Saturday, August 20, 2011
Let's check out the interior workings of the Bible. I have been doing so many extra-scripture studies because to me it helps to bring the Word alive when I know everything else that was going on at the time!
Jerome (340-420) began his lifestyle of contemplation and rigorous self-denial for religious purposes, as a hermit but found he needed something to occupy his mind. He took up Hebrew and eventually began teaching classes in biblical interpretation. In A. D. 382 he would translate the Old and New Testament from their original languages (Hebrew and Greek) into Latin─what we call the "Vulgate."
The test of canonicity included: (1) the book had to have a history of being used in Christian worship; (2) the book had to be written by an apostle, or associated with an apostle; and (3) the book had to have evidenced power in the lives of believers.
No New Testament. During the entire first century and much of the second century there was no concept of a New Testament canon. Church fathers often quoted from sources that were familiar in tone yet different in the names of the sources. Paul's writings were the most well known and were quoted often, but they were not thought of as scriptural.
The term New Testament was created by Tertullian around the year 200. In an attempt to move the church away from Greek and toward Latin, which has become the preferred language of scholars, Tertullian referred to the writings of the Christian church as Novum Testamentum--a phrase we still employ today. Interestingly Tertullian also coined the term Trinity to refer to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
A New Testament Canon was not looked upon favorably at first. In fact it was through heretical movements that the New Testament came into being as a legitimate part of the Holy Bible. Marcion was a teacher who broke away from the church in Rome. Around A. D. 150 he rejected the Old Testament and instead chose to accept only ten letters from Paul along with the Gospel of Luke as authoritative Christian Scripture.
The Muratorian Canon is named for its discoverer, L.A. Muratori, who first published it in 1740. A fascinating look into the early church, it reveals that by the year 190, Christians had developed their own New Testament and put it alongside the Jewish Scriptures─the former the fulfillment of the latter. It contains in order: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Galatians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Romans, Philemon, Titus, 1 and 2 Timothy, the Apocalypse of John (Revelations), the Apocalypse of Peter, and the Wisdom of Solomon.
Some books of Scripture faced challenges. Christians in the West didn't like Hebrews, while those in the East opposed Revelation. Church historian Eusebuis, writing in the fourth century, noted that James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation were the only books "spoken against." Martin Luther would challenge the Book of James in the sixteenth century, calling it "an epistle of straw."
Accepted at last. The Eastern church accepted the New Testament as we know it in A. D. 367 with the 39th Pashal Letter of Athanasius, and the Western church followed suit after Pope Damascus called a synod together in Rome in 382.
The allegorical method of interpretation went to extreme lengths to try to make the Old Testament into a Christian book. Origen, one of the first Christian theologians, believed that "the Scriptures were composed through the Spirit of God and have both a meaning which is obvious and another which is hidden." He then proceeded to create all sorts of allegorical meanings to the Word of God─infuriating his critics, who felt that Origen was crafting theological implications out of thin air.
I hope I didn't cross your eyes too much, but this kind of info is fascinating to me! I'll finish this up in the next lesson!
by Bonnie Calhoun
Sunday, June 26, 2011
In our Sunday lesson, I want to delve into the incredible accuracy of the Old Testament. Although the Bible has been relentlessly attacked by unbelieving scholars for more than a century, it still stands as the most accurate and authoritative book ever written.
Evidence from historical inscriptions and manuscripts discovered in the last century prove that the Word of God is inspired. Although we will never be able to verify every miniscule piece of data, the overwhelming evidence will provide any reader with the confidence that we have established the credibility of the greatest book ever written!
For example: Critics denied that Moses could have written his account in the fifteenth century before Christ because they claimed that writing was not yet invented. However, the discovery by archeologists of numerous ancient written inscriptions, including the famous black stele containing the Laws of Hammurabi written before 2000 B.C., have conclusively proven that writing was widespread for many centuries before the time of Moses.
The Greek historian Herodotus discussed the Exodus in his book Polymnia, section c. 89: "This people [the Israelites], by their own account, inhabited the coasts of the Red Sea, but migrated thence to the maritime parts of Syria, all which district, as far as Egypt, is denominated Palestine."
It is an interesting note about Herodotus is that he was a secular historian. In his own history, he wrote, "my business is to record what people say. But I am by no means bound to believe it." We can also note that he was extremely careful and accurate in his recording of historical fact.
