Sunday, February 25, 2018

Between The Testaments

BETWEEN THE TESTAMENTS

I. THE PERIOD IN GENERAL

II. A GLANCE ALTES TESTAMENT CONTEMPORANEOUS HISTORY$

1. The Egyptian Empire

2. Greece

3. Rome

4. Asia

III. HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENTS$

1. The Persian Period

2. The Alexandrian Period

3. The Egyptian Period

4. The Syrian Period

5. The Maccabean Period

6. The Roman Period

IV. INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS IN THIS PERIOD$

1. Literary Activity

(a) The Apocrypha

(b) Pseudepigrapha

(c) The Septuagint

2. Spiritual Conditions

3. Parties

4. Preparation for Christianity

As the title indicates, the historical period in the life of Israel extends from the cessation of Old Testament prophecy to the beginning of the Christian era.

I. The Period in General.$

The Exile left its ineffaceable stamp on Judaism as well as on the Jews. Their return to the land of their fathers was marked by the last rays of the declining sun of prophecy. With Malachi it set. Modern historical criticism has projected some of the canonical books of the Bible far into this post-exilic period. Thus Kent (HJP, 1899), following the lead of the Wellhausen-Kuenen hypothesis, with all its later leaders, has charted the period between 600 BC, the date of the first captivity, to 160 BC, the beginning of the Hasmonean period of Jewish history, in comparative contemporaneous blocks of double decades. Following the path of Koster, the historical position of Ezra and Nehemiah is inverted, and the former is placed in the period 400-380 BC, contemporaneously with Artaxerxes II; Joe is assigned to the same period; portions of Isa (chapters 63-66; 24-27) are placed about 350 BC; Zec is assigned to the period 260-240, and Da is shot way down the line into the re ign of the Seleucids, between 200 and 160 BC. Now all this is very striking and no doubt very critical, but the ground of this historical readjustment is wholly subjective, and has the weight only of a hypothetical conjecture. Whatever may be our attitude to the critical hypothesis of the late origin of some of the Old Testament literally, it seems improbable that any portion of it could have reached far into the post-exilic period. The interval between the Old and the New Testaments is the dark period in the hist ory of Israel. It stretches itself out over about four centuries, during which there was neither prophet nor inspired writer in Israel. All we know of it we owe to Josephus, to some of the apocryphal books, and to scattered references in Greek and Latin historians. The seat of empire passed over from the East to the West, from Asia to Europe. The Persian Empire collapsed, under the fierce attacks of the Macedonians, and the Greek Empire in turn gave way to the Roman rule.

II. A Glance at Contemporaneous History.$

For the better understanding of this period in the history of Israel, it may be well to pause for a moment to glance at the wider field of the history of the world in the centuries under contemplation, for the words "fullness of time" deal with the all-embracing history of mankind, for whose salvation Christ appeared, and whose every movement led to its realization.

1. The Egyptian Empire:

In the four centuries preceding Christ, The Egyptian empire, the oldest and in many respects the most perfectly developed civilization of antiquity, was tottering to its ruins. The 29th or Mendesian Dynasty, made place, in 384 BC, for the 30th or Sebennitic Dynasty, which was swallowed up, half a century later, by the Persian Dynasty. The Macedonian or 32nd replaced this in 332 BC, only to give way, a decade later, to the last or 33rd, the Ptolemaic Dynasty. The whole history of Egypt in this period was therefore one of endless and swiftly succeeding changes. In the Ptolemaic Dynasty there was a faint revival of the old glory of the past, but the star of empire had set for Egypt, and the mailed hand of Rome finally smote down a civilization whose beginnings are lost in the dim twilight of history. The Caesarian conquest of 47 BC was followed, 17 years later, by the annexation of Egypt to the new world-power, as a Roman province. Manetho's history is the one great literary monument of Egyptian history in this period. Her priests had been famous for their wisdom, to which Lycurgus and Solon, the Greek legislators, had been attracted, as well as Pythagoras and Plato, the world's greatest philosophers.

2. Greece:

In Greece also the old glory was passing away. Endless wars sapped the strength of the national life. The strength of Athens and Sparta, of Corinth and Thebes had departed, and when about the beginning of our period, in 337 BC, the congress of Greek states had elected Philip of Macedon to the hegemony of united Greece, the knell of doom sounded for all Greek liberty. First Philip and after him Alexander wiped out the last remnants of this liberty, and Greece became a fighting machine for the conquest of the world in the meteoric career of Alexander the Great. But what a galaxy of illustrious names adorn the pages of Greek history, in this period, so dark for Israel! Think of Aristophanes and Hippocrates, of Xenophon and Democritus, of Plato and Apelies, of Aeschines and Demosthenes, of Aristotle and Praxiteles and Archimedes, all figuring, amid the decay of Greek liberty, in the 4th and 3rd centuries before Christ! Surely if the political glory of Greece had left its mark on the ages, its intellectual brilliancy is their pride.

3. Rome:

Rome meanwhile was strengthening herself, by interminable wars, for the great task of world-conquest that lay before her. By the Latin and Samnite and Punic wars she trained her sons in the art of war, extended her territorial power and made her name dreaded everywhere. Italy and north Africa, Greece and Asia Minor and the northern barbarians were conquered in turn. Her intellectual brilliancy was developed only when the lust of conquest was sated after a fashion, but in the century immediately preceding the Christian era we find such names as Lucretius and Hortentius, Cato and Cicero, Sallust and Diodorus Siculus, Virgil and Horace. At the close of the period between the Testaments, Rome had become the mistress of the world and every road led to her capital.

4. Asia:

In Asia the Persian empire, heir to the civilization and traditions of the great Assyrian-Babylonian world-power, was fast collapsing and was ultimately utterly wiped out by the younger Greek empire and civilization. In far-away India the old ethnic religion of Brahma a century or more before the beginning of our period passed through the reformatory crisis inaugurated by Gatama Buddha or Sakya Mouni, and thus Buddhism, one of the great ethnic religions, was born. Another reformer of the Tauistic faith was Confucius, the sage of China, a contemporary of Buddha, while Zoroaster in Persia laid the foundations of his dualistic world-view. In every sense and in every direction, the period between the Testaments was therefore one of political and intellectual ferment.

III. Historical Developments.

As regards Jewish history, the period between the Testaments may be divided as follows:

(1) the Persian period;

(2) the Alexandrian period;

(3) the Egyptian period;

(4) the Syrian period;

(5) the Maccabean period;

(6) the Roman period.

1. The Persian Period:

The Persian period extends from the cessation of prophecy to 334 BC. It was in the main uneventful in the history of the Jews, a breathing spell between great national crises, and comparatively little is known of it. The land of Palestine was a portion of the Syrian satrapy, while the true government of the Jewish people was semi-theocratic, or rather sacerdotal, under the rule of the high priests, who were responsible to the satrap. As a matter of course, the high-priestly office became the object of all Jewish ambition and it aroused the darkest passions. Thus John, the son of Judas, son of Eliashib, through the lust of power, killed his brother Jesus, who was a favorite of Bagoses, a general of Artaxerxes in command of the district. The guilt of the fratricide was enhanced, because the crime was committed in the temple itself, and before the very altar. A storm of wrath, the only notable one of this period, thereupon swept over Judea. The Persians occupied Jerusalem, the temple was defiled, the city laid waste in part, a heavy fine was imposed on the people and a general persecution followed, which lasted for many years (Ant., XI, 7; Kent, HJP, 231). Then as later on, in the many persecutions which followed, the Samaritans, ever pliable and willing to obey the tyrant of the day, went practically scot free.

2. The Alexandrian Period:

The Alexandrian period was very brief, 334-323 BC. It simply covers the period of the Asiatic rule of Alexander the Great. In Greece things had been moving swiftly. The Spartan hegemony, which had been unbroken since the fall of Athens, was now by destroyed by the Thebans under Epaminondas, in the great battles of Leuctra and Mantinea. But the new power was soon crushed Philip of Macedon, who was thereupon chosen general leader by the unwilling Greeks. Persia was the object of Philip's ambition and vengeance, but the dagger of Pausanias (Ant., XI, viii, 1) forestalled the execution of his plans. His son Alexander, a youth of 20 years, succeeded him, and thus the "great he-goat," of which Daniel had spoken (Daniel 8:8; 10:20), appeared on the scene. In the twelve years of his reign (335-323 BC) he revolutionized the world. Swift as an eagle he moved. All Greece was laid at his feet. Thence he moved to Asia, where he defeated Darius in the memorable battles of Granicus and Issus. Passing southward, he conquered the Mediterranean coast and Egypt and then moved eastward again, for the complete subjugation of Asia, when he was struck down in the height of his power, at Babylon, in the 33rd year of his age. In the Syrian campaign he had come in contact with the Jews. Unwilling to leave any stronghold at his back, he reduced Tyre after a siege of several months, and advancing southward demanded the surrender of Jerusalem. But the Jews, taught by bitter experience, desired to remain loyal to Persia. As Alexander approached the city, Jaddua the high priest, with a train of priests in their official dress, went out to meet him, to supplicate mercy. A previous dream of this occurrence is said to have foreshadowed this event, and Alexander spared the city, sacrificed to Yahweh, had the prophecies of Daniel concerning him rehearsed in his hearing, and showed the Jews many favors (Ant., XI, viii, 5) From that day on they became his favorites; he employed them in his army and gave them equal rights w ith the Greeks, as first citizens of Alexandria, and other cities, which he founded. Thus the strong Hellenistic spirit of the Jews was created, which marked so large a portion of the nation, in the subsequent periods of their history.

