Is It Ever Right To Lie? by Allan Turner


Is It Ever Right To Lie?

The question of truth and lying pervades all that is said or left unsaid within our families, communities, and working relationships. In this study we will be answering the question: Is it ever right to lie? Conduct seems to indicate that many believe it is right to lie, at least on certain occasions. Professors exaggerate the excellence of their students on recommendations for employment, physicians lie to their patients, parents lie to their children about such things as adoption, social investigators use deception while trying to uncover medical and welfare fraud, the police and journalists lie and deceive in order to expose crime and corruption, and even Dr. Laura, under the pretext of offering moral advice, frequently tells people to lie in order to avoid what she considers to be more serious problems.

Conditioned To Lie
We find ourselves living in a society that actually conditions us to lie. Our employers ask us to lie for them on many occasions. For instance, the secretary who "covers" for the boss when he doesn't want to be disturbed and the salesman who makes claims for his product which are not true are both lying. Many times our "embellishments" on job recommendations for friends and acquaintances are nothing but lies. I suppose it is possible that the Christian might try to convince himself that these little lies are not really important enough to worry about. But God makes it clear that "all liars shall have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8).

Telling The Truth Is Not Easy
Of course, telling the truth is not the easiest course of action to follow. On the contrary, telling the truth is often difficult, and frequently places us in circumstances that are quite unpleasant. The following information was related to me by a Christian who retired from the military as a Lieutenant Colonel and serves to illustrate just how difficult it can be to tell the truth, even for a Christian trying to do what is right. Job advancement and retention in the military depends on an evaluation report made by one's supervisor. Form DA67-7, 1 January '73, U.S. Army Officer Evaluation Report called for officers to be rated as OUTSTANDING, SUPERIOR, EXCELLENT, EFFECTIVE, MARGINAL, and INADEQUATE. Although most of us would find it nearly impossible to distinguish between OUTSTANDING, SUPERIOR, and EXCELLENT, experience had taught Army raters that anyone rated less than OUTSTANDING would be at a great disadvantage and would probably become a likely candidate for discharge. Such an inane rating system coerced most to be somewhat less than truthful while actually creating even greater ambiguity as to the true qualifications of those being rated. Imagine the difficulty caused the Christian who objected to the rating system as being totally ridiculous, and the extra work he had to undertake to amend each rating to reflect what he believed more accurately mirrored the qualification of those he was assigned to evaluate. On top of this, add the realization that his rating of a fine officer somewhat less than OUTSTANDING—although he explained in writing his reasons for doing so and actually recommended him for advancement—might result in the officer not being promoted to a position he was clearly qualified for and, in fact, might actually cause the officer to be thrown out of the service. What would you have done?
The realization that we have a military capable of developing such a fiendish rating system is disturbing. Nevertheless, our military industrial complex seems to reflect nothing more than the current societal standard. Everywhere we look in our society we find glaring examples of lying and deception. Having experienced Vietnam, Watergate, Abscam, and the Iran-Contra affair, most Americans believe "this country's leaders have consistently lied to the people" (Cambridge Survey Research, 1975, 1976). Add to this the Clinton Whitehouse, where perjury is to be determined by what the meaning of "is" is, and one must admit the mistrust Americans have for everyone and everything, and just how much this blight on America's moral landscape has affected us us all.
Furthermore, it may be disturbing for us to think that Christians, of all people, need to develop the proper attitude toward lying, but the apostle Paul, guided by the Holy Spirit, admonished the Christians of his day thus: "Wherefore, putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another" (Ephesians 4:25). In order for a Christian to be the victorious soldier the Lord expects him to be, it is imperative he have his "loins girt about with truth" (Ephesians 6:14a).
"Okay, okay," you might be thinking, "but it could be right, could it not, to lie? The answer, unequivocally, is "No!" In Revelation 22:14-15, the Scriptures say:

Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whosoever loves and practices a lie.
Unfortunately, not all have understood the absolute nature of God's moral requisite against lying. Martin Luther, the famous "reformer," was reported to have said: "What harm would it do, if a man told a good strong lie for the sake of the good and for the Christian church...a lie out of necessity, a useful lie, a helpful lie, such lies would not be against God, he would accept them" (Cited by Luther's secretary in a letter in Max Lenz, ed., Briefwechsel Landgraf Phillips des Grossmuthigen von Hessen mit Bucer, Vol. 1). Stanly Paher, writing in one of the brotherhood papers, justifies the lying of Rahab the harlot in order to save the two spies by writing: "It was, therefore, a Godly thing to lie and the Holy Spirit's commendation of her actions show this, It was not sin" ("Commandments in Conflict?, II," Vanguard, Vol. 11, November 1984, pp. 300,301).

Something Called "Graded Absolutism"
Both Luther and Paher could be classified theologically as "graded absolutists." A graded absolutist believes that there are many moral absolutes taught in the Bible and that they sometimes conflict. He believes there are higher moral laws taught in the Bible and when moral laws conflict, one is under obligation to follow the higher law. Therefore, according to those who hold this position, lying is sometimes right because showing mercy to the innocent is a greater moral duty than telling the truth to the guilty. For instance, while listening to a religious radio station, I heard a denominational preacher teaching a lesson on the need to lie under certain circumstances. Like Paher, he used the story of Rahab the harlot to substantiate his teaching. This shows earthly wisdom on the part of these teachers, because even among those who know that the Bible condemns lying, the truth of what Rahab did (viz., she lied), and the fact she is mentioned in a positive manner in the New Testament, has caused some perplexity among God's people (cf. Hebrews 12:31 and James 2:25). During his lesson, the aforementioned preacher used this illustration:

Suppose there was someone chasing after me with a shotgun threatening to kill me. Here you come walking down the street and here I come running around the corner and pass you by. Soon, here comes the man with the shotgun. He stops and asks you which way I went; I hope, for my sake, you'll tell him a lie.
What this teacher wanted those who heard him to think was that they were under a higher obligation to show mercy to him than they were to tell the truth to the man with the shotgun.
First of all, one is not under any obligation, morally or otherwise, to give an answer to the gunman. Jesus did not sin by refusing to answer some questions asked of Him (cf. Matthew 27:11-14; Luke 23:8,9), and neither do we! Secondly, as God's Word instructs, one ought to do unto his neighbor as he would have his neighbor do unto him. In this case, this might entail preventing or subduing the potential assailant, if possible. But under no circumstances is one under any Biblical obligation to aid, answer, or assist the evildoer.
Now, let's consider the case of Rahab. What Rahab did in assisting the spies to escape (viz., she lied) was wrong, and consequently, it is nowhere praised in the Scriptures. Those who use the case of Rahab to justify lying, simply "err not knowing the Scriptures, or the power of God" (Matthew 22:29). Neither Hebrews 11:31 nor James 2:25 commend Rahab for lying. Instead, she is commended for the faith she exercised in believing God. Likewise, when David, an adulterer and murderer, was identified as a man after God's own heart, one can be sure that these two sins were not being recommended to those of us trying to live godly lives. And maybe—notice that I said maybe—if the aforementioned denominational preacher understood this (i.e., that adultery is condemned in God's Word and is, therefore, always wrong), then maybe—again, I said maybe—he wouldn't be so concerned about conditioning his flock to lie for him whenever they see some man chasing him with a shotgun.

Something Called "Unqualified Absolutism"
When one tries to take the Lord's teaching on "the weightier matters of the law" (cf. Matthew 23:23) to justify breaking any part of God's law, one is simply "wresting the Scriptures." Yes, Jesus spoke of the weightier matters of the law (e.g., "justice," "mercy" and "faith"). And what the Lord was teaching was that we ought to put first things first. But, He made it clear that the other less weightier things ought not to be left undone. In other words, one ought to keep all of God's commandments, not just the ones that are convenient. This position, which is, I am convinced, the only Biblically tenable position, the theologians would call "unqualified absolutism." The unqualified absolutist believes there are many absolute moral laws, and none of them should ever be broken. In other words, the unqualified absolutist believes one cannot justify lying even when such lying is for the sole purpose of saving the life of another. The one who holds this position believes that lying is always wrong! To many, this just seems too harsh. Therefore, there is a third position to which some Christians turn.

