John's Gospel

The Way It Happened

John 12:1, 12:12, Inspecting the Passover Lamb

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. … The next day the great crowd that had come for the Festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem.

//Thus Jesus arrives in Jerusalem precisely five days before the Jewish Passover.  In Jewish tradition, the Passover celebrates the day all of Egypt’s firstborn were slain, while the Israelites were “passed over” by the killing angel. Every Israelite selected a lamb without spot or blemish, observed the lamb for five days to verify its perfection, then slit its throat and caught the blood in a basin. This blood was sprinkled on the entrance to their home, on both sides of the doorpost and above the doorpost, so that the killing angel would know to “pass over” the house.

Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem five days early is not a coincidence. All four Gospels insist the crucifixion occurs on or around the Passover, yet it might surprise you to learn that John is the only Gospel where Jesus is likened to the Passover lamb. In John, Jesus does not eat the Passover lamb with his disciples as he does in other Gospels, because in John, Jesus IS the lamb! (see John 18:28) Jesus arrives in Jerusalem as the lambs are arriving for inspection, he dies at the same moment the lambs die. If you’re the visual sort, you may even imagine him stretched upon a cross in the same manner as the lambs are stretched upon the spit.

For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.

Matthew 5:44, Love Your Enemies

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.

//Having grown up reading the Bible, Jesus’ sayings don’t sound so radical to me. But can you imagine how contrary they would have sounded to his first listeners? Today’s verse is a perfect example, which goes against everything Jews were taught about righteous hatred. Take this verse as an example:

Psalm 139:21-21, Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them as my enemies.

Instead, says Jesus, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. We’re following the famous “sermon on the mount” in Matthew, and Jesus’ transforming teachings at this time are of theological significance. The Jews anticipated a coming Messiah who would bring a new Torah, a new Law, superseding the Sabbath and its law. As Moses delivered the law to Israel from Mount Sinai, so does Jesus the Messiah stand upon a mountain and for three chapters in Matthew deliver a renewed law. Repeating the refrain, “You have heard that it was said … But I say to you …,” Jesus gives new instructions with a much higher standard than the old law. This is the law for the new kingdom of God.

Joshua 11:10, Joshua slays Jabin

At that time Joshua turned back and captured Hazor and put its king to the sword.

//Joshua accomplished some incredible victories, but this one may be the most miraculous of all time. Nine verses before this, we learn the name of the king Joshua killed: Jabin, king of Hazor. Everyone of the city was slaughtered, “utterly destroyed,” and the city was burned.

The book of Judges, chapter 4, tells us a little more about king Jabin and the city Hazor. “So the LORD sold them [Israel] into the hands of Jabin, a king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor.”

Backing up to chapter 3 of Judges, and we find two periods of rest. One is for forty years, another for fourscore years. 120 years that Israel had peace before Jabin’s time.

Now back up further to chapter 2, verse 8: “Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of a hundred and ten.” Thus begins the period when “Israel did evil in the eyes of the Lord,” leading chronologically to the reason the “Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin.”

Joshua’s greatest miracle: He slew Jabin, king of Hazor, 120 years after his own death!

Mark 9:20,25-26: Jesus, the Exorcist

So they brought [the boy to Jesus.] When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. … When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.”

//Few scholars doubt the portrayal in the Synoptic Gospels of Jesus as an exorcist, casting out devils. What exactly were these evil spirits whose possession had to be exorcised? We imagine schizophrenia, epilepsy, or hysteria, but we don’t know. What we do know is that Jesus, acting in the name of God and intent upon showing the arrival of the Kingdom of God, battled the demons face-to-face.

Jesus talked directly to them, shouted at them, waved his hands, angered them, and drove them out. Some scholars picture Jesus entering a sort of trance and imitating the demoniacs’ behavior in order to cure them.

John’s Gospel, perhaps embarrassed by the whole thing, reports not a single exorcism by Jesus, but the other gospels do not shy away from the image. At one point, Jesus’ family members come out of Nazareth to take charge of him, believing he has gone out of his mind. What would be more likely to trigger this concern than Jesus’ strange behavior during exorcisms? Others watching the shenanigans laughingly concluded, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.”

Yet Jesus’ fame as an exorcist attests to his success. Did he get them all? Since there seem to be no demons around today, we must conclude that the Kingdom of God has arrived.

Matthew 4:23, Jesus, the Healer

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.

