googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: March 2010

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Spurgeon Devotion: The Son of Man

How constantly our Master used the title, the "Son of man!" If he had chosen, he might always have spoken of himself as the Son of God, the Everlasting Father, the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the Prince of Peace; but behold the lowliness of Jesus! He prefers to call himself the Son of man. Let us learn a lesson of humility from our Saviour; let us never court great titles nor proud degrees. There is here, however, a far sweeter thought. Jesus loved manhood so much, that he delighted to honour it; and since it is a high honour, and indeed, the greatest dignity of manhood, that Jesus is the Son of man, he is wont to display this name, that he may as it were hang royal stars upon the breast of manhood, and show forth the love of God to Abraham's seed. Son of man --whenever he said that word, he shed a halo round the head of Adam's children. Yet there is perhaps a more precious thought still. Jesus Christ called himself the Son of man to express his oneness and sympathy with his people. He thus reminds us that he is the one whom we may approach without fear. As a man, we may take to him all our griefs and troubles, for he knows them by experience; in that he himself hath suffered as the "Son of man", he is able to help and comfort us. All hail, thou blessed Jesus! inasmuch as thou art evermore using the sweet name which acknowledges that thou art a brother and a near kinsman, it is to us a dear token of thy grace, thy humility, thy love.

"Oh see how Jesus trusts himself
Unto our childish love,
As though by his free ways with us
Our earnestness to prove!
His sacred name a common word
On earth he loves to hear;
There is no majesty in him
Which love may not come near."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Defending the Resurrection: Where is the Body?

In Matthew 12:38-40, the Pharisees had asked Jesus for a sign to prove His words were from God. Jesus responded that the only sign they would receive would be His resurrection. He said, “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Indeed, Jesus' entire ministry and every promise He made is contingent upon His resurrection. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then every promise He ever made would be dead with Him. 1 Corinthians 15:14 puts it this way, “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.”

The Pharisees understood how powerful the sign of the resurrection would be. They perhaps understood better than the disciples. After Jesus' death, they said to Pilate, “Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.” They knew that if the people believed Christ rose from the dead, they would believe Jesus' words all the more.

Because the resurrection is such powerful evidence for the divinity of Christ, opponents of Christianity aggressively attempt to deny and discredit it. There are a few standard approaches that unbelievers take to rebut the event of the resurrection. The absent body of Jesus is a silent witness against all of their claims.


Today, perhaps the most common way people deny the resurrection is to say it is only a myth. The first century Church did not believe Jesus rose from the dead but only believed He was a great teacher. As their adoration for Jesus grew, their recounting of His teachings became exaggerated. Eventually, the claim became that He rose from the dead.

This certainly cannot be true. We unfortunately do not have the original autographs of the New Testament authors but the oldest copies we have already include accounts of the resurrection. In his work, The Antiquity of the Jews, 1st century historian, Josephus wrote:
“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”
So all accounts we have from the earliest sources, all attest to the fact that even the 1st century Church already believed Jesus rose from the dead. To rebut this, critics will argue that the accounts of the resurrection were added to the text in later dates. How convenient for them. Can they please produce the earlier texts that lacked the resurrection accounts? They cannot; they merely assert the resurrection was added later without having any evidence for such.

But regardless of the early written evidence for the resurrection of Jesus let me ask this: If the resurrection of Jesus is a myth, where is the body?


Some people have argued that Jesus did not actually die on the cross. Rather, He merely fainted or swooned and He was mistaken for being dead. Later, in the cool air of the tomb, He was revived and came out. When His disciples saw Him, they believed He rose from the dead.

This story is hardly credible. It fails to address many critical details given in the text of the gospels. Remember that before the crucifixion, Jesus was beaten and scourged (Matthew 26:67-68, Matthew 27:26). Witnesses to the crucifixion confirm that He died on the cross (Mark 15:39, John 19:30,35). After He died on the cross, a soldier pierced the side of Jesus to confirm He was dead (John 19:34) - modern doctors believe that the description in John indicates the soldier pierced His heart. Finally, a Roman Centurion, acting on Pilate's orders, examined the body of Jesus to confirm He was dead (Mark 15:44-45). It is simply not possible for someone to be tortured, crucified, stabbed in the heart, be examined by a Roman Centurion, and still not be dead.

