Bible Manuscripts and National Geographic

Bible Manuscripts and National Geographic
Atheists often suggest that the Bible is a group of fake manuscripts with a traceable history of distortion and rewriting. Therefore, it can’t be taken seriously. Perhaps the main hero of biblical skeptics and critics is Bart Ehrman. In 2005 Ehrman released a book titled Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. In that book, he claims there are massive mistakes in Bible manuscripts. Ehrman, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, is an atheist who was previously an evangelical Christian.

In the December 2018 issue of National Geographic magazine, the lead article by Robert Draper is titled “The Bible Hunters.” It is a well-documented article about the history of searching for and finding early Bible manuscripts. It shows how those manuscripts agree with the Bible we have today and that more and more evidence supports the integrity of the Scriptures.

If you aren’t familiar with Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest complete copy of the New Testament, this article will help you learn about the interesting story of how it was discovered. The article details the finding of a nearly complete copy of the book of Isaiah, the Messianic prophet, from the Dead Sea Scrolls dating before the time of Christ. It also details a number of other ancient Bible manuscripts.

The article is honest and admits the deliberate altering of some documents. While it may make people aware of some of the problems of Biblical documents, the weight of the evidence revealed in the article is very supportive of Biblical accuracy. We can accept the Bible as God’s Word, and most of the difficulties are likely to be resolved with more study of the Bible manuscripts.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Artistic Expression and Human History

Artistic Expression and Human History
One of the interesting challenges to human evolution has to do with our capacity for artistic creation. Why do human artistic expressions display beauty and color? There is no good evidence that animals express themselves aesthetically – be it music, color, artistic expression, abstractionism, or worship. When people have claimed that animals express themselves in these areas, the claims have turned out to be anthropomorphisms by those making the claims. We all tend to attach human attributes to animal actions, but the evidence supports the view that animals don’t do those things. On the other hand, artistic expression and human history go together.

One evidence of artistic work has to do with the pictures left on cave walls in various locations. Those drawings do not show a sequence of development. In other words, you don’t see older drawings that are more primitive than recent ones. There is a story that Picasso examined the Cromagnon cave drawings and said, “We have learned nothing about art in our entire history on planet earth.”

USA Today (November 9, 2018) published an article on new art finds in Borneo and Indonesia. They are much older than any of the drawings in Spain and France. Dr. Maxime Aubert who led the discovery says the paintings are 4,000 years older than any other find. Aubert says “they are the earliest known figurative artwork.” In addition to the drawings of mystic animals, there are hand stencils and cave paintings of human scenes, and extensive use of color.

Genesis 4:21-22 indicates that humans developed tools and musical instruments early. Human history has included artwork and musical synthesis from a very early time. We would suggest this is all tied to our spiritual nature. It is our soul that gives us the capacity to do all the things that set humans apart from animals. The new finds support the view that these abilities were present in human’s from the beginning, not developed over a long time. Artistic expression and human history cannot be separated.
John N. Clayton © 2018

Sex Recession Cause

“Sex Recession” Cause
There is little doubt that there has been a radical change in sexual behavior in the past 25 years. Moral acceptance of premarital sex is at an all-time high. Birth control is easily accessible for all ages. People can find hook-up partners on dating apps without leaving home. Online porn is a major industry in today’s world. Websites are selling sex toys and vibrators to promote masturbation. How can there be a sex recession?

Liberals maintained that all this was good and that freedom from old norms would lead to what they called “sexual fulfillment.” What the numbers are showing is just the opposite. The number of sexually active high school students has dropped from 54% to 40% in the past 25 years. People in their early 20s are 2.5 times as likely to be abstinent as GenXers were at that same age. Dating apps have turned out to be addictive games that produce more frustration than connection.

The New York Times recently published a report on the “sex recession.” Writer Ross Douthat said that the trend mentioned above “has led to the growing alienation of the sexes from one another. In our new sterility, ‘virtual sex’ has become the opiate of the frustrated masses.” Editorials in the media have blamed everything from porn to the record number of people under 35 who are living with their parents.

When God gave the beautiful oneness that marriage brings, He then gave admonitions about how to use the gift of sex. When we follow God’s guidelines, sex can give fulfillment, relationships, security, and freedom. Genesis 2:24 stated the relationship God intended, and the Bible is full of teaching about avoiding the corrupted misuse of sexual relationships.

Atheists and skeptics have challenged these teachings saying they are unrealistic and merely an attempt to deprive us of potential pleasure, but just the opposite is true. God’s instructions are to designed to give us freedom, joy, and the maximum pleasure. When we misuse the power of sex, the result is catastrophic. The “sex recession” is proof of what happens when we fail to follow God’s instructions.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Data from The Week, November 30, 2018, page 17.

Why Did God Create T. Rex?

