"THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES" Counsel For Better Living (7:1-14) by Mark Copeland

                       "THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES"

                   Counsel For Better Living (7:1-14)


1. In the first six chapters the Preacher has shared with us...
   a. His search for meaning - 1:1-2:24
   b. His observations during the course of his search - 3:1-6:12

2. He has repeated his conclusions time and again...
   a. Life "under the sun" is vanity - 1:2,14; 2:11
   b. Yet there is good that one can do, provided one is blessed by God
      - 2:24-26; 5:18-20

3. In relating the experiences of his search and observations, he 
   shared counsel for living life "under the sun"; for example...
   a. The value of friendship - 4:9-12
   b. The proper way to approach God in worship - 5:1

4. In the remaining six chapters the Preacher continues to share his
   a. Through a mixture of proverbs and narration
      1) Imparting wisdom designed to make the most of life "under the
      2) I.e., while life under the sun is "vanity", how then should we
   b. There is a wealth of wisdom found in these chapters
      1) Too much to cover in detail in this series
      2) We will simply survey the Preacher's counsel as we make our
         way through the book

[With that in mind, let's take a look at 7:1-14, in which we find a
series of comparisons (note the frequent use of "better"). For example,
the Preacher would have us understand that...]


      1. Here the Preacher is extolling the value of a good reputation
         - cf. Pr 22:1
      2. The precious ointment is representative of luxury

      1. We have already seen the vanity of wealth
         a. We may leave it for someone who is foolish - 2:18-19
         b. Unless God give us the ability to enjoy it, it is all for
            naught - 6:1-2
      2  A good reputation finds honor before God and men, and benefits
         us after death!
         a. Just as it did with the "elders" of the Old Testament 
            - He 11:2,39
         b. Especially if our "names" are written in heaven! - Lk 10:
            20; Php 4:3

[So in what time we have in this life, it is better spent making a good
name for ourselves, than accumulating wealth! Next, the Preacher shares
what may be a shocking revelation to some...]


      1. The day of one's death is better than the day in which they
         were born
      2. Of course, this assumes one has first made a good name for

      1. The day of one's birth is the beginning of many sorrows
         a. As Job observed, and even cursed the day of his birth - cf.
            Job 14:1; 3:1-3
         b. As did Jeremiah - Jer 20:14-18
      2. But for the righteous, the day of one's death is the beginning
         of eternal bliss!
         a. They enter into peace and rest - Isa 57:1-2
         b. They go to be with the Lord - Php 1:21-22
         c. They are blessed to be at rest from their labors - Re 14:13

[Speaking of the day of one's death leads naturally to the next bit of
counsel from the Preacher...]


      1. Everybody loves a party, but everybody needs to attend a 
      2. Why?  The Preacher tells us why...
         a. "For that is the end of all men"
            1) Life "under the sun" is not forever
            2) We must all die and face what follows next - cf. He 9:27
         b. "And the living will take it to heart"
            1) A funeral reminds us of the brevity of life and the
               eventuality of death
            2) A funeral forces us to face reality and encourages us to
               prepare for it

      1. The Preacher explains further why it is good to attend a
      2. Laughter may have its place, but sorrow is superior to making
         the heart better - cf. He 12:11
         a. Laughter provides a temporary reprieve from the burdens of
         b. But sorrow, especially at a funeral, encourages us to make
            positive changes
      3. For this reason, the wise person will be found often in the
         funeral parlor, while the fool would rather spend time at a

      1. At a funeral, one is likely to hear the rebuke of the wise; at
         a party, the song of fools
      2. But the laughter of fools is like the crackling of thorns in a
         fire, and is vanity
         a. Thorns make a lot of noise
         b. But they burn quickly, provide little heat, and are 
            therefore of little value
         -- So also the laughter and songs of the foolish

[Why the Preacher inserted the proverb of verse 7, I am not sure, 
though the point is well taken. However, the next comparison states

      1. That the day of one's death is better than the day of one's
         birth - 7:1
      2. But the principle has application to more than just one's
         overall life

      1. Many projects start with good intentions, but are not 
         completed; it is when they are finished that we can truly look
         back with satisfaction
      2. Many things begin with grief and difficulty, only to end in
         joy and peace- cf. Ps 126:5-6

[Our primary concern should be how things will turn out in the end,
rather than how they may look at the beginning.  To help us keep 
focused on the end, it is good to remember that...]


      1. Pride is evil, and is of the world - cf. Mk 7:21-23; 1Jn 2:16
      2. Patience is a virtue to be pursued by the man of God - cf. 
         1Ti 6:11; Tit 2:2

      1. Pride leads to contention and destruction - Pr 13:10; 16:18
      2. Pride leads to anger, which resides in the heart of the
         foolish - 7:9
      3. Patience, on the other hand, is indicative of wisdom and
         necessary to salvation - Pr 14:29; Ro 2:7; He 10:36

[Another gem of wisdom that leads to better living is understanding


      1. People often reminisce about "the good old days"
      2. They often bemoan that things were better then than now

      1. Memory has a way of forgetting bad things in the past
      2. Even if one experiences trials in the present, there is cause
         for rejoicing - Jm 1:2-4
      3. We may neglect opportunities for much good in the present by
         dwelling on the past

[Speaking of wisdom itself, the Preacher tells us that...]


      1. Money can serve as a defense in life - 7:12; Pr 10:15
      2. Money can attract many friends - Pr 14:20

      1. Riches do not profit one in a day of wrath - Pr 11:4
         a. The presence of wealth often makes things worse
         b. As when marriages and business partners fight over who gets
            the money
      2. Wisdom gives life to those who have it - 7:12
         a. Wisdom will make the best use of one's wealth as a defense
         b. Wisdom will help one weather the storms of wrath

[Finally, the Preacher gives the following counsel for a better 


      1. God has His purpose, which we cannot change - 7:13; 
         Isa 43:13; Dan 4:35
      2. His purpose allows for both days of prosperity and adversity
         - 7:14

      1. Enjoy the days of prosperity
      2. In days of adversity, consider what lessons might be learned
      3. It does no good to get angry about things we cannot change
      -- As we saw earlier, there is both a time to weep and a time to
         laugh - 3:4


1. What has the Preacher taught us?  Simply that...
   a. Honor is better than luxury
   b. Your deathday is better than your birthday
   c. A funeral is better than a party
   d. The end is better than the beginning
   e. Patience is better than pride
   f. The present is better than the past
   g. Wisdom is better than wealth
   h. Resignation is better than indignation

2. If any of this sounds foreign to our thinking, bear in mind that it
   comes from one...
   a. Who experienced everything life has to offer
   b. Who found life "under the sun" lacking
   c. Who offers counsel from the perspective of wisdom and inspiration
   d. Who provides this counsel that we might make the best use of our
      time "under the sun"

Are we willing to accept his counsel and benefit from it, or will we
learn the hard way, and often only too late to do much about it?  "He
who has ears to hear, let him hear!"

In our next study, we shall consider his counsel regarding "a balanced
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

"THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES" The Preacher's Observations - II (5:1-6:12) by Mark Copeland

                       "THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES"

              The Preacher's Observations - II (5:1-6:12)


1. The Preacher has been explaining WHY he reached his conclusion that
   life "under the sun" is vanity...
   a. Based upon his personal experience - 1:1-2:26
   b. Based upon his personal observations - 3:1-6:12

2. In chapters 3 and 4, we saw where he discussed...
   a. The inexplicable purpose of God
   b. The injustice and oppression of men
   c. The vanity of skillful and selfish work

3. Even so, he offered wisdom for living "under the sun"...
   a. It is best to rejoice, do good, and enjoy the good of one's 
      labor, realizing that such is a gift of God to those who please
      Him - 3:12-13
   b. To appreciate the value of friends who can help us in time of
      work and need - 4:9-10

[In chapters 5 and 6, he offers more wisdom as he continues to share
his wisdom for living "under the sun".  Notice his...]


