Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Review: Jesus: His Life by the History Channel--Read Your Bible Instead

Read your Bible instead of watching this program. The goal of the History Channel is not to present the Bible accurately. The intent of the of Jesus: His Life is to make money for their network by stirring up controversy and doubt, like many other programs on this network.

Seriously. I'm not joking. Read the Bible instead.

You should be aware that the History Channel is the source for Ancient Aliens, and other sensationalist anti-history.

But let us compare the Bible with an example of the History Channel's use of the Bible in Jesus: His Life episode 1.

The Annunciation starts at minute 7 in the program. 

It is very clear at the outset of this episode that the History Channel's producers and writers desire to inject the heresy of Pelagianism into the biblical text.

Pelagius was a late 4th and early 5th century British priest who denied the Scripture's teaching that humans inherited original sin and are by nature enemies of God. In place of this Pelagius taught that every individual was capable of choosing to do God's will and be saved through their own choice. Pelagius' teachings were recognized as unbiblical and condemned as false doctrine by numerous church councils and confessions (including Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed) from the early 5th century to this day. His views are rightly considered heretical. And the heresy of Pelagius has been embraced by a many today who teach that they are Christian.

According to the Bible the angel Gabriel greets Mary:
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.  He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.  And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:30-33 NKJV)
According to the History Channel's Jesus: His Life Gabriel says:
"Mary, do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God. If you choose to accept His plan, you will conceive in your womb and give birth, a Son."
First, note the bold italics. These are words the History Channel chose as replacements for the rest of what Gabriel said in the Bible. It is important to notice what they are eliminating: They eliminate the words of Gabriel which declare that Jesus is the Eternal God coming into human flesh according to the promises made to David and Jacob.

They replace this confession of Christ with something that did not happen. Gabriel never appealed to Mary "to accept" God's "plan." And Gabriel never told Mary that Christ would only be conceived "if" she chose "to accept".

Eliminating the words of Scripture about the Divine Human Savior, the History Channel teaches the fiction that Mary's decision to follow God was the focus of this Biblical text.

Mary's response to Gabriel comes next.

According to the Bible, Mary responds:
“How can this be, since I do not know a man?” (Luke 1:34)
History Channel, Mary:
"How can this happen? I am a virgin."
The History Channel does make clear that at this point Mary was a virgin. So at least at this point in the show the Virgin birth is not denied.

The Gabriel of the Bible, says:
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.  Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” (Luke 1:35-37)
History Channel Gabriel says something completely different:
"Nothing is impossible with the Almighty. The Holy Spirit will visit you. The child you bear will become the greatest of men. He will be called the Son of God."
Eliminated from the Bible is the actual divinity of Christ, and in place of this the History Channel claims that at some time in the future this son of hers will become great and be called the Son of God. The Bible's Gabriel points to Elizabeth and in her the promise of the Forerunner. The History Channel eliminates the fulfillment of the Prophetic Word.  The History Channel Gabriel speaks in a way which is consistent with the heresy of Adoptionism: the false teaching that Jesus wasn't really the Eternal God who became human, but rather that Jesus was a miraculously conceived man who later in life was adopted by God at His baptism and was given the title "Son of God."

In the Bible, Mary responds:
 “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” 
And at this point the Bible says:
And the angel departed from her.
But the History Channel is not done with its version of Mary and Gabriel.

History Channel has Mary saying
"Why has He chosen me?"
To which the History Channel's Gabriel says:
"You are pure of heart and soul. Will you accept this gift?"
History Channel Mary says:
"Here am I, servant of the Lord."
This fictional interchange embraces the heresy of Pelagianism.

This interchange may have been included as a nod toward the Roman Catholic teaching of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. That is, that she was also conceived and born without the contamination of original inherited sin. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was officially adopted by the Roman Catholic church by Pope Pius IX in 1854. This view of Mary became widely held through late antiquity. It is not a Biblical teaching, it was accepted as Church doctrine in the Roman Church based on the authority of the Pope.

History Channel Gabriel's fictional question "Will you accept this gift?" implies that she was, at least, if not also other humans, in a position of moral freedom with regard to the Will of God. This is the same kind of moral freedom the Church condemned as Pelagianism from the 5th century and on.

Summary

Don't bother watching the show. Read the Bible instead.

Some might object to this review as if it were cherry-picking evidence. Shame on you for excusing such false teaching. And may God bring you to repentance and faith.

This review could be many times longer on many more errors and serious heresies and false doctrines promoted in Jesus: His Life. I could have focused on the many baseless and false claims made by the commentators. I could have focused on the whole web of fictional background invented by the writers to frame the episode around their imaginings of what Joseph must have gone through, the fictional conversations between Joseph, Mary, and the people around them. All of which are a load of invented dreck. The invented stories about Jesus have no value at all in teaching us more about who He is or His work for us.

