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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The Bible In One Year Day 26 (Genesis 49 - 50, Job 41 - 42, Psalms 17)

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The end of Genesis 

But Joseph replied to them: "Have no fear. Can I take the place of God?  Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good, to achieve his present end, the survival of many people.  Therefore have no fear. I will provide for you and for your children.  By thus speaking kindly to them, he reassured them.  (Genesis 50: 19 - 21)


God Responds to Job 


 

The Lesson of Job 
Commentary Saint Joseph Edition New American Bible 

The lesson is that even the just may suffer, and their sufferings are a test of their fidelity.  They shall be rewarded in the end.  Man's finite mind cannot probe the depths of the divine omniscience that governs the world.  The problems we encounter can be solved by a broader and deeper awareness of God's power, presence, and wisdom.  

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A Daily Defense 
DAY 26 The Book of Acts and History

CHALLENGE: “Acts is not a reliable account of the history of the early Church. It is a work of ideology.” 

DEFENSE: Acts is an extremely reliable history. Every historian has a point of view, and the fact that Luke was writing from a Christian point of view does not mean he was inaccurate. 

The book of Acts is based on the evidence of eyewitnesses, like Luke’s Gospel (Luke 1:2). It is easy to tell who the eyewitnesses in Acts were: Peter is a major source for chapters 1 to 12, Paul for chapters 13 to 28, Philip for chapter 8, and Priscilla and Aquila for chapter 18. Luke himself was an eyewitness for what scholars call the “we” passages, where the narration switches from third person to first, describing what “we” did (16:10–17, 20:5–15, 21:1–18, 27:1 28:16).

Luke’s attention to detail is shown in many ways. For example, in chronicling the travels of Paul, he gives specific information about the time it took to arrive at different locations. 

This information is accurate, and it could not have simply been looked up in a reference work in the ancient world. This suggests Luke or someone in Paul’s circle kept a travel diary. The fact that Luke does not give parallel information about travel times in the first part of the book, when Peter dominates the narrative, shows that Luke was faithful to his sources. He used the information they provided and did not invent such details. 

The archaeologist Sir William Ramsay, initially a skeptic of Acts, reviewed the evidence and concluded: Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy; he is possessed of the true historic sense; he fixes his mind on the idea and plan that rules in the evolution of history; and proportions the scale of his treatment to the importance of each incident. He seizes the important and critical events and shows their true nature at greater length, while he touches lightly or omits entirely much that was valueless for his purpose. In short, this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians (The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, chapter 18). 

Jimmy Akin, A Daily Defense: 365 Days (Plus One) to Becoming a Better Apologist

Monday, January 25, 2021

The Bible In One Year Day 25 (Genesis 47 - 48, Job 39 - 40, Psalms 16)

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Day 25 Job's Questioning

 

Jacob Blesses Joseph's sons Manasseh and Ephraim (Rembrandt)


Jacob Blessed Pharaoh (Owens Jones)

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A Daily Defense 
DAY 25 Jesus’ Celibacy 

CHALLENGE: “The Church covered up Jesus’s marriage to Mary Magdalene. The Gospel of Philip says they were married, and Jewish men didn’t stay unmarried in Jesus’ day, so he wouldn’t have been celibate.”

DEFENSE: There were celibate Jewish men in Jesus’ day, and the evidence shows that Jesus stayed unmarried. The Gospel of Philip is a second- or third-century writing in the Coptic language. It does not contain reliable history, and it does not describe Mary as Jesus’ wife but as a companion, which she was, along with others (see Luke 8:1–3). 

There are several women named Mary in the New Testament, and to keep them straight, they are referred to by various appellations. Normally, women were referred to by their male relations, as in “Mary, the mother of Jesus” (Acts 1:14). If Mary Magdalene were Jesus’ wife, she would be referred to as “Mary, the wife of Jesus,” but she is not.

 “Magdalene” is a place name. Magdala was a village by the Sea of Galilee, and she was “Mary of Magdala” (John 19:25, 20:1, 18). The fact that she is referred to by a place name indicates that she did not have a father, husband, or son whose name she could be called by. 

There were celibate Jewish men in Jesus’ time, as well as before. The prophet Jeremiah was one (Jer. 16:1–2). In the first century, celibacy was practiced among Jews both by individuals (Life of Josephus 2) and among groups such as the Theraputae (Philo, On the Contemplative Life 3[21]), the Essenes (Philo, Hypothetica 11:14; Josephus, Antiquities 18:1:5, War, 2:8:2), and the Christians (see Day 92). 

Jesus recommended celibacy as a spiritual discipline (“for the sake of the kingdom of heaven”) to those who could accept it (Matt. 19:11–12). It would be surprising for Jesus to advocate celibacy this way if he did not practice it.

