"THE GOSPEL OF JOHN" The New Birth (3:1-21) INTRODUCTION 1. A commonly used phrase is "born again Christian"... a. Often in the context of distinguishing between Christians who are "born again" and those not b. Which is a really an incorrect distinction, for all true Christians have been "born again" -- But what does it mean to be "born again"? 2. The Bible uses the expression "born again" only a few times... a. Jesus in His conversation with Nicodemus - Jn 3:3,5,7 b. Peter in his first epistle - 1Pe 1:3,23 -- Although the idea of being "born" of God is used many times - e.g., Jn 1:13; 1Jn 5:1 [In His discussion with Nicodemus, Jesus reveals much about being "born again." With His comments as the basis of our study, let's examine what the Bible reveals about "The New Birth". After we are introduced to Nicodemus (cf. also Jn 7:50; 19:39), we observe Jesus emphasizing...] I. THE NECESSITY OF THE NEW BIRTH (1-3) A. NECESSARY TO SEE THE KINGDOM OF GOD... 1. Unless one is born again, he cannot see (enter) the kingdom - cf. Jn 1:3,5,7 2. What is the kingdom of God? In brief... a. The rule and reign of God in the person of Christ - cf. Mt 28:18; Ac 2:36; Re 1:4 b. A spiritual kingdom not of this world - cf. Jn 18:36; Lk 17: 20-21 c. A kingdom made up of faithful subjects (i.e., the church) - cf. Col 1:13; Re 1:6,9 d. A kingdom both present and future - cf. Mt 13:41-43; 1Co 15:24-26 -- Do you wish to be in the kingdom now and hereafter? You must be born again! B. NECESSARY TO BE SAVED... 1. To be in the kingdom is to be saved from the powers of darkness - cf. Col 1:13 2. Salvation requires a rebirth, a regeneration - cf. Tit 3:5 -- Do you wish to be saved from your sins? You must be born again! [Nicodemus is confused, assuming that Jesus has in mind a physical birth. So Jesus explains...] II. THE NATURE OF THE NEW BIRTH (4-5) A. INVOLVES BOTH WATER AND THE SPIRIT... 1. Note carefully: one birth involving two elements - water and the Spirit a. Not two births (born of water and born of the Spirit) b. But one birth (born of water and the Spirit) 2. Compare Paul's description - cf. Tit 3:5 a. A washing of regeneration (water) b. And renewing of the Holy Spirit (Spirit) 3. An obvious reference to baptism a. "There can be no doubt, on any honest interpretation of the words, that gennethenai ek hudatos (born of water) refers to the token or outward sign of baptism, gennethenai ek pneumatos (born of Spirit) to the thing signified, or inward grace of the Holy Spirit. All attempts to get rid of these two plain facts have sprung from doctrinal prejudices, by which the views of expositors have been warped." - Alford (Greek Testament) b. "By water, here, is evidently signified baptism." - Albert Barnes c. "Baptism by water, into the Christian faith, was necessary to every Jew and Gentile that entered into the kingdom of the Messiah." - Adam Clarke d. "There is not any one Christian writer of any antiquity in any language but what understands it of baptism....I believe Calvin was the first that ever denied this place to mean baptism. He gives it another interpretation, which he confesses to be new." - William Wall (History of Infant Baptism) -- The new birth occurs when one is baptized, for in that simple act of faith they are born not only of the water out of which they arise, but also born of the Spirit (regenerated) by the working of God at that moment - cf. Col 2:12-13 B. INVOLVES THE WORD OF GOD... 1. One is born again by the Word - 1Pe 1:23 a. The incorruptible Word that is preached - cf. 1Pe 1:25 b. The instrument through which the Spirit convicts the sinner - cf. Jn 16:7; Ep 6:17 c. Which includes the command to be baptized - cf. Mk 16:16; Ac 2:38; 22:16 2. Jesus sanctifies and cleanses His church by the washing of water by the word - Ep 5:26 a. The "washing of water" is another allusion to baptism - Jameison, Fausset, Brown b. Yet baptism must be administered in conjunction with the Word of God to be of benefit -- The new birth involves several elements (water, Spirit, Word of God), all coming together when one responds to the gospel in baptism - e.g., Ac 2:37-39 [While there is evidence that one is born of water as they rise from the watery grave of baptism, the evidence of their being born of the Spirit comes later...] III. THE EVIDENCE OF THE NEW BIRTH (6-8) A. SEEN BY THE EFFECT OF THE SPIRIT... 1. We should expect that what the Spirit produces is spirit (i.e., spiritual) - Jn 3:6 2. Like the wind (the same Greek word as Spirit), we do not see the Spirit itself but the effect that it produces -- Has one been truly born of the Spirit (i.e., born again)? With time there should be clear evidence that a change has occurred - e.g., 1Jn 3:14 B. SEEN BY THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT... 1. Paul describes the fruit (evidence) of the Spirit - Ga 5:22-23 2. Which comes not only being born of the Spirit, but walking in the Spirit - Ga 5:16,25 -- Where the fruit does not appear, either there was never any rebirth or one is walking after the flesh, not the Spirit! - cf. Ga 5:17 [As the discussion continues (Jn 3:9-13), it soon turns into a discourse (Jn 3:14-21), the latter in which Jesus describes...] IV. THE BASIS FOR THE NEW BIRTH (14-18) A. THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST... 1. Jesus compares His eventual crucifixion to Moses' lifting up of the serpent - Jn 3:14; Num 21:4-9 2. So people would be saved from perishing by believing in Jesus - Jn 3:15 -- Without redemption from sin, regeneration would be meaningless; the new birth provides both! - cf. Ac 22:16; Tit 3:5 B. THE LOVE OF GOD... 1. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that those who believe might have everlasting life (i.e., enter the kingdom of God) - Jn 3:16 2. God does not want anyone to perish or be condemned, but to be saved - Jn 3:16b-17 -- God's love for man is what makes Christ's sacrifice and the new birth possible! - cf. 1Jn 4:9-10 C. THE FAITH OF MAN... 1. Those who believe in Jesus will not perish, but have everlasting life - Jn 3:15-16 2. They will not be condemned, unlike those who do not believe - Jn 3:18 -- The new birth requires faith in Jesus; without faith, being born of water is meaningless, and born of the Spirit impossible - cf. Mk 16:16; Jn 8:24; Ac 8:36-37 [Christ's sacrifice and God's love, in cooperation with man's faith, makes the new birth possible. Yet many remain condemned for lack of faith in Jesus. Why? Jesus offers one reason for...] V. THE REJECTION OF THE NEW BIRTH (19-21) A. MANY LOVE DARKNESS MORE THAN LIGHT... 1. Light (Jesus) has come into the world - Jn 3:19a; 1:5,9; 8:12 2. There are those who love the darkness instead, because of their evil deeds - Jn 3:19b -- Their love for things of the world cause them to reject the light of Jesus - e.g. Lk 16:14 B. MANY DO NOT WANT TO BE EXPOSED BY THE LIGHT... 1. They know that coming to Jesus will expose their evil deeds - Jn 3:20; cf. Ep 5:13 2. But those willing to obey (does the truth), do not fear the light - Jn 3:21 -- Unwilling to give up their evil deeds, they are unwilling to submit to the new birth which acknowledges one's sinfulness and requires repentance - e.g., Ac 2:36-38 CONCLUSION 1. In His conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus reveals much about being born again... a. The necessity of the new birth (one cannot be a Christian unless "born again") b. The nature of the new birth (a birth involving both water and the Spirit, i.e., baptism) c. The evidence of the new birth (observable by its effects, i.e., the fruit of the Spirit) d. The basis of the new birth (Christ's sacrifice, God's love, man's faith) e. The rejection of the new birth (why many refuse to submit to it) 2. What about you? Have you been born again...? a. Born of water and the Spirit (i.e., a washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit)? b. Born through the Word of God (i.e., by responding to the gospel message)? c. Responding to God's love and Christ's sacrifice by expressing your faith in baptism? Remember the words of Jesus... "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." (Mk 16:16) "Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'" (Jn 3:7)
