Harmonizing the Resurrection Accounts in the Bible

Mary Magdalene-Scott FreemanI could wallpaper my house with skeptics’ claims of how impossible it is to harmonize the resurrection accounts in the Bible. Muslim apologists also use the “inconsistencies” in the four gospel accounts to prove that the resurrection of Jesus is a fabricated story. A few years ago, after hearing an overconfident atheist repeatedly proclaim the impossibility of harmonizing the resurrection accounts in the gospels, I accepted his challenge. He was so confident that the biblical accounts were hopelessly contradictory that he offered to personally help anyone who could harmonize them to claim a $10,000 reward offered by the Skeptics Society.

I sat down over breakfast, and saw how they fit together after about 15 minutes of reading. Just sayin’.

I’ll concede that these critics are all more intelligent and educated than I am. But this doesn’t seem to be about intelligence. There’s gotta be something else going on here. I’ll show you what I found, and you, be you skeptic or believer, can see what you think for yourself.

Courtesy to you prevents me from addressing all thirty-something supposed contradictions. But once I explain the key, you’ll be able to resolve them all for yourself.

The Problem in a Nutshell
For those unaware of the “glaring,” “mutually exclusive” contradictions, here are the biggest ones, supposedly making it “impossible” and “ludicrous” to attempt to harmonize the Bible’s own account of its most pivotal event:

  • How many women went to the tomb on resurrection morning? Was it one (John)? Two (Matthew)? Three (Mark)? Or more (Luke)?
  •  Did the woman/women arrive at the tomb while it was still dark (John)? Or as the sun was coming up (Matt and Mark)?
  • Who did the women see at the tomb? One person (Matthew and Mark,) or two (Luke and John)?
  • Did Mary Magdalene cry at the tomb (John)? Or were the women filled with joy (Matthew)?
  • Did Mary Magdalene recognize Jesus (Matthew)? Or not (John)?
  • Did the women tell the disciples immediately (Matthew, Luke, John)? Or did they say nothing to anyone (Mark)?

The key in a nutshell
The key to harmonizing the four gospel accounts of the resurrection of Jesus lies in recognizing that the Gospel of John describes a separate, earlier event from that which the Synoptic Gospels recount. The 3 Synoptic Gospels generally agree in what they report, with only minor variations. It is clear from an open-minded reading of the four accounts that Mary Magdalene, by herself, had already been to the tomb twice before the events described in Matthew, Mark, and Luke occur. By contrast, every skeptic I’ve read assumes that all four gospels are describing the same trip to the tomb. As we shall see, the answers to their criticisms have been there all along.

Is there textual evidence is to suggest that Mary Magdalene visited the tomb earlier than the other women? Yes, this is plainly stated. Two explicit references point to this scenario. First, John’s account begins, “Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark (Jn 20:1.) The three other gospels describe a group of women, and mention dawn, or sunrise. Also, John’s text indicates that Mary was alone, and does not say that the purpose of her visit was to anoint the body.

A second clear reference to Mary’s visit is found in the gospel of Mark. He begins his abbreviated account with the group of women going to anoint the body at dawn, and ends with them fleeing the tomb in astonishment (v8.) But then, in verses 9-11 he states, “Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene…She went and told those who had been with them…But when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it” (16:9-11.) This is a reference to Mary’s earlier trip described by John, and summarizes his account perfectly. To attempt to read verses 9-11 as a continuation of the first 8 verses of Mark’s account makes little sense.

Bearing this scenario in mind, following is a chronology of the resurrection story wherein we will see all supposed contradictions resolved.

Mary Magdalene’s first two visits to the tomb
We begin with John’s account, “while it is still dark.” The stone has already been rolled back, the guards have already been dealt with, and the resurrection of Jesus has already occurred. Mary arrives to find the stone rolled back. This is her first visit to the tomb that morning. She goes no further, but turns and runs to get Peter and John, telling them that the body has been taken (v 1-2.) The men race to the tomb, look inside and see the empty grave clothes. John records that he believes, but that “as yet they did not know the scripture, that He must rise from the dead” (v 3-9.)

The perplexed men return to their homes, but Mary remains, alone and weeping, outside the tomb (v 11.) This is now her second visit. She looks inside the tomb and two angels appear and speak to her (v 12.) She turns to see Jesus, but does not recognize Him (v 14.) This is understandable as it is dark, she is weeping, and she believes Him to be dead. He reveals Himself to her and sends her to the disciples with a message. Mary finds the disciples, says, “I have seen the Lord!” and delivers the message (v 17-18.) This corresponds exactly with Mark’s summary in Mk 16:9-11. Note that Mark adds the detail that the disciples would not believe Mary. We will see why this is important shortly.

The Synoptic Gospel accounts: Mary Magdalene joins the other women
Now the Synoptic Gospels pick up the story. Mary M has now seen the empty tomb, angelic messengers, and the resurrected Jesus, but no one believes her. Does she simply go back to bed? Of course not! She had made a prior arrangement with the other women to anoint the body, after the Sabbath.

We know this from Luke’s account of the burial of Jesus:
“The women who had come with Him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. They returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment” (Lk 23:55-56.) Since the entombment, these women had been waiting to return to the tomb to prepare the body for proper burial.

Verse 10 of the next chapter tells us who these women were: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and some unidentified women. This is the most comprehensive description of the women. There were at least five. This accords with the remaining two accounts. Mark mentions the two Marys plus Salome, and Matthew only mentions the two Marys. The fact that they only name the two and three most prominent women is not a contradiction; it is simply the omission of detail. (Matthew does fill in these details earlier in his burial account, mentioning “many women” and naming “the mother of the sons of Zebedee” (Mt 27:55,56.) It is reasonable to assume that this group accompanied the two Marys on resurrection morning.

So we have Mary M now joining the company of women who plan to go and anoint the body of Jesus. Note however that no one believes her story. Mary M, though frustrated, goes along with them because she knows they will soon see the truth for themselves. The three accounts agree that it is now dawn. This will be Mary M’s third visit to the tomb.

Mark 16:3 says that on the way the women were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?” Is there a contradiction here? After all, Mary had already seen the stone rolled back, and Jesus Himself. There is no contradiction. Assuming Mary M has told them what she has seen, we’ve already been told that no one believes her crazy story. The picture that emerges is this: as the women rush to the tomb, most, if not all of the women are blowing off an exasperated Mary M; planning to anoint a body that Mary knows isn’t there, and asking who will roll away a stone that she knows has been rolled away.

Upon arrival, all accounts, (with the possible exception of Matthew,) say that they found the stone rolled away. We can reconcile the supposedly conflicting reports as follows:

The Stone and the Soldiers
Matthew describes an angel descended from heaven who rolled the stone back and sat upon it. The purpose of this first angelic appearance seems to have been to deal with the problem of the guard of Roman soldiers. They are not mentioned at the tomb again in any account, and it is reasonable to assume they remain unconscious (“like dead men” v4,) or have left to report to the chief priests (v11.) Obviously the earthquake and this angelic event had to have occurred before Mary M’s first visit.

