Jesus: The Son of Man

Jesus is described as “the son of man” over 80 times in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  Most of the time, with only a couple of exceptions, Jesus is the one who used this phrase.  Moreover, he was using this phrase to describe himself (e.g. Mark 2:10; John 3:14; Matthew 16:13).

What does this phrase mean?  (1) It refers to his humanity.  (a) Psalm 8:4 reads, “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit him?”  Notice the parallelism.  “Man” is parallel with “the son of man.”   This parallel is found in many Old Testament passages (e.g. Number 23:19; Job 16:21; 25:6; 35:8; Psalm 80:17; 144:3-4; Isaiah 51:12; 56:2; Jeremiah 49:18, 33; 50:40; 51:43).  (b) Others are referred to as “son of man.”  Ezekiel is referred to by this phrase over 90 times in the book of Ezekiel.  Daniel is referred to this way once in the book of Daniel.  This is done to emphasize their humanity, and relationship to God and man (cf. Ezekiel 3:17-19).  (c) The words “son of…” sometimes refers to being “of the order of” (Zondervan’s Pictorial Dictionary, p. 805) or “membership in a class or guild” (I.S.B.E. Vol. 4, p. 2826).  It is used of: one who is a perfumer, Nehemiah 3:8, see NKJV fn; one of the goldsmiths, Nehemiah 3:31; those who are singers, Nehemiah 12:28; a prophet or one associated with a prophet, Amos 7:14.

Jesus was fully human.  He grew tired and needed sleep (John 4:6; Mark 4:38).  He experienced hunger and thirst (Matthew 4:2; John 4:6-7; 19:28).  He was tempted (Mark 1:13; Hebrews 4:15).  He even tasted death (Hebrews 2:9).

(2) More may be intended.  He was the promised human.  He was the promised seed (Genesis 3:15; 12:3; 22:18).  This son of man was written of in scripture aforetime.  Jesus said, “The son of man indeed goes just as it is written of Him…” (Matthew 26:24).  It was foretold that a man would come, who would suffer for us (Isaiah 53).  Moreover, one like the son of man would go to the Ancient off Days and would be given an everlasting kingdom (Daniel 7:13-14 cf. Acts 1:9; 2:33, 36).  Remember that Jesus came in the likeness of man (Romans 8:3; Philippians 2:7; Hebrews 2:17).

Let us summarize.  His humanity is in view.  “ ‘Son of man’ seems to mean essentially, man, a distinct member of the order of humanity” says Zondervan’s Pictorial Dictionary (p. 805).  However, more may be intended.  He is the one prophesied of in scripture.  He is the promised one.

 

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Ghosting (Don’t Ghost Me)

Are you familiar with this word, and its modern usage?  I was not, until recently.  What does the word mean?  Here are some definitions – Psychology Today: “Ghosting… is having someone that you believe cares about you, whether it be a friend or someone you are dating, disappear from contact without any explanation at all” (This Is Why Ghosting Hurts So Much by Jennice Vilhauer, Ph.D., physchologytoday.com).  Urban Dictionary: “When a person cuts off all communication with their friends or the person they’re dating, with zero warning or notice before hand” (urbandictionary.com).  Wikipedia: “Ghosting is breaking off a relationship… by ceasing all communication and contact with the former partner without apparent warning or justification, as well as ignoring the former partner’s attempts to reach out or communicate” (Wikipedia.org).

Let’s consider some who have been ghosted:

1.  Employers. 

Some feel no sense of responsibility to an employer.  They, without notice, cease showing up for work.  In some cases, they leave their employers short-handed and in a difficult situation (cf. Proverbs 25:19).

I remember being taught to offer an employer at least two weeks’ notice.  Some positions need even more notice.

Are there Biblical principles to consider?  I believe that there are.  Consider: “Therefore, what you want men to do to you, do also to them… (Matt. 7:12); “having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that… they may by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12); “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

2.  Those Dated.

Some feel no sense of responsibility to those whom they date.  Jennice Vilhaver has written, “Ghosting isn’t new – people have long done disappearing acts – but years ago this kind of behavior was limited to a certain type of scoundrel.  In today’s dating culture being ghosted is a phenomenon that approximately 50 percent of men and women have experienced… Despite ghosting’s commonality, the emotional effects can be devastating, and particularly damaging to those who already have fragile self-esteem… ghosting can result in feelings of being disrespected, used and disposable” (psychologytoday.com).

Why do people ghost?  “People who ghost are primarily focused on avoiding their own emotional discomfort and they aren’t even thinking about how it makes the other person feel” (ibid).  In other words, they are selfish.

Are there Biblical principles?  I believe that there are.  “Therefore, what you want men to do to you do also to them… (Matthew 7:12).  “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).  Remember that this other person was made in the similitude of God (cf. James 3:9).

3.  Friends.

Some feel no sense of responsibility to friends.  They are “fair-weathered friends.”  They lack loyalty.

 Are there Biblical principles to consider?  I believe that there are.  “Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend…” (Proverbs 27:10).  Friends should try to make each other better (cf. Proverbs 27:17).  “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them…” (Matthew 7:12).

4.  Families.

Some feel no sense of responsibility to family.  They are “fair-weathered” family members.  They are not loyal.  They are not long-suffering or forgiving.  Husbands and wives, fathers and mothers walk away.  Think Kenny Rogers’ song, “You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille, with four hungry children and a crop in the field” (Song: Lucille by Kenny Rogers).  Children neglect and forsake parents.

