Category Archives: JUST ASKING / CURIOUS QUESTIONS

Who were the “Epicureans” and the “Stoicks?”

WHO WERE THE “EPICUREANS” AND THE “STOICKS?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

They appear only once, Acts chapter 17: “[16] Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. [17] Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. [18] Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. [19] And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? [20] For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. [21] (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)”

In short, the Epicureans and the Stoicks were adherents to competing schools of pagan philosophy. For a more detailed analysis, consult the following information.

EPICUREANS

The word “Epicureans” means “defenders, helpers.” Dr. Scofield wrote the following marginal note: “Disciples of Epicurus, B.C. 342-271, who abandoned as hopeless the search by reason for pure truth (cf. John 18.38), seeking instead true pleasure through experience.”

Smith’s Bible Dictionary says: “Derived their name from Epicurus (342–271 B.C.), a philosopher of Attic descent, whose ‘Garden’ at Athens rivalled in popularity the ‘Porch’ and the ‘Academy.’ The doctrines of Epicurus found wide acceptance in Asia Minor and Alexandria. (95–50 B.C.) The object of Epicurus was to find in philosophy a practical guide to happiness. True pleasure and not absolute truth was the end at which he aimed; experience and not reason the test on which he relied. It is obvious that a system thus framed would degenerate by a natural descent into mere materialism; and in this form Epicurism was the popular philosophy at the beginning of the Christian era. When St. Paul addressed ‘Epicureans and Stoics,’ Acts 17:18, at Athens, the philosophy of life was practically reduced to the teaching of these two antagonistic schools.”

STOICKS

The word “Stoics” means “of the portico,” referring to a porch in Athens (more on this later). Regarding them, Dr. Scofield said: “Disciples of Zeno, B.C. 280, and Chrysippus, B.C. 240. This philosophy was founded on human self-sufficiency, inculcated stern self-repression, the solidarity of the race, and the unity of Deity. Epicureans and Stoics divided the apostolic world.”

Smith’s Bible Dictionary thus defines them: “The Stoics and Epicureans, who are mentioned together in Acts 17:28, represent the two opposite schools of practical philosophy which survived the fall of higher speculation in Greece. The Stoic school was founded by Zeno of Citium (cir. B.C. 280), and derived its name from the painted portico at Athens in which he taught. Zeno was followed by Cleanthes (cir. B.C. 260); Cleanthes by Chrysippus (cir. B.C. 240), who was regarded as the intellectual founder of the Stoic system. ‘They regarded God and the world as power and its manifestation, matter being a passive ground in which dwells the divine energy. Their ethics were a protest against moral indifference, and to live in harmony with nature, conformably with reason and the demands of universal good, and in the utmost indifference to pleasure, pain and all external good or evil, was their fundamental maxim.’—American Cyclopaedia. The ethical system of the Stoics has been commonly supposed to have a close connection with Christian morality; but the morality of Stoicism is essentially based on pride, that of Christianity on humility; the one upholds individual independence, the other absolute faith in another; the one looks for consolation in the issue of fate, the other in Providence; the one is limited by periods of cosmic ruin, the other is consummated in personal resurrection. Acts 17:18. But in spite of the fundamental error of Stoicism, which lies in a supreme egotism, the teaching of this school gave a wide currency to the noble doctrines of the fatherhood of God, the common bonds of mankind, the sovereignty of the soul. Among their most prominent representatives were Zeno and Antipater of Tarsus, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius.”

If you read Paul’s sermon (Acts 17:22-31), you will see the Holy Spirit through the Apostle reasoning with these pagans to come to faith in Jesus Christ and thus abandon their vain philosophical nonsense. Although a few believed, the majority refused. They favored their religious error!

Also see:
» Why did Paul not give the Gospel of Grace in Acts 17?
» How long should I keep witnessing to the same person?
» Would God want me to share the Gospel?

Can you explain Titus 1:12?

CAN YOU EXPLAIN TITUS 1:12?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Could you explain Titus 1:12? “One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.” Friend, it would be a pleasure!

