Monday, December 31, 2007

Interesting Phrase

In the Holman's Christian Standard Bible, Ruth 2:13 is rendered thusly:
"My lord," she said, "you have been so kind to me, for you have comforted and encouraged your slave, although I am not like one of your female servants."
What I found interesting was the literal rendering in the footnote:
"My lord," she said, "you have been so kind to me, for you have spoken to the heart of your slave, although I am not like one of your female servants."
Although I usually prefer understandability over floweriness, I really like the poetic beauty of the literal in this case. I think the literal should have been in the text with the footnote providing the sense. (I'm actually beginning to find that's the general method I'd prefer.)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Instead of buying that new HD TV ...

pay to restore the electricity for someone who's service has been turned off for inability to pay the bill, or pay the back taxes for someone who's house is being foreclosed on because of property taxes being in arrears.

The reason for having a job, as given in Ephesians 4:28, is "so that [we have] something to share with anyone in need".

And here's one I've never noticed before: Luke 11:39-41
39Then the Lord said to him, "Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41But give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.
Notice verse 41.


Restoring the First Century Church: Which One of the Three?

Of course, such a subject line obviously bothers many, if not most, of the people raised in or converted to a church of Christ in America (or at least in the Bible Belt), for we are confident that as per Ephesians 4:4, there is only "one body".

However, it's important to remember that whereas the apostle urged the Christians to be united in the same mind and same judgment, and to have no divisions amongst themselves (1 Cor. 1:10ff), the reality of the situation is that there were divisions among the first century Christians (e.g. v. 12).

The general aim among churches of Christ has been to restore the first century church. But looking through the eyes of history, we find that over the first one hundred years or so of the church's existence, there were three broad stages of life, resulting in three "different" churches.

The First Stage: Just Another Sect of Judaism

During the life of Jesus, there were several sects within Judaism, his "native" religion, if you will. Here's a brief summary of the "big five", plus a sixth late-comer, that were common in and around the area of Judea.

Pharisees - These were the mainstream "people of the Book". They were careful to dot their "I"'s and cross their "T"'s in religious matters. These were what we might call "good, church-going folk". Their biggest problem was that they were concerned with details more than the over-all broader picture of religion, and often wound up being hypocritical in their lifestyles. They revered the written law, the Torah, but because it is vague on the details, they adopted an oral law which had grown up through the centuries alongside the written law. Jesus had no real qualm with the Pharisaic viewpoint, except when it led to hypocritical action or when their Oral Law canceled out the Written Law.

We see both Jesus' approval of Pharisaic doctrine and his condemnation of hypocrisy in Matt. 23:1-3:
Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.
A few verses later, starting in verse 23, Jesus condemns the Pharisees for elevating the Oral Law above the Written Law.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! 
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. 
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
The Oral Law addressed the minutia of daily living, such as how to handle tithing of certain things, or the proper steps in washing the dinner dishes. Note that Jesus did not condemn the regulations of the Oral Law -- "without leaving the others undone". Rather, he condemned placing the unwritten rules above the God-inspired written rules.

The Oral Law specifies that if a situation causes a conflict between two laws in the Written Law, then the written law which saves or helps or loves has precedence over the one that is ritual. We see Jesus' properly applying the Oral Law in Luke 15:1-7.

Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.”So He spoke this parable to them, saying: 
"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance."
We see the same sort of thing in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25ff. The priest and the Levite who passed by the wounded man did so because of ritual regulations. The people hearing this story expected the priest and the Levite to avoid the wounded man, and they likely expected the next person in the story to be a Pharisee, who upheld the principle found in the Oral Law of helping another even if it means technically violating a Biblical regulation. At this point, Jesus had already taught the lesson he intended to teach, that helping those in need trumps Biblical regulations. But surprisingly, he takes a different route by making the hero of the story not a Pharisee but a Samaritan, hated and despised by the Jews. In doing so, he masterfully taught a second lesson to his hearers, to love those you hate.

Some of the Pharisees often considered Jesus as one of them, and went out of their way to protect him from Herod's intention to kill him on at least one occasion (Luke 13:31), whereas other Pharisees (or perhaps the same Pharisees at a different time) conspired with Herod to kill him (Mark 3:6).

The point of all this is that the Pharisees, while having a tendency toward hypocrisy and legalism which Jesus condemned, were basically the party that Jesus most identified with. When he condemned the Pharisees, it was more or less done as an "insider".

- This was the ruling elite, the political party. For the most part, they weren't too interested in things of the Bible, preferring instead to deal with the practicalities of living. They were more or less in bed with the ruling Romans, from whom they got political favors, such as official appointments. Accordingly, they were more interested in keeping the status quo than in having some upstart from Galilee going around and creating turmoil that would likely cause them financial and comfort loss. In Acts 5:17, we find that it's the Sadducees (and the office-holders, such as the high priest - vs 21) who sought to silence Peter and the early church by killing him (v. 33); it was Gamaliel, a Pharisee, who rescued him (v. 34ff). The Sadducees were more or less the agnostics of the nation, not believing in angels or the resurrection.

Zealots - These were the extremists, the fanatics, the pipe-bombers of the first century. Their main focus was on freeing Israel from the hated Roman rule. If that meant following a messiah who offered a chance to fight their way to freedom, so be it. If it meant handing over to Rome for crucifixion a so-called messiah who had no interest in overthrowing Rome, so be it. Whatever overthrows Roman rule and frees Israel is the goal.

Essenes - These were the "monks" of the period. They withdrew from society, and set up their own society. They had strict regulations, and kept their own writings, many of which were discovered in the caves of Qumran in 1947, now known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. A fringe element in the Jewish religion, they seem to have contributed quite a bit of flavoring to Jewish society at large; there are some remarkable resemblances between the teachings and habits of the Essenes and those of both John the Immerser and Jesus.

Hellenists - These were good, Bible-believing Jews who typically were raised in a non-Jewish setting, such as in the Egyptian city of Alexandria. Accordingly, they tended to accept Greek ways, and didn't worry too much about being "exactly Jewish". These were relatively rare within Judea itself, and tended to be found more among the Diaspora, the Dispersion of Jews outside of their homeland area.

Starting in about A.D. 33, a new sect of Judaism arose: the Nazarenes. It is clear that non-Christian Jews considered Nazarenes just another sect of Judaism, from such passages as Acts 24:5 and 24:14 and 28:22. It also seems clear, once we take off our 20th Century[1] "we've already figured it all out" eyeglasses, that the early Christians still considered themselves as just another branch of Judaism.

The Nazarenes, the church in this First Stage, still went to Temple at the hour of prayer (Acts 3:1), where they prayed (Acts 22:17), and returned to Jerusalem to worship (Acts 24:11) and to present offerings (v. 17) like good Jews did. Paul said that he believes everything that agrees with the Torah and the Prophets (Acts 24:14) and that he has the same hope in God as non-Christian Jews have (v. 15). Paul was concerned about being ceremonially clean (v. 18). About a week earlier Paul had claimed that he "is", not "was", a Pharisee (Acts 23:6). Paul emphatically stated at least twice that he had not broken any Jewish laws (Acts 25:8, 10). Prior to Paul's conversion to Christianity, he sought out Christians whom to persecute, and it was to the synagogue he went in order to find them (Acts 26:11), which agrees with James' indication that the Christian assembly in the early days was the synagogue assembly (James 2:2, in the Greek). Later Paul tells the Roman Jews that he had done nothing against "our people" or the customs of the ancestors (Acts 28:17). When speaking to a group of non-Christian Jews in Synagogue, he includes himself with them as children of their fathers, to whom God has fulfilled his promise (Acts 13:33). He met with both Christians and non-Christians in the synagogue for three months, until the non-Christians maligned the Christians so much that the Christians left the congregation (Acts 19:8-9).

