The Apple Of God's Eye

April 5, 2010

Who Was The Apostle James?

Mark and Matthew indicate that James was one of several children born to Mary and Joseph after Jesus’ birth. He, like the Lord’s other siblings, was not supportive of Jesus during his early ministry (John 7:5). Mark records an incident in Jesus’ ministry where his fellow townsmen derided Him as merely a local: “‘Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him” (Mark 6:3; see also Matthew 13:55–56). At one point, they actually thought Him mad (Mark 3:21). However, that was to change.

By the opening of the book of Acts, however, James had become one of the disciples. He was converted after his Brother, Jesus Christ, had died and been resurrected. James was the leader of the Church headquarters congregation in Jerusalem. He was martyred around A.D. 62. This was roughly during the beginning of the revolt in the Jerusalem area that resulted in its siege and eventual destruction in A.D. 70.

The canonical writings of the New Testament, as well as other written sources from the Early Church, provide some insights into James’ life and his role in the Early Church. There is mention of him in the Gospel of John and the early portions of the Acts of the Apostles. The Synoptics mention his name, but no further information. However, the later chapters of the Acts of the Apostles provide evidence that James was an important figure in the Christian community of Jerusalem. (more…)

October 7, 2009

Is The Holy Spirit A Person?

HolySpiritMillions  believe it fervently. Some of the world’s greatest minds have pondered and written about it. So why shouldn’t you also believe and accept the doctrine of the trinity — that the Holy Spirit is a person, just like God the Father and Jesus Christ?

But wait! What did they believe and what have they pondered? Did these “great minds” really prove the doctrine of the trinity to themselves, not to mention to others? Let the record speak for itself:

“We cannot doubt the existence among orthodox Fathers of different opinions on this mysterious subject until its final definition by the Church” (“Trinity,” Dictionary of Doctrinal and Historical Theology).

It has always been a mystery, filled with controversy and difficult for everybody to comprehend. All scholarly attempts at understanding have only added misunderstanding! All theological attempts at clarity have only added confusion. See if you can understand this:

“Some said that there was but one substance in the God-head, others, three. Some allowed, some rejected the terms … according as they were guided by the prevailing heresy of the day and their own judgment concerning the mode of meeting it… Some declare that God is numerically three; others numerically one; while to others it might appear more philosophical to exclude the idea of number altogether in the discussion of that mysterious Nature which is beyond comparison, whether viewed as One or Three, and neither falls under nor forms any conceivable species” (The Arians of the Fourth Century, p. 127, ed. 1854).

Such ecclesiastical confusion reigned supreme until the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. It was a hotly divided issue that had to be decided by a special meeting of that church almost 300 years after the crucifixion! Why?

Because all scholars admit that there is no reference to the trinity in the Bible, but it is only, as they say, “implied.” And even though the church had theoretically “decided” the issue in 325 A.D., scholars have still held differing opinions throughout the ages ever since that time!

Again why? Because this doctrine cannot be proven! “A fruitful cause of error in ancient and also modern times is owing to an attempt to explain or illustrate this doctrine, forgetting that it is a mystery to be received on faith, which cannot, from its own nature, be rendered intelligible to man’s intellect” (“Trinity,” Dictionary of Doctrinal and Historical Theology).

Admittedly then, the trinity can be neither explained nor understood. Yet much is still written — and a topical Bible will give as many as sixty-five scriptures — to “imply” that the trinity exists and that the Holy Spirit is a distinct person!

Many Bible dictionaries, on the other hand, do not even mention the subject. The ones that comment on the “trinity” do so historically, not Biblically. Now that’s very interesting. Think about why. Why? Because the trinity is not in the Bible.

Why such confusion? Because of the age-old practice of attempting to interpret clear scriptures by unclear scriptures! Who would think to do it the other way around — to analyze and understand unclear scriptures on the basis of what can be easily understood from clear ones !?!

Let’s examine some of those clear, understandable scriptures to see what God’s Holy Spirit actually Is.

First: it is the power of God!

“Not by might, nor by power [of humans], but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6). “I am full of POWER by the Spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of MIGHT . . .” declared the prophet Micah (Micah 3:8).

