Thursday, March 14, 2024

Science and Pi in the Bible

Today is Pi Day!

An axiom I have found to be true is: If your reading of the Bible leads you to contradict math or science, then it is probably your interpretation that is in error, not necessarily the Bible. First check your interpretation against other interpretations of the same passage in question. This is best illustrated in a claim I have seen a rise in lately, that the Bible misstates the value of pi (π) and therefore cannot be the Word of God.

One source presents it succinctly:
Myth: The Bible says that the circumference of a circle is exactly three times its diameter, but the correct value is pi (π), or about 3.1416.
Fact: The measurements of “the Sea of cast metal” given at 1 Kings 7:23 and 2 Chronicles 4:2 indicate that it had a diameter of 10 cubits and that “it took a measuring line 30 cubits long to encircle it.” These dimensions might have been merely the nearest round numbers.[1]

Another source reported:
At 1 Kings 7:23 and 2 Chronicles 4:2 we are told that the circular molten sea in the courtyard of Solomon’s temple was ten cubits from brim to brim and that “it took a line of thirty cubits to circle all around it.” Is this not incorrect, since it is impossible to have a circle with these two values?

Today, in mathematical calculations, it is customary to use pi, which denotes the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. According to general practice, it is a quantity equivalent to 3.1416. However, in ancient times persons did not give decimals down to the last fraction. For that matter, pi itself is not just 3.1416. Persons who insist on scrupulous accuracy and consider the Bible to be in error in giving the measurements of the molten sea would do well to realize that, to be more accurate themselves, it would be appropriate to carry pi to at least eight decimal places, which would be 3.14159265, though even a figure in excess of 3.1415926535 could be used.

Bible commentator Christopher Wordsworth quotes a certain Rennie, who made this interesting observation regarding the measurements of the molten sea: “Up to the time of Archimedes [third century B.C.E.], the circumference of a circle was always measured in straight lines by the radius; and Hiram would naturally describe the sea as thirty cubits round, measuring it, as was then invariably the practice, by its radius, or semidiameter, of five cubits, which being applied six times round the perimeter, or ‘brim,’ would give the thirty cubits stated. [See figure below.] There was evidently no intention in the passage but to give the dimensions of the Sea, in the usual language that every one would understand, measuring the circumference in the way in which all skilled workers, like Hiram, did measure circles at that time. He, of course, must however have known perfectly well, that as the polygonal hexagon thus inscribed by the radius was thirty cubits, the actual curved circumference would be somewhat more.”

According to 1 Kings 7:23 and 2 Chronicles 4:2, the molten sea was ten cubits, or fifteen feet, in diameter and it took a line of thirty cubits, or forty-five feet, to encompass it. That is a ratio of one to three, which, for practical purposes, was quite adequate for the sake of a record.[2]

Lastly, the Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties similarly says:

First Kings 7:23 says, “He [Hiram] made the sea of cast metal ten cubits from brim to brim, circular in form, and its height was five cubits, and thirty cubits in circumference” (NASB). Some critics have urged this approximate value of three to one as the relationship between the diameter and the circumference of the circle amounts to a geometrical inaccuracy, inconsistent with a truly errorless Scripture. The true value of pi is calculated to be 3.14159 rather than 3.0.

This criticism is, however, devoid of merit. While it is true that the more exact calculation of pi is essential for scientific purposes, or for the manufacture of precision parts in a factory, the use of approximate proportions or totals is a familiar practice in normal speech, even today. If the statistical statements concerning the population of cities or nations were subjected to the same stringent standard as that leveled at 1 Kings 7:23, then we would have to say that all population statistics are in error. A certain number of people are dying each minute, and babies are being born at a standard rate every sixty seconds; therefore any exact sum that might be true at 1:00 P.M. on a given day through computer calculation would be “inaccurate” by 1:01 P.M. that same day. It is perfectly proper to speak of the circumference of any circle as being three times its diameter if we are speaking approximately, just as one may legitimately state that the population of China is from 800 million to one billion. The Hebrew author here is obviously speaking in the approximate way that is normal practice even today.

There is one interesting feature about this that might well be added. If the rod used to mark out a length of five cubits (approximately ninety inches) for the radius were used to measure the inside circumference of the same bowl-shaped vessel here described, then it would take exactly six of those five-cubit measures to complete the circumference. [See figure above.] Let the skeptic try it and see![3]

The axiom has proved true that the Bible is not contradicting math, but the interpretation that it was teaching a mathematical inaccuracy is what is in error. All it was referring to at the very least was how the ancients constructed a circular object. Lastly, as they did not need the level of precision we now have for pi, demanding that God reveal that to them is really quite unreasonable and therefore absurd.

[1] Does Science Agree With the Bible? Are there scientific errors in the Bible?
[2] w66 5/15 Questions From Readers p. 319. Figure added by me.
[3] Gleason Archer. Zondervan, 1982. 198-199.


Friday, February 16, 2024

Social Media Trinitarianism

This post by someone defending their Trinitarian theology resembles more of a frantic drive-by shooting. Examining the scriptures used to support their premise, that Jesus was crucified because he claimed to be God, will demonstrate that.

Three scriptures were presented, all from John:

John 8:58-59, John 10:33, John 19:7

Notice that no translation was cited, so it should not matter which Bible is used.

But there is a glaring problem with this claim, even before looking up the scriptures. If Jesus claimed to be God, and he was killed, then God is dead—never resurrected—and atheism is true. But Trinitarians are not atheists. This highlights that Trinitarians do not say what they mean. When they say that Jesus is God, what they really mean is that he is the second person of the impersonal Godhead. God is not a single person to them, but is a group of three distinct and not separate persons. So what Trinitarians should really say is that “Jesus claimed to be God in the sense of being a person within the triune Godhead.” Settling on the simple slogan “Jesus is God” thus reflects a very careless attitude towards their own theology. If they are not really that interested in being accurate with their own theology, then why insist that others accept it? Why should we accept something they are not really interested in expressing accurately?

These scriptures read:

John 8:58-59
Jesus told them, “I tell you for a positive fact, I existed before Abraham was born.” Then they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus hid himself, and left the Temple. (The Original New Testament by Hugh J. Schonfield)

True, most other translations present, as the NET Bible does: “before Abraham came into existence, I am!” The usual claim is that “I am” is a name instigating the attempted stoning in the next verse. However, the NLT Study Bible is a bit more cautious. While it presents “before Abraham was even born, I AM!” in the main text, it presents the following footnote: “(Or before Abraham was even born, I have always been alive; Greek reads before Abraham was, I am.) Jesus’ life spans the past from before creation (1:1-2) and sweeps beyond the present into eternity.” It adds regarding “I AM”: “This title is reminiscent of God’s name given on Mount Sinai (Exod 3:14; cp. John 4:26; Isa 43:11-13; 12).” Thus, here it is presented as only “reminiscent” and not “explicit,” and may not even be translated as “I AM” but as “I have always been alive.” Additionally, previous printings of the NASB offered the alternative translation of “I have been” in the margin.[1]

Thus, John 8:58-59 does not prove that Jesus claimed to be God.

