Tuesday, March 31, 2020

7 Books that should be in your Library which you can use to Study and Defend the Deuterocanonical Books

More than two weeks ago, 2 to 3 persons asked me about the Deuterocanonical Books on how to defend them against critics. 

The Deuterocanonical Books that I am referring to are what Protestants refer to as “Apocryphal Books” or books in the Bible used by Catholics which are not in the Bible versions of non-Catholics. 

1. Invitation to the Apocrypha by Daniel J. Harrington, S.J.

If you want an updated, concise and reliable introduction about the Deuterocanonical Books, you will need this book written by a Catholic Biblical scholar. 

Father Harrington wrote a remarkable introduction about these books for both formal or informal students. The well-thought of explanation for each one puts the content in the proper perspective. Fr. Daniel J. Harrington is the Chair of the Biblical Studies Department and Professor of Testament at Boston College School of Theology.

2. An Introduction to Early Judaism by James Vanderkam

This Book does not only provide an excellent introduction to early Judaism but also historically and scholarly discussed each of the Deuterocanonical Books.  

It is the perfect overview to the extra-biblical material in the Deuterocanonical writings. This material inspired writers of the scriptures found in the Canon. It does not only give a summary of many of the books, but a history of the period from 400 B.C.E. up to the turn of the millennium.Prof. Vanderkam presents a comprehensive gamut of summaries and thoughts from the Second Temple Period.

James Vanderkam is a Professor of Hebrew Scriptures at the University of Notre Dame. He is a popular and respected scholar in the studies of the Dead Sea Scrolls with expertise in literature and history of Early Judaism. His research focused on the Dead Sea Scrolls and related text.  Prof. Vanderkam is gifted in Bible scholarship with comprehensive study of the Second temple period.

3. The Use of the Septuagint in New Testament Research by R. Timothy McLay

This is our usual answer to those who ask why our Bible contains the Deuterocanonical books, "The Church used the Septuagint in part because the writers of some New Testament books obviously quoted from this Greek translation rather than from the Hebrew originals."

In the book written by Bible scholar R. Timothy McLay, he mentioned that ancient Greek codices contained Deuterocanonical writings. 

“The Early Church’s use of the Greek texts as Scripture mirrors the same authority that the Greek Scriptures received from the Hellenistic Jewish community. The Letter of Aristeas, which was written to defend the authority of the LXX translation for the Alexandrian Jewish community, clearly establishes that the Greek translation of the Pentateuch was Scripture for the Greek-speaking Jews.’* The external evidence of our Greek codices, which contain the apocryphal/deutero-canonical writings, is a simple testimony to the authority that the Greek Scriptures exercised in the life of the Early Church. (The Use of the Septuagint in New Testament Research, R. Timothy McLay, page 144 )
McLay also justifies the use of the Septuagint in the New Testament by analyzing authentic New Testament quotes of the Jewish Scriptures. This work discloses the scope of the Septuagint’s effect on the manuscript and theology of the New Testament. Considering the textual variation during the first century, the Jewish Scriptures as recognized, read, and translated in Greek provided the basis for majority of the explanation made by New Testament writers.

4. The Books written by Lee Martin McDonald, The Origin of the Bible: A Guide for the Perplexed and the Canon Debate

We often hear from critics of Deuterocanonical Books that they reject these books because Jews also reject them. However, a Protestant scholar, Lee Martin McDonald clarified there are two groups of Jews, those from the east who rebuffed these books and Jews from the western diaspora who accepted them. 