Let's assume for a moment the highly impossible idea that Jesus truly didn't die on the cross. The cool air that would have been in the tomb certainly would not have revived Him. People who experience shock or blood loss need to be warmed! Why do you think they put blankets on victims of shock? Yet even assuming He did revive in the tomb, what next? In His condition could He have moved the stone, overcome the Roman guard, walked the few miles into town, and still appear ruddy enough to convince His disciples of some glorious resurrection?

The swoon theory borders on the desperate. Keep in mind too that even if all of these outrageous imaginations were possible, Jesus would have eventually died anyway. So where is the body?


Rather than saying the resurrection is a myth, some people say the disciples lied about seeing Jesus alive. This theory defies common sense. Certainly there are some false preachers today who proclaim the gospel only to gain personal wealth. However, in the case of the disciples, they suffered persecution and even death for their preaching. After Jesus' arrest, Peter, out of fear, denied even knowing Him. Later, when directly threatened to stop preaching in the name of Jesus, Peter and John both answered, “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:17-20). What could have turned Peter from a coward who denied knowing Jesus into a champion who proclaims Him in the face of persecution? This is not likely if Peter secretly knew the resurrection was a lie! Tradition tells us that all of the apostles except John were martyred for their preaching. Even John was tortured and exiled for his faith. Are there 12 men anywhere who would give up their lives for something they knew to be a lie? Would not even one of them recant to save his own life?

Remember also what they preached: that Jesus was the Way, Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). Would 12 liars with nothing to gain give up their lives to promote the idea that a dead man had been raised and the He was the embodiment of truth?

The Pharisees would have loved to silence any false rumors about the resurrection of Jesus. They could have easily done so by directing people to His tomb. Alas they couldn't. Where was the body?


Knowing that no one would give his life for something he knew to be a lie, some argue that the disciples might have been this zealous if they simply believed Jesus were alive even if He weren't. The disciples so desperately expected the resurrection that they actually imagined seeing Him. This idea contradicts Scripture, though, because we know that the disciples did not expect Jesus to be resurrected. In fact, when they were first told of the resurrection, they refused to believe, thinking the women were telling “idle tales” (Luke 24:10-11). We have too the famous scene of doubting Thomas (John 20:25).

When the disciples did see the risen Savior, it was not a fleeting glimpse. They touched Him. They walked, talked, and ate with Him. He appeared to them on different occasions. 1 Corinthians 15:4-6 even says that He was seen after His resurrection by more than 500 people at once. These events are not possible if the disciples had only imagined seeing Jesus.

Finally, if the disciples had only imagined seeing Jesus alive, that means He was really still dead in the tomb. OK, so where was the body?


From the moment of Christ's resurrection, people have sought to deny it (Matthew 28:12-14). Unbelievers will always attempt to discredit the historicity of the resurrection. No argument, though, no matter how imaginative, will ever adequately address the evidence given in the gospels. What about the testimony of the first century historian? What about the earliest manuscripts? What about the bold preaching of the apostles? What else can explain all these things except that they are true?

And no lie will explain the empty tomb. This Easter, if you should hear one of these myths or some variation on them, ask the critic, “So where is the body?”

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It's Not Just About the Money

I was more than a little annoyed as I watched Nancy Pelosi proudly proclaim that “health insurance reform will stand alongside Social Security and Medicare in American history.” Why do you think she is so proud to equate this new reform with two other government programs that are teetering on bankruptcy? Perhaps she has tacitly admitted that government health care will someday become another bloated bureaucracy that will further burden our deficit in the same way Social Security and Medicare do now. I've cited this quote from the Social Security Administration's web site before but I'll remind my readers of it:
“Many people think that the Social Security taxes they pay are held in interest-bearing accounts earmarked for their own future retirement needs. The fact is that Social Security is a pay-as-you-go retirement system—the Social Security taxes paid by today’s workers and their employers are used to pay the benefits for today’s retirees and other beneficiaries.

Social Security is now taking in more money than it pays out in benefits, and the remaining money goes to the program’s trust funds. There are now large “reserves” in the trust funds, but even this money is small compared to future scheduled benefit payments. In 2017 benefits owed will be more than taxes collect ed, and Social Security will need to begin tapping the trust funds to pay benefits. The trust funds will be exhausted in 2041. At that time, Social Security will not be able to meet all of its benefit obligations if no changes are made.”
And now it seems we will have another behemoth to be fed with our tax dollars. Another debt that will devour our grandchildren's paychecks.

