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Written by: C. W. Booth

Monday, September 12, 2011

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”

Jesus quoted part of Psalm 22:1 while on the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Over the past five months I have spent considerable time studying this quotation, trying to understand what David meant when he first wrote it and what Jesus meant when He quoted it.

In the last few hundred years of Christianity theologians have radically changed their views on what this question from Jesus meant. From the first century until recently it was understood that this question meant, “Father, this undeserved death of Mine is agony, are You really going to abandon Me to die slowly this way?” It was a cry of human pain asking for release from present terrible suffering.

In more recent thinking theologians now just assume Jesus meant, “Father, why have you withdrawn Your fellowship, Your Holy Spirit, and Your presence from Me when I need it the most?” They further assume that Jesus’ spirit died, went to the Lake of Fire (in spirit only because His body was nailed to the cross), was tortured there in the Lake of Fire, was separated from God while in the fire, and suffered the equivalent of a human eternity in Hell. It is that thinking that gives rise to the use of the frequent, if not glib, expression, “Jesus endured the full wrath of God for all humanity’s sins while on the cross."

To be sure the Scriptures state that Jesus’ death, the sacrifice of His body and blood, were an atoning substitute for our sins, and that His sacrifice assuages the Father’s wrath against us. Also, to be sure, Jesus’ life was crushed for our iniquities; His bodily death a substitute for us so we do not even have to try to pay for our own sins.

Here then is my problem. Where in the Scriptures does it say that Jesus’ spirit had to die while on the cross in addition to His body? Where in the Bible does it say that His body and blood were insufficient to win salvation and that His spirit‘s death was also needed? Also, where is it written that while on the cross God unleashed all His pent up wrath and fury for all human sin onto Jesus? Wrath is anger, and God‘s wrath is always reserved only for those who will not admit and repent of their sins; why would God be angry with Jesus for becoming an innocent sacrifice on behalf of those who do repent?

Still thinking through this. Insights would be welcomed.

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[This essay was originally posted as blog. As a blog it was subject to public review and comments. Only a selection of the cleaner and more salient comments are reprinted below.]

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A commenter, Dan, posted the following

Hello Craig;

Nice to see a new post from you. I want to spend more time in a comment, but for now I think I'll post briefly this comment.

In the text of Hebrews 2:5-18 explaining the purpose of Jesus Christ and His death, are two very important verses that need to be addressed separately from the body of the text. Jesus Christ was ALL of man's sin bearer. He came to take away the judgement of God upon sin so that ALL men would have the opportunity to come to God freely, knowing that many would not come because of the rebellious nature within the human soul.

However, those that would come to Jesus Christ would be set free (justified) by His work on the cross. Hebrews 2:11 declares His purpose for those that come to Him; Hebrews 2:11, New International Version (NIV)

11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.

Footnotes: Hebrews 2:11 The Greek word for brothers and sisters (adelphoi) refers here to believers, both men and women, as part of God’s family. Hebrews 2:17, New International Version (NIV)

17 For this reason he had to be made like them,[a] fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.

Jesus Christ had a two-fold purpose; 1. to offer freedom from sin for ALL humans by taking on our sin, and 2. To redeem those that were given to Him. It was required by the Father that the Son be made in ALL ways as humanity so that He could FULLY pay the price for ALL humanity. But in so doing, He also took the sting of death away from His brothers and sisters, each of us who know Him as Lord and Saviour. At death, He no longer was responsible for the ultimate punishment of those that denied Him as Lord and Saviour because that punishment continued FROM THE BEGINNING on those that denied the remedy for sin. If a gift is rejected, it is still a gift, but not to those that have rejected the gift. Ephesians 4:7-13 New International Version (NIV) 7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.” 9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions[c]? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

While Jesus Christ's body was in the earth, the soul of the Lord and the Spirit of the Lord were released and Christ "preached" to those in Hades, but that is not those that are in Hell.

Luke 16 makes that abundantly clear in the rich man and Lazarus about the conditions of Hades at that time. It was compartmentalized where Abraham's bosom (where all those that knew God and died prior to Christ) and actual Hades(converted to Hell after Abraham's bosom was closed down by Christ)were separated by a wide gulf where they were able to see but not reach each other.

