Thursday, March 23, 2017

35 - Wise Men and Shepherds

The Birth of Christ

By Matthew:

Matthew's gospel is the only one that mentions the coming of the wise men and their return home by a different route.   It seems curious that if king Herod was so worried about a new king who was born in Bethlehem, that he would not have sent a group of soldiers with the wise men "just to make sure" that he got an honest report.

That Christ's birth was a special birth is indicated by the fact that there was a star that the wise men followed.  The fact that the wise men brought gifts to Jesus is not very surprising; it was the custom of the East.

Some will have these (three) gifts to be emblematic of the Divinity, regal office, and manhood of Christ. Clarke.  However, these gifts do not in any way suggest that Christ is divine.  They only indicate that the wise men thought Christ was the future king of Israel.

Following the story of the wise men, is the story of Joseph and his family hastening into Egypt for safety.  I think it would be safe to assume that other parents when they saw that king Herod was killing all baby boys, would have made, or tried to make, the same trek.  

Many did not succeed; A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not (they are no longer alive). Mat 2:18.  Rachel was Jacob's wife, and in this case, the name "Rachel" is symbolic of the offspring of Jacob (the posterity of Abraham).  

Ramah, also spelled Rama, was a town about five miles south of Jerusalem.   When there was a loud noise in Jerusalem, the Jews might use this proverb, "It was so loud it could be heard in Ramah". Fausset's Bible dictionary.  

After Herod died, Joseph returned to Israel, but Archelaus, Herod's son, was ruler over Southern Israel at that time.  Joseph did not feel safe there so he moved north to Nazareth so that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He (Jesus) shall be called a Nazarene. Mat. 2:23.  

By Luke

Whereas Matthew is the only gospel writer who mentions the wise men, Luke is the only one who mentions the shepherds in the Christmas story.  

She wrapped him in swaddling clothes. Luke 2:7 KJV.  Modern translations don't use the word "swaddling" anymore.  That is a good thing because nobody knows what it means anyway.  I mention it here only to explain that it means, Swaddling clothes are snugly wrapped strips of cloth. Clarke.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.  MKJV
Glory to God in the highest: and on earth peace to men of good will.  Luke2:14. Douay-Rheims version.  

I mention these two translations because it seems that the second one is, by far, the better translation because it is the people of "good will" who are much more likely to have peace within. 

when the days of her purification according to the Law of Moses were fulfilled, they brought Him to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord. Luke 2:22.  According to the law of Moses the time of purification, after a male child was born, is 40 days.  Dring those days the mother was not allowed to enter the tabernacle because she was considered to be unclean. 

When she was finally allowed to go, she needed
to bring a lamb for a burnt offering, and a turtledove or a young pigeon for a sin offering.  If she could not afford a lamb, the mother had to bring another turtle dove or young pigeon; and, if even this was beyond her means, then a portion of fine flour. Guzik.

Luke tells this story: Christ's parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. Luke 2:41. As it happened, when Christ was 12 years old He went with them, and when the parents were finished feasting they set out for home. 

After they had traveled one day they realized that their son was not among the bunch of youngsters that were going home with the multitude of parents.  So His parents had to return to Jerusalem to find their boy, and, on the third day they found Him; there he was, in the temple, conversing with the elders and the religious leaders of His time.

And it happened that after three days they found Him in the temple.  And seeing Him, they were amazed. And His mother said to Him, Child, why have you done so to us? Behold, your father and I have looked for you, greatly distressed.  And He said to them, Why did you look for Me? Do you not know that I must be about My Father's business? Luke 2:46+49

It is interesting that instead of, 
about My Father's business, the Syriac and Persic versions render it, in my Father's house. Guzik.  Or, in other words, Why did you spend three days looking for me all over Jerusalem?  Didn't you know that I would be in my Father's house?

Still, they did not know what he was talking about; 
they did not understand the word which He spoke to them. Luke 2:50  Perhaps they assumed like most parents do, their son would follow in his "father's" footsteps and become a carpenter.  

He went (home) with them and came to Nazareth, and He was subject to them, (He obeyed His parents). Luke 2:51

Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. Luke 2:52.  We will look at this verse in detail in the next post.

* all pictures from

Thursday, March 16, 2017

34 - Planets? Comets? UFO's?

The Birth of Christ

Matthew chronicles the genealogy of Joseph, the man who adopted Christ as his son, back to Abram.

In Matthews genealogy is the unusual presence of four women. Women were rarely mentioned in ancient genealogies.
  1. Tamar sold herself as a prostitute to her father-in-law 
  2. Rahab was a Gentile prostitute, for whom God took extraordinary measures to save from judgment and her lifestyle of prostitution
  3. Ruth was from Moab, a Gentile
  4. Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah: Bathsheba was an adulteress, infamous for her sin with David. Guzik

Then Guzik goes on to say that these four women were named to show us that Jesus Christ was not some kind of “blue blood” in the sense that He did not come from a “pure” aristocratic background. What Guzik seems to have overlooked is that the lineage of Joseph had absolutely nothing to do with the lineage of Christ.  Christ is the son of God, not the son of Joseph.