There is nothing stated in Matthew’s account to contradict this scenario. Matthew states that the soldiers saw the angel roll back the stone (Matt 28:2-4.) He does not say that the women did. The angelic messenger was there, making himself visible to the women when they arrived.

We already know there were two angelic spirits present because Mary had already seen them inside the tomb earlier that morning. Notice, also, that Peter and John had been inside the tomb perhaps minutes before Mary looked in, and saw only empty burial clothes. A skeptic may think this business of angels appearing and disappearing at will is a very convenient device for someone attempting to harmonize resurrection accounts. However, if disappearing and reappearing is in the nature of what incorporeal beings do, a skeptic may not like it, but he cannot say it is inconsistent when they do it. It is therefore consistent to assume that one of the angels Mary saw earlier was the one who rolled back the stone, mentioned by Matthew.

Matthew does not tell us that the women entered the tomb, but it is reasonable to assume they did for two reasons: 1) a very shiny and fearsome angel had just commanded them to enter, and 2) the other 2 accounts say that they entered. Matthew simply omits this implied detail.

Critics see a contradiction in that Matthew has the angel giving his message outside of the tomb, while Mark has the angel giving the same message, thought for thought, inside the tomb. But at this point such criticisms are wearing thin. Given the emotional state of the women – fear, astonishment, lack of sleep – it seems completely reasonable to me that the angel would’ve repeated the message. Had I been an angelic messenger I probably would’ve written it down for them.

All of the other typically cited “contradictions” – the number of angels, whether they were sitting, standing, inside, or outside of the tomb – are easily reconcilable. The mention of only one angel when two are present is not a contradiction, but the omission of a detail. The angels were not frozen in position. Luke has the angel giving a different, but not contradictory, message. It is possible to conceive of omissions or additions that would be irreconcilable, but those in the gospel accounts simply do not fall into this category. (One such example might be: “…upon entering the tomb, they saw seven little men dressed in green, dancing around a pot of gold and singing songs to Zeus.”)

What is noteworthy is that two of the accounts have the angels insisting that the disciples see for themselves the place where Jesus lay, and the other two accounts record everyone doing just that. This is because faith as described in the Bible is evidential. The angels did not send the disciples away, saying, “Trust us. We’re angels. He’s risen.” No, they wanted human belief in the resurrection of God’s promised Messiah to be rooted in reliable, corroborated, eyewitness accounts. And, I would add, Jesus brilliantly revealed Himself to the women first, at a time when a woman’s testimony was not considered to be as credible as a man’s. This would be an unlikely strategy if a group of liars wanted to invent a popular new religion in a strongly patriarchal culture.

The Response of the Women
Finally, there is an oft-repeated “contradiction” that critics cite, which deserves a response. Upon leaving the tomb, what did the women do? Again the three accounts differ, but not irreconcilably so:
Matthew has the two Marys departing from the tomb with “fear and great joy,” running to tell the disciples. But on the way they are intercepted by Jesus. They take hold of His feet and worship Him, He reiterates the last part of the angel’s instruction, and sends them off (v 8-10.) Matthew is the only writer to recount this incident.
Luke simply states that after remembering the words of Jesus concerning His crucifixion and resurrection, they returned from the tomb and “told all this to the eleven and to all the rest” (24:8-12.)
Mark contains the seeming contradiction. He says “they fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid (16:8.)

Skeptics argue that the two Marys’ interaction with Jesus is significant and, if true, unlikely to be omitted from the other gospels. And at any rate, if Jesus met the women leaving the tomb as Matthew describes, then Mark’s account makes no sense. Mark says they told no one because they were afraid. These women had obviously not met Jesus. I’m inclined to agree.

The scriptures provide a clue for a plausible explanation. In John’s account, after Peter and John leave the empty tomb, he says “the disciples returned to their homes.” This indicates that the disciples – and there were many besides the eleven – were not staying together on a communal farm, but in individual lodging places. It is perfectly reasonable to posit that the company of women leaving the tomb split up to spread the message of the angels to the disciples. Possibly the two Marys then encountered Jesus apart from the others. It is reasonable to assert that not all of the five or more women were in the same frame of mind. Some, especially the ones who had not yet encountered Jesus, were too afraid to speak to anyone, while others felt “fear and great joy” as Matthew states.

Finally, skeptics attempt to make much of Mark’s statement, “they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” (16:8.) As if this must mean they never spoke of the resurrection to anyone for the rest of their lives. This is a goofy objection. Obviously, they were temporarily overcome with trembling and fear, and when they had collected themselves, they spoke of what they had seen, concurring with the other gospel accounts. Possibly, in stating this, Mark’s gospel is underlining the distinction between the fearful group of women, and the account of Mary M in the very next verse in which she immediately tells the disciples. The author wants to clarify that the Mary M event was an earlier incident.

In harmonizing the gospel accounts of the resurrection of Jesus, the most glaring inconsistencies come from attempting to read John’s account as the same incident as that described in the Synoptic Gospels. However, there are good and sufficient reasons, plainly stated in the text, which indicate that they are separate incidents. None of the accounts, recounted by four different authors, tells the entire story, yet taken together they complement each other beautifully.

Much of what Jesus did is now lost to us. One example would be His appearance to Simon which is referred to in Luke 24:34, but which is never detailed in the gospels. John plainly tells us, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” (20:30-31.) We have enough to get the picture.

As for me, I’m going to go and attempt to claim my $10,000 from the Skeptics Association, again. I’ll let you know how that goes. Until then, may our awesome Creator reveal Himself more clearly to you during this coming Passover season.

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Why Bruce Jenner Is Not A Woman

Is transgenderism anti-woman

I’m not making fun of Bruce Jenner. But I’m not celebrating either. I have some questions first.

I admit I have no qualifications to write about this. (I haven’t even had my sex talk yet.) But what are we supposed to do? By the time “the experts” start asking the right questions, the revolution will be long over, and then there will be no putting the gender genie back in the bottle. Since the news media are too busy celebrating to do their jobs, I thought it might be helpful to state some facts, and ask some honest questions about the basic facts of life.

Recently I read this in Yahoo Celebrity News:
“Bruce Jenner has been changing his appearance for months, leading to speculation that the former Olympic athlete is becoming a woman. A source for People magazine claims that’s exactly what’s happening,..”Bruce is transitioning to a woman…” (Erin O’Sullivan)

Actually, no, Bruce is not becoming a woman. For people to say so is an insult to women, and demeaning to the female gender.

