Bible


There are guys who really dig Andy Stanley.

I am emphatically not one of them.

I’ve never dug his whole “one point preaching” thing which assumes (among other things) that Christians (or at least, non-seminary-graduated-pastor-types) are idiots who need to have Biblical truth premasticated for them and spoon-fed in only the gentlest, most non-challenging way possible.

Ergh.

Ed Stetzer recently interviewed Andy on his blog (thanks for the heads-up, Brian)

Guys that preach verse-by-verse through books of the Bible– that is just cheating. It’s cheating because that would be easy, first of all. That isn’t how you grow people. No one in the Scripture modeled that. There’s not one example of that.

Yeah.  Not one example.

Like, for instance, not Nehemiah.

Look, Andy…we don’t see very many examples of “one point preaching,” either.  And…?

V-B-V isn’t the only way to teach the Word; it is however an amazingly effective way.

Contrary to what Andy says. “That isn’t how you grow people.”

…darn.  And here I thought that people were growing just fine in expositionally focused churches and movements like Calvary Chapel, Acts 29, Harvest Bible Chapel, Johnny Mac and Grace Community, and others.  Darn those pesky facts getting in the way and blowing up a perfectly good baseless assertion!  Darn them to heck!

I honestly don’t know why anybody takes this guy seriously – oh, no, wait, I do…he’s a chief Growthinista.  For the Growthinista, apparent results in the nickels-‘n’-noses department trumps all.  Alrighty; allow me to revise and extend my remarks.  I honestly don’t know why anybody who self-identifies with one of the aforementioned expositionally focused churches and movements likes this guy.

Seriously.

Another gem from Andy:

All Scripture is equally inspired, but not all Scripture is equally applicable or relevant to every stage of life.

Oy.

Apparently, all Scripture isn’t in fact profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, or instruction in righteousness; to be thoroughly equipped unto every good work, the man of God had to wait nearly 2000 years for the Lord to finally and graciously raise up Cap’n One-Point-Preachin’.

Give me multiple-point preachin’ Spurgeon any day over this character.

Again: Why does anybody take this guy seriously…?

Probably one of the chiefest reasons modern evangelicalism is wholesale abandoning Biblical inerrancy is the discomfort many have with the plain reading of the Biblical account of Creation.

This has led some to put forward the idea that the Creation account was simply an observational statement which is not itself an actually accurate description of the real events – much like when we say “the sun rose” – obviously, the sun don’t rise none; our world, caught in a stable orbit within our sun’s gravity well revolves around our parent star exactly once each solar year.  It is simply a statement of observation; from the perspective of the viewer, the sun seems to rise while the horizon appears from our frame of reference to remain fixed.  It is technically inaccurate to use the phraseology, “the sun rose,” but even planetary scientists use the term descriptively; it is an idiomatic peculiarity of the human experience expressed in language.

Those who seek to accommodate current scientific assumptions, to help the Bible out and excuse what they view as an obvious contra-scientific view of origins, try to argue that the first several chapters of Genesis are obviously in the same category; they are observational, phenomenological descriptions only which are something more than myth but less than strictly accurate.

You have several galactically massive problems with that view.  Not the least of which is that the Creation account is given in such exacting detail down to an explicit chronology, that the Spirit sure does seem to have Himself at least at one time believed that He was accurately recording the events He claims to have not only been witness to but actually the active agent in.  Too bad the Holy Spirit didn’t have the benefit of modern science, there, eh?  Poor divine Guy…

The Spirit’s not the only Person of the Trinity Who suffers from this myopia, either; Jesus apparently didn’t have that information, either.  He certainly seems to have been victim to the mistaken idea that Genesis is accurate and trustworthy.  He didn’t have the advantage of living in the modern era, here in the Year of Our Lord Darwin 200, where such silly misconceptions could have been corrected and He could have spared Himself (to say nothing of His less conservative followers) considerable embarrassment.

The bottom line for me, and one which those who hold this sort of view vigorously deny is the case, is that it all boils down to a question of authority.

Either the Bible is the final authority for the Christian, or it isn’t.  You can’t have it both ways, and there is no via media.  If it is the final authority, then all things must be viewed through its lens.

The modern (and the postmodern, ironically enough) view Scripture through a lens other than itself.

The modern views Scripture through the lens of current scientific understanding.  The idea is that the Biblical authors were genuine and sincere, but also ignorant, and while the Bible is accurate in the message it seeks to convey, the particulars must be viewed through our much more complete understanding of the way of things and must be redacted to fit more comfortably into the worldview we now know to be established scientific fact.

Except…that it’s not established.

Science, by its very nature, is constantly (dare I use the term?) evolving, constantly learning new things which put the older, “established” things into a different light, allowing for wholesale reinterpretation of previously unquestioned tenets.  We are vastly more ignorant than our premodern ancestors if we think that we have things so nailed down scientifically that we can now offer editorial help to God.  Even previously understood laws of science are vulnerable to reinterpretation in light of new information.  Just in the previous century, our entire understanding of the physical nature of creation had been turned on its head – not once, but several times.  In another hundred years (should the Lord tarry) I expect that our current understanding of physics (and with it, cosmology) will be again completely revolutionized.

