Thursday, February 15, 2018

Amazon Echo Calls Muhammad a Hypocrite!

Vocab Malone and I were setting up for a video about a Sharia-compliant version of the Amazon Echo, when we realized that Alexa was completely willing to accuse Muhammad of hypocrisy for marrying more women than his own revelations allow!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Paul vs. Muhammad (Complete Video Playlist)

When Muhammad gets things wrong about Jesus, Muslims typically blame the Apostle Paul for corrupting Christianity. But what happens when we compare Paul and Muhammad, and we realize that Paul is far more reliable than Muhammad? Let's find out in this video series.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Jesus vs. Mithra: Did Christians Copy from the Mithra Cult when it came to the Birth of Jesus?

In this next video, my good friend Pastor Sule and I answer the oft-repeated and debunked claim that Christians were copy cats and that they borrowed the birth story of Mithra in December and applied it to Jesus. This is a claim many of our Muslim friends are prone to make including many well meaning Christians. Watch and learn and please share the video.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Does the Qur'an Have the True Insight Into the Crucifixion? A Response to Abu Zakariya

In previous posts, I have been reviewing a book by Muslim polemicist/apologist Abu Zakariya (in particular, chapter 5 of the book). So far, we have seen that Zakariya's objections to the gospels as inspired Scripture and eyewitness testimony, to Messianic prophecy, and to the reliable passing on of stories about Jesus have fallen far short of convincing. Here are links to my four previous rebuttals to Zakariya:

In this fifth installment, I am going to address Abu Zakariya's contention that the Qur'an has the true insight into the crucifixion.

Problems with the Substitution View

Zakariya begins by quoting from Surah 4:157-158:
They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, though it was made to appear like that to them; those that disagreed about him are full of doubt, with no knowledge to follow, only supposition; they certainly did not kill him. God raised him up to Himself. God is almighty and wise.
Zakariya takes the classical interpretation of this text, which is that someone was made to resemble Jesus and was put on the cross in His stead. He finds support for this interpretation in the narrations of Ibn Abbas, one of the companions of Muhammad (Al-Nasa'i, Al-Kubra, 6:489):
Just before God raised Jesus to the Heavens, Jesus went to his disciples, who were twelve inside the house. When he arrived, his hair was dripping with water (as if he had just had a bath) and he said, 'There are those among you who will disbelieve in me twelve times after you had believed in me.' He then asked, 'Who among you will volunteer for his appearance to be transformed into mine, and be killed in my place? Whoever volunteers for that, he will be with me (in Heaven.' One of the youngest ones among them volunteered, but Jesus asked him to sit down. Jesus asked again for a volunteer, and the same young man volunteered and Jesus asked him to sit down again. Then the young man volunteered a third time and Jesus said, 'You will be that man,' and the resemblance of Jesus was cast over that man while Jesus ascended to Heaven from a hole in the roof the house. When the Jews came looking for Jesus, they found that young man and crucified him.
Zakariya concludes from this, 
From an observational perspective, would anyone be able to tell the difference between Jesus being crucified, and it being made to appear like he was? Whether it was the real Jesus, or someone who looked, sounded and acted in an identical manner to Jesus, or even an illusion of it being Jesus that tricks the eyes, most casual observers would not be able to distinguish between them. If you think about it, these various scenarios would appear identical for all intents and purposes and would end up being recorded the same way.
The problem is that, if the narration from Ibn Abbas is the correct way things went down, then the twelve disciples of Jesus knew that someone had been made to resemble Jesus and had been crucified in His stead. This is problematic since we know that the disciples themselves believed Jesus to have been killed by crucifixion. There can be absolutely no question about this. This, then, is an oddity on the thesis being here put forth.

On the other hand, if the disciples themselves were duped into believing Jesus had been killed by crucifixion, this means that Allah deceived his own followers, since the Qur'an asserts twice that Jesus' disciples were Muslims (Surah 3:52, 61:14). 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Were the Stories About Jesus Passed on Reliably? A Response to Abu Zakariya

In previous posts, I have been reviewing a book by Muslim polemicist/apologist Abu Zakariya (in particular, chapter 5 of the book). So far, we have seen that Zakariya's objections to the gospels as inspired Scripture and eyewitness testimony, and to Messianic prophecy, have fallen far short of convincing. Here are links to my three previous rebuttals to Zakariya:

In this fourth installment, I am going to interact with Zakariya's fourth wave of attack, which is against the premise that the stories about Jesus were passed on reliably.

