Bible Questions and Answers: Other Questions
Q: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John each record an account of a woman anointing Jesus, either on the feet or head. But the details of the accounts do not seem to agree with one another. How does a careful Bible student reconcile these differences?
A: I am glad to see that you are a careful reader. Most people never even notice the differences. I must have heard a dozen sermons and Sunday school lessons on those passages, with no mention of the differences. But actually, the four accounts describe three completely separate events.
The first of the three events takes place in the early part of Christ's earthly ministry and is recorded in Luke 7:36-50. It happens at the house of Simon the Pharisee, in one of the cities in the Galilee area of northern Israel, probably in the city of Capernaum. In this event, and unnamed woman anoints the feet of Jesus with ointment and tears. Also, Jesus tells the parable of two debtors.
The second event is a long time later, shortly before the crucifixion, only six days before the passover. It is recorded in John 12:1-8, and happens at a supper with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus at Bethany, which is very near Jerusalem to the southeast. In this event, Mary pours precious ointment on the feet of Jesus and wipes it with her hair.
The third event takes place within the next three or four days. It is also at Bethany, but at a different supper in the house of Simon the Leper. It is recorded in Matthew 26:6-13 and in Mark 14:3-9. In this event, an unnamed woman pours precious ointment on the head of Jesus.
So in each case, not only are the details of the events different, but the location and the time are also different. So while there are some similarities, careful comparison shows that these are clearly three separate events.
Q: When we study any Bible passage, shouldn't we be focused on answering, "How does this passage apply to my life today?"
A: Many Christians today are taught that the proper way to look at any Bible passage is to first ask themselves, "How does this passage apply to my life today?" They then read the passage, trying to answer that question.
At first, this may sound like a good idea. But actually, it is a terrible way to go about Bible study, and it leads to great confusion. The reason is that this question contains the inherent assumption that, "I (we grace age Christians) have been the central focus of God's attention ever since God created the earth." Now I know that sounds pretty cocky, but that is the mindset of the majority of Christians. Quite often it is unintentional, as most just follow along with whatever they have been taught. Unfortunately, most Christians are never taught that millions upon millions of people were or will be saved from before the flood, from before the law of Moses, from under the law of Moses, out from the future tribulation, and during the future millennial kingdom reign of Christ on earth, and that none of these millions of saints were or will be grace age Christians like we are today. Therefore, many Bible passages are not intended to apply directly to our lives today. We are presently in the grace dispensation. This dispensation was committed to Paul, who is our apostle (Romans 11:13). He is the Apostle of the Gentiles, and his 13 epistles to us are Romans-Philemon. The majority of the scriptures in the Bible apply directly to someone else who either lived in a previous dispensation or will live in a future dispensation from us. God has made all of His Word available for our learning, and there are many things that we can learn and apply to our lives. But before we can do that, we must first ask ourselves: Who is speaking in this Bible passage? Who is being spoken to? What dispensation were they under? What are the circumstances laid out in the context of the passage? This is all so we can first understand what the passage meant to the people to which it was spoken. When you approach Bible passages in this way, you will often find that it means something quite different from what you would have thought if you had just assumed it was spoken directly to you.
It is ironic but true: "If you read the Bible, just trying to see how it applies to your life today, more often than not, you will miss out on how it applies to your life today." For a summary of the dispensations, which is essential to sound Bible Study, see The Basics of Understanding the Bible.
Q: In what year was Jesus Christ crucified?
A: Luke 3:1 says John the baptist's ministry started in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. Secular history says his reign started in August of 14 AD. This would put John's ministry starting between August of 28 AD and August of 29 AD.
We know that John's ministry began a while before Christ's ministry began to announce His coming, but we do not have much information as to how long before. We know that John was born about 6 months before Jesus. Perhaps that is a clue as to how long before Christ's ministry that John's started. Six months would seem reasonable, but that would only be a rough estimate.
Also, the gospel of John records three different passovers during Christ's earthly ministry (John 2:13, 6:4, and 12:1), the last being when He was crucified. That means that His earthly ministry was at the very least, a little more than two years.
So given these things:
If John's ministry began very early in that 15th year of Tiberius, and
if the beginning of John's ministry did not precede the beginning of Christ's earthly ministry by very long, and
if Christ's earthly ministry were not much more than two years, then
the very earliest date for Christ's crucifixion would have been spring 31 AD.
That seems like a very unlikely, although possible, combination of ifs.
