Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Irony of Liberals Endorsing Islam

                                                 By Sean Dolan

         People on the Left seem to promote Islam as a religion of peace, despite there being so much powerful evidence verifying that terrorist attacks have been executed by Muslim fundamentalists. Consider the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Never forget the notorious example of 9/11. The examples are countless. The liberals claim that these extremists are not true Muslims, or that the violence is due to colonialism, but when we look honestly at the history of Islam and its teachings as documented in the Koran, we can see that this is simply untrue. The left also takes positions against Israel which, if Palestinians were to successfully invade the area, would corrupt it, hurt the freedom of the people in that nation, and provoke God to anger (Genesis 12:3). 

         Throughout its history the religion of Islam has been violent, from its very founder, Muhammad. This so-called prophet went from Medina and Mecca, and attacked the cities. After this, Islam raged in a series of conquests across Northern Africa into Europe and across the Middle East. They would have horrible taxes on non-Muslims, such as the taking of their children, and horrible executions in years to come.

         Now, critics may point to events such as the crusades with the intention of demonstrating that Christianity is violent. Yes, Christians have committed immoral actions, but this does not prove that the gospel itself is abusive. To see this, one should look at the teachings of both religious founders. In contrast to Islam, Jesus Christ was a loving and peaceful man. He taught to “turn the other cheek”, “love thy neighbor as thyself”, “love thy enemies”, and “pray for those who persecute you”. He literally died on a cross to atone for the sins of the world, rather than engage in rebellious fighting. Muhammad, on the other hand, led conquests against other people killing them in the name of Allah. He was focused on global conquest. He was also a disgusting man with many wives, with some being younger than twelve. The founders represent the religions and if we go back to them, Christianity is peaceful and Islam is aggressively wicked. 

        Christianity started out as a persecuted religion by the Roman Empire and underwent this for three hundred years until the Edict of Milan in 313 A.D. issued by Constantine. In the first three hundred years of Islam, however, the Muslims had already brought an empire of conquest spanning from Spain to Pakistan. In 636 A.D., they went into Palestine the Battle of Yarmk with tens of thousands of soldiers (and Muslims are mad at the Jews for taking Israel) and the next year worked on taking Jerusalem for more than four months. In Africa they would slaughter Christians who gave them a hard time in war. The Crusades were not completely unjustified, considering that the Muslim invasion of so much territory. Islam would continue its violence throughout the century. One just has to look at history. Thomas Jefferson already had problems with Islam before any American imperialism. Muslim pirates (who would kidnap people to make slaves or do other things with) would force American ships to pay taxes or would threaten war. One also could wonder why so many Muslim majority countries have such evil, intolerant laws that can punish sins with death and restrict the spreading of other religions. Muslims are one of the greatest enemies of homosexuals, which the Left loves to praise. Almost all the Middle Eastern countries have laws criminalizing homosexuality, and many having the death penalty. Ironically for the Left, Israel is one of the few that doesn’t have laws against it. While not all Muslims are terrorists, most terrorists are Muslims. The immigration of Muslims to Europe has lead to more violence and religious persecution of minority groups. Just look at what is happening in countries such as Germany, France, and Sweden. Muslims are gang-raping young girls, burning churches, and anti-semitism is once again on the rise in Germany. 

         It appears that liberals wish to maintain a false sense of diversity, and are working for the destruction of society as a whole. Their impossible dreams have also lead them to uphold human rights destroyers like the socialist Che Guevara. The left seems to align itself with the enemies of God in their pursuit of an impossible utopia of secular worldliness, deprived of objective morals and values, leading them to “accept” anyone--homosexuals, transgenders, planned parenthood, Islam, and many others, while denying all the problems that they bring. We need to place a much greater emphasis on the human heart, rather than on social conditions. The general points of the Democratic Party oppose God and the Bible. In all the Islamic dominated countries of the world, diversity of any kind is strictly forbidden under penalty of death.

If We Want To Repair Our Governments, Then Start With Families

"Not even the best of governments can compensate for a broken society with broken families, and a broken society with broken families will produce the government it deserves, which will not be the best of governments."

Os Guinness, Impossible People, pg.187

On The Study Of Good Moral Conduct

"In matters of human prudence, we shall find the greatest advantage by making wise observations on our own conduct, and the conduct of others, and a survey of the events attending such conduct. Experience in this case is equal to a natural sagacity, or rather superior. A treasure of observations and experiences, collected by wise men, is of admirable service here. And perhaps there is nothing in the world of this kind equal to the sacred book of Proverbs, even it we look on it as a mere human writing."

Isaac Watts, Logic: The Right Use of Reason in the Inquiry After Truth, pg.236-237

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Did Jesus Christ Literally Descend Into Hell?

  • Discussion:
          -Apparently, there is a number of professing Christians who subscribe to the viewpoint that the soul of our Lord Jesus Christ suffered for three days in the flames of hell after His death by crucifixion. On the contrary, we should take into consideration the words that He spoke to the repentant thief on the cross:

          "Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last." (Luke 23:43-46)

          So, it is abundantly clear from Scripture that Christ did not descend into hell. He entered into the Father's presence during the three days that His physical body was buried in the tomb.

          Furthermore, the notion that Jesus Christ needed to be punished in hell to somehow complete His atonement sacrifice is logically absurd. He already made full atonement for our sins when He was crucified on the cross. He Himself testified plainly to this when He said of His work, "It is finished" (John 19:30). His suffering ended when He died. The work of Christ was completed during the time of His crucifixion.

           His soul, like all who believed on His name, entered into Abraham's bosom, the temporary abode for all who have been declared righteous in God's sight. He entered the blessed side of Sheol/Hades (terms are used synonymously). Christ was there for three days, until the moment of His bodily resurrection from the grave and glorified ascension.

Patristic Evidence For Sola Scriptura

  • Following Is A Quote From At. Anthony The Great, As Recounted By Athanasius:
          -"One day when he had gone forth because all the monks had assembled to him and asked to hear words from him, he spoke to them in the Egyptian tongue as follows: ‘The Scriptures are enough for instruction, but it is a good thing to encourage one another in the faith, and to stir up with words." (NPNF2: Vol. IV, Life of Anthony, §16)

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Gospel Is The Foundation Of Christianity

“It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the Church is scattered throughout all the world, and the pillar and ground of the Church is the Gospel and the spirit of life; it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3:11:8)

Monday, March 26, 2018

Society Is Engrossed In Moral Perversion

"Centuries from now, people who do not suffer our current psychoses will read about professors  who gave their students credit for dressing in drag (Muhlenberg College), or who advised students that arguments against sexual perversion would not be admissible in class (Marquette University), or who elevated the trivialities of mass entertainment to the states of great art (everywhere), and shake their heads with dismay, using them as examples of how people can study themselves into a degree of stupidity for which Nature alone would never suffice. We do not produce many great comedians in the present. We produce a lot of material for comedians in the future."

Anthony Esolen, Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture, pg.83

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Separation Of Church And State?