      1. Remember, the ability to enjoy the good of one's labor is a
         gift from God - 2:24-26; 3:12-14; 6:19
      2. It is imperative that we please Him in our worship
         a. There is "vain worship", you know - cf. Mt 15:7-9
         b. Therefore not all worship is acceptable to God

      1. Walk prudently - 5:1a
         a. Both the NIV and NASB say "Guard your steps"
         b. When one worships...
            1) They should give thought to what they will do
            2) They should be careful what they will do
      2. Draw near to hear - 5:1b
         a. We should be concerned with learning what God has revealed
         b. Our attitude should be like that of...
            1) Young Samuel ("Speak, LORD, for Your servant hears.")
               - 1Sa 3:9-10
            2) The Bereans ("they received the word with all 
               readiness") - Ac 17:11
      3. Do not offer the sacrifice of fools - 5:1c
         a. Again, not all worship is acceptable
         b. There is that kind of worship...
            1) That is an abomination to God - Pr 28:9
            2) That the Lord will not accept - cf. Lk 6:46
      4. Don't be rash with your vows (promises) - 5:2-3
         a. Be careful what you say; remember...
            1) Jephthah's foolish vow - Judg 11:30-35
            2) Herod's foolish promise - Mk 6:23-26
         b. Give thought to what you say in prayer and song
            1) Do you consider the vows of commitment that are often
            2) Do you intend to keep them?
      5. Keep the vows you make - 5:4-7
         a. God has no pleasure in fools
            1) Such as those who make vows and do not fulfill them
            2) Therefore it is better not to vow, then to vow and not
         b. Don't let your mouth cause you to sin
            1) Why make God angry, and destroy the work of your hands?
            2) Many words lead to vanity, and sin - cf. Pr 10:19;
               Mt 12:36-37

[The key thought in proper worship is to "fear God", that is, to
approach Him with the deepest respect and reverence.  Worship Him as He
directs, not as you might wish.  "Swift to hear, slow to speak" (Ja
1:19) should be our attitude in worship if we wish to please God!

In the next two verses of our text, we see a word of...]


      1. As the Preacher observed in 3:16
      2. And again in 4:1

      1. Even when there is oppression of the poor and perversion of
         justice - 5:8a
      2. For even high officials answer to someone else - 5:8b; cf.
         Ro 13:1
         a. Often in this life they are brought to justice
         b. But even if not, then there is the Day of Judgment!
      3. The profit taken in oppression usually comes back to all - 5:9
         a. Those who oppress others to gain much rarely consume it all
         b. What profit from the land they gain "trickles down" 

[Of course, oppression of the poor and perversion of justice is often
motivated by the desire to be rich.  So we should not be surprised to
find the Preacher returning to the vanity of riches as he offers words


      1. Because they are unable to truly satisfy - 5:10-12
         a. Lovers of silver and abundance will never be satiated
         b. As they increase, so their desire for more will increase
      2. Because those obsessed with riches are hurt by them - 5:13-17
         a. Riches can hurt those who possess them
            1) While a laboring man enjoys sweet sleep...
            2) ...the abundance of the rich provides too much turmoil
               for restful sleep!
         b. Through misfortune, or eventually through death, one loses
            their riches
         -- What value then are riches, if in the acquisition of them
            one must endure much sorrow, sickness, and anger? - cf. Pro
            15:16-17; 17:1

      1. It is good to enjoy the good of one's labor - 5:18
      2. But it is God who give one the power to truly enjoy them 
         - 5:19-20
      3. A sad situation is where God gives one the ability to acquire
         riches, but not enjoy them! - 6:1-2
      4. It matters little if one lives long and has a hundred 
         a. Unless one is able to be satisfied (a gift which God 
            gives), he is worse off than a still-born child! - 6:3-5
         b. Even if he lives two thousand years! - 6:6
      5. Riches in of themselves cannot satisfy the soul - 6:7-9
         a. His body might be filled, but that is not what fills the
         b. It is better to be content with what you see, than to 
            wander after for what you desire
      6. Riches really can't change things - 6:10-11
         a. He is still "man", and cannot contend with God
         b. They are not the things that truly make man better, they
             only increase vanity
      7. The answers to life's questions can't be found in striving for
         riches - 6:12


1. In asking questions like...
   a. "For who knows what is good for man in life, all the days of his
      vain life which he passes like a shadow?" - 6:12a
   b. "Who can tell a man what will happen after him under the sun?" 
      - 6:12b
   ...the Preacher illustrates the vanity of looking to riches for the

2. Indeed, the answers are to be found by turning to God, not riches;
   which is why...
   a. One needs to be careful in their worship of God!
   b. We should draw near to hear what God has revealed through His 

It is particularly through "The Word" (Jesus, Jn 1:1) that we learn the
ultimate answers to the questions that challenged the Preacher.  For
Jesus has "abolished death and brought life and immortality to light
through the gospel." (2Ti 1:10).

Ecclesiastes tells us that the answers to life are not found in the 
things of this life.  Are we willing to therefore heed Him who is the
Creator of life and is the light of men? - Jn 1:2-4
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

Violence and the Quran by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Violence and the Quran