On the other hand:
If John's earthly ministry began somewhere near the middle of that 15th year of Tiberius (say February of 29 AD), and
if the beginning of John's ministry preceded the beginning of Christ's earthly ministry by a few months (say six), and
if Christ's earthly ministry were a few months longer than two years (say six to eight), then
that would put the date for Christ's crucifixion in spring 32 AD.
Something along those lines seems much more likely.
The 32 AD date, would also allow for Christ's earthly ministry to be more like three years if John's ministry began early in that 15th year of Tiberius, and John's ministry did not precede the beginning of Christ's earthly ministry by very long.
So the 32 AD date seems most likely. Although it is possible that the crucifixion could have been later, if John's ministry preceded the beginning of Christ's earthly ministry by longer and/or Christ's earthly ministry were longer.
It is also worth noting that the 32 AD date seems to fit nicely with the Daniel 9 prophecy. This is detailed in the article, Fulfilled Prophecies and Other Evidence that the Bible is the Word of God.
Q: How can Jesus be King, since there was a curse placed upon King Jeconiah and his descendants?
A: King Jeconiah (also called Coniah or Jehoiachin), was the son of Jehoiakim, King of Judah. In his days, the Babylonians, ruled by Nebuchadnezzar, carried Judah into captivity. God cursed Jeconiah saying "... no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah." (Jeremiah 22:30). Jeconiah was one of the fore-fathers of Joseph, husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born.
So some may then ask, "How can Jesus ever reign over an earthly kingdom when God had pronounced such a curse upon Jeconiah?"
The key is that Jesus is the biological seed of King David, but not of King Jeconiah. Therefore God's unconditional promises to David apply to Jesus, but the curse of Jeconiah does not. Matthew 1:1 refers to Jesus as "the son of David, the son of Abraham". This is followed by the biological line from Abraham to Joseph in which most of the King's of Judah are recorded. "Abraham begat Isaac; Isaac begat...David begat Solomon; Solomon begat...Josias begat Jechonias...Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ." (Matthew 1:2-16). Note that it is not said that Joseph begat Jesus, for we all know that Jesus was born of a virgin (Matthew 1:18, 25). Thus there is not a biological link from Jesus to Joseph.
So then one may ask, "If Jesus is not descended from Jeconiah, how then can Jesus be the son of David?"
Though Jesus is legal heir to the throne of David through Joseph, Jesus' biological claim to David's throne is through Mary, also a descendant of David. Luke 3:23-38 gives the line from Jesus back to Adam. This line goes from David through his son Nathan, full-brother of Solomon. This line does not pass through Solomon, Jehoachin, or the other kings. Jesus is said to be "the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli..." This genealogy separates totally from the one in Matthew and does not rejoin the line until all the way back to David. The only logical answer is that this is the genealogy of Mary, since Joseph, son (-in-law) of Heli cannot have two biological fathers. The word "son" in scripture is sometimes used to denote a relationship other than that of a direct biological son, such as a grandson or son-in law. In 1 Samuel 24:16, "... Saul said, Is this thy voice, my son David?...." David had married Saul's daughter, as was the case with Joseph and Heli. It is truly amazing how intricately God's Word is woven together!
Finally, one might ask, "Okay, then if the line from David to the Messiah passed through Nathan (Solomon's brother), then what about God's promise to Solomon?"
It is important in the interpretation of scripture to realize the difference between an unconditional promise of God and a conditional promise of God. Unconditional promises of God come true, sooner or later, 100% of the time. Conditional promises are typically either "if-then statements" or "if-and-only-if statements". God told David through Nathan, the prophet, (not to be confused with Nathan, son of David and Bathsheba) "... thine house and thine Kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever." (2 Sam 7:16). This is as certain as any statement ever made, since God said it, and no conditions were given.
Compare this to the promises made to Solomon, "If thou wilt walk before me as David thy father walked ... and wilt keep my statutes ... then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom upon Israel for ever...but if ye shall at all turn from following me, ye or your children, and will not keep my commandments and my statutes ... but go and serve other gods ..." (1 Kings 9:4-6). Later we read "For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the lord his God, as was the heart of David his father." (1 Kings 11:4). Since Solomon failed to satisfy the "if", God did not fulfill the "then".
Q: Why are there so many different denominations?
A: The fact that there are such a large number of denominations is a very unfortunate problem. There are several factors into the cause, but here is the main reason there are so many denominations.