  • The First Amendment Of The Bill Of Rights Quoted In Its Entirety:
          -"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
               Well, the very first section of this amendment is the subject being addressed in this article, namely the fact that the secular world has intentionally misused it to suppress our religious freedom. It appears that the vast majority of Americans have been deceived into believing that this clause prohibiting the state from enforcing a particular religion on the people and the free exercise of religious profession somehow means that religion should have no influence in the political sphere of society. The term coined for this notion of religion being excluded from governmental affairs is known as the "separation of church and state", which had actually originated from the U.S. Founding Father Thomas Jefferson in a private letter to a Baptist congregation located in Connecticut for the express purpose of soothing fears revolving around the possibility of the federal establishment of what would essentially be a religious dictatorship. Thus, this boundary exists to defend, not hinder, the freedom to act in accordance to deeply held religious convictions. It was meant to prevent the government from interfering with religious freedom, not to provide government aid in suppressing it. But this metaphorical reference to a "wall" has been misinterpreted by Everson v. Board of Education, resulting in the formation of a dangerous mindset among people in modern times. It has been taken completely out of its respective historical context.

                The phrase "separation of church and state" has been reinterpreted in such a manner that was never even imagined by the earliest predecessors of American governmental offices. Ironically, neither the word nor the concept (as defined by atheists) appears in the Bill of Rights and Constitution. All that the first sentence to the First Amendment is saying is that the government neither has the authority to enforce a particular religion on the general populace nor that state can prohibit religious freedom. The First Amendment exists to protect religious expression. It is there to uphold freedom of religion. It is there to promote the diversity of belief systems, not suppress them. The meaning of the First Amendment has been redefined by secularists to fit a meaning directly contrary to its original intent. It does not exist to separate God from the American government. The First Amendment exists to keep government out of religious business. Our nation's forefathers believed both the church and state to be held accountable to God, and, in fact, to be led under His authority. It is because of the lofty moral principles taught in Christianity that America has ever been a prosperous and blessed nation. America was founded on Christian principles. No religion is to function as the state religion. A person can practice any religion that he or she desires, insofar that it does not infringe on the rights and security of others. That is the authentic meaning of the First Amendment. Politics should operate on moral principles. It would be impossible to create an absolute gap between religion and politics because people make decisions based on their worldviews. (Most of the following quotes were originally taken from this article.)
              -"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
                -"In fact, not one of the ninety Founding Fathers stated, argued for or against, or even referred to such a phrase when they debated for months about the specific words to use when writing the First Amendment. Congressional Records from June 7 to September 25, 1789 reveal that none of these men, including Thomas Jefferson, ever used the phrase, "separation of church and state."
      • Consider The Words Of Chief Justice William Rehnquist Of The U.S. Supreme Court:
                -"The ‘wall of separation between church and state’ is a metaphor based on bad history, a metaphor which has proved useless as a guide to judging. It should be frankly and explicitly abandoned.”
      • Consider The Words Of Late Chief Justice Antonin Scalia During A Speech At Colorado Christian University:
                -“I think the main fight is to dissuade Americans from what the secularists are trying to persuade them to be true: that the separation of church and state means that the government cannot favor religion over non-religion…That’s a possible way to run a political system. The Europeans run it that way… And if the American people want to do it, I suppose they can enact that by statute. But to say that’s what the Constitution requires is utterly absurd.”
                -"A church had been meeting in the United States Capitol for more than five years before Congress officially occupied the Capitol. The first session of both houses of Congress at the Capitol began on November 17, 1800."
      • Consider The Confession Made By Professor Samuel Walker On The Issue Of Emerson v. Board of Education:
                -“In the 1947 Everson decision, the Supreme Court gave new meaning to the establishment clause of the First Amendment.”
      • Consider These Words From Attorney General Jefferson Sessions:
                -"Separation of church and state is unconstitutional."
      • Consider The Words Of The Northwest Ordinance Of 1787 In Article III:
                -"Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged."
                -“Courts have removed prayer from school, creches [nativity scenes] from the lawns of city halls, and crosses from public parks. Separationists have managed to get personal Bibles off of teachers’ desks, the Ten Commandments out of school rooms, and references to God eliminated from students’ graduation speeches. This is their Achilles’ heel: Things can only be removed that were already there to begin with. How did they get there? They were allowed by citizens, legislatures, and courts who saw no harm in them, no intolerance, no danger, and no breech of any Constitutional principle for almost 175 years.”

      Friday, March 23, 2018

      The Roman Catholic Church On The Second Commandment

      • Introduction:
                -The Roman Catholic and Protestant churches have divided the numbering in the Ten Commandments differently. While the non-Catholic churches have traditionally listed the second commandment as being a prohibition against worshiping carved images, the Church of Rome has omitted this reference and split the last commandment which condemns coveting into two separate, specific prohibitions against lusting after other people's spouses and material possessions. In short, both sides of the debate uphold different renderings of the same Ten Commandments that were originally given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. This is highly suspect, considering that Roman Catholics do indeed rely heavily upon religious iconography in their worship. Due to the fact that the ancient Israelites constantly struggled with idolatry, one would think it wise to leave a clear condemnation of worshiping objects in the listing of the Ten Commandments.
      • The Iconoclastic Controversy:
                -"In the early church, the making and veneration of portraits of Christ and the saints were consistently opposed. The use of icons nevertheless steadily gained in popularity, especially in the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire. Toward the end of the 6th century and in the 7th, icons became the object of an officially encouraged cult, often implying a superstitious belief in their animation. Opposition to such practices became particularly strong in Asia Minor. In 726 the Byzantine emperor Leo III took a public stand against the perceived worship of icons, and in 730 their use was officially prohibited. This opened a persecution of icon venerators that was severe in the reign of Leo’s successor, Constantine V (741–775).

                 In 787, however, the empress Irene convoked the seventh ecumenical council at Nicaea at which Iconoclasm was condemned and the use of images was reestablished. The Iconoclasts regained power in 814 after Leo V’s accession, and the use of icons was again forbidden at a council in 815. The second Iconoclast period ended with the death of the emperor Theophilus in 842. In 843 his widow finally restored icon veneration, an event still celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox Church as the Feast of Orthodoxy." (Encyclopedia Britannica, "Iconoclastic Controversy")
      • Consider The Words Of This Roman Catholic Source:
                -"Christianity emerged from Judaism, which itself rejected figurative religious art as being too much like idol worship (see Ex 20:3). But once Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire under Constantine in the 4th century CE, it was not long before Roman practices of portraying and honoring the divine (their gods and emperors) would make their way into Christian practices as well."
      • How Roman Catholic Officials Reason Out This Issue:
                -"The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, "the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype," and "whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it." The honor paid to sacred images is a "respectful veneration," not the adoration due to God alone." (CCC, 2132)
      • What The Bible Says--Judge Its Meaning For Yourself:
                -"You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me." (Exodus 20:4-5)
      • How The Apostle Paul Cited The Commandment Against Coveting:
                -"What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” (Romans 7:7)
                -"The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Romans 13:9)

                Notice that the Apostle Paul, in his quoting of the commandment against coveting, does not split it in half--coveting a neighbor's wife and coveting a neighbor's goods. Coveting is a sin against God, period. The Catholic rendering of the Ten Commandments here is both unbiblical and redundant. It is highly suspicious.

               While it is true that the numbering of the Ten Commandments is more peripheral in nature, it nevertheless remains a fact that a statue-infested environment where saints are incessantly venerated is not a spiritually safe place to be. Interestingly, Hebrew does not allow for a distinction in the word worship, which in that language would be avad. Thus, the terms latria and dulia in the original Old Testament would be treated as the same form of worship, which of course would rightly belong to God alone. This proves Roman Catholics wrong when they attempt to defend their veneration of saints. The Church of Rome is no doubt a museum of idolatry. 

