Tag Archives: christianity

Inland Regional Center Massacre

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” ~Jesus

“Fight those who do not believe in Allah.” ~Muhammad

See the difference? ~ as David Wood would ask.

December 3, 2015:
“At my office in Regional Center right now in SoCal. Not Inland Regional Center, but another local RC. The mass shooting yesterday at Inland RC was absolutely devastating. My heart goes out to all my colleagues there. This happens in California, the state with the strictest gun control and background checks; the state where it’s so hard to get guns. I’ve always said, gun control is just addressing and masking the symptom of the disease; not curing it. This world is where it is because of the cruelty of men to men. Thankful to the police officers who are patrolling our RC today.

It is a tragedy but I urge you all to not give in to fear and intimidation. Don’t be afraid of the ones who can only harm the body but cannot touch the soul.”

On December 1, 2015, I shared a quote from Francis Schaeffer:
“Man’s own choices have led men where they are. In their own way, all men are like the 1960 hippie who said, ‘Well, I don’t care what happens to the next generation. I will take LSD even if it does split the chromosomes. I care only for the moment.’ In age after age, men who had the truth have deliberately thrown it away. The world is what it is, not as a result of the cruelty of God to man, but of the cruelty of man to man.” (Death in the City)

The words of rabbi John Parsons are good to remember today:
“Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was surrounded by the evil of Nazi Germany, regarded stupidity as more dangerous than outright evil, since stupidity is a type of irrationality, a *chosen ignorance of what is real and true. Against such willed ignorance we are often defenseless, since any reasoning that appeals to transcendental moral truth finds no “traction,” carries no weight, and has no effect. The devil, then, seeks first of all to stupefy people, that is, to flatter and persuade them that there is no need for them to engage in serious thinking or to humbly question their assumptions… As William James observed: “A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.” The antidote to unthinkingly accepting the biases and inculcated prejudices of the world is to awaken to the reality of God: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; but fools despise wisdom and correction” (Prov. 1:7).”

Folks, America has turned back from the true path. Would you remember Jesus today and turn back on the right track?

Shannon Johnson

Photo obtained from Danusha Goshka’s blog Save Send Delete

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A hopeless case of a goddess

She is, as the New Ager would say, a true goddess. She is a professional dancer, an artist and a spiritual teacher. Her mission: to awaken people to their infinite Self and the sacred divine feminine in every woman.

“I flat lined,” she said, “and returned to Source. This is where everything was revealed. I saw the truth about reality.” The universe with its infinite expressions has given birth to this world which is one of many possible realities. When she returned to Source, she experienced how infinite our essence is. We are extensions of the Divine and have the potential within us to be Creators of reality.

“Because religion has brainwashed us,” she continued, “we have forgotten this truth.” But we are stepping into a New Age where everything’s being redefined. It’s time we awaken the divine within. There’s no right or wrong, no heaven or hell. There simply Is. Everything serves a Higher purpose for the Highest good. Remember, she has experienced the afterlife: “I wish you could see what I did, and wake up and know the truth about yourSELF. You’ll see that I AM THAT I AM is you.” … the only thing keeping you from it is your belief system.

~   ~   ~

“As I learned to let go of my ambitions and embrace brokenness, my personal pain began to bond me with others who were in pain,” Craig Keener writes. My interaction with this young woman reminded me of Keener’s words. I remembered my old self when I was so broken on the inside yet looking so whole on the outside because my ambitious, self-empowered, spiritual “Me” was giving me a first-class face lift so to speak. I saw my old self in this woman – not just that I myself have had “near death” experience – not once but two times and a third which was very close (and they actually only pointed me to Jesus as Lord and Savior) BUT I saw my old broken self in her because I used to be after the same: spiritual and professional success (aka self-empowerment), and it was for the same purposes as hers – to play my own personal savior, prove myself as a woman, find value and meaning, feel empowered.

I looked at this girl, whom the world considers a beauty divine and a great talent, and I saw nothing but brokenness. This was the most challenging part because whenever I meet a person who has fallen so deep into the rabbit hole (to use the new age terminology), things seem so hopeless… it feels as if this person will never see the light because they are so blinded and fooled by the darkness. This woman is so convinced by what she has experienced in her “near death” experience that nothing will change her mind. And the darkness will slowly waste her life… because truly there is nothing more than it can do but to delude and waste a person’s life, and drain the life out of the soul so when she is on her death bed what might’ve been a truly great life lived for others, will be a soul eaten away in the pursuit of the Self.

And yet, the brokenness and hopelessness I felt were a really good thing. Brokenness is something I’ve pondered on. The word “broken” evokes hopeless images of broken bones, broken hearts, broken things. But interestingly, in God’s dictionary brokenness is not only good, it’s essential. He uses people whose hearts, volition, intellect, and pride have been broken. And it has been said that those who stumble over the cornerstone will be broken while it’ll grind to powder anyone it falls on. Those who stumble upon it and fall down accepting and submitting all they are, as their destiny in Him and His will, will be broken by Him of arrogance, hard-heartedness, and self-centeredness. They’ll fall and will be picked up. They’ll break and will be made whole in their brokenness. But for those who don’t accept, the cornerstone will ultimately “fall on them,” an experience that can only be described as crushing. Ultimately, the choice is ours, “broken into wholeness” or “crushed into powder.”

This woman stands for what she believes to be true in her heart. Though I may not agree with her methods and reasoning, I do know that she’s doing what she’s doing because she wants to help other women and herself find wholeness, acceptance and love. She isn’t driven by a desire to put others down but to uplift them. It’s just the “how to get there” and the master one serves that make all the difference, right?