Christians were heavily persecuted during the early years of the church from the apostles' time to about 315 AD. About that time, the Roman Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity, and a few years later, another Roman Emperor made Christianity mandatory throughout the Roman Empire. Some people might expect this to have been a positive development for the cause of Christianity, but actually it was disastrous. Any knowledgeable Christian is well aware that no one can make anyone else become a Christian. It is impossible to force anyone to believe something in their heart. Only God can open hearts. So instead of making Christians out of everyone in the Roman Empire, the decree from the emperor simply resulted in all of the religions in the empire mixing together as one and calling themselves "Christian". Those who followed Christianity, those who followed Judaism, and those who followed any one of the many different Pagan religions were now suddenly all in the same assembly. Even though the church was said to be "Christian", only a minority of the members actually were Christians. Most of the church members were of some other religion the day before, but were now calling themselves "Christians". The doctrines of these many religions were combined, resulting in a "church" whose doctrine was part Christian, part Jewish, and part Pagan. This was the origin of the Catholic Church.
As one might expect, a church that is a blend of multiple religions would not have doctrine consistent with the Bible, despite having a state mandated Christian label. Those who looked to the Bible for guidance quickly found that the church was not in line with the scriptures. To fix this problem, the clergy declared that only they could interpret the scriptures and that the church members should stop reading the Bible. The Bible became contraband and during the dark ages from about 500 AD to about 1500 AD, the public was not permitted to have access to the Bible. Only the clergy could look upon the Word of God. They then dispensed only tiny morsels to the masses, often twisting the meaning for their own financial or political gain. By the time the reformation began, virtually all Biblical truth had been lost or distorted. Finally around 1500-1600 AD, the reformers began to get Bibles back into the hands of the common man. Right away, people began to protest against some of the Catholic doctrines and tried to reconstruct the proper church doctrines which had been lost more than one thousand years before. Of course this was very difficult because they had been steeped in all manner of heresies for centuries. Different groups had varying degrees of success, correcting some areas of doctrine while failing to correct others. Some false doctrines were changed into new, different false doctrines. Despite all the doctrinal corrections that the many denominations made, not one of the hundreds of denominations or sects ever made it back to the pure doctrine of the early church. Perhaps I should not use the word "pure", since we can see from Galatians 3 and 1 Corinthians 5 that errant doctrine was creeping into some local churches even at that early date. There is a quote that I have heard many times, and I am not sure who first said it: "The only problem with the protestants is that they did not protest enough." Therefore, we must be diligent in studying God's Word to know His true will, rather than relying upon any denomination to tell us.
Q: In Genesis 4:7, God tells Cain, "... if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him." What does this mean?
A: First let's look at some background to this verse. Genesis 4:3-5 says, "And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell." Note that Able brought a blood sacrifice, an animal from his flock, but Cain brought a blood-less sacrifice. God did not respect Cain's blood-less sacrifice.
In Genesis 4:6-7, God said to Cain, "... Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him."
Note how the word "sin" is spoken of using the pronouns "his" and "him" as though it were a living being. The Hebrew word "chatta'ah", which is translated as "sin" in verse 7, is used many times in the old testament to refer to "sin" but also many times to refer to the "sin offering". The sin offering was usually some type of clean animal offered as a blood sacrifice. For example see Exodus 29:36, where "chatta'ah" is translated "sin offering", referring to a bullock, "And thou shalt offer every day a bullock for a sin offering (chatta'ah) for atonement: and thou shalt cleanse the altar, when thou hast made an atonement for it, and thou shalt anoint it, to sanctify it." Also Leviticus 4:24, where "chatta'ah" is translated "sin offering", referring to a goat, "And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the goat, and kill it in the place where they kill the burnt offering before the LORD: it is a sin offering (chatta'ah)."
So it appears that in Genesis 4:7, God is telling Cain that He (God) will provide Cain the needed blood sacrifice by having a "chatta'ah", whether it be a goat or lamb or bullock or whatever, come and lie at Cain's door. I think God is telling Cain that the animal will freely come to Cain and submit to Cain, "... unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him." All Cain had to do was kill the animal and sacrifice it to God. But the verses that follow record that Cain's pride and jealousy would not even allow him to take this easy road. Instead of following God's direction, he murdered his brother.
Q: Why does God love Israel so?
A: God said to the nation of Israel in Deuteronomy 7:6-9, " For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations ...."
So God explained that it is not due to characteristics which Israel possessed, but due to the oath which He swore to their fathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob).
