Observations on life; particularly spiritual

Spiritual

Extrabiblical evidence of 83 people in the Bible

Sennacherib - King of Assyria - 2 Kings 18:13Did you know that ancient history and archaeology have confirmed the existence of 83 people mentioned in the Bible? In articles in the Biblical Archaeology Review, Purdue University scholar Lawrence Mykytiuk presented documentary evidence of this (see References).

PEOPLE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

These include Israelite kings and Mesopotamian monarchs as well as lesser-known figures. Their names appear in inscriptions written during the period described by the Bible and in most instances during or quite close to the lifetime of the person identified. (more…)


Extrabiblical evidence of six Jews in the New Testament

Did you know that ancient history and archaeology has confirmed the existence of many people mentioned in the Bible? In an article in the Biblical Archaeology Review, Purdue University scholar Lawrence Mykytiuk presented documentary evidence of six New Testament religious figures1.

We have already documented the extrabiblical evidence for Jesus of Nazareth. Six other religious figures were mentioned in the writings of the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus.

To make a firm identification, one must interpret ancient writings outside the Bible by other such writings, not the Bible, and then make sure that: (1) sources are genuine, not forged or unreliable; (2) the time-and-place setting of the person in the ancient writing matches the setting of the person in the Bible; and (3) marks of an individual, such as name, father’s name, title, or work location, distinguish two different people from each other and avoid the impression they are one and the same.

This post has been sourced from the Biblical Archaeology Society.

Medieval depiction of GamalielGamaliel the Elder

We’ll begin with the grandson of the great Jewish leader Hillel the Elder: Gamaliel the Elder, who makes a dramatic New Testament appearance in Acts 5:33-40. At that point in time, around 30 (or possibly 33) C.E., Jesus had already been crucified and, according to his followers, resurrected and ascended. After the Festival of Firstfruits, or Weeks (also called Pentecost), Peter had preached in Jerusalem, and large numbers of Jews had believed in Jesus. This result had aroused the opposition of priests and Sadducees, groups with whom Jesus had earlier come into conflict. They made Peter and John appear before the whole Jerusalem Sanhedrin, the full assembly of the elders of Israel. There they ordered these two not to proclaim or teach their message, but Peter and the other apostles repeatedly disobeyed the high priest’s orders. (The apostles were Jewish followers of Jesus, normally 12 in number, chosen and sent to spread his message.) Even when put in jail, the apostles escaped and resumed teaching in the Temple. (more…)


More extra-biblical evidence of Jesus

Sixth-century AD mosaic of Jesus from the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, ItalyDid you know that ancient history and archaeology has confirmed the existence of many people mentioned in the Bible? In an article in the Biblical Archaeology Review, Purdue University scholar Lawrence Mykytiuk examined Roman and Jewish historical documents to answer the question; Did Jesus of Nazareth, who was called Christ, exist as a real human being, “the man Christ Jesus” according to 1 Timothy 2:5NIV3?

This post has been sourced from the Biblical Archaeology Society. In 2017 I posted a summary of this article.

Tacitus, a Roman historian

Tacitus—or more formally, Caius/Gaius (or Publius) Cornelius Tacitus (55/56–c. 118 C.E.)—was a Roman senator, orator and ethnographer, and arguably the best of Roman historians. His name is based on the Latin word tacitus, “silent,” from which we get the English word tacit. Interestingly, his compact prose uses silence and implications in a masterful way. One argument for the authenticity of the quotation below is that it is written in true Tacitean Latin.4 But first a short introduction. (more…)


What is the meaning of the seven Jewish festivals?

Diagram of the seven Jewish festivalsThe phrase “Hindsight is 20/20” refers to the fact that it is easier to analyze and evaluate events after they have already happened, rather than beforehand or when you’re in the middle of them. Hindsight refers to looking back or reflecting on things in the past, and 20/20 refers to perfect vision. So when we look back on situations in the past, we see things clearly that were not clear to us at the time. The phrase has been applied to the COVID-19 pandemic. And it is applied to the Jewish Festivals in this post. (more…)


What was the purpose of the Jewish pilgrimage festivals?

