Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Who was Jesus?

Many Christians would answer that Jesus Christ was God made flesh who died a sacrificial death to redeem humanity. Is it possible to ascertain who the historical Jesus was from the New Testament writings that have come down to us? This essay will compare the Gospel of John with the Gospel of Mark. Most scholars believe that of the four New Testament gospels; Mark was the first to be written, while John is generally believed to be the last. It stands to reason that if John's Gospel was written after Mark's & if John contradicts what is found in Mark; it is likely that Mark represents an older & possibly more reliable source for the teachings of the historical Jesus. The Gospel of John is of fundamental importance to mainstream Christianity; its theology has had a huge impact on the way Jesus & Christianity are understood by both Christians & non-believers. John's Gospel is famous for containing many sayings & deeds of Jesus not found in the other New Testament Gospels. It is from the Gospel of John (& only the Gospel of John) that we get most of the honorific titles that are applied to Jesus such as "the light of the world", "the door of the sheepfold", "the way & the truth", "the bread of life", "the good Shepard" & "the lamb of God". In fact Jesus speaks more about himself in John than he does in any of the other New Testament Gospels. So why does Jesus speak about himself so differently in John's Gospel?

Let us start by examining characteristics of the Gospel of Mark & of John to see how they fare in comparison with each another.

The Messianic Secret

In the Gospel of Mark Jesus seems to want to confine the knowledge of his messiahship & miraculous power to the inner circle of his closest disciples. A clear example is the conversation between Jesus & his disciples at Mark 8:

Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, "Who do people say I am?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "You are the Christ." Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

Mark 8:27-30 (NIV)

When Jesus' disciples ask him to elucidate on the parables he gives, Jesus explains that "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables (Mark 4:11, Luke 8:10). When Jesus exorcises unclean spirits he orders them not to divulge his identify: "he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was" (Mark 1:34, Mark 1:23-26 & Luke 4:41). In Mark's Gospel; when Jesus heals not only does he usually perform the miracle in private, he also warns the recipient not to tell anyone.

There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged him to place his hand on the man. After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man's ears. Then he spit and touched the man's tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, "Ephphatha!" (which means, "Be opened!" ). At this, the man's ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone.

Mark 7:32-39 (NIV)

(See also Mark 1:40-44 & Mark 8:22-26)

Yet the most striking example of Jesus' discretion is found in Mark's account of the resurrection of Jairus' daughter. Jairus, a leader of the local synagogue asks Jesus to come & heal his daughter, yet while on his way Jesus is inadvertently delayed & the girl dies, despite the news Jesus continues on his way to the girl's home:

He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, "Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep." But they laughed at him. After he put them all out, he took the child's father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum!" (which means, "Little girl, I say to you, get up!" ). Immediately the girl stood up and walked around. At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Mark 5:37-43 (NIV)

In the above account; after Jesus has dismissed the mourners he allows only Peter, James, John & the girls parents to witness the miracle, after the child is resurrected Jesus gives the witnesses "strict orders not to let anyone know", why the secrecy in this account? Notice how Jesus doesn't want the mourners to think that the girl is already dead but instead sleeping, is this because Jesus doesn't want others to know he has the power to resurrect the dead?

The dramatic resurrection of Lazarus found only in the Gospel of John is better known then the resurrection of Jarius' daughter. According to John 11 when Jesus "heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days." Why does Jesus wait to heal Lazarus?

So then he told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him."

John 11:14-15 (NIV)

So according to John's Gospel Jesus intentionally lets his friend die so he can resurrect him, remember that when the daughter of Jarius died it was because Jesus was inadvertently delayed whereas in John Jesus deliberately procrastinates resulting in the death of Lazarus. When Jesus finally arrives rather then downplaying the situation he makes the startling proclamation that: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die." (John 11: 25-26). Jesus does not dismiss the onlookers as he does when resurrecting the daughter of Jarius, but instead performs the miracle in front of numerous onlookers:

Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me." When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go." Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.

John 11:40-45 (NIV)

Why does the Gospel of John depict Jesus garnering publicity whilst Mark's Gospel has Jesus doing exactly the opposite? As we have seen; the miracles that Jesus performs for people in Mark's Gospel seem to be a result of the recipient's faith, whereas John depicts Jesus performing miracles to inspire people to have faith in him. Comparing the resurrection accounts of Jarius' daughter with that of Lazarus further widens the tremendous gap between the discreet Jesus depicted by Mark & the dramatic miracle worker of John's Gospel. Moreover: in chapter 3 of the Gospel of Mark Jesus' mother & brothers think that Jesus has gone crazy (Mark 3:20-21, 31-32), they appear not to believe Jesus is the Messiah. In John however Jesus' mother is presented as knowing very well that Jesus is the Messiah, even knowing that her son is capable of miraculous feats such as when she asks her son to remedy the wine shortage at John 2:1-5:

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine." "Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied, "My time has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."

John 2:1-5 (NIV)

The Lamb of God

The Gospel of Mark depicts Jesus eating his last meal on the night of Nisan 14, the night before the Passover night (Mark 14:12-17). After eating Jesus is arrested in the garden of Gesemene & the next day (Nisan 15) he is handed over to Pilate (Mark 15:1). Jesus is lead away to be crucified & dies at the Ninth hour (3pm) on Nisan 15 that same day (Mark 15:34-37). Yet John's Gospel places Jesus crucifixion on the afternoon of Nisan 14 (The Day of Preparation) when the Passover lambs were being sacrificed for the Passover meal (John 18:28-29, John 19:14, 16). Why then does the Gospel of John describe Jesus crucifixion as taking place on Nisan 14? Is it because John applies the title "Lamb of God" to Jesus & therefore wants to connect the death of Jesus with the sacrifice of the Passover lambs?

The Word/Logos

Mainstream Christianity teaches that before Jesus was born as a man he existed in heaven as a part of God, this teaching is found in the opening prologue to the Gospel of John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:1-2, 14 (NIV)

The expression: the Word used here in the first chapter of John is logos in Koine Greek, logos means "words" or "sayings", the only instances of the New Testament using logos to refer to Jesus are John 1 & Revelation 19:13, elsewhere the New Testament uses logos in its regular sense of "words" or "sayings". While the Gospel of John does not use the Word/logos to refer to Jesus after its first chapter the startling claim made by John 1 that Jesus pre-existed in heaven is found elsewhere in John's Gospel:

"You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him, "and you have seen Abraham!" "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!"

John 8:57-58 (NIV)

Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.

John 14:8-10 (NIV)

The idea that Jesus was God is not found in the Gospel of Mark, neither is the idea that Jesus pre-existed as a spirit before being born a man, so if Mark is an earlier work then the Gospel of John is it not reasonable to assume that Mark's Gospel is closer to what the historical Jesus taught about himself then the complex theology exposed by John's Gospel? There are some references in the New Testament letters to Jesus existing as a spirit but they conspicuous. The first is found in Colossians 1:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Colossians 1:15-20 (NIV)

The Letter to the Colossians is considered by the majority of scholars to be a pseudonymous work (a forgery written by someone other then the claimed author). Colossians is composed in a completely different writing style to the authentic letters of Paul & features teachings regarding the resurrection that seem to contradict what Paul may have actually taught, for example; compare Colossians 2:12 with Romans 6:4.