Continuing in Deuteronomy 7:12-13, "Wherefore it shall come to pass, if ye hearken to these judgments, and keep, and do them, that the LORD thy God shall keep unto thee the covenant and the mercy which he sware unto thy fathers: And he will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee: he will also bless the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy land, thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep, in the land which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee."
Now one may be wondering, has not Israel broken the covenant? As to this, I refer the reader to Zechariah 13:9 where God, describing the future tribulation period, says, "And I will bring the third part (one third of Israel) through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God."
Also, well after the crucifixion of Jesus and the stoning of Stephen, our Apostle Paul confirmed the Deuteronomy 7 passage above when he wrote in Romans 11:28, "As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes." This is once again a reference to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to whom God swore the oath.
For deeper understanding of God's promises to Israel's fathers, see the articles God will yet choose Israel and The Tribes of Israel.
Q: Is there any truth to the teachings of certain sects that say Jesus Christ is actually one of the angels?
A: No. Such teachings are a major errors. Jesus is not one of the angels. The angels worship Jesus, who created them.
Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:9, "And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ ...." Then in Colossians 1:14-17, Paul says of Jesus Christ, "In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist."
Perhaps the greatest repudiation of the false doctrines that Christ is one of the angels is Hebrews chapter 1 which says, "1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; 4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. 5 For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? 6 And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. 7 And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. 8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. 9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. 10 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: 11 They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; 12 And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. 13 But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?"
So we see from this passage that Jesus Christ is the Creator, the Son of God, "so much better than the angels", and "the angels of God worship him". Also see the article Jesus Christ: Almighty God.
Q: When did Job live?
A: The Bible does not tell us exactly when Job lived, but it does give us several clues that help us narrow it down. As we go through some of the chronology information below, readers may find it helpful to cross-reference the Old Testament Timeline article.
The fact that the book of Job mentions rain many times (Job 5:10, 20:23, etc) tells us that Job lived after the great flood of Noah's time. It did not rain prior to that flood (Genesis 2:5-6, 7:11-12, 9:13). The earth was watered by a mist that came up from the ground due to the high pressure of water under the earth surface. So that would mean that Job was born some time after about 2300 BC.
The fact that Job lived in the land of Uz (Job 1:1), and not in the region of Babylon (such as Shinar or Ur) tells us that he lived after the scattering of the people from the tower of Babel. Prior to that time, all of the people of the world lived together as one people in that geographical area (Genesis 11:1-4). It is possible that Job was born before the tower of Babel, but the events described in the book of Job clearly must have occurred after the tower of Babel, about 2150 BC.
The fact that Israel is not mentioned, and that there is no hint of the law of Moses in the book of Job, suggest that Job was not an Israelite, and that the events in the book of Job happened prior to the Exodus of Israel from Egypt in about 1500 BC. The fact that Job makes animal sacrifices himself (Job 1:5) rather than taking them to a priest also suggests that he lived prior to the Exodus of Israel from Egypt.
Job 42:16 tells us that Job lived another 140 years after all the main events of the book had taken place. Being that he was already a wealthy man (Job 1:3) with grown children (Job 1:4) when the events of the book began, it seems very likely that Job's full life span was well over 200 years. The ages given in the genealogy in chapter 11 of Genesis show that during the 2200 BC to 1500 BC time frame, life spans decreased dramatically. Terah, Abraham's father who died at the age of 205 years (Genesis 11:32), was the last person recorded as having lived for more than 200 years. Abraham and Isaac lived 175 years (Genesis 25:7) and 180 years (Genesis 35:28) respectively, and life spans dropped off from there in the generations that followed. So it seems likely that Job lived no later than the time of Abraham, and probably a little before, most likely during the 2200 BC to 1900 BC time frame.
Q: Why did Jesus say that the least in the kingdom of God will be greater than John the Baptist?
A: Jesus said in Matthew 11:11, "Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he."
Likewise in Luke 7:28, "For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he."
The key to this somewhat puzzling statement by Jesus lies in the expression "born of women". All people are "born of women". That is, born of the flesh, not of the Spirit.
In John 3:5-6 Jesus said to Nicodemus, "... Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."
So every person in the kingdom of God will be born of the Spirit. However, at the time Jesus was speaking, no one had yet been born of the Spirit. That would not begin until after the Lord's crucifixion and resurrection, once the sin debt had been paid.
