AI Confirms That The New Testament has Remained Faithful to the Original Manuscripts

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How many ancient manuscripts of the New Testament books exist today?

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There are thousands of ancient manuscripts of the New Testament in existence today. The exact number is difficult to determine, as many of these manuscripts are fragmentary or incomplete, and some have not yet been catalogued or discovered.

The manuscripts of the New Testament vary in age, with some dating back to the early centuries of Christianity, and others dating to later periods. Some of the most significant and well-known manuscripts include the Codex Sinaiticus, which dates to the 4th century and contains the entire New Testament, and the Codex Vaticanus, which also dates to the 4th century and contains most of the New Testament.

In addition to these major codices, there are numerous other ancient manuscripts of the New Testament, including papyri, uncials, and minuscules. These manuscripts have been studied and analyzed by scholars in order to reconstruct the original text of the New Testament and to better understand its history and development.

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Does the modern New Testament differ greatly from the ancient versions?

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In terms of the basic content and teachings of the New Testament, the modern versions do not differ greatly from the ancient versions. The core message of the New Testament, which includes the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, has remained consistent over time.

However, there are some differences between modern versions of the New Testament and the ancient versions, primarily in terms of language and textual variants. The original New Testament was written in Greek, and as the texts were copied and translated over time, variations and errors were introduced into the manuscripts.

Scholars have worked to reconstruct the original text of the New Testament by comparing the available manuscripts and identifying the most likely readings. While there are some textual variants between different versions of the New Testament, the vast majority of these variants are minor and do not affect the overall meaning or message of the text.

Overall, while there may be some differences between modern and ancient versions of the New Testament, the core teachings and message of the text have remained consistent over time.

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What is a textual variant?

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A textual variant is a difference in wording, spelling, or other features between different copies of the same text. In the context of the New Testament, textual variants refer to differences between different ancient manuscripts of the New Testament books.

Textual variants can be caused by a variety of factors, including errors made during the process of copying or translating the text, deliberate changes made to the text for theological or other reasons, or accidental damage to the manuscripts over time.

Because the New Testament was originally written in Greek and copied and translated over many centuries, there are many textual variants in the surviving manuscripts. However, the vast majority of these variants are minor and do not affect the core teachings or message of the text.

Scholars use various methods, including textual criticism, to identify and analyze textual variants in order to reconstruct the original text of the New Testament as accurately as possible. This involves comparing different manuscripts and evaluating the likelihood of different readings based on factors such as the age and reliability of the manuscript, the context of the passage, and other textual and historical evidence.

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How many ancient manuscripts of the New Testament books exist today?

ChatGPT

There are thousands of ancient manuscripts of the New Testament in existence today. The exact number is difficult to determine, as many of these manuscripts are fragmentary or incomplete, and some have not yet been catalogued or discovered.
The manuscripts of the New Testament vary in age, with some dating back to the early centuries of Christianity, and others dating to later periods. Some of the most significant and well-known manuscripts include the Codex Sinaiticus, which dates to the 4th century and contains the entire New Testament, and the Codex Vaticanus, which also dates to the 4th century and contains most of the New Testament.
In addition to these major codices, there are numerous other ancient manuscripts of the New Testament, including papyri, uncials, and minuscules. These manuscripts have been studied and analyzed by scholars in order to reconstruct the original text of the New Testament and to better understand its history and development.

Rhema vs. Logos

I was disappointed.

I was disappointed to read a post on the social media page of a popular Christian author. He wrote on January 9.

For logos to be effective in your life, you must intentionally mix it with faith (Heb 4:2). Rhema, in contrast, comes with such vibrancy that it often releases faith with its delivery.

He refers to Hebrews 4:2. This verse contains a word that is translated from the Greek text. The Greek word is logos (λόγος). It can be translated as either “message” or “word.” However, Hebrews 4:2 does not say that a logos lacks vibrancy, nor does it say that a rhema (ῥῆμα) has vibrancy. Hebrews 4:2 doesn’t mention any vibrancy.

Just what does Hebrews 4:2 say?

