"STUDIES IN THE MINOR PROPHETS" Haggai - Build The Temple! (1:1-2:23) by Mark Copeland

                    "STUDIES IN THE MINOR PROPHETS"

                 Haggai - Build The Temple! (1:1-2:23)


1. In our survey of "The Minor Prophets", we now jump ahead about 
   100 years...
   a. Prophets like Zephaniah, Nahum, and Habakkuk prophesied shortly
      before the seventy years of Babylonian captivity (i.e. before 
      606-536 B.C.)
   b. Following the return under the leadership of Zerubbabel (536 
      B.C.), it was not long before two more prophets were sent to the
      people of Israel

2. These prophets were Haggai and Zechariah, the first of which we
   shall consider in this lesson...
   a. Concerning the MAN
      1) His name means "Festival" or "Festive"
      2) What we know of Haggai is limited to his book and references 
         in Ezra (see below)
      3) Together with Zechariah he motivated the Jews in rebuilding
         the temple
   b. Concerning the MESSAGE
      1) It is commonly dated around 520 B.C. (the second year of King
         Darius - Hag 1:1)
         a) For the foundation of the temple had been laid shortly 
            after the arrival under the leadership of Zerubbabel (i.e.,
            536 B.C.) - cf. Ezra 3:8-13
         b) Yet opposition to rebuilding the temple stopped it for 16 
            years - Ezra 4:1-24
         c) God then raised up Haggai and Zechariah - Ezra 5:1-2; 6:14
      2) The theme of Haggai's preaching:  Build The Temple!
         a) His message contains four separate proclamations
         b) All within four months - cf. Hag 1:1; 2:1,10,20

[As we outline and briefly consider the message of Haggai, we begin by


      1. Haggai takes the Lord's message to Israel's leaders - Hag 1:1
         a. Zerubbabel the governor (who lead the first group of exiles
            back home)
         b. Joshua the high priest (also known as Jeshua, Ezra 2:1-2,
            36,40; 3:2-8)
      2. The Lord takes issue with what the people have been saying 
         - Hag 1:2-4
         a. They have been saying the time is not right to build the 
         b. The Lord challenged them as to whether they should live in
            paneled houses while the temple lies in ruins
      1. The Lord challenged them to consider what was happening- Hag 1:5-6
         a. Their efforts were much
         b. But they received little in return
      2. To motivate them in building the temple, their trouble is 
         explained - Hag 1:7-11
         a. They needed to build the temple and thereby glorify God
         b. For their efforts to obtain much for themselves was 
            frustrated by God
            1) They looked for much, but God blew it away
            2) While His house lay in ruins, they were busy building 
               their own
            3) Therefore God had called for a drought on the land and
               its fruit

      1. With the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua the people obeyed
         - Hag 1:12
      2. The Lord promises to be with them - Hag 1:13
      3. Stirred up by the Lord, Zerubbabel and Joshua lead the remnant
         to resume work on the temple - Hag 1:14-15

[From Hag 1:1,15, we can determine that it took 24 days for the people
to begin rebuilding the temple.  About a month later (cf. Hag 2:1),
another message from the Lord comes by way of Haggai.  This message 


      1. Haggai is sent again to Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the faithful
         remnant - Hag 2:1-2
      2. Those who had seen the former temple in its glory are asked if
         the present temple appears as nothing in comparison - Hag 2:3
      -- The new temple evidently did not compare with the temple built
         by Solomon

      1. The Lord encourages them to be strong, for He is with them 
         - Hag 2:4-5
      2. The Lord promises to make the glory of this temple greater 
         - Hag 2:6-9
         a. By shaking the nations and having them come to "the Desire
            of All Nations"
            1) This can be translated "the desired of all nations will
               come", perhaps speaking of the nations bringing their
               wealth to the temple - cf. Hag 2:8; Isa 60:5
            2) Many see a Messianic reference in this phrase, though no
               reference is so made in the New Testament (He 12:26-27
               does make an allusion to verse 6)
         b. By giving peace "in this place"
            1) Some see another Messianic reference in this phrase
            2) Certainly Jesus as the Prince of Peace, came to the 

[With such a word of encouragement, the people would continue with 
their task of rebuilding the temple.  But all was not well in the eyes
of the Lord; He needed Haggai once again to prophesy to the people, so
two months later (cf. 2:1,10) comes...]


      1. Through two questions, the Lord challenges the priests to 
         think - Hag 2:10-13
         a. Can holiness be transferred through casual contact? - No
         b. Can defilement be transferred through casual contact? - Yes
      2. Well, the people are unclean, and what they therefore offer is
         unclean! - Hag 2:14
         a. Unclean people can't build a holy temple
         b. Therefore, their offering is unclean!

      1. First, begin considering what God has done in the past- Hag 2:15-17
         a. Before the stone was laid in the temple, things were scarce
         b. The Lord even brought blight, mildew and hail to frustrate
            their labors, but they did not heed Him
      2. Now, begin considering what God is promising to do - Hag 2:
         a. Begin considering that very day (24th day of the ninth 
            1) Consider what has occurred from the day the temple's 
               foundation was laid
            2) Is there seed in the barn? (no)  Nor has the produce 
               yielded its fruit
         d. But beginning that very day (24th day of the ninth month),
            God was going to bless them!

[With such a promise, they would likely repent and build the temple as
they should. To encourage them further, Haggai has one last message...]


      1. This message came at the same time as the third message- Hag 2:20
         a. On the 24th day of the ninth month, of the second year of
         b. Nearly four months after the first message - cf. Hag 1:1
      2. Directed to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah - Hag 2:21-22
         a. God proclaims He will shake heaven and earth
         b. He will overthrow the kingdoms of the Gentiles
         c. This He will do, "everyone by the sword of his brother"
         -- Note:  Just as He did before, using Assyria to punish 
            Israel, Babylon to punish Assyria, Medo-Persia to punish 
            Babylon, etc.

      1. In the same day that God will overthrow the nations - Hag 2:
      2. God will make Zerubbabel as a signet ring, for God has chosen
         him - Hag 2:23b
         a. Many see a Messianic reference in this promise
            1) For God calls Zerubbabel "My servant", an expression 
               often used in Isaiah in reference to the Messiah - cf. 
               Isa 52:13; 53:11
            2) And God says "for I have chosen you" (Messiah means 
               anointed, chosen)
         b. That as governor of Judah and descendant of David, 
            Zerubbabel represents the Messianic hope that has been 
            renewed and would be ultimately fulfilled with the coming 
            of Jesus!
         -- Note:  With His exaltation to the right hand of God, Jesus
            began to rule the nations "with a rod of iron", as 
            Revelation vividly depicts - Re 1:5; 2:26-27; 3:21; 17:14


1. Haggai's message was primarily designed to encourage Zerubbabel and
   the faithful remnant of Israel who had returned from Babylonian 
   a. To finish rebuilding the temple
   b. To do so in a manner that would honor and glorify God
   c. To look to the future with hope and promise

2. Like other books of the Old Testament...
   a. Haggai was "written for our learning" - Ro 15:4
   b. There are lessons that can easily be gleaned from this book, such
      1) The importance of putting God first - Hag 1:2-4
      2) The need for every one to work, not just the leaders - Hag 1:
      3) The danger of letting evil contaminate our efforts to serve
         God - Hag 2:11-14

3. As Christians, we are blessed to be "a holy temple in the Lord" 
   - Ep 2:19-22; cf. 1Pe 2:5
   a. The foundation of this temple has been laid
   b. But the need for building upon the foundation continues! 

Living in a highly materialistic society, it may easy for us to neglect
the ongoing construction of the Lord's house.  Perhaps we need to 
remember the words of the Lord through Haggai:

   "Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, 
   and this temple to lie in ruins?" (Hag 1:4)

If we are indeed guilty of neglecting the Lord's house, then heed also
these words of Haggai:

                           "Consider your ways!"