Stephen the Martyr was stoned because he accused the Jewish leaders of not keeping the law (Acts 7:53); the implication was that if they had kept it, they'd be Christians as he was. In other words, Stephen was a keeper of the law.

Peter was resistant to go see the Gentile Cornelius, because it was unlawful for a "Jewish man to keep company" with a non-Jew (Acts 10:28). The church in Jerusalem, including even the Apostles, also was upset because Peter broke this rule (Acts 11:1-3). It was a shock to the early church that non-Jews could become Christians (v. 18). As part of the controversy, Christians who still considered themselves as Pharisees insisted that the new Gentile believers convert to Judaism (Acts 15:5). It makes no sense to believe the earliest Christians expected non-Jews to convert to Judaism if they no longer considered themselves as law-following Jews. Note that the Christian leaders may not have insisted on Gentile believers converting to Judaism (Acts 15:24), but the existence of rank-and-file Christians who believed this doctrine makes it obvious that the earliest church was a Jewish church, and that they believed being a Christian meant being a Jew.

Paul had no problem circumcising a non-Jewish believer in order to appease the Jews (Acts 16:1-3). On another trip to Jerusalem, Paul submitted to certain Jewish rituals to prove that he was a good, Law-keeping Jew (Acts 21:15-24, 26), thereby proving that although Gentiles were not required to keep the law, he was not teaching this message to Jews living among the Gentiles (v. 21, 24-25).

Sosthenes was the ruler of the synagogue while apparently a Christian (as evidenced by the Greeks beating him after being given permission by the proconsul to handle the "Christianity issue" themselves - Acts 18:14-18).

Other passages could be examined, but it seems clear that for the first fifteen years or so of the church's existence, Christianity was strictly Jewish. The church was a branch of Judaism. It was a matured branch, unlike the other branches, as it had found the long sought-for Messiah, but nevertheless, it was still Jewish, and only Jewish, at heart.

Even though the Jewish Christians continued to observe the Law in many cases, they realized that they were not justified by the keeping of that Law, but rather by faith in Christ (Gal. 2:15-16).

The Second Stage: Jews and Gentiles

As has been mentioned, when God sent Peter to Cornelius (about A.D. 49), this began the second stage of the church's life. At first, the strictly Jewish church resisted the inclusion of Greeks into the church. Then, as they began to realize that "God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life" (Acts 11:18), many also insisted that these new Gentile believers should go through the whole process necessary for conversion to Judaism, including circumcision (Acts 15:1, 24). The "Jerusalem Conference" in Acts 15 addressed this issue, and concluded that Jewish believers in the Messiah should continue being Jewish, but that Gentile believers did not need to become Jewish. Instead, the new Gentile believers needed to adopt four rules (abstaining from idols, blood, things strangled, and sexual immorality) that would reduce the friction between the Jewish and the Gentile believer in the synagogue (Acts 15:21).

During the first stage of the church, when it was strictly Jewish, non-believing Jews were by and large willing to leave the Christian Jews pretty much alone. Some that weren't believers still respected the Christian Jews, and in the very earliest days of the church, believers had favor with all the people (Acts 2:47). However, now that Gentiles were coming into the church, and without having to submit to the rules and regulations to which the Jews had to submit, the Jews tended toward envy and anger (Acts 17:4-5). By the time Paul was sent to Rome for his trial, the Jews there were compelled to say that, "concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere” (Acts 28:22).

During this period, much of the writing in the New Testament emphasizes that both Jew and Gentile are part of the church. For example, Romans 1:16 says "[the Gospel] is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile". Similar phraseology can be found throughout Romans (2:10, 3:9, 9:24, 10:12, 15:27). Galatians 2:7-9 makes it clear that the Gospel is for both the Gentile and the Jew.

The Third Stage: Jews and Gentiles Separate

The second stage "truce" worked for a while, but relationships between the two camps deteriorated fairly quickly, taking sharp dips after the destruction of Jerusalem in the first Jewish Rebellion against Rome (c. A.D 70) and again after the complete razing of Jerusalem in the second Jewish Rebellion (the Bar Kokhba Rebellion, c. A.D. 135), which cemented a virtually complete division of the two into separate religions. We don't have much Biblical evidence of this, as the separation accelerated after most of the Bible's record was completed, but historical sources outside of the Bible show this progression clearly.

The tragedy of this third stage is that whereas Gentiles and Jews are supposed to be family, after A.D. 135, the normal situation has been enmity between the two branches of the family. Gentiles have blamed Jews for killing Jesus (when really it was mostly the less-religious appointed-by-Rome office-holders kow-towing to Roman influences who killed Jesus, not the people at large); Jews have blamed Christians for hating them unjustly, and for co-opting their religion.

Since the great Holocaust of the Second World War, new dialogs have opened between the two camps, and hope flows that peace may again reign between the two parties, as Jesus would have it. Christians need to reach out to Jews with the news that their long-awaited Messiah has come; it's just that they've been blinded to it because of mistakes and blindnesses on both sides. Jews need to realize they have an awesome Rabbi in their heritage, if they'd just get over the revulsion they have to all things Christian.


So, when considering the task of restoring the first century church, one must ask, "Which church? The Jewish church, the Jewish/Gentile church, or the Gentile church?"

Strictly speaking the purely Gentile church begins just after the first century, rather than being a first-century church, so it can't be the first-century church.

The earliest church was the Jewish church. But the Bible makes it clear that God wants Gentiles in the church, and that Gentiles do not have to convert to Judaism. So the Jewish church, although a first-century church, is not the church God wants.

That leaves us with the Jewish/Gentile church. The only problem with this, is that in the typical church of Christ at the tail-end of the 20th Century and beginning of the 21st, we have such a fear of "sectarianism" (aka "denominationalism"), that we have blinded ourselves to the Biblical record that God's church, though one body and one spirit, can take at least two forms: one that worships in the Temple and in the Synagogue and that keeps ritual regulations concerning vows and purity laws, and one that does things in a decidedly more Gentile, non-Jewish way.

So what are we going to do about it?

1. Yes, I know it's the 21st Century, but many in the church of Christ are still living in the 1950's. Much of the resistance in the church to doing things differently is because we perceive these new things to be different from the ways of the early church, when in reality it's merely different from the ways of the 1950's church. In other words, we've confused the church we knew in the mid-20th Century with the church.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Understanding God? I don't think so.

Mystery and wonder must pervade human perception of God's goodness. Contradictions and inconsistencies are part and parcel of God and his mysteries.
I used to believe that the Bible, the life and teachings of Jesus, the doctrines of the first century church, were understandable. The more time I spend in the Word of God, the more I realize that the above quotation is true. Even Jesus himself said things like, "I'm teaching in parables so that they won't understand" (Luke 8:10, etc).

And although it's frustrating to my Western mindset, I have to admit, once you get past the false idea that such an idea devalues the concept of inspiration or of the "simplicity" of the Gospel, it does add to the grandeur of the things of God. As the above writer continues:
All attempts to systematize God will fall short. Stand in amazement. Wonder in awe.
Brad H. Young, Jesus the Jewish Theologian, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., Peabody, Mass., 1995. Pg. 273.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Who? What?

Bob Phillips writes in a Letter to the Editor at WorldNetDaily, attributing the saying to a former professor of his:
Who was Jesus? He was God. What was Jesus? He was a man.
Just found it interesting; thought I'd pass it on.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Be Jewish, IV

In Genesis 17:5-6, YHWH tells Abraham,
5 No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.
According to Wilson (see reference in previous posts), pg 20, this word "nations" is "goyim", or "Gentiles".