"THE GOSPEL OF JOHN" The Cleansing Of The Temple (2:13-25) INTRODUCTION 1. It is common to think of Jesus as a gentle, peace-loving man... a. He certainly presented Himself as such on most occasions - e.g., Mt 11:28-30 b. People felt comfortable in bringing their children to Him - e.g., Mt 19:13-14 2. Yet on occasion Jesus displayed strong righteous indignation... a. Such as when He visited Jerusalem during the Passover at the beginning of His ministry b. As He drove the moneychangers and merchandisers out of the temple - Jn 2:13-15 [What prompted this outburst of anger? What gave Jesus the authority to do this? What lessons might we glean from this event? As we seek to find the answers let's first note...] I. THE REBUKE OF THE LORD A. MERCHANDISING HIS FATHER'S HOUSE... 1. The Lord's rebuke reveals the reason for His outburst - cf. Jn 2:16 2. The sellers of oxen and sheep, along with the moneychangers, had turned the temple into a house of merchandise 3. It was to be a house of prayer, they had turned it into a den of thieves - cf. Mt 21:13 -- The Lord was angered by the manner in which some used religion to make money B. MIGHT WE BE GUILTY OF A SIMILAR OFFENSE...? 1. What if we attend church simply as a form of "networking", to make business contacts? 2. What if we take advantage of our relationship as brethren to further a multilevel marketing business, a home-based business, or any other financial enterprise? -- The Lord's temple today is the church, we must be careful lest we defile it as well (cf. 1Co 3:16-17) [The Lord has ordained that those who preach the gospel be supported (1 Col 9:14). But He is angered by those who view the Lord's temple (people) as a way to get rich. Next, we note that His anger was prompted by...] II. THE ZEAL OF THE LORD A. ZEAL FOR HIS FATHER'S HOUSE... 1. The disciples were reminded of an Old Testament prophecy - Jn 2:17; cf. Ps 69:9 2. Jesus had zeal (fervor) for God's house, for it's intended purpose (a house of prayer) -- His great zeal for His Father's house moved Him to action B. HOW IS OUR ZEAL FOR THE LORD'S HOUSE...? 1. Remember, today the Father's house is the church - cf. 1 Ti 3:15 2. Do we have great zeal for the church? a. That it fulfill it's intended purpose (to make known God's will)? - cf. Ep 3:10-11 b. That we are troubled when we see people try to turn it into something else, such as social club, or a purveyor of entertainment? -- If we have zeal for the Lord's house, we will not rest silent when others pervert its purpose [Of course, the action we take may not be the same as what Jesus did. Indeed, He took up "a whip of cords." What right did He have to use such a display of force? That's what the Jews wanted to know...] III. THE AUTHORITY OF THE LORD A. THE SIGN THAT PROVES HIS AUTHORITY... 1. They wanted to know what sign (miracle) He could offer to prove His right to cleanse the temple - Jn 2:18 2. Jesus offered His ability to rise from the dead as the ultimate proof - Jn 2:19-22 a. Later, He would restate His claim to have this ability - Jn 10:17-18 b. His resurrection proved that He was the Son of God - cf. Ro 1:4 -- He has been given the authority to exercise such judgment as cleansing the temple - cf. Jn 5:22,26-27 B. WE DO NOT HAVE THE SAME AUTHORITY... 1. We are to judge with righteous judgment - Jn 7:24 a. At times we must distinguish between "hogs" and "dogs" - Mt 7:6 b. We can distinguish between good and bad fruit - Mt 7:15-20 2. But our authority to judge is limited - Mt 7:1-5 a. There are things we cannot judge in this life - 1Co 4:3-5 b. There are people we are not to judge - 1Co 5:11-13 c. Vengeance in particular belongs to the Lord - cf. Ro 12: 17-19 -- While Jesus is our example (cf. 1Pe 2:21), there are some "steps" that He took that we cannot take [The reason we cannot emulate the Lord in every case becomes evident as we consider...] IV. THE POWER OF THE LORD A. THE POWER THAT JUSTIFIES HIS ACTION... 1. John mentions how many came to believe in Him because of His signs - Jn 2:23 2. John also makes note of His unwillingness to commit Himself to others at this time a. He had no need to, because he knew all - Jn 2:24 b. He had no need to, because he knew what was in man - Jn 2:25 -- Jesus is revealed as one who can discern the hearts of men - cf. Mt 9:4; Re 2:23 B. WE DO NOT HAVE THE SAME POWER... 1. We cannot discern the hearts of men like the Lord can; note these comments: a. "Our Lord knew all men, their nature, dispositions, affections, designs, so as we do not know any man, not even ourselves." b. "He knows his crafty enemies, and all their secret projects; his false friends, and their true characters." c. "He knows who are truly his, knows their uprightness, and knows their weaknesses." d. "We know what is done by men; Christ knows what is in them, he tries the heart." -- Matthew Henry Commentary 2. Since we cannot read the hearts of men, we must be careful a. We are unable to always know the motives of others b. We must approach those in opposition with humility - cf. 2Ti 2:24-26 c. We must approach brethren overtaken in a fault with gentleness - cf. Ga 6:1 CONCLUSION 1. In contending for the faith (which is a solemn duty, Jude 3)... a. Some often use the example of Jesus cleansing the temple to justify their behavior b. As they lash out in anger (righteous indignation?) towards those teaching error 2. Is it right to appeal to Jesus' example in this case...? a. Can we appeal to every example of Jesus? b. If so, are we justified to use a whip of cords as well? 3. The immediate context offers reasons to answer carefully... a. Jesus possessed unlimited authority to judge man, proven by His resurrection from the dead b. Jesus possessed divine power to read the hearts of men, we sometimes cannot even discern our own hearts 4. There are times for righteous indignation... a. But some things must be left to the Lord, the righteous Judge b. We must avoid what might actually be "self-righteous" indignation! While we may not always be able to emulate the Lord's prerogative to judge, we should certainly strive to copy His zeal for His Father's house. Is our zeal for His church what it ought to be...?
