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Monthly Archives: September 2010

Biblical Archaeology Review Magazine

Recently, I had a friend and brother in Christ as me my opinion regarding Biblical Archaeology Review Magazine.  I have been a subscriber to this magazine for several years, and he asked if he thought it would be worth subscribing to.  My response required me to pause and think about my response, and in so doing, I would like to include my response to you.

The Biblical Archaeology Society (BAS) was founded in 1974 as a nonprofit, nondenominational, educational organization dedicated to the dissemination of information about archaeology in the Bible lands.  BAS seeks to educate the public about archaeology and the Bible through its bi-monthly magazine, Biblical Archaeology Review, an award-winning web site http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org, books and multimedia products (DVDs, CD-ROMs and videos), tours and seminars. BAS works to present the latest scholarship has to offer in what BAS views as a fair and accessible manner. [SOURCE] {edited by John Calvin Hall}

Now, it is important to note several things.  First off, BAS is non-denominational.  What this usually means is that they will not take theological sides with anyone.  BAS is not designed to be a theological magazine but an Archaeological Magazine that focuses on the era relating to the Bible.  The focus of BAS is to provide as unbiased and as accurate data as possible.  The problem is that it is impossible to be completely vacant of theology.  It’s like saying, “My article on ____ will be completely unbiased.”  We know that this is impossible because everyone is biased one way or another, and to claim to be unbiased only shows you are fooling yourself.

The second issue we need to face is that BAS seeks to be scholarly.  This means that the articles printed in Biblical Archaeology Review and other materials by BAS are focused toward the scholars.  For these scholars to accept the material, it needs to be submittable to what is referred to as Peer Review.

Peer review is a generic term that is used to describe a process of self-regulation by a profession or a process of evaluation involving qualified individuals with the related field. Peer review methods are employed to maintain standards, improve performance, and provide credibility. [SOURCE]

Sad to say most scholars, especially in the area of Biblical Archaeology and Biblical Theology are quite liberal.  Bear in mind, just because someone claims to be a Bible Scholar or a Biblical Archaeology Scholar does not mean they are saved, let a lone Biblical.

And these two matters are the reasons why I paused to provide a response.

God’s Word teaches us that we need to be discerners of the Truth.

Colossians 2:8
8  Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
Ephesians 5:6
6  Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
Hebrews 13:9
9  Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.
Romans 1:21-22
21  Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
22  Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
1 Corinthians 3:18-19
18  Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.
19  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.

Now, your next question might be, “why do you then subscribe to it if it is full of liberal and vain teachings?”  My reply is that much of the material that is in fact objective is good material.  Allow me to illustrate.  In my library, I own thousands of books, journals and theological magazines.  Among these books are Greek lexicons.  These are dictionaries that go into detail on Greek words.  Yet, these lexicons were compiled by some of the most liberal Bible Scholars that I know of.  Why use them?  because the raw data is good.  I praise God for the liberal scholars.  They are wired to seek after peer acceptance, and how they receive their peer acceptance is by providing demonstrably accurate raw data.

As a theologian/ scholar/ teacher, it is my responsibility to draw from the resources such as Biblical Archaeology Review and glean from this material profitable goods.  Here is another example of what I mean.

In the July/ August 2010 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, they had an article on the ruins of Jezreel.  The author (David Ussishkin) did an excellent job, laying out the story of Ahab and Jezebel, tying it all in with the report on what was found at the site.  Yet, in the September/ October 2010 issue another author wrote an article that I would view as being borderline blasphemous.   Michael M. Homan wrote an article entitled, “Did the Ancient Israelites Drink Beer.”  He opens the article with the following statement, “Ancient Israelites, with the possible exception of a few teatotaling Nazirites and their moms, proudly drank beer – and lots of it.”  Immediately I ask the following questions:

  • How is it that Homan knows that they PROUDLY drank beer?
  • How does he know they drank LOTS of beer?  How much is “lots”?
  • And how does Homan know that the only “teatotalers” were a few Nazarites and their moms?

Later on in the article, Homan borders on the blasphemy by insinuating that God Himself consumed a “six-pack” a day as per Numbers 28[1].  Do you see my point.  Rather than putting forth a scholarly article, Michael M. Homan winds up being nothing more than a P.T. Barnum putting on a dog and pony show.  Why?  I can’t say what this individual’s intentions are, but to me it came across as a lame attempt to draw interest in a half-baked article.

