Adam’s Rib, by Wayne Simpson

I see it’s been far too long since I last posted. School started. And my new novel has been taking up every spare minute. So today I’m just going to share an article. One that fascinated me. I love it when Bible researchers can shed new light on something for me, refining how I understand God’s word and the principles it contains. This is a powerful, eye-opening discovery.

ADAM’S RIB

by Wayne Simpson

The study of the Bible is often fraught with preconceptions, not only in our own minds but also in the minds of scholars, teachers and theologions who teach us and write the reference material that we rely on. Concepts can be so entrenched and cherished that no one even thinks to question them. Many such notions have been around for centuries or
millenia and they seem to be a part of the very foundation on which we base our beliefs. Sometimes they do not stand up to close scrutiny. Unfortunately, such ideas can conceal the most sublime insights into the scriptures.

One such notion is the matter of Adam’s rib in the second chapter of Genesis. Everybody knows the familiar Bible story about how God took a rib from Adam and made Eve. The smallest children are taught this story in Sunday schools across the land. Though many scholars find reasons not to take it literally, it is accepted as truth by millions of Christians. There is more here than meets the eye. I will show how it has been widely misunderstood and how that has caused us to miss some very dynamic teaching. Examine the account:

… for Adam there was not found a help meet for him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her to the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. Gen. 2:20-24

This is really a strange picture if you think about it. Why didn’t God just make woman from the ground as He had made Adam. He apparently made male and female of all the animals from the ground. And why a rib, instead of a finger or a toe, or an ear. The story seems to smack of early Mesopotamian and Greek literature. Ea, the god of wisdom was said to
be the ear of Ninurta. Athena, goddess of wisdom, sprang from the forehead of Zeus, and Aphrodite, goddess of love was said to have come from the sea foam that collected around the severed male organ of the god Uranus (JPS Torah Commentary, Genesis p. 22).

In actuality, something far more meaningful is being expressed in this biblical account than making a new person out of a small piece of the body of another. If we look closely at the Hebrew word for rib we will learn of something quite surprising. The word translated rib in Genesis 2 is tsela. This word is used in a number of other places in the Bible and its meaning is shown to be quite different than what we have imagined. The only other
place in the Bible where the english word rib occurs is in Daniel 7:5, translated from an altogether different Hebrew word. One Bible translation dares to break with the use of the traditional word rib. The Stone edition of the Chumash renders the verse this way:

” …and He took one of his sides and He filled in the flesh in its place.”

Right away you can see that what God took from Adam was a lot more than a small bone. But can this reading be justified? Let us examine other places in the Bible where this Hebrew word is used. We find that it is rendered side in a number of places.

Look at Exodus 25:12. In referring to the rings of gold on the Ark of the Covenant it says “Two rings shall be on one side (tselo – a variant of tsela) and two rings on the other side”. Later in verse 14 it refers to the two “sides” (tselot- the plural form). Exodus 37:3-5 shows this same description of the Ark.

In Exodus 27:7 it refers to “the two sides (tselot) of the altar” upon which staves and rings were attached “to bear it”. Notice that it refers to only two of the altars four sides – the two major sides as opposed to the front and rear. Similar usage occurs in Ex. 38:7. Then in Exodus 26:20, the Hebrew word ul-tsela is used, meaning “and for the side” of the tabernacle. This is the same Hebrew word with two initial letters that have the meaning “and for”. In verse 26 we read of one side (tsela) of the tabernacle and the second side (tsela) of the tabernacle. In verse 35 we see mentioned a table on the south side (tsela) of the tabernacle, referring this time not just to the outer skin of the tabernacle but to its south half. Identical usage occurs in Ex. 36:25,31.

Notice that in each of these accounts there is nothing resembling a rib or pillar like structural member. It refers to an entire side, essentially half, of a structure. This is very different from the notion of Adam’s rib, but let us continue.

In I kings 6:34 we see a description of folding doors consisting of two sides or panels (tsalim – the masculine plural form). These two panels were identical, each comprising half of the assembly. These were part of Solomons temple. At that time this Hebrew word for side began to be used in connection with associated components of the sides of the temple. Chambers or side compartments (tselot) were built along the sides of
the temple (I kings 6:5-6). Also the planks which formed the sides of the most holy place were given the name , batselot, meaning in the sides. Here again we see no hint of the notion of a rib or similar superstructure of any kind.

In Job 18:12 Job refers to “calamities at his side” (la-tselot) and Jeremiah 20:10 speaks of “fear on every side”. It would be ludicrous to speak of fear at every rib.

