Best, Sudden Death ‘n the World Cup

As the World Cup in Brazil continues in the Sudden Death of the Quarter Finals the drama  intensifies.  Early favorites Spain and Italy crashed in the group stage while Uruguay’s Suarez bizarre gnawing of an Italian opponent fueled ‘biting’ commentary in the football gossip column.  In the Round of 16, high-profile diving (Netherland’s Robben against Mexico) as well as nail-biting penalty kick deciders (Coast Rica’s dramatic win over Greece) has vaulted both intrigue and suspense into the games.  With every game closely matched the favorites have gone to the edge of sudden death elimination as scrappy underdog teams have fought them every minute of play.  The BBC states that a wide variety of statistics show that this is the best World Cup tournament ever.

For pundits and social media discussions a question remains:  Who is the best player?  Prior to the tournament Messi was an early favorite.  Though he has played very well, Neymar has also excelled.  Columbia’s 22 year old Rodriguez’s tournament leading 5 goal performance and brilliant touch has vaulted his name into the ranks of the contenders.  We await the coming super-star showdowns as the Sudden Death knock-outs continue.

With such world-wide attention riveted on the World Cup and the drama surrounding the teams, games and players it might lead one to wonder whether our devotion will make a lasting mark on us and the world, melting our problems away.

George Best - the best footballer of his generation

George Best – the best footballer of his generation

But then I am reminded of another football player – also a household name – but in a previous era.  Then, like now, this player’s actions both on and off the pitch engendered much discussion and speculation.  He was, in the spirit of our reality TV and celebrity gossip world an ‘idol’.  Regarded as the best player in the world, the irony was that this was also his name – George Best.  He was one of those rare individuals who actually lived out his name.

Best - on the pitch

Best – on the pitch

In spite of arguably being the best football player in the world, George Best had a problem.  This problem is also one that you and I face.  As you can guess, his problem was not lack of football trophies, though heralding from a non-powerhouse football country of Northern Ireland, a World Cup performance eluded him.

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Best brings home another trophy

Best’s charm and good looks gave him the nickname “the 5th Beatle” and a steady entourage of girlfriends and wives surrounded him – so his problem was not a lack of relationships and popularity.  Best also had a reputation for drink and fast-living, so his problem was not a lack of fun and good times.

Much of what we hope will give us the ‘good life’ Best got: talent, fame, money, friends and lovers.  He was the talk of the day, admired, loved and followed by so many.

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Best – the 5th Beatle

But Best still had this problem that would not go away.  It is one so widespread and common, and so unavoidable that he probably kept himself from thinking about it too much – just as you & I are also tempted to.  Like Best, we may figure that the problem is too intractable and unsolvable that we are better off not thinking about it – perhaps by remaining singularly focused on the revolving sports and entertainment headlines of today.

George Best - Old & Sick

George Best on the left; Older.

George’s problem was that he got sick … got old … and eventually … he died.  True, he accelerated his demise by drinking to excess, but even had he been the picture of sobriety all his life he would only have delayed the inevitable – just as we can (perhaps) only delay the same inevitable fate that awaits us by healthy diet and proper exercise.

It is the utter finality and inescapability of death that pushes us to almost  denial.  Though it is not Sudden Death as in the knock out stage of the World Cup, it is Certain Death that is continually creeping up on us.  We do all we can not to think about it – since after all what can we do about it?  So for many of us our motto becomes “I’m not here for a long time, I am here for a good time”.  We fill our waking hours with work and with good fun – like mesmerizing ourselves with the latest in the non-stop sports and entertainment machine.

Maradonna - Invincible in the 1986 World Cup, here up against 6 Dutch players

Maradonna – Invincible in the 1986 World Cup up against 6 Dutch players

But with the perspective of seeing formerly invincible World Cup champions succumbing to the advances of Death I know that this generation of ‘idols’, in spite of their breath-taking prowess today, also are held in the steely grip of this unseen enemy, stronger by far than any opponent they face on the pitch.

Now if there was no possible solution out there then I would probably concur that it is better just to ‘live for today’ and not think about it.  After all, there is nothing out there that can avoid this approaching sting of Death.

Or is there?  This actually is the central facet of the gospel, the very reason that ‘gospel’ means ‘good news’.  The gospel is not about religious observances, whether worthwhile or

Maradonna - losing his invincibility

Maradonna – losing his invincibility

not; it is not about what we should do; nor is it about some ethereal heaven.  The gospel is that Jesus conquered death, erasing its sting, when he rose alive from the dead, not as a ghost, not like some zombie, nor as a spiritual metaphor – but historically, in the reality of this world, and in the flesh.  And he will give this same resurrection as a gift to any who would take it.

Now some do doubt whether this indeed did happen.  Fair enough, but consider this.  Many of the matches in this World Cup have ended with a dramatic goal in the last minute – even in extra time.  In the last seconds of play, the pessimists (fancying themselves as realists) on the sidelines could rightly say “The chance of scoring is very low”.  But the players in the game and their fans know that until the whistle actually blows there is still hope to seal the game.  In this hope they continue to give everything they have, trying every avenue that opens up to get that last precious goal.  They have nothing to lose and everything to gain by chasing every loose ball and running down every open lane.  All of us expect this from them.

So what about even an offhand possibility that Jesus could have risen as the gospel states?  The stakes are so game-changing that it is surely worth the effort to check it out.  And it can be scrutinized with an investigative, open-minded outlook; it need not be, as some suppose, believed with a religiously narrow-minded don’t-look-at-the-facts attitude.  For starters the textual reliability (ie whether the Biblical documents have been changed or messed with) of the New Testament accounts can be reasonably evaluated and the message of the gospel understood in summary.  Then the events of the alleged resurrection can be weighed with what we know happened in history.   And the Old Testament (written hundreds of years before Jesus ever walked the earth) can be evaluated to see if they really are prophetic utterances, woven together with a consistent theme predicting well in advance whether this indeed was a Divine plan.  There are many openings available to us to seek a lane that is suitable for our position.

I am planning to enjoy the rest of the World Cup, to be captivated with the drama of sudden death knock-outs, the finesse, as well as the prowess displayed by today’s top players of the ‘beautiful game’.  I hope that this would be a memorable tournament for you as well.  We will soon see who the best player in the world is today.  But perhaps with the perspective of knowing that this crop of contenders have only replaced yesterday’s older ‘Greats’, and in Qatar 2018 many of them will be supplanted by the next generation – and that (in the words of Pink Floyd)

You’re older … shorter of breath and one day closer to death

This is why Jesus came and this is why the gospel deserves to be considered.  I hope that you do.

Palm Sunday: Passover Plot or Providence Program?

People around the globe today are commemorating Palm Sunday – the Sunday before Jesus was crucified when he rode into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey as the long promised Coming King.  It is recorded in all of the Gospels as a watershed event which set in motion the crisis of that Passover Week.

I believe the Gospel for several reasons, but very high up on the list are the widespread, diverse and testable prophecies that, in spite of the vanishingly impossible odds, are fulfilled sometimes hundreds of years after the prophecies were first written down.  I had shown how Daniel (ca 550 BC) had predicted the interval of time to the coming of this awaited King.  This was fulfilled precisely on that Palm Sunday when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.  Because of the long time span involved – over 500 years – this meant that the chance that his birth would even just fall in the proper time frame for there to be a chance that he could be around to ride into Jerusalem would itself be startlingly improbable.   Jesus could not have humanly engineered the timing of such a scope.

But the gospel writers do not focus on this timing when they record the events of that Sunday.  Instead they direct our attention to the book of Zechariah (ca 520 BC) and explicitly tell us that when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey he was fulfilling the prophecy given in Zechariah that:

Look, your king is coming to you.
He is righteous and victorious,
yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—
riding on a donkey’s colt.  (Zechariah 9:9)

Now this fulfillment that the Gospel writers trumpet had never really impressed me for the simple reason that it seemed too easy to plot a ‘fulfillment’.  All that Jesus needed to do was to read Zechariah and recognize that to get a ‘fulfillment’ he would need to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey.  The timing of his entrance aside (which I think is impossible to explain naturally), it would be a simple matter for Jesus to plot his entrance into Jerusalem for the Passover festival and make sure he came in on the donkey as per Zechariah’s script.  And being a lowly peasant it would be easier for Jesus to hatch such a plot than for him to procure a war horse – the steed of choice when kings make their entrances.  So could that entry simply be explained as the plotting of a man using an ancient script to ride a Passover exuberance?

Zechariah’s Prophecy in context

So let’s take the trouble to read the original Zechariah prophecy in its full context and consider such a ‘Passover Plot’ conspiracy.  Here it is:

9 Rejoice, O people of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem!
Look, your king is coming to you.
He is righteous and victorious,
yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—
riding on a donkey’s colt.

10 I will remove the battle chariots from Israel
and the warhorses from Jerusalem.
I will destroy all the weapons used in battle,
and your king will bring peace to the nations.
His realm will stretch from sea to sea
and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth.
11 Because of the covenant I made with you,
sealed with blood,
I will free your prisoners
from death in a waterless dungeon.
12 Come back to the place of safety,
all you prisoners who still have hope!
I promise this very day
that I will repay two blessings for each of your troubles. (Zechariah 9:9-12)

What jumps out is the bizarre change of scope that spans these few sentences.  The king enters Jerusalem on a donkey (v9) and then his rule will extend to ‘the ends of the earth’ (v10).  And God will seal a covenant ‘with blood’ such that prisoners of death will be freed (v11).  Zechariah saw and predicted something of far greater scope than just an entry to a city on a donkey.  According to Zechariah, tied with this entry would be a new worldwide program as well as a new destiny for ‘prisoners of death’.

