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Written by: C. W. Booth

Friday, November 06, 2009

Are there ANY Bible prophecies that indisputably came true?

What presuppositions make every prophecy into a lie?

On a religion forum someone posted and asked, “Are there ANY Bible prophecies that indisputably came true?” Immediately rock solid prophecies leapt to mind and to keyboard: Abraham and Sarah having Isaac in their old age, God promising to grow a mighty nation of the Jews in Egypt, God telling Moses that he will lead the nation out of Egypt, Isaiah prophesying that God would release the Jews from Babylonian captivity to rebuild Jerusalem, Daniel naming the kings of coming empires, and that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.

Rock solid? As I soon learned, every prophecy in the Bible was rejected by the skeptics along with every secular source that supported the biblical accounts. It turned out the poster and the skeptics had ironclad rules they had hidden from view but followed rigidly. By the time the hidden rules of the presupposition game were slowly revealed in the words of the skeptics, the answer they had predetermined to obtain for themselves was, “No, there never was and never will be an indisputable biblical prophecy because our rules have guaranteed this answer for us.”

The hidden rules of the presupposition game are:

  • If a prophecy was made in one book of the Old Testament and fulfilled in another book of the Old Testament it must always be assumed that the prophecy was a recent scribal edit added after the fact (about 400 BC) and did not exist in the first writing of the book.
  • If a prophecy was made in the Old Testament regarding the future Messiah (e.g. virgin birth, born in Bethlehem, died via crucifixion, resurrected from the dead) then whenever the New Testament demonstrates that Jesus fulfilled that prophecy it must be assumed that the gospel writer invented those details about Jesus and that they never actually happened to Jesus.
  • If a prophecy was made by a New Testament person (e.g. Jesus predicted the destruction of the temple which occurred in 70 AD) then it must always be assumed that the prophecy was written down after the prophetic event was fulfilled and was not actually uttered at the time described in the writing.

What is the implication if every Bible prophecy is a lie?

In short, the hidden rules of the anti-supernatural presuppositionalists guarantee that no biblical prophecy can ever be accepted as valid prophecy. Worse, it automatically makes every Old Testament book of the Bible a fabrication filled with falsehoods and every New Testament apostle that wrote a letter or endorsed a gospel account to be a flagrant liar.

Virtually the entire Christian faith is dependent on the truths that Jesus was born of a virgin, was born in Bethlehem as a descendant of David, lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death, and resurrected from death to life. Since all those events were first prophesied in the Old Testament about the Messiah, it means that either Jesus fulfilled them all and was the Messiah, or, every foundational aspect of Christianity is a brazen lie and never happened.

In other words, if one accepts that Jesus did live a perfect life, and/or died a sacrificial death via crucifixion, and/or resurrected from death to life, then you have “personal proof” that at least five Old Testament prophecies absolutely were fulfilled.

Opposite that, if one accepts that the gospel writers and the apostles all lied in their writings about such things as Jesus being born of a virgin, Jesus being born in Bethlehem in the line of David, His perfect life, His sacrificial death by crucifixion, and His resurrection to life, then EVERY aspect of Christianity is false and immoral; all of it having been based on falsehoods. There can be nothing good or wholesome in the Christian religion in such a case for it is all comprised of deceit, errors, and intentional mis-directions.

No revelation of God is possible?

Now, if every Bible prophecy is a fabrication and was never made in real human history, then God never revealed Himself in it or through it, ever. For example, Abraham could never have encountered God because God always prophesied the future (including a son and a nation) to Abraham on every encounter. Certainly Moses never encountered God because at the burning bush God supposedly prophesied that Moses would lead the nation out of Egypt into the promised land originally granted to Abraham (a prophecy later fulfilled by Joshua).

Kind David was given a future-telling prophecy that his lineage would rule Israel for eternity and would save all the world from their sins. That too had to have been a lie, a fake future-telling prophecy, a fabrication added to the scrolls by devious scribes in 400 BC.

Was every prophecy of the Messiah a future-telling prophecy?

And the worst part, there never was a promised Messiah. Every promise of a Savior/Messiah in the Old Testament was a future-telling prophecy. Every one. If all of those prophecies were recent edits by sneaky Jewish scribes in 400 BC and were not made by the original prophets who first wrote the books, or, if they were never fulfilled by anyone, including Jesus, then the world never did have a Messiah from the line of David. No Messiah means no sacrifice was made for sins. No sacrifice for sins means no forgiveness and no salvation. None.

Were the first manuscripts of the Bible written without any future-telling prophecies?

It is wrongly assumed by the skeptics that the Bible was originally a book that told a story about religious men and had no future-telling prophecies. They suppose that as time went on and the people described in the books died, the books were edited to describe past historical events as if they had been forecasted by the religious men.