So, how do I answer my friend?  Do I recommend Biblical Archaeology Review or not?  My answer is both yes, and no.  I would not recommend the magazine to a new believer, or one who is not grounded in the faith.  I would recommend it to individuals who I thought might profit from the articles and had the spiritual maturity to separate the profit from the dung.  Many people write in letters to the editor promising to revoke their subscription because of these bad articles.  This is because they didn’t know what they were getting into, and they assumed that everything would be biblical just because they claim to be writing about Biblical Archaeology.  If you know what you are getting into, and the work that is required to draw out the good material, then go for it.  Biblical Archaeology Review is a great magazine.  If you are looking for a periodical that is biblically sound, then pass by this rag.

[1]  Numbers 28:7 mentions where strong wine (or beer) is part of the offering to God.  He falsely relates the Levitical offering system to the neighboring pagan offerings where the worshipers thought they were “feeding” their gods.  Just because strong wine or beer is part of the Levitical offering, doesn’t mean that God is consuming such.  God’s Word repeatedly condemns the consumption of liquor due to its effects on man.  I would strongly recommend that Michael M. Homan go back to repeat some of his basic Bible classes.

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Posted by on 30-September-2010 in Uncategorized

 

Absence From Writing

As many of my readers notice, I have not been writing, nor active for over a week now.  One of the downfalls with my physical disability is that I am susceptible to infections, and this latest bout has had me off my feet for several days.  Though I am physically recovering, and am able to walk a bit, such illnesses also make a serious impact on my mental strength as well.  One or two of you have already been such a blessing to me, and have graciously helped my son and I and I cannot express how grateful I am for your gracious mercy.

Hopefully, within the week, I will be back up again, and be able to write more, and respond to many of your questions.

With Warmest Love in Christ,

John Calvin Hall

 
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Posted by on 22-September-2010 in Uncategorized

 

Casting Cares

πᾶσαν τὴν μέριμναν ὑμῶν ἐπιρρίψαντες ἐπ᾽ αὐτόν, ὅτι αὐτῷ μέλει περὶ ὑμῶν. (1 Peter 5:7)

In 1 Peter 5:7, God's word admonishes us to cast all our cares upon Him, because He cares for us.  When we read this directly from the English, all we see is the double use of the word "care."  Yet, in the Greek, these are two separate and distinct words.

The first time the word care is used, it is coming from the Greek word, μέριμνα ("meh-rim-nah").  This is the word for cares, concerns and worries.  It is what keeps you up at night.  It's what you feel when your loved ones are late and don't show up.  It's that grinding inside the pit of your stomach that churns and twists when you get near the end of the month and the money is running out.

The second time the word is used is the word μέλει ("meh-lei"). This verb is sued to describe how a mother cares for her child, how a shepherd cares for his flock.  It bears the idea of having care or concern for someone.

This life will bring lots of cares and worries.  We have an adversary, who is the devil, and he seeks to devour you.  We have a world who exists in utter defiance toward God, our savior.  And my greatest foe is the flesh, who wants his own way, and is selfish and greedy.  All three of these enemies brings cares and worries into our lives.  They roar and hiss, frightening us with threats: some that are real and some that are baseless and false.

But our God is greater.

God did not save us, and forget our plight.  He is not surprised by the onslaught of our foes.  He sees above the battlefield and knows the path we need to follow.

I have cares, and I have concerns.  I worry all the time about my family.  I feel the crunch of economic hardships just like you.  How should I handle them?  By taking each one and placing them at the Master's feet.  You see, He cares about me, and He cares about you.  And best of all, He wants to show how He cares.

Hebrews 13:5-6
5  Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
6  So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

Philippians 4:19
19  But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Proverbs 3:5-6
5  Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

 
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Posted by on 14-September-2010 in Uncategorized

 

Should We Take Genesis Literally?

As a theologian and scholar, I find myself strong in certain areas of theology, while weaker in others.  This doesn't mean that I reject what I am not scholastically solid on, but rather differ to my peers and trust God's Word to be true.  One such area that I currently am not strong in is the area of Creation Science.  Though I am firmly convinced that the world was created in six literal days, I confess that my field of studies do not fall in geology, biology, nor any other -ology that would qualify me as an expert.  Yet, this fact does not negate me from having strong opinions on the matter, nor does it disqualify me from writing about it.