      A Quote From Atheist Historian Richard Carrier's Book "On The Historicity of Jesus"

      An excerpt of Richard Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus (Sheffield 2014), chapter 4 (originally cited by Steve Hays):

      "Even before Christianity arose, some Jews expected one of their messiahs heralding the end times would actually be killed, rather than be immediately victorious, and this would mark the key point of a timeta­ble guaranteeing the end of the world soon thereafter...First, the Talmud provides us with a proof of concept at the very least (and actual confirmation at the very most). It explicitly says the suffer­ing servant who dies in Isaiah 53 is the messiah (and that this messiah will endure great suffering before his death) [b. Sanhedrin 98b and 93b]. The Talmud likewise has a dying-and-rising 'Christ son of Joseph' ideology in it, even saying (quoting Zech. 12.10) that this messiah will be 'pierced' to death [b. Sukkah 52a-b].

      There is no plausible way later Jews would invent interpretations of their scripture that supported and vindicated Christians. They would not invent a Christ with a father named Joseph who dies and is resurrected (as the Talmud does indeed describe). They would not proclaim Isaiah 53 to be about this messiah and admit that Isaiah had there predicted this messiah would die and be resurrected. That was the very biblical passage Christians were using to prove their case. Moreover, the presentation of this ideology in the Talmud makes no mention of Christianity and gives no evidence of being any kind of polemic or response to it. So we have evidence here of a Jewish belief that possibly predates Christian evangelizing, even if that evidence survives only in later sources.

      The alternative is to assume a rather unbelievable coincidence: that Christians and Jews, completely independently of each other, just happened at some point to see Isaiah 53 as messianic and from that same passage preach an ideology of a messiah with a father named Joseph (literally or symbolically), who endures great suffering, dies and is resurrected (all in accord with the savior depicted in Isaiah 53, as by then understood). Such an amazing coincidence is simply improbable.

      But the Talmud and the Apocalypse of Zerubbabel are not our only evidence of a pre-Christian dying-messiah theme. The book of Daniel (written well before the rise of Christianity) explicitly says a messiah will die shortly before the end of the world (Dan. 9.2; 9.24-27; cf. 12.1-13). This is already conclusive. Given my definition of 'messiah' (in §3), Christianity looks exactly like an adaptation of the same eschatological dying-messiah motif in Daniel.

      Isaiah 53 was already under­stood to contain an atonement-martyrdom framework applicable to dying heroes generally...But of the more specific notion of a dying messiah, we also have other pre-Christian evidence in the form of a Dead Sea Scroll designated 11Q13, the Melchizedek Scroll...There are many such pesherim at Qumran. But this one tells us about the 'messenger' of Isaiah 52-53 who is linked in Isaiah with a 'servant' who will die to atone for everyone's sins (presaging God's final victory), which (as we have already seen) later Jews definitely regarded as the messiah. At Qumran, 11Q13 appears to say that this messenger is the same man as the 'messiah' of Daniel 9, who dies around the same time an end to sin is said to be accomplished (again presaging God's final victory), and that the day on which this happens will be a great and final Day of Atonement, absolving the sins of all the elect, after which (11Q13 goes on to say) God and his savior will overthrow all demonic forces. And all this will proceed according to the timetable in Daniel9.Thus, 11Q13 appears to predict that a messiah will die and that this will mark the final days before which God's agent(s) will defeat Belial (Satan) and atone for the sins of the elect.

      Regardless of how one chooses to understand the text of 11Q13, we still have Dan. 9.24-27, which is already unmistakably clear in predicting that a messiah will die shortly before the end of the world, when all sins will be forgiven; and Isaiah 53 is unmistakably clear in declaring that all sins will be forgiven by the death of God's servant, whom the Talmud identi­fies as the messiah. So there is no reasonable basis for denying that some pre-Christian Jews would have expected at least one dying messiah, and some could well have expected his death to be an essential atoning death,
      just as the Christians believed of Jesus Even apart from 11Q13 there is evidence the Dead Sea community may have already been thinking this, since one of their manuscripts of Isaiah explicitly says the suffering servant figure in Isaiah 53 shall be 'anointed' by God and then 'pierced through for our transgressions'. For this and the following points see the discussion of the pre-Christian interpretation of Isaiah 53 in Martin Hengel, 'The Effective History of Isaiah 53 in the Pre-Christian Period', in The Suffering Servant: Isaiah 53 in Jewish and Christian Sources (ed. Bernd Janowski and Peter Stuhlmacher; Grand Rapids, Ml: William B. Eerdmans, 2004), pp. 75-146.

      The Christian gospel is thus already right there in Daniel, the more so if Daniel 9 had been linked with Isaiah 52-53, which is exactly what 11QI3 appears to do. But even without such a connection being made, the notion that a Christ was expected to die to presage the end of the world is already clearly intended in Daniel, even by its origi­nal authors' intent, and would have been understood in the same way by subsequent readers of Daniel. The notion of a dying messiah was therefore already mainstream, well before Christianity arose.

      The suffering-and-dying servant of Isaiah 52-53 and the mes­siah of Daniel 9 (which, per the previous element, may already have been seen by some Jews as the same person) have numerous logical connections with a man in Zechariah 3 and 6 named 'Jesus Rising' who is confronted by Satan in God's abode in heaven and there crowned king, given all of God's authority, holds the office of high priest, and will build up 'God's house' (which is how Christians described their church)

      In the Septuagint text, Zechariah is commanded in a vision to place the crown of kingship upon 'Jesus' (Zech. 6.11) and to say immediately upon doing so that 'Jehovah declares' that this Jesus is 'the man named ''Rising" and he shall rise up from his place below and he shall build the House of the Lord'. The key noun is anatole, which is often translated 'East' because it refers to where the sun rises (hence 'East'), but such a translation obscures the fact that the actual word used is the noun 'rising' or 'rise' (as in 'sunrise'), which was not always used in reference to a compass point, and whose real connotations are more obvious when translated literally. In fact by immediately using the cognate verb 'to rise up' (anatelei, and that explicitly 'from his place below') it's clear the Septuagint translator under­ stood the word to mean 'rise' (and Philo echoes the same pun in his interpretation...

      If this 'Jesus Rising' were connected to the dying servant who atones for all sins in Isaiah (and perhaps also with Daniel or 11Q13), it would be easy to read out of this almost the entire core Christian gospel. Connecting the two figures in just that way would be natural to do: this same 'Jesus' who is named 'Rising' (or, in both places, 'Branch' in the extant Hebrew, as in 'Davidic heir', or so both contexts imply) appears earlier in Zechariah 3, where 'Jesus' is also implied to be the one called 'Rising' (in 3.8). Both are also called 'Jesus the high priest' throughout Zechariah 3 and 6, hence clearly the same person. And there he is also called God's 'servant'. And it is said that through him (in some unspecified way) all sin in the world will be cleansed 'in a single day' (Zech. 3.9). Both concepts converge with Isaiah 52-53, which is also about God's 'servant', whose death cleanses the world's sins (Isa. 52.13 and 53.11), which of course would thus happen in a single day (as alluded in Isa. 52.6). And as we saw earlier, Jews may have been linking this dying 'servant' to the dying 'Christ' killed in Daniel 9 (in 11Q13), whose death is also said to correspond closely with a conclusive 'end of sin' in the world (Dan. 9.24-26), and both figures (in Daniel and 11Q13) were linked to an expected 'atonement in a single day'...These dots are so easily connected, and with such convincing force...here I am concerned only with the existence of the scriptural coincidences.