//Few incidents provide more insight into the compassion and mission of Jesus than his healings. Jesus was absolutely convinced about the imminent arrival of the Kingdom of God, and pointed to his miracles as evidence of that arrival. At one point, Jesus explains that his healings are accomplished by “the finger of God.” This ability to heal wasn’t a gift given only to Jesus: He taught his techniques to his disciples as well, and instructed them to teach that their healings were proof of the Kingdom’s arrival.

Luke 9:2, [H]e sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

Jesus’ methods may have been similar to other healers. Once, he put his fingers into the ears of a deaf mute, then spat on his fingers and touched the man’s tongue. Another time he cured a blind man by putting saliva on his eyes and laying his hands on him. Saliva was known to have healing properties. These two stories appear only in Mark. Matthew and Luke, though they copied most of Mark, leave these stories out, probably because they sound like acts of magic.

But one point about Jesus’ miracles seems clear: He touched. Even the lepers. In an era where sickness was misunderstood as a punishment sent by God, Jesus did not shy away from the unclean and marginalized. His hands brought blessing to those who thought they were cursed, and caressed those who were excluded from human contact because of their sickness. Jesus healed not by magic but by compassion.

Daniel 12:8-9, The Rapture is Today!!

I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, “My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?” He replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end.

//My friends, the “time of the end” has finally arrived! Harold Camping, a former civil engineer, has unsealed the prophecies of Daniel so that we may understand. May 21, 2011, is Judgment Day.

Camping arrived at this date through a series of Bible-based calculations that assume the world will end exactly 7,000 years after Noah’s flood. 200 million people–approximately 3% of the world’s population–will float up to heaven as a worldwide earthquake strikes. The rest of us will endure five more months of plagues, quakes, wars, famine and general torment. Then on October 21, the earth and universe will be forever destroyed.

Worried about a 2012 apocalypse? Forget about it. Michael Drosnin (The Bible Code) was wrong, the Mayans were wrong, the “2012” action movie was wrong. The 2012 rapture scare, Camping assures us with a laugh, is just a fairy tale. The real rapture is today.

In 1992 Mr. Camping predicted the rapture would be in 1994, but thankfully he now has uncovered newer evidence that makes the prophesy for this year certain. 1,000 billboards around the world proclaim May 21, 2011 as the beginning of the end. 150 stations owned by Camping’s Family Radio program promise the same thing, translated into several foreign languages and broadcast worldwide.

In 1970, Camping published The Biblical Calendar of History, which dated the creation of the world in the year 11,013 BC and Noah’s flood to 4,990 BC. This differs from traditional Bible dating, but Camping discovered that the word “begat” in the Old Testament did not necessarily imply an immediate father-son relationship. Thus, when one patriarch died, the next one who is mentioned was perhaps not his son but a distant multi-great grandson. This little subtlety greatly helped obscure the proper Biblical calendar from unenlightened readers, “sealing up the time of the end” until, of course, the day had arrived for God to reveal the proper way to read genealogies.

The Dubious Disciple respectfully suggests the following preparations as you ready yourself for this evening:

1. Loudly denounce all church affiliations you may have. Camping insists all churches have become apostate and must be abandoned. Listening to his Family Radio broadcast is ok.

2. Who will care for your loved ones after you float skyward? Rapture insurance can still be purchased on ebay:

3. Don’t forget about your pets! Who’s going to feed Fido? Eternal Earthbound Pets will ease your mind of this worry: This business employs only avowed atheists, so you can be confident they’ll still be around after the rapture.

4. Not sure you’re heaven-bound? Don’t bother to pack your burn ointment. Camping assures us there is no Hell for the Heathen, only annihilation.

5. If things don’t happen as planned, pick up my book tomorrow about Revelation at to learn what went wrong.

Mark 7:27, Casting the Children’s Bread to Dogs

But Jesus said to her,  “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”

//A Greek woman came to Jesus asking him to cast a devil from her daughter. Today’s verse is Jesus’ reply, a very nasty way of saying that because the woman was a gentile, she did not deserve the attention reserved for God’s people. Harsh words, indeed, hardly what we would expect to hear from Jesus.

Hearing these words, the woman does not grow angry. It is not for herself that she asks help, but for her daughter. She replies, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.”

Suddenly, a light goes on for Jesus. God has sent him into the world to proclaim a Kingdom, a new way of life, a way of love and compassion. At first, he believes his focus should be entirely on Israel, and displays a low opinion of the gentile world. But suddenly, he realizes that this woman’s desire is the very same as God’s desire! She loves her daughter and doesn’t want that daughter to suffer.

