"THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PETER" Chapter Two OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To examine Peter's detailed description of false teachers 2) To be aware of their techniques in leading others astray, and their sad end 3) To ascertain whether or not these false teachers had ever been true Christians SUMMARY One of the themes of Peter's second epistle is "beware of false teachers", and such is the focus of the second chapter. Just as there were false prophets in Old Testament times, so there would be false teachers. Peter first describes the destructiveness of false teachers. Denying the Lord who bought them, they will secretly introduce destructive heresies. Many will follow them, and the way of truth will be blasphemed. But they will bring swift destruction on themselves (1-3). Illustrating the doom of false teachers, Peter reminds his readers of what happen to the angels who sinned, the ancient world destroyed by the flood, and the fiery end of Sodom and Gomorrah. Surely God knows how to reserve the wicked for the day of punishment, and the example of Lot shows that He also knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations (4-9). Peter then discusses the depravity of false teachers. In arrogance they revile against authority, all the while reveling in pleasure and lusts as they circulate among the Christians they seek to influence. Like the prophet Balaam, they are motivated by the wages of unrighteousness and have forsaken the right way. Empty of true substance, they are like wells without water, clouds tossed by a tempest (10-17). Finally, Peter describes the deceptions of false teachers. In both their methods and promises they seek to deceive those who like them had once escaped the pollutions of the world. But the false teachers are once again enslaved by such pollutions and their last end is worse than the beginning (18-22). OUTLINE I. THE DESTRUCTIVENESS OF FALSE TEACHERS (1-3) A. THEIR DESTRUCTIVE HERESIES (1-2) 1. Just as there were false prophets, so there will be false teachers 2. They will bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them 3. Many will follow their destructive ways, and the truth will be blasphemed B. THEIR DESTRUCTIVE METHODS (1,3) 1. They bring in their heresies secretly 2. They will exploit through covetousness and deceptive words C. THEIR DESTRUCTIVE END (1,3) 1. They will bring swift destruction on themselves 2. Their judgment is not idle, their destruction does not slumber II. THE DOOM OF FALSE TEACHERS (4-9) A. THE EXAMPLE OF ANGELS WHO SINNED (4) 1. God did not spare the angels who sinned 2. He cast them down to hell (Tartarus) 3. Delivered them to chains of darkness, reserved for judgment B. THE EXAMPLE OF THE FLOOD (5) 1. God did not spare the ancient world, bringing the flood on the ungodly 2. He saved Noah and his family of eight, a preacher of righteousness C. THE EXAMPLE OF SODOM AND GOMORRAH (6-8) 1. God turned the cities into ashes, condemning them to destruction 2. He made them an example to those who would live ungodly 3. He delivered righteous Lot a. Who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked b. Who was tormented daily by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds D. GOD WILL DELIVER THE GODLY, PUNISH THE UNJUST (9) 1. The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations 2. He will reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment III. THE DEPRAVITY OF FALSE TEACHERS (10-17) A. REVILING AGAINST AUTHORITY (10-13a) 1. They walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness 2. They despise authority, are presumptuous, self-willed 3. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries, unlike angels a. Who are greater in power and might b. Who do not bring reviling accusations before the Lord 4. They are like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed a. Speaking evil of things they do not understand b. Who will utterly perish in their own corruption c. Who will receive the wages of unrighteousness B. REVELING WITH GREAT PLEASURE (13b-14) 1. They count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime 2. Spots and blemishes, they carouse in their own deceptions while feasting with Christians 3. They have eyes full of adultery that cannot cease from sin, beguiling unstable souls 4. They have hearts trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children C. REVOLTING AGAINST THE RIGHT WAY (15-17) 1. They have forsaken the right way and gone astray 2. Like Balaam, who loved the wages of unrighteousness a. Who was rebuked for his iniquity b. His madness restrained by donkey speaking with a man's voice 3. They are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest 4. For who the gloom of darkness is reserved forever IV. THE DECEPTIONS OF FALSE TEACHERS (18-22) A. DECEPTIVE IN THEIR METHODS (18) 1. They speak great swelling words of emptiness 2. They allure those who have escaped through the lusts of the flesh, through licentiousness B. DECEPTIVE IN THEIR PROMISES (19) 1. They promise liberty, while they themselves are slaves of corruption 2. For by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage C. WHOSE LATTER END IS WORSE THAN THE BEGINNING (20-22) 1. Having become entangled and overcome by the pollutions of the world which they had escaped through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ 2. It would have been better not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them 3. It has happened to them according to the proverb a. "A dog returns to his own vomit" b. "A sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire" REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - The destructiveness of false teachers (1-3) - The doom of false teachers (4-9) - The depravity of false teachers (10-17) - The deceptions of false teachers (18-22) 2) What does Peter warn that false teachers will do? (1) - Secretly bring in destructive heresies - Even denying the Lord who bought them 3) What impact will such false teachers have? (2) - Many will follow their destructive ways - The way of truth will be blasphemed 4) How will such teachers exploit people? (3) - By covetousness, with deceptive words 5) What three examples does Peter use to illustrate the doom of false teachers? (4-6) - The angels who sinned and were cast down to hell - The ancient world destroyed by the flood - The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah turned into ashes 6) How was Lot oppressed by living in Sodom? (7-8) - Every day seeing and hearing the filthy conduct of wicked 7) What two things does the Lord know to do? (9) - How to deliver the godly out of temptations - How to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment 8) Who in particular will receive such punishment? (10) - Those who walk in uncleanness and despise authority - Those who are presumptuous and self-willed; not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries 9) What are angels unwilling to do? (11) - Bring reviling accusations against dignitaries before the Lord 10) How does Peter further describe the false teachers? (12-14) - They speak evil of things they do not understand - They count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime - They have eyes full of adultery, beguiling unstable souls - They have hearts trained in covetousness, and are accursed children 11) In whose way have such false teachers followed? (15-16) - Balaam, who loved the wages of unrighteousness and was rebuked by a donkey 12) How else does Peter