The Apple Of God's Eye

March 12, 2011

What Was Really Nailed To The Cross?

thegospelcoalition.org

Does Colossians 2:14-17 prove the Ten Commandments, Sabbaths and Holy Days were “against us,” “contrary to us,” and were therefore blotted out — “nailed to the cross”? Just what do these verses really mean?

Nineteen hundred years ago, on a stony slab of ground jutting upward near Jerusalem, a young man was nailed to an upright stake, suffering a uniquely harsh form of execution.

The one who was put to death was not merely a man — but also GOD in the flesh! And His death was a potential atonement for the sins of all mankind!

We know Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty of our sins. But when He was nailed to that stake, what else was nailed there? Do you know?

A Much Misunderstood Scripture

Many fundamentalist theologians point to Colossians 2:14-17 in an attempt to prove that the entire law of God, sabbath days, and God’s annual festivals were done away — nullified and abrogated at the death of Christ. According to them, these verses say that the Ten Commandments were “against us,” and so Christ took them out of the way, “nailing them to His cross” when He died.

What do these verses in Colossians 2 really mean? Before examining Colossians 2:14-17 word by word and comparing it with other scriptures, let’s understand who the Colossians were, and why Paul wrote to them.

The City of Colossae

Colossae was a city in Asia Minor near Laodicea, in the province of Phrygia, on the south side of the Maeander river. At one time the city was controlled by the Macedonians. It was later transferred to the Seleucids, and finally became subject to Rome.

The Colossians were Gentiles and pagans. In the apostles’ time, the city, like the other cities of Asia Minor, was wholly given over to the worship of false gods and goddesses. Those of the saints who lived in Colossae had formerly been steeped in the same pagan idolatry.

Because pagan teachings and anti-Christian influences were rife in the city, and deceptive teachings of numerous religious philosophies abounded, the Apostle Paul was deeply concerned for the brethren in Colossae. He was actually alarmed lest false teachers, propounders of a mixture of Oriental philosophy and Judaistic beliefs, should again deceive them and subvert their faith in Christ.

In chapter 2, verse 8, Paul warned the brethren in Colossae: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments [elements] of the world, and not after Christ.” (more…)

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December 30, 2009

Jesus' Birth: The Untold Story

In late December of each year, thousands of tourists flock into the small town of Bethlehem in the Judean Hills south of Jerusalem to participate in annual Christmas celebrations there. Some make the 6-mile journey from Jerusalem on foot. Upon arrival, they crowd with silent awe into the paved expanse of Manger Square in front of the revered Church of the Nativity, built over the traditional site of Jesus’ birth.

Inevitably, some of these tourists arrive in Israel unprepared. They have not thoroughly studied their guidebooks. As they step off their plane, they receive a real shock!  November through early March is “winter” in Israel! The weather gets cold, especially at night. Often it rains — or even snows! Yet many arrive in Israel carrying luggage bulging with summer attire, reasoning that it is always hot and arid in the Middle East. So they hurriedly purchase coats and sweaters in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem for their pilgrimage down to Bethlehem.

Nevertheless, most of those who stand in Manger Square on December 25 each year — prepared and unprepared alike — fail to perceive the message being proclaimed by the very weather around them!  Notice this plain testimony of your Bible: On the day of Jesus’ birth “there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8). (more…)

September 23, 2009

What Spokesmen For Science Are Not Telling You About Evolution!

Darwinsape-703382Is belief in a living intelligent Creator unscientific? Is the scientific method the only way to view reality?

The existence of a Creator is generally viewed by spokesmen for the scientific establishment as incompatible with objective reasoning and the scientific method. What guarantee, if there is a Creator, do we have that we are not dupes of “cosmic practical jokes” such as being placed in a young universe “created with an appearance of age”?

Has that Someone gone to a lot of trouble to produce fossils, even with worn-down teeth and arthritic joints, in order to trick us humans into thinking we evolved? Would a superior Being continually meddle with the laws of nature, thereby confounding the results of scientific experiments and making such results meaningless? These questions demand answers.

