"THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS" The Purpose Of The Law (3:15-25) INTRODUCTION 1. In teaching they were justified by faith in Christ, Paul reminded the Galatians that... a. They received the Spirit by the hearing of faith - Ga 3:1-5 b. The heirs of Abraham were those "of faith" - Ga 3:6-9 c. Those of the works of the Law were under a curse - Ga 3:10-12 d. Christ has redeemed them from the curse of the Law, that even Gentiles could now receive the promise of the Spirit through faith - Ga 3:13-14 2. With such comments regarding the Law, Paul anticipated a likely objection... a. What purpose did the Law then serve? b. What was its relation to the promise given to Abraham? 3. We might also ask ourselves... a. What value does the Law (Old Testament) have for us today? b. Do we even need to study it, since we are not under the Law? [Such questions are easily answered, first from our text (Ga 3:15-25), and then from other statements of Paul regarding the value of the OT. Beginning with our text, consider the purpose of the Law...] I. FOR THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL A. WHAT IT'S PURPOSE WAS NOT... 1. Not to change the promises made to Abraham - Ga 3:15-17 a. Even a man's covenant cannot be annulled or added to once confirmed b. The Law which came 430 years later, cannot annul the covenant confirmed by God 2. Not to provide the promise made regarding the Seed - Ga 3:16-18 a. To Abraham and his Seed (Christ) were the promises made c. The Law did not make the promise of no effect, nor did it provide the inheritance regarding the Seed B. WHAT IT'S PURPOSE WAS... 1. It was added because of transgression - Ga 3:19-23 a. "for the purpose of revealing and manifesting to man his sinfulness," - McGarvey b. Till the Seed (Christ) should come to whom the promise was made c. Not against the promise, but it could not provide life d. Confined all under sin, that the promise might be given to those who believe e. Kept them under guard, kept for the faith (Christ) afterward revealed 2. It was a tutor to lead them to Christ - Ga 3:24-25 a. To bring them to Christ b. Now that faith (Christ) has come, they are no longer under it 1) It came to an end when nailed to the cross - cf. Col 2: 14-17; Ep 2:14-16 2) Jews converted to Christ have died to the law - cf. Ro 7: 1-6 3) Thus it was replaced with a new covenant - cf. He 7:18; 8:13; 9:9-10; 10:9 [The Law was "holy", "just", and "good" (Ro 7:12), but it was designed to be temporary. With the coming of Christ and His New Covenant, it came to end as a system of justification (Ga 5:4). What purpose, if any, does the Law (Old Testament) serve the people of Christ today...?] II. FOR THE PEOPLE OF CHRIST A. FOR THEIR LEARNING... 1. Note carefully what Paul wrote in Ro 15:4 a. Things "written before" (i.e., the OT) were "written for our learning" b. The OT was written and preserved especially for Christians' benefit! c. The OT provides "patience and comfort", that we "might have hope"! 2. The OT provides a record of God's faithfulness, how He kept His promises: a. To Abraham and the nation of Israel b. To judge the wicked and avenge the righteous c. To forgive the penitent, and protect the humble -- As we read this history of God's dealings with Israel, it gives us hope that God will keep His promises to us! B. FOR THEIR ADMONITION... 1. Paul had just reminded the Corinthians of Israel's fall in the wilderness - 1Co 10:1-10 2. Note carefully what he says in 1Co 10:11 a. The events described may have happened to Israel b. "They were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come" c. Again, the OT was written and preserved especially for the benefit of Christians! 3. We should not be surprised to see how often NT writers appealed to the OT in their efforts to admonish Christians a. As the writer of Hebrews, in exhorting Christians to remain steadfast - He 3:12-19 b. As James, in encouraging Christians to be patient in their suffering - Jm 5:7-11 c. As Peter, in warning of false teachers and scoffers - 2 Pe 2-3 -- We need to study the OT to be reminded of the very real danger of apostasy! C. FOR THEIR WISDOM... 1. Paul noted that Timothy had known the "Holy Scriptures" since childhood - 2Ti 3:14-15 a. When Timothy was a child, the only scriptures available was the OT b. So Paul clearly had the OT in view 2. He said the OT is "able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ" 3. How is this possible? The OT provides: a. The fall of man and the rise of sin b. The background and development of God's scheme of redemption c. Hundreds of Messianic prophecies which describe what to expect when He comes 4. One cannot hope to fully understand such books of the New Testament like: a. Hebrews, without an understanding of the Levitical priesthood b. Revelation, without an understanding of OT prophecy and apocalyptic literature -- If one wishes to be wise concerning their salvation in Christ, it is imperative to study the Old Testament! D. FOR THEIR PROFIT... 1. "All Scripture" includes the OT scriptures, especially in this context - 2Ti 3:16-17 2. Therefore the OT is profitable for: a. Doctrine - such as the nature of God, man, and sin b. Reproof and correction - the need for repentance c. Instruction in righteousness - how to live godly lives 3. Thus the apostles frequently appealed to the OT when teaching Christians their conduct: a. E.g., Ro 12:19-21; 2Co 6:16-7:1; 9:7-10 b. E.g., Jm 2:20-26 c. E.g., 1Pe 3:8-12 -- While certain aspects of justification and worship have changed, many principles of righteousness remain the same under the New Covenant CONCLUSION 1. For the people of Israel, the Law served a valuable purpose... a. It helped them to understand the nature of sin, and the need for redemption b. It guided them until the promised Seed (Christ), through Whom God blessed all nations 2. For the people of Christ, the Law continues to serve a valuable purpose... a. For our learning and admonition b. For our wisdom and spiritual profit While we rejoice in the salvation now offered through faith in Christ, let us never underestimate the value of studying the Old Testament. Its many examples of obedience through faith (cf. He 11:1-40) should inspire us to likewise walk in "the steps of faith"...