A Note About Differences and Reconcilable Variations

Before I begin to assess Abu Zakariya's arguments, first a word about the implications of variations between the gospel accounts. In eyewitness testimony, it is not at all surprising that there would exist variations in minor detail while maintaining consistency about the core narrative. The existence of variations does not in itself entail that the narrative does not derive from the testimony of eyewitnesses, or that the core events did not happen. By pushing for the existence of actual (as opposed to apparent) discrepancies between the gospel accounts, at best the skeptic can cause us to revise our understanding of inspiration or inerrancy. It does not necessarily call into question the truth of Christianity, a proposition which rests on the reality of the resurrection of Jesus.

What minor variations do often suggest, however, is independence between accounts. In his book Horae Evangelicae or The Internal Evidence of the Gospel History, Rev T.R. Birks pioneered a category of argument, a somewhat less dramatic cousin of undesigned coincidences, called reconcilable variations. What is a reconcilable variation? It is when you have two accounts of the same event, or at least two accounts that appear to cross over the same territory at some point, and at first blush they seem so divergent that it's almost awkward; but then, on further thought, they turn out to be reconcilable in some natural fashion after all. When two accounts appear at first so divergent that one is not sure they can be reconciled, that is significant evidence for their independence. When they turn out, upon closer inspection or upon learning more information, to be reconcilable without forcing after all, one has almost certainly independent accounts that dovetail. Thus, identifying plausible harmonizations for apparent discrepancies between the gospels has not only the effect of neutralizing the objection to the gospels' veracity, but also it can, by establishing independence, provide positive evidence for their truth.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Are the Gospels Based on Eyewitness Testimony? A Response to Abu Zakariya

In previous posts, I have been reviewing a book by Muslim polemicist/apologist Abu Zakariya (in particular, chapter 5 of the book). So far, we have seen that Zakariya's objections to the gospels as inspired Scripture and to Messianic prophecy have fallen far short of convincing. Here are links to my two previous rebuttals to Zakariya:

In this third installment, I am going to be reviewing Zakariya's third wave of attack, which is against the gospels as eyewitness testimony.

The External Attestation of Authorship

Zakariya begins,
When we scrutinise the Gospel authors in the light of their identities and content and date of their writings, we will find that they are not credible eyewitnesses to the crucifixion. To begin with, it's important to recognise that the Gospels themselves are, strictly speaking, anonymous. While today in the New Testament you see the headings "The Gospel according to..." at the start of each of the Gospels, it's important to note that none of the authors identify themselves by name within the texts. They were quoted anonymously by Church Fathers in the first half of the second century (i.e. 100-150 CE) and the names by which they are currently known appeared suddenly around the year 180 CE, nearly 150 years after Jesus. We find this in the writings of early church apologists such as Justin Martyr who was writing in the middle of the second century. Justin quotes from the gospels on numerous occasions, but the striking ting is that he does not call the Gospels by their names. Instead, he regularly calls them "Memoirs of the Apostles." He does not say that he thinks the disciples themselves wrote the books, only that these books preserve their "memoirs" (meaning, their recollections of the life and teachings of Jesus). These are some of the reasons that have led scholars to believe that the names Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were assigned to the Gospels long after they were first authored.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Was the Crucifixion of Jesus Foretold in the Old Testament? A Response to Abu Zakariya

In a previous article, I began a series of critical reviews of a book I obtained on Saturday at an Islamic exhibition on the person of Jesus by Muslim polemicist/apologist Abu Zakariya, Jesus: Man, Messenger, Messiah. In this article, I continue my analysis of the book. I have been reviewing Zakariya's claim that Jesus was not in fact crucified, as per the Qur'an (4:157), which is defended in chapter 5 of the book. So far we have examined his objections to the gospel authors having written under divine inspiration. In this article, I turn to his next wave of attack, which is against the claim that the crucifixion is foretold in the Old Testament.

