"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" Moved By Compassion (9:35-38) INTRODUCTION 1. A major problem regarding evangelism today is the lack of motivation... a. Many Christians seem to lack the motivation to teach others 1) Years go by, and little is done to share the gospel 2) Rather than being troubled by this fact, many just attain a state of complacency b. Yet motivation is "the steam that drives the train" 1) With proper motivation, a Christian will seek to save the lost 2) Even if they don't know how, they will not rest until they are doing something that might lead others to Christ 2. What motivated Jesus to save the lost? a. What prompted Him to come to this earth? b. What propelled Him to go from city to city with the gospel of the kingdom? c. What moved Him to endure the shame and pain of dying on the cross? 3. Several factors could be listed... a. His strong sense of purpose (to do His Father's will) - Jn 6:38 b. The Father's love (which He wanted to share) - Jn 15:9; 17:26 c. The potential condemnation those He sought to save (of which He warned) - Mt 10:28 d. The joy set before Him (helping Him to endure the cross) - He 12: 2 -- Each of these factors can help motivate us as well 4. But there was one factor which is mentioned in the text for our study today... a. Our text is Mt 9:35-38, in which we read of the on-going ministry of Jesus b. Notice verse 36, "But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them..." [Compassion for the lost...could the lack thereof explain why many Christians do not actively seek to save others? To help answer that question, let's first take a closer look at...] I. JESUS' COMPASSION FOR THE LOST A. JESUS HAD COMPASSION FOR THE LOST... 1. As mentioned on numerous occasions a. In our text - Mt 9:36 b. Prior to feeding the five thousand - Mt 14:14 c. Prior to feeding the four thousand - Mt 15:32 d. Toward various individuals 1) A leper - Mk 1:40-41 2) A demon-possessed man - Mk 5:1-20 (cf. verse 19) 3) The widow of Nain who had lost her son - Lk 7:11-15 4) The two blind men - Mt 20:30-34 2. He was moved with compassion when He saw people: a. Weary and scattered, like sheep without a shepherd b. Suffering from diseases, demon possession, and hunger B. HIS COMPASSION MOVED HIM... 1. To heal the sick and demon-possessed, raise the dead, and feed the hungry 2. To personally teach those in need of a Shepherd - cf. Mk 6:34 3. To call upon His disciples to pray for more laborers - Mt 9: 37-38 4. To send out His disciples as laborers - Mt 10:1-7 [Jesus was truly "Moved By Compassion" for the lost. Thus motivated, He did what He could to meet their needs, especially their need for salvation! Now let's a few moments to consider...] II. OUR COMPASSION FOR THE LOST A. DO WE HAVE COMPASSION FOR THE LOST? 1. Are we moved when we see... a. Multitudes of people who are without Christ? b. Individuals who are lost in sin? 2. Can we say we have compassion for the lost, if we've made... a. No effort to teach someone the gospel? b. Little effort to even get to know those who are lost? 3. What have you done in the past year for the lost? a. The answer to this question reveals much about our compassion b. Are you pleased with the answer? B. HOW CAN WE DEVELOP COMPASSION? 1. Does our inactivity suggest a lack of compassion? a. Is it evident that we have not been as concerned for the lost as we should be? b. What can we do to develop compassion? 2. Compassion for lost souls can be developed by... a. Letting God teach us how to love - 1Th 4:9; 1Jn 3:16-17 1) God teaches us through the example of His Son 2) By frequent contemplation of God's love for us, the more we will love others! -- Thus the Word of God is essential for developing compassion b. Spending time around people 1) To love people, we need to get to know them a) As stated by Will Rogers, "I never met a man I did not like" b) The more we come to know people, the more likely we become concerned about their well being 2) We need to beware of becoming isolated from people a) Certain technological advances can be a hindrance to getting out and being with people (e.g., television, air conditioning, computers) b) Remember, Jesus was often moved by compassion when among the "multitudes" and "individuals" C. HOW SHOULD COMPASSION MOVE US? 1. To do whatever we can do... a. Such as teach others - cf. Mk 6:34 b. Unable to teach? Then compassion should move us to: 1) Learn to teach others - cf. He 5:12; 1Pe 3:15 2) Make arrangements for others to be taught a) As Philip did for Nathaniel - Jn 1:45-46 b) As Cornelius did for family and friends - Ac 10:24,33 2. To seek to involve others in saving the lost... a. By praying that the Lord will send more laborers - Mt 9:38 1) This is something everyone can do 2) Even if we can't yet teach, we can pray! - 2Th 3:1 b. By sending out others to teach - Mt 10:1,5-7 1) Jesus did more than teach and pray, He trained and sent out His disciples 2) We can be involved with sending out others also a) Encouraging the training of those willing to teach b) Supporting financially those who go out to teach - Php 4:15-16; 3Jn 5-8 CONCLUSION 1. Without compassion for the lost, there is no "steam"... a. We may have the knowledge and the opportunity to teach others b. But like a train on a track with no steam, we will just sit there -- Is that what we have been doing regarding evangelism? Could it be we are lacking the "steam" necessary for evangelism? 2. With compassion for the lost, we will not rest until we are doing something... a. It may not be the same thing as others, but it will be something b. If we don't know how or what to do, compassion will motivate us to keep looking, studying, etc., until we find something to do -- For as the "steam" builds, we will not be satisfied until we begin moving and releasing the steam, just as Jeremiah said: "Then I said, `I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.' But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not." (Jer 20:9) May the example of our Lord Jesus, the true Word of God, whose compassion moved Him to save us, burn in our hearts until we too are "Moved By Compassion"!