Are there Biblical principles to consider?  I believe that there are.  There should be loyalty in marriage.  “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:6).  There are responsibilities that should be considered.  Husbands and wives have responsibilities (e.g. Colossians 3:18-19).  Fathers and mothers have responsibilities (e.g. Colossians 3:21; Titus 2:5).  Children are to honor father and mother (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:1-2; Mark 7:9-12).  I find only one exception to this (cf. Acts 4:19; 5:29).  Love is need (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).  Forgiveness is needed (Colossians 3:12-13).  Esau (Genesis 33), Joseph (Genesis 45, 50), and the father in the parable of The Prodigal Son (Luke 15) are great examples of how reconciliation should occur in families.

5.  Brethren.

Some feel no sense of responsibility to their brethren.  Others should serve them; they do not serve.  If another upsets them, they quickly sever the relationship and avoid contact with the person.

Are there Biblical principles to consider?  I believe that there are.  We have responsibilities to one another (John 13:14; Romans 12:15; Galatians 6:1-2; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; James 5:19-20).  We are to be helping one another to heaven.  We are brothers and sisters in Christ.  Moreover, when offenses occur, both the offender and the offended have a responsibility to seek reconciliation (Matthew 5:23-24; Matthew 18:15-17).  We are told, “put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, longsuffering; bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:12-13).

6.  The Church.

Some have no sense of responsibility or loyalty to the church, especially the local church.  They have the consumer mentality.  The church is there for them.  They do not see themselves as part of the church.  If something happens or is said that they disagree with, or do not like, they leave without a word, never to return.  Problems and misunderstandings are not worked through, and discussed; they simply leave.  Such instability hurts the church, and does not help bring about spiritual maturity.

Are there Biblical principles to consider?  I believe that there are.  The local church should work together as one body (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12).  Each member should function as part of the body, not separate from it.  Members of the body should seek to build up the body in love (Ephesians 4:16).  Moreover, we should not hastily give up on each other.  Paul did not hastily give up on the church at Corinth.  He reasoned with them.  He corrected them.  He did not ghost them.  He care too much to do that.  Furthermore, if something is done or said that is considered to be wrong, there is a way to deal with such (1 Thessalonians 5:14; Jude 3).  Ghosting is not the answer.  Love demands more.

 

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Easter, a Special Holy Day?

Some people avoid any connection with Easter.  It is to them an unauthorized special holy day at best, and a pagan holiday at worst.

Some people place special emphasis on Easter Sunday.  They attend the worship assembly, when they ordinarily do not.  (Preachers sometimes speak of C.E.O. members and C.M.E. members.  C.E.O. members attend on Christmas and Easter only.  C.M.E. members add Mother’s Day.  I hope that you are not this type of member.  However, Easter Sunday does typically draw larger than average crowds to many local churches).  They dress in new clothes.

How should Christians view this day?  Should it be treated as a special holy day?

What is the origin of Easter?  (1) Many believe that it has roots in paganism.  The New Book of Knowledge says, “Easter is believed to have taken its English name from the Teutonic Festival celebrating the return of spring each year, which was called Eostur” (1985, Vol. 5, p. 35).  The Australian Broadcast Corporation says, “Easter actually began as a pagan festival celebrating spring in the Northern Hemisphere, long before the advent of Christianity… in English – speaking countries… Easter takes its name from Anglo-Saxon England… Eostre was the goddess of spring and renewal… in Germany the festival is called Ostern (Origin of Easter by Penny Travers, abc.net.au).  It is suggested that some of the traditions long pre-date Christianity.  The New Book of Knowledge says, “The custom of a sunrise service on Easter Sunday can be traced to ancient spring festivals that celebrated the rising sun… one of the best-known Easter symbols is the egg, which has symbolized renewed life since ancient days… The Persians and the Egyptians also colored eggs and ate them during their new year’s celebration, which came in the spring” (p. 35-36).  The Easter bunny may also come from paganism.  Time Magazine says, “The exact origins of the Easter bunny are clouded in mystery.  One theory is that the symbol of the rabbit stems from pagan tradition, specifically the festival of Eostre – a goddess of fertility whose animal symbol was a bunny.  Rabbits, known for their energetic breeding, have traditionally symbolized fertility (What’s the Origin of the Easter Bunny? By Alexandra Sifferlin, time.com).  (2) It may also have a root in Judaism.  The New Book of Knowledge says, “The French word for Easter, Paques, the Italian Pasqua, and the Spanish Pascua all came from the Hebrew word Pesah, a Jewish Feast celebrated on the night of the first full moon in the spring season.  The Feast of Pesah (in English, Passover) marks the freedom of the ancient Israelites from the Egyptians, who had enslaved them” (ibid).   (3) This day has become connected with Jesus.  Jesus’ tomb was found empty on the first day of the week (Matthew 28:1-ff; Mark 16:1-ff; Luke 24:1-ff; John 20:1-ff), following the Passover (Matthew 26:2, 17, 18, 19; Mark 14:1, 12, 14, 16; Luke 22:1, 7, 8, 11, 13, 15; John 11:55; 12:1; 13:1; 18:28, 39; 19:14).  It is theorized by some that ancient traditions were re-purposed.  It is not difficult to see how the egg could come to symbolize hope and rebirth.  It is said that some ancient writers (e.g. Pliny the Elder) thought that rabbits could reproduce without mating, and therefore it was associated with Mary (The Surprising Origin of the Easter Bunny, catholic.org).  The wearing of new clothes on Easter is thought by some to represent a new life in Christ (Now Easter Finery has Deeper Meaning by Carla Hinton, newsok.com).  This appears to be a unique tradition in Christianity.

There are those who argue that Easter has no pagan roots at all.  I have not been convinced.