Such a theory completely ignores the fact that the Bible is nothing but one continuous future-telling prophecy from one page to the next. There are no stories that do not contain future-telling prophecies. The prophecies were often the point, motivation, and plot behind each recorded event. There can be no story of Moses without all the future-telling prophecies by which God directed him and ultimately delivered the Law. Take away the future-telling prophecies because you assume they never happened in the manner described in the Bible, and there is no book of religious men.

What choice do I have but to believe the prophecies of the Bible are valid?

That about sums up the two choices:

  • Every patriarch in the Bible is a liar for having claimed an encounter with God and having claimed to have been given a future-telling prophecy regarding a promised land, a great nation, or a coming Messiah, thus, all of Judaism and all of Christianity are a giant conspiracy of uncounted liars covering a span of four thousand years.
  • -Or-
  • The prophecies were presented to the original patriarchs just as the Scriptures report them and Jesus is the fulfillment of every one of the prophecies just as the gospels, apostles, and eyewitnesses have reported.

Which choice is backed by the best evidence and is more plausible? If you have a presupposition that everything supernatural is impossible, you will choose option one. If you presuppose a living personal God who loves His creation and has communicated with it, option two may have some appeal for you.

As for me and my house, we have chosen to believe in the Lord.


Addendum

Here is very short list of a few Messianic prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus and are pretty hard to account for except that they show the foreknowledge of God: 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12, Matthew 26:15-16), bought potter field (Zechariah 11:13, Matthew 27:3-10), Jesus spit upon (Isaiah 50:6, Matthew 26:67-68), innocent one wounded for the guilty (Isaiah 53:5, Luke 22:64), Messiah to be executed by crucifixion although Jews executed their own by stoning (Psalm 22:16, Zechariah 12:10, 13:6, John 20:25-29), Messiah executed with criminals (Isaiah 53:9-12, Mark 15:27), Messiah's clothing to be gambled over for ownership (Psalm 22:18, John 19:23-24).

Also, the book of Daniel named the names of kings, including Alexander the Great. Josephus (Anitquities 11:8.5) tells us that Alexander gave the Jews special favors in his kingdom because his name was in the book of Daniel in a favorable manner. Even Jewish Midrash writings join Josephus in recording this extra-biblical event.



Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Are there ANY evidences that all the biblical prophecies were falsified?

What is evidence?

In a previous essay I addressed the question, “Are there ANY Bible prophecies that indisputably came true?” For the skeptic it is possible to dispute everything, including the reality of human life itself. So, for the anti-supernatural presuppositionalist, the answer is predetermined to always come out, “No.”

But turn-about is good research. So, it must be asked of the skeptic, “Are there ANY concrete evidences that every Bible prophecy was falsified?”

Evidence cannot be mere allegation. It is academically negligent and charlatanism to say, “If a prophecy can be faked it certainly was faked.” That is not evidence of a faked prophecy. Anyone can cast aspersions or invent any claim that they can imagine in their mind. So just making an accusation is not evidence. Given this is literary history we are dealing with (i.e. the Bible), it is obvious and fair that only concrete evidence is acceptable in the form of written documentation that purports to have been first documented contemporaneously with the biblical texts.

In other words, to be a valid evidence that disproves a Bible prophecy, the written refutation must have also been written at the same time as that of the biblical prophecy, and not centuries later (i.e. virtually all the Gnostic writings were written 100 or more years after the last of the Bible texts were written, so they disqualify themselves as refutations of any biblical statement). It must come from eyewitnesses of the actual events to disprove the validity of the Bible prophecy or to demonstrate that every gospel author and every apostolic epistle writer lied so as to turn Jesus from an ordinary man into the Messiah.

New Testament conspiratorial evidence?

In almost all conspiracies in human history both the truth and the charges of falsification are left behind in writing by the eyewitnesses. There are virtually no such written charges with regard to the gospels and the epistles, suggesting that the apostles told the scrupulous truth. In fact, those who knew the apostles or their associates identify that the four gospels were already commonly known and in use by the 2nd century AD (see the Canon of Muratori, a letter from Clement of Alexandria, and the writings of Irenaeus). If the four gospels were already in common use by the 2nd century AD then they had to have been written and circulated before that time, which means that eyewitnesses of the events could have read them, critiqued them, and objected if they were in error. Such objections simply do not exist while thousands of copies and fragments of the gospels do.

With regard to the New Testament there are NO extant personal letters, copies of personal letters, or official documents from the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd century from eyewitnesses that dispute that Jesus was born, lived, and died according to the details of the widely circulated gospels. Such a lack of refutation is all but inconceivable if all the Messianic details had been fictionalized by the apostles. How is it that today they are slandered as liars with no written evidence to bolster the empty allegation?

Old Testament conspiratorial evidence?

Similarly, the nearly 2000 years of written Jewish history demonstrate a total lack of extant documents that illustrate that the Old Testament was repeatedly re-written, edited, revised, and continually altered over the centuries. Where did all these disparate real and faked manuscripts circulate that they could all disappear from every recorded history?