"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" The Call Of Matthew (9:9-13) INTRODUCTION 1. Who is a suitable prospect... a. For the kingdom of God? b. For becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ? 2. Who among your neighbors, friends, etc., do you think are most likely to receive the gospel? a. Those who are devout, religious, and respectable? b. Or those who may be ungodly, irreligious, and socially unacceptable? 3. If any passage ought to give us caution against pre-judging suitable prospects for the gospel... a. It should be Mt 9:9-13 b. In which we read of "The Call Of Matthew" [In this passage we learn lessons by way of precept and example regarding discipleship and the mind of Christ that we do well to remember. Let's begin by turning our attention to...] I. MATTHEW'S CALL AT WORK A. MATTHEW, THE MAN... 1. His name was also Levi - cf. Mt 9:9; Lk 5:27 2. Mark mentions him as the son of Alphaeus - Mk 2:14 a. Note that another apostle, James, was also named the son of Alphaeus - Mt 10:3 b. This has led some to think they were half-brothers, but many doubt this B. MATTHEW, THE TAX COLLECTOR... 1. His occupation was one of collecting taxes for Rome 2. The term "publican" describes this position, filled by Jews contracted by the Romans to collect taxes from their brethren 3. As such, they were highly despised and equated with sinners - cf. Mt 9:11; 18:17 C. MATTHEW, THE CALLED DISCIPLE... 1. Perhaps to the amazement of many, Jesus tells him to "Follow Me" - Mt 9:9a a. This was a call to become His disciple - cf. Mt 4:18-22 b. Contrary to what may have been the expectations of many, Jesus saw something in Matthew that made him a suitable prospect 2. Matthew demonstrates that Jesus' estimation of him is not unwarranted a. He accepts the call of Jesus: "he arose and followed Him" - Mt 9:9b b. Just as Peter, Andrew, James and John had done earlier 3. Of course, this same tax collector, despised by his Jewish brethren... a. Became one of the twelve apostles - Mt 10:1-4 b. Wrote this gospel of Matthew attempting to save his own brethren in the flesh! [That such a despised tax collector could be a useful disciple to Jesus becomes apparent even more as we read next about...] II. MATTHEW'S FEAST AT HOME A. THE NATURE OF THE GUESTS... 1. Matthew threw a feast in honor of his new Master - Mt 9:10 a. But then..."many tax collectors and sinners came" b. Who "sat down with Him and His disciples" 2. As host, Matthew undoubtedly invited and permitted his ungodly friends to sit and mingle with the Lord and His disciples! -- Didn't Matthew know what social customs he was violating? Of course, but he had already learned a lesson that was about to be taught to others B. THE CHALLENGE OF THE PHARISEES... 1. This religious sect of the Jews are shocked - Mt 9:11 a. The Pharisees were separatists (the name means "separated ones") b. They were strict observers of the traditions of the elders, especially when it came to ceremonial cleanness - Mk 7:3 2. They wonder why Jesus would eat with tax collectors and sinners (the latter likely including prostitutes) a. They inquire of Jesus' disciples b. Likely they did so standing outside, as the disciples themselves went in an out, for it is unlikely the Pharisees would dare go into such a gathering of sinners! C. THE RESPONSE OF THE SAVIOR... 1. An explanation for why it is proper for Him to mingle with sinners - Mt 9:12-13 a. It is the sick, not those who are well, who need the care of a physician b. So it sinners, not the righteous, who need Someone calling them to repentance 2. A rebuke for what was lacking in their own lives - Mt 9:13 a. Sacrifice without mercy means nothing, as taught in Hos 6:6 b. Implying that their religious devotion lacked the quality of mercy, or they would not have so despised sinners in need of salvation [In the call of Matthew followed by the feast at his house, Jesus by precept and example taught important lessons concerning evangelism and discipleship. To elaborate, let me share...] III. SOME OBSERVATIONS A. DON'T PREJUDGE YOURSELF OR OTHERS... 1. Don't think one is ever too wicked to become a disciple of Jesus a. Either yourself or someone else b. Few could surpass Paul for the sins of which he was guilty, yet the Lord saved him - cf. 1Ti 1:12-16 2. Jesus sees people, not for what they are, but for what they can become a. As in the case of Simon, whom He called Cephas (Peter) - cf. Jn 1:40-42 b. Peter did not live up to his name (a rock), until several years of growth as a disciple 3. We must never forget... a. Jesus died to save sinners b. No Christian is perfect, only forgiven c. A saint is a sinner who keeps on trying d. Churches grow out of weakness, not strength 1) I.e., willing to accept weak, imperfect members, helping to them grow 2) A church never grows by turning away weak people e. What Jesus said to the Pharisees: "...tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you" - Mt 21:31 B. DON'T CONFUSE SEPARATION WITH ISOLATION... 1. It is true that we must be separate - cf. 2Co 6:14-17 a. We cannot have fellowship with sin b. We cannot engage in the wicked deeds of others 2. But we must not isolate ourselves - cf. 1Co 5:9-12 a. We may withdraw from an erring brother, true b. But we cannot withdraw from those in the world 3. While not of the world, we have been sent into world - Jn 17: 15-18 a. To be the salt of the earth, we must mingle with the meat - Mt 5:13 b. To be the light of the world, we must shine in the darkness - Mt 5:14-16 -- While we must be concerned about the influence of the wrong kind of friends (1Co 15:33), we must be willing to reach out to those who are lost! C. DON'T FORGET THE IMPORTANCE OF MERCY... 1. We cannot receive forgiveness if we are not merciful - Mt 6: 14-15 2. We will be judged by a standard with no mercy if we are not merciful - Jm 2:12-13 3. Religion (sacrifice) without mercy is not pleasing to God! CONCLUSION 1. In "The Call Of Matthew", Jesus demonstrated the transforming power of the gospel... a. Able to take a despised tax collector and turn him into a beloved apostle b. Able to appeal to social outcasts, providing love and hope for a new life 2. By the feast at his house, Matthew demonstrated the transforming power of the gospel... a. Turning one who likely had been motivated by greed into a gracious host b. Making one who may have formerly reveled in the evil conduct of his friends, now concerned about their spiritual well-being If upon honest reflection of this passage we see ourselves more like the Pharisees than Jesus or his new-found disciple, may the words of Jesus move us to repent of our self-righteousness: "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: `I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." (Mt 9:12-13) Are you in need of the spiritual healing provided by the Great Physician...?
Inspired Writers and Competent Copyists
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
If you were to open your Bible and read Mark 14:16, you would learn that Jesus’ disciples went into Jerusalem to prepare the final Passover meal before His crucifixion. The wording of the verse is as follows: “So His disciples went out, and came into the city, and found it just as He had said to them; and they prepared the Passover” (emp. added). The highlighted conjunction “and” (kai in Greek) is found in the Greek manuscripts of Mark. It also appears in most English translations of the Bible. However, in one particular copy of the Bible that I possess, the stem of the “d” in “and” is missing, causing the word to be misspelled: “So His disciples went out, ano came into the city...” (emp. added).
Most people who read Jesus’ parable of the Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:1-14) learn of the king asking one particular attendee a very specific question: “Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?” (vs. 12, emp. added). A colleague of mine has a reliable translation of the Bible that words Jesus’ question as follows: “Friend, now did you come in here without a wedding garment?” Obviously, the “now” should be “how” (Greek pos). Similar to how the “d” in “and” was skewed so as to look more like an “o”, the “h” in “how” lost its stem, causing it to look more like an “n.” Question: Whose fault is it that “and” has been incorrectly printed as “ano,” and “how” has been copied errantly as “now”?
Surely no one would blame such errors in a modern English copy of the Bible on God or His inspired penmen (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Almost everyone recognizes that publishing companies are responsible for such minute mistakes. Although the accurate reproduction of books nearly has been perfected during the past few centuries (thanks in large part to the invention of the printing press), still, for various reasons, slight errors can creep onto the printed page. God did not intervene and miraculously keep the aforementioned errors from appearing in copies of His Word. Instead, He gave humankind the ability and resources to understand that such errors can be resolved rationally without assuming the inspired writers erred. We know that “ano” should be “and” in Mark 14:16 and “now” should be “how” in Matthew 22:12 partly because millions of other copies of the Bible (in both English and Greek) have the correct words “and” (kai) and “how” (pos), and also because we easily can see how a printing press might occasionally leave off the stems of certain letters.
