"THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS" Jesus' Superiority To Angels (1:4-14) by Mark Copeland


Jesus' Superiority To Angels (1:4-14)


1. The subject of angels has certainly become a popular one lately...
   a. Bookstores are filled with books dealing with angels
   b. Popular TV shows and movies depict angels working in our lives
      ("Highway To Heaven", "Touched By An Angel", "The Preacher's
      Wife", "It's A Wonderful Life")

2. Angels were also an important part of the Jewish religion...
   a. Angels assisted with the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai - cf. 
      Deut 33:2; Ps 68:17; Ac 7:53; Ga 3:19
   b. They appear throughout the history of Israel, coming to Abraham,
      Daniel, and many others

3. Since the purpose of "The Epistle To The Hebrews" is to show the 
   superiority of Christ and the New Covenant to the Law of Moses...
   a. It is necessary that the writer has something to say about angels
   b. So it is that we find the comparison of the Son to prophets
      followed now by a comparison to angels - He 1:4-14

4. The premise is clearly stated that the Son (Jesus) is "much better
   than the angels" - He 1:4
   a. The reason in a nutshell is that "He has by inheritance obtained
      a more excellent name than they"
   b. That name is "Son", a title that only Jesus can properly wear...
      1) Angels may be called "sons of God" collectively - cf. Job 1:6
      2) But no angel can be called this name individually!

[As evidence for the superiority of Jesus over angels, the author 
proceeds to offer scriptural support from the Old Testament.  His first
two quotations are to prove...]


      1. The first is Ps 2:7
         a. A psalm depicting the enthronement of the Messiah (the 
            Lord's Anointed)
         b. In which Jehovah calls the Messiah "My Son"
         c. The "begetting" has reference to the resurrection of Jesus 
            - Ac 13:33; Ro 1:4
      2. The second is 2Sa 7:14
         a. This passage had immediate application to Solomon, David's
         b. But as the Messiah who would receive the throne of David 
            was also descended from David...
            1) It's ultimate application would be to the Messiah
            2) I.e., Jesus, the "son of David" - Mt 1:1; Mk 10:47; Jn 7:42

      1. Collectively they were called "sons of God", but never individually!
      2. This not only demonstrates Jesus' superiority to angels...
         a. It proves that Jesus Himself was NOT an angel!
         b. Contrary to what some (such as JW's) believe

[The superiority of Jesus over the angels is further illustrated as we


      1. The term "firstborn" does not always mean "born first"
         a. It is also used in the Scriptures as a metaphor to describe
            one who occupies the rank and privilege of being firstborn
            (without literally being "firstborn")
         b. Used by God in this way to refer to the nation of Israel - Exo 4:22
         c. Used by God in this way to refer to David, youngest of 
            eight - Ps 89:20,27
      2. It is used of Jesus in this way to stress His preeminence over creation...
         a. As Paul explains in Col 1:15-18
         b. By virtue of being the Creator, He maintains the rank and
            privilege of "firstborn"!

      WORSHIP HIM...
      1. The quotation in verse 6 is from Deut 32:43 as found in the
         Septuagint version
      2. The angels of God were to worship Him
      3. Note well:  No created being is or was ever worthy of worship!
         a. The angels themselves refused to be worshipped - Re 22:8-9
         b. The apostle Peter refused to accept worship - Ac 10:25-26
      4. Yet Jesus received worship!
         a. From the wise men - Mt 2:11
         b. From the leper - Mt 8:2
         c. From the ruler - Mt 9:18
         d. From His disciples in the boat - Mt 14:33
         e. From the Canaanite woman - Mt 15:25
         f. From the man born blind - Jn 9:38
         g. From the women and other disciples following His 
            resurrection - Mt 28:9,17
         h. From the disciples following His ascension - Lk 24:52

[That Jesus is worthy of worship, especially now, becomes more evident
as we consider how...]


      1. They are created spirits to serve God (called "ministering 
         spirits" in He 1:14)
      2. Their service can be as powerful yet transient as "wind" or 
         "flames of fire", if need be

      1. The author is quoting from another Messianic psalm - Ps 45:
      2. Notice that the Son is called "God"! - He 1:8
         a. The Hebrew writer clearly proclaims the deity of Jesus! 
            - cf. He 1:3a
         b. Yet in the next verse we read where it says "God, Your God has..."
            1) Here we find a distinction of personalities within the Godhead
            2) Which we learn through later revelation involves the 
               Father and the Son (and the Holy Spirit)
      3. The Son, Who is God, has been enthroned, and reigns over an 
         everlasting kingdom with righteousness
         a. A kingdom of which Daniel said "shall never be destroyed" 
            - Dan 2:44
         b. A kingdom of which Gabriel (an angel) told Mary:  "there 
            will be no end" - Lk 1:33
         c. Both Paul and John wrote of this kingdom - Col 1:13; Re 1:9
      4. This Son, Who is God and King, has been "anointed" - He 1:9
         a. Of course, the word "Messiah" means "anointed one"
         b. In this passage, the emphasis is on how Jesus has been 
            anointed with gladness "more than Your companions"
            1) Who are these "companions"?
            2) In view of He 2:11; 3:1, it is likely the followers of
               Jesus, His brethren!