In this regard, the Jews in the western diaspora were much like the early Christians who initially regarded not only the books of the Hebrew Bible as scripture, but also many apocryphal and pseudepigraphal books. This may have contributed to many of the successes of the Christians in gaining a number of early converts from the diaspora Jews. As noted earlier, a factor that reflects the differences in the scriptures of Jews in the east and those in the west is the discovery of several copies of the books of Tobit and Sirach in both the Hebrew and Aramaic languages in the ninth to the tenth century Cairo Geniza (a storage room in Jewish places of worship for sacred texts that were no longer usable). There were few binding connections between the Jews in the east and those in the western part of the Roman Empire especially after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. The Temple in Jerusalem had been the center of connectedness for the Jews of the diaspora in the east and west with Jews in the Land of Israel. After its destruction, the central feature of that connectedness was missing. After the destruction of the Temple, the rabbinic Jews in the east focused especially on the oral Torah traditions that were codified in the Mishnah and those in the west focused more on the scriptures that the Jews in the east had earlier (by or before 150 CE) given to them.” (The Origin of the Bible: A Guide For the Perplexed, Lee Martin McDonald, pages 89-90)
McDonald also made it clear that the scriptures of Diaspora Jews are books in the Septuagint which included the Deuterocanonical Books. 
“Indeed, the scriptures of the diaspora Jews included the books circulating in the LXX, which included the apocryphal and pseudepigraphal books in it.” (The Origin of the Bible: A Guide For the Perplexed, Lee Martin McDonald, p. 88)
McDonald also disputed what other Protestants say that only the Deuterocanonical Books were rejected by the Jews. He emphasized that even the Greek translation of Pentateuch was not accepted by many Jews in the east. 
"Those in the West continued for centuries toaffirm the scriptures of the Septuagint that contained books from the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, but those books and even the Greek translation of the Pentateuch were rejected by many Jews in the east. By the end of the second century Jewish rejection of the translation of the Law into Greek by later rabbis can be seen in the following: “It is related that five elders wrote the Torah in Greek for King Ptolemy. And that day was as intolerable for Israel as the day the golden calf was made, for the Torah cannot be translated adequately” (Massekhet Soferim, 1). The Jews to the east and those to the west became separated by language and eventually by various interpretations of the traditions and sacred books that they held in common." (The Origin of the Bible: A Guide For the Perplexed, Lee Martin McDonald, p. 89)
We may be surprised by the statement of McDonald regarding the rejection made by Martin Luther not only of the Deuterocanonical books but other books of the New Testament which are Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation.
“Martin Luther rejected several New Testament books, namely Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation, though he included them at the end of his New Testament. For him they added nothing to Christian doctrine and were even contrary to essential Christian teaching. His rejection of the importance and significance of these books and the Deuterocanonical books reflects the freedom in his generation to question books in the biblical canon.” (The Origin of the Bible: A Guide For the Perplexed, Lee Martin McDonald, T&T Clark, 1 edition (2011), p. 40)
In another book, The Canon Debate edited by Lee Martin Mcdonald and James Sanders  had a very good answer why Martin Luther spurned the Deuterocanonical books. 
“With regard to the apocrypha, Luther’s judgment was shaped to some extent by the theological controversy about the doctrines of purgatory and praying for the dead, which were traditionally based on 2 Mace 12:45-46. He appealed to Jerome’s distinction between the (Hebrew) canonical books and the apocrypha, and to his principle that these books should not be used for establishing ecclesiastical doctrines.” (The Canon Debate, Edited by Lee Martin Mcdonald and James A. Sanders, Baker Academic; Reprint edition (December 1, 2001))

5. The Bible and Qumran: Text, Shape, and Interpretation by Dr. Peter Flint

Dr. Peter Flint is a non-Catholic Biblical scholar who gave us a surprising answer in his book where it is written that the Deuterocanonical books are accepted by all Christian groups, excluding Protestants. 
“Some of the apocrypha are accepted by all Christian groups, excluding Protestants, as Scripture. Seven of these are entire books (Tobit, Judith, the Wisdom of Solomon, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Ecclesiasticus, and Baruch [with the Letter of Jeremiah = Baruch 6 ]).” (The Bible at Qumran: Text, Shape, and Interpretation, Peter W. Flint, Eerdmans (2001), p. 85)

It is contrary to what some Protestants claim that Christians cannot accept Deuterocanonical books.

Dr. Peter Flint is among leading scholars of the Dead Sea Scrolls and one of the 70 official members of the Dead Scrolls editors worldwide. He is also co–author of the popular book, The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible: The Oldest Known Bible Translated for the First Time into English

6. Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of Revelation by Bruce M. Metzger

Verses in Revelation 22:18-19  are often used against Catholics by anti-Catholics saying this verse proves the Catholic Church disobeyed God by adding the Deuterocanonical books. 

But on page 106 of this commentary, Dr. Bruce Metzger clarified that it refers to the scribes who added words to ancient Greek manuscripts. 
"When books were copied by hand, scribes would occasionally add comments of their own or leave out words they thought were unsuitable. John therefore includes at the end of his book a solemn warning (similar to that found in Deut. 4:2; 12:32) declaring that nothing should be added or deleted, for the very good reason that it is a revelation from God (22:18-19).” 
Dr. Bruce Metzger is not only a noted bible scholar but also respected by his peers both Protestant and Catholic due to his exceptional knowledge about textual criticism and manuscripts of the New Testament. 

