Category Archives: JUST ASKING / CURIOUS QUESTIONS

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?

What is “nitre?”

WHAT IS “NITRE?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

The word appears two times in the Authorized Version:

  • Proverbs 25:20: “As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to an heavy heart.”
  • Jeremiah 2:22: “For though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord GOD.”

We can make a few cursory remarks using these contexts. Firstly, “nitre” is in connection to something destructive, volatile, and useless. Pairing vinegar and nitre is like removing a garment in cold weather. Mixing vinegar and nitre is equivalent to making light of someone suffering from sadness or depression. Secondly, “nitre” can be used to wash in bathing. (By the way, since British scholars produced the King James Bible, it has the British spelling. In American English, it is “niter.”)

Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon has the following entry:

“nitre (Gr. nitron, litron), prop. natron of the moderns, fossil alkali, potash (different from [Hebrew] vegetable alkali), which, when mixed with oil, is used even now for soap, Prov. 25:20; Jer. 2:22. It appears to be so called because, when water is poured upon it, it effervesces or ferments.”

Nitre is a mineral—what we call “carbonate of soda,” “sodium bicarbonate,” or “baking soda.” Historically, it is a type of salt. The Egyptians used it as an agent to embalm mummies, wash clothes, and cook (yeast). When mixed with vinegar, it was used to cure a toothache.

Also see:
» What is the “burning ague?”
» What is a “wen?”
» What is the “caul?”

What is a “besom?”

WHAT IS A “BESOM?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

Isaiah 14:22-23: “[22] For I will rise up against them, saith the LORD of hosts, and cut off from Babylon the name, and remnant, and son, and nephew, saith the LORD. [23] I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water: and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the LORD of hosts.”

Our first context clue is that a “besom” is something used to “sweep.” It is actually a crude broom formed by tying twigs to a stick. In other words, JEHOVAH God attacking and defeating Babylon (and its king—verse 4) is like Him sweeping trash, filth, or dirt on a floor! The idea is a purging or cleansing of evil, that which is disgusting in His sight being forced out of His sight. Chapters 13 and 14 described historic Babylon being destroyed (see Daniel 5:25-31). This was a few centuries after Isaiah’s ministry.

Yet, there is a prophetic significance as well, for the Lord Jesus Christ at His Second Coming will permanently conquer a new Babylon (see Revelation chapters 17-18). This is still awaiting fulfillment. We can also refer to Jeremiah chapters 50 and 51, as well as the little Old Testament Book of Habakkuk. These are all about ancient and modern Babylon being conquered because of their alliance with Satan and false religion (pagan idolatry). Among these prophecies are the rise and fall of the coming Antichrist. In other words, they are dual prophecies—linking the past and future so they mirror each other.

Also see:
» Will the Antichrist be a Jew or a Gentile?
» Are we “doom and gloom” prophecy believers?
» Why does Daniel 5:25 say “Upharsin” but Daniel 5:28 say “Peres?”

Why did the Lord Jesus never tell jokes?

WHY DID THE LORD JESUS NEVER TELL JOKES?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Why did Christ never tell jokes? (This question implies that He did not have a sense of humor. He did!)

The Lord was not a standup comedian but He was willing to “tell it like it was”—even if it meant employing amusing language to expose religious nonsense. Since we have a written record (and not audio), we cannot identify with certainty the tone in which these statements were made. Still, they are especially ridiculous, said in such a way as to pinpoint spiritual silliness in Israel’s midst. Similar words could be used to describe today’s religious absurdities.

STRAINING AT A GNAT, SWALLOWING A CAMEL

Matthew 23:24: “Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.” Is not this a most preposterous idea? Israel’s religious leaders are utterly insane as concerning priorities. They consider it utterly repulsive to find a tiny gnat in their wine, so do their best to filter it out before they eat it. Yet, they let a gigantic camel remain therein and proceed to swallow it with the wine! They willfully lack spiritual discernment: instead, they emphasize the minor and ignore the major. Moreover, as leaders, they are misguiding others to repeat their errors. They had the Word of God (Old Testament Scriptures), but they did not care to believe them. In fact, they had Jesus Christ in their midst and they did not want to hear Divine truth from His lips either.

ATTRACTIVE TOMBS, HIDEOUS CORPSES

Matthew chapter 23: “[27] Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. [28] Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” On the outside, these religious leaders looked like they were God’s servants. They had a nice outward appearance wearing their gorgeous clothing, performing their humbling ceremonies, and working in sumptuous buildings… but it was all an act, a duplicitous show. On the inside, they had ugly hearts of sin, unbelief, and spiritual death. (For more information, see our “fig tree” study linked at the end of this article.)

LARGE CAMEL, SMALL EYE

Matthew chapter 19: “[23] Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. [24] And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Mark chapter 10: “[23] And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! [24] And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! [25] It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Luke chapter 18: “[24] And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! [25] For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”

The idea of trying to fit a camel through a needle’s eye is another ridiculous scenario. Christ was intentionally absurd to prove a simple point. Wealthy people in Israel’s program—if given the opportunity to choose between their riches and faith in God—they would invariably decide to keep their wealth. Read the contexts of these verses: an affluent man was so materialistic he rejected Jesus in order to retain his fortune. The idolatrous wealthy would be as able to enter God’s kingdom as the camel could pass through the needle’s eye. Impossible! (See our related study linked below.)

Also see:
» Why did Jesus curse the “poor” fig tree?
» What is “the eye of the needle” in Matthew 19:24?
» Should we be “fruit inspectors?”