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

One would expect an uninspired book to contradict itself or speak ambiguously on various subjects, at times appearing both to endorse and condemn a practice. So it is with physical violence in the Quran. Yet, despite the occasional puzzling remark that may seem to imply the reverse, the Quran is replete with explicit and implicit sanction and promotion of armed conflict, violence, and bloodshed by Muslims. For example, within months of the Hijrah, Muhammad claimed to receive a revelation that clarified the issue:
Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks until, when ye have routed them, then making fast of bonds; and afterward either grace or ransom till the war lay down its burdens. That (is the ordinance). And if Allah willed He could have punished them (without you) but (thus it is ordained) that He may try some of you by means of others. And those who are slain in the way of Allah, He rendereth not their actions vain (Surah 47:4, emp. added).
Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors. And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter. And fight not with them at the Inviolable Place of Worship until they first attack you there, but if they attack you (there) then slay them. Such is the reward of disbelievers. But if they desist, then lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah. But if they desist, then let there be no hostility except against wrongdoers. The forbidden month for the forbidden month, and forbidden things in retaliation. And one who attacketh you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you. Observe your duty to Allah, and know that Allah is with those who ward off (evil) (Surah 2:190-194, emp. added).
Warfare is ordained for you, though it is hateful unto you; but it may happen that ye hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that ye love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knoweth, ye know not. They question thee (O Muhammad) with regard to warfare in the sacred month. Say: Warfare therein is a great (transgression), but to turn (men) from the way of Allah, and to disbelieve in Him and in the Inviolable Place of Worship, and to expel his people thence, is a greater with Allah; for persecution is worse than killing. And they will not cease from fighting against you till they have made you renegades from your religion, if they can (Surah 2:216-217, emp. added).
Muhammad was informed that warfare was prescribed for him! Though he may have hated warfare, it was actually good for him, and what he loved, i.e., non-warfare, was actually bad for him! And though under normal circumstances, fighting is not appropriate during sacred months, killing was warranted against those who sought to prevent Muslims from practicing their religion. Killing is better than being persecuted! A similar injunction states: “Sanction is given unto those who fight because they have been wronged; and Allah is indeed Able to give them victory” (Surah 22:39, emp. added). In fact, “Allah loveth those who battle for His cause in ranks, as if they were a solid structure” (Surah 61:4, emp. added).
In a surah titled “Repentance” that issues stern measures to be taken against idolaters, the requirement to engage in carnal warfare is apparent:
Freedom from obligation (is proclaimed) from Allah and His messenger toward those of the idolaters with whom ye made a treaty: Travel freely in the land four months, and know that ye cannot escape Allah and that Allah will confound the disbelievers (in His guidance). And a proclamation from Allah and His messenger to all men on the day of the Greater Pilgrimage that Allah is free from obligation to the idolaters, and (so is) His messenger. So, if ye repent, it will be better for you; but if ye are averse, then know that ye cannot escape Allah. Give tidings (O Muhammad) of a painful doom to those who disbelieve. Excepting those of the idolaters with whom ye (Muslims) have a treaty, and who have since abated nothing of your right nor have supported anyone against you. (As for these), fulfill their treaty to them till their term. Lo! Allah loveth those who keep their duty (unto Him). Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful (Surah 9:1-5, emp. added).
The ancient Muslim histories elaborate on the occasion of these admonitions: “[T]he idolaters were given four months’ respite to come and go as they pleased in safety, but after that God and His Messenger would be free from any obligation towards them. War was declared upon them, and they were to be slain or taken captive wherever they were found” (Lings, 1983, p. 323).
Later in the same surah, “Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the religion of truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low” (Surah 9:29, emp. added). “Those who have been given the Scripture” is a reference to Jews and Christians. The surah advocates coercion against Jews and Christians in order to physically force them to pay the jizyah—a special religious tax imposed on religious minorities (see Nasr, 2002, p. 166). Muslim translator Mohammed Pickthall explains the historical setting of this quranic utterance: “It signified the end of idolatry in Arabia. The Christian Byzantine Empire had begun to move against the growing Muslim power, and this Surah contains mention of a greater war to come, and instructions with regard to it” (p. 145). Indeed, the final verse of Surah 2 calls upon Allah to give Muslims “victory over the disbelieving folk” (vs. 286), rendered by Rodwell: “give us victory therefore over the infidel nations.” That this stance by the Quran was to be expected is evident from the formulation of the Second Pledge of Aqabah, in which the men pledged their loyalty and their commitment to protecting Muhammad from all opponents. This pledge included duties of war, and was taken only by the males. Consequently, the First Aqabah pact, which contained no mention of war, became known as the “pledge of the women” (Lings, p. 112).
Additional allusions to warfare in the Quran are seen in the surah, “The Spoils,” dated in the second year of the Hijrah (A.D. 623), within a month after the Battle of Badr:
And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah.... If thou comest on them in the war, deal with them so as to strike fear in those who are behind them.... And let not those who disbelieve suppose that they can outstrip (Allah’s purpose). Lo! they cannot escape. Make ready for them all thou canst of (armed) force and of horses tethered, that thereby ye may dismay the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others beside them whom ye know not.... O Prophet! Exhort the believers to fight. If there be of you twenty stedfast they shall overcome two hundred, and if there be of you a hundred stedfast they shall overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve, because they (the disbelievers) are a folk without intelligence.... It is not for any Prophet to have captives until he hath made slaughter in the land. Ye desire the lure of this world and Allah desireth (for you) the Hereafter, and Allah is Mighty, Wise. Had it not been for an ordinance of Allah which had gone before, an awful doom had come upon you on account of what ye took. Now enjoy what ye have won, as lawful and good, and keep your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful (Surah 8:39,57,59-60,65,67-69, emp. added; cf. 33:26).
Muslim scholar Pickthall readily concedes the context of these verses:
vv. 67-69 were revealed when the Prophet had decided to spare the lives of the prisoners taken at Badr and hold them to ransom, against the wish of Omar, who would have executed them for their past crimes. The Prophet took the verses as a reproof, and they are generally understood to mean that no quarter ought to have been given in that first battle (p. 144, emp. added).
So the Quran indicates that at the Battle of Badr, no captives should have been taken. The enemy should have been completely slaughtered, with no quarter given. This very fate awaited the Jewish Bani Qurayzah, when some 700 men were beheaded by the Muslims with Muhammad’s approval (Lings, p. 232). Likewise, members of a clan of the Bani Nadir were executed in Khaybar for concealing their treasure rather than forfeiting it to the Muslims (Lings, p. 267).
Another surah describes how allowances respecting the daily prayers were to be made for Muhammad’s Muslim warriors when engaged in military action:
And when ye go forth in the land, it is no sin for you to curtail (your) worship if ye fear that those who disbelieve may attack you. In truth the disbelievers are an open enemy to you. And when thou (O Muhammad) art among them and arrangest (their) worship for them, let only a party of them stand with thee (to worship) and let them take their arms. Then when they have performed their prostrations let them fall to the rear and let another party come that hath not worshipped and let them worship with thee, and let them take their precaution and their arms. Those who disbelieve long for you to neglect your arms and your baggage that they may attack you once for all. It is no sin for you to lay aside your arms, if rain impedeth you or ye are sick. But take your precaution. Lo! Allah prepareth for the disbelievers shameful punishment. When ye have performed the act of worship, remember Allah, standing, sitting and reclining. And when ye are in safety, observe proper worship. Worship at fixed hours hath been enjoined on the believers. Relent not in pursuit of the enemy (Surah 4:101-104, emp. added; cf. 73:20).
These verses show that the Quran implicitly endorses armed conflict and war to advance Islam.
Muslim historical sources themselves report the background details of those armed conflicts that have characterized Islam from its inception—including Muhammad’s own warring tendencies involving personal participation in and endorsement of military campaigns (cf. Lings, pp. 86,111). Muslim scholar Pickthall’s own summary of Muhammad’s war record is an eye-opener: “The number of the campaigns which he led in person during the last ten years of his life is twenty-seven, in nine of which there was hard fighting. The number of the expeditions which he planned and sent out under other leaders is thirty-eight” (n.d., p. xxvi).
What a contrast with Jesus—Who never once took up the sword or encouraged anyone else to do so! The one time that one of His close followers took it upon himself to do so, the disciple was soundly reprimanded and ordered to put the sword away, with the added warning: “all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). Indeed, when Pilate quizzed Jesus regarding His intentions, He responded: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36)—the very opposite of the Aqabah pact. And whereas the Quran boldly declares, “And one who attacks you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you” (Surah 2:194; cf. 22:60), Jesus counters, “But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” and “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:39,44). The New Testament record presents a far higher, more noble and godly ethic on the matter of violence and armed conflict. In fact, the following verses demonstrate how irrevocably deep the chasm is between the Quran and the New Testament on this point:
[L]ove your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? (Matthew 5:44-46).
But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful (Luke 6:27-36).
What an amazing contrast! The New Testament says to love, bless, do good to, and pray for those who persecute you. The Quran says that “persecution is worse than killing” (Surah 2:217)—i.e., it is better to kill your persecutors than to endure their persecutions!
The standard Muslim attempt to justify the Quran’s endorsement of violence is that such violence was undertaken in self-defense (e.g., Surah 42:41). Consider the following Muslim explanation:
At the time when this surah (Surah 2—DM) was revealed at Al-Madinah, the Prophet’s own tribe, the pagan Qureysh at Mecca, were preparing to attack the Muslims in their place of refuge. Cruel persecution was the lot of Muslims who had stayed in Meccan territory or who journeyed thither, and Muslims were being prevented from performing the pilgrimage. The possible necessity of fighting had been foreseen in the terms of the oath, taken at Al-Aqabah by the Muslims of Yathrib before the Flight, to defend the Prophet as they would their own wives and children, and the first commandment to fight was revealed to the Prophet before his flight from Mecca; but there was no actual fighting by the Muslims until the battle of Badr. Many of them were reluctant, having before been subject to a rule of strict non-violence. It was with difficulty that they could accept the idea of fighting even in self-defence [sic].... (Pickthall, p. 33, emp. added).
Apart from the fact that the claim that Muhammad’s advocacy of fighting was justifiable on the ground of self-defense is contrary to the historical facts (since the wars waged by Muhammad and the territorial expansion of Islam achieved by his subsequent followers cannot all be dismissed as defensive), this explanation fails to come to grips with the propriety of shedding of blood and inflicting violence—regardless of the reason. Muslim scholar Seyyed Nasr seems unconscious of the inherent self-contradiction apparent in his own remark:
The spread of Islam occurred in waves. In less than a century after the establishment of the first Islamic society in Medina by the Prophet, Arab armies had conquered a land stretching from the Indus River to France and brought with them Islam, which, contrary to popular Western conceptions, was not, however, forced on the people by the sword (2003, p. 17, emp. added).
In other words, Muslim armies physically conquered—by military force and bloodshed—various nations, forcing the population to submit to Muslim rule, but did not require them to become Muslims! One suspects that, at the time, the distinction escaped the citizens of those conquered countries, even as it surely does the reader.
The Quran appears to have been somewhat influenced by the Law of Moses in this regard. For example, the Quran states: “If ye punish, then punish with the like of that wherewith ye were afflicted” (Surah 16:126). Similarly, “O ye who believe! Retaliation is prescribed for you in the matter of the murdered; the freeman for the freeman, and the slave for the slave, and the female for the female.... And there is life for you in retaliation, O men of understanding, that ye may ward off (evil)” (Surah 2:178-179). One is reminded of the lex talionis [literally “law as (or of) retaliation”] of the Law of Moses. However, whereas the Quran appears to enjoin retaliation, the lex talionis were not intended to promote retaliation. Enjoining retaliation would be in direct conflict with the nature of God. God is never vindictive. The New Testament law does not differ with the Old Testament in the areas of proper values, ethics, mercy, and justice. The “eye for an eye” injunctions of the Old Testament were designed to be prohibitive in their thrust, i.e., they humanely limited and restricted legal punishment to a degree in keeping with the crime. That is, they prevented dispensers of justice from punishing too harshly or too much. They were intended to inculcate into Israelite society the principle of confining retribution to appropriate parameters.
The fact that the author of the Quran failed to grasp this feature of God’s laws is evident in various quranic injunctions: “As for the thief, both male and female, cut off their hands. It is the reward of their own deeds, an exemplary punishment from Allah. Allah is Mighty, Wise” (Surah 5:38, emp. added).
The adulterer and the adulteress, scourge ye each one of them (with) a hundred stripes. And let not pity for the twain withhold you from obedience to Allah, if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a party of believers witness their punishment.... And those who accuse honourable women but bring not four witnesses, scourge them (with) eighty stripes and never (afterward) accept their testimony—They indeed are evildoers (Surah 24:2,4, emp. added).
These latter verses conflict with Mosaic injunction on two significant points. First, on the one hand, it doubles the more reasonable and appropriate forty stripes (Deuteronomy 25:3)—a number that the Jews were so concerned not to exceed that they counted thirty-nine and stopped to allow for accidental miscount (2 Corinthians 11:24). On the other hand, this eighty increases to one hundred for adultery. Second, the requirement of four witnesses is an unreasonable number. The two or three witnesses of the Bible (Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15; Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1; 1 Timothy 5:19) strikes a logical medium between the precariousness of only a single witness on the one hand, and the excessive and unlikely availability of the four witnesses required by the Quran.
It is true that the God of the Bible enjoined violent, armed conflict for the Israelites in the Old Testament. He did so in order to eliminate the morally corrupt Canaanite civilizations that inhabited Palestine prior to the Israelite occupation of the land (Deuteronomy 9:4; 18:9-12; Leviticus 18:24-25,27-28). There simply was no viable solution to their condition except extermination. Their moral depravity was “full” (Genesis 15:16). They had slumped to such an immoral, depraved state, with no hope of recovery, that their existence on this Earth had to be ended—just like in Noah’s day when God waited while Noah preached for years but was unable to turn the world’s population from its wickedness (Genesis 6:3,5-7; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 3:5-9).
Additionally, since the nation of Israel was also a civil entity in its own right, the government was also charged with implementing civil retribution upon lawbreakers. However, with the arrival of New Testament Christianity—an international religion intended for all persons without regard to ethnicity or nationality—God has assigned to civil government (not the church or the individual) the responsibility of regulating secular behavior. God’s people who live posterior to the cross of Christ (i.e., Christians) are not charged by God with the responsibility of inflicting physical punishment on the evildoer. Rather, civil government is charged with the responsibility of maintaining order and punishing lawbreakers (Romans 13:1-7; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13-14). Observe Paul’s explanation of this dichotomy:
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor (Romans 13:1-7, NKJV, emp. added).
One translation (NIV) renders the boldface type in the above quote “an agent of wrath to bring punishment.” But this assignment of judicial and penal retribution to the government is a contrast in Paul’s discussion with what he wrote in the three verses prior to this quotation:
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:19-21, NKJV, emp. added).
Notice that the very responsibility that is enjoined on the government, i.e., “an avenger to execute wrath” by use of the sword in 13:4, is strictly forbidden to the individual Christian in 12:19, i.e., “do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath.” To “give place to wrath” means to allow God’s wrath to show itself in His own appointed way that, according to the next few verses, is by means of the civil government.
True Christianity (i.e., that which is based strictly on the New Testament) dictates peace and non-retaliatory promotion of itself. The “absolute imperative” (Rahman, 1979, p. 22) of Islam is the submission/conversion of the whole world. In stark contrast, the absolute imperative of New Testament Christianity is the evangelism of the whole world, i.e., the dissemination of the message of salvation—whether people embrace it or not (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47). Absolutely no coercion is admissible from the Christian (i.e., New Testament) viewpoint. The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and all other violent activities undertaken in the name of Christ and Christianity have been in complete conflict with the teaching of the New Testament. The perpetrators acted without the authority and sanction of Christ.
Islam seeks to bring the entire world into submission to Allah and the Quran—even using jihad, coercion, and force; Christianity seeks to go into all the world and to announce the “good news” that God loves every individual, that Jesus Christ died for the sins of everyone, and that He offers salvation, forgiveness, and reconciliation. But, each person has free choice to accept or reject without any retaliation by Christians against those who choose to reject. Jesus taught His disciples, when faced with opposition and resistance, simply to walk away: “And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet” (Matthew 10:14). In fact, on one occasion when a Samaritan village was particularly nonreceptive, some of Jesus’ disciples wished to command fire to come down from heaven to consume them! But Jesus rebuked them and said, “ ‘You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.’ And they went to another village” (Luke 9:55). Muhammad and the Quran stand in diametrical opposition to Jesus and the New Testament.
If the majority of Muslims were violent, that would not prove that Islam is a religion of violence. The vast majority of those who claim to be “Christian” are practicing a corrupted form of the Christian faith. So the validity of any religion is determined ultimately not by the imperfect, inaccurate practice of the religion by even a majority of its adherents, but by the official authority or standard upon which it is based, i.e., its Scriptures. The present discussion in the world regarding whether or not jihad includes physical force in the advancement of Islam is ultimately irrelevant (cf. Nasr, 2002, pp. 256-266). The Quran unquestionably endorses violence, war, and armed conflict. No wonder a substantial number of Muslims manifest a maniacal, reckless abandon in their willingness to die by sacrificing their lives in order to kill as many “infidels” (especially Israelis and Americans) as possible. They have read the following:
Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks.... And those who are slain in the way of Allah, He rendereth not their actions vain. He will guide them and improve their state, and bring them in unto the Garden [Paradise—DM] which He hath made known to them (Surah 47:4-6, emp. added).
O ye who believe! Be not as those who disbelieved and said of their brethren who went abroad in the land or were fighting in the field: If they had been (here) with us they would not have died or been killed.... And what though ye be slain in Allah’s way or die therein? Surely pardon from Allah and mercy are better than all that they amass. What though ye be slain or die, when unto Allah ye are gathered?.... So those who...fought and were slain, verily I shall remit their evil deeds from them and verily I shall bring them into Gardens underneath which rivers flow—a reward from Allah (Surah 3:156-158,195, emp. added).
Even if the vast majority of Muslims in the world reject violence and refrain from terrorist activity (which would appear to be the case), it is still a fact that the Quran (as well as the example of Muhammad himself) endorses the advancement of Islam through physical force. While Muslim apologist Seyyed Hossein Nasr insists that “the traditional norms based on peace and openness to others” characterize true Islam and the majority of Muslims, in contradistinction, he freely admits that at times Islam “has been forced to take recourse to physical action in the form of defense” (Nasr, 2002, pp. 112,110). This concession cannot be successfully denied in view of the Quran’s own declarations. Hence, the Muslim is forced to maintain the self-contradictory position that, yes, there have been times that Islam has been properly violent and, yes, the Quran does endorse violence, but, no, most Muslims are not violent, and then only in self-defense. As reprehensible and cowardly as Islamic terrorists have shown themselves to be in recent years, an honest reading of the Quran leads one to believe that they, at least, are more consistent with, and true to, their own Scriptures—as revolting an idea as that may be.


