The Bible Review
Issue #3, June 10, 1990
In This Issue
“Judging Evidence” by Leo Wierzbowski
“The Importance of Days” by S. Bagby, Bible Explorations, Vol. 1 No. 5 (1987)
“Absent . . . Present” by Oscar Baker, Truth For Today, Vol. 40, No. 3 (1989)
“The Wages of Sin #1” by Charles Welch, The Berean Expositor Vol. 1 (circa 1901-1911)
“Subscription Information and Permission to Distribute”
Judging Evidence by Leo Wierzbowski
This is an attempt to show the historical evidences for the resurrection of Jesus the Christ, that led me to trust in Christ. I think they will be of general interest. The data in this first installment were drawn from Josh McDowell’s book, “Evidence That Demands a Verdict.”
Standards for Evaluating the Reliability of Historical Documents:
I must lead off with this subject, since the eyewitness accounts of Christ’s resurrection and post-resurrection appearances are in the New Testament. Is the New Testament we have today identical with the work of the original authors? If not, I don’t think it’s rational to trust it.
In “Introduction to Research in English Literary History”, C. Sanders discusses three basic principles of historiography — the bibliographical test, the internal evidence test, and the external evidence test.
The bibliographical test is an examination of the textual transmission by which documents reach us. In other words, not having the original documents, how reliable are the copies we have in regards to the number of manuscripts and the time interval between the original and existing copies?
Here are a few examples: Author (work) When Written Earliest Copy Time Span Copies Caesar 100 – 44 B.C. 900 A.D. 1000 yrs. 10 Plato (Tetralogies) 427 – 347 B.C. 900 A.D. 1200 yrs. 7 Pliny the Younger (History) 61 – 113 A.D. 850 A.D. 750 yrs. 7 Suetonius (De Vita Caesarun) 75 – 160 A.D. 950 A.D. 800 yrs. 8 (New Testament) 50 – 100 A.D. 130 A.D. 30 yrs. 4000
Those 4000 are just the Greek manuscripts. Not included are the 9000 copies of the ancient versions of the New Testament (Syriac, Latin, Egyptian), some of which date back to 150 A.D.
Internal evidence has to do with the textual variations of the copies: Work Size (lines) Corrupted Lines Percent corrupted ILIAD 15,600 764 5 Mahabharata 250,000 26,000 10 New Testament 20,000 40 0.5
External evidence has to do with quotations from the ancient work by ancient writers other than the work’s authors. Here are some ancient quotations of the New Testament: Writer Number of Quotations Justin Martyr (133 A.D.) 330 Irenaeus (170 A.D.) 1819 Clement Alex. (150 – 212 A.D.) 2406 Origen (185 – 253) 17922 Tertullian (160 – 220) 7258 Hippolytus (170 – 235) 1378
I’m not going to get into Archaeological evidence, but this is another check on reliability, and the New Testament does extremely well in this category too. These standard methods of judging historical reliability indicate, to the rational and unprejudiced, that the New Testament is a competent primary source document from the first century. These also mean that the New Testament books we have today are practically identical with the original first century documents.
I conclude: If it is rational to believe that Pliny the Younger wrote History, then it is even more rational to believe that Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark. This is what I mean by using the same standards to judge historical evidence. If we don’t, then we’re not being fair, we’re just being prejudiced.
Now a thought: If I were to write a book that said I saw Elvis Presley risen from the dead three days after his burial, how many folks could I fool? I think quite a few, in the context of our American new age environment. I could probably start a new religion and get rich too. I don’t think anyone would try to throw me to the lions or crucify me — so why not? But then someone would blow it all by producing his dead body or contradicting me within a few years after my book was published. My lie/foolishness would be exposed and my religion would die with me.
