Slavery & the Bible (Part 1) Cherry Picking, Worldview & Consistency

As a follower of Christ, I believe the God of the Bible is loving and just, so it deeply troubles me when my faith is associated with something as evil as slavery in memes on social media like this:

slaverymeme1

Or like this:

slaverymemeMOM

Interestingly, I once saw one on Facebook like this:

slaverymemeExodus

I say “interestingly” because the meme quotes Exodus 21:20-21, but ignores other passages surrounding it, such as:

Exodus 21:12: “Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death.”

Exodus 21:16: “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.”

Exodus 21:26-27: “When a man strikes the eye of his slave, male or female, and destroys it, he shall let the slave go free because of his eye. If he knocks out the tooth of his slave, male or female, he shall let the slave go free because of his tooth.”

We also find memes like this quoting the New Testament:

slaverymeme3NT

But we never see memes for, say, 1 Timothy 1:10, which includes “enslavers” (ESV) in a list of “the ungodly and sinners” and “the unholy and profane.” The original Greek word used here in 1 Timothy, sometimes translated “kidnappers” (NASB) or “slave traders” (NIV/NLT), specifically means a person who captures someone in order to sell him into slavery.

So, is the Bible anti-slavery or pro-slavery? Why do those hostile to Christianity and Judaism cherry-pick certain verses and ignore others? Isn’t this exactly what they accuse Christians of doing in memes like this…

slavery_homo

 So, what we have here is an issue of consistency.

Christians can accuse hostile skeptics of cherry-picking certain verses and ignoring others.

And skeptics can accuse Christians of doing the same thing.

And both would be right.

CHERRY-PICKIN’

So, we can recognize that those hostile towards biblical faith cherry-pick verses, but let’s keep with that honesty and admit many Christians do the same thing. They remember the parts they like from the Bible and ignore other parts.

The reason Christians do this could be for any number of reasons. For instance, they may ignore verses condemning certain sins like, say, greed or slander because they’re still allowing those sins to rule their lives. Or, let’s be honest, many Christians simply don’t know what to make of certain troubling verses. Many Christians don’t have a good enough understanding of history or biblical theology to understand them. But they trust God and love Jesus, so they continue on.

But we also have to admit, skeptics often do have a just reason for calling Christians inconsistent. But the more important issue is: Are these Christians inconsistent because of a lack of knowledge or because the Bible itself is inconsistent?

 

WRESTLING WITH THE BIBLE

I’m not saying all of these Christians should be ashamed for having holes in their knowledge. And I’m not saying they’re even willfully ignorant (though some are). But I will say that if you believe the Bible is the Word of God, you should do all you can to understand it, which means wrestling with troubling passages.

Studying the Bible is a life-long endeavor, so everyone is going to have holes in their knowledge; there’s no shame in that. But blatantly ignoring troubling passages is a mistake for a number of reason. For one, it gives ammunition to hostile skeptics and may prevent people from hearing the gospel.

Yes, what is said in those memes above should certainly be troubling to Christians who take the Bible seriously. And, yes, there are passages in the Bible that at first appear alarming. But we also have to understand we’re reading them thousands of years after they were written with a modern mindset and little (if any) understanding of the ancient culture where these writings are coming from. But, I believe, with enough study, one comes to understand those troubling passages in the historical and biblical context, and they’re found not to be so alarming.

 

THE REAL ISSUE

So, the issue comes down to this:

Both Christians and skeptics are liable to be inconsistent. But is the Bible consistent?

Both Christians and skeptics, to remain consistent must not isolate verses out of context. But… is the Bible consistent?

Both Christians and skeptics, to remain consistent must look at the Bible as a whole. But, again… is the Bible consistent?

So, the debate isn’t whether Christians and skeptics can be inconsistent (because we know they can) but the big question is — you guessed it:

Is the Bible consistent?

If we work to understand the Bible as a whole, which means not looking at only isolated verses, will we find that the Bible contradicts itself?

That is the big question, and the only question that matters.

I believe the Bible is the Word of God, so I believe that when correctly understood, the Bible is consistent. This means it’ll take a lot of time and study; it means we must understand the verses in the context of history, the culture, and even the languages they were written in; it means we’ll have to wrestle with verses that at first are troubling and even appear inconsistent with other parts of the Bible.

But, as I said, when correctly understood, I believe the Bible is consistent.

This series will explored the subject of slavery and show how God’s view of slavery has not changed throughout history. In the first book of the Bible, we’re told man and women, regardless of religion, race, or economic class, have inherent worth as image-bearers of God. Thus, God and his Scripture has always been anti-slavery.

WORLDVIEW

Like many controversial issues, especially concerning religion and God, how someone would answer that question of whether the Bible is consistent comes down to worldview.

Worldview is simply “a set of beliefs about the most important issues in life” (Ronald Nash) and “the thought system we develop for explaining the world around us and our experiences in it” (Tim Warner).

All worldviews consist of assumptions (presuppositions) – which may be truth, false, or partially true – that we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about “the basic make-up of our world” (James Sire).

In other words, worldview is your basic philosophy about life, which both influences — and is influenced by — how you answer certain significant questions, such as:

Where did we come from?

Where are we going?

What is the primary problem with the world?

How do we solve it?

So, for instance, to someone with a naturalistic, atheistic worldview, of course the Bible is not the Word of God; therefore, the Bible can be inconsistent. In fact, they expect it to be. The Bible was written over a period of about 2,000 years by multiple authors; how, they say, could it possibly be consistent? Thus, they feel no need to understand it consistently.

On the other hand, Christians do believe in a supernatural Creator and that the Bible is the Word of this Creator, so they believe the Bible is consistent. Yes, the Bible was written by multiple authors over 2,000 years, yet Christians find it to be remarkably consistent because these men were guided by the Holy Spirit. If someone thinks about how much culture changes in just 100 years, the consistency of the Bible is incredible! Thus, when Christians encounter difficult verses that may seem to contradict clear teachings elsewhere in the Bible, they work for a deeper understanding of those passages. This usually means a lot of hours of study and a lot of wrestling with God’s Word.

