Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Spurious Origin Of Mary's Perpetual Virginity

        The Roman Catholic dogma that Mary remained a virgin throughout her lifetime was most likely a consequence of the early church adopting low views regarding human sexuality and marriage. The rise of asceticism, monasticism, and already existing gnostic beliefs played a foundational role in the development of Mary's perpetual virginity. Many early Christians embraced positions on the issue of marriage verses virginity that we would readily discard as being totally unbiblical, irrational, and even extreme. After centuries of christological disputes, the Second Council of Constantinople officially declared the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ to be "ever virgin."

        The church father Jerome vigorously argued marriage as being inferior to virginity and celibacy. Others such as Athanasius and John of Damascus taught that the concept of marriage was derived from original sin. Augustine thought that it was impossible to engage in marital relations without also having ungodly lusts. Basil claimed that although he personally rejected the teaching, many in his day believed in the perpetual virginity of Mary. There was a small Arabian cult known as the Collyridians, which appointed woman to be priests so as to offer sacrifices of bread to Mary. They worshiped her, and also believed her to be a perpetual virgin.

        It would be wise for one to consider this excerpt from the late second to mid third century scholar Origen:

        “And depreciating the whole of what appeared to be His nearest kindred, they said, Is not His mother called Mary? And His brethren, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? They thought, then, that He was the son of Joseph and Mary. But some say, basing it on a tradition in the Gospel according to Peter, as it is entitled, or The Book of James, that the brethren of Jesus were sons of Joseph by a former wife, whom he married before Mary. Now those who say so wish to preserve the honor of Mary in virginity to the end.” (Commentary on Matthew, 17)

        Notice how the catechism of the Roman Catholic Church defends the perpetual virginity of Mary:

        "Against this doctrine the objection is sometimes raised that the Bible mentions brothers and sisters of Jesus. The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children of the Virgin Mary. In fact James and Joseph, "brothers of Jesus", are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls "the other Mary". They are close relations of Jesus, according to an Old Testament expression." (CCC # 500)

        Thus, we see that Roman Catholic apologists have resorted to apocryphal literature in order to substantiate their claims. Even the Roman Catholic New American Bible makes it crystal clear that Mary did not remain a virgin her entire life:

        "He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus" (Matthew 1:25)

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Passion Translation Exposed

Another new custom Bible is The Passion Translation by NAR [New Apostolic Reformation] Apostle Brian Simmons. In [commentator] Holly Pivec’s "Important facts about The Passion Translation" she points out that Brian claims Jesus appeared to him and blew on him to commission Brian to write this new translation. She continues:

He says: “he breathed on me so that I would do the project, and I felt downloads coming, instantly. I received downloads. It was like, I got a chip put inside of me. I got a connection inside of me to hear him better, to understand the scriptures better and hopefully to translate.”

On this same TV program, Simmons claimed Jesus revealed to him a new chapter of the Bible. This happened when he was translated to the library of heaven where he saw more books than you can imagine. One stood out called John 22. It told about the greatest revival the world is yet to see. God promised Simmons that one day He’ll bring Simmons back to heaven and give him this book.

Alisa Childers points out in “Here’s Why Christians Should Be Concerned About The Passion Translation of the Bible” “…the sole translator of TPT, Brian Simmons, is not trained in the biblical languages, and lacks the credentials necessary to produce an accurate translation of the Bible.”

Another thing that sets TPT apart from these other single-author translations is that Simmons claims that Jesus visited him personally, took him to the library of heaven, and asked him to write the translation. He claims to have received “downloads,” and “secrets of the Hebrew language” from Jesus Himself. Simmons even admitted that he has minimal background in biblical languages and needed the Lord’s help to translate.

