"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" Preparing The Way Of The Lord (3:1-12) by Mark Copeland

                        "THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW"

                 Preparing The Way Of The Lord (3:1-12)


1. Prior to the beginning of Jesus' public ministry, we read of the
   work of John the Baptist...
   a. Who preached in the wilderness of Judea - Mt 3:1
   b. Who at first had a very successful ministry - Mt 3:5-6
   c. Which was later cut short by his imprisonment - Mt 4:12

2. Though John's work was short-lived, it was clearly important...
   a. Each of the four gospels preface Jesus' ministry with that of
   b. His ministry prepared people for what was to come

[If we seek to understand the message and ministry of Jesus Christ, we
must start with the one who was sent to "prepare the way of the Lord".
In this study we shall begin by observing what we can regarding...]


      1. A call to repentance - Mt 3:1-2
         a. Lit., "a changing of the mind"
         b. Which change prompts one to turn from sin and turn to God
         c. Prompted by sorrow for one's sins, manifested by a zealous
            desire to do what is right - cf. 2Co 7:10-11
      2. A proclamation of the coming "kingdom of heaven" - Mt 3:2
         a. The term "kingdom" in Jewish thought meant "rule, reign"
         b. The phrase "of heaven" implies the source of such rule; 
            other gospel writers use "of God" - cf. Mk 1:14-15
         c. The rule or reign of God was about to be manifested in a
            special way; it was "at hand" (near)

      1. To fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah - Mt 3:3
         a. Which was to "prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths
            straight" - Isa 40:3
         b. I.e., to prepare people for the coming of the Messiah
      2. To fulfill the prophecy of Malachi - Mt 3:4
         a. Concerning the sending of Elijah - cf. Mal 4:5-6
         b. John came "in the spirit and power of Elijah", not that he
            actually was Elijah - cf. Jn 1:19-23 (cf. Mt 3:4 with
            2Ki 1:8)
      -- As the angel told Zacharias, his son John was to "make ready a
         people prepared for the Lord" - Lk 1:16-17

      1. People from Jerusalem, all Judea, etc., went to him - Mt 3:5
      2. They were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins
         - Mt 3:6
         a. For he preached a baptism of repentance - Mk 1:4a
         b. A baptism for the remission of sins - Mk 1:4b

      1. When people came to be baptized, he expected to see fruits in
         keeping with true repentance - Mt 3:7-8
         a. He expected compassion for the poor - Lk 3:10-11
         b. He expected honest business dealings - Lk 3:12-13
         c. He expected fair treatment, contentment with one's wages 
            - Lk 3:14
      2. He told them not to trust in their heritage or ancestry 
         - Mt 3:9
         a. It was not enough to be Jews, descendants of Abraham
         b. God could just as easily raise up children to Abraham out
            of stones
      3. He warned them that the time of judgment was near - Mt 3:10
         a. The "ax" (God's judgment) was at the root of the trees
         b. That which did not bear good fruit would be cut off 
            - cf. Ro 11:11-23; Jn 15:1-6

      1. One mightier than he is coming - Mt 3:11
         a. Yes, John did indeed baptize with water with repentance
         b. But one (Jesus) was coming to baptize with the Holy Spirit
            and fire!
      2. Whose work would be to separate the wheat from the chaff 
         - Mt 3:12
         a. Using a "winnowing fan" (the Holy Spirit? cf. Jn 16:7-8,
         b. And burn up the chaff with "unquenchable fire" (the 
            Judgment? cf. Mt 13:30)

[We can learn more of the ministry of John the Baptist by studying the
other gospels, but what Matthew records is sufficient to make several
observations about how he was "Preparing The Way Of The Lord"...]


      1. John preached a call to repent - Mt 3:2,8
         a. Jesus did the same during His earthly ministry - Mt 4:17;
            9:13; 11:20; 12:41
         b. Jesus expected the call to repentance to be proclaimed in
            His name to all nations - Lk 24:46-47
         c. And so His apostles proclaimed the need to repent - Ac 2:
            38; 3:19; 17:30; 20:20-21; 26:19-20
         -- Unless we heed to the call to repent, we have not begun to
            understand nor act upon what it means to be true disciples
            of Jesus Christ!
      2. John proclaimed the good news of the kingdom, that it was near
         - Mt 3:2
         a. This was the same message proclaimed by Jesus - Mt 4:17;
            cf. Mk 1:14-15
         b. By His disciples, in the Limited Commission - Mt 10:7
         c. The theme of the kingdom was an important part of the
            gospel following the Great Commission - Ac 8:12; 14:22;
            19:8; 20:25; 28:23
         -- What came to be taught concerning the kingdom, we shall
            consider in another lesson; but it was "at hand" during
            Jesus' earthly ministry, and in existence following His
            ascension to heaven - cf. Col 1:13; 1Th 2:12; Re 1:9

      1. He spoke of Jesus as One who would baptize with the Holy
         Spirit - Mt 3:11
         a. This did not rule out Jesus baptizing in water, or that His
            disciples would
            1) Indeed, Jesus did baptize in water, via His disciples 
               - Jn 4:1-2
            2) He later commanded water baptism in the Great 
               Commission, which His disciples carried out - Mt 28:
               19-20; Ac 2:38; 8:35-38; 10:47-48
         b. But Jesus would also baptize with the Holy Spirit, as 
            promised - cf. Ac 1:4-5
            1) Which occurred at Pentecost - cf. Ac 2:1-21
            2) The result of which affects all who are saved - Tit 3:5-7
         -- Yes, John "indeed" baptized with water (as would Jesus),
            but John prepared the people for a work Jesus would do that
            went far beyond what he was doing!
      2. He spoke of Jesus as One who would separate the "wheat" from
         the "chaff" - Mt 3:12
         a. Jesus' work would divide the good from the bad - cf. Mt 13:
         b. His work would even cause division within one's family 
            - cf. Mt 10:34-39
         -- From what John said, we can expect that the effect of 
            Jesus' work would sometimes cause division, not peace!
      3. He spoke of Jesus as administering judgment - Mt 3:12
         a  Jesus later depicted Himself as judge - Mt 26:31-46
         b. He spoke of how His words would judge us in the last day 
            - Jn 12:48
         -- It is true that Jesus came the first time to save the 
            world, but He is coming again, this time to judge the 
            world! - 2Th 1:7-10


1. The ministry of John the Baptist was an important one...
   a. To "prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight"
   b. This he did by preaching the same themes, letting people know
      what to expect
   -- Of course, there was more, as John was to actually identify the
      Messiah to Israel

2. But when Jesus began preaching, people were more likely to:
   a. Repent of their sins
   b. Answer the call to be baptized
   c. Accept the good news concerning the kingdom
   ...for John had been preaching such themes in the wilderness of

3. In a sense, John's message is still needed today...
   a. There are many who turn the message of Jesus Christ into some 
      sort of "easy-believism"
   b. But John reminds us of the need to bear fruits in keeping with
      true repentance

As Jesus would say later, "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and do
not do the things which I say?" (Lk 6:46).  Are you showing true
acceptance of Jesus as Lord by doing the things He says?