But the outrageous cost of the program is not the only thing that bothers me about health insurance reform. I also have a simple, fundamental objection to the idea of government benevolence. When did the American people get this “entitlement” mentality? Why do some people assume that if they don't have something, it's the government's job to give it to them?

I think it has something to do with their concept of “rights.” If something is considered a right, then people expect the government to protect their rights. Yet this goes beyond that. When something is identified as a “right,” it soon becomes looked at as an “entitlement,” and next people expect it to be a “guarantee.” OK, I admit I have the right to receive health care. Does that mean the government MUST provide it? Why? I'm serious. On what grounds do some people expect tax payers to provide their every need? I have the right to own a house – why doesn't the government give me a house? I have the right to eat – why doesn't the government give me my food? I have the right to bear arms – why doesn't the government buy me a gun?

Financial hardship is not a valid reason. If I'm not working, how does that suddenly obligate someone else to give me stuff? If I weren't working, that's no excuse to steal money from my neighbor. However, when some people are out of work, they expect the government to take a portion of their neighbor's paycheck in order to give it to them. When I take money from my neighbor, it's called “stealing.” When the government does it, it's called “taxes.”

Of course, there are certain things the government should be doing: defending us against enemies, establishing a national currency, building interstate highways, etc. Being a charity is not on the list. No matter how noble the cause, no matter how seemingly right it might seem, we must keep the government out of the business of benevolence. I've even heard liberal pastors try to use the Bible to justify programs like health care reform. How sad it is that supposed men of God are content to let Caesar do the work of the Church (Mark 12:17).

Christ instructed His church to engage in charity. Consider this wonderful passage from Matthew (v. 31-40):
"When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
It's truly incredible that there are those Christians who shirk their own duties and then expect Caesar to fulfill their obligations to God. Move over Red Cross – FEMA will take it from here. Stand aside Salvation Army – WIC will provide. Who needs Mother Theresa when we have Nancy Pelosi?

Yes, I object to the horrific cost of this bill. But for me, it's not just about the money.

A Synopsis of the Events on Resurrection Morning

In an effort to discredit the Bible, critics often point to seeming contradictions in the various gospel accounts of the events on the Resurrection Morning. Who went to the tomb? When did they go? What did they see? When comparing the accounts given in each gospel, we see that the events are described differently – but are they contradictory? Of course they are not.

So who went to the tomb? Matthew 28:1 says, “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary.” Mark 16:1 says, “Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome.” Luke 24:10 says it was, “Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them.” Finally, John 20:1 says only, “Mary Magdalene.” These are not contradictory in the slightest. The simple answer is that all of these women (including some unnamed women mentioned by Luke) went to the tomb. John may have mentioned only Mary Magdalene because she is the main character but the Synoptic Gospels make it clear that other women went to the tomb also. If I were to attend a ball game with my brother, I might tell my co-workers that “I went to the game.” I might not mention my brother at all since my co-workers don't know my brother and my point is that I attended the game, not necessarily who I attended it with. However, if I were to describe the same event to my mother, I would likely mention that I went with my brother. My different accounts do not contradict each other; They just each included different (factual) details.

The next question is, “when did the women visit the tomb?” Was it while it was still dark (John 20:1), at early dawn (Luke 24:1 ASV, Matthew 28:1), or when the sun had risen (Mark 16:2)? It hardly needs pointing out that these times are relatively close together. We also know that the tomb was outside of the city (John 19:41-42). How long would it take the women to walk to the tomb? If they left for the tomb while it was dark, and arrived as it began to dawn, either description of the time could still be accurate. Also, since we know there were several women going to the tomb, they likely all left their homes at different times and arrived at the tomb at different times.