      As I mentioned, an 'exoteric' reading of Zechariah 3 and 6 would con­clude the author originally meant the first high priest of the second temple, Jesus ben Jehozadak (Zech. 6.11; cf. Hag. 1.1), who somehow came into an audience with God, in a coronation ceremony (one would presume in heaven, as it is in audience with God and his angels and attended by Satan) granting him supreme supernatural power over the universe (Zech. 3.7)...As it happens, the name Jehozadak means in Hebrew 'Jehovah the Righteous', so one could also read this as 'Jesus, the son of Jehovah the Righteous', and thereby conclude this is really 'Jesus, the son of God'. This is notable considering the evidence we have of a preexistent son of God named Jesus in pre-Christian Jewish theology...And all from connecting just three passages in the OT that already have distinctive overlapping similarities.

      The pre-Christian book of Daniel was a key messianic text, laying out what would happen and when, partly inspiring much of the very messianic fervor of the age, which by the most obvious (but not originally intended) interpretation predicted the messiah's arrival in the early first century, even (by some calculations) the very year of 30 CE...By various calculations this could be shown to predict, by the very Word of God, that the messiah would come sometime in the early first century CE. Several examples of these calculations survive in early Christian literature, the clearest appearing in Julius Africanus in the third century.47 Julius Africanus, in his lost History of the World, which excerpt survives in the collection of George Syncellus, Excerpts of Chronography 18.2.

      The date there calculated is precisely 30 CE; hence it was expected on this calculation (which was simple and straightforward enough that anyone could easily have come up with the same result well before the rise of Christianity) that a messiah would arise and be killed in that year (as we saw Daniel had 'predicted' in 9.26..."

      Thursday, March 22, 2018

      Roman Catholicism's Strange Exultation Of Mary

      • Introduction:
                -By viewing official Roman Catholic sources, one can readily see that this church has elevated Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, to a position of deity, despite it claiming to worship only the Creator. The Church of Rome has literally ascribed titles and roles to her that rightly belong to God alone, without any biblical justification whatsoever. Never does the New Testament authorize Christians to pay this much attention to any mere human being. In fact, the entire gospel centers around the person of the Lord Jesus Christ alone. Never does it point us to Mary, or anybody else for that matter. Unfortunately, Mary in Roman Catholicism has been basically presented as a goddess. This article strives to highlight the major problems prevalent among the vast majority of Roman Catholics when it comes to Marian devotion. 
      • According To Roman Catholicism, Mary Can Deliver Souls From Death By Her Prayers:
                -"Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death." The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son's Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians. In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the source of Life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death." (CCC, 966)
      • According To Roman Catholicism, We Are To Look To Mary In Our Pilgrimage Of Faith:
                -"After speaking of the Church, her origin, mission, and destiny, we can find no better way to conclude than by looking to Mary. In her we contemplate what the Church already is in her mystery on her own "pilgrimage of faith," and what she will be in the homeland at the end of her journey. There, "in the glory of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity," "in the communion of all the saints," the Church is awaited by the one she venerates as Mother of her Lord and as her own mother." (CCC, 972)
      • According To Roman Catholicism, We Are To Place Our Trust In Mary:
                -"Holy Mary, Mother of God: With Elizabeth we marvel, "And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" Because she gives us Jesus, her son, Mary is Mother of God and our mother; we can entrust all our cares and petitions to her: she prays for us as she prayed for herself: "Let it be to me according to your word." By entrusting ourselves to her prayer, we abandon ourselves to the will of God together with her: "Thy will be done." (CCC, 2677)
      • According To Roman Catholicism, Mary Played A Part In The Expiatory Sacrifice Of Our Lord Jesus Christ:
                -"Christ alone truly offered the sacrifice of atonement on the Cross...In the power of the grace of Redemption merited by Christ, Mary, by her spiritual entering into the sacrifice of her divine son for men, made atonement for the sins of man and (de congruon) merited the application of the redemptive grace of Christ. In this manner she cooperates in the subjective redemption of mankind." (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p. 213)
      • Pope Leo XIII Said The Following:
                -"With equal truth it may be said that of the great treasury of all graces given to us by Our Lord—for grace and truth came by Jesus Christ—nothing comes to us except through Mary's mediation, for such is God's Will. Thus, as no man goes to the Father but by the Son, so no one goes to Christ except through his mother." (Leo XIII, Encyclical, Octobri mense, September 22, 1891.)
      • According To The Our Lady Of Fatima Apparitions, We Must Make Atonement For Sins Committed Against The Alleged Immaculate Heart Of Mary:
                -"Our Lady said it was necessary for those persons to say the Rosary in order to obtain..reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary."

                The logic employed by Catholic officials on Marian dogmas is so twisted that no amount of exegetical commentary would ever suffice in attempting to reconcile such traditions with the teachings that are plainly interwoven throughout Scripture. It is diametrically opposed to the Spirit of the Gospel. Never once does Scripture indicate that we should be giving this much devotion to Mary. Magnifying her statues to the level described in the Roman Catholic sources above is simply without biblical warrant. The constant emphasis throughout Scripture is devotion to God alone (Psalm 73:25; John 14:6).

      Wednesday, March 21, 2018

      Baptism Is Necessary For Salvation?

      “And there will be no doubt that men may be baptized with the Holy Ghost without water, as thou observest that these were baptized before they were baptized with water; that the announcements of both John and of our Lord Himself were satisfied, forasmuch as they received the grace of the promise both without the imposition of the apostle’s hands and without the laver [baptismal font], which they attained afterwards. And their hearts being purified, God bestowed upon them at the same time, in virtue of their faith, remission of sins; so that the subsequent baptism conferred upon them this benefit alone, that they received also the invocation of the name of Jesus Christ, that nothing might appear to be wanting to the integrity of their service and faith.”

      Anonymous Treatise on Re-baptism (254-257 A.D.)

      Tuesday, March 20, 2018

      The Nature Miracles Of Jesus

      Graham H. Twelftree, ed. The Nature Miracles of Jesus: Problems, Perspectives, and Prospects. Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2017

      "Craig Keener offers what is the most impressive chapter in the volume. As he has done in his major two-volume work on miracles and in several subsequent journal articles, Keener offers a representative collection of examples (including some new ones) of well-documented and very credible contemporary parallels to the major categories of the nature miracles in the Gospels: instantaneous, helpful changes in the weather after public Christian prayer or prophecy, multiplication of food, extraordinary fish catches, water turning into wine, and walking on water. Other miracles could only happen after certain modern inventions—a life-saving journey in a car filled only with water after it had run out of gas to make it safely to the next village in the central African bush, for example.

      Tim McGrew focuses on the resurrection of Humean arguments in New Testament scholarship in an age when most philosophers have recognized their illegitimacy. He rehearses the major fallacies in each of them and reminds us that Hume’s critics in the eighteenth and nineteenth century already highlighted these flaws. More interdisciplinary work is needed so that scholars in one discipline will come to recognize the contributions of the other. But McGrew also finds Keener’s approach part of a growing body of literature that has documented miracles even in the Western world, even under the scrutiny of hospital doctors. Ironically, it may turn out that we can accept Hume’s stricture that we must have analogies in our own experience of reported events to be able to accept them because of the mounting contemporary evidence that miracles like those in the Gospels still happen.