And who might that be?

Today, the news outlets across Canada are reporting on the sudden and unexpected death of the recent Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.  He was considered one of the most successful and influential finance ministers in Canadian history.  He retired three weeks ago in the media spotlight to transition his career.  Today he is dead and his sudden and abrupt death has shocked and saddened everyone.  I submit that he is a ‘prisoner of death’.  Though he had been chief of the finance department, his success and prominence there gave him no advantage in this department of death.   And we too are all following along right behind him – not knowing when or how we will die.  We all are ‘prisoners of death’!  Zechariah was writing this 2500 years ago for you and me.  He was telling us that someone was going to come who would free us from this prison.  But how?  Zechariah explained long before Jesus rode the donkey into Jerusalem that it would be done by God making a covenant ‘sealed with blood’ (v11) – echoing the sign of the Passover Blood and the release from death that Isaac experienced in Abraham’s sacrifice.  A few short days after Jesus rode into Jerusalem atop his donkey on Palm Sunday he did indeed inaugurate a new covenant and then literally sealed it with his blood.  And three days after that he rose from the dead.  The doors of that prison which holds us all busted open.  The fact that Zechariah could see it so long before it happened indicates that the entry of Jesus on the donkey was not the desperate plot of a pitiful man, but rather it was a key sign marking a Providential Program for the largest jailbreak imaginable – to spring all of humanity from the prison of death.  The entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on a donkey was prominent for the gospel writers precisely because they saw it as a key sign marking that larger Providential Program that Zechariah had sketched out 500 years earlier.

But what about this rule that Zechariah wrote would go to the ‘ends of the earth’?  Jesus never ruled – the prophecy is in error, critics will charge.  But to think of ‘ruling’ solely in political or military terms is to miss the most powerful rule of all – the personal allegiance of a one’s heart freely given in worship.  Though Jim Flaherty was a senior member of the party that ‘rules’ in Canada, he never had that kind of rule over one single person in the entire country.  But Jesus at his trial calmly claimed that he would one day get this rule – worship – from people around the world.  Here we are two thousand years later with Palm Sunday inaugurating Passion Week which will be celebrated in worship by people around the world, in all nations, in a multitude of languages.  From that point of view Zechariah’s prediction of a rule ‘to the ends of the earth’ was indeed fulfilled by that peasant carpenter who rode into Jerusalem on a lowly donkey so many Sundays ago.

But what about the removal of all weapons of war from Israel (v10)?  That certainly has not happened. In fact today Israel is one of the most weaponized countries in the world!  True enough.  But that prediction is anticipating the conclusion in this Providential Program.  We are not there yet.  We are now at the stage exemplified in v12 where the plea and offer is going out to all us prisoners of death to come to his place of safety.  The news and offer of the ‘jailbreak’ is going around the world and many are choosing to take it.

In the context of this larger Program, Zechariah predicted that this King would make another entrance.  He wrote

“Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the family of David and on the people of Jerusalem. They will look on me whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son. They will grieve bitterly for him as for a firstborn son who has died.  (Zechariah 13:10)

The one that had been pierced and had died, and in so doing had sealed that covenant with his blood, will come back!  It is a hope I have, and some may charge me with naïvity for keeping it.  But given that Zechariah was bang on with both the details and the outworkings of that entrance on a donkey, it is simply a reasoned leap to trust that this Second Entrance in this greater Program of Providence will also one day come about.  And when it does, I want to be part of the jailbreak.

The Noah Controversy: Could that Flood have happened?

Russel Crowe starring in Noah

Russel Crowe starring in Noah

Today movie theaters worldwide open with one of the most anticipated blockbusters of 2014 – “Noah”.  Not only is there a lot of hype surrounding the movie but a lot of controversy as well.  Critics are questioning how faithfully the plotline follows the biblical account – with Russell Crowe (who stars as Noah) trying – and failing – to get the Pope’s personal stamp of approval for the film.  In the Islamic world several countries are banning the movie since it visually depicts a prophet – which is forbidden in most Islamic interpretations.  But all these hullabaloos are merely minor hiccups compared to a much deeper and longer-running controversy – did such a worldwide flood really happen?  That’s a question worth considering.

I have shown how multiple cultures around the world have a memory of a great flood leaving only a handful of survivors from which they descended.  There is anthropological and historical evidence for a ‘Noah’.  But are there any physical evidences of ‘his’ flood around in the world today?

The Power of Moving Flood Water seen in Tsunamis

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The Tsunami hits the coast of Japan in 2011

Let’s start by surmising what such a flood would have done to the earth.  For sure, a flood of that scope would involve unimaginable quantities of water moving at great speeds and depths over continental distances.  Large quantities of water moving at high speeds have a lot of kinetic energy (KE = ½ * mass * velocity2).   This is why floods are so destructive.  When we saw the pictures of the 2011 Tsunami that devastated Japan, we saw how kinetic water energy can cause extensive damage, easily picking up and moving large objects like cars, homes and boats – and crippling nuclear reactors in its path.

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That tsunami showed how the energy of a few ‘big’ waves could move and destroy almost everything in their path

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Floods and Sedimentary Rock

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A flooding river in Ecuador. The water is brown because the fast moving water is carrying a lot of dirt – sediment.

Thus, when water increases its speed it will start to pick up and transport sediment – particles of dirt, sand, rocks and boulders.

This is why swollen and flooding rivers are brown – they are loaded with sediment (soil and rock) that has been picked up from the surface over which the water is traveling.

Aerial view in New England showing brown flood water entering ocean.  It is brown from the sediments

Aerial view in New England showing brown flood water entering ocean. It is brown from the sediments

sediment will sort into layers based on particle size even in a 'dry' flow

sediment will sort into layers based on particle size even in a ‘dry’ flow

When water starts to slow down and loses its kinetic energy it then drops this sediment which is deposited in laminar layers resulting in a particular kind of rock.

Japan tsunami 2011. Sediment laid down during tsunami flooding.2011-tsunami-sediment

Sediments from the 2011 Japan Tsunami showing pancake-like layers – this is the signature for sedimentary rock – rock that was laid down by moving water. Taken from British Geological Survey website

This kind of rock is known as sedimentary rock and is easily recognized by its trademark pancake-like layers that are stacked upon one another.  The figure below shows sedimentary layers about 20 cm thick (from the measuring tape) that were deposited from the devastating 2011 tsunami in Japan.

Sedimentary rock from Tsunami that hit Japan in 859 AD

Sedimentary rock from a tsunami that hit Japan in 859 AD. It also produced sedimentary rock about 20-30 cm thick. Taken from British Geological Survey website

Tsunamis and river floods leave their signatures behind in these sedimentary rocks long after the flood has receded and things have turned back to normal.

Sedimentary Strata around the World

So, do we find sedimentary rocks that are, in a similar way, signature markers for the Noahic deluge that the Bible claims happened?  When you ask that question and you start to look around you will see that our planet is literally covered in sedimentary rock.  You will notice this type of pancake-layer rock on highway cut-a-ways.  What is different about this sedimentary rock, when you compare it with the sedimentary strata that were produced by the devastating tsunami of Japan in 2011 is the sheer size – both laterally across the earth and in vertical thickness of sedimentary layers.  Below are some photos that I have taken of sedimentary rocks as I have traveled.

Mountains of Sedimentary rock in hinterlands of Morocco

Sedimentary formations in the hinterlands of Morocco that extend for many kilometers and are hundreds of meters thick vertically

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Sedimentary rock in Joggins, Nova Scotia. The layers are tilted about 30 degrees and are stacked vertically more than a kilometer deep.

 

The escarpment in Hamilton Ontario shows vertical sedimentary rock many meters thick

The escarpment in Hamilton Ontario shows vertical sedimentary rock many meters thick. This is part of the Niagara escarpment which extends for hundreds of miles.

 

This escarpment extends for hundreds of miles.  This sedimentary formation covers a good part of North America

This sedimentary formation covers a good part of North America

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sedimentary formations on a drive through US MidWest

Sedimentary formations on a drive through the US Midwest

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Note the cars (barely visible) for scale to compare with these sedimentary rocks.

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The sedimentary formations go on and on…
Bryce Canyon Sedimentary Formations

Bryce Canyon Sedimentary Formations in US Midwest

 

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Towering Sedimentary formations on drive through US Midwest

 

Continental extent of the sedimentary strata in US Midwest.  Miles thick and hundreds of miles wide
Continental extent of the Sedimentary strata in US Midwest. Miles thick and extending laterally for hundreds of miles. Taken from ‘Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe’ by Dr. Steve Austin

So if one tsunami which caused such devastation in Japan left sedimentary layers measured in centimeters and that extend inland a few kilometers, what mechanism explains the gigantic and continental-in-scope sedimentary formations found almost over the entire globe (including on the ocean bottom) that are measured vertically in hundreds of meters and are measured laterally in thousands of kilometers?  Could these sedimentary rocks be the signature of Noah’s flood?