(ESV) For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.

(NASB) For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also did; but the word they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united with those who listened with faith.

If such a thing as vibrancy exists, it would seem that the listeners of Hebrews 4:2 lacked that mysterious element. The word wasn’t inferior in any way, which is what the author is saying that the Scripture says.

The Scripture doesn’t agree with the author’s assessment of logos. The author is not in alignment with the Word of God.

There are two words for “word.”

The writer is pointing at two Bible words that are translated into English as “word.”

  • In Hebrews 4:2, the word used is λόγος (logos).
  • In some other passages, ῥῆμα (rhema) is translated as “word.”

The writer contrasts LOGOS with RHEMA, indicating that a LOGOS word is ineffective at first, but a RHEMA word is immediately effective to “release” faith. He cites Hebrews 4:2 as a source of this explanation.

There are multiple examples from Scripture.

Ephesians 6:17

…and receive the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word (RHEMA) of God

  • This RHEMA refers to the “Gospel of peace” in 6:15 which Paul introduced in Ephesians 1:13 as the “gospel of your salvation.” Paul writes, “…when you heard the word (LOGOS) of truth, the gospel of your salvation.” A written word cannot be heard unless it is a spoken word. Paul treats LOGOS and RHEMA as practical synonyms in this letter.

John 6:63

The Spirit is the one who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words (RHEMATA) that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. [a]RHEMATA is plural of RHEMA.

  • Jesus helps us understand that he is talking about the spoken RHEMATA by adding “that I have spoken.” If RHEMA is restricted to a spoken word, then Jesus was being redundant. His statement shows that we need clarification in this instance.

1 Peter 1:22-25

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for sincere brotherly love, love one another fervently from the heart, because you have been born again, not from perishable seed but imperishable, through the living and enduring word (LOGOS) of God. For “all flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of the grass. The grass withers and the flower falls off, but the word (RHEMA) of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word (RHEMA) that has been proclaimed to you.

  • Peter uses LOGOS and RHEMA interchangeably. When the LOGOS was proclaimed to Peter’s audience, he called it RHEMA, not because Peter was using the power of confession to release the creative power of God, but because LOGOS was the message that was spoken.
  • Peter cites from Isaiah 40:6-8. “Grass withers; the flower withers, but the word of our God will stand forever.” In the time of Christ and Peter, the Scriptures, including Isaiah, had been translated from Hebrew into Greek. This “word” (Hebrew: DABAR) from Isaiah is translated into the Greek LOGOS, but Peter substitutes RHEMA for LOGOS. This translation is not a contradiction for Peter if he sees the two words as near-synonyms. If RHEMA and LOGOS are so distinct as suggested, then Peter was making a huge mistake. If RHEMA and LOGOS are as similar as they appear in the other Scriptures, then Peter is justified when he uses RHEMA in place of LOGOS for Isaiah 40:8.
  • RHEMA means a message or a proclamation. When the LOGOS is preached, it can be called RHEMA or LOGOS.

John 18:31,32

So Pilate said to them, “You take him and judge him according to your law!” The Jews said to him, “It is not permitted for us to kill anyone,” in order that the word (LOGOS) of Jesus would be fulfilled that he had spoken, indicating by what sort of death he was going to die.

  • These words of Jesus had not been written down at the time that he spoke them. LOGOS is not always a written word.
  • In the same way as John 6:63, a phrase is employed to clarify that RHEMA is speech in this incidence, “that he had spoken.”

Maybe the mix-up started with someone else.

Kenneth E. Hagin said,

“Faith is always expressed in words. Faith must be released in words through your mouth. We can see that in all of these Scriptures we have read. When you speak something, that is action.”

The truth is that faith is expressed in obedient works and not by confession. The Book of James contradicts the idea that speaking words is action.

Word of Faith authors appear to agree with the author, saying that LOGOS is the written word and that RHEMA words are faith-filled spoken words that release the creative power of God when spoken.