This is a unique and special story, because as best I can tell, this is the only occasion in the Bible where Jesus gives up his opinion and accepts that of another! He lets a gentile woman convince him! Against all odds, in a patriarchal society that despised pagans, a pagan woman has better helped him understand his own mission.

For that, we should trust and appreciate the mission of Jesus even more.

Genesis 1:1, Evolution: Fact, Fiction, Religion, or Just a Theory?

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

//Today, I’m sharing a guest post from a friend. You’ve probably seen Tim’s comments on various threads, and you’ve seen us go head to head, and maybe you’ve figured out we’re the best of friends despite differing beliefs. In my desire to provide fair and equal treatment to a variety of religious beliefs and experiences, then, how could I do better than a guest post from Tim?

I did talk with Tim briefly before posting his article, trying to nail him down on some of the issues the article raises. What, Tim, do you mean by evolution? What is a theory versus a fact? What exactly do you have faith in? The article seemed purposefully oblique, purposefully interpretable in a variety of ways. And that turned out to be just what he wanted: an exercise for your noodle, to make you think for yourself, to build your own paradigm. So, I left it alone.

Tim wanted me to emphasize that he does not have social media accounts. Replies to this article are best posted on my blog, at

Here, then, are Tim Walker’s ramblings about evolution and creation.


Evolution: fact, fiction, religion, or just a theory.

I am going to talk about evolution and some natural processes. Bear with me, it all relates to my paradigm.  We will get started with little things. Keep in mind that how one looks at anything including little things is based on our paradigms. Paradigms are perspectives. What we have faith or belief in sets a perspective up.  Individual perspectives determine how we define evolution, and I am going to work at presenting a perspective. This is one of my paradigms and I hope you appreciate it and maybe understand it.

There are many different things we could say about evolution, and most have already been said. There are many things that are quite interesting and really do relate to how we look at evolution. I have put some of these together for consideration in hopefully a new or at least interesting way. For example stars are a long ways away.  In fact, there are stars that are over one million light years away. It would by definition of the speed of light in a vacuum take light over a million years to reach us from those stars. How does that relate to evolution, you ask? We will get to it after a few other things.

First let us consider some small things. How about dirt? Have you ever considered that trees, flowers, grasses and plants need dirt to grow in? Unless of course you want to talk about hydroponics or aeroponics, but those are outside the scope of this discussion. Any garden needs soil, but what is soil? Soil consists of differing amounts of sand, clay, silt, humus, organic matter on its way to being humus, water, gases, minerals, and a bunch of small to large living organisms. These small things can tell us some very interesting things.

Sand is produced through erosion of rocks. Clay and silt are also produced from erosion of rocks. I would be tempted to say that all of us believe in erosion. Please, remember that belief in erosion. Now let us look at humus. Humus is made up of dead organic matter that has decayed to the point where it is pretty stable.  Some of the best humus is in soil called Terra preta. The organic matter takes years to decay into humus.  This is another natural process that most of us can believe in. How do the gases and water get into the soil?  Precipitation gets both the water and most of the gases into the soil. What about the minerals, how do they get into the soil? The minerals get there through a number of natural processes; some are quite similar to how humus is made. The decay of dead things helps with both humus and mineral availability in the soil. That means you have to have dead things in the soil for those natural processes to work. Those dead things do not always decay; sometimes they just get buried too fast, or one of a number of other ways dead stuff can be preserved. These are other natural processes that most people believe in. These natural processes that create soil are ones that most all of us can believe in.

Anyone want to talk about trees and some other stuff? Trees, as most of us know, have growth rings. There is one ring for each growing season. If there are ten rings the tree is ten years old. Shells have bands that show their age. In a pond you can dig down into the mud deposited on the bottom and again see layers that will correspond with the seasons. These again are other natural processes that most of us accept.

How do these natural processes relate to evolution? Evolution was proposed as an idea many years ago. It is an idea that has been proposed to explain some natural processes that have been observed by a few people.  Many people have fought against acceptance of that idea. For them, it has to be fiction. It is now generally thought of as a theory, but it is not treated as a theory. For some people, accepting evolution would mess with an important paradigm that they have. Of course there are others that fight for it just as hard. There are enough facts supporting it that they have developed a faith in the theory being a fact. For them, to think of evolution as just a theory messes with their paradigm also. This is enough of my rambling about evolution being a fact, theory, or religion. The fact is it messes with some people’s paradigms.

