The Dead Sea Scrolls

In 1947 Bedouin shepherds discovered the caves where thousands of Old Testament manuscripts were stored. There is no price you could put on the value of this archaeological find. It is, without comparison, the most important discovery in biblical studies. At first, the Bedouins kept a couple of texts in their tents, unaware of their potential value. When news got out of their existence, the curator of the Jerusalem University, Mar Samuel, purchased four of them. He bought the Isaiah Scroll, the Community Rule, the Habakkuk Peshar (Commentary on Habakkuk), and the Genesis Apocryphon. He checked them for their veracity, and found them genuine.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are now located in the “Shrine of the Book” in Jerusalem. They originally belonged to the Essenes, an aesthetic Jewish movement that believed mainstream Judaism had sold out to secular interests. Continue reading “The Dead Sea Scrolls”

Neither hot nor cold

Revelation 3:14-16 is the classic Bible passage on half-hearted Christianity. Any preacher who is concerned his congregation lacks zeal for the Lord might choose this passage as his text for a sermon. Here the Lord memorably condemns the church at Laodicea for being “neither hot nor cold,” they were instead, “lukewarm.” He further warns them that this distasteful condition will cause him to “spit” them out of his mouth.

Interestingly it seems the Lord was reflecting an urban reality in that location. Several of the seven churches he addresses in Revelation chapters 2-3 indicate this. Archaeologists have discovered that the nearby town of Hieropolis, six miles distant, was blessed with extensive hot springs. Continue reading “Neither hot nor cold”

The witness of Josephus

Josephus Flavius (38-100 A.D.) was a Jewish historian and wannabe general. He was given a rabbinic education and joined the sect of the Pharisees.

When the Jews revolted against Rome in 64 A.D., he was placed in charge of the Jewish garrison in Galilee. When his forces were overwhelmed by the Roman general Vespasian, he was captured and brought before the gritty general. He impressed Vespasian by predicting he would one day become Caesar. Apparently not immune to flattery, the Roman general spared the life of Josephus and made him an intelligence officer. Continue reading “The witness of Josephus”

Neither hot nor cold

Revelation 3:14-16 is a rich passage for any preacher who fears his congregation is lacking in zeal or dedication to Christ. In these verses, Jesus condemns the church at Laodicea memorably as being “neither hot nor cold,” and warns that because they are “lukewarm” he will “spit” them out of his mouth. Any preacher worth his salt could nail down the points this powerful passage lays out. Continue reading “Neither hot nor cold”

The Oracle at Delphi

In Acts 18:12 the book of Acts speaks of Paul being dragged before Gallio, whom Luke describes as “proconsul of Achaia.” Skeptics railed at this description, pointing out that there was no record of such a man governing the province at that time.

Of course, the reader should understand two things. First, we don’t know everything. There is a host of governors and leaders in ancient times about whom we have no record. As it turns out, we don’t know everything. Rather than saying “records of a proconsul named Gallio don’t exist,” it would be more honest to say, “We don’t yet have a record of Gallio outside the Bible.” Second, the purpose of doing archaeology is to try to fill in those gaps in knowledge. Otherwise, why do it? Continue reading “The Oracle at Delphi”

But did Jesus even exist?

Just to clarify, I believe that Jesus is the son of God. I believe there is ample evidence for that assertion. Some might ask, however, “Did Jesus even exist?” Is there reason to believe that an historical figure named Jesus of Nazareth even lived? Aside from the four Gospels (because four witnesses aren’t enough, apparently), there is no other mention of Jesus Christ (They also missed Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians etc.).

Well, there were at least five ancient historical writers who mentioned Jesus. None of them were believers in Jesus as the son of God, you understand, and none of them mentioned Jesus for any reason than the fact that he was an important historical figure in the first century. Continue reading “But did Jesus even exist?”

Sir William Ramsay and Luke the Historian

Sir William Ramsay (1851-1939) was an archaeologist and biblical skeptic. He taught at the University of Edinburgh and believed that Bible writers made facts and stories up. The book of Acts, he declared, was full of errors, and to prove this contention, he traveled to Asia Minor to demonstrate Luke’s unreliability.

He understood he could not prove or disprove miracle accounts, but if he could show Luke to be a sloppy historian on facts that could be verified
(geographical and historical), he felt he could discredit Luke’s unverifiable stories. Continue reading “Sir William Ramsay and Luke the Historian”

The capture of Jerusalem

When David became king of a united Israel, he decided to establish a new capital, not in the southern city of Hebron, but in Jerusalem. Jerusalem was held at that time by a people known as the Jebusites, one of the nations that the Israelites had failed to expel from the land during Joshua’s day (Judges 1:11-36).

Jerusalem was located on a marvelous strategic position, high on a spur of hills that could be easily defended if a wall was set along the edge of the cliffs. The city was so secure that its Jebusite inhabitants exhibited a kind of ancient Jebusite trash talk: Their position was so secure, they declared, that “the maimed and the blind” could defend it (2 Samuel 5:6-8). It is a little humorous to think of a city guarded by blind and maimed sentries! Continue reading “The capture of Jerusalem”

Writing

In Exodus 34:1-3 Moses is recorded as writing (for the second time) the commandments of God on Mount Sinai. Many skeptical scholars in the 1960s pointed out that although the Bible records both God and Moses writing, there was no evidence that humans had learned the technology of writing at all by the time of Moses (about 1400 BC). No civilization had a system more complex than hieroglyphics, they declared, a picture system, rather than a symbol system complete with vowels, consonants, and grammar.

The first thing we should note is the logical fallacy in play. Continue reading “Writing”

Offensive

“But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23,24).

The word Paul uses in Greek for “stumbling block,” is skandalon – a “scandal,” or an “offense.” First century people did not feel warm and fuzzy emotions when they thought about crucifixions; they felt fear and revulsion. Continue reading “Offensive”