But what matters is how the producers represent the actual Scriptures, the Word of God. (Here understand that Joel Osteen is named, among others.) What do they take out? What do they add?

Here we have seen what they subtract: Christ as the Prophesied Incarnation of the Eternal Divine Son of God as Savior.

Here we have seen with what they replace Christ: The idea of free moral ability to choose to do what God wants, so that God can bless us. That is, the heresy of Pelagianism. And this heresy is often the foundation of both the Prosperity Gospel, the Social Gospel, and false teachers promoting the Word of Faith heresy.

Read your Bible instead.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

A Lenten Reminder of Cross Bearing


There is a useful tradition about giving something up for Lent. While such an act does nothing for our salvation or holiness before God, it does provide us with the opportunity to learn that there are ways we can discipline our own bodies.

But we should be careful not to elevate such self-deprivation to the level of suffering for Christ.
24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
[Matthew 16:24-26 NKJV]
A main goal of Lent is to lead us through the Active Obedience of Christ on our behalf to view the Passive Obedience of Christ in our place that our faith may rest on Christ alone, and Christ crucified. His is the cross that saves.

The following is a list, a reminder, both of what suffering for Christ can be, and to keep our brothers and sisters in our prayers.
"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. " Romans 8:18

This is a partial list that starts in January.



" But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.”  But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;  having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.  For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil." 1 Peter 3:14-17
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Matthew 5:10-12

        Thursday, March 14, 2019

        The Neo-Babylonian Dynasty from Nabopolassar to Belshazzar

        The Neo-Babylonian Dynasty from Nabopolassar to Belshazzar
        A Summary and Source Guide
        Pastor Joseph Abrahamson
        March 11, 2019

        Most of the extrabiblical evidence available before the discoveries of the cuneiform texts in the 1800s was to be found in the following:  
        Herodotus (c 484 – 425 BC)   Histories I.175-216  
          http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Herodotus/1D*.html

        Xenophon (431 – 354 BC)  Cyropaedia [a work of historical fiction] VII.5.15–16    
        http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0204%3Abook%3D7%3Achapter%3D5%3Asection%3D15
        Josephus (AD 37 – 100)   Antiquities book 10  
        http://penelope.uchicago.edu/josephus/ant-10.html   Contra Apionem book 1:20-21 where he cites Berosus and Megasthenes  
          http://penelope.uchicago.edu/josephus/apion-1.html 
        Eusebius (AD 260/265 – 339/340)   Chronicon book 1    http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/eusebius_chronicon_01_text.htm


        In the following survey we will be mainly summarizing the primary sources from the cuneiform texts.

        The Assyrian Emperor Ashurbanipal died in 627 BC. In the chaotic year that followed the Babylonian king, Nabopolassar, rebelled and formed an alliance with the Medes, Scythians, Persians, and Cimmerians. In 612 they took Nineveh. Nabopolassar established his seat of government in Babylonia. This began the Neo-Babylonian Dynasty, numbered as the 11th Babylonian Dynasty. The kings were:

             Nabu-apla-usur [Nabopolassar] 626–605 BC
             Nabu-kudurri-usur II [Nebuchadnezzar also transcribed Nebuchadrezzar] 605–562 BC
             Amel-Marduk [Evil Mardok] 562–560 BC

             Neriglissar 560–556 BC
             Labaši-Marduk [Labashi-Marduk] 556 BC

             Nabonidus 556–539 BC
                      and his son and co-regent Belshazzar 5??–539 BC

        Families:

        Nabupolassar’s heirs are his son Nebuchadnezzar and his grandson Amel-Marduk. Neriglissar is married to Amel-Marduk’s sister and starts a new line. Nabonidus is not related at all.


        Nabopolassar established his rule in 626 BC. Near the end of his reign Pharaoh Necho II started invading the near east in 609 BC. King Josiah of Judah allied with the Babylonians, tried to stop Necho’s advance at the Battle of Megiddo. Josiah died there (2 Kings 23:29-37, 2 Chronicles 35:20–24). The Judeans selected Jehoahaz to succeed Josiah, but when Necho came back through he deposed Jehoahaz, took him captive to Egypt, then placed Jehoiakim on the throne (2 Kings 23:31; 2 Chronicles 36:1–4, Josephus Antiquities 10.5). Nabopolassar’s son, Nebuchadnezzar became an astute military leader, leading the Babylonian army and its allies against Pharaoh Necho II to win the Battle of Carchemish in 605 BC (Jeremiah 46:2) while his father stayed at home on the throne. Nabopolassar died shortly after this on the 8th of Abul [approx Aug 15, 605 BC]. His son, Nebuchadnezzar succeeded him.

