Monthly Archives: June 2018

Caesar Proclaimed the Resurrection

My last post was prompted by an article from the Associates for Biblical Research. While poking around their website, I learned an astonishing fact.

In the late 1800’s, a French collector acquired an ancient stone from Nazareth. The stone, now in the Louvre in Paris, is a marble tablet about 24 inches by 15 inches. It contains an edict by Emperor Claudius (AD 41-54) ordering the death penalty for stealing bodies from Jewish tombs. Bodies?. Grave robbers steal valuables, not bodies. Why would stealing bodies from Jewish tombs, a pathetically trivial subject for the Empire, merit an imperial decree?

Below I quote the Book of Matthew. This comes immediately after the death of Jesus on the cross:

The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”
“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.”
So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

The scene is set. Jesus is dead. Powerful Jewish leaders, the chief Priests and Pharisees, post their top guards and make the “tomb as secure as [they] know how.”

Now back to Matthew.

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.”

This is the key event of the Christian faith. Jesus is risen. Matthew tells us the cover-up began immediately.

While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

That’s the cover-up. Tell everyone a totally disorganized group of backwoods, uneducated disciples came in while the elite guards were sleeping, and not only were able to unseal a large stone but, even more amazing, were able to do it without waking the guards. Not a believable cover-up story, but that is the best they could come up with. The empty tomb was on public display; they couldn’t deny that.

As the Book of Ecclesiastes says, “there is nothing new under the sun.” Government propaganda lies are not new. Almost two thousand years ago, the Emperor of Rome, then the most powerful person in the world, tried to prop up this absurd story that uneducated peasants snuck by an elite guard and opened a sealed tomb while the guards were sleeping! Emperor Claudius probably issued the edict when he took control in 41 AD, at the request of his childhood friend, Jewish King Herod Agrippa I. That’s just eight years after the Resurrection. The authorities wanted to control the situation. Tensions between the Romans and the Jews were high, partly because just before his death Caligula (whose assassination brought Claudius to power) had ordered that his statute be placed in the Temple in Jerusalem. Also, the news of Jesus’s Resurrection had spread, Jesus had appeared to hundreds of people (500 at one time, according to St. Paul), and the Romans and Jewish leaders were trying to control what they perceived as a serious political threat. No doubt as news of the Resurrection spread travelers came to Nazareth to learn more about Jesus.

The cover-up continues to this day. Notoriously anti-God Wikipedia writes. “As the original location of the stone is unknown, no clear argument can be made for the stone to be a Roman response to the empty tomb story.” Seriously? They can’t figure out the argument? What else could the Roman edict be about? And exactly what difference does it make what spot in or near Nazareth the stone originally occupied? Nazareth was an absolute no place in the Roman Empire, a small backward town on the wrong side of the tracks. To find an edict from a Roman Emperor anywhere in the vicinity, with a message so clearly aimed at denying the Resurrection, is astonishing.

The Resurrection is the most documented event in the ancient world. It changed the world more than any other event. As Billy Graham said: “There is more evidence that Jesus rose from the dead than there is that Julius Caesar ever lived.” Without the Resurrection, there is no reason why all (but one) of his disciples chose to suffer a brutal death rather than deny Jesus. No one dies for a lie. There is no other explanation for the growth of the Christian church.

Even Caesar proclaimed the Resurrection! He affirmed the most important event in history. He just didn’t mean to do it.

Thanks for reading.

Doug Ell

The Old Testament and the Chronology Back to Adam

I recently learned there are different versions of the Old Testament. One is the Masoretic Text, or MT. The MT was put into its present form in the 10th century by Talmudic scholars. Another version is the Septaugint, which means 70 in Latin, also known as the LXX. The LXX was created much earlier, perhaps around 250 BC by Hebrew scholars at the request of King Ptolemy II of Egypt. It is the first translation of the Bible, and is written in Greek.

Opinions differ on which is more reliable. The Orthodox Church leans toward the LXX. The New Testament contains quotes from the LXX. However, some believe the LXX omits parts of the books of Job and Jeremiah. The Old Testament in today’s Christian Bible is a translation of the MT.