There was an early controversy in church history, known as the Paschal controversy. The controversy arose after the second century.  Some churches in the east, particularly in Asia Minor, wanted to observe Easter on the same day, Nisan 14th, that the Jewish Passover occurred.  “They began a fast on the fourteenth day of the first Jewish month, the day of the crucifixion – and then celebrated the resurrection three days later.  This made Easter fall on different days of the week” (F.W. Mattox, The Eternal Kingdom p. 121).  Some churches in the west insisted that Easter should only be observed on the first day of the week.  The council of Nicea in 325 decreed that Easter should be observed on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox (For more info see: Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 3, p. 404-ff; Paschal Controversies, Britannica.com).  The Roman Catholic church and the Orthodox church have different dates for Easter.  This difference is due to calendars used.  The Roman Catholics use the Gregorian calendar.  The Orthodox church has remained with the Julian calendar (Calculating the Easter Date, timeanddate.com).  These controversies are needless.  The Bible never instructs us to observe Easter.

How should the Christian view Easter?  (1) As a pagan holiday?  I know of no one who is trying to worship Eostre, or any other god.  Intent matters.  (2) As a Jewish holiday?  Paul wrote, “So let no one judge you in food or in drink or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17).  (3) As a special holy day?  There is no indication in Scripture that there is to be an annual special holy day called Easter.  We read, “They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).  It was “on the first day of the week when the disciples came together to break bread” (Acts 20:7).  Every week has a first day.  If you come on “Easter Sunday” we are glad to see you.  However, we would encourage you to be with us for worship each and every first day.

Is there anything wrong with egg hunts and chocolate bunnies?  I do not believe that there is.  There is nothing inherently wrong with these things.  No one to my knowledge is in worship of a pagan god.  It is more of a seasonal holiday to celebrate the coming of spring, and playtime with the young.  If these things bother your conscience, then I suggest you avoid them (Romans 14:23).  However, be cautious not to bind this on others who consider it nothing but harmless fun.

Is there anything wrong with telling our children about the resurrection on this occasion?  Certainly not.  He was “raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25 E.S.V.).  God has “begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3 cf. 3:21); without this we have no hope (1 Corinthians 15).

Doesn’t the Bible mention Easter?  The word “Easter” appears once in the K.J.V. in Acts 12:4.  The reference is to the Jewish Passover.  Herod certainly was not observing an Easter that celebrated the resurrection of Jesus.  The Greek word Pascha appears 29 times in the New Testament.  28 of these times the K.J.V. renders it “Passover.”  Why the K.J.V. rendered it “Easter” in this one passage is unknown.  Robert Taylor Jr. writes, “It is interesting to observe that the Oxford Universal Dictionary on Historical Principles says that Easter referred to ‘The Jewish Passover – 1611’ (p. 579).  The Greek word is Pascha and refers to the Passover feast or the days of unleavened bread.  The context makes this crystal clear” (Taylor, Challenging Dangers of Modern Versions, p. 123).

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What Does Your House Say About You?

Whether you realize it or not, your house, car, and personal items may reveal much about you.  Malcolm Gladwell writes, “Imagine that you are considering me for a job. You’ve seen my resume and think I have the necessary credentials.  But you want to know whether I am a right fit or your organization.  Am I a hard worker?  Am I honest?  Am I open to new ideas?  In order to answer these questions about my personality, your boss gives you two options.  The first is to meet with me twice a week for a year – to have lunch or dinner or go to a movie with me – to the point you become one of my close friends… The second option is to drop by my house when I am not there and spend half an hour or so looking around.  Which would you choose?”  (Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, p. 34).  The writer suggests that the second option may be the better option.

Gladwell references an experiment by psychologist Samuel Gosling.  Eighty college students were used as subjects in the experiment.  First, close friends of each student answered a questionnaire rating their friend in five areas: 1.  Extraversion.  Are you sociable or retiring?  Fun-loving or reserved?  2.  Agreeableness.  Are you trusting or suspicious?  Helpful or uncooperative?  3.  Conscientiousness.  Are you organized or disorganized?  Self-disciplined or weak-willed?  4.  Emotional stability.  Are you worried or calm?  5.  Openness to new experiences.  Are you imaginative or down-to-earth? Independent or conforming?  Second, total strangers were given access to the student’s room, for fifteen minutes, and asked to complete the same questionnaire.  Here are the results: The close friends did better in the first area, and slightly better in the second area; but the total strangers did better in the last three areas.  “On balance, …the strangers ended up doing a much better job” (Gladwell, p. 36).

What information could be gathered from one’s dorm room?  “Gosling says… that a person’s bedroom gives three kinds of clues to his or her personality.  There are, first of all, identity claims, which are deliberate expressions about how we would like to be seen by the world: a framed copy of a magna cum laude degree from Harvard, for example.  Then, there is behavioral residue, which is defined as the inadvertent clues we leave behind: dirty laundry on the floor, for instance, or an alphabetized CD collection.  Finally, there are thoughts and feelings regulators, which are changes we make to our most personal spaces to affect the way we feel when we inhabit them: a scented candle in the corner, for example, or a pile of artfully placed decorative pillows on the bed… Just as important, though, is the information you don’t have when you look through someone’s belongings… Most of us have difficulty believing that a 275-pound football lineman could have a lively and discerning intellect.  We just can’t get past the stereotype of the dumb jock.  But if all we saw of that person was his bookshelf or the artwork on his walls, we wouldn’t have the same problem” (Gladwell, pp. 37-38).

Let’s make application.  I am not concerned about what your personal space and possessions may indicate about your personality type; but I am concerned about what they may reveal about you (and me) spiritually.  Does your space reveal that you study your Bible?  Does your space reveal that you spend time in prayer (e.g. a prayer list)?  Does your space indicate that you love the brethren (e.g. cards addressed to others to encourage them)?  Does your space indicate worldliness?  Does your space indicate moral impurity or questionable behavior?

Regardless of what may be visible to human eyes, let us remember that God knows us completely.  David wrote, “O LORD, You have searched me and know me.  You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.  You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.  For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, You know it all together” (Psalm 139:1-4). Proverbs declares, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3).