"THE GOSPEL OF JOHN" The Water Turned To Wine (2:1-12) INTRODUCTION 1. John's purpose in his gospel was to produce faith - Jn 20:30-31 a. Which he sought to accomplish by recording the "signs" done by Jesus b. Not all of them, but enough to produce faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God 2. The "signs" Jesus performed were miracles... a. Expressions of supernatural, divine power b. Designed to attest His unique relationship with God - cf. Ac 2:22 [The first sign recorded by John took place shortly after Jesus had acquired His first disciples...] I. THE SETTING A. IN CANA OF GALILEE... 1. On the third day - Jn 2:1 a. The third day after Jesus made two more disciples (Hendriksen) b. Taking two days to reach Galilee from Judea (JFB) 2. In the city of Cana - Jn 2:1 a. Cana was about 4 miles NE of Nazareth, and SW of the Sea of Galilee b. Jesus had wanted to go to Galilee - cf. Jn 1:43 c. Nathanael was from the city of Cana - cf. Jn 21:2 B. AT A WEDDING FEAST... 1. The mother of Jesus was there - Jn 2:1 2. Likewise Jesus and His disciples, who had been invited - Jn 2:2 a. Jesus and His disciples were not ascetics - cf. Mt 9:14 b. He came eating and drinking - cf. Mt 11:19 C. WHERE THE WINE HAD RUN OUT... 1. As noted by the mother of Jesus - Jn 2:3 a. She appears to have some role of responsibility and authority - cf. Jn 2:5 b. The invitation to Jesus and His disciples may have been a last minute thing c. Running out of wine would have been an embarrassment to Mary, if she were in charge d. She tells Jesus; perhaps hinting a request? (RWP) 2. Jesus responds to His mother - Jn 2:4 a. "Woman" 1) Not a term of disrespect in those days - cf. Jn 19:26; 20:15 2) Though a subtle hint may be implied by its use instead of "Mother" that their relationship of mother and son was changing b. "What does your concern have to do with Me?" 1) Perhaps a mild rebuke for her anxiety 2) Perhaps too much like Martha? - cf. Lk 10:41 c. "My hour has not yet come." 1) This suggests that Mary's request was more than just a desire for a gift of wine 2) Perhaps she wanted a supreme manifestation of Him as the Messiah 3) That event would come later, with His death and resurrection - cf. Jn 2:18-19; 12:23,27; 17:1 4) His mother sought for a supreme sign, but at that time only a secondary sign could be fittingly given 5) I.e., the triumph at Pentecost was not to be achieved at Cana (McGarvey) [Despite the subtle rebuke, Mary evidently sense a willingness on Jesus' part to do something. So she instructed the servants to do whatever He says (cf. Jn 2:5). This leads us to...] II. THE MIRACLE A. THE WATER TURNED TO WINE... 1. Beginning with six empty water pots - Jn 2:6 a. Normally used for the Jewish rituals of purification - cf. Mk 7:3-4 b. Capable of holding twenty or thirty gallons (two or three firkins, KJV) each 2. Filled with water - Jn 2:7 a. As instructed by Jesus b. Filled to the brim 3. A sample drawn and taken to the master of the feast - Jn 2:8 a. As instructed by Jesus b. Carried out by the servants c. Apparently what was drawn was still water; it became wine before reaching the guests - cf. Jn 2:9 B. THE IMPACT ON THOSE PRESENT... 1. Upon the master of the feast - Jn 2:9-10 a. He tasted the water that was made wine b. Not knowing where it came from, he called the bridegroom c. Telling him that he kept the good wine for last, contrary to normal custom 2. Upon the disciples of Jesus - Jn 2:11 a. It was the beginning of signs Jesus did in Galilee - cf. Jn 4:54 b. In which Jesus manifested His glory - cf. Jn 1:14 c. Their faith in Jesus was even more strengthened C. THE IMPACT ON US TODAY... 1. It should not be to justify the custom of social drinking a. The word "oinos" can refer to fermented wine, but not necessarily b. Alcoholic drinks today are much stronger than those in Bible times c. The Bible is filled with the dangers of drinking - cf. Pro 20:1; 23:29-35 d. We do well to consider the influence of our example - cf. Ro 14:21; 1Co 10:31-33 2. This miracle of turning water to wine reveals Jesus as: a. One who honors the bond of marriage by His presence at the wedding b. One who bestows His gifts lavishly; if in the physical realm, how much more in the spiritual? c. One whose infinite love is made effective by His equally infinite power d. One who, accordingly, is the Son of God, full of grace and glory -- William Hendricksen, New Testament Commentary CONCLUSION 1. After this miracle in Cana, Jesus went down to Capernaum - Jn 2:12 a. Capernaum, a city on the northwestern shore of Galilee, visited frequently by Jesus b. Together with His mother, His brothers (cf. Mt 13:55), and His disciples c. Though they did not stay many days - cf. Jn 2:13 2. The disciples of Jesus must have been excited... a. They had heard the testimony of John the Baptist concerning Jesus b. They had borne their own initial testimony as to Jesus c. Now they had seen this "sign" that Jesus was truly what they believed Him to be! More signs to come would increase their faith in Jesus. They can have a similar affect in us as we continue to read and study the gospel according to John...