Israel’s scribal and prophetic tradition is a particularly alarming problem for the skeptic. The skeptic must demonstrate that ALL future-telling prophecies were faked and added into the Old Testament Jewish scrolls by no later than 200 BC (that is when they were sealed into Qumran caves until uncovered just this past century). Why is that an alarming problem? Because when the Jews returned from exile and rebuilt the temple before 500 BC, they became zealots of their religion and their sacred Scriptures. The people read them and memorized them voraciously. If there had been thousands of altered or faked versions floating around, the scribes would have been stoned to death.

The last prophets (Malachi and Nehemiah) wrote their prophecies prior to 400 BC. They were the last prophets the Jews heard from until the time of Christ’s birth. Everything that was written in Jewish history between 400 BC and the time of Christ was considered to be non-Scripture to all Jews.

It is an academic stretch of a tremendous magnitude to consider that the Jews, many of whom knew their Scriptures quite well, all conspired to allow them to be re-written and re-edited between 400 BC and 200 BC by admitted non-prophets who wanted to add-in prophecies and events that had never happened. Had these imaginary rogue scribes gone back to edit Daniel (written just one century prior to the return of the exiles and had been written for all those who were in the exile), and had they sought to re-write the contents of Daniel, then everyone who went through the exile would have seen and exposed the fakery. Or if mythical evil scribes attempted to alter Isaiah (which contained the promises of their return to rebuild Jerusalem) all the people would have known it instantly and killed the aberrant scribes.

Is there any extant evidence of faked Bible prophecy?

In truth, there is more hard extant evidence that the Old Testament, gospels, and New Testament epistles are genuine eyewitness accounts of what actually occurred than exists for many other secular “historical” documents. There is virtually no extant evidence that any Old or New Testament prophecy was faked. There are no extant Hebrew Bibles showing a pattern of more and more fulfilled prophecies being added in over the centuries. Virtually the only thing that is used to challenge the validity of the Bible, the gospels, and the epistle accounts are the empty and unproven aspersions of modern critics.

Let me put this question to the skeptic: What evidence do you have that all the Messianic prophecies were added to the Scriptures between 400 BC and 200 BC besides the mere conjecture of modern authors? What hard evidence do you have that none of the scriptural prophecies were written during the lifetimes of the actual prophets? Where are the thousands of extant Old Testament scrolls that have built up over the centuries showing that the earliest scrolls did not have prophecies but that the prophecies were only added into the latest ones? Where are the thousands of extant letters from the residents of Jerusalem to their friends and families in other countries debunking the growing legend about the man named Jesus who had supposedly lived, performed miracles, died, and resurrected in their home town?

As for the real Bible, the thousands of its genuine extant copies and fragments all demonstrate the same thing: it has remained consistent and unchanged in content from Moses until today.

Who has the burden of proof?

Often the skeptic will insist that since supernatural things like prophecy do not happen in ordinary life, the believer must demonstrate that prophecy is real and that there is a supernatural God. I think the question is reversed. The Bible does exist. Its existence means it is the assertion, it is the evidence. Since it has prophecies (which have been fulfilled) the burden of proof is on the skeptic to show that NONE of those prophecies were real, that they were all written after-the-fact.

Since the Bible provides the fulfilled prophecies in documented form, it provides substantial evidence for the supernatural. The evidence must be examined to determine if it is false, of course. But to be proven false, it must be shown with documentation and concrete evidence that all of the prophecies were faked. Therein lies the burden of proof. It is up to the skeptic to disprove the evidence placed before them.

Skeptics do not like the Bible as evidence, because it demonstrates a supernatural origin. Skeptics have a presupposition that the supernatural does not and cannot exist. Therefore, they cannot investigate whether any evidence demonstrates the supernatural or not because they have predetermined that anything that demonstrates the supernatural is already false. They have drawn their conclusion before they have done the investigation and so they cannot and will not allow any evidence that could lead to a possible conclusion that the Bible is a book of supernatural revelation. One cannot perform an investigation if one has already rejected all outcomes they do not desire.

What should we conclude?

There is no written evidence that the Old Testament has been edited to add-in prophecies after the fact. Nor is there written evidence that the New Testament authors faked all of Jesus’ prophecies and all of the details of His life. The only written evidence that has been found over twenty centuries is that the Scriptures have remained scrupulously and fastidiously unchanged (excepting changes in the Hebrew tongue and rather insignificant copyist errors) since they were first penned by the original prophets. Therefore it is academically honest to regard the Bible as an historically trustworthy document written by eyewitnesses, studied and memorized by faithful believers since the first writings, and transmitted conscientiously from one generation to the next. We do have the sure Word of God given by prophecy with us today.