If you have a creator that creates a world, and wants things to live there, it has to work. “Work:” what does that mean, you ask? If a creator creates a tree, there has to be soil for the roots. In the soil you need all of the things talked about above. The sand, clay, silt and everything else is created. The fact that sand, clay, and silt are now also produced through erosion is quite a different matter. The natural process of erosion is still correct; it is just a different way of creating sand, clay, and silt. The dead organisms have to be created also. By the way, I hope that no one has a problem with God creating organisms that are already dead. A cat, a dog, a person or two, that were created already dead. Actually the numbers of dead things would have to be quite high. There are many things on this earth that just can’t survive without dead stuff.  How deep did the creator create dead stuff? There are living and dead organisms many thousands of feet below the surface of the earth.

What else does it mean to create something that works? Hmm, I have an idea.

If a world was created 10 years ago what would it be like? It could be just like this one or not. What would a tree be like? If we counted the tree rings on a giant tree how many would be there? If there were 10 tree rings or less that might say something. In fact it might be hard to argue that the world was more than 10 years old. It would probably be a pretty good theory, or just a very accepted fact that the world was created 10 years ago. Everyone would know that something or someone created the world. In this proposed world we could even imagine that the intelligent life had a book similar to the Bible. It would just be a bit shorter in the history area. Another thing that would be different in it would be faith. There would not need to be much about faith in the existence of a creator. Faith is accepting something you do not understand or know. It is not based on fact. For me, and according to the dictionary, this means that faith is not proven or disproven by facts. If the Creator of this hypothetical world wanted the people of this world to believe in Him/Her by faith, there would be a problem. It just would not work. For that Creator, this hypothetical creation does not work. A better job of creation would need to be done. So that a belief in a Creator by faith, and not by fact, would be required.

Now we are getting into the meat. Is a theory greater than a fact? Does a fact prove or disprove a theory? A theory is less important than a fact. If a fact can’t prove or disprove faith, then a theory sure doesn’t even come close. Theories can’t do anything to a belief in God, if it is based on faith. Theories can’t even hurt those that base their beliefs on facts. Facts are stronger than theories. Now, if you are basing your belief on facts, theories, or convenience, that is a different thing. Then you get a battle. That is why there is a battle going on about a theory called evolution. If you are basing your belief on facts, theories, or convenience, then you will fight change until the fight costs more than the change. (There is another basis for belief and that is power, but I will not get into that here.) Not so, some would say, faith is about not giving room to false heretical teaching. That is a bad road to go down, people! The Catholic Church has done a good job of showing us some of why that is true. Imagine that carried to a ludicrous extreme: We would need thought police to keep us from entertaining random thoughts, which might go against some excepted knowledge. Oh, wait, it has already been done. For me the real meat of the issue is, do I believe by faith or not? If I do believe by faith, then all of the theories and facts do not affect me. Still, those facts and theories are really interesting to me, because they are the man’s best attempt to describe God’s creation. I like getting to see and understand how God’s creation works; it speaks to me of the Creator.

Evolution is just another theory. Please do not get confused by the idea of natural processes being evolution.  The natural processes, facts, are either explained by the theory or not. The change in any one species’ characteristics, or any other natural process, is a natural process, not the theory. Again, theories describe facts and suggest possible facts we do not yet know. Theories can be disproved by facts. Some theories will probably never be disproved by new facts, but all can be.

What about those stars out there? In a vacuum, we already know it takes light a long time to reach us.  Imagine, again, that world with only 10 tree rings even in their oldest and biggest trees. What would it be like to be looking up into space and see light just getting to us for the first time from another star? It would be kind of cool. It would be a whole different ball game. We would not need to be using layers of theories and facts to try and calculate the age of the universe. It’s age would be very obvious. Let me give an example for clarity. If we saw today for the first time a neutron star, and that neutron star was 6000 light years away, and we could see no star farther away, then that fact would give us an age to the universe (assuming we all can agree that neutron stars are old stars.) It would also make the idea of the universe being created a fact. We would know there was a creator. We would have a different Bible.

Having my paradigm, I know that faith must be pretty special, for God to have planned its necessity. For me, I know it is. It gives me peace and joy.

