In What Context Do We Understand Paul and His Writings? (Part 1/4)

An important figure in New Testamental studies is the Apostle Paul.  He is the author of 13, maybe 14, books of the New Testament.  But what if what we’ve been taught about him and his writings were not historically, nor biblically, accurate?  What if we’ve been taught to view him and his writings from the wrong context?  This would cause our interpretations of him and his writings to be distorted, inaccurate, and possibly even, for errors to be introduced into the faith.  And after years and years of research, and revelations given to my wife and I from the Messiah Jesus [Heb. Yeshua] Himself, it is my conclusion that the “Paul” who is often presented in many churches whose writings “freed Christians from the legalistic bondage of the Law of God” is NOT, in fact, the biblical, historical Paul of the New Testament.

A BRIEF NOTE ABOUT INTENT

I am not trying to call the New Testament into question, nor am I trying to invalidate Paul or his writings, rather I want to examine these things that we are commonly taught about Paul and his life and compare and contrast them with what the Bible actually teaches us about him.

A BRIEF NOTE ON MY APPROACH TO BIBLICAL STUDIES

I approach all my studies of the Bible from a Whole Bible Perspective, meaning that every passage of Scripture must be examined within the context of not only the immediate, surrounding material, the context of the chapter and the book, but also it must line up with what ALL of the Bible teaches.  In addition, we must also interpret and understand it within its proper historical, cultural, religious and linguistic contexts as well. To take any text out of its proper context is to open the door to misinterpretation, misunderstanding and error.

Secondly, we cannot take only one passage of Scripture and redefine the entire Bible nor can we formulate a doctrine from it.  A basic principle we see taught in the Bible is that “out of the mouth of two or three witnesses, a thing is established.” This means that the truth of God is not in “It is written…,” but in “Again and again, it is written.”  This general principle began as part of the law about capital punishment (Numbers 13:5; Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15), but by the time of the New Testament (1st century, C.E.), it had become a general principle about establishing truth in general (Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1; I Timothy 5:9; and Hebrews 10:28).  Therefore, doctrine must be based on the repetitions we see taught within the Bible, not on any individual passages.

WHO WAS PAUL?

 HIS BACKGROUND INFORMATION

So let’s start with the question, “Who was Paul”?  Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) was born to an Orthodox Jewish family in the city of Tarsus, located in south-central Turkey, about 12 miles from the Mediterranean Sea.   Tarsus today is known as Cumhuriyet Alani.   According to Sha’ul Paulus’s (Paul’s) own written testimony, he was –

Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.  (Philippians 3:5-6; Romans 11:1)

Being of the tribe of Benjamin, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) was then a direct descendant of Jacob and Rachel’s youngest son, Benjamin.

ABOUT HIS NAME

The name “Paul” is the shortened English form of his name Sha’ul Paulus (pron. “shah-ool paul-us“).  “Sha’ul” was his Hebrew name, and “Paulus” (or “Paul”) was his Roman name.

If his name in Hebrew is “Sha’ul,” then why is it written in English as “Saul”?  Because our English translation is based on the Greek, rather than taking the name back to its original Hebrew form.  When “Sha’ul” is transliterated into Greek, there’s no “sh” sound in Greek.  The closest sound is the Greek letter Sigma or “S” sound.  Consequently, his name becomes “Saul” in both Greek and English.  And even in the Old Testament, the name “Saul” is based on the Greek translation of the Old Testament, known as the Septuagint, rather than on the original Hebrew text itself, and this is true of other names and words in the Old Testament, such as “Eve” (Heb. Chavah) and “Moses” (Heb. Mosheh) and not just the name “Saul.”

Again, I am not trying to take away from, demean, or diminish the authority of the Old Testament or New Testament, Absolutely Not!  I am merely trying to explain the differences.

DID SAUL CHANGED HIS NAME TO “PAUL” WHEN HE GOT SAVED?

There are many ministers who say Sh’aul Paulus (Paul) changed his name to “Paul” when he was saved.  The textual evidence contradicts this view.  Between Acts 9 and Acts 13, the Holy Spirit refers refers to Sha’ul Paulus as “Saul” 10 times before He ever calls Sha’ul Paulus “Paul.”  For example, immediately after “Saul’s” conversion experience, we read,

But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which lived at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ [Messiah].  (Acts 9:22)

This verse is the first mention of “Saul” after he becomes a believer in the Messiah Yeshua [Jesus].  If his change of name was connected to his conversion, this would have been the place to indicate it, but it doesn’t happen here.  Then in Acts 9:23-31, we have the account of “Saul” escaping those in Jerusalem who wanted to kill him by being lowered in a basket.  In this section of verses, his name “Saul” is mentioned two times (Acts 9:24, 26).

The next section where the name “Saul” is mentioned is in Acts 11:25-30, where Barnabas goes to get “Saul” to help him to raise financial aid for the disciples in Jerusalem.  In this section, the name “Saul” is mentioned two times (Acts 11:25; Acts 11:30).

The fourth section of verses where the name “Saul” is mentioned is when he and Barnabas are chosen to go on their first missionary journey (Acts 13:1-12).  In this section, now four chapters after his conversion experience and baptism, the Holy Spirit is still referring to him as “Saul,”

Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manean, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and SAUL.  As they [the congregation in Antioch] ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate Me Barnabas and SAUL for the work whereunto I have called them.  And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. (Acts 13:1-3; Emphasis Mine)

It is apparent that some time has past since his conversion experience.  During those four chapters and passages where the name “Saul” is mentioned, if “Saul’s” name was changed to “Paul” due to his conversion, there were four passages where that could have been indicated prior to his first missionary journey here in chapter 13.

Nor did these four chapters cover a very short time span.  For example, during this time span, Cornelius, a God-fearer and Roman Centurion, has a vision from God and is told to send for Peter.  Peter, in turn, has a vision that results in him going with the servants of Cornelius, and Cornelius and his whole houshold are saved and filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 10).  Then Peter explains what had happened to the other Jewish believers, and the growth that occurs in the church at Antioch (Acts 11).  And then there’s a persecution that’s escalated by King Herod against the Jerusalem church.  During which, he kills James, the brother of John, and he plans on killing Peter, but God sends an angel to free Peter from prison (Acts 12).   Obviously, then, there was some span of time that has happened between Paul’s conversion and water baptism and him and Barnabas being sent out on their first missionary mission.

In the book of Galatians, Paul adds to this span of time by telling us after his experience with Yeshua [Jesus] on the road to Damascus that he journeyed to Arabia before coming back to Damascus:

But when He who had set me apart, even from my mother’s womb, and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles [non-Jews], I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go to Jerusalem to those who were apostles [Heb. shlichim] before me; but I went away into Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus. (Galatians 1:15-17)

But why would an Orthodox Jew, like Sha’ul Paulus (Paul), go to Arabia?  I can only think of one good, possible reason: he returned to where the Torah [God’s Word] had originally been given to Moses [Heb. Mosheh], Mount Sinai, to again be taught by God as Moses had been.

So in contrast to what we see in Scripture, many Christian films about Sha’ul Paulus’ (Paul’s) life have him change his name to “Paul” at his conversion or water baptism, but as we’ve seen that directly contradicts Scripture.  Again, some time has passed since his conversion and baptism, and yet when we get to Acts 13, the Holy Spirit has called him “Saul,” and NOT “Paul,” 9 times prior to this moment, and it is not until the 10th use of the name “Saul” that the Holy Spirit introduces us to his Roman name “Paul.”  This happens in Acts 13:9 while Barnabas and Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) are on their first missionary journey and they run into a sorcerer who tries to oppose them, and it is then that we read the following:

Then SAUL (WHO IS ALSO CALLED PAUL,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him.  And said, “O full of all subtilty and all mischief, you child of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? (Acts 13:9-10)

As discussed, “Paul” was not a different name for Sha’ul (“Saul”), but it was his Roman name he had been given from birth.  Consequently, Paul did not technically “change” his name; instead, he started using his Roman name rather than his Hebrew name.  But again, the question is why?

