Friday, November 11, 2016

The Lord Jesus was correct in saying Abiathar was High Priest during the time of David

Click link below to read the article

Thursday, November 10, 2016

For my Review on "The Christians: Their First Two Thousand Years" in PDF click the link below

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Christians: Their First Two Thousand Years

A Review

The series of volumes published by Christian History Project, “The Christians: Their First Two Thousand Years”, is an impressive collection of well-designed and beautifully crafted books that will, without doubt, be very appealing to the populace. Its shape and format, along with its glossy pages with stunning full colour photographs and artwork could hardly fail to attract attention.
However, the true value of a book does not lie in the way it looks; and here particularly, is the truth of that old adage – “Judge not a book by its cover”! And so, as objectively as is possible, I present my response to the first of the books in the series – “The Veil is Torn, A.D. 30 to A.D. 70: Pentecost to the Destruction of Jerusalem”.
Being interested in History, particularly, with the History of the Christian Church, it was with much excitement that I borrowed this book and began reading it. However, to my surprise and, yes, dismay too, I found the book woefully disappointing. I trust by the time you are done reading my response to just a few issues I noticed in beginning the first chapter of the book, you will have to agree with me that the author/s and/or editor/s have failed in presenting a balanced and accurate ‘history’ of the early Christians. For convenience, throughout this review, I will use the word ‘author’ to refer to the writer and/or editor/s involved in writing this particular book.

First Things First
A good historian writing history should present ‘facts’ – and facts are gathered from events that have been accurately recorded and preserved down to our present times. Indeed, this is so very basic to any historian, that we take it for granted that every time we take up a book that deals with any kind of history, we are being presented with facts. It is another matter that the author would usually present his or her own personal views and opinions on how the facts are to be explained. In point of fact, this assessment of facts and sifting of evidence is really what makes the author credible in the eyes of the reader. Facts it is that the reader is looking for, and facts it is that a good historian would present – at least when writing a book that purports to present a history.
So how does ‘The Veil is Torn’ fare; does it present historical facts that readers would be interested in and can reply upon, does it verify such facts and/or corroborate them with quotations and references to older and reliable histories and/or documents that have come down to us through reliable witnesses. And reliable witness, whether an eye witness or the witness of one who was judicious in his accounts, is what is most relied upon by a good and competent historian. Most world-class historians rely upon verifiable and authoritative sources in compiling their histories.
Present-day historians usually rely on dependable authorities such as Flavius Josephus the Roman-Jewish historian, Eusebius of Caesarea, and a host of other reliable historian of the past to glean from their writings (and I did notice both of these historians were listed in the index, which tells me that the author at least referred to these historians). No historian “makes up” history; they either record first hand events they wish to make a note of, or they search and sift through available records of the past and present their findings to people of their day.

The First Chapter
Reading through the very first chapter of ‘The Veil is Torn’ entitled ‘Madman or God?’ was nothing less than a shocker. The back cover of the book informs readers the purpose of the book – “Its purpose is to tell the story of the Christian family, so that we may be knowledgeable of our origins…” However, judging from the contents of its very first chapter, it seems that the book has terribly failed in its purpose. Perhaps on second thoughts, I should rephrase that sentence. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that the author has distorted the story and presented facts in a way in which he wished it to be told.
The second paragraph of the first chapter reads, (page 11)
So now, there they were, these men, three dozen or more, mostly in their twenties, streaming from that house into the street, babbling like lunatics, and yelling out something about “the Coming of the Holy Spirit.” They were drunk, obviously. A drunken debauch, and it was not even yet noon. Was this any way to celebrate Pentecost, the Jewish feast that welcomed the first harvest?
Since the book is claimed to be “written and edited by Christians for Christians of all denominations” (excerpt from the back cover), I may safely assume, no doubt at my own risk, that the writer is a Christian and so is at least familiar with the accounts in the New Testament (from henceforth, NT) of the Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles and early disciples as recorded for us in the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. The NT has been proved time and again as a reliable and accurate record of eye witnesses and their associates. So reliable are the NT records that most of us are able to determine the accuracy of other records depending on how much or how little they differ from the NT records.
Now, comparing the words just quoted above with the earliest record that we have of these accounts in the NT, what do we find? – Glaring defects, deviations and differences, in not just the details but an alarming sense of deliberate distortions of the truth. And if there has been not this deliberate distortion of the truth, when compared to the NT record, we would be forced to conclude that the writer has been grossly misinformed. Indeed, the conclusion that the writer is ignorant of the facts has to be decided against, since he does mention a broad outline and overall picture of the NT events, in their historical setting. However, even a cursory reading of the book will expose the writer’s true beliefs and ideas. For really, it is beliefs that make a man; and his beliefs are evidenced in his words. For indeed out of the heart does the mouth speak!
Without much further ado, let us then consider the words just quoted.
So now, there they were, these men, three dozen or more, mostly in their twenties, streaming from that house into the street, babbling like lunatics, and yelling out something about “the Coming of the Holy Spirit.”
Note the following facts presented in these words
1.    There were about three dozen men or more involved
2.    They were in their twenties
3.    They were streaming into the street
4.    They were babbling like lunatics
5.    They were yelling something about the coming of the Holy Spirit
Let it be said right at the outset that of the above 5 points, perhaps only the second one is correct. And even so, it be clear that at least the apostle Peter was at least 30 years of age as he had to pay the temple tax; the rest of the disciples of the Lord may have been in their early twenties. In any case, we’ll let this point pass. As for the rest – There were more than three dozen men, they were not streaming into any street, they were not babbling, they were not acting like lunatics, and they were not yelling just something!

