Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Hammer of God

I am a writer and illustrator of comic books. This book is meant to introduce and accompany my comic book series "The Hammer of God." Two individuals in history have been known as "The Hammer of God": Judah Maccabee and Charles Martel. The title "Maccabee" was given to Judah the son of Mattityahu Bar Hashmonay. (Judas Maccabeus is another way of saying Judah Maccabee.) The word "Maccabee" comes from the Aramaic word "Maqaba" and means "The Hammer." (The Old Testament is written in Hebrew and Aramaic. The Aramaic language is closely related to Hebrew and Arabic. According to the New Testament, Aramaic was the language spoken by Jesus Christ. Aramaic is an important Jewish language. Many Jewish sacred texts, such as the Talmud and the Kaballah (the Zohar), are written in Aramaic as are several traditional Jewish prayers, such as the Kaddish, and traditional songs, such as the Passover song Chad Gadyo. Assyrian Christians of Iraq, Syria and Iran still speak Aramaic.) Judah Maccabee fought against the tyrannical Seleucid Greeks beginning in the year 167 BC. Centuries later, after defeating a massive Moslem army in central France, Charles the son of Pepin was called "Martel," meaning "The Hammer" in Latin. Charles the Hammer beat back an invasion of Europe by the Muslim Empire in October 732 AD. Charles Martel defeated the Moslems at the Battle of Tours (also known as the Battle of Poitiers). The name Maccabee, "the Hammer," is applied in the Books of Maccabees to only one man, Judah, the third son of Mattathias and the leader of the revolt against the Greek kings who persecuted the Jews. Traditionally, the name has been applied to the brothers of Judas, and other Jewish heroes and martyrs of the period. (Judah was the Maccabee. Each of his brothers had their own individual nicknames.) Mattathias was also named Hashmonay and was the descendent of a man named Hashmonay. Therefore the family is also called (more accurately) the Hasmoneans. The story of Judah Maccabees is found in the writings of Flavius Josephus and in the five books of Maccabees. According to Claude Conder in Judas Maccabaeus and the Jewish War of Independence, "Judas Maccabaeus is the central figure of one of the most important periods of Jewish history-a time when the nation struggled successfully to attain independence, and during which the germs of the later Jewish religious development first appeared, and the foundation was laid of that condition of Jewish society which existed in the time of Christ" (p. 9). Reading the Books of the Maccabees will give you a deeper understanding of the work of Christ because it will enable you to see Jesus more accurately and through the context of the world in which he lived. After reading the Maccabees you will never be able to read the Gospels the same way again.


 

The Jewish Festival of Hanukkah is a celebration of the memory of Judah Maccabee. Hanukkah is the Aramaic word for "Dedication" and it is celebrated to remember the day Judah Maccabee re-dedicated the Temple of Jerusalem after defeating and driving away the Greeks who had been persecuting the Jews and who had defiled the Temple of Jerusalem. When people think of Hanukkah usually the Holiday Season comes to mind. Hanukkah was a minor Jewish holiday but it has become more popular because it is celebrated during the Christmas season and has become a type of Jewish equivalent (or alternative) to Christmas. For many people Hanukkah means lighting the Menorah, spinning the dreydel (a top) and giving and receiving gifts. However, the Maccabean Revolt, which Hanukkah celebrates, was of deadly serious significance and the Revolt of the Maccabees has tremendous contemporary relevance. It brings to mind one of the great conflicts in modern American society: the conflict (or "culture war") between traditional religious conservatives and the (so-called) "progressive" secularizing elite. BEING PRIESTS, THE MACCABEES REALIZED THAT THEY WERE NOT MERELY AT WAR BUT WERE ENGAGED IN A PROFOUND SPIRITUAL CONFLICT. The same conflict reflected in the Hanukkah story is being re-enacted in our own time. The Hanukkah story can be viewed as provocative and political.


 

The Greeks were relativists and believed that all the gods should be worshiped at the Jerusalem Temple. They were determined to enforce what they viewed as "progress" by law and were willing to use persecution to eliminate what was in their opinion the close-mindedness and backwardness of the Jewish people. The forces of liberal polytheism attempted to do away with ethical monotheism. The struggle pitted not only Greek verses Jew it also pitted Jew against Jew. Conservative Jews felt more threatened by Jewish "Hellenists," who were liberals, moderates and progressives, than they felt they were by the Greeks. (A Hellenist was one who embraced Greek culture and mores.) The Hellenized Jews contemptuously looked upon traditional religious Jews as backwards, intolerant and socially inferior. The Hellenized Jews began aping Greek ways as a way to advance themselves socially. By embracing Greek culture, these Jewish elites were hoping to improve their social standing in the eyes of the Greeks. Their embrace of Greek culture, with its exercising in the nude in gymnasiums and homosexuality, shocked the religious conservatives. The Hellenistic Jews became so ashamed of their Jewish heritage that they surgically removed the signs of their circumcision (a practice Paul mentions and condemns in1 Corinthians 7:18) through a painful practice that involved a cutting a flap of skin around the penis and letting it hang by weights. This way they wouldn't be recognized as having been a Jew when they ran around naked in the gymnasiums and in the baths.


 

Before the reign of Antiochus, many Greeks admired the Jews and described them as a nation of philosophers. Before the persecution, the people of Judea were peaceable and subservient. The province was known for its lack of uprisings and rebellion. Even during the persecutions, many Jews felt that to disobey the ruler was to rebel against God who placed their rulers in power. When their rulers began to persecute them for practicing their religion, many Jews believed that only passive resistance was appropriate. They embraced martyrdom and expected a supernatural deliverance. After several horrific massacres, the Hasmoneans realized it was necessary to fight to protect their lives, their families and their nation. They won their freedom and independence by fighting for it.


 

FARMERS, SHEPHERDS, CARPENTERS AND DAY LABOURERS-THESE WERE THE COMMON MEN WHO JOINED THE MACCABEAN REBELLION. THEY HAD NO MILITARY TRAINING, NO EQUIPMENT AND WERE VASTLY OUTNUMBERED, BUT THE SMALL RAGTAG ARMY OF JUDAH MAQQABA TOOK ON AND DEFEATED ONE OF THE LARGEST AND BEST EQUIPPED MILITARY MACHINES IN THE WORLD AT THAT TIME. THE MACCABEAN REVOLUTIONARIES ARMED THEMSELVES WITH EQUIPMENT AND ARMOR TAKEN FROM THEIR FALLEN ENEMIES AND THE ARMOUR AND WEAPONS THEIR ENEMIES THREW DOWN WHEN THEY FLED FROM THE HAMMER

OF GOD IN STARK TERROR.


 

Many historians believe that the Battle of Tours, fought in October of 732 A.D. and won by Charles the son of Pepin, was one of the most important and historically decisive battles ever fought in history. After this great battle Charles was named Carolus
Martellus, Charles Martel, meaning Charles the Hammer, in remembrance of Judas Maccabeus, the Hammerer of God who was God's instrument to rescue the people of God from destruction by their enemies. The grandson of Charles Martel was Charlemagne-who restored the former glories of Europe during the Carolingian Renaissance.


 

IN 732 AD, ONE HUNDRED YEARS AFTER THE DEATH OF THE SO-CALLED "PROPHET" MOHAMMED, TERRORIST LEADER ABDUL RAHMAN INVADED FRANCE AND WAS HEADED TOWARDS THE CHURCH OF SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS TO ROB IT AND BURN IT TO THE GROUND. ON THE WAY TO TOURS, ABDUL RAHMAN STOPPED AT EVERY TOWN AND VILLAGE. HE STOLE EVERY THING HE WANTED AND BURNED EVERYTHING DOWN. HE SPECIFICALLY TARGETED CHURCHES AND ROBBED AND BURNED EVERY CHURCH THAT WAS IN HIS PATH OF DESTRUCTION. HIS SOLDIERS KILLED EVERY CHRISTIAN THEY CAME ACROSS. THOSE WHOSE LIVES WERE SPARED WERE MADE INTO SLAVES. WHEN CHARLES, THE LEADER OF THE FRANKISH GERMANS, HEARD ABOUT WHAT ABDUL RAHMAN WAS DOING, HE GATHERED HIS ARMIES AND WENT TO FIGHT THE TERRORISTS. THE TERRORISTS WERE SURPRISED TO DISCOVER FRANKISH CHRISTIAN WARRIORS BLOCKING THE WAY TO TOURS IN ORDER TO PROTECT THE CHURCH OF SAINT MARTION OF TOURS. THE TERRORISTS THEN CHARGED THE FRANKS. "KILL THE UNBELIEVERS!," THEY CRIED. THE FRANKISH CHRISTIAN WARRIORS FORMED THEMSELVES INTO A SHIELD WALL. 80,000 TERRORISTS FOUGHT AGAINST CHARLES'S 10,000 FRANKISH WARRIORS. AGAIN AND AGAIN THE TERRORISTS CHARGED THE FRANKISH LINE. EACH TIME THE FRANKISH CHRISTIAN WARRIORS DROVE THEM BACK. AS A DIVERSION, CHARLES'S ALLIE DUKE OTTO OF AQUITAINE ATTACKED THE TERRORIST CAMP AND BEGAN LIBERATING THE SLAVES. THE CAMP WAS WHERE THE TERRORISTS HAD STORED ALL THE THINGS THEY HAD STOLEN. THINKING THAT THEIR STOLEN LOOT WAS THREATENED, THE TERRORISTS PANICKED. IN THE CONFUSION AND CHAOS THAT ENSUED AS THE TERRORISTS ABANDONED THE BATTLEFIELD IN ORDER TO SAVE THEIR STOLEN TREASURES, ABDUL RAHMAN WAS KILLED. AFTER NIGHT FELL, THE TERRORISTS REALIZED THAT THEIR LEADER HAD DIED. THEY BECAME CRAZED WITH FEAR. SOON, THEY BEGAN FIGHTING AMONGST THEMSELVES. SEIZED WITH FEAR, THEY BEGAN TO RUN AWAY.
THE NEXT MORNING THE FRANKS LINED UP READY FOR COMBAT.

THEY WERE SURPRISED TO DISCOVER THAT THEIR TERRORIST ADVERSARIES HAD RUN AWAY AT NIGHT UNDER THE COVER OF DARKNESS LIKE COWARDS. BECAUSE OF THE WAY HE HAMMERED BACK THE TERRORISTS, AND IN MEMORY OF JUDAS MACCABEE, ANOTHER GREAT DEFENDER OF GOD'S PEOPLE, CHARLES BECAME KNOWN AS CHARLES MARTEL, MEANING IN LATIN, CHARLES THE HAMMER.


