Charismatics And The “Greater Works” Of John 14:12 By Allan Turner


Charismatics And The “Greater Works” Of John 14:12
By Allan Turner
In trying to teach the gospel to those caught up in the charismatic movement, John 14:12 has frequently been used as a proof-text for their claim that miraculous gifts are still in use by “true” believers in Christ. In this passage, the Lord was speaking to His apostles and said: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father” (NKJV).
According to the charismatics, the “greater works” are the “signs and wonders” being performed in their so-called “miracle services.” Of course, a careful examination of this passage will only serve to demonstrate how the charismatics have completely misunderstood the teaching of the Lord on this subject.
Even a cursory examination demonstrates that their erroneous interpretation of this passage actually works against them in the strongest way. Let's just think about it for a moment. The quality of “miracles” performed by these people does not even come close to that of Bible miracles. The Lord's miracles were undeniable and spectacular. He changed water into wine and multiplied loaves and fishes. He healed hopeless lepers, cripples, and blind people. And we must not forget that He raised from the dead one who had been dead for four days!
Furthermore, the apostles were able to perform miracles just as Jesus had done—even raising the dead. Although these charismatics claim to be doing the “greater works” mentioned by Jesus, it is obvious that their alleged miracles are not even thirty-second cousins to those performed by Jesus and His apostles.
While Jesus, the apostles, and others performed signs, wonders, and miracles which could not be imitated or equaled, those being performed by charismatics are no different than those exhibited by various religions around the world that have nothing at all to do with Christianity. For example, modern-day “tongue-speaking” (i.e., ecstatic utterance) is engaged in regularly by Buddhists, Hindus, Moslems, Shintoists, Voodooists and others. In reality, Bible “tongue-speaking” is not being duplicated anywhere today—even among charismatics—because no one today is being given direct power from God to speak foreign languages they've never learned.
A reading of Acts 2:1-12 convinces us that the New Testament gift of tongues was the ability to speak in an unlearned foreign language. It is true that charismatics sometime claim to know someone who knows that somewhere someone once spoke an actual foreign language, but these cases are clearly unsubstantiated. It is interesting that not one charismatic I have ever spoken with has ever claimed to be able to speak an unlearned foreign language.
How then could the questionable and somewhat less than spectacular “miracles” performed by modern-day pentecostals be the “greater works” spoken of by Jesus? Remember, not even one of these folks has ever been so bold as to claim to have resurrected one who had been dead for four days. Consequently, these charismatics are wrong in their interpretation of the passage under consideration. Let's use the space that remains to determine if we can learn what the Lord was referring to when He said, “and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father” (John 14:12).
It is clear that the Lord made a distinction between miracles and a greater work that would be done by His followers. This greater work was dependent upon Jesus going to the Father. In John 16, the Lord said it was expedient for the apostles that He go away because when He did so the Holy Spirit would come and guide them into all truth. In I Peter 1:12, we learn that the gospel was preached with the “Holy Spirit sent from heaven.” In his first letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul wrote: “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (I Corinthians 2:12, 13).
In his message on the first Pentecost after the Lord's resurrection and ascension into heaven, the apostle Peter said: “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being highly exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.... Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:32,33,36). Through the preaching of the gospel with the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, men were able to be saved (I Corinthians 15:1-4). Although the raising of the physically dead was a wonderful miracle, greater still is the preaching of the gospel which has the power to raise the spirituallydead. In Matthew 16:26, Jesus taught that a man's soul is more important than the whole world. If this is true—and Jesus said it is—then the preaching, teaching, and living of the soul-saving gospel of Jesus Christ is the greatest work that can be done by His followers. There is nothing more important that this!
What a truly great experience it is to be “born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” (I Peter 1:23).

"THE SECOND EPISTLE TO TIMOTHY" Chapter Two by Mark Copeland

                    "THE SECOND EPISTLE TO TIMOTHY"

                              Chapter Two


1) To appreciate the need for endurance and faithfulness to the will of

2) To note the warnings against profane and vain babblings, foolish and
   ignorant disputes

3) To consider how the servant of the Lord can be a vessel for honor, 
   useful for the Master and prepared for every good work


Paul continues with exhortations to Timothy in this chapter, with an
emphasis on endurance and diligence.  Encouraging him to be strong in
the grace that is in Christ Jesus, Paul then charges Timothy to commit
what he has learned to faithful men who can pass it along (1-2).

Using the illustrations of a soldier, athlete, and farmer, Paul exhorts
Timothy to endure hardship, to be faithful, and to work hard.  Writing
of his own endurance in hardship, Paul stresses the need to be true to
the Lord (3-13).

The last half of the chapter is devoted to telling Timothy how to be
"useful to the Master", a worker who does not need to be ashamed.  With
warnings to shun profane and vain babblings, and avoiding foolish and 
ignorant disputes, Paul reminds Timothy of things he should flee 
(youthful lusts) and what he should pursue (righteousness, faith, love,
peace).  Properly handling the word of truth, and correcting others 
with gentleness and humility, Timothy can truly be a servant of the 
Lord who is prepared for every good work, especially when dealing with
those who have been ensnared by the devil (14-26).



      1. Directed to Timothy as his son (1a)
      2. To be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (1b)

      1. Those things he heard from Paul among many witnesses (2a)
      2. Commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others (2b)


      1. Endure hardship as good soldier of Jesus Christ (3)
         a. Not entangled with the affairs of this life (4a)
         b. That he might please the One who enlisted him (4b)
      2. As an athlete, follow the rules of competition in order to win
      3. It is the hard-working farmer who will be the first to partake
         of his crops (6)
      4. May the Lord give him understanding as he considers what Paul
         is saying (7)

      1. Remember that Jesus was raised from the dead, according to the
         gospel (8)
         a. For which Paul suffered trouble as an evildoer, even to the
            point of chains (9a)
         b. Yet the word of God was not chained (9b)
      2. Paul endured all things for the sake of the elect (10a)
         a. That they might obtain the salvation in Christ Jesus with
            eternal glory (10b)
         b. A faithful saying to encourage us to endure hardship 
            1) If we died with Christ, we shall live with Him
            2) If we endure, we shall also reign with Him
            3) If we deny Him, He will also deny us
            4) If we are faithless, He remains faithful for He cannot
               deny Himself