In other words, from the very beginning of the Abrahamic covenant, God promised that Gentiles would be part of the Abrahamic family.

To any Jew who might be reading this, I am your brother, and you are mine, not because all Goyim are brothers to the sons of Abraham, but because those Gentiles who are part of the new covenant (which is unlike the Mosaic covenant - Jer. 31:31ff) are brothers to the sons of Abraham.

Be Jewish, III

A couple of interesting tidbits about olive trees, as related by Marvin R. Wilson in his book, Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith:

1. "Gethsemane", as in the Garden of, means "olive press". So really the Garden of Gethsemane means "the olive press garden".

2. "Very old olive trees often have tender young shoots which spring up around the roots. This sight doubtless prompted the psalmist to speak of children being 'like olive shoots' around the table of the home (Ps. 128:3)". (Wilson, pg 13)

3. Olive trees outlive most other fruit trees, and have "remarkably sturdy" roots, suitable for thriving in hot, dry, rocky soil.

4. Olives were eaten, or for making olive oil, which was "used for cooking, for lamps, for ceremonial anointing, and for healing the sick". (Wilson, pg 14)

5. "Olive wood was used for construction purposes, including part of the Solomonic Temple". (Wilson, pg 14)

Be Jewish, II

Marvin R. Wilson, in his book Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of
the Christian Faith (1989, Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids MI), writes (pg. 12):
...the Bible reflects a view of reality which is essentially Hebraic. Indeed, for the earliest Church, to think "Christianly" was to think Hebraicly. It should not be surprising that the understructure and matrix of much of the New Testament is Hebraic. After all, Jesus was a Jew, not a Christian of gentile origin. His teachings, like those of his followers, reflect a distinct ethnicity and culture. The evidence found in the New Testament is abundantly clear: as a mother gives birth to and nourishes a child, so Hebrew culture and language gave birth to and nourished Christianity.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

How Can You Doubt that Evolution Has Occurred?

In a Letter to the Editor of World Net Daily this past Thursday, the letter writer equates Creationism with Flat Earthianism. I often hear this comparison, and find it to generally be the result of ignorance or dishonesty on the part of the speaker.

The author of the letter finds it absurd that "we are still debating at all whether or not evolution occurred".

Well, that depends on your definition of "evolution". A case can be made that there are at least six different definitions, but for the purposes of this letter we can deal with two: 1) Macro, or "big-scale" evolution, the goo-to-you, molecules-to-man, hydrogen-to-human type of evolution; and 2) Micro, or variation-on-a-theme, or adaptation type of evolution.

Virtually everyone, including hard-core, "Bible-thumping", young-earth Creationists agree with the variation-on-a-theme type of evolution. This type of evolution is seen in everyday life, in the fossil record, in thousands of years of animal breeding, and in decades of lab research, and yes, even in the Bible ("From one man he made every nation of men"-Acts 17:26, and etc). This type of evolution is "scientific fact". This type of evolution is also the result of a loss of, or a mere shuffling of, pre-existing genetic information. Whether you're talking about horses devolving from a three-toed variety into our modern one-toed variety, or bacteria "evolving" resistance to antibiotics, or dark moths "evolving" into light moths, etc, you're talking about a loss of or shuffling of existing genetic information, resulting in variations on a theme, but not in genuinely new types of creatures. (The so-called fossil evidence of "missing links" is hardly compelling; famous evolutionary paleontologist Stephen J. Gould has said "The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology." Other top-name evolutionists have made similar admissions.)

What's required for the macro type of evolution is a vast increase in new never-before-existing genetic information, from the genetic information in pond scum (none) to that in a paramecium (lots) to that in a human (LOTS). Where is the observation of this vast increase in genetic information? Where is the lab experiment that demonstrates that this is even possible? Where is the "science" behind this claim?

Note that the difference between these two types of evolution is not one of quantity, but of quality. One type (macro) requires the appearance of vast amounts of new genetic information that has never existed before; the other type does not.

Evolutionists typically change their definition of evolution mid-sentence. They start out by claiming that evolution is a fact, meaning macro-evolution, but by the end of the sentence they're trotting out examples of variation-on-a-theme.

Next time someone presents some piece of evidence for evolution, ask yourself if it's evidence of loss/shuffling of pre-existing genetic information (variation-on-a-theme), or evidence of new genetic information arising which did not previously exist. (And transfers of previously-existing genetic information from one creature to another via such mechanisms as mosquito bites don't count; we're looking for new never-before-seen genetic information, which is required in vast amounts if macro-evolution is true.)

So, there's no doubt that "evolution", meaning variation-on-a-theme, has occurred. But Atom-to-Adam? Show me the evidence.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Be Jewish

... if we wish to hear Jesus, we must become ancient Jews.
Rabbi David Wolpe
in the Forward to "Jesus the Jewish Theologian", Brad H. Young, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Mass.1997, pg xiv.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

A Few Gleanings from Deuteronomy


If I understand Deuteronomy 14:12ff, that tenth of the produce that an Israelite was to give to YHWH actually goes into his own stomach.

22 Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. 23 Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of YHWH your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere YHWH your God always. 24 But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by YHWH your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where YHWH will choose to put his Name is so far away), 25 then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place YHWH your God will choose. 26 Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of YHWH your God and rejoice.



Deuteronomy 14:28-29 indicates that an additional third of a tenth goes to the Levites and the needy:

28 At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year's produce and store it in your towns, 29 so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that YHWH your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.



Although the Israelites, when moving into the promised land, were to totally slaughter all the inhabitants of the land, that rule did not hold for cities outside of the promised land:

10 When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. 11 If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you. 12 If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. 13 When YHWH your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. 14 As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder YHWH your God gives you from your enemies. 15 This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby.
16 However, in the cities of the nations YHWH your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. 17 Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as YHWH your God has commanded you. 18 Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against YHWH your God.



When attacking a city, the Israelites could cut down non-food-bearing trees to use in their attack, but they could not chop down food-bearing trees:

19 When you lay siege to a city for a long time, fighting against it to capture it, do not destroy its trees by putting an ax to them, because you can eat their fruit. Do not cut them down. Are the trees of the field people, that you should besiege them? 20 However, you may cut down trees that you know are not fruit trees and use them to build siege works until the city at war with you falls.

And that, boys and girls, is today's Bible lesson from the Tanahk. (The "Tanahk" is the name used by Jews for what we call the "Old Testament", and is derived from the letters T, N, and K, which were the starting letters of the Hebrew words for "the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings".)

Interesting Facts about Lamentations

In the book of Lamentations, there are five chapters.

Chapters 1, 2, 4, and 5 each have 22 verses (and chapter 3 could be so numbered -- see below).

Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4 (but not 5) are acrostic, with each verse starting with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, starting with Aleph and ending at Tav, in order.

The verses in chapters 1, 2, and 4 each have three lines.

The three lines per verse pattern has been broken into separate verses in chapter 3, giving this chapter a total of 66 verses. (Remember, verse numbers are relatively recent man-made additions to the text and are not inspired.) If the verse number pattern had been retained, this chapter would be just like chapters 1, 2, and 4, except that each of the three lines in the verse would start with the appropriate Hebrew letter. In chapters 1, 2, and 4, only the first line of the verse starts with a letter.

