Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dinosaurs On The Ark?

Biblegems #34
One young lady recently asked, were dinosaurs on the ark?

The first question that needs to be asked is, what, technically, is a dinosaur?
Today, most scientist agree that the term “dinosaur” generally refers to a variety of extinct, land-based reptiles whose limbs extend beneath the body, like that of a crocodile. Many were very large, some quite small. Most of these scientists also adhere to the theory of evolution, and so would assume that dinosaurs existed between 230 million and 65.5 million years ago. According to that point of view, dinosaurs were extinct long before humans came on the scene.

Biblically, of course, dinosaurs and humans did coexist. In fact they were both brought into existence on the sixth day of creation (Gen. 1:25-27). Roughly 1,600 years later the Flood inundated the entire earth, and nearly all land based animals and mankind were annihilated, including the dinosaurs. However, God had Noah bring onto the ark representatives of every “kind” of animal, including dinosaurs, along with the eight people of Noah’s family.
The term “kind” in the Bible refers to living creatures of the same type. Dinosaurs would be considered one “kind” of animal. So it was not necessary for the ark to have carried several variations of dinosaur, such as a brontosaurus or tyrannosaurus. It is certainly possible that a flying pair of dinosaurs were aboard the ark in addition to those that walked on the ground. It is also quite possible that infant dinosaurs of the larger variety were aboard.

What we do know for sure is that some dinosaurs were on the ark, because Scripture itself gives eyewitness accounts of humans interacting with them long after the Flood had receded (Job 40: 15-24; Job 41:1), and art work from post-Flood human settlements portray a great number of dinosaurs. Well known and respected historians and travelers such as Herodotus, Marco Polo and Alexander the great reported sightings of dinosaurs. And several Native American tribes have left oral and cave art records of interaction with dinosaurs, especially a giant flying reptile they call the “thunderbird.”

Most dinosaurs, of course, perished in the Flood. Those that did travel on the ark would have found it extremely difficult to survive in the radically altered landscape of the post-Flood world. Gone were the vast plains of tropical vegetation and the green-house-like conditions maintained by the pre-Flood water canopy around the earth. The Ice Age that followed the Flood would have wiped out many dinosaurs that struggled to breed and survive.

Eventually, dinosaurs became extinct, with the slight possibility that an extremely small number have continued to breed and may exist to this day in remote jungles, the ocean, or deep places in some large fresh water bodies where local inhabitants claim to encounter them.

The fossil remains of dinosaurs and the artwork and oral history of ancient peoples are a great testimony to the authority and accuracy of Scripture. God has left His signature upon the canvas of creation. The whole earth is indeed full of His glory!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Who Won't Taste Death?

Biblegems #33
In Matthew 16:28 Jesus makes the surprising statement: I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.

The question is: Just who and when is Jesus talking about? Who standing there won't taste death; and when will they see Him coming in His kingdom?
It is a very reasonable question, especially considering the context immediately preceding this verse. Jesus had just been explaining to His disciples and the surrounding crowd that He was about to go to Jerusalem where He would be arrested by the religious authorities, killed, and then be raised from the dead (Matt. 16:21). He warned them that following Him would require self-sacrifice, but that God would reward such sacrifice at the appearing of the Son of Man in glory (Matt. 16:22-27). Immediately afterward He makes the claim that some in that very crowd would “not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

It is the following verses, however, where Jesus’ puzzling prediction finds its fulfillment. It’s helpful to remember that when the Gospels were first written they did not have chapter and verse separations. Those were added as study aids centuries later. So for us today, coming to end of a chapter has the affect of concluding one scene and moving on to an entirely new scene in the next chapter.

Yet, for the readers of this Gospel prior to the addition of chapter and verse, Jesus’ statement about the Son of Man coming in glory would have merged seamlessly into the next verse. There, Jesus took Peter, James and John up a high mountain where He was transfigured before them (17:1-8). These three disciples were the ones Jesus had prophesied about six days earlier. Not only did they get to see the Son of Man in His Kingdom glory, shining brighter than the midday sun, they also witnessed a conversation in the heavenly realms between Jesus, Moses and Elijah, followed by the voice of God Himself! The experience was so overwhelming, all three disciples collapsed in terror (Matt. 17:6).

