Monthly Archives: June 2020

Who was High Priest—Annas or Caiaphas?

WHO WAS HIGH PRIEST—ANNAS OR CAIAPHAS?

by Shawn Brasseaux

The Bible speaks of Annas as “high priest.” It also applies the title to Caiaphas. How can there be two high priests?

  • Luke 3:2: Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.”
  • Matthew 26:3,57: “[3] Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas,…. [57] And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.
  • John 11:49: “And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all,….”
  • John 18:13-14,24,28: “[13] And led him away to Annas first; for he was father in law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year. [14] Now Caiaphas was he, which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people…. [24] Now Annas had sent him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest…. [28] Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover.”
  • Acts 4:6: “And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem.”

According to Jewish history, Quirinus, the imperial Governor of Syria (cf. “Cyrenius,” the Greek form of the name, in Luke 2:1-2), appointed Annas to the office of High Priest circa A.D. 6. Annas served for approximately 10 years, before the Roman Procurator Valerius Gratus unseated him and replaced him with his son-in-law (full name Joseph Caiaphas). Caiaphas held the office until about A.D. 36, within a few years after Calvary. While Caiaphas really was the High Priest, his father-in-law Annas evidently still exercised a considerable amount of the power he had formally held. Pagan rulers and corrupt politicians pervaded Israel’s government during this time anyway, so we need not be surprised at the convolution. Annas lived to be quite an old age, supposedly having five sons who became High Priests!

The Lord Jesus Christ stood before both Annas and Caiaphas during His trial. Both men were unbelievers, bitter enemies even of His 12 Apostles in the early Acts period.

Also see:
» Who was “Herod?”
» Who was “Caesar?”
» Who were the “Herodians?”

Does Acts 7:43 have mistakes?

DOES ACTS 7:43 HAVE MISTAKES?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Stephen’s sermon in Acts chapter 7 claims: “[42] Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness? [43] Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.”

We can go turn the Old Testament Book of Amos to find the original quote. (Acts 7:42 says “the prophets” because Hosea to Malachi, while 12 Books in our Gentile Old Testament, were originally one Book in the Hebrew Bible—it was titled “the Twelve,” as in “Twelve Prophets”). Read Amos chapter 5: “[25] Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? [26] But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves. [27] Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith the LORD, whose name is The God of hosts.”

If we are meticulous Bible students, we see two main points of controversy here. Firstly, Amos says “Chiun” whereas Stephen uses “Remphan” instead. Why? Secondly, Amos has “Damascus” but Stephen replaces it with “Babylon.” To what purpose?

The god “Chiun” is rather mysterious, so its identity is unclear. It may have been a statue to worship a pagan god associated with the planet Saturn (cf. “the host of heaven” in Acts 7:42). The Greek word “Remphan”—from Egyptian (?)—means “the shrunken [that is, lifeless].” God the Holy Ghost, speaking through Stephen (Acts 6:5; Acts 7:55), may have selected this word to underscore the lifelessness of “Chiun,” the false religion Israel had chosen. Whatever the idol’s name, it was still paganism and offensive to JEHOVAH God!

As touching “Damascus” in Amos, and “Babylon” in Acts, this is nothing more than the Holy Spirit through Stephen extending the initial prophecy so it encompasses a later prophecy. Amos was writing to the Northern Kingdom, Israel’s 10 tribes, which would soon go away into Assyrian Captivity (to the north, past Damascus—modern Syria). Judah, the Southern Kingdom, was exiled in the Babylonian Captivity approximately 100 years later (to the east, past Babylon—modern Iraq). Stephen, living many centuries after, replaces “Damascus” with “Babylon” to encompass all 12 tribes’ captivity in Gentile/foreign lands. In both cases, it was the fifth course of chastisement—God’s punishment on the idol-worshipping Jews (Leviticus 26:27-39)! Details concerning the Assyrian Captivity are in 2 Kings chapter 17; the Babylonian Captivity is found in chapters 24–25.

Also see:
» Does Acts 7:14 have a mistake?
» How did the Israeli patriarchs “resist” the Holy Ghost?
» Does Acts 7:16 have a mistake?
» Why did Jesus Christ stand in Acts 7:55-56?

Does Acts 7:16 have a mistake?

DOES ACTS 7:16 HAVE A MISTAKE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Read the following excerpt from the Prophet Stephen’s sermon in Acts chapter 7: “[15] So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers, [16] And were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem.” Everything looks fine—until we check the Old Testament cross-references. Now, things get complex… and some poor, worried soul cries out, “Look, we have an error in the Bible!”