        The Mesopotamian Records:

        Chronicle Concerning the Early Years of Nabopolassar [BM 25127 (98-2-16, 181)]
             https://www.livius.org/cg-cm/chronicles/abc2/early-nabopolassar.html

        Chronicle Concerning the Fall of Nineveh [ BM 21901 (96-4-9, 6)]
             https://www.livius.org/sources/content/mesopotamian-chronicles-content/abc-3-fall-of-nineveh-chronicle/

        Chronicle Concerning the Late Years of Nabopolassar [BM 22047 (96-4-9, 152)]
             https://www.livius.org/cg-cm/chronicles/abc4/late-nabopolassar.html

        Chronicle Concerning the Early Years of Nebuchadnezzar II lines 1-10 ("Jerusalem Chronicle"; ABC 5) at Livius
             https://www.livius.org/sources/content/mesopotamian-chronicles-content/abc-5-jerusalem-chronicle/ 



        Nebuchadnezzar II returned to Babylon and began his reign in the 1st of month of Ululu (mid to late September 605 BC). He began a large rebuilding project along with stabilizing and expanding the Babylonian Empire. He reached and captured Jerusalem in 597 BC, deposing king Jehoiachin, taking him hostage with a great number of select people from Judea. He placed Zedekiah on the throne. After 10 years Zedekiah revolted, Nebuchadnezzar lay siege to Jerusalem for 18 months. The city fell in the summer month of Tammuz (approximately July, Jeremiah 52:6), the temple was destroyed, the Judahites who were still alive were deported to Babylon.

        The Chronicle Concerning the Early Years of Nebuchadnezzar II lines 10-14 contain Nebuchadnezzar’s report the first siege of Jerusalem and the deportation of the select people, the deposing of Jehoiachin, and the placement of Zedekiah. But Nebuchadnezzar’s records in this inscription stop before the second siege of Jerusalem.

        Mesopotamian Records:

        Chronicle Concerning the Early Years of Nebuchadnezzar II lines 1-10 ("Jerusalem Chronicle"; ABC 5) at Livius
             https://www.livius.org/cg-cm/chronicles/abc5/jerusalem.html 
        Biblical Texts on Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem and the Deportation of the survivors include:

             The Lead Up to and the First Siege in 597 BC
                  2 Kings 24:1-17; 2 Chronicles 36:9-10; 
                  Jeremiah 12:14-13:27; 25; 26; 27:1-11; 35; 36; 45-47
             Events in Jerusalem during the 11 years occupation
                  2 Kings 24:18-20; 2 Chronicles 36:11-17; 
                  Jeremiah 16-24; 27:12-22; 28; 29 (letter to the captives); 
                       30-33; 37-39; 49:28-39; 51:59-64; 52:1-11
             Events in the Exile during the 11 years occupation
                  Ezekiel; Daniel 1-4
             The Second Siege and Destruction in 586 BC
                  2 Kings 25:1-21; 2 Chronicles 36:18-21; Jeremiah 34; 52:12-30
             After the Destruction of Jerusalem in Judea
                  2 Kings 25:22-27; Jeremiah 40-44; 51

        Nebuchadnezzar II ruled Babylon for another 24 years, leaving his throne to his son in 562 BC. (Josephus Antiquities10.6-10; Contra Apionem 1:20-21 where he cites Berosus and Megasthenes)

        Amel-Marduk, the son of Nebuchadnezzar reigned for only two years. During these years he pardoned and released King Jehoiachin of Judah (2 Kings 25:27-30; Jeremiah 52:31-34). Amel-Marduk was the last direct male descendant of Nabopolassar to rule. He was killed by Neriglissar, his sister Kasšaya’s husband. (Josephus Antiquities 10.11:1-2, Contra Apionem 1:20-21 where he cites Berosus and Megasthenes)

        Mesopotamian Records:

        Uruk King List [IM 65066]
             https://www.livius.org/sources/content/uruk-king-list/ 



        Neriglissar took the throne in 560 BC, reigning for only four years. His first three years are recorded in his Chronicle. [BM 25124 (98-2-16, 178)] (Josephus Antiquities 10.11:2, Contra Apionem 1:20-21 where he cites Berosus and Megasthenes, Livius website at https://www.livius.org/cg-cm/chronicles/abc6/neriglissar.html )


        His son Labashi-Marduk succeeded him, apparently while still a child. Labashi-Marduk was removed, possibly assassinated, after just 9 months. (Josephus Contra Apionem 1:20-21 where he cites Berosus and Megasthenes)

        Mesopotamian Records:

        Uruk King List [IM 65066]
             https://www.livius.org/sources/content/uruk-king-list/



        Nabonidus took the throne in 556 BC after his son Belshazzar led a coup d'état against Labashi-Marduk. The Mesopotamian records indicate that Nabonidus lead a religious reform unpopular with the priests, trying to return Babylon to worshipping Sin, Šamaš, and Ištar. Nabonidus took interest in restoring old temples and shrines, copying the inscriptions made in their foundation deposits and creating a record of those buildings. He was frequently away from the capitol, leaving his son Belshazzar in charge in his absence.

