Friday, October 19, 2012

Isaiah 53 - Anatomy of a Prophesy

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Background
This week we are taking a break from the Gospel storyline to look at a particular Old Testament prophesy in great detail. It is a prophesy which is as close to being all about Jesus as you will find within the Old Testament, but how close is it? This study is in connection with the "Christian Prophesy Challenge" issued on my other blog.

Isaiah 53 - Anatomy of a Prophesy
If there is anything to be learned from political ads, it is that context is the key to knowing the truth. Couple that knowledge to the fact that there are often little-to-no explicit indications of where discrete prophesies begin and end within the prophetic books of the Bible, and it becomes apparent that you will probably need to look at the text surrounding that prophesy in order to gain the proper understanding of it.

A challenger submitted Isaiah 53 as being a prophesy about Jesus. So in our review of Isaiah 53, let us also take a moment to inspect preceding chapters and the chapter immediately following it. To save you some time, I have included copies of my chapter-by-chapter summary of Isaiah here, and have included some key notes from each chapter:

(Note: Israelite = Jew)

Chapter Summary
Notes
Isaiah 49) - God has made His sharp-speaking Servant, protected him, and chosen him to show God's glory. The Servant claims that he has labored in vain, but God will provide his reward. God made the Servant to gather the Israelites back to God, and God has been the Servant's strength. God will make His Servant not only gather the Israelites but also be a light to the Gentiles to bring Salvation to all of the earth. Although this Servant was despised and was a servant to rulers, God will make the Servant honored by kings and princes. When God chooses, He will make His Servant be a covenant and restore the exiled Israelites to Israel. They will not hunger, thirst, or be oppressed by the sun's heat. God will lead them to water and make their return easy from wherever they are. The Israelites cry that God has forsaken them, but God will never forget them. God will bring the Israelites back to Israel, and will bless them with so many offspring that they will need a larger country. The Gentiles will help bring Israelites back to Israel, and their royalty will humble themselves to the Israelites, and the Israelites will realize that God did this. God will rescue the Israelites, and make their oppressors eat their own flesh and drink their own blood. At that time, all of mankind will know God is Israel's Savior and Redeemer. 49:1) - Through metaphors, this is directed to the diaspora; the exiled and scattered Jews.

49:3) - "[God] said to me, "You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor." NIV

 "Israel" being a patriarch, it is almost certainly a representation of the Jews. If it is meant to be a single person, the use of the name "Israel" makes it unlikely to be Jesus given that the name means "he who struggles with God" (Reference Genesis 32:24-30).

49:4) - The Servant thinks that he may have labored in vain, which is again unlikely to mean Jesus.

49:5-6) - The Servant will bring Jews back to God and reveal God to the Gentiles.
Isaiah 50) - God asks the Israelites if they thought God had left them or sold them, or if they thought He couldn't save them. God has the strength the rescue them because He is omnipotent. God has given His Servant the right words to say. God's Servant listens to God and doesn't rebel, and let his back be beat, his beard pulled out, and his face be spit on. The Servant knows that God will vindicate him soon. Those in darkness should follow God, because those which instead follow their man-made idols will be tormented. The emphasis of the Servant listening to God and not being rebellious further suggests the Servant is not generically all of the Jews, but specifically those who had remained steadfast in their faithfulness to God. They endured harsh criticism and even physical abuse for their impregnable faith which was held despite the exile.
Isaiah 51) - God tells the Israelites to listen to Him, because He will rebuild Israel and turn its deserts into gardens like Eden. God's law and justice will impress the Gentile nations. God's righteousness will soon come, and He will bring justice to the nations. The heavens will vanish, the earth will wear out, and people will die, but God's Salvation will last forever. God tells those with His Law in their hearts to listen (meaning the Israelites). The enemies of the Israelites will be destroyed but God's Salvation and righteousness will last through all generations. God's ransomed people will return to Israel with everlasting joy. Why do the Israelites fear their oppressors when God will soon free them, including prisoners and those in dungeons? God is finished applying His wrath to the Israelites, and will now apply it to their oppressors. 51:4) - God's Law and justice will be enlightening to the other nations of the world.

51:5) - God's Salvation was coming very soon. (Isaiah is suspected to have alive in the 8th century BCE, but some parts of the book of Isaiah are discerned to be as late as 5th century BCE. By either date, Jesus was a long way away.)

51:6) - This Salvation would last forever.

51:7) - Speaking of the subset of the steadfastly faithful...

51:16) - This parallel of 49:2 confirms the identity of the Servant as the faithful Jews.
Isaiah 52) - The Israelites are to go free and to rebuild Jerusalem in splendor because the uncircumcised and defiled will not enter there again. God sold the Israelites for free and now they will be redeemed without money. The Assyrians are acting like the pre-Exodus Egyptians, so God will punish them and prove that He is God. The Israelites should purify themselves and keep watch, because God will prepare the way for them to return to Israel. Even though the appearance of God's Servant was pitiful, God's Servant will be exalted in a way such that kings and nations will see and understand God. 52:1) - After the Jews returned from exile, impure people would never again enter Jerusalem. Amazingly, the Romans (and others) must of had God's stamp of approval.

52:4) - Pinpointing the extent of the prophesy in time, the Assyrians are mentioned.

You may have noticed that Isaiah 52 ends with some words about this Servant, so let us include those verses in our verse-by-verse look at Isaiah 53:

Verse (NIV)
Context Version
Christian Version
Notes
52:13) - See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. "Faithful Jews" will obey God and be greatly praised and rewarded. Jesus will act wisely and be greatly praised and rewarded. As context has shown, this "servant" is a metaphor for the faithful Jews.
52:14) - Just as there were many who were appalled at him — his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness— People were shocked and disgusted that the "Faithful Jews" maintained their piety, well beyond the extents of normal human reason, given how their God had treated them. Jesus was beaten so badly after His trial that He did not even look human. Aside from Mel Gibson's movie, there is no reference to Jesus being beaten to an unrecognizable extent.
52:15) - so will he sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand. When the scattered "Faithful Jews" are returned from their exile, even pagan kings will recognize the power of their God, despite not having heard about Him, because of how miraculous the return is. Jesus' purifying blood would be metaphorically sprinkled on many peoples, and kings will be astonished by His offer of Salvation. This references Gentile kings witnessing something themselves. This is in contrast to the kings being witnessed to by others (Matthew 10:18, Mark 13:9, Luke 21:12).
1) - Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? Who could have believed that such a prophesy would come true? Through God's grace, Jesus' Salvation is only accepted by the Elect.
2) - He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. The "Faithful Jews" born in harsh conditions of the Jewish exile appeared to be worshiping in vain, so the rest of the scattered Jews paid them little respect and were not attracted to their piety. Jesus grew up in a humble existence, being the son of a small-town carpenter, and he was not attractive in any way. You find large groups of people following Jesus around (of the 171 times the Bible mentions crowds, 127 times are in the Gospels). Indeed, John 12:19 states in hyperbolic language that the whole world has gone after Him.
3) - He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. These "Faithful Jews" were subjected to continual scorn, mockery, and physical abuse because of their unreasonable faith, by the Gentiles and even by the other Jews, who did not like being around them. Jesus was rejected and suffered on the cross. As noted above, he was accepted far more than rejected. Also, this verse portrays someone who lived a life of suffering, not just some climactic suffering at the end. Jesus was esteemed (such as Luke 7:6, Luke 7:45-46) much more than men despising and hiding their faces from Him.
4) - Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted. "Faithful Jews" suffered along with the other Jews, but more so, despite and because of their piety, such that even the other Jews considered them cursed by God. According to Matthew 8:17: This verse is a reference to Jesus healing people.

A better interpretation: Jesus suffered for our sins, yet people thought that God had punished Him for what He had done.
Matthew 8:17 quotes this verse as if it was intended to mean that Jesus removed the infirmities and diseases of the people, but it instead means that he suffered those same pains, which is implicitly part of why he was called a man of sorrows/suffering in the previous verse.
5) - But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Though undeserving, the "Faithful Jews" suffered the punishment God had directed at all Jews, but it was because of their suffering that the other Jews now know of this Salvation. Jesus suffered for our sins, and the punishment enabled Salvation. In context, the punishment is what God had wrought through the exile because of the way they had acted in Judah/Israel as opposed to just being punishment for general sins. Furthermore, the Jesus story is that He died for our sins. He was pierced after He had already died, and then only because the soldiers were surprised that He was already dead (John 19:31-37). Being dead, the piercing was not a punishment.
6) - We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. The other Jews had turned away from God, but meanwhile the "Faithful Jews" continued to take the divine punishment. We were the sinful ones, but Jesus paid the price for it.
7) - He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. Yet, similar to but better than Job, the "Faithful Jews" took this punishment without any protest. Jesus received this punishment silently. The mention of oppression and affliction suggests of some significant quantity of time of serious mistreatment. While the "lamb to the slaughter" hints of a sacrifice, the "sheep before its shearers" speaks of enduring, almost ritualized, mistreatment over a long time. Furthermore, Jesus did speak to His accusers (Matthew 26:64, Mark 14:62, Luke 22:67-70, John 18:19-37, John 19:11).
8) - By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. While the other Jews had adapted to their exile, turning away from God and building a life for their families, the scarce "Faithful Jews" dwindled away in penitent obscurity. Jesus was arrested without justification, yet no one protested His unfair treatment, and so He was killed for our sins. Until they ran away in fear, the Disciples did violently protest Jesus' arrest (Matthew 26:50-52, Mark 14:46-47, Luke 22:49-51, John 18:10). Even Pilate protested that Jesus seemed to be charged without justification (Matthew 27:23-24, Mark 15:14, Luke 23:20, John 18:38, John 19:4-6).
9) - He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. The few "Faithful Jews" who died were thought to be lowly like the wicked, but in reality they were praiseworthy in their righteousness. Despite having done no wrong, Jesus was condemned to die with thieves, but was buried in a rich man's tomb. The "though" is probably better translated as "because" here.

This verse is backwards for Christianity. Jesus died with the wicked (Matthew 27:38, Mark 15:27, Luke 23:32, John 19:18), but went to the grave of a rich man (Matthew 27:57-61, Mark 15:42-47, Luke 23:50-56, John 19:38-42). Plus, Jesus did violently (with a whip) clear out the Temple courtyard (John 2:13-17).
10) - Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. Yet these "Faithful Jews" fully received the punishment God had intended to serve to the Jews for their sins before the exile, and so God will reward the piety of the "Faithful Jews" with prosperity, offspring, and long life. It was God's plan for Jesus' death on the cross to be the supreme sin offering. Jesus will live eternally as a prosperous and divine king with a family of the faithful. It is the Servant's life that is the offering, not the Servant's death. There is no emphasis on the "offering for sin." It is simply "an" offering, which seems a little underplayed for its Christian significance. Furthermore, because the Servant is alive, it speaks of offspring, as in children, and his days will be "prolonged," not eternal.
11) - After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. The "Faithful Jews" will be rewarded for enduring this punishment, and from this the other Jews will realize God's power and purpose, and turn back to Him. The suffering of the "Faithful Jews" will cover the other Jews. Jesus was resurrected according to plan, and knowledge of Jesus' sin offering has led many to Salvation. Jesus' sacrifice will cover people's sins. Note that the Masoretic Text, which is considered the authoritative Hebrew text of the Old Testament, has "...he will see the result of the suffering of his soul and be satisfied..." instead of the line about seeing the light of life.
12) - Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. These "Faithful Jews" will be exalted like other heroes of the faith, and will be richly rewarded for steadfastly holding to God regardless of the dire circumstances, for accepting God's planned punishment despite being righteous, and for pleading for mercy for the other Jews. Jesus will be king for willingly sacrificing Himself, dying with criminals, and making intercession for sinners. God will give this Servant “a portion among the great.” Yet according the Bible, God is giving Jesus the entire Kingdom, not just a portion (Matthew 28:18). Furthermore, "a portion" implies a sharing, but God will not share His glory with anyone or anything (Isaiah 42:8, Isaiah 48:11).


As usual, we should also consider what comes afterward for context as well:


Chapter Summary
Notes
Isaiah 54) - God, the Israelites' husband and Redeemer, God of all the earth, will restore the Israelites to Israel and they will be blessed with so many offspring that they will have to expand their boundaries into other countries, dispossessing other nations. They will not be shamed or humiliated, and will forget their earlier shame. In God's surge of anger, He briefly abandoned the Israelites. Now God is coming back to them with everlasting kindness and compassion. God swears that He will never rebuke them again, and His love and covenant of peace with them will last forever. God will rebuild Jerusalem with precious stones. God will teach their sons. They will no longer have tyranny and terror. Anyone who attacks them will not succeed, and the attack will not be caused by God. God made the blacksmith and the destroyer. No weapon or accusations will harm the servants of God. 54:3) - This speaks of capturing and resettling cities.

54:6) - A call back, which is a reference to the return from exile. They had to be there before in order to be called back.

54:7) - God will bring the exiled Jews back.

54:9) - This exile was like the flood of Noah, and God swears that He will never be angry with the Jews again.

54:15) - If anyone attacks them, God will not be the reason behind the attack.

54:17) - No attack will prevail against the Jews.


Conclusion
Isaiah 53 is not a prophesy about Jesus. In varying degrees, details in verses 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 12 directly conflict with the Gospel stories of Jesus. That is seven of the twelve verses of this entire prophetic chapter, or over half of the prophetic message.

In my opinion, the most notable conflicts are verse 3 (Jesus was not rejected by the masses in the manner portrayed here, and was often held in high esteem), verse 10 (offspring for Jesus, and prolonged life, not eternal life), and verse 12 (Jesus is getting much more than just a portion).

In my opinion, the contextual meaning, while often similar to the story Christianity presents, is distinctly different from being a Messianic prophesy. Instead, this Servant is merely a representation of the relatively small subset of Jews which remained devout in their worship of God throughout the exile, despite the fact that their form of religion made them the subject of prejudice, scorn, and suffering. However, note that even some Jewish scholars hold that this is a Messianic prophesy.