Lings, Martin (1983), Muhammad (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International).
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein (2002), The Heart of Islam (New York: HarperCollins).
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein (2003), Islam (New York: HarperCollins).
Pickthall, Mohammed M. (no date), The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (New York: Mentor).
Rahman, Fazlur (1979), Islam (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press), second edition.
Rodwell, J.M., trans. (1950 reprint), The Koran (London: J.M. Dent and Sons).

Does a Personal Response by Paul Disprove Inspiration? by Wayne Jackson, M.A.


Does a Personal Response by Paul Disprove Inspiration?

by  Wayne Jackson, M.A.


Some have suggested that the Bible contains a lot of trivial information—e.g., Paul’s request that Timothy bring his “cloak” to Rome (2 Timothy 4:13). They say this sort of material argues against the idea of verbal inspiration. Could you comment on this?


What appears to be superficial initially, upon deeper reflection, may contain a rich depository of truth. Consider the following possibilities.
(1) Why did Paul leave his cloak in Troas? Was he forced to flee, and thus had no time to obtain it? Is this another hint of the apostle’s ongoing persecution in his declining years? Perhaps.
(2) This is another commentary on the sacrificial poverty of him who was willing to spend and be spent for the cause of Christ (2 Corinthians 12:15). Think of it—winter approaching (vs. 21), and yet the apostle’s one coat is a thousand miles away! Paul was no stranger to “cold and nakedness” (2 Corinthians 11:27).
(3) Where are the saints in Rome during the time of Paul’s physical need? Where are the enthusiastic Christians who had rushed out of the city years earlier to meet the tireless preacher as he approached the city (Acts 28:15)? Had many of them been scattered by persecution? Had some turned against the apostle (see Philippians 1:15-17)? At Paul’s first defense, no one took his part; all forsook him (vs. 16). And even as this second letter to Timothy was composed, only Luke remained with him (vs.11). People can change; love can wax cold (Matthew 24:12).
(4) The passage is revealing of the fortitude and independence of the magnificent Paul. No word of complaining or whimpering comes from his courageous lips. No brow-beating of neglectful brethren, and no pitiful solicitation from others, is here in evidence. What a man!
Let it never be said that this, or any other passage of Scripture, is meaningless or trite. Such superficial criticisms come only from those who neglect the responsibility of serious investigation. There is not an insignificant sentence in the Sacred Volume.

Consider God’s Creation—Think About God’s Greatness by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


Consider God’s Creation—Think About God’s Greatness

by  Eric Lyons, M.Min.

Christians in the 21st century think too little about God’s creation; consequently, we think too little about God. We are so enamored with ourselves—our schedules, our work, our technology, our extracurricular activities, etc., that we often fail to see the stars and smell the roses. Today, perhaps more than any time in history, man misses the apparently simple things in life that should cause us to meditate continually upon the greatness of the Creator. Of course, nothing is more important for Christians to meditate on than God’s Word (Psalm 1:2; see Lyons, 2011), but in conjunction with God’s special revelation (His Word), we ought to ponder about how God’s amazing natural revelation testifies to His infinite power, intelligence, and care.
Time and again, Holy Writ points to God’s creation as proof of His greatness. Since the time of Job, Noah, and going as far back as Adam, man has learned some wonderful things about God by considering His amazing creation. Paul wrote: “Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead” (Romans 1:20, emp. added).
Perhaps no other book of the Bible leads man to deeper meditation on God’s greatness than the book of Psalms. Yet, interestingly, oftentimes this same inspired book turns man’s attention to God’s creation. In Psalm 8, for example, the psalmist praised the excellent name of the Lord Who set His “glory above the heavens,” Who made the Moon, stars, man, and even “the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas.” What did the psalmist conclude? “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:9). In Psalm 19:1, we are reminded that “[t]he heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.” In Psalm 33, we learn of one of the reasons that humanity is to fear and stand in awe of the Lord (33:8)—because “by the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth…. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (33:6,9).
Consider the climax of the book of Job, when God spoke to the patriarch out of a whirlwind. Instead of informing Job of the exact reasons for his serious suffering, God spoke to him about His creation. Beginning in Job 38:39 and going through chapters 39, 40, and 41, God spoke to Job about several different animals, including the lion, the hawk, Behemoth, and Leviathan. Of all of the things God could have said to Job, He spent some 77 verses talking about some of His animal creation. He chose to teach Job about His all-powerful, all-knowing, supreme nature by describing some of His magnificent animal creation.
The prophet Isaiah once wrote about being allowed to see a vision of the throne of God. In the Lord’s presence were angelic beings crying out one to another, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:3). What is the basis of this praise? What is one reason we should be driven to worship God? Isaiah revealed one of the pillars of God’s praise in the very next line: “The whole earth is full of His glory” (6:3).
Indeed, the beauty, splendor, and design of God’s creation should drive us closer to the Creator. His “fingerprints” should make us stand in awe of Him. They should drive us to our knees in worship of Him. And they should compel us to tell others about Him. As the psalmist sang, we should “declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised” (96:3-4).


Lyons, Eric (2011), “Take Time with the Text,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/article/1130.

Church of England Votes to Ordain Women Bishops by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Church of England Votes to Ordain Women Bishops

by  Kyle Butt, M.Div.