 

The "Hammer of God" comic book series will be in three parts. Part one tells to story of Judas Maccabeus from the beginning of the Maccabean revolt until the declaration of religious tolerance by the Greeks after the Battle of Beth Zechariah. Part one also tells the story of Charles Martel and the Battle of Tours. "The Hammer of God: Part 2" tells the continuing story of Judah Maccabee. In part two, Judah attempts to retire to a peaceful life but is forced to lead Israel in battle once again, this time against an evil general named Nicanor. Also in part two, Charles Martel again faces a renewed Moslem invasion of Christendom and fights the armies of terror at Avignon and Narbonne. In "The Hammer of God: Part 3: The Fall of the Hammer" Judah falls in combat after battling Baccides. After a long struggle, his brothers Jonathon and Simon finally bring into reality Judah's dream of an independent Jewish homeland. Also in part two, after the death of Charles Martel, Pepin, Charles's son, and Charlemagne, his grandson, fight back the Moslems and create a rebirth of science, religion and culture in Christian Europe.


 

Does Religion Cause Wars?


 

I remember reading a comment from Paul McCartney, a former member of the "Beatles" Rock-n-Roll Band, saying that he doesn't believe in religion because religion causes war. The first question I have about this comment is on what information did he base this superficial and asinine opinion? Who is he to make such pronouncements? Has he studied history? This illustrates one of the many problems with modern popular culture or "pop-culture." The people with the least education, who possess shallow thinking and incoherent opinions have a disproportionate influence on society. McCartney's opinion is based on ignorance. Does religion really cause wars? It seems to me that religion causes great art such as Michelangelo's paintings on the Sistine Chapel and Leonardo De Vinci's painting of the Last Supper. Religion causes great literature such as Dante's Divine Comedy and Milton's Paradise Lost. Religion causes great music with Handel's Messiah and the many compositions of Bach. Religion causes great architecture as can be seen in the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris and the Hage Sophia in Constantinople. Religion causes education. Oxford, Harvard and many other schools began as institutes of religious education. Christian scribes preserved the bulk of Greek and Roman historical and scientific writings. Religion causes scientific progress as is the case with Isaac Newton and Blaise Paschal, who were devout Christians who sought to understand the God of Order through the Universe He created. Religion also causes altruism as can be seem in the actions of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and other Christians in their acts of humanitarianism and kindness. Religion also causes great ideas, as can be seen in Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther. Who are the secularists and others on the left to impugn people of faith? Millions of people perished in Russia, Cambodia and China and many other places, who were murdered in masse by "progressives" that were inspired to kill fueled by the ideologies of secularism, atheism, agnosticism, and the left. The left caused the death of millions in the twentieth century. Why do people go to war unjustly? There is very little evidence that "religion" motivates people to kill. Immanuel Kant, who was a skeptic, believed that a valid proof for the existence of God was the moral argument, that morality, the Ultimate Good, has its source in God. Belief in God is a powerful moral influence. If being religious caused people to be violent, then why didn't we see Saint Francis, Mother Teresa or Mahatma Gandhi going on killing sprees? They are among the most religious individuals in history. I do concede that there are some militant religions that may inspire violence. But why is it that few acts of religiously inspired violence are committed by Buddhists, Hindus, and Christians but many are by zealous Muslims? The left wants to eliminate religion in general but Christianity in particular. Comments like those of Paul McCartney are actually dangerous and people of faith need to counter them. I believe that if you study history carefully, you will see that religion has not been a primary cause of war. Power, greed and the control over resources are. Virtually all wars have been fought for economic (and not religious) reasons. Sometimes, religion has been used to justify warfare or perhaps even to inspire people to fight, but it isn't usually the cause of war but a false pretense for a war that is waged for other secular reasons. In a way, you could argue that the American Civil War was a religious war. People were motivated by their Christian faith to go to war to abolish slavery. But isn't a war to abolish slavery a just war? (Many Confederates didn't believe that they were fighting for slavery but rather they believed they fought to safeguard state's rights as had been promised in the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.) Examining history we see that most wars were not fought for religious reasons. When the ancient Hittites and Egyptians fought, could we honestly claim they were fighting religious wars? No. Were the wars between the Greeks and the Persians religious wars? They were not. Did the Romans fight religiously inspired warfare? No. World War I and World War II, the most terrible wars fought in the history of mankind, were not religious wars. The statement "religion causes war" isn't true. Christianity spread peacefully throughout the Roman Empire. It was not initially spread by war or violence. Islam is a different case. Mohammed commanded his followers to fight and kill for "Allah's Cause."

This book is about the Battle for Religious Freedom. In the year 167 Before Christ, the Jewish people were forced to fight battles against the Syrian Greeks in order to preserve their religious freedom. The Jews were a peaceful people and didn't fight back until suffering years of horrendous religious persecution and massacres. Some Jews opposed the approach of Mattathias to go to war against the Greeks. However, their approach, that of humbly submitting to martyrdom, resulted in the death of many Jews. The actions of Mattathias and Judah the Hammer of God, his son, ended this holocaust and established a lasting peace. Today, we must struggle to preserve religious and struggle against hate-groups such as the American Civil Liberty Union, the so-called "Military Religious Freedom Foundation," and "Americans United for the Separation of Church and State." These hate-groups will stop at nothing to make practicing, proclaiming and even believing in Christianity a crime. (These anti-Christian hate groups do battle against Christianity through the news media, film and entertainment, through Academia, and through lawsuits. People of faith must likewise do battle against them in order to preserve our religious freedom.) In 732 A.D., Muslims came into Europe in an attempt to eradicate Christianity. Today, the left and Muslim groups have joined forces to eliminate Christianity. (This is exposed in the books Stealth Jihad by Robert Spencer and Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left by David Horowitz. Stan Oaks in reviewing the book America's Secular Challenge: The Rise of a New National Religion by Herbert London in the September 20, 2008 edition of World Magazine, describes how London, a former professor, shows that "secularists try to overcome conservatives and eradicate Christianity from public life, thereby reshaping America…Many secularists support Muslims over conservatives and Christians…London [described as a "thoughtful Jew"] observes that Christians, committed as they are to the next world, too often sit out the battle against their adversaries. He hopes that Christians will fight for the greatest and most liberating tradition the world has ever known.") It is time for people of faith to take action to defend themselves from acts of discrimination and religious violence. Persecution of Christians has been going on throughout the Islamic world for some time. Discrimination and violence against Christians in the United States and Europe has already begun. Islamic Sharia law (Koranic based religious law- meaning an Islamic theocracy) mandates a system of apartheid against the "non-believers." Codified into Islamic law is a system of persecution and discrimination against Christian, Jews and other "non-believers." Pogroms against the indigenous Christians of Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan and many other Christian minorities living in Islamic majority countries are common occurrence. The American liberal news media chooses to avoid reporting on the global problem of persecution of Christians. (The reason for this is because some news isn't "politically correct" to report and the left wants Christianity wiped out. Therefore, they have no sympathy for Christians who are persecuted and slain for their faith. Another reason is cowardice. News outlets are afraid to report stories that could be viewed as disparaging to Islam because they are terrorized by the threat of terrorism.)

Just war theory mandates that war must not only have a "just cause" but must be executed in a moral manner. In an attempt to denigrate Christianity, the left will focus on certain atrocities that occurred during the Crusades, while ignoring atrocities committed by Muslim leaders such as Saladin and Sultan Beybers. In fact, the left claims that the "roots of Islamic rage" is the fact that European Christians decided to fight back against over unprovoked attacks against the Christian world than had began over four-hundred years prior to the Crusades. (Also, the renown historian Rodney Stark very effectively proves that the Crusades were just wars and disproves disinformation about the Crusades that is put out by liberals in his book God's Battalions: The Case for the Crusades.) Christians must be informed of the facts and protect their heritage against dishonest attacks coming from the alliance of Muslims and the left. First, we need to use legal avenues available to protect ourselves from the onslaughts against Christianity coming from Islamists and liberals. Fighting the Global War Against Islamist Terrorism is fighting a necessary and just war and I have had the privilege of serving in Iraq twice. Jesus said, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free." (John 8:32). We must proclaim the truth. Jesus also boldly and defiantly opposed evil doers in the Jewish Temple of Jerusalem and even used a whip to beat them and to violently evict them from the courts of the Temple. It is past time that Christians began to follow the example of Jesus Christ.


 

Just War Theory


 

Philosophers who worked out the "Just War Theory" include Augustine of Hippo and Saint Thomas Aquinas. Other philosophers who contributed to this thought include Cicero, Ambrose, Hugo Grotius, John Locke, and Immanuel Kant. Just war is waged in self-defense or in the defense of another. It has two sets of criteria. The first is establishing "jus ad bellum," the right to go to war. The second is establishing "jus in bello," right conduct within war. These important principles in "Just War Theory" are jus in bello and jus post bellum. Jus in Bello means just application of warfare. It includes distinction: acts of war are directed towards combatants and not noncombatants. Other principles include proportionality, excessive civilian casualties are to be avoided, and military necessity, conduct should be governed by the principle of minimum force. (The committing of war crimes should be avoided. Soldiers who do commit war crimes should face swift disciple. Jus post Bellum means just termination of warfare. This includes just cause for termination such as surrender with apology, compensation, reparations and war crime trials. War should be waged with right intention: revenge is not permitted. There must also be a public declaration and authority in announcing terms of peace. Some philosophers also argue for the principles of "Discrimination" and "Proportionality." (Discrimination: differentiate between political and civil leaders and combatants and civilians. Proportionality: no draconian measures and no attempt to deny the surrendered community the right to participate in the world community.) The following are some core concepts in the theory of "Just War."


 

Just Cause: The reason for going to war needs to be just-innocent life must be in danger and intervention must be to protect life.


 

Comparative Justice: The injustice suffered by one party must significantly outweigh that suffered by the other.


 

Legitimate Authority: Only duly constituted authorities must wage war.


 

Right Intention: Force must be used in a truly just cause and solely for that reason and not for material gain or for other economic reasons.


 

Probability of Success: Arms should not be used in a futile cause. (However, many have believed that the right thing to do is to fight to the death. This is the concept of "Death before dishonor." Examples of this include the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae, the Texican and Tejano defenders of the Alamo, Japanese Christians fighting against persecution from the Shogun and the Jewish Zealots at Masada.)


 

Last Resort: Force may be used only after peaceful and viable alternatives have been seriously tried and exhausted or are clearly not practical.


 

Proportionality: The anticipated benefits of waging a war is waged in terms of self-defense.