The largest rebirth for Israel will occur after the end of the future seven-year tribulation. God foretold in Jeremiah 31:31-34, "Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."
1 Peter 1:23 also draws the distinction between the two births, referring to believers as, "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever."
John the Baptist was able to be the greatest born of the flesh. But the presence of the Holy Spirit dwelling within one who is in the kingdom of God makes that person greater than anyone who is simply born of the flesh.
Q: How did I meet Les Feldick?
A: In the years leading up to meeting Les Feldick in 1995, my wife, Beth, and I had studied the Word of God quite a bit, and the Lord had blessed us with an understanding of many of the basic dispensational truths. We understood that Christ's earthly ministry was to the Jews, but we still thought that this present dispensation of grace began with a flip of a switch at Pentecost in Acts 2. Then Beth found Les Feldick's TV program when Les was teaching in the book of Acts. After we listened with great interest for a few weeks, she called up to order one of Les's books. She placed the order with Iris, Les's wife, who asked, "Where are you honey?" That's how we found out that Les taught a class weekly at a school near us. The first night that we attended in the fall of 1995, Les was teaching the book of Ephesians to a class of about sixty. In that very first class, we heard Les say that the gospel that Peter was preaching in the early chapters of the book of Acts was not the gospel of grace that Paul later preached. We drove home asking each other, "How could that be?" We immediately started writing down questions. We had to get further explanation of this. We then mailed a letter to Les asking what the differences were between Peter's gospel and the grace gospel. At the next week's class, we brought a friend and his wife with us. We were so surprised when, at the beginning of class, Les broke from his verse-by-verse teaching of Ephesians and spent the whole two hours of the class expounding in detail on the questions we had sent to him. All four of us were convinced! We spoke the next day and agreed this was certainly new to us all, but it was no heresy. Les had shown how it was backed up by the scriptures all the way. We immediately began studying to learn as much on this topic as we could. At the next week's class, Les taught another two hours on the same topic, providing more detail and scriptural backing. This understanding of the dispensational change in Acts from law to grace is so valuable, not only because it provides a clear view of the gospel of our salvation, but also because it helps clear up so many other questions that confuse and divide believers who do not understand this dispensational change. The article, Israel's Kingdom Gospel and Our Grace Gospel, provides details on the differences between the two gospels and the two dispensations. Les Feldick's Bible study web site is at www.lesfeldick.org.
Q: How did Manasseh and Ephraim become two of the twelve tribes of Israel? They were not sons of Jacob, but later they are mentioned as tribes.
A: Jacob, who God renamed "Israel" in Genesis 32:28, had twelve sons, but only eleven would receive an inheritance of land in Israel. The descendants of Levi, one of Jacob's twelve sons, would be the priests, and God was their inheritance. But God had 12 portions of land, so He gave two portions to Jacob's favorite son, Joseph, giving each of Joseph's sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, their own portion of the inheritance. Jacob accepted Joseph's two sons as though they were his own in Genesis 48:5.
Q: Around the time of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Christ, there seem to be various women named Mary present at different times. Who is who?
A: At the crucifixion, from John 19:25, we see that there are three different women named Mary. "Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother (Mary), and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene."
The first Mary listed here is obviously the mother of Jesus, the widow of Joseph. The second Mary is the sister of the first Mary. This second Mary has a husband named Cleophas. We also know from Mark 15:40 that she is "... the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome ...." Mary Magdalene is the one out of whom Jesus had cast seven devils (Luke 8:2 and Mark 16:9).
John 19:26-27 "When Jesus therefore saw his mother (Mary), and the disciple (John) standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! (referring to John) Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home."
At the burial, Mark 15:47 tells us that Mary (the wife of Cleophas) and Mary Magdalene were present and saw where Jesus was buried. "And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he (Jesus) was laid." Matthew 27:56-61 also confirms that they were present at the burial. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is not said to have been present at the burial.
At the resurrection, Mark 16:1 tells us, "And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary (the wife of Cleophas) the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him (the body of Jesus)." See also Matthew 28:1 and John 20:1. After they find the tomb empty and go tell the apostles (Luke 24:10), Peter and John come see the empty tomb. It is after this that Jesus makes His first appearance to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9 and John 20:11-18). Mary, the mother of Jesus, is not said to have been present during these events on the resurrection day.
Some verses mention other women being present at some of these events, in addition to those specifically named.
Q: How accurate is the Mel Gibson movie, "The Passion of the Christ"?