What we do know is that from this point on, the Bible does use his Roman name “Paul,” rather than his Hebrew name “Saul” (or “Sha’ul“).  The Bible actually does not give us an explicit reason for him using his Roman name; we just know that he does.  Since the “change” happens some time after his conversion and during his first missionary journey with Barnabas, I don’t believe it had anything to deal with his conversion.  Instead, I think it was to ease the communication between him and his Greek-speaking audience.

As I said earlier, there was no “sh” sound in the Greek language; consequently, this would have prevented Greek-speaking people from freely speaking and interacting with him.  Many people, even today, if they cannot pronounce a person’s name correctly will avoid speaking with them so that they don’t feel embarrassed about not being able to correctly pronounce the person’s name.  The same thing would have kept people from interacting with Sha’ul (“Saul”), so to remove this barrier, Sha’ul (“Saul”) simply began to use his Roman name of “Paul” to remove that stumbling block in communication, so that his name would not be difficult for people to pronounce, thereby opening the door of communication and interaction between them and him.

KING SHA’UL (SAUL) VS. SHA’UL PAULUS

What is also interesting is that both King Sha’ul (Saul) and Sha’ul Paulus (Saul Paul) could have written the same lines in regard to their ancestry.  They were both descendants from Jacob’s and Rachel’s youngest son, Benjamin, and they were both named “Sha’ul” (Saul).

Both Sha’uls (Sauls) knew and tried to kill the “David’s” of their time: King Sha’ul (Saul) knew and later tried to kill David, and in the New Testament, Sha’ul Paulus (Saul Paul) knew and tried to kill the disciples of the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus), the son of David.  Some might argue that in the New Testament, Sha’ul (Saul) did not chase, arrest, torture and kill Yeshua (Jesus), but His Jewish disciples.  But on the road to Damascus, when Sha’ul (Saul) encounters the Risen Messiah Yeshua [Jesus], look what Yeshua [Jesus] tells him: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4)  Yeshua [Jesus] did not ask him why he was persecuting His followers, but “why are you persecuting Me?”  So Sha’ul (Saul) was, in fact, persecuting the son of David, as his namesake in the Tanakh (“Old Testament”) persecuted David.

When Sha’ul (Saul) then asks, “Who are You, Lord?”  Yeshua [Jesus] responds,

I am Jesus [Heb. Yeshua] whom you are persecuting:  it is hard for you to kick against the pricks. (Acts 9:5)

It is clear that Yeshua [Jesus] saw Sha’ul’s (Saul’s) attack against His disciples as an attack against Him.  King Sha’ul (Saul) attacked David, and ultimately committed suicide, rather than be captured by the Philistines (I Samuel 31:1-6), but the Sha’ul (Saul) of the New Testament, who was chasing and attacking the Messiah, the son of David, was given a revelation of the Messiah on the road to Damascus, where he saw the truth, and then became an ardent follower and ‘emissary (or apostle) of the Messiah, as well as the writer of half of the New Testament.  The parallels here are indeed interesting.

PAUL – AN ORTHODOX JEW & A ROMAN CITIZEN

Then in Acts 22, we also learn that Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) was born a Roman citizen (Acts 22:25-29); this, of course, explains why Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) had both a Hebrew and a Roman name.  But when Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) is arrested in the Temple complex, he asks the guard to allow him to address the crowd in Hebrew.  In this address, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) states,

Men, brethren, and fathers, hear you my defense which I make now unto you.  (And when they heard that he spoke in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence; and he said;) I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia [a providence in Turkey], yet brought up in this city [Jerusalem] at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as you all are this day.

Notice that in this address, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) addresses three groups within the crowd: “Men, brethren, and fathers.”  The term “Men” being used in a general sense, the term “brethren” being used to perhaps address other Jewish men of his own age or perhaps to address other Jewish Pharisees within the crowd.  The term “fathers” is used to address those older than Sha’ul Paulus (Paul).  In essence, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) here is identifying himself as being a part of the crowd that he is addressing, and this is an important point.  Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) does not see himself as being something different than the Jews he is addressing, but that he is a part of them, and they, in turn, are a part of him.  They are one people, and he is addressing them as such.  So even though this speech is recorded down in Acts in Greek (just like the rest of the book of Acts), the text tells us that He spoke it in Hebrew.  Consequently, what we are reading is the English translation of Luke’s Greek translation of what Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) said in Hebrew to the crowd.

ABOUT HIS EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND

In addition to this, we learn from this address that Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) was “brought up in this city” of Jerusalem “at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers.”  What is really interesting is when we compare the King James version of this verse with the same verse in the Interlinear Greek-English New Testament:

King James Version

Interlinear Greek-English
New Testament

I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and TAUGHT ACCORDING TO THE PERFECT MANNER OF THE LAW OF THE FATHERS, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. I indeed am a man a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, being brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, HAVING BEEN INSTRUCTED ACCORDING TO [THE] EXACTNESS OF THE ANCESTRAL LAW, being a zealous one for God, even as all ye are this day.

When two groups are opposed to one another over an issue, one side tends to “demonize” the other side.  In this address, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) is reaching out to his audience, building bridges between him and them, trying to show that he is not, in fact, some “demon” who is trying to destroy them or their world.  He is like them.  He is like them in being part of the city of Jerusalem, He is like them in his upbringing, and He is like them in being zealous for God.  He is not the enemy; he is like them.

But what I also find interesting about his address are the differences between these two versions of what he said.  The phrase “perfect manner” in the King James is the term “exactness” in the Interlinear Greek-English NT, and the word “fathers” in the King James is the term “ancestral” in the Interlinear Greek-English NT.  When we look at this from a direct Greek translation, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) is crediting Gamaliel here of teaching him in the “exact” interpretation, meaning and understanding of the “ancestral law,” i.e., the writings of Mosheh (Moses).  This is extremely high praise that Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) is giving to his teacher and mentor, Gamaliel.  In essence, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) is saying that he learned the “ancestral law” from the best of the best!  And that as a result of his excellent teaching and instruction, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) was as “zealous toward God” as the Jewish audience is that he’s addressing.

In addition, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) is also saying by this that the way to interpret and understand the “ancestral law” [or Heb. Torah] is the “exact,” right way to interpret and understand it.  The inference from this is that Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) is alluding that what he teaches is in essence (though with some changes in light of Yeshua [Jesus]) the same thing that he learned from Gamaliel, who as Torah-teachers are concerned is “the best of the best!”  So rather than placing himself outside of Pharisaic teaching of the 2nd Temple period, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) here is placing himself firmly within it.

Now if Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) here had said anything that was not accurate, there were plenty of people there who could have contradicted his statement, but no one does.  So from the silence of the crowd, we can infer that it was well-known that Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) had, indeed, been a student of Gamaliel.

WHO IS “GAMALIEL”?

Most Christians should recognize Gamaliel’s name from Acts 5.  In Acts 5, Yeshua’s [Jesus’s] disciples have been arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin for the second time for preaching about Yeshua [Jesus].  It is during this second trial that we read,

Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named GAMALIEL, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; and he said to them, “You men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do as touching these men.  For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: whom was slain [killed]; and all, as man as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to naught.   After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.  And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this council or this work be of men, it will come to naught.  But if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it; lest haply you be found even to fight against God.” (Acts 5:34-39; emphasis mine)

Gamaliel, a leading Pharisee in Jerusalem and a highly respected member of the Sanhedrin, was the one who advised the other members of the Sanhedrin to let the disciples “alone.”  There’s no evidence to suggest he was a believer in Yeshua [Jesus]; in fact, his advice actually implies that he is not a believer, yet he does advise caution.  He presents to the Sanhedrin what’s known as a Precedent Argument, that is, an argument based on previous examples (two in this case): Theudas and Judas the Galilean.   Based upon these two precedents, Gamaliel argues here that if the Sanhedrin would just leave the disciples of Yeshua [Jesus] alone that ultimately the disciples, like the disciples of the two given examples, would ultimately be “scattered and come to naught.”  In other words, if this thing is of human origin, then they need to quit “encouraging the fire” by their persecution of it, and then this thing would just fall apart and become nothing in time.  But if this thing is of divine origin, then they will not be able to overthrow it, and they will place themselves in opposition against God Himself.