[As God, King, and Messiah, Jesus is certainly greater than angels!  
But there is even more...]


      1. Now the Hebrew writer is quoting from Ps 102:25-27
         a. A psalm which addresses God using His covenant name Yahweh
            (or Jehovah)
         b. This is the name that God used to identify Himself to Moses
            - Exo 3:13-14
      2. But the Hebrew writer by inspiration knew this psalm equally
         applied to Jesus!
         a. Such would be blasphemy, unless Jesus is truly Deity!
         b. So while the Son is distinct from the Father (cf. He 1:9),
            He and the Father are also the same!
      3. In this chapter, then, we find evidence relating to the nature
         of the Godhead...
         a. There is one God, but three distinct personalities within 
            the Godhead (Father, Son, Holy Spirit)
         b. As Jehovah, Jesus is not "a god", or any sort of created 
            being (contra JWs, Mormons, etc.)
         c. As the Son who is distinct from the Father, the Son is not
            the same in personality as the Father (contra the Oneness 
         -- Though not a biblical term, the word "trinity" does help to
            convey the Biblical evidence as to the nature of the Godhead!

      1. In the beginning it was He who created the earth and the 
         heavens - He 1:10
         a. As the author had already stated in He 1:2c
         b. As both John and Paul professed - Jn 1:3; Col 1:16-17
      2. He is also eternal, therefore unchangeable - He 1:11-12
         a. The heavens and the earth "will perish", "grow old" and "be
            changed" - cf. 2Pe 3:10-12
         b. But Jesus will "remain", be the "same", and "not fail" 
            - cf. He 13:8

[The superiority of Jesus over angels is illustrated with one last 
comparison in this chapter...]


      1. The psalm quoted now is Ps 110:1
         a. This psalm is quoted or alluded to more than any other 
            psalm in the NT
         b. It refers to the Messianic reign of Christ that began when
            Jesus sat down at the right hand of God 
             - cf. He 1:3; Ac 2:34-36; 1Pe 3:22
      2. That no angel has been asked to sit at God's right hand...
         a. Once again proves that Jesus was not an angel (contra JWs)
         b. Only Jesus, as the Son of God, has been so invited, and is
            truly the Sovereign!

      1. While Jesus sits enthroned in heaven, angels are "sent forth 
         to minister (serve)"         
      2. They minister for those "who will inherit salvation"
         a. They have certainly ministered in the past - cf. Lk 1:11-38
         b. They will certainly minister at the time of Christ's return
            - cf. Mt 13:36-43
         c. But to what extent they minister in the present, the 
            Scriptures reveal little (cf. Mt 18:10), and we should be
            careful to refrain from vain speculation

1. In a very forceful manner, the writer to the Hebrews has shown 
   Jesus' superiority to angels:
   a. Jesus is the "Son" (not angels)
   b. Jesus is the "Firstborn" who receives worship (not angels)
   c. Jesus is "God" enthroned and anointed (not angels)
   d. Jesus is the "LORD" (Yahweh) who is the eternal creator (not 
      angels, who are only created beings)
   e. Jesus is the "Sovereign", reigning at God's right hand (angels 
      are but ministering spirits)

2. While angels certainly have a special place in God's plan for 
   redeeming man...
   a. They are not to become the object of worship or adoration - Col 2:18-19
   b. Only Jesus is worthy of such worship and adoration!

As innumerable angels proclaimed with a loud voice:

   "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and
   wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!" 
                                                    - Re 5:11-12

Let Jesus, and not angels, be the focus of your interest and adoration!

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Unity, Division, Doctrine, and Jesus' Prayer by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Unity, Division, Doctrine, and Jesus' Prayer

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Who would question the importance of unity in the body of Christ? God wants every Christian to be united and at peace with every other Christian (Philippians 2:1-4). He wants us to be knit together cohesively in love and fellowship (Ephesians 4:1-3,16; 1 John 1:5-7). He wants us working together harmoniously to accomplish the same objectives (1 Corinthians 12:12-26). Far too many congregations of the Lord’s people have been racked by division and discord due to petty jealousy, immaturity, prideful self-assertiveness, and unjustified disagreement over matters of opinion.