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World Religions: Islam

Islam has many adherents.  It is the second largest of the five major religions.  There are about 1.6 billion Muslims in the world and about 2.2 billion adherents to Christianity (Largest Religion in the World, worldatlas.com).  There are nearly 3.5 million Muslims living in the U.S.A. (A new estimate of U.S. Muslim population – Pew Research Center 2018/01/03, pewresearch-org.cdn.amproject.org).  It is the third largest religion in the U.S.A. (Religion in the United States, Wikipedia.org).

The word “Islam” is the name of the religion.  It means “submission.”  It refers to submission to Allah (Lit. The God).  Robert Morey suggests, “The word ‘Islam’ did not originally mean ‘submission,’ as many people have supposed.  Instead, it referred to that strength, which characterized a desert warrior who, even when faced with impossible odds, would fight to the death for his tribe.  The word ‘Islam’ only slowly developed into meaning ‘submission’” (Morey, The Islamic Invasion, p. 37).  Regardless of etymology, the word “Islam” seems to be used for submission to Allah.

The word “Muslim” is the word for an adherent to Islam.  It means “one who submits.”  It refers to one who submits to Allah.

History

Let’s begin with Muhammad.  Muslims consider him to be the greatest and last prophet of Allah [The Quran mentions 25 prophets by name: Adam; Idris (Enoch); Nuh (Noah); Hud (Eber); Saleh (Salah); Ibrahim (Abraham); Lut (Lot); Ismail (Ishmael); Ishaq (Isaac); Yaqub (Jacob); Yusuf (Joseph); Ayub (Job); Shuayb (Jethro); Musa (Moses); Haran (Aaron); Dawud (David); Sulayman (Solomon); Ilyas (Elijah); Al-Yasa (Elisha); Yunus (Jonah); Dhul-kifl (Ezekiel); Zakariya (Zechariah); Yahya (John the baptist); Isa (Jesus); and Muhammad (Who Are the Prophets of Islam?, Wikipedia.org)].

Early Life

Muhammad ibn Abdallah was born in Mecca, Arabia, in c. 570 A.D..  His father died before he was born.  His mother died when he was six.  He was cared for by his paternal grandfather, for two years.  Then, his grandfather died.  He would be reared by his paternal uncle Abu Talib.  His uncle was a merchant and trader.  Muhammad would accompany his uncle on journeys to Syria and other places.  Muhammad learned this business.

Young Man

Muhammad developed a reputation as reliable and trustworthy in business.  He was hired as chief merchant by Khadija, a wealthy widow, for her business.  In time, she grew to love him.  She proposed marriage and he accepted.  She was forty years old, and he was twenty-five.  She would be Muhammad’s only wife until her death 25 years later (Not until after her death did he become polygamous).  The had six children together, two sons, who died young, and four daughters.

The Prophet

When Muhammad was forty years old (c. 610 A.D.), during the month of Ramadan, in a cave on Mount Hira, it is said that he received his first vision (Surah 96).  His visions were occasionally accompanied by seizures (Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 12, p. 606 c. 1979; Robert Morey, The Islamic Invasion, pp. 71-72).  “Muhammad was at first unsure of the source of these visions, whether divine or demonic.  His wife, Khadijah encouraged him to believe that they were from God (Josh McDowell & Don Stewart, Handbook of Today’s Religions, p. 379).  Revelation would continue to come until the year of his death (632 A.D.).  These revelations were written down by scribes, forming what we now have in written form, The Quran (the recitation).  At least this is the traditional understanding (there are those who now question this origin of the Quran.  Dr. Jay Smith of England is an example).

Muhammad at first shared his revelation with family (cf. Surah 26:214).  Early adherents were his wife, Khadijah, his cousin and who was reared by Muhammad, Ali, his servant, Zeyd, and close friend Abu Bakr.

Then in about 613 A.D. he began to publicly proclaim these revelations (cf. Surah 74:2).  This gained him some adherents to Islam.  The names of the seventy are known (Britannica, p. 606).  However, it also brought opposition.  Dave Miller has written, “The cornerstone feature of his message was the condemnation of the idolatry that dominated Arab culture and, in contrast, the affirmation of one God… Muhammad found himself in direct conflict with the economic interests of his mother tribe, the Quraysh.  As the ruling tribe of Mecca, the people of the Quraysh were the guardians of the Ka’bah, the holy place to which all Arabians made pilgrimage in the worship of the pagan deities” (Miller, The Quran Unveiled, p. 7).  At least 360 were represented at the Kabah (Robert Morey, The Islamic Invasion, p. 40).  As opposition grew, Muslims began to emigrate to Ethiopia and to Yathrib (now Medina), Arabia.  Some in Yathrib had already accepted Islam.  When Muhammad was fifty-two years old, he escaped a murderous plot and fled to Yathrib, 200 miles to the north.  This flight (Hegira) took place on July 16, 622 A.D.  It marks the beginning date on the Muslim calendar (2018 A.D. 1439 A.H./1440 A.H. Anno Hegirae – in the year of Hegira.  This is due to Islam’s calendar consisting of being shorter, consisting of 354 or 355 days).

In Yathrib (Medina).  Muhammad converted many to Islam.  He expelled others (two groups of Jews: Qaynuga and Nadir).  Others were executed or enslaved (a group of Jews: Qurayza).  Muslims claim that these Jews were treasonous and plotting against him. Muslims also began to go on raids (razzias) on caravans.  “In January 624, a small band of men were sent… to Nakhlah… and attacked a caravan from Yemen… In March 624, he (Muhammad – B.H.) was able to lead 315 men on razzia to attack a wealthy Meccan caravan returning from Syria” (Britannica, p. 607).  Angels are said to have aided them in this victory (Surah 3:123-125).