        [Josephus did his best from his lack of sources in Antiquities 10.11:2-7 and Contra Apionem 1:20-21 ]

        It is during this time that the events of Daniel 5:1-30 take place.

        In 539 BC Cyrus the Great invaded Babylon. Mesopotamian sources are difficult to harmonize, but it appears that Belshazzar was betrayed by his allies and the Babylonian priesthood. Babylon fell without a fight. Cyrus presented himself as the authentic religious heir to the old faith of Babylon, appeasing the priesthood and tradition. (Cyrus Cylinder Fragment A)

        Cyrus the Great comes into quite a few Biblical texts. But that is beyond the scope of this summary.

        Mesopotamian Records:

        Nabonidus Cylinder (from Sippar)
             http://www.livius.org/sources/content/nabonidus-cylinder-from-sippar/

        Nabonidus Cylinder (from Ur)
             http://www.livius.org/sources/content/nabonidus-cylinder-from-ur/

        Chronicle of Nabonidus (ABC 7)
             http://www.livius.org/cg-cm/chronicles/abc7/abc7_nabonidus1.html

        Verse account of Nabonidus
             http://www.livius.org/sources/content/anet/verse-account-of-nabonidus/ 

        Cyrus Cylinder
             http://www.livius.org/sources/content/cyrus-cylinder/

        Chronographic document concerning Nabonidus (CM 53)
             http://www.livius.org/sources/content/mesopotamian-chronicles-content/cm-53-chronographic-document-concerning-nabonidus/


        Other Resources

        Cambridge Ancient History 3rd Edition Vol 3 part 2, 1991
        Chapter 27 “Babylonia 605-539 BC” by D J Wiseman, pages 229-251
           https://archive.org/stream/iB_Ca/03-02#page/n247/mode/2up


        Ancient Mesopotamian Texts in Translation:

        Livius.org is a great resource to original Mesopotamian texts in translation.

        They have a list of the Mesopotamian Chronicles material available in translation at this link:
        https://www.livius.org/cg-cm/chronicles/chron00.html

        The links in their fourth column do not appear to work, but the links to the translations in the right-hand columns work.

        For the Neo-Babylonian period the texts are ABC2-7, CM53, and the Cyrus Cylinder.

        For information on the provenance and background on the Babylonian Chronicles see Caroline Waerzeggers “The Babylonian Chronicles: Classification and Provenance”, Journal of Near Eastern Studies 71/2 (2012), 285-298
        https://www.academia.edu/3268307/The_Babylonian_Chronicles_Classification_and_Provenance_Journal_of_Near_Eastern_Studies_71_2_2012_285-298



        The British Museum Inscriptions for Nabonidus and Belshazzar

        The British Museum has 8,221 items from the Neo-Babylonian Dynasty. This includes Nabopolassar (658-605) down to Nabonidus (556-539) and Belshazzar (co reg. ?-539).

        Nabonidus

        There are 4,593 items bearing the name Nabonidus in the British Museum. A list is available at this link:
        https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/search.aspx?people=93135&peoA=93135-4-7


        Belshazzar

        There are 6 items bearing the name Belshazzar in the British Museum. A list is available at this link:
        https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/search.aspx?people=93701&peoA=93701-1-8

        These items are:

        Cylinder 91128 from Ur
        https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=327140&partId=1&people=93701&peoA=93701-1-8&page=1

        Cylinder 91125 from Ur
        https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=327140&partId=1&people=93701&peoA=93701-1-8&page=1

        Tablet 56110 from Sippar
        https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=355212&partId=1&people=93701&peoA=93701-1-8&page=1

        Tablet 82960 from southern Iraq
        https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=799067&partId=1&people=93701&peoA=93701-1-8&page=1

        Tablet 99902 from southern Iraq
        https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=800532&partId=1&people=93701&peoA=93701-1-8&page=1

        Tablet 26740 from Borsippa
        https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=3087724&partId=1&people=93701&peoA=93701-1-8&page=1

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