 

In the Bible many of the great leaders of the faith were warriors. Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samson, Deborah, Barak, Jepthah, Saul and David were among many of the Old Testament saints who served in combat or led troops into battle. In the New Testament, Simon the Cananean, a disciple of Jesus Christ, had fought against the Romans. Later, Roman soldiers, such as Cornelius, were drawn to the message of Jesus Christ and formed an important part of the early church. Once when I was in Syria I visited an American man who belonged to a so-called "peace" church and who was working in Damascus. When I told him that I was a warrior, that I had served as a combatant in Iraq, he was greatly offended. (He reacted as if I had told him that I made my living by selling drugs to children and engaging in human trafficking!) I feel that my service in Iraq was a virtuous act. There is nothing wrong or immoral about defending the weak and fighting against injustice. This man who was offended by my being an Iraq War veteran worked for a regime that literally slaughtered tens of thousands of its own citizens and has killed thousands of innocent people in Israel, Lebanon, and Iraq. So, who is it that is immoral? LTC Grossman wrote a parable called "Sheepdogs." According to Lieutenant Colonel Grossman, there are three kinds of people: sheep, wolves and the sheepdogs. According to LTC Grossman the vast majority of people are sheep. The sheep tend to be "liberal" and despise the sheepdog, because the sheepdog looks a lot like the wolf and has a seemingly aggressive nature. However, when the flock is attacked by the wolf, the sheepdog suddenly becomes popular and all the sheep rally to him. I disagree with LTC Grossman in one point. Liberals are not innocent misguided sheep. They are wolves in sheep's clothing who are seeking to devour and scatter the flock. Throughout history, Christians living under Islamic rule have suffered terrible persecutions. Once, when I was in Egypt, I learned about anti-Christian riots that had just occurred in Imbaba. Moslems stormed the houses of Christians and took the babies of Coptic Christians and threw them down in the streets from the rooftops. Rev. Joel Werda described the suffering of the Assyrians under the Moslem radicals during the early twentieth century in The Flickering Light of Asia:


 

Little children were stabbed with daggers, or chopped in pieces by axes before the eyes of frantic parents. Young virgins were assaulted while their helpless fathers were compelled to witness the hellish crime. Many of these refugees had fled back and sought the shelter of church edifices, thinking perhaps Islam's passion might balk at the sight of the sacred shrines which its adherents were accustomed to revere, but the malignant flood of crimes knew no bounds. The Christians' Holy Bibles were opened on the pulpits, and their pages were desecrated by the committal of unmentionable deeds…The murderers entered with every conceivable weapon, from a long sword to wooden mallets. They first commenced with the little children and infants. The latter were held by their tiny feet and their heads were dashed against the walls and stone pavements. The older ones were held up by the hair of the head, hanging, while their bodies were severed by one stroke of the sword. The little girls were publicly assaulted and then cut in twain. Others were taken to the roofs of buildings, and from there dashed to their death in the streets below. Others had their hands and their limbs amputated by sickles and axes, and then had their skulls crushed by wooden mallets. The spacious courtyard became impassable from the still bleeding fragments of the victims' mutilated bodies, while blood literally leaked from the floor of each building to the one below. Of the entire number of the Christians, estimated at more than six thousand, in the French mission buildings alone, not more than sixty souls remained who escaped in a miraculous way; and all the rest were put to death in less than forty-eight hours, the official time for the application of the mandate of the "jihad."


 

When a Muslim mob was approaching the Christian villages to commit these atrocities, the fathers and brothers who stood to fight them, however futile their efforts may have been, performed a virtuous act. To fail to fight to protect the innocent, or to willfully ignore this barbarism or to defend those who carry out such crimes, is what is immoral.

The Four Hundred Silent Years Were Not So "Silent" After All


 

Malachi was the last of the Old Testament prophets. Four hundred years transpired after Malachi before the voice of the Prophet John the Baptist was heard "crying out in the wilderness." Certain Bible scholars have named the centuries that passed between the Old and New Testaments the "Four Hundred Silent Years." The prophets themselves prophesied that the day would come when there would be a famine, not of bread, nor of water, but of hearing the word of God (Amos 8:11-12). The Psalmist mourned, "Now we no longer see signs. There is no longer any prophet. Nor is there anyone among us who knows how long" (Psalm 74:9). After four hundred years of no word of prophecy, a prophet arose. The prophet emerged, not in the great Temple of Jerusalem but in the desert. This fulfilled the ancient prophecies (Isaiah 40:3). Four hundred years transpired between the time when Malachi gave his prophecy until John the Baptist cried out in the wilderness, "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!" (Matthew 3:2). So, what happened during this period? This historical record is not silent. We have historical records of momentous events that transpired during this period. These events molded and formed the world into which Jesus came. To properly understand the world into which Christ came and the cultural and historical background of the New Testament it is important to be cognizant of these facts. The events celebrated at Hannukah and described in the Books of the Maccabees occurred in what some Christians call "the 400 silent years." The last book of the Old Testament, Malachi was written very close to the year 400 BC. (Malachi was written sometime between 430 and 420 B.C.) Jesus was born near (actually before) 1 AD and John began prophesying sometime before 26 AD. This period could also be called the "Inter-Testamental" period, that is, the period between the Old and New Testaments. After the year 70 A.D. Flavius Josephus wrote a history of the Jewish people starting at the Creation of the Universe and continuing until his own day. He wrote about what happened during the 400 "silent" years. However, the writings of Josephus are not the only records we have of this era. Many of the other historical records of this important era in history are now known as Apocrypha and Pseudopigrapha. In the period between the Testaments, Alexander the Great conquered the Jewish people. His successors attempted to rid the world of the Holy Bible and the Jewish people. To preserve the Bible and their way of life, the Jewish people were forced to take up arms against the Greeks. The Jewish revolutionaries were led by Judah Maccabee.

Hanukkah is the old Aramaic word for "Dedication." (Aramaic was the language of Jesus and is still spoken by certain Christians from Iraq, Syria and Iran.) Aramaic plays an important part in the story of Hanukah. Judas changed his name to Maqqaba for the Aramaic word for "hammer" or "sledgehammer." This Aramaic word gives us the name "Maccabee." (Robert Graves in "King Jesus" argues that all the Maccabee brothers were "similarly nicknamed by their father after tools in his joiners chest-for example, Eleazar was called 'Avaran," the awl and Judah was named "Maqqaba" for "the Hammer.") A Jewish account of the story of the Maccabbees is entitled "Megillat Aniochus" and is written in Aramaic. The Aramaic word Chanukah is found in the Aramaic sections of the Holy Bible (Ezra 6:16-17, Daniel 3:2-3). The Hebrew equivalent word is also found in the Old Testament (Numbers 7:84, 2 Chronicles 7:9, Nehemiah 12:27). It is defined in Strong's Concordance as "consecration" and "dedication." The Hebrew form can also mean initiation. The Greek word used to refer to Chanukah in the Gospel of John is "Egkainia" which is defined as renewal and dedication (John 10:22). The story of Chanukah is found in the First and Second Book of Maccabees in Roman Catholic versions of the Holy Bible and is also contained in translations of the Bible that include the Apocrypha (such as the original edition of the King James Bible). The story of the Maccabees (or the Hasmoneans) is also recorded in the books written by Flavius Josephus. (However, Josephus does heavily rely on the First Book of Maccabees, although he does also include supplemental information.)

To understand the story of the Maccabees, you need to understand its historical background. This means understanding the Temple and understanding Hellenization.

Alexander the Great was a Macedonian. Macedonians were probably Celtic (they spoke their own non-Greek language among themselves) but became "hellenophile." They copied Greek ways and promoted Greek culture. (This process is called "Hellenization.") The Macedonians were a warrior people. Alexander's father was Phillip of Macedon. He united all the Greeks under his rule. Alexander as a child studied under the great philosopher Aristotle. When Phillip was assassinated Alexander became king. Some people suspect Alexander of being behind the assassination. If he wasn't it is very possible his mother was. Alexander then went on the fight the Persian Empire and to destroy it and its ruler, Darius. Alexander then went on to attempt to conquer the known world. He made it as far as India but he then had to turn back due to lack of morale among his soldiers and due to his being injured in a battle. After returning to Babylon he died at the age of 32. There are several good books on Alexander the Great. Oliver Stone made a movie on Alexander. (There are three versions of the film. Two of them over-emphasize the fact that Alexander was bi-sexual. The film leaves out certain important episodes in Alexander's life such as his battle against the Phoenicians and his time in Egypt, which were pivotal in his life. It also spends too much time on his relationship with his gay lovers and Roxana and fails to show the fact that he had other wives. It does have good sequences in it such as the Battle of Gaugamela and a battle in India.) After Alexander died his kingdom was divided among four of his generals. Alexander spread the Greek language and culture across the world. Some of the early church fathers felt that this was divine providence, that God was preparing the world for the coming of the Gospel through Alexander spreading Greek, which became a common language, and later the Romans who brought peace and built roads, which the apostles would use to travel the world and share the message of Jesus. There are stories that Alexander was received into Jerusalem in peace and that he went and prayed to God at the temple. This is probably true. Alexander was respectful of different traditions and different gods. (He often sought the blessings of the gods of the lands he conquered.) When Alexander's empire was divided, Israel fell under the rule of the Ptolemy Dynasty in Egypt. There was peace. However, later Israel came under the control of the Seleucid Greeks of Syria. Many of the Jewish people preferred Ptolemaic rule and there was some dissent.

Finally, there arose a Syrian Greek leader named Antiochus Epiphanes. He decided that he would eliminate the Bible and all those who believed in it and those who lived their lives by it. He ordered that all copies of the Bible be confiscated and destroyed. Antiochus implemented an aggressive program of Hellenization. All Jews were to become Greek. They were to cease speaking Aramaic and Hebrew and to begin to speak Greek alone and they were also to adopt Greek modes of dressing, thinking and even worshiping. Antiochus then had to altar in the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem profaned. He commanded that a statue of Zeus be erected in the Inner Sanctum of the Jewish Temple and had a pig sacrificed upon the altar. Jesus spoke of this incident as "Abomination of Desolation" in Matthew 24:15. In Daniel 11:31 these events were prophesied. (I think that we should remember that the Greeks were not all bad and made many positive contributions in science, in medicine, in art, and literature and in the philosophy and ethics of Aristotle. Let's give the Greeks their due. Granted, there are various problems that existed in ancient Greek culture. Take for instance, Plato. In his "Republic" he condemned poetry and art and promoted a demented dystopia, where infanticide would be common, where human beings would be bred like animals and their infants would be taken from their parents at birth so that children would never know who their parents were, as the "ideal society." Aristotle brought some sanity to some of Plato's more disgusting and bizarre ideas. But whether I like them or not, Plato, Aristotle and the pre-Socratic philosophers shaped the modern world. The Greeks brought progress. Hundreds of years before Jesus, Eratosthenes not only taught that the earth was round -he also correctly measured its circumference. In the same era, Aristarchus of Samos discovered that the earth was orbiting the sun! Like any culture the Greeks had their weaknesses. I don't believe everything in Western Civilization and the Greco-Roman civilizations is innately evil. The Selucid paganism was not normative of all Greek culture. However, there were negative aspects of Greek culture, especially from a conservative Jewish perspective. In the gymnasiums young people exercised and competed in the nude. This was viewed as offensive and improper by observant Jews. Certain Greek men used little boys as catamites, children to be kept as slaves for the purpose of being sexually abused. Practices like this rightly offended religious Jews. Many young people abandoning the traditional Jewish way of life and beginning to ape Greek ways was also a source of conflict. Antiochus Epiphanes betrayed the positive aspects of Greek culture with his oppression of the Jewish people.) Soldiers came to the city of Modein in Judea and attempted to press the elderly Mattathias, a priest, to offer sacrifice to an idol. He refused. Then a Jewish man stepped up to volunteer. Suddenly, Mattathias was filled with righteous indignation. He quickly overcame the soldier and took his sword. With it he killed both the soldier and the apostate Jew. Then he cried out, "All who are zealous for the Bible, follow me!" and he escaped into the hills with his sons. Eventually, a small group of guerrillas organized there. Not long afterwards Mattathias died of old age. His son Judah began to lead this small unequipped and untrained army. They defied the one of the most powerful military forces in the world and miraculously overcame it. In victory, they retook the Temple and cleansed, purified and re-dedicated it. They decreed that hereafter in thanksgiving all Jews should remember this great victory and the dedication of the Temple. This new holiday was called Hannakuh, Aramaic for "Dedication." In John 10:22, we find that Jesus celebrated this holiday. Unlike the holidays established by Moses, this holiday is not obligatory for the Jews to observe and yet Jesus chose to celebrate it and even travel to Jerusalem from Galilee in order to join in this celebration. On this day, according to the account found in the Gospel According to John, Jesus revealed that he is part of the Holy Trinity. Judah Maccabee went on to fight in other battles. Eventually, he died in battle after winning religious freedom for the Jewish people.

