Friday, April 21, 2017

Saul and Samuel

With whom did the spirit medium of Endor get in touch?

Did King Saul visit with Samuel after Samuel’s death? This account is presented in 1 Samuel 28:3-19. In it, Saul is seized with panicked fear over his impending doom at the hands of the Philistines. As his pleas for help were going unheard, in palpable desperation he turned to a “spirit medium” called the “Witch of Endor.” What made this especially ironic was that King Saul had just executed a purge in the land of the very type of person he was now so desperately seeking. (1 Samuel 28:3) Interestingly, a NET Bible footnote for verse 3 describes the scene of Saul’s meeting with the witch:
The Hebrew term translated “mediums” actually refers to a pit used by a magician to conjure up underworld spirits (see 2 Kgs 21:6). In v. 7 the witch of Endor is called the owner of a ritual pit.
So in this ritual pit, a representation of the dead Samuel is manifested, and is called in Hebrew elohim, gods. (1 Samuel 28:13) On this point, the NWT-Ref note says:
Heb., ʼelo·himʹ, pl., evidently to denote excellence and applying to an individual even though the verb “coming” is pl., for the woman saw only the form of an old man come up.
And the NET Bible footnote similarly says in part:
Heb “gods.” The modifying participle (translated “coming up”) is plural, suggesting that underworld spirits are the referent. But in the following verse Saul understands the plural word to refer to a singular being.
So perhaps she saw multiple manifestations of spirits that coalesced into one or diminished until one was remaining. But the salient question is, was it really Samuel or an impostor? While the text does not say outright that it was an imposture, is it at all implied?

The following explanation from Insight on the Scriptures, vol. 2 pp. 1027-1028 under “Spiritism” successfully unravels this enigma:
King Saul’s visit to a medium. When Saul went to the medium, Jehovah’s spirit had for some time been removed from him, and in fact, God would not answer his inquiries by means of dreams or by the Urim (used by the high priest) or by the prophets. (1Sa 28:6) God would have no more to do with him; and God’s prophet Samuel had not seen Saul for a long period of time, from before David’s being anointed to be king. So it would be unreasonable to think that Samuel, even if still alive, would now come to give Saul advice. And God would certainly not cause Samuel, whom he had not sent to Saul before his death, to come back from the dead to talk to Saul.—1Sa 15:35.
That Jehovah would in no way approve of or cooperate with Saul’s action is shown by his later statement through Isaiah: “And in case they should say to you people: ‘Apply to the spiritistic mediums or to those having a spirit of prediction who are chirping and making utterances in low tones,’ is it not to its God that any people should apply? Should there be application to dead persons in behalf of living persons? To the law and to the attestation!”—Isa 8:19, 20.
Therefore, when the account reads: “When the woman saw ‘Samuel’ she began crying out at the top of her voice,” it obviously recounts the event as viewed by the medium, who was deceived by the spirit that impersonated Samuel. (1Sa 28:12) As for Saul himself, the principle stated by the apostle Paul applied: “Just as they did not approve of holding God in accurate knowledge, God gave them up to a disapproved mental state, to do the things not fitting … Although these know full well the righteous decree of God, that those practicing such things are deserving of death, they not only keep on doing them but also consent with those practicing them.”—Ro 1:28-32.
The Commentary on the Old Testament, by C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch (1973, Vol. II, First Samuel, p. 265), refers to the Greek Septuagint at 1 Chronicles 10:13, which has added the words “and Samuel the prophet answered him.” (Bagster) The Commentary supports the view that is implied by these uninspired words [that is, attested only] in the Septuagint, but it adds: “Nevertheless the fathers, reformers, and earlier Christian theologians, with very few exceptions, assumed that there was not a real appearance of Samuel, but only an imaginary one. According to the explanation given by Ephraem Syrus, an apparent image of Samuel was presented to the eye of Saul through demoniacal arts. Luther and Calvin adopted the same view, and the earlier Protestant theologians followed them in regarding the apparition as nothing but a diabolical spectre, a phantasm, or diabolical spectre in the form of Samuel, and Samuel’s announcement as nothing but a diabolical revelation made by divine permission, in which truth is mixed with falsehood.”
In a footnote (First Samuel, pp. 265, 266), this Commentary says: “Thus Luther says … ‘The raising of Samuel by a soothsayer or witch, in 1 Sam. xxviii. 11, 12, was certainly merely a spectre of the devil; not only because the Scriptures state that it was effected by a woman who was full of devils (for who could believe that the souls of believers, who are in the hand of God, … were under the power of the devil, and of simple men?), but also because it was evidently in opposition to the command of God that Saul and the woman inquired of the dead. The Holy Ghost cannot do anything against this himself, nor can He help those who act in opposition to it.’ Calvin also regards the apparition as only a spectre … : ‘It is certain,’ he says, ‘that it was not really Samuel, for God would never have allowed His prophets to be subjected to such diabolical conjuring. For here is a sorceress calling up the dead from the grave. Does any one imagine that God wished His prophet to be exposed to such ignominy; as if the devil had power over the bodies and souls of the saints which are in His keeping? The souls of the saints are said to rest … in God, waiting for their happy resurrection. Besides, are we to believe that Samuel took his cloak with him into the grave? For all these reasons, it appears evident that the apparition was nothing more than a spectre, and that the senses of the woman herself were so deceived, that she thought she saw Samuel, whereas it really was not he.’ The earlier orthodox theologians also disputed the reality of the appearance of the departed Samuel on just the same grounds.”
Thus, there is historical president for seeing the conjured spirit Samuel as a demonic imposture. Additionally, The Jewish Study Bible in a note on verses 12-14 states that
The Bible believes in the possibility of sorcery, soothsaying and necromancy, but prohibits them as heathen practices (Deut. 18.9-14).
Therefore, why would Samuel if still alive reward irreverent Saul by submitting himself to the control of a heathen spiritist? This question reveals the inherent weakness of the position that it really was a postmortem appearance of Samuel. Additionally, assuming there were initial attendant spirits appearing with him, who were they? Why were more than just one manifesting themselves to the eyes of the infernal witch? Thus, understanding this as the authentic Samuel is intellectually problematic and theologically disastrous.

