"THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS" True Friends And False Friends (4:16-20) INTRODUCTION 1. Friends can be a wonderful blessing... a. A source of comfort in times good and bad - Pr 17:17 b. A source of good counsel - Pr 27:9 2. It is not always easy to know who your true friends are... a. Sometimes a true friend tells you what you don't want to hear b. Sometimes a false friend tells you what you do want to hear 3. In writing to the Galatians, Paul found it necessary to remind them of that truth... a. As he defended the gospel of justification by faith in Christ b. As he battled against the influence of those who sought to bind the Law of Moses [In the course of reasoning with the Galatians on sentimental grounds, Paul has some things to say about "True Friends And False Friends" (Ga 4:16-20). We can glean from Paul's words that...] I. TRUE FRIENDS SAY WHAT YOU NEED TO HEAR A. THEY WILL TELL YOU THE TRUTH... 1. Even if it makes them your enemy - Ga 4:16 2. Even when the tone hurts - Ga 4:20 -- Paul had been a true friend to his brethren B. YOU NEED TRUE FRIENDS... 1. When hearing the gospel of Christ a. Who will tell you the full gospel as preached by Christ and His apostles - Mk 16:15-16 b. Not just what is popularly believed, or what may appeal to our sensitivities - Ga 1:8-9 2. When growing in grace a. Who will tell us of the need to grow, and the danger of apostasy - 2Pe 3:17-18 b. Not just tickling our ears with things we enjoy hearing - 2Ti 4:3-4 3. When drifting from God a. As Paul reached out to the Galatians in our text - Ga 4: 19-20 b. As Paul encouraged them to do the same to others - Ga 6:1 -- Do we appreciate the value of such friends in our lives? C. HEED THE WISDOM OF DAVID AND SOLOMON... 1. "Let the righteous strike me; it shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; it shall be as excellent oil; let my head not refuse it." - Ps 141:5a 2. "Poverty and shame will come to him who disdains correction, but he who regards a rebuke will be honored." - Pr 13:18 3. "The ear that hears the rebukes of life will abide among the wise. He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding." - Pr 15:31-32 4. "Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear." - Pr 25:12 [May we always appreciate the value of true friends. On the other hand...] II. FALSE FRIENDS SAY WHAT THEY WANT YOU TO HEAR A. THEY WILL TELL YOU WHAT THEY WANT... 1. When it makes you on their side - Ga 4:17 2. When you have something they want - cf. Ga 6:12-13 -- The Judaizing teachers were not true friends of the Galatians B. YOU NEED TO BEWARE OF FALSE FRIENDS... 1. When you are being courted with zeal a. Their motives may not be right - Ga 4:17; cf. Ro 16:17-18 b. Their knowledge may be wrong - cf. Ro 10:1-2 2. When you are being manipulated a. As the false teachers were trying to manipulate the Galatians - Ga 4:17 b. A tactic first used by Satan, and since by many others - 2Co 11:3,13-15; 2Pe 2:1-3 3. When you are pursued only in their presence a. Paul sought their devotion even in his absence - Ga 4:18; cf. Php 1:27; 2:12 b. False friends often forget about you when they are no longer with you -- Do we appreciate the danger of the wrong kind of friends? C. HEED THE WISDOM OF SOLOMON... 1. "Fervent lips with a wicked heart are like earthenware covered with silver dross. He who hates, disguises it with his lips, and lays up deceit within himself; when he speaks kindly, do not believe him, for there are seven abominations in his heart; though his hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness will be revealed before the assembly." - Pr 26:23-26 2. "Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful." - Pr 27:5-6 CONCLUSION 1. Many people have been led astray by the wrong kind of friends... a. Good habits have been corrupted by bad company - 1Co 15:33 b. Immature Christians have been tossed around by cunning and deceitful teachers - Ep 4:14 2. May we learn from the interaction between Paul and the Galatians... a. True friends say what you need to hear b. False friends say what they want you to hear Speaking of true friends, the greatest friend we can have is Jesus... - cf. Jn 15:13-14
Canaanite DNA and the Biblical Canon
|by||Dewayne Bryant, Ph.D.|
[Editor’s Note: AP auxiliary writer Dr. Bryant holds two Masters degrees as well as a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies with an emphasis in Old Testament from Amridge University. He has participated in archaeological excavations at Tell El-Borg in Egypt and holds professional memberships in the American Schools of Oriental Research, the Society of Biblical Literature, the Archaeological Institute of America, and the International Society of Christian Apologetics.]
A paper published on July 27, 2017 sparked a series of headlines questioning the accuracy of the Bible. A study demonstrated that comparing the DNA of modern Lebanese with ancient Canaanites revealed a striking similarity between the two.1 By comparing the genomes of five inhabitants of the city of Sidon (from roughly 3,700 years ago) with 99 persons living in modern Lebanon, researchers estimated that the genetic similarity between the two is about 93 percent. Based on these findings, it is argued by some that the Canaanites were not destroyed as the Bible alleges.
Headlines after the publication of the study ran with the story, with several of them stating flatly that DNA evidence had proven the Bible wrong. David Klinghoffer, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, noted that numerous headlines (many of them originating in the United Kingdom) seemed to take a deliberate swipe at the Bible.2 He listed a dozen headlines from various news outlets that directly challenged the truthfulness of the biblical account of the conquest.3
In an age where attention-grabbing headlines can determine the number of clicks an article gets—as well as the amount of potential revenue from advertisers—this allegation is no surprise. However, it does expose the stunning biblical illiteracy in society today. To be fair, it may have been that the authors of the news articles simply took the following statement from the study at face value:
[T]he Bible reports the destruction of the Canaanite cities and the annihilation of its people; if true, the Canaanites could not have directly contributed genetically to present-day populations. However, no archaeological evidence has so far been found to support widespread destruction of Canaanite cities between the Bronze and Iron Ages: cities on the Levant coast such as Sidon and Tyre show continuity of occupation until the present day.4
Although the removal of the Canaanite population was commanded (Deuteronomy 20:17), numerous passages indicate the incomplete nature of the conquest (e.g., Joshua 17:12-13; Judges 1:27-33). One of the clearest failures recorded in the book of Judges is that the tribe of Dan in particular (or a large segment of it) remained nomadic instead of taking the territory allotted to it (Judges 18:1). The text indicates that this tribe had particular difficulties, later losing some of the land they had taken previously (Joshua 19:47).