An important part of Hannakah is the Temple. What is the Temple? When Moses was on Mount Sinai God showed him a vision of a place of worship. When he came down he instructed them to build a mobile temple that was called the Tabernacle. A rectangular partition of curtains was erected. Inside was a tent. The tent had two divisions: a holy place and a most holy place. The inner sanctum is known as the Holy of Holies. There were important temple furnishings, including a seven branched lamp known as the Menorah and a chest that contained the tablets of the Ten Commandments. This chest was called "The Ark of the Covenant." (Of course, the Ark of the Covenant movie was featured in the popular movie "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.") God told the Israelites that there would be a place revealed to them when they settled in the land that would be set apart as a place of worship (Deuteronomy 12:5-11). (This holy place is understood to be Jerusalem.) There were several "temples" built. Apparently, a "temple" was built in Shiloh. Samuel ministered to Yahweh in the Temple at Shiloh (1 Samuel 3:21). This temple was destroyed by the Philistines. Jeremiah prophesied that the Temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem would be destroyed the same way as the temple of Shiloh was destroyed (Jeremiah 7:12-14. 26:6-9). David had erected the "Tabernacle of David" on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. King Solomon, David's son, with the aid of the Phoenicians, built the temple on "Mount Moriah" in Jerusalem in 960 B.C. (Mount Moriah, Zion and the Temple Mount are all names for the same place in Jerusalem.) The Babylonians destroyed the Temple on August 9, 587 BC. The "Second" Temple was rebuilt by Prince Zerubbabel seventy-two years after its destruction. It was completed on March 12, 515 BC. In 19 BC, King Herod had the structure built by Zerubbabel totally demolished in order for a new and much more lavish temple to be built. (Zerubbabel's Temple was apparently a rather plain structure.) The Temple was completed on 64 AD, soon before the beginning of the Jewish War. When the Jewish War ended in 70 AD the Temple was destroyed. (The Jewish people call both Zerubbabel's and Herod's Temples the "Second Temple" although they were two entirely different structures.) The Temple Mount was left a ruin for many years. Finally, the Moslems built a mosque called the Dome of the Rock or the Mosque of Omar upon its ruins. It still stands there today. This mosque was used as a Christian chapel when the Christians ruled over Jerusalem during the Crusades. The mosque was initially designed and built by Christians for the Moslems. There hasn't been a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem for almost two thousand years. There were other "Temples of Yahweh" that we know of. When the Jewish people returned from exile in Babylonia they refused to allow the Samaritans to help them build the temple (Ezra 4:1-5). The Samaritans built their own temple on Mount Gerizum, which they still believe to be the place chosen by God. During the Maccabean Revolt, Onias IV, the son of the murdered Jewish High Priest Onias III, felt that he was the legitimate high priest. However, his rightful place had been usurped by the new High Priest Alcimus. Alcimus had collaborated with the Greeks and was appointed by them to the office of High Priest. He opposed the Jews and put many pious Jews, even devout Jews who wanted peace with the Greeks, to death (1 Maccabees 7:1-18). Onias fled to Egypt where he built a Jewish temple at Leontopolis which was built on the same pattern as the Temple of Jerusalem and offered the same rituals. This temple was in use for 230 years until it was destroyed by the Romans. A Jewish community at Elephantine (or "Yeb") in southern Egypt also built a temple of Yahweh in Egypt. It stood from around 586 until 404 BC. A partially preserved temple of Yahweh built by King Solomon has been discovered in Arad, Israel. There have been about 8 temples of Yahweh that we know of. According to normative Judaism the only legitimate Temple is that of Jerusalem. Even today in Judaism there is a strong belief that Jerusalem is a holy place-a link between earth and heaven. To many Jews, the Temple Mount is viewed as a gateway between heaven and earth. This is why many Jews pray at the "wailing wall" in Jerusalem. The reason that they pray there and write prayers on papers and embed them between the stones that remain of the Temple is because it is believed that here prayers go directly to heaven. The Temple in Jerusalem is very important in Biblical Judaism. This is the place where the name of the Lord is to be made great before all of the world. The Bible says in Isaiah 2:2 (and repeated word-for-word in Micah 4:1), "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let go up to mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem." To the Jews, the Temple Mount was the only place where animal sacrifices for the atonement of sins could be offered (Deuteronomy 12:1-14). For Jesus and the Apostles the Jerusalem Temple was a place of prayer. Jesus and the Apostles prayed at and preached in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem (Luke 20:1, Acts 2:46). To the devout Jews of Israel, the Temple of Jerusalem was the only Temple that was to be built anywhere in the world-no other temples were allowed. The Jews believed that God has chosen Jerusalem as His one and only holy place in all of the world. (Jews have synagogues, but from their perspectives, synagogues are not temples. They are merely meeting places for Bible study.)To defile God's one and only Holy Temple was a horrible, unthinkable blasphemy-an "abomination of desolation." The battle over the Temple of Jerusalem was central to the Maccabean revolt.


 

Judah Maccabee: The Defender of the Holy Bible


 

"Is not my word like fire, says the Lord, like a hammer shattering rocks?" Jeremiah 23:29


 

The story of the survival of the Holy Bible is a very fascinating one. Throughout history tyrants have tried to totally destroy all copies of the Bible. During the persecution of Christians by the Romans, the Romans would search out and destroy all copies of the New Testament they could find. In order to transmit the Bible to us, many early Christians perished in the Roman arenas by being put to death by crucifixion and by being fed to the lions. Afterwards, men such as John Wycliffe and later William Tyndale suffered opposition and persecution in order to make the Bible available to everyone. Tyndale was martyred due to his efforts to make the Bible available to everyone. Judah Maccabee is one of the crucial figures in the preservation and transmission of the Holy Bible. Antiochus decreed that all copies of the Holy Bible were to be collected and burned. It became a capital offense not only to possess any portion of Scripture, it was also a death penalty offense to believe the Bible or to use it as a guide for life. 1 Maccabees 1:56-57 states, "And when they had rent in pieces the Books of the Law which they found, they burnt them with fire. And whosoever was found with any book of the Testament, or if any were committed to the law of God, the king's commandment was, that they should put him to death." (The Books of the Law refers to Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible.) Despite the king's law, Judah decided that it was better to obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). To fight against the king's order of censorship of the Bible, Judah Maccabee gathered all the copies of the Bible he could in order to protect them from the king's order of destruction. The author of 2 Maccabees refers to the books of the Holy Bible and notes that they were preserved due to the valiant efforts of Judah Maccabee.


 

The same things also were reported in the writings and commentaries of Nehemiah; and how he founding a library gathered together the acts of the kings, and the prophets, and of David, and the epistles of the kings concerning the holy gifts. In like manner also Judas gathered together all those things that were lost by reason of the war we had, and they remain with us, wherefore if ye have need thereof, send some to fetch them unto you (2 Maccabees 2:13-15).


 

Judah Maccabees efforts to preserve the Bible played an important part in the transmission of these ancient texts to us today. When the Greeks set out to destroy all copies of the Bible, God used Judah Maccabee as his instrument to safeguard the Holy Bible so that the inspired word of God would be preserved. Many people throughout history have made great sacrifice to pass down the Holy Bible. One of the principle men in this great historical effort was Judah Maccabee.


 

The Error of Purgatory


 

When I set out to tell the story of Judah Maccabee I realized that I was going to deal with certain issues that are controversial among Evangelical Christians. The first problem is that the story of Judah Maccabee is found among the books that are called the "Apocrypha." Many Evangelicals have a strong prejudice against the Apocrypha. Evangelicals are Protestant and their main opposition to the Apocrypha is that it is "Roman Catholic." In truth, the Apocrypha isn't anymore "Catholic" than the Old or New Testaments are. The books that make up the Apocrypha are actually pre-Christian and thus pre-Roman Catholic. The Apocrypha isn't Roman Catholic. The Apocrypha is made up of ancient Jewish writings. Many Evangelicals have no idea what is in the Apocrypha. (It would be better if they would actually read it. If they would do so, they could form an informed opinion about its contents. Also, after having read it, they would gain a deeper understanding of the historical background of the New Testament.) All they know is that they are "Roman Catholic" and are therefore evil. In the next chapter I will talk about the Apocrypha in greater depth.


 

The other big controversy with Judah Maccabee is the incident in which he prayed that God would forgive the sins of some of his fallen soldiers.


 

And upon the day following, as the use had been, Judas and his company came to take up the bodies of them that were slain, and to bury them with their kinsmen in their fathers' graves. Now under the coats of every one that was slain they found things consecrated to the idols of the Jamnites, which is forbidden the Jews by the Law. Then every man saw that this was the cause wherefore they were slain. All men therefore praising the Lord, the righteous Judge, who had opened the things that were hid, betook themselves unto prayer, and besought him that the sin committed might wholly be put out of remembrance. Besides, that noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves from sin, forsomuch as they saw before their eyes the things that came to pass for the sins of those that were slain. And when he had made a gathering throughout the company to the sum of two thousand drachms of silver, he sent it to Jerusalem to offer a sin offering, doing therein very well and honestly, in that he was mindful of the resurrection: For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should have risen again, it had been superfluous and vain to pray for the dead. (2 Maccabees 12:39-44)


 


 

Judah found idolatrous talismans were being worn by certain Jewish soldiers who had fallen in battle against the Greeks. Judah and his compatriots believed that the men had fallen due to their wearing pagan emblems. Because they had fallen fighting for the Lord, Judah prayed that God would forgive them this trespass. Judah fought for religious freedom. He collected and preserved the last remaining copies of the Holy Bible. He never claimed to be infallible nor did he claim to be a prophet. In fact, he denied that he was a prophet. This is illustrated by the following incident.