"STUDIES IN THE MINOR PROPHETS" Habakkuk - From A Sob To A Song (1:1-3:19) by Mark Copeland

                    "STUDIES IN THE MINOR PROPHETS"

               Habakkuk - From A Sob To A Song (1:1-3:19)


1. We have seen that during the O.T. period known as "Judah Alone"...
   a. Zephaniah was prophesying to Judah
   b. Nahum was pronouncing God's judgment upon Nineveh

2. Then there was Habakkuk, a prophet filled with troubling questions
   a. Concerning his NAME
      1) It means "Embrace"
      2) "His name, as Luther well puts it, speaks as one who took his
         nation to his heart, comforted it and held it up, as one
         embraces and presses to his bosom a poor weeping child,
         calming and consoling it with good hope." (Geikie)
   b. Concerning the DATE
      1) Around 612-606 B.C.
      2) Just as Babylon was making her westward move toward world
   c. Concerning his MESSAGE: the book easily falls into three sections
      1) A "burden" - Hab 1:1-2:1
      2) A "vision" - Hab 2:2-20
      3) A "prayer" - Hab 3:1-19

3. We note an immediate difference between Habakkuk and other 
   a. Instead of taking the Lord's message directly to the people (as 
      do most prophets)
   b. He takes the complaint of the people directly to the Lord, 
      representing them in the complaint
   -- As he does so, it has been said that Habakkuk goes "From A Sob To
      A Song"

[This process begins with a "burden" as found in the first section of
his message...]


      1. He laments over apparent rule of wickedness and violence
      2. How can the Lord justify His apparent indifference to such 
         things? - Hab 1:1-4

      1. He is not indifferent!
      2. He is doing something that will be hard to fathom - Hab 1:5-11
         a. Raising up the Chaldeans (Babylon) to execute His judgment
         b. Using a violent nation that arrogantly thinks it is serving
            its own god (and purpose)

      1. How can a holy God employ such an impure and godless agent? 
         - Hab 1:12-17
      2. This is hard for Habakkuk to understand, but he will watch to
         see what the Lord will say to him - Hab 2:1

[Indeed, it is a heavy "burden" for Habakkuk. God has answered his
first question by saying He will use the Chaldeans to punish the
wickedness and violence in Judah.  But the Chaldeans are wicked also,
how can God use them?

Habakkuk receives his answer in the form of a "vision"...]


      1. Habakkuk is to write what God reveals to him - Hab 2:2-3
      2. The proud is not upright; but the just shall live by his faith
         - Hab 2:4

      1. Woe to the proud possessed with the lust of conquest and 
         plunder - Hab 2:5-8
      2. Woe to their efforts to build a permanent empire through 
         cruelty and godless gain - Hab 2:9-11
      3. Woe to those who build cities with bloodshed - Hab 2:12-14
      4. Woe to those with cruelty in their treatment of those they
         conquered - Hab 2:15-17
      5. Woe to those given over to idolatry - Hab 2:18-20
         a. Who worship that in which there is no breath at all
         b. While the Lord is in His holy temple, before whom the earth
            should keep silence

[The answer to Habakkuk's second question appears to be this:  While 
God may use a wicked nation like Babylon to punish the wickedness of 
Judah, He will not let Babylon's wickedness go unpunished either!  

In the meantime, the just (righteous) person will live by his faith in
God, which Habakkuk illustrates with his "prayer"...]


      1. Written in the form of a psalm - Hab 3:1,19c
      2. Asking God to revive His works, and in His wrath remember 
         mercy - Hab 3:2

      1. His mighty works in the past - Hab 3:3-7
      2. Bringing both judgment to the wicked and salvation to His 
         people - Hab 3:8-15

      1. He trembled at what he has heard, that he will have rest in 
         the day of trouble - Hab 3:16
      2. But he expresses his faith, that while trouble may come he 
         will rejoice in the Lord who will be his strength - Hab 3:
      -- Here we find one of the greatest expressions of faith found 


1. What lessons can we glean from this short book? (as suggested by 
   Homer Hailey)
   a. The universal supremacy of God's judgment upon the wicked
      1) God would use Chaldea to punish wicked Judah
      2) Then Chaldea would be destroyed for its own wickedness
   b. Evil is self-destructive
      1) If the righteous can be patient, trusting in the Lord
      2) The tyranny and arrogance of the wicked will eventually fall
   c. The fact of divine discipline
      1) In Job it is shown in the suffering of the individual
      2) In Habakkuk it is shown in the suffering of the nation
      -- In both cases, suffering is disciplinary

2. Perhaps the most important lesson concerns the value of "faith"...
   a. By it the righteous in Habakkuk's day would live
   b. Even more so today!
      1) In receiving salvation - Ro 1:16-17
      2) In persevering - He 10:35-39
      -- Notice that both quote from Hab 2:4

But our faith must not be a shallow faith; it must be like that 
expressed by Habakkuk...

   "Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines;
   Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no
   food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there
   be no herd in the stalls;"

   "Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my
   salvation. The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like
   deer's feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills."
                                   Habakkuk 3:17-19

Is this our kind of faith?

God’s Soap Recipe by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


God’s Soap Recipe

by  Kyle Butt, M.Div.

When Old Testament instructions are compared to the New Testament explanations for those actions, it becomes clear that many of the ancient injunctions were primarily symbolic in nature. For instance, when the Passover Lamb was eaten, none of its bones was to be broken. This symbolized the sacrifice of Christ, Whose side was pierced, yet even in death escaped the usual practice of having His legs broken (John 19:31-37).
With all the symbolism in the Old Testament, it is important that we do not overlook the Old Testament instructions that were pragmatic in value and that testify to a Master Mind behind the writing of the Law. One such directive is found in Numbers 19, where the Israelites were instructed to prepare the “water of purification” that was to be used to wash any person who had touched a dead body.
At first glance, the water of purification sounds like a hodge-podge of superstitious potion-making that included the ashes of a red heifer, hyssop, cedar wood, and scarlet wool. But this formula was the farthest thing from a symbolic potion intended to “ward off evil spirits.” On the contrary, the recipe for the water of purification stands today as a wonderful example of God’s brilliance, since the recipe is nothing less than a procedure to produce an antibacterial soap.
When we look at the ingredients individually, we begin to see the value of each. First, consider the ashes of a red heifer. As most school children know, the pioneers in this country could not go to the nearest supermarket and buy their favorite personal-hygiene products. If they needed soap or shampoo, they made it themselves. Under such situations, they concocted various recipes for soap. One of the most oft’-produced types of soap was lye soap. Practically anyone today can easily obtain a recipe for lye soap via a quick search of the Internet. The various lye-soap recipes reveal that, to obtain lye, water was poured through ashes. The water retrieved from pouring it through the ashes contained a concentration of lye. Lye, in high concentrations, is very caustic and irritating to the skin. It is, in fact, one of the main ingredients in many modern chemical mixtures used to unclog drains. In more diluted concentrations, it can be used as an excellent exfoliate and cleansing agent. Many companies today still produce lye soaps. Amazingly, through God’s inspiration, Moses instructed the Israelites to prepare a mixture that would have included lye mixed in a diluted solution.
Furthermore, consider that hyssop also was added to the “water of purification.” Hyssop contains the antiseptic thymol, the same ingredient that we find today in some brands of mouthwash (McMillen and Stern, 2000, p. 24). Hyssop oil continues to be a popular “healing oil,” and actually is quite expensive. In listing the benefits of Hyssop, one Web site noted: “Once used for purifying temples and cleansing lepers, the leaves contain an antiseptic, antiviral oil. A mold that produces penicillin grows on the leaves. An infusion is taken as a sedative expectorant for flue, bronchitis, and phlegm” (see “Hyssop”).
Two other ingredients stand out as having cleansing properties. The oil from the cedar wood in the mixture provided a minor skin irritant that would have encouraged scrubbing. And the scarlet wool (see Hebrews 9:19) added wool fibers to the concoction, making it the “ancient equivalent of Lava® soap” (McMillen and Stern, 2000, p. 25).
Thousands of years before any formal studies were done to see what type of cleaning methods were the most effective; millennia before American pioneers concocted their lye solutions; and ages before our most advanced medical students knew a thing about germ theory, God gave the Israelites an award-winning recipe for soap.


McMillen, S.I. and David Stern (2000), None of These Diseases (Grand Rapids, MI: Revell), third edition.
“Hyssop” (no date), [On-line], URL: http://www.taoherbfarm.com/herbs/herbs/hyssop.htm.

Atheism’s Real Agenda: Censure and Termination by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Atheism’s Real Agenda: Censure and Termination

by  Kyle Butt, M.Div.