So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:19-21)


Follow on comment by Booth

After a lengthy online discussion, a self-described "intellecutal atheist" concluded our interaction by admitting that there is no "hard" documented evidence that the Scriptures were faked. Instead, the atheist insisted, we merely misunderstand ordinary comments made in the Old Testament as "prophecies" when they were never intended to be prophecies. For example, the atheist noted that David was speaking of himself alone when he said he was being pierced and marred beyond recognition and that his clothing was being wagered for by his enemies. Needless to say, David never experienced any of these things, so he obviously was not making historical comments on his own personal situation. If David was not speaking of himself, nor anyone of his acquaintance, then surely literary criticism dictates that he must have been writing a prophecy.

The problem with atheism is that it requires putting aside logic and reason in order to embrace the god they assume is intellectualism. Yes, I am aware that the last statement is paradoxical, but such is the contradictory nature of atheism.



Tuesday, November 17, 2009

When Faith Dies

This past month a number of ex-cult members were challenging Christians to prove the validity of faith, the reality of God, the actuality of the supernatural, and the veracity of Scripture. They did this on a forum begun by refugees from a specific cult (a Christianity look-alike religion) to warn others from getting involved in that cult.

Based on informal surveys and anecdotal responses the ex-cult members estimate that about 90% of those who leave that cult become atheists. Several of these atheists were the ones posing the strongest challenges and arguments against faith and standing opposed to the existence of God on the forum.

About a week after the discussion thread closed one of the most vocal atheists (an ex-cult member who raged against the foolishness of the concept of a supernatural God and of faith itself) posted a sobering message. The atheist stated that life is meaningless, evil is everywhere, and there was no longer a purpose to life. The atheist proclaimed that suicide was his/her next action. No one on the forum has heard from that person again.

When I read this, my heart sank. As the days/weeks pass without that person making another posting to that forum, I continue to be sad and ever more concerned that this person has ended their life. It is a sobering true story that offers a chilling moral. When faith in God dies, so does hope, purpose, morality, and meaning. Spiritual lack is an outcome of man’s dead spirit. Man’s spirit died when he sinned. Man cannot see God, feel God, understand God, or obtain healing from God because a dead spirit cannot commune with a living God.

Atheism is a sure path to spiritual despair and hopelessness. Far from having all the answers that science and empiricalism can provide, atheism attempts to hide its head in the dirt of secular philosophy to avoid confronting the nature of God. Yet, the deeper man digs to hide himself, the farther he gets from the light, truth, purpose, and meaning even as his spirit grows colder, darker, and lonelier.

When faith in God dies, so dies the soul.


You are invited to read: Your Personal Salvation ( http://thefaithfulword.org/salvation.html ).



Thursday, November 19, 2009

Jesus did Claim to be YHWH God

It is simultaneously tragic and amusing to me that skeptics and cultists assert that Jesus was not God and never claimed to be God. Aside from the numerous times Jesus implied He was God, He also came right out and said it, twice. In plain language.

One time the Jewish leadership had accused Jesus and His followers of working on the Sabbath and therefore breaking the Law. I have written on this subject already and demonstrated that Jesus did not actually break the Law ( http://www.thefaithfulword.org/2007aprilblogarchives.html#28 ). However, while making His defense Jesus stated something that is often overlooked, He called Himself God.

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath,…But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, "Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath." … But [Jesus] said to them, …"For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." (excerpts from Matthew 12:1-8)

In the context it is seen that the Sabbath being disputed is THE Sabbath, the day of rest out of every seven, the day around which the entire Jewish Law and world revolved. It is THAT Sabbath, THE Sabbath, over which Jesus claimed to be Lord.

In the Greek the phrase used here and which is translated into English as “of the” (as in Lord OF THE Sabbath) often means “owner of / head of” (see Matthew 1:6) and “originator of / sourced from” (see Matthew 1:22). So Jesus is here saying, “I am the Son of Man and I am the Lord who is owner and originator of the Sabbath--it is My Sabbath.”

but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD [YHWH] your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. (Exodus 20:10)

then he said to them, "This is what the LORD [YHWH] meant: Tomorrow is a sabbath observance, a holy sabbath to the LORD. Bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning." (Exodus 16:23)

Moses said, "Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the LORD [YHWH]; today you will not find it in the field. (Exodus 16:25)

YHWH, God, originated the Law of the Sabbath and consecrated that day to Himself as a day of rest (for men) and a day of worship to Him. When Jesus laid claim to being the owner of the day and its originator, He was claiming to be YHWH, the God Almighty. Further, He was claiming to be the recipient of worship as only God can be:

"And it shall be from new moon to new moon And from sabbath to sabbath, All mankind will come to bow down before Me," says the LORD. (Isaiah 66:23)

"So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." (Mark 2:28)

And He was saying to them, "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." (Luke 6:5)

Yes, Jesus is YHWH, LORD of the Sabbath. There is no other meaning for the title that Jesus gave to Himself.

For it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to God." (Romans 14:11)

so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, (Philippians 2:10)

At a later date I will write about the second time Jesus plainly called Himself God.



Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Follow-up Essay: Jesus Claimed to be YHWH (Matthew 12:1-14)

Background

The other day I wrote a short blog essay on Matthew 12:1-14, a passage in which Jesus plainly affirms Himself to be YHWH by entitling Himself “the Lord of the Sabbath.” To my surprise several avowed and self-described atheists who are ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses took me to task for having written this. Their acknowledged presupposition is that Jesus never made a claim to be deity, therefore, there must be another explanation for the meaning of what Jesus said; in fact, any other explanation, no matter how implausible, was more to be desired than to allow Jesus to claim divinity for Himself.

Before reading this essay, please read the article explaining that Jesus never broke the actual Law of the Sabbath and never told anyone to set that Law aside: ( http://www.thefaithfulword.org/2007aprilblogarchives.html#28 )

The Counter Argument

So, that is what they put forward, an utterly implausible alternative explanation which they cling to with all the hope and faith they can muster. They will accept and support any extreme and improper explanation so as to be able not to come to grips with the reality that Jesus is their Creator God.

Their alternate explanation runs something like this: Jesus was not claiming to be the Lord of the Sabbath, but was claiming that all other humans were the “sons of men,” and thus the “lords of the Sabbath.” As lords they no longer had to keep the Sabbath or be subject to it.

In desperation to sustain their position they noted that the Old Testament often used the phrase “son of man” as a way of emphasizing an individual’s generic humanity. By the time they completed their convoluted and tenuous logic the phrase “Lord of the Sabbath” meant virtually nothing at all, leaving one wondering why Jesus would have bothered to employ the term.

In truth, the phrase “Lord of the Sabbath” can only apply to a single individual. Moreover, it has deep and rich meaning for it is a title depicting divinity, authority, and sovereignty. Humanity is not divine, authoritative, or sovereign over the Sabbath.

Linguistic Evidence - Single or Plural

Jesus gave Himself a title, “the Son of Man.” He only ever used this title to refer to Himself, never to anyone else. In the gospels He called Himself “the Son of Man” eighty times. Theologians label “the Son of Man” as a Christological title because it is unambiguously assigned exclusively to Jesus, the Christ, in all the gospels.

The tradition of calling Jesus the Son of Man continued even after Jesus died. “But being full of the Holy Spirit, he [Stephen] gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ (Acts 7:55-56) It was both a Christological and an apocalyptic title that only applied to Jesus.

Unlike English, the Koine Greek language (in which the New Testament was written) often requires that any speech directed to or about a group of many people must carry a matching plural constructs in the nouns and verbs. For example, in ordinary English we might point to all our family members and tell them, “You must go.” In English the noun “you” and the verb “go” could be either singular or plural, referring to one person or to the whole family, though we implied a plural use. However, in Koine Greek the speaker is forced to say something like “[everyone of] you must [each] go.” The Greek nouns and verbs would of a necessity have plural endings that we do not see in English. So, if someone can read the Greek New Testament, they will find out whether Jesus was saying one person was the Son of Man and the Lord of the Sabbath, or whether many persons were the sons of men and the lords of the Sabbath.

In Matthew 12:1-14, Jesus used the singular, “the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” One son, one Lord. There is no ambiguity at all. All the nouns and verbs are singular. Had Jesus desired to refer to the assembled crowd He would have had to use the plural form, “sons of men” and “lords of the Sabbath.”

Therefore, since Jesus used the singular form of “the Son of Man” He was once again referring to Himself alone and not including anyone else. Further, since He used the singular for the phrase “the Lord of the Sabbath,” it indicates there was only one such Lord, which was Himself, “the Son of Man.”

Ordinarily Jesus referred to the crowd of humanity that surrounded Him with words that are plural in the Koine Greek, such as "people" (anthropos), "crowd" (ochlos), and "people" [of this nation] (laos). Never did He call them "Son of Man." In the only instance where Jesus called the generic throng of humanity by a name similar to the one He gave Himself, He changed it from the singular "Son of Man" to the plural, "sons of men," making it quite obvious He was speaking of the sinners around Him and NOT speaking of Himself: "Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter;" (Mark 3:28)

Understanding that Jesus reserved the singular title, “the Son of Man” for Himself, and referred to Himself that way eighty times, and knowing that the Greek language differentiates between whether one or many persons are being denoted, it is only possible that Jesus meant that He alone was the singular Lord of the Sabbath.

Illustrating the Evidence

In what sense was Jesus the Lord of the Sabbath? As YHWH, He created the Law and delivered it to Moses via His Holy Spirit. Therefore, by naming Himself as “the Lord of the Sabbath” He was asserting His authoritative interpretation of the Law of the Sabbath as being the correct interpretation. He was its author (as in author-itative) so He knew what its true intent and meaning were. In this way, He knew the deeds of Himself and His disciples were within the original spirit and letter of the same Law He enacted over mankind.

