David – the Iconic King of Israel

Prophecies say the Messiah would come from the House of David. Who was this iconic king of Israel and why would the Messiah need to be born in his lineage?

Red-headed David as the youngest of 8 boys drew the short straw assigned to be the shepherd of his father’s sheep.[1] Alone in the wilderness, he became an expert with a slingshot and singlehandedly killed lions and bears who threatened the flock.[2]

Summoned by his father, Jesse, one day to come back home in Bethlehem, much to David’s surprise the prophet Samuel was there waiting. He anointed David as God’s choice to be the next King of Israel.[3] David’s legendary fame would begin and grow soon thereafter.

Three of David’s brothers were fighting in Israel’s army supported by their father who routinely sent David to them with supplies. During one visit to the battle front, David was astonished to see Israel’s army afraid of a giant Philistine ace warrior named Goliath who challenged and taunted the army daily.

Asking King Saul’s permission to battle Goliath, the shepherd boy was ridiculed by his older brothers and Saul tried to talk him out of it, but the King relented. David defiantly announced to Goliath he will kill him in the name of the Lord and cut off his head. And he did just that – with a slingshot and a single stone then using Goliath’s own sword to cut off his head. That very day David was placed in the service of King Saul.[4]

David’s fame eventually made Saul jealous who tried to hunt down and kill him.[5] Failing to seek and obey God’s guidance would cost Saul his own life and that of his sons in battle. After his death, the people of Israel anointed David as their king, but he had no throne.[6] The fortified city of Jebus seemed the perfect place.

As a skilled formidable warrior serving in King Saul’s army, David had become well-known to his enemies.[7] Equipped with this savvy and fame, he gathered people of Israel, formed an army and advanced toward Jebus.

Hurling insults at David’s approaching army, the Jebusites yelled “the blind and the lame” could fight off Israel while arrogantly positioning lame and blind people on the city walls in mockery.[8] Taking great offense, David offered the army’s commanding general position to whomever led the army to victory over Jebus.[9] Joab became that commanding general.

Soon after taking the city, it expanded to encompass the Mounts Moriah and Zion. Jebus, formerly known as Salem, now was called by a new name – Jerusalem, the City of David.[10] 

More good news came from God through the prophet Nathan saying David’s future son would be the one to fulfill promises God made to Moses to build the House of God and to Jacob that the scepter would never leave his family:[11]

2 Sam 7:12-13  “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” [12]

Basking in the glory of his kingdom, David decided to take a census contrary to God’s past instructions.[13] General Joab pressed the King not to do it, but David persisted.[14]

Punishment for David’s sin was heavy upon the nation and the King pleaded with God to punish only himself and his family because Israel was innocent. The prophet Gad delivered God’s response instructing David to build an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah on Mount Moriah and offer an atonement sacrifice for the people of Israel.[15] 

David purchased the threshing floor, the oxen and materials, then built the altar himself. To his astonishment, God sent fire down from heaven to consume the sacrifice.[16] Moved deeply, David declared:  “This is the house of the LORD God, and this is the altar of burnt offerings for Israel.”

The promised House of God, the Temple, was to be built on Mount Moriah, the place where a 1000 years earlier Abraham took his only son, Isaac, to be sacrificed, then spared at the last moment with a substitute sacrificial ram.[17] Incredible coincidence?

Lord Acton’s quote “absolute power corrupts absolutely” applied even to David.[18] Using his celebrity and power, the King lured the married beautiful Bath-Sheba into his palatial bedroom, seduced her and she became pregnant. Her husband, Uriah, was one of David’s top military officers away fighting a war – how would Bath-Sheba explain away her pregnancy? David devised a cover-up plan.

Uriah was summoned by the King from the battlefield under the pretense of some R&R, but in reality to allow an opportunity for him to have marital relations with his wife to provide cover for her pregnancy. It backfired when the loyal Uriah thought it would not be fair to his troops back on the battlefield if he enjoyed the pleasures of Bath-Sheba.