Yet what is clear is that Isaiah 53 is part of a larger prophetic picture, and that the picture is different than what Christianity promises. Furthermore, the differences are not just trivial, but they actually contradict what Christianity promises. These are the highlights of contradiction in the interwoven prophetic verses:
  • This prophesy was for the Jewish diaspora (Isaiah 49:1, Isaiah 51:5) who had been exiled from the land of Israel for their sins (Isaiah 50:1, Isaiah 51:17-21, Isaiah 52:5).
  • Confirming the time frame, audience, and scope of the prophesy, God drew a parallel between the Jewish oppression in Egypt and the oppression they now, or rather then, had within the Assyrian empire (Isaiah 52:4).
  • God's Salvation would happen soon... back then (Isaiah 50:8, Isaiah 51:5).
  • A key feature in this prophesy is the Jewish return from exile (Isaiah 49:9-12, Isaiah 49:17-19, Isaiah 52:11-12, Isaiah 54:6-7), which has already occurred, but not exactly as described.
  • The Jewish system of land inheritance will be re-established (Isaiah 49:8).
  • There will still be children born, generations living, and people dying (Isaiah 51:6-7, Isaiah 53:10, Isaiah 54:3, Isaiah 54:13).
  • The nation of Israel will need to be expanded. In order to do so, the Jews' descendants will invade surrounding nations, and then settle in their emptied cities (Isaiah 54:2-3).
  • God will protect the Jews, and even though they still may be attacked, it will not be because of God causing the attack, and the attackers will not prevail (Isaiah 54:13-17).
  • This return from exile is an eternal Salvation (Isaiah 51:6-7, Isaiah 51:11), where God promises to show everlasting kindness to the Jews (Isaiah 54:8), and they will never be rebuked by God again (Isaiah 51:22, Isaiah 54:9)!
  • God promises all of this as an inheritance to His servants (Isaiah 54:17). (This is not so much a contradiction with Christianity, but the reference to "servants" is significant in context to these prophesies.)

The Rest of the Story
Aside from the return from exile, most of the prophesy did not come true, but all of that prophetic ink could not just be ignored. It was too difficult to admit that God had failed, and in turn raise questions about their long-held faith in their prophetic texts and their God. So the rest of these Jewish prophetic points, and others, were recast to some future date in which the new Godly era would be led in by a Messiah.

The Jews were anxious for the Messiah by the time Jesus had arrived on the scene, especially due to the Roman infiltration. Yet contrary to the original prophetic vision and God's own promises here, Jesus rebuked the Jews and called for their destruction at the hands of enemies (Luke 19:41-44)! To make this prophesy conform to Jesus is to ignore that point, ignore the larger intrinsic associations with the original Jewish exile, ignore the fact that this version of eternal Salvation involved people living and dying just like they do today, ignore the implicit coexistence of Israel with other nations, and ignore the fact that these other nations have the ability to attack (if only impotently). That just seems like a really ignorant thing to do.

69 comments:

  1. Your view is that the "Suffering Servant" of Isaiah 53 (actually 52:13-53:12, as you point out, but let's call it 53) is not the Messiah, but "a representation of the relatively small subset of Jews which remained devout in their worship of God throughout the exile." My view is that the "Suffering Servant" of Isaiah 53 is the Messiah.

    I'll begin by addressing the objections you've raised (Part 1), and then I'll give my reasons for believing that only the Messiah fits the description of the Suffering Servant (Part 2). I'll try to keep this short and concise!

    Part 1:

    "As context has shown, this "servant" is a metaphor for the faithful Jews."

    The book of Isaiah is a large book that contains several "servants:" Cyrus (see 45:1-4, 44:28), God's prophets (44:26), Israel (41:8-9, 42:19, 44:1-2, 45:4, 48:20), and the Messiah (42:1-9, 49:1-7, 50:4-9, 52:13-53:12). Context is very important, of course, but the question is, who is the "Suffering Servant" of Isaiah 53? No one would try to make the case that the Jews--much less the *faithful* Jews--are exclusively who is referred to as the servant throughout the book of Isaiah, so, while context is important, so is a close examination of all the "servants" spoken of in this book.

    "Aside from Mel Gibson's movie, there is no reference to Jesus being beaten to an unrecognizable extent."

    Considering only what was recorded as having been done to his face and head: He was struck, slapped, spit upon (Matt 26:67,68), hit in the head with a stick or reed (Matt 27:30), and punched with fists (Mark 14:65); and thorns were smashed into his head, probably causing blood to pour down his face. If these abuses were done rather gently, then he might have still looked human. If they were done with ferocity, he would have absolutely looked "beyond human likeness." A student of mine who was beaten by his mother as a young boy (before the state took him away (too late, as usual)) was described to me by *two* people in exactly the same way: "you couldn't even tell he was human." I didn't see the photos, thankfully, but I suspect that I *could* have identified him as a human, and yet the saying accurately describes the condition of being horribly beaten, with so much swelling and blood that one's identity is unrecognizable.

    "You find large groups of people following Jesus around."

    At times, yes, but the verse in question states simply, "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him," which refers to his appearance, not his popularity.

    "As noted above, he was accepted far more than rejected."

    Without even considering whether that statement is true or not, the point of the verse is that he was ultimately rejected by the people and sent to the cross. The Jews did *not* accept him as their Messiah.

    "Matthew 8:17 quotes this verse as if it was intended to mean that Jesus removed the infirmities and diseases of the people, but it instead means that he suffered those same pains...."

    It's too bad you weren't around 2,000 years ago to slap Matthew upside the head and tell him the *real* meaning of the verse. That silly, clueless disciple. ;-)

    "He was pierced after He had already died.... Being dead, the piercing was not a punishment."

    True, but two points here: 1) he was also pierced by a crown of thorns, and 2) another way to look at it is simply that he was wounded. The Hebrew "chalal" (translated "pierced" in the version you were reading) means "wounded."

    (to be continued below)

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  2. "Jesus did speak to His accusers."

    The implication is that when he was accused, he did not defend himself. This frustrated the Sanhedrin, as seen in Mark 14:60-61: "Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer."

    "Until they ran away in fear, the Disciples did violently protest Jesus' arrest."

    That's true. Here's how that verse is translated in the New King James: "By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants?" By that rendering, it appears to mean that he had no children when he was killed.

    "This verse is backwards for Christianity. Jesus died with the wicked, but went to the grave of a rich man."

    You're right. Chronologically, it is correct (he was first with the wicked (on the cross), and then with the rich (when he was buried)), which suggests to me an error in translation, but it does appear that you're right about this. We'll have to take a close look at the Hebrew on this one. You go first.

    "It is the Servant's life with is the offering, the Servant's death."

    I think you meant to say, "It is the Servant's life which is the offering, not the Servant's death." Assuming I'm correct about that: He did indeed give up his life as an offering.

    "Note that the Masoretic Text, which is considered the authoritative Hebrew text of the Old Testament, has "...he will see the result of the suffering of his soul and be satisfied..." instead of the line about seeing the light of life."

    That rendering presents no problems for my case.

    "God will give this Servant “a portion among the great.” Yet according the Bible, God is giving Jesus the entire Kingdom, not just a portion (Matthew 28:18). Furthermore, "a portion" implies a sharing, but God will not share His glory with anyone or anything (Isaiah 42:8, Isaiah 48:11)."

    Here are a few other translations of this verse: "For this cause he will have a heritage with the great, and he will have a part in the goods of war with the strong" (BBE); "Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly-the best of everything, the highest honors" (MSG); "I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier, because he exposed himself to death" (NLT). You're focusing on one word ("portion"), and claiming that the Servant will only be given a share of something (what you assume to be the Kingdom), which, in turn, means to you that this Servant could not, then, be the Messiah. The *overarching*--and, I would argue, all-important--message here is that the Suffering Servant will, in the end, be viewed and treated as a victor. This is language that an 8th century B.C. audience would have understood. As for God not sharing his glory with anyone... Jesus is God, too. But that's beside the point.

    I'll get to Part 2 tomorrow!

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  3. So it has been awhile since I read these chapters of Isaiah through so I started by going back and reading from 48 through 53. What I noticed was the distinct change in tone and focus at the end of 52. Context is important but it is a mistake to impose earlier content on subsequent testimony as you have done by inferring the subject of Chapter 53 is the same subject as Chapter 51. In fact you even identify the difference when pointing out the "contradictions" - all come from surrounding text.

    There are different kinds of context as well. There is the textual context of the verse and no less important is the context of the heart and mind either absorbing or dissecting the message. As we have spoken before the seeker finds what he looks for. This is an undeniable truth. How we approach God matters.

    Someone once wrote that God makes Himself clear enough to be found by any who seek Him but obscure enough not to trouble those who do not. I won't argue the theology of the point, but my question to you remains - what are you seeking? Once that question is answered the rest becomes obvious.

    David

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  4. Hi Ollie and David. Thanks to both of you for checking out the post.

    Forgive me, Ollie, but I will start with David based on brevity.

    David, as long as we are starting backward, I will start with the sentiment that you ended with.

    Your sentiment has several assumptions; ones that you have made on more than one occasion with me. It is an assumption that I have not tried to find God. Furthermore, it is an assumption that I do not want to find God. It is an assumption that all who seek God will find Him, and will do so on their schedule, not His. With all due respect, sir, you do not know me well enough to make that kind of judgement, and I could easily cite some verses to the contrary.

    Now, you appear to be a fairly empathetic man. Imagine how you would feel if you had searched for a significant portion of your life for the most important thing in life, without success, only to have someone suggest that they never really tried, or never really wanted to find what they were looking for.

    Love does not obscure itself. No one lights a lamp and hides it under a basket.

    "In fact you even identify the difference when pointing out the "contradictions" - all come from surrounding text."
    I assume that you are referring to the section of the overall, contextual prophetic meaning? If so, you missed:

    "There will still be children born, generations living, and people dying (Isaiah 51:6-7, Isaiah 53:10, Isaiah 54:3, Isaiah 54:13)."

    You also may have missed that that section of contradictions focused on the fact that "Isaiah 53 is part of a larger prophetic picture, and that the picture is different than what Christianity promises."

    If you are just referring to Isaiah 53, however, I listed several contradictions up above, including what contradicts the Gospel accounts directly.

    Even if you disagree with me that Isaiah 53 should be included in the larger prophetic picture I mention, the fact remains that that larger picture exists, it was promised to be eternal, and it is different from Christianity.

    Cheers, David.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did miss your reference to 53:10 - Not sure how that is related to the identified contraindication but, so not all, merely almost all :-)

      Yes I disagree 53 is part of the same prophetic picture based on the difference in the tone and focus of the text. This was exactly my point.

      The sections outside 53 need to be examined to see which are aimed at Christianity and which are directed to the Jews of the day. I believe you have painted all with the same brush and are now complaining they don't match.

      WRT your search I did not mean to offend. It is nevertheless true that we find what we look for. In another exchange (where I asked this same question) you mentioned the problem of discerning between what you want to believe and the facts, acknowledging the dangers as a believer and (I must suppose) an unbeliever.
      It is a quandary. My answer then as now is that I have no choice but to believe - for me the alternative is unworkable. I cannot face a Godless universe. It is a weakness I am grateful for.

      David

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    2. So, David, are you suggesting that God's promises expire? That is what it seems like you imply with the statement that God's eternal promises in that section of Scripture "are directed to the Jews of the day."

      I am trying to take God at His word. And if He promises something, something eternal none-the-less, I expect to be able to evaluate those promised conditions against reality; both in what exists today and what is promised but not yet delivered though Christianity. Is that not a fair method of evaluation to you?

      Indeed, parsing between beliefs and facts can be difficult at times due to our minds, which is why I am taking the objective approach mentioned above. If God promises something will happen, then it must happen or else we have the following options:

      - there is no God (or, more properly, if there is a god, it is not the God of the Bible)
      - you cannot rely on God to keep His promises
      - there is content in the Bible attributed to God which actually originated from man

      The evaluation of whether or not God kept His promises should be simple based on the facts we know. I invite you to consider the points I have raised here and judge for yourself whether or not God fulfilled His promises, and/or if the promises God made back then align with the promises yet to come through Christianity.

      Personally, I do not have a problem with someone believing in a god. I would just prefer if everyone had as accurate a picture of the god they believe in as is possible.

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  5. OK, Ollie, it is your turn, and unfortunately it is getting a little late, so I will just take a small bite now, and come back for more tomorrow.

    Who is the Suffering Servant?

    Indeed, God used several servants in Isaiah. The theme of the Suffering Servant was considerably more limited. I made the statement that "context has shown" the definition based on the case I made when examining the previous chapters, including the some of the very ones that you site as being about the Messiah. Would you care to take another look at the context I reference and then discuss from that point going forward?

    Thanks, Ollie.

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  6. I certainly will. I have to work from 8 to 7 tomorrow, but I should have some time to write again on Tuesday. I apologize for not getting to Part 2 this weekend, btw.

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  7. WRT Jesus beaten to beyond human recognition...

    I suspect that the Gospels do you no favors here. Remember the post-resurrection accounts? People did oddly have trouble recognizing Jesus, but not because He was beaten to a pulp. Nobody referenced seeing some badly beaten person. In fact, if you remember the Doubting Thomas incident, it was Jesus showing Thomas His nail wounds which finally convinced him (John 20:24-29). If Jesus had been beaten that bad, He could have just said "Hey, Tom, look at me. Do I look like I should even be alive now?"

    WRT Attraction...
    With "majesty," I would argue that it is a little more vague. Still, the secondary implication from that verse is that no one wanted to be around Him.

    WRT Rejection...
    I disagree. This verse works in harmony with the one above. The rejection was from "mankind" in general, not the Jews specifically. Furthermore the Bible gives several conflicting accounts, primarily on the side of the Jews being attracted to Jesus right up until the arrest, when (truly miraculously) they turn on Him without any reason, which just makes the whole story even more dubious. How many times does it mention how the Pharisees and others wanted to kill Jesus, but were afraid to take action because of how the Jews esteemed Jesus, even as a prophet?