Why Did God Create T. Rex?
A reader sent a question that might be of interest to several others concerning the dinosaurs. The question was if God created everything, including dinosaurs, why did God create T. rex? Why would He create a creature so violent and cruel?

Denominational creationism maintains that God created everything good and T. rex and other carnivores went bad. When man sinned, bad came into existence and creatures that had been good became bad. So dinosaurs created as good and benevolent creatures suddenly became cruel carnivores. (See Acts and Facts December 2018, page 20.)

There are so many difficulties with that explanation, it would require a book to develop them all. Our book The Source attempts to do at least part of that. You can borrow it on our doesgodexist.org website or purchase it at THIS LINK. Here are a few points:

There is no Hebrew word in Genesis (or elsewhere in the Bible) that can legitimately be translated “dinosaur.” Some suggest that “behemah” and “remes” refer to dinosaurs, but the words literally refer to cattle and sheep or goats respectively. The Israelites were familiar with these animals, and they could eat them. (See Genesis 1:24-25 and 9:1-3). Genesis was written to Israel to explain how their animals came into being. It does not include every creature that ever existed – bacteria, viruses, platypus, dinosaur, etc. It seems that Genesis 1:1 describes God preparing planet Earth for humans. To do that, God created creatures that were extinct by the time He created humans and their domesticated animals.

Material found in dinosaur feces tells us what they ate. Coprolites of T. Rex do not contain plant material. Their dental structure in all cases was made to cut meat, not to grind up plants.

Being a carnivore does not mean that an animal is bad or a monster. If you don’t have carnivores, then plant-eaters eat all the plants, and soon everything dies. Why did God create T. rex? We need carnivores with the capacity to kill and digest herbivores to keep balance in nature.

Dinosaurs were not monsters any more than lions or largemouth bass are. They were part of the balance that God used as He fashioned the Earth with the resources that humans would need. At the end of the creation process “God saw everything that He had made, and behold it was VERY good” (Genesis 1:31).
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Earth Is Not Flat

Earth Is Not Flat
There is a myth that when Columbus set out on his famous voyage, people believed he would sail off the edge of the Earth. According to the myth, only the voyage of Columbus convinced people that the Earth was not flat. That myth is not true, and Earth is not flat.

The myth came from an early historical fiction work by Washington Irving in 1828. At the time of Columbus in 1492, educated Europeans knew that our planet is a sphere. The Greek philosopher Aristotle recognized that fact in 330 B.C. He observed that when lunar eclipses occurred, the shadow Earth cast on the Moon was always a semicircle. That could only happen every time if the Earth were a sphere. Also, it was easy to observe that when a ship came into shore over the ocean, the first part to be visible was the top of the sail. As it came closer, the lower part could be seen. That shows the curvature of the ocean surface.

In the early Church period, the view of a spherical Earth was widely accepted. The Christian theologian and philosopher Augustine (354-430) recognized that Earth was spherical. Theologian Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) acknowledged that physics, astronomy, and mathematics had proven that Earth is a sphere.

However, the Quran (609-632) says that the Earth was “laid out,” “spread out,” or “made flat” depending on how it’s translated. In the sixteenth century, a Sunni commentary stated that most Muslim scholars took those words to mean the Earth is flat. Chinese society did not let go of the concept of a flat Earth until the seventeenth century when Jesuit scholars brought their teaching to that country.

In spite of the evidence some people today insist that the Earth is flat. There is another persistent myth that science and the Bible are enemies and that they contradict each other. We believe that true science and the Bible correctly understood cannot contradict each other because they have the same Author. Earth is not flat, and science and the Bible are friends, not enemies.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Mormon President Disavows the Mormon Name

Mormon President Disavows the Mormon Name
In August of 2018, the president of the Mormon church, Russell M. Nelson, claimed that God personally revealed to him that names such as “LDS” and “Mormon” were offensive to Him. The Mormon president disavows the Mormon name because he says that these nicknames are offensive to God and are a “major victory for Satan.”

One of the problems with human-made churches is that they have a hard time naming themselves. Martin Luther did not want those who followed his teachings to call themselves “Lutherans” but his followers did not heed his plea. Many denominational names of religious groups identify their belief system such as “Methodist” or “Pentecostal.”

The name “Mormon” comes from a fictional character in the Book of “Mormon.” Many of us have heard of the “Mormon Tabernacle Choir” and programs like the “I am a Mormon” campaign. The “Meet the Mormons” movie began playing in Temple Square in 2014. The website for the denomination has been “Mormon.org.” That title has not been questioned until now. We have to wonder about why now and what the collateral consequences will be.

As the Mormon president disavows the Mormon name, he says the correct name for the Church is “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.” However, he says that “The Church” or the “Church of Jesus Christ” or “The Restored Church of Jesus Christ” are acceptable to God.