Return to Mecca

Muhammad “Marched on Mecca in January 630 with 10,000 men.  Abu Sufyan and other leading Meccans went out to meet him and formally submitted, and Muhammad promised a general amnesty.  When he entered Mecca there was virtually no resistance.  Two Muslims and 28 of the enemy were killed… Idols were destroyed in the Ka’bah and in some small shrines in the neighborhood.  To relieve the poorest among his followers, he demanded loans from some wealthy merchants” (Britannica, p. 608).

Muhammad died on June 8, 632 A.D..  He was about 62 years old.  He had united most of Arabia under his leadership.

Muslims would go on to conquer many lands. Islamic territory stretched “from the borders of China and the Indian subcontinent, across Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of “Europe (Sicily and the Iberian Peninsula to the Pyrenees)” by the mid-8th century A.D.  Three options seems to be offered to unbelievers: (1) Accept Islam; (2) Pay the jizya (poll tax on non-Muslims); (3) War (Surah 9:29; Also Tafsir Ibn Kathir Vol. 8, p. 668 quoted in The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam by Robert Spencer, p. 37).

Beliefs and Practices

1. Five Major Articles of Faith or Iman (cf. Surah 2:285).

(1)  Belief in Allah.  There is only one true God, and His name is Allah.  He alone is worthy of worship.

(2)  Belief in Allah’s angels.  Allah created the angels.  They are his servants.  They are  sent by Him to help His prophets and followers.  Each man and woman has two recording angels – one recording his good deeds, and one recording his bad deeds.

(3)  Belief in Allah’s books.  There are four inspired books in Islam: The Tawrat (Torah) given to Moses; The Zabur (Psalms) given to David; The Injil (Gospel) given to Jesus; and the Quran given to Mohammad.  Muslims believe that the first three have been corrupted by Jews and Christians.  Any place where the first three books contradict the Quran, it is said to be due to corruption of the text of these first three books and not due to any error in the Quran.  Robert Morey has written, “While it is easy to say that the text of the Bible is corrupt, it is another thing to prove it… when I ask for some kind of proof that the Hebrew or Greek text is corrupt, they respond by saying, ‘I do not have to prove it is corrupt.  It has to be corrupt, otherwise it would agree with the holy Quran’” (Morey, The Islamic Invasion, p. 135).

 (4) Belief in Allah’s prophets.  The six greatest are: Adam; Noah; Abraham; Moses; Jesus; and Mohammad.  Mohammad is considered the greatest and last prophet.

(5)  Belief in the last day, the day of resurrection and judgment.  All men will be raised.  The books kept by recording angels will be opened.  Each man’s deeds will be weighed. Some will go to Jannah (lit. garden, paradise; i.e. heaven).  There are many levels to Jannah.  Many will go to Jahannam (from Hebrew Gehenna; i.e. hell).  There are seen different gates leading to different punishments on different people.  Some believe that for some (Muslims) Jahannam will not be eternal, but more like Catholic Purgatory (info on Articles of Faith see: McDowell & Stewart, Handbook of Today’s Religions, pp. 389-390; The Articles of Faith, Islamweb.net; The 6 Articles of Iman, discoveringislam.org).

2. Five Pillars of Islam (arkan al-Islam).

(1)  The profession of faith (The Shahada or Kalima).  “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is His prophet.”  One must publicly state this to become a Muslim [Related Quran passages – Surah 2:163, 225; 20:14; 33:40; 112:1].

(2)  Prayer (Salat).  Muslims are to pray five times per day (upon rising or dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, dusk, before retiring or night).  Prescribed prayers are to be recited in Arabic facing the Kabah in Mecca. [Related Quran passages – Surah 2:139-158, 238; 11:114; 33:42].

(3) Almsgiving (Zakat).  Muslims are to give 2 ½ % of their income to the needy, orphans, and widows [Related Quran passages – Surah 2:43; 110, 227; 9:18; 22:14].

(4)  Fasting (Saum).  Muslims are expected to fast, consuming no food or drink from dawn to dusk each day, during the month of Ramadan (the month Muhammad received the first revelation of the Quran).  There is an exception for the ill.  Some also make exceptions for the elderly and the pregnant.  [Related Quran passages – Surah 2:183-185].  It is worth nothing that there has been found, in certain parts of the world, a 20% increase of a child’s likelihood of having visual, hearing, or learning disabilities if born during the month of Ramadan.  This pattern exists in Southeastern Uganda and even some parts of Michigan (Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, Super Freakonomics, p. 57-ff).

(5)  Pilgrimage (Hajj).  Muslims are expected to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their life, if possible [Related Quran passage – Surah 2:169].  (Info on Pillars of Islam – See: McDowell & Stewart Handbook of Today’s Religions, pp. 390-391; Pillars of Islam, islamicity.com; The Five Pillars of Islam, Khanacademy.org).

3. Other beliefs

a. Muslims do not believe that Jesus was begotten by God (Surah 112). They do not believe that Jesus was (is) the Son of God (Surah 4:171-f; 6:101; 9:30; 10:68; 18:1-ff; 19:88; 43:72-82, etc.).  Though the virgin birth is implied (Surah 3:47).

b. Muslims do not believe in the deity of Jesus (Surah 4:171-f; 5:70-75, 114-ff).

c. Muslims do not believe in the crucifixion of Jesus (Surah 4:157-158).

d.   Many believe in the doctrine of abrogation (naskh), wherein later Surahs (chapters) have precedence over earlier Surahs (cf. Surah 2:106).  For example: warfare (Surah 8:39; 9:29) is believed by some to have precedence over no compulsion in religion (Surah 2:256).  [Mecca: 96, 68, 73, 74, 1,  111, 81, 87, 92, 89, 93, 94, 103, 100, 108, 102, 107, 109, 105, 113, 114, 112, 53, 80, 97, 91, 85, 95, 106, 101, 75, 104, 77, 50, 90, 86, 54, 38, 7, 72, 36, 25, 35, 19, 20, 56, 26, 27, 28, 17, 19, 11, 12, 15, 6, 37, 31, 34, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 51, 88, 18, 16, 71, 14, 21, 23, 32, 52, 67, 69, 70, 78, 79, 82, 84, 30, 29, 83; Medina: 2, 8, 3, 33, 60, 4, 99, 57, 47, 13, 55, 76, 65, 98, 59, 24, 22, 63, 58, 49, 66, 64, 61, 62, 48, 5, 9, 110. Chronological order from The Quran verses in Chronological order, Qran.org].