The northernmost border of Israel’s territory was found in the allotment given to the tribe of Asher, which included the cities of Tyre and Sidon (Joshua 24:24-31). The text states that the Israelites failed to take this territory, so that the people of the tribe of Asher “lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land, for they did not drive them out” (Judges 1:31; 3:3). Both Sidon and Tyre seem to have remained as independent city states. King Hiram of Tyre made treaties with both David and Solomon many years after the conquest (2 Samuel 5:11; 1 Kings 5:1; 9:13). Later prophets denounced the Phoenician cities of Tyre5 and Sidon,6 treating them as foreign political entities. The Bible never indicates that the Israelites conquered these cities or killed their populations.
The Homeric epics of the Iliad and Odyssey mention Sidon, known in the Bible as the home of Jezebel and her father Ethbaal (1 Kings 16:31). Jezebel’s royal seal—donated to Israel’s Department of Antiquities in the early 1960s—identifies her as the “daughter of the king.”7 The city of Sidon had a succession of kings and was powerful enough that the term “Sidonian” became virtually synonymous with the term “Phoenician.”8 There is no indication—either historical or biblical—that the Israelites ever conquered the city.
Tyre was a powerful and wealthy city also, enough so that it was able to establish colonies throughout the Mediterranean. It is no coincidence that Tyre experienced a golden age beginning precisely at the time when the Bible indicates that its king made important trade agreements with David and Solomon.9 Tyre had a long succession of kings who often ran afoul of more powerful nations. For instance, the famed Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III (747-727 B.C.) defeated a second Hiram of Tyre ruling in the eighth century.10 Later, the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar plundered the city, which was subsequently razed by Alexander the Great in fulfillment of prophecy (Ezekiel 26).11 The biblical portrayal of Tyre—including its wealth, its continual problems with other nations, and eventually its destruction—agrees with the ancient evidence.
The Bible and ancient inscriptions both indicate that Israel never defeated Tyre or Sidon, a fact that seems to have eluded some critics. That the modern inhabitants of Lebanon should share such genetic similarity with their ancient ancestors should not be surprising. Phoenicia always remained independent of Israel despite any political or economic connections the two may have shared. Far from undermining the biblical text, the most recent findings concerning Canaanite DNA support the accuracy of Scripture.
1 See Marc Haber, et al (2017), “Continuity and Admixture in the Last Five Millennia of Levantine History from Ancient Canaanite and Present-Day Lebanese Genome Sequences,” American Journal of Human Genetics, 101, August, http://www.cell.com/ajhg/fulltext/S0002-9297(17)30276-8.
2 David Klinghoffer (2017), “For Culturally Illiterate Science Reporters, Canaanite DNA Yields Occasion to Slap Bible Around,” https://goo.gl/Pv3idN.
3 E.g., Shivali Best (2017), “Bronze Age DNA Disproves the Bible’s Claim that the Canaanites Were Wiped Out: Study Says Their Genes Live On in Modern-day Lebanese People,” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4733046/Canaanites-ancestors-modern-day-people-Lebanon.html; Chris Graham (2017), “Study Disproves the Bible’s Suggestion that the Ancient Canaanites Were Wiped Out,” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/07/28/study-disproves-bibles-claim-ancient-canaanites-wiped/; Ian Johnston (2017), “Bible Says Canaanites Were Wiped Out by Israelites But Scientists Just Found Their Descendants Living in Lebanon,” https://goo.gl/6xXTCs.
4 Haber, et al, p. 275.
5 E.g., Amos 1:9-10; Zechariah 9:3-4; Ezekiel 26:1-28:19.
6 Jeremiah 24:22; Ezekiel 28:20-24.
7 See Marjo C.A. Korpel (2008), “Fit for a Queen: Jezebel’s Royal Seal,” Biblical Archaeology Review, https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-artifacts/inscriptions/fit-for-a-queen-jezebels-royal-seal.
8 Philip C. Schmitz (1992), “Sidon” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday), 6:17.
9 H.J. Katzenstein (1992), “Tyre” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday), 6:687.
10 Edward Lipinski (2006), On the Skirts of Canaan in the Iron Age: Historical and Topographical Researches, Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 153 (Leuven: Peters), p. 187.
11 See Kyle Butt (2006), “Tyre in Prophecy,” Reason & Revelation, 26:73-79, October, http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=1790.
Following the Toucan’s Nose to a Designer
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
The writers and editors of National Geographic are notoriously guilty of saturating their articles with evolution. That is why it is almost humorous to read articles in the periodical that seem to slip by the editors—articles that, if read in a straightforward manner, defy evolution. For instance, in the December, 2006 issue, the editors included a tiny, one-page article titled “Power Beak.” This article discusses the beak of the toucan. John Eliot, the author of the article, interviewed Marc André Meyers, “a materials scientist at the University of California, San Diego.” Meyers believes the unique design of the toucan beak could be used to produce strong, lightweight materials used in vehicles.
Meyers describes the toucan beak as a beautiful structure. He then goes into some engineering detail:
The surface is made of keratin, the same material in fingernails and hair. But the outer layer isn’t a solid structure. It’s actually many layers of tiny hexagonal plates, overlapping like shingles on a roof. The interior is different from the shell, made of bone. It consists of a light yet rigid foam made of little beams and membranes. And some areas of the beak are hollow (Eliot, 2006, p. 30).
On the same page, to the right of Meyers’ comments, the reader can see two pictures from a microscope—one of the hard foam inside the beak and the other of the “shingle” layers of keratin. To the left of the comments there is a toucan head and beak, in which the layers are shown in a cross-section-like diagram. The combined pictures look like they are straight out of an engineer’s portfolio.
What is Eliot’s assessment of the toucan’s beak? In a simple, yet oh-so-telling, sentence, Eliot said: “[T]he toucan’s beak is ingeniously designed to be both strong and light weight.” Look closely at the wording. He says the beak is “ingeniously designed.” The American HeritageDictionary defines the word “ingenious” as: “Marked by inventive skill and imagination. 2. Having or arising from an inventive or cunning mind; clever” (2000, p. 900, emp. added). Notice that the word “ingenious” implies an inventive or cunning mind. What inventive or cunning mind engineered the beautiful design of the toucan beak? It could not have been the evolutionary process, since evolutionists themselves admit that the process has no ultimate goals and no creative mind powering the system. The only logical answer is the supernatural mind of God. If the editors of National Geographic would only follow the nose of the toucan, they would find the ingenious Designer—and they would stop writing false, evolutionary propaganda.