Finally, “what did the women see at the tomb?” Matthew 28:2 says there was an “angel” who rolled away the stone and then sat on it. Mark 16:4-5 says the stone was already rolled away and there was a “young man,” clothed in white, sitting inside the tomb. Luke 24:2-4 also says the stone was already rolled away and there were two “men” dressed in white inside the tomb. John describes two events: In John 20:1 we see that Mary saw the stone rolled away and then ran to tell the disciples. When she returned (John 20:10-11) she saw two “angels” sitting inside the tomb. So were there angels or men at the tomb? This is a very weak criticism of the Bible. The description given of the “men” in the various accounts reveals that they aren't ordinary men. They are always described as wearing white. Luke 24:4 further describes their garments as “shining” (KJV, Darby), “dazzling” (NASB, ESV, ASV), “glittering” (Young's), or “like lighting” (NIV). These were obviously not ordinary “men” but were indeed angels.

To the question of, “how many angels were there?” This is yet another weak criticism. If there are two men somewhere, there is also one man there as well. If I were at a party with many people, I might later say, “there was a man there handing out balloons.” I might tell another person, “there were two men handing out hot dogs.” Once again, both of my statements can be true and not contradictory. And remember that different women arrived at the tomb at different times. One or more of them might have arrived and saw the angel who rolled away the stone. Others arrived a little later and saw the stone already moved and now saw angels inside. In my party example above, another person who was at the party might say, “I was at the party and only saw one man handing out hotdogs.” If I were at the party earlier and he at the party later, one of the hotdog peddlers might have already left. Or maybe they were still both there and he only “saw” one of them. Or maybe yet, he might have seen two men handing out hotdogs and still say, “A man was there handing out hotdogs and he gave me one.”

The supposed contradictions of the Resurrection accounts are very superficial. People who raise these objections usually have not given even a moment of thought on how to resolve them. Yet this is the nature of critics – they choose not to believe. I have no doubt that if the accounts agreed perfectly, down to the very last detail, critics would object saying that the accounts sound contrived and rehearsed.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

It’s the Economy, Stupid!

Many of you might remember that when Clinton beat Bush to win the Presidency, his campaign mantra was, “it’s the economy, stupid.”

I snapped this picture sometime in January, 2009. Wow! Gas for $1.36/gallon. People may have been out of work, the banks may have been struggling, foreclosures may have been skyrocketing, but gas prices had fallen to the lowest I remember them being in nearly 10 years. Today, people are still out of work, the banks are still struggling, homes are still being foreclosed, and now gas is $2.79/gallon.

As we stand on the brink of passing the most intrusive piece of legislation since the New Deal, I wonder what the President and Congress have been doing for the past year. For months the debate has been about some imaginary “health care crisis.” I hate to break it to the President and his cohorts in congress but there is a real job, housing, and energy crisis going on out there and I don’t see them doing anything about it.

Oh sure, there was the $700 billion “stimulus” package passed last year but even now most of the money earmarked for stimulus STILL hasn't been spent. Doesn’t the President have any idea on how to help bring energy costs down beyond the cap-and-trade bill which was kicked around for a while in congress? I guess there’s also Obama’s incessant apologizing and butt-kissing to the Arab nations but that hasn’t seemed to accomplish anything.

What is it with this guy? He’s supposed to be the leader of the country. He was supposed to help bring change to Washington. Yet he's offered nothing Chicago style politics and partisanship. He has his sights on health care and let everything else be damned. Forget jobs, forget housing, and forget energy. His mouth is watering like Pavlov’s dogs’ over the idea of regulating 1/6 of the US economy and he is going to pass “health care reform” whether we like it or not.

The die is already cast. Democrats have already lost congress because of health care reform – we’re just waiting for the election to make it official. Mr. Obama, it’s the economy, stupid!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

John 3:16, "The One Who Believes", The Continuous Aspect of Greek Participles

I've sometimes heard much hay made about the continuous aspect of Greek participles. I concede that there is an implication of an ongoing process whenever a participle occurs but I object to the characterization that a participle means there is a process going on forever without interruption. This is often the argument made concerning John 3:16:

πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται, ἀλλ᾿ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον.
“Everyone believing in Him should not perish but should have eternal life.”

The participle in this passage is “πιστεύων” (pisteuōn, “believing”) and the argument has been made that the use of a participle demands that eternal life is only available to everyone who continuously believes. If the person should cease to believe, he ceases to have eternal life. I'm always curious how people who use this argument define “eternal life”; if you once had eternal life but no longer have it, then it wasn't really “eternal,” was it? Besides that, though, I believe this is an abuse of the continuous nature of participles.