Gamaliel was the grandson of Hillel the Elder, one of the prominent founders and leaders of one of the schools of Pharisaic Judaism, known in Hebrew as Beyt Hillel (pron. “Bayt Hill-el”; “the School/Community of Hillel”).  Gamaliel not only passed on his grandfather’s teachings, but he built on them as well.  He became a highly respected leader among the people, and as I said, was a member of the Sanhedrin.  And as a leading teacher in Beyt Hillel (School/community of Hillel), he would’ve passed many of Hillel’s teachings, along with his own, down to His disciples, including that of Sha’ul Paulus (or Paul).

For example, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) would have been taught this teaching from Hillel the Elder,

Be the disciples of Aaron, loving peace, and pursuing peace, loving your fellow-creatures, and drawing them near to the Law [Heb. Torah]. (Avoth or “Ethics of the Fathers” 1:12)

Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) would’ve known this teaching of Hillel that was taught to him by GamalielHillel also did not believe that non-Jewish men had to be circumcised before they could become a part of the Jewish community.  This may surprise many Christians.  However, the other school of Pharisaism did.  It was known as Beyt Shammai [pron. “Bayt Shuhm-migh”; “School/Community of Shammai”].  The following story about Hillel and Shammai comes from A. Cohen’s  book Everyman’s Talmud, page 65:

The story is told that a heathen came to Shammai with the request to be accepted as a convert on condition he was taught the whole of Torah while he stood on one foot.  The Rabbi [Shammai] drove him away with the yard-stick which he was holding.  He then went to Hillel with the same request; and he [Hillel] said to him: ‘What is hateful to yourself, do not do to your fellow-man.  That is the whole of Torah and the remainder is but commentary.  Now, go and learn. [Shab. 31a]

This account would have been well known to both Yeshua [Jesus] and Sha’ul Paulus [Paul].  What’s interesting to me is the contrast between Hillel and Shammai.  In Paul Johnson’s book The History of the Jews, he notes the following about the distinct differences between these two men:

To Shammai, the essence of the Torah lay in its detail; unless you got the detail exactly right, the system became meaningless and could not stand.  To Hillel, the essence of the Torah was its spirit: if you got the spirit right, the detail could take care of itself. (127)

For Shammai, the detail of the Torah, like circumcision, had to be done BEFORE a gentile, a non-Jew, could become a part of God’s people, but this was not the belief of Hillel.  Why is this important?  Because look at Sha’ul Paulus’ (Paul’s) own confession in the book of Galatians,

And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still [being] persecuted?  then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished.  (NASB, Galatians 5:11)

From this, we learn two things:

  • Before his transformation from a persecutor of the Jews who believed that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah to a fellow believer and one of the important leaders of the movement, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) used to go around and preach circumcision to non-Jews.  He went from place to place preaching circumcision, the need for non-Jews to be circumcised in order to become a part of God’s people.
  • By not preaching circumcision anymore, the new message that Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) is preaching has become a “stumbling block” to many.

But why is he preaching circumcision?  The school/community of Hillel did not require it for non-Jews to be a part of God’s people, but the school/community of Shammai did.  In other words, Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) so strongly desires to climb the social ladder of his day that he was trying to satisfy both schools at the same time.  In the U.S., we would say that he is “burning the candle at both ends.”  That can work for a while, but ultimately, it no longer works (i.e., you run out of candle).

In his transformation experience with Yeshua [Jesus] on the road to Damascus, Sha’ul Paulus [Paul] is brought back to what he had been taught by his teacher Gamaliel about circumcision, that for non-Jews, it was not required.  Consequently, then, contrary to what Christians have traditionally taught, Sha’ul Paulus’ (Paul’s) message that non-Jews do not have to be circumcised to be “saved” (i.e., to go to heaven) does NOT remove him from 2nd Temple Judaism at all, nor does it remove him from the Pharisaic teachings of his day.  Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) remained throughout his life “a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee.”

ABOUT PAUL’S MARITAL STATE

WAS PAUL SINGLE OR MARRIED?

Although there are many who teach the traditional view that Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) was single, and not married, the historical evidence likewise contradicts this view.  According to the early Church historian, Eusebius (260 – 340 A.D.), who collected and recorded the facts and details of the early church – whether the information was favorable to the movement or not, he writes that Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) was, in fact, a married man:

Peter and Philip, indeed, had children, Philip also gave his daughters in marriage to husbands, and Paul does not demur in a certain epistle to mention his own wife, whom he did not take about with him, in order to expedite his ministry the better. (Book 3, chapter 30, page 95)

This quote is found in the English translation of his writings, entitled Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History: Complete and Unabridged, which was translated by C.F. Cruse.

What many people do not know is that not all of Sha’ul Paulus’ (Paul’s) epistles are in the New Testament, due to the fact that some were lost to history.  For example, we know that what is known as I Corinthians and II Corinthians are really Sha’ul Paulus’ (Paul’s) second and fourth letters to the church at Corinth.  His actual first and third letters have been lost to history, and all we have left of those four letters are the two letters within our Bibles.  It might have been in one of those missing letters where Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) had made mention of his wife.  And, unfortunately, whatever happened to his wife, we have no way of knowing.

 

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Standing Against the “OSTRICHISM” of Today’s World

A current problem within the world today is what I am calling, “OSTRICHISM” (pron. “ostrich-ism”).  What is this?  It is the fact that when someone brings up a topic that supports a person’s or group’s view or practice, people will clap, applaud and be interested in what is said, but if someone brings up a criticism or challenge to a person’s or group’s view or practice, people become like ostriches and hide their heads in the sand.  They ignore it, don’t address it, and hope that it will just go away.  The problem is, it doesn’t.

OSTRICHISM is not the biblical way to approach issues or problems.  God does not teach or endorse this approach to anything.  For example, in Matthew 18, Jesus teaches,

Moreover if your brother shall trespass against [or offends] you, go and tell him his fault [or offense] between you and him alone: if he shall hear you, you have gained your brother.  But if he will not hear you, then take with you one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.  (Matthew 18:15-16)

When someone offends you, Jesus does not say, “avoid the person,” but instead, He says to go and talk with them.  Go and explain to them how what they said or did offended you, and then work it out between the two of you alone.  He does not say to go and gossip about what that person did, or to slander them behind their backs or out for everyone to hear by posting it online or in the newspaper.  But to work it out alone between the two of you, but if that doesn’t work, try it again, but this time with one or two witnesses.  These one or two people not only work as witnesses, but they can also work as objective mediators, to help bring reconciliation between the two parties.

But is this the methodology we see people practicing inside or outside of the church?  No, it is not.  Instead of speaking to people and working out issues and problems, people follow OSTRICHISM.  And why?  Because people do not want to violate today’s “Politically-Correct” (PC) idea that we are to accept all people, all views, all beliefs as being equally valid and true.  In the book of Proverbs, we read,

There is a way that seems right onto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.  (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25)

This same verse is repeated twice in the book of Proverbs.  Just because something “sounds right” or “seems right” does not make it “right.”  But the problem is that in OSTRICHISM, people are doing what “sounds right” or “seems right” to them, even though, the end result of this method is disastrous, it brings death and not life.