In addition to the division that sometimes exists within individual congregations, churches of Christ currently are experiencing a significant cleavage brotherhoodwide. Such division has occurred in the past over a variety of issues, including instrumental music, multiple communion containers, support of orphan homes, located preachers, and cooperation among congregations in mission work.
Beyond the division that exists within churches of Christ is the widespread division that exists within “Christendom.” Look at the multiplicity of religious groups, churches, and movements that claim affinity and affiliation with Christ and Christianity: the Protestant denominational world, Catholicism, the so-called “cults” (a term historically applied to Mormonism, Seventh Day Adventism, Christian Science, and Jehovah’s Witnesses), and the prolific spawning of “nondenominational” community churches. Beyond the division that exists within “Christendom,” look at the religious smorgasbord that exists among the world religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam—involving billions of people.

What is the solution to division? Can division be eliminated? How does God want us to achieve unity? Perhaps the premiere proposal being advanced to solve the matter of division today is—de-emphasize doctrine! This relaxation of doctrinal stance manifests itself in at least two ways. Some reduce the fervency with which they hold to doctrinal positions. Doctrinal viewpoints that previously were unquestioned—and for which compromise would have been considered intolerable—now are being softened and held as mere opinion. Those who continue to affirm the importance of those same doctrinal viewpoints are labeled “legalists” or “radicals.”

Other brethren cope with division by attempting to reduce the number of doctrinal viewpoints that one must firmly hold. This maneuver has given rise to the notion of “unity in diversity,” and a so-called “core doctrine” classification scheme. Those who travel this route insist that many of our past doctrines (like the exclusion of instrumental music, the use of choirs, and female leadership in worship) should not be considered matters of fellowship. They say that, ultimately, the only doctrinal belief that matters is Jesus. If a person acknowledges God as Father and Jesus as Lord, he or she should be considered a saved believer, and in full fellowship with every other Christian (see Miller, 1996, pp. 282-331 for a more complete discussion of this concept).
Several writers and speakers appeal to Jesus’ prayer for unity in John chapter seventeen as evidence of this alleged need to override doctrinal concerns for the sake of unity. One well-known writer and speaker has stressed that, when Jesus got ready to depart the planet, His final remarks—His parting words—did not pertain to instrumental music or doctrinal soundness, but to unity: the need for believers to be one (John 17:21).

Appealing to Jesus’ prayer for unity as justification for replacing unity based on truth with unity based on undiscriminating acceptance, and an emotional sense of togetherness, is both unfortunate and unscriptural. If the reader will take the time to read John 17, one will see that the unity for which Jesus called was unity based on correct doctrine. Notice His repetitious reference to the “truth,” the “word,” and the need for “keeping” and “receiving” that word (John 17:6,8,14,17,19). Clearly, obedience to a body of doctrinal truth must precede unity.
Jesus also identified how unity is to be achieved among believers: “through their word” (John 17:20). In other words, people must hear the word that the apostles preached which, in addition to the Lordship of Christ, includes the gospel plan of salvation (faith, repentance, confession, and baptism for the remission of sins), as well as faithful Christian living. The compliance that occurs as a result of “their word” automatically brings unity and fellowship with Christ and each other (1 John 1:3,6-7).

Further, those of whom Jesus spoke in His prayer were clearly those who would become New Testament Christians. He was speaking with reference to the church of Christ—not the world with its denominationalism (John 17:9,16). Until one obeys the gospel plan of salvation, one is not a genuine believer in Christ. It is possible to be a “believer”—in the sense that one recognizes Who Jesus is, acknowledges that fact, and even offers a measure of commitment—and still not be acceptable to God (John 8:30,31,44; 12:42; Acts 8:13,20-23). The believers for whom Jesus prayed were members of the church of Christ—not members of denominations that profess faith in Christ. Jesus was praying for unity in His church. To identify adherents of denominationalism as “believers” is to redefine the term in an unscriptural sense.

How ironic that the very passage, to which agents of change frequently appeal in order to advance their agenda of change, finds its most pertinent application today in them! They are tampering with the foundational principles of Christianity in order to broaden the borders of the kingdom. In so doing, they are guilty of creating division, and are wreaking havoc on the body of Christ! Jesus prayed that such damage might not happen.

To understand Jesus’ prayer in John 17 as a call to make unity top priority—even over truth and doctrine—is to misconstrue the entire book of John. The purpose of John’s gospel account was to prove the deity of Christ in order to elicit an obedient belief. He selected seven signs as evidence to verify Christ’s claim. Belief is based on truth (forms of which are used some 40 times), and knowing(used 87 times). John made it clear that it is not enough to acknowledge the deity of Christ. One must listen to Christ’s words, and then comply with them (e.g., John 6:63,68; 8:31; 12:48; 14:24). Contextually, unity among believers is possible only when the believers commit themselves to the doctrine that Christ imparted.