On Monday, July 14, 2014, the General Synod of the Church of England voted to allow females to be appointed as bishops in their denomination by an overall count of 351 in favor and 72 opposed (Kaleem, 2014). This vote is a result of a two-decade controversy within the denomination regarding the issue. The proposition was defeated two years earlier in 2012, because it did not gain the necessary two-thirds majority vote it needed to pass. What does such a decision say about the religious climate of western civilization?
This pronouncement manifests the fact that many religious groups no longer care what the Bible has to say on a given subject. It is a simple matter of fact that the Bible very clearly, in no ambiguous terms, states that bishops are to be males, and each one is to be “the husband of one wife” who “rules his own house well” (1 Timothy 3:2,4). In addition to this verse, each instance in the New Testament in which a bishop is mentioned refers to the person as a male (e.g., Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1). In fact, as Albert Mohler, stated, “virtually every major media outlet in Britain acknowledged, at least, that the vote reversed 2,000 years of Christian tradition. They also tended to note that the vote came after 20 years of controversy. Evidently, 2,000 of years of tradition was no match for 20 years of controversy” (2014).
This approach to religion is what Jesus had in mind when He accosted the religious leaders of His day by saying: “These people draw near to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). What kind of religion allows the culture, instead of the God it professes to worship, to dictate the beliefs and regulations that it will uphold? Is it the case that if our culture no longer views homosexuality as a sin, those branches of Christianity should “take another vote” to see if they will accept the lifestyle or not? Some have already done this. And is it not the case that to insist that Jesus Christ is God’s Son is a controversial topic? If enough “Christian” leaders vote to soften that teaching or abandon it altogether, would that represent the mind of God? Did God’s attitude toward the ordination of women bishops change at the precise moment that a two-thirds majority was achieved by the Church of England?
In reality, those who claim to be Christians must ask themselves who they are going to follow. Will they accept God’s Word, as found in the inspired Bible, to be authoritative? Or will they put their fingers in the wind and move whichever way the cultural wind happens to be blowing at the time? Let us all consider Peter’s words to the Jewish leaders of the first century: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge” (Acts 4:19).


Kaleem, Jaweed (2014), “Women Bishops Approved by Church of England,” Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/14/women-bishops-church-of-england-_n_5584266.html.
Mohler, Albert (2014), “‘Get with the Program’—Church of England Votes to Ordain Women Bishops,” http://www.albertmohler.com/2014/07/15/get-with-the-program-the-church-of-england-votes-to-ordain-women-bishops/.

The Da Vinci Code and the Deity of Christ by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


The Da Vinci Code and the Deity of Christ

by  Eric Lyons, M.Min.

In the best-selling novel, The Da Vinci Code, the character known as Sir Leigh Teabing “enlightens” one of the story’s main characters, Sophie Neveu, about a number of matters that lay at the heart of Christianity. One of the subjects that he broaches with this young French government cryptographer is the deity of Christ. According to Teabing, until the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325,
Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet...a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal.... Jesus’ establishment as ‘the Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea.... By officially endorsing Jesus as the Son of God, Constantine turned Jesus into a deity who existed beyond the scope of the human world, an entity whose power was unchallengeable (Brown, 2003, p. 233, italics in orig., emp. added).
Constantine upgraded Jesus’ status almost four centuries after Jesus’ death.... Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ’s human traits and embellished those gospels that made Him godlike (p. 234, italics in orig., emp. added).
No doubt, millions of readers have examined these words and pondered over their truthfulness. Was the “master storyteller” Dan Brown simply trying to sells books with such statements, or are we to consider these words by the fictional character Sir Leigh Teabing as absolute, historical truths? Was Jesus considered only a man before Constantine’s alleged transformation of Him at the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325? Or, was He from the beginning of the Christian era considered by inspired writers and the early disciples as God in the flesh?
Exactly where Dan Brown includes historical facts in his novel, and where he simply includes information for entertainment enhancement purposes, is difficult to decipher. Since Brown includes a “FACT” page at the very front of his book that alleges, “All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate” (2003, p. 1, emp. added), one gets the strong impression from the very outset of the book that when documents such as the New Testament manuscripts are mentioned, Brown (through his fictional characters) must be telling the truth. The problem is, much of what he says about Christianity, especially about the nature of its Founder—Jesus—is woefully inaccurate.
First, the Old Testament prophet Isaiah wrote of the coming Messiah’s deity 1,000 years before the time of Constantine. “For unto us,” Isaiah foretold, “a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (9:6, emp. added). Isaiah also prophesied of the virgin birth of the Messiah, and that His name would be “Immanuel” (7:14), which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23, emp. added). Early Christians had access to these Jewish Scriptures, even in the Greek language (i.e., the Septuagint), which they could consult regarding both Christ’s humanity and deity. In fact, in the late second century A.D., Irenaeus quoted from Isaiah 9:6 in defense of Jesus’ divinity (3:19).
Second, when Jesus came to Earth in human form in the first century, He repeatedly referred to His divine nature. The fact that He claimed to be the Messiah (Mark 14:61-62), is proof enough, since according to the Old Testament, the Messiah would be called “Mighty God.” Jesus also claimed to be “One” with the Father (John 10:30), and that “all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father” (John 5:23). He accepted worship time and again (Matthew 14:33; John 9:38; Luke 24:52), which is due only to God (Matthew 4:10)—not mere human beings (Acts 12:23; 14:8-18; cf. Hebrews 1:6). Truly, Jesus came from heaven (John 3:13; 6:33,38,41) and ascended back into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father (Matthew 26:64; cf. Psalm 110:1).
But in The Da Vinci Code, historian Sir Leigh Teabing alleges that such statements as these, which allude to Jesus’ divinity, were “embellished” by Constantine in A.D. 325 in order to make Christ “godlike” (p. 234). Is Teabing, who in the movie version of The Da Vinci Code is played by Ian McKellen, factually accurate? Not at all. The truth is, numerous copies of the various New Testament documents and quotations from those documents by early Christian writers exist that predate the time of Constantine by 100-200 years. Constantine did not write or “embellish” John 1:1 (“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” emp. added; cf. 1:14). Copies of this passage (found in manuscripts designated p66 and p75) go back to the late second and early third centuries—100 to 150 years before Constantine and the Council of Nicaea. Jesus’ claim, “I and My Father are One” (John 10:30), and the Jews’ recognition that Jesus made Himself, not just a man, but “God” (John 10:33; cf. 5:18) also predate Constantine by more than a century (cf. manuscripts designated p45, p66, and p75). What’s more, a copy of Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi, in which he affirms “Christ Jesus, Who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,” existed long before Constantine’s supposed embellishment of the nature of Jesus (p46).
In The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts, edited by Philip Comfort and David Barrett, more than 60 of the earliest Greek New Testament manuscripts are transcribed (including those mentioned above). Many photographs of these early manuscripts (the originals of which are housed in museums throughout the world) are also contained in the book. Interestingly, in the introduction to this massive 700-page volume, Comfort and Barrett state: “All of the manuscripts [contained in the book—EL] are dated from the early second century to the beginning of the fourth (A.D. 100-300)” (2001, p. 17). In fact, “[s]everal of the most significant papyri date from the middle of the second century” and thus “provide the earliest direct witness to the New Testament autographs” (p. 18). Comfort and Barrett even concede that “it is possible that some of the manuscripts thought to be of the early second century are actually manuscripts of the late first” (p. 23). New Testament manuscripts with descriptions of Jesus’ deity from the middle second century, and possibly the late first century? But The Da Vinci Code says that Constantine purposefully manipulated the scriptures in the fourth century (A.D. 325) in order to make Jesus sound divine when really He was not? The facts speak for themselves. The story told in The Da Vinci Code is dead wrong. We have ample proof that Constantine did not change the New Testament documents by elevating Jesus’ status from man to God. Unfortunately, millions of Dan Brown’s readers have been duped into believing that Jesus is not Who the Bible claims that He is.
But, that’s not all. Writings from early Christians (all of which predate Constantine by well over a century) also exist that reveal much about the early church’s view of Jesus. Ignatius, who died in the early second century and is thought to have been a companion of the apostle John, referred to Jesus Christ as “our God” several times in his letters to the Christians in Ephesus (Chapter 7; Chapter 8) and Rome (Introduction; Chapter 3). Polycarp, who was a contemporary of Ignatius and died around A.D. 150, wrote a letter to the church at Philippi in which he called Jesus “the Son of God, and our everlasting High Priest” (chapter 12). Another “church father” from the second century, Justin Martyr, wrote that Jesus, “being the first-begotten Word of God, is even God” (First Apology, chapter 63). Irenaeus also provides us with valuable insight into what Christians (living more than a century before the time of Constantine) thought about Jesus. In approximately A.D. 200, He wrote:
...this is Christ, the Son of the living God. For I have shown from the Scriptures, that no one of the sons of Adam is as to everything, and absolutely, called God, or named Lord. But that He is Himself in His own right, beyond all men who ever lived, God, and Lord, and King Eternal, and the Incarnate Word, proclaimed by all the prophets, the apostles, and by the Spirit Himself, may be seen by all who have attained to even a small portion of the truth. Now, the Scriptures would not have testified these things of Him, if, like others, He had been a mere man. But that He had, beyond all others, in Himself that pre-eminent birth which is from the Most High Father, and also experienced that pre-eminent generation which is from the Virgin, the divine Scriptures do in both respects testify of Him: ...that He is the holy Lord, the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the Beautiful in appearance, and the Mighty God, coming on the clouds as the Judge of all men;—all these things did the Scriptures prophesy of Him (Book III, Chapter 19, emp. added).
Even certain second-century enemies of Christ give testimony to the fact that Christians viewed Jesus as divine long before A.D. 325. In a letter that Pliny the Younger (Roman governor in the Asia Minor province of Bithynia around A.D. 115) wrote to the Emperor Trajan, he stated: “They [the Christians—EL] were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds...” (10:96). Another individual who opposed Christianity was the Greek rhetorician and satirist, Lucian. He wrote:
The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day—the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account.... You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws (11-13, emp. added).
Thus, aside from the non-hostile witnesses that testify of Jesus being God, even His enemies, who lived both in the first century (e.g., Pharisees; John 5:18; John 10:33) and second century (i.e., Pliny the Younger and Lucian), recognized that both Jesus and His followers, believed that He was God, and thus worthy of worship.
In truth, Jesus was viewed as divine by His followers long before the Council of Nicaea convened in A.D. 325. The leaders who gathered at that council nearly 300 years after the death of Christ (not “four centuries” as Teabing stated in The Da Vinci Code, p. 234) did take a vote regarding the nature of Christ (which was not nearly a close vote—another strike against the historical accuracy of The Da Vinci Code, cf. p. 233). But, that vote did not settle the matter regarding His deity. The nature of Christ was settled hundreds of years earlier when Jesus and the first century apostles and prophets who were guided “into all truth” by the Holy Spirit (John 16:13) taught that He was “God” (John 1:1,14; 10:30; 20:28; etc.).
...Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:5-7).