describe these false teachers? (17) - As wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest - For whom the gloom of darkness is reserved 13) How are the false teachers able to allure others? (18) - By speaking great swelling words of emptiness - Through the lusts of the flesh and licentiousness 14) Who will they seek to allure? (18) - The ones who have escaped from those living in error 15) In promising others liberty, what are they themselves? Why? (19) - Slaves of corruption - For by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage 16) What had these false teachers once escaped? How? (20) - The pollutions of the world - Through the knowledge of Jesus Christ 17) What had then happened to them? (20) - They were again entangled in the pollutions of the world and overcome 18) How had their latter end become worse for them than the beginning? (20-21) - It would have better for them not to have known the way of righteousness - Than knowing it, to then turn from the holy commandment 19) What twofold proverb does Peter use to describe their sorry condition? (22) - A dog returns to his own vomit - A sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire 20) What in this chapter reveals that these false teachers had once been saved? (1,15,20,21, 22) - The Lord had bought them - They have forsaken the right way - They had escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of Jesus - They had known the way of righteousness - Like a sow, they had been washed
Founding Father Elias Boudinot on Islam
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
American views of Islam going back to the origins of America have been generally consistent. With a Christian worldview intact at the beginning, Americans have naturally recognized Islam’s inherent hostility toward Christianity and its fundamental threat to the American way of life. For example, Elias Boudinot was a premiere Founding Father with a long and distinguished career. He served as a member of the Continental Congress, where he served as its president (1782-1783); he signed the Treaty of Peace with Great Britain; he was a member of the U.S. House where he helped frame the Bill of Rights; he served as the Director of Mint under presidents Washington and Adams; etc. In his masterful refutation of Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason, Boudinot labeled Muhammad an “impostor,” and insightfully observed that
Mahomet aimed to establish his pretensions to divine authority, by the power of the sword and the terrors of his government; while he carefully avoided any attempts at miracles in the presence of his followers, and all pretences to foretell things to come.His acknowledging the divine mission of Moses and Christ confirms their authorityas far as his influence will go while their doctrines entirely destroy all his pretensions to the like authority…. And now, where is the comparison between the supposed prophet of Mecca, and the Son of God; or with what propriety ought they to be named together?...The difference between these characters is so great, that the facts need not be further applied (1801, pp. 36-39, emp. added).
This premiere Founder merely expressed the sentiments of the bulk of the Founders as well as the rank and file of American citizens. The political correctness that now characterizes western civilization has desensitized citizens and left the country vulnerable to the sinister infiltration of an ideology that is antithetical to the principles of the American Republic.
Boudinot, Elias (1801), The Age of Revelation, http://books.google.com/books?id=XpcPAAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q=mahomet&f=false.
Babylon: A Test Case in Prophecy [Part II]
|by||Wayne Jackson, M.A.|
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Part I of this two-part series appeared in the Novemberissue. Part II follows below, and picks up where the first article ended.]
In the preceding article of this two-part study, I began an investigation of certain Old Testament prophecies that focused on the famous city of Babylon. Three major points were discussed: (1) the prophets emphatically declared that wicked and arrogant Babylon would fall; (2) the providential instrument of the Lord, employed in the initial destruction of the city, would be the Medo-Persian regime; and (3) the immediate fall, and ultimate deterioration, would come after the Hebrews had languished seventy years in Babylonian captivity. In this article, I would like to highlight a number of particulars that are reflected prophetically in the biblical record.
The works of Herodotus and Xenophon are the two principal sources of historical confirmation. Herodotus (484-425 B.C.), known as the “father of history,” produced the first attempt at secular narrative history. His work, which dealt primarily with the Persian Wars, is an important source of information on the ancient world. He vividly describes the overthrow of Babylon. Xenophon (c. 430-355 B.C.), a student of Socrates, was a Greek historian born in Athens. He served in the Persian army and produced several valuable literary works. One of these, calledCyropaedia, is a sort of romance founded on the history of Cyrus the Great (559-530 B.C.). It provides considerable data on the fall of Babylon.
Again, we emphasize that one of the traits of true prophecy is that it deals in specific details, not generalities. Let us examine some of these particulars.
Babylon had been a brutal force. She was “the glory of the kingdoms” (Isaiah 13:19). She had been Jehovah’s providential “battle-axe” that had broken in pieces the nations of the ancient world (Jeremiah 51:20-24). For example, Nebuchadnezzar had defeated thoroughly the Egyptians at the battle of Carchemish (605 B.C.), and had enjoyed great success in Syria and Palestine, even subjugating “Zion” at the Lord’s bidding.
One might surmise that Babylon would have feared no one. Oddly, though, Jeremiah said: “The mighty men of Babylon have ceased fighting. They stay in the strongholds; their strength is exhausted, they are becoming like women” (Jeremiah 51:30). How remarkably this conforms to the actual history. Xenophon said that when Cyrus brought his army to Babylon, he initially was perplexed as to how he would take the city, since the Chaldean soldiers “do not come out to fight” (VII.V.7). The Babylonians fearfully remained behind their massive walls refusing, for the most part, to encounter the enemy—exactly as the prophet had indicated.
EUPHRATES RIVER TO BE DIVERTED
When Cyrus surveyed Babylon’s fortifications, he said: “I am unable to see how any enemy can take walls of such strength and height by assault” (Xenophon, VIII.V.7). Accordingly, he devised a brilliant strategy for capturing the city.
As I mentioned in the previous article, the Euphrates river ran under the walls through the center of Babylon. From the river, canals—quite broad and sometimes navigable—were cut in every direction. The Jews in captivity could thus lament: “By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down, yea, we wept, When we remembered Zion” (Psalm 137:1). Just to the west of the city was a huge lake-basin, some thirty-five feet deep and covering forty miles square, but which, at the time of the invasion, was but a marsh. Cyrus stationed soldiers at the point where the river entered the city, and also where it exited. At a given time, he diverted the Euphrates from its bed into the marshy lake area. His forces then entered Babylon under the city walls (Herodotus, I.191).