In 2004, Sam Harris published his New York Times bestseller The End of Faith. In that book, Harris supports atheism as the only rational view of the world. He condemns all forms of religious faith, including and especially Christianity, as detrimental and potentially dangerous. He goes so far as to suggest that some beliefs are so serious that simply holding such should be a punishable offense. He stated:
The link between belief and behavior raises the stakes considerably. Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them. This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live. Certain beliefs place their adherents beyond the reach of every peaceful means of persuasion, while inspiring them to commit acts of extraordinary violence against others (2004, pp. 52-53, emp. added).
In the immediate context, Harris is referring to militant Muslims whose religious beliefs lead them to kill infidels. Later in the book, however, we see another belief that Harris considers to be a punishable offense. On page 156, Harris discussed his view of political leaders who espouse Christian sentiments. He opined:
Men eager to do the Lord’s work have been elected to other branches of federal government as well. The House majority lead, Tom Delay, is given to profundities like “Only Christianity offers a way to live in response to the realities that we find in this world. Only Christianity.” He claims to have gone into politics “to promote a Biblical worldview.” Apparently feeling that it is impossible to say anything stupid while in the service of this worldview, he attributed the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado to the fact that our schools teach the theory of evolution (2004, p. 156).

What, then, does Harris believe should happen to a person who openly claims that Christianity is the global solution to the world’s ills? Harris quipped: “We might wonder how it is that pronouncements this floridly irrational do not lead to immediate censure and removal from office” (p. 156, emp. added).
In this brief article we will not go into the facts that the Columbine shootings were inspired by evolution, that atheism is completely irrational, and that Christianity can be shown to be the only solution to the realities of this world. The sole purpose of this article is to show that atheism’s ultimate agenda is to censure those who espouse Christianity and to persecute the belief to extinction. The atheistic community is not a “live and let live” market place of ideas. Harris vividly manifests the fact that atheism views Christianity as a dangerous belief that should be quelled at all cost, including punishing those who espouse it. The “freethought” community’s idea of “freethought” is that all people are “free” to think how they like, as long as that thought process is atheistic at its core and excludes Christianity.
With atheism being one of the fastest growing beliefs in our country, it is time that Christians recognize the agenda of those leading the atheistic charge. If atheism has its way, according to bestselling atheist Sam Harris, it should be a punishable offense to publicly proclaim that Christianity is the only solution to humanity’s problems. Rue the day that atheism and its leaders become prominent enough to enforce such an agenda. For Christians, “now it is high time to awake out of sleep” (Romans 13:11) and stand up for the Truth while we have opportunity.


Harris, Sam (2004), The End of Faith (New York: W.W. Norton).
Suggested Resources

Did Jesus Sweat Blood? by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Did Jesus Sweat Blood?

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

The observant viewer of Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ, will note that in the garden scene, one manifestation of the agony of Jesus was the tiny blotches of blood that surfaced on His facial skin. This feature of Christ’s suffering is alluded to by Luke, the author of the New Testament books of Luke and Acts, who himself, by profession, was a physician. His writings manifest an intimate acquaintance with the technical language of the Greek medical schools of Asia Minor.
Of the four gospel writers, only Dr. Luke referred to Jesus’ ordeal as “agony” (agonia). It is because of this agony over things to come that we learn during His prayer “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). Only Luke referred to Jesus’ sweat (idros)—a much-used term in medical language. And only Luke referred to Jesus’ sweat as consisting of great drops of blood (thromboi haimatos)—a medical condition alluded to by both Aristotle and Theophrastus (Hobart, 1882, pp. 80-84). The Greek term thromboi (from which we get thrombus, thrombin, et al.) refers to clots of blood (Nicoll, n.d., 1:631; Vincent, 1887, 1:425). Bible scholar Richard Lenski commented on the use of this term: “ ‘As clots,’ thromboi, means that the blood mingled with the sweat and thickened the globules so that they fell to the ground in little clots and did not merely stain the skin” (1961, p. 1077).
The Greek word hosei (“as it were”) refers to condition, not comparison, as Greek scholar Henry Alford observed:
The intention of the Evangelist seems clearly to be, to convey the idea that the sweat was (not fell like, but was) like drops of blood;—i.e., coloured with blood,—for so I understand the hosei, as just distinguishing the drops highly coloured with blood, from pure blood…. To suppose that it only fell like drops of blood (why not drops of any thing else? And drops of blood from what, and where?) is to nullify the force of the sentence, and make the insertion of haimatos not only superfluous but absurd (1874, 1:648, italics and parenthetical items in orig.; cf. Robertson, 1934, p. 1140).
We can conclude quite justifiably that the terminology used by the gospel writer to refer to the severe mental distress experienced by Jesus was intended to taken literally—i.e., that the sweat of Jesus became bloody (cf. Robertson, 1930, 2:272).
A thorough search of the medical literature demonstrates that such a condition, while admittedly rare, does occur in humans. Commonly referred to as hematidrosis or hemohidrosis (Allen, 1967, pp. 745-747), this condition results in the excretion of blood or blood pigment in the sweat. Under conditions of great emotional stress, tiny capillaries in the sweat glands can rupture (Lumpkin, 1978), thus mixing blood with perspiration. This condition has been reported in extreme instances of stress (see Sutton, 1956, pp. 1393-1394). During the waning years of the twentieth century, 76 cases of hematidrosis were studied and classified into categories according to causative factors: “Acute fear and intense mental contemplation were found to be the most frequent inciting causes” (Holoubek and Holoubek, 1996). While the extent of blood loss generally is minimal, hematidrosis also results in the skin becoming extremely tender and fragile (Barbet, 1953, pp. 74-75; Lumpkin, 1978), which would have made Christ’s pending physical insults even more painful.
From these factors, it is evident that even before Jesus endured the torture of the cross, He suffered far beyond what most of us will ever suffer. His penetrating awareness of the heinous nature of sin, its destructive and deadly effects, the sorrow and heartache that it inflicts, and the extreme measure necessary to deal with it, make the passion of Christ beyond all comprehension.


Alford, Henry (1874), Alford’s Greek Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1980 reprint).
Allen, A.C. (1967), The Skin: A Clinicopathological Treatise (New York: Grune and Stratton), second edition.
Barbet, P. (1953), A Doctor at Calvary: The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ as Described by a Surgeon (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Image Books).
Hobart, William K. (1882), The Medical Language of St. Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1954 reprint).
Holoubek, J.E. and A.B. Holoubek (1996), “Blood, Sweat, and Fear. ‘A Classification of Hematidrosis,’ ” Journal of Medicine, 27[3-4]:115-33.
Lenski, R.C.H. (1961), The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
Lumpkin, R. (1978), “The Physical Suffering of Christ,” Journal of Medical Association of Alabama, 47:8-10.
Nicoll, W. Robertson, ed. (no date), The Expositor’s Greek Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Robertson, A.T. (1930), Word Pictures in the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Robertson, A.T. (1934), A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (Nashville, TN: Broadman).
Sutton, R.L. Jr. (1956), Diseases of the Skin (St. Louis, MO: Mosby College Publishing), eleventh edition.
Vincent, M.R. (1887), Word Studies in the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1946 reprint).

What Happened to the Body? by Brad Bromling, D.Min.


What Happened to the Body?

by  Brad Bromling, D.Min.


Christianity is based in its entirety on the claim that Jesus arose from the dead. Is there any actual evidence to support such a claim?
The unexpected happened. He told them it would; He even told them how. They simply refused to believe. Thursday, Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem with His friends; Friday, He was dead. His battered, lifeless body was removed from the cross and carried away. Friday night it was there—undisturbed. All day Saturday it was there—under guard. Sunday dawned. The tomb was empty. What happened to the body?
Jesus Christ met death face-to-face, and defeated it. The tomb was empty Sunday morning because Jesus was alive. Tombs are for the dead—not the living. By His resurrection, every claim Jesus made regarding His deity was confirmed “with power” (Romans 1:4). He not only kept His word that He would be raised, but He fulfilled a thousand-year-old prophecy by David (cf. Psalm 16:1-2; Acts 2:24-36).
In an age devoid of active miracles, people often wonder if such a claim can be proved. The answer is “yes!” A compelling case for the resurrection can be made from the information contained in the Gospel records. This article will present some of that material, and will answer common alternative theories employed to explain away the resurrection.