Since it’s a full time job to keep up on the constantly changing, politically correct terminology around transgenderism, I’m simply going to attempt to be fair, honest, and as sensitive as I can be, and that’s going to have to be good enough. I ask the reader not to read any hostility into my questions, since I actually am committed to valuing transgender people. I think gender dysphoria is a real thing that people don’t choose, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

Why it is anti-woman to perpetuate the idea that a man can become a woman
There is something fundamental at stake here: A grip on the basic shape of reality. I would hope that my readers would be offended if I were to refer to a women as a “cunt.” I hope we would agree that this is demeaning to women because it attempts to reduce a woman down to nothing more than a vagina. But at the end of the day, the transgender community seems to be doing something similar. If a dude thinks that buying himself a vagina through “sex reassignment” surgery is going to complete his transition to womanhood, I think it just shows that he is thinking like a dude.

The male reproductive package is relatively simple compared to that of women. One cannot simply trade in a penis for a vagina and call it a sex-change. It’s not an even trade.

Compared to that of men, the female reproductive package is very complex and all encompassing. A girl’s reproductive system dramatically announces and asserts itself at puberty, and continues to do so cyclically throughout her entire adult life until she reaches menopause as an older woman. Her reproductive system pervades her entire body, inside and out. Whether or not she wants to, she must think about her body on a daily basis. Often it demands her attention. If she becomes pregnant, for months she lives minute by minute with the reality that a living being is growing inside of her body; a body that was designed to bring new life into the world. During the birthing process, her body naturally takes over, bringing her through the transcendent and intense experience of childbirth. After birth, first the colostrum, and then the breast milk produced by her body, is the best possible source of nourishment for her baby, delivering exactly the nutrients, minerals, prebiotics, and antibodies that her baby needs. These biological realities, to a greater or lesser degree, must necessarily shape the psyche of every woman.

There is simply nothing like this for guys.

Does the fact that we can now chemically and surgically alter our bodies mean we can change our sex/gender? No. It’s true that “sex reassignment” surgery can construct an authentic-looking vagina, even retaining tissues that enable many MTF (male to female) transgenders to experience orgasm during sex. But at the end of the day, it’s still a hole. It doesn’t connect to a cervix and uterus. There are no ovaries, no cramps, and no menstrual cycles. No possibility or risk of pregnancy. No (naturally) lactating breasts. A surgically constructed transgender vagina must be regularly dilated every day, for life, so that it doesn’t close up.

But what if a biological male identifies as female? This is a real thing.

I think we have to delicately ask, “How does a dude know what a woman feels like on the inside?” What if his idea of “feeling like a woman” is only a cartoonish caricature of femaleness? How would he or anyone else know the difference? We have to take his word for it, and I’m not willing to do that because people are wrong about stuff all the time. He may not “feel like a man,” but what does that mean?

Someone may ask, “Can’t we all live and let live, and let these people do whatever they want if it makes them happy and they’re not hurting anyone?” Yes. People are free today to do whatever they want, obviously. If only that were enough for them.

Why Gender is not a Social Construct
The hip, liberal viewpoint now is that sex is biological, but gender is not. Gender is supposedly a changeable, fluid continuum, and every point on that continuum should be celebrated. There are supposedly as many genders as there are people. But here is the deal: This is an opinion. It’s one, novel way of looking at human sexuality. There has been no new groundbreaking scientific “discovery” that there are a zillion genders (1). It’s a political perspective. It is every bit as legit to hold the opinion that there are only two genders – male and female – and that anything “in between” is disordered. But sexual liberals don’t like that viewpoint because they think it’s exclusionist and mean. It’s not – it should go without saying that people with disorders should not be shunned or hated.

Can we say that near-sightedness, far-sightedness, color blindness, macular degeneration, people with cataracts, and people born without eyes are all simply experiencing different ways of seeing? Are these simply all different points on a continuum that should be accepted and celebrated? Here is why worldview matters. Those of us who believe in a Creator and an intentionally designed universe would say that our eyes were designed for seeing; that there exists an ideal of perfect vision that is good. Do we therefore hate blind people? Of course not.

This is not obvious to everyone. In an accidental, mindlessly evolved universe, things cannot be objectively good or valuable – they simply exist. There is no ideal because there is no purpose to life. I once actually had a conversation with an evolutionist in which he found himself having to argue that working eyesight was not good. He could only say that he preferred having eyes that see, in our present context, but that blindness might someday be an evolutionary advantage. So for him, his preference for organs that actually function according to design is simply a cultural construct. I am of the opinion that this is wacky thinking, and I’m not sorry.

How can we know that gender is not a cultural construct? Because gender is similarly based in biology. Only women have the biological equipment necessary for gestation and childbirth. That’s not cultural. It’s been true in every culture for all of human history. Childbearing is a uniquely female, gender role assigned by our biology. A woman may or may not choose to embrace that role for whatever reason, but this doesn’t turn that gender role into a cultural construct. She may or may not exhibit stereotypically feminine behavior, but that doesn’t either confirm her gender or throw it into question.

Why should the binary, heterosexual system of human reproduction be the standard for defining human sexuality? Because of the fact that the continued existence of humanity has always depended on it. This means something. It means that binary heterosexuality is a good, healthy, proven, whole, and self-sustaining system. To be self-sustaining is part of what defines good. This is not to say that those who deviate from it should be taken out and shot, but neither should we go redefining marriage, sex and gender to help them feel better about themselves. At least not yet.

There remains much to be learned about gender dysphoria before we start breaking out the party hats and dismantling western civilization. I realize that transgenders – people whose gender identity does not match their natural biological gender – find relief in having a sexual category where they fit in. But what if it’s not a true category? What if this is not a natural phenomenon that we should be normalizing? This is a big question. If the transgender movement is correct, then when babies are born, doctors should stop biasing the way parents think about them by announcing, “It’s a girl!” or “It’s a boy!” Because we won’t really know. Apparently, we still won’t know even if the child wins a gold medal in the Olympic decathlon as an adult man.

One possible cause of gender dysphoria
It is possible that environmental factors may cause or contribute to gender dysphoria. There are endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) prevalent in our environment and food now that weren’t there just a few generations ago. If a fetus developing in utero is subjected to such chemicals, which are known to damage or inhibit normal sexual development, could this account for an increasing number of children and adults experiencing gender dysphoria today? We can’t say for sure because more research needs to be done.

But will the research be done in our hyper-politicized environment? Have you ever heard anyone in any media even mention EDCs? I’m guessing that transgender people would prefer to think of themselves as the vanguard of a new, revolutionary, liberated human sexuality rather than as people with birth defects.

Radical Feminism, Transgenderism, and Postgenderism
An alien visiting our planet might assume that a movement called “feminism” would embrace the essential and uniquely feminine role of childbearing. But no, radical feminism sees this biologically defined role as innately oppressive, and the idea of the nuclear family as something from which we must be liberated. Pregnancy is practically seen as a weapon used against women. Therefore, the gender feminist camp of the feminist movement, far from being offended, is heartened by transgenderism, gay marriage, sexual promiscuity, abortion-on-demand, and pretty much anything else that helps to subvert the ideal of lifelong, loving, heterosexually monogamous marriage. It is in the interest of radical feminism to obliterate the connection between sex and reproduction in general, and women and the innate role of childbirth in particular.