Consider what the prophets declared regarding Babylon’s fall. Isaiah, writing more than a century and a half earlier, referred to Jehovah’s decree. The Lord “saith to the deep: Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers, that saith of Cyrus, he is my shepherd and shall perform my pleasure” (Isaiah 44:27). Some contend that the language of this passage is an allusion to the Exodus, which occurred in Israel’s early history. That cannot be the case, however. The utterance is framed in the future tense, and the context specifically relates this matter to Cyrus. The prophecy “is usually taken as referring to the device Cyrus used in order to capture Babylon” (Fitch, 1954, p. 593).
Later, in his famous oracle against Babylon, Jeremiah exclaimed: “A drought is upon her waters, and they shall be dried up: for it is a land of graven images, and they are mad over idols” (50:38). Again, “I will dry up her sea, and make her fountain dry” (51:36). Though these passages have been interpreted in various ways, the language is quite consistent with the diversion of the river, which allowed the Persians to take the city virtually unopposed (see Wiseman, 1979, p. 849).
SURPRISE CAPTURE DURING DRUNKEN FEAST
Concerning Babylon’s fall, Jeremiah represented the Lord as saying: “I have laid a snare for you, and you are also taken, O Babylon” (50:24). The term “snare” suggests that the citizens of the city would be taken by surprise; they “were not aware” of what was happening until it was too late (50:24b). Herodotus wrote: “Had the Babylonians been apprised of what Cyrus was about, or had they noticed their danger, they would never have allowed the Persians to enter their city” (I.191).
One aspect in the rapid conquest of the city had to do with the fact that the Babylonians, in their smug security, were engaged in drunken festivities; thus, they were wholly unconcerned about the enemy beyond their massive walls. But the Lord had declared: “When they are heated, I will make their feast, and I will make them drunken, that they may rejoice, and sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, says Jehovah” (Jeremiah 51:39). Again: “And I will make drunk her princes and her wise men, her governors and her deputies, and her mighty men; and they shall sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, says the King whose name is Jehovah of hosts” (Jeremiah 51:57).
Herodotus recorded that the citizens of the central section of the city did not know that Babylon had fallen for a good while because “they were engaged in a festival, continued dancing and revelling until they learnt the capture” (I.191). Similarly, Xenophon said that “there was a festival in Babylon, in which all the Babylonians drank and revelled the whole night” (VII.5.15).
BABYLON TO BE SACKED
The prophets indicated that when great Babylon was taken, her rich treasures would be looted. The Lord, speaking prophetically to Cyrus, had promised: “[A]nd I will give you the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places” (Isaiah 45:3). Jeremiah announced: “And they shall become as women: a sword is upon her treasures, and they shall be robbed” (50:37). The treasures of Babylon were splendid beyond description. Herodotus, in describing just one of the temples in the city, declared that it contained more than twenty tons of gold (I.183). It is interesting to note that when Cyrus issued his famous decree that allowed the Jews to return to their land, he endowed them with silver and gold to help finance the project, as well as returning some 5,400 vessels of gold and silver that originally had been taken from the Hebrew temple (Ezra 1:4,11).
When Jehovah beckoned the Persians to come against evil Babylon, He charged: “[O]pen up her store-houses [granaries, ASV footnote]; cast her up as heaps, and destroy her utterly; let nothing of her be left” (Jeremiah 50:26). Xenophon reports that Babylon “was furnished with provisions for more than twenty years” (VIII.5.13). No wonder they felt secure; the storehouses were bulging. But God emptied them—just as His prophet had announced!
WALLS TO BE ABOLISHED
I already have mentioned Babylon’s famous walls. An ancient historian, Diodorus, stated that it took 200,000 men a full year to construct these fortifications (Fausset, 1990 p. 181). But Jeremiah prophesied: “The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly overthrown, and her high gates shall be burned with fire” (51:58). Where are Babylon’s walls, and her one hundred gates of brass (Herodotus, I.179) today? Under the “Summary” below, I will detail more precisely the demolition of the city.
BABYLON TO FADE INTO OBLIVION
The prophets repeatedly proclaimed the eventual utter desolation of ancient Babylon. Isaiah gave the following particulars:
And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall shepherds make their flocks to lie down there. But wild beasts of the desert shall live there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and ostriches shall dwell there, and wild goats shall dance there. And wolves shall cry in their castles, and jackals in the pleasant palaces: and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged (13:19-22).
Jeremiah was equally graphic; the reader may consult chapters 50 and 51 of his book for the numerous details given there.
At this point, I would like to mention two points that I made in Part I of this series. First, there was to be an initial defeat of Babylon. Second, afterwards there would be a gradual but progressive degeneration of the locale, which ultimately would become a site of absolute waste. In the following section, I will catalogue the destructions and degeneration of once-great Babylon.
A SUMMARY OF EVENTS
- After a siege of two years, the city of Babylon was captured by Cyrus, commander of the Medo-Persian forces, in October of 539 B.C. This brought the Neo-Babylonian empire (614-539 B.C.) to a close. Significant damage to the city was not inflicted at this time, though some of the walls may have been broken down, at least partially.
- Following a rebellion of the Babylonian subjects, Darius Hystaspes took the city again in 520B.C. He demolished the walls significantly and carried off the huge gates (see Jeremiah 51:58). Elsewhere I have given a detailed account of how the city was taken—again by a “snare” (Jackson, 1996). Herodotus wrote: “Thus was Babylon taken for a second time. Darius having become master of the place, destroyed the wall, and tore down all the gates; for Cyrus had done neither the one nor the other when he took Babylon” (III.159). Apparently, however, there was some subsequent repair of the walls (see McClintock and Strong, 1969, 1:596).
