Don’t Be A Goose

While playing cowboy on a ranch in Montana I observed the behavior of two animals that illustrate human conduct. When I thought of writing on this topic I thought it mirrors teens and it does. However, it also typifies some adult behavior.

One was a goose named “Goose.” The ranch foreman, Lyle, rescued Goose the day he hatched. A predator killed his mom and siblings. Goose manifested a trait of geese. They imprint with whatever they are around during their earliest days. Goose happened to be around Lyle and his dog Pinkie. Therefore Goose thought he was a dog or human. He walked around following Pink Dog because Pink Dog followed Lyle. When Pinkie wasn’t around he followed Lyle. If Lyle wasn’t around he walked around following the nearest human. He walked rather than fly.

He ate dog food and slept in the dog house. When Pinkie would bark Goose would squawk. He delighted to pick at shoe laces and if a person crossed him he would attack with wings flapping.

Wild geese would fly up and down the Big Hole River honking but Goose paid them no attention.

Goose will never know the exhilaration of flying the North American flyway. He will never develop his full potential as a Canadian Goose. He practiced one dog trait too many. He chased Lyle’s car one time too many without Lyle knowing it. Goose was run over without ever knowing his true identity. He never lived up to his potential.

The other animal was actually several horses. There were seven in the corral and pasture when a new one was introduced. The seven bonded together to exclude the new guy, Tug. They would graze together and if the new horse came too close they would run him away snipping at his flank and trying to run along beside and kick at him. Day after day the seven smoozed together. The new boy on the block was forced to stay out of their grouping.

One of the quarter horses was a beautiful paint. He seemed to know he was good looking and was dominant in keeping the intruder from getting involved. Not only would the paint, Scout, drive the loner away he would even walk away and lead the others to follow leaving Tug alone. It was class discrimination at its best. It was a click horse style.

It is one thing for horses to be antisocial but for human beings to practice this behavior is ridiculous. Tug did nothing other than be new to the society of horses. That alone caused the petty group to ostracize him. I didn’t know horses could be so insecure. Humans do the same thing to one another and the primary reason is their insecurity. There was nothing wrong with Tug. There was something very wrong with the horsing around of the group.

The same scenario will be acted out on campuses early this fall. The basic conduct will be applied in adult social circles.

The moral of these stories! Be all you were created to be and help others be all they can become. Don’t rob the world of the original you by imprinting with an unbecoming person or philosophy. Open yourself and emotionally embrace those around you.

Do Christians And Muslims Worship The Same God?

You decide, do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?

In answering this question the resources are the Qur’an (Koran), and the Hadith from a Sunni Islam perspective. The Qur’an is considered by Muslims to be the sacred writing given Muhammad. The Hadith is a compilation of sayings by Muhammad compiled by his loyalists in the eighth century A.D. From a Christian perspective the Holy Bible is the source of insight.

With reference to Jews and Christians Muhammad wrote in the Qur’an: “We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which has come down to you; our God and your God is One; and it is to Him we bow.”

Among Arabs the name “Allah” stemmed from use of it before the birth of Muhammad in reference to the only true God.

The name “Allah” was introduced to Islam by Arabic-speaking Jews and Christians living in the Arab Peninsula as referring to the one and only true God.

Allah is viewed as the Almighty, the eternal Creator, who is omniscient and omnipotent.
Though Muslims and Christians use many of the same terms to refer to God they have widely divergent understandings of His nature and character. Each claims to have the true concept.

Muhammad was highly offended by the rejection of much of his writings by Jews and Christians. When he move from Mecca to Medina his writings regarding them changed radically. At this time he also changed the direction in which his followers were to pray from Jerusalem to Mecca. He also published his account of Abraham and his son Ishmael building the Ka’bah in Mecca (Surah 2:125-27). Islam later replaced the biblical account of Solomon building his temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem with the story of Abraham along with his son Ishmael building the Ka’bah.