Luke gives us the chronology of Mary all the way back to Adam and then, one more step, back to God.  He starts like this, Jesus ... being (as was supposed) son of Joseph. Luke 3:23 MKJV.  It is interesting that in the Greek text the word "supposed" is "was-legalized".  Simply put, Joseph legally adopted Christ as his son.

The Shepherds in the Fields

At the time that Christ was born, as was normal, there were shepherds looking after their sheep, out in the fields. At night, while they were watching their flocks, the light from a UFO shone all around them. 

The shepherds were afraid of the spacecraft, sone of the Lord’s robots came closer to them and said, do not be afraid, this UFO has not come to hurt you. For behold, I give to you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. Luke 2:10

Here, suddenly, a new stage is set. The focal point is no longer, The Lord of Israel.  The new theme is, peace on earth; great joy shall be to all people (nations), for Jesus, the Lord of Peace, is not a national god as were the gods of the UFOs.  He is the Son of Jehovah, it is He who later will pay the penalty required by Satan, the god of this world. 2 Cor. 4:4. In his farewell speech, Simeon, speaking to Christ said, Your mighty power is a light for all nations, and it will bring honor to your people IsraelLuke 2:32

The wise men from the East

Well, first of all, nowhere does the Bible say that there were three wise men; most Christians think it does.  This is a good example of how easily the masses follow the lead of theologians even if the theologians are totally wrong.

You know what a star looks like, right? You also know what airplane lights look like, right? I'm assuming all of you could easily answer yes to both questions. Now think about this: What if you knew what stars looked like but didn't know what an airplane was? What would you call the airplane lights?

Ok, I'm going to play the part of the person who doesn't know what an airplane is. Now, if I were to tell you that last night I saw a set of flashing stars that moved across the sky, what would you say? Would you agree that they were stars, or would you tell me that I really saw an airplane?

... Remember, the wise men knew what stars were, but probably didn't know what UFOs were:

Jehovah wanted the world to become involved with His Son, The Messiah.
  1. The Romans were involved, for they had the military rule of Judea at that time.
  2. The Greeks, the intellectuals, were always looking for a new story to write or argue about, and they heard about the Messiah naturally, in the course of their activities.
  3. The Jews, being kin to the mother of Christ, were involved because of that.
  4. Another class of people needed to be called to the scene; the mystics, the astrologers from the East.

The wise men of the East, as would be expected, responded to the new light in the sky; a light moving from the East to the West. They decided to follow the "star", and when they arrived at their destination, the light shone down on a stable in Bethlehem.

Some scholars believe that Jupiter and Saturn were in conjunction at that time and that would make them appear to be a bright star.  The light that the wise men saw certainly cannot have been normal stars or even planets in conjunction. 

How can stars, or planets in conjunction, shine down on one particular spot in any one city? 

The same argument must be used against the idea that the light was from a meteor; a meteor does not shine down on only one small area.  The Bible says, the star which they saw in the east went before them until it came and stood over where the child was. Mat. 2:9.  Planets and meteors do not stop just because certain people have arrived at their destination!

The people who advance those hair brained opinions surely cannot have thought very carefully about the ideas they present.

If we are going to speculate, why not speculate big time?  Why not conjecture that the light was produced by a spacecraft?  It could meet all the necessary requirements.  
  1. In this case, a UFO could provide a light shining down to guide the Magi.
  2. It had the ability to move at the right speed so that the wise men and their camels could keep up with it on their journey of approximately 750 miles.  
  3. It could wait for them while they needed to stop and rest.  
  4. It could shine down on any one small town because it was close enough to earth to "spotlight" that town. 
  5. It could direct its beam to any chosen spot in that town: namely the stable in Bethlehem.
In their past, the Jews had followed a beam of light through the Red Sea and in their wilderness wanderings!  See Exodus 14 and onward.  

Thursday, March 9, 2017

33 - The Synoptic Gospels

The first three Gospels in the New Testament are similar in character but, of course, they are not the same because they were written by three different men.
The word "synoptic" is a Greek word that means
Should I or should I not write a biography of Christ?
presenting or taking the same or common view...of or relating to the first three Gospels of the New Testament. Merriam-Webster.   These are sometimes called "the parallel Gospels".

Because they are similar we will not study each biography individually but rather go through them in an intermixed form.

John the Baptist

In his introduction, Dr Luke states his purpose for writing, so that you might know the certainty of those things in which you have been instructed.   He also states his qualifications to write the biography of Christ.   Luke 1:3-4. 

