Volume 2 -- November 1998 (43 pages)
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE: The "Friends of the Nazarene" are a Bible research group for better Scriptural understanding. We are dedicated to the preservation and publishing of Christian writings which aid disciples of the Nazarene to "follow the Lamb no matter where the Lamb goes." (Revelation 14:4) We are apologists dedicated to the defense of the truth that "God is One" and not three. The Bible is our credo. We view this "God-breathed" book as inspired alone, while the thoughts of men about it are not. We wish to respect the views of our multitude of Christian brethren. (1 Peter 3:15)
IN THIS ISSUE ---
1. The Biblical Woman (c 4,000- 1,500 BC)
2. Thoughts on the Proverbs
3. Faith Perspectives: Christmas; the Thousand Years
4. Do Nazarene Saints "Worship" Two Gods?
5. May Prayers Be Directed to Jesus Rather Than His Father?
6. Is Christmas a celebration based on the Bible?
8. How the Holy Spirit is a "Helper"?
9. One "Invitation" --- One "Hope"
The Biblical Woman
PART ONE (circa 4,000 - 1500 BC)
Viva la difference!say the French. Most men would agree with this. Most men would also agree that a woman is without question the premier creation of the Almighty and very few males on this planet would wish to go without a woman. Despite this longing, the so-called "battle of the sexes" has continued from the beginning. At no time is the subject hotter than today as men and women approach the year 2,000. In the last 100 years much has changed in the Western world with regard to women and their place in the family, society, education, business, politics and the world in general.
There have been several factors which have brought about radical changes with regard to women in contrast to their place in society for thousands of years. Not the least of these are the efforts of women to fight and win for themselves a proper place in a male dominated world. It must be noted, however, that most of the world and its six billion inhabitants has not fully adopted the Western view of female "liberation." In the Western world, following World War Two, matters have slowly changed in the work place. One major factor in this was the birth-control pill which some women state gave them the freedom to have just as much sex as the men. Thus, many women took control of when and how they would have children.
Never has the "battle of the sexes" been hotter than it is today. In most contexts even the Biblical words head, submission, subjection, etc., are enough to make most women cringe and those lovely tendrils on their necks rise. This has become more predominately so as both men and women moved away from Jewish, Christian, and Islamic roots.
The subject here is The Biblical Woman. This discussion is not meant for those who are now irreligious and no doubt most men and women will find the whole subject laughable. That be as it may, there are still others who are very much interested in what the Bible says about men and women. Some, feeling modern notions have proved no more successful than the "old fashioned" views, are very much interested in exactly what the Bible says about women. And, finally, trying to understand what God, the Creator of man and woman, has in mind for these two fascinating creatures at the very top of the food chain.
The Biblical Woman is a study of "woman" and not particularly "man" as this will be addressed in another article, The Biblical Man. What follows will be a chronological study of "woman" beginning in Genesis. It will deal with "woman" in several historical contexts from Eden to the present day. Hopefully it is presented as unbiased as possible, without an agenda, and without prejudice. It is a study of what the Bible says, not necessarily what is either right or wrong, or acceptable and not acceptable; or, even what is politely correct or not. Does the Bible -- and thus God -- have something to say beneficial to the modern godly woman? Whether one agrees with the following or not, it will certainly be a source of discussion where a dialogue may be fruitful for Christian women.
WOMAN IN PARADISE
We begin at the beginning, in the Book of Genesis. There are several words of interest: woman, female, mother, and wife. The first words used to describe the human creation are "male" and "female." In Hebrew "female" is הבקנ (neqebah, Strongs #5347) which Strongs states is from the root בקנ (naqab, Strongs #5344) "to puncture" (or, literally, "to perforate" ... pierce). If the female is the punctured, perforated, or pierced, then the male is the piercee upon first coupling. This word "female" occurs about 66 times. 12 of these are in Genesis and the most often occurrence is in the Book of Leviticus, 16 times. The word is used of human and animal females.
Something of the Greek equivalent occurs only five times in the Christian Bible. The Greek θηλυς (thelus, Strongs #2338) is from the root "nipple" or "suckle" referring to the womans breast and her ability to feed her young. So, the Hebrew begins with this human creature as the one "punctured" in the male-female relationship, while the Greek refers to this creation as the one who suckles in the male-female relationship. In English the word "female" finds its root in the Latin fellare, to suck. A "woman" is femina, that is, "one who suckles" and is related to fetus, pregnancy.
Genesis 1:26-28 reads: "And God went on to say: Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness, and let them have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and the domestic animals and all the earth and every moving animal that is moving upon the earth. And God proceeded to create the man in his image, in God's image he created him; male and female he created them. Further, God blessed them and God said to them: Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it, and have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and every living creature that is moving upon the earth." (NW)
In Genesis 1:26 God use the term "man" with the article and then goes on to say "let them ... " thus indicating this first occurrence of "man" (Hebrew a-dham = Adam) is something like saying "mankind," or "humankind." So, the verse could reasonably read in a paraphrase: "Let us make humankind in our image and let humankind have in subjection all the fish and animals."
In both the Jewish Hebrew and Greek Bible Genesis 1:27 has the definite article before the word for "man" and thus it is literally "the man." Translations vary on whether they include the article or not. If we translate the article then it is possible the verse refers to the first man, Adam. Then the final phrase, "male and female He created them" is something of a prophetic abstraction which looks forward to humankind in general.
The male and female are told to be fruitful and judging from the root meaning of "female" here in Hebrew it would infer a sexual puncture of the one with breasts in order for humankind to come about. Both male and female are to have "in subjection" all the animal creation. Beyond this we learn little about the "female" except her share in procreation and the subjugation of the earth. It is in the next chapter of Genesis when the word for "woman" occurs for the first time.
Genesis 2:7-9 first describes the "making" of the first human creature, the male, the man, who is first called Adam (meaning "man") in Genesis 3:17 when names first appear in the Bible. It is at Genesis 2:18-25 where it is describe how the "female" first came about. This "female" is given several designations.
"And Jehovah God went on to say: It is not good for the man to continue by himself. I am going to make a  helper for him, as a complement of him. Now Jehovah God was forming from the ground every wild beast of the field and every flying creature of the heavens, and he began bringing them to the man to see what he would call each one; and whatever the man would call it, each living soul, that was its name. So the man was calling the names of all the domestic animals and of the flying creatures of the heavens and of every wild beast of the field, but for man there was found no helper as a complement of him. Hence Jehovah God had a deep sleep fall upon the man and, while he was sleeping, he took one of his ribs and then closed up the flesh over its place. And Jehovah God proceeded to build the rib that he had taken from the man into a  woman and to bring her to the man.
"Then the man said:
This is at last bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh.
This one will be called Woman,
Because from man this one was taken.
"That is why a man will leave his father and his  mother and he must stick to his  wife and they must become one flesh. And both of them continued to be naked, the man and his wife, and yet they did not become ashamed." (NW)
Here it seems apparent the male was the females senior having been made first and having lived by himself for an unknown period in Paradise before the female was formed from the males own rib. Thus, according to the Bible, the female did not result as a process of evolution contemporary with the male over a vast period of time. The female came later though it is clear the Creator had her in mind from the beginning. God must have had a reason in not creating both the male and female at the same time so that they would be equals in life-existence. One of the reasons was Adams own divine education. He was warned about obedience and the Tree of Knowledge. Also, by viewing all the animals it was impressed on the male that he did not have what all the animal kingdom had -- a mate.
We note four designations of the female which give us an understanding of Gods intention regarding her role in the marriage and family to follow. First, the female is called "a helper" as a "complement" of the male. There are two Hebrew words here: ezer from a root meaning "to aid." This "helper" is to be a neged -- a "front" or "opposite," a counterpart. This is drawn from the root "to stand boldly out opposite." From this we can understand that the female as an opposite and counterpart is to complement or fulfill the male.
Is it fair to conclude from this that the Creator of humankind intended the female to complement the male as a mate in procreation as well as to be his helper? Nothing is said which would reverse these roles: the male as the helper of the female.
Secondly, the female "helper" is now first called a "woman." What does this word mean? In Hebrew the word is השא (ish-shah, Strongs #802) and means "a female man" or a "man with a womb." The Jews of the third century, when translating the Septuagint Greek edition of this verse the rabbis used gynaika, "a woman." The root is disputed but from Homer it simply means a "female being" in contrast to a male. In this regard the Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Volume 3, page 1055, comments: "In contrast with the rest of the oriental (religious) world, she is recognized as a person and as mans partner."
Commenting on ish-shah, the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Volume 1, page 59, states: "The word ishsha is the most common word for woman and wife in the OT. ... (Genesis 2:23) She is depicted as the physical counterpart of man, deserving of his unswerving loyalty. It is in this context that the word is first used in the same sense of mate or wife."
Thirdly, the woman, the female helper is to become a "mother." Later in the Biblical record, the man Adam names his own mate, Eve, or in Greek, Zoe. This means "life" and the account explains this name because she was to become the mother of everyone living. Her biology clearly designates her for this, as one of the Greek words for the female implied suckling young at her breasts. The Creator has designed the woman to bear children. After the birth of her children, the woman becomes unique compared to animals in that she must care for these children for many years as they are defenseless and vulnerable for an extraordinarily long time compared to animals.
The woman is a breeding creature with hundreds of thousands of ovum which would allow for many thousands of years of existence as a producing mother. What is the reason for the overkill in the amount of eggs a woman is capable of using? If 100,000 eggs were available and a woman conceived yearly -- using only a few of the eggs in that period -- she must be able to live about 60,000 years as a producing mother. When many hundreds of generations removed from her are having their first children, she would still be producing babies.
As such a "mother" biologically hard-wired as a female rearing babies, she must also be uniquely equipped mentally, spiritually, and emotionally to continue to care for these children. We cannot actually predict what the world would have been like given the deviation which is unfortunately to follow. At least initially, life in the garden paradise of Eden must have been physically undemanding for man and woman. They were truly a team with the potential of an entire human race totaling billions of offspring in their loins.
Finally, the account designates the woman as a "wife." In both Hebrew and Greek this generally is the same word for woman as it is in many languages in modern times, only the context indicating when "woman" means "wife." Essentially, she is the males "woman." The English word "wife" is Germanic wyf, or a female person, woman. The old English wyfman became "wife." The original sense survives in HOUSEWIFE, "female person of the house."
God, in bringing the woman to the man, effectively married the couple, with Adam making a poetic statement about the one to be named Eve. Adams phrase, because from man this one was taken, makes it plain he understood the woman to be out of the man, so that the male was in the first instance the source or origin of the female. She was not created independently as a separate creation from the rich soil of Eden. The male and female blood-types are interchangeable and tissues or organs may be transplanted from one to the other. Had God done this perhaps one could view the female as a separate species, but in this delicate surgery under some divine anesthesia, the Creator was able to use the males DNA and construct a perfect duplicate which was truly bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.
This account is later to be quoted and applied by Jesus Christ the Nazarene. We will deal with this meaning when we reach the discussion of woman in Christianity.
As a perfect couple there would be no need to introduce words like "submission" or "subjection." This couple was in perfect agreement as a working unit made up of two opposites. Again, we can only speculate, though many would agree, the female was precisely designed so that even her brain functions in a different manner than the male. It may be compared to the two hemispheres of the brain: a left-hand logic center and a right-hand intuitive center, working together make for two approaches to a problem: one feeling and one thinking.
Though this vision of man and woman in Edenic perfection is pleasing, it is clear this situation did not continue. What happened and did this affect the womans future in any manner?