      It should come as no surprise, in light of my own writings, that I find Keener’s and McGrew’s contributions the most valuable of the collection. I have personally witnessed inexplicable healings and have had analogies to nature miracles described to me by close friends and family members in contexts that make them virtually impossible to doubt."


      Craig Blomberg

      The Media And Islam

      "The real Muhammad is no longer revealed in numerous books or in much of the media, a phenomenon largely the result of the ubiquitous presence of political correctness in the West. With few exceptions, he is falsely portrayed as an irenic man who founded a religion of peace, contrary to the Koran’s numerous verses that specifically advocate violence and the killing of “infidels.” . . .

      In recent years, the Western print media, movies, and television have produced various negative portrayals of Jesus Christ and of Christianity. But Muhammad’s past violent activities, clearly stated in the Koran and in the Hadith, are overlooked by the media and by apologists of Islam."

      Alvin J. Schmidt, “The American Muhammad: Joseph Smith, Founder of Mormonism,” pg. 208-209

      The Didache Does Not Affirm Transubstantiation

      • The Didache Defined The Eucharist As Simply Being A Thank-Offering:
                -"But on the Lord's day, after that ye have assembled together, break bread and give thanks, having in addition confessed your sins, that your sacrifice may be pure." 
      • The Didache Community Clearly Subscribed To A Symbolic View Of The Lord's Supper:
              -"And let none eat or drink of your Eucharist but such as have been baptized into the name of the Lord, for of a truth the Lord hath said concerning this, Give not that which is holy unto dogs. But after it has been completed, so pray ye...We thank thee, holy Father, for thy holy name, which thou hast caused to dwell in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality which thou hast made known unto us through Jesus thy Son; to thee be the glory for ever. Thou, Almighty Master, didst create all things for the sake of thy name, and hast given both meat and drink, for men to enjoy, that we might give thanks unto thee, but to us thou hast given spiritual meat and drink, and life everlasting, through thy Son."

      Monday, March 19, 2018

      America Was Founded On Christian Principles

      "The general principles, on which the Fathers achieved independence, were the only Principles in which that beautiful Assembly of young Gentlemen could Unite.... And what were these general Principles? I answer, the general Principles of Christianity, in which all these Sects were United: And the general Principles of English and American Liberty, in which all those young Men United, and which had United all Parties in America, in Majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her Independence."

      John Adams, Letter to Thomas Jefferson, June 28, 1813

      Saturday, March 17, 2018

      Christianity Was Not Influenced By Pagan Religions

      Summary

      Many Christian college students have encountered criticisms of Christianity based on claims that early Christianity and the New Testament borrowed important beliefs and practices from a number of pagan mystery religions. Since these claims undermine such central Christian doctrines as Christ's death and resurrection, the charges are serious. But the evidence for such claims, when it even exists, often lies in sources several centuries older than the New Testament. Moreover, the alleged parallels often result from liberal scholars uncritically describing pagan beliefs and practices in Christian language and then marveling at the striking parallels they think they've discovered.

      During the first half of the twentieth century, a number of liberal authors and professors claimed that the New Testament teaching about Jesus' death and resurrection, the New Birth, and the Christian practices of baptism and the Lord's Supper were derived from the pagan mystery religions. Of major concern in all this is the charge that the New Testament doctrine of salvation parallels themes commonly found in the mystery religions: a savior-god dies violently for those he will eventually deliver, after which that god is restored to life.

      Was the New Testament influenced by the pagan religions of the first century A.D.? Even though I surveyed this matter in a 1992 book,[1] the issues are so important -- especially for Christian college students who often do not know where to look for answers -- that there is considerable merit in addressing this question in a popular, nontechnical format.

      WHAT WERE THE MYSTERY RELIGIONS?

      Other than Judaism and Christianity, the mystery religions were the most influential religions in the early centuries after Christ. The reason these cults were called "mystery religions" is that they involved secret ceremonies known only to those initiated into the cult. The major benefit of these practices was thought to be some kind of salvation.

      The mystery religions were not, of course, the only manifestations of the religious spirit in the eastern Roman Empire. One could also find public cults not requiring an initiation ceremony into secret beliefs and practices. The Greek Olympian religion and its Roman counterpart are examples of this type of religion.

      Each Mediterranean region produced its own mystery religion. Out of Greece came the cults of Demeter and Dionysus, as well as the Eleusinian and Orphic mystery religions, which developed later.[2] Asia Minor gave birth to the cult of Cybele, the Great Mother, and her beloved, a shepherd named Attis. The cult of Isis and Osiris (later changed to Serapis) originated in Egypt, while Syria and Palestine saw the rise of the cult of Adonis. Finally, Persia (Iran) was a leading early locale for the cult of Mithras, which -- due to its frequent use of the imagery of war -- held a special appeal to Roman soldiers. The earlier Greek mystery religions were state religions in the sense that they attained the status of a public or civil cult and served a national or public function. The later non-Greek mysteries were personal, private, and individualistic.

      Basic Traits

      One must avoid any suggestion that there was one common mystery religion. While a tendency toward eclecticism or synthesis developed after A.D. 300, each of the mystery cults was a separate and distinct religion during the century that saw the birth of the Christian church. Moreover, each mystery cult assumed different forms in different cultural settings and underwent significant changes, especially after A.D. 100. Nevertheless, the mystery religions exhibited five common traits.



      (1) Central to each mystery was its use of an annual vegetation cycle in which life is renewed each spring and dies each fall. Followers of the mystery cults found deep symbolic significance in the natural processes of growth, death, decay, and rebirth.

      (2) As noted above, each cult made important use of secret ceremonies or mysteries, often in connection with an initiation rite. Each mystery religion also passed on a "secret" to the initiate that included information about the life of the cult's god or goddess and how humans might achieve unity with that deity. This "knowledge" was always a secret or esoteric knowledge, unattainable by any outside the circle of the cult.

      (3) Each mystery also centered around a myth in which the deity either returned to life after death or else triumphed over his enemies. Implicit in the myth was the theme of redemption from everything earthly and temporal. The secret meaning of the cult and its accompanying myth was expressed in a "sacramental drama" that appealed largely to the feelings and emotions of the initiates. This religious ecstasy was supposed to lead them to think they were experiencing the beginning of a new life.

      (4) The mysteries had little or no use for doctrine and correct belief. They were primarily concerned with the emotional life of their followers. The cults used many different means to affect the emotions and imaginations of initiates and hence bring about "union with the god": processions, fasting, a play, acts of purification, blazing lights, and esoteric liturgies. This lack of any emphasis on correct belief marked an important difference between the mysteries and Christianity. The Christian faith was exclusivistic in the sense that it recognized only one legitimate path to God and salvation, Jesus Christ. The mysteries were inclusivistic in the sense that nothing prevented a believer in one cult from following other mysteries.

      (5) The immediate goal of the initiates was a mystical experience that led them to feel they had achieved union with their god. Beyond this quest for mystical union were two more ultimate goals: some kind of redemption or salvation, and immortality.
      Evolution

      Before A.D. 100, the mystery religions were still largely confined to specific localities and were still a relatively novel phenomenon. After A.D. 100, they gradually began to attain a widespread popular influence throughout the Roman Empire. But they also underwent significant changes that often resulted from the various cults absorbing elements from each other. As devotees of the mysteries became increasingly eclectic in their beliefs and practices, new and odd combinations of the older mysteries began to emerge. And as the cults continued to tone down the more objectionable features of their older practices, they began to attract greater numbers of followers.