COMMON SENSE AND COPYISTS’ ERRORS
Whether one is referring to secular works or the Bible, prior to the invention of the printing press, copies of books were made by hand, and thus were susceptible to errors. In the 19th century, respected Christian scholar J.W. McGarvey noted: “There is not a writing of antiquity which has come down to our age without many such changes” (1886, 1:7-8). In fact, “[a] large part of the labor of the editors of Greek and Latin classics consists in correcting as best they can the erroneous readings thus introduced into these works” (McGarvey, 1:8). Take, for instance, the comedies of Terence (c. 190-158 B.C.). Seventeenth-century English scholar Richard Bentley noted how Terence’s works were some of the better preserved classical texts, yet Bentley testified that he had witnessed “twenty thousand various lections [readings—EL] in that little author, not near so big as the whole New Testament” (as quoted in “The Text...,” 1822, 15(37):476; see also McGarvey, 1886, 1:8). Consider also the writings of Tacitus. They are known to contain at least one numerical error that Tacitean and classical scholars have acknowledged as a copyist’s mistake (Holding, 2001). Scholars recognize that, at some point in history, a copyist accidentally changed a number (from CXXV to XXV). Although such copyists’ errors are known to exist, historians around the world cite such ancient works as Herodotus, Josephus, Pliny, Tacitus, Suetonius, etc., and consider them trustworthy, educational, and worthy of study.
If scholars defend the integrity of ancient authors partly by acknowledging that many of the mistakes contained within their writings are the result of copyists’ errors, it is only reasonable for these same scholars (whether atheists, agnostics, skeptics, or Christians) to recognize that alleged problems within the biblical text may be the result of scribal errors rather than mistakes on the part of one or more of the original Bible writers. Just as those who copied secular historical documents sometimes made mistakes (e.g., misspelling names, omitting words, etc.), scribes who copied the Bible from earlier texts also had the opportunity to err. As Gleason Archer observed: “Even the earliest and best manuscripts that we possess are not totally free of transmissional errors. Numbers are occasionally miscopied, the spelling of proper names is occasionally garbled, and there are examples of the same types of scribal error that appear in other ancient documents as well” (1982, p. 27).
Norman Geisler and William Nix have mentioned several ways that a scribe might accidentally change the biblical text, including: (1) omissions or repetitions of letters, words, or lines; (2) reversals (transpositions) of letters or words; (3) divisions of words in the wrong places (since words in the early manuscripts were not divided by spaces); (4) errors of hearing (such as when scribes copied the Scriptures by listening to someone read them); (5) trusting in memory instead of relying on exactly what the text says; (6) errors of judgment (possibly caused by insufficient lighting or poor eyesight); (7) poor penmanship; etc. (1986, pp. 469-475). Recently, I wrote a note asking an assistant to send a package to a Mrs. Ward. Unfortunately, the package got mislabeled “Mrs. Word,” either because my handwriting was too poor to distinguish adequately between an “a” and an “o,” or the assistant simply misread the name. This example shows how easily copyists’ mistakes can occur, even in modern times.
How many Bible students have memorized passages of Scripture and quoted them for months or even years without realizing that at some point in time they mistakenly changed, added, or omitted a word from the text. I once memorized 2 Peter 3:9 (“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness...,” emp. added), only to find, several years later, that at some point I had incorrectly made “promise” plural, and had quoted it that way for months. One of the occasional mistakes copyists made was to trust too much in their own memory. Instead of carefully noting every letter in every word on every line, some copyists might have memorized too much at a time without looking back at the text. Keep in mind that scribes did not have computer keys that made the same letters every time, or that allowed them to copy and paste a paragraph of text with the push of a few buttons. Copying the Bible in ancient times was a painstaking, tedious job that required constant attention and care even in the best of circumstances.
CAINAN, SON OF ARPHAXAD: A CASE STUDY IN COPYISTS’ ERRORS
One important thing we learn from the various genealogies in Scripture is that sometimes they contain minor gaps—gaps that are both intentional and legitimate (see Matthew 1:1; see also Thompson, 1989, 9:17-18). Thus, just because Luke 3 contains a name that is not recorded in Genesis 10 or 11, or in 1 Chronicles 1, does not have to mean that someone made a mistake. The fact is, terms such as “begot,” “the son of,” and “father”—often found in genealogies—occasionally have a much wider connotation in the Bible than might be implied when such words are used in modern-day English (cf. Genesis 32:9; John 8:39). Simply because one genealogy has more (or fewer) names than another genealogy, does not mean that the two genealogies are in disagreement.
Still, the insertion of the name Cainan in Luke 3:36 most likely has a far different explanation—one that may be more plausible, yet at the same time is more complicated to explain, and thus less popular. It is very likely that the “Cainan problem” is the result of a scribal error made when copying Luke’s gospel account.
Realizing that the New Testament originally was written in Greek without punctuation or spaces between words, the insertion of the name Cainan easily could have crept into Luke’s genealogy. Notice in the following chart, what the original text (in agreement with Genesis 10:24, 11:12, and 1 Chronicles 1:18,24) might have said:
Although some apologists reject the idea that the insertion of Cainan in Luke 3:36 is a copyist’s error, the following facts seem to add much credence to this proposed explanation.
- As stated earlier, this part of Luke’s genealogy also is recorded in Genesis 10:24, 11:12, and in 1 Chronicles 1:18,24. All of these Old Testament passages, however, omit the Cainan of Luke 3:36. In fact, Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, is not found in any Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament.
- Cainan is omitted from all of the following ancient versions of the Old Testament: the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Syriac, the Targum (Aramaic translations of the Old Testament), and the Vulgate (a Latin translation of the Bible completed between A.D. 382 and 405) (see Hasel, 1980, 7(1):23-37).
- Cainan’s name is absent from Flavius Josephus’ patriarchal listing in his historical work, Antiquities of the Jews (see 6:1:4-5).
- The third-century Christian historian, Julius Africanus, also omitted Cainan’s name from his chronology of the patriarchs, and yet he had copies of the gospels of both Luke and Matthew (1971, 6:125-140).
- The earliest known copy of Luke (a papyrus codex of the Bodmer Collection dated between A.D. 175 and 225) does not contain this Cainan (see Sarfati, n.d.).