Was There a Beginning?

Modern science has made many amazing discoveries about our universe. These are nearly always presented to the layman in the language of evolution. But do these discoveries genuinely support evolution — or the opposite conclusion? Just what should we conclude from the evidence of scientific investigation?

The origin of the universe has been debated by astronomers, physicists, philosophers and theologians for centuries. Has the universe always existed? Did it come into existence at some definite time in the past? Many theories — theological and scientific — have been proposed and then discarded as new discoveries were made. In recent times, one theory — the big bang theory — has come to be accepted by many scientists as more consistent with the data than any other.

The big bang theory proposes that the entire universe exploded into existence in an instant of time. Physicists now claim to be able to project backward into the past to within one billion billion billion billionth of a second of the big bang (Science Digest, May 1981). Using known laws of physics, they theoretically tell what conditions would have been like within such a small time unit immediately after the big bang.

To accept the big bang theory, one has to believe that the entire universe came into existence suddenly and dramatically in an infinitesimally microscopic moment of time. Does that sound like the slow, gradual unfolding of evolutionary processes?

A few things bother scientists about the big bang theory. On the one hand, they observe inexplicable uniformity on the large scale, but, on the other hand, “clumpiness” on the small scale. There is also something they call “flatness” of the universe that requires special initial conditions. Moreover, the occurrence of the big bang itself seems to violate known physical laws.

In puzzling over these problems, scientists use expressions such as, “Someone had to time it very precisely,” “The conditions of the universe were specially arranged,” and “How did the universe manage to go ‘bang’ in such an improbable way?” (Science News, September 3, 1983).

So, the origin of the universe could not possibly be the result of a cosmological pipe bomb that somehow produced itself and just blew up.

Is there an explanation that agrees with the data? There is! The real big bang was a well-planned, deliberately executed act of CREATION! How would you expect a super powerful divine Being to bring forth an entire universe? With a small fizzle, a limp thud or a weak whimper? Of course not! The creation of the universe was accomplished with a glorious display of light, heat, matter and energy — a display that still reverberates throughout space and only recently has been described by scientists as the big bang!

Thousands of years ago David wrote: “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps. 19:1). The marvels known today — the incredible size and power of the stars, the enormity of galaxies, awesome phenomena such as supernovae, pulsars and quasars — tell us more about the glory of God than David could have ever imagined!

Age of the Universe

How old is the universe? The answer to this question is almost always misunderstood by creationists and misused by evolutionists. Creationists generally believe, falsely, that the universe is hardly more than 6,000 years old. On the other hand, many evolutionists falsely suppose that the great antiquity of the universe somehow “proves” evolution.

First of all, the Bible does not say the universe was created 6,000 years ago. It simply says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1, Revised Authorized Version). The physical evidence shows a universe and earth of great age. At the Grand Canyon alone one can see with the naked eye the results of geological processes that would require immensely more than 6,000 years to complete.

Further evidence from radiometric dating and astrophysics pushes the age of the universe back to more than ten billion years — or ten thousand million years for our British readers.

Evolutionists seize on these millions of years out of necessity. After all, they believe that given enough time, anything can happen. Apparently, some creationists also believe that given enough time, evolution could happen. Otherwise, why would they so desperately attempt to squeeze the history of the universe into a few thousand years in spite of stubborn facts to the contrary? Both viewpoints are wrong!

Necessity does not prove anything. You need air to fly an airplane. Just because you have air, that doesn’t mean you automatically have an airplane without the need of a designer. In the same way, just because you have billions of years, that does not make evolution occur. The great age of the universe does not in itself “prove” evolution or creation.

But what does the age of the universe tell us? Why would a Creator make it so long ago and maintain it? Not only merely to “declare his glory,” but for an astounding purpose!

The Creator is eternal. He inhabits eternity (Isa. 57:15). What better way to teach temporary human beings something of the concept of eternity, than to put them into a universe that is millions upon millions of years old?

Life Demands a Life

The earth teems with millions of forms of life — animals and plants of many distinct characteristics. Do these life forms give evidence for evolution?