      RECONSTRUCTING THE MYSTERIES

      It is not until we come to the third century A.D. that we find sufficient source material (i.e., information about the mystery religions from the writings of the time) to permit a relatively complete reconstruction of their content. Far too many writers use this late source material (after A.D. 200) to form reconstructions of the third-century mystery experience and then uncritically reason back to what they think must have been the earlier nature of the cults. This practice is exceptionally bad scholarship and should not be allowed to stand without challenge. Information about a cult that comes several hundred years after the close of the New Testament canon must not be read back into what is presumed to be the status of the cult during the first century A.D. The crucial question is not what possible influence the mysteries may have had on segments of Christendom after A.D. 400, but what effect the emerging mysteries may have had on the New Testament in the first century.

      The Cult of Isis and Osiris

      The cult of Isis originated in Egypt and went through two major stages. In its older Egyptian version, which was not a mystery religion, Isis was regarded as the goddess of heaven, earth, the sea, and the unseen world below. In this earlier stage, Isis had a husband named Osiris. The cult of Isis became a mystery religion only after Ptolemy the First introduced major changes, sometime after 300 B.C. In the later stage, a new god named Serapis became Isis's consort. Ptolemy introduced these changes in order to synthesize Egyptian and Greek concerns in his kingdom, thus hastening the Hellenization of Egypt.

      From Egypt, the cult of Isis gradually made its way to Rome. While Rome was at first repelled by the cult, the religion finally entered the city during the reign of Caligula (A.D. 37-41). Its influence spread gradually during the next two centuries, and in some locales it became a major rival of Christianity. The cult's success in the Roman Empire seems to have resulted from its impressive ritual and the hope of immortality offered to its followers.

      The basic myth of the Isis cult concerned Osiris, her husband during the earlier Egyptian and nonmystery stage of the religion. According to the most common version of the myth, Osiris was murdered by his brother who then sank the coffin containing Osiris's body into the Nile river. Isis discovered the body and returned it to Egypt. But her brother-in-law once again gained access to the body, this time dismembering it into fourteen pieces which he scattered widely. Following a long search, Isis recovered each part of the body. It is at this point that the language used to describe what followed is crucial. Sometimes those telling the story are satisfied to say that Osiris came back to life, even though such language claims far more than the myth allows. Some writers go even further and refer to the alleged "resurrection" of Osiris. One liberal scholar illustrates how biased some writers are when they describe the pagan myth in Christian language: "The dead body of Osiris floated in the Nile and he returned to life, this being accomplished by a baptism in the waters of the Nile."[3]

      This biased and sloppy use of language suggests three misleading analogies between Osiris and Christ: (1) a savior god dies and (2) then experiences a resurrection accompanied by (3) water baptism. But the alleged similarities, as well as the language used to describe them, turn out to be fabrications of the modern scholar and are not part of the original myth. Comparisons between the resurrection of Jesus and the resuscitation of Osiris are greatly exaggerated.[4] Not every version of the myth has Osiris returning to life; in some he simply becomes king of the underworld. Equally far-fetched are attempts to find an analogue of Christian baptism in the Osiris myth.[5] The fate of Osiris's coffin in the Nile is as relevant to baptism as the sinking of Atlantis.

      As previously noted, during its later mystery stage, the male deity of the Isis cult is no longer the dying Osiris but Serapis. Serapis is often portrayed as a sun god, and it is clear that he was not a dying god. Obviously then, neither could he be a rising god. Thus, it is worth remembering that the post-Ptolemaic mystery version of the Isis cult that was in circulation from about 300 B.C. through the early centuries of the Christian era had absolutely nothing that could resemble a dying and rising savior-god.

      The Cult of Cybele and Attis

      Cybele, also known as the Great Mother, was worshiped through much of the Hellenistic world. She undoubtedly began as a goddess of nature. Her early worship included orgiastic ceremonies in which her frenzied male worshipers were led to castrate themselves, following which they became "Galli" or eunuch-priests of the goddess. Cybele eventually came to be viewed as the Mother of all gods and the mistress of all life.

      Most of our information about the cult describes its practices during its later Roman period. But the details are slim and almost all the source material is relatively late, certainly datable long after the close of the New Testament canon.

      According to myth, Cybele loved a shepherd named Attis. Because Attis was unfaithful, she drove him insane. Overcome by madness, Attis castrated himself and died. This drove Cybele into great mourning, and it introduced death into the natural world. But then Cybele restored Attis to life, an event that also brought the world of nature back to life.

      The presuppositions of the interpreter tend to determine the language used to describe what followed Attis's death. Many writers refer carelessly to the "resurrection of Attis." But surely this is an exaggeration. There is no mention of anything resembling a resurrection in the myth, which suggests that Cybele could only preserve Attis's dead body. Beyond this, there is mention of the body's hair continuing to grow, along with some movement of his little finger. In some versions of the myth, Attis's return to life took the form of his being changed into an evergreen tree. Since the basic idea underlying the myth was the annual vegetation cycle, any resemblance to the bodily resurrection of Christ is greatly exaggerated.

      Eventually a public rehearsal of the Attis myth became an annual event in which worshipers shared in Attis's "immortality." Each spring the followers of Cybele would mourn for the dead Attis in acts of fasting and flagellation.

      It was only during the later Roman celebrations (after A.D. 300) of the spring festival that anything remotely connected with a "resurrection" appears. The pine tree symbolizing Attis was cut down and then carried corpse-like into the sanctuary. Later in the prolonged festival, the tree was buried while the initiates worked themselves into a frenzy that included gashing themselves with knives. The next night, the "grave" of the tree was opened and the "resurrection of Attis" was celebrated. But the language of these late sources is highly ambiguous. In truth, no clear-cut, unambiguous reference to the supposed "resurrection" of Attis appears, even in the very late literature from the fourth century after Christ.

      The Taurobolium

      The best-known rite of the cult of the Great Mother was the taurobolium. It is important to note, however, that this ritual was not part of the cult in its earlier stages. It entered the religion sometime after the middle of the second century A.D.

      During the ceremony, initiates stood or reclined in a pit as a bull was slaughtered on a platform above them.[6] The initiate would then be bathed in the warm blood of the dying animal. It has been alleged that the taurobolium was a source for Christian language about being washed in the blood of the lamb (Rev. 7:14) or sprinkled with the blood of Jesus (1 Pet. 1:2). It has also been cited as the source for Paul's teaching in Romans 6:1-4, where he relates Christian baptism to the Christian's identification with Christ's death and resurrection.

      No notion of death and resurrection was ever part of the taurobolium, however. The best available evidence requires us to date the ritual about one hundred years after Paul wrote Romans 6:1-4. Not one existing text supports the claim that the taurobolium memorialized the death and "resurrection" of Attis. The pagan rite could not possibly have been the source for Paul's teaching in Romans 6. Only near the end of the fourth century A.D. did the ritual add the notion of rebirth. Several important scholars see a Christian influence at work in this later development.[7] It is clear, then, that the chronological development of the rite makes it impossible for it to have influenced first-century Christianity. The New Testament teaching about the shedding of blood should be viewed in the context of its Old Testament background -- the Passover and the temple sacrifice.