Here it is in picture format (using the English A, B, and Z), so it's easier to comprehend:

Chapter 1:
1. A blah blah blah for first line of verse.
Second line of verse.
Third line of verse
2. B blah blah blah for first line of verse.
Second line of verse.
Third line of verse
. . .
22. Z blah blah blah for first line of verse.
Second line of verse.
Third line of verse

Chapter 2:
1. A blah blah blah for first line of verse.
Second line of verse.
Third line of verse
2. B blah blah blah for first line of verse.
Second line of verse.
Third line of verse
. . .
22. Z blah blah blah for first line of verse.
Second line of verse.
Third line of verse

Chapter 3:
1. A blah blah blah for first line of verse.
A second line of verse.
A third line of verse
2. B blah blah blah for first line of verse.
B second line of verse.
B third line of verse
. . .
22. Z blah blah blah for first line of verse.
Z second line of verse.
Z third line of verse

Chapter 4:
1. A blah blah blah for first line of verse.
Second line of verse.
Third line of verse
2. B blah blah blah for first line of verse.
Second line of verse.
Third line of verse
. . .
22. Z blah blah blah for first line of verse.
Second line of verse.
Third line of verse

Chapter 5:
1. Blah blah blah
2. Blah blah blah
22. Blah blah blah

Friday, November 30, 2007

Rehash of the Previous Entry

As I was thinking of how it might be explained to someone ...

Typically we've thought of conception as the UPS truck driving up to Mrs. Egg's house, and the driver ringing the doorbell and delivering the package of DNA, and then from that point on the truck and driver are jettisoned from our thoughts.

Now it appears that might not quite be the case; it seems as if the driver himself may enter into the house for a little hanky-panky with Mrs. Egg, leaving behind a bit more than the package he was tasked to deliver.

(Now, my friends, explain to me why we guys always have to turn discussions of sex into sex-related discussions. Disgusting, we are. Or maybe it's just me ....)

Women's Eggs are Immortal?

In researching the meaning of the name "Sisera", I came across this unrelated little gem:
Geneticists have found that the reproductive cells carried by women are actually immortal until they are "poisoned" by fertilization, possibly due to a mutation acquired from the forbidden fruit itself which affects both genders but is carried only by the male. Only by being the seed of woman apart from a man (virgin birth) could the Messiah be truly the Second Adam, bearing the complete image of God and thus able to become fully righteous after passing the same tests Adam failed.
In following the link, I found this:
It is now believed that within the cytoplasm [of the spermatozoan - Kent] and among the minute particles which are suspended in it [as opposed to the DNA-package it delivers which we've always considered the only thing passed during sex - Kent], there are certain carriers of hereditary material which have been termed plasmagenes. These cytoplasmic "genes" are distinct from the nuclear genes which hitherto have been assumed the sole carriers of heredity, and they appear to be (unlike the nuclear genes) susceptible to influences outside the cell.
. . .
Thus although the woman may have been the first to introduce the fatal poison into her body cells, she did not by that act poison her own seed, but the poison of death does enter through the male seed into the seed of the woman by the fusion of the two. By such a mechanism the poison in Adam's body may have reached his seed, and via the cytoplasm of the seed the poison is by fusion with the female seed passed on to the embryo.
. . .
The key doctrine here was that acquired characters were inherited.
. . .
Mortality was acquired by man, yet it was inherited. To quote Romans 5:12 again, "Death entered . . . and passed upon all men."
. . .
By the prodigious labours and elegant methods of research of a number of geneticists and microbiologists, the mechanism is now becoming clear. This research begins to show that there are certain conditions under which an acquired character can, after all, be inherited not via the nuclear genes but by something analogous to them in the surrounding cytoplasm termed plasmagenes.

I don't automatically buy into this guy's explanation, but to me, it has the "ring of Truth", not to mention that I had already fairly well adopted the idea that some thing (call it "sin" if you like) was passed from generation to generation via the male seed, which Jesus didn't get. I was speculating that it had something to do with the Y chromosome, but this idea makes a bit more sense to me.

I was just talking with a friend the other day about how some knowledge is passed on to the offspring of certain animals (such as the location of salmon spawning grounds or a new route south for birds, etc) and my suspicion that humans sometimes have a little bit of this going on which might explain some cases of deja vu or memories of so-called "previous lives".

I'd suggest not adopting these thoughts as "fact", but they're interesting enough I thought I'd pass them on.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Come As You Are; Leave Different

Just as Scripture assumes you come as you are, it also assumes you will not stay that way.
The author goes on:
If we are not changed from what we were as recently as yesterday, woe be unto us. The task of spiritual growth is never complete this side of Eternity, so we dare not stop growing. Argue if you wish whether Paul meant "study" or "be diligent" in 2 Timothy 2:15, but to accurately handle the Word of Truth surely requires spending time understanding the Scripture in its own context. That context was a Semitic people in a Middle Eastern country.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

What Are You Doing?

A friend hooked me up with some audio Bible-related lessons from a Jewish standpoint. I'm continually finding new nuggets from the lessons.

Tonight I found it profound that the speaker said (paraphrased) ...
"Who am I?" is the wrong question.
The correct question is, "What am I doing?"
That struck me as amazingly true. I got to thinking about all the people seeking psychotherapy, etc, and trying to find out who they are. That doesn't matter. What matters is what they're doing.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Come As You Are

I should be at church this morning instead of at home, blogging, but I've been sick the past two days, and whereas I feel good enough to get out, I'm still sniffly and coughing and head-achy and easy-to-tire, and just don't feel like getting around to make myself presentable. If my brethren at church didn't mind me showing up unwashed and in sweat pants, I'd be there.

Reminds me of a slogan I saw on the side of some sort of church-group bus the other evening: "Come as you are; Leave different". That strikes me as a much more accepting place than the typical church of Christ that expects you to wear shoes and generally "fit in". I know the arguments put forth for "presenting your best", but I'm not sure I buy into those arguments (especially since "presenting your best" never seems to mean "wearing a tux"). I tend to believe the "Cowboy Church" and "Bum Street Meeting" ideas have merit -- Come as you are; Leave different.

Elders in the Church - One, or More?

In the church tradition in which I grew up, it was firm doctrine that each church is to have a multiplicity of elders, as explained in this typical comment from an un-cited source on Titus chapter 1: seems [Titus'] initial duty....was to appoint elders in every town. The word elders here is plural meaning each group of believers had a plurality of elders. To 'appoint' is to 'ordain.' The verb means, to 'set down' or to 'put in charge.' But next is the most important words. "As I directed you." The preacher is commanded directly from the apostle Paul to "appoint elders." So, there we have it.
Here are some of my thoughts concerning this doctrine.


Using this example more exactly, it seems that one preacher, who himself has been appointed by a "higher level of authority", is to appoint the elders in every town within a certain jurisdiction. That's an uncomfortable thought ....


"appoint elders in every town" could be likened to the phrase, "appoint cooks in every family". Would each family therefore need a plurality of cooks?

Granted, in English at least, if a single elder were intended, the phrase would be better uttered as "appoint an elder in every town".

But what if Paul's intended meaning was that each town have at least one elder? The rendering "appoint at least one elder in every town" is somewhat clunky; I suspect most speakers would short-hand this to "appoint elders in every town", which is the form we have in our text.

Note that I'm not saying Paul intends "at least one elder"; I'm merely saying that the text, in English at least, is not clear that he intended a multiplicity of elders, either in each town, or over each group within a town.

In other words, using this text alone, I'm not sure you can support the point that "each group of believers had a plurality of elders".


Does the New Testament actually teach that each group of believers have a plurality of elders? I'm not entirely confident that it does.

Sometimes when Paul writes to a church in a certain city, he implies that there are several churches within the city, such as when he says, "Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus. ... Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord." (For an interesting (and perhaps enlightening) exercise, go to and search for "household" in the New Testament, and quickly read how the term "household" is used. It often "feels" like code-speak for "house-church", although I would not press that definition too greatly, especially without having done further research on it.)

If it's true that the early church tended to meet in houses, chances are fairly good that these house-churches would be fairly small, say 12-30 people. With such small churches, I'm not sure a plurality of elders would have been practical.