That is the advantage of producing a custom Bible. You don’t need to be bothered with such mundane things as knowing the original languages, and in fact, knowing the original languages would almost certainly be an impediment to your imagination, or whatever entity is downloading information to your mind. It frees you up to add new bible chapters – or at least teach others that there are unrevealed chapters which will be added as an update later. Who can deny your experience? Who can argue with your own custom Bible? It’s a very convenient new tool to let NAR Apostles and prophets off the hook for being false prophets by simply rewording the warning Jesus gave in Matthew 7:15 and following:

Constantly be on your guard against phony prophets. They come disguised as lambs, appearing to be genuine, but on the inside, they are like wild, ravenous wolves! You can spot them by their actions, for the fruits of their character will be obvious. (TPB)

The passage in the real bible is actually a warning to be on guard for FALSE PROPHETS – which of course the NAR prophets are! The definitions of false prophets are given by Moses in Deuteronomy 13 and 18. The hearers of Jesus’ warning would have had these passages memorized. The warning has nothing to do with the so-called “fruits of one’s character.” One cannot judge a false prophet by his ungodly or bad “character,” since, as Jesus points out, they will look just like sheep!! Sheep are true believers. These false prophets would seem outwardly like Godly men, doing good works while hiding their true characters! The false prophets that Jesus warned would come would probably be carrying Bibles, claiming to do miracles, utilizing Christian lingo, acting nice and Christian-y, and maybe even casting out demons in Jesus’ name. In fact, that is what Jesus said in Matthew 7:22-23:

On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.

http://midwestoutreach.org/2018/06/28/the-custom-bible-company/

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Historicity of Pontius Pilate

During the trial of Jesus, the gospel accounts focus a great deal on a “larger-than-life” character named Pontius Pilate. Luke referred to him as the Roman governor of Judea during the reign of Tiberius Caesar (Luke 3:1).

Do we have evidence for Pontius Pilate outside the biblical texts?

In 1961, archaeologists discovered a plaque fragment at Caesarea Maritima, an ancient Roman city along the Mediterranean coast of Israel. The plaque was written in Latin and imbedded in a section of steps leading to Caesarea’s Amphitheatre. The inscription includes the following: “Pontius Pilatus, Prefect of Judea, has dedicated to the people of Caesarea a temple in honor of Tiberius.”

Emperor Tiberius reigned from 14 to 37 AD. This matches the biblical timeline that records Pontius Pilate ruling as governor of Judea from 26 to 36 AD.

https://www.allaboutarchaeology.org/pontius-pilate-faq.htm

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Mormonism And Abortion

"There is also evidence that some of Smith’s plural wives had abortions performed by John C. Bennett (a physician), a Mormon, and a close friend and confidant of Smith’s for almost two years, from July 1840 to mid-May 1842. Mrs. Orson (Sarah) Pratt, a Mormon resident in Nauvoo, said one reason nobody really heard about some of Smith’s impregnated women was because his friend Dr. Bennett performed abortions for him. She reported that Bennett once showed her and her husband the instruments which he used to “operate for Joseph.” Not surprisingly, she branded Bennett “the evil genius of Joseph.” Her abortion testimony was later corroborated by William Wyl (von Wymetal), a German newspaper reporter. He also learned that Bennett performed abortions for the founder of the Mormon church. Sarah Pratt stated that there was a house about a mile and a half from Nauvoo that functioned as “a kind of hospital.” She explained, “They sent women there when they showed signs of celestial consequences.” This house, according to Harry M. Beardsley, was a large brick mansion “fitted up by Bennett as an abortion hospital."

Alvin J. Schmidt, The American Muhammad: Joseph Smith, Founder of Mormonism, p.178

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Affirmation Of Miracles Among The Ancients Was Not A Result Of Wrongly Perceiving The Universe

"...it may be stated at once that this view is quite wrong about facts. The immensity of the universe is not a recent discovery. More than seventeen hundred years ago Ptolemy taught that in relation to the distance of the fixed stars the whole Earth must be regarded as a point with no magnitude. His astronomical system was universally accepted in the Dark and Middle Ages. The insignificance of Earth was as much a commonplace to Boethius, King Alfred, Dante, and Chaucer as it is to Mr. H. G. Wells or Professor Haldane. Statements to the contrary in modern books are due to ignorance."