The only mention which might remotely be construed as anything like a rib is this:

“As David and his men went along the road, Shimei went along the hillside ( ba-tsela) and cursed as he went…”. II Sam 16:13.

While The New Brown Driver Briggs Gesenius Hebrew English Lexicon suggests that this is the ridge or the rib of the hill. This seems to be interpretive because this episode could have taken place on one of the sides of the hill as easily as on the ridge of the hill. From the context you simply cannot tell which it was. Because of the preponderance of usage of the word side as the translation, it seems likely that should be the meaning here as well.

We conclude from this analysis that there is no real justification to render the word in Gen. 2:21 as Adam’s rib. Rather, it should be Adam’s side. As a result, a new and bold imagery begins to emerge from Gen. 2:21. What is really meant by the use of the word side? Was it the side of his torso, like a side of beef? Did it include an arm or a leg? Once we are freed from the notion of a rib, what really makes sense here? I suggest that what is meant
here is virtually an entire side or half of Adams body. There are several Hebrew words that express the notion of half, chiefly variants of the verb chatsah, which means to divide. This word is most often used to signify halving a weight or volume or quantity of some substance, whereas the examples we previously mentioned seem to refer to a side, that is a half of an object or structure. That is especially clear in Ex. 20:35, where a table is
located in one side or one half of the tabernacle.

Now consider the implications of this. God literally divided Adam in half to create a woman for him. This is a much more powerful symbol than merely taking a small bone out of his side. Eve was every bit the man Adam was (pardon the pun), in fact in Gen 1:27 it says “In the image of God He created him, male and female He created them” suggesting
complete equality. Eve began, literally, as half of Adam. Even today people sometimes refer to their spouse as their other half or their better half and that seems somehow appropriate. Of course God closed the flesh to restore Adam to wholeness. Though not specifically stated, it is clear God did the same for Eve in the process of fashioning her into a woman. How appropriate the language used in Genesis. The words “bone of my bone”
and “flesh of my flesh” take on new significance. Even the expressions are grammatically symmetrical.

The traditional mythical interpretation of Adams rib is of very long standing. We do not know when it first began, but it is clear that the ancient Hebrews did not understand this episode in the way moderns do. When Genesis and Exodus were written, the concept was one of Adams side, not his rib. Remarkably, we have the testimony of a Jewish authority
of about 2000 years ago on this issue. Philo Judeaus addressed the subject thus: “The letter of this statement is plain enough; for it is expressed according to the symbol of the part, a half of the whole, each party, the man and the woman, being as sections of nature co-equal for the production of that genus which is called man.” (The Works Of Philo, p. 796, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Massachusetts,) emphasis mine. How clear.

Notice also the Hebrew words usually rendered help meet. This rendering is such an anemic translation for what is being expressed. The expression in Hebrew is azer k’negdo. In every case in the Hebrew Bible the Hebrew word azer means not just assistance, but a significant and substantial kind of help. Look at some examples:

Ezekiel 12:14 Zedekiah had “all those about him to help (azer) him, all his bands.” This is clearly referring to Zedekiah’s armed men.

Daniel 11:34 The expression “helped with a little help” in this context seems also to refer to military intervention.

Isaiah 30:5 This verse refers to seeking help in the form of military protection from the king of Egypt.

All these examples refer to substantial and powerful help or protection, the kind you could get from armed men, not just a little help or hand holding. Continue:

Ex 18:4 “for He (God) was my help.”

Deut. 33:29 “… The Lord, the shield of thy help”

Deut 33:7 “… Be thou (the Lord) a help to him from his enemies.”

In these examples, we see an even more powerful type of help from God himself. It is clear that this was not just help, but real substancial deliverance, there was nothing puny about it. The point is to show that Eve was created as a capable, intelligent, force to be rekoned with. She was every bit as qualified and adept as Adam. This was not simply a “Let me
hold the flashlight for you, Honey” kind of help.

And the Hebrew word K’negdo is charged with meaning as well. It means more than just suitable. It carries the meaning of opposite. She was an opposite to him. This is literally what you would expect since she was formed from his other half or side. Perhaps it would be better to say she was his complement. The two were made to work and fit together.
She was opposite in gender, but opposite in many other ways as well. No man can be married for any length of time without realizing that his wife thinks and behaves in a very different way than he does. She views things very differently, her concerns are quite unlike his. Eve was made to be everything Adam was not. She was his complement.