Luke 16:19-31 The Rich Man and Lazarus 19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ 25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ 27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ 30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” Jesus Christ led captivity (Ephesians 4:8) captive (those souls held in Abraham's bosom until Christ)to there rightful place in heaven until we ALL meet the Lord in the air at the Rapture of the Church and ALL believers receive ETERNAL bodies at that time. Jesus Christ was raised by God to show that He was completely pleased by the work of His Son and as a statement to us, "This is how YOU will be raised as well". He bore our sin, died on our behalf, and was raised in PERFECTION.

It was not necessary for Him to go to hell as an example, that punishment resided on those who DO NOT BELIEVE on Jesus Christ. He was the "Firstborn from among the dead" for His Church, not those in Hell. The Great White Throne Judgement is reserved for those in Hell. Dan

Craig reponded to the above comment

Yours is a very typical contemporary view in which those passages are combined in that way. But putting that aside for the moment, from your last three sentences are you stating that:

a) Jesus' spirit did not die on the cross,

b) He did not experience the full wrath of the Father against all sin directed at Him secretly and invisibly, and

c) Jesus did not suffer torment and damnation in Hell?

Thanks for clarifying.

Commenter Dan Replied

Hello again Craig;

I didn't have time to continue this morning but I wanted to at least lay a foundation for my thinking before proceeding.

I firmly believe that Jesus Christ, that is His body, soul, and spirit, for three days, were in the confines of Abraham's bosom as He encouraged, welcomed, and prepared those held in waiting, that is their souls and spirits, and probably showing them His body as an example of their soon-to-be bodies (at the rapture).

In Acts, which is a restatement of Psalm 16 it is evident that Jesus Christ was unique as the first-borne from the dead.

Acts 13:34-36 New International Version (NIV) 34 God raised him from the dead so that he will never be subject to decay. As God has said, “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’ 35 So it is also stated elsewhere: “‘You will not let your holy one see decay.’(Psalm 16:9-11) 36 “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed. John 12:24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.

I believe that we are a tripartite being as God is a tripartite being; we consist of the body, soul, and spirit, but the body is the ONLY part of a man that will perish because of sin to be raised incoruptable later. The soul is the essence of a man and the spirit is the relational part of the man/God relationship. The human spirit was "broken" at Eden's fall so that man was left with no relationship with God whatsoever. That is why God Himself HAD to do the work; we had no way to restore that within ourselves. With that being said, Christ's spirit as well as ours could not die as the body dies. The natural man without Jesus Christ has a spirit but it tends toward evil continually because there is no relationship with God to restore it. The soul is the essence of a man and is eternal so that it WILL NOT perish.

Jesus Christ is no different in that respect. His soul and spirit lived through the process of death just as any human's would, however, the spirit of the believer in Jesus Christ DOES have that relationship with God and is restored PERFECTLY as 1 Corithians 13:12, 1 John 3:1-4 emphasize.

To answer b) He did experience the full wrath of God and that was the cry at the cross, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" His soul and spirit both were crying in agony over the separation from that relationship. He had never experienced that separation and it was that separation that brought about the blood and water pouring from His side as he was pierced by the spear of the Roman soldier. His heart had burst from the agony of separation, the same agony that the lost will experience at death. When Christ from the cross cried out, "It is finished", He had fulfilled ALL that was required to pay the full price for our sin; His life,sinless; His punishment for our sin, at the cross; the payment for our sin, death. Hallelujah, it is FINISHED!! There was no further need for torment or Hell because He is our righteous brother, God's people do not spend ANY time in purgatory (there is no purgatory) or in Hell.

I hope that made sense, Craig. I tend to be very verbose in explanations at times. Dan

Booth Responded

Dan,thanks for the clarification. Numerous contemporary commentaries echo similar explanations as the one you provided.

If you will permit a hopefully gentle, loving, and kind-spirited comment: I did not see the Scriptures in your write-up that state your conclusions. In other words, your conclusion is that the cry, "My God, My God, why have your forsaken me?" means that Jesus' spirit was separated from fellowship with God while on the cross, yet, no Scripture defines the event that way. That meaning is assumed into the way you read Jesus' question. IF the cry does not mean that God separated fellowship from Jesus' spirit, but that Dionysius (1st century pastor of Athens) was correct and the cry only meant that Jesus was anguished over His bodily death during crucifixion (an understandable enough human anguish), then there is no Scripture at all indicating that Jesus' spirit died or that His fellowship was broken with God.

