• Old Testament

    Calendar, the Bible, and Ancient Israel

    A calendar is a cultural convention of tracking extended time. It is internalized without much thought by a culture, but it is interesting (and important) to note that calendars have changed significantly over time. In fact, it may come as a surprise to some readers that the current method for date reckoning that Western nations use is called the Gregorian calendar, which was recently (1582 AD) put into place by Pope Gregory XIII to improve the former Julian calendar, which had been used utilized since the time of domination by the Roman Empire. The Julian calendar, named after Julius Caesar (40s BC), was largely accurate but was off by about 1 day per 100 years. Thus, Pope Gregory instituted a new calendar that would align even more precisely with the times and seasons, and would avoid having a regression (however slight it may be). So, the present calendar we use…

  • Misc,  Scripture

    What is the Longest Book of the Bible?

    There are 1,189 chapters in the English bible, and 31,103 verses. But which book of the Bible is the longest? The answer surprises most people! Hint: It is not Psalms! At least depending on how you are counting. I am at least partially motivated to write this blog post on the issue of the longest book of the Bible because it makes such a great youth group trivia question! But, it also helps puts things in perspective for what you can expect when reading through the Bible. There are a variety of ways to calculate the longest book of the Bible. You can count chapters, verses, or words. You could also technically make a differentiation between Greek or Hebrew, and the common English translations that we use. Of course, it should be noted that we are not combining any books of the Bible. So, although 1 & 2 Samuel, 1…

  • Old Testament

    You Become Like What You Worship

    Human beings are created to worship the Creator. The psalms in particular are replete with calls for all of mankind to worship the Creator (cf. Pss 66:4; 95:6; 99:5; 150:6). But, as Paul points out, it is part of fallen humanity’s penchant to exchange the truth about God for a lie and worship creation rather than the Creator (Rom 1:22-25). This idolatrous worship practice can take place in many ways. Buddhism, Hinduism, and many African religions are examples of pagan idolatry. Even secularism, which claims to be empty of all religious components, takes the form of idolatry by replacing God with the autonomous self. Idolatry at its core is the epitome of human pride, arrogance, and foolishness. Psalm 115 on Worship and Idolatry Psalm 115 gives insightful commentary on the subject of idolatry and worship. Psalm 115 depicts the false idols who have mouths, eyes, ears, noses, and hands; yet,…

  • New Testament,  Old Testament,  Theology

    Where did Baptism Come from?

    When we read through the Bible from the Old to New Testament, a few things jump out when we get to the New Testament. One major surprise is the prevalence of baptism. Where did baptism come from? There doesn’t seem to be any indication of baptism in the Old Testament. However, the New Testament puts a significant priority and importance on baptism. What is the background to the baptism process? It seems unlikely that John the Baptist invented baptism. There is no indication that the Pharisees or Sadducees asked John what he was doing. Instead, the New Testament paints the picture that people were familiar with baptism. Scholars have attempted to explain why people were already familiar with the process. There are typically four possible options that scholars put forward as the historical background for New Testament baptism. Mystery Religion Adaptation Qumran Lustration Proselyte Baptism Jewish Purification and Washing Rituals…

  • Old Testament

    Was Samuel a Levite?

    How is it that Samuel was able to work in the Tabernacle? Wasn’t the Tabernacle work reserved for Levites? Samuel was born in Ephraim, so wouldn’t that disqualify him from service? These are some significant questions that readers of 1 Samuel often think about. The book of 1 Samuel opens up by talking about “a certain man of Rammathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah” (1 Sam 1:1). Elkanah is married to two wives, one of whom is Hannah. Although barren, Hannah prays for a child, and the Lord answers her prayer. This child is Samuel! After giving birth, Hannah names her son Samuel, and dedicates him to tabernacle service with Eli (1 Sam 1:28). Samuel stays with Eli and serves the Lord (cf. 1 Sam 2:11, 18). Throughout the story, it is obvious that Samuel is ministering in the tabernacle (cf. 1 Sam 3:3). This…