In a situation in which one city might have four or a dozen house-churches, each with one elder, it still makes perfect sense for Paul to call for the elders in the city of Ephesus to come meet him. Therefore Acts 20:17 also fails to be an iron-clad proof-text for a multiplicity of elders over each group of believers.

It also makes sense that Titus could appoint multiple elders within a city while each house-church within that city may only have one elder. Or perhaps the elders of a town pastored over the churches as a whole, with some house-churches not even having an attending elder (although this seems unlikely to me; it seems more likely that each house-church would have some sort of ruler).

Also, apparently the early church simply converted their synagogue meetings to church meetings. For example:
* Jesus implies that his followers would be worshiping in the synagogues until they were kicked out - John 16:2
* the new Gentile Christians in Antioch are given instructions to allow them to coexist with the practice of reading Moses on the Sabbath in synagogues - Acts 15:20-22
* the Jews who were angry at Christians beat Sosthenes the synagogue ruler, implying that this synagogue ruler was a Christian - Acts 18:16-17
* Saul went to the synagogues to find Christians he could arrest - Acts 22:19, Acts 26:11
* James speaks of both rich and poor people coming into the Christian synagogue assemblies (James 2:2, Young's Literal Translation, or the Greek text)

As I understand it, the synagogue had a single leader, such as Sosthenes above, or such as described in Luke 8:41, Luke 13:14, and Acts 18:8. So without clear instruction otherwise (which apparently was not recorded in the New Testament), former synagogue-attending Jews who had converted to Christianity would continue assembling as they had all their lives, in the synagogue, with a synagogue leader over them.

Again, please do not mis-hear me. I'm not arguing that the New Testament teaches there should be one elder over each church. I am saying that the evidence is less clear for a plurality of elders over each church than is often claimed. Extra-biblical sources, or further comparison with the Jewish concept of elders and/or synagogue/assembly leaders, might enlighten us on the matter, but it seems to me that any conclusion in favor of a plurality of elders over each group of believers, when made strictly using the New Testament as source material, can only be made by reading a meaning into the text rather than reading a meaning out of the text. Perhaps I'm wrong, and there is some clear-cut evidence that I've forgotten or missed. But I'm tending to think not.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A Common Misperception

When people face a crisis or devastation of one sort or another, they're often reminded that Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him...".

The problem is they never finish that verse, which ends with, "who have been called according to his purpose."

I don't mean to deny that all things do work together for good to those who love God, but I do want to make it clear that this passage has traditionally been misquoted.

And as long as we're on the topic of misquoting, the passage does not say that "money is the root of all evil"; is says that "the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil" (1 Timothy 6:10, NASB).

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Found an Interesting Blogger

I've recently discovered blogger Ed Hurst, and so far have been fascinated by what he has to say. Here's an example:
Judas had a nickname -- Iscariot -- which has debatable connections, possibly implying he was a member of a political resistance group. It is hardly in dispute this man was all about politics. We would call him today, at a minimum, an activist. While much the same could be said of Simon the Zealot early on, he seems to have finally gotten the message of Jesus: "My Kingdom is not of this world." Judas never got it. To some degree, all twelve of His Disciples kept expecting Jesus to announce His candidacy. Judas alone was willing to force the issue, and Jesus' response was to go willingly to the Cross. He had rejected politics since at least the Temptation in the Wilderness.

Anyone in the church today attempting to use the methods of secular politics joins Judas in his error. The very idea of seeking to govern human events by the methods of fallen man is a rejection of God's ways. The weapons of our warfare are spiritual, for our battle is against spiritual forces (Ephesians 6). After piling on that allegorical spiritual armor, Paul's next act is to call for prayer. That's the battlefield. Sure, most of us would agree, for example, abortion is tantamount to murder. However, if you have to legislate such a thing in the face of massive social resistance, you have already lost. Pray, and teach the Word lovingly. If the Lord does not turn the hearts of the nation, your fund raising to pay some smart marketing firm to press that message is an insult to your Sovereign Lord.
You can read the rest of this article at the link provided above.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Qualifications of Elders

Below, I highlight an issue with the Biblical qualifications of elders, which never really resonated with me until I saw the lists from 1 Timothy and Titus side-by-side.

2. The Qualifications of Elders (as given in the KJV)

Immediately you see that the two lists are not identical. A case could be made that some of the last few that don't match up are just differences in wording, but not all of them. For example, Titus has no indication that the work must be desired by a prospective elder, and 1 Timothy does not indicate a need to be holy.

So, how do we explain these differences?

I see the following possibilities.

1. The two lists were, at the time they were given, identical, and have since become corrupted.

2. The two lists are identical even now, but we just don't see the match-ups, for whatever reason.

3. Each recipient of the list already had differing partial lists of requirements, and Paul wrote to each to fill in what each was missing.

4. The requirements were intended to be slightly different in different situations/locales.

5. God intended for each recipient to only get a partial list, to be finished out later by special revelation to each recipient.

6. God did not intend the early church to have a complete list of requirements, waiting instead for the later church to compile the complete list once the New Testament was completed and available in whole.

7. The lists were never intended to be a check-list, but rather as guidelines.

None of these solutions appear totally satisfactory to me, but I tend to find #7 the most intellectually satisfying of the bunch. Of course, that opens up a whole new can of worms.

Why does this matter? Because in my experience, we've treated these lists as check-lists, which has led to great debates and division over the meaning of various items, such as elders who become widowed, or how many children, etc. If the lists were never meant as check-lists, then our human insistence on making them checklists is responsible for a great deal of fighting and division.

Am I missing something?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Levitical Sex

In Leviticus 18 are a host of prohibitions against certain types of sex. The "feel" I get from these prohibitions is not the normal Christian ideal concept of sex with your spouse only; instead, it "feels" like men are expected to sleep with multiple partners, and that only this subset of specific partners are to be avoided.

For example, there's the injunction to not sleep with your daughter-in-law. Since you can't have a daughter-in-law without having a son, the implication is that you've already had sex with your son's mother. (Granted, you could be a widower, but that's not the "feel" I get from this passage.)

Another example is the prohibition against sleeping with a woman and her daughter. What? At the same time, as in a threesome? Or perhaps alternating date nights? Or first one, then the other after the first dies?

A quite clear example is the prohibition against sleeping with two women who are sisters (while they both live).

This passage disturbs somewhat my conception of being a "good Christian boy". But Jesus brings us back to the Creation in places such as Matthew 19:

He who created them in the beginning made them male and female....

When asked why Moses was more lenient, his response was harsh against manly desires:

Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because of the hardness of your hearts. But it was not like that from the beginning. And I tell you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.

When his disciples then challenged him, accusing him of being unrealistic, Jesus essentially replied, "Tough. Suck it up. Either live as an eunuch, or be faithful to your wife."

His disciples said to Him, "If the relationship of a man with his wife is like this, it's better not to marry!"

But He told them, "Not everyone can accept this saying, but only those it has been given to. For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother's womb, there are eunuchs who were made by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way because of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.

And Paul adds his two cents' worth in 1 Corinthians 6:16:
Do you not know that anyone joined to a prostitute is one body with her? For it says, The two will become one flesh.
So whereas Moses may have expected the men in his culture to sleep around, Jesus expects better of us.

With my "spirit eyes" I can see that Jesus' way is the better way. But my "carnal eyes" are attracted to Moses' apparent viewpoint.

Stupid carnal nature.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Murder of an Animal?

From Leviticus 17:3ff:
Anyone from the house of Israel who slaughters an ox, sheep, or goat in the camp, or slaughters [it] outside the camp, instead of bringing it to the entrance to the tent of meeting to present [it] as an offering to YHWH LORD before His tabernacle—that person will be charged with murder. He has shed blood and must be cut off from his people.
I've never thought of killing an animal as "murder". But there it is.