You see, this PC belief to accept all views, all beliefs as being equally valid and true is NOT TRUE logically, nor is it true biblically.  For example, if I say that 1 + 1 = 2, and you say that 1 + 1 = 3, both views cannot be equally true.  One is true, and the other is false.  They both cannot be true. And yet in this PC view of society, it is saying that both are, in fact, true.  But this PC view is wrong.  There is a right, and there is a wrong.  Truth is not subjective.  Just because I want something to be true, or believe it is true, regardless of how sincere my belief or desire, it doesn’t make it true.  No matter how much I believe or desire the answer to be three, my answer is wrong.  The right answer is two.   But answers are NOT equally valid or true.

And this is true not only in this simple example, but in addressing issues, problems, and opinions as well.   We cannot resolve issues, problems and conflicts caused by differing opinions by ignoring them.  We must face them and effectively address them.  The problem is that society’s PC view of OSTRICHISM is teaching people to do the opposite.  But this approach, at its best, is really an act of apathy, but at its worst, it is an act of cowardice and hatred.  But in either case, it is not an act of love.

The underlying motivation for OSTRICHISM is the belief that if we challenge someone’s beliefs or views that we will in some way damage their self-esteem, and our PC society today says this is always wrong to damage anyone’s self-esteem.  This is why schools give ribbons out to everyone, whether they won a competition or lost.  This is also why many schools no longer retain students if they failed a course beginning in 7th grade.  But what is more damaging to a student’s self-esteem, being held back for another year or graduating high school not being able to read their school diploma or being able to read well enough to fill out a job application?  Did you know 25% of kids graduating high school are functionally illiterate?  Did you know that 99% of kids in Juvenile Detention are functionally illiterate?  In their minds, if they can’t read to fill out a job application, how else are they to get a “piece of the American dream” than to steal?  Am I justifying their position?  No, I’m saying, we are being ostriches, putting our heads in the sand, and we are ignoring the real problem.

Consequently, in my view, schools are only doing our children harm in the long term by teaching and practicing this PC view of OSTRICHISM, because they are not preparing our children for life in the real world. Because in the “real world,” people get offended all the time for various reasons.  They get written up for not doing something, they get fired, relationships break up, or people get divorced.  Offenses are everywhere!  We are not protecting our kids by teaching them OSTRICHISM, we are only setting them up for failure in the future.  The fact is, that in life, there are “winners” and “losers,” and instead of ignoring this and “PRETENDING” as if losers or loss does not exist (a form of OSTRICHISM), we should be teaching our kids how to lose graciously and how to deal with loss in their lives.

Secondly, they say, if we damage someone’s self-esteem, then we cause them offense.  And the PC view is that we are NEVER to offend anyone.  But this again is not living in the “real world.”  As a parent, I have offended my children on numerous occasions.  For example, we go to the store, and they want a particular toy.  I say, “No,” and they begin screaming.  I have offended them.  Am I sorry?  No, because as the adult, I know how much money I have, and I know where I need to spend it, and I know if this particular toy would be good for my child or not.  So can I be a good parent and follow this PC view of not ever offending my children?  No, of course not.  Just think back to your own childhood.  How many times did your parents offend you?  So instead of teaching people this ridiculous idea that we can ever live our lives without offending anyone, we should be teaching people how to deal with offense.  THAT would be the logical and biblical thing to do.  NOT hiding our heads in the sand and saying, “You better not offend me; you better not offend me.”

You see, according to this PC view, if we do not cause any offenses, then we will not cause conflict, and people today are terrified of conflict.  They erroneously believe that whenever conflict is aroused, people become violent.  This is an erroneous assumption.  People though will point to the shootings at schools, different places around the country, and recently, in a church.  And they will say that “guns are the real problem, so we need to get rid of all guns.”  But they are NOT the problem.  People can kill with almost anything, knives, pipes, chains, including their own hands.  Getting rid of guns will not get rid of killing.  I had a friend growing up whose dad was a gun shop owner.  He had guns lying openly in a couple places around the house.  But he taught his two sons how to handle a gun, shoot it, and even how to make their own bullets.  Did his sons grow up to become mass murderers?  No, the complete opposite.  So guns are not the problem.

The real problem is in how we are being taught to deal with conflict.  The PC method is OSTRICHISM, ignore it, push it down, walk away from it, but do not NOT address it.  Instead of dealing with it in a constructive manner, this erroneous PC approach only causes anger to remain within individuals, and as it is being pushed down, and being pushed down, and being pushed down, it slowly escalates and builds up until it finally erupts into the violence that the PC advocates then point to as an example of guns being the problem.  But in truth, it is their PC methodology of OSTRICHISM that’s the problem, and that has led to the violence.

OSTRICHISM does not solve the problems, it ultimately only causes the violent outbreaks.  And this PC social view of OSTRICHISM has come into the church.  In Christianity, instead of dealing with issues, people OSTRICHISIZE: they just leave and go to another church or they stop going at all, or they spend their time come gossiping, slandering one another, holding onto their grudges and unforgiveness, and ultimately leading to splits within the church.  More new churches are formed as a result of OSTRICHISM and division than by anything else.

So rather than bringing up disagreements and issues to be discussed within the church – which is the biblical model  (for example, Acts 15) – people pretend everything is fine, they smile and say “praise the Lord,” and then gossip and slander behind the back of individuals or the church, again, ultimately causing a church split.  It is no wonder that Christianity in America has become the watered-down mess that we see today.  Instead of the church changing society, society has changed the church.  Now some will reject what I’m saying, hide their head in the sand, and say, “The church is just fine,” but it’s not.  And the first step to getting better is being able to admit there’s a problem.

In fact, there’s a number of areas and teachings within Christianity that are contradictory to the Bible, but should anyone bring these contradictions up, then another form of OSTRICHISM occurs.  People say, “It’s all the matter of the heart.  If I think it’s right, then it’s right for me, but if you think something else is right, then it’s right for you.”  In essence then, we ignore the issue and a possible conflict by saying, “Truth is relative, and there is no absolute right or wrong.”  So how can we say with one breath that the Bible is our only standard of truth, but then when issues arise, we turn around and start espousing this PC view that all Truth is relative?   If the Bible is our standard of Truth, then Truth is NOT relative, but if Truth is relative, then what’s the point of saying what we obviously do not truly believe, and that is that the Bible is our only standard of Truth?

If Truth is subjective, then it is not objective.  For Truth to be objective means that it is not based on how we feel, think, or believe.  It is not a creation of humanity, and that the source of Truth does not, in fact, begin and end with us.  Instead, the Bible teaches us that Truth begins and ends with God, not humanity.  God and His Word is Truth, and anything that violates that Truth is a deception or a lie.  A deception is something that may appear true, but when you start peeling away the layers of what it is saying or presenting, and comparing it against the Bible, we begin to see the deception and the lie.

Some people have begun to rewrite or re-interpret the Bible, so that it matches the teachings of society.  In doing this, they say that the true standard of their life and their view of Truth is not the Bible, it is not God, but society.  People say, “Man created God in our image,” so therefore, man can recreate Him based on our everchanging needs.  But God says, “Man did NOT create God, but God created man in His image and likeness” (Genesis 1:26).

This means that God cannot be held or judged by the standards of men, but humanity, men and women, are held and judged by the standards of God.  We will not be judged based on how “good” we are in relation to other people, because we were not created in the image and likeness of man, but we will be judged based on how like God we are in our attitudes, thoughts, words and actions because we were created “in the image and likeness of God.”  So how “good” or “bad” you are in relation to other people is not the real question, but if we were to measure ourselves against God, how would we do?