What I am searching for is the Scripture that actually states that: 1) Jesus' spirit died, 2) the full wrath of God was secretly and invisibly inflicted against Jesus by the Father while on the cross, and 3) that the blood and body of Jesus alone were an insufficient sacrifice to save humanity.

Now, I am not saying your exposition is wrong. I am saying it is not proven. I can point to numerous Scriptures that state that it was the crushing of Jesus' flesh that brought release to humanity from sin, but not one to "prove" that the Father left Jesus desolate while still alive on the cross or that the Father poured out some kind of extraordinary invisible eternal wrath onto Jesus.

In fact, the Father sent an earthquake on the land as a sign of judgment against it (earthquakes are almost always judgement on the land), He sent resurrected believers into the city as a sign of judgment against it--presumably to preach the condemnation of having killed the innocent Son of God, and He sent darkness over the land as an Egyptian-like plague to judge the land for killing His Son. It sounds more like His wrath is against the executioners rather than against Jesus. That wrath against the executioners was visible. Yet, there is biblical silence on any wrath being poured out from God onto Jesus aside from the wrath of men that was visible with regard to beatings, scourgings, mockings, torture, and execution.

Again, I am not saying all these assumed invisible punishments did not happen, but I am looking for the clear Scriptures that describe them.

Blessings.

Booth Posted a Follow Up Comment

more thoughts...

Another verse that came up that I now see as relevant to this area of inqiry is "Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin. Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh," (Hebrews 10:18-20)

Confidence to come to God = blood, new and living way to the Holy of Holies = flesh

And again, "yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach" (Colossians 1:22)

That expression, "in His fleshly body through death" seems terribly specific that it was the fleshly death of Jesus' body that did the redeeming for us.

"by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace," (Ephesians 2:15)

"For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh," (Romans 8:3)

Finally, I am not sure exactly of the implications here, but it seems significant that the glory of God can be seen in the flesh of Christ, "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)

Blessings all.

Booth Posted a Compilation Response to a Series of Comments by Others

Thanks for the input.

To your first question and point, I agree. I think it is at this very concept that the contemporary view of Jesus on the cross becomes mired in difficulty. If Jesus' death was of the human kind in the sense that Jesus was human, then He did not "die" in any sense UNTIL His spirit separated from His body AFTER He declared, "It is finished." Only at the moment of His human death was the debt of sin paid, or "satisfied." His always living divine/human spirit left His dead human/divine body, like any other human, and His spirit went to be with God in "paradise" to whom He had commended His spirit to go and met the thief there which is what He said He would do. During that same time, His body lay in the grave.

If Jesus died twice, once invisibily / secretly even while His body clung to life while on the cross, I am at a loss to explain such a thing in human terms. How can a living person whose spirit is still in their living body die and be tortured in Hell then the spirit return alive to the still living body? When the spirit left the body to be tortured should not the body have died? It seems to be utter nonsense that Jesus died multiple times or that His spirit died while His body lived and talked with others until it too finally died. I think you understand the dilemma properly.

Michael, to your second point, please allow me to gently and humbly ask you to clarify something very important: Can you demonstrate from quotations of Scripture that God's wrath was satisfied because that same wrath was unleashed (and thus consumed) on Jesus? Did God unleash His wrath on Jesus? Does God's wrath pay for sins or does a sacrifice pay for sins?

Here is why I ask. I believe it is more accurate to say that mankind's debt of sin to God was expiated / propitiated (satisfied) thus allowing God to put aside His wrath with regard to sinners who call on Jesus.

I would propose that it is a grammatical and hermeneutic non-sequitor to personify "wrath" and say that "God's wrath was satisfied by Jesus on the cross." The need for God's wrath, or the need for God to express His wrath, was removed when Jesus paid the debt of sin on the cross. I know it may sound picky with regard to the precise wording, and ordinarily I would not care, but that wording can be used to re-write the story of atonement.