As I said above, person’s worldview effects how he or she approaches the Bible.

(Side note: Another question to ask concerning worldview is does a person’s worldview even give them any grounds for making claims against slavery — or about human rights in general — or any moral claims at all?)

(Another side note: One way Christians are often accused of being inconsistent is how Christians follow some of the Old Testament law and not all of it. This is because Jesus Christ’s death on the cross fulfilled — and thus, freed Christians from — the Old Testament religious law. Christians are no longer bound by ancient Israel’s civic law either, but are still bound to it’s moral law. God’s moral law, since it’s based in God’s unchanging nature, doesn’t change. I address this in an earlier 2-part GFTM series here:

AN ILLUSTRATION: EXODUS 21:20-21

To illustrate how worldview effects understanding, a typical exchange may go something like this. (This will also give you, the reader, a preview of some things we’ll be discussing in future articles about slavery and the Bible.)

Let’s look at that meme again we looked at earlier in this article:

slaverymemeExodus

Skeptic: The Bible condones slavery. Exodus 21:20-21 says, “If a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies at his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, he survives a day or two, no vengeance shall be taken; for he is his property.”

Christian: There are certainly some parts of those verses that are troubling, but let me point out that before 21:20-21, we see 21:12, which says, “Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death.” So, we see in the passage you quoted that slaves in Israel were equal to everyone else in that if someone killed a slave, even the slave’s own “master,” that person would be put to death.

Skeptic: Still, Exodus 21:20-21 says it’s OK to beat slaves.

Christian: Does it? Just afterwards in Exodus 21:26 we find, “When a man strikes the eye of his slave, male or female, and destroys it, he shall let the slave go free because of his eye. If he knocks out the tooth of his slave, male or female, he shall let the slave go free because of his tooth.” It appears to me the Old Testament is protecting slaves from abuse, not promoting it.

Skeptic: But Exodus 21:20-21 says the master is allowed to beat his slaves.

Christian: Where does it say he is allowed to beat him? Exodus 21:20-21 is an example of case law, meaning it’s addressing a specific situation. Case laws always start with “If…” or “When…” It’s not saying to do this; it’s saying “if this happens, then do this…” “When [or “If”] a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod…” Also, notice there’s equality among the sexes here too. In ancient Israel, it was eye for an eye, a life for a life. If a person attacks a slave – male or female – and kills him or her, the attacker forfeits his life. If the slave suffers excessive injury, 21:26 tells us the slave — man or woman — gets his freedom.

Keep in mind, eye for an eye wasn’t always carried out literally. But appropriate, equal restitutions were to be made — no more, no less. So, for example, right in Exodus 21:18-19 we see a law similar to the slave passage you quoted, and we’re told if two men get into a fight and one is injured and “does not die but takes to his bed, then if the man rises again… he who struck him shall be clear; only he shall pay for the loss of his time…” So, if the injured man doesn’t die, the death sentence isn’t a consideration, but the other man is still expected to make restitutions and pay for the injured man’s loss of time and work and money. Notice it doesn’t say the injured man gets to beat the other guy silly so he loses out on work. Eye for an eye isn’t always practiced literally, but means an equal restitution or punishment for the crime. These were violent times; eye for an eye was actually quelling the violence. It was actually putting a fair limit on how much someone could get “pay back.”

So, we see this same idea in the passage you quoted, Exodus 21:20-21. If the slave is injured, but not killed, the attacker is not put to death, but the slave may be given his freedom. If the slave stays, the master has punished himself in that his slave was unable to perform his normal duties for him, losing the master his own means of making money.

Skeptic: You’re just putting a positive spin on it. It stills says the slave is his property. This is no better than the slavery we fought against in the Civil War.

Christian: I’d like to know the nuances of the original Hebrew word that’s translated “property.” The ESV, which is a solid translation, translates it “money.” And the NASB, another solid translation, has a footnote stating that the word could be translated “money.” This supports what I said before about if the master injuries his own slave and the slave can’t work, it’s a punishment to himself because it will cost him money by having a worker out of commission.

It’s important for you to understand that “slavery” in ancient Israel was more like indentured servanthood. The footnote at the bottom of my ESV Bible even tells us the word translated as “slave” covers a range of social and economic roles. Exodus 21:2 tells us after seven years, slaves are set free. That doesn’t sound like the type of slavery you’re talking about – like the type of slavery we saw in America’s past. Plus, Exodus 21:16 says, “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.” This is clearly not the same “slavery” as the evil slavery we had in early America.

Skeptic: The Bible is just a bunch of random stuff written by men. It contradicts itself.

Christian: You think it would be inconsistent even within the very same book of the Bible? Even within a few lines of each other? Everything we just talked about is in Exodus 21. You really think the Israelites were so dumb that they didn’t realize their own laws were inconsistent?

Skeptic: I’m only telling you what I see with my own eyes.

Christian: And I’m telling you there’s to be a better explanation, which some study, thought, and research reveals.

———–

Notice how the differing worldviews and assumptions (presuppositions) effect their approach and understanding of the Bible: The skeptic assumes the worst about the Bible and interprets the tension between the verses on slavery as inconstancy within the Bible. The Christian assumes the best and works to understand the various verses as a whole, assuming the Bible, as the Word of God, is consistent.

All that being said, this series is specifically for Christians — Christians who trust God, recognize that they’re saved by grace through Jesus Christ, but they find parts of the Bible troubling, and because they love God’s Word, they want to better understand it.

Skeptics are, of course, welcome to read this series as well, and I hope they will. But, if I were challenged by a skeptic on what the Bible says about slavery, I’d likely handle it much different than how I would address a Christian about it. I wouldn’t go into the biblical data with them without first challenging their own worldview. In other words, to make a moral stance against slavery, one first has to have a basis for morality and human rights — a basis I don’t believe most skeptics have, especially naturalists, materialists, and atheists. To address this, I steer you towards this earlier GFTM article: Morally Schizophrenic: Moral Outrage in a Land With No Moral Compass.