Muhammad began with the concept of only one true God, Allah. He initially attributed to Him many of the attributes he learned from Christians and Jews. He gravitated to a non-biblical view of God’s nature. This impacted all of Islamic doctrine.

Muhammad’s move from Mecca to Medina coincided with many changes. His writing of the Qur’an up until this time was basically poetic and philosophical. It changed to being more political and militant. This is a primary reason for current confusion over whether Islam is a peaceful religion. It depends on which part of the Qur’an you read. It was at Medina he began to elevate the Arab people in prominence and himself as their leader.

In fairness it must be noted when Muslims refer to Allah and Christians refer to God they are referring to the same being. The word for God among Arab Christians is Allah. As “Dieu” is the French word for God so “Allah” is the Arabic word for God.

However, the Qur’an concept of the nature of God and the Christian perspective are diametrically opposed. The same God could not have authored the Qur’an and the Holy Bible in that they have contradictory perspectives of the nature of God as well as conflicting historical accounts. It is at the point of the nature of God the two faiths differ.

To say Allah is the God of the Bible and then attribute to Him unbiblical characteristics is worse than saying the two are different entities.

The nature of God among Muslims is He is monotheistic, one God. It is the concept of the Trinity they reject.

Christians also believe in One God but as a tri-unity. They are three persons that cannot be condensed into one with one will that cannot be divided into three. As St. Patrick used the shamrock to illustrate there is one clover with three petals. So with H2O. As a solid it is ice, as a gas it is fog, as a liquid it is water, yet in each form it is one, H2O.

Muslims conceive of Allah as a unit and Christians conceive of God as a union, three-in-one.

The concept of God as one entity poses a question unanswered in the Muslim faith. The Holy Bible says “God is love.” Conceding He is eternal and existed before the dawning of creation consider that. For there to be love there must be one loving and the object loved. Before creation there was nothing and no one to love. Without an object there is no love. Without an object to love there could be no love. Love being the very nature of God there had to be an object to love before creation.

Before the dawning of creation the preexistent Trinity existed and did so in love. Their loving nature made them in all things one.

To profess monadic monotheism as advocated in Islam is to deny the incarnation of Jesus Christ and all things associated.

In Surah 5:118 Jesus is said to have told God He is free to punish or to forgive His followers who said that He, Jesus, claimed deity. The Qur’an does not ascribe deity to Jesus Christ.

In the following Holy Bible passages deity is attributed to Jesus Christ: Colossians 2:9, Romans 9:5, Titus 2:13, I Timothy 3:16, Acts 20:28.

It is also said He is able to destroy Jesus, His mother, and every living creature (5:17). Jews and Christians are categorized as worshipers of evil for rejecting Islam and are considered only next to those who have incurred the curse and wrath of God, those whom He transformed into apes and swine (60).

In Islam there is no need for a savior for Allah forgives whom He pleases and condemns whom He pleases. “He forgives whom He pleaseth, and punishes whom He pleaseth.” (Surah 2:284)

“Whom Allah willeth, He leaveth to wander; whom He willeth, He placeth on the way that is straight.” (Surah 74:31)

One of the last Surah of the Qur’an presents the strongest attack on the nature and character of the God of the Bible. Among Muslims it is believed Allah’s will is not based on His nature but His fiat, that is, what He says not who He is. By his fiat it is determined what is defiled and what is not (5:1-6), severe punishment for disobedience (2,4,5b,87,95), in affirming no one escapes (7,8), and conditional rewards (9-1).

These truths place Islam and Christianity opposite each other in revealing that to Christians it is God’s nature that provides His love and in Islam it is His fiat and has nothing to do with His nature.

The Asharites, who represent orthodox Islam, say no trait or characteristic attributed to man can be applied to Allah as meaning the same thing for that would make Him like man. Though He is called “Most Merciful” does not mean He has the quality of mercy ascribed to a human being. Terms applied to Allah in the Qur’an do not mean the same they do when applied to a human being. That makes it very difficult to understand the nature of Allah because the same term can be interpreted to mean different things by different interpreters.