JACOB’S BURIAL: “For his [that is, Jacob’s] sons carried him into the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, which Abraham bought with the field for a possession of a buryingplace of Ephron the Hittite, before Mamre” (Genesis 50:13). Jacob was entombed in the land of Machpelah. His grandfather Abraham bought that land from Ephron the Hittite: “And the field of Ephron which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field, and the cave which was therein, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the borders round about, were made sure Unto Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city” (Genesis 23:17-18). Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 25:9-11), son Isaac (Genesis 35:27-29), and grandson Jacob (Genesis 50:13) were all buried here at Hebron.

JOSEPH’S BURIAL: According to Joshua 24:32, Joseph was buried in Shechem, what his father Jacob purchased from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem: “And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.”

Some argue Stephen in Acts chapter 7 condensed these two burial accounts into one. However, we do not believe Stephen was speaking of Jacob’s entombment at all. To demonstrate this, we simply read Acts again: “[15] So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our fathers, [16] And were carried over into Sychem, and laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem.” Who was “carried over into Sychem [Greek form of Hebrew “Shechem”]?” The verb in verse 16 is “were,” so the implied pronoun is plural (“they”) not “he” (singular). Far better off we would be to apply “were carried” to the preceding nouns “he [Joseph], and our fathers [Joseph’s brethren].” Remember, as Joshua 24:32 just informed us, Joseph was buried in Shechem. Presumably, as Stephen says, all of Joseph’s brethren were buried there too. Jacob’s burial plot—and Abraham’s land transaction here—is another matter entirely.

We do not have to contend with any discrepancy between Genesis 50:13 and Acts 7:15-16. On one hand, yes, Genesis speaks of Abraham buying land from Ephron the Hittite. This was the eventual cemetery for the corpses of Abraham, son Isaac, and grandson Jacob. On the other hand, indeed, Acts refers to Abraham purchasing land from the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem (Shechem). This area ultimately became the cemetery in which Joseph and his brethren were disposed. Eliminating Genesis 50:13 as a companion verse to Acts 7:16 makes the matter considerably easier to handle.

The real controversy is between Joshua 24:32 and Acts 7:15-16. Who purchased Joseph’s burial land—Jacob or Abraham? Joshua claims Joseph was buried in land that Jacob, Joseph’s father, bought from “the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem.” Stephen in Acts asserts Joseph’s tomb was part of the property Abraham bought from “the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem.” (“Hamor” and “Emmor” are interchangeable, as are “Shechem” and “Sychem.” Stephen’s words, part of the Greek New Testament, translate the Hebrew names found in Joshua.)

Abraham built an altar in Shechem back in Genesis chapter 12: “[6] And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem [that is, Shechem], unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land. [7] And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.” Presumably, Abraham bought this land from Hamor’s family before erecting that altar. However, Abraham did not dwell here permanently, so the land reverted back to Hamor’s family. Evidently, Jacob repurchased it from them, and this matches Genesis chapter 33: “[18] And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padanaram; and pitched his tent before the city. [19] And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for an hundred pieces of money. [20] And he erected there an altar, and called it EleloheIsrael.” (Notice he bought the land before constructing the altar. We would assume Abraham did the same earlier.)

CONCLUSION

The supposed “contradiction” between Acts 7:16 and the Old Testament record is nonexistent. No errors exist. Filled with the Holy Ghost (Acts 6:5; Acts 7:55), Stephen supplements the Hebrew Bible not “corrects” it. Here is our reasoning:

  1. Jacob was buried in the field of Machpelah, what his grandfather Abraham purchased from Ephron the Hittite (Genesis 50:13). Note: Stephen in Acts is not referring to this transaction or burial.
  2. Abraham bought the land of Sichem/Shechem/Sychem from the sons of Hamor/Emmor, and then built an altar there (Genesis 12:6-7; Acts 7:16). However, Abraham did not settle in Shechem. Consequently, ownership of this real estate reverted back to Hamor’s family.
  3. A few centuries later, Abraham’s grandson Jacob repurchased the land of Shechem from Hamor’s family (Genesis 33:18-19). Jacob’s son Joseph, and Joseph’s brethren, were buried in Shechem (Acts 7:15-16).

Also see:
» Does Acts 7:14 have a mistake?
» How did the Israeli patriarchs “resist” the Holy Ghost?
» Does Acts 7:43 have a mistake?
» Why did Jesus Christ stand in Acts 7:55-56?

Does Acts 7:14 have a mistake?

DOES ACTS 7:14 HAVE A MISTAKE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

In Acts 7:14, the Prophet Stephen preaches: “Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls.” A “score” is 20, so “threescore and fifteen” totals 75. You may not realize it, friend, but this forms the heart of a centuries-old debate amongst textual critics (Bible correctors).