I’d be more successful if my new religion was based on internal subjective evidence, which nobody can contradict. I could state that I “saw” Elvis somewhere and he told me wonderful things about death-life, which I faithfully recorded in my book. Faith in this is irrational — blind faith. Who could say whether I’d been lying or suffering delusions or telling the truth in my book? Even with his body in his grave, nobody could prove me wrong. Of course, I’d only fool those with a particular (irrational?) world view.
Fortunately, we don’t need to trust a holy man with blind faith. We have the history of Christ — an external object that confirms or denies our faith.
The Importance of Days by S. Bagby, reprinted from Bible Explorations
The first mention of “days” in Scripture speaks of creation in regard to man and all the things necessary to that end in the purpose of God. We begin to see the spiritual significance of its use when we compare the seedlines of Seth and Cain. In Gen 4:17-24 we note Cain’s offspring mentioned by name and their earthly accomplishments. However, when we examine Seth’s seedline through to Noah (Gen 4:25-5:32), there is no mention of their earthly occupation, but rather the length of their days, i.e. “And all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years . . .” Seth’s seedline is concerned with spiritual values whereas Cain’s seedline is concerned with fleshly values. “The Lord knoweth the days of the upright: And their inheritance shall be forever.” (Ps 37:18) We find then, for those who seek after spiritual things, that “days” mean more than just a period of time.
Jacob’s days were spoken of as a shortened life. And Pharaoh said unto Jacob, “How old art thou?”, And Jacob said unto Pharaoh, ” . . . few and evil have the days of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage” (Gen 47:8,9). Although by today’s standards Jacob lived a long life. He confesses that many of his days were wasted and his ‘spiritual days’ were not as significant as those of Abraham and Isaac. “The fear of the Lord prolongeth days: But the years of the wicked shall be shortened” (Prov 10:27).
Length of days are not necessarily full lives. Abel, Enoch and John the Baptist are good examples of this. The important beginning in a man’s life is when he seriously begins to think on God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge . . .” (Prov 1:7). The Bible starts and ends with God and is the subject matter of the volume of the book. “In beginning God . . .” (Gen 1:1); “I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last” (Rev 22:13). In Daniel He is called “the Ancient of days”.
We, too, must examine our own days and consider their spiritual value. “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” (Ps 90:12)
Absent . . . Present by Oscar Baker, reprinted from Truth For Today
Great multitudes of simple folk think that the expression TO BE ABSENT FROM THE BOOY IS TO BE PRESENT WITH THE LORD is in the Bible. They quote it as authority. They hold it a great hope.
It is exceeding strange that teachers(?) should take II Cor. 5:8 and wrest it from its context and twist it to mean the very opposite of what Paul intended it to mean. But such is the case.
The mind of the flesh, aided and abetted by Satan, can do some very strange things. It will do most anything to the Scriptures to prove its desires to be legitimate. In connection with this text and its misuse is the treating of the parable of Luke 16:19-31 as if it were fact. All this in spite of Matt. 13:34, “All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them:” and Luke 8:10, ” . . . unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. Even Job 14 :14 is twisted to make Job’s change come at his death instead of at resurrection as in John 11:25,26 and I Cor. 15:51,52.
Now let us take a look at II Cor. 5:8 in its context and see what Paul was really trying to tell folks:
- 4:1. We faint not. Treasure in earthen vessels. No boasting.
- 4:14. Reason. He shall raise up us. (Resurrection)
- 4:16. We faint not. Outward man perish. Only unseen things eternal.
- 5:1-4. Reason. Clothed upon with house from heaven. (Resurrection)
- 5:6. We are always confident. Cannot see Lord in this body. Faith walk.
- 5 :8. Reason. Confident and even willing to trade this body for new one. (Resurrection)
Through all the ruin and crumbling about us and in our own bodies, the apostle is always confident in view of resurrection. Resurrection is his theme. There is no hint here that any one will ever be a ghost or spook and get to see the Lord without a body. Scripture knows no such thing. Men are not and never will be spirit beings. It is well to read carefully the 4th and 5th chapters again and note the progression of the argument in favor of resurrection as the hope and confidence of the believer.