As we can see, then, OSTRICHISM “leads to death” and is destructive in the long run.  We cannot live our lives ignoring and avoiding issues and problems.  This is how sin has grown and has flourished within the church.  Christianity needs to get off of the fence.  If the Bible is our standard of truth, then let’s follow the Bible, not society’s PC view that truth is relative.  But if the church is going to follow society’s PC view of truth, and satisfy itself, then follow that.  It is only hypocrisy to try and do both.  But what the church needs to know and to understand is that God is not pleased with it today.  Until it gets off the fence and begins to use the Bible as THE STANDARD OF TRUTH, and to truly follow the leading of the HOLY SPIRIT (not man’s spirit) in walking out what the Bible has to say – instead of today’s PC view of truth, values, and beliefs – it will not please God, and it cannot walk in holiness.

As far as my wife and I are concerned, there is only ONE TRUE STANDARD OF TRUTH, and that is the Bible.  I hope that you can claim the same.

 

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Does God Oppose the Celebration of Christmas?

DOES GOD OPPOSE THE CELEBRATION OF CHRISTMAS?  This may sound like a strange question to ask, but especially over the last couple of years, it has become much more significant to my wife and I.   For many people, Christmas represents family, love, a celebration with friends, partying, giving to others, and for Christians, the birth of Jesus Christ; after all, they say, He’s “The Reason for the Season.” So some may wonder, why would God be opposed to any of these things, especially the birth of His own Son?  But the hard truth is that God is, in fact, opposed to people connecting Him to the celebration of Christmas because of the pagan idolatrous origins of Christmas, as well as the celebration of it as Christ’s [Messiah’s] birthday, which is a lie and a deception, it also violates His Word, and it profanes the holiness of God.

CHRISTMAS – A DECEPTION?

First of all, before getting into the heart of the Christmas deception, here are two clear errors that churches teach about the birth of Jesus [Heb. Yeshua] that are not biblically true: the arrival of the wise men and the time of His birth.

The Arrival of the Wise Men

For example, Christians often teach that the wise men came to the manger to view the baby Jesus.  According to the Scriptures, the wise men did not even come to the manger, but to a house:

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.  And when they were come into THE HOUSE, they saw THE YOUNG CHILD with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped Him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts: gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.  And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. (Matthew 2:10-12)

Notice that it was not in “a manger” they saw Christ [Messiah], but in “the house,” and He was not “an infant” but “a young child.”

Herod’s Inquiry & Killing of the Infants

Another proof that Jesus [Heb. Yeshua] was not an infant, but probably a toddler by the time the wise men saw Him is the conversation that Herod has with the wise men.  Once Herod had discovered where Messiah [Christ] was to be born [in Bethlehem], he privately called the wise men to speak with him:

Then Herod, when he had privately called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. (Matthew 2:7)

Then once Herod discovered later that the wise men had not come back to report to him where they had found the Messiah, he then became extremely angry and sent his troops to kill all the children that were two years or younger:

Then Herod when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceedingly angry, and sent forth, and killed all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, FROM TWO YEARS OLD AND UNDER, ACCORDING TO THE TIME WHICH HE HAD DILIGENTLY INQUIRED OF THE WISE MEN.  (Matthew 2:16; Emphasis Mine)

If Jesus [Yeshua] had been an infant when the wise men came to see Him, Herod would have only had the soldiers kill all the newborn babies, but that is not what he did.  He specifically told them to kill all those “TWO YEARS AND UNDER,” based on the time given to him by the wise men.  This means that the wise men had told Herod that they had been traveling about 1 1/2 to 2 years, and therefore, the reasoning for Herod specifying the age of “two years and under.”

Mary’s Temple Sacrifices

Another proof that the wise men did not see Jesus at his birth is the animal sacrifice that Mary offered at the Temple.  According to Luke 2,

And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord.  (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. (Luke 2: 22-24)

How long, according to the Scriptures, was Mary to wait for her days of “purification” to be completed?  According to Leviticus 12:4, Mary would have had to have waited for 33 days before she could enter the Temple and offer her animal sacrifice to the Lord.  And a few verses later in the book of Leviticus, we read the following:

And when the days of her purification are completed, for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the doorway of the tent of meeting [Temple in Mary’s time], a one year old lamb for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering.  Then he shall offer it before the LORD and make atonement for her; and she shall be cleansed from the flow of her blood.  This is the law for her who bears a child, whether a male or a female.  But if SHE CANNOT AFFORD A LAMB, then she shall take TWO TURTLEDOVES OR TWO YOUNG PIGEONS, the one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean.  (Leviticus 12:6-8)

The Gospel of Luke tells us that Mary brought “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” which is the sacrifice a woman would bring who COULD NOT AFFORD a lamb.  Now if the wise men had, in fact, arrived during the time of Christ’s [Messiah’s] birth and given Him the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, then she would have presented a lamb for her sacrifice, as opposed to the sacrifice of a poor woman who could not afford the lamb.

So Why Do People Teach that the Wise Men Did Come to His Birth?

During the Middle Ages when the population could not read or write, there needed to be a way to tell the story of Christ’s [Messiah’s] birth in a way that the people could see and understand.  According to historians, the first nativity scene was created by St. Francis of Assisi in 1223 A.D.  In Rachel Nuwer’s article “The First Nativity Scene was Created in 1223,” for the Smithsonian.com website, she writes,

The only historical account we have of Francis’ nativity scene comes from The Life of St. Francis of Assisi by St. Bonaventure, a Franciscan monk who was born five years before Francis’ death.

According to Bonaventure’s biography, St. Francis got permission from Pope Honorious III to set up a manger with hay and two live animals—an ox and an ass—in a cave in the Italian village of Grecio. He then invited the villagers to come gaze upon the scene while he preached about “the babe of Bethlehem.” (Francis was supposedly so overcome by emotion that he couldn’t say “Jesus.”) Bonaventure also claims that the hay used by Francis miraculously acquired the power to cure local cattle diseases and pestilences.

Within a couple of centuries, nativity scenes had spread throughout Europe. We don’t know if people actually played Mary and Joseph during Francis’ time, or whether they just imagined those figures’ presence. We do know that later scenes began incorporating dioramas and life actors, and the cast of characters gradually expanded beyond Mary, Joseph and sweet baby Jesus, to sometimes include an entire village. (December 14, 2012)

The Date of Christ’s [Messiah’s] Birth

Although many people argue that there is no way for certain to know the date of Christ’s [Messiah’s] birth, there are clues given in the Scriptures to figure it out.  Although there are many articles out there that argue one method or another for calculating the time of His birth, I would like to offer a simplistic approach.  According to researchers and traditional Christian teaching, based upon examining the Gospels and the feasts discussed in them, Christians state that Jesus [Yeshua] was 33 1/2 years old when He was crucified.

So let’s just take that information and use some logic here.  If Jesus [Yeshua] died when He was 33 1/2 years old, or 33 years 6 months, then He would have had His 33rd birthday 6 months before His death.  However, there’s no way you can get 6 months between December and March, the month of Passover that year.  However, if you count back 6 months from the month of March, you will arrive at the month of September.  This would mean that Jesus [Yeshua] was born in the Fall, not in the Winter.   This also supports my own personal opinion, based on the clues in Scripture, that Jesus [Yeshua] was born during the feast of Tabernacles (5 days after Yom Kippur on our calendars].

Some people argue that it would’ve had to have been in the Spring because the shepherds were out with the sheep, which normally happens in the Spring.  However, these were not regular shepherds.  These were shepherds who worked for King Herod, and they were raising sheep owned by him for the purpose of them being offered up as a sacrifice.  Since Herod was highly despised, it is not far-fetched to believe that some may try to kill his flocks, if left unattended, so that he would not be able to worship God in the Temple.  Thereby, bringing God’s wrath down upon him.  That being the case, I believe, particularly around the Fall feasts when sacrifices were expected to be given that Herod would have had shepherds out with the sheep every night during this time.