(Contributed by Tim Walker)

Matthew 7:14, the Strait Gate

Strait is the gate and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

//Here is another of those verses that help religions draw lines in the sand. If a denomination grows, that’s proof that God is welcoming people to His one and only way. If instead it is rejected by others, well, that’s equal proof that it’s right, for strait is the gate and narrow is the way. Your pews not filling as they used to? What more proof do you need that God is with you, for the Bible promises a “falling away.” Your constituents having trouble believing what you say? Not your problem, since the Bible promises to reward believers, though it seem like “foolishness.”

Religion encourages self-assurance, and when we feel the presence of God, that bolsters our opinion that we have found the one “right” way. Preach it, brother! If others embrace your teaching, glory be to God! If others despise or disagree with you, well, that’s to be expected! It’s a no-lose situation.

What never seems to cross anyone’s mind is that other types of believers—those deceived by other religions and denominations—also experience God, and have just as much evidence for their opinion that you are the one who is wrong. As Karen Armstrong says…

Where is the fun in religion, if you can’t disapprove of other people! There are some people, I suspect, who would be outraged if, when they finally arrived in heaven, they found everybody else there as well. Heaven would not be heaven unless you could peer over the celestial parapets and watch the unfortunates roasting below.

Acts 10:38, A Good Man

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power: who went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, for God was with him.

I have a habit of unpacking this verse whenever I feel the need to steer my blog back toward the straight and narrow. I’d like to quote from Karen Armstrong’s The Spiral Staircase where she is learning from Hyam,  a Jew, of what it means to practice Judaism:

“No official theology?” I repeated stupidly. “None at all? How can you be religious without a set of ideas—about God, salvation, and so on—as a basis?”

“We have orthopraxy instead of orthodoxy,” Hyam replied calmly, wiping his mouth and brushing a few crumbs off the table. “’Right practice’ rather than ‘right belief’. That’s all. You Christians make such a fuss about theology, but it’s not important in the way you think. It’s just poetry, really, ways of talking about the inexpressible. We Jews don’t bother much about what we believe. We just do it instead.”

Yet, beneath the later posturing of Christian writers, isn’t this was Jesus was about? Jesus was a Jew, and taught before a backdrop of the Jewish religion, but in many ways, Jesus showed as much disdain for the 613 laws of the book of Moses as did Paul. He left instead a legacy of kindness and compassion, as a doer.

I find the study of religions interesting, their creeds less so. To my way of thinking as a liberal Christian, any religion which does not express itself in good works is a failed religion.

Matthew 6:10, Thy Kingdom Come

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.

//So ends my book about Revelation. Father and son recite these words in prayerful anticipation of the day their Messiah will bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth, setting up a very real and political world power.

Perhaps no other verse in the Bible so epitomizes the confusion between early Christians over how to interpret the life and death of Jesus. Did Jesus already bring down the Kingdom of Heaven as was expected of the Jewish Messiah, or is he coming back another day to bring it? All early Christians agreed that Jesus had or would have a profound effect on the world; they just disagreed over how and when. Matthew’s Gospel anticipates the Kingdom arriving soon by force, while Luke argues that the Kingdom has already arrived peacefully: “Neither shall they say, Lo here! Or, lo there! For, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke’s understanding of the Kingdom was very different from Matthew’s. The epistles continue the argument, some siding with Luke, some siding with Matthew. Revelation sides very definitely with Matthew, promising a real and immediate bloody victory by Christ, with 200,000,000 enemies vanquished, and a new kingdom quickly established from within a New Jerusalem on earth.

Two thousand years later, the dream of a coming kingdom has yet to die. But how are we to relate to the original, first-century beliefs? How do we get inside the heads of early Christians, to understand the excitement of a coming kingdom on earth? The philosopher Bertrand Russell argued that there are two types of knowledge: knowledge by description versus knowledge by acquaintance. Storytelling can help bridge the difference, which is why I was determined to write my book as a combination of both fiction and nonfiction. I hope to share with you the percolating excitement among early Christians about the coming Kingdom.

1 Samuel 31:4, the Death of Saul

Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and run me through, or these uncircumcised fellows will come and run me through and abuse me.” But his armor-bearer was terrified and would not do it; so Saul took his own sword and fell on it.

//Here, we have one of the great murder mysteries of the Bible. In this battle, the Philistines routed Israel and wounded Saul. So Saul and his armor bearer, seeing how it would end, committed suicide. In fact, all of Saul’s sons and fighting men died in the battle. None lived to tell the story of Saul’s death.