An island in the Mediterranean Sea, Crete lies south of the Aegean Sea and southwest of Turkey. The Apostle Paul visited it briefly in Acts 27:7-12, en route to Rome. He also evidently stayed there temporarily after the Book of Acts ended, as Titus 1:5 indicates: “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee….” He left Titus, a young preacher (likely older than Timothy), to continue the grace ministry on the island. Now, some time has passed, and Paul writes to Titus to instruct him further. As with every local assembly even today, there are problems among the Christians of Crete. To some extent, they are believing and teaching false doctrine. Moreover, there is widespread misbehavior. With background established, we proceed to expounding the verse.

EPIMENIDES, THE “PROPHET” OF CRETE

When Paul refers to “one of themselves, even a prophet of their own,” he is not talking about an Old Testament prophet or even a New Testament prophet. Epimenides was a pagan Greek poet and philosopher who lived in the sixth century B.C. He himself was from Crete—the city of Knossos, to be exact. The Greeks held him in high regard.

Epimenides, in his work “Cretica” (second line), wrote of the Cretians’ lifestyle back during the time before the Gospel of Grace had even gone to these Gentiles. Several hundred years later, the Cretians still have a reputation for gross misconduct. Epimenides’ words are now proverbial, a common saying. The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul, in the A.D. first century, declares it to be substantiated! It is not a baseless charge, mere gossip, a false accusation. No, the news of the Cretians is true… 500 years after Epimenides first commented on it! Moreover, it describes some Christians living on Crete, those who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ! Hence, Paul orders Titus to sternly fuss or scold them: “One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;….” Read all the Book of Titus.

“THE CRETIANS ARE ALWAY LIARS”

This is not “always” (eternally, without end) but “alway” (all the way, completely, entirely). Epimenides, in his writing, accused the Cretians of repeating what he thought was a lie—the Greek king of the gods, Zeus, was dead and buried on Crete. The philosopher was outraged, since he considered Zeus immortal! Paul’s argument does not so much concern this “lie” per se, but simply highlights one of the Cretians identified them as being dishonest. The Holy Spirit through Paul agrees they are deceitful about various issues… including false teaching and false teachers (see verses 9-16)!

“THE CRETIANS ARE… EVIL BEASTS”

“Evil” is self-explanatory. Obviously, “beasts” is to be understood as “bestial, savage, wild, ferocious, cruel, brute.” These are not literal animals but rather people who behave like animals. Scripture repeatedly uses this term for the Antichrist (Revelation 11:7; Revelation 13:1-4,12,14-15,17-18; Revelation 14:9,11; Revelation 15:2; Revelation 16:2,10,13; Revelation 17:3,7-8,11-13,16,17; Revelation 19:19-20; Revelation 20:4,10).

“THE CRETIANS ARE… SLOW BELLIES”

“Slow”—elsewhere translated in the King James Bible as “idle” (Matthew 12:36; Matthew 20:3,6; 1 Timothy 5:13) and “barren” (2 Peter 1:8) in the King James Bible—is defined as “sluggish to move or work.” They habitually sit or lie around. To wit, they are lazy.

If someone is intelligent, we say he or she is a “brain.” It is as if the person’s body consists of nothing but a brain. Similarly, when the Cretians are called “bellies,” it is like their whole body is a stomach! Gluttony, overindulgence with food, has consumed them. Greediness is their reputation. Overall, they lounge about and eat everything they can!

SUPPLEMENTAL: ACTS 17 AND EPIMENIDES

When preaching God’s Word to the ignorant, pagan, idolatrous philosophers of Athens in Acts chapter 17 (verses 16-34), the Apostle Paul said, in part: “[27] That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: [28] For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.”

“For in him we live, and move, and have our being” is actually another quote from Epimenides (“Cretica,” same work alluded to Titus 1:12, but this is from the fourth line whereas Titus quotes the second line). Evidently, Paul was conversant in Epimenides’ writings. It is okay for us to read non-biblical books—provided the King James Bible is our final authority. Paul wisely appealed to something with which the pagans of Athens were familiar and accepted. As for the phrase, “For we are also his offspring,” he took that from the Cilician Stoic philosopher Aratus (315–245 B.C.), his poem on astronomy titled “Phaenomena.” Likewise, we should read and familiarize ourselves with pertinent literature when dealing with people from world religions, denominations, cults, sects, and so on. “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him” (Proverbs 18:13).

Also see:
» What are “evil communications” in 1 Corinthians 15:33?
» Should we read denominational literature?
» Why do some Christians persistently behave like lost people?