Isaiah 53 -- The Suffering Servant

The only Messianic text that Zakariya engages with is Isaiah 53, which he quotes in full. Zakariya writes concerning this text,
In Isaiah, statements such as "for the transgression of my people he was punished" and "he bore the sin of many" do, at face value, seem to bear a striking resemblance to the theology of the crucifixion. However, when we analyse this chapter in its entirety, we will see that it cannot be a prophecy about Jesus. When it comes to prophecies in Scripture, you can think of each detail that the prophecy provides as a criterion that must be satisfied. So, if we consider Isaiah 53 to be a prophecy about the future, then in order for it to be fulfilled by Jesus, every detail provided in the prophecy has to be satisfied by the life of Jesus as he is portrayed in the New Testament. If not, then Jesus fails as a candidate and the prophecy remains unfulfilled.
This statement is in a sense both right and wrong. It is certainly true that every detail of predictive prophecy must be fulfilled and not fail. However, some Messianic texts in the Hebrew Scriptures predict both Jesus' first and second advent. In such cases, parts of certain prophecies may as yet still lie unfulfilled, awaiting their final fulfillment in the second coming of Jesus.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Were the Gospels Written Under Divine Inspiration? A Response to Abu Zakariya

Image result for jesus man messenger messiahThis past weekend I attended an Islamic exhibition at the city library in Newcastle, England. The subject of the exhibition was the Islamic perspective on Jesus. During the course of the day, I was given a copy of a new book by Muslim apologist/polemicist Abu Zakariya. The book is entitled Jesus: Man, Messenger, Messiah. I have now had the opportunity to read through the book, and so I thought it fitting for me to write a detailed review of some of the material and argumentation presented in the book. Although Zakariya, to his credit, pursues more depth in his discussion than most Muslim treatments of this subject (although that isn't very hard to do), the book still engages in a significant level of mangling of the Biblical text. Over the course of this and subsequent blog posts, I want to interact with some of the central claims of Abu Zakariya's book, since I thought it a good opportunity to explore some popular fallacies of thought that occur when people study the Scriptures. I will not be interacting with the book in order, but dipping into various parts of the book that I took a particular interest in. Readers will recognize that I have addressed much of the material in various blog posts and talks/interviews/debates before. Nonetheless, it is always valuable to repeat material and so I will be reiterating some material I have touched on in the past, and perhaps on occasion delving into more detail than I did previously -- but a lot of what I want to write about I have not covered before in my writings. If Abu Zakariya is interested in a public engagement regarding his book (in the form of a moderated debate), I will be only too happy to oblige.

One chapter I found to be particularly interesting in the book was chapter 5, in which Zakariya makes a valiant attempt to defend the indefensible -- namely, the Qur'an's claim in Surah 4:157 that Jesus did not die by crucifixion. In this and subsequent articles, I aim to examine how well he does in this undertaking.

Monday, January 22, 2018

When Was Jesus Born? Was it on December 25?

Many of our Muslim friends and even other Christians contend that December 25 was a pagan holiday taken over by Constantine or the Roman Catholic Church and transformed into the birth day of Jesus. Is this true? Do we know when Jesus was born and why the date of December 25 was chosen? Watch and find out!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Did Christmas Come From Paganism?

I know we are past the holiday season, but here is the next video in the series on Christmas. In this video I answer the question of whether Christmas came from paganism or non-Christian sources.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Six Bad Habits of New Testament Scholars (and how to avoid them): Dr. Lydia McGrew

Here is the recording of Saturday's Apologetics Academy webinar featuring analytic philosopher Dr. Lydia McGrew (you can find her website here). Her subject was "Six Bad Habits of New Testament Scholars (and how to avoid them)". I regret that some people seem to be rather upset that I have sided with Lydia in regards to this topic over Michael Licona, Craig Evans, et al. I have even lost Facebook friends as a result. May I emphasize that this is scholarship and there is no ill-intent towards any of the people whose views I and Lydia depart from. If you put scholarly argumentation into the public realm, then you need to learn not to take it personally when others disagree and publicly voice their dissent. I invite you to watch the webinar for yourself and make up your own mind.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

What Does Christmas Mean?