Biblical Wisdom Still Relevant
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
About 3,000 years ago, one of the wisest men to have ever lived penned through divine inspiration this statement: “A merry heart does good like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). Solomon’s statement speaks to the fact that in many cases, it is the emotional and spiritual attitude of an individual that sustains his or her physical existence as much or more than physical factors. On March 28, 2006, a brief article on loneliness provided some excellent modern scientific documentation for Solomon’s sentiments.
The study was in no way exhaustive since it only looked at information from about 229 adults. But the results were quite interesting. In a nut shell, the study showed that loneliness can be a potential factor that increases blood pressure. The study further indicated that when individuals became more emotionally connected to others and less lonely, their blood pressure can decrease. In fact, the authors of the study suggested that the “magnitude of the effect of loneliness on blood pressure is comparable to the magnitude of reduction that can be achieved through weight loss and exercise” (Hawkley and Berry as quoted in Minerd, 2006). Thus, one can see that the physical factors of losing weight and exercise can potentially be matched or eclipsed by the emotional attitudes of an individual, exactly as Solomon suggested.
Drs. Hawkley and Berry noted that many factors in the culture of the United States tend to increase the opportunity for loneliness and that, “under these circumstances risk of loneliness increases, and along with it so does risk of morbidity and mortality” (Minerd, 2006). In other words, emotional distress “dries the bones.”
Solomon’s ancient wisdom is as relevant to today’s society as it was to his three millennia ago. The Bible’s timeless nature is exactly the product that what would be expected from an all-knowing God Who can declare “the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10).
Minerd, Jeff (2006), “Loneliness Weighs Heavily on the Heart,” [On-line], URL: http://www.medpagetoday.com/Cardiology/Hypertension/tb/2947.
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
Those in the medical field of prosthetics (artificial limbs) are faced with a daunting task—to mimic human body parts. Experts in this field of study are quick to admit that the natural, biological human body is far superior to anything that humans can design. Yet, even though prostheses are clumsy, awkward, and inefficient when compared to human limbs, progress is slowly being made toward more human-like limbs.
One step toward better prosthetics is the ability to feel, also known as tactile sensation. “[S]cientists from Northwestern University, in Chicago, have shown that transplanting the nerves from an amputated hand to the chest allows patients to feel hand sensation there” (Singer, 2007). This new technology has the potential to enable amputees to feel sensations such as cold and hot, distinguish between surface texture such as smooth (like marble) or rough (like sandpaper), and various other sensations that biological hands can feel.
Todd Kuiken, the lead doctor in the research that was presented in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Kuiken, et al., 2007), said that improving and refining the technology will take time. Emily Singer, writing for Technology Review, commented on the process of creating usable, “feeling” prostheses, saying, “The task is likely to be difficult” (2007). Kuiken further noted: “Our hands are incredible instruments that can feel things with exquisitely light touch and incredible resolution; to emulate that through a device is incredibly challenging.... All we’re giving our patients is a rough approximation, but something is better than nothing” (as quoted in Singer, 2007).
Notice the necessary inference implied in this research. Humans are brilliant, creative beings. They are using existing nerves to design prostheses that have “a rough approximation” of the sense of touch that a biological hand has. Millions of dollars are being spent, thousands of hours used, and massive amounts of various other resources are being employed to make this muted sensation available. Yet, evolutionary scientists expect thinking people to believe that the original, biological limbs that have an “exquisite” sense of touch and “incredible resolution” arose due to blind processes and random chance over multiplied billions of years of haphazard accidents overseen by no intelligence? Such a conclusion is irrational. Design demands a designer. If the “rough” prostheses have a designer, the human limbs after which they are modeled must, of logical necessity, have one as well.
Kuiken, Todd, et al. (2007), “Redirection of Cutaneous Sensation from the Hand to the Chest Skin of Human Amputees with Targeted Reinnervation,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, [On-line], URL: http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/104/50/20061.
Singer, Emily (2007), “Prosthetic Limbs that Can Feel,” Technology Review, [On-line], URL:http://www.technologyreview.com/Biotech/19759/?nlid=689.
Unicorns, Satyrs, and the Bible
|by||Bert Thompson, Ph.D.|
In several different places, my Bible speaks of the unicorn and the satyr. However, we now know that neither of these creatures actually existed, but instead had their origins in mythology. Why, then, are they mentioned in God’s Word as if they were real animals? Does the Bible pander to pagan mythology?
On occasion, Bible writers used phrases, terms, and references that were in common use at the time they penned the books of the Bible. For example, both the writer of Job (9:9; 38:31) and the prophet Amos (5:8) referred to heavenly constellations such as Orion and the Pleiades. And, in order to make an important point to the people to whom he was speaking on one occasion, the apostle Paul even quoted from their own poets (Acts 17:28).
However, the Bible never “panders to pagan mythology” by incorrectly referring to non-existent, mythological animals as if they were real, living creatures. It is true that the word “unicorn” appears in the King James Version (nine times: Numbers 23:22; 24:8; Deuteronomy 33:17; Job 39:9,10; Psalms 22:21; 29:6; 92:10; and Isaiah 34:7). What, exactly, was this unicorn? And why is it found in certain versions of the Bible? The editors of the Encyclopaedia Britannica answered the first question when they wrote that the unicorn was
a mythological animal resembling a horse or a kid with a single horn on its forehead. The unicorn appeared in early Mesopotamian artworks, and it also was referred to in the ancient myths of India and China. The earliest description in Greek literature of a single-horned (Greek: monokeros; Latin: unicornis) animal was by the historian Ctesias (400 B.C.), who related that the Indian wild ass was the size of a horse, with a white body, purple head, and blue eyes; on its forehead was a cubit-long horn coloured red at the pointed tip, black in the middle, and white at the base. Those who drank from its horn were thought to be protected from stomach trouble, epilepsy, and poison. It was very fleet of foot and difficult to capture. The actual animal behind Ctesias’ description was probably the Indian rhinoceros.