Now Adam was faced with the realization that he was not unique and he was not alone. To find completeness and wholeness he would want to take a wife. This longing for wholeness is a popular theme in our modern love songs. Ultimately she is the key to the meaning of his life and vice versa. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and cling to his wife and they shall become one flesh.” Gen. 2:24. Neither can be complete
without the other.

So this old story that was once a rather bizarre metaphor, a woman created from a rib, can now be understood to be a powerful, meaningful and beautiful symbol for the most profound relationship in human existence. It is very clear that, in the beginning, God gave woman absolutely equal status with man.

(c)Copyright 1996 by Wayne Simpson
Distributed by the Biblical Research Foundation
629 Lexington Road, Sapulpa, Ok 74066

Reproduction and distribution is permitted provided this copyright notice is left intact on all copies.

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Historical Evidence for the Christian Faith

sherlockThe historical basis for Christianity is a subject I have returned to several times on my blog. As a young adult, I set out to prove or disprove once and for all the faith I was raised in. If God wasn’t real, why set limits on my behavior? If the tenants of faith could be disproven, why adhere to them? I wanted to know if the gospel story really was true. So I began researching historical evidence. I soon found out Christianity is not a blind faith at all.

So what proofs did I uncover? I’ll list them here under three main headings: The Person of Christ, The Canon of Scripture, and Prophecy.

The Person of Christ

Jesus is the central figure of the Bible and the key to the Christian faith. If he can be discredited, the entire house of cards falls down. It is the logical place to start an investigation into the authenticity of Christianity. So who was he? What did he do? Why is he so important?

The Claims of Christ

Jesus Christ made it abundantly clear who he thought he was. He believed he was the Messiah sent by God to provide atonement for the sin of mankind. That’s a pretty huge claim. Here are two examples of his own statements:

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though  he dies: and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. (John 11:25)

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. There are only three logical responses to it. Either Christ was a liar, or He was crazy, or He was who He said He was.

Liar, Lord, or Lunatic

If you read the rest of the gospels, you’ll see right away that the first option just doesn’t jive. Christ preached against lying and for a moral lifestyle based on God’s law. It makes no sense that he would lie. Nor would he sacrifice his life for a lie. And you can’t argue that he was simply killed. He didn’t have to enter Jerusalem where it was widely known the religious establishment was plotting against him. But he did. He could have made a very good case for himself before Pilate, but he didn’t. He chose to die. Would a man die for a lie? That’s ridiculous.

So could he have been crazy? A crazy man might die for believing a falsehood. But that doesn’t make sense either. Jesus profoundly influenced the world with his teaching and his life. His ideas are succinct, wise, and highly regarded universally. Is this in keeping with an unsound mind? Did his actions at all imply imbalance? I just don’t buy it.

That leaves only one option. Jesus Christ was who he said he was.

The Miracles of Christ

Next, let’s look at what Christ accomplished. We are going to assume for the moment that the gospels are historically accurate (we’ll prove it momentarily) and that the miracles they relate really happened. What miracles were they? Jesus healed the blind and the lame. He caused the mute to speak and the deaf to hear. He cast out demons, fed thousands with a small lunch–twice–turned water to wine, and healed a variety of illnesses. He even raised the dead.

Have you ever heard of any other human ever accomplishing these things? Of course not. They are supernatural occurances that attest to the authenticity of Jesus. The miracles prove the message. They are divine references, if you will. The testimony of God himself to the accuracy of Christ’s claims.

The Resurrection

The resurrection of Christ from the dead is the grandaddy miracle of them all. If it’s true, it verifies Christ’s claim and forms the substance of the Christian religion. In it are tied up faith, love, forgiveness, atonement, and hope through this conquering of death. But it’s so crazy! So unprecedented! So unnatural! Can it really be true? What are the evidences?

The Disciples

Jesus chose twelve young men to be his disciples, and you have to admit they weren’t too impressive. When Jesus was teaching, they always seemed to miss the mark. They argued among themselves. They asked ridiculous questions. And they turned out to be real cowards when Christ was arrested.

But after Christ’s death, that all changed. These men, with the exception of Judas, became vocal proponents for Christ’s message. They took on the Jewish leaders. They traveled to foreign lands. They won converts, started churches, bucked established pagan religions, endured jail time, suffered beatings, and according to tradition, all of them but John died for their faith.

These guys firmly believed Christ’s message. Something substantial made them change. But what? How’d they go from coward to martyr? The only possible answer is that they were witnesses to the very real miracle of the Resurrection.