David’s back-up plan was to send Uriah to the frontlines where he was killed in battle. No secret to God, the murder plot was exposed through the prophet Nathan. As punishment, Bath-Sheba’s illegitimate baby died, yet while being consoled in her grief by David, she conceived another son named Solomon who would become the next king of Israel.[19]

In spite of his major human failures, God still honored His promise to David. Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Zechariah over the following centuries would prophesy that the Messiah was to come from the House of David; prophecies confirmed by renowned Jewish Sages Rashi and Maimonides.[20]

David wrote many of the Psalms, some deemed to be prophetic.[21] First words of Psalms 22, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” were uttered by Jesus shortly before he died on the cross. The full 22nd Psalm depicts the dramatic image of a man dying in agony and humiliation remarkably consistent in specific detail with the circumstances of the Roman crucifixion of Jesus a millennium later.

As a mortal, Jesus would have no control over being born a 1000 years later into the royal lineage of David in his same hometown of Bethlehem, especially exceptional considering that up until the last moment Jesus was expected to be born in Nazareth, a week’s long journey away. What are the odds of improbability it was simply by chance?

REFERENCES:

[1] 2 Samuel 11, 16.
[2] I Samuel 17.
[3] I Sam. 16; Chronicles 2, 10.
[4] I Samuel 18.
[5] I Samuel 19.
[6] 2 Samuel 2, 5.  1 Chronicles 10, 11.
[7] 1Chronicles 11.
[8] I Chronicles 11; 2 Samuel 5. Josephus.  Josephus, Flavius.  Antiquities of the Jews. Book VII, Chapter III.1. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>
[9] 2 Samuel 5.  I Chronicles 11. Josephus.  Antiquity. Book VII, Chapter III.1.
[10] I Chronicles 17:1. Josephus. Antiquity. Book VII, Chapter III.1-2. Net.bible.org. Hebrew text. “Jebus <2982>”  <https://net.bible.orgLexicon-Concordance Online Bible.  Hebrew “Jebuw <2982>” (Brown-Driver-Briggs). <http://lexiconcordance.com>  Dolphin, Lambert. “Mount Moriah, Site of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.”  TempleMount.org. 1996.  <http://www.templemount.org/moriah2.html> “Zion.”  Fausset Bible Dictionary. 1878. http://classic.studylight.org/dic/fbd>  
[11] Genesis 49; 2 Samuel 5; 1 Chronicles 11, 17; Chronicles 5; 1Kings 2; Judges 1; Psalms 76.  Josephus.  Antiquities. Book VII, Chapter III.2.    
[12] NASB.  I Chronicles 17.
[13] Exodus 30.
[14] I Chronicles 21; 2 Samuel 24.
[15] I Chronicles 21; 2 Chronicles 3; 2 Samuel 24.
[16] I Chronicles 21.  2 Samuel 24. “Araunah.” Jewish Encyclopedia.  2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com> “The Site – The Temple Mount.”  Bible-History.com.  n.d. <http://www.bible-history.com/jewishtemple/JEWISH_TEMPLEThe_Site.htm>  Josephus.  Antiquities. Book VII, Chapter III.
[17] NKJV.  I Chronicles 22; 2 Chronicles 3.  
[18] “Lord Acton writes to Bishop Creighton…” Online Library of Liberty. 2017. <http://oll.libertyfund.org/quote/214>
[19] 2 Samuel 12.
[20] Isaiah 9; Jeremiah 23; 33; Zechariah 12.  The Compete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. Rashi commentaries: Gensis 49:10; Numbers 24:17; Zechariah 12:12; Micah 5:2.  
Maimonides.  Mishneh Torah.  “The Law Concerning Moshiach.” Chapter 11. <http://www.kesser.org/moshiach/rambam.html#SIE>
[21] The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi’s Commentary. Rashi commentaries on Micah 5:2 and Psalms 118:22. “Salvation.” Jewish Encyclopedia.  2011.

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Are Today’s Gospels the Same as the Originals?

Gospel manuscript evidence dates back to the lifetimes of the Disciples with a fragment of Matthew whereas the earliest nearly complete Gospel manuscripts date to about 300 years later.[1] How can there be confidence today’sGospels are the sameas the originals?