Brown, Dan (2003), The Da Vinci Code (New York: Doubleday).
Comfort, Philip W. and David P. Barrett (2001), The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House).
Ignatius (1973 reprint), “Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Ignatius (1973 reprint), “Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Irenaeus (1973 reprint), “Irenaeus Against Heresies,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Justin Martyr (1973 reprint), “The First Apology of Justin,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Lucian (1905 reprint), “The Death of Peregrine,” The Works of Lucian of Samosata, trans. H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler, [On-line], URL: http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/luc/wl4/wl420.htm.
Pliny (1935 reprint), Letters, trans. William Melmoth (Cambridge: Harvard University Press).
Polycarp (1973 reprint), “The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

All the Smart People by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


All the Smart People

by  Kyle Butt, M.Div.

Even though any person who has ever dealt with logic understands that a groundless appeal to authority or “those on the bandwagon” carries no legitimate weight; it does not change the fact that at the popular level, many individuals have been persuaded to believe false ideas based on the argument that “the authorities” believe a certain way, or that “most people” believe something. Such is the case with the hypothesis of evolution. Richard Dawkins once stated: “It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid, or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that)” (1989, p. 7). The implied argument in Dawkins’ statement is that smart, sane, knowledgeable, and noble people believe in evolution. In fact, one of the most powerful arguments used by evolutionists to convince the populace of evolution’s alleged truthfulness is the false idea that “all smart people believe in evolution,” or that “all scientists” believe in evolution.
To set the record straight, it should be noted that such a notion is false in every sense of the word. From ages past to the present, literally thousands of brilliant minds have recognized the falsity of organic evolution, and have embraced the truth that this Universe was created by a divine Designer. The following litany is but a scratch on the surface of names that would fall into this category.
Lord William Kelvin Absolute temperature scale; study of thermodynamics; transatlantic cable
Sir Isaac Newton Calculus; reflecting telescope; dynamics; law of gravity
Louis Pasteur Bacteriology; law of biogenesis; vaccination and immunization
Joseph Lister Antiseptic surgery
Michael Faraday Electric generator
Robert Boyle Chemistry
Johannes Kepler Celestial mechanics
Wernher von Braun Space program; NASA (for list see Huse, 1997, pp. 159,184-185)
Added to this list could be hundreds of names of contemporary scientists such as Dr. John Baumgardner, whose theory on plate tectonics was reported in Nature. Dr. Raymond Jones was described as one of the top scientists in Australia. Dr. Brian Stone has received numerous awards in his engineering field. Raymond Damadian invented MRI [magnetic resonance imaging] (Sarfati, 1999, pp. 26-27). Dr. A.E. Wilder-Smith held three earned doctorates from three European universities. Dr. Melvin A. Cook won the 1968 E.G. Murphee Award in Industrial and Engineering Chemistry from the American Chemical Society. Dmitri Kouznetsov, M.D, Ph.D., D.Sc., won the Komsomol Lenin Prize in 1983, distinguishing himself as one of the two most promising scientists in Russia at the time (Gish, 1995, pp. 13-14).
While creationists may be in the minority when it comes to the sciences, they certainly are leaving a most impressive mark. With names such as Kepler, Newton, and Pasteur on the side of creation, it is a marvel that anyone would suggest that “all smart people” believe in evolution. On the contrary, a host of credentialed thinkers, past and present, have held firmly to, and continue to believe in, the statement: “In the beginning God….” (For a more exhaustive list, see Gish, pp. 13-15 and Huse, pp. 157-162.)
This discussion is in no way intended to sway anyone to believe in creation based on the views held by the “smart people” mentioned above. It is intended to report the truth that many intelligent thinkers have found “holes” in the hypothesis of evolution. Truly smart people do away with any faulty appeals to authority, and simply look at the evidence.


Dawkins, Richard (1989), “Book Review” (of Donald Johanson and Maitland Edey’s Blueprint), The New York Times, section 7, p. 34. April 9.
Gish, Duane T. (1995), Evolution: The Fossils Still Say No! (El Cajon, CA: Institute for Creation Research).
Huse, Scott M. (1997), The Collapse of Evolution (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker), third edition.
Sarfati, Jonathan (1999), Refuting Evolution (Green Forest, AR: Master Books).