7. A Commentary on Textual Additions to the New Testament by Philip Comfort

Some of those who assail the Deuterocanonical books are Protestants who use the King James Version. Do our friends know that this bible version contains extra words? 

This is what the introduction of Philip Comfort says:
"..the King James Version, based on the Textus Receptus, have all these extra verses, phrases, and words.  Those who read the King James Version (also the New King James Version) are reading a "leavened" version---that is, it is a text with thousand of extra words...In short, the additions were the result of scribal gap-filling wherein scribes added words as they read and copied a text. The sources for the additions came from their own minds, other gospels, other scriptures, and oral traditions" (A Commentary on Textual Additions to the New Testament, Philip W. Comfort, Kregel Academic (December 27, 2017), pp. 7-8)

Philip Comfort is one of the notable new testament textual criticism scholars in the modern times. Many of his books will help in our study of the ancient Greek manuscripts. 

Monday, March 30, 2020

Do You Read the Bible? The Protestant Pastor Asked

Three persons asked me if I read the Bible. One is a Protestant Pastor whom I met before the Year of Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue and Indigenous Peoples

The purpose of this article is not to attack Protestants and show that I am better than others. I only wanted to show how I refuted a pastor who thinks he is better than others just because he reads the Bible. By the way, this pastor criticizes the sacred images. 

Well, not all Protestant pastors are like him because I have many friends who are pastors and do not attack Catholics. 

How did we meet? Someone asked for my help to possibly meet the pastor of his wife and hold a sharing session. We met this pastor at their church.

The pastor asked me. Do you read the Bible? 
I answered, “Which Bible are you referring to?” 

And he pointed at the KING JAMES VERSION he was holding. 

I answered, “you are just holding a translation and many were added which are not in ancient Greek manuscripts and I also said “THIS IS THE BIBLE” and showed to him my Hebrew and Greek Bibles.

I’ll move forward with our conversation. Towards the end, he said, “It is important that the Holy Spirit is with you.” I asked him, you claim the Holy Spirit is inside you?  He answered “YES.” I opened my Hebrew Bible and asked him. If the Holy Spirit is with you, can you read it to me?  He answered that he could not read it. That is why I advised him to instead be humble.

In the Philippines, there are many preachers who read translations but feel that they know everything about the Bible when they assail those who have different faiths. In fact, there is one preacher who often attacks the Catholic Church and mentions the Dead Sea Scrolls and Codex Sinaiticus in his program. But I have never heard or seen him read the Hebrew Bible. 


The Text used to prepare King James Version was Textus Receptus (Received Text). 

Textus Receptus does not match the majority text.

Those who defend the "textus receptus" would say "textus receptus" was established on the byzantine-text type.

In fact, hundreds of readings probably depend on a few recent manuscripts. There are many witnesses who can prove Byzantine text is not superior when it comes to establishing the original text. For famous textual criticism scholars and most critics, Alexandrian text is superior.

Dr. Bruce M. Metzger, a proficient new testament scholar and expert in textual criticism, mentioned in his book, The Text of the New Testament (page 280):
“As we have seen, however, the fact that the bulk of witnesses attest the Byzantine text is no sign of its superiority when it comes to establishing the original text. To that end, the earlier attested text forms, the Western and most especially the Alexandrian, are today considered by most critics to be far superior.”

Aside from that, this is what is written on page 223 of Exploring the Origins of the Bible: Canon Formation in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective:
“It is fair to say that most biblical scholars prefer the Alexandrian text family, earlier called the “Neutral Text” by Westcott and Hort, over the Textus Receptus Greek text which is much later and less accurate than manuscripts from the Alexandrian family. Scholars know that many biblical texts were altered in transmission and translation, and following tireless comparisons of ancient texts they have almost universally abandoned the King James Version as the most reliable English translation of the Greek New Testament.”(Exploring the Origins of the Bible: Canon Formation in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective, Edited by Craig A. Evans and Emmanuel Tov, Baker Academic (2008), p. 223)