Therefore, I do not think God's wrath was unleashed on Jesus invisibly / secretly / in spirit on the cross. I think Jesus' horrible human death paid for all of sin that will ever be paid for all of time, and it was that payment that satisfies the debt and thus causes the final consequence of sin, God's wrath, to never be unleashed against the repentant sinner.

Obviously God's full wrath has yet to be seen in any form because unbelievers will experience that on their day of judgment.

Lastly, the question of God being pleased to crush His son: Was that not God unleasing His wrath on Jesus? The passage does not say so. I do not believe the Father was pleased to angrily and vengfully smash Jesus, particularly inivisibly, while on the cross. I believe the Father was pleased to hand over His son to an underserved, horrible, and crushing human death sorrowfully, tearfully, grief-stricken, and lovingly, to be crushed by men under the influence of Satan. Where is the wrathful anger in such a tender thing?

Blessings.






Monday, September 26, 2011

Fear of the Fringe

In the secular world fringe beliefs used to mean someone believed in UFO’s, alien abductions, and atheism. In today’s secular world fringe beliefs include demons, divine Creation, and lifetime marriage. What a difference a generation can make!

Within the church there have always been beliefs relegated to the shadowy world of the fringe. Accusations of being on the fringe sometimes drive Christians back to the orthodox center of their individual communities, though sometimes it encourages such ones to flee further away. Comments accusing fringe beliefs include: “You are unorthodox,” or “You belong to a liberal denomination,” or “What’s wrong with you? All Christians believe that!”

Martin Luther was certainly a fringe believer in his day. But who was the fringe in the 1st Century, Paul or the Judaizers? The Judaizers said, “Converts to Christianity must adhere to the continuity of the faith and follow the Law of Moses,” while Paul said, “The Law is discontinued and obsolete, circumcision is unnecessary, and the Sabbath Law is optional.”

But merely the charge of fringe belief is enough to scare some believers into withdrawal and inaction, while others lash back with fists swinging. Cessationists accuse Charismatic tongues speakers of being fringe, Charismatics accuse cessationists of not being saved until they speak in tongues, and everyone seems to accuse non-mystics (those who do not hear inner voices from God) of being unspiritual to the point of being entirely marginalized.

The test of “orthodoxy” should have nothing to do with accusations of being a Christian with fringe beliefs. The culture of the church community may define fringe as one thing today and as another thing tomorrow. Genuine orthodoxy has to do with whether a belief is truly biblical. That which is biblical is “sound doctrine” regardless of whether it is denounced as a fringe belief.

Today’s church must stop marginalizing Christians based on the shifting standards of its culture but must start judging doctrines on the basis of Scripture. And by Scripture, I mean Scripture taken in context and properly interpreted according to the best practices of applied hermeneutics. And those persons who believe in the sound doctrines of biblical theology must cease to withdraw from their peers out fear of being labeled “fringe” and defend their beliefs applying the principles of discernment and solid apologetics.

If we were willing to test all our beliefs against the Word, I suspect we would find that some of our favored personal beliefs are genuinely fringe after all. But others of our beliefs we thought to be fringe stand on the firm foundation of Scripture.

Was all of Martin Luther’s body of doctrine biblical? Certainly not. It is alleged that Luther upheld polygamy in certain situations (De Wette II, 329-330, 459), promoted anti-Semitic attitudes (see Martin Luther: The Jews and Their Lies--1543), embraced the ideas of the perpetual virginity and immaculate conception of Mary (see Martin Luther's Sermon "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God," 1527 and Martin Luther's Little Prayer Book, 1522), and endorsed infant baptism (see The Large Catechism: XIIIA. Part Fourth Of Infant Baptism by Martin Luther). Contemporary fundamental evangelical Christians would generally and strongly oppose such doctrines.

Luther’s work was not and is not the standard of orthodoxy. Were some of Luther’s doctrines biblical? Absolutely! And what a huge debt is owed to Luther for his courage in being willing to be labeled “fringe” and worse Salvation by faith and not by works (or indulgences) is the very keystone of the Reformation and the core of all biblical/Pauline salvation doctrine.