    WRT Pierced...
    It is an odd impasse here, because Jesus death was for our sins, but the suffering up to that point was not technically part of the propitiation. No OT offering got purposefully tortured for forgiveness.

    WRT Jesus defending Himself...
    See John 8:31-59 and John 18:19-23 where Jesus defended Himself against death-threatening accusers.

    WRT Violent protest...
    Where did the protest phrase go in KJV? Indeed, this does speak of not having descendents, and does imply death, just as v10 speaks of offspring. The only way they can both be true (aside from Jesus fathering children) is to be referring to a group of people where some did die. ;-) Unless you want to go metaphorical on v10, in which case I would ask could we not do the same here?

    WRT Servant's life/death...
    Yes, you are right about my extremely annoying typo. I suck at proofreading.

    You may have misunderstood my point. It was the servant's life that was the offering; living as a suffering person. It was the living suffering that healed, not some resultant death. The death was not the offering.

    WRT the Servant's portion
    Please do not quote that abominable MSG. Science has proven MSG is bad for you. ;-)

    It is not that I am concentrating on the "portion." Rather, I am saying that the accolades this Servant will receive is common, in a sense of the word. There is no superlative to describe the king of kings and lord of lords. Instead it is just the "regular" hero's honor.

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  8. Great post and comments.

    I have one question for David, you said

    "The sections outside 53 need to be examined to see which are aimed at Christianity and which are directed to the Jews of the day."

    Forgive me if I'm misunderstanding what you are saying, but it looks like you are talking about sifting out the facts that fit the Jesus story and applying them to this prophecy. Using this methodology, couldn't you apply the same set of facts to a wide variety of stories and claim prophecy?

    To an outsider, it appears that you are just trying to retrofit the earlier story to your narrative, if that is not the case, there should be a way for someone who doesn't know the Jesus story to sift through Isaiah and identify which parts should apply to the future and which should just apply to the Jews of the time.

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  9. You asked, "Would you care to take another look at the context I reference and then discuss from that point going forward?"

    Let's begin with chapter 49. Here we see that the servant was called before his birth, in the womb (verse 1). While it's not inconceivable that a nation could be the subject of this verse, we generally speak of a person, not a nation, as coming from the womb.

    Regarding verse 3, you write: "'Israel' being a patriarch, it is almost certainly a representation of the Jews. If it is meant to be a single person, the use of the name 'Israel' makes it unlikely to be Jesus given that the name means 'he who struggles with God.'" Just as the king of a nation is sometimes called by the name of the nation itself (10:5-6 of this book is one such example), the name of the nation itself also can refer to the king, or representative, of that nation. Jesus was the great representative of all Israel. Israel means "he who struggles with God," as you say, but it also refers to God's chosen nation, the nation through which he was to provide salvation for all the world.

    In verse 4, the servant thinks that he may have labored in vain, as you point out in your commentary. All of Jesus's work resulted in no considerable success among the Jews. They rejected him as their Messiah.

    In verse 6 we see that Israel is assigned to bring back... Israel?!? This doesn't make sense, unless Israel is the Messiah. (Or, as you suggest, "a representation of the relatively small subset of Jews which remained devout in their worship of God throughout the exile.")

    In chapter 50, we again have either the Messiah (my view) or a subset of the Jews (your view). Verse 6 reads: "I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting." While (again) it's not inconceivable that these words represent the suffering of this "subset of Jews," that you speak of, during the exile, they are remarkably descriptive of the suffering of someone who was scourged and abused as Jesus was.

    In chapter 51 and the beginning of 52, God is speaking, and then we have the prophecy in question, from 52:13-53:12 (human-made divisions, of course, and, I would argue, poorly done in this and many cases). As you've noted in your most recent rebuttal, we have different views on if/how this prophecy applies to the Messiah. And then in chapter 54 God is speaking again.

    The next time I reply, I'll summarize my reasons for believing that Isaiah 53 is a prophecy that must refer to the Messiah.

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  10. Thanks Hausdorff!

    Ollie, I got stuck at work, and tomorrow seems questionable as well, but I will try to answer at least a little in the morning. In the mean time, please double-check Isaiah 49:5-6. Using the logic you provided in your rebuttal of my comment of those verses, 49:5 says that God's purpose for the Servant is to bring Israel back to Himself (God, that is, not the Servant). So if you are suggesting that every mention of Israel must mean the Servant, then God's purpose for Jesus becomes to bring Jesus back to God, which fails logic.

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  11. OK, Ollie. Let us see if we can hash this out here.

    49:1)- It would make more sense to be speaking of a single person as opposed to a group in speaking of being called before birth. However, meaning a group would not be an inconsistent way of speaking within the common uses of prophetic metaphor. Plus, we have to consider that the exile lasted on the order of 70 years, and even more for various Israelites. So the majority of those set to return were born in exile. They were the chosen generation...

    49:3)- I am not certain that your reference of 10:5-6 is appropriate. It is difficult to say for sure, but I think that is more of an anthropomorphic reference of the nation than a metaphor for the king, like what we see in 49:14 with Zion. Furthermore, some clout should be given to consistency with the author (although Isaiah was likely written by multiple authors). So, for example, Isaiah 41:8-9 should help us in discerning the meaning:
    “But you, Israel, my servant,
    Jacob, whom I have chosen,
    you descendants of Abraham my friend,
    I took you from the ends of the earth,
    from its farthest corners I called you.

    I said, ‘You are my servant’;
    I have chosen you and have not rejected you." NIV

    49:4)- That is a tricky point to argue, my friend, as Gentile Salvation is predicated on Jewish Salvation in the prophesies. ;-)

    49:6)- As suggested in my Oct 24 comment, we have to use discernment in judging what is a group of people verses what is a piece of land. Other wise, using Jesus as the 49:5 "Israel" reference does not make sense either.

    50)- Indeed, largely chapter 50 could be read either way. While 50:6 seems like Jesus, from a human perspective, there was little offering on His part. Any human captive would have "offered" his back, cheeks, and face too under those circumstances. It is only when you consider the divine aspect that it is really an offering. However, to get to 50:6, you have to go through 50:1, where people (the Israelites collectively) were punished for their sins.

    51&52)- Yes, God is speaking. And God is giving prophesy... a prophesy that God's eternal salvation will be given when the Israelites are brought back from exile and the oppressive Assyrian regime. I happen to consider that a pretty important detail. ;-)

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  12. I'll now summarize my reasons for believing that Isaiah 53 is a prophecy that refers to the Messiah. I may throw in something new as I step back and look at the big picture, so feel free (as always) to issue a rebuttal of any points I make. As usual, you can have the last word as you summarize your own arguments.

    Here are my reasons:

    At the beginning of the book, in chapter 11, we read:

    A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
    The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and of might,
    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
    and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

    He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
    or decide by what he hears with his ears;
    but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
    with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
    He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
    with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
    Righteousness will be his belt
    and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

    Only the Messiah can accurately fit a description such as this. In other chapters, such as 42, 49, and 50, we see similar language used to describe this righteous, suffering servant--language that is used in chapter 53 as well. Note the use of the word "shoot" to describe him (chapters 11 and 53), being beaten to disfigurement (50 and 53), being rejected/scorned by the people (49, 50, and 53), being innocent (11, 42, 50, and 53), etc. Chapter 53 by itself strikes even the casual reader who is familiar with the sufferings of Jesus as an uncanny description of what took place during his final days on Earth. When looked at with these other passages in mind, an even stronger case is made that this must be the Messiah who is spoken of in this chapter.

    The strongest alternative view is that it's not the Messiah, but a "righteous remnant" of the Jews who is referred to in these passages. But verses such as 53 verse 2 ("He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him"), verse 4 ("Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows"), and verse 5 ("and by his wounds we are healed"), among so many others, don't fit such a view. As Psalm 49:7 says, "no man can redeem the life of another, or give to God a ransom for him." The same is true of the "righteous remnant" of the Jews. Only the Messiah was qualified to redeem humanity. By *his* wounds, and his wounds alone, we are healed.

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  13. Ollie, let me start a rebuttal with noting your comment that:
    "Chapter 53 by itself strikes even the casual reader who is familiar with the sufferings of Jesus as an uncanny description of what took place during his final days on Earth."

    The trouble is that the prophesies are a bit esoteric. You need to understand the background to understand the meaning. Casual observation does not work right, and the human mind easily finds pattern matches where no match should exists (apophenia). For example, in your quote from Isaiah 11 we see:

    "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;"

    The mention of the "stump" is highly significant. It is defined as the remnant of the conquered Israelites, as we see in Isaiah 6:13:

    "And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.” NIV

    By the time Jesus was around, that family branch was no longer just a stump.

    And how could you accurately say that Jesus had the "fear of the Lord?" This is speaking about a pure human here. In fact, King David, aside from Bathsheba and a census issue, would be somewhat of a model for what is spoken here (1 Kings 3:6). He was, after all, a man after God's own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).

    You mention similar language, but you have to ignore the similar language that sometimes explicitly, sometimes metaphorically defines the servant as the Jews in order to claim that this servant is actually an anointed leader (Messiah), let alone specifically Jesus (Isaiah 41:8-9, Isaiah 42:18-19, Isaiah 44:1-2, Isaiah 44:21-22, Isaiah 45:1-4, Isaiah 48:20, Isaiah 49:3, Isaiah 65:9). Furthermore, this Israelite-servant did suffer in exile. Isaiah 40, which in part is ironically used to bolster Christianity's claim that John the Baptist was a forerunner for Jesus, even starts out saying that the Israelites have received their punishment for their sins twice-over at the hand of God, referring to their conquering and exile, and that there suffering will now end. Isaiah 42:18-25 tells us how God made his servant suffer. Isaiah 52:4 speaks of the oppression that the Israelites were experiencing. When you consider the context in full, I think that the picture it paints is incontrovertible.

    In the closing paragraph, you mention specific verses of Isaiah 53, and I have already presented what I think their meaning is above.

    But I do not think that your quote of Psalm 49:7 is applicable. Contextually in the Psalm, it is an expression of the fact that everyone will die, regardless of their earthly status. To take it another way would contradict the Bible, for we know that God require redemption of firstborn children (obviously not paid by the child). People did pay ransoms for their lives (Exodus 30:12). And if you are referring to atonement instead, the priests could atone for other people, among other ways as well.

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  14. A few comments on what you've written:

    1) The "shoot" in Isaiah 11 and the "stump" in Isaiah 6, though somewhat similar in their English translations, are actually different words:

    http://biblelexicon.org/isaiah/6-13.htm
    http://biblelexicon.org/isaiah/11-1.htm

    2) Could the Messiah be described as having "the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord?" It may seem strange, because Jesus *is* God, but he is also the subservient son of God the father. Consider Hebrews 5 verse 7:

    "During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission."

    Also note that Jesus knelt down when he prayed (Luke 22:41). He revered and respected his father.

    3) David was, as you say, a man after God's own heart, and a man who feared God, but I don't think he could be described as "slaying the wicked with the breath of his lips," or having righteousness as his belt or faithfulness as the "sash around his waist." This was the guy who slept with Bathsheba and had her husband killed, who ate the "shewbread," which was only to be eaten by priests, who demonstrated a lack of faith in God by taking a census of the people.... He did very great things, but also very wicked things.

    4) Priests could atone for sins under the Law, but:

    "Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins." (Hebrews 10:11)

    In Isaiah 53:5 where we read, "the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed," I conclude that it's not through the wounds of priests, or sacrificial animals, or David, or a righteous group of Israelites that we are truly healed. Only the death of the Messiah could accomplish that.

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  15. Hi Ollie. I am thinking that maybe we take these one at a time.

    1) I was comparing "stumps" there, not "shoot" to "stump", but I think you knew that. Still, even the stumps are different. The ironic thing is that "stump" from Isaiah 6:13, "matstsebah" transliterated, is actually an inferior word choice in a way to the "stump" in Isaiah 11:1, "geza" transliterated. You can easily use "geza" in place of "matstsebeh" in Isaiah 6:13 and still retain the meaning. Visa-versa is a little more difficult with "matstsebeh" more commonly meaning "pillar" than "stump." If you look at the other uses of "geza," "stump" (Job 14:7-8) or "root stock" (Isaiah 40:24) come to mind, so this ties in very well with the point I was making. The stump is the remnant of the exiles, regardless of what word is used in this case.

    In fact, "root," being part of the root stock stump, is easily seen as another tie into this exiled remnant, as we also see in Isaiah 11:1, and in Isaiah 11:10. (Isaiah was fond of this root-remnant metaphor, and used it for the Philistine remnant in Isaiah 14:30 too.) This root was pulled out of its ground in Israel, so it is only natural that it would need to be planted there again, as we find referenced in Isaiah 27:6 and Isaiah 37:31. And that is likely why we see in Isaiah 53:2 the reference to the servant being "like a root out of dry ground." It (the servant/the pious remnant) was growing up outside of the fertile soil of Israel where it belonged.

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  16. Point 2 Ollie:
    John records Jesus as saying this with respect to His impending death:

    John 10:17-18
    "The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father." NIV

    John 12:27
    "Now My heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save Me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour." NIV

    The author of Hebrews was sorely misguided, in many ways.

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  17. Point 3 Ollie:
    Why do you lay charges to David which even God does not? 1 Kings 15:5 says this of him:

    For David had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD and had not failed to keep any of the LORD’s commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite. NIV

    (see also 1 Kings 3:14)

    Or are you pointing out a contradiction in the Bible for me? In which case, thanks!

    Now, about "slaying the wicked with the breath of his lips," what could that mean? While there may be other magical meanings, there is one obvious real meaning: power. Even the slightest utterance from his lips could result in the death of the wicked... as carried out by others. And, yes, David had this power. Furthermore, he executed it against Joab in 1 Kings 2:5-6. Solomon used that same power soon after, in 1 Kings 2:24-25, against Adonijah.