American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2000), (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin), fourth edition.
Eliot, John L. (2006), “Power Beak,” National Geographic, 210, December 12.
Was Jesus Misquoted?
|by||Dewayne Bryant, Ph.D.|
[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article was written by auxiliary staff writer Dewayne Bryant, who holds two Masters degrees, and is completing Masters study in Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology and Languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, while pursuing doctoral studies at Amridge University. He has participated in an archaeological dig at Tell El-Borg in Egypt and holds professional membership in both the American Schools of Oriental Research as well as the Society of Biblical Literature.]
Jesus is under attack like never before. While criticism of the Faith is nothing new, there is an increase in the public exposure of Christianity’s detractors. From documentaries on the small screen to blockbuster movies on the silver screen, critics are pursuing all media venues to preach a message of distrust—and even hate. The members of the new atheism have lambasted the Christian Faith in bestselling books, describing the faithful as simple-minded, anti-scientific, and even dangerous. For Christianity’s critics, the spiritual forecast looks bright for a brisk trade in fear.
Not all of the enemies of the Faith come from a secularist perspective. While plenty come from a scientific background, one of the newest cast members is a former minister and purported biblical scholar. Bart Ehrman, professor of religion at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is one of the foremost scholars in the country in the area of textual criticism, the art and science of evaluating ancient manuscripts. Trained at Princeton Theological Seminary under Bruce Metzger, a theological conservative and one of the greatest text critics of the 20th century, Ehrman abandoned his former fundamentalist roots and has penned several books questioning the Bible.
WAS JESUS MISQUOTED?
Ehrman specializes in textual criticism, the art and science of evaluating biblical manuscripts. Textual criticism is concerned with studying ancient documents in order to determine the original wording of the text. Like all other documents from antiquity, the original autographs of the New Testament writings are no longer extant. While scribes from the ancient world were quite exact in their standards of copying, no scribe was perfect. This means that manuscripts possessed by biblical scholars have slight—though usually meaningless—differences due to copyist’s errors. In his bestselling book Misquoting Jesus, Ehrman paints a rather bleak picture of the current state of the study of biblical texts:
Not only do we not have the originals, we don’t have the first copies of the originals, we don’t even have the copies of the copies of the originals, or copies of the copies of the copies of the originals. What we have are copies made later—much later.... And these copies all differ from one another, in many thousands of places.... These copies differ from one another in so many places that we don’t even know how many differences there are (2005, p. 10).
It is amazing that a book about textual criticism made it onto the New York Times bestseller list, but there is one major difference that makes its popularity unsurprising. The very fact that it attempts to discredit the Bible is a major selling point. Members of the modern militant variety of atheism have used Ehrman’s book as a rallying point. Christopher Hitchens lists Misquoting Jesusas essential reading in the book God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (2007). Sam Harris, another of the new atheists, lists Ehrman’s work on his Web site as recommended reading.
Ehrman’s basic approach is one of despair. He asserts the original text is irrecoverable and virtually unknowable. According to Ehrman, the text was written long after the events they purport to record, by “orthodox” scribes who intentionally altered the text itself. He describes this secretive alteration of the text as something akin to a conspiracy. These alterations changed the face of Christianity as we know it. He says, “It would be wrong...to say—as people sometimes do—that the changes in our text have no real bearing on what the texts mean or on the theological conclusions that one draws from them.... In some instances, the very meaning of the text is at stake, depending upon how one resolves a textual problem” (p. 208).
In short, the Christian Faith practiced by millions today is unlike that practiced in the first century. Not only is it different, it is inaccessible because agenda-driven scribes have corrupted the very documents that serve as a window to the early church. Short of the invention of time travel, no one can know precisely how early Christianity was practiced—according to Ehrman.
THE STATE OF THE TEXT
According to scholars and critics like Ehrman, the New Testament documents were transmitted in poor fashion. In one of the greatest hoaxes in textual criticism, liberal scholars like Ehrman perpetuate the misconception that the transmission of the biblical text is like a game of “broken telephone” or “Chinese whispers.” According to the rules of the game, a line of people take turns whispering a phrase into the ear of the next person in line. They must whisper it so softly that the person on the other side of their neighbor cannot hear it, and they are not allowed to repeat themselves. When the message gets to the end of the line, it is usually nonsensical and garbled beyond recognition, much to the delight of the participants.
The “broken telephone” analogy is a popular one, but woefully incorrect. Distorting the message to the point of incomprehensibility is the point of the game. That was not the point of the biblical scribes who copied what they believed to be the very Word of God. It is a well-known fact that Old Testament scribes copied the text with a level of fidelity nearly inconceivable by moderns. Scribes developed a highly sophisticated method of counting words, letters, the middle word of a book along with its middle letter, and everything else imaginable to ensure that the copy of the text was a perfect reproduction of the original manuscript. For that reason, the vast number of copyist errors in the Old Testament manuscripts consists of nothing more than a single letter, usually one that looks similar to another in the Hebrew alphabet. Using rules of textual criticism, scholars are able to classify and correct the error quite easily.
While the Old Testament scribes were quite sophisticated in their efforts, what about the scribes who copied the New Testament documents? Unfortunately, New Testament scribes were not always as faithful as their Jewish counterparts. But this hardly means that their work is suspect. Let us return to the broken telephone analogy. Scribes copying the documents were not copying for an audience of one. Their work could be checked and verified by many others who read the copies, or heard them read aloud in the first churches. Furthermore, they were under no rules that limited their ability to communicate their message or forbade them from correcting anyone else. The sheer gravity of copying the words of the apostolic writers, not to mention those of Christ Himself, would have involved the entire Christian community.
To his discredit, Ehrman uses the broken telephone argument when he surely knows better. Trained at Princeton Seminary, a premiere school for New Testament studies, Ehrman knows that scribes did not transmit the biblical documents in this manner. While scribes in the New Testament world did not have the same checks and balances used by Jewish scribes, it does not mean that their efforts were slack or their standards lax. Copying the biblical documents was not for an audience of one, but for the entire Christian community. Others would have been able to check the documents and note any errors that the scribes might have made.