3. The Egyptian Period:

The Egyptian period (324-264 BC). The death of Alexander temporarily turned everything into chaos. The empire, welded Thrace together by his towering genius, fell apart under four of his generals--Ptolemy, Lysimachus, Cassander, and Selenus (Daniel 8:21,22). Egypt fell to the share of Ptolemy Soter and Judea was made part of it. At first Ptolemy was harsh in his treatment of the Jews, but later on he learned to respect them and became their patron as Alexander had been. Hecataeus of is at this time said to have studied the Jews, through information received from Hezekiah, an Egyptian Jewish immigrant, and to have written a Jewish history from the time of Abraham till his own day. This book, quoted by Josephus and Origen, is totally lost. Soter was succeeded by Ptolemy Philadelphus, an enlightened ruler, famous through the erection of the lighthouse of Pharos, and especially through the founding of the celebrated Alexandrian library. Like his father he was very friendly to the Jews, and in his reign the celebrated Greek translation of the Old Testament Scriptures, the Septuagint, was made, according to tradition (Ant.,. XII, ii). As however the power of the Syrian princes, the Seleucids, grew, Palestine increasingly became the battle ground between them and the Ptolemies. In the decisive battle between Ptolemy Philopator and Antiochus the Great, at Raphia near Gaza, the latter was crushed and during Philopator's reign Judea remained an Egyptian province. And yet this battle formed the turning-point of the history of the Jews in their relation to Egypt. For when Ptolemy, drunk with victory, came to Jerusalem, he endeavored to enter the holy of holies of the temple, although he retreated, in confusion, from the holy place. But he wreaked his vengeance on the Jews, for opposing his plan, by a cruel persecution. He was succeeded by his son Ptolemy Epiphanes, a child of 5 years. The long-planned vengeance of Antiochus now took form in an invasion of Egypt. Coele-Syria and Judea were occupied by the Syrians and passed over into the possession of the Seleucids.

4. The Syrian Period:

The Syrian period (204-165 BC). Israel now entered into the valley of the shadow of death. This entire period was an almost uninterrupted martyrdom. Antiochus was succeeded by Seleucis Philopator. But harsh as was their attitude to the Jews, neither of these two was notorious for his cruelty to them. Their high priests, as in former periods, were still their nominal rulers. But the aspect of everything changed when Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164 BC) came to the throne. He may fitly be called the Nero of Jewish history. The nationalists among the Jews were at that time wrangling with the Hellenists for the control of affairs. Onias III, a faithful high priest, was expelled from office through the machinations of his brother Jesus or Jason (2 Macc 4:7-10). Onias went to Egypt, where at Heliopolis he built a temple and officiated as high priest. Meanwhile Jason in turn was turned out of the holy office by the bribes of still another brother, Menelaus, worse by far than Jason, a Jew-hater and an avowed defender of Greek life and morals. The wrangle between the brothers gave Antiochus the opportunity he craved to wreak his bitter hatred on the Jews, in the spoliation of Jerusalem, in the wanton and total defilement of the temple, and in a most horrible persecution of the Jews (1 Macc 1:16-28; 2 Macc 5:11-23; Daniel 11:28; Ant, XII, v, 3.4). Thousands were slain, women and children were sold into captivity, the city wall was torn down, all sacrifices ceased, and in the temple on the altar of burnt off ering a statue was erected to Jupiter Olympius (1 Macc 1:43; 2 Macc 6:1-2). Circumcision was forbidden, on pain of death, and all the people of Israel were to be forcibly paganized. As in the Persian persecution, the Samaritans again played into the hands of the Syrians and implicitly obeyed the will of the Seleucids. But the very rigor of the persecution caused it to fail of its purpose and Israel proved to be made of sterner stuff than Antiochus imagined. A priestly family dwelling at Modin, west of Jerusalem , named Hasmonean, after one of its ancestors, consisting of Mattathias and his five sons, raised the standard of revolt, which proved successful after a severe struggle.

See ASMONEANS.

5. The Maccabean Period:

The Maccabean period (165-63 BC). The slaying of an idolatrous Jew at the very altar was the signal of revolt. The land of Judea is specially adapted to guerilla tactics, and Judas Maccabeus, who succeeded his father, as leader of the Jewish patriots, Was a past master in this kind of warfare. All efforts of Antiochus to quell the rebellion failed most miserably, in three Syrian campaigns. The king died of a loathsome disease and peace was at last concluded with the Jews. Though still nominally under Syrian control, Judas became governor of Palestine. His first act was the purification and rededication of the temple, from which the Jews date their festival of purification (see PURIFICATION). When the Syrians renewed the war, Judas applied for aid to the Romans, whose power began to be felt in Asia, but he died in battle before the promised aid could reach him (Ant., XII, xi, 2). He was buried by his father's side at Modin and was succeeded by his brother Jonathan. From that time the Maccabean history becomes one of endless cabals. Jonathan was acknowledged by the Syrians as meridarch of Judea, but was assassinated soon afterward. Simon succeeded him, and by the help of the Romans was made hereditary ruler of Palestine. He in turn was followed by John Hyrcanus. The people were torn by bitter partisan controversies and a civil war was waged, a generation later, by two grandsons of John Hyrcanus, Hyrcanus and Aristobulus. In this internecine struggle the Roman general Pompey participated by siding with Hyrcanus, while Aristobulus defied Rome and defended Jerusalem. Pompey took the city, after a siege of three months, and entered the holy of holies, thereby forever estranging from Rome every loyal Jewish heart.

6. The Roman Period:

The Roman period (63-4 BC). Judea now became a Roman province. Hyrcanus, stripped of the hereditary royal power, retained only the high-priestly office. Rome exacted an annual tribute, and Aristobulus was sent as a captive to the capital. He contrived however to escape and renewed the unequal struggle, in which he was succeeded by his sons Alexander and Antigonus. In the war between Pompey and Caesar, Judea was temporarily forgotten, but after Caesar's death, under the triumvirate of Octavius, Antony and Lepidus, Antony, the eastern triumvir, favored Herod the Great, whose intrigues secured for him at last the crown of Judea and enabled him completely to extinguish the old Maccabean line of Judean princes.

IV. Internal Developments in This Period.

One thing remains, and that is a review of the developments within the bosom of Judaism itself in the period under consideration. It is self-evident that the core of the Jewish people, which remained loyal to the national traditions and to the national faith, must have been radically affected by the terrible cataclysms which mark their history, during the four centuries before Christ. What, if any, was the literary activity of the Jews in this period? What was their spiritual condition? What was the result of the manifest difference of opinion within the Jewish economy? What preparation does this period afford for the "fullness of time"? These and other questions present themselves, as we study this period of the history of the Jews.

1. Literary Activity:

The voice of prophecy was utterly hushed in this period, but the old literary instinct of the nation asserted itself; it was part and parcel of the Jewish traditions and would not be denied. Thus in this period many writings were produced, which of although they lack canonical authority, among Protestants at least, still are extremely helpful for a correct understanding the life of Israel in the dark ages before Christ.

(a) The Apocrypha.

First of all among the fruits of this literary activity stand the apocryphal books of the Old Testament. It is enough here to mention them. They are fourteen in number:

1 and 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, 2 Esther, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, in Baruch, So of the Three Holy Children, History of Susannah, Bel and the Dragon, Prayer of Manasses, 1 and 2 Maccabees. As 3 and 4 Maccabees fall presumably within the Christian era, they are not here enumerated. All these apocryphal writings are of the utmost importance for a correct understanding of the Jewish problem in the day which they were written. For fuller information, see APOCRYPHA.

(b) Pseudepigrapha.

Thus named from the spurious character of the authors' names they bear. Two of these writings very probably belong to our of period, while a host of them evidently belong to a later date. In this class of writings there is a mute confession of the conscious poverty of the day. First of all, we have the Psalter of Solomon, originally written in Hebrew and translated into Greek--a collection of songs for worship, touching in their spirit, and evincing the fact that true faith never died in the heart of the true believer. The second is the Book of Enoch, a production of an apocalyptic nature, named after Enoch the patriarch, and widely known about the beginning the Christian era. This book is quoted in the New Testament (Jude 1:14). It was originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic and translated into Greek as there is no trace of a Christian influence in the book, the presumption is that the greater part of it was written at an earlier period. Both Jude and the author of Revelation must have known it, as a comparative study of both books will show. The question of these quotations or allusions is a veritable crux interpretum:

how to reconcile the inspiration of these books with these quotations?

(c) The Septuagint.

The tradition of the Septuagint is told by Josephus (Ant., XII, ii, 13). Aristeas and Aristobulus, a Jewish priest in the reign of Ptolemy Philometor (2 Macc 1:10), are also quoted in support of it by Clement of Alexandria and by Eusebius. See \SEPTUAGINT\. The truth of the matter is most probably that this great translation of the Old Testament Scriptures was begun at the instance of Ptolemy Philadelphus 285-247 BC, under the direction of Demetrius Phalereus, and was completed somewhere about the middle of the 2nd century BC. Internal evidence abounds that the translation was made by different hands and at different times. If the translation was in any way literal, the text of the Septuagint raises various interesting questions in regard to the Hebrew text that was used in the translation, as compared with the one we now possess. The Septuagint was of the utmost missionary value and contributed perhaps more than any other thing to prepare the world for the "fullness of time."

2. Spiritual Conditions:

The return from Babylon marked a turning point in the spiritual history of the Jews. From that time onward, the lust of idolatry, which had marked their whole previous history, utterly disappears. In the place of it came an almost intolerable spirit of exclusiveness, a striving after legal holiness, these two in combination forming the very heart and core of the later Pharisaism. The holy books, but especially the law, became an object of almost idolatrous reverence; the spirit was utterly lost in the form. And as their own tongue, the classic Hebrew, gradually gave way to the common Aramaic, the rabbis and their schools strove ever more earnestly to keep the ancient tongue pure, worship and life each demanding a separate language. Thus, the Jews became in a sense bilingual, the Hebrew tongue being used in their synagogues, the Aramaic in their daily life, and later on, in part at least, the Greek tongue of the conqueror, the lingua franca of the period. A spiritual aristocracy very largely replaced the former rule of their princes and nobles. As the core of their religion died, the bark of the tree flourished. Thus, tithes were zealously paid by the believer (compare Matthew 23:23), the Sabbath became a positive burden of sanctity, the simple laws of God were replaced by cumbersome human inventions, which in later times were to form the bulk of the Talmud, and which crushed down all spiritual liberty in the days of Christ (Matthew 11:28; 23:4,23). The substitution of the names "Elohim" and "Adonai" for the old glorious historic name "Yahweh" is an eloquent commentary on all that has been said before and on the spiritual condition of Israel in this period (Ewald, History of Israel, V, 198), in which the change was inaugurated. The old centripetal force, the old ideal of centralization, gave way to an almost haughty indifference to the land of promise. The Jews became, as they are today, a nation without a country. For, for every Jew that came back to the old national home, a thousand remained in the land of their adopti on. And yet scattered far and wide, in all sorts of environments, they remained Jews, and the national consciousness was never extinguished. It was God's mark on them now as then. And thus they became world-wide missionaries of the knowledge of the true God, of a gospel of hope for a world that was hopeless, a gospel which wholly against their own will directed the eyes of the world to the fullness of time and which prepared the fallow soil of human hearts for the rapid spread of Christianity when it ultimately appeared.