Who was “Caesar?”

WHO WAS “CAESAR?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

Like “Herod,” “Caesar” is a title applicable to several men. Whereas “Herod” was the appellation given to Idumean (Gentile/Edomite) kings who reigned over parts of Palestine during the A.D. first century, “Caesar” pertained to the rulers of the Roman Empire. Meaning “severed,” Julius Caesar was first to use the name and his successors adopted it for themselves. Five Roman emperors governed the then-known world during New Testament times, with three explicitly named in Scripture and one implied. This is just one of several examples of the Bible’s historical accuracy, how secular history agrees with it. It is certainly not a Book of myths and fables, neither fantasy nor fiction!

  1. AUGUSTUS (reigned 27 B.C.–A.D. 14). “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed” (Luke 2:1). Jesus Christ was born during this time, circa 7–4 B.C.
  2. TIBERIUS (reigned A.D. 14–37). “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene,…” (Luke 3:1). He was Roman emperor throughout Christ’s earthly ministry, ruling up until roughly seven years after Calvary. See Matthew 22:17,21; Mark 12:14,16-17; Luke 20:22,24-25; Luke 23:2; and John 19:12,15.
  3. CALIGULA (reigned A.D. 37–41). While Scripture does not mention him by name, he would have ruled no later than Acts chapter 11. See #4 below.
  4. CLAUDIUS (reigned A.D. 41–54). “And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar(Acts 11:28). The “Caesar” of Acts 17:7 is either him, or Nero (see #5 below).
  5. NERO (reigned A.D. 54–68). Although the Bible does not name him, he is implied toward the latter Acts (namely, chapter 18 onward?). This is evidently the “Augustus” and “Caesar” to whom Paul wanted to appeal once he arrived in Rome near the close of Acts (Acts 25:8,10-12,21,25; Acts 26:32; Acts 27:1,24; Acts 28:19). He was the “Caesar” whose household had Christian converts when Paul wrote his epistle to the Philippians (4:22). The worst (most despotic) of the Caesars, Nero is thought to have executed both Apostles Peter and Paul.

Also see:
» Who was “Herod?”
» Who were the “Herodians?”
» Who or what are the 10 “toes” or “horns” or “crowns” associated with the Antichrist?

What is the “potter’s field?”

WHAT IS THE “POTTER’S FIELD?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

Matthew chapter 27 says: “[1] When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death: [2] And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor. [3] Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, [4] Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. [5] And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.

“[6] And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. [7] And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. [8] Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day. [9] Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; [10] And gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me.”

Once Judas Iscariot received of the chief priests 30 pieces of silver for betraying Christ (Matthew 26:14-16), he returned the money to them and committed suicide. They—most hypocritically—refused to have this “blood money” placed in the Temple treasury. Consequently, they bought a “potter’s field” in which to bury foreigners. From where did this designation originate? How are potters involved?

This “potter’s field”—whose Aramaic name was “Aceldama,” or “The field of blood” (Acts 1:19)—was located outside Jerusalem. Potters excavated and gathered its high-quality, deep-red clay to make their ceramics. Removing these nutrients from the soil rendered the land barren. Unusable for farming, it was better suited to serve as a graveyard. Derived from the English Bible, the term “potter’s field” survives even today—also called “paupers’ grave,” “common grave,” et cetera. It is used to describe a cemetery reserved for the disposal of unclaimed corpses, as well as the remains of unidentified and/or poor people.

Also see:
» Why does the Bible give two accounts of Judas’s death?
» Who is Judas’ replacement—Matthias or Paul?
» Does Matthew 19:27-28 prove Judas is in heaven?

Feeding the 4,000 and feeding the 5,000—same or different?

FEEDING THE 4,000 AND FEEDING THE 5,000—SAME OR DIFFERENT?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Anyone familiar with Scripture is aware of Christ Jesus miraculously feeding the multitudes. The Bible student will understand one passage where He feeds 5,000 and another passage where He feeds 4,000. Are these two historical events, or one historical event “edited” two distinct ways? In other words, was there a single multiplication of loaves—and the other passage to be simply discarded as a “confused duplicate?” Let us search the Scriptures!