An inconvenient truth for Ehrman, and others favorable to his views, is the witness of authorities in the early church. The early church fathers began quoting and alluding to the books of the New Testament very early. In his Apologia Prima, Justin Martyr indicates that on Sunday the apostolic writings would be read publicly. Tertullian echoes Justin’s sentiments, saying,
Come now, you who would indulge a better curiosity, if you would apply it to the business of your salvation, run over to the apostolic churches, in which the very thrones of the apostles are still pre-eminent in their places, in which their own authentic writings are read, uttering the voice and representing the face of each of them severally (De Praescriptione Haereticorum 36.1).
As New Testament scholars Darrell Bock and Daniel Wallace point out, “What is at issue here is the meaning of ‘authentic’ writings. If this refers to the original documents, as the word in Latin (authenticae) normally does, then Tertullian is saying that several of the original New Testament books still existed in his day, well over a century after the time of their writing” (2007, p. 45, italics in orig.). Tertullian specifically references Paul’s letters to the churches at Corinth, Philippi, Thessalonica, Ephesus, and Rome. Although this point is not entirely certain, it is an interesting thought. Tertullian’s statement provides evidence of a concern for preserving the manuscripts accurately. Given human fascination with historical relics and our interest in preserving them, it is possible that the early churches would have mirrored Tertullian’s concerns, preserving the letters written by the apostles themselves.
Bock and Wallace make a powerful argument concerning two of the earliest manuscripts known today. Citing p75 and Codex Vaticanus (also known as B), they argue that the two manuscripts
have an exceptionally strong agreement. And they are among the most accurate manuscripts that exist today. P75 is about 125 years older than B, yet it is not an ancestor of B. Instead, B was copied from an earlier ancestor of P75.... The combination of these two manuscripts in a particular reading must surely go back to the very beginning of the second century (2007, p. 47).
The state of the New Testament text is much better than the situation of despair found in Misquoting Jesus. As a world-class text critic, Ehrman must be fully aware of this material, yet chooses not to cite any of it in his work. In fact, he rarely cites scholars who disagree with him, leaving the inaccurate impression that he represents a vast majority of scholars who hold the same viewpoint. This borders on academic dishonesty.
That Ehrman knows the ancient scribes were conscientious about serving as custodians of the textual tradition is revealed in admissions throughout the text of Misquoting Jesus. He says, “Far and away, the most changes are the result of mistakes, pure and simple—slips of the pen, accidental omissions, inadvertent additions, misspelled words, blunders of one sort or another” (p. 55). The truth finally comes out that the massive majority of errors in the New Testament manuscripts are the result of a copyist’s error, not a deliberate alteration. What Ehrman downplays is that textual critics are well-schooled in how to detect and qualify copyists’ mistakes. By referring to the 400,000 errors in the manuscripts, Ehrman is leaving a false impression with his readership. Some of the errors are easily correctable, and others are downright absurd. As Bock and Wallace explain, “What exactly constitutes a textual variant? Any place among the manuscripts in which there is variation in wording, including word order, omission or addition of words, and even spelling differences is a textual variant. Thus, the most trivial alterations count as variants” (p. 54).
Ehrman does reserve some qualified praise for the ancient scribes. He writes:
The scribes—whether non-professional scribes in the early centuries or professional scribes of the Middle Ages—were intent on conserving the textual tradition they were passing on. Their ultimate concern was not to modify the tradition, but to preserve it for themselves and for those who would follow them. Most scribes, no doubt, tried to do a faithful job in making sure that the text they reproduced was the same text they inherited (p. 177).
Indeed, scribes in the ancient world were expected to copy texts faithfully, despite Ehrman’s assertions that they deliberately altered the New Testament documents. His understanding of ancient scribal custom is made clear by his inclusion of a humorous story about a scribe who deliberately modified the wording of a passage in a copy of the Bible (Codex Vaticanus). A later scribe came along and changed the word back to its original reading, adding the marginal note: “Fool and knave! Leave the old reading, don’t change it!” (p. 56).
A weakness of Ehrman’s argument is that, while he argues that scribes deliberately altered the text, one must ask how he knows it was altered; the charge presupposes that the original reading is still accessible in some way. One cannot argue that the words of Jesus or the teaching of Paul has been changed if one does not know what they actually said, which Ehrman repeatedly confesses. Rather, the very fact that scholars know that the text was altered on occasion means that they have a good idea of what the original reading was. This makes Ehrman’s arguments relatively inconsequential, since he depends upon later examples of change to make his points.
The criticism of Misquoting Jesus has come fast and furious. In the age of the Internet, substantial criticisms of the work have appeared en masse. Not only do Ehrman’s ideas fail to convince those who have studied the issue, New Testament scholars have posted devastating critiques of his work on-line in venues ranging from academic blogs to seminary Web sites. Academic heavyweights such as Darrell Bock, Craig Blomberg, and Craig Evans have all provided measured criticism of Ehrman’s work, although he appears to have paid little attention. Indeed, Ehrman fuels the controversy when interviewed, choosing to rehash the same arguments each time when they have been answered by other scholars in a variety of media venues. In interviews, Ehrman generally tends to overplay the nature of the manuscript errors and attributes much more importance to them than is warranted.
Ehrman’s book Orthodox Corruption is a scholarly version of the popular-level Misquoting Jesus. Of this book, New Testament scholar Gordon Fee writes, “Unfortunately, Ehrman too often turns mere possibility into probability, and probability into certainty, where other equally viable reasons for corruption exist” (1995, 8:204). Some critics of Christianity are notorious for failing to incorporate the criticisms of their peers in their own work and making adjustments where necessary. In this Ehrman is no exception, as Orthodox Corruption generally states a similar case as the one found later in Misquoting Jesus, even after fellow scholars offered criticism that appears to have gone largely unheeded.
Ehrman’s work resonates in a post-Christian culture where Christianity is viewed as secretive and even deceptive. His description of the state of the text is bleak, but it is just as inaccurate. Scholars have great confidence in the Greek text that lies beneath modern English translations, and for good reason. Ancient scribes believed they were copying the very words of God, and treated their duties with a commensurate level of care. They knew that God, and His Word, deserved no less.
Bart Ehrman has made something of a career out of selling the idea that the New Testament is not only full of inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and outright contradictions, but that some of those discrepancies were deliberately inserted into the text. He is something of a theological celebrity, enjoying airtime in a number of different radio and television interviews. As one of the foremost New Testament textual scholars in America, Ehrman should be taken seriously. At the same time, his criticism of the Faith is questionable, and, at times, laughable.
