Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Tithe

 

How Much Should Christians Give…A Tithe?

B. Hodge, Biblical Authority Ministries, August 26, 2020

 

In many Christian churches, they request a tithe—a certain percentage of their earning “given back to the Lord”. Tithe literally means “one-tenth”. A tithe is therefore 10%.

In the Old Testament, a tithe is often mentioned and is the Hebrew word מעשׂר or transliterated as ma‘aser. Recall that Christ lived under the Old Covenant and fulfilled it. So references to tithing before Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection on the cross would have been under the Old Covenant. Tithing was directly commanded to the Israelites in the previous covenant to be paid to the Levites as their inheritance (more on this in a moment), but interestingly it goes back well before Moses. 

Giving before Moses

In searching for tithe/tithing/tithes, there were no commands for it in the New Testament. Though there are a couple of references to it in Hebrews 7 looking back to the Old Testament account where Abraham gave 10%, a tithe, to Melchizedek, the priest-king of Salem.    

This is the first recorded instance of a tithe in the Bible when Abraham gave Melchizedek (the priest of God) a tenth of his plunder in Genesis 14:18-20 (see more in Hebrews 7:1-12): 

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High.  And he blessed him and said: "Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand." And he gave him a tithe of all. (Genesis 14:18-20, NKJV) 

The next instance is Jacob’s vow to give a tenth to God in Genesis 28:22: 

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, "so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. "And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You." (Genesis 28:20-22, NKJV) 

Perhaps these are a reflection extending as far back as the amount given by Abel from his flocks (fat portions in Genesis 4:4) and Cain’s (first fruits in Genesis 4:3). However, we cannot be sure of the amounts given prior to Abraham nor was there a command revealed to us by God to give a tenth. Abraham and Jacob set their own amount to give, as it wasn’t commanded by God. So I would not be dogmatic about pre-Abrahamic amounts, but it is something to think about. 

Another tidbit that escapes many expositors is that Pharaoh received a double tithe (1/5th) from the Egyptians’ increase when they sold themselves into slavery. After they had sold their land to Pharaoh, this was the purchase price for slave labor in Egypt that Joseph imposed (Genesis 47:19-24). Nevertheless, to understand tithing further though, we need to dive into the Law of Moses. 

Tithing with Moses and the Law 

‘And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD’S. It is holy to the LORD. ‘If a man wants at all to redeem any of his tithes, he shall add one-fifth to it. ‘And concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the LORD. (Leviticus 27:30-32, NKJV) 

After Moses gave the law to the Israelites, there were tithes of the land (seed and fruit) per Leviticus 27:30. There were tithes of livestock per Leviticus 27:32.[1] 

This is the beginning of the Bible’s references to tithing as a command to the Israelites under the Law. Under the Mosaic Covenant, the Israelites were commanded to give 10% of what they earned to the Lord. One of the reasons for this tithe was for the Levites income, who were the priests. The Levites, who had no land allotted to them. Instead, they worked for the Lord performing sacrifices and doctoral duties and so on. God had set them apart to work in the Tent of Meeting, Tabernacle, and later the Temple. 

The LORD had said to Moses: "You must not count the tribe of Levi or include them in the census of the other Israelites. Instead, appoint the Levites to be in charge of the tabernacle of the Testimony—over all its furnishings and everything belonging to it. They are to carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings; they are to take care of it and encamp round it.( Numbers 1:48-50, NKJV) 

When Israelites were giving to God, they were also providing for the Levites and the upkeep of the Tabernacle and later the Temple, Synagogues, and so on.  

"I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance in return for the work they do while serving at the Tent of Meeting. From now on the Israelites must not go near the Tent of Meeting, or they will bear the consequences of their sin and will die. It is the Levites who are to do the work at the Tent of Meeting and bear the responsibility for offenses against it. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. They will receive no inheritance among the Israelites. Instead, I give to the Levites as their inheritance the tithes that the Israelites present as an offering to the LORD. That is why I said concerning them: ‘They will have no inheritance among the Israelites.’" The LORD said to Moses, "Speak to the Levites and say to them: ‘When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the LORD’s offering. (Numbers 18:21-26, NKJV) 

This tithe was to be for the Levites for their “inheritance” because they didn’t inherit land as the other Israelite tribes. Even so, the Levites were to still give 10% of their earning as a gift to God. 

In Malachi, the Israelites were not tithing as they were commanded. At this point, the Levites weren’t getting any sort of proper “income”, so in a way they were robbing those who worked in God’s house, and that was the same as robbing God. 

"Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this," Says the LORD of hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.(Malachi 3:8-10, NKJV) 

God blesses those who give. Of course, Leviticus 26 speaks of blessings and curses if the Israelites didn’t obey God (this would include tithing), which they weren’t doing in Malachi. This is why God was cursing the Israelites for their disobedience. 