Matthew 14:15-21 presents the feeding of the 5,000: “[15] And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals. [16] But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat. [17] And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes. [18] He said, Bring them hither to me. [19] And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. [20] And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full. [21] And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.” (Parallel passages are Mark 6:35-44, Luke 9:12-17, and John 6:5-15.)

Matthew 15:32-39 features the feeding of the 4,000: “[32] Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way. [33] And his disciples say unto him, Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude? [34] And Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven, and a few little fishes. [35] And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. [36] And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. [37] And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full. [38] And they that did eat were four thousand men, beside women and children. [39] And he sent away the multitude, and took ship, and came into the coasts of Magdala.” (Parallel passage is Mark 8:1-10.)

It is rather awkward to deduce that this is one miracle presented from two different perspectives. A careful comparison will yield the following seven realizations, ranked according to their weightiness:

  1. THE GOSPEL RECORDS THEMSELVES. If the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 and the miraculous feeding of the 4,000 were found in only one Gospel Record (Matthew, or Mark, or Luke, or John), then it would be easy for critics to dismiss it as the writer being mistaken. However, the feeding of the 5,000 is recorded in all four Books whereas the feeding of the 4,000 is found in two Books (Matthew and Mark). It is quite difficult to conclude these are two views of the same miracle.
  2. DIFFERENT CROWD SIZES. Obviously, one miracle involved approximately 5,000 men (Matthew 14:21; Mark 6:44; Luke 9:14; John 6:10) but the other miracle concerned about 4,000 men (Matthew 15:38; Mark 8:9)— women and children excluded from the numbering.
  3. DIFFERENT LOCATIONS. The 5,000 sits in a Jewish environment (outside Bethsaida; cf. Luke 9:10) while the 4,000 features a Gentile setting (borders of Decapolis; cf. Mark 7:31). Bethsaida is the northernmost tip of the Sea of Galilee whereas Decapolis is at the southern end!
  4. DIFFERENT NUMBERS OF LOAVES. The 5,000 were fed using five loaves and two fishes (Matthew 14:17; Mark 6:38; Luke 9:16; John 6:9) but the 4,000 had “seven loaves and a few little fishes” (Matthew 15:34; Mark 8:5-7).
  5. DIFFERENT QUANTITIES OF LEFTOVERS. Twelve baskets remained after the 5,000 were fed (Matthew 14:20; Mark 6:43; Luke 9:17; John 6:13) but only seven baskets were left after the 4,000 ate (Matthew 15:37; Mark 8:8).
  6. DIFFERENT GREEK WORDS FOR “BASKETS.” The “baskets” concerning the 5,000 are “kophinous” (hand-baskets) while those related to the 4,000 are “spuridas” (large baskets)—see item #7 below for more info. That latter or “spuridi” basket was large enough to hold a person such as the Apostle Paul (Acts 9:25). Such precise words are another indication that the Holy Spirit would have us see them as distinct events.
  7. JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF VIEWED THEM AS DIFFERENT INCIDENTS. Matthew 16:9-10 is the most compelling piece of evidence to prove that the feeding of the 5,000 and the feeding of the 4,000 were two separate historical events as opposed to one historical event viewed from two angles. “Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets [kophinous] ye took up? Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets [spuridas] ye took up?”

If we have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to believe, we will understand there are simply too many differences between these accounts to make them one miraculous event. Additionally, if we understand them dispensationally, they must be distinct occasions. As noted earlier, the 5,000 has a Jewish context (chapter 14) while the 4,000 has a Gentile tone (chapter 15). Both Israel and the nations are to be blessed in the Millennium—God’s salvation passing through the Jews and down to the world. There is enough for Israel to be fed spiritually, and then enough for the nations to be fed spiritually. Reducing the feeding of the multitudes to a single event destroys the antitype (forcing the passages to become discordant with prophecy).

Also see:
» Do Matthew 9:18, Mark 5:23, and Luke 8:42 contradict?
» Do Matthew 17:1, Mark 9:2, and Luke 9:28 contradict?
» Do Matthew 17:15, Mark 9:17-18, and Luke 9:39 contradict?

Was Jesus’ last name “Christ?”