If Jesus was raised, His tomb had to be emptied. His bodily resurrection is indefensible if He remained in the tomb even one hour of day four. If the tomb was occupied Monday, Jesus is less than divine, and there is no hope in Him as Savior. This makes the witness of the tomb all-important.
Before discussing the evidence from the tomb, however, two preliminary points call for attention. First, was Jesus placed in a tomb? The Bible is clear on this point. His interment was witnessed by at least four individuals. Joseph of Arimathea received permission from Pilate to bury Jesus (Mark 15:43-45). He and Nicodemus hurriedly prepared and entombed the Lord’s body (John 19:38). Their activities were observed by Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph (Mark 15:46-47). Then, on the next day, the chief priests and Pharisees requested of Pilate that a guard be provided for the tomb (Matthew 27:62-65). They necessarily believed Jesus’ body remained there at the time of their request. This request was granted and a guard was sent. It is inconceivable that Pilate (who was responsible for maintaining the body of Jesus) would have sealed and set watch over a tomb that he did not believe was occupied. Hence, at least four people saw Jesus’ body in the tomb on Friday. The Jews, Pilate, and the guards acknowledged its presence on Saturday.
Second, Jesus was not buried in just any tomb; it was a new tomb. This is significant when one remembers that a dead man was once miraculously revived when his body was placed into the tomb that contained Elisha’s bones (2 Kings 13:21). Instead, Jesus was put into a tomb “in which no one had yet been laid” (John 19:41). The Lord’s resurrection was a unique event that could not be attributed to such a factor.
With these facts established, consider how the tomb offers powerful evidence of the Lord’s resurrection. First, it was impossible for Jesus to escape from the tomb without being detected. This is seen in various ways.
  • All four of the Gospel records explicitly declare that the Lord was dead prior to entering the tomb (Matthew 27:50; Mark 15:44-45; Luke 23:46; John 19:32-34).
  • The tomb was cut out of solid rock (Matthew 27:60). Tombs, like caskets, generally are not equipped with back doors!
  • The cave opening was blocked by a massive stone (Matthew 27:60).
  • The stone was affixed with a seal, and watched by soldiers (Matthew 27:66).
Obviously, it was impossible for Jesus to leave that tomb (apart from the resurrection miracle), let alone to do so without detection.
Second, the tomb did not contain the body of Jesus after the dawning of Sunday. This evidence is gleaned from those on both sides of the issue.
  • The empty tomb was seen by at least six of Jesus’ followers: Mary Magdalene (Matthew 28:1-10), Mary (the mother of James) and Salome (Mark 16:1-8), Joanna (Luke 24:10), and Peter and John (John 20:2-8).
  • The empty tomb was probably seen by at least a few Roman guards (Matthew 28:2,11-15).
  • That the tomb was empty was not denied by the antagonistic Jews (they merely attempted to explain why it was empty).
  • That the tomb was empty was loudly proclaimed on the day of Pentecost in the presence of literally thousands of Jews who most certainly would have denied it if they could (Acts 2:24-36).


One of the tomb’s most impressive features was the immense stone that acted as its door. Matthew used the Greek phrase lithon megan to describe the stone (27:60). This two-word combination is the source of our modern term, “megalith” (i.e., large stone). Mark and Luke report that the four women who came to the tomb wondered who would move the stone for them (Mark 16:2-4; Luke 24:10). Mark calls the stone “very large.” How large is “very large”? While we may never know, it is safe to assume that four women could move a fairly large stone without help; yet, apparently the force needed to move this stone exceeded their combined strength (Mark 16:3). If these women didn’t move it, who did? Can we rationally conclude that it was moved by a brutally beaten, crucified, and allegedly dead man? The record indicates that an angel of the Lord was dispatched from heaven to accomplish the task (Matthew 28:2).
Someone might contend that the stone could not have been too heavy since Joseph rolled it in place by himself (Matthew 27:60). But this is only partially correct. The stones used for this purpose often were set in a sloping groove with the low point in front of the tomb’s opening. While it may have taken many men to move and scotch the stone up and away from the doorway prior to burial, one man easily could have removed the block and allowed gravity to draw the stone down the slope into its proper resting position. Also, it is possible that the stone was set in place by a number of men under the direction of Joseph. After all, when we say that Alexander conquered the world, we do not mean that he did so without the aid of an army!
Moreover, the stone was not just nudged aside to allow a single man to slip through, but it actually was moved completely away from the tomb (John 20:1). The moving of the great stone by the angel was an event of such magnitude that Matthew tells us the soldiers “shook for fear of him, and became as dead men” (28:4). It is no wonder they left their post and returned to the city to make a report to the chief priests! Adding to their fear of this supernatural sighting was the fact that the tomb they were guarding was opened and empty. Perhaps they reasoned that if the Jews knew the circumstances, they would not press charges against them for losing custody of the body.
The impressive evidence from the tomb and stone may be summarized as follows. On Friday, at least four witnesses saw Jesus’ dead body placed into a previously empty tomb. The tomb was sealed with a stone too large for four women to move. Jesus’ presence in the tomb was acknowledged by friend and enemy alike on Saturday, when the stone was affixed with a Roman seal (McDowell, 1981, p. 59). On Sunday the stone had been moved and Jesus’ body was gone!


The Jews’ primary effort to prevent the disciples of Jesus from making any resurrection claims for their Master served as one of the strongest evidences supporting those claims. Matthew recounts the incident:
The next day, after the Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees were gathered together before Pilate, saying, “Sir, we remember that the deceiver said, I will arise after three days. Command therefore that the tomb be made secure until the third day to guard against his disciples stealing the body and saying, He has been raised from the dead. The last deception will be worse than the first.” Pilate replied to them, “Take guards and go and make the tomb as secure as you can.” They departed and secured the tomb, sealing the stone, and stationing the guards (Matthew 27:62-66; McCord, 1988).
Although they did not believe Christ, the Jews realized the importance of His words. The passage implies that the Jews were obtaining a Roman guard. Some scholars contend that Pilate told the Jews to take their own temple guard for the task. This seems unlikely. In the Greek, the phrase, “Take a guard” is in the imperative. It was a “curt permission” to take guards (Robertson, 1930, 1:239). Why would the Jews approach Pilate to request a Jewish guard? If they used their own guard, they would have been open to criticisms should the body turn up missing. Why would the temple guard fear Pilate’s reaction (Matthew 28:14)? It seems more probable that the Jews wanted a Roman guard to prevent Jesus’ disciples from stealing their Lord’s body.
As noted above, the guards were terrified when the angel moved the giant stone away from the tomb. They left their post and some of them returned to the city to report the incredible event. No doubt fearful of what would become of them, they went to the Jews (to plead for help?). The record continues:
When they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, saying, “Tell them, His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept. And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.” So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day (Matthew 28:12-15).
The guards were left with an empty tomb, and the Jews were faced with a dilemma. They had to deal with not just an empty tomb, but also eyewitness accounts (from neutral witnesses) of the resurrection of Jesus. What could they do? Three options were possible: they could accept the testimony and believe in the One they crucified; they could complain to Pilate about his incompetent soldiers; or, they could enact a cover-up. They were not yet willing to accept this Jesus as the Messiah. If they complained to Pilate, he might either believe or slay the soldiers. If he believed them, the Jews would be defeated. If he slew them, the Jews would be left with an inexplicably empty tomb. There was really only one option for them—a cover-up. So they bought a false report and circulated it in all directions. However, contrary to their desire, everywhere that false report traveled, so went one important fact—the tomb was empty!


Some persist in doubt. They reject the possibility of Christ’s resurrection and offer various explanations for the data.

The Swoon Theory

Some have suggested that Jesus did not actually die. He just fainted (“swooned”) and merely seemed to be dead. Thinking He was dead, His friends buried Him according to custom. After resting upon that cold stone slab, the Lord’s body naturally revived; thus revived, He moved the stone and exited the tomb (carefully avoiding being spotted by the guards). This view is utterly without foundation and collapses after even the most cursory glance at the evidence.
First, the body was acknowledged as dead by all parties involved. The Romans (who were experts at crucifixion) saw He was already dead and did not need to have His legs broken (John 19:33). Pilate was surprised to hear that Jesus had died so quickly, and investigated the matter (Mark 15:44-45). The followers of Jesus knew He was dead, for they began to prepare Him for burial, and even anticipated the coming of Sunday so they could finish the job. The Jews were sure He was dead, otherwise they would not have been so concerned with keeping His disciples from stealing His body (Matthew 27:62-66).
Second, no one who has been scourged, nailed to and hung upon a cross for six hours, and has had a spear pierce his side, is going to wake up capable of rolling away a stone that four women could not move!
Third, if this theory were true, the Jews would have been more successful claiming that Jesus had only swooned than in manufacturing an excuse for the empty tomb.
Fourth, where is Jesus now? The divine record has Him appearing for only forty days after His alleged swoon—what of the rest of His life?
Fifth, can any clear-thinking person really believe that the apostles lived persecuted lives and died as martyrs for a cause they knew to be false, or that Jesus would have been so cruel as to be the cause of such (either directly or indirectly)? Everything we know of Jesus mitigates against this thought.