You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation.(Malachi 3:9, NKJV) 

When Jesus spoke of tithing (e.g. Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42, etc.) we need to keep in mind that Jesus was living during the Old Covenant. The Temple was in place, the Levite priests and their families needed to be paid for their religious duties.

How to view law changes

Christians are now under the New Covenant in Jesus Christ as He fulfilled the Old. 

Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you. (Luke 22:20, NKJV)  

In that He says, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.( Hebrews 8:13, NKJV) 

Because of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, we are under a New Covenant (not to mention we don’t have to provide for Levites because they no longer have the Temple in which to work and the sacrificial duties are no more as Christ died once for all. In fact, the body is now the new Temple of the Holy Spirit  per 1 Corinthians 6:19.The point is that things changed. 

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) 

This is where you need to understand some theology to understand these changes. For example, the way Christians look at various Old Testament laws is primarily based on one of two theologies. They are either dispensational or covenantal (sometimes people try to mix these two to get hosts of variations). These views have similarities and differences.   

As a note of history, most Christians historically have been covenant theology. However in the mid-1800s, a new idea emerged called dispensationalism in the Plymouth Brethren  denomination in the United Sates. Since then, it has spread to several other notable denominations.  

Both covenant theology and dispensationalism agree that when a new covenant came about, rules changed.[2] Some of these covenants are the original Adamic (Hosea 6:7), Noahic (e.g., Genesis 9:9), Mosaic (e.g., Exodus 24:8), and now the new one in Christ’s blood (e.g., Luke 22:20). 

For example, from the Adamic, man was vegetarian (Genesis 1:29-30).  When there was a new covenant with Noah, man was allowed to eat clean and unclean meat (Genesis 9:3). With Moses and the covenant with the Israelites, it was even more strict limiting them to eat only meat that was clean (Leviticus 11:47, etc.).  In the new covenant with Christ’s blood, this was again changed (Romans 14:1-4) as Christ, showing His godly power, made all foods clean (Mark 7:19, Acts 11:6-9, etc.).   

And in heaven, we will be vegetarian again to complete the cycle (there will be no death in heaven [Revelation 21:4], so no meat will be available).  

Food permitted to be eaten

Edenic

Vegetarian

Noahic

Vegetarian foods, clean and unclean meats

Mosaic

Vegetarian foods, clean meats

New Covenant in Christ

Vegetarian foods, expanded listing of clean meats

Heaven

Vegetarian

So God’s rules to man can change at various covenants (but God’s character has never changed). With regards to various other laws, there are also some changes but it may not be as “cut and dried” as the example above. These two views differ in the way they look how the laws change. In essence, they say: 

Covenant theology: rules apply unless done away with or modified in the next covenant by God.  In other words, each of the covenants is seen as part of a greater covenant that now has modifications.  

Dispensational theology: previous rules don’t apply in a new covenant unless reiterated in the next covenant. In other words, new dispensations do away with previous rules in previous covenants and new rules need to be stated.  

Both of these affect the way that Old Testament laws are viewed. Both sides agree on most laws (where they don’t is where it gets interesting –bestiality, tattoos, etc.), because so much was reiterated in the New Testament that both sides agree for the most part. But some things went away – obviously the sacrificial stuff, which Christ fulfilled. 

Since the duties of the Levite priests have been fulfilled and no longer necessary, by both dispensationalism and covenant theology. So let’s look at tithing from these perspectives.  

New Testament Giving

Under the new covenant (New Testament), we find no direct passages insisting on a tithe to the Levites or the church. So from a dispensational perspective, tithing should be extinct, when Old Testament law came to an end with the new covenant in Christ’s blood per dispensationalism. Even Levites, who were Israelites, are now the same as gentiles (Galatians 3:28-29). 

For the covenant theologian, it gets interesting—because God never said to stop tithing in the New Testament although the New Testament makes it clear, the Temple, sacrifice, and associated Levitical duties to be done away with. So did tithing, which is connected to those duties, end as well? God discusses giving and gave rules concerning it so indeed there has been changes. 

Both dispensationalists and covenant theologians should completely agree on this part by the way. God discusses how He loves a cheerful giver. Furthermore, we, as Christians, should set aside a certain amount according to our income as purposed in our heart. This is found in 2 Corinthians: 

But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:6-7, NKJV) 

This was in the context of setting aside funds for the ministering saints, such as Paul when he arrives (2 Corinthians 9). Paul also directs the church in Corinth to set aside a sum of money each week.  

Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. (1 Corinthians 16:1-3, NKJV) 

This was directed specifically for the New Testament church at various places such as Galatia, Corinth, etc., it is a principle that can be applied today, concerning giving within the church. However, we can’t neglect that this gift was ultimately given to another church for their use. Building on this, consider to whom giving is now directed? 

If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel. (1 Corinthians 9:11-14, NKJV) 

Those who preach the Gospel are to reap their living from the Gospel as well—in a manner similar to the way the ministering Levites did. So there has been a change from the ministering Levites to those preaching the good news. 

