Category Archives: New Testament

Visualizing Isaiah 35: the desert shall rejoice

Isaiah prophesies the return of the redeemed to Zion, a promise that would be fulfilled with the return from the Babylonian exile. The illustration is one that would be vivid to those who lived on the ridge above the wilderness of Judah.

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God. (Isaiah 35:1-2 ESV)

Our aerial view  was made toward the east from a location a few miles south of Jerusalem. In the distance you will see the Dead Sea and the Transjordan plateau. At this point it is the Biblical land of Moab.

Aerial view east across the wilderness of Judah and the Dead Sea to the Transjordan Plateau. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view east across the wilderness of Judah and the Dead Sea to the Transjordan Plateau. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

For illustrations of the streams in the desert, see here (Isaiah 35:5-7).

Saffron Crocus. The Illustrated Bible Treasury.

Saffron Crocus. The Illustrated Bible Treasury.

When I first began to travel, during the early days of the State of Israel, it was rather common for tour operators to include a phrase such as “See the desert blossom as a rose” in the tour brochure. The word rose came from the King James Version of Isaiah 35:1. The Hebrew term here is chabatstseleth. BDB defines it as a “meadow-saffron or crocus.”

Identifying plants and animals of Bible times is not easy. One common mistake is to find a plant of a certain name in our local language and identify it with one we read about in the Bible.

The point is rather simple. Places that were dry and barren would become watered and beautiful with the return of the redeemed.

 

Free book: Did Jesus Rise From the Dead?

William Lane Craig’s short book, Did Jesus Rise From the Dead?, is available free today in Kindle format.

The Empty Tomb

The Gospel of Mark provides a brief account of the events of the first day of the week after the crucifixion of Jesus. The women went to the tomb of Jesus to anoint his body. The approach of the Sabbath did not allow this on Friday.

1 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.
2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.

These grieving women were concerned about the removal of the large stone that had been rolled over the tomb opening and sealed by the Roman authorities. They were surprised when they discovered that the stone had already been removed.

3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”
4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back–it was very large.

Perhaps they thought that some others, unknown to them, had come to provide the same service. They were alarmed to see the young man in a white robe.

5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed.

The message was an unexpected one, but one that they were to share with his disciples and Peter and to tell them to update their appointment calendar to include a meeting with Jesus in Galilee.

6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.
7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”
8 And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. (Mark 16:1-8 ESV)

The message that these women took with them was that the tomb was empty and that Jesus had risen from the grave. From this time forward He would be acknowledged by believers as Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36).

An empty Roman period tomb with a rolling stone. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

An empty Roman period tomb with a rolling stone. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This is a rerun from April 8, 2012, but I think it is one that is still relevant.

Book on the resurrection available free today

J. Warner Wallace is a cold-case homicide detective. As a former atheist he rejected the claims of the resurrection, but after examination of the evidence he came to believe.

This book is available free in Kindle format today. Click on the book image for the link to the book.

HT: Brooks Cochran

Good reading for the weekend

Noah

There has been much discussion in the past few weeks about the Noah movie. In last Saturday’s roundup, Todd Bolen called attention to the blog of Dr. Brian Mattson. In a post entitled “Sympathy for the Devil” Mattson comments about the movie. He reminds us of the following important point: The Bible is not the text for this movie. Several writers, and speakers, have pointed out that about the only things in common between the Noah movie and the Noah/Flood story of the Bible are a man named Noah, an ark, and water.

Mattson claims and documents the philosophical background of the director of the movie in Gnosticism and Kabbalah. I am certain that many people will see the movie and have no awareness of that, just as many ready Paul’s epistle to the Colossians, and John’s epistles without understanding how they are responding to early Gnostic doctrines.

Here is the link to Mattson’s articles:

The Wife of Jesus, again.

It is almost Easter, so we can expect a rerun on various strange views about Jesus. I first called attention to this speculation about the wife of Jesus back in September, 2012, here. Todd Bolen recently commented on the same material that is now getting new attention. Here, he provides links to the article in the New York Times, and the Harvard Theological Review article by Dr. Karen King (available for download). The Times of Israel article is available here.

Papyrus fragment possibly claiming that Jesus has a wife. Photo: Harvard University, Dr. Karen L. King.