This manuscript of a portion of Matthew dates to about A.D. 350.
|Credit: The Schøyen Collection MS 2650|
MORE EXAMPLES OF POSSIBLE COPYISTS’ ERRORS
Jehoiachin’s Age When He Began to ReignIn 2 Kings 24:8, we read that Jehoiachin succeeded his father as the 19th king of Judah at the age of eighteen. However, 2 Chronicles 36:9 informs us that he was “eight years old when he became king.” Fortunately, there is enough additional information in the biblical text to prove the correct age of Jehoiachin when he began his reign over Judah.
There is little doubt that Jehoiachin began his reign at eighteen, not eight years of age. This conclusion is established by Ezekiel 19:5-9, where Jehoiachin is described as going up and down among the lions, catching the prey, devouring men, and knowing the widows of the men he devoured and the cities he wasted. As Keil and Delitzsch observed when commenting on this passage: “The knowing of widows cannot apply to a boy of eight, but might well be said of a young man of eighteen” (1996). Furthermore, it is doubtful that an eight-year-old child would be described as one having done “evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings 24:9).
The simple answer to this “problem” is that a copyist, not an inspired writer, made a mistake. A scribe simply omitted a ten (the Hebrew numeral letter ח [yod], which made Jehoiachin eight (Hebrew י) [heth]) instead of eighteen (Hebrew יח). This does not mean the inspired penmen erred. Rather, it indicates that minor scribal errors have slipped into some copies of the Bible. Indeed, if you ever have seen the Hebrew alphabet, you doubtless recognize that the Hebrew letters (which also were used for numbers) could be confused quite easily.
The Spelling of HadadezerShould the king’s name be spelled with a “d” (2 Samuel 8:3; 1 Kings 11:23) or an “r” (2 Samuel 10:16; 1 Chronicles 18:3; KJV and ASV)? It would appear that the difference in spelling came about through the mistake of a scribe. Most likely Hadadezer (with a “d”) is the true form since, “Hadad was the chief idol, or sun-god, of the Syrians” (Barnes, 1997; cf. Benhadad and Hadad of 1 Kings 15:18; 11:14; etc.). As William Arndt stated, “D and R may be distinct enough in appearance in English, but in Hebrew they are vexingly similar to each other” (1955, p. xv). The Hebrew daleth = ד, while resh = ר. There should be little doubt in our minds that Hadarezer simply is a corrupted form of Hadadezer. One can see how easily a copyist could have made this mistake.
When Did Absalom Commit Treason?When David’s son Absalom finally returned after killing his half-brother Amnon, 2 Samuel 15:7 indicates that “after forty years” passed, Absalom left home again and committed treason. Anyone who knows much Israelite history quickly realizes that Absalom most certainly did not spend 40 years at home during this time, for David’s entire reign was only 40 years (2 Samuel 5:4). The number given in 2 Samuel 15:7 likely should be four years, which is more in keeping with the lifetime of Absalom, who was born in Hebron after David’s reign as king began (2 Samuel 3:3). The number “four” also agrees with such ancient versions as the Septuagint, the Syriac, the Arabic, and the Vulgate. There is little question that the number “forty” represents a copyist error.
They concerned themselves with the transmission of the consonantal text as they had received it [Hebrew has no vowels—EL], as well as with its pronunciation, on the basis that the text itself was inviolable and every consonant sacred.
The detailed statistical work that the Massoretes undertook on each book included the counting of verses, words, and letters, establishing the middle of the book (a procedure which was useful in the case of bifid, or two-part, compositions) noting peculiarities of style, and other similar matters (1969, pp. 212-213, parenthetical item in orig.).By taking such precautions in the copying of letters, words, and verses (by sections and books), it could be known if a word or letter had been omitted or added. Indeed, as Eddie Hendrix affirmed: “Such minute checks contributed to a high degree of copying accuracy” (1976, 93:5). No other group of ancient copyists is more renowned than those of the Old Testament.
Although much less is known about New Testament copyists, according to Philip Comfort, who wrote The Quest for the Original Text of the New Testament, paleographic evidence has revealed that “several of the early manuscripts were copied carefully with precision and acumen...,” no doubt “by educated and professional scribes” (1992, p. 51,50). New Testament copyists also had grave motivation to copy the Scriptures with care. Although not typically quoted with copyists in mind, consider the words of Revelation 22:18-19:
For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.In the second century A.D., Irenaeus applied this condemnation to copyists who knowingly contribute to the initiation and perpetuation of textual errors (5:30:1). Undoubtedly, due to the grace of God and the conscientiousness of copyists, “[t]he New Testament...has not only survived in more manuscripts than any other book from antiquity, but it has survived in purer form than any other great book” (Geisler and Nix, p. 475).
NO AUTOGRAPHS? NO PROBLEM.
It is highly unreasonable to think that truths can be learned only from autographs. Learning and forming beliefs based on reliable copies of various written documents, objects, etc. is a way of life. To conclude that a driver in a particular state could not learn to drive adequately without having in hand the original driving manual produced by the state years earlier is absurd. To assert that no one could measure the length of one yard without having the standard yard in hand from the National Institute of Standards and Technology is ridiculous. Even if the standard yard was lost, the millions of copies of the yard in existence today would be sufficient in finding (or measuring) exactly what a yard is. Consider also McGarvey’s example of an autograph, which eventually was destroyed.
A gentleman left a large estate entailed to his descendants of the third generation, and it was not to be divided until a majority of them should be of age. During the interval many copies of the will were circulated among parties interested, many of these being copies of copies. In the meantime the office of record in which the original was filed was burned with all its contents. When the time for division drew near, a prying attorney gave out among the heirs the report that no two existing copies were alike. This alarmed them all and set them busily at work to ascertain the truth of the report. On comparing copy with copy they found the report true, but on close inspection it was discovered that the differences consisted in errors in spelling or grammatical construction; some mistakes in figures corrected by the written numbers; and some other differences not easily accounted for; but that in none of the copies did these mistakes affect the rights of the heirs. In the essential matters for which the will was written the representations of all the copies were precisely the same. The result was that they divided the estate with perfect satisfaction to all, and they were more certain that they had executed the will of their grandfather than if the original copy had been alone preserved; for it might have been tampered with in the interest of a single heir; but the copies, defective though they were, could not have been (1:17).Everyday, all around the world, individuals, groups, businesses, schools, etc. operate with the conviction that autographs are unnecessary to learn the truths within them. Copies of wills, articles, books, etc., can be gathered, inspected, and scrutinized until new copies are published that virtually are identical to the original. “[A]ccurate communication is possible despite technical mistakes in copying” (Archer, 1982, p. 29). So it is with the Bible. Even though copyists were imperfect in their transcription work, more than enough copies of the Scriptures have survived so that, as Sir Fredric Kenyon remarked, “it is practically certain that the true reading of every doubtful passage is preserved in some one or other of these ancient authorities. This can be said of no other ancient book in the world!” (as quoted in Lightfoot, 2003, p. 204).