Rapid Deposition of Sedimentary Formations

No one argues that the planet is not covered in sedimentary rock of unbelievably massive scope.  The question is whether these sedimentary rocks were laid down by one event (i.e. Noah’s flood), or whether these massive formations were built up over time through a series of smaller events (of the scope of the tsunami in Japan of 2011) that were separated by significant intervals of time. The figure below illustrates this other concept.

Conceptual illustration of how large sedimentary formations could have formed

Conceptual illustration of how large sedimentary formations could have formed apart from Noah’s flood

As you can see, in this model of sedimentary formation (technically known as neo-catastrophism) a series of high impact sedimentary events are separated by large intervals of time.  These events add sedimentary layers onto the previous layers and so, over time, the huge formations that we see around the world today are built up sequentially.

Soil Formation and Sedimentary Strata

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Sedimentary rock in Prince Edward Island. We can see that a soil layer has formed on top of it so we know that some period of time has elapsed since these strata were laid down by flood water

Do we have any real-world data that can help us evaluate between these two models?  Actually, it is not that hard to spot.  On top of many of these sedimentary formations we see that soil layers have formed.  Thus a physical and observable indicator of time passage after a sedimentary event is soil formed on top of it.  Soil is characterized by horizons (called A horizon – often dark with organic material, the B horizon – with more minerals, etc.).

Thin layer of soil (and trees) has formed over sedimentary rock that has been exposed for a time

Thin layer of soil (and trees) has formed over sedimentary rock in US Midwest showing that these sedimentary rocks were laid down some time ago.

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Soil layer clearly visible on top of sedimentary rock in US Midwest. These rocks were thus laid down sometime ago.

Sedimentary strata laid down to form a new ocean bottom will also soon be marked with life signs.  Wormholes, clam tunnels and other signs of life (known as bioturbation) provide tell-tale signs of life and of the passage of time since the strata were deposited on the sea floor.

bioturbation

Life on the bottom of shallow seas will, over a rather short interval of time, reveal its telltale markers. This is called bioturbation

 

Conceptual illustration of how large sedimentary formations could have formed

Testing the model of catastrophe sequences by looking for evidence of soil formation or bioturbation at the ‘Time passes’ planes

Armed with this insight we can see if we find evidence of soil formation or bioturbation at these ‘Time passes’ borders in the strata formation.  After all, this model is saying that at some point these ‘Time passes’ boundaries were exposed surfaces for significant periods of time either on land or under water.  In that case we should expect some of these surfaces to have developed soil or bioturbation indicators.  When these time boundary surfaces were buried by subsequent sedimentary events the soil or bioturbation would have likewise been buried.  Take a look again at the photos above and below.  Do we see any evidence of either soil formation or bioturbation?

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No evidence of soil layers or bioturbation in this sedimentary formation in US Midwest.

There is no evidence of soil layers or bioturbation in the above photo or the one below.  Look again at the Hamilton escarpment photo and you will see no evidence of any bioturbation or soil formation.  From that data the bottom of these formations were laid down almost equivalent in time from the top.  Yet these formations all extend vertically about 50-100 meters.

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Folding of Sedimentary Rocks

 

Sedimentary strata formed in 1980 from Mount St Helens had already become brittle by 1983
Sedimentary strata formed in 1980 from Mount Saint Helens had already become brittle by 1983. Taken from ‘Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe’ by Dr. Steve Austin

Sedimentary strata, when they are laid down in moving water are initially permeated with water and thus they bend very easily.  They are pliable.  But it only takes a few years for these sedimentary strata to dry out and harden and when that happens they become brittle as was learned from the events of Mount St Helens eruption in 1980 followed by a 1983 lake breach.

When brittle rock is bent it snaps. This principle is shown

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Sedimentary rock gets brittle very quickly. When brittle it snaps when bent.

 

in the figure on the side.  We can see this sort of rock failure in the Niagara escarpment.  After these sediments were laid down they became brittle and when an upthrust then pushed up some of these sedimentary layers they snapped under the shear stress, forming the Niagara escarpment which runs for hundreds of miles.  From this evidence

Niagara escarpment

Niagara escarpment is Sedimentary Rock that broke under shear stress and was thrust up in a fault.

Niagara escarpment is an upthrust extending hundreds of miles

Niagara escarpment is an upthrust extending hundreds of miles

we know that the upthrust that produced the Niagara escarpment happened after these sedimentary strata became brittle so there was some time lapse between the deposition of these sedimentary strata and the upthrust which produced the escarpment.  There was at least enough time between these events for the strata to harden and become brittle – which does not take eons of time, but does take a couple of years at least.

The photo below shows large sedimentary formations that I photographed in Morocco.  You can see how the strata formation bends as a unit.  There is no evidence of the strata snapping either in tension (pulled apart) or in shear (sidewise stress).  This whole formation must have still been pliable when it was bent.  But if it takes only a couple of years for sedimentary rock to become brittle. This means that there can be no significant passage of time between the lower layers and the upper layers in this formation.  If there had been ‘time passage’ in these layers then the earlier layers would have become brittle and would have snapped rather than bent when the formation was contorted.

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Sedimentary formations in Morocco. The whole formation bends as a unit showing that it had still been supple (rather than dry and brittle) when it was bent. This indicates that there is no time passage from the bottom to the top of this formation.

Schematic of upthrust at Grand Canyon showing it was raised vertically about 5000 feet - one mile

Schematic of monocline (bending upthrust) at Grand Canyon showing it was raised vertically about 5000 feet – one mile. Adapted from “The Young Earth” by Dr. John Morris

We can see the same type of bending in the Grand Canyon.  At some point in the past there was a bending upthrust (technically known as a monocline), similar to the Niagara escarpment, that raised one side of the strata one mile vertically up (this you see from the elevation difference of 7000 ft compared to 2000 ft on the opposing sides of the upthrust).  But here the strata did not snap (like the Niagara escarpment did).  Instead it bent at both the bottom and the top of the formation, indicating that it was still pliable throughout rather than brittle through the formation.

Bending that occurred at Tapeats, in the low layer of Grand Canyon sedimentary formations

Bending that occurred at Tapeats, in the low layer of the Grand Canyon sedimentary formations. Taken from ‘Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe’ by Dr. Steve Austin

This indicates that the time interval from the bottom to the top of these strata has an upper limit of a couple of years (the time it takes for sedimentary strata to become hard and brittle).

Noah’s Flood vs. Flood on Mars

The idea of Noah’s flood having actually happened is, of course, quite controversial and in this one article I cannot cover all the issues that it raises which I hope to do later.

Sedimentation and flooding on Mars?

Sedimentation and flooding on Mars?

Mars sediment 2 But at the very least, it is instructive to consider an irony in our modern day.  Because of the channeling and evidence of sedimentation that are visible on Mars, it is actively postulated that Mars was once inundated by a huge flood.  The big problem with this theory is that no water has ever been discovered on the Red Planet.  But for the Earth, though it is 2/3 covered by water – deep enough to cover our whole globe to a depth of one mile if the oceanic trenches were raised and the land mountains smoothed down so the world had less topographic variation – and though it is covered with continental sized sedimentary formations that by physical and observable evidence seem to have been deposited rapidly in a devastating cataclysm, it is almost considered heresy to postulate that any such flood has ever occurred on this planet.  Is that not a double standard?  Though we may look at this Russell Crowe Noah movie as only a reenactment of a myth written as a Hollywood script, perhaps we should look and consider whether the rocks themselves are crying out about this deluge story written on scripts of stone.

‘Son of God’ Controversy: Was Jesus developed from Egyptian Osiris-Isis-Horus myth?

This week the movie Son of God has taken to cinemas across North America and around the world. Merits of the movie aside, it takes the Biblical gospels as historical narratives, making them the basis for the script. But in recent years a very different view of Jesus has been making itself heard and gaining a following. In this view, the account of the miracle-working Jesus who rose from the dead after his crucifixion that we read in the Biblical Gospels, and which is portrayed in the movie Son of God, is merely a re-telling of a much earlier pagan Egyptian myth of a ‘son of god’ born of a virgin and resurrecting from the dead. Given the enormous implications that come from this controversy I thought it would be worthwhile to consider it.

The Pagan Christ theory of Osiris-Isis-Horus

Perhaps the best modern-day spokesman for this theory is Tom Harpur. A retired Anglican clergyman, a onetime seminary professor, a former religion columnist for the Toronto Star, and author of many best-selling heterodox books on the Bible – he has a large following who listens to what he says. In 2004 he published his bestselling The Pagan Christ where he forcefully advanced this view. Here is how he sums it up:

“The Christian myths were first related of Horus or Osiris, who was the embodiment of divine goodness, wisdom, truth and purity…. This was the greatest hero that ever lived in the mind of man – not in the flesh – to influence with transforming force; the only hero to whom the miracles were natural because he was not human” The Pagan Christ. p 77

Here is how he describes his conversion to this belief.