However, there is another historical precedent that demands consideration: an ancient Mesopotamian parallel found in the Epic of Gilgamesh, where Gilgamesh digs a pit into the ground to perform a séance to contact his dearly beloved but deceased companion Enkidu. As one source explains:
Sumerian and Akkadian versions of the Gilgamesh Epic also attest the use of pits or holes in the ground as portals through which the dead could ascend from the underworld; Gilgamesh used such a pit to summon his departed companion Enkidu.[1]
The Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (TDOT) explains that these versions of the Gilgamesh Epic present Gilgamesh as digging a pit in the ground and summoning the spirit of Enkidu, and that “the entire episode reminds us of 1 S. 28.14.”[2] The tablet explaining the séance portrays it as successful. It states:
He freed Enkidu to speak once to kin. … Enkidu’s shadow rose slowly toward the living and the brothers, tearful and weak, tried to hug, tried to speak, tried and failed to do anything but sob.

“Speak to me please, dear brother,” whispered Gilgamesh. “Tell me of death and where you are.”

“Not willingly do I speak of death,” said Enkidu in slow reply. “But if you wish to sit for a brief time, I will describe where I do stay.”

“Yes,” his brother said in early grief.

“All my skin and all my bones are dead now. All my skin and all my bones are now dead.”

“Oh no,” cried Gilgamesh without relief. “Oh no,” sobbed one enclosed by grief.[3]
Notice how clear and unqualified the language is. Gilgamesh is portrayed as successfully conjuring Enkidu from the grave and holding a conversation with him. Therefore, what appears here may expose a problem of consistency. That is, if the ones who posit that Samuel really appeared to the witch deny that the other séances in the Ancient Near East were successful, on what basis do they do so? This is inconsistent and falls victim to the logical fallacy of cherry picking. If you believe that it was really Samuel, then you must also believe that it was really Enkidu. If not, then on what basis do you doubt the clear language of the Gilgamesh Epic? On the other hand, if you believe that the witch’s Samuel was a demonic impostor, then you can consistently hold that all other such successful séances were also demonstrating demonic impostures.