    OK, back to the garments of righteousness... You, and any Christian, should know all too well about the power of forgiveness. Did David make a mistake or two? Sure. But he honestly and earnestly repented. That is why we see God saying things like in 1 Kings 9:4:

    "As for you (Solomon), if you walk before me faithfully with integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws," NIV

    And we see the contrasting comparison between Solomon's divergence and David's pure devotion in 1 Kings 11:4:

    "As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been." NIV

    ... and in 1 Kings 11:6:
    "So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done." NIV

    And this is why David is used as official benchmark of righteousness throughout Kings and Chronicles:
    1 Kings 15:3, 1 Kings 15:11, 2 Kings 14:3, 2 Kings 16:2, 2 Kings 18:3, 2 Kings 22:2, 2 Chronicles 7:17, 2 Chronicles 17:3, 2 Chronicles 28:1, 2 Chronicles 29:2, 2 Chronicles 34:2

    So, yes, David wore that clothing of righteousness.

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  18. Point 4 Ollie:

    Quite frankly, the author of Hebrews did not know what he was talking about. He has a point of view which is fundamentally incompatible with the OT. Take this incomplete list for example:

    Leviticus 4:19-20
    "He (the priest) shall remove all the fat from it and burn it on the altar, and do with this bull just as he did with the bull for the sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for the community, and they will be forgiven." NIV

    Leviticus 4:26
    "He (the priest) shall burn all the fat on the altar as he burned the fat of the fellowship offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for the leader’s sin, and he will be forgiven." NIV

    Leviticus 6:7
    "In this way the priest will make atonement for them before the Lord, and they will be forgiven for any of the things they did that made them guilty." NIV

    Leviticus 19:22
    "With the ram of the guilt offering the priest is to make atonement for him before the LORD for the sin he has committed, and his sin will be forgiven." NIV

    Furthermore, God will forgive without bloodshed. Sometimes all it takes is a prayer, like what we find with Moses' prayer in:

    Numbers 14:19-20
    "...In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now."
    The Lord replied, "I have forgiven them, as you asked." NIV

    Sometimes it just takes humble repentance, like we see in:

    2 Chronicles 7:14
    "...if My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." NIV

    Hebrews essentially calls God a liar. Given that you need the OT to have a Jesus, but you do not need a Hebrews (epistle) to have one, I think you should side with the OT here.

    This is just a cursory list. I could bury you in quotes of how forgiveness actually works.

    When you read in Isaiah 53:5 that "the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed," you should keep in mind the concept of the exiled remnant. They were a remnant, because God orchestrated the slaughter of the majority of the population for their collective sins. Now, while I think that this is referring to those who remained pious even in their exile, it would be good to consider as well that it was through the punishment and death of the majority of the Jewish nation that the remnant was able to live on and have the hope and promise of restoration to the Promised Land. It all synchronizes very well...

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  19. Hi. I'll follow your lead and look at each issue individually, with a modicum of review as necessary in order to keep things clear.

    Point 1) My intention with regard to the word "shoot," used in both chapter 53 and chapter 11, was to make a connection with what I see as the clearly Messianic prophecy in chapter 11. You pointed out that "stump", another horticultural metaphor, is also used in chapter 6 to refer to "the remnant of the conquered Israelites." Your statement, "This root was pulled out of its ground in Israel, so it is only natural that it would need to be planted there again," is perhaps a good conclusion of the matter. This could apply equally well, I think, to the Messiah or to the remnant.

    Point 2) Who was in charge--Jesus or God the father? I think that's the question you've created here. I would answer the question this way: God the father was in charge because Jesus allowed him to be. It's voluntary submission versus involuntary submission. The verse you quoted--"I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father"--is referring to Jesus's power over *people*, not his father, but regardless, the salient issue is "who's the boss," and the answer is God the father. But only because Jesus allows him to be. ;-)

    Point 3) I stand by the charges I made against David. He was a great king--perhaps the best Israel had--and that's why the verse you quoted (1 Kings 15:5) speaks of him as having done "right in the eyes of the Lord," but he sinned in each of the ways I listed, and of course in many, many other ways, like every human who has ever lived. Relative to other people, and certainly relative to other kings, he was good (he walked before God "faithfully with integrity of heart and uprightness"), but of course "no one is righteous--not even one" (Romans 3:10), and that's why he cannot, in my view, be the one spoken of who has "righteousness as his belt."

    Point 4) If my daughter were to run through the house carelessly and break a vase, I would put her in "time out" for 30 minutes, and then I would forgive her. But being in "time out" does not pay for the vase--it merely forces her to (hopefully) think about her actions, and punishes her. Likewise, when the Israelites made atonement for their sins by sacrificing their valuable animals, God forgave them for their sins (just as I forgave my daughter), but the sins were not actually paid for by these sacrifices (just as my daughter's "time out" did not actually pay for the vase). Only Jesus could pay for sins. And only cash can pay for a new vase. ;-)

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  20. Ollie, the ball is in your court again.

    Point 1) Indeed, you were focused on the "shoot," and that is why I felt the need to point to additional context. :-) I am glad you can at least see where I am getting my view from, even if you do not agree. I think the weight of evidence is on my side, but I am a little biased that way. ;-)

    Point 2) I am not sure, but I think you got your wires crossed there. You had earlier quoted Hebrews 5:7, part of which said:

    "...He offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save Him from death..."

    This implies that Jesus both tried to get out of the crucifixion and that he was not in control of His own life. Meanwhile, John 10:17-18 shows that Jesus had absolute control over, not only His life, but His own resurrection as well. And the quote from John 12:27 shows that even though Jesus did not want to be nailed to a cross, He was not going to ask to avoid it because that was His purpose.

    Point 3) Yes, David sinned, but David was forgiven. That is the point here. The Bible speaks of many righteous people, and yet it also says that all have sinned. There is only one way I know to reconcile those two points: God's forgiveness. Can it be any other way? Or are you trying to say that once you sin, you are forever stained? Because the OT does not agree with that perspective.

    Point 4) Friend, did I not warn you about the topic of forgiveness? I know you are only going off of the Christian standards, but, I tell you plainly, they are not right. Please read the following quote of Leviticus 26:40-45, which speaks, not only of paying for sins, but doing so in the exact way I have described; through the exile:

    “‘But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors—their unfaithfulness and their hostility toward me, which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies—then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. For the land will be deserted by them and will enjoy its sabbaths while it lies desolate without them. They will pay for their sins because they rejected my laws and abhorred my decrees. Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them or abhor them so as to destroy them completely, breaking my covenant with them. I am the Lord their God. But for their sake I will remember the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God. I am the Lord.’” NIV

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  21. Let's hope it's not a protracted volley. ;-)

    Point 1) Yes, I do see where you're getting your view from. We can wrap this one up, I think.

    Point 2) As is typical of me, I've focused strictly on the most immediate issue at the expense of neglecting the overall debate. Let's take a look at the history of this issue in an attempt to clarify our respective positions:

    You began with "how could you accurately say that Jesus had the 'fear of the Lord?'"

    I replied by quoting Hebrews and saying that Jesus is "the subservient son" and he "revered and respected his father."

    You continued by explaining that "the author of Hebrews was sorely misguided" and quoting a verse from John 10 ("The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—-only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.").

    Then I wrote that "God the father was in charge because Jesus allowed him to be."

    That last statement doesn't further my argument, I realize, but it's the truth nevertheless. Let me summarize my position this way: Even though they are equal in power, Jesus voluntarily submits to God the father, and fears him. This "fear" is not like a fear of the dark--it's more like the fear you had (or *should* have had!) for your high school principal. "Respect" is perhaps a better word.

    (to be continued)

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  22. 3) Although the word "righteous" can be used as a relative term (e.g., 1 Sam 24:17: "You are more righteous than I"), there is no one *truly* righteous. No one can meet God's standard of perfection. No one can enter God's presence (Heaven) based on his or her righteousness, because we are all guilty of sin. That's explained quite well in the Bible. But I do see your point, which is that David is spoken of very favorably throughout the Old and New Testaments, so perhaps he could be the one of whom it is said, "righteousness will be his belt." Ultimately I disagree that David could be the one spoken of here. Looking at the passage (Isaiah 11) again:

    He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
    or decide by what he hears with his ears;
    but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
    with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
    He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
    with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
    Righteousness will be his belt
    and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

    To me it seems clear that only someone with superhuman power--and superhuman righteousness--could fit this description. He will judge with something other than his eyes, and decide matters with something other than his ears? He will strike the earth with the "rod of his mouth," and slay the wicked with the breath of his lips? He is so righteous and faithful as to be described as wearing these things as garments? I don't know of any other place in the Bible where a mere mortal is described using such language. This is the language of praise and perfection, reserved for God alone. If there *is* a passage that even remotely uses such language, you will undoubtedly find it. ;-)

    4) The reason that all translations besides the NIV and the New Living Translation render the phrase in Leviticus that you have in bold as "they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity" (or something very similar) is that "they pay for their sin" can be very misleading, as you've discovered. The Israelites are not taking actions that will pay for their sins. They are "accepting favorably" the judgment of God. Even the NIV's translation makes this plain in verse 43, which you've quoted above: "They will pay for their sins because they rejected my laws and abhorred my decrees." The next sentence goes on to say, "Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them."

    The NIV's rendering *can* make sense, if you know in advance what's being said, but of course most people don't read the Bible knowing in advance what's being said, so this is a very good case in point of "loose" translations being dangerous. It's the reason, I think, that you don't like paraphrased versions of the Bible, such as the MSG, and it's a good reason to be very careful with the NIV, as well.

    For reference:

    http://bible.cc/leviticus/26-41.htm
    http://biblelexicon.org/leviticus/26-41.htm

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  23. Ollie
    Point 1)- Done

    Point 2)- There is a fundamental difference between Jesus and any of us, though. We do not necessarily want to do the will of God. Jesus always wants to do the will of God, and depending on your theology, He has no choice but to do the will of God given that He is also God. ;-) But if He had a choice, He still wanted nothing other than to do the will of God.

    In my opinion, that is an important distinction because that is where fear, or the slightly emasculated "respect," comes into play. We want something other than the will of God, but out of fear we submit to His will. Now what "fear" amounts to may be debatable; fear of punishment from God, fear of disappointing God, fear of going contrary to God's plans and thereby missing out, etc. But underneath that fear is an aspect of the unknown. We don't know exactly what will happen if we choose to do our will instead of God's.

    There is a subtle but significance difference in "I want to do this, but because God says to do that I will fear Him and do that" versus "I will do God's will, but I'd be grateful if it could happen an easier way." It's a different attitude and perspective.

    That is why I think any reference to "fear of God" is can't be solidly aligned with Jesus, and in fact in some ways contradicts what Jesus was. On the other hand, if it is referring to a man, then it makes perfect sense. So at best I think you can claim that this phrase is ambiguous in the case of Jesus.

    Point 3)- You ask about:

    He will judge with something other than his eyes, and decide matters with something other than his ears?
    - He will not judge just based on appearances and rumors... sounds like what we try to do in our mortal justice system every day! This is not at all a divine reference, but rather speaks of investigating matters.

    He will strike the earth with the "rod of his mouth," and slay the wicked with the breath of his lips?
    - This is the most divine-sounding part, for sure, if you take it literally. But how much of that passage is meant to be taken literally? Not much. As mentioned before, this could also be seen as the absolute power of a great king, who, by mere commands, has unjust people killed and changes the nation, and/or nations. This description matches many kings in history.

    He is so righteous and faithful as to be described as wearing these things as garments?
    - As I was saying about the literalness... (By the way, I thought you were the one who is supposed to ping me on being overly literal.) Let me ask you this: Suppose you had made a mistake once. I know, it's unlikely. ;-) But then suppose you became the king of a small island nation somewhere through some strange family lineage or lottery. What if you tried to do everything righteously as king, such that no one could find fault with your ruling? Would you be surprised if they called you a righteous leader, even though you had made that one mistake before you were king?

    OK, I have some challenges for you:
    Find in the OT where it says that "there is no one *truly* righteous."

    Explain how you can be sure that the righteousness spoken of in Isaiah 11 refers to some sort of perfected, true righteousness.

    (to be continued)

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  24. Point 4)- Well, Ollie, I have tried not to just bury you in a litany of quoted verses, and I would still prefer not to in favor of a discussion. So let us talk on a few points here. First, a step back.

    Please answer this question: What debt needs to be paid to God? Your reference of the broken vase is a beautiful explanation, but I see no way that this could be accurate regarding God. We do not break God's lamp when we sin, such that there is a discrete cost associated with each sin. As best as I can tell (so correct me if I am wrong), when it comes down to God sin is simply an offence to Him. If we break anything, we do but break His heart. How do you "pay" for that? Tell me, precisely what did Jesus pay? This is important to know so that we are speaking of the same kind of payment here. Because as far as I understand it, this "payment" is simply something which results in the removal or the pardoning of sin. Because if God claims that the sin is "removed," or that the sin is "pardoned," or that the sin is "forgotten," then to me it is as good as "paid for." There are no vases to be replaced.

    As for Leviticus 26:40-45 I quoted, I think it is best to get to the root of the words here. I did not come up with the "pay for" meaning by myself, you know! ;-) You have got "ratsah," which is often used to indicate acceptance, making acceptable, and even making ammends, and "avon," which is usually translated as iniquity. How can you make iniquity acceptable if you have not "paid for" it? This appears to me to be a very valid translation, even if the other versions do not do so. Does that make sense?

    Here is another quote, Isaiah 40:2
    "Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins." NIV

    Now this is another case where the NIV deviated from the norm, but the intent behind the words are the same. Other versions usually use something to the effect of "her sins are pardoned," but you have to also consider the context of why her sins are pardoned. That comes in the latter half of the verse, that "she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins." That is a reference to the punishment given through the exile.

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  25. As seems to be typical, we have gone well beyond the confines of the immediate subject matter and delved into theological issues that have been debated for thousands of years by scholars far wiser than we are. I find it very interesting but I apologize for “polluting” the subject at hand.