Ah, but one man did live to tell. An Amalekite, an enemy of Israel, of a nation Saul utterly destroyed in battle. At least, the Bible says every one of the Amalekites were slain by Saul, but one must have survived. One that was, apparently, loyal to David. He straightaway brought word to David of how Saul was really killed:

“I happened to be on Mount Gilboa,” the young man said, “and there was Saul, leaning on his spear, with the chariots and riders almost upon him. When he turned around and saw me, he called out to me, and I said, ‘What can I do?’ “He asked me, ‘Who are you?’ “‘An Amalekite,’ I answered. “Then he said to me, ‘Stand over me and kill me! I am in the throes of death, but I’m still alive.’ “So I stood over him and killed him, because I knew that after he had fallen he could not survive. And I took the crown that was on his head and the band on his arm and have brought them here to my lord.”

How is it that this enemy of Saul, a man who should have an intense hatred for Israel, is loyal to David? How is it that David, who fought at least once on the side of the Philistines against Saul, now finds himself dismayed to hear Saul has died in a battle with the Philistines? And what does David do when the Amalekite begins telling his story? David quickly has him silenced, killing him as well. Is the story that has been placed on the Amalekite’s lips any more plausible than the suicide legend?

Oh, what a tangled web! Saul’s death is a murder mystery that may never be unraveled.

2 Peter 3:15-16, Ignorant and Unstable People

Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

//Unlike 1 Peter, the epistle of 2 Peter was not widely accepted or even known in the early church. The first definitive reference to 2 Peter is in the third century. Church fathers in the third and fourth century gradually came to believe it was written by the apostle Peter, and thus it found its way into the canon of the Bible.

But could it have really been written by Peter? The letter is an explosive denouncement of heresy, and the wicked teachers who introduced that heresy. The end of the world hadn’t arrived as expected, which encouraged scoffers, and worse yet, people who wrongly interpreted scripture to imagine that, when Jesus and Paul promised immediate fulfillment, they meant immediate fulfillment. Such a denouncement of heresy would hardly need proclaiming before, say, the war of 70 A.D.

To bolster his opinion, the writer of the epistle refers to “our dear brother Paul” and the “other Scriptures.” In other words, by the time of 2 Peter’s writing, Paul’s letters had already been collected and distributed as scripture! Much of 2 Peter is borrowed from the book of Jude. It is, basically, a rewrite and expansion of Jude. Jude may have been written near the end of the first century; if so, 2 Peter was likely penned in the early second century.

This letter certainly could not have been written by Peter himself, who died, according to tradition, around the year 67 A.D.

1 Kings 7:23, Tyre Pi

He made the Sea of cast metal, circular in shape, measuring ten cubits from rim to rim and five cubits high. It took a line of thirty cubits to measure around it.

// Today’s post may be funny only to mathematicians. King Solomon sent word to Tyre and brought back Huram to help with the construction of his palace, which included the above-mentioned basin, a big circle ten cubits in diameter and thirty cubits in circumference.

Except Huram’s circle wasn’t very circular. The ratio of the diameter to the circumference of a circle is not 1:3, it’s 1:3.1415926 ad infinitum … the value of pi. Huram should have measured closer to thirty one and a half cubits around the basin.

Perhaps Solomon should have contracted with someone from Egypt or Babylon. Both of these nations had calculated the value of pi to several decimal places before the oldest books of the Bible were written.

Genesis 1:27, On What Day Was Adam Created?

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

//On what day did God create Adam? Anybody know? Anybody?

And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Problem is, there is no mention whatsoever in this creation story of Adam and Eve. Just the creation of mankind in God’s image, which occurs on the sixth day. The story of the six days of creation ends in Genesis 2:3, and a second creation story begins in verse 2:4. In the second story, God forms Adam “in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.” He prepares Adam before any of the plant life, in order to tend the earth he is about to create: “And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.”

So, may we assume that Adam was formed on the third day, when God plants grass, and herbs, and fruit trees? But where is Eve?

Back to the second story. Eve comes after the fruit trees, after the animals. Eve makes her appearance from the rib of Adam, but only after Adam rejects all the rest of God’s creation as his “helpmeet.” Eve eats the forbidden fruit, gives it to Adam, their eyes are opened to see their nakedness, and God casts them out of the Garden of Eden. To Eve, God promises, “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children.”