If the theology exposed by Colossians 1:15-20 is something that the historical Jesus taught about himself why is it not found in the Gospel of Mark? If Jesus did teach that he was the image of the invisible God & the firstborn over all creation why is it that when called "good teacher" Jesus responds by saying:

"Why do you call me good? No one is good—except God alone"?

Mark 10:17-18 (NIV)

The same logic applies to Philippians 2:5-8, a passage that has long been suspected of being an interpolation (a later addition to the text) due to the un-Pauline language it employs & that fact that with the exception of Colossians, it presents a version of Jesus that we do not find elsewhere in the New Testament Letters:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV)

For those who deny the possibility that the New Testament letters could have been interpolated 1 John 5:7-8 provides additional proof. This is how the passage reads in most modern Bible translations:

For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.

1 John 5:7-8 (NIV)

New Testament Manuscripts before the sixteenth century render this passage quite differently. Here is how the verse appears in most modern Bible translations:

"For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one."

1 John 5:7-8 (KJV)

Scribes during the middle-ages interpolated the above passage to support the dogma of the Trinity. 1 John 5:7-8 demonstrates that the New Testament books were not exempt from corruption, especially with regard to the nature of Jesus.

The teaching expoused by the first chapter of the Gospel of John that Jesus was a co-worker god is not explicitly mentioned in the Old Testament, in fact many passages indicate the opposite:

For this is what the LORD says— he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited— he says: "I am the LORD, and there is no other.

Isaiah 45:18 (NIV)

So where did the concept of the Word/logos come from? Stoicism was a branch of Greek philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium (334 -2622 B.C). To the Stoics; the Word/logos was a force that animated all creation, the fact that the Stoics believed this is something that even the Church Father Tertullian acknowledged:

We have already said that God devised the whole universe by Word, by Reason, by Power. Among your own philosophers, too, it is argued that Logos, that is Word and Reason, would seem to be the Artificer of the universe. This Logos Zeno defines as the maker who has formed and ordered all; he will have it that this Logos is also called fate and God

Tertullian. Apology 21

The Jewish philosopher & mystic Philo (20 B.C - 50 C.E) understood the Word/logos to be an aeon (emanation of God) & mediator between man & the divine. Philo called the Word/logos an image of God & described the Word/logos as the means by which the world was created.

But the divine word which is above these does not come into any visible appearance, inasmuch as it is not like to any of the things that come under the external senses, but is itself an image of God, the most ancient of all the objects of intellect in the whole world, and that which is placed in the closest proximity to the only truly existing God, without any partition or distance being interposed between them

Philo. On Flight & Finding 19:101

for the word of the living God being the bond of every thing, as has been said before, holds all things together, and binds all the parts, and prevents them from being loosened or separated.

Philo. On Flight & Finding 20:112

Now the image of God is the Word, by which all the world was made.

Philo. The Special Laws 1 16:81

Do the above quotations sound familiar? Let us compare Colossians 1:15-20 with Philo's comments on the Word/logos from his own writings:

"He is the image of the invisible God"

Colossians 1

"Now the image of God is the Word"

Philo. The Special Laws

"For by him all things were created"

Colossians 1

"by which all the world was made"

Philo. The Special Laws

"in him all things hold together"

Colossians 1

"the Word of the living God...holds all things together"

Philo. On Flight & finding

It is clear that Philo's dogma of the Word/logos had a fundamental impact on the writers of both the Gospel of John & the Letter to the Colossians. The discrepancies between the Gospel of John & Mark regarding the nature & origins of Jesus were the basis of numerous theological controversies during the 2nd & 3rd centuries, these controversies lead to the Council of Nicaea in 325 C.E, an assembly of Church leaders convened at the behest of emperor Constantine to create a formal creed of belief. The council concluded that Jesus Christ was:

the Son of God, begotten of the Father, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; By whom all things were made, who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man

Original Nicene Creed of 325


As we have seen Jesus speaks very little about himself in the Gospel of Mark but instead emphasizes the importance of the coming Kingdom of God, in Mark Jesus refers to himself as "The son of God", "The Son of Man" & "The Christ" but never uses any of the 6 additional titles used by John. Only in John's Gospel does Jesus claim that he had a pre-human existence "before Abraham I am/was", only in John is Jesus called the Word/logos, only John's Gospel claims that "in the beginning the word was with God & was god", only John narrates that Jesus was killed on Nisan 15 as opposed to Nisan 14, only in John's Gospel does Jesus cleanse the temple at the beginning of his ministry, only in John does Jesus turn water into wine, only in John's Gospel does Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead. So what do we learn about Jesus from the Gospel of Mark? Among many things we learn that:

Jesus appears to be adopted as God's son at his baptism

(Mark 1:9-13)

Jesus is rejected as the Messiah by his family

(Mark 3:20-21, 31-33, Mark 6:3-4)

Jesus speaks about the Kingdom of God rather then himself

(Mark 1:14-15, Mark 4:1-9)

Jesus keeps his role as the messiah & his miraculous power a secret

(Mark 8:27-30, Mark 5:37-43)

Jesus is afraid to die

(Mark 14: 32-36)

Nobody is reported seeing the resurrected Jesus

(Mark 16-6-8)

The Jesus presented by the Gospel of John bears little resemblance to the discreet, humble & very much human Jesus found in Mark's Gospel. Matthew & Luke's Gospels are not without their own problems either, the pre-baptism material, namely the Nativity & boyhood accounts seem at odds with the human Jesus presented in Mark, the accounts of Jesus resurrection depicted in Matthew & Luke also. This is not to say that all the material absent from Mark but found in Matthew & Luke is spurious, but if we want to get closer to the real Jesus we ought to be suspicious of the deeds & sayings that are not found in Mark's Gospel, especially those deeds & sayings that are theologically significant. We need to at least isolate & study the earliest existing sources regarding the life of Jesus: the Gospel of Mark & the Q Source (the hypothetical source text for the material shared by both Matthew & Luke). Reevaluating our beliefs regarding the nature & role of Jesus can be a hard & lonely road for the believer, however it is a far easier road then trying to reconcile the disparate truths of Christian tradition. As we are ultimately responsible for what we choose to believe; the question of why we believe something is a vital & responsible one.

Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.

Matthew 11:6 (NIV)

Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, "Who do people say I am?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "You are the Christ." Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

Mark 8:27-30 (NIV)

Monday, 14 September 2009

Cross To Bear

The Christian Cross is one of the worlds most readily recognized religious symbols, it is prominently displayed by the majority of Christian churches & organizations, in fact the Cross enjoys a virtually synonymous relationship with Christianity. But do the gospel accounts really depict the instrument of Jesus death as a Two-Beamed or T-shaped Cross?

Many would be surprised to discover that translations of the New Testament are duplicitous in translating of the words Cross & Crucifixion. The Koine Greek word translated as Cross is stauros, a noun that occurs 28 times in the New Testament, and so does the word stauros refer to a T-Cross like those depicted in Christian art? No, at least not according to Vine's Expository Dictionary, The Imperial Bible Dictionary & C.J Koster:

Stauros denotes, primarily, "an upright pale or stake." On such malefactors were nailed for execution. Both the noun and the verb stauroo, "to fasten to a stake or pale," are originally to be distinguished from the ecclesiastical form of a two beamed "cross."

Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words

"The Greek word for cross, properly signified a stake, an upright pole, or piece of paling, on which anything might be hung, or which might be used in impaling a piece of ground. . . . Even amongst the Romans the crux (from which our cross is derived) appears to have been originally an upright pole"

Imperial Bible Dictionary, Vol. I, p. 376

Greek dictionaries, lexicons and other study books also declare the primary meaning of stauros to be an upright pale, pole or stake. The secondary meaning of "cross" is admitted by them to be a "later" rendering. At least two of them do not even mention "cross," and only render the meaning as "pole or stake." In spite of this strong evidence and proof that the word stauros should have been translated "stake," and the verb stauroo to have been translated "impale," almost all the common versions of the Scriptures persist with the Latin Vulgate's crux (cross), a "later" rendering of the Greek stauros.


The Koine Greek noun xylon occurs 17 times in the New Testament, the word means wood & is mostly used to identify anything made completely of wood such as trees (Luke 23:31), clubs (Mark 14:48), or shackles (Acts 16:24). Of 6 of it's 17 occurrences xylon it is used to refer to the instrument on with Jesus was hanged, in these instances translators almost always render xylon as tree, not as Cross, such as at Acts 5:30 & Galatians 3:13:

The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead—whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree.

Acts 5:30 (NIV)

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."

Galatians 3:13 (NIV)

Some believe the first depiction of the Crucifixion is the The Alexamenos Graffito. There is no clear consensus as to the date in which the image was made, with dates ranging from the late 1st to the late 3rd century, neither is there any agreement regarding what the graffito actually depicts, our only clue is its inscription: Alexamenos worships God.

Aside from the mysteries Alexamenos Graffito, the earliest depiction of a Crucified Jesus is found on the wooden door panel of the Santa Sabina Basilica, the door & its image is dated to 430 C.E.

The absence of Christian T-Cross iconography before the 5th century is telling. The earliest written record depicting Jesus dying on a T-Cross is found in the Apocryphal Epistle of Barnabas (70 – 131 C.E)

For the scripture saith; And Abraham circumcised of his household eighteen males and three hundred. What then was the knowledge given unto him? Understand ye that He saith the eighteen first, and then after an interval three hundred In the eighteen 'I'stands for ten, 'H' for eight. Here thou hast JESUS (IHSOYS). Andbecause the cross in the 'T' was to have grace, He saith also threehundred. So He revealeth Jesus in the two letters, and in the remaining one the cross.

Epistle of Barnabas 9:7

Vine's & Alexander Hislop have the following to say regarding the origins of the T-Cross:

The shape of the latter had its origin in ancient Chaldea, and was used as the symbol of the god Tammuz (being in the shape of the mystic Tau, the initial of his name) in that country and in adjacent lands, including Egypt. By the middle of the 3rd cent. A.D. the churches had either departed from, or had travestied, certain doctrines of the Christian faith. In order to increase the prestige of the apostate ecclesiastical system pagans were received into the churches apart from regeneration by faith, and were permitted largely to retain their pagan signs and symbols. Hence the Tau or T, in its most frequent form, with the cross-piece lowered, was adopted to stand for the "cross" of Christ.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words

The earliest form of that which has since been called the cross, was no other than the 'Crux Ansata', or 'Sign of life', borne by Osiris and all the Egyptian gods; that the ansa or 'handle' was afterwards dispensed with, and that it became the simple Tau, or ordinary cross, as it appears at this day, and that the design of its first employment on the sepulchers, therefore, could have no reference to the crucifixion of the Nazarene, but was simply the result of the attachment to old and long cherished Pagan symbols, which is always strong in those who, with the adoption of the Christian name and profession, are still, to a large extent, Pagan in heart and feeling. This, and this only, is the origin of the worship of the 'cross'. This, no doubt, will appear all very strange and very incredible to those who have read Church history, as most have done to a large extent, even amongst Protestants, through Romish spectacles; and especially to those who call to mind the famous story told of the miraculous appearance of the cross to Constantine on the day before the decisive victory at the Milvian Bridge, that decided the fortunes of avowed Paganism and nominal Christianity. That story, as commonly told, if true, would certainly give a Divine sanction to the reverence for the cross. But that story, when sifted to the bottom, according to the common version of it, will be found to be based on a delusion.

The Two Babylon’s. Chapter V, Section VI, Alexander Hislop

The Ankh was an Egyptian hieroglyph depicting "life". The Egyptian gods Ra, Isis, Horus, Set, & others are portrayed carrying it by its loop, or bearing one in each hand, arms crossed over their chest.

In ancient Greece the god Hermes was symbolized by the Caduceus.

Hermes was identified with the planet Mercury & its symbol.

The Coptic Cross is a symbol derived from the pre-Christian Coptic Ankh, used by the Egyptian Christian Gnostics of the 2nd Century, this symbol is important because it demonstrates the evolution of the Egyptian Ankh into the form of Christian Cross we have today via the Caduceus & Mercurial symbols

Variations of the Coptic/Gnostic Cross include the Celtic Cross, a stylized version of which was popular with the National Socialist Party.

In Freemasonic symbolism the cross is depicted resting inside a crown, the Rosicrucian’s depict the Cross as the Rosey Cross, while the Church of Scientology use a Cross quite similar to the Rosey Cross.


The evidence presented shows clearly that the instrument of Jesus execution was likely a simple post, later taught to be a cross in order to draw in pagan converts. Yet even if Jesus was executed on a T-Cross, the symbol is & has always been pagan & therefore profoundly unchristian. The Egyptian Ankh symbolized life with an emphasis on the afterlife, the first lie according to the Book of Genesis was that if Eve ate from the Tree of Good & Evil "she would not surely die", of course both Adam & Eve did die as YHWH had said "for dust you are and to dust you will return". Unlike the Egyptian gods, the Old Testament god did not promise humans eternal life in a heavenly realm, so the Ankh symbol in one sense could be seen as a graphic representation of the first lie "You will not surely die...you will be like God".

If you are a Christian ask yourself: If the Cross truly is a Christian symbol why is it Occult fraternities feel so comfortable in using it?

Is it perhaps because the Cross is & has always been a pagan symbol?

Then he brought me to the entrance to the north gate of the house of the LORD, and I saw women sitting there, mourning for Tammuz. He said to me, "Do you see this, son of man? You will see things that are even more detestable than this."

Ezekiel 8:14-15 (NIV)

Saturday, 25 April 2009

The Nativity Re-Examined

The Nativity is one of the most iconic episodes in the Christian corpus. The Nativity depicted in the Gospels of Matthew & Luke feature dramatic elements; the fulfillment of prophecy & miraculous phenomena, this essay will examine those key aspects of the Nativity as contained in the canonical Gospels.