As I read Greek, I see participles functioning in a way very similar to English participles. They typically act as either adjectives or adverbs. Consider the sentence, “I hurt my knee while jogging.” In this sentence, “jogging” acts as an adverb describing when I hurt my knee. Jogging would generally be understood to be an act that continued for a while but no one would understand it to mean I continuously jog without interruption. Neither would anyone take that sentence to mean that my knee hurts only while I jog. The very ordinary understanding is that I hurt my knee during an act of jogging and my knee is still injured regardless of whether or not I am still jogging.

We can see a similar, adverbial use of the participle by John in Revelation 1:12:

καὶ ἐπιστρέψας εἶδον ἑπτὰ λυχνίας χρυσᾶς,
“And when I turned, I saw seven golden lamp stands.”

John is describing when he saw these lamp stands: when he turned. It would be absurd to imagine that John must continuously turn around in a circle without interruption to see the lamp stands. Likewise, “believing” in an adverbial sense would describe how or when we come to salvation. The use of the participle alone does not demand that salvation is only available as long as we continuously believe without interruption.

But “believing” in John 3:16 is not an adverb, it is an adjective. Even so, a similar principle applies. Imagine that I am sitting in a restaurant with a friend and I say to him, “Look at that pretty girl sitting by the window.” Next imagine that my friend leaves and I go to the counter to pay. While I'm standing in line, the pretty girl gets in line behind me and we talk for a couple of minutes. After I leave the restaurant, I call my friend and say, “I just talked to that pretty girl sitting by the window.” Now, the fact that she was no longer sitting by the window when I spoke to her is not important. I am using the participle “sitting” as an adjective to identify which girl I'm speaking about. From now on, she could forever be identified as “the pretty girl sitting by the window”.

My “pretty girl sitting” example is not entirely sufficient because the participle in that clause is an attributive adjective. In John 3:16, the participle is being used substantively. In English, substantival participles are rare – or at least infrequent. It's difficult to think of several examples but one good example would be “driver” which is understood to mean, “the one driving.” Once someone is identified as the driver, he can continue to be referred to as the driver even when he's no longer driving. For example, in the police report of an auto accident, the police officer might refer to someone as “the driver of the first car” even if the officer never observed him driving. So once again we can see that the use of a participle does not automatically mean “continuing forever without interruption.”

Setting the context of John 3:16 aside, there are at least three acceptable translations of ὁ πιστεύων:

“The one believing”
“The one who believes”
“The believer”

These three possibilities are functionally equivalent. As stated above, people who insist on the continuous aspect of “believing” in John 3:16 are usually trying to create the impression that salvation is conditional on our continued belief. However, the word “believer” means “the one believing” in exactly the same way the word “driver” means “the one driving.” Just like a person can still be identified as the “driver” even if he should stop driving, so can a person be a “believer” even if he could temporarily stop believing. If someone should claim to be a believer and then later claims to be an unbeliever, I suggest he was never a believer in the first place (1 John 2:19).

Let me end with a qualifier: I believe that the believer identified in John 3:16 is indeed someone who continuously believes. Consider for a moment John's use of ῾Ο νικῶν (“the one conquering” or “the victor”) in Revelation 2:11. If a person has won the victory, then he is forever the victor. It is not conditional on some continued state conquering. Rather, it is an adjective that describes his permanent status as “the one who overcame.” In that same sense, the participle “the believer” is not a conditional statement that we are saved only as long as we believe. It is instead an adjective describing our permanent state of being a saint after having once believed.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Thirty Pieces of Silver and the Field of Blood

In my last post, I dealt with the controversy surrounding the death of Judas. Besides the question of how did Judas die, another criticism often raised is what did Judas do with the money he received for betraying Jesus?

Matthew 27:5 says, “And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.”

Acts 1:18 says, “Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity.”

So which is it? Did he return the money or did he buy a field with it? People who raise this objection must not have thought about it for very long. If you think about it for more than a moment, it's really not hard to see how both verses can be true. Imagine this hypothetical scenario:

I work in a bank and a customer offers me $100 to perform a questionable transaction for him (perhaps he's trying to launder money). I take the money and perform the transaction. That night, I take my wife to a nice dinner with the $100. However, after a few days, I feel guilty for having done it and so I take $100 from my savings account and go to my customer saying, “I shouldn't have done that transaction. Here's your money back. Don't ask me to do it again.”