A: Acts 1:3 says, "... he (Jesus) shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God ...." This is the only occurrence of the English word "passion" in the King James translation of the Bible. The Greek word "pascho", translated as "passion" here, occurs many times in the new testament, but is usually translated as "suffer". So as one might expect when someone is tortured to death, there is quite a bit of violence and blood in this movie. The physical suffering is portrayed about as thoroughly as any movie could do. However, there is no way that a movie could ever convey the suffering due to separation from God that Christ endured along with the weight of the sins of the entire world. The physical violence is very gruesome and difficult to watch, but it is probably pretty accurate.
That is my primary concern with the movie, its accuracy. So in this response, I will focus on the accuracy of the movie, rather than its entertainment value or emotional impact.
Most importantly, the movie does present the gospel. It clearly conveys that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, freely gave His life to pay for the sins of all mankind. He was crucified and rose from the dead.
Overall, the movie is pretty consistent with the scriptures, more than most movies about the Bible. But there are some inaccuracies that I noticed. Some of the key ones are discussed below.
In the film, Satan appears in a visible form, at least visible to Jesus, at many different points amidst the suffering. The scriptures give no indication that Satan appeared in visible form during the time covered by the film. But the greater error is that the movie credits Satan with knowing beforehand that Jesus was planning to sacrifice Himself for the sins of mankind. Satan is shown in the garden of Gethsemene trying to convince Jesus that no man, not even Jesus, is able to sacrifice himself for the sins of all mankind. But in actuality, if Satan had known that Jesus was trying to become the sacrifice to save mankind, he would not have entered into Judas to get him to betray Jesus to be killed. And this is what Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:7-8 "... we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." The fact that the death of Jesus was going to pay for the sins of mankind was a mystery that was hidden from everyone, including Satan, until God revealed it to the apostle Paul, several years after the crucifixion.
Another inaccuracy occurs after Pontius Pilate washed his hands and proclaimed his own innocence as recorded in Matthew 27:24. Following this, Matthew 27:25 says, "Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children." This line was not included in the movie.
The majority of the most glaring inaccuracies of the movie center around the way it portrays Mary, the mother of Jesus. The Bible says very little about her at all in the record of these events. But the movie portrays her as an observer in the majority of the scenes and as an active participant in several of the scenes. Every couple of minutes it seemed the camera had to pan over to Mary to see what she was doing.
The only scriptural mention of Mary, mother of Jesus in association with these events is in John 19:25-27 which says, "Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother (Mary), and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple (John) standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! (referring to John) Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home."
This is all that the scriptures say about her in relation to the events of surrounding Christ's crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. The rest of her involvement as portrayed by the movie is unscriptural.
The error is magnified in the way that the movie attempts to elevate Mary to some sort of pseudo deity type status.
In two separate scenes prior to the crucifixion, Peter and John, each spoke to Mary and addressed her as "Mother". There is no basis for that in the Bible. After denying Christ three times, Peter is leaving the scene very upset. Then Peter sees Mary and kneels before her. She reaches to touch him, but he says that he is not worthy (apparently for her to touch him), and he calls her "Mother". Later, on the road to the cross, John twice refers to Mary as "Mother". Keep in mind that this was before the events of John 19:25-27 that we saw above.
The movie also has a scene on the road up to the cross, where one Roman soldier saw Mary and was so struck by her very presence that he stopped what he was doing and stared at her. As his fellow soldiers had to snap him out of his almost trance-like state, he gasped, "Who is that woman?"
Earlier, there was a scene when Jesus was chained in the dungeon beneath the stone floor. Mary, who was above the floor, used her special insights (bestowed upon her by Hollywood) to locate the spot right above Him and knelt to put her face on the floor at that spot. The camera then panned down below the floor to show Jesus chained to the ceiling at that spot.
Other than the inaccuracies listed above, the rest of the movie appears to be pretty consistent with the scriptures. There are a few instances of artistic license being taken. For example, in the garden of Gethsemene, Christ stomps on a snake that had been sent from Satan to attack Him. From scripture, this obviously did not happen. It comes from the metaphor given in Genesis 3:15.
For the most part, it is a good movie. But as always, we need to do as the Bereans in Acts 17:11 and search the scriptures to see if what we are being told is really the truth.
Q: Does Satan have the ability to read our thoughts?