The New Testament never speaks of Mary Magdalene, or any other individual, as the wife of Jesus. Instead, it speaks of the entire Church as his bride (2 Cor. 11:2–3; Eph. 5:21–32; Rev. 19:6–9, 21:1–2, 9–10). This is significant because the metaphor of the Church as the bride of Christ would not have arisen if Jesus were married to an individual woman and there were a literal “Mrs. Jesus” in the early Church. 

Jimmy Akin, A Daily Defense: 365 Days (Plus One) to Becoming a Better Apologist

Sunday, January 24, 2021

The Bible In One Year Day 24 (Genesis 45 - 46, Job 37 - 38, Proverbs 4:20 -27)

 You may subscribe yourself at the Ascension site here and receive notifications in your email, or just follow along on my blog. 

 Commentary on the Book of Job 

Saint Joseph Edition The New American Bible 

The debate which ensues consists of three cycles of speeches. (Cycle One Job 3; Cycle Two Job 15; Cycle Three Job 22) Job's friends insists that his plight can only be a punishment for personal wrongdoing and an invitation from God to repentance.  Job rejects their inadequate explanation and calls for a response from God himself.  At this point the speeches of a youth named Elihu interrupts the development (Job 32 - 37).

In response to Job's plea that he be allowed to see God and hear from him the cause of his suffering, God answers, not by justifying his action before men, but by referring to his own omniscience and almighty power.  Job is content with this.  He recovers his attitude of humility and trust in God, which is deepened now and strengthened by his experience of sufferings.  

Joseph with Jacob in Egypt ( Jacopo da Pontormo)

Day 24 Tears of Joy 




A Commentary 
 Understanding the Scriptures - The Didache Series (Chapter 6, page 123)



In time we can discover that God in his almighty providence can bring a good from the consequences of an evil, even a moral evil, caused by his creatures:  "It was not you", said Joseph to his brothers "who sent me here, but..God. You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good to bring it about that any people should be kept alive."  (Gen 45:8;50:20;)

From the greatest moral evil ever committed - the rejection and murder of God's only Son, caused by the sins of all men - God, by his grace that "abounded all the more"  (Rom 5:20), brought the greatest of goods: the glorification of Christ and our redemption. But for all that, evil never becomes a good (CCC 312). 

When Jacob heard that Joseph was still alive, he could hardly believe it.  But God spoke to him in a vision once again, telling him to go down to Egypt.  It was part of God's plan. 

So Jacob went down to Egypt, and the whole family - seventy people, counting sons and grandsons - was reunited.  Pharaoh gave Joseph's family the best grazing land in the country, and they grew even richer  So, contrary to what we might have expected, the book of Genesis ends, not in the Promised Land of Canaan, but in the foreign land of Egypt.  

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A Daily Defense 
DAY 24 The Moral Argument

CHALLENGE: “Why shouldn’t I believe in scientific materialism—the view that only physical matter and energy exist and that science is the key to all knowledge?”


DEFENSE: Because morality points us beyond the purely material and beyond what science is capable of establishing. 

Moral values are real. Some things are objectively right and some are objectively wrong. Showing compassion for the poor and the weak is good; torturing babies for fun is evil. Belief in moral values is a human universal that exists in all cultures. It is built into human nature, and it cannot be suppressed.

Even those who profess philosophies denying moral realism cannot maintain the pretense. They invariably slip back into realist thinking and language, expressing either appreciation for acts they sense are good or outrage at acts they sense are evil.

But science is not capable of establishing moral values (one of several limitations it has; see Day 333). It may be capable of studying what people consider morally good and bad, but it is not capable of establishing what is morally good and bad. This is known in philosophy as the “is-ought problem.”

Certain statements are descriptive, describing the way the world is. Others are prescriptive, describing the way the world ought to be. Science is capable of investigating the former, but it does not have the ability to investigate the latter. As philosophers have often put it, you cannot derive an ought-statement from an is statement.

The reason is that science involves an empirical methodology—one based on things that can be detected and measured by the physical senses or by physical extensions of them (e.g., telescopes, microscopes, radio wave detectors). 

But moral good and evil cannot be detected and measured in this way. They are non-empirical qualities. You cannot detect moral goodness with a technical instrument or torture someone in a lab and use an evil-ometer to determine how bad the act is. 

We thus have good reason, based on the universal human belief in moral realism, to hold that moral values are objectively real, but they transcend the empirical. This shows that there is a transcendental realm that goes beyond the purely material and the abilities of science

Jimmy Akin, A Daily Defense: 365 Days (Plus One) to Becoming a Better Apologist

Saturday, January 23, 2021

The Bible In One Year Day 23 (Genesis 43 - 44, Job 35 - 36, Proverbs 4: 10-19)

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Goblet Found in Benjamin's Sack (Alexander Ivanov)

Day 23 Judah Changes  


A Daily Defense 
DAY 23 Who Bought the Field of Blood? 