In summary, concluding that the conjured Samuel was the historical Samuel is a superficial reading that ignores that it would sully God’s hands and contradict the historical Samuel who had nothing to do with necromancy.


Footnotes:
[1] The Necromancer from Endor – John Walton and Phil Long. http://zondervanacademic.com/blog/necromancer-from-endor/

This reference also states concerning the relationship to the Samuel account:
As regards Saul’s night visit to the necromancer at Endor, opinion is divided over whether the real Samuel appeared or a mere apparition. The startled reaction of the woman in verse 12, her immediate realization that she has been deceived (she is not dealing with her “familiar” spirits), and the narrator’s unqualified statement that the woman “saw Samuel” all suggest that Samuel really appears. That in this instance Yahweh should deign to return Samuel from the grave—to the surprise of the woman and the dismay of Saul—in no way represents a validation either of the efficacy or the acceptability of necromancy.
A number of responses are in order:
  1. Her “startled reaction” was in response to the realization that the disguised man was her mortal enemy King Saul, not about unfamiliar spirits.
  2. The narrator’s unqualified statement obviously recounts the event as viewed by the medium, who was deceived like Eve had been.—Genesis 3:1, 1 Timothy 2:14, Revelation 12:9.
  3. Why would Jehovah who condemned necromancy now cooperate with it? Would that not soil his hands so-to-speak? No, the holy God of Israel would not cooperate with a witch of a conjuring pit. This is a neglected dilemma for those authors who should be concerned with the sanctity of their God.
[2] 1:131-2.

[3] Epic of Gilgamesh Tablet XII, found online here where the rest of the séance can be read if you so desire: http://www.piney.com/Gil12.html What was quoted from it was done so to clearly establish the unqualified language describing an allegedly successful séance.


References:


Credits:
Picture from page 91 of You Can Live Forever In Paradise On Earth (1982).

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Monday, April 17, 2017

What’s at stake

Please don’t be dismayed, but I’d like to share my Scriptural reasons why I no longer insist that Jesus died on a stake and not a cross:

First, according to secular descriptions of Roman executions, the condemned carried a patibulum (a T-bar or crossbar) to the permanent stake, called the stipes. Thus, Jesus’ torture stake may have been a horizontal beam that was attached to the top of the stipes. (This receives brief mention in the Insight book under “Impalement.”[1])

Second, Thomas at John 20:25 said “nails” for the hands and Matthew at Matthew 27:37 said the sign was above Jesus’ head. Now, these can be explained away in keeping with how Jesus is depicted on the stake in our publications. Thomas was counting nail marks for nails so it was actually one nail making two marks, and the sign is still above Jesus’ head regardless, with his hands and arms in-between. However, these solutions (and any others) are not completely satisfying due to their defensive posture—due to being crafted solely for defending the stake interpretation.

Third, Deuteronomy 21:22, 23 LXX uses xylon. So when xylon is used in Acts 5:30, 10:39, 13:29, and 1 Peter 2:24, would this be recalling its use in Deuteronomy 21:22, 23 LXX as a technical, legal term? (Galatians 3:13 has a direct quote applying it to Christ.) As the LXX predates Christianity, xylon would not be defining the exact shape of Jesus’ execution device.

Fourth, Jesus commanded us to “pick up” the torture stake (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23) and Simon of Cyrene carried it behind Jesus. (Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26 [The Roman soldiers placed it on him.]) Thus it could not have been a tree trunk or something long and heavy. The torture stake was carried, not dragged. (James 2:6 uses the different Greek word for “drag.”) Carrying the torture stake as opposed to dragging it is more torturous. I think this is a neglected distinction.