If one desires to be sensitive to context, and engage in genuine exposition of the Word, the prominent passage in the New Testament that addresses division within the body of Christ is 1 Corinthians. The entire letter constitutes Paul’s plea for Christians to be united. The theme is stated in 1:10: “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (NKJV). The rest of the book delineates one doctrinal item after another in order to correct divisive Corinthian conduct. These items include their sexual behavior (chs. 5-7), their use of food in relation to idolatry (chs. 8-10), disorders in the worship assembly [including female leadership (11:1-16), Lord’s Supper (11:17-34) and the use of miraculous gifts (chs. 12-14)], misconceptions about the resurrection (ch. 15), and the collection (16:1-4).
Their aberrant (i.e., divisive) behavior was directly due to their doctrinal error. Consequently, the solution was not to de-emphasize doctrine! The solution was not to lessen or downplay doctrinal commitment. The solution was not to relegate all but one or two doctrines to an optional status. The solution is clearly stated: speak the same thing! Be joined together in the same mind and judgment! Christians have the divine obligation to study their Bibles, and to arrive at the truth on every matter that God sets forth as essential. God’s doctrine concerning salvation, worship, the church, and Christian living is critical, and every believer must come to knowledge of that doctrine, and submit to it.

Ironically, those who push for unity at the expense of truth and doctrine are now compromising even on the essentiality of water baptism for the remission of sins. Yet in the very context where division within the body of Christ is discussed, Paul advanced an argument that showed the necessity of baptism. In rebuking the factious Corinthians, he asked: “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1:13). Notice that Paul gave two prerequisites to salvation. Before an individual can say “I am of ” another person, first, the person would have to have been crucified for that individual, and second, the individual would have to be baptized in the nameof the person. Christ was crucified for all of us. But you and I cannot legitimately say we are “of Christ” until we have been baptized in His name! Unity and fellowship cannot be extended to anyone who has not been baptized to be saved!

Countless sermons have been preached in recent years recounting the division that has plagued churches of Christ. The preacher inevitably insists that our factions are due to our over-emphasis upon doctrinal purity, and our insistence upon being doctrinally correct on every point possible. He then affirms that if we will cease our concern for doctrinal accuracy, or focus upon a few commonalities that we share with the denominational world, we can achieve the unity God demands. It never seems to dawn on such agents of change that the denominational world (which they want us to emulate, embrace, and fellowship) are hopelessly divided and are splintered into as many factions as we—maybe more! Frank S. Mead documented many years ago in his Handbook of Denominationsthat all of the mainline denominations (Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians) are divided into multiple groups, as are virtually all other religious groups—Catholics, Pentecostals, and Mormons, as well as the Moslems, Buddhists, and Hindus. Neither unity nor division proves that a group possesses God’s truth (cf. Mead, 1979).

The pathway to unity is simple. God’s truth can be ascertained and known (John 7:17; 8:32). All who truly submit themselves to the Word of God can and will be united. Those who do not conform to the parameters of truth will automatically be separated from the obedient. But they will be held responsible for the disunity that results. Cain was responsible for the break between himself and his brother—not Abel—because of his own departure from the instructions of God! (cf. Genesis 4:3-8; Hebrews 11:4; 1 John 3:12). Those who remain faithful to God’s words will continue to enjoy the unity that Jesus said was possible. Doctrine, and compliance with that doctrine, take precedence over unity. No wonder Jesus declared: “Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division” (Luke 12:51).


Mead, Frank S. (1979), Handbook of Denominations (Nashville, TN: Abingdon).
Miller, Dave (1996), Piloting the Strait: A Guidebook for Assessing Change in Churches of Christ(Pulaski, TN: Sain Publications).

Unicorns, Satyrs, and the Bible by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.


Unicorns, Satyrs, and the Bible

by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.


In several different places, my Bible speaks of the unicorn and the satyr. However, we now know that neither of these creatures actually existed, but instead had their origins in mythology. Why, then, are they mentioned in God’s Word as if they were real animals? Does the Bible pander to pagan mythology?


On occasion, Bible writers used phrases, terms, and references that were in common use at the time they penned the books of the Bible. For example, both the writer of Job (9:9; 38:31) and the prophet Amos (5:8) referred to heavenly constellations such as Orion and the Pleiades. And, in order to make an important point to the people to whom he was speaking on one occasion, the apostle Paul even quoted from their own poets (Acts 17:28).