This personally hopeless experience reminded me that often people need more our prayers than our opinions. I may be powerless but the good news is that I don’t depend on my personal power or even on the prayer itself but on the one who hears my prayers – the All-powerful. And so I pray. I pray that God by His power and His Holy Spirit uses this woman’s brokenness and allows her to stumble over the cornerstone. I pray for all the other hopeless cases… even Dawkins that God gives him dreams and visions which he wouldn’t be able to escape, and falls face down submitting to Jesus. I pray that God uses such people… just as he used the most hopeless of all cases, the murderer Saul to turn him into one of the greatest saints, our beloved Paul.


My creed

I grew up in Bulgaria during communism and its collapse. Immigrated to the US at 22 and found it to be truly the land of opportunity. I completed my bachelor’s in health science, master’s in physical therapy, became peace and security ambassador, wrote a book, have my practice today… – in short, I became an emancipated woman who loved humanity. But all the success and empowerment wasn’t enough, and never fulfilled me because to begin with, my heart was broken and my soul was weary. There was nothing of this world that could help me. By God’s mercy, He gave me visions. It’s by no man that I learned about Jesus but by God Himself… That’s why for me there’s no other way or truth but Jesus. He was the saving remedy to make my heart whole and give my soul rest.

So I believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. The God, who bestowed us the highest worth by creating us in His image and giving us life by His breath. The God, who created this world, which in the beginning was all good but was broken and evil entered it…even into the very heart of man.

I believe in Christ Jesus, the Son of God… 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 and for our salvation, descended into this world, was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and became human, was crucified for us under the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended back into heaven. He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead so to restore all that was broken… to make us whole again – a whole new world that shall have no end, where God’s residence is among humans… where every tear will be wiped away, death won’t exist anymore—or mourning, or pain, for these will cease to exist. I look towards this new world…always remembering that Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good but dead people alive… of which I’m one voice testifying “I was dead but now I live.”


How reliable and authentic is the Bible really?

The Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:14-17,

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

“Seriously?! Thank you but I don’t think so. The Bible was breathed out by mere men as the church wanted to control the masses.” – This is what I would’ve told you in response to these Bible verses several years ago. As a matter of fact, I vividly remember how I personally advised a friend to take her child out of a Christian preschool so she is not brainwashed with some Bible non-sense. I mean… I loved Jesus! And would’ve loved my friend to nurture the love of Jesus in her child but the Bible – the Bible was out of the picture.

Often I think that God has an incredible sense of humor. As I look back, I am the one  saying now, “Oh God, please forgive me for I didn’t know what I was saying or thinking.” I grew up in an Eastern European country which communist government suppressed the religion of Christianity but could not suppress the religion of the heart, the love for Jesus. There were no Bibles to be seen anywhere during my life in Bulgaria. I left the country at the age of twenty-two, not having seen a Bible and never having heard a preaching or a sermon in my life. There weren’t any available after all.  Moving to the free and tolerant West in the city of Los Angeles, I found quite a few similarities between the U.S. and my communist upbringing, especially as they relate to the religion of Christianity. Bibles were (and are) all available in the States (after all I had to just go to a bookstore), yet it never occurred to me to get one. It so happened that the friends I made here were all into New Age spirituality heavily influenced by Buddhism and Hinduism. When I spoke to them about my love for Jesus, they reminded me of my communist counterparts with their saying that Jesus was no more than an enlightened teacher who was made to be divine by the church, and that the Bible is not a Holy book nor is it divinely inspired but was written by men. The church men in order to control the people made all that up. So I thought to myself that may be the communists after all had it right about at least one thing. I didn’t even think to question, discern, test, or research. It didn’t even dawn on me because the people who fed me with this kind of information were good friends. They were great people with good hearts and great professionals. Yet, in a way I felt like a gay person as I shut down and stayed in the closet in regards to my true identity as a believer in Jesus and in regards to my greatest love, Jesus.

But one day God had enough of my unfaithful in-the-closet behavior and through some personal occurrences led me to the Holy Land of Israel where he turned my life upside-down and brought my insides-out. Upon my return to the USA, He guided me to do three things: to enroll in Ministry school, to move my daughter in a Christian school (seriously?!), and to start reading the Bible for it is His book! The first two – okay, I could manage doing somehow. But reading and believing the authority of the Bible, especially when I’ve lived a life where a whole government had prohibited it and the good people in my life had denied it… that was tough for me. But at the end of the day, the Word of God coming straight from his mouth and piercing me to the bone was way more influential than the word of men who spoke from their opinions.

I started questioning and educating myself. I started questioning my friends to show me the evidence as I was done with the tabloid pseudoscholarship of sensational best-selling books, fascinating Hollywood movies, and talks of self-proclaimed powerful spiritual teachers that people were using for foundation for their belief system. It so happens that modern so-called scholars, writers, movie producers and spiritual teachers are on a never ending quest to find something new. If they can’t find it, they invent it. They are onto advancing sensational theories that do not run on the evidence. And so they end up either distorting or neglecting the New Testament, which results in the fabrication of pseudo-Jesuses and the reinvention of Scripture to say what they want it to say and to suit their biased purposes.

This paper is going to be long. It is not about making you believe in Jesus or Scripture. I cannot make anyone believe anything and I respect every person’s choice of belief. It is about asking you to honestly look at and not deny the evidence, even if it rubs you the wrong way. We must be intelligent and realistic when we speak of such important matters. I ask that we diligently inquire into the thinking, methods, and agendas of scholars, popular writers and modern teachers in their analysis of Scripture’s authenticity. What presuppositions do they hold? What methods do they use? Are they competent on the subject? Why do they move from valid observations to preposterous conclusions? How and why do they fabricate evidence? Are these scholars actually using sound historical and scientific methods, and are they really scholars?

In this paper, I will tackle the untackable (if there is such a word!) – among other things, the reliability and authenticity of Scripture together with an exegesis on 2 Timothy 3:14-17. May God help me with this task, but this verse calls for nothing less than a respectful truthful analysis. May it be only for your glory, Jesus.

How do you judge the Bible?