The Nativity account in the gospel of Matthew has an unnamed angel of the Lord announce to Joseph that his wife Mary has conceived by the Holy Spirit in culmination of the words of Isaiah 7:14:

"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" which means, "God with us."
Matthew 1:23 (NIV)

Matthew 1:23 quotes from the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures which uses the Greek noun parthenos (virgin) to translate the Hebrew noun`almah. However the Septuagint translation of Isaiah 7:14 is controversial as many scholars do not consider`almah to specifically mean virgin but rather young woman. The word `almah' occurs only seven times in the Old Testament, most Bible translations (including the KJV) do not consistently translate this word as virgin. With the exception of Isaiah 7:14 translators usually translate `almah as girl or maiden.

The list below shows a sample of translations & the number of times `almah is translated as virgin out of its seven occurrences:

KJV 4/7

ASB 1/7

NIV 2/7

NRSV 0/7

If the author's intention was to show that the mother of Immanuel would be a virgin he could have used the feminine noun bĕthuwlah, a word that occurs fifty times in the Old Testament such as Genesis 24:16 & Judges 21:12:

The girl was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever lain with her. She went down to the spring, filled her jar and came up again.

Genesis 24:16 (NIV)

They found among the people living in Jabesh Gilead four hundred young women who had never slept with a man, and they took them to the camp at Shiloh in Canaan

Judges 21:12 (NIV)

In the gospel of Luke the angel Gabriel, (who's only other canonical appearance is in the strangely non-Aramaic portions of Daniel chapters 8-12) announces to Mary that she will birth the son of David. Later in Luke 2:34-35 a devout man named Simeon utters a prophecy regarding the infant Jesus. Also after the boy Jesus is found in the temple teaching the teachers Luke 2:51 states that his mother treasured all these things in her heart. So the Nativity accounts present the mother of Jesus knowing that her son would later grow up to be the promised Messiah, yet the Gospel of Mark features the following curious incident:

Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, "He is out of his mind."

Then Jesus' mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, "Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you." "Who are my mother and my brothers?" he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers!

Mark 3:20-21, 31-34 (NIV)

Mark 3:21 reports that Jesus own family thought he had gone out of his mind, it could be argued the text does not explicitly state that Jesus mother felt this way, but such reasoning is a stretch of logic when you consider that Mark 3 states his family ... went to take charge of him, for they said, He is out of his mind & only ten verses later Mark reports that Jesus' mother and brothers arrived. The idea that Jesus mother was ignorant of her son's messianic role casts huge doubt on the authenticity of the Nativity accounts found in Matthew & Luke, a situation confounded further still by the Wedding in Cana, an incident found only in the Gospel of John, at John 2:3-4 Jesus mother (who is unnamed in John's Gospel) seems to be asking her son to miraculously remedy the wine shortage, to which Jesus replies My time has not yet come.

So either the mother of Jesus knew her son to be the promised Messiah, or she did not.

Matthew presents Magi from the east who claim to have seen a star in the east symbolizing the arrival of the Messiah, King Herod secretly summons the Magi to find the Messiah so he can worship him, actually Herod wants the Messiah killed, after this the star they [the magi] had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. So who are the Magi? The word Magi is magos (magician) in the Greek text, aside from the three occurrences of the word in Matthew chapter 2, magos appears only two other times in the New Testament; namely at Acts 13:6 & Acts 13:8 where the word is usually translated sorcerer. The related verb mageuō (sorcery) occurs at Acts 8:9 in connection with Simon Magus. The references to magos in Matthew's Nativity are the only times the word is portrayed in anything other then a negative light (see also Leviticus 19:26 & Deuteronomy 18:10), neither do we find any scriptural reference that would imply that the inclusion of this incident in the Bible serves the function of prophetic fulfillment.

Matthew's Nativity is concerned with the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy such as at Matthew 2:6/Micah 5:2, Matthew 2:15/Hosea 11:1, & Matthew 2:18/Jeremiah 31:15. Matthew 2:23 claims that he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene." yet nowhere in the Prophets or elsewhere in the Old Testament do we find the expression He will be called a Nazarene.

The apocryphal (non-canonical) Infancy Gospel of Thomas (not to be confused with the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas) & the Infancy Gospel of James also contain traditions related to the birth & boyhood of Jesus including the boy Jesus in the temple, found also in Luke's Gospel.

Compare Luke 2:41-52 with the following version given in Thomas 9:1-5:

And when he was twelve years old his parents went according to the custom unto Jerusalem to the feast of the passover with their company: and after the passover they returned to go unto their house. And as they returned the child Jesus went back to Jerusalem; but his parents supposed that he was in their company. And when they had gone a day's journey, they sought him among their kinsfolk, and when they found him not, they were troubled, and returned again to the city seeking him. And after the third day they found him in the temple sitting in the midst of the doctors and hearing and asking them questions. And all men paid heed to him and marvelled how that being a young child he put to silence the elders and teachers of the people, expounding the heads of the law and the parables of the prophets. And his mother Mary came near and said unto him: Child, wherefore hast thou so done unto us? behold we have sought thee sorrowing. And Jesus said unto them: Why seek ye me? know ye not that I must be in my Father's house? But the scribes and Pharisees said: Art thou the mother of this child? and she said: I am. And they said unto her: Blessed art thou among women because God hath blessed the fruit of thy womb. For such glory and such excellence and wisdom we have neither seen nor heard at any time. And Jesus arose and followed his mother and was subject unto his parents: but his mother kept in mind all that came to pass. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and grace. Unto him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Infancy Gospel of Thomas 9:1-5 (M . R. James Translation)

The Wikipedia article: The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, has the following to say regarding the possible oral traditions from which Thomas was conceived:

Scholars generally agree on a date in the mid- to late-second century AD, since there are two second century documents, the Epistula Apostolorum [Letter of the Apostles] and Irenaeus' Adversus haereses [Against Heresies] , which refer to a story of Jesus' tutor telling him, "Say alpha," and him replying, "First tell me what beta is." It is generally agreed that there was at least some period of oral transmission of the text, either wholly or as several different stories before it was first redacted and transcribed, and it is thus entirely possible that both of these texts and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas all refer to the oral versions of this story.

The Infancy Gospel of Thomas
from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Marcion's Gospel of the Lord (144 -160 C.E?) was a version of Luke's Gospel that did not feature a Nativity, did the Gospel of the Lord reflect an earlier manuscript tradition that did not feature the Nativity? The Gospel of the Nazoraeans was the most widely known of the uncanonized gospels yet all copies of it have been lost or destroyed, we know of it via extensive quotations by the Church Fathers. Epiphanius (c 320 - 403 C.E) & others describe the work as a Hebrew version of Matthew's Gospel:

They too accept Matthew's Gospel and like the followers of Cerinthus and Merinthus, they use it alone. They call it the Gospel according to the Hebrews, for in truth Matthew alone in the New Testament expounded and declared the Gospel in Hebrew using Hebrew script.

Panarion Section 2 - 3:7

Yet, just like the Gospel of the Lord; the Gospel according to the Hebrews did not feature a Nativity, instead beginning with the words:

In the days of King Herod of Judea, a certain man named John came baptizing with a baptism of repentance in the river Jordan.

Panarion Section 2 -3:6


Since the earliest extant fragments of Luke & Matthew (P4, P64, P75) are dated to the late 2nd/early 3rd century we cannot be certain the original gospels included a Nativity at all. The Nativity & boyhood narratives in Matthew, Luke, & the apocrypha are testament to the diverse reactions that the ancient world had towards , something reflected by the reply of Peter at Mark 8:

Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, "Who do people say I am?" they replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "You are the Christ."