John 10:33
“We aren’t stoning you for a good work,” the Jews answered, “but for blasphemy, because you—being a man—make yourself God.” (CSB)

Yet, notice two things: (1) this charge was made by Jesus’ enemies and (2) Jesus clarified in verse 36: “Why do you call it blasphemy when I say ‘I am the Son of God’? After all, the Father set me apart and sent me into the world.” (NLT) The NLT Study Bible explains in a footnote: “If the word god could be applied to people other than the Lord, then Jesus was not breaking the law by referring to himself in this way.” So the charge of blasphemy and claiming to be God was actually disputed by Jesus but upheld by his enemies. Christians should not side with Jesus’ enemies.

Thus, John 10:33 does not prove that Jesus claimed to be God.

John 19:7
“We have a law,” the Jews replied to him, “and according to that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.” (CSB)

This is not a claim to be God. The NLT Study Bible explains in a footnote: “Claiming to be God’s son was not illegal, because Israel’s kings did this (Ps 2:7; 89:22-27). Jesus claimed to have the divine authority of God himself (see 5:18 [“calling God his Father”]), which they saw as blasphemy.” Again, these are Jesus’ enemies making this charge. Christians should not side with Jesus’ enemies.

Thus, not one of these three Johannine scriptures supported the premise that Jesus was crucified because he claimed to be God.

Trinitarians, please be more thoughtful when expressing your theology, refraining from such reckless drive-by shooting apologetics and slinging shallow slogans. It is narrowminded and does not encourage sincere theology.

[1] See: Identifying Jesus

Related blog entries:

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Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Noah the Evangelizer

“I am establishing my covenant with you, and you must go into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.”—Thus instructs God to Noah in Genesis 6:18.

But were any others to join them, to be saved from the impending cataclysmic deluge? There is nothing really suggesting that others were to join them. In fact, at Genesis 7:1 God tells Noah: “Go into the ark, you and all your household, because you are the one I have found to be righteous before me among this generation.” In other words, God did not add, “and anyone else who listened to your preaching of salvation.” It is not even hinted at. This is also seen in Hebrews 11:7, which states that Noah’s ark was “for the saving of his household,” and that “through this faith he condemned the world.” In fact, while Jesus mentioned Noah and the ark, he stopped short of saying that Noah was an evangelist. He just said Noah’s contemporaries ignored his activities, which at the very least was building the ark and loading it.—Matthew 24:37-39; Luke 17:26, 27.

However, 2 Peter 2:5 calls Noah “a preacher of righteousness.” A reasonable assumption is then made that he was a preacher of salvation, urging others to join him on the ark. Since none did, another reasonable assumption is made that his audience refused his invitation and therefore must have mocked him.

These are reasonable assumptions that make perfect sense. Indeed, the idea that no others were warned is horrifying. The problem is that they are still assumptions that are not directly stated in the Deluge narratives.

But where did Peter get the information that Noah was “a preacher of righteousness”? Before we appeal to divine inspiration, that God directly beamed that information into Peter’s brain, we would be wise to first look at Peter’s textual context. Is there anything in his textual world that said anything about this? It turns out that there was indeed an important text he may have been drawing from—the Sibylline Oracles. These originally were Jewish texts pretending to be oracles uttered by pagan sibyls to a Gentile audience. Interestingly, Book 1:154-164 from this collection states:
Single among all men, most just [upright] and true, 155 Was the most faithful Noah, full of care 156 For noblest works. And to him God himself 157 From heaven thus spoke: “Noah, be of good cheer 158 In thyself and to all the people preach 159 Repentance, so that they may all be saved. 160 But if, with shameless soul, they heed me not 161 The whole race I will utterly destroy 162 With mighty floods of waters.[1]
So this text is the first occurrence where this association is made, of God commanding Noah to preach salvation to others to join them on the ark, and that this was noble or righteous. Evidently this text was popular among Peter’s contemporaries, for him to be able to casually draw from it. Could it have been a common source that Peter and the Sibylline Oracles were drawing from though? Unfortunately, there is no evidence for that. The Sibylline Oracles is the earliest known occurrence of this addition to Noah.

Did anyone else, like a contemporary of Peter, also apparently draw from this text? Yes, the Jewish historian Josephus—who was also familiar with the Sibylline Oracles.[2] He wrote in Antiquities of the Jews 1.3.1:
But Noah was very uneasy at what they did: and being displeased at their conduct, persuaded them to change their dispositions, and their actions for the better. But seeing they did not yield to him, but were slaves to their wicked pleasures, he was afraid they would kill him, together with his wife and children, and those they had married.
Thus, if he did draw from that text that Noah was an evangelist, he added an assumption that their inaction went beyond merely mocking and turned into threats, and thus Noah feared for his life.

So, at the very least, we have some options on the table. We can claim that Peter was divinely inspired to know that Noah was a preacher of righteousness, or we can claim he was drawing from his textual milieu.

Even centuries later, around 500 CE, the Rabbinic work Genesis Rabbah 30:7 said:
The Holy One, blessed be He, said: “One herald arose for me in the generation of the Flood, Noah.”
Then it is stated that the response from his audience was “contempt” and “they despised him and called him, ‘Contemptible old man!’”

Similarly, around the same time as the Genesis Rabbah was written, the Babylonian Talmud in its tractate Sanhderin 108a stated that:
Noah the righteous would rebuke the people of his generation and say to them: “Repent. And if you do not, the Holy One, Blessed be He, will bring a flood upon you and float your corpses on the water like wineskins filled with air that float on water.”
In conclusion: the notion that Noah was a preacher, an antediluvian evangelist, appears to come from Jewish tradition—and the resulting notion that, since none joined his family, he was mocked, also comes from later Jewish commentary.[3]

[1] This is numbered 125-131 in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha edited by James Charlesworth, Vol. 1, p. 338.
[2] For instance, Josephus quoted the Sibylline Oracles in Antiquities of the Jews when discussing an alleged Tower of Babel legend in Book 1, chapter 4, section 3. See: Corroborating Babel
[3] These references are cited in the Intertextual Bible website:


Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Awakening Leviathan

Job 3:8 is an intriguing scripture. The NLT Study Bible has:
Let those who are experts at cursing—whose cursing could rouse Leviathan—curse that day.
Its footnote reads: “The expression experts at cursing refers to professional cursers such as Baalam (Num 22-24).”

The New Oxford Annotated Bible explains that “Leviathan, both in the Bible … and in other ancient Near Eastern literature, is a sea monster representing cosmic chaos. The threat to the cosmos is evidence, too, in the darkening of the skies (vv. 4-6,9).”

Additionally, others take this verse to another level, as seen in Job: A New Translation by Edward L. Greenstein:
May they condemn it—the cursers of Yamm [the Ugaritic sea-monster god], Those armed with a curse for Leviathan!
He presents the following explanation in his footnote:
Although the Hebrew word is vocalized yom, the word for “day,” the juxtaposition with Leviathan makes the primary reference clear. Yom is the Phoenician pronunciation of Yamm.
Robert Alter explains in his translation that:
As will happen again and again in the poem, the poet switches into a mythological register. Leviathan is the fearsome primordial sea-monster subdued by the god of order in Canaanite mythology. For this reason, some scholars prefer to read “Yamm-cursers” for “day-cursers,” assuming the Hebrew yam instead of yom. In either case, the cursers are mythological or magical agents.
The Harper Collins Study Bible explains this connection further:
The Hebrew words for day … and sea are similar, differing only in a vowel. Both Sea and Leviathan were thought to represent chaos in ancient myth (cf. Yamm and Lotan in Ugaritic myths). Professional diviners practiced magical cursing (cf. Balaam in Num 22-24).
Regarding the cursers, and the act of cursing and awakening, The Jewish Study Bible explains, “perhaps sorcerers who curse the cosmos. Leviathan is a mythical sea-monster who played a role in the mythology of Ugarit (in modern Syria).” Finally, the Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible adds:
When it was aroused as part of a curse, it implied that chaos would prevail. … In the ancient Near East, those who curse days and rouse chaos creatures are typically demons, but Job’s reference here is oblique rather than specific.
This all helps us to see the graphic, heart-pounding language Job used in his expression of personal suffering. In his abysmal anguish he desired to have the day of his birth cursed in the most vitriolic way imaginable.