By contrast, the Bible is fixed, unchangeable.  And given its origin (the God who created all things and exists wholly outside of Creation), is the only viable lens through which the Christian can and should view the world.

The modern views Scripture though the lens of our current, limited understanding of science; the postmodern views Scripture through the lens of culture.

Even worse an option.

I view both through the lens of Scripture.

So when the Bible sure does seem by every internal indication to teach that God created the universe in six consecutive chronological days, I have no choice but to accept that, and to view all data through that presupposition.

As Dr. Morris states in this tremendous article:

The difference is this: we believe the Bible must take priority over scientific theories, while they believe scientific theories must determine our biblical interpretations.

The issue is, categorically, one of authority.  If I view Scripture through any external lens, that lens is my true authority.  If I accommodate Scripture to culture, culture is my authority.  If I accommodate Scripture to current scientific understanding, then that is my authority.

If I instead accommodate both culture and current scientific understanding to Scritpure…then Scripture is my authority.

Read the article “Old-Earth Creationism” and consider its arguments.

Good article here from the Institute for Creation Research, which among other things looks at the current evangelical trend of soft-pedaling the all-important doctrine of inerrancy.

"Oh, I really don’t see it that way," he stated. "My church teaches that the Bible may be inspired, but it’s not inerrant. It’s all about man’s description of God."

I heartily agree with those who state that evangelicalism is in its twilight. Evangelicalism, ironically due to its obsession with relevance, is becoming increasingly irrelevant.  In seeking to accommodate itself to the zeitgeist, it has both consciously and unconsciously watered down the core tenets of the Scriptural faith and has become little differentiated from the moderate-to-liberal mainstream of modern Christianity.

There is a reason why most theologically paleoconservative church Statements of Faith (including CC Lakeshore’s) begin with a clear declaration along the lines of, “We believe the Bible to be the inspired, inerrant, verbal, plenary, confluent Word of God” or something along those lines. The reason is that without an inspired, inerrant Bible, we have no firm basis to believe in God in the first place – at least, no firm basis to believe in the God revealed in that very Bible.  It is the Bible which tells us of the Triune God, of the fall of man, of God’s work of redemption on the Cross, and of His soon-return for us at the end of the age.

And of Creation, and other bugaboo topics that theological neoconservatives really and fervently wish weren’t in the Bible, as they cause great embarrassment for them in their quest to be relevant and must be explained away rather than accepted and dealt with head-on.

The doctrine of Biblical inerrancy is under concerted attack from,  it seems, all quarters.  Even ostensibly theologically conservative pastors are wading into the fray, Clintonesquely parsing out what we mean by “inerrant.”

Makes me want to smack somebody.

Several somebodies.

The current hep-cat-yo-dog-g*money über-relevant prevarication is to affirm the Bible’s infallibility while failing to affirm its inerrancy.

Bottom line, if the Bible is not inerrant, it is not infallible.  The two conditions are necessarily and mutually inherent.  And if either is falsified, then the Bible is not authoritative – some other authority must be placed above it to ferret out those parts which are acceptable and which parts are not.

Detractors of the doctrine key in on the incontrovertible fact that no two individual manuscripts of the NT agree 100% – there are variations on spelling, and some juggling of sentences and word order.

True.

The NT manuscripts (much like the OT) were copied by hand; unlike the OT, the copies weren’t made by scholars, but by anybody who wanted a copy of the Scriptures for themselves.  There were no Christian bookstores you could go to to buy a Bible – indeed, there were no printing presses to make that a practical reality in the first place.  So the Scriptures were copied by hand, and as inevitably happens (especially given the writing medium and writing style of the first few centuries of the church) copyist errors crept in to individual manuscripts.

But – and this is an all-critical “however” – the autographs were copied so soon from the time of original writing, copied so frequently, and distributed so widely so rapidly, that though individual copies contained inevitable errors, the entire aggregate mass of NT copies – collectively called “witnesses” by textual scholars – along with the massive amount of quotations in lectionaries and patristic sermons and writings, plus the large number of early translations of the NT Books into other languages – as a whole retain the original readings.  It is the privilege and duty of textual scholars to collate the vast corpus of extant witnesses and extract the original readings by paring away the variants.

The result is that, while there are as many individual variants of the Text as there are witnesses, the sheer number of those witnesses ensures that the very words of Paul (for instance) are recorded in the whole body of manuscripts, fragments, lectionaries, and patristics.

What that means for us, is that though we don’t have the autographs themselves, we do have the autographical readings.  We can be assured that we do have the very Word of God, and that Jesus wasn’t misguided when He promised that “not one jot nor one tittle” will be lost or pass away from the Law (and by extension, the whole Word).

Therefore, this particular argument against inerrancy (i.e., that the Scriptures can’t be inerrant because there are textual variants in individual witnesses) falls apart.

So we (Calvary Chapel) as a movement are rightly obsessed with Biblical inerrancy – and woe betide the man who tries to self-identify with the movement and yet ignores or rejects this essential tenet of it.

