Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Did Luke get his genealogy wrong?

The genealogy from Noah to Abraham is thought by many to be complete in Genesis and not at all 'telescoped' like every other genealogy in the Bible.  Telescoped basically means that certain people were missed out and only key names were used.  Adam can be said to be the father of us all, for instance, or Abraham the father of the Hebrews, leaving out a great many names in between; in both the Old Testament and New, we see the ancient understanding of a genealogy employed consistently.

However, some Young Earth Creationists do not like the fact that Luke includes an extra name in the Noah to Abraham genealogy which we do not find in Genesis 11.  This opens up the possibility that the genealogies in the first few chapters of Genesis are incomplete and thus casts doubt on Archbishop Ussher's specific date for the age of earth.  They are so quixotic in the defence of their views, they even go so far as to say that the version of Luke which we can prove to be the very best attested and apparently original must be wrong or, worse still, that Luke simply got it wrong!  Those who genuinely desire to arrive at God's truth do not close their minds to all reason and hide their beliefs from scrutiny but are rather open and objective.  If we believe we already understand all things, how can we learn?

Luke was not wrong but was certainly inspired by the Spirit of God who knows all things.

Cainan is said to be the son of Arphaxad and father of Shelah, yet this is excluded from Genesis:
Genesis 11:12  Arpachshad lived thirty-five years, and became the father of Shelah; 
Luke 3:35-36  the son of Shelah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad  (NASB)

However, the Septuagint and Samaritan texts of Genesis 11 include Cainan.  The Book of Jubilees and the Sefer ha-Yashar both describe Cainan as a historical figure.  In fact, as Smith notes, 'there are more traditions preserved of him than of his son Salah.'
It has even been suggested by scholarly examination of the timing of the writing of the Masoretic Text that Cainan was deliberately not included by the Jews for sociopolitical reasons - see article.

So is there any evidence against Luke's inspiration?  The NET Bible notes recognise that whilst two key manuscripts do not include Cainan, the witnesses for his inclusion are substantial.  They conclude that 'the omission may be a motivated reading'.  And certainly it was not just the Jews who were motivated for removing Cainan from Genesis 11, nor early Christians, such as Irenaeus or Eusebius, trying to avoid the claim of contradictions or errors in the Bible.  Even today, there are some who misrepresent Young Earth Creationists, who are motivated by a desire to allow no scholarly foot in the door of their interpretation.

Genealogies which are recorded in one book of the Bible but which deliberately exclude names found in the same genealogy from another book of the Bible are not treated with contempt.  They are not criticised away by those with obvious motivation.  It is my sincere prayer that the body of Christ would cease wrestling with the above texts also and allow the Bible to shape their interpretation rather than re-shaping the Bible to fit their presuppositions.

May the God of all truth help us!
Titus 3:9  But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.  (NASB)

Friday, 6 December 2013

Will the real False Prophet please stand up

The False Prophet = the Antichrist

1John 2:18  Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.

1John 4:1-3  Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

2John 7  For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.

These terms show conclusively that John, author of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, understood the terms false prophet and antichrist to be synonymous.  He clearly used them interchangeably.  It is ironic that we are so used to calling the one specifically prophesied Antichrist by that very title, that we ignore the fact that John is the only NT writer to even call him ‘Antichrist’ and yet he and Paul used other names for this figure.

As we can see from the first quote given, 1John 2:18, all Christians were expecting a particular Antichrist to come.  Pauls refers to this figure as the ‘lawless one’ – the man of lawlessness and the son of destruction who should come: i) empowered by Satan; ii) with false signs and false wonders to deceive the wicked; and iii) blasphemously exalting himself, within the temple of God, to the title of God on earth (2Thessalonians 2:3-12).

i)                    In Revelation 13, we see the first beast, i.e. the Pagan Roman Empire.  The dragon, later revealed to be Satan, is the one who gives this empire its authority (Revelation 13:2 & 4).  Now the second beast of this chapter is also empowered by Satan, as it exercises the same power as the first beast (Revelation 13:11-12).
ii)                   The identity of this second beast is also revealed as ‘the false prophet’ who performed false wonders, creating an image of the first beast, seeming to give life to it and causing people to receive the mark of the beast (Revelation 19:20).  This is precisely what the second beast of Revelation 13 does. 
iii)                 The blasphemous names on the whore who rides the first beast (Revelation 17) are synonymous with the blasphemies that the False Prophet causes the revived first beast to speak (Revelation 13:5-6 & 15).  Rather than a whore riding the ten-horned first beast, Daniel prophesies of the Antichrist as a ‘little horn’ which rises up amongst the ten other horns and has dominion over them.  He also speaks blasphemously (Daniel 7:8 & 20) and like the False Prophet makes war with the saints and overcomes them (Daniel 7:21 and Revelation 13:7).