Now, what did I do with the money: did I take my wife to dinner or did I return it? I did both, of course. The same then could be said for Judas. He must certainly have bought a field with the money but later, when guilt overtook him, he returned 30 pieces of silver to the priests.

The controversy doesn't end there, though. There is also the additional question of who bought the Field of Blood? In Matthew 27:6-8, the priests did not want the money Judas returned so they decided to buy a field in which to bury strangers. The field became known as the Field of Blood. Acts 1:19 says that the field Judas had bought and died in was called the Field of Blood.

Who then, bought the Field of Blood? There are a couple of plausible explanations. One very simple possibility is that there were 2 fields referred to as “the Field of Blood.” This is not unusual; just about any large city you visit today will have a dangerous section of road called by the locals, “Dead Man's Curve.” Even in the same city different residents might identify different locations as “Dead Man's Curve.”

Of course, there did not necessarily have to be two different fields since there are plausible theories where it could have been same field. We know that Judas bought a field in which he died and the field was later called the Field of Blood. When the Pharisees were looking for something appropriate to do with the “blood money,” they might have decided to buy the same field from Judas' family. Or perhaps Judas had only contracted to buy the field and died before paying for it; the Pharisees then paid the owner for the field with the money Judas returned.

Along those same lines there is still another possibility. It is the concept that since the Pharisees used the reward returned by Judas, he was still considered the man who purchased the field. Many times people will use an agent to make a large purchase yet it is still the one who paid the money – not the agent – who is considered the buyer. But I'm not familiar enough with ancient, Jewish legal practices to know if this is a likely explanation. I've heard it suggested before and I offer it only for consideration.

We can see that reconciling these other details in Matthew and Acts is far easier than addressing the actual death of Judas. Yet in spite of the simplicity in rebutting this “contradiction,” critics continue to raise these minor points. Therefore, we must be ready to answer them.

Further reading: How Did Judas Die?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How Did Judas Die?

In the weeks leading up to Easter, I intend to post a series of articles discussing various events and controversies surrounding the holiday. One issue often raised by critics of the Bible is the question, “How did Judas die?” We know that after the arrest of Jesus, Judas, in a fit of remorse, killed himself. This fact is mentioned in Matthew 27:5 and again in Acts 1:18 but therein lies a problem since these verses seem to contradict each other. Matthew says simply that he, “went and hanged himself ” while Luke records Peter saying, “falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.”

Perhaps one reason this criticism is so enduring is because, unlike so many other criticisms, this one is not so easily rebutted. It doesn't necessarily mean that this is a valid criticism of the Bible; the fact of the matter is that the two passages are so scare in details that it's not obvious how to reconcile them. Actually, multiple solutions exists and we're just not sure which might be the correct solution.

First, it must be remembered that different people will describe the same event differently. Consider this analogy: police are called to a crime scene and find a dead man. They ask witnesses what happened. One witness says the victim was killed in a fight with another man. A second witness says the victim fell and hit his head. Using only these details, it seems like the witnesses have contradicted each other. However, the simple solution could be that two men were fighting when one fell, struck his head, and died. If we had more details, the two passages might be that simple to reconcile. Alas we only have these two, short descriptions. There are at least 3 ways these events might be reconciled:


I recently came across an intriguing possibility that Peter (Luke 1) was not describing the physical death of Judas but was merely describing his spiritual fall. This would be a fall in the same sense the Adam “fell” and died. Regarding the reference to “bowels,” there are multiple passages (especially in the KJV) were the “bowels” are a reference to mercy or compassion (Colossians 3:12, Philemon 1:7, 1John 3:17). So according to this theory, Judas may have died physically but he also “fell” spiritually and his bowels bursting is a reference to his act of betrayal.

I am still skeptical of this as a possible solution but it could have merit. I've already mentioned that different people might describe the same event differently so Peter may have been speaking of his spiritual fall. Consider also that Peter is introducing the need to replace Judas among the apostles. We have no reason to believe the act of replacing the apostles was continued after subsequent deaths of the apostles – those apostles who remained faithful unto death. It could be then that Peter is introducing a doctrinal need to replace him, namely that he not only died but that he fell from grace.

