Category Archives: Jesus

The Parable of the 10 Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13): Confusion and Understanding

Light your lamp (http://www.sxc.hu/photo/848608).
Light your lamp (http://www.sxc.hu/photo/848608).

Prior to my pastor’s recent sermon on having faith that you’re saved even when you feel inadequate and have doubts, I was wondering about the meaning of what Jesus said in the “Parable of the 10 Virgins” in Matthew (25:1-13).  Whenever this parable was brought to my attention, it bothered me, and it was on my mind prior to that sermon.  Maybe God was trying to tell me that my concerns about the parable were not applicable to me, and followers of Christ like me, and that there was another meaning to it that I simply wasn’t grasping.  In my 19 years of having been a Christian, I had not come to terms with this parable, which seems kind-of pathetic and embarrassing.  I want to dig deeper into this parable—car to come along?  Here is the parable (NIV):

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish and five were wise.  The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them.  The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.  “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’  “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps.  The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’  “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’  10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet.   And the door was shut.  11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’  12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’  13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

The concluding verse exhorts us to keep watch always.  And that is good and necessary, and is repeated elsewhere:  “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Luke 12:40; see also Matt 24:42, 44; Mark 13:35).  The problem is, the young ladies weren’t keeping watch in an ordinary New Testament sense.  The five that got into heaven fell asleep just like the five that didn’t get into heaven.  The difference was in the oil–in their preparedness–not in their actual watchfulness (being awake, having one’s eyes open, looking toward Christ, etc.).

And the problem with this, the oil issue, is at least twofold.  One, oil is commonly known to be symbolic of the Holy Spirit, which we receive from God (we don’t take it or buy it).  Related to this is, (2) how much of our own work do we need to do to be saved?  First, one must read and understand the parable correctly.  Depending on the version I had read in the past, it wasn’t always clear to me that the five foolish virgins didn’t have any oil at all.  This needs to be clear:  five of the virgins brought lamps with them that were . . . empty!  Who does that!?  These were the foolish virgins, we’re told, but it still took a lot of time for my mind to register that someone would bother to bring lamps that didn’t have any oil.  (Truly, what is the point?  It’s like pushing your gasless car somewhere, expecting to drive it off later without filling it up.)   For a long time I thought that the virgins in question had oil in their lamps when they left their homes, and that they didn’t bother bringing extra and thus ran out (this is the take on it that Kaiser et al present, too).  But that’s not what the parable says.  In any case, let’s look at the oil issues I mentioned.

If oil represents the Holy Spirit in this parable, as it does elsewhere in the Bible, then the foolish virgins didn’t have the Holy Spirit.  They wanted into heaven, but they didn’t really accept God (God’s spirit); they weren’t true believers.  If you are sincere in wanting to be with God, God will give you His Holy Spirit; if you just want the goodies of heaven without acknowledging God’s will, your heart is in the wrong place.  So, the only work necessary is to actually believe in God and His son’s work:  “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent (John 6:29).  And according to the parable, if you have God and His Holy Spirit you will be saved even if you get drowsy waiting.  This is quite comforting, and the opposite meaning of what I had originally thought regarding this parable.

One reason why I had a bit of a hard time with this parable is that it didn’t seem logically cohesive.  What I mean by that is, we believers are the church, which is referred to as Christ’s bride in the New Testament.  So, why would the ten virgins (and thus the message) refer to believers, who are already behind the door in the parable (as the bride)?  The virgins are attendants, not the bride; the Syriac and Vulgate versions of the New Testament make this clearer by adding in verse 10 that Christ came with his bride.

We know that the context of the parable is eschatological, that is, regarding the end times.  Only two of the commentaries I have here address the actual relevance of this issue, and they appear to disagree:  Enns 2008, which mentions the theological stance that the wedding takes place in heaven, while the banquet takes place on earth after Christ’s second coming, and MacDonald 1995, which seems to place the wedding and the banquet together (in heaven).  The time is during the tribulation, so the virgins represent true believers and those who aren’t true.  But, why use the term virgin, instead of just person?  Since Christ’s bride – the church – is already in heaven (behind the door), then why are the people in the parable referred to as virgins?  It makes me think Jesus is talking about the Jews during the tribulation period.  Certainly his audience at the time was made up of Jews, and MacDonald (1297) refers to them as those with messianic hope.

Israel is specifically called out in Revelation 7, where during the time of the opening of the Sixth Seal a certain number of Jews will be marked as saved; that is, sealed.  In the New Testament, God seals us with, and gives us, the Holy Spirit (2 Cor.s 1:22; Eph.s 1:13, 4:30).  But whether or not the “virgins” refer to Jews alone, or the wedding feast takes place in heaven or on earth (or even if that has any relevance), people will indeed be saved during the tribulation and the mark of this is the seal of the Holy Spirit, just as it is prior to the tribulation.  The admonition to always be ready and waiting for the Lord’s return is true at all times prior to the actual wedding banquet, announced in Revelation 19, which happens after all the seals are opened, all the bowls of judgment are emptied, and all the trumpets sounded, but before the final battle and binding of Satan (this order is according to the literal reading of Revelation).