In two previous articles in The Plain Truth (September 1981, U.S. edition; February 1983, all English language editions), we have shown the utter mathematical improbability of even the “simplest” components of life, let alone life forms, coming into existence and developing through evolution. Mutations and natural selection notwithstanding, there is no evidence that life “evolved” — the missing links are still missing.

But life does teach us something about the Creator, something very important, which neither evolutionists nor theologians understand — something fundamental about God’s plan!

Life forms reproduce after their own kinds. This fact in itself contradicts a basic tenet of evolution. (By the term “kind,” we do not mean the intentionally limited definition of “species.” For instance, there could be many species such as lions, tigers, etc., within a “cat kind.” But there is a total distinction between the “cat kind” and the “dog kind,” for example.)

Evolution requires major changes in already existing life forms by means of natural genetic reproductive processes. (That is, invertebrate to vertebrate: fish to amphibian to reptile to bird, monkey to ape and hominid, and hominid to man.) There is not one shred of proof in the fossil record that genetic changes of this magnitude have occurred — or are even remotely possible — by any known biological process. A careful study of the anatomy and behavior of numerous creatures clearly shows how preposterous such an idea actually is. Kind reproduces its own kind! Only the creative process could account for the geologic record and the contemporary world.

But the fact of reproduction after its own kind also contradicts the teaching of nearly all theologians about the purpose of God.

Does the Creator Meddle?

Would it make any sense for a living intelligent supreme Being to try to thwart legitimate scientific inquiry by “monkeying around” with the laws of nature? Would a Creator use cosmological trickery to deceive human beings about the creation they inhabit? The real Creator does not operate that way!

“The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens” (Prov. 3:19).

“These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him. … A false witness that speaketh lies …..(Prov. 6:16, 19).

The Creator would not create a universe or even a planet earth that was itself a false witness. That would hardly “declare his glory” and “show his handiwork” (Ps. 19:1).

Does that mean the Creator never intervenes? It’s very much like an airplane with an automatic pilot. The automatic pilot maintains the direction, speed and altitude of the airplane. However, the human pilot can override the automatic pilot at any time.

What we call laws of nature are like the automatic pilot. The Creator does on rare and usually unique occasions decide to override the “automatic pilot.” But there was only one parting of the Red Sea. If the Red Sea parted every full moon, we would certainly expect to find a physical explanation, not a supernatural one.

Spectacular divine interventions are unique and do not permanently alter the “laws of nature.” Similarly, miracles that affect an individual, such as a divine healing or an inexplicable protection from serious bodily injury, involve only a temporary or momentary alteration or cessation of existing physical, chemical or biological laws.

As more scientific discoveries are made, whether at the galactic level or the subatomic level, there is only more evidence of law, design, harmony and order — more evidence of an intelligent, ever-living, superpowerful Creator!

“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).

So the next time you read about the wonders of nature or watch a television program describing some fascinating scientific discovery, don’t be misled by evolutionary terminology and bias. Realize that you are seeing the handiwork of a master Creator!

Source: Plain Truth, 1984

August 27, 2009

Why Does God Get The Blame, But Never The Credit?

claimdynamics.com

claimdynamics.com

We live in a funny world. When things go wrong, God is to blame, but when they go right, we will not give due credit. Take for example the innocent deaths of children dying the world over: It must the fault of God, because he created us and now has deserted mankind, right?

Or what about when a devastating tornado or hurricane hits a small town and wipes it off the map, or the 9-11 disaster: “Where is He when we need Him,” is the oft repeated cry, or “it’s an act of God,” putting God in the position of being accused. Airlines also invoke God when weather causes flight delays or accidents – it’s not the fault of the airline – blame God.

Then there’s insurance policy clauses, contracts or wildfire’s, earthquakes, floods and avalanches. Some people scream at the heavens, or bury their head in their hands and cry, “Why, God?”  Others seek to cast blame, even for those things which are not of human origin.  In legal and insurance realms the reference is made to Acts of God, which may or may not be insurable. Someone’s got to be blamed, even if no fault is found!