However, the Bible never “panders to pagan mythology” by incorrectly referring to non-existent, mythological animals as if they were real, living creatures. It is true that the word “unicorn” appears in the King James Version (nine times: Numbers 23:22; 24:8; Deuteronomy 33:17; Job 39:9,10; Psalms 22:21; 29:6; 92:10; and Isaiah 34:7). What, exactly, was this unicorn? And why is it found in certain versions of the Bible? The editors of the Encyclopaedia Britannica answered the first question when they wrote that the unicorn was

a mythological animal resembling a horse or a kid with a single horn on its forehead. The unicorn appeared in early Mesopotamian artworks, and it also was referred to in the ancient myths of India and China. The earliest description in Greek literature of a single-horned (Greek: monokeros; Latin: unicornis) animal was by the historian Ctesias (400 B.C.), who related that the Indian wild ass was the size of a horse, with a white body, purple head, and blue eyes; on its forehead was a cubit-long horn coloured red at the pointed tip, black in the middle, and white at the base. Those who drank from its horn were thought to be protected from stomach trouble, epilepsy, and poison. It was very fleet of foot and difficult to capture. The actual animal behind Ctesias’ description was probably the Indian rhinoceros.
Certain poetical passages of the biblical Old Testament refer to a strong and splendid horned animal called re’em. This word was translated “unicorn” or “rhinoceros” in many versions of the Bible, but many modern translations prefer “wild ox” (aurochs), which is the correct meaning of the Hebrew re’em (1997, 12:129).

Strong support for such a view, along with the answer to the second question, comes from a rather unusual source (and one that certainly would be considered a “hostile witness” in regard to the truthfulness and accuracy of the Bible). In volume one of his two-volume set, Asimov’s Guide to the Bible, the late infidel, Isaac Asimov (who was serving as the president of the American Humanist Association when he died in 1992), dealt with the topic of the unicorn as it is found in the King James Version when he wrote:

The Hebrew word represented in the King James Version by “unicorn” is re’em, which undoubtedly refers to the wild ox (urus or aurochs) ancestral to the domesticated cattle of today. The re’em still flourished in early historical times and a few existed into modern times, although it is now extinct. It was a dangerous creature of great strength and was similar in form and temperament to the Asian buffaloes.
The Revised Standard Version translates re’em as “wild ox.” The verse in Numbers is translated as “they have as it were the horns of the wild ox,” while the one in Job is translated “Is the wild ox willing to serve you?” The Anchor Bible translates the verse in Job as “Will the buffalo deign to serve you?”
The wild ox was a favorite prey of the hunt-loving Assyrian monarchs (the animal was called rumu in Assyrian, essentially the same word as re’em) and was displayed in their large bas-reliefs. Here the wild ox was invariably shown in profile and only one horn was visible. One can well imagine that the animal represented in this fashion would come to be called “one-horn” as a familiar nickname, much as we might refer to “longhorns” in speaking of a certain breed of cattle.
As the animal itself grew less common under the pressure of increasing human population and the depredations of the hunt, it might come to be forgotten that there was a second horn hidden behind the first in the sculptures and “one-horn” might come to be considered a literal description of the animal.
When the first Greek translation of the Bible was prepared about 250 B.C., the animal was already rare in the long-settled areas of the Near East and the Greeks, who had no direct experience with it, had no word for it. They used a translation of “one-horn” instead and it became monokeros. In Latin and in English it became the Latin word for “one-horn”; that is, “unicorn."
The Biblical writers could scarcely have had the intention of implying that the wild ox literally had one horn. There is one Biblical quotation, in fact, that clearly contradicts that notion. In the Book of Deuteronomy [33:17—BT], when Moses is giving his final blessing to each tribe, he speaks of the tribe of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) as follows: “His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns....”
Here the word is placed in the plural since the thought of a “one-horn’s” single horn seems to make the phrase “horns of a unicorn” self-contradictory. Still, the original Hebrew has the word in the singular so that we must speak of the “horns of a unicorn,” which makes it clear that a unicorn has more than one horn (1968, pp. 186-187).

Dr. Asimov was correct on all counts. The word re’em does refer to the wild ox, and is translated as such in almost all later versions of the Bible. The translators of the Septuagint rendered re’em by the Greek monokeros (one horn) on the basis of the relief representations of the “wild ox” in strict profile that they found in Babylonian and Egyptian art (cf. Pfeiffer, et al., 1975, p. 83). The charge that the Bible “panders to pagan mythology” cannot be sustained, once all the relevant facts are known. Even certain atheists (like Asimov) acknowledge as much. It also is of interest to note that

As a biblical animal the unicorn was interpreted allegorically in the early Christian church. One of the earliest such interpretations appears in the ancient Greek bestiary known as the Physiologus, which states that the unicorn is a strong, fierce animal that can be caught only if a virgin maiden is thrown before it. The unicorn leaps into the virgin’s lap, and she suckles it and leads it to the king’s palace. Medieval writers thus likened the unicorn to Christ, who raised up a horn of salvation for mankind and dwelt in the womb of the Virgin Mary (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1997, 12:129, emp. added).