So the conclusion of the matter is that in this present body, no man can see the Lord; but the believer will be given a new body, not an earthly one (made with hands), but a new body made in the heavens (of heavenly materials?). It is in the new body that the believer will be judged for what he has done in the old (5:10).
Now is it reasonable that Paul should go to all the trouble to argue for resurrection in ch . 4 and 5 up to this particular verse under discussion, and then change entirely and do away with resurrection? Is Paul trying to tell us that resurrection is not necessary after all and that Christ is manifest in the heavenlies visible to spook believers now?
The Wages of Sin #1 by Charles Welch, reprinted from The Berean Expositor
In a previous article we sought to exhibit the meaning of the words commonly translated “for ever” and “eternal” in our A.V., and this naturally leads us on to a consideration of the nature of the punishment of the unsaved. It is held by many that “eternal conscious suffering” is a fundamental, and many have been put out of meetings for being what is called “non-eternity” men. A most important reason why we should be convinced of this matter is the awful libel it must be on the name of God should it turn out to be untrue.
If we have taught that God will punish the unsaved throughout the never-ending ages of eternity, that after millions of years spent in writhing and cursing, the God of righteous judgment has only just commenced the dreadful work of punishment on these unhappy creatures, and finally it should prove to be but the tradition of men, what a shameful calumny will be found in our mouths against the God of all grace! If eternal conscious suffering is God’s truth, we can never hold our peace, but must use every possible means to bring before our hearers the horrible doom that awaits the impenitent.
Our minds cannot conceive what eternal torment can mean. Orthodoxy has no room in its dreadful creed for the exercise of the slightest pity. The foul murderer and the simplest child, the ignorant and the debased, all alike are heaped into its horrid “Hell”; all alike are to be placed upon the rack for ever. We shudder when we gaze upon the instruments of cruelty of bygone days, but they are nothing, absolutely nothing, when compared to the exquisite tortures reserved by the orthodox believers’ God for all the unsaved. It makes one sicken to think of these things; its effect upon those who really believe it may be gathered from such a statement made by Queen Mary years ago:Ä
“As the souls of heretics are hereafter to be eternally burning in Hell, there can be nothing more proper than for me to imitate the divine vengeance by burning them on earth” (Bishop Burnett).
Of course, she ignored the words, “vengeance is Mine, saith the Lord,”but nevertheless her creed compelled her deed. Dr. Pettingell quotes from Hopkins’ Works, Vol. II., and gives the following comment upon the “smoke of their torment “:Ä
“This display of the divine character and glory will be most entertaining, and give the highest pleasure to those who love God, and raise their happiness to ineffable heights.”
Of course, if this is what God will do, His saints must of necessity rejoice therein. He further says that should this fearful scene of torment and unutterable agony
“cease, and this fire be extinguished, it would in a great measure obscure the light of heaven, and put an end to a great part of the happiness and glory of the blessed!”
Oh, Lord, is this true? Our hearts cry out, shall we be so changed that we shall, unmoved, witness this writhing, suffering mass, nay, witness the tortures of some of our own dear ones with calm enjoyment, giving glory to God, can it be? Is this the truth of God? We have not overstated the conceptions of Hell that have been expressed by some of our leading evangelical preachers. Who among us has not at some time or another read with profit the Works of Dr. Jonathan Edwards, yet he is quoted in a pamphlet before us as saying :-
“Imagine yourself to be cast into a fiery oven or a great furnace . . . Imagine also that your body were to be there for a quarter of an hour, full of fire, and all the while full of quick sense, what horror would you feel at the endurance of such a furnace, and how long would that quarter of an hour seem to you. O, how then would your heart sink if you knew that you must bear it for ever and ever; that there would be no end, that after millions and millions of ages your torment would be no nearer to an end, and that you never, never should be delivered.”