Also, this is what we can read on page 6 of An Introduction to the Old Testament: Sacred Texts and Imperial Contexts of the Hebrew Bible:
"The King James Version (also known as the “Authorized Version”), though beautiful and cherished by many, is not an up-to-date translation. It was done four hundred years ago. Scholars knew far less about Hebrew and Greek then than they do now. And the translation is based on manuscripts with more errors and expansions than the manuscripts used for translations today. Therefore, the King James Version should not be used for readings in a twenty-first-century academic course on the Bible." (An Introduction to the Old Testament: Sacred Texts and Imperial Contexts of the Hebrew Bible, David M. Carr, Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (March 8, 2010), p.6)

According to the introduction of the book, A Commentary on Textual Additions to the New Testament written by a Textual Criticism Scholar, Philip Comfort:
"..the King James Version, based on the Textus Receptus, have all these extra verses, phrases, and words.  Those who read the King James Version (also the New King James Version) are reading a "leavened" version---that is, it is a text with thousand of extra words...In short, the additions were the result of scribal gap-filling wherein scribes added words as they read and copied a text. The sources for the additions came from their own minds, other gospels, other scriptures, and oral traditions" (A Commentary on Textual Additions to the New Testament, Philip W. Comfort, Kregel Academic (December 27, 2017), pp. 7-8)


KJV - Matthew 17:21 

The earliest manuscripts (Codex Sinaiticus and Vaticanus) do not include verse 21.  I marked, and you can see the part where ancient texts of Matthew 17:20 and the subsequent Matthew 17:22

(Codex Sinaiticus, 4th Century Manuscript)

This is what is written on page 157, A Commentary on the Manuscript and Text of the New Testament:
"If the verse was originally part of Matthew's Gospel, there is no good reason to explain why it was dropped from so many early and diverse witnesses."

KJV - Matthew 18:11 

The earliest manuscripts (Codex Sinaiticus and Vaticanus) do not include Matthew 18:11.

This is what is written on pages 28-29, A Commentary on Textual Additions to the New Testament:
"The absence of this verse in several important and diverse witnesses attests to the fact that it was not part of the original text of Matthew."

KJV - Matthew 23:14

Verse 14 is not part of the original text of Matthew according to excellent documentary evidence Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Bezae, Regius and Dublinensis. 

This is what is written on page166, A Commentary on the Manuscript and Text of the New Testament:

"This verse, not present in the earliest MSS and several other witnesses, was taken from Mark 12:40 or Luke 20:47 and insert in Later MSS either before or after 23:13."
In the King James version, there are many verses inserted but cannot be found in the ancient manuscripts. If you have the New Revised Standard Version or New American Bible (Revised Edition) bibles, kindly check the following verses:
  • Matthew 17:21
  • Matthew 18:11
  • Matthew 23:14
  • Mark 7:16
  • Mark 11:26
  • Mark 15:28
  • Luke 17:36
  • John 5:4
  • Acts 8:37
  • Acts 15:34
  • Acts 24:6–8
  • Acts 28:29
  • Romans 16:24

This is what Bruce Metzger said in his Book, Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of Revelation on page 106:

"When books were copied by hand, scribes would occasionally add comments of their own or leave out words they thought were unsuitable. John therefore includes at the end of his book a solemn warning (similar to that found in Deut. 4:2; 12:32) declaring that nothing should be added or deleted, for the very good reason that it is a revelation from God (22:18-19).” 


Here are a few problems we see in the King James Version Bible:

1. Acts 9:6 of King James Version mentions “And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” But you cannot read this in Codex Sinaiticus and other Protestant versions like New International Version and English Standard Version.

2. Mark 9:29 of King James Version mentions: “And he said unto them, this kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.” In Codex Sinaiticus, you cannot read και nésteia or “and fasting.” You cannot also read this in other Protestant Bibles (New International Version or English Standard Version).

3. 1 John 3:1 of King James Version, the word kai esmen was removed.
"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not"(1 John 3:1, King James Version)
"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him"(1 John 3:1, New Revised Standard Version)
"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him"(1 John 3:1, New International Version) 

(Codex Sinaiticus, 4th Century Manuscript)

4. 1 Timothy 3:16 of King James Version mentions “God was manifest in the flesh…” but this is not written in other Protestant versions. Even Protestant scholar Philip W. Comfort who wrote New Testament Text and Commentary agrees that ός (“he who”) was written by scribes in ancient manuscripts. Over the years, this was were changed by scribes into ΘC (nomina sacra for the word “God”).