WOMAN AFTER THE JUDGMENT
It is not our purpose here to analyze everything regarding this subject. We look only for those phrases which describe the woman in Genesis chapter 3.
First, we note the Serpent approaches, not the man, but the woman. The Serpent engages the woman in conversation designed to mislead her. He asks a poser with a truth regarding the tree. The woman answers, but she does not quote Gods command exactly. She omits the adverb "absolutely."
Genesis 3:1-5: "Now the serpent proved to be the most cautious of all the wild beasts of the field that Jehovah God had made. So it began to say to the woman: Is it really so that God said you [This "you" is plural in the Hebrew though God only gave the command to the man and likely the man relayed this to his wife.] must not eat from every tree of the garden? At this the woman said to the serpent: Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat. But as for eating of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, God has said, "You [In Genesis 2:17 the Hebrew "you" is singular, indicating Adam has repeated the warning to his wife.] must not eat from it, no,you must not touch it [Actually, this phrase is not in the original command to the man, thus we might assume Adam added this extra warning to his wife not to even touch the fruit.] that you do not die.'" At this the serpent said to the woman: "You positively [This word is in the original command to Adam.] will not die. For God knows that in the very day of your eating from it your eyes are bound to be opened and you are bound to be like God, knowing good and bad."
Now examine what happens next with focus on the woman:"Consequently the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was something to be longed for to the eyes, yes, the tree was desirable to look upon. So she began taking of its fruit and eating it. Afterward she gave some also to her husband when with her and he began eating it. Then the eyes of both of them became opened and they began to realize that they were naked. Hence they sewed fig leaves together and made loin coverings for themselves." (Genesis 3:6, 7 NW)
The woman sins first and then her husband. Nothing is told to us about the conversation or situation in which the woman "gave some to her husband." Nor, or we told Adams motivation for disobeying God. Most think it was because he loved his wife more than God: a lesson for future generations of men. Both are affected by their consciences and can no longer look upon one another cleanly.
At this God passes judgment on the man and the woman. Note in what follows God speaks first to the man: "And Jehovah God kept calling to the man and saying to him: "Where are you?" ["You" is singular showing this is being directed at the man.] Finally (the man) said: Your voice I heard in the garden, but I was afraid because I was naked and so I hid myself. [Adam does not say, "we were naked."] At that (God) said: Who told you that you were naked? From the tree from which I commanded you not to eat have you [singular] eaten? And the man went on to say: The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree and so I ate. With that Jehovah God said to the woman: What is this you have done? To this the woman replied: The serpent -- it deceived me and so I ate." (Genesis 3:9-13 NW)
Adam blames both God and his wife. The woman blames, not her husband, or God, but the Serpent. What is Gods judgment on the woman?
Genesis 3:16 records the punishment: "To the woman (God) said: I shall greatly increase the pain of your pregnancy; in birth pangs you will bring forth children, and your craving will be for your husband, and he will dominate you." (NW) Four elements are cited here:
1) The womans pregnancy "pain" is to increase over what might have occurred in perfection. Possibly this "pain" would involve the whole period of pregnancy, not just the birthing. This is shown by the Interlinear Bible where the literal Hebrew is rendered: "I will greatly increase your sorrow and you shall bear sorrow in your conception. (Greens)
2) The actual birthing would be attended by "birth pangs" indicating this may not have been the case in perfection. Certainly the depressing knowledge that her children would now be born to die instead of live forever must be a terrible burden for her sin?
3) "Your craving (IB: desire; NJB: yearning; JPS: urge) will be for your husband." What may this mean? The Jewish Greek Bible, the Septuagint, translated the Hebrew with apo-strophe and rendered "submission" by Bagsters version: "and thy submission shall be to thy husband." This seems a reasonable meaning because of the following phrase: "and he shall rule over you."
The woman is now married to a different man: a sinner and imperfect. We would suspect because of all the circumstances involved Adam is going to treat her harshly for he will always blame his wife -- just as he did before God ("I told you not to touch that tree!") -- for the terrible situation which has now developed from rebellion against God. Like many marriages to follow, their relationship could not be a good one.
4) "He will dominate you." That is, "rule over you." The "you" has been singular here referring to this woman particularly. The conclusion may not necessarily be drawn that this is a judgment for all women, but as it turns out in the rest of the Bible, it seems to be the case, generally speaking.
In perfection there would be no need to "dominate" his wife as they were a perfect team, well suited to one another by divine making. However, because of Adams error in "listening to his wifes voice," that is in responding to what she had said about the fruit, we could suspect his "rule" will be harsh and demanding. In perfection there would be no "rule" of the male over the woman, no domination. This was not Gods original purpose. Such rule and domination over a subjecting woman is the result of our firsts parents sin. Their role model in marriage has been passed down throughout the generations to us today.
Both the man and the woman were condemned to death, but this took nearly a thousand years. We are not told when Eve died, whether before or after her husband. However, by the end of nine centuries they and their offspring produced a multitude of children.
What would woman be like during this period of over two and a half millennia?
WOMAN BEFORE THE LAW
Eve, the first woman is mentioned only one more time in Genesis after her and her husband were cast out of the Garden of Eden to till the difficult soil outside: "Now Adam had intercourse with Eve his wife and she became pregnant. In time [a period of pain] she gave birth to Cain and said: I have produced a man with the aid of Jehovah. [She gives the reason for calling him Cain.] Later she again gave birth, to his brother Abel." (Genesis 4:1, 2 NW) The first child is to turn out to be a murderer of his own brother. What pain this must have meant for her regarding her firstborn baby? So, our imagination can conjure up what the first womans life must have been like bearing so many children in pain and under the domination of her husband.
For nearly two thousand years following the ouster from Eden many "daughters" are born but not a single woman is named. (Genesis 5:4, 7, 10, 13, 16, 19, 22, 26, 30) Another "wife" is mentioned. This is Cains woman, who given the situation with her husband, must have led a difficult life, married to the first murderer. We would suspect this type of man would, like his father, "ruled" over his wife in "domination" and she would have no choice but to be in "subjection" otherwise she would be alone in a hostile world. [NOTE: feminine personal nouns are to occur 353 times in Genesis while masculine pronouns occur 1,863 times.]
About a century before the Flood Genesis 6:1, 2 mentions women in a light that turns about to make them part of a rebellion against God:
"Now it came about that when men started to grow in numbers on the surface of the ground and daughters were born to them, then the sons [LXX: angels] of the true God began to notice the daughters of men, that they were good-looking; and they went taking wives for themselves, namely, all whom they chose. After that Jehovah said: "My spirit shall not act toward man indefinitely in that he is also flesh. Accordingly his days shall amount to a hundred and twenty years." (Genesis 6:1-3 NW) Judging from what the Bible later says about this matter, these women must have willingly rebelled against God and submitted to this perversion, which is elsewhere called "fornication." None of these women survived the flood of Noahs day.
The next women to be alluded to are Noahs wife and his three daughters-in-law. Other than the fact they survived the global deluge among the eight, there is no discussion regarding them. It is interesting that in the post-Flood blessing God speaks only to Noah and his sons. (Genesis 9:1, 8) When God addresses the four men, he says:"And God went on to say to Noah and to his sons with him: "And as for me, here I am establishing my covenant with you men and with your offspring after you, and with every living soul that is with you." (Genesis 9:8-10 NW) This later phrase, "every living soul with you," would include the four women in the ark.
About two thousand years more have passed and no woman has been named but Eve. Following the flood and the generations that developed into what are called the Table of Nations as peoples spread abroad in the earth, "daughters" are mentioned but no woman by name. (Genesis 11:11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25) This covers about one thousand years.
The Woman Sarah
Now we come to the first woman named since Eve! One of the most famous women in the Bible now enters the Biblical picture. It is about the year 1,970 BC. God appears to Abram, Sarais husband, and tells him: "And Jehovah proceeded to say to A'bram: Go your way out of your country and from your relatives and from the house of your father to the country that I shall show you; and I shall make a great nation out of you and I shall bless you and I will make your name great; and prove yourself a blessing." (Genesis 12:1, 2 NW) God does not here mention his wife, Sarai, or mention her by name, or even by using the word "wife." Perhaps, Sarai would not be willing to go. Her name means "Contentious" and she is about 60 years old, and barren.
What would be the womans response? Would she submit to her husbands lead, trusting he had actually spoken with God? We can only imagine her reaction to her husbands news: God spoke to me and told me to leave our beautiful home here in the Ur of the Chaldees, move 1,500 miles, and live in tents the rest of our lives. Would God bless her decision?
Time passes and this woman finds herself in Egyptian territory during a famine. (Genesis 12:10) Now her husband asks her to do something which many women, if not most, would object to do. Her husband realizes she is "a woman in beautiful appearance." (Genesis 12:11) Her husband feared that because of her extraordinary beauty the Egyptians would kill him just to get his wife. Her husband tells her to say she is his sister, the second occurrence of the word in two thousand years. Her husband states his motive: "In order that it will go well with me on your account."
Evidently this is a "half-truth" for Sarai was his half-sister so it was not a complete lie. (Compare Genesis 20:11, 12 where something similar happens again.) And, just as her husband predicted, the Egyptians are overcome with her beauty and Pharaoh shows serious interest in her. We are not told the details of how she handled this situation. However, this brings a great plague from God and Pharaoh realizes his error. The result her husband sought is anticipated as they are escorted out of Egypt. (Genesis 12:20)
After this the woman Sarai must follow her husband into a god-forsaken wilderness desert. It is likely she could have exercised her own self-will, remained in Egypt, adored by Pharaoh for her beauty, and then become one of his wives. (Genesis 13:1) Not that she was not very wealthy already as the account goes on to show.
God appears to her husband again and her husband is promised a great land as well as an heir to continue his name. This heir is to come out of his loins. How much of this her husband told her it is not reported. However, beginning with Genesis 16:1 Sarai takes the matter of her barrenness into her own hands. She speaks to her husband and suggests a solution. She wants her husband to have a child by her Egyptian maidservant, Hagar. Note her language as she broaches this subject to her husband. (Genesis 16:1, 2) Note her use of "please" to get a her husband to have intercourse with another woman!
Hagar becomes pregnant and this arouses a distaste in Sarais heart. What she had thought a good idea before -- she is not so sure now. Now Sarai asks her husband to get rid of the very woman she had before asked him to mate with, to produce an heir. What moral may be drawn from this it is left to others. However, what results is the first case of God speaking to a woman since Eve, three thousand years before. The Angel of Yahweh tells this woman to return to her mistress and names her son, Ishmael, the father of all the Arabs.
Also, regarding Hagar, we have the first example of a woman praying to God. Genesis 16:13, "Then (Hagar) began to call the name of Jehovah, who was speaking to her: You are a God of sight, for she said: Have I here actually looked upon Him who sees me?" There must be an extraordinary lesson here, for God has seen and listened to an Egyptian woman, possibly not among His worshippers. The strange account is given for several reasons, including the explanation of the genealogy of the Arabic world who trace their worship back to Abram and Ishmael. So, by means of two women, two great religions of the future merge here.
Sarais husband is told again he will have a child by means of his wife. Here in Genesis 17:15 God changes the womans name in keeping with the submissive example she has set for future heirs: "And God went on to say to Abraham: "As for Sar'ai your wife, you must not call her name Sar'ai [Contentious], because Sarah [Princess] is her name. And I will bless her and also give you a son from her; and I will bless her and she shall become nations; kings of peoples will come from her. At this Abraham fell upon his face and began to laugh and to say in his heart: Will a man a hundred years old have a child born, and will Sarah, yes, will a woman ninety years old give birth?" (Genesis 17:15-17 NW) What a blessing! What she would have lost had she refused to submit to her husband and remain in Ur; or, had betrayed her husband and became one of the wives of Pharaoh? Today, billions of people hold this woman in honor and respect because of her submissive role to her husband and her obedience to God.