When the Holy Spirit speaks to you, He quickens a Scripture verse or specific direction to you—a specific word for a specific time and purpose. [b]https://www.rhema.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2679:what-is-rhema

There is no great distinction between the two words.

The truth is that the New Testament does not demonstrate this distinction. Jesus is called the LOGOS, and he is not the written word. The creative power of RHEMA is a concept that comes from outside the Scriptures and has been substituted for the direct teaching of Scripture.

Consider this official position stated by the Assemblies of God:

There are two major problems with this distinction. First, the distinction is not justified by usage either in the Greek New Testament or in the Septuagint (Greek version of the Old Testament). The words are used synonymously in both. [c]The General Council of the Assemblies of God, Assemblies of God: Position Papers (Springfield, MO: The General Council of the Assemblies of God, 1972–2017).

Consider the full definition found in Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words.

Proponents of the LOGOS/RHEMA distinction depend upon a partial quotation from W. E. Vine.

rhḗma (ῥῆμα in Greek); that which is spoken, what is uttered in speech or writing;1 an utterance (individually, collectively, or specifically);2 the word by which something is commanded, directed, or enjoined;3 something that is spoken clearly and vividly, in unmistakable terms and in an undeniable language. In the New Testament, the word rhema carries the idea of a quickened word.[d]https://www.rhema.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2679:what-is-rhema

Vine includes more information that may be intentionally left out since it does not reinforce the strong distinction needed by RHEMA teachers. Vine tells us that RHEMA is not a completely different concept from LOGOS.

The significance of rhema (as distinct from logos) is exemplified in the injunction to take “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” Eph. 6:17; here the reference is not to the whole Bible as such, but to the individual scripture which the Spirit brings to our remembrance for use in time of need, a prerequisite being the regular storing of the mind with Scripture. [e]W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, TN: T. Nelson, 1996), 683.

On the same page, Vine also gives a definition of LOGOS that includes spoken words.

logos (λόγος) denotes (I) “the expression of thought”… (a) as embodying a conception or idea… (b) a saying or statement…  (c) discourse, speech, of instruction. [f]W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, TN: T. Nelson, 1996), 683.

Stay Alert

If you care about the authentic Word of God, don’t fall for tricksters that use the RHEMA/LOGOS false distinction that is contrary to the teachings of Scripture. They will want you to believe that this doctrine is original from the Bible, and it is not.

Stop living out of alignment with the Word of God.

Notes[+]

How to Find Bible Contradictions in Jesus’ Birth Story

Why does the account of Jesus’ birth in the Gospel of Luke contradict the account in the Gospel of Matthew?

Compare the two passages to see this irreconcilable contradiction.

BOTH: Nazareth → Bethlehem

Both passages agree that Mary and Joseph traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem where Jesus was born. They don’t agree on where the Holy Family went after Bethlehem.

LUKE: Bethlehem → Nazareth

Click image for larger map.

 

Luke chapter 2 says that they made a brief trip from their home in Bethlehem to the Temple in Jerusalem to fulfill the law of Moses, then returned immediately back to Nazareth from Bethlehem.

22 And when the days of their purification were completed according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (just as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb will be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what was stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

39 And when they had completed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.

 

MATTHEW: Bethlehem → Egypt → Nazareth

Click image for larger map.

 

Matthew chapter 2 says the Mary, Joseph, and Jesus left Bethlehem and went to Egypt until Herod was dead, then the Holy Family returned to Nazareth.

1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem,

13 Now after they had gone away, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph, saying, “Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. For Herod is about to seek the child to destroy him.” 14 So he got up and took the child and his mother during the night and went away to Egypt. 15 And he was there until the death of Herod…

19 Now after Herod had died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the life of the child are dead.” 21 So he got up and took the child and his mother and entered the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream, he took refuge in the regions of Galilee. 23 And he came and lived in a town called Nazareth, in order that what was said by the prophets would be fulfilled: “He will be called a Nazarene.”

The previous summary is inaccurate.

The differences between Matthew and Luke are not irreconcilable differences. They are actually complementary passages.