Certain poetical passages of the biblical Old Testament refer to a strong and splendid horned animal called re’em. This word was translated “unicorn” or “rhinoceros” in many versions of the Bible, but many modern translations prefer “wild ox” (aurochs), which is the correct meaning of the Hebrew re’em (1997, 12:129).
Strong support for such a view, along with the answer to the second question, comes from a rather unusual source (and one that certainly would be considered a “hostile witness” in regard to the truthfulness and accuracy of the Bible). In volume one of his two-volume set, Asimov’s Guide to the Bible, the late infidel, Isaac Asimov (who was serving as the president of the American Humanist Association when he died in 1992), dealt with the topic of the unicorn as it is found in the King James Version when he wrote:
The Hebrew word represented in the King James Version by “unicorn” is re’em, which undoubtedly refers to the wild ox (urus or aurochs) ancestral to the domesticated cattle of today. The re’em still flourished in early historical times and a few existed into modern times, although it is now extinct. It was a dangerous creature of great strength and was similar in form and temperament to the Asian buffaloes.
The Revised Standard Version translates re’em as “wild ox.” The verse in Numbers is translated as “they have as it were the horns of the wild ox,” while the one in Job is translated “Is the wild ox willing to serve you?” The Anchor Bible translates the verse in Job as “Will the buffalo deign to serve you?”
The wild ox was a favorite prey of the hunt-loving Assyrian monarchs (the animal was called rumu in Assyrian, essentially the same word as re’em) and was displayed in their large bas-reliefs. Here the wild ox was invariably shown in profile and only one horn was visible. One can well imagine that the animal represented in this fashion would come to be called “one-horn” as a familiar nickname, much as we might refer to “longhorns” in speaking of a certain breed of cattle.
As the animal itself grew less common under the pressure of increasing human population and the depredations of the hunt, it might come to be forgotten that there was a second horn hidden behind the first in the sculptures and “one-horn” might come to be considered a literal description of the animal.
When the first Greek translation of the Bible was prepared about 250 B.C., the animal was already rare in the long-settled areas of the Near East and the Greeks, who had no direct experience with it, had no word for it. They used a translation of “one-horn” instead and it became monokeros. In Latin and in English it became the Latin word for “one-horn”; that is, “unicorn."
The Biblical writers could scarcely have had the intention of implying that the wild ox literally had one horn. There is one Biblical quotation, in fact, that clearly contradicts that notion. In the Book of Deuteronomy [33:17—BT], when Moses is giving his final blessing to each tribe, he speaks of the tribe of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) as follows: “His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns....”
Here the word is placed in the plural since the thought of a “one-horn’s” single horn seems to make the phrase “horns of a unicorn” self-contradictory. Still, the original Hebrew has the word in the singular so that we must speak of the “horns of a unicorn,” which makes it clear that a unicorn has more than one horn (1968, pp. 186-187).
Dr. Asimov was correct on all counts. The word re’em does refer to the wild ox, and is translated as such in almost all later versions of the Bible. The translators of the Septuagint rendered re’emby the Greek monokeros (one horn) on the basis of the relief representations of the “wild ox” in strict profile that they found in Babylonian and Egyptian art (cf. Pfeiffer, et al., 1975, p. 83). The charge that the Bible “panders to pagan mythology” cannot be sustained, once all the relevant facts are known. Even certain atheists (like Asimov) acknowledge as much. It also is of interest to note that
As a biblical animal the unicorn was interpreted allegorically in the early Christian church. One of the earliest such interpretations appears in the ancient Greek bestiary known as the Physiologus, which states that the unicorn is a strong, fierce animal that can be caught only if a virgin maiden is thrown before it. The unicorn leaps into the virgin’s lap, and she suckles it and leads it to the king’s palace. Medieval writers thus likened the unicorn to Christ, who raised up a horn of salvation for mankind and dwelt in the womb of the Virgin Mary (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1997, 12:129, emp. added).
But what about the satyr? In Greek and Roman mythology, Satyr was a half-man/half-beast god and frequent companion of Bacchus, the Graeco-Roman religion’s god of fruitfulness and vegetation (known more popularly as the god of wine and ecstasy). In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word sa‘ir occurs some fifty-two times. It is related to the term se‘ar (hair), and generally means “a hairy one.” It is used, for example, to speak of the male goat that was employed as the Israelites’ solemn, collective sin offering on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16).
In two cases, however, the King James Version renders sa‘ir as “satyr” (Isaiah 13:21 and 34:14). But the specific context of both passages makes it quite clear that the term is being used to refer to the wild goats that frequently inhabited the ruins of both ancient Babylon and Edom. On two different occasions in the KJV, the word is translated “demon” (Leviticus 17:7; 2 Chronicles 11:15), where it denotes a pagan god in goat form (cf. the New International Version). In regard to 2 Chronicles 11:15, respected Old Testament scholar J. Barton Payne wrote:
Far from being mythological “satyrs,” as claimed by “liberal” criticism, the sirim appear to have been simply goat idols, used in conjunction with the golden calves (1969, p. 400).
It is evident once again that the Bible does not lower itself to superstitious mythology. “Satyr” is merely a translation error, not a case of “mistaken identity” wherein a mythological creature was thought by the inspired writers to be a living, breathing animal.