For now, the point is proven that the False Prophet is the Antichrist.  But who is or was the Antichrist?

(All Scripture quotes from ESV unless specified otherwise)

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Were Solomon and Saul saved?

2Samuel 7:14-15  He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you.

Here, Nathan the prophet speaks the words of God to David who foolishly thought he could build God a house as nice as his own.  God replies that, actually, He will be the one to establish David’s throne and have his son, Solomon, build Him a temple.  Hebrews, chapter 1, refers this also to Christ who of course was David’s ‘Lord’, the greater son of David who is now building the true temple of God, His body of believers.

But, aside from this, we learn something important about Solomon and something equally important about Saul:  God’s sure covenant love was promised not to be taken from Solomon and yet the Lord uses Saul as an example of one whom God did not love.

Revelation 3:19  Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.
Hebrews 12:6&8  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives… But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

Solomon repented, being the very apparent writer of Ecclesiastes who had indulged almost everything in this world.  God indeed disciplined him and gave him a distaste for all the things of this world, which can never truly satisfy us.  God dealt with him as a son and as promised.  But Saul never repented each time God showed favour and grace to David; rather, Saul raged against David all the more and descended into mad disobedience until his violent suicide.

We Christians mustn’t be fooled by the fact that the Spirit of God came upon Saul and others to cause them to do certain things.  The Spirit of God could cause even Balaam to prophesy the truth.  But this is very different to being indwelt by the Spirit of God, as Peter says the prophets of old were (1Peter 1:11).

Instead, these two men are a great testimony to the backslider.  No matter how far you have drifted into sin, the only difference between Solomon and Saul, the only factor which determines whether you will lose your soul for eternity or have it hidden in the refuge of Christ is:  Repentance.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Head-coverings are ‘because of the angels’? What does that mean?

1Corinthians 11:10  This is why a woman should have authority over her own head: because of the angels. (ISV)
One interpretation of this verse is both ridiculous and ridiculously popular amongst Christians; it is said that this verse teaches that unless women cover their heads in prayer, fallen angels will come and rape them…  This comes from the sadly distorted view that fallen angels bred with human women and produced giant offspring.  See here for a thorough refutation of that interpretation:
Were there giants on the earth?

Another classical and more sensible interpretation is presented by the outstanding commentator, Bengel: ‘[L]et the woman cover herself because of the angels, i.e. because the angels are also covered. As the angels are to God, so the woman is to the man. The face of God is manifested: whereas the angels are covered, Isaiah 6.’
This is a standard interpretation and, whilst I do not disagree with it, I believe the meaning is even deeper.

Professor Beet in Exell’s Biblical Illustrator: ‘Already (4:9) we have seen the angels contemplating the apostles’ hardships. They attend upon men (Heb 1:14), are placed side by side of the Church militant (Heb 12:22), and desire to look into the teaching of the prophets (1Pe 1:12). Now, if they take interest in men, they must take special interest in those assemblies in which men unitedly draw near to God, and which have so great influence upon the spiritual life of men. We must therefore conceive them present at the public worship of the church.’

Therefore, the angels, who were not given wives to marry (Matthew 22:30), desire to observe the marriages of God’s people and how this is symbolic of Christ and His church (Ephesians 5:25 & Revelation 21:9) and all that God is performing and the depth of it reflected in His creation, especially the new creatures of Christ’s kingdom.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Communion wine or communion grape juice?

Matthew 26:29  I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.

There are a number who assert that grape juice was instituted by the Lord Jesus for the Lord's supper.  After all, the Lord uses the word 'wine' elsewhere so why not here?

The Pulpit Commentary says of this verse: 'The offspring of the vine is a poetical way of describing wine (cf. Deuteronomy 22:9; Isaiah 32:12, etc.). It is absurd to find in this term an argument for unalcoholic grape juice.'  Also, Bengel confirms that these Greek words were used in the Septuagint OT to refer to wine.  Indeed, I cannot find a commentator who entertains the notion that grape juice was consumed at the Lord's table and, knowing what it is that Jews would have drunk at such a meal, it very difficult to conclude otherwise.