The Truth About Matthew’s Account

Actually, the Gospel of Matthew does not contain any mention of Joseph and Mary coming from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Matthew is silent on Nazareth until 2:23. However this is not a problem since Luke’s account includes the section.

Matthew does not say that Mary and Joseph did not come from Nazareth. If Matthew had said that Mary and Joseph came from their home in Jericho or some other city, there would be a real contradiction. Or if Matthew had said that Mary and Joseph had never been to Nazareth before, there would be a real contradiction. However, there is not a contradiction about something that was not said. Matthew simply doesn’t mention the location of Nazareth until after Egypt in 2:23.

Matthew’s silence on the Nazareth section does not prevent us from accepting the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem found in Luke.

Furthermore, Matthew does not contain the section about the shepherds and angels. There are no problems with this since the shepherds come from the Luke passage. Both accounts are needed to get the complete story.

Not documenting an event is not a denial of that event when it is documented by another historian.

The Truth About Luke’s Account

Actually, the Gospel of Luke does not contain any mention of Joseph and Mary returning from Jerusalem to Bethlehem before moving back home to Nazareth. However, we know that Bethlehem was their home away from home for the time while Mary was pregnant and when Jesus was delivered (Luke 2:4-6), and possibly up to two years after his birth (Matthew 2:16). So, we can be sure that they left the Temple in Jerusalem and returned to their house in Bethlehem before the journey back to Nazareth in Galilee. There is not a contradiction about something that was not said.

Furthermore, Luke does not mention the visit of the wise men and the slaughter of the children by angry king Herod. But, there are no problems since Matthew covers this section very well.

Another inaccuracy from the opening account is very subtle. I claim that Luke says the Holy Family returned immediately to Nazareth after fulfilling the legal rituals in Jerusalem. The Scripture says “they returned” not “they returned immediately without any trips to Egypt.” When we insert an extra word, we create a contradiction that isn’t really there.

But doesn’t Luke use chronological language here? Yes. He indicates that the move back to Galilee did not take place before the rituals in Jerusalem. We accept that the family did not go straight from Jerusalem to Nazareth even though Luke doesn’t include a section about Bethlehem between Jerusalem and Nazareth. We can’t know why. And therefore, we can’t know why Luke doesn’t tell us how long, days or years, between Jerusalem and Nazareth. If we accept Matthew’s account of Egypt, there was a pretty good gap of time not mentioned by Luke.

Luke’s silence on the Egypt passage isn’t proof that Egypt never happened. We accept Matthew’s account of the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem even though Luke is silent. We accept Matthew’s account of the wise men even though Luke is silent. We accept Matthew’s account of angry king Herod ordering the massacre of children even though Luke is silent. We accept Luke’s account of shepherds even though Matthew is silent. We accept Luke’s account of the Jerusalem visit even though Matthew is silent.

We need both Matthew’s account and Luke’s account to see a more complete history.

Each of these two historians had a perspective on the birth of Christ. We need to read both accounts. There is no contradiction if we don’t create one by adding phrases or presumptions that are not in the historical text.

COMBINED ACCOUNTS: Nazareth → Bethlehem → Jerusalem → Bethlehem → Egypt → Nazareth

 

How to Interpret Fill-in-the-blank Jesus

Argument:

Jesus never mentioned abortion, therefore Christians are wrong to be pro-life.

“Jesus never once talked about abortion… for people perverting the gospel of Jesus Christ down to one issue, it’s heresy… Open the Bible… you won’t see it there…” (Joe Scarborough, Morning Joe, September 9, 2022, 28:37. It is worth hearing the whole rant on YouTube.)

Reply:

Arguing about something that was never said is meaningless.

First, make a list of behaviors not mentioned by Jesus.

  • Jesus never mentioned the sex trafficking of children.
  • Jesus never mentioned selling a child into slavery.
  • Jesus never mentioned cannibalism of your children.
  • Jesus never mentioned child sacrifice.