    Point 2) You wrote: “Jesus always wants to do the will of God.” Hmm. During his time on Earth, he struggled with doing his father's will, as can be seen in Matt 26:39 (”My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”). If some evil sicko said he was going to shoot either you or your wife, and gave you the choice as to which one, I think you would choose yourself. That would be “the will of God” (to do such a selfless act), but “the will of the Wise Fool” would be to preserve your own life. I think such is the case with Jesus. His flesh often did not want to do the will of God, so there was an internal conflict. Being perfect, however, he always overcame his fleshly desires.

    You also wrote: “He has no choice but to do the will of God given that He is also God.” That's a statement that we could debate for weeks, so I won't even start, but I'll just say that I'm not prepared to agree.

    You equate the “fear of God” with fear as we commonly understand it--being afraid of the consequences. I fear skydiving because I'm afraid of the possible consequences. I fear the police because if I do the wrong thing and they witness it, bad things will happen to me. Such fear is more-or-less uncontrollable; you're either scared or you're not. If you're not afraid of the dark, I can't say, “Be afraid of the dark!,” and expect that to happen. And yet that's what God is doing in Leviticus 25:17, for example, when God commands the Israelites to fear him. This is one of the reasons I view “fear of God” as respect for his power and authority, as opposed to fright.

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  26. Point 3) In your “king of a small island nation” scenario: No, I would not be surprised if the islanders called me a righteous leader. Of course, David made his big mistake *while* he was king.

    You ask, “Find in the OT where it says that 'there is no one *truly* righteous.'” Nowhere does it say these words exactly (“truly righteous”), but here a couple of OT verses on the subject:

    Ecclesiastes 7:20: “Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous”

    Psalm 14:3: “there is no one who does good, not even one”

    Isaiah 64:6: “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags”

    I can't be sure that “Isaiah 11 refers to some sort of perfected, true righteousness.” I concede that it's possible God was referring to someone who was righteous only in the sense that he followed the commandments, as in, for example, the case of Noah in Genesis 7:1. But nowhere in the Bible is there a passage that extols the righteousness of a man as we see in Isaiah 11, and that, combined with what I view as the other “superhuman” traits and abilities of the subject of Isaiah 11, leads me to my conclusion that only the Messiah can be this person.

    Point 4) I do not believe that sin is simply an offense to God, as you believe. If my son calls my daughter a horrible and hurtful name, for example, there is no “discrete cost” that must be paid, and yet there must be a punishment in order for justice to be served. If I don't punish my son, my daughter will rightly cry out that it's not fair that he should "get away" with such an act. Things won't be right in her world--or in mine--until a payment has been made for the wrong that was done. There's more involved than just a broken heart. Jesus paid the price for all sin by enduring spiritual separation from God, and possibly (this is a mystery) enduring his spiritual wrath, as well, in addition to the things commonly associated with his death on the cross (shame, physical torture, humiliation, etc.).

    The sacrifices of the OT times were *accepted* by God as payment for the time being, but they did not actually remove the sin, because only a perfect human could so. That's the reason that not just any animal was accepted as sacrifice--only a spotless one. The idea was to point to the need for a perfect sacrifice.

    In Leviticus 26 God is making the Israelites pay for their sin in such a way that it's acceptable (making amends, “ratsah”) to him, but that doesn't mean that the sin is actually paid for. Similarly, sending an old man to jail for killing a child is making him pay in such a way that society accepts it as punishment, but that's not true justice. (All the more if he's 65 years old and dies of a heart attack the very next year.)

    In Isaiah 40 we have a similar case in that God has meted out punishment to the nation. “Her sin has been paid for,” which means that there will be no further punishment for the nation.

    Well, I'm not sure who you'll be giving thanks to, but nevertheless, enjoy your Thanksgiving! Eat wisely!

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  27. Excellent replies, Ollie. As usual, they often serve to highlight the inconsistency in the Bible itself, which helps to explain why we have different points of view. Now let me pick them apart, as usual. ;-)

    Point 2)- Whether or not Jesus struggled with fulfilling the will of God depends on which Gospel you look at and how you take the meaning of the words. You mention the Matthew quote, which the other Synoptics of Mark and Luke agree with. I mentioned before how John 12:27 takes a different stance altogether:
    "Now My heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save Me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour." NIV

    Given Jesus' knowledge of His role and God's plan, I submit to you that John's take is the only one that makes logical sense, and suggest that Matthew and Luke only have their quotes because they were plagiarizing Mark to a large extent.

    Yet even in the Synoptic quotes, as I said and the verses attest to, Jesus only wants to do God's will. Now by "only," I do not necessarily mean that He didn't have any different thoughts of His own (which is a bit of a theological problem as well, but we can leave that for the theologians who try to figure out the number of angels that can fit on a pin head). I just mean that it is the prime directive which trumps all others. That directive is agreeable to even the verse you quote.

    I know we could debate whether or not Jesus could do something other than God's will, and pointlessly so. But I'll say that the common theology is that Jesus was "fully God and fully man." I don't remember if that is your flavor of belief or not. But if so, anything Jesus wanted to do was inherent what God wanted to do, because He was God. Cognitive dissonance is great, and all, but unless you are demon-possessed, that will belongs to the self-same person, which was God in the case of Jesus.

    As for fear, there are many flavors. Indeed, some is uncontrollable. But make no mistake. Fear of the dark is not at all analogous to fear of sentient authority, especially one who is omniscient and omnipotent. While I would agree that "respect" carries much of the meaning, fear is the more accurate sense of the word. Why else would it have been chosen? Why else do you find in Philippians 2:12:
    "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling," NIV

    (to be continued)

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  28. Point 3)- Yes, and as David said:
    2 Samuel 22:25
    "The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in his sight." NIV

    2 Samuel 23:3-5
    "The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me: ‘When one rules over people in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God,... ...If my house were not right with God, surely he would not have made with me an everlasting covenant, arranged and secured in every part; surely he would not bring to fruition my salvation and grant me my every desire." NIV

    And Solomon speaking of David, said in 1 Kings 3:6:
    "Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day." NIV

    Now if Solomon really wrote Ecclesiastes, then he has contradicted himself. Now, what of your other quotes...

    Psalms, well, that is a song, of course. And you know the nature of songs as far as artistic exaggeration.

    And Isaiah 64:4? Tsk. Tsk. You take the quote out of the context of the verse itself! For it starts:

    "All of us have become like one who is unclean,..."

    This does not suggest a permanent status; that all acts of human righteousness are like filthy rags. No! It is speaking of a state which the Israelites had become at one particular time in history, as the preceding verse clearly indicates.

    Now, how about we take a look at the NT, Luke 1:6, speaking of John the Baptist's parents...

    "Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly." NIV

    Why would Proverbs 20:7 exist if there were no righteous people?

    "The righteous lead blameless lives; blessed are their children after them." NIV

    Isaiah 1:21 even claims that righteousness was once commonplace in Jerusalem!

    Friend, I tell you, this is a topic worthy of re-examination in the Bible, because the Jewish view is considerably different than the Christian one, and the quotes fall in favor in quantity and significance on the side of the Jewish perspective.

    (to be continued)

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  29. Point 4)- In your example you say "yet there must be a punishment in order for justice to be served. If I don't punish my son, my daughter will rightly cry out that it's not fair that he should "get away" with such an act."

    There is the heart of it right there, is it not? The justice, the demand for fairness, comes from the wronged party. What if your daughter chose to forgive your son, or simply dismissed him as being foolish?

    That may be hard to imagine with your particular children, but imagine that the age spread was a decade, and the offensive comment had been made by a four-year-old to a fourteen-year-old. Would it not be common, if not expected, for the fourteen-year-old to simply shrug off the offense? How much more inferior our understanding would be to that of God than a four- to a fourteen-year-old? How much more cause would God have to simply laugh off the perceived offense?

    That is not to say that discipline should not be applied. But the purpose of the disciple is to teach the right course of action, not to really evoke "justice." Punishment is not even necessary when there is true repentance, because that shows that the learning has already been done.

    There is no cosmic force demanding justice be done. There is nothing God answers to. It is God's choice, and His choice alone to decide what makes things "right." Yet in Christian theology, He demanded a death and suffering when there needed to be none, to satisfy His own indignation. All that was really needed was a little discipline and repentance.

    Psalm 51:17
    "My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise." NIV

    In fact, to a large extent, I would say Jesus' sacrifice has done nothing, because we still need a little discipline and repentance.

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  30. Point 2) I think the verse from Matthew and the verse from John taken together give a more complete picture than either one looked at individually. They also give ammunition to those seeking to find inconsistencies in the Bible. Heaven forbid an autobiography be written about my life. It would be so full of such inconsistencies that people would doubt my very existence. I mean, just two days ago, on Wednesday, I talked about how much I love Thanksgiving dinner, and today, Friday, all I've done is complain about how much I *hate* Thanksgiving dinner. ;-)

    In John we see Jesus saying that even though his heart is troubled, he will not ask God to rescue him, because the plan is for him to die. In Matthew we see Jesus asking God if there's any other way, but then accepting that there is no other way--as he knew all along. I imagine I would sound quite similar if I had to give up my life. One second I would be telling myself, "I'm going to do this!," and the next I would be begging God to spare me. These verses paint a picture of a man in agony, and as verses like Luke 22:44 attest, he definitely was a man in agony.

    For the record, those who do not believe that Jesus was "fully God and fully man" are considered to be outside of Christianity. Mormons, for example, believe the Jesus was just a man (who later became a god), and although they consider themselves to be Christians, no one else does. Except for, perhaps, Billy Graham as he was supporting Romney, but I digress....

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  31. Point 3) The first two verses you quote talk about righteousness as a relative term. "The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness," for example, does not indicate that the subject is perfectly righteous, but that God has rewarded him to the extent that he is. In other words, to the degree that he has been good, God has rewarded him. The third verse is quoting Solomon talk about his father.

    I understand the context of Isaiah 64. The statement that righteous acts do not make one perfectly righteous is a truth alluded to not only here but in many places throughout the Bible. Righteous acts cannot make one acceptable in God's sight. "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God's sight by the works of the law." (Romans 3:20). Yes, John the Baptists' parents observed the commandments blamelessly, as you point out. And yet, they were not considered righteous, unless we change a few verses as follows:

    Romans 3:10, modified translation: "There is none righteous, not even one ... oops, except for John's parents, of course."

    Romans 3:23, modified translation: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God--well, all besides John's parents, that is."

    But, as I'm starting to understand, you're choosing to ignore all that the NT has to say about this topic because you believe that it's inconsistent with the OT. That being the case, you really should do a blog post on this issue, as this is a major departure from a very fundamental tenet of Christianity, and one that deserves a full write-up.

    Part 4) I know I'm looking at this example entirely from the eyes of a parent here, but in this case I can't resist, because I happen to have a child who does exactly that. My son could slap her in the face, and she would instantly forgive him because she is the quintessential peace-maker. I admire that about her, but at the same time I recognize that by doing so she is creating a monster, and justice is *not* being served. At the other extreme I have a daughter who won't forgive my son for merely looking at her the wrong way. Someone needs to be a fair judge here. And I believe that's the case with the big picture, as well. Some people forgive everything, for any reason. Others won't *ever* forgive some things, no matter what. To me it all points to a desperate need that exists for a fair judge.

    You write: "There is no cosmic force demanding justice be done. There is nothing God answers to." I tend to disagree with that view. If God were to "shrug off" an offense (the intentional killing of a child, let's say), then he would no longer be God. He could certainly no longer claim to be just and good, as he has done in the Bible. I *do* believe that God *must* fairly judge evil. Not because of a cosmic force, but because of his very nature.

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  32. Ollie
    Point 2)- Jesus being human is largely accepted. As for Jesus being "fully God," that works on a much larger scale of intricacy. My guess is that your "fully" is not as "full" as others would take it, and yet more "full" than still others. "Fully" is a spectrum. For it is impossible for God to die, but we speak of Jesus' death on the cross. God should know His own thoughts, and yet Jesus prayed to God. God should be omniscient, and at times it seems that Jesus was, while at others it did not seem that way. And as I made the argument, if Jesus was "fully God," than anything that Jesus wanted to do was, by definition, the will of God. So Jesus never could go against the will of God.

    That is also important because Jesus had been around for an eternity before being born, and had been intimately involved in the plan of Salvation, if you can believe that. So, while it may have made sense for you to ask for another way (being mortal and having imperfect knowledge), it becomes rather ridiculous when Jesus asks for another way, regardless of how much His heart was troubled. That is only John makes sense, in my opinion.

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  33. Next part, Ollie
    Point 3)- You said "The first two verses you quote talk about righteousness as a relative term." Did you miss the part about David saying that "If my house were not right with God, surely he would not have made with me an everlasting covenant, arranged and secured in every part"? Because that seems pretty absolute to me.

    You said "I understand the context of Isaiah 64. The statement that righteous acts do not make one perfectly righteous is a truth alluded to not only here but in many places throughout the Bible." You are only partly right, and Romans is very wrong on many accounts. For example, Deuteronomy 6:20-25 explicitly states that the meaning of the Law is for the Israelites to obey it in order to prosper in the Promised Land, and that such obedience will be righteousness, which directly contradicts Paul in Romans 3:20. Given the choice of believing Paul or God, I vote for God. ;-)

    Now here is how you are right: Righteous acts in and of themselves do not create righteousness. That is what we see in Isaiah 64, as well as other places where God rejected the righteous acts of the Israelites.

    And that brings us to the central point I have been making about forgiveness: it is God's decision. It does not require blood or the death of anything innocent. It requires God to make a choice to forgive; the choice to accept the acts of atonement. Those acts can be what is in the Law (if your heart is in it), or they can be honest repentance, or they can be zealous punishment of wrongdoers, like we see with Phineas in Numbers 25.

    Forgiveness is a choice; God's choice, and one that does not require a sacrifice at all. That is the consistent OT message.

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  34. Last one Ollie:
    Point 4)- You said "To me it all points to a desperate need that exists for a fair judge."

    Do you not realize that God is not promising to be that "fair judge?" Those who are Saved will not be judged fairly, by (Christian) definition. Those who are not Saved will be judged most severely. But the basis of that severe judgement is founded on belief and faith, not on action and character.