“…The original scribes of א (Sinaiticus) * A (Alexandrinus )* C (Ephraemi Rescriptus )* wrote ὅς, which was then changed by later scribes in all three manuscripts to Θεὸς(“God”)…..Scholars have conjectured that some scribe mistook the word OC (= ὅς) for ΘC (the nomen sacrum for Θεὸς).”(New Testament Text and Translation Commentary , Philip Comfort, p. 663)

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Inspiring Feedback of Catholic Biblical Scholars about My Recent Article ON Covid-19 and Revelation 6:8

Several days ago, I wrote an article to dispute some writers and preachers claiming that Covid-19 is the fulfillment of what is written in Revelation 6:8. For those who have not read this article, I am referring to this, “Is COVID-19 the Fulfillment Written in Revelation 6:8?

If you research on Google, you will see some websites posting about Covid-19 being linked to Revelation 6:8. 

After I wrote about this issue, I shared this with some Catholic Biblical scholars whom I know and some of whom are friends and mentors. I did this to find out their comments because others may say that I am doing my own interpretation. 

They gave their feedback after reading my article which was truly inspiring. 

"Well done, Duane!  This is very well argued and well written.  The point you make is a key one about how to interpret Biblical texts:  we can't simply  read our own prejudices and grudges, from this age we live in, back into the prophetic word of God.  These are more general warnings about human  sinfulness, which apply to all of us in every age."

Brian Daley, SJ
Catherine F. Huisking Professor of Theology
University of Notre Dame
"I like your blog. Well done!"
David Bosworth, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Old Testament
and Biblical Studies Area Director
The Catholic University of America 
Dear Brother Duane,
I read your article and I think you did a fine job of explaining the text and answering the wrong interpretation, citing many good sources. 
In Revelation, Babylon represents the powerful consumerist pagan culture, originally of Rome but really of every age, not the Catholic Church or any church.   We are exhorted to spiritual separation from that consumerist culture of Babylon (Rev 18), so as not to share in its judgment.   This is an  important message if properly understood.
Keep up the good work!
Dr. Peter S. Williamson
Adam Cardinal Maida Chair of Sacred Scripture
Sacred Heart Major Seminary
Detroit, MI 48206
Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture
It conveys the correct approach and gives the proper way to understand apocalyptic, and it is very well written and handsomely illustrated.
Eugene Ulrich, M.Div., Ph.D.
Professor of Hebrew Scriptures emeritus
University of Notre Dame 
"I agree with your take on Revelation.  The key thing to understand about Revelation is it is referring primarily to things that were happening in the first century using OT language describing things that happened much earlier.  For instance the language of the plagues is based on language used originally to Pharaoh in Egypt.  This is how Biblical prophecy works.  It is less about telling the future than it is using language from the past to explain God's will in the present.That said, maybe we can apply the language of Revelation to things happening in our own world.  The Bible is relevant for us too!   But the way to understand that relevance responsibly is first to do the work to understand the words according to what they meant to the original author.  As you say, that is tricky to do."
Peter D. Brown, PhD
Academic Dean
Catholic Distance University | cdu.edu 

Monday, March 23, 2020

Is COVID-19 the Fulfillment Written in Revelation 6:8?

Almost 2 weeks ago when I visited a private Biblical Hebrew forum, someone posted about COVID-19 and used Revelation 6:8. Aside from this, I read a blog which has an interpretation similar to the first post. However, the second one was more critical because the writer connects it to Revelation 18:4 and insinuates that all Catholics must leave the Catholic Church so they will not be punished by God. Is this way of understanding and analyzing the texts of the Bible correct?  

"I looked and there was a pale green horse! Its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed with him; they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, famine, and pestilence, and by the wild animals of the earth"(Revelation 6:8).

If we look at carefully, others who read Revelation 6 can interpret these calamities in a different manner and depict the vision of the four horsemen as different occurrences. Yet, many scholars say the fourth calamity appears to recap the negative outcomes of the previous three. In fact, the biblical prophecy often considers these afflictions as God’s way of judgment, suggesting that the four horsemen must be interpreted as single picture of divine judgment.

The Septuagint (LXX) uses “Death” and “Hades,” a combination of synonymously the references to the region of the dead. The four judgments are ways where the dead is executed.  The Greek word used in this verse is  Thanatos  and this word in Septuagint was translated in the Hebrew Bible as דֶּבֶר (deber) meaning “plague, pestilence.”  But the word, Thanatos in Revelation 6:8 has a general meaning. 

According to other Biblical scholars, the vision of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse comes from Zechariah 6:1-5, which refers to horses of various colors-red, black, white, and dappled gray which we can also read in the commentary of Bruce Metzger (Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of Revelation). But most scholars connect this to Ezekiel 14:21. 