Ehrman excels at selling a packaged version of Christianity that is supposedly authentic but falls short. He matter-of-factly describes the supposed difficulties with Christianity almost as if they are trade secrets of the Faith. On the popular level, it is likely that many of his readers have never heard of these criticisms of the New Testament from a scholar writing for a lay audience. At the same time, scholarly treatments of these issues are readily available. Many fine works written by both the scholar and non-scholar alike have answered all of the objections Ehrman raises. From that standpoint, Ehrman’s exploration of these issues gives an appearance of disingenuousness.
Unlike less scholarly, more popular authors such as Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code), Peter Baigent (The Jesus Papers), and Simcha Jacobovici (The Jesus Family Tomb), Ehrman must be taken seriously. He is a widely respected scholar who has produced a number of contributions to the field of New Testament studies. At the same time, he also appears to have little interest in resolving the problems he raises. An honest seeker will try to resolve difficulties he uncovers, if for no other reason than to explore the mystery itself. Ehrman seems to have little interest in finding solutions, preferring instead to emphasize what he considers to be problems in the text. The Christian must be aware that the overwhelming majority of those difficulties often have rather simple solutions, offered by scholars bearing the same level of credentials as Ehrman himself.
Bock, Darrell and Daniel Wallace (2007), Dethroning Jesus: Exposing Popular Culture’s Quest to Unseat the Biblical Christ (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson).
Ehrman, Bart (2005), Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (San Francisco, CA: Harper).
Fee, Gordon (1995), “Review of The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, by Bart D. Ehrman” in Critical Review of Books in Religion, 8:203-206.
Harris, Sam “Recommended Reading (A-Z),” [On-line], URL: http://www.sam harris.org/site/book_reading_list/.
Hitchens, Christopher (2007), God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (New York: Twelve Books).
The Real Mary Magdalene
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
The name “Mary” appears 54 times in the New Testament. There is Mary, the mother of Jesus (Matthew 1:18), Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:2), and Mary, the mother of James and Joses (Mark 15:40), who is likely the same as the “other” Mary (Matthew 27:56,61; 28:1) and “the wife of Clopas” (John 19:25). Also mentioned are Mary of Bethany (John 11:1), Mary, the mother of Mark (Acts 12:12), and Mary of Rome (Romans 16:6). Obviously, Mary (Greek Maria or Mariam) was a popular name in New Testament times. It still is today (see “The Most Popular...,” 2006).
No Mary has been more popular in recent days, however, than Mary Magdalene. A plethora of new books feature her, including Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, which is based on the false notion that she gave birth to the heir of Christ, whose descendants supposedly survive to this day. Mary Magdalene, a name likely indicating affiliation with the Galilean city of Magdala (see “Mary,” 1986), has been the focus of talk shows, movies, books, magazines, and more. Sadly, modernists have greatly misunderstood, exaggerated, and distorted her role in the life of Jesus and the early church. The prevailing idea is that Mary Magdalene has finally been released from the male-dominated, “anti-sexual” religious world (see Carroll, 2006, 37:119), and that the real Mary has finally been revealed. Is this true? Was Mary Magdalene Christ’s secret lover? Did she erotically wash His feet with her hair? Did she eventually become His wife and bear His child? Was she a former prostitute? Just who was Mary Magdalene, really?
Those who have heard only of the newly made-over Mary Magdalene might be disappointed to find that the real Mary of Magdala does not fit the modern-day, dramatized version. Mary Magdalene is mentioned a total of 12 times in the New Testament—the oldest historical record mentioning her name. All 12 occurrences appear in the gospel accounts, wherein we learn the following:
- Jesus cast seven demons out of her (Luke 8:2; Mark 16:9).
- She was one of many who provided for Jesus out of her own means (Luke 8:1-3).
- She witnessed the crucifixion of Christ (Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40; John 19:25).
- She was present at His burial (Matthew 27:61; Mark 15:47).
- She arrived at Jesus’ tomb on the Sunday following His crucifixion to find His body missing (Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-7; John 20:1).
- She saw the risen Lord, spoke with Him, and later reported the encounter to the apostles (Matthew 28:9-10; Mark 16:9-11; John 20:11-18).
Where are the passages about her physical relationship with Christ? Where are the hints of erotic behavior? Where is the sexualized version of Mary Magdalene? In truth, the new version of Mary Magdalene is a figment of someone’s imagination.
First, the notion of Mary Magdalene being a former prostitute, apparently made popular as early as the sixth century by Pope Gregory I (see Van Biema, 2003), simply is unfounded. Luke did record an occasion during Jesus’ ministry when a woman “who was a sinner” (Luke 7:37, emp. added) and of poor reputation among the Pharisees (7:39) washed His feet with her tears and hair, and anointed them with oil (7:36-50). And, Luke did place this event in his gospel account just two verses before he introduces Mary Magdalene, “out of whom had come seven demons” (Luke 8:2). But Luke never specifically stated that the woman of disrepute was a prostitute, or that her name was Mary Magdalene. Other than the juxtaposition of the “sinner” at the close of Luke 7 and Mary at the commencement of Luke 8, no connection between the two women exists. What’s more, if one argues that the proximity of the two women is what links them together, one wonders why “Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others” (Luke 8:3) could not also be considered candidates, since they are mentioned along with Mary Magdalene.
Second, Scripture never hints that Mary Magdalene and Jesus were married or romantically involved in any way. Did He exercise His power over demons by casting seven of them from her? Yes (Luke 8:2; Mark 16:9). Did she (along with “many others”) financially support His ministry? Yes (Luke 8:2-3). Did she cling to Him momentarily following His resurrection? Yes (John 20:17). Was she a dedicated follower of Christ? From all that we can gather in the New Testament, we must assume that she was. Still, nothing in the Bible suggests that she was Jesus’ wife or secret lover.
