"THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS" The Danger Of Religious Holidays (4:8-11) by Mark Copeland

                     "THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS"

               The Danger Of Religious Holidays (4:8-11)


1. The observance of holidays is a common feature in many religions...
   a. Judaism and Islam have their many feast days and holy days
   b. Catholicism and Protestantism are known for their holidays like
      Christmas and Easter

2. Holidays in New Testament Christianity, on the other hand, are
   strikingly absent...
   a. The church did assemble on the Lord's Day (Sunday) to observe the
      Lord's Supper
   b. But there is no record of celebrating any holiday like Christmas,
      Easter, Lent, etc.

3. In fact, Christians were warned regarding religious holidays...
   a. Not to let others judge them regarding their observance - Col 2:
   b. Concern was expressed regarding those who observed them - Ga 4:

4. One might wonder regarding the New Testament and religious
   a. Why didn't the early church observe such holidays?
   b. Why was Paul concerned about their observance?
   c. Are there circumstances when Christians might observe religious

[To answer such questions, let's take a closer look at Ga 4:8-10 where
we learn...]


      1. Paul refers to rites and ceremonies, such as found in Judaism
         and paganism
         a. He has in mind those who have come out of paganism - Ga 4:
         b. Who evidently were being encouraged to observe elements of
            Judaism - Ga 4:10
      2. Mentioned specifically were those found in the Law of Moses
         - Ga 4:10
         a. Days - e.g., the Sabbath
         b. Months - e.g., the new moons
         c. Seasons - e.g., festivals like the Passover, Feast of
            Tabernacles, Pentecost
         d. Years - e.g., annual atonement, sabbatical years, jubilees
      3. They are described as weak and beggarly elements - Ga 4:9
         a. Weak - powerless to save the soul or justify the sinner
            - cf. Col 2:20-23
         b. Beggarly - unable to impart true spiritual riches 
            - cf. Ep 1:3
         c. Elements - rudimentary, designed to be replaced - cf. Col 2:
            16-17; He 9:9-10
      -- Religious days, like other elements of the Law of Moses, were
         carnal ordinances designed to be replaced with a more spiritual
         form of worship - cf. Jn 4:20-24

      1. Those under the Law were under guard
         a. Like children under guardians and stewards - cf. Ga 3:23; 4:
         b. In bondage to the elements of the world - cf. Ga 4:3
      2. Those in Christ had been redeemed (set free)
         a. God sent His Son for this very purpose - cf. Ga 4:4-5
         b. They had become sons and heirs - cf. Ga 4:6-7
      -- Observing religious holidays can be a return to bondage, when
         Christ came to set us free! - Ga 4:9-10

[Many believe observing holy days enhances their faith, when in fact it
can be a step backward from true spirituality!  From Ga 4:11, we learn
something else about the danger of religious holidays...]


      1. Otherwise, why would Paul be fearful?
         a. Doubtful over their condition? - Ga 4:11,20
         b. Aware of the possibility of his own apostasy? 
            - cf. 1Co 9:27
      2. The Bible teaches one can fall from grace
         a. In the book of Hebrews - He 12:15; cf. He 3:12-14
         b. And in many other places - cf. Jn 15:2,6; 2Pe 2:20-22; 3:
            17-18; Re 2:5
      -- If we observe religious holidays based on the Law of Moses out
         of a sense of necessity for our salvation, then we have fallen
         from grace! - cf. Ga 5:4

      1. Paul described the vanity of "self-imposed religion" - cf. Co
         a. Based on the commandments and ordinances of men
         b. Which were of no true value against the indulgence of the
      2. Jesus warned against vain worship - Mt 15:9
         a. Such worship is based on doctrines commanded by men
         b. Especially when its observance displaces the commandment of
            God - cf. Mt 15:3-8
      -- If we impose religious holidays through man-made traditions,
         then we offer worship that is in vain!

[Perhaps we can see why observance of holy days was a major concern to
Paul.  But we should also note that he wrote of...]


      1. Paul spoke of one observing a day above another - Ro 14:5-6
         a. Likely a reference to the Sabbath Day
         b. But generic enough to refer to exalting any day above
            another for religious purposes
         c. In the context, it appears to have been something allowed a
            weak brother
      2. Paul himself observed certain rites of Judaism
         a. He took vows, sought to attend the feasts in Jerusalem 
            - Ac 18:18,21; 20:16
         b. On one occasion, he even helped the completion of a vow
            involving animal sacrifices, evidently to accommodate weaker
            brethren - Ac 21:17-26; cf. Num 6:1-20
      -- Note carefully:  these were things done on an individual basis,
         not as a work or the worship of the church