Asimov, Isaac (1968), Asimov’s Guide to the Bible: Volume One—The Old Testament (New York: Avon).
Encyclopaedia Britannica (1997), s.v. “Unicorn” (London: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.), 12:129.
Payne, J. Barton (1969), Wycliffe Bible Commentary, ed. Charles Pfeiffer and Everett Harrison (London: Oliphants).
Pfeiffer, Charles F., Howard F. Vos, and John Rea, eds. (1975), Wycliffe Bible Commentary, s.v. “Unicorn” (Chicago, IL: Moody).
The Non-Crucified Non-Saviors of the World
|by||Dewayne Bryant, Ph.D.|
Today the church finds itself bombarded with all kinds of criticism. One of these is the notion that Christianity owes its origins to pagan religions. One particularly troubling issue for some Christians is the massive amount of misinformation circulating on the Internet concerning the various “crucified saviors” of the world. Jesus is claimed to be no different than dozens of other saviors who were crucified for the sins of mankind, and later resurrected. If this were true, then Jesus would be merely a Johnny-come-lately to the religious scene, no different and no more authoritative than Zeus, Odin, or Thor.
The nineteenth century was the seedbed of comparative religion, which sought to analyze and discover the connections between various world religions. Critics in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were guilty of glossing over important differences for the sake of making connections between different religious traditions, including Christianity. Usually these connections were highly dubious in nature, and no real scholar uses this approach today. While it can be shown that some ancient pagan religions migrated, developed, and influenced others over time, Christianity is a different matter altogether.
Critics today—who almost universally have no training in ancient religion, philosophy, or languages—can be quite adamant that Christianity plagiarized ancient mythology when constructing the Bible and its supposed mythological traditions about Jesus. This idea is found in documentaries such as Bill Maher’s Religulous, Brian Flemming’s The God Who Wasn’t There, Peter Joseph’s Zeitgeist, the Movie, as well as in publications such as those by Dorothy M. Murdock’s The Sons of God, The Christ Conspiracy, and Christ in Egypt: The Horus-Jesus Connection. All of these promote the idea of the “mythic Christ.”
Where did the idea of the mythic Christ originate? Much of it began in the writings of two amateur Egyptologists named Godfrey Higgins (1772-1833) and Gerald Massey (1829-1907). Both wrote extensively on the idea of the mythic Christ. They claimed one parallel after another between the Bible and pagan mythology, making it appear as if the biblical writers borrowed stories wholesale from ancient tales. Almost all scholars today recognize that this approach is fundamentally flawed. For nearly all of the supposed parallels these two men discovered, scholars today say without hesitation that no genetic connection exists between the Bible and the myths these two men examined.
Neither Higgins nor Massey was a scholar or academician, and both were self-taught religious enthusiasts (this generally holds true for all proponents of the Christ myth theory). More importantly, neither is remembered in the history of scholarship today. Writers such as Dorothy Murdock—a vocal proponent of the Christ myth theory—laments that these supposed intellectual titans have been forgotten. She heaps effusive praise upon Massey in particular (2009, pp. 13-26), calling him a “pioneer.” In truth, neither one of them had any ideas worth remembering. They are virtually unknown in modern Egyptology.
The work of Higgins and Massey was picked up and continued most famously by Kersey Graves, who authored the book The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors (1919). This woefully outdated book is still standard reading for militant atheists. Unfortunately, Graves’ fans do not appear to realize that his book was based on the work of our two error-prone amateurs. To make matters worse, Graves did not appear to consult the original myths himself. It appears that he may have even falsified some of his work. In all of the cases of his “crucified saviors,” unlike Jesus, none were actually crucified, and none of them died salvific deaths, that is in behalf of the salvation of others. Indeed, some of them never died.
The chart below gives the names of the gods that Graves and others traditionally claim were crucified saviors. The problems become apparent rather quickly:
Adonis dies when he is gored by a bull on a hunting trip.
In a moment of madness, Attis commits suicide by emasculating himself.
The text is unclear, but it appears Baal is slain in personal battle with Mot, the Canaanite god of death.
Bacchus is the Roman equivalent of Dionysus, whose body is almost completely devoured by the Titans, who leave only his heart.
In the Norse myths, Balder is invincible to all known objects, except for mistletoe. One of the gods’ pastimes is throwing objects at Balder, who cannot be harmed. Loki crafts a magical spear from this plant and tricks the god Hodur into throwing it at Balder, killing him.
Supposedly a Japanese figure. Either Graves had a bad source, or he simply invented the name, as no figure with this name exists in Far Eastern literature. It may be that he meant to say “Beddou,” who is a Japanese figure some have equated with the Buddha. Regardless, there is no record of the crucifixion of this individual, if he even existed in any of the literature.
This is uncertain, but appears to be the name of the Buddha in some places in the Far East. The literature states that the Buddha died at 80 of a natural illness, though some say he was poisoned. Either way, he never died on a cross, and Buddhism has no need of a personal savior, anyway.
The Greek god of wine and the grapevine had a tough childhood. When an infant, the Titans devour his body, leaving only his heart behind. He is later reborn.
Hercules dies when he is burned alive on a funeral pyre.
Hermes never dies in the Greek myths.
Horus never dies in the Egyptian myths.
Krishna is mortally wounded when a hunter accidentally shoots him in the heel with an arrow.
Mithras does not die in the Persian myths.
In one account, Orpheus is torn apart by Maenads, the female followers of Dionysus, for failing to honor their master. In other accounts he either commits suicide or is struck by one of Zeus’ lightning bolts.
Osiris is killed when his brother Seth drowns him in the Nile. Seth later recovers the body and dismembers it.