Don't worry you hunters and slaughter-house workers. The context indicates that this slaughtering is not just any slaughtering, but that of animals intended for sacrificial worship, as indicated by the next verse, and especially verses 8-9, as here:
Say to them: Anyone from the house of Israel or from the foreigners who live among them who offers a burnt offering or a sacrifice but does not bring it to the entrance to the tent of meeting to sacrifice it to the YHWH, that person must be cut off from his people.
Still, "murder". Interesting.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Jesus' View of Women

Jesus was a revolutionary when it came to attitudes about women.

Some time ago I came across this most interesting site. Having grown up in the 20th century Western world, I never realized just how radical the teaching of Jesus was. As I read this article, it spurs my spirit to honor and respect women on a plane I'm not sure I've ever quite reached. Here I've included a chunk of the article as a teaser:

It is forbidden for dogs, women or palm trees to pass between two men, nor may others walk between dogs, women or palm trees (Pesahim 111a). Gentile women were considered even lower than a Jewish woman as she was designated an animal (Kerithoth 6b and Berakoth 58a). Women were to be shunned in public social contact. From the Mishna tractate Abot, 1,5: “Engage not in too much conversation with women. They said this with regard to one’s own wife. How much more does the rule apply to another man’s wife? As long as a man engages in too much conversation with women, he causes evil to himself, for he goes idle from the study of the Torah, so that his end will be that he will inherit gehenna.” Imagine living with this kind of attitude of fear of damnation for a conversation.


Women were not allowed to be taught the Torah publicly despite that it was allowed in the Old Testament period (Josh. 8:35; Neh. 8:2-3). Restrictions applied to any public reading of Scripture in the Synagogue (Megillot 73a) and they were unable to pronounce the benediction after a meal in the home (Mishna Bereshit 7:2). Women were restricted from orally communicating the Torah to others, even to children. From the tractate Sota, 10a: “May the words of Torah be burned, than that they should be handed over to women.” In Sota 21b it is written, “Rabbi Eliezer says: Whoever teaches his daughter Torah teaches her obscenity.” Women were not allowed to be educated in the same schools as men. They could not learn the Torah by themselves nor along with the men. This was practiced in the Second Temple period of Jesus’ time and in synagogues afterwards; they were separated from men in the service.


These religious limitations were not always found in the Old Testament. This is why Jesus reacted so strongly against the teachings of the fathers (elders Mk.7), because they were not Biblical. Women being accepted in Jesus’ ministry was certainly not the practice of the Rabbis of His time. “One is not so much as to greet a woman.” (Talmud bBerakhoth 43b). Jesus’ attitude toward women in His ministry becomes a liberating factor against these types of religious practices that were accepted in his day. Jesus often did the forbidden in the religious practice of the Pharisees by ministering to both women as well as men that were off limits. He conversed with the Samaritan woman at a well, (John 4:1-42 that was an unaccepted practice for a male and rabbi of His day.) Even his disciples in v:27 “came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman”, as they were taught not to talk to a gentile woman in public. He instructed her and revealed Himself to her as the Messiah and she went forth with the message.

The Rabbis (tradition of the elders) taught that women were intellectually inferior and incapable of studying the Torah. When Jesus was in the house of Mary and Martha, (Luke 10:38-42), as Martha went about her daily chores he instructed her that Mary had actually “chosen that good part” by sitting and learning (Luke 10:42). Jesus did not condemn Martha for going about her household duties, but commended Mary for a better ministry, her desire to learn the Word.

And there's more like this. Recommended reading.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

America: Former Home of the Free

David D. writes in a letter to the editor of WorldNetDaily on 30 October 2007:

In America, we are under a much-refined model of state domination. Our rulers have learned that if they allow us to say almost anything, allow us to buy almost anything, allow us the illusion of private property, tell us that we have a voice (vote) and encourage us to use that voice (within limits set by them), we will accept the conditioning and tell ourselves, "We live in a free country."

But who has the last word in all the most important areas of your life? The State.

The Fed/IRS tell you how much of your own earnings you're allowed to keep. Property taxes tell you if you can afford to continue living in your own home. The FDA and DEA lay a massive claim to your body and what you put in it. The FCC limits your speech. Campaign finance laws shut out a super-majority of would-be challengers to the throne. The war on terror now justifies extreme snooping on all of us.

By any reasonable standard, America as a free county is gone.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Ann Coulter on Jews and Christianity

A week or three ago Ann Coulter was on a talk show and mentioned something to the effect that she wishes Jews would convert to Christianity in order to be "completed" (I don't know if this was her term or not). She caught quite a bit of flack for it from some in the Jewish community (and elsewhere) who claimed this was offensive to Jews, although some in the Jewish community thought it was reasonable for her to speak her beliefs.

When I read the transcript, I thought she could have said it better, but I think she did adequately at explaining the Christian position without having warning beforehand as to how she'd respond to such a conversation.

But last night I casually came across Ephesians 2:11 and following, and the answer that Ann should have given started to gel in my mind.

Approximately 4000 years ago, God called Abraham to be his follower, and made three promises to him: 1) to give him the land in and around current-day Israel, 2) to make him the father of multitudes, and 3) to bless the world through his descendant. Abram believed God, and God counted this faith as righteousness. You can read about these things in Genesis, chapters 12 through 15.

Generations and about 430 years later, Abraham's children were led out of Egyptian slavery by the descendant of Abraham, Moses. As these millions of people moved out of Egypt and into the land which would become Israel, Moses, spokesman for God, established a complex set of rules and regulations for life and worship. This "Mosaic Law" constitutes the bulk of the Jewish Torah, the first five books of what Christians call the "Old Testament".

It's important at this point to realize that the promise made by God to Abraham was established by faith, and had nothing to do with the Mosaic Law.

It's also important at this point to realize that it soon became apparent that the Law of Moses doesn't work well for fallible humanity. So God promised a new covenant. Look what he has to say in Jeremiah 31:31-34:
31 "The time is coming," declares YHWH,
"when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant
I made with their forefathers
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them,"
declares YHWH.
33 "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
after that time," declares YHWH.
"I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
or a man his brother, saying, 'Know YHWH,'
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,"
declares YWHW.
"For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more."
So it's clear that the Mosaic Law was only temporary, to be replaced by a new covenant sometime in the future.

Traveling forward in time another 1500 or so years, we come to the time of Jesus. After his crucifixion and subsequent physical, bodily resurrection, the twelve men who had been his disciples for the previous three years then turned the world upside-down preaching the Good News ("Gospel") that the promised seed of Abraham, and the new covenant, had arrived. Although the first believers didn't yet realize it, the time had come for all nations to be blessed via Abraham's seed, and not just the nation of Israel.

However, the nation of Israel by and large rejected this message, being too wrapped up in the Mosaic Law to see the preeminence and superiority of the first promise to Abraham, or to recognize the fulfillment of the prophecy made by Jeremiah. Still, it should be noted that for the first decade or three of the Christian church, every believer was a Jew. It was unthinkable to the Jews that non-Jews were allowed into the family of Abraham. (Non-Jews could be converted to Judaism through a strict rite of conversion, but they were then no longer non-Jews.)

Finally, God got the attention of Peter, one of the early leaders of the Christ-accepting Jews. Through Peter, non-Jews (or "Gentiles", or "the uncircumcised") started to be accepted into the Jewish sect known as Christianity, although not without considerable resistance and difficulty.