In this video series on Christmas, Pastor Sule and I deal with the question of the meaning of Christmas and its etymological origins in Christianity.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Psalm 2, and its Messianic Implications

Image result for psalm 2Psalm 2 is a well-known Psalm that is often quoted or alluded to in the New Testament. Until recently, I had always understood this Psalm to be an inauguration hymn whose primary application is David, but which then is applied secondarily to the Messiah by the New Testament authors as they communicate Christ's reign as the re-establishment of the Davidic monarchy. More recently, however, I have come to understand this Psalm's primary application to be the Messiah.

As always, the text of this Psalm is worth reproducing in full. I have taken the liberty to replace "LORD" and "Lord" in the English translation with the tetragrammaton "YHWH" ("Yahweh") and "Adonai" respectively, since these two Hebrew words appear in the original text:
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against YHWH and against his Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” 4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; Adonai holds them in derision. 5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” 7 I will tell of the decree: YHWH said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.” 10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve YHWH with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
It is often understood that verse 7-9 is King David speaking. But observe who the speaker is in verse 5-6. It says "Then he [i.e. Adonai referred to in verse 4] will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying 'As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.'" There is no indication in the text that the speaker changes between verse 6 and 7 from Adonai to David (note that the quotation marks are not in the original Hebrew text). In verse 7a, we read, "I will tell of the decree: YWHW said to me..." Thus, here we see a conversation taking place between Yahweh and Adonai. This should remind us of another Psalm which reports a conversation that we see taking place between Yahweh and Adonai -- Psalm 110, a Psalm which speaks of the divine-human Messiah (yes, I am aware that Psalm 110:1 says Adoni instead of Adonai, but see my article here on why this doesn't put a dent in the argument for interpreting the individual at Yahweh's right hand as Adonai).

Consider the parallels between what follows in Psalm 2, and the text of Psalm 110.
Psalm 2:9a: "You shall break them with a rod of iron."
Psalm 110:2: YHWH sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies! 
Psalm 2:9b-12: "...and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.” 10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the YHWH with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Psalm 110:5b-6 he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. 6 He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth.
As you can see, there are striking parallels between those two texts. This suggests that there is a unity between Psalm 2 and Psalm 110. Given that Psalm 110:5 identifies the one seated at Yahweh's right hand (and the one to whom Yahweh speaks) as Adonai, the most natural interpretation of Psalm 2 is also that Yahweh is speaking to Adonai. Note that, although Yahweh and Adonai are equivalent titles that denote absolute deity, Scripture sometimes uses two different titles of deity in order to distinguish between persons of the Triune godhead (we saw this previously when I discussed Deuteronomy 32, where the titles of "the Most High" and "YHWH" are used).

There is yet another reason for taking this individual spoken of in Psalm 2 to be a divine person.
Consider verse 8:
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.
The individual spoken of here in Psalm 2, therefore, is going to receive the nations as his heritage. But what do we read in Psalm 82:8?
Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!
Thus, the one who judges the earth with a rod of iron and who inherits all the nations according to Psalm 2 is the individual to whom Yahweh is speaking. But according to Psalm 82, it is God who will fulfill this role. Thus, again, we see reason for understanding Psalm 2 to refer to a divine Messiah.

This, of course, also raises the question as to who God is inheriting the nations from, since surely the nations are already his possession. This is illuminated in view of the New Testament revelation of the Trinity. Consider, for example, the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:27:
“All things have been handed over to me by my Father.” 
And Jesus' words in Matthew 28:19:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
The references to God receiving the nations as his inheritance also connects with Deuteronomy 32:8-9:
8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. 9 But the Lord's portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.
I discussed the full significance of this text in a previous blog post.

There is also another interesting feature of Psalm 2. In verse 7, we read, "You are my Son; today I have begotten you." In what sense is it referring to Adonai as "Son"? The title of “Son” is not being used here in the sense of the Messiah being the eternal Son in relation to the Trinity. The Davidic heir is identified in Scripture as God’s “Son” (e.g. see 2 Samuel 7:12-16). By identifying Adonai as God’s “Son”, Psalm 2 takes Adonai to be the heir of David.