Conversely though, when we find ourselves in a life threatening bind, a big financial constraint or when we are emotionally distressed, we invoke God’s name for help. At this time, we may have no other recourse – no one is watching so what harm can a small prayer do, right. If He exists, then perhaps he will help us, because we’re essentially good aren’t we?

Process theology to the rescue

Now comes the school of religious thought called process theology. These modern theologians say that the question of why God allows these tragedies, or why God is not apparently powerful enough to stop them, has vexed religious counselors for centuries. And well it may. Because people simply do not understand that question!

If God is all good, if God is love, he wouldn’t want humanity to suffer, would he? And if God is all powerful, as the Bible says he is, why doesn’t he stop suffering? Why doesn’t he prevent it?

The credibility of God is now at stake, say the theologians. The world, they contend, has grown weary of religious spokesmen trying to defend God and explain why God allows these things – and at the same time saying that God is all love, God is all good, God is all powerful and he could stop it, yet he doesn’t. So modern theologians now have come up with this new theology called process theology in an attempt to explain this apparent paradox.  God, they say, is entirely loving, but is lacking in power.

They say nothing of the real purpose of life. They say nothing about the restoration of the kingdom of God, the only gospel that Jesus Christ preached.

The Origin and Purpose of Life

But what is the real trouble with this question? What is the reason that God has not stopped all this violence, all this human suffering?

In all the religions of this world – the many different religions we call non-Christian, and even the religion of Christianity – not one religion knows who and what God is. What is God? Is he a trinity? Is God one person? They just don’t understand.  Not one religion on earth fully knows what and why man is. Why are we here? What is the purpose, if any?

Notice what God says about all this in Isaiah chapter 40, beginning with verse 17:

“All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity. To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?… It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers [that is to God]; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:

“… To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might [there it speaks of God’s might, his power], for that he is strong in power; not one faileth” (verses 17, 22, 25-26).

The earth turns on its axis. The different seasons regularly come. It is the power of God that is causing all of that. And that is mighty power.

And God formed man after the God kind, not after an animal kind, but in form and likeness of God. There is a very special purpose for man on earth and when you understand that, you begin to understand why God is allowing all the suffering on the earth today.

Notice, now, Genesis 2:7: “And the Lord God [Lord there is the name of the one that became Christ] formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man [made of the dust of the ground] became a living soul.”

Man Must Choose

The man that God created now had to make a choice.

Character is the ability of some separately created entity to come to a knowledge of right as from wrong, of truth as from error, of good as from evil. To choose the right, or the good, and to reject the evil – even though he might want to do the evil – to have the will to do the good, that is character.

God is the supreme, holy, righteous, perfect, spiritual character. And He is reproducing that character in man. How is that divine character going to get into something made out of the ground? God placed a human spirit in the first man. That human spirit could have a relationship with God, who is spirit.

But God placed before that man two choices, symbolized by two trees in the garden of Eden. The one tree was the tree of life. How does God give that life? It comes through the Holy Spirit. The person that has the Spirit of God has life, and he that has not the Spirit of God does not have life. If the Spirit of Christ is in you, you are his (I John 5:11-12).

If the Spirit of God is not in you, you are “none of his” (Rom. 8:9, last part). And, verse 11, “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken [make immortal] your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”

God made us mortal, but he made us to become immortal. And God required that the man had to make a choice, because character had to be built in the man! Character is built through choice.

The other tree, the other choice before man, symbolized the way of man’s taking to himself – deciding altogether by himself – the knowledge of good and evil. How do we come to know the truth of God? In I Corinthians 2:9 we read, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart [mind] of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” – in other words, spiritual knowledge.

God reveals these things to us only by his Spirit. The Spirit of God reveals God’s knowledge – spiritual knowledge and spiritual character. But man decided to take the basis of that kind of character to himself, to decide right from wrong, truth from error, by himself.

So, in punishment, God at that time closed up the tree of life. In other words, he shut up the Holy Spirit from man.