      1. They cannot save one, they cannot be done for the purpose of
         a. This was the issue of the controversy in Antioch 
            - cf. Ac 15:1,5
         b. This was Paul's point in Galatians - cf. Ga 5:4
      2. They cannot be imposed on others
         a. This was the conclusion of council in Jerusalem - cf. Ac 15:
         b. This was illustrated by Paul in Galatians - cf. Ga 2:3-5
      -- Note carefully:  this is why religious holidays should not be
         church functions:  lest they leave the impression they are
         necessary, plus such functions are necessarily imposed on


1. Christians need to be careful about their liberty in Christ... - cf.
   Ga 5:1
   a. Jewish Christians have been redeemed from the bondage of the Law
   b. Gentile Christians have been redeemed from the bondage of weak and
      beggarly elements

2. What liberty we have in Christ must be handled carefully... 
   - cf. Ga 5:13-16.
   a. We should be careful not to impose our liberty in ways that cause
   b. We should progress to a higher plane of spirituality, not regress
      to carnal forms of religion

What about your observance of religious holidays?  If Paul wrote to you
today, would he say: "I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you
in vain."...? - Ga 4:11

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Born Among History by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


Born Among History

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

How do we know that the New Testament is not a book of myths and lies? How can people born 1,900 years this side of its completion have total confidence in the New Testament’s accuracy? What is it that causes so many of us to believe in the truthfulness of this book?
One thing that makes the New Testament such a unique work is how many times the events recorded therein are verified by other independent historical witnesses. Repeatedly, history has shown itself to be an ally, rather than an enemy, to the twenty-seven books that make up the New Testament. As a person reads through these books, he will find names of kings and queens, governors and priests. He will read of cities and villages, and sometimes even learn of the roads and passageways that connected them. The New Testament was born among historical people, places, and events, which allows twenty-first-century readers opportunities to inquire about its trustworthiness.
Consider just one example. As a non-Christian reads through the New Testament book of Acts, he comes to the account where Herod is addressing a group of people from Tyre and Sidon (Acts 12:20-23). In verses 21-23, he reads:
So on a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat on his throne and gave an oration to them. And the people kept shouting, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died.
Perhaps the person reading this account begins struggling with whether or not “this whole Christian thing is for me,” and whether there is any evidence that corroborates the information found in the New Testament. How much more open to the truth of God’s Word might this skeptical gentlemen be if he could come in contact with the vast amount of historical data that supports the facts found therein? In this particular case, he might find it very helpful to learn that a well-educated, first-century Jewish historian by the name of Josephus gave a detailed account of Herod’s death in his work, The Antiquities of the Jews (18:8:2). Notice how the two accounts stand side by side.
  • Where Luke wrote that Herod was “arrayed in royal apparel,” Josephus wrote that “he put on a garment made wholly of silver, and of a contexture truly wonderful.”
  • Where Luke wrote that “the people kept shouting, ‘The voice of a god and not of a man!,’ ” Josephus mentioned that “his flatterers cried out…that he was a god; and they added, ‘Be thou merciful to us; for although we have hitherto reverenced thee only as a man, yet shall we henceforth own thee as superior to mortal nature.’ Upon this the king did neither rebuke them, nor reject their impious flattery.”
  • And finally, where Luke recorded: “Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died,” Josephus wrote: “A severe pain also arose in his belly, and began in a most violent manner. He therefore looked upon his friends, and said, ‘I whom you call a god, am commanded presently to depart this life….’ [H]is pain was become violent…. And when he had been quite worn out by the pain in his belly for five days, he departed this life.”
Although the accounts of Luke and Josephus were written independently, regarding the death of Herod they agree in all of the essentials.
Acts 12:20-23 represents only one of many examples in Scripture where secular history upholds its reliability. Over the past 1,900 years, the Bible has been examined more critically than any other book in the world, and yet it repeatedly is found to be historically accurate. Such accuracy surely gives the skeptic something important to consider in his examination of Scripture.


Josephus, Flavius (1987 edition), Antiquities of the Jews, in The Life and Works of Flavius Josephus, transl. William Whiston (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).

Flat or Spherical Earth? Evaluating Astronomical Observations [Part 1] by Branyon May, Ph.D. Alana May, M.S.


Flat or Spherical Earth? Evaluating Astronomical Observations [Part 1]

by Branyon May, Ph.D.
Alana May, M.S.