I was led inexorably to the conviction that Egypt was truly the cradle of the Jesus figure of the Gospels. Here already was the story of how the divine son “left the courts of heaven” as Massey puts it, and descended to earth as the baby Horus. Born of a virgin (through whom he “became flesh” or entered into matter) he then became a substitute for humanity, went down into Hades as the quickener of the dead, their justifier and redeemer, “the firstfruits” and leader of the resurrection into the life to come.  Ibid p 77

The Biblical gospels were thus developed in the following way:

The truth is that the Gospels are indeed the old manuscripts of the dramaticized rituals of the incarnation and resurrection of the sun god Osiris/Horus, rituals that were first Egyptian, later Gnostic and Hellenic, then Hebrew, and finally adopted ignorantly by the Christian movement and transferred to the arena of history. Ibid p 80

And the implications are then that:

Unaware that the original mythos of messianic mystery, the virgin motherhood, the incarnation and birth, the life and character, the crucifixion and resurrection of the Saviour Son who was the word of all ages, the alpha and omega, was already part of the Egyptian religion since earliest times, the compilers of the New Testament missed the point entirely that the whole thing was meant allegorically. (emphasis his)  Ibid p 81

In other words, what he and others are saying is that the account of Jesus found in the Biblical gospels is really derived (plagiarized even) from pre-existing Egyptian mythology, specifically the mythology surrounding the Egyptian gods Osiris, Isis and Horus. So who or what are these gods?

Egyptology background on Osiris, Isis and Horus

Sir E.A. Wallis Budge, knighted for his work with the British Museum on Egyptology described Osiris, the patriarch of this trio of gods, in the following manner:

From the hieroglyphic texts of all periods of the dynastic history of Egypt we learn that the god of the dead, par excellence, was the god, whom the Egyptians called by a name which … is commonly known to us as “Osiris”. The Gods of the Egyptians. Vol 2.  p 113

 

…we find that the oldest religious texts known to us refer to him as the great god of the dead … and in fact he was in respect of the dead and of the Underworld what Ra (the primary Egyptian Sun god) was to the living and to this world. Ibid. p 115

Isis was associated with Osiris as his wife or consort and “is one of the goddesses most frequently mentioned in the hieroglyphic texts” (Ibid p 202). Budge summarizes Isis in the following way:

An examination of the texts of all periods proves that Isis always held in the minds of the Egyptians a position which was entirely different from that of every other goddess, and although it is certain that their views concerning her varied from time to time, and that certain aspects or phases of the goddess were worshipped more generally at one period than at another, it is correct to say that from the earliest to the latest dynasties Isis was the greatest goddess of Egypt…. Isis was the great and beneficient goddess and mother whose influence and love pervaded all heaven, and earth, and the abode of the dead, and she was the personification of the great feminine, creative power which conceived, and brought forth every living creature, and thing, from the gods in heaven, to man on the earth, and to the insect on the ground; what she brought forth she protected, and cared for, and fed, and nourished.  Ibid. p 203

Horus was their son – a ‘son of god’.

Isis worship spreads from Egypt all over Graeco-Roman world

Though Osiris-Isis-Horus were originally Nile-based deities, the Egyptian Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt after Alexander the Great (ca 300 BC) started a patronage of Isis in the now Greek-speaking world that led to a spread of Isis around the Mediterranean. Temples to Isis were built in almost every major city of the Roman Empire.

“The Hellenistic Mysteries of Isis eventually became a universal cult, recognizing no racial or geographic distinction”  Helenistic Religions: An Introduction. Luther Martin 1987. p 72

So here we have it. A husband-wife-son trio of Egyptian gods that became ‘hellenized’ and worshiped widely through the Roman Empire and in the first century AD (at the time of the writing of the Biblical gospels) they (especially Isis) were perhaps the leading mystery cult in that pagan world. These are the bare-bone facts that no one disputes. What ‘pagan Christ’ proponents are saying is that this mythology was used to create (i.e. make up) the person of Jesus in the gospels. In that view, Horus, Isis and Osiris were transformed into Jesus the Son of God, Mary the Virgin Mother and God the Father by some shadowy first century community steeped in this mystery cult and which then authored the gospels.

Claims made in support of the Osiris-Isis-Horus theory for Jesus

And these proponents make very bold claims to substantiate this idea, writing as if the evidence incontestably supports this. Consider some of their statements:

Gerald Massey has traced 180 instances of close similarity or actual identity between Horus, the Christ of Old Egypt, and the Gospel Jesus (The Pagan Christ.  p 77)

Harpur then lists the following items as evidence (from pages 83-84 of The Pagan Christ):

  • Horus was baptized in the River Eridanus (Jordan) by a god figure named Anup the Baptizer (John the Baptist) who was later decaptitated
  • Like Jesus, Horus had no history between the ages of 12 and 30
  • Horus walked on water, cast out demons, and healed the sick
  • Horus was transfigured on a mountain; Jesus took Peter, James and John ….
  • Horus delivered a ‘Sermon on the Mount” and his followers faithfully recounted the sayings of Iusa
  • Horus was crucified between 2 thieves, buried in a tomb, and resurrected. His personal epithet was Iusa or Iusu, the “ever-becoming son” of Ptah or the Father. Significantly Horus was called the KRST or “Anointed One’ from a word that was inscribed or painted on the lid of a mummy’s coffin millennia before Christianity duplicated the story
  • Horus was the Good Shepherd, the lamb of God, the bread of life, the son of man, the Word, and the fisher
  • Horus was not just the path to heaven but the way by which the dead travel out of the sepulchre. He was the god whose name was written as the “road to salvation” He was thus the “way, the truth, the life”.

Another author writes:

“The Son of God appears on earth borne of woman through union of the human species and the divine. Osiris’ and Jesus’ were paracletic virgin births… (The Egyptian Origin of Christianity 2002 by Lisa Ann Bargeman p 54)

Wow! To read these authors it does certainly seem as if the Gospels were pre-written in this pagan mythology. And many of us, given the boldness of the claims, think it must be true.

Pagan Greek testimony about Osiris, Isis and Horus

Given the brashness of these assertions you would think that there are many accounts of Osiris-Isis-Horus extant in the ancient pagan Egyptian and Greek literature. Accounts that describe what they did and said but that for some reason (perhaps because the church, once again, is fighting against the ‘truth’ coming out) most of us have missed them. We think that these accounts must be there but somehow missed by all except for these other proponents who somehow have gotten hold of them.

That could hardly be further from the truth. In fact, there is only one account preserved in the ancient literature that details the narrative of Osiris-Isis-Horus. As Budge, the noted Egyptologist, remarked:

“Unfortunately, however, we find nowhere in Egyptian works a connected narrative of the life, acts and deeds and sufferings and death, and resurrection of Osiris, the man-god, but we possess a tolerably accurate account of them in Plutarch’s…. The Gods of the Egyptians Vol 2. p 123

Plutarch is the only ancient writer who has passed onto us the account of these gods. However, Plutarch is actually an ideal witness for us. Plutarch lived from 45 – 120 AD. Thus he lived in the 2nd half of the first century – the time when the gospels were written. He lived at the same time as the apostles. He is thus in an ideal position to report for us the account of these gods. Because he lived at the same time as the composition of the gospels, the story that he reports to us would be the same one that these shadowy gospel writers had on-hand to use as the basis to make up the Jesus ‘son of god’ of the gospels (as per the ‘pagan Christ’ advocates). Budge describes Plutarch’s work as ‘so important’ because it is the only one giving a complete account of the doings of these gods.

So it was with great anticipation that I set out to read his narrative wondering if I would find corroboration of the amazing claims that these ‘pagan Christ’ proponents are preaching. And you can read the account of Osirus-Isis-Horus right here so that you can assess the 1st century pagan testimony first-hand for yourself.

Summary of Osiris-Isis-Horus pagan testimony

So let’s summarize Plutarch’s account. Osiris and Isis are brother and sister, being born of sexual intercourse between Rhea and Cronus (the corresponding Egyptian gods were Nut and Seb). But the sun (ie. Ra the sun god), averse to this union, cursed Rhea so she could not give birth on any day of the year. But Hermes (being also in love with Rhea) conspired to add extra 5 days to the year. [The ancient Egyptians had a 360 day year and then had five extra leap days. So these gods were born on these extra 5 days.]  While themselves still in the womb of Rhea, Isis and Osiris had intercourse and Isis had a son – Horus. Isis and Osiris, as well as Typhon (the Egyptian Set) and Nephthys were then born as two husband and wife couples (presumably Horus as well) on these 5 days.

In the course of time, when Osiris was king, he was murdered by his brother Typhon by tricking him to lie in a coffin that was fitted to him so that it killed him. The coffin with Osiris’ body was thrown into the Nile where it drifted away. When Isis heard what had happened to Osiris in great grief she went to look for his body. (During this time she learned that Osiris had had sexual relations with Nephthys – Typhon’s wife – and Nephtys had given birth to Anubis whom Isis cared for because she was afraid that Typhon in his jealousy would kill that son).  She found the coffin stuck in a tree which had grown around it. The king of the city cut down the tree that encased the body to make a pillar to support his house. Isis went to this king and nursed his children so that she gained his favor such that she could get this pillar that contained the coffin which in turn contained the body of her dead husband Osiris which she brought back to Egypt. But Osiris’ mortal enemy, Typhon his brother, who had killed him in the first place, then took the body and cut it in 14 pieces and hid each piece throughout Egypt. So Isis then went in a papyrus boat (which protected her from crocodiles) up and down Egypt searching for these body pieces. She found all the body pieces except his male organ which had been eaten by a fish, but she made an exact replica and consecrated it in a festive way.

Isis was able to re-assemble the body of Osiris and incanted over him so that he came to life again. Osiris then trained his son Horus (remember he had been conceived way back when Osiris and Isis were themselves still in the womb of Rhea) for combat so that Horus could avenge his death by defeating his enemy Typhon in combat. So Horus and Typhon engaged in a series of battles and Horus defeated him. But he is restrained from killing Typhon because Isis pleads for clemency. In his rage Horus then decapitates Isis (in some seedier versions as Plutarch says) and the account then concludes with Isis and Osiris having sexual relations and producing the crippled Harprocrates.