The Jewish Leaders, Roman Soldiers, and the Lack of a Body

Since Jesus had said ahead of time that he would rise from the dead, the Jewish religious leaders took precautions. They wanted to nip that idea in the bud. More Christian converts meant less power for them! They wanted Christ’s body firmly in the ground as proof that he was a counterfeit. So they asked Roman soldiers to guard the tomb.

These soldiers were the most well-trained, effective army in the world. They were career soldiers, hardened men who didn’t flinch in battle. No one was getting by them. Yet something happened. They scattered. They ran away frightened. What could cause this but a supernatural event? Even an unlikely overpowering force of men wouldn’t send them scurrying but would cause a battle there’d be some record of. They simply scattered. Why?

The Roman guards fled. They left their place of responsibility. How can their attrition he explained, when Roman military discipline was so exceptional? Justin, in Digest #49, mentions all the offenses that required the death penalty. The fear of their superiors’ wrath and the possibility of death meant that they paid close attention to the minutest details of their jobs. One way a guard was put to death was by being stripped of his clothes and then burned alive in a fire started with his garments. If it was not apparent which soldier had failed in his duty, then lots were drawn to see which one would be punished with death for the guard unit’s failure. Certainly the entire unit would not have fallen asleep with that kind of threat over their heads. Dr. George Currie, a student of Roman military discipline, wrote that fear of punishment ‘produced flawless attention to duty, especially in the night watches. –Josh McDowell, Evidence for the Resurrection

And where was the body? If it was a hoax, wouldn’t the Jewish leaders move heaven and earth to lay hold of the body and squash rumors of a resurrection? But they couldn’t produce it.

Witnesses

And what about the hundreds of recorded witnesses who also claimed to see the risen Christ? Not only the disciples and the women saw Jesus. Cleopas and another disciple saw him on the road to Emmaus. And I Corinthians says Jesus “appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living.” Christ’s Resurrection was not done in secret. Hundreds saw him firsthand and testified to it. This was the news story of the day. One that the temple leaders would have hushed if they could, but it was too widely known. They could not refute so many witnesses.

Canon of Scripture

After understanding and proving that Jesus was a historical figure and his Resurrection was a historical event, I set out to prove or disprove the Bible as a reliable source. I started with learning how it came to be in its present form.

Who decided which books would be included in the Bible?

Early Christian leaders were actually Jewish rabbis. Jesus Christ was Jewish, and this new religion was born out of the ancient one. It wasn’t really a new religion at all, if you understand the correlation between Old and New Testaments, rather a fulfilling of the old. But as many Jews didn’t agree that Christ was truly the Messiah, Judaism and Christianity are today held as two separate religions. Nevertheless, the first church authorities were Jews, the men who walked and talked with and learned under Jesus. These were the men who heard his words, recorded them, and taught them to others. Their combined message was incredibly consistent. It was this consistency and first-hand experience that prompted their books and letters to be universally regarded as the authority among early leaders. Theirs was, in essence, the message preached by Christ.

As time passed, the church grew and spread and Gentiles took up leadership in their own congregations, heresies began to arise. There came into existence documents claiming new revelation, new doctrine. The need for a cohesive, authoritative collection (canon) became apparent. So a variety of councils were held in the first four centuries after Christ to decide which literature should be included.

What criteria were used to determine inclusion?

At the time these leaders met, the Old Testament scriptures were firmly established and widely accepted. It was primarily the New Testament collection they were debating. A variety of factors were used to decide which documents could be considered authoritative of church doctrine and added to biblical canon and which could not. Was the book written by an apostle or someone with a close association to them? (In other words, did they a have proper first-hand witness?) Were they consistent in their message? Did they contain high moral and spiritual values? Were they widely accepted by the early church? Did they contain errors?

This process of evaluation is very mindful of the methods scholars use today to determine the authenticity of historical literature, or even how testimony is evaluated in a legal case. New Testament scripture was held to a high standard, and if any document could not pass muster, it was discarded. In essence, this process whittled down the selection to only the books that were consistent with the message of Jesus Christ. As I already fully satisfied myself of his deity, provided the scriptural source documentation checked out, I’d say that’s a pretty reliable basis.

24,000 Manuscripts

One way historians judge the reliability of an antique text is by the number of ancient copies available, the accuracy between them, and the length of time from the text’s origin to the date of the oldest copy. There are 643 copies of Homer’s Iliad, a number that has universally satisfied historians as to its authenticity, even though there is a 500 year gap between the publication date and the oldest copy. We have over 24,000 copies of the New Testament from antiquity. 24,000! And the earliest copy is less than 100 years away from the original. Satisfactory? I think so.