Mark 8:27-29 (NIV)

With the recent proliferation of antichrist sentiment espoused by The Da Vinci Code (2003), Zeitgeist: The Movie (2007) & via the rising current of fundamentalist atheism; Jesus question "Who do you say I am?" is as vital today as it was two thousand years ago.

Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.

Luke 7:23 (NIV)

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."

Mark 1:9-11 (NIV)

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Patmos Revisited: Symbols

The book of Revelation purports to be a vision of future events depicted in a dense symbolic language. Unlike other Revelation commentaries this essay will not try to equate Revelation's symbols with contemporary events, before we can do that we must first have a loose idea of the character of specific symbols in the book. For example: is the symbol in question a religious or political entity? Does the symbol appear elsewhere in Revelation under a different guise? Does the symbol occur in the Old Testament also? Regardless of how familiar you are with Revelation I recommend you have a Bible to hand to check the scriptural references which I cite but do not quote.

This essay will offer basic outlines for interpretation of Revelation's symbols.

Stars, Angels, Fruit & Figs

The sun, moon, stars, heavens & angels in Revelation are often interpreted as being literal, but there is no good reason to suppose these events are exceptions to Revelation's consistent use of symbolism. Stars in Revelation are often said to represent spiritual beings because of the reference at Revelation 1:20:

The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

Revelation 1:20 (NIV)

This explanation of the symbolic angels may be another symbol in & of itself. While the Greek aggelos is used in the New Testament to refer to spiritual beings the word aggelos means messenger therefore it is quite probable the use of the words star & angel throughout Revelation may simply refer to human messengers or representatives. Trees in the scriptures seem to denote religious persons with fruit & figs perhaps symbolizing teachings & works of such individuals:

"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.

Matthew 7:15-17 (NIV)

John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."

Luke 3:7-9 (NIV)

Revelation 6:12-14 articulates a connection between stars & figs:

I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig-tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.

Revelation 6:12-14 (NIV)

The book of Isaiah makes the same connection:

All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree.

Isaiah 34:4 (NIV)

The book of Daniel mentions the stars & the heavens in connection with certain wise teachers:

Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.

Daniel 12:3 (NIV)

It's also interesting to note that when Abraham was promised that by his offspring all nations on earth would be blessed, YHWH compared Abraham's descendants to the stars in the sky & the sand of the seashore (Genesis 22:15-18).

So stars falling to earth in Revelation may refer to individuals being judged adversely, and the references to sun, moon, & heaven in Revelation also seem to fit with this interpretation. One final point, Jeremiah 8:1-3 describes how the kings, priests & prophets of Judah & people of Jerusalem are to be judged because they have followed consulted & worshiped the sun, moon & stars. See also Ezekiel 32:1-16 & Deuteronomy 4:18-20.

The Rider on the White Horse

"I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, "Come!" I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.

Revelation 6:1 (NIV)

The above scripture describes the rider on the white horse in near identical language to that used to describe Jesus in Revelation 19:11-16 making it appear this particular rider & Jesus are the same person. Revelation 6:8 summarizes the preceding verses giving an alternative chronology for the horsemen & additional information as to the identity of horseman riding the white horse: "They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.", Daniel 7:16-17 explains that wild beasts symbolize political powers, clearly the rider on the white horse is not Jesus, but instead represents "wild beasts of the earth" or earthly political powers, a comparison of Revelation 6:1-8 with Jeremiah 15:1-3 yields more confirmation of this:

Then the LORD said to me: "Even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before me, my heart would not go out to this people. Send them away from my presence! Let them go! And if they ask you, 'Where shall we go?' tell them, 'This is what the LORD says:" 'Those destined for death, to death; those for the sword, to the sword; those for starvation, to starvation; those for captivity, to captivity.' "I will send four kinds of destroyers against them," declares the LORD, "the sword to kill and the dogs to drag away and the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth to devour and destroy.

Jeremiah 15:1-3 (NIV)

Here we are presented with two descriptions of four destroyers; both descriptions closely mirror the descriptions of the four horsemen from Revelation 6 further confirming the rider on the white horse is not Jesus but instead represents political powers. Jeremiah 15:13 informs us that the conquests of the rider of the white horse mentioned in Revelation 6 pertain to the taking of captives, if this rider is Jesus then Jeremiah 15:13 would be the only reference to Jesus taking captives in the Bible, prophetically or otherwise.


The word earthquake in the New Testament is translated from the Greek noun seismos meaning; 1. A literal earthquake (such as Matthew 28:2), 2. A tempest (such as Matthew 8:24), or simply: 3. A shaking or commotion. A seismos that occurs in the book of Revelation may denote a shifting of political or religious powers.


As I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying in midair call out in a loud voice: "Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!"

Revelation 8:13 (NIV)

Revelation 9 connects the 1st Woe with the events unleashed by the blowing of the 5th Trumpet:

The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like women's hair, and their teeth were like lions' teeth. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. They had tails and stings like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months. They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon. The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come.

Revelation 9:7-12 (NIV)

Revelation 11 mentions that the 3rd Woe is coming soon after the 2nd Woe:

At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. The second woe has passed; the third woe is coming soon.

Revelation 11:13-14 (NIV)

Revelation 12 seems to imply that the 3rd Woe is the fall of Satan:

Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short."

Revelation 12:12 (NIV)

Two of the Woes appear to be directed against Babylon The Great:

"When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry: " 'Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!'

Revelation 18:9-10 (NIV)

Luke's gospel provides the clues to understanding each of the 3 Woes:

The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name." He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."

Luke 10:17-20 (NIV)

The snakes mentioned in Luke 10 appear at the blowing of the 6th Trumpet:

The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the horns of the golden altar that is before God. It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, "Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates." And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of the mounted troops was two hundred million. I heard their number.The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this: Their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulfur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulfur. A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths. The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury.

Revelation 9:13-19 (NIV)

Luke 10:17-20 identifies each Woe in reverse order:

Scorpions/1st Woe
Snakes/2nd Woe
Satan falling from heaven/3rd Woe

The demonic activity of Luke 10:17-20 finds a parallel in Revelation 18:

After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor. With a mighty voice he shouted: "Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird.

Revelation 18:1-2 (NIV)

Therefore it seems each of the 3 Woes in Revelation are connected with harmful demonic activity (See also Amos 5:18-19, Job 20:4-16, Joel 1:2-15).

10 Crowns & 7 Crowns

And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority.

Revelation 13:1-2 (NIV)


Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born.

Revelation 12:3-4 (NIV)

The beast that comes out of the sea has 10 crowns on its 10 horns, whereas the red dragon has 7 crowns on its 7 heads.

"After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns. "While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth that spoke boastfully.

Daniel 7:7-8 (NIV)

In Daniel's prophecy quoted above; the beast with 10 horns has three of it's horns uprooted by a little horn thus providing some explanation as to why the Beast out of the sea has 10 crowns & the red dragon only has 7.

The Number of the Beast 666

He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666.