Borrowing from Other Nations by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Borrowing from Other Nations

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

It’s no secret that the U.S. Government has been borrowing unprecedented amounts of money in an effort to stave off financial calamity (cf. Ip, 2009; Zuckerman, 2009). The sum of all recognized debt of federal, state, and local governments, international, private households, business and domestic financial sectors in America is now $57 trillion (Hodges, 2009). The majority of that debt has accumulated just in the last three decades, with 79% ($45 trillion) of total debt created since 1990. America is, in fact, the world’s largest international debtor (Hodges).
So what? Is that bad? After leading the nation for 40 years, before departing this life, Moses delivered a magnificent speech to the new generation of Israelites pertaining to their imminent occupation of the Promised Land. In his farewell remarks, God empowered him to articulate critical factors necessary to national survival. He also delineated the specific curses that would afflict the nation if it turned its back on God and His Word, as well as the specific blessings that would enrich the nation if the citizens maintained their commitment to God. Here are insightful, relevant social, political, and economic factors that beckon the attention of the United States of America.
Consider just one: In view of the economic woes facing our own nation, one feature in particular ought to give every American pause. It is listed first in the series of blessings that would characterize the nation if its citizens and leaders would “diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments” (Deuteronomy 28:1). That blessing? “You shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow” (vs. 12). If, on the other hand, the nation declined spiritually by failing to obey God and keep His commandments, aliens would lend to them (vs. 44).
Economists, politicians, and all Americans should beware. The God of the Bible has articulated precisely the details of national success as well as national catastrophe. We would do well to give sober consideration to them. America is moving swiftly down a pathway to destruction—and that end result will be due to a single factor: America’s shift away from offering due respect and submission to God and Jesus Christ. The solution?
If you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God,...the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God (Deuteronomy 28:1-2).


Hodges, Michael (2009), “America’s Total Debt Report,” Grandfather Economic Report, June, [On-line], URL: http://mwhodges.home.att.net/nat-debt/debt-nat.htm.
Ip, Greg (2009), “We’re Borrowing Like Mad. Can the U.S. Pay It Back?” The Washington Post, January 11.
Zuckerman, Mort (2009), “Drowning in Debt: Obama’s Spending and Borrowing Leaves U.S. Gasping for Air,” New York Daily News, October 10.

Did John the Baptizer Know Jesus or Not? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


Did John the Baptizer Know Jesus or Not?

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

Early on in Jesus’ ministry, John the Baptizer made one of the most beautiful and powerful declarations in all of Holy Writ about Jesus of Nazareth: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Following this glorious, redemptive statement, however, John makes two claims that have been problematic for some. He said about Jesus:
I did not know Him [previously—EL] but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water…. I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit’” (1:31-33, emp. added).
Some wonder how John could not have known Jesus, if (1) he was a relative of the Messiah (Luke 1:36,57-60), and (2) he tried to deter Jesus from letting him baptize Him, saying “I need to be baptized by You, and You are coming to me?” (Matthew 3:14). Why would John say this if he did not already know Who Jesus was? Furthermore, why did John send disciples later in his ministry to ask Jesus, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3, emp. added)? Did John the Baptizer know Jesus or not?
First, simply because Jesus and John’s mothers (Mary and Elizabeth) were relatives (Luke 1:36; see Lyons, 2008) does not necessarily mean that John had ever met Jesus prior to baptizing Him. I have first and second cousins that I never recall meeting, though I have heard my parents talk about them for many years. Just because people are related doesn’t mean they “know” each other. What’s more, when John “grew and became strong in spirit,” he was “in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel” (Luke 1:80, emp. added). Thus, John may have never met Jesus prior to His baptism. But, this does not mean he did not know various things about Jesus.
John obviously knew something about Jesus, or he would not have been hesitant to baptize Him. To “not know” Jesus then, likely had much more to do with not knowing him “officially, as the Messiah” (Vincent, 1997), than anything else. John seemed to believe that Jesus was the Messiah already, but, as J.W. McGarvey noted, “he did not know it” (n.d., p. 107).
His language to the people shows this (John i.26). Many of the people must have known Jesus, but none of them knew him to be the Messiah. Moreover, when John denied that he knew Jesus as Messiah we must not take it that he was ignorant of the past history of Jesus. No doubt he knew in a general way who Jesus was; but as the official forerunner and announcer of Jesus, and as the heaven-sent witness (John i.6,7), it was necessary that the Baptist should receive, by personal revelation from God, as here stated, an indubitable, absolute knowledge of the Messiahship of Jesus. Without this, John would not have been truly qualified as a witness. That Jesus is the Son of God must not rest on hearsay evidence. John kept silent till he could testify of his own knowledge (McGarvey, n.d., 107, emp. added).
Still, since it was “officially” declared to John at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry that He was “the Son of God” (John 1:34), many wonder why (much later) John sent disciples to ask Jesus, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3). Why would John ask this question if he already knew that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God? Is this not contradictory as skeptics allege (cf. McKinsey, 2000, p. 73)?
By supposing that John’s question to Jesus later in His ministry (Matthew 11:3) is somehow a discrepancy, skeptics unjustifiably assume two things. First, they assume that all questions are asked in order to obtain knowledge. But that simply is not the case (see Lyons, 2009). Questions can be asked for a variety of reasons. They may be asked to awaken someone’s slumbering conscience (e.g., “Did you do that?”). They may be asked to bring attention to something (e.g., “What are you wearing?”). They may be asked for the benefit of others (e.g., “What is the right answer to this problem?”). Etc. The fact is, we cannot know for sure exactly why John sent disciples to ask Jesus this question, but there are legitimate possible explanations that exonerate John and the Bible writers.
Skeptics also assume that John’s faith never wavered. They fail to recognize (or accept) that, like other great men of faith who occasionally had doubts (e.g., Moses, Gideon, Peter, etc.), John may have asked this question to Jesus out of momentary unbelief. McGarvey appropriately reminded us that John’s “wild, free life was now curbed by the irksome tedium of confinement…. Moreover, he held no communion with the private life of Jesus, and entered not into the sanctuary of his Lord’s thought. We must remember also that his inspiration passed away with the ministry, on account of which it was bestowed, and it was only the man John, and not the prophet, who made the inquiry” (p. 279, ital. in orig.). John may also have wondered why, if Jesus was a worker of all manner of miracles, was he still in prison. Could Jesus not rescue His forerunner? Could He not save him from the sword of Herod? Jesus’ response to John: “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me” (Matthew 11:6). John (or John’s disciples) may have needed to be reminded to stay the course, even if they did not understand all of the reasons why certain things happened the way they did (cf. Job 13:15). Whether having a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7) or suffering distressing imprisonment, God’s grace is sufficient. His “strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Even when, yes, especially when, we are suffering, Jesus reminds His servants, “Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”
Did John the Baptizer know Jesus? Certainly he did. The statements John made that some consider conflicting have simply been misunderstood. John came to know Jesus officially as the Son of God when he baptized Him. John declared this Heaven-approved message throughout his ministry. Though John’s faith in the Coming One may have wavered momentarily during his imprisonment, such questioning by the prophet is in no way evidence of discrepancy. Remember: the Bible writers penned a flawless, inspired book (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21; cf. John 10:35), which includes brief accounts of many faithful, but imperfect, men. Though “among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11), even he was not perfect.


Lyons, Eric (2008), “How Were Mary and Elizabeth Related?” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=23&article=2532.
Lyons, Eric (2009), “Does God Really Know Everything?” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/AllegedDiscrepancies.aspx?article=787.
McGarvey, J.W. (n.d.), The Fourfold Gospel (Cincinnati, OH: Standard).
McKinsey, Dennis (2000), Biblical Errancy (Amherst, NY: Prometheus).
Vincent, Marvin R. (1997), Word Studies in the New Testament (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).