Types of Islam

1.  Sunni. The Sunni branch comprises 87-90% of the Muslim world (Sunni Islam, Wikipedia.org).  Sunnis believe that Mohammad did not clearly designate a successor.  The Muslim community elected Abu Bakr as the first Caliph (successor).  The Sunnis believe that the Caliph is to guard, not continue, revelation (Article: Gary Brantley, Major Divisions of Islam).

“Within thirty years of Mohammad’s death four Caliphs were appointed in succession: Abu Bakr (632-634), Umar (634-644), Uthman (644-656), and Ali (656-661).  Sunnis regard these first Islamic leaders as ‘the four rightly guided Caliphs,’ since they lived close to Mohammad.  Sunnis believe that the Sunna (behavior or practice) of these four Caliphs, together with The Prophet’s, is authoritative for all Muslims.  The Sunnis derive the name from this emphasis on Sunna (Brantley).

2.  Shia. The Shia branch compromises 10-13% of Muslims (Islamic Schools of Branches, Wikipedia.org).  They are the majority in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, and possible Yemen (Sunnis and Shia: Islam’s Ancient Schism, BBC.com).  Shias believe that Mohammad designated Ali, the fourth Caliph above, to be his successor and Imam (leader).  Ali was Muhammad’s first cousin, closest living male relative, reared by Muhammad, and son-in-law.  Shias believe that Ali and his descendants are the legitimate successors.  Furthermore, “Shi’ites differ with Sunnis regarding the authority of the Caliph.  Unlike Sunnis, Shi’ite Muslims believe that the Islamic leader, whom they call imam is more than merely a guardian of Mohammad’s prophetic legacy.  Rather, Mohammad bequeathed ‘Ali with his wilaya (i.e. his ‘spiritual abilities’), enabling him to interpret the Quran and to lead the Islamic community infallibly” (Brantley).  “The word ‘Shi’ite’ means ‘partisan’ and indicates that Shi’ites are partisans of ‘Ali’” (Brantley).

3.  Sufi. This may be thought of as more of a movement in Islam, than a sect (Brantley).  The majority of Sufis are Sunnis (Sufism, Wikipedia.org).  “Reacting to the externally oriented, and legalistic disposition of the Islamic religious system, Sufis seek a mystical experience of God.  The word Sufism usually is translated ‘Mysticism,’ and reflects this emphasis in a personal religious experience” (Brantley).  Some Sufis whirl is circles as a meditation practice.  Asceticism is practiced by some.

4.  Ahmadiyya.  This branch of Islam numbers between 10-20 million (What Are The Ahmadiyya Beliefs?  Worldatlas.com).  They are very active on university campuses.  The believe in jihad by pen, not jihad by sword (Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, alislam.org).  They believe in separation of Mosque and State (alislam.org).  They believe that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) of Qadiam was the metaphorical second coming of Jesus (alislam.org).  “Ahmadi teachings state that all major world religions had divine origins and were part of the divine plan toward the establishment of Islam as the final religion, because it was the most complete and perfected the previous teachings of other religions (Ahmadiyya was the most complete and perfected the previous teachings of other religions (Ahmadiyya, Wikipedia.org).

5.  Ibadi. This branch of Islam numbers about 3 million and is found mainly in Oman (The Major Branches of Islam, worldatlas.com).  The name is derived from Abadallah ibn Ibad.  They tend to be tolerant of other religions (Ibadism, The Roots of a Tolerant Sect of Islam, fanack.com).  Unlike the Sunni and Shia, they believe that the Muslim Community can rule itself without a single leader (worldatlas.com).

6. The Nation of Islam (NOI).  Membership numbers between an estimated 10 – 50 thousand  (Nation of Islam, Britannica.com).  They have called for a separate black nation to be carved out of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi (Britannica.com).  They are highly unorthodox in their views.  “W.D. Fard Muhammad is the God of the Black Muslim.  He is known to his followers as ‘Allah (God) in the person of Master W.F. Muhammed, to whom all praise is due, the Great Mahdi or Messiah… Allah come to us from the Holy City, Mecca, on July 4, 1930’… Muhammad’s followers pray to him and implore his help in everything” (Britannica, Vol. 2, p. 1094 © 1979).  Louis Farrakhan, since 2010, has strongly encouraged NOI members to study Dianetics and to undergo auditing from the church of Scientology (Nation of Islam, Wikipedia; The Troubling Connections Between Scientology and the Nation of Islam by Bethany Mandel, nationalreview.com; The Mothership of All Alliances by Eliza Gray, newrepublic.com).

These are only a few of the many dozen of sects in Islam. It is not Christianity alone, that is divided.

Thoughts

The Quran recognizes the authority of the Bible (Surah 5:46-47, 68; 6:48).  Muslims today, claim that the Bible has been corrupted.  The burden of proof is on them.  Can man change God’s word? (Surah 18:27).

According to the Quran, Jesus provided signs, miraculous evidence (Surah 5:114; 19:29-f; 61:1-8).  The Quran seems to deny such evidence was given by Mohammad (Surah 29:46 cf. 17:90-91).  Why should one accept the word of Mohammad?

The New Testament seems complete (John 16:13; Galatians 1:6-9; 2 Peter 1:3; Jude 3).  Why would we need additional revelation?