CHALLENGE: “Matthew and Luke contradict each other. Matthew says that the Jewish priests bought the field of blood (Matt. 27:7–8), whereas Luke says that Judas Iscariot did (Acts 1:18–19).”

 

DEFENSE: Matthew and Luke are in fundamental agreement, and there are many ways the different attributions can be explained. Both authors agree that Judas Iscariot’s betrayal led to a field in the area of Jerusalem becoming known as the field of blood. Both also say that this field was paid for with the money that the chief priests had given Judas to betray Jesus. Both are thus agreed about the basic facts. How, then, can we account for the different way the two authors describe the purchase of the field?

 

One proposal is that the reference in Acts (“Now this man bought a field with the reward of his wickedness”) is meant to be ironic rather than literal. It occurs in a speech that Peter is making, and it has been suggested that Peter merely meant that Judas got his just deserts. The money he originally meant to spend on himself ended up paying for a graveyard. This is possible, but as we observe elsewhere (see Day 124), the biblical authors sometimes omit the agents who perform an action in order to bring out the significance of the principal figures with respect to whom the action is performed.

 

Thus we read that Moses built the tabernacle (2 Chron. 1:3) and Solomon built the temple (1 Kings 6:1–38), though in reality both were built by workmen acting on the leaders’ behalf (Exod. 38:22–23; 1 Kings 7:13–45). Sometimes the agents get mentioned and sometimes they don’t. It is therefore possible that Matthew chose to mention the role of the priests: They were the agents who actually bought the field.

 

By contrast, Luke wants to bring out the significance of the fact that it was Judas’s money, without going into the mechanics of how the transaction was made. He thus omitted reference to the priests and only mentioned Judas. Or this choice may have been made by someone earlier in the chain of tradition than Luke, who simply reported the tradition as he had it. Either way, it would be in keeping with the known practice of omitting agents to bring out the significance of the principals.

Jimmy Akin, A Daily Defense: 365 Days (Plus One) to Becoming a Better Apologist

Friday, January 22, 2021

The Bible In One Year Day 22 (Genesis 41 - 42, Job 33 - 34, Proverbs 4: 1-9)

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Joseph receives his Brothers (Francesco Bacchiacca)


Joseph Interpreting Pharaoh's Dream (Anthonie van Blocklandt)

Joseph and his Brothers (Abraham Bloemaert)

Day 22 Go To Joseph 


A Commentary 
 God Turns Evil into an Instrument of Salvation
Understanding the Scriptures -

The Didache Series (Chapter 6, page 122)



After years of service, Joseph rose to become the prime minister to the Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. Inspired by God, Joseph was able to predict that seven years of plenty would be followed by seven years of famine.  Under his wise government, Egypt stored up so much grain in the years of plenty that the Egyptians had more than enough food during the famine.  The rest of the world, however, was starving. 

Foreigners who wanted to by grain had to buy it through Pharaoh's chief minister, Zaphenathpaneah.  What Jacob's sons did not know as the Zaphenathpaneah was the Egyptian name that Pharaoh had given to their brother Joseph. He recognized them right away:  they were older, but they dressed and talked the way he remembered them.  There they were his brothers, bowing down before him - just as the dream had foretold all those years before. 

Joseph on the other hand was dressed like an Egyptian nobleman and spoke Egyptian through an interpreter.  

Joseph did not reveal himself right away.  He played some tricks on his brothers, making them suffer a bit for what they had done to him.  When he finally did decide to tell them who he was, they were afraid of him.  After all, he was the second most powerful man in the world.  If he wanted to take his revenge, he could.  But Joseph reassured them "and now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life."  

God brought good out of evil.  Joseph's brothers had betrayed and sold him, but God had used that betrayal to save the whole family.  For that reason, early Christians saw Joseph as a "type" of Christ.  Jesus Christ also would be betrayed by his own people, and God would use that betrayal to save the very people who betrayed him.  



The Ghent Altarpiece (Virgin Mary detail by Jan van Eyck)


A Daily Defense 
DAY 22 “Queen of Heaven” Condemned? 


CHALLENGE:  “Catholics should not regard Mary as the “Queen of Heaven.” The Bible speaks of devotion to the Queen of Heaven and condemns it in unequivocal terms (Jer. 7:18, 44:17–19, 25).”

DEFENSE:  The “Queen of Heaven” that Jeremiah refers to is not Mary. Therefore, he was not condemning Marian devotion. The fact that Jeremiah was not referring to Mary is obvious, since he was writing around 600 B.C., not the first century A.D. In his day, the title “Queen of Heaven” was used to refer to various pagan deities. There were many such deities, as every pagan pantheon had a major, ruling deity who was depicted as a king in heaven. Correspondingly, various goddesses were regarded as queens in heaven. Scholars are not sure which of these deities Jeremiah was referring to. It may have been a Canaanite goddess such as Ashtoreth (the wife of Ba’al), Asherah (the wife of El), or the warrior goddess Anat.