We should be encouraged to give to God’s ministry of saints whether through the local church, missions work, para-church organizations, or other specific ministries of the church as a whole or locally (supplementing widows and orphans, etc.)—so long as the Gospel is being preached. Jesus says it is more blessed to give than to receive.  

"I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’" (Acts 20:35, NKJV) 

It is of importance that Christians give as it is commanded, but they should give because they want to, and not because they are forced to. Consider the gracious gift that was freely given to the saints: 

Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God. So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in you as well. But as you abound in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us — see that you abound in this grace also. (2 Corinthians 8:1-7, NKJV) 

The Corinthian church actually excelled in giving! This lets us know that Christians were indeed giving different amounts freely. Some purposed to give a certain amount in the New Testament but then tried to rob God. They were Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10). They were put to death for God lying to God. 

Transference 

Some Christians hold to a theological concept called transference. Those in this camp hold that Christians are like the Israelites and the church leadership and buildings are like the Temple and the Levitical workers from the Old Covenant and so the tithe law is to be transferred to the New Covenant where it now means Christians and the church. Transference is then used to justify tithing to the Christians. 

Transference is also used by many to transfer circumcision to infant baptism (utilizing Colossians 2:11-12 of instance), Sabbath rest to Sunday rest, and so on. The problem is that transference is not justified Scripturally to transfer one doctrine to another in its practices. For instance, no longer would giving be cheerfully and freely purposed in one’s heart but now a command and a set amount. In the same way, just because there is a comparison of circumcision to baptism doesn’t justify transferring infants who were circumcised in the Old Testament to infant baptism (paedobaptism). Transference comes out of a theology, not the text of Scripture.  

Conclusions 

We are commanded to givebut that cheerful amount is between you and God. Keep in mind that if we do not give to God, then we are robbing God in the same way the Israelites were in Malachi. So what has been purposed in our hearts by each individual to give and should be followed through with and if that is 10%, then so be it.  

Christians should excel in giving and the tithe would probably be a good guideline to use but it shouldn’t be a hindrance, as giving could easily be much more than 10%—consider the widow’s offering (Mark 12:42-44) who far exceeded the tithe. The Lord honored such a thing by revealing it to us in His Word. So why restrict the Christian who wants to give more by only permitting 10%? 

Please read Paul’s exhortation to those who were generous givers as a closing to this brief discussion on tithing:  

Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:14-19, NKJV)

 



[1] In verse 31, a person could redeem (keep back) their tithe of fruits, seeds/grains, etc., by taking its value and doubling it (so the value is equal to 1/5th or a double tithe) and sending that equivalent monetary value (or something else equivalently valued) to the Levites.

[2] Dispensationalists also have other dispensations beside covenants, and the covenants are also largely seen as dispensations.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Images of Jesus

 

Did Jesus Look Like The Pictures We Often See?

B. Hodge, Biblical Authority Ministries, August 20, 2020

Introduction

In our culture and cultures around the world, images of Jesus abound. What did Jesus look like—in other words, are the images we often see remotely close to what Jesus may have looked like when He became a man?

As one who rarely, if ever, uses images of Christ in my writing and speaking, I can’t write this without utilizing images of Jesus both present and past. The reason is simply that I have little choice but to show images when discussing this very delicate topic of “images of Christ”. Please don’t worship these images, but worship God in heaven in spirit and in truth. But I ask for a little grace on this since I am trying to educate readers on this subject.

Jesus from the Old Testament to the Cross

In the Old Testament book of Isaiah, Jesus, the “Anointed One” or Messiah/Mashiach (e.g., Daniel 9:26; “Christ” in Greek), is prophetically described. In His humanity, He was apparently not given to any attractive or beautiful form that we should look to Him. He had no noble rank or majesty by which would we would desire Him.  

For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. (Isaiah 53:2-3, NASB) 

This should automatically be a red flag to the many movies and images of Jesus that have him have a great looking gent! He was likely an ordinary looking man with ordinary form and average, yet modest, clothes for ancient Israel.  

Naturally, Christ was marred and disfigured beyond human recognition at the Cross (Isaiah 52:14). After staying up all night praying, sweating blood in anguish, being tried by the Romans and Jews back and forth all night and then finally undergoing a beating by Roman soldiers, much of His fleshly form was destroyed. 

The Jews would administer no more than 40 lashes minus 1 in keeping with the Law. However, Roman did not honor the Law of Moses and beat Jesus until they felt like stopping. Jesus likely endured far more than the Old Testament limitations. After lashes and striking, with skin torn, blood, and mangled muscle and flesh, the ordinary body of Jesus was clearly broken for us—though no bones were broken (e.g., Psalm 34:20, John 19:36).  

Images of Jesus Influenced by Locale

When I look at images of Jesus in Ethiopia, Jesus looks like an Ethiopian—very dark skin for example. When I look at Jesus in England, He looks like an Englishman—fair skin for example. [Editor: I encourage internet searches to see these types of variations].  Interestingly though, I usually see certain commonalities though—with exceptions of course. 

