Earth again. Nowhere does the text indicate that he left Earth at that moment to dwell in God’s presence. He definitely went somewhere, but we have no evidence that he was transferred to the actual throne room of God Almighty.
The Bible indicates that when God’s faithful servants leave this Earth, their spirits are taken to dwell in a place referred to as paradise (or “the bosom of Abraham”—Luke 16:19-31). Recall when Jesus was fastened to the cross, and told the penitent thief, “Today, you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). The word paradise is of Persian derivation, and means a “garden” or “park.” Where was it that Jesus and the thief went? Neither of them went to heaven to be with God the Father on that very day for, in John 20:17 after His resurrection, Jesus reassured Mary that He had not yet ascended to the Father. So where did Jesus and the thief go after dying on the cross? Peter gave the answer to that question in his sermon in Acts 2 when he quoted Psalm 16. Acts 2:27 states that God would not abandon Christ’s soul in hades, nor allow Christ to undergo decay. So while Christ’s body was placed in a tomb for three days, Christ’s spirit went to hades. [NOTE: The word hades occurs ten times in the New Testament, and always refers to the unseen realm of the dead—the receptacle of disembodied spirits where all people who die await the Lord’s return and judgment. One part of hades, where Jesus and the thief went, is known as paradise.] Peter argued that David, who penned Psalm 16, was not referring to himself, since David’s body was still in the tomb (Acts 2:29), and his spirit was still in the hadean realm (Acts 2:34). Acts 2 indicates that a faithful servant of God does not go directly to be with God the Father when he dies; rather, he goes to a holding place in hades known as paradise—the same place where Abraham went after he died (Luke 16:22ff.), and the same place where the spirit of Elijah went after he was caught up from the Earth. In short, the Bible does not teach that Elijah left Earth to begin immediately dwelling in the presence of the Father (where Jesus was before His incarnation—John 1:1). Thus, technically he did not ascend to the “place” whence Jesus came.
For the sake of argument, consider for a moment that the skeptic is right, and that Elijah’s spirit did not go to paradise, but was taken to dwell in the very presence of God. Could Jesus still have made the statement He did, and yet not be inaccurate? We believe so. Notice again the response to Nicodemus’ question, “How can these things be?” Jesus said: “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man” (John 3:12-13, emp. added). It may be that Jesus meant nothing more than that no one has ever gone up to heaven “by his own act” or “on his own terms” (see Bullinger, 1898, pp. 281-282). Elijah and Enoch had been taken by God, which is different than freely ascending up into heaven by one’s own ability. Furthermore, Jesus’ words, “No one has ascended to heaven,” also could have meant that no one has ever gone up into heaven to then return and speak firsthand about what he saw, and to spread the same saving message that Jesus preached. Jesus was emphasizing to Nicodemus how no one on Earth at that time was revealing such spiritual truths as Christ was, because no one ever had ascended to heaven only to return and talk about what he had seen and learned. Such seems to have been the main point Jesus was making in John 3:13. No one on Earth had seen what Jesus had seen, and thus none could teach what He taught.
Truly, the skeptic’s accusation that Jesus either lied or was mistaken regarding His comment to Nicodemus about no one having ascended to heaven is unsubstantiated. Perhaps the word heaven used in 2 Kings 2:11 was not meant to convey the idea of the spiritual heavens in which God dwells. Or, considering the Bible’s teaching on departed spirits of the righteous being in a holding place known as paradise, and not in the actual presence of Almighty God, Jesus could have meant that no person has ever ascended to the throne room of God from which He came. Furthermore, it also is interesting to note that Nicodemus, being “a man of the Pharisees” (John 3:1), and thus one who would have been very well acquainted with the details of the Old Testament, did not respond to Jesus by saying, “Wait a minute, Rabbi. What about Elijah and Enoch? Isn’t it written in the law and prophets that they ascended to heaven?” Surely, had Jesus contradicted something in the law and the prophets, it would have been brought to His attention, especially by a Pharisee. Yet, the apostle John never recorded such a statement.
Admittedly, at first glance, it might appear as if the statements, “Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (2 Kings 2:11) and “No man has ascended to heaven” (John 3:13), are incongruous. However, when a person considers all of the possible solutions to the allegation that Jesus was ignorant of Elijah and Enoch’s ascensions, he must admit that such a conclusion is unjustified.
WAS JESUS A HYPOCRITE?