- During the reign of Xerxes (485-465 B.C.), the temple of Bel (Marduk) was plundered and destroyed. Much of the city was turned into ruins in 483 B.C., and the walls were dismantled further.
- Babylon again fall to Alexander the Great in 331 B.C. As Alexander neared the city, priests and nobles went out to meet him with lavish gifts, surrendering the city. Alexander proposed that he would rebuild the temple of Marduk. He employed 10,000 men to clear the dirt and rubble. They labored in vain for two months. Alexander died and the work was abandoned (Rollin, 1857, 1:575). A clay tablet has been found that confirms this enterprise. It records that in the sixth year of Alexander’s reign, he made a payment of ten manehs of silver for “clearing away the dust of E-sagila [Marduk’s great temple]” (King, 1919, 2:284-288).
- In 270 B.C. Antiochus Soter, a Greek ruler, restored several of the temples in Babylon, but the general decay of the city continued.
- In the time of Strabo (at the end of the 1st century B.C.), the site was in ruins. Jerome (fourth century A.D.), learned that Babylon had been used as a wild game park for the amusement of numerous Persian dignitaries (McClintock and Strong, 1969, 1:596). In the fifth century A.D., according to Cyril of Alexandria, due to the bursting of canal banks, Babylon became a swamp (Jeremias, 1911, 1:294).
- Volney, the French atheist who was such a militant adversary of the Bible, wrote his book, The Ruins of Empires, in 1791. Therein he stated: “Nothing is left of Babylon but heaps of earth, trodden under foot of men” (as quoted in Holman, 1926, p. 333). As Jeremiah had prophesied: “[C]ast her up as heaps” (50:26). It is ironic that a skeptic should lend support to confirming the accuracy of the biblical narrative!
- When archaeologist Austen Layard explored Babylon in the mid-nineteenth century, he described the heaps of rubbish that rendered the area a “naked and hideous waste” (1856, p. 413). Later, when Robert Koldewey excavated the city for eighteen seasons beginning in 1899, he said that as he gazed over the ruins, he could not help but be reminded of Jeremiah 50:39 (1914, p. 314). He reported that many of the sites were covered with forty to eighty feet of sand and rubble.
- A relatively modern air-view of Babylonia—once the world’s greatest city—shows only a mound of dirt and broken-down walls (Boyd, 1969, pp. 153ff.).
In recent years, Sadam Hussein attempted to build a tourist center near the site of old Babylon. The 1990 Persian Gulf War seriously impaired his plans.
THE CRITICS AND THE PROPHECY
The accuracy of the dozens of prophecies regarding the fall of Babylon has baffled skeptics for generations. So remarkable has been the precision of the fulfillment that critics often have resorted to redating the predictions in both Isaiah and Jeremiah so as to make them appear to be records of history instead of prophecy! For example, in commenting upon the oracles of Jeremiah, chapters 50-51, James Philip Hyatt wrote: “Some of the poems in this present collection seem to reflect the city’s downfall, as prophecies after the event rather than predictions...” (1956, 5:1124, emp. added). Such a view ignores the evidence for dating the books at a much earlier period.
A former professor in a Christian university has even capitulated to this liberal viewpoint. Anthony Ash asserted:
Dating chapter 50 is virtually impossible. The arrangement of the text indicates that it was a composite, probably containing materials from different periods.... The chapter may have reached this form near the mid-sixth century B.C., when the fall of Babylon appeared likely (1987, p. 309, emp. added).
Upon this basis, then, one supposes that Jeremiah—or whoever put the composite together!—simply made a lucky guess as to the fall of Babylon. Such a view is disgusting, and unworthy of any Christian writer.
The prophetic details regarding the fall of ancient Babylon, as minutely recorded in the Old Testament narratives, truly are astounding. This is but another example of the amazing evidence that demonstrates the character of the Bible as the inspired Word of God.
Ash, Anthony L. (1987), Jeremiah and Lamentations (Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press).
Boyd, Robert (1969), A Pictorial Guide to Biblical Archaeology (New York: Bonanza).
Fausset, A.R. (1990 reprint), “Jeremiah,” A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, Volume 2, Part 2, ed. Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, and David Brown (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Fitch (1954), “Isaiah,” The New Bible Commentary, ed. F. Davidson (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Herodotus (1956), The History of Herodotus, transl. by George Rawlinson (New York: Tudor).
Holman, Thomas (1926), “Prophecy Vindicated by Volney,” New Testament Christianity, ed. Z.T. Sweeney (Columbus, IN: NT Christianity Book Fund).
Hyatt, James Phillip (1956), The Interpreter’s Bible, ed. George A. Buttrick (Nashville, TN: Abindgon).
Jackson, Wayne (1996), “Zopyrus the Persian,” Christian Courier, 32:27, November.
Jeremias, Alfred (1911), The Old Testament in the Light of the Ancient East (New York: Putnam’s Sons).
King, Leonard W. (1919), A History of Babylonia and Assyria (London: Chatto & Windus).
Koldewey, Robert (1914), The Excavations at Babylon (London: Macmillan).
Layard, Austen H. (1856), The Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon (New York: Harper).
McClintock, John and James Strong (1969), Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, reprint).
Rollin, Charles (1857), Ancient History (New York: Harper & Brothers).
Xenophon (1893 Edition), Cyropaedia, transl. by J.S. Watson and Henry Dale (London: George Bell & Sons).
Wiseman, D.J. (1979), “Jeremiah,” The New Layman’s Bible Commentary, ed. G.C.D. Howley, F.F. Bruce, and H.L. Ellison (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
All Religion Is Bad Because Some Is?