Here is a vision of equality by radical feminist author, Shulamith Firestone, from her seminal postgenderist work, The Dialectic of Sex, published in 1970:

“Humanity has begun to transcend nature: we can no longer justify the maintenance of a discriminatory sex class system on grounds of its origins in nature…The reproduction of the species by one sex for the benefit of both would be replaced by (at least the option of) artificial reproduction: children would be born to both sexes equally, or independently of either…the dependence of the child on the mother (and vice versa) would give way to a greatly shortened dependence on a small group of others in general, and any remaining inferiority to adults in physical strength would be compensated for culturally…For unless revolution uproots the basic social organization, the biological family – the vinculum through which the psychology of power can always be smuggled – the tapeworm of exploitation will never be annihilated. We shall need a sexual revolution much larger than – inclusive of – a socialist one to truly eradicate all class systems.”

Yes, you read that right. Women cannot be equal with men until their biologically assigned role is overcome through technology, and the nuclear family is abolished. This is at once an admission from the Left that left-wing sexual politics cannot work in the natural world, and also a beaming example of the astonishing arrogance of atheistic humanism.

This explains why we see a curious refusal on the Left to associate sex with procreation, and childbirth with the female gender. This is why we see a campaign to keep gender superficial and interchangeable between sexes. It’s part of a utopian political movement.

So what do we do with each other?
With such fundamentally clashing views competing in our culture, how can we all co-exist? The answer is actually very simple – pluralism and freedom. (Here I use “pluralism” to mean the intentional co-existence of competing ideas.) If you’re reading this and you’re a transgender, or gay, or feminist person, I hope you are happy. I really, really do. I don’t bear you any ill will at all. But if you need me to celebrate your viewpoint in order to be happy, that’s going to be a problem for you. If you intend to use the power of government to force your ideological agenda on me, that’s a serious problem for all of us. We need to all be free to carry out our lives, according to our beliefs, in the free marketplace of ideas. Then we will see how this all shakes out.

I think it would be very helpful if we would all go out and meditate on our COEXIST bumper stickers. Then, if you’re looking for a profound movie, I recommend The Giver.

Relevant links:
1) Why Johns Hopkins Hospital Stopped Doing Sex Change Operations
2) Dear Justice Kennedy: An Open Letter from the Child of a Loving Gay Parent

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Biblical Worldview for Kids

Worldview-blgIn doing an online search for biblical worldview, I get the impression that most people think of worldview as a topic for adults. Yet as parents, consciously or not, we are shaping our children’s view of reality in our world every day. I say this is a good thing, and that we should be intentional about it!

Wouldn’t it be ideal if we could impart a true and sustainable view of reality to our children that would serve them well for the rest of their lives? A worldview that won’t need to be traded in later for something truer, better, and more compatible with the real world?

I think that’s precisely what a biblical worldview is: a view of reality that is true; that works in the real world; that is based on our Creator’s revelation to us about His world. How could such a view be improved upon by finite minds attempting to figure out the shape of reality based on their own incomplete understandings?

A worldview is a lens through which we view the world. No matter who we are, we all bring beliefs, assumptions, and preconceptions to our understanding of the world. Some of these beliefs are legit. Some are not. As followers of Jesus we can expect that the Bible will give us true presuppositions that will far surpass those derived from a strictly materialist viewpoint. Despite expectations to the contrary from my Bible skeptic friends, the case for the reliability of the Judeo-Christian scriptures is stronger than ever in the 21st century.

But how does a biblical worldview affect our day-to-day living? Following are just a few examples of truths from the Bible that must shape the way we live as disciples of Jesus. These concepts can easily be imparted to children.

First, a brief reminder about how the Bible is written.

Biblical revelation is both linear and progressive
It is important to recognize that God’s revelation in the scriptures is linear and progressive. That is, certain truths were not known or understood under the Torah of the Mosaic covenant that were understood later under the new covenant of Jesus. This is not to say that the earlier writings contain falsehoods, but that the new covenant of Jesus was new in substance, not merely in time.

One clear example is that the terms of the Mosaic covenant made no promise of a resurrection and an afterlife. The promises to Israel under the Mosaic covenant were physical in nature. So the writer of Ecclesiastes could correctly ask, “Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth?” (Ecc 3:21.) The idea of an eternal soul had not yet been clearly articulated in the scriptures. Even at the time of Jesus this was not a settled question. The Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection, because they held to the written Torah only. It was Jesus who first spoke plainly about resurrection and eternal life.

It is important to remember that revelation in the Bible is both linear and progressive because Bible critics often attempt to discredit a biblical worldview by offering spurious arguments. For example, critics charge that a biblical worldview would require believers to execute adulterers and homosexuals. But the Torah was given uniquely to ancient Israel until the time was fulfilled for something better to appear. Paul explicitly states that the Torah was a “custodian” until Jesus came bringing salvation and new life in the Spirit (Gal 3:23-29; Ro 7:4-6; 2 Cor 3:5,6.) Read as a whole, the scriptures simply do not allow the random taking of Old Covenant commands, out of context, and applying them to a New Covenant situation.

Having said that, there is much of value in the Torah that we should impart to our kids. Here are a few worldview-shaping ideas:

Creation
The first few chapters of the Bible say much about the shape of reality in our world today.
1) Human beings were created, male and female, in the image of God. We are not an accidental result of mindless evolutionary processes. Therefore, all human beings have transcendent, innate value by virtue of bearing God’s image. This concept alone is worth the price of embracing a biblical worldview.
2) We see that being in the image of a triune God also means that we are relational beings. Even though man existed in paradise and in companionship with his Creator, God still declared it “not good” for him to be alone (Gen 2:18.)
3) We see that God designed the binary, heterosexual reproductive system in humanity, and called it very good (Gen 1:27-31.)
4) We see marriage described as the creation of a new family unit, with “oneness” as the ideal (2:24.) This unity in diversity is yet another reflection of God’s image.
5) We see that there was both work and rest before the fall, therefore both are good and have their place.

Fall
The Fall of humanity into a state of separation from God is central to understanding the human condition and the world we live in. Because of human sin, with the Fall, disunity, death, disease, violence, and corruption entered the world. In the Bible, everything that follows the Fall is part of the story of God making a way to restore humanity to relational unity with Himself.

Flood
The Noahic flood demonstrates that our Creator has the right and the will to judge evil in His creation. The flood described in the Torah would’ve been the most unforgettable and horrific catastrophe in human history, permanently altering the surface of the earth. There are some 500 legends from around the world that speak of a great flood, many of which bear similarities to the biblical account. There are millions of land and sea creatures buried in layers of sediment all over the world – an observable testament to this event.

