Life is a winding and troubled road

“Life is not a straight line leading from one blessing to the next and then finally to heaven. Life is a winding and troubled road. Switchback after switchback. And the point of biblical stories like Joseph and Job and Esther and Ruth is to help us feel in our bones (not just know in our heads) that God is for us in all these strange turns. God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up. He is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes for our good and for the glory of Jesus Christ.”

John Piper

Does the Bible Teach That The World Is Square?

Revelation 7:1 mentions the four angels standing at the four corners of the earth. Does that means the world is square? I could not answer this question better than Norman L. Geisler and Thomas Howe:

The Bible does not teach that the world is square. First of all, this is a figure of speech meaning “from every section of the globe” or as Jeremiah put it, “from the four quarters of heaven” (Jer. 49:36). It is a succinct way of referring to the four directions, “north, south, east, and west.” In this sense it is akin to the phrase, “the four winds … of heaven” (Jer. 49:36).

 The only references to the shape of the earth in the Bible speak of it as round. Isaiah spoke of God “who sits on the circle of the earth … (Isaiah 40:22, MKJV). And Job refers to the world as hanging in space, asserted that God “stretches out the north over the empty place, [and] He hung the earth on nothing” (Job 26:7, MKJV). There is certainly nothing unscientific about these statements.

Source:

Geisler, N. L., & Howe, T. A. (1992). When critics ask : A popular handbook on Bible difficulties (553). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

St Augustin: A Role Of Signs And Wonders

The gospel according to John recorded signs and wonders performed by Jesus to move its readers to believe that this  Nazarene son of a carpenter is God’s promised Davidic Messiah, the Son of God and “that by believing [they] may have life in his name.”(Jn 20:31). The first sign, changing water into wine, recorded in John 2:1-11 gave John’s readers a solid clue of who Jesus is.

The climax of this narrative is found in verse 11: ” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” Unlike any other signs ever performed by prophets in Israel’s history viz. manifesting God’s glory, John wanted his readers to understand what he meant by John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ” and John 1:14: “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” so that they could join in with Jesus’ disciples in believing in Him.

In Tractates on the Gospel according to St John, Aurelius Augustin, the Bishop of Hippo, explained the role of signs and wonders. He wrote:

T[he] miracle indeed of our Lord Jesus Christ, whereby He made the water into wine, is not marvellous to those who know that it was God’s doing. For He who made wine on that day at the marriage feast, in those six water-pots, which He commanded to be filled with water, the self-same does this every year in vines.For even as that which the servants put into the water-pots was turned into wine by the doing of the Lord, so in like manner also is what the clouds pour forth changed into wine by the doing of the same Lord. But we do not wonder at the latter, because it happens every year: it has lost its marvellousness by its constant recurrence.

And yet it suggests a greater consideration than that which was done in the water-pots. For who is there that considers the works of God, whereby this whole world is governed and regulated, who is not amazed and overwhelmed with miracles? If he considers the vigorous power of a single grain of any seed whatever, it is a mighty thing, it inspires him with awe. But since men, intent on a different matter, have lost the consideration of the works of God, by which they should daily praise Him as the Creator, God has, as it were, reserved to Himself the doing of certain extraordinary actions, that, by striking them with wonder, He might rouse men as from sleep to worship Him. A dead man has risen again; men marvel: so many are born daily, and none marvels.

St. Agustin then concluded that Jesus turning water to wine was wrought by the same God who made all things.  We ought not wonder at the water turned wine, “but love Him because He did it in our midst, and for the purpose of our restoration”

Source:

A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series, Volume VII: St. Augustin: Homilies on the Gospel of John, Homilies on the First Epistle of John, Soliloquies. 1888 (P. Schaff, Ed.) (57-8). New York: Christian Literature Company.(paragraph added)

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

How Did Judas Iscariot Die?

The old English couplet says“Still, as of old, man by himself is priced; for thirty pieces, Judas sold himself, not Christ.”¹ Have you ever wondered how Judas Iscariot, the disciple of Jesus who was a thief(John 12:6), a traitor and a man better off unborn, died?

We have seemly contradictory accounts of his death:

Account 1: Matthew’s in Gospel: Judas hanged himself

Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders,  saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.”  And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.  But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” (Mt 27:3–6 ESV).

Account 2: Luke’s  in Acts of Apostles:  Judas fell and his body burst open.

In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said,  “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.  For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.”  (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)  (Ac 1:15–19 ESV).

Solutions:

Historical: Church Father’s Solution

Commentary on the fragments of Papias (c. 70-155 A.D)

Apollinarius. ‘Judas did not die by hanging, but lived on, having been cut down before he was suffocated. And the Acts of the Apostles show this, that falling headlong he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. This fact is related more clearly by Papias, the disciple of John, in the fourth (book) of the Exposition of the Oracles of the Lord as follows:—

Judas walked about in this world a terrible example of impiety; his flesh swollen to such an extent that, where a waggon can pass with ease, he was not able to pass, no, not even the mass of his head merely. They say that his eyelids swelled to such an extent that he could not see the light at all, while as for his eyes they were not visible even by a physician looking through an instrument, so far had they sunk from the surface …’

Complied from Cramer Catena ad Acta SS. Apost (1838) p. 12 sq. and other sources.²

Apologetic: Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe’s Solution

These accounts are not contradictory, but mutually complementary. Judas hung himself exactly as Matthew affirms that he did. The account in Acts simply adds that Judas fell, and his body opened up at the middle and his intestines gushed out. This is the very thing one would expect of someone who hanged himself from a tree over a cliff and fell on sharp rocks below.³

It important to notice that Geisler’s solution presumes that Judas died by hanging or at least in that process of hanging himself , which Matthew account does not explicitly spill out. while “Apollinarius” does not. 