Something Called "Conflicting Absolutism"
This third position is called "Conflicting Absolutism." I first heard it articulated by a fellow Christian who I would otherwise consider to be a very careful Bible student. The one who takes this position believes that we inherently live in an evil world where absolute moral laws sometime run into inevitable conflict. In such cases, the conflicting absolutist believes it is his responsibility to do the "lesser evil." He will break what he considers to be the lesser law (viz., lying) to uphold the greater law (i.e., preserving life). Then, after doing so, he prays for mercy and asks God to forgive him for breaking a lesser commandment that circumstantially conflicted with the "greater good."
In principle, this position is far removed from graded absolutism which says under certain circumstances lying is not a sin. On the contrary, and to his credit, the conflicting absolutist believes it is always wrong to break an absolute moral law of God. There are no exceptions or exemptions, he tells us. One's lying to save a life is always wrong (i.e., it is sinful), but it is truly the lesser evil and, therefore, must be done under the circumstances. But, just as it is wrong to lie, the conflicting absolutist believes it would be wrong (i.e., sinful) not to lie to save a life. Consequently, in practice, both the graded and conflicting absolutists would practice lying in order to do what they would consider to be the higher good.
But why would anyone want to think himself obligated, as the conflicting absolutist does, to do that which is evil? Such a position is morally absurd. In addition, this lesser-evil position implies that Jesus probably sinned during His earthly existence. Remember, this position claims that sin (i.e., the lesser evil) is actually unavoidable in this evil world in which we live. Of course, the Bible says that Jesus was tempted in all points as we are (Hebrews 4:15). If so—and if moral conflicts require us to do the lesser evil, as these folks claim, then Jesus must have sinned. But this conflicts with the remaining part of Hebrews 4:15 which says that Jesus was in all points tempted as we are, but without sin. Furthermore, if Christ is our complete moral example, and Paul says He is in 1 Corinthians 11:1,2, and if He was tempted in every way just as we are (Hebrews 4:15), then He either sinned by having to choose the lesser evil, or He never faced the moral dilemmas the rest of us face. If the former, then He was not the perfect sacrifice for our sins; and, if the latter, then He is not our complete moral example. Who can believe it?

"The Way Of Escape"
The conflicting and graded absolutists miss the truth of God's Word on lying. One is never permitted to lie, much less morally obligated to do so. The only moral obligation one is under with reference to lying is not to do it. This, and this alone, is the clear teaching of God's Word.
Now, I don't want anyone to think that I'm saying that living in this evil world is easy, for it most certainly isn't! But the answers to the difficult situations we sometimes find ourselves in are not found in the idea that we can, or ought to, violate one of God's moral absolutes in favor of another. To do so is spiritual and ethical suicide. One who takes this position is "mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God" (Matthew 22:29, NKJ). The Bible clearly teaches: "No temptation has overtaken [us] except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow [us] to be tempted beyond what [we] are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that [we] may be able to bear it" (I Corinthians 10:13). I certainly don't understand all the hows and wherefores of this promise, but I do understand that they are backed up by the faithfulness of Almighty God. The promise to the Christian is that GOD IS FAITHFUL, and that in His faithfulness, He will not allow us to be tempted BEYOND WHAT WE ARE ABLE TO BEAR, and through His power He will MAKE FOR US THE WAY OF ESCAPE. This tells me that Satan is not the only one active in this present world. The Lord is at work in our lives and simply will not allow us to be tempted without a way of escape. Many would say the way of escape is simply following His commands. This, of course, is only half of the formula—our faithfulness. But the passage under discussion has to do more with God's faithfulness—what He will do for us. What then is it that He will do for us? He will, He says, make for us a way of escape. Do you believe this? I do.
We must not be mistaken concerning the "Scriptures" (God does not permit lying) "nor the power of God" (with every temptation, He will make a way of escape). Let us be of the mind to do His will in all things and then trust in His power to take care of us. When we pray, let us pray: "And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen" (Matthew 6:13).

What Is A Lie?
It is always wrong to lie. I know this is true because the Bible says so. But, what is a lie? In asking this question, I have no desire to justify lying. As I've already pointed out, lying cannot be justified. Many who will have no problem agreeing with everything I've said up to this point, will have some serious problems with what I am about to say. Many otherwise serious students of the Word rely upon a man-made, rather than a Biblical, definition of lying. In doing so, they all too frequently wind up condemning the guiltless (cf. Jesus' statement about this in Matthew 12:7). Because they do not know the Bible's definition of a lie, they place restrictions on themselves and others that God never intended. Consequently, they have not only missed opportunities for service themselves, but they have also stood in the way of others who were trying to faithfully serve the Lord. For example, some gospel preachers have failed to obtain visas into foreign countries for the purpose of preaching and teaching the gospel because they have felt they were under obligation to tell the whole truth when filling out visa applications (i.e., when they mentioned they were "gospel preachers" their applications were denied). Okay, I realize that this statement probably caused an alarm to go off in your head. Good, because I need your undivided attention if I am to make my point. Is it really true that the Biblical prohibition against lying requires us to tell the whole truth in every circumstance? When a foreign country will not grant a gospel preacher a visa, is it a lie for that preacher to list his occupation as "teacher"? Furthermore, when asked by a government hostile to the preaching of the gospel the purpose of one's visit, is it wrong for a preacher, who during the course of his visit plans to visit different areas of the country in order to preach the gospel, to say, "to visit and travel about in your country"? Some would answer all these questions with a "Yes." However, I am convinced the answer to these questions can be "No." What follows, then, is a Biblical defense of not telling the whole truth in every circumstance. Before you dismiss this as "ethical sloppiness," I bid you to consider what I have to say.

Webster Versus The Bible
According to Webster, to lie is "1: to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive; 2: to create a false or misleading impression" (Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary 1981). Although Christians will sometimes quote Webster as an authority on this subject, it is obvious, at least from a Biblical standpoint, that he is not totally correct in his definition of a lie. Obviously, "to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive" is an accurate description of a lie, but "to create a false or misleading impression" is not. How do I know this? Well, in 1 Samuel 16, we have a perfect example of this point. Samuel, the prophet, is instructed by Jehovah to go to Bethlehem for the express purpose of anointing another king over Israel. Understandably, the prophet was concerned about King Saul learning of his mission because he was afraid Saul would have him killed. Knowing something about the character of Saul, we have every reason to believe that Samuel was not just being overly cautious—Saul was certainly the kind of man who would kill to protect his throne. But, in order to allow Samuel's primary purpose to go undetected, Jehovah devised a stratagem (i.e., a cleverly contrived scheme to outwit the enemy and gain an end). The Lord told Samuel to take a heifer with him and say: "I have come to sacrifice to the Lord" (verse 2). Then we are told:

So Samuel did what the Lord said, and went to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, "Do you come peaceably?" And he said, "Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice" (verses 4 & 5a).
I think you will agree with me that Samuel did not tell the whole truth. Although what he said was true, it served to conceal his primary purpose, which, if discovered, would most assuredly not have been considered peaceful by the elders who questioned him. In other words, if Saul had known what was going on, he probably would have been trying to kill not just the prophet, but he would more than likely be wanting to execute any in the town he thought to be accomplices. Therefore, otherwise critical information was being withheld from the elders, and they would not have thought the prophet's visit peaceful.
So, according to Webster's definition (viz., "to create a false or misleading impression"), not only did Samuel lie, but God actually instructed him to do so! Who can believe it? Obviously, any definition of lying that would have the Lord encouraging one to do what is sinful cannot be correct (cf. James 1:13). Therefore, from a Scriptural point of view, the creating of a false or misleading impression is not necessarily a lie. Let's consider yet another situation. In Joshua 8, God, who "cannot lie" (Titus 1:2), instructed Joshua to "lay an ambush for the city [of Ai] behind it" (v.2). Now, it seems impossible for anyone to try and deny that an ambush, by definition, is deceptive. An actual reading of Joshua 8:1-8, makes this very clear:

Now the LORD said to Joshua: "Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed; take all the people of war with you, and arise, go up to Ai. See, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land. 2 "And you shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king. Only its spoil and its cattle you shall take as booty for yourselves. Lay an ambush for the city behind it." 3 So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai; and Joshua chose thirty thousand mighty men of valor and sent them away by night. 4 And he commanded them, saying: "Behold, you shall lie in ambush against the city, behind the city. Do not go very far from the city, but all of you be ready. 5 "Then I and all the people who [are] with me will approach the city; and it will come about, when they come out against us as at the first, that we shall flee before them. 6 "For they will come out after us till we have drawn them from the city, for they will say, '[They are] fleeing before us as at the first.' Therefore we will flee before them. 7 "Then you shall rise from the ambush and seize the city, for the LORD your God will deliver it into your hand. 8 "And it will be, when you have taken the city, [that] you shall set the city on fire. According to the commandment of the LORD you shall do. See, I have commanded you (NKJV).