WAS JESUS’ LAST NAME “CHRIST?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

No. “Christ” was not Jesus’ last name but rather an office He holds (see #6 in the ensuing list). He is Father God’s “Anointed” (Hebrew, “Mashiyach;” Aramaic, “Messiah;” Greek, “Christos;” English, “Christ”)—see Psalm 2:2, Acts 4:26, and John 1:41. The idea here is being ordained to serve in a specific capacity. Jewish kings, priests, and prophets were “anointed” (smeared, dabbed) with olive oil before they were allowed to discharge the duties of their respective offices (Exodus 29:7; 1 Samuel 16:13; 1 Kings 19:16; et cetera). Likewise, Father God poured out the Holy Spirit on the Lord Jesus at His water baptism, “anointing” Him to serve as Prophet, Priest, and King (see Matthew 3:16-17; Acts 10:38; Hebrews 1:8-9; Psalm 45:6-7; Isaiah 61:1-2; Luke 4:18; Acts 4:27).

Considering the cultures and times of Bible characters, they do not have “last names” as we do. So as to distinguish individuals who had a common first name, various qualifiers were affixed (although there are some exceptions, and these make it impossible to separate people). This too makes a fascinating study, as we will see now.

  1. The father’s name or mother’s name was attached to their own name. We can think of “James and John the sons of Zebedee” (Luke 5:10), “Gomer the daughter of Diblaim” (Hosea 1:3), “Joshua the son of Nun” (Joshua 1:1), “Hosea the son of Beeri” (Hosea 1:1), “Adonijah the son of Haggith” (1 Kings 1:11), “Anna… the daughter of Phanuel” (Luke 2:36), “James the son of Alphaeus” (Mark 3:18), and so on. This was especially useful if a man had several wives; his children could be differentiated by their mother’s name. Also, if you noticed, there were two Apostles named James—one was the son of Zebedee and the other was the son of Alphaeus.
  2. Their wife’s name or husband’s name was added to their own name. “Mary the wife of Cleophas” (John 19:25), “Joseph the husband of Mary” (Matthew 1:16), “Deborah… the wife of Lapidoth” (Judges 4:17), “Abigail the wife of Nabal” (1 Samuel 30:5), and so on, fall in this nomenclature group.
  3. Their child’s name was incorporated into their own name. Examples include: “Mary the mother of Jesus” (Acts 1:14), “Mary the mother of John” (Acts 12:12), “Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses” (Mark 15:40), “Bathsheba the mother of Solomon” (1 Kings 1:11), “Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor” (Joshua 24:2), “Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah” (2 Kings 11:1), “Machir the father of Gilead” (1 Chronicles 2:21), and so on. For example, this is helpful in distinguishing the various women in the New Testament that are known by the name Mary.
  4. Their birthplace, hometown, or current city was part of their name. Think of “Saul of Tarsus” (Acts 9:11), “Mary Magdalene” (from Magdala, northern Israel; Matthew 27:56), and “Jesus of Nazareth” (Mark 16:6). The Apostle “Simon the Canaanite” (from Cana, northern Israel; Matthew 10:4) is not to be confused with Simon Peter the Apostle, or Simon the sorcerer of Acts chapter 8. Note there were two Apostles named “Simon.” Furthermore, the Apostle “Judas Iscariot” (“Iscariot” meaning “man from Kerioth,” southern Israel; Mark 3:19) is not the same as the Apostle “Judas the brother of James” (Acts 1:13).
  5. Their brother’s name or sister’s name was part of their own name. “Nahor, Abraham’s brother” (Genesis 24:15), “Laban… the brother of Rebekah” (Genesis 28:5), “James the brother of John” (Acts 12:2), “Shem… the brother of Japheth” (Genesis 10:21), “James the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:19), “Miriam… the sister of Aaron” (Exodus 15:20), and so on, are examples of this title.
  6. Their occupation or function was part of their name. “Simon a tanner” (Acts 10:32), “Chuza Herod’s steward” (Luke 8:3), “Cyrus king of Persia” (Ezra 1:3), “Matthew the publican [tax collector]” (Matthew 10:3), “Alexander the coppersmith” (2 Timothy 4:14), and “Erastus the chamberlain [treasurer] of the city” (Romans 16:23) are just a few instances.
  7. Their tribe or nationality was part of their name. “Ehu the son of Gera, a Benjamite” (Judges 3:15), “Hagar the Egyptian” (Genesis 21:9), “Anna… of the tribe of Aser” (Luke 2:36), “Ephron the Hittite” (Genesis 49:29), and “Laban the Syrian” (Genesis 31:20), and “Goliath the Gittite” (1 Chronicles 20:5) are some examples of this category.
  8. They occasionally had a second name or “nickname.” For example, “John Mark” (Acts 12:12) is to be distinguished from “John Baptist” (Matthew 14:8) and John the Apostle (Matthew 10:2). We cannot forget the Apostles “Simon Peter” and “Lebbaeus Thaddaeus” (Matthew 10:2-3). The man “Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus” (Acts 1:23) is not to be confused with other men named Joseph or Justus.