NEXT: Israelite Slavery Vs. Roman Slavery Vs. American Slavery: Not all types of slavery are equal.

Other related GFTM articles:

Making Sense of Old Testament Laws (Part 1 of 2) Are OT laws arbitrary, offensive & silly?

Making Sense of Old Testament Laws (Part 2 of 2) Why do Christians follow some OT laws & not others?

Check out the new GFTM book on Amazon

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Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog (Part 5) Where Did the Ark Go?

So, we’ve learned a lot about the Ark, but now the big question on all our minds: Where is it?

Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog: 

Read Part 1: What’s a Covenant?

Read Part 2: What’s the Ark Anyway?

Read Part 3: What’s All This Old Testament Stuff About?

Read Part 4: The Ark in Action!

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SO, WHERE DID THE ARK GO?

In the last article, we learned about how King David had some major issues moving the Ark to Jerusalem. Later, when King Solomon built the first Temple in Jerusalem, he had the Ark moved into the Most Holy Place – without incident, we should note! (See 1 Kings 8:1-6; 2 Chronicles 5:2-9.)

Solomon’s Temple was built around 968 BC. It was destroyed in 586 BC when Babylon conquered Israel and destroyed Jerusalem and took the Israelites into captivity for one of the darkest times in ancient Israelite history, known as the Babylonian Exile. This lasted from 586-538 BC, ending when the Persian king Cyrus conquered Babylon and allowed the Israelites to return to their homeland. Under the leadership of Zerubbabel, the second Temple in Jerusalem was built, completed about 516 BC.

Curiously, there’s no mention of the Ark in the Temple during this time. Mention of the Ark is most notably missing in Chapter 3 of Ezra, which is specifically about the building of the second Temple.

We even find this record of a scroll recording the decree of Cyrus in Ezra 6, but still no mention of the Ark:

In the first year of Cyrus the king, Cyrus the king issued a decree: Concerning the house [Temple] of God at Jerusalem, let the house be rebuilt, the place where sacrifices were offered, and let its foundations be retained. Its height shall be sixty cubits and its breadth sixty cubits, with three layers of great stones and one layer of timber. Let the cost be paid from the royal treasury. And also let the gold and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple that is in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, be restored and brought back to the temple that is in Jerusalem, each to its place. You shall put them in the house of God. (Ezra 6:3-5)

Notice Cyrus orders the treasures stolen from the first Temple by Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar to be returned to Israel to be put in the new Temple, but still no specific mention of the Ark here or anywhere else.

The last mention of the Ark’s physical existence in the Bible is during the reign of King Josiah, an upright, godly king of Israel, unlike the kings before and after him. Because Israel had wandered far from the ways of God, Josiah instituted major reforms by restoring the Temple, the Passover, and doing away with idols and other pagan practices. While doing so, Josiah said, “Put the holy ark in the house that Solomon the son of David, king of Israel, built” (2 Chronicles 35:3). This took place during Josiah’s rule somewhere between 640-609 BC, 20-50 years before the Babylonian Exile.

Josiah had ordered pagan idols to be removed from the Temple and the Ark returned to it. Had Israel fallen so deeply into idolatry that they had actually removed the Ark from the Most Holy Place and replaced it with pagan idols? Or had loyal Israelites, disgusted by the blaspheming of their Lord’s Temple, removed the Ark?

Interestingly, in 2 Chronicles 35:3, Josiah says to the Levites when telling them to place the Ark back into the Temple, “it will be a burden on your shoulders no longer” (NASB). This certainly sounds like those loyal to God had been moving the Ark, perhaps by their own choice due to the idolatry desecrating God’s Temple or by forced expulsion from the Temple by the wicked kings before Josiah, like Manasseh.

Ark_tired

As I said, this took place about 20-50 years before the Babylonian Exile. After the exile, we see nothing more of the Ark.

God had allowed this exile to happen to Israel. Israel hadn’t kept their part of the covenant agreement; they had promised to be God’s representative people on the earth, but they had forgotten God and had turned to pagan gods. Thus, God took his blessings and protection from them.

As God removed his blessing and presence from Israel, the Ark lost its significance, and as the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and God’s Temple, it’s quite possible they destroyed the Ark or carried it off as a spoil of war, perhaps stripping the gold from it and destroying the rest.

Or perhaps the Ark was placed in the new Temple after the Exile, and it simply isn’t mentioned in Ezra’s account. But arguments from silence rarely make good cases; it’s odd that such a prominent part of the Temple (and Israel’s history) should be ignored in the biblical record. Plus, we find no mention of the Ark after – ever.

Or had the Ark not even been in Jerusalem at the time of the Babylonian attack?

 

ACCORDING TO INDY

In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy explains to the U.S. Army agents that one possible fate of the lost Ark was that the Egyptian Pharaoh Shishak took it when he invaded Jerusalem in about 980 BC. He then took the Ark to the ancient city of Tanis and placed it into a chamber called The Well of Souls. A year later, Tanis was “consumed” by a year-long sandstorm and disappeared. As Indy’s colleague Marcus Brody says, Tanis and all traces of the Ark were “wiped clean by the wrath of God.” Since, Indiana finds the Well of Souls with the Ark in it, it seems to be the explanation the movie sticks with.

Tanis is, in fact, an ancient Egyptian city, and Shishak (Shoshenq I, Sheshonk I, Sheshonq I – pick your favorite spelling) is a historical pharaoh. In 1 Kings 14 and 2 Chronicles 12, we’re told during the reign of rotten King Rehoboam (930-913 BC), the son of Solomon, Pharaoh Shishak invaded Jerusalem and “took away the treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king’s house. He took away everything. He also took away the shields of gold that Solomon had made” (2 Chronicles 12:9).