Another interesting note is that Strabo, a pagan historian and geographer who was born in 54 B.C., also confirmed the history of the Jews and their escape from Egypt under the leadership of Moses. He wrote, "Among many things believed respecting the temple and inhabitants of Jerusalem, the report most credited is that the Egyptians were the ancestors of the present Jews.
An Egyptian priest named Moses, who possessed a portion of the country called lower Egypt, being dissatisfied with the institutions there, left it and came to Judea with a large body of people who worshipped the Divinity." (Strabo, Geography, lib.xvi.,c.2).
Many critics have also suggested that such a dry desert area as the Sinai could never have supported the huge flocks of sheep of the Israelites as recorded in Exodus. In 1860, W. Holland explored most of the Sinai Peninsula. Despite the present conditions, he found some areas that would still support large herds and that at one time the peninsula itself was formerly thickly wooded. (W. Holland, Recent Explorations in the Peninsula of Sinai, 1869)
by Bonnie Calhoun
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Most rivers in the Bible lands dry up during the rainless summer, but not the Nile. Heavy rains and melting snow feed the tributaries that form the Nile River. The torrent of water reaches Egypt during the late summer and it overflows the banks, leaving a fresh layer of fertile moist soil along its banks.
The Holy Land is so small that a soaring eagle can see almost all it at once on a clear day. From Dan to Beersheba is little more than 150 miles, roughly the same distance as from New York City to Albany. From east to west, the Holy Land is even narrower. At its widest point, a hundred miles lie between the Mediterranean coast and the Arabian Desert on the east. The land in which such great events took place is only a little larger than the state of New Jersey and smaller than Belgium.
The Holy Lands position at the crossroads of three continents makes it a meeting ground for species of plant and animals of different origins. Almost every kind of bird, for example, that inhabits northern Africa, southern Europe, and western Asia has been seen at one time or another in the Bible Lands. The fauna comes from as far away as Central Asia (the horse), equatorial Africa (the crocodile), and western Europe (the stork).
The great variety of deserts, mountains, forests, grasslands, lakes, and seashores provide nearly every possible habitat in which plants and animals can find the exact living conditions they need. About 2,500 species of trees and shrubs and annual and perennial plants grow in the Holy Land; Egypt, although much larger, has only 1,500. About 700 species of mammals, birds, and reptiles are found in the Holy Land.
The contrasts in the landscape are remarkable. Mount Hermon rises to 9,400 feet, and its summit is artic in climate. A little over a hundred miles away, at the Dead Sea, the climate is tropical. In the same glance you can see snow-capped mountains and sun-baked deserts. Alongside cultivated fields are stark deserts that afford scarcely enough pasture for flocks.
The road from Jerusalem to Jericho drops three thousand feet in only fifteen miles, and while fruit is growing on the farms around Jericho, it may be snowing in Jerusalem. The varied animals and plants, the many different landscapes, the abrupt changes in climate─all these realities were observed by the bible's writers. And they put them to use to illustrate spiritual teachings.
The Jordan Valley is part of the Great Rift that extends from Turkey deep into Africa for four thousand miles. The Great Rift is the deepest chasm on the face of the globe. Unlike the Grand Canyon, which was formed by the process of erosion, great swells and cracking of the earth's crust caused huge blocks of land to collapse, leaving deep valleys that were flooded. In the Holy Land this formed the Jordan River, Lake Huleh, the Sea of Galilee, and the Dead Sea.
The shore of the Dead Sea is the lowest place on the land surface of the earth. This sea is also the saltiest body of water in the world, and nine times saltier than the oceans! It is so salty that it is impossible for a human swimmer to sink in it. During the Roman siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, a Roman commander sentenced some prisoners to death by having them thrown in from a hill, but they did not drown, Several times they were pulled out and tossed in again, yet each time they bobbed to the surface. The commander was impressed by this seeming miracle, since he did not understand its cause, and he pardoned the prisoners.
Ancient Hebrew had an unlimited supply of salt. They formed brine pits called "salt-pans" along the Dead Sea's flat coastal area. The sun evaporated the water in the pits, leaving behind an abundant supply of mineral salts.
Salt was the chief economic product of the ancient world, and the Hebrews used it in a variety if ways: for flavoring foods, preserving fish, curing meat, and pickling olives and vegetables. Infants were rubbed in salt to insure good health before swaddling. Salt was also believed to have been an antidote for tooth decay. Salt was an ingredient in the sacred anointing oil and ritual sacrifices symbolizing God's perpetual covenant with Israel (Numbers 18:19).
by Bonnie Calhoun
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
Light of the World, so I will invite His warmth and radiance into all the dark and cold places of my life that He might expose and remove my sin and selfishness.