However, in response to this, the NLT Study Bible presents the following admonition to the reader:
Job complained mightily and earned God’s rebuke for it, yet God ultimately confirmed his righteousness. Job’s fundamental complaint was that God did not allow him a fair hearing to demonstrate his innocence before God and man. Job’s friends attacked Job for trying to vindicate himself, but God upheld Job’s innocence. God rebuked Job for his overreaching self-defense with its implied criticism of God’s fairness. In a gracious but firm act of self-revelation, God rebuked Job and shifted his focus away from his troubles and toward God (chs 38-41).

In general, the Bible depicts complaining as wrong. For example, God judged the Israelites for grumbling about their hardships in the wilderness (Num 14:27-37). Nonetheless, God affirmed Job and rejected those who tried to stop him from complaining (42:7-8).

Scripture admonishes us to rejoice and give thanks in all situations (Eph 5:20; Phil 4:4; 1 Thes 5:16-18). If we want to complain in prayer, we should follow the pattern of the psalms, which lead us past ourselves and back to God. Scripture calls us to endure through suffering and to persist in prayer (Jas 5:10, 13). Job’s positive example (Jas 5:11) is not so much in how he responded to his troubles or to his comforters but in how he responded to God (40:4-5; 42:1-6).
To connect this back to Job 3:8, instead of awakening more chaos into our lives, we are better off awakening productive and upbuilding thinking. That’s worth praying for.

  1. Another reference: Job 7:12

Another reference: Job 7:12
This verse reads in the New World Translation:
Am I the sea or a sea monster, That you should set a guard over me?
The Jewish Study Bible gives this explanation in its footnote:
As in 3.8, the author is building upon Canaanite mythology, best known from the myths discovered at Ugarit, where the sea (actually the deity Yam) and Dragon rebelled against the high god Baal. Job is asking God rhetorically if he is to be presumed extremely guilty like the sea or Dragon, for only that could explain his severe punishment.
Job: A New Translation by Edward L. Greenstein gives this interesting translation and explanation:
Am I Yamm?[1]
Or am I Tannin?[2]
Then why do you place me under guard?[3]

[1] The symbol of the watery chaos is the arch enemy of God.
[2] A primeval sea serpent, a form of Yamm.
[3] Not “that” but interrogative; see Jeremiah 8:22 (where maddua “why?” glosses the more archaic use of ki, cognate to 'eka in Ugaritic).
Lastly, Robert Alter gives this translation and explanation:
Am I Yamm or the Sea Beast,
that You should put a watch upon me?

Am I Yamm or the Sea Beast. Yamm is the sea god of Canaanite mythology. Figured as a sea monster, he is also called Tanin (as in the second name here), Rahab, and Leviathan.

In some versions, the monster has several heads. Yamm is subdued by Baal, the weather god, and imprisoned so that he cannot rise up to overwhelm the land. Thus Job, acutely aware of the brevity of his life as mortal man, rhetorically asks the deity whether he is to be thought of as an undying monstrous god to be kept imprisoned under eternal guard.

Variations of this potent myth will continue to crop up in the poem.
Thus Job is portrayed as pouring his heart out to God in brutal honesty. We are invited to do the same. How endearing that realization is!


Sunday, September 03, 2023

Was Tammuz Nimrod?

The 2018 book Pure Worship of Jehovah​—Restored At Last! (published by Jehovah’s Witnesses) finally put to rest the idea that Tammuz is a deified Nimrod. But in doing so, it also put to rest another claim. What was that?

To find out, and to get up to speed on the latest research, see the latest video from Inspiring Motivation: If you like our history and the Bible, this is super-interesting. To see what else was rejected, as well as definitive proof that Tammuz is not Nimrod, you’ll definitely want to watch this.


Monday, August 28, 2023

Nehemia Gordon and the Tetragrammaton

For those who don’t know, Nehemia Gordon argues that the Tetragrammaton was pronounced as Yehovah. The reasons why this does not work, why he is incorrect, has been explained here[1] before.

However, he made a conspicuous case for his belief on Facebook in 2012 that will be analyzed here. It actually serves as a good case in point how he makes his fundamental mistake thinking that the Tetragrammaton was pointed as Yehovah. Additionally, there are a number of my fellow Jehovah’s Witnesses who have fallen prey to his argumentation, some even well-versed in Hebrew. I believe they are making the same basic mistake as he is making. The mistake is rather simple, but it also takes humility to recognize it. Unfortunately, the more knowledge of Hebrew one has, the more humility is needed to see this mistake.

So, here is the presentation Nehemia Gordon made that he thinks is unimpeachable:
The Tetragrammaton in Ezekiel 28:22 in the Aleppo Codex. In this instance the name is juxtaposed to "Adonai" and traditionally read as "Elohim" to avoid reading "Adonai" twice in a row. Rather than inserting the vowels of Elohim, the scribe inserted the true vowels "Yehovah"!
While the example he showed from Ezekiel 28:22 is quite interesting, what it amounts to is an example of inconsistency. That is all. The reason for this is that copyist here inconsistently added the vowels of Anonai instead of Elohim. That is, the copyist was presented with Adonai YHWH, translated as “Sovereign Lord Jehovah” in the New World Transation. Instead of adding the vowels of Adonai again, he was supposed to add the vowels of Elohim. But he didn’t, and used the standard conversion of the vowels of Adonai on the Tetragrammaton. We know it’s the standard conversion of the vowels of Adonai because the compound shewa was converted to the simple shewa on the yodh. The copyist also inconsistently neglected to add the cholem (dot above the D) for Adonai. So, there are actually two cases of copyist inconsistencies together, and Nehemia only alerted his audience to one of them.

Presented below are screenshots of the Aleppo Codex[2]:

Ezekiel 28:22 is in the lower right corner with Adonai YHWH in a green box that Nehemia misused to support his beliefs. The Tetragrammaton appears again in verse 22 on the top of the next column, and is in a red box, as is the Tetragrammaton of verse 23. Both have the vowels of Adonai, with the one in verse 22 sporting the cholem while the other does not. This is another case of inconsistency. “Adonai YHWH” appears in verses 24 and 25, and they are in blue boxes, and the Tetragrammaton is pointed with Elohim and the cholem is consistently present. Verse 26 in the top image, the last verse in chapter 28, has the Tetragrammaton with the vowels of Adonai but without the cholem.

So, all Mr. Gordan did was point out one inconsistency while ignoring the other, and ignoring how the Tetragrammaton was treated in the rest of the chapter. Hopefully it is clear now why this type of reasoning, as seen in his Facebook post, is wholly unconvincing and aggravatingly simplistic.

[1] See: The reason for the name and On Pronouncing YHWH
[2] (manually select panel 19-177-v).