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
In logical discussions, a straw man is a weak, illogical position that is easily refuted. The more powerful, logical position is then coupled with the straw man, and both are said to fall together, yet the stronger position never actually is refuted by the opposition. For example, suppose a person stated that he owned a congenial, safe dog. The man’s neighbor argued that such was impossible. The opposing neighbor then recounted a story about a family’s pet pitbull that went berserk and killed someone. Then he stated that this incident proves that all pets are dangerous. Does his argument follow from the evidence? Of course not. He might have proven that one family’s pitbull was dangerous, but he did not prove that all pets are dangerous. In fact, it would be easy to multiply numerous examples of dangerous pets, but proving those specific pets to be dangerous could not logically be applied to all pets.
This idea must be understood when reading modern atheistic writings that purport to prove that the ideas of God and formulated religion are detrimental to society. Their argument, in a nutshell, goes like this: Since we can list examples of religions and religious fanatics that were (or are) harmful or detrimental to society, then all religions or ideas about God are harmful or detrimental to society.
So that the reader does not think that this author is, himself, constructing a straw man, let us consult the writings of a very popular, militant atheist by the name of Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens has been critically acclaimed as “one of the most prolific, as well as brilliant, journalists of our time” according to the London Observer. The Los Angeles Times stated that he is a “political and literary journalist extraordinaire.”
One of Hitchens’ most popular recent books is titled god Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Notice that his subtitle is broad enough to lump all religions into it: Islam, New Testament Christianity, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. Hitchens then proceeded, in the pages of his book, to list many horrible things that people have done in the name of “religion.” He said: “Religion has caused innumerable people not just to conduct themselves no better than others, but to award themselves permission to behave in ways that would make a brothel-keeper or an ethnic cleanser raise an eyebrow” (2007, p. 6). Hitchens even titled chapter two, “Religion Kills.” In it he wrote: “Here, then, is a very brief summary of the religiously inspired cruelty I witnessed... ” (p. 18). He then recounted horror stories of several moral atrocities perpetrated in the name of “religion.” Furthermore, Hitchens stated: “If one comprehends the fallacies of any ‘revealed’ religion, one comprehends them all” (p. 126).
Can Hitchens and others document atrocities performed in the name of religion? Of course they can. Does this prove that all religion is false, and that if a person can spot a flaw or comprehend a fallacy in one religion, then he has effectively disproved the validity of all religions? Absolutely not. Can you imagine what would happen if this type of argument were used in other areas of life? Apply such thinking to food. Many foods are poisonous and kill people, thus all foods should be avoided. Apply it to electricity. It is the case that many people have died while using electricity, thus all electrical use is detrimental to society. Or apply it to activities like swimming. Many have drowned while swimming, thus all swimming leads to drowning and should be avoided. What if it were applied to surgery? Since it is true that thousands of people have died during surgery, or as a result of surgery, then all surgery should be avoided because it all leads to death or is in some way physically detrimental to society. Obviously, the ridiculous idea that all religion is detrimental to society because it can be proven that some religions are, should be quickly discarded by any honest, thoughtful observer.
New Testament Christianity does not stand or fall based on the validity of other competing religions. In fact, Hitchens and others are right to assert that many religions are detrimental to society. But they are wrong to lump true Christianity in with the rest of the useless lot. New Testament Christianity is unique, logically valid, historically documented, and philosophically flawless. It does not crumble with various other religions that are filled with “vain babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Timothy 6:20). Instead, New Testament Christianity as personified in the life of Jesus Christ shines as the truth that makes men free (John 8:32).
[NOTE: It should not be understood that Hitchens and others attack Christianity solely using the straw man argument. They do present other, more specific arguments that are answered in other Apologetics Press materials. It should be observed, however, that the straw man is a frequently used, favorite tactic that needs to be understood and specifically refuted.]
Hitchens, Christopher (2007), god Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (New York: Twelve).
An Imperialistic Church?
|by||Brad Bromling, D.Min.|
The ecumenical goal of uniting humanity sounds honorable. Surely all who profess faith in Jesus Christ want to see the unity for which He prayed realized on Earth (see John 17). So, how is that unity attained? Not upon a common faith in Christ, according to Letty Russell, a professor of theology at Yale. She has written:
When we universalize the Christian story of God in Jesus Christ as the only message of salvation for all people, we deny the power of God to work through all the poor and through all creation. To universalize our very concrete and particular faith is a form of imperialism over people of other faiths and ideologies (1993, p. 130).
To Russell, the Christian message is fine for Christians, but it is not the only way to approach God (1993, p. 129). This view is not uncommon. Society says: “Don’t judge!” And we cringe. We remember that it was our Master who spoke those words; so we feel ashamed when we are accused of judging. However, before we allow ourselves to be shamed into abandoning our faith in the Christian system, let us do some serious reflection.
Jesus taught that trees are known by their fruit, and that “righteous judgment” is a Christian responsibility (Matthew 7:15-20; John 7:24). He also said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Lines must be drawn. Judgments must be made. Is Christianity, then, imperialism? In a sense it is. As envoys of King Jesus, Christians are calling people out of “the power of darkness” into the “kingdom” of God’s Son (Colossians 1:13). Unity attained by alliances that overlook the kingdom is spiritual treason.
Russell, Letty M. (1993), The Church in the Round (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press).
Did Jesus Rise “On” or “After” the Third Day?
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
The most frequent reference to Jesus’ resurrection reveals that He rose from the grave on the third day of His entombment. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record Jesus as prophesying that He would arise from the grave on this day (Matthew 17:23; Mark 9:31; Luke 9:22). The apostle Paul wrote in his first epistle to the Corinthians that Jesus arose from the grave “the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:4). What’s more, while preaching to Cornelius and his household, Peter taught that God raised Jesus up “on the third day” (Acts 10:40, emp. added). The fact is, however, Jesus also taught (and Mark recorded) “that the Son of Man” would “be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31, emp. added). Furthermore, Jesus elsewhere prophesied that He would be in the heart of the Earth for “three days and three nights” (Matthew 12:40). So which is it? Did Jesus rise from the dead onthe third day or after three days?