 Three Dozen Men or More
The writer is describing the ‘event’ or ‘scene’ immediately following the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost as recorded for us in its true details in Acts of the Apostles chapter 2.
However, upon comparison with Acts 2, we notice that the writer has blundered very badly, to say the least. Listen to what the historian Luke records as the events of the Day of Pentecost unfolds in Chapter 2
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilæans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judæa, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.
But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judæa, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: for these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.” (verses 1-15)
How anyone having read Acts 2 could ever conclude as did the author is beyond me. In Acts chapter 1 verse 15 we are specifically informed, “And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,) and Peter goes on to address them, “Men, brethren”. Clearly, we are allowed to conclude that there were then really at least 120 men gathered together with the 11 apostles in the ‘upper room’ on the Day of Pentecost. That there may or may not have been any women at that time is beside the point. From where then did the author get the picture of “three dozen or more” men? Of course, 3 times 12 = 36 and 120 is more than 36! So after all, the author is correct. However, the point I’d like to raise is at the very heart of the matter. It is just this – the way we explain facts with words. For this is, besides the truth that facts are of prime importance, the second most important issue. Indeed, from my own experience and perspective, the most important issue. For example, if I were to suggest that Canada has a population of thirty-five thousand people or more – this would hardly be taken as a fair statement. At the time of my writing, Canada’s population stands at about 35.16 million, which translates into more than 35,000,000. So for sure my statement is true in that we have 35,000 people or more. Anyone can see, that I’ve only added the word more as a precautionary safeguard so that I have something to fall back on when pressed for it. But it would also mean that I perhaps wished to downplay the actual figure! However true I might argue my statement is facts have been so completely distorted that you might either conclude me as a very biased person or grossly misinformed.
So what do we make of the author’s statement that he believes there were 3 dozen men or more? Surely, he did not arrive at this number from the NT. Neither has he taken the trouble to let his readers know from where he got this number. I noticed too that there aren’t too many technical notes and/or footnotes in the book, which is probably okay since the book was meant for the general crowd. (I did find a bibliography at the end of the book. And under the very first section ‘General’ there were listed 13 works, the last of which was the NT in Modern English by J B Phillips. I found this fact most peculiar. Why would anyone not list the NT as the very first source of information? Apparently, all the other writers carried more weight than the NT according to the Publishing and/or writing committee!)
Be that as it may, to reduce the number of men from 120 to 36; and then to add a few more dozen – seems too trivial a point to harp about. And so with a smile, I proceeded – only to note further errors and discrepancies.

Lunatics Roaming The Street!
According to the author, these men were “streaming from that house into the street, babbling like lunatics…” Not even this is from the NT. The NT says nothing about the apostles and/or the 120 disciples who were gathered on that memorable morning of the Day of Pentecost ‘streaming’ out into the street. What house and which street – the author does not venture to inform the reader. Curious it is that an author should open a book and chapter without any notice of a ‘house’ and a ‘street’. But we’ll ignore this. However, the author is rather particular and sure that they did stream out into the street (Interestingly, the NT does record the name of a street called ‘Straight’).
The author has taken the liberty of informing his readers that these men were “babbling like lunatics”. Again, this is hardly the way the NT writer presents it. In fact, far from ‘streaming’ into the street or streets, they remained in the upper room where they were gathered for prayer. What the author refers to “babbling” is what is described as the gift of speaking in foreign languages, a gift bestowed by the Sovereign will and power of the Holy Spirit. And with regards to the proclamation that the apostle Peter makes concerning this ‘Gift’, the author falsely classifies as “babbling like lunatics”. Even worse, the author has the temerity to denounce them as drunken men. Furthermore, he states that these men were babbling “something” about the coming of the Holy Spirit. Whereas according to the NT, far from babbling something about the Holy Spirit, these men were supernaturally endowed by the Holy Spirit. And they spoke in foreign languages – languages which others many since there were many gathered in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost from around the world who spoke and understood these languages perfectly. And their surprise was precisely this – how could these plain ordinary Galileans speak foreign languages which they have never learnt. Now then, the NT does record for us that there indeed were others who mocked saying, “These men are full of new wine”.  Interestingly, the Greek word ‘others’ actually refers to other people of a different kind. And in the context, this can only mean other people who did not understand any of the foreign languages that were being spoken supernaturally by the disciples and apostles. Little wonder, they mocked! How true that fools mock what they do not understand.
Furthermore, the NT does not record anything of what ‘these men’ were saying or had said. However, it does record for us Peter’s words on that memorable morning. Far from babbling, he stood up along with the other 11 apostles and boldly explained the Gift of the Holy Spirit. More importantly, he spoke to the assembled, curious and puzzled crowd about God’s offer of forgiveness of sins through the Lord Jesus Christ.
So why does the author depict such wonderful events of the Day of Pentecost as recorded for us in Acts chapter 2 in the way he did? Of a truth, this the author alone can explain. Nonetheless we cannot but arrive at the conclusion that the author wishes to discredit the accounts of the NT writer regarding the events surrounding the Day of Pentecost. One wonders as what makes a man want to deliberately (we cannot for a moment image that a learned and qualified author, who is also a Christian is ignorant of the NT) distort and or misrepresent facts when writing past history.
However, as readers we may and should judge all that we read with the utmost care, especially books that claim to give us a ‘knowledge’ of history. And if the very second paragraph of the first chapter is so full of errors and distortions, what could we expect further on. The remaining portion was not any better.