[Editor’s Note: In the July issue of Reason & Revelation, Hebraist Dr. Justin Rogers addressed the matter of whether the Bible gives any credence to the notion of a flat Earth. In this month’s R&R, we consider whether science supports a flat Earth. AP scientist Dr. Branyon May holds a Ph.D. degree in Astrophysics from the University of Alabama. Alana May, his wife and co-author, holds an M.S. in Astrophysics from the University of Alabama.]
While the idea of a flat Earth is not a new one, it has been recently resurrected into mainstream pop culture. For a variety of reasons, many have adopted this view, or have begun looking toward it as a viable option. For some, the arguments contrasting a spherical versus a flat Earth are confusing and have caused frustration. This frustration has then led to a sense of doubt towards many previously accepted beliefs and facts. Such doubt towards authority has even caused some Christians to question their faith in God’s Word.
So what about humanity’s understanding for the shape of the Earth? Is the Earth spherical or flat? The best way to work through this discussion is to consider the observational evidences. One of the most definitive ways to directly see the spherical nature of Earth is through the images taken from space by various space agencies. However, because many people who hold to a flat Earth have also expressed concern about government conspiracy theories, we wish to present the space-based observations after we discuss some simple backyard-type observations. When considering new ideas, a bit of healthy caution is good, but can become unhealthy when conspiracy and paranoia consume the conversation over the facts and observations. Using the laws of nature and physics that God set in place, let’s investigate how we can know the Earth is, in fact, spherical.


Between Flat-Earth and Globe models, the Sun and the Moon have drastic differences in physical characteristics and scale dimensions. The Sun’s generally accepted location places it toward the center of Earth’s orbit at a distance of approximately 93 million miles, with a physical diameter of 864,600 miles. In contrast, Flat-Earth models describe the Sun as being 32 miles in diameter and orbiting above the surface of the Earth at a height of approximately 3,000 miles.1 Since by observation the Sun and Moon have equivalent angular sizes,2 Flat-Earth models must also place the Moon in an orbit coinciding with the Sun’s orbit at a distance of 3,000 miles and having the same 32-mile diameter.3 Such scales for the Moon are vastly different than the Moon’s generally accepted location in space, where it orbits the Earth at a distance of 238,900 miles and has a physical diameter of 2,160 miles. We should also note that between these two views there is a vast contrast in distance between the positions of the Sun and Moon. In the Flat-Earth model the two objects share similar planes of orbit, circling above Earth parallel to the ground. Therefore, their physical distances from each other would fluctuate substantially depending on where in their orbits they were. At least once during every month’s cycle the two would be physically very near to each other. By contrast, the standard heliocentric and spherical context describes the Moon’s position in orbit around the Earth, where its distance from the Sun would keep approximately the same 93-million-mile-physical-distance as Earth.
With such vast differences in scale these models must also describe vastly different physical characteristics for the Sun and Moon and, in fact, they do. Flat-Earth models describe the Sun and Moon in terms similar to spotlights moving above the Earth’s surface, illuminating in such a way as to produce periods of day and night. Resulting from this description, Flat-Earth models hold that the Moon is not reflecting the Sun’s light, but must instead be producing its own light. The physical characteristics of the Moon are therefore vastly different from the solid, rocky body and sunlight-reflecting surface usually discussed.


