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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Did Luke interview Mary herself, if she still lived?

Image result for gospel of luke

...The Process of Luke’s Research

Luke’s gospel was written upon the basis of investigation. His research was complete, thorough, and comprehensive, in order to record the truth. He describes himself as “having traced the course....” He followed a trail of evidence bit by bit. He utilized a process “whereby one arrives at a knowledge of the matter” (Rienecker, p. 137). Luke used the perfect tense when he wrote “having traced,” indicating that the investigation was over and his findings were preserved in his document.
Luke reveals that his research was thorough. He said that he investigated the course of “all things.” Concerning the relevant facts, he made thorough inquiries. His research no doubt involved a number of investigative techniques. He may have made use of other narratives, which represented the account of eyewitnesses. He had the opportunity to talk to people like James (Acts 21:17-18), son of Mary and Joseph, and a half-brother of Jesus. What might Luke have learned from James, the son of Mary, about the things she wondered and pondered in her heart (Lk. 1:29; 2:29,33,51)?
Did Luke interview Mary herself, if she still lived? What could Mark have told the physician and companion of Paul when they were together in Rome (Col. 4:10,14)? While in Jerusalem, Luke met people like Mnason, “an early disciple,” in whose house Luke stayed (Acts 21:15-16). Might Luke have interviewed some of the 500 brethren to whom the resurrected Christ appeared (1 Cor. 15:6)?
Not only was Luke’s research thorough in every detail, it was comprehensive as well. He wrote that he traced the course of all things “from the first.” He researched and recorded more than any other writer concerning the foundational events of Christianity. He reported the amazing circumstances of John’s birth, the angel Gabriel’s appearance to Mary, Mary’s visit with Elizabeth, the shepherds’ worship of Christ, the visit to the temple and the testimony of Simeon and Anna, and the twelve-year-old Jesus talking with the elders in the temple.
A.T. Robertson says, “The idea of Luke seems to be that, having decided to write another and a fuller narrative than those in existence, he first made an investigation of all the available material that he could lay his hands upon” (p. 51). This comprehensive investigation led him back to a day when an angel of the Lord appeared to Zacharias in the temple (Lk. 1:5ff).
Luke also indicates that his aim was to verify the events. He was concerned with the truth, not just a good story. He traced the course of all things “accurately.” Consider Luke’s precise care with the facts. He relates the beginning of John’s preaching with no less than six political figures and their respective jurisdictions (Lk. 3:1-3). His accurate reporting is also illustrated in the book of Acts where he mentions thirty-two countries, fifty-four cities, and nine Mediterranean islands.
When he spoke of the ancient world, he was accurate. When he used political terminology, he was precise. When medical insights were appropriate, his skill enabled him to paint a more vivid picture. It is not without reason that the former critic of Luke would write, having traced the course of Luke himself, “The present writer takes the view that Luke’s history is unsurpassed in respect of its trustworthiness” (William Ramsay, The Bearing of Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979, p. 81).

The Purpose of Luke’s Gospel

Dr. Luke did not scoff at the idea of the virgin birth or at the thought of the resurrection of the dead. It was not, however, that he had observed these kinds of things in his medical career. To the contrary! Yet, with unabashed clarity, Luke presents these remarkable events with certainty, based upon the abundant evidence that he reviewed.
And when you trace them, step-by-step, you will “know the certainty” of these matters concerning the life of Jesus Christ. He reported the truth concerning Jesus’ life — from his virgin birth to the miraculous ascension. And the truth to which these facts and events point is: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Lk. 19:10, ESV).
Luke distinguishes himself from the eye-witnesses who saw and heard these things (note the “they” versus “us” in Luke 1:1-2). But his investigation was so thorough, his research so comprehensive, his aim to record the truth so noble — that although he himself was not there, he can take us there, that we may know the certainty of “those matters.” In fact, once we leave verse three (i.e., the “me” reference), the greatest historian fades into the background behind the greatest story ever told.