Each Surah begins with, “In the Name of God the merciful and compassionate.” This is not intended to describe what God is, but rather what He can do, if He wants to, but He can also be the opposite. God’s moral character is subject to His will under this understanding. For the Christian God is in His very nature merciful and compassionate. His actions are based on this. All discussions concerning the nature of God are considered blasphemy.

The Holy Bible reveals the very nature of God and it is very different from that of the Qur’an. The God of the Qur’an contradicts Himself depending on His will not His nature. This results in capricious actions at times. The true God of the Holy Bible is the God of truth whose nature is eternal faithfulness and reliability. His actions are consistent because they are in keeping with His nature. His actions and provisions are never contrary to His character. God loves not because He can, but because it is His nature. God is love.

Reflecting back to the concept of Monadic Monotheism it leaves one with an understanding of a God who in His essence is alone. Before and apart from creation Allah is depicted as existing in total solitude, alone. Such a God who existed in total nothingness and darkness is not one who was eternally loving. There was nobody and nothing to love. The tri-unity of the Christian Godhead reveals that in eternity God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit existed before creation in a loving relationship so intimate they are one. They indeed constitute a monotheistic God, three in one. Their love prompted creation. Thus, human beings were created by love and for love.

They are three in one as three matches placed together and struck comprise one fire. Their nature is the same from eternity and never changes. Thus, they can be known in a loving relationship.

[This article is based on material found in “Bibliotheca Sacra,” Volume 161, Numbers 641 & 642.]

The DaVinci Code – Part 4

The DaVinci Code was released by Dan Brown in March 2003. It quickly rose on the “New York Times” bestseller list. It is now in print in over 100 countries.

It is a conspiracy theory based on the premise that there is “scientific evidence that the New Testament is false testimony” (p.341).

On the title page Brown claims: “All description of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are true.”

He claims to have “secret knowledge” essential to knowing God.

He asserts, “The church has two thousand years of experience pressuring those who threaten to unveil its lies. Since the days of Constantine, the church has successfully hidden the truth about Mary Magdalene and Jesus” (P. 407).

Boldly Brown wrote: Almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false” (P. 235).

His sources consist principally of the Gnostic gospels written in the second and third centuries and discovered in 1945, in Nag Hammadi, Egypt. He regards these spurious books as the “lost books of the Bible.”

None of these works meet the consensus criteria used to determine if an ancient writing was sacred. These were:
Was it written by an apostle of Christ or by someone with direct contact with the apostles?
Did the questionable writings receive acceptance as consistent with the known teachings of Christ?
Did they evidence the fruits of spiritual power and truth?

None of the Gnostic gospels meet these standards. (See “The Gnostic Gospels” on this web site.)

Long ago Aristotle established a commendable criteria for demonstrating the credibility of an ancient document. Principles were:
Was the person an eye witness to the event recorded?
How many copies of the record do we have and how close are they to the event they describe?
Are there other sources outside the document that corroborate the document’s claim?

These are still accepted standards for verifying ancient documents. The DaVinci Code fails on each point.

Historical fiction is a literary style in which fictional characters live within the realm of historical facts. Professor Sarah K. Herz in her syllabus “Using Historical Fiction in The History Classroom” notes: “The author of historical fiction must blend historical facts with imagination and creative style to master his art…. the writer of historical fiction must not distort past reality; the writer must not manipulate historical facts to make the novel more interesting and exciting.” However, that is exactly what Brown does from beginning to end.

He represents the Priory of Sion as a secret society which has kept the truth about Jesus secret for years.

The Priory of Sion was a monastic order founded in Jerusalem in 1100 and later merged with the Jesuits in 1617. They didn’t come into existence until after the time in which Brown said they began to hide the truth about Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

A second use of the title was made by Pierre Plantard who in 1954, established a group to help persons needing low-cost housing. It was dissolved in 1957.