The GJW (Gospel of Jesus Wife) papyrus fragment possibly claiming that Jesus had a wife. Photo: Harvard University, Dr. Karen L. King.

Bolen summarizes the pertinent material, showing that the document tells us nothing about 1st century events:

An initial radiocarbon analysis dated the fragment to 404–209 BC; a second analysis gave a mean date of AD 741. King concludes with a date in the 7th or 8th centuries AD. As far as being a reliable witness to 1st century events, it is not. The author notes that the fragment should be studied in light of the Muslim view that prophets were usually married.

In King’s reading, “The main point of the GJW (Gospel of Jesus Wife) fragment is simply to affirm that women who are wives and mothers can be Jesus’s disciples.”

Larry Hurtado has written three posts about the papyrus document. Begin here and then scroll back for the other two.

Wild Boar at Caesarea Philippi

Carl Rasmussen’s recent Israel student group encountered a herd of about 15 wild boar at Caesarea Philippi. He provides some nice photos to back up his claim, and discusses the various Biblical references about swine. Access the HolyLandPhotos’ Blog here.

Using Google Books

Rob Bradshaw is making many books and journals available in PDF format. I check his BiblicalStudies.org.uk site regularly for materials that might be helpful in my study. Recently he called attention to a short video by Tim Bulkeley on how to access Bible commentaries without a library. The helpful, brief video is here.

 

 

 

 

Visualizing Isaiah 29: a book that is sealed

Sealed documents were common in Bible times. Isaiah had already used this figure in chapter 8:16. Here the same illustration is used to show that because of Israel’s blindness of heart, no one was able (or willing) to accept and understand the will of God (see 6:9-10).

And the vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed. When men give it to one who can read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” And when they give the book to one who cannot read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot read.”(Isaish 29:11-12 ESV)

The photo below was taken in the archaeological museum in Gaziantep, Turkey. It shows a rolled up document with three strings held by clay seals. It appears that the document is modern with three ancient seals, but it illustrates what Isaiah is writing about.

The illiterate man says, “I cannot read.” The man who is literate says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” The illiterate man does not try to find someone who can read, and the literate man does not find someone with authority to break the seal. Blindness, darkness, and spiritual insensitivity prevent either man from finding out what is in the document. No wonder Jesus cited Isaiah’s statement to explain why he used parables (Matthew 13:13-15).

A sealed document displayed in the Gaziantep Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A sealed document displayed in the Gaziantep Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament (Walton, Matthews & Chavalas) has this explanatory note about sealed documents in Bible times.

Official documents were written on scrolls of papyrus or vellum and then, when stored or dispatched by messenger, were rolled up and sealed with string and an affixed seal (see 1 Kings 21:8; Jer 32:10–11). The seal, either a ring or signet, was impressed into either wax or a lump of clay known as a bulla (Job 38:14). Archaeologists have found many of these clay bullae with the names of Israelite officials.

I am aware of one ancient document with as many as seven seals. It is the Wadi ed-Daliyeh Aramaic papyrus document dating to the 4th century B.C. The seals are currently displayed in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. This document provides an illustration for Revelation 5 and 6.

Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament

Those who preach and teach might enjoy, and profit by, Preaching and Teaching From the Old Testament by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. The 2003 book is $3.99 today in Kindle format. It is normally $22.00. Click on the book for more information.

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9 ESV)

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.(Romans 15:4 ESV)

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.(1 Corinthians 10:11 ESV)

 

 

Visualizing Isaiah 25: “on this mountain”

Isaiah continues the apocalyptic description of the judgment of the LORD and the return from captivity. The city that will be destroyed by the Babylonians will become a place of great feasting for all nations.

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.(Isaiah 25:6 ESV)

Early in the book Isaiah has informed us that “the mountain of the LORD” would become a place for blessing all men through the word which would go forth from Jerusalem.

It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:2-3 ESV)

Jerusalem is not directly on the top of the central mountain range that runs from the north to the south in the land of Canaan/Israel. It is situated on the eastern slope of the mountain ridge. Even then there are mountains that are higher. In the photo below you see the Old City of Jerusalem, where the Temple of Solomon once stood. But you see that Mount Scopus and the Mount of Olives are higher than Jerusalem. In God’s plan Jerusalem would become the highest of all. We see the fulfillment of this in Acts 2.