      Mithraism

      Attempts to reconstruct the beliefs and practices of Mithraism face enormous challenges because of the scanty information that has survived. Proponents of the cult explained the world in terms of two ultimate and opposing principles, one good (depicted as light) and the other evil (darkness). Human beings must choose which side they will fight for; they are trapped in the conflict between light and darkness. Mithra came to be regarded as the most powerful mediator who could help humans ward off attacks from demonic forces.[8]

      The major reason why no Mithraic influence on first-century Christianity is possible is the timing: it's all wrong! The flowering of Mithraism occurred after the close of the New Testament canon, much too late for it to have influenced anything that appears in the New Testament.[9] Moreover, no monuments for the cult can be dated earlier than A.D. 90-100, and even this dating requires us to make some exceedingly generous assumptions. Chronological difficulties, then, make the possibility of a Mithraic influence on early Christianity extremely improbable. Certainly, there remains no credible evidence for such an influence.

      STRIKING PARALLELS?

      Enough has been said thus far to permit comment on one of the major faults of the above-mentioned liberal scholars. I refer to the frequency with which their writings evidence a careless, even sloppy use of language. One frequently encounters scholars who first use Christian terminology to describe pagan beliefs and practices, and then marvel at the striking parallels they think they have discovered. One can go a long way toward "proving" early Christian dependence on the mysteries by describing some mystery belief or practice in Christian terminology. J. Godwin does this in his book, Mystery Religions in the Ancient World, which describes the criobolium (see footnote 6) as a "blood baptism" in which the initiate is "washed in the blood of the lamb."[10] While uninformed readers might be stunned by this remarkable similarity to Christianity (see Rev. 7:14), knowledgeable readers will see such a claim as the reflection of a strong, negative bias against Christianity.

      Exaggerations and oversimplifications abound in this kind of literature. One encounters overblown claims about alleged likenesses between baptism and the Lord's Supper and similar "sacraments" in certain mystery cults. Attempts to find analogies between the resurrection of Christ and the alleged "resurrections" of the mystery deities involve massive amounts of oversimplification and inattention to detail.

      Pagan Rituals and the Christian Sacraments

      The mere fact that Christianity has a sacred meal and a washing of the body is supposed to prove that it borrowed these ceremonies from similar meals and washings in the pagan cults. By themselves, of course, such outward similarities prove nothing. After all, religious ceremonies can assume only a limited number of forms, and they will naturally relate to important or common aspects of human life. The more important question is the meaning of the pagan practices. Ceremonial washings that antedate the New Testament have a different meaning from New Testament baptism, while pagan washings after A.D. 100 come too late to influence the New Testament and, indeed, might themselves have been influenced by Christianity.[11] Sacred meals in the pre-Christian Greek mysteries fail to prove anything since the chronology is all wrong. The Greek ceremonies that are supposed to have influenced first-century Christians had long since disappeared by the time we get to Jesus and Paul. Sacred meals in such post-Christian mysteries as Mithraism come too late.

      Unlike the initiation rites of the mystery cults, Christian baptism looks back to what a real, historical person -- Jesus Christ -- did in history. Advocates of the mystery cults believed their "sacraments" had the power to give the individual the benefits of immortality in a mechanical or magical way, without his or her undergoing any moral or spiritual transformation. This certainly was not Paul's view, either of salvation or of the operation of the Christian sacraments. In contrast with pagan initiation ceremonies, Christian baptism is not a mechanical or magical ceremony. It is clear that the sources of Christian baptism are not to be found either in the taurobolium (which is post first-century anyway) or in the washings of the pagan mysteries. Its sources lie rather in the washings of purification found in the Old Testament and in the Jewish practice of baptizing proselytes, the latter being the most likely source for the baptistic practices of John the Baptist.

      Of all the mystery cults, only Mithraism had anything that resembled the Lord's Supper. A piece of bread and a cup of water were placed before initiates while the priest of Mithra spoke some ceremonial words. But the late introduction of this ritual precludes its having any influence upon first-century Christianity.

      Claims that the Lord's Supper was derived from pagan sacred meals are grounded in exaggerations and oversimplifications. The supposed parallels and analogies break down completely.[12] Any quest for the historical antecedents of the Lord's Supper is more likely to succeed if it stays closer to the Jewish foundations of the Christian faith than if it wanders off into the practices of the pagan cults. The Lord's Supper looked back to a real, historical person and to something He did in history. The occasion for Jesus' introduction of the Christian Lord's Supper was the Jewish Passover feast. Attempts to find pagan sources for baptism and the Lord's Supper must be judged to fail.

      The Death of the Mystery Gods and the Death of Jesus

      The best way to evaluate the alleged dependence of early Christian beliefs about Christ's death and resurrection on the pagan myths of a dying and rising savior-god is to examine carefully the supposed parallels. The death of Jesus differs from the deaths of the pagan gods in at least six ways:


      (1) None of the so-called savior-gods died for someone else. The notion of the Son of God 
      dying in place of His creatures is unique to Christianity.[13]

      (2) Only Jesus died for sin. As Gunter Wagner observes, to none of the pagan gods "has the intention of helping men been attributed. The sort of death that they died is quite different (hunting accident, self-emasculation, etc.)."[14]

      (3) Jesus died once and for all (Heb. 7:27; 9:25-28; 10:10-14). In contrast, the mystery gods were vegetation deities whose repeated deaths and resuscitations depict the annual cycle of nature.

      (4) Jesus' death was an actual event in history. The death of the mystery god appears in a mythical drama with no historical ties; its continued rehearsal celebrates the recurring death and rebirth of nature. The incontestable fact that the early church believed that its proclamation of Jesus' death and resurrection was grounded in an actual historical event makes absurd any attempt to derive this belief from the mythical, nonhistorical stories of the pagan cults.[15]

      (5) Unlike the mystery gods, Jesus died voluntarily. Nothing like this appears even implicitly in the mysteries.

      (6) And finally, Jesus' death was not a defeat but a triumph. Christianity stands entirely apart from the pagan mysteries in that its report of Jesus' death is a message of triumph. Even as Jesus was experiencing the pain and humiliation of the cross, He was the victor. The New Testament's mood of exultation contrasts sharply with that of the mystery religions, whose followers wept and mourned for the terrible fate that overtook their gods.[16]
      The Risen Christ and the "Rising Savior-Gods"

      Which mystery gods actually experienced a resurrection from the dead? Certainly no early texts refer to any resurrection of Attis. Nor is the case for a resurrection of Osiris any stronger. One can speak of a "resurrection" in the stories of Osiris, Attis, and Adonis only in the most extended of senses.[17] For example, after Isis gathered together the pieces of Osiris's dismembered body, Osiris became "Lord of the Underworld." This is a poor substitute for a resurrection like that of Jesus Christ. And, no claim can be made that Mithras was a dying and rising god. The tide of scholarly opinion has turned dramatically against attempts to make early Christianity dependent on the so-called dying and rising gods of Hellenistic paganism.[18] Any unbiased examination of the evidence shows that such claims must be rejected.