The Wrong Tomb Theory

Some suggest that although Jesus was actually dead and buried, His followers accidentally went to another tomb that was empty. This theory hardly deserves mention; it defies nearly every detail of the resurrection narratives and leads to the absurd conclusion that not only His friends, but His enemies, and the Roman soldiers all went to the wrong tomb. On the contrary, the Gospel records mention that the interred body was seen by at least four people. How long would it take before someone recognized the mistake? After all, Joseph of Arimathea surely knew how to locate his own tomb, and easily could have corrected this error. Finally, Paul told of more than five hundred witnesses who did not see the empty tomb, but who had seen the risen Lord (1 Corinthians 15:6).

Friends Stole the Body

The most common theory suggests that Jesus’ friends stole His body while the guards slept. This was the story circulating when Matthew wrote his history (Matthew 28:15). But, where is the evidence that the guards slept? How could the disciples have moved the stone and kept from waking the guards? Why would the Jews have paid the guards to say the very thing that they tried to avoid in the first place? The whole reason the Pharisees asked Pilate to grant them a guard was to keep the disciples from stealing the body!
This view implies that the disciples knowingly devoted their lives to a falsehood. But, J.P. Moreland points out, “the disciples had nothing to gain by lying and starting a new religion. They faced hardship, ridicule, hostility, and martyrs’ deaths. In light of this, they could have never sustained such unwavering motivation if they knew what they were preaching was a lie” (1987, pp. 171-172).

Enemies Stole the Body

Some might aver that Jesus’ body was stolen by the Jews to keep the disciples from doing so. Hence, they took the body and hired a guard to watch an already vacant tomb. But this is ridiculous. If they stole the body, why did they not expose the disciples’ lie? Instead, they maintained the unprovable position that it was really the disciples who took the body. They never produced the body. What did they have to gain by concealing the most powerful evidence conceivable against the resurrection? Imagine how devastating it would have been for the disciples, had the Jews paraded Jesus’ rotting corpse before the many thousands on Pentecost. Such an act would have strangled the infant church in its crib.

God Stole the Body

One of the most unusual theories regarding the resurrection of Jesus was penned by Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses:
Our Lord’s human body was, however, supernaturally removed from the tomb; because had it remained there it would have been an insurmountable obstacle to the faith of the disciples, who were not yet instructed in spiritual things—for “the spirit was not yet given.” (John 7:39.) We know nothing about what became of it, except that it did not decay or corrupt. (Acts 2:27,31.) Whether it was dissolved into gases or whether it is still preserved somewhere as the grand memorial of God’s love, of Christ’s obedience, and of our redemption, no one knows (1912, 2:129).
Obvious problems with this theory are numerous. Not only does it deny the plain teachings of Scripture, but it implies that the disciples’ faith in the resurrection was based upon a falsehood. In other words, they believed the Lord was raised, and had irrefutable proof of it—when in fact He wasn’t. This makes God guilty of deliberate deception.

The Hallucination Theory

Another alternative theory is that the disciples never actually saw the Lord’s risen body—they only imagined they did. However, the biggest hindrance to this view is that many of these eyewitnesses were not easily convinced. Thomas was hardly alone in his skepticism concerning the resurrection. When the women went to the tomb on Sunday they found it empty. Their first reaction was one of bewilderment, not belief (Luke 24:4). Remember the disciples’ reaction to Mary’s incredible report? They had been with Jesus and had no doubt heard Him say many times that He would rise again, and yet Mark wrote: “And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe” (Mark 16:11). Jesus later rebuked them for this unbelief (Mark 16:14). They should have expected His resurrection, but obviously they did not. Jesus was also disappointed in the two disciples from Emmaus for failing to believe in the resurrection claims (Luke 24:25). Even at nightfall of the resurrection day the disciples were still doubting (Luke 24:38). The point is this: at first, these witnesses were unwilling to accept the fact of the resurrection.
Had they been predisposed to believe the reports of the resurrection, we might wonder if they simply believed what they wanted to about the matter. On the contrary, here were people who initially were skeptical and required evidence for belief. If they had believed all along that they would see the Lord alive again, then isolated hallucinations might have taken place among the mentally unstable disciples (if there were any). But, hallucinations do not occur in people of stable mental condition (unless artificially induced). Regardless, the empty tomb remains unexplained by this theory.


If compelled by the evidence to believe the resurrection, what is its relevance? First, the resurrection is the strongest single argument for the deity of Jesus (Romans 1:4). If He was raised from the dead as David prophesied, and as He so often promised, then He must have been deity! If He was not raised, then David spoke of another, and Jesus was a liar.
Second, the resurrection is the foundational principle upon which Christianity is built. Paul linked the reality of salvation to the fact of the resurrection; refute that fact, and Christians are a truly pathetic lot (1 Corinthians 15). Christianity is either the one true religion of the one true God, or it is a farce—the reality of the resurrection determines which.
Third, the fact of the resurrection is the greatest source of genuine hope available in this transient and confusing world. If Christ was raised, Christians will be raised (1 Corinthians 15). Since Christ was raised, He took away the power of death. His resurrection made it possible for Him to keep His promise to prepare a heavenly home for the faithful (John 14:1-4). No one fact offers more hope or assurance than does the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ!


McCord, Hugo (1988), McCord’s New Testament Translation of the Everlasting Gospel (Henderson, TN: Freed-Hardeman College).
McDowell, Josh (1981), The Resurrection Factor (San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Publishers).
Moreland, J.P. (1987), Scaling the Secular City (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Robertson, A.T. (1930), Word Pictures in the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Russell, Charles Taze (1889), Studies in the Scriptures (New York: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society).

Atheism or Christianity: Whose Fruit is Sweeter? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


Atheism or Christianity: Whose Fruit is Sweeter?

by  Eric Lyons, M.Min.

“Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies.” Such is the arduous title of a recent article that appeared in Journal of Religion and Society. Although the content of the article is much more reader friendly and interesting than its title might suggest, the author’s proposal is disturbingly misleading. According to Gregory Paul, “a freelance scientist and scientific illustrator specializing in dinosaur evolution” who penned the article in question (“Author Information,” n.d.), “[a]greement with the hypothesis that belief in a creator is beneficial to societies is largely based on assumption, anecdotal accounts, and on studies of limited scope and quality restricted to one population” (Paul, 2005). Supposedly, America’s forefathers like Benjamin Franklin were wrong in their many remarks about how religion (and specifically the Christian religion) would be a blessing upon America. Gregory Paul indicates that actually the blight of theism is clearly visible, and apparently a source of much of America’s dysfunction.
In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies.... No democracy is known to have combined strong religiosity and popular denial of evolution with high rates of societal health. Higher rates of non-theism and acceptance of human evolution usually correlate with lower rates of dysfunction, and the least theistic nations are usually the least dysfunctional. None of the strongly secularized, pro-evolution democracies is experiencing high levels of measurable dysfunction... (Paul, 2005).
Thankfully, Mr. Paul admitted that his writing was “not an attempt to present a definitive study that establishes cause versus effect between religiosity, secularism and societal health.” Nevertheless, he leaves readers with the strong impression that the fruit of theism is much more bitter than that of atheism.
Although one could argue that on certain grounds the United States is not as “dysfunctional” as some might contend, statistics do indicate that in America 22% of the population suffers from one or more STDs (“Tracking...,” 2004), more than one million innocent, unborn babies are slaughtered every year (“Induced Abortion,” 2002), and on average one murder (not including abortions) occurs every 32 minutes (“Crime in...,” 2003). These are only a few of the ghastly statistics that indicate America certainly is not the “shining city on the hill” that many (including our Founding Fathers) would like for it to be. That said, is one justified in closely attaching such data to America’s predominant theistic viewpoint? After all, “[o]ver the past fifty years of research, the percentage of Americans who believe in God has never dropped below 90%” (Gallup, Jr. and Lindsay, 1999, p. 23). Does theism really breed poor societal health and dysfunction? Answer: It certainly could. But, pure, unadulterated Christianity and true, biblical theism does not.
Most Americans believe in a higher power, which they may call “God,” but for many this is not the God of the Bible. They simply believe in a “convenient” creator, who allows them to do whatever feels good. They reject the Bible as revelation from God, and choose to live according to their own rules (which can lead to a dysfunctional society if those “rules” are contrary to biblical mandates). A great percentage of the remaining theists in America who call themselves Christians have perverted Christianity to the extent that somehow (among other things) having sexual relations outside of a scriptural marriage and killing innocent, unborn babies is acceptable. This type of theism is no better than atheism, and its fruit will be just as bitter. Israel suffered much throughout their history, but this was not the result of their theism. Rather, it was because of their departure from true, faithful devotion to Jehovah God (e.g., Numbers 14:33-34; Judges 19-20). As far back as 1947, Lincoln Barnett, in an article titled “God and the American People,” observed how “[i]t is evident that a profound gulf lies between America’s avowed ethical standards and the observable realities of national life. What may be more alarming is the gap between what Americans think they do and what they do do” (emp. in orig.). This gap has only widened in the last fifty years. What many theistic Americans may say they do (obey the God of the Bible) and what they really do (contribute to the moral decline of society by breaking God’s laws) is, indeed, disconcerting and grounds for legitimate criticism.
Atheistic, pro-evolution democracies, however, cannot logically associate the immorality of America with pure Christianity, and thus assume that atheism is more beneficial for a society. A country comprised of true Christians would be mostly void of such things as sexually transmitted diseases, murder, thievery, drunken fathers who beat their wives and children, drunk drivers who turn automobiles into lethal weapons, and heartache caused by such things as divorce, adultery, and covetousness (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:21; Matthew 19:9; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5-9; Galatians 5:19-23; Ephesians 4:28; 5:25,28; 6:4). Only those who break God’s commandments intended for man’s benefit would cause undesirable fruit to be reaped. [NOTE: This is the kind of society that America’s Founding Fathers envisioned—one based upon the unchanging, moral principles of the Bible. In reality, America was founded to be a republic, not a democracy (see Miller, 2005).]
The God of the Bible cannot logically be blamed because “theists” or “Christians” forsake His commands and do that which is right in their own eyes (cf. Judges 17:6). Furthermore, simply because the more atheistic, pro-evolution democracies do not permit their godless philosophy of life to produce the true fruits of the “survival of the fittest” mentality, but rather choose to live according to moral guidelines similar to those found in the Bible (e.g., not murdering, stealing, lying, etc.), does not mean that alleged low rates of crime, murder, etc. is the fruit of true atheistic thought. In short, unrighteousness, whether it stems from atheism or a corrupted form of Christianity, produces bitter fruit that will eventually bring about the wrath of God.
Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people (Proverbs 14:34).
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Woe to men mighty at drinking wine, woe to men valiant for mixing intoxicating drink, who justify the wicked for a bribe, and take away justice from the righteous man! Therefore, as the fire devours the stubble, and the flame consumes the chaff, so their root will be as rottenness, and their blossom will ascend like dust; because they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah 5:20-24).