What we need to be able to do is discern between unbiblical and biblical doctrines correctly and accurately. While simply being labeled “fringe” is virtually meaningless, maintaining sound biblical doctrine is both the didactic goal and a mandate of Christian education.

holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. (Titus 1:9)






Wednesday, September 28, 2011

“Root of Bitterness “ Is NOT What Most Think It Is

How often I have heard sermons and Sunday School lessons on preventing a “root of bitterness springing up which causes trouble and by it many are defiled.” It is assumed that this 1st Century phrase, root of bitterness, is a reference to a psychological embittering, the harboring of grudges. It is not.

See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears. (Hebrews 12:15-17)

The word “bitter” in this case is the Greek word for poison. Whatever this poisonous root is troubles and defiles many. But the root is equated to the sin of Esau. Esau traded away his birthright (which would have allowed him to legally inherit the promised land of Israel) for a temporary pleasure. In other words, Esau is being used here as a metaphor for a person who ought to have expected to be able to inherit eternal life (the promised land) but who has rejected their faith in Christ and so given up eternal life.

This passage is actually referencing Deuteronomy 29:18-21.

so that there will not be among you a man or woman, or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of those nations; that there will not be among you a root bearing poisonous fruit and wormwood. It shall be when he hears the words of this curse, that he will boast, saying, 'I have peace though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart in order to destroy the watered land with the dry.' The LORD shall never be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the LORD and His jealousy will burn against that man, and every curse which is written in this book will rest on him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven. Then the LORD will single him out for adversity from all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant which are written in this book of the law. (Deuteronomy 29:18-21)

So Hebrews 12:16-17 might best be read as:

“See to it that no one in your church comes short of salvation; that is, that no person in the church becomes a poisonous root of unbelief springing up within the congregation and causing trouble, defiling many by spreading unbelief.” (Hebrews 12:15, paraphrase mine)

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Note: I was tempted to add the phrase from Deuteronomy 29:20, “The Lord shall never be willing to forgive him,” to the end of the Hebrews 12:15 paraphrase, but thought that doing so would be taking too much inappropriate liberty with Scripture by sewing a patch of old Law on top of new grace. God can and does forgive even the worst of sinners, rebels, atheists, heretics, and troublemakers when they call upon Him with genuine repentance. So the paraphrase stands.






Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ten More Allegations of Biblical Errors

Introduction

A Xanga blogger, kristenmomof3, posted the following allegations that some prophecies of the Bible have failed (http://kristenmomof3.xanga.com/755329549/failed-prophecies/ ). Unlike past such lists, there are a few genuine head-scratching assertions in this one.

kristenmomof3’s allegations against the Bible are exact quotations in her words except for the “Allegation #.” I added these numbers for ease of reference.

Allegations of Biblical Errors

Allegation 1) Isaiah 17:1 "An oracle concerning Damascus: See, Damascus will no longer be a city but will become a heap of ruins." FAIL: Damascus is still inhabited today with well over a million people and there was never a time where it ceased to be a city. It is widely known as being the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world.

Allegation 2) Isaiah 19:4-5 "I will hand the Egyptians over to the power of a cruel master, and a fierce king will rule over them, declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty. The waters of the river will dry up, and the riverbed will be parched and dry." FAIL: The river mentioned here is the Nile which never dried up and is still one of Egypt's greatest natural resource.

Allegation 3) Isaiah 52:1 "Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength. Put on your garments of splendor, O Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again." FAIL: There are still uncircumcised people living in Jerusalem even today.

Allegation 4) Ezekiel 30:10-11 "This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will put an end to the hordes of Egypt by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. He and his army - the most ruthless of nations - will be brought in to destroy the land. They will draw their swords against Egypt and fill the land with the slain." FAIL: Ezekiel predicts that Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon will conquer Egypt utterly destroying it, slaying and scattering its people. In 568 BCE Nebuchadnezzar tried to conquer Egypt and Egypt survived with no apparent damage. Aahmes ruled for another generation over a prosperous Egypt and lived to see Nebuchadnezzar die. The Egyptians were not scattered or dispersed.

Allegation 5) Ezekiel 29:10-11 "therefore I am against you and against your streams, and I will make the land of Egypt a ruin and a desolate waste from Migdol to Aswan, as far as the border of Cush. The foot of neither man nor beast will pass through it; no one will live there for forty years." FAIL: Never in its long history has Egypt been uninhabited for forty years.