Recently a pseudo-Christian [1] organization has become more visible on the Internet.  They call themselves The BioLogos Foundation, and it's purpose is to legitimatize their beliefs in syncretizing [2] Scripture with the model of Evolution.

Tonight, I had the opportunity to watch a video put out by the BioLogos Foundation in an attempt to ordain their belief that the creation stories in Genesis should not be taken literally.  If this is true, then their organization would have a reasonable base.  They invited a popular liberal scholar NT Wright Bishop of Durham in the Church of England, and asked the question,

If you take Genesis in a non-literal fashion like the creation stories, why then take anything else literally?

NT Wright then spends the next three minutes explaining how he is able to believe the Gospels without believing the creation stories in Genesis.

Allow me to include the video:

 

 

Here is an analysis of the video:

[0:45-0:58]  NT Wright is asked the question, "If you take Genesis in a non-literal fashion like the creation stories, why then take anything else literally?"

[0:58-1:54] Wright changes the usage of the word "literally" to the word "concrete".  What this does is shift the question from a faith-based issue to an empirical issue.  Because he finds the word "literal" confusing, he redefines it, and then forces the use of the word "concrete" to replace it.  This is not necessary.  The word "literal" means without interpretation or embellishment; "a literal depiction of the scene before him."  It also carries the definition of being limited to the explicit meaning of a word or text; "a literal translation."   When this is completed, he then shifts the creation stories over as an "abstract" being equivalent to the parables Jesus taught in the Gospels.  When all is said and done, he shows that he believes the Genesis is nothing more than an abstract of ideas that are used to teach moral stories. 

So, what should the God-fearing, Bible-believing Christian do?  The answer is, remember what God's Word says about these wolves:

Colossians 2:8
8  Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
Ephesians 5:6
6  Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.

 

Because I cannot explain it any better than those who specialize in the area of Creation Science, I am bringing in a short article to wrap up my post. 

A very important question we must ask is, “What was Jesus’ view of the days of creation? Did He say that He created in six literal days?” 

When confronted with such a question, most Christians would automatically go to the New Testament to read the recorded words of Jesus to see if such a statement occurs.

Now, when we search the New Testament Scriptures, we certainly find many interesting statements Jesus made that relate to this issue. Mark 10:6 says, “But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’” From this passage, we see that Jesus clearly taught that the creation was young, for Adam and Eve existed “from the beginning,” not billions of years after the universe and earth came into existence. Jesus made a similar statement in Mark 13:19 indicating that man’s sufferings started very near the beginning of creation. The parallel phrases of “from the foundation of the world” and “from the blood of Abel” in Luke 11:50–51 also indicate that Jesus placed Abel very close to the beginning of creation, not billions of years after the beginning. His Jewish listeners would have assumed this meaning in Jesus’ words, for the first-century Jewish historian Josephus indicates that the Jews of his day believed that both the first day of creation and Adam’s creation were about 5,000 years before Christ.[3]

In John 5:45–47, Jesus says,

John 5:45-47
45  Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.
46  For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.
47  But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?

In this passage, Jesus makes it clear that one must believe what Moses wrote. And one of the passages in the writings of Moses in Exodus 20:11 states: “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” This, of course, is the basis for our seven-day week—six days of work and one day of rest. Obviously, this passage was meant to be taken as speaking of a total of seven literal days based on the Creation Week of six literal days of work and one literal day of rest.

In fact, in Luke 13:14, in his response to Jesus healing a person on the Sabbath, the ruler of the synagogue, who knew the law of Moses, obviously referred to this passage when he said, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.” The sabbath day here was considered an ordinary day, and the six days of work were considered ordinary days. This teaching is based on the Law of Moses as recorded in Exodus 20, where we find the Ten Commandments—the six-day Creation Week being the basis for the Fourth Commandment.

We should also note the way Jesus treated as historical fact the accounts in the Old Testament, which religious and atheistic skeptics think are unbelievable mythology. These historical accounts include Adam and Eve as the first married couple (Matthew 19:3–6; Mark 10:3–9), Abel as the first prophet who was killed (Luke 11:50–51), Noah and the Flood (Matthew 24:38–39), Moses and the serpent in the wilderness (John 3:14), Moses and the manna from heaven to feed the Israelites in the wilderness (John 6:32–33, 49), the experiences of Lot and his wife (Luke 17:28–32), the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah (Matthew 10:15), the miracles of Elijah (Luke 4:25–27), and Jonah and the big fish (Matthew 12:40– 41). As New Testament scholar John Wenham has compellingly argued, Jesus did not allegorize these accounts but took them as straightforward history, describing events that actually happened just as the Old Testament describes.[4]  Jesus used these accounts to teach His disciples that the events of His death, Resurrection, and Second Coming would likewise certainly happen in time-space reality.