Some reader may say, Why fill your pages with such revolting things? Because, dear reader, we are going to face the truth, to shut our eyes to nothing, and if eternal conscious suffering is truth, we desire to receive it in all its horror, and all its despair. Confident are we that were we to fill ten thousand pages with the most harrowing descriptions that the human mind could conceive, it would be as nothing in comparison to the dreadful reality of eternal conscious suffering.
What saith the Scriptures concerning this subject? Certain it is that we read the words, “everlasting punishment.” Let us consider this passage, it is found in Matt. xxv. 46, “And these shall go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” We have quoted from the R.V. because it gives the word eternal in both instances. We are often reminded that the duration of the punishment must be the same as the duration of the life mentioned in the same verse, and to this, of course, we most heartily agree. We know of a Mission where the solemn words were exhibited in large characters, “Everlasting Punishment.” This method of treating Scripture is to say the least unfair; let us have the whole truth. If the everlasting punishment of Matt. xxv. is truth for the present time, so also is the everlasting life of Matt. xxv., and upon the terms of Matt. xxv., without any man-made alteration. Who are they that receive everlasting life here, and who everlasting punishment?
“When the Son of man shall come in His glory . . . then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory, and before Him shall be gathered all nations.”
The whole passage relates to the judgment of the nations who are on the earth at the end of the period covered by the great tribulation. The gospel of the grace of God is not in view; the kingdom and eternal life are the portion of those who gave meat and drink, clothing and consolation to the brethren of the King. Let us then be consistent; let those who apply the everlasting punishment of Matt. xxv. preach everlasting life upon the conditions laid down in that chapter. If they cannot, where is their warrant for thus picking and choosing in this vital matter? Who told them that the method of punishment mentioned here is to be indiscriminately applied to old and young, moral and immoral, skeptic and heathen, during all time and under all circumstances? The whole thing is a piece of unwarrantable and mischievous mutilation of Scripture at the dictation of the needs of their own horrible traditions. The very ones who emphasize the eternal punishment of Matt. xxv. are among the first to condemn a gospel of works, and yet such are the terms for obtaining eternal life in the self-same chapter. Are not such guilty of partiality?
We have not finished with this passage, however; let us thrash the matter out. What is this word “punishment”? Does the word mean “torment,” “torture,” “suffering”? Yes, say some, all this and more. The word translated “punishment” is kolasis, defined as “restraint” in Dr. Young’s Analytical Concordance, and means literally “cutting off,” as in the pruning of a tree. This meaning of the word is further emphasized by a parallel passage of the Old Testament (Psalm xxxvii. 22):Ä
Psalm xxxvii. 22:
“Such as be blessed of Him shall
inherit the earth; and
they that be cursed of Him shall be
Matt. xxv. 34, 41, 46:
“Come, ye blessed of My Father,
inherit the kingdom.
Depart from Me, ye cursed . . . into
everlasting punishment (cutting off).
There are not a few who tell us that the passage should read everlasting punishing.” Let us apply the rule which guides them, to such a passage as Heb. ix. 12, “Having obtained eternal redemption.” This should read, if the above is true, “everlasting redeeming.” The work of redemption according to this is never finished; all through eternity we are being redeemed, a doctrine flatly contradicted by both the Scriptures, and by the very same preachers who, to suit their purpose, read “punishing” for “punishment” in Matthew xxv. The punishment here spoken of, both in Psalm xxxvii. and Matt. xxv., is to be “eternally cut off.” To deprive of life and all that conscious existence means is the highest form of punishment that this world knows, and it is called “capital punishment.” It is the punishment prescribed by God to Noah (Gen. ix.), a reflection of the judgment reserved by God Himself for the finally impenitent. How many there are who turn to Rev. xx.10 as a proof text for eternal torment:Ä
“And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”
First let us notice who they are that are tormented. Three persons:
THE DEVIL . . THE BEAST, . . . AND THE FALSE PROPHET.