To confirm this promise made directly to her husband, three angels of Yahweh visit the encampment of tents. These celestial visitors are on their way to Sodom. How does her husband treat these strangers?
Genesis 18:6, "So Abraham went hurrying to the tent to Sarah and said: Hurry! Get three seah measures of fine flour, knead the dough and make round cakes." We note her husband has not said, "Please." However, her submissiveness in doing what her husband asked rather than insisting she greet the strangers also is to be reward by the angels. Genesis 18:9-15 records: "(The angels of Yahweh) now said to him: Where is Sarah your wife? To this (Abraham) said: Here in the tent! So (one of the angels) continued: I am surely going to return to you next year at this time, and, look! Sarah your wife will have a son. Now Sarah was listening at the tent entrance, and it was behind the man (angel). And Abraham and Sarah were old, being advanced in years. Sarah had stopped having menstruation. Hence Sarah began to laugh inside herself, saying: After I am worn out, shall I really have pleasure, my lord being old besides? Then Jehovah said to Abraham: Why was it that Sarah laughed, saying, "Shall I really and truly give birth although I have become old?'" Is anything too extraordinary for Jehovah? At the appointed time I shall return to you, next year at this time, and Sarah will have a son. But Sarah began to deny it, saying: I did not laugh! For she was afraid. At this (the angel of Yahweh) said: No! but you did laugh."
We note God has spoken to her husband and not to Sarah. However, Sarah laughs "inside herself." This does not escape Gods notice -- the One who knows the thoughts of women, and men. She is not totally lying when she says she did not laugh, perhaps meaning she did not do so openly. But God knew: "But, you did laugh."
We note also that Sarah has addressed her husband as "lord" in her heart. Likely she did this verbally to her husband also as it was much of a custom. "Lord" being something like "senor" in Spanish. Even to this day some Jewish ladies address their husbands as "Mister," a form of "lord."
The women of Lot
The experience of some other women is now introduced in Genesis: the daughters of Lot, as well as his wife. Almost two thousand years later, Jesus Christ the Nazarene is to warn his disciples: "Remember the wife of Lot!" (Luke 17:32) There is also something in the account greatly disturbing to modern women: the treatment of Lots daughters.
Genesis 19:1 picks up the historical record. Two of the angels who had visited Abraham and Sarah, now come to Sodom. Lot, the nephew of Abraham, shows hospitality to the strangers and invites them to his home. The account says Lot "made a feast for them" though we can probably assume this was being prepared by his wife and daughters.
During this meal with angelic visitors a homosexual crowd of sodomites begin to beat the door down demanding the "men" be delivered to them for immoral purposes. Lot now does something strange to a modern reader: he offers his daughters in the place of the angels. Lot gives his reason: "Do not harm these men, for they came under the shadow of my roof." (Genesis 19:8) This was a powerful Oriental reason to protect these men no matter what: the Eastern host was duty bound to protect his visitors. Besides, possibly Lot knew these types would not be interested in women. Regardless of our view, the inspired perspective of Saint Peter is that Lot was "a righteous man" and so writes three times. (2 Peter 2:7, 8)
Of course, as the account goes, the angels rescue Lot and his daughters, while his wife is turned to a pillar of salt for looking behind and disobeying Gods representatives. (Genesis 19:15-26)
Now another matter occurs -- strange to a Western reader nearly four thousand years removed from this culture -- which has also shocked women. On the run and living in a wilderness cave (Hebrews 11:38) the daughters of Lot come up with the idea of copulating with their father in order to produce children so their family is not wiped out. They get their father drunk and then on two nights accomplish their deed. Perhaps we can forgive Lot based on Peters judgment cited above: he was drunk and did not know what he was doing. Some feel the account is there to reveal the genealogical descension of the Ammonites and Moabites -- later to become bitter enemies of Israel. Such hatred and animosity continues to this day in the Middle East. (Genesis 19:30-38)
The account does illustrate the extent these women of this period would go in order to have children. This, of course, was before the Law was given on Sinai, and "where there is no law there is no sin" (Romans 4:15) Later, under Moses, such incestuous sexual intercourse between a father and daughter was a cause for stoning. (See "Woman Under the Law")
Back to Sarah, Genesis 21:1 states that God visited or turned his attention to her and in fulfillment of His promise she became pregnant and bore a son, named Isaac, which means "Laughter." The name "Sarah" is to occur almost 50 times in the Bible and more than a millennium later Isaiah 51:2, "Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who gradually brought you forth with childbirth pains." Saint Peter is to draw attention to this godly woman and the role model she set for future Christian heirs. The fisherman writes:"Let your adornment be ... the secret person of the heart in the incorruptible apparel of the quiet and mild spirit, which is of great value in the eyes of God. For so, too, formerly the holy women who were hoping in God used to adorn themselves, subjecting themselves to their own husbands, as Sarah used to obey Abraham, calling him lord. And you have become her children, provided you keep on doing good and not fearing any cause for terror." (1 Peter 3:3-6 NW)
The Woman Rebekah
Another Biblical woman makes her important appearance beginning with the account in Genesis 24:1 when Abraham sends his faithful servant to his own kin to find a wife for his son, Isaac. What takes place is very alien to a modern Western world and its liberated notions.
When the servant asks Abraham, "What if the woman does not wish to come with me to this land?" it indicates the woman would have a choice. However, Abraham felt God was involved in this matter. And just so upon reaching the distant country the servant prayed to Abrahams God and asked that the woman who gave him a drink and watered his camels would be THE WOMAN. Genesis 24:14 records the petition: "This is (the woman) You must assign to your servant, to Isaac; and by this (sign) let me know that You have performed covenant-loyalty with your master." As things turned out it happened just so. It was a woman named Rebekah who gave Abrahams servant a drink and offered to water his camels -- no easy thing. Genesis 24:20 reports about this Biblical woman, "So she QUICKLY emptied her jar into the drinking trough and ran yet AGAIN AND AGAIN to the well to draw water, and kept drawing for ALL his camels."
What kind of woman must this be? This woman recognized a stranger alone. When he asked politely for a drink she responded without question or fear. Then, she herself offered to water ten camels. She did not have to do this but there was something in her character which made her uniquely hospitable and helpful. She is described, "the young woman was very attractive in appearance, a virgin" (Genesis 24:16) Such a woman of such beauty could have reasoned this work was beneath her and take her looks too seriously.
The servant realized he had Gods answer so he gave her a ring nose and bracelets worth about $2,000 (US) in todays market. We can only imagine her reaction. She offers more hospitality -- "there is both straw and much fodder with us and a place to spend the night" -- and suddenly the man prostrates himself and begins to talk to an invisible God!
Well, the account continues with some exciting thoughts and finally the young woman of such beauty is asked her feelings and she agrees to travel the long distance home to meet a man she did not know who would become her husband. Upon reaching home she first sees a meditative man in the fields and she asks who he is. Upon being told it was the servants master she puts on a head-covering as a sign of submission.
Rebekahs husband is to become a renowned patriarch in the Hebrew family --
Attractive Rebekah is to experience the same challenge to her subjection when she is also asked to do the same thing Sarah did: claim she was the "sister" instead of the wife. (Genesis 26:7)
A particular event involves this woman as a mother highly concerned about one of her twins future. She is mother to Jacob (who will become "Israel") and Isau (a man described as "not appreciating sacred things." Hebrews 12:16) and she evidently discerned this because Isau marries outside of the family and any future inheritance would have a major impact on the history of what was to become "Israel." In the account in Genesis 27:1-46 we are told of a husband who favors the bad seed and a wife who seeks the inheritance blessing on her other twin, a spiritual man. By a ruse Rebekah and Jacob fool her husband to bless the younger twin who was born grasping his brothers heel. Isau had already sold his birthright for a bowl of stew to Jacob. God blesses the outcome and so we can forgive what seems deception.
This is not a role model or license for modern godly women to practice deceptions on their husbands. The matter here was of a deep "sacred" kind with far-reaching impact on Israel and the development of Gods purpose, reaching right down to us today. We give this woman tremendous credit for her godliness and ingenuity as well as her deep love for her one deserving son.
The Woman Rachel
Life can be full of tricks and unforeseen occurrences. The next godly woman in the Bible to catch our notice is Rachel. She was a shepherdess distantly related to the Abrahamic family and she meets her future husband, some years down the road, while herding sheep to the well. This is a woman who will wait fourteen years to finally marry the man she loves -- despite the fact her man is tricked into marrying her older sister first. The historical account is in Genesis 29:1-30.
No matter what one thinks of the quaint cultural mores in this story when it comes to the woman Rachel it must have been a whirlwind of emotions. (Genesis 30:1-24) After waiting fourteen years for her beloved husband she is found to be barren and this leads to a torrent of feelings. While her sister and her maid-servants bear children to Jacob -- creating the heads of the future twelve tribes of Israel -- "Finally God remembered Rachel, and God heard and answered her in that he opened her womb. And she became pregnant and brought a son to birth. Then she said: God has taken away my reproach! So she called his name Joseph, saying: Jehovah is adding another son to me." (Genesis 30:22-24 NW) Finally, having lived such an interesting life she dies given birth to Benjamin.
Rachel is to be mentioned about 50 times in the Bible. Many centuries later she and her older sister are praised in the Book of Ruth: "May Jehovah grant the wife who is coming into your house to be like Rachel and like Le'ah, both of whom built the house of Israel." (Ruth 4:11 NW) Almost a thousand years later her tomb is still known. (1 Samuel 10:2) Following the birth of Christ this womans name is quoted in relation to the slaughter of babies by Herod. (Matthew 2:18)
The Righteous Woman Tamar
At a time when the generations of Israel were just beginning to grow, a woman appears on the scene who is pronounced righteous for what she did, though it involved a degree of deceit.
Tamar was married to Judahs firstborn son, Er. However, before this woman could have children her husband died by Gods hand according to the account. In view of this Judah commanded his second son to have relations with Tamar to make sure the house and name of Er would not die out. This is later incorporated in the Law of Israel and is generally called Levirite or brother-in-law marriage. We can understand this standard when we appreciate Gods command to mankind, repeated to Noah, "be fruitful and fill the earth." Additionally, the genealogy of Abraham which will one day produce the Messiah was critical and so the whole matter of child-bearing was taken very seriously.
The account in Genesis 38:1-26 reports how Onan practiced coitus interuptus with Tamar evidently not wanting to allow his brothers lineage to continue. Judah promises his other son when he is old enough. However, this does not take place according to the promise. Tamar is still not pregnant so she plots to become so by the very man who did not keep his promise, Judah.
When Judahs wife -- unnamed in Genesis 38:2 but identified in Genesis 38:12 -- died, Tamar plans to be present when Judah is at a certain location. She dresses in the garb of a pagan temple prostitute. (Remember: this is before the Law and its sanctions on prostitution.) Seeing a prostitute Judah arranges for her services not knowing this was his daughter-in-law. He agrees to pay a goat for her but she wants security for this promise and ends up with Judahs signet ring, his belt, and his personal staff.
Later, it is reported that Tamar is pregnant by prostitution and Judah is incensed and wants her stoned and burned. However, Tamar reveals by whom she is pregnant producing the items she received from Judah. Judah confesses: "(Tamar) is more righteous than I." (Genesis 38:26) She gives birth to twins, one whom is Perez, a descendant of the Messiah. (Luke 3:33) Therefore, we owe it to Tamars righteous thinking and her ingenuity in providing one of the critical links in the lineage of Christ.