EVIDENCE OF RELIABLE BIBLE TRANSMISSION
The Old TestamentThe Dead Sea Scrolls make up one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all times. In 1947, a number of ancient documents were found by accident in a cave on the northwest side of the Dead Sea. This collection of documents, which has become known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, was comprised of old leather and papyrus scrolls and fragments that had been rolled up in earthen jars for centuries. From 1949 to 1956, hundreds of Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts and a few Greek fragments were found in surrounding caves, and are believed by scholars to have been written between 200 B.C. and the first half of the first century A.D. Some of the manuscripts were of Jewish apocryphal and pseudepigraphal writings (e.g., 1 Enoch, Tobit, and Jubilees); others often are grouped together as “ascetic” writings (miscellaneous books of rules, poetry, commentary, etc.). The most notable and pertinent group of documents found in the caves of Qumran near the Dead Sea is the collection of Old Testament books. Every book from the Hebrew Bible was accounted for among the scrolls except the book of Esther.
One of the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered
The New TestamentHow confident can Christians be that the text of the New Testament is essentially the same today as it was in the first century? Could it be that one of the central tenets of Christianity (e.g., Jesus’ deity) is the result of a person’s manipulation of the New Testament text centuries ago, as is alleged in Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code (2003, pp. 233-234)? Did someone come along in the Middle Ages and drastically change the text of the New Testament? Just what evidence do we have for the reliability of the New Testament?
Twenty-first-century Christians can be confident that the New Testament has been transmitted faithfully through the centuries in large part because of the vast amount of manuscript evidence in existence today, some of which goes back to the early second century A.D. When F.F. Bruce published the sixth edition of his classic book The New Testament Documents—Are They Reliable? in 1981, he noted that “there are in existence over 5,000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament in whole or in part” (p. 10). Nearly 25 years later, Michael Welte of the Institute for New Testament Textual Research in Munster, Germany, indicated that the number of Greek manuscripts stood at 5,748 (2005). This number represents a far greater body of manuscripts than is known to exist for any other ancient volume (cf. Westcott and Hort, 1964, p. 565; Ewert, 1983, p. 139; Kenyon, 1951, p. 5). For example, The Histories of Herodotus, Caesar’s Gallic Wars, and the Annals of Tacitus, three well-known and oft’-quoted ancient historical works, are backed by a combined total of 38 manuscripts (Geisler and Nix, p. 408). The most documented book of antiquity next to the New Testament is Homer’s Iliad. Some 643 manuscripts of the Iliad are in existence today (p. 475), which is still 5,000 less than the number of extant copies of the New Testament.
Old, worn page of a papyrus document
But, that’s not all. To the manuscript evidence, one also can add the ancient versions of the New Testament (e.g., Old Syriac, Old Latin, Coptic, etc.), as well as the “more than 36,000 patristic citations containing almost every verse of the New Testament” (Geisler and Nix, p. 467). Non-inspired Christian writings from the first few centuries (by men such as Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and many others) are saturated with quotations from the New Testament apostles and prophets. “Indeed, so extensive are these citations,” wrote the eminent New Testament scholar Bruce Metzger, “that if all other sources for our knowledge of the text of the New Testament were destroyed, they would be sufficient alone in reconstructing practically the entire New Testament” (1968, p. 86). These witnesses, along with the ancient versions, speak voluminously on behalf of the integrity of the Bible’s transmission.
Is there ample evidence from surviving manuscripts, versions, and early quotations of the New Testament documents that indicates the New Testament is essentially the same today as it was in the first century? Most certainly. The former director of the British Museum, Sir Frederic Kenyon, summed up the matter: “The Christian can take the whole Bible in his hand and say without fear or hesitation that he holds in it the true word of God, handed down without essential loss from generation to generation throughout the centuries” (as quoted in Lightfoot, 2003, p. 126).
Archer, Gleason L. (1982), Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Arndt, William (1955), Does the Bible Contradict Itself? (St. Louis, MO: Concordia).
Barnes, Albert (1997), Barnes’ Notes (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Brown, Dan (2003), The Da Vinci Code (New York: Doubleday).
Bruce, F.F. (1981), The New Testament Documents—Are They Reliable? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), sixth edition.
Comfort, Philip (1992), The Quest for the Original Text of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Comfort, Philip W. and David P. Barrett (2001), The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House).
Ewert, David (1983), From Ancient Tablets to Modern Translations (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Fairbairn, Patrick (1957 reprint), “Genealogies,” Fairbairn’s Imperial Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Geisler, Norman L. and William E. Nix (1986), A General Introduction to the Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody), revised edition.
Hasel, Gerhard F. (1980), “Genesis 5 and 11: Chronologies in the Biblical History of Beginnings,” Origins, 7:23-37, [On-line], URL: http://www.ldolphin.org/haselgeneal.html.
Harrison, R.K. (1969), Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Hendrix, Eddie (1976), “What About Those Copyist Errors?” Firm Foundation, 93:5, April 6.
Holding, James Patrick (2001), “Copyist Errors,” [On-line], URL: http://www.tektonics.org/copyisterrors.html.
Irenaeus (1973 reprint), “Irenaeus Against Heresies,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Josephus, Flavius (1987 edition), The Life and Works of Flavius Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews, trans. William Whiston (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).
Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch (1996), Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Kenyon, Sir Frederic (1951 reprint), Handbook to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), second edition.
Lightfoot, Neil (2003), How We Got the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker), third edition.
McGarvey, J.W. (1886), Evidences of Christianity (Cincinnati, OH: Guide Printing).
Metzger, Bruce (1968), The Text of the New Testament (New York, NY: Oxford University Press).
Morris, Henry M. (1976), The Genesis Record (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
“The Official Website of #1 National Bestselling Author Dan Brown” (no date), [On-line], URL: http://www.danbrown.com/meet_dan/index.html.
Paché, Rene (1971), The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Pierce, Larry (1999), “Cainan in Luke 3:36: Insight from Josephus,” CEN Technical Journal, 13:75-76.
Sarfati, Jonathan D. (1998), “Cainan of Luke 3:36,” CEN Technical Journal, 12:39-40.
Sarfati, Jonathan D. (no date), “How do You Explain the Difference between Luke 3:36 and Genesis 11:12?” [On-line], URL: http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/3748.asp.
“The Text of the New Testament” (1822), The North American Review, 15(37):460-487, October, [On-line], URL: http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/ncps:@field(DOCID+@lit (ABQ7578-0015-27)).
Thompson, Bert (1989), “Are the Genealogies of the Bible Useful Chronologies?” Reason and Revelation, 9:17-18, May.
Welte, Michael (2005), personal e-mail to Dave Miller, Institute for New Testament Textual Research (Munster, Germany), [On-line], URL: http://www.uni-muenster.de/NTTextforschung/.