Antisemitism and the Crucifixion of Christ: Who Murdered Jesus?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Perhaps you have heard the furor surrounding Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion,” scheduled for release in March 2004. The official Web site states: “Passion is a vivid depiction of the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ’s life” (Passion Web site). Special emphasis is placed on the physical suffering Christ endured. Throughout the film, the language spoken is the first-century Jewish language, Aramaic, except when the Romans speak their language, i.e., Latin (Novak, 2003). Gibson, who both produced and directed the film, sank $25 million of his own money into the venture.
The stir over the film stems from the role of the Jews in their involvement in Christ’s crucifixion. In fact, outcries of “anti-Semitism” have been vociferous, especially from representatives of the Anti-Defamation League. Their contention is that Jews are depicted in the film as “bloodthirsty, sadistic, money-hungry enemies of God” who are portrayed as “the ones responsible for the decision to crucify Jesus” (as quoted in Hudson, 2003; cf. Zoll, 2003). The fear is that the film will fuel hatred and bigotry against Jews. A committee of nine Jewish and Catholic scholars unanimously found the film to project a uniformly negative picture of Jews (“ADL and Mel…”). The Vatican has avoided offering an endorsement of the film by declining to make an official statement for the time being (“Vatican Has Not…”; cf. “Mel Gibson’s…”). This action is to be expected in view of the conciliatory tone manifested by Vatican II (Abbott, 1955, pp. 663-667). Even Twentieth Century Fox has decided not to participate in the distribution of the film (“20th Decides…”; cf. “Legislator Tries…”; O’Reilly…”).
Separate from the controversy generated by Gibson’s film, the more central issue concerns to what extent the Jewish generation of the first century contributed to, or participated in, the death of Christ. If the New Testament is the verbally inspired Word of God, then it is an accurate and reliable report of the facts, and its depiction of the details surrounding the crucifixion are normative and final. That being the case, how does the New Testament represent the role of the Jews in the death of Christ?
A great many verses allude to the role played by the Jews, especially the leadership, in the death of Jesus. For some time prior to the crucifixion, the Jewish authorities were determined to oppose Jesus. This persecution was aimed at achieving His death:
So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff (Luke 4:28-30, emp. added).These (and many other) verses demonstrate unquestionable participation of the Jews in bringing about the death of Jesus. One still can hear the mournful tones of Jesus Himself, in His sadness over the Jews rejecting Him: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:37-39). He was referring to the destruction of Jerusalem and the demise of the Jewish commonwealth at the hands of the Romans in A.D. 70. Read carefully His unmistakable allusion to the reason for this holocaustic event:
Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God (John 5:18-19, emp. added).
After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him… “Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law? Why do you seek to kill Me?” (John 7:1-2,19, emp. added).
“I know that you are Abraham's descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.” They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this.” Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by (John 8:37-41,59, emp. added).
Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him…. Therefore they sought again to seize Him, but He escaped out of their hand (John 10:31-32,39, emp. added).
Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death…. Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a command, that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it, that they might seize Him (John 11:53, 57, emp. added).
And He was teaching daily in the temple. But the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people sought to destroy Him, and were unable to do anything; for all the people were very attentive to hear Him (Luke 19:47-48, emp. added).
And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might kill Him, for they feared the people (Luke 22:2, emp. added).
Then the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people assembled at the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and plotted to take Jesus by trickery and kill Him (Matthew 26:3-4, emp. added).
Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:41-44).He clearly attributed their national demise to their stubborn rejection of Him as the predicted Messiah, Savior, and King.
Does the Bible, then, indicate that a large percentage, perhaps even a majority, of the Jews of first century Palestine was “collectively guilty” for the death of Jesus? The inspired evidence suggests so. Listen carefully to the apostle Paul’s assessment, keeping in mind that he, himself, was a Jew—in fact, “a Hebrew of the Hebrews” (Philippians 3:5; cf. Acts 22:3; Romans 11:1; 2 Corinthians 11:22). Speaking to Thessalonian Christians, he wrote:
For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16, emp. added).This same apostle Paul met with constant resistance from fellow Jews. After he spoke at the Jewish synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia, a crowd of people that consisted of nearly the whole city gathered to hear him expound the Word of God. Notice the reaction of the Jews in the crowd:
But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul. Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles….” But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region (Acts 13:45-46,50-51).Paul met with the same resistance from the general Jewish public that Jesus encountered—so much so that he wrote to Gentiles concerning Jews: “Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake” (Romans 11:28). He meant that the majority of the Jews had rejected Christ and Christianity. Only a “remnant” (Romans 11:5), i.e., a small minority, embraced Christ.
What role did the Romans play in the death of Christ? It certainly is true that Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross. First-century Palestine was under the jurisdiction of Rome. Though Rome permitted the Jews to retain a king in Judea (Herod), the Jews were subject to Roman law in legal matters. In order to achieve the execution of Jesus, the Jews had to appeal to the Roman authorities for permission (John 18:31). A simple reading of the verses that pertain to Jewish attempts to acquire this permission for the execution are clear in their depiction of Roman reluctance in the matter. Pilate, the governing procurator in Jerusalem, sought literally to quell and diffuse the Jewish efforts to kill Jesus. He called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people and stated plainly to them:
“You have brought this Man to me, as one who misleads the people. And indeed, having examined Him in your presence, I have found no fault in this Man concerning those things of which you accuse Him; no, neither did Herod, for I sent you back to him; and indeed nothing deserving of death has been done by Him. I will therefore chastise Him and release Him” (for it was necessary for him to release one to them at the feast). And they all cried out at once, saying, “Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas”—who had been thrown into prison for a certain rebellion made in the city, and for murder. Pilate, therefore, wishing to release Jesus, again called out to them. But they shouted, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” Then he said to them the third time, “Why, what evil has He done? I have found no reason for death in Him. I will therefore chastise Him and let Him go.” But they were insistent, demanding with loud voices that He be crucified. And the voices of these men and of the chief priests prevailed. So Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they requested. And he released to them the one they requested, who for rebellion and murder had been thrown into prison; but he delivered Jesus to their will (Luke 23:14-25).It is difficult to conceptualize the level of hostility possessed by the Jewish hierarchy, and even by a segment of the Jewish population, toward a man who had done nothing worthy of such hatred. It is incredible to think that they would clamor for the release of a known murderer and insurrectionist, rather than allow the release of Jesus. Yes, the Roman authority was complicit in the death of Jesus. But Pilate would have had no interest in pursuing the matter if the Jewish leaders and crowd had not pressed for it. In fact, he went to great lengths to perform a symbolic ceremony in order to communicate the fact that he was not responsible for Jesus’ death. He announced to the multitude: “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it” (Matthew 27:24). Technically, the Romans cannot rightly be said to be ultimately responsible. If the Jews had not pressed the matter, Pilate never would have conceded to having Him executed. The apostle Peter made this point very clear by placing the blame for the crucifixion of Jesus squarely on the shoulders of Jerusalem Jews:
Men of Israel…the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses (Acts 3:12-16, emp. added).Notice that even though the Romans administered the actual crucifixion, Peter pointedly stated to his Jewish audience, not only that Pilate wanted to release Jesus, but that the Jews (“you”)—not the Romans—“killed the Prince of life.”