Then, realize that Jesus wasn’t silent about moral issues and did not fail to speak to important ethical questions such as these, because Jesus did quote Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5: 17. He also summarized Exodus 21:12, Leviticus 24:17, Numbers 35:12, and Deuteronomy 17:8-13. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addressed the motives of a murderous heart that will be judged by God. Furthermore, it would be absurd to ignore the value Jesus placed upon infants and children.

An argument from silence means nothing, but Jesus was not silent about moral issues. You must use what Jesus did say to extrapolate what he believed. You cannot take what he did not say and create a narrative of what he may have believed.

It is absurd to indicate that Jesus approved of killing reborn children for the convenience of the parents. Jesus appealed to Scripture as authoritative, specifically indicating passages that condemn murder. Therefore, Jesus sees the black letters as authoritative, not just his own red ones.

Jesus believed what it says in the book of Psalms.

Indeed you created my inward parts; you wove me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works, and my soul knows it well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was created secretly, and intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my embryo, and in your book they all were written— days fashioned for me when there was not one of them. And to me, how precious are your thoughts, O God; how vast is their sum. If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. I awaken, and I am still with you. If only you would kill the wicked, O God— so get away from me, you bloodthirsty men— who speak against you deceitfully. Your enemies take your name in vain. Do I not hate those who hate you, O Yahweh? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with a complete hatred; they have become my enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. And see if there is in me the worship of false gods, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139)

It is manipulative to imply that Psalm 139 has no application to the murder of the unborn unless Jesus quoted it directly.

Luke 24:44″… the psalms must be fulfilled” indicates Jesus high view of Psalms. Jesus explicitly endorsed the Old Testament, and the Old Testament explicitly condemn murder, killing a human, even a pre-born human.

The earliest Christians understood Christ and wrote what they thought would please Him.

First century Christians documented their understanding of the Twelve Apostles’ doctrine on Christ and wrote (Didache 12:2) “You shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is begotten (pre-born).”

Furthermore, there is no competition between pre-born humans and the born ones, as if the defense of right to life prevents the care and protection of all children. We need to do both. Honor the sanctity of pre-born humans. Protect all humans from neglect and abuse.

Modern man may think himself wise in his own eyes, especially when suggesting that he is more qualified to speak on behalf of Jesus, that the historical Jesus was in favor of abortion, that Jesus had nothing to say about the morality or ethics that are the murderous heart of abortion.

A secular consideration may have some light in it.

Consider the wording that was in the pre-Christian Hippocratic oath, written between the fifth and third century BC. “… I will give no sort of medicine to any pregnant woman with a view to destroy the child.” Even the ancient pagan Greeks knew something about the dignity of human life.

 

 

 

Is the Antichrist gay?

Someone recently heard a preacher on the radio. The preacher used the passage in Daniel 11 to prove that the Antichrist will be a homosexual.

What does Daniel 11 say?

Click this link for entire chapter on Bible Gateway. Let’s read Daniel 11: 37 in a few English translations for comparison of interpretation.

(KJV) Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all.

(NASB 2020) And he will show no regard for the gods of his fathers or for the desire of women, nor will he show regard for any other god; for he will boast against them all.

(ESV) He shall pay no attention to the gods of his fathers, or to the one beloved by women. He shall not pay attention to any other god, for he shall magnify himself above all.

(LEB) He will not pay respect to the gods of his ancestors, or to the darling of women, and not to any god will he pay respect, for he will consider himself great over all gods.

What’s wrong with the preacher’s interpretation?

  1. No version of this verse says that the Antichrist will not desire women. Rather, we find that Daniel 11:37 says that the man will not regard the object of women’s desire.
  2. The preacher is applying his own agenda upon this one verse. This is the kind of stuff that gives Christians a bad reputation. People have told me, “You can make the Bible say anything that you want it to say.” However, making the Bible say what we want it to say is bad practice. The Bible should be read without smothering it in our own opinions. Read it as if you want to learn the original meaning. Do not read the Bible to find proof texts as backup for your favorite rants or as justification for your personal behavior.
  3. The preacher changes the original structure of the sentence. It’s easy to see through the transformation from a man who does not regard the object of women’s desire into a man who does not desire women. However, it just isn’t appropriate to do this to this passage of Holy Scripture.
  4. The preacher provides information not found in the original passage. Even if the passage said he won’t desire women, it wouldn’t make him a homosexual by default… that would require an addition of “his (sexual) desire is for men” into the passage. Other Scriptures indicate that a holy man can live a celibate lifestyle of sexual abstinence.