Allegation 6) Matthew 16:28 "I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." 23:36 "I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation." 24:34 "I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened." FAIL: Jesus states in Matthew that all the signs marking the end of the world would be fulfilled before his generation ended, before the people that were standing infront of him "taste death." Those people have been dead for over 2000 years and the world did not come to an end, neither have all those signs been fulfilled.

Allegation 7) The Bible says Joshua destroyed the wall of Jericho around 1400 BCE but Archaeological evidence shows that an earthquake destroyed the wall in 2300 BCE. The city was also thoroughly destroyed by a fire and then abandoned in 1600 BCE. Jericho was not inhabited again until 700 BCE. There was no wall to tumble down or citizens to destroy at Jericho within centuries of when the Bible says Joshua was there.

Allegation 8) Matthew 27:52-53 claims that when Jesus died graves were opened as zombies rose from them and this was seen by many people. If a city under Roman occupation was invaded by zombies don't you think at least one contemporary historian would have written about it? Needless to say, there is not one historical documentation of an actual zombie uprising.

Allegation 9) The Bible does not say what year Jesus was born but it does tell us during which specific historical events his birth took place. Matthew says Jesus was born in Judea during the reign of Herod the Great and Luke says Jesus was born during the major tax census while Quirinius was governor of Syria. These are both documented historical events but they are also separated by at least 10 years making it historically impossible for Jesus to be born during both events.

Allegation 10) The Bible places the events of its Tower of Babel story around 1000 BCE. According to Genesis before this time "the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech". In reality there were many spoken and written languages prior to the Tower of Babel events. Chinese was developed prior to 1200 BCE and speakers of several Semitic languages developed the abjab and consonantal alphabet prior to 1500 BCE. The oldest known text in the Sanskrit language, the Rigveda, dates to 1700-1100 BCE. Egyptian hieroglyphs date back to about 3100 BCE and Sumerian writings date as far back as 3200 BCE.

Responses to Allegations

My responses are below:

1) Fall of Aram: Isaiah 17:1-3

This prophecy, made years before the events happened, that Aram, who was allied with Egypt at the time, would not defeat Judah (the southern Jewish kingdom). In fact, Aram was defeated per Isaiah’s prophecy and Judah was therefore made safe for a time.

As to the detail that Damascus would be ruined, “Damascus is about to be removed from being a city and will become a fallen ruin,” the word “city” can be a metaphor for a national entity (like calling the US government “Washington”) or even a “court” (like calling all of Great Britain the queen’s court). Indeed, king Aram’s government in Damascus was ruined. Nothing in this passage says that the city proper would never be rebuilt or never reinhabited. So the prophecy occurred as predicted.

2) The Nile will dry up: Isaiah 19:1-10

The first verse, 19:1, indicates that this is an end-of-time prophecy when Jesus comes on the clouds of the sky to reclaim the earth for Himself, His second coming. Of course, it is on the basis of being unable to understand passages such as this as being end-of-time prophecies which caused the Jews to expect the coming Messiah to be a conquering king and not a suffering and crucified servant. However, since Jesus already explained passages such as this as pertaining to His second coming there remains little excuse for contemporary Bible students to misunderstand Isaiah 19:1-10.

3) Only believing Jews will govern in Jerusalem: Isaiah 52:1-7

This is a prophecy at the end-of-time when Jesus returns to claim the earth (see 52:6)

4 and 5) Egypt’s Nile delta capital will be attacked and left desolate for 40 years: Ezekiel 29:1-14

This prophecy is more problematic for unbelievers than for believers, I will explain why later.

History indicates that Babylon did invade the Egyptian Nile delta, the seat of Egyptian power. No archeological evidence is available to prove that Babylon was successful in conquering the capital and enslaving a significant portion of its population (as it did with Israel) and no archeological evidence is available to prove that Babylon was unsuccessful. Lack of archeological evidence for one outcome or the other cannot automatically be cited as evidence that the prophecy failed. Whether the attack was successful or not, there is no indication in the text that Egypt’s king would be killed or captured, merely driven out of the capital for a time.