Friday, August 25, 2023

New World Translation updated: Mystery of the Missing Tower

In case you didn’t know, the 2013 New World Translation was recently updated last March! This updated a scripture and Solomon’s Temple. This is really cool and interesting! To hear all about it, I invite you to watch the latest video by Inspiring Motivation: (I promise this will not be the standard format to blog posts here, normal posts will be made here too.)


Thursday, August 17, 2023

Insight on the Scriptures update on Noah’s Flood

In case you didn’t know, Insight on the Scriptures (a Bible encyclopedia published by Jehovah’s Witnesses) was updated in 2018 which removed an argument for Noah’s Flood. What likely happened was, upon further investigation, this argument was seen to be faulty. This is good to be aware of, so we can follow suit and cease using this argument too. It also serves as a good reminder that we should check for the latest updates to make sure we have more correct information.

But what was the faulty argument for Noah’s Flood that was removed from Insight on the Scriptures? Find out here, in a new and respectful video presentation by Inspiring Motivation:


Friday, July 28, 2023

Introducing Inspiring Motivation

Please welcome a new YouTube channel Inspiring Motivation!

Included is this video documentary Farsighted 1922 Golden Age? based on my blog entry Remarkable Prediction in a 1922 Golden Age Magazine.

Another you will likely find most interesting and insightful is a debunk Noah’s Flood Apologetics using Enoch DEBUNKED, responding to a claim by Sentinel Apologetics he never removed.

More video presentations are planned, so do yourself a favor and subscribe to Inspiring Motivation!


Thank you for your support.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Review: Why Couldn’t Mary Touch Jesus?

In a short article “Why Couldn’t Mary Touch Jesus?” Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg presents an oft-overlooked curiosity in John 20:17 and 27. Here Jesus says to Mary Magdalene: “Stop clinging to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.” (NWT) The ESV similarly has: “Do not cling to me.” Other translations simply have: “Do not touch me.”[1] But to Thomas, he says just the opposite: “Put your finger here … and take your hand and stick it into my side.”

Dr. Eli presents this contrasting comparison this way:
One text that remains an enigma to most Christ followers is the post-resurrection story of Jesus cautioning Mary against touching him (John 20:11-18).

Oddly, a week later Jesus allows Thomas to touch the wounds in his hands and side. The obvious question is this:

Why did Jesus deny Mary, but later encourage Thomas?[2]
The answer he gives relies on ritual purity. Since Jesus had already died, he fulfilled the Atonement Day drama of leaving his sacrificed body behind as he passed through the spiritual curtain to the spiritual Most Holy to present the value of his lifeblood to his God Jehovah.[3]

So, following his resurrection, he appeared in a materialized body to Mary outside of his now-empty tomb. Dr. Eli explains:
Purity and Priesthood
In order to understand Jesus’ very different instructions to Mary and Thomas, we need to understand the purity requirements for the Jewish High Priest on the Day of Atonement. The High Priest was forbidden to come into contact with anything that was ceremonially unclean in order to avoid being disqualified to enter God’s presence the following day. So much depended on this ritual purity!

After His resurrection, Jesus (as our ultimate High Priest) would shortly be ministering in the heavenly tabernacle (Heb 9:11). It is significant that Jesus appeared to the disciples and told Thomas to touch him after eight days, because it takes seven days to ordain a priest (Exod 29:35).
He is referring to the important time marker in John 20:26 of “eight days later.” The previous verse explains why eight days had passed: Thomas had issued a challenge that he would only believe if he saw the nail wounds “in his hands,” and, most significantly, “stick my finger into the print of the nails and stick my hand into his side.” Because he added physical touching to his demands, that passage of time, over seven days per Exodus 29:35, became necessary. Jesus was listening!

Dr. Eli continues:
Jesus and the Heavenly Tabernacle
The most-likely reason for Jesus’ instructions to Mary had to do with the fact that He was determined to enter the heavenly tabernacle in a ready-to-serve, consecrated state. Defilement would not be a sin, but it would have disqualified Him (for a period of time) from entering God’s presence. Mary may have had a number of reasons for defilement (possible menstrual circle, stepping into the tomb, etc), Jesus’ priestly mission was too important to allow for any possibility of failure. By the time Jesus met Thomas, His priestly work is done. He had returned from completing His duties and possible defilement was no longer an issue.
Her being inside his tomb would be the reason according to the context. In his fresh body he needed to wait a week, and priests “could not defile themselves by touching a corpse or mourning for the dead; this would make them temporarily unclean for service.”[4] This is made clear in Leviticus 21:1, “No one should defile himself for a dead person among his people.”

Dr. Eli concludes:
Jesus the High Priest
Jesus’ role as prophet was carried out during His earthly life. His role as king was yet to be realized at the time of the ascension. He first needed to be ordained a priest and carry out His duties in the heavenly tabernacle! Nothing could be permitted to stand in the way of his mission.[5]
Thus, first came Jesus’ sacrifice, then his resurrection, then his post-resurrection appearances, and then finally, his visual ascension to his Father. (John 20:17; Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9)

In closing, it’s very interesting that Dr. Eli pointed out the significance of Exodus 29:35 in connection with John 20:26, explaining why Thomas had to wait eight days, and offering an explanation as to why he could not let Mary embrace him yet.[6] A verification of this could have been Jesus letting Mary embrace him after Thomas, yet no such encounter is provided. We can only use our imagination if we think it did happen. It is possible then that Jesus would only fellowship with her spiritually after his ascension and her resurrection.

[1] Others read: “You must not cling to me.” (Goodspeed) “Do not catch hold of me.” (21st Century NT) The Jewish Annotated New Testament cautions that “It is not clear whether Jesus is asking Mary to let go of him or warning her not to touch him.” (It then notes similar language in Song of Solomon 3:4.) Additionally, the NLT Study Bible notes that “Mary thought that with the resurrection, Jesus would resume normal relations with his disciples. She was trying to cling to the joy she discovered in her resurrected Lord. But his fellowship with her would come in a new form,” and it then cites John 20:22 showing that it would be spiritual and not physical. (italics original).
[2] From the email introduction to the article.
[3] See: Passing Through the Curtain Since the body he was born with was sacrificed, it would be confusing and inappropriate if he appeared with it after his resurrection, explaining why Mary failed to recognize her dear friend in John 20:14. (Compare with Luke 24:15, 16 and John 21:4.)
[4] “Priest,” Insight on the Scriptures, vol 2. 685
[6] However, under “3. Mary Magdalene,” Insight on the Scriptures, vol 2. 349 offers a simpler explanation:
When he replied “Mary!” his identity was immediately revealed to her and she impulsively embraced him, exclaiming, “Rab·boʹni!” But there was no time now for expressions of earthly affection. Jesus would be with them only a short time. Mary must hasten to inform the other disciples of his resurrection and that Jesus was ascending, as he said, “to my Father and your Father and to my God and your God.”—Joh 20:11-18.
Credits: Image from Who Was Mary Magdalene?

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Friday, May 05, 2023

Delusions of Glory

In the Latter-Day Saint/Mormon theology and cosmology there are three degrees of glory (alternatively, kingdoms of glory) which are the ultimate, eternal dwelling place for nearly all who lived on earth after they are resurrected. These are curiously called the Celestial Kingdom, Terrestrial Kingdom, and lastly, the Telestial Kingdom.

This article will focus on the Telestial Kingdom.