"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" The Early Years Of Jesus (2:13-23) by Mark Copeland

                        "THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW"

                   The Early Years Of Jesus (2:13-23)


1. A remarkable feature concerning the gospel records is their
   a. Especially related to the early life of Jesus, following His
   b. Mark and John relate nothing about this period of Jesus' life
   c. Only Matthew and Luke record something about the first thirty

2. Other than the visit of the wise men, Matthew records only...
   a. The flight to Egypt - Mt 2:13-15
   b. The massacre by Herod - Mt 2:16-18
   c. The return to Nazareth - Mt 2:19-23

3. Why did Matthew record only these three events?  Are there any
   lessons to be gleaned from what we know of the early years of Jesus?

[In an effort to answer such questions, let's take a few moments and
first examine the text of Mt 2:13-23...]


      1. Precipitated by the angel's warning - Mt 2:13-14
         a. Joseph was told to take Mary and the Child to Egypt
         b. For Herod was seeking to destroy Jesus
      2. Remaining there until the death of Herod - Mt 2:15
         a. The sojourn and eventual departure from Egypt fulfilled
            prophecy - Hos 11:1
         b. For the exodus of Israel alluded to in Hosea was evidently
            a type or shadow of the Messiah's own call out of Egypt

      1. Herod's angry decree - Mt 2:16
         a. Having been frustrated in his original plans - Mt 2:7-8,12
         b. Ordering the death of all male children, two and under, in
            Bethlehem and surrounding districts
      2. Jeremiah's prophecy - Mt 2:17-18
         a. This terrible calamity had been foreseen - Jer 31:15
         b. For the exile of Israel alluded to in Jeremiah was likewise
            a type or shadow of the grief that would be experienced
            again in the region where Rachel was buried

      1. Joseph was directed via dreams - Mt 2:19-22
         a. First, to return to Israel, for Herod was dead
         b. Then, to go to Galilee instead of Judea, for Herod's son
            Archelaus was reigning in Judea
      2. Residing in Nazareth, another fulfillment of prophecy 
         - Mt 2:23
         a. The prophecy "He shall be called a Nazarene" was based
            upon the words of several prophets ("which was spoken by
            the prophets")
         b. There are at least two possibilities as to what is meant...
            1) "It may be that this term of contempt (Jn 1:46; 7:52) is
               what is meant, and that several prophecies are to be
               combined like Ps 22:6,8; 69:11,19; Isa 53:2-4."
               - Robertson's Word Pictures
            2) "Verse 23 alludes to Isa. 11:1, which states that a
               "branch" (netser, Heb.) will grow out of the roots of
               Jesse (cf. Jer 23:5). Under this view, "branch" and
               "Nazarene" share the same root (nzr, Heb.), and "branch"
               refers to the coming ruler of Davidic descent. Although
               they used a different word, other prophets also spoke of
               the Messiah in terms of the "branch" 
               (Jer. 23:5; Zech 3:8; 6:12), and Matthew could legitimately say 
               that this prediction was "spoken by the prophets" (vv. 6, 15)."
               - Believer's Study Bible

[It should be apparent that Matthew selected those events in Jesus' 
early life which were foretold by the prophets.  This assisted him in
his purpose to show his Jewish readers that Jesus was truly the Messiah
for Whom they were looking!  Now for a couple of...]


      1. This is seen throughout Jesus' life and the period following
         a. Herod the Great, upset at His birth - Mt 2:1-3,16
         b. Herod Antipas, who had John imprisoned and beheaded 
            - Mt 4:12;14:1-12
         c. The leaders of Israel
            1) Who plotted against Jesus - Mt 26:3-4; 27:1-2
            2) Who attempted to cover up His resurrection - Mt 28:11-15
            3) Who sought to prevent the apostles from telling their
               story - Ac 4:1-3,18; 5:40; 24:1-5
      2. We should not be surprised if the same should happen to us
         a. Jesus warned that such might happen - Jn 15:18-20
         b. Satan will certainly do all that he can to stop us
            1) He was behind the efforts to persecute Christ and His
               church - Re 12:3-5,17; 1Pe 5:8-9
            2) He made use of kings to war against the Lamb and His
               followers - Re 17:12-14
            3) And will do so again - cf. Re 20:7-9
      -- But as prophesied, all such efforts are for naught!- cf. Ps 2:1-12

      1. Jesus' beginnings did not prevent Him from doing great things
         a. Even though He lived in exile and relative obscurity at the
            beginning (in Egypt)
         b. Even though He was raised in a town despised by others
      2. The example of Jesus' humility ought to inspire us
         a. To accept the mind of Christ, especially in relation to our
            brethren - Php 2:5-8
         b. To accept whatever area of service we might have in life 
            - cf. Ps 84:10
      -- For those who humble themselves will be exalted at the right
         time - cf. 1Pe 5:5-7


1. What we know of Jesus' early years is very little

2. But it is sufficient to confirm that He was truly the Messiah...
   a. Who would be "despised and rejected by men" - Isa 53:3
   b. Against whom "the kings of the earth set themselves" - Ps 2:2-3

3. And it should be sufficient to remind His disciples...
   a. That we can expect the same treatment - 2Ti 3:12
   b. That we seek to emulate the same example of humility and 
      willingness to suffer for the will of God - 1Pe 2:21

Are you willing to humbly serve and even suffer persecution for Jesus
"the Nazarene"?

HEMATIDROSIS by Dave Miller, Ph.D.



by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Luke, the author of the New Testament books of Luke and Acts, by profession, was a physician. His writings manifest an intimate acquaintance with the technical language of the Greek medical schools of Asia Minor. For example, 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 in orig.; cf. Robertson, 1934, p. 1140).
We conclude that the terminology used by the gospel writer to refer to the severe mental distress experienced by Jesus was intended to be 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, can and has occurred. Commonly referred to as hematidrosis or hemohidrosis (“Hematidrosis,” 2002; Allen, 1967, pp. 745-747: Miller and Kaene, 1972, p. 419), 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 (Holoubek and Holoubek, 1996). Acute fear and intense mental contemplation were found to be the most frequent inciting causes. 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 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).
“Hematidrosis,” (2002), Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary, [On-line], URL: http://www.mercksource.com/pp/us/cns/cns_hl_dorlands. jspzQzpgzEzzSzppdocszSzuszSzcommonzSzdorlandszSzdorlandzSzdmd _h_05zPzhtm.
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.
Miller, Benjamin and Claire Keane (1972), Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine and Nursing (Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders).
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 Press).
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).

Following the Toucan’s Nose to a Designer by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Following the Toucan’s Nose to a Designer

by  Kyle Butt, M.Div.