Originally called Dumuzi by the Sumerians, Tammuz is taken to the underworld when his lover, Inanna, is given a deal where she can be released if she finds a substitute. She is enraged that Tammuz is not mourning her death, so she chooses him to take her place in the realm of the dead. There is no mention of crucifixion.
Thor dies in Ragnarok, the final battle that will end the world, when he is bitten by a giant serpent.
According to one ancient source, Zoroaster was murdered while at an altar.
Upon even a cursory inspection, it becomes clear that none of the so-called “crucified saviors” were actually crucified. Indeed, none of them are saviors, dying for the sins of humanity. Self-sacrifice was not involved. Instead, many did not die at all, or died an accidental death, or were murdered. Worse yet, none of them resurrected from a tomb. A few of the divine figures on the list were revived (or deified), but in a different manner than the Christian concept of resurrection. In short, this list consists purely of non-crucified non-saviors. Why are these connections made if they never truly existed? In short, it is due to careless research and preconceived biases that are immune to evidence.
While the idea of the pagan or mythic Christ draws from a variety of ancient mythologies, it is heavily influenced by Egyptian mythology, perhaps because the early proponents of this theory worked primarily with myths from Egypt. They also made connections based on preposterously thin evidence. Some examples of the typical connections include the following from Gerald Massey’s book Historical Jesus and the Mythical Christ:
- Jesus’ casting of a group of demons calling themselves “Legion” into a group of pigs, which is equated with a story in which Horus turns someone into a pig (1996, pp. 62-63).
- Jesus and Horus are each claimed to have had two mothers—two Marys for Jesus, and the goddesses Isis and Nephthys for Horus (p. 118).
- Herod the Great, despite being a well-known figure to historians, is equated with Herrut, the Typhonian Serpent (p. 95).
In their book Unmasking the Pagan Christ, Porter and Bedard summarize Massey’s position this way:
[H]is conclusions rely on exaggerations and forced parallels that too often used later interpretations o the Gospels, rather than the primary texts themselves. To make matters worse, Massey cites numerous parallels without any indication of the original references in the Egyptian texts. Massey also begins the practice…of describing Egyptian myths with biblical language in an attempt to find a causal link (Porter and Bedard 2006, p. 30).
If the idea of a “crucified savior” had been as common as the critics allege, then it would not have been included among the criticisms leveled against the early Christians. The apostle Paul stated that the cross was a stumbling block to the Greeks (1 Corinthians 1:23), which would have been quite strange if the Greeks recognized any of the so-called “crucified saviors” mentioned by Graves and others. Justin Martyr admitted that preaching a crucified Christ appeared to be madness: “[The opponents of the church] say that our madness lies in the fact that we put a crucified man in second place to the unchangeable and eternal God, the creator of the world” (Apology I, 13.4). If everyone had crucified gods, then they would not have criticized the Christians for having one, too.
The picture that quickly emerges when looking at the original sources is one of exceedingly poor research on the part of the critics. It is one thing to make an honest mistake, but their litany of errors is academically unacceptable. At times, even other skeptics and atheists chide their fellow unbelievers for their careless work. Writing a review of Zeitgeist, the Movie in the magazine Skeptical Inquirer, leading skeptic Tim Callahan is highly critical of the “sloppy assumptions” in the documentary, concluding, “Zeitgeist is The Da Vinci Code on steroids” (Callahan, 2009, p. 67).
Some of this sloppy work includes failing to cite sources properly. Graves was not the only one guilty of failing to cite his sources or inventing material out of whole cloth. Of the pseudo-scholars in the 19th and early 20th century who promoted the Christy myth theory, apologist J.P. Holding says,
Kersey Graves…assures the reader that he has before him plenty of original documentation for his claims of crucifixion parallels, but…doesn’t have room to include any. And this is the rule, not the exception. Lundy, Higgins, Inman, Graves, Doane, etc., they all claim they have read or heard this or that, but none of them can site [sic]a single source document (Holding, 2008, p. 376, italics in orig.).
Because of its manifold problems, the idea of the mythic Christ is difficult even for many atheists to swallow. On the anti-Christian Web site Infidels.org, historian and atheist Richard Carrier lists ten major problems with Graves’ work, the last of which is that “Graves’ scholarship is obsolete, having been vastly improved upon by new methods, materials, discoveries, and textual criticism in the century since he worked” (Carrier, 2003). Scholars see Graves’ work as worthless. Critics find it absolutely indispensible, perhaps because there are no scholarly treatments that agree with their presuppositions.
The Christ myth theory has not been answered by many scholars, simply because they choose not to waste their time debunking fringe theories. Experts are usually preoccupied with teaching and research, with a few of them engaged in archaeology and other academic pursuits as well. This leaves little time for answering the preposterous claims of the “Christ mythers.” (In personal e-mails to three leading New Testament scholars, each noted that the Christ myth theory holds no place of respect in modern scholarship. Ben Witherington III of Asbury Theological Seminary said, “[T]his whole discussion is considered beyond the pale and beyond belief, even with liberals.” When asked whether the paucity of scholarly material on the pagan Christ was because scholars do not waste their time on “crackpot theories,” Darrell Bock of Dallas Theological Seminary said, “I think you have got the reason you cannot find stuff.” Thomas Schreiner of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary confessed, “I do not know anything about this issue…. I am tempted to think it is the lunatic fringe.” The issue is so intellectually bankrupt that liberal scholarship does not endorse it, and other scholars may not even be familiar with it).
Critics will always “discover” parallels between Christianity and pagan religions in the attempt to make believers look foolish. Ironically, this quest only demonstrates their own academic shortcomings. Time and time again Christianity demonstrates its uniqueness among the world religions. It is the hallmark of truth for a world in desperate need of history’s one and only crucified Savior.