According to the official LDS website:
Telestial glory will be reserved for individuals who “received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:82). These individuals will receive their glory after being redeemed from spirit prison, which is sometimes called hell (see Doctrine and Covenants 76:84; Doctrine and Covenants 76:106) A detailed explanation of those who will inherit telestial glory is found in Doctrine and Covenants 76:81–90, 98–106, 109–112.[1]
So the ones inhabiting this realm are of the lowest sort, and include “liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie” according to D&C 76:103 (from Revelation 22:15).

However, as the saying goes: Houston, we have a problem! “Telestial” is a term with no prior usage or etymology. According to one historian, it “reflects the idea of being far off or reaching the end.”[2] This reminds one of the Greek word τέλος, telos, “purpose,” used in the word teleology (“a reason or an explanation for something which serves as a function of its end, its purpose, or its goal”). However, it can also be seen as deriving from τελεστώ, telesto, meaning “success.”[3] This is clearly an inappropriate root word. The point is though, since it lacks a proper etymology, it looks made up.

The ramifications of this realization are troubling. Things that someone makes up for a religion are not from God. Making things up threatens to enter into the realm described in D&C 76:103 (from Revelation 22:15), of being a liar. Thus, the architects and maintainers of the degrees of glory are delusional and are being misleading. They are asking for an absurd amount of faith and trust from their students.

This failure can be likened to an unattended bullet wound in their cosmology.

[1] Kingdoms of Glory The first paragraph included a definition from the Wikipedia entry Degrees of glory
[2] Mark Staker. Hearken, O Ye People: the Historical Setting for Joseph Smith‘s Ohio Revelations. Greg Kofford Books, 2009. 327
[3] Telesto (mythology) This explains: “In Greek mythology, Telesto … was an Oceanid, one of the 3,000 water-nymphs daughters of Titans Oceanus and Tethys. She was the personification of the divine blessing or success.” The later definition stresses how inappropriate and astronomically ironic it is to have that name Telestial for ones who failed.


Tuesday, March 21, 2023

On Pronouncing YHWH

A book The Songs of Ascents by David C. Mitchell includes the theme “The Pronunciation of the Sacred Name.” Per his Academia page, “David Mitchell is a biblical theologian, musicologist, and musical director. ... His academic qualifications include the PhD in Hebrew Bible.”[1]

He provides an appendix to his book regarding the pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton. I will include select text from this appendix and then offer my appraisal of his statements. (See his book for the intended textual formatting I am unable to reproduce here.)

If you have not already read my blog entry The reason for the name, I recommend that you do as it sets the stage for what follows.

Appendix 1 Singing the Sacred Name, page 232:
Gesenius suggested that the vowels supplied by the Masoretes were not the true vowels of the Name at all. Instead, he said, the Masoretes substituted the vowels of Adonai, ‘my Lord’, beneath the four consonants, to show that Adonai should be read instead of pronouncing the true name. This, he said, was in line with the scribal practice called ketiv-kere - meaning ‘written-read’ - which occurs throughout the Masoretic codices. In ketiv-kere, the letters of a word written in the text are given the vowels of another word, whose consonants are written in the margin, to show that the marginal word should be read. In this case, Gesenius said, the sheva, holam, and qamats vowels of the Tetragrammaton were not its real vowels at all, but borrowings from Adonai.

This might be convincing if the Masoretic vowels for the Tetragrammaton were indeed those of Adonai. But since they patently are not, the argument collapses. For while the Masoretic vowels for the Tetragrammaton are sheva, holam, and qamats, the vowels of Adonai are hataf patah, holam, and qamats. If the Masoretes intended that Adonai should be read, why did they write sheva instead of hataf patah? Such an omission, required neither by grammar nor reverence, could only cause confusion.
“This might be convincing if the Masoretic vowels for the Tetragrammaton were indeed those of Adonai.”

They are.

“But since they patently are not, the argument collapses.”

They patently are the same vowels, so the argument holds. See below.

“For while the Masoretic vowels for the Tetragrammaton are sheva, holam, and qamats, the vowels of Adonai are hataf patah, holam, and qamats.”

This is due to the Aleph of Adonai being a guttural which prefers a compound sheva, also called the hataf patah. Since the Yod of the Tetragrammaton is not a guttural, the vowel point reverts to the simple sheva. See Figure 1[2]:
Figure 1
“If the Masoretes intended that Adonai should be read, why did they write sheva instead of hataf patah?”

See above.

“Such an omission, required neither by grammar nor reverence, could only cause confusion.”

It was required by grammar, and it still causes confusion today.

Therefore, the argument holds that the vowels of Adonai were placed on the Tetragrammaton, which produced an artificial pronunciation.

Later, on page 237 he presents the artificial pronunciation of Yehovih. He correctly explains: “when the Tetragrammaton follows Adonai, the first vowel is changed from sheva to the short ‘e’, hataf seghol, and the last vowel is vocalized with the i-vowel hireq: Yehovih.” This is correct, however like with hataf patah above, he did not understand that the hataf seghol is also a compound sheva. This can be seen below on both the Aleph of Adonai (top) and the Aleph of elohim (bottom). See Figure 2:
Figure 2
Now, while he shows the Tetragrammaton with the vowels of elohim including the hataf seghol, in both cases it reverted to the simple sheva when applied to the Tetragrammaton.

He continues: “In such cases, the Masoretes appear to have replaced the first and last vowels of the Name with those of elohim in order to show that the reader should read Adonai Elohim rather than an awkward Adonai Adonai.”

Exactly. They were not averse to hiding the true pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton—in these cases using elohim instead.

He continues, with my comments in brackets:

“From this we can discern the true practice and intent of the Masoretes. Their practice in reading was to substitute Adonai for the Tetragrammaton. When the infrequent Adonai YHVH combination appeared, they showed, by substituting two vowels [the first and the last] of elohim, what form should be spoken. Wherever else the Tetragrammaton appeared, they either preserved the original vowels complete [no, they used the vowels of Adonai as explained above], assuming that the reader would know to substitute Adonai [especially since its vowels were present], or else they gave only two vowels, sheva and qamats, omitting the holam dot. [Yes, but it was also at times omitted for Adonai].”

Yes they wanted you to read Adonai, this is correct. The reminder they gave was applying its vowels on the Tetragrammaton, just like they applied the vowels of elohim on it as he freely admits. This is certainly supporting the ‘vowels of Adonai on the Tetragrammaton’ explanation he opposes.

On page 236 he presented the abbreviation Jah. He explained:

“The likeliest explanation for the origin of Yah is that it is a contraction of Yehovah, preserving the first consonant and last accented vowel and aspirated heh, and omitting everything in between: Y-(ehov)-ah. Such contractions were always current among the Israelites: …”

What he did not include though were the examples in Isaiah 12:2 and 26:4 which have “YH YHWH.” Since YH is without any controversy pronounced Yah, it follows that the first syllable of YHWH would also be Yah.

In conclusion:
  • Dr. Mitchell did not include the conversion of the compound sheva to the simple sheva, and seemed to be unaware of this grammatical feature of Hebrew.
  • He did not realize that placing the vowels of elohim on YHWH coupled with their desire to have Adonai read in place of the actual pronunciation actually supported the claim that its vowels were applied to YHWH too.
  • In discussing what Jah is an abbreviation for, he neglected to mention Isaiah 12:2 and 26:4.
Thus, the arguments made in his appendix are unconvincing.