Streaming Lunatics… or Dancing in Celebration?
I turn to the next page and here’s what I find. Continuing to describe the aforementioned scene of the Day of Pentecost, the writer informs us, (page 12)
His (the Lord Jesus Christ’s) followers, now dancing around the street and babbling about “the Holy Spirit”, somehow became persuaded he (the Lord Jesus Christ) had returned from the dead. “Risen” was the word they used. Indeed, they insisted upon it, telling others they had repeatedly seen and talked to him and convincing them to join their celebration.
So now the author informs us that these men were actually dancing. The NT says nothing of this, nor does any other reputed historian who has made any record of these events. All of this is no doubt a fantastic fabrication and a figment of an overly active imagination, which perhaps is okay. However, this simply won’t do, where facts are concerned. Besides, isn’t the author contradicting himself? How could a few drunken men streaming into the street, babbling something, be also described as dancing? and be also be to convince others to join them in their celebration ? This simply doesn’t make sense. If such a thing happened, this without question would be worthy of being the most ‘historic’ event!

Babbling Something…?
The author obviously is also rather fond of saying, and rather glibly, that these men were ‘babbling’ all along. However, as already pointed out, the NT says nothing of the kind. Peter words were far from babblings, nor are the utterances of the others who spoke in foreign languages by the power of the Holy Spirit anywhere close to being classified as ‘babblings’. If the people present at that time did not think so, what right does anyone living today think they have the right to say so? Again, as already pointed out, it was only those to whom the languages were incomprehensible that these men seemed like drunken! But please note that drunken men do not speak coherently in any given language!
It is rather strange, given the author’s point of view, that these men could, despite all odds, convince others to “join their celebration”. It is odd too, to think that they themselves had somehow become persuaded that the man, Jesus of Nazareth, who was put to death by crucifixion, is alive again. And yet it does not seem to have occurred to the author to mention the real reason for this strong belief the apostles and early disciples had. The NT makes it abundantly clear, if anything, that the apostles and most of Jesus’ followers had no sure hope that the Lord Jesus was to return from the dead. So skeptical were they at first to believe the report of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord Himself had to appear to them time and again. And one of them even had to be rebuked for his unbelief. Besides, the testimony of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, Paul, Thomas, and many of the women who were part of the company of the disciples, along with many other witnesses of the risen Lord, some of over 500 were alive during the time of Paul – these all boldly testified that they had indeed seen the risen Lord. Let it be noted that the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is not based on human testimony merely, but on the authoritative Word of our God and the Words of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

Dead for Six Sabbaths?
The author’s careless choice of words is most damaging and misleading. For example, the author very loosely says (page 12),
…the man Jesus, of Nazareth…had been dead for six Sabbaths.”
If the author had written from the perspective of the Day of Pentecost, then it would have been more accurate to say that 7 Sabbaths had passed since the day Jesus was crucified, for Pentecost was 50 days after the Passover. But this error aside, fact is Jesus was not now dead for six Sabbaths. He had risen on the 3rd day after His crucifixion, just has He had said He would. Well, given the author’s perspective, at least he should have said, the body was missing for six Sabbaths. But no, although acknowledging that the body was indeed missing after just a few days – according to the author, after 2 whole days – he yet makes this statement most carelessly that it “had been… six Sabbaths. Clearly, he has no excuse for such loose and careless words which are inaccurate.
The author has not clearly presented the facts as recorded for us in the NT. From whatever other source he has gathered his information, the author has definitely failed in providing the reader an accurate account of the historicity of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Furthermore, he has not written out the history of the events of the day of Pentecost accurately. Far too many loose ends exist and far too many errors and slips seem to be the order of his writings.

Jesus... Against the Temple?
The most damaging element of the book however is the way in which the author writes about the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Here are some of his words about the Lord Jesus.
…the man was plainly anti-Temple as well. He said, the imperishable building itself,…was doomed. That made him equally offensive to the high priests whose job was operating and preserving the Temple, and their party, the Sadducees.
Anyone ignorant of the true facts as presented in the NT would naturally assume from the above that Jesus had condemned the temple and its sacrificial institutions openly in the presence of the high priests (here again the author keeps blundering in referring to a plurality of High Priests, whereas the Jews could only have 1 High Priest at any given point of time!). However, one searches the NT in vain to find any such condemnation the Lord Jesus Christ made before the High Priest or any of the other priests. Nor did Jesus ever utter any statement derogatory of the Temple. He did foretell the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple building, but only to his immediate disciples did He devolve this. And even then, it was with much feeling and sorrow that Jesus predicted the destruction of the temple. Far from condemning the temple, Jesus had the greatest respect for the Temple, which He rightly designated, ‘My Father House’. Clearly, Jesus was not anti-Temple.

Inspired or Ingenious?
The author quotes Caiaphas, the high priest (this time he at least gets it right in the singular noun - the high priest) as saying, (page 13)
“Better one man should suffer than the whole people”
The quotation marks appear in the book and so I may safely assume the author intends the readers to believe these words to be the very words spoken by the High Priest himself. Furthermore, the author clearly gives the reader the impression that Caiaphas’ advice was his own reasoning by adding,
Harsh, certainly. But could you argue with his reasoning?
Upon examining the NT evidence, we find something rather interestingly different. However much I dislike J B Phillips’ translation of the New Testament in Modern English – although it would be more accurate to call it a loose and free paraphrase – I will quote the words of Caiaphas in full in their context for the benefit of the reader.
But one of them, Caiaphas, who was High Priest that year, addressed the meeting: "You plainly don't understand what is involved here. You do not realise that it would be a good thing for us if one man should die for the sake of the people - instead of the whole nation being destroyed." (He did not make this remark on his own initiative but, since he was High Priest that year, he was in fact inspired to say that Jesus was going to die for the nation's sake - and in fact not for that nation only, but to bring together into one family all the children of God scattered throughout the world.) - John 11. 49 ff.
[Note: Brackets are part of the original translation by Phillips]
            The NT is very clear that Caiaphas’ words meant that one man should die for the sake of the people. But the NT also makes it equally clear that Caiaphas did not thus speak out of prudence or long-range insight but spoke those words by inspiration, because he was the High Priest that year. It was the Spirit of God who was speaking through Caiaphas in this instance.  The author fails to make this known to his readers.