God had set out a 7,000-year plan and purpose in which to develop the godlike character in man, made from the dust of the ground. God’s purpose is to make us immortal like God, until we become God as he is God. That has got to come through human experience, but it has to come from God, with our consent, our desire, our decision and our wills.

I John 3:1-2 says, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us [here is the fact that God loves us], that we should be called the sons of God [ultimately to be born of God, though now begotten of God; for God is reproducing himself, and we’re called the sons of God]:… now [even right now] are we the sons of God [but only begotten, not yet born], and it doth not yet appear what we shall be [in other words, what we shall be one can’t see yet]: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”

Man is clay to be molded

The purpose of God is character building. That is why he made man of matter. We could be molded spiritually, in a body of earthly clay, into divine character. We read in Isaiah 64:8, “But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.”

Even Job asked, “If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait [meaning in the grave], till my change come. Thou [God] shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands” (Job 14:14-15).

Job knew he was the work of God’s hands. We all are the clay. God is the potter. A potter molds and fashions clay into the form and shape he wants. Now God will – if we put ourselves in his hands, if we surrender to him, and to his will – take us and mold and shape us into the godlike character of love.

God is love. God will put his divine love in us, a love with which we were not born. It is a gift of God through his Holy Spirit.

We sow what we reap

Notice Isaiah 45:9, “Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!… Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou?… ”

What about the theologians reasoning that today’s divided Christianity is God’s religion, that this is God’s world, and God isn’t powerful enough to stop all of evil?

God is allowing man to make his own decisions. And if man makes the wrong decision, God has said whatever we sow we shall reap. God has told his people that ever since the beginning. He told Adam that. He told ancient Israel that. And Jesus Christ told us that. If we sin we will have to reap the consequences. God allows it. He allows suffering and the pain of sin for a good purpose.

God has given man a mind to think with. He gives man revealed knowledge in the Bible. Man can take that knowledge and learn to go God’s way. That is necessary for the development of character so we can become like God.

In Matthew 24:4-5 Jesus said, “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name [Jesus said], saying, [that] I am [the] Christ; and shall deceive many.”

How can they do that? Jesus said in Matthew 15:9, “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” They make the commandments of God of no effect by their tradition (verse 3).

The commandments of God are the right way to live; they reveal God’s way of life. Human beings have not kept the commandments of God. They have said, and many preachers are saying today, that the commandments of God are done away.

The commandments of God are the way of love, of love to God and love to neighbor. The first four of the Ten Commandments tell you how to love God, the last six how to love your neighbor. That is the way God lives and the way Christ lived while on earth.

But in Jeremiah 50:6 God says that the shepherds, the ministers of this world, lead his people astray and deceive them. That is exactly what has happened. The world has been deceived, and the deceived theologians can’t seem to understand why God allows all this suffering from disobedience till we learn our ways are wrong.

God allows it to teach us lessons. God allows it because we ourselves have brought it on ourselves, and because we have failed to develop the kind of character needed to become his children, to be glorified, to be given the gift of eternal life so as to live in happiness and peace and joy. There’s no other way for peace.

Man has brought all this on himself, in defiance of God! Man has been shaking his fist at God, telling God he won’t obey God and going his own way, the way that has seemed right to a man. It’s all a matter of cause and effect. It’s the way we have lived that has brought all these troubles on us, not God.

But God will show man whether he has power. God will finally deliver man from the evils of today’s civilization by his divine powers and establish his kingdom of peace over all the earth.

June 23, 2009

How Old Is Mankind – 6000 Years Or 600,000?

mankindRemove from a library shelf any volume on ancient man. Examine its opening chapter. What will you find? Expressions as: “it is thought,” “there appears to be some basis for believing,” “it has been suggested,” “it may be presumed,” “one may safely assume,” and “others are of the opinion” — just to mention a few.

What do all these carefully chosen expressions really signify? Just this: Science has no demonstrable evidence for accepting as fact what has been written in the book. The conclusions are mere speculation!