We all have criteria for passing judgment on many things. When someone voices an opinion or makes a statement, we ask “Why do you think so?” So I ask today, “Why don’t we ever question the skeptic? Is it because we are afraid of what we may actually find out?” There is a tendency in our culture to discount and discredit the historical and interpretative context of Scripture. As James White notes, “Never in the history of the Christian faith has unbelief had the tools at its disposal that it has today. Every kind of argument against the Bible and its portrait of Jesus is picked up and repeated endlessly in published works and on the Internet. Christians are often hit with “scholarly” arguments indicating that we can’t have any knowledge of what the Bible originally said or who Jesus really was. We are told Christianity is not unique and the story of Jesus is patterned after pagan myths…” Our western culture is a fertile soil for conspiracies of any kind about Jesus and the Bible. The seeds of cynicism and unbelief have been sown by the mass media with the help of general anesthesia in the form of a cocktail of entertainment, empowerment and self-realization, and a dose of promised mystical insight. From new spirituality seminars, blockbuster novels and movies like The Da Vinci code to spiritual life coaches and teachers, all have used the popular media (including social networks) to promote their demoted versions of Jesus and the Bible. It seems like in our postmodern evolved Western society, the quest for truth has been replaced by a convenient tolerance for every idea no matter how far off the truth or evidence it is. “That’s just your interpretation!” has become the tired mantra of hurried people who can’t be bothered by a thoughtful evaluation of evidence. It is simply easier to pretend all interpretations are created equal…. The radical skepticism sown in the media and rooted in postmodernism has been cultivated in an environment of biblical ignorance,” (1).

I ask you today to look at the evidence for yourself. I ask that we start asking some questions that demand historical and scientific evidence. I ask that we treat scripture historically rather than theologically because when the tools of the historian are applied to the biblical text, the Bible builds its own case for its unique character. As a British scholar once said, “We treat the bible like any other book to show that it is not like any other book.”  I ask that we ask the hard questions and not settle for anything else but the real evidence. Is the New Testament politically corrupt? Show me the evidence. Is there really tainting of ancient New Testament texts? Prove it. Can we trust the Bible? Did the early church suppress/influence the canon? Is what we have now what they wrote back then? Is what we have original? What criteria of authenticity and scientific methods are so called experts using when speaking about Scripture?

Criteria of authenticity

The starting points of the pre-conditioned non-expert critics of Scripture are cramped, superficial, uneducated and unjustified. Their methods are often invalid. This is truly sad because a lot of what passes for criticism is not critical at all, and a lot of what passes for scholarship is not scholarly at all. It is simply skepticism masking itself as scholarship. So let’s approach the Bible as historians, rather than as theologians. Let’s approach the Bible as explorers and scientists who do not lean on their own understanding and assumptions but who test everything. We must ask questions and apply criteria that assess the historical worth of the documents like: When was this document written? What does the carbon dating says about the material it was written on? Who wrote it and was he really in position to know what really happened and what really was said? Are claims supported by archaeological evidence and geographical realities?

To give an example, let’s use the complaints that the manuscripts we have are written in Greek and therefore they cannot truthfully reflect the sayings of Jesus because Jesus was a Jew and spoke Aramaic. Does this statement hinge on evidence or rather on personal opinions?

Great archaeological discoveries show that the Greek language was wide-spread in the time and place of Jesus. Archaeology shows that parts of Galilee were very urbanized in typical Greco-Roman style during Jesus’ time. As it turns out, Galilee was far more integrated into the larger Roman Empire than we have ever imagined. Jesus’ ministry was centered in Galilee and he grew up in the village of Nazareth, which was a walking distance from another large urban center, Sepphoris. The remarkable discoveries in Galilee and Sepphoris show us that Jesus did not grow up in isolation. Furthermore, the great many Greek inscriptions and Greek literary finds in the Dead Sea region leads scholars to conclude that Greek was spoken by many Jews living in Galilee. This of course does not mean that Greek was their first language, Aramaic was but it does mean that Greek was spoken at the time and place of Jesus, and Jesus himself may have spoken it. For sure we know that some of his disciples did, one of them being Paul who was a well-taught Pharisee fluent in Hebrew, a Roman citizen and well educated in Greek! The situation back then was in a way how it is today with the English language. There are many countries around the world whose language is not English but the natives do speak English because the U.S. is the economic, cultural, political and military empire of the day so to speak. To dismiss the manuscripts written in Greek because Jesus and his disciples were Jewish and spoke Aramaic would also mean that you must dismiss this paper I’ve written because I am Bulgarian and as such speak Bulgarian as well as any translation of any other author from Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra to Richard Dawkins that are not in their native tongue. Today we live in an English speaking world of a Western “empire” just like back then it was a Greek speaking world and a Roman empire. The English of today is the new Greek of the world.

Manuscript data

The Greek New Testament we use today is based on thousands of early original manuscripts, many of which were written within a generation from Jesus’ generation. Some modern scholars view certain Greek manuscripts (the ones used for the Kings James Version/ KJV) inferior because in some parts the scribes (i.e. copyists) added words. But instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater we must ask a smart question, “How much did they add?” The evidence shows that over a period of many centuries only about twenty-five hundred (2,500) words were added to the original text. To put it in other words, the New Testament grew in size from the earliest copies to the latest, which encompasses a period of fourteen hundred (1,400) years, by only about two (2) percent. That is a remarkably stable transmission that, if I may say, can only point to the providence of God in preserving the Scriptures!