It might help to have the expression illustrated. Let's use an analogy. Let's pretend we were back in the days of Napolean and that a day to celebrate Napolean's reign was instituted. Let's call it "Emperor's Day." Imagine that Napolean was late in arriving at the celebration of Emperor's Day in the town square, so a guard stopped him with the challenge, "Only those invited may attend the day of celebration to the Emperor."

Napolean might have replied, "I am the emperor of Emperor's Day."

What other meaning can the word "Lord" have when used in the title, "Lord of the Sabbath," if not to say, "I am that same Lord of the Sabbath"?

The Crowd’s Reaction as Evidence

This episode is recorded in all three of the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In each gospel the reactions of the Jewish leadership is reported the same way. The Jewish religious officials angrily accused Jesus of blasphemy for calling Himself “the Lord of the Sabbath.” They recognized this title as only being applicable to YHWH. As before, they rightly saw this as Jesus making Himself out to be God.

Perhaps even worse, from their perspective, Jesus disregarded their interpretation of the Law of the Sabbath. The Pharisees had invented traditions for how to observe the Sabbath instead of adhering only to what the Scriptures said the Law should be. Then the Pharisees taught their traditions in the place of actually teaching the Law. For this reason they claimed it was against the Sabbath to heal on the Sabbath. Jesus immediately turned around and healed the closest person at hand to prove His divine authority. Thus Jesus asserted Himself as a higher and better authority to interpret the Scripture than were the religious officials.

and He was teaching them on the Sabbath; and they were amazed at His teaching, for His message was with authority. (Luke 4:31b-32)

When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. (Matthew 7:28-29)

Jesus was not breaking the Sabbath Law of Moses by eating raw wheat or by healing others. Even as Lord of the Sabbath Jesus was under obligation to obey the Law the same as any other citizen of Israel. However, Jesus, as author of the Law, knew that healing or eating was not breaking the actual Law but was only offending the extra-scriptural traditions of the Pharisees.

Literary Evidence

During His trial Jesus quoted from Daniel 7:13-14. His accusers demanded of Him, "Tell us if you are the Christ." He replied quoting from Daniel that He considered Himself to be the "Son of Man" coming in the clouds to reign over an everlasting dominion (read Matthew 26:63-65).

This passage was considered by some Jews as a Messianic prophecy and by others as an apocalyptic prophecy of God some day visiting judgment on the Earth. Whichever way they understood the Daniel passage the Jewish leadership understood Jesus to having laid claim to being both Christ and God. Therefore, as a result of Jesus' quotation from Daniel 7 the leaders were able to decree that Jesus had blasphemed and deserved death.

Further identifying Himself as both human and divine, Jesus often spoke of Himself as the “Son of Man” who is also the apocalyptic judge of the world. Again, the Old Testament knew only YHWH in the dual role of Savior and Judge. Jesus equates Himself with YHWH whenever He takes for Himself both those roles.

Consider the following apocalyptic statements of Jesus. Here Jesus refers to Himself as both the Son of Man and the one who is the apocalyptic judge of the world. Further note that the Son of Man is also the Son of the Father, making it certain that Jesus is the Son of Man by title.

And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to come after Me , he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me . ... "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels." (Mark 8:34, 38)

Poetic Evidence

Jewish writing and preaching was often given in the form of Hebrew poetry. Hebrew poetry is not based on meter and rhyme but on complex repetition and allusion. The “fun” of the poetry is in figuring out what kind of repetition is being employed and experiencing the shocking or unexpected nature of the allusions.

For example, the repetition could consist of one idea that is simply repeated for emphasis: “Truly, truly.” In other cases the same concept is repeated but using different words, “I say to you…It is my statement to this crowd…” In other cases sharp contrast is used, “You are children of God, they are children of Satan.”

Metaphors and hyperbole are part of the poetic form. Instead of referring to a man full of faith who does not waver in his belief in God, such a person may be likened to a tree by a stream that is well watered and cannot be blown down by the wind. Metaphor and hyperbole working together.

In Matthew 12 Jesus recalls the story of David taking bread from the temple, then He utilizes a poetic contrasting comparison stating that He is greater than David or even than the temple itself. This is immediately followed up by another contrast in which He accused the Pharisees of not understanding the meaning of the Scriptures while He did understand because He Himself was the Lord of the Sabbath who authored the Scriptures.

In the Mark retelling of the same event (see Mark 2), Jesus made use of the same contrasting poetic form. “Jesus said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.’" (Mark 2:27-28) The first phrase (the Sabbath was made for man) is contrasted by the second (and not man for the Sabbath). Then the third phrase contrasts against both of them (so the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath). Who made man? The Lord. Who made the Sabbath for the benefit of man? The Lord. Who is this Lord who made both man and the Sabbath? The Son of Man, the Lord of the Sabbath.

As becomes evident within the poetic structure of the passages, Jesus’ assertion that He is the Lord of the Sabbath is contrasted against the Pharisees’ lack of understanding and against humanity’s lack of authority. Jesus as Lord is greater than David, greater than the temple, and is the sole sovereign over the Sabbath.