Israel
With Abraham, and then Moses, the establishment of Israel shows that our relational Creator has taken initiative to establish covenants with humanity. Israel was created to be a blessing to the nations and to point to the one true God (Gen 12:2,3; Lev 26:45.) God has not left humanity to fend for itself, but has prepared the world for salvation through Israel. Through foreshadowings in the Torah and through Israel’s prophets, God promised that a Messiah would come from Israel who would bring salvation to the world and set up an eternal kingdom.

Savior
Jesus fulfilled these messianic promises, bringing salvation to humanity, and establishing a New Covenant and the promised kingdom of God. By His sacrificial death on a cross Jesus perfectly satisfied the judgment of God, while also perfectly expressing His love for humanity. This salvation and entrance into His covenant and kingdom is by faith in the work of Jesus, through spiritual rebirth. It is received as a gift undeserved, not as something God owes us.

Faith
Contrary to the claims of “New Atheism,” biblical faith is not “belief in spite of evidence” (Dawkins.) This may be true of other types of religious faith, but biblical faith is not described this way. Biblical faith is relational and evidential - it has an object, God, and He goes out of His way to demonstrate His trustworthiness. So the idea of faith being “the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11) does not teach us to ignore observable evidence. Rather, read in context, one sees that this passage gives historical examples of people who believed what God had promised despite circumstances that made it difficult to trust Him. The point is relational in nature. There is no conflict between biblical faith and rationality.

Love
Love must be foremost for anyone embracing a biblical worldview. The Bible describes God as love, and as light in whom there is no darkness (1 Jn 1:5; 4:8.) Jesus declared the greatest commandment in the Torah to be love for God, and then love for neighbor, saying all of the Torah and the prophets depend upon these two commands (Matt 22:36-40.) He stated that the way people would recognize His disciples would be by their love for one another (Jn 13:34,35.) He claimed to have existed in perfect love with the Father before the creation existed (Jn 17:23-25.) His chosen apostle Paul exalted love above all else in His New Covenant writings. Paul stated that he would be nothing, and would gain nothing, without love (1Cor 13:1-3.) He called love the fulfilling of the Torah (Ro 13:8-10.) We are to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15.) We are to walk in love, in the example of Jesus (Eph 5:1,2.)

Worldview and the critical role of kids’ storybooks
Storybooks are one of the best ways to instill a biblical worldview in small children because stories can show them, rather than merely tell them, how the world works. Stories engage the whole person – mind, will, and emotions. By engaging the mind and the heart in a non-abstract and enjoyable way, stories reach the deepest part in all of us. Bullet points and abstract principles do not engage the emotions. Stories do. And they stay with us. If you would like to be notified of new, creative storybooks for kids that are designed to instill, reinforce, and normalize a biblical worldview in the children you love, you can sign up HERE.

I’m hard at work on my next book! It’s about LLLLLOVE! Can’t wait!…Stay tuned!

I Don’t Get It. I Solved the Abortion Debate But No Guys Signed Up.

We’re coming up on the 42nd anniversary of the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision that made abortion-on-demand legal in the America. I think we should all be celebrating because I have arrived at a solution that would solve this contentious debate. But instead, NO GUYS have signed up on my Facebook page. None. Except me, but I only liked my own page to get the ball rolling. One like. The ball is just sitting there.

I even came up with a cool logo. Here it is:

The Male Solution to Accidental Pregnancy: VasectomyIt’s a quadruple entendre:

  • It forms a “V” for vasectomy.
  • It cleverly symbolizes scissors, for the snipping of sperm ducts
  • It forms a peace sign, as a symbol of the end of the contentious abortion debate in America.
  • Plus, if you use your imagination, it kind of looks like a rabbit. Because, dudes, if you follow my prescription, you will be free to indiscriminately have sex, like rabbits, yet without proverbially “multiplying like rabbits.”

On my Facebook page, right next to the flying pig, it says:
I BET I CAN’T FIND 50 SEXUALLY ACTIVE, SINGLE, HETEROSEXUAL AMERICAN MALES WHO WILL VOLUNTARILY UNDERGO A VASECTOMY TO PROTECT THEIR PARTNERS.

The name of my page is, The Male Solution for Unplanned Pregnancy: Vasectomy

Here’s an except from my “about” page:
For decades I’ve been baffled as to why girls and women must be the ones who bear the brunt of the consequences for irresponsible sex and accidental pregnancies. Or why they put up with it. Women are always the ones who take the pill. Women are always the ones who get pregnant. Women are always the ones who get abortions. Guys, aren’t you tired of feeling like a jerk?

The solution is so simple. If you’re a sexually active single male, GET A FREAKING VASECTOMY, or else give me a good reason why you shouldn’t. Be a man. Get sterilized. The world doesn’t need your genes…

(There is also a short FAQ section where I made up my own frequently asked questions.)

After two years my page has only one like.

I don’t get it. This just makes so much sense. Why isn’t a groundswell movement forming? Let’s say you’re a sensitive, caring, 21st century guy. Obviously if you’re going to have sex with someone, you must at least like them a little. You might even tell them you love them. So what’s the deal? Given the fact that birth control so often fails, why would you risk putting a woman at risk for an unwanted pregnancy when you could so easily and permanently do something about it?

I know, I know. The actual guys that I’ve had this discussion with have a problem with the “permanent” part. Because they might want to have kids someday. Well, that just breaks my heart. Exactly how does that thinking go? If I help to create a new human life when I’m not ready to care for it, then it’s okay for my partner to have that developing life terminated. It’s a woman’s choice after all. (And, I might add, what a horrible, no-win choice it is for her.) But if I am ready to care for and raise the child I helped create, then apparently that new human life is then valuable. Maybe even a miracle! Hmmm. Surely you don’t need me to point out that this is magical and asinine thinking.

My dad once told me, “Son, if you’re not ready to raise a child, you’re not ready to have sex.” Wow. Really?

Well, I’ll admit I’m extrapolating a little bit because what he actually told me was, “If you don’t have time to clear the snow off your windshield, you don’t have time to drive.” But it’s the same idea.

The truth about sex.
(I just want to see in print what I’m about to say, even if I do have to write it myself.)
I’m going to make a radical and controversial statement here. Especially for intelligent, educated people it may necessitate a paradigm shift. I feel like I’m going out on a limb here, because I’m apparently way outside of the mainstream on this. But…(deep breath)…here goes:

Sexual intercourse often leads to pregnancy.

I’m serious. In fact, if you want to make a baby, the way you do it is to have sex! I know – weird! You engage in the same exact behavior to make a baby as you do when you only want recreational sex! And sex is normally supposed to be just recreational, right? Like in romantic comedies. It’s like a human right for all consenting human beings, right? We know this because in movies, if two people fall in love, it would just be bizarre if they didn’t have sex with each other right away. And unwanted pregnancy is never a concern for cool people in movies. And movies and TV shows are practically a handbook for life and a mirror of reality.