Bio:

1. Weber, S. K. (2000). Vol. 1: Matthew. Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference (450). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
2. Lightfoot, J. B., & Harmer, J. R. (1891). The Apostolic Fathers (534–535). London: Macmillan and Co.
3. Geisler, N. L., & Howe, T. A. (1992). When critics ask : A popular handbook on Bible difficulties (361). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

Is Christ Jesus Angel Michael? An Early Church Father’s Answer

A northern African Latin theologian Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus’ (c.160-225 A.D.) works gives a wonderful insight of who Christ Jesus is and particularly in  “On the Flesh of Christ”, which was written to refute the heretics who denied that Christ took on human flesh because of their presupposition viz. ” no resurrection of body”, Tertullian helps us answer the whether Christ Jesus is angle Michael.

I believe that this historical pierce could help us in our dialogue with today’s Arius, Jehovah Witnesses, who claim that Jesus is angel Michael.

Tertullian wrote:

But Christ, they say, bare (the nature of) an angel. For what reason? The same which induced Him to become man? Christ, then, was actuated by the motive which led Him to take human nature. Man’s salvation was the motive, the restoration of that which had perished. Man had perished; his recovery had become necessary. No such cause, however, existed for Christ’s taking on Him the nature of angels. For although there is assigned to angels also perdition in “the fire prepared for the devil and his angels,” yet a restoration is never promised to them. No charge about the salvation of angels did Christ ever receive from the Father; and that which the Father neither promised nor commanded, Christ could not have undertaken.

For what object, therefore, did He bear the angelic nature, if it were not (that He might have it) as a powerful helper wherewithal to execute the salvation of man? The Son of God, in sooth, was not competent alone to deliver man, whom a solitary and single serpent had overthrown! There is, then, no longer but one God, but one Saviour, if there be two to contrive salvation, and one of them in need of the other.

But was it His object indeed to deliver man by an angel? Why, then, come down to do that which He was about to expedite with an angel’s help? If by an angel’s aid, why come Himself also? If He meant to do all by Himself, why have an angel too? He has been, it is true, called “the Angel of great counsel,” that is, a messenger, by a term expressive of official function, not of nature. For He had to announce to the world the mighty purpose of the Father, even that which ordained the restoration of man.

But He is not on this account to be regarded as an angel, as a Gabriel or a Michael. For the Lord of the Vineyard sends even His Son to the labourers require fruit, as well as His servants. Yet the Son will not therefore be counted as one of the servants because He undertook the office of a servant. I may, then, more easily say, if such an expression is to be hazarded, that the Son is actually an angel, that is, a messenger, from the Father, than that there is an angel in the Son.

Forasmuch, however, as it has been declared concerning the Son Himself, Thou hast made Him a little lower than the angels” how will it appear that He put on the nature of angels if He was made lower than the angels, having become man, with flesh and soul as the Son of man? As “the Spirit of God.” however, and “the Power of the Highest,” can He be regarded as lower than the angels,—He who is verily God, and the Son of God? Well, but as bearing human nature, He is so far made inferior to the angels; but as bearing angelic nature, He to the same degree loses that inferiority.

This opinion will be very suitable for Ebion, who holds Jesus to be a mere man, and nothing more than a descendant of David, and not also the Son of God; although He is, to be sure, in one respect more glorious than the prophets, inasmuch as he declares that there was an angel in Him, just as there was in Zechariah. Only it was never said by Christ, “And the angel, which spake within me, said unto me.” Neither, indeed, was ever used by Christ that familiar phrase of all the prophets, “Thus saith the Lord.” For He was Himself the Lord, who openly spake by His own authority, prefacing His words with the formula, “Verily, verily, I say unto you.” What need is there of further argument? Hear what Isaiah says in emphatic words, “It was no angel, nor deputy, but the Lord Himself who saved them.”

So is Christ  Jesus Angel Michael? Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus (ca. 160-225 A.D.) answers NO.

Source:
Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Coxe, A. C. (1997). The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. III : Translations of the writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325 (533–534/Chapter XIV). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.

(paragraphs added for blogofriendly read. My Donaldson and Coxe edition has “spake” instead of “spoke”, probably editorial error. )

Related:

Former JW Asks Watchtower Society Brilliant Questions
12 Questions I Found Useful Asking Jehovah’s Witnesses
Did Jehovah’s Witnesses Worshiped Jesus?
Jehovah Witnesses And John 20:28
Jude 5: Is It Jesus? Yahweh? Or Lord?
Dangerous Logic Behind Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Jesus