But what about the Old Testament?

Just because they were already established, do we simply take those books on faith? Not at all. They had to meet similar criteria. Were the authors prophets or known men of God? Are their words without error? Have prophecies been confirmed? Have miraculous events verified the authors? Are they consistent in their messages?  The Old Testament books were reaffirmed by the early church councils. In fact, the Old Testament has been tested and reaffirmed much longer than the New Testament. Jesus himself attests to their reliability all through the gospels. 

Dead Sea Scrolls

One singular archaeological find did more to reaffirm the Old Testament’s historicity than any other find. In 1947, shepherd boys discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls. They include manuscripts or partial manuscripts of every book of the Bible except Esther. And they were written nearly one thousand years earlier that any previously known copies. The differences between the documents, even after one thousand years, were minimal, verifying that God has indeed preserved his Word over time.

Prophecy

One final subject I delved into to prove or disprove Chist and the Bible was prophecy. Prophecy, of course, is the predicting of events before they happen. Supernatural for sure. I wanted to satisfy myself that the prediction dates and later fulfillments were authentic.

Purpose

Messianic prophecies were given throughout the Old Testament so we would recognize the Messiah when he came. Some told what he would do, some described his birth, others revealed what would happen to him at the hands of others. Many are details that could in no way be manipulated by a counterfeit.

Authenticity

All of the messianic prophecies in the Bible were foretold between 400 and 1,000 years before Christ was born. How can we know they were written that long ago? Maybe someone just wrote them down after-the-fact. Three words: Dead Sea Scrolls. These ancient documents are widely believed to date back two centuries before Christ’s birth. They not only verify the accuracy of biblical transcription, but they also prove the Messianic prophecies were written long before Jesus was actually born.

Quantity

There are over 300 Messianic prophecies. Different scholars and translations give a range of actual numbers, from 365-456, and some of them can get pretty obscure, but the fact remains, there are at least 365 prophecies that everybody agrees on. That’s a pretty impressive number. Now the really cool part. Jesus fulfilled them all! That adds some veracity to the claims he made about Himself, doesn’t it?

Probability as Mathematical Proof

What’s the probability that one person (Jesus) could fulfill multiple prophecies?

Peter Stoner, Professor Emeritus of Science at Westmont College, with the help of 600 students, worked out the probability that one man could fulfill only eight prophecies. His numbers were widely reviewed by scientists and skeptics alike and found to be sound. The chance he came up with? One in 10 to the 17th power. That’s a one with seventeen zeros. To help us wrap our brains around that figure, he provided this analogy:

Suppose that we take 10 to the 17th silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They’ll cover all of the state two feet deep. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state. Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one. What chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance that the prophets would’ve had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man, from their day to the present time, providing they wrote them in their own wisdom.

You have to admit, those are pretty incredible odds. Almost hints at some intelligent choreography, doesn’t it?

My Conclusion

When faced with this much proof, I had to admit the faith my parents taught me was authentic. God is real. Christ is divine. And the Bible is reliable. My mission now is to share these finds with others. Think how many lives would change if everyone knew this stuff?

Is there anyone you can share this post with?

The Gospel in Plain English

No formidable words are needed to simply and concisely summarize what the Bible’s says. The message is not complex, but it is anathema to those who desire no authority beyond their own intellect. If there is a God, however, the opinions of men cannot negate his existence. A better use of human intelligence might be to judge scripture in light of the possibility that God does exist.

The Bible starts with an all-powerful God who created everything within the universe, including life, natural laws of order and mathematics and logic, and a moral code. Mankind chose to rebel against it. God is love, but he is also holy, and as Creator he has the authority to judge sin. He must, or he would undermine his own laws. The payment for sin is death.

But God in his compassion and creativity devised a way to take that judgment upon himself. He came to Earth in the person of Jesus, who was fully human and fully divine. He lived a perfect life and therefore was undeserving of death. Because he was human, and because he was perfect, his sacrifice is counted as a substitute payment for the sin of all mankind. Anyone seeking reconciliation with God need only claim this payment. We will still die physically, but Christ’s resurrection has proven his power over death. The Bible promises that the dead will rise. Those who claim Jesus will live in a recreated world free of sin and its effects. Those who reject him will suffer eternal, physical punishment.

Some things to think about:

Would any of this prove too hard for a Creator God? What objective does God’s plan meet? Is it unreasonable that he would share it with men? Is any part of this unfair? Is God inconsistent in character or action? Does history bear out the person and accomplishments of Christ? Does this explanation account for the presence of suffering and death? What does this plan imply about the value of human life? What makes the Bible reliable? Do I care enough to do further research, or am I content with what I think is true? What do I base my beliefs on? And finally, what if it’s true?