The message to walk away with is, don’t be foolish but wise and receive the Holy Spirit, and after that keep vigilant in waiting for the king’s return.  However, we can take comfort that Jesus “knew” the five virgins who did in fact drift off to sleep, but who had held on to God’s seal.

_____

Sources

Dunn, James, and Rogerson, John. Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub Co, 2003. Print.

Enns, Paul. The Moody Handbook of Theology. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008. Print.

Kaiser, Jr., Walter C., et al. Hard Sayings of the Bible. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996. Print.

MacDonald, William. Believer’s Bible Commentary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Pub.s, 1995. Print.

Plummer, Robert L. 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2010. Print.

 

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The Wonderful, the Why, and the Fulfilled Prophecies of Christ at Easter

Happy Easter everyone!  Or, if you don’t like to call it that, Blessed Resurrection Day!  Thank you Lord for all that you did and are doing!  Here is a link to a very informative and I’d say concise treatment of the meaning of, and verses relating to, Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.  The web site it’s on is distractingly and annoyingly messy (to me, anyway), but hey . . . it’s meant as a basically informational site for pastors, I guess.

Link: The Crucifixion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus

Christian (Christmas) Poems X: Shaw, Auden, Eliot

657685 sotck.xchng juliafMARY’S SONG

By LUCI SHAW

Blue homespun and the bend of my breast
keep warm this small hot naked star
fallen to my arms.  (Rest . . .
you who have had so far
to come.)  Now nearness satisfies
the body of God sweetly.  Quiet he lies
whose vigour hurled
a universe.  He sleeps
whose eyelids have not closed before.
His breath (so slight it seems
no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps
to sprout a world.
Charmed by dove’s voices, the whisper of straw,
he dreams,
hearing no music from his other spheres.
Breath, mouth, ears, eyes
he is curtailed
who overflowed all skies,
all years.
Older than eternity, now he
is new.  Now native to earth as I am, nailed
to my poor planet, caught that I might be free,
blind in my womb to know my darkness ended,
brought to this birth
for me to be new-born,
and for him to see me mended
I must see him torn.

In The Poetic Bible, C Duriez ed. (Hendrickson Pub.s 2001), 113.

___________

AT THE MANGER MARY SINGS

By W.H. AUDEN

O shut your bright eyes that mine must endanger
With their watchfulness; protected by its shade
Escape from my care: what can you discover
From my tender look but how to be afraid?
Love can but confirm the more it would deny.
Close your bright eye.

Sleep. What have you learned from the womb that bore you
But an anxiety your Father cannot feel?
Sleep. What will the flesh that I gave do for you,
Or my mother love, but tempt you from his will?
Why was I chosen to teach his Son to weep?
Little One, sleep.

Dream. In human dreams earth ascends to Heaven
Where no one need pray nor ever feel alone.
In your first few hours of life here, O have you
Chosen already what death must be your own?
How soon will you start on the Sorrowful Way?
Dream while you may.

In The Poetic Bible, C Duriez ed. (Hendrickson Pub.s 2001), 112.

___________

JOURNEY OF THE MAGI

By T.S. ELIOT

‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kiking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

In The One Year Book of Poetry, P Comfort and D Partner, compilers (Tyndale House Pub.s 1999), December 28 & 29.

Thoughts on Singing and Evolution

Cover from the “Voice of the Blood” cd, Hildegard of Bingen (from Amazon.com).

In church last weekend the thought came to me that the beauty of human singing is an example of a God given gift or virtue.  How can singing, beautiful singing, be considered a trait that evolved?  Our voices are so varied to begin with that it’s hard to think that somehow that variety evolved, but then there is also singing.  Can you imagine a chimp or ape singing?  The thought is laughable.

The theory of evolution is based on the survival of the fittest.  Surely that works at a basic level in any environment with any species.  But there are many problems with the time frame for species to actually diverge and develop (despite what basic level text books say . . . they make it sound like all is fact when it is not); and it can easily be shown that there has not been enough time for humans to have developed to their present state from their nearest assumed ancestor (for more on this, see “Science and Human Origins” Informational Review).

So besides all the other differences between us and the very small and very ape-like ancestor of ours, singing had to develop somehow, right?  As already mentioned, environment plays a factor in who lives and who does not.  But a biggy that evolutionists use is sexual selection.  I’m not writing a scientific discourse here, but am going by my past studies (I have a degree in anthropology with an emphasis on human evolution and archaeology).