Some of my (usually European) acquaintances use the phrase “fall pregnant,” as in, “A friend of mine recently fell pregnant.” As if pregnancy is caused by a virus, or some mysterious unknown cause. You’re walking down the street, minding your own business, and BAM – a nasty case of pregnancy hits you from out of nowhere. It could happen to you.

Speaking of pregnancy as a disease, in conversation I have had otherwise bright, educated, young liberal men and women refer to the developing fetus as a parasite, and a tumor. (Apparently a tumor with eyes, a brain, and it’s own heartbeat.) This is desperate denial.

The truth about Evangelicals and sex
Here is another widely misunderstood truth that I have never seen correctly articulated in liberal media:

Evangelicals really don’t care who you have sex with.

Yes, really. Obviously, if you don’t claim to be a follower of Jesus, why would we expect you to behave like a follower of Jesus? It’s your life. You are free to have sex with whomever you want. We aren’t, and we’re just fine with that. However a problem arises when you want to make us participants in what we consider to be unethical sexual behavior. For instance when a liberal presidential administration wants to force us, as doctors and nurses to participate in elective abortions. Or force us as closely held corporations to pay for certain birth control methods that we might find unethical. Or use our tax dollars to subsidize the nation’s largest abortion seller, Planned Parenthood. Yet somehow in all of this, we’re the ones imposing our morality on others! More magical thinking!

We wouldn’t dream of forcibly imposing our beliefs on the rest of the culture, even if we could, because forcing external compliance only fosters resentment and resistance. We just ask that social liberals extend the same courtesy to us. It’s called pluralism and religious freedom.

The truth about fundamental human rights.
At this point, pro-legal-abortion people will argue, “You social conservatives say you don’t want to impose your morality on people, and yet you would overturn Roe v Wade and use government to force women to have babies. What happened to ‘limited government’?”

Well, limited government is very different from no government, which would be anarchy. Evangelicals tend to really like America’s Constitution and founding documents, and we want a government in line with them, which would by definition be limited. A primary role of good government would be to guarantee fundamental rights for everyone, while also guaranteeing basic freedoms for everyone. Guess what the most basic right of all is – the foundational human right upon which all others depend?

I think we have to agree that it is the right to life. Because dead people don’t have rights.

Evangelicals love the line from the Declaration of Independence about people being endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; the first being life. We actually believe this. This means there is a transcendent Source from which our rights are derived. Human governments do not create rights. If one powerful group can dehumanize and render expendable a weaker group of people, then the rights of all people are potentially at risk.

Here’s the deal. Abortion-on-demand does violence to the idea of the sanctity of human life, and it does so with governmental approval. Once we begin qualifying when human life is valuable, we put ourselves in the horrifically arrogant position of deciding who deserves to live. As a civilized society we cannot allow that it’s okay to end a life because it is an inconvenience, or because it’s not sentient, or not self-sufficient, or not useful, or not fully functioning, or for any other subjective reason. We know exactly when a new human life begins, and if we don’t value life from that beginning point, then we have started down a nasty slippery slope, and the next thing we know, we’ll wake up one day to find we’ve been sleeping with Nazis.

So the Evangelical “obsession” with abortion is not about us objecting to the way people have sex, or wanting to control women’s bodies, or being anti-birth control, or whatever other crap the Huffington Post dreams up. It’s actually a healthy obsession with wanting to promote a culture of life, rather than a culture of death. It’s a desire to see a rising tide that lifts all boats.

The truth about biological life
I’ve been closely following this debate for decades and I’ve rarely seen anyone on the Left acknowledge the truth about the fundamental question underlying this debate: “When does a new human life begin?” The fact is, before there was abortion-on-demand in America, everyone knew the answer to this question. The answer is:

A new human life begins at conception.

This is observable. It’s the reason doctors calculate due dates every day. A sperm cell by itself will never become a human being. An ovum by itself will never become a human being. But put them together and – boom – you have a new biological entity with 46 chromosomes that is a developing human being.

But suddenly, after Roe v Wade, the question of when a new life begins became a mystery!
However, regardless of the wishes of Liberalism, the facts of life have not changed. The reproductive act continues to lead to reproduction, and abortion continues to end a developing human life.

I admit, this kind of thinking does dump cold water on the “sexual revolution,” since the shape of reality is that sex leads to pregnancy. Radical feminism and sympathetic sexual liberals must have abortion on demand in order to fulfill their vision of radical “equality”, and they necessarily need the power of government to help them. And yet, the campaign to deny and reshape biological reality in the name of civil rights turns out to be neither compassionate nor humane, and will continue to undermine a culture of life. It is really not the fault of pro-life people that sexual liberals want to create a reality that doesn’t and can’t exist – that is, sex without consequence.

It’s also not our fault that our worldview actually works in the real world, and that of social liberals doesn’t. The Liberal vision of sexual freedom is parasitic, unsustainable, and hurtful. It works great in movies, but sucks for a lot of people in the real world. The Evangelical worldview of sexual freedom within the confines of marriage is self-sustaining, in accord with the real world, and doesn’t hurt anyone. Ironically, it looks dorky in movies. Go figure.

It’s your choice if you want to be single and sexually active. But if you’re a dude, don’t pretend to respect women unless you’re willing to put your money where your sperm ducts are. A vasectomy costs a few hundred bucks – far less than surgery to sterilize a woman. Start a crowd-funding campaign if you can’t afford it. What are your options? Even if you responsibly use birth control, if it fails, your partner will be no less pregnant than if she had been trying to get pregnant. It happens all of the time. Something like 50% of pregnancies in America are unplanned. Now is the time to be logical. Be a man! I can’t think of a better way for you to celebrate the Roe v Wade decision than to get a vasectomy.

Sexual Revolution

( If you would like to be notified of my new storybook releases, designed to creatively instill a biblical worldview in kids, please sign up HERE! )

Abusing Christmas Decorations

Surely no one will be interested in reading about my family’s quirky behavior at Christmastime. But, I’m sorry…this is just funny to me.

Years ago, someone – I think it was an aunt, or maybe my mom – gave us a snowman decoration as a Christmas gift. As an oh-so-cultured and aesthetically sensitive fine artist, I thought it was kind of tacky. However, as our tolerance for tackiness necessarily goes up at Christmastime, we continued to set the decoration out each year. Also, our daughter liked it. The decoration consists of 4 pegged blocks with letters on them, with 4 little detachable, smiling, sparkly snowmen, whose little snowman rectums fit over the pegs. The letters are very limited in their scope of possibilities. There are lots of “o”s. You’re supposed to spell out words like “JOY”, “SNOW”, and “NOEL.” Like this:

Abusing Xmas decorWell, in a house full of artists, theatre people, and word freaks, I suppose it was inevitable that one day I would look over and see this:

Abusing Xmas decor-SOY…And that was all it took. (Thank you, Lee.)