The Old Testament record calculates 70:

  • “And the sons of Joseph, which were born him in Egypt, were two souls: all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were threescore and ten(Genesis 46:27).
  • “And all the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob were seventy souls: for Joseph was in Egypt already” (Exodus 1:5).
  • “Thy fathers went down into Egypt with threescore and ten persons; and now the LORD thy God hath made thee as the stars of heaven for multitude” (Deuteronomy 10:22).

How do we reconcile Stephen’s reckoning with that of Moses? Was it 70 or 75? One method—the easiest and laziest!—is to hold to the 70 of Moses as factual and dismiss the 75 of Acts 7:14 as nothing but a “scribal error.” This is unbelief rather than faith. We have a serious problem if we claim to be “Bible believers” but are willing to renounce it where it has “mistakes!” Another “scholarly” way people have handled this textual difficulty is by appealing to the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament supposedly written a few centuries before Christ. The Septuagint adds five names to the family tree in Genesis 46:20. As with the other route, this too is doubt not faith.

First, notice Genesis 46:20 in the King James Bible (and its underlying Hebrew Masoretic Text): “And unto Joseph in the land of Egypt were born Manasseh and Ephraim, which Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On bare unto him.” You will recall verse 27: “And the sons of Joseph, which were born him in Egypt, were two souls: all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were threescore and ten.” The Bible says 70.

Now, based on the genealogy listed in 1 Chronicles chapter 7, the editors of the Septuagint cleverly altered Genesis 46:20 so it reads this way: “And there were sons born to Joseph in the land of Egypt, whom Aseneth, the daughter of Petephres, priest of Heliopolis, bore to him, Manasses and Ephraim. And there were sons born to Manasses, which the Syrian concubine bore to him, Machir. And Machir begot Galaad. And the sons of Ephraim, the brother of Manasses; Sutalaam, and Taam. And the sons of Sutalaam; Edom.” Did you see how the (Greek) Septuagint modifies the Hebrew Bible here? Five names have been added—one son of Manasseh (Machir), two sons of Ephraim (Sutalaam and Taam), and one grandson of both Manasseh (Galaad) and Ephraim (Edom). Now, the “revised” total of verse 27: “And the sons of Joseph, who were born to him in the land of Egypt, were nine souls; all the souls of the house of Jacob who came with Joseph into Egypt, were seventy-five souls.” Verse 27 has been forced to match Stephen’s words (75 people; Acts 7:14).

As opposed to trusting the “new” Old Testament as found in the Septuagint—which contains the Apocryphal Books as though they are inspired of God—here is how we think we should approach this matter from a Bible-believing (not Bible-correcting or Bible-corrupting) standpoint.

Genesis 46:26-27 says: “[26] All the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt, which came out of his loins, besides Jacob’s sons’ wives, all the souls were threescore and six; [27] And the sons of Joseph, which were born him in Egypt, were two souls: all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were threescore and ten.” Scripture is clear 66 came with Jacob into Egypt. Joseph and his two sons (Ephraim and Manasseh) were already living in Egypt, bringing the number up to 69. Jacob himself would be the 70th person of “the house of Jacob” (verse 27).

In Acts 7:14, Stephen says the number of Jacob’s “kindred” were 75. Genesis 46:26 leads us to conclude the higher number incorporates Jacob’s daughters-in-law (his sons’ wives). The number 75 would have been even greater, but some members of Jacob’s family perished in Canaan before the household migrated into Egypt. For example, Er and On—grandsons of Jacob through his son Judah—expired in Canaan (Genesis 46:12). Also, Rachel, one of Jacob’s four wives, died in Canaan while giving birth to Benjamin. Neither did Rachel accompany them into Egypt (Genesis 35:19).

If we will correct the Hebrew Bible using the Septuagint (LXX), attempting to harmonize it with Stephen’s words in Acts 7:14, we have introduced confusion that would have otherwise not occurred! The extra five names in Genesis 46:20 of the LXX increases the number to 80, so we would then have to alter Acts 7:14 from 75 to 80. (And that would be an error!!) Again, relying on the Septuagint’s “dependability” is hopeless here—and, if we cling to it, we will surely fall to our doctrinal demise!! It only complicates an already difficult matter.

CONCLUSION

Contrary to popular belief, Acts 7:14 is not a “scribal error.” Stephen’s number 75 is appropriate because it tallies Jacob’s daughters-in-law, whereas Moses’ number 70 of Genesis 46:27, Exodus 1:5, and Deuteronomy 10:22 excludes them (cf. Genesis 46:26). Friend, retain and believe the King James Bible’s readings, and you will not be confused—here, or any other passage.

Also see:
» Does Acts 7:16 have a mistake?
» How did the Israeli patriarchs “resist” the Holy Ghost?
» Does Acts 7:43 have a mistake?
» Why did Jesus Christ stand in Acts 7:55-56?