3. Parties:

During the Greek period the more conservative and zealous of the Jews were all the time confronted with a tendency of a very considerable portion of the people, especially the younger and wealthier set, to adopt the manners of life and thought and speech of their masters, the Greeks. Thus the Hellenistic party was born, which was bitterly hated by all true blooded Jews, but which left its mark on their history, till the date of the final dispersion 70 AD. From the day of Mattathias, the Chasids or Haside ans (1 Macc 2:42) were the true Jewish patriots. Thus the party of the Pharisees came into existence (Ant., XIII, x, 5; XVIII, i, 2; BJ, I, v, 2). See PHARISEES. They were opposed by the more secular-minded Sadducees (Ant., XIII, x, 6; XVIII, i, 3; BJ, II, viii, 14), wealthy, of fine social standing, wholly free from the restraints of tradition, utterly oblivious of the future life and closely akin to the Greek Epicureans. See \SADDUCEES\. These parties bitterly opposed each other till the very end of the national existence of the Jews in Palestine, and incessantly fought for the mastery, through the high-priestly office. Common hatred for Christ, for a while, afforded them a community of interests. 4. Preparation for Christianity:

Throughout this entire dark period of Israel's history, God was working out His own Divine plan with them. Their Scriptures were translated into Greek, after the conquest of Alexander the Great the common language in the East. Thus the world was prepared for the word of God, even as the latter in turn prepared the world for the reception of the gift of God, in the gospel of His Son. The Septuagint thus is a distinct forward movement in the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise (Genesis 12:3; 18:18). As the sacrificial part of Jewish worship declined, through their wide separation from the temple, the eyes of Israel were more firmly fixed on their Scriptures, read every Sabbath in their synagogues, and, as we have seen, these Scriptures, through the rendering of the Septuagint, had become the property of the entire world. Thus, the synagogue everywhere became the great missionary institute, imparting to the world Israel's exalted Messianic hopes. On the other hand, the Jews themselves, embittered by long-continued martyrdoms and suffering, utterly carnalized this Messianic expectation in an increasing ratio as the yoke of the oppressor grew heavier and the hope of deliverance grew fainter. And thus when their Messiah came, Israel recognized Him not, while the heart-hungry heathen, who through the Septuagint had become familiar with the promise, humbly received Him (John 1:9-14). The eyes of Israel were blinded for a season, `till the fullness of the Gentiles shall be gathered in' (Romans 9:32; 11:25).

Henry E. Dosker
Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'BETWEEN THE TESTAMENTS'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.

Chemical Imbalance Depression Is Rare

"Doctors bought the story line that all depression results from a chemical imbalance in the brain and therefore requires a chemical fix—the prescription of an antidepressant medication. This is absolutely true for severe depressions, absolutely false for most milder ones. The proof of this pudding is that psychotherapy is just as effective as medication for milder depressions, and neither has a big edge over placebo. Millions of people take medicine they don’t need for a diagnosis of MDD that they don’t really have, on the false assumption of chemical imbalance."

Allen Frances, M.D, "Saving Normal," p. 155

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Does James 2:24 Teach That We Are Justified By Faith And Works?

        "You see then how a man is justified by works, and not by faith only." (James 2:24)

        The Scriptures emphatically declare that works cannot justify us in the sight of God. The Apostle Paul says that we are justified "apart from works" and that God justifies people who "do not work but believe" (Romans 4:2-8). He elsewhere says, "not by works," (Ephesians 2:8-9), "not by works of righteousness which we have done," (Titus 3:5-7), and we are saved, "not according to our works" (2 Timothy 1:9). So the text of James 2:24 cannot be teaching us that justification is merited entirely or even in part by our good works. The surrounding context of this verse, as well as the rest of Scripture, plays a key role here.

        In context, James clearly occupies the word justify to mean vindication, or proven. He does not argue against justification by faith alone, but rather, a salvation that stands without any good works to accompany it. In other words, one's lifestyle must be consistent with his or her profession of faith. Faith will certainly be accompanied with good works because the heart is regenerated by the Spirit of God. If our Christian testimony is not supported with evidence of good character, then the unbelieving world will have no reason to deem our witness for Christ trustworthy or reliable.

        What James is saying is that we demonstrate the reality of our faith by good works. Are we going to merely talk the spiritual talk or actually going to walk the spiritual walk (James 2:14-17)? Are we only going to be hearers of the Word or doers of the Word (James 1:21-22; 26-27)? The question that James addresses is, "Can such faith save a man?" It is not enough to mentally accept the fact that God exists (James 2:19-20). Therefore, James distinguishes between two different kinds of faith. The demons acknowledge that whatever God says is the truth, but are not in fellowship with Him because they lack trust.

        Works are the product or result of a genuinely saving faith. A converted heart by definition will result in a changed life of holiness. James 2:18 especially echoes this theme ("a man may say...show me...I will show you..."). The inspired writer James provides two biblical examples to illustrate his point on the relationship between faith and works (James 2:21-25). The faith of Abraham and Rehab was tested and shown to be true. Faith was "perfected" in that it reached its design or end. An analogy is employed to make the point that faith and works cannot to be separated from each other (James 2:26). The Christian walk is one that glorifies God.

        James is not hereby discussing themes such as the blood of Christ or how one gets right with God, as does Paul (Romans 5:1-11). James occupies the term "justify" in the sense of vindication, which is employed in the same manner elsewhere throughout Scripture (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:29; 16:15; Romans 3:4). He focuses on Genesis 15:6 from an evidential perspective. The Apostle Paul in Romans and Galatians deals with the universal scope of man's depravity and condemnation by God's Law, whereas James addresses the narrower scope of hypocrisy within the church. Paul focuses on justification "in His sight" (Romans 3:20; 4:2).

Monday, February 19, 2018

1 Chronicles 16:30: Does The Bible Say That The Earth Doesn't Move?

First off, the passage is clearly introduced as a psalm (i.e. “song” or “prayer”) of David. 1 Chron 16:7 says, “Then on that day David delivered first this psalm to thank the Lord into the hand of Asaph and his brethren.” Like the book of Psalms, the passage uses poetic descriptions to convey spiritual truth – not necessarily literal truth. In the same passage (v. 32-33) David says that the sea “roars,” the fields “rejoice,” and the trees “sing.”

Why don't the same critics who allege this passage endorses geocentricism, also assert the Bible teaches that trees sing? It's because they know that people will immediately recognize trees singing as an obvious use of metaphor. Yet they still quote v. 30 as though it's meant to be a statement of fact. This is a clear case of quote mining where critics cite a passage out of context in order to make it sound like the Bible says something that it clearly does not intend.

Another thing we must be careful to consider is what is meant by the use of the words like “world” and “earth.” Often, when these words are used, they are not referring to the physical earth but the people of the earth. This is demonstrated in the same verse in question. 1 Chron 16:30a says, “Fear before Him all the earth.” Do you think this means the literal “earth” should fear Him or doesn't it more likely mean the people of the earth? It could mean the literal earth in the same sense that the “fields” rejoice. On the other hand, it could also mean the people of the earth. The Bible does use the words “earth” and “world” in that sense; Here are some indisputable examples where this is so:

And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity. (Isaiah 13:11a)

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (Luke 2:1)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

In these passages, and others, the word “world” clearly means the people who live in the world. No one, for example, could rationally argue that Luke 2:1 means that the literal earth (that is, dirt and rock) is going to be taxed.

We also must ask what is meant by “not moved.” The most ordinary meaning, of course, is that it means “stationary” and that is what the critics who cite this passage claim it means. However, “not moved” can also mean “not moved from its course” or “unpersuaded.” Psalm 21:7 says, “For the king trusteth in the Lord, and through the mercy of the most High he shall not be moved.” I'll ask you: does this passage mean the king is stationary or does it mean that he should not be moved from his trust in the Lord?

In conclusion, remember that this is a psalm. In a poetic passage that says the Lord established the earth that it should not be moved, would it be entirely unreasonable to interpret that to mean the Lord established the ways of the earth (or its people) and it/they will not be moved from the way He established? What is unreasonable is that critics (whether intentionally or by ignorance) ignore the clear context of a passage and assert the correct interpretation of an obvious use of poetry is that it is meant to be literal fact. It's no wonder that critics see the Bible as rife with errors. They obviously have trouble reading.

http://rkbentley.blogspot.com/2012/06/1-chronicles-1630-does-bible-say-earth.html

Sunday, February 18, 2018

A Fatal Flaw Of Pantheism

"Another problem presented by the pantheistic worldview is the idea that humans must come to realize that they are God. If God, the universe, and humans are all eternal, and eternal things do not change, then how can we come to know anything new? If we learn something new, then we change from not knowing something to knowing something, which is impossible for an eternal, unchanging being."

The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics, p. 388

Saturday, February 17, 2018

1 Corinthians 3:15 Is Not A Proof-Text For Purgatory

“From at least the time of Gregory the Great (who lived AD 540-604), this verse [1 Cor 3:15] and all of vv11-15 have been cited in the teaching of the Western Church about the ‘purifying fire’ of purgatory (Dialogues 4.41.5: de igne futurae purgationis, ‘about the fire of future purification’; SC 265.150). These verses are quoted explicitly in the letter, ‘Sub catholicae professione,’ of the First Council of Lyons, AD 1254 (DH 838); cf. Council of Florence, AD 1439-45 (DH 1304). That teaching, however, freely accommodates not only the metaphorical sense of these Pauline verses, but also other biblical passages, 2 Macc 12:39-45; Mt 12:32, 36, so that Cevetello rightly recognizes that it is ‘based on tradition, not Sacred Scripture’

‘Purgatory,’ NCE 11:825); and Gnilka has shown that the tradition is neither precise nor constant (Ist l. Kor. 3,10–15),” J. Fitzmyer, 1 Corinthians (Yale 2008), 201, cited by Steve Hays

Friday, February 16, 2018

Examining The Roman Catholic Priesthood

                                     By Richard Bennett of Berean Beacon

There is a common thread that runs throughout the experiences of former priests whose testimonies are in our book, Far from Rome, Near to God: The Testimonies of Fifty Former Catholic Priests. We had a great yearning to be different from those around us. We wanted to be more pure, nearer to God. We wanted to be free in conscience before God, and we sought the priesthood in which we thought we could administer salvation stage by stage to our fellow man. The nobility and charm of the priesthood also drew us, as priests around us were signally hon­ ored with special privileges and dignity. Hearing confessions, forgiving sins, bringing Christ down upon the altar, the wonder of being “another Christ”, all of these attracted us. In the words of Graham Greene’s novel on the subject, we were drawn by “the power and the glory”.