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  35. I believe as most Christians do with regard to the humanity of Jesus. That is, I believe that he willingly gave up most of his supernatural power when he came to Earth. It could be argued, in fact, that he gave up *all* of his power, only receiving it sporadically as it was given to him from his father.

    You point out that if Jesus was "fully God," then it follows that anything Jesus wanted to do was, by definition, "the will of God." But this is glossing over the fact that Jesus is a separate person, distinct from God the father, and while I do believe that their goals and ideals are the same, I also believe that when Jesus was "in the flesh," he was torn between the will of his Godly nature and the will of his fleshly nature. I think I can relate to this dichotomy. I have a strong desire to do what's right, and I also have a strong desire to do what's wrong. This "battle of the wills" is something that goes on all the time in my life. It's comforting to me to know that Jesus experienced a similar battle of the wills. But regardless of your view on this issue, we should bear in mind that the original question is whether or not Jesus feared his father. I *think* your argument is that the Bible says that Jesus revered and submitted to God the father, but did not "fear" him in the sense of being afraid. My view is that the word "fear," as it is used in the context of "fearing the Lord," means to revere and submit to another person. That helps to explain how it can be possible to command a person to "fear the Lord" (Duet. 10:20) and to "learn to fear the Lord" (Duet. 31:13). I'm not sure it's possible to command someone to "be afraid" or to "learn to be afraid."

    You say, "it becomes rather ridiculous when Jesus asks for another way," because Jesus was (presumably) involved in the plan of salvation. But have you not had the experience of planning to do something difficult, only to have mixed feelings when it was time to go through with it? Could you not imagine saying to yourself, "If it's possible, I want to avoid this, but whatever needs to be done, I'm willing to do it"?

    (to be continued)

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  36. Being "right with God" is indeed a relative concept to me. I consider myself to be "right with God" right now, because I'm in communication with him, doing his will, avoiding blatant sin, etc., but I certainly wouldn't claim that I'm living life in a state of moral perfection. Even at this very moment, my thoughts betray my true feelings, which are less than Godly. I'm doing well, but not well enough for God's standard.

    As easy as it would be to argue with your statement that forgiveness "does not require blood or the death of anything innocent," I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I think you're right, *in a way*. The sacrifice of animals was only acceptable as payment for sin because God decided it was so. I believe that. But beyond that, we disagree. You believe that the Israelites who paid for their sins with sacrificial animals took care of their sins that way, and will be accepted into Heaven on that basis. I believe that God merely credited their faith as righteousness, as your much-despised nemesis Paul wrote in Romans 4:5 ("to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness"). That's the reason, in my view, that even some of those people who didn't follow the Law, and some of those who died never hearing the name of Jesus, and those who were too mentally deficient to understand salvation, can still go to Heaven. Ultimately, it's God's decision who is forgiven and who is not. But that forgiveness is acceptable *only* because it was paid for through the sacrifice of Jesus. That's where you and I disagree.

    You made an argument that bears repeating: "Do you not realize that God is not promising to be that "fair judge?" Those who are Saved will not be judged fairly, by (Christian) definition. Those who are not Saved will be judged most severely. But the basis of that severe judgement is founded on belief and faith, not on action and character." I hear what you're saying loud and clear (at least I think I do). But I believe that God will judge as he sees fit, and not according to any set of rules. I think many who have called themselves "saved" will hear, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!" (Matt 7:23), and many who have considered themselves "unsaved" will be surprised when they are welcomed into Heaven, as Rahab the prostitute will be (James 2:25).

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  37. Hello again, Ollie
    Point 2)- Regarding Jesus, this is going to get a little deep...

    You say that "he willingly gave up most of his supernatural power when he came to Earth. It could be argued, in fact, that he gave up *all* of his power, only receiving it sporadically as it was given to him from his father." Indeed, that is like what I have heard before. I would argue then that Jesus was not "fully" God. God without the power of creation, without perfect omniscience, etc. is not fully God, as God is defined by these attributes. For example, if Superman gave up his X-ray vision, super strength, power to fly, etc., he would no longer be Superman; he would be just "man." :-) Being "fully" God and fully man would be more like when Superman pretended to be just Clark Kent, the reporter; still the same guy with the same powers, because those powers were inherent to him.

    I am not glossing over Jesus and God being distinct, rather I am putting forth the only way that logically works, I think. Sin is that which is against the will of God. If Jesus and God do not have perfectly synchronized wills, then given a long enough time line there will assuredly be sin between the two. So they may as distinct as the two hands on my keyboard, but these two hands are ruled by one will, working in perfect unison as I type.

    Back to the point though, you say "I have a strong desire to do what's right, and I also have a strong desire to do what's wrong" in relating to how it must have been for Jesus being both man and God. That reminded me of James 1:8:

    "Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do." NIV

    Not that James 1:8 is a directly applicable reference, but it is illustrative in this case. It is hard to imagine that Jesus, even being human, had a strong desire to do what was wrong, when He Himself condemned such desires as being sinful. So while I can completely understand where you are coming from, and yours appears to be a robust perspective of the realistic nature of being human, I feel that such an approach glosses over Jesus' alleged sinlessness and perfection, as well as God's.

    For example, how could Jesus asking God for another way be reconciled with Numbers 23:19:

    "God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?" NIV

    We may have to just agree to disagree here, but again, I feel that what John's said regarding not asking God to change is the only perspective that makes sense, and that the Synoptics are wrong on that point.

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  38. Next half Ollie:
    Point 3)- "I consider myself to be "right with God" right now... ...I'm doing well, but not well enough for God's standard." Yeah, you may not be doing perfectly, but, then, God is not rewarding you with an everlasting dynasty of kingship either, like He did David! Now that requires a high degree of righteousness.

    Ultimately, I think that you have recognized that it is God's choice which grants the forgiveness of sins, given that you have agreed with me in a way. When you look at God's rejection of the Jewish offerings, it was because they were not being sincere in their sacrifice. God made the laws of atoning sacrifices, effectively stating "this is how you tell Me that you are sorry for sinning." Just like how we are unlikely to accept an insincere apology, we find God reacting the same. So, in a way, the author of Hebrews is right, because it was not the blood of animals that granted forgiveness any more than saying "I am sorry" grants forgiveness. Rather, it is the offended party's acceptance, God's acceptance, of that "apology," that sacrifice, which provided forgiveness. Do you think that is that a fair summary?

    Now, in your reply, you delved into matters of Heaven, and of course we vary significantly in that arena. Of fundamental importance is the fact that there is no covenant for entrance into Heaven in the OT. OT-based resurrection itself is debatable, which is why there were Sadducees in Jesus' time. But even given resurrection, the prophesies are terrestrial, where animal sacrifices will be performed forever, as we see in Ezekiel 40+ and Jeremiah 33, like we see in Jeremiah 33:17-18

    "For this is what the Lord says: ‘David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of Israel, nor will the Levitical priests ever fail to have a man to stand before me continually to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to present sacrifices.’” NIV

    You closed with "But I believe that God will judge as he sees fit, and not according to any set of rules...." and some words that may even give me a prostitute's chance of getting into Heaven. ;-) But again I would have to challenge the "fairness" of the judgement. Besides the Catholic fiction of Purgatory, the fate which awaits the rejected seems more or less absolute. If I am not mistaken, your thoughts of where the "goats" go is more likely to be annihilation than the eternal torment of Hell. But still that is a one-size-fits-all judgement. Capitol punishment for the office pencil thief and the serial murder alike. Such a judgement appears to go against the "shadow" of God's Law which wisely had different graduations of punishment, and which permitted return to society after the purging of sins.

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  39. You weren't kidding when you said it was gonna get a little deep!

    We might not be able to come to a conclusion on this issue, so the best I can do is describe my position, which is that Jesus *was* fully God *even though* he voluntarily relinquished his power temporarily. I am human because I was born so, not because I have the ability to play Twister and chess, which other creatures are unable to do. If I lost my arms, my legs, and my mind, I would *still* be human. In fact, there is no way I can become anything *other* than human. And I think the same was true of Jesus--he has always been God, and didn't cease to be God during the time that he was here on Earth.

    Your two typing hands have different goals (they work with different letters), and even different abilities (one is slightly faster than the other), but together they are working toward the same purpose (typing words). ;-)

    For the record, I *don't* think that Jesus actually changed his mind. I think he was tempted (Matt 4:1), and he suffered as he struggled with these temptations (Hebrews 2:18), but he never decided to sin only to later change his mind.

    If you are saying that the blood of animals was ineffectual, and only God's *acceptance* of that sacrifice granted them forgiveness, then yes, that is a fair summary, and we agree on the issue. But I also believe that their sin was *effectively* paid for by Jesus. :-)

    You will vehemently disagree with me on this, but I think that Jeremiah 33 verses 17 *and* 18 refer to the Messiah. The man who stands before God isn't literally providing burnt offerings, of course, but he is fulfilling the same role--a concept that this audience would not have understood. Alternatively, this passage could simply be referring to the fact that as long as the kingdom of Israel existed (as long as there was a temple), there was a priest from the tribe of Levi making offerings.

    I do actually believe in an eternal Hell, but I believe it to be a place of separation from God, not a place of physical pain. And I believe that it is not a "one-size-fits-all" judgment (see Matthew 11:21-24). Finally, I don't believe that the office pencil thief will go to Hell for stealing pencils. There is one and only one crime for which a person must go to Hell--rejecting the offer of salvation.



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  40. Hi Ollie. Yup, it is getting deep. :-)

    As for your description of Jesus being man and God... Yes, if you chop your arms off, you are still human. But we a talking about something on an entirely different level here. One of the powers being given up was omniscience. As opposed to lopping off limbs, the best human analogy to correspond with such a loss is brain damage. If your brain was damaged to the point where you had no memories, why you may still appear to be you, you would act completely different. Someone speaking to you in such a condition on the telephone may think that your voice sounded like you, but odds are that they would not recognize the person on the other end of the connection. No one would claim that you were "fully" you at that point in time, nor could anyone make the claim that such a Jesus was "fully" God in that sense.

    "For the record, I *don't* think that Jesus actually changed his mind."
    It appears that I was not clear in my argument here. Sorry about that. Jesus, being a good and Godly man, would have known from Scripture, in Numbers 23:19 and other places, that God does not change His mind. (Although God clearly does change His mind, and so that verse is contradictory, but such is the Bible...) So what I was saying was that even if (best case?) Jesus did not fully know the plans and so wanted to pray to God to have them changed, He should have known that asking God to change His mind about the plans was futile, and furthermore against God's will given that He had already planned it. Does that make more sense?

    "But I also believe that their sin was *effectively* paid for by Jesus. :-)"
    And as you referenced above regarding judgement, in Matthew 7:23 there is still an acceptance by God required for forgiveness, despite the alleged fact that Jesus paid for our sins. Ergo, Jesus sacrifice effectively meant nothing.

    "You will vehemently disagree with me on this, but I think that Jeremiah 33 verses 17 *and* 18 refer to the Messiah."
    Here is the problem, my friend: I can understand how and why you would take these verses to be about Jesus. Of course, the reference to the Levites should be a red flag to you, given that Jesus was allegedly of the Melchizedek order instead, but I could understand how you could ignore the bloodline by considering it substituted. If Jeremiah 33:17-18 was all I had to go by, I would have to say that my case is only moderately strong. However, those verses fit into a larger theme which is threaded throughout the OT prophesies, although unfortunately in less-snippet-worthy formats. For example, in the vision of Ezekiel's Temple, there is reference after reference after reference which contradicts Christianity, yet harmonizes perfectly with how I feel Jeremiah 33:17-18 should be interpreted.

    "There is one and only one crime for which a person must go to Hell--rejecting the offer of salvation."
    Does not Matthew 7:23 contradict that statement?

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  41. Hmm. I will say that the argument that Jesus was not *fully* God while on Earth is stronger than the argument that he was not God *at all*. I suppose it could be said that if you were absolutely inebriated after drinking a six-pack of Heineken, you could rightly be described as "not fully human." But I do believe that, even though he had relinquished much of his power, Jesus was still, by his very nature, God. He continued to act with perfect love, perfect compassion, perfect steadfastness, and perfect righteousness.

    I'm not even going to *begin* a debate about whether or not God changes his mind here (I'm sure you have a post related to that somewhere), but I do think that would be interesting. Yes, what you have explained does make more sense. I do not think that Jesus was asking God to change his mind. By asking, ”My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me," I think he was asking if there was any other possible way to accomplish the goal of paying for the sins of all humanity. It's also possible that Jesus was speaking purely out of fear and agony, just as someone headed to the executioner might ask, "If there's *any* other way..." knowing all along that there is *no* other way.

    I think Matthew 7:23 is simply stating that God will not grant these people the forgiveness that Jesus provided. They call themselves Christians but were not, in fact, followers of Christ.

    I presume, then, that you do not believe that Mary's cousin, Elizabeth, was descended from Aaron, of the tribe of Levi.

    Matthew 7:23 does not contradict that statement, because it's referring to those who profess to be Christians, but have *not* accepted God's offer of salvation. To do so requires one to admit that he/she is in need of salvation, and repent (decide to live for God). These "workers of lawlessness" (as they are called here) never did so.

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  42. Well, Ollie, I found it interesting how many times you used the word "perfect" when speaking of Jesus, yet you still do not see a problem with Jesus asking for another way out of the crucifixion. It is the issue of perfection which makes that question wrong in so many ways:

    God, with perfect omniscience, allegedly planned the crucifixion and the associated forgiveness of sins. So to ask for an alternate plan is to 1) ask God to change His perfect plan, 2) ask God to select a less perfect option, 3) show a lack of faith in God's perfection in planning.