How could Jonah flee from God’s presence?

HOW COULD JONAH FLEE FROM GOD’S PRESENCE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

The Book of Jonah opens: “[1] Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, [2] Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. [3] But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. [4] But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.”

According to Psalm 139, the God of the Bible is omnipresent (“ever-present,” everywhere): “[7] Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? [8] If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. [9] If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; [10] Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”

“But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa… to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD” (Jonah 1:3). How could Jonah actually believe he could flee from God’s presence? Wherever he would go, would not God be there? Yes, but “presence” here takes on a distinctive meaning. Since JEHOVAH God is God, He is indeed everywhere. Also, since He is God, He can choose to manifest His Person in a unique way at a specific place. Such is the case of the Jerusalem Temple, and the “Shekinah” (“that which dwells”) glory of God.

About 920 B.C., King Solomon dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem centuries prior to Jonah, as 1 Kings chapter 8 reports: “[10] And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD, [11] So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD. [12] Then spake Solomon, The LORD said that he would dwell in the thick darkness. [13] I have surely built thee an house to dwell in, a settled place for thee to abide in for ever.” Did you see how God is manifesting His Person in the Temple—and it is called His “house?” In “time past,” no other nation but Israel had such a place and a God as this (Romans 9:4-5; Ephesians 2:11-12)!

In Jonah’s time, Solomon’s Temple is still functioning in Jerusalem. Jonah lived at least 750 B.C. (2 Kings 14:25)—possibly a century earlier. Until the Babylonian Captivity (beginning 606 B.C.), God’s presence is in the Jerusalem Temple. Jonah was fleeing from the land of Palestine wherein was the Temple, the place God had chosen to manifest His glory at that particular time. Even so, as the rest of the Book of Jonah bears out, God found Jonah hiding aboard that ship in the Mediterranean Sea and fleeing to Tarshish (Spain?). He caused a great sea storm that played a significant role in Jonah’s correction.

Once the Prophet Jonah was reformed, he prayed to God out of the fish’s belly: “Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple (Jonah 2:4). “When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple(Jonah 2:7). Jonah is now focused on the Jerusalem Temple, mindful of the LORD who lives there, and ready to preach to Nineveh as He instructed!

Also see:
» Did Jonah live in the whale’s belly?
» What swallowed Jonah—a fish or a whale?
» How can God hear all the prayers of all Christians?

If God wants to save all—but only few are saved—is He not “weak” and “limited?”

IF GOD WANTS TO SAVE ALL—BUT ONLY FEW ARE SAVED—IS HE NOT “WEAK” AND “LIMITED?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

Calvinists pride themselves in (allegedly) “defending the sovereignty of God.” As they see it, if God is not in complete control of every last detail, He cannot be God. One of their central “theological impasses” can be summarized as follows: If God wants all people to be saved and go to Heaven, but not all people get saved and go to Heaven, then God must really not want all people to be saved and go to Heaven. Therefore, they conclude, God has already “elected,” “predestinated,” or “chosen” who will be saved unto eternal life and Heaven. As for those who wind up in Hell and the Lake of Fire, they must experience that awful fate because God did not select them for justification. Calvinists see no alternative view—for to hold to anything else is to detract from God’s Deity. They contend, “We cannot limit God to save those who chose to believe. Man exercising faith does not limit God, for God should be able to save whomever He chooses to believe, apart from the individual’s choice to believe.” (Calvinists say God is limited to save only those He has chosen, which itself is a limitation!! Such nonsense epitomizes the endless speculations of worthless theology!!)

One verse helpful in dealing with and making sense of this topic is Matthew 23:37. The Lord Jesus Christ, during the last days of His earthly ministry, issued a stinging rebuke in response to Israel’s corrupt religious leadership: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”

Judgment would come upon Jerusalem. The Temple that Zerubbabel built and King Herod the Great expanded was no longer Father God’s house (John 2:16) or Jesus Christ’s house (Matthew 21:13). It would be vacated, free from God’s influence: “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” (Matthew 23:38). Now, it was Jerusalem’s house, Israel’s house! Thus, chapter 24 opens, “And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple:….”

The Prophet Stephen, attempting to call the nation Israel to repentance and faith in Christ during the early Acts period, preached to its religious leaders in Acts 7:51: “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.” For centuries prior, God commissioned prophets or spokesmen to lead Israel back to Him. What led to the Babylonian Captivity? Read 2 Chronicles chapter 36 : “[15] And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place: [16] But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy. [17] Therefore he brought upon them the king of the Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age: he gave them all into his hand.”

If English words mean anything, the Holy Spirit speaking through Stephen believed He (the Holy Ghost) could be rejected. God intended to have a personal relationship with Israel, He wanted to teach them His words, but they decided they would have none of it! It was not God’s fault; it was Israel’s fault.