Myths about the manuscripts

I often hear people say, “We really don’t know what the New Testament originally said since we no longer possess the originals. There could have been tampering with the text before our existing copies were produced.” But I ask, is this an accurate assessment of the data and the evidence? Is that kind of skepticism and personal opinions true to the facts? No, they are not. And if we have to apply this same analogy and method of criticism and people’s opinions to the rest of ancient literature, “…we would still be waiting for hundreds of years before any text of Herodotus or Livy or Homer were to show up! No one thinks that a copy of these documents that came even hundreds of years later is created out of nothing.” (1) The matter of fact is that “…if such presuppositions are true then we must deny that most facts of ancient history can be recovered because whatever doubts we cast on the text of the New Testament must be cast hundredfold on virtually any other ancient text.” (1) I have never heard people criticize like that the Hindu sacred text – the Bhagavad Gita (or even the earlier Vedas), or the Muslim text – the Qu’ran, or the Egyptian Book of the Dead, to name a few. If we are to measure authenticity and credibility of the Christian sacred texts why don’t we measure with the same measure the sacred texts of the other spiritual traditions? Because if we do, all of these other sacred texts must be dismissed as their authenticity will crumble as it won’t be able to withstand the test of historicity and evidence examination. The plain truth that people do not want to hear is that the New Testament manuscripts are more credible, valid, and plentiful than virtually any other ancient literature.

The materials relating to the Greek New Testament are truly overwhelming. As laid out in Reinventing Jesus, “While scholars of other ancient literature suffer from a lack of data, those who work with New Testament manuscripts suffer from an embarrassment of riches.” These manuscripts fall into three categories: Greek manuscripts, ancient translations in other languages such as Syriac (a sister language of Aramaic), Coptic, Armenian and Arabic, and quotations in the writings of the early church leaders. For example, just looking at the Greek manuscripts, as of January 2006 we have: 118 papyri, 317 uncials, 2,877 minuscules, and 2,433 lectionaries. This is a total of 5,745 manuscripts, most of which date from II to XVI century. The earliest fragment dates from within one generation of Jesus and is known as Papyrus 52 or P52. (1)

To put it another way, if the average sized manuscript were two and a half inches thick, all the copies of the works of an average Greek author like let’s say Homer or Hippocrates or Plato or Aristotle or Archimedes would stack four feet high while the copies of the New Testament would stack up to over a mile high! That is four feet vs. one mile. Yes, that is an embarrassment of riches!

A brief summary lays it out like this. The old KJV from the year of 1611 was based on six manuscripts from X century. The Revised version of 1881 was based on two thousand (2,000) manuscripts from IV century, and the newest bible version which is the New English Translation (NET) is based on five thousand seven hundred (5,700) manuscripts from within a generation of Jesus to mid-II century.

As you can see the New Testament ancient manuscripts are far more plentiful and credible, and as such the evidence for the Judeo-Christian sacred texts is far more plentiful and credible than that of any other ancient text. And if we are going to be skeptical about the Jesus of the Gospels and Scripture itself, any such skepticism then should be multiplied many times more for any other historical figure, like let’s say Buddha, or the prophet Muhammad, or Plato, or Lao Tzu. There is far more manuscript evidence about the person of Yeshua haMashiach (Jesus the Christ) than there is about anyone else in the ancient world, from Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great to Buddha or Pharaoh.

To take it even further, of about the 138,000 words of the original text, only one or two might have no manuscript support. So truly, when critics claim that we simply have no clue what the original text said, I wonder what drives their narrow skepticism because it certainly is not the evidence. As the credible scholars (not theologians) put it, “There is simply no room for uncertainty about what the New Testament originally taught.” (1) But whether one chooses to believe that is a different matter.

The thing is that in the West people love, feel empowered by and thrive on sensationalism, drama, conspiracies, and simply any queer stuff. And of course they do, this is the movie land after all! The land of make belief and imagination. The land of “you can create your own reality” where no one cares if it actually reflects reality. We would do good to remember that philosophical presuppositions, Hollywood agenda, and personal opinions are not good friends with historical evidence. The former are methods driven by the results one wants to find, the latter is a fact of truth. In the former, differences are exaggerated and evidence is distorted all for the sake of creating novel scenarios, creating a following for oneself of blind sheep, and building one’s popularity and wallet where all that’s needed is imagination, good acting and marketing skills, enchanting and attractive appeal, and the most important – uninformed readership and viewership who simply want to become empowered and successful.

As Scott McKnight professor at North Park University notes, “Whatever problems orthodox Christians have in demonstrating either historical reliability or historical integrity, the problem does not reside in whether or not the New Testament itself contains what was originally written. The facts are that, in spite of a welter of variations, the evidence that survives permits us to know with utter certitude that we are in touch with the original gospels, letters, and writings of the 1st century. Recent skepticism advocating that the orthodox corrupted the text in scripture is simply an overstated conclusion driven by other-than-historical forces.”

And this is where another assumption of lay-persons lay. People presume that the church corrupted the manuscripts. In my many conversation with people who believe that however, I have found a common mistake many make right off the bat. When they say “the church” they assume the Christian church and Christians but they are actually talking about the Catholic church. This is a mistake even a child would know not to make so let’s clear it now. The Catholic church is not the Christian church, and “Catholic” is not “Christian”. I think such concerns are valid, I myself have had them and they are what led me to investigate more. I like how Spurgeon writes about this, “The Roman Catholic Church believes that one function of the church is to be the authorized interpreter of Scripture. They believe that not only do we have an infallible Bible but we also have an infallible interpretation of the Bible. That somewhat ameliorates the problem, although it doesn’t eliminate it altogether. You still have those of us who have to interpret the infallible interpretations of the Bible. Sooner or later it gets down to those of us who are not infallible to sort it out. We have this dilemma because there are hosts of differences in interpretations of what the popes say and of what the church councils say, just as there are hosts of different interpretations of what the Bible says….

The first thing I want to know is, Who’s giving the interpretation? Is he educated? I turn on the television and see all kinds of teaching going on from television preachers who, quite frankly, simply are not trained in technical theology or biblical studies. They don’t have the academic qualifications. I know that people without academic qualifications can have a sound interpretation of the Bible, but they’re not as likely to be as accurate as those who have spent years and years of careful research and disciplined training in order to deal with the difficult matters of biblical interpretation.