That these three are supernatural beings is not difficult to prove (cf. Rev. xvi. 13 and xvii. 8), yet the punishment of these three awful beings is indiscriminately meted out to all of every race and age among the unsaved. But a further consideration is necessary, the words are “unto the ages of the ages” (rendered “for ever and ever”). “Unto” does not mean “throughout”; these are punished “unto” the dawning of the “ages of the ages,” but not “throughout” those ages. We also have an indication, that the period covered by this judgment shall come to an end, by the added words “day and night.” Day and night mark the dispensations that lead through from Gen. i. to Rev. xxi., but there comes a time when the words shall be fulfilled, “There shall be no night there” (Rev. xxi. 25), even as there shall be “no more sea,” and “no more curse,” &c.
The same clause “day and night” must be allowed its bearing upon other similar passages, eg., Rev. xiv. 9-11. The expression, “the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever” (Rev. xiv. 11), and “her smoke rose up for ever and ever” (Rev. xix. 3) is also emphasized by many as teaching the doctrine of eternal torment. If we turn, however, to Isaiah xxxiv. 8Ä10, we shall find the passage which supplies the figure in Revelation. For the imagery of the Apocalypse is that with which the Old Testament prophets were quite familiar. Moreover, the period of time mentioned in Isa. xxxiv. points to the period of Revelation, “The day of the Lord’s vengeance, and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion” (cf. Rev. i. 10). The judgment pronounced is:Ä
“The streams thereof shaII become burning pitch . . . it shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever . . . none shall pass through it for ever.”
Let those who will have the passages of Revelation to mean eternity, act honourably with this, and proclaim faithfully to their traditions, but in opposition to the Scriptures, that in the new heavens and new earth this burning pitch, this unquenchable fire, this ascending smoke will mar the perfection of that ultimate of redeeming love. They have only to read the opening verses of the very next chapter in Isaiah to be confuted, “The parched land shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water.”
Another passage, so often quoted in this connection, is Mark ix. 44, “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched”. Special attention is called to the word “their.” We are asked to notice that the Lord does not say “the worm,” but their worm.” The gnawing of the individual conscience is among the many things that this expression is made to mean. The fallacy of the traditional interpretation, and at the same time, the true meaning of the passage, is found by turning to the Old Testament scripture from which the Lord Jesus quotes, viz., Isaiah Ixvi. 24:Ä
“And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against Me, for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.”
Here the Scriptures tell us that carcases are the objects of this worm and fire, and all the learning and argument in the world cannot make us believe that carcases can be subject to conscious suffering, yet the word “their” which is so emphasized is found here twice. Further, when we know that the word “Hell” of Mark ix. 43 is Gehenna (the place where the offal and rubbish were consumed outside the city), the figure of destruction is all the more emphasized.
We have not touched upon the positive teaching of the Scriptures as to the “wages of sin,” but have sought to lay before the reader some of the statements and proof texts which are used to support that which we have become convinced is a lie, and a most God-dishonouring doctrine. In our next article we shall (D.V.) seek to show what the Lord has said with regard to this tremendous subject. Meanwhile, we ask our readers during the next two months to make a collection of the statements of Paul in his epistles upon this subject, for surely, if eternal conscious suffering is a truth of Scripture, the apostle to the Gentiles will say so somewhere. Let us not fear the face of man, but think of the honour of the Lord, the libel upon His sacred name, and the contradiction against His holy Word involved in the Romish (and alas Protestant) doctrine of eternal conscious suffering.
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Please send your suggestions, comments, or whatever to one of the above electronic mail addresses. I will respond most quickly to Internet or BITNET mail (it’s free for me so I use it daily). Allow a few weeks for response to GEnie or CompuServe mail (it costs me money so I don’t use it very often). be no night there” (Rev. xxi. 25), even as there shall be “no more sea,” and “no more curse,” &c.