Also see:
» Who was the father of the Prophet Zechariah?
» Does Matthew 1:11 contain errors?
» Does Matthew 1:12 contain an error?
» Is the Bible wrong to call Nebuchadnezzar the “father” of Belshazzar?

What ever happened to Joseph, Jesus’ stepfather?

WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO JOSEPH, JESUS’ STEPFATHER?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Honestly, we do not know how Joseph’s life ended. Although his name appears in 16 verses, the Bible says little about him as an individual. Here are the few established facts.

HE LIVED IN NAZARETH (NORTHERN ISRAEL)

  • Luke 2:39: “And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.”

HE WAS SON OF JACOB, SON-IN-LAW OF HELI

  • Matthew 1:16: “And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”
  • Luke 3:23: “And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli,….” (Heli was Mary’s father, so Joseph was Heli’s son in the sense of son-in-law.)

HE WAS A BELIEVER IN ISRAEL’S GOD; MARRIED JESUS’ MOTHER, MARY; AND TOOK GOOD CARE OF HER AND YOUNG JESUS

  • Matthew 1:16: “And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”
  • Matthew 1:18: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.”
  • Matthew 1:19: “Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.”
  • Matthew 1:24: “Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:….”
  • Luke 2:16: “And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.”
  • Matthew 2:13: “And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.”
  • Matthew 2:19: “But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,….”
  • Luke 2:33: “And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.”
  • Luke 2:43: “And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.”

HE WAS A SON OF DAVID (LEGAL HEIR TO DAVID’S THRONE)

  • Matthew 1:20: “But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.”
  • Luke 1:27: “To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.”
  • Luke 2:4: “And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David: )….”

HE WAS A CARPENTER, AND FATHERED SEVERAL BIOLOGICAL CHILDREN WITH MARY AFTER JESUS’ BIRTH

  • Matthew 13:55-56 is stated concerning Jesus: “[55] Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? [56] And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?”
  • Mark 6:3 is also stated concerning Jesus: “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.”

HIS NAME AS PART OF JESUS’ EPITHET
A few verses about Joseph are his name appearing as a title of Jesus:

  • Luke 4:22: “And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son?”
  • John 1:45: “Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
  • John 6:42: “And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?”

HIS LATTER YEARS

As we saw, Joseph was quite active during Jesus’ childhood (Matthew chapters 1 and 2, Luke chapters 1 and 2). He was a good provider and guardian of young Jesus. However, he himself never appears during Jesus’ adulthood and earthly ministry. His name is mentioned in passing, or as a title of Jesus, but his physical absence in key passages is surely striking. For example, Mary and her children appear in Matthew 12:46-50, she is present at Calvary’s cross in John 19:25-27, but there is nothing about Joseph. She last appears in the Bible in Acts 1:14—and again, without Joseph.

What could explain Joseph’s absence in these cases? While not explicitly stated in Scripture, one common idea is that he died during the 18-year period between Luke 2:41-52 (Jesus age 12) and Luke 3:23 (Jesus around age 30). The last historical reference to Joseph is when Jesus was 12 years old. Beyond this, he is not found in the Scriptural record.

How old was Joseph? It is frequently assumed he was much older than Mary—even perhaps married before with children. This “advanced age” idea is then used to bolster the death explanation described in our earlier remarks. However, such a position may not be warranted, as Joseph may have simply died at a young age. In this culture and time, Jewish boys married at ages 15-18; girls were engaged around 13-15 years old and were married in about a year. These were likely the ages of Joseph and Mary when we first meet them in Matthew chapter 1 and Luke chapter 2. Using this information, we can estimate they would have been near age 50 at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. This is a cultural assessment, not explicitly stated in Scripture either.