The Bible is an open book for everybody, and everybody has a fair shot of coming up with whatever they want to find in it. We’ve got to see the credentials of the teachers. Not only that, but we don’t want to rely on just one person’s opinion. That’s why when it comes to a biblical interpretation, I often counsel people to check as many sound sources as they can and then not just contemporary sources, but the great minds, the recognized minds of Christian history. It’s amazing to me the tremendous amount of agreement there is among Augustine, Aquinas, Anselm, Luther, Calvin, and Edwards—the recognized titans of church history. I always consult those because they’re the best. If you want to know something, go to the pros.” Spurgeon was definitely a pro.

I am reminded now of all the pros who have lost their lives because they were faithful to the Bible and not the Catholic church. When the Catholic church forbade anyone to own a Bible and no Bibles were allowed to exist except in Latin, Erasmus stumbled upon a treasure. He was given original Greek manuscripts from a refuge family fleeing from the East (Greece) to the West because of the Islamic invasion of the Ottoman empire. Reading the Greek manuscripts, Erasmus started to understand the control mechanism of the (Catholic) church. There in the Gospel of Luke, Erasmus read the original wording which said repentance and not penance. Penance was the word that the Catholic churchmen had decided to replace repentance with in their Latin Bible translations in order to start one of the most corrupt and evil systems in human history –  buying your way out for God’s forgiveness, and a way for the Catholic church to get rich. The penance tariff was established in 1316 by Pope John XXII.

Erasmus was a Roman Catholic official, a brilliant man. When he had found out the Greek manuscripts and read the word repentance in Luke, he had fallen on his knees crying out loud, “My God, my God, we have got it all wrong.” He had stayed weeping on the floor for three days. After that, he has gotten up and made one of the most significant decisions in his life that truly has saved our lives – he printed the truth, the original Scriptures. The year was 1560 and the interesting thing is that this same year that he has published the original untainted Bible, the dark ages have ended. Coincidence? May be, if you believe in coincidences.

Erasmus recruited Tyndale, another genius (and Catholic) who was fluent in 20 languages, and Tyndale set himself on the heavy task to not only translate the Bible in a language other than Latin but to translate the original Greek manuscripts. Tyndale became the most hunted man in the history of England. Remember the great inquisition that Mother Catholic church carried out against the pagans and the witch hunts that burned so many women? I keep hearing the blaming angry words of women and non-believers of how cruel the inquisition was. And they are absolutely right. But if we are going to be true to history and the facts, I would like to point my Western brothers and sisters to the part of history that they do not want to talk about. That is the fact that the inquisition was equally targeted against peasants and heretical books as it was against priests, scholars, and bishops; and many of those who were burnt at the stake were Christians (and Catholic believers who didn’t give in) who were called heretics, and many of the heretical books that were burned were actually Bibles that were not in Latin and that the church did not want anyone to possess. That is why Tyndale became the most hunted man in the history of England as he had translated the Bible from the original Greek manuscripts. He, a Catholic, became the most wanted heretic. He was translating and distributing until the inquisition had arrested him and burnt him at the stake. Tyndale was burnt by the Catholic church because of his Bible translations. The fire he was burnt by was kindled by his very own Bible translations. It is because of people like Tyndale and Erasmus, who were nevertheless Catholic and chose to live bold and Godly lives and to die such deaths, that we now enjoy a plethora of Bibles that we take for granted. We in our arrogance, self-righteousness and uneducated minds dare speak so disrespectfully about these sacred texts that have the blood of many innocent people on them.

A particular story comes to mind. It is the story of Perpetua, one of the most famous of all early martyr stories, that illustrates in her time how firmly the Christians resisted the encroachment of the Roman empire. When Emperor Septimius Severus established a policy that banned conversions to Christianity, severe persecution started in Carthage, North Africa. Vibia Perpetua (A.D. 181-203), a young married woman and a mother of a newborn, was arrested with some others and thrown in prison. There, the Holy Spirit revealed to her in a vision that she were to die soon. In the vision, she saw a ladder reaching to heaven. She had to climb it and she did so with ease, despite a dragon that was guarding it. “When she arrived at the summit she saw an immense garden; in the center sat a tall, gray-haired man dressed like a shepherd, surrounded by thousands of people dressed in white robes. He said to her, “Welcome, my child.” Then he invited her to approach and gave her a morsel of cheese, which tasted sweet to her. When she awoke she described the vision to her brother, who was also arrested. “We realized that we would have to suffer, and that from now on we would no longer have any hope in this life.” Court hearings followed, family passions flared.” (2) Her father kept pleading with her to abandon her faith in Jesus Christ, other people urged her to sacrifice to the emperor and the gods. But Perpetua did not yield. “I am a Christian,” she kept repeating. The governor finally condemned her to the beasts. The Acts of the Christian Martyrs reads that she “… marched [to her death sentence] joyfully as though… going to heaven, trembling if at all, with joy rather than fear. Perpetua went [along] with shining countenance and calm step, as the beloved of God, as a wife of Christ, putting down everyone’s stare by her intense gaze… Perpetua began to sing a psalm; she was already treading on the head of the Egyptian… then when came within sight of Hilarianus, [they] suggested by [their] motions and gestures: “You have condemn us but God will condemn you” was what they were saying. At this the crowds became enraged and demanded they be scourged before a line of gladiators. And they rejoiced in this that they had obtained a share in the Lord’s sufferings…the others took the sword in silence and without moving, especially Saturus, who being the first to climb the stairway was the first to die. For once again he was waiting for Perpetua. Perpetua, however, had yet to taste more pain. She screamed as she was struck on the bone; then she took the trembling hand of the young gladiator and guided it to her throat. It was as though so great a woman, feared as she was by the unclean spirit, could not be dispatched unless she herself were willing.”