Now, in the midst of all of the truly meaningful celebration that Christmas brings, we have the stupid snowman decoration. Even worse, for ten years now its place has been the bathroom, which means that no one ever gets caught messing with it. Days will go by after you’ve finally begun to ignore the latest permutation. Then as you’re drying your hands, you look over and see this:

Abusing Xmas decor-SNOOPor this:

Abusing Xmas decor-YES/NOThings started out somewhat tastefully. But as years have progressed, it’s been harder to come up with new words. After all there are only 4 blocks, and some letters repeat. (For you word freaks, there are only ten letters: S,N,J,H,O,Y,P,E,L, & W.) And they’re in a fixed position on the blocks, limiting one’s options even more. So this really does present a patron with something to think about when answering nature’s call.

Sometimes removing the snowmen from their pegs helps:

Tacky Xmas decorationsWe’ve realized it’s possible to flip some letters to increase our options. Adding an “M” probably gave us a whole season’s worth of new possibilities:

Snowman gender is a social construct (I’ll agree that gender is a social construct in the case of snowmen.)

Fun with Xmas decor!Then someone (okay…me) started adding additional bath-roomy elements. Like toilet paper:

Fun with snowmen!And shampoo:

Winter fun with toiletries!There is the occasional borrowing from other Christmas decorations:

More fun with Xmas decor!I’ve stopped bothering to warn our guests about the decoration, so I can only wonder what impression they leave with.

SONY That’s all I got this time. I hope this has been fascinating for everyone. Part of me would love to hear your favorite stories about tacky Christmas trappings, in the combox below.

May you and your loved ones have a wonderful Christmas Season!

I leave you with this simple holiday(?) message:

YOLO snowmen

( Got kids in your life that you love? Please sign up to be notified of my new children’s book releases- HERE! )

Why the Magi Did Not Follow the Star to Bethlehem, and Why it Matters

Magi,Magus-Scott FreemanI’m not out to ruin Christmas for anyone. In fact, I hope to make Christmas more awesome for everyone who reads this. And by “awesome,” I actually mean “awesome.”

Even children know that it’s part of the Christmas story that three Wiseman followed a blazing star which led them to Bethlehem, to the manger where the infant Jesus lay; a “star of wonder…of royal beauty bright…westward leading…guiding,…” We get this idea from Christmas carols and greeting cards, which are supposedly derived from the Christmas story in the Bible. Does it matter that the Bible doesn’t actually say any of this?

Stay with me. I’m not a theologically anal party pooper. I love Christmas and Christmas carols. But I’ve also noticed that the traditions that have sprung up around the Christmas story and “Christianity” make it challenging to see what the Bible actually says.

For instance, did you ever notice that Luke never says that the angels sang to the shepherds? We get that idea from carols like Hark, the Herald Angels. See for yourself: Luke 2:13. (Michael Card agrees with me.)

Now, I’ll be first to admit that this business of control-freakish-Bible-verse-correcting can be pedantic and super annoying. Those of us who grew up in evangelical sub-culture have heard a million times: “You know, it doesn’t actually say there were three Wiseman.” And, “It doesn’t actually say it was an apple that Eve ate.” And, “It doesn’t actually say that Jonah was swallowed by a whale.”

So freaking what?

However, in the case of the star of Bethlehem I do actually have a serious reason for being picky. On December 22, 2012 I published a blog post called, The Star of Bethlehem – A Fairy Tale? This post summarized the research of Rick Larson, who has produced, in my opinion, a very compelling video entitled The Star of Bethlehem. Larson’s video and website shows the correspondence between the observable, testable universe and the Bible regarding the Star of Bethlehem story. Modern computer software can show us the precise configuration of the stars at any point in history, from any location on earth. We can know exactly what was going on in the sky around the birth of Jesus. And what was going on will blow your socks off.

After I published that post, a PhD physicist with degrees in mathematics and astronomy replied. His name is Aaron Adair, and he has a special interest in the Star of Bethlehem. He had just published a book claiming to debunk Larson’s theory. For Bible “skeptics,” he is apparently considered the go-to guy regarding the Star of Bethlehem.

So the next year, on December 22, 2013, I published a blog post entitled, Answering a Debunker: The Star of Bethlehem. In response, Mr. Adair cordially visited my blog’s comment section where he and I engaged in a rather lengthy but respectful debate. (Those interested can view the entire conversation HERE.)

A brief summary of why interpretive accuracy matters in the case of the star:
Mr. Adair claims to have debunked a naturalistic interpretation of the biblical story of the star of Bethlehem. He claims to have proven there was no clear, natural, astronomical sign in the heavens around the time of Jesus’s birth that fits the story in the Bible. We now know what the ancient sky looked like, and there was nothing in the heavens that would have told the Magi that a king in Israel had been born. Furthermore, there was no star “dancing in the night with a tail as big as a kite” that could’ve led the Magi to Jerusalem, then to Bethlehem, and then to the child. But then, I contend that the Bible doesn’t actually say that this is what happened. I contend that Mr. Adair has merely done a great job of debunking nonbiblical traditions passed down through Christmas carols and greeting cards. I think the actual biblical account of the star only becomes more amazing under modern scrutiny.

Following is a brief summary of what the Bible actually says about the Magi and the Star:

  • The story begins hundreds of years earlier when Israel is in exile under Babylon and Persia. While in exile to these foreign powers, the Jewish prophet Daniel is given miraculous revelation from God concerning the coming of an eternal kingdom and an eternal king from Israel. Daniel provides a specific timeline as to when these events would occur. Hundreds of years later, when the Romans, (the fourth kingdom prophesied in Daniel ch 2,) came to power, the Persian Magi would’ve been watching for some sign that the prophesied king of the Jews had been born. We now know that in 3 and 2 B.C. there were, in fact, remarkable, rare and repeated astronomical signs having to do with the birth of a king.
  • So upon “seeing His star in the East,” the Magi left for the capital city of Israel – Jerusalem – assuming that’s where they would find the young king. They didn’t need to follow a star to get there, especially considering the history between Persia and Israel.
  • Upon arriving, the Magi were probably surprised to learn that no one in Jerusalem seemed to know about the birth of Israel’s own king. In fact it says the entire city was troubled by the statements of the Magi. It is clear that King Herod didn’t know about the star either (Matt 2:7.) So the Bible is not describing a blazing star leading Wisemen around the Middle East. Whatever the Magi were seeing would’ve been easy for others to miss.
  • A troubled King Herod assembles the chief priests and scribes to learn where the messiah would be born according to the Jewish prophets. Then, King Herod, (not a star,) sends them to Bethlehem (2:8.) Bethlehem was five miles down the main road. Again, the Magi did not need a star to guide them.
  • He tells them, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word…” (2:8).
    This is significant because there was obviously no blazing ball of fire leading the Magi around. Why would Herod have directed them to diligently search if he could see that the Magi already had a magical star to guide them to Jesus? Better yet, why would he not have sent his own guys to follow the star directly to the child?
  • As the Magi start out to Bethlehem, “lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy…” (2:9,10.)
    Can heavenly bodies appear to move in the sky and then stop over towns? Yes, they can. In fact, we know that in 2 B.C. Jupiter performed a retrograde loop and was stationary over Bethlehem on, interestingly, December 25th. This was only one of many significant planetary movements involving Jupiter. (See full explanation HERE.) While I understand how this one sentence has been interpreted over the centuries that mean that the star was guiding the Magi to the house where Jesus was, this is not the only way to see it. It can also be seen as a divinely orchestrated coincidence; an affirmation to the Magi that the young king was indeed in Bethlehem. Of course the Magi would’ve been overjoyed at this heavenly sign.