Callahan, Tim (2009), “Greatest Story Ever Garbled: A Critique of ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told’—Part I of the Internet Film Zeitgeist,” Skeptic, 15:61-67.
Carrier, Richard (2003), “Kersey Graves and the World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors,” http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/graves.html.
Graves, Kersey (1919), The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors or Christianity Before Christ (New York: Peter Eckler Publishing), sixth edition.
Holding, James P. (2008), Shattering the Christ Myth: Did Jesus Not Exist? (Maitland, FL: Xulon Press).
Massey, Gerald (1996), Historical Jesus and the Mythical Christ (Whitefish, MT: Kessenger).
Murdock, Dorothy M. (2009), Christ in Egypt: The Horus-Jesus Connection (Seattle, WA: Stellar House).
Porter, Stanley E. and Stephen J. Bedard (2006), Unmasking the Pagan Christ (Toronto, ON: Clements Publishing).
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
How old is the Earth? No one knows the exact number of times this globe has orbited the Sun. However, using biblical chronology a person can calculate the age of the Earth to be in the neighborhood of 6,000 years old.
“But the Earth looks millions of years old,” some people will protest. There are at least two responses to such a statement. First, one might ask: “Compared to what; what does a young Earth look like?” We do not have another Earth that we know is younger than this one, so how would we know what a young Earth looks like. Second, it should not surprise us if science occasionally calculates older dates for the Earth, due to a concept known as the “doctrine of apparent age.”
This idea suggests that the things God made during the Creation week were formed complete and fully functional. For instance, how old were Adam and Eve two seconds after God created them? They were two seconds old! Yet they walked, talked, and looked like adult human beings, and even had the ability to reproduce (which was one of the commands God gave them—Genesis 1:28). If a tree were cut down in the Garden of Eden one day after the Creation week, how many rings would it have had? Possibly hundreds, yet it would have been only five days old (trees and other plants, remember, were created on day three of the Creation week). So, the real age of the tree and the apparent age of the tree would have been quite different. Just because this Earth may appear older than 6,000 years, that does not mean it is older than that.
Some people have suggested that if God made the Earth appear older than it actually is, then He has deceived us because things aren’t really as old as they look. This criticism can not be true since God told us what He did! He did not leave us in the dark or try to “trick us” or “test our faith” by hiding from us important information that we would need. Rather, He was very straightforward and honest with us. Considering the material found in the first eleven chapters of Genesis (and elsewhere through the Bible), no one can justifiably accuse God of deception. If we ignore His Word regarding what He said He did, is it God’s fault? Hardly!
Christian Morality Is...UnChristian?
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
In their ongoing attempt to withstand the massive assault on traditional moral values, Christians recently experienced a momentary victory when NBC decided to cancel one of its programs after airing only three episodes. The program featured a troubled, pill-popping Episcopal priest as its main character, a wife who relied on midday martinis, a 16-year-old daughter who was a drug dealer, a 16-year-old adopted son who was sexually active with the bishop’s daughter, and the priest’s lesbian secretary who was sleeping with his sister-in-law (“NBC Pulls Plug...,” 2006). The fact that the program ever saw the light of day speaks volumes concerning the degeneracy of the entertainment industry. The pious post-whimpering by the show’s supporters further demonstrates the audacious, militant gall possessed by those who wish to inundate American society with obscenity and moral filth. The show’s creator is quoted as having condemned the opposition to the program as “censorship, pure and simple—and that is both un-Christian and un-American” (Brown and Jackson, 2006, emp. added).
It is one thing to be honest and straightforward about one’s moral bankruptcy. If the Hollywood crowd does not believe in God, they ought to have enough gumption to say so. If they believe that “morality” and “right and wrong” are relative, fluid, and determined solely on the basis of subjective, personal preference, they ought to have the courage to admit it. If they believe their “barnyard morality” lifestyles and their sick preoccupation with illicit sex is superior, let them openly declare it. But, no, they seem to feel the need to disguise their thoroughgoing hedonism with pious, high-sounding claims of moral superiority—even to the point of chiding American Christians with being “un-Christian and un-American”! And, of course, to really bolster one’s righteous airs, one must throw in a frenzied appeal to “censorship!”—a term that now conjures up images of medieval torture chambers inflicted on the persecuted, oppressed, deprived population of Hollywood.
As usual, social liberals are self-contradictory, hypocritical, and guilty of the very thing of which they accuse others. If liberals have a right to set forth their perverted machinations via the media, does it not logically follow that those who disagree have the same right to express their disagreement? If liberals have the right to say: “We are for homosexuality, abortion, and pornography,” then, on the same basis, Christians have the right to say: “We are againsthomosexuality, abortion, and pornography.” If opposing sexual immorality on television is “censorship,” what shall we call the conspiratorial success in banning Christianity from the classroom, the government, the community, and, yes, the entertainment industry? Indeed, in their incessant drive to celebrate and normalize use of drugs and alcohol, pre-marital sex, and homosexuality, the Hollywood crowd is skilled at launching an intolerant, abusive tirade against their opponents by denouncing them as demonic censors. Yet, even they have their limits. They have not yet stepped forward and publicly endorsed television programming that celebrates bestiality, pedophilia, incest, and necrophilia. Will they endorse scenes in which the actors actually kill each other (as long as the acts are consensual)? No, since they, too, “draw lines”—and thereby are guilty of the very “censorship” as they, themselves, have defined the term.