Our Bible is trustworthy. And the blood of all those people who died because they believe in the truth about Jesus is on our hands when we question and disbelieve the authenticity of Scripture. To suggest that Scripture was the conventional creation of a church councils and not authentic does more than make a mess of history; it dishonors the graves of martyrs, who staked their lives on the conviction that Jesus is God and that Scripture is the word of God.

And this is the simple truth about how the New Testament books became canonical. The canon was one of the most natural things to happen. The books of the New Testament became canonical because no one could stop them from becoming so. No one could stop Jesus, not even death itself. And as Bruce Metzger concurs: “The Church did not create the canon but came to recognize, accept, affirm and confirm the self-authenticating quality of certain documents that imposed themselves as such upon the Church.”

Let’s not forget that the followers of Jesus were not allowed to practice their spirituality and were persecuted until the IV Century when Christianity was accepted as legal religion. That is why at first Christians did not have a New Testament scripture canon. The proclamation of the gospel was by word of mouth and by the penned down letters and gospels, which were not called scripture yet. Even Paul’s letters though accepted as weighty, authoritative and God inspired, were not perceived as Scripture per-say as soon as they were penned. The major reason for this was that to circulate books of an illegal religion in the ancient world was not an easy job. Having lived during communism, I know a bit about that. Also prior to the II century, the writings could not even be collected into one volume because the modern book format was not invented yet, and only so much could be written on a scroll. The largest usable scroll could hold little more than one of the Gospels. As scholar Bruce Metzger notes: “what is really remarkable… is that, though the fringes of the New Testament canon remained unsettled for centuries, a high degree of unanimity concerning the greater part of the New Testament was attained within the first two centuries among the … scattered congregations not only throughout the Mediterranean world but also over an area extending from Britain to Mesopotamia.”

The major catalyst for the early Eastern church to establish the canon was false teachings, such as the gnostics and the persecution of Christians by Emperor Diocletian. One author describes the emperor’s eight year attack on the church (303-311) as “The last war of annihilation waged by paganism against Christianity.” “It was a bloody campaign and included wholesale destruction of the church’s sacred Scriptures: when the imperial police knocked at the door and demanded of Christians that they surrender their sacred books, it became a matter of conscience in deciding whether one could hand over… the persecution under Diocletian may almost be said to have given the touch by which previously somewhat unsettled elements of the canon were further crystalized and fixed.” (3)

So rather than seeing the ancient church as involved in some sort of cover-up, we might question the motives of those who make such claims. They are so selective and arrogant in how they remember the past that historical evidence seems to be a trivial thing to them that just gets “… in the way of a good story. These historical revisionists have carved up the data of history and have told only that part of the story that supports their claims.” (3)

Here, I turn to 2Timothy again. Personally, the only thing that matters to me now is Jesus. Professionally, I have a scientific mind and all the scientific proof and research was needed for me to believe the authority of Scripture. But truly I have a heart full of love for Jesus. What my whole being needed all along was actually and only Him, and to know what He thought of Scripture and how he taught Scripture in order to know about its authority. Jesus’ position on Scripture was all I needed all along.

The question to ask here is, “Well, the Scripture canon was not established until the IV Century and Paul speaks in his letter to Timothy about Scripture, so what does he mean? What Scripture is this? Isn’t that a glitch in the system, a mistake?” No, it is not a mistake. Actually, the correct question to ask is, “What was Scripture for Jesus and his disciples?” The answer is simple, it was the Hebrew Scriptures. That is why though we call ourselves Christians, our faith is more properly to be referred to as Judeo-Christian faith. That is why our Bible includes the Torah and the prophets, which are the Hebrew Scriptures of the Old Testament and what became the Christian scriptures of the New Testament – the gospels (biographies of Jesus), the epistles of the Apostles, and John’s apocalyptic writing. The former being the Old Covenant with God’s chosen Jewish people, the latter being the New covenant which builds on the Old for “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Therefore, it is more accurate to refer to the Bible not as one book but as library of over sixty books that were written in a span of thousands of years by over 40 different authors.

Jesus took Scripture seriously. He quoted it, taught it, and debated it with the Jewish religious leaders. Everything that Jesus taught was and is rooted in the Hebrew Scriptures. Yeshua, or Jesus in English, quoted or alluded to twenty-three of the thirty-six books of the Hebrew Bible. Jesus referred to and quoted from all five books of Moses (which is the Torah), the three major prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, eight of the twelve minor prophets, and five of the “writings” (the Psalms) – in other words, Jesus quoted and referred to ALL of the books of the Law, most of the Prophets, and some of the Psalms writings. He referred to Deuteronomy about sixteen times, to Isaiah about forty times and the Psalms some thirteen times. The canon of Yeshua is pretty much what it was for most religiously observant Jews of his time, including the Essene Jews as evidenced by the Qumran scrolls discovery at the Dead Sea caves. What is more, thanks to the discoveries made through science and technology, there is evidence that villages and synagogues in the time of Jesus possessed scriptural scrolls. (3)

Jesus accepted all the major tenets of his Jewish faith such as the unity and sovereignty of God, who is not just any god; for example Baal or Krishna or Zeus, but who is the Lord God of Israel who is YHWH. Jesus accepted the authority and trustworthiness of the Jewish Scriptures. He accepted the authority of the Torah (that is, the Law). He did not reject the Torah as has sometimes been asserted and many would like to believe. The fact that Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets does not mean that he cancelled them. It means that he fulfilled them. Other words for fulfill are to “satisfy,” “realize,” “accomplish,” “bring about” and “justify.” As Jesus himself has said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). What Jesus opposed in regards to Scripture were certain interpretations and applications of the Law that the religious leaders of the day had created in order to control the faithful people (very much like what the Catholic Church has done in the past). But it is important to be truthful to Jesus and be clear that he did not contradict the commands of Moses. He challenged the conventional interpretations and applications of those laws. For example, Jesus agreed that killing is wrong but he added that hatred is wrong too. He agreed that people should love their own people but he added that they should love other people as well, even their enemies. (1)