C.S. Lewis, Miracles, pg. 78

Belief In Miracles Was Never A Result Of Scientific Ignorance

"When St. Joseph finally accepted the view that his fiancee's pregnancy was due not to unchastity but to a miracle, he accepted the miracle as something contrary to the known order of nature. All records of miracles teach the same thing. In such stories the miracles excite fear (that is what the very word miracles implies) among the spectators, and are taken as evidence of supernatural power. If they were not known to be contrary to the laws of nature how could they suggest the presence of the supernatural? How could they be surprising unless they were seen to be exceptions to the rules? And how can anything be seen to be an exception till the rules are known? If there ever were men who did not know the laws of nature at all, they would have no idea of a miracle and feel no particular interest in one if it were performed before them. Nothing can seem extraordinary until you have discovered what is ordinary."

C.S. Lewis, Miracles, pg. 74-75

Johns Hopkins Psychiatrist: Transgender is ‘Mental Disorder;' Sex Change ‘Biologically Impossible’

"Dr. Paul R. McHugh, the former psychiatrist-in-chief for Johns Hopkins Hospital and its current Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry, said that transgenderism is a “mental disorder” that merits treatment, that sex change is “biologically impossible,” and that people who promote sexual reassignment surgery are collaborating with and promoting a mental disorder.

Dr. McHugh, the author of six books and at least 125 peer-reviewed medical articles, made his remarks in a recent commentary in the Wall Street Journal, where he explained that transgender surgery is not the solution for people who suffer a “disorder of ‘assumption’” – the notion that their maleness or femaleness is different than what nature assigned to them biologically."

https://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/michael-w-chapman/johns-hopkins-psychiatrist-transgender-mental-disorder-sex-change

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Experiencing The Joy Of God's Providence

        "O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!" (Psalm 34:8)

        From a materialistic perspective, the Christian life is easily comparable to a complicated maze of edicts and burdens. It is ordinarily perceived by the world to be enslavement of the human will, but the reality of the matter is that everybody is a slave to something. We can either be servants of God or servants of idols. Any imagined concept of middle ground on this matter is illusionary. We can experience a temporary perversion of joy through self-indulgence or receive the crown of eternal life which consists of redemption, reconciliation, and fellowship with our Creator. The temporal blessings that God gives to us in this life point to the eternal blessings He will bestow upon us in heaven.

        One need not be discouraged in his or her walk with God in the midst of daily stressors and persecution. One need not discard the precious gems of gospel truth in view of the moral turbulence that this world presents. It must be recognized that nothing transcends the power of God, and He is working things out for the good of those who love Him. We must evaluate matters from the lens of eternity. The world is not the way it is supposed to be. It has been impacted by sin. It is not our home because we have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. Our true home is an everlasting abode above. So we should not seek worldly or sinful means of pleasure.

         Christians have been called to exercise spiritual discernment. To act foolishly while claiming superficially that God will provide is not trust, but presumption. The gospel is not an invitation to prosper financially, but a call to experience fellowship with God. It is a call to love, know, and serve Him in this world. The gospel is a call to glorify God. We experience His goodness through being in communion with Him. He is not a means to an end, but a means in Himself. God designed us with the freedom of choice so that He could experience fellowship with mankind. That is the purpose and design of our free will. He did not create us because He needed to, but because He is love.

        We should be leaning on the God and looking to His promises. We ought to trust in His divine plan to restore creation back to its original state of perfection. We should be striving for spiritual maturity through prayer, conquering fleshly lusts, and mediating on the principles of Scripture. God Himself is not simply a Giver of gifts, but is a gift Himself. He is the ultimate Gift. We ought to express gratitude for whatever blessings that the Lord has bestowed upon us. We must rejoice continually in the tender mercies He gives. God is our strength and our song. He is our comforter and all in all. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Marriage Stability

"Marriage is built on something far more stable than the first flash of romantic love. It is built upon the solid foundation of our wedding vows and the commitment we made to one another before God. Because of that, the radiant flame of romance becomes a soft glowing ember that can burn steadily throughout a lifetime. But embers would die if we didn’t continue putting additional logs of love, honor, respect, kindness, and sacrifice on the fire."