Whichever he meant, it is clear that the condemned devotion was taking place in his own day, for Jeremiah refers to it as “what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem” (Jer. 7:17). He also promises that God’s wrath would fall on members of his own generation as a result of this practice (Jer. 44:24–30). The fact that “Queen of Heaven” was used for a pagan deity in Jeremiah’s day does not mean that it can’t also have a legitimate use. 

Words and phrases gain their meaning and connotations from the way they are used in a particular community, and they are not permanently ruined just because pagans once used them. As noted, the same pagan pantheons that had Queens of Heaven also had Kings of Heaven, but that didn’t stop the biblical authors from referring to the true God as a King (Ps. 29:10, 47:2, 6–7, 103:19; Isa. 6:5; Mal. 1:14; 1 Tim. 1:17; Rev. 15:3, etc.). They even used the exact title “King of Heaven” for him (Dan. 4:37; Tob. 1:18, 13:7). The question thus is not whether “Queen of Heaven” was once used for a pagan deity, but whether it can have a different and appropriate sense. As we discuss elsewhere, it can (see Day 64).

Jimmy Akin, A Daily Defense: 365 Days (Plus One) to Becoming a Better Apologist

Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Bible In One Year Day 21 (Genesis 39 - 40, Job 31 - 32, Proverbs 3:33 - 35)

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Joseph Interpreting the Dreams of Pharaoh's Butler and Baker (Crijn Hendricksz Volmarijn)


Day 21 Walking With God 


A Daily Defense 
DAY 21 The Dating of John 

CHALLENGE:  “The Gospel of John is not historically reliable. It was written in the A.D. 90s and is markedly different in style and substance from the other Gospels.”

DEFENSE:  Actually, the Gospel of John is very historically reliable. Arguments to the contrary do not prove their case. Even if John were written in the A.D. 90s, that’s within sixty years of the events it records.

Historically speaking, that is quite close to them, and it poses no barrier to the accuracy of John. But John likely was written earlier. It refers to architecture in Jerusalem as still standing (5:2), but Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70. The Greek text of John 21:19 refers to the death by which Peter “ will glorify God” (future tense), suggesting it was written before Peter’s martyrdom in mid-67. 

Whenever it was written, John is based on the testimony of an eyewitness (the “beloved disciple”) a point the text makes explicitly (21:24), for the ancients were as aware of the value of eyewitness testimony as we are. 

John is written in a different literary style than the other Gospels, but this is not surprising. Each author has his own style, and John’s is simply different than the others. This does not mean that he isn’t interested in history. In fact, he records key historical facts about the chronology of Jesus’ ministry that the other evangelists do not. Thus he mentions that at least three Passovers took place between the beginning and end of Jesus’ ministry (2:13, 6:4, 11:55). Using this and other information, we are able to determine that Jesus’ ministry lasted over three years.

John also contains significantly different material than the other Gospels, and the reason is very simple: John intends to supplement the other Gospels by recording things they didn’t. In particular, John is supplementing Mark, and his Gospel is designed to interlock with Mark’s.

Jimmy Akin, A Daily Defense: 365 Days (Plus One) to Becoming a Better Apologist

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The Bible In One Year Day 20 (Genesis 38, Job 29 - 30, Proverbs 3:28 - 32)

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Judah and Tamar (school of Rembrandt)


Day 20 Judah and Tamar

A Daily Defense 
Day 20 Baptism and Salvation 

CHALLENGE:  “Baptism is not needed for salvation. It is a symbolic ritual that represents an inward change that has already taken place.” 

DEFENSE:  The New Testament links baptism to salvation. Baptism is not just a ritual. It communicates God’s graces, such as the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Thus Peter told the crowd on the day of Pentecost: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

Similarly, when he was converted to the Faith, Paul was told: “Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16). 

In his letters, Peter explicitly connected baptism with salvation. Comparing baptism to how eight people were saved in Noah’s Ark, he writes: “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:21).

Baptism does not save because it makes us physically cleaner, he says. Rather it “now saves you” because it involves “an appeal to God for a clear conscience,” which is granted to us “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” 

The New Testament also indicates that baptism is the means by which we are regenerated or “born again.” Jesus taught: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God. . . . Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, 5). Paul agrees, saying that “he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). 

Baptism thus places us in the state of salvation. Baptism is a normative necessity but not an absolute one. To deliberately refuse baptism is to refuse salvation on the terms God offers it, but God can save those who are not baptized through no fault of their own (CCC 1257–61).

Jimmy Akin, A Daily Defense: 365 Days (Plus One) to Becoming a Better Apologist