But what about the satyr? In Greek and Roman mythology, Satyr was a half-man/half-beast god and frequent companion of Bacchus, the Graeco-Roman religion’s god of fruitfulness and vegetation (known more popularly as the god of wine and ecstasy). In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word sa‘iroccurs some fifty-two times. It is related to the term se‘ar (hair), and generally means “a hairy one.” It is used, for example, to speak of the male goat that was employed as the Israelites’ solemn, collective sin offering on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16).
In two cases, however, the King James Version renders sa‘ir as “satyr” (Isaiah 13:21 and 34:14). But the specific context of both passages makes it quite clear that the term is being used to refer to the wild goats that frequently inhabited the ruins of both ancient Babylon and Edom. On two different occasions in the KJV, the word is translated “demon” (Leviticus 17:7; 2 Chronicles 11:15), where it denotes a pagan god in goat form (cf. the New International Version). In regard to 2 Chronicles 11:15, respected Old Testament scholar J. Barton Payne wrote:

Far from being mythological “satyrs,” as claimed by “liberal” criticism, the sirim appear to have been simply goat idols, used in conjunction with the golden calves (1969, p. 400).

It is evident once again that the Bible does not lower itself to superstitious mythology. “Satyr” is merely a translation error, not a case of “mistaken identity” wherein a mythological creature was thought by the inspired writers to be a living, breathing animal.


Asimov, Isaac (1968), Asimov’s Guide to the Bible: Volume One—The Old Testament (New York: Avon).
Encyclopaedia Britannica (1997), s.v. “Unicorn” (London: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.), 12:129.
Payne, J. Barton (1969), Wycliffe Bible Commentary, ed. Charles Pfeiffer and Everett Harrison (London: Oliphants).
Pfeiffer, Charles F., Howard F. Vos, and John Rea, eds. (1975), Wycliffe Bible Commentary, s.v. “Unicorn” (Chicago, IL: Moody).

Understanding the Bible by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Understanding the Bible

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

Take a short drive through any city in the United States and you probably will see more church buildings than you can count on your fingers and toes combined. Let your fingers take a walk through the nearest phone book and the numbers may reach into the hundreds or even thousands. Yet most of these different churches claim to be using the same Bible as the book that guides their teachings and practices. With all these different beliefs supposedly coming from the Bible, one wonders if it is possible for anyone to understand the Bible. Many atheists claim that the Bible is a confusing book filled with lies and/or contradictions that cannot be understood. In fact, one atheist said that the Bible is “a book that is so unintelligible that not only do ‘non-believers’ reject it, but those who believe it to be the true word of God cannot agree upon its interpretation.”

One thing is for sure: many of those who believe the Bible to be the true Word of God do not agree upon its interpretation. But the reason they do not agree is not because the Bible is an “unintelligible” book. There are many reasons why people misunderstand the Bible and disagree about its meaning. Looking at a few of those reasons can help each of us understand the Bible better.


Some people think that since the Bible is the Word of God, then it is too lofty or too high to understand. They think that no human can understand God’s Word, and therefore it is pointless to attempt such an achievement. The problem with this type of thinking is that it flies in the face of what the Word of God actually says. In the Old Testament book of Nehemiah, the prophet wrote:

And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people…and when he opened it, all the people stood up, and Ezra blessed Jehovah, the great God. And all the people…bowed their heads and worshipped Jehovah with their faces to the ground. and the Levites caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place. And they read in the book, in the law of God, distinctly; and they gave the sense, so that they understood the reading (Nehemiah 8:5-8, emp. added).

In 2 Corinthians 1:13, the apostle Paul wrote: “For we are not writing any other things to you than what you read or understand. Now I trust you will understand, even to the end.” His point could not have been clearer—the words of the apostle’s letter (and of the entire Bible, for that matter) were and still are understandable. The book of Ephesians makes a similar statement, “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (5:17). Make no mistake about it; God inspired the Bible in a way that humans can understand it.


One reason people do not understand the Bible is because so many actually spend very little time reading it. George Gallup (the man behind the famous Gallup Polls) surveyed many U.S. inhabitants and asked them some basic Bible questions. The results of the survey showed the degree of biblical ignorance that is so prevalent amidst the citizenry at large. Six out of ten Americans could not say for sure who gave the Sermon on the Mount (some even suggested Billy Graham!). At least 50% of those polled could not name the four books that compose the gospels in the New Testament. Fewer than half could name Genesis as the first book in the Bible. Eight out of ten Americans believed the Bible says, “God helps those who help themselves.” And 12% of those polled thought that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife!

Is it any wonder that disagreement about the Bible exists in our society today? Very few people are reading The Book, but they still are claiming to know and believe what it says. It is like a huge board game where people sit around and argue about the rules but never bother to look at the actual rulebook. Should we expect anything but confusion and misunderstanding from such a situation?

As simple as the following statement may appear, it nevertheless is true: reading the Bible is the only way to understand it. The apostle Paul told the Ephesians: “When you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ” (3:4). He also encouraged the young preacher Timothy to “give attention to reading” (1 Timothy 4:13). Nothing clears up misunderstanding about the Bible better than actually reading the Bible.