Further, the claim that opposing obscene television programming is “un-Christian” is laughable, not only because the Hollywood crowd is hardly qualified to define what constitutes Christian behavior, but because they have demonstrated a longstanding hostility, even hatred, toward Christianity and Christian morality. Their definition of “compassion” is as warped and distorted as it can possibly be. Likewise, to label opposition to obscenity as “un-American” flies directly in the face of historical fact. From the Founders and Framers down through American history (until the last 50 years), the vast majority of Americans recognized immorality when they saw it. They knew the difference between right and wrong based on the moral framework of the Bible—and the courts upheld that value system (e.g., People v. Ruggles ; The Commonwealth against Sharpless ; Updegraph v. The Commonwealth ; City Council of Charleston v. Benjamin .
Indeed, in 1848, the Supreme Court of South Carolina articulated the standard that characterized America for the first 185 years:
What constitutes the standard of good morals? Is it not Christianity? There certainly is none other. Say that cannot be appealed to and...what would be good morals? The day of moral virtue in which we live would, in an instant, if that standard were abolished, lapse into the dark and murky night of pagan immorality (City Council of Charleston..., emp. added).
The court’s words were prophetic. We are literally witnessing American civilization in the throes of pagan immorality—spearheaded by, among others, a sizable segment of the entertainment industry.
In reality, this entire issue comes down quite simply to whether a Supreme Being exists Who has the right to legislate the moral behavior of His creatures. If so, then He has already given humans a moral framework—a standard of behavior to which all humans are accountable. In that case, “censorship” occurs only when a person attempts to oppose or stifle that which God does not want stifled (an apt description of precisely what the Hollywood crowd endeavors to do). Consequently, suppressing evil and immorality is not “censorship”! Rather, it is righteous, heroic, spiritually courageous, American, and very Christian!
Brown, Jody and Fred Jackson (2006), “NBC Closes the Book on Daniel,” AgapePress, January 24, [On-line], URL: http://headlines.agapepress.org/archive/1/242006a.asp.
City Council of Charleston v. Benjamin (1848), 2 Strob. L. 508 (S. C. 1848).
The Commonwealth v. Sharpless (1815), 2 Serg. & Rawle 91; 1815 Pa. LEXIS 81.
“NBC Pulls the Plug on ‘Book of Daniel’” (2006), World Net Daily, January 23, [On-line], URL: http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=48476.
The People v. Ruggles (1811), 8 Johns 290 (Sup. Ct. NY.), N.Y. Lexis 124.
Updegraph v. The Commonwealth (1824), Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, [On-line], URL: http://80-web.lexis-nexis.com.library.fhu.edu:2048/universe/document? _m=083294452aab2484abf17cb283bb244a&_docnum=1&wchp=dGLbVlz-zSkVb&_md5 =d6703819f222838c8fe93f045ebc0282.
Different Names, Same Personby Eric Lyons, M.Min.
Names can be rather confusing at times. A teacher might become puzzled on the first day of school when she finds out that half of her students do not immediately respond when she calls roll. The reason: they normally are called by another name than that which appears on the school records. A coach may not immediately recognize a certain player’s identity, because his team speaks of this player (on the opposing team) only by using a nickname. After some investigation, however, the coach soon learns who the player actually is. Millions of individuals through the millennia have worn more than one name. Even at Apologetics Press, nearly half of my co-workers wear derivatives of their full, official name. Our Production Administrator's name is James Monroe, but he prefers to be called Jim. David Lee, our Executive Director, is just Dave to those who know him. Most people in the twenty-first century understand that this is simply the way it is; people often go by more than one name.
When reading the Bible, we need also to remember that people in ancient times frequently had more than one name as well. Keeping this in mind will help clarify various passages that may seem somewhat ambiguous. When studying the book of Genesis, it is helpful to bear in mind that Abram’s name was changed to Abraham (Genesis 17:5), and Jacob’s to Israel (Genesis 32:28). Later, while living in Egypt, “Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphnath-Paaneah” (Genesis 41:45). Numerous other individuals mentioned in the Bible also were known by more than one name.
- Moses’ father-in-law was known both as Reuel and Jethro (Exodus 2:18; 3:1).
- Gideon acquired the name Jerubbaal because he destroyed the altar of Baal at Ophrah (Judges 6:32; 7:1; 8:29,35).
- Pharaoh Necho changed the name of King Josiah’s oldest son, Eliakim, to Jehoiakim (2 Kings 23:34).
- The apostle Peter is sometimes called Peter, Simon Peter, Simon, and Cephas (Matthew 14:28; 16:16; 17:25; John 1:42; 1 Corinthians 1:12).
- And Saul is called Paul (Acts 13:9).
Attention needs to be given to how the Bible writers frequently used different names when referring to the same person, because recognition of such name usage may help clarify certain alleged contradictions. Take, for instance, Matthew 1:9. Someone might wonder why Matthew mentioned Uzziah as being the father of Jotham, while 2 Kings 15:1-7 and 1 Chronicles 3:12 call Jotham’s father Azariah. The answer lies in the fact that that both names apply to the same person. Within the same chapter (2 Kings 15), Jotham’s father is called both Azariah (15:7) and Uzziah (15:32). The names are different, but they refer to the same person (cf. 2 Chronicles 26:1-23; Isaiah 1:1).
Countless Bible questions can be answered logically just by acknowledging that the ancients often were just as flexible in their giving of names as people are in the twenty-first century.
http://www.oldpaths.com/Archive/Davison/Roy/Allen/1940/053-liftup.html“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1, 2).
Seek the things that are above!
Seek the things that are above!
Frederick Langbridge* wrote:There is much mud, but one must look down to see it. God encourages us to look up, to look up at the stars, to look beyond the stars! We can behold God’s glory when we lift up our eyes, when we lift up our souls, when we lift up our hands, when we lift up our voices, and when we lift up our heads.
“Two men look out through the same bars:
One sees the mud, and one the stars.”
