Monthly Archives: June 2013

Old Testament Fit To Hebrew History

The Old Testament


Here’s a simple graphical representation of the books of the Old Testament, tied to Hebrew history.

I recently came across Tim Challies’ Visual Theology series, and his Periodic Table of the Bible.  The notes about that table state that he and graphic artist Josh Byers decided not to include chronology or the relative size of the books in their depiction.  That was intriguing because for some unknown reason I always thought it would be nice to have a chart indicating the size of the books of the Bible—suitable for taping to dashboards or refrigerators for memorization.  Inspired by Challies and Byers, I started noodling around.  It seemed pretty straightforward, at first, until it was time to fill in the authors and dates.

Among reliable references there is a lot of disagreement about who actually penned the books of the Bible, and when they were written.  Take the debate a step further by tying the dates of writing to Hebrew history (about which there is also considerable disagreement), and we have a formidable academic can of worms to sort through. Continue reading

Rosaria Butterfield – Hospitality and the Unlikely Convert

Rosaria Butterfield - An unlikely convert to Christian faith, touched by the art of hospitality.

Rosaria Butterfield – An unlikely convert to Christian faith, touched by the art of hospitality.

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past fifteen years, you probably know that American public opinion has been shifting dramatically within the past few years to support same-sex marriage.

Given the current cultural trajectory, many observers remark that it is inevitable that gay and lesbian marriages will become widely accepted, at least legally, across large sections of America. Many critics of a traditional reading of Scripture regarding homosexuality argue that  finally “the train has left the station” regarding same-sex marriage. Many would say that Evangelical Christians should join in and affirm the trend as a matter of promoting civil rights, as was the case with racial issues in the 1950’s and 1960’s. How does someone who holds to a high view of the authority of Scripture respond to these challenges in a Christ-like way?

Enter in Rosario Butterfield. She was a lesbian professor at Syracuse University, who was for years convinced that Christians publicly supporting an exclusive approach to traditional marriage were a threat to democracy and human rights.  She was an activist who was horrified by what she saw as “homophobia” and worked aggressively to try to stamp it out. But something unlikely happened along the way.
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A Harbinger of Typology Gone Awry?

The Harbinger.  Popular New York Times Bestseller by pastor Jonathan Cahn.  Fact or fiction?

The Harbinger. Popular New York Times Bestseller by pastor Jonathan Cahn. Fact or fiction?

Have you read The Harbinger?” The wife of the elderly couple in the restaurant asked me with great curiosity and concern. “I am not sure what to think of all of it, but it sounds like a prophetic warning for America!

Sometimes going out to lunch can get you into trouble. As we were finishing up a meal with some friends and getting ready to leave, this couple at another table wanted to have a “conversation” with me. Well, it was more like a monologue than a dialogue. I was thinking that this would be brief, as my wife and friends had already left the restaurant, but this couple just kept going on and on about this “Harbinger” book, among other topics. I needed a rescue but there was none to be had. My wife was understandably upset, by this time waiting on her crutches outside the restaurant. After I finally left the couple as they were still in mid-sentence, I was sorely rebuked by my wife for leaving her stranded in the parking lot, after she had recently undergone foot surgery. Ouch. I had messed up. Boy, was I in trouble!

But I was not the only one in trouble. As I did a little more research later into The Harbinger, I realized that there are probably a lot more folks in trouble!

You see, I do not have cable TV, so I’m am pretty clueless about what passes for pop culture and the round-the-clock news cycle these days. But apparently, a Messianic Jewish pastor, Jonathan Cahn, has written a blockbuster novel, The Harbinger: the Ancient Mystery that holds the secret of America’s Future. As of late June, 2013, after 75 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list under the paperback trade fiction category, The Harbinger, sat at #19. That is quite remarkable for a book written by an evangelical Christian author.

Now, the book may indeed be a great story if you like that particular genre, mixing non-fiction into primarily a fictional story. The problem is that it is sometimes hard to figure out the line where the non-fiction ends and where the fiction begins.
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City of David

“Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day.”
Acts 2:29

I love it when archaeologists dig the Bible out of the ground.  I’m cautious not to over-promote ancient artifacts, particularly when they have hazy trails through the antiquities market, but there are lots of recent archaeological discoveries in Israel that precisely fit the text in the Bible.  Since the excavation of the steps of the Pool of Siloam by Ir David Foundation archaeologists in 2004, digs in the City of David have produced an impressive, rapidly growing catalog of artifacts and discoveries.  Critics continue to debate the interpretation of these findings, but the preponderance of evidence is piling up rapidly.

The video below highlights recent finds in the City of David.  You may be amazed to learn just how strongly the archaeology matches the text in the Bible, and the text in extra-biblical sources, such as the writings of Josephus.  The video describes:

  1. A Phoenician capital that prominent archaeologist Eilat Mazar suspected must have rolled downhill from King David’s palace.  She started searching for the palace uphill from the capital’s resting place, and unearthed what many archaeologists agree are the remains of King David’s palace2 Samuel 5:11 states that King David’s palace was built by (Phoenician) King Hiram of Tyre.  What kind of capitals would Phoenician craftsmen put on the palace columns?  Makes sense to me.
  2. Jebusite pottery from the Iron Age, right where it is supposed to be in the stratigraphy. David captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites (2 Samuel 5).
  3. Two seals (bullae) that were found 30 feet apart containing the exact names of two officials, who in the same sentence of the Bible were part of a plot to kill Jeremiah (400 years after David and right where they should be in the layers of the excavation).
  4. A cistern that could be the muddy cistern recorded in Jeremiah 38:1-13, into which those officials threw Jeremiah.
  5. An underground tunnel leaving the temple area, where according to Josephus, the Roman 10th legion blocked escaping Jews headed to Masada in 70 CE, then opened the tunnel and butchered them.  Archaeologists found a sword in its scabbard from the Roman 10th legion in that tunnel, along with pottery that had food caked on it—indicating the last 2,000 fleeing Jews were indeed hiding or stuck in the tunnel for some period of time.  These artifacts match accounts in Josephus’ Jewish Wars.
  6. A golden bell that matches the raiment prescribed for Hebrew priests in the Bible.
  7. An incomplete inscribed depiction of the Jewish menorah from the Second Temple period, one of only three depictions ever found.

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What’s a “Melchizedek”?

Abraham meets the Priestly-King Melchizadek. Dieric Bouts (1464-1467),  The Church of Saint Peter, Leuven, Belgium.

Abraham meets the Priestly-King Melchizadek.
Dieric Bouts (1464-1467), The Church of Saint Peter, Leuven, Belgium.

So, what is “Melchizedek” all about? Is a “Melchizedek” the level above the “Parking Deck”? No, not quite. In the Christian New Testament, the writer of the Book of Hebrews makes the priesthood of Melchizedek a central theme in that letter.  Jesus the Christ is also our high priest, standing in the order of Melchizedek.  So where does Melchizedek come from?

Originally, there are just a couple of obscure references in the Old Testament to Melchizedek, someone who has no described ancestry and no known descendants. He just appears and vanishes in the biblical scene quickly. Contemporary speculation abounds about Melchizedek, ranging from the writings of Joseph Smith to the Urantia book of the New Age Movement…. Mmmm….Is the writer of Hebrews just making things up as he goes along, making too much of a big deal over an insignificant character?
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