Never Safe to Assume

Just how old is Man? Is there any AUTHORITY who can tell us? Several modern writers, relying only on geological inferences, place the appearance of man about 25,000 to 35,000 years ago. Others suggest the period is no less than 100,000 years ago. No small number of scholars assume it may be 500,000 years ago. And there are a few who place it several hundred thousand years earlier. Do any of these men really KNOW?

And how could intelligent, able men arrive at such absurdly varying figures for the origin of man and the beginnings of ancient history? They all have access, remember, to the same geological and archaeological sources of information. They all have the same facts — but they don’t have the same answers! Why?

The answer is, they are all interpreting geologic and archaeological evidence in accordance with their private theories. They are only guessing. They have no way of knowing.

One well-known writer phrased it this way: “We know that there is no absolute knowledge, that there are only theories; but we forget this. The better educated we are the harder we believe in axioms” (Lincoln Steffens “Autobiography”, page 816). (more…)

April 18, 2009

Textual Criticism: The Folly Of Biblical Scholars

God Breathed?  

God Breathed?

The Bible—more than any other religious writings of similar age—has drawn intense examination. Critics write off this text as the uninspired writings of an unlearned people. They claim the Bible is full of contradiction and historical inaccuracies. Some go so far as to say that this book is a carefully contrived sham to keep tight-fisted control over mindless people. Others say the Bible is a work of fiction. What is truly appalling is that many theologians agree. Understand that there is nothing new here. The scriptures have been under violent attack for centuries—by scholars, philosophers, cynics and the religious.

A particularly noteworthy passage is the long ending of Mark 16:9-20, among many others which are attacked. Skeptics and critics alike have found grist for their mill in the assertion that Mark presents an inconsistency, and poses a problem in not properly fitting in after the eighth verse. However, leaving out the last verses poses the significant problemof the book not coming to an orderly conclusion, as does EVERY other book in the Bible. Human writings are filled with error, but the Bible is COMPLETE, INSPIRED and WHOLLY PRESERVED through the power of God. These verses are an INSPIRED PART of the Word of God. 

Proof of legitimacy

The longer ending to Mark’s gospel is quoted extremely early in church history. Mark 16:19 is quoted as part of Mark’s account by Irenaeus in “Against Heresies” (Bk. iii, 10, 6) between A.D. 182 and 188. It says:

“Also, towards the conclusion of his gospel, Mark says, ‘So then, after the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was received up into heaven and sits on the right hand of God.”

Not only did Irenaeus accept it as a part of Mark’s gospel when arguing with “heretics,” but, says Hastings: “No writer before Eusebius is known to have rejected them, and their presence in all later MSS [manuscripts] shows that the successors of Eusebius, in spite of his great authority, did not follow his judgment in the matter.” (Eusebius was the court favorite and the church historian in the days of Emperor Constantine.) These facts point plainly to the great antiquity of the longer ending as preserved in the common English versions. 

There are allusions to these disputed  verses in even earlier writings, although not as true quotations. Some have traced various versions of Mark’s ending back to the earliest extant manuscripts. 

The rise of textual criticism

Hostility toward the Bible has a cause. It begins with modern Bible criticism, referred to as biblical scholarship. This sounds harmless enough, because it makes their occupation appear more acceptable.Yet it is noteworthy that the literature of other religions is not subject to scholarly scrutiny. Now why would that be? The answer is simple. The Bible claims to be the express Word of God, a claim no other religion makes. So if one could prove that the Bible is not the Word of God, then there would be no need to read or follow it. Isn’t that the real reason Bible scholars have worked so hard at uncovering any flaw which could be proof that it is not the literal Word of God? Critics will deny this assertion, but it’s the truth. (Philadelphia Trumpet, June 2005)

“The decline of reformed scholarship started with  B. B. Warfield’s adoption of the Westcott and Hort textual critical theory and his redefinition of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy to make it apply only to autographs. Warfield’s concept of Sola Autographa unfortunately caught on, and became the new paradigm in the textual critical exercise of reconstructing (or rather deconstructing) the inspired text. 