So though I remain skeptical about this possible solution, I include it here for the consideration of others.


I've heard various scenarios that attempt to explain how the hanging of Judas might have been especially gruesome and could fit the description in both passages. The first is a rather mundane explanation that the rope Judas used was too long and rather than hanging, he fell to the ground. This is hardly plausible. A fall from a tree might be sufficient to kill a person but it would have to be an especially high tree for the body to break open. This is the least likely explanation that I've heard.

A second possibility that I once considered is that Judas wasn't “hanged” in the ordinary sense of the word but instead impaled himself – perhaps on a spear. The word “hanged” is also used in reference to the death of Jesus (Acts 5:30, Acts 10:39) who we certainly know wasn't hanged by the neck. Besides Jesus, the thieves crucified with him are also described as being “hanged” (Luke 23:39). If a person were impaled through the belly with a spear, it might be described that his bowels were burst open and spilled out. For a while I felt this was an extremely possible explanation but I later learned that the Greek word in Matthew 27:5 (ἀπάγχομαι) quite literally means "to choke." It still may be a possible explanation but I feel it is less likely.

Yet another possibility occurred to me many years ago when I heard a radio news bite of a US state that was trying to hire an executioner. In that state (I believe it was Washington), the proscribed method of execution was still hanging even though no one had been hanged there for many years. In the sound bite it was mentioned how much is actually involved in a hanging. The rope should be the right length for the sentenced man's weight so that his neck will break and he will die quickly. If it is too short, he will die slowly by strangulation. However, if it is too long, the man could be decapitated! Please excuse the gore but if a person were decapitated and his stomach contents were regurgitated out of his esophagus, it might fit the description given by Peter.


When Peter spoke before the other apostles, it might have already been understood by all that Judas had already died. So rather than telling everyone that Judas had died (or how he died), Peter might be adding some information about an event that happened post mortem. As mentioned above, a body falling from a tree will not likely “burst open.” However, after death, the skin and tissues begin to decompose. The body also begins to bloat. Answers in Genesis gives this very graphic description:
“Gruesome as it is, Judas’ dead body hung in the hot sun of Jerusalem, and the bacteria inside his body would have been actively breaking down tissues and cells. A byproduct of bacterial metabolism is often gas. The pressure created by the gas forces fluid out of the cells and tissues and into the body cavities. The body becomes bloated as a result. In addition, tissue decomposition occurs compromising the integrity of the skin. Judas’ body was similar to an overinflated balloon, and as he hit the ground (due to the branch he hung on or the rope itself breaking) the skin easily broke and he burst open with his internal organs spilling out.”
In conclusion, let me remind my readers that we cannot know which of these possible scenarios might be the correct one. There could be still other explanations I have not discussed or even considered. But just these few possible scenarios clearly demonstrate that the passages in question need not be contradictory.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Obama has a Credibility Issue

The President has really been hitting the trail this week selling his health care reform bill. As I listen to him, I can see how some people might get caught up in his rhetoric: more coverage and lower costs. Who can disagree with that? To hear him describe it, the insurance companies are run by fat-cat CEO's who raise premiums, waste money, and deny benefits. Mr. Obama wants to fix all that.

But as I listen to his lies... er, I mean “promises”, I have to shake my head. Can anyone ever think of a time when the government has lowered costs, reduced waste, and improved anything? In his first year in office (and with the help of a Democrat congress), the President has already run up a 2 TRILLION dollar deficit. He then had the nerve to appoint a blue ribbon to help find ways to lower the deficit. I've got an idea: spend less money!!

How can anyone sincerely believe that a government which spends money with such reckless abandon could ever devise a plan to make medical care more affordable? It would be like having Pee Wee Herman for a physical trainer. It reminds a little of Matthew 7:3, the liberals are falling all over themselves trying to “fix” rising costs in the medical sector, yet it is a speck compared to the two trillion dollar beam in the eye of the Feds.

Here's some free advice: Congress, show us that you can reduce your own spending first and then maybe you'll have some credibility when telling us how you might lower health care costs.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Be Patient

For someone who has been blogging for a couple of years now, I'm really not the most computer savvy person you'll ever meet. I started out with writing five different blogs but it was nearly impossible to publish regular content for each of them. It became so frustrating that I nearly gave up blogging all together.