Jesus carrying his torture stake before collapsing.

Fifth, Jesus was able to converse with others in Luke 23:39-43 and John 19:26-27. Is a spread-out posture on a ‘T’ or ‘t’ with a long foot-rest more conducive for this? The linear postures in our publications would put greater stress on breathing and turning the head from side to side, making it harder to picture how these events occurred, even with the foot-rest (the suppedaneum).

In conclusion, Jesus’ torture stake was still transported to Golgotha, and Christians should not worship any replicas of what he died on. Most importantly, Jesus’ hands nailed to a patibulum attached to the deathstake still fulfills Deuteronomy 21:22, 23, and does not affect the value of the ransom sacrifice at all.

But please, I implore you, please do not get into debates defending the stake against the cross on the Internet or in person. I fear such discussions may amount to “debates about words.” (1 Timothy 6:4; 2 Timothy 2:14) This is a sin to avoid! Instead, our time is better spent explaining the meaning of Jesus’ sacrificial death. That is infinitely more important!




Footnotes:
[1] The quotation being:
Tradition, not the Scriptures, also says that the condemned man carried only the crossbeam of the cross, called the patibulum, or antenna, instead of both parts. In this way some try to avoid the predicament of having too much weight for one man to drag or carry to Golgotha.
Yet, what did the Bible writers themselves say about these matters?
The weight is indeed an important factor at reconstructing the execution process, for carrying the torture stake had to torturous, not impossible. Aside from that, there is also the concern of taking historical information available to us into account.


See also:


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Friday, March 17, 2017

Reasons


Here I will list reasons why I’m glad I was raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I’m doing this because it’s vital to reflect on your background and appraise positive benefits. Jehovah’s Witnesses as a whole strive to have the best understanding of the Bible. To that end, we’ve updated our interpretations of parts of it. That means that some things I was taught from childhood have been discarded and updated to make better sense of the Bible and history. I hope this process continues. With that said, these are things I’m glad I was raised with:
  • Deep respect for the Bible, using interlinears and multiple translations
  • Clear position on the Divine Name
  • Jehovah’s Universal Sovereignty, the vindication of his sovereignty and the sanctification of his name
  • Soteriology—Jesus is the “last Adam.”
  • Modern-language Bible translation with Jehovah’s name
  • Theology
  • Christology
  • Daniel’s prophecies (our explanations are lucid and maintain the intent of the prophecies)
  • Theocratic Ministry School: everyone is trained in public speaking!
  • Jesus is the antitypical Avenger of Blood
  • Gentile Times prophecy and God’s Kingdom
  • Open Theism, that God didn’t know in advance that Adam and Eve would sin
  • Emphasis on personal study and thinking

See also:

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Friday, February 03, 2017

Did Jesus ever break the Sabbath?


See the new appendix to my blog entry: A Rebuttal of Trinitarianism
http://jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2015/02/a-rebuttal-of-trinitarianism.html

This is very important. The short answer is No, only his murderous enemies thought so.

Credits:
Picture from Plucking Grain on the Sabbath
https://www.jw.org/en/publications/books/jesus/ministry-in-galilee/plucking-grain-on-sabbath/

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Friday, January 13, 2017

A Word of Advice


When talking to others about:
  • When Adam was created
  • Noah’s Flood
  • Jesus’ death
Please stress the basics, not the specifics. Specifics tend to be less secure than the basics anyway.

The basics of these are:
  • Adam was created thousands of years ago.
  • Noah’s Flood destroyed the wicked human society, and select fauna were preserved on the ark which landed on one of the Ararat mountains.
  • Jesus was nailed upright to wood and furnished the ransom sacrifice.
Stress these basics on these topics and the conversation will go way smoother, and you’ll still get your main point across.

If you stress the specifics then you may find yourself getting bogged down in the specifics, which will then be the time to abandon the specifics and return to the basics.


Thank you for listening!