Second: it has tangible assets:

It is the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear (deep reverence and respect — not craven fear) of the Lord (Isa. 11:2).

Third: it is a gift.

After baptism, you are to receive “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). It Is poured out. “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh” (Acts 2:17).”… On the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 10:45).

Fourth: to be effective the Holy Spirit must be stirred up.

“Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God,” Paul reminded the young evangelist, Timothy (II Tim. 1:7).

Fifth: the Spirit of God can be quenched (I Thes. 5:19)

This language is taken from the way of putting out a fire, which may be put out by pouring on water; or by covering it with any incombustible substance; or by neglecting to supply fuel. If it is to be made to burn, it must be nourished with proper care and attention. So, the the Holy Spirit in a true Christian is here compared with fire (or a power) that might be made to burn more intensely, or that might be extinguished.

Sixth: it is the begetting power of God (Matt. 1:18; Rom. 8:9).

Seventh: it is God’s guarantee to us that He will fulfill His promise to us (Eph. 1:14) .

Eighth: it sheds the love of God abroad in our hearts (Rom. 5:5).

Ninth: it must be renewed (Titus 3:5-6).

And on and on. With not one characteristic even “implying” a “person.” Read these very clear scriptures describing the Holy Spirit again. Does a person do any of these things ? Is a person poured, quenched, renewed? Does a person live IN someone else or live IN people’s hearts? Hardly!

Some are confused by such scriptures as John 14:16-17; 16:7-8, 13. They ask why does the Bible use the pronoun “he” to describe the Holy Spirit if it is not a separate entity? In the above passages the Holy Spirit is referred to as the “Comforter.”

“Comforter” is masculine in the Greek — just like the many other inanimate objects, like stone, which are also masculine. According to Greek rules of grammar you must use a masculine pronoun to refer to a masculine noun. Since “comforter” is masculine in Greek, a masculine pronoun is used. That is why “he” is used in many cases where it refers to the antecedent “comforter.”

In some cases “he” is used in the King James Version where the original Greek uses “it.” The reason is that the translators believed in the Trinity themselves and interpreted rather than translated. John 14:17 is a good example. The pronouns “he” and “him” should have been rendered “it” as they are in the Greek. They refer to the word “spirit,” which is neuter in the Greek. Therefore, the pronouns which refer to them must also be neuter.

Notice Romans 8:16: “The Spirit itself beareth witness….” Here the King James translators have correctly translated the Greek pronoun in the neuter gender.

For further evidence proving that the Holy Spirit is not a person, see Matthew 1:20. Here we read that Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Yet Christ calls God His Father, not the Holy Spirit (John 14:16). If the Holy Spirit were a person, it would be Christ’s Father. Proof positive that the Holy Spirit is not a person but the power God the Father uses — much as a man uses electricity.

Consider further! If the Holy Spirit were a person, Jesus Christ prayed to the wrong individual. Throughout the four Gospels, we find Christ speaking to God — not the Holy Spirit — as His Father.

Source: Tomorrow’s World, 1970

April 17, 2009

Death of Judas Iscariot: Four Apparant Contradictions Solved!

127Is there a contradiction about the death of Judas Iscariot between Matthew 27:5 and Acts 1:18? Did Judas, after betraying Christ, hang himself or just swell up and burst open? Does it matter that history is completely silent on this issue?

First, to explain to the critics (though it will hardly satisfy), we should understand that God had His Word recorded in such a way that it could be misunderstood. Through one of the prophets we find that the Bible is written “here a little, and there a little” (Isa. 28:10). Each part is true, but the whole truth about a particular subject may not be found in any one verse or chapter. This is one reason Paul said that the Word of God must be rightly divided (II Tim. 2:15). 

By putting the two accounts of Judas’ death TOGETHER we get a clearer idea of what happened. Both events are true, yet there are some details which give critics a hard time, though we have only to apply some common sense. 

1) The first contradiction: Two separate deaths — Both events did not happen at the same time – simple. Matthew wrote that Judas “hanged himself” (Matt. 27:5), giving the means of death. He never denies that Judas fell and had his entrails gush out. Luke explained what happened later. He does not tell us that this is the means of Judas’ death, and he also does not deny that Judas hanged himself. He merely reports the end result. 