Women just before the Law
In concluding the study of the Biblical woman before the Law we direct our attention to another example of a godly woman whos thinking and decisions greatly play a part in the divine purpose. This woman is the unnamed mother of Moses. Born of Israelite slaves under the oppression of the great Egyptian pyramid builders, the mother hides her "divinely beautiful" son for three months. (Exodus 1:2; Acts 7:20)
We are not told who made the decision to put little Moses in the reed basket and float him into Pharaohs household, but we get the strong feeling it was the mothers plan. Thanks to this marvelous woman the world has Moses and today three great religions hold him in highest esteem as a great prophet and law-giver.
Another woman is to influence Moses, and possibly save his life. This is Zipporah (Birdie), his wife, a Cushite. The account in Exodus 4:24-26 has had many scholarly interpretations with no universal agreement. However, one view is that Moses had failed to circumcise his son according to the commandment at Genesis 17:14. For this reason Moses was in serious danger of divine execution. However, this woman, the wife of Moses, takes swift action and circumcises her son, placing the fresh foreskin at the feet of Yahwehs angel. The angel lets Moses off and Birdie says -- alluding to the circumcision -- "Blood-bridegroom!" (Exodus 3:26; compare NJB, CC, KX, NEB, RSV footnotes) Thus, due to two women -- Moses mother and his wife -- we have Moses!
Summary: We have covered about 2,500 years of female Biblical history. Though there are many social and cultural (tribal) norms unusual to us, we see evidence of Yahwehs prediction and judgment on the woman: she is bound by divine law to remain submissive to her husband. Though pained by difficult child-birth, emotional depression over her children, and sometimes the imperfection, selfishness and hard-hearted domination of males, the Biblical woman has been very instrumental in the historical life of Israel and Gods eternal purpose. (Genesis 3:17)
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THOUGHTS ON THE PROVERBS
[Easy Come, Easy Go]
PROVERBS 13:11 --"Valuable things resulting from vanity become fewer, but the one collecting by the hand is the one that makes increase."
TRANS: LB: wealth from gambling quickly disappears; wealth from hard work grows; JB: a sudden fortune will dwindle away, he grows rich who accumulates little by little
CROSS REF: Proverbs 28:8
NOTE: Gain by worthless effort is easily spent but the result of hard work causes one to be careful in the use of gain so that increase results. For example, gains by gambling may become few because of continued betting, resulting in loss of the original amount. Increase gained by hard and honest work is not spent so rashly as it was hard to come by.
PROVERBS 13:12 --"Expectation postponed is making the heart sick, but the thing desired is a tree of life when it does come."
TRANS: MOF: hope deferred is sickening; BAS: hope put off is a weariness to the heart; BER: hope drawn out; MOF: it is a new life to have desire fulfilled
CROSS REF: Habakkuk 2:3 = hope and Luke 2:29, 30 = peace
WORD: A form of "expectation" occurs 29 times in the Bible (two times in Proverbs 10:28, 11:7) but it is interesting to note the footnotes on Genesis 49:10 and how the word occurs in the definition of faith. (Hebrews 11:1) The LXX puts a different twist to this verse: "Better is he that begins to help heartily than he that promises and leads another to hope."
NOTE: The phrase "tree of life" occurs 8 times in the Bible (Genesis 2:9; 3:22, 24 and Revelation 2:7 = heavenly life); it occurs 4 times in Proverbs 3:18; 11:20; 15:4 and this verse. It is interesting to note the word "desire" in Genesis 2:9 with Eves longing of the wrong tree.
The downside of hope is the disappointment when what is looked forward to with longing does not materialize. A person may be promised something, such as a financial loan to help one through a difficult time -- and there may be much expectation on this promise. However, if it does not materialize -- and particularly if one has already began to plan on this promise -- it can truly make one "sick."
This can be true of hope assured by a prophetic teacher who convinces others that God will do something on such and such a date. If this does not come true there is a "great disappointment." This is usually explained away by the "prophet" with a new promise. Moses said not to fear such a presumptuous prophet. (Deuteronomy 18:21-23) Jesus said not to follow or join any who claimed his authority as "anointed" who preached "the time is at hand." (Luke 21:8) Those who listen to God through His son will never be disappointed. (Habakkuk 2:3, 4; Romans 10:11)
PROVERBS 13:13 --"He that has despised the word, from him a [debtor's] pledge will be seized; but the one fearing the commandment is the one that will be rewarded."
TRANS: NEB: to despise a word of advice is to ask for trouble; LB: despise Gods word and find yourself in trouble
CROSS REF: 2 Chronicles 36:16 = prophets; 2 John 8 = full reward
NOTE: A person who does not respect a contract or his "Yes" to an agreement will not repay the loan and would possibly forfeit his pledge or collateral. Just so, failure to obey God results n similar loss of any credit with God. Note that the Nazarene discourages oaths or pledges and encourages the making of loans to those in need, with even expecting a repayment. (Luke 6:30-37)
[Law Means Life]
PROVERBS 13:14 --"The law of the wise one is a source of life, to turn one away from the snares of death."
TRANS: JB: the wise mans teaching is a life-giving fountain
CROSS REF: Proverbs 8:35; 14.27; 16.22; John 4:13-15 = fountain of a wise man
NOTE: It is very practical advice in life to listen to the wise who have gone before and know what dangers await on the trail of life. Unfortunately those wise are usually older and the young tend to avoid their suggestions, and starting off on, they often find themselves wishing they had listened.
A "law" is a rule of conduct often with a sanction for disobedience. Someone wise in life has learned the "rules of the road" and if one listens to them it can actually mean survival. These "rules" may range from how to start a camp fire in the wilderness to matters of family relationships. Listen to those who have gone before for no matter who they are, they have learned something you dont yet know.
Of course that man who was even wiser than Solomon was Jesus the Nazarene -- "Look, something greater than Solomon is here." He came from God and presented the most important things God wanted us to know and live by. An outline of this wisdom is found in the Nazarenes first public speech, called the Sermon on the Mount. There is a publication available by email attachment entitled Nazarene Mountain Teachings which discusses this sermon in a new rendering of Matthew 5-7 with footnote commentary.
[Tact and Integrity]
Proverbs 13:15 -- "Good insight itself gives favor, but the way of those dealing treacherously is rugged."
TRANS: NEB: intelligence wins favor; RSV: good sense wins favor but the way of the faithless is their ruin
CROSS REF: Proverbs 4:19
NOTE: The one with insight knows which way to choose and so his course, and those who follow him, is favorable, while the path of those who would think evilly of their fellows turns out to be a difficult one indeed. People look with favor, and therefore honor and respect, a person whose "good insight" has proved itself again and again. On the other hand, persons with selfish agendas -- who are not beyond harming others, financially or personally -- are to be avoided.
Additionally, the one with insight knows how and when to speak so that offense is seldom given. As a result the insightful are favored as company. In contrast the treacherous end up having a difficult time because good society rejects them.
[The Product Proclaims the Man]
Proverbs 13:16 -- "Everyone shrewd will act with knowledge, but the one that is stupid will spread abroad foolishness."
TRANS: JB: every man of discretion acts by the light of knowledge
CROSS REF: Proverbs 14:8, 15, 18
NOTES: One must first know or have acquired knowledge before becoming shrewd or discreet. The young are less "shrewd" and learn this by experience. The young person who has failed to listen the wise become well known because they tend to repeat their "foolishness" in the neighborhood. It does not take long before the community is well aware that the fool had not taken the time to learn first.
[Kill the Messenger]
Proverbs 13:17 -- "A messenger that is wicked will fall into bad, but a faithful envoy is a healing."
TRANS: BER: an unreliable messenger precipitates trouble
CROSS REF: Proverbs 25:25 and 2 Corinthians 5:20 = ambassadors
NOTE: The fruitage of a good or faithful message is healing, comforting, encouraging; but, someone with a wicked or evil message about others is clearly bad. Ultimately the slanderer and gossip is disliked by everyone while the person who can be trusted contributes to the harmony of an association. If a "messenger" has his own agenda and wicked motivations only bad relations will result. However, a loyal ambassador or representative, with the welfare of those he represents in mind, will result in good relations between two parties.
Proverbs 13:18 -- "The one neglecting discipline comes to poverty and dishonor, but the one keeping a reproof is the one that is glorified."
TRANS: LB: if you refuse criticism you will end in poverty and disgrace; if you accept criticism you are on the road to fame; RSV: ignores instruction; BAS: uncontrolled by training
CROSS REF: Proverbs15:32 = discipline
WORD: The word group "poverty" occurs 16 times in the Bible and 10 of these are in Proverbs.
NOTE: Here "discipline" is paralleled with "reproof." Honor comes to the one who accepts discipline from parents or seniors because it often leads in a course resulting in success in life thus generally avoiding poverty and shame.
[Education by Friendship]
PROVERBS 13:20 --"He that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly."
TRANS: JB: make the wise your companions and you grow wise yourself; make fools your friends and suffer
CROSS REF: Proverbs 22:17; Genesis 34:2 and Hebrews 10:24 = association; 1Corinthians 15:33 = bad associates
NOTE: "Love of company is a steady instinct of the young. Like many other forces under the control of a free moral agent, it is mighty for good or evil, according to the direction in which it is turned. Wisdom from above will be given to them that ask it for the purpose of selecting safe companions. No one, it may be safely affirmed, ever made this request in simplicity to God, and came away without an answer. No -- when people cling to unprofitable and dangerous associates, it is because they take what they like without asking counsel of God." (Arnot, page 251, 253)
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[This is a forum for the free expression of faith and conviction no matter the view or opinion. You are welcome to submit anything in good taste, respectful, and mannerly.]
A few years ago I wrote a prayer about my life which I would like to share with you
all. I wrote it right after a very trying period in my life when my world
seemed to be falling apart (yes, I tend to be rather dramatic, but that was how
it felt at the time). This prayer came from meditating on the quote by Viktor
Frankl (a survivor of the WWII concentration camps) "To live is to suffer, to
survive is to find meaning in suffering," and by thinking about how God has
brought beauty out of the broken pieces of my life. When I look to Jesus, the
source of light in my life, I am changed. Praise Him!
Thank you, Lord, for the suffering you place in my life.
Thank you Lord, for the things that break me in pieces.
For you are making something of beauty out of the pain.
You have placed all the broken pieces of my life together
Then you shine the light of your Son through me
Suddenly, the shards of broken glass, shattered for you Become a thing of
When I look around me I see only the broken pieces,
Worthless bits of glass.
But only you, O God, see the big picture
As you look at me through the prism of your love.
I am amazed at what the simple process
Of applying light and love can do
With the broken pieces of my life.
Lord, you have made my life a kaleidoscope.
Each time my life is shaken, I think it will be my undoing...
Until I let the light of Christ shine through my brokenness
And the beauty takes form.
I pray that as you continue to break me and shake me,
That you will make me more beautiful in your sight, O Lord
I thank you and praise you for the faith I have in you,
What reassurance to know that you are making
Beauty from my brokenness.
(Contributed -- DW.)
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SATAN AND THE THOUSAND YEARS
What about that idea about Satan after the 1000 years coming out and saying that is not
fair or someone after the 1000 years coming out with an argument well God was not
fair and gave his Son an undue advantage by letting Jesus have
perfect humans on earth under his reign? He has already given Satan 6000 to Jesus 1000 for the sake of fairness, would He mess it all up by giving Jesus reign perfect humans that got to live forever and through the great war. This would have been the greatest revelation in the Book of Revelation. If it was why so silent? OR DID SOME MEN NEED SOMETHING THAT WOULD MAKE THE HEAVENLY CALLING LOOK NOT SO GOOD IN OUR FLESHLY STATE? You can live right through this coming great tribulation, all of your dead loved ones will be resurrected so you and them can live into eternity with Jesus as the ruler and perfect government and live forever? Part is true, as most religious groups they tell you something the Bible teaches then they add some weird conclusion and because we are to be sheeplike we must follow, not according to Jesus own words at Luke 21:8, we have a choice to think!