The Resurrection A Ruse?
            The author has obviously taken the liberty to write out his own imaginations. But this will not do – no, not when you intend to write history. It would be alright to use wonderful imaginations in writing fiction, not history. Here’s another sample from the book from page 13,
Toward dawn two days later, something happened. That seems conclusive enough. But what? The guard fled, the stone was moved, and the body disappeared. How this occurred, the authorities simply did not adequately explain. Clearly, they said, his followers must have bribed the guard, somehow rolled away the great stone and stolen the corpse. The obvious solution – to produce the man’s body and have done with this nonsense – failed. The fact is, search though they certainly did, they couldn’t find it.
According to the author, something did happen – only he is unwilling to accept the united testimony of the NT writers that the Lord Jesus Christ was indeed raised from the dead on the third day after being crucified. The author more than once says that the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus was after ‘two days’. Why this insistence in putting it in this way? Of course when one says, “toward dawn two days later” it is obvious that the third day morning is meant. However, I do find this insistence on the part of the author rather peculiar, of not willing to say that it was on the third day after the crucifixion that the Lord arose; or for that matter – according to the author’s point of view – the body was missing. Be that as it may, the author is definitely opposed to the view that the Lord Jesus Christ indeed rose from the dead. Or is he trying to sow the seeds of doubt and contradiction in our minds as to the exact number of days the body of Jesus was in the tomb. After all, the Lord Himself more than once, and plainly affirmed, that He would be crucified and be buried and rise again from the dead after three days.

Roman Guards Ignoring their Duty!
The author agrees that the guards fled and that the stone was moved. However, he fails to ask the important question of why the guards should have fled? For a Roman soldier to either flee or abandon his post while on duty meant the death penalty. And therefore no Roman soldier would wish to be caught sleeping or being negligent while on duty. There is an interesting episode in Acts 16 (verses 26-29) that bears on our present discussion.  We read of a Philippian Jailer who was suddenly awakened out of his sleep because of an earthquake; and fearing the prisoners had escaped was about to kill himself, but didn’t do so because Paul called out to him from within the prison cell. The point is clear, if the prisoners had escaped, the Roman Jailer would pay for it with his own life. And yet, despite this terrible death penalty, we are supposed to believe that the Roman guards stationed at the tomb of Jesus fled on that particular Resurrection Sunday morning! And let’s remember we are here talking about more than a few fully armed Roman Soldiers – not ordinary weaklings. Besides, the tomb of the Lord Jesus Christ was ‘secured’ with a Roman Seal. For anyone to tamper with or break a Roman seal also meant the death penalty – crucifixion upside down! So who would even think of doing such a thing? And for what purpose would anyone want to break a Roman Seal and enter a dead man’s tomb, first thing in the morning? The disciples of the Lord Jesus were in the least frame of mind to venture out for such a deed. It is more than likely and probable that the disciples were fearful that they themselves would be the next ones to be apprehended and executed. Here’s how the Gospel writer John puts it,
Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. (John 20.19)