Even the so-called Gospel of Mary (Magdalene), which unbelievers freely admit was not written until the second century A.D. (cf. Cockburn, 2006, 209:88-89), says nothing about a sexual relationship with Christ. This non-inspired text does contend that Peter told Mary, “Sister, we know the savior loved you more than any other woman” (Meyer, 2005a, p. 38). Furthermore, in this text Levi described Jesus as loving Mary “more than us” (p. 41). Still, however, nothing sexual is mentioned. The New Testament records how Jesus “loved” Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (John 11:5); the Jews even marveled at His love for Lazarus (John 11:36). Mark wrote of how He “loved” the rich young ruler (Mark 10:21). And John repeatedly testified of one particular unnamed disciple whom “Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 20:2; 21:7; 21:20). [NOTE: Proof that this beloved disciple was not Mary Magdalene is found in John 20:2 where she spoke to Peter and the disciple “whom Jesus loved” (John 20:2).] When we read the uninspired statements from The Gospel of Mary in light of the fact that the New Testament specifically states that Jesus loved certain individuals, one can see more clearly the lack of sexual overtones.
Anyone who has read Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code is aware that his entire novel revolves around the alleged historical fact that Jesus and Mary Magdalene married and had a child together (2003, pp. 244-245). Brown bases his claim on the following brief statements from the non-inspired, gnostic Gospel of Philip, which apparently was penned during the second or third century (cf. Meyer, 2005b, p. 63; Isenberg, n.d.). [NOTE: Brackets indicate missing words.]
Three women always walked with the master: Mary his mother,  sister, and Mary of Magdala, who is called his companion. For “Mary” is the name of his sister, his mother and his companion (Meyer, 2005b, p. 57).The companion of the  is Mary of Magdala. The  her more than  the disciples,  kissed her often on her . The other ...said to him, “Why do you love her more than all of us?” (Meyer, 2005b, p. 63).
Brown alleges that “any Aramaic scholar will tell you, the word companion, in those days, literally meant spouse” (p. 246, emp. added). Thus, Mary Magdalene and Jesus must have been married, right? Wrong! The Gospel of Philip was not even written in Aramaic, but in Coptic, an ancient Egyptian language. What’s more, the Coptic word for “companion” is synonymous with neither “wife” nor “spouse.” Ben Witherington III, writing in Biblical Archaeological Review, addressed this very point:
The word here for companion (koinonos) is actually a loan word from Greek and is neither a technical term nor a synonym for wife or spouse. It is true the term could be used to refer to a wife, since koinonos, like “companion,” is an umbrella term, but it does not specify this fact. There was another Greek word, gune, which would have made this clear. It is much more likely that koinonos here means “sister” in the spiritual sense since that is how it is used elsewhere in this sort of literature. In any case, this text does not clearly say or even suggest that Jesus was married, much less married to Mary Magdalene (2004, 30:60).
How sad to think that millions of people have been deceived about the relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus because The Da Vinci Code’s fiction is consumed as historical fact.
One might assume that The Gospel of Philip hints at a sexual relationship between Mary and Jesus, since Brown alleges that it states Jesus “used to kiss her often on her mouth” (p. 248, emp. added). The word “mouth,” however, is not in the text. Several words are missing from the Coptic manuscript, including those that would designate where He allegedly kissed her. Perhaps the missing word is hand, head, cheek, or nose. When the woman of Luke 7 kissed Jesus’ feet, He responded by telling Simon, “You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in” (7:45). Jesus’ statement implied that even though the woman wept at His feet, washed them with her hair, anointed them with fragrant oil, and kissed them repeatedly (7:36-39), she did not act erotically. On the contrary, she honored Jesus with humble service and adoration, unlike Simon and the others.
Finally, if Jesus did kiss Mary Magdalene, as The Gospel of Philip alleges, it hardly would justify a case for marriage. This so-called “gospel” mentions elsewhere that the followers of Christ “also kiss each other” (Meyer, 2005b, p. 57). And, according to Scripture, Christians were in the habit of greeting “one another with a holy kiss” since the church began (Romans 16:16, emp. added; cf. 1 Corinthians 16:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:26; see Miller, 2003). In short, kissing is not equivalent to marrying and having children.
Mary Magdalene apparently was a devout, faithful follower of Christ. Not a shred of solid biblical or extrabiblical evidence suggests she played the role of harlot, wife, mother, or secret lover. The New Testament, as the oldest, most reliable (and only inspired!) witness to her identity, testifies loudly and clearly about her genuine faithfulness to the Lord, and keeps silent about those things which twenty-first-century sensationalists allege. As in so many instances, we must learn to respect the Bible’s silence! And, there is a deafening silence concerning Mary Magdalene as our Lord’s wife or the mother of His child.
Brown, Dan (2003), The Da Vinci Code (New York, NY: Doubleday).
Carroll, James (2006), “Who Was Mary Magdalene?,” Smithsonian, 37:108-119, June.
Cockburn, Andrew (2006), “The Gospel of Judas,” National Geographic, 209:78-95, May.
Isenberg, Wesley W. (no date), The Gospel of Philip, [On-line], URL: http://www.theologywebsite.com/etext/naghammadi/philip.shtml.
“Mary” (1986), Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Meyer, Marvin, ed. (2005a), The Gospel of Mary, in The Gnostic Gospels of Jesus (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco).
Meyer, Marvin, ed. (2005b), The Gospel of Philip, in The Gnostic Gospels of Jesus (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco).
Miller, Dave (2003), “Veils, Footwashing, and the Holy Kiss,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2322.
“The Most Popular Names Chosen for Baby Boys and Girls over the Past 120 Years” (2006), [On-line], URL: http://www.thenewparentsguide.com/most-popular-baby-names.htm.
Van Biema, David (2003), “Mary Magdalene: Saint or Sinner,” Time, 162: August 11, [On-line], URL: http://www.danbrown.com/media/morenews/time.html.
Witherington, Ben (2004), “Reviews,” Biblical Archaeology Review, 30:58-61, May/June.
Are You a Difference-Maker?
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
|Jackson Dean is a difference-maker.|
As 12-year-old Jackson Dean sat in his sixth-grade classroom studying about fossils, he decided (on his own) to speak to his teacher about inviting someone from Apologetics Press to lecture to the class about evolution, fossils, dinosaurs, and Creation. With his teacher’s permission, Jackson then personally approached us with the invitation to come to his public school and speak to all 120 sixth graders in the school library.
For a solid hour the students sat and soaked up scientifically and biblically accurate material that is nowhere to be found in their textbooks. They learned about dinosaur “fossils” that are notcompletely fossilized (e.g., Lyons, 2007a; Lyons, 2009). They learned about several evolutionary teachings regarding fossils that have been disproven (e.g., Lyons, 2007b). They heard and saw evidence regarding the biblical accounts of Creation and the Flood that is in complete harmony with what true science tells us about dinosaurs and fossils (see Lyons and Butt, 2008), but in disharmony with what they often hear in the media. These well-behaved students listened, learned, and asked a number of relevant questions.