Westcott, B.A. and F.J.A. Hort (1964 reprint), The New Testament in the Original Greek (New York: MacMillan).
God is No Respecter of Persons
|by||Caleb Colley, Ph.D.|
When the first Gentile was converted to Christianity, the apostle Peter perceived that “God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:34-35). Before the church was established and Gentiles began to be converted to Christ, many Jews supposed that God favored them over all other ethnic groups; some had the false notion that merely being Jewish was a sure sign that one was saved (Matthew 3:9; Luke 3:8; 7:30).
When the religious barrier between Jews and Gentiles was broken down, Peter more fully understood one important aspect of God’s character: He does not favor—and never has favored—one person or group of people over others. Whether or not the Israelites always understood it, anyone who obeys God’s commands can be justified in His sight. Consider a sampling of the passages that emphasize God’s fairness toward all humans:
2 Chronicles 19:7: “Now therefore, let the fear of the Lord be upon you; take care and do it, for there is no iniquity with the Lord our God, no partiality, nor taking of bribes.”Exactly what does it mean that God is impartial? God offers salvation to every man, no matter what external circumstances, such as socioeconomic status or nationality, might apply to him. God does not offer salvation only to the Jew, just because he is a Jew, or only to the Gentile because he is a Gentile. The Greek word translated “respecter of persons” in the King James Version of Acts 10:34 (“God is no respecter of persons”) is prosopolemptes, a word that refers to a judge who looks at a man’s face instead of at the facts of the case, and makes a decision based on whether or not he likes the man (Lenski, 1961, p. 418). Under Roman law, for example, a defendant’s societal status was weighed heavily along with evidence. Any human judge might show undue favor to a plaintiff or a defendant because of private friendship, bribery, rank, power, or political affiliation, but God, the perfect Judge, cannot be tempted by any of the things that might tempt a human judge to show unfair partiality.
Job 34:19: “Yet He is not partial to princes, nor does He regard the rich more than the poor; for they are all the work of His hands.”
Romans 2:10-11: “[B]ut glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.”
Galatians 5:6: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision or uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.”
1 Peter 1:17: “And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear.”
God’s impartiality does not keep Him from choosing people and nations of people to accomplish His specific purposes. He was free to use the Israelites as the seed line to bring about the Son of God in human form (the Israelites have never been the only group of people who had access to salvation—see Romans 1:18ff; Jackson, 2004); He was free to use the Babylonians to defeat the disobedient Israelites in battle and to take the spoils from them (2 Kings 25:1-21); He was free to use Peter and Paul to spread the Gospel to lost sinners. God can accomplish everything He needs to do without violating His commitment to allow all the opportunity to be saved.
Furthermore, God blesses people in different ways. God’s impartiality does not mean that everyone will have exactly the same amount of money, exactly the same amount of influence, exactly the same number of children, or exactly the same number of years upon the Earth. (At the very moment that Peter noted God’s impartiality, he was in the presence of a man who possessed more material wealth than Peter did.) Some do have more money than others, some have families who love them more, and some even have more opportunities to hear the Gospel preached. However, everyone can be saved, if he is willing to search for the truth. While some accountable adults may live their entire lives without hearing a single Gospel sermon, they all experience the marvelous works of the hand of God, showing every person that He exists. Paul wrote:
[W]hat may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts and their foolish hearts were darkened (Romans 1:19-21).God always has expected impartiality from His followers. We should not treat people differently because of their financial status or outward appearance. The Lord said: “You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty” (Leviticus 19:15). Deuteronomy 1:17 reads: “You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small as well as the great.” After describing a scenario in which a rich man was given a favored seat in the assembly, and a poor man was pushed to the side, James wrote: “But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:9). In stating that Christians should not show partiality because they believe in Christ, James, by inspiration, suggested that favoritism—treating certain people as if they are of more inherent worth—is inconsistent with faith in Christ, and causes one to violate God’s law of liberty (2:8,12).
We are grateful that God has not arbitrarily chosen some people to be saved and some to be lost. Imagine a basis upon which He might select which people should be saved. Would He choose the wealthy? The well known? The most intelligent? Members of a particular ethnic group or culture? Fortunately, each person can choose for himself whether or not to accept God’s saving grace (Joshua 24:15; Isaiah 7:16; Ezekiel 18:20; Matthew 23:37; Revelation 22:17). Each person is responsible for his or her own actions (Ezekiel 18:20; Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Because of God’s marvelous love for all humans, He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9; cf. 1 Timothy 2:4).
REFERENCESJackson, Wayne (2004), “To What Law Were the Ancient Gentiles Accountable?,” [On-line], URL: http://www.christiancourier.com/questions/whatLawAncientGentiles.htm.
Lenski, R.C.H. (1961 reprint), The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
Does Picking Up Sticks Deserve the Death Penalty?
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
In his book, Losing Faith in Faith, denominational-preacher-turned-atheist, Dan Barker, wrote a chapter titled “Is the Bible a Good Moral Guide?” In that chapter, he argued that the Bible is not an acceptable guide for human behavior. In fact, he claimed that the God of the Bible is “an immoral person.” As proof of God’s “immorality,” Barker referred to a brief incident found in Numbers 15. In that chapter, a man was found gathering sticks on the Sabbath. Those who found the man took him to Moses and Aaron, who put him under guard until they could ascertain from God how this man should be punished. According to Numbers 15:35, the “Lord said to Moses, ‘The man must surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.’ ” Writing about this episode, Barker quipped:
If there were something dangerous about picking up sticks on Saturday or Sunday, then humanity should know it by now. Since we all agree that such an act in itself is harmless, then whoever executes a person for committing such a “crime” is an immoral person. Even if there were something wrong about picking up sticks, it is not so terribly wrong that it deserves capital punishment (1992, p. 329).Is it true that God was wrong in ordering this man to be stoned?
Barker claims that “we all agree” that picking up sticks on Saturday or Sunday is harmless. However, Barker does not take into account that the man was in direct violation of a specific command issued by God to the Israelites. One of the Ten Commandments specifically stated: “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” (Exodus 20:8-10). We do not all agree that disobedience to a direct command from God is harmless. Implied in Barker’s assessment of God’s punishment in this incident is the idea that Barker (and many skeptics like him) seems to think that he knows disobeying a “petty” command from God could not cause harm. In truth, there is no way that Barker could know what would have happened if this man’s disobedience was not punished as it was.
Often, disobedience to the commands of one who is in a position to know more about a particular situation could result in harm or death for multiplied thousands. For instance, why does the United States military insist on obedience to officers even in the minutest details? After all, “we all agree” that wearing a pair of boots that is not shined properly is a “harmless” activity, and folding a shirt incorrectly is no great crime. Why, then, does the military insist upon obedience even in the most minuscule ordinances? The simple truth is that laxity in obedience to small regulations breeds laxity in obedience to other ordinances. And if that laxity is not punished quickly and decisively, it has the potential to be contagious, and spread throughout the entire group or organization. And while inadvertent missteps in dress might not receive extremely harsh punishment, openly rebellious behavior to those of higher rank certainly would carry a significant punishment.