      1. Remind others, charging them not to strive about words (14)
         a. Words that do not profit
         b. Words that only produce ruin of the hearers
      2. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God (15)
         a. As a worker who does not need to be ashamed
         b. As a worker who rightly divides the word of truth
      3. Shun profane and vain babblings (16-18)
         a. For they only increase to more ungodliness (16)
         b. For their message will spread like cancer (17a)
            1) Hymenaeus and Philetus are example (17b)
            2) Who have overthrown the faith of some by saying the
               resurrection is already past (18)
      4. God's solid foundation stands, having this seal:
         a. The Lord knows those who are His (19a)
         b. Let those who name the name of Christ depart from iniquity

      1. A great house has all kinds of vessels, some for honor and 
         some for dishonor (20)
      2. If anyone cleanses himself from things of dishonor, he will be
         a vessel of honor (21)
         a. Sanctified and useful for the Master
         b. Prepared for every good work
      3. Instructions that will make one a servant useful to the
         a. Flee youthful lusts (22a)
         b. Pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who 
            call on the Lord out of a pure heart (22b)
         c. Avoid foolish and ignorant disputes that generate strife
         d. Do not quarrel, but be gentle to all, able to teach, 
            patient (24)
         e. In humility correct those in opposition (25-26)
            1) Perhaps God will grant them repentance, so that they may
               know the truth (25)
            2) Perhaps they may come to their senses and escape the 
               snare of the devil who has taken them captive to do his
               will (26)


1) What are the main points of this chapter?
   - Exhortation to transmit the truth to others (1-2)
   - Exhortation to endure hardship (3-13)
   - Exhortation to diligence as a servant of the Lord (14-26)

2) In what did Paul want Timothy to be strong? (1)
   - The grace that is in Christ Jesus

3) What did Paul want Timothy to do with the things Paul had taught 
   him? (2)
   - Commit them to faithful men who would teach others

4) What three illustrations does Paul use to encourage Timothy to 
   endure hardship and to work hard? (3-6)
   - Those of a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer

5) What did Paul want Timothy to remember? (8)
   - That Jesus Christ was raised from the dead

6) What did Paul suffer in behalf of the gospel?  Did it hinder the
   gospel? (9)
   - Trouble as an evil doer, even to the point of chains
   - No

7) Why was Paul willing to endure all things? (10)
   - For the sake of the elect, that they also might obtain salvation
     with eternal glory

8) What encouragement is given by "a faithful saying"? (11,12a)
   - If we died with Christ, we shall also live with Him
   - If we endure, we shall also reign with Him

9) What warning is given by "a faithful saying"? (12b)
   - If we deny Him, He also will deny us

10) What was Timothy to charge others? (14)
   - Not to strive about words to no profit

11) What was Timothy to be diligent in doing? (15)
   - Presenting himself approved to God, a worker who does not need to
     be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth

12) What was he to shun?  Why? (16)
   - Profane and vain babblings; because they lead to more ungodliness

13) What two individuals had been guilty of spreading such things? (17)
   - Hymenaeus and Philetus

14) What had they taught?  What was the effect of their teaching? (18)
   - That the resurrection was already past
   - It overthrew the faith of some

15) What is the "seal" of God's solid foundation? (19)
   - "The Lord knows those who are His"
   - "Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity"

16) What will a "vessel of honor" be? (21)
   - Sanctified and useful for the Master
   - Prepared for every good work

17) What was Timothy to flee?  What was he to pursue? (22)
   - Flee youthful lusts
   - Pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace

18) What was he to avoid?  Why? (23)
   - Foolish and ignorant disputes
   - They generate strife

19) List what must be true of a servant of the Lord (24-25a)
   - Must not quarrel
   - Be gentle to all
   - Able to teach
   - Patient
   - In humility correcting those who are in opposition

20) Why must a servant of the Lord be this way to those in opposition?
   - Perhaps God will grant them repentance, so that they may know the
   - Perhaps they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the
     devil, for they have been taken captive by him to do his will

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Antisemitism and the Crucifixion of Christ: Who Murdered Jesus? by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Antisemitism and the Crucifixion of Christ: Who Murdered Jesus?