Therefore, if all deception is a lie, then the God who cannot lie commanded Joshua and the Israelites to lie. Again, who can believe it? So, since it is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18), neither the stratagem at Ai nor the subterfuge at Bethlehem could be inherently evil, although both clearly involve what most would identify as deception. Consequently, I believe it Scriptural to say that although lying is always wrong and can never be justified under any circumstances (this makes me a moral absolutist), hiding the whole truth from one's adversaries is not always wrong and ought not to always be categorized as lying. The aforementioned preacher, in carrying out the commands of the Lord to carry His gospel to a lost and dying world would not be lying when listing his occupation as "teacher." Yes, it is true that he was hoping to conceal his true occupation, but he did not state anything that was untrue (i.e., he did not have to deny that he was a gospel preacher), for a preacher is, in deed, ateacher of the Word. Therefore, I believe the Christian who charges this preacher with sin, as some are more than willing to do, is guilty of condemning the guiltless which, in turn, is the charge Jesus made against the religionists of His day (Matthew 12:7). Unfortunately, those who would condemn this preacher are the same ones who feel justified in saying that "Abraham lied about Sarah being his wife." They do so because they have allowed the world (sacred and secular) to define lying to include any and all concealment and deception. If this were true, and many think it is, then Abraham lied when he answered in such a way as to conceal that Sarah was, in fact, his wife. But when correctly interpreted, I believe the passages mentioned in this article teach just the opposite—namely, all deception is not lying. In the case of Abraham, the Biblical account makes it clear that Abraham was not guilty of saying Sarah was not his wife, which would have been a lie. Instead, what he said was, "She is my sister" (Genesis 20:2), which was true (v. 12). Likewise, Sarah did not say that Abraham was not her husband, which would have been a lie. What she said was, "He is my brother" (v. 5), which was true. Sure, it was not "the whole truth," but it was not a lie either. In fact, after this whole episode played out, Abimelech acknowledged that Abraham and Sarah were brother and sister (cf. verse 16a). Was this not Abimelech's own admission to the truthfulness of Abraham's and Sarah's statements? Originally, Abimelech believed he had been wronged by Abraham not telling him the whole truth (verses 9-10), but was Abraham required to repent to the king? No, it is the king who must, and does, repent toward Abraham and Sarah, even though he did what he did without knowing Sarah was Abraham's wife (i.e., he did it in the integrity of his heart [verse 5]).
When contemplating this story, it is important to realize that it was common for ancient kings and potentates to "take" women into their harems (verse 2 says he sentand took Sarah), and this is probably what happened to Sarah here and also back in chapter 12. If, per chance, the "wanted" women had husbands, they were either killed or imprisoned. This certainly played into Abraham's thinking back in Genesis 12 and was, no doubt, the strategy in this episode, and with God's help, it all worked out wonderfully. For not only was Abraham handsomely compensated by the king, but he was permitted to dwell anywhere in the country without being molested. Now, if Abraham had actually sinned against Abimelech, would God have sent the king to him so he could pray for him? Not likely! So, although Abimelech originally felt justified in taking Sarah into his harem, second wife, or whatever, God still held him responsible for his actions which, in God's sight, were not right, and this was true regardless of the local or universal customs in play at the time. What right did Abimelech have to "take" (the Hebrew connotes force) Sarah, even if she were single? Therefore, Abimelech's privileged arrogance caused him to take another's man's wife and God, in this instance, was making it clear to Abimelech that He was holding him directly responsible for his actions. Deceived or not, his arrogance had put him in harm's way and he was, in fact, a dead man if he didn't give Sarah back. Consequently, it was only after Abimelech gave Sarah back and Abraham prayed to God on his behalf that the king was healed (verses 17-18). To find in this story a reason to condemn Abraham, as many Christians do, is totally unwarranted and makes the one doing it guilty of condemning the guiltless.

Is it ever right to lie? Absolutely not! The Christian must recognize lying for the evil it is and never try to justify it under any circumstances, no matter how difficult they may be. Nothing will destroy our influence quicker. No confidence can be placed in a liar. The Christian is instructed: "Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth" (Ephesians 6:14). But, at the same time, let us make sure we understand the difference between Webster's definition of a lie and God's definition. Remember, Webster missed it on baptism also, referring to baptism as sprinkling, pouring, or immersion.

"THE EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS" Chapter Two by Mark Copeland

                    "THE EPISTLE TO THE COLOSSIANS"

                              Chapter Two


1) To see the relation between understanding the "mystery of God" and
   having a strong assurance of our salvation

2) To appreciate how baptism serves as our spiritual circumcision, and
   that it is a work of God which is performed, not a work of man

3) To understand how Christ brought an end to the Old Law by His death
   on the cross


Paul reveals his great concern for those at Colosse and others he has
not seen, expressing his desire that their hearts be knit together in
love, and that they may have the assurance that comes from an
understanding of the mystery of God as revealed through Christ.  He
rejoices in their good order and steadfastness, and encourages them to
be firmly established in Christ, abounding in thanksgiving (1-7).

The word "Beware" in verse eight summarizes the rest of the chapter, in
which Paul warns them of the dangers of "The Colossian Heresy".  These 
dangers include being cheated through philosophy and vain deceit, and 
defrauded of their reward by those who appeal to false humility, the 
worship of angels, false visions, and strict regulations according to 
the commandments and doctrines of men which really have no value 
against the indulgence of the flesh.  In Christ they are made complete,
having undergone a circumcision not made with hands, in which God made
them alive together with Christ.  Since Christ has also nailed to the
cross the "handwriting of requirements" that was against them and taken
it out of the way, none can judge them regarding religious observances
that were only a shadow pointing to the true substance of Christ



      1. He has a great conflict for those...
         a. In Colosse and Laodicea (1a)
         b. Who have not seen his face in the flesh (1b)
      2. His desire is that...
         a. Their hearts be encouraged, knit together in love (2a)
         b. They attain to all the riches of:
            1) The full assurance of understanding (2b)
            2) The knowledge of the mystery of God (2c)
               a) Both of the Father and of Christ (2d)
               b) In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and 
                  knowledge (3)

      1. Lest anyone deceive them with persuasive words (4)
      2. Though absent in the flesh, he is present with them in spirit
      3. He rejoices to see...
         a. Their good order (5b)
         b. The steadfastness of their faith (5c)

      1. As they have received Christ, so they should walk in Him (6)
         a. Rooted and built up in Him (7a)
         b. Established in the faith (7b)
         -- As they were taught (7c)
      2. Abounding with thanksgiving (7d)


      1. Beware of being cheated by philosophy and empty deceit (8a)
         a. According to the traditions of men (8b)
         b. According to the basic principles of the world (8c)
         -- And not according to Christ (8d)
      2. In Christ dwells the fullness of God, and you are complete in
         Him (9-10)
         a. All the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily in Christ (9)
         b. You are complete in Him, who is head over all principality
            and power (10)

      1. In Christ you have a circumcision made without hands (11-12)
         a. A putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh (11)
         b. Having been buried with Christ in baptism (12)
            1) In which you were also raised with Him (12a)
            2) Through faith in the working of God, who raised Jesus
               from the dead (12b)
      2. You are made alive in Christ, and the handwriting of 
         requirements that was against us has been taken away at the 
         cross (13-15)
         a. Dead in sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God has
            made you alive (13a)
         b. He has forgiven you all trespasses (13b)
         c. He has wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was
            against us (14)
            1) That which was contrary to us (14a)
            2) He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the
               cross (14b)
         d. He has disarmed principalities and powers (15)
            1) Having made a public spectacle of them (15a)
            2) Triumphing over them in it (15b)
      3. Therefore don't let anyone judge you in regards to food, 
         festivals, or sabbath days (16)
         a. They are only a shadow of things to come (17a)
         b. The substance is of Christ (17b)

      1. Don't let anyone defraud you of your reward (18a)
         a. By taking delight in false humility and worship of angels
         b. By intruding into things not seen, vainly puffed by fleshly
            minds (18c)
      2. Such people do not hold fast to Christ as the Head (19a)
         a. From whom all the body grows (19b)
         b. Nourished and knit together by various elements, with 
            increase from God (19c)

      1. There is no need to submit to human ordinances (2:20-22)
         a. For you have died with Christ from basic principles of the
            world (20a)
         b. Therefore do not subject yourselves to ascetic regulations
            1) Such as "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle" (21)
            2) They only concern things which perish with the using
            3) Which are according to commandments and doctrines of men
      2. Such practices are of no value (23)
         a. They may have an appearance of wisdom in their...
            1) Self-imposed religion (23a)
            2) False humility (23b)
            3) Neglect of the body (23c)
         b. But they are no value against the indulgence of the flesh


1) What are the main points of this chapter?
   - Paul's solicitude (1-7)
   - Warnings against the "Colossian Heresy" (8-23)

2) What was Paul's strong desire for those he had not seen? (1-2)
   - That their hearts may be encouraged, knit together in love
   - That they may be richly blessed by the assurance that comes from
     an understanding and knowledge of the mystery of God