Let me be clear: This is a hill we are quite willing to die on.

Now, if someone wants a much more cogent treatment of the doctrine of inerrancy, I can think of no better summary of the issue than the Chicago Statement.  It is probably the best and most balanced treatment on the issue that I’ve ever read; and it’s all the more incredible to me since it raises and answers all of the objections to inerrancy that I’ve ever encountered.

The whole Statement and exposition are worthy of reading and careful consideration; but for the benefit of both of my readers, I’ll quote the Articles of Affirmation and Denial from the Statement here:

Article I.

WE AFFIRM  that the Holy Scriptures are to be received as the authoritative Word of God.

WE DENY  that the Scriptures receive their authority from the Church, tradition, or any other human source.

Article II.

WE AFFIRM  that the Scriptures are the supreme written norm by which God binds the conscience, and that the authority of the Church is subordinate to that of Scripture.

WE DENY  that Church creeds, councils, or declarations have authority greater than or equal to the authority of the Bible.

Article III.

WE AFFIRM  that the written Word in its entirety is revelation given by God.

WE DENY  that the Bible is merely a witness to revelation, or only becomes revelation in encounter, or depends on the responses of men for its validity.

Article IV.

WE AFFIRM  that God who made mankind in His image has used language as a means of revelation.

WE DENY  that human language is so limited by our creatureliness that it is rendered inadequate as a vehicle for divine revelation. We further deny that the corruption of human culture and language through sin has thwarted God’s work of inspiration.

Article V.

WE AFFIRM  that God’s revelation within the Holy Scriptures was progressive.

WE DENY  that later revelation, which may fulfill earlier revelation, ever corrects or contradicts it. We further deny that any normative revelation has been given since the completion of the New Testament writings.

Article VI.

WE AFFIRM  that the whole of Scripture and all its parts, down to the very words of the original, were given by divine inspiration.

WE DENY  that the inspiration of Scripture can rightly be affirmed of the whole without the parts, or of some parts but not the whole.

Article VII.

WE AFFIRM  that inspiration was the work in which God by His Spirit, through human writers, gave us His Word. The origin of Scripture is divine. The mode of divine inspiration remains largely a mystery to us.

WE DENY  that inspiration can be reduced to human insight, or to heightened states of consciousness of any kind.

Article VIII.

WE AFFIRM  that God in His work of inspiration utilized the distinctive personalities and literary styles of the writers whom He had chosen and prepared.

WE DENY  that God, in causing these writers to use the very words that He chose, overrode their personalities.

Article IX.

WE AFFIRM  that inspiration, though not conferring omniscience, guaranteed true and trustworthy utterance on all matters of which the Biblical authors were moved to speak and write.

WE DENY  that the finitude or fallenness of these writers, by necessity or otherwise, introduced distortion or falsehood into God’s Word.

Article X.

WE AFFIRM  that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture, which in the providence of God can be ascertained from available manuscripts with great accuracy. We further affirm that copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original.

WE DENY  that any essential element of the Christian faith is affected by the absence of the autographs. We further deny that this absence renders the assertion of Biblical inerrancy invalid or irrelevant.

Article XI.

WE AFFIRM  that Scripture, having been given by divine inspiration, is infallible, so that, far from misleading us, it is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses.

WE DENY  that it is possible for the Bible to be at the same time infallible and errant in its assertions. Infallibility and inerrancy may be distinguished, but not separated.

Article XII.

WE AFFIRM  that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit.

WE DENY  that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.

Article XIII.

WE AFFIRM  the propriety of using inerrancy as a theological term with reference to the complete truthfulness of Scripture.

WE DENY  that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose. We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations.

Article XIV.

WE AFFIRM  the unity and internal consistency of Scripture.

WE DENY  that alleged errors and discrepancies that have not yet been resolved vitiate the truth claims of the Bible.

Article XV.

WE AFFIRM  that the doctrine of inerrancy is grounded in the teaching of the Bible about inspiration.

WE DENY  that Jesus’ teaching about Scripture may be dismissed by appeals to accommodation or to any natural limitation of His humanity.

Article XVI.

WE AFFIRM  that the doctrine of inerrancy has been integral to the Church’s faith throughout its history.

WE DENY  that inerrancy is a doctrine invented by scholastic Protestantism, or is a reactionary position postulated in response to negative higher criticism.

Article XVII.

WE AFFIRM  that the Holy Spirit bears witness to the Scriptures, assuring believers of the truthfulness of God’s written Word.

WE DENY  that this witness of the Holy Spirit operates in isolation from or against Scripture.

Article XVIII.

WE AFFIRM  that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture.

WE DENY  the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claims to authorship.

Article XIX.

WE AFFIRM  that a confession of the full authority, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture is vital to a sound understanding of the whole of the Christian faith. We further affirm that such confession should lead to increasing conformity to the image of Christ.

WE DENY  that such confession is necessary for salvation. However, we further deny that inerrancy can be rejected without grave consequences, both to the individual and to the Church.