Later, another Christian leader, Paul, explains in his letter to the Ephesians (2:11ff) how non-Jews fit in:
11Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)— 12remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
14For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
19Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, 20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
This same Paul explains elsewhere (Galatians 3:6ff) that the Torah demonstrates that righteousness does not come by the Mosaic Law:
Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." 7Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. 8The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." 9So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.
In other words, the inheritors of the blessings promised to Abraham do not inherit based on bloodline, or on observance of the Mosaic Law, but rather on the basis of Faith, brought to all nations of the world through a bloodline descendant of Abraham.

So Ann Coulter's failure to the Jewish community was in allowing the misperception to remain that Jews who convert to Christianity are leaving their Jewishness to join a non-Jewish movement. Instead, she should have made clear that Jews who become Christians are becoming the Jews that God prophesied they'd be, and non-Jews who become Christians are being adopted into the Jewish faith that God promised in the book of Jeremiah. It's not that Jews are leaving the citizenship of Israel; rather, non-Jews are becoming citizens of Israel.

The problem is not that non-Christian Jews have rejected a "Gentile" religion; it's that they've rejected the first promises to Abraham, and that they've rejected the new covenant God promised to them.

Ann Coulter, and other Christians, just want the non-Christian Jews to seize their inheritance along with us, their adopted siblings, rather than rejecting it. But hindsight is easy. I can't fault her for not being able to articulate this very complex topic in a thirty-second soundbite, especially without preparation time.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Second Law of Thermodynamics

Creationists often point out that Evolution, if it were true, would violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics (aka The Law of Entropy). This well-established scientific principle basically states that organized systems (living cells, the universe, new cars, sculptures, etc) have a tendency to degrade into a less-organized condition rather than growing into a more organized condition or remaining at the status quo.

For example, new cars eventually break down and become rust-buckets. Living cells develop mutations and become less capable of survival and/or successful reproduction. Sculptures erode away as bird poo and rain water and freeze/thaw cycles eat away at the material. Stars blow up and galaxies spin apart.

Evolutionists are quick to counter that the Second Law only applies to closed systems, and the Earth is an open system, receiving plenty of energy from the Sun to drive the process of Evolution into higher and higher levels of complexity and order.

However, the mere addition of energy will not allow a system to overcome the Second Law.

In order to overcome the tendency toward entropy, toward decay, you need three things:

1) Energy,

2) A machine/mechanism to convert that energy into useful work, and

3) A program to control that machine/mechanism.

As an example, think of a lawn that needs mowing. It is currently in a state of disorder, and we want to convert it into a state of higher order, trimmed neat and level.

If we put this lawn in a big box in order to make it a closed system by preventing energy from reaching the lawn, the Second Law of Thermodynamics does indeed reign within this closed system: the lawn rapidly declines into the disordered state of dead dirt.

However, if we take away the big box, thereby making the lawn an open system, able to receive energy in the form of wind and rain and sunshine, entropy still increases in the lawn: we don't wind up with a lawn trimmed neat and level, but with a field of overgrowth.

So simply adding energy, requirement number one, does not increase the order of a system. It increases the disorder of that system.

So let's add requirement number two, a machine to convert energy into useful work. Let's put a lawn mower out on the lawn.

Are things more ordered now?

Nope. The sunshine and rain is an energy form that the mower can not use. We either need a different form of energy, or a different mower that can use solar and/or rain power. So we learn that not just any energy and any machine will do; they must be matched together.

Our lawn mower needs energy in the form of gasoline. So let's pour a gallon of gas all over the mower.

Has the order of the lawn increased?

Nope. Oh, right; gasoline is just a form of stored energy. In order to release that energy we need a source of ignition.

So we drop a match on the gasoline-doused mower.

Increased order?


The two requirements of energy and a machine to convert energy into useful work are not sufficient to overcome the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

So we add the third requirement: a program to control the machinery.

In the case of our lawn mower, part of this control program is built into the design of the mower. Part of that control program requires that the gasoline go into the gasoline tank rather than being poured all over the mower. (But that's not sufficient either; try dropping your match into the tank. Increased order? Nope.) More of that control program is inherent in the length of the piston rod, and the size and shape of the combustion chamber, and in the timing of the spark, etc.

Now we have energy (gasoline) being converted into useful work (the spinning of the mower's blade).

But even that amount of control program is insufficient to trim the lawn. We need even more of a control program acting on the machine itself, not just one inherent in the machine. In our case, we can use a control program in the form of a person pushing/steering the mower, or of a computer control program in the case of a "smart mower".

Now, finally, we have an increase in order within the lawn.

The only way we've overcome the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the Law of Entropy (the tendency toward disorder), is to fulfill the three requirements needed: an input of energy, a mechanism to convert that energy into useful work, and a program to control that mechanism.

The idea that the Second Law of Thermodynamics does not apply to open systems is simply wrong. An open system is only one requirement of three needed to overcome the Second Law.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Psychologists Doing More Damage Than Good?

I met a young girl in University a week or two ago, and in talking with her learned that she comes from a family quite dysfunctional (yes, I know; many people do). Upon learning this, I asked if she thought she was "normal" and "healthy", and she sort of hemmed and hawed on the way to answering "Yes".

So I jumped to the chase, going for a shortcut to the answer, by asking, "Let me put it this way. Are you a psychology major?"

She answered, "Yes," and all of us in the room found that funny. My experience with college psychology majors is that they tend to be messed up and subconsciously looking for help for themselves, and are thus drawn to that field of study. (Please forgive me for my over-generalization.)

Tonight I was reading a book on an unrelated topic, but it mentioned the presuppositions of various fields of study, including Psychology. And reading that blurb reminded me of this young lady.

There are only two basic approaches to the study of human psychology: either

1) humans are specially created in the image of God, or

2) humans are the result of a long evolutionary climb from animal forebears.

If the Psychology department at a university adopts the wrong approach, the entire result of their methodology will be flawed, and therefore is likely to result in more damage than good to the customers of their field.

The book I was reading pointed out that by far the bulk of the psychological field is dominated by the belief that humans are evolved animals, and will thus treat their patients as such.

However, if Genesis is true (and I believe that it is), then the bulk of the psychological field is contributing to the mental illness of society rather than to the healing of society's mental illnesses.

Sad, to me, that this young girl may be steering her life in a direction that does mental harm to herself and to her potential future patients. I guess it depends on the presuppositions adopted by her instructors and textbooks, but I fear that my concern is well-founded.

A Safe Web Site for the Kids

If you need a kid-safe web site for your kid[s] to peruse ... I just recently learned of, a branch of Their blurb in a recent publication of theirs says:
Based in part on the popular "Kids Answers" section that's in every issue of Answers magazine, the site is fun, safe, and honors our Creator. It even features kid-friendly Christian video streams and facts about a new animal each week, plus downloadable coloring sheets, click 'n find posters, and more.
I found a cartoon version video of John Bunyon's Pilgrim's Progress on the site, and although I've only watched the seventh segment (out of nine, I believe), I found it interestingly entertaining. And speaking of their magazine, Answers; it is awesome. Highly recommended.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Fictional Heroes who Contributed to Who I Am

"It was a dark and stormy night. A shot rang out. Suddenly, a ship appeared on the horizon."

That's how his novel starts. I'm still waiting to see how Snoopy ties it all together in the second chapter. I've been waiting quite a while. Probably around 30 years or so. But I always knew that Snoopy was all about vivid imaginations, and that he one day would tie these disparate events together.

About the same time I was reading Peanut's booklets, I was also reading Archie comics. I remember the principal of Archie's high school teaching Archie that old cliché: "Winners never quit, and quitters never win."

Then there was the book series that had as its hero the guy with the ring that left a tattoo on his enemies' faces when he'd punch them; I can't remember his name, but I do remember that he could walk in a dark cave/tunnel, flipping on his light only for a second, memorizing what he saw, and then walk confidently in the dark for a good distance.