“Author Information” (no date), The John Hopkins University Press, [On-line], URL: http://www.press.jhu.edu/books/title_pages/1442.html.
Barnett, Lincoln (1947), “God and the American People,” Ladies Home Journal, November.
“Crime in the United States, 2002” (2003), Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC.
Gallup, George Jr. and Michael Lindsay (1999), Surveying the Religious Landscape: Trends in U.S. Beliefs (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing).
“Induced Abortion” (2002), Alan Guttmacher Institute, [On-line], URL: http://www.agi-usa.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.pdf.
Miller, Dave (2005), “Christianity, Democracy, and Iraq,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/308.
Paul, Gregory S. (2005), “Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies,” Journal of Religion and Society, vol. 7, [On-line], URL: http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/2005/2005-11.html.
“Tracking the Hidden Epidemics 2000” (2004), Center for Disease Control, [On-line], URL: http://www.cdc.gov/nchstp/od/news/RevBrochure1pdfintro.htm.

Cloning--Scientific and Biblical Ramifications [Part II] by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.


Cloning--Scientific and Biblical Ramifications [Part II]

by  Bert Thompson, Ph.D.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Part I of this two-part series appeared in the May issue. Part II follows below and continues, without introductory comments, where the first article ended.]
As a result of the success of recent experiments in genetic engineering, the cloning of humans is on the minds of many, both among the general populace and with in the scientific community. In the past, the cloning of humans was a subject best discussed within the genre of science fiction novels, not scientific journals. When scientists, or science writers, did discuss the possibility of human cloning, their comments usually went something like this:
This is far beyond the reach of today’s science. There is a vast difference between cloning an embryo that is made up of immature, undifferentiated cells and cloning adults cells that have already committed themselves to becoming skin or bone or blood. All cells contain within their DNA the information required to reproduce the entire organism, but in adult cells access to parts of that information has somehow been switched off. Scientists do not yet know how to switch it back on (Elmer-Dewitt, 1993, p. 66).
In this statement, Philip Elmer-Dewitt, a writer for Time magazine, echoed what seemed to be a commonly-shared view among the researchers involved in genetic engineering. No one had been able to clone mammals using adult somatic cells, because for some unknown reason a great portion of the DNA in those cells had been “switched off.” But, as the old saying goes, “That was then; this is now.”


What a difference four years makes in science! In the Table of Contents of the February 27, 1997 issue of Nature (the official organ of the British Association for the Advancement of Science), there appeared what seemed at first glance to be an innocuous article titled “Viable Offspring Derived from Fetal and Adult Mammalian Cells” (Wilmut, et al., 1997). That article, however, announced the results of scientific research so significant that it not only would make history, but change forever the way scientists viewed cloning in both animals and humans.
Researchers from the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh, Scotland had accomplished what almost everyone in the scientific community thought to be impossible. Headed by embryologist Ian Wilmut, Scottish scientists produced a lamb using genetic material from the mammary cell of an adult ewe. The young lamb, named Dolly, did not owe her existence to a procreative act occurring between a ram and a ewe. Instead, Dolly was the result of a laboratory exercise in cloning. When her existence was announced, the entire world gasped—first in disbelief, then in amazement! As Time put it, the Scottish researchers had succeeded in
...scoring an advance in reproductive technology as unsettling as it was startling. Unlike offspring produced in the usual fashion, Dolly does not merely take after her biological mother. She is a carbon copy, a laboratory counterfeit so exact that she is in essence her mother’s identical twin (Nash, 1997, p. 62).
Technique used by Wilmut, et al. to clone a sheep. Their breakthrough involved starving body cells of nutrients, thus interrupting the normal cycle of growth and division. In this quiescent stage, the cell can be “reprogrammed” to function as a newly fertilized egg (after Travis, 1997, 151:215).
Here is what Dr. Wilmut did to make Dolly a reality. As noted earlier, embryonic cells are easier to use in cloning experiments than adult somatic cells because they are, for the most part, undifferentiated. In other words, they have not matured to the point where they have been able to carry out the instructions contained in the DNA within their nucleus that direct them to become skin cells, brain cells, eye cells, etc. In its young, embryonic state, an undifferentiated cell can become any other cell in the body, because it has the capacity to activate any given gene on any given chromosome. Non-embryonic somatic cells, however, already have carried out their DNA instructions, and as a result are differentiated (i.e., in their mature state, they have become hair cells, muscles cells, nerve cells, etc.). As a result, huge portions of the DNA instructions have been “deactivated,” so that mature cells can carry out their particular function(s). Thus, much of the information coded within the DNA of adult cells no longer is accessible, having been “turned off ” at maturity because it no longer is needed by the cell.
In the past, most scientists involved in the broad area of genetic engineering thought that the differentiation process was irreversible. However, Dr. Wilmut and his coworkers disproved that idea by devising a way to “reactivate” the portions of the DNA molecule that previously had been deactivated, thus making adult somatic cells candidates for cloning.
First, the team of Scottish scientists searched for a mechanism that would allow them to arrest the normal cell cycle (i.e., the process through which all cells go as they mature and prepare to reproduce themselves). They surmised that this might be accomplished by starving cells of the nutrients they normally would need to grow. Some of the cells chosen for the experiment were from the udder of a Finn Dorset ewe. Once deprived of these critical nutrients, the mammary gland cells fell into a sort of “suspended animation” (what, in live animals, would resemble hibernation), a state in which they remained for one week.
Second, using the procedure (discussed previously in this series of articles) known as “nuclear transfer,” Dr. Wilmut took an unfertilized oocyte (i.e., an egg cell) from a Scottish Blackface ewe and carefully removed its nucleus, leaving the remainder of the cell (cytoplasm, cell membrane, etc.) completely intact (see Stewart, 1997). Then, he took the quiescent mammary gland cell, placed it next to the oocyte, and gently applied short bursts of electrical current, which prompted the egg cell to bond with the somatic cell and absorb its nucleus (containing a full complement of chromosomes) as its own. As a result, the egg cell possessed the number of chromosomes it would contain if it had been fertilized by the male’s sperm. The biochemical activity usually associated with a zygote (the cell that results when sperm and egg combine) then began to occur.
Third, after one week of carefully-monitored growth, the laboratory-engineered embryo then was inserted into the uterus of a surrogate ewe, to see if it would implant successfully and grow to term.
All of this may sound quite simple, but it is not. Dr. Wilmut’s success came only after a long string of failures. In fact, he reported in his article in Nature that out of 277 eggs fused with udder cells, he and his team were able to produce only 29 embryos that survived more than six days. Of those 29, all died before birth except Dolly.