[2] From “The Yehovah Deception” by the Yahweh’s Restoration Ministry, a Sacred Name movement,, as previously referred to in my blog entry The reason for the name.

  1. Other aberrant vowel pointing?
Other aberrant vowel pointing?
As shown above, the Yod of the Tetragrammaton received a regular sheva regardless if the compound sheva on the Aleph came from Adonai or Elohim. (It’s ironic that the ones who are confused about the compound sheva from Adonai reverting to a regular sheva do not seem to be confused about the compound sheva from Elohim reverting to a regular sheva.) But is there another example of aberrant vowel pointing?

Yes. Biblical linguist Jason Hare offers examples of this and explains:
There is no need for the ktiv [ketiv] to match the vowels of the kri [kere] perfectly. It simply need to indicate the vowels of the kri. For example, the image that I have created and attached here is from Deuteronomy 28:27 (BHS). The red is what is found pointed in the text of the Leningrad Codex (one of the template texts for Bible copiers from the Middle Ages). The green is what the Masoretes included in the margin to be read instead of what is in red, and the green is how the word in red would naturally be pointed if it were to be read as-is.

The ktiv in the text does not include the dagesh from the kri. It is clear that not every single point of the kri made it into the pointed text.[A1]

He then compared this example from Deuteronomy 28:27 to “the chataf-patach in אדני” converting to the simple shiva in יהוה.

Another source explains the significance of the ketiv-kere in Deuteronomy 28:27:
For example, in Deut. 28:27, the ketiv word ובעפלים ophalim, “hemorrhoids,” was replaced with the qere וּבַטְּחֹרִים techorim, “abscesses,” because the ketiv was (after the return from Exile) considered too obscene to read in public.[A2]
As the vowel pointing transfer here was not exact, no one should be surprised that the initial vowel for יהוה is not exact either, as a simplified version of the source vowel.

Additionally, he also pointed out (pun intended) another vowel pointing aberration:
Did you know that in 1 Samuel 25:28, we see אדני ʾăḏōnāy pointed with the vowels of אלהים ʾĕlōhîm? This isn't normal, but there it is![A3]

As shown in the image above, Adonai appears next to the Tetragrammaton in both scriptures, and in the later (Habakkuk 3:19) it is pointed with the vowels of Elohim with the simple sheva. With 1 Samuel 25:28, the vowels of Elohim were put on Adonai, and the vowels of Adonai were put on the Tetragrammaton! In both cases, the holam (the middle dot above the D in Adonai or the H in Elohim) was not carried for either Tetragrammaton, and that was acceptable. This reinforces that it should come as no surprise that in both situations the compound sheva was converted to the simple sheva. The following image displays what we may expect, with the holam included.

Appendix Footnotes:
[A1] Facebook, March 24, 2023.
[A2] “Qere and Ketiv”
[A3] Facebook, March 30, 2023.

Appendix Credits: All images by Jason Hare, with the last image edited by me with English and all the holams.

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Monday, January 09, 2023

Investigating Hindu parallels

The Hindu flood with Manu and 7 sages surviving in the boat on the right.
Hinduism presents some interesting myths that seem to be reminiscent of some Biblical narratives in Genesis: namely, Adam and the Noachian Deluge. Both the Adam- and Noah-figures are named Manu, two different figures. Discussing these parallels are two booklets on Hinduism from the 1980s published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Starting with the Flood first, in the Hindu flood myth Vishnu warns Manu of the coming diluvial disaster.

Our 1983 booklet From Kurukshetra to Armageddon, said:
Manu found favour with his god and was given divine warning to build a ship to save himself and seven other rishis (sages), a total of eight persons. (p. 16)
This quote made no small impact on me growing up. However, it has not been repeated that eight survived the Hindu flood. A reason for this may be that more research revealed that other Hindu texts include Manu’s family:
He was warned of the flood by the Matsya (fish) avatar of Vishnu, and built a boat that carried the Vedas, Manu’s family and the seven sages to safety, helped by Matsya.[1]
At the same time I also wondered if the “nu” from Manu derived from Noah. No. The Encyclopaedia Britannica says:
The name is cognate with the Indo-European “man” and also has an etymological connection with the Sanskrit verb man-, “to think.”
What made me wonder about the “nu” is The Two Babylons, where Alexander Hislop wrote that the “nu” of Vishnu was Noah. (This concept was printed in From Kurukshetra to Armageddon and in the 1989 book Reasoning From the Scriptures, but has since been dropped.)[2] However, the Encyclopaedia Britannica derives it from Sanskrit, meaning: “The Pervader.”[3] So “nu” is not Noah, they are letters nested within a Sanskrit name. And the eight survivors just depends on how you count the passengers. Lastly, this flood lore may derive from the ancient Mesopotamian counterparts where there existed a rich flood tradition.

Regarding the Manu Adam-figure, the 1980 booklet The Path of Divine Truth Leading to Liberation says of this Manu:
A late Rigveda hymn describes the personified rib, Parsu, as the daughter of the first man, Manu, by whom he fathers children —“a score of children at a birth”! (Rigveda 10. 86. 23) The first woman, as the divine product of the first man’s rib, could, in time, be traditionally viewed as his daughter. (p. 5)
The text Rigveda 10. 86. 23 specifically says:
Daughter of Manu, Parsu bare a score of children at a birth.
Her portion verily was bliss although her burthen caused her grief.
A paper in 1937 mentioned this.[4] There it is noted that Rigveda 10. 86. 23 “suggests an interesting parallel to the Biblical story of the creation.” It is an interesting parallel, with the only difference being that the rib was a daughter and not a wife, which the brochure tried to account for.

Incidentally, the paper also adds that:
We have seen, then, that in the Rig-Veda pársu means only “rib,” but that it came also to mean “sickle” in the Atharva-Veda. This semantic transfer becomes instantly clear when we take into consideration the rib-like shape of the instrument and realize that the rib of a horse was actually sharpened to make a sickle.
This shows that ribs were seen as very important bones. As the Hindu flood myth may derive from the Mesopotamian flood lore, the man with a rib-lady who produces life may also derive from the Sumerian myth of the goddess Ninti which means both “Lady of the Rib” and “Lady of Life.” Ninti was featured in the legend of Enki and Ninhursag which features Enki and his daughters. So this is probably where the Hindu myth of Manu and his daughter-rib derives from.