(Another thing to not be that specific on is whether or not Peter was ever in Rome. Interestingly, one Watchtower left the door open on Peter ever being in Rome. It said: “Even if Peter did preach in Rome, as some secular literature from the first and second centuries implies, there is no proof that he was head of the congregation there.” (2011 8/1 p. 25 Is the Pope “Saint Peter’s Successor”?) http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2011571 Thus, the only point now being contested is that he was the overseer of the Roman Christians.)


Related blog posts:

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Sunday, January 08, 2017

Who will escape?


Joel 2:31 presents “the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah.” Who will escape it? The following verse (Joel 2:32) answers: “And everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved; For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape, just as Jehovah has said, The survivors whom Jehovah calls.”

The Greek Septuagint (LXX) presents the last part with a different twist. It states: “Those telling good news; those evangelizing [from εὐαγγελιζόμενοι, euaggelizomenoi] whom [Jehovah] calls.”

Why this change? Why are the survivors evangelizers? For the answer we must look at the Hebrew text:

והיה כל אשר־יקרא בשם יהוה ימלט כי בהר־ציון ובירושלם תהיה פליטה כאשר אמר יהוה ובשרידים אשר יהוה קרא׃

The underlined word is ubassridim, “among the survivors or remnant (שרידים, sridim).” Now, to go from that word to euaggelizomenoi, evangelizers, can be accomplished through the following easy modification: if the initial “b” in ubassridim was taken as the initial letter of the word basar, “to preach, tell good news,” (instead of the particle “b” meaning “in” or “among”) along with confusing the similar “r” and “d” (ר and ד), then one Hebrew word was transformed into another similar Hebrew word, which was then translated into the LXX. As the late Solomon Landers[1] once said:
The similarity between “b.sr(idim)” [“among the survivors”] and “bsr(iyim)” [“evangelizers”] in an unpointed, paleo-Hebrew text—such as the LXX translators would have had—is striking.
But were the LXX translators that far off in their modification? As it harmonizes with the Great Commission that Jesus later gave in Matthew 28:19, 20 and described in Matthew 24:14, they were not off the mark. Ironically, while it was ultimately a mistranslation, it did harmonize with later divine revelation.

Thus, in closing, who will escape the Day of Jehovah? The evangelizers appointed by Jehovah.


Footnotes:
[1] Solomon Landers (1942-2013) was a very scholarly Jehovah’s Witness who also maintained an excellent collection of blogs on the Coptic translation of the scriptures. www.blogger.com/profile/00576135299193837482

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Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Festival of Dedication

A priest lighting the oil lamps of the Temple Menorah

At John 10:22 the Festival of Dedication is mentioned. As explained in one article,[1] this festival was held in “wintertime” and commemorated the rededication of Jehovah’s Temple in 165 B.C.E. It was held for eight days, beginning on the 25th day of the month of Chislev, close to the winter solstice. This festival is thus late and is not mentioned on the Hebrew Bible, and it is also the direct product of the Maccabean Revolt.

What sparked this insurrection? In 168 B.C.E., the Greek, Syrian Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) made an earnest effort to eradicate Jewish worship and customs, and to complete this purge, he had a pagan altar erected atop the altar in Jehovah’s Temple in Jerusalem. Upon it, he had sacrifices offered to the Greek god Zeus, including swine—animals considered unclean in Jewish worship.—Leviticus 11:7, 27.

As you can imagine, the Jewish reaction was nothing short of outrage and open revolt. Who took the lead in this uprising was Judah Maccabee, and he succeeded in recovering Jerusalem from the Seleucids, and then had the defiled altar demolished and a new one built in its place. Exactly three years after the altar had first been desecrated, Judah rededicated the cleansed Temple to Jehovah, and relit the sacred Temple Menorah lamp (which according to legend miraculously continued to burn after exhausting its oil supply). This “festival of dedication” (Hebrew, chanuk·kahʹ) has been celebrated in December by the Jews ever since. Today, the festival is known as Hanukkah.