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Perhaps you have heard the furor surrounding Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion,” scheduled for release in March 2004. The official Web site states: “Passion is a vivid depiction of the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ’s life” (Passion Web site). Special emphasis is placed on the physical suffering Christ endured. Throughout the film, the language spoken is the first-century Jewish language, Aramaic, except when the Romans speak their language, i.e., Latin (Novak, 2003). Gibson, who both produced and directed the film, sank $25 million of his own money into the venture.
The stir over the film stems from the role of the Jews in their involvement in Christ’s crucifixion. In fact, outcries of “anti-Semitism” have been vociferous, especially from representatives of the Anti-Defamation League. Their contention is that Jews are depicted in the film as “bloodthirsty, sadistic, money-hungry enemies of God” who are portrayed as “the ones responsible for the decision to crucify Jesus” (as quoted in Hudson, 2003; cf. Zoll, 2003). The fear is that the film will fuel hatred and bigotry against Jews. A committee of nine Jewish and Catholic scholars unanimously found the film to project a uniformly negative picture of Jews (“ADL and Mel…”). The Vatican has avoided offering an endorsement of the film by declining to make an official statement for the time being (“Vatican Has Not…”; cf. “Mel Gibson’s…”). This action is to be expected in view of the conciliatory tone manifested by Vatican II (Abbott, 1955, pp. 663-667). Even Twentieth Century Fox has decided not to participate in the distribution of the film (“20thDecides…”; cf. “Legislator Tries…”; O’Reilly…”).
Separate from the controversy generated by Gibson’s film, the more central issue concerns to what extent the Jewish generation of the first century contributed to, or participated in, the death of Christ. If the New Testament is the verbally inspired Word of God, then it is an accurate and reliable report of the facts, and its depiction of the details surrounding the crucifixion are normative and final. That being the case, how does the New Testament represent the role of the Jews in the death of Christ?
A great many verses allude to the role played by the Jews, especially the leadership, in the death of Jesus. For some time prior to the crucifixion, the Jewish authorities were determined to oppose Jesus. This persecution was aimed at achieving His death:
So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff (Luke 4:28-30, emp. added).
Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God (John 5:18-19, emp. added).
After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him… “Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law? Why do you seek to kill Me?” (John 7:1-2,19, emp. added).
“I know that you are Abraham's descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.” They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this.” Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by (John 8:37-41,59, emp. added).
Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him…. Therefore they sought again to seize Him, but He escaped out of their hand (John 10:31-32,39, emp. added).
Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death…. Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a command, that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it, that they might seize Him (John 11:53, 57, emp. added).
And He was teaching daily in the temple. But the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people sought to destroy Him, and were unable to do anything; for all the people were very attentive to hear Him (Luke 19:47-48, emp. added).
And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might kill Him, for they feared the people (Luke 22:2, emp. added).
Then the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people assembled at the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and plotted to take Jesus by trickery and kill Him (Matthew 26:3-4, emp. added).
These (and many other) verses demonstrate unquestionable participation of the Jews in bringing about the death of Jesus. One still can hear the mournful tones of Jesus Himself, in His sadness over the Jews rejecting Him: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:37-39). He was referring to the destruction of Jerusalem and the demise of the Jewish commonwealth at the hands of the Romans in A.D. 70. Read carefully His unmistakable allusion to the reason for this holocaustic event:
Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:41-44).
He clearly attributed their national demise to their stubborn rejection of Him as the predicted Messiah, Savior, and King.
Does the Bible, then, indicate that a large percentage, perhaps even a majority, of the Jews of first century Palestine was “collectively guilty” for the death of Jesus? The inspired evidence suggests so. Listen carefully to the apostle Paul’s assessment, keeping in mind that he, himself, was a Jew—in fact, “a Hebrew of the Hebrews” (Philippians 3:5; cf. Acts 22:3; Romans 11:1; 2 Corinthians 11:22). Speaking to Thessalonian Christians, he wrote:
For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16, emp. added).
This same apostle Paul met with constant resistance from fellow Jews. After he spoke at the Jewish synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia, a crowd of people that consisted of nearly the whole city gathered to hear him expound the Word of God. Notice the reaction of the Jews in the crowd:
But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul. Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles….” But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region (Acts 13:45-46,50-51).
Paul met with the same resistance from the general Jewish public that Jesus encountered—so much so that he wrote to Gentiles concerning Jews: “Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake” (Romans 11:28). He meant that the majority of the Jews had rejected Christ and Christianity. Only a “remnant” (Romans 11:5), i.e., a small minority, embraced Christ.
What role did the Romans play in the death of Christ? It certainly is true that Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross. First-century Palestine was under the jurisdiction of Rome. Though Rome permitted the Jews to retain a king in Judea (Herod), the Jews were subject to Roman law in legal matters. In order to achieve the execution of Jesus, the Jews had to appeal to the Roman authorities for permission (John 18:31). A simple reading of the verses that pertain to Jewish attempts to acquire this permission for the execution are clear in their depiction of Roman reluctance in the matter. Pilate, the governing procurator in Jerusalem, sought literally to quell and diffuse the Jewish efforts to kill Jesus. He called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people and stated plainly to them:
“You have brought this Man to me, as one who misleads the people. And indeed, having examined Him in your presence, I have found no fault in this Man concerning those things of which you accuse Him; no, neither did Herod, for I sent you back to him; and indeed nothing deserving of death has been done by Him. I will therefore chastise Him and release Him” (for it was necessary for him to release one to them at the feast). And they all cried out at once, saying, “Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas”—who had been thrown into prison for a certain rebellion made in the city, and for murder. Pilate, therefore, wishing to release Jesus, again called out to them. But they shouted, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” Then he said to them the third time, “Why, what evil has He done? I have found no reason for death in Him. I will therefore chastise Him and let Him go.” But they were insistent, demanding with loud voices that He be crucified. And the voices of these men and of the chief priests prevailed. So Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they requested. And he released to them the one they requested, who for rebellion and murder had been thrown into prison; but he delivered Jesus to their will (Luke 23:14-25).
It is difficult to conceptualize the level of hostility possessed by the Jewish hierarchy, and even by a segment of the Jewish population, toward a man who had done nothing worthy of such hatred. It is incredible to think that they would clamor for the release of a known murderer and insurrectionist, rather than allow the release of Jesus. Yes, the Roman authority was complicit in the death of Jesus. But Pilate would have had no interest in pursuing the matter if the Jewish leaders and crowd had not pressed for it. In fact, he went to great lengths to perform a symbolic ceremony in order to communicate the fact that he was not responsible for Jesus’ death. He announced to the multitude: “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it” (Matthew 27:24). Technically, the Romans cannot rightly be said to be ultimately responsible. If the Jews had not pressed the matter, Pilate never would have conceded to having Him executed. The apostle Peter made this point very clear by placing the blame for the crucifixion of Jesus squarely on the shoulders of Jerusalem Jews:
Men of Israel…the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses (Acts 3:12-16, emp. added).
Notice that even though the Romans administered the actual crucifixion, Peter pointedly stated to his Jewish audience, not only that Pilate wanted to release Jesus, but that the Jews (“you”)—not the Romans—“killed the Prince of life.”
Does God lay the blame for the death of Christ on the Jews as an ethnic group? Of course not. Though the generation of Jews who were contemporary to Jesus cried out to Pilate, “His blood be on us and on our children” (Matthew 27:25, emp. added), it remains a biblical fact that “the son shall not bear the guilt of the father” (Ezekiel 18:20). A majority of a particular ethnic group in a particular geographical locale at a particular moment in history may band together and act in concert to perpetrate a social injustice. But such an action does not indict all individuals everywhere who share that ethnicity. “For there is no partiality with God” (Romans 2:11), and neither should there be with any of us.
In fact, the New Testament teaches that ethnicity should have nothing to do with the practice of the Christian religion—which includes how we see ourselves, as well as how we treat others. Listen carefully to Paul’s declarations on the subject: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham's seed” (Galatians 3:28-29, emp. added). Jesus obliterates the ethnic distinction between Jew and non-Jew:
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity (Ephesians 2:14-17).
In the higher sense, neither the Jews nor the Romans crucified Jesus. Oh, they were all complicit, including Judas Iscariot. But so were we. Every accountable human being who has ever lived or ever will live has committed sin that necessitated the death of Christ—if atonement was to be made so that sin could be forgiven. Since Jesus died for the sins of the whole world (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2), every sinner is responsible for His death. But that being said, the Bible is equally clear that in reality, Jesus laid down His own life for humanity: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep…. Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:11,17-18; cf. Galatians 1:4; 2:20; Ephesians 5:2; 1 John 3:16). Of course, the fact that Jesus was willing to sacrifice Himself on the behalf of humanity does not alter the fact that it still required human beings, in this case first-century Jews, exercising their own free will to kill Him. A good summary passage on this matter is Acts 4:27-28—“for of a truth in this city against thy holy Servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, were gathered together, to do whatsoever thy hand and thy council foreordained to come to pass.”