It’s become very vogue to chortle at the Left Behind series of books by LaHaye and Jenkins and their subsequent movie adaptations.  Even many who share a dispensational (i.e., pretrib premil) eschatology, seemingly in order to fit in with the hep-cat-yo-dog-g*money über-relevant cool kids crowd have taken up the laugh track.

Oy.

You can’t see it, but I’m rolling my eyes.

I’d like to go on record as saying that I liked the series overall.  Granted, the prose was…pedestrian.  And the theology was a bit sensationalistic and took some fairly healthy leaps of poetic license.  But come on, guys…it was a series of fiction books.  Let’s all take a deep, cleansing breath, step back a bit, grab ourselves a nice, tall glass of ice-cold milk, and just chill.

Eh?

Can we do that, mayhap?

Understanding that it was written for the broadest audience possible, I can excuse the somewhat less-than-inspired writing. (On that note, I find it more than a bit ironic that all the hep-cat-yo-dog-g*money über-relevant cool kids, who put such a galactically huge emphasis on “contextualization” and “reaching and engaging the culture, duuuuude” got and get their underbritches all in a bunch over the purposeful accessibility of the Left Behind series… Things that make you go, “hmmmmmmm…”)  And I can excuse the leaps the series makes – they’re adapting a prophetic scenario that, quite frankly, defies full visualization, and the authors didn’t do a singularly terrible job of filling in the gaps.

Mostly, the reaction against Left Behind has its genesis in and is fuelled by that segment of the church which hates severely dislikes isnt’ a huge fan of dispensational eschatology.

Okay, fair enough. Come up with your own fiction series, then, which emphasizes your own eschatological distinctives and go about your way.

What the Left Behind series illustrated (and actually continues to illustrate) is that there is a vast reservoir of interest in Biblical prophecy in America – people are very curious about what the Biblical scenario is and how it intersects if at all with their lives and current events in general.  Should they rather get that information from the Bible itself – or at least from good, solid scholarly sources? Sure. But the fact that they’re so obviously and hugely interested in the subject in the first place is a very telling thing – and, frankly, when someone gets interested in Left Behind, they usually want to dig deeper – which means that they usually begin to ask questions that they didn’t even know how to ask before and seek out the answers in more reliable avenues.

Or at least, that’s been my experience here on the glorious west coast of Michigan.

Which is an incredible thing; West Michigan is a hotbed of both Reformed (and therefore usually a- or post-millennialism) and Emergent Christianity – two houses which in today’s climate tend to be decidedly hostile to dispensationalism (with, of course, notable exceptions).  The hippest churches tend toward a very decidedly nonchalant attitude towards eschatology altogether.

And yet, even here in West Michigan, Left Behind remains a very popular fiction series.

That says something.

Oh, yes, I know, you can shake your head in mock despair and say that what it reveals is the rampancy of Biblical nescience, if only they’d get a hold of towering theological treasures like Blue Like Jazz and The Apocalypse Code they’d be cured of their benightedness…

…I choose not to assume that it means that the rank-and-file are, as a group, idiots.

Instead, I believe it speaks to a real hunger to know more about the Lord, and about what His Word says about history – they want to know, especially now, that there is a God in heaven who knows, who cares, and who is sovereignly moving the great and small events of life toward a determined (and ultimately very hopeful) end.

Left Behind tapped and continues to tap into that vast groundswell.

And so I say again, overall, I liked the series.

Excellent job, Tim and Jerry.  Excellent job.

And to the hep-cat-yo-dog-g*money über-relevant cool kids who spare no hauteur attacking both the books and their authors – get a hobby.  Seriously. You’re embarrassing yourselves.

So the other day, a friend of mine and fellow pastor, Jim Bomkamp, asked me to consider posting the following article here. The author is an elder at Jim’s fellowship, Calvary Chapel Green Bay, named Dave Reynolds.

Interesting stuff…


Evidence for Christ’s Atonement from a Surprising Source: The Jewish Talmud

Introduction

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I determined to get away for a weekend, and I asked Dave, one of the church elders, to do the Sunday teaching for me. This document contains the fantastic message that he gave that morning. I have only edited it to cause it to be more Internet-friendly and apply more specifically to the blog reader.

The information that I will share with you today has existed for many hundreds of years, but is virtually unknown in Christendom. Some believers[1] have discovered this information and are now making it known.

When I first came across this information, I was surprised but joyful, and it greatly encouraged my soul. Nevertheless, I began to have some doubts, because it just seemed “too good to be true,” and I have a tremendous predisposition to believe that if something seems too good to be true, it usually isn’t true. However, when I went to the original source documents, I found to my surprise that they say exactly what they were asserted to have said, and were not the products of wishful thinking, as I feared they were.

This information lends compelling credence to the fact that the world of Judaism changed forever in the year 30 AD. Specifically, I will share with you today four documented miraculous occurrences that began to manifest themselves in the year 30 AD.