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World Religions: Judaism

Judaism is the smallest of the five major world religions: Christianity; Islam; Hinduism; Buddhism; Judaism (A World religion is an internationally widespread religion – Wikipedia).  It numbers almost 14 million (Largest Religions in the World, worldatlascom).  Most of these live in the U.S.A. and Israel (List of religious populations, Wikipedia).  There are more Jews in the U.S.A. than there are in Israel.  More than 6.5 million live in the U.S.A.

Origin

The origin of Judaism is found in the Bible.  The foundations of their law were laid at Sinai, c. 1491 B.C.

However, much has changed since then (example: animal sacrifices are no longer made by modern Jews).  This should be kept in mind.

What Is Believed?

A Jewish Rabbi in Spain, Moshe ben Maimon (c. 1135-1204 A.D.) – also known as Maimonides or Rambam – set forth a summary of basic Jewish beliefs.  This is known as the “Thirteen Fundamental Principles” of the Jewish faith.  “Although criticized afterward by some, his creed is still followed by the traditional forms of Judaism” (Josh McDowell & Don Stewart, Handbook of Today’s Religions, p. 367).  Here is the list:

  1. I believe… that the Creator… is the Creator and Guide for all created beings. He alone made, makes and will make all that is created.
  2. I believe… that the Creator… is one. He alone is our God, who was, who is, and who is to be.
  3. I believe… that the Creator… is not a body, and that He is free from all properties of matter…
  4. I believe… that the Creator… is the first and last (eternal).
  5. I believe… that the Creator… to Him alone is it fitting to make prayer (worship) and to another prayer (worship) shall not be made.
  6. I believe… that all the words of the prophets are true.
  7. I believe… the prophecy of Moses, our teacher… was true, and that he was the chief of the prophets, both of those who preceded and of those who followed him (primacy of Moses words, and the Torah)
  8. I believe… that the whole Torah, now found on our hands was the exact same one given to Moses… (Divine origin).
  9. I believe… that this Torah will not change, and that there will never be any other Law from the Creator…
  10. I believe… that the Creator… knows every action done by each human being as well as all of their thoughts.
  11. I believe… that the Creator… rewards all who keep His commandments and punishes all those who transgress His commandments.
  12. I believe… in the coming of the Messiah, and, though he tarry I will wait daily for his coming.
  13. I believe… that there will be a resurrection of the dead at the time that will be pleasing before the Creator…

(Wording compiled from different sources.  See: McDowell, pp. 367-368; Maimonides’ 13 Principles of Jewish Faith, oru.edu; Chabad.org; jewfaq.org).

Other Common Beliefs:

  1. Judaism does not accept the doctrine of original sin and Total Hereditary Depravity. “Jews do not believe that the body or its natural appetites are to be looked upon as sinful, since they were created by God” (Editor David Brown, Judaism – From God or Man?, p. 511).
  2. Some believe that when the Messiah does come, the sacrificial system will be reinstituted in Israel (Brown, p. 511).

Jesus

   Judaism rejects Jesus as the Messiah, and certainly as God in the flesh, for many reasons.  The reasons are far more than can be discussed in this writing.  Michael L. Brown has written 5 volumes entitled Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus.  However, here are several common ones:

  1. If Jesus were the Messiah, there would not be such widespread Jewish rejection. Answer: The truth is the Biblical record indicates that Israel time and again rejected God’s prophets (Exodus 17:4; Numbers 14:10; 1 Kings 18:4, 13; 19:2, 10, 14; 2 Kings 9:7; 2  Chronicles 24:17-22; Nehemiah 9:30; Jeremiah 2:30; 6:16-17; 11:21; 38:4; Ezekiel 2:1-8; Matthew 23:29-36; 23:37; Acts 7:51-53).
  2. If Jesus is the Messiah, then there should be peace on earth. Answer: It is true that the Messiah is described as the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).  He made    peace possible between God and man (Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:11-13; Colossians 1:20).  He made peace possible between man and man (Ephesians 2:11-13).  A perfect peaceful existence is still to come (Revelation 21-22).

  What about Isaiah 2:1-4; Isaiah 11:6-9; and Micah 4:1-5?  The peace spoken of here exists in God’s holy mountain (Isaiah 11:9 cf. 2:1-2; 4:1-2).  I believe that this refers to man being changed in Christ (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11).  Others believe that this refers to that peace which is to come in heaven.

  1. Jews do not need a middleman. Answer:  the Law of Moses had a distinct priesthood.  “Uzzah learned the hard way that even kings needed a middle man to offer their incense to God (2 Chronicles 26:16-18)” (Brown, p. 342).
  2. God did not want a blood sacrifice. Answer: While some have so argued (based on Psalm 40:6; Isaiah 11:11-14; Jeremiah 7:21-23; Micah 6:6-8), the Law of Moses did instruct such (e.g. Leviticus 16).
  3. Isaiah 53 is about the nation of Israel, and not about the Messiah. Answer: Wayne Jackson points out: “(a) The context plainly deals with an individual (cf. verses 2, 3, 4, ff).  (b) The victim described in this section is innocent; He is not suffering as a result of His personal transgressions… (c) Isaiah’s suffering servant passively endures the abuse heaped upon Him… (d) The essence of the suffering depicted in Isaiah 53 is vicarious, i.e., substitutionary in nature (cf. 4-6).  The benefits of the servant’s death were passed on to others.  How in any sense, could such be applicable to the nation as a whole?  (e) The inspired writers of the New Testament clearly applied the prophecies to Jesus Christ… (f) Finally, it is admitted that the earliest Jewish writers accepted Isaiah 53 as having a Messianic thrust.  It was only when early Christian apologists began to press the case for the application to Jesus of Nazareth that a new ‘interpretation’ was sought” (Jackson, Isaiah, p. 106).   Many have a real problem with having a spiritual savior.  Wayne Jackson records the words of Joseph Klausner, who was a professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, “Each man is responsible for himself, and through his good deeds he must find atonement for his sins.  He cannot lean upon the Messiah or upon the Messiah’s suffering and death (Jackson, p. 115 quoting The Messianic Idea in Israel by Joseph Klausner, p. 530).
  4. God is not man. Answer: B.J. Clark has written, “Jews point to Number 23:19 as proof for this objection.  This passage affirms that ‘God is not a man.’  The specific way in which God is not a man in this text is in the area of lying… Number 23:19 does not say that God would never dwell in the body of a man; it affirms that God does not behave like man, specifically in the area of lying… Even the Old Testament mentions occasions where in God appears in human form (Genesis 18-19; Joshua 5:13-15)” (Brown, pp. 336-337).