    But, as you say, perhaps this was just Jesus' human side getting the best of Him. In which case, we could see just what kind of extreme situation would bring Jesus to the point of being truly human, close to making a mistake. And if that is the case, those other "temptations" which He experienced were clearly trivial for Him to go through. But that is my opinion. ;-)

    Regarding Elizabeth, in short, no. Luke's infancy narrative is the stuff of fantasy. It paints Mary and Elizabeth having a very close relationship, and yet, according to John 1:31, John the Baptist had no clue who Jesus was until he saw the Holy Spirit come to Jesus. That does not add up. But then, lots of stuff about John the Baptist being Jesus' forerunner does not add up. :-) Anyway, That is Elizabeth, not Mary. Not that it matters though, given patriarchs held the legal linage rights, not spouses.

    Your take on Matthew 7:23 requires a lot of speculation. It could be taken that way, but I would argue that the expression of shock captured in Matthew 7:22 implies that they had accepted God's offer of Salvation, as they were expecting it. In fact, I would be more tempted to attach Matthew 7:23 to people like prosperity preachers who think that they have, indeed, accepted and become entitled to Salvation, yet preach a Gospel which is far from Jesus' intent.

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  43. I absolutely don't believe that he was asking God the father to change his plan, or to abort the plan, or anything like that. I think that, in his extreme agony, Jesus was asking if there was any other way to accomplish the goal of salvation. And I think that he knew all along that the answer to that question was "no," and he probably said what he said solely for our benefit--to clarify that there indeed was no other way.

    Of course I am not at all surprised that you don't hold the view that Elizabeth was a descendant of the tribe of Levi. ;-)

    On the day of judgment, when it becomes clear what's about to happen, I think most everyone will plead innocent, just as nearly every guilty person on trial does today. When the guilty verdict is read in court, and the murderer expresses disbelief, it's not because he thought he was innocent. It's because he had been fooling people and evading justice for so long, and the game is finally over.

    In your case, when it's time for judgment, I think you'll refer God to this blog.

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  44. Well, Ollie given that your faith essentially hinges on the fact that there was "no other way," I doubt that you would concede that there was another way; God's forgiveness, which He did give without a sacrifice from time to time in the Bible. Either that is the blindness of your faith, or my own folly in how I understand the Scripture, but in either case I do not see us coming to an agreement yet. Other than to disagree. ;-)

    I kind of hope there is a God, for many reasons, but for one it would be interesting to see what He thinks of my blog.

    But in your thoughts of the Judgement, what exactly are people pleading innocent of? Sin? Not knowing any better? Not knowing God? Not rejecting God? What exactly makes them "guilty" there? I do not think that you could classify rejection and disbelief as the same thing. Nobody would accuse you of rejecting Santa Claus, now would they?

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  45. I had to think about that one for a while. I think I can say with confidence that my faith does *not* hinge on the idea that Jesus's sacrifice on the cross is the only payment God accepts for sin. If God somehow, someway forgave a person of her sins without applying the effectual power of the cross, that would cause me to rethink soteriology (the study of salvation) entirely, *but* my faith would remain intact. So I'm not disagreeing with you because I have to in order to save my faith. I disagree because while there are a few somewhat confusing examples of what appears to be forgiveness being granted through the sacrifice of animals, the Bible is abundantly clear in saying that the true payment for sin was made on the cross--in *every* case (before, during, and after Jesus's death).

    Are grizzly bears white? Yes, they are. You have proof, in the form of an albino. But really, are grizzly bears white? No, they're not. The albino is a very rare exception to the rule that grizzly bears are brown. ;-) Are you looking at the albino in an attempt to prove that grizzly bears are not actually brown? Or are Christians just blind, or deluding themselves? I believe I'm familiar with most of the examples in which it appears there is forgiveness of sin without the cross, and most of these are easily explained as misunderstandings (Leviticus 26:40-45, as a case in point). The few that remain--Jeremiah 33:17-18, for example--are confusing at first glance, but do have good explanations, and certainly don't present (to me, at least) cause for reexamining soteriology.

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  46. I think nearly everyone will plead innocent, *full stop*. In other words, they'll say they're not guilty of all the things you mentioned above, and more; much like what you see at the trial of a someone guilty of a serious crime. Anything in an attempt to escape justice. What makes them guilty is that they *did* know better.

    No one would accuse me of rejecting Santa Claus because my conscience has never convicted me of his veracity. I'm 100% confident he's not real, and always have been. You will claim that your conscience tells you that God cannot be real. The fact that the universe was created out of nothing in the Big Bang does not present a problem for you. You're slowly unraveling the Great Charade (as you might call it) that is Judaism/Christianity. You're on your way to understanding the *real* truth behind our existence and its mysteries. Hey, if all that's true--if you've never been convicted of your need to be made right with God, if you've never looked up at the stars and thought to yourself, "there *must* be a God"--then maybe you'll be found innocent on the day of judgment. But that's between you and God. Only he knows a person's heart.

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  47. Hi Ollie, and Merry Christmas! :-)

    "the Bible is abundantly clear in saying that the true payment for sin was made on the cross--in *every* case"

    Really? Do you not remember the healing of the paralytic man in Matthew 9:1-8, Mark 2:1-12, and Luke 5:17-26? Jesus said that He had the power to forgive sins at His discretion. No crucifixion needed.

    Now about my beliefs, my conscience is not really involved. I mean, I was pretty disturbed by many things that a perfectly good God would do according to the Bible, but my opinion of God's morality issues do not ultimately make Him any more or less real. It is the human fingerprints in the Bible which, to me, makes the story untenable. Looking up into the rest of the universe and knowing our position in it is just a reminder of our insignificance to any god that is out there, and yet I find it incredibly cool all the same. :-) On the other hand, if we had discovered that the world and the universe was like what most people thought of it thousands of years ago, essentially flat with the starry heavens arranged for us on some sort of invisible ethereal layer, then I would pretty much be foolish not to believe in a god.

    But if it is just a matter of the heart, well, that will be an interesting Judgement indeed. Jesus' blood can wash away every sin except those of the heart, huh? ;-)

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  48. Merry Christmas! I'll be back in a week to respond to this. I have to leave on a 7-day Disney cruise in less than 15 minutes, and I'm not finished packing. ;-)

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  49. "When Jesus saw their faith, he said, 'Friend, your sins are forgiven.'" To you, this implies that he could forgive people without any cost involved. Merely speaking the words was enough. To me, the point here was that this man's faith, as demonstrated by his sincere belief that Jesus could heal his body, was enough to also save his soul. That's because all that's required of a person in order to be saved is faith in Jesus. But this man's faith didn't pay for his sins, and neither did Jesus's five words.

    Hmm. In every culture I've ever studied, there existed/exists some system by which a person's guilt could be prevented and/or removed. Whether it's an animist performing rituals to appease a god he angered, or a Buddhist trying to adhere to the "ten virtuous acts" as she seeks to attain spiritual purification over many eons of reincarnation, there's always the pursuit of moral inculpability. It's a universal theme among Homo sapiens that we become guilty and we feel the need to assuage that guilt. Perhaps you have your own such system of dealing with guilt in your life. Or perhaps you don't experience guilt at all, or just "let it go." Now I'm curious....

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  50. Ollie, this is the point here with sin forgiveness: there is no payment necessary! There is no broken window to be replaced. Sin is a transgression against God. In Matthew 9:6, Mark 2:9, and Luke 5:24 it says that Jesus has the authority to forgive sins. The nature of forgiveness is that you are free from culpability. There is nothing to be paid! As you know, Jesus told us that we need to forgive other people's transgressions in order to be forgiven ourselves. He did not tell us forgive, but still demand some payback. Just like when a debt is "forgiven," forgiveness means that there is nothing to be paid back. At least, that is what Jesus said. ;-)

    People who do not experience guilt are often considered to be psychopaths. Sure, I experience guilt, and I think the majority of people do. I do not just let it go. I learn from it, because that is what it is there for. If you touch a hot stove, you feel pain, and you learn not to do that again. If you were to steal something from someone you care about, you feel mental pain, guilt, and (hopefully) learn not to do that again. Guilt is one of the factors which helps to keep a society in self-check of itself.

    After you learn from guilt, there is nothing else that can be served by carrying it around, so at that point I do try to let it go, but many people do have a problem with that stage. I think a lot of people think of themselves as "I am what I have done." I view myself as "I am what I will do." Perhaps that is what allows me to deal with guilt in a healthier way.

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  51. We have here a fundamental disagreement over the issue of forgiveness. As such, the best that we can do is make sure that our respective positions have been explained clearly, and I think that's the case.

    Guilt is an intriguing topic to me. The atheist and the theist will always have very different views on the matter, because it involves sin and the knowledge of right and wrong. I contend that the sense of guilt is unique to humans. Sure, we've all seen the videos of the pet dog *appearing* to act guilty after he was caught eating the Thanksgiving turkey, but that's not a reflection of genuine feelings of guilt and remorse. Walk out of the room and he'll continue eating the turkey. ;-) A lion will eat a lioness's cubs so that he can mate with her. If that's not a heinous, guilt-provoking act, I don't know what is, and yet every lion will do this, again and again. There's no indication of any sense of guilt whatsoever. Gorillas and other animals exhibit the same behavior. There's something very different about humans. A human who has no--or suppresses his feelings of--guilt is considered to be a psychopath, as you mentioned. We'd say he's a serious danger to society who needs to be locked up for his entire life. So why is it that a gorilla, who has no conscience, is viewed as a healthy, normal, beautiful creature, while a human who has no conscience is viewed as abnormal, repulsive, and psychologically unstable? That's a rhetorical question. Don't answer it! We've gone way beyond a debate of Isaiah 53, and we really should formally end our comments on this post. I look forward, however, to discussing this issue of guilt at another place and time.

    Wise Fool, this has been an enlightening and educational debate. As usual, we haven't reached any agreements, but we've covered a lot of interesting ground along the way. Thank you for the time and energy that you put into crafting your arguments so clearly.

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  52. Well Ollie, thanks for your time and energy as well! I always love to get your point of view, even if I vehemently disagree with it at times! ;-)

    "A lion will eat a lioness's cubs so that he can mate with her. If that's not a heinous, guilt-provoking act, I don't know what is, and yet every lion will do this, again and again."

    Sure, animals do all sorts of things which appear to be done without a sense of guilt. Taking your lion example, that is obviously not the norm, or else lions would have ceased to exist a long time ago. And there must be a reason why it is not the norm.

    If you look at the various genocides which have occurred in human history, they were performed at the hands of men who had consciences, who could feel guilt, and yet who felt that it was a necessary action to make their world better. If you and I were instead space-aliens observing an ongoing genocide while trying to evaluate whether or not humans were really civilized enough to reach out the intergalactic hand of friendship, I think we might reach the conclusion that these are creatures who operate without a sense of guilt.

    The point is that we should not look at exceptions to the norm in establishing inherent qualities. In my opinion, if you look at the animal kingdom, you will readily find aspects of guilty behavior played out, even beyond the turkey-eating dog. This is most commonly observed in "make-up" sessions where there have been skirmishes within a family unit or within a social unit. The parties involved often appear to active reconciliation, such as by grooming the other party involved. This would not be expected if they were not experiencing something very much like guilt.

    So, my friend, I do not think that guilt is unique to humans, but we will probably need to wait a few more decades or so to be certain of that, as I also suspect that brain-scanning we do to humans today will surely be applied to animal research in the future.

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  53. TWF:

    v.8) May I suppose you take the reference to "my people" to refer to the entirety of the Jewish populace based on the general use of the term that is used to describe the Israelite people while God is speaking (ala "I will be their God, and they will be my people" and such)?

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  54. Hi Felix,

    Yes, that's correct. The v8 "my people" would be the Jewish populous in general, as I interpret it.

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  55. TWF:

    v.9) This verse, I believe, may be more favorably interpreted as: "He was assigned a grave with the wicked, yet he was with (a) rich (man) in his death, for he had done no violence/wrong nor was there deceit in his mouth"

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  56. P.S. Fairly certain the word for "rich" here is singular

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  57. TWF:

    It probably should be noted that, going with the "man of suffering" point, Jesus is presented as suffering in several other ways aside from the opposition of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, etc. and the (whole?) population of Jerusalem turning against him, including:
    1.) His rejection by his family as a possible lunatic
    2.) His rejection at Nazareth
    3.) His weeping over Jerusalem in Luke
    a.) If I wished to argue farther on this, it seems likely he also would have done so for those cities that also rejected him
    4.) His weeping over Lazarus in John

    Which seem to give a considerable base to call him a "man of sorrows" as is rendered in a considerable number of translations, or a "man of suffering" in the emotional sense.

    May all be well with you,
    Felix Zamora

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  58. Hi Felix,

    Thanks for the comments, as usual.

    When it comes to wording of particular verses as they are quoted here, they are not my interpretations, but are rather directly from the New International Version. It is the same version I use for reference for the majority of my posts, with exceptions usually limited to when the NIV appears to have really strayed from the original text based on comparing several other versions, and even then I normally would quote the NIV and then provide other version interpretations.

    As for "rich", I believe you are incorrect. Strong's concordance lists the Hebrew word as "ashir" (transliterated). When used as a noun as opposed to an adjective, it should be interpreted as "the rich" (masculine). Please reference http://biblehub.com/lexicon/isaiah/53-9.htm and http://biblehub.com/hebrew/6223.htm.

    In counter-argument to your points on Jesus' suffering:

    *) Any suffering appears to be limited to the time of the Gospels, as there is no depiction of Jesus revealing how He had suffered His entire life. <10% of His life, or not even a calculable blip if you include how long Jesus lived before His life. ;-)

    1) Jesus' family thinking that He was out of His mind is limited to the Gospel of Mark. And if you look at Mark 3:33-35, Luke 8:21, and Matthew 12:48-50, you may get the impression that it was Jesus rejecting them, not the other way around.

    2) Given that He didn't intend to stay in Nazareth, I doubt this really caused Him much suffering, especially if He knew it had to happen that way to fulfill prophesy.

    3) That was a divine point of view, not the view of a man of sorrows.
    a) That depends on how divine Jesus' mind was, and which verses you pay heed to in discerning God's feelings for the lost. For example, Jesus didn't weep for the Pharisees, but rather appeared to revel in the fact that they would be condemned.