Here’s an example.  Why are human female breasts so big (usually, and compared to other primates)?  Well, you can imagine the answer:  males had more sex with females with bigger breasts, producing more big-breasted females.  And you might reflect on how that answer just doesn’t seem valid based on human sexuality, that while many men find large breasts attractive, most men wouldn’t care about that when it came to the chance for sex.  And if you imagine it from a purely scientific, non-Christian viewpoint, “evolving” men probably cared even less and raped more.  At any rate, scientists may try to argue that human singing is a result of not survival of the fittest in the environment, but survival of the most reproduced based on attraction, just like the breast example.

Do you think that could be so, really?   A good singer (or any other charismatic person, for that matter), may have more sex partners – which in the past would result in more offspring.  But, considering how beautiful good singing is, wouldn’t we all be great singers by now?  Or, wouldn’t some populations have a very high per cent of great singers by now, and some have mostly lousy singers?  And, of course, this type of argument can’t account for the amazing nuances/differences of the human voice itself.

No, we were created with these traits.  Singing is often, if not always, associated with the spiritual.  I don’t mean that singing is always spiritual, but that is has always been used in spiritual contexts as far as I’m aware.  Singing is emotional, it’s often spiritual, it can induce or promote thoughts of love.   We as humans think musically and mathematically, with thoughts of the music of the spheres and the singing of angels.  This all coming from the survival of the fittest?  I don’t think so.  When we see human aggression and greed, the survival of the fittest makes sense, but when it comes to beauty like human singing, it does not.

[Edited on December 23, 2014]

Parousia, Shamoosia, Who Needs Christ’s Second Coming?

The Second Coming of Christ window at St. Matt...

Honestly, I never thought it would be so difficult to find a good summary of the various theological views on Christ’s second coming, or what is more technically called parousia.  By this I mean a summary of the liberal view, and who promoted it and why, that proclaimed that Christ’s second coming was a misinterpretation of scripture – that despite the incredible amount and quality of verses to affirm that Christ and Paul and everyone else actually meant what they said – but that really Christ’s parousia is only His presence with us (so they tried to claim).  So, that means, basically, I guess, that there’s no rapture (no glorified bodies, ever . . . .?), no hope that Christ will actually reign amongst humans, that we can build up His kingdom now and that’s about it, etc.

When I look around, when I experience my daily life with other people, when I read history, I suuuurrrre don’t see that Christ’s kingdom is blooming, growing, and all that.  It seems to me that the opposite is true, that the great apostasy is upon us.  “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4) (kind-of sounds like the liberal theology teachers themselves).  Not to say that Christ isn’t among us doing His work, and we with Him.  The Lord is indeed showing His love and Himself to many in many ways.

So what is my point?  Well, I am doing some research for an extensive blog article that involves (it is not at all the main topic) this liberal, anti-parousia, “we can usher Christ’s kingdom in ourselves since that’s all the New Testament says anyway,” idea, and it’s just sad and difficult dealing with it.  But the main thing is that I wanted to pass on some reading materials to show what is actually in the New Testament, and that our hope is not in man and what he obviously can’t do– that our hope is not misplaced in an elaborate myth (what some “Christian theologians” insist the New Testament is).  The number one source is the Bible itself.  Read the entire New Testament a few times and tell me if you really think it’s basically “made up.”   Here is a good short but information packed essay on Christ’s second coming:  Second Coming of Christ.  This is a short, easy read on it:  What is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ?   And, I don’t necessarily agree with all that is in this article – maybe I just don’t know the right Christians – but it’s contents are worth considering:  The Theology of the End and the End of Theology.

Christ is the suffering servant and the King, as outlined in the Old Testament.  He was the suffering servant during His time on earth, and when He returns it will be in His role as King.  Jesus said, “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3).  “Men of Galilee . . . why do you stand here looking into the sky?  This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Act 1:10-11; see also Matthew 24:29-30).  “And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming” (1 John 2:28; see also John 3:3).

Is it Rational to be a Christian? (1 of 2)

Good Shepherd fresco from the Catacombs of San...
Good Shepherd fresco from the Catacombs of San Callisto under the care of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archeology (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Below is half of a relatively long (but actually concise) treatment of evidences or evidential steps for the view that the Christian faith is rational, and even desirable, to hold.  Thanks for reading, and may the God of all creation bless you.

______________

For the person who wants to know that there is reason to believe a holy book–that there is evidence to back it up–different areas of apologetics have those answers.  In fact, there is more evidence for the truthfulness of the Bible today than ever before, excepting when the events actually occurred.  This essay assumes that the person searching for a legitimate holy book already believes that there is a deity of some sort; it does not cover arguments for the existence of God.  What this essay does cover, in concise form, are the issues of reliability of the Old and New Testaments, fulfilled prophecies, miracles, and Christ’s resurrection.