Truth be told, Calvinists, in their zeal to defend their theological system, create more dilemmas than they do answers to foregoing quandaries.

Firstly, if people are justified to enter Heaven based solely on the fact God chose to give them faith—that “God chose them rather than they chose Him”—then we could blame God for people dying and going to Hell! Man is no longer accountable for his actions, for no matter what he chooses to do, God has predetermined what will happen to him. Why do people go to Hell? Using the Calvinist’s logic, it is God’s fault, for God did not choose to save them! This (convenient) blame-shifting originates in man’s sinful internal makeup, and goes all the way back to Genesis chapter 3.

“[9] And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? [10] And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. [11] And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? [12] And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. [13] And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.”

God gave Adam explicit instructions not to eat the forbidden fruit (2:16-17). Nothing was hard to understand. However, Adam made a willful choice and ate anyway (3:1-8). When God attempted to bring Adam to confession, Adam said, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat” (verse 12). Adam blamed Eve his wife—but he said it in such a way so as to imply it was God’s fault. “You gave her to me, God! Had You not done that, I would not have eaten!” When God addressed Eve, she passed the responsibility on to “the serpent” (verse 13). So, whereas Adam claimed, “God made me do it because He gave Eve to me!,” Eve defended herself, “Satan made me do it!” (These two excuses are prevalent today—people caught doing wrong will either blame God or Satan. They refuse to take responsibility for their own actions.)

If someone dies and goes to Hell, it will not be God’s fault. He did not choose them for that eternal judgment; they chose it for themselves. The Lord Jesus Christ died in our place on Calvary’s cross, to pay for our sins in full, and was raised again for our justification (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). However, if we do not take advantage of those merits by trusting Him as our personal Saviour, then it is not His fault when we go to Hell. He has done everything to prevent us from going to Hell—coming to die for our sins, and then telling us that Good News by writing His words in human language and preserving them in the English Bible—and then we have the audacity to say it was His fault and He sent us there?!

Secondly, we do not “limit” God when we say He has not chosen to save anyone unto eternal life apart from their faith. Also, we do not “limit” God when we say people are saved according to their faith in the Gospel as opposed to God selecting them to be recipients of faith. All we are doing is acknowledging the limitations God has placed upon Himself. Since He is God, He can choose to do something just as freely as He can choose not to do something. No matter what man will do, God does all His good pleasure… and 1 Corinthians 1:21 is part of His good pleasure. “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”

Whom does God want to save? One of the most important rules in Bible study is this: not only should we notice what is in the verse, we should also notice what is not in the verse. After hearing Calvinists, here is what we expected the Scriptures to say: “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that he has chosen to believe,” or “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that he has predestinated to eternal life,” or “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that he chose,” or “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them to whom he gave faith.”

According to the Bible, God is pleased to spiritually heal and give eternal life to those that believe.” He has limited Himself in this regard. If we have a problem with that Bible truth, then we have a problem with the Bible… and we need to go argue with the Bible. Whether we agree with it or not, the Holy Bible is right. Our sinful flesh does not like that. It wants to be its own authority. Too bad! Our flesh is not the authority!

“Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference” (Romans 3:22). “And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also” (Romans 4:11). “But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:24-25). “But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe(Galatians 3:22). “When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day” (2 Thessalonians 1:10).

By the way, Calvinists will also claim we exalt man above God by claiming we are saved through faith in the Gospel. According to them, we should not emphasize our faith; therefore, they claim we should say “God gave us faith, God chose us to believe, God predestinated us,” and the like. They say, “God chose us—we did not choose Him!” Again, this is nothing more than a denial of the verses we just cited. God can still be God, and yet leave justification up to man’s choice of faith or unbelief. If man wants to believe God, God is still God. If man wants to disbelieve God, God is still God. Note: God’s nature, His omnipotence, is totally independent of what we do or do not do! Calvinists have an extremely warped view of the God of the Bible, and do not understand that part of His nature is resistible grace (as opposed to the Calvinistic doctrine of irresistible grace). We already saw Jerusalem reject Him. Israel in the Old Testament resisted Him. People even now reject Him—the very people for whom Christ died! That is their own fault. He values free will, and if they want to spend eternity without Him, He will give them over to their preference!

Also see:
» Are we dispensationalists guilty of “limiting God?”
» Does God give us faith?
» Does Romans 9:14-18 support Calvinism?
» Does Romans 9:20-21 support Calvinism?
» Does John 6:29 support Calvinism?
» Does Acts 13:48 support Calvinism?
» Does Acts 2:47 support Calvinism?
» How do God’s foreknowledge and our free will work together?

» Do some things happen by “chance?”
» Does Acts 13:48 support Calvinism?