You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.” But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, “Raca!” shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, “You fool!” shall be in danger of hell fire (Matthew 5:21-22, emp. added).Whereas in this passage Jesus warned against the use of the word “fool,” in other passages Jesus openly used this term to describe various people. Near the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus likened the person who heard His teachings, but did not follow them, to “a foolish man who built his house on the sand” (Matthew 7:26, emp. added). When teaching about the need to be prepared for His second coming, Jesus compared those who were not ready for His return to five foolish virgins (Matthew 25:1-12). Then, while Jesus was condemning the Pharisees for their inconsistency in matters of religion, He stated: “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.’ Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold?” (Matthew 23:16-17; cf. 23:18-19, emp. added). The question that some ask in response to these alleged hypocritical statements is, “How could Jesus condemn the use of the word ‘fool’ in Matthew 5:22, but then proceed to use this word Himself on other occasions?”
First, for Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:22 to contradict His actions recorded in other passages, the skeptic must prove that the term “fool,” as used in 5:22, is the same word used elsewhere. The Greek word “Raca,” used earlier in Matthew 5:22, is a transliteration of the Aramaic term whose precise meaning is disputed. [Most likely, it means “an empty one who acts as a numskull” (Lenski, 1961a, p. 219; cf. also Robertson, 1930, 1:44).] The exact meaning of the term “fool” (Greek more) in this context also is debated. “Most scholars take it, as the ancient Syrian versions did, to mean you fool” (Bauer, et al., 1957, p. 533, emp. in orig.). Although some assume that more is the vocative of the Greek moros, in all likelihood,
just as “Raca” is a non-Greek word, so is the word more that Jesus used here. If so, then it is a word which to a Jewish ear meant “rebel (against God)” or “apostate”; it was the word which Moses in exasperation used to the disaffected Israelites in the wilderness of Zin... (Numbers 20:10). For these rash words, uttered under intense provocation, Moses was excluded from the Promised Land (Kaiser, et al., 1996, p. 359).Thus, it is quite possible that more (translated “[Y]ou fool” in Matthew 5:22) is not the normal Greek moros (fool) that Jesus applied to the Pharisees on other occasions (Matthew 23:17,19), but represents the Hebrew moreh (cf. Numbers 20:10). [For this reason, translators of the American Standard Version added a marginal note to this word in Matthew 5:22: “Or, Moreh, a Hebrew expression of condemnation.”] Obviously, if two different words are under consideration, Jesus logically could not be considered a hypocrite.
Second, it must be remembered that Jesus’ comments in Matthew 5:22 were made within a context where He was condemning unrighteous anger (5:21-26). Whereas the Pharisees condemned murder, but overlooked the evil emotions and attitudes that sometimes led to the shedding of innocent blood, Jesus condemned both the actions and the thoughts. Instead of dealing with only “peripheral” problems, Jesus went to the heart of the matter. As someone Who “knew what was in man” (John 2:25), Jesus was more than qualified to pronounce judgment upon the hypocritical Pharisees (cf. John 12:48). Like the unrighteousness that characterized the Pharisees’ charitable deeds (Matthew 6:1-4), prayers (6:5-15), fasting (6:16-18), and judgments (7:1-5), Jesus also condemned their unrighteous anger. [NOTE: Jesus did not condemn all anger (cf. Ephesians 4:26; John 2:13-17), only unrighteous anger.] It was in this context that Jesus warned against the use of the word “fool.” Jesus was not prohibiting a person from calling people “fools” if it was done in an appropriate manner (cf. Psalm 14:1), but He was forbidding it when done in the spirit of malicious contempt. He “warned against using the word fool as a form of abuse” that indicated “hatred in one’s heart toward others” (“Fool,” 1986; cf. Matthew 5:43-48). As in many other situations, it seems that the attitude, rather than actual words, is the focus of the prohibition.
While this verse, when taken in its context, is seen to be consistent with Jesus’ words and actions recorded elsewhere in the gospel accounts, His prohibition regarding the manner of a word’s usage should not be overlooked in the apologist’s effort to defend the deity of Christ (or any other Bible doctrine). We may call an atheist a “fool” for not acknowledging God’s existence (Psalm 14:1), but to do so in a hateful, malicious manner is sinful. Remember, the Christian is called to “give a defense to everyone” in a spirit of “meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).
With increasing frequency, Jesus’ enemies are casting caustic criticisms at our Lord and His church. Books, journals, Web sites, movies, etc. are being produced at record speed that attempt to undermine the very foundation of Christianity—the fact that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). With this in mind, Christians must prepare themselves for the defense of Christ’s historicity, deity, and spiritual purity. Nothing is more essential to the Christian’s faith than Christ. What then could be more important for Christians to do than to defend Who He really was—the Son of God?
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