The reason all of this matters to me is that Christmastime has become one more occasion for Bible “skeptics” to come out of the woodwork, claiming they have debunked the Bible, claiming that science is at odds with the Bible, and claiming that biblical faith is irrational. I enthusiastically disagree.

There is one loose end in my dialogue with Mr. Adair, having to do with the Greek text, which I promised to check into, so I’ll briefly take the occasion of this blog post to respond. Mr. Adair claims the Bible implies that an unnatural star led the Magi to Bethlehem, and that the Magi followed it to the very house where Jesus lived; that the star was literally over the house in close proximity. I contend that the Bible does not say this. But then, I readily admit that I’m no Greek scholar. I welcome anyone who is to weigh in here.

Mr. Adair claims that when the text says, “the star…went before them” (proago), the Greek is clearly saying they were being led by the star. Not necessarily. Just because there are people going before you in the checkout line at Walmart doesn’t mean they’re leading you. In fact, after the resurrection, both Matthew and Mark have an angel telling the disciples that Jesus “… is going before (proago) you to Galilee; there you will see him” (Matt 28:7; Mk 16:7.) In the same way, the Magi were not relying on the star for directions. The words “went before” can simply mean “went before.”

Mr. Adair claims that when the text says the star went on before them “until it came and stood over (epano) where the child was”, the Greek must mean “on top of or slightly above.” As in, “…and they put up above (epano) his head this charge against Him…” (Matt 27:37,) speaking of the sign placed directly over the head of Jesus at His crucifixion. However, the same word is also used here: “…[he] threw [the dragon/Satan] into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over (epano) him…” (Rev 20:3.) Epano comes from epi – on, upon, and ano – up, above. In the case of the star, understanding epano to mean “in the sky directly over Bethlehem” seems to be within the range of allowable meanings. This is true especially considering that the text has already told us that the Magi needed no starry guide to get them to Bethlehem, that the Magi would have to diligently search for the child when they arrived, and that apparently no one else noticed the star. I favor letting scripture interpret scripture.

Conclusion
Am I arguing that there was nothing supernatural about the Star of Bethlehem? Am I sucking all of the mystery and wonder out of the Christmas Story?

Of course not. The entire thing is miraculous and supernaturally orchestrated from top to bottom.

The Christmas story only matters if it is true. Part of the beauty of it is that we can look back and see the correspondence between events recorded in scripture, and verifiable planetary movements using modern computer software. Yet it is a mantra of “New Atheism” that no evidence for God exists. Therefore the Star of Bethlehem must be assigned fairy tale status. Adair elsewhere appeals to tradition in saying “all ancient commentators” speak of the star as a supernatural (unnatural) phenomenon. But they didn’t know what we know today. Modern astronomy combined with the plain biblical text reveals an astonishing series of events that, in the sovereignty of God, can only have been scheduled when the stars were first created and set in motion.

God’s fingerprints are all over the Christmas story. The Magi were acting by faith on Jewish prophecy that had been handed down for some five hundred years. The Creator of the stars did announce the birth of His universal Messiah on the canvas of the observable universe, with amazing specificity. The Magi were a foreshadowing of the gentile nations coming into a salvation that would be for “the Jew first, but also to the gentiles.” After leaving Herod for Bethlehem, the Magi rejoiced to see the star going before them and stopping over Bethlehem because they knew that they were a part of a divinely ordained, world-changing chain of events. The invitation has been sent, and you are invited:

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Tim 2:5,6.)

May God reveal Himself more clearly to us all this Christmas season!

(Still Looking for Gift Ideas? If you live in Northern Colorado I’ll make you a GREAT deal on Fine Art Prints and/or Original Art!
There’s still time! Contact me: scottnmollie@yahoo.com. I’m calling it the “Hospital Bills are Kicking My Butt Sale”!!!)

My Little Christmas Book Sale

On August 31st I launched my new online children’s book company and introduced my first new kids’ book, The Cocky Rooster. I had planned to release my second new storybook in time for Christmas, but alas, I’ve been too overwhelmed with other projects.

Instead, I’ve decided to offer Naomi’s Gift at a reduced price for the month of December. Naomi’s Gift is a Christmas storybook that I published in 2006; the first children’s book that I wrote and illustrated.

Christmas books for kidsAbout Naomi’s Gift
Several years ago I received a newsletter in the mail that contained a story called The Tiny Foot. It was a powerful, true story told by a doctor named Frederic Loomis, who practiced in the 1920s. Each year thereafter, my Christmas season would not be complete unless I pulled out that old newsletter and read Dr. Loomis’s story again. When I was given an opportunity to write and illustrate my own Christmas picture book, I knew I wanted to adapt Dr. Loomis’s story.

Naomi’s Gift tells the story of a young frontier doctor who struggles to justify delivering a deformed baby girl to a poor farming family. Years later, he meets a mysterious young woman who helps him to make peace with his decision. The book concludes with a fitting summary of the meaning of Christmas and the good news of the coming of Jesus. In 2008, World Magazine reviewed the book and said, “It may seem like an unlikely tale for a picture book…but it’s a wonderful grace-filled Christmas story.”

I recommend Naomi’s Gift for kids 7 and up, including adults who still love Christmas and beautifully illustrated storybooks. Also, I recommend having a tissue nearby while reading.

Order in time for Christmas!
Ordinarily, Naomi’s Gift sells for $21 on my fine art website.
Now, through mid-December I’m offering Naomi’s Gift for $16.
That price will include shipping, and I’ll sign every book as well!

In order to guarantee delivery by Christmas, please order Naomi’s Gift by December 10.

kids' storybooks-the cocky roosterOf course you can also purchase my new book, The Cocky Rooster. However, I received notice from my printer that, in order to guarantee your order by Christmas, you must place your Cocky Rooster order by December 1st.
As in, the FIRST DAY of December. That’s very soon!

To order either book, visit my Big Picture Publishing BOOK STORE.

Happy Thanksgiving, and thank you again for your support!

Scott