How did synagogues originate?

HOW DID SYNAGOGUES ORIGINATE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Our English word is a transliteration of the Greek “sunagoge,” meaning “meeting, assembly, congregation” (“sun–,” “together;” “agein” “bring”). According to Jewish tradition, a minimum of 10 Jewish men—a “minyan”—was needed to form a synagogue.

According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon: “…an assembly of Jews formally gathered together to offer prayer and listen to the reading and exposition of the Holy Scriptures; assemblies of the sort were held every sabbath and feast-day, afterward also on the second and fifth days of every week (see references below): Luke 12:11; Acts 9:2; Acts 13:43; Acts 26:11…. Synagogues seem to date their origin from the Babylonian exile. In the time of Jesus and the apostles every town, not only in Palestine but also among the Gentiles if it contained a considerable number of Jewish inhabitants, had at least one synagogue, the larger towns several or even many. That the Jews held trials and even inflicted punishments in them, is evident from such passages as Matthew 10:17; Matthew 23:34; Mark 13:9; Luke 12:11; Luke 21:12; Acts 9:2; Acts 22:19; Acts 26:11.”

When the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem and razed Solomon’s Temple in 586 B.C. (2 Kings 25:8-9; 2 Chronicles 36:19), the Jews no longer had any formal place of worship and religious study. Prior to King Solomon, they had the Tabernacle dating back to Moses’ time. The Jews assembled around these structures for religious services. Now removed from the land of Palestine during the 70-year Babylonian Captivity, the Israelites began establishing houses of worship throughout the foreign territories to which they had been scattered. While a remnant of Jews returned to the land of Israel during the ministries of Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, the majority remained in Gentile domains. Some 500 years after the return from Babylon and the building of Zerubbabel’s Temple, the nation Israel was still dispersed around the world. Hence, we read the following concerning the Day of Pentecost: “And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven (Acts 2:5).

A few decades before Christ’s birth, King Herod the Great renovated and expanded Zerubbabel’s Temple, and this (“Herod’s Temple”) functioned until the Roman troops destroyed it in A.D. 70. This was the Temple operating during Christ’s earthly ministry. In the 2,000 years since its demolition, synagogues have played an integral role in Judaism (Jewish religion).

Being Bible students, we are most familiar with synagogues because of their prominence during Christ’s earthly ministry and the Apostle Paul’s “Acts” ministry. For example, “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people” (Matthew 4:23). “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people” (Matthew 9:35). “And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils” (Mark 1:39). “And he preached in the synagogues of Galilee” (Luke 4:44). “Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing” (John 18:20).

As noted earlier, synagogues were places where Jews gathered to read and study Holy Scripture (Old Testament only). “For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day” (Acts 15:21). Look at Luke chapter 4: “[16] And he [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. [17] And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, [18] The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, [19] To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. [20] And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. [21] And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”

In the case of the city of Philippi, there was no synagogue (see next paragraph). Remember, according to Jewish tradition, a synagogue needed a minimum of 10 Jewish men (“minyan”). One historical authority continues, “Where the Jews were not in sufficient numbers to be able to erect and fill a building, there was the proseucha, or place of prayer, sometimes open, sometimes covered in, commonly by a running stream or on the seashore, in which devout Jews and proselytes met to worship, and perhaps to read.”

Acts chapter 16 provides an example: “[12] And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days. [13] And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. [14] And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. [15] And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.”

Synagogues were often constructed of stone, and, if possible, set on the point of highest elevation in the city. They were always oriented so people entering them would be facing Jerusalem (as King Solomon instructed in 1 Kings 8:29,30,35 and 2 Chronicles 6:20,26). Toward the synagogue’s “Jerusalem end” was a chest or box that held the Old Testament Bible scrolls—like the Ark of the Covenant contained such holy documents in the Jerusalem Temple (see Deuteronomy 31:25-27). Within two centuries before Christ, the Pharisees began to lead synagogues (see John 12:42).

Near the middle of the synagogue building was a raised pulpit where guests could speak or read, as revealed in Acts chapter 13: “[14] But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down. [15] And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on. [16] Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience.”

Regardless of the synagogue’s size, at least two officials were present. One was “the ruler of the synagogue” (see Mark 5:22,35,36,38; Luke 8:41,49; Luke 13:14; Acts 18:8,17). He oversaw the building and property, organized the public service and kept order, selected people to read Scripture and pray, and asked visitors to speak to the group. Some synagogues had more than one ruler (Acts 13:15). The other synagogue official was the “minister” or attendant, paid to care for the building and furniture. Undoubtedly, his most important role was looking after the Old Testament scrolls—handing them out to speakers and putting them away after use (see Luke chapter 4, quoted earlier—especially verses 17 and 20).

