Shamar

Clearing up misconceptions about the Christian faith and defending it.


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Monotheism and the Concept of A Triune God – Part 3

Let’s begin with a simple fact: the word trinity, triad or triune simply does not exist in the Bible. You can deduce that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are in agreement, are one in three forms or even using the very simple” if A=B and B=C then A=C” reasoning. But at no point and in no verse does the New Testament mention the word trinity. In contrast, several ancient pagan writings very openly mention trinity with regard to their gods. Some of these religions also had the concept of more than three gods united as one, but we are primarily concerned with Christianity and Judaism, so we will restrict our research and writing to the triad or the trinity. Read this article to understand how various ancient religions have had the trinity of gods.

https://www.ucg.org/bible-study-tools/booklets/is-god-a-trinity/how-ancient-trinitarian-gods-influenced-adoption-of-the

What’s interesting is that the early church did not have any such “trinitarian” beliefs. The concept of trinity was formally adopted and was accepted as a belief at one of the Ecumenical Councils organised by Emperor Constantine to regulate and formalize Christianity. The reason this concept is not found written in the Bible is because at the councils, the attendees never wrote any new books neither did they make any additions based on their decisions, but simply collated and selected from the writings and books that were already in circulation among the early Christians. This meant that the books written by the early Christians–Jewish converts, Gentiles who had been taught by the apostles–were among the books they all deliberated upon. Since these books do not have the word trinity mentioned, it is safe to say that the earliest Christians had not coined the word.

Of course, it was not all as easy as that. The fact that one of the tasks of the councils was to weed the spurious from the real writings itself meant that there were many heretical texts in circulation at that time, and the Christian community was divided over doctrine. However, trinity was still not introduced via the texts in circulation–genuine or heretical.

So, if the trinity concept was not taught by the early converts, where did it come from and how did it enter Christianity? To understand this, you have to understand church history because the answers are embedded in it.

The church we know today is not the church that Peter and the apostles nurtured and grew. That church comprised mainly of Jewish and Gentile converts. All the apostles were Jewish and hence they were well versed with Jewish customs and laws. Most importantly, they had known Christ when He lived among them. They had heard Him preach and knew His teachings and beliefs. And they had been with Christ when He 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). To them had been revealed the explanation of the knowledge that was always present from the Old Testament onward. They knew Yahowah, they kept His Sabbath and the law, they understood who Christ was and they had been anointed by the Holy Spirit. The early pre-Nicene church had been taught by these men, and they had  their principles down pat. However, even in those days, heresies had already begun to appear, and they have been warned about by the apostles in their letters.

This church had been the recipient of Rabbinical ire from the time of Christ, but now it was also the target of Roman persecution. History speaks plainly of the works of the tetrarchs of Rome and their anti-Christian policies. In short, as history tells us, the early pre-Nicene church was a deeply troubled and persecuted one. But it had its principles right for the most part and about the most important things. For instance, the early church kept the Sabbath, something that the Christian world today refuses to do.

While they were in this state of persecution, Constantine entered the scenario. It is difficult to verify to what degree his claims of the vision he saw  were true and to what degree, the stratagem of an astute and ambitious mind.  After all, Constantine did not rule from Rome but preferred to set up his distinct kingdom in Macedonia, a departure from the earlier rulers. It was here, in his kingdom and under his rule, that Christianity found legitimacy and relief. In the sanction afforded to it, the new fledgling faith breathed easy.

The recognition that a monarch bestowed upon a new religion made the world’s intelligentsia, particularly from the Hellenistic world, take notice. The curiosity of the learned and the learners was aroused and many started reading about Christianity, perhaps for the first time as a religion and not some heretical sect. These learned men, many of them also deeply interested in philosophy, alchemy, Gnosticism, other religions and sects, cast their own influence on Christianity. One such man was Tertullian. Though not an early Church father, was a Christian writer who coined the word “trinity” long before it was introduced at the Ecumenical Councils. The word itself was coined through the influence and application of Stoic philosophy and the concept was further refined and clarified when Tertullian became a Montanist.

We’ll look at how the combined influences of Constantine and early Church writers and fathers altered the personality of Christianity that was introduced by Christ and the apostles. In the next part, we’ll concentrate on Constantine and his move to legitimize Christianity.

Shalome


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Monotheism and the Concept of a Triune God – Part 2

This is a continuation of a topic that was started  in this post. Read it to get a background and to understand the reference in this post.