We did not question:

that there is an office of sacrificial priesthood in the New Testament;
that the priest’s life revolves around the sacraments;
that we were fit subjects to be elevated to this honor. We had all worked hard at being “holy” so we took for granted that a right standing with God was something that we could merit.

1. The Office of the Priesthood

In the early 1970’s, we who gloried in being priests were shocked to read the words of one of our best Roman Catholic Scripture scholars, Raymond E. Brown:

When we move from the Old Testament to the New Testament, it is striking that while there are pagan priests and Jewish priests on the scene, no individual Christian is ever specifically identified as a priest. The Epistle to the Hebrews speaks of the high priesthood of Jesus by comparing his death and entry into heaven with the actions of the Jewish high priest who went into the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle once a year with a blood offering for himself and for the sins of his people (Hebrews 9:6-7).

But it is noteworthy that the author of Hebrews does not associate the priesthood of Jesus with the Eucharist or the Last Supper; neither does he suggest that other Christians are priests in the likeness of Jesus. In fact, the once-for-all atmosphere that surrounds the priesthood of Jesus in Hebrews 10:12-14, has been offered as an explanation of why there are no Christian priests in the New Testament period.1

Later in the same chapter, Brown argues for a priesthood like that of the Levitical class in the Old Testament. He makes his case for the development of such a doctrine by means of tradition. Even those of us who knew very little of the Bible knew that the Pharisees counted tradition su­perior to the clear Word of God. Brown did more to demolish the conviction that we were in­deed priests than to ease our troubled minds. Now I see that what Brown stated in the section quoted is biblically and absolutely true. Other than the royal priesthood, which applies to all true believers in Christ, there is no office of priesthood in the New Testament. Rather, as Hebrews states so clearly of the Old Testament priests, “And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them”2 “Unchangeable priest­hood” means just that in the Greek: aparabatos means “untransferable”. The reason it cannot be transferred to men is that its essence is Christ’s own, “who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.”3

2. The Priest’s Life Revolves around the Sacraments

The second presupposition was that the Roman Catholic sacraments gave, as our catechism books said, “outward signs of inward grace”. Our mindset, in the words of Canon 840, was that the sacraments “…contribute in the highest degree to the establishment, strengthening and manifestation of ecclesiastical communion.”4 In fact, the sacraments themselves were for us the center of salvation and of sanctification. For example, regarding confession to a priest, Canon 960 declared that it was “the only ordinary way by which the faithful person who is aware of serious sin is reconciled with God”. Rather than proclaiming the finished work of Christ Jesus as the an­ swer to the problem of our sinful nature and personal sin record, our lives revolved around these physical signs. Some of us were shocked to read in Dollinger (the most respected Roman Catholic historian) that the sacrament of penance (confession) was unknown in the West for 1,100 years and never known in the East. Dollinger said, “So again with Penance. What is given as the essential form of the sacrament was unknown in the Western Church for eleven hundred years, and never known in the Greek.”5 How could this be? The bishops were declared to be high priests “first and foremost” (Canon 835). Were not we as priests also declared to be dis­ pensers of the sacramental system? In the light of God’s Word, this was magic rather than the Gospel message.

The New Testament has two signs as instituted by the Lord; yet rather than the two signs, center stage in the Bible is the proclaimed message. But for us the sacraments themselves were of major importance. Every day began with Mass. Our doubts regarding the physical sacraments as central to our life with God began from experience. Many of us, priests for many years, had baptized countless infants, and had said the words, “I absolve you,” over countless heads. We had anointed many aged, sick and accident victims with the words, “May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up.” Year after year we saw the children we had baptized as infants grow up as pagan as the pagans on the mission field. The myriads of people over whose heads we had pronounced absolution came up off their knees as much sinners after our words as before them. When the sick and the aged were neither saved nor “raised up”, it was then that some of us dared to check the Bible. Here we discovered, “It is the spirit that quick­ eneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life”6 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast”7

The verses in Ephesians shocked us most of all. Our standard definitions of sacraments defined them as “works”, as in the famous Canon 8 of the Council of Trent: “If anyone says that by the sacraments of the New Law grace is not conferred ex opere operato [from the work worked], but that faith alone in the divine promise is sufficient to obtain grace, let him be anathe­ ma.”8 It was difficult even to begin to doubt the sacraments. These and other physical signs ab­ sorbed much of our time. During Lent or Holy Week, for example, we had to make arrange­ ments for procuring and putting in order the newly blessed oils, the Pascal candle, the Pascal fire, the palms, the ashes from last year’s palms, the processional cross, the thurible with its charcoals and incense, the purple, red and white vestments, and so on. How could any of us dare to hear the Lord’s principle stated so clearly in John 6:63: “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing.” But hear the words we did, as these testimonies bear witness. The Father drew us, showing us our own worthlessness and the sufficiency of his Word. As Jesus said to the Father, “Thy word is truth”9

3. Unfit Subjects for Honor

The last presupposition was the most deeply rooted within us. As a child, before ever wanting to become a priest, I had labored at being “holy”. During Lent I would “offer up” candy and sweet drinks to be a better Catholic. I visited nine churches in one day praying alternately “Our Father” six times, “Hail Mary” six times and “Glory Be” six times in each church. Some of us played at being holy by giving white peppermints to our friends when they would kneel down, as if we were the priest giving communion.

As priests, most of us were very enthusiastic about Vatican Council II. When the docu­ ments were published, some of us preached from them. One of the most popular documents was No. 64, The Church in the Modern World. But when the excitement had calmed, those of us who studied it saw the same message we had lived and preached. Paragraph. 14 states, “…Neverthe­ less man has been wounded by sin….When he is drawn to think about his real self he turns to those deep recesses of his being where God who probes the heart awaits him, and where he him­ self decides his own destiny in the sight of God.” Paragraph. 17 continues, “Since human free­ dom has been weakened by sin it is only by the help of God’s grace that man can give his actions their full and proper relationship to God.”10

This type of modern teaching seemed very much like the old message. The old message was also contained in Vatican Council II documents in a less popular document, No. 6, Indul­ gentiarum Doctrina, Paragraph. 6 which states: “From the most ancient times in the Church good works were also offered to God for the salvation of sinners, particularly the works which human weakness finds hard…Indeed, the prayers and good works of holy people were regarded as of such great value that it could be asserted that the penitent was washed, cleansed and redeemed with the help of the entire Christian people.”11

All these teachings were endorsed by messages at Lourdes and at Fatima. That many souls go to Hell because there is no one to pray and to do penance for them was part of our third and biggest presupposition. Grace was, of course, presupposed; but it is you who by means of your suffering and good works merit salvation for yourself and for others. This is the net in which all of us who lived the works gospel so intensely were most deeply entangled by Roman Catholicism. This two-fold presupposition; that we were somehow holy and right before a holy God because we had prayed and suffered, and that we would continue as holy and righteous men to practice our religion, became our biggest undoing.

Mankind’s Condition Before The Holy God

Christ Jesus describes man’s nature. “That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, mur­ ders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, fool­ ishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man”12 And the Prophet Jeremiah says, “The heart is deceitful above all things; and desperately wicked; who can know it?”13 Both Old and New Testaments tell us that we are spiritually dead to God. Adam’s sin brought death. The Prophet Ezekiel states, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die”14 and Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death.” We are not simply “wounded”, as Roman Catholics believe. We are spiritually dead!

The Biblical Message of Salvation

We find the remedy for this situation in both Old and New Testaments. The prophet Isaiah de­clares: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chas­tisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniqui­ty of us all.”15. Peter and John tell us: “ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from our fathers; but with the pre­cious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot”. “And he is the propitia­tion for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”16 The Bible clearly states that salvation was Christ’s work and his alone: “. . .by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high”17 Romans 3:26 says that God is “just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus”. One is saved by God’s work. Salvation is God’s ma­jestic, finished work. Woven through these testimonies is the same scarlet thread of God’s sovereign grace. Before him, each person is dead in sin. By grace one is saved, through faith.

What the Bible has to say about priesthood becomes crystal clear in these personal testi­monies of men who experienced both the false and the true priesthood (the priesthood of every believer in the once for all sacrifice of Christ Jesus). The best summary of what happened to these men in the Roman Catholic priesthood is found in the words of the Apostle Paul,“There­fore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceit­fully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”18

1 Raymond E. Brown, Priest and Bishop: Biblical Reflections (Paulist Press, New York 10019, 1970), p. 13.

2 Hebrews 7:23-25

3 Hebrews 7:26

4 Code of Canon Law, Latin-English ed. (Canon Law Society of America, Wash. DC 20064) 1983. All references to canon law are taken from this volume unless otherwise stated.

5 von Dollinger, The Pope and the Council by Janus, (Authorized tr. from the German “Janus_: Der Papst und das Concil), Roberts Brothers (Boston, 1870) p. 50.

6 John 6:63

7 Ephesians 2:8-9

8 The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, 7th Session, March, 1547, Tr. by Rev. H. J. Schroeder, O.P. (Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., Rockford, IL 61105) 1978.

9 John 17:17

10 Vatican Council II Documents, No. 64, Gaudium et Spes, 7 December 1965, Ch. 1, Vol. I, in Documents of Vati­ can II, Vatican Collection, Vol. I, Austin P. Flannery, O.P., Ed. (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., Grand Rapids, MI 1984)

11 Flannery, Vol. I. (While No. 6, Indulgentiarum Doctrina, 1 January, 1967, is an absolutely official primary source document and is included with the Vatican Council II documents, strictly speaking it is a post-conciliar document of Pope Paul IV).

12 Mark 7:20-23

13 Jeremiah17:9

14 Ezekiel 18:20

15 Isaiah 53:5-6

16 I Peter 1:18-19, I John 2:2

17 Hebrews 1:3

18 II Corinthians 4:1-2

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Church Fathers On Transubstantiation

Question: The early church fathers believed in the real presence in the Eucharist, as the following quotations confirm.

They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, Flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His goodness, raised up again. (Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnaeans).