 

 

How’d we Arrive at the Biblical Canon?

No, not that kind of cannon!

I had a lot of question about the collection of books we call the Holy Bible. The Bible is supposed to be inspired, so why did men decide which books to include? Who exactly decided this anyway? And why are the Catholic and Protestant Bibles different? So I did some research and found a lot of answers.

A canon, to begin with, is an authoritative collection of literature. In this case, the biblical canon includes books and letters widely regarded as the revelation of God’s ultimate truth. It is held by Christians as the living, unchanging and final Word of God, inspired and preserved by God himself and applicable for all situations and all time. I don’t have any trouble believing that God could have orchestrated such a collection. He is God, after all. But I needed solid reasoning behind why these books are acceptable and others are not. So I did some research of my own, and I am pleased to have found that inclusion was based on very logical grounds.

Who decided which books would be included in the Bible?

Early Christian leaders were actually Jewish rabbis. Jesus Christ was Jewish, and this new religion was born out of the ancient one. It wasn’t really a new religion at all, if you understand the correlation between Old and New Testaments, rather a fulfilling of the old. But as many Jews didn’t agree that Christ was truly the Messiah, Judaism and Christianity are today held as two separate religions. Nevertheless, the first church authorities were Jews, the men who walked and talked with and learned under Jesus. These were the men who heard his words, recorded them, and taught them to others. Their combined message was incredibly consistent. It was this consistency and first-hand experience that prompted their books and letters to be universally regarded as the authority among early leaders. Theirs was, in essence, the message preached by Christ.

As time passed, the church grew and spread and Gentiles took up leadership in their own congregations, heresies began to arise. There came into existence documents claiming new revelation, new doctrine. The need for a cohesive, authoritative collection (canon) became apparent. So a variety of councils were held in the first four centuries after Christ to decide which literature should be included.

What criteria were used to determine inclusion?

At the time these leaders met, the Old Testament scriptures were firmly established and widely accepted. It was primarily the New Testament collection they were debating. A variety of factors were used to decide which documents could be considered authoritative of church doctrine and added to biblical canon and which could not. Was the book written by an apostle or someone with a close association to them? (In other words, did they a have proper first-hand witness?) Were they consistent in their message? Did they contain high moral and spiritual values? Were they widely accepted by the early church? Did they contain errors?

This process of evaluation is very mindful of the methods scholars use today to determine the authenticity of historical literature, or even how testimony is evaluated in a legal case. New Testament scripture was held to a high standard, and if any document could not pass muster, it was discarded. In essence, this process whittled down the selection to only the books that were consistent with the message of Jesus Christ. As I’m already fully convinced of his deity, I’d say that’s a pretty reliable basis.

But what about the Old Testament? Just because they were already established, do we simply takes those books on faith? Not at all. They had to meet similar criteria. Were the authors prophets or known men of God? Are their words without error? Have prophecies been confirmed? Have miraculous events verified the authors? Are they consistent in their messages?  The Old Testament books were reaffirmed by the early church councils. In fact, the Old Testament has been tested and reaffirmed much longer than the New Testament!

So why do Catholic and Protestant Bibles differ?

The answer to this question is quite simple and even political in nature. The books in question are called the Apocrypha. Though they are highly regarded, these books contain historical errors and inconsistencies in doctrine.

Over time the church grew in political power and added to its beliefs, traditions and doctrines. We’re all familiar with Calvin and Luther and the Protestant Reformation that took place in the 1500′s to combat this drift. As a direct result of the Reformation, the Catholic Church officially canonized the Apocrypha because it supports Catholic beliefs and practices that are not in agreement with the original canon (like praying to saints, giving alms as atonement, etc.). But the books of the Apocrypha do not measure up to a stringent evaluation process. A whole study could be done on the their shortcomings. My examination wasn’t as thorough as the ones done by fourth century councils who originally rejected them, but I gleaned enough to agree, they don’t jive with the most reliable recordings of the teachings of Christ.

Is the Protestant canon free of debate?

No. As you’ve already seen, opinions are split on the Apocrypha. Others have debated Esther and Song of Solomon. Luther himself wanted to remove Hebrews from the canon. The debates will probably endure as long as the text, and I think that’s a good thing. Yet the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments have been consistently reaffirmed by the majority of scholars despite rigorous testing by generation after generation. Yes, the canon has been assembled by men, but the consistent message they preach originated with God. It’s almost like men discovered the canon.