For the benefit of those who might wish to know how the verse reads in J.B. Phillips’ translation, which hopefully, the author would have consulted –
In the evening of that first day of the week, the disciples had met together with the doors locked for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood right in the middle of them and said, “Peace be with you!”
It is clear that the disciples did not frighten the Roman guards stationed at the tomb of Jesus. No. The only reason the guards fled, and yes, they did flee in terror, was because of what the NT revels. Here are the words of Matthew,
In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.”– (Matthew 28. 1-7)
Again, for the benefit of those wishing to know how J B Phillips puts it,
When the Sabbath was over, just as the first day of the week was dawning Mary from Magdala and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. At that moment there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from Heaven, went forward and rolled back the stone and took his seat upon it. His appearance was dazzling like lightning and his clothes were white as snow. The guards shook with terror at the sight of him and collapsed like dead men. But the angel spoke to the women, “Do not be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here—he is risen, just as he said he would. Come and look at the place where he was lying. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead. And, listen, he goes before you into Galilee! You will see him there! Now I have told you my message.”
Clearly, it was the appearance of the Angel from God, which appearance was frightening indeed, that the Roman guards fled from the tomb. Notice too that it was the Angel who rolled away the large stone that covered the entrance of the tomb.
Now that the Roman guards had abandoned their station, they were in danger of the death penalty, because they had failed to ‘guard’ the tomb. So what does the NT tell us as to what became of the guards? Matthew tells us,
Now when they (the women who had come to the tomb of the Lord Jesus Christ) were going, behold, some of the watch (the Roman Guards) came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day – (Matthew 28. 11-15)
J B Phillips reads,
And while they were on their way, some of the sentries went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. They got together with the elders, and after consultation gave the soldiers a considerable sum of money and told them, “Your story must be that his disciples came after dark, and stole him away while you were asleep. If by any chance this reaches the governor’s ears, we will put it right with him and see that you do not suffer for it.” So they took the money and obeyed their instructions. The story was spread and is current among the Jews to this day.
Clearly, the Roman guards knew what awaited them since they had fled the scene of their duty. However, the Jewish authorities appeased them and, having bribed the Roman Governor, made them secure – i.e. they ensured their safety.
Now to return to the author’s words – notice again not only his choice of words, but the order in which he states the facts. The author says,
The guard fled, the stone was moved, and the body disappeared. How this occurred, the authorities simply did not adequately explain.
The author obviously wants, or at least seems, to give the impression that it was only after the guards had fled the scene that the stone was moved. Besides, it would be more to the point to say that the stone was not merely moved, but rolled away (again, it could be argued that to be moved is technically correct as it was rolled away. However, the author’s choice of words again betrays his own impressions and ideas, at least those which he desires to convey as historical). The author then goes on to tell us that it was only after the guards had fled, and the stone then moved (rolled away) that the body disappeared. Disappea­red? Is he not implying that the dead body was all along still inside the tomb up until the time the Guards fled, and after the stone was moved? Obviously, according to the author the body was still in the tomb before the stone was moved. This is a most serious error.
The NT makes it clear that the Angel did not roll away the stone to allow the disciples (the women) to take away the body of the Lord. Nor did the Angel have to roll away the stone to let the Lord Jesus out of the tomb. No. The Lord Jesus Christ had bodily been resurrected even before the Angel could roll away the large stone. The Angel rolled away the large stone to let the women who had come to the tomb understand that the Lord had risen indeed. As is clear from the NT quotation above, the Angel rolled the large stone away because the women would not have been able by themselves to do.  It is also clear from the NT that the women had concerns about rolling away the large stone. Another Gospel writer Mark informs us that when the women were on their way to the tomb they did contemplate this issue –
they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? (Mark 16.3)
Back to the author’s words; he further writes,
How this occurred, the authorities simply did not adequately explain. Clearly, they said, his followers must have bribed the guard, somehow rolled away the great stone and stolen the corpse. The obvious solution – to produce the man’s body and have done with this nonsense – failed. The fact is, search though they certainly did, they couldn’t find it.
The authorities just referred to actually did not at all explain the how of these events, particularly the mystery (as they would consider it) of the missing body of the crucified man. Nevertheless, the author wishes to give the impression that they did explain; albeit an insufficient explanation. Again, from where does the author get this piece of evidence? Surely, here he is voicing his own opinion that they did do so. But let’s grant this.
However, the author is clearly in error when he says that the authorities themselves reported that the disciples bribed the guards. Moreover, the author asserts, without any reliable evidence, that they (the Jewish authorities) ‘searched’ for the body of the Lord Jesus. It is certain and clear that they did no such thing. And why would they search for the body, when all along they would have known the truth – the truth as was reported by the Roman guards themselves!
It is absurd on the part of the author to write any of these things. However, I’m sure he is forced to use his imagination as he obviously does not accept the NT record as accurate. And no wonder then, he has to put forward his own ideas and conjectures on how these events would have transpired.
… to be continued, the Lord willing

Saturday, July 14, 2012



The book of Genesis gives us the origin of things. Doubtless that which immediately occasioned the writing of it was the various ideas that had been prevalent as to the creation; to meet these, the Spirit of God gives us an accurate account of things. The mind of man would attribute the creation to various causes, as we know the heathen do. I suppose the thought of the Spirit was to connect things with God – to show that He is the Author of the universe. This, indeed, comports with the testimony in a general way, for in it the soul of man is connected with God. By “faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear,” Heb.11:3

The beginning here, no doubt, refers to the same period as is referred to in John 1. It is the outset of the divine operations. In John 1 the Person of Christ is the subject. In the beginning He was there. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The point in Genesis 1 is to connect the physical universe, what man is cognisant of, with God.

Verse 1 stands alone – it is not included in the operations of the six days. Of the time that may have elapsed between verses 1 and 2, God has not been pleased to tell us, but the second verse reveals a condition that one could not believe was the original state of the earth as created by God. Chaos and darkness marked it.

This state aptly describes that which resulted from sin in the moral system of things. Therefore the operations of the successive days serve to show how that out from a chaotic moral state God can bring the most perfect order. Chaos and darkness describe the state of man’s soul as away from God, but God acts in this state, and the result is that the soul reaches His rest (God’s rest). God said, “Let there be light.” This passage is directly connected with the gospel in 2 Corinthians 4.

Direct divine creative power is needed in the moral system of things so as to bring order into it, and to render it suitable to God’s rest; this power is always in accord with the testimony presented to us. I think that each day suggests a certain feature of the testimony, and the order in which the work of each day occurs, accords with that in which the truth is received into our souls from the time the light first reaches us.

“The Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” I think we may connect this with John 3. At the end of John 2 it is stated that the Lord knew what was in man; He did not commit Himself to men. That is, there was nothing to trust in man; but the early part of Genesis 3 answers to the hovering of the Spirit. It is the sovereign action of the Spirit so as to produce something for God where there was nothing. That of which a man born again realises the need at the outset is light. In verse 3 we get light. Here it is no question of the kind of light. When a person is in darkness he wants light. The presence of Christ as the true light here brought out fully the darkness and disorder which prevailed in the moral state of things; hence the need for the sovereign action of the Spirit, and the gospel (the light commanded, as it were) following in John 3. The first day, therefore, is analogous to the gospel as first presented to one born anew.

As to the second day: “And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters…and God called the firmament Heaven.” There can be no doubt that there is a moral point in this; that is, at a certain time in the history of a soul heaven comes into view. Christ is in heaven. When He was down here, He connected the souls of His people with heaven. In the second day there is indicated another sphere, as distinct from the earth, and this came out very clearly in the Lord’s ministry. “Rejoice because your names are written in heaven”; “your Father which is in heaven”; “the Son of man which is in heaven.”