2) Second Contradiction: Why does Acts say the body of Judas burst open after a fall? — “Consider the following. When a person dies, the body begins to decompose. If left to itself (and not acted upon by the attempt to preserve the body), bacteria soon begin to break down various tissues. As a result, gases are released within the body, which in turn cause it to swell. A few years ago, the news media reported how a 50-ton sperm whale had beached itself on the shores of Taiwan and died. While on its way to being transported through a Taiwanese city to a particular research center, the swollen whale literally exploded and soaked pedestrians and motorists in blood and entrails. According to one Taiwanese scientist, “Because of the natural decomposing process, a lot of gases accumulated, and when the pressure build-up was too great, the whale’s belly exploded” (“Whale Explodes…,” 2004). In light of such events, it certainly is not difficult to imagine that a dead human body, which may have been swelling for a number of days, could have fallen a short distance (from wherever it was hanging), and easily burst open when striking the ground.” (Apologeticspress.org)

This idea has promise for several reasons: 

a) Judas hanged himself on Passover and before a Sabbath, and no Jew was going to touch the hanging corpse (touching a dead body caused defilement; it would have been work to take it down on the Sabbath; added to that, death by hanging was especially a disgrace; and hoisting a dead body isn’t an attractive vocation if it isn’t on your property). So it may be assumed that Judas hanged himself, his body was heated by the Palestinian sun, blew up, broke or slid through the knot of the rope, and fell down bursting open because of decomposition.

b) Another point to consider why the rope around Judas’ neck broke. Approximately six to nine hours had elapsed, and it was during this time that Judas hanged himself. The Bible relates that when Jesus died, there was an earthquake so mighty that rocks were broken and graves were opened. One may assuredly presume that an earthquake strong enough to rend a rock might also be powerful enough to break a rope or cord, specifically the rope from which Judas was hanging. Consequently, it follows, that while Judas did in fact hang himself, the cord from which he was suspended broke. 

3) Third ContradictionJudas did not really die? — Those who say the narrative is not literal but figurative need to consider Acts chapter 1.  Peter says that he fell headlong, burst asunder in the middle and his bowles gushed out, making it fairly clear that he is talking about someone who died. Luke, who was part of the early church, had no problem believing that Judas Iscariot died.  Also, if Judas Iscariot had not died, he would not have needed to be replaced.  

4) Fourth ContradictionHow could the body of Judas fall headlong if tied by the neck? — Can a body fall headlong from hanging? Would not he legs crash to the ground first? I’m not sure why this particular issue is such a stumbling block to people. The word here rendered “headlong” – πρηνής  prēnēs means properly “bent forward, head-foremost.” So there is little denial this happened. But how did his body rotate 180 degrees upon the rope breaking?

14First, we don’t know the height of the tree. Judas could have used a high branch to hang himself and his body hit another branch as the rope loosed, causing his body to flip? This is possible, but would it not make more sense for Judas to simply choose the lowest branch that he could find; one that was sufficiently high? Probably, since a branch with a branch underneath it may have only gotten in the way. But then again, the lower branch may have caused doubt and since the state of mind of someone bent on suicide is not the most stable, this scenario cannot be fully discounted.

Another scenario would simply state that Judas chose a branch suitably higher than himself and used a nearby rock to climb up to it – perhaps it was right underneath the branch. Once the rope broke, the body would have crashed down feet first into the rock (which could have been of a suitable size) and as such, the body simply pitched forward and fell headlong the rest of the way. It certainly is not an impossible circumstance!

Conclusion

I hope people stop making a huge deal out of nothing at all. The amount of information on the internet about this subject is tremendous, yet most is erroneous and proves a huge lack of faith. The Bible does not always give every detail, yet this does not mean the incident is fictitional. It simply means we have to look deeper into the matter, use faith and common sense. We also have to under stand that critics approach the Bible from the angle that God is lying, which contradicts what the scriptures say, “that God cannot lie” (Tit 1:2).

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