Old Testament Reliability

How was the Old Testament written and copied? What we Christians refer to as the Old Testament is the same as the Jewish Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, called the Tanakh. The content of the Tanakh and the Septuagint is the same, but the two are formatted differently. The Old Testament follows the same formatting as the Septuagint. The Septuagint was translated from about 250 BC to 150 or 100 BC and was used by the scattered Jews of the diaspora.

The Tanakh itself was written from about 1400-400 BC. Moses and other prophets were believed to possess the word of God because of the signs (miracles) they did, coupled with their openness (“transparency”). Moses was obviously literate, and because of his high upbringing, may have been literate in three languages. He no doubt, along with the people in general, knew the stories of other cultures and had copies of various source documents. Moses’ telling and retelling of events was considered God inspired.

At the time of Christ, the books of the Tanakh were established and accepted as canon. Those who copied the Tanakh beginning AD 70 (after the destruction of the temple) were called Talmudists. They had very specific rules for transmitting the Tanakh. Because damaged copies of the Tanakh were purposefully destroyed, very old copies do not exist. The Massoretes (or Masoretes) were the copyists for the Tanakh from AD 500 – 900. They, too, had very specific rules for copying, and any imperfect copies were destroyed. They are noted for adding marks to the text that represent vowels, as Hebrew did not have vowels and concern was growing over the continued pronunciation of the language. Whoever the copyists were through time, they all took God’s command in Deuteronomy 12:32 very seriously: “See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it.”

There have been archaeological finds in recent centuries to confirm the historicity of the Old Testament, and the Dead Sea scrolls additionally confirm accurate copy transmission.   With the 200+ scrolls that date from approximately 250 BC to AD 125, we have the oldest copies of scripture, and these tell us that the accuracy of transmission is nearly 100%. A Qumran copy of Isaiah 53 has only three truly variant letters from the more recent Massoretic text, and these three letters do not change the text meaning in any real way.

There are many archaeological finds that corroborate the OT, with these representing only a sample:

  • The Moabite Stone. Mentions “Yahweh” and events in 2 Kings 3.
  • The Taylor Prism. From Nineveh, it describes the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib an corresponds to 2 Kings 18-19, 2 Chronicles 37, and Isaiah 36-37.
  • The Cyrus Cylinder. After Cyrus began ruling Babylon (539 BC), he ordered that Babylonian captives could return home. This is told of in Ezra 1:1-3 and 6:3 (see also 2 Chronicles 36:23 and Isaiah 44:28).
  • The Tel Dan Stele. This is an Aramaic inscription found in Israel. It is about Hazael’s victory over Ramoth Gilead, as in 2 Kings 8:28-29, and conveys that David’s dynasty ruled in Jerusalem.
  • The Gilgamesh Epic. Found in the great library of Nineveh, it in part describes a flood not unlike that in Genesis 7-8.

New Testament Reliability

There has been a plethora of interest in “lost gospels,” which leads some to doubt the manner in which the New Testament (NT) was put together.  Then there are those who also question the accurate transmission of the words in the NT, saying that parts were added or taken away at later times.  All these issues are really non-issues, promulgated by detractors of the faith and sometimes believed by neutral parties who simply don’t take the time to look into these matters further.  Concerning when the books of the NT were written and how they became canon, providing a chronological order seems like it would be clearest, and that is provided below.  As for the accuracy of textual transmission, however, here is a good summary:

“A simple comparison of the text of the Bible with the text of other religious, historical, and philosophical documents from the ancient past proves the vast superiority of the biblical record.  Less than one tenth of one percent of the biblical text is in question, whereas no such accuracy of transmission exists for the Qur’an, the Mahabharata, or the Iliad.  Some ancient records such as Caesar’s Gallic Wars of Tactitus’ Annals, exist in less than ten copies, and these copies date from 1,000 years after their originals.  By contrast, over 5,000 copies of the New Testament exist, the vast majority of them dating less than 200 years after the original text and some fragments less than 50 years after the original text.  No book from ancient history has been transmitted over the centuries with greater clarity and accuracy than the Bible” (Geisler and Hindson p 100).

So when was the New Testament written?  The books that were considered canon and that make up the New Testament were written not all that long after Christ’s death and resurrection, by those who were Christ’s disciples/apostles or associates of the apostles.   In other words, by close eye witnesses of Jesus, or persons who learned directly from those eye witnesses.  Jesus lived from about 4 BC to AD 33.  The book considered earliest in the NT is James, written around AD 45-48, and the most recent book is Revelation, written by AD 100.  In light of the prior quote regarding biblical transmission, it is known that the copies that now exist reflect the originals very reliably.  That is, what is used for our bible translations today can very confidently be considered “original.”