The earth comes into view in its own place. When we get clear as to heaven we are prepared for the earth. We see in John 3 how heaven takes precedence of the earth. On the third day great stress is laid on what suggests resurrection: “And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth.” Fruitfulness is in resurrection. “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God,” Rom.7.

The fourth day is a wonderful day for Christians: Christ is now known in heaven as the source of light and rule. The light of the first day, doubtless, came from the sun; this is so, at any rate, if applied morally, for there is no moral light save what comes from Christ. The first day may be taken to represent Christ as here on earth, and the light shone on all. Christ as Man here inaugurates the day, and henceforth the day always attaches to Him, so that when the Lord withdrew from the earth there was a formal separation of light from darkness. In the first day it is light as such: what it was, or its source, is not stated. The light appearing, it is separated from the darkness. The day really went with Christ, and the earth is left in total darkness. But the fourth day provides for this, for the “lesser light” was to rule the night. The lesser light points to the church, and inasmuch as the moon is not light in herself, she cannot be light to the earth during the night unless she remain in the light of the sun; so the church cannot be light now unless it abides in the light of Christ.

The lights in the heavens were to be for signs and for seasons. Seasons have reference to the course of things on earth. Eras of this world have largely been introduced by certain human events; but divine eras are regulated by Christ in heaven. The stars are representative of Christ, and also of the saints individually. Scripture speaks of them in this way. Christ is the bright morning Star, and “they that turn many to righteousness” shine “as the stars for ever and ever,” Dan. 12. It is just possible that stars may take in the Jewish remnant in the latter days. The value of the stars is particularly seen during the night when the moon is hidden. When the church is removed there will still be light, though not so bright. In the fourth day we come into practical righteousness as recognising Christ as Lord in heaven. We understand our place in connection with a settled order of things.

In the fifth day we get life in a visible, energetic way. “Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven” – the activity of life in an intelligent way, one might almost say, although man has not yet come into view. It is the introduction of life.

Monday, February 20, 2012

God Who Cannot Lie

The Scriptures tell that we have a God who cannot lie, not just that He does not lie – God cannot lie. I am aware that certain translations of the Bible render Titus 1:2 as saying that God does not lie. But the true rendering is that He cannot lie. Here God’s character is in focus not just His ways or habit. Whereas the scriptures tell us that when Satan speaks, he speaks lies and is the father of it, because he speaks from himself, i.e., he speaks from within, from his own self; God speaks also from within Himself and of His Own, and it is all truth. For out of the abundance of the heart does the mouth speak!

In this paper, it is however, the context in which the title of this paper appears that we would wish to speak a little about. And so let’s quote the whole verse. Titus 1: 2 – “In hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before the world began”. This verse tells us that it is God who has promised eternal life before the world began. But if God made this promise before the world began, to whom did He make this promise?

In writing to Timothy, in his second letter, the apostle Paul says, “...Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,” (2 Timothy 1:9). This verse also talks about the time ‘before the world began’ as the verse in Titus. Furthermore, this verse makes it clear that God’s grace was given us before the world began. In the book of the Revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ we read of the Lamb “slain from the foundation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8) [I am aware of the alternate rendering of this verse in the Greek text, however for now, I’d prefer to leave all such discussions aside as it wouldn’t necessarily affect the truth of what we’re here emphasising. In any case, however we may read this particular verse, Peter is explicit in saying that the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ was “foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,” (1Peter 1:20)]

The Scriptures make it clear that before time began Christ was, in the eternal councils of God ‘slain’ for us and that grace was given us before time began, before the world began. When Pauls writes to Titus that God promised eternal life before the world began, although he does not make it explicitly clear as to whom it was that God made His promise, it is obvious that it was to us that He made such a promise. But someone may ask, “How could God make a promise to us when we didn’t even exist?” Now this is exactly where we need to believe in the Power and Might of our God. God could do so as He is One Who “calleth those things which are not, as though they were” (Romans 4:17). What a wonderful and almighty God our God is. Abraham believed God to be so (Romans 4:17), and so should we!

It is when we believe God and the Word of His Power, that we understand all things. No wonder we read in Hebrews 11:3 “Through faith we understand that the world were framed [literally - ages were planned] by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” Beloved, it is only as we look to God and believe Him and His word, that we can “understand” all truth – truth about His old creation as well as truth about His new creation.

What a comfort it should be to our feeble and fickle hearts that our God promised eternal life to us in Christ before the world began [lit. before time began], and God cannot lie. Grace was given us in Christ before the world began. And in both these passages of scripture (in 2 Timothy 1 and Titus 1), Paul immediately follows these worlds stating that God has now manifested (what was previously promised or given) in this present time. And the manner of God’s manifesting it is always through the Lord Jesus Christ! In 2 Timothy 1:10 Paul says, “But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ,...” and in Titus 1:3 Paul says, “But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching,..” Whether through the Lord Jesus Christ (the Incarnate Word) or the Written Word, God always manifests Himself through the instrumentality of the Word, the Son of God Himself.