 

And when as they consulted what to do with the altar of burnt offerings, which was profaned; They thought it best to pull it down, lest it should be a reproach to them, because the heathen had defiled it: wherefore they pulled it down, And laid up the stones in the mountain of the temple in a convenient place, until there should come a prophet to show what should be done with them. Then they took whole stones according to the law, and built a new altar according to the former… (1 Maccabees 4:44-47)


 

During the first Hanukkah, Judah and the Jewish revolutionaries had a question about what they should do with the altar of the Lord during the Dedication ceremony. It was a holy altar, but it had been profaned with pig's blood. The stones of the altar were considered holy. Since there was no prophet to proclaim what should be done with the profaned altar, Judah decided that it was best to dismantle the altar and store the stones away until a prophet would arise and declare what should be done with them. Judah was a hero who delivered the Jewish people. Like Abraham, Jacob, David and Solomon, he was a fallible human being. Judah may have been wrong to pray for the dead, but his memory should not be reviled due to this one fault. King David was a murderer and an adulterer and yet we hold his memory in high honor. Judah Maccabee is not the only justification Roman Catholics use for the "doctrine" of purgatory or their practice of praying for the dead. Besides 2 Maccabees 12:38-46, Roman Catholics use Matthew 12:32; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 and Revelation 21:27 in support of their doctrine of purgatory. Will Evangelicals therefore now banish Matthew, 1 Corinthians and Revelation from the Canon of Scripture?

    The alert reader should wonder what the author's purpose was in writing about Judah's prayer for the dead. The answer is found in the Pharisee/Sadducee schism within Judaism. Paul referred to this division when he was put on trial before the Sanhedrin. The Bible says,

    

But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, "Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question." And when he had said so, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both. (Acts of the Apostles 23:6-8)


 

The Sadducees did not believe in an afterlife or in spirits and angels. Pharisees affirmed the existence of heaven and hell, angels and demons, the immortal soul of every human being and that there would be a Judgment Day and a Resurrection of the Dead. Jesus Christ Himself debated with the Sadducees and affirmed His belief in the immortality of the soul (Mark 12:18-27).The author of 2 Maccabees included the incident of Judah praying for the dead with the intent of affirming the immortality of the soul and to condemn the Sadducees disbelief in the afterlife. He wasn't trying to affirm Roman Catholicism (which would emerge until centuries later) or to provide support for purgatory. He was showing that Judah Maccabee believed in the immortality of the soul that human beings possess. The division between the Sadducees and Pharisees occurred in the "inter-testamental period" and during the Hasmonean era.

The Mormons have a practice they call "Baptism for the Dead." In these rituals, the "Latter Day Saints" get lists of the deceased and have Mormons become baptized in the name of the deceased in order to "convert" the departed to Mormonism. This strange practice does indeed have biblical precedent. Paul writes to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 15:29, saying, "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?" I do not believe that the Mormon practice of "Baptism for the Dead" is legitimate. But what was Paul writing about? It is uncertain and it is also uncertain if he is condoning the practice. Should we reject 1 Corinthians from the Canon of Scripture or avoid reading it because it alludes to "Baptism for the Dead" and because Mormonism uses 1 Corinthians as justification for their controversial practices? Of course not. And while I do not believe 1 and 2 Maccabees should be added to the Canon of Scripture, I believe that they are important ancient Jewish writings that ought to be read. They are neither "evil" books nor are they Roman Catholic. Please read the books for yourself so you can shape an informed opinion about them. Selections from the King James Version of 1 and 2 Maccabees are included for your perusal so you can form your own appraisal.


 


 


 


 

The Question of Canonicity


 

The word "canon" comes from the Greek word for a "reed" or "rod," used as a straight edge or ruler for measurement. Since the books of the Holy Bible were regarded as the rule of truth and faith, the word "canon" came to be used to designate that Rule that was written. In biblical studies when we talk about a "canon," we mean the list of books that a community considers both authoritative and inspired. Thus, the adjective "Canonical" came to be applied to a book included in the Canon of Scripture. Canonical books form the standard against which other writings, doctrines and practices are measured.

The ancient Jews had two sets of canon of the Old Testament-one held by the Jews who lived in the land of Israel the other was held by the Alexandrian Jews of Egypt and other Greek-speaking Jews of the Diaspora. The Jewish people who lived in the Holy Land spoke Hebrew and Aramaic. Most Jews that lived outside of the Holy Land spoke only Greek. Therefore, it became necessary for the Greek speaking Jews to translate the Old Testament into Greek so that they could read and understand the Holy Bible in their own language. The early church canonized the Greek Version of the Old Testament that is called the Septuagint. (The Septuagint is a Jewish translation and is pre-Christian. It was translated from Hebrew manuscripts older than any we possess today. The Dead Sea Scrolls have shown that in certain places, the Septuagint has preserved the original reading of the Hebrew where the traditional Hebrew text, called the Masoretic text, has not. There are some scribal errors preserved in the Masoretic text. The Jewish Old Testament canon is believed to have been set at a Council of Jamnia some time around 90A.D. The Dead Sea Scrolls show that before that time the Canon had not been set. Some Jewish communities viewed Enoch and Jubilees and inspired texts.) Most of the Old Testament quotations found in the New Testament are from the Septuagint version of the Old Testament. (Since they quoted it as Scripture, it could be argued that the apostles and writers of the New Testament recognized the Septuagint as being divinely inspired. This is the reasoning of the Greek Orthodox Christians.) When the church accepted the Septuagint as scriptural all the books in the Septuagint were canonized. This included the books we now call the Apocrypha-which were part of the Alexandrian Canon of Scripture. These books had come to be universally acknowledged to be part of the Old Testament by all Christians until the Protestant Reformation. (In fact, a movie version of the book of Maccabees is entitled "The Old Testament" because the story of Judah Maccabee is part of the Old Testament canon of Scripture used by Roman Catholics (and the Eastern Orthodox).) Martin Luther revised the canon and removed these books from their canonical status. (Luther was following an earlier tradition from Saint Jerome, who recognized a distinction between the canonical and the apocryphal texts.)

The Jews of the Holy Land claimed there were twenty-two books that made up the "Tanakh," or the Old Testament. This list is actually identical to the list of 39 books that make up the Protestant Old Testament. The reason they counted 39 books as 22 is because there are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet. So, how did they get 22 out of 39? They counted 1 and 2 Samuel as one book, 1and 2 Kings as one book, and 1 and 2 Chronicles as one book. They included Jeremiah and Lamentations as one book and Ruth as a part of Judges. They also included all the Minor Prophets, Hosea through Malachi, twelve books, as one book. And they included Ezra and Nehemiah as one book. (To me this seems a very artificial and inadequate way to order the Books of the Bible. "Tanakh" is not a Hebrew word. It is an abbreviation: TNK from "Torah," the Law of Moses, or the Pentateuch, meaning "five books" in Greek, being Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, "Nebiim," meaning the Prophets, and "Ketubim," meaning "the Writings," which includes Psalms and the wisdom books.) While the Jewish canon of Scripture is identical to the Protestant Old Testament, the Books are arranged differently. For example, while Malachi is the final book in the Protestant order, in the Jewish order, 2 Chronicles comes last. While the Jews of the land of Israel accepted 22 books in their canon of Scripture (39 really) the Jews of Alexandria accepted 46 books. The "extra" books are the books we know as the Apocrypha. These include Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, the Book of Jesus Sirach, Baruch (or Barak), and additions to Esther and Daniel. The books we call "Apocrypha" are called Deuterocanonical books by Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians because they are included in their canon of scripture even though they were added to the canon later.

    The formation of the New Testament Canon of Scripture was a long process. The earliest official list of New Testament Scriptures was by the Anti-Semitic heretic named Marcion (circa 150 A.D.). He omitted several books in his canon and rewrote certain books of the New Testament because they were, in his view, too "Jewish." The Church resisted Marcion's Anti-Semitism and his new canon. In a reaction against Marcion, orthodox Christians began to create lists of books that were recognized as authoritative. The Muratonian Canon is a very ancient list of the books of the New Testament that most scholars date to 170-200 A.D. The four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, the thirteen epistles of Paul along with 1 Peter and 1 John were universally recognized by Christians by the year 130 A.D. and were elevated to the same level of divine inspiration as the Old Testament by the year 170 A.D. These could be considered the "Proto-canonical" books of the New Testament. The other books took a longer period of time to be universally acknowledged to be the divinely inspired Word of God by all Christians.

In 325 A.D., Eusebius dealt with the question of canonicity of the New Testament (Ecclesiastical History 3.25.1-7). He listed three types of books, those universally recognized as Scripture, those disputed and then books he listed as spurious. The disputed books were held by some Christian books to be part of the Bible, but not by others. The recognized books included Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the Acts of the Apostles, the epistles of Paul, the epistle of Peter and the epistle of John. The disputed books listed by Eusebius included Hebrews, James, 2 and 3 John, Jude, 2 Peter and Revelation. (Eusebius viewed the "Revelation" as questionable, a possible forgery but he admitted that other Christians reckoned it as inspired Scripture. The books known as Homologoumena were universally acknowledged writings. Disputed books were called Antilegomena.) Included with the disputed books in Eusebius's list are 1 Clement, the Didache and the Epistle of Barnabas. Other books such as the Shepherd of Hermes are listed in Eusebius's disputed list. So we see some of the disputed books eventually made it into the New Testament, but others did not. Before the close of the fifth century, the New Testament canon was not set. (It should be noted that Constantine had nothing to do with the setting of the Canon of Scripture. Neither is he responsible for many of the things he is falsely accused of. Constantine is unfairly demonized by liberals and even by some professing Christians.) The Didache was considered a part of the New Testament by many of the early Christians. (Eusebius also mentions "heretical and impious books" and places the Gospel of Thomas, with which he was familiar, in that list. Speaking of the Gospel of Thomas and other "apocryphal" writings, Eusebius says of them, "Moreover, the character of the style also is far removed from apostolic usage, and the thought and purport of their contents are completely out of harmony with the true orthodoxy and clearly show themselves that they are forgeries of the heretics. For this reason they are not to be reckoned with disputed books, but are to be cast aside as altogether absurd and impious." While important, the Gospel of Thomas must be used with caution.)