      Christian Rebirth and Cultic Initiation Rites

      Liberal writings on the subject are full of sweeping generalizations to the effect that early Christianity borrowed its notion of rebirth from the pagan mysteries.[19] But the evidence makes it clear that there was no pre-Christian doctrine of rebirth for the Christians to borrow. There are actually very few references to the notion of rebirth in the evidence that has survived, and even these are either very late or very ambiguous. They provide no help in settling the question of the source of the New Testament use of the concept. The claim that pre-Christian mysteries regarded their initiation rites as a kind of rebirth is unsupported by any evidence contemporary with such alleged practices. Instead, a view found in much later texts is read back into earlier rites, which are then interpreted quite speculatively as dramatic portrayals of the initiate's "new birth." The belief that pre-Christian mysteries used "rebirth" as a technical term lacks support from even one single text.

      Most contemporary scholars maintain that the mystery use of the concept of rebirth (testified to only in evidence dated after A.D. 300) differs so significantly from its New Testament usage that any possibility of a close link is ruled out. The most that such scholars are willing to concede is the possibility that some Christians borrowed the metaphor or imagery from the common speech of the time and recast it to fit their distinctive theological beliefs. So even if the metaphor of rebirth was Hellenistic, its content within Christianity was unique.[20]

      SEVEN ARGUMENTS AGAINST CHRISTIAN DEPENDENCE ON THE MYSTERIES

      I conclude by noting seven points that undermine liberal efforts to show that first-century Christianity borrowed essential beliefs and practices from the pagan mystery religions.


      (1) Arguments offered to "prove" a Christian dependence on the mysteries illustrate the logical fallacy of false cause. This fallacy is committed whenever someone reasons that just because two things exist side by side, one of them must have caused the other. As we all should know, mere coincidence does not prove causal connection. Nor does similarity prove dependence.

      (2) Many alleged similarities between Christianity and the mysteries are either greatly exaggerated or fabricated. Scholars often describe pagan rituals in language they borrow from Christianity. The careless use of language could lead one to speak of a "Last Supper" in Mithraism or a "baptism" in the cult of Isis. It is inexcusable nonsense to take the word "savior" with all of its New Testament connotations and apply it to Osiris or Attis as though they were savior-gods in any similar sense.

      (3) The chronology is all wrong. Almost all of our sources of information about the pagan religions alleged to have influenced early Christianity are dated very late. We frequently find writers quoting from documents written 300 years later than Paul in efforts to produce ideas that allegedly influenced Paul. We must reject the assumption that just because a cult had a certain belief or practice in the third or fourth century after Christ, it therefore had the same belief or practice in the first century.

      (4) Paul would never have consciously borrowed from the pagan religions. All of our information about him makes it highly unlikely that he was in any sense influenced by pagan sources. He placed great emphasis on his early training in a strict form of Judaism (Phil. 3:5). He warned the Colossians against the very sort of influence that advocates of Christian syncretism have attributed to him, namely, letting their minds be captured by alien speculations (Col. 2:8).

      (5) Early Christianity was an exclusivistic faith. As J. Machen explains, the mystery cults were nonexclusive. "A man could become initiated into the mysteries of Isis or Mithras without at all giving up his former beliefs; but if he were to be received into the Church, according to the preaching of Paul, he must forsake all other Saviors for the Lord Jesus Christ....Amid the prevailing syncretism of the Greco-Roman world, the religion of Paul, with the religion of Israel, stands absolutely alone."[21] This Christian exclusivism should be a starting point for all reflection about the possible relations between Christianity and its pagan competitors. Any hint of syncretism in the New Testament would have caused immediate controversy.

      (6) Unlike the mysteries, the religion of Paul was grounded on events that actually happened in history. The mysticism of the mystery cults was essentially nonhistorical. Their myths were dramas, or pictures, of what the initiate went through, not real historical events, as Paul regarded Christ's death and resurrection to be. The Christian affirmation that the death and resurrection of Christ happened to a historical person at a particular time and place has absolutely no parallel in any pagan mystery religion.

      (7) What few parallels may still remain may reflect a Christian influence on the pagan systems. As Bruce Metzger has argued, "It must not be uncritically assumed that the Mysteries always influenced Christianity, for it is not only possible but probable that in certain cases, the influence moved in the opposite direction."[22] It should not be surprising that leaders of cults that were being successfully challenged by Christianity should do something to counter the challenge. What better way to do this than by offering a pagan substitute? Pagan attempts to counter the growing influence of Christianity by imitating it are clearly apparent in measures instituted by Julian the Apostate, who was the Roman emperor from A.D. 361 to 363.
      A FINAL WORD

      Liberal efforts to undermine the uniqueness of the Christian revelation via claims of a pagan religious influence collapse quickly once a full account of the information is available. It is clear that the liberal arguments exhibit astoundingly bad scholarship. Indeed, this conclusion may be too generous. According to one writer, a more accurate account of these bad arguments would describe them as "prejudiced irresponsibility."[23] But in order to become completely informed on these matters, wise readers will work through material cited in the brief bibliography.

      NOTES

      See Ronald Nash, The Gospel and the Greeks (Richardson, TX: Probe Books, 1992). The book was originally published in 1984 under the title, Christianity and the Hellenist World.
      2 I must pass over these Greek versions of the mystery cults. See Nash, 131-36.
      3 Joseph Klausner, From Jesus to Paul (New York: Macmillan, 1943), 104.
      See Edwin Yamauchi, "Easter -- Myth, Hallucination, or History?" Christianity Today, 29 March 1974, 660-63.
      See Gunter Wagner, Pauline Baptism and the Pagan Mysteries (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1967), 260ff.
      6 When the ceremony used a lamb, it was the criobolium. Since lambs cost far less than bulls, this modification was rather common.
      See Nash, chapter 9.
      8 For more detail, see Nash, 143-48.
      See Franz Cumont, The Mysteries of Mithra (Chicago: Open Court, 1903), 87ff.
      10 Joscelyn Godwin, Mystery Religions in the Ancient World (New York: Harper and Row, 1981), 111.
      11 See Nash, chapter 9.
      12 See Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 24.
      13 See Martin Hengel, The Son of God (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976), 26.
      14 Wagner, 284.
      15 See W. K. C. Guthrie, Ortheus and Greek Religion, 2d ed. (London: Methuen, 1952), 268.
      16 See A. D. Nock, "Early Gentile Christianity and Its Hellenistic Background," in Essays on the Trinity and the Incarnation, ed. A. E. J. Rawlinson (London: Longmans, Green, 1928), 106.
      17 See J. Gresham Machen, The Origin of Paul's Religion (New York: Macmillan, 1925), 234-35.
      18 See Nash, 161-99.
      19 See Nash, 173-78.
      20 See W. F. Flemington, The New Testament Doctrine of Baptism (London: SPCK, 1948), 76-81.
      21 Machen, 9.
      22 Bruce M. Metzger, Historical and Literary Studies: Pagan, Jewish, and Christian (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968), 11. The possible parallels in view here would naturally be dated late, after A.D. 200 for the most part.
      23 Gordon H. Clark, Thales to Dewey (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1957), 195.


      Suggested Reading


      - Seyoon Kim, The Origin of Paul's Gospel (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982).
      - J. Gresham Machen, The Origin of Paul's Religion (New York: Macmillan, 1925).
      - Ronald Nash, The Gospel and the Greeks (Richardson, TX: Probe Books, 1992).
      - Gunter Wagner, Pauline Baptism and the Pagan Mysteries (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1967).

      By Ronald Nash, Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute