Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Accuracy of Acts

Here is a list of 84 details in the last 16 chapters of Acts, which have been confirmed through archaeology or other historical sources.  These were put together by Colin Hemer, and you can find them in his book The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History.

1) The natural crossing between correctly named ports (Acts 13:4-5)
2) The proper port (Perga) along the direct destination of a ship crossing from Cyprus (13:13)
3) The proper location of Lycaonia (14:6)
4) The unusual but correct declension of the name Lystra (14:6)
5) The correct language spoken in Lystra - Lycaonian (14:11)
6) Two gods known to be associated - Zeus and Hermes (14:12)
7) The proper port, Attalia, which returning travelers would use (14:25)
8) The correct order of approach to Derbe and then Lystra from the Cilician Gates (15:41, 16:1)
9) The proper form of the name Troas (16:8)
10) The place of a conspicuous sailors' landmark, Samothrace (16:11)
11) The proper description of Philippi as a Roman colony (16:12)
12) The right location for the river (Gangites) near Philippi (16:13)
13) The proper association of Thyatira as a center of dyeing (16:14)
14) Correct designations for the magistrates of the colony (16:22)
15) The proper locations (Amphipolis and Apollonia) where travelers would spend successive nights on this journey (17:1)
16) The presence of a synagogue in Thessalonica (17:1)
17) The proper term ("politarchs") used of the magistrates there (17:6)
18) The correct implication that sea travel is the most convenient way of reaching Athens, with the favoring east winds of summer sailing (17:14-15)
19) The abundant presence of images in Athens (17:16)
20) The reference to a synagogue in Athens (17:17)
21) The depiction of the Athenian life of philosophical debate in the Agora (17:17)
22) The use of the correct Athenian slang word for Paul (spermologos, 17:18) as well as for the court (Areios pagos, 17:19)
23) The proper characterization of the Athenian character (17:21)
24) An altar to an "unknown god" (17:23)
25) The proper reaction of Greek philosophers, who denied the bodily resurrection (17:32)
26) Areopagites as the correct title for a member of the court (17:34)
27) A Corinthian synagogue (18:4)
28) The correct designation of Gallio as proconsul, resident in Corinth (18:12)
29) The bema (judgment seat), which overlooks Corinth's forum (18:16)
30) The name Tyrannus as attested from Ephesus in first-century inscriptions (19:9)
31) Well-known shrines and images of Artemis (19:24)
32) The well-attested "great goddess Artemis" (19:27)
33) That the Ephesian theater was the meeting place of the city (19:29)
34) The correct title grammateus for the chief executive magistrate in Ephesus (19:35)
35) The proper title of honor neokoros, authorized by the Romans (19:35)
36) The correct name to designate the goddess (19:37)
37) The proper term for those holding court (19:38)
38) Use of plural anthupatoi, perhaps a remarkable reference to the fact that two men were conjointly exercising the functions of proconsul at this time (19:38)
39) The "regular" assembly, as the precise phrase is attested elsewhere (19:39)
40) Use of precise ethnic designation, beroiaios (20:4)
41) Employment of the ethnic term Asianos (20:4)
42) The implied recognition of the strategic importance assigned to this city of Troas (20:7)
43) The danger of the coastal trip in this location (20:13)
44) The correct sequence of places (20:14-15)
45) The correct name of the city as a neuter plural (Patara) (21:1)
46) The appropriate route passing across the open sea south of Cyprus favored by persistent northwest winds (21:3)
47) The suitable distance between these cities (21:8)
48) A characteristically Jewish act of piety (21:24)
49) The Jewish law regarding Gentile use of the temple area (21:28) (Archaeological discoveries and quotations from Josephus confirm that Gentiles could be executed for entering the temple area.  One inscription reads: "Let no Gentile enter within the balustrade and enclosure surrounding the sanctuary.  Whoever is caught will be personally responsible for his consequent death.")
50) The permanent stationing of a Roman cohort (cliliarch) at Antonia to suppress any disturbance at festival times (21:31)
51) The flight of steps used by the guards (21:31,35)
52) The common way to obtain Roman citizenship at this time (22:28)
53) The tribune being impressed with Roman rather than Tarsian citizenship (22:29)
54) Ananias being high priest at this time (23:2)
55) Felix being governor at this time (23:34)
56) The natural stopping point on the way to Caesarea (23:31)
57) Whose jurisdiction Cilicia was in at the time (23:34)
58) The provincial penal procedure of the time (24:1-9) 
59) The name Porcius Festus, which agrees precisely with that given by Josephus (24:27)
60) The right of appeal for Roman citizens (25:11)
61) The correct legal formula (25:18)
62) The characteristic form of reference to the emperor at the time (25:26)
63) The best shipping lanes at the time (27:5)
64) The common bonding of Cilicia and Pamphylia (27:4)
65) The principal port to find a ship sailing to Italy (27:5-6)
66) The slow passage to Cnidus, in the face of the typical northwest wind (27:7)
67) The right route to sail, in view of the winds (27:7)
68) The locations of Fair Havens and the neighboring site of Lasea (27:8)
69) Fair Havens as a poorly sheltered roadstead (27:12)
70) A noted tendency of a south wind in these climes to back suddenly to a violent northeaster, the well-known gregale (27:13)
71) The nature of a square-rigged ancient ship, having no option but to be driven before a gale (27:15)
72) The precise place and name of this island (27:16)
73) The appropriate maneuvers for the safety of the ship in its particular plight (27:16)
74) The fourteenth night - a remarkable calculation, based inevitably on a compounding of estimates and probabilities, confirmed in the judgment of experienced Mediterranean navigators (27:27)
75) The proper term of the time for the Adriatic (27:27)
76) The precise term (Bolisantes) for taking soundings, and the correct depth of the water near Malta (27:28)
77) A position that suits the probable line of approach of a ship released to run before an easterly wind (27:39)
78) The severe liability on guards who permitted a prisoner to escape (27:42)
79) The local people and superstitions of the day (28:4-6)
80) The proper title protos tes nesou (28:7)
81) Rhegium as a refuge to await a southerly wind to carry them through the strait (28:13)
82) Appii Forum and Tres Tabernae as correctly placed stopping places on the Appian Way (28:15)
83) Appropriate means of custody with Roman soldiers (28:16)
84) The conditions of imprisonment, living "at his own expense" (28:30-31

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Words are Spiritual

I'm going to connect many verses in the gospels and epistles, and show how each of these relate in one consistent truth, a profound truth.  You'll discover, if you don't already know, that everywhere the Bible confirms the Bible; that it is very consistent in what it reveals.

Words are spirit:

The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.  -Jesus in John 6:63

God's word is life:

But he answered, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.' "  Matthew 4:4

The word of God brings eternal life:

since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God 1Peter 1:23

The word of God is truth and life:

Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.  James 1:18

The word of God is the kingdom of heaven:

He told them another parable. "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened."  Matthew 13:33

In this short parable the yeast represents the word of God, the word of truth, as it works throughout the world.  What Jesus said here, that all of the flour is leavened, is reflected in what Jesus said in Matthew 24:

And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.  -Jesus in Matthew 24:14

The gospel is the word, and it is proclaimed by the disciples of Christ.  Whenever we spread the word of God we are proclaiming the gospel.  We are the woman that works the yeast through the flour.  And we are the sower that sows the seed (Matthew 13, Mark 4, Luke 8):

Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. -Jesus in Luke 8:11

The word of God is a weapon:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  Hebrews 4:12

Its a weapon that we take into battle.  This is not a physical battle with people killing each other.  This is a spiritual battle, where the consequences are far more severe.  A physical battle means life or death, but a spiritual battle means heaven or hell.  We as Christians take this divine weapon, the word of God, into battle against Satan and his lies:

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.  2Corinthians 10:3-5

My friends, be encouraged.  It is a fact that we possess the greatest thing on earth.  It is a fact that our possession is the light of the world and the means of eternal life.  We cannot keep it to ourselves, we must let it loose.  That means speaking, because words are spiritual.  And know this: You will succeed.  Jesus gave you this guarantee, that the gospel you proclaim will reach the farthest ends of the earth before the end comes.  That means you succeed!  We do not proclaim this gospel as a defensive measure.  The kingdom of God is not on the defensive; it is on the offensive.  We proclaim this gospel to advance.  And we do not tear down strongholds because we are playing defense; tearing down strongholds is a matter of offense.  So every lie, every pretense, every cult, is in mortal danger of the words you speak or type.  And the weapon you possess is so powerful, the only way you could lose is by not fighting.  So pick up your Bible, train well with it, and let it loose upon the world.

Words are spiritual.  Words are powerful.  The word of truth is especially powerful.  God created the universe with a word, so you can imagine just how powerful God's word is.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sharpening One Another

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.  Proverbs 27:17

One of the great things about the internet is that it allows Christians to sharpen, correct, teach, encourage, etc, prodigiously.  One of the things that any Bible student should understand is that God calls us to have sharp minds, and to love Him with all our mind.  The benefits of it are many.  First, it is simply good for us.  Second, it is good for the church.  Third, having knowledge and understanding keep us on the right path and away from error.

my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.  Hosea 4:6

If anyone ever tells you that knowledge, understanding, wisdom, or anything related, is not important to being a Christian, that person is lying.  First of all, if knowledge is not important, why would we need to know that knowledge is not important?  Its a self-defeating statement.  But more to the point, God teaches us to gain knowledge and understanding throughout the Bible.

So here is the point of this short note: Take advantage of the resources that God has given us.  God has given the Christian Church a wonderful opportunity to sharpen itself and gain knowledge.  Lets work at it together, and as a church sharpen each other, in order to build up the church in excellence.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.  2Peter 1:5-7

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Christian Marriage

With all the dysfunction in the world today, particularly with sex and relationships, I feel inclined to describe the antidote; that is, Christian marriage.  Its no secret that our culture has seen a rise in divorce, loose sex, single parents, and an overall drop in marriage.  The reason is our culture's lack of faith in Christian marriage.

What makes Christian marriage different than what we might call "secular marriage"?  A Christian believes in the authority of God, and marriage was given to man by God.  Because of that, God has set certain parameters for the covenant of marriage.  So in essence, the only real marriage is a Christian marriage, because only Christians have faith in the One that defined marriage from the beginning.  Marriage is like a recipe with exact proportions.  Follow the recipe and everything is fine; but start to make changes to the recipe, then there will be problems.  Holding onto that dogma, that marriage is defined and governed by God, is the first necessary step to a fruitful and lasting marriage.  Following His recipe is the next step.

Rather than go through every point, I will focus on those points that really differ with our culture.  Its quite obvious that God designed marriage for a man and a woman, so that doesn't need to be said.  Its equally obvious that God hates divorce.  So I won't spend time on that.  The one place that marriage and our culture really differ is in the area of gender roles.  In marriage a man and his wife both have roles, but our culture has mutilated the idea of gender roles.

Feminism is a mortal enemy to any committed romantic relationship.  Marriage is a committed romantic relationship, so Feminism is a mortal enemy to marriage.  Because of feminism, a generation of Americans decided to enter these "partnership" marriages, where there is no authority and the pretense of "equality" permeates.  So they will equally decide everything; the man is not in charge and the woman is not in charge.  There's very few things that are any more foolish than this.  If there is no authority in the marriage, there is no authority in the house, and there will be strife in the house.  Its absurd to think that a man and wife will agree on everything, or that they could compromise on everything.  Because of this, authority is required.  That's one of the ingredients in a Christian marriage: authority.  The man is the head of the wife.  The wife is to submit to the man.

Responsibility is required of the man.  Our current culture doesn't expect boys to become men, or men to take responsibility.  Nevermind how dangerous this is for a society, a marriage cannot survive unless the man takes responsibility and takes charge.  He must be a man.  With a somewhat cliche statement, he's got to put the pants on.

Now the ironic thing about feminism is that it really does more to harm the well-being of women.  Its no good for society as a whole, but it especially hurts women.  I said that feminism is a mortal enemy of marriage.  I meant it.  Because of feminism, marriages fail.  Because marriages fail, men decide not to get married.  We all know that young men are choosing not to get married more and more.  Why do you think that is?  It is a result of feminism, because feminism turns marriage into a hapless pit.  What man would want to enter it?  And so, men do not get married.  Men increasingly satisfy their sexual desires outside of marriage.  What does this mean for women?  Desperation.  If men have a strong desire for sex, women have a 10X stronger desire for committed male companionship (what we used to call marriage).  Men can get their sex in a feminist culture; that is no problem.  But women will find it impossible to get their committed relationships.

The antidote is Christian marriage.  It requires that people submit to God.  It requires that people follow His recipe for marriage.  Only then will people enjoy the fruit of successful marriages.  Only then will children have a mother and father.  Only then will people have healthy sex, and we won't see the spread of STDs.  Only then will the two part at death rather than divorce court.  God gave us the recipe.  When people follow the recipe, marriage is really good.  But when people mess with the recipe, marriage turns into a disaster.  Do not mess with the recipe.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Removing Weeds

He put another parable before them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.  So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also.  And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, 'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?  How then does it have weeds?  He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.'  So the servants said to him, 'Then do you want us to go and gather them?'  But he said, 'No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.  Let both grow up together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.' "  -Jesus in Matthew 13:24-30

First let me explain what is meant by removing weeds.  It is not necessarily removing heretics and evildoers.  It is, however, removing heresy and evil from the Christian Church.  If the sinner repents of his sin, that is the ideal outcome.  If, after much rebuke and many attempts to correct, the sinner does not repent, weeding out the sin means weeding out the sinner.  None of us are angels, and the great day of judgment is not here yet, so the judgment that the Church makes can only result in excommunication.  I don't know how necessary that last point is, but I will just say that God did not grant us authority to condemn men to death.  We can, however, banish evildoers from the Church.  The primary focus is to banish lies and sins from the Church.  Either that is done by banishing sin from the sinner, or by banishing the sinner from the Church.

Where to begin?  There is this teaching from Jesus, that one cannot remove the speck from his neighbor's eye without first removing the plank from his own.  Since this note is mostly about removing falsehoods, we must begin by knowing the truth.  We must first remove the falsehoods from ourselves before removing falsehoods elsewhere.  Since we should not rely on the supposed authority of a pope or pastor, and we cannot rely on the actual authority of a living apostle, we must rely on the authority of the Bible, and lean on understanding given by the Holy Spirit.  This is the only way to know the truth in our present day.  And when we know the truth, we will be in a position to remove weeds (heresies) from the Church.

What's the purpose?  Paul gives us a description of the last days, and in this description he speaks of many false doctrines.  Now I believe that we are not so near the last days as many people think.  Instead, I believe we are heading into a tremendous growth and revitalization of Christianity.  But if we do not instill a strong zeal for truth and hatred of lies, I fear that this wonderful growth of Christianity will sink into a pit of false doctrine.  It seems wise to start now, and to put off the inevitable false doctrine of the last days for as long as possible.  Furthermore, if Christians allow false teachers to claim Christ without being denounced - if Christians do not publicly denounce false teachers - the nonbelievers will receive a false representation of our good religion.  They will judge Christianity by what the false teachers say.  So Christians must be outspoken, and make it plain that false teachers do not represent Christ or Christianity.

The message of this note is not exactly the same as the passage quoted, which I'm sure you realize.  The passage is about waiting until the proper time to make the final judgment, and not making the judgment too early.  But you might notice, it was while the workers were sleeping that Satan planted the weeds.  Are we sleeping?  If we are awake and aware, we will not allow Satan to plant the seeds of falsehood in the Church.  That's the reason I quoted the passage.  And wherever the seeds are planted, while God commands us not to make the final judgment (condemn to death), we can do something.  We can forcefully remove the lies and sin, either by removing them from the person, or by removing the person from the Church.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Sabbath Continent

God did the work of creation in six days.  It was the seventh day that He rested, making it a Holy Sabbath.  And that's how we got our week - that it is seven days and not ten, thirteen or twenty.  God taught the Israelites to honor the Sabbath.  They did work for six days and on the seventh they rested.  God also taught the Israelites to work the land for six years and let it rest on the seventh.  This was the Sabbath Year.  He blessed their crops to such an extent in the sixth year, they had all they needed through the seventh, the first and into the second year.  This is the pattern that God used.  Seven represents a complete set.  The seventh day, or the seventh year, is set apart as a Sabbath.

All of that comes from the Bible.  But is it limited to the Bible?  Its no shock to you when I say that there are seven continents on the earth.  Everyone is taught that in elementary school and doesn't give it a second thought.  Is it just a coincidence that the Bible teaches seven as a complete set, and the complete set of continents is seven?  If I went on to tell you that Antarctica is an unworked, uninhabited, inhospitable place, it would come as no surprise.  We are all aware of that from the days of elementary school and hardly give it a second thought.  And so we have found our Sabbath Continent.  On six of the continents of the earth man works the land, but not on the seventh, just like the Israelites worked the land for six years but not on the seventh.  Is it a coincidence that the pattern found in Scripture is found in nature too?

Its as if the words of Scripture flow right off the paper and into our world.  Its as if the earth knew that seven is the complete number and limited itself to seven continents.  Its as if the earth knew that the seventh is a Sabbath, and it formed a Sabbath Continent.  Its as if the earth has named the God of Israel her King, even before the nation of Israel existed.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Free People

I came across a photo on Facebook, and I thought the quote expressed such a wonderful truth.  Here it is:

"It is impossible to enslave mentally or socially a Bible reading people.  The principles of the Bible are the groundwork of human freedom."  Horace Greely

I did not bother to check out whether Horace Greely actually said that, and I know how quotes on the internet are, but I will assume that its authentic.  Regardless, those words are worth repeating.  In a way, those words are a repeat:

"If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."  Jesus in John 8:31-32

It got me thinking, or reminding myself, of exactly how God's word is the groundwork of human freedom.  I'm not much for leaving something at the philosophical, theoretical or abstract level.  I prefer to go into detail, expound upon something, and understand the mechanism of an axiom as best I can.  So the purpose of this note is to do just that; to expound upon the truth of that quote.  How exactly is the Bible the groundwork for a free society?

The ideal
To begin with, the Bible establishes freedom as an ideal for all people.  And the basis of freedom for all people is the idea that all people are created equal, and we get that idea from knowing that we are all made in the image of God.  In God's economy one is one.  One is not greater than another one.  One is not one-third or two-thirds; one is one.  This is reflected in our democracy, when one votes, there is simply one vote.  You could be homeless and your vote would count as much as the millionaire banker.  Why?  Because we believe that every human being is made in the image of God, and is therefore valuable and special no matter what his/her status in society.  And if one is one, and no one is greater than another one, then there is zero basis for slavery.  That's the ideal.  True, we have not always lived out the ideal.  But having an ideal - something to aim for - is very important to actually achieving anything at all.  If the American Founders did not read the Bible, and they did not embed the ideal of equality and freedom in our founding documents, its quite likely that the system of slavery would never have been abolished.  The ideal was the driving force that killed it, like the driving of a wooden stake into a vampire's heart.  The Bible was the basis for that ideal.

Knowledge and wisdom
Part of the quote is actually very basic: If a person can read the Bible, it means he can read.  Its hard to enslave a literate man.  And if he reads the Bible, he is encouraged to gain wisdom and knowledge.  Its practically impossible to enslave a literate man who has wisdom and knowledge.  As is true with milk, the cream rises to the top.

Freedom requires that people do the right thing.  Just imagine if our society was full of rapists and thieves.  Do you think freedom would last long?  If crime tripled, the number of police would necessarily triple.  If crime doubled, the number of laws would double.  Otherwise there would be anarchy.  Anarchy and Fascism are much closer to each other than either of them are to freedom and democracy.  Consider a quote from Ben Franklin: "Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.  As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters."

In order for people to be free they must be responsible for themselves.  Independence is not being dependent.  Though we are dependent on God, we are independent of any other, especially any government.  But the minute we are dependent on government, that's when the government has control over us, and freedom is no more.  Freedom requires personal responsibility.  The Bible teaches us how to be responsibility for ourselves.  A good example is the book of Proverbs.  And the epistles as well, teach Christians to be responsible people.

The Bible is the only place to find this combination.  Islam means submission, and is there any freedom in Islamic countries?  Pagan religions do not have a moral standard.  In fact, paganism is less of a religion and more of a culture.  And there is no condemnation for evil in paganism.  There is no definition of what evil is.  And with so many gods, there is no God; everything just meshes into a grey pot of relativity.  There is no ideal in atheism.  Nor is there any teaching in atheism, let alone a moral standard to go by.  If there is no God, men are left to define morality however they want to, and men tend to define morality by their desire to do evil.  So its no surprise that the officially atheist Soviet Union was also very oppressive.  The Bible is the only source and teaching that has ever brought men freedom.  Even when pagan civilizations like Rome were relatively free, it did not last long.  Christ came into the world, and Christianity came upon the Roman Empire like the deluge of a broken dam.  Since then freedom has been achieved like never before.  China was more advanced in the days of Christ, and you would think that they would have outpaced Europe in achievement.  But China fell in on itself, because there was no foundation; neither greatness nor freedom could be established in pagan China.  Christian Europe, on the other hand, advanced in both greatness and freedom.  No one says that Christian Europe was perfect, but the darkest days in Europe were also the least Christian days.  Even now, as Europe abandons its historical religion, Europe is collapsing into a financial disaster.  History will tell you, if you do not believe Horace Greely, the Bible is the foundation of freedom and the groundwork of any good society.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Personal Freedom

Since we celebrated American Independence yesterday, it seemed good to write something on freedom.  Freedom that is found in Christ, of course.  And I don't like being too abstract or philosophical, so I'm going to try to expound on something in tangible detail.  How to be free while others are watching.

It doesn't take too much observation to realize that everyone is trying to be cool.  I mean that everyone is trying to be accepted by their peers.  Because of that, most people are highly conscience of how others perceive them.  And most people care very much how others think of them.  Generally speaking, we go to great lengths to impress people.

Now imagine what this means in practice.  By caring so much what others think, we allow our actions to be dictated by other people.  I have power over the self-conscience.  I can cause someone to change their behavior, or especially change their style, by simply making a critical statement.  I can influence someone's choice in vehicle by saying something as simple as "trucks are more manly than cars."  You get the idea.  People allow themselves to be influenced, because they care what other people think of them.  You know what I'm talking about: Some people work their butts off to afford that thing (whatever it is) that they think will impress other people.  If someone's response to the big house or the fine car is "eh," it takes all the wind out of that person's sails.

Caring about how our peers perceive us seems to be a natural thing.  Most people do it.  Some might even think that all people do it, and its only a matter of the extent to which they do it.  But its not true.  There are some that are completely free of peer opinion.  What is their secret?  I will tell you.

So let no one boast in men.  For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future - all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's.  1Corinthians 3:21-23

Paul wrote this to Christians.  Not atheists or agnostics or pagans or Muslims or humanists, but only to Christians.  And Christians really do believe the words of Paul.  So if all things belong to a Christian, what's the point in caring about peer opinion?  As Paul said, let no one boast in men; so don't concern yourself about when or if someone boasts in you.  I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity (Ecclesiastes 1:14). 

Once you understand this fundamental truth, you know the truth.  What's the point of knowing the truth?

If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.  -Jesus in John 8:31-32

Here's the benefit of being a Christian.  A Christian knows the truth.  A Christian knows that everything under the sun is meaningless, and that all things belong to him anyway.  A Christian knows that there is zero reason to try to impress anyone, regardless of who they are.  And in a very real way, a Christian is free.  A Christian is free from following the stupid fads, free from working all day long to afford the big house, and free from trying to act in a way that he thinks others will approve of.  A Christian is free, because a Christian knows the truth. 

The exception: A Christian will concern himself with how he represents Christ.  He does not do this for his own sake, but for the sake of Christ and His kingdom, so that people perceive Christianity in a positive way.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Internal Evidence Pt 3

In my previous note on internal evidence I gave some examples of how gospel accounts compliment each other, which show their consistency and authenticity.  My reason for writing these notes is to demonstrate how the average person can test the Bible for accuracy.  You don't have to know Greek and Hebrew, or go on archaeological expeditions.  Just own a Bible and have a basic knowledge of the facts surrounding it (manuscripts, history, etc).  Open it up and check this stuff out for yourself.

Jesus gave us some prophecies.  Here is another way to test the veracity of the text.  Because of manuscript evidence, we know that these prophecies were written in the first century.  Now consider the fulfillment of these:

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.  -Jesus in Matthew 16:18

Jesus did build His church upon Peter, the rock.  Peter preached the sermon at Pentecost, which was the birth of the church.  This is nothing as a supernatural sign, because Matthew could have written that part knowing that Peter began the church.  But the rest of it is.  Jesus built His Church, and the gates of Hades have not overcome it.  Of course the gates of Hades have tried many times.  Satan tried to destroy the Church in the first couple centuries through persecution, but Christianity survived Roman persecution.  Then Christianity was adopted as the official religion of the Roman Empire.  Some like to say that the Church was wedded to the Empire.  If they were wedded, the Church was widowed.  The Roman Empire died, but Christianity did not die with it.  And all of this was way beyond the natural foresight of Matthew, or anyone that could have written the book of Matthew (no matter how liberal of a scholar you are). 

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.  -Jesus in Matthew 24:14

We could debate whether or not the gospel has actually been preached throughout the whole world.  Regardless of whether it has, it certainly will be before long.  Just consider what an incredible thing it was: this man proclaiming that some good news of God's kingdom would one day reach the ends of the earth, and He is saying this in first century Judea.  They did not even know how big the whole world was (Jesus did of course, but a mere man could not have known).  So what a bold statement.  And guess what, it has - or will - come true. 

The days will come upon you [Jerusalem] when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side.  They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls.  They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you.  -Jesus in Luke 19:43-44

The Romans besieged Jerusalem, and the city was captured in 70AD.  Josephus writes a detailed account of this in his Wars of the Jews.  Some people might argue that the gospels were written after 70AD so that its nothing special.  The gospels were likely written before 70AD, and most Bible scholars believe this, but it is true that there is no proof of it.  Acts ends with Paul in Rome, which would be the early 60s, and Luke's gospel is a prequel to Acts, so Luke's gospel was probably written around 60AD.  And there's other reasons scholars believe the gospels were written before the destruction of Jerusalem, but I will concede that there is no proof.  Nonetheless, this prophecy forces nonbelievers to date all three of the synoptics (they each have this prophecy in them) after 70AD.  And as we discover more evidence relating to the gospels, the latest date of their composition becomes earlier and earlier.  So I will concede that this prophecy alone does not prove anything, but it does put nonbelievers in an increasingly tough spot.  Added to the other prophecies in this note, and its another of the many reasons to believe the Bible.

Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  -Jesus in John 4:21

The mountain is Mount Gerizim.  The Samaritans believed it to be sacred and worshiped God there.  As for Jerusalem, we already know that it was captured and ruined in 70AD.  Jews continued to live there until they were banned from Jerusalem in 132AD (because of the Bar Kokhba rebellion).  We can take this to be the time that Jews no longer worshiped God in Jerusalem.  As for Mount Gerizim, Samaritans were banned from worshiping there when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire (325AD).  And Christians were driven out of the area when Islam conquered it (7th century).  This prophecy from Jesus was fulfilled, but no earlier than 132AD.  The thing that nonbelievers have to grapple with is the fact that a fragment from John's gospel is dated to about 125AD.  This means that John's gospel was written before the earliest possible fulfillment of Jesus' prophecy.

These are just a few more examples of internal evidence.  Add them to the examples already mentioned in previous notes, and you can begin to see that there is a mountain of evidence supporting the Bible.


About Me

Unimpressive in person. But always praying that these letters I write will be weighty and forceful. I serve the Almighty as a servant of Christ. I strive to conquer hearts and minds with the word of God. I am nothing, but the Holy Spirit living inside me is omnipotent. By Him I can run and not grow weary, or walk and not be faint. All glory and honor be to God and to Jesus the Christ.