But how do we know that the books of the NT are the ones that the early church read and thought reliable (had divine inspiration), and that important books weren’t left out?  The books of the NT had been circulated and read amongst the widespread churches (in Europe and the greater Middle East of today), and certainly not in the region of Rome only!  Books considered scripture had apostolic authority, which was important very early on because of the rapid development of false teachings.  So, we know that the books were all written by AD 100, and that they were widely circulated (and copied); there are codices of the gospels and of the letters of Paul from the early 2nd century.

Partly as a result of some influential persons (such as Marcion) trying to redefine and delete parts of scripture, “lists of canon” began to be written down.   The first generally accepted one dates to the late 2nd century and is known as the Muratorian Canon; it had excluded Hebrews, James, 1&2 Peter, and 3 John.  The early church father Tertullian (c. 150 – c. 229) had quoted 23 of the 27 books that became the NT.  Those excluded or disputed on some lists were done so for various reasons, but not because some churches thought they were inauthentic; often it was because a heretical group happened to like the book, so then some questioned it.  The Eastern and Western churches differed early on and this is reflected in the books supported or unsupported at different times (examples are Hebrews and Revelation).  Later, most believers accepted James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and Jude, yet some did not want to accept these.  However, the Eastern church accepted an official list in 367 which includes all the books of the present NT.  In 393 and 397, councils of the western church also accepted the NT canon as it is today.

What of some books that weren’t included in canon?  From the church father Eusebius, who had investigated possible canonical books, we know of some old “spurious” books.  The Didache had instruction in it and was used by the early church, but it faded from use and its authorship was in severe doubt.  The Acts of Paul had been written by an overzealous admirer, not Paul.  The Epistle of Barnabas was read and admired, but it was not written by Paul’s partner Barnabas.  The Shepherd of Hermas was widely read and may be all true, but it was written in the early 2nd century by someone other than an apostle or an apostle’s associate.  The Apocalypse of Peter was written in the first half of the 2nd century, so Peter the Apostle was not the author.  Other books that some critics like to bring up, like the Gospel of Thomas, were written far later and were never considered apostolic whatsoever; they are simply made up, forgeries, etc.

Now, are there historical or archaeological evidences that corroborate the NT?  While not everything can be corroborated, there are outside sources that confirm aspects of NT writings.  These help to show that the texts are indeed historical and not made up later.  Written sources for Jesus and Christians are (1) the Roman historian Tacitus (55-117) in his Annals (15.44); (2) Pliny the Younger, a Roman Governor, in a letter to the Emperor in about 112; (3) Josephus, a 1st century Jewish historian (some of his writing or copies of it are questioned, but others are not; there is definite reference to Jesus in Josephus’ writings); (4) Jewish Rabbinical writings called the Babylonian Talmud; and (5), the 2nd century Greek satirist Lucian.

Archaeological finds also corroborate the NT, and they continue to grow in number.  Here is a small sample:

  • The ossuary of Caiaphas (Luke 3:2 and others), discovered in 1990.
  • The Pilate Stone, discovered in 1961, has Pontius Pilate’s name on it and where he governed.
  • The Gallio (or Delphi) inscription (dated to about 52) speaks of Gallio, the same being mentioned in Acts 18:12; discovered in 1905.
  • Sergius Paulus inscriptions (there is more than one inscription bearing that name) confirm the proconsul of Cypress, as is mentioned in Acts 13:7.
  • The Pool of Siloam, excavated in 2004. As recorded in John 9:1-11, Jesus did a miracle there.

Fulfilled Prophecies

When considering the Old Testament prophecies fulfilled by Christ, it is exciting to simply read over an annotated list of them. There are different lists, however, with the highest number of fulfilled prophecies going up to 400. The listed number of “major” fulfilled prophecies varies as well, ranging from about 61 to 121.   In MacDonald’s list of chronologically ordered fulfilled prophecies, he presents 44 (he does not say that these are the only ones he considers “major,” however) (MacDonald 1995). Here is one list just for your quick online reference: Prophecies that Jesus Christ Fulfilled.

One of my favorite lists is by D. James Kennedy – not because of the list itself, but because of the story around it. He had spoken to a highly educated man, a writer, who thought that the bible was simply written by man; he had no knowledge of the evidences for the validity of the scriptures. So Kennedy asked the man to tell him who it was he had read about, after reciting many verses to him.  The man said that the verses clearly referred to Jesus Christ. But the man was completely surprised when Kennedy told him that all the verses he read were from the OT, the last book of which was written 400 years before Christ. He went on to tell him, “No critic, no atheist, no agnostic has ever once claimed that any one of those writings was written after His birth. In fact, they were translated from Hebrew into Greek in Alexandria some 150 years before He was born.”