I have been reassured by my study, as unscholarly and brief as it may seem to others who have gone before me, that the books of the biblical canon are reliable. And I’m convinced that God intended that we use our brains to discover what literature is consistent, accurate and authoritative. And I think God had his hand inspiring and guiding all of it.

Prophecy – The Numbers Don’t Lie

Photo by Ulner at Photoxpress

Christianity is not a blind faith. It’s supported by a good deal of evidence. Last time, I laid out some of the reasons I believe Jesus truly is the Son of God. Here’s another big one: 300+ prophecies. I’ve found a range of actual numbers, from 365-456, as given by different scholars and organizations. I’ve read many of them for myself, and I admit some can get pretty obscure, but the fact remains, there are at least 365 prophecies that everybody agrees on. That’s a pretty impressive number.

Let’s back up. Messianic prophecies were given throughout the Old Testament so we would recognize the Messiah when he came. Some told what he would do, some described his birth, others revealed what would happen to him at the hands of others. Many are details that could in no way be manipulated by a counterfeit. And all of them were foretold between 400 and 1,000 years before Christ was born. Four hundred years! That’s like making a predictions about the governor of Michigan in 2512!

How can we know they were written that long ago? Maybe someone just wrote them down after-the-fact. Three words: Dead Sea Scrolls. These ancient documents found in the 1940’s and 50’s are widely believed to date back two centuries before Christ’s birth. They not only verify the accuracy of biblical transcription, but they also prove the Messianic prophecies were written long before Jesus was actually born.

Now the really cool part. Jesus fulfilled them all! That adds some veracity to the claims he made about Himself, doesn’t it?

I’m not going to get into the chapter and verse of individual prophecies. I’ll let you look them up for yourself. There are some excellent websites that present these much better than I could. Here’s one, and here’s another. I am, however, going to relate an astounding statistic concerning the scientific probability that Jesus could fulfill multiple prophecies.

Peter Stoner, Professor Emeritus of Science at Westmont College, with the help of 600 students, worked out the probability that one man could fulfill only eight prophecies. His numbers were widely reviewed by scientists and skeptics alike and found to be sound. The chance he came up with? One in 10 to the 17th power. That’s a one with seventeen zeros. To help us wrap our brains around that figure, he provided this analogy:

“Suppose that we take 10^17 silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They’ll cover all of the state two feet deep. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state. Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one. What chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance that the prophets would’ve had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man, from their day to the present time, providing they wrote them in their own wisdom.”

You have to admit, those are pretty incredible odds. Almost hints at some intelligent choreography, doesn’t it?

The reason why prophecy is an indication of the divine authorship of the Scriptures, and hence a testimony to the trustworthiness of the Message of the Scriptures, is because of the minute probability of fulfillment. – David Williams, mathematician

Why Do I Believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God?

I’ve been sorting through some of the foundations of my faith, identifying them and putting them into words. Writing always helps me get a handle on things, and if one is going to stake her life to a belief, I think she ought to have a pretty good handle on it. So I’m in the process of some internal spring cleaning, sorting and proving and tucking back away.

Christ’s Claims

One of the basic tenets of my faith is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Why? Well, first of all, because he said his is! Do I believe everyone who makes that claim? Of course not. So why do I believe this one? I guess you have to look at the whole package.

Jesus Christ made it abundantly clear who He thought He was. Read through the book of John and you’ll see what I mean. He believed He was the Messiah sent by God to provide atonement for the sin of mankind. That’s a pretty huge claim. And there are only three logical responses to it. Either Christ was a liar, or He was crazy, or He was who He said He was.

If you read the rest of the gospels, you’ll see right away that the first option just doesn’t jive. Christ preached against lying and for a moral lifestyle based on God’s law. It makes no sense that He would lie. Nor would he sacrifice His life for a lie. And you can’t argue that He was simply killed. He didn’t have to enter Jerusalem where it was widely known the religious establishment was plotting against Him. But He did. He could have made a very good case for Himself before Pilate, but He didn’t. He chose to die. Would a man die for a lie? That’s ridiculous.

So could He have been crazy? A crazy man might die for believing a falsehood. But that doesn’t make sense either. Jesus profoundly influenced the world with his teaching and his life. His ideas are succinct, wise, and highly regarded universally. Is this in keeping with an unsound mind? Did his actions at all imply imbalance? I just don’t buy it.

That leaves only one option. Jesus Christ was who He said He was.