In closing, I find it encouraging that these Hindu myths are no longer seen as deriving from Biblical narratives in Genesis. While interesting for being reminiscent of the Genesis narratives, it is impossible to say they definitely derive from the Genesis accounts of Adam, Eve, and Noah. (This is true of another similairity not mentioned here, of seeing Genesis 3:15 in a Hindu goddess.[5])

[1] Manu (Hinduism), Wikipedia. “The tale is repeated with variations in other texts, including the Mahabharata and a few other Puranas. It is similar to other floods such as those associated with Gilgamesh and Noah.” The book Wikipedia cites adds: “We have several accounts of the deluge, which also plays a great role in the popular traditions of other cultures.” (Klaus K. Klostermaier. A Survey of Hinduism: Third Edition. SUNY Press. p. 97.)
[2] Page 135 of The Two Babylons:
In India, the god Vishnu, “the Preserver,” who is celebrated as having miraculously preserved one righteous family at the time when the world was drowned, not only has the story of Noah wrought up with his legend, but is called by his very name. Vishnu is just the Sanscrit form of the Chaldee “Ish-nuh,” “the man Noah,” or the “Man of rest.” (Footnote: We find the very word Ish, “man,” used in Sanscrit with the digamma prefixed: Thus Vishampati, “Lord of men.”—See Wilson’s India Three Thousand Years Ago, p. 59.)
First, Hislop misremembered the meaning of Vishnu, as it means the “Pervader” not “Preserver.” Second, Wilson’s book actually says: “Though he is called Vishpati, Visha'mpati and Manasaspati, the lord of men; …” So it was the last name that was identified as “the lord of men.” I cannot imagine Hislop being confused over this, so this is a clear case of him being a deceiver in order to bolster his baseless butchery of slicing the V off of Vishnu and chopping the ish off of nu. However, his charisma alone was persuasive enough to have it referred to twice:
One Hindu version says it was the god Vishnu who warned and preserved Manu. Interestingly, the name Vishnu without the digamma is Ish-nuh, which in Chaldee means “the man Noah,” or “the man of rest.” Hindu tradition has Vishnu ‘resting’ or sleeping on a coiled snake called Shesha, floating on an ocean. (Kurukshetra, 16-17)

Interestingly, the name of the Hindu god Vishnu, without the digamma, is Ish-nuh, which in Chaldee means “the man Noah.” (Reasoning, 22)
Fortunately, this reasoning is no longer used.

For more information on The Two Babylons, see: [3] The Online Etymology Dictionary adds regarding Manu: “Proto-Indo-European root meaning “man.” … Sanskrit manuh, Avestan manu-.” For Vishnu, it adds: “from Sanskrit Vishnu, probably from root vish- and meaning “all-pervader” or “worker.””
[4] William M. Austin and Henry Lee Smith, Jr., Sanskrit parśu and paraśu, Journal of the American Oriental Society Vol. 57, No. 1 (Mar., 1937), pp. 95-96. Additionally, another journal stated:
in Rg Veda the name of Manu’s daughter is the ‘Rib’ (‘par sur ha nâma mānavi’), who under another name, Idā, is the mother ‘through whom he (Manu) generated this race of men’ (Satapatha Brahmana, 1, 8, 1, 10), Manu being in the Hindu tradition the archetype and progenitor of men in the same way as Adam in the Hebrew tradition, the condition of incest in both formulations depending on the ‘blood relationship’ (jamitra) of the original parents.” (Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, “Two Passages in Dante’s Paradiso,” Speculum Vol. 11, No. 3 (July, 1936), 330.)
Thus, the Hindu Adam-figure had relations with his daughter, much like the Mesopotamian Enki in his legend in Enki and Ninhursag, which appears to strengthen the likelihood of this derivation.
[5] Regarding Lakshmi as seen in The Path of Divine Truth Leading to Liberation pages 15-17.


Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Incredible Encounters?

Imagine entering a Christian congregation during the first-century. What kinds of people would you see and meet? Imagine further that you were introduced to ones who had the special honor of being healed or resurrected by Jesus Christ. Even though their Lord was no longer in their midst, they could readily explain what Jesus did to them as seen in the Gospels. Interacting with such ones would be absolutely incredible and dramatically increase trust in the Gospel accounts.

Yet, these encounters were reported to have actually occurred. One Christian included this when writing to Emperor Hadrian in defense of the faith. Hadrian was born in 76 C.E. and reigned from 117 to 138 C.E. The writer was Quadratus, and he wrote a book now lost but was quoted from by church historian Eusebius.[1] Quadratus curiously wrote:
But the works of our Saviour were always present, for they were true, those who were cured, those who rose from the dead, who not merely appeared as cured and risen, but were constantly present, not only while the Saviour was living, but even for some time after he had gone, so that some of them survived even till our own time.[2]
Another translation presents:
But the works of our Saviour were always present, for they were genuine:—those that were healed, and those that were raised from the dead, who were seen not only when they were healed and when they were raised, but were also always present; and not merely while the Saviour was on earth, but also after his death, they were alive for quite a while, so that some of them lived even to our day.[3]
This translation points out that Quadratus “seems to introduce a contrast, and allows us to assume with some measure of assurance that an exposure of the pretended wonders of heathen magicians, who were numerous at that time, preceded this ocular proof of the genuineness of Christ’s miracles.” We are then cautioned that “Quadratus had evidently seen none of these persons himself; he had simply heard of them through others. We have no record elsewhere of the fact that any of those raised by Christ lived to a later age.” This is an important caution, and it raises the questions of when he wrote to the emperor and, most importantly, of life expectancy. First, the Catholic Encyclopedia notes that “He addressed a discourse to the Emperor Hadrian containing an apology for the Christian religion, during a visit which the latter made to Athens in 124 or 125.”[4] Another scholar noted this was “when Hadrian visited Athens and was initiated in the Eleusinian mysteries.” He also cautions that “it is improbable that any one contemporary with subjects of our Lord’s miracles should survive to 170 [sic 117?].”[5] This is a good point. To recap, Hadrian was born in 76. So, if a person was 30 and healed in 30 C.E., then he would be 76 in 76 C.E. But Jesus healed younger people too, like the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter, the daughter of Jairus, and the widow of Nain’s son—with only the daughter of Jairus being given an age, 12.[6] But it’s unlikely someone from Jesus’ time survived into the early second century. So Quadratus may have been flattering Hadrian by referring to the time of his year of birth. We also know nothing about when Quadratus was born.

Additionally, another scholar reports:
About half a century later, Irenaeus may have relied on Quadratus for his own discussions of miracles (Haer. 2.31.2 and 2.32.4), later copied by Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 5.7). Irenaeus claimed that in Christian churches there were those who “cure the sick by laying hands on them, and…the dead have been raised and remained with us for many years.” It is not absolutely certain what time frames either Quadratus or Irenaeus had in view.[7]
The bottom line is, people whom Jesus healed and resurrected were reported to have become Christians.

[1]This testimony was also presented in two issues of the Watchtower:
Further proof comes from fourth-century church historian Eusebius. In his book The History of the Church From Christ to Constantine, he quotes a certain Quadratus who sent a letter to the emperor in defense of Christianity. Quadratus wrote: “Our Saviour’s works were always there to see, for they were true—the people who had been cured and those raised from the dead, who had not merely been seen at the moment when they were cured or raised, but were always there to see, not only when the Saviour was among us, but for a long time after His departure; in fact some of them survived right up to my own time.” Scholar William Barclay observed: “Quadratus is saying that until his own day men on whom miracles had been worked could actually be produced. If that was untrue nothing would have been easier than for the Roman government to brand it as a lie.” w95 3/1 pp. 4-5 Jesus’ Miracles—History or Myth?

Eusebius of Caesarea, in The Ecclesiastical history, provides an interesting statement by a certain Quadratus, who wrote an “apology” in behalf of Christianity to Hadrian, emperor of Rome from 117 to 138 C.E. Quadratus declares: “The works of our Saviour were always conspicuous, for they were real. Both they that were healed, and they that were raised from the dead, were seen, not only when they were healed or raised, but for a long time afterwards; not only whilst he dwelt on this earth, but also after his departure and for a good while subsequent to it: insomuch that some of them have reached to our times.” w76 7/15 p. 430 A Look at Some Miracles of Jesus
[2] Loeb Classical Library
[3] Arthur Cushman McGiffert,_Eusebius_Caesariensis,_Historia_ecclesiastica_%5BSchaff%5D,_EN.pdf
[4] Quadratus of Athens
[5] Quadratus
[6] (Daughter of Jairus: Matthew 9:18, 19, 23-26. Mark 5:22-24, 35-43. Luke 8:41, 42, 49-56. Son of the widow of Nain: Luke 7:11-17. Daughter of the Syrophoenician: Matthew 15:22-28. Mark 7:26-30.) A list of Jesus’ miracles is here:
[7] Robert M. Grant, “Quadratus,” The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 582. See also: Quadratus of Athens

Credits: Picture generated from the iOS app Wonder.