There is no good scripture to prove everlasting life throughout the 1000 years. You
could live through the coming Great Tribulation---TRUE, You could live under perfect
government by Jesus during the 1000 year reign---TRUE, All of the dead will be resurrected
to live with you on earth during or soon after the 1000 years starts---NOT True. There are
a lot of scriptures that talk of a resurrection but these are of a resurrection to the
heavens before the 1000 to reign with Jesus over the earth not to live under this reign.
Then they added forever or through the whole 1000 years or "you will never die"
DURING the 1000 years! CANT PROVE IT = FALSE especially when there is a scripture from the
book called REVELATION that says, "And the rest of the dead will not come to life
until after the 1000 years"! Hears a thought: if God is so tolerant of Satan and his
even though he knows the outcome and in fact is GOD can we be more tolerant of fellow Christians or even of non-Christians for non-Christians have not fallen from perfection into sin they were born into it! We all are sinners and therefore sit in the exist in the same miserable state in God's eyes. (Contributed -- SM)
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[These are Faith Perspective responses to a question about celebrating Christmas.]
I speak only for myself. I do not take a great joy in the season perhaps
because I see the negative consumer "presents and more presents." However, I
believe Christians have it in their right to celebrate this event, although
the date is way off. If I could change Christmas in Christianity, I would
eliminate the giving of presents to each other and have the money that would
have been spent on family and friends given to our Father. The gifts of the
wise men (although much later than Jesus actual birth) were given to Joseph
and Mary in honor of the new born king. I believe to truly capture the
spirit of this scene, the gifts should not go to each other but to our
Father. Perhaps the money could be given to the poor in his name. If I could celebrate this way, I would do it most gladly. (Contributed)
I think I can safely say that most Bible Students and Free Bible Students do celebrate Christmas, though there are a few that do not. Some of these have JW backgrounds. All I can do is offer the family philosophy on this matter. We grew up celebrating Jesus birth, though we knew it was the wrong time of year, October being the proper time. We were glad to be able to celebrate the birth of our Savior with a world who did not always acknowledge Jesus. This was an opportunity to share with our friends, neighbors and relatives that Christmas was about Jesus and to share our faith. Christmas was a special family time for the Weeks family. Christmas Eve we gathered with our family, our grandparents and we always read the story of Jesus birth from the Gospels and talked about the importance of this event. My dad would have us read some poems or other inspiring Christmas stories and we always has a buffet supper. Christmas day brought more relatives, mostly great aunts and uncles. Presents were given and it was a special time. Christmas is still a special time for our family and we try to carry on the traditions that my parents set in place many years ago. I can't tell you how many times we had JWs come to our door and they inevitably brought up Christmas or crosses. I felt they had a real hang up about making themselves different from other Christians, as if that made them right and more holy. I think that people respond better to trying to find something you have in common and working from there, than trying to make yourself so different. The traditions that may have evolved from pagan customs have no pagan relevance at ALL anymore to anyone, but JWs. We always had a Christmas tree and it symbolized to us that Jesus was alive forevermore. We gave gifts like the wisemen gave to Jesus. We always had a nativity set out to remind us what the holiday was all about. I have heard Pastor Russell celebrated Christmas and gave gifts to those who were serving at the Bethel. In the early Watchtowers there are Christmas messages written. So this obviously developed under Rutherford, who I believed liked to make JWs as different as possible from other Christians. (Contributed)
One thing I remember as a child was that there was a very poor family in town. Mother with 5 children, the father had TB and was in a sanitarium. My mom always wrapped presents for the kids and took over a Christmas dinner. When
I was visiting my folks a few years ago we went out for breakfast and when my
mom went to pay for breakfast and handed the hostess her credit card, the girl
nearly jumped across the counter to hug my mother. She was one of the young
children who we brought Christmas to and she expressed her gratitude to my
parents all these years later. This is what Christmas is about, touching others
like Christ did.
My family began that practice 4 years ago, right after this experience. We
choose a family in need and bring Christmas to them. We brought it to a little
boy in Seth's class whose father had been killed and was living with his
Grandmother. We brought it to a co-worker whose husband had left her with 3
children and so much debt she would not recover for years. Each time we try to
bring them the message of the Gospel in some way. This is the way we can share our faith. We have been blessed beyond measure in giving this way and Christmas is so much more special because of it. Those are my thoughts. (Contributed)
I have to say that this was one of the easy of JW beliefs that I was able to accept. And even though I now recognize many of the errors of WT doctrine, I still have a difficult time looking upon Christmas as anything other than the giving of a Christian name to otherwise pagan practices. Yes, the mere origins of a practice are not always relevant to modern day traditions, especially those traditions that have a neutral feel and spirit behind them. But when the intent is to bring honor to and glorify God and his Son Jesus Christ... to me the origins carry a greater relevance. In addition to the pagan origins, there are just too many false "teachings" that are associated with the Christmas celebration. Like you mentioned... the wrong date, day, season as well as a false reporting of the events surrounding his birth. Couple this with the emphasis on commercialism and a form of piety that comes and goes with the season .... But I must also mention that these are my own feelings and I would not let another's decision to celebrate Christmas become a barrier that divides me and others among the body of Christ. And I would recognize that not everyone who does celebrate Christmas does so under the influence of a world which appears very alienated from God. (Contributed)
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DO THE NAZARENE SAINTS "WORSHIP" TWO GODS?
Romans 1:25 -- "And they worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator."
In the Christian Greek Bible there are two words sometimes translated by the English word "worship." One, latreuo, is used always of the Absolute Being, God the Father. The other, proskuneo, does not mean "worship" in the modern sense of the word, but rather a show of deep respect by bowing on knees and kissing the feet or fringe of a garment.It is something lie the deep bow of the Japanese, but more closely to that practice in the Middle East of fully bowing on knees to kiss the feet or hand of someone worthy or demanding deep respect.
In the Jewish Greek version of the Old Testament this word proskuneo is used when someone bows or prostrates to the ground, on knees or face, in deep respect for another. Examples of this can be seen in 1 Samuel (1 Kings LXX) 24:9, "David bowed with his face to the ground and did obeisance (prosekunesen) to king Saul." And, again, in the case of Abigail, "And Abigail saw David, and she hasted and alighted from her ass; and she fell before David on her face, and did obeisance to him (prosekunesen), bowing to the ground." (1 Samuel 25:23 LXX)It would seem clear that in these two cases proskuneo is not "worship" in the modern sense of the word, but rather a deep respect common in the Eastern world, and unknown in the Western.
In the Christian Bible proskuneo is used in this manner above, that is a bowing or kneeling in deep respect. This can be seen in a number of verses which are here listed:
Therefore the slave fell down and began to PROSKUNEO [RHM: do homage; RSV: fell on his knees] himself to (his master), saying, 'Be patient with me and I will pay back everything to you.'
Also, the soldiers would hit Jesus on the head with a reed and spit upon him and, bending their knees, they would do PROSKUNEO [KJ: bowing their knees; NEB: knelt; WMS: bending knees] to him.
As Peter entered, Cornelius met him, fell down at his feet and did PROSKUNEO [TCNT: bowed to the ground; RHM: did homage; GDSP: made obeisance] to him. But Peter lifted him up, saying: "Rise; I myself am also a man."
Look! I will give those from the synagogue of Satan who say they are Jews, and yet they are not but are lying-look! I will make them come and PROSKUNEO [TCNT: bow down] before your feet and make them know I have loved you.
It is true the word proskuneo may be used more like the modern English meaning of "worship" -- veneration of a deity. This can be seen in the Greek translators rendering of Jesus words to the Samaritan woman at the well. John 4:20-24 reads, most translations rendering proskuneo as "worship" --- "Our forefathers PROSKUNEO in this mountain; but you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where persons ought to PROSKUNEO." Jesus said to her: "Believe me, woman, The hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will YOU people PROSKUNEO the Father. YOU PROSKUNEO what you do not know; we PROSKUNEO what we know, because salvation originates with the Jews. Nevertheless, the hour is coming, and it is now, when the true PROSKUNEO will PROSKUNEO the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to PROSKUNEO him. God is a Spirit, and those PROSKUNEO him must PROSKUNEO with spirit and truth." (Compare also John 12:20; Acts 7:43; 8:27; 24:11)
These should be enough to confirm that proskuneo has a wide range of meaning: from deep respect toactual "worship" of Almighty God. It ought also to be clear from the account of the Samaritan woman that Jesus teaches that "worship" belongs only to His God and Father. No where does Jesus ever encourage "worship" of himself. Indeed, in the temptation account, Jesus uses both proskuneo in combination with latreuo regarding the Lord God only. The account reads in Matthew 4:9, 10 as Satan says, "All these things I will give you if you fall down and do an act of worship to me. Then Jesus said to him: Go away, Satan! For it is written, "It is the Lord your God you must worship [PROSKUNEO], and it is to him alone you must render sacred service. [LATREUO]'"
Some, mainly Trinitarians, but also others, believe in the worship of God (the Creator) as well as Jesus, His Son. Since the pre-existent Son, as well as the glorified Christ, are referred to by the designation "god" this amounts to the worship of two gods, contradicting historical monotheism of the Jews as well as the early Christians.However, what about those verses in the Gospels which have others "worshipping" Jesus according to the King James Version as well as some other versions?
We feel Jesus would never the worship of two gods, or worship of anyone other than his Father. A consideration of those verses where proskuneo appears when compared to a variety of translations, when applied to Jesus, mean simply a high degree of honor and respect, not "worship." We consider some of those verse below.
And, look! a leprous man came up and began to PROSKUNEO [TCNT: bow to the ground before; RIEU: did obeisance] to Jesus, saying: "Lord, if you just want to, you can make me clean."
While he was telling them these things, look! a certain ruler who had approached began to PROSKUNEO [MOF: knelt before] to Jesus."
Then those in the boat did PROSKUNEO [TCNT: threw themselves on their faces] to Jesus, saying: "You are really God's Son."
When the woman came she began PROSKINEO [RHM: bowing down; WEY: threw herself at his feet; MOF: knelt before] to Jesus, saying: "Lord, help me!"
Then the mother of the sons of Zeb'e·dee approached Jesus with her sons, PROSKUNEO [RHM: bowing down; KNX: falling on her knees; BER: kneeling; TCNT: bowing to the ground] and asking for something from Jesus.
And, look! Jesus met them and said: "Good day!" They approached and caught him by his feet and did PROSKUNEO [NEB: falling prostrate before; BER: knelt before] to Jesus.
and when the disciples saw Jesus they did PROSKUNEO [NJB: fell down before], but some doubted.
But on catching sight of Jesus from a distance (the demonized man) ran and did PROSKUNEO [ABUV: bowed down; NEB: flung himself down; WEY: threw himself at his feet] to Jesus.
Then the blind man said: "I do put faith [in him], Lord." And he did PROSKUNEO [NOR: kneeled before] to Jesus.
1 Corinthians 14:25
the secrets of his heart become manifest, so that he will fall upon [his] face and PROSKUNEO God, declaring: "God is really among YOU."