3) What is "hidden" in Christ? (3)
   - All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge

4) What had Paul seen in the Colossians that caused him to rejoice? (5)
   - Their good order and steadfastness of faith in Christ

5) How were the Colossians to walk in Christ? (6-7)
   - Rooted and built up in Him
   - Established in the faith
   - Abounding with thanksgiving

6) What three things might be used to "cheat" us? (8)
   - Philosophy and empty deceit
   - Tradition of men
   - Basic principles of the world

7) What is said about Jesus in relation to the Godhead? (9)
   - In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily

8) What is our condition in Christ? (10)
   - We are complete in Him

9) What sort of "circumcision" have we had in Christ? (11)
   - One made without hands
   - A putting off the body of the sins of the flesh

10) What takes place in baptism?  Who is the one at work in baptism?
   - We are buried with Christ, raised with Christ, made alive together
     with Christ
   - God, who raised Jesus from the dead

11) What did Christ take out of the way, having nailed it to the cross?
   - The "handwriting of requirements"

12) In what things should we not let others judge us? (16-17)
   - In food or drink
   - Regarding religious festivals, a new moon or sabbaths

13) In what ways might people seek to defraud us? (18)
   - Through false humility, worship of angels, appeals to things not
     really seen

14) What sort of "basic principles of the world" might others try to
    regulate upon us? (21)
   - "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle"

15) What is the truth about such traditions of men? (22-23)
   - They have an appearance of wisdom, but are of no value against the
     indulgence of the flesh

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Fort Hood and the Quran by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Fort Hood and the Quran

