Tag Archives: Apologetics

New Testament Views of Women: 1Timothy 2:11-15 (Part 2)

Happy In Church

This is the second part of New Testament Views of Women: 1 Timothy 2:11-15. Due to the length of this study, I decided to divide it up. Please see Part 1 here [forthcoming] as they relate to each other.

1 Timothy 2:13-15

For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.  But women [or she] will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

There is so much seemingly wrong with this passage in relation to basic Christian doctrine and belief that it seems hard to take it seriously. If the epistle is authentic—which not all early church leaders believed was the case–Paul surely wrote it for a specific local situation and/or a particular false teaching. Verses 13 and 14 read: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” There are at least two implications here, so let’s go through them in detail.

Eve was Deceived: Why?

Continue reading New Testament Views of Women: 1Timothy 2:11-15 (Part 2)

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Christian Poems XII: Three by C.S. Lewis

The Naked Seed [1943]

My heart is empty.  All the fountains that should run
With longing, are in me
Dried up.  In all my countryside there is not one
That drips to find the sea.
I have no care for anything thy love can grant
Except the moment’s vain
And hardly noticed filling of the moment’s want
And to be free from pain.
Oh, thou that art unwearying, that dost neither sleep
Nor slumber, who didst take
All care for Lazarus in the careless tomb, oh keep
Watch for me till I wake.
If thou think for me what I cannot think, if thou
Desire for me what I
Cannot desire, my soul’s interior Form, though now
Deep-buried, will not die,
–No more than the insensible dropp’d seed which grows
Through winter ripe for birth
Because, while it forgets, the heaven remembering throws
Sweet influence still on earth,
–Because the heaven, moved moth-like by thy beauty, goes
Still turning round the earth.

——

The Apologist’s Evening Prayer [1964]

From all my lame defeats and oh! much more
From all the victories that I seemed to score;
From cleverness shot forth on Thy behalf
At which, while angels weep, the audience laugh;
From all my proofs of Thy divinity,
Thou, who wouldst give no signs, deliver me.

Thoughts are but coins.  Let me not trust, instead
Of Thee, their thin-worn image of Thy head.
From all my thoughts, even from my thoughts of Thee,
O thou fair Silence, fall, and set me free.
Lord of the narrow gate and the needle’s eye,
Take from me all my trumpery lest I die.

——

Dungeon Grates [1919]*

So piteously the lonely soul of man
Shudders before this universal plan,
So grievous is the burden and the pain,
So heavy weighs the long, material chain

From cause to cause, too merciless for hate,
The nightmare march of unrelenting fate,
I think that he must die thereof unless
Ever and again across the dreariness

There came a sudden glimpse of spirit faces,
A fragrant breath to tell of flowery places
And wider oceans, breaking on the shore
For which the hearts of men are always sore.

It lies beyond endeavour; neither prayer

Nor fasting, nor much wisdom winneth there,
Seeing how many prophets and wise men
Have sought for it and still returned again

With hope undone.  But only the strange power
Of unsought Beauty in some casual hour
Can build a bridge of light or sound or form
To lead you out of all this strife and storm;

When of some beauty we are grown a part
Till from its very glory’s midmost heart
Out leaps a sudden beam of larger light
Into our souls.  All things are seen aright

Amid the blinding pillar of its gold,
Seven times more true than what for truth we hold
In vulgar hours.  The miracle is done
And for one little moment we are one
With the eternal stream of loveliness
That flows so calm, aloof from all distress

Yet leaps and lives around us as a fire
Making us faint with overstrong desire
To sport and swim for ever in its deep–
Only a moment.

O! but we shall keep
Our vision still.  One moment was enough,
We know we are not made of mortal stuff.
And we can bear all trials that come after,
The hate of men and the fools loud bestial laughter
And Nature’s rule and cruelties unclean,
For we have seen the Glory–we have seen.

CS Lewis - mystery photo (modified from internet image).
CS Lewis – mystery photo (modified from internet image).

——

* This poem speaks of Lewis’ moments of “joy,” spiritual glimmers of God, prior to his actual conversion to faith.  Of the book that this poem was published in, Spirits in Bondage; A Cycle of Lyrics, in Three Parts (pp 40-42), Lewis wrote his friend Arthur Greeves “. . . nature is wholly diabolical & malevolent and that God, if he exists, is outside of and in opposition to the cosmic arrangements” (CS Lewis by B Gormley, p 61).  Stanza breaks were added by me . . . for ease of reading.

The other two poems can be found in CS Lewis: Poems (1964), pp 117 and 129.

“Science & Human Origins” Informational Review

Science & Human Origins cover0001Science & Human Origins, a Discovery Institute Press book (2012) by Ann Gauger, Douglas Axe, and Casey Luskin, is a much needed summary of the difficult to understand sciences that are used in the study of human origins and evolution.  The scientific methods used may not be the primary problem in understanding, however, but instead, the politics and emotionalism involved.  For the person who wants to find anything beyond the “party line” in regards to the science, and what we actually know of the hominin (previously “hominid”) fossil record, a source like this may be your best hope.  Popular textbooks, museum displays, and magazines fail to present pertinent facts, and quotes found in this book by the highest of academics in the field can leave you assured of the authors’ assessment.

This small book is not perfect, in my view.  I found chapter two, on one explanation of how there is not enough time to account for the amount of evolution that has taken place, difficult to understand.  Maybe you will not have this difficulty.  It just seems like there is something missing to me.  The way the book is put together seems disjointed to me as well, and while this may be in big part due to the different scientific fields involved, I think that adding a chapter, and dividing the chapters into two related groups, would have made the book more beneficial to readers.

Chapter one combines the lack-of-time problem with the paucity of fossil evidence for ape-like creature-to-human evolution problem.  Chapter three – the longest in the book – provides a detailed account of the deception (willful or not) by some scientists regarding the fossil line of evidence for human evolution, the data we have for that supposed line of evidence, and scientific criticisms of that data from top scientists in paleontology and related fields.  Chapter five is related to these in discussing “The Science of Adam and Eve,” while chapter four provides us information on junk DNA and chromosomal fusion.  For those who want to know more about this subject before reading the book, I present below concise information and quotes from chapters one (II) by Ann Gauger, three (I) by Casey Luskin, and five (III) by Ann Gauger.

I.  Hominin Phylogeny

If you try and talk to an ardent evolutionist, you are very likely going to come across this belief and attitude that the theory of evolution is written in stone, everything that one reads about it in textbooks and in mainstream media is true, that of course humans evolved from an ape-like ancestor, etc. etc.   But as is made abundantly clear in this book, many scientists publish studies in Nature and similar professional journals, who go against this “we know all” flow.  Human evolution is not at all clear-cut and the fossil record is severely lacking.  Many fossils that had been considered within the line of ancestral humans are now held in serious doubt.  Yet, these “negative” findings don’t make the news.  These study results don’t make it on the cover of Time.

I think a significant reason for the publication of this book stem from the false statements made by Professor Ronald Wetherington in 2009 to the Texas State Board of Education.  Either this guy is a liar or he is woefully uninformed of his own line of study.  He just couldn’t say enough about how the fossil record showing human evolution was a complete sequence, how it showed gradualistic change just like Darwin predicted, and how there are no gaps in the record – and those scientists who say otherwise are not telling the truth.  Well!  Sorry to say, but Professor Wetherington is the one not telling the truth, and persons such as these influence what gets taught in our schools and their words are parroted frequently and mindlessly.

Below are synopses of the fossils believed to be within the ancestral line to humans; many of these are actually not considered in line anymore by mainstream scientists in paleoanthropology or primate studies.  A chart showing the traditional, party-line view of human evolution is also shown below (from page 49).

Toumai Skull (Sahelanthropus tchadensis):  This species is represented by one skull with jaw fragments.  ~6.5 million years old.  Reported on in 2002, it is now considered by many to be a gorilla or ape or at least not in the human line.  If this skull is ancestral to humans, then australopithecines can’t be (pp 50-51).

Orrorin (Orrorin tugenensis):  Only a few bones are known of this species, and they do not include a skull or jaw.  ~ 6 million years old.  Even though little can be determined about this species’ way of moving, the conjecture by some that it may have walked upright was enough to put it in the human line.  Human evolutionary thinking had made bipedal walking a necessary condition for a fossil to be included in the human line.  However, we now know that this can no longer be a litmus test.  Why?  Because an ancient bipedal ape was discovered, Oreopithecus bambolii.  This creature is clearly an ape, it walked bipedally, and it lived ten million years ago.  We now know that some human-like physical features, that scientists considered unique to our line, developed in other species in parallel.  Nevertheless,if this species is found to be ancestral to humans, then australopithecines can’t be (pp 51-54).

Ardi (Ardipithecus ramidus):  Extremely reconstructed from very crushed and very friable and chalky bone fragments (skull and other parts).  ~4.4 million years old.  Even though the reconstruction of this fossil should have raised big doubts about any interpretations regarding it, it was in the news big time.  Even Science magazine joined in in the hype:

Science magazine named Ardi the “breakthrough of the year” for 2009, and officially introduced her with an article titled “A New Kind of Ancestor . . . (p 55).

After other scientists finally got to look at these fossil remains–which took over 15 years to “reconstruct”–claims of its bipedality were not affirmed.  Not only that, but some scientists hinted, and others said out-right, that Ardi was not a hominid, was not bipedal, and was closer to being an ape or orangutan (pp 54-57).

Australopithecines:  Because there are more Australopithecine fossils than any other, and because one in particular had become so popular–Lucy–it’s a bit hard to say only a little about this group of species.  In 2006 there was much hype over two canine teeth found of the species called Austropithecus anamensis.  I will say it again and allow the information to sink in:  there was much hype over only two canine teeth.  In any case, the author of the A. anamensis technical paper is worth quoting since he confirms Luskin’s contention:

Until recently, the origins of Australopithecus were obscured by a sparse fossil record . . . . The origin of Australopithecus, the genus widely interpreted as ancestral to Homo, is a central problem in human evolutionary studies.  Australopithecus species differ markedly from [both] extant African apes and candidate ancestral hominids . . . (p 58).

Let’s look at Lucy, an Australopithecus afarensis with purportedly 40% of it’s bones found.   First off, it’s not clear that all the bones of Lucy are actually hers.  The bones were highly spread out over a gully and one of its hillsides.  Many scientists no longer think Lucy walked upright like we do, or even at all, basically.  She very clearly has knuckle-walking hands, which no one denies but some try to excuse.  It is unlikely, from an evolution theory point of view, that she would retain these characteristics if she didn’t use them.  But to make a further argument about her mode of moving, the supposedly evolved form of Homo habilis retains some of these features 2 million years later.  Unused characteristics will not hang around that long in an evolved species.

Also, a whole slew of bodily features show that Lucy was ape- or chimp-like and was not at all adapted to running.  Australopithecine ear canals (for balance and locomotion) are not like humans but similar to apes.  They have grasping toes.  Professional studies and papers from 1975 and 2007 suggest that Australopithecines should no longer be considered part of the human line (pp 57-65).

Homo habilis:  ~1.9 million years ago.  The well regarded anthropologist Ian Tattersall of the American Museum of Natural History said this species is “a wastebasket taxon, little more than a convenient recipient for a motley assortment of hominin fossils.”  Besides this suggestive statement (suggestive of the quality of analyses that had gone on), Spoor et al. in Nature (1994) reported that the ear canal of this species was closer that of a baboon, and another study from 1991 “found that the skeleton of habilis was more similar to living apes than were other australopithecines like Lucy” (p 66).  Another scientist stated that habilis “‘displays much stronger similarities to African ape limb proportions’ than even Lucy” (p 67).  This species is therefore not considered to be in the human line (pp 65-67).

Standard Hominin chart Wells0001

[GAP]:  There are no transitional fossils between Australopithecus and Homo.  About 2 million years ago cranial capacity of the human line suddenly about doubled.

Homo and Australopithecus differ significantly in brain size, dental function, increased cranial buttressing, expanded body height, visual, and respiratory changes” and, the authors of the paper said “We, like many others, interpret the anatomical evidence to show that early H. sapiens was significantly and dramatically different from . . .  australopithecines in virtually every element of its skeleton and every remnant of its behavior (pp 67-68). . . .  The anatomy of the earliest H. sapiens sample indicates significant modifications of the ancestral genome and is not simply an extension of evolutionary trends in an earlier australopithecine lineage throughout the Pliocene.  In fact, its combination of features never appears earlier” (p 68; from Journal of Molecular Biology and Evolution 2000, emphasis mine).

The earliest fossils of Homo, Homo rudolfensis and Homo erectus, are separated from Australopithecus by a large, unbridged gap.  How can we explain this seeming saltation?  Not having any fossils that can serve as missing links, we have to fall back on the time-honored method of historical science, the construction of a historical narrative (pp 69-70; Ernst Mayr 2004, emphasis mine).

Homo erectus:  Extremely similar to modern humans – probably only a subspecies (so it was actually human). ~ 2 million years ago.  Cranial capacity is on average smaller, but still within the overall range of modern humans (which is incredibly varied).

Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis):  Very similar to modern humans and now known to be something like a subspecies of modern humans.  In fact, DNA studies show that many modern humans have Neanderthal DNA in them.  ~ .75 million years ago.  Cranial capacity on average was larger than modern humans.

II.  Evolution Time

There are no transitional fossils between Australopithecus and Homo (and some scientists, at least, no longer think Australopithecus should even  be in the homo line).  Ok.  But what time frame is there between these two species of Hominin?  About 1.5 to 2.o million years.  And how many traits arose or need to have changed?  About 16, at least, and many of these have to have occurred together – they won’t work apart from one another, or on their own they could even be harmful to the creature(s).

Based on experiments that test the rate of change at the molecular level, this number of changes within the known time frame would have been impossible.  Considering how slowly, relatively speaking, these hominins would reproduce, evolving even one homo feature from australopithecine would be basically impossible in the time frame we know exists between these species.  Gauger states:

You don’t have to take my word for it.  In 2007, Durrett and Schmidt estimated in the journal Genetics that for a single mutation to occur in a nucleotide-binding site and be fixed in a primate lineage would require a waiting time of six million years.  The same authors later [2008] estimated it would take 216 million years for the binding site to acquire two mutations, if the first mutation was neutral in its effect (pp 24-25).

III.  Are Only Two Human Parents Possible?

In Ann Gauger’s “The Science of Adam and Eve” (chapter five), she presents the history of research into the diversity of certain immune defense genes.  She does this since persons in the past used these genes, which have tremendous variety in our genomes and the genomes of our “cousin” species, to prove that humans could not have come from only two parents (like Adam and Eve).  The science involved is of course specific and complicated and I will not attempt to give am in-depth summary of it here.  What I will say is that an original study (published in 1995) found that chimps and humans shared 32 alleles of this gene (HLA-DRB1), and later study cut that down to seven and showed a whole new complication that was a mystery (different portions of the same gene yielded wildly different results).

The results were mysterious because it turns out that even though the gene has 100s of allele variations (there are a number of HLA genes, and each has hundreds of alleles), most are not recombined and therefore are known as haplotypes.  These haplotypes are inherited in blocks, and there are very few of these in humans – five, in fact.  Three are very ancient and two are, well, not as ancient (~30 mya or more, and ~ 5 mya, based on current evolutionary assumptions), and one is not shared with chimps.  Each person can carry two different alleles of the HLA gene studied.  So it is now known to be in the realm of possibility that we all came from two parents only, each carrying two different HLA alleles.

The later study, and others, provided data that may also force a change in neo-Darwinian thinking.  This newer data show that we share genes with other species that are not common ancestors.  We have some gene sequences that are more closely related to gorillas than chimps, and we have sequences resembling those from macaques – animals that are not in our hominid group.  What does this data do to the whole concept of common descent?  (pp 103 – 121).

*      *      *

So what we end up with is a hominin family tree that, if a number of scientific studies and their conclusions are to be followed (the papers being in the major journals in their fields), would be gutted.  Continuous, gradual, evolutionary change in the hominin line?  No, not at all.  We also have the science of nucleotide-binding mutations indicating that there is no possibility, given the relatively short time frame, that any fossil currently thought to represent an ancestor in the human line could have evolved into a human.  Please read the book for more detailed information, but for checking out the references as well.

“Humanism for Children”: Wm Lane Craig via The Washington Post.

Humanism for children – Guest Voices – The Washington Post.

I need to “get out” more on the internet, as I hadn’t seen this until today.  Nice little article.  It’s funny how some defenders of humanism, in the comments, complain that he didn’t mention the guys on their side.  Why should he, specifically?  He did mention them in passing, as having weak arguments.  It can be viewed as being more polite and academic to not attack everyone, but to primarily present one’s argument instead.  And the high rhetoric of some of humanism’s defenders is very funny too – it’s exactly the point.  Without a basis for claiming their moral authority, they end up looking like self-promoters of humanity, which often leads to despotism.  And around the web, there are no shortage of little bully despots running around daily, blindly insulting anyone who doesn’t agree with him.  What a wonderful, happy, and moral world the humanists are creating!

Here is an example from the academic realm of how humanists or naturalists (I can’t say for sure based on the info provided) equate belief in God with stupidity, and that somehow their views are superior.  They can’t even see how their opinions show that they think their views are obviously superior, instead of letting people have faith, and, actually talking about their differing views as equals.  They said that the man in question, Ben Carson,  claimed that evolutionists could not have the same level of ethics as theists (basically).  This is a philosophical argument, if it’s true what they said, and they need to address it seriously instead of whining about it. 

Dr. Ben Carson’s Beliefs On Evolution Stir Controversy At Emory University

As it turns out, Dr. Carson delivered the Presidential Prayer Breakfast speech shortly after I had made this post:

See the Prayer Breakfast Speech That’s Grabbing Headlines: Doctor Attacks Political Correctness, National Debt in Front of Obama

“Why do Christians ‘pick and choose’ which Biblical laws to follow?”

1273151_84403885 stock.xchng ba1969I’ve seen that question asked so many times on the internet, and it surprises me that more people don’t know the answer.  But then again, I always have to check my surprise because, really, the answer isn’t taught much in churches, it seems.  I had always gone to Bible teaching churches, and the subject just doesn’t come up much (or at least it didn’t in the past).  Maybe, in a way, it just seems too obvious to pastors, but then why do people keep asking?  One law that will get a sermon now and then, since it specifically relates to non-Jews, is whether keeping the “Sabbath” “holy” is still required (this is from one of the Ten Commandments), but that specific subject is for a future post.

So what is the answer?  As so many ask, why don’t we stone homosexuals anymore?  Implying, I guess, that since we no longer stone them, then we should no longer think their actions sin anymore either.  Of course, the one action or lack thereof (capital punishment) doesn’t change what God thinks of the crime (homosexual acts); what has changed between the Old and New Testaments was the timing of judgement.  A major part of the Old Testament covers the time of the Jews, the history of the nation of Israel.  God made the nation of Israel to be a human group that was governed by God’s laws, and His specific revelations would come through Israel during that time.  They were an example that the pagan nations around them could see, and for future peoples to learn from.

But we – Christians –  are not the nation of Israel and so we don’t mete out punishments to people that sin against God.  We are to convey God’s plan of redemption to all peoples.  God’s plan is redemption, it isn’t punishment, per se.  His focus, as it was at the beginning and as it will be in the future, is for humans to have a wonderful life in fellowship with Him.  God is extending His hand to all who will accept Him during this church era, and is reserving judgement until later.  Sin is still sin.  Just because God doesn’t zap people from heaven when they sin doesn’t mean He doesn’t see it or that He has changed His mind about it.  Consider these quotes from two of the sources provided below:

The New Testament gives us further guidance about how to read the Old Testament.  Paul makes it clear in places like Romans 13:8ff that the apostles understood the Old Testament moral law to still be binding on us.  In short, the coming of Christ changed how we worship but not how we live.  The moral law is an outline of God’s own character–his integrity, love, and faithfulness. . . .   The New Testament continues to forbid killing or committing adultery, and all the sex ethic of the Old Testament is re-stated throughout the New Testament (Craig).

If we are to understand the application of the Law to ourselves, we must understand its purpose.  The law was never intended to be a permanent and full revelation of God’s mind to man but was given for the express purpose of preparing the way for Christ (Galatians 3:23-25).  Furthermore, the law given through Moses was never intended for any people except the nation of Israel (Deuteronomy 5:1-3; 6:6-7).  Thus, with the death of Christ upon the cross, this impermanent law, the Old Testament, was taken away (Colossians 2:13-17).  Now instead, God “has in these last days spoken to us by His Son.”  (Hebrews 1:2; cf. Matthew 17:1-5)  One who goes back to the Old Testament and tries to be justified by it has “become estranged from Christ” (Galatians 5:4) (Sharp).

So, in response to  the original question, we don’t “pick and choose” which laws to follow, since those laws aren’t for us to enforce.  We do, however, acknowledge as sin what God tells us is sin, and we convey it to others since “the Good News” is that Jesus died for our sins.  If there was nothing for Him to die for, then obviously He died for nothing.  If people don’t or won’t recognize their sin, then they will not see why Jesus had to die for them.  So, if you don’t know what sins are or don’t think that you’ve sinned, why would you think Jesus relevant?  The gospel would be pointless.

If homosexual sins, or any other sins, are said to be forgiven and thus accepted by God, it makes a mockery of the whole actions of Christ.  Christ said to the adulteress, “go and sin no more.”  We are to strive to live sin free; to continue to live a life of sin, purposefully, is to deny Christ’s work.  It’s like saying I can go out and murder, and the whole time Christ is at my side smiling, knowing He’s got me covered.  Yes, we all sin, but the point is to recognize sin and repent of any sinful actions, so that we can have relationship with God; God will forgive the repentant, but to be unrepentant means to be unforgiven.

For a more detailed presentation of the subject, please read one or more of the sources listed below.

_______________

Sources/For Further Reading:

Craig, David.  Dr. Tim Keller on The Bible and Homosexuality – What’s the Big Deal?

Dorsey, David A.  “The Law of Moses and the Christian: A Compromise,” in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (34:3/Sept. 1991).

Sharp, Keith.  Understanding the Law.

__________________

Image from ba1969 at stock.xchng, “Bible Collage 2.”

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.

God’s Compassion: the Ninevites and the Canaanites

Adad Gate, Nineveh (northern Iraq). Partial reconstruction of one of the 15 gates into ancient Nineveh.

“The atheist has it almost right: humans regularly do make gods in their image.  Yet the biblical God isn’t the kind we make up.  He refuses to be manipulated by human schemes.  He makes us all—including his true devotees—uncomfortable, which in the end is what we truly need to overcome our self-centeredness.  ‘Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it’ Matt. 16:25)” (Copan p 193).

Many today find fault with the God of the Old Testament (OT) because they read of the violence He commanded, or they read and accept unlearned and biased commentary about it.  Yet they ignore all that God presents about Himself, the contexts of the situations, and the hugely over-riding context of God’s benevolent plan for mankind.  If the critics used such thought processes with their family and friends, they would have no relationships!  Their assertions and arguments are unscholarly and simple, stemming from an ideology that seeks to eliminate God.

Is God mysterious and some of His ways unknowable?  Yes.  But is God compassionate?  Can we discern that He is compassionate by what is presented in the OT (since God’s compassion is very clear in the New Testament, we are focusing on the OT here) without being accused of only wishful thinking?  Yes, and we can know that God’s compassion was not for the Israelites only.  Perhaps the most obvious example of God’s love and patience outside of Israel involves the Ninevites, since a whole book—Jonah—provides the evidence.   (This book also foreshadows Jesus and His work.)

Now, Jonah is a fun book, especially if you take the time to imagine what is going on and maybe do some research in commentaries.  The gist of the story is that Jonah is called by the Lord to go and convey to the Ninevites—a cruel people and bitter enemies of Israel—that God has seen their evil and it has gone on long enough.  Judgment is coming.  Jonah, knowing that God might be compassionate towards them (instead of destroying Israel’s enemy), ran from the Lord’s calling; “you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity” (Jonah 4:2b).

Indeed, after Jonah finally gave the Ninevites the message of God, the Ninevites repented and God did not harm them.  Jonah was so upset about this that he told God that he wanted to die.  This represents man’s view.  But God answered with His view:  “Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well.  Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (Jonah 4:11).

At least some of you came here thinking, “OK, but how can the Canaanites be an example of God’s compassion?”  After all, God commanded the Israelites to destroy many of the Canaanite groups:  Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites (Deuteronomy 7:1-5; they were to leave alone Moab, Ammon, and Edom).  God commanded this through Moses, prior to Joshua leading the Israelites into the “promised” land around the Jordan River.

This command of God’s seems out of character to many people.  The God of the New Testament would not command such a thing . . . would he?  Jesus’ disciples understood that God had made judgments in the past, and when a Samaritan town would not help them at a certain time, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”  “But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village” (Luke 9:54b-56).  Jesus provided another example about how, during this new era, God’s judgment is postponed.  As part of His instructions when sending out his disciples, Jesus said:   “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.  I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town” (Matthew 10:14-15).

As we saw earlier, the sin and cruelty of Nineveh had gone on long enough when God decided to judge them.  He sent Jonah beforehand, however, to preach to them God’s thoughts, and the Ninevites actually repented.  God therefore held off judgment.  A far different example is that of Sodom and Gomorrah, as mentioned above by Jesus.  God knew those towns were devoid of righteous people, and so they were eventually destroyed because of their overall wickedness.  Yet another example commonly known of is the great flood.  God found the people evil and corrupt, so he gave Noah 120 years to build the ark before the flood waters came.  In all that time, the earth’s inhabitants did not repent.  God is very patient and longsuffering, and does not execute judgment until He knows the point of no return has been reached.

Which now brings us back to the Canaanites.  Way back before the Israelites even traveled to Egypt and subsequently became slaves, God knew of the Canaanite’s evil ways.  While God was making his covenant with Abram (later called Abraham), He told him this prophecy:

“Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years.  But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.  You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age.  In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites ¹ [Canaanites] has not yet reached its full measure” (Genesis 15:13-16; emphasis added).

The Exodus out of Egypt took place around 1446 BC, and they entered Canaan round 1406 BC.  To be clear, Israelites were not being given the land around the Jordan River because they were righteous, but because they were to be an instrument of judgment and because they serve an ultimate future purpose (Deuteronomy 9:5).  Also, since Israel did not keep a standing army and did not pay any soldiers, God was proving to the other nations that He is God and more than able to overcome their “gods.”

But what did the Canaanites do that was so bad?  They did those things God forbade in Leviticus 18:  incest, sodomy, bestiality, and sacrificing children (by burning them alive) to the god Molech.  The Amalekites had done additional damage by murdering the slower persons at the end of the Israelite line while they traveled from Egypt; the Amalekites had acted wickedly and purposefully worked against God’s reputation.  It should be noted that God did not order the destruction of any people for a lack of faith in Him, but for horrendous moral behavior (see Amos 1 -2 for more on God’s thinking).

The judgment of God against the peoples of Canaan had at least two purposes, and His purposes have compassion.  One is that, sooner or later, evil needs to be dealt with and justice served, and the Canaanites were given plenty of time to change their ways.  A great deal of wickedness was removed from the earth, or would have been sooner, if God’s commands were actually carried out.  A great compassion, as I see it, is that God was trying to put a stop to the systematic and torturous murder of innocent children.  Second, God’s compassionate plan for the redemption of all willing humans rested on the survival of Israel.  God warned again and again that if the Canaanites were allowed to survive, and if Israel intermarried with them, that they would sin and turn from God.  This indeed happened often, as God said.

It is mentioned above that not all Canaanites were killed, even though God commanded their destruction.²  This is where it becomes imperative that God’s word is read carefully.  While God commanded the destruction of seven Canaanite tribes in Deuteronomy 7:1-5 (and other places), a bit further down in Deuteronomy God said:  “The LORD your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you” (7:22).  Indeed, archaeological evidence shows that Canaanite culture and religion were nonexistent in Israel by 1000 BC, about 400 years after Israel entered that land.

To conclude, God is the God of all and God loves all, not just Israel (or Christians).  However, He is also just and knows of the suffering  people experience from evil.  In Old Testament times God pronounced prophecies and judgments, oftentimes with warnings.  In the case of Nineveh, the people repented and God did not execute judgment.  At other times, Israel itself committed evil, did not repent, and God judged them.  In the case of the Canaanites, God saw their evil ways and also foresaw their lack of repentance; He used Israel as His instrument of judgment against them.  In this Christian era (the beginning of which depended on the survival of Israel), God seeks to save the lost prior to His judgment and eventual renewal of the whole earth.  Since Adam and Eve fell from grace, God has been working on His plan of redemption for all willing humans and even nature itself.  His periodic elimination of evil historically, and His compassionate interventions otherwise, all work toward drawing His rebellious but beloved creation back to Himself.

Notes

  1. Amorite and Canaanite are basically interchangeable, referring to peoples that lived in the “land of Canaan.”  Canaan was a son of Ha, who was a son of Noah.  Amorite could more specifically refer to those dwelling in the hills, while Canaanites were those in the valleys.
  2. So what do we make of the book of Joshua, then, where in contradiction to other biblical passages, it is claimed that Joshua destroyed the Canaanites?   Bible scholar Nicholas Wolterstorff has studied Joshua and it’s relation to other biblical passages that clearly indicate that Canaanites survived Joshua’s attacks (Flannagan 255-286), and came to a number of instructive conclusions.  Foremost is that Joshua is hagiographic and includes hyperbolic war language that is basically identical to that used by other regional nations, and thus should not be taken literally.   When reading Judges and other books that mention the Canaanites, books that read like regular history, we can take them literally as opposed to Joshua’s military claims.In addition, the words used for “destroy” and “drive out” are interchangeable and perhaps confused.  The same language was used of Adam and Even being driven out from the Garden of Eden; obviously, they weren’t destroyed (other similar passages involve Cain and King David).  Leviticus 18:26-28 also mentions the driving out of the Canaanites, not their destruction.   Yet another consideration is what the bible says about the Amalekites.   In 1 Samuel we read of God ordering the utter destruction of the Amalekites, and then King Saul carrying that order out.  However, later in the same book (!), we read of King David running into living Amalekites–there was even an Amalekite army!  It becomes obvious that the bible contains the exaggerated war rhetoric of those times.  However, while these explanations serve to placate critics over issues of God-ordered genocide, they seem to overly dismiss God’s legitimate role of all-knowing judge.
  3. This article was edited at various times and expanded in January 2015.  It was originally published by the author at Examiner.com.

Sources:  Copan, Paul, Is God a Moral Monster? (Baker Books 2011); Flannagan, Matthew, “Did God Command the Genocide of the Canaanites?” in True Reason: Confronting the Irrationality of the New Atheism (Kregel Publ.s 2013, pp 255-286);  Kaiser et al., Hard Sayings of the Bible (InterVarsity Press 1996); The Bible (NIV 1984).  Image:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nineveh_Adad_gate_exterior_entrance_far2.JPG

Is God ever the author of evil? Does God cause evil acts?

The light shines through the darkness. By Mattox at stock.xchng (http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1134104).

As a Christian, I believe John’s statement:  This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all (John 1:5).  Yet, there are verses in the Bible—mostly in the Old Testament—where God says He causes calamity, the hardening of hearts, even sinful behavior.  Critics and skeptics ask about these, and in light of the evil and suffering in the world, wonder at the goodness or even existence of God.

So which verses are we talking about?  Here are some of them:

Exodus 9:12:  But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he did not listen to them, as the Lord had told Moses.

1 Kings 22:23:  You see, the Lord has put a lying spirit into the mouth of all these prophets of yours, and the Lord has pronounced disaster against you.

Isaiah 45:7:  I form light and create darkness, I make success and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things.

Mark 4:11-12 (verse 12 is from Isaiah 6:9-10):  He answered them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been granted to you, but to those outside, everything comes in parables so that ‘they may look and look, yet not perceive; they may listen and listen, yet not understand; otherwise, they might turn back—and be forgiven.”

So does God really, purposefully, harden people’s hearts to that they won’t listen to Him or come to Him, tell people or spirits to go and lie for Him so that they (or others) do the wrong thing, and/or simply cause disasters?

The basic answer to all of these is that since God is sovereign and He made everything, He is ultimately responsible for everything that happens.  That’s how the Hebrews saw it and that’s how they wrote, though to us today it seems odd or unsatisfactory.  The Hebrews knew that persons and spirits were responsible, yet they emphasized God’s role.  As is stated in Hard Sayings of the Bible, “What is reflected here is the lack of precise distinction in Hebraic thought between primary and secondary causes.  Since God is sovereign, human will and freedom to decide for or against God were often subsumed under divine sovereignty” (Kaiser et al, 620).

Let’s look at each of the above verses separately, while keeping in mind the general explanation already stated by Kaiser et al.  Regarding Exodus 9:12, MacDonald briefly writes:  “The more Pharaoh hardened his heart, the more it became judicially hardened by God” (96).  The concern is recognized in Kaiser et al.:  “. . . it appears God authors evil and then holds someone else responsible.  Did God make it impossible for Pharaoh to respond and then find Pharaoh guilty for this behavior?” (142).  No, since Pharaoh hardened his own heart  during the first five plagues (Ex 7:13, 14, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 34, 35; 13:15).  After this, as MacDonald so concisely stated, God helped the process along since it was already what Pharaoh had decided himself.

1 Kings 22:23.  In considering this verse and its context, the Hebrew habit of ignoring secondary causes is significant.  There are other verses in the Bible where a command is given, but it is an affirmation of permission – as is the case when Jesus tells the demons to enter a herd of pigs (Matt 8:31), or when he tells Judas to get going with his plans (John 13:27).  In the case of 1 Kings 22, King Ahab was listening to false prophets and the false prophets were responsible for their own lies; God allowed it and used it for His plans, and God even warned Ahab.

. . . the passage in question is a vision that Micaiah reveals to Ahab.  God is telling Ahab, “Wise up.  I am allowing your prophets to lie to you.”  In a sense, God is revealing further truth to Ahab rather than lying to him.  If God were truly trying to entrap Ahab into a life-threatening situation, he would not have revealed the plan to him!  Even so, Ahab refuses to heed God’s truth, and he follows his prophets’ advice (Kaiser et al, 231).

In conclusion, “Without saying that God does evil that good may come, we can say that God overrules the full tendencies of preexisting evil so that the evil promotes God’s eternal plan, contrary to its own tendency and goals” (Kaiser et al, 230).

Isaiah 45:7.  Much has been written on Isaiah 45:7, since part of the problem is that the King James Bible incorrectly used the word “evil” instead of disaster or some like word.  The verse refers to natural “evil” (destructive forces) and not moral evil.  God permits these things, and in fact natural destructive forces are a normal and necessary part of the earth’s balance and being.  The verse is a strong declaration, however, that God is THE creator and that He is ultimately in control of all things, and not some other being.

Mark 4:11-12 (Isaiah 6:9-10).  After having reviewed the other verses/passages, the meaning of this passage can almost be inferred.  It may sound mean and controlling of God, but it is a reality that there are those people who go after and accept views and actions that are contrary to God.  For those like this, God lets them continue; they have chosen their way, their path, and God does not force anyone to follow Him and accept Him as savior and Lord.  (Interestingly, the author of the section on this verse in Kaiser et al. [417-419] does not agree, providing a minority interpretation that is something of a 180˚ turn.)  MacDonald provides a generally accepted interpretation:

Verses 11 and 12 explain why this truth was presented in parables.  God reveals His family secrets to those whose hearts are open, receptive and obedient, while deliberately hiding truth from those who reject the light given to them. . . . we must remember the tremendous privilege which these people had enjoyed.  The Son of God had taught in their midst and performed many mighty miracles before them.  Instead of acknowledging Him as the true Messiah, they were even now rejecting Him.  Because they had spurned the Light of the world, they would be denied the light of His teachings (1330).

God is light; in him there is no darkness at all (John 1:5b).  God is not evil and does not do evil, but He does “work around” the evil in this world to further His plans for human redemption.  God loves us, and sent His son for us, so that we may have new life in Him (to not be controlled by the evil in the world).  If you want that, you will find it.  You will find God and He will know you.  “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10); “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matt 7:7); “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Cor 13:12); “But the man who loves God is known by God” (1 Cor 8:3).

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Sources:  James Dunn and John Rogerson, ed.s, Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman’s Pub Co 2003); Tim Jackson, Did God Create Evil?; Kaiser, Walter et al, Hard Sayings of the Bible (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press 1996); MacDonald, William, Believer’s Bible Commentary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Pub.s 1995).