The point I’m making is that most people want to picture Jesus like what they see in their local culture. In the past, cultures  were usually rather isolated from cultures in other distant parts of the world. Naturally, there were exceptions here too. 

For instance, nations that that bordered or were near in proximity to one another were often familiar with each other’s ways, styles, looks, food, and so on. But disconnected cultures were less so. In other words, in the AD 900s, Ethiopians were largely unfamiliar with the cultural goings-on in England and the English were largely disconnected with the cultural goings-on in Ethiopia.  

In the late AD 1800s and early 1900s, as news and magazines began allowing cultures to peer into each other’s societies around the world, things began to change. With the advent of the internet, information about cultures the world over began to be instant. In the grand scheme of history, information at our fingertips is a relatively recent luxury we have. 

But centuries and millennia ago this wasn’t the situation. Artists who pictured Jesus were limited to the people around them as well as previous images of Jesus that they had seen and had passed down to them. This is why many images of Jesus in various parts of the world resemble peoples in their local regions. So I don’t fault the artists attempted renderings of Christ even though they are tainted with the local flavor. It was really most of what they had to go on.    

In fact, I believe there are certain things we can learn from these images from around the world that may be more surprising than you might think.   

Jesus Hair

Was Jesus hair shaggy  and “short”? First, in accordance with the Law, the hair was to be kept kempt—orderly and in nice form. Jesus’ hair was not to be hanging loose since He was anointed—only lepers were to have their hair hanging out or unkempt as a sign to avoid them (e.g., Leviticus 10:6, 13:45, 21:10). 

When someone ministered inside the gate of the Temple (inner court) they were to wear turbans when men were ministering generally; they were forbidden to have their head shaved nor could they have long hair (by a female standard) but in the middle (per Ezekiel 44:20). Leviticus 19:27 indicates that men were not to cut the hair on the sides of their head and nor clip the edges of the beard. So Jesus, who fulfilled the law perfected abided by this. 

Though today we have a different standard of long hair and short hair since the Civil War and WWI began redefining long and short hair on men due to very short hair-cutting due to trench and military warfare. Typically long hair, for example on a woman, was extended down her middle back and longer as a covering, where a short hair would include shoulder length or even a little longer. 

Men with shoulder-length+ hair was not good in war trenches or other undesirable conditions due to disease, rats, lice, and fleas—unclean conditions. So they started cutting it even shorter and that has become the norm over the past 150 years. But we need to be careful of applying our modern cultural norms to what long and short hair were in Christ’s day. In years past, a man with short hair could have hair that was shoulder length.    

A Nazarite, who took a vow to God, was to grow their hair very long and this distinguished those men in vow (Numbers 6:18). But it was to be cut at the end of the vow as an offering—Paul once did this (Acts 18:18). 

The point is that Jesus’ hair should have been kempt instead of wild looking—most Jesus images have Jesus’ hair well-groomed and combed/brushed. I’ll credit them on this. Other images of Jesus fall short of this. Although I am forgiving on this issue, I would rather see the hair of Christ more kempt than this: 



The hair above is more of a leper’s hair. Interestingly, this style of hair is actually considered a “cool” hair style in the late 1990’s through the 2020’s. This image was also done in the United States by an artist of European descent. Notice how this particular image also looks like a person of European descent. So you can see how local and contemporary hairstyles and physical features still dominate how artists view Christ—even in our modern culture. Sadly as a taste, artists are making Christ in our image instead of following biblical guidelines. 

Early Images of Jesus

If we jump to early images of Jesus and James, perhaps there is a ring of truth to certain aspects of images of Christ. 

Ignatius was a disciple of John, the apostle of Jesus. He was much like Luke or Timothy was to Paul. A number of letters and documents from early church fathers have been kept and handed down through the church. Some of these items are correspondence between Ignatius to John and Mary (the mother of Christ) who was in John’s care. Mary even responds. The correspondence is repeated below: 

In A SECOND EPISTLE OF IGNATIUS TO ST. JOHN, he writes to John to whom Mary is in his care (John 19:26-27), 

His friend Ignatius to John the holy presbyter.

If thou wilt give me leave, I desire to go up to Jerusalem, and see the

faithful saints who are there, especially Mary the mother, whom they

report to be an object of admiration and of affection to all. For who would

not rejoice to behold and to address her who bore the true God from her

own womb, provided he is a friend of our faith and religion? And in like

manner [I desire to see] the venerable James, who is surnamed Just, whom

they relate to be very like Christ Jesus in appearance, in life, and in

method of conduct, as if he were a twin-brother of the same womb. They

say that, if I see him, I see also Jesus Himself, as to all the features and

aspect of His body. Moreover, [I desire to see] the other saints, both male

and female. Alas! why do I delay? Why am I kept back? Kind teacher, bid

me hasten [to fulfill my wish], and fare thou well. Amen.