Christians have been accused of splitting God into three. In the last post, I tried to explain the concept of a triune God. How He is essentially One God, visible in three forms to serve three separate purposes. Yahowah is purity and reading the Old Testament reveals His attributes as a pure and just God. Yahshua is love and salvation. The New testament reveals that God has always loved us richly, passionately and deeply, but through Yahshua’s sacrifice, He takes that love to the next level, making it stronger than even pain and death, achieving salvation for all who will believe. It’s the deepest love we will ever encounter on earth and in this life, lovers and husbands/wives and parents notwithstanding. And the Holy Spirit indwelling in us, purifies us much as a refiner refines silver. He works with us slowly, steadily, improving us, convicting us of wrongdoing but never condemning us, encouraging us to get up and try again. When Yahshua said, I will leave you a Comforter, He meant it.

But God in three forms, is it some New Testament invention? That God appears in a physical form and a spirit form as well as His glorious one, is it something we Christians have imported into the original faith from paganism? Take this small Old testament tour with me to know, not through my knowledge or my reasoning, but through the simple and clearly stated information given in the Word of God.

Yahowah–Almighty God, the Great I am, the Ancient of Days.

When Moses saw the burning bush on Mount Horeb, he wondered at how the bush was on fire but did not burn up. His curiosity brought him into his first encounter with God. The first thing God asked Moses to do was remove his sandals, for Moses stood on holy ground. At that point, Yahowah introduced Himself by name as I am Who I am (Exodus 3:14.) Moses went on to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, but throughout that journey he kept in close communion with God, who directed him. When Moses wanted to see His glory, Yahowah told Moses: No man can see my glory and live (Exodus 33:20.) There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen (Exodus 33:20-23.)  When God descended on mountains before the Israelites, the mountain was always covered with clouds, so the Israelites could see lightening and could hear his voice but could not see him. Deuteronomy 4: 11-14: You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness. 12 Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice.   Deuteronomy  5: 15You saw no form of any kind the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. No one has seen the face of Yahowah, so when John says: No one has seen the face of God and lived, he is right. However, a supposed contradiction arises when we consider Exodus 33:11 that states that: 11 The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. But is it really a contradiction? Let’s look at the next point.

The Angel of the Lord

The first few books of the old testament has several references to the  angel of the Lord.

  1. Genesis 16: The account of Hagar and Ishmael.
  2. Genesis 22: The angel of the Lord speaks to Abraham as he is about to sacrifice Issac: But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven,“Abraham! Abraham!”“Here I am,” he replied.12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

Genesis 18: The Lord appears to Abraham at Mamre in the form of a man:

18 The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.

Genesis 32: 22-30: In This passage, Jacob wrestles with a man all night and prevails. At the end of their conversation, Jacob names the place where it happened Peniel, which means: It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” 

Exodus 3: 1-6: In this passage, the angel of the Lord, as well as God, appears to Moses from within a burning bush.

There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.”

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father,[a] the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

Judges 13: This passage is about the angel of the Lord appearing to Manoah and his wife to instruct them about the son they were about to have.  At the end of their communication, Manoah’s wife realizes they have seen God.

Judges 6: 11-24: In this passage, Gideon sees the angel of the Lord and on realizing who he had seen, he is afraid he will die. There was no need for this fear if it was a mere angel. After all, Daniel met Gabriel but he never felt that fear.

In each of these references we see that the angel of the Lord was not initially recognized by the people who saw Him, but when they did, they realized they had seen God face-to-face. All of these would be in contradiction to the Exodus 33: 20. If. that is. we do not make space for the fact that God, even in those days, appeared to man in a different form, one that allowed Him to communicate with them but one that did not, at the same time, harm them.

And was this angel of the Lord himself God? Judges 2: The angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land I swore to give to your ancestors. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.’ Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? And I have also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; they will become traps for you, and their gods will become snares to you.’”

Even a casual study of the Pentateuch will tell you that:

  1. It was Yahowah who brought Israel out of Egypt.
  2.  It was Yahowah who led the Israelites through the wilderness into the land that He had promised them.
  3. It was Yahowah who had promised the land of Canaan to Israel’s ancestors.
  4. It was Yahowah who had made a covenant with Israel, which He said He would never break.
  5. It was Yahowah who had instructed Israel about what they should do with the pagan deities and places of worship as they encountered then during their slow and steady occupation.
  6.  And it was Yahowah who went ahead of the Israelites in battle and who gave them victory.