Voila – the storied account of Isis, Osiris and Horus from which Jesus of the gospels was supposedly made up!

Plutarch on Osiris-Isis-Horus: Relevant but Ignored

Absolutely stunning is the fact that though he mentions Plutarch twice in other matters, Harpur never refers to Plutarch’s account of Isis-Osiris-Horus. In fact, I cannot find one analysis of Plutarch’s account (or even an acknowledgement of its existence) in the various ‘pagan christ’ books that I have read. They advance their theory by ignoring the testimony of Plutarch because anyone can see that this bizarre story could never have served as the brain-child for Jesus of the Gospels, the Son of God begotten of an actual virgin, raised from the dead as a tangible event of history, and that by his own power so that we could have life. As Plutarch himself said of the account he relates, it cannot but be “abnormal and outlandish opinions about the gods” and “if such deeds and occurrences actually took place, then ‘Much there is to spit and cleanse the mouth’”. But this is the primary testimony, circulating in the 1st century, that we have of these widely worshiped gods when the gospels were supposedly made up from this set of myths.  We cannot ignore Plutarch for an important reason.

The Biblical gospels were written in Greek, to a Greek-speaking world, by Greek speaking authors.  Whatever we may find in Egyptian hieroglyphics (and I plan to look at the ‘Book of the Dead’ later) the gospel authors would not have been able to read Egyptian hieroglyphics to get their ‘story’ from the ‘Book of the Dead’.  How would they have been able to read and digest the ancient (to them) hieroglyphics that only a vanishingly specialized few have ever been able to read since hieroglyphics had long before the 1st century given way to scripts made from letters?  The account in Greek in 1st century AD would be the only account that the gospel authors could even possibly have known – not a hieroglyphic one long hidden in the deserts of Egypt waiting for modern Egyptologists to unearth.  Budge assesses that Plutarch’s story is substantially the same story that is corroborated in the few Egyptian hieroglyphics that are extant on the narrative about Osiris, Isis and Horus.  Plutarch had the gist of the story for which there are only passing references in Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Our first witness in this case has been heard – there is no way that Osiris, Isis and Horus, in Plutarch’s account could conceivably be the basis for Jesus of the Gospels. I plan to look in more depth at a very important source in this discussion, the works of Gerald Massey (1828-1907), probably the father of the pagan Egyptian myth theory, as well as the Egyptian ‘book of the dead’ and some of Harpur’s detailed ‘evidences’. But before we look to see if these sources reveal the ‘smoking gun’ that proves the pagan Egyptian origins of Jesus there is another important avenue to explore – the testimony of the pagans (Egyptians even) of the first and second century who came to follow Jesus of the Gospels. Did they find Jesus, or understand him, through the venue of the Orisis-Isis-Horus mystery cult? We take up their testimony, preserved for us in many volumes, next.

Potent Simplicity: What is the significance of Jesus’ sacrifice?

Jesus came to give himself as a sacrifice for all peoples.  This message was announced at the beginning of human history, emblazoned with a Divine signature in the sacrifice of Abraham and in the Passover sacrifice, with further details predicted in various prophecies in the Old Testament.  The echo of this primal promise was even remembered in the ancient Chinese and South Asian histories.  Why was his death so important that it warranted such emphasis?  That’s a question worth considering.  The Bible declares something akin to a Law when it states:

For the wages of sin is death… (Romans 6:23)

“Death” literally means ‘separation’.  When our soul separates from our body we die physically.  In a similar way we are separated from God spiritually.  This is true because God is Holy (sinless) while we have become corrupted from our original creation and so we sin.

We are separated from God by our sins like a chasm between two cliffs

We are separated from God by our sins like a chasm between two cliffs

This can be visualized in this illustration where we are on a cliff with God on another cliff separated from us by this bottomless chasm.  As a branch that has been severed from a tree is dead, so we have severed ourselves from God and become spiritually dead.

This separation causes guilt and fear.  So what we naturally try to do is build bridges to take us from our side (of death) to God’s side.  We do this in many different ways: going to church, temple or mosque, being religious, being good and helpful, meditation, trying to be more helpful, praying more, etc. This list of deeds to gain merit can be very long for some of us – and living them out can be very complicated.  This is illustrated in the next figure.

Good Efforts – useful as they may be - cannot bridge the separation between us and God

Good Efforts – useful as they may be – cannot bridge the separation between us and God

The problem is that our efforts, merits, sacrifices and ascetic practices etc., though in themselves not bad, are insufficient because the payment required (the ‘wages’) for our sins is ‘death’.  Our efforts are like a ‘bridge’ that tries to cross the divide separating ourselves from God – but in the end cannot span the chasm.  This is because though religious or moral efforts are not bad, they will not solve our root problem. It is like trying to heal cancer (which results in death) by eating vegetarian.  Eating vegetarian is not bad – but it will not cure cancer.  For that you need a totally different treatment.

So far this Law is all Bad News – it is so bad we often do not even want to hear it and we often fill our lives with activities and things hoping this Law will go away.  But just as cures for cancer become meaningful to us when the diagnosis that we really have cancer sinks in, so the Bible emphasizes this Law of sin and death to awaken our interest in a cure that is simple yet potent.

For the wages of sin is death but… (Romans 6:23)

The small word ‘but’ shows that the direction of the message is about to reverse, to the Good News of the Gospel – the cure.

For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23)

The good news of the gospel is that the sacrifice of Jesus’ death is sufficient to bridge this separation between us and God.  We know this because three days after his death Jesus rose bodily, coming alive again in a physical resurrection.   Though some people today choose to disbelieve the resurrection of Jesus a very strong case can be made for it as shown in this public lecture I did at a university (video link here).  Jesus’ sacrifice was prophetically acted out in Abraham’s sacrifice and with the inauguration of the Passover sacrifice.

Jesus was a human who lived a sinless life.  Therefore he can ‘touch’ both the human and the God sides and span the chasm separating God and people.  He is a Bridge to Life which can be illustrated as below

Jesus is the Bridge that spans the chasm between God and man.

Jesus is the Bridge that spans the chasm between God and man.

Notice how this sacrifice of Jesus is given to us.  It is offered as a … ‘gift’.  Think about gifts.  No matter what the gift is, if it is really a gift it is something that you do not work for and that you do not earn by merit.  If you earned it the gift would no longer be a gift!  In the same way you cannot merit or earn the sacrifice of Jesus.  It is given to you as a gift.  It is that simple.

And what is the gift?  It is ‘eternal life’.  That means that the sin which brought you and me death is now cancelled.  Jesus’ sacrifice is a bridge which you can cross to connect with God and receive life – that lasts forever.  This gift is given by Jesus who, by rising from the dead, shows himself to be ‘Lord’.  God is inviting us to Life like when Pinochio became a child of Geppetto.  It is that potent.

So how do you and I ‘cross’ this Bridge of Life that is offered to us?  Again, think of gifts.  If someone comes and gives you a gift it is something you do not work for.  But to get any benefit from the gift you must ‘receive’ it.  Anytime a gift is offered there are two alternatives.  Either the gift is refused (“No thank you”) or it is received (“Thank you for your gift.  I will take it”).  So also this gift offered must be received – simply that.  It cannot simply be mentally assented to, studied or understood.  This is illustrated in the next figure where we ‘walk’ on the Bridge by turning to God and receiving his gift he offers to us.

Jesus' sacrifice is a Gift that each of us must choose to receive

Jesus’ sacrifice is a Gift that each of us must choose to receive

So how do we receive this gift?  The Bible says that

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:12)

Notice that this promise is for ‘everyone’.  Since he rose from the dead Jesus is alive even now and he is ‘Lord’.  So if you call on him he will hear and extend his gift to you.  You need to call out to him and ask him – by having a conversation with him.  Perhaps you have never done this.  Here is a guide that can help you have this conversation and prayer with him.  It is not a magic incantation.  It is not the specific words that give power.  It is the trust like Abraham had that we have in his ability and willingness to give us this gift.  As we trust him he will hear us and respond.  The Gospel is potent, and yet so simple at the same time.  So feel free to follow this guide as you either speak out loud or silently in your spirit to Jesus to receive his gift.

Dear Lord Jesus.  I understand that with the sins in my life I am separated from God.  Though I can try hard, no effort and sacrifice on my part will bridge this separation.  But I understand that your death was a sacrifice to wash away all sins – even my sins.  I believe that you rose from the dead after your sacrifice so I can know that your sacrifice was sufficient.  I ask you to please cleanse me from my sins and bridge me to God so I can have eternal life.  I do not want to live a life enslaved to sin so please free me from sin.  Thank you, Lord Jesus, for doing all this for me and would you even now continue to guide me in my life so I can follow you as my Lord.

Amen

The Prophet, The Skeptic, & the Fulfilled Event (Pt. 2)

The ‘Fed’ Weighs in on Trusting Event Predictions

In my last post I put forward how the Jewish exile from Israel 606 BC -> 537 BC -> 1948 AD was foreseen by Ezekiel as he prophetically lay on his side for 430 days.  I used this to address Sam Harris’s demand that the Biblical prophets foretell something specific for our time.