One final note is worth our consideration. Joseph may have very well been alive throughout Christ’s earthly ministry and beyond. The Holy Spirit may have intentionally left out Joseph—not because he was deceased—but because He was concerned with underscoring Jesus’ Heavenly Father (God) as opposed to His earthly (legal) father.

Also see:
» What is the real “Immaculate Conception?”
» Did little boy Jesus know He was going to die on Calvary?
» Did Mary, Jesus’ mother, have a sister also named Mary?

Who were the “Herodians?”

WHO WERE THE “HERODIANS?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

The English word is a transliteration of the Greek “Herodianoi.” Only appearing by name thrice in the Holy Bible, who are the “Herodians?” “For what saith the Scriptures?”

We look at the three verses in a cursory manner (we will consider them in detail later):

  • Matthew 22:16: “And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.”
  • Mark 3:6: “And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.”
  • Mark 12:13: “And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words.”

While an enigmatic group, their name suggests they support “Herod” (King Herod the Great, the infamously-cruel king of Matthew chapter 2, and/or his sons and grandsons who ruled after him—collectively, the Herodian dynasty). The Herodians are a political faction not a religious one… although they are united with Israel’s religious leaders in their hatred of Jesus Christ! Beyond this, it is a matter of conjecture as to who the Herodians precisely are.

The most likely explanation is that the Herodians detested direct Roman rule and preferred simply an Israeli kingdom presided over by King Herod Antipas (ruler of Galilee during Christ’s earthly ministry—see Luke 3:1 and Matthew 14:1). In Mark 8:15, the Lord issues the following warning: “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.” This reference to “Herod” is evidently the condemnation of the false teaching of the Herodians. They are secular or worldly, focused on politics and are associated with political corruption; therefore, Jesus cautions His disciples not to fall into this trap of evil doctrine.

Let us return to Matthew chapter 22: “[15] Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk. [16] And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men. [17] Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? [18] But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? [19] Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. [20] And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? [21] They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. [22] When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.”

For sake of comparison, we read Mark chapter 12: “[13] And they send unto him [Jesus] certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words. [14] And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? [15] Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it. [16] And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar’s. [17] And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.” 

Did you see how the Herodians appear in the context of debating governmental affairs? In this case, they want to know whether or not Jesus supports paying taxes to the Roman emperor. The Herodians evidently loathe the idea, which lends credence to the idea that they abhor Roman rule. Then again, they do not want King Jesus Christ reigning over them either. They prefer the Idumean (Gentile) King Herod! So, the Herodians conspire with the Pharisees to bring about Jesus’ destruction or death. “And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him” (Mark 3:6)!

Also see:
» Who are the “lawyers” in Scripture?
» Who were the “strong bulls of Bashan” standing before Christ’s cross?
» Who are the “three shepherds” of Zechariah 11:8?

What are “swaddling” clothes?

WHAT ARE “SWADDLING” CLOTHES?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Luke chapter 2 is a passage read and heard every Christmas. It opens with the following: “[1] And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. [2] (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) [3] And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. [4] And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David: ) [5] To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. [6] And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. [7] And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”

We surely know of the “swaddling clothes” with which Mary the virgin wrapped around the body of her Child, the Baby Jesus. The angel of the Lord relays the message to the vigilant shepherds off in a nearby pasture: “And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger” (verse 12). But, what in the world are these “swaddling clothes” of which we hear so often at Christmastime?

Our English word “swaddling” is the frequentative (recurring, repeating form) of another English term—“swathe.” The idea here is binding with strips or layers of fabric. In a crude sense, we can picture the ancient Egyptians wrapping a body to make a mummy. When Mary took the little Christ Child and wrapped Him with swaddling clothes, she was following an Oriental or Eastern custom of the day. This procedure provided warmth to His small body. Moreover, parents in this culture wrapped their newborns tightly with cloth to make their bones grow straight. There, in a tight, tiny bundle was the Saviour of all mankind!

Imagine! The Almighty Creator God took upon Himself human flesh, and reduced Himself to such a weak, fragile state. He entered Mary’s womb, taking on fleshly “clothes.” Growing little by little every day, He was finally delivered after nine months. His first cries were heard as air was forced into His lungs. He let Himself be wrapped in strips of cloth. For the next 30 years, He matured into a Man… born just to die for our sins!