These passages taken together strongly imply that Jesus took Genesis 1 as literal history describing creation in six 24-hour days. But are there any more explicit passages?

I believe there are. However, one has to approach this issue in a slightly different manner. We are not limited to the New Testament when we try to find out if Jesus stated He created in six days; we can also search the Old Testament. After all, Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity and therefore has always existed.

First, Colossians makes it clear that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was the one who created all things: “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16–17).

We are also told elsewhere in Scripture how Jesus created: “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.  For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast” (Psalm 33:6, 9). We see the meaning of this when we consider the miracles of Jesus during His earthly ministry. All the miracles occurred instantly—at His Word. He instantly turned water into wine in His very first miracle, which revealed His glory as the Creator (John 2:1–11; John 1:1–3, 14, 18). It was the instant calming of the wind and the waves that convinced His disciples that He was no mere man. So it was with all His miracles (Mark 4:35–41). He did not speak and wait for days, weeks, months, or years for things to happen. He spoke and it was done. So, when He said, “Let there be . . .” in Genesis 1, it did not take long ages for things to come into existence.

We also know that Jesus is in fact called the Word: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:1–3).

Jesus, who is the Word, created everything by simply speaking things into existence.

Now, consider Exodus 20:1: “And God spoke all these words, saying . . . .” Because Jesus is the Word, this must be a reference to the preincarnate Christ speaking to Moses. As we know, there are a number of appearances of Christ (theophanies) in the Old Testament. John 1:18 states: “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” There is no doubt, with rare exception, that the preincarnate Christ did the speaking to Adam, Noah, the patriarchs, Moses, etc. Now, when the Creator God spoke as recorded in Exodus 20:1, what did He (Jesus) say? As we read on, we find this statement: “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day” (Exodus 20:11).

Yes, Jesus did explicitly say He created in six days.[5]  Not only this, but the one who spoke the words “six days” also wrote them down for Moses: “Then the Lord delivered to me two tablets of stone written with the finger of God, and on them were all the words which the Lord had spoken to you on the mountain from the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly” (Deuteronomy 9:10).

Jesus said clearly that He created in six days. And He even did something He didn’t do with most of Scripture—He wrote it down Himself. How clearer and more authoritative can you get than that?

 

 

 

[1]  Pseudo-Christianity is anything that claims to be Christian while in direct conflict with God's Word.  The BioLogos Foundation seeks to combine Christianity with non-Biblical Evolution.  Though it is not questioned that the organization might contain Christians within their circle, the foundation itself cannot be considered Christian since it contradict's Scripture.

[2]  Syncretism is the act of combining two philosophies or religions, in order to create a third.  Many members of the early church period (Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Augustine) sought to combine Greek Philosophy and Christianity together, which ultimately resulted in the Roman Catholic Church.

[3]  See William Whiston, transl., The Works of Josephus, Hendrickson, Peabody, Massachusetts, p. 850, 1987, and Paul James-Griffiths, “Creation days and Orthodox Jewish Tradition,” Creation 26(2): 53–55, www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v26/i2/tradition.asp.

[4]  John Wenham, Christ and the Bible, IVPress, Downers Grove, Illinois, pp. 11–37, 1973.

[5]  Even if someone is convinced that God the Father was the speaker in Exodus 20:11, the Father and Son would never disagree. Jesus said in John 10:30: “I and my Father are one” [neuter—one in the essence of deity, not one in personality]. He also said, “I speak these things as the Father taught me,” and “I always do the things that are pleasing to Him” (John 8:28–29).

* Original article can be found on AnswersinGenesis.org and was edited by John Calvin Hall.

 
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Posted by on 13-September-2010 in Uncategorized

 

The Missing Books of the Bible

When I was a child, I remember going to the grocery store with my parents.  While in the checkout line, my grandmother always grabbed the latest copy of the National Enquirer.  Though she claimed to not believe everything printed within it's leaves, she never missed an issue.