The Prophetic Timetable for Jerusalem

What is interesting is that this same sequence also holds true for the city of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple – it is just frame-shifted from the above dates.  To see this we just need to know some details of Jewish history.  The Jewish nation of Judah lost its independence to the Babylonians in 606/605 BC when the first wave of deportations to Babylon occurred and which started the initial 70 year countdown.  From this point on they were a vassal state of Babylonia.  However it was not until their failed revolt a few years later that the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar came and besieged Jerusalem and then took it, destroying and burning both the city and the Jewish Temple.  This occurred either in either 587 or 586 BC (different scholars argue either of these years).  This started the exile and desolation of Jerusalem proper.

The Jerusalem Temple – also desolate for 70 years

The Jews returned under the Persian Emperor Cyrus’s Edict in 537 BC that fulfilled the 70 years of exile that Jeremiah had predicted.  But when the Jews returned they were not able (because of lack of interest and local opposition) to rebuild their temple.  That endeavor was not begun in earnest until 520 BC, the temple being finally inaugurated in 516 BC.  So from 587/86 BC to 516 BC the temple was also desolate for 70 years.  The length of time was the same as the exile but just shifted over.

Jerusalem in 1967

I suggested that the re-birth of Israel in 1948 was what Ezekiel foresaw as the culmination of that first deportation in 606/605 BC and return in 537 BC with the remainder of the 430 years multiplied by seven as per the principle of Leviticus – exactly as Sam Harris had asked for.  But in that 1948 re-birth Israel did not get Jerusalem.  In the fierce war of 1948 they were not able to hold the city or the Temple site, though they were able to establish their nation outside of Jerusalem.  It was only in a subsequent war, the six-day war of 1967, that Jerusalem and the Temple site was captured by Israel.

Applying the same prophetic timetable that we used for the nation of Israel onto Jerusalem we get the following result:

586 BC + [70 + (360 * 7)]*360/365.24 + 1 => 1967 AD[1]

Ezekiel foretells the dispersal and re-gathering to Jerusalem, as a frame-shift of the schedule of Israel proper

Ezekiel foretells the dispersal and re-gathering to Jerusalem, as a frame-shift of the schedule of Israel proper

In other words, the prophetic schedule given by Ezekiel (with some principles from Leviticus) is frame-shifted so that the city of Jerusalem also fits the prophetic timetable of exile for the nation proper.  The pivotal dates of 586 BC (destruction of Jerusalem) -> 516 BC (restoration of temple) -> 1967 AD (return of Jerusalem to Israel) matches the predictions of Ezekiel exactly as the pivotal dates of 606/05 BC (first deportation of Israelites) -> 537 BC (first return from exile) -> 1948 AD (re-birth of modern nation).  Both sets of events follow the same intervals and thus both are fulfilled with Ezekiel’s drama of lying on his side.  As the saying goes, Ezekiel “killed two birds with one stone”.

Coincidence or Prophecy?

So what are we to make of this?  Cautious skepticism is certainly warranted – and here is why.  The reality is that if you look long and hard enough you can match some sequence of numbers with different historical events.  For example, the interval of 2300 days (and thus the number 2300) features prominently in Daniel 8.  World War II was awfully close to being 2300 days long.  Could it then be said that this event is a ‘fulfillment’ of Daniel’s 2300 days because of the close match?  We would probably all see this as a coincidence especially since Daniel 8 is talking about something else.  If so, what makes Ezekiel’s foretelling different?

The Persistent Theme of Dispersal and Re-gathering

This World War II and 2300 day example illustrates how Ezekiel’s ‘lying on his sides’ prophecies are quite different since they not being matched with any event that ‘fits’ but are fitted with what he is predicting as he lies on his side and this prediction is part of a specific theme that runs through the Bible – this theme of a dispersion and a re-gathering of the Jews.  It starts with the books of Moses and continues through many books of the Old Testament in addition to Ezekiel and goes even into the New Testament.  Sam Harris thought the prediction too vague because he did not follow this theme as it was developed in subsequent books.

The theme established with Moses ensures that we are not just grabbing any set of numbers presented in Ezekiel and looking for any set of events that matches these numbers.  Moses and Ezekiel (along with Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah and a few others) work in tandem to flesh out a consistent theme with some remarkably precise elements within that theme.  In some future articles I hope to look at some other aspects of this theme presented in these other books.  All have a degree of specificity that is startling and matches what we see today.  Ezekiel matches with respect to a precise and measurable chronology.  The others match with other criteria.  I know of no other writings, modern or ancient, that does this in a remotely comparable way.

Foretelling: Biblical Prophets vs. the Fed

We can in fact compare the prophetic team of Moses, Ezekiel et al. with that of the very brightest and best that work for us today.  Last week Ben Bernanke stepped down as the chairman of the US central bank – the US Federal Reserve or the ‘Fed’.  His predecessor, chair of the Fed from 1987-2006, was Alan Greenspan, probably the most well-known and respected economist in the world.  He became famous for having a midas touch in guiding the US (and global) economy through persistent growth during his tenure.  Greenspan was chair of the Fed until just before the great economic crash in 2008.  He published his memoirs late last fall and thus gave a series of high-profile interviews in the global media.  In his words, here is how well the crash of 2008 was anticipated by the best and brightest that lead our planet in economic forecasting.

“One thing that shocked me is that not only did the Federal Reserve’s very sophisticated model completely miss (the crash on) September 15th, 2008, but so did the IMF, so did JP Morgan, which was forecasting American economic growth three days before the crisis hit, going up all through 2009 and 2010.”  BBC interview on Oct 20, 2013 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-24602273)

All the Kings Horses and All the King’s Men did not foresee the fall of the economic Humpty Dumpty even three days before it happened!  They had access to all the computer models running on super computers with the best and latest economic research and data but not one of the agencies setup for the very purpose of guiding economies around the world saw the 2008 economic crash even just days before it hit!  This gives us a benchmark to make a comparison:  the very best of human predictive capability vs. the Biblical prophets.  When I do that I am astounded that this theme of dispersal and re-gathering that was declared thousands of years ago has come to pass, is continuing before our eyes, and with a level of detail and precision that the best human forecasters can only dream about.  Events certainly could have played out differently.  By sheer probability the Jews should have ceased being a distinct ethnic group along with the “Jebusites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, Girgashites” that are specifically mentioned in the books of Moses as being the peoples surrounding the Israelites in his day – and who have long ago disappeared as distinct groups.  But Moses predicted the Israelites would persist though they would be scattered and then re-gathered.  Ezekiel then added the timing to this theme.  To use the words of Harris, against those odds an accurate set of predictions spanning millennia is like a ‘product of omniscience’.

We Trust in …?

But perhaps even more surprising is that you and I are still trusting the economic predictions of the Fed, the IMF, JP Morgan etc.  If you have a pension plan, RRSPs or equivalent, or your company is investing in new production or technologies you are trusting in these same people and agencies that could not foresee the worst economic crash since the 1930’s.  But I am not arguing that we should cease to trust them.  In fact I have RRSPs and fund managers that invest based on the economic predictions of these agencies.  I do so not because I do not have trepidation and doubt, not because all my questions are answered, nor because I understand all their models.  I do so because on the balance they offer reasonable hope.  And even more so because there are no real alternatives.

If you and I will practically-speaking place our trust in these institutions that have so obviously failed at critical moments it is ironic that we struggle so in placing our trust in the gospel.  Yet this is what the gospel calls us to.  The call of the gospel is not to understand every point, not to have no further questions or uncertainties, nor even to dispel all our doubts.  The call of the gospel is to trust our lives with the person and work of Jesus – nothing more, nothing less and nothing else.  He is made known to us through historical writings that have been reliably preserved.  Hundreds of years before his life he was preceded by men who claimed Divine Inspiration in their writings and then predicted details of his life in uncanny ways.  These same men also predicted events such as the dispersion and re-gathering of the Jews which we have been looking at, so their predictions are testable.  A strong case can be made for the bodily resurrection of this Jesus.  In fact, when we look at other alternatives out there to place our trust in, this assessment given by his disciple Peter is fairly bang-on still these two thousand years later.  When he was asked if he was going to quit trusting Jesus he replied

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)

All of us extend trust.  The question is to whom and to what. We trust our money to those, as we saw, who have failed us.  Given the track record of the gospel and the dearth of alternatives that offer hope in the face of our approaching death, give meaning and purpose in a seemingly purposeless world, and a relationship with our Creator that is promised to continue into eternity, one is no fool for deciding to trust Jesus and, perhaps with some fear and trepidation and not having all the answers to ones questions, accept his gospel offer of life.  Maybe we should look again at that sought after ‘note’ printed by the Fed and take its advice to heart about where to place our trust.


[1] As in the previous timetable there were 430 years of exile, 70 of which were paid in the initial exile but the remainder being multiplied by 7 as per Leviticus.  This is the ‘[70 + (360 * 7)]’ part of the calculation.  We, like before and like in Daniel, convert to 360 day years (the ‘360/365.24’ factor).  The ‘+1’ because there is no year 0 in going from BC -> AD.  These factors are exactly the same as used in the previous calculation of the exile of Israel.  What is different now is that we start with 586 BC rather than 606 BC since we are starting from the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple.  586 BC is like -586 so the whole equation become -586 + [70 + (360 * 7)]* 360/365.24 = 1967, which corresponds to 1967 AD

The Prophet, The Skeptic, & the Fulfilled Event (Pt. 1)

Understanding our Times by considering Sam Harris’s Challenge

In my last post I commented on how Ariel Sharon’s funeral making global headlines is eerie when considered from the perspective of the Blessings and Curses on the Jews in the Torah – the Law of Moses.  And prior to that I looked at Ezekiel’s (ca. 580 BC) Valley of Dry Bones vision of zombies coming to life as another thread in this theme of the Jewish dispersion and return that cuts continuously through both the Old and New Testaments.  The dispersion has happened and the return is happening – the global media is reporting facets of it daily now.  Hearing Canadian news coverage this week about Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s state visit to Israel is another example of this playing out on the modern-day global stage.