(*note ...B. Luke specifically claims that he did research (Luke 1:1-4) into Jesus' life from eye witnesses. Paul's imprisonment at Caesarea by the Sea in Palestine allowed Luke time and access to these people. Luke 1-2 may reflect Mary's memories (See Sir William Ramsay, Was Christ Born at Bethlehem?)), as may the genealogy of Luke 3.
C. Several of the early church sources mention that Luke was a traveling missionary companion of the Apostle Paul. Some of these early sources also assert that Luke's Gospel was affected by Paul's preaching. It cannot be denied that the worldwide mission of the gospel is clearly identified as fulfilled prophecy in Luke, Acts, and Paul's writings.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Sh'khinah--The Abiding Presence of God

16.2. The Abiding Presence of God Commentary - A Testimony of Jesus

The Abiding Presence of God

At the heart of the idea of a Temple is the abiding presence of God. Although God is omnipresent, He has chosen to manifest His presence in certain locations and at certain times within history. This physical manifestation of God has come to be called the Shekinah.
the Shechinah Glory is the visible manifestation of the presence of God. It is the majestic presence or manifestation of God in which He descends to dwell among men. Whenever the invisible God becomes visible, and whenever the omnipresence of God is localized, this is the Shechinah Glory. The usual title found in Scriptures for the Shechinah Glory is the glory of Jehovah, or the glory of the Lord. The Hebrew form is Kvod Adonai, which means ‘the glory of Jehovah’ and describes what the Shechinah Glory is. The Greek title, Doxa Kurion, is translated as ‘the glory of the Lord.’ Doxa means ‘brightness,’ ‘brilliance,’ or ‘splendor,’ and it depicts how the Shechinah Glory appears. Other titles give it the sense of ‘dwelling,’ which portrays what the Shechinah Glory does. The Hebrew word Shechinah, from the root shachan, means ‘to dwell.’ The Greek word skeinei, which is similar in sound as the Hebrew Shechinah (Greek has no ‘sh’ sound), means ‘to tabernacle.’. . . In the Old Testament, most of these visible manifestations took the form of light, fire, or cloud, or a combination of these. A new form appears in the New Testament: the Incarnate Word [John John 1:14].1
The concept of the Shekinah is behind the wonder of the incarnation. The very glory of God “tabernacled” within human flesh and was handled and beheld. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us(ἐσκήνωσεν [eskēnōsen] ), and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” [emphasis added] (John John 1:14).

(Σκηνή [Skēnē] was the word used by the translators of the Septuagint for the Hebrew מִשְׁכָּן [miškān] , “tabernacle” (Ex. Ex. 25:9). During Israel’s pilgrimage from Egypt to Canaan the tabernacle was the place of worship for the people. The tabernacle or tent in the wilderness was the “tent of Jehovah,” Himself a pilgrim among His pilgrim people. In sound and meaning σκηνόω [skēnoō] recalls the Hebrew verb שָׁכַּן [šākkan] meaning “to dwell,” which is sometimes used of God’s dwelling with Israel (Ex. Ex. 25:8; Ex. 29:46).

In postbiblical Hebrew the Jews used the term שְׁכִינָה [šeḵînâ] (“Shekinah,” literally, “presence”) of the bright cloud of the presence of God that settled on the tabernacle. The Shekinah glory was nothing less than the visible manifestation of God.2)

The manifestation of the Shekinah is at the heart of understanding the meeting of God with man. In the earliest communion of man with God, God is said to have been “walking in the Garden in the cool of the day” (Gen. Gen. 3:8). This must speak of a localized presence with which Adam and Eve could interact—the Shekinah. The word itself embodies the notion of dwelling or abiding. This emphasizes the single most important aspect concerning God’s localized presence: where is He abiding? For wherever the Shekinah is, there is relationship with God in a more intimate way and all the benefits which come from His special presence. 