Historical background/sources

The Talmud

In order to make sense of this information, I will need to spend some time establishing the historical and spiritual background from a Hebraic perspective. For the source of this incredible story is a collection of documents known as the Talmud. What is the Talmud? There are actually two versions: The Babylonian Talmud and the Jerusalem (or Palestinian) Talmud. Both consist of two parts: the Mishnah and the Gemarra. The Mishnah, or codification of laws, is written primarily in Hebrew, and is identical in both versions. The Gemarras, sets of lengthy and rambling commentaries on the Mishnah, were both written in Aramaic, and differ somewhat between the Babylonian and Jerusalem versions. The Jerusalem Talmud consists of writings that were assembled between about 300 BC and about 400 AD, while the Babylonian Talmud was started at the same time as the Jerusalem Talmud, but completed about 100 years later. The Babylonian Talmud is more well-known and commented upon than the Jerusalem version, owing largely to the fact that the rabbinic academies of Babylonia survived those in Palestine by many centuries.

For many hundreds of years, the Talmud has been the principal subject of Jewish study. There is no direct analogy between the Talmud and anything in Christian literature. While Jewish people have studied and revered it for centuries, they do not seem to regard it with the same reverence as the Hebrew Scriptures. However, they do regard it with more reverence than we Christians would regard the great exegetical classics and commentaries of the Christian faith.

Just to make this perfectly clear, let me say that I do not regard the Talmud to be a holy book, or in any way inspired by the Holy Spirit in the same way as the Bible. Nor do I recommend that any Christian study it the way we should study the scriptures. However, I do think that since we Christians have been grafted into the commonwealth of Israel[2], it behooves us to understand some of the background, as long as we approach that study carefully and prayerfully, always keeping in mind that all scripture points to the Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus) and his redemptive work on our behalf.

Why should we care?

Why am I bringing this message to you today? There are two primary reasons:

To bolster our faith

First, I found this information to be personally encouraging, and my hope is that it will bolster your faith, as it did my own. The world teaches us that the Bible is a collection of myths that are perhaps useful to some people for the purpose of teaching general moral principles. However, this viewpoint ignores that fact the historical archeology keeps revealing more and more as time goes on that these so-called myths are actually factual events that really occurred. This information from the Talmud is like a literary archeology that confirms important elements of our faith, even though it was written by people who had no interest whatsoever in advocating or advancing the Christian faith.

To have a witness for our Jewish friends

Secondly, I hope this information will provide powerful opportunities to witness to our friends that are Jewish. It does virtually no good to witness to Jewish people using the New Testament scriptures, since they are taught from childhood that the New Testament is invalid. However, if we can witness to Jewish people starting from the Old Testament (particularly the Torah) and from the Talmud, documents that they are predisposed to believe, we have a better chance of actually engaging them in a discussion that leads to a chance to present the gospel.

Four miraculous events starting forty years prior to the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem

The amazing text from the Talmud that we shall consider this morning reads as follows:

The rabbis taught: Forty years before the Temple was destroyed, the lot never came into the right hand, the red wool did not become white, the western light did not burn, and the gates of the Temple opened of themselves, till the time that R. Johanan b. Zakkai rebuked them, saying: "Temple, Temple, why alarmest thou us? We know that thou art destined to be destroyed. For of thee hath prophesied Zechariah ben Iddo [Zech. xi. 1]: ‘Open thy doors, O Lebanon, and the fire shall eat thy cedars.‘"[3]

Yom Kippur

The first two of the miraculous events described in the Talmud have to do with Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. Let’s look to see the Biblical description of the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16:

1Now the LORD spoke to Moses after (A)the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they had approached the presence of the LORD and died.  2The LORD said to Moses: "Tell your brother Aaron that he shall not enter (B)at any time into the holy place inside the veil, before the [a]mercy seat which is on the ark, or he will die; for (C)I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat.  3"Aaron shall enter the holy place with this: with a bull for a (D)sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.  4"He shall put on the (E)holy linen tunic, and the linen undergarments shall be next to his body, and he shall be girded with the linen sash and attired with the linen turban (these are holy garments) Then he shall (F)bathe his body in water and put them on.  5"He shall take from the congregation of the sons of Israel (G)two male goats for a sin offering and one ram for a burnt offering.  6"Then (H)Aaron shall offer the bull for the sin offering which is for himself, that he may make atonement for himself and for his household.  7"He shall take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the doorway of the tent of meeting.  8"Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for the [b]scapegoat.  9"Then Aaron shall offer the goat on which the lot for the LORD fell, and make it a sin offering.  10"But the goat on which the lot for the scapegoat fell shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make (I)atonement upon it, to send it into the wilderness as the scapegoat.  11"Then Aaron shall offer the bull of the sin offering (J)which is for himself and make atonement for himself and (K)for his household, and he shall slaughter the bull of the sin offering which is for himself.  12"He shall take a (L)firepan full of coals of fire from upon the altar before the LORD and two handfuls of finely ground (M)sweet incense, and bring it inside the veil.  13"He shall put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of incense may cover the (N)mercy seat that is on the ark of the testimony, (O)otherwise he will die.  14"Moreover, (P)he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it (Q)with his finger on the mercy seat on the east side; also in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.  15"Then he shall slaughter the goat of the sin offering (R)which is for the people, and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat.  16"(S)He shall make atonement for the holy place, because of the impurities of the sons of Israel and because of their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and thus he shall do for the tent of meeting which abides with them in the midst of their impurities.  17"When he goes in to make atonement in the holy place, no one shall be in the tent of meeting until he comes out, that he may make atonement for himself and for his household and for all the assembly of Israel.  18"Then he shall go out to the altar that is before the LORD and make atonement for it, and shall take some of the blood of the bull and of the blood of the goat and (T)put it on the horns of the altar on all sides.  19"(U)With his finger he shall sprinkle some of the blood on it seven times and cleanse it, and from the impurities of the sons of Israel consecrate it.  20"When he finishes atoning for the holy place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall offer the live goat.  21"Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and (V)confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness.  22"The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness.  23"Then Aaron shall come into the tent of meeting and take off (W)the linen garments which he put on when he went into the holy place, and shall leave them there.  24"(X)He shall bathe his body with water in a holy place and put on (Y)his clothes, and come forth and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people and make atonement for himself and for the people.  25"Then he shall offer up in smoke the fat of the sin offering on the altar.  26"The one who released the goat as the scapegoat (Z)shall wash his clothes and bathe his body with water; then afterward he shall come into the camp.  27"But the bull of the sin offering and the goat of the sin offering, (AA)whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place, shall be taken outside the camp, and they shall burn their hides, their flesh, and their refuse in the fire.  28"Then the (AB)one who burns them shall wash his clothes and bathe his body with water, then afterward he shall come into the camp.  29"This shall be a permanent statute for you: (AC)in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall humble your souls and not (AD)do any work, whether the native, or the alien who sojourns among you;  30 for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to (AE)cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before the LORD.  31"It is to be a sabbath of solemn rest for you, that you may (AF)humble your souls; it is a permanent statute.  32"So the priest who is anointed and ordained to serve as priest in his father’s place shall make atonement: he shall thus put on (AG)the linen garments, the holy garments,  33 and make atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar. He shall also make atonement for (AH)the priests and for all the people of the assembly. 34"Now you shall have this as a (AI)permanent statute, to (AJ)make atonement for the sons of Israel for all their sins once every year." And just as the LORD had commanded Moses, so he did.

Miracle #1: The taking of the lots

The first miracle has to do with the taking of the lots for the two goats on the Day of Atonement, as mentioned in verses 7 and 8:

He shall take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the doorway of the tent of meeting.  "Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for the [b]scapegoat.

It’s interesting note that the word “scapegoat” in our language has come to mean the opposite of its original intent!

The Talmud gives more detail on exactly how the rituals described in Leviticus were to be performed:

MISHNA: “He shook the box, and took out two lots. On one is written, "to Jehovah"; on the other is written, "to Azazel." The Segan (a priest second-in command to the high priest) is at his right, and the head of the family [see above] on his left. If that of Jehovah was taken up by his right hand, the Segan says to him, "My lord the high-priest, raise thy right hand." If that of Jehovah was taken up by his left hand, the head of the family addresses him: "My lord the high-priest, raise thy left hand." He placed them [the lots] on the two he-goats, and uttered: "To Jehovah a sin-offering." R. Ishmael says: It was not necessary for him to say "sin-offering," but "to Jehovah" sufficed. They responded: "Blessed be the name of His kingdom’s glory for ever."[4]

The Talmud further elaborates: “Why had he to shake the box? That he should not have intentionally taken that for Jehovah in his right hand (as it was a good omen if he took it up by chance).[5]

Not only was this ritual done exactly the same each year, but it was also recorded whether the lot for the Lord was taken up by the high priest’s right or left hand.

Now, the Talmudic passage cited previously states that, for the forty years preceding the destruction of the Temple, the lot for the Lord NEVER came into the high priest’s right hand. What is the probability of that happening? Well, since there were only two lots in the box, there is a fifty-fifty chance each year that the stone for the LORD would come up in the right hand and a fifty-fifty chance of it coming up in the left hand. Now the laws of probability state that the probability of consecutive events happening is the product of the probabilities of the individual events. So the probability of the stone coming up in the left hand two years in a row is 1-in-2 squared, or 1-in-4. For it to come up in the left hand three years in a row would be 1-in-2 cubed, or 1-in-8. The probability of the stone coming up in the left hand for forty years in a row is 1-in-2 to the fortieth power, or one in one trillion, nine-nine billion, five hundred eleven million, six hundred twenty seven thousand, seven hundred seventy six. That probability is the same as predicting the exact second some random event will occur sometime within a period of thirty five thousand years.

Clearly, something extraordinary started happening in Israel in 30 AD.