Well-known skeptic Sam Harris takes issue with this claim of predictive ability of the Biblical writers.  Here is his take on the curses/blessings on the Jews given in the Torah:

Christians regularly assert that the bible predicts future historical events, For instance Deuteronomy 28:64 says “And the LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other” …  We are meant to believe that these utterances predict the subsequent history of the Jews with such uncanny specificity so as to admit of only a supernatural explanation.

He minimizes the Blessings&Curses by referring to only one phrase in that long discourse and then points out that this one phrase is so vague and unspecific that it hardly merits a supernatural explanation.  He then throws out what he thinks is an impossible challenge.:

“But just imagine how breathtakingly specific a work of prophecy would be, if it were actually the product of omniscience.  If the Bible were such a book, it would make perfectly accurate predictions about human events.  You would expect it to contain a passage such as ‘In the latter half of the 20th century, humankind will develop a globally linked system of computers-the principles of which I set forth in Leviticus-and this system shall be called the internet”  The Bible contains nothing like this.  In fact, it does not contain a single sentence that could not have been written by a man or woman living in the first century.  This should trouble you.”  Sam Harris. Letter to a Christian Nation.  p.60

Let’s consider this challenge from Harris by unpacking a rather bizarre prophetic foretelling given by Ezekiel around 587 BC.  Perhaps also we can understand a little better the times we are living in.

Ezekiel’s Bizarre Drama

We have seen how some prophecies, like the Passover and the Sacrifice of Abraham, are riddles that are acted out rather than spoken.  Those two point to the death of Jesus by remarkably foretelling both the location and the time of year of that pivotal event.  Ezekiel likewise acts a bizarre drama while giving the explanation for it.  Here is what he is commanded to do as a prophetic utterance:

4 “Then lie on your left side and put the sin of the house of Israel upon yourself. You are to bear their sin for the number of days you lie on your side. 5 I have assigned you the same number of days as the years of their sin. So for 390 days you will bear the sin of the house of Israel.

6 “After you have finished this, lie down again, this time on your right side, and bear the sin of the house of Judah. I have assigned you 40 days, a day for each year. 7 Turn your face toward the siege of Jerusalem and with bared arm prophesy against her. 8 I will tie you up with ropes so that you cannot turn from one side to the other until you have finished the days of your siege.  (Ezekiel 4: 4-8)

Ezekiel was commanded to remain bound on one side and then on the other for over a year!  To give a little background, Ezekiel is writing from Babylon just before the Babylonians besiege Jerusalem (thus the reference to a siege).  This siege lasted many months but finally Jerusalem was conquered in 586 BC by the Babylonians, the city was burned, the temple destroyed and the Jewish people sent to exile in Babylon.  Ezekiel was destined to soon meet the captives brought from the siege of Jerusalem after he had acted out this prophecy.

But why were the Babylonians besieging Jerusalem?  They had defeated the Jewish nation in a war in 606 BC and so the Jewish people had, in effect lost their independence that year.  Most were permitted to remain in Judah, but some, like Daniel, were sent to Babylon in this first wave of deportation that occurred in 606 BC.  The Jews in Jerusalem grudgingly swore allegiance and paid tribute to the Babylonians but then revolted against them.  So the Babylonians came and laid siege to Jerusalem, mercilessly crushing it in 586 BC.  The kings of David have never reigned again since that day!

Note how Ezekiel referred to the ‘House of Israel’ and the ‘House of Judah’.  The Jews after Solomon, around 900 BC, had split into two political countries – Judah and Israel.  This was a similar situation to Korea of today, which is one people group that is divided politically into the two countries of North and South Korea.  The ‘House of Israel’ had already been conquered as a political entity around 722 BC by the Assyrians.

Unpacking Ezekiel’s Prophecy

In this acted drama, Ezekiel specified that there would be a period of 390 days + 40 days = 430 days, with each day representing a year (v. 5 & 6).  So this is explicitly talking about 430 years to pay ‘for sin’.  But where does that idea that such a payment for sin is required?  The parting Blessings and Curses of Moses had said that if they sinned they would pay for their sin in being exiled from their land.  This was the one sentence that Harris quoted.  So Ezekiel was now prophesying from this principle rooted in Deuteronomy that they were to enter 430 years of exile.

The 360 day year

While we commonly use the 365.244 day solar year (the Gregorian calendar) there are other ways to denominate a year.  Today the Muslim calendar is based on 12 lunar cycles resulting in a 354-day year.  In ancient Egyptian, Babylonian, Indian and Greek civilizations a 360-day calendar was common, and it was the year length that Ezekiel’s contemporary, Daniel, used and is the basis of the prophetic year used through the books of the Bible. We will need to convert Ezekiel’s years to our solar years to understand his prophecy with respect to our calendar.  But there is another twist to consider first.

Jeremiah’s 70 year prophecy

While Ezekiel was in Babylon prophesying 430 years his contemporary living through the siege in far-away Jerusalem, Jeremiah, had said:

8 Therefore the LORD Almighty says this: “… 11 This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years12 “But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt,” declares the LORD,  (Jeremiah 25:8-12)

Jeremiah said 70 years … not 430.  So which was it – 70 or 430?  It turns out that in 539 BC the Babylonians were conquered by a Medo-Persian alliance.  This was headed up by King Cyrus of Persia who founded the Persian Empire.

So the exiles of Jerusalem were allowed to return by a famous 538 BC edict of Cyrus, arriving back in 537 BC.  From the initial deportation in 606 BC to 537 BC – Jeremiah’s prophecy of destruction of the Babylonians and return to Jerusalem in 70 years was fulfilled.  Now this is precise, but not impressive.  It would have been easy for editors of Jeremiah after the return from exile, to insert the ‘prophecy’ in his book to make sure a ‘fulfillment’ occurred.  Since the earliest existing copies of these books are from the Dead Sea Scrolls from 200-100 BC we can never be sure that it did not happen this way.  If this were all we had we would have to concur with Harris that it would be poor evidence of omniscient foretelling.

The Leviticus Principle

But do we not now also have a contradiction between Jeremiah and Ezekiel?  They seem to be predicting mutually exclusive things – one an exile of 70 years and the other an exile of 430 years.  It would be impossible for both to be right.  Or is it?  Because if you go to the ‘principles in Leviticus’ that Harris had asked for you will see the following:

if you reject my decrees and abhor my laws and fail to carry out all my commands and so violate my covenant, 16 then I will do this to you: … 17 I will set my face against you so that you will be defeated by your enemies; those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee even when no one is pursuing you.

18If after all this you will not listen to me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over. 19 I will break down your stubborn pride and make the sky above you like iron and the ground beneath you like bronze…

21 ” ‘If you remain hostile toward me and refuse to listen to me, I will multiply your afflictions seven times over, as your sins deserve…

23 ” ‘If in spite of these things you do not accept my correction but continue to be hostile toward me, 24 I myself will be hostile toward you and will afflict you for your sins seven times over….

27 ” ‘If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, 28 then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over

40 ” ‘But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their fathers—their treachery against me and their hostility toward me, 41 which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies—then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, 42 I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. 43 For the land will be deserted by them and will enjoy its sabbaths while it lies desolate without them. They will pay for their sins because they rejected my laws and abhorred my decrees.  (Leviticus 26: 14-43)

Here the LORD was saying, like in the Curses of Deuteronomy, that if they did not obey the Law they would be defeated by their enemies who would rule over them (v. 17).  These provided the context for Jeremiah’s declaration of a 70 year exile which started with the first Babylonian deportation (606 BC) and ended when a Jewish remnant returned back to their land in 537 BC.

Then v 18 says ‘If after all this…’ (i.e. the chain of events from disobedience, conquest, exile and return) they still remained ‘hostile’ to God and did not ‘listen’ to his commands the punishment for sins would be multiplied seven times over.  It is repeated explicitly in v. 21, 23 and 28.  Events unfolded just that way.  The Jewish people were supposed to return to renew their hearts which they never really did.  Only a small remnant returned … they struggled for years to be motivated to rebuild the Temple which they grudgingly accomplished but few were interested in putting out the effort … Nehemiah brought another group 80 years later when the edict to rebuild Jerusalem was issued (which started the clock ticking to the coming of the Messiah).  But as a people they continued to basically pursue their own interests, and are castigated by Nehemiah for the exploitation of the poor and intermarriage while Malachi (the last Old Testament book) is an impassioned plea for them to remain faithful in their marriage covenants and in their offerings to God, which they did not do.  They remained hostile to Him.

So their punishment, according to the principle in Leviticus, was to be multiplied seven times over.  Only after the full seven-times payment is made would God remember the covenant he had made with Isaac, Abraham and the land (v.42).  What was that covenant?  God had promised Abraham and Isaac that he would give them the land.  In other words, only after the full seven-fold payment was made would they be allowed to claim and rule that land that God had originally promised to the Jewish patriarchs.  When they returned by Cyrus’s Edict they only did so as a small vassal province in the Persian Empire.  The Persians still ruled the land.