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

U.S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan “cleaned out his apartment, gave leftover frozen broccoli to one neighbor and called another to thank him for his friendship—common courtesies and routines of the departing soldier” (Baker and Blackledge, 2009). Shortly thereafter, he opened up on his fellow Fort Hood soldiers, killing 14 (a pregnant mother was among those killed) and wounding many others. Mainstream media outlets, and even some Muslim groups, were quick to assure Americans that the incident had nothing to do with Hasan’s religious views (“U.S.Muslims...,” 2009; “Military Experts...,” 2009; Brown, 2009).
This almost irrational refusal to link terrorism with Islam is apparently widespread even among mainstream Muslims (“U.S. Muslims...,” 2009). Nevertheless, some Muslims appear a little more willing to entertain the possibility that perhaps Islam and the Quran are responsible for the terrorists’ behavior: “For too long, we Muslims have been sticking fingers in our ears and chanting ‘Islam means peace’ to drown out the negative noise from our holy book. Far better to own up to it” (Manji, p. 78).
Own up to it, indeed. It may well be true that the vast majority of Muslims disapprove of the wanton acts of violence by Islamic terrorists happening around the globe. But the Quran—the holy book of Islam that 1.3 billion Muslims believe to be the word of God—is replete with explicit and implicit sanction and promotion of armed conflict, violence, and bloodshed by Muslims. Difficult to believe? Then read for yourself the following sections of the Quran from the celebrated translation by Muslim scholar Mohammed Pickthall:
Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks until, when ye have routed them, then making fast of bonds; and afterward either grace or ransom till the war lay down its burdens. That (is the ordinance). And if Allah willed He could have punished them (without you) but (thus it is ordained) that He may try some of you by means of others. And those who are slain in the way of Allah, He rendereth not their actions vain (Surah 47:4, emp. added).
Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors. And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter. And fight not with them at the Inviolable Place of Worship until they first attack you there, but if they attack you (there) then slay them. Such is the reward of disbelievers. But if they desist, then lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah. But if they desist, then let there be no hostility except against wrongdoers. The forbidden month for the forbidden month, and forbidden things in retaliation. And one who attacketh you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you. Observe your duty to Allah, and know that Allah is with those who ward off (evil) (Surah 2:190-194, emp. added).
Warfare is ordained for you, though it is hateful unto you; but it may happen that ye hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that ye love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knoweth, ye know not. They question thee (O Muhammad) with regard to warfare in the sacred month. Say: Warfare therein is a great (transgression), but to turn (men) from the way of Allah, and to disbelieve in Him and in the Inviolable Place of Worship, and to expel his people thence, is a greater with Allah; for persecution is worse that killing. And they will not cease from fighting against you till they have made you renegades from your religion, if they can (Surah 2:216-217, emp. added).
Muhammad was informed that warfare was prescribed for him! Though he may have hated warfare, it was actually good for him, and what he loved, i.e., non-warfare, was actually bad for him! And though under normal circumstances, fighting is not appropriate during sacred months, killing was warranted against those who sought to prevent Muslims from practicing their religion.Killing is better than being persecuted! A similar injunction states: “Sanction is given unto those who fight because they have been wronged; and Allah is indeed Able to give them victory” (Surah22:39, emp. added). In fact, “Allah loveth those who battle for His cause in ranks, as if they were a solid structure” (Surah 61:4, emp. added).
In a surah titled “Repentance” that issues stern measures to be taken against idolaters, the requirement to engage in carnal warfare is apparent:
Freedom from obligation (is proclaimed) from Allah and His messenger toward those of the idolaters with whom ye made a treaty: Travel freely in the land four months, and know that ye cannot escape Allah and that Allah will confound the disbelievers (in His guidance). And a proclamation from Allah and His messenger to all men on the day of the Greater Pilgrimage that Allah is free from obligation to the idolaters, and (so is) His messenger. So, if ye repent, it will be better for you; but if ye are averse, then know that ye cannot escape Allah. Give tidings (O Muhammad) of a painful doom to those who disbelieve. Excepting those of the idolaters with whom ye (Muslims) have a treaty, and who have since abated nothing of your right nor have supported anyone against you. (As for these), fulfill their treaty to them till their term. Lo! Allah loveth those who keep their duty (unto Him). Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful (Surah 9:1-5, emp. added).
The ancient Muslim histories elaborate on the occasion of these admonitions: “[T]he idolaters were given four months’ respite to come and go as they pleased in safety, but after that God and His Messenger would be free from any obligation towards them. War was declared upon them, and they were to be slain or taken captive wherever they were found” (Lings, 1983, p. 323).
Later in the same surah, “Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the religion of truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low” (Surah 9:29, emp. added). “Those who have been given the Scripture” is a reference to Jews and Christians. The surah advocates coercion against Jews and Christians in order to physically force them to pay the jizyah—a special religious tax imposed on religious minorities (see Nasr, 2002, p. 166). Muslim translator Mohammed Pickthall explained the historical setting of this quranic utterance: “It signified the end of idolatry in Arabia. The Christian Byzantine Empire had begun to move against the growing Muslim power, and this Surah contains mention of a greater war to come, and instructions with regard to it” (p. 145). Indeed, the final verse of Surah 2 calls upon Allah to give Muslims “victory over the disbelieving folk” (vs. 286), rendered by Rodwell: “give us victory therefore over the infidel nations.” That this stance by the Quran was to be expected is evident from the formulation of the Second Pledge of Aqabah, in which the men pledged their loyalty and their commitment to protecting Muhammad from all opponents. This pledge included duties of war, and was taken only by the males. Consequently, the First Aqabah pact, which contained no mention of war, became known as the “pledge of the women” (Lings, p. 112).
Additional allusions to warfare in the Quran are seen in the surah, “The Spoils,” dated in the second year of the Hijrah (A.D. 623), within a month after the Battle of Badr:
And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah.... If thou comest on them in the war, deal with them so as to strike fear in those who are behind them.... And let not those who disbelieve suppose that they can outstrip (Allah’s purpose). Lo! they cannot escape. Make ready for them all thou canst of (armed) force and of horses tethered, that thereby ye may dismay the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others beside them whom ye know not.... O Prophet! Exhort the believers to fight. If there be of you twenty stedfast they shall overcome two hundred, and if there be of you a hundred stedfast they shall overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve, because they (the disbelievers) are a folk without intelligence.... It is not for any Prophet to have captives until he hath made slaughter in the land. Ye desire the lure of this world and Allah desireth (for you) the Hereafter, and Allah is Mighty, Wise. Had it not been for an ordinance of Allah which had gone before, an awful doom had come upon you on account of what ye took. Now enjoy what ye have won, as lawful and good, and keep your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful (Surah8:39,57,59-60,65,67-69, emp. added; cf. 33:26).
Muslim scholar Pickthall readily concedes the context of these verses:
vv. 67-69 were revealed when the Prophet had decided to spare the lives of the prisoners taken at Badr and hold them to ransom, against the wish of Omar, who would have executed them for their past crimes. The Prophet took the verses as a reproof, and they are generally understood to mean that no quarter ought to have been given in that first battle (p. 144, emp. added).
So the Quran indicates that at the Battle of Badr, no captives should have been taken. The enemy should have been completely slaughtered, with no quarter given. This very fate awaited the Jewish Bani Qurayzah, when some 700 men were beheaded by the Muslims with Muhammad’s approval (Lings, p. 232). Likewise, members of a clan of the Bani Nadir were executed in Khaybar for concealing their treasure rather than forfeiting it to the Muslims (Lings, p. 267).
Another surah describes how allowances respecting the daily prayers were to be made for Muhammad’s Muslim warriors when engaged in military action:
And when ye go forth in the land, it is no sin for you to curtail (your) worship if ye fear that those who disbelieve may attack you. In truth the disbelievers are an open enemy to you. And when thou (O Muhammad) art among them and arrangest (their) worship for them, let only a party of them stand with thee (to worship) and let them take their arms. Then when they have performed their prostrations let them fall to the rear and let another party come that hath not worshipped and let them worship with thee, andlet them take their precaution and their arms. Those who disbelieve long for you to neglect your arms and your baggage that they may attack you once for all. It is no sin for you to lay aside your arms, if rain impedeth you or ye are sick. But take your precaution. Lo! Allah prepareth for the disbelievers shameful punishment. When ye have performed the act of worship, remember Allah, standing, sitting and reclining. And when ye are in safety, observe proper worship. Worship at fixed hours hath been enjoined on the believers. Relent not in pursuit of the enemy (Surah 4:101-104, emp. added; cf. 73:20).
These verses show that the Quran implicitly endorses armed conflict and war to advance Islam.
Muslim historical sources themselves report the background details of those armed conflicts that have characterized Islam from its inception—including Muhammad’s own warring tendencies involving personal participation in and endorsement of military campaigns (cf. Lings, pp. 86,111). Muslim scholar Pickthall’s own summary of Muhammad’s war record is an eye-opener: “The number of the campaigns which he led in person during the last ten years of his life is twenty-seven, in nine of which there was hard fighting. The number of the expeditions which he planned and sent out under other leaders is thirty-eight” (n.d., p. xxvi).
What a contrast with Jesus—Who never once took up the sword or encouraged anyone else to do so! The one time that one of His close followers took it upon himself to do so, the disciple was soundly reprimanded and ordered to put the sword away, with the added warning: “all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). Indeed, when Pilate quizzed Jesus regarding His intentions, He responded: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36)—the very opposite of the Aqabah pact. And whereas the Quran boldly declares, “And one who attacks you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you”(Surah 2:194; cf. 22:60), Jesus counters, “But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” and “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:39,44). The New Testament record presents a far higher, more noble and godly ethic on the matter of violence and armed conflict. In fact, the following verses demonstrate how irrevocably deep the chasm is between the Quran and the New Testament on this point:
[L]ove your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? (Matthew 5:44-46).
But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful (Luke 6:27-36).
What an amazing contrast! The New Testament says to love, bless, do good to, and pray for those who persecute you. The Quran says that “persecution is worse than killing” (Surah 2:217)—i.e., it is better to kill your persecutors than to endure their persecutions!
The standard Muslim attempt to justify the Quran’s endorsement of violence is that such violence was undertaken in self-defense (e.g., Surah 42:41). Consider the following Muslim explanation:
At the time when this surah (Surah 2—DM) was revealed at Al-Madinah, the Prophet’s own tribe, the pagan Qureysh at Mecca, were preparing to attack the Muslims in their place of refuge. Cruel persecution was the lot of Muslims who had stayed in Meccan territory or who journeyed thither, and Muslims were being prevented from performing the pilgrimage. The possible necessity of fighting had been foreseen in the terms of the oath, taken at Al-Aqabah by the Muslims of Yathrib before the Flight, to defend the Prophet as they would their own wives and children, and the first commandment to fight was revealed to the Prophet before his flight from Mecca; but there was no actual fighting by the Muslims until the battle of Badr. Many of them were reluctant, having before been subject to a rule of strict non-violence. It was with difficulty that they could accept the idea of fighting even in self-defence [sic].... (Pickthall, p. 33, emp. added).
Apart from the fact that the claim that Muhammad’s advocacy of fighting was justifiable on the ground of self-defense is contrary to the historical facts (since the wars waged by Muhammad and the territorial expansion of Islam achieved by his subsequent followers cannot all be dismissed as defensive), this explanation fails to come to grips with the propriety of shedding of blood and inflicting violence—regardless of the reason. Muslim scholar Seyyed Nasr seems unconscious of the inherent self-contradiction apparent in his own remark:
The spread of Islam occurred in waves. In less than a century after the establishment of the first Islamic society in Medina by the Prophet, Arab armies had conquered a land stretching from the Indus River to France and brought with them Islam, which, contrary to popular Western conceptions, was not, however, forced on the people by the sword (2003, p. 17, emp. added).
In other words, Muslim armies physically conquered—by military force and bloodshed—various nations, forcing the population to submit to Muslim rule, but did not require them to become Muslims! One suspects that, at the time, the distinction escaped the citizens of those conquered countries, even as it surely does the reader.
True Christianity (i.e., that which is based strictly on the New Testament) dictates peace and non-retaliatory promotion of itself. The “absolute imperative” (Rahman, 1979, p. 22) of Islam is the submission/conversion of the whole world. In stark contrast, the absolute imperative of New Testament Christianity is the evangelism of the whole world, i.e., the dissemination of the message of salvation—whether people embrace it or not (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47). Absolutely no coercion is admissible from the Christian (i.e., New Testament) viewpoint. The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and all other violent activities undertaken in the name of Christ and Christianity have been in complete conflict with the teaching of the New Testament. The perpetrators acted without the authority and sanction of Christ.
Islam seeks to bring the entire world into submission to Allah and the Quran—even using jihad, coercion, and force; Christianity seeks to go into the entire world and to announce the “good news” that God loves every individual, that Jesus Christ died for the sins of everyone, and that He offers salvation, forgiveness, and reconciliation. But, each person has free choice to accept or reject without any retaliation by Christians against those who choose to reject. Jesus taught His disciples, when faced with opposition and resistance, simply to walk away: “And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet” (Matthew 10:14). In fact, on one occasion when a Samaritan village was particularly nonreceptive, some of Jesus’ disciples wished to command fire to come down from heaven to consume them! But Jesus rebuked them and said, “‘You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.’ And they went to another village” (Luke 9:55). Muhammad and the Quran stand in diametrical opposition to Jesus and the New Testament.
If the majority of Muslims were violent, that would not prove that Islam is a religion of violence. The vast majority of those who claim to be “Christian” are practicing a corrupted form of the Christian faith. So the validity of any religion is determined ultimately not by the imperfect, inaccurate practice of the religion by even a majority of its adherents, but by the official authority or standard upon which it is based, i.e., its Scriptures. The present discussion in the world regarding whether or not jihad includes physical force in the advancement of Islam is ultimately irrelevant (cf. Nasr, 2002, pp. 256-266). The Quran unquestionably endorses violence, war, and armed conflict. No wonder the Muslims who perpetrated suicide bombings, America’s 9/11, and yes, the Fort Hood massacre, manifest a maniacal, reckless abandon in their willingness to die by sacrificing their lives in order to kill as many “infidels” (especially Israelis, Brits, and Americans) as possible. They have read the following:
Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks.... Andthose who are slain in the way of Allah, He rendereth not their actions vain. He will guide them and improve their state, and bring them in unto the Garden [Paradise—DM] which He hath made known to them (Surah 47:4-6, emp. added).
O ye who believe! Be not as those who disbelieved and said of their brethren who went abroad in the land or were fighting in the field: If they had been (here) with us they would not have died or been killed.... And what though ye be slain in Allah’s way or die therein? Surely pardon from Allah and mercy are better than all that they amass. Whatthough ye be slain or die, when unto Allah ye are gathered?.... So those who...fought and were slain, verily I shall remit their evil deeds from them and verily I shall bring them into Gardens underneath which rivers flow—a reward from Allah (Surah 3:156-158,195, emp. added).
Even if the vast majority of Muslims in the world reject violence and refrain from terrorist activity (which is, seemingly, the case), it is still a fact that the Quran (as well as the example of Muhammad himself!) endorses the advancement of Islam through physical force. While Muslim apologist Seyyed Hossein Nasr insists that “the traditional norms based on peace and openness to others” characterize true Islam and the majority of Muslims, in contradistinction, he freely admits that at times Islam “has been forced to take recourse to physical action in the form of defense” (Nasr, 2002, pp. 112,110). This concession cannot be successfully denied in view of the Quran’s own declarations. Hence, the Muslim is forced to maintain the self-contradictory position that, yes, there have been times that Islam has been properly violent and, yes, the Quran does endorse violence, but, no, most Muslims are not violent, and then only in self-defense. As reprehensible and cowardly as Islamic terrorists have shown themselves to be in recent years, an honest reading of the Quran leads one to believe that they, at least, are more consistent with, and true to, their own Scriptures—as revolting an idea as that may be.