However, what about those two texts which show angels worshipping Jesus? Consider these:
Hebrews 1:6 --- "But when he again brings his Firstborn into the inhabited earth, he says: And let all God's angels PROSKUNEO to the Son." When Jesus was resurrected and thus brought again into the world after three days in Hades, all Gods angels must have bowed and prostrated themselves out of the deepest respect. This is not "worship" in the modern meaning of that word. The angel of the apocalypse says simply: "Worship (proskuneo) The God," in the absolute sense. In the end this text only shows the reaction of the angelic hosts to the victory of the Son and no doubt on his presentation in heaven to receive his kingdom, they showed proper respect after the Eastern manner. (Daniel 7:13, 14)
Revelation 5:14 --- "And the four living creatures went saying: Amen! and the elders fell down and PROSKUNEO." (KJV adding "Him that liveth for ever and ever.") Some feel these four zoan or animals symbolize those angels as a group mentioned above. The celestial presbyters are a group about which there are a variety of interpretations. No matter, both texts deal with heavenly beings and no where are earthly servants enjoined to "worship" Jesus. Additionally, on the verse, the King James version adds a phrase which would indicate that this "worship" was being extended only to God Almighty. Or, proskuneo here may be viewed, not as worship, but of a gesture of deepest respect for both God Almighty and the Lamb.
Paul, in describing the apostasy of some Jews in Biblical history, writes: "They venerated [ESEBASTHESAN] and they rendered sacred (religious) service [ELATREUSAN] to the creation beside the One who created." (Romans 1:25, literal rendering) Since Jesus was a creature (or, creation) of God Almighty (Proverbs 8:22; Colossians 1:15) the danger of saying one "worships" Jesus should become clear.
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MAY PRAYERS BE DIRECTED TO JESUS RATHER THAN HIS FATHER?
May one pray to Jesus? Trinitarians have no difficulty with this idea as they consider Jesus God (or, part of God). Indeed, if one has experience with many Trinitarian groups it is clear the emphasis is on the Son, rather than the Father, or the Holy Ghost. Thus, many make the oft-repeated remark: "Thank you, Jesus!"
What is the basis for this notion that a Christian may also pray to the Son? Most admit there are few texts to support this idea. However, there are a couple often pointed to as proof one may pray to Jesus. For example, Acts 7:59 records Stephens dying words: "Stephen said in invocation, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." (NJB) Perhaps it is hair-splitting to argue this is a prayer.
Perhaps we ought to understand what we mean in English as a "prayer"? Is it fair to say that normal usage would limit the word to a petition, supplication, entreaty to God? The dictionary gives the root meaning to be "begging" and is generally (#3) a "humble entreaty addressed to God, to a god." The Old English, "I pray you," is no longer in use in America. So, most people would understand that praying to Jesus is praying to God, or a god. Since the unitarian view is that the Son in his pre-existence (John 1:1), as well as upon his ascension (Isaiah 9:6, 7), is addressed as "God" prayers to Jesus would be prayer to two Gods -- the Father and the Son.
The literal Greek in Acts 7:57 has Stephen "calling upon" (EPI-KALOUMENON) the person he saw in his vision. Some do translate this as "praying" (WEY, GSPD) while others use "calling upon" (KJV) or "appealed to." (TCNT) However, the word for "prayer" is generally PROSEUKHE (PROSEUKHOMAI - Strongs # 4335, 4336) and is not so designated for Acts 7:57. In other words, while it could not be strictly stated that Stephen is "praying" to Jesus, he is rather, calling upon the person he saw in his near-death vision. This word to "call upon" is generally used throughout the Bible in appealing to God. It is used a very few times where the possibility is Jesus. (Acts 9:14, 21; 2 Timothy 2:22) In two cases it is difficult to determine whether God or Jesus is meant. In another, the speakers are Jews.
Stephen possibly knew that the Nazarene had taught that the Son would raise his disciples from the dead. (John 5:26; 6:40; 11:25, 26) Thus, it would not be inappropriate in Stephens circumstances -- a near-death vision -- to call upon the one he could see. A similar thing is done by John when he concludes the Apocalypse: "Amen! Come, Lord Jesus." (Revelation 22:
Another text often used is John 14:15 which is rendered literally in the Greek by the United Bible Societies Interlinear: "If anything you ask ME in the name of me I will do it." However, the New World Translation reads: "If YOU ask anything in my name, I will do it." (John 14:15 NWT) [NOTE: this is addressed to the apostles and does not necessarily represent an instruction for all Christians.]
Translators are divided over this rendering without the ME (also ME in Greek). Some include "me" while others do not. Those who include "me" are -- NAS, BECK, WEY, PME. Those that do not include "me" are -- KJV, WMS, RIEU, DIA, NKJ, LAM, IB, NWT. Several translations give the reason in their footnotes, more or less stating that "some ancient authorities lack me. (Compare NRS, RSV) The New World Translation as well as the Nestles-Aland Greek Text list those ancient texts which contain the Greek word ME: Papyrus Bodmer 2, c200 CE; Codex Sinaiticus (fourth century); Vatican 1209 (fourth century); Freer Gospels (fifth century); Vulgate (fourth century); Syriac (fifth century). Those ancient texts which omit the ME are: Codex Alexandrinus (fifth century), Bezae Codices (fifth and sixth century), Old Latin Versions (second to fourth century).
We note this point in Greens forward: "A healthy debate is beginning to rage between adherents to the Alexandrine text base (which underline most of the modern versions), and those who believe the Byzantine/Majority textbase is the only true text of the New Testament."
It has been mentioned that basing a doctrine on whether prayer may be addressed to Jesus on a single text is questionable. We believe this is so for the added reasons that the textual criticism on a single word is divided. Additionally, the Nazarene has already stated: "And whatever you ask [the Father] in my name, this I will do." (John 14:15 UBS Int) Within the same context of this Passover nights teachings Jesus makes it clear: "Whatever you ask the Father in my name, He may give to you." (John 15:16 UBS Int) And, the same in John 16:23.
Finally, there is another matter to consider: the Jews had always prayed to God, Yahweh, or, the Father. The very idea they could also pray to Jesus would arouse an instant question considerably more serious than those questions asked by the Jewish apostles in this same portion of Scripture. (John 13-17) If Jesus, in this unique and singular moment, is suggesting prayer to himself, why do the apostles not ask about this new idea?
The fact they do not, as well as the omission of ME in some of the oldest texts, makes us feel that the Greek ME is a corruption here. Possibly it was added under the Catholic supervision of the development of the Greek texts. The fact the Latin Vulgate has it might give one pause to examine: context, background, and other texts.
So, the popular hymn which contains the refrains, "What a friend we have in Jesus ... All because we do not carry Everything to him in prayer," would be inappropriate based strictly on the Scriptures.
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ARE THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT STILL AVAILABLE TODAY?
Paul writes earlier in 1 Corinthians 1:22 that the "Jews look for
signs but the Greeks seek wisdom." If one was to "become a Jew to win a
Jew," then signs would be called for. If one were to "become a Greek to win
Greeks, then wisdom would be the order of the day.
From this it would seem "signs" are provided by God during the transition from the old wine bota to the new one -- that is primary for the Jews. The further removed the Christian Church came from the Jews -- some speculate by the mid-second century (c150 AD) -- the less the need for "signs" and the more for "wisdom."
Eusebius makes a comment on the use of satanic inspired gifts about the middle to late second century: "In his unbridled ambition to reach the top laid himself open to the adversary, was filled with spiritual excitement and suddenly fell into a kind of trance and unnatural ecstasy. He raved, and began to chatter and talk nonsense, prophesying in a way that conflicted with the practice of the Church handed down generation by generation from the beginning. ... Some were annoyed, regarding him as possessed, a demoniac in the grip of a spirit of error." Eusebius continues to record a following: " ... women whom he filled with the sham spirit, so that they chattered crazily." And continuing a bit further: "But the pseudo-prophet speaks in a state of unnatural ecstasy. ... He begins with voluntary ignorance and ends in involuntary psychosis." (Pages 218ff)
In 1 Corinthians 13:1, 2, 8-12 Paul writes:"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels ... and if I have the gift of prophesying and am acquainted with all the sacred secrets and all knowledge ... whether there are [gifts of] prophesying, they will be done away with; whether there are [the gift of] tongues, they will cease; whether there is [the gift of] knowledge, it will be done away with. For we have partial knowledge and we prophesy partially; but when that which is complete [Greek = teleion = UBS: the completion; DIA: the perfect thing] arrives, that which is partial will be done away with. When I was a babe, I used to speak as a babe, to think as a babe, to reason as a babe; but now that I have become a man [gained maturity], I have done away with the [traits] of a babe. For at present we see in hazy outline by means of a metal mirror, but then it will be face to face. At present I know partially, but then I shall know accurately even as I am accurately known."
He uses the metaphor of a baby becoming a man and gradually ceasing "childish ways, thinking and speech." In other words, he is discussing maturity. The English word "maturity" (or, completeness) may be drawn from the Greek root telos (end). Note how Pauls uses this word here in verse 10 in the context of growing from a babe to a man. In other words, the Greek teleion possibly carries the idea of maturity.
We note that elsewhere Paul uses this same word with growth and maturity in mind: "And he gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelizers, some as shepherds and teachers, with a view to the readjustment of the holy ones, for ministerial work, for the building up of the body of the Christ, until we all attain to the oneness in the faith and in the accurate knowledge of the Son of God, to a full-grown man [Greek = andra teleion = a perfect male = maturity], to the measure of stature that belongs to the fullness of the Christ; in order that we should no longer be babes, tossed about as by waves and carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in contriving error. But speaking the truth, let us by love grow up in all things into him who is the head, Christ." (Ephesians 4:11-15)
Combining these two uses of teleion -- both in the context of growth from infancy to maturity -- we believe the "complete" thing which arrives in 1 Corinthians 13:10 is that state of maturity following the completion of the Christian canon. It is our own conviction that the entire New Testament canon was finished by the year 100 AD. Thereafter, we would expect the special pneumatic gifts in 1 Corinthians chapters 12, 13, and 14 would cease or pass away.
We have before us one contribution from a "certain commentary published before 1832 in Scotland: "In 1 Corinthians chapter 12, verses 8-10 gifts of the spirit are listed. In 1 Corinthians 13:8 three of the nine are referred to. One is said, "shall fail"; one is said, "shall cease"; one is said, "shall vanish away." What about the other six? When the nine are listed, a common English expression in the KJV, to another, separates them. That English expression is appropriate only six times in verse 8-10 where it translates the Greek word allo. The other two appearances of to another wrongly represent the Greek word hetero, which Vines Expository Dictionary says means another of a different sort.
"So the use of hetero two times divides the nine gifts into three groups. The first group is of two; the last group is of two; the middle group is of five gifts. The relationship of the two gifts in the two groups of two is obvious: when the gift of tongues ceased, interpretation of tongues also would cease. Inasmuch as wisdom is the application of knowledge, when the gift of knowledge (knowing something without having to undergo the process of its learning) ceased, the gift of wisdom would also cease. The relationship between prophecies and the other four gifts in the middle group is not so readily apparent. But from the evidently intentional apostolic choice of words, having already divided the nine gifts into three groups, he purposely mentioned one gift out of each group to represent that summary method Gods intent that all nine gifts would pass away.
"But when would they pass away? Is it not obvious that the miraculously conveyed gifts would pass away before faith, hope, and love would pass away? His mention of faith, hope, and love, and that they now abideth is entered into the narrative after he has made known to the church the passing, vanishing, fa9iling of the miraculously-conveyed gifts. And when would faith and hope pass away? When the church is selected and entered into the things which faith instructed them to hope for.