Thus, once again, we are left with a divine-human Messiah, a consistent theme throughout the Hebrew Bible.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

What Does It Mean For Jesus to be the Divine Word? Investigating John's Logos Theology

Image result for in the beginning was the wordOne of the most famous texts in Scripture is the prologue to the gospel of John, where the apostle John represents Jesus as being the divine Logos, or the Word. Here is John 1:1-5,14:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it...14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John begins his gospel by asserting Jesus' identity as being the very essence of God incarnate. The transliteration of the Greek of verse 1 reads, "En arche en ho logos kai ho Logos en pros ton Theon kai Theos en ho Logos." You will notice that the noun "Theos" for God at the end of verse 1 lacks a definite article "ho" ("the") but precedes the verb "en" ("was"). In Greek grammar, this renders it a qualitative. Thus, John 1:1 is most accurately translated, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and all that God was the Word also was." Moreover, this divine Word has existed from eternity past. "In the beginning was the word" indicates that in the beginning (as far back as you want to push it) the Word already was in existence. And yet even although the Word is the very essence of deity, "He was in the beginning with God" (verse 2). In other words, in some other sense the divine Logos was distinct from God. This is what Trinitarians believe with respect to the Son's relationship to the Father -- the Son is in very essence deity (possessing all of that which makes God God) and yet in some other sense He is distinct from God.

Just to drive the point home, John then continues in verse 3 by telling us that "All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made." Nothing exists that has not been created and fashioned by the divine Logos. Thus, the divine Logos is the very essence of God. He cannot Himself be a creature.

In case we still were not convinced about the deity of Jesus, John continues in verses 14 and 23 with a double citation of Isaiah 40:
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth...He [John the Baptist] said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
Compare these verses to the words of Isaiah 40:3-5:
3 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Thus, not only does John the Baptist identify Himself with the voice crying out in the wilderness from Isaiah 40:3, but John the Apostle also alludes to Isaiah 40:5. But instead of saying that we have beheld the glory of Yahweh (as per Isaiah), he says, "...and we have seen his [Christ's] glory..." There can thus be no question that John is representing Jesus to be God Himself. John 1:14 literally says that the Word became flesh and tabernacled in the midst of us. Just as the very presence of God dwelt within the tabernacle of ancient Israel in the wilderness, so also now in the body of Christ, God dwells in the midst of His people. Just as the tabernacle is where the Hebrews could meet their God, so also Christ is where God's people meet their God. As the Apostle Paul writes in Colossians 2:9, "For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily..."

John also tells us, in 1:18, that,
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.
Here, he identifies Jesus as the monogenes Theos, meaning God the one and only. This monogenes Theos, he tells us, who is at the Father's side, has exegeted or explained to us the nature and essence of the unseen God. I shall have more to say about the significance of this later in this article.

But what does it mean for Jesus to be the divine Word, and how does John's prologue connect with the portrayal of Jesus throughout the rest of John's gospel? John in fact derives this concept directly from the Old Testament, as I shall show.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Investigating Alleged Contradictions in the Old Testament

Image result for bibleSomeone recently forwarded me a list of 21 alleged contradictions in the Old Testament, that were apparently assembled by a Muslim, and asked me how I would respond to them. I rarely take interest in apparent numerical discrepancies in the Old Testament, as they are of little consequence to the central truth claims of the Biblical worldview. Even if all of the apparent discrepancies turn out to be real, at best all they compel is a revision to one's view of the doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy (which we are not given much information on in Scripture anyway). But one need not be an inerrantist in the strictest sense in order to have rational confidence that the message of the gospel is true. Muslims often forget that we do not share their view of inspiration. Unlike our Muslim friends, we are not dictation theorists. For the most part, we do not believe the Bible was dictated or inscribed by God Himself (as Muslims do for the Qur'an, which is alleged to be inscribed in tablets in paradise and dictated by Gabriel to Muhammad). Whereas as far as the Bible is concerned, inerrancy could turn out to be false and the central claims of Christianity still be true, the truth of the central claims of Islam hinges on the inerrancy of the Qur'an.

That being said, the position I would advocate for is what I call methodological inerrancy. That is to say, when apparent discrepancies in the Scriptures are identified, one ought to assume that the texts do harmonize, and should seek to find plausible harmonizations. This safeguards one against giving up too early on finding plausible harmonizations where in fact they exist, and also ensures that one maintains a high view of and regard for Scripture.