The movie has the date of this invasion a bit off, but the important thing to note is that this took place long before the rule of King Josiah – about 300 years before! As we saw above, the Ark was still in the possession of the Israelites at the time of King Josiah’s reign. Therefore, though Shishak “took away the treasures of the house of the Lord… He took away everything,” what constitutes “treasures” and “everything” must not have included the Ark (unless somehow the Ark was returned) because we have evidence of the Ark still being around at the time of Josiah.

Other than there being a historical Tanis, a historical Shishak, and a historical invasion and looting of Jerusalem by Shishak, the rest of Indy’s theory of the lost Ark is pure fiction — which unfortunately means no Well of Souls, no sandstorm, no map room, and no Staff of Ra either. Bummer.

Indiana_Staff_of_Ra

OUTSIDE THE BIBLE

Of course, outside the Bible there are rumors and legends about the fate of the Ark, and I’m sure the popularity of the Indiana Jones movies have inspired many new searches and theories.

Second Maccabees, an ancient text that is not considered Scripture by both Jews and Protestant Christians but is found in the Catholic Apocrypha, says that before the Babylonian invasion, the prophet Jeremiah hid the Ark in a cave on Mount Nebo, the mountain God had Moses climb to see the Promised Land.

Another theory is that the Ark was hidden under the Temple before the Babylonian invasion. Of course, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is now the location of the sacred Islamic site the Dome of the Rock. Good luck getting permission to dig under there (Apparently, there’s a “partly natural, partly man-made cave located inside the Foundation Stone under the Dome of the Rock” called the Well of Souls! Did the writers of Raiders of the Lost Ark know this? Did they get the name and/or idea for the movie’s “Well of Souls” from this or is this just a coincidence?)

The Bible Archaeology, Search & Exploration (BASE) Institute points out that though 2 Chronicles 35:3 is the last mention of the Ark in the Old Testament, Isaiah 37:14-16 is the last time we know for certain the Ark was actually in the Temple. When Hezekiah goes into the Temple to pray, he says, “O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth.” This reference to the cherubim is likely a reference to the two winged cherubim on the covering of the Ark, the Mercy Seat. In other words, even though King Josiah requested that the Levites bring the Ark back to the Temple later in history, we don’t know for sure if the Ark ever got there. After all, sadly, good King Josiah was killed in battle, and the kings after him were evil, so who knows if the Ark ever made it back into the Temple as King Josiah wished (or, if it did, if it stayed there).

The BASE Institute believes the Ark was moved before Josiah’s rule during the reign of Israel’s evil King Manasseh (687-642 BC) to Elephantine Island in Egypt by a colony of loyal Israelites. They claim to have found archeological evidence of a duplicate Temple there.

The BASE Institute also visited a place called St. Mary’s of Zion church in Axum, Ethiopia where they met the current “Guardian of the Ark of the Covenant.” Apparently, this man is part of a long line of specially trained keepers of the Ark. (Sort of sounds like the Grail Knight, who guarded the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.) Unfortunately (Conveniently-?), only the guardian is allowed to lay eyes on the Ark. A 105-year-old priest, who claimed to have seen it after one of the guardians died, described the object similar to the description in the Bible. The BASE Institute concludes St. Mary’s of Zion in Ethiopia “is the resting place either of an incredible replica of the biblical Ark of the Covenant, or, of the actual Ark of the Covenant itself,” though they didn’t see the Ark themselves.

Indiana_Chamber

 

ONE LAST BIBLICAL MENTION

There is one last mention of the Ark in the Bible, at the very end of the Bible in the very last book, the Book of Revelation. In this section, we see heaven’s temple opened to John in a vision, and “the ark of his covenant was seen within [God’s] temple” (11:19). The Book of Revelation is notoriously difficult to understand; it’s a highly symbolic book, and often it’s difficult to know what’s symbol and what’s to be understood literally. But the ESV Study Bible explains that this shows John being allowed to see deeper into God’s truth “to receive visions that expose the deepest perspectives on the church’s spiritual conflict.”

Does this mean the Ark is literally in heaven? Remember, Hebrews 8:5 tells us the earthly Temple was “a copy and shadow of the heavenly things.” But does that mean there’s a literal temple in heaven or that the Temple that existed in Jerusalem is a symbolic, physical representation of spiritual realities? I believe most theologians would lean towards the second.

Whether we understand this vision to be literal or symbolic, going closer to God in the earthly Temple would mean entering the innermost part of the Temple, the Most Holy Place, where the Ark of the Covenant once resided as the meeting place between God and man. Thus, this would be an appropriate symbol in the Book of Revelation of God allowing John access to deeper spiritual truths.

I do not believe the answer to “Where is the Ark?” is that it’s in heaven because of this verse in Revelation (as I saw one person suggest online). Here, I understand the image of the Ark as a symbol of spiritual truths. Nevertheless, an actual physical Ark did once exist; so, what happened to it?

As the religious law and ritual of the Old Testament has been fulfilled by Jesus’ death on the cross and God allowed the utter destruction of his Temple again (this time by the Romans) in 70 AD, the Ark is no longer needed because it has lost its significance. Followers of Christ don’t need priests, the Temple, nor the Ark to communicate with their heavenly Father. Because of this, I lean towards thinking the Ark has been destroyed and forever removed from history. But others believe the Ark is in hiding — laying in wait, if you will — only to be revealed again at the victorious return of Christ to reclaim his creation.

NEXT: (The final article of the series) Skeptics, legalists, and the superstitious come face-to-face with God’s wrath… DON’T LOOK MARION!!

Read Part 1: What’s a Covenant?

Read Part 2: What’s the Ark Anyway?

Read Part 3: What’s All This Old Testament Stuff About?

Read Part 4: The Ark in Action!

New from GFTM Blog: Available in paperback for $9.00 (or less) and Kindle version for $3.50 (or less) on Amazon. Or learn more here.