The evidence is overwhelming that Jesus was at home in a Jewish world that took seriously the teaching and stories of Scripture. He grew up in Nazareth, a village in which there was a small synagogue and it was in the context of this synagogue of Nazareth, his family and elders of the village that he was nurtured in, and not the context of Los Angeles or the Western World.  We would do good to remember that getting the context right is vitally important for understanding Jesus and Scripture. Putting him in the wrong context will inevitably lead to distorted portrait and the same applies to Scripture. Many however prefer no context at all. No wonder then that there is a trend to discount the historical and interpretative context of the sayings of Jesus as found in the New Testament… but take it out of context and with imagination and speculation many find new meaning for it today.

So what was the context of the book of Timothy in the New Testament? First off, the book of Timothy is actually an epistle, a letter that was written around A.D. 67 by Apostle Paul while he was in prison in Rome. The letter was addressed to Timothy who was a pastor of the church in Ephesus. Its purpose was to give Pastor Timothy final instruction and encouragement. Final because it was Paul’s last words as he was arrested and executed under Emperor Nero.

The Apostle was practically alone in prison as only Luke was with him. Paul wrote this letter as way of passing the torch to the next generation of Christian leaders. As Paul’s last letter, this epistle reveals the heart of the Apostle and his priorities – sound truthful doctrine, steadfast faith, lasting love, and endurance. (4)

Timothy was one of the first second-generation disciples of Jesus. He became a follower of Jesus not because he saw a loud evangelist preach a powerful sermon but because his mother and grandmother taught him the Holy Scriptures when he was a small child. (4)

The words prior to v. 14 read, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (vv.12-13). Timothy was surrounded by false teachers. Paul advised him to look to his past… to his childhood, which is the truth of the life of Jesus and to hold on to his teachings which are the eternal truth. In the society he lived, Timothy could’ve easily given up his faith or chosen to modify the teachings of Jesus like we see so many do today. But he did not. Those of us who are truly disciples of Jesus should look up to Timothy and not allow our society to distort our God’s truth. That is why Paul writes about “the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

Scripture is not a collection of myths and human ideas about God. It is not a human book though it is penned down by the hand of men. That is what Paul means when he says that Scripture is breathed out by God – it is inspired and illuminated by God’s Holy Spirit. Through his Holy Spirit, God revealed his person and plan to certain people throughout history, who wrote down His message. The writers wrote from their own historical and cultural contexts, with their own hands. So yes, there might be spelling mistakes or two but even the modern print press is not errorless. And truth is that this is what seems so offensive to many people – the claim by Christians that the Bible is the Word of God and is divinely inspired. But let me ask those people, “Why don’t you find offensive the claim of the Muslims that the Qu’ran is from God (they literally say that the book’s information dropped from the sky before being compiled in a whole book), or the Hindu sacred divine texts? Why don’t you scrutinize those religious claims and the abuses perpetuated by those spiritualities as you are fast to do with Jesus?”

But one thing I have to say. I agree with non-believers when they say that the Bible is not the word of God. I agree with them because the God they believe in and refer to is not the Holy Spirit that inspired the Bible. The question here no one asks is, Who is your God? It is evident that for them who do not believe in Christ, the Lord God of the Jews is not their God. You may believe in a God, in a cosmic consciences God, or the universe, or in Krishna or Goddesses like Kali, or Allah and if you do so that means that your God is not Christ Jesus who is the one claimed to have inspired the Bible by his Spirit. And if you are not a believer in the God of the Judeo-Christian faith, truly you have no right critiquing the sacred Christian writings. It is interesting how I never criticize the sacred texts of my fellow citizens of the world, the Hindus or Muslims or even Buddhist even though Buddhism in its core is atheistic as Buddha himself having grown up in royal Hindu family repudiated Hinduism as a false religion and went on inventing his Buddhist system which he believed was the truth. I never say that these ancient teachings are not inspired by whom their followers claim them to be. I do believe that Hinduism and its writings are inspired by its polytheistic body of gods and goddesses like Krishna and Kali, and not by Jesus. I do believe that Islam and its writings came about from Muhammad, and not from Jesus. Just as Buddhism came about from Gautama Buddha, and not from Jesus. It is the Judeo-Christian faith that was breathed out from Jesus.

On another note, the same people, who deny the divine inspiration of the Bible say that every book written is holy and divinely inspired. But… if every book is holy and divinely inspired that would mean also that the book that is the Bible is holy and divinely inspired, isn’t it? It will also make Mein Kampf (My Struggle) a holy and divinely inspired book? In case you haven’t heard of it, My Struggle is the book that Hitler wrote which became one of the most influential books of a truly demented age and outsold all other books in Germany except the Bible. By 1933, its royalties had made Hitler a millionaire. It is in this book that Hitler laid out plain and clear what he planned to do if he were to ever get in charge of Germany in order to make him “lord of the earth.” His book was warped in the philosophy of some of the most prominent German philosophers of the XIX century that many today in the new spirituality camp subscribe to. Walking the path of the evolution of the human being and looking to how Mother Nature evolves are just two examples. Just consider these examples from the Nazi’s leader book: “Mankind has grown great in eternal struggle, and only in eternal peace does it perish… Nature confers the Master’s right on the strongest (most evolved). They must dominate. They have the right to victory.”

So I have to ask those who like to say that all books are holy and divinely inspired to follow their own advice as this would mean that they have to acknowledge the Bible as well as Hitler’s book for holy and divinely inspired. Here however I would like to ask, what do you mean by divine? Because for the Christian there is an abysmal difference from a divine spirit to a divine spirit, and from the above example, it does look like Hitler’s book is inspired just not by the divine spirit of God rather by the spirit of a hellish divine being.