My next bright idea was to try tying my different blogs together using an awkward system of linking. My theory was that I could post everything on a master blog and re-post the same articles on sub-blogs of more specialized interests (Greek, creation, etc). Besides having to publish all of my posts twice, there were a lot of other problems with this: for example, different people would leave comments for the same post on different sites. Also, corrections were difficult since I had to correct every place I had published the post. In spite of all my efforts, I was never really satisfied with the result.

After much frustration, I realized that instead of using different sites, I could group my posts using labels. Of course, after 2½ years of publishing, I already had a fair amount of articles archived – many of which had comments. Importing them all into my main blog seemed daunting so I resisted.

Well, I've done it. I've imported all of my sub-blogs into my main blog. Most of the comments have survived but there were a few hiccups. You may find duplicate comments, duplicate posts, or broken links. I'll correct these as I find them. I've deleted all the posts from my sub-blogs and left only a single post with a link directing traffic to here. After 90 days, these should also be gone.

I'll continue posting here for now but my next goal is to move this entire blog to a different site. I originally chose “RKBentley” because I wanted a kind of brand (like Trump, Sears, or J C Penney) but now I'm leaning toward something more Christ focused. I'm not sure exactly what name to use yet but I want a title more descriptive of my objective. I'll have something soon.

I enjoy a fair amount of traffic to my blog but I would like to reach more people. These and other changes are all geared toward the end. For those of you who have visited my blog, I hope you will find see these changes as an improvement.

God bless!!


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Revelation 3:11: Taking Our Crown

ἔρχομαι ταχύ· κράτει ὃ ἔχεις, ἵνα μηδεὶς λάβῃ τὸν στέφανόν σου.
I am coming quickly. Hold fast that which you have so that no one should take your crown.

As far as simple translation, Revelation 3:11 is fairly straight forward. If you were to compare different translations, you would find they are all virtually the same. Yet for being such a simple translation, I believe the English version can not convey the full implication of the original Greek.

For me, the verse took on a whole new meaning when I considered the full impact of the word λαμβάνω, appearing here in the subjunctive (λάβῃ). The English word, “take,” may be an acceptable translation, but the word “take” conveys a wider range of meaning in English. To say in English, “Someone took my crown,” could imply there was theft, force, or some type of unlawful seizure.

In Greek, the word λαμβάνω carries no such implication. It is closer to the ordinary meaning of the word “take” as in to simply reach out and receive. This same word is translated in Matthew 7:8 as “receives”: “For everyone who asks receives” (NASB). There is no force implied. It's not theft (as in κλέπτω). It's not seizure (as in ἁρπάζω). It's only to take possession of something – to receive it as if it were your own.

So looking back at Revelation 3:11, we see that Christ is not warning us to be on guard against people who would steal our crowns. He is commanding us to be faithful – to be busy doing the work He expects of us. If we are slothful, no one steals our crown; he simply receives it. We have forfeited our reward and it goes to another person who deserves it. Consider this possible translation:

“I am coming quickly. Hold fast that which you have so that no one else should receive your crown.”

I know there will be no more tears in heaven (Revelation 21:4) but I can't help but thinking how sad it would be to stand in front of Jesus and have no reward. It will be to my shame when I stand there empty-handed while others are casting their crowns at His feet (Revelation 4:10). And the worst part would be knowing that I didn't loose my reward – I squandered it!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


“Show me your God!” the doubter cries.
I point him to the smiling skies;
I show him all the woodland greens;
I show him peaceful sylvan scenes;
I show him winter snows and frost;
I show him waters tempest-tossed;
I show him hills rock-ribbed and strong;
I bid him hear the thrush’s song;
I show him flowers in the close -
The lily, violet and rose;

I show him rivers babbling streams;
I show him youthful hopes and dreams;
I show him maids with eager hearts;
I show him toilers in the marts;
I show him stars, the moon, the sun;
I show him deeds of kindness done;
I show him joy; I show him care,
And still he holds his doubting air,
And faithless goes his way, for he
Is blind of soul, and cannot see!

by John Kendrick Bangs