What is the short answer?

Daniel 11:37 is about a man that is not influenced by the feelings expressed by women.

The Star of Bethlehem

Matthew 2:1,2

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star at its rising and have come to worship him.”

Matthew tells us that after Jesus’ birth, magoi (magicians or astologers?) from the anatolon (east) had seen an astera at its anatole (rising in the east) and came to Jerusalem in order to proskynesai (worship) the one who was born basileus ton Ioudaion (king of the Jews). Gentile magicians desired to offer divine worship to the king of the Jews.

How long after the birth of Jesus? The text indicates it was 2 years.

Matthew 2:7,16

Then Herod secretly summoned the wise men and determined precisely from them the time when the star appeared.

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been deceived by the wise men, became very angry, and he sent soldiers and executed all the children in Bethlehem and in all the region around it from the age of two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined precisely from the wise men. Then what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled, saying,

Josephus the historian records the death of Herod the Great which is placed on our modern calendar at 4 BCE. So the sighting of the star which is linked to the birth of the king would be 6 BCE or 7 BCE.

The implication here is that the magoi attached the star sighting to the prophecy of Balaam.

Numbers 24:17

I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; a star will go out from Jacob, and a scepter will rise from Israel; it will crush the foreheads of Moab and destroy all the children of Seth.

There is no way for us to know what method the magoi used to bridge their astronomy and astrology. Something about this heavenly manifestation gave instructions to the magoi. These instructions pointed the magoi to the Scriptures. This “star” was not merely a physical astronomical object. If that were so, the wise men could never have known specific information about the newly-born king.

The text does not say that the Bethlehem Star guided the magoi to Jerusalem. The magoi went to Jerusalem because they expected to find a king there. Their arrival in Jerusalem indicates that the magoi were not familiar with Micah but were familiar with Psalm 2.

Psalm 2:6-8

“But as for me, I have set my king on Zion, my holy mountain.” I will tell the decree; Yahweh said to me: “You are my son; today I have begotten you. Ask from me and I will make the nations your heritage, and your possession the ends of the earth.

Jerusalem sat on the mountain where the begotten son of YHWH would be established as king. The magoi expected to worship (proskynesai) this child. We see the divinity and kingship of Jesus in both Psalm 2 and Matthew 2. Furthermore, the magoi brought treasures that reiterated their expectation to see a king who was God.

Matthew 2:9-11

After they listened to the king, they went out, and behold, the star which they had seen at its rising led them until it came and stood above the place where the child was. Now when they saw the star, they rejoiced with very great joy. And when they came into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. And opening their treasure boxes, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.

I am only aware of one other place in Scripture that the three gifts come together. The altar of incense was covered with gold, anointed with sacred oil containing myrrh (smyrna), and upon which sacred incense that included frankincense (libanos) was burned. This holy altar was reserved exclusively for the worship of the one true God. See Exodus 30:22-38 and Exodus 37:24-29.

John 1:14

And the Word became flesh and took up residence among us, and we saw his glory, glory as of the one and only from the Father, full of grace and truth.

When the magoi left Jerusalem, they encountered a source of joy as the astera appeared again. This time the star led them (proegen – preceded) and stood above (estathe epano) where the child was. Again, this type of specific information cannot be derived from observing an astronomical object, a star or a comet or a constellation, from 4.2465 light-years away. This astera was providing location information within a very short distance and traveling with a specific motion that is not possible for simple stars or comets. This supernatural star belongs in the same category as the mysterious seven stars in the hand of Christ in the book of Revelation (Rev. 1:16, 20; 2:1; 3:1). The Star of Bethlehem was a living being that could light the way and provide a specific message of guidance.