One means of testing these contrasting parameters is by evaluating eclipse events, where the Sun, Moon, and Earth experience well-defined and observable changes. First, the most obvious type of eclipse is a solar eclipse. In this type of eclipse the observed effect is for the New Moon to pass in front of the Sun eclipsing some or all of our view of the solar body. Due to the Sun and Moon having similar apparent sizes in the sky, a total solar eclipse can occur when the Moon’s path precisely crosses the Sun. A total solar eclipse causes a daytime period of dramatic darkening, allowing the less bright outer regions of the Sun’s atmosphere, including the chromosphere and corona, to become visible to observers. While these portions of the Sun’s atmosphere are always producing light, their levels of emission are much less than the extremely bright photosphere. Solar eclipses do not usually result in the total eclipse orientation, but rather will occur more often as partial eclipses where only part of the Sun is obscured by the Moon. What information do eclipse observations provide? Eclipses demonstrate several important facts, which we will expand on below, including: (1) the apparent sizes of the Sun and Moon are approximately equal, (2) the distances from Earth to the Sun and Earth to the Moon are not equal, and (3) the spherical shape of Earth.
Eclipses provide for us an important understanding about the positioning of the Sun, Moon, and Earth. We see from the fact that the Moon passes in front of the Sun that the two bodies must be at different distances. During a solar eclipse when the Moon obscures the Sun, the Moon’s distance is closer to Earth than the Sun’s. When we couple this with the first important fact mentioned, that the apparent sizes are approximately equal, then we are able to also understand that the Sun and Moon must be different in their true physical sizes. If two objects were the same true physical size, then placing one of them farther from you would cause it to appear smaller. Thus, since the Sun and Moon appear the same size, then the Sun (which is farther away) would have to be larger than the Moon (which is closer) in order to appear equal in size. As we consider a difference in distance between the more distant Sun and less distant Moon to be greater and greater, the necessary size of the Sun must be larger and larger to result in an observed equivalent, apparent size.
Now that we have established they are not at the same distance, we can also explore how solar eclipses also help provide evidence for the distance factors of the Sun and Moon. A total solar eclipse occurs when the observer is located within the shadow cast by the Moon blocking the Sun’s light. Consider the shadow cast on a wall  by placing an object in front of a light source. What happens to the shadow as the distance between the object and light source is decreased? The shadowed area becomes larger, and a viewer within the shadowed region would have to move farther to leave the shadowed area and lose this precise alignment. If the distance between the light source and object becomes larger, then the shadow that is cast on the wall will become smaller and subsequently the observer’s location in the shadow for an eclipse alignment must become more precise (i.e., since the shadow is smaller, there is less area located within the eclipse shadow region).
Total solar eclipses are very rare events to see on Earth, which tells us that the alignment of such an event requires certain precision. It first requires precision for the orbits and locations of the three bodies to be exactly aligned. Second, it requires that an observer be located within the area of the Moon’s shadow cast on Earth. This second requirement increases the rarity of seeing a total solar eclipse, because the area of the Moon’s shadow resulting in totality is small, at most only about 165 miles in diameter.4 The casting of a small shadow means there must be a significant distance between the Sun and Moon. In addition, the path of totality, which is the track that the Moon’s shadow takes as it moves across the Earth’s surface, is a very narrow strip. When seeking to see a total solar eclipse event, the location where you go to observe must be very precisely chosen within the track.
If we focus on the second major type of eclipse, a lunar eclipse, then we see, not only further evidence for distances and orientations matching the heliocentric view, but also evidence for the spherical nature of Earth. Lunar eclipses occur when Earth is positioned between the Sun and Moon, and its shadow is cast across the Moon’s surface causing a darkening of the Moon. While solar eclipses only occur during the New Moon phase, lunar eclipses similarly occur only during the Full Moon phase. The precise alignment of the Sun, Moon, and Earth is emphasized by the fact that while lunar eclipses only occur during Full Moon phases, they do not occur every cycle and are quite rare. In contrast to a solar eclipse that involves one body, the Moon, obscuring the more distant Sun, a lunar eclipse involves the Earth’s shadow progressing across the Moon’s surface until it becomes completely engulfed. The evidence for a spherical Earth comes from the fact that as the lunar eclipse event begins the curvature of the Earth’s shadow can be seen advancing across the Moon’s surface. This provides direct observation for the circular shape of the Earth’s body, as well as the required orbit of the Moon to go around to the opposite side of Earth from the Sun. Both of these observable facts are contrary to Flat-Earth models, some of which postulate Earth as an indefinite plane5 or as a circular inhabitable region set in a rectangular block.6

Observing Objects Outside of Earth

As we consider the shape of our own planet, we can gain perspective by making direct observations of other celestial objects. By comparison of the physical features we observe in other objects, we can make application to the features we observe on Earth. A good starting place is to consider the planets in our own Solar System, objects that are generally the easiest to observe: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Each of these planets is conventionally described as being spherically round, so let’s discuss the observational evidence.
The planets Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are the four easiest of the planets to observe with simple backyard telescopes or even binoculars. With these tools the casual observer can see that each of these objects has dimensions and shape, showing more than the spot of light seen with the naked eye. In a simple description, the planets are obviously round; but are they three-dimensionally round objects? During short times of observing, we are able to capture short picturesque views of the planets; but what happens as we continue our observations? If we simply make the effort to add repeated observations, we will be able to see the snapshot characteristics begin to show their dynamic and varying nature. With observations over a matter of days and weeks (even better over months), you will see Venus’ phase change, Mars’ apparent size and surface features change, Jupiter’s rotation, and Saturn’s ring orientation change.
Let’s begin making a few specific observations. Beginning with the planet that has the largest average apparent size, we find Jupiter to be a beautifully banded planet. The roughly horizontal striations of Jupiter have varying colors from white to brownish-red. Overlapping the middle bands, you might see one of the most well-known features of Jupiter: the “Great Red Spot.” This feature serves as a good landmark and is one of Jupiter’s most fascinating features. Named for its appearance, this giant, oval-shaped region in Jupiter’s atmosphere has existed for several hundred years and is similar to features described by Galileo Galilei and Giovanni Cassini as far back as the 1600s. In fact, Giovanni Cassini used careful observations to track the movement of spot features, seemingly similar to the Great Red Spot, in order to conclude that Jupiter was indeed rotating about its axis. From the measurements, Cassini calculated a rotation speed for Jupiter of approximately 10 hours.7 Even with Cassini’s very primitive equipment, his calculation matches the currently measured rotation period of 9.925 hours.8
The next planet has captivated astronomers’ attention as far back as the telescope: the red planet Mars offers intriguing observations. In a similar fashion to his calculations of Jupiter’s rotation, Giovanni Cassini also calculated the length of Mars’ rotation by measuring how long it took for surface features to make it back around to the same spot. Both Cassini and Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens independently calculated the rotation period of Mars to be similar to Earth’s at just over 24-hours.9 The similarity between Earth and what we see when observing Mars is much more than just a similar period of rotation. Mars has surface features such as large plains, expansive ravines, and elevated mountains. White regions aligned with its axis of rotation are similar to Earth’s icy polar regions. Mars also has varying atmospheric changes, which most notably include huge dust storms that can obscure large regions. As we consider a round, rotating planet with mountains and canyons, polar ice caps, and an atmosphere that at times is clear and other times is congested with dusty storms, we cannot help but think about days on Earth with beautiful sunny days and about camping excursions in quiet valleys, or maybe cloudy days that often bring sudden storms while hiking in the mountains. If Mars exists as a rotating, spherical planet with diverse landscapes, then so can Earth.