THE PAGAN ORIGINS OF CHRISTMAS

Now let’s get to the heart of the Christmas deception.  Originally, what we call the “Christmas Season” was known as two Roman pagan idolatrous feasts: the “Roman Saturnalia” and “Sol Invictus.”

There are many credible sources that demonstrate that the origin and roots of Christmas are derived from the Roman Saturnalia, such as the decorating of the tree, the exchanging of gifts, singing songs from house to house, eating baked goods [such as cookies] shaped like people, feasting, merrymaking, partying, and getting drunk.  In fact, the roots of the Christmas Tree go back even further than the Roman Saturnalia.  For example, in Jeremiah 10, God states through the prophet Jeremiah:

Thus says the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dimayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.  For the customs of the people are vain [empty, worthless]: for one cuts a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.  They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.  They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs to be borne [or carried], because they cannot go.  Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good. (Jeremiah 10:2-5)

Although people may not view the “Christmas Tree” as an actual god anymore, that does not deny the fact that its roots go back into ancient pagan idol worship.

Examples of sources to consult about the pagan origins and connections of Christmas are many.  For example, one could read the article “Saturnalia” at History.com, or the article “Is Christmas related to Saturnalia” at the Christian website, gotquestions.org, or even an older Christian source, Ralph Woodrow’s Babylon Mystery Religion: Ancient and Modern (1966) in his chapter on “The Winter Festival.”  And these are just a few of the sources that are out there.  In fact, according to the Christian source on gotquestions.com, during the time of the Roman empire, “the word Saturnalia became synonymous with immorality and carousing” (“Is Christmas related”).

The Christmas holiday also finds its roots in the Roman celebration of Sol Invictus (“Invincible Sun”) that celebrated the renewing of the Sun King [i.e., the sun god], Mithra, on December 25, and was linked to the winter solstice (“Is Christmas related”).

PAGAN FEASTS IN THE CHURCH?

During the time of the 4th century, A.D., there were large groups of people leaving the church to celebrate these pagan festivals to these other gods and goddesses.  In response, the Roman Catholic Church decided the best way to keep these people in the church was to create a “Christian alternative,” a mass for Christ – “Christ-mass” or “Christmas” – to these pagan festivals, much like modern churches are doing with Halloween.  In fact, the earliest mention of December 25 commemorating the birth of Christ is 354 A.D.  Obviously, then, “Christmas” did not originate with Christ or with the writings of His early disciples, and in contrast to Christian belief, Jesus is NOT “The Reason for the Season.”

The leaders of the Roman Catholic Church did eliminate some of the practices of the Saturnalia before bringing it into the church, such as people getting drunk, chasing women, going around naked as they sung songs from house to house, etc.  In addition, they changed December 25 from the renewing or birthday of the sun-god to the birthday of the Son of God, and then “Christianized” the reasoning for the other pagan-related activities, such as connecting the giving of gifts to the gifts given by the wise men.  This is likewise confirmed by the Christian site, gotquestions.com:

The early motive for celebrating Jesus’ birth on December 25 was the same that inspires modern churches to hold “Fall Festivals” or “Bible Costume Pasties” on October 31.  That is, to provide a spiritually positive alternative to what they perceive as a pagan celebration.  (“Is Christmas Related”)

Although this conservative Christian website readily acknowledges the pagan roots and connections of Christmas, it goes on to say,

So, Christians readily and comfortably acknowledge that the date, traditions, and long-term history of Christmas are connected to the pagan holidays of Saturnalia and Sol Invictus.  Yet, like a family celebrating a Bible Costume Party on October 31, it’s the people celebrating who decide what the celebration means.  (“Is Christmas related”)

Every pastor that I have personally spoken with about the pagan roots and connections of Christmas (as well as Lent, Easter, and obviously Halloween), they have taken the same position:  The origins of the holiday does not matter; all that matters is what is in the heart of the individual.

THE BIBLE IS NOT THE STANDARD OF WHAT WE DO?

Of course, this raises an important question: What is the basis and standard for what we do?  Is it the Bible, or is the secular world right and Truth is only relative, so that there isn’t any absolute standard of right and wrong.  It seems when it is convenient for Christians, they will say that the Bible is their only standard of faith and conduct, but when that same Bible contradicts and challenges what they are going, then it’s up to the individual.

CHRISTMAS – A VIOLATION OF SCRIPTURE?

But I question their position for a number of reasons.  First of all, I question it because the creation of “Christian alternatives” to pagan feasts is, in fact,  a violation of Scripture.  In Deuteronomy 12, God says,

When the LORD your God shall cut off the nations from before you, wherever you go to possess them, and you succeed them, and dwell in their land; take heed to yourself that you be not snared [trapped] by following them, after that they be destroyed from before you; and that you enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods?  even so will I do likewise.  You shall not do so unto the LORD your God: for every abomination to the LORD, which He hates, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods.  What thing so ever I command you, observe to do it: you shall not add thereto, nor diminish from it.  (Deuteronomy 12: 29-32)

This is not merely a passage forbidding child sacrifice; instead, the sacrifice of children is one example of pagan practices that He is addressing.  There are two basic principles here that are being taught within this passage:

  • Do NOT use the customs, traditions, practices, forms of worship, etc., that other nations use with their pagan gods, and use them with the LORD; and
  • Whatever God has commanded in His Word, that is what we are to do.  We are not to add to it, nor are we to subtract from it.

However, most churches get around this prohibition by teaching that the Law of God ended at the cross; therefore, this prohibition, they say, is no longer valid or relevant to them.  The other possible common response is that the Law of God is only for Israel, and it does not apply to the church, so again, this prohibition is seen as not valid or relevant to them.

“DOES THE END JUSTIFY THE MEANS?”

Another explanation offered for churches participating in these “Christian alternatives” is that by the church offering these alternatives, unsaved people come to church who normally would not and, therefore, have the opportunity to hear the gospel and get saved.  This sounds feasible and good, until you realize that “in the name of salvation,” Christians are disobeying God and His Word.

But the sad truth is that beginning back in the 4th century, A.D., and even today, people have not stopped to even ask God what He thinks about these man-made “Christian alternatives” to these pagan feasts and the church connecting His name to them.  The church has merely assumed that as long as people get saved, then God is okay with it and it is good to do.  But is this the way that God thinks and feels?

CHRISTMAS – A PROFANING OF GOD’S HOLINESS?

Even after reading this, some may argue that this is all just my opinion on the matter since no one actually knows what God really feels about these “Christian alternatives” that Christianity has brought into the church.  However, that is not so.  God has spoken to my wife, Karen, and He has also spoken to me in different ways reconfirming the fact that God is not only deeply offended by these pagan celebrations being brought into the church, but He also says that they profane His holiness.  The following is what God has spoken about this “holidays” by His Spirit:

I do not want My people dabbling in the things which I have said were unclean and unholy.  How can I, a holy God, be among the things that are unholy?  My people, you are profaning My name and causing Me to want to take you and remove you from My Holy Presence.  I cannot, and will not, I say, keep dwelling among a people who do not covet the same holy things that I covet.

Yes, I have in My commandments which I gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai, which says to not covet what is not yours, says God Almighty.  These wicked holidays that you are claiming to be yours are detestable in My eyes, says God Almighty.  How can you not see this in the Word of God that I have given you as a manual to understand the very heart of Me, says God.  I do not wish for any one of My children to have anything to do with the things of this world.  I will go farther than this, I can’t continue in a relationship with you because you are grieving the Holy Spirit that has come to be your Helper and to be your Guide.