In the 1960s and 70s Plantard once more used the name, “Priory of Sion.” He created a number of forged documents to “prove” the reality of a bloodline from Jesus and Mary through the French Kings to himself. These bogus documents were broadly distributed in France including the National Library.
In 1993, under oath Plantard admitted to a French judge he had fabricated all the documents related to the Priory of Sion. Even being aware of the admitted hoax by Plantard, Brown used them as a primary “secret source” in his writing.

Brown defined the “Holy Grail” as being Mary Magdalene, not the chalice used by Christ at the Last Supper. In reality the term wasn’t used until 1170, in “Perceval,” a work related to the legend of King Arthur. There are no writings eluding to Mary as the “Holy Grail” prior to this.

Yet another misrepresentation of history relates to the Opus Dei. Brown states it as a fact “The Vatican prelature known as Opus Dei is a deeply devout Catholic sect that has been the topic of recent controversy due to reports of brainwashing, coercion, and dangerous practices known as “corporal mortification.’” Quite the contrary, Opus Dei was a self-denying group devoted to sacrificial good works.

The Bible neither states Jesus stayed single or got married. However, every internal line of logic says He did not marry.

Paul wrote the church in Corinth: “Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?” (I Cor. 9:5). If Jesus were married He would doubtless have been used as the highest example validating taking along wives.

Texts referring to the family of Jesus mention His mother, brothers, and sisters but never a wife.

Likewise when Mary is mentioned in Scripture she is never linked to a man as his wife.

When Paul was seeking to establish a minister’s right to marry he surely would have mentioned Christ’s marriage had such existed.

At the cross Jesus showed great compassion regarding His mother but makes no mention of Mary Magdalene. Were she His wife surely He would have shown her comparable compassion.

Brown wrote, “The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine.” (P. 231).

He further notes, “Because Constantine upgraded Jesus’ status almost four centuries after Jesus’ death…Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ’s human traits…The earlier [Gnostic] gospels were outlawed, gathered up, and burned.” (P. 234). False!

No Gnostic gospels were burned at the Council of Nicaea, the alleged site of the burning. What was burned were heretical writing by an errant priest Arian.

The collection of New Testament books was started long before Constantine. (See “How We Got our Bible” on this web site.) It wasn’t completed until 70 years after his death.

Following are some Scripture passages verifying the deity of Christ long before Constantine: Acts 20:28; Titus 2:13; Colossians 2:9; Romans 9:5; I Timothy 3:16) (See “The Deity of Christ” on this web site.)

Bottom line, The DaVinci Code is not a historical novel. It is fiction. If one is going to read it there should be an awareness it is a secular novel that dramatically distorts history.

The DaVinci Code – Part 3

Emperor Constantine called a council to convene in Nicea, Turkey in 325 AD. At that time he conspired to create a divine Christ and infallible Scripture. To do this he had “scholars” rewrite portions of the Bible to depict Christ, who had always been considered just a noble prophet, as divine. By a narrow vote the council agreed to say He was divine.

All of that is historically false, yet represented as fact in the intriguing novel “The DaVinci Code,” by Dan Brown. It is demonstrably false. Unfortunately many people don’t know the accurate history and have no basis for knowing it to be untrue.

Constantine did convene the Council of Nicea but that was not the agenda nor result. There are ancient manuscripts that predate the council by many years that are the same as those after the council. There was no rewrite. The council was called to address certain heresies that were emerging. They confirmed and codified defensive positions based on Scripture that had long been held.
The deity of Christ was not an issue for vote as alleged. A question was whether Christ was eternal or created. The vote was not even close as only two voted He was created.

Long before the Council of Nicea Christ had been worshiped as divine. In the translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek called the Septuagint the Greek word for God used to translate the Hebrew word Jahweh was Kyrios. It is the same word used in the oldest New Testament manuscripts for Christ.