Miracle #2: The crimson strap

In addition to the ritual of the lots for the goats, the Talmud describes another ritual concerning the goats that was also performed annually:

MISHNA: “He tied a tongue of crimson wool to the head of the goat that was to be sent away [the scapegoat], and placed him opposite to the gate through which he was to be transferred; and the one to be slaughtered, opposite to the place of its slaughtering. He went to his bull a second time, putting his hands on him, and confessing in these terms: "I beseech thee, Jehovah, I have committed iniquities, transgressed, and sinned before Thee, I and my house, and the sons of Aaron, Thy holy people: I beseech Thee, Jehovah, forgive the iniquities, transgressions, and sins which I have committed, transgressed, and sinned, I and my house, and the sons of Aaron, Thy holy people, as it is written in the Torah of Moses Thy servant: ‘For on that day shall he make atonement for you, to cleanse you from all your sins, that ye may be pure before Jehovah.’" They respond after him: "Blessed is the name of His kingdom’s glory forever."[6]

Symbolizing the scapegoat’s throat having been slashed, a "crimson strap" was tied to each horn and passed under his throat during this ceremony. Before being led away to the wilderness, the crimson strap was tied to one of the Temple gates.[7]

Before the destruction of the original Temple, there was a High Priest named Simeon the Upright. During the years of his priesthood, according to the Talmud, “And the tongue of crimson wool, during the time of Simeon the Upright, always became white. But after Simeon the Upright, sometimes it became white, sometimes it remained red.”[8]

But the Talmud states that during the forty years prior to the destruction of the Temple, “the red wool did not become white.” This would not have been alarming had it happened for two or three years in a row, but as the years piled up during which the crimson wool remained crimson, there was an increasing feeling of impending doom both for the Temple and for the Nation of Israel. Again, like the first sign, this sign persisted for the last forty years of the existence of the Temple.

Miracle #3: The western light of the Menorah

The Talmud said that “The rabbis taught: Forty years before the Temple was destroyed, the lot never came into the right hand, the red wool did not become white, the western light did not burn, and the gates of the Temple opened of themselves."[9]

The Menorah, or Candelabra, was purportedly the one fashioned by Bezalel in the book of Exodus:

Exodus 25: 31 "Make a lampstand of pure gold and hammer it out, base and shaft; its flowerlike cups, buds and blossoms shall be of one piece with it. 32 Six branches are to extend from the sides of the lampstand—three on one side and three on the other. 33 Three cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms are to be on one branch, three on the next branch, and the same for all six branches extending from the lampstand. 34 And on the lampstand there are to be four cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms. 35 One bud shall be under the first pair of branches extending from the lampstand, a second bud under the second pair, and a third bud under the third pair—six branches in all. 36 The buds and branches shall all be of one piece with the lampstand, hammered out of pure gold.  37 "Then make its seven lamps and set them up on it so that they light the space in front of it. 38 Its wick trimmers and trays are to be of pure gold. 39 A talent [g] of pure gold is to be used for the lampstand and all these accessories. 40 See that you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.

The Menorah stood approximately six feet high, and was placed in the Holy Place on the south wall, with its branches facing east-west.

The Jewish Encyclopedia has this to say about the daily ritual concerning the Menorah:

The cleaning and refilling of the lamps, except the two most easterly, were performed by a priest every morning. If the priest found them extinguished, he relighted them. The two eastern lamps were left burning till after the morning service, and were then cleaned and refilled (Tamid iii. 9; Yoma 33a). The Ner ha-Ma’arabi (the Western lamp), also called "Ner Elohim" (I Sam. iii. 3), was left burning all day and was refilled in the evening. It served to light all the lamps. The Ner ha-Ma’arabi contained no more oil than the other lamps, a half-log measure (1 log contains the liquid of six eggs), sufficient to last during the longest winter night (Men. 89a).[10]

Prior to 30 AD, the Western Lamp would sometimes stay lit throughout the night, and sometimes not. However, from 30 AD. onward, the Western Lamp was never found to be lit in the morning on any day for the next forty years when the priest went in to tend to the Menorah.

Once again, as this went on longer and longer, the Jewish leaders increasingly interpreted it as a sign of impending disaster.

Miracle #4: The temple gates

Recall how the Talmudic passage described the opening of the Temple gates.

“…, and the gates of the Temple opened of themselves, till the time that R. Johanan b. Zakkai rebuked them, saying: "Temple, Temple, why alarmest thou us? We know that thou art destined to be destroyed. For of thee hath prophesied Zechariah ben Iddo [Zech. xi. 1]: ‘Open thy doors, O Lebanon, and the fire shall eat thy cedars.‘"[11]

This occurred nightly for the forty years prior to the destruction of the Temple. These gates were most likely the Nicanor Gates, whose initial opening is described by the great Jewish historian, Josephus:

Moreover, the eastern gate of the inner, [court of the temple,] which was of brass, and vastly heavy, and had been with difficulty shut by twenty men, and rested upon a basis armed with iron, and had bolts fastened very deep into the firm floor, which was there made of one entire stone, was seen to be opened of its own accord about the sixth hour of the night. Now, those that kept watch in the temple came thereupon running to the captain of the temple, and told him of it; who then came up thither, and not without great difficulty was able to shut the gate again. This also appeared to the vulgar to be a very happy prodigy, as if God did thereby open them the gate of happiness. But the men of learning understood it, that the security of their holy house was dissolved of its own accord, and that the gate was opened for the advantage of their enemies. So these publicly declared, that this signal foreshewed the DESOLATION that was coming upon them” – (IV,5,3).[12]

The gates were fifty cubits high and forty cubits across[13], so you can imagine the surprise and alarm caused by their mysterious self-openings.