Anti-Semitism is sinful and unchristian. Those who crucified Jesus are to be pitied. Even Jesus said concerning them: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). But we need not deny or rewrite history in the process. We are now living in a post-Christian culture. If Gibson would have produced a movie depicting Jesus as a homosexual, the liberal, “politically correct,” anti-Christian forces would have been the first to defend the undertaking under the guise of “artistic license,” “free speech,” and “creativity.” But dare to venture into spiritual reality by showing the historicity of sinful man mistreating the Son of God, and the champions of moral degradation and hedonism raise angry, bitter voices of protest. The irony of the ages is—He died even for them.


Abbott, Walter, ed. (1966), The Documents of Vatican II (New York, NY: America Press).
“ADL and Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion,’ ” [On-line], URL: http://www.adl.org/interfaith/gibson_qa.asp.
Hudson, Deal (2003), “The Gospel according to Braveheart,” The Spectator, [On-line], URL: http://www.spectator.co.uk/article.php3?table=old&section=current&issue=2003-09-20&id=3427&searchText=.
“Legislator Tries to Censor Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion,’ ” [On-line], URL: http://www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2003/8/27/124709.shtml.
“Mel Gibson’s ‘Passion’ Makes Waves,” [On-line], URL: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/08/08/entertainment/main567445.shtml.
Novak, Michael (2003), “Passion Play,” The Weekly Standard, [On-line], URL: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/003/014ziqma.asp.
“O’Reilly: Elite Media out to Destroy Mel Gibson,” [On-line], URL: http://www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2003/9/15/223513.shtml.
Passion Web site, [On-line], URL: http://www.passion-movie.com/english/index.html.
“20th Decides Against Distributing Gibson’s ‘The Passion,’ ” [On-line], URL: http://www.imdb.com/SB?20030829#3.
“Vatican Has Not Taken A Position on Gibson’s Film ‘The Passion,’ Top Cardinal Assures ADL,” [On-line], URL: http://www.adl.org/PresRele/VaticanJewish_96/4355_96.htm.
Zoll, Rachel (2003), “Jewish Civil Rights Leader Says Actor Mel Gibson Espouses Anti-Semitic Views,” [On-line], URL: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2003/09/19/national1505EDT0626.DTL.

The Death of Biblical Minimalism by Dewayne Bryant, M.A.


The Death of Biblical Minimalism

by Dewayne Bryant, M.A.