To the uninitiated, all of this may seem at best much ado about nothing, or at worst a complete waste of time, effort, and money. Why go to all the trouble and expense to clone an animal, when normal reproductive processes can produce an animal without all the fuss? “Just let nature take its course,” some might say.
There is much more to it than that, however. Cloning has the potential to make animal husbandry more effective and efficient. Imagine (to use just one example) the plight of the dairy farmer searching for a way to breed cattle that produce better milk in greater quantities. If he could isolate one or more cattle that consistently produced more, and better, milk than all the others, he could have them cloned, thus guaranteeing whole herds of the highest quality milk-producing animals.
In addition, cloning has the potential both to reduce human suffering, and to extend human life. Suppose (again, to choose just one hypothetical example) that scientists were able to discover a mechanism by which they could genetically alter chimpanzees so that portions of their immune systems, or products manufactured by those immune systems, were indistinguishable from those found in humans whose own immune systems were diseased or damaged, and thus incapable of fighting off disease to sustain life. These chimpanzees then could be cloned so that as many copies as needed could be produced, thereby ensuring life-saving animal products in an endless supply for use in humans.
Further, cloning has the potential to enlarge our knowledge about how cells differentiate and reproduce. Using the information gleaned from the study of the cell during cloning, scientists believe they could learn more about why cancer cells grow out of control, or why birth defects occur. In short, cloning does hold forth immense potential in many different areas and, used properly, could offer tremendous benefits to mankind (see Scientific American, 1997).
The operative phrase, here, however, is “used properly.” With cloning, as with many of the technologies offered by modern science, there can be serious scientific and biblical ethical implications. Rarely is the technology, in and of itself, morally objectionable; instead, it is the use of the technology that makes it so. Part of the problem is the fact that science itself is not equipped to deal with moral issues. There is nothing within the scientific method, for example, that can dictate whether nuclear energy should be used to destroy cancer cells, or entire cities. That is a judgment far beyond the scope of science to make.
Unfortunately, once the technology is made available, there are those who are prepared to employ it, regardless of any ethical problems that might be associated with it. Since many within the scientific community either do not believe in God, or do so only accommodatively, they neither are interested in, nor restricted by, the guidelines and principles set forth in His Word. As a result, in their eyes the simple fact that the technology is available is reason enough to use it. Within the scientific community, this is referred to as the “technological imperative”—whatever can be done should be done!


In regard to cloning, the most pressing questions on almost everyone’s mind are: (a) why would anyone want to clone a human in the first place; (b) if attempts at cloning humans are successful, would a clone be an exact duplicate of the original; (c) will we eventually be able to clone humans; and (d) most important, would humans produced by cloning possess a soul?
Why would anyone want to clone a human? First, parents might want to clone a child as a “replacement” for one that had died. Second, parents might want to clone a child to provide compatible organ transplants for a diseased relative. [There have been cases of women wanting to become pregnant so they could abort the child to provide fetal brain cells for transplantation into a relative (e.g., a parent suffering from Parkinson’s Disease).] Third, individuals might want to have themselves cloned to guarantee immortality—if not in soul, at least in body. Fourth, some may desire to clone a human simply for the prestige and adulation that inevitably will result from having accomplished what no one else has been able to do. A Nobel Prize can provide a very strong incentive indeed!
If attempts at cloning humans are successful, would a clone be an exact duplicate of the original? A clone would be an exact genetic duplicate of the original—the word “genetic” providing a critical distinction. Merely possessing identical genes does not guarantee identical people. Ask anyone with identical twins. In fact, twins would be more alike than clones for the simple reason that the twins would have shared the same environment, upbringing, etc. People are more than merely a “bag of genes.” Each of us is the end-product of many different external forces that influence us from cradle to grave. Our personalities and attitudes are formed by parents, friends, teachers, daily routines, societal interactions, and many other factors that affect us during our lifetimes.
Will we be able to clone humans eventually? That remains to be seen. No scientist can answer that question, for to do so would be to possess the ability to predict the future—something neither a scientist, nor science, is equipped to do. Furthermore, there are too many unknowns. We do not know if human adult somatic cells will respond the same way adult somatic cells from sheep responded. We do not know if the process used to produce Dolly (nuclear transfer) would work in humans. And so on.
However, if the question were reworded so that it asked, “Will scientists attempt to clone humans?,” I think the answer would be “yes.” An analogy might be helpful. When mountaineers are asked why they ascend a challenging (and often life-threatening) mountain, they routinely respond: “...because it’s there.” Some scientists likely will take the same approach. When asked why current technology should be used to clone humans, they will respond: “...because it’s there.” One writer has suggested:
...it is not a question as to whether we will attempt to clone a human being or not. Many technical hurdles will have to be overcome first before we can attempt to produce cloned humans, so they say. But if the moral and ethical scientists want to wait, or even shrink in fear from such an undertaking, there are many in the world who have the financial means, who do not have any scruples or reservations about cloning humans. What about them? (Sinapiades, 1997, p. 6, emp. in orig.).
I believe it no longer is a matter of if attempts will be made to clone humans using this new technology, but only when. Eventually some scientist, or group of scientists, will yield to the temptation to apply the Scottish scientists’ methodology to the human race.
If (and this is a big “if ”) scientists are successful in cloning humans, the most pressing question then becomes—will the people so produced possess a soul? Much of the debate occurring today (especially in religious circles) centers on this question. For example, three staff writers for U.S. News & World Report posed the question, “Would a cloned person have its own soul?,” and answered it as follows: “Most theologians agree with scientists that a human clone and its DNA donor would be separate and distinct persons. That means each would have his or her own body, mind, and soul” (Herbert, et al., 1997, p. 63).
In addressing what at the time was the unlikely possibility of the cloning of humans, Gish and Wilson asked: “What do we say, then? Would a clone be truly human? The answer is that, indeed, he would be human, for its life came from human life even though in a manner different than is usually the case” (1981, p. 174). In addition, they noted, the cloned human “is already alive, responsible to God for his actions, needing to preserve his own body against sickness, to see that he is properly fed, and all the rest. Each clone would have its own individual responsibility, its own soul” (p. 172).
I concur with such an assessment. In James 2:26, James made this observation: “The body apart from the spirit is dead.” The point, of course, was that when the spirit departs the body, death results. But there is an obvious, and important, corollary to that statement. If the body is alive, it must be the case that the spirit is present. This is a biblical principle that cannot, and must not, be ignored—especially in light of the present controversy. The simple fact of the matter is that if (again, a very big “if ”) scientists succeed in cloning living humans, those clones would possess a soul.
But only God can instill a soul. It is He Who “giveth to all life, and breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25). It is only “in Him” that “we live, and move, and have our being...” (Acts 17:28). The real issue is not whether man is intelligent enough to clone a human, but whether or not—should that eventually happen—God will choose to instill the lifeless creature in the laboratory with a soul. This is a question no one can answer.


Very often it is the case that with increased knowledge also comes increased power. And with increased power comes the potential for misuse or abuse of that power. The question, “will we be able to clone humans?” is not the same question as “should we clone humans?” The first is a question to be answered by an appeal to science; the second is a question to be answered by an appeal to the Word of God.
Oddly, at times those who do not believe in God or His Word as an objective moral standard seem to understand the ethical/moral issues better than some Christians. For example, long before the technology was available that could lead to human cloning, evolutionist Gunther Stent of the University of Southern California stated: “The idea of cloning humans is morally and aesthetically completely unacceptable” (as quoted in Howard and Rifkin, 1977, pp. 125-126). Compare that with the comment of Christian ethicist Randy Harris of David Lipscomb University: “Although there has been a good deal of rhetoric on the evils that are just ahead, I have yet to hear a cogent ethical argument as to why even the cloning of a human would be wrong” (1997, p. 16).
There are, in fact, several “cogent ethical arguments” that can, and should, be made against the cloning of humans, only two of which I would like to mention here.