The significance of forty years prior to the destruction of the Temple

So what cataclysmic event occurred in 30 AD. to set off the miraculous things just described? It was the crucifixion of the one for whom the Temple was built in the first place. The one who, when asked by his followers about the beauty and majesty of the Temple, responded, “2"Do you see all these things?" he asked. "I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."[14] Why is it that the writers of the Talmud never associated these events with the rejection of Messiah? We may never know, but we can thank God that these things were recorded in the Talmud, and that by them, some of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob may come to know that the calamitous events described came as the result of the rejection of the promised Messiah. We can pray that this knowledge will bring about the godly sorrow that leads to repentance and salvation by the blood of the Lamb.

Summation:

In this article, we looked at the odds of just one of these four miracles occurring continually every year for the forty years leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The odds of all four occurring simultaneously for those forty years would be the product of multiplying that statistic times itself four times. Simply put, from a mathematical and statistical perspective, there isn’t even a computer invented today who could manipulate a number so large: this had to be a divine miracle intended to testify of Yeshua’s atonement to Israel.

The fact that the source is the Talmud, and that the Jews were the enemies of the Christians when the Talmud was written, proves that this is no hoax foisted by Christian sympathizers. The fact that the Jews still do not get the significance of any of these things beginning to happen the year that Christ was crucified is further evidence of the validity of these things.

Further sources for study online:

http://ezinearticles.com/?Jerusalem-After-Gibsons-Movie-Ending&id=1315918

http://wilkerson.110mb.com/index.htm

http://www.windowview.org/jandg.files/frms/talmds.frm.html

http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/t03/yom09.htm

http://www.hope-of-israel.org/glory.htm

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com

http://ezinearticles.com/?Jewish—Christian–Biblical–Cover–Up&id=1042732

http://www.ensignmessage.com/archives/mysteriousevents.html

Footnotes:

[1] Reiland, Robert, “Jewish – Christian Biblical Coverup,” http://ezinearticles.com/?Jewish—Christian–Biblical–Cover–Up&id=1042732.

2 Romans 11:17

3 The Babylonian Talmud, Book 3, Chapter 4, http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/t03/yom09.htm

4 IBID.

5 IBID

6 IBID

7 Reiland, Robert, “Jerusalem After Gibson’s Movie Ending,” http://ezinearticles.com/?Jerusalem-After-Gibsons-Movie-Ending&id=1315918

8 The Babylonian Talmud, Book 3, Chapter 4, http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/t03/yom09.htm

9 The Babylonian Talmud, Book 3, Chapter 4, http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/t03/yom09.htm

[1]0 The Jewish Encyclopedia, http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=466&letter=M&search=menorah

[1][1]The Babylonian Talmud, Book 3, Chapter 4, http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/t03/yom09.htm

[1]2 Josephus, Wars of the Jews.

[1]3 James Hastings, John Alexander Selbie, John Chisholm Lambert, A Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, http://books.google.com/books?id=OJUAAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA709&lpg=PA709&dq=gate+of+nicanor&source=web&ots=xfWG-_HamZ&sig=RMdAiuLhBI3iKgJP7BY7VU5BIuU&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=6&ct=result

[1]4 Matthew 24:2


[1] Reiland, Robert, “Jewish – Christian Biblical Coverup,” http://ezinearticles.com/?Jewish—Christian–Biblical–Cover–Up&id=1042732.

[2] Romans 11:17

[3] The Babylonian Talmud, Book 3, Chapter 4, http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/t03/yom09.htm

[4] IBID.

[5] IBID

[6] IBID

[7] Reiland, Robert, “Jerusalem After Gibson’s Movie Ending,” http://ezinearticles.com/?Jerusalem-After-Gibsons-Movie-Ending&id=1315918

[8] The Babylonian Talmud, Book 3, Chapter 4, http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/t03/yom09.htm

[9] The Babylonian Talmud, Book 3, Chapter 4, http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/t03/yom09.htm

[10] The Jewish Encyclopedia, http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=466&letter=M&search=menorah

[11] The Babylonian Talmud, Book 3, Chapter 4, http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/t03/yom09.htm

[12] Josephus, Wars of the Jews.

[13] James Hastings, John Alexander Selbie, John Chisholm Lambert, A Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, http://books.google.com/books?id=OJUAAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA709&lpg=PA709&dq=gate+of+nicanor&source=web&ots=xfWG-_HamZ&sig=RMdAiuLhBI3iKgJP7BY7VU5BIuU&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=6&ct=result

[14] Matthew 24:2

In an effort to continue to be hep-cat-yo-dog-g*money relevant like the Emerging/Emergents say I should be, I think it’s time that I roll out my very first über-pretentious “look at me, I’m culturalMusic Monday.

This band combines subtle undertones which weave a delightful genash of plethoboronic supertensions inundated with just a hint of thyme and blah blah blah blah insert pointless relevant cultural commentary on the music here yadda yadda yadda –

– er, ah…sorry.

Ahem.

I saw this over on Dr. James White’s Pros Apologian blog, and thought it was rip-roariously hilarious.

Enjoy…

 

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