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Who Jesus Ain’t: Jesus Ain’t a Hippy, Your Homeboy or a Wimp

*Is Jesus a harmless wimp? Is he your best friend? Or is he more dangerous than we imagine?*

**In November 2013, I started a GFTM blog series called “Who Jesus Ain’t.” I always planned on writing more for the series, but was sidetracked by seminary work and other ideas. Finally, I wrote more for the series, but I decided to publish it as a book, Who Jesus Ain’t: Introducing Jesus of Nazareth. What follows is a shortened chapter from that book.**

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(Available in paperback for $9.00 (or less) and Kindle version for $3.50 (or less) on Amazon. Or learn more here.)

It’s easy to see why some people think of Jesus of Nazareth as some harmless hippy. Usually he’s portrayed in paintings with long, flowing hair and sandals. We know Jesus taught a message of peace and love. He even loves children,[1] and he admits he’s “gentle and lowly in heart.”[2]

Because of this, it’s also easy to see Jesus as a wimp. I mean – come on – how tough can that toga-wearing guy cuddling a lamb in the painting be? How many tough hippies do you know? If fact, how tough can someone look while his emaciated body hangs on a crucifix? For God-in-the-flesh, Jesus doesn’t come across all that powerful.

Is this understanding of Jesus accurate?

Jesus’ commands to love your neighbor as yourself,[6] to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,[7] and to even do good for those who hate you,[8] all commands Jesus highlights in the famous Parable of the Good Samaritan.[9]

But Jesus is not your beatnik cousin or your hipster roommate. He’s one of the persons of the Triune God of Scripture, which means Jesus is God. In Exodus 15:3, Moses and the Israelites praise God for destroying the Egyptian army, and they call God “a warrior.”

Here are 3 more reasons why Jesus is a warrior:

 

  1. JESUS AIN’T AFRAID OF CONFRONTATION

A lot of people hate confrontations and do everything they can to avoid them, but Jesus confronted his hostile adversaries not by passive-aggressively talking about them to others or by writing scathing things about them or even by cyber-bullying them over social media, but he confronted them face-to-face. Not only that, he silenced them. These are not the actions of a coward or weakling.

The chief priests, scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducee were out to get Jesus, but Jesus never avoided a debate with them. Jesus never shied away from speaking the hard truth to them about their hypocrisy and empty religion.

In Matthew 10:16, Jesus warns his disciples,

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

In Jesus’ debates with the religious leaders of his day, we see Jesus model this teaching again and again. For instance, in Luke 20, Luke records three attempts by the religious leaders to outsmart, trap, and repudiate Jesus. After three failed attempts – after the religious leaders being left speechless by Jesus’ rebuttals three times – Luke tells us,

For they no longer dared to ask him any question. (Luke 20:40)

Pilate_Jesus

  1. JESUS AIN’T AFRAID OF DEMONS

Not only is Jesus not afraid of demons, but the demons tremble at the sound of his name! James 2:19 tells us:

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder!

It’s convicting to us today to think demons actually understand God with a better sense of fear and reverence than we do. They have good reason. Scripture shows us that casting out demons was a regular part of Jesus’ ministry:

Whenever the unclean spirits saw Him, they would fall down before Him and shout, “You are the Son of God!” (Mark 3:11)

Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are – the Holy One of God!” And Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” Throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice and came out of him. They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” (Mark 1:23-27)

Notice how Jesus isn’t even seeking out the demons. His presence is enough to throw them into a fit of panic and terror, and Jesus has absolute control over them. Likely the most famous case of demon-possession within Scripture is probably so because it’s the worst case of demon-possession in the Gospels:

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” (Mark 5:1-7)

The demon-possessed man tells Jesus his name is “Legion, for we are many”[14] presumably because a whole legion of demons are within him. Yet even they fear Jesus, and even this poor, tormented man is freed at Jesus’ command.

Jesus’ disciples were also able to cast out demons in his name (by his authority).[15] As Paul writes to other followers of Jesus in Romans 16:20,

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.

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3. JESUS AIN’T GOING TO FORGIVE FOREVER

The person who told his followers to turn the other cheek won’t be turning his cheek forever.

What many don’t realize about one of the most quoted passages of Scripture, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life,”[25] is that this open invitation for salvation will not be available forever.

John 3 goes on to tell us,

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:17-18)

Notice the words “condemned already.” In other words, Jesus isn’t the reason people go to Hell to eternal separation from God; he’s the reason people stay out of Hell. Many people get this backwards when they hear Christians say that Jesus is the only way to salvation. They think what’s being said is, Since you’re not Christian, Jesus is condemning you to Hell. Yet what Scripture teaches is, You’re already going to Hell, but Jesus is the solution. We all have sin and are separated from God by it. God the Son could have chosen to (A) leave it this way or (B) become a man, absorb the punishment we deserve, and snatch us from Hell’s grip by the free gift of salvation. Like all gifts, a person can only benefit from it if he receives the gift. Jesus isn’t the cause; he’s the cure.

But something else many don’t understand about John 3 is that this gift of salvation is not an open offer forever. During Jesus’ First Coming, he didn’t come to condemn but to bring the free gift of salvation. In Jesus’ Second Coming, he’ll come as judge of the living and the dead,[26] bringing judgment and condemnation to all those who haven’t repented and believed in what he accomplished on the cross.

The apostle Paul speaks of Jesus judging the secrets of our hearts,[27] and he writes,

It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. (1 Corinthians 4:4-5)

The Book of Revelation gives us both a glorious and horrifying vision of Jesus Christ’s return. For those who are of Jesus’ flock, they don’t have to fear condemnation because Jesus has stood in their place and taken their punishment, but those who aren’t of Jesus’ flock will be judged fairly, justly, and perfectly by the perfect, all-knowing Son of God, and apart from the saving power of Jesus’ sacrifice, they’ll all fall short.

As we speak about Jesus’ not being a wimp, there’s no better place to end than in the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible. During Jesus’ Second Coming, he will declare war on all evil and destroy all his enemies, including Satan and death.[28] Those who rise up against him, in one last futile attempt at autonomy and rebellion, will meet a grisly defeat.