Origin of the surname Maccabee
In the early days of the rebellion, Judah received the surname Maccabee. Several explanations have been put forward for this surname. One suggestion is that the name derives from the Aramaic maqqaba, “hammer” or “sledgehammer” in recognition of his ferocity in battle.

It is also possible that the name Maccabee is an acronym for the words found in Exodus 15:11 Mi Kamokha Ba'elim Jehovah (מכבי), “Who among the gods is like you, O Jehovah?”, his battle-cry to motivate his troops.[2]
What were the odds of success?
One scholar explains:
Realistically, the Maccabees had absolutely no chance of winning. The [Greek] Syrian army consisted of more than 40,000 men—it was another David vs. Goliath scenario—but, as in the story of David, God performed a miracle, and after a series of battles, the war was won.

When the Maccabees, miraculously, recaptured the Temple, they had to cleanse and restore it. They entered the Temple and cleared it of the idols placed there by the Syrians.[3]

Did the Maccabean Revolt enjoy divine support and intervention?
Answering this question:
There is no direct statement in the inspired Scriptures that Jehovah gave Judah victory and directed his repair of the Temple, its refurnishing, the making of utensils, and finally its rededication. Yet, for the prophecies regarding Jesus and his ministry to be fulfilled and for the Levitical sacrifices to continue until the great sacrifice of God’s Son would be accomplished, the Temple had to be standing and its services in operation at the time of the Messiah’s appearance. (Joh 2:17; Da 9:27) Jehovah had used men of foreign nations, such as Cyrus, to carry out certain purposes as regards His worship. (Isa 45:1) How much more readily might he use a man of his dedicated people, the Jews.[4]

Another source repeats:
Nevertheless, the Christian Greek Scriptures do record the fulfillment of Messianic Hebrew Scripture prophecies in the ministry of Jesus Christ. Some of these prophecies required that the Temple be in operation at the time of the Messiah’s appearance. (Daniel 9:27; Haggai 2:9; compare Psalm 69:9 with John 2:16, 17.) Thus, unless the Temple was cleansed and rededicated to Jehovah, these prophecies could not have been fulfilled. Clearly, God wanted the Temple to be rededicated. But was Judah Maccabee his chosen instrument for accomplishing this?

In the absence of an inspired record, we cannot say for certain. Of course, Jehovah had in years past used non-Jews, such as Cyrus the Persian, to carry out certain aspects of his will. (Isaiah 44:26–45:4) How much more so might God use someone from among his dedicated people, the Jews![5]

Did the Maccabean Revolt fulfill Bible prophecy?
This would be totally remarkable, and yet there are two scriptures in the 12 Prophets that seem to do so. The first is Micah 5:7-9.

These sources explain:
They would become like “dew from Jehovah,” which brings refreshment and prosperity, and they would be courageous and strong like “a lion among the beasts of a forest.” (Mic 5:7-9) This latter prophecy apparently had a fulfillment during the Maccabean period, resulting in the preservation of the Jews in their land and the preservation of the Temple, until the Messiah’s coming.[6]

A remnant from among the exiled Jews did indeed return to Judah and revive the worship of Jehovah at the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem. In the outworking of Jehovah’s purposes, this remnant would become like “dew from Jehovah,” which brings refreshment and prosperity. They would also be courageous and strong like “a lion among the beasts of a forest.” (Micah 5:7, 8) This latter expression may have been fulfilled during the Maccabean period when the Jews under the family of the Maccabees expelled their enemies from the Promised Land and rededicated the Temple, which had been defiled. Thus the land and the Temple were preserved so that another faithful remnant would be able to welcome the Son of God when he appeared there as the Messiah.—Daniel 9:25; Luke 1:13-17, 67-79; 3:15, 21, 22.[7]

This prophecy may have had its first fulfillment during the Maccabean period when the Jews under the Maccabees expelled their enemies from Judah and rededicated the Temple. This made it possible for a remnant of the Jews to welcome the Messiah when he appeared.—Daniel 9:25; Luke 3:15-22.[8]

Second, there is Zechariah 9:13 foretelling the successful warfare of the ‘sons of Zion’ against Greece.[9] Spectacularly, this was specifically fulfilled during the successful warfare of the Maccabees.