This is the essence of the promise made to the overcomer in Philadelphia, the fulfillment of that first love which was lacking in Ephesus: to walk once again in full fellowship with God (Gen. Gen. 3:8Gen. 5:24; Rev. Rev. 21:3+Rev. 21:22+). This was the ultimate desire of the psalmist (Ps. Ps. 23:6Ps. 65:4). Thus, it is an incredible blessing to enjoy the presence of God. This was the primary purpose of the Temple throughout history: to house the Shekinah glory of God among men. It is in the Temple where God’s presence “dwells between the cherubim” over the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant (Ex. Ex. 25:22; Num. Num. 7:89; 1S. 1S. 4:4; 2S. 2S. 6:2; 1K. 1K. 7:29; 2K. 2K. 19:15; 1Chr. 1Chr. 13:6; 2Chr. 2Chr. 5:72Chr. 6:41; Ps. Ps. 80:1; Ps. Ps. 99:1; Isa. Isa. 37:16; Eze. Eze. 41:18). Unless the glory of God “inhabits” the Temple (1K. 1K. 8:10-11; 2Chr. 2Chr. 7:1; Eze. Eze. 43:2-4Eze. 44:1-2; Hag. Hag. 2:7-9; Mtt. Mat. 20:12) it is just a dead architectural edifice.3 Conversely, in the history of the Temple, there are grave consequences when the Shekinah departs from the Temple, for it indicates God’s displeasure with those among whom He previously dwelt and the removal of His protection and blessing in His departure. The Temple, the house of Israel, is left desolate when the glory of God departs. In at least two occasions in history, the result has been the destruction of the Temple. When the Shekinah left Solomon’s Temple in the days of Ezekiel’s prophecy (Eze. Eze. 10:18Eze. 11:22-23), the eventual result was the destruction of the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. When the Shekinah left the Second Temple in the days of Jesus (Mtt. Mat. 23:38), the eventual result was the destruction of the Temple by Titus Vespasian of Rome (Mtt. Mat. 24:1-3).

 Whether God remains in His house is serious business! Although it is beyond the scope of our treatment here to consider an extensive discussion of God’s abiding presence, it will be helpful to note some of the most significant historical events related to the Shekinah.4 The Shekinah glory:5

Myth or Reality?--The Star and the Magi

The Star Of Bethlehem And The Magi: Myth Or Reality?

Trying to relate biblical narrative to actual historical events is a complex field of scholarship that attracts interest both from inside and outside academia.
The purpose here is multifaceted, from the believer historian or astronomer who wants to prove that there is a connection, to the nonbeliever who wants to disprove any such thing. In the middle, there are those who want to investigate the historical and, often, the astronomical data in search of phenomena or events that justify a biblical mention. Chief among such events is the appearance, as mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew, of the Star of Bethlehem illuminating the skies to the birth of young Jesus and guiding the Three Wise Men from the East toward his birthplace.
A recent book, The Star of Bethlehem and the Magi, edited by astronomer Peter Barthel and theologian George van Kooten, collects interdisciplinary perspectives from experts on the ancient Near East, the Greco-Roman world, and modern astronomy. The book is the proceedings of an international conference that took place in 2014 at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

