Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Is The Exodus Fact Or Myth?

Biblegems #297

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Question: Is there historical, archaeological evidence for the biblical Exodus?

The short answer is “Yes!”

The Biblical Record
The year the Exodus began can be established from1Kings 6:1:
         1Kings 6:1 “In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites came out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, the second month, he began to build the temple of the Lord.” (NIV)

Solomon’s fourth year as Israel's king dates around 966 BC. 480 years earlier puts the Exodus at 1446 BC. The last two Jubilee Years observed by the Jewish people (see Lev. 25:8-55), as recorded in the Talmud[i], also confirms 1446 BC.

The Archaeological Record
• Archaeological evidence from Jericho, Ai, and Hazor—key cities in Joshua’s conquest of Canaan 40 years later (1406 BC) also supports the biblical date, and reflects the biblical descriptions of how these cities were destroyed. Archaeological finds from rebuilt Jericho during the period of the Judges, including Eglon’s palace (Judg 3:12–30), and evidence of the destruction of Hazor by Deborah and Barak, around 1230 BC (Judg. 4:24), also support the 1406 - 1400 BC date for Joshua’s conquest.
• Evidence in Egypt’s eastern delta known as Pi-Ramesse of Pharaoh’s royal palace supports the biblical date of Moses in Egypt. Also, remains of an earlier settlement are consistent with the arrival of Abraham’s family’s in Egypt.
• The “Amarna Letters” sent from desperate Canaanite kings seeking help from Egypt against the ‘apiru (Hebrews) who were “taking over” their settlements in the highlands during the mid-1300s BC, point to the biblical Israelites.

• The name “Israel” has recently been found inscribed in a partially preserved list on the base of an Egyptian column dating back to the 1400s BC that contains two other biblical names: Ashkelon and Canaan. This firmly places the Hebrews in Egypt at the time the Bible gives for the Exodus.

Why It Matters
The biblical Exodus is history—not allegory, not myth—emphasizing real places, real people, and real events experienced by thousands of people at the same time. If the Exodus never took place the authority of the biblical books describing the event from an historical perspective would be seriously jeopardized.

Jesus treated the Exodus as Jewish history experienced by their ancestors:
         John 6:49-51  Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven. which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

If the Exodus did not occur then Jesus’ teaching would be incorrect, and all of His life and teaching would be suspect. Year after year, however, scientific disciplines continue to confirm the accuracy of the Bible, whether in history, biology, geology or astronomy.
         Ps. 33:4  For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.

For further study on this vital subject please check out this link:

[i] Rodger C. Young, “When Did Solomon Die?” JETS 46 (2003) 600-1

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Avoiding “The Appearance Of Evil”

Biblegems #296

Question: What is meant in the Bible by the instruction to “avoid even the appearance of evil?”

The question refers to 1 Thessalonians 5:22, from the King James Version: “Abstain from all appearance of evil.
It’s a good question, because living that out in the real world would seem to require either an impossible effort at “people pleasing,” or else the undesirable prospect of living in perpetual fear of doing the least little thing wrong. The first grants permission for every person to act as our judge, and the second turns us into Pharisees!

To avoid either unpleasant option, the way the verse is typically approached is to treat it more like a proverb than a specific instruction.  Understood this way, avoid even the appearance of evil” becomes a general admonition similar to “be above reproach” (1Tim. 3:2), or Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers” (Ps. 1:1).

While such an interpretation will not steer a person wrong, it does miss the very specific instruction the apostle Paul intended. So what’s the answer?

The answer lies in the translation of the word Greek word “eidous,” and in the context of the passage.

The word “eidous” in English means “form,” or “kind,” and can be used either literally (i.e., “shape,” “form” or  “kind”) or figuratively (i.e., “appearance,” or “impression”).

Even the English words can have either a literal or figurative meaning, depending on the context. We can say, for example, “Joe Schmo suddenly appeared,” or “everyone at the party appeared to enjoy themselves.” The first is literal—Joe came into view; the second is figurative: “appeared” means, “gave the impression.” If in the King James Version “appearance” is intended to be understood literally rather than figuratively, the meaning is to “abstain from every kind of evil.” That’s quite a bit different than abstaining from everything that might look like evil—which is how we usually treat the verse!

So what does the context tell us?

The beginning of the paragraph, 1 Thessalonians 5:19, instructs us not to “quench the Spirit.” Then verses 20-22 give specific bullet points on how to avoid quenching the Spirit:
• “Do not treat prophecies with contempt” (20)
• “Test them all” (21a)
• “Hold on to what is good” (21b)
• “Abstain from every kind (eidous) of evil” (22)

Clearly, edous indicates that evil (literally) is to be avoided. In fact, “avoided” is too mild a term. The Greek word is in the imperative form and means “get far away from”! The NIV (2011) accurately translates it this way: “reject every kind of evil.”

Pass this on, and save a lot of people the anguish of tortured explanations the next time someone asks, “What does it mean to avoid the appearance of evil”? Because what the text actually says and means is “Get far away from every kind of evil!”