CREDIT: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA); Acknowledgment: R.G. French (Wellesley College), J. Cuzzi (NASA/Ames), L. Dones (SwRI), and J. Lissauer (NASA/Ames)
One of the most recognizable planets, the ringed-world of Saturn, provides an interesting context to consider. With Saturn we find the geometries of both a flat disk for the rings and a spherical body for the planet. Saturn’s ring system is a collection of particles surrounding the planet, individually orbiting Saturn as evidenced from spectroscopic studies showing differential rotation of ring material.10 Even in commercially available telescopes, Saturn and its beautiful rings can be readily seen. However, as we make repeated observations from year to year, we can watch as the ring orientation changes in its tilt with respect to our perspective from Earth.
In some years, Earth’s view is edge-on with Saturn’s ring plane, causing the rings to be barely visible, while other years, such as late 2017, the rings reach a tilt angle of 27° allowing the outermost A-ring to be visible in its full circumference. The changing tilt-angle of the rings is a regular cycle, oscillating in such a way that both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres of Saturn’s body will be directed towards Earth during the cycle. What this comparison provides is a single view contrasting a spherical versus flat geometry in space. If all of the planets were simply flat circles, then we should see the same type of drastic visual differences from their changing orientations that Saturn’s rings demonstrate, since Saturn’s rings are understood, even in the heliocentric model, to be approximately flat circles. Additionally, the fact that the ring-tilt observations are consistent for every observer on Earth shows that Saturn is a very distant object, so that even observers separated by great distances on Earth will have comparable views.
The more distant planets of Uranus and Neptune are harder to observe with smaller amateur equipment. However, with diligence and larger telescopes, their round bodies can be observed in similar nature as the other planets. The fact that both Uranus and Neptune have their own systems of orbiting moons helps us to understand their relative size and gravitational dominance in their regions of space. The brightest of Uranus’ moons, Titania and Oberon, have been studied for well over 200 years. Titania, the largest and brightest moon, completes an orbit every 8.7 days, while Oberon takes 13.5 days.11  The largest moon of Neptune, Triton, has been observed for over 150 years and has an orbital period of 5.9 days.12 Thus, when we compare our observations of Uranus and Neptune to those of Jupiter and Saturn, we see many similarities and, by extension, can understand Uranus and Neptune as large spherical bodies.
Simple observations of the Moon and Sun in the sky clearly show a circular body. Couple this simple observational fact with a few additional observations and we can understand them as three-dimensionally round, as well. For instance, in similar fashion to some of the planets, the Sun can easily be monitored over several days tracking visible photosphere features called sunspots, progressing across its surface. Sunspots are dark areas in the brightly visible layer of the Sun, called the photosphere. As we track a sunspot feature across the Sun’s apparent surface, we find that shape and orientation of their entire context shows its movement to be caused by the Sun’s overall rotation and not large atmospheric motion. Even small backyard telescopes with proper solar filters can be used to monitor the presence and movement of sunspots.
For the second brightest object in the sky, the Moon, our regular observations can be done even easier than trying to safely view the Sun. The most obvious observation of the Moon is that it progresses through a regular cycle of phases each month. As this cycle occurs, there is an obvious curvature seen in the visibly bright portion of the Moon. The shape of the Moon’s phase, defined by the dark and light regions, is not caused by any shadowing from Earth. Instead, the obvious curved shapes of a Gibbous or Crescent Moon are due to the overall spherical curvature of the Moon itself. As the Moon’s position relative to the Sun’s location changes, our view of the Moon’s sunlit portion changes, and we see the side of the Moon facing away from the Sun. The direct relationship between lunar phases and the Sun can be seen by how each phase corresponds with the Sun’s position, noting also that the phase of the Moon is approximately the same for every observer—evidence for the Moon having a large distance from Earth. Flat-Earth models have the Moon located quite close, and as such, the Moon’s phase would be dramatically different based on where the observer is located. Instead, a Full Moon is always found opposite the Sun in the sky for every observer. When the Sun is setting below the horizon, the Full Moon is rising above the horizon, and when the Full Moon is setting, the Sun will be rising. Conversely, when the lunar phase is a New Moon, both the Sun and Moon will be seen in the same direction. The sunlit portions and the oppositely shadowed regions of the Moon are the visible results of the spherical shape of the Moon.
Even further, as we gaze at the Full Moon, its varying surface features are obvious by the contrasting light and dark regions. Employ binoculars or a small telescope and you will have immediate access to a wealth of topographic variation: rough and smooth areas, large and small craters, elevated peaks and depressions. Focusing on the surface features, we find that the shadowing effect that the phases provide enhances our understanding of the three-dimensional aspect of the Moon. The boundary line produced by the curved shadow across the Moon’s surface (during the Gibbous or Crescent phase) is called the terminator. You will find as you observe the Moon that the terminator is a region of excellent viewing. “Why?,” you might ask. There is a subtle decrease in the brightness of this region, allowing it to be somewhat easier on the eyes. The brightness difference is caused by the fact that the shadows of visible features along the terminator become lengthened as the terminator line approaches them. First, this is one piece of evidence toward the Moon not producing its own light, as some Flat-Earth proponents suggest,13but rather reflecting light from an outside source (the Sun). Second, the shadows become extended when features are near the terminator, showing to a greater degree a contrast in height above the lunar surface. Here we can begin to identify the differences between elevated and depressed features by where their shadow is cast. The Moon is a distant, three-dimensional body with a variety of topographic landscapes.