The two versions have different chronologies going back to Adam. For the most part, the list of patriarchs is the same. For the most part, the life spans of the patriarchs are the same. The key difference is in “begetting” ages, the time elapsed from one generation to another. For example, in the LXX Seth is born when Adam is 230, and Adam lives another 700 years after Seth’s birth, for a total of 930 years. In the MT Seth is born when Adam is 130, and Adam lives another 800 years after Seth’s birth, again for a total of 930 years. If it were just Adam, you might think this a simple mistake. However, this exact 100-year difference in the space between generations appears for 12 patriarchs (six before the Flood, six after), and, in the case of Nahor, Abraham’s grandfather, there is a difference of 50 years. This is no accident. Someone or some group deliberately either added 1250 years to the time going back to Adam, or shortened that time by 1250 years.

Scholars have debated which chronology is accurate for two thousand years. Most ancient Christian scholars argued for the originality of the LXX’s primeval chronology, and that consensus lasted over 14 centuries until the Reformation.

The Winter 2018 issue of Bible and Spade, the magazine of Associates for Biblical Research, contains an excellent article on this conundrum by Henry B. Smith Jr. He concludes “the MT’s primeval chronology was deliberately reduced in the second century AD by 1250 years.”

Why? Smith provides a motive. Around 150 BC, an unknown author deceptively claiming to be Moses penned the Book of Jubilees. In Hebrew tradition a jubilee is a period of 49 years. Jubilees rewrites Biblical history into periods of 49 years. In Jubilees, Joshua enters and conquers Canaan on the 50th Jubilee since creation, or exactly 2450 years after creation. To make this work, the author had to do some serious cutting, and slashed 1250 years off the begetting ages.

Jubilees claimed to be a new revelation, originally written ages before on “heavenly tablets” that pre-dated the Torah. Jubilees was extremely popular, and considered authoritative in some early traditions. Smith suggests Jubilees induced Hebrew scholars to adopt lower begetting ages.

Jubilees proposed lower begetting ages than found in the LXX, and the MT authors ultimately adopted many of them. For the first five patriarchs, from Adam to Mahalalel, the MT slices exactly 100 years off the begetting age, as was done in Jubilees. However, for three of the next four patriarchs –Jared, Methuselah, and Lamech – the begetting ages were not reduced. Why not? Smith suggests that the authors of the MT realized that these additional reductions would result in patriarchs (other than Noah and his sons) living beyond the Flood.

One of Smith’s most compelling arguments is that the longer chronology in the LXX is affirmed by at least four independent ancient works. One of these is Antiquities of the Jews by Flavius Josephus, who was a very careful historian. Smith writes: “All reliable external witnesses before AD 100 outside rabbinic influence unanimously testify to the longer chronology.”

This is deep subject, and I can offer only a glimpse of the issues and arguments. I have brutally oversimplified. There are many issues in the chronology back to Adam. However, the 1250-year difference in the begetting ages between the MT and the LXX is the most important. Some try to discredit the LXX, because in some later copies Methuselah lives beyond the Flood, but that has been shown to be a copying error from early versions.

Associates for Biblical Research uses archeology to confirm the biblical record. Smith’s article is important because under the MT chronology there isn’t enough time. If the Flood occurred around 2500 BC, as some might place it based on the MT, many of the dates established by archeological findings and historical records don’t work well. Smith dates the Flood at 3298 BC, and Creation at 5554 BC. These dates leave adequate time for repopulation after the Flood, the Tower of Babel, and the spread of humanity.

I must note I find this post disturbing. I am suggesting the Bible in your house is not completely accurate. I don’t like that, and it doesn’t feel right. I am not telling you what to believe. My goal is to give you facts you may not be aware of, and let you decide.

This post doesn’t contradict in any way the enormous evidence of modern science that the universe and life were designed. This post doesn’t contradict in any way the overwhelming scientific evidence the Earth is young. In past posts I have touched on some of that, such as dinosaur “soft tissue,” Flood memories in societies around the world, and strong DNA evidence. With the LXX chronology, we get times that agree with the archeological and historical evidence.

Thanks for reading.

Doug Ell