Baker, Mike and Brett J. Blackledge (2009), “Fort Hood Suspect Said His Goodbyes Before Rampage,” The Associated Press, November 6, [On-line], URL:http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091106/ap_on_re_us/us_fort_hood_shooting.
Brown, Matthew (2009), “Muslim Organizations Condemn Fort Hood Attack,” The Baltimore Sun, November 6, [On-line], URL:http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/faith/2009/11/nidal_malik_hassan_allahu_akba.html.
Lings, Martin (1983), Muhammad (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International).
Manji, Irshad (2005), “When Denial Can Kill,” Time, 166[4]:78, July 25.
“Military Experts Discuss the Attack at Fort Hood” (2009), New York Post, November 8, [On-line], URL: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/06/AR2009110602072.html.
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein (2002), The Heart of Islam (New York: HarperCollins).
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein (2003), Islam (New York: HarperCollins).
Pickthall, Mohammed M. (no date), The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (New York: Mentor).
Rahman, Fazlur (1979), Islam (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press), second edition.
Rodwell, J.M., trans. (1950 reprint), The Koran (London: J.M. Dent and Sons).
“U.S. Muslims Condemn Attack at Fort Hood” (2009), Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), November 5, [On-line], URL: http://www.cair.com/ArticleDetails.aspx?ArticleID=26126&&name=n&&currPage=1.

The Historicity of Job by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


The Historicity of Job

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

Over the last several centuries, many have attempted to fictionalize the Bible. Atheists vigorously attack the Genesis account of Creation, calling it nothing more than a fictitious story that should be placed alongside myths such as the Babylonian creation account. Skeptics scoff at the biblical account of the worldwide Flood, calling it an altered copy of the uninspired Epic of Gilgamesh. Liberal theologians labor to make Scripture conform to secular sources, claiming that the Israelite religion is a mere “Yahwization” of pagan religions (i.e., attributing to Yahweh what pagan religions attributed to their gods). Certain professors at Christian colleges have even cast doubt on the historicity of Jonah. They have referred to it as “just a short story” that “might even be regarded as historical fiction.” “[A] lot of books today” may “have a ring of historical accuracy,” they say, “just like the book of Jonah,” but “[d]oes that make it history? Well, no. No, it doesn’t” (Pemberton, 2002, 22:26-22:44). Such attempts to fictionalize Scripture or cast doubt on the true nature of its historical accounts represent a blatant attack upon God’s Word and should be refuted with all diligence in “meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).
Some believe the book of Job is little more than a fine piece of non-inspired literature. Others contend it is inspired of God, but, like happenings in Genesis and Jonah, the book of Job is said to be a fictional story about imaginary people, places, and events, told for spiritual purposes. What do the facts reveal? Are there good reasons to believe that this story is a real, unembellished account of events that occurred long ago?


In a single day, the patriarch Job was informed of the loss of all 10 of his children, all of his livestock, and many of his servants. In chapter 1 of the book of Job, we learn that as one of Job’s servants was telling him about a group of raiders (the Sabeans) that had stolen all of his oxen and donkeys, and killed all the servants tending to the animals (except himself), another servant arrived even as the first “was still speaking.” This second servant told Job that fire came down from heaven and consumed his sheep and servants. Again, while this servant was talking, a third servant came and related to Job that another group of invaders (the Chaldeans) had stolen all of his camels and had killed all of the servants except him. Finally, while this third servant was talking, a fourth servant came and bore even worse news—Job’s 10 children had all perished when a great wind struck the house and caused it to crush them. His 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, several servants, and 10 children were all gone in the blink of an eye. And, as if being stripped of his worldly possessions and children were not enough, Job’s body then became diseased from head to toe, his wife urged him to “curse God and die,” and the comforting counsel of his “friends” quickly gave way to judgmental accusations.
Based upon the extent of his physical destruction and mental suffering, as well as the limited time frame in which it all occurred, some critics doubt that Job was a real person. They believe that he simply was fabricated to teach a lesson about human suffering. Perhaps, they say, he is to be valued like such parabolic figures as the good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37), the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), or the rich fool (Luke 12:16-21), but not like those who actually lived and died upon the Earth.
I will never forget having a discussion about Job with a Christian gentleman several years ago, who, with a skeptical expression on his face, informed me that he did not believe the story of Job was real history. The idea was: “No one has ever gone through that much pain that quickly.” Up to that point in time, however, I do not think this brother had ever considered the overwhelming evidence for Job’s reality.

Job’s Humanity

Unlike the good Samaritan, the prodigal son, the rich fool, and other parabolic figures, the suffering patriarch of the Old Testament, whose story is recorded in forty-two chapters of the most beautiful language this world has ever known, was given a name—Job. The book begins: “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job” (1:1, emp. added). He wasn’t just an obscure man in a far-away land who was the main character of a “once-upon-a-time” kind of fairytale. He was a real, “mortal” man (cf. 4:17), of whom his Creator said: “[T]here is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil” (1:8). He “was the greatest of all the people of the East” (1:3). That Job was a real person is stated explicitly by God in his second speech to Job, when He declared that the mighty animal called behemoth was “made along with you” (40:15, emp. added).
In the book of Job, the patriarch’s wealth is catalogued, his homeland is identified (cf. Jeremiah 25:20; Lamentations 4:21), his father is referenced (Job 15:10), his children are numbered, his wife is quoted, his friends are named, his speeches are recorded, and his suffering is described in detail. Job spoke of his birth, and even his conception (3:3), and longed for death in order to escape his severe distress (6:8-10). His suffering was not here one day and gone the next, nor did it go on endlessly. It lasted for “months” (7:3; 29:2) and was specifically characterized by boils (2:7-8), bad breath (19:17), loss of weight (19:20), disfiguration (2:12), blackened, cracked skin that was infested with worms (30:30; 7:5), and bones that burned with piercing pain (30:17,30). Job’s suffering was as real as Job himself.

Job’s Descent

Still, some may contend, “We know that Eliphaz was a Temanite, Bildad a Shuhite, Zophar a Naamathite (Job 2:11), and that Elihu was called, ‘the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram’ (Job 32:2), yet Job has no revealed heritage.” “Who was his father? Where is his genealogy? Why don’t we know more about Job’s heritage, if he was a real person?”
The Bible is replete with real, historical men and women who have little, if any, background information given about them. Are we to assume that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego (Daniel 1:7), Theophilus (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1), Diotrephes (3 John 9), and Lydia (Acts 16:14) were all fictional characters because we have no information about their families? And what about Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18), who was “without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life” (Hebrews 7:3)? Was he an imaginary character? In truth, Melchizedek is as historical as Abraham, who paid him tithes (Genesis 14:20; Hebrews 7:2), and as real as Jesus, Who was a priest, “according to the order of Melchizedek” (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 7:17,21).
Similar to how Melchizedek’s ancestry was intentionally omitted in Scripture in order to illustrate the perfect type of priest that Jesus, the great High Priest, would be, the little information that we have about Job was no doubt intentional. Admittedly, patriarchs are often introduced in the biblical text with at least some genealogical information (e.g., Genesis 11:26-29), while Job is not. We know neither his family nor his race. We do not know for sure when he lived or exactly where he lived (i.e., precisely where Uz was cannot be said with certainty). However, as Perry Cotham concluded: “[T]his in God’s wisdom is all the better for the purpose of the great book because it makes Job a universal man, a representative, as it were, of all mankind in his relationship to God” (Cotham, 1991, p. 40). People of all colors, classes, clans, countries, and kingdoms can find great strength and encouragement from the real, true-life story of Job.

Job’s Name

Let us also establish the fact that the name “Job” (Hebrew Iyob or Iob in the Septuagint) was no literary invention; it was an actual name worn by various ones throughout history. Jacob had a grandson named Job (Genesis 46:13; or Yob/Iob, ESV, NASB). Furthermore, as Francis Anderson noted in his commentary on Job, “The name [Job—EL] is attested several times throughout the second millennium BC as an old Canaanite name sometimes borne by royal personages. It occurs in an Egyptian execration text of the nineteenth century BC…. Later the Ugaritic ayab agrees with the South Canaanite name A-ya-ab in Amarna letters” (Anderson, 1974, p. 78). Although some believe that Job means either “object of enmity” or “he who turns to God” (Genung, 2006), the eminent and respected archaeologist W.F. Albright believed these ancient references support the explanation that the name originally meant, “Where is (my) Father?” (Hartley, 1988, p. 66; Anderson, p. 78). Such a meaning fits perfectly with the book of Job, considering (1) no father or genealogy is given for the patriarch, and (2) throughout his speeches, Job longs to speak with God, his Father by creation (10:2-3,9; 13:3,20-22; 31:35-37).