Hope MacDonald, The Flip Side of Liberation: A Call to Traditional Values, p. 68

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Basics On Biblical Transmission And Textual Criticism

  • Defining The Issues:
          -The Bible documents the creation of the world, fall of man, God calling the Nation of Israel to be His people, His plan of redemption, and the means of redemption. It records the rise and fall of various governments. The Bible was written over a period of 1,600 years by approximately 40 authors.
          -The term "canon" is defined as standard or rule of faith. Therefore, the collection of books which comprise the Bible are to function as the spiritual measuring stick of discernment for the Christian church. 
          -The historic Christian position in regards to the Bible is that it is inspired revelation from God. The Bible proclaims itself to be a product of divine inspiration (John 10:35; 2 Timothy 3:16). It contains both human and divine fingerprints.
  • How The Old Testament Canon Was Established:
          -The formation of the Old Testament canon began with God inscribing the Ten Commandments on two stone tablets. Moses was commanded by God to pen down the words of the Law so as to provide the Israelites a rule or faith or standard of judgement.
          -Evidence that the Old Testament revelation gradually expanded over time is the fact that Old Testament authors recognized other authors. For example, the Prophet Daniel makes mention of the books documenting how the Lord spoke to Jeremiah (Daniel 9:2). The twofold division of the Law and prophets points to the Old Testament canon (Matthew 5:17-18; Luke 16:29-31). The threefold division of the Law, prophets, and the psalms also signifies the complete Hebrew Old Testament (Luke 24:44). This demonstrates the overall consistency within the Old Testament writings.
          -"No longer are there compelling reasons to assume that the history of the canon must have commenced very late in Israel’s history, as was once accepted. The emergence in Mesopotamia, already in the second half of the 2nd millennium BCE, of a standardized body of literature arranged in a more or less fixed order and with some kind of official text, expresses the notion of a canon in its secular sense…The Old Testament as it has come down in Greek translation from the Jews of Alexandria via the Christian Church differs in many respects from the Hebrew Scriptures…It should be noted that the contents and form of the inferred original Alexandrian Jewish canon cannot be ascertained with certainty because all extant Greek Bibles are of Christian origin." (https://www.britannica.com/topic/biblical-literature/Old-Testament-canon-texts-and-versions#ref597311)
  • Primary Ancient Witnesses Consulted In Reconstructing And Verifying The Old Testament Canon:
          -The Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered near Wadi Qumran, are the earliest known extent Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament. Codex Leningrad is the earliest complete manuscript of the Hebrew Old Testament, dated around the timing of the eleventh century and reflects Masoretic tradition. Other important ancient witnesses supporting the accurate preservation of the Old Testament Scriptures would include the Samaritan Torah, the Greek Septuagint (LXX), and the Aramaic Targums.
  • How We Can Know That The Old Testament Has Been Accurately Transmitted:
          -The Jews carefully preserved the writings that they deemed to be of canonical status. Any texts and scrolls that were reputed to have the unique characteristic of divine inspiration were kept in the temples, under the intense care and supervision of the priests who ministered and the scribes. In short, the concept of canonicity was known to the Israelites. Moreover, Near Eastern scribal practices in religious and political contexts involved meticulous preservation of important documents. Manuscripts would be copied. Manuscripts would be revised. They were compared, and examined letter per letter. The Jews no doubt venerated the Old Testament Scriptures. Thus, the closed and standardized text of the Old Testament has been passed down to us in excellent condition.