Never forget, Jesus Christ in His earthly ministry and the Apostle Paul in the Acts period visited synagogues because they were where Jews had gathered for worship service and Bible study. Synagogues were the best place to reach Israel concerning the Scriptures, as they would have been most receptive to spiritual truths. Unfortunately, despite all that exposure to the Holy Bible, there was overwhelming unbelief in Israel. It was dead, worthless religion! Had they been studying their Hebrew Scriptures in faith, they would have seen Jesus as Christ, a fulfillment of Messianic prophecies. Through the Apostle John, the Lord Jesus applies a most uncomplimentary title to these Jewish unbelievers! “I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan (Revelation 2:9). “Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee” (Revelation 3:9).

Saul of Tarsus—Paul the Apostle when he was a lost man, before he trusted Christ—visited synagogues to arrest and execute all Messianic Jews (those who trusted Jesus as Christ). “And [Saul] desired of him [the high priest] letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem” (Acts 9:2). “And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee” (Acts 22:19). “And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities” (Acts 26:11).

Then, Saul of Tarsus met the resurrected, ascended, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ in Acts chapter 9—and Saul trusted Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour! “And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). For the Apostle Paul’s other visits to synagogues as he preached the Gospel of Grace (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Acts 20:24), read Acts 13:14-42, Acts 14:1-4, Acts 17:1-17, Acts 18:4-8, Acts 18:19-21, and Acts 19:8-9. As Acts chapter 18 shows, the first members of the Church the Body of Christ at Corinth came from the synagogue literally next-door!

Also see:
» What does “joined hard” mean in Acts 18:7?
» Can you explain Paul’s “Acts” ministry?
» Why does the Book of Acts end so abruptly?

Can you explain, “Strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel?”

CAN YOU EXPLAIN, “STRAIN AT A GNAT, AND SWALLOW A CAMEL?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

In Matthew 23:24, we find the Lord Jesus Christ voicing a bizarre censure: “Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.” How should we handle such unusual language?

Verily, verily, Matthew chapter 23 and John chapter 8 are Christ’s harshest words directed toward corrupt religious leaders. The Jewish nation to which He is ministering is largely deceived—and that is because its spiritual leaders have been willing participants of Satan’s policy of evil! He calls them “blind guides” because they lack spiritual eyes to guide Israel in the Word and ways of JEHOVAH God. These very religious leaders will, in rank unbelief, soon encourage the nation to demand Jesus’ crucifixion because they view Him as nothing but an imposter. Ironically, they are the men perverting the nation and leading it astray. The best word to describe them is “hypocrites” (a word Jesus uses seven times in Matthew chapter 23). Despite their nice external features, they are evil and faithless inside. Parading their “ceremonial cleanness,” they are still internally soiled!

So, what of the “gnat” and the “camel?” How do they factor into this matter? Why would the Lord mention them at all? According to the Mosaic Law, the gnat was the smallest of the unclean or non-kosher creatures in Palestine. Leviticus chapter 11: “[23] But all other flying creeping things, which have four feet, shall be an abomination unto you. [24] And for these ye shall be unclean: whosoever toucheth the carcase of them shall be unclean until the even. [25] And whosoever beareth ought of the carcase of them shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even.” The camel was the largest unclean animal in Palestine, as seen in verse 4: “Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: as the camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.”

In an effort to be as ceremonially clean as possible—not accidentally consuming the corpse of a tiny gnat—the Jews were careful to strain their drinks. However, Jesus pointed this out in sarcasm and hyperbole. They had the discernment to avoid eating a puny unclean gnat but lacked sense to prevent themselves from eating a whole camel! That is, they were more fixated on minor issues than major ones. Their priorities are mixed up. They cannot see the greater error! Hence, they were rightly termed “blind guides.” (The same could be said of religionists today.)

Also see:
» Did the Lord forbid public prayer?
» Can you explain, “They be blind leaders of the blind?”
» Should we be “fruit inspectors?”

Were the King James translators justified in adding “women” to Matthew 24:41?

WERE THE KING JAMES TRANSLATORS JUSTIFIED IN ADDING “WOMEN” TO MATTHEW 24:41?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Our Authorized Version’s italicized words are a constant target of the critics who would have us believe they are totally unnecessary. One interesting italicized word is “women” in Matthew 24:41 and Luke 17:35. Were our 1611 scholars remiss in adding it? Did they have a valid reason for supplying it, or should we remove it?

“Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left” (Matthew 24:41). “Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left” (Luke 17:35). The underlying Greek Textus Receptus reads thus: “Duo [Two] alethousai [shall be grinding] en [at] to [the] muloni [mill], mia [one] paralambanetai [shall be taken], kai [and] mia [one] aphietai [left] (Matthew 24:41). “Duo [Two] esontai [shall be] alethousai [grinding] epi to-auto [together]; mia [one] paralephthesetai [shall be taken], kai [and] e [the] etera [other] aphethesetai [shall be left] (Luke 17:35).