  • Culture,  Theology

    Are All Cultures Equal? A Biblical Paradigm

    There is a growing belief today that all cultures are equal and that differences between groups are cultural, but not moral. In other words, no culture can claim moral superiority over another because it is just cultural expression. Although this is a common idea, it has met resistance from some who have demonstrated that, on a pragmatic level, productivity and the standard of living are better in some cultures than in others. Although that is undoubtedly true, that in and of itself does not necessarily mean a certain culture is better than another. As Christians, I think it is important to be in the habit of using Scripture to inform any kind of comparison—including culture. Speaking from a biblical standpoint, there are cultures that are better than others. The cultures which are better are the cultures that are more closely aligned with God’s standard for living, and these cultures thereby…

  • Old Testament

    The Ketef Hinnom Scrolls and the Antiquity of Scripture

    Discovered in 1979 by Gabriel Barkay, the Ketef Hinnom scrolls made news because they contained the text of Numbers 6:24-26 and thus represent the oldest testimony of an Old Testament text that we know about. Funny enough, the discovery of the scrolls took place because the lead archaeologist, Gabriel Barkay, an archaeology professor at Tel Aviv University, told a young boy to go clean up a cave. This young boy ended up hitting the floor of the cave with a hammer (as young boys are wont to do), causing the false floor to collapse and reveal a trove of bones beneath. This hidden tomb, within walking distance of Jerusalem, had been preserved from tomb raiders and so revealed its treasures to the archaeologists working the scene. The tomb complex found at Ketef Hinnom followed the Old Testament burial practices (basically from Abraham’s time to around 522 B.C.). The procedure of…

  • Old Testament

    A War, a Witch, and a Weak King

    One of the most undervalued aspects of biblical narrative is geography. Just like any story, biblical narratives involve an important geographical component that either overtly or subtly gives additional insight into what is happening. Whenever I’m in Israel, I am reminded that geography can often reveal aspects of a story in a way nothing else can. One of my favorite illustrations of this is the story of Saul’s last stand against the Philistines. This story is found in 1 Samuel 28, and through the careful narration and attention to geographical detail, we are given special insight into the character of Saul. The story starts by describing a time when the Philistines had gathered to fight against Israel. At the time, David was living with the Philistines, and originally was instructed to go to war against Israel (1 Sam 28:2). However, due to the providence of God, David was forbidden by…

  • Apologetics,  Christian Living,  Culture,  Ethics

    Early Christian Opposition to Abortion

    Honestly, I am not surprised when some people claim to be Christians yet support abortion. I guess I am used to people claiming to be Christians while denying that claim by supporting all sorts of immoral nonsense. It is easy to claim to be a Christian. However, in contrast to many false believers who claim Jesus, real Christians are marked by commitment to Christ and His commandments. Real Christians are committed to the teachings of Jesus (John 13:35; 1 John 2:3) as well the teachings of Scripture as a whole (2 Tim 3:14-17). So, although I have seen my fair share of self-identifying Christians support abortion, I must admit I was a bit surprised recently when I saw a pastor of a megachurch come out and say abortion and Christianity are completely compatible. Of course a Christian analysis of this situation would affirm that abortion remains incompatible with a Christian…

  • Apologetics,  Culture

    Christians and the Abolition of Roe v. Wade

    June 24, 2022, will go down in history as a great day! On this memorable day, the Supreme Court of the Government of the United States of America ruled that the court precedent of Roe v. Wade was illegitimately established and was overturned. Moments like this are rare in America’s history but are deeply cherished. In this article, I want to briefly assess some of the implications of this court decision and then provide some Christian reflections. What Does the Abolition of Roe v. Wade Mean? Samuel Alito, writing the majority opinion for the ruling, notes the following on page 6 (of 213): It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives. “The permissibility of abortion, and the limitations, upon it, are to be resolved like most important questions in our democracy: by citizens trying to persuade one another and then…