          -"The care of the Talmudic doctors for the text is shown by the pains with which they counted up the number of verses in the different books, and computed which were the middle verses, words, and letters in the Pentateuch and in the Psalms. The scrupulousness with which the Talmudists noted what they deemed the truer readings, and yet abstained from introducing them into the text, indicates at once both the diligence with which they scrutinized the text, and also the care with which, even while acknowledging its occasional imperfections, they guarded it. Critical procedure is also evinced in a mention of their rejection of manuscripts which were found not to agree with others in their readings; and the rules given with reference to the transcription and adoption of manuscripts attest the care bestowed upon them. The Talmud further makes mention of the euphemistic Keris, which are still noted in our Bibles, e.g. at 2 K. vi. 25. It also reckons six instances of extraordinary points placed over certain words, e.g. at Gen. xviii. 9; and of some of them it furnishes mystical explanations." (William Smith, A Dictionary Of the Bible Comprising Its Antiquities, Biography, Geography, and Natural History, p. 651)
  • The Establishment Of The New Testament Canon:
          -The New Testament Scriptures were being read and circulated even as the apostles lived (Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27; 2 Peter 3:15-16; Revelation 1:10-11). Consequently, it can be affirmed that the New Testament canon was being established in the middle to the later end of the first century. Most conservative scholars agree that the 27 books of the New Testament were completed by the end of the first century, with the epistle of James being the first and Revelation being last in order of completion. Some, however, argue that Revelation was written earlier. Most of the canon was settled by the end of the second century and crystallized through church councils.
          -There has always been a general consensus as to which books should be included in the New Testament canon. The four gospel accounts and the Pauline corpus were never seriously disputed. The books of Hebrews, James, 2 John, 3 John, 2 Peter, and Revelation were questioned for a time. That point shows us the early Christians did not accept any random texts claiming to be of apostolic origin but instead scrutinized them, which bolsters our confidence that we have the rightful books in the New Testament canon. Factors used in this process would include the dating, authorship, theology, and level of circulation of writings in the church.
  • Outline Information On The New Testament Manuscripts:
          -The earliest manuscripts of the New Testament available are papyri, some of which can be dated as early as the second century.
          -Leather parchment eventually replaced papyrus because the material was more durable. 
          -Codex Vaticanus is significant because it contains the entire New Testament. Another manuscript which contains most of the New Testament is Codex Sinaiticus. 
          -There are ancient Syrian, Coptic, and Latin translations which enhance our understanding of the New Testament autograph manuscripts. These arose due to intense missionary work in the early church.
  • Why Textual Variations Exist:
          -Causes of unintentional scribal alterations in manuscripts would include poor eyesight, faulty inspection, mistakes in memory, spelling errors, and wrongly viewing inserted marginal notes as corrections of the text.
          -Causes of intentional scribal alterations in manuscripts would include attempts to update archaic grammar and spelling, clarify or harmonize more obscure texts, and protect important doctrines.
  • Most Textual Variations Can Be Resolved:
          -Most manuscripts of the Old and New Testaments have differences in spelling or grammar that do not pervert the meaning of the text.
          -There are textual variants among manuscripts that read synonymously. For instance, there are manuscripts that render the same passage of Scripture with Christ's name as being "Lord Jesus" or "Lord Jesus Christ."
          -There are textual variants that can readily be ignored due to seeming outright irrational or found in poor quality manuscripts.
          -The New Testament documents alone are almost one hundred percent textually pure. They have much earlier and wider source attestation than any other document of antiquity. Not one variation among the manuscripts comes close to harming an article of Judeo-Christian tradition.
  • Defining What Textual Criticism Is:
          -The purpose of textual criticism is to accurately convey what was written in the inspired original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. This process of refinement involves sifting through all the available manuscript evidence. That is the authentic science of biblical textual criticism.
          -Biblical criticism has been separated into two main categories: higher and lower criticism.
          -Textual criticism should be opposed when there are liberal, humanistic, or anti-supernatural motivations involved. It should be done on the presupposition that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.