Tuesday, December 29, 2015

What Happened To The Gifts Of The Magi

Biblegems #254

Question: Is there any record in the Bible or history as to what happened to the gifts brought by the magi to Joseph and Mary?

The Bible does not tell us what happened to the gold, frankincense and myrrh brought by the magi. There are only traditions and some reasonable speculations.

The Monastery of St. Paul at Mt. Athos, Greece, once displayed a 15th century box containing, according to tradition, the gold, frankincense and myrrh presented by the magi. These were originally displayed at the Holy Palace of Constantinople since the 4th century. Following Constantinople’s fall to the Ottoman Empire in the 1400’s, the godmother of the Empire’s king offered them to the Monastery of St. Paul, where they remained until Christmas, 2014, when they were sent for display to Ukraine and Belarus. We don’t know for certain the legitimacy of the items inside the box.

Another tradition claims that the two thieves crucified along side of Jesus had stolen the gifts of the magi, while another tradition points to Judas, treasurer for Jesus’ disciples, as misappropriating the items for his personal gain.

Other Possibilities
One other tradition that has some merit suggests that Joseph and Mary used some portion of the gifts of the magi to pay for their hasty escape from Bethlehem to Egypt.
         Matt. 2:13, 15    When they [the magi] had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him”  …where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Jesus’ family had little financial means to support their journey, their extended stay in Egypt and their eventual return to Nazareth, other than these gifts. While there is no direct evidence, the speculation is reasonable.

Another reasonable possibility is that these treasures—or at least a portion of what remained—may have been used for Jesus’ burial. While the tomb was provided at no expense (Matt. 27:57-61), the spices used to cover the body were costly. Not only so, but myrrh was one of the standard aromatics used in the burial of the dead. Mary may well have chosen to use it for the burial of her son.

In the end, what matters most is that God chose not to include this tidbit of information in the Scriptures. God guides our focus away from relics, and away from satisfying curiosity for curiosity’s sake. He knows our tendency to slip into worship of created things rather than the Creator (Rom. 1:25), and He knows our tendency to focus on trivia at the expense of eternal matters (Matt. 23:16-19).

The gifts of the magi are not about the gifts; they are examples of human beings sacrificing their wealth, their time, even their lives to worship Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords. The magi we will see in heaven; the gifts we will not.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

When Jesus Learned He Was God

Biblegems #253

Question: At what age did Jesus understand His identity as the Son of God?When did He know that He was the Messiah?

The Bible says little concerning Jesus’ childhood. Extra-biblical texts claiming knowledge of his childhood are unreliable.[i] The Bible does shed some revealing light, however.

Jesus was human, like us in every way, “yet was without sin” (Heb. 4:15). As an infant, he did not understand his identity as God incarnate. This ignorance of his divine nature and messianic role was a temporary choice made in heaven, a choice to strip himself of such divine qualities as omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence:
         Phil. 2:6-7  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
Jesus matured gradually. At the age of twelve it was said:
         Luke 2:52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.     

Unlike other children, Jesus’ unique nature as the virgin-born Messiah of Isaiah 7:14 had been revealed to his earthly parents:
         Matt. 1:20b-23  what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”

They knew he was the Son of God and eternal King of Kings:
         Luke 1:31-33  “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

Jesus grew up hearing of the angel visits to his parents, and later to the shepherds in Bethlehem. He heard the story of the Wise Men from Persia and saw the carefully preserved treasures they had brought.

And as Jesus learned to read and understand the Scriptures his mind awakened to the words he himself had given to the prophets from heaven—prophecies of his birth, death, resurrection and return in glory. Reading Scripture triggered his memories as God prior to his human incarnation, memories that would then guide him throughout his adult life. For, as he reminded the two disciples on the road to Emmaus just after his resurrection:
         Luke 24:25-27  He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

[i] Several non-canonical documents contain fanciful legends about Jesus’ infancy and early childhood. Most were composed between the second and seventh centuries, A.D.: “The Infancy Gospel Of Thomas,” “The Infancy Gospel Of James,” “The Syriac Infancy Gospel,” “The Infancy Gospel Of Matthew” and “The History Of Joseph The Carpenter.”

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Is There Evidence For Biblical Creation? Part 2

Biblegems #252

Question: How do we answer the criticism that the order of events in the Creation account contradicts scientific evidence?

It is important to note that the order of events in the Genesis account of creation does not contradict scientific evidence; it does, however, contradict current scientific theory.

Compare the order & origins of the universe from both worldviews:
(Note: y.a. = years ago. M. = million, b. = billion, etc.)

Genesis                                        Secular
[10,000 – 6,000 years ago]           [13.5 – 14 billion years ago]

Day 1         (1:1-5)                         0 sec. -300,000 years
Time, light & darkness,                           Eternal.atter & energy.
Big Bang (13.7 m.y.a.): time,  
shapeless earth & water,                expanding radiation,
space, first 24 hour day                 elementary particles,
                                                      intense heat.
Day 2         (1:6-10)                       300,000 – 150 million years (m.y.)
Sky & Ocean                                  Universe dominated by “dark Matter”              

Day 3         (1:11-13)                     150 – 1 billion years (b.y.)
Land & seas, mature                     Reionization:
vegetation reproducing                           Gravitational collapse
it’s own kind.                                  forms quasars &
                                                      ionized plasma.