    The ancient writing entitled, "The Teaching of Our Lord [Jesus] to the Gentiles given through the Twelve Apostles," is also known as the Didache, which is from the Greek word for "teaching." Many scholars date this document to around 70 A.D. Other scholars date it to as early as 50 A.D. Some date it to the early years of the second century. Those who argue for the early second century concede that it was based on much older material. The Didache is an ancient Christian teaching manual that gives basic doctrine, instructions on how to baptize and how to observe that Lord's Supper and it also contains moral instruction. The Epistle of Barnabas was written sometime between 70 AD to132 AD. The author is not the same person as the Barnabas mentioned in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. Both of the Didache and Barnabas contain a teaching called the "Two Ways." This is a very ancient set of Christian moral instruction. In fact, a fragment of a "Two Ways Document" was discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls (4Q473). A significant teaching of the "Two Ways Document" is the condemnation of abortion as murder. So, in two of the most ancient Christian writings we possess, writings that were once considered part of the New Testament, abortion is listed as a sin. With the Didache we have an ancient document from the first century containing the teaching of Jesus Christ and including His teaching against abortion. This doctrine is attributed to Christ and the apostles. The early church fathers, including men who personally knew the apostles, wrote that the apostolic teaching is that abortion is the taking of an innocent human life. The right to life of the unborn child and that the unborn child is a human being is an ancient and essential teaching of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.

    The complete list of the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments was made at the Fourth Counsel of Rome in the year 382 under Pope Damasus. The official canon of the New Testament was set at this counsel and at the Counsel of Hippo (393), the Third Counsel of Carthage (419) and by the "Gelesian Decree" by Pope Gelasius which is dated 494-496 A.D. (Athanasius of Alexandria, a pope of the Coptic Church of Egypt, wrote a list of the Canon of Scriptures, which is identical to our own around in year 367 A.D. Athanasius lived from 293 until 373 A.D. Africa produced many leaders of the early church. This includes men like Athanasius, Tertullian of Carthage and Augustine of Hippo. This was before the rise of Islam. After Islam conquered regions of Africa, the Christians there were cut off from Europe and they struggled to survive for centuries under savage and intense persecution at the hands of the Muslims.) 2 Peter, Jude and 2 and 3rd John and Revelations were never officially canonized by the Assyrian Church of the East. These Aramaic Christians do use these books. The reason they didn't include these books in the canon was because when they set their canon, these books had not yet become universally recognized as part of the New Testament. Assyrian Bibles printed in their Aramaic language do include 2 Peter, Jude, 2 and 3 John and Revelation, although the Assyrian Church has never officially added these books to their canon of Scripture. The Syriac-Aramaic Canon of Scripture is different from what most people are familiar with. The Nov./Dec. edition of "Bible Study Magazine" has an interesting article on canonicity of Scripture. On page 47-48 there is an article entitled "What they don't tell you in church: What's in your Bible?: Jews and Christians throughout the centuries have produced bibles that vary in content and organization." This article includes a chart is a sampling of the different lists of books considered part of the Holy Bible that are used today by different ancient Christian groups (as well as the Samaritans and the Jews). The chart lists the books recognized as canonical by the Samaritans, the Jews, Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Syriac, Ethiopian and Protestant. The Ethiopians have the longest canon of scripture. The Syriac canon of scripture is the second to the longest. The Syriac "extra books" include 4 Maccabees, Odes of Solomon, 4 Baruch, Josephus's Jewish War, the Acts of Paul and Tekla and 3rd Epistle to the Corinthians. (The "Nestorian" (Assyrian Church of the East) canon of scripture is mentioned in The Marganitha, or "The Pearl," a concise explanation of "Nestorian" dogma.) The Ethiopian canon of Scripture includes the Book of Enoch and the Book of Jubilees, both of which were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Epistle of Jude quotes from the Book of Enoch as Scripture (Jude 14).

St. Jerome translated the Holy Bible from Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek into Latin. This Latin Bible is called the Latin Vulgate and it was received by the Roman Catholic Church as its official Bible version. It belongs to the same ancient manuscript family that the texts used to translate the King James Version are from. The Latin Vulgate and the King James Version of the Bible are very similar. St Jerome said that "the Church reads Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees, but does not admit them among the canonical Scriptures." He says further that they are read "for the edification of the people, not to give authority to the doctrines of the Church." The translators of the King James Version included the Apocrypha in their translation of the Bible. Following St. Jerome's opinions, they decided to place the Apocrypha between the Old and New Testaments. Jerome maintained a distinction should be made between those books he considered canonical and the non-canonical books. This list of books is sometimes called the Apocrypha. (Saint Jerome translated the Latin Vulgate directly from ancient Hebrew and Aramaic texts. Like the Septuagint, the Vulgate is an important witness to the ancient text of the Old Testament. Jerome learned Hebrew and Aramaic from rabbis in the Holy Land and could speak all three languages of the Bible, Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.)

Other features of our Bibles, such as the numbering of chapters and verses, were a much later development. In 1226 University of Paris professor Stephen Langton divided the text of the Bible into chapters. In 1551 the printer Robert Stephen (also known as Estienne or Stephanus) inserted the numbering of verses that had been formulated in 1528 by Santes Pagnini into printed Bibles. I feel many Evangelicals would do well to learn about the process of canonization, examine and familiarize themselves with the various canonical lists and read ancient texts that help us to understand the world of the Bible, books like 1 and 2 Maccabees, instead of condemning them as "evil and demonic" without having read them.

November Newsletter

58


 

A HORRIFIC MASSACRE OF ARAMAIC CHRISTIANS


 

On October 31, 2010 in Baghdad, Iraq, Muslims carried out a horrific massacre of Aramaic Christians. 58 were slaughtered while they were attending church services. Two suicide/homicide bombers detonated their suicide-vests. The walls of the church were covered with blood and bits of human flesh. Over 70 people who survived were seriously injured and lost limbs. This attack was a major incident and I will explore it further in the next edition of the "Aramaic Herald."


 

THE HAMMER OF GOD

Hanukkah comes early this year. This year it comes on the first week of December. Remember my book "The Hammer of God: The Stories of Judah Maccabeus and Charles Martel." This book can be ordered through www.amazon.com. Also, I have three comic books on the Hanukkah story: The Hammer of God: Historical and Character Reference, The Hammer of God Mini-Comic and The Hammer of God Coloring Book. The comic books are available at www.comixpress.com.


 

An Aramaic Jewish Hanukkah Tradition


 

It is a Hanukkah tradition to read a scroll during the celebration of Hanukkah. That scroll is written in Aramaic and is called the "Megillot Antiochus." It is also called the "Scroll of the Hasmoneans." It was probably composed during the 7th century BD. It is part of the liturgy of the Yemenites Jews. It is included in many Jewish prayer books (called "Siddurs"). It actually isn't a very accurate version of the Hanukkah story. It begins saying,


 

The Greek monarch Antiochus was a powerful leader. ..He subdued many provinces and might sovereigns; he destroyed their castles, burned their palaces and imprisoned their men…In the twenty-third year of his reign…Antiochus determined to march on Jerusalem. He said to his officers, "you are aware that the Jews of Jerusalem are in our midst…It is indeed a disgrace for the royal government to allow them to remain on the face of the earth. Come now, let us attack them and abolish the covenant made with them: Sabbath, new moon festivals and circumcision." Immediately king Antiochus dispatched his governor Nicanor with a large body of troops. He came to the Jewish city of Jerusalem and massacred many people; he set up a heathen altar in the Temple. In that very place he slaughtered a swine and brought its blood into the holy court.


 

It has some factual information but it has Jonathan leading the revolt at the beginning. This is an anachronism. Judah Maccabee, Jonathon's older brother led the revolt. Ironically, it is the Christians who have preserved accurately the history of the Hanukkah story in the books of First and Second Maccabees which are considered part of the Canon of Scripture in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.


 


 

Differences between Islam and Christianity


 

The idea of the Fatherhood of God is a distinctive Christian teaching. Islam totally rejects the idea of the Fatherhood of God. Mohammad in his Koran totally rejects the idea that God is our Father or that anyone is in any way a child of God. In Islam "Allah has 99 Names" but not one of these names is "Father." Since there is no doubt that the Jesus of history taught that God is "Abba, Father" this shows a tremendous error on the part of Mohammad and his religion.


 

Holy Languages


 

Man has long had the idea of a "Holy Language" or a "Language of the Gods." The ancient Babylonians kept the ancient Sumerian language alive as a liturgical centuries after it had died out as a living language.

Currently, some people look on Hebrew letters as holy. The script that the Holy Bible was originally written in is the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet. The modern Hebrew form is the Square Aramaic Alphabet. Ezra in Ezra 4:7 mentions the Square Aramaic Script. The Samaritans still use the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet. Some of the Dead Sea Scrolls are written in the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet. In the November/December 2010 edition of Biblical Archeology Review magazine in an article entitled "Texts from Ugarit Solve Biblical Puzzles" by Edward L. Greenstein it says, "Hebrew is a "language of Canaan," says the prophet (Isaiah 19:18), a conclusion amply confirmed by archeologically recovered inscriptions. In scholarly terms, Hebrew is a south Canaanite dialect. As with language, so with alphabet: From its earliest appearance until the Babylonian destruction, Hebrew was written in the Canaanite alphabet."

It has been proven that the Hebrew alphabet (and the English or Latin alphabet as well) evolved out of Egyptian Hieroglyphs. This is illustrated here in this chart from " How the Alphabet was born from Hieroglyphs." (From "Biblical Archeology Review" March/ April 2010.)

From the very beginning the Egyptians viewed Hieroglyphs as divine-as writings of the gods. However, given mystical interpretations to the letters-which were phonetic actually prevented ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs from being deciphered for centuries. Supposed "experts" claimed the letters had spiritual or mystical meanings. Scholars believed these dubious "experts" who were incorrect and since scholars assumed these people had accurate information-they were unable to break the code until the idea of the "mystical meanings" of the letters was abandoned in the 1800s. This is discussed in the book "The Hieroglyphs of Ancient Egypt" by Aidan Dodson,


 

General knowledge of the hieroglyphic script contracted rapidly during Roman times. Its use was effectively limited to the walls of temples, and so the restricted world of the priesthood. In these circumstances, the existing belief held by Greek and Roman writers that hieroglyphs were somehow something more mysterious than simple letters gained further support…Classical scholars conceived hieroglyphics as symbolic, not "expressing the intended concept by means of syllables joined one to another, but by means of significance of the objects which have been copied, and by its figurative meaning that has been impressed on the memory by practice." This view was expressed by the Roman historian Diodorus Siculus, writing in the middle of the first century BC, at a time when temples were still being constructed and covered with texts in hieroglyphs. Over subsequent centuries, there was no change in this generally held view…Another hindrance was the survival of a work by Horapollo, an Egyptian, probably written around the fourth century and known as the Hieroglyphica. It has 179 chapters, each dealing with a single hieroglyph or concept, and often contains a frustrating mixture of half-truth and non-Egyptian metaphysical speculation. For example, according to Horapollo, the vulture and the goose are said to mean "mother" and "son" respectively. This is quite true, but for purely phonetic reasons, not because "male vultures do not exist," or "geese love their offspring more than any other!" There are a fair number of similar examples where a sign's usage is correctly identified, albeit for unlikely reasons, but there are also examples of imaginary signs or completely wrong headed interpretations. It is clear that Horapolloo has access to something akin to contact with those who still understood hieroglyphs, but lacked that understanding himself. His work was a classic example of the kind of account produced by someone with a passing acquaintance with a subject but without the insight to understand his limitations. Horapollo's work was lost from the end of antiquity down to its rediscovery in the fifteenth century, but it was subsequently printed and regarded by almost all scholars as the only "authentic" account of the hieroglyphs.