The food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by Him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh are nourished, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus. (Justin Martyr, First Apology).

That bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Body of Christ. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Blood of Christ. (Augustine, Sermons, 227). 

Answer: Some church fathers believed in the physical presence of Christ in the Eucharist; others considered the elements as signs of the body and blood of Christ, and that His presence is spiritual. Paschasius Radbertus was the first to formulate the doctrine of transubstantiation in the ninth century. He was opposed by Ratranmus, a contemporary monk at the monastery of Corbie. Ratranmus wrote: "The bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ in a figurative sense" (De corpore et sanguine Christi). This controversy between two Catholic monks shows that both views were present in the Catholic church at least up to the eleventh century. The debate continued until the thirteenth century when the final decision was taken by the Lateran Council in 1215. Eventually Radbertus was canonized while Ratranmus' work was placed on the index of forbidden books. The Doctor of the Church, Duns Scotus, admits that transubstantiation was not an article of faith before that the thirteenth century.

It is misleading to speak about “real presence” as if the term is equivalent to “transubstantiation.” Christians, who consider the bread and wine as strictly symbolical, also believe in the real presence of the Lord among them. Jesus said: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). Surely Christ is present in the congregation of His people, as He promises, especially during the celebration of the Supper. His presence is real even though it is spiritual and not carnal.

The Roman Catholic doctrine is defined in the second canon of the thirteenth session of the Council of Trent:

If anyone says that in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denies that wonderful and singular change of the whole substance of the bread into the body and the whole substance of the wine into the blood, the appearances only of bread and wine remaining, which change the Catholic Church most aptly calls transubstantiation, let him be anathema.

In other words, the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ, and in the process the bread and wine cease to exist, except in appearance. The ‘substance’ of the bread and wine do not remain.

Catholic websites list quotations from the Fathers which supposedly prove the Catholic doctrine.

When read superficially and out of context they seem to give clear evidence in favour of transubstantiation. In fact, they do not! I suggest we take as second look at the three quotations above (which are representative of many similar quotations), while keeping in mind Augustine’s advice “to guard us against taking a metaphorical form of speech as if it were literal.” Augustine refers to the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist to illustrate this important principle:

“…our Lord Himself, and apostolic practice, have handed down to us a few rites in place of many (Old Testament rites), and these at once very easy to perform, most majestic in their significance, and most sacred in the observance; such, for example, as the sacrament of baptism, and the celebration of the body and blood of the Lord. And as soon as any one looks upon these observances he knows to what they refer, and so reveres them not in carnal bondage, but in spiritual freedom. Now, as to follow the letter, and to take signs for the things that are signified by them, is a mark of weakness and bondage” (On Christian Doctrine, Book 3).

It is wrong to interpret literal speech figuratively; it is equally wrong to interpret metaphorical speech literally. So, let’s see, did the early Fathers believe in transubstantiation, namely the substance of the bread and wine is changed into the substance of the body and blood of Christ?

Ignatius

Ignatius argued against the Gnostic Docetists. They denied the true physical existence of our Lord; thus they also denied his death and resurrection. Ignatius wrote:

They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, Flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His goodness, raised up again.

The problem with the Gnostics concerned the person of Christ and not the nature of the Eucharist. The heretics did not participate in the Eucharist because they did not believe in what the Eucharist represents, namely the true, physical flesh of Jesus, who actually and really suffered on the cross, and who was really resurrected from the dead.

We do not have to take the phrase "the Eucharist is the flesh" in a literalistic manner. As in everyday speech, as well as in the Bible, it could simply mean that the Eucharist represents the flesh of Christ. To illustrate, take a similar argument by Tertullian. He is also using the Eucharist to combat Docetism:

Then, having taken the bread and given it to His disciples, He made it His own body, by saying, "This is my body," that is, the figure of my body. A figure, however, there could not have been, unless there were first a veritable body (Against Marcion, Bk 4).

Tertullian is even more emphatic than Ignatius. He says that Jesus made the bread his own body. But unlike Ignatius, Tertullian goes on to clarify what he meant. Rather than saying that the bread ceases to exist, he calls it the “the figure” of the body of Christ and maintains a clear distinction between the figure and what it represents, namely the “veritable body” of our Lord.

Justin Martyr

Justin Martyr (A.D. 151) writes:

For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Saviour was make incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by Him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh are nourished, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus (Justin Martyr, First Apology, 66).

“The change of which our body and flesh are nourished” is not a reference to transubstantiation. According to Catholic author William A. Jurgenes, “The change referred to here is the change which takes place when the food we eat is assimilated and becomes part of our own body” (Jurgens W, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Volume I, p. 57).

Justin Martyn calls the Eucharistic bread and wine "the flesh and the blood" of Jesus. Justin believed in the physical presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. However Justin also believed that the bread and wine do not cease to be bread and wine. He speaks of their partaking "of the bread and wine" over which thanksgiving was pronounced. Elsewhere Justin calls the consecrated elements “bread” and “the cup.” They are the flesh and blood of Christ insofar that they are given in remembrance of his incarnation and blood.

Now it is evident, that in this prophecy [allusion is made] to the bread which our Christ gave us to eat, in remembrance of His being made flesh for the sake of His believers, for whom also He suffered; and to the cup which He gave us to drink, in remembrance of His own blood, with giving of thanks (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho).

Clearly, while Justin believed in the physical presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, he also believed that the elements remained bread and wine given in remembrance of Christ. Therefore Justin Martyr's view on the Eucharist is dissimilar from the Roman Catholic transubstantiation, and as such he is anathemized by the Roman Church.

Augustine

Catholic authors often misuse Augustine’s figurative writings to support the doctrine of transubstantiation. The following example is a case in point:

That bread, which you can see on the altar, sanctified by the word of God, is the body of Christ. That cup, or rather what the cup contains, sanctified by the word of God, is the blood of Christ. It was by means of these things that the Lord Christ wished to present us with his body and blood, which he shed for our sake for the forgiveness of sins. If you receive them well, you are yourselves what you receive. You see, the apostle says, We, being many, are one loaf, one body (1 Cor. 10.17). That's how he explained the sacrament of the Lord's Table; one loaf, one body, is what we all are, many though we be (Augustine, Sermons, 227).

Augustine believed that in a sense the elements are the body and blood of Jesus. “The bread…is the body of Christ…that cup…is the blood of Christ.” In what sense is he speaking? Is the substance of the bread changed into the body of Christ? Or is bread the body of Christ in a symbolic sense? We can readily discover the answer to this all important question.

First, looking at the context, it is clear that Augustine is using figurative language. Just as he asserts that the bread is the body of Christ, he is equally emphatic that Christians are one loaf, one body.Clearly, he means that the one Eucharistic loaf represents the unity among believers. Similarly, “by means of these things” - the bread and the cup - the Lord presents his people with his body and blood. The Eucharistic elements are the figure or sign of Christ, as Augustine asserts explicitly elsewhere in his writings:

The Lord did not hesitate to say: “This is My Body”, when He wanted to give a sign of His body” (Augustine, Against Adimant).

He [Christ] committed and delivered to His disciples the figure of His Body and Blood” (Augustine, on Psalm 3).

[The sacraments] bear the names of the realities which they resemble. As, therefore, in a certain manner the sacrament of Christ's body is Christ's body, and the sacrament of Christ's blood is Christ's blood” (Augustine, Letter 98, From Augustine to Boniface).

The Eucharist is the figure of the body and blood of Jesus. Since the bread and wine represent the body and blood of Christ, it is acceptable to call them His body and His blood. The bread resembles the body; therefore it is called the body even though it is not the reality it represents. That is perfectly normal in figurative language.

Augustine believed that the bread and cup were signs, which he defines in this manner: “a sign is a thing which, over and above the impression it makes on the senses, causes something else to come into the mind as a consequence of itself” (On Christian Doctrine, 2, 1). Therefore, when we see the bread, something else comes to mind, namely, the body of Christ. The mistake of the modern Catholic Church is to confuse the sign with the reality it represents.

Augustine rightly warns that "to take signs for the things that are signified by them, is a mark of weakness and bondage" (On Christian Doctrine 3,9). Augustine is here referring to the sacrament of baptism and the celebration of the body and blood of the Lord. Thus, to confuse the bread (the sign) for the body of Christ (the signified) is, according to Augustine a mark of weakness and bondage.

Copyright Dr Joseph Mizzi
www.justforcatholics.org
Used by permission

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Church Fathers On The Eucharistic Elements

Question: If God can become man, would it be so impossible that he could make himself present in bread and wine. His Church has believed it since the time of Christ. Why did somebody come along centuries later and try to tell people that He only meant it symbolically, and on what authority did they change what the Church has always believed?

Answer: From the Catholic point of view, it is incorrect to say that Christ is “present in bread and wine.” That’s more like the concept of consubstantiation (the substance of the body and blood of Jesus coexists with the substance of the bread and wine in the Eucharist) rather that the Catholic transubstantiation (the whole substance of the bread and wine is changed into the substance of the body and blood of Christ).

It is simply not true that the church “always believed” the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. Please study the following quotations; they prove that some Church Fathers considered the Eucharist as the figure, sign, symbol and likeness of the body and blood of Christ.

Then, having taken the bread and given it to His disciples, He made it His own body, by saying, “This is my body,” that is, the figure of my body. A figure, however, there could not have been, unless there were first a veritable body. (Tertullian, Against Marcion, 4.)

Bread and wine are offered, being the figure of the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. They who participate in this visible bread eat, spiritually, the flesh of the Lord. (Macarius, Homily xxvii.)

For He, we know, who spoke of his natural body as corn and bread, and, again, called Himself a vine, dignified the visible symbols by the appellation of the body and blood, not because He had changed their nature, but because to their nature He had added grace. (Theodoret, Diologue I, Eranistes and Orthodoxus.)

For even after the consecration the mystic symbols are not deprived of their own nature; they remain in their former substance figure and form; they are visible and tangible as they were before. (Theodoret, Dialogue II, Eranistes and Orthodoxus.)

For the Lord did not hesitate to say: “This is My Body”, when He wanted to give a sign of His body. (Augustine, Against Adimant.)