Nowhere in the Bible is there a command to the early Christians to call themselves by any title. Acts 11:26 tells us that the disciples were called “Christians” first at Antioch and that title is referenced only three times in the New Testament. Its use may have been a derogatory reference by the enemies of the early church. (See Acts 26:28.) It was a name given to them, not something they selected although Peter used it in 1 Peter 4:16.

The DOES GOD EXIST? ministry is not a product of any denomination and is not funded by any denomination. We are simply individuals trying to serve God by presenting evidence and encouraging people to do what the Bible says. The “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” teaches and practices many things not consistent with the teachings of Christ and the apostles. For that reason, we do not associate with that sect or encourage people to follow their teachings. We urge people to simply follow Jesus and practice what is revealed in the New Testament.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Reference: Salt Lake City Messenger November 218 from the Utah Lighthouse Ministry www.utlm.org.

Stromatolite – Oldest Fossil or Not

Stromatolite
For many years the textbooks in paleontology classes have said the stromatolite was the first life form to appear on Earth and that its formation was the product of chance biochemical reactions. Now there are some challenges to this model.

There were several reasons for promoting the stromatolite as the oldest life-form. One reason was that it fit evolutionary models and made sense as far as the production of atmospheric oxygen is concerned. The other reason was that a primitive plant which is a form of algae leaves a conical formation of calcium carbonate in the ocean today. Those formations are similar to the stromatolite formations found in ancient rocks. Scientists found those formations in such diverse locations as the Gunflint Chert in Canada, the Isua Belt in Greenland, and the Ediacaran formation in Australia. I have seen the formations in Australia and Canada, and they are very similar and easy to recognize.

It turns out that the formations appear to be volcanic and not biologic in origin. If the conical formations organically originated they should all have the point of the cone pointing up. In at least one recent find, the top of the cone was pointing down. Dissection of the cones shows they are an elongated ridge and not really a symmetrical cone. Biological cones are almost always very symmetrical. Rocks around the structures have been metamorphosed by heat and pressure. The recent conclusion of scientists studying stromatolites is that they are the product of metamorphic activity on volcanic material and are not biologic.

Not all of the experts in paleontology are willing to buy into the idea that a stromatolite results from tectonics and not biology. One of the reasons is that this would require an overhaul of the theoretical model for the development of life on planet Earth. The Bible simply says that the first life-forms God created were plants. The biblical sequence of plant formation in Genesis 1:12-13 was:

“deshe” meaning grass
Translated “grass” in KJV and “vegetation” in some newer translations.

“eseb” meaning naked seed or gymnosperm
Translated “herb” in the KJV and “plants bearing seed” in some newer translations.

“ets” meaning flowering tree or angiosperm
Translated “fruit tree” in KJV and “trees bearing fruit” in newer translations.

It will be interesting to see where the newest scientific controversy leads. But the lesson of history is that when science makes new discoveries and verifies them, they always support the biblical record if we take it literally. This appears to be one more example of that.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Sources: Science News November 10, 2018, page 12 or online HERE
Nature for October 17, 2018 online HERE

Women’s Roles Controversy in Europe

Women's Roles Controversy
One of the most interesting characteristics of the women’s rights movement is their intolerance of any view that doesn’t fit their idea of what women’s roles should be. A classic example of this is the turmoil produced by a popular Swedish journalist named Greta Thurfjell. She wrote an article in which she suggested that being a housewife was a worthy goal for a woman who chose that vocation. “Feminists are not cool and have gone too far,” Thurfjell complained.

Feminist Jonna Sima responded that Thurfjell and her supporters “have no idea how hard women had to struggle to achieve the freedoms she takes for granted.” Numerous articles on both sides of the issue have filled newspapers in Europe, with abortion rights being the primary focus.

The problem here is that both sides looking at women’s roles are ignoring fundamental human rights in pushing their agenda. Sima characterizes Thurfjell’s view as “longing to be a submissive housewife devoted to making her man happy.” On the opposite side, the need for women to have the same political and economic rights certainly should not be contested by anyone.

No woman who wants to be a wife and a mother should be criticized for choosing that role. The Bible makes it clear that this is a worthy role for women. (See 1 Timothy 5:14.) Those who chose to be career women even in the day of Paul were accepted and honored. (See Acts 16:14-15.) Such women were vital to the financial support of Jesus and of the first-century church. (See Luke 8:3.)

As a public high school teacher, I have seen the disastrous effect of women who felt unfulfilled and abandoned the role of being a mother and a wife. The impact on children is frequently catastrophic. If a woman doesn’t want that role, she needs to think of the effect her choices have on others. God’s way works, but God does not require anyone to marry or to have children. If you don’t want to be a mother, don’t!