The Book of Revelation is highly symbolic, so it’s often difficult to know what to understand literally or symbolically. But whether it’s to be understood literally or figuratively, the image painted in Revelation 19 of the warrior Jesus returned to reclaim his creation is not for the faint of heart:

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh. (Revelation 19:11-21)

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And So…

Jesus is not your hippy roommate or your homie or that pencil-necked nerd everyone used to push around. But Jesus also told his disciples this:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:12-15)

What a beautiful sentiment by the creator of the universe! And it’s one that should deeply humble us – always remembering that God also said, “my glory I give to no other.”[30]

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Available in paperback for $9.00 (or less) and Kindle version for $3.50 (or less) on Amazon. Or learn more here.

[1] Matthew 19:14.

[2] Matthew 11:29.

[6] Mark 12:31 (Also see Leviticus 19:18).

[7] Matthew 5:44.

[8] Luke 6:27.

[9] Luke 10:25-37.

[14] Mark 5:9.

[15] See Luke 10:17, for example.

[25] John 3:16.

[26] 1 Peter 4:5; 2 Timothy 4:1.

[27] Romans 2:16.

[28] Revelation 20.

[30] Isaiah 42:8.

 

Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog (Part 2) What’s the Ark anyway?

The Ark of the Covenant… Last article we answered, “What is a covenant?” so now let’s answer, “What’s the Ark?” Is what is said in Raiders about the Ark accurate to the Bible?

Read Part 1: Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog (Part 1) What’s a Covenant?

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WHAT IS THE ARK?

In the book of Exodus, after freeing the Israelites from 400 years of slavery in Egypt, God gives Moses “the Law.” This includes civil, moral, and religious laws, including the 10 Commandments. In the section of Scripture where God gives Moses specific instructions about the design of the tabernacle, which is essentially a portable temple (the Israelites were nomadic at this time and lived in tents), God also gives the specifics on how to build the Ark of the Covenant (See Exodus 25-26).

The directions, preserved in the Bible, are specific and give the precise dimensions. It was to be made of acacia (shittim) wood and completely overlaid with gold. There were to be gold rings in the corners so golden staves could be inserted into the rings and the Ark could be carried by the priests and Levites. This is the only way the Ark was to be carried (and this is an important detail to remember when we talk later about a man named Uzzah).

In Raider of the Lost Ark, we see Indy and Sallah use staves and the rings to lift the Ark from its stone container when they find it in the Well of Souls. Because of the specific details in the directions, the Bible must’ve made a good guide for the prop designer(s) of the Ark for the Raiders movie. (See Exodus 25:10-22; 37:1-9; Deut. 10:2-5)

Indiana_Ark

On the top of the Ark, sits the Mercy Seat (or Cover). Two winged cherubim spread their wings towards each other, “overshadowing” the Mercy Seat (Ex.25:20). Recorded in Exodus 25:21, God says, “There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.”

Mercy_Seat

WHAT’S IN THE ARK?

The “testimony” God gave Moses (written on stone tablets) were to be kept in the Ark (Ex. 25:21; Deut. 10:2-5), but other objects were also kept in the Ark.

In Exodus 16:32-34, God commanded Moses that some of the manna God provided from heaven to feed the Israelites in the desert to be kept in a container. In Numbers 17, to show that Aaron had God’s authority behind him, God made Aaron’s staff sprout and “put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds” (Num.17:8).

Both of these important artifacts from Israel’s history must’ve been placed in the Ark for safe keeping later, because in the Book of Hebrews in the New Testament, the Ark is described as containing “a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant” (Heb. 9:4).

It must’ve been decided to keep these additional two things in the Ark many generations later, because even during the reign of King Solomon the Ark only contained the stone tablets: as the Ark was placed in Solomon’s newly built temple in Jerusalem, we’re clearly told, “There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone that Moses put there at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt” (1 Kings 8:9).

Moses_10Commandments

So, Indy and the Nazis should’ve expected to find more than just the tablets of the 10 Commandments in the Ark. When Belloq opens the Ark at the end of the film, all he finds is sand. Had the stone tablets disintegrated? Or had they been removed – along with the container of manna and Aaron’s staff? Were the writers of Raiders even aware that the manna and staff should also be in the Ark? Did they leave that part of biblical history out for the sake of simplicity in the plot?

 

WHERE WAS THE ARK KEPT?

Within the holy Tabernacle, Israel’s portable temple, there was a special place called the Most Holy Place. A veil separated it from the rest of the Tabernacle. This is where God’s presence would reside among his people, and, thus, the Ark was to be kept there (Ex. 26:33-34). So, in a way, Indy’s arch-nemesis Belloq is right when he calls the Ark “a transmitter. It’s a radio for speaking to God.”

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The Tabernacle

The Most Holy Place was to only ever be entered once a year on the Day of Atonement by the high priest of Israel alone. For anyone else to enter into the presence of God meant certain death, and the high priest could only enter after completing all sorts of rituals to atone for his sins and to be ritualistically clean. Then, and only then, could the high priest enter the Most Holy Place with the blood of the goat sacrificed for the sins of all of Israel, where he would sprinkle some of the blood over and in front of the Mercy Seat of the Ark. (See Leviticus 16.)

(There’s a popular idea that the Israelites would tie a rope around the ankle of the High Priest before he entered the Most Holy Place so if he died, they could drag him out. The lack of historical evidence leads many to believe this practice may simply be a legend.)

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Inside the Tabernacle with The Most Holy Place

The Book of Exodus ends with the tabernacle being completed and the glory of the LORD filling the Tabernacle (Ex.40:34). Several generations later, we see the glory of God again fill the more permanent structure in Jerusalem when Solomon completed the building of the first Temple (2 Chronicles 7).

Later, in the New Testament, we will learn what all this represents.

NEXT: Rituals, tabernacles, sacrifices, & the Ark… So, what’s this Old Testament stuff all about?