We tend to associate the coming of the Son of Man in glory with the Return of Jesus at the end of the age (Matthew 24: 30-31). But the coming of the Kingdom actually began with Jesus’ Incarnation. As Jesus Himself announced, “But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matt. 12:28).

Jesus’ Transfiguration reminds us that the Kingdom of God cannot be reduced to a timeline. Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you” (Lk. 17:20-21).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Healed Or Cured?

Biblegems #32
Question: One Biblegems reader would like to know, what is the difference in Scripture between being healed and being cured?

The two words can certainly be used synonymously, but there is a difference between them, especially where the words in the original language are concerned.

The primary words used in the Greek New Testament for “healed” or “cured” are: kathairo, sodzo, apallasso, iaomai and therapeuo.1 All these terms can be used more or less interchangeably, with some minor differences in emphasis. Unfortunately, these four Greek terms are usually translated into only two English terms: “healed” and “cured,” and sometimes “made clean.”

For example, in Matthew 8, when Jesus heals a man of leprosy, he says to the man, “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy (8:3). The word translated “clean” and the word translated “cured” both come from the same Greek word, kathairo, which mans “to cleanse.” So this man’s “cure” was to be cleansed of an ailment that made him unclean.

In Acts 4, when Peter and John were questioned by the Jewish leaders about the miraculous healing of the crippled man at the temple gate (chpt. 3), Peter used the word sodzo (save; deliver; make whole) to describe the healing (Acts 4:9). Then, in verse 10 he says, by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, … this man stands before you healed. The term used is hoogiace, meaning “healthy” or “well.” The crippling condition this man had known since birth was not considered “unclean,” as was the case with the infectious leprosy.
Luke 8 records how some women… had been cured of evil spirits and diseases (2). The word used here, apallasso, means to “change away.” The idea is that Jesus “removed” the evil spirits and diseases from these ladies.

The Gospel of Matthew relates how Jesus healed a Roman centurion’s servant from a distance: And his servant was healed at that very hour (8:13). “Healed” translates the word iaomai, which is closest to our English terms “heal” or “cure.”

A little later in Matthew, following the death of John the Baptist, Jesus sought to be alone for a while and left with His disciples by boat to a solitary place. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick (Matt. 14:14). Here, the word therapeuo is used, literally meaning to serve someone. In this instance, like a bus boy clearing tables in a busy restaurant, Jesus went throughout the crowd relieving people of their illnesses. The emphasis is more on how Jesus performed the healing ministry than on those who were being healed.

To sum up, then, the English words “healed” and “cured” are used pretty much interchangeably for a variety of Greek terms. The Greek, however, is used with somewhat more care, especially when drawing a distinction between a condition that makes a person clean or unclean, or when emphasizing the person who is doing the healing in contrast to those who are receiving the healing. In the long run, the loss in translation is minimal. God still gets the glory for providing healing for the mortal body through His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ!
1 Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the New Testament, Public Domain. Electronic text downloaded from the Bible Foundation e-Text Library:Hypertexted and formatted by Oaktree Software, Inc. Greek text added by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.4

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Language And Interpretation

Biblegems #31
How does language influence our ability to understand and interpret Scripture?

Biblical interpretation is all about language. Correctly handling the language of the Bible is just one of several key aspects of rightly dividing the Word of God. The following are some brief examples of fundamental principles of biblical interpretation related to the use of language. Since most who read this will not be fluent in biblical Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic, these principle will apply especially to the use of the native language you use for Bible reading and study.