Revelation 13:16-18 (NIV)

When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt YHWH brought ten plagues against the nation. The tenth & final plague was the death of all Egyptian first born males. Before this last plague God told Moses to order each Israelite family to eat a meal consisting of lamb & unleavened bread, the Israelites were to mark their doorposts with the lamb's blood so the messenger of death would pass over their home that night & thus their first born would be safe. In the book of Exodus YHWH compares the eating of the unleavened bread to a sign or mark on the hand & to a reminder on the forehead:

Eat unleavened bread during those seven days; nothing with yeast in it is to be seen among you, nor shall any yeast be seen anywhere within your borders. On that day tell your son, 'I do this because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.' This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that the law of the LORD is to be on your lips. For the LORD brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand. You must keep this ordinance at the appointed time year after year.

Exodus 13:7-10 (NIV)

Centuries later when the Israelites were exiled to the city of Babylon Daniel reports:

King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, ninety feet high and nine feet wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. So the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and they stood before it. Then the herald loudly proclaimed, "This is what you are commanded to do, O peoples, nations and men of every language: As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace." Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

Daniel 3:1-7 (NIV)

The image of gold measures ninety feet by nine, or 60 cubits high & 6 cubits wide in the original Aramaic of Daniel chapter 3, also note that the same chapter describes 6 instruments that are to be played when the image is to be worshiped, giving us 666. The number 666 occurs elsewhere, noticeably in an account at 1 Kings:

When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relation to the name of the LORD, she came to test him with hard questions. Arriving at Jerusalem with a very great caravan—with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones—she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind.

King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba all she desired and asked for, besides what he had given her out of his royal bounty. Then she left and returned with her retinue to her own country. Solomon's Splendor The weight of the gold that Solomon received yearly was 666 talents, not including the revenues from merchants and traders and from all the Arabian kings and the governors of the land.

1 Kings 10:1-2, 13-15 (NIV)

The least we can say about the mark of the beast is that Daniel 3 & Revelation 13 affirm it is a pledge of worship or allegiance & that 1 Kings 10 & Revelation 13 depict an connection with the receipt of currency.

Babylon The Great

One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries." Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. This title was written on her forehead: MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly astonished. Then the angel said to me: "Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns. The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because he once was, now is not, and yet will come. "This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while. The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction. "The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast. They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast. They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers." Then the angel said to me, "The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages. The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, until God's words are fulfilled. The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth."

Revelation 17:1-18 (NIV)

In Old Testament times Mount Zion was seen by the Israelites as the centre of the worship of YHWH while the Samaritans viewed Mount Gerizim as the centre of YHWH's true worship. Ezekiel 23 compares both Jerusalem & Samaria to prostitutes as does Ezekiel 16 & Jeremiah 2:20-21 (See also Galatians 4:1-31). Considering that the Old Testament compares institutes of worship to prostitutes & Revelation depicts Babylon The Great as controlling the Wild Beast, it cannot be said that Babylon The Great is a strictly political entity, but rather, Babylon The Great appears to be a religious entity who carries great political influence.

Babylon The Great is also referred to as the great city at Revelation 16:19 & [the] city of power at Revelation 18:9-10. Nineveh is also referred to as the great city in the book of Jonah (Jonah 1:2, Jonah 4:11).

In Bible times Millstones were used to make flour for bread, and in the Gospel accounts Jesus uses bread, flour & yeast as metaphors for spiritual teachings (Matthew 16:5-12, Luke 12:41-43 & Luke 13:20-21). Revelation 18:21-23 equates the large millstone with the great city of Babylon, therefore Babylon The Great is a large millstone dispensing spiritual truths:

Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said: "With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again. The music of harpists and musicians, flute players and trumpeters, will never be heard in you again. No workman of any trade will ever be found in you again. The sound of a millstone will never be heard in you again. The light of a lamp will never shine in you again. The voice of bridegroom and bride will never be heard in you again. Your merchants were the world's great men. By your magic spell all the nations were led astray.

Revelation 18:21-23 (NIV)

The Gospel of Mark describes how those who cause others to sin will be thrown into the sea with a millstone around their necks:

"And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.

Mark 9:42 (NIV)

The verb translated sin here is skandalizō meaning to put a stumbling block in the way upon which another may trip & fall while the scriptures use the expression to convey the idea of being lead astray. Here Mark uses skandalizō to inform us that those who have lead others away from the truth are to be thrown into "the sea" along with Babylon The Great.

As previously noted; throughout the scriptures mountains are often used as synonyms for places of worship (Isaiah 2:2-3, Jeremiah 3:23, Ezekiel 6:13).

The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.

Revelation 8:8-9 (NIV)

In the above scripture "...something like a huge mountain" is thrown into the sea, is this something the large millstone of Revelation 18:21-23? It seems very likely. So who is Babylon the Great? Many have speculated that the harlot is Rome or the Roman Catholic Church, one reason for this belief is that Rome was known as the city on seven hills, Revelation 17:9 states the seven heads of the beast that the woman sits on "...are seven hills...". However the word translated as hills at Revelation 17:9 is oros which means mountain, there is a Greek word for hill; bounos which is used at Luke 3:5 & Luke 23:30 but not at Revelation 17:9. 24. Babylon the Great also appears to precede Rome; for Revelation 18:24 states that "In her was found the blood of prophets and of the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth". (See also Luke 11:47-51).

The 2 Witnesses

I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, "Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshipers there. But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months. And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth." These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.

Revelation 11:1-6 (NIV)

One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.

Deuteronomy 19:15 (NIV)

The law of Moses required that two or three witnesses are needed to establish the truth of a matter. So what is the matter that the two witnesses of Revelation must testify to?

And he said to them, "I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power." The Transfiguration After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: "This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!" Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

Mark 9:1-8 (NIV)

See also Exodus 7:19, 1 Kings 17:1 & 2 Kings 2:9-10.


The interpretations presented in this essay whilst being deliberately vague, offer a scriptural framework for understanding some of Revelation's more infamous symbols. The Internet has provided the truth seeker with the tools to investigate the truths, mysteries & even intrigues of the Bible. Bible search engines, on-line concordances & encyclopaedias finally make deep & comprehensive study of the scriptures accessible to the everyday person, thus a truth seeker no longer has any excuse to seek recourse to religion in order to understand its contents.

"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

Luke 11:9-13 (NIV)

"At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge."

Daniel 12:1-4 (NIV)

Sunday, 16 November 2008

The Bible That Doesn't Exist Part 2

In part one I used Exodus 32:25-29 to highlight the possibility that cruelty & genocide in the Old Testament may denote interpolations (later additions) to the Bible text. In this article I will cover the New Testament, Apocrypha (books of questionable authorship or authenticity) & the writings of the Church fathers. My desire to know the truth is what motivates me to question the religious tradition that God inspired every Biblical book, protecting them from any corruption.

The conclusion will try to address the new Bible that emerges from the ashes of the official canon.