Which brings us back to the first story, and the creation of mankind. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. We’re still trying to make sense of two legends, still trying to splice them together in a chronological pattern. So who is God speaking to when he says “Let us make man?” It can only be Adam, just after Adam has rejected all the animals as his mate.

“OK, Adam, you win, we’ll make mankind in our own image.”

So, God forms Eve, Eve seduces Adam, they get kicked out of the Garden and have all the world to play in with their new-found nakedness and knowledge. Along come children. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply.

Whaddaya think?

Genesis 9:29, Noah’s Death

Altogether, Noah lived 950 years, and then he died.

// Have you ever considered how long these people really lived? Like most of the first ten generations, Noah lived just under 1,000 years. With the traditional dating of the Bible, this means that when Noah died in the year 1935 BC:

  • The Ziggurat of Ur has been built (coinciding with the Biblical timing of the Tower of Babel). Noah would have observed its building and the scattering of the nations.
  • Noah and Abraham may have been chatting together for 60 years. In another fifteen years, Abraham will be leaving Ur and heading for the promised land.
  • Noah could be wearing Indian wares. Traders from Mesopotamia have already established trade routes to India.
  • If Noah travelled to Crete, he could be enjoying indoor plumbing.
  • If Noah travelled to Egypt, he could be enjoying the beginnings of literature and art.
  • Stonehenge has been built in England.
  • The Hsai dynasty is over 200 years old in China.
  • Did I say the nations had just divided from Ur? Already, corn is harvested in large scales in Peru.

Revelation 11:3-14, The Two Witnesses, V of V

These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. … But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on.

//Moses & Elijah, Peter & Paul, Ananus & Jesus. How did all these pairs get so tangled in John’s head? Who are the real two witnesses? Let me bring it all together with one final comparison. John may have put coincidences together in a way that conceals an under-the-surface meaning.

1 . First, you must understand that many rabbis taught that there would be not one Messiah, but two: A prophet and a king. Today’s reference of two olive trees and two lanpstands, which refers to the two witnesses, directly quotes from Zechariah, a primary text of the two-Messiah doctrine. The original “two witnesses,” from the book of Zechariah, are Zerubbabel, the king, and Jesus/Joshua, the high priest (Joshua is Jesus, both names English derivations of the same Hebrew name, Yeshua).

2 . As we saw in part IV, wartime priests and martyrs Jesus and Ananus became the inspiration for Revelation’s two witnesses.

3 . Merging (1) and (2), we end up with Jesus the king and Jesus the high priest, both of whom die ignominiously as the earth rumbles its displeasure and then rise from the dead after three days to ascend to heaven.  Does this sound a little like the entire New Testament theology wrapped up in one sentence?

I’m sure an entire book could be written about these two witnesses:  their fulfillment of the return of Elijah and Moses; their relation to the two-messiah doctrine spelled out in the book of Zechariah; their place in history as the priests Ananus and Jesus; the legends they helped inspire of Peter and Paul; and, finally, their merger into one, the Lord Jesus.  John certainly grinds a lot of mileage out of these few verses! John’s Gospel explains further that Jesus himself is the fulfillment of the expected arrival of both Moses and Elijah.

If you’d like a further discussion of this topic and how it intertwines with the message of Revelation, it’s all in my book: Revelation: The Way It Happened

Revelation 11:3-14, The Two Witnesses, IV of V

And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days … Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.  For three and a half days men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial.  The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth … At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed.  Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.

//So far, we’ve met Moses & Elijah, and Peter & Paul, as two pairs of candidates for the Two Witnesses of Revelation. But there are a few events in the story that just don’t add up. If later tradition is any indication, the early Christians may have considered Peter and Paul the two witnesses, but who was John really writing about?

A study of the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus provides either the answer or an eerie coincidence.  In The War of the Jews, published just before the book of Revelation, Josephus heaps praise upon two priests in Jerusalem, Ananus and Jesus the son of Gamala.  He narrates long, grand speeches for both men to their enemies:  Ananus to the Zealots and Jesus to the Idumeans.  This all occurs during the war, which lasted about three and a half years (1,260 days). Then the two priests are killed, and the Idumeans, standing upon their dead bodies, ridicule them.  Eventually they cast away the bodies without burial, the ultimate way to disgrace or shame someone.  “And this at last was the end of Ananus and Jesus,” Josephus wrote. Here’s how it happened.