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Thursday, December 01, 2022

Psalms of Despair and Rejoicing: Psalm 6

As in the previous post on despair in Psalms,[1] Psalm 6 presents us with the fear and dread of the psalmist and how he recovered. It is absolutely fascinating. Again, this will compare this psalm from the New World Translation and the NET Bible, with Jehovah[2] included in the later in place of “LORD.”

The first few verses bristle with terrified panic, from illness and/or persecution (this table is best viewed in the web version):

NET Bible
A request for favor
  • The dead do not praise God
  • God hears requests for favor
O Jehovah, do not reprove me in your anger,
And do not correct me in your rage.
2 Show me favor, O Jehovah, for I am growing weak.
Heal me, O Jehovah, for my bones are shaking.
3 Yes, I am greatly disturbed,
And I ask you, O Jehovah—how long will it be?
4 Return, O Jehovah, and rescue me;
Save me for the sake of your loyal love.
5 For in death there is no mention of you;
In the Grave, who will praise you?

[Research Guide reference: Psalm 89:48; Psalm 146:3, 4.
The above texts include three of the more than sixty occurrences in the Bible of the Hebrew word Sheol, which literally means “gravedom.” A corresponding word in the Greek Scriptures, Hades, which appears just ten times, means the same. Both of these words always refer, not to individual tombs, but to the “common grave,” where [we] go at death. This is a place of nonexistence, unconsciousness, where the dead must remain until God resurrects them. They are completely dead, but not without hope.
Hence, Sheol is obviously the place to which the dead go. It is not an individual grave but the common grave of dead mankind in general, where all conscious activity ceases. This is also what the New Catholic Encyclopedia acknowledges to be the Biblical significance of Sheol, saying: “In the Bible it designates the place of complete inertia that one goes down to when one dies whether one be just or wicked, rich or poor.” —Vol. 13, p. 170.]

6 I have grown weary with my sighing;
All night long I soak my bed with tears;
I flood my couch with weeping.
7 My eye is weak from my grief;
It has dimmed because of all those harassing me.
8 Get away from me, all you who behave wickedly,
For Jehovah will hear the sound of my weeping.
9 Jehovah will hear my request for favor;
Jehovah will accept my prayer.

[Research Guide reference: Have there been times when you prayed to God and your prayers were not answered? Many have had this experience. Does it mean that prayers are of no value? No, God can both hear prayers and act upon them.]

10 All my enemies will be put to shame and dismayed;
They will fall back in sudden disgrace.

[Footnote: The psalmist begs Jehovah to withdraw his anger and spare his life. Having received a positive response to his prayer, the psalmist then confronts his enemies and describes how they retreat.]

Jehovah, do not rebuke me in your anger.
Do not discipline me in your raging fury.
2 Have mercy on me, Jehovah, for I am frail.
Heal me, Jehovah, for my bones are shaking.

[Footnote: Normally the verb בָּהַל (bahal) refers to an emotional response and means “tremble with fear, be terrified” (see vv. 3, 10). Perhaps here the “bones” are viewed as the seat of the psalmist’s emotions. However, the verb may describe one of the effects of his physical ailment, perhaps a fever. In Ezek 7:27 the verb describes how the hands of the people will shake with fear when they experience the horrors of divine judgment.]

3 I am absolutely terrified,
and you, Jehovah—how long will this continue?

[Footnote: Heb “and you, Jehovah, how long?” The suffering psalmist speaks in broken syntax. He addresses God, but then simply cries out with a brief, but poignant, question: How long will this (= his suffering) continue?]

4 Relent, Jehovah, rescue me!
Deliver me because of your faithfulness.
5 For no one remembers you in the realm of death.

[Footnote: Heb “for there is not in death your remembrance.” The Hebrew noun זֵכֶר (zekher, “remembrance”) here refers to the name of the Lord as invoked in liturgy and praise. Cf. Pss 30:4; 97:12. “Death” here refers to the realm of death where the dead reside. See the reference to Sheol in the next line.]

In Sheol who gives you thanks?

[Footnote: The rhetorical question anticipates the answer, “no one.”
sn In Sheol who gives you thanks? According to the OT, those who descend into the realm of death/Sheol are cut off from God’s mighty deeds and from the worshiping covenant community that experiences divine intervention (Pss 30:9; 88:10-12; Isa 38:18). In his effort to elicit a positive divine response, the psalmist reminds God that he will receive no praise or glory if he allows the psalmist to die. Dead men do not praise God!]

6 I am exhausted as I groan.
All night long I drench my bed in tears;
my tears saturate the cushion beneath me.
7 My eyes grow dim from suffering;
they grow weak because of all my enemies.
8 Turn back from me, all you who behave wickedly,
for Jehovah has heard the sound of my weeping.

[Footnote: Jehovah has heard. The psalmist’s mood abruptly changes because Jehovah responded positively to the lament and petition of vv. 1-7 and promised him deliverance.]

9 Jehovah has heard my appeal for mercy;
Jehovah has accepted my prayer.

[Footnote: The prefixed verbal form is probably a preterite here; it is parallel to a perfect and refers to the fact that Jehovah has responded favorably to the psalmist’s request.]

10 They will be humiliated and absolutely terrified.
All my enemies will turn back and be suddenly humiliated.

[Footnote: The psalmist uses the same expression in v. 3 to describe the terror he was experiencing. He is confident that the tables will be turned and his enemies will know what absolute terror feels like.]

When looking up Psalm 6 I noticed something peculiar about verses 8 and 9. The NWT says Jehovah “will hear” twice and “will accept.” However, other translations present “has heard” twice and “has accepted.” This difference is explained in the NET Bible footnote for verse 9. The Jewish Study Bible is similar, and has this translation in verses 8-10 (with Jehovah inserted again) and the following note:

Away from me, all you evildoers, for Jehovah heeds the sound of my weeping.
Jehovah heeds my plea,
Jehovah accepts my prayer.
All my enemies will be frustrated and stricken with terror; they will turn back in an instant, frustrated.

The note explains:
The Heb tenses are better reflected by rendering:
“Away … has heard … has heeded … will be frustrated.” The back-and-forth movement may express the psalmist’s religious conviction that God will hear his prayer, and thus he simultaneously expresses hope and certainty.
The note adds that “perhaps this is reflected in Lam. 3.57. “You have ever drawn nigh when I called You; You have said, ‘Do not fear!’”” It adds that this “may also be reflected in Ps. 12.6 [Ps. 12.5], where God is quoted in the middle of the psalm.”

In any case, we can appreciate that the psalmist began his heartfelt plea with trust in Jehovah, and closed it with his ironclad assurance that his prayer was heard and his enemies will therefore be absolutely defeated.

[1] Psalms of Despair and Rejoicing
[2] The reason for the name

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