Job’s Anonymous Wife

Some have suggested that since the patriarch’s wife is referred to but never named (Job 2:9; 19:17; 31:10), the book of Job falls in line more with a parable and not a literal story (cf. Cunningham, 2011). Such a claim, however, disregards two important points. First, several of the leading characters in the story are specifically named, including Jehovah, Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, Elihu, as well as three of Job’s daughters: Jemimah, Keziah, and Keren-Happuch. Simply because someone in a story is not called by name, in no way relegates that story to a parable, especially when so many other individuals in the story are named. Second, there are many real, historical women in the Bible whose names are also unknown to us, including, and especially, the women of patriarchal times. Adam and Eve’s daughters are never named (Genesis 5:4), nor are Lot’s (Genesis 19). The wives of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth are omitted in Scripture even though they were crucial in God’s plan for mankind to repopulate the Earth. Other men living in patriarchal times whose wives’ names are not mentioned by name in Holy Writ include Cain, Lot, Laban, and Potiphar. Furthermore, the names of many women in New Testament times remain unknown to us, includingJames and John’s mother (Matthew 20:20), Peter’s mother in law (Matthew 8:14), Jairus’ daughter (Matthew 9:18), the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), and many others (Luke 8:3). Obviously, then, the fact that Job’s wife, who is only mentioned three times in the book of Job, is not referred to by name has no bearing whatsoever on the historicity of Job.

Other Citations of Job in Scripture

Not only are there several indicators within the book of Job that the suffering patriarch was a real, flesh-and-blood human being (and not just a parabolic figure), Job also is mentioned in Scripture outside of the book that bears his name. In fact, Job is mentioned in three different verses in Scripture (outside the book of Job), none of which lead one to believe that Job is a fictional character. Rather, he is considered an actual, historical figure.
The first two places his name is found (aside from the book of Job) is in Ezekiel 14, verses 14 and 20. In verse 14, the prophet stated: “Even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness, says the Lord God.” Verse 20 is worded nearly the same way: “[E]ven though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live, says the Lord God, they would deliver neither son nor daughter; they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness.” Ezekiel’s point in both verses was that the ungodly conditions in Babylon were such that even if Noah, Daniel, and Job lived in that city, no one else would be saved. Ezekiel spoke of all three of these men as being real, historical people, not legendary characters. If one recognizes Noah and Daniel as being real people of history, then there is no reason to think otherwise about Job. Yes, Job’s story is written in beautiful, poetic language and grouped with other poetic books in the wisdom section of the Old Testament. Still, God’s inspired prophet Ezekiel believed Job’s life was as real and genuine as Noah’s and Daniel’s. [NOTE: Numerous real people and places are noted and described in the poetic books of Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. It would be unwise and inconsistent to disregard Job’s historicity merely because it is written largely in poetic language.]
The last place the suffering patriarch is mentioned in Scripture (and the only time he is mentioned in the New Testament) is found in the latter part of the book of James. The brother of the Lord wrote: “My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful” (James 5:10-11, emp. added). James was not writing through inspiration about an imaginary person. Rather, he considered Job as real as Abraham, Elijah, and Rahab—historical individuals whom James also mentioned in his epistle (2:21,25; 5:17).


More than anything else, what causes the most skepticism about Job are the intense losses that he endured in such a short period of time. How can a man learn of the loss of 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, numerous servants, and, most tragically, 10 children in one day? It simply is too much for some to believe.

Job and Evolution

Yet, some of the same individuals who doubt the historicity of the suffering of Job maintain that the theory of evolution is a fact. Both atheistic and theistic evolutionists believe that over billions of years of time, a multi-cellular creature evolved into a worm, which evolved into a fish, which evolved into an amphibian, which evolved into a reptile, which evolved into an ape-like creature, which evolved into a human. Allegedly, an amazing human being with functional eyes, ears, arms, legs, fingers, toes, lungs, etc., could evolve given enough time, mutations, and random chance processes. Supposedly, the unnatural, unproven, law-breaking theory of evolution is believable—but not the story of Job. “The lady doth protest too much, methinks” (Shakespeare, 2011, III.2).

Others Throughout History Have Suffered Greatly

It maybe that no one in world history has ever suffered as much as did Job in one day. However, there have been many tragic stories throughout history. Since likely everyone would agree that there have been innumerable true accounts of individuals and families throughout history losing virtually all of their wealth in the blink of an eye due to fires, floods, thefts, bankruptcies, depressions, stock-market plunges, etc. (e.g., Charles Prestwood, see Hundley, 2002), there seems little reason to document such financial losses. What’s more, even if we did document many such unfortunate happenings, it would be greatly overshadowed by the loss of all of Job’s children. When the life and death of those whom we love dearly comes into focus, often even the most materialistic among us see that financial ruin does not compare with the loss of loved ones.
But Job was also not the only one ever to have to deal with a great family tragedy in a short period of time. I know a woman who lost her mother and one of her two sons within one week of each other. She then buried her husband a year later. Portland, Oregon mother, Marva Davis, lost two sons on the same day—January 29, 2010. Her 23-year-old son died of heart and kidney failure in the morning, followed by her 25-year-old son being shot by a police officer later that night (“Oregon Woman…,” 2010). Alicia Appleman-Jurman was one of countless Jews who experienced heart-breaking losses and difficulties during the Holocaust. In addition to her suffering and surviving ghettoization, imprisonment, starvation, a trip to an extermination center, and a firing squad, all within a four-year period, she lost every immediate family member. The Nazis shot her mother, father, and two of her brothers. One brother was hanged, while another died needlessly in a Russian prison. Alicia was the only member of her immediate family to survive the Holocaust (Appleman-Jurman, 1989).

Many Faithful Believers Have Experienced Great Pain

The Bible is full of faithful men and women who suffered greatly. Imagine the sorrow that Noah and his family felt as they watched and/or heard innumerable souls (perhaps millions of people) perish in the Flood—many of whom, no doubt, were relatives. Consider the heartache that Lot, his wife, and daughters must have felt as their family members, friends, and home were destroyed with fire and brimstone—and then as Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:24-26).
The apostle Paul was “in prisons...frequently” and “in deaths often.” Five times he received 39 lashings. Three times he was beaten with rods. Once he was stoned. Three times he was ship wrecked (2 Corinthians 11:23-25). In addition to being in all kinds of “perils” (2 Corinthians 11:26), he was “in weariness and toil…in hunger and thirst,” as well as “in cold and nakedness” (2 Corinthians 11:27). Paul was a persecuted apostle, who suffered greatly, in addition to being in continual pain with some sort of “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7). The apostles as a whole were “made a spectacle to the world,” were “dishonored…poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless” (1 Corinthians 4:10-11). They were “reviled,” “persecuted,” and “defamed” (1 Corinthians 4:12-13). They were “made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things” (1 Corinthians 4:13). In addition to inspiration informing us that the apostle James was killed with the sword (Acts 12:2), Fox’s Book of Martyrs indicates that Matthew was slain with a halberd, Mathias was stoned and beheaded, Andrew was crucified, Thomas was killed with a spear, Paul was beheaded, and Peter was crucified (most likely upside down) (Forbush, 1954, pp. 2-5).
Faithful men and women of God have been “tortured” (Hebrews 11:35). “They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth” (Hebrews 11:38b). “Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy” (Hebrews 11:36-38a). Job is certainly one of the greatest examples of steadfastness in the face of suffering, but he is far from the only one to suffer severely.

A Modern-Day Tragedy

One of the most heart-rending, instant, unexpected tragedies to happen to a family in recent years occurred near Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Tuesday, November 8, 1994. Scott and Janet Willis were traveling with six of their nine children on Interstate 94 to Watertown, Wisconsin to visit their older son, Dan, and his new wife, and to celebrate two upcoming birthdays. Before ever reaching Watertown, however, the Willis van struck a piece of metal that had fallen off of a truck. The metal pierced the gas tank, which quickly caused gas to leak. “Seconds later, sparks caused as the metal bracket dragged against the pavement ignited the van” (Backover and Lev, 1994). The van “exploded in flames” (“Parents Bury...,” 1994). Five of the children in the van died almost instantly in the fire. Another escaped with burns covering 90% of his body, but died later that night at the hospital. Scott and Janet were hospitalized for several days with first and second degree burns. Such physical wounds, however, did not compare with the “indescribable” pain they felt at losing six children in one freak accident (Gillmore, n.d.).
What are the odds of something like this happening? Sheriff’s Sergeant David Lushowitz commented on the accident, saying, “I’ve never seen an accident like this before…. The odds are astronomical” (as quoted in Backover and Lev, emp. added). According to Chicago Tribune staff writers Backover and Lev, “Highway statistics support the characterization by Milwaukee investigators that the van accident was a freak occurrence” (emp. added).