While to the 21st-century reader these statements may initially appear to contradict one another, in reality, they harmonize perfectly if one understands the different, and sometimes more liberal, methods ancients often used when reckoning time. In the first century, any part of a day could be computed for the whole day and the night following it (cf. Lightfoot, 1979, pp. 210-211). The Jerusalem Talmud quotes rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah, who lived around A.D. 100, as saying: “A day and night are an Onah [‘a portion of time’] and the portion of an Onah is as the whole of it” (from Jerusalem Talmud: Shabbath ix. 3, as quoted in Hoehner, 1974, pp. 248-249, bracketed comment in orig.). Azariah indicated that a portion of a 24-hour period could be considered the same “as the whole of it.” Thus, as awkward as it may sound to an American living in the 21st century, a person in ancient times could legitimately speak of something occurring “on the third day,” “after three days,” or after “three days and three nights,” yet still be referring to the same exact day.
The Scriptures contain several examples which clearly show that in Bible times a part of a day was often equivalent to the whole day.
- According to Genesis 7:12, the rain of the Noahic Flood was upon the Earth “forty days and forty nights.” Verse 17 of that same chapter says it was on the Earth for just “forty days.” Who would argue that it had to rain precisely 960 hours (40 days x 24 hours) for both of these statements to be true?
- In Genesis 42:17 Joseph incarcerated his brothers for three days. Then, according to verse 18, he spoke to them on the third day and released them (all but one, that is).
- In 1 Samuel 30:12,13, the phrases “three days and three nights” and “three days” are used interchangeably.
- When Queen Esther was about to risk her life by going before the king uninvited, she instructed her fellow Jews to follow her example by not eating “for three days, night or day” (Esther 4:16). The text goes on to tell us that Esther went in unto the king “on the third day” (5:1, emp. added).
- Perhaps the most compelling Old Testament passage which clearly testifies that the ancients (at least occasionally) considered a portion of a twenty-four hour period “as the whole of it” is found in 2 Chronicles 10. When Israel asked King Rehoboam to lighten their burdens, he wanted time to contemplate their request, so he instructed Jeroboam and the people of Israel to return “after three days” (2 Chronicles 10:5, emp. added). Verse 12, however, indicates that Jeroboam and the people of Israel came to Rehoboam “on the third day, as the king had directed, saying, ‘ Come back to me the third day’ ” (emp. added). Fascinating, is it not, that even though Rehoboam instructed his people to return “after three days,” they understood this to mean “on the third day.”
- From Acts 10, we can glean further insight into the ancient practice of counting consecutive days (in part or in whole) as complete days. Luke recorded how an angel appeared to Cornelius at “about the ninth hour of the day” (approximately 3:00 p.m.; Acts 10:3). “The next day” (10:9) Peter received a vision from God and welcomed visitors sent by Cornelius.“On the next day” (10:23) Peter and the servants of Cornelius departed for Caesarea. “Andthe following day they entered Caesarea” where Peter taught Cornelius and his household the Gospel (10:24). At one point during Peter’s visit,Cornelius spoke about his encounter with the angel of God. Notice carefully how he began the rehearsal of the event. He stated: “Four days ago to this hour, I was praying in my house during the ninth hour…” (10:30, NASB, emp. added). Although the event actually had occurred only 72 hours (or three literal days) earlier, Cornelius spoke of it as taking place “four days ago to this hour.” Why four days instead of three? Because according to the first-century method of reckoning time, a part of the first day and a part of the fourth day could be counted as whole days. Surely one can see how this information aligns itself perfectly with Jesus’ burial taking place on Friday and His resurrection occurring on Sunday. A part of Friday, all day Saturday, and a part of Sunday would be considered three days in ancient times, not one or two.
Even though in modern times some may find this reasoning somewhat confusing, similar idiomatic expressions frequently are used today. For example, we consider a baseball game that ends after only completing 8½ innings a “9-inning game.” And even though the losing pitcher on the visiting team only pitched 8 innings (and not 9 innings like the winning pitcher from the home team), he is said to have pitched a complete game. Consider also the guest at a hotel who checks in at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, and checks out at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday—less than 24 hours later. Did the man stay one day or two days at the hotel? Technically, the guest was there for less than one full day (24-hour period), yet the hotel legally can charge him for two days since he did not leave before the mandatory 11:00 a.m. checkout time. Considering how flexible we are in measuring time, depending on the context, perhaps we should not be surprised at how liberal the ancients could be in calculating time.
Further evidence proving that Jesus’ statements regarding His burial were not contradictory centers around the fact that even His enemies did not accuse Him of contradicting Himself. No doubt this was due to their familiarity with and use of the flexible, customary method of stating time. In fact, the chief priests and Pharisees even said to Pilate the day after Jesus was crucified: “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day” (Matthew 27:63-64, emp. added). The phrase “after three days” must have been equivalent to “the third day,” else surely the Pharisees would have asked for a guard of soldiers until the fourth day. Interesting, is it not, that modern skeptics charge Jesus with contradicting Himself, but not the hypercritical Pharisees of His own day.
The idiomatic expressions that Jesus and the Bible writers employed to denote how long Jesus would remain in the grave does not mean that He literally was buried for 72 hours. If we interpret the account of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection in light of the cultural setting of the first century, and not according to the present-day (mis)understanding of skeptics, we find no errors in any of the expressions that Jesus and the gospel writers used.
Hoehner, Harold W (1974), “Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ—Part IV: The Day of Christ’s Crucifixion,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 131:241-264, July.