Types of Judaism

(1) Orthodox.  The name ‘Orthodox’ is a broad term which includes at least 13 sects of traditionalists Jews (Brown, p. 531).  “It was the modern ‘progressive’ Jews who first applied the name to ‘old , backward’ Jews as a derogatory term” (ucalgary.ca.elsegal/Rels369).  Orthodox Jews believe “the Torah, both written and oral, as literally revealed by God on Mount Sinai and faithfully transmitted ever since.  Other key doctrines include belief in a future resurrection of the dead, divine reward and punishment, the election of Israel and an eventual restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem under the Messiah (orthodoxjudaism, Wikipedia).  “The orthodox Jews observe most of the traditional Dietary and ceremonial laws of Judaism.  It adheres to the inspiration of the Old Testament [although greater authority is given to the Torah (Law), the first five books, than the rest]” (McDowell, p. 371).  “These Jews usually observe the Sabbath quite strictly… separate pews are maintained for the women in their synagogues, and only Hebrew is used in their prayer and ceremonial services.  A head or skullcap is worn by the men at all times during their worship, and often even when they are not at worship” (Brown, p. 503).

(2)  Conservative (or Masorti) conservative Jews have much in common with orthodox Jews.  They both believe in the inspiration of the Hebrew Bible (what we refer to as the Old Testament).  They both believe in an afterlife and in reward and punishment (Brown, p. 507-ff).  However, they differ on other points.  The conservative Jew believes, “The ideal of the Jew is not the establishment of a Jewish state… The mission of the Jew is to witness to God all over the world” (McDowell, p. 37).  Prayer is offered in English and languages other than Hebrew.  Males cover their heads usually only during acts of worship (Brown, p. 504).  Men and women are allowed to sit together; and Jews are permitted to drive a car on the Sabbath or holiday in order to attend synagogue (Doctrinal Differences, myjewishlearning.com).

(3) Reform (or Progressive or Liberal).  Reform Jews accept as binding only moral laws of the Old Testament (Brown, p. 556).  They tend to believe that things in Jewish law can be changed to meet the needs of modern man (Doctrinal Differences, myjewishlearning.com).  “They do not follow customs believed to not adapt to the views and habits of modern civilization.  There is complete equality of the sexes in the temple (Reform name for synagogue, B.H.).  Prayer is largely in English or the common vernacular.  Instrumental music is permitted in the temple and male worshippers usually do not wear a prayer shawl” (Brown, p. 504).  Many are very liberal on homosexuality and abortion (Brown, p. 558-561).  Neither the Sabbath nor kosher food are bound (Judaism, Wikipedia/, many are very liberal on homosexuality and abortion (Brown, p. 558-561).  Many no longer look for a Messiah but a Messianic age (Do Reformed Jews believe in the Messiah?, judaism.org)

(4) There are other smaller types of Judaism including: (a) Reconstructionalists.  They view the Jewish law as non-binding, but should be upheld unless there is reason to the contrary.  They reject the inspiration of scripture.  Many are deists (Reconstructionalist Judaism, Wikipedia).  (b) Karaite.  They accept the Hebrew Bible but reject the Mishnah and Talmud (Karaite Judaism, Wikipedia).

Final Thought

The Old Testament without the New seems incomplete.  If Jesus was not the Messiah then who was, is, or will be?

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“I resolve…”

The making of New Year’s resolutions is nothing new.  (a) The Babylonians were doing so 4,000 years ago.  On their new year, which occurred in mid-March, loyalty to their king was affirmed, and promises were made to their gods (Sarah Pruitt, The History of New Year’s Resolutions, history.com).  (b) The Romans did so more than 2,000 years ago.  Julius Caesar established January 1 as the beginning of the new year c 46 B.C.  January was named for Janus, the two-faced god.  Janus guarded arches, gates and doorways, looking ahead and behind.  The Romans also believed that Janus looked backward into the past, and forward into the future.  The Romans offered sacrifices to Janus, and made promises for the coming year (ibid; The New Book of Knowledge, Vol. 13, p. 208, 1985).  (c) “For early Christians, the first day of the new year became the traditional occasion for thinking about one’s past mistakes and resolving to do better in the future” (Sarah Pruitt, The History of New Year’s Resolutions, history.com).

God created this universe in such a way that man could keep track of time (Genesis 1:14-15).  Our time on earth is brief, and quickly passing away (Psalm 90:10, 12).

It is good to take time for self-examination.  “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the Faith.  Test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5).  It is wise to take an honest look “into the perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25).

It is good to make spiritually sound resolutions.  The lost son resolved, “I will arise and go to my father…” (Luke 15:18).  Paul said, “One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

Not all resolutions have the proper priority.  Jesus told a parable about a rich fool.  He said, “’I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater and there I will store all of my crops and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’  But God said to him, ‘Fool!  This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’  So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:18-21).

What will you resolve this year?  And what will you do?  Action should follow resolution.

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