Women’s roles are just as important as men’s roles. Sometimes a role is forced upon us, and we have to do the best we can with what we have. In 1 Timothy 5:14 Paul stated the ideal that younger women marry and guide the house, committed to that role. Feminists need to focus on equal pay for equal work and not demean those women who choose to make a career of being a wife and a mother.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Reference: The Week, November 16, 2018, page 14.

Jewish Feasts and Thanksgiving

Jewish Feasts and Thanksgiving
There are seven feasts that God told the ancient Israelite nation to observe. What is interesting is that the purpose of each one of these is similar to what Christians engage in and for the same reasons. You can see the connection between the Jewish feasts and Thanksgiving.

Take a look at these seven feasts and how we have the same needs:

1-The Feast of Unleavened Bread (Or Passover). Leviticus 23:5, Exodus 23:15, and Numbers 28:16-25. This feast celebrated the historical deliverance from Egypt. Our 4th of July originally had a similar purpose. The Lord’s Supper also remembers deliverance from sin – 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.

2-The Feast of Weeks or Harvest. Exodus 23:16 and 34:22 and Numbers 28:26. It was later known as Pentecost because it was celebrated on the 50th day from the Sabbath beginning the Passover. It was a time to remember the blessing of having grain crops. By the way, our first Thanksgiving occurred on the same date as Thanksgiving 2018 – November 22. The Plymouth Colonists and Wampanoag Indians celebrated it on that date in 1621. First Corinthians 16:1-2 and 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 express a similar joy at the blessings of God.

3-The Feast of Tabernacles (or Feast of Booths or Ingathering). Leviticus 23:34-43, Deuteronomy 16:13-15, and Numbers 29:12-38. This feast celebrated the harvesting of fruit from trees. Our Thanksgiving had a similar origin. (See number 2.)

4-Feast of the Sabbath – or Sabbath of Rest. Leviticus. 23:2-3 and Isaiah 58:13. It was a solemn assembly of thanking God for the nation of Israel. Our Independence day is similar.

5-Day of Blowing Trumpets. Numbers 29:1 and Leviticus 23:24. It was a sabbath and a memorial to celebrate the nation. Our Veterans Day and our Memorial Day are similar.

6-Day of Atonement. Leviticus 23:26-31 and Exodus 30:10. On the 10th day of the 7th month observed once a year a day Israel focused on individual personal sin and making atonement for that sin. Our Lord’s Supper has a connection to that concept every week, and 1 John 1:5-10 tells us that as Christians our atonement is continuous.

7-Feast of Purim. Esther 9:18-32 – This was a celebration established by Mordecai to celebrate the deliverance from Haman similar to our Memorial Day.

Israel had specific feasts to lift and remind their thinking to have an attitude of gratitude for all the blessing they had received. Shouldn’t we have that same spirit as we celebrate Thanksgiving? Romans 1:18-22 describes the enemies of God, and one of the indicators of their antagonism to God was that they were not thankful.

The connection between the Jewish feasts and Thanksgiving are evident. Make Thanksgiving special this year by expressing your sincere thanks for all the blessings God has given.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Abraham Had Camels

Abraham Had Camels
It’s the case of the missing camels. One argument that biblical skeptics keep resurrecting is the claim that there were no camels in ancient Israel. In Genesis 24 Abraham’s servant took ten camels and went to find a wife for his son Isaac. The charge is that there were no camels in the Promised Land at that time so this account is in error. We want to know if it is true that Abraham had camels.

Camels are mentioned 22 times in Genesis and are mentioned again in Exodus 9:3, Leviticus 11:4, 1 Samuel 15:3, 1 Kings 10:2 and 2 Kings 8:9 as well as other passages. In modern times famed archaeologist William F. Albright claimed that there were no camels in the Holy Land until the 10th century B.C. National Geographic repeated that claim claim in 2014.

Dr. Mark Chavalas in the November/December 2018 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review makes it likely that Abraham had camels and the biblical account is not in error. He gives archaeological evidence that there were camels all around the Holy Land as early as the 4th millennium B.C. Here are five of the pieces of evidence Chavalas gives:

1) In the 4th millennium B.C., a bactrian camel (one with two humps) is portrayed in artwork in Eastern Iran.
2) In the 3rd millennium B.C., a dromedary (with one hump) appears on a plaque from modern day Iraq.
3) Camel skeletal remains from the 3rd millennium have been found in Iran.
4) Camel remains from 2400 B.C. were found in the Sumerian city of Shuruppak.
5) A Babylonian document from the 18th century B.C. contains the line “the milk of the camel is sweet.”

Abraham and his family came from Mesopotamia (Genesis 12) and moved to the land God promised to him. Migrating to this new land, Abraham, who was rich in livestock, would have brought his animals with him. (See Genesis 13:2.) So it seems evident that Abraham had camels. The attempts of skeptics to declare the Bible anachronistic is simply a case of letting prejudice override a reasonable search for evidence.
–John N. Clayton © 2018