Don’t profane My name and say you are trying to take something bad and turn it into something good for the sake of the church.  This is not true, says God.  You are doing it because you don’t care about hurting Me, says God.  If you cared about Me, you would see that I detest all the things you’re trying to push Me into.  I do not accept what you have done, and I don’t want anything more to be involved or put My name to that which is unholy and unacceptable to what My Word teaches. (“God Says: ‘My People Are Profaning My Name'”)

It seems clear that God does NOT endorse these “Christian alternatives” of pagan feasts and practices.  They offend Him to the point where He feels like spitting His people out in disgust.  The church needs to repent and to stop celebrating these pagan feasts.  I believe the question must be asked, “Why are we celebrating these ‘Christian alternatives’ to these pagan feasts and practices — Christmas, Lent, Easter, and more recently, Halloween – when God Himself has designed and given to us 7 feasts (and I personally would add Purim and Hanukkah)?  Why do we insist on setting aside what God Himself has given to us to celebrate feasts and practices whose origins and roots are pagan?  We need to repent, turn away from our sins, and begin walking in holiness and obedience to God and to His Word.

Works Cited

“Is Christmas related to Saturnalia?”  gotquestions.org.  Got Questions Ministries. 2017.  Web.  <http://www.gotquestions.org/Christmas-Saturnalia.html>

Nuwer, Rachel.  “The First Nativity Scene Was Created in 1223.”  Smithsonian.com.  Dec. 14, 2012.  Web.  <http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/the-first-nativity-scene-was-created-in-1223-161485505>

“Saturnalia.” History.com.  n.d.  Web.  <http://www.history.com/topics/Saurnalia>

Verschage, Karen.  “God Says: ‘My People Are Profaning My Name.”  Karensshofar. wordpress.com.  June 19, 2016.  Web.  <http://karensshofar.wordpress.com/2016/06/19/god-says-my-people-are-profaning-my-name>

Woodrow, Ralph.  Babylon Mystery Religion: Ancient and Modern.  Riverside, CA.: Ralph Woodrow Evangelistic Association, Inc., 1978.  Print.
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Hanukkah, the Feast of Dedication (Part 1): Its Prophecy & Fulfillment

In just another nine days, we will be celebrating the Feast of Hanukkah, “the feast of lights” (beginning the evening of December 12 – 20).  Most erroneously believe that Hanukkah is just a “Jewish thing,” and that it has nothing to do with Christians.  But from the New Testament, we discover that as a Jew, Jesus also celebrated Hanukkah, “the feast of dedication” (John 10:22-23).  The meaning of Hanukkah was changed from “the feast of dedication” to “the feast of lights” after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D.  There was a reason for this change, which I will discuss later in the series, but I want to take it back to its original meaning.

MY MOTIVE FOR THIS STUDY

My motive for doing this is not to make people “Jewish,” but it’s a study I did out of my love for Jesus.  I believe when you love someone, you want to know everything you can about that person, and this was a part of His life.  Therefore, out of my love for Him and my commitment to being His disciple, and to walk in all of His ways, I would like to present this 4-part study series on Hanukkah: the Bible’s prophecy concerning it and their historical fulfillment, what I believe it meant to Jesus, how Hanukkah is celebrated today, and the Gospel message that I see within the feast of Hanukkah.  This is the first part of that five-part study.

I would like to begin by looking at the Bible’s prophecy concerning Hanukkah and its historical fulfillment.  These prophecies are found in the book of Daniel, while Daniel and his people, the Jews, were still in exile in the land of Babylon.

A COMPARISON OF DREAMS

In Daniel 2, God gives Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, a dream regarding the kingdoms that would come after him, in the form of a statue of a man made from various metals.  These kingdoms are Babylon [the head of gold], the Medes & Persians [the chest and arms of silver], Greece [belly and thighs], Rome [two legs], and a future end-time global empire [feet of iron and clay].  As we can see, as we move down the statue, we not only move forward in time from the time of Nebuchadnezzar, but the quality of the metals go down as well.

In Daniel 7, Daniel likewise has a dream regarding the same empires, but in Daniel’s dream, they appear not as a statue of a man, but as wild beasts: Babylon [a lion with eagle’s wings], the Medes & Persians [a bear raised up on one side with three ribs in its mouth], Greece [a four-headed leopard with wings], and Rome [a dreadful and terrifying beast with iron teeth].  However, after the fourth beast, it mentions, not a fifth beast but “another horn,” who had “the eyes of a man and a mouth uttering great boasts” and who pulled out “three horns” (Daniel 7:8).

There is a connection between Antiochus Epiphanes and the historical events of Hanukkah with end-time events, as we shall see.  In fact, Daniel 7 is important in understanding John’s vision in Revelation 13.  In Revelation 13:2, we read,

And the beast which I saw was like unto a LEOPARD, and his feet were as the feet of a BEAR, and his mouth as the mouth of a LION:…”  (Emphasis Mine)

Note these three beasts are the same three beasts [out of four] as mentioned in Daniel’s vision.  So just as each “beast” in Daniel 7 represents a kingdom that was led by a man, so this final “beast” in Revelation 13 will be a conglomeration of these previous three kingdoms that will likewise be led by a man.

SO WHY THE DIFFERENCE IN DREAMS?

I believe the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel present a look at the same kingdoms from two different perspectives.   First of all, God presented to Nebuchadnezzar a view of these kingdoms from an outward perspective.  From the viewpoint of people, these were wondrous kingdoms to behold; however, to Daniel, on the other hand, God gave a view of these same kingdoms from an inner perspective, looking at their heart and spirit, and from this perspective, they were “wild beasts.”

A SUBSEQUENT DREAM

Then in Daniel 8, Daniel is given a subsequent dream to his previous dream during the third year of the reign of Belshazzar, the king of Babylon. Daniel has a dream of two specific beasts: a ram with two horns (the Medes & Persians) and a male goat (Greece). In his dream, he sees the following:

And I saw him [the male goat] come beside the ram, and he was enraged at him; and he struck the ram and shattered the two horns, and the ram had no strength to withstand him.  So he hurled him to the ground and trampled on him, and there was none to rescue the ram from his power. (Daniel 8:7)

This prophecy of “the male goat” is a perfect picture of Alexander the Great.  He conquered the empire of the Medes & Persians (the ram with the two horns) quickly, as well as all of the known world at that time.  He won battle after battle, war after war, with no one being able to stop him. But then in verse 8, the prophecy continues:

Then the male goat magnified himself exceedingly.  But as soon as he was mighty, the large horn was broken; and in its place there came up four conspicuous horns towards the four winds of heaven. (Daniel 8:8)

According to world history, Alexander the Great rose to great power, “magnifying himself exceedingly,” but then at the age of 33, on June 10, 323, B.C., he died suddenly. To this day, there is an ongoing debate among historians about how he died, theories include poison, murder, or a relapse of Malaria.  When asked, though, as he was dying, who would get his kingdom, he replied, “the strongest.”  As a result, his empire was fought over for forty years by his four generals (the “four conspicuous horns”).  But then continuing on in the prophecy, we learn the following:

From one of these, the small one, sprang a horn which grew to great size toward the south and east and toward the land of Splendor….It magnified itself to be equal with the Commander of the host; and it removed the regular sacrifice from Him, and the place of His sanctuary was thrown down. (Daniel 8: 9, 11)

Then Daniel heard a voice in his vision ask, how long would this be allowed to happen, and the response was 2,300 evenings and mornings, and “then the holy place will be properly restored” (Daniel 8:14).  This prophecy of the “little horn” regards Antiochus Epiphanes and the events that the feast of Hanukkah commemorates.

HANUKKAH: A BRIEF INTRODUCTION

The historical account of the war between Israel and the Seleucid Greeks is found in the book of I Maccabees.   Although this book is in the Catholic Bible, it is not in the Hebrew Tanakh or in the Protestant Christian Old Testament. So for the convenience of readers who are not familiar with the account, I have provided the following summary.