Another point that is worth noting is that it is not necessary for the Christian to have an answer to every conceivable question or objection that might be raised against the Scriptures, in order for him or her to have a rational confidence that Christianity is true. Indeed, every worldview and system of thought has its share of unanswered questions. The real question is whether there are more numerous and more substantive objections to belief or to non-belief. I would argue that there are more numerous and far stronger objections to non-belief than to belief. Thus, on balance, even without answers to every objection that might be leveled against the Biblical text, we are rationally warranted in affirming Christianity to be true.

With all that said, I want to now move to investigate each of the objections one by one, to see how much merit they carry as claims of contradiction in the Hebrew Bible.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Christ the Spiritual Rock: Deuteronomy 32 in Relation to the New Testament

Image result for spiritual rock deuteronomy 32The New Testament is rich with allusions to the Hebrew Scriptures. Regrettably, in modern Christendom, we are largely ignorant of much of the Old Testament, and so these allusions are lost on us. When they are discovered, however, they help to illuminate the Bible's teachings on the nature of Jesus Christ.

One such text is to be found in 1 Corinthians 10, in which we read that the Israelites in the wilderness "drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ" (verse 4). If your mind is not in tune with the Old Testament then it is easy to miss the implications of this text for understanding Christ's identity.

To properly understand what is going on here, it is necessary for us to take a look at the text of verses 1-22, and so I am reproducing it below -- pay especially close attention to the underlined sections in bold font:
For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
When we examine the text of Deuteronomy 32:15-22, we find that it is laced through 1 Corinthians 10:
15 “But Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked; you grew fat, stout, and sleek; then he forsook God who made him and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation. 16 They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominations they provoked him to anger. 17 They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded. 18 You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth. 19 “The Lord saw it and spurned them, because of the provocation of his sons and his daughters. 20 And he said, ‘I will hide my face from them; I will see what their end will be, for they are a perverse generation, children in whom is no faithfulness. 21 They have made me jealous with what is no god; they have provoked me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are no people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation. 22 For a fire is kindled by my anger, and it burns to the depths of Sheol, devours the earth and its increase, and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains.
The apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:4 identified Christ as the spiritual Rock that followed them. Deuteronomy 32 identifies God as "the Rock of his salvation" (verse 15) and "the Rock that bore you" (verse 18). Verse 16 also tells us that the Hebrews stirred God, i.e. the Rock, to jealousy with strange gods, whereas 1 Corinthians 10:9,22 says "We must not put Christ to the test...Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy?" Deuteronomy 32:17 says "They sacrificed to demons that were no gods", and 1 Corinthians 10:20-21 says, "No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons."

Thus, we can see that the Apostle Paul, in writing 1 Corinthians 10, has in mind the text of Deuteronomy 32. Deuteronomy 32 tells us that the Rock is the Lord God Himself. We also see the Lord God identified as the rock in other parts of the same chapter. Consider the following verses.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

What Does It Mean for Jesus to be the "Good Shepherd"?

Image result for the good shepherdIn John 10, Jesus describes Himself as the "good shepherd" who "lays down his life for the sheep." Have you ever stopped to consider what the implications are of Jesus' statement in regards to His identity? I have shown previously that Jesus' statements in John 10:22-39 is a claim to divine status and co-equality with the Father. But Jesus' statements to be the "good shepherd" are similarly provocative.

To find out why, let's take a look over at Ezekiel 34. In verses 1-10, God speaks about the judges of Israel, whom He deems to be wicked, evil and corrupt shepherds. In verses 11-24, God tells us that He Himself will shepherd his flock in place of the corrupt and evil shepherds. Take particular note of the underlined sections in bolt print.
11 “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.17 “As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord God: Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and male goats. 18 Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? 19 And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet? 20 “Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: Behold, I, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21 Because you push with side and shoulder, and thrust at all the weak with your horns, till you have scattered them abroad, 22 I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. 23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken.
Compare these words from Ezekiel with the words of our Lord Jesus in John 10:1-11,14-16. Again, pay particular attention to the underlined words in bold font:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly...14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
The parallels between these texts are striking. The words of Ezekiel 34:17,20 -- where God says He will judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and male goats, between fat sheep and lean sheep -- can also be compared to Jesus' statements in Matthew 25:31-34:
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

Monday, December 25, 2017

What is the Relationship of Santa Claus to Christmas and Who were the Magi?