Here would like to quote the words of A.C. Hervey from the Pulpit commentary –
“Manifested his Word” -there is a change of construction. “The relative sentence passes almost imperceptibly into a primary sentence” ...; “his Word” becomes the object of the verb “made manifest,” instead of “eternal life,” as one would have expected. His Word is the whole revelation of the gospel, including the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Compare St. Peter’s address to Cornelius (Acts 10:36). This “Word,” which lay in the mind of God through the ages, and was only dimly expressed in the promises given from time to time (1 Peter 1:10-12), was now “made manifest,” and  proclaimed openly in that preaching of the gospel of God’s grace which was entrusted to St. Paul. This same idea is frequently expressed (see Romans 16:25; Ephesians 1:9, 10; 3:3-11; 2 Timothy 1:9-11; 1 Peter 1:20)”

It is only in and through Christ that we enter into the good of all those things which God has already given us before time began, whether it is grace that was given us before time began or the promise of eternal life that was made to us before the world began – all in Christ and through Christ alone. Hallelujah, What a Saviour. And grace is yet to be brought to us at the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ (see 1 Peter 1:13).

May the Lord Himself continue to keep each of us in His Grace unto the Day of His appearing and His Kingdom.  Since we have a God Who cannot lie, His promise is as sure as Himself, eternal. And with Him His word is His work, its already accomplished as far as He is concerned, while we wait yet for the ‘manifestation’ of it, let us “hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto [us] at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Did the Cock Crow Twice?

On the night of His betrayal, the Lord Jesus Christ warned Peter that he would deny Him thrice; and this before the cock crew. Mathew, Luke and John are unanimous in stating that Peter’s three denials would be before the cock crew. However, Mark alone mentions the fact that Peter would deny the Lord thrice before the cock crew twice.

This apparent discrepancy has caused much discussion and, in some sense I should say, rightly so. For it is in searching out such matters of the text of the scriptures with a view to understanding them better that the veracity and truthfulness of the scriptures are brought out.

Firstly, let us state what each of the Gospel writers have to tell us:

Matthew 26:34 – “Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.”

Mark 14:30 – “And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, [even] in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.”

Luke 22:34 – “And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.”

John 13:38 – “Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.”

When in Mark’s Gospel we read of “this day, in this night” we must bear in mind that for the Jews, their day began at sunset. Thus for them the day had began and yes, it was also night as it was after sunset. And the Lord therefore tells Peter that, that day – that very night he would deny Him thrice.

Alfred Edersheim in his book ‘The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah’ tells us in a footnote,
“This crowing of the cock has given rise to a curious controversy, since, according to Rabbinic law, it was forbidden to keep fowls in Jerusalem, on account of possible Levitical defilements through them (Baba K. Vii.7). ..Reland argues that, even if that ordinance was really in force at the time of Christ (of which there is grave doubt), Peter might have heard the cock crow from Fort Antonia, occupied by the Romans, or else that it might have reached thus far in the still night air from outside the walls of Jerusalem. But there is more than doubt as to the existence of this ordinance at the time. There is repeated mention of the ‘cock-crow’ in connection with the Temple-watches, and if the expression be regarded as not literal, but simply a designation of time, we have ...a story in which a cock caused the death of a child at Jerusalem, proving that fowls must have been kept there.” [Edersheim, A. (1959). The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Vol 2 pg 537) Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.]

Although Edersheim expresses doubt that such a Rabbinical law as he mentions was really in force, it seems rather that such a law as interpreted by the Rabbis themselves would not have precluded the idea of fowls being present in Jerusalem.

For instance consider the following prohibitions:

In Tractate Baba Kamma (The First Gate - chapter 7) it says
“Ten special regulations were applied to Jerusalem: That a house sold there should not be liable to become irredeemable;  that it should never bring a heifer whose neck is broken;  that it could never be made a condemned city;  that its houses would not become defiled through leprosy;  that neither beams nor balconies should be allowed to project there; that no dunghills should be made there; that no kilns should be kept there; that neither gardens nor orchards should be cultivated there, with the exception, however, of the garden of roses  which existed from the days of the former prophets;  that no fowls should be reared there, and that no dead person should be kept there over night.” And the reason given for such a prohibition is stated in the following words “‘That no fowls be bred there' on account of the sacrifices.”

Mishna 7 is more explicit when it states
No cocks or hens must be raised in Jerusalem (even by laymen), because of the voluntary offerings (the meat of which may be eaten in any part of the city, and as the habit of the named fowls is to peck with their beaks in the rubbish, they may peck into a dead reptile and then peck in the meat of the offerings). In all other parts of Palestine priests only must not raise them, as they use leave-offerings for their meals, and they must be very careful about cleanliness.”

From the above quotations it is clear that there only was a prohibition to ‘rear’ or ‘raise’ fowls, including hens and/or cocks in Jerusalem. In all other parts of Palestine only the priests were forbidden from ‘raising’ or ‘rearing’ such fowls.

However, the Gemara on the above mentioned (Mishna 7) clarifies and expounds on this ‘raising’ and/or ‘rearing’ stating – 
The rabbis taught: "No tender cattle must be raised in Palestine but in its forests; in Syria, however, even in the inhabited places, and, of course, in all other places." Another Boraitha states: No tender cattle must be raised in Palestine but in the deserts of Judea, and in those of the village of Achu; and although no tender cattle must be raised, still large cattle may, for no restrictions are made for the community unless most of the people can observe them. Tender cattle may, but large cattle may not be imported from other countries. And although they must not be raised, still they may be kept during the thirty days immediately preceding a feast day, or the celebration of the wedding of one's children. But this shall not be construed to mean that they may be kept for thirty days, and that if some cattle were bought less than thirty days before the feast day that one may continue keeping them after the feast day until the expiration of the thirty days, but that as soon as the feast day is over he must not keep them any longer. The butcher, however, may buy and slaughter them at once, or keep them (until the market day), provided that the cattle he bought last shall not be kept after the market-day to complete the thirty days.”