Patristics is the science of comparing early Christian writings to Gospel manuscripts to help bridge the gap of the “dark period” – from the originals to the first complete manuscripts. Westcott and Hort, expert Bible textual critics, viewed patristics to be of “the highest degree exceptional” in their comparisons.[2]

Writing about the teachings of Jesus in the form of letters, called “Epistles,” was a common means of written communication by the second and third generation disciples, known as the Ante-Nicene Fathers.[3] Four – Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, and Papias – were taught personally by the Apostles, the original Disciples of Jesus.[4]

Within these Epistles appear quoted phrases and verses that correspond with Gospel manuscripts written after them. The premise of patristics is that quotes from the Epistles had to come from older, pre-existing Gospel sources. As such, these Epistles serve as “witnesses” that “attest” or “testify” to the content of older, now non-existent Gospel manuscripts, in some cases quite possibly the originals.[5]  

One, The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, was written in Rome to the church in Corinth, Greece, around 96 AD. The Epistle is named for Clement of Rome, the reputed author, who studied under the Apostle Paul and knew Luke, the presumed author of the Gospel bearing his name.[6]

Another is The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians written in Smyrna, Turkey, to the church in Philippi, Greece. Named for its author, Polycarp, he was a disciple of the Apostle John, received instruction from additional Apostles, and met others who had witnessed Jesus. Date of authorship is unknown, but it had to be written before Polycarp’s martyrdom in the arena of Smyrna about 155 AD when he professed to have served his King for 86 years.[7]

An example of how patristics works can be seen using the three verses of Luke 6:36-38 quoted in both the Epistles of Clement Corinthians and Polycarp Philippians whose authors were separated by time and hundreds of miles. Their quotes as compared with two modern Bible translations:[8] 

The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians [9]

“forgive, that it may be forgiven to you; as ye do, so shall it be done unto you;

as ye judge, so shall ye be judged; as ye are kind, so shall kindness be shown to you;

with what measure ye mete, with the same it shall be measured to you.”

Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians [10]

“Judge not, that ye be not judged;

forgive, and it shall be forgiven unto you;

be merciful, that ye may obtain mercy;

with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again…”

King James Version, Luke 6:36-38:

Be ye therefore merciful as your Father also is merciful, v36

Judge not and ye shall not be judged…v 37

…forgive and ye shall be forgiven.v37

For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.v38

New American Standard Bible:  Luke 6:36-38:

Be merciful just as your Father is merciful…v36

Do not judge, and you will not be judged…v37

…pardon and you will be pardoned. v37

…For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.v38

Attestations from these Corinthians and Philippians Epistles are not word perfect matches, but neither are the more modern KJV and NASB versions due to translator variations. Both Epistles referenced Luke to support the message of their letters – the quotes were not intended to be a transcription of Luke’s Gospel, yet they match very closely.[11]

Treasure trove of patristic attestation is found in Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies) quoting from over 600 verses from all four Gospels and over 300 verses from other New Testament books.[12] Its author, a disciple of Polycarp, was Irenaeus who in later years moved to Lyons, France.[13]

Patristics has a secondary consequence – producing evidence that challenges the theory alleging the Gospels and Christianity evolved from legend over a long period of time.[14] Intuitively, what are the odds both Epistles quoting Luke were accidentally consistent with each other? Or did these authors quote from the same pre-existing Gospel of Luke?

If the Gospels “evolved,” why is their content consistently the same from the beginning until centuries later? The answers can be revealing.