"This final specter may resemble the angel of death of Jewish tradition. Lists of judgments such as this horseman brought are common in the *Old Testament prophets (e.g., Jer 14:12; 24:10; 27:8; Ezek 6:11; 7:15; 12:16) and, less related in form, some judgment lists in the *Sibylline Oracles; this list is closest to Ezekiel 14:21" (The IVP Bible Background Commentary New Testament, Craig S. Keener).

"The sequence of the forms of destruction wrought by the horsemen, sword, famine, pestilence, and wild animals, appears in a list of punishments of sinners in Ezek 14:12-21"  (The Paulist Biblical Commentary, p. 1586).

My point is that we must be careful in interpreting what is written in Revelation. There have been plenty of plagues more devastating than Covid-19, e.g. the Spanish flu in 1918.

Apocalyptic literature is a future-tense narrative that is really about the present world. Looking for fulfillment of a vision is like asking who was Cain's wife. A waste of time. The question we should be asking of any passage in Scripture is "What is God seeking to communicate to us for the sake of salvation?" (see Dei Verbum #11). God is not trying to give us a road map to future events like some kind of Nostradamus. Seeking after such knowledge represents an anxiety-driven need to know and gain a sense of control so that one need not trust in God because one knows the future instead. Reading COVID-19 into Scripture is a dangerous game. These 'end-times-are-now' readings of Revelation generally are, and they make a basic mistake about what kind of literature Revelation is.

Apocalyptic literature is among the strongest examples of this type of literature: description of the present trouble with a "prediction" of God's deliverance soon. Daniel is a very good example of this. Because of the persecution of Antiochus IV (175-163 BCE), "Daniel" of long ago "predicts" domination of the faithful Jews by a series of future evil empires, culminating in the victorious kingdom of God; but he is really writing at the time of Antiochus, recounting the ancient history of the Babylonian-Median-Persian-Greek subjugation of the Jews, and hoping for deliverance (freedom) in the near future; see Daniel 12 — esp. 12:11-12.


This is what is written in Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of Revelation, Bruce M. Metzger, pp-58-59:

"God does not approve of famine and death and hell, but they are what must follow if people persist in opposing God's rule. God wills community, which is the consequence of caring and love. Ignore physical laws, like stepping off a cliff, and disaster follows. Neglect moral laws, and disaster ensues just as surely. The woes described here are the result of not taking seriously God's command to achieve community and justice. God does not will the woes, but as long as we are free agents God allows them. So the four horsemen of the Apocalypse are brilliant little vignettes of God's judgments working out in history. This is what happens in the sphere of politics whenever men and women oppose the will of God; and this is in military sphere; and this is the sphere of economics. There are few chapters in Revelation that speak more directly to our time than this part of chapter 6." 
Aside from that, this is what we can read in another commentary:

"Without denying the role of Satan’s malice, what characterizes the specific evils mentioned here—conquest, violence, economic problems that lead to food shortages, disease, and death by all these means—are for the most part disasters that result from sinful human actions rather than divine intervention. The indication that power was “given” to these riders suggests that God has allowed the human will to power, violence, and selfishness to run its course, an expression of God’s permissive rather than his positive will (e.g., Ps 81:11–17; Rom 1:24–32)" (Revelation (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture) By Peter S. Williamson).

It is not only the people who go against the will of God are affected by calamities, wars, hunger, the ravaged economy, pestilence, and death but God’s people as well. 

"Unlike some later judgments in the book of Revelation (9:4; 19:19–21), nothing in the visions of the four horsemen suggests that the calamities of war, economic difficulty, famine, plague, and death will not afflict God’s people. Sin and its consequences have infected our world. )"(Revelation (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture) By Peter S. Williamson)


This interpretation of the Bible is wrong. No scholar in his right mind will say that Revelation 18:4 refers to the Catholic Church. It is really a mean-spirited abuse of the Biblical text. 

"And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues"(Revelation 18:4).

For the information of everybody there are no logical Bible scholars in our time will say that COVID-19 is a fulfillment of the Revelation 6:8. 