Three times a year Israelite families travelled to the temple in Jerusalem for a religious festival (Ex. 23:14-17; 34:23-24; Dt. 16:16).  The first of these was the Passover in spring, when they remembered how God delivered them from slavery in Egypt. The second was the Harvest Festival in summer (Ex. 23:16), when they thanked God for providing an abundant wheat harvest in Canaan. And the third was the Festival (or feast) of Shelters (or tabernacles) in autumn when they remembered God’s care and provision during the 40-year exodus journey. The purpose of these festivals was to remind them of the story of their deliverance and God’s abundant provision.

At the Passover Festival, Jews remembered their delivery from slaveryThe Passover Festival

At the Passover they were to kill and eat a lamb together with unleaven bread (without yeast) and bitter herbs (Num. 9:1-14; Dt. 16:1-8). The symbols were taken from the exodus. In the final plague on the Egyptians, to be protected from the death of the firstborn son, the Israelites had to kill a lamb and put its blood around their front doorframe. The lamb died so they could escape death of the firstborn and escape from Egypt. And because they had to leave in haste, they didn’t have time to add yeast to cause their bread to rise. And yeast is also a symbol of sin. The bitter herbs symbolized their bitter slavery in Egypt (Ex. 1:14). Straight after the death of the Egyptian firstborn, Pharaoh told the Israelites to leave Egypt and they escaped (Ex. 12:31-33). One of the greatest Passover celebrations was when king Hezekiah repaired the temple and resumed re-established sacrifices (2 Chr. 30:26). There was also a great celebration when king Josiah reformed Judah (2 Chr. 35:18-19). Ezekiel taught that the Passover Festival will be celebrated in the Millennial reign of Christ (Ezek. 45:21-24). And “Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover” (Lk. 2:41NIV). (more…)


Backyard camping

Shelter prepared for the Festival of SheltersDuring the COVID-19 lockdown my grandchildren did some indoor camping. They’ve also tried backyard camping. Did you know that the Jews have a festival where they live outdoors as much as possible during a week?

Three times a year Israelite families travelled to the temple in Jerusalem for a religious festival (Ex. 23:14-17; 34:23-24; Dt. 16:16). The first of these was the Passover in spring, when they remembered how God delivered them from slavery in Egypt. The second was the Harvest Festival in summer (Ex. 23:16), when they thanked God for providing an abundant wheat harvest in Canaan. And the third was the Festival (or feast) of Shelters (or tabernacles) in autumn when they remembered God’s care and provision during the 40-year exodus journey. (more…)


Jesus: a 4-letter word or the name above all names?

Jesus: a 4-letter word or the name above all names?What do you do in that flash of anger, shock or pain? When you’re driving and another car dangerously pulls out in front of you; when you kick your toe; when you hear bad news; it seems universally human to call out in exasperation. Jesus Christ is commonly used as an expletive in these times. However the Bible tells us, Jesus Christ, an empty swear word to so many, is actually the most honorable, worthy and precious name. Why? (more…)


The Warrenton Declaration on Medical Mandates, Biblical Ethics, & Authority

Face masks during COVID-19 pandemicThe Warrenton Declaration on Medical Mandates, Biblical Ethics, & Authority was created in order to provide doctrinal clarity and coherence on issues of biblical authority and ethics related to medical mandates. The declaration seeks to equip local churches and their officers in providing transparency on where they stand and to assist individuals who are being mistreated in their churches with a well-ordered summary of belief in this regard. (more…)


Record harvests

Horse-powered wheat harvestAfter a three-year drought, Australian farmers harvested a record amount of wheat (33.34 million tonnes) last year. The bumper crops came after a La Nina weather system brought heavy rains across the country. Last year China (142.81 million tonnes) and India (108.75 million tonnes) also had record wheat harvests. Did you know that Israel was promised record harvest in Canaan?