Evaluating Observations of the Constellations

As we view the night sky and trace out familiar patterns in the stars, we can begin to map out the constellations. It is these consistent arrangements of stars that allow us to map and chart the heavens. We can use the positions of constellations relative to other stars and constellations to help us determine, not only where lesser-known and less-obvious celestial objects are located, but to help us on Earth to navigate our own geography.
Similar to how Earth’s geography has been mapped through history to provide our current knowledge of how the major landforms are oriented, the entire sky has likewise been mapped to give us a relation for how each constellation is oriented and located relative to the others. Following the same process for how Earth’s maps were compiled, requiring not only exploration but a combining of knowledge from many diverse groups across the world, the constellation map of the sky has been compiled from astronomical observers from different regions of the Earth over long periods of time. This process of combination was not only a good arrangement but was necessary for a complete map, since the available view of the sky is dependent on your location on Earth. Observers in different locations will have different views, not only for similar times of night or seasons, but also may have access to view constellations not available to other regions.
First, the view of a single observer varies seasonally. The visible constellations follow a regular cycle throughout the period of a year, and then repeat the same exact cycle the next year, and every year after that. What this seasonal cycle illustrates is that for any single location, there will be constellations that can be viewed during the winter months but that are not visible during the summer months, and vice-versa. This variation means that the Sun’s position in the sky is independent of the star and constellation positions, and thus there must be two motions in process to account for the Sun’s position and the constellation positions. The fact that there are seasonal variations seen in the East to West changing of visible constellation positions supports the spherical curvature of Earth and its rotational axis motion that impacts the star’s positions.
Second, there are constellation variations based not only on seasonal changes but on the geographical locations of observers. If we consider different observers located in the midwest United States, in central Africa, and in Australia, we find that each will have dramatically different observations. The set of constellations visible will be very different for locations with large North-to-South separations, where many constellations will not be visible from the opposite location. Constellations that may be visible from two locations with smaller North-to-South separations will still have very different apparent positions in the sky. Thus the stars and constellations visible at a particular location correspond directly to an observer’s latitude, where observers located at dramatically different latitudes will have unique views. These variations show us that there is a North-to-South curvature of Earth, which is aligned with a preferred axis of East-to-West rotation. A Flat-Earth model is not able to describe these observations, where a spherical Earth provides a simple description for how they occur.
These observable facts make clear sense for a spherical Earth, as the relative positions on the globe would determine your outward facing view of the sky. Other regions of the sky are obscured by the curved body of Earth. The reason that some constellations may be completely unique based on your location, results from Earth’s globe having a rotating motion about its axis. Where an observer is located on the surface, relative to the axis of rotation, will define what regions of the sky may or may not be visible and which stars are circumpolar (meaning they circle the celestial pole and are continuously above the horizon). The nearer you are to one of Earth’s poles (North or South), the less of the total sky you are able to see. A person South of the Equator will never see the North Star, Polaris (located at the North Celestial Pole). A person North of the equator at latitudes greater than about 26 degrees will never see the Southern Cross (near the South Celestial Pole).14 This location-dependent view is why Australia and New Zealand have this prominent group of stars on their nation’s flags, but Northern Hemisphere nations do not.
Flat-Earth models have huge complications when trying to describe how the visibility of constellations varies based only on an observer’s latitude. Problems are further compounded when addressing the observations of completely different constellations visible to those located at far Northern and far Southern latitudes, and that there are not one but two celestial poles around which stars rotate.