Largely, the articles are a response to a previous study by astronomer Michael Molnar, published in his 1999 book The Star of Bethlehem: The Legacy of the Magi, where he claims that the star was an actual astronomical event, namely the appearance of Jupiter in conjunction with the sun, the moon, and Saturn in the constellation of Aries — which modern celestial mechanics calculations show occurred on April 17 in the year B.C. 6. According to Molnar, astrologers would interpret such celestial event as a major portent, signaling a sort of royal birth. Couple that with the expectation of a Messiah born from the house of David, and the connection between a celestial event and the actual birth was justified. According to Molnar, the Three Wise Men were actually (Persian? Arabian?) astrologers well-versed in the motion of the skies and, hence, keen to see such powerful astrological sign vindicated in reality.
Barthel and Kooten summarize the results of their conference into four questions: What? (the astronomical phenomena); When? (the chronology of events); How? (the role of astronomy and astrology); Why? (the evangelist's motivation). On the nature of the astronomical phenomena, there was complete agreement with Molnar, qualified agreement and radical disagreement. On the "when," most agreed that Jesus's birth took place between B.C. 7 and B.C. 5. On the "how," there was mostly disagreement as to the intentions and interpretations of astrologers from different regions in the Middle East. One particular difficulty was to justify the appearance of only three "wise men," given the supposed power of the celestial portent. Why not a multitude? As for the "why," Matthew was the one evangelist that considered celestial portents seriously, as they indeed colored his narrative throughout. For example, for the end of time prophecy he would write (Matthew 24:29): "the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heaven will be shaken." Matthew saw prophecy mirrored in the skies.
Although opinions diverge, it seems that celestial events did occur around the birth of Jesus. The problem is that they often do, some more spectacular than others. To the extent that they provide context to a religious narrative, there is a confluence between myth-building and expectation, the skies being the realm of God and thus sacred, sending us signals of what is to come.
If nothing else, the Star of Bethlehem tells us of a time when looking up to the skies in awe and wonder was part of people's lives, something few of us relate to nowadays. Christmas offers the perfect context for us to rekindle this ancient connection.

Marcelo Gleiser is a theoretical physicist and writer — and a professor of natural philosophy, physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College. He is the director of the Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Engagement at Dartmouth, co-founder of 13.7 and an active promoter of science to the general public. His latest book is The Simple Beauty of the Unexpected: A Natural Philosopher's Quest for Trout and the Meaning of Everything. You can keep up with Marcelo on Facebook and Twitter: @mgleiser

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Did the Wise Men Know Jewish Prophecy? -

(*click this link for the original article)
Did the Wise Men Know Jewish Prophecy? 
Archaeological discoveries are helping to illuminate the biblical account of the humble birth of Jesus.
Almost everyone on Earth knows the story of Christmas. The angels announcing the birth of the Messiah to the shepherds and the wise men following the star to the little town of Bethlehem where they found the Son of God living already in a house. (* correction according to Matt. 2:11)
But there's a lot more to the story. What led the wise men to follow a Jewish prophecy?
Few Saw The Signs
The birth of a baby -- a small event that became the turning point in world history. 2,000 years ago, the Messiah arrived on earth, but only a few people saw the signs.
"Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East."
Matthew 2:2
The only people who see the sign in the stars of the night are the people who are looking for it. The ones who saw the sign were wise men from the East. Their search for the King of the Jews brought them to the palace of Herod the Great.
The irony of course, is that they have seen a star that they associate with the rising of a King over Jacob and this takes us back to the book of Numbers, chapter 24 and the prophecy of Balaam the prophet
So who exactly were the wise men who called on King Herod? Where did they come from? And why did they seem to know Jewish prophecy better than the Jews?
3000-Year-Old Inscription Discovered
The answers may lie in a 3,000-year-old inscription discovered in Jordan. In 1967, archaeologists found the remains of an ancient temple in a village called Deir Alla.
On the wall of the temple was an inscription about Balaam the prophet, the same character that we know from the book of Numbers.
Balaam, the son of Beor. visited by an angel and scolded by a donkey. A freelance prophet hired to curse the nation of Israel.
But instead, he prophesied the coming of the Jewish messiah by the star of Jacob.
"A star shall come out of Jacob; a 

scepter shall rise out of Israel." 