REFERENCES:
[1]  “The Magdalen Papyrus P64: possibly the earliest known fragments of the New Testament (or of a book!)” University of Oxford | Magdalen College.  30 October 2013. <http://www.magd.ox.ac.uk/libraries-and-archives/treasure-of-the-month/news/magdalen-papyrus>  “The Magdalen P64 Papyrus Fragments of the Gospel of Matthew (Year ~ 50 A.D.).”  Archaeology. <http://www.lavia.org/english/archivo/magdalenen.htm>  Smith, Ben C. “Gospel manuscripts – The manuscripts extant for the four canonical gospels.” TextExcavation.com.  13 Jan. 2014. <http://www.textexcavation.com/gospelmanuscripts.html
[2] Westcott, Brooke F. & Hort, John A. The New Testament in the Original Greek. “Introduction.”  CR page 112. https://books.google.com/books?id=0xtVAAAAMAAJ&pg=ACfU3U33CMW3331Vv20NgGvjyOs52I1mlA&vq=%22will+not+be+out+of+place+to+add+here+a+distinct+expression+of+our+belief+that+even+among+the+numerous%22&source=gbs_quotes_r&cad=2_0#v=onepage&q&f=false>
[3] Richardson, Cyril C.  “Early Christian Fathers.” Christian Classics Ethereal Library. <http://eaglemissions.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/fathers.pdf>
[4] Foster, Lewis. “Quotations in the Apostolic Fathers.” The Cincinnati Bible College & Seminary. 1969. Volume XV —  Number  4.  <http://www.dabar.org/SemReview/v15n4-Fathers.htm#N_23_
 [5] “Patristics.”  Merriam-Webster. 2017 <http://www.merriam-webster.com>   Gloag, Paton J.  Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels.  <http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/008728595>  Foster. “Quotations in the Apostolic Fathers.”
[6] Richardson. “Early Christian Fathers.”  Schaff, Philip. “Introductory Note to the First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians.” Christian Classics Ethereal Library. 13 July 2005.  <http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ii.i.html>   Schaff.  “Introductory Note to the Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians.” Christian Classics Ethereal Library.  2005.  <http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ii.i.html>
[7] Schaff, Philip. “Introduction Note to the Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians.”  Kirby, Peter. “The Martyrdom of Polycarp.” Early Christian Writings. 2017. <http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/martyrdompolycarp.html
[8Kirby, Peter.  “Gospel of Luke.”  EarlyChristianWritings.com. <http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/luke.html>  Kirby, Peter. “Gospel of Mark.”  EarlyChristianWritings.com. <http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/mark.html
[9] Clement of Rome (aka Clement I). “The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians.” Classics Ethereal Library. 2005.  <http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ii.ii.html
[10] Polycarp. “The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippian.” Christian Classics Ethereal Library. <http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.iv.ii.html>   Davis, Glen. “Polycarp of Smyrna.”  NTCanon.org. 2008.  <http://www.ntcanon.org/Polycarp.shtml>  Lake, Kirsopp. “Polycarp to the Philippians.” EarlyChristianWritings.com.  <http://earlychristianwritings.com/polycarp.html
[11] Polycarp. “The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippian.”
[12] Davis, Glen. “Irenaeus of Lyons.”  NTCanon.org.  25 July 2008.  <http://www.ntcanon.org/Irenaeus.shtml>
[13] Irenaeus of Lyons. Against Heresies.   Schaff, Philip. “Introductory Note to Irenæus Against Heresies.” Christian Classics Ethereal Library.   <http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.i.html> Schaff, Philip. “Introduction Note to the Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians.” Goodspeed, Edgar J., “Irenaeus.  Proof of The Apostolic Preaching.” Ante Nice Fathers.  2014. <http://antenicenefathers.org/irenaeus>  Davis, Glen. “Irenaeus of Lyons.”  Westcott & Hort.  The New Testament in the Original GreekIntroduction; pages 113, 194-195.  Gloag. Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels.  “General Introduction.” 
  [14] Rochford, James M. “Legend Theory.’ Evidence Unseen. 2017. <http://www.evidenceunseen.com/christ/defending-the-resurrection/1-legend-theory>  Billingsley, Greg. “Alternate Theories To The Resurrection – The Legend Theory.”  2012.  <http://etheology.com/blogs/greg-billingsley/alternate-theories-to-the-resurrection-the-legend-theory>

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Are The Gospels Authentic, the Real Deal?

Without the Gospels, there is virtually no other foundation to weigh whether or not Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. Were the many prophecies pointing to the Messiah in the Old Testament, the Jewish Tanakh, fulfilled by Jesus as described in the Gospels? First, the Gospels must be accepted as credible.

Credibility and integrity of the Gospels relies heavily on their authenticity – are the Gospels authentic, the real deal? Some opponents claim the Gospels are the result of Christian conspirators creating a Messiah story. Other critics claim the Gospels are merely recycled copies of each other.

A common charge against Christians is the use of “circular logic” to prove the validity of one Gospel based on corroboration by another Gospel or other New Testament book – this is considered a false premise.[1] Think of it this way…

It is like the guy who makes a bold claim of a fact to his friend who in turn asks, “where did you come up with that?”  The guy answers, “On the Internet.”  The skeptical friend then asks, “How do you know it’s true?  The guy says, “Because the Internet said it was.”

Circular logic charges can be averted when standalone authenticity of the Gospels can be established. If the Gospels can be deemed authentic, it forms the basis for gaining confidence in their credibility and believability opening the door for acceptance of their truthfulness.