From the above it is not altogether improbable that fowls, along with ‘cattle’ may be kept during the thirty days immediately preceding a feast day. And according to the Gospel accounts, the night of the Lord’s betrayal and denial was the feast of the Passover and (the days) of unleavened bread (MK 14:1).

As further proof that such an allowance was indeed made, consider the following from the Gemara on the above mentioned Mishna.
“The disciples once questioned R. Gamaliel, whether it was permitted to raise tender cattle, and he answered: "Yea." But have we not learned in our Mishna that it is not? It must be said, therefore, that they questioned him whether it was permitted to keep them, and he answered them: "Yea, provided they are kept locked in the house, so that they shall not go out and pasture with the flock."

This Gamaliel is probably the same Gamaliel mentioned in the NT, at whose ‘feet’ Saul of Tarsus was trained. According to Rabbi Gamaliel it was allowable for them to ‘keep’, if not ‘raise’ tender cattle (by which of course is meant sheep and goats used for sacrifices), provided they were kept locked in the house and not allowed outside. It therefore seems hardly unlikely that fowls too (including doves and pigeons), such as hens and cocks were allowed to be ‘kept’ indoors.

As for Edersheim’s comment about temple watchings being regulated by the cock crowing, consider the following –
[Yoma 1:8] “Every day they take up the ashes from the altar at the cock’s crow or near it, whether before or after it. At the Day of Atonement from midnight, and on festivals at the end of the first watch [they do so].  And never did the cock crow before the courtyard was filled with masses of Israelites. [Neusner, J. (1988). The Mishnah : A new translation (266). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.]

[Sukkah 5:4h] “[When] the cock crowed, they sounded a sustained, a quavering, and a sustained note on the shofar” (shofar A ram’s horn, blown on set occasions in Temple and synagogue worship)  [Neusner, J. (1988). The Mishnah : A new translation (289). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.]

“At cockcrow, trumpet signals ended the nightly feast of lights in the court of women.” [Theological dictionary of the New Testament Vol 7 pg 83]

Obviously, the crowing of the cock was a familiar sound heard from within the temple precincts in Jerusalem! Besides, for the Romans and the Greeks the crowing of the cock was a not only most familiar but for the most part regulated their daily life activities. Consider the following –
“Both the Greeks and Romans were early risers. They went to sleep at sundown, but woke up with the first crow of the cock. In late autumn and winter this gave some hours to sunrise, 3 to 4 in Rome. These so-called lucubrations (from the lamp, lucubrum, which has died out) are the main period of intellectual activity.  In order to avoid pettiness, Plato in his Laws is not prepared to limit the hours of sleep, but he regards it as scandalous if the master or mistress of the house sleeps the whole night (ὅλην διατελεῖν νύκτα εὕδοντα) and has to be wakened by slaves. καθεύδων γὰρ οὐδεὶς οὐδενὸς ἄξιος, οὐδὲν μᾶλλον τοῦ μὴ ζῶντος. Those who really wish to live and to do intellectual work must be awake as long as possible (Lege. [Plato, of Athens] VII, 807e ff.). Among his possessions Plato had an alarm-clock which he had had made. [Theological dictionary of the New Testament Vol 3 pgs 431-432]

In Rome, the cock crowing marked the beginning of the day. At least this was so according to Libanius, of Antioch (AD 314–393), teacher of Julian, one of the 4th century Sophists  – “On the New Year Feast in Rome at cock-crow houses were adorned.” [Theological dictionary of the New Testament Vol 7 pg19] Even if it be argued that such a custom did not obtain during the time of Christ, the quotation at least attests to the fact that the crowing of the cock was a familiar sound among Romans.

The Greek word in the NT that has been translated cockcrowing (Mk.13:35) is alektorophonia  (ἀλεκτοροφωνία,) from alektor which means a ‘cock’ and phone which means a ‘sound’.

W.E.Vine notes
“There were two “cockcrowings,” one after midnight, the other before dawn. In these watches the Jews followed the Roman method of dividing the night. The first “cock-crowing” was at the third watch of the night. That is the one mentioned in Mark 13:35. Mark mentions both; see 14:30. The latter, the second, is that referred to in the other Gospels and is mentioned especially as “the cock-crowing.” [Vine, W. E., Unger, M. F., & White, W. (1996). Vine's complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words (2:107-108). Nashville: T. Nelson.]

Although some seem to doubt the reference to any such ‘time divisions’, it is evident that the Romans divided their night watches into 4 sections. Mk. 13:35 seems to indicate just such a division – “Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning:”

The cockcrowing was evidently anywhere between midnight to 3.00 am, which was the 3rd watch of the night according to Roman timing.

Betz says that
“in Palestine the cock usually crows just before dawn, i.e., from soon after midnight to about 2.30 a.m., the third watch from midnight to 3 a.m. is called, ἀλεκτοροφωνία “the time of the crowing of the cock” (קְרִיאַת הַגֶּבֶר) [Theological dictionary of the New Testament Vol 9 pg 303]

We know that Mark was much influenced by the apostle Peter, who obviously would have passed on these delicate and accurate details of his denials of the Lord. And we have them preserved for us just as Mark wrote them. Matthew, Luke and John only give us the fact that Peter denied the Lord 3 times before the breaking of day, ie. Before the ‘cock crew’. Mark alone, through Peter, records for us the details of the second crowing of the cock. 

In conclusion, we may say that there were indeed two crowing of the cock when Peter denied the Lord. The first one probably around midnight or a little before and the second immediately after Peter denied the Lord the 3rd time, anytime between 2.00 and 3.00 am. Once again the scriptures prove to be accurate and without errors.