Does God lay the blame for the death of Christ on the Jews as an ethnic group? Of course not. Though the generation of Jews who were contemporary to Jesus cried out to Pilate, “His blood be on us and on our children” (Matthew 27:25, emp. added), it remains a biblical fact that “the son shall not bear the guilt of the father” (Ezekiel 18:20). A majority of a particular ethnic group in a particular geographical locale at a particular moment in history may band together and act in concert to perpetrate a social injustice. But such an action does not indict all individuals everywhere who share that ethnicity. “For there is no partiality with God” (Romans 2:11), and neither should there be with any of us.
In fact, the New Testament teaches that ethnicity should have nothing to do with the practice of the Christian religion—which includes how we see ourselves, as well as how we treat others. Listen carefully to Paul’s declarations on the subject: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham's seed” (Galatians 3:28-29, emp. added). Jesus obliterates the ethnic distinction between Jew and non-Jew:
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity (Ephesians 2:14-17).In the higher sense, neither the Jews nor the Romans crucified Jesus. Oh, they were all complicit, including Judas Iscariot. But so were we. Every accountable human being who has ever lived or ever will live has committed sin that necessitated the death of Christ—if atonement was to be made so that sin could be forgiven. Since Jesus died for the sins of the whole world (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2), every sinner is responsible for His death. But that being said, the Bible is equally clear that in reality, Jesus laid down His own life for humanity: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep…. Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:11,17-18; cf. Galatians 1:4; 2:20; Ephesians 5:2; 1 John 3:16). Of course, the fact that Jesus was willing to sacrifice Himself on the behalf of humanity does not alter the fact that it still required human beings, in this case first-century Jews, exercising their own free will to kill Him. A good summary passage on this matter is Acts 4:27-28—“for of a truth in this city against thy holy Servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, were gathered together, to do whatsoever thy hand and thy council foreordained to come to pass.”
CONCLUSIONAnti-Semitism is sinful and unchristian. Those who crucified Jesus are to be pitied. Even Jesus said concerning them: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). But we need not deny or rewrite history in the process. We are now living in a post-Christian culture. If Gibson would have produced a movie depicting Jesus as a homosexual, the liberal, “politically correct,” anti-Christian forces would have been the first to defend the undertaking under the guise of “artistic license,” “free speech,” and “creativity.” But dare to venture into spiritual reality by showing the historicity of sinful man mistreating the Son of God, and the champions of moral degradation and hedonism raise angry, bitter voices of protest. The irony of the ages is—He died even for them.
REFERENCESAbbott, Walter, ed. (1966), The Documents of Vatican II (New York, NY: America Press).
“ADL and Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion,’ ” [On-line], URL: http://www.adl.org/interfaith/gibson_qa.asp.
Hudson, Deal (2003), “The Gospel according to Braveheart,” The Spectator, [On-line], URL: http://www.spectator.co.uk/article.php3?table=old§ion=current&issue=2003-09-20&id=3427&searchText=.
“Legislator Tries to Censor Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion,’ ” [On-line], URL: http://www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2003/8/27/124709.shtml.
“Mel Gibson’s ‘Passion’ Makes Waves,” [On-line], URL: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/08/08/entertainment/main567445.shtml.
Novak, Michael (2003), “Passion Play,” The Weekly Standard, [On-line], URL: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/003/014ziqma.asp.
“O’Reilly: Elite Media out to Destroy Mel Gibson,” [On-line], URL: http://www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2003/9/15/223513.shtml.
Passion Web site, [On-line], URL: http://www.passion-movie.com/english/index.html.
“20th Decides Against Distributing Gibson’s ‘The Passion,’ ” [On-line], URL: http://www.imdb.com/SB?20030829#3.
“Vatican Has Not Taken A Position on Gibson’s Film ‘The Passion,’ Top Cardinal Assures ADL,” [On-line], URL: http://www.adl.org/PresRele/VaticanJewish_96/4355_96.htm.
Zoll, Rachel (2003), “Jewish Civil Rights Leader Says Actor Mel Gibson Espouses Anti-Semitic Views,” [On-line], URL: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2003/09/19/national1505EDT0626.DTL.
The Dead Sea Scrolls and Biblical Integrity
|by||Garry K. Brantley, M.A., M.Div.|
Bible believers often are confronted with the charge that the Bible is filled with mistakes. These alleged mistakes can be placed into two major categories: (1) apparent internal inconsistencies among revealed data; and (2) scribal mistakes in the underlying manuscripts themselves. The former category involves those situations in which there are apparent discrepancies between biblical texts regarding a specific event, person, place, etc. [For a treatment of such difficulties see Archer, 1982; Geisler and Brooks, 1989, pp. 163-178]. The latter category involves a much more fundamental concern—the integrity of the underlying documents of our English translations. Some charge that the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek manuscripts, having been copied and recopied by hand over many years, contain a plethora of scribal errors that have altered significantly the information presented in the original documents. As such, we cannot be confident that our English translations reflect the information initially penned by biblical writers. However, the materials discovered at Qumran, commonly called the Dead Sea Scrolls, have provided impressive evidence for both the integrity of the Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts of the Old Testament and the authenticity of the books themselves.
DATE OF THE MATERIALS
The second strand of evidence is that the generally accepted dates for the scrolls are corroborated by palaeographical considerations. Palaeography is the study of ancient writing and, more specifically, the shape and style of letters. Characteristic of ancient languages, the manner in which Hebrew and Aramaic letters were written changed over a period of time. The trained eye can determine, within certain boundaries, the time frame of a document based upon the shape of its letters. This is the method by which scholars determine the date of a text on palaeographical grounds. According to this technique, the scripts at Qumran belong to three periods of palaeographical development: (1) a small group of biblical texts whose archaic style reflects the period between about 250-150 B.C.; (2) a large cache of manuscripts, both biblical and non-biblical, that is consistent with a writing style common to the Hasmonean period (c. 150-30 B.C.); and (3) a similarly large number of texts that evinces a writing style characteristic of the Herodian period (30 B.C.-A.D. 70). This linguistic information also is consistent with the commonly accepted dates of the Qumran materials.