As the Zealots of Jerusalem were fighting amongst themselves, a storm brewed and the earth rumbled.  Josephus describes a great earthquake like this:

During the night a terrific storm arose; the wind blew with tempestuous violence, and the rain fell in torrents; the lightnings flashed without intermission, accompanied by fearful peals of thunder, and the quaking earth resounded with mighty bellowings.  The universe, convulsed to its very base, appeared fraught with the destruction of mankind, and it was easy to conjecture that these were portents of no trivial calamity.

Taking advantage of the panic caused by the earthquake, the Idumeans, in league with the Zealots, succeeded in entering Jerusalem, and a massacre began.  Says Josephus, The outer court of the Temple was inundated with blood, and the day dawned upon eight thousand five hundred dead.  Close enough to Revelation’s number.

Curiously, just as Revelation says, this great earthquake did occur the “very hour” the Idumeans murdered, ridiculed, and left the two great priests, Ananus and Jesus, unburied in the streets of Jerusalem. Oops!  Now what should we believe about the identity of Revelation’s two witnesses? Can this possibly be a coincidence?

Revelation 11:3-14, The Two Witnesses, III of V

Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. … men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. … The second woe has passed; the third woe is coming soon.

//Revelation and the Gospels all indicate that the Messianic age is either upon us or just around the corner. In part II of this series, I introduced the two witnesses as a type of Moses and Elijah, how these two figures were expected to return and herald the arrival of the Messiah, and how the Gospels portray this as having happened. Revelation’s wording seems to confirm this; the death of these two witnesses corresponds to the time in which Revelation switches from past tense to future tense.

But if the witnesses have already arrived, who are they? One obvious answer is John the Baptist, who is referred to multiple times in the Gospels as the new Elijah. Even Jesus makes this association. However, if you believe Revelation was written by the same author, or at least the same community, as the Gospel of John, then we have a problem, because in this Gospel, John the Baptist flat out denies that he is Elijah. He also denies he is “the prophet,” the Moses-like second figure.

Who, then, does Revelation have in mind for the two witnesses? Maybe James and John, the two “sons of thunder?” They seem to fit the image. But whoever John meant his “Moses and Elijah” to be, the early church would likely think first of Peter and Paul, the two most prominent and animated leaders spearheading the Christian movement.  They are also the two apostles known for performing miracles. When both leaders died nearly simultaneously under the reign of Nero (the beast of the Abyss; see Revelation 13:18, it would surely bring catastrophic effects upon the church. Peter was crucified, Paul beheaded.

Tradition suggests Paul’s grave sits beside the Ostian Road, Peter’s in the Vatican, but the Romans usually merely abandoned their crucifixion victims on the cross for the dogs to pull down or buried them in a shallow grave, which the dogs would then dig up.  Therefore, they may have left both bodies lying by the road for a time, as Revelation indicates.  I don’t know how or when the tradition evolved that their bodies lay unburied, but in the sixth century, John Malalas vouches, “Nero ordered that the bodies of the holy apostles should not be handed over for burial, but should remain unburied.”

Are Peter and Paul the reincarnation of Moses and Elijah, then?

Revelation 11:3-14, The Two Witnesses, II of V

And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth … If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. … Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.”  And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on.

//John surely means for his two witnesses to fulfill the prophecy of Malachi that Moses and Elijah would make their appearance before the Messiah returned.  To this day, Jews leave a special chair empty during the Passover ritual, expressing their hope that Elijah will return and announce the coming of the Messiah, and they also once shared a widespread belief in the return of another Moses-like prophet based on Deuteronomy 18:15.  But John insists the two revered prophets have already arrived by giving his two witnesses similar powers.  These two reenact the judgment ministries of Moses and Elijah.  Fire came down from heaven at Moses’ command and consumed the false worshipers who had rebelled against him, and fire fell from heaven and consumed Elijah’s enemies in like manner.  Jewish tradition held that neither Moses nor Elijah died, but that God lifted both up to heaven, like these two witnesses. And a 1260-day drought occurred during the time of Elijah.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke agree with Revelation that Moses and Elijah have already returned, appearing on a mountaintop with Jesus.  When the disciples ask whether Elijah will arrive to usher in the final age, Jesus even declares Elijah has already once made his return in the form of John the Baptist.

Understanding this basic expectation, and the fulfillment in the Gospels of Malachi’s prophecy, sets the stage for further analysis in part III.

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