Three times a year Israelite families travelled to the temple in Jerusalem for a religious festival (Ex. 23:14-17; 34:23-24; Dt. 16:16). The first of these was the Passover, when they remembered how God delivered them from slavery in Egypt. The second was the Harvest Festival (Ex. 23:16), which was near the end of the wheat harvest in Canaan. It was also called the “Festival of weeks” (Ex. 34:22; Dt. 16:10), because it was seven weeks (or 50 days) after the Festival of Firstfruits (which was when they dedicated the barley harvest to the Lord on the Sunday after the Passover). Later it became known as Pentecost, which is the Greek word for 50th. It was also called “the day of firstfruits” (Num. 28:26) because farmers offered the firstfruits (the beginning) of their wheat harvest to God (Ex. 34:22). And they gave other offerings to God as well. At this festival they dedicated the wheat harvest to the Lord and gave back to God some of what He had provided for them. The offering of firstfruits was an acknowledgment that the harvest was from the Lord and belonged to Him. (more…)


Dramatic rescues

In 1945 510 prisoners were rescued at Cabanatuan, PhilippinesIn September 2010, 33 miners were rescued after being trapped in a copper mine in Copiapó, Chile for 68 days. In October 1987, an 18-month-old baby girl was rescued after being trapped at the bottom of a well for 58 hours. In 1956, 1,663 crew members and passengers were rescued from the Andrea Doria ocean liner when it capsized and sank after colliding with another ship. In January 1945, 510 prisoners of war were released in a daring raid on the Japanese Cabanatuan prison camp in the Philippines. And in November 1907, Jesús García drove a train away from Nacozari in Mexico because it had caught fire and contained dynamite. He died when the train exploded but he saved the Mexican village. But there are greater rescues than these.

(more…)


Sanitize more than hands

Sanitize more than handsHow clean do you keep your hands? Hand hygiene has certainly gotten a lot of attention lately. It reminds me of one of my favorite Shakespearean scenes — Lady Macbeth is sleepwalking after she has orchestrated the murder of her king. In her sleep she sees spots of blood on her hands and no amount of washing can remove them. She smells blood on her hands and “all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten” them. Of course it is her conscience and not her hands that is really unclean. (more…)


Imagine someone knowing everything about you!

Imagine someone knowing everything about you, and still loving you (God does)Do you know you’re not the only one? We all have parts of ourselves we’d rather no one else knew about. Parts we may try to hide from even ourselves, to distract ourselves from with busyness or entertainment, to overcompensate for with gifts or acts of service. But they are there. Whether it’s memories of what we’ve done or what has been done to us, ugly thoughts and feelings we can’t bear to look in the face, the way we treat our family when no one else is around, secret addictions we believe render us unlovable… Oh they are there and they want to remain hidden in the dark where no one can see and judge them. (more…)


Building the church – Acts 1-12

Foundation of the church

Recently there have been marches and rallies against violence against women, abuse of power and injustice. The ongoing nature of these issues shows that human relationships are flawed, and we can’t repair them. This is a symptom of our rebellion against God. But in Jesus the justice we long for can be found. By having a right relationship with God through Jesus, a new life can be ours. And churches are where we can learn to live with others. Where we can develop healthy human relationships. (more…)


Outsiders became insiders at Damascus

Damascus in SyriaIn antiquity, Damascus (in Syria) was a great center for trade. The city’s location along a river at the crossroads of two major international highways (the Via Maris and the King’s Highway) ensured its prosperity and importance.

Although Damascus is close to the desert, ample supplies of water from two rivers allow the region to support vineyards and abundant crops of fruits, grains, nuts, cotton, wool, silk, and olives. The Abana River (known today as the Barada) is the primary water source for Damascus. It flows from the northwest mountains through a deep ravine into the city. The Pharpar River (now el-A waj) runs on the outskirts of Damascus, supplying the gardens and orchards. Together these rivers irrigate about 1040 square km (400 square miles) of land. (more…)


Still social distancing from God?

Still social distancing from God? Get close today.It’s something you took for granted isn’t it? To hug someone hello. To shake a congratulatory hand. To hold that fresh new baby at that birthday barbecue or slap a mate on the back. It feels wrong to sidestep strangers, least of all a relative.

Since COVID-19, there are people who have left this earth in solitude and babies who have been born into the arms of parents, yet haven’t seen another face. They left the doors of the hospital and have never been passed around their village of friends and family. (more…)


Following Jesus: Our obedience

Schematic diagram: God's way of Christian livingPreviously we looked at, “Following Jesus: Our purposes”. We found that God wants us to become more like Jesus. He wants us to have purposes that reflect His purposes (above) and our strengths (below). We serve others when we apply our purposes to people’s needs. Then like Esther, we will have a meaningful and significant life that brings fulfilment.