The writers and editors of National Geographic are notoriously guilty of saturating their articles with evolution. That is why it is almost humorous to read articles in the periodical that seem to slip by the editors—articles that, if read in a straightforward manner, defy evolution. For instance, in the December, 2006 issue, the editors included a tiny, one-page article titled “Power Beak.” This article discusses the beak of the toucan. John Eliot, the author of the article, interviewed Marc André Meyers, “a materials scientist at the University of California, San Diego.” Meyers believes the unique design of the toucan beak could be used to produce strong, lightweight materials used in vehicles.
Meyers describes the toucan beak as a beautiful structure. He then goes into some engineering detail:
The surface is made of keratin, the same material in fingernails and hair. But the outer layer isn’t a solid structure. It’s actually many layers of tiny hexagonal plates, overlapping like shingles on a roof. The interior is different from the shell, made of bone. It consists of a light yet rigid foam made of little beams and membranes. And some areas of the beak are hollow (Eliot, 2006, p. 30).
On the same page, to the right of Meyers’ comments, the reader can see two pictures from a microscope—one of the hard foam inside the beak and the other of the “shingle” layers of keratin. To the left of the comments there is a toucan head and beak, in which the layers are shown in a cross-section-like diagram. The combined pictures look like they are straight out of an engineer’s portfolio.
What is Eliot’s assessment of the toucan’s beak? In a simple, yet oh-so-telling, sentence, Eliot said: “[T]he toucan’s beak is ingeniously designed to be both strong and light weight.” Look closely at the wording. He says the beak is “ingeniously designed.” The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word “ingenious” as: “Marked by inventive skill and imagination. 2. Having or arising from an inventive or cunning mind; clever” (2000, p. 900, emp. added). Notice that the word “ingenious” implies an inventive or cunning mind. What inventive or cunning mind engineered the beautiful design of the toucan beak? It could not have been the evolutionary process, since evolutionists themselves admit that the process has no ultimate goals and no creative mind powering the system. The only logical answer is the supernatural mind of God. If the editors of National Geographic would only follow the nose of the toucan, they would find the ingenious Designer—and they would stop writing false, evolutionary propaganda.


American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2000), (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin), fourth edition.
Eliot, John L. (2006), “Power Beak,” National Geographic, 210[6], December 12.

Do Children Inherit the Sin of Their Parents? by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Do Children Inherit the Sin of Their Parents?

by  Kyle Butt, M.Div.

Understanding the nature of God’s interaction with man is no small task. The sincere Bible student often comes across things in the biblical text that are puzzling. Others, who are perhaps somewhat less sincere, twist these initially puzzling passages “to their own destruction” (as described in 2 Peter 3:16). One such idea that has been abused is the alleged contradiction between how Jehovah dealt (and still deals) with the children of sinful people. Steve Wells, author of the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, insists that there is a discrepancy in the Bible regarding this subject. He lists Exodus 20:5, which states: “For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me.” Wells then presents Ezekiel 18:20 as a contradictory verse: “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself ” (Wells, 2003).
Is there a legitimate contradiction between these verses? Or, to pose the question differently, “Is there any possible way that both these statements can be true?” The fact of the matter is that both statements can be true, without a contradiction occurring. What Mr. Wells and others who twist these verses into an alleged contradiction do not recognize is that there is a difference between bearing the guilt of a parent, and suffering negative physical and emotional consequences due to that parent’s bad decisions.
It often is the case that the children of wicked people suffer terribly. Sometimes these children suffer because the parent physically or emotionally abuses them (in direct violation of Scripture; cf. Matthew 7:12; Colossians 3:21). At other times, the child suffers as a result of the parent’s irresponsible behavior. For instance, suppose a man addicted to gambling wastes his salary on gambling, instead of using it to feed his family. As a result, his children suffer hunger, shame, and poverty.
Yet, even though the children of sinful people often suffer physical consequences, they do not inherit the sin of those parents. The book of Jeremiah provides an interesting commentary on this subject. In Jeremiah 16:1-6, God told Jeremiah that the prophet should not take a wife and/or have children in the land of Israel. God explained His reasoning to Jeremiah as follows: “For thus says the Lord concerning the sons and daughters who are born in this place.... ‘They shall die gruesome deaths; they shall not be lamented, nor shall they be buried, but they shall be as refuse on the face of the earth’ ” (16:3-4). Why was this going to happen? Wells is quick to refer to this chapter, especially verses 10 and 11 where the children of Israel pose the question, “Why has the Lord pronounced all this great disaster against us” (vs. 10)? Wells then records Jeremiah’s answer: “ ‘Because your fathers have forsaken Me,’ says the Lord” (vs. 11). Wells, however, does not cite the very next verse (12), which states: “And you have done worse than your fathers....”
These Israelites were suffering due to the sins of their fathers—and due to their own sins. Their children were going to die gruesome deaths. The skeptic is quick to seize upon this fact, and demand that any time innocent children die, it is a travesty against justice that a loving God never would permit (a fallacious idea that I have refuted elsewhere; see Butt, 2004).
Do children sometimes die horrible deaths due to their parents’ wrong decisions? Absolutely. The Israelites had adopted the practice of sacrificing their own children to a false god named Baal (Jeremiah 19:5). The iniquity of the parents, then, can be visited upon the children in the form of physical suffering. But do those children bear the guilt of that sin? Absolutely not! Ezekiel wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit: “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son” (Ezekiel 18:20, emp. added).
Notice the words soul and guilt. Does the Bible ever insinuate, for example, that a child is guilty of idolatry because his parents were idolatrous? No (read Matthew 18:3-5; Luke 18:16-17). Bearing the guilt of sin is altogether different than bearing the physical consequences of the actions of others. As is often the case, the skeptic has confused the two, and has alleged a biblical contradiction where, in fact, none exists. This is yet another example in which the allegation against the Bible fails, but “the Word of the Lord endures forever” (1 Peter 1:25).


Butt, Kyle (2004), “The Skeptic’s Faulty Assumption,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2230.
Wells, Steve (2001), Skeptic’s Annotated Bible [On-line], URL: http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/1cor/index.html.

The Da Vinci Code and the Dead Sea Scrolls by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


The Da Vinci Code and the Dead Sea Scrolls

by  Eric Lyons, M.Min.