Remembering the Circumstances of Job’s Suffering

Although man has documented many cases of severe, instantaneous suffering throughout history, some still refuse to believe the events in Job (especially chapters 1, 2, and 42) actually could occur. In an article titled, “Could the Story of Job be a Parable?” Chuck Cunningham wrote: “Four calamities result from Yahweh talking to the accuser. There is one survivor in each calamity to tell the story of Job. What are the odds of this happening?... Job begins with seven sons and three daughters, which all die. Job ends up with another seven sons and three daughters. What are the odds of that happening?” The idea is: “It’s too much, too soon—all of which is too ironic” (2011).
Admittedly, even in light of the cases of acute suffering that secular history has recorded for us, Job’s affliction does seem somewhat inconceivable. However, there is one important point to remember: Job’s story does not begin in Job 1:13 (when the Sabeans first came and stole all of Job’s oxen and donkeys and killed all of the servants in the area). The story of Job’s suffering begins in Job 1:6, on the day Satan came before the Lord. When God mentioned His faithful servant to Satan, the wicked one arrogantly implied that Job did not serve God for nothing (i.e., the Lord allegedly is not innately worthy of faithful service). God had blessed the patriarch and apparently had not allowed Satan to harm him as the devil went “to and fro on the earth” (Job 1:7), “seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). For reasons that God does not reveal, He allowed Satan temporary access to “all that he [Job] has” (Job 1:12), which later would even include his health (2:4-7). In ways unknown to us, Satan orchestrated the murderous raids of the Sabeans and Chaldeans, the fire from heaven, the great wind, and the physical suffering that Job endured (1:13-19; 2:1-7). The same Satan who tempted Adam and Eve to sin; the same devil who sought to ruin the perfect life of Jesus at His weakest point (Matthew 4:1-11); the same wicked one who “bound” a woman with “a spirit of infirmity eighteen years” (Luke 13:11,16) and “oppressed” many others in the first century (Acts 10:38), also afflicted Job immensely. Taking into account Satan’s personal role in Job’s acute, virtually instantaneous suffering, the “unlikely,” “improbable” events become plausible.


Some discount the historic reality of the book of Job, because they cannot reconcile an all-loving God with what He allowed to happen to Job and those around him. According to Cunningham, “This is not our Elohim,…but more like a Greek Yahweh who plays with the lives of men. These accounts contradict the rest of Yahweh’s Word and Yahweh cannot contradict Himself…. We have taken the Book of Job literally instead of taking it as a parable” (2011). Similarly, Kelvin Stubbs asked, “God allows this man to have all that matters to him taken away, his family killed…and we’re supposed to be inspired?... How can you love a God who treats one of his most devout followers in this manner?” (2009).

Did God Cause Job to Suffer?

In truth, it was Satan who “did this.” Yes, God did say to Satan: “[Y]ou incitedMe against him [Job], to destroy him without a cause” (2:3), and later, the book does speak of “all the adversity that the Lord had brought upon him” (42:11). The fact is, however, these statements are examples of the idiomatic language found throughout Scripture, which actually express “not the doing of the thing, but the permission of the thing which the agent is said to do” (Bullinger, 1898, p. 823). The Bible writers often alluded to God’s allowance of something to take place as having been done by the Lord. For example, 2 Samuel 24:1 indicates that God “moved David…to number Israel,” while 1 Chronicles 21:1 says that it was Satan who “stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel.” The meaning is: Israel suffered as a direct result of Satan’s workings in the life of King David, which God allowed.
Consider also that Moses recorded how “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart” (Exodus 7:3,13; 9:12; 10:1; etc.). But God did not directly force Pharaoh to reject His will. Rather, God hardened his heart in the sense that God provided the circumstances and the occasion for Pharaoh to accept or reject His will. God sent Moses to place His demands before Pharaoh, even accompanying His Word with miracles, but Pharaoh made up his own mind to resist God’s demands. God provided the occasion for Pharaoh to demonstrate his unyielding attitude, but He was not the author (or direct cause) of Pharaoh’s defiance (see Butt and Miller, 2003 for more information). Similarly, God permitted Satan to afflict Job, but He did not directly cause Job’s suffering. It was “Satan” who “went out from the presence of the Lord, and struck Job” (2:7).

Would a Loving God Really Allow Job and Others to Suffer?

Regardless of whether God “allowed” Job’s suffering or “caused” it, some do not believe that a loving God would remove His providential protection from a faithful servant, bring his name up to Satan for consideration, and allow Job and so many others (i.e., his wife, children, and servants) to suffer and even die. Such God-allowed suffering has led atheists to reject Job and God altogether, while causing certain professed Bible-believers to interpret Job as a parabolic drama. Since the “the evil, pain, and suffering argument” against God’s existence has been thoroughly and logically answered many times in the past (cf. Miller and Butt, 2009; Warren, 1972), we will only respond to the professed Christian’s accusation about Job—that the book must be parabolic because God would never treat someone like He treated Job, his children, and his servants.
How is a parabolic story about God allowing Satan to destroy Job’s children and servants, as well as cause great physical pain for Job, somehow acceptable, but not a real-life story? A parable may be a fictitious story, but it has a moral or spiritual meaning. The Greek word parabole (from which we get the English word “parable”) means “to throw alongside.” It is “a story by whichsomething real in life is used as a means of presenting a moral thought” (Dungan, n.d., p. 227, emp. added). Even if Job was a parable (which the evidence is decisively against), how would that immediately solve the “problem” of God allowing Job and others to suffer? Whether a true-life story about God or a parabolic story, any God-inspired story about Himself is going to properly reflect His perfect attributes. Turning the book of Job into a parable in no way means that “nothing in the book as it relates to God is really what it seems to be.”
The fact is, God’s actions in the book of Job are real, and consistent both with His nature and with the rest of Scripture. God is all-loving (1 John 4:8), but such love is not contrary to God allowing His faithful followers to suffer. Even though He will not tempt His children to do evil (James 1:13), God will test us (Genesis 22:1; Exodus 20:20) and discipline us (Hebrews 12:3-11). He will even allow us to die, knowing that a much greater life awaits us on the other side of physical death (Hebrews 11:10,16; John 14:1-3). He allowed John the Baptist, Stephen, James the apostle, and many others, including the Messiah, to suffer and die. We must keep in mind, as Thomas  Warren observed: God created the world, not as man’s final and ultimate destination, but as “the ideal environment for soul-making” (1972, p. 16). The difficulties that God allows or even brings about in this life “encourage people to cultivate their spirits and to grow in moral character—acquiring virtuous attributes such as courage, patience, humility, and fortitude (James 1:2-3; Romans 5:3-4). Suffering can serve as discipline and motivation to spur spiritual growth and strength. It literally stimulates people to develop compassion, sympathy, love, and empathy for their fellowman” (Miller and Butt; cf. Warren, p. 81).
But why did God allow Job’s children and servants to die? Why did He not spare their lives as He spared Job’s? God does not give us the answer to these questions. He does not tell us everything He knows, or that we might like to know (cf. Isaiah 55:8-9; Deuteronomy 29:29). What we can know is this: God always has a good reason for what He does. Perhaps He was rewarding Job’s 10 children and all of the servants with an early entrance into Paradise (cf. 2 Kings 2:11; Philippians 1:21,23). Or, if the children and servants were wicked, perhaps God used the occasion to punish them with physical death, just as He has done many times throughout history (Genesis 6-8; 19; Leviticus 10:1-2; Numbers 16; Acts 5:1-11). The fact is, one cannot assume that God’s allowance of Satan to kill Job’s children and servants is inconsistent with His loving nature.


Although much about the book of Job remains a mystery (exactly when Job lived, who wrote the book that bears his name, where the Land of Uz was located, etc.), we can know that he was a real person who suffered greatly—perhaps like no person has ever suffered—and yet remained faithful to God. And therein lies one of the main purposes of Job’s preserved story: the patriarch is an inspiration to every child of God who is determined to follow the Lord “in the paths of righteousness,” even while walking “through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:3-4). Knowing that Job persevered through all his trials and tribulations gives us hope that we can do the same when similar trials of less magnitude come our way (James 1:2-4; 5:10-11).


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