It is a good time to be a Christian. Information is more readily available and accessible than ever before. Whether it appears in books, in articles in print and on Web sites, or in podcasts and other media formats, Christian apologists are producing vast amounts of material in defense of the Christian Faith. In the field of archaeology alone, new discoveries are unearthed every year, adding to our body of knowledge about the biblical world. Because of new information, old theories are being continually revised and refined. In some cases, this information is completely overturning critical theories.
The May/June 2011 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review is an exciting one. On the cover, some of the topics of the issue are listed, at the top of which are the words, “The End of Biblical Minimalism.” Minimalists are those who believe that only the barest minimum of the Bible is true, and then only if it can be incontrovertibly corroborated by extrabiblical evidence. This perspective is one that is eminently skeptical of the Bible. This is not how ancient documents are generally treated, which naturally raises suspicion that the Bible is being treated with a double standard for no other reason than that it is the Word of God. Speaking a little more generously than usual, minimalist Philip Davies claims that the Bible is indispensible for the historian, even though its “stories may be false, true, or a mixture of fact and fiction” (Davies, 2008, p. 5). For those who see the biblical text as a purely manmade production, the Bible is a mixture of a few facts and mostly fiction. As senior Israeli archaeologist Israel Finkelstein puts it,
The historical saga contained in the Bible—from Abraham’s encounter with God and his journey to Canaan, to Moses’ deliverance of the children of Israel from bondage, to the rise and fall of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah—was not a miraculous revelation, but a brilliant product of the human imagination (Finkelstein and Silberman, 2001, p. 1).
The article, “The Birth and Death of Biblical Minimalism” written by archaeologist Yosef Garfinkle, traces the biblical minimalist position from its inception 30 years ago to the present time, where discoveries have undermined it to the point of it becoming untenable. He focuses on one of the hot-button issues in archaeology: the existence of the United Monarchy.
For biblical minimalists, the United Monarchy is very nearly a fiction. They believe that if David and Solomon existed, they were nothing more than petty chieftains. Hoffmeier summarizes the minimalist position this way: “[I]f David and Solomon did exist, they were simply pastorialist chieftains from the hills of Judea, and the military exploits of David and the glories of Solomon were gross exaggerations from later times” (Hoffmeier, 2008, p. 87). In other words, there were no grand palaces and no royal inscriptions. In short—no kingdom.
Garfinkle focuses on one particular archaeological site called Khirbet Qeiyafa, where he serves as co-director of the dig. In ancient times, it was a heavily fortified town on the Israelite/Philistine border in Judah. This one site, as small and out-of-the-way as it is, has done a great deal to dismantle biblical minimalism. Garfinkle states: “The argument that Judah was an agrarian society until the end of tenth century B.C.E. and that David and Solomon could not have ruled over a centralized, institutionalized kingdom before then has now been blown to smithereens by our excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa” (Garfinkle, 2011, p. 50). Discoveries at the site clearly demonstrate that a large bureaucracy was needed to construct the town. The site had massive walls, far beyond the ability of a couple of petty chieftains to construct. Also found at the site was the earliest example of Hebrew (although it is written in a different kind of script). This kind of writing could only be produced by a scribe who had been trained for government service. Since the site was in a remote location, it must have been important enough to justify sending a scribe from Jerusalem. That could only be done if there was a government of sufficient size with the resources and ability to train professional scribes. As Finkelstein himself states: “The power of the chief was limited…. The economic and military capacity of a chiefdom was severely limited” (Finkelstein and Silberman, 2006, p. 99). Khirbet Qeiyafa could not have been built, fortified, or administrated by a chieftain. It required a king.
As one of the chief proponents of the idea that the United Monarchy is largely fiction, Israel Finkelstein has developed what is called the “Low Chronology.” This approach states that whatever evidence that exists that might point to a tenth century B.C. kingdom under David and Solomon has been misinterpreted. Instead, the credit for building activity thought to have taken place during the time of the United Monarchy should go to the ninth century king Ahab instead. Though architecture can be difficult to date accurately at times, Finkelstein has yet to win many converts. With the information being unearthed at Khirbet Qeiyafa, he may even find himself losing what support he already has.
Finkelstein is commonly labeled a minimalist, although he denies that label. He does share many things in common with biblical minimalists, such as a skeptical attitude toward the Bible and a clear bias in interpreting the archaeological evidence. This goes against standard procedure among scholarship. Generally, ancient texts are given the benefit of the doubt unless sufficient reason exists to doubt their veracity. Since the Bible has a long track record of accuracy, to dismiss it out of hand shows a clear bias against it. Second, evidence should drive interpretation and lead to conclusions—not start with conclusions and interpret all the evidence to support those conclusions. Finkelstein’s skepticism points to a preconceived conclusion that seeks evidence to justify itself, which, naturally, can only be done poorly. 
Radiocarbon dating provides a solid link between the ancient evidence and the biblical text. Garfinkle states: “Independent dating suggests that the kingdom of Judah rose in approximately 1000 B.C.E., as indicated by the radiometric results from Qeiyafa. The northern kingdom of Israel, on the other hand, developed around 900 B.C.E., as indicated by the radiometric dates obtained from that region. The Biblical tradition and the radiometric dating actually support each other” (Garfinkle, 2011, p. 52). [EDITOR’S NOTE: For a discussion of the weaknesses of radiocarbon and radiometric dating techniques, see DeYoung, 2005.] The radiometric dating of wood fragments and olive pits at the site indicates that the site was built in the late eleventh century and destroyed in the early tenth century. Since this is precisely the time of the reign of king David, it would appear that David ruled a well-organized kingdom.
This small site has yielded a wealth of evidence that clearly demonstrates the shortcomings of biblical minimalism, although it remains on life support thanks to the hyper-skepticism of a few noted archaeologists. Even William Dever—who is no friend to the traditional interpretation of Scripture—has fiercely opposed the minimalists, whom he calls “revisionists.” He says, “the ‘revisionists’…declare that ‘the Hebrew Bible is not about history at all,’ i.e., it is mere propaganda. For them, if some of the Bible stories are unhistorical, they all are—a rather simplistic notion” (Dever, 2001, p. 97). It is the typical case of “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”: the Bible is a religious book, therefore it cannot be historically accurate. Ongoing excavations argue otherwise.
There are many other discoveries besides those at Khirbet Qeiyafa that argue for the presence of a centralized government in ancient Israel at the time David ruled. The Izbet Sartah Inscription is an example of writing dating to the time of the judges (Hess, 2002, p. 86). The inscription seems to be a practice exercise used to learn the alphabet. This is particularly noteworthy, since Izbet Sartah was a small village in the hill country in the eleventh century B.C. Even in this small village, at least one scribe was practicing his alphabet. The same goes for tenth century inscriptions, such as the Tell Zayit Inscription and the Gezer Calendar, which also appear to be practice exercises used in training scribes. These examples of writing would never have appeared without considerable governmental organization.
In his book On the Reliability of the Old Testament, Kenneth Kitchen surveys the history of minimalism over the past two centuries. He notes that “our present-day minimalists are not a sudden, new phenomenon without precedent. It all began a long time ago, and the present efflorescence is merely a development of some 150/200 years that has in a way come to a head, but simply more scathing of others and more extreme in its views than were its precursors” (Kitchen, 2003, p. 449, italics in orig.). Emerging at a time when the study of the ancient Near East was in its infancy, it could only be expected that time would prove the minimalist’s assumptions false. As mountains of evidence have come to light, minimalism is looking more and more like a thing of the past. Biblical scholarship has a long track record of confounding the critics, and it isn’t stopping anytime soon.
Though much of the minimalists’ work is respected by other scholars, they are supremely guilty of allowing their biases to dictate their interpretation of the evidence. They make selective use of the facts and ignore or reinterpret evidence that disagrees with their position. Some of them grew up in fundamentalist homes, giving the impression that their interpretations are more the result of rejecting the faith of their early years rather than sound scholarship. This approach can be maintained only so long before the body of evidence will get to the point of being beyond their ability to manipulate. The archaeologist’s spade will continue to unearth more evidence season by season, year after year. It is only a matter of time before the minimalist position will become a relic enshrined in the museum of discarded ideas.