Many people “misunderstand” the Bible because it teaches things that they do not want to hear and obey. Instead of changing their sinful lives, they decide to twist the Bible to say what they want it to say. The apostle Peter described this situation by saying that some untaught and unstable people take the Scriptures and twist them “to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16). Being honest with the Bible, instead of trying to force it to agree with our lives, will help us to understand it better.


In this brief article we have examined just a few of the reason why people misunderstand God’s Word. Sometimes they think it cannot be understood, other times they do not read it; and on occasion they try to twist it to fit their lives. How can we understand the Bible and avoid these pitfalls? By obeying the words of Paul to the young preacher Timothy when he said: “Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Unbelief and a Divided Christendom by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Unbelief and a Divided Christendom

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Pluralism (the idea that all belief systems and philosophies are of equal validity) has unquestionably encroached upon the national psyche. One manifestation of this infiltration is the fact that the average American has been bullied into unconditional acceptance of any and almost every belief, philosophy, and practice imaginable. Within Christendom itself, this blind, even irrational, celebration of toleration has translated itself into widespread relegation of “doctrine” to a secondary, if not completely irrelevant, status.

The thought is that if Christians would just accept each other, fellowship each other, spend more time getting to know each other, cease condemning one another over doctrinal disagreements or calling attention to the doctrinal diversity that exists, they would realize that what they have in common in their acceptance of Christ far outweighs and overshadows any doctrinal differences that might exist between them, and the world would be more receptive to the Christian religion. It is felt that disunity promotes unbelief, and that if Christendom were unified (defined as accepting one another despite doctrinal disagreement), then faith would result—i.e., the unbelieving world would be more likely to give Christianity a second look and believe in Jesus. This thinking is thought to be in harmony with the prayer for unity Jesus prayed near the end of His life on Earth (John 17). It is argued that unity was more important to Jesus than anything else. Thus, being united—achieving togetherness—takes precedence over doctrine. “Unity in diversity” refers to the view that diversity in doctrine must not be allowed to prevent unity and fellowship with all “believers.” The word “believers” is commonly defined as those who verbally profess acceptance of the lordship of Christ.

The interpretation being given to this passage in effect assigns to it a place of preeminence above all other passages, setting it in contradiction to the rest of the Bible. Jesus could not have been enjoining unity at all costs, since He elsewhere emphasized that such unity never would occur (Matthew 10:34-36; Luke 12:49-53; Matthew 7:13-14). Jesus Himself was unable to quell division and bring about the unity that some say is possible (John 7:12,43; 9:16; 10:19; 12:42; et al.). Any interpretation of a passage that contradicts many other plain passages is a false interpretation, and thus a distortion of the Scriptures (Matthew 15:1-9; Mark 7:1-13; 2 Peter 3:16). The Bible teaches that faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Unity is not the ultimate source or stimulus of faith. God’s Word is. Disunity and division will always exist—since most people simply refuse to bring their lives into conformity with God’s Word.

As a matter of fact, John 17 contains at least three contextual indicators that eliminate the slant now being placed upon it. In the first place, Jesus placed strong emphasis on the essentiality of obedience as a prerequisite to unity. Six times in His prayer, He stressed that He had imparted God’s words or truth to them. He noted that the disciples “have kept Your word” (vs. 6); “For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them” (vs. 8); “I have given them Your word” (vs. 14); “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (vs. 17); “that they also may be sanctified by the truth” (vs. 19). In these phrases, Jesus made clear that unity is nestled in the hollow of compliance. Before Jesus talked about unity, He talked about obedience. He repeatedly referred to the importance of God’s Word—God’s truth—that must be “received” (i.e., obeyed) if sanctification is to be achieved. Contextually, therefore, the unity and oneness that Jesus enjoined in verses 20-21 is unity that comes when people conform themselves to God’s doctrine.

Second, in the very verses where Jesus prayed for the oneness of believers, He identified how to achieve that oneness. Many within Christendom insist that oneness is secured by refraining from basing unity on doctrine. They say that our common affirmation of the Lordship of Jesus transcends our doctrinal diversity. Therefore, differing doctrinal viewpoints must not be permitted to disrupt fellowship or acceptance of anyone who affirms Jesus as Lord. In stark contrast, Jesus revealed that oneness is accomplished the same way belief is created: “through their word” (vs. 20).

When people hear the Word of God (which includes much more than just the lordship of Christ), they will either believe or disbelieve. If they truly believe, they will obey the Gospel plan of salvation and bring their lives into harmony with biblical teaching (Romans 10:14-17; Mark 16:16; Matthew 24:13; James 1:12; 2:18; Hebrews 11:6; 2 Peter 1:5-11; Galatians 5:6). Those who mutually embrace the doctrinal tenets of the Christian religion in faith will automatically be one, unified in Christ, and in full fellowship with each other and with God and Christ (1 John 1:3,6-7).