One time, I remember seeing the headlines where they announced the discovery of Missing Books of the Bible.  Well, I had been raised in Sunday School, and the idea of finding more books to the Bible only excited me.  Yet, for some unknown reason, both my parents were not as enthused as I was.  That night, my father explained to me that these books were not really missing, but were not accepted as "canonical."

Canonical?  What was that?  Keep in mind, I was only a little boy at the time, and when you mentioned anything related to canons, I got excited… but for completely different reasons.

When I attended college, I studied a little bit on the issues of canonization.  Why were some books accepted and why were some rejected?  After doing some research on the issue, allow me to explain.

During the time when the books of the Bible were first composed and disseminated among the believers, other cult groups stepped up and began writing their own epistles.  Cult groups like the Gnostics began distributing epistles emphasizing their particular heresies, and twisting the words of Christ and His disciples.  Paul the Apostle warns of these heresies in some of his letters to the Ephesians and Colossians.  John also fought against them in his epistles, Gospel, and Apocalypse.

By the time the last of the apostles had passed away, the true books of the Bible were all but lost in a sea of apocryphal (writings that are questionable in authority), and pseudopigraphical (writings falsely attributed to someone) books.

As the first century came to a close, it became popular for the Roman empire to start persecuting Christians.  The early believers held to Christ as their king, and would refuse to bow the knee to Caesar.  This became such a heated issue, everyone who was brought before a magistrate, whether guilty or not, were required to burn incense to Caesar and swear allegiance to him.  If anyone refused to do so, would be arrested for treason.  Also, anyone who was suspected of being a believer, would have his house searched.  If a Christian book was found, their guilt was secured, and their fate sealed.  So when a Christian obtained a copy of a book, the immediate question arose, "Is this book worth dying for?"  If the believer was convinced it was a legitimate book, they would keep it, but many times a book would be given to them that was questionable.  It contained stories that didn't quite fit into the nature of Christ or one of the apostles.  It had statements or quotes that contradicted reliable sources.  These books often times were not kept, and were discarded.  So, God used the fires of persecution to purify and bring out His correctly ordained books.

When the early church councils began to convene after the great persecutions*, one of the issues brought up was the canonicity of the Bible.  It wasn't man who was determining which book to accept or not, but rather identifying which book God had personally ordained.  True Christians believe that these books are God's Word, so canonicity is very important.  When the council was convened, they determined canonicity by the accuracy of the writings, the acceptance of the believers, and the harmony with known and reliable teachings.  In the end, the true books of the Bible rose to the surface, and the true churches rejected the apocryphal writings.

Now, you might be wondering what type of junk is found in these books?  Is it so hard to distinguish which book is true and which are false?  If you are a true Christian, you have God's Holy Spirit inside you, and the truth is not hard to see at all.  Below are two videos I had found on the Internet.  Take a look at what in contained in a few works, and see for yourself.

Then, ask yourself the question, "Is this the Jesus you follow?"


 

*Addendum – Thanks to Paul Pavao of christian-history.org, an error was found in this article and corrected for accuracy.   In several sources over the past years, I recall reading how one of the objectives of the Nicean Council was to answer the dilemma of which books are canonical and which ones were not.  Paul Pavao, having more experience in this specific field of theology pointed out that this was incorrect, and challenged me to look into the matter.  I did investigate the accuracy of my statement and could not find anything directly stating that the canon was discussed during the Council.  Therefore, I corrected my article, and thanked Mr. Pavao for his input.  No one, no matter who they are, or how much education they have should claim what is only attributed to our God: omniscience.

 
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Posted by on 9-September-2010 in Uncategorized

 

Writing to BibleBlogger

Jury Duty has a way with disrupting a person's schedule. With the priorities of working on my class notes, as well as my dissertation, I find the joy of blogging being temporarily set aside. Over the past couple of weeks, we have had visitors to BibleBlogger.org ask questions not directly related to theology or this blog.

I would greatly enjoy the privilege to respond to these questions, but am not able to, because of the fact that they do not leave a legitimate email address. Their questions are not bad, but would be inappropriate to post these answers on the blog itself. If you wish to reach John Calvin Hall, please, leave a working email address, so I might be able to respond. Without a usable email address, it is impossible for me to reply.

 

Thank you for your consideration.

John Calvin Hall

The BibleBlogger

 
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Posted by on 7-September-2010 in Uncategorized