The definition of which books should constitute the New Testament developed gradually during the 2nd - 4th centuries, a fact borne out by lists of New Testament works that omit certain books that today are considered canonical, such as The Muratorian Fragment (c 170 - 180 C.E). It does not mention the books: Hebrews, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, James, & a letter of John. The Muratorian Fragment represents one of the earliest lists of New Testament writings yet found. Eusebius of Caesarea (c 263 - 339 C.E) wrote a history of the early church entitled Ecclesiastical History (c 303 - 325 C.E) in which he categorizes; James, Jude, 2 Peter, 2 John & 3rd John, amongst disputed works. It isn't until 367 C.E that Athanasius bishop of Alexandria in his 39th Festal Letter listed the same 27 book canon we today would call the New Testament, this list was "officially" confirmed by the Catholic Church at the Council of Trent in 1546.

The Comma Johannem is the name given to Bible verses found at 1 John 5:7 in some translations. This is how the verse appears in the text of the KJV:

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

1 John 6:7 (KJV)

These words first appear in variant form in the Latin Liber Apologeticus by Priscillian towards the end of the 4th century, the first extant Biblical manuscript to include the Comma is the Greek Codex Bodleianus from the 9th century. It is clear that 1 John 5:7 was added to 1 John to combat the "heresy" of Arius (256 - 336 C.E). Here we have evidence of a New Testament interpolation & an obvious motive for its addition. While 1 John 5:7 is well known as an interpolation & is subsequently left out of many modern Bible translations, it is clear proof that the contents of the Bible were not untouchable, & that the New Testament has been subject to tampering from early times.

An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

Luke 22:43-44 (NIV)

These two verses are absent from: Papyrus 69 (c 300 C.E), Codex Sinaiticus (c 350 C.E), Codex Vaticanus (c 350 C.E), Codex Washingtoniaus (c 400 C.E) & Codex Alexandrinus (c 440 C.E). So why were these words added to Luke's Gospel? Once again the record of the early church seems to show their purpose was to counter particular opponents of the Church, in this case Docetic Gnostics.

While some are ready to concede that 1 John 6:7 & Luke 22:43-44 are interpolations few will consider the possibility that a scripture is an interpolation without evidence of its absence from early manuscripts. 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is an example of a possible addition that appears in all extant manuscripts. So what evidence is there for interpolation? Let us start by looking at the verses in question:

women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to enquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 (NIV)

These verses are conspicuously transferred to the end of the chapter in some manuscripts including Codex Claromontanus (c 550 C.E) & Codex Boernerianus (c 850 C.E). When verses appear in different places of a text it is usually evidence of a gloss, a gloss being a short note written in the margin of a book by a scribe or translator that somehow finds its way into the main body of the text. On its own the fact these verses appear in various locations in different manuscripts does not constitute evidence for interpolation, however these verses flatly contradict statements in other works attributed to Paul, such as:

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Galatians 3:26-29 (NIV)

Another peculiar feature of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is the expression "as the Law says", here the author claims the Mosaic Law sets the president for women's submission yet seems unable to quote any such instance in the Law of Moses, or elsewhere.

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is remarkably similar to other verses that claim Pauline authorship:

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.

1 Timothy 1:11-12 (NIV)

Again, the idea that a woman must not exercise authority over a man & must be silent seems to contradict Paul's sentiment in Galatians that "There is neither male nor female...in Christ". The fact that 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 share an affinity with verses in 1 Timothy is interesting as amongst scholars, the books 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, & Titus (commonly grouped together as The Pastoral letters) are considered pseudo-Pauline, that is to say not considered written by the apostle Paul. The Linguistic evidence against Paul's authorship of the Pastoral letters is overwhelming, all together 1 & 2 Timothy & Titus consist of 902 words, fifty-four words are proper names. Of the 848 words that remain from the original total, 306 words do not occur in Paul's ten letters. These totals exceed comparable statistics from the ten Pauline letters when compared to one another. Of the 306 words that do not occur in the ten Pauline letters, 175 are hapaxlegomena (words that don't occur elsewhere in the New Testament), in fact, there are almost two & a half times as many hapaxlegomena in the pastoral letters than in any of Paul's other letters. Obviously linguistic peculiarities alone do not discredit Paul as the author of the Pastorial letters, however there is other evidence that weighs against Paul's authorship:

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.

1 Timothy 4:1-3 (NIV)

The Encratites were a 2nd century Christian sect, who according to the likes of Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, & Hippolytus, abstained from meat, wine, & marriage. During the third century, Hippolytus (c 170 - 236 C.E) gives a description of the Encratites that is remarkably similar to the "hypocritical liars" described in 1 Timothy:

"Encratites are very prideful and violent, abstaining from animal food, being water-drinkers, and forbidding to marry, and devoting themselves to asceticism."

Refutation of All Heresies, Book 8

The pastoral Letters are absent from manuscript Papyrus 46 (c 175-225 C.E).

Like the Pastoral letters; Jude is preoccupied with combating heresy, the book contains some of the strongest diatribes in the New Testament. The heretics Jude condemns are accused of turning the grace of God into a license for immorality, & denying that Christ is Lord, the writer compares his opponents to fallen angels, unreasoning animals, the inhabitants of Sodom & Gomorrah, & Old Testament cads; Cain, Balaam, & Korah. The book appears to contradict the words of Jesus by stating:

In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

Jude 1:7 (NIV)

Yet Jesus implies that Sodom is yet to be judged:

If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

Matthew 10:14-15 (NIV)

Was the sin of Sodom & Gomorrah "sexual immorality & perversion" as the writer of Jude claims? Not according to the book of Ezekiel:

Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.

Ezekiel 16:49-50 (NIV)

In my opinion the fact that Jude quotes from two apocryphal works counts as evidence against the book's authenticity, Jude 1:9 quotes from an apocryphal work that Origen (c 185 - 254 C.E) & Gelasius of Cyzicus (c 400 C.E) call The Ascension of Moses, the other is a direct quotation from 1 Enoch 1:9 found at Jude 1:14-15. Furthermore Jude 1:17-18 seems to imply that the apostolic age (first century era of the apostles) has passed. The letter of Jude also shares a number of passages with 2 Peter, these shared passages do not represent one book quoting the other, rather they denote one book reworking the text of the other, compare: 2 Peter 2:10 with Jude 1:8, 2 Peter 2:12 with Jude 1:10, 2 Peter 2:17 with Jude 1:12-13, & 2 Peter 3:2-3 with Jude 1:17-18.

Of all disputed New Testament books (Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, 2 Peter), 2 Peter, is regarded with the most suspicion by scholars:

"most modern scholars do not think that the apostle Peter wrote this letter. Indeed, for no other letter in the New Testament is there a greater consensus that the person who is named as the author could not, in fact, be the author."

An Introduction to the New Testament

The reasons for this consensus are manifold, aside from its dependency on Jude (or visa-versa) 2 Peter has the highest percentage of hapaxlegomena in any book of the New Testament; of the 399 words in 2 Peter, 57 (14%) are not found in 1 Peter or any other New Testament book. Throughout the New Testament the Greek word abyssos (abyss) is used to describe a place or condition reserved for the demons, such as Luke 8:31, Revelation 9:1-2, & Revelation 20:1-3, yet 2 Peter 2:4 uses the Greek word tartarus (translated as hell in most Bibles) in place of abyssos:

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment;

2 Peter 2:4 (NIV)

In Greek mythology tartarus was a place where gods & monsters were imprisoned later in Roman mythology, people were sent there too. Virgil gives a description of tartarus:

"Suddenly Aeneas looks back, and under a cliff on the left sees a broad castle, girt with triple wall and encircled with a rushing flood of torrent flames – Tartarean Phlegethon, that rolls along thundering rocks."