Some Muslims will claim, as well as some well intentioned Christians, that Christmas developed from paganism and that there is nothing 'Christian' about this holiday. An example of a Muslim polemic against Christmas can bee seen here. Since this is a subject that Muslim apologists usually use to discredit Christianity I am posting this video and others that will follow where I and my good friend Pastor Sule Prince answer some of the most common questions raised about Christmas and its alleged ties to paganism. The goal of these video series is to dispel common misunderstandings and inaccuracies both among Muslims and Christians regarding this Christian celebration.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Behold Your King Is Coming to You: Unlocking the Meaning of Zechariah 9:9-10

Image result for jesus triumphal entryIn a previous post, I discussed the true significance of Isaiah 53 in relation to Messianic prophecy, revealing how Isaiah 53 foretells of a divine Messiah who would absorb the wrath of God on behalf of God's people. I noted that one of the most compelling reasons to take the Bible as divinely inspired is the subtle consistency (over 1500 years and across different genres of writing) of its portrait of the coming Messiah and of the nature of the Triune God. 

In this article, I want to highlight yet another beautiful Messianic prophecy, and explore its implications for the Messiah's identity and mission. Our text is from Zechariah 9:9-10, a well known text which foretells of Israel's king coming to Jerusalem with salvation, mounted on a donkey.  
9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.
Here, we see that Israel's king, who is to come and establish peace on the earth, is to be a human who rides on a donkey (to ride on the back of a donkey, he must be physical). But Zechariah also tells us something else that is very important in relation to Israel's coming king. Turn over to Zechariah 14:1-9:
Behold, a day is coming for the Lord, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in your midst. 2 For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3 Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. 4 On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. 5 And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. 6 On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost. 7 And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light. 8 On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter. 9 And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one.
This refers to a time yet future when all nations will be gathered for battle against Jerusalem, but God Himself will intervene against Israel's enemies. Verse 4 states something very intriguing: the feet of Yahweh will stand upon the Mount of Olives. For Yahweh's feet to stand upon the mount of olives, He must join to Himself a physical body -- for a non-material being has no feet. It seems that this allusion is intended to be taken literally rather than metaphorically, since the feet touching the mount of olives is responsible for the mountain literally being split in two from east to west. Thus, here we see a picture of Yahweh himself clothed with a physical body. Verse 9 further tells us that in that day "the Lord will be king over all the earth." Thus, the king of Zechariah 9:9-10, whom we read of coming to Jerusalem with salvation, physically mounted upon a donkey, appears to be Yahweh Himself. Here we thus see a foreshadow of the incarnation where, in the person of Christ, God will take upon Himself human flesh.

Notice that Zechariah 14:5 states that "Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him." The New Testament interprets this reference to Yahweh to in fact be the person of Christ Himself. When we turn to 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13, we read,
11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
The connection between verse 13 and Zechariah 14:5 should be obvious enough. The conclusion, then, that Paul affirmed Jesus to be Yahweh, is thus inescapable.

We also see a fascinating connection between Zechariah 14:4 and Acts 1:6-12:
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away.
Notice that verse 12 indicates that Jesus' ascension into heaven took place at the mount of olives, and the angels in verse 11 told the disciples that Jesus will come back in the same way in which they saw him go into heaven. Thus, when Jesus returns, his feet will again touch the mount of olives. Thus, the book of Acts makes Jesus out to be Yahweh, connecting Him with Zechariah 14:4.

Moreover, since Mark 11:1-10 / Matthew 21:1-11 / Luke 19:28-40 / John 12:12-19 all narrate Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem and connect it to Zechariah 9:9-10, all four gospels represent Jesus as claiming to be Israel's king who has come with salvation, and thus Jesus claims to be none other than the God of Israel who is identified as "king over all the earth" in Zechariah 14:9.

In future posts, I will continue to highlight some of the treasures of the Scriptures in respect to their portrayal of the Messiah. Stay tuned!