A prominent theme in Brown’s work is that Mary Magadelene and Jesus were married. This is presented as a fact. Dr. Karen King of Harvard University is recognized as the foremost authority on ancient manuscripts related to Mary Magadelene. She says there is no indication in any such ancient document that they were married.

An old error is perpetuated by Brown. Mary Magadelene is represented as having been a prostitute. This is not stated in Scripture. The first recorded time she is referred to in this way was in 591 AD when Pope Gregory the Great referred to her as such. It is unfortunate Gregory made this grave error. To many it is now a common assumption.

The injurious thing about such a novel is many readers don’t know what is true and what is fiction. A half lie is the worst kind. Few know enough church and theological history to be able to give it an objective reading.

Brown has fabricated a conspiracy novel based on unreliable resources and done it so cleverly that one reviewer said his research is “impeccable.” It would be interesting to know what historical knowledge the reviewer had.

From a spiritual stand point the most damnable heresy in the book is that the way to God is by an intellectual formula known only by a few. In making such a claim it disregards the sacrificial death of Christ as a means of grace.

In the novel Teabing, the fictional historian commented, “Almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false.”

Reality is almost everything Teabing and the author of “The DaVinci Code” taught us about Christ and the Bible is false.

The DaVinci Code – Part 2

The DaVinci Code has been number one on the New York Times, Barnes & Noble, and Wal Mart best seller lists and is destined for Hollywood. Prevailing skepticism in our society has resulted in it being a popular work. The idea of a past conspiracy, covert actions, long kept secrets, and untold “truth” cultivate a market for such a work.

A lack of trust in the past has opened the door for the author to use pseudo-scholarship to present his bogus “truth.” He cozies up to the reader as though he only is the one who at last is going to tell the real story. The author cleverly writes in such a way as to give the impression the book is history. In essence the book is a bad amalgam of old paganism and old Gnosticism to comprise an intriguing and entertaining novel. Bottom line, it is fiction.

The thesis is Mary Magdalene was married to Jesus. She along with their children moved to south France and formed a royal line known as the Marovingians. This fact, known only to a select few, was allegedly recorded in documents buried with Mary. Supposedly the Catholic Church worked to suppress this information which revealed Christianity to be less than is currently accepted.

Historically there is no accepted record that hints of this. There are eleven references to Mary Magdalene in the Bible. It was the custom of the era in which the gospels were written to refer to a woman by the name of her husband. She is known only by her home town. Had she been married to Jesus reference to her would have been to “Mary, wife of Jesus.”

The book gets its title from the artist Leonardo DaVinci who reputedly was a member of a secret guild that knew the true story of the marriage of Mary and Jesus. He is represented as leaving clues to the marriage in some of his paintings, most notably The Last Super. One code involved placing a “V” near one of the figures in the painting with rather feminine features. This character is normally assumed to be John but the author says it was Mary Magdalene. The “V” symbol in that era was the feminine sign.

The author does not mention there is another “V” on the other side of the painting. The two simply had to do with artistic balance and not a great revelation.

Not only is the book fiction it is historically inaccurate in many details of its false thesis. An example of this is how the Gospels were chosen. The author says 80 gospels were laid out on a table at a council and a group of men chose those they liked. There are clear and reputable records that refute this. There were less that 12 works considered and that was done many years in advance of the council in which it is said to have happened.

The author represents the work as being the work of elite scholarship. It is instead a cleverly written mystery novel but not a scholarly work.

It is one of several emerging works intended to discredit Jesus Christ. In them He is at best represented as a great prophet but not as deity as revealed in such Scripture as: Colossians 2:9, Titus 2:13, Romans 9:5, I Timothy 3:16, and Acts 20:28.

Now consider some historical and theological errors in The DaVinci Code. Without a knowledge of true history the average reader has no way to detect and correct these distinct errors.