1 Eric Dubay (2014), The Flat–Earth Conspiracy (Self-published), p. 89; See the phrase “under 4,000 miles” in Samuel Rowbotham (“Parallax”) (1865), Zetetic Astronomy: Earth Not a Globe!(Bath: S. Hayward), p. 74.
2 Both the Sun and Moon have an angular size of 0.5 degrees. “Angular size” measures how large in angular units, such as degrees, an object appears. Angular size is not a measure of the true physical size, but rather an apparent size based on the object’s distance.
3 See “The Moon” at the Flat Earth Society Web site: http://www.theflatearthsociety.org/tiki/tiki-index.php?page=The+Moon.
4 http://www.astronomy.ohio-state.edu/~pogge/Ast161/Unit2/eclipses.html. The August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse will only be about 70 miles in diameter, as measured from the NASA map projections. See https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/interactive_map/index.html.
5 “The Flat Earth Society, along with previous notable flatists such as Samuel Shenton and S. Rowbotham, believe there is no end to the Earth and that it continues indefinitely. The only edge to the earth is the one you are standing on.” Seehttps://theflatearthsociety.org/home/index.php/faq#173818.
6 See the flat Earth map on the cover of this issue of R&R created by Orlando Ferguson in 1893. Also at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Orlando-Ferguson-flat-earth-map.jpg.
7 Thomas Hockey (1999), Galileo’s Planet: Observing Jupiter Before Photography (Bristol, PA: IOP Publishing), pp. 31-32; C.A. Young (1886), “Rotation Time of the Red Spot on Jupiter,” The Sidereal Messenger, 5:289-293, http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1886SidM....5..289Y.
8 C.A. Higgins, T.D. Carr, and F. Reyes (1996), “A New Determination of Jupiter’s Radio Rotation Period,” Geophysical Research Letters, 23:2653-2656.
9 “All About Mars” (no date), NASA, https://mars.nasa.gov/allaboutmars/mystique/history/1600/; Jim Plaxco (1999), Mars Timeline of Discovery: 1570 BC thru 1799, http://www.astrodigital.org/mars/timeline1.html.
10 Helen Sawyer Hogg (1963), “Out of Old Books: James Keeler and the Rings of Saturn,” Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, 57:269, http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1963JRASC..57..269S.
11 David Williams (2016), “Uranian Satellite Fact Sheet” (Greenbelt, MD: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), https://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/factsheet/uraniansatfact.html.
12 David Williams (2016), “Neptunian Satellite Fact Sheet” (Greenbelt, MD: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), https://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/factsheet/neptuniansatfact.html.
13 Dubay, pp. 78-81.
14 Bruce McClure (2017), “Northerners’ Guide to Southern Cross,” EarthSky, http://earthsky.org/favorite-star-patterns/the-southern-cross-signpost-of-southern-skies.

Veils, Footwashing, and the Holy Kiss by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Veils, Footwashing, and the Holy Kiss