Luke starts his story with a short biography of John the Baptist.  To do that he backtracks one generation to Elizabeth, who was the cousin of Mary the mother of Christ.

He tells us that Elizabeth and her husband, Zacharias were both righteous before God, walking blameless in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord. Luke 1:6

Gabriel, an angel, came to Zacharias to announce the good news that his wife would have a baby.  Zacharias, true to human form, said, Why should I believe you.  

This must have irked the angel because he said, You can trust me because God sent me to tell you, but because you did not believe me you shall not able to speak until the day that these things shall be performed. Luke 1:18-20

Before John was born to Elizabeth, Mary came to visit her cousin.  It was then that Mary spoke those beautiful words which are now called The Magnificat. Luke 1:46-55.

After John was born, his father also sang a 
song of praise to Jehovah. Luke 1:68-79.  By the power of the spirit of God Zachariah sensed that his son was someone special.   

From reading his words of praise, I understand that wishful thinking caused him to misunderstand Jewish prophecies in such a way that he believed that his son would deliver Israel from Roman bondage.

The Setting for the Birth of Christ

  1. Caesar Augustus decided that "his whole world" should be taxed
  2. Every male citizen had to return to the city where they were born
  3. Joseph went to Bethlehem with his girlfriend
  4. Because of Ceasar's order, there were a lot of "tourists" on the roads and the hotels were all full to capacity.
There are a few things to notice here:

We often think that Mary was close to delivery when they made this journey, but this may not have been the case at all. Joseph may have been anxious to get her out of Nazareth to avoid the pressure of scandal. Luke tells us that it was while they were in Bethlehem. Guzik  The Bible does not say that it happened the same night they arrived or even soon after they arrived, but that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. Luke 2:6

In spite of the fact that the Roman Catholic church claims that the virgin Mary is a "perpetual virgin" the Bible distinctly says that she is not. 
And she brought forth her son, the First-born. Luke 2:7.  Luke tells us that she had more than 1 child!

Joseph did not know her until she bore her son, the First-born. Matthew 1:25. In the Bible, in a phrase of this nature, the word "know" means "to have sexual relations with".  Simply stated, after Christ was born, Mary and Joseph had a normal marriage relationship.

Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And his brothers, James and Joses and Simon and Judas,  and his sisters, are they not all with us?  Mat. 13:55-56.  Based on this statement Jesus had at least 6 brothers and sisters.

To overcome this problem the Roman Catholic version says that These were the children of Mary, the wife of Cleophas, sister of our blessed Lady;  I see one big problem with this: Mary, the mother of Christ had a sister named Mary. Go figure.

these all were continuing with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. Act 1:14

But I saw no other of the apostles, except James the Lord's brother. Gal 1:19.  Here is a good example of the church rather following their own ideas than the Bible's teachings.

Matthew and Luke

Matthew starts with the genealogy of Joseph, who later became Mary's husband.  
In his genealogy he has three divisions, each one being 14 generations long. That fact already makes the premise suspect. 

So there is a total of 42 generations:
Abraham was a man who trusted his God      
  1.  From Abraham to David
  2.  from David to the Babylonian captivity
  3.  from the captivity to the birth of Christ
Jewish history, of course, starts with Father Abram, and it is estimated that he was born in 2165 BCE.  That is also where Matthew starts Christ's Genealogy. 

Normally we figure that each generation is 33 years long and so we end up with 42 generations x33=1386 years.  This means then that Christ was born circa 779 BCE. 

That is impossible but we remember that back in Abram's era it was not unusual to live about two hundred years.  

We recall that Isaac was born when Abram, his father, was 100 years old.  Jacob was born when Isaac, his father, was 60 years old.  However, later on, the generations were not that long.

So if we figure that, on the average, each generation was 51.5 years long we would end up at about the time Christ was born.  However, that is not the answer that theologians give us.

a. Matthew points out that this genealogy is not complete. There were not actually 14 generations between the landmarks he indicates, but Matthew edited the list down to make it easy to remember and memorise.

b. The practice of skipping generations at times was common in the listing of ancient genealogies. Matthew did nothing unusual by leaving some generations out. Guzik

Much more needs to be written about the birth of Christ; but, let me warn you now, I do not travel the normal path.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

32 - Camels and Needles

Honesty of the Bible

Let's picture the writers of the Bible as being witnesses in a court case.

As already stated, the writers of the Bible were reputable people who would do their best to witness to the truth as they knew it or as they remembered it. 

Look at this example.  All four gospel writers told a brief story of the life of Christ, but Mark, a younger person and probably the writer of the first written gospel does not mention the resurrection of Christ at all.   His omission, however, does not invalidate the fact that Christ did rise from the dead.  His omission of that detail only tells us that he, not a disciple of Christ, did not wish to perjure himself on the witness stand by stating something as a fact when he was not sure that it was a fact.