The Schøyen Collection MS 1655/1
In 1947, a number of ancient documents were found (by accident) in a cave on the northwest side of the Dead Sea. This collection of documents, which has become known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, was comprised of old leather and papyrus scrolls and fragments that had been rolled up in earthen jars for centuries. From 1949 to 1956, hundreds of Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts and a few Greek fragments were found in surrounding caves, and are believed by scholars to have been written between 200 B.C. and the first half of the first century A.D. Some of the manuscripts were of Jewish apocryphal and pseudepigraphal writings (e.g., 1 Enoch, Tobit, and Jubilees); others are often grouped together as “ascetic” writings (miscellaneous books of rules, poetry, commentary, etc.). The most notable group of documents found in the caves of Qumran near the Dead Sea is the collection of Old Testament books. Every book from the Hebrew Bible was accounted for among the scrolls, except the book of Esther.
The Dead Sea Scrolls make up one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all times. Jews and Christians often point to these scrolls as evidence for the integrity of the Old Testament text. Prior to 1947, the earliest known Old Testament manuscripts only went back to about A.D. 1000. With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Bible scholars have been able to compare the present day text with the text from more than 2,000 years ago. What they have found are copies of Old Testament books separated in time by more than a millennium that are amazingly similar. Indeed, the Old Testament text had been transmitted faithfully through the centuries. As Rene Paché concluded: “Since it can be demonstrated that the text of the Old Testament was accurately transmitted for the last 2,000 years, one may reasonably suppose that it had been so transmitted from the beginning” (1971, p. 191).
So what does all of this have to do with The Da Vinci Code? According to Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, “All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate” (2003a, p. 1, emp. added). Yet notice how Brown uses one of his main fictional characters (Leigh Teabing) in the book. In an attempt to disparage the New Testament documents, Teabing alleged the following about them and their relationship to the Dead Sea Scrolls:
“[S]ome of the gospels that Constantine attempted to eradicate managed to survive. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the 1950s hidden in a cave near Qumran in the Judean desert” (Brown, 2003a, p. 234).
“These are photocopies of the Nag Hammadi and Dead Sea Scrolls, which I mentioned earlier,” Teabing said. “The earliest Christian records. Troublingly, they do not match up with the gospels in the Bible” (p. 244).
Although Brown asserted on the very first page of his book that “[a]ll descriptions of...documents...in this novel are accurate” (emp. added), and even though he claimed “absolutely all” of his book is based on reality in terms of things that actually occurred (see Brown, 2003b), among the many inaccurate statements he made in his book are those quoted above regarding the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Simply put, the Dead Sea Scrolls are not in any way “Christian records;” they are Jewish writings from a Jewish religious sect, most of which predate the time of Christ (and thus Christianity) by several decades, and in some cases one or two centuries. These scrolls contain no “gospels.” In fact, Jesus of Nazareth is never even mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Such a reckless use of one of the greatest biblical archaeological discoveries ever should cause readers to see The Da Vinci Code for what it really is—a fictional novel bent on raising unnecessary suspicion about the trustworthiness of the Bible. Interestingly, the “documents” Brown used in hopes of casting doubt on Christianity, are, in actuality, some of the greatest pieces of evidence for the reliability of the Old Testament. What’s more, the Old Testament was “the Bible” of the early church. It is from these “Scriptures” that first-century Christians gleaned a greater understanding about Jesus, Who, as taught in the Old Testament, was the Christ, the prophesied Messiah (Acts 8:32-35; 17:10-11; 2 Timothy 3:15-17). In that sense, the Hebrew Scriptures contained in the Dead Sea Scrolls collection marvelously “match up with the gospels in the Bible.”


Brown, Dan (2003a), The Da Vinci Code (New York: Doubleday).
Brown, Dan (2003b), “Today,” NBC, Interview with Matt Lauer, June 9.
Paché, Rene (1971), The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

Autonomous Control of Creation by Jeff Miller, Ph.D.


Autonomous Control of Creation

by  Jeff Miller, Ph.D.

Autonomous Control and "Mother Nature"

Engineers regularly work with control systems. Autonomous control is a step beyond remote control. Remote control applications allow manual issuing of commands through some sort of transmission device (i.e., a remote controller) that controls something else (e.g., a robot or television) located some distance away from the controller. Autonomous control, on the other hand, uses a computer program to issue the commands. The computer becomes the controller, instead of a human being. It is common knowledge in the engineering community that autonomous control is a subject that is of particular interest today. From autonomous control of ground vehicles (Naranjo, et al., 2006), to autonomous missile guidance systems (Lin, et al., 2004) and aerial vehicles (Oosterom and Babuska, 2006), to autonomous aquatic vehicles (Loebis, et al., 2004) and satellites (Cheng, et al., 2009), and even to autonomous farming equipment (Omid, et al., 2010), notable success is being made in this area of technology.
The amazing thing from a Christian perspective, however, is that many engineers—the designers of the scientific community—are becoming aware of the fact that the world around us is already replete with fully functional, superior designs in comparison to what the engineering community has been able to develop to date. Biomimicry (i.e., engineering design using something from nature as the blueprint) is becoming a prevalent engineering pursuit. However, some engineers are not interested in copying creation in their designs since they simply cannot replicate many of the features that the natural world has to offer. They are realizing that the created order oftentimes comes equipped with natural “sensor suites” whose designs surpass the capability of engineering knowledge to date. Animals possess amazing detection, tracking, and maneuvering capabilities which are far beyond the knowledge of today’s engineering minds, and likely will be for many decades, if not forever. An insect neurobiologist, John Hildebrand, from the University of Arizona in Tucson, admitted, “There’s a long history of trying to develop microrobots that could be sent out as autonomous devices, but I think many engineers have realised [sic] that they can’t improve on Mother Nature” (Marshall, 2008, p. 41). Of course, “Mother Nature” is not capable of designing anything, since “she” is mindless. The Chief Engineer, the God of the Bible, on the other hand, can be counted on to have the best possible engineering designs. Who, after all, could out-design the Grand Designer? In spite of the deterioration of the world and the entrance of disease and mutations into the created order, after some six millennia, His designs still stand out as the best—unsurpassed by human wisdom.