In conclusion, we can see that the Maccabean Revolt was a sincere and devout rebellion lead by someone with great love for his God Jehovah and for pure, undefiled worship. Additionally, as it paved the way for Messianic prophecies to be fulfilled, and evidently fulfilled Bible prophecies in the process, it certainly enjoyed divine support in a mighty way, until its purpose was fulfilled.


Footnotes:
[1] Watchtower, 2011, 9/1 p. 14, seen here: http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2011650#h=7

[2] Wikipedia, Judas Maccabeus https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judas_Maccabeus

[3] Hanukkah Reflections for Christmas http://jewishstudies.eteacherbiblical.com/hanukkah-reflections-christmas/

[4] Insight on the Scriptures Vol. 1 Festival of Dedication p. 825 http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1200001506#h=7

[5] Awake! 1990 12/8 p. 13 Hanukkah—Is It a “Jewish Christmas”?

[6] Insight on the Scriptures Vol. 2 Remnant p. 770

[7] Watchtower, 2001 11/1 p. 11

[8] Live with Jehovah’s Day in Mind p. 170 footnote

[9] Insight on the Scriptures Vol. 1 Javan p. 1258

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Russia’s Legal System is in Serious Trouble


The following 3-part report on jw.org is absolutely incredible and sobering. There appears to be a reign of terror in Russia, complete with government-sanctioned police abuse—even worse than when under the Soviet regime.

Fortunately, this situation has not gone unnoticed by objective academicians, who have unanimously decried these abuses as seen here:

Part 1:

Experts Explain: Russia Uses Anti-Extremism Law as Ploy to Criminalize Jehovah’s Witnesses
https://www.jw.org/en/news/releases/by-region/russia/anti-extremism-law/

Exclusive Interviews
https://www.jw.org/en/news/releases/by-region/russia/anti-extremism-law-interviews/

Part 2:

Experts Decry Russia’s Threat to Ban the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures
https://www.jw.org/en/news/releases/by-region/russia/threat-to-ban-new-world-translation/

Exclusive Interviews
https://www.jw.org/en/news/releases/by-region/russia/threat-to-ban-new-world-translation-interviews/

Part 3:

International Experts Discredit Russia’s “Expert Analysis” in Identifying “Extremism”
https://www.jw.org/en/news/releases/by-region/russia/expert-analysis-identifying-extremism-discredited/

Exclusive Interviews
https://www.jw.org/en/news/releases/by-region/russia/expert-analysis-identifying-extremism-discredited-interviews/


Other resources:

Recommended reading:

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Foreknowing the Fall?


Did God create Adam and Eve knowing that they would fail to meet his standards and behave offensively and disobediently? (Romans 5:18, 19)

Two Pauline scriptures are used to argue that God indeed did that: 2 Timothy 1:9 and Titus 1:2, for both conclude with the phrase πρὸ χρόνων αἰωνίων, which literally means "before times everlasting."[1] The NET Bible has it rendered as "before the ages began" with a footnote saying "before eternal ages." The NIV however has it translated as "before the beginning of time," and the HCSB similarly has "before time began." This makes it appear like God began the redemptive process for humanity before the creation of the physical universe, as in foreknowing that the Fall would happen even prior to physical creation.

However, this would create a theodical problem, a problem affecting God's righteousness by making him party to the disastrous consequences of our primeval parents' fall into sin and death. As the book Reasoning From the Scriptures notes:[2]
Would it be just or loving to condemn a person for doing something that you yourself planned for him to do? ... Jehovah is a God of love. (1 John 4:8) All his ways are just. (Ps. 37:28; Deut. 32:4) It was not God's will for Adam to sin; he warned Adam against it. (Gen. 2:17) ... Perfection did not rule out the exercise of free will to disobey. Adam chose to rebel against God, despite the warning that death would result.
Interestingly, the NWT does not translate either scripture as seen above, but as "before times long ago" (2 Timothy 1:9) and as "promised long ago" (Titus 1:2).[3] Thus, the redemptive process began only when it needed to, thousands of years prior with the first redemptive promise expressed in Genesis 3:15, right after the Fall occurred and not before. The BDAG lexicon concurs with this handling of the Greek text, for it says on page 33 under αἰώνιος in boldface type that it pertains "to a long period of time, long ago," and only offers "before time began" as a secondary, possible rendering in those two pastoral scriptures.