The burden of proof is on the Christian who wishes to show that these words mean grape juice.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Freemasons, Illuminati & Templars - the Jesuit scam

The origin of the conspiracy theory that the Illuminati survived 1785 lies ultimately with a French Jesuit priest, Augustin Barruel.  Life had become increasingly difficult for Papists and their priests in France, but when the French Revolution occurred, Barruel fled France and found safety in England.  His aggression and research had for some time been regarding the rise of secular thought in Europe.  As his role as a Jesuit required, he wrote against Napoleon and the Revolution and sought to turn the British against the French, cleverly causing Rome’s enemies to fight each other.
From London, Barruel wrote Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism in 1797.  He postulated that the Illuminati had continued, despite evidence to the contrary, and were working through Freemasonry in a conspiracy to establish governments which were antimonarchical and anticlerical.  It was soon translated into English, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian etc. and became a transnational sensation.  Even political figures began to take the claims seriously and public discussion became so unavoidable that Freemasons from across Europe began writing openly in their defence against the theory.[1]

The reality is that there was not any organised force behind the enlightenment or the genuine desire in men’s hearts to be free from oppression, whether it be religious or otherwise, in the establishment of secular societies.  This was the general consensus for many throughout Europe, as it is today.   
As men became more educated during the Enlightenment and the Renaissance, many broke free from Rome during the Protestant Reformation, as did whole nation states.  Likewise, the desire within the common, unbelieving European was increasingly to be free from nominal Christianity altogether and to replace it with something closer to Rationalism.  This was not brought about by any secret society; the secret societies which formed with these agendas were purely symptomatic of the fact that many hated Roman Catholicism’s oppressive stance of the time and wanted liberty.  People wanted religious freedom as well as social freedom.
The greatest evidence for this was the founding of the United States of America.

So, Barruel took advantage of the rise of secular thought by declaring that it was none other than the work of the Illuminati which (although it had actually been shutdown by the Bavarian government) somehow survived and was wreaking havoc.  Because Rome feared any movement which sought a separation of church and state, Barruel took advantage of the fact that the French Revolution was an expression of a desire to explore different methods of government and portrayed this as the distant smoke of a spreading fire which could destroy European monarchies and the very fabric of society.  This successfully helped in stirring up the British against the French.  Indeed, this deliberately hatched conspiracy theory has continued to dupe a vast number of Evangelical Christians today.  

Sadly, at exactly the same time, a Roman Catholic monk and secret agent, Alexander Horn, who wrote much about his hate of the French Revolution and the demise of his hope for a Holy Roman Empire.  He thus provided the material for Scots Professor John Robison to write Proofs of a Conspiracy against All the Religions and Governments of Europe, carried on in the Secret Meetings of the Free Masons, Illuminati, and Reading Societies.  This was just as successful and influential in its own right.  
An American pastor sent a copy of this book to President George Washington to learn his thoughts on the matter, to which he responded: 
It was not my intention to doubt that, the Doctrines of the Illuminati, and principles of Jacobinism had not spread in the United States. On the contrary, no one is more truly satisfied of this fact than I am. The idea that I meant to convey, was, that I did not believe that the Lodges of Free Masons in this Country had, as Societies, endeavoured to propagate the diabolical tenets of the first, or pernicious principles of the latter (if they are susceptible of separation). That Individuals of them may have done it, or that the founder, or instrument employed to found, the Democratic Societies in the United States, may have had these objects; and actually had a separation of the People from their Government in view, is too evident to be questioned.’[2]   
George Washington could see that the Secularist principles, particularly the separation of church and state, held to previously by the Bavarian Illuminati, were not unique to them or to the Freemasons but were principles held to by many individuals and organisations and even expressed by the principles of liberty in the United States Constitution.  But, even though he was a Freemason himself, he was very nearly convinced by this conspiracy theory too.  As we have seen, this was the natural desire of the masses in Europe also; it was not some secret plot being orchestrated.
Nevertheless, this theory has continued to be popularised in more recent times by Nesta Webster, William Guy Carr and, today, by any number of Christians warning us of a coming New World Order at the hands of the Illuminati.
Moreover, Jesuit Barruel was also responsible for popularising the oddball theory of famous French Pharmacist and medical aide to Napoleon, Cadet de Gassicourt, that Freemasonry was actually a resurgence of the Knights Templar.  As well as fancifully connecting various unrelated secret societies, he devised the idea that a Templar remnant hid for centuries, waiting to avenge the execution of their grand master on the Papacy which had abolished them and that they had ignited the French Revolution to do so.  The fact is that despite being a very influential man, not even his closest fellow-revolutionaries agreed with Cadet de Gassicourt.[3]

Just think how popular these ideas are today.  The moral of this story is that propaganda, like gossip, spreads fast and it should stop at us.

[1] Campbell, P., Kaiser, T., Linton, M. (2007) Conspiracy in the French Revolution, Manchester University Press, p.152

[2] Washington, G. (24/10/1798) To Reverend G. W. Snyder

[3] Campbell, P., Kaiser, T., Linton, M. (2007) Conspiracy in the French Revolution, Manchester University Press, p.152