If the sentence is one of command, either forbidding a crime or vice, or enjoining an act of prudence or benevolence, it is not figurative. If, however, it seems to enjoin a crime or vice, or to forbid an act of prudence or benevolence, it is figurative. "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man," says Christ, "and drink His blood, ye have no life in you." This seems to enjoin a crime or a vice; it is therefore a figure, enjoining that we should have a share in the sufferings of our Lord, and that we should retain a sweet and profitable memory of the fact that His flesh was wounded and crucified for us. (Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, III.)

He admitted him to the Supper in which He committed and delivered to His disciples the figure of His Body and Blood. (Augustine, on Psalm 3.)

We have received a memorial of this offering which we celebrate on a table by means of symbols of His Body and saving Blood according to the laws of the new covenant. (Eusebius of Caesarea, Demonstratio Evangelica.)

To You we offer this bread, the likeness of the Body of the Only-begotten. This bread is the likeness of His holy Body because the Lord Jesus Christ, on the night on which He was betrayed, took bread and broke and gave to His disciples, saying, “Take and eat, this is My Body, which is broken for you, unto the remission of sins.” (Anaphora, quoted in Jurgens W, The Faith of the Early Fathers, II, p 132.)

Offer the acceptable Eucharist, the representation of the royal body of Christ. (Constitutions of the Holy Apostles.)

Certainly the sacraments of the Body and Blood of Christ that we receive are a divine reality, because of which and through which we are made sharers of the divine nature. Nevertheless the substance or nature of bread and wine does not cease to exist. And certainly the image and likeness of the Body and Blood of Christ are celebrated in the carrying out the Mysteries. (Pope Gelasius, de Duabus Naturis).

Thus some influential Church Fathers considered the bread and wine as sacred symbols of the body and blood of Jesus. Others did not. The view of other Fathers (Cyril, Gregory of Nyssa, Chrysostom, John of Damascus, etc) were similar to, and later developed into, the doctrine of transubstantiation. There wasn’t a unanimous understanding among the Fathers on the nature of the eucharistic elements.

It is tragic that the Supper which Christ instituted as a memorial for His people became the occasion for bitter controversy, persecution and schisms. The focus is all wrong. Our concern should not be the bread and wine as such, but what they signify, namely Christ, whose body was crucified for us and whose blood was shed for the forgiveness of sin.

Copyright Dr Joseph Mizzi
www.justforcatholics.org
Used by permission

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Powerful Historical Evidence Verifying The New Testament

"About the middle of the last century it was confidently asserted by a very influential school of thought that some of the most important books of the New Testament, including the Gospels and the Acts, did not exist before the thirties of the second century AD.16 This conclusion was the result not so much of historical evidence as of philosophical presuppositions. Even then there was sufficient evidence to show how unfounded these theories were, as Lightfoot, Tischendorf, Tregelles and others demonstrated in their writings; but the amount of such evidence available in our own day is so much greater and more conclusive that a first-century date for most of the New Testament writings cannot reasonably be denied, no matter what our philosophical presuppositions may be.

The evidence for our New Testament writings is ever so much greater than the evidence for many writings of classical authors, the authenticity of which no one dreams of questioning. And if the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt. It is a curious fact that historians have often been much readier to trust the New Testament records than have many theologians." Somehow or other, there are people who regard a `sacred book' as ipso facto under suspicion, and demand much more corroborative evidence for such a work than they would for an ordinary secular or pagan writing. From the viewpoint of the historian, the same standards must be applied to both. But we do not quarrel with those who want more evidence for the New Testament than for other writings; firstly, because the universal claims which the New Testament makes upon mankind are so absolute, and the character and works of its chief Figure so unparalleled, that we want to be as sure of its truth as we possibly can; and secondly, because in point of fact there is much more evidence for the New Testament than for other ancient writings of comparable date.

There are in existence over 5,000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament in whole or in part. The best and most important of these go back to somewhere about AD 350, the two most important being the Codex Vaticanus, the chief treasure of the Vatican Library in Rome, and the well-known Codex Sinaiticus, which the British Government purchased from the Soviet Government for £loo,ooo on Christmas Day, 1933, and which is now the chief treasure of the British Museum. Two other important early mss in this country are the Codex Alexandrinus, also in the British Museum, written in the fifth century, and the Codex Bezae, in Cambridge University Library, written in the fifth or sixth century, and containing the Gospels and Acts in both Greek and Latin. Perhaps we can appreciate how wealthy the New Testament is in manuscript attestation if we compare the textual material for other ancient historical works. For Caesar's Gallic War (composed between 58 and 50 Bc) there are several extant mss, but only nine or ten are good, and the oldest is some goo years later than Caesar's day. Of the 142 books of the Roman History of Livy (59 BC-AD 17) only thirty-five survive; these are known to us from not more than twenty mss of any consequence, only one of which, and that containing fragments of Books iii-vi, is as old as the fourth century. Of the fourteen books of the Histories of Tacitus (c. AD 100) only four and a half survive; of the sixteen books of his Annals, ten survive in full and two in part. The text of these extant portions of his two great historical works depends entirely on two mss, one of the ninth century and one of the eleventh. The extant mss of his minor works (Dialogus de Oratoribus, Agricola, Germania) all descend from a codex of the tenth century. The History of Thucydides (c. 460-400 BC) is known to us from eight Mss, the earliest belonging to c. AD 900, and a few papyrus scraps, belonging to about the beginning of the Christian era. The same is true of the History of Herodotus (c. 488-428 BC). Yet no classical scholar would listen to an argument that the authenticity of Herodotus or Thucydides is in doubt because the earliest mss of their works which are of any use to us are over 1,300 years later than the originals.

But how different is the situation of the New Testament in this respect! In addition to the two excellent mss of the fourth century mentioned above, which are the earliest of some thousands known to us, considerable fragments remain of papyrus copies of books of the New Testament dated from ioo to 200 years earlier still. The Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri, the existence of which was made public in 1931, consist of portions of eleven papyrus codices, three of which contained most of the New Testament writings. One of these, containing the four Gospels with Acts, belongs to the first half of the third century; another, containing Paul's letters to churches and the Epistle to the Hebrews, was copied at the beginning of the third century; the third, containing Revelation, belongs to the second half of the same century. A more recent discovery consists of some papyrus fragments dated by papyrological experts not later than AD 150, published in Fragments of an Unknown Gospel and other Early Christian Papyri, by H. I. Bell and T. C. Skeat (1935). These fragments contain what has been thought by some to be portions of a fifth Gospel having strong affinities with the canonical four; but much more probable is the view expressed in The Times Literary Supplement for 25 April 1935, `that these fragments were written by someone who had the four Gospels before him and knew them well; that they did not profess to be an independent Gospel; but were paraphrases of the stories and other matter in the Gospels designed for explanation and instruction, a manual to teach people the Gospel stories'.

Earlier still is a fragment of a papyrus codex containing John 18:31-33, 37-38, now in the John Rylands Library, Manchester, dated on palaeographical grounds around AD 130, showing that the latest of the four Gospels, which was written, according to tradition, at Ephesus between AD 90 and loo, was circulating in Egypt within about forty years of its composition (if, as is most likely, this papyrus originated in Egypt, where it was acquired in 1917). It must be regarded as being, by half a century, the earliest extant fragment of the New Testament.

A more recently discovered papyrus manuscript of the same Gospel, while not so early as the Rylands papyrus, is incomparably better preserved; this is the Papyrus Bodmer II, whose discovery was announced by the Bodmer Library of Geneva in 1956; it was written about AD 200, and contains the first fourteen chapters of the Gospel of John with but one lacuna (of twenty-two verses), and considerable portions of the last seven chapters.19 Attestation of another kind is provided by allusions to and quotations from the New Testament books in other early writings. The authors known as the Apostolic Fathers wrote chiefly between AD 9o and 16o, and in their works we find evidence for their acquaintance with most of the books of the New Testament. In three works whose date is probably round about AD 100 - the `Epistle of Barnabas, written perhaps in Alexandria; the Didache, or `Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, produced somewhere in Syria or Palestine; and the letter sent to the Corinthian church by Clement, bishop of Rome, about AD 96 - we find fairly certain quotations from the common tradition of the Synoptic Gospels, from Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Titus, Hebrews,l Peter, and possible quotations from other books of the New Testament. In the letters written by Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, as he journeyed to his martyrdom in Rome in AD 115, there are reasonably identifiable quotations from Matthew, John, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and possible allusions to mark, Luke, Acts, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, Philemon, Hebrews, and 1 Peter. His younger contemporary, Polycarp, in a letter to the Philippians (c. 120) quotes from the common tradition of the Synoptic Gospels, from Acts, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Hebrews, i Peter, and i John. And so we might go on through the writers of the second century, amassing increasing evidence of their familiarity with and recognition of the authority of the New Testament writings. So far as the Apostolic Fathers are concerned, the evidence is collected and weighed in a work called The New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers, recording the findings of a committee of the Oxford Society of Historical Theology in 1905.

Nor is it only in orthodox Christian writers that we find evidence of this sort. It is evident from the recently discovered writings of the Gnostic school of Valentinus that before the middle of the second century most of the New Testament books were as well known and as fully venerated in that heretical circle as they were in the Catholic Church.20 The study of the kind of attestation found in mss and quotations in later writers is connected with the approach known as Textual Criticism.21 This is a most important and fascinating branch of study, its object being to determine as exactly as possible from the available evidence the original words of the documents in question. It is easily proved by experiment that it is difficult to copy out a passage of any considerable length without making one or two slips at least. When we have documents like our New Testament writings copied and recopied thousands of times, the scope for copyists' errors is so enormously increased that it is surprising there are no more than there actually are. Fortunately, if the great number of MSS increases the number of scribal errors, it increases proportionately the means of correcting such errors, so that the margin of doubt left in the process of recovering the exact original wording is not so large as might be feared; it is in truth remarkably small. The variant readings about which any doubt remains among textual critics of the New Testament affect no material question of historic fact or of Christian faith and practice.

To sum up, we may quote the verdict of the late Sir Frederic Kenyon, a scholar whose authority to make pronouncements on ancient mss was second to none:

The interval then between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established."

F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?

Friday, February 9, 2018

The Benefits Of The Cross

From a sixteenth-century book about justification, titled The Benefit of Christ's Death:

"let us run unto [Christ] with the feet of lively faith, and cast ourselves between his arms, [since] he allureth us so graciously, crying: "Come unto me, all you that labour and are heavy laden; and I will refresh you;" what comfort or what joy in this life can be comparable to this his saying there, when as a man, feeling himself oppressed with the intolerable weight of his sins, understandeth so sweet and amiable words of the Son of God, who promiseth so graciously to refresh and rid him of his great pains?...