Notice Jerusalem in the mountains. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Notice Jerusalem in the mountains. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The photo above was taken from the Haas Promenade south of Jerusalem. Click on the photo for a larger image and a better view of the city.

Donkey sacrifice?

A rabbi and his student were arrested for trying to kill a donkey as a sacrifice for sins, according to a report in The Jerusalem Post here. The article says this took place “near the Tomb of Samuel the prophet which is located in the West Bank north of Jerusalem.” I assume the reference is to Nebi Samwil, the traditional burial place of the prophet Samuel. Nebi Samwil is easily accessible within Israel, but is located on the border of the West Bank. The site overlooks the Benjamin Plateau. You can see the Arab town of El Jib, biblical Gibeon, from Nebi Samwil.

The photo below shows Nebi Samwil from the south.

Nebi Samwil from the south. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Nebi Samwil from the south. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A short distance north of Nebi Samwil, within the West Bank, some Bedouin have settled with their tents, donkeys, trucks, and satellite dishes.

Donkey north of Nebi Samwil. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Donkey north of Nebi Samwil. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Read more: “The donkey: beast of burden” here, and “Don’t underestimate the donkey” here.

The sacrificial system of the Mosaic law required grain, drink, or animal offerings. The prescribed animals include lambs (male, female), goats (male, female), bulls, pigeons, and turtledoves (Exodus 29:38-42; Numbers 28:3-8; 15:22-26, et al.). Donkeys are not among the animals accepted for sacrifice during the Mosaic period.

Christians believe what the writer of Hebrews says about these Mosaic sacrifices.

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (Hebrews 10:1-4 ESV)

We believe that Jesus, as the lamb of God (John 1:29), made a single offering for the sins of those who respond to Him.

For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. (Hebrews 9:24-26 ESV)

If we seek the forgiveness of the LORD Almighty we must comply with His requirements.

Reading the Blogs # 4

Do you rob temples?

You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? (Romans 2:22 ESV)

Charles Savelle has a helpful chart at BibleX on Romans 2:22. What does the text mean? The chart allows the student to see various interpretations at a glance, with observations to enhance understanding.

Ruins of the temple of Apollo at Corinth. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ruins of the temple of Apollo at Corinth. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

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God’s fellow-workers. Daniel B. Wallace responds, on his blog, to the question, “What Does ‘We are God’s fellow-workers’ in 1 Corinthians 3:9 Really Mean”. Dr. Wallace says,

The King James Version in 1 Cor 3.9 reads, “we are labourers together with God…” This unambiguously suggests that Paul and Apollos were considered in some sense on the same level with God. Of course, ‘in some sense’ covers a multitude of possibilities, but there nevertheless seems to be an underlying tone of synergism and mutual credit.

After discussing 38 works (translations and commentaries), Wallace provides a “Table of Interpretations and Translations of 1 Cor 3:9.” The three views of the meaning of this verse are,

  1. Paul and Apollos are co-workers with God.
  2. The statement is ambiguous, tending toward the first view.
  3. Paul and Apollos are co-workers with each other in the service of God.

Then Greek-language illustrations from writers such as Josephus, Philo, and Justin Martyr are provided along with other Biblical references that might shed light on the subject.

Wallace concludes that the “co-workers” are the ministers who belong to God.

Too many Bible classes overlook the difficult passages of Scripture without any explanation. Dr. Wallace provides a good illustration of how to deal with these verses. Tables and charts usually help the teacher and the student.

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“The Authenticity of the James Ossuary” is a technical article on the archaeometric analysis of the James Ossuary from the Open Journal of Geology. The article by Rosenfeld, Feldman, and Krumbein is scholarly and technical, but may be of interest to some readers.  Download the PDF here.

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Wadi Zin comes to life. “The  river doesn’t flow every year, and it has been several years since it last came to life.” The Times of Israel includes a short video showing the wadi (nahal, brook) coming to life in a powerful way. See it here. See the same video at examiner.com.

A dry wadi in the wilderness of Zin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A dry wadi in the wilderness of Zin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Israelites wandered in the Wilderness of Zin (Deuteronomy 32:51). See more here.