Philippians chapter 2: “[5] Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: [6] Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: [7] But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: [8] And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

Also see:
» Was Jesus actually born on the 25th of December?
» Were there really three wise men?
» What is the real “Immaculate Conception?”

How could John the Baptist question if Jesus really is Christ?

HOW COULD JOHN THE BAPTIST QUESTION IF JESUS REALLY IS CHRIST?

by Shawn Brasseaux

We read in Matthew chapter 11: “[2] Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, [3] And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” How could John the Baptist question if Jesus really is Christ/Messiah? Let us search the Scriptures for the answer.

John the Baptist conducted his ministry along the Jordan River, just north of the Dead Sea. Matthew chapter 3: “[13] Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. [14] But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? [15] And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. [16] And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: [17] And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Now, John chapter 1: “[29] The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. [30] This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. [31] And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. [32] And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. [33] And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. [34] And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.

John the Baptist confessed that he knew Jesus was the Son of God, the Anointed One whom Israel had been expecting for many centuries. Yet, ironically, as we read in our opening comments, John expressed doubt concerning Jesus as Christ/Messiah. What made John change his mind?

In Matthew chapter 3, John the Baptist preached: “[7] But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? [8] Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: [9] And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

“[10] And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. [11] I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: [12] Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

John proceeds to water baptize the Lord Jesus (verses 13-17). The Lord undergoes a series of temptations in the wilderness (4:1-11). Just beginning His earthly ministry, Jesus hears about John the Baptist’s imprisonment (4:12; cf. Luke 3:19-20). (The details of John’s arrest, incarceration, and death can be found in flashbacks recorded in Matthew 14:1-12 and Mark 6:14-29.)

The Bible says in Matthew 11:1-3: “[1] And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities. [2] Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, [3] And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” John, in jail, is quite surprised to learn what Jesus is doing. His changed mind is the result of him being “in the prison,” for he never expected to wind up there!

Not only was John stunned at what Jesus was doing, he was also shocked by what Jesus was not doing. John has been incarcerated for at least a year—possibly two. Why had the Lord Jesus not overthrown that corrupt king, Herod, who had imprisoned John? While free, John had warned unbelieving Israel of “the wrath to come.” Yet, the Lord was not pouring out wrath, was not liberating imprisoned John (His forerunner or heralder), and was not taking away the sin of the world (John 1:29). John was puzzled, so he sent messengers to Jesus.

Jesus had a message for John, reassuring him that He was Christ/Messiah. He was already beginning to fulfill Old Testament passages and—in due time—He would accomplish the others (namely, the wrath verses). Read from Matthew chapter 11 again: “[2] Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, [3] And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? [4] Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: [5] The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. [6] And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.”

Luke 7:22, the companion verse: “Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.” (Jesus was indeed Messiah, for when Messiah would come, healing miracles would abound—see Isaiah 35:4-6 and Isaiah 53:4 cf. Matthew 8:16-17.) John should not lose faith!

Father God had sent John the Baptist to announce the arrival of His Son, Jesus of Nazareth (John 1:1-8; Matthew 3:1-17; Isaiah 40:3). Yet, John, just a man, did not have unlimited insight concerning God’s Son. John had not been given Divine revelation as to the timing of the events of Christ’s life. It was not that John had grown apostate; he just did not understand that Christ’s healing miracles would continue beyond his imprisonment and execution. John had no idea that we would be here right now—20 centuries later—still waiting for God’s enemies to be judged and Earth’s governments to be cleansed of wicked rulers.

Jesus’ answer to John was, “And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended [skandalidzo] in me” (Matthew 11:6; Luke 7:23). In other words, “John, happy is the man who will not find scandal or an occasion of stumbling in Me. You have no need to be embarrassed that you endorsed Me. I am who you announced Me to be. Do not lose faith.” Christ had not come to judge sin—as in, overthrow evil kings—at His First Coming. No, He had come to die for sin.

“[52] And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. [53] And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. [54] And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? [55] But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. [56] For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village” (Luke chapter 9).

“He that should come” will return at His Second Coming, to finish fulfilling the rest of the Messianic prophecies.

Also see:
» Did Jesus ever claim to be God?
» How did John’s converts “justify God?”
» Was John the Baptist really Elijah?