Contextual Evidence

It is also necessary to consider the context of the phrasing. The discussion was about the actions that were or were not lawful on the Sabbath. Jesus mentioned that "something greater than the temple" was present. Just as He had done with claiming that His glory was greater than that of Abraham's (read John 8) He now claimed He was greater than the temple.

Moreover, Jesus and the apostles claimed that Jesus was “Lord of” everything:

  • Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16)
  • Lord of peace (2 Thessalonians 3:16)
  • Lord of glory (1 Corinthians 2:8)
  • Lord of all (Romans 10:12, Acts 10:36)

Since Jesus was claiming to be greater than Abraham and the temple, He had placed the focus and emphasis onto Himself. This is consistent with virtually all the gospels because the focus is always on Jesus. Even the events of Jesus healing the blind (John 9:1-5) and raising the dead (John 11) were orchestrated by Jesus and by God to demonstrate that Jesus was the Christ (see John 11:4). Jesus even expressed gladness that Lazarus had died for that very reason (John 11:14-15).

With that context in view it seems to violate the theme of the gospels and the mission of Jesus (which was to proclaim Himself as Lord and Christ) if He had first claimed to be greater than the temple and then to suddenly reverse that and tell the crowd that all of the people of the world were the true lords of the Sabbath. Keep in mind that the gospel Jesus preached was, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). It is out of context and illogical to the story for Jesus to deny being Lord of the Sabbath and to assign that high honor to the masses.

Contextually, it is infinitely more likely that when Jesus claimed to be Lord of the Sabbath He was actually citing His credentials and authority to interpret the Law of the Sabbath. His interpretation was, by virtue of His lordship and His authorship of the Law, superior to that of the Pharisees. That is the most consistent understanding of this phrase and the story.

Evidence of the Analogy of Scripture - Genesis and Dominion

When a theologian appeals to a chronologically older Scripture to establish a point of doctrine or an interpretation of a younger Scripture, it is called “the analogy of Scripture.” The atheists appealed to the fact that God gave dominion over the earth to Adam and Eve (generic humanity) in Genesis. That is an improper analogy of Scripture, however, because the concept of dominion over the earth is utterly disparate with the concept of being Lord of the Sabbath.

Consider, in Genesis man was given dominion over certain aspects of how to use the earth, but man was never called “the lords of the earth” or “the lord of the earth.” The title of lord over the earth is reserved for the Father, the Son, and for Satan (see Revelation 11:4). Though Adam and Eve were given certain privileges (dominion) to use and transform the planet, they were not in any sense the planet’s lords.

Humanity was to have dominion, that is, what man decided to do with the planet is what would be done. Nonetheless, God did put some limits on man's excesses (e.g. the year of Jubilee, protection for nesting birds, year of fallow rest for farmland, etc.). Humanity did have dominion and freedom to do almost anything.

The same is not true of the Sabbath with regard to humanity. Man never had dominion over the Sabbath. With the Sabbath, everything was restricted and regulated by God, and only a very few things were allowable by men. Among those very few things that could be done by men besides rest and worship on the Sabbath were: saving life and acts of good mercy. This contrast demonstrates that Genesis 1-2 is not a good analogy of Scripture for Matthew 12, for the contrast shows the two passages hold virtually opposite principles with regard to man’s authority.

Lord of the Sabbath (God's Role and Authority)

  • Created the Sabbath
  • Regulates usage of the Sabbath
  • Receives the worship given during the Sabbath

Dominator/Controller Over the Earth (Man’s Role, Authority, and Obligations)

  • Works to care for the planet
  • Subject to God’s regulations for using the planet, including obedience to the Sabbath Law
  • Benefits from the produce and care of the planet
  • Gives worship to the Lord of the Sabbath on the Sabbath

It should be evident from the contrast between being the Lord and merely having dominion that the creative aspect of lordship is reserved for God alone. Man was never Lord of the Earth. Far from being an example that Jesus was telling humanity they were lords of the Sabbath, this analogy of Scripture demonstrates that Jesus was only calling Himself the Lord/Author of the Sabbath.

Evidence of the Analogy of Scripture - Man’s Obedience under the Law

Some have attempted to say that since the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath, that this must mean that man is the Sabbath’s lord. This has no merit for it has no useful meaning. In what practical sense is any man a lord over the Sabbath? No man created it. No man may regulate it. No many could change the legal regulations of the Sabbath. And no man received the worship given on a Sabbath. YHWH as Lord did and does all those things.

In truth, man is subject to the Lord of the Sabbath. Man is subject to obey the Law that the Lord of the Sabbath instituted to regulate the use of the Sabbath by humanity. The Law, given by God to Moses for the nation of Israel, was obligatory. It was binding on all men. Breaking the Law often had the death penalty associated with it.