Something that is “authentic,” as defined by the Dictionary.com definition, has three components establishing the highest criteria to meet that  standard.[2] The first two components set-up the conclusion of the third:

– “not false or copied; genuine; real”

– “having the origin supported by unquestionable evidence; authenticated; verified”

– “entitled to acceptance or belief because of agreement with known facts or experience; reliable; trustworthy”

Are the Gospels we have today a real and genuine representation of the original handwritten manuscripts? The sciences of textual criticism, textual purity, patristics, literary criticism and literary analysis were all used in the highly acclaimed work of Brooke Westcott and Fenton Hort. The duo spent 28 years of their lives conducting scientific research on ancient Greek, Latin, Syrian, Egyptian and other Gospel manuscripts.[3]

Westcott & Hort concluded the Gospels we have today are an accurate reproduction of the original authorships to within 1.7% – that’s 98.3% accuracy in spite of the multiple handwritten copies and translations over many centuries.[4]

Next in the criteria for being “authentic” is “having the origin supported by unquestionable evidence; authenticated; verified.” In a circumstantial case, one without direct proof, such as is virtually every written work from the age of antiquity including the Gospels, corroborating evidence is crucial to verifying facts necessary in assessing authenticity.

Validation through historical and scientific evidence are a common means to do this. For the Gospels, it has involved the confirmation of historical major events; regional geography; rulers and religious figures including births, deaths and reigns; government structures, taxation and their criminal justice system; cultural and religious practices and their literature; and the literary sciences as well as astronomy and archeology. Every one of these areas corroborate the information in the Gospels.

Once something has been verified to be genuine, not false or copied, and verified through corroborating evidence, by the third definition it is “entitled to acceptance or belief” as factually authentic. Few will take the time to perform sufficient due diligence to reach their own conclusion of authenticity about the Gospels, but many people will consider the conclusion of credible sources.

Westcott and Hort’s conclusion based on almost three decades of research might still be considered by some to be pro-Christian, biased. What about the detractors?  Perhaps the strongest opponent to Christianity for the past 2000 years originated at ground zero, the archenemies of Jesus and his message of the Gospels – Judaism.  

Religious teachers of Judaism to this day adamantly oppose the Gospel claim that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.  The secular side of Judaism, on the other hand, arrives at a very different conclusion about the authenticity of the Gospels through historical and scientific analysis methods.

Encyclopaedia Judaica, The Jewish Encyclopedia, and Jewish Virtual Library all affirm the historical accuracy and credibility of the Gospels.[5] That said, their theological disagreement is with the Gospel claim that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Messiah prophecies. Therein lies the ultimate dilemma…

If the Gospels have met the threshold for being historically and scientifically authentic and credible… then what are the odds the claim of the Gospels that Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophesied Messiah is also credible, one that is believable – true?

REFERENCES

[1] “circular reasoning.” Dictionary.com 2017  <http://www.dictionary.com/browse/circular-reasoning?s=t>

[2] “authentic.”  Dictionary.com.  2017.  <http://www.dictionary.com/browse/authentic?s=t>

[3] “Brooke Foss Westcott.” Christian Classics Ethereal Library.  n.d. <http://www.ccel.org/ccel/wescott “Fenton John Anthony Hort.”  Christian Classics Ethereal Library. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/hort “Westcott.”  Westcott and Hort Research Centre.http://www.westcotthort.com/biographies.html “Hort.”  Westcott and Hort Research Centre.http://www.westcotthort.com/biographies.html Westcott, Brooke F. & Hort, John A.  The New Testament in the Original Greek – Introduction | Appendix. Google Books.  Pages 15, 40, 98-106, 107-122.  <http://books.google.com/books?id=0xtVAAAAMAAJ&pg=ACfU3U33CMW3331Vv20NgGvjyOs52I1mlA&vq=%22will+not+be+out+of+place+to+add+here+a+distinct+expression+of+our+belief+that+even+among+the+numerous%22&source=gbs_quotes_r&cad=2_0#v=onepage&q=criticism%20is%20still%20necessary%20&f=false>   

[4]  Westcott & Hort.  The New Testament in the Original Greek. Pages 2, 310-11.

[5] “Jesus of Nazareth.”  Jewish Encyclopedia.  2011.  <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com >” Encyclopaedia JudaicaPages 246-247. “Crucifixion.”  Jewish Virtual Library. 2014.https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org

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