A textual critic engaged upon his business is like a dog hunting for fleas. That’s because determining authenticity on the basis of style omits the fact that at least a 10,000 word sample is required to make stylistic determinations. Verses 9-20 of Mark 16 fall about 9900 words short of this, making the argument an exercise in despair.

Still, this does nothing to prevent critics from concluding that textual variations call the Christian traditions of inspiration and inerrancy into serious question. Their expectation is that God would prevent such variations as the scriptures are reproduced. And since variations do, in fact, occur they say, we must be mistaken about the meaning of the scriptures and ultimately the very character of God. 

Such misguided statements should be laughed off. As editors of current critical texts — textual critics are simply modernists who couldn’t make spirit-guided decisions if their life depended on it. They are no better than their texts — carnal men producing a non-spiritual text. They forget the admonition that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). To affirm the inspiration and inerrancy of the original writings while casting doubt on the authority of the Bible is just plain silly”  (fepbc.edu.sg).

A unique book

The Bible is radically different than all other so-called sacred literature. This book of books asserts that it is the divinely inspired writings of a supreme Deity. No other sacred literature makes such a claim. The Bible is a book full of personal quotes from a very active, living God:

“Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isaiah 46:9-10).

The God of the Bible declares the supremacy of His own power. There is none like Him. He is capable of initiating and carrying out a purpose on Earth. A real understanding of God’s purpose shows that there are stupendous and wonderful things ahead for all mankind. (Philadelphia Trumpet, June 2005)

Look at the issue in context. “Of the 20,000 lines of Scripture in the New Testament only about 40 lines read differently between the accepted manuscripts. That means that only 0.2% of the New Testament is disputed. None of these affect any major doctrines and most are stylistic or spelling differences. Translation of the Bible also takes into account quotations from early church fathers who were close to the original manuscripts. There are around 86,489 New Testament citations by church fathers in the 2nd and 3rd century. These quotes cover the entire New Testament except for about 11 verses (churchhopping.com).

And given the absurdly small amount of text not quoted, does it seem believable that ALL scripture must be quoted to be counted trustworthy? Is there not enough information in a New Testament which far surpasses any other ancient document when it comes to consistency and accuracy of translation?

Yes the Bible comprises the full, word-for-word, truthful, inspired, inerrant Word of God, which is the supreme and final authority in doctrine and life. It is God-breathed, factual, free from error, pure, uncorrupted, eternal, and powerful. It stands out from all other books as THE preeminent book. It is not simply about God … but is FROM God; it is His message to us. We can trust that message because Jesus prayed:

“Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” John 17:17. That is why Jesus spoke of the jot-and-tittle infallibility (or verbal inerrancy) of the Scriptures in Matthew 5:18.

The Apostle Paul also spoke of the divinely inspired Scriptures in saying they were “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim 3:16-17). In other words, they were to be trusted in all things because they are for all true Christians, of all ages.

If we do not have an infallible and an inerrant Scripture, then our supreme and final authority of faith and practice is all a myth. It then also makes God out to be a liar. I for one will trust in the one who makes the grand claim of inerrancy, as both I and the critics face this mighty Being one day at the judgment. We don’t want to find out we’re wrong at that time, do we?

April 13, 2009

Was Jonah In The Belly Of A Whale, Or A Great Fish?

Editor’s Note: In this article I introduce two scriptures (Jonah 1:17 and Matthew 12:40) to answer “apparent incongruities” (seemingly impossible scenarios) and to apply apologetics (a reasoned defense of the faith) in affirming the trustworthiness of the Bible.

imagesbible.jexiste.fr/.../Ang_Jonah.htm

imagesbible.jexiste.fr/.../Ang_Jonah.htm

The “apparent incongruity” is the account of a reluctant prophet named Jonah who was swallowed by a fish and yet remained alive in its belly for three days.

 The Book of Jonah has been described as a parable, an allegory, and a satire. However, this is an extremely faithless approach to the scriptures. A large proportion of all modern criticism of the Bible comes from the assumption that miracles do not occur. Skeptical theologians explain every miracle in Scripture away by either tacit rejection or naturalistic explanation. This leads to such ludicrous, varied, and contradictory explanations that the biblical scholar finds ever further justification in the miraculous over the ridiculous!