Leviticus, Jeremiah & Ezekiel Converge – with Modern Day History

With the insight gained from our ‘principle in Leviticus’ we can understand Ezekiel’s prophecy.  He had predicted 430 years of exile for their sin.  They paid 70 years (as per Jeremiah) which brought the ‘debt’ down to 430 – 70 = 360 years.  This remainder was multiplied by seven (as per Leviticus) to get: 360 * 7 = 2520 years.

Let us now convert these to our solar years and put it on a timeline.

The Babylonian exile lasted from 606 BC -> 537 BC = 69 years.  This was exactly as specified by Jeremiah if we convert his timeframe into solar years (70 years * 360/365.2422 = 69 Gregorian solar years of Jeremiah’s exile).

Ezekiel’s remaining seven-fold years would be:

2520 years * 360/365.2422 = 2484 Gregorian solar years of Ezekiel’s exile

Adding 2484 years to 537 BC (when the exiles returned and this seven-fold period started) we come to 1948 AD.[1]

ezekiels exile to 1948

Historical Timeline of Jews from Moses to Present-Day, showing Ezekiel & his Exile Prophecy

So what happened in 1948?  That was the year Israel was re-born as a modern nation – an independent and self-ruled Jewish country.  For the first time in 2500 years Jews had claim to their own country again.  When Israel declared independence in 1948 it was immediately attacked by five surrounding nations.  I know of no other nation in history surviving such a multi-front war within days of its birth.  Ariel Sharon, whose funeral was marked just last week was one whose brazen military exploits were instrumental ensuring that it did survive.  But even more remarkable, Ezekiel, with some ‘principles from Leviticus’, saw it 2500 years ago!

So let’s reflect. Harris challenged the Bible to predict something for “the latter half of the 20th century”, using “principles from Leviticus”, and doing so would show it to be a “product of omniscience”.  Harris leveled a prophetic challenge because he figured it was so impossible to meet that he never actually did his homework to check it.  He thought that ‘within half a century’ was impossible enough to stymie all attempts.  Ezekiel, with some principles from Leviticus, was bang on to the year starting about 2500 years ago, in predicting the re-birth of Israel in 1948, and in the process, managed to resolve a seemingly intractable contradiction with Jeremiah.  I’d say that is pretty good.  At the very least, whether we are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, atheist or something else this is something worth being informed about even as we all weigh the implications of this differently.  In my next post I’d like to consider the confessions of Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, as someone worth hearing out as you weigh the implications of Ezekiel’s (with some principles from Leviticus) uncanny abilities.


[1] 537 BC is like -537.  So -537 + 2484 + 1 = 1948 (the +1 is because there is no 0 on this number line, it goes from -1 to +1 (1 BC –> 1 AD) – in an interval of 1

The Eeriness of Moses’ Farewell Speech echoing in Global Headlines today

This past week has seen the attention of all major news websites and networks focus on a man who has just died. While many around the globe have been reading his obituary, and as I write this heads of state from around the world are traveling to attend his funeral, few are making the connection between this man’s life, and the final words of another man who made some sweeping pronouncements about 3500 years ago. From the perspective of deep history, the impact of the man’s life that has just passed, though resonating so powerfully around the world right now, can be seen as just one wave in a much stronger and deeper current that was unleashed by this other man who lived so long ago.

The man in question who just passed away is Ariel Sharon, the former Prime Minister of Israel and, according to many of these news outlets, was one of the fiercest and most brilliant military leaders in our generation. Reading through some of his military exploits sounds like the toughness of Rambo, the cunning of James Bond, and the ruthlessness of Genghis Khan – all rolled into one. But his bold political moves – sometimes towards confrontation and sometimes to peace – were equally as influential as his military exploits.

Though I have found these obituaries interesting reading, it is in the context of the last words of the earlier man – Moses – that the reading of the career of Ariel Sharon shifts gears to make me feel wonder, fascination, and even a little somewhat ‘eerie’. So permit me to unpack a part of the Bible seldom read so that you too can consider the impact of Moses’s parting words through lives like that of Ariel Sharon.

Moses lived about 1500 BC and he wrote the first five books of the Bible – known as the Pentateuch or the Torah. In the fifth book, Deuteronomy, were his final messages given months before he died. He concludes this final book, just before his passing, by issuing a set of sweeping Blessings and Curses to the people of Israel – the Jews. They can be viewed as his Farewell Speech. These Blessings and Curses were to be in effect down through history and were explicitly to be reflected on, not just by the Jews, but also by the surrounding nations. Any way you slice it that was meant to include you and me. You can read the complete Blessings and Curses here. I highlight the main points below.

The Blessings of Moses

Moses had previously issued the Ten Commandments and the Law which are detailed in the earlier books of the Pentateuch. Moses starts his Farewell Speech by describing blessings that the Israelites would receive if they obeyed The Law. These blessings were explicitly to be from the hand of God and would be in the sight of the other nations so that they would recognize His blessing. The outcome of these blessings would be that:

Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will fear you. (Deuteronomy 28:10)

… and the Curses

However, if the Israelites failed to obey the Commands then they would receive Curses that would match and mirror the Blessings. Again these Curses would be seen by the surrounding nations so that:

You will become a thing of horror, a byword and an object of ridicule among all the peoples where the LORD will drive you. (Deuteronomy 28:37)

And the Curses would be for the Israelites themselves and extend through history.

They will be a sign and a wonder to you and your descendants forever. (Deuteronomy 28:46)

But God warned that the worst part of the Curses would come from others.

The LORD will bring a nation against you from far away, from the ends of the earth, like an eagle swooping down, a nation whose language you will not understand, a fierce-looking nation without respect for the old or pity for the young. They will devour the young of your livestock and the crops of your land until you are destroyed … until you are ruined. They will lay siege to all the cities throughout your land until the high fortified walls in which you trust fall down. They will besiege all the cities throughout the land. (Deuteronomy 28:49-52)

It would go from bad to worse.

You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess. Then the LORD will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. … Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the LORD will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. (Deuteronomy 28:63-65)

These Blessings and Curses were then established by a covenant (an agreement) between God and the Israelites:

…to confirm you this day as his people, that he may be your God as he promised you and as he swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I am making this covenant, with its oath … also with those who are not here today. (Deuteronomy 29:12-15)

In other words this covenant would be binding on the children, or future generations. In fact this covenant was directed at future generations – both Israelites and foreigners.

Your children who follow you in later generations and foreigners who come from distant lands will see the calamities that have fallen on the land and the diseases with which the LORD has afflicted it. … nothing planted, nothing sprouting, no vegetation growing on it. … All the nations will ask: “Why has the LORD done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?”

And the answer will be:

“It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their ancestors, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt….Therefore the LORD’s anger burned against this land, so that he brought on it all the curses written in this book. … the LORD uprooted them from their land and thrust them into another land, as it is now.” (Deuteronomy 29:21-27)

Did The Blessings and Curses come to pass?

Wow! Nothing middle-of-the-road here. The Blessings were delightful, but the Curses were utterly severe. However, the most important question we can ask is: ‘Did these things happen?’ The answer is not hard to find. Much of the Old Testament is the record of the history of the Israelites and from that we can see what happens in their history. Also we have records outside the Old Testament, from Jewish historians like Josephus, Graeco-Roman historians like Tacitus and we have found many archeological monuments. All of these sources agree and paint a consistent picture of the Israelite or Jewish history. A summary of this history, given through the building of a timeline is given here.  Read it and assess for yourself if the Curses of Moses came to pass.

The Conclusion to Moses’ Blessings and Curses

But this Farewell Speech of Moses did not end with the Curses. It continued. Here is how Moses made his final pronouncement.

When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the LORD your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the LORD your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors (Deuteronomy 30:1-5)

After Moses, successive writers in the Old Testament built on this theme that he inaugurated – that there would be a restoration after the Curses. I looked at how Ezekiel used the image of dead zombies coming to life to paint one vivid picture of this for us. These later writers made bold, troubling and detailed predictions.  I look, in my next post,  at how Ezekiel, Moses and Jeremiah combine to make an astounding set of predictions that are happening today. Predictions that the late Ariel Sharon played a forceful part in fulfilling. But for me at least, the fact that journalists and Heads of State around the world are right now reflecting on the passing of a man who played an important part in bringing this conclusion to Moses’ Farewell Speech about, coupled with the fact that this Speech was explicitly written as a sign to future generations of Jew and Gentile alike (i.e. you and me), is just a little eerie.

How it was foretold that the “Christ” is coming … and why

The dialogue at the trial of Jesus shows that the leaders of his day were expecting a ‘Christ’ to come.  So where did these Jewish leaders get this idea from?  And delving a little bit deeper, what was the connection with the ‘virgin birth’ as it was explained long before Jesus ever lived?

Join me as I continue on in a series to help us better consider Christmas.

 

Christmas is Coming! But not in the way you are thinking…

Think beyond the annual cycle of Christmas preparations and associated hoopla.  This event was foreshadowed in history, even at the dawn of human history – but in ways you will miss if you dial in only on the frequency emitted by society.

You can see this fore-telling by looking in the (seemingly) most unlikely of places – the dialogue between Jesus and the devil in his wilderness temptation.  See how this starts us on a trail leading to the dawn of history, taking your Christmas to a whole new level.