Only Wise God, so I can boldly ask and receive from Him necessary insight, guidance and direction for my life today.
Rock of my Salvation, so I will rest secure and safe, knowing that He has already done everything to save me and to keep me in His love forever.
Desire of all Nations, so I will passionately proclaim his truth and beauty in every place, expressing to others the delight I have found in Him.
Justifier, so I do not have to work today to be accepted by God, but can simply live in the grace that has made me pure and lovely in His sight.
Emmanuel, so I will enjoy and practice His wonderful presence in my life today, knowing that He is with me always.
Strength of My Soul, so I come to Him in humility, delighting in my weaknesses, that His power may be demonstrated through me in every situation I encounter.
Unchanging Friend, so I will enjoy his faithful companionship and rest securely in his always-reliable love and commitment to me.
Savior, so I will kneel before His cross in grateful worship and will live by faith in the One who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Cornerstone, so I will confidently base my well-being on the truth of who He is and allow Him to build my life by His strength and stability.
Healer of my Soul, so I will come to him in with all my hurts, disappointments and fears to receive His supernatural touch of wholeness, encouragement and peace.
Resurrection and the Life, so I will let Him live through me today in the triumph He has already achieved over all sin and death.
Image of the Invisible God, so I will draw near and gaze upon Him in intimacy today that He might reveal the fullness of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to my heart.
Shield of my Salvation, so I will trust Him today to protect my faith and to preserve my life in Him by His promise and power.
Truth, so I will come to Him with all my doubts and questions, receiving counsel from His reliable word and consolation from His Spirit in order to live with confidence in this world.
by Bonnie S. Calhoun
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
One of the most common descriptors for the Holy Spirit is the name "Comforter." This comes from the Greek word paracletos, which literally means "one who comes alongside." The Holy Spirit is God's way of personally coming alongside each believer (see John 15:26)
The Holy Spirit is referred to as our "guide" in several New Testament passages. This reveals the Spirit's job of leading believers into maturity in Christ. As John 16:13 puts it, "The Spirit of truth...will guide you..."
Romans 8:26-27 describes the Holy Spirit as our intercessor. In that role he will reveal the Father's will, pray with us, and connect us to the Father.
The work of the Holy Spirit is evident in creation (see Gen. 1:2, 26), in the inspiration of Scripture (see 2 Tim. 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:21), and in the salvation of humankind (see John 7:38-39).
The Holy Spirit was active in the Old Testament. He empowered Gideon in Judges 6:34, Samson in Judges 14:6, and David in 1 Samuel 16:13.
"Quenching the Spirit" is referred to in several passages of Scripture, including 1 Thessalonians 5:19, Psalm 51, and 1 Samuel 16:14. Sin, particularly secret sin in the life of a believer, will prevent the Spirit from working in one's life.
The Holy Spirit became manifest in the lives of believers on the day of Pentecost, when he came upon the members of the early church and allowed them to speak in other tongues so that everyone in the crowd heard their own language (see Acts 2).
"And be not drunk with wine... but be filled with the Spirit," Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:18. The "filling of the Spirit" is likened to being drunk, since control of our lives is turned over to something else─in this case, God. Some charismatic and Pentecostal groups believe this is a regular event in the lives of believers, while most other believers see the filling of the Spirit as a one-time event, occurring at the moment of salvation.
One if the activities of the Holy Spirit is to provide believers with spiritual gifts. Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 both describe a number of gifts the Spirit gives to believers, including wiadom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, tongues, interpretation, serving, teaching, discerning, and encouraging. While each believer has been given at least one spiritual gift, no one has a right to ask for a particular gift. These gifts blend together in a church to bring unity to the body of Christ.
The Holy Spirit also produces "fruit" in the lives of believers. Galatians 5:22-23 details some of the fruit that is produced: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
"Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" is sometimes referred to as "the unpardonable sin." According to Matthew 12:22-32, Mark 3:22-30, and Luke 12:10, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit refers to examining the clear, supernatural work of God and ascribing it to satan.
The Spirit was active all along from the beginning of time, hovering over the waters at creation and inspiring God's messengers throughout the Old Testament history─378 passages in the Hebrew Bible mention the Spirit!
by Bonnie Calhoun