O great unkindness! O thing abominable! that we, which profess ourselves Christians, and hear that the Son of God hath taken all our sins upon him, and washed them out with his precious blood, suffering himself to be fastened to the cross for our sakes, should nevertheless make as though we would justify ourselves, and purchase forgiveness of our sins by our own works; as who would say, that the deserts, righteousness, and bloodshed of Jesus Christ were not enough to do it, unless we came to put to our works and righteousness; which are altogether defiled and spotted with self-love, self-liking, self-profit, and a thousand other vanities, for which we have need to crave pardon at God's hand, rather than reward….

Now, if the seeking of righteousness and forgiveness of sins, by the keeping of the law which God gave upon mount Sinai, with so great glory and majesty, be the denying of Christ and of his grace [Galatians 5:4], what shall we say to those that will needs justify themselves before God by their own laws and observances? I would wish that such folks should a little compare the one with the other, and afterward give judgment themselves. God mindeth not to do that honour, not to give that glory to his own law; and yet they will have him to give it to men's laws and ordinances. But that honour is given only to his only-begotten Son, who alone, by the sacrifice of his death and passion, hath made full amends for all our sins, past, present, and to come…

let us give the whole glory of our justification unto God's mercy and to the merits of his Son; who by his own bloodshed hath set us free from the sovereignty of the law, and from the tyranny of sin and death, and hath brought us into the kingdom of God, to give us life and endless felicity….

for the love of his only begotten Son, [the Father] beholdeth [Christians] always with a gentle countenance, governing and defending them as his most dear children, and in the end giving them the heritage of the world, making them like-fashioned to the glorious image of Christ….

O happy is that man that shutteth his eyes from all other sights, and will neither hear nor see any other thing than Jesus Christ crucified; in whom are laid up and bestowed all the treasures of God's wisdom and divine knowledge!" (15-16, 21-23, 26, 69, 93)

Thursday, February 8, 2018

A Critical Analysis Of The King James Only Movement

        Members of the King James Only Movement believe that the King James Version of the Bible is superior to every other translation that we posses. A number of these loosely associated, autonomous sects maintain that it is the only reliable translation because it is believed that the King James translators were inspired by God in the same sense as were the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts (with some going as far as to say that a person cannot be saved apart from reading the King James Version). Others use it because it is based on the Textus Receptus. For some, it is simply the preferred translation for reading. Moreover, this ideological framework has resulted in many bitter, unnecessary contentions throughout the body of Christ, which is the church. It has been the cause of unwarranted concerns behind the scholastic verdicts upon which modern Bible translation renderings are established. This essay aims to highlight the major issues existing with embracing a King James only mindset.

        The first and foremost objection that should be raised against belief in the King James Version being inerrant is that it has no scriptural support. Jesus Christ, the apostles, prophets, and their closest associates never cited from this translation. Never does Scripture teach that God would someday perfectly preserve His Word in a non-Hebrew or Greek language in the form of a seventeenth-century English translation by authorization of King James. In fact, the English language did not even exist during the time that both the Old and New Testaments were written. It thus follows that the King James only position is merely an extra-biblical doctrine. It is not of divine origin. It is strictly a man-made tradition and has no place being a standard of orthodoxy. How is it not self-contradictory for one to profess belief in the self-sufficiency of Scripture while upholding an extra biblical doctrine?

        The logic employed by members of the King James Version only camp is faulty, as well as it is irrational. Even if we could conclusively demonstrate that one modern Bible translation is doctrinally corrupt, that would still not build a case for King James onlyism because that does not prove the King James translation to be of divine origin. Accomplishing such a research project on one translation does not prove all to be poorer than the King James. What is even more, is the vicious circularity that exists in the argumentation articulated by people who promote the view that the King James Version is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. It is merely assumed that the King James Version is inspired by God. It is merely assumed that the King James Version is the standard by which other translations be judged. Why should we use it in that manner? Why not do the same to the King James Version with older English translations such as the Coverdale Bible, Tyndale's Bible, Bishop's Bible, Geneva Bible, and the Great Bible? The point is that all translations should be evaluated in accordance to the best available manuscript data. King James onlyism is impossible to verify, since we do not have access to the original manuscripts. There exists no perfect set of manuscripts to develop a perfect translation of the Bible. Why is there not a King James Spanish, German, or Chinese Bible? Where was the Word of God prior to the publication of the King James Version?

        What needs to be understood is that errors in the process of translation will inevitably occur because we are imperfect beings by design. This includes both the scribes who translated Scripture and our up to date technology. No two sets of ancient manuscript are identical in every jot (the three primary manuscript families are the Byzantine, Alexandrian, and Western), which accounts for the differences in Bible translations. There are literally thousands of manuscripts and papyri fragments lending incredible support to the overall veracity of the New Testament canon. Although copies contain minor spelling errors, grammatical errors, and textual variations, none of those are problematic for the Christian church because they do not change the historical data recorded in Scripture or endanger any article of the Christian faith. Scholars can correct most of the textual variants simply by comparing them to other renderings. The New Testament alone is almost one hundred percent textually pure. It has much wider and earlier source attestation than any other document of antiquity. Unlike the translators of the King James Version, modern translators of the New Testament have knowledge of Koine Greek. It cannot be denied that we now have access to much older and better manuscripts. This is the underlying basis for us being able to trust the Bible translations available to us today. There are literal, dynamic, and dynamic equivalence translation, all of which can prove beneficial to those who study Scripture with an open heart.

        The King James Only Movement severely endangers the integrity of New Testament. It is outrightly slanderous against conservative Christian scholars who love God with all their hearts and minds. This movement which was originally dedicated to the noble cause of maintaining the purity of the gospel has actually proved injurious to the Cause of Christ. It has resulted in much bitter contentions throughout Christendom. The King James Only Movement has made Christians become skeptical of their faith, as well as puffed-up against each other. The King James Only Movement has given certain Christians a false sense of security that they are greater than other believers in the eyes of God. It has assisted greatly in the spread of the, "We are the only ones who have the truth, whereas all who disagree are utterly lost," mindset. This also reveals to us that the King James Only Movement is in a sense rooted in Gnosticism: people who reject this position have simply not been "enlightened" as to the "secret truths" regarding tainted manuscripts and conspiracy theories.

        One would have to be severely misguided in order to believe that the King James Version is error free. The 1611 King James Version originally contained the Roman Catholic deuterocanonicals, along with marginal notes making reference to them. Ironically, King James Version only advocates absolutely refuse to accept these books as inspired. What is even more, is that the King James Version has been modified ten times since its original publication. Which one is correct? Take into consideration a handful of illustrations of the King James Version containing textual ambiguities. It calls the Holy Spirit "it" rather than "He" (Romans 8:28). It makes God sound as though He needs to "repent" (Exodus 32:14). John the Baptist's name is not "John Baptist" (Matthew 14:8). What about "unicorns" (Psalm 22:21)? Would that not cause an unwary reader to start doubting the validity of the Judeo-Christian worldview? Would not the reference to "gay clothing" (James 2:3) confuse the average modern reader? Can God be "limited" (Psalm 78:40-41)? The King James only view is just as unfounded as the Roman Catholic Latin Vulgate only view, as both use similar tactics in order to reach their conclusions. The idea of there being a perfectly preserved translation of the Bible is just as mythical as there being an infallible teaching authority called the Magisterium (both rest on the assumption that one must have infallible certainty to know anything).

        In conclusion, the King James Version of the Bible should be viewed as an excellent translation, but nothing more. It truly is a great contribution to modern biblical scholarship and has unparalleled literary quality in English. However, only the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts were breathed out by God. Every set of manuscripts has a number of imperfections. There is no reason to remain in the King James Only Movement, considering the overwhelming evidence that can be pitted against such a point of view. The people who are dogmatic on this issue ought to feel ashamed of themselves and repent before God. All faithful Bible translations can be considered the Word of God. The issue of Bible translation preference is something that Christians can and do disagree on. The best translation for a person is the one that he or she chooses to read. Those who cast judgement on fellow Christians for not reading only the King James Version should be more focused on serving the God of the Word, rather than debating over the Word of God. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Biblical Archaeology: Factual Evidence To Support The Historicity Of The Bible

Archaeological finds that contradict the contentions of biblical minimalists and other revisionists have been listed above. There are many more, however, that corroborate biblical evidence, and the following list provides only the most significant discoveries:

A Common Flood Story. Not just the Hebrews (Gen. 6–8), but Mesopotamians, Egyptians, and Greeks all report a flood in primordial times. A Sumerian king list from c. 2100 BC divides itself into two categories: those kings who ruled before a great flood and those who ruled after it. One of the earliest examples of Sumero-Akkadian-Babylonian literature, the Gilgamesh Epic, describes a great flood sent as punishment by the gods, with humanity saved only when the pious Utnapishtim (AKA, “the Mesopotamian Noah”) builds a ship and saves the animal world thereon. A later Greek counterpart, the story of Deucalion and Phyrra, tells of a couple who survived a great flood sent by an angry Zeus. Taking refuge atop Mount Parnassus (AKA, “the Greek Ararat”), they supposedly repopulated the earth by heaving stones behind them that sprang into human beings.

The Code of Hammurabi. This seven-foot black diorite stele, discovered at Susa and presently located in the Louvre museum, contains 282 engraved laws of Babylonian King Hammurabi (fl. 1750 BC). The common basis for this law code is the lex talionis (“the law of the tooth”), showing that there was a common Semitic law of retribution in the ancient Near East, which is clearly reflected in the Pentateuch. Exodus 21:23–25, for example, reads: “But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot…” (niv).

The Nuzi Tablets. The some 20,000 cuneiform clay tablets discovered at the ruins of Nuzi, east of the Tigris River and datable to c. 1500 BC, reveal institutions, practices, and customs remarkably congruent to those found in Genesis. These tablets include treaties, marriage arrangements, rules regarding inheritance, adoption, and the like.

The Existence of Hittites. Genesis 23 reports that Abraham buried Sarah in the Cave of Machpelah, which he purchased from Ephron the Hittite. Second Samuel 11 tells of David’s adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite. A century ago the Hittites were unknown outside of the Old Testament, and critics claimed that they were a figment of biblical imagination. In 1906, however, archaeologists digging east of Ankara, Turkey, discovered the ruins of Hattusas, the ancient Hittite capital at what is today called Boghazkoy, as well as its vast collection of Hittite historical records, which showed an empire flourishing in the mid-second millennium BC. This critical challenge, among many others, was immediately proved worthless — a pattern that would often be repeated in the decades to come.