Davies, Philip R. (2008), Memories of Ancient Israel: An Introduction to Biblical History—Ancient and Modern (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press).
Dever, William G. (2001), What Did The Biblical Writers Know & When Did They Know It? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
DeYoung, Don (2005), Thousands...Not Billions (Green Forest, AR: Master Books).
Finkelstein, Israel and Neil Asher Silberman (2001), The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts (New York, NY: Touchstone).
Finkelstein, Israel and Neil Asher Silberman (2006), David and Solomon: In Search of the Bible’s Sacred Kings and the Roots of the Western Tradition (New York, NY: Free Press).
Garfinkle, Yosef (2011), “The Birth and Death of Biblical Minimalism,” Biblical Archaeology Review, 37[3]:46-53,78, May/June.
Hess, Richard S. (2002), “Literacy in Iron Age Israel” in V. Long, D. Baker, and G. Wenham,Windows into Old Testament History: Evidence, Argument, and the Crisis of “Biblical Israel”(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), pp. 82-102.
Hoffmeier, James K (2008), The Archaeology of the Bible (Oxford: Lion Hudson).
Kitchen, Kenneth A. (2003), On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

The Jackhammer in Your Backyard by Caleb Colley, Ph.D.


The Jackhammer in Your Backyard

by Caleb Colley, Ph.D.

If evolution were true, there would be no woodpeckers. Yet there they are, brightly colored birds, daily chipping away at bark on our backyard trees (“Downy Woodpecker,” 2003; “Pileated Woodpecker...,” 1981). Though evolutionists suggest that the woodpecker’s uncommon characteristics are merely adaptations resulting from natural selection (Fergus, n.d.; Ryan, 2003), they cannot satisfactorily explain why these small birds have the ability to drive their beaks powerfully into the side of a tree, and survive to do it again less than a second later.
“Woodpecker” is the common name for just over 200 species (45 in America, 13 in Canada) of animals that are unique among fowl because they frequently cling to, and excavate, tree trunks(see “Woodpecker,” n.d.; “Downy Woodpecker,” 1999; Fergus, n.d.). They “drill” into trees for three distinct purposes: (1) to find food; (2) to attract potential mates; and (3) to build nests (Eckhardt, 2001). The woodpecker’s suspension system allows it to absorb the force of lightning-fast, repetitive strokes on tree trunks. In fact, the bird can peck bark an estimated 20-25 times per second, and strike an estimated 8,000-12,000 times in a day (“Woodpeckers,” 2009; “How Many...?,” 2007).
No other bird can do this. If the kind of force withstood by woodpeckers on a daily basis were applied to the cranium of any other bird, its brain would quickly turn to mush (see “Wondrous Woodpeckers...,” 2002). Moreover, if a human once smacked his head against a tree as hard as woodpeckers do repeatedly, he would suffer serious brain damage, even if he lived through the impact (“Knock on Wood,” 2004).
How do woodpeckers withstand such pressure? What prevents the force applied by the woodpeckers’ mighty neck muscles, and the sudden, swift impact, from literally beating the birds’ brains out? The answer is that their skulls are reinforced with bone, to keep their heads from shattering. David Juhasz wrote:
The forces involved in the woodpecker’s hammering away at trees are incredible, for the suddenness with which the head is brought to a halt during each peck results in a stress equivalent to 1,000 times the force of gravity. This is more than 250 times the force to which an astronaut is subjected in a rocket during liftoff.... In most birds, the bones of the beak are joined to the bones of the cranium—the part of the skull that surrounds the brain. But in the woodpecker the cranium and beak are separated by a sponge-like tissue that takes the shock each time the bird strikes its beak against a tree. The woodpecker’s shock-absorber is so good that scientists say it is far better than any that humans have invented (2001, emp. added).
Consider how the woodpecker takes his position on the tree. Chuck Fergus described this process:
To grip trees, a woodpecker has short, muscular legs and sharply clawed feet. On most species, two toes point forward and two backward. This opposed, “yoke-toed” arrangement lets a woodpecker climb with ease. Stiff, pointed tail feathers catch on the rough bark to brace the hammering body. During molt, the two middle tail feathers (the strongest ones) do not fall out until the other 10 have been replaced and can support the bird’s weight (n.d.).
Most birds have three toes in the front of the foot and one in the back, but the woodpecker’s X-shaped (zygodactyl) feet are perfect for climbing, allowing the woodpecker to move in any direction on a tree trunk (see “Wondrous Woodpeckers...,” 2002; Bassett, n.d.; “The Malayan Woodpecker,” 2002 ). In addition to the amazingly well-designed X-shaped feet, the woodpecker needs its stiff—yet elastic—tail feathers to press against the tree in order to support its weight while it drills the trunk (“Woodpecker,” n.d.).
Next, consider the woodpecker’s tongue. Often extending five times farther than the beak itself, the tongue is so thin that it can reach into ants’ nests in trees. The tongue is also sticky, so it catches the ants and pulls them directly into the woodpecker’s mouth. The tongue’s adhesive, however, does not prevent the woodpecker from eating. The ants’ defense mechanism is no problem either, because the tongue comes complete with a system that negates ant poison (see Yahya, 2004). Juhasz commented:
How does the woodpecker know it has caught the insects? The Creator has given it a tongue with a hard spearhead with bristles pointing rearward, which is attached by tiny fibres of the protein collagen. As the tongue probes a tunnel, the impact of the spearhead on any object jams the head back along the shaft. Nerve endings are precisely located in the fluid-filled spaces between the collagen fibres. They provide the brain with information about the type of material contacted; thus, the woodpecker knows whether it has secured an insect or hit the hard wood of a tree. Once the insects stick to its tongue, the woodpecker pulls them from the tree, then pulls in its long tongue and scrapes the insects off into its mouth (2001).
Consider the beak itself. Like a chisel, it is capable of penetrating even the hardest of wood, and, unlike manmade saws, its point never needs sharpening.
It is argued, however, that because some woodpeckers are different from others (some find their prey on the ground instead of in trees, for example), they all must have evolved from a common ancestor, and that some woodpeckers are merely at different stages of evolution. For example, Juan Garelli wrote concerning the Galapagos:
There are, on the different islands of that archipelago, 14 different species of finch. The 14 species fill many of the roles we should expect—on another continent—to be played by other, unrelated birds. One of them, for instance, is a woodpecker finch. It has evolved a long woodpecker-beak but not a long tongue; it therefore makes use of a twig, held in its beak, to extract insects from bark.
If all the 14 species had been created separately, why are they all finches? If a woodpecker would serve as a woodpecker in the rest of the world, why should it be a finch that acts as a woodpecker on the Galapagos? But the facts make sense if the species all evolved from a common ancestor. If a single finch colonized the Galapagos and then speciated into the present 14 forms, we should expect them all to be finches: they all descended from a finch. The fact that they are finches is known from the homologies that define a finch. If they had been created separately, we should not expect them to share all the finch-homologies. The woodpecker would be the same woodpecker as anywhere else in the world; it would not have finch-defining traits. The Galapagos finches, therefore, provide evidence of evolution (n.d.).
Ryan adds:
The genetic changes necessary for such a modification are quite minor. No newstructures are required, merely an extended period of growth to lengthen an existing structure. It is likely that in ancestral woodpecker species which began to seek grubs deeper in trees, those woodpeckers with mutations for increased hyoid horn growth had a fitness advantage, as they could extend their tongue farther to reach prey. Some woodpeckers have no need for long tongues, and thus genes which shortened the hyoid horns were selected for. The sapsucker, for example, drills tiny holes in trees and then uses its short tongue to eat the oozing sap on the tree’s surface (and insects which stick to it) [2003, parenthetical item in orig.].
Garelli and Ryan wrote about microevolution (small-scale changes that result in minor biological variations, but not new kinds of animals), which is responsible for much of the diversity among animals (see Butt, 2005). But Garelli and Ryan did not document macroevolution, which is necessary for Darwinian evolution to be true. Some species of woodpeckers have changed over time, but they all remain woodpeckers. Woodpeckers do not “evolve” into other kinds of animals. To better comprehend this distinction, consider some questions to which evolutionists cannot provide adequate answers:
  • Even though woodpeckers possess powerful mechanisms for drilling, they prefer trees that have visible signs of internal decay (“Pileated Woodpecker Cavities...,” n.d.). At what point did naturalistic evolution “grant” the woodpecker capability to “shop around” for the most suitable tree for excavation?
  • Inherent in the suggestion that the woodpecker is the result of random mutations that took place over millions of years, is that there was a time when the bird possessed some, but not all, of its capabilities. If we grant, for the sake of argument, that mutations are positive and that, given enough time, evolution could produce entirely new biological structures (concessions we do not grant), then what need motivated a woodpecker to “mutate” or “evolve” new traits that it did not possess? Did the first woodpecker that pecked trees do so because it ran out of worms on the ground and then decided to look for worms in trees? If so, how did the woodpecker know that it needed to evolve a highly specialized beak, tongue, set of feathers, and skull, as well as a claw structure, which had to be different from every other claw structure on Earth? And what scientific behavioral measures did it take to initiate evolution?
  • Could a woodpecker decide to evolve a new trait in the first place? If so, what motivated it to make such a decision? Why does the woodpecker not make such decisions now?
  • If a woodpecker, of a species that eats insects from trees, had a tongue that had not yet evolved, but needed to access food deep inside a tree trunk, would the bird have survived for long? If it had not yet “discovered” that it needed a highly specialized tongue to pull the ants into its mouth (and to keep the ants from hurting him), what would it have done, since it surely did not have enough time to “evolve” a totally different, entirely unique, specialized tongue before it died?
  • If a woodpecker ran out of food on the ground, why would its appetite for ants have been so strong that it required the bird to overlook the danger of eating ants, and motivated it to evolve a special tongue for ingesting them? Would it not have preferred only less
    dangerous insects?
  • What about the beak? If a woodpecker’s beak were not sharp and sturdy, would not the fir
    st woodpecker have been doomed to death or permanent injury on the first attempt to hammer a hardwood tree?
  • How did the first full-fledged woodpecker know that food (and a suitable location for nesting) was available insidetrees, when the woodpecker’s ancestors had
    not a clue?
  • How did the woodpecker learn that effective communication can be performed by hammering its 
    beak on bark?
  • What animal gave birth to the first woodpecker?
  • How did the immediate descendant of the first full-fledged woodpecker know that it also shoul
    d look for food in trees?
Juhasz added:
[H]ow could the woodpecker have evolved its special shock-absorbers? If it had started without them, then all the woodpeckers that were alive would have beaten out their brains long ago. Therefore, there should be no woodpeckers left. And if there had ever been a time when woodpeckers did not drill holes in trees they would not have needed the shock-absorbers anyway (2001).
Finally, we should also address the claim that woodpeckers are pests, and in no way beneficial. Woodpeckers help control insects (one woodpecker can eat up to 2,000 ants in one day) and limit the spread of tree diseases by destroying insect carriers. Also, the roosting holes created by woodpeckers are frequently used by birds of many other species (Clench and Austin, 1995, 15:90).
The fact is, woodpeckers are here, and they do things that defy Darwinism. Unlike evolutionists, creationists can adequately explain the woodpecker without contradicting their convictions concerning origins: God created the woodpecker with unique characteristics, and endowed it with particular instincts that cause it to do what it does. Woodpeckers are strong evidence for a divine Designer, as are all other
living organisms.