    4) If weeping over a friend who died makes someone a man of sorrows, then, well, pretty much most of the world over the age of 40 or so is a person of sorrows. I would argue that that is not at all what the prophetic suffering in Isaiah 53 is about.

    Best wishes!

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    1. TWF:


      I might also suggest this meaning that "He took our diseases/ weakness (away from us), and he carried our sickness (away)"

      I might overstretch my case, but building off 3.) and my Jerusalem comment (of his sadness that they did not know the time of his coming), it would seem reasonable to say that a man who knows that all who reject his message would be of a less-than-happy demeanor if whole towns end up rejecting it in spite of his best works being done there.

      Oh and on v.8) the ESV reads:

      "By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?"
      with the Young's Literal Translation being similar.

      The "rich man" reading, it turns out, I derived from the ESV, so there is some support by translators. The NASB also reads as so:
      "New American Standard Bible
      His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth."
      The rich man reading is also in the HCSB
      "They made His grave with the wicked
      and with a rich man at His death,v
      although He had done no violence
      and had not spoken deceitfully.w

      v.11) The 'he shall see light' is supported by the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are considerably older than the Masoretic Text.
      v.12) Perhaps I may suggest something along the lines of the HCSB:
      Holman Christian Standard Bible
      Therefore I will give Him the many as a portion, and He will receive the mighty as spoil, because He submitted Himself to death, and was counted among the rebels; yet He bore the sin of many and interceded for the rebels."
      And given that Jesus is considered to be God in some sense, it doesn't seem fair to count sharing glory with him against him. That said, the passage does not mention glory in this place.

      May all go well with you, and in digging through my comments
      Felix Zamora


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  59. TWF:

    3.) In this case I'm fairly certain that's the same thing. Considering he is stated to have cried when looking at Jerusalem, I think it's fair to say it was in his human mind.
    a.) It might also be pointed out that at least in the case of the Gadarenes incident, he was driven out. As for being "despised and rejected", I think it's fair to say he was rejected by a number of people in the sense his message was not regarded by Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum in spite of those places having been "where most of his mighty works were done".
    a.2.) I think the use of the phrase "Woe, to you" does show some empathy in speaking with Pharisees and scribes, or at least a deep emotionalism in his statement that does not fit well a happy attitude. Moreover, given that Luke sees fit to use (Luke 3:7-9) the hard words Matthew associated with the sighting of the Pharisees as his message to repent, and then instruct the crowd on what to do when they ask, it wouldn't be totally out of place to suggest the words are meant to be a stern rebuke.

    Matthew's use of that might have some justification, supposing he's playing off the relation of moral conduct and earthly wellness presented in the Old Testament. That is to say he's reading the verse as something like "Even though he dealt kindly when he healed us while we were sick, yet we think him to be under God's judgment for some sin". Or "It is true that he did us all this good in healing us, nevertheless when he was stricken we thought he was guilty (implied by the word "punishment"). That is to say, the speakers here are saying here that they had thought "Yes he did good by , but from his suffering it's obvious he sinned", sort of like Job's friends.

    The HCSB seems to lend itself to this reading:
    "Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses,
    and He carried our pains;i
    but we in turn regarded Him stricken,
    struck down by God,j and afflicted."

    May your business go well this week

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  60. Hi Felix,

    Responding in order received...

    v4) Indeed, it could be read that way. I remember researching this verse (as I did each one during this study). The words used within it have a plethora of possible definitions. Even within the context, there is a lot of latitude in workable translations. However, I would argue against the more Christian-favorable interpretation this way (in addition to what is noted above in the post itself):

    While Jesus is recorded as performing many healings, this would have still been a rather small portion of the general populous, even just the subset of the sick. When viewed from the Christian interpretation, the verse reads as though Jesus had taken away all of the peoples' sickness and pain, or at least the believers, but that is not the case and even Paul was not relieved of a certain thorn in his side. So a better take on this would be in the more metaphorical sense of the words, that Jesus had taken away spiritual disease and pain. However, Matthew 8:17 closes the door to a spiritual interpretation. So, if this verse becomes stripped of its potential power, as the scope of physical healing provided by Jesus was limited, at best.

    v9) Indeed, with "the rich" being a "masculine" word, the interpretation of "a rich man" is not out of line. I apologize if I overstated the case in my last reply! :-) But you still have to realize that the narrative is reversed in this verse. That is to say, it says that His death was with a rich man, but His tomb was with the wicked. This is the polar opposite of what happened in the story, where Jesus died with the wicked and was entombed in a rich man's grave.

    v11) Noted, but, as I think I mentioned to you in a prior comment, we can't necessarily assume that just because a copy is older that it is more correct. Either way, I don't think that changes the interpretation much. I was just pointing it out.

    v12) That may be a bit of a stretch, but I suppose it is a possible interpretation. The rather-primitive Hebrew language allows for a lot of playing with articles and such. I suspect that there is a reason why HCSB is the only interpretation to be like that. But, hey, I guess I shouldn't be throwing stones, since I live in my own glass house, huh? ;-)

    Anyway, no, v12 doesn't specifically mention glory, but, given that glory is "Honour, admiration, or distinction, accorded by common consent to a person or thing; high reputation; renown," there is an implicit granting of glory which will be given to this Suffering Servant. And, as the verse mentions that it is a portion among the great, it implies that others, besides just Jesus, will be getting a portion of that glory too.

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  61. Continuing Felix...

    3) Actually Felix, it only says that Jesus cried over Lazarus, in the shortest verse in the Bible. As for Jerusalem, I think it was a cry (as in a verbal sigh, not crying) of frustration that they hadn't turned despite hundreds of years of trying to get them to walk the right path. That's quite a different behavior.
    a) Sure, He was despised and rejected in places, but He was also thoroughly praised, honored, and followed in many more places. In that aspect, He was a bit like a modern pop star. Sure, there were those who didn't like, or even hated His music, but there were plenty of adoring fans to lift His spirits. ;-)
    a.2) Actually, by saying "Woe, to you", it's more like saying "Curses, to you" or "Misery, to you". It's in the sense of what you find in Matthew 18:7. It fits with anger, but not so much sorrow.

    Back to v4) Sure, there is enough leeway to interpret it that way. And, in a sense, I think it is closer to the actual intent of the verse. However, where we differ is that I see this a being more of an obvious state of oppression, pain, and sickness, which would be more akin to the various curses which God had threatened the Israelites with if they broke faith with Him. How it directly applies is that among the remnant diaspora, there were those who adapted their new surroundings, and those who rather clung to the old ways and their faith. It's not so hard to see how such stubbornly faithful people would have been ostracized and oppressed in foreign countries, given that we see this very same theme play out in our times. The faithful would have born the brunt of God's punishment, while the more-adaptive diaspora would have suffered less, as they worked to blend in with the local populous.

    Best wishes to you.

    -TWF

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    1. TWF:

      3.) On Jerusalem, it appears not, the ESV and basically every other translation read as so:
      "41And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
      a.) I might also bring up the incident of the ten lepers of which only one returned to thank him. I also think its notable he's generally depicted as compassionate towards people: "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." (Matthew 9:36)
      a.2) I don't know, the looser translations appear to understand it is a somewhat sorrowful statement. The Weymouth I think most represents this:
      "Alas for the world because of causes of falling! They cannot but come, but alas for each man through whom they come!"
      and maybe the International Standard Version's variant:
      "How terrible it will be for the world due to its temptations to sin! Temptations to sin are bound to happen, but how terrible it will be for that person who causes someone to sin!"
      and Adam Clarke's comment on this reading:
      "Wo! - Or, alas! ουαι. It is the opinion of some eminent critics, that this word is ever used by our Lord to express sympathy and concern."
      To be fair, the Pulpit commentary takes a half-and-half approach, but I think the result is the latter carries a similar idea as the first:
      "The first "woe" is a cry of pity for a world in danger; the second "woe" is a denunciation of the sinner as being responsible for the evil which he introduces."
      Which might also be built back into the other incidences involving Jerusalem, the Pharisees, the scribes, etc.
      Oh, might mention a fun fact I just learned from perusing the commentaries on Bible Hub: Offences apparently refers to temptations, or causes or occasions, to sin, and not sin itself.
      Somehow I missed that idea in my ESV:
      "“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!"



      v.4) I think the fact that the statement reads in a general way allows for not all of their sicknesses to be healed. Maybe something like "He washed my dishes", even if said person did not wash all the dishes. Even then, it is stated the people were bringing them their sick, and some are depicted as forcing their way to him to be healed. I would say its fair to say he healed a fairly large subset.
      v.4.b) Your ostracized and oppressed comment only seems to work with the bore our sorrows and suffering. The sickness interpretation may also work with the sorrow and weakness readings, and such. That said, Matthew goes with the sickness reading, so, eh, on that second sentence. And, of course, the first part of your comment associating the sickness and suffering to the curses is still valid.

      v.9) Given that the previous line refers to being buried with the wicked, I think its fair to say that the second line refers to being buried with the rich. Where else would you be in death with a rich man? That is to say, the first line appears to indicate that the question is not of, with whom will he die, but with whom will he be buried. It makes sense of this line of reading. The idea is that "He was going to be given a dishonorable burial, but, because he was righteous, he will instead be buried with a rich man".
      v.9.proposed apology) It's alright.

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    2. v.11) I think I should also have mentioned the "he will see light" reading was also preserved in the LXX. (http://www.ctp1.net/textual_issue/18/sample). Part of the reason for supporting this reading, I think, would come from the fact that it provides an object (light) for the verb (see) instead of requiring it to be filled in.

      v.12) For what it's worth that reading goes along with the Dhouay-Rheims (based on the Latin Vulgate) and bears semblance to the Targum's "rendering": "13 Therefore I will divide to Him the spoil of many people, and the treasures of strong fortifications; He shall divide the spoil; because He has delivered His life unto death, and He shall make the rebellious to keep15 the law; He shall pray for the sins of many, and as for the transgressors, each shall be pardoned for His sake."
      v.12.a) It should be noted that persons are described as getting or having glory, its actually a fairly generic term in the Old Testament. You can see it in the Daniel where the "one like a son of man" is said to receive the glory of kingdoms, and also in a comment (according a more literal rendering) of Daniel's response to seeing the figure in Chapter 10 as "his glory being turned to ruin". Haggai 2 (maybe 1?) also associates the term glory to an influx of gold and silver into the temple in relating how it will have greater glory than the former temple. That is to say, the glory being given does not have to be "God's glory", but it is rather a separate earthly glory.

      Thanks as always for responding, and may all go well with you and your family,
      Felix Zamora

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  62. Hi Felix,

    So, before I pushed your two recent comments for this post, I had 24 comments in queue from you. I've noticed that some of your queued comments repeat material from other comments which are also still in queue. Since we've begun this latest round of discussion, I've traveled coast-to-coast a few times, and have worked several 12-hour days. As much as I am enjoying the conversation and as much as I don't want to discourage you from more exploration of my content, I would like to make a request that we finish up the existing comment conversations we are having (and are now in queue) before you post additional comments on other posts.

    3) Well, that's what I get for relying on a stressed memory! :-) OK, so there you go. This "man of sorrows" was portrayed as weeping twice. So far in this life, I think I have Him beat, as I know I've wept more than twice in the past 3 years. ;-)

    a) Yeah, the funny thing is that when I read how Jesus saw the people, and then felt compassion for them enough to take action, I can't help but wonder about God, given that He "sees" everyone all the time. Where's the compassion there to heal the sick? Cure birth defects? Stop cancer? Where is the Shepherd? Seems to me to be a bit of a disconnect there. But, please don't reply to this. ;-) It get's into a whole other discussion. Suffice it to say that I know you would object to this comment, and I could probably even predict how you would reply.

    a2) Yes, the two "woe"'s there are different senses of the word; one of grief/frustration and one of condemnation. Indeed, context must be the guide. If you look at Matthew's 7 woes starting at Matthew 32:15, there's no compassion for the pharisees. In fact, "woe" is most often used by Jesus with a tone of condemnation (25 of the 26 times it was used), not pity or grief, spoke against specific cities, groups of people, or specific people who, for lack of a better expression, didn't buy what He was selling, or that had a non-god-approved way of doing things.

    v4) Based on the actual count of known healings across all 4 Gospels, I would disagree with the extent of populous He healed. But certainly there are some vague references with no numbers given which you could build a case for more healings.

    v4b) I didn't mention sickness because sickness is a ubiquitous given. People get sick. Back in those days, the majority of people thought sickness came from God, or gods, or demons, or any number of other supernatural influences. The diaspora were taken from their land into foreign places, which meant that they were all likely to get exposed to foreign germs leading to various illnesses. However, this statement would also extend to the leading-to-exile conditions, which, in Deut 28:61 and 29:22 (and many, many other prophesies), you'll see that God has my back on this sickness interpretation. ;-)

    ... continued below...

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  63. ... continuation of above...

    v9) Wonderful! I was wondering if you would stumble on to this. You see, this verse gets a bit more complex, and a little more difficult for a layman to grasp right away. This verse is actually an example of Hebrew poetic parallelism. I was unaware of this phenomenon as well, until I stumbled on this site while researching the Beatitudes. You are right in a way, that the death and grave are actually supposed to be the same thing, not a distinction of two separate events, according to the rules of parallelism. But with that being the case, that would also mean that "the wicked" and "the rich" are essentially the same too by the same construction rules.

    How could this be? Well, obviously it was known that the rich were not always the most righteous people, and, in fact, were often the wicked ones, as expressed in Ecclesiastes 8:11. And, given that this is still tied into the fallout of the Exile, you may bring to mind the times God condemned the rich and powerful in Jerusalem in the prophesies about the Exile (Isaiah 5:17, for example).

    You see, this isn't really about "a rich man" (despite that being a valid possible interpretation). This is about "the rich" as a class condemned by God in the traumatic Exile. This verse is about how even the good ones suffered while God was punishing the bad ones. And it all comes full circle... ;-)

    v11) Noted.

    v12) Noted.

    v12a) Noted.

    Best wishes to you and yours as well.

    -TWF

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