We introduced the diagram to show the relationship between these aspects of our life. We looked at our resources, which are comprised of our genetic makeup, our life experience and our spiritual gifts. These are the tools that God has given to us that enable us to do the tasks to achieve our purposes by meeting people’s needs. (more…)


Following Jesus: Our resources

Schematic diagram: God's way of Christian livingThe previous post was about “Following Jesus: Our purposes”. We found that God wants us to become more like Jesus. He wants us to have purposes that reflect His general purposes for believers (above) and our individual strengths (below). We serve others when we apply our purposes to people’s needs. Then like Esther, we will have a meaningful and significant life that brings fulfilment. (more…)


Following Jesus: Our purposes

Queen Esther in Ahasuerus' palace at Susa - Edwin Long, 1878  Esther was a Jewish girl in the palace of the king of Persia in about 460 BC. When the lives of all the Jews in Persia were threatened, her cousin Mordecai told her that she alone could save all their lives if she spoke to the king. He said, “perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” (Est. 4:14NLT). What would she do? Bravely she spoke to the king and the Jews lives were saved. This is a great example of how God can give us a purpose in life. God used Esther to fulfill His purposes. She was in the right place at the right time. That’s an example of God’s providence (His wise and purposeful sovereignty); it wasn’t an accident. And she made the right decision. That’s an example of human responsibility.

As human beings we want our lives to be meaningful and significant. How can we make our life count? The Bible implies that God made us for a purpose. And as we live for that purpose, we will find fulfilment. (more…)


The themes in the book of Acts

The overall theme of the book of Acts in the Bible is the growth of the early church. And the key verse is “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (1:8NIV). That’s the mission of the church. Believers are to be God’s witnesses.

Schematic diagram: Themes of Acts (more…)


A time line for the book of Acts

The book of Acts in the Bible describes the first 30 years of the church. It’s an historical narrative that was written by Luke who was a companion of Paul (Col. 4:10-14; 2 Tim. 4:11; Phile. 24). He wrote it to educate Christians about the early church.

The main point of Acts is that God’s witnesses spread the gospel message and established churches.

A time line of major events in Acts (concentrating on Acts 1-12) is given below. And it is followed by a summary of the book (also concentrating on Acts 1-12).

Time line of the early church (more…)


Life saving blood

The work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was to save the life and dignity of everyone, everywhereThroughout history, there has been a growing understanding of the remarkable properties of blood. In 1628, a physician named William Harvey published his theory on the circulation of blood – it was amazingly accurate. Soon after, the first blood transfusion was attempted. It was discovered that blood could save lives!

About 200 years later, the ‘International Committee of the Red Cross’ was founded by Henri Dunant in Switzerland. Henri had witnessed wounded and dying soldiers left to suffer without medical care on a battlefield in Italy. He started a campaign to reduce the suffering and casualties of war regardless of which side they belonged to. (more…)


The real climate change

Weather change is not climate changeWeather change is not climate change

“Climate change” is mentioned often today in a context that means “weather change”. There is a difference between weather and climate. Climate is the long-term weather pattern. Weather influences what clothes you wear on a given day, while the climate influences the contents of your entire wardrobe. (more…)


Is there a climate crisis?

Snow in Texas - 7 million people in Texas without electricity in temps as low as -20C

Heavy snow has disrupted normal life in Athens. And more than 245 million Americans are expected to face temperatures below freezing in the continental U.S. over the next seven days. The Arctic air from a polar vortex has already set temperature records in numerous states. Record low temperatures are making life miserable in the U.S. The severe winter weather has sparked emergency declarations in at least seven states, including Alabama, Oregon, Oklahoma, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and Texas. Air traffic was halted at a number of airports. Across the country, at least 36 people have died since the punishing winter weather began last week. It must be global cooling! That’s like what we hear when high temperatures are attributed to global warming. But of course this is weather not climate (which is the weather averaged over 30 years). (more…)


Speak up when you have something to say

Esther and Mordecai

Crown Resorts new Sydney casinoA former Crown Resorts employee exposed the company’s conduct in China and helped spark a year-long inquiry in New South Wales. The inquiry found that Crown Resorts had breached the state’s gaming regulations by engaging in international money laundering and is no longer suitable to hold the licence for its new Sydney casino. The whistle-blower lost her job and her mental health has also been affected, as well as her job prospects because she now has a criminal record in China. (more…)