So it is that verses such as (1) Micah 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem, Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting,” (2) Isaiah 53:3, “He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him. He was despised, and we did not esteem Him,” (3) Psalm 22:16, “They pierced my hands and my feet,” (4) Psalm 22:18, “They divided my garments among themselves, and they cast lots for my clothing,” and (5) Psalm 34:20, “He protects all his bones; not one of them is broken,” refer to Jesus though written centuries before His birth.

One of the most fascinating prophecies of the Messiah is found in Daniel 9:24-27, and it concerns the timing of His coming. It is not in some of the basic lists, no doubt because it is not easily deciphered or shown in a few words. To put it very briefly, this prophecy provides a window of time as to when the Messiah would be around. When the Hebraic terms are taken into account, and then taking into account which possible scripture(s) is meant by the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and then also taking into account the different calendars (ancient calendars kept 360-day years), a time frame emerges that encompasses the time that Jesus lived (and was crucified) (Powell 2006).

There is so much more that can be known concerning the fulfilled prophecies of Christ that cannot be easily shown in a list, such as Christ in the meanings and symbols of things, like the lamb and shepherd, and symbols and events related to the feast days of Israel. Unique among religious faiths is the fulfillment of prophecies found in the Old and New Testaments.  “You will find no predictive prophecies whatsoever in the writings of Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed, Lao-Tse, or Hinduism. Yet in the Scripture there are well over two thousand prophecies, most of which have already been fulfilled” (Kennedy xxix).

Please also see Is it Rational to be a Christian? (2 of 2)

© Vicki Priest 2012 (this is a modified and edited version of a series of articles published by the author at Examiner.com, 2011)

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Bibliography and Recommended Reading (for both article parts)

Anonymous. “Why should I believe in Christ’s Resurrection?” GotQuestions.org. http://www.gotquestions.org/why-believe-resurrection.html (accessed March 2012).

Arlandson, James. “Do Miracles Happen Today?” American Thinker. January 13, 2007. http://www.americanthinker.com/2007/01/do_miracles_happen_today.html (accessed March 2012).

Chong, Timothy. “Bible, Canonicity.” In The Popular Encycolopedia of Apologetics, by Ergun Caner Ed Hinson, 101-102. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Copan, Paul. Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011.

Dowley, Tim, Editor. Eerdman’s Handbook to The History of Christianity. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977.

Garrett, Duane A, General Editor. NIV Archaeological Study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.

Geisler, Norman, and Ed Hindson. “Bible, Alleged Errors.” In The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics, by Ergun Caner Ed Hindson, 97-100. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Gleghorn, Michael. “Ancient Evidence for Jesus from Non-Christian Sources.” bethinking.org. 2001. http://www.bethinking.org/bible-jesus/intermediate/ancient-evidence-for-jesus-from-non-christian.htm (accessed March 2012).

Hart, David Bentley. Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2009.

Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York: Dutton, 2008.

Kennedy, D. James. “Christ: The Fulfillment of Prophecy.” In The Apologetics Study Bible, by Ted, General Editor Cabal, xxviii-xxix. Nashville: Holman, 2007.

MacDonald, William. “Prophecies of the Messiah Fulfilled in Jesus Christ.” In Believer’s Bible Commentary, by William MacDonald, xviii-xxiii. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995 (1989).

Nappa, Mike. True Stories of Answered Prayer. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 1999.

Powell, Doug. Holman QuickSource Guide to Christian Apologetics. Nashville: Holman Reference, 2006.

Ricci, Carla. Mary Magdalene and Many Others: Women Who Followed Jesus . Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1994.

Sailhamer, John H. Biblical Prophecy. Grand Rapids: ZondervanPublishingHouse, 1998.

Yates, Gary E. “Bible, Transmission of.” In The Popular Encycolopedia of Apologetics, by Ed, and Ergun Caner Hindson, 107-110. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Christian Poems IX: Hopkins, Herbert, Milton

Dry roots (photo by costi, http://www.sxc.hu/photo/957763).

Thou Art Indeed Just, Lord

By Gerard Manley Hopkins

Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend
With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just.
Why do sinners’ ways prosper? and why must
Disappointment all I endeavor end?

Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend,
How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost
Defeat, thwart me?  Oh, the sots and thralls of lust
Do in spare house more thrive than I that spend,

Sir, life upon thy cause.  See, banks and brakes
Now, leaved how thick! laced they are again
With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes

Them; birds build–but not I build; no, but strain,
Time’s eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes.
Mine, O thou lord of life, sen my roots rain.

In The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, WH Gardner and NH MacKenzie, ed.s (Oxford Univ Press 1967), 106-107.

___________

Denial

By George Herbert

[Note:  The original poem has various justifications that could not be reproduced here, which does take away from the poem a bit, in my view, so the reader may want to find a printed version of this.]