Finally, as an aside, the carbon-14 tests done on both the cloth in which certain scrolls were wrapped, and the scrolls themselves, generally correspond to the palaeographic dates. There are, however, some considerable differences. Due to the inexact nature of carbon-14 dating techniques (see Major, 1993), and the possibility of chemical contamination, scholars place greater confidence in the historically corroborated palaeographic dates (see Shanks, 1991, 17:72). At any rate, the archaeological and linguistic data provide scholars with reasonable confidence that the scrolls date from 250 B.C. to A.D. 70.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE SCROLLS
THE SCROLLS AND THE MASORETIC TEXT
Critical scholars questioned the accuracy of the MT, which formed the basis of our English versions of the Old Testament, since there was such a large chronological gap between it and the autographs. Because of this uncertainty, scholars often “corrected” the text with considerable freedom. Qumran, however, has provided remains of an early Masoretic edition predating the Christian era on which the traditional MT is based. A comparison of the MT to this earlier text revealed the remarkable accuracy with which scribes copied the sacred texts. Accordingly, the integrity of the Hebrew Bible was confirmed, which generally has heightened its respect among scholars and drastically reduced textual alteration.
Most of the biblical manuscripts found at Qumran belong to the MT tradition or family. This is especially true of the Pentateuch and some of the Prophets. The well-preserved Isaiah scroll from Cave 1 illustrates the tender care with which these sacred texts were copied. Since about 1700 years separated Isaiah in the MT from its original source, textual critics assumed that centuries of copying and recopying this book must have introduced scribal errors into the document that obscured the original message of the author.
The Isaiah scrolls found at Qumran closed that gap to within 500 years of the original manuscript. Interestingly, when scholars compared the MT of Isaiah to the Isaiah scroll of Qumran, the correspondence was astounding. The texts from Qumran proved to be word-for-word identical to our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text. The 5 percent of variation consisted primarily of obvious slips of the pen and spelling alterations (Archer, 1974, p. 25). Further, there were no major doctrinal differences between the accepted and Qumran texts (see Table 1 below). This forcibly demonstrated the accuracy with which scribes copied sacred texts, and bolstered our confidence in the Bible’s textual integrity (see Yamauchi, 1972, p. 130). The Dead Sea Scrolls have increased our confidence that faithful scribal transcription substantially has preserved the original content of Isaiah.
TABLE 1. QUMRAN VS. THE MASORETES
Of the 166 Hebrew words in Isaiah 53, only
seventeen letters in Dead Sea Scroll 1QIsb
differ from the Masoretic Text (Geisler and
Nix, 1986, p. 382).
10 letters = spelling differences
4 letters = stylistic changes
3 letters = added word for “light” (vs. 11)
17 letters = no affect on biblical teaching
CRITICAL SCHOLARSHIP, DANIEL, AND THE SCROLLS
The apparent reason for this conclusion among critical scholars is the predictive nature of the book of Daniel. It speaks precisely of events that transpired several hundred years removed from the period in which it claims to have been composed. Since the guiding principles of the historical-critical method preclude a transcendent God’s intervening in human affairs (see Brantley, 1994), the idea of inspired predictive prophecy is dismissed a priori from the realm of possibility. Accordingly, Daniel could not have spoken with such precision about events so remote from his day. Therefore, critical scholars conclude that the book was written actually as a historical record of events during the Maccabean period, but couched in apocalyptic or prophetic language. Such conclusions clearly deny that this book was the authentic composition of a Daniel who lived in the sixth century B.C., that the Bible affirms.
The Dead Sea Scrolls have lifted their voice in this controversy. Due to the amount of Daniel fragments found in various caves near Qumran, it appears that this prophetic book was one of the most treasured by that community. Perhaps the popularity of Daniel was due to the fact that the people of Qumran lived during the anxious period in which many of these prophecies actually were being fulfilled. For whatever reason, Daniel was peculiarly safeguarded to the extent that we have at our disposal parts of all chapters of Daniel, except chapters 9 and 12. However, one manuscript (4QDanc; 4 = Cave 4; Q = Qumran; Danc = one of the Daniel fragments arbitrarily designated “c” for clarification), published in November 1989, has been dated to the late second century B.C. (see Hasel, 1992, 5:47). Two other major documents (4QDanb, 4QDana) have been published since 1987, and contribute to scholarly analysis of Daniel. These recently released fragments have direct bearing on the integrity and authenticity of the book of Daniel.
INTEGRITY OF THE TEXT
Once again, however, the findings at Qumran have confirmed the integrity of Daniel’s text. Gerhard Hasel listed several strands of evidence from the Daniel fragments found at Qumran that support the integrity of the MT (see 1992, 5:50). First, for the most part, the Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts of Daniel are very consistent in content among themselves, containing very few variants. Second, the Qumran fragments conform very closely to the MT overall, with only a few rare variants in the former that side with the Septuagint version. Third, the transitions from Hebrew to Aramaic are preserved in the Qumran fragments. Based on such overwhelming data, it is evident that the MT is a well-preserved rendition of Daniel. In short, Qumran assures us that we can be reasonably confident that the Daniel text on which our English translations are based is one of integrity. Practically speaking, this means that we have at our disposal, through faithful translations of the original, the truth God revealed to Daniel centuries ago.
DATE OF THE BOOK
The relatively copious remains of Daniel indicate the importance of this book to the Qumran community. Further, there are clear indications that this book was considered “canonical” for the community, which meant it was recognized as an authoritative book on a par with other biblical books (e.g., Deuteronomy, Kings, Isaiah, Psalms). The canonicity of Daniel at Qumran is indicated, not only by the prolific fragments, but by the manner in which it is referenced in other materials. One fragment employs the quotation, “which was written in the book of Daniel the prophet.” This phrase, similar to Jesus’ reference to “Daniel the prophet” (Matthew 24:15), was a formula typically applied to quotations from canonical Scripture at Qumran (see Hasel, 1992, 5:51).
The canonical status of Daniel at Qumran is important to the date and authenticity of the book. If, as critical scholars allege, Daniel reached its final form around 160 B.C., how could it have attained canonical status at Qumran in a mere five or six decades? While we do not know exactly how long it took for a book to reach such authoritative status, it appears that more time is needed for this development (see Bruce, 1988, pp. 27-42). Interestingly, even before the most recent publication of Daniel fragments, R.K. Harrison recognized that the canonical status of Daniel at Qumran militated against its being a composition of the Maccabean era, and served as confirmation of its authenticity (1969, p. 1126-1127).