 Then Ignatius writes to Mary too. He says in THE EPISTLE OF IGNATIUS TO THE VIRGIN MARY,

Her friend(1) Ignatius to the Christ-bearing Mary.
Thou oughtest to have comforted and consoled me who am a neophyte, and a disciple of thy [beloved] John. For I have heard things wonderful to tell respecting thy [son] Jesus, and I am astonished by such a report. But I desire with my whole heart to obtain information concerning the things which I have heard from thee, who wast always intimate and allied with Him, and who wast acquainted with [all] His secrets. I have also written to thee at another time, and have asked thee concerning the same things. Fare thou well; and let the neophytes who are with me be comforted of thee, and by thee, and in thee. Amen.

Probably to his surprise, Ignatius receives a response back from Mary called, REPLY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN TO THIS LETTER, and it says,

The lowly handmaid of Christ Jesus to Ignatius, her beloved fellow-disciple.
THE things which thou hast heard and learned from John concerning Jesus are true. Believe them, cling to them, and hold fast the profession of that Christianity which thou hast embraced, and conform thy habits and life to thy profession. Now I will come in company with John to visit thee, and those that are with thee. Stand fast in the faith, and show thyself a man; nor let the fierceness of persecution move thee, but let thy spirit be strong and rejoice in God thy Savior. Amen.

By the way, Catholics despise this letter by Mary and say it is a forgery because they believe Mary was perpetually a virgin contrary to Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3. Regardless of Catholicism’s errant views on Mary, these letters teach us something significant about the way Jesus looked. James was also known as James the Just (not to be confused with James the apostle). He was Christ’s brother and later became a famous leader in the church. He looked very much like Jesus. An early image of James, the brother of Jesus is: 

Another later image of James with gray hair is: 

Many images of Jesus actually have similarities to this image of James. What can this tell us about the preservation of artwork of many images of Jesus? They might retain a few more elements of Jesus’ actual form than we realize.   

But there is more. The early images of Jesus in the Catacombs of Rome and other early Christian sites and objects in the early centuries look similar to James. Is it possible artists were using images of James as a baseline? Or did illustrators use paintings or drawings from earlier images that were passed down (now lost to history or decay) that they used as their baseline for their illustrations of Christ? A sampling of early images of Jesus is given below. 

In the AD 200s, there is a the moskophrus otherwise known as the bearer of the calf on the walls of St. Callisto catacomb in Rome: 

Also in the AD 200s is the Epiphany of the magi with baby Jesus on a sarcophagus now in the Vatican Museum in Rome[1]: 


Then there is the healing of the Paralytic in the AD 200s from a baptistery in an abandoned church in Syria[2]: 


The AD 300 brought us a painting in the Catacombs of Rome, specifically of St. Marcellinus and St. Peter on the Via Labicana. It depicts six martyrs pointing to Christ—the Apostle Peter, Apostle Paul,  and later martyrs Marcellinus, Gorgonius, another Peter, and Tiburtius. These last four martyrs were buried in that catacomb: 


Also in the fourth century in Rome we have: 

By the 6th century a Jesus image looked like many today:


These images give us some clues to what early artists thought Christ looked like. Some have glaring similarities in look to James, who was “a spitting image” of Jesus and younger brother of Jesus through Mary. 

Are these early images an accurate portrayal of Jesus? Great question. I’m not sure I could answer that question on this side of heaven with much precision. Although something interesting happened regarding the images of Jesus that many may not notice—churches all over from Orthodox, to Roman, to Oriental, to Protestant have images of Jesus that do share a lot of similarities—even with certain local flair thrown in. Why? 

The two reasons I’ve given before are: 

  1. Possibly using known  early images of James as a baseline
  2. Using paintings or drawings from earlier images that were passed down (now lost to history or decay) that they used as their baseline 

I’m not the only one to spot this. Consider another researcher (who only one week prior to my article going live), was writing on the same subject parallel to me. He just posted this in his article: 

“Even if that were true, how could Christians so quickly have united on one image? I mean, take a hundred artists scattered about without internet, and ask them to draw a picture of someone whom they have never seen, only heard of. What would we get? A hundred different fanciful images. But the Church emerged into freedom, with Christian iconographers quickly writing essentially the same icons of the Lord. Why didn’t one “Jesus” become the norm in Spain, and another in Egypt? Why the uniformity? 

For these artists and iconographers were scattered very far apart, through many regions from Ethiopia to Spain, in thousands of parishes. There was no central Church authority to decree that only this one image of Jesus must be used. And even if they had, there was no way to enforce that image on Christian artists. So what could possibly have produced this conformity? Why was it quickly produced all over the Church. 

I can imagine only one answer: They must all have been working off one already commonly accepted prototype of the Lord, passed down in the Church from the beginning.”[3]

I concur that this may well be the answer. Although, it is “not a hill to die on”. Nevertheless, we should remember that Jesus’ physical body was resurrected and He ascended to the Throne of God where He sits at the right hand of the Father. So one day, Christians will get a chance to see Jesus and see what He looks like—at least in His glorified, resurrected body.   