"So, the nine gifts would pass away, while faith, hope and love would still abide (in the history of the church). It is well to note the testimony in verse 10, That which is perfect (complete) [perfect thing -Marshall Interlinear] does not identify Christian believers, bur rather the Scriptures of divine instruction which Paul and other apostles and teaches of the early church were writing. The phrase perfect thing translates the Greek word teleion, which is in neuter gender, singular, a fitting form to represent the holy scripture."
What would "signs" be proof of now? Paul warns: "But the lawless one's presence is according to the operation of Satan with every powerful work and lying signs and portents and with every unrighteous deception for those who are perishing, as a retribution because they did not accept the love of the truth that they might be saved."(2 Thessalonians 2:9, 10) Our Lord warns that many will point to such signs in the judgment and yet he states he never knew them. (Matthew 7:21-23) If such "lying signs" are Satanic -- and our Lord warned about the Elect being misled by such -- what can we conclude but that, as Paul predicted, the early pneumatic gifts passed away with the death of the apostles and the completion of the Christian canon?
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Is Christmas a celebration based on the Bible?
While the majority of Christians celebrate Christmas without any problems of conscience, others feel they cannot. Their reasons center on the origins of Christmas (unbelievers, darkness, idolatry, doctrinally and ceremonially unclean) as well as Pauls statement in 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 and the need to be "separate" as well as spiritually clean.
"Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. For what fellowship do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what sharing does light have with darkness? Further, what harmony is there between Christ and Be'li·al? Or what portion does a faithful person have with an unbeliever? And what agreement does God's temple have with idols? For we are a temple of a living God; just as God said: "I shall reside among them and walk among [them], and I shall be their God, and they will be my people." "'Therefore get out from among them, and separate yourselves,' says Jehovah, 'and quit touching the unclean thing'"; "'and I will take YOU in.'" "'And I shall be a father to YOU, and YOU will be sons and daughters to me,' says Jehovah the Almighty." Therefore, since we have these promises, beloved ones, let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in God's fear."
M'Clintock and Strong's Cyclopędia says: "The observance of Christmas is not of divine appointment, nor is it of N[ew] T[estament] origin. The day of Christ's birth cannot be ascertained from the N[ew] T[estament], or, indeed, from any other source."-(New York, 1871), Vol. II, p. 276.
Daily Life in the Time of Jesus: "The flocks . . . passed the winter under cover; and from this alone it may be seen that the traditional date for Christmas, in the winter, is unlikely to be right, since the Gospel says that the shepherds were in the fields."-(New York, 1962), Henri Daniel-Rops, p. 228.
The Encyclopedia Americana: "The reason for establishing December 25 as Christmas is somewhat obscure, but it is usually held that the day was chosen to correspond to pagan festivals that took place around the time of the winter solstice, when the days begin to lengthen, to celebrate the 'rebirth of the sun.' . . . The Roman Saturnalia (a festival dedicated to Saturn, the god of agriculture, and to the renewed power of the sun), also took place at this time, and some Christmas customs are thought to be rooted in this ancient pagan celebration."-(1977), Vol. 6, p. 666.
New Catholic Encyclopedia: "The date of Christ's birth is not known. The Gospels indicate neither the day nor the month . . . According to the hypothesis suggested by H. Usener . . . and accepted by most scholars today, the birth of Christ was assigned the date of the winter solstice (December 25 in the Julian calendar, January 6 in the Egyptian), because on this day, as the sun began its return to northern skies, the pagan devotees of Mithra celebrated the dies natalis Solis Invicti (birthday of the invincible sun). On Dec. 25, 274, Aurelian had proclaimed the sun-god principal patron of the empire and dedicated a temple to him in the Campus Martius. Christmas originated at a time when the cult of the sun was particularly strong at Rome."-(1967), Vol. III, p. 656.
The Encyclopedia Americana: "During the Saturnalia . . . feasting prevailed, and gifts were exchanged." (1977, Vol. 24, p. 299)
Compare Exodus 32:4-10. Notice that the Israelites adopted an Egyptian religious practice but gave it a new name, "a festival to Jehovah."
Church Christmas Tab. "Some believe the bishop of Rome chose Dec. 25 as the birth date of Christ in order to 'sanctify' the pagan celebrations. What resulted was a strange mixture of the pagan and the Christian festivals that the world now calls Christmas. ... The word 'Christmas' does not appear in the Bible. And Scripture gives no mandate for celebrating Jesus' birth."
Tertullian (second century): "By us, who are strangers to Sabbaths, and new moons and festivals, once acceptable to God, the Saturnalia [the future Christmas] are now frequented, gifts are carried to and fro, . . . and sports and banquets are celebrated with uproar."
Natural History: "Instead of trying to obliterate peoples' customs and beliefs, [Pope Gregory I ] instructions were, use them. If a group of people worship a tree, rather than cut it down, consecrate it to Christ and allow them to continue their worship."
The Chicago Tribune (December issue): "Ironically, the holiday that Christians now complain is being co-opted by commercialism traces its roots to a pagan festival that was taken over by Christianity. The first reported observance of Christmas as the birth of Jesus Christ was more than 300 years after the event. In the 4th Century, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, and, scholars believe, Christians set Jesus' birthdate at Dec. 25 to coincide with existent celebrating by non-Christians. Rather than battle against the pagan holidays, they decided to join them and try to replace them,' said University of Utah professor Russell Belk . . . 'The pagan holidays replaced by Christianity were the Roman celebrations of Saturnalia-which were carnivalesque celebrations with gift-giving-and later the Yule celebrations in England and Germany that celebrated the winter solstice,' Belk said. Christmas has gained and slipped in popularity over the centuries. It was banned for a time in England and America by Puritans who objected to the frivolity associated with it. But toward the mid-1800s, Belk said, 'Christmas was in trouble, waning in popularity.' He said religious leaders welcomed an injection of commerce, via gift-giving and Santa Claus, to revive the holiday. That revival, Belk said, was credited largely to English author Charles Dickens, whose 1843 'A Christmas Carol' showed a reformed Scrooge who became a generous giver."
New York Newsday (December 22, 1992) John Mosley, The Christmas Star: "'The early church leaders didn't celebrate Christmas in December specifically to celebrate the birth of Christ,' [Mosley] said. 'It was their way of dealing with the winter solstice,' the turning point of winter, when the sun stops its drift to the south and heads north again, bringing new light. Evidence for this is seen in the symbols of Christmas, Mosley said. Most obvious is the use of green plants, which symbolize life in a time of darkness and cold. 'The most obvious green plant is the Christmas tree,' he said. 'And the northern Europeans celebrated the solstice in the forest; they worshipped trees. So the Christmas tree is really a throwback to tree worship in prehistoric times.' Also, Mosley said, 'What do you put on the trees? Lights. Light recalls the Sun and symbolizes the Sun. It's for the rebirth of the Sun and the return of light after the solstice. The main things involved in solstice celebrations everywhere are light and green plants. Dec. 25, he added, 'was also the original date of the winter solstice, and many of the things we do now, and which we think are relatively modern Christmas customs, really trace their origins to the solstice celebrations."
"Unwrapping Yule Traditions," Anita Sama - Gannett News Service: "Long before Christian observances, exchanging presents was part of the winter celebrations. The Romans gave each other branches from a holy grove of trees, then moved to more elaborate items symbolizing good wishes for the coming year-silver, gold and honeyed treats."
The New Caxton Encyclopedia: "the Church seized the opportunity to Christianize these festivals."
A BALANCED UNIFYING VIEW
Whether a Christian will observe the Christmas celebration is a decision for each one without judgment. It is true the angels did celebrate the birthday of the new born savior, Christ in Luke chapter 2. Though there are no injunctions to continue to do so, many Christians find nothing offensive in the holiday. Others see the celebration as just a pageant to winter and the opportunity for family and friends to enjoy hospitality and giving among one another. And, yet, still others refrain for those reasons given above.
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A thorough work on whether the Return of Christ is visible or invisible:
A link of interest for those in the British Isles:
Bro. Cecil Pagel is the person behind Intervention Ministries. His outreach to the poor in Romania was formerly a branch of CMF. Cecil decided to go private under the above name which he had prior to teaming up with CMF. Many of us have continue to support his work financially as well as sending clothing and other items to him for shipping over to Romania. He has been instrumental is supplying used computers and guidance to some FBS over there. He goes over there about twice a year, distributing clothing to needy brethren, poor families, orphans and sometimes takes over wheelchairs and once an artificial leg for a young teenager. He has set up a self-sustaining home for street -girls, supplying them with sewing machines, patterns, material and thread and they have sold their products and are able to care for themselves. There is probably much more that he does that I am not aware of. What is amazing is that he does all this in his extremely poor physical condition. He has had many back operations and has some kind of implant to control the pain that he has. I have never met him face to face but he must be one tough disciple of the Lord. He does all this from donations and more often than not has to supplement his efforts from his own savings. I had been thinking of joining him on one of his trips for some time and when I received a letter from a group of brethren asking would I please come there and help them in their understanding of some of the FBS beliefs, I took this as coming from the Lord. If you want to know more, you can contact him by e-mail: . (Contributed: EW)
Coming in the December newsletter: Who are the sheep and the goats? Is Jesus the alpha and omega? The Biblical Woman -- part two (1500 BC-29 AD); Christian Giving -- a Royal Command.
Good news for Spanish friends! We have two associates translating several articles for the web page. Also, a long term project is the Spanish translation of Nazarene Principles. If someone is gifted in another language and would be willing to translate articles or a longer online publication please feel free to volunteer!
We are over joyed to announce the completion of the readable on-line publication NAZARENE APOCALYPSE. Formerly we had a down-load version and many hundreds have received and used this unique work. Now the commentary on the Book of Revelation is readable on the Nazarene Saints web page. This is a new translation of Revelation along with 400 pages of commentary on each verse. Additionally, there are over 1,000 footnotes on key words and phrases in Revelation. Virtually every important Greek word is discussed with a complete cross reference. We believe this work is unique on the World Wide Web as a new version of Revelation as well as such a complete commentary. Soon one may enter a text, such as "Revelation 7:14" in quotes on a search engine such as Infoseek and "Nazarene" in the refined search and be led to places in Nazarene Apocalypse where the subject is discussed. Of course, a down-load version provides even better search and find methods to locate almost any commentary on Revelation. Key words such as: last days, parousia, great crowd, 144,000, great tribulation or key texts such as Daniel 7:13 may be located for precise research.
One of our research associates is struggling with that "groaning pain" which befalls all of us from time to time. (Romans 8:19-21) Please pray for Andrew Foss. If any wish to help this godly man please send your kindness to Andrew Foss, 100 Kerr Parkway #11, Lake Oswego, OR 97035.
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THE HOLY SPIRIT AS "HELPER"
Some have asked of the Spirit-Helper Jesus promised is still at work on his disciples. With an open mind consider the following. Is it fair to state that the verses to follow were spoken in private company with the eleven apostles?