When my devotions could not pierce
Thy silent ears;
Then was my heart broken, as was my verse;
My breast was full of fears,
And disorder.

My bent thoughts, like a brittle bow,
Did fly asunder:
Each took his way; some would to pleasure go,
Some to the wars and thunder
Of alarms.

As good go anywhere, they say
As to benumb
Both knees and heart, in crying night and day,
Come, come, my God, O come,
But no hearing.

O that thou shouldst give dust a tongue
To cry to thee,
And then not hear it crying! all day long
My heart was in my knee,
But no hearing.

Therefore my soul lay out of sight,
Untuned, unstrung;
My feeble spirit, unable to look right,
Like a nipped blossom, hung
Discontented.

O cheer and tune my heartless breast,
Defer no time;
That so thy favours granting my request,
They and my mind may chime,
And mend my rhyme.

In A Book of Religious Verse, H Gardner, ed. (Oxford Univ Press 1972), 124-125.

___________

When I Consider How My Light Is Spent

By John Milton

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide,
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent

To serve therewith My Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?”
I [foolishly] ask; but Patience to prevent

That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best.  His state

Is kingly.  Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”

In The One Year Book of Poetry, P Comfort and D Partner, ed.s (Tyndale House Pub.s 1999), May 16 page.

A Beautiful Life: Amanda Berry Smith, 19th century black female evangelist

Amanda Smith (Wikimedia Commons).

I’ve always wanted to write about Amanda Smith, and here I’ll introduce her.  I’m sure she must be known in some circles, but when I first read about her over a decade ago, I was actually shocked.  I had never heard of her, even though she was an international evangelist and missionary.  Why is that?

Generally, we tend here, in America, to not learn much history, and when we attempt it, it seems all stale and dry, and no one seems to remember much.  Otherwise, I think we are still a male dominated culture, no matter what people say or how we can point to how long respect and equality have been taught in schools.  Amanda was black and female, and she experienced much prejudice on both counts in this country.  During her stays in other countries, including Great Britain, she was treated with respect and without prejudice.  Also, religious history and biography are not taught in school much, and churches basically stick to teaching the Bible or their own flavor of doctrine, and ignore historical and biographical lessons.  You can find quite a few references to Amanda online, but I read of her in Six Qualities of Women of Character by Debra Evans (Zondervan Publishing House 1996).

But what about Amanda; what is her story?  Amanda was born into slavery, in Maryland, in 1837.  Thankfully, her family was one that was permitted to stay together.  She knew her grandmother and her father, although her father worked so incredibly hard, she probably saw him little until their eventual freedom.  Her parents were faithful Christians, and her mother and grandmother prayed for the salvation of their young mistress, Celie.  Celie indeed became saved, but soon after contracted typhoid fever and died.  Her death bed wish to her parents was to let free her slaves, who were her Christian siblings.  Her parents granted her request and Amanda became free at the age of 13.

While she experienced the faith of her immediate family, she felt that she needed a conversion experience.  She needed to make a commitment herself.  This she did at a Baptist revival meeting in 1856; she was forever changed and strengthened by relationship with Christ that began then.  Her life was hard and she needed the Lord’s strength!  She married a man at 17, and he turned out to be an alcoholic.  Their marriage was full of strife, but it didn’t last long as her husband was killed in the Civil War.    She had a daughter by this marriage, Mazie, and Amanda worked hard indeed for her well-being.

Her second marriage wasn’t much better.  The man she married tricked her into thinking he was going to be appointed minister in a local church, which Amanda was thrilled about.  But after the marriage, she found that he in fact had given up the thought of ministering for Christ.  Can you imagine this deception, how it would feel to one who was overjoyed at the thought of being able to serve her Lord fully, and in fellowship with a group of other passionate believers?

After this, desiring affirmation from God, a confirmation of her salvation and desire to be close to God and serve Him, she prayed.  She encountered the Holy Spirit twice one night in September 1868,

. . . a wave came over me, and such a welling up in my heart . . . . How I have lived through it I cannot tell, but the blessedness of the love and the peace and power I can never describe.  O, what a glory filled my soul!  The great vacuum in my soul began to fill up; it was like a pleasant draught of cool water, and I felt it.  I wanted to shout Glory to Jesus!  . . . . Just as I put my foot on the top step I seemed to feel a hand, the touch of which I cannot describe.  It seemed to press me gently on the top of my head, and I felt something part and roll down and over me like a great cloak!  I felt it distinctly; it was done in a moment, and O what a mighty peace and power took possession of me!  (Amanda Smith, in An Autobiography:  The Story of the Lord’s Dealings with Amanda Smith [1894], as quoted in Evans pp 180-181.)