“Two men look out through the same bars:
One sees the mud, and one the stars.”
Lift up your eyes, and see who has created these things!
“It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. ... ‘To whom then will you liken Me, or to whomshall I be equal?’ says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power; not one is missing” (Isaiah 40:22, 25, 26).
When someone perseveres in unbelief while seeing the glories of creation, he is rejecting clear evidence for God: “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” (Romans 1:20).
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” (Psalm 19:1-4).
The more an unbeliever learns about the expanse of the universe, the smaller he becomes from his own perspective. Based on his own world view, a materialist is not even a millionth of a speck of dust in the universe.
Belief in the theory of evolution is a form of nature worship. God-like powers are attributed to nature. Evolutionists believe that the forces of nature have created all things, even man from the mud of the earth. This is ridiculous because something like the universe, which had a beginning and will have an end, cannot create itself. As Maria sings in The Sound of Music, “Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could.”
The more a believer learns about the expanse of the universe, the more he stands in awe of God, and the greater his gratitude is for what God has given mankind.
Referring to the sun, moon and stars, we read in Genesis 1:17: “God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth.” Thus, the innumerable galaxies with their innumerable stars are not without purpose. They were placed in space and time to enlighten man!
People should not worship the sun, moon and stars because God has given “the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven” “to all the peoples under the whole heaven as a heritage” (Deuteronomy 4:19). God splashed the trillions of stars into space as a gift to man, to give us a glimpse of His mighty power and majesty. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts,” says the Lord (Isaiah 55:9). “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him” (Psalm 103:10, 11).
“Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look on the earth beneath. For the heavens will vanish away like smoke, the earth will grow old like a garment, and those who dwell in it will die in like manner; but My salvation will be forever, and My righteousness will not be abolished” (Isaiah 51:6).
That the universe is ‘running down’ and eventually will vanish away is a scientific observation. We observe that matter and intelligence exist. What is the source of intelligence? We observe that intelligence can create and that matter cannot create. Matter cannot even create itself, let alone intelligence.
From these observations it is philosophically and scientifically sound to “understand” that both matter and intelligence had to be created by a higher intelligence.
The expansive, yet finite, material universe and the intricate, yet finite, biosphere on earth had to originate from an intelligence greater than our intelligence as the heavens are higher than the earth.
Man’s amazing, yet limited intelligence could not be auto-created by finite matter, any more than an intricate, yet mindless computer could create itself. Only man, made in the image of God, has sufficient creative power to produce a computer. And computers are a collective creation of mankind. One man can make a hammer by tying a stone to a stick, but the design and construction of something as intricate and complex as a computer requires the collective and co-operative intelligence and work of thousands of men. The intricacy of a computer is child’s play compared to the intricacy of life forms. Matter cannot even create a computer, let alone man and the universe!
God, not matter, is the Creator of all things. This is clearly seen and understood from the things that are made.
“I will lift up my eyes to the hills - From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1, 2).
“Unto You I lift up my eyes, O You who dwell in the heavens” (Psalm 123:1).
Lift up your soul to God!
After lifting up our eyes and seeing the majesty of God in His creation, we lift up our souls to God, we entrust our spiritual well-being to His care.
“To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in You; let me not be ashamed; let not my enemies triumph over me. ... Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day” (Psalm 25:1, 2, 4, 5).
“Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning, for in You do I trust; cause me to know the way in which I should walk, for I lift up my soul to You” (Psalm 143:8).
“Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I cry to You all day long. Rejoice the soul of Your servant, for to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You. Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications” (Psalm 86:3-6).
We lift up our souls to God, we entrust our spirits to His keeping. As was prayed by David in a Psalm and by Jesus on the cross: “Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O LORD God of truth” (Psalm 31:5).
Lift up your hands in joyful prayers of praise!
“Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You. Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. ... And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips” (Psalm 63:3, 4, 5).
When we lift up our eyes and see the glories of God’s creation, and then lift up our souls to Him, we also lift up our hands in prayer.
“Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry to You, when I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary” (Psalm 28:2).
Lift up your voice with strength!
“O Zion, you who bring good tidings, get up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, you who bring good tidings, lift up your voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’” (Isaiah 40:9).
This Messianic prophecy refers to the deity of Christ. Good news of God’s salvation would be preached to all nations beginning at Jerusalem. “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:2, 3).
We must lift up our eyes and see the peoples of the earth who are in urgent need of salvation. Jesus tells His followers: “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” (John 4:35).
“But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest’” (Matthew 9:36-38).
We lift up our eyes and see the glory of God; we lift up our souls to God and place them in His care; we lift up our hands to God in prayer, and we lift up our voices to tell the whole world about the glories of God and salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.
Look up and lift up your heads!
When Jesus returns most people will be terrified: “And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’” (Revelation 6:15-17).
God’s little flock, however, will not be afraid, but will rejoice: “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:27, 28).
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1, 2).
Let us look beyond the stars! Let us lift up our eyes and see the glory of God in His creation, let us lift up our souls to God and place them in His care, let us lift up our hands in prayer, let us lift up our voices and tell the good news of salvation by Christ to all the world. Then at His appearing to judge the living and the dead, we can lift up our heads and greet Him with joy, then we can be with Him forevermore. Amen.
The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.
Permission for reference use has been granted.
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.
Permission for reference use has been granted.
Published in The Old Paths Archive
* Frederick Langbridge (1849-1923) was a poet, novelist, dramatist and religious writer. He was born at Birmingham, England but was of Irish descent. He was educated at Oxford. He served as rector of St. John’s Cathedral in Limerick, Ireland. This quotation is from ‘A Cluster of Quiet Thoughts’ published by the Religious Tract Society.