The Merneptah Stele. A seven-foot slab engraved with hieroglyphics, also called the Israel Stele, boasts of the Egyptian pharaoh’s conquest of Libyans and peoples in Palestine, including the Israelites: “Israel — his seed is not.” This is the earliest reference to Israel in nonbiblical sources and demonstrates that, as of c. 1230 BC, the Hebrews were already living in the Promised Land.

Biblical Cities Attested Archaeologically. In addition to Jericho, places such as Haran, Hazor, Dan, Megiddo, Shechem, Samaria, Shiloh, Gezer, Gibeah, Beth Shemesh, Beth Shean, Beersheba, Lachish, and many other urban sites have been excavated, quite apart from such larger and obvious locations as Jerusalem or Babylon. Such geographical markers are extremely significant in demonstrating that fact, not fantasy, is intended in the Old Testament historical narratives; otherwise, the specificity regarding these urban sites would have been replaced by “Once upon a time” narratives with only hazy geographical parameters, if any.

Israel’s enemies in the Hebrew Bible likewise are not contrived but solidly historical. Among the most dangerous of these were the Philistines, the people after whom Palestine itself would be named. Their earliest depiction is on the Temple of Rameses III at Thebes, c. 1150 BC, as “peoples of the sea” who invaded the Delta area and later the coastal plain of Canaan. The Pentapolis (five cities) they established — namely Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gaza, Gath, and Ekron — have all been excavated, at least in part, and some remain cities to this day. Such precise urban evidence measures favorably when compared with the geographical sites claimed in the holy books of other religious systems, which often have no basis whatever in reality.10

Shishak’s Invasion of Judah. First Kings 14 and 2 Chronicles 12 tell of Pharaoh Shishak’s conquest of Judah in the fifth year of the reign of King Rehoboam, the brainless son of Solomon, and how Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem was robbed of its treasures on that occasion. This victory is also commemorated in hieroglyphic wall carvings on the Temple of Amon at Thebes.

The Moabite Stone. Second Kings 3 reports that Mesha, the king of Moab, rebelled against the king of Israel following the death of Ahab. A three-foot stone slab, also called the Mesha Stele, confirms the revolt by claiming triumph over Ahab’s family, c. 850 BC, and that Israel had “perished forever.”

Obelisk of Shalmaneser III. In 2 Kings 9–10, Jehu is mentioned as King of Israel (841–814 BC). That the growing power of Assyria was already encroaching on the northern kings prior to their ultimate conquest in 722 BC is demonstrated by a six-and-a-half-foot black obelisk discovered in the ruins of the palace at Nimrud in 1846. On it, Jehu is shown kneeling before Shalmaneser III and offering tribute to the Assyrian king, the only relief we have to date of a Hebrew monarch.

Burial Plaque of King Uzziah. Down in Judah, King Uzziah ruled from 792 to 740 BC, a contemporary of Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah. Like Solomon, he began well and ended badly. In 2 Chronicles 26 his sin is recorded, which resulted in his being struck with leprosy later in life. When Uzziah died, he was interred in a “field of burial that belonged to the kings.” His stone burial plaque has been discovered on the Mount of Olives, and it reads: “Here, the bones of Uzziah, King of Judah, were brought. Do not open.”

Hezekiah’s Siloam Tunnel Inscription. King Hezekiah of Judah ruled from 721 to 686 BC. Fearing a siege by the Assyrian king, Sennacherib, Hezekiah preserved Jerusalem’s water supply by cutting a tunnel through 1,750 feet of solid rock from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam inside the city walls (2 Kings 20; 2 Chron. 32). At the Siloam end of the tunnel, an inscription, presently in the archaeological museum at Istanbul, Turkey, celebrates this remarkable accomplishment. The tunnel is probably the only biblical site that has not changed its appearance in 2,700 years.

The Sennacherib Prism. After having conquered the 10 northern tribes of Israel, the Assyrians moved southward to do the same to Judah (2 Kings 18–19). The prophet Isaiah, however, told Hezekiah that God would protect Judah and Jerusalem against Sennacherib (2 Chron. 32; Isa. 36–37). Assyrian records virtually confirm this. The cuneiform on a hexagonal, 15-inch baked clay prism found at the Assyrian capital of Nineveh describes Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah in 701 BC in which it claims that the Assyrian king shut Hezekiah inside Jerusalem “like a caged bird.” Like the biblical record, however, it does not state that he conquered Jerusalem, which the prism certainly would have done had this been the case. The Assyrians, in fact, bypassed Jerusalem on their way to Egypt, and the city would not fall until the time of Nebuchadnezzar and the Neo-Babylonians in 586 BC. Sennacherib himself returned to Nineveh where his own sons murdered him.

The Cylinder of Cyrus the Great. Second Chronicles 36:23 and Ezra 1 report that Cyrus the Great of Persia, after conquering Babylon, permitted Jews in the Babylonian Captivity to return to their homeland. Isaiah had even prophesied this (Isa. 44:28). This tolerant policy of the founder of the Persian Empire is borne out by the discovery of a nine-inch clay cylinder found at Babylon from the time of its conquest, 539 BC, which reports Cyrus’s victory and his subsequent policy of permitting Babylonian captives to return to their homes and even rebuild their temples.

So it goes. This list of correlations between Old Testament texts and the hard evidence of Near Eastern archaeology could easily be tripled in length. When it comes to the intertestamental and New Testament eras, as we might expect, the needle on the gauge of positive correlations simply goes off the scale.

To use terms such as “false testament” for the Hebrew Bible and to vaporize its earlier personalities into nonexistence accordingly has no justification whatever in terms of the mass of geographical, archaeological, and historical evidence that correlates so admirably with Scripture.

LET’S REVISE THE REVISIONISM

In view of the overwhelming evidence, to banner an article in Harper’s as “False Testament” when referring to the Hebrew Bible is clearly an outrage. A cartoon in that article, showing the Bible being eaten away with vast corridors cut through its text, is an appropriately false caricature that goes with the rest of the article.

This, however, is quite typical of the way biblical matters are reported in today’s news media. An extraordinary archaeological discovery that confirms the biblical record barely receives any notice in the press, as witness the bones of the first biblical personality ever discovered in November, 1990. Generally, only one in a hundred know that the remains of Joseph Caiaphas, the high priest who indicted Jesus before Pontius Pilate on Good Friday, were found at that time in an ossuary in the Peace Forest of Jerusalem south of the Temple area. Let sensation-seeking writers claim, however, that the patriarchs were mythical, that David was a petty hilltop chieftain if he existed at all, that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, or that God predicted the assassination of Israeli premier Itzhaak Rabin through some arcane Bible code (yet did nothing about it), and the press covers it sympathetically and in full. In no way is this fair, ethical, or even logical.

Nor is the press alone in this deception. Radical revisionist biblical scholars and pseudoscholars, like members of the notorious Jesus Seminar, are well aware of this sad sensationalizing formula for success and exploit it regularly. This may, admittedly, be impugning the motives of some in that category who are driven instead by a desire merely to be “politically correct” when it comes to biblical scholarship; that is, to be ultracritical of anything biblical. In this connection, sadly, secular historians of the ancient world often have a much higher opinion of the reliability of biblical sources than some biblical scholars themselves!

Lest this critique be written off as the meaningless chatter of some conservative curmudgeon, however, I must point out that, in fact, it represents the majority view in biblical scholarship today. University of Arizona archaeologist William Dever, for example, is well known for his objection to the term “biblical archaeology,” since it seems to convey a probiblical bias; yet he assails some of the unwarranted conclusions of biblical minimalists in a strongly worded article in BAR: “Save Us from Postmodern Malarkey.”11 He does not have kind words for the minimalists in his book, What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It? either. “I suggest,” he writes, “that the revisionists are nihilist not only in the historical sense but also in the philosophical and moral sense.”12

BAR, which provides the literary arena for the traditionalist vs. minimalist battles and tries to keep a neutral stance in the process, similarly found the Harper’s article to be “only one side of a very hot debate in the field. Nowhere does [the author] try to evaluate the merits of the other side’s case. In fact he gives no indication that he’s even aware there is another side.”13

Let the debate continue, but let all the evidence be admitted. Ever since scientific archaeology started a century and a half ago, the consistent pattern has been this: the hard evidence from the ground has borne out the biblical record again and again — and again. The Bible has nothing to fear from the spade.

notes

1. Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts (New York: The Free Press, 2001).

2. Daniel Lazare, “False Testament: Archaeology Refutes the Bible’s Claim to History,” Harper’s, March 2002, 39–47.

3. Ibid., 40.

4. See Kenneth Kitchen, “The Patriarchal Age: Myth or History?” Biblical Archaeology Review(hereafter BAR), March/April 1995, 48ff.

5. A considerable, and growing, body of literature exists on the Hebrews in Egypt, the role of Joseph, the pharaoh who befriended him, the Hyksos, the pharaoh of the Oppression, the pharaoh of the Exodus, and the Exodus itself. See recent issues of Bible and Spade, especially no. 16 (Winter 2003). Joseph P. Free and Howard F. Vos, Archaeology and Bible History (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992), 69–105 is also helpful, as is Alfred J. Hoerth, Archaeology and the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1999).

6. Kathleen M. Kenyon, Digging up Jericho (London: Ernest Benn, 1957); Excavations at Jericho, vol. 3 (London: British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem, 1981).

7. Bryant G. Wood, “Did the Israelites Conquer Jericho?” BAR, March/April 1990, 44–58.

8. Lazare, 45–46.

9. Hershel Shanks, “Biran at Ninety,” BAR, September/October 1999, 44.

10. For example, in The Book of Mormon, proper names of places and people have no substantiation from outside sources.

11. William A. Dever, “Save Us from Postmodern Malarkey,” BAR, March/April 2000, 28.

12. William A. Dever, cited in Gordon Govier, “Biblical Archaeology’s Dusty Little Secret,” Christianity Today, October 2003, 38.

13. Steven Feldman, “Is the Bible a Bunch of Historical Hooey?” BAR, May/June 2002, 6.

Paul L. Maier, Copyright 2009 by the Christian Research Institute