Controlling the Living

Recognizing the superiority of the natural world, the scientific community has become interested in learning how to remotely control living creatures instead of developing robotic versions. This line of thinking certainly adds new meaning to God’s command to mankind to “subdue” and “have dominion” over the created order (Genesis 1:28). One of the ways in which animal remote control is being done is by implanting electronics in animal bodies that are subsequently used to manipulate the movements and behaviors of the creature. Hybrid creatures such as these are known as bio-robots or cyborgs. Cyborg research has been conducted since the 1950s, when Jose Delgado of Yale University implanted electrodes into the brains of bulls to stimulate the hypothalamus for control purposes (Marshall, 2008). Since then, the list of remotely controlled animals using electrode implantation has grown to include:
  • sharks (i.e., spiny dogfish; Gomes, et al., 2006; Brown, 2006)
  • rats (Talwar, et al., 2002; Li and Panwar, 2006; Song, et al., 2006)
  • monkeys (Brown, 2006; Horgon, 2005)
  • mice (“SDUST Created…,” 2007)
  • chimpanzees (Horgon, 2005)
  • frogs (Song, et al., 2006)
  • pigeons (“SDUST Created…,” 2007)
  • cats (Horgon, 2005)
  • gibbons (Horgon, 2005)
  • cockroaches (Holzer, et al., 1997; “Researchers Develop ‘Robo-roach,’” 2001)
Cornell University, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Michigan, and Arizona State University at Tempe are working on developing flying insect cyborgs, including hawkmoths and green June beetles (Ray, 2010; Sato, et al., 2008; Sato, et al., 2009; Bozkurt, et al., 2008). The University of Florida in Gainesville used electrodes to remotely control rats specifically for detection of humans (for search and rescue scenarios) and explosives (Marshall, 2008). Non-invasive remote creature control projects are underway as well. M.I.T. used virtual fencing coupled with Global Positioning System (GPS) for tracking and autonomously herding cows by implementing auditory cues and shock reinforcement to keep cows within a desirable area (Correll, et al., 2008; Schwager, et al., 2008).
There is beginning to be more interest in the prospect of remotely controlling canines as well (“Grand Challenge…,” 2010). Engineers realize that dogs can traverse a variety of terrains more efficiently than humans or robots and are effective at guarding territories, carrying out search and rescue missions, as well as providing guidance for the visually impaired. They also have an amazing sense of smell that makes them capable of detecting explosives, narcotics, tobacco, pipeline leaks, retail contraband, and even cell phones and bed bugs (“Detection Services,” 2010). Since engineers have not developed a device that can compare with a canine’s ability to detect odors, the use of canines for these applications is attractive. Although other creatures, such as rats (Marshall, 2008), have a keen sense of smell, canines are more appealing, especially due to their innate ability to interact with humans. Thus, using canines for these purposes is attractive to engineers, and the ability to remotely control a canine for many of these purposes is an even more attractive goal. Many scenarios could be envisioned to illustrate cases where the presence of a dog handler alongside a canine could be an impossibility (e.g., tight areas in search and rescue operations) or undesirable (e.g., scenarios where the handler should not be visible or in harm’s way). In a recent event in Afghanistan, a bomb detection canine detected an explosive a moment too late. The canine handler lost his left leg and received other serious injuries (“Grand Challenge…,” 2010). Remote control capability or autonomous guidance likely would have significantly altered the outcome of this unfortunate event, as well as many others.
Since engineers cannot yet develop an adequate robotic solution to this problem, the Office of Naval Research funded a research project to develop such a solution—a research project I was heavily involved in at Auburn University while engaged in doctoral studies. The Canine Detection and Research Institute (CDRI) at Auburn University demonstrated that detection canines can be remotely controlled using a canine vest we developed that was equipped with a tone and vibration generator (Britt, et al., 2010). However, many cases could easily be envisioned where the canine would be out of sight from the handler (e.g., moving behind a distant building), at which time remote control capability becomes useless. Therefore, the next natural step was to automate that remote control capacity (i.e., autonomous control of the canine).
Since canines can traverse a variety of terrains more efficiently than humans, and possess a natural array of “sensors” used to detect and locate items of interest that robots are not readily equipped with, many aspects that pose problems to unmanned ground vehicles are inherently removed with the canine. Canines can execute the low-level decision making that is necessary for rerouting their local path to avoid obstacles or unfavorable terrain. We proved with notable success that canines can be tracked using GPS, inertial sensors, and magnetometers (Miller and Bevly, 2007; Miller and Bevly, 2009a; Miller and Bevly, 2009b), as well as be autonomously guided along desired paths to distant end points (Miller, 2010; Britt, 2009). More important, this system was designed without having to develop the technology that would be required for a complete robotic solution. Instead, a pre-designed creature, already developed by the Chief Engineer, was utilized. In the interest of not plagiarizing Him, I happily reference His incomprehensible work, although, unfortunately I cannot speak for all of my doctoral colleagues.