"In pronouncing judgment on Babylon, Jeremiah warned his people who were supposed to be at home there in the short term (29:4-10)-to flee from the city's midst, because God would destroy it (51:6, 45; cf. Zech 2:7); even the presence of some of the righteous would not stay the judgment (cf. Gen 19:17). (In the *Dead Sea Scrolls, the righteous were to "separate" themselves from the "children of the pit"; in one *Essene commentary on Nahum, when the iniquity of those who were leading people astray was exposed, the righteous of Ephraim would flee from among them, joining the forces of the true Israel.) Getting out of an imminently doomed city was common sense for anyone who believed the *prophecy (cf. Tobit 14:8; Ex 9:20-21)"(The IVP Bible Background Commentary New Testament, Craig S. Keener).

Revelation 18 is about pagan Rome, nothing to do with the Catholic church. 

Be careful in interpreting the Bible. Let us not immediately conclude that all these happenings are 100 percent fulfillment of what is written in Revelation. 

"Plagues" are among the dangers Biblical texts identify as part of the challenges facing people at any time.  We are called to trust in God's provident care for us in danger.  But I don't think the author of Revelation is referring to COVID-19 any more than any other plague. I think we should be very wary indeed of identifying specific events as predicted in Scripture. People have done it over and over in the past and have always been proved wrong.  

Who Incited David to Number Israel? Satan or God?

"Satan stood up against Israel, and incited David to count the people of Israel."(1 Chronicles 21:1)
 Again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go, count the people of Israel and Judah.”(2 Samuel 24:1)

I don’t see a problem in the cited verses. The temptation of David by Satan was permitted by God. This situation also happened to Job when God allowed Satan to inflict on Job a painful ailment (Job 2:3-7). 

We can be sure God does not tempt anyone to commit sin (James 1:13). 

Let us not forget nothing is wrong with a "census." As an enemy, Satan said the census is an occasion for one to commit sin. 

Sunday, March 22, 2020

How Did Judas Die: By Hanging or Falling Down?

"Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself."(Matthew 27:5)
"Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out."(Acts 1:18)

The απήγξατο (apeigxato) meaning "hanged himself" came from the Greek word ἀπάγχω (apagchó) used in 2 Samuel 17:23 of the Septuagint.

“καὶ Αχιτοφελ εἶδεν ὅτι οὐκ ἐγενήθη ἡ βουλὴ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐπέσαξεν τὴν ὄνον αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀνέστη καὶ ἀπῆλθεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ εἰς τὴν πόλιν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐνετείλατο τῷ οἴκῳ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀπήγξατο καὶ ἀπέθανεν καὶ ἐτάφη ἐν τῷ τάφῳ τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ” (2 Samuel 17:23, Septuagint).
"When Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his donkey and went off home to his own city. He set his house in order, and hanged himself; he died and was buried in the tomb of his father (2 Samuel 17:23)

According to Spiros Zodhiates, a Bible scholar in his book, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament:

“...cf. Acts 1:18, speaking of Judas hanged himself and the cord perhaps having broken, fell with such violence as to dash out his bowels.”(The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, Spiros Zodhiates, pp. 200-201)

Here is what a Professor of Biology, Dr. Georgia Purdom said in her article published on May 25, 2009 in Answers in Genesis:

 “Gruesome as it is, Judas’ dead body hung in the hot sun of Jerusalem, and the bacteria inside his body would have been actively breaking down tissues and cells. A byproduct of bacterial metabolism is often gas. The pressure created by the gas forces fluid out of the cells and tissues and into the body cavities. The body becomes bloated as a result. In addition, tissue decomposition occurs compromising the integrity of the skin. Judas’ body was similar to an overinflated balloon: as he hit the ground (due to the branch he hung on or the rope itself breaking), the skin easily broke, and he burst open with his internal organs spilling out.”
Aside from such comments, here is the comment of a Bible scholar, Warren W. Wiersbe in his book:

"Acts 1:18-19 adds to our understanding of the event. Judas went off by himself, brooded over his terrible crime, and finally hanged himself. Apparently his body was not discovered for some days, because it became bloated and his bowels gushed out. Perhaps the tree limb on which he was hanging also broke and helped to cause this"  (The Bible Exposition Commentary, Warren W. Wiersbe, page 100).

There is no contradiction in both verses! 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Why did Jesus Need to be Baptized?

This is apparently a question that also puzzled the earliest Christians, who believed Jesus was the  sinless Son of God. So in Matthew 3.13-15, Jesus comes forward to be baptized, and John asks whether Jesus should not be the one baptizing John.  Jesus say, "Let it be so for now, for this it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness."  A mysterious saying!   But he seems to me to mean:  God's plan is that I should begin my ministry by wholly identifying myself with the people of Israel.