John 14:15-17 -- "If YOU [APOSTLES] love me, YOU [APOSTLES] will observe my commandments; 16 and I will request the Father and he will give YOU [APOSTLES] another helper to be with YOU [APOSTLES] forever, 17 the spirit of the truth, which the world cannot receive, because it neither beholds it nor knows it. YOU [APOSTLES] know it, because it remains with YOU [APOSTLES] and is in YOU [APOSTLES]. ... John 14:25-26 -- "While remaining with YOU [APOSTLES] I have spoken these things to YOU [APOSTLES]. 26 But the helper, the holy spirit, which the Father will send in my name, that one will teach YOU [APOSTLES] all things and bring back to YOUR minds all the things I told YOU [APOSTLES]. ... John 15:26-27 -- When the helper arrives that I will send YOU [APOSTLES] from the Father, the spirit of the truth, which proceeds from the Father, that one will bear witness about me; 27 and YOU [APOSTLES], in turn, are to bear witness, because YOU [APOSTLES] have been with me from when I began. ... John 16:7-8 -- For if I do not go away, the helper will by no means come to YOU [APOSTLES]; but if I do go my way, I will send him to YOU [APOSTLES]. 8 And when that one arrives he will give the world convincing evidence concerning sin and concerning righteousness and concerning judgment. ... John 16:12-13 -- "I have many things yet to say to YOU [APOSTLES], but YOU [APOSTLES] are not able to bear them at present. 13 However, when that one arrives, the spirit of the truth, he will guide YOU [APOSTLES] into all the truth, for he will not speak of his own impulse, but what things he hears he will speak, and he will declare to YOU [APOSTLES] the things coming."
Our Lord the Nazarene promises his apostles he will send a Helper -- the spirit of the truth -- and this Helper will "bring back to (their) minds all the things I told you apostles. Thus, those involved were able to prepare the Gospels. By this means these apostles would also "bear witness" about Jesus Christ. This would include several subjects: sin, righteousness, judgment, and prophecies about coming things. If we examine the inspired epistles we find all of these words.
Does this heaven-sent Helper also work so on us? Not in the manner of inspiration which came upon those inspired apostles. How then could the "spirit of the truth" be a Helper to us? By listening to the "word" or "witness" (testimony) of the inspired apostles. For example, note Jesus prayer in John 17:20, "I make request, not concerning these [APOSTLES] only, but also concerning those [US!!!!!!!!!!] putting faith in me through their word." We have come to have faith by means of the Helpers influence on these apostles and their inspired words, the New Testament. Thus, to the extent we read, study, meditate upon and apply those words inspired by the agency of the "spirit of the truth" we benefit from the promised Helper.
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ARE THERE TWO CHOICES OR OPTIONS FOR CHRISTIANS: HEAVEN OR EARTH?
A variety of texts are used by some to prove that Christians living today may have a "new earth" hope as opposed to a "new heaven" hope. That is, disciples of the Nazarene have a "choice or option" whether they will go to heaven or live on earth forever. What are these texts?
Consider those in the Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures first.
Psalm 37:29 -- "The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it." Is it fair to conclude that this verse teaches Christians have two hopes? Or, does the text confirm that ultimately only the righteous will possess the earth and live on it forever? We believe it is a given that the original hope God purposed for humankind was everlasting life on earth in Edenic perfection. This was the hope of Gods ancient servants.
Psalm 104:5 -- "He has founded the earth upon its established places; it will not be made to totter to time indefinite, or forever." This text only proves the earth is permanent and will remain forever. It say nothing about the earth as a hope for Christians living today.
Isaiah 2:4 -- "And he will certainly render judgment among the nations and set matters straight respecting many peoples. And they will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore." This text proves nothing about an earthly hope for Christians. It assures a peaceful condition under Messiahs reign. The text may be applied to that union between Jews and Gentiles as discussed by Paul in Ephesians chapter 2.
Isaiah 11:6-9 -- "And the wolf will actually reside for a while with the male lamb, and with the kid the leopard itself will lie down, and the calf and the maned young lion and the well-fed animal all together; and a mere little boy will be leader over them. 7 And the cow and the bear themselves will feed; together their young ones will lie down. And even the lion will eat straw just like the bull. 8 And the sucking child will certainly play upon the hole of the cobra; and upon the light aperture of a poisonous snake will a weaned child actually put his own hand. 9 They will not do any harm or cause any ruin in all my holy mountain; because the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters are covering the very sea." This text is misapplied to a new earth under Messiah though the words would harmonize with conditions to obtain in the new earth, the realm of Messiahs kingdom. Verse 1 is alluded to by Romans 15:12 and Revelation 22:16. Verse 12 is likely the source for Jesus words at Matthew 24:30. The actual fulfillment would have a strong application to Messiahs work as the King of all the earth, though it may also have a spiritual application to his first century work among his disciples, the lost sheep of the house of Israel. It proves nothing regarding the earth being a choice or option for Christian disciples.
Isaiah 35:1-6 -- "The wilderness and the waterless region will exult, and the desert plain will be joyful and blossom as the saffron. 2 Without fail it will blossom, and it will really be joyful with joyousness and with glad crying out. The glory of Leb'a·non itself must be given to it, the splendor of Car'mel and of Shar'on. There will be those who will see the glory of Jehovah, the splendor of our God. 3 Strengthen the weak hands, you people, and make the knees that are wobbling firm. 4 Say to those who are anxious at heart: "Be strong. Do not be afraid. Look! your own God will come with vengeance itself, God even with a repayment. He himself will come and save you people." 5 At that time the eyes of the blind ones will be opened, and the very ears of the deaf ones will be unstopped. 6 At that time the lame one will climb up just as a stag does, and the tongue of the speechless one will cry out in gladness. For in the wilderness waters will have burst out, and torrents in the desert plain." This text is misapplied to a future new earth though the language might be apropos for conditions under Messiahs reign. Paul quotes verse 3 and applies it to conditions within spiritual Israel in his own day. (Hebrews 12:12) It proves nothing about a Christian hope of living forever in a new earth.
Isaiah 65:17 -- "For here I am creating new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be called to mind, neither will they come up into the heart." Though this is a general hope for the Israel of God, it is the "new heavens" which rules over its realm or territory, the "new earth." The "kings" (Revelation 5:9, 10; 20:4, 6) will compose the "new heavens" while non-Christian earthly nations will make up the "new earth." Compare Isaiah 51:16, "With the shadow of my hand I shall certainly cover you, in order to plant the heavens and lay the foundation of the earth and say to Zion, 'You are my people.'" The text does not prove Christians have two choices or options where they might live.
Consider those texts used in the Christian Bible ---
Matthew 6:10 -- "Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth." This text does not prove there are two options or choices for Christians. It assures us that Gods will for the earth will be realized. No where does the Nazarene give the "new earth" as a choice or option for his followers. Rather, he says: "That where I am they may be." Note our Lords prayer at John 17:5, 24:"So now you, Father, glorify me alongside yourself with the glory that I had alongside you [IN HEAVEN] before the world was. ... Father, as to what you have given me, I wish that, where I am [IN HEAVEN], they also may be with me, in order to behold my glory that you have given me."
Jesus further taught that his disciples would find their reward within the Fathers kingdom, a heavenly realm. "At that time the righteous ones will shine as brightly as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." (Matthew 13:43) This "kingdom" is heavenly where Gods throne is. Isaiah 66:1 says, "This is what Jehovah has said: The heavens are my throne, and the earth is my footstool." In the Nazarenes Apocalypse the Son promises: "To the one that conquers I will grant to sit down with me on my throne, even as I conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne." (Revelation 3:21) That throne is heavenly as Revelation 4:1, 2 reports: "After these things I saw, and, look! an opened door in heaven, and the first voice that I heard was as of a trumpet, speaking with me, saying: Come on up here, and I shall show you the things that must take place. After these things I immediately came to be in [the power of the] spirit: and, look! a throne was in its position in heaven, and there is one seated upon the throne." The Saints are seen in heaven before this Throne. (Revelation 7:9-17;15:2; 19:1, 6) They are seen raised to heaven. (Revelation 11:12, 13)
2 Peter 3:13 -- "But there are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell." Here Peter quotes Isaiah 65:17. Nothing in this verse suggest that Christians have two options or choices. Peter himself writes that the Saints will become "sharers in divine nature." (2 Peter 1:4) He says the Saints will gain "entrance into the everlasting kingdom." (2 Peter 1:11) Paul believed this was a "heavenly kingdom." (2 Timothy 4:18) Paul said further that this new personal residence was to be, not one of human or fleshly origin, but "everlasting in the heavens." (2 Corinthians 5:1)
Revelation 21:4 -- "And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away." Some would apply this text to the "new earth" however the phrase about tears and death is taken from Isaiah 25:8. This verse is quoted by Paul at 1 Corinthians 15:50-53 and applied to those who gain immortality in the heavens. Nothing in Revelation gives any indication that the Saints will inherit a new earth and live on this globe forever.
SUMMARY: There is only "one hope" Paul teaches. (Ephesians 4:4) And, this is heavenly. (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6) There is no basis for asserting that Christians have two choices or two options: heavenly or earthly. Though the hope of all Christians today ought to be heavenly (residing in Gods celestial presence) this does not mean the Lamb (New Jerusalem) will not descend to this earth and rule here for the Thousand Years. (Revelation 21:1-4; 5:9, 10) What kind of contact those of the "heavenly kind" will have with those inhabitants of the earth is unknown. It is also unknown what happens after the Thousand Years.
ONE INVITATION TO ONE HOPE ---
Matthew 22:1-14 --In further reply Jesus again spoke to them with illustrations, saying: 2 "The kingdom of the heavens has become like a man, a king [JEHOVAH], that made a marriage feast for his son [JESUS]. 3 And he sent forth his slaves to call [GRK = KALESAI = INVITE] those [JEWS] invited [GRK = KEKLEMENOUS] to the marriage feast, but they were unwilling to come. 4 Again he sent forth other slaves [APOSTLES], saying, 'Tell those [JEWS] invited [GRK = KEKLEMENOUS = CALLED/INVITED]: "Look! I have prepared my dinner, my bulls and fattened animals are slaughtered, and all things are ready. Come to the marriage feast."' 5 But unconcerned they went off, one to his own field, another to his commercial business; 6 but the rest, laying hold of his slaves, treated them insolently and killed them. 7 "But the king grew wrathful, and sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. [JERUSALEM] 70 AD] 8 Then he said to his slaves, 'The marriage feast indeed is ready, but those invited [GRK = KEKLEMENOI = CALLED/INVITED] were not worthy. 9 Therefore go to the roads leading out of the city, and anyone [GENTILES] you find invite [GRK = KALESATE = CALL] to the marriage feast.' 10 Accordingly those slaves went out to the roads and gathered together all they found, both wicked and good; and the room for the wedding ceremonies was filled with those reclining at the table. 11When the king came in to inspect the guests [THE PAROUSIA JUDGMENT] he caught sight there of a man not clothed with a marriage garment. 12 So he said to him, 'Fellow, how did you get in here not having on a marriage garment?' He was rendered speechless. 13 Then the king said to his servants, 'Bind him hand and foot and throw him out into the darkness outside. There is where [his] weeping and the gnashing of [his] teeth will be.' 14 For there are many invited [GRK = KLETOI = CALLED], but few chosen."
Does it seem fair there is only one invitation or calling: to share in the marriage festivities? (Compare Revelation 19:7; 21:2) Though it is a blessing to accept the invitation, or the calling, note what is important in Jesus point: "chosen." Compare Revelation 17:14, "These will battle with the Lamb, but, because he is Lord of lords and King of kings, the Lamb will conquer them. Also, those called [GRK = KLETOI = INVITED] and CHOSEN and FAITHFUL with him [will do so]."
Let us pray that we obey Peter: "For this reason, brothers, all the more do your utmost to make the calling [GRK = KLESIN = INVITATION] and choosing of you sure for yourselves; for if you keep on doing these things you will by no means ever fail. In fact, thus there will be richly supplied to you the entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 1:10, 11) If our Father has loving and graciously purposed that those who are loyal disciples of the Nazarene be blessed with spiritual, celestial, heavenly existence in His Presence, will the clay say to the Potter: Why did you make me this way?
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