Lightfoot, John (1979 reprint), A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
“Almost,” or Hardly, Human
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
In April 2008, National Geographic published an article by Mary Roach titled “Almost Human” (213:124-145). In the article, Roach highlighted the savanna-woodland chimps that she observed while visiting anthropologist Jill Pruetz in eastern Senegal, West Africa. Roach was mesmerized by chimpanzees “dropping from the trees and moving out into the open expanses of the savanna” (p. 132). She wrote: “It is as though we are watching time-lapse footage of human evolution, the dawn of man unfolding in our binoculars” (p. 132). The chimps of eastern Senegal soak in water holes, use teeth-sharpened sticks to spear hand-sized bush babies, laugh, kiss, pick their scabs, and do many other things that allegedly reveal “how similar they are to us” (p. 144). Supposedly, the chimps are “almost human” (p. 125).
Unfortunately, evolutionists so often overlook the chasm that separates man and chimp. Although evolutionists are fond of focusing on the similarities between humans and chimpanzees in order to bolster the case for human evolution (similarities that might also be found among other animals as well), the fact remains that man can do many things that animals never have been (and never will be) able to do.
Consider man’s ability to speak. The Bible tells us that Adam was created with this ability “in the beginning.” The very day he was created, he named all of the animals before him (Genesis 2:19), and later he used language to offer excuses as to why he disobeyed God. Humans carry on conversations all the time. But when is the last time you heard chimps converse with one another using words? The gift of speech, a fundamental part of man’s nature, likens him to God and separates him from the rest of creation (cf. Genesis 1:26-28).
Unlike animals, man has the creative ability to design and make spaceships that travel 240,000 miles to the Moon, to make artificial hearts for the sick, and to construct computers that can process billions of pieces of information per second. Animals, on the other hand, cannot do such things because they lack the creative ability that God gave only to man. Beavers may build huts, spiders may weave webs, and chimps may soak in water holes, but they are guided by instinct. Thousands of attempts have been made to teach animals to express themselves in art, music, and writing, but none has produced the hoped-for success.
Also, unlike animals, man always has sought to worship a higher being. Even when he departs from the true God, man still worships something, whether it is a tree, a rock, or even himself. No race or tribe of men anywhere in the world lacks the desire and ability to worship. Chimps, however, never stop to sing a hymn of praise or offer a prayer of thanks to their Creator.
Until National Geographic witnesses chimps bridging these kinds of gaps that separate man and chimp, we suggest they adopt different titles for their human evolution articles. Chimps are nowhere close to being “Almost Human.”
Roach, Mary (2008), “Almost Human,” National Geographic, 213:124-145, April.
A.D. on Louisiana Diplomas
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
Louisiana’s education superintendent has ordered the recall and destruction of 53,000 blank high school diplomas because the date was changed from A.D. (“the year of our Lord”) to C.E. (the nonreligious “common era”). The change had been made by a department committee that acted without the authorization of the Louisiana Education Superintendent. The department committee assumed that eliminating a reference to God was merely an administrative change that did not require authorization. The superintendent is to be congratulated for challenging their assumption.
Should America abandon A.D. and B.C. (“Before Christ”) in deference to those who reject the Christian worldview? To do so would be to abandon the very foundations of American civilization. It would be to abandon the foundational document of the country—the United StatesConstitution. How so? Just prior to the listing of the 39 signatories—men who placed their signatures on this paramount document as indication of their approval of its contents—theConstitution’s own closing remark reads:
Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth. In Witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names (“The U.S. Constitution,” emp. added).
If the Louisiana education department committee had been providing students with copies of the federal Constitution, would they have ordered the printer to censor it as well?
Mobley, Amber (2005), “Diploma Recall Shouldn’t Affect Local Graduations, Officials Say,” The Shreveport Times, May 4, [On-line], URL: http://www.shreveporttimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050504/ NEWS01/505040313/1002/NEWS.
The U.S Constitution, [On-line], URL: http://www.house.gov/Constitution/Constitution.html.
Take It or Leave Itby Eric Lyons, M.Min.
Brad Harrub, Ph.D.
Perhaps the most difficult alleged Bible contradiction that we have been asked to “tackle” at Apologetics Press was presented to us some time ago by the mother of a dear friend. She asked, “When Jesus sent out the twelve apostles on what is commonly called the ‘limited commission,’ did He instruct them to take staffs or not?” Her question was the result of studying the three following parallel passages in the synoptic Gospels (the difficult portions are in bold type).
“Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals,nor staffs (literally, “a staff”); for a worker is worthy of his food” (Matthew 10:9-10).
“He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts—but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics” (Mark 6:8-9).
“And He said to them, ‘Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs (literally, “a staff”) nor bag nor bread nor money; and do not have two tunics apiece’ “ (Luke 9:3).
A cursory reading of the above passages admittedly is somewhat confusing. Matthew and Luke seem to agree that Jesus prohibited the disciples from taking a staff on their journeys, while Mark appears to give them permission to take one. Furthermore, although Luke does not record Jesus’ command regarding sandals, some have concluded that Matthew and Mark also contradict each other on this point. To use the words of Steve Wells, author of The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, “In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells his disciples to go barefoot and take no staff. But the Jesus in Mark’s gospel (6:8-9) tells them to wear sandals and carry a staff” (emp. added). Actually then, the question at hand is about staffs and sandals, even though Luke mentioned only staffs.
The differences between Matthew and Mark are explained easily when one acknowledges that the writers used different Greek verbs to express different meanings. In Matthew, the word “provide” (NKJV) is an English translation of the Greek word ktesthe. According to Bauer’s Greek-English Lexicon, the root word comes from ktaomai, which means to “procure for oneself, acquire, get” (1979, p. 455). Based upon these definitions, the New American Standard Version used the English verb “acquire” in Matthew 10:9 (“Do not acquire….”), instead of “provide” or “take.” In Matthew, Jesus is saying: “Do not acquire anything in addition to what you already have that may tempt you or stand in your way. Just go as you are.” As Mark indicated, the apostles were to “take” (airo) what they had, and go. The apostles were not to waste precious time gathering supplies (extra apparel, staffs, shoes, etc.) or making preparations for their trip, but instead were instructed to trust in God’s providence for additional needs. Jesus did not mean for the apostles to discard the staffs and sandals they already had; rather, they were not to go and acquire more.