Let us examine how that might work. Suppose that the Commander in Chief of the U.S. military declared that only black boots are to be worn by the troops. Then suppose that one of the troops rebelliously decides he does not want to wear black boots, and thus dons a pair of bright-red boots. He marches with his fellow troops, and his commanding officers do nothing to punish him. His fellow troops see that his blatant indiscretion goes unpunished, so they decide to rebel and wear red boots. Soon, half the army is wearing red boots, a scenario that does not seem that “harmful.” When they are called to battle, however, the importance of the Commander’s regulations becomes evident. The enemy is dressed exactly like the U.S. military, except the enemy army wears red boots. The only way to distinguish between friend and foe happened to be the boot color, and due to the rebellious disobedience of the one man who was doing something “harmless,” thousands of U.S. troops are killed by friendly fire. A direct command from the Commander in Chief almost always houses an important purpose, about which many of those who are supposed to follow the command know little or nothing. Many times, only the Commander in Chief knows how harmful disobedience to the command can be.
In the same way, God issued a direct command. That command was blatantly disobeyed. How harmful could that one man’s disobedience have been? What if Joshua had seen this man’s disobedience go unpunished, and when God told him to march around Jericho thirteen times, Joshua decided that one time would be enough? Or what if the Israelites saw this man go unpunished, and thus decided that eating uncooked pork was not that big of a deal either? Or suppose that the Israelites had seen this man’s disobedience, decided they would break the other nine commandments, and therefore began to murder and commit adultery. The truth is, God is in a position to know much more about the situation than humans. He knew exactly what would have happened if this man’s disobedience was not punished.
Foreseeing the validity of this reasoning, Dan Barker conceded that punishment might be necessary, but claimed that the death penalty was too harsh. Says who? Suppose this man’s disobedience, if not punished with death, would have resulted in the moral collapse of the entire Israelite nation? Is there anyway Dan Barker could know that such would not be the case. Or suppose that this man’s disobedience to a direct command from God, if not punished by the death penalty, would have caused the Israelites to neglect sanitation laws instituted by God, bringing in a plague that killed thousands. What penalty would be appropriate for a man who was responsible for the death of thousands? In truth, only God could know what would have happened if this man’s disobedience had gone unpunished, and only God could have known what would have happened if that punishment was not the death penalty. When Dan Barker and other skeptics demand that God’s punishment in this (or other) cases is too harsh, they do so without reference to any objective, moral standard. Their sole defense is a wave of the hand and a “we all feel” statement that is designed to draw in their readers emotionally.
The Bible says that God knows “all things” (1 John 3:20). Since that is the case, only God can truly determine what is harmful and what is not harmful, and only God has the prerogative of determining the proper punishment for disobedience. Today, we no longer are under Old Testament laws concerning the Sabbath, but we are under the New Testament laws established by Jesus. In comparing disobedience to the two laws, the writer of Hebrews concluded:
Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace (10:28-29)?Disobedience to God is a serious offense. It often is the case that those who are the most disobedient to His commandments are the ones who attempt to minimize the importance of obedience.
REFERENCEBarker, Dan (1992), Losing Faith In Faith—From Preacher to Atheist (Madison, WI: Freedom from Religion Foundation).
Did Jesus Perform Miracles Or Not?
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
A gentleman who was struggling with his beliefs in the inerrancy of the Bible recently contacted our offices questioning why Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees that “no sign shall be given to this generation” (Mark 8:12; cf. Matthew 12:39; 16:4; Luke 11:29). Since other scriptures clearly teach that Jesus worked “many signs” (John 12:37; 20:30-31; 3:2; Acts 2:22), how could Jesus truthfully and consistently say, “no sign shall be given to this generation”? According to certain Bible critics, Jesus was a false prophet since His “prediction that no sign would be given to that generation is clearly false” (McKinsey, 1995, p. 114; cf. Wells, 2010). How can a Christian reasonably and biblically respond to such an assertion?
Sadly, Bible critics (and some Christians) are fond of disregarding the context in which biblical statements are found. Yet, no statement can be understood properly without some kind of background or contextual information. Words mean different things depending on how, when, and where they are spoken. Figures of speech abound in all cultures around the world (cf. Lyons, 2010). Truthful people, for example, have been joking, exaggerating, and using sarcasm for millennia (cf. Job 12:2; Psalm 58:3), all the while rightly expecting their listeners to interpret their language accurately, and without accusation of lying. Unfortunately, skeptics of the Bible’s inspiration often ignore much of the necessary information needed to properly understand Scripture.
When Jesus first made the statement, “no sign will be given” to this generation (Matthew 12:39; Luke 11:29), He had just healed a person who was blind, mute, and demon-possessed (Matthew 12:22; Luke 11:14). Notice that, rather than acknowledging that the great miracle Jesus worked was proof of His deity (John 20:30-31), the hard-hearted Pharisees alleged that His power came from the devil (Matthew 12:24). They did not simply turn away from Jesus; they turned 180 degrees away from the direction that such miracles led the honest and good-hearted truth-seekers. And Jesus’ enemies had not simply seen one miracle. Earlier in Matthew 12, Jesus had healed a man with a withered hand (vss. 9-13). How did the Pharisees react then? Rather than acknowledge the power of Christ, they “plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him” (vs. 14). The fact is, by this time in Jesus’ ministry He had already worked a number of miracles (Matthew 11:4-5), and many of the scribes and Pharisees absolutely refused to believe in Him (cf. Matthew 9:32-34). Regardless of what Jesus did or said, some of His enemies would never be convinced (cf. Matthew 12:31-32; see Butt, 2003).
So what did Jesus mean when He said on two different occasions that “no sign” would be given to “this generation” except “the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matthew 12:39; 16:4; Mark 8:12; Luke 11:29)? Jesus was responding to the Pharisees’ desire to see a sign. But they had already witnessed and heard about many of Jesus’ miracles. They wanted something “more.” They sought “a sign from heaven” (Luke 11:16; Matthew 16:1; Mark 8:11, emp. added). Exactly what Jesus’ enemies meant by this, we may not know. What we do know is that while on Earth Jesus manifested His power over nature, disease, demon, and death (see Lyons and Butt, 2007), yet the Pharisees said they wanted more. It seems, as Burton Coffman noted, they “meant some spectacular wonder without moral value but which would appeal sensationally to man’s curiosity” (Coffman, 1984, p. 179). Jesus, however, always rejected doing such miracles. He refused to turn stones to bread or to jump from the temple’s pinnacle simply because Satan challenged Him to do so (Matthew 4:1-7). Jesus could have performed any miracle that He wanted—whether when tempted by Satan, prodded by Herod (Luke 23:8-12), or tested by the Pharisees. He could have pulled rabbits from hats for the sole purpose of amusing people. He could have turned His Jewish enemies into stones or given a person three eyes. He could have commanded that it literally rain cats and dogs. He could have lit the robes of the Pharisees on fire with the snap of his fingers and told them that hell would be ten times as hot. He could have done any number of wonders. But the insincere Pharisees would see none of that (i.e., “no sign [like these] will be given”).