The book begins with an introductory page identified as “FACT” which avows “all descriptions of…documents…in this novel are accurate.” NOT! This gives the reader the false impression the work is based on history. It claims to be based on the Gnostic Gospels, however it is not history.

Most persons have never heard of the Gnostic Gospels. They were written by a sect known as the Gnostics. Some such sects professed to be Christian but had nothing in common with Christianity. Historically the movement has been seen not as a phenomenon that presses forward but rather backward and stationary against the rise of universal Christianity. The movement included elements of Greek Hellenism, Zoroastrianism, and Egyptology. Gnosticism posed the most challenging opposition to the emergence of Christianity. The movement sought to destroy the true historical foundation of Christianity. It failed because it was fraudulent.

A segment of their writings known as the Gnostic Gospels have little resemblance to the four gospels of the New Testament. They do not present biographical insight regarding the historical Christ. Gnosticism was an unsuccessful attempt to inject poison into the mainstream of early Christianity. Now these ancient writings have been revived in an effort to discredit modern Christianity. Consider these errors in The DaVinci Code based largely on these false gospels written primarily by the Nag Hammadi Gnostic sect.

ERROR #1. The assertion the New Testament Gospels are not the earliest Gospels, rather the Gnostic ones are.

Teabing and Langdon, two fictitious “scholars” in the novel assert such claims. Dan Brown, the author relies heavily on two Gnostic Gospels, The Gospel of Philip and The Gospel of Mary. In reality there is no evidence either of these existed before the late second century, long after the writing of the New Testament Gospels. The philosophy contained in these bogus gospels was not espoused until the late second century and was immediately refuted by Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and Tertullian who wrote at that time. These books represent a world view with more in common with Hellenism than Christianity.

ERROR # 2. Jesus was not represented as anything other that a human being until declared divine at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D.

This falsehood overlooks the fact Jesus is called THEOS, “God,” seven times in the New Testament and KURIOS, “Lord,” many times in reference to His divinity. The Council of Nicea in the fourth century and the Council of Chalcedon in the fifth century simply confirmed this biblical revelation from the much earlier period.

ERROR # 3. Constantine suppressed the earlier Gnostic Gospels and forced the present New Testament Gospels and the concept of Christ’s divinity on the church.

Long before Constantine and the Gnostic Gospels came on the scene the four New Testament Gospels were circulated together as authoritative sources for the church. The early church did not recognize the Gnostic Gospels as authoritative. They did not suppress them, they merely revealed their unreliability.

ERROR # 4. Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene.
The New Testament gives no hint of this. The concept is drawn from the Gospel of Philip written in the late third century.

In his novel Brown has the character Teabing argue the word “companion” in the passage in question in Aramaic means “spouse” and it does. However, the Gnostic Gospels were written not in Aramaic but Coptic in which it does not mean wife. In reality the text does not clearly say Jesus was married, much less to Mary Magdalene.

ERROR # 5. The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Gnostic texts found at Nag Hammadi, Egypt are the oldest Christian records.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are purely Jewish documents. They are in no way Christian. Likewise, there is no indication any of the Gnostic texts referenced were written before the late second century. The New Testament documents were much earlier.

ERROR # 6. The early church suppressed the Sacred Feminine, a female deity.

The Bible makes it clear God is neither male nor female. He is Spirit. Christianity did not replace ancient female deities with one or more male deities. Ancient Jews and Christians were a minority insisting God is a Spirit.

SUMMARY: The DaVinci Code has put a new face on an old fraud.

These errors have been distilled from The DaVinci Code by Ben Witherington III writing in “Biblical Archaeology Review,” Volume 30, number 3.

Persons wanting to read creditable historical works on related topics should consider:
The DaVinci Code Decoded, Darrell Bock [From which much of the material in the first of this article was derived.]
Pocket History of the Church, Jeffrey Bingham
Our Legacy: The History of Christian Doctrine, John Hannah
A Survey of Bible Doctrine, Charles Ryrie