Cloning’s “Failures” Represent Dead Human Beings

It is one thing to attempt—and fail—277 times using sheep cells in an attempt at cloning. Sheep are animals that do not possess souls, and that are not made in the “image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1:26-27). But it is quite another thing to try—even once—and fail in an attempt to clone a human. Embryos are living human beings! [On occasion, pro-abortion forces often argue that embryos within the womb are “not living.” If that is the case, then leave them alone. This, of course, is hardly an option, because in nine months the end-result is a human baby—something impossible to explain if the embryo was “not living” to begin with.] A laboratory littered with dead and dying sheep embryos is one thing; a laboratory littered with dead and dying human embryos is quite another!
Ask any knowledgeable ethicist, Christian or otherwise, and he or she will confirm that basic medical ethics requires that in any experiment, the subject must know the risks and give “informed consent.” In the case of cloning, however, the tiny embryo being produced (and that more often than not will die) can do no such thing. With cloning—if the success rate of the Scottish scientists is taken at face value—the failure rate will be staggering.
Basic medical ethics also requires that the experiment be to the subject’s benefit. Laboratory procedures for cloning humans scarcely would be to the benefit of the cloned embryos. Scottish scientist Wilmut and his colleagues saw 277 of the embryos they had produced perish before they saw a single one live. What if the same failure rate held true for the cloning of humans? Or, for the sake of argument, suppose that somehow the failure rate could be cut in half (in other words, out of 277 attempts, “only” 139 human embryos died in the process)? Would that then be ethically and morally acceptable? It would not! Producing human embryos—with the full knowledge that many more of them will die than will live—is indeed (to quote evolutionist Stent) “morally and aesthetically completely unacceptable.” Medical ethicist Paul Ramsey has suggested that we cannot even develop the kinds of reproductive technologies being discussed here “without conducting unethical experiments upon the unborn who must be the mishaps (the dead and retarded ones) through whom we learn how” (as quoted in Restak, 1975, p. 65).
Human life, as a gift from God (Acts 17:25), is sacred. The Proverbs writer observed that “there are six things which Jehovah hateth; yea, seven which are an abomination unto him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood” (6:16-17). Yet there is a tendency to ignore these divine principles, and to view human life as that which may be destroyed capriciously. Should Christians consider laboratories teeming with the dead and dying human embryos that resulted from failed attempts at cloning to be a “cogent ethical argument” against such procedures? Or should they instead, to use Leon Kass’ words, simply “leave it so that discarding laboratory-grown embryos is a matter solely between a doctor and his plumber” (as quoted in Restak, 1975, p. 65)?
Further, in examining the ethical issues surrounding procedures such as these, the implications of the various technologies must be acknowledged. For example, if cloning were possible:
  1. It could be used to provide children for unmarried people.
  2. Parents could pre-select the sex (and many other attributes) of their child(ren).
  3. Women’s liberation would be complete, since no male would be needed. The old Cockney saying, “It takes a man to make a girl,” no longer would be true.
  4. Large batches of human clones could be made for statistical studies.
  5. Clones could be produced in order to harvest “spare parts” for transplants (e.g., bone marrow, organs, etc.).
  6. People enamored of their own importance could ensure that exact genetic replicas of themselves were brought into existence via cloning—by tens or hundreds if they so desired.
If we scrutinize the alleged benefits of human cloning, there is less here than at first meets the eye. Producing people for spare parts, or to use as guinea pigs, is repugnant. David Lygre wrote: “The current risks of abnormality and our reverence for human life should rule these experiments out” (1979, p. 44). Indeed they should.

Cloning Circumvents God’s Plan for Reproduction

In a series of articles authored some years ago, Wayne Jackson remarked that these scientific experiments “strike at the very heart of God’s arrangement for human reproduction within the circle of the family unit and all that this involves” (1979, 15:3; see also Jackson, 1994, pp. 27-36). The use of such things as donor sperm, donor eggs, surrogate mothers, and cloning stand in stark contradistinction to God’s divinely designed plan for the home. While many things, biblically, could be said about God’s design of the home, one thing is clear. It is through the family unit (which includes both a husband and wife in the procreative act) that God intended for children to be brought into this world. According to divine design, marriage is to precede the bearing of children (1 Timothy 5:14). And it is not by accident that Moses recorded: “And the man [Adam—BT] knew Eve, his wife; and she conceived...” (Genesis 4:1; emp. added). Jack Evans correctly observed that God’s
...spiritual law says the oneness of the flesh can be approved only by Him in the marriage of the male and female who are producing another part of their flesh (Hebrews 13:4; I Corinthians 6:16; 7:1-5). Thus, the Bible teaches that the male and female producing the offspring of the one flesh, according to spiritual law, must be married to each other. ...It is obvious that marriage precedes bearing children. Thus, if the female bearing the child is not married to—is not one flesh with—the male in the reproduction process, they violate God’s spiritual law (1987, p. 358).
God’s plan is that children be produced through the husband and wife via their “one flesh” covenant. The world often forgets that childbearing never was intended to be an end within itself, but is part of a much larger plan.
Any action that ignores, or nullifies, God’s plan for the home, and reproduction within the framework of the home, must be avoided and opposed. Cloning does just that. It circumvents the principle of a husband and wife becoming “one flesh,” and through that procedure bringing children into the world. The family unit was planned to provide an atmosphere of love and trust (Proverbs 15:17; 17:1), which would create an ideal environment for spiritual growth. To ignore these truths is to miss the real meaning of the divinely planned family, and the procreative acts that God placed within that family unit.


Each day brings exciting new scientific discoveries. Improved techniques block pain and prevent suffering. New medicines cure or prevent diseases. Advancements in knowledge and methodology continually work to mankind’s benefit. As Suzuki and Knudtson concluded:
There is no reason to fear the stunning new conceptions of human hereditary disease now emerging from genetics research. In fact, we can rejoice that this new genetic knowledge is certain to improve the prevention, detection and treatment of many previously untreatable genetic disorders. At the same time, each of us shares responsibility for ensuring that techniques allowing the manipulation of the human genome are never exploited for arbitrary and self-serving ends or in ways that fail to consider the potential long-term consequences of large-scale genetic repair on human populations (1989, pp. 206-207).
Certainly, the faithful child of God may support many scientific advances that cure disease, alleviate suffering, and make life better. But the Word of God is the criterion against which every advance must be measured. The end does not always justify the means.


Elmer-Dewitt, Philip (1993), “Cloning: Where Do We Draw the Line?,” Time, pp. 65-70, November 8.
Evans, Jack (1987), “Is Surrogate Motherhood Sinful?,” Gospel Advocate, 129:358, June 18.
Gish, Duane T. and Clifford Wilson (1981), Manipulating Life: Where Does It Stop? (San Diego, CA: Master Books)
Harris, Randy (1997), “Will There Ever Be Another You?...Ewe?,” Christian Chronicle, 54[5]:16-17, May. [Harris is one of several scientists, theologians, and philosophers whose positions on cloning are presented in a special two-page spread, edited by Lindy Adams.]
Herbert, Wray, Jeffrey L. Sheler, and Traci Watson (1997), “The World After Cloning,” U.S. News & World Report, 122[9]:59-63, March 10.
Howard, Ted and Jeremy Rifkin (1977), Who Should Play God? (New York: Dell).
Jackson, Wayne (1979), “Ancient Ethics in a Modern World,” Christian Courier, 14:41-47; 15:2-4,6-8, May/June.
Jackson, Wayne (1994), Biblical Ethics & Modern Science (Stockton, CA: Courier Publications).
Lygre, David (1979), Life Manipulation (New York: Walker).
Nash, J. Madeleine (1997), “The Age of Cloning,” Time, 149[10]:62-65, March 10.
Restak, R.M. (1975), Pre-Meditated Man (New York: Viking).
Scientific American, “Special Report: Making Gene Therapy Work,” 276[6]:95-106.
Sinapiades, Mike (1997), “Cloning, Clowning, or What?,” First Century Christian, 19[2& 3]:6, February/March.
Stewart, Colin (1997), “An Udder Way of Making Lambs,” Nature 385:769,771, February 27.
Suzuki, David T. and Peter Knudtson (1989), Genethics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).
Travis, John (1997), “A Fantastical Experiment,” Science News, 151:214-215, April 5.
Wilmut, Ian, A.E. Schnieke, J. McWhir, A.J. Kind, and K.H.S. Campbell (1997), “Viable Offspring Derived from Fetal and Adult Mammalian Cells,” Nature, 385:810-813, February 27.