Although Harrison made this observation in 1969, over three decades before the large cache of Cave 4 documents was made available to the general and scholarly public, no new evidence has refuted it. On the contrary, the newly released texts from Qumran have confirmed this conclusion. The canonical acceptance of Daniel at Qumran indicates the antiquity of the book’s composition—certainly much earlier than the Maccabean period. Hence, the most recent publications of Daniel manuscripts offer confirmation of Daniel’s authenticity; it was written when the Bible says it was written.
A final contribution from Qumran to the biblically claimed date for Daniel’s composition comes from linguistic considerations. Though, as we mentioned earlier, critical scholars argue that the Aramaic sections in Daniel indicate a second-century B.C. date of composition, the Qumran materials suggest otherwise. In fact, a comparison of the documents at Qumran with Daniel demonstrates that the Aramaic in Daniel is a much earlier composition than the second-century B.C. Such a comparison further demonstrates that Daniel was written in a region different from that of Judea. For example, the Genesis Apocryphon found in Cave 1 is a second-century B.C. document written in Aramaic—the same period during which critical scholars argue that Daniel was composed. If the critical date for Daniel’s composition were correct, it should reflect the same linguistic characteristics of the Genesis Apocryphon. Yet, the Aramaic of these two books is markedly dissimilar.
The Genesis Apocryphon, for example, tends to place the verb toward the beginning of the clause, whereas Daniel tends to defer the verb to a later position in the clause. Due to such considerations, linguists suggest that Daniel reflects an Eastern type Aramaic, which is more flexible with word order, and exhibits scarcely any Western characteristics at all. In each significant category of linguistic comparison (i.e., morphology, grammar, syntax, vocabulary), the Genesis Apocryphon (admittedly written in the second century B.C.) reflects a much later style than the language of Daniel (Archer, 1980, 136:143; cf. Yamauchi, 1980). Interestingly, the same is true when the Hebrew of Daniel is compared with the Hebrew preserved in the Qumran sectarian documents (i.e., those texts composed by the Qumran community reflecting their peculiar societal laws and religious customs). From such linguistic considerations provided by Qumran, Daniel hardly could have been written by a Jewish patriot in Judea during the early second-century B.C., as the critics charge.
Archer, Gleason, Jr. (1980), “Modern Rationalism and the Book of Daniel,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 136:129-147, April-June.
Archer, Gleason, Jr. (1982), Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Brantley, Garry K. (1994), “Biblical Miracles: Fact or Fiction?,” Reason and Revelation, 14:33-38, May.
Bruce, F.F. (1988), The Canon of Scriptures (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press).
Collins, John J. (1992a), “Daniel, Book of,” The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday), 2:29-37.
Collins, John J. (1992b), “Dead Sea Scrolls,” The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday), 2:85-101.
Cross, Frank Moore (1992), “The Historical Context of the Scrolls,” Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls, ed. Hershel Shanks (New York: Random House).
Geisler, Norman and Ronald Brooks (1989), When Skeptics Ask (Wheaton, IL: Victor).
Geisler, Norman and William Nix (1986), A General Intorduction to the Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody).
Harrison, R.K. (1969), Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Hasel, Gerhard (1992), “New Light on the Book of Daniel from the Dead Sea Scrolls,” Archaeology and Biblical Research, 5:45-53, Spring.
Josephus, “Antiquities of the Jews,” The Life and Works of Flavius Josephus, (Chicago, IL: John C. Winston; translated by William Whiston).
Major, Trevor (1993), “Dating in Archaeology: Radiocarbon and Tree-Ring Dating,” Reason and Revelation, 13:73-77, October.
Roberts, B.J. (1962), “Masora,” The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Nashville, TN: Abingdon), 3:295.
Seow, C.L. (1987), A Grammar for Biblical Hebrew (Nashville, TN: Abingdon).
Shanks, Hershel (1991), “Carbon-14 Tests Substantiate Scroll Dates,” Biblical Archaeology Review, 17:72, November/December.
Whitehorne, John (1992), “Antiochus,” The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday), 1:269-272.
Yamauchi, Edwin (1972), The Stones and the Scriptures: An Evangelical Perspective (New York: Lippincott).
Yamauchi, Edwin (1980), “The Archaeological Background of Daniel,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 137:3-16, January-March.
Seeing God in a Box...Fish
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Constant competition between car companies rages to see which one can design the lightest, toughest, most aerodynamic, fuel efficient models. It seems that the DaimlerChrysler Company has recently put itself several steps ahead in the race by designing a remarkably efficient economy car for Mercedes-Benz. The idea that inspired this car was very simple. The designers looked to the natural world to find a model of highly-efficient, aerodynamic design, coupled with a sturdy structure that could withstand collisions. The model on which they finally settled seemed an unlikely candidate: the boxfish.
But the aerodynamic aspects of the boxfish were not the only helpful features used by the DaimlerChrysler engineers. The skin of the boxfish “consists of numerous hexagonal, bony plates which provide maximum strength with minimal weight” (“Mercedes-Benz Bionic...”). By reproducing this skin structure, the car company was able to achieve “up to 40 percent more rigidity...than would be possible with conventional designs.” The report went on to say that if the entire car shell were designed with these hexagonal structures, the weight of the car could be reduced by almost one-third, without forfeiting any safety features during collisions.
Notice the concession made in the writer’s statement that the boxfish, indeed, exhibits “ingenious invention.” Such a statement implies that some type of “genius” or intelligence is behind the invention. Furthermore, evolution has been consistently presented as a process that is maintained by naturalistic, random, chance happenings that are incapable of producing anything “ingenious” or “intelligent.” And finally, the author states that evolution leaves nothing “superfluous,” and that each part of the evolved animal has “a purpose.” This remark is ironic considering the fact that many defenders of evolution continue to use the argument that humans and animals maintain several “vestigial organs” that are supposedly useless leftovers of evolution (see Harrub, 2001, for a discussion of vestigial organs). Indeed, any theory that explains too much, explains too little. On the one hand, evolution maintains an underlying principle that nothing is superfluous, while at the same time evolution is a “fact” because animals and humans supposedly have left-over vestiges that are no longer useful? As one can see, the concept of evolution is so “flexible” and self-contradictory that it sustains no real ability to explain anything.