Bassett, David V. (no date), “The Wonderful Woodpecker: Jehovah’s Jaw-Jarring Jackhammer,” [On-line], URL: http://www.creationevidence.org/ cemframes.html?http%3A//www.creationevidence.org/qustn_mon/ qustn_mon.html.
Butt, Kyle (2005), "What Do the Finches Prove?," [On-line], URL:http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/3051.
Clench, Mary Heimerdinger and Oliver L. Austin, Jr. (1995), “Birds,” Encyclopaedia Britannica(Chicago, IL: Encyclopaedia Britannica), 15:1-112.
“Downy Woodpecker” (1999), Canadian Wildlife Services, [On-line],URL:http://www.britishcolumbia.com/Wildlife/wildlife/birds/cw/cw_ downywoodpecker.html.
“Downy Woodpecker” (2003), Nature of New England, [On-line], URL:http://www.nenature.com/DownyWoodpecker.htm.
Eckhardt, Liesl (2001), “Melanerpes carolinus,” ed. Phil Myers, [On-line], URL:http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/ accounts/information /Melanerpes_carolinus.html.
Fergus, Chuck (no date), “Woodpeckers,” Pennsylvania Game Commission, [On-line], URL:http://sites.state.pa.us/PA_Exec/PGC/w_notes/woodpeck.htm.
Garelli, Juan (no date), “Social Evolution,” [On-line], URL:http://attachment.edu.ar/socialevl.html.
“How Many Pecks Can a Woodpecker Peck?” (2007), Wild Bird Centers, [On-line], URL:http://www.wildbird.com/species-w.html.
Juhasz, David (2001), “The Incredible Woodpecker,” [On-line], URL:http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v18/i1/woodpecker.asp.
“Knock on Wood” (2004), National Wildlife Federation, [On-line], URL:http://www.nwf.org/gowild/kzpage.cfm?siteid=3&departmentid= 76&articleid=188.
“The Malayan Woodpecker” (2002), PageWise,[On-line], URL:http://mama.essortment.com/malayanwoodpeck_rizb.htm.
“Pileated Woodpecker Cavities: Master Builders of the Forest” (no date), Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, [On-line], URL: http://www.fmf.ca/PW/PW_report8.pdf.
“Pileated Woodpecker: Dryocopus pileatus” (1981) [On-line], URL:http://www.otterside.com/htmfiles/woodp5.htm.
Ryan, Rusty (2003), “Anatomy and Evolution of the Woodpecker’s Tongue,” [On-line], URL:http://omega.med.yale.edu/~rjr38/Woodpecker.htm.
“Woodpecker” (no date), Defenders of Wildlife, [On-line], URL:http://www.kidsplanet.org/factsheets/woodpecker.html.
“Woodpeckers,” (2009), Defenders of Wildlife, [On-line], URL:http://www.defenders.org/wildlife_and_habitat/wildlife/woodpeckers.php.
“Wondrous Woodpeckers: The Design of a Birdbrain” (2002), Project Creation, [On-line], URL:http://www.projectcreation.org/Spot
Yahya, Harun (2004), “The Design of the Woodpecker,” [On-line], URL:http://harunyahya.com/70wood