Here, in this verse, it is the angel of the Lord who makes the same claims as Yahowah, clearly showing us that He and Yahowah are one and the same, just appearing in two different forms.

The Spirit of God

The Holy Spirit of God had been poured out or put into various people in the old testament–from artisans who were commissioned to build the temple, to musicians, to the leaders who had been chosen to govern and guide Israelites during their desert years.

Numbers 11: The Spirit of God was poured out on 70 elders chosen by Moses. They immediately prophesied when the Spirit descended on them.

Exodus 31: God chose Bezalel and Ohaliab to work on the design of the Tent of Meeting etc.

These verse are not written by Christians; they existed from of old. They show us that God could and did exist in three forms from the beginning–as the pure and glorious Yahowah who man cannot see and live. As the angel of God who visited people and spoke to them face-to-face, giving them instructions. And as the Holy Spirit who descended on people selected to carry out tasks so that they would be guided to do them in a way that was aligned with the will of Adonai.

From the Old Testament, the Jewish Tanach, to the New Testament, we see that the one and only God has has existed in three forms to serve differing purposes. The New testament has not imported anything from any pagan belief systems.

In the last post in this topic, I would like to discuss the concept of Trinity, how it is confused with what is the truth existing in the Bible ( and the Tanach) and also how it distorts this truth.

Shalome.


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The Blindness of Faith.

I mentioned in the post on Easter that I would provide links and information that explained the crucifixion-resurrection confusion. To keep in with my word, I searched the Internet for all the necessary information and links. A strange thing happened. In the course of my search, I found that scholars were divided on the year of crucifixion. Though it is traditionally accepted as 33 AD, some dispute that year. I went on to search for the year of Christ’s birth and there is an even greater range there than the year of crucifixion–anything between 18 BC and 7 AD. Just to add extra fun to the whole unholy mess of dates, the way dates were calculated differed vastly circa Christ’s life. And between the conversion first to the Julian and then the Gregorian calendar, event dates have been pushed ahead or back by several years, so that there is no certainty about anything.

If we do not have the right year of Christ’s birth, how will we be able to calculate the right or even approximate year of Christ’s crucifixion? And if we do not have the right year of Christ’s crucifixion, how will we know the precise dates on which Passover fell in that year? And if we do not have that, how can we prove anything?

What does it leave us with? It leaves us with what the world calls blind faith, something I have been uncomfortable with, especially because of the way the world defines it.

Blind faith would involve choosing to believe a) without knowledge b) without experience c) in the absence of secular proof d) in the face of secular proof to the contrary and e) when everything around you seems to suggest otherwise.

And yet, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this kind of “blind” believing has been a part of Judeo-Christian tradition.

What do I mean when I say blind faith? Does it mean believing without knowledge? No, it does not. Abraham, Moses and David knew God and of God from the accounts of their ancestors. So then, does it mean believing without questioning, in spite of circumstances and in spite of contrasting external evidence? Yes, that is what I mean in this post.

In Genesis, when Yahowah spoke to Abraham for the first time and asked him to leave his home, his country, a settled, secure life and go to a land that He would show him, Abraham blindly believed. He did not know where he was going (Hebrew 11: 8), but He trusted God to guide him.

When Yahowah asked Moses to lead His people out of Egypt, and take them into Canaan, it seemed close to impossible. The Hebrew people had been reduced to being slaves in Egypt and were not powerful enough to wage a war or create an uprising. Moses himself was wanted for murder and over the years, he had lost all confidence in his military skills. To challenge Pharaoh, Moses had to believe a promise, in spite of some troubling realities (Hebrews 11: 24-29).

It required that kind of blind faith on the part of David–who was told he would be king–to keep believing that promise when his life hung by a thread as Saul sought to kill him. He fought to believe in spite of Saul and in spite of his own discouragement. There are several Psalms that speak of his anguish.

And yet, Yahowah brought Abraham into Canaan, just as He had said. He led Israel out of Egypt, just as He had said. And David became king.

Broken down to its basic building blocks, what is to the world blind faith, is for us just total faith in God and His Word. It chooses to believe God over external evidence, circumstances or the words of the wisest men on earth. Because we know that Yahowah never lies, He fulfills His promises and His plans for us are good.