What sign would be given? Other than the kinds of miracles that Christ’s enemies had already rejected, the only other sign Jesus prophesied was “the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matthew 12:39; 16:4; Luke 11:29)—Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.
Most certainly, Jesus performed miracles. And though Jesus “humbled himself...taking the form of a bondservant” (Philippians 2:7-8), He refused to get on the lowly, perpetually defiled spiritual level of His enemies. He worked no miracle of the kind that the Pharisees wished to see. But make no mistake, He worked plenty of the kind that provide honest-hearted people sufficient evidence to come to the conclusion that He is, indeed, “the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:30-31).
Coffman, Burton (1984), Matthew (Abilene, TX: ACU Press).
Lyons, Eric (2010), “The ‘Twelve,’” http://www.apologeticspress.org/article/177.
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2007), “The Very Works that I Do Bear Witness of Me,” Reason & Revelation, 26:17-23, March, http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2857.
McKinsey, Dennis (1995), The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy (Amherst, NY: Prometheus).
Wells, Steve (2010), “Did Jesus Perform Many Signs and Wonders?” http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/signs.html.
Chalk One up for Academic Freedom
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
For several decades now, the theory of evolution has maintained an unwarranted, undeserved strangle hold on practically every public school science curriculum across our nation. Those who have dared question the beloved dogma have been intimidated, threatened, fired, and mocked for their dissenting views. One of the primary reasons for this censure is that the tenuous theory does not find evidentiary backing from any major field of science. While its proponents boast about the theory’s virtual factuality and the mounds of evidence that “prove” it to be the fundamental scientific theory, hard core, experimental evidence in favor of the theory has been lacking for years—a fact which has been admitted by evolutionists in their more candid moments (see Miller, 2004).
It is refreshing to see that there are those who have the courage to stand up and allow the purported evidence for evolution to be examined critically. On November 8, 2005, the Kansas Board of Education adopted new public school science standards that open the door for critical evaluation of the erroneous theory of evolution, as well as for consideration of alternative ideas of origins such as intelligent design. An article by John Hanna of the Associated Press explained that the new standards “say high school students must understand the major evolutionary concepts. But they also declare that basic Darwinian theory...has been challenged in recent years by fossil evidence and molecular biology” (2005).
Of course, the proponents of evolution are irate. Leading evolutionist and educator Eugenie Scott was quoted as saying, “We can predict this fight happening elsewhere” (Hanna, 2005). I think they certainly can predict that this fight will happen elsewhere. It is high time that the theory of evolution be evaluated critically and be seen for what it really is: a fallacious theory based more upon a belligerent adherence to the philosophy of materialism than an honest assessment of scientific discovery.
Kansas Board of Education member, Kathy Martin, responded to the board’s decision by saying: “Students will be informed and not indoctrinated” (Hanna, 2005). Her assessment hit the nail on the head. If evolution is such a well-grounded, virtual fact, it should be able to withstand a critical evaluation, and it should outstrip competing ideas. The fact that evolutionists do not want any other information considered is a telling hint that, deep down, they know their precious doctrine cannot withstand the test. In desperate efforts to keep evolution entrenched, evolutionists will claim that all other ideas (such as intelligent design) are unscientific, only held by ignorant radicals, backdoor advances of fundamentalist Christianity, and other such diversionary tactics. In reality, they are simply trying to draw attention away from the real issue: Does accurate, scientific evidence confirm the theory of evolution? Those on the Kansas Board of Education, and an increasing number of truth-seekers, are beginning to realize that the overwhelming answer to that question is a resounding “No!”
Miller, Dave (2004), “Atheist Finally ‘Sobers Up,’” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2662.
Founders En Masse Advocated Christianity
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Popular propaganda spouted for half a century or more claims that the Founders and Framers of America were deists and largely irreligious men who sought to establish a secular society that celebrates all ideologies, religions, and philosophies as equally valid. This sinister “diversity” myth has inflicted untold damage on American society, bringing the nation literally to the brink of disaster.
The failure of the average citizen to examine the facts and assess the gravity of the situation is inexcusable. In reality, the religious orientation of the architects of American civilization, and their view regarding its importance to the establishment and perpetuation of the Republic, is easily ascertainable. Rather than wade through the myriad pages and books that purport to depict American history accurately, all one need do is simply reread the organic utterances issued by the Founders as they orchestrated the founding.
Though not including all those who rightly wear the appellation “Founder,” nevertheless, the Continental Congress comprised a substantial portion of those men, and they may clearly be designated quintessential Founders (see Miller, 2009, p. 3). They certainly constitute a representative cross section of the men who brought the Republic into existence. Consider one sample among many in which the Continental Congress en masse issued a proclamation to the entire population of the country on March 19, 1782:
The United States in Congress assembled...think it their indispensable duty to call upon the several states, to set apart the last Thursday in April next, as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer...that He would incline the hearts of all men to peace, and fill them with universal charity and benevolence, and that the religion of our Divine Redeemer, with all its benign influences, may cover the earth as the waters cover the seas (Journals of..., 22:137-138, emp. added).The “Divine Redeemer” is Jesus Christ. Calling for Christ’s religion to “cover the earth as the waters cover the seas” is a direct allusion to two Old Testament passages—Isaiah 11:9 and Habakkuk 2:14.
The Founders insisted that the stability of the Republic depends on the Christian religion, with its moral principles and spiritual framework. They felt that though other religions may certainly be tolerated in America, the peculiar doctrines and practices of those religions must not be allowed to alter the laws and institutions of the nation. Nor must those doctrines and practices do any physical harm to Americans or violate Christian morality (e.g., polygamy, homosexuality, and abortion). The Founders would be horrified at the notion of “political correctness” and its corrosive, destructive influence. They would have difficulty believing that Americans would ever even consider allowing Sharia law to be included in our courts, schools, or government. The Founders never asked that Hinduism cover the Earth, nor Islam, Buddhism, or Atheism. Rather, they begged God to cover the Earth with the religion of Christ as thoroughly and completely as the waters cover the oceans of the world.
REFERENCESJournals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789 (1904-1937), ed. Worthington C. Ford, et al. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office), Library of Congress, http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/lwjc.html.
Miller, Dave (2009), Christ and the Continental Congress (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).