Approximately 148 years after the death of Alexander the Great is when the historical events that Hanukkah commemorates occurred.   It begins when Antiochus IV, “a sinful shoot,” became ruler of the Seleucid Greek dynasty in 175 B.C., a region which included Israel (I Maccabees 1:10-11). Afterward, there were some Jews who saw financial advantages to adopting a Hellenistic (or Greek) lifestyle, and so they abandoned God and His Torah (lit. “Teachings, Guidance, Instructions or Directives”).

In those days went there out of Israel wicked men, who persuaded many, saying, Let us go and make a covenant with the heathen that are round about us: for since we departed from them we have had much sorrow.   So this device pleased them well.  Then certain of the people were so forward herein, that they went to the king, who gave them licence to do after the ordinances of the heathen:   Whereupon they built a place of exercise at Jerusalem according to the customs of the heathen:  And made themselves uncircumcised, and forsook the holy covenant, and joined themselves to the heathen, and were sold to do mischief.   (I Maccabees 1:11-15)

It’s hard for me to imagine someone giving up intimacy with God for money and financial success, yet that is what this group of men did.  Notice that those who gave up the ways of God and His “holy covenant” are called “wicked men.”  If this is what these men are called in the 2nd century, B.C., then won’t God call likewise Christians and ministers who forsake the truth of Scripture, including His ways and commandments, for money and financial success today?

PLUNDERING JERUSALEM

After winning a battle against Egypt in 170 B.C., Antiochus turns his sights on Israel, particularly Jerusalem.  He plundered the city and the Temple, taking the holy items and the Temple treasures, “leaving the place a shambles” (I Maccabees 1:21-24).    And then two years later, he took the women and children as slaves, stole their cattle, and then burned the city (I Maccabees 1:32-33).

MANDATING A GREEK LIFESTYLE

Antiochus then issued a proclamation [law] that everyone was to adopt a Greek lifestyle, including the worship of the Greek gods [as well as himself as a god] (I Maccabees 1:41).   Due to his own “god complex,” he ascribed to himself the name “Epiphanes” (“god manifest”).

PERSECUTING TORAH-OBSERVANT JEWS

Antiochus also forbad the Jews from practicing any form of Judaism, such as prohibiting any of the following:

  1. Any form of Temple worship;
  2. All biblical feasts, including the weekly Sabbath; and
  3. All Torah study and observance, including the following of the dietary laws and circumcision of boys at eight days old.

Instead of obeying God and His Torah, they were to worship the Greek gods, eat unclean food, and sacrifice pigs on the altar.  Anyone found worshipping the God of Israel or keeping the Torah, or practicing any of its teachings, would be killed (I Maccabees 1:46-52).

INTENSIFYING THE PERSECUTION

On the 15th day of Chislev in 167 B.C., the statue of Zeus was erected above the altar, as well as other altars to him around the surrounding towns of Judah (I Maccabees 1:57-58).   In addition, any copies of the Torah that were found by the Greek soldiers were torn up and burned (I Maccabees 1:59).

KILLING WOMEN AND CHILDREN

Also, any woman who was found to have circumcised her baby boy was killed, along with her male infant, in accordance to the edict, and her dead baby was hung around her neck.  Also, any other member of the household who participated, along with the one who circumcised the infant, were killed as well (I Maccabees 1:60-61).

SOME ENDURE – SOME DO NOT

Although the persecution was intense, there were many who remained faithful to the God of Israel and His Torah; many chose to die rather than to profane God’s “holy covenant” (I Maccabees 1:62-63).  Unfortunately, though, there were also some who did not remain faithful but chose to abandon God and His Torah, rather than endure any further persecution.  They adopted the Greek lifestyle and began worshipping the various Greek gods.

MATTATHIAS AND HIS SON REVOLT

When Antiochus’s men came to the town of Modein to make the Jews there offer a sacrifice to the god Zeus, a priest by the name of Mattathias and his sons refused to participate.   Mattathias told them:

Even if every nation living in the king’s dominion obeys him [Antiochus], each forsaking its ancestral religion to conform to his decrees, I, my sons and my brothers will still follow the covenant of our ancestors.   Heaven preserve us from forsaking the Law [Heb. Torah] and its observances.   As for the king’s orders, we will not follow them: we will not swerve from our religion either to the right or to the left.  (I Maccabees 2: 19-23)

Upon completing this statement, a Jew was going to betray God by offering a pig on the altar, but Mattathias killed the man and began a rebellion, killing as well the king’s men who were also there.   Then he ran through the town, rallying the people to join him in their fight against the Greeks.  They then took refuge in the hills (I Maccabees 2:25-28).

JUDAH ASSUMES COMMAND

After a year of fighting, Mattathias died in 167 B.C., but before he did, he placed his son Judah in charge of the war against the pagans (I Maccabees 2:66).   Judah was nicknamed “Maccabees” (“hammer”) because of how he “hammered” at the enemy in battle.   Eventually, after two more years, Judah and his troop won their battle against the Greeks.

A SHOCKING DISCOVERY!

Upon the Greeks’ final defeat in 165 B.C., Judah and his men went to Jerusalem to re-dedicate the Temple.  However, when they arrived,

they found the sanctuary [Temple] a wilderness, the altar desecrated, the gates burned down, and vegetation growing in the courts as it might in a wood or on some mountain, while the store rooms were in ruins.   They tore their garments and mourned bitterly, putting dust on their heads.  (I Maccabees 4:38-40)

CLEANSING THE TEMPLE

After a time of mourning, Judah selected priests who were faithful to God and blameless in their observance of the Torah to clean and purify the Temple, to remove the stones that had been used to construct the altar to Zeus, as well as the stones of the Temple altar that had been profaned by the blood of the pig that the Seleucid Greeks had offered on it (I Maccabees 4:42-45).

WHAT DO WE DO WITH THESE STONES?

Judah and his men were not sure what to do with the Temple altar stones once they had been removed, so they took them outside the Temple and set them in “a suitable place on the Temple hill to await the appearance of [the] prophet [i.e., the Messiah] who should give a ruling about them” (I Maccabees 4:46).

Could these be the same stones that Jesus (Heb. Yeshua) alluded to when He rode into Jerusalem, and when the religious leaders tried to get Him to silence the crowd, He told them, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” (Luke 19:40)

REDEDICATING THE TEMPLE

Once the stones had been removed, they selected rocks that were naturally cut by the weather and sand, and built a new altar where the old one had once stood (I Maccabees 4:47).   They cleaned the Temple, replaced the vessels and items that had been stolen, and set up the items in the Temple as God had instructed in the Torah (I Maccabees 4:47-51).

INSTITUTING THE OBSERVANCE OF HANUKKAH

Then on the 25th day of Chislev (which occurs from mid-November to mid-December), in the year 165 B.C., they re-dedicated the Temple back to God and to His service.  They “made it a law that the days of dedication of the altar should be an annual celebration for eight days beginning on the 25th day of Chislev with ‘rejoicing and gladness’” (I Maccabees 4:52-61).

 

GOD FULFILLED HIS PROPHECY

Indeed, God did keep His prophetic word.  The “little horn” did rise to great power and for a time did gain power over the “land of Splendor” [Israel], but his time came to an end, and the Temple was, indeed, properly restored, as God promised.

If anything, the celebration of Hanukkah should remind us of the following:

  1. That our God is a faithful God who keeps His Word, even in the hardest of circumstances;
  2. The freedom to worship and honor the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by obeying His Torah from our hearts is something that must be fought for continually since today we see that freedom being slowly taken away from us.
  3. We must also remember that the Torah is not “bondage” or some “legalistic hardship,” as I hear mainstream Christianity teach, but it is a blessing from God that we have been given to teach us about God, Messiah, holiness, and what it means to be “the people of God.”

So during this Hanukkah season, let us strive to remember the faithfulness of our God and to hold on to the freedom that God has given to us to worship Him and to walk in all of His ways.

 

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