Even though man was subject to the Law of the Sabbath, it was created to be of benefit to man, and man was not made to benefit the Sabbath. Elements of the Law of the Sabbath, like the Sabbath being a day of rest and worship, were meant to benefit man (thus the expression that the Sabbath was made "for men"). Its benefits were that it allowed man to rest and to contemplate the holiness of God.

Breaking the Law of the Sabbath intentionally, even those parts of the Law that were supposed to be of benefit (like resting) resulted in severe penalty to mankind. In fact, the Sabbath Law usually spelled out the penalty against the lawbreaking man. No Jew was above, beyond, or in dominion over the Law. The Law of the Sabbath had to be obeyed or the disobedient man would die.

Sometimes an animal or human life would become accidentally endangered on the Sabbath. In such cases a person was permitted to “break” the Law of Sabbath rest so as to save that life or provide medical assistance (or even healing). No penalty was exacted for such acts of mercy law-breaking.

Picking up fire wood was not an act of mercy nor was it an act designed to save a life that was in immanent danger (Numbers 15:32-35). Therefore, the death penalty was imposed because it demonstrated the Law-breaker was intentionally disobeying God, the true Lord of the Sabbath.

Notice that in no way were men "rulers over" the Sabbath or the Sabbath Law, for all had to obey it. Only Jesus, who also had to obey the same Sabbath Law, could truly be said to be and authority over the Sabbath since, as YHWH, He invented/authored it, decreed it, and rightly understood it. He was the Law's creator/author, thus its Lord; but as a human, He was still subject to obey it.

The Pharisees were wrong in their application of the Law of Sabbath. They accused Jesus and the disciples of harvesting wheat on the Sabbath because they picked raw wheat and ate it in the field. Yet, the actual Law of the Sabbath did not designate picking grains of wheat and eating them raw as "work" in any meaningful fashion. If the disciples had been working on the Sabbath, then the Pharisees would have been correct in their accusation. But eating raw wheat, like performing healing, was not the kind of "work" that the Law of Moses prohibited.

Therefore, the expression “the Sabbath was made for man” means “the Sabbath Law was given by God as a way to benefit men and is not a burden to men.” Those who think of the Sabbath regulations as a burden think that obedience to God is onerous. Such persons probably also believe that living under grace (and not under the Law of Moses) is an excuse to disobey the commandments of Christ.

Matthew 12:1-14 Properly Understood

The following is a very short explanation of what the story was originally meant to communicate.

Jesus and His disciples got hungry one Sabbath day. The Law of Moses allowed a person to pick and eat grain from a farmer’s field without gaining permission, so long as they did not carry any excess grain out of the field. The Pharisees had long ago put aside the actual Laws in the Scriptures and had been enforcing regulations they had invented. These Pharisees had begun acting as if they were lords of the Sabbath. So they accused Jesus of violating their Sabbath “laws.”

Jesus defended Himself against these baseless charges. He told the Pharisees that the Scriptures permitted eating and permitted acts of mercy and compassion, even when the acts of mercy violated the ceremonial aspects of the Law. He cited the examples in the Scriptures of acts of compassion and mercy that once occurred in the temple.

Then Jesus shocked everyone. He compared Himself to the temple and told them that He was greater in glory than the temple itself. The temple had been used to offer sacrifices to reconcile man to God. Jesus insulted the Pharisees when He told them that if they stopped sinning against their fellow Jews they would not have to make such persistent use of the temple sacrifices to atone for their own sins. At that point Jesus told them He was the Lord of the Sabbath and that His interpretation of the Law was superior to the ones they had made up.

By this comment He meant that He had more authority to interpret the Law of the Sabbath properly because He had created and authored the Law. In the gospel of Mark Jesus added the comment that the law was intended to benefit people (if obeyed) and was not supposed to be considered an inconvenient burden. The Sabbath Law was written with the intention that good works could be done on the Sabbath.

To drive this point home, Jesus immediately healed a crippled man on the spot, in direct defiance of the Pharisees’ order to stop “working” on the Sabbath. As a consequence, the Pharisees determined to conspire to murder Jesus. This conspiracy was motivated not from anger over Jesus having done good works but because He claimed to be Lord of the Sabbath (God) and He demonstrated that His authority was greater than that of the Pharisees. They were murderously jealous.

Conclusion

The mountain of literary, cultural, biblical, and linguistic evidence is overwhelming. Jesus was and is “the Son of Man” and the “the Lord of the Sabbath.” When used properly, the Sabbath Law provided a benefit to mankind. When disobeyed, the Lord of the Sabbath required the death of the one who broke the Law of the Sabbath.

As Lord of the Sabbath Law, Jesus was its author and knew how to correctly interpret it and to apply it to mankind. Jesus was also the recipient of the worship given during the Sabbath. In Jesus is light, life, and salvation. He is Lord of all (Romans 10:12). As Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus plainly claimed to be YHWH.


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Page Originally Posted: August 4, 2013
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