The people of today are more influenced by Greek philosophy than they realize. To the Greeks, this world was nicely divided into matter and Spirit. The first was evil or an illusion. The physical body was viewed more or less like a constraining space suit to be used in this life but the Spirit.. the Spirit was good and real. This is in fact in total opposition to the beliefs of Jesus. As Kenneth Bailey writes in Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes, “The prophets of the Old Testament and the authors of the New Testament emphasized that the spirit can be either good or evil while material things can be a blessing or a curse. Nowhere is this truth clearer than in the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.” The biblical understanding of matter begins with the story of creation. God created matter and it was good not evil. Yes, matter provided the stimulus for disobedience… Matter, however (in this case, the forbidden fruit) was not at fault; the willfulness of Adam and Eve, who chose to disobey God’s command as it related to matter, was. Following that disobedience all of life began to fall apart. But the most important event affirming matter as good rather than evil was the coming of Jesus the Messiah (the Christ) – God came to us humans to serve and to walk amongst us as one of us in a real good old fashioned normal material human body as the person of Yeshua. That is why Jesus and his disciples spoke so often about spiritual discernment. Apostle John writes, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)”  In Colossians we read, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ,” (Colossians 2:8). Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthian church, “…for such men are false apostles…disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness,” (2Corinthians 11:13-15).

Jesus himself said that Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35), and his words recorded in Matthew 5:18 speak of that too “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Jesus spoke to the religious leaders in piercing boldness, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies,” (John 8:44).

It seems like that it all comes down to this… to the fact that being a Christian is offensive to people. To the fact that the name and person of Jesus cause such a great offense on many. Isn’t it interesting? It is not the name of Buddha or Krishna or Muhammad but it is the name of Jesus that offends people. Why is this? It is the same reason for which Rome persecuted Christians. Back than Christianity made claims that threatened the political empire. Today Christianity makes claims that threaten the spiritual, cultural and supposed “right of choice” empires. Historian Stephen Benko writes, “The Romans tolerated a remarkable degree of religious liberty, and they therefore found the Christians’ exclusive claims to truth disconcerting.” Gerald Sittser writes in Water from a Deep Well, “… Christians viewed their faith as ultimately and exclusively true, which threatened the popular pluralism of the day… they were certain that God chose to come to earth as Jesus Christ to bring salvation to the world because all other attempts to reach God had failed. The Christian was convinced that he was in possession of the truth because Jesus Christ embodied the ultimate revelation about God [Benko]. In the end, the Christian belief in Jesus as Savior and Lord cased the greatest offense. Critics indicated that they were willing to accept Jesus as a way to God, just as they accepted most other ways to God, but only under the condition that Christians would abandon the belief that Jesus was The way to God. The Christian confession that Jesus is Lord simply flew in the face of Rome’s pluralism and tolerance. It also infuriated the intellectual elite, who understood Christianity well enough to recognize that it would not fit comfortably, if at all, into Roman culture… the Christian exclusivity – the idea that Jesus is the only way to God- offends the pluralistic assumptions of the day just as it did two thousand years ago. Now, as then, the idea that there is one religious truth runs contrary to the spirit of the age. It is assumed that religious belief could be and often is valuable… but there is no way of knowing which religion is actually true. Christians challenge this cultural assumption when they claim that Jesus is Savior and Lord. Christians have been causing such offense for two thousand years.”

So I invite you to do what Jesus invited his disciple Thomas to do: examine and see for yourself. When Thomas did not believe that Jesus has resurrected, he insisted that, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe. Eight days later… Jesus came and stood among them and… said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:24-28)

Jesus called Thomas to examine the evidence so he has no doubts. And he calls you to do the same, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

What is your answer?

ScrollIsaiah

Recommended readings:

  1. Reinventing Jesus: How contemporary skeptics miss the real Jesus and mislead popular culture. J. Ed Komoszewski, M. James Sawyer, and Daniel B. Wallace.
  2. Fabricating Jesus: how modern scholars distort the gospels. Craig Evans.
  3. Jesus through Middle Eastern Eye. Kenneth Bailey.
  4. Water from a deep well: Christian spirituality from early martyrs to modern missionaries. Gerald Sittser.
  5. Who is Jesus? Ravi Zacharias
  6. Simply Jesus. N.T. Wright.
  7. How God became King. N.T. Wright.
  8. The Reason for God. Timothy Keller.
  9. Jesus Among Other Gods. Ravi Zacharias.
  10. The End of Reason. Ravi Zacharias.
  11. Mere Christianity. C.S. Lewis.
  12. Who is Jesus? Bruce Demerest
  13. and last but not least, THE BIBLE

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Bibliography:

This paper was heavily inspired by the following works

  1. Reinventing Jesus: How contemporary skeptics miss the real Jesus and mislead popular culture. J. Ed Komoszewski, M. James Sawyer, and Daniel B. Wallace.
  2. Water from a deep well: Christian spirituality from early martyrs to modern missionaries. Gerald Sittser.
  3. Fabricating Jesus: how modern scholars distort the gospels. Craig Evans.
  4. The Bible (ESV, NIV, and KJV application commentary)
  5. Jesus through Middle Eastern Eye. Kenneth Bailey.

Other sources:

  1. James White, Director of Alpha and Omega Ministries. Author of The KJV only controversy and The Forgotten Trinity.
  2. Scot McKnight, Karl. A. Olsson Professor in religious studies at North Park University
  3. Acts of the Christian Martyrs
  4. Bruce Metzger, biblical scholar and textual critic, longtime professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, Bible editor who served on the board of the American Bible Society and United Bible Societies.
  5. The Rise and Fall of Adolf Hitler. William Shirer.
  6. Stephen Benko, historian.
  7. Charles Spurgeon, the British Prince of Preachers
  8. and all of my studying in ministry