God not only used a 6th grader and his receptive teacher to open the door for Creation to be pondered in a public school, but he also used two members of the Lord’s church (Apologetics Press supporters) to fund the effort to give away acopy of Discoverymagazine and our 180-page hardback book Truth Be Told: Exposing the Myth of Evolution to every student and teacher present at the lecture. According to one teacher (who indicated that in the future she is going to use resources from Apologetics Press, including the A.P. Web site, as part of her science curriculum), students were so excited that “they grabbed the books to read as soon as we got back to the room.”
Jackson Dean is a 12-year-old difference-maker. His 6th-grade teacher is a difference-maker. Those Christians who sacrificially gave to ensure that every 6th grader at that school received a copy of Discovery magazine and Truth Be Told are difference-makers. What about you? What are you doing to make a difference in this sin-stained world that Satan rules (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)? Are you a difference-maker?
*NOTE: There are many virtuous ways to make a difference in this life. One of those is by supporting the work being done for the Lord by various brotherhood organizations, including Apologetics Press. Have you considered helping us in this work?
Lyons, Eric (2007a), “More Soft Dinosaur Tissue,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=9&article=1422.
Lyons, Eric (2007b), “Yesterday’s ‘New Reality of Evolution’ Debunked Again,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=9&article=2236.
Lyons, Eric (2009), “Controversial Collagen Confirmation Points to Creation,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=9&article=338.
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2008), The Dinosaur Delusion: Dismantling Evolution’s Most Cherished Icon (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Christians, Gambling, and the Lottery
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Kyle Butt, M.Div.
Playing the state lottery, and frequenting casinos, have become prominent pastimes for millions of Americans. More and more people are participating, in the hope of becoming millionaires. While there have been a few exceptions and isolated cases in American history, it is really only recently that gambling has come to be considered socially acceptable. Though times have arisen when gambling became more widespread, overall public sentiment has frowned upon the practice. Gambling generally has been illegal in our society, and the word “gamble” was a slang term of reproach. People in polite society, who held virtuous and moral convictions, viewed gambling as an unacceptable, inappropriate, even sinful vice. Those who engaged in such practices were seen as the degraded elements in society who served only to weaken social sensibilities.
The first modern state lottery was established in New Hampshire in 1964, while Nevada legalized the nation’s first casino in 1931 (“Indiana…,” 1998). The extensive opportunity of gambling activities did not capture the American public’s attention until the 1970s and 1980s. Now, however, horse and dog racetracks and casinos have sprung up all over the country. Several state governments now sponsor lotteries, complete with massive advertising campaigns. In 1988, the Federal Indian Regulatory Act opened the door to widespread casino development throughout the country. By 1993, riverboat gambling had been established in six states, and land-based casinos were legalized in several additional states. Gambling has become normalized across the nation, and various gambling activities are legal in all states except Hawaii and Utah. In 1995, more than $500 billion was legally wagered in the United States—a dramatic increase from the estimated $17 billion wagered in 1979, less than two decades earlier (“Indiana…”).
In Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus Christ laid down a test by which every activity or philosophy could be assayed, and its true value assessed. He said, quite simply, that “every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.” Jesus’ statement was addressed specifically to false teachers, but it certainly can be applied to various philosophies and activities of life (such as gambling). What kind of fruit does gambling produce? When legalized gambling arrives in a new community, does it raise the moral standards of that community? Does it help to lessen the hardships of families in that community? Or, is the opposite the case? Does legalized gambling place a burden on the communities by an appreciable lowering of the moral standard and an increase in the financial burden for those who already are working with a poverty-level budget? Let’s take a walk down the gambling produce aisle and see what it has to offer.
The social effects of gambling have been substantial. Current data indicate that more than 80% of Americans participate in some form of gambling (Lesieur, 1993). Johns Hopkins University researchers reported that the social cost of excessive gambling “ranks among the most expensive illnesses afflicting society, though it is among the least expensive to treat” (Politzer, et al., 1985). In the late 1980s, the National Council on Compulsive Gambling estimated that between four and six million gamblers are suffering from an addictive disorder that threatens their lives and the lives of their loved ones (Chamberlain, 1988, p. 37). Now, gambling researchers say that at least eight million Americans are compulsive gamblers, with one million of these being teenagers (Chavira, 1991, p. 78). A survey of 500 Gamblers Anonymous members reported that 21% of the participants stated that they had never thought of suicide, 48% said they had thought about suicide, and 13% had attempted suicide (Frank, et. al., 1991). According to the Charter Hospital of Las Vegas, the suicide rate among active gamblers (especially women) is the highest of all illnesses (see Charter Hospital, n.d.). Would anyone classify a highly addictive activity that often results in the participant’s contemplation of (or attempt at) suicide as a beneficial fruit that is good for society? On the contrary, such can easily be recognized as a rotten fruit that would suggest that the activity itself is not above reproach.
Furthermore, experts have expressed alarm at the rising numbers of teenagers who are gambling. They refer to gambling as “the growing addiction,” and predict that it will cause teens more problems during the next decade than illegal drugs (McCabe, 1990, p. 7-D). In the first ten days of the Texas Lottery, counselors operating the hotline of the Texas Council on Problem and Compulsive Gambling reported alarming stories about teenage gambling:
An 18-year-old employee of a convenience store called on the second day of the lottery reporting he had scratched off hundreds of tickets belonging to the store, saying, “I thought it was a sure thing I would win enough not only to pay the store for the cost of the tickets but would have a bunch left over.”An affluent 16-year-old male from an upscale suburban neighborhood reported he had lost “a considerable sum of money” on the lottery. Realizing he was under the legal age to buy tickets, he had asked older friends to purchase tickets for him. He admitted to heavy gambling in school restrooms.A father of a 19-year-old from a rural town in East Texas was distressed because his son was gambling on cards and dice and had spent his weekly paycheck on the lottery (“Teenage…,” n.d.).
The director of the National Center for Pathological Gambling made this apropos observation: “You have state governments promoting lotteries. The message they’re conveying is that gambling is not a vice but a normal form of entertainment” (Chavira, p. 78). Just the fact that there is a “National Center for Pathological Gambling” should clue every legislator into the fact that there is something wrong with this type of activity.