Amanda now felt that the Lord was with her, in control of her life no matter how hard it was, and she prayed constantly and learned from her Lord during the most tedious of times.  She talked with anyone she could about Christ, finding it easy after taking the effort to start.  While her husband was alive, her ministry was local, but after he died things changed.  She began ministering at meetings in New Jersey, and soon found herself being invited to speak and sing at revival meetings all across the U.S.  She soon felt God telling her to minister in Africa and India, but she was to go to Great Britain first.

While fearful of crossing the Atlantic, she finally realized that her fear showed a lack of trust in God.  She eventually repented and made the watery trek.  God had a surprise in store for Amanda, and no doubt a confidence boosting mission it was:  the captain of the ship asked Amanda to conduct the ship’s services.  Though there was prejudice against her on that voyage, she won everyone over by the time the trip was over.

In Great Britain, she was welcomed with open arms.  It didn’t matter that she was black, or female.  She had thought that her time there would be about three months, but she preached around the whole of England and Scotland for two years.  She met and was respected by those in the upper class, and these helped her in her future work for the Lord.  Her daughter’s room and board in America were paid for, so she needn’t worry about that, and her trip to India finally became a reality.  The poverty and the very poor treatment of women she saw there “gripped her heart instantly.”  The experience made her realize something that affected her ministry the rest of her life–that evangelism must be coupled with the meeting of practical human needs as well.

Next, she ministered in Liberia, touching and influencing many lives there for eight years.  When she came back to the United States she worked with African-American orphans and opened an orphanage in the Chicago area.  She was able to do this with the funds garnered from her memoirs.  In her final few years of life, Amanda was able to enjoy Florida in a donated home.  She died in 1915, having lived a beautiful life of giving and loving.

A missionary to India, Bishop James Thoburn, said this of Amanda:

Through my association with her I learned many valuable lessons, more that has been of actual value to me as a preacher of Christian truth than from any other person I have ever met (Evans p 186).

Thank you, Lord, for blessing Amanda and blessing us through her example!

Female Hajj Pilgrims to Saudi Arabia Sent Back Home

This is from a very short article in Bloomberg online, and there are other articles to be found by googling:

Nigeria has protested to Saudi Arabia’s authorities over the detention of more than 1,000 female pilgrims who arrived in the kingdom for the annual Hajj pilgrimage without male guardians, state-run Radio Nigeria said. . . . Saudi Arabia enforces restrictions that are interpreted from the Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam. Women can’t travel or get an education without male approval or mix with unrelated men in public places.

As a Christian, I am at a loss as to why anyone would voluntarily become a Muslim in the first place, but when I see stuff like this, I am out-and-out flummoxed.  So, women must be controlled and herded like lesser beings, AND, they can’t even be in public with other men because . . . why???  Oh, men can’t control themselves.  They’ll just start doing some Mardi Gras moves in the street.  Really??  Belong to a religion that is so controlling, that seems to acknowledge and even promote the idea that human males are as good as randy rabbits, and that seems to not control its tyrannical and extremely violent members no matter what it does?  (And I won’t even get into all the persecution that goes on in the world against Christians at the hands of Muslims.)

Wow.  Sorry, but there is simply no comparison between Christianity and Islam.  And don’t go whining (atheists) about ancient pockets of “Christian” history (a lot of actual Christians died in trying to get false and violent actions to stop).  Sure, there have been wolves in sheep clothing that have done bad things in the name of Christianity.  It happens everyday in every area of life – I mean, charlatans seeking power and all of that, using whatever thing people have positive feelings about.   What you do is look at the founder of the faith.  Is s/he like that (false, after power, money, etc.)?  I won’t get into Muhammad here and the history of Islam, but I think it worth looking at Christ and the history of those who actually follow Him and his teachings.

Christ was sin-free and was not married; he didn’t go after multiple wives or even minor wives; he didn’t leave any heirs for everyone to argue about or over.  He lifted women UP from their low status at the time He visited us here on earth.  Women could follow Him and learn from Him.  In fact, He said it was better for a woman to learn from Him, to take the time and do that – as it was more important – than to serve Him or other men!!!  Wow!!  Why would any woman NOT want to follow Jesus?  If you want to know more and discover some pretty cool information that you just don’t hear about all that often, see New Testament Views of Women.   You may want to read about the woman at the well whom Christ talked with too.

In the future, I’ll try and post an article about the good in the history of Christ’s true followers, like those who founded hospitals (hospitals that were free) and universities.  People seem to have forgotten the parts of Christian history, too, when Christians died in order to stop those who did violence in Christ’s name.   In the meantime, if any Muslims come here, don’t go hatin’ on me.  Actions are actions, and the action reported on in the press was done and promoted by a whole country, and a whole section of Islam.  It’s no secret.  If you want to explain how your own sect of Islam is not like that in the comments, go ahead, but know that WordPress comments are always moderated.