A: I am not aware of any scripture passage which states definitively that Satan can read our thoughts, or that he cannot, for that matter. On two different occasions, the Bible tells how the Pharisees plotted against Jesus, but He, "knew their thoughts" (Matthew 12:25 and Luke 6:8). In Revelation 2:23, our Lord Jesus Christ said, "... I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts ...." Certainly, this means that the Lord reads our thoughts. This verse may also mean that the Lord is the only One who can read our thoughts. In any case, it is doubtful that Satan has any telepathic ability to read our thoughts.
That being said, Satan and the other evil spirits may be able to figure out a lot about our thoughts and tendencies by observing us.
Think of someone that you know very well. Having been around that person a lot, you may be able to predict in most cases, what that person would think about almost any topic or how that person would react in most situations. Now, are you reading their thoughts? No. You just know them well and have experience in human relationships. The more time you spend with someone, and the more experience you have in dealing with people, and the wiser you are, the better your are able to predict what that person will think and do.
Satan and the other evil spirits may be able to do that and much more. They may be able to observe a person all the time and listen to every word they say. Plus, they have the benefit of having had thousands of years to observe and learn about human behavior. Also, Satan is a very wise creature. So even though Satan may have no power of telepathy and may have no ability to directly read thoughts, it might be pretty difficult for someone to conceal any general thoughts from him, due to his tremendous knowledge and experience, and that of the other evil spirits.
In Ezekiel 28, God speaks of the King of Tyre, but as we read of the attributes of this king, particularly in verses 12-17, we see that God is really referring to Satan himself. And in verse 3, God said to him, "... thou art wiser than Daniel; there is no secret that they can hide from thee ...."
Q: Did we become sinners the first time we sinned or were we born sinners as a result of Adam's sin in the Garden of Eden?
A: Romans 5:12-19 is a helpful passage on this subject. Romans 5:12 says, "Wherefore, as by one man (Adam) sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned ...." 1 Corinthians 15:22 says, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." Perhaps the most direct answer to this question comes from Romans 5:19 which says, "For as by one man's (Adam's) disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one (Jesus Christ) shall many be made righteous." This verse makes it very clear that we were all made to be sinners by Adam's sin. As Les Feldick often says, "We are not sinners because we sin. We sin, because we are sinners."
Here are a few old testament passages that speak to this point.
In asking God to cleanse him from sin, David wrote in Psalms 51:5, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me."
Psalms 58:3 says, "The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies."
Speaking to "... O house of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel ..." (Isaiah 48:1), God said in Isaiah 48:8, "... I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously, and wast called a transgressor from the womb."
Q: When Christians die, do our souls go to the be with the Lord or do our souls sleep in the grave until the coming of Christ?
A: The scriptures sometimes refer to the dead as being asleep (John 11:11-14, Acts 7:60, 1 Corinthians 11:30, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). However, the references of a believer having gone to sleep only refer to the way the body of the dead appears. It does not mean that the soul of the dead person is not conscious.
Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:5-8, "Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. Therefore we are always confident knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." So when we as believers die, our souls leave our bodies and go to be with the Lord.
Likewise, in Philippians 1:21-23 Paul wrote, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better ...."
Upon the death of the body, the souls of the saved go to be with the Lord and the souls of the lost go to the part of Hades that is reserved for torment. The account that Jesus gives in Luke 16:19-31 tells of Lazarus and Abraham in paradise and the rich man in torment. All three are dead, yet fully conscious.
One clear example of souls remaining conscious though their bodies are dead occurs in Revelation 6:9-11 where John wrote, "And when he (the Lamb, Jesus Christ) had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the alter the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled."
Of course these are the souls of tribulation saints (who have not yet been resurrected in their eternal bodies) and not the souls of believers from this present grace dispensation. Still, this passage shows that the soul can be awake and conscious in heaven, even though the corruptible body is asleep in the grave.
Death is certainly not the end of our association with our bodies. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 Paul explains how the dead in Christ will rise again in their bodies, "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent (precede) them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words."
Paul provides further insight on the rapture in 1 Corinthians 15:51-55, "Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"
So at some future time which only God knows, the trumpet will sound that signals our catching away. Then all of the souls of the Christians who have died will return to their dead bodies, which will be instantly changed to immortal, incorruptible, eternal bodies and come out of their graves. Then the bodies of all Christians who are left alive will be instantly changed into immortal, incorruptible, eternal bodies. We will be caught up into the clouds to meet our fellow Christians who have died and our Lord Jesus Christ in the air. Then we all shall be with our Lord forever.