Click to enlarge.

Even if the phrase is literally "before time began," this may be taken as hyperbole.

In closing, ones who think that God created with redemption in mind fail to appreciate that this would include God in the Fall, making him a party to it. Thus, having God create knowing in advance that his crowning creation, humanity, would rebel and offend him does nothing to support theodicy. Claiming that God being omniscient means that he knew in advance that humanity would offend him is ridiculous and assumes that knowing everything means that you know what someone else will do at all times and with all choices.[4] It is an anti-theodicy and is nonsense.


Footnotes:
[1] Astronomer and creation apologist Hugh Ross argued like this in this podcast discussing his excellent new book Improbable Planet: http://www.reasons.org/audio/improbable-planet-2-3

[2] "Adam and Eve" page 29. http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1101989205#h=23. See also under "Fate" page 142 http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1101989229#h=29, and in Insight on the Scriptures under "Foreknowledge, Foreordination: Predestinarian view" p. 852 http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1200001549#h=13

[3] It is interesting that Paul while writing under divine inspiration did not provide a chronological total here from Adam's sin to his day, not even a rough one (as in "about 4,000 years ago" per the 6,000-year interpretive paradigm), but simply left it as 'a real long time ago.'

[4] This explanation is called "Open Theism," which is defined as here at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://www.iep.utm.edu/o-theism/.


Recommended video:
Depicting the Fall and Jesus' ransom sacrifice:
https://tv.jw.org/#en/video/VODBible/pub-jwbcov_201505_11_VIDEO

Related blog entry:
The Earth that Adam Knew?
http://jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2012/01/earth-that-adam-knew-what-did-earth.html

Additional reading:



Credits:
Opening picture from Learn From the Great Teacher chapter 8, seen here: https://www.jw.org/en/publications/books/learn-from-great-teacher-jesus/others-are-higher-than-we-are.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Trinities Podcast Share


This is an excellent podcast (#51) from Dr. Dale Tuggy’s Trinities website that I feel compelled to share. It is a rejoinder to Dr. Ravi Zacharias, a former Hindu, on the Trinity, seen here:

trinities.org/blog/podcast-51-dr-ravi-zacharias-on-the-trinity

Here, Dale makes a simple response to the Trinitarian “love” argument, that is: “If God is love, then who was he loving before he created Jesus? Hmm? Checkmate! The Trinity must be true then as all three persons in the impersonal Godhead are eternal loving each other!” Later he made more sophisticated responses to this superficial reasoning in these podcasts:

Podcast 132 – 10 Apologists’ Mistakes about the Trinity – Part 2. The argument about love is addressed from ca. 3:50-9:40.
trinities.org/blog/podcast-132-10-apologists-mistakes-about-the-trinity-part-2
Podcast 157 – Listener Questions 2. The argument about love is addressed from 7:38-11:00.
trinities.org/blog/podcast-157-listener-questions-2

His response to the Trinitarian “love” argument is that God was loving himself before creation. The expected Trinitarian response to that though is the charge of narcissism.[1] However, this reaction attributes that sinful trait to God—and is thus sensational and wholly unconvincing.

What I find so special about this podcast 51 is that it covers a lot of issues that Zacharias so eloquently presented.

Footnotes:
[1] Trinitarian Kenneth Samples argued in that manner, and I have offered my cogent rejoinder to that here: Trinitarian Samples http://jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2016/04/trinitarian-samples.html.


Related Trinities Podcasts:


Related blog entries:

See also:


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