At any rate, I hope this helps you think more deeply about what Jesus really looked like and how that relates to images of Jesus around the world.   

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Dear Church

 

Dear Church…

B. Hodge, Biblical Authority Ministries, August 19, 2020

Introduction

News flash – kids are walking away from the church, with few returning. No surprise here. We’ve known this for decades. This trend already hit England and it was a plague of devastation. Church attendance for the Church of England (Anglican) in the UK is less than 2%[1] and 25% of these churches don’t have a single kid in their pews.[2]

By and large, what is the church in the USA (and other parts of the world) doing to counter this? Very little. In fact, most churches are doing business as “usual”, which is what the Anglican church has done as it spiraled down into oblivion.

So what is the “usual” business at the church? You know…have some music, some announcements, teach some Bible, some theology, some morality, and the gospel (this part is optional in some churches—sadly). Is there anything wrong with teaching some Bible, theology, morality, and the gospel? Not at all.

So why am I being critical here? It’s what is missing. Let me put it to you like this.

How many of you have gone to church and used the Bible to learn philosophy and logic (formal and informal)? How many have gone to church to learn the technicalities of Flood and post-Flood geology? How many have gone to church to learn about literature and its styles from the pages in the Bible? Or apologetics surrounding astronomy, genetics, or biology? Or refutations of Zoroastrianism, paganism, Epicureanism, and agnosticism? And so forth? 

Most of you would answer that the church doesn’t teach these things;  furthermore, some might even answer that this is not even the purpose of the church. But consider the Great Commission:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)

Should the church be teaching all subjects? The Word of Christ from Genesis-Revelation hits on virtually every subject. So yes, we should. Churches should be regularly refuting false doctrine and false teachings (e.g., Titus 1:9).   

Does Jesus have authority over Zoroastrianism, paganism, Epicureanism, and agnosticism? Yes. Jesus has authority over all false worldviews. Does Jesus have authority over geology, biology, and astronomy? Yes, all sciences are subjected to the authority of Christ. 

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16, NASB)

Is the Word of Christ useful for teaching, correction, and training in righteousness? Yes, thus logic, literature, and every school subject (history, reading, science, apologetics, vocations, math, etc.) is under the authority of God’s Word.  But consider this glaring issue. We are not teaching these types of subjects in churches. 

Listen, I get it. The church only has a whopping 2-3 hours for teaching each week (combined with music and other stuff) so most of these subjects are left behind. Do you realize, that most churches wouldn’t consider having a biology, logic, or literature class—even if they had the time. Why? More importantly, these other subjects are seen as secondary to “important” teachings like theology (often dubbed the “queen of the sciences”) or the gospel.

So where do people go to learn these other subjects? Elsewhere—not the church.

If local churches don’t realize the problem quickly, they are going to go extinct. They need to hit the issues head on. I’m not going to sugar coat this—to make the necessary changes, it is going to feel like passing a gall or kidney stone.

A brief history lesson of why the church doesn’t teach all subjects anymore

The church has been doing the same things they’ve done since 1840 (or you pick the date). Now all of a sudden in the past semi-century kids have dropping like flies. What changed?

Let’s go back to 1840 and see how that time and teaching was different from today.  In 1840, the Bible was used in the classroom at public schools (“public” schools in America mean “state-run” schools, not private schools). Public schools and public universities, were essentially an outreach of the church, which had grown from Sunday schools that were originally founded by Robert Raikes in 1700s in Gloucester, England.  

In 1840 and for a hundred years prior, the church didn’t need to expend massive resources to train to kids at church to learn about math, literature, science, logic, history, apologetics, and so on. Even the Bible was taught extensively as part of the public school curriculum. So local churches pulled back from those teachings since there was no sense in being redundant.

Instead, they put their focused teachings on their distinctive theologies [which separates them from other denominations], moral codes, and the gospel. So they essentially gave the majority of teaching (~40 hours per week) over to the public school system to train their kids. Initially, this was acceptable since the schools were, as mentioned before, essentially an outreach of the church and a subdivision of it.

But all that changed... It was slow and subtle.

Jumping forward to 2020    

Suddenly, we find that public schools are no longer an outreach of the church, and is solely taken over and run by the state. The state/governing authorities, which was established under the authority of our Divine Creator and Lord who is the Almighty God,  Supreme and Sovereign Being and Ruler of the universe,[3]  has now separated itself from the church as well, being a secular humanistic-dominated institution. Thus, the state largely promotes and teaches the religion of secular humanism (e.g.,  atheism, agnosticism, secularism) in classrooms and other state-funded projects and media.

The Bible has been systematically removed from the public school classrooms. So has prayer, creation, Christian songs, Christmas songs, nativities, Christian morality, the Ten Commandments and generally anything that has to do with Christianity. Therefore, the Bible is no longer used for logic, philosophy, history, science (e.g., biology, geology, astronomy, etc.), music, art, literature, and so on.