—Correctly Interpreting words.
In John 20:17, Mary encounters the resurrected Jesus outside the tomb and is filled with joy. Jesus says to her, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father” (NIV). The KJV translates this verse: “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father…” Is Jesus telling her not to cling to Him because He has places to go and things to do, or is he suggesting, as some have unfortunately interpreted, that she shouldn’t be touching Him because His resurrected body was not yet glorified? A little Bible study will quickly reveal that Jesus allowed others—even encouraged others— to “touch” Him before His ascension (Jn. 20:27, etc).

—Correctly Interpreting words within their context.
A standard rule of interpretation is that a text without a context is a pretext. What that means is that, without the context being taken into consideration, the meaning of a Bible verse or verses can be badly distorted.
For example, some have erroneously taught that Jeremiah 1:5 refers to the pre-existence of the human soul before a person is born. The only way one can arrive at that conclusion is to completely ignore the context, which has to do with God’s foreknowledge and plan for Jeremiah’s role as a prophet of Israel.

Context also includes the historical, archeological and cultural contexts, especially when dealing with issues that are unfamiliar to us today. All of these play a very important role in understanding Scripture properly.

—Correctly Interpreting Language Style.
The Bible contains a rich variety of styles, each with its own rules of interpretation. Here is a sampling
Poetry (Psalms; Son of Solomon)
Symbolism (John 1: 8-9)
Narrative (John 1:6-7)
Allegory (Hagar, Galatians 4)
History (Kings; Chronicles)
Parables (Matthew 13)
Apocalyptic (Revelation)
Wisdom (Proverbs)

You can imagine the chaos if Poetry were interpreted as apocalyptic or allegory as history. Yet, this is often what happens when a verse of Scripture is read and interpreted without an understanding of the language style being used.

God’s wants His Word to be understood by everyday people. And so God Himself exhorts us: Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15).

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Young Earth & Diamonds

Biblegems #30
One Biblegems reader wants to know how, in a young earth scenario, diamonds are formed?

According to typical modern scientific theory, natural diamonds were formed millions—even billions—of years ago. The theory goes that deposits of pure carbon trapped deep in the earth’s mantle, under tremendous pressures and intense temperatures (1100 - 2900° C), eventually crystallized. Over millions and billions of years, these crystals gradually moved upwards through the earth’s crust, carried along by volcanic magma.

A standard scientific technique for determining the age of diamonds is applying the decay rate of Carbon 14 within them. Unfortunately for the popular scientific theory, carbon 14 is undetectable after 100,000 years, assuming the rate of decay remains constant. Yet carbon 14 is evident in diamonds, indicating that diamonds are only thousands of years old instead of millions.

Recent scientific studies by Andrew Snelling and Mark Armitage have also indicated that some structural formations peculiar to diamonds are likely due to water-born uranium 238. “It appears that Armitage's observations of etch trails, darkened linear features, and twisted tubes are remnants of fluid infiltration when the hot diamonds were in contact with hydrothermal fluids near the surface of the earth.”1 For this to have occured, the process would have only required hours and weeks, not billions, millions or even thousands of years. It all could have taken place in the early days of creation.

The Bible plainly states that …
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters (Gen. 1:1-2).

That primordial earth, the hard material of dirt and rock, was completely submersed in water. On the second “day” (Hebrew: yom, a literal 24 hour time period) of creation the waters were separated and the dry land appeared. On that same day vegetation burst forth from the ground at a super-accelerated rate that would have appeared much like our elapsed time digital productions of blossoming flowers or changing seasons. This would have provided the perfect environment for the rapid formation of diamonds.

While the Bible is not a scientific treatise, it does frequently address scientific issues and makes claims regarding the nature of the natural universe, its origins and its purpose. When these claims are made as statements of fact and not poetic metaphor, they need to be taken as fact. We cannot hold the Bible to be the true revelation of God on the one hand, and then alter its plain meaning to fit the theories of the day on the other.

The very existence of diamonds is a testimony in the earth of God’s creation as revealed in the Scriptures. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse (Rom. 1:20).
1. Vardiman, L. 2008. Diamonds May Be a Creationist's Best Friend. Acts & Facts. 37 (6): 6.