                                                      1 b.y. – 9 b.y.
Day 4         (1:14-19)                     Star & galaxy formation, gas
Heavenly bodies                            pockets collapse & trigger
nuclear fusion.
Solar System (4.5 b.y.a.)

Day 5         (1:20-23)                     600 m.y.a.
Water creatures and birds             Fish
Reproducing their own kinds.
                                                      500 m.y.a.
Day 6         (1:24-31)                     land plants
Land creatures produced from
the ground reproducing                 400 m.y.a.
according to their kinds,                Amphibians, reptiles, forests
man separately created                
to oversee the earth and               300 m.y.a.
reproducing according to               Dinosaurs evolve,       
human kind.                                   Mammals evolve

                                                      200 m.y.a.
                                                      Bees, birds, flowering plants

                                                      100 m.y.a.
Apes evolve, homo-sapiens evolve

Discrepancies between the biblical and secular views go well beyond the order of events and differences in time. The biblical worldview does not allow for long epochs of evolution, nor does the secular view allow for man to be created uniquely separate from the animals.

The question, however, is whether the Bible contradicts scientific evidence for the secular worldview. And the answer is that there is no evidence for human evolution from apes—none. That is speculative theory. There is no evidence for the evolution of dinosaurs from some other kind of creature— none. That is speculative theory. There is no evidence for the evolution of amphibians from non-amphibians— none. That is speculative theory. And there is absolutely no evidence of our solar system evolving from pockets of ionized gas expanding from a Big Bang 14 billion years ago— none. That is speculative theory.

These secular theories are based upon a host of false assumptions, such as the Uniformitarian Principle. That principle holds that all the processes we see at work in the universe today have been uniformly at work throughout all time. Based on that principle, it is assumed that since light travels at approximately 186 miles per second, we can determine how long it takes light from a star to travel to earth, estimate the stars distance from earth, and estimate the star’s relative age.

If, however, God cast the stars into their relative positions in space at His command as the Scripture reveals, time and space at the moment of creation exceeded the speed of light by a vast degree, canceling out the carefully constructed mathematical formulas based upon speculation and assumption.

Rom. 1:20  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 people are without excuse.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Is There Evidence For Biblical Creation? Part 1

Biblegems #251

Question: For those of us who take the biblical account of creation literally, how do we answer those who say that there is no evidence for a universe that is only thousands of years old as opposed to billions of years old? And how do we answer the criticism that the order of events in the Creation account contradicts the scientific evidence?

This two-pronged question will be answered as a Part 1 & 2.

Actually, responding to the claim that there is no evidence for a young universe is not difficult. There is an abundance of evidence available, yet just one piece of factual evidence for a recent creation settles the question!

So here are evidences for a young universe taken from two separate scientific disciplines: astronomy and biology.

Astronomic Evidence: Comet 67P
According to current theory, all the material in the universe, including stars, planets moons and comets, comes from the same source of matter that emerged from the Big Bang over 4 billion years ago. In 2014, the comet identified as Comet 67P was approached by the European Space Agency’s space probe “Rosetta.” Much to the surprise of the scientific community, the probe began picking up several unexpected emissions from the comet that are more in keeping with a universe only thousands of years old.[i]

The Rosetta probe detected a plume of water vapor being ejected from the comet at the rate of 6,000 gallons a day! A comet formed billions of years ago would have exhausted its escaping water long, long ago. A comet formed only thousands of years ago fits the evidence presented by Comet 67P. Not only so, but the comet’s water contains a much higher ratio of the chemical Deuterium than the water found on earth, revealing that the earth and the comet do not share the same source.

This is strong evidence for a young universe. God has revealed how the heavenly bodies came into existence on the fourth day of creation (Gen. 1:14-19), and how minutely He keeps track of His creation:
         Gen. 1:16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.
Ps. 147:4  He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.

Biological Evidence: Sea Turtles and the Nautilus
According to current theory, sea turtles evolved from fresh water and land-based turtles around 230 million years ago. Similarly, the small, beautifully colored—and nearly extinct—deep sea Nautilus shellfish is considered by modern biologists to be the evolutionary descendant of massive, tentacled shellfish that supposedly existed 500 million years ago.

Yet, despite this confidence in an evolutionary process requiring millions of years, there is no evidence of an evolutionary process taking place from land-based to sea-based turtles. Likewise, it is admitted by secular scientists that no evolutionary change has taken place in the Nautilus shellfish for the last 500 million years.[ii] In fact, sea turtle fossils from the Cambrian Period (542 – 488 m.y.a.) look just like their modern day counterparts!

This is the evidence biblical creationists would expect to find—not evolutionary metamorphosis over millions of years but each sea and land animal producing after its own kind (Gen. 1:21).

[i] Thomas, B. Unexpected Oxygen on Young-Looking Comet. Creation Science Update. Posted on icr.org November 16, 2015.
[ii] Thomas, B. 'Living Fossils' Point to Recent Creation. Creation Science Update. Posted on icr.org September 21, 2015.