How ironic that those who are designed, design based on the Designer’s designs, while simultaneously claiming that those designs are not designed. How could mindless rocks, dirt, gas, or slime bring about the amazingly complex designs we see in the World? Personifying inanimate materials such as these with names like “Mother Nature” does nothing but tacitly admit that some Being is in control of the natural order. The frontlines of the engineering community today—bringing about unparalleled technology, more advanced than any society in the history of mankind—cannot come close to replicating the designs around us. Engineers are forced to borrow from God’s design portfolio (oftentimes plagiarizing Him—not giving Him due credit for His designs). What a testament to the greatness of the Chief Engineer’s created order! We may be able to try to fix some of the damage that has been done to the created order due to sin and entropy, but in the words of John Hildebrand, quoted earlier, we certainly “can’t improve on” God’s design. Rather than plagiarizing Him, let all engineers know, “He who built all thingsis God” (Hebrews 3:4, emp. added).


Bozkurt, A., R. Gilmour, D. Stern, and A. Lal (2008), “MEMS Based Bioelectronic Neuromuscular Interfaces for Insect Cyborg Flight Control,” IEEEMEMS2008 Conference, pp. 160-163.
Britt, W. (2009), “A Software and Hardware System for the Autonomous Control and Navigation of a Trained Canine,” Ph.D. Dissertation, Auburn University, Summer.
Britt, W.R., J. Miller, P. Waggoner, D.M. Bevly, and J.A. Hamilton (2010), “An Embedded System for Real-time Navigation and Remote Command of a Trained Canine,” DOI 10.1007/s00779-010-0298-4.
Brown, S. (2006), “Stealth Sharks to Patrol the High Seas,” New Scientist, 2541:30-31, March 4.
Cheng, C., S. Shu, and P. Cheng (2009), “Attitude Control of a Satellite Using Fuzzy Controllers,” Expert Systems with Applications, 36:6613-6620.
Correll, N., M. Schwager, and D. Rus (2008), “Social Control of Herd Animals by Integration of Artificially Controlled Congeners,” Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Simulation of Adaptive Behavior, pp. 437-447.
“Detection Services” (2010), Amdetech: Protection Through Detection, http://www.amdetech.com.
Gomes, W.J., D. Perez, and J.A. Catipovic (2006), “Autonomous Shark Tag with Neural Reading and Stimulation Capability for Open-ocean Experiments,” Eos Trans. AGU, 87(36), Ocean Sci. Meet. Suppl., Abstract OS45Q-05.
“Grand Challenge: Smart Vest for Detector Dogs” (2010), National Aerospace & Electronics Conference, http://www.naecon.org/challenge.htm.
Holzer, R., I. Shimoyama, and H. Miura (1997), “Locomotion Control of a Bio-Robotic System via Electric Stimulation,” International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, Grenoble, France.
Horgon, John (2005), “The Forgotten Era of Brain Chips,” Scientific American, 293[4]:66-73.
Li, Y. and S. Panwar (2006), “A Wireless Biosensor Network Using Autonomously Controlled Animals,” IEEENetwork, 20[3]:6-11.
Lin, C., H. Hung, Y. Chen, and B. Chen (2004), “Development of an Integrated Fuzzy-Logic-Based Missile Guidance Law Against High Speed Target,” IEEETransactions on Fuzzy Systems, 12[2]:157-169.
Loebis, D., R. Sutton, J. Chudley, and W. Naeem (2004), “Adaptive Tuning of a Kalman Filter via Fuzzy Logic for an Intelligent AUV Navigation System,” Control Engineering Practice, 12:1531-1539.
Marshall, J. (2008), “The Cyborg Animal Spies Hatching in the Lab,” New Scientist, 2646:40-43, March 6.
Miller, J. (2010), “A Maximum Effort Control System for the Tracking and Control of a Guided Canine,” Ph.D. Dissertation, Auburn University, Winter.
Miller, J. and D.M. Bevly (2007), “Position and Orientation Determination for a Guided K-9,” Proceedings of the IONGNSS, Ft. Worth, TX.
Miller, J. and D.M. Bevly (2009a), “Determination of Pitch Effects in Guided K-9 Tracking,” Proceedings of the JSDE/IONJNC, Orlando, FL.
Miller, J. and D.M. Bevly (2009b), “Guided K-9 Tracking Improvements Using GPS, INS, and Magnetometers,” Proceedings of the IONITM, Anaheim, CA.
Naranjo, J.E., C. Gonzalez, R. Garcia, and T. Pedro (2006), “ACC+Stop&Go Maneuvers With Throttle and Brake Fuzzy Control,” IEEETransactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems, 7[2]:213-225.
Omid, M., M. Lashgari, H. Mobli, R. Alimardani, S. Mohtasebi, and R. Hesamifard (2010), “Design of Fuzzy Logic Control System Incorporating Human Expert Knowledge for Combine Harvester,” Expert Systems with Applications, 37:7080-7085.
Oosterom, M. and R. Babuska (2006), “Design of a Gain-Scheduling Mechanism for Flight Control Laws by Fuzzy Clustering,” Control Engineering Practice, 14:769-781.
Ray, Neil (2010), “The Cyborg Beetle: Progress or Ethical Deterioration?” The Triple Heliz, Issue 10.
“Researchers Develop ‘Robo-Roach’” (2001), VNUnet UK: UNU-MERIT—I&T Weekly, Issue 7, United Nations University, http://www.merit.unu.edu/i&tweekly/i&tweekly_previous.php?issue=0107&issue_show=7&year=2001.
Sato, H., C.W. Berry, B.E. Casey, G. Lavella, Y. Yao, J.M. Vandenbrooks, and M.M. Maharbiz (2008), “A Cyborg Beetle: Insect Flight Control Through an Implantable, Tetherless Microsystem,” IEEEMEMS2008 Conference, pp. 164-167.
Sato, H., Y. Peeri, E. Baghoomian, C.W. Berry, and M.M. Maharbiz (2009), “Radio-Controlled Cyborg Beetles: A Radio-frequency System for Insect Neural Flight Control,” IEEEMEMS2009 Conference, pp. 216-219.
Schwager, M., C. Detweiler, I. Vasilescu, D.M. Anderson, and D. Rus (2008), “Data-Driven Identification of Group Dynamics for Motion Prediction and Control,” Journal of Field Service Robotics, 25[6-7]:305-324.
“SDUST Created Remote-Controlled Pigeon” (2007), Shandong University of Science and Technology, http://www.sdkd.net.cn/en/news_show.php?id=65.
Song, W., J. Chai, T. Han, and K. Yuan (2006), “A Remote Controlled Multimode Microstimulator for Freely Moving Animals,” Acta Physiologica Sinica, 58[2]:183-188.
Talwar, S., S. Xu, E. Hawley, S. Weiss, K. Moxon, and J. Chapin (2002), “Rat Navigation Guided by Remote Control,” Nature, 417[6884]:37-38.