Matthew and John were Christ's disciples, they knew the facts from first-hand experience and they had no qualms about stating as a fact that Christ did rise from the dead.   Luke, the other gospel writer was a well-studied doctor.   He even wrote to his friend that he had carefully studied all the details about the life of Christ and he attested to the fact that Christ, indeed, is raised from the dead.

Moses, in the presence of Jehovah,
got the 10 commandments 
As I said, this is only one example of how we can view the writers of the Bible.  The more witnesses there are that agree on an issue the more likely it is that their testimony is true. 

However, a problem does arise when one witness declares one thing and another witness declares the exact opposite. 

For example, in the Book of Exodus we read, They saw the God of Israel. Exodus 24:10.  About 15-16 centuries later Saint John wrote, No one has seen God at any time. John 1:18

It is not right to gloss over discrepancies like this and pretend that they are not in the Bible, as the church has done for centuries.  Because the church has carried on like that, I made it a point to study many of the church's doctrines in detail and find out how they do not agree with the Bible, or in fact, how the Bible does not even agree with itself. 

We, Protestants, have been so conditioned to believe that everything in the Bible is true exactly as we read it in the Bible, that if we do find something, somewhere else in the Bible, that does not agree with the same fact, we are thrown into a tailspin.  

Many churches believe that the holy spirit will guide any Christian to the truth if that Christian honestly seeks for the truth in the Bible.  This is a great theory, but in practice it does not work!  Whenever an honest seeker finds a different truth than the church believes, of course, the church cannot allow that such a finding was the holy spirit's doing; if they did it would mean that the church had been wrong all along, and a lot of preachers would be sans wages

Let us not insist that everything in the Bible must be taken as a literal fact. If writers and speakers of various nations and languages are allowed to use hyperboles why wouldn't we allow ancient Jews to use them too?

A case in point would be the hyperboles that Christ used in His speeches. We also notice some very ambiguous teachings in the lessons taught by Christ. For example, If your right hand offends you, cut it off. If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you can move mountains into the sea. The Life and Times of Jesus, The Readers Digest

Why have we tried to make ourselves believe that Christ was speaking literally? It is much more logical to believe that He was using hyperboles. It is really the only way that His statements of this nature can make any sense.

What can we say about a camel passing through the eye of a needle? The Life and Times of Jesus, The Readers Digest. Theologians have wrangled about how this could possibly happen.  They have twisted the meaning of Christ’s words, just so that those words by Christ, can mean exactly what He said.   Billy Graham, speaking about this illustration, said that by using chemicals, one could liquefy a camel’s body and so it could pass through the eye of a needle.   Could this possibly be what Christ meant?! 

Another theory advanced is that there is a gate in the wall of Jerusalem, named, the "Needle’s Eye", and if a camel gets down on its knees, it can crawl through the "Needles Eye". The problem with this idea is that, according to Christ, it would be possible for a person to gain salvation by trying very hard.  

It would not be easy, but possible!  For theological reasons alone, it is simply impossible to accept the explanation of a camel on its knees crawling through the "needle's eye".

In the meantime, it is possible to imagine Christ somewhat amused, or perhaps, very upset at the theologians who engage in that kind of teaching. If not amused or upset perhaps Christ is thinking; surely, they cannot have taken seriously those things that are so blatantly hyperboles.

As I wrote in an earlier post When once we set the Bible free from our tenacious grasp we will find that it all makes a lot more sense.
In the past, I have written that the Bible is not absolutely without error but that it is still a reputable book.  My beef is not with the Bible; what bothers me more than the fallibility of the Bible is what the preachers have told us we need to believe about it.

I have read through the Bhagavad Gita of the Hindu religion, through the Koran of the Muslims, through the Book of Mormon, through the Egyptian and Tibetan "Book of the Dead" and in many other religious texts, yet, in my opinion none of them can even hold a candle to the spiritual insight, guidance and moral teachings taught by the Christian Bible; I hold the Bible in high regard.
 Have theologians tied up the Bible?
My basic stance is that if the Bible says it I will try to take it literally; but sometimes it is not possible. It must at least make sense to a thinking person.  Therefore, since the Bible says that Christ was born of a virgin, and since it nowhere denies that statement I believe it to be true.  Likewise, the Bible says that Christ rose from the grave, and the Bible nowhere denies it, I believe it to be true. 

However, the Bible tells us that God is omnipresent (everywhere at the same time) but it also tells us that He is influenced by time and location; for argument's sake, I take the opposing view to what the church has taught us.  Perhaps, a different point of view will help us see the possibility that the church's theologians have been too narrow in their theology and have kept us from seeing the truth.