There are plausible explanations for questions, but we must look at this event with knowledge of God’s miraculous power. Could He have prepared a great fish to be in the vicinity of the floundering ship, to swallow Jonah in the raging sea, then in the time appointed transport him to shore and vomit him up? Absolutely! As the all-powerful Creator God, He is in no way limited by what He created. 

But now what about the type of creature used to swallow Jonah? The original Hebrew wording of Jonah 1:17 is accurately translated in the King James Version as “a great fish.” The Old Testament translation produced by the Jewish Publication Society also refers to this creature as “a great fish.” 

We read that “The LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” (Jonah 1:17, King James Version).

Some controversy arises over the King James translation of Matthew 12:40. This verse says

“He (Jesus Christ) will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, just as Jonah was “three days and three nights in the whale’s belly.” (Matthew 12:40.)

But the fact that Jonah was in the WHALE’S belly was only an assumption on the part of the translators. The New King James Version correctly renders this phrase as “in the belly of the GREAT FISH.” 

A whale is not a fish

Since a whale is a mammal rather than a fish, does this point to a contradiction between Jonah 1:17 and Matt. 12:40? No, and here’s why.

Realize that the Old Testament is written in Hebrew except for small portion in Aramaic (book of Daniel). The New Testament is written in Greek, not English. Neither the KJV or any other translation determines the meaning in English above the original language. Both “whale” and “great fish” are English translations of the original words.

Strong’s Dictionary says the Greek word translated “whale” is ketos (pronounced kay-tos), and means “a huge fish (as gaping for prey).” 

Smith’s Bible Dictionary” makes the following comments about the word WHALE: “Probably the fish which swallowed Jonah was some large kind of shark, or fish especially provided.”

“There are at least two species of Mediterranean marine life that are known to be able to swallow a man whole. These are the cachalot and the white shark. Both creatures are known to prowl the Mediterranean and have been known to Mediterranean sailors since antiquity. Aristotle described both species in his 4th Century B.C.” Historia Animalium (gotquestions.org).

 

The Easton Bible Dictionary says the “white shark is sometimes found 30 feet in length.” [Robinson, Lexicon  (from Barnes’ Notes)] states: “This event took place in the Mediterranean Sea, somewhere between Joppa and Tarshish, when he was fleeing FROM Nineveh. It is said that the “whale” seldom passes into that sea, and that its throat is too small to admit a man. It is probable, therefore, that a fish of the “shark kind” is intended. Sharks have been known often to swallow a man entire. The fish in the book of Jonah is described merely as a “great fish,” without specifying the kind . – Letusreason.org

The evidence supports the conclusion — that it was some kind of large fish, and not a whale, which swallowed Jonah. In any case, the Bible says God  God specifically “prepared” (mahnah—appointed, constituted, made ready) a great fish (Gesenius, 1847, p. 486). So another argument is that Jonah being swallowed was a divine miracle and thus the type of creature  God used could have been whatever sea life was available or He created a special (massive) creature to serve his purpose of causing Jonah to repent and to carry out His command of preaching.

“The same term (“prepared”) is employed to refer to additional direct manipulations initiated by God. He prepared a plant (4:6), a worm (4:7), and a vehement wind (4:8) [Wigram, 1890, p. 733]. George Cansdale was correct in concluding: “[T]here is no point in speculating about the full physical explanation of an incident that primarily is metaphysical, i.e., miraculous” (1975, 5:925, emp. added). McClintock and Strong agree: “[T]he transaction is plainly miraculous, and no longer within the sphere of zoological discussion” (1881, 10:972). Jonah’s survival after being inside a sea creature is no more remarkable than Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego surviving the “burning fiery furnace” (Daniel 3:27).” (apologeticspress.org)

A similar instance can also be found in Book of Numbers, chapter 22, versus 28 through 30 where God gives Balaam’s donkey the power of human speech in order to have a conversation with Balaam.

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