Eleven Good Reasons

A second reason I believe Jesus is the Son of God is the change that occurred in His followers. Jesus chose twelve young men to be his disciples, and you have to admit they weren’t too impressive. When Jesus was teaching, they always seemed to miss the mark. They argued among themselves. They asked ridiculous questions. And they turned out to be real cowards when Christ was arrested.

But after Christ’s death, that all changed. These men, with the exception of Judas, became vocal proponents for Christ’s message. They took on the Jewish leaders. They traveled to foreign lands. They won converts, started churches, bucked established pagan religions, endured jail time, suffered beatings, and according to tradition, all of them but John died for their faith.

These guys firmly believed Christ’s message. Something substantial made them change. But what? How’d they go from coward to martyr?

The Resurrection

The eleven remaining disciples were witness to the most astonishing event in history, Christ’s resurrection. It’s the number one reason I believe Jesus is the Son of God. It changes everything. It verifies Christ’s claim, and it forms the substance of the Christian religion. In it are tied up faith, love, forgiveness, atonement, and hope through this conquering of death. But it’s so crazy! So unprecedented! So unnatural! Can it really be true?

Would the cowardly disciples give their lives if it wasn’t?

But aside from the change in these witnesses, there are other things that convince me that, no, the Resurrection was not a hoax. Since Jesus had said ahead of time that he would rise from the dead, the Jewish religious leaders took precautions. They wanted to nip that idea in the bud. They wanted Christ’s body firmly in the ground as proof that he was a counterfeit, so they asked for Roman soldiers to guard the tomb.

These soldiers were the most well-trained, effective army in the world. They were career soldiers, hardened men who didn’t flinch in battle. No one was getting by them. Yet something happened. They scattered. They ran away frightened. What could cause this but a supernatural event? Even an unlikely overpowering force of men wouldn’t send them scurrying but would cause a battle there’d be some record of. They simply scattered. Why?

And where was the body? If it was a hoax, wouldn’t the Jewish leaders move heaven and earth to lay hold of the body and squash rumors of a resurrection? But they couldn’t produce it.

And what about the hundreds of recorded witnesses who also claimed to see the risen Christ? Could this all be false? Is it all a hoax? If so, it’s the most elaborate, perfect one in the history of men. But I don’t think it’s a hoax at all. I think the Resurrection is the pivotal moment in which God displayed His power. It’s the centerpiece of a cohesive, premeditated plan. I think Jesus really was who He said He was.

I willingly admit much of my material today was taken from Josh McDowell’s book, More Than a Carpenter. I read it many years ago, but I did not reread it before writing this post. I wanted to take stock of the ideas and reasons I’ve assimilated as my own. I plan to reread it now, and I highly recommend it for anyone who wants more information on this subject. It has so much more content than my little post.

Water and Fire

Flickr image by 111 Emergency.

Nope, I’m not really a doomsday prophet.  I don’t predict comets colliding with Earth or end-of-the-world dates. But when the Bible speaks, I listen, and it has much to say about a past catastrophe (the Flood, which I’ve been studying lately – can ya tell?) and some to say about a coming judgement.  Here’s text taken from 2 Peter 3: 4-7 (NIV):

“(Scoffers/unbelievers say) ‘Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’  But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water.  By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.  By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”

This passage is talking about the Great Flood which, according to Genesis 6:5-7, was sent as a judgement because “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.”  The Flood follows so quickly after Creation in the Bible that it seems only about forty-two people should have been born yet, but in actuality, over a thousand years transpired.  During that time, mankind spread out and built a thriving civilization, one that some speculate could have been only centuries away from an industrial revolution.  Remember, the first people were created perfect, lived an extremely long time, were given talents and intelligence, and the degenerating effects of sin hadn’t been in effect for very long yet (unlike today).  The Flood wiped out civilization BIG TIME.  And the Bible says it was because mankind turned away from God.

Fast forward.  Civilization has been rebuilt, technology is incredible, mankind is thriving, and our future seems amazingly limitless.  However, scientific theories have undermined a general belief in God, the Flood has been explained away (remember Peter’s “they deliberately forget” statement?), right and wrong have become debatable, and no one really believes that God (if He’s real) will destroy the world by fire.

Yet it’s written there in 2 Peter.

We can argue about whether such complete destruction is ethical, or if God has the right to do such a thing. We can debate the authenticity of scripture and the probability (or not) that God exists.  We can make up our own minds, choose our own beliefs, and live exactly as we choose.  But in a way, we’re like ants squabbling beneath a kid with a magnifying glass.

I, for one, would rather befriend the kid.