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Read Part 1: Indiana Jones, the Lost Ark & the Temple of Blog (Part 1) What’s a Covenant?

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Who wants to buy me this??

 Other GFTM articles related to entertainment & TV:

The Walking Dead Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, & Part 4

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Preachers of LA Part 1 & Part 2

Bible Secrets Re-revealed! Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, & Part 7

Even More Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels: Can Apologetics Get Any More Sexy?

*Are there Undesigned Coincidences between the Gospels & ancient writings outside of the Bible? How can minor details in the Gospels show the reliability of the Gospels? Are you sexy enough to handle this?*

4_Gospels_painting

Series intro: What’s an Undesigned Coincidence?

Where key, major details remain the same when two or more authors write about the same historic event, we find minor details may be added or left out. An “undesigned coincidence” is when one account provides details, but another account written about the same incident by a different author gives more insight into those details. We see “undesigned coincidences” when we have two or more independently investigated accounts of the same event, and we find undesigned coincidences throughout the Gospels of the New Testament.

It’s highly unlikely that such complimentary minor details would be deliberately falsified, and the assurance that they’re based on authentic events is extremely high. In other words, when multiple people retell a true story, they may include minor details without an explanation of those details and others telling the same story may unintentionally fill in those missing pieces. Such non-deliberate cohesion smacks of authenticity.

Read PART 1: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels: It Don’t Sound Sexy, But Oh Man It Is

Read PART 2: More Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels: Bringing Sexy Apologetics Back

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Yes, by now you’ve probably figured out that I’ve been shamelessly placing “sexy” in every title of this series to catch people’s attention (with a healthy dose of irony). Here are more examples of Undesigned Coincidences:

 

Fixin’ to Fix Some Fish Nets

18 Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 21 Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him. (Matthew 4:18-22)

 

OK, one big question immediately comes to mind when reading this passage: Why were these fishermen so quick to follow Jesus? I mean, would you give up your livelihood and abandon your family simply because some dude tells you to follow him?

Well, we find the answer not in Matthew, but in the much longer account in the Gospel of Luke:

 

5 Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; 2 and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. 3 And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat.

4 When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” 6 When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; 7 so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink.

8 But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9 For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” 11 When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him. (Luke 5:1-11)

 

So, the reason the fishermen are so quick to follow Jesus in Matthew is because this is not the first time they’ve seen him! In fact, they’d witnessed Jesus teach and perform a miracle before he told them to follow him. No wonder they followed him so quickly in Matthew’s Gospel!

Where Matthew gives us more details of the actual moment of the calling of the fishermen, Luke gives a longer account (which includes the miracle before the calling) but then he simply summarizes or condenses – shortens or telescopes – the events after the miracle by simply telling us the fishermen left everything and followed Jesus. Where Matthew chose to emphasize the actual calling, Luke chose to emphasize the miracle. (Learn more about telescoping in another GFTM article.)

 

Furthermore, notice Matthew uses the word “immediately” twice. Both pairs of brothers — Peter and Andrew and James and John — followed Jesus “immediately” when called to follow. But Luke does NOT tell us they followed Jesus “immediately” after returning to the land, meaning some time could’ve passed between the two events.

Only when we look at Matthew and Luke together can we conclude that some time had actually passed between the return to the shore after the miraculous catch and when the fishermen left with Jesus. How long exactly? We can’t say – but not a lot of time, because we’re told in Matthew’s Gospel that James and John were fixing the torn nets.

And, Yes! That is another Undesigned Coincidence between Luke’s and Matthew’s account of the calling of Peter and the other fishermen:

Matthew tells us in 4:21 that James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were “mending their nets.” Why? The detail is fleshed out in Luke. Luke 5:6 tells us during the miraculous catch, “… they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break.”

Perhaps the sons of Zebedee would’ve been more annoyed with Jesus for damaging their nets if he hadn’t done so by performing a miracle.

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External Undesigned Coincidences

Up to this point in this series, we’ve been looking at examples of Internal Undesigned Coincidences — “internal” meaning within the Bible.

To end this series (for now), we’ll look at External Undesigned Coincidences — meaning collaborations between details in the Gospels with information outside of the Bible.

 

Runnin’ from Archelaus

In the Gospel of Matthew, in the birth narrative of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, having been warned in a dream, flee with the newborn Jesus to Egypt from the wrath of Herod the Great. Then Matthew tells us this:

 

19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, 20 “Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.” 21 So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, 23 and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: “He shall be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:19-23)

 

So, who is Archelaus? And why was Joseph so afraid of him? Matthew doesn’t give us one clue, nor does the rest of the Bible!

But we learn about Archelaus from outside the Bible, in another piece of ancient writing. We learn about Archelaus in the writings of Josephus, a first-century Jewish historian (37-100 AD). Archelaus is Herod Archelaus, the son of Herod the Great, who became ethnarch of Judea for a short period after the death of his father.

Due to growing tension between the Romans, the Jews, and the Jew’s Roman-appointed Herodian rulers (who were seen as half-breeds and traitors by the Jews), Josephus reports that Herod Archelaus slaughtered 3,000 Jews at the Temple during the Passover to quell a possible uprising.

So, why were Joseph and Mary afraid of Archelaus? Ancient historian Jospehus gives us the obvious answer in his work Antiquities of the Jews. Thus, Joseph and his family fled from Archelaus to Nazareth in Galilee, a place outside of the territory of Archelaus’s reign.

Herod the Great?

Herod the Great…?

Likewise, many rulers (including kings, governors, etc.) mentioned in the New Testament are also mentioned by Josephus, including Pontius Pilate, Herod the Great, Herod Agrippa, and Antonius Felix. Josephus also wrote about John the Baptist, Jesus’ brother James, and Jesus himself. (Read this GFTM article to learn more about what Josephus said about Jesus.)