The Aeneid, Book 6

Its clear that 2 Peter is trying to superimpose the pagan Greek & Roman concept of tartarus (a hellish place of torment for gods & humans) onto the Christian concept of the abyss (a place of imprisonment for demons only). This is also the case with another book that claims the apostle Peter as author, the apocryphal Apocalypse of Peter an early 2nd century work that describes the punishments awaiting murderers, blasphemers, homosexuals & others in gory detail:

"And beside that rock was a place full of much fire, and there stood men which with their own hands had made images for themselves instead of God, [And beside them other men and women] having rods of fire and smiting one another and never resting from this manner of torment.... And yet others near unto them, men and women, burning and turning themselves about and roasted as in a pan. And these were they that forsook the way of God."

The Apocalypse of Peter, Fragment 2

The descriptions given in The Aeneid, & Apocalypse of Peter are remarkably similar to the religious concept of hell as articulated by Hinduism, Buddhism, Catholicism, & Islam. Both 1 & 2 Peter are absent from the the 2nd century Muratorian fragment, in his Ecclesiastical History Eusebius says:

"One epistle of Peter, that called the first, is acknowledged as genuine. And this the ancient elders used freely in their own writings as an undisputed work. But we have learned that his extant second Epistle does not belong to the canon; yet, as it has appeared profitable to many, it has been used with the other Scriptures."

Ecclesiastical History, Book 3

Quoting Origen Eusebius also writes:

"And Peter, on whom the Church of Christ is built, left one acknowledged epistle; possibly also a second, but this is disputed."

Ecclesiastical History, Book 6

2 Peter is absent from the 4th century Syriac Peshitta Bible.

Marcion of Sinope (c 110-160 C.E) was expelled from the Roman Church for heresy in 144 C.E. The only books Marcion considered scripture were: Luke, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, & Philemon. Unfortunately everything we know about Marcion comes from the references of the early Church fathers who label him an Encratite & Gnostic, yet descriptions of his teaching seem to only share aspects of those belief systems. Marcion is also charged by the Church of excising verses & whole chapters of the books which he reckoned scripture, including parts of the ten Pauline letters & most of the first four chapters of Luke, omitting the nativity & boyhood of Jesus. Did Marcion as the Church fathers claim, really delete materiel because it conflicted with his own theology? Or did he restore Luke's Gospel & the letters of Paul to their original state? Unfortunately, the oldest extant manuscript of Luke is dated to the early 3rd century & the earliest Pauline manuscripts to the late 2nd, so regarding the alleged tampering we only have a "his word against theirs" situation. It should be noted that the Church Fathers hated Marcion, they clearly saw him as fair game having no qualms calling him "the first-born of Satan" & describing him as Antichrist:

"And, as we said before, the devils put forward Marcion of Pontus, who is even now teaching men to deny that God is the maker of all things in heaven and on earth, and that the Christ predicted by the prophets is His Son, and preaches another god besides the Creator of all, and likewise another son. And this man many have believed, as if he alone knew the truth, and laugh at us, though they have no proof of what they say, but are carried away irrationally as lambs by a wolf, and become the prey of atheistical doctrines, and of devils."

Justin. First Apology, Chapter 58

"And Polycarp himself replied to Marcion, who met him on one occasion, and said, “Dost thou know me?” “I do know thee, the first-born of Satan.”

Against Heresies, Book 3

Remarkably, Marcion's claim that the Gospels had been corrupted are not completely unqualified. Mark 16:9-20 from the last chapter of Mark's Gospel is absent from the manuscripts: Codex Sinaiticus (c 350 C.E), & Codex Vaticanus (c 350 C.E), also the reference to drinking poison at Mark 16:18 is echoed by the Apostolic Father Papias of Hierapolis:

"Another wonderful event happened respecting Justus, surnamed Barsabas, who, though he drank a deadly poison, experienced nothing injurious through the grace of the Lord."

Ecclesiastical History, Book 3

The last chapter of John, John 21, is included in all extant manuscripts, the last verse of the preceding chapter says:

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.

John 20:30 (NIV)

However the first verse of John 21 begins with the Greek: meta tauta ("after these things") which seems conspicuous considering the content of the previous verse. John 21 even concludes in a way that seems to hint to its own apocryphal identity:

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

John 21:25 (NIV)

No manuscripts of an individual letter of Paul survives & no manuscripts of early collections of Paul's letters survive either. Why don't we have any manuscripts of Paul's letters before the middle 2nd century? Was the disappearance of these manuscripts related to the 2nd century publication of the final compiled & interpolated New Testament? We know that the Church Fathers actively suppressed & destroyed books they considered heretical or even superfluous, such as The Gospel of Peter (c 70–160 C.E) & The Diatessaron (c 150 - 160 C.E), we also know that The Martyrdom of Ignatius & at least seven of the Letters of Ignatius were forged by elements within the early Church. When considering the vitriolic & unchristian way the Church Fathers condemned their opponents isn't it reasonable to conclude the likes of Polycarp, Ignatius, Irenaeus, & Tertullian were in fact the apostates? Most of the interpolations in the New Testament are distinguishable by the following characteristics: the demonization of opponents (2 Peter 2:1-22), marginalization of women (1 Timothy 1:11-12), & carnality being depicted as instinctually sinful (Jude 1:23). Tellingly these characteristics are strongly evident in New Testament apocrypha such as The Acts of Paul & Thecla (c 200 C.E), a book which depicts the apostle Paul extolling the virtues of virginity & celibacy:

Blessed are the bodies and souls of virgins, for they are acceptable to God and shall not lose the reward of their virginity, for the word of their Father shall prove effectual to their salvation in the day of his Son, and they shall enjoy rest forevermore.

Acts of Paul & Thecla Chapter 1

I don't mean to imply that the genuinely inspired scriptures do not contain any sexual morals, because I don't believe that to be the case, I do however feel it's important to make a distinction between sexual morality & the sexual morbidity that is commonly associated with religion.

While working on this essay I wondered how Christians would respond to it, the idea that parts of the Bible were forged is a hard one for Christians to confront, Why so? I feel that many Christians are dubious about what motivates scholars to criticize the Bible. I agree that the motive behind a lot of Bible textual-criticism seems to be an anti-theistic one, I also feel that the majority of alleged Biblical inaccuracies & contradictions, are simply unfounded usually due to a lack of context or the result of sloppy translation yet the attitude of many truth seekers out there seems to be one of looking for errors in the Bible then loudly proclaiming the supposed error without making any efforts to double check, understand the books or their history. So it seems we have Christians who believe that the Bible was divinely protected & therefore we must believe every sacred word, & on the other side you have many non-Christians who say that the Bible wasn't protected & any spiritual truths it may contain are little more then myth. It's hardly surprising then that many Christians opt for the former over the latter discourse, in my opinion both extremes are wrong, irresponsible even.

"Everything is permissible"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"—but not everything is constructive.

1 Corinthians 10:23 (NIV)