Third, Jesus’ prayer was spoken in behalf of the church—not the world or counterfeit Christianity (vss. 9,16). The unity of which Jesus spoke was unity among New Testament Christians—those who obey the Gospel through faith, repentance, confession of the deity of Christ, and water baptism (John 3:5; Mark 16:16; Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 10:9-10). But much of Christendom has strayed from New Testament moorings into denominationalism, and thus does not teach the New Testament plan of salvation. Those who enter into a denomination, and thereby have complied with that denomination’s peculiar plan of salvation, have not become Christians in the New Testament sense. They have assigned an unbiblical meaning to the term “believer” (e.g., James 2:19-26). They have not come to believe in Christ through the Word of His bona fide spokesmen (John 17:20). Rather, they have embraced the words of mere men. They have been misled into entering counterfeit churches and turning to “a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6-9).

Indeed, disunity confuses and discourages honest searchers of truth. But disunity in itself is not the source of unbelief. If such were the case, God and Christ would be guilty of generating unbelief, since their actions often brought division (cf. John 7:12,43; 10:19). Scriptural unity may be achieved only by conformity to biblical doctrine. All other “unity” is merely union, togetherness, and agreeing to disagree—a far cry from the unity for which Jesus prayed. The disunity that exists within Christendom is the result of people “going ahead and not abiding in the doctrine of Christ” (2 John 9), and “going beyond what is written” (1 Corinthians 4:6). When people introduce personal creeds, human interpretations, and religious additions to God’s doctrine, disunity inevitably results. Jesus did not come to place His stamp of approval on such doctrinal diversity. Those who think so are in hopeless conflict with Jesus Himself, Who certainly did not “go along, to get along.” In fact, He declared: “Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division” (Luke 12:51, emp. added).

The Path by EEHealy


"Why Should I Care?" by Trevor Bowen


"Why Should I Care?"

Whenever someone reads any article, the first question often asked is, "Why should I care?" He or she may continue this thought process by asking, "What motivation should I have for studying, or even skimming, this article?" Maybe when you read an article about trying to live according to God’s will, you also ask yourself these questions. From the Bible, we know that these questions are both important and relevant. The Lord first recognized their importance and provided three progressive answers to our question, "Why should I care about God’s will and obeying Him?"

Fear of Hell and Hope of Heaven

The most basic motivation that the Bible offers is the threat of punishment if we do not obey God; however, the wrath that awaits us is not an immediate punishment in this life. Though disobedient people face consequences in this life, the ultimate and final punishment will be executed on the last day - eternal separation from God in hell:
"... When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power" (II Thessalonians 1:7-9; see also Matthew 5:27-3010:2813:40-4225:41-46Romans 2:5-9)
Not only does God motivate us through the fear of hell, He also encourages us through the promise of eternal rest in heaven with Him:
"Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. "In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also." (John 14:1-3; see also Matthew 5:1225:31-4046II Corinthians 5:1Revelation 21:1-22:5)
It is because of these basic motivations that most people become Christians. However, as we mature, God provides other forms of motivation that should encourage us to do His will.

Sense of Duty

As we grow and learn more about God, His power, and His majesty, we begin to appreciate the debt that we owe Him as our Creator.
"God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us." ( Acts 17:24-27)
Since He has given us life, we owe Him our service, but more importantly, we should also feel indebted because He paid for our ruined souls with the sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross:
"Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s." (I Corinthians 6:19-20) (see also I Peter 1:15-19)
Therefore, we are obligated to God for giving us life twice. The first unrepayable debt is our creation, and the second is our opportunity for spiritual restoration through Jesus’ blood.

The Noblest Motivation - Love

The responsibility that we may feel toward God is not the final motivation that a mature Christian should realize. Ultimately, Christians will grow to the point that they appreciate the love and sacrifice that God made for us through Jesus’ death.
"For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:6-8)
"In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. ... We love Him because He first loved us." ( I John 4:10,19)
As a Christian grows and becomes more like Jesus, our example, he or she will be motivated to obey God out of their love for God and for others. This is the noblest motivation.


God has provided three progressive forms of motivation to encourage us to obey His will. Depending on the temptation and our maturity, certain inspirational thoughts will be more effective. A person deciding whether to become a Christian will probably be more strongly motivated by the fear of hell and the hope of heaven. Realizing that the fate of a person's eternal soul hangs in the balance is a sobering motivation to wake up and make the right decisions. As we mature spiritually and better understand God’s love, our conviction to obey God grows and becomes more steadfast. Eventually, we should choose to do what is right, even for those who neither appreciate it nor reciprocate our love. We must learn to love as God loved us. All of these motivations provide powerful inspiration for appreciating God and strongly desiring to obey His will for us.
 Trevor Bowen