Was Jonah Swallowed by a Fish or a Whale? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


Was Jonah Swallowed by a Fish or a Whale?

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

The book of Jonah reveals that “[t]he Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (1:17, emp. added). About 800 years later, Jesus alluded to this amazing event (Matthew 12:39-41). According to the King James translation of Matthew 12:40, Jesus referred to Jonah being “three days and three nights in the whale’s belly” (emp. added). Since fish and whales are different creatures, skeptics accuse Jesus and the Bible writers of making a mistake (cf. Wells, 2012). Longtime Bible critic Dennis McKinsey alleged that Matthew 12:40 is “[p]robably the most famous scientific error by Jesus” (1995, p. 142). “Apparently Jesus hadn’t read the Old Testament very closely… Anyone with even a minimum of biological knowledge knows that a whale is not a fish and a fish is not a whale” (pp. 142-143).
Such a criticism of Jesus and the Bible writers epitomizes the impotence of skeptics’ attacks on God and His Word. McKinsey bases his criticism solely on an English translation made nearly1,600 years after Jesus spoke these words. The skeptic never bothered to compare translations. He never asked about the word that Jesus originally spoke or that Matthew recorded. He did nothing but make a cursory criticism that might sound sensible on the surface, yet with only a little investigation, is easily and rationally explained.
What was the underlying Greek word that is translated “whale” in the KJV (as well as a few other versions)? A brief look in various respected Greek dictionaries quickly reveals that the word isketos and is defined broadly as a “large sea creature” (Newman, 1971, p. 100), “sea monster” (Danker, et al., 2000, p. 544), or “huge fish” (Vine, 1952, p. 209). Jesus indicated that Jonah was swallowed by a “large sea creature,” which was not necessarily a whale, but may have been.
Nearly 300 years before Jesus spoke of Jonah being swallowed by a ketos (Matthew 12:40), translators of the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) used this same Greek word (ketos) to translate the Hebrew word (dahg, fish) found in Jonah 1:17, 2:1, and 2:10. The fact is, as Hebrew and Greek scholar Jack Lewis concluded, both dahg and ketos “designate sea creatures of undefined species” (1976, 2:178). In no way did Jesus, the Creator of all things (John 1:3), make a mistake about what kind of animal God “had prepared” to swallow Jonah. The animal was a great sea creature, and not necessarily a great “fish” according to our modern, more limited, definition of the word. It may very well have been a type of fish (e.g., shark), water-living mammal (e.g., whale), or extinct, dinosaur-like, water-living reptile. We simply cannot be sure. As Dave Miller concluded: “Both the Hebrew and Greek languages lacked the precision to identify with specificity the identity of the creature that swallowed Jonah” (2003).
Finally, one crucial truth that many (especially the Bible critics) miss in a discussion about God and the Bible writers’ naming and classifying of animals is that God did not classify animals thousands of years ago according to our modern classification system. As far back as Creation, God divided animals into very basic, natural groups. He made aquatic and aerial creatures on day five and terrestrial animals on day six (Genesis 1:20-23,24-25). Just as God sensibly classified bats with “birds,” since they both fly (Leviticus 11:13-19; see Lyons, 2009), He could classify whales as “fish,” since they both maneuver by swimming. To accuse Jesus or the Bible writers of incorrectly categorizing an animal based upon Carolus Linnaeus’ 18th-century classification of animals, or any other modern method of classifying animals, is both illogical and unjust.
[NOTE: For more information on the Hebrew and Greek words dahg and ketos, see Miller, 2003.]


Danker, Frederick William, William Arndt, and F.W. Gingrich, (2000), Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).
Lewis, Jack P. (1976), The Gospel According to Matthew (Austin, TX: Sweet).
Lyons, Eric (2009), “Did the Bible Writers Commit Biological Blunders?” Reason & Revelation, 29[7]:49-55, July.
McKinsey, Dennis (1995), The Encylopedia of Biblical Errancy (Amherst, NY: Prometheus).
Miller, Dave (2003), “Jonah and the ‘Whale’?” Apologetics Press,http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=6&article=69.
Newman, Barclay M., Jr. (1971), A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament(London: United Bible Societies).
Vine, W.E. (1952), An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell).
Wells, Steve (2012), Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/whale.html.