Deism, Atheism, and the Founders by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Deism, Atheism, and the Founders

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

The standard claim by those who wish to minimize the role that Christianity has played in the establishment and propagation of American civilization is that the architects of American political institutions were deists and atheists who did not subscribe to religion in general or Christianity in particular. It is further claimed that they insisted that religion be confined to private life, excluded from public life, i.e., public schools and government. Of course, abundant proof exists to refute this outrageous, though widely believed, claim. But one must go back to the original documents—not history books written in the last fifty years—to allow the Founders to speak for themselves.
Were the Founders “deists”? A standard dictionary definition of the word is: “The belief, based solely on reason, in a God who created the universe and then abandoned it, assuming no control over life, exerting no influence on natural phenomena, and giving no supernatural revelation” (American Heritage..., 2000, p. 479). One would be hard-pressed to identify a Founder that fits this description. Indeed, the writings of the Founders are replete with their belief in and promotion of the Christian religion in its enlarged sense. Even Thomas Jefferson, who probably questioned the deity of Christ, nevertheless advocated and defended true Christianity. In a letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush on April 21, 1803, he wrote:
Dear Sir, In some of the delightful conversations with you, in the evenings of 1798-99, and which served as an anodyne to the afflictions of the crisis through which our country was then laboring, the Christian religion was sometimes our topic; and I then promised you, that one day or other, I would give you my views of it. They are the result of a life of inquiry & reflection, and very different from that anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions. To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others (“The Thomas Jefferson Papers...,” n.d., emp. added).
Among the small handful of those who were not particularly whetted to the Christian religion, Thomas Paine is conspicuous, especially in his production of Age of Reason. Though he challenged the inspiration of the Bible, denounced the formal world religions, including the perversions of Christianity that were in abundance, and opposed the promotion of any national church or religion, nevertheless he was not an atheist. He claimed to believe in God and afterlife: “I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life” (1794). He also wrote: “Were man impressed as fully and as strongly as he ought to be with the belief of a God, his moral life would be regulated by the force of that belief; he would stand in awe of God and of himself, and would not do the thing that could not be concealed from either” (1794). Paine not only believed in “the certainty of his existence and the immutability of his power,” he asserted that “it is the fool only, and not the philosopher, or even the prudent man, that would live as if there were no God.” In fact, he stated that it is “rational to believe” that God would call all people “to account for the manner in which we have lived here” (1794).
Nevertheless, Paine styled himself a “deist” and hurled some rather uncomplimentary epithets against the Christian religion. But the real issue—one that has been largely ignored by the revisionist historians of the last fifty years—is whether Paine’s views were representative of the Founders and the citizenry of America at the time. The historical record proves that they were not. In fact, Paine’s production of Age of Reason nearly two decades after the Declaration of Independence drew heavy fire from several of the Founders who expressed strong aversion to Paine’s ideas in no uncertain terms. Consider the following examples.
John Adams played a central role in the birth of our nation, as evidenced by a string of significant participatory activities, including delegate to the Continental Congress (1774-1777) where he signed the Declaration of Independence, signer of the peace treaty that ended the American Revolution (1783), two-time Vice-President under George Washington (1789-1797), and second President of the United States (1797-1801). Yet, Adams’ sentiments regarding Paine’s writing were, to say the least, blunt: “The Christian religion is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity and humanity, let the Blackguard Paine say what he will” (3:421, 1856). “Blackguard” was an 18th century term for a thoroughly unprincipled person—a scoundrel.
Zephaniah Swift, who was a member of the U.S. Congress from 1793-1797, offered a strong reaction to Paine:
[W]e cannot sufficiently reprobate the beliefs of Thomas Paine in his attack on Christianity by publishing his Age of Reason.... He has the impudence and effrontery to address to the citizens of the United States of America a paltry performance which is intended to shake their faith in the religion of their fathers.... No language can describe the wickedness of the man who will attempt to subvert a religion which is a source of comfort and consolation to its votaries merely for the purpose of eradicating all sentiments of religion (1796, 2:323-324).
John Jay was another brilliant Founder with a long and distinguished career in the formation and shaping of American civilization from the beginning. He not only was a member of the Continental Congress from 1774-1776, serving as President from 1778-1779, he also helped to frame the New York State Constitution and then served as the Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court. He co-authored the Federalist Papers, was appointed as the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court by George Washington (1789-1795), served as Governor of New York (1795-1801), and was the vice-president of the American Bible Society (1816-1821). In a letter dated February 14, 1796, he affirmed:
I have long been of the opinion that the evidence of the truth of Christianity requires only to be carefully examined to produce conviction in candid minds, and I think they who undertake that task will derive advantages.... As to The Age of Reason, it never appeared to me to have been written from a disinterested love of truth or of mankind (Jay, 1833, 2:266).
Several of the Founders were severe in their denunciations of Paine. John Witherspoon, member of the Continental Congress (1776-1782) and signer of the Declaration of Independence, insisted that Paine was “ignorant of human nature as well as an enemy to the Christian faith” (1802, 3:24). Another signer of the Declaration, Charles Carroll, pronounced Paine’s work as “blasphemous writings against the Christian religion” (as quoted in Gurn, 1932, p. 203). Yet another Declaration signer, Benjamin Rush, called The Age of Reason “absurd and impious” (1951, 2:770). William Paterson, signer of the federal Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court justice appointed by George Washington, became so indignant over those few Americans who seemed to agree with Paine, that he declared: “Infatuated Americans, why renounce your country, your religion, and your God? Oh shame, where is thy blush? Is this the way to continue independent, and to render the 4th of July immortal in memory and song?” (as quoted in O’Conner, 1979, p. 244). [NOTE: Observe that Paterson believed that independence depended on loyalty to the Christian religion and God.] In a similar vein, John Quincy Adams, referring to Paine’s Rights of Man, insisted that “Mr. Paine has departed altogether from the principles of the Revolution” (1793, p. 13). Patrick Henry asked: “What is there in the wit, or wisdom of the present deistical writers or professors…? And yet these have been confuted, and their fame decaying; in so much that the puny efforts of Paine are thrown in, to prop their tottering fabric, whose foundations cannot stand the test of time” (as quoted in Wirt, 1817, pp. 386-387, emp. added; cf. Arnold, 1854, p. 250), and the President of the Continental Congress, Elias Boudinot, published The Age of Revelation in direct rebuttal to The Age of Reason (1801).
Even Benjamin Franklin, one of the least religious of the Founding Fathers, though a longtime friend of Paine, viewed Paine’s thinking with great disfavor, as evidenced by Franklin's critique of a previous manuscript written by Paine:
I have read your Manuscript with some Attention. By the Arguments it contains against the Doctrine of a particular Providence, tho’ you allow a general Providence, you strike at the Foundation of all Religion: For without the Belief of a Providence that takes Cognizance of, guards and guides and may favour particular Persons, there is no Motive to Worship a Deity, to fear its Displeasure, or to pray for its Protection. I will not enter into any Discussion of your Principles, tho’ you seem to desire it; At present I shall only give you my Opinion that tho’ your Reasonings are subtle, and may prevail with some Readers, you will not succeed so as to change the general Sentiments of Mankind on that Subject, and the Consequence of printing this Piece will be a great deal of Odium drawn upon your self, Mischief to you and no Benefit to others. He that spits against the Wind, spits in his own Face. But were you to succeed, do you imagine any Good would be done by it?.... I would advise you therefore not to attempt unchaining the Tyger, but to burn this Piece before it is seen by any other Person, whereby you will save yourself a great deal of Mortification from the Enemies it may raise against you, and perhaps a good deal of Regret and Repentance. If Men are so wicked as we now see them with Religion what would they be if without it? I intend this Letter itself as a Proof of my Friendship.... (1840, 10:281-282, emp. added).
Sadly, friendless and shunned due to his irreligious views, Thomas Paine died in Greenwich Village, New York City, on June 8, 1809. At the time of his death, most U.S. newspapers reprinted the obituary notice from the New York Citizen, which read in part: “He had lived long, did some good and much harm.” Only six mourners came to his funeral (“Thomas Paine,” n.d.).
The overwhelming majority of the Founders and the bulk of the American population at the beginning of our nation held strong convictions regarding the primacy of the Christian religion over all other religions (as well as no religion at all). What a change has come over the country. God has blessed America in the past—undoubtedly due to the willingness of the Founders and the citizenry to acknowledge Him as the one true God and Author of the one true religion. Now that so many are rejecting the one true God, while accommodating false religions and ideologies, we can well expect that the bestowal of God’s blessings on our national well-being will come to an end. In the words of George Washington:
I am sure there never was a people who had more reason to acknowledge a Divine interposition in their affairs than those of the United States; and I should be pained to believe that they have forgotten that Agency which was so often manifested during our revolution, or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of that God who is alone able to protect them (1838, 10:222-223).
The psalmist was even plainer: “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17).


Adams, John (1856), The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, ed. Charles Adams (Boston, MA: Little, Brown, & Co.).
Adams, John Quincy (1793), An Answer to Pain’s [sic] “Rights of Man” (London: John Stockdale).
American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2000), (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin), fourth edition.
Arnold, S.G. (1854), The Life of Patrick Henry of Virginia (Buffalo, NY: Miller, Orton, & Mulligan).
Boudinot, Elias (1801), The Age of Revelation, or, The Age of Reason Shewn To Be An Age of Infidelity (Philadelphia, PA: Asbury Dickins).
Franklin, Benjamin (1840), The Works of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Jared Sparks (Boston, MA: Tappan, Whittemore, & Mason).
Gurn, Joseph (1932), Charles Carroll of Carrolton (New York: P.J. Kennedy & Sons).
Jay, William (1833), The Life of John Jay (New York: J.&J. Harper).
O’Connor, John (1979), William Paterson: Lawyer and Statesman (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press).
Paine, Thomas (1794), Age of Reason, [On-line], URL: http://www.ushistory.org/paine/reason/singlehtml.htm.
Rush, Benjamin (1951), Letters of Benjamin Rush, ed. L.H. Butterfield (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press).
Swift, Zephaniah (1796), A System of Laws of the State of Connecticut (Windham, CT: John Byrne).
“The Thomas Jefferson Papers Series 1. General Correspondence. 1651-1827” (no date), Library of Congress, [On-line], URL: http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=mtj1&fileName=mtj1page028.db& recNum=190&itemLink=%2Fammem%2Fcollections%2Fjefferson_papers%2Fmtjser1. html&linkText=6.
“Thomas Paine” (no date), Wikipedia, [On-line], URL:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Paine.
Washington, George (1838), The Writings of George Washington, ed. Jared Sparks (Boston, MA: Ferdinand Andrews).
Wirt, William (1817), Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry (Philadelphia, PA: James Webster).
Witherspoon, John (1802), The Works of Reverend John Witherspoon (Philadelphia, PA: William Woodard).

What was the Inscription on the Cross? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


What was the Inscription on the Cross?