In 1957, Gamblers Anonymous was formed, and has since grown to more than 800 chapters in the U.S., and more than 1,400 meetings worldwide. The experts are comparing compulsive gambling to alcohol and drug addiction. The official position of Gamblers Anonymous is the promotion of abstinence from gambling as essential to a person’s recovery. As one might expect, their strongest and most active group is in Las Vegas.
David A. Korn, in an article titled “Expansion of Gambling in Canada: Implications for Health and Social Policy” in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, noted that gambling often affects the lower-income families more dramatically than those of higher income, due to the fact that lower-income families spend almost four times as much on gambling (in proportion to their income). Korn wrote: “These data suggest that gambling expenditures may be regarded as a voluntary regressive tax that has a proportionately greater impact on people with lower incomes.” He further noted: “Several populations are vulnerable to the impacts of gambling, in addition to lower socioeconomic groups. The cost to families in terms of dysfunctional relationships, violence and abuse, financial pressure, and disruption of growth and development of children can be great.” In concluding his article, Korn commented: “The rapid expansion of gambling represents a significant public health concern that challenges our values, quality of life and public priorities” (Korn, 2000).
What then, could one conclude from even a cursory glance at the “fruits” of gambling? Gambling is addictive, it preys on those with lower incomes, it dramatically affects teens, and it often leads to dysfunctional family relationships and abuse. Surely these would classify as “bad fruits.”
FROM A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE
A dramatic change in the social order of American culture has taken place. As the moral fiber of American civilization deteriorates and biblical values are jettisoned, activities that once were perceived to be harmful to society are now becoming acceptable. Many people no longer care what God thinks or what the Bible teaches. Nevertheless, there is a God in heaven who has given His written Word. That revelation is designed to govern human behavior. One principle that runs throughout the Bible is that of stewardship. The Bible repeatedly and consistently paints the picture that God is the ultimate owner of all earthly possessions. The psalmist observed that the Lord owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). James wrote that every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17). Jesus referred to humans as stewards—those who are entrusted to take care of another’s property (Luke 12:42). And He declared that every person has the moral responsibility to be a faithful steward of the money that has been entrusted to him (Luke 16:10-11). Yet, each year people shell out billions of dollars gambling away the money that has been entrusted to them by God. Imagine the good, wholesome projects that could be supported annually by such enormous stores of cash—children could be fed, the Gospel could be preached, houses could be built, and the list goes on. Instead of such worthwhile projects, however, these billions of dollars are pumped into a system that leads to addiction and abuse. It would be difficult, indeed, to conclude that gambling is good stewardship of the money with which God has entrusted a person. In reality, to pour one’s money into a system that mathematically and statistically has been proven, time and again, to benefit the “house,” and take from the gambler, certainly would fall into the category of unfaithful stewardship. Concerning unfaithful stewardship, Christ said: “Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon [money or riches], who will commit to your trust the true riches” (Luke 16:11)? To stand before the throne of Christ, having squandered the money God entrusted to you on an idle and degenerative activity like gambling, would be a frightening thought indeed.
Furthermore, imagine the potential negative influence of a Christian who participates in gambling. For one thing, many people, who are not even affiliated with the Lord’s church, view gambling as a sinful vice that respectable people should avoid. Looking over the fruits of gambling, it is not difficult to see why they would think such. If they saw a Christian in a casino, or buying a lottery ticket, what would that do to their opinion of that individual and the congregation of the Lord’s body of which that individual is a member? Would it not drastically reduce the chances of that Christian having a positive impact on the one who saw him gambling? Certainly, the Christian is responsible for the image he or she portrays, and for how “those who are without” view his or her actions. Paul told Timothy, for example, that a bishop (elder) “must have a good testimony among those who are outside” the body of Christ (1 Timothy 3:7). If many people outside the Lord’s church view gambling as a morally reprehensible activity, and a Christian participates in that activity, he or she would have a difficult time explaining how such could be good for his or her reputation.
Furthermore, as Colossians 3:17 notes, “whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to god the Father through Him.” It is not enough for a person to ask, “What is wrong with an activity?” Instead, the question actually should be phrased: “What is right with this activity?” The burden of proof falls on each individual to show that what he is doing has a positive, encouraging effect on himself and on others. One would be hard pressed to find any evidence that would classify gambling as something that could be done “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” In fact, when Christ returns, what person would want the Lord to find him in a casino?
Gambling is first and foremost a moral issue. There was a time in American society when the majority of people considered such things as lewd dancing, drunkenness, cursing, and gambling to be wrong. Obviously, times, circumstances, and culture have changed. But God and His Word have not. His Word warns that those who do not respect His will, and who choose to live life according to fleshly desires, will spend eternity in the fires of hell (Revelation 21:8). A genuine Christian is the one who eliminates from daily life the vice and immorality that is characteristic of a society that continually desires to abandon God’s will. Instead of “going along” with such a society, he or she studies the Bible in order to learn how God would have people to live. Only then can one eagerly look forward to the joys of heaven.
Chamberlain, R. Edwin (1988), “Gambling: New Treatment Ideas for an Old Addiction,” Professional Counselor, November/December.
Charter Hospital of Las Vegas (no date), (Las Vegas, NV: Charter Hospital).
Chavira, Richard (1991), “The Rise of Teenage Gambling,” Time, February 25.
Frank, M.L., D. Lester, and A. Wexler (1991), “Suicidal Behavior Among Members of Gamblers Anonymous,” Journal of Gambling Studies, 7:249-254.
“Indiana Problem Gambling Prevention Plan” (1998), [On-line], URL: http://www.in.gov/fssa/servicemental/gambling/problems.html.
Korn, David A. “Expansion of gambling in Canada: implications for health and social policy” (2000), eCMAJ, [On-line], URL: http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/content/full/163/1/61. Originally printed in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, July 11, 2000;163(1):61-4.
Lesieur, H.R. (1993), Understanding Compulsive Gambling (Center City, MN: Hazelden).
McCabe, George (1990), “Too Young to Gamble,” Las Vegas Review-Journal, p. 7-D, June 14.
Politzer, R.M., J.S. Morrow, and R. Leavey (1985), “Report on the Cost Benefit/Effectiveness of Treatment at the John Hopkins Center for Pathological Gambling,” Journal of Gambling Behavior, :131-142.
“Teenage Gambling Addiction” (no date), Texas Council on Problem and Compulsive Gambling (Dallas, TX).