 

This illustrates the danger of poor scholarship. It can actually prevent the advancement of knowledge. Now, lets go back and consider the nature of human language. Some people believe that one's "world-view" is formed by the language he or she speaks. Is this true? A new book has come out entitled "Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages" by Guy Deutscher. This is from a review from "The Week" magazine from September 3-10, 2010.


 

"Which cane first," asked Sam Leith in London Sunday Times, "the chicken" or "the chicken"?" Guy Beutscher's "bizarre and fascinating" new book asks whether we can think of something for which we have no word. Through the Language Glass opens in the 1850s, when William Gladstone, future British prime minister, noticed the peculiar use of color words in Homer's Iliad. Objects are usually described as either black or white, which other color terms seem misused. Chloros (green) is applied to faces and honey, while the sea is "wine-dark," not blue. Gladstone thought the ancient Greeks were color-blind; actually, they simply had no word for blue. So did they see the same thing as we do when we look at the sea? Deutscher's ultimate, surprising answer is a qualified "no," said Christian Kenneally in New Scientist. …The argument over "interactions between language, culture, and thought" has taken some odd turns over time, said Clive Cookson in the Financial Times. Gladston conclused that humans only evolved color vision after Homer-and he thought this explained the "lack of color words in many 'primitive' languages." Such racists ideas were later rejected, in favor of Noam Chomsky's contention that language differences are superficial. More recent research suggest that things aren't quite so simple: The brains of Russian speakers, who use different words for dark and light blue, react differently to those shades that English speaker' brains do. They are quite literally-not seeing-or saying-the same thing.


 

Well, color words are in the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament. Words for colors are used in the Bible. So, the ancient did see colors. I mean- look at the artwork they have left in Egypt. Why do we recognize colors in ancient Egyptians, Babylonian and Greek art if they didn't see colors or didn't see colors the same way we do? So, what makes Gladstone and authority anyway? And besides that apparently the Greeks recognized Homer's odd use of color-according to Greek legend Homer was blind! Perhaps Homer used words for dramatic effect or because of rhythm or rhyme. Maybe, the ancient Greeks used color words for moods or metaphorically-like we do when we say that someone is "green with envy." In reality the person isn't green-it's a figure of speech. On this issue I agree with Noam Chomsky-although the man is a notorious liberal. Another interesting note about language: Professor John McWhorter has a presentation entitled "The Story of Human Language."

    

I have never met a person who is not interested in language…There are good reasons that language fascinates us so. It not only defines humans as a species, placing us head and shoulders above even the most proficient animal communicators, but it also beguiles us with its endless mysteries. For example:


 

How did different languages come to be?

Why isn't there just one language:

How does a language change, and when it does, is that change indicative of decay or growth.

How does a language become extinct?

Professor McWhorter shows how a single tongue spoken 150,000 years agoa has evolved into the estimated 6,000 languages used around the world today.


 

In discovering how linguists think, you will begin to see language in an entirely new way. You will learn that everything about a language is eternally and inherently changeable, from its word order and grammar to the very sound and meaning of basic words. That's why Professor McWhorter describes language "like one of those lava lamps from the 1970s. It's not marching toward an ideal, and it's not slowly going to the dots. Its always just variations of the same thing-endless morphings."


 

Hebrew evolved out of Proto-Semitic, its evolution can be seen through the text of the Old Testament. Modern Israeli Hebrew is continuing to evolve. Arabs view their language as a "holy language." Now, Arabic has evolved to such an extent that your average Arab cannot understand the Koran-and an Arab from Morocco and a Arab from Kuwait cannot understand each others vastly different form of Arabic. In reality Arabic has evolved into diverse Arabic languages that are only held to be dialects because Arabs want to see themselves as a unified people.


 

Etymologies


 

We should never use an etymology to define a word. Originally, the word "sinister" meant "left-handed." If I said, "He was being followed by a sinister man" this shouldn't be taken to mean that the man doing the following was left-handed! Also, the word "arena" originally meant "sand." This is because sand was put in the arenas of Greek and Roman stadiums. Charlton Heston wrote a book entitled "In the Arena." He wasn't talking about his being in a sand-pit. As always context is what we must use to define a word.


 

Samaritans and Aramaic


 

In "Bells, Pendants, Snakes and Stones: A Samaritan Temple to the Lord on Mt. Gerizim" by Yitzhak Magen (BAR November/December 2010) it mentions inscriptions that archeologists have discovered while excavating the Samaritan holy area. The article says, "The excavations at Mt. Gerizim exposed more than 400 inscriptions, some of which contain telling phrases indicating the existence of a Samaritan temple. Mostly written in Aramaic or Greek, some, however, were carved in Hebrew and in the paleo-Hebrew script of the First Temple period that was usually reserved in later periods for inscriptions of special holiness." In the ruins of the Samaritan temple they actually discovered one of the golden bells that decorated the hem of the high priest ephod (Exodus 28:33-35) and a brass snake like the one made by Moses (Numbers 24:4-9).


 

New Books on Aramaic


 

"Christianity in India" by Robert Eric Frykenberg tells the story of the Church of India-which was founded by Aramaic Christians. We also have "The Gospels: Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture" which includes comments from Greek, Syriac and Latin writers in antiquity. Also we have "Targum and Testament Revisited: Aramaic paraphrases of the Hebrew Bible" by Martin McNamara. This is based on five decades of research. What Martin McNamara does is use the Aramaic Targums to gain insight into the "Jewish Roots" of Christianity. Since Hebrew was replaced by Aramaic as the common spoken language of the Jewish people-it was necessary to have the Old Testament translated into Aramaic-the language of the people. These Aramaic translations-called Targums-were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls and are quoted from in the New Testament.


 

RECOMMENDED ARTICLES:


 

  1. "The Arabs' Worst enemy: Themselves" by Walter Rodgers. He states "Bernard Lewis, the renown Princeton scholar of Islam, has called attention to the Arab tendency to play the "blame game." He notes Arabs traditionally blamed the Mongols, the Ottoman Turks, the colonial powers, and now the Jews and the Americans for everything that has gone awry in their once proud and accomplished history. When I question Arabs about this, I find they generally hide behind the mantra, "If only we were better Muslims and followed the Quran, we would do better, "But that becomes a self-set mental trap, excusing any original thought about the need to determine their own destiny." I believe the Koran is the cause of their backwardness and fundamentally ALL of their problems.
  2. This month's edition of the Barnabas Fund magazine has an excellent article on the church of Iran. The article states, "Christians in Iran suffer discrimination in many areas of life, and at local, provincial and national levels. With respect to employment, they are disqualified from serving in senior positions in the government or public sector, as regular officers in the armed services, and in any role in the judiciary or security services.


 

New Books by Stephen


 

I am trying to put out new books. "The Ascents of James: A Lost Acts of the Apostles" and "The Second Adam and the Restoration of All Things" are available now. I am working with my brother Tod to have a comic book version of "Christ the Man." I have recently made a "Kindle" book entitled, "The Language of Jesus: Introducing Aramaic."


 

CONTACT STEPHEN: www.blogspot.aramaichearld.com, www.youtube.com/aramaic12

NEWSMAX letter

Letter to NEWSMAX ("Newsmax" recently published a story featured on the cover entitled "The Truth about Islam in America." Newsmax presents itself as a conservative publication-but the article is biased not only in favor of Islam-but also in favor bringing Sharia law into America. I found it disturbing and offensive.)


 

Dear Newsmax,

The November edition of "Newsmax" magazine features an article that is entitled "The Truth about Islam in America." This article is full of outright falsehoods and misinformation. An example is near the very beginning of the article, which states "1619-1800s: 10 million Africans are brought to North America as slaves. About 30 percent are Muslim." THAT'S RIDICULOUS! Who says 30% were Muslims? Where is the data for this figure and what recognized historian claims that high a number? It is absurd and untrue. I am a historian and I find this claim ridiculous. It shows that this article is poorly researched pro-Muslim propaganda. This is totally bogus and you need to get your facts straight. This article makes it look as though "Newsmax" has no credibility or journalistic integrity. With this non-sense how can you expect anyone to take your magazine seriously? I would expect such an article from the far-left magazines "Newsweek" and "Time Magazine." I doubt they would allow such factual errors to get past their editors-as bad publications that they are. This article is offensive. When this magazine comes out trying to convince Americans that Islam is a "religion of peace" Muslims went into a church in Iraq on Oct. 31 and slaughtered over 50 Christians in just a few hours! What the "Newsmax" magazine needs to do to demonstrate that they are fair and balanced is to do a cover story on the violence against Christians that is taking place in the Middle East and Pakistan right now. I challenge you to do it-but I don't believe you have the courage or the journalistic integrity to do so. If Islam is really a benign and tolerant community why is such violence occurring in Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia and Iraq? This is a global phenomenon and the American people need to know this is happening and why. But I wager "Newsmax" won't deal with this important issues. You will spread pro-Islamic lies but you won't report on atrocities being committed against Arab Christians. For that matter, why doesn't "Newsmax" do an investigation on anti-Semitism among Muslims? I have lived in the Middle East for years and I have been deployed to Iraq with the military twice. I have also visited Muslims across the USA-and I know that many here have radical ideas. Your reporters dismissed Robert Spencer out of hand. His scholarship is sound. If it isn't why don't your reporters prove that it isn't? Basically, you ignored his research. There is also Steve Emerson and Nonie Darwish, Walid Shoebat and Wafa Sultan-who are from Moslem backgrounds and have a much more factual knowledge than your reporters have presented. You should have gotten your crack journalists to look at a couple of important facts:

FACT #1: According to Islamic Sharia law a Muslim who converts from Islam to Christianity must be put to death. Do we really want this type of legal system implemented in the United States of America? It doesn't matter how it is "interpreted" or "applied"-if it teaches death for conversion-it must not be allowed in the United States. And your article is advocating Sharia law!