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

Controversy has surrounded the death of Christ on the cross for almost two millennia. In the days of the apostle Paul, it served as a “stumbling block” to the Jews and “foolishness” to the Greeks (1 Corinthians 1:23). Throughout the past 2,000 years, men and women of all ethnicities have rejected—for many objectionable reasons—the story of the crucified, resurrected Savior. Sadly, for some today, even the physical cross itself has become a stumbling block. Because of an alleged contradiction surrounding the actual words written on the cross of Christ, some believe that the message of the cross once preached by John, Paul, Peter, Philip, and others simply cannot be trusted. According to skeptics, the Gospel writers disagreed regarding what the title read that appeared on the cross above Jesus’ head.
  • Matthew: “This is Jesus the King of the Jews” (27:37).
  • Mark: “The King of the Jews” (15:26).
  • Luke: “This is the King of the Jews” (23:38).
  • John: “Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews” (19:19).
Question: Did Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John disagree on what was written on the cross, or did these four independent writers record trustworthy statements?
Before answering the above question, consider the following illustration. Tonight after getting home from work, I inform my wife (Jana) about an accusation I read on a billboard on the way home regarding one of our friends who is running for city council. I proceed to tell her that the accusation read: “John Doe is a thief.” The following day, our niece (Shanon) comes by the house and mentions to Jana that she just saw a billboard (the same one that I had mentioned a day earlier) that read: “City council candidate John Doe is a thief.” Finally, the next day, a friend (Rhonda) visits Jana and informs her about the same sign, saying it reads: “Montgomery City Council candidate John Doe is a thief.” Question: Would anyone have justification for saying that Shanon, Rhonda, and I disagreed regarding what the billboard said? Certainly not! We all three reported the very same accusation (“John Doe is a thief ”), except that Shanon mentioned the fact that he was a “city council candidate,” and Rhonda added that he was a candidate from “Montgomery.” All three of us reported truthfully the allegation we saw on the billboard. Similarly, the accusation above Jesus on the cross is the same in all four narratives—“the King of the Jews.”
  • Matthew: “This is Jesus the King of the Jews” (27:37, emp. added).
  • Mark: “The King of the Jews” (15:26, emp. added).
  • Luke: “This is the King of the Jews” (23:38, emp. added).
  • John: “Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews” (19:19, emp. added).
The only variation in the inscription is in the personal name of Jesus. This alleged contradiction is easily explained by acknowledging that John recorded the full inscription, while the other writers assumed all to understand the personal name, and therefore simply focused on the accusation on which the crucifixion was based. The accusation was not that this man was Jesus of Nazareth, since there was no controversy regarding His name, nor His hometown. It was a known fact that the man crucified between the two thieves was indeed “Jesus of Nazareth.” Somewhat like the controversial accusation mentioned above regarding John Doe, the key charge levied against Jesus was that He was “the King of the Jews,” and this title was mentioned by all four Gospel writers.
Also involved in this alleged problem regarding the accusation that appeared on the cross is the fact that the superscription was written in three different languages, and translation may have been involved in some instances. According to John, the title was “written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin” (John 19:20; cf. Luke 23:38). Pilate is said to have written the inscription (John 19:19), and he (or whomever he ordered to write the inscription—cf. John 19:1) could have written a slightly different wording in each of the languages according to his proficiency in each language, or according to how much time he wanted to spend writing each one. Furthermore, as Bible commentator Albert Barnes noted: “One evangelist may have translated it from the Hebrew, another from the Greek, a third from the Latin, and a fourth may have translated one of the inscriptions a little differently from another” (1997).
The inscription on the cross of Christ mentioned by all four Gospel writers proves yet again, not that the Bible contains discrepancies, but that the narrators wrote independently. They did not rely upon one another to ensure that their facts were exactly correct. Rather, their accurate accounts of Jesus’ life stand solidly upon the “inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16).
Barnes, Albert (1997), Notes on the Old and New Testaments (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).

“If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that” (James 4:15) by Roy Davison


“If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that”
(James 4:15)
Believers recognize their dependence on the will of God.

James admonishes: “Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit'; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.' But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil” (James 4:13-16).

Arrogant boasting is evil.

It does not show proper respect for God.

Some people are always boasting about the great things they are going to do in the future.

As king Ahab of Israel replied to arrogant BenHadad, king of Syria, whose army God had decided to deliver into the hand of Israel, “Let not the one who puts on his armor boast like the one who takes it off” (1 Kings 20:11).

But what is so wrong with saying, “We will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”? Many people see nothing wrong with that at all.

This is arrogant boasting because due consideration is not being given to man's dependence on God.

Jesus illustrates this truth in a parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?' So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?' So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:16-20).

This man did not include God in his plans. God blessed him with abundance. But rather than laying up treasure in heaven by helping the poor (Luke 18:22), he was self-centered and thought only of his own comfort. He was not rich toward God and he was not prepared to die. God calls him a fool. It is never wise to plan for this life without giving priority to the afterlife.

Jesus asks, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).

James warns the rich that they will suffer misery if their wealth was gained unjustly: “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter” (James 5:1-5).

Saying 'Lord willing' recognizes our dependence on God.

“Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that'” (James 4:15).

Our lives are in the hand of God. He “gives to all life, breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25). As Solomon says, “No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit, and no one has power in the day of death” (Ecclesiastes 8:8).

Our lives are short. “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). Job says, “My days are but a breath” (Job 7:16).

God has established a maximum lifespan, but there is no guaranteed minimum. Today can be the last day for any one of us. Thus we “ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that'” (James 4:15).

Paul submitted his life and plans to the will of God.

When Paul was zealously persecuting Christians, he mistakenly thought he was doing the will of God (1 Timothy 1:13). Because of his sincerity, God intervened that he might truly know His will. The preacher, Ananias, informed Paul: “The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth” (Acts 22:14).

Paul began many of his letters with, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God” (see the first verses of 1 and 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians and 2 Timothy).

When he departed from Ephesus on his second missionary journey, he told the brethren, "I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing" (Acts 18:21).

He wrote to the brethren at Corinth: “But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills” (1 Corinthians 4:19).

To the saints at Rome he wrote: “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you” (Romans 1:9, 10). Near the close of the letter he asked them to pray with him “that I may come to you with joy by the will of God” (Romans 15:32).

These statements show that Paul was ever conscious of his dependence on the will of God.

On the way to Jerusalem after his third journey, he told the brethren at Ephesus: “And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more” (Acts 20:22-25).

As he neared Jerusalem, when he was at Philip's house in Caesarea, a prophet named Agabus revealed what would happen to Paul: “When he had come to us, he took Paul's belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, 'Thus says the Holy Spirit, “So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.”' Now when we heard these things, both we and those from that place pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, 'What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.' So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, 'The will of the Lord be done'” (Acts 21:11-14).

What have we learned from the Scriptures about our dependence on the will of God?

It is evil to arrogantly boast about what we are going to do in the future without consideration of the brevity of life and the providence of God. When we qualify our plans with 'Lord willing' we recognize our dependence on God. We can look to the apostle Paul as an example of someone who was ever conscious of his life being circumscribed by the will of God.

“Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit'; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that'” (James 4:13-15). Amen.
Roy Davison

The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.
Permission for reference use has been granted.
Published in The Old Paths Archive