It is naïve to assert that the delta and Nile have remained unchanged in governance and geography or unimpacted by climate for its entire history. Pliny wrote that the delta once had 7 tributaries from the Nile, only 2 of which exist today. Recent archeology has discovered that an entire Egyptian city was deconstructed and moved stone-by-stone because the Nile tributaries had silted over and/or dried up cutting off the water supplies to this government center. Other government-subsidized cities in the desert were simply abandoned and left desolate.

If this prophecy was written before Egypt was attacked by Babylon (as believers assert) it is a striking prediction in advance of a demonstrated historical incident and reinforces the divine nature of prophecy. If this prophecy was written after Egypt was attacked (as unbelievers allege) then it seems inexplicable that the prophet who was simply retelling history would assert that the hated Babylonians succeeded when everyone in his day should have known they had failed. This prophecy is more of a problem for the unbeliever than the believer.

6) Multiple references to different generations seeing events in the last days: Matthew 16:28, 23:36, 24:34

There is no merit in once again addressing this well documented set of comments. In each of the above comments Jesus is referencing different generations who see different things. The problem is that the “kingdom of God” was both present at the time of John the Batist and Jesus (see Matthew 11:12) and will have its ultimate consumation when Jesus returns in power to take back the earth (Matthew 26:29). So, the kingdom was present in some glory in the 1st Century, and those present saw glimpses of it (see Matthew 17:2), and it will be established in even more glory when Jesus returns.

7) Jericho experienced devastating disasters before Joshua invaded, so Joshua did nothing to take the city.

Archeology does not “prove” that Jericho had no walls circa 1400 B.C., rather, some archeologists theorize that Jericho had undergone a series of pre-1400 B.C. disasters. Nonetheless, these disasters which likely occurred between 200 and 900 years before Joshua arrived beg the question as to how well the walls had been rebuilt before the final overthrow of the famed fortified city. By way of comparison it took quite a few years for Jerusalem’s walls to be fully rebuilt after the Babylonian captivity.

8) Why did historians not write of the resurrections that happened at the same time when Jesus raised? Matthew 27:52-53

To our knowledge no secular or Roman historians lived in Jerusalem proper in the year A.D. 33. Israel was a backwater outpost of Rome and not a thriving cultural center, thus drawing little attention from Rome's elite. Jesus’ execution was recorded in Rome, presumably by report sent from Pilate, but few written records survived the destruction of Jerusalem itself in A.D. 70. Moreover, it is doubtful that many who had not seen the event with their own eyes would have believed these reports that the dead had raised, so the historians of the day would have had little motive to write about them.

9) Is there not a date discrepancy between Luke and Matthew on when Jesus was born?

Yes and no. All parties in this debate make massive numbers of assumptions to “prove” there is a discrepancy or that there is not. The variables that make a definitive answer impossible are: which Roman census is being referenced (there were three in the Palestine area between 8 B.C. and A.D. 14), how many of the multiple censuses did Quirinius oversee or administer and was he an actual governor for all of them, and was Josephus making reference to the A.D. 7 census or another one? Without firm data there is insufficient evidence to conclude anything in this matter.

10) Does the Bible really date the Tower of Babel at 1000 B.C. and thus contradict much of written human history?

No it does not. I have no idea where that absurd allegation of 1000 B.C. originates. As contemporary theologians have demonstrated repeatedly the chronologies / geneaologies in the Jewish Scriptures are intentionally incomplete, including only those family names that are of extreme theological importance or historical interest. Therefore, events in Genesis 10-11 could theoretically date to as early as 3500 B.C. to more likely dates falling into the range from as long ago as 60,000 B.C. or later.

Concluding Comment

It is too bad that so many allegations of biblical inaccuracies are presented based on pure imagination (see 10), poor research (see 4-5), or merely misreading the scriptural texts (see 2 and 3). Some legitimate questions are raised, such as how well could Jericho’s residents have rebuilt its walls in just 200 years before the Jews invaded, but such questions do little to disprove the authenticity and truth of the biblical texts. Demonstrating true error will take far more than innuendo and wishful thinking on the part of those who do not believe. Nonetheless, the above list was far better a challenge than most I have encountered.


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