This kind of total faith is the starting point of Christian inquiry. It’s like Yahowah’s screening process. If you believe without seeing–just because it is God’s Word–then you’re in, and the things you seek to understand will be explained to you, factually and logically. (Hebrews 11: 6)

However, before everything else, here is a question you should answer. Do you believe with your eyes or do you believe with your heart? If all the proof and all the evidence in the world stands on one side, and Yahowah stands alone on the other, which side would you choose?

The answer to that question will determine the course of everything for your life.

As for the details of the crucifixion of Christ, the truth is out there, but currently, we are looking through cut glass that creates distortion. The glass will be removed some day, and we will see clearly.

Keep the faith and Shalome.

#crucifixion #blind faith #total faith


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What is Easter anyways?

Easter is around the corner. After a period of fasting during Lent, pious Christians look forward to celebrating Easter with bunnies, eggs and other delicious confectionery treats. Churches plan and organize Easter services and programs, preparing for weeks in advance for everything to go well. It is, after all, a celebration of the resurrection of Christ, His victory over death.

Unfortunately, no matter how good Christian intentions are, Easter is not Christian. The Christian celebration of Easter errs on two points.

1) The festival Easter has nothing to do with the resurrection of Christ.
2) The day the Church celebrates Easter is wrong.

Let us examine the two points a little more in detail.

1) That Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Christ is wrong.

Many Christians are gradually becoming aware that Easter has ancient non-Christian origins. It was the feast of goddess Ashtoreth/Ishtar/Oestre–a celebration of fertility, a spring festival that celebrated the return of life to earth after a long winter period, perhaps even the return to life of Tammuz, the Babylonian deity. If you want to know more, you can find it here:

http://rcg.org/books/ttooe.html”>http://rcg.org/books/ttooe.html

It is easy to see how this can allegorically get linked with Resurrection, as it is the event of Christ coming back to life after three days in the grave. The plain truth, however, is that the festival Easter has nothing to do with Christ, pre-dates Him and is pagan at its core.

2) The day the Church celebrates Easter is wrong.

According to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Christ was crucified on the Preparation Day of the Passover, that is the day before Passover. He rose back to life on the third day from then. As given in the Old Testament, Passover is celebrated on the 14th day of the first Jewish month Nissan, which falls in March or April. This year, Passover will be on the evening of 03 April, 2015.

Interestingly, the early Christians celebrated resurrection during the Passover week. Since the precise date changed every year, it led to confusion. The Council at Nicea decided to standardize one date to avoid all confusion. Here is an article to explain that in detail.

http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/determining-easter-date.html

There is nothing ordinary about the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. He died as the Passover Lamb, fulfilling the important requirement of shedding blood to save lives. He was also our Lamb of Atonement fulfilling the requirement of shedding blood to forgive sins. His blood shed on the cross does both: it cleanses our sins and gives us eternal life. It was not an ordinary day and had taken place fulfilling many requirements and prophecies.

As for resurrection, Christ used Jonah to explain the three-day principle: Matthew Chapter 12: 40 (NKJV): For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. If He said three days and three nights, He meant three days and three nights. Period.

We tend to brush aside inconsistencies in the Bible as “must be something.” For years, I have known that the difference between a Friday and Sunday morning does not constitute 3 days. Rather than find out more or put in a query, I chose to hide under the “must be something” blanket. But God does not ask for blind faith and is open to your queries. He does not get angry when you do so, because He has nothing to be afraid of or hide. If anything, He wants you to understand. So seek and ask, only then will you find and receive.

The dates of crucifixion and resurrection have now become clearer as more Christians read and research various Jewish customs. Also, there is a growing number of Messianic Jews–Jews who accept Christ as their Saviour. They bring with them knowledge of Jewish customs and calculations, without which we found it difficult to understand a lot of things. Christ and his disciples were Jewish and wrote their accounts based on the Jewish ways of doing things.

I will put a post sometime about the specific references in the Gospels that explain the crucifixion and, hence, resurrection days. I will also share links that try to explain the whole matter in depth for those who are interested. There is still a lot to be learned, verified and understood before we have complete clarity, but at least we will not be blindly following something that was a man-made tradition.

3) Is this all such a big deal?

A lot of people may not consider this to be such a big deal. And maybe it isn’t for some. Then there is the matter of accuracy, and if we were to be accurate, then we should try to follow the right time of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. The most important reason, however, is the underlying significance of the days and the events–why things were done the way they were done and when they were done.

It’s not a simple matter so take your time and think about it.

Shalome

PS: I had said I would provide more information about the Passover-Crucifixion connection in terms of dates. You can read what I found here.