Instead many public school classrooms, whether teachers, administrators, or textbooks, actually oppose the Bible and Christianity. Some even attack it with fervor.  

Teachings, like secular view of origins including big bang, millions of years, and evolution, are taught. Secular morality now dominates the classroom with children taught to have free sex at earlier ages regardless of marriage, pro-homosexuality, pro- gender fluidity, pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia, pro-evolutionary racism, and even pro-secular philosophies of politics like Nazism (i.e., national socialism), socialism, communism, and fascism. 

These things are reinforced when the kids go on field trips to secular humanistic institutions like natural history museums or secular science museums and read and do projects with secular magazines and websites or other media. Kids get extra credit for joining in secular protests and engaging themselves in secular activities and secular clubs. 

By the time most kids from Christians homes graduate high school, they have been thoroughly indoctrinated to follow the religion of humanism—all with the unwitting blessing of the church (and parental congregants)—who are merely doing business as usual.

To bring this closer to home, I was one of those kids. I went to church and got the basics. But I was also indoctrinated heavily at state run schools and had it shoved down my unsuspecting throat from early grade school through college. 

What has the church done in response?

What has the church done to counter this trend? First, by and large, church members still send their children to the public schools for an education (about 85-90% of them).[4] Let’s hash this out in more detail. Christians are sending their children to be indoctrinated in the religion of humanism for nearly 40 hours per week in earth science class, biology, history, ethics, health, sex education, etc.

Kids are constantly being engrained in secular morality by teachers, textbooks, and peers. The kids are influenced to have sex at incredibly young ages and if they get pregnant they can go have an abortion and their parents don’t even need to know. If parents ask—just lie about it—Christian morality doesn’t exist in the classroom—and don’t be deceived in thinking it does.

Second, most local churches are teaching the same few things for 2-3 hours per week—some theological distinctives, some moral teachings, some Bible, and some gospel. Of course, this is after music, announcements, greetings, offerings, communion, and specials are subtracted from the precious little time the church actually has with its local congregants. 

So who is going to win the hearts and the minds of the next generation? The secular world. And stats prove this. About 70% of kids in church homes are leaving for secular religions and not returning.[5] This makes sense when about 90% of kids in church homes are learning the secular religion for the majority of their childhood.[6] 

What is the church to do?

Get ready for the kidney stone to pass…teach all subjects biblically. This sounds simple enough, but we know that this is a huge task. After all, most Sunday school teachers or small group leaders are teaching because they were available. It was not because they were trained in apologetics, biology, astronomy, geology, logic, etc. So yes, this is a huge task—even the teachers need to be trained extensively.

Next, encourage Christians in your churches  to get kids out of this secular humanistic system. No more excuses.

I hear people say, “our school system is still good—we even have some good Christian teachers in there”. It’s time for a reality check. Not one pro-Christian textbook is used in public school. The gospel is not there. Jesus and the good news of the gospel is not presented in school books. If teachers are teaching the gospel, they will likely be fired. Jesus said in Luke 11:23, "He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters.”

Don’t get me wrong, there are good Christians teachers and administrators (and they need our prayer by the way), but they stand side-by-side with teachers and administrator who are openly opposed to God’s Word and mock it in the very next classroom. Christian teachers are extremely limited in what little they can actually say and do in state-run schools. But secular instructors have a green light to teach their religion.

Can your kids in church properly  and gently articulate presuppositional apologetical defenses and offenses to fend off direct and subtle secular influences through an AIP methodology? Yes I did ask this on purpose to show that kids are not yet trained to withstand and deal with these attacks. I wasn’t and my witness was clearly affected in my college years. In other words, your kids are not equipped to be salt and light yet. They themselves need to be seasoned and enlightened with proper training.

Dear Christians, when you send your kids to an educational system that opposes Christianity, even with a few Christians in that system with their hands tied, you are still sending them to a warzone.  I suggest that they are not ready for the battle or the war, and you, as a parent or a church, are not at the school to help them. They are on their own when they hop on that bus or enter that door of that school.

I don’t say this lightly—it happened to me. I went to public schools and was taught humanistic views from the word “go” including secular immorality, secular history, secular science, etc. This was over 35 years ago. The schools haven’t become more Christian in 35 years, but just the opposite.

Let me put it this way—if a Muslim or Hindu school opened near your house, would you, as a Christian, send your children there to be taught the Islamic or Hindu religions for 40 hours a week? Would you assume that the local Sunday School lessons would be sufficient to refute those religions? 

I suggest churches encourage either homeschooling or Christian schools—even some Christian school you have to watch out for and vet. Many of them use secular textbooks or have non-Christian teachers who still oppose God’s Word and clear teachings in Scripture. If it were me, I would love to see every church have their own school and/or co-ops to assist homeschools.