To the contrary, the only valid explanation for the optimal design in the boxfish is the fact that whenever we see efficient, complex design, there must be an intelligent designer behind it. Considering the fact that many of the most ingenious engineers that the car-manufacturing world can boast spent thousands of hours copying the design of the boxfish, which proved to be 65 percent more efficient in some ways than other designs, one must logically conclude that whoever designed the boxfish has outsmarted the brightest car engineers for many years. “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).
“Mercedes-Benz Bionic Concept Vehicle,” (2005), [On-line], URL: http://www.germancarfans.com/news.cfm/newsid/2050607.004.
Is Jesus Really Michael the Archangel?
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
According to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, “Jesus is not God and never claimed to be” (“Should You Believe…?,” 2000). Rather, Jesus can be understood “from the scriptures to be Michael the Archangel” (The Watchtower, 1979, p. 29). “Michael the great prince is none other than Jesus Christ himself,” they allege (The Watchtower, 1984, p. 29). The May 15, 1969 issue of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Watchtower magazine suggested: “There is Scriptural evidence for concluding that Michael was the name of Jesus Christ before he left heaven and after his return” (p. 307). Where is the “scriptural evidence” for such a doctrine? In an article titled “The Truth About Angels” that appears on the official web site of Jehovah’s Witnesses (www.watchtower.org), 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and Jude 9 were the only two passages listed as proof that “the foremost angel, both in power and authority, is the archangel, Jesus Christ, also called Michael” (2001).
Michael the archangel is mentioned only five times in the Bible (Daniel 10:13,21; 12:1; Jude 9; Revelation 12:7), and yet never do these passages indicate that he is to be equated with the preincarnate Christ, nor with the ascended Jesus. First Thessalonians 4:16 also alludes to “an archangel,” and, although the name Michael is not mentioned, this is the passage Jehovah’s Witnesses frequently cite as proof of Jesus being the archangel. Concerning the Second Coming of Christ, Paul wrote: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first” (emp. added). Supposedly, since Jesus is described as descending from heaven “with the voice of an archangel,” then He must be the archangel Michael. However, this verse does not teach that Jesus is an archangel, but that at His Second Coming He will be accompanied “with the voice of an archangel.” Just as He will be attended “with a shout” and “with the trumpet of God,” so will He be accompanied “with the voice of an archangel.” Question: If Jesus’ descension from heaven “with the voice of an archangel” makes Him (as Jehovah’s Witnesses claim) the archangel Michael, then does His descent “with the trumpet of God” not also make Him God? Jehovah’s Witnesses reject this latter conclusion, yet they accept the first. Such inconsistency is one proof of their erroneous teachings about Jesus.
One of the strongest arguments against Jesus being an angel is found in the book of Hebrews. In chapter one, the writer of Hebrews showed the superiority of Jesus over the angelic beings, and contrasted Him with them.
For to which of the angels did He ever say: “You are My Son, today I have begotten You”? And again: “I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son”? But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” And of the angels He says: “Who makes His angels spirits and His ministers a flame of fire.” But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” And: “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; and they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will fold them up, and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will not fail.” But to which of the angels has He ever said: “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool”? (1:5-13).Jesus’ superiority over the angels is seen in the fact that the Father spoke to Jesus as His special begotten Son to Whom He gave the seat of honor at His right hand (1:5,13). Furthermore, the writer of Hebrews indicated that God commanded all angels to worship Jesus (1:6; cf. Revelation 5:11-13; Philippians 2:10). Yet, if Jesus were an angel, how could He accept the worship of other “lesser” angels when, according to Revelation 19:10 and 22:8-9, angels do not accept worship, but rather preach the worship of God, and no other? Hebrews chapter one is a death knell to the idea of Jesus, the Son of God, being Michael, the archangel. [NOTE: Interestingly, John H. Paton, the most frequently used contributing writer in 1879 of Charles Taze Russel (the founder of The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society), admitted such when he stated in The Watchtower magazine near the end of its inaugural year: “Hence it is said, ‘let all the angels of God worship him’: (that must include Michael, the chief angel, hence Michael is not the Son of God)…” (1879, p. 4, emp. added). Sadly, even though Paton rejected the idea of Jesus being Michael the archangel, and even though Russell, The Watchtower's founder and first editor and publisher, allowed such a teaching in the magazine's first year of publication, Jehovah’s Witnesses today hold firmly to the doctrine that Jesus is Michael, the archangel.]
The writer of Hebrews returned to the subject of Jesus’ superiority over angels in chapter two, saying, “He [God] has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels” (2:5). To whom will the world be in subjection? Scripture indicates that it would be Jesus, “the appointed heir of all things” (Hebrews 1:2). “All authority” has been given, not to any angel, but to Jesus (Matthew 28:18). All angels, authorities, and powers “have been made subject to Him” (1 Peter 3:22). “In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him” (Hebrews 2:8, NIV, emp. added). Jesus, therefore, is not Michael, the archangel, “for it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come” (Hebrews 2:5, RSV).
One final proof that Jesus is not Michael the archangel actually comes from one of the five passages in which Michael’s name is found in Scripture—Jude 9. According to Jude: “Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’ ” Whereas Michael would not dare pronounce a railing judgment against the devil (cf. 2 Peter 2:11), Jesus once declared about Satan: “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44). Jesus did not approach the subject of rebuking Satan with the same hesitation as godly angels like Michael. Jesus, as Lord of heaven and Earth (Matthew 28:18), boldly called the devil a murderer and liar, and even went so far as to declare that “there is no truth in him.” The Son of God obviously is not Michael the archangel.
I find it extremely puzzling how Jehovah’s Witnesses can conclude that there is no biblical proof of Jesus being deity, and yet at the same time allege that “[t]here is Scriptural evidence for concluding that Michael was the name of Jesus Christ before he left heaven and after his return” (Watchtower, 1969, p. 307, emp. added). Where is the evidence? There is none. Jesus is not Michael the archangel; rather, He is exactly Who the apostle John said He was (John 1:1,14), Who Thomas said He was (John 20:28), and even Who His enemies accused Him of making Himself (John 5:18; 10:33). Jesus is God!
REFERENCES“Should You Believe in the Trinity?” (2000), [On-line], URL: http://www.watchtower.org/library/ti/index.htm.
The Truth About Angels (2001), [On-line], URL: http://www.watchtower.org/library/w/1995/11/1/the_truth_about_angels.htm, originally appeared in The Watchtower, November 1, 1995.
The Watchtower, 1879, November.
The Watchtower, 1969, May 15.
The Watchtower, 1979, February 15.
The Watchtower, 1984, December 15.