Numbers 24:17
Only small fragments of the Balaam inscription have survived. It's written in Aramaic and it reveals a vision of judgment from the gods of Canaan.
"[It's] totally different context archaeologically with a story about him that is not the biblical story," said Stephen Pfann, one of the editors of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
"But it shows us that his reputation as a professional foreteller or prophet was known throughout the eastern Jordan or Trans-Jordan."
Balaam is one of the few Old Testament prophets with archaeological proof of his existence.
"I think it's just exciting, Pfann said. "It lends plausibility in one sense to Matthew's story, because the people who are familiar with Balaam's prophecies are people who are coming from that side of the Jordan River."
Herod's Secret Meeting With The Wise Men
Balaam's prophecy led the wise men to look for a star and the star led them first to Jerusalem.
The tower of David -- the spot where Herod's palace once stood. A place historians have called wondrous beyond words.
It was here that Herod summoned the wise men to a secret meeting.
"The humor of the text is that they come to the King of the Jews, Herod, who does not know his own scriptures," Pfann explained.
"He has to ask his counselors and his advisers to search the scriptures so that he can find out which prophecy they're talking about while they who are foreigners and gentiles know the prophecy of Balaam," he said.
Herod's men found a 700-year-old clue from the prophet Micah. A passage that led the wise men to the birthplace of the Messiah.
"But you, Bethlehem, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel. Micah 5:2-5

(* Bethlehem Ephrathah,
you are small among the clans of Judah;
One will come from you
to be ruler over Israel for Me.
His origin is from antiquity,
from eternity
. Micah 5:2)

They went to Bethlehem and found Joseph, Mary and Jesus. They brought gold, frankincense and myrhh.  Gifts that were described by the prophets, hundreds of years earlier.
"Nations shall come to your light, and kings, shall bring gold and frankincense."
Isaiah 60:2 - 6
Massacre of the Innocent
But while the wise men worshipped Jesus, Herod planned to kill him.
"I think nowadays if we were to meet Herod the Great, we would probably consider that he suffered from severe paranoia, and was in need of medical treatment and a good psychiatrist," Pfann said.
The wise men only fueled his paranoia. They were known as the king makers of the East and now they were in Herod's palace, looking for the one who had been born King of the Jews.
Herod saw their visit as a threat.
"This is just who Herod is," Pfann said. "He's a convert with no Jewish blood who is always fearful, doesn't trust anyone, loved his wife so much he killed her, loved her to death, I say."
Herod ordered a massacre in Bethlehem. Every male under the age of two was killed. An event that was prophesied by Jeremiah more than 600 years before it happened.
"A voice was heard in Ramah, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are no more." Jeremiah 31:15
Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt, a journey predicted by the prophet Hosea and fulfilled in the Gospel of Matthew.
"Out of Egypt I called my son." Hosea 11: 1
"Hosea 11:1 says when Israel was a child, and I loved him. and out of Egypt have I called my son," said Pfann. "Some of the rabbis say Matthew misquoted Hosea 11 terribly. Nonsense. "What was his point? His assumption was that his audience would know the whole verse when Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt have I called my son," he continued. "As it happened to Israel, it happened to the Messiah. You have this pattern all over the scriptures."
Nowhere is the promise of the Messiah more powerful than in the book of Isaiah. He spoke of a child, born of a virgin. A son called wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father and Prince of Peace.
Book of Isaiah Found Among The Dead Sea Scrolls
The words of Isaiah were copied by scribes, hidden in caves and protected for more than 2000 years.
When the Dead Sea scrolls were rediscovered, the book of Isaiah was found completely intact.
"I would say the one scroll that has had more impact on the world than any other scroll that was found here was the great Isaiah scroll," Pfann said.
The oldest known copy of the book of Isaiah is the only one we have today that existed before the birth of Christ.
"There we have a scroll from around 100 B.C. that is nearly as well-preserved as it was in the days it was being read over 2000 years ago," Pfann explained. "Otherwise, the next complete copies of the book of Isaiah come from a thousand years later."
"And with this, we are going to be able to say, now and for all time, that we have the text that existed 2000 years ago," he said.
From the desert caves near the Dead Sea to the ruins of an ancient temple in Jordan, the story of the Messiah was etched in stone and written on parchment hundreds of years before Jesus was born.
"And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."
John 1: 14 
*Original broadcast Dec. 25, 2009.