In John 1 31-34, the Baptist says he did not realize who Jesus was at first, and so baptized him with the rest.  Then he saw the Spirit descend on Jesus, and  realized Jesus' own mission was to baptize people in the Spirit - to lead them to share in his own Spirit-filled relationship to God.  So baptism by John meant something different from the baptism of Jesus, and from baptism by Jesus and his disciples; but Jesus begins as a Jewish man in the crowd.

In other words both passages seem to reflect the conviction of Jesus' disciples that his work was something like that of John - calling people to conversion and a new life -  but on a wholly different, new level.

"His baptism in this sense anticipates his subsequent submission to suffering and death because that too will be "what God wants" (see 26:39, 42, 44): and entrance into even deeper solidarity with sinful humankind to save them from their sins (1:21; see 20:28;26:28).  The "righteous" action of Jesus in submitting to baptism triggers a divine response that is a defining moment in the narrative of the Gospel (vv. 16-17)." (The Paulist Biblical Commentary, Paulist Press (September 3, 2018), page 916)

Was Jesus Robe Scarlet or Purple?

The red clothing is easy to wear and soldiers wear them. It is similar to purple which is the cloak of the pre-Roman like leaders of the Greeks in the East.

"They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him"(Matthew 27:28)

"And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him."(Mark 15:17)

This is what was said in a Bible Commentary by Bible scholar, Craig S. Keener: 

“Nakedness was especially embarrassing to a Jewish person in antiquity. Red robes would be those most readily available, because soldiers wore them; this garment could resemble the purple robe of the pre-Roman Greek rulers of the East. Roman soldiers often played games to pass time: they carved on the stone pavement of the fortress Antonia, where they were garrisoned on the Temple Mount, and knucklebones used as dice have also been recovered there.” (The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, Craig S. Keener, page 127)

Wikipedia gives information to analysts and according to information from them, Tyrian purple is also known as “Tyrian red.” 

“Tyrian purple (Ancient Greek: πορφύρα, porphúra; Latin: purpura), also known as Tyrian red, Phoenician purple, royal purple, imperial purple or imperial dye, is a reddish-purple natural dye.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyrian_purple)

Friday, March 20, 2020

What Time was Jesus Crucified on the Cross, on the 3RD or 6TH Hour?

In Mark 15:25, the crucifixion was the third hour (9 am), but in John 19:14, Jesus was brought before Pilate on the 6th hour.  If we review carefully, St. Mark followed the Jewish time system.  

"It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him."(Mark 15:25)
"Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, “Here is your King!”(John 19:14) 
The 24th hour of the Jews start at 6 pm and morning starts at 6 am. When Mark said that Jesus was crucified at 9 am and its equivalent is third hour.  

According to the Bible scholar, Craig S. Keener in his book: 

“The third hour began shortly after 8:30 a.m. and ran till shortly after 9:30 a.m. (The exact time of hours would vary according to the time of sunrise from which they were reckoned, hence according to the season of year.)” (The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, Craig S. Keener, page 172).

When Jesus was crucified, the third hour was equivalent to 9 am. 

St. John followed the Roman time system and according to Joseph M. Holden and Norman Geisler: 

"In Roman time, midnight to midnight marked a day. (Today’s 24-hour day is obviously based on the Roman system.) So when Mark says that Christ was crucified at the third hour, he means around 9 a.m. John stated that Christ’s trial was about the sixth hour. This would place the trial before the crucifixion at around 6 a.m., and therefore, would not negate any testimony of the Gospel writers. This fits with John’s other references to time (for example, John 1:39)" (The Popular Handbook of Archaeology and the Bible, Joseph M. Holden, page 151)

It is written in John 1:39, Jesus preached at 4 pm and in the Roman time system it is 10 a.m.

"He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon."(John 1:39)

According to Bible scholar, Craig S. Keener:

"The "tenth hour" by usual reckonings would be about 4 p.m., possibly too late in the afternoon to walk a long way home before dark and thus implying that a hospitable person would invite them to spend the night. (By another system of time reckoning, unlikely here, the "tenth hour" could mean 10 a.m.; this system fits 19:14 better but not 4:6.)" (The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, Craig S. Keener, page 266)

Was Jesus Crucified on a Cross or Stake?

 1.) According to Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Lord Jesus was crucified on a torture stake and not the cross.  Their view is not based on the la...