FACT #2: Islamic honor killing-such as killing children for converting to Christianity, socializing with Christians or "dishonoring" the family through sexual conduct or being raped-is not uncommon in America. (Why don't you get your journalists to research Islamic honor killings in America?) Islamic Sharia law allows honor killings. This murder of children is what happens if we allow Sharia law in America. In fact honor killings are a sign that Sharia law has already arrived in America.

FACT #3: Sharia law claims a divine mandate-it bases its authority on God and Mohammad-the final "prophet." The Koran commands religious warfare against Christians and Jews,
"Make war against those who have been given the Scripture [the Jews and the Christians] but do not believe in Allah nor in the Last Day. They do not forbid what Allah and his Messenger had forbidden and they do not follow the way of truth. Fight against them until they pay the jizya tax in acknowledgement of the superiority of Islam and they are reduced to a state of humiliation. (Koran 9:29)" The context of this verse from the Koran is very clear. Christians are called "infidels" in the Koran, "Infidels now are they who say, "Verily God is the Christ the Son of Mary! SAY: And who could aught obtain from God, if he chose to destroy the Christ the son of Mary, and his mother, and all who are on the earth together." (Sura 5:19). Sharia law also command amputation of limbs as a punishment for crimes, "As for the thief, both male and female, cut off their hands. It is the reward of their own deeds, an exemplary punishment from Allah. Allah is Mighty, Wise." (Koran 5:38). This commandments did not come from God and should be forbidden in America.


 

At the beginning of the Twentieth Century, Muslims slaughtered about 2 million Armenian Christians. At the end of the Twentieth Century, Muslims slaughtered about 2 million Sudanese Christians. It is important for us to know that these things have happened and to examine why they happened. It is also in our interests to take steps to prevent such atrocities from occurring again and prevent them from occurring here. It saddens me to hear of my brother Christians suffering in Egypt and Iraq-but I am not going to allow myself to be put in such a position as they find themselves. Newsmax is enabling Muslims to further Islamic sharia law in America-which endangers our freedom and our way of life. Sharia is Islamic Constitutional Law. The people of Oklahoma wisely pasted a law to keep this barbaric system out of the United States of American. But CAIR sued. Why would they do that-unless their goal is to introduce Islamic law into the United States? The fact of the matter is that Islam is more that "just" a religion. It is a political system and a legal system. The goal of Islam is to dominate. Even moderate Muslims desire to destroy Western Civilization and replace it with Islamic Civilization. Oddly, CAIR is arguing in a Federal Court that it is "un-Constitutional" to forbid another constitution, one that claims ultimate authority OVER the Constitution, to operate in competition with the United States Constitution. I am going to take a copy of this magazine, show it to others and use it to educate others and to convince them NOT to support your publication. I have visited with soldiers with severe injuries in military hospitals. I have lived with Middle Eastern Christians and have seen for myself the horrors they endure. Your article is an outrage!

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Hammer of God

My comic books on the Hanukkah story-"The Hammer of God"-are available from www.comixpress.com. A book form entitled "The Hammer of God" which includes illustrations from the comics is also available.

The Maccabees and “Atonement for Sin”


 

For they became the ransom to the sin of the nation; and the Divine Providence saved Israel, aforetime afflicted, by the blood of those pious ones, and the propitiatory death.

4 Maccabees 17:22


 

Be merciful to your people and let our punishment suffice for them. Make my blood their purification, and take my life in exchange for theirs. (Eleazar speaking: 4 Maccabees 6:28-29)


 

In the Bible, the Atonement of Jesus, his death on the cross, is described as a "ransom" (Matthew 20:28, 1 Timothy 2:6). According to Christian doctrine, Jesus died on the cross to make atonement for the sins of mankind in order to redeem the world. Certain groups have emerged within Judaism. They call themselves "Anti-Missionaries." One such group is an organization called "Jews for Judaism." Their founding purpose was supposedly to strengthen the faiths of Jews and to keep them from leaving their faith. Whatever the original purposes of their organizations or their original intent, they have degenerated into anti-Christian hate groups. They are basically anti-Christian organizations. They target Christianity and not other non-Jewish religions or belief systems that some Jewish people are drawn to, such as Buddhism, the New Age Movement and Atheism. They attack Christianity and accuse Christianity of being "pagan." They state that many Christian concepts are foreign to Judaism. Sometimes they say things that simply are not true. For instance, I read a Jewish article saying that unlike Christianity, a religion founded by "Christ" and Buddhism, a religion founded by Buddha, Judaism is not named after one individual. But that isn't really true. The word "Judaism" is derived from Judah, who was one of the twelve sons of Israel (Genesis 38). Another thing that I read from the same article is that the idea of one man interceding for the sins of others is an idea foreign to Judaism. However, in the Sacred Text of Judaism, Abraham and Moses are depicted as interceding with God for Him to have mercy upon sinners (Genesis 18:16-33, Exodus 32:30-35). A major teaching of the Torah is that Aaron, the high priest, was to intercede before God for the people (Leviticus 16). Anti-missionaries will also say that the idea of blood atonement for sin is an idea foreign from Judaism. However, the book of Leviticus in the Torah describes blood atonement for sin through animal sacrifices (Leviticus 6:24-30). The Anti-missionaries also state that the idea that one man could save others by his sacrificial death and ransom the souls of others to God through his virtuous deeds is foreign to Judaism and is a "pagan" concept. The idea of a person, a man or a woman, making atonement for the sins of others through their suffering is historically an ancient Jewish concept. An ancient Jewish writing from before the time of Jesus and the rise of Rabbinic Judaism has survived. This book is basically a commentary on the story of the Maccabean martyrs. It is entitled Fourth Maccabees. The thesis of Fourth Maccabees is that the Maccabean martyrs died for the sins of Israel and redeemed Israel from their sins and made atonement and ransomed them by their sufferings and deaths. Fourth Maccabees says,


 

For Moses saith, And all the saints are under thine hands (Deut. 33:3). Therefore these having been sanctified through God, have been honored not only with this honour, but also their means the enemy did not overcome our nation; and that though their means the enemy did not overcome our nation; and that the tyrant was punished, and their country purified. For they became the ransom to the sin of the nation; and the Divine Providence saved Israel, aforetime afflicted, by the blood of those pious ones, and the propitiatory death. For the tyrant Antiochus, looking to their manly virtue, and to their endurance in torture, proclaim that endurance as an example to his soldiers…When those persons giving up their bodies to pains for the sake of religion, were not only admired by men, but were deemed worthy of a divine portion. And the nation through them obtained peace, and having renewed the observance of the law in their country, drove the enemy out of the land.


 

If the Maccabean martyrs could ransom Israel through their suffering and deaths, surely the Messiah, the King of Israel, could do the same! So we see that the concept of a righteous man dying for the sins of others is an ancient Jewish concept from before the first century. The Anti-missionaries are putting out bogus information. People need to realize that Judaism has evolved over the centuries. Judaism as it existed in the Old Testament period, Judaism of the time of Christ, Rabbinic Judaism and modern Judaism are all different from each other. The idea that one man could die for the sins of others may be foreign to some modern day rabbi's concept of Judaism. However, it is not foreign to ancient or historical Judaism. Any rabbi that makes such a claim is betraying his ignorance of his own religion and its ancient texts.

The idea that Christianity is "pagan" is a very fallacious argument. The same arguments can be made against Judaism. If Christianity is "pagan" so is Judaism. Recent archeological discoveries show that the pagan neighbors of the ancient Israelites worshiped in manners very similar to the Jews. (And these modes of worship pre-date Judaism-and even Abraham-by many centuries.) An ancient pagan temple has been discovered in Syria which is very similar to how King Solomon's temple is described in the Holy Bible. (And it is much older than Solomon's Temple.) One Psalm and several chapters of the Book of Proverbs and been found to have been derived from ancient Egyptian texts. (Psalm 104 from the Holy Bible seems to be derived from the ancient Egyptian "Hymn to Aten." Proverbs 22:17-24:22 is a quotation from the ancient Egyptian scroll entitled "The Wisdom of Amenemope." Ancient Egyptian's circumcised and kept many ceremonial practices very similar to those found in the Jewish Torah.) Archeology has shown us that the ancient Israelites were not as different from their pagan neighbors as many have been led to believe. Archeological discoveries of the ancient Israelites and their so-called "pagan" neighbors has tremendously expanded our understanding of the Holy Bible and are vastly superior to certain rabbinic commentaries written by rabbis who were far removed from the time of the Bible, who occasionally misunderstood the sacred text because did not possess the accurate scientific evidence which we have now discovered. Besides that, not everything that is supposedly "pagan" is wrong or bad. Archeological discoveries help us to get into the minds of the ancients. Through archeological discoveries we learn about how the ancients lived and what they believed. Dismissing historical information because it is "pagan" can severely limit our understanding of the Bible. Consider this, what will help us to understand the Bible better, archeological discoveries that are contemporary with the ancient text of the Bible or commentaries written by a rabbi in Europe, one thousand to fifteen hundred years after the Scriptures were written? Even Judah Maccabee was willing to learn from and form alliances with so-called "pagans," being his Roman, Spartan and Nabatean Arab allies. Judah Maccabee was fiercely devoted to Judaism but he was wise enough to befriend and learn from so-called "pagan" allies. (However, it was his brother Jonathon who forged the alliances with the Spartans.)

We should remember how Jews have been persecuted. However, it should be borne in mind that Moslems have persecuted Jews as well. Also, many Christian kingdoms in Europe granted the Jews sanctuary and protection. Many ancient Jewish writings, such as the Apocrypha and other ancient Jewish writings, were preserved by Christians and not by Jews. There have been periods of interfaith communion and cooperation between Christians and Jews. During the Renaissance, Christians began to study Jewish philosophical words such as the Kaballah and the Talmud. The first printed Hebrew Bible was a joint endeavor of Christians and Jews. Anti-Semitism must be condemned. But when someone tries to create a distorted jaundiced view of Christian history this troubles me. We must resoundingly condemn Anti-Semitism. As a Christian, I am proud of what Christian civilization has accomplished. Saint John Chrysostom and Martin Luther made anti-Semitic comments. This does not mean that all of the early church fathers or all the reformers were evil. Some of the early church fathers were Jewish (such as Hegissipus). (Certain people take certain quotes from Luther and Chrysostom and quote them in order to make Christianity look bad. In the same manner, Anti-Semites have taken certain quotes out of the Talmud that speak ill of gentiles in order to create a negative image of Judaism. Both of these groups are attempting to do the same thing-spread hatred.) Christians need to celebrate their heritage and be wary of giving in to anti-Christian propaganda and pseudo-historical revisionism.