To illustrate this point using a modern day scenario, consider the CEO who came to his Personnel Director near the end of the day and said that he needed her to fly to Los Angeles on a business trip immediately. If he told the director not to acquire anything for this urgent trip, including clothes, shoes, or make-up, she would know that he meant not to take anything extra. Obviously the CEO did not intend for the Personnel Director to take off her shoes, clothes, and the make-up she already was wearing in order to make the trip. Furthermore, if her boss came back five minutes later (to ensure that she understood his instructions clearly) and stated, “Hurry. The plane is leaving in one hour. Don’t take anything with you except what you are wearing,” the Personnel Director would conclude the same thing she did the first time—do not take anything extra. The CEO said the same thing using two different phrases. Similarly, the wording in Matthew and Mark represent two different ways of saying virtually the same thing.
Most apologists and biblical commentators discontinue their discussion of these parallel passages at this point. They explain the difference between Matthew and Mark’s account of Jesus sending out the Twelve, but they omit Luke’s account. In order to answer the skeptic’s criticism adequately, however, Luke’s account must be included in this discussion. Otherwise, one still is left with an unanswered alleged contradiction. The differences surrounding Luke and Mark’s account are explainable, but it takes effort on the part of the reader to comprehend them. [The following facts must be read carefully in order to understand how the differences in these accounts do not point toward a contradiction.]
As is obvious from a comparison of the verses in Matthew and Luke, they are recording the same truth—that the apostles were not to spend valuable time gathering extra staffs—only they are using different words to do so.
“Provide (Greek ktaomi) neither gold nor silver…nor staffs” (Matthew 10:9-10, emp. added).
“Take (Greek airo) nothing for the journey, neither staffs” (Luke 9:3, emp. added).
Luke did not use ktaomi in his account because he nearly always used ktaomi in a different sense than Matthew did. In Matthew’s account, the word ktaomai is used to mean “provide” or “acquire,” whereas in the books of Luke and Acts, Luke used this word to mean “purchase, buy, or earn.” Notice the following examples of how Luke used this word.
“I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get” (ktaomai) [Luke 18:12, emp. added, NAS]
“Now this man purchased (ktaomai) a field with the wages of iniquity (Acts 1:18, emp. added).
“Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased (ktaomai) with money!” (Acts 8:20, emp. added).
The commander answered, “With a large sum I obtained (ktaomai) this citizenship” (Acts 22:28, emp. added).
[Luke 21:19 is the only place one could argue where Luke may have used ktaomai to mean something other than “purchase, buy, or earn,” but even here there is a transactional notion in it (Miller, 1997)].
When Luke, the beloved physician (Colossians 4:14), used the word ktaomai, he meant something different than when Matthew, the tax collector, used the same word. Whereas Luke used ktaomai to refer to purchasing or buying something, Matthew used the Greek verb agorazo (cf. Matthew 14:15; 25:9-10; 27:6-7). Matthew used ktaomai only in the sense of acquiring something (not purchasing something). As such, it would make absolutely no sense for Luke to use ktaomai in his account of Jesus sending out the apostles (9:3). If he did, then he would have Jesus forbidding the apostles to “purchase” or “buy” money [“Buy nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money….”]. Thus, Luke used the more general Greek verb (airo) in order to convey the same idea that Matthew did when using the Greek verb ktaomai.
Just as ktaomai did not mean the same for Luke and Matthew, the Greek word airo (translated “take” in both Mark 6:8 and Luke 9:3) often did not mean the same for Luke and Mark (see Miller, 1997). [Understanding this simple fact eliminates the “contradiction” completely, for unless the skeptic can be certain that Mark and Luke were using the word in the same sense, he cannot prove that the accounts contradict each other.] Mark consistently used airo in other passages throughout his gospel to mean simply “take” or “pick up and carry” (2:9; 6:29; 11:23; 13:16). That Luke (in 9:3) did not mean the same sense of airo as Mark did (in 6:8) is suggested by the fact that in Luke 19:21-22 he used this same verb to mean “acquire.” Another piece of comparative data between Mark and Luke is that when Mark recorded Jesus informing His listeners that to be His disciple one had to “take up his cross” (Mark 8:34), he used the word airo. Luke, on the other hand, used the Greek word bastazo (14:27) [Miller, 1997].
Without going any further with these language comparisons, one simply must understand that the Greek language (like most languages) is flexible enough so that sometimes two writers can use the same word to mean different things, and sometimes they can use different words to mean the same thing (as indicated by the following chart,* which serves as a summary of the comparisons and contrasts made in this article).
to purchase, buy
to take, pick up and carry
to purchase, buy
to take, pick up and carry
*NOTE: Only the definitions that pertain to this article are shown.
In case you think such “language leeway” in the Greek sounds absurd, remember that this flexibility appears frequently in the English language. Consider two basketball coaches who are commenting on a player. One says, “He is bad;” the other says, “He is good.” The coaches may be using two different words to mean the same thing. The truth is, in some contexts the words “bad” and “good” are opposites, in other situations they are synonymous.
Although many have been misled about the differences regarding Jesus’ instructions when sending out His apostles on the limited commission, the truth is that Matthew, Mark, and Luke were all saying the same thing: “Hurry up and get moving!”
Bauer, Walter. (1979), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, ed. William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich; revised and augmented by F.W. Gingrich and F.W. Danker from Walter Bauer’s 5th edition (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press), second edition.
Miller, Glenn (1997), “Well, did Jesus Tell Them to Take a Staff or not? Another Contradiction?!” [On-line], URL: http://christian-thinktank.com/nostaff.html.
Wells, Steve (2001), Skeptic’s Annotated Bible [On-line], URL: http://www.Skepticsannotatedbible.com.