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

The average American feels that truth is unknowable, and therefore everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. He or she feels that one viewpoint is as good as another, and no one should be so arrogant or judgmental as to say that one view is correct and all others are wrong. After all, one cannot be certain as to what is ultimately right and what is ultimately wrong. And who is to say who is right and who is wrong? How can we be so sure that we have all the answers?
This cultural inclination has infiltrated the church. It manifests itself among those who insist that we in the churches of Christ have been too narrow and dogmatic about our doctrinal positions. They say we have assumed that we’re right, and that other religious groups are wrong; we have made too much of some issues, and too little of others; and our rigid doctrinal stance has, in turn, caused us to be unloving and intolerant of alternative viewpoints and churches.
Of course, this entire line of thinking proceeds from a humanistic, pluralistic mindset. It constitutes the classic attempt to dodge accountability and responsibility. When Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32), He was showing that we must be right about certain matters. We do not know everything. But we can know some things—those things that God expects us to know. We can know truth! We can know that we know (1 John 2:3). We can know which things we have to know, and we can know which things we do not have to know. But we must analyze each matter logically and scripturally.
For example, some have concluded that God wants women to wear head-coverings when they worship in the presence of men. They believe this conclusion follows from the teaching of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. However, the wearing of a veil in Corinth conveyed a meaning within Graeco-Roman culture that is not conveyed in American culture. It was a cultural phenomenon (“judge in yourselves”—vs. 13). To them, the veil symbolized a woman’s submission to male authority (vs. 10). The removal of the veil symbolized a woman’s rejection of male authority, and was equivalent to the shameful practice of shaving the head—an act done by women of ill-repute (vs. 5-6). Since the symbolism of the veil in Corinthian culture was in harmony with the abiding principle of female submission to male leadership, Corinthian Christians were admonished to conform to the cultural practice.
The application of this injunction is that Christians, who find themselves in cultures today where a particular cultural symbol undergirds an abiding biblical principle, should conform to that cultural propriety. Head coverings have no such significance in American culture, and vary throughout the world (cf. Genesis 24:65; 29:25; 38:14-15; Song of Solomon 4:1,3; 6:7). If Paul intended for veils to be enjoined upon all Christian women in all cultures for all time, then three conclusions follow: a hat is no substitute; veils must be worn outside the worship assembly as well; and those who refuse must be urged to shave their heads.
Another area of confusion about which the truth may be ascertained is the “holy kiss.” Both Paul and Peter urged first-century Christians to greet each other with holy kisses (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14). Was this injunction intended to be an abiding feature of Christianity? Does God want Christians today to practice a “holy kiss,” even as He desires that baptism, prayer, and the Lord’s Supper be observed?
Kissing as a greeting predated Christianity (1 Samuel 20:41; 2 Samuel 20:9; Matthew 26:49; Luke 7:45; Acts 20:37). Americans typically have been unable to relate to kissing as a standard form of greeting. They shake hands or offer a pat on the back. However, hugging has become increasingly prominent in recent years. Paul could not have been commanding Christians to start kissing each other as a form of greeting—they were already doing so! Rather Paul was applying Christian principles to the existing and widespread cultural practice of kiss-greetings by urging them to keep their greeting holy. Far from enjoining kissing, he was requiring holy kissing. He was telling Christians to make their kiss-greetings a sanctified activity—set apart for, or in line with, proper Christian living. He was instructing them, “Since you kiss, when you kiss, make it holy—greet one another with a holy kiss.”
A third practice that requires clarification in order to understand its proper application is foot washing. Jesus literally startled and shocked the disciples on the occasion when He insisted upon washing their feet (John 13:1-20). It is nearly as surprising to find religious groups today who believe that Jesus was instituting an abiding occurrence—a worship act to be observed ritualistically in the practice of Christianity.
As a matter of fact, the washing of feet in first-century Palestine was a common cultural amenity that was necessary due to the dry, dusty road conditions and the footwear of the day (i.e., sandals—Genesis 18:4; 19:2; 24:32; 43:24; Judges 19:21; 1 Timothy 5:10). In a typical middle-eastern setting, several social courtesies were ordinarily extended to guests. These expressions of hospitality included the kiss greeting, anointing, and caring for the guest’s animals, in addition to providing food and shelter (Genesis 18:4-5; 24:32; Judges 19:21; Ruth 3:3; 2 Samuel 12:20; Psalm 23:5; Ecclesiastes 9:8; Daniel 10:3; Matthew 6:17; Luke 7:44-46). Western culture typically has a completely different list of social amenities, including taking a guest’s coat, offering something to drink, and asking the guest to be seated.
In a culture where household servants were in abundant supply, the task of washing a guest’s dusty feet normally would have been performed by a servant of the host. This fact is what made Jesus’ action so repugnant to the disciples. They were disgusted that Jesus would lower Himself to perform such demeaning labor.
Since the disciples of Jesus already were practicing foot washing, Jesus was simply using the cultural custom to teach a spiritual principle. That is why He prefaced His action by noting they would not understand the significance of what He was about to do (John 13:7). That is why, when He finished, He asked, “Do you know what I have done to you?” (vs. 12). Obviously, they knew that He had washed their feet! If He was merely urging them to continue this common practice, they would have understood His injunction instantly. But that was not the point He was attempting to get across to them. He was teaching self-humiliation and forgiveness. We, too, must be humble enough to correct our mistakes and receive the forgiveness that Jesus offers. We must be willing to treat others better than ourselves by serving them and showing concern for the fulfillment of their needs. It would be a simple matter if we could fulfill this edict by ritualistically washing another’s feet. However, Jesus was conveying the fact that the humility and unassuming, servant-attitude that He wants us to display require a far more diligent, consistent dedication of one’s daily behavior.

The Passion and Antisemitism: Who Murdered Jesus? by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


The Passion and Antisemitism: Who Murdered Jesus?

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

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


The movie is, indeed, graphic. Despite various inaccuracies and additions that usually come with an attempt to transfer a biblical narrative to the screen, The Passion of the Christ nevertheless does a credible job of reenacting the excruciating torment that Jesus endured by undergoing Roman scourging and crucifixion. The film fosters a renewed appreciation of the suffering that Jesus subjected Himself to in behalf of sinful humanity.
Anti-Semitism is sinful and unchristian. Those who crucified Jesus are to be pitied. Even Jesus said concerning them: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). But we need not deny or rewrite history in the process. We now live in a post-Christian culture. If Gibson would have produced a movie depicting Jesus as a homosexual, the liberal, “politically correct,” anti-Christian forces would have been the first to defend the undertaking under the guise of “artistic license,” “free speech,” and “creativity.” But dare to venture into spiritual reality by showing the historicity of sinful man mistreating the Son of God, and the champions of moral degradation and hedonism raise angry, bitter voices of protest. The irony of the ages is—He died even for them.


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