In fact, 84 facts in the last 16 chapters of the Book of Acts alone have been confirmed by historical and archaeological evidence outside of the Bible, and in the Gospel of Luke, 11 historically proven leaders appear in the first 3 chapters alone. New archeological discoveries have continually supported the reliability of the biblical record, including the discovery of Jacob’s Well, a building inscription of the name Pontius Pilate, and an ossuary containing the bones of Caiaphas, the high priest who helped orchestrate the crucifixion of Jesus.

Josephus...?

Josephus…?

Related GFTM articles:

Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels: It Don’t Sound Sexy, But Oh Man It Is

More Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels: Bringing Sexy Apologetics Back

Is the Bible Any More Accurate than Other Religious Texts?

Is There Evidence of Jesus’ Existence (Outside the Bible)?

The Joy & Angst of Four Gospels – Part 4 – The Gospels as Ancient Biography & History & “Narrative Creativity”

Books by GFTM:

Searching the Bible for Mother God: Examining the Teachings of the World Mission Society Church of God

 

 

More Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels: Bringing Sexy Apologetics Back

**How can minor details in the Gospels show the reliability of the Gospels? Do multiple accounts confuse us or give us deeper insight? How sexy can apologetics be?**

fish&loaves_mosaic

What’s an Undesigned Coincidence?

Where key, major details remain the same when two or more authors write about the same historic event, we find minor details may be added or left out. An “undesigned coincidence” is when one account provides details, but another account written about the same incident by a different author gives more insight into those details. We see “undesigned coincidences” when we have two or more independently investigated accounts of the same event, and we find undesigned coincidences throughout the Gospels.

It’s highly unlikely that such complimentary minor details would be deliberately falsified, and the assurance that they’re based on authentic events is extremely high. In other words, when multiple people retell a true story, they may include details without an explanation of those details and others telling the same story may unintentionally fill in those missing pieces. Such non-deliberate cohesion smacks of authenticity.

You might think the phrase “Undesigned Coincidence” doesn’t sound “sexy,” but oh man, you’re wrong.

Read PART 1: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels: It Don’t Sound Sexy, But Oh Man It Is

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Peter & Trash Talkin’

Peter, arguably Jesus’ most famous disciple, is not known for being perfect, but for being impulsive and brash. He’s also remembered for infamously denying three times that he knew Jesus Christ after Jesus’ arrest.

John is the only Gospel writer to give us an account of Peter being “reinstated” into Jesus’ flock of disciples after his resurrection, where Jesus asks Peter three times (mirroring Peter’s three denials) if he loves him, and then following with three commands for Peter.

During this event, Jesus says a little something that sounds a little odd:

 

14 This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead.

15 So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” 16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.” (John 21:14-17)

 

“…more than these”? What did Jesus mean by this? “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” What or who are “these”?

Reading carefully through all of the Gospel of John, we find no answer! Sure, we can make some guesses about who or what “these” are, but how can we be certain?

But if we turn to the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, we find our answer. We find the answer during the Last Supper:

 

27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same. (Mark 14:27-31)

 

We find the same statement in Matthew 26:33. Did you catch it?

In Mark: Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.”

In John: Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?

When Peter said if “they” all fall away, the other disciples were all around him at the Last Supper; he was referring to them. When Jesus reinstated Peter in John 21, the two of them were with the other disciples. The “these” are the other disciples.

Peter had arrogantly boasted that even if the other disciples (“they”) fall away, he never would. Then, after Peter denied knowing Jesus three times, Jesus asks him, “Do you love Me more than these [other disciples]?”

Ouch. Praise God that he is a forgiving God.

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Pilate & Trash Talkin’

In Luke 23, we find Jesus before Pilate.

 

1 Then the whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” 3 And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” 4 Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.” (Luke 23:1-4)

 

This exchange between Pontius Pilate, Jesus, and the Jewish authorities is brief and a bit odd. The hostile Jews accuse Jesus of claiming to be a king, so Pilate straight up asks Jesus if he’s a king. Jesus says, “You have said so,” which sure sounds like Jesus is confirming that fact — or at least not denying it. But then Pilate turns to the Jews and says Jesus is not guilty. Huh? What just happened?

To find the answer, we have to go to John’s longer account of this event:

 

28 Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30 They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” 31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” 32 This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.” (John 18:28-38)

 

So, it’s not in Luke, but in John that we see the rest of the puzzle. It’s in John where Jesus says,

“My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

Thus, Pontius Pilate concludes Jesus is no threat – not in an armed revolutionary way anyway – or any way that the Romans need to be concerned about. Jesus admits he’s a king, but not one of this world, and his disciples have no intentions of fighting the Roman Empire.

It’s likely Pilate didn’t know what to make of Jesus – perhaps he only thought of him as a harmless religious nut – but he concludes that Jesus is not guilty of any crime against the Roman Empire. Thus, Pilate walks out and announces this to the hostile Jews.

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What we have in Luke is what’s called telescoping, which is a compressed version of the telling of an event. In other words, Luke gives us the short version, leaving out many details. (See the GFTM series “The Joy and Angst of Four Gospels” to learned more about telescoping and other literary devices used in the Gospels.)

But, before we move on, go back and reread John’s longer account, because even John leaves out a detail! He does NOT record anything about the hostile Jews specifically telling Pilate that Jesus claimed to be a king! The Jews only accuse Jesus of “doing evil,” but when Pilate brings Jesus inside, the first thing he asks him is, “Are you the King of the Jews?”

What? Why? Where did he come up with that?

We must go back again to Luke’s shorter account to find that detail:

And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” (Luke 23:2)

Ironically, Jesus was indeed a threat to the Roman Empire, just not in the way Pilate thought.

NEXT: More Sexiness & Undesigned Coincidences — including EXTERNAL ones!

Read PART 1: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels: It Don’t Sound Sexy, But Oh Man It Is

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Books By GFTM:

Searching the Bible for Mother God: Examining the Teachings of the World Mission Society Church of God

Other GFTM series:

The Joy & Angst of Four Gospels

Refuting the Mother God Cult

Bible Secrets Re-revealed

Christians & Marijuana

Judge Not?

The Walking Dead & the Christian Worldview