Revelation 1:20

“As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

How to Find the Innkeeper in the Christmas Story

Luke 2:4-7

So Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered together with Mary, who was legally promised in marriage to him and was pregnant. And it happened that while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son, and wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

What was the inn?

The inn was a guest room in the house. This southern residence in Bethlehem belonged to Joseph and likely belonged to his father Jacob before him. Joseph was living and working up north in Nazareth in Galilee.[a]Some teachers believe that Joseph was a craftsman working on the city of Sepphoris (which Herod the Great was rebuilding) and staying nearby in Nazareth. Bethlehem is in Judea in the south, 70 miles south of Nazareth. The winding mountainous roads would make the trip something like 100 miles. If they travelled 20 miles per day, the trip would take five days.

When Joseph arrived to his Bethlehem home, it was not empty. Wise Joseph did not leave the family home abandoned and unmanaged. Other family members were already staying there or living there while Joseph was away.

Who was the Pandocheus?

However, if the Bethlehem house belonged to Joseph, and the guest chamber/κατάλυμα was already full, then Joseph clearly had a host who managed the house and residents while he was away in Nazareth. This host person is the equivalent of an innkeeper/πανδοχεύς, one who receives all.

So, deduced from Scripture, there was an “innkeeper/host” necessary because of Joseph’s absence when he was in Nazareth.

Notes[+]

How to Ruin Christmas

Strip the nativity Bible narratives of all human traditions that have been added to the birth of Jesus.

  • Luke 2:4-7. Mary did not ride a donkey to Bethlehem.
  • Luke 2:9-15. There is no “innkeeper[a]However, if the house belonged to Joseph, and the guest chamber/κατάλυμα was already full, then Joseph clearly had a host who managed the house and residents while he was away in Nazareth. … Continue reading(and “inn” is a poor translation of the word for an “upper room”).
  • Matthew 2:9-11. The star was capable of standing still above a single house as a supernatural guiding light, not a giant incandescent body like our sun.
  • Matthew 2:9-11. We don’t know how many wise men. Three types of gifts are given.
  • Matthew 2:9-11. The wise men were not at the manger with the shepherds.
  • Matthew 2:11. The wise men visited a house, not a barn or stable.
  • Luke 2:9-15. There was no angel at the manger.
  • Luke 2:9-15. There was no angelic choir or singing to the shepherds.
  • Luke 2:16. There is no mention of a stable or barn. (Mangers were common features found inside houses.)
  • Luke 2:9-15. There were no animals at the birth of Jesus.
  • Luke 2:9-15. There was no drummer boy… or even a shepherd “boy.”
  • Luke 2:9-15. There were no talking animals not even at midnight.
  • There is no Santa Claus, Rudolph, or Frosty. No Christmas tree or Christmas stockings. There is no gift exchange.

Be divisive and argumentative about Christmas traditions.

…if you have no interest in bringing others to Christ, no interest in being a peacemaker, but only want to prove your own arrogance.

Here is advice from 2 Timothy 2:

Make every effort to present yourself approved to God, a worker having no need to be ashamed, guiding the word of truth along a straight path. But avoid pointless chatter, for it will progress to greater ungodliness…

Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.

God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. [b]2 Timothy 2:15,16,23-26

We have many extra-biblical traditions every day of the year, not just at Christmas. We have birthday traditions, graduation traditions, sports traditions, family traditions, wedding traditions, and so on. Perhaps a person can consider human traditions as decorations or adornments that are useful for celebration without elevating those traditions as if they were the central truth.

Notes[+]

How to Pray

Prayer is talking to God. Someone told me that they did not pray because they did not know how. If you can talk to me, you can talk to God.

Jesus taught how to pray and started by telling his disciples how NOT to pray.

Don’t pray because you want to impress other people.

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. [a] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 6:5,6.

Prayer is not a talent show. Prayer is not a competition for best prayer. You have an audience of one, God. It is senseless to try to impress Him. He knows who you really are. He is far more intelligent than you will ever be.

Save your fancy words with ornaments and decorations for someone else. Prayer works best with plain and simple words.