Churches should meet more than 2-3 hours per week. And teaching shouldn’t be a mere “feel good” message or brief segment on Scripture, but much more.  Refuting false doctrine, dealing with relevant issues in the church and in the culture, expositing Scripture while not neglecting topical teachings, refuting false religions, teaching good science like chemistry, biology, physics, astronomy, geology, etc. (most fail to realize that science is predicated on a biblical worldview).

Teach philosophy and logic, and so forth.  And teach creation and general apologetics—how to defend the Christian faith from all opposition. Teach the AIP test (how to refute false arguments by spotting arbitrariness, inconsistencies, and preconditions of intelligibility).[7] 

Do you think Christians in the first century sent their children to the pagans around them for an education? Not at all. Do you realize that secular humanism (based in naturalism and evolutionism) is merely a form of paganism—Epicureanism, to which Paul argued against in Acts 17?[8]

Christians often look at the Old Testament and criticize the Israelites for mixing their godly religion with the pagan beliefs surrounding them (e.g., Baal and Ashtoreth worship, etc.).

But Christians today are doing the same thing. How many Christians are happy with calling God a “woman” (this would technically be Wicca or Witchcraft at this stage) or geological evolution (millions of years) or biological evolution (single-celled organism-to-man) or astronomical evolution (big bang)? Far too many. They are mixing their Christianity with the various forms of paganism of today. 

Be honest with yourself, has paganism crept into your local church? Has it crept into your beliefs? It did with me.

Dear Christians, it’s time to repent and ask the Lord for forgiveness and return to the clear teachings in the Bible beginning with Genesis. It’s time to learn and teach every subject through the lens of Scripture in our churches and homes. If we don’t address it head on, then the church is heading in the same direction as the Anglican Church in England—extinction. And your kids are heading down the false path of paganistic humanism. 

Deuteronomy 11:18-20 says, "You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (NASB)  

 Responses

1.       “Our church is doing fine, we have a large church and many kids.”

But how many of their congregants didn’t go to another church prior to their conversion by the Holy Spirit? Most larger churches grow at the expense of smaller churches in their area who cannot offer as much. The key to seeing the decline is to look at the smaller churches in the area. Where are the kids in their 20s?  They are largely missing. 

2.       “My kids are like missionaries in the school system.”

No they aren’t—stop deceiving yourself. According to stats, 70% come out as unbelievers and you won’t know about it until they are over the age of 18. That means that 70% of your missionaries leave the faith. The few that do make it through with their faith intact, still has their faith on shaky ground. That was my situation. It was struggle for many years. The majority of kids in my church and youth group when I grew up are secular pagans now.

When you send your kids to public schools, by and large, they are in training to be disciples of anti-God teachers (one after the other, with the rare Christian thrown in from time to time). If you really think your kids are ready for this battle then, why waste time with school—instead, drop them off at the local Sikh Temple, Satanic Temple, or the local mosque to be good witnesses under their lead teachers for 40 hours per week for 12 years and see how goes.

3.       We go to the public school because they can offer sports, music, and other programs, smaller Christians schools and homeschools just can’t do.

I’m going to be frank here…is this risk of a few years in pagan education worth the potentiality of your kids going to hell—just to play some ball or a clarinet? Mark 8:36 says,  "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?”

Conclusion

The point is that we, as Christians, keep letting the world train the majority of our children, teens,  and college age kids. And we wonder why they walk away from the faith? This better be a wakeup call.  The eternal souls of your kids and grandkids are at stake. Don’t be a parent, who 10 years from now, suddenly asks why their kids, who are finally brave enough to say something, are claiming to oppose the Bible, hates the church, and has no love for Christ.

Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.  (Proverbs 22:6, NKJV)



[1] John Bingham, Church of England attendance plunges to record low, The Telegraph, January 12, 2016, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/12095251/Church-of-England-attendance-plunges-to-record-low.html.  

[2] No children in quarter of Church of England congregations, BBC, October 23, 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-41720994.

[3] Per the Four Organic Laws of United States of America (Declaration of Independence, Northwest Ordnance, Articles of Confederation and the Constitution) and each US State Constitution.

[4] Ken Ham, How Is AiG Reaching into Public Schools?, Answers in Genesis, March 30, 2015, https://answersingenesis.org/religious-freedom/how-is-aig-reaching-into-public-schools/.

[5] See: Ken Ham and Britt Beemer with Rodd Hillard, Already Gone, Master Books, Green Forest, AR, 2009; and Ken Ham with Jeff Kingley, Ready to Return, Master Books, Green Forest, AR, 2015.

[6] Ibid.

[7] For more on this see: Jason Lisle, The Ultimate Proof of Creation, Master Books, Green Forest, AR, 20XX.

[8] Bodie Hodge, If Paul Were Around Today, Would He Argue Against Evolutionists?, Answers in Genesis, June 14, 2010, https://answersingenesis.org/apologetics/if-paul-were-around-today-would-he-argue-against-evolutionists/.

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