Q: Do you have any good Bible study resources or study tips that you would recommend?
A: I highly recommend a Bible study computer program that has Greek and Hebrew study helps. There are lots of good ones out there. I like to use On-Line Bible. It has several English translations plus 3 Greek and 2 Hebrew manuscripts. It only costs about $50 and you can freely make copies for others.
If you want to check whether a particular Greek or Hebrew word is translated correctly, check to see how that same Greek of Hebrew word is translated in other places in the Bible. If it is translated a different way in most other places, it may not be translated correctly in the verse you are examining.
As for a study Bible, the Scofield Study Bible is a good one. It comes in KJV and has lots of good cross references, a 42 page dictionary of scriptural proper names, a 38 page subject index, a 162 page concordance, and 12 maps. The words of Jesus Christ are in red letters. Of course all the words are His, but those words He spoke in His earthly ministry are in red. It also has the carved out tabs to make the books of the Bible easier to find. You can get them in variety of colors, including black leather at most Christian bookstores.
Q: Questions about the tribes of Israel?
A: There are many questions that people often ask about the tribes of Israel such as:
What is the Biblical history of the tribes? What prophecies are given in the scriptures about them? Why did the tribes separate into two kingdoms? Where are the tribes now? Are the ten northern tribes lost forever? Are the prophecies about them going to be literally fulfilled?
There are also quite a few strange, unscriptural teachings regarding the ten northern tribes of Israel that people frequently ask about.
Therefore, I have written an article called "The Tribes of Israel" which explains what we know from the scriptures about the tribes. It includes a study of the ancient history of the tribes of Israel as it is chronicled in the old testament. It also includes an examination of the Biblical prophecies that God has given regarding the tribes and a discussion of the more recent history of Israel over the last one hundred plus years. Then the article looks at some common false doctrines that are sometimes taught regarding the tribes of Israel. So for any of these types of questions about the tribes Israel, please see the article, The Tribes of Israel.
Q: Does the doctrine of the Trinity or Triune Godhead come from the Bible?
A: The Triune Godhead (or "Trinity") is a term used in reference to the concept of God existing as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit which are one God. The Holy Spirit is also sometimes called simply "the Spirit" or "the Holy Ghost", and is the Spirit of God. Jesus Christ is, of course, the Son, and is God in the flesh. Even though the words "Trinity" and "Triune Godhead" do not occur in the Bible text, this concept of God existing as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit appears in several places in the Bible. For example, seven passages are quoted below in which the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are each referred to separately in the same brief passage:
Matthew 3:16 "And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
Matthew 28:19 "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost ...."
Acts 7:55 "But he (Stephen), being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God ...."
2 Corinthians 1:21-22 "Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts."
Ephesians 2:18 "For through him (Jesus Christ) we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father."
1 Peter 1:2 "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto the obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you and peace, be multiplied."
Jude 20-21 "But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life."
One of the many verses often used to support the doctrine of the Trinity or Triune Godhead is 1 John 5:7. This verse does not appear in most of the Greek manuscripts, and it appears to have been added by the translators. But as we have seen above, there are many verses which list each of the three members of the Triune Godhead. So the doctrine of the Triune Godhead is not dependent upon any one particular verse.
Besides these verses, the concept of Jesus Christ, the Son, being fully God as the Father is fully God is overwhelmingly obvious from the vast number of passages making this point. These are documented in the article Jesus Christ: Almighty God .
So whether you prefer to call it the Trinity or the Triune Godhead or whether you just recognize that God exists as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit which are one God, the concept is the same, and it is scriptural.
Q: How do we know that the Bible is the true Word of God?
A: God has provided a great deal of evidence within the Bible to prove that it is His Word. There are many prophesies foretold in the Bible that have already been fulfilled and many more for which we can see the fulfillment being set up. Only God could have predicted these events hundreds and even thousands of years in advance. The Bible was written over a period of about 1500 years by about 40 different men. Yet, it's continuity and unity of message shows that there was but one Author. The Old Testament provides many types or shadows of Jesus Christ who would come much later. There would have been no purpose for these types and shadows if the Messiah were not truly to come and fulfill them. I have been very brief here and will refer you to the articles on this web site, Fulfilled Prophecies and Other Evidence that the Bible is the Word of God and Evidence that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, which provide ample scriptural detail of the evidence God that has provided in His Word.
Copyright © 2002 Matthew McGee. All rights reserved.