Don’t criticize the simple prayer.

Don’t fill your prayer with empty phrases.

Don’t think that God will hear your prayer because of how many words that you use.

Not too many words:

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. [b]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 6:7,8.

The demonstration of God’s spiritual power does not require lofty speech at any time.

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. [c]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Co 2:1–5.

Look at the example of prayer that Jesus provided to his disciples.

Prayer is not a shopping list for God.

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
 Give us this day our daily bread,
 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. [d]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 6:9–15.

If the Model Prayer were a list:

  • Review the divine attribute of holiness
  • Request that God’s will be accomplished
  • Give us a piece of bread for today
  • Our need to forgive and be forgiven
  • Resistance to temptation to evil

Only one item is a personal request, asking God to give us something: daily bread.

The first item on the list is reviewing the truth about God’s nature prior to asking for anything else. The prayer in Acts 1 reads, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” Peter and company begin by describing the attribute of God that applies to their request for guidance while choosing a replacement for Judas. In their prayer, the attributes are related to God’s omniscience and ability to see into the human heart. It reminds me of the Lord’s instruction to the prophet Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” It makes me think that the church leaders were also remembering the attributes of God that are recorded in Holy Scripture and including them in this prayer.

The remaining items on the Model Prayer list could be categorized as asking God to work through us. May your heavenly kingdom come to earth through me. Accomplish Your will on earth through me. May I forgive others. May I be forgiven. May I resist temptation and be spared from sin.

I would propose that we accept this pattern in our own prayers. 1. Begin by reviewing who God is, ascribing glory to His Name, looking into the Scriptures to reveal His nature as relates to our prayer. 2. Simply ask God to provide what you need. 3. Spend more time asking God to work through you than asking Him to work for you. Focus upon God accomplishing His will and bringing Kingdom practices into your earthly life and relationships with others.

 

Notes[+]

How to Beat Your Slaves

I have been told that the Bible endorses slavery and that it allows a master to beat a slave nearly to death. This statement did not come from someone who actually reads the Bible beyond a verse out of context from time to time. So I wanted to take a look.

I started with the Christian Scriptures (the teachings of Jesus and letters of the Apostles). There are at least five passages that came to light.

  • 1 Corinthians 7:20-24
  • Ephesians 6:5-9
  • Colossians 3:22-4:1
  • Philemon 8-21
  • 1 Peter 2:18-21

These passages are directed toward anyone that is already a slave (doulos)[a]δου̂λος when they began to follow Christ. There is no passage that suggests a Christian should own a slave.

These Bible passages do indicate that a slave should be sincerely submissive to their master (kurios)[b]κύριος working as unto the Lord, whether a master is gentle or unreasonable [c]σκολιός – skolios.

It is important to note that slaves are encouraged to obtain their freedom if possible. Furthermore, the Scriptures instruct followers of Christ to live as slaves to Christ only and not to become a slave to men. This reveals that Paul and Peter were writing about those that enter servitude voluntarily.

Sometimes a noun can have a broad spectrum of meaning or interpretation. If you send me to the garage to bring you a “tool,” I will look to see if you are driving a nail or removing a bolt, since “tool” can mean hammer or screwdriver or wrench and so on.

Most Christians are familiar with the Greek word doulos[d]δου̂λος that can indicate many things on the spectrum including slavery, servanthood, debtor and so on.

It is unfair to read the New Testament only through the lens of the American Civil War and our struggle to abolish slavery and emancipate slaves. Paul was writing about First Century citizens who owed a debt and were voluntarily committed to repay that debt as a doulos/servant/slave.

Since I accept the Christian Scriptures as the most important commentary on the Hebrew Scriptures, I reject the proposition that the Bible teaches the acceptance of slavery as it was practiced by Americans. When someone makes the blanket statement that the Bible endorses slavery and allows slaves to be beaten nearly to death by their masters, I must conclude that the statement is made from an uninformed position.

I plan to address statements on slavery from the Hebrew Scriptures in another article.

Notes[+]