This guy was probably the lead-in for my later influence by Louis L'amour characters; be observant, travel by different routes to avoid patterns, do the Right Thing even when it costs, move silently when needed, don't waste bullets by missing your target; not that I'm good at any of these things.

Captain Kirk taught boldness, and risk-taking, and adventure.

Spock taught logic, and emotional control.

Bret Maverick and Jim Rockford taught the use of brains over brawn.

Col. Robert Hogan demonstrated coolness when trouble arises, and the ability to turn a bad situation, even being stuck in a WWII German POW camp, to your favor.

James West and Batman showed the importance of having the right tools, and of being prepared. Sometimes that tool is a well-trained horse or a derringer hidden in your boot heel; sometimes it's a Utility Belt or a car customized with safety nets and oil sprays.

Robert Petrie showed that a man should be a good and loving husband and father.

The Rifleman taught determination and bravery.

David Banner/the Hulk taught that we're different people in different situations, but that our basic character still shows through.

The Robinson family and the rest of the crew of the Jupiter 2 taught the necessity of keeping hopeful.

Dr. Richard Kimble amplified on that by teaching the principle of never giving in to hopelessness.

I'm sure there were lots of others.

I'm struck that so much of who I am came from television and books.

Then, there's Homer Simpson. D'oh!

The Value of a Woman

Here are three short audio clips (the first one about 30 minutes) recording a devotional presentation over three days to the staff of Answers In Genesis. It's about marriage and divorce. I haven't yet listened to the second and third, but the first one was very encouraging. The speaker goes back to Genesis, and finds that men and women are equal in value. The same reason men have value is why women have value:
And yet there is true equality ... we are equal to each other because we are made in the image of the same God, because He is immutable and does not change ...

A Godly man ... will treat women with great high respect because as a female she is made in the image of God; she is not an afterthought.
Now I'm going to go listen to parts two and three.

Just a Reminder

If you claim to be a Christian ...
In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12, NIV)

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Blessing Toward You

YHWH said to Moses, "Tell Aaron and his sons, 'This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
YHWH bless you
and keep you;

YHWH make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;

YHWH turn his face toward you
and give you peace.'

So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them."

[Numbers 6:22-27]

I'm not of Aaron's descendants, and you're probably not an Israelite, but I'm appropriating this blessing and bestowing it upon you, my reader.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

As a man thinks in his heart, so is he

Behavior is the outward expression of our root worldview.
"The Evolution of a Creationist", pg 23. Job Martin, D.M.D, TH.M. Biblical Discipleship Publishers, Rockwall, TX, 2004.

The older I get, the more I realize that what you believe matters. This world will not know peace at the point of a gun, but rather as the result of a mindset. I submit that the only mindset that will bring peace to the world is Christianity.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Top-Name Evolutionist Sounds Like Creationist

For the last couple of hundred years, Evolutionists have been insisting that Evolution is supported by vast amounts of evidence, particularly from the fossil record.

In contrast, Creationists have been claiming that the fossil record (and real life) does not show this slow, gradual change from simple life-forms to complex life-forms, but rather that it shows groupings of different types of animals (cat types and dog types and horse types and dinosaur types, etc) without any linkage between these different types of groupings (which is also the Biblical claim).

In other words, you can see variation-on-a-theme within a type -- in the horse group you can find big horses, little horses, horses with three toes, horses with one toe, zebras, donkeys, etc -- but you never see this variation stretched on out beyond the horse-type connecting it to some other type such as a cow.

Now a big name in evolutionist circles, ...
Eugene Koonin of the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, has written a devastating critique of traditional Darwinism in an open-source journal, Biology Direct[reference footnote provided in original]. Koonin, an evolutionist himself, basically said that all major life forms, with all their complexity, appear suddenly in the record without intermediate forms, and this fact can no longer be denied.
Major transitions in biological evolution show the same pattern of sudden emergence of diverse forms at a new level of complexity. The relationships between major groups within an emergent new class of biological entities are hard to decipher and do not seem to fit the tree pattern that, following Darwin’s original proposal, remains the dominant description of biological evolution. The cases in point include the origin of complex RNA molecules and protein folds; major groups of viruses; archaea and bacteria, and the principal lineages within each of these prokaryotic domains; eukaryotic supergroups; and animal phyla. In each of these pivotal nexuses in life’s history, the principal “types” seem to appear rapidly and fully equipped with the signature features of the respective new level of biological organization. No intermediate “grades” or intermediate forms between different types are detectable.
(from, emphases have been removed)

In other words, this evolutionist says the exact same thing that Creationists have been saying all along -- "No intermediate 'grades' or intermediate forms between different types are detectable".

The web-boards are lit up with conversation about this, but the evolutionists have to tread softly because, as mentioned, Koonin is a big name. As Robert Crowther writes over at EvolutionNews,
Koonin is widely regarded and is certainly at the center of the scientific establishment. So it is no surprise that the orthodox Darwinian priesthood were careful in denouncing his heresy.
Evolution may be popular; it may be career-killing to question it (and it is); it may be what society regards as "Science"; but according to the paleontologist (fossil scientist) experts (the late Stephen J. Gould, essentially said the same thing 20 years ago, as did Niles Eldridge), it's not supported by the fossil record.

The Ten Commandments

In Exodus 20, YHWH says to the young nation of Israel ...
  1. I am YHWH your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. Do not have other gods besides Me.

  2. Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. You must not bow down to them or worship them; for I, YHWH your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the fathers' sin, to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing faithful love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commands.

  3. Do not misuse the name of YHWH your God, because YHWH will punish anyone who misuses His name.

  4. Remember to dedicate the Sabbath day: You are to labor six days and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to YHWH your God. You must not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the foreigner who is within your gates. For YHWH made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days; then He rested on the seventh day. Therefore YHWH blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy.

  5. Honor your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that YHWH your God is giving you.

  6. Do not murder.

  7. Do not commit adultery.

  8. Do not steal.

  9. Do not give false testimony against your neighbor.

  10. Do not covet your neighbor's house. Do not covet your neighbor's wife, his male or female slave, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Original Languages of the Bible

I've always been taught, and have always accepted, that the original languages in which the Bible was written was Hebrew and Aramaic for the Tanahk (the "Old Testament") and Koine Greek for the New Testament.

But I just read a blurb that is a new thought for me:

1. We don't have the original manuscripts of the Bible writings; we have copies of copies for the most part, and

2. Even if we had the originals, how would we know they were the originals? (Perhaps if it was in a box with a note inside that said "This is the original letter that Paul sent to the Ephesians" we'd have confidence that we had an original.)

What this means is that we don't know what language the original Bible documents were written in.

Moses was probably brought up as a bi-lingual baby, speaking both Egyptian and Hebrew. However, by the time he reached school-age, he was probably speaking Egyptian almost exclusively, making that his native tongue. So it might have been natural for him to write the Pentateuch in his native Egyptian. On the other hand, writing for his fellow Hebrews, he might have written in their native language (assuming it was Hebrew and not Egyptian). This latter case might also be bolstered by the idea that he spent forty years with his wife's family outside of Egypt, so whatever language they spoke might have become his native language by the time of the Exodus.

The conversations in the New Testament were probably not conducted in Greek for the most part, but rather in Aramaic, at least the ones in and around Israel. So when telling the story of Jesus, especially to fellow Israelites, it might make sense to write it in Aramaic originally.

But the short version is simply that we don't know.

Having thought about the issue for maybe a grand total of 30 minutes, I still tend to think that the best case can be made for the original documents to have been written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek, as I've been taught all my life. But the fact is ...

... we just don't know.