As we can see, in neither verse does the Greek “gynaidzin” (“women”) appear. Yet, the Authorized Version translators inserted the English equivalent both times. Why? Furthermore, how did they know “women”—rather than “men”—is the correct interpretation?

According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, “it was the custom to send women and female slaves to the mill-houses to turn the hand-mills.” The Greeks called them “gynaikes aletrides” (“women grinders”). Exodus 11:5 speaks of Egyptian women who functioned in the same capacity: “And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant [female servant] that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts.”

Were our 1611 scholars mistaken in supplying the word “women” in Matthew 24:41 and Luke 17:35? No, we think not. Their knowledge of Greek language and Bible culture led them to interpret the verses as they currently read in English. Let us take the position of faith and believe the wording of the King James Bible, the work of men whom the Holy Spirit led to bring His Greek Bible into its purest English form!

Also see:
» Were the King James translators justified in adding the word “quarters” in Acts 9:32?
» Is “corn” a mistake in the King James Bible?
» Why does the King James Bible say, “pisseth against the wall?”
» Is “rooms” a King James Bible mistake in Matthew 23:6?
» Is the King James word “borrow” a “mistranslation” in Exodus 3:22?
» Which belongs in Romans 8:16 and Romans 8:26 in the King James Bible—“the Spirit itself” or “the Spirit Himself?”

Does God suffer from Alzheimer’s disease?

DOES GOD SUFFER FROM ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

According to the American National Institutes of Health, Alzheimer’s disease is “an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.” It is absolutely ironic to find Bible verses that describe God “remembering” Israel’s sins and other verses that speak of Him “not remembering” them. After all, is He not omniscient? Does He not know everything? Then how should we handle these passages? Does Alzheimer’s disease afflict God’s mind? “For what saith the Scriptures?”

GOD REMEMBERING ISRAEL’S SINS

  • Jeremiah 14:10: “Thus saith the LORD unto this people, Thus have they loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet, therefore the LORD doth not accept them; he will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins.”
  • Hosea 8:13: “They sacrifice flesh for the sacrifices of mine offerings, and eat it; but the LORD accepteth them not; now will he remember their iniquity, and visit their sins: they shall return to Egypt.”
  • Hosea 9:9: “They have deeply corrupted themselves, as in the days of Gibeah: therefore he will remember their iniquity, he will visit their sins.”

Here, the LORD God certainly brings Israel’s sins to mind. He will not let them escape the consequences of their breaking the Old Covenant. Curses or punishments must follow, as per Deuteronomy chapter 28: “[14] And thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them. [15] But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee:….”

GOD NOT REMEMBERING ISRAEL’S SINS

  • Isaiah 43:25: “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.”
  • Jeremiah 31:34: “And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
  • Hebrews 8:12: “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.”
  • Hebrews 10:17: “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.”

While Israel broke the Old Covenant with her repeated idolatry, God will make another agreement with her. This is the New Covenant first promised in Jeremiah 31:31-34, and repeated in the Book of Hebrews (chapters 8 and 10). Yet, how can God simply overlook Israel’s transgressions? What does He do with those sins? He cannot just pretend like they are not there, like they never occurred. Why, He does not remember those sins because He places them under the shed blood of Jesus Christ! Once He ratifies the New Covenant at Christ’s Second Coming (Romans 11:25-29), He will not see Israel’s sins but rather Christ’s righteousness applied to their national account! Instead of concentrating on Israel’s filthy past, He will focus on them washed in the blood of Christ!

Hebrews chapter 10 pronounces: “[1] For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. [2] For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. [3] But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. [4] For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.

“[5] Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: [6] In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. [7] Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. [8] Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; [9] Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. [10] By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 

“[11] And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: [12] But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; [13] From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. [14] For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. [15] Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, [16] This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; [17] And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.

“[18] Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. [19] Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, [20] By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; [21] And having an high priest over the house of God; [22] Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”

Saints, please remember us in your monthly giving—these websites do cost money to run! 🙂 You can donate securely here: https://www.paypal.me/ShawnBrasseaux, or email me at arcministries@gmail.com. Do not forget about Bible Q&A booklets for sale at https://arcgraceministries.org/in-print/booklets-bible-q-a/. Thanks to all who give to and pray for us! By the way, ministry emails have really been backed up this year. I am handling them as much as humanly possible. Thanks for your patience. 🙂

Also see:
» Is God finished with the nation Israel?
» Are we under the New Covenant today?
» Does the New Covenant take away Israel’s free will?