Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Gennao: Just What Does It Mean?

Several months ago, we published a post titled Word Games demonstrating how COGWA, an Armstrongist splinter of the Worldwide Church of God, twisted Greek words to support their problematic doctrines. But please don't think we were picking on COGWA alone. The leadership of COGWA, LCG, UCG and other WCG splinters all learned from the master how to spin Greek definitions at Herbert W Armstrong's Ambassador College.

This is nowhere more evident than in HWA's writings about the Greek word gennao, with regards to his teachings on "born again". Today, we'll consider the use of this word as we continue our look at the COG's traditional teachings on "born again. (Click here for parts one and two of the series).

The crux of Armstrong's teachings on "born again" hinged upon the interpretation of gennao. The word truly can be translated both as "begotten" (as in siring or impregnation) and "born." But HWA claimed that Catholic, and later, Protestant doctrines influenced translators to render the English word incorrectly in order to to support their "false teachings" on regeneration.
"This led to translating gennao into the English term born in many instances where it rightly should be translated begotten," 
"They simply chose the English term which conformed to their erroneous belief."
-Herbert Armstrong, Just What Do You Mean Born Again, p 35-36.
This is sad news for the "King James Version Only" crowd. According to Herbert Armstrong, who preferred the RSV, your KJV Bible is sorely mistranslated.

Before we go any further, let's look at what Spiros Zodhiates' Complete World Study of the New Testament has to say about the definition. We assume the COGs find this resource trustworthy since UCG references the book in its "born again" study paper, as well as many COG Ministers throughout the splinter-sphere use it as a reference.

Gennao can mean "to beget," as in men begetting children, "to be born," as in women conceiving, and sometimes delivering children. It can be used allegorically and metaphorically. And it can refer to the impartation of spiritual life. (p. 891)

So, according to Zohiates, gennao definitely can mean born. Armstrong does not say that born is an invalid translation. He tentatively admits that it is valid. He simply asserts that the mainstream translators make a contextual error. So that is precisely where we will focus: context. Does the context better support the idea of "begotten" or "born?"

(In case you aren't super familiar with the rather dated word "begotten," Merriam-Webster defines it as to procreate as the father, to sire, or to produce as an effect.)

Armstrong insisted that in nearly every instance where gennao referred to Christians who had received the Holy Spirit, the word should be translated as "begotten" (Just What Do You Mean, Born Again, 36), and that when the word was used in a present tense, it referred to a fetal state (ibid, 34). The exception is the future. Armstrong agreed that the key gennao in John 3 was correctly interpreted as "born again" because he believed that John 3 looks to a future time when Christians literally will be born again with spirit bodies at Jesus' return. But in general, he asserted that other scriptures were mistranslated.

Since we grew up in Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God, we've heard this gennao issue tossed around for decades. It has been a contentious issue in some of our extended families. To tell the truth, looking at the issue was a little intimidating. After all, HWA must have had SOME good reason, some leg to stand on. It's a major pillar of his teachings on salvation.

In short, he didn't. It would seem that he did exactly what he accused translators of doing - he chose an English term that supported his erroneous belief.

We claim his was the erroneous choice. Can we support that claim? Yes.

For example, let's consider 1 John 2:29, which reads: "If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him." According to HWA's logic, the verse should read "everyone who practices righteousness is begotten of Him," with the implication that they will be born later.

Does this translation fit in the context of what John wrote? Not at all. Just look at the verse that immediately precedes it.

(1 JOHN 2: 28) And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.

Why would John mix metaphors? John referred to the readers as children just one sentence earlier. It is clear even in Armstrongist interpretation that John was not writing to literal little children, but he was speaking metaphorically. These are spiritual little children; John's disciples. Jesus is to come later, but we are little children now. The Greek word translated "little children" literally means infants. The context supports "born" as the proper translation.

Let's turn a few pages ahead to 1 John 5:1-2:

(1 JOHN 5: 1-2) 1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves Him who is begotten of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.

Verse 1 actually does use the word "begotten" for gennao. Let's keep in mind that gennao does mean "to father," but does not refer exclusively to the gestation period. According to Armstrong, gennao should refer exclusively to the gestation period.

When we take a look at verse 2, we can see that John is exhorting us to show love to the born children of God, not the fetuses of God.

(As an aside, the scope of this study does not encompass the exposition of the term "commandments" in verse 2. See our FAQ for more on that detail. We also have several articles on this topic, such as "If You Love Me, Keep My Commandments". A list of these can be found in the Categories page.)

We will explore 1 John 5:18 and 1 John 3:9 in more depth later in this study. Suffice it to say we have found that Armstrong's statements about these verses are neither consistent with the Bible nor his own teachings about what gennao must mean in this context.

HWA insisted gennao should be translated "begotten," as in a fetal state, in scriptures where Christians had received the Holy Spirit. But I'd like to visit some other New Testament scriptures that use gennao to give you an idea just how out-of-step Armstrong's claims were.

Matthew 1:2-16 - the "begats" includes a long list of paternal lineage. This passage does not indicate a fetal state. All of these men were born and sired another generation.
Matthew 26:24 - "it would have been good for that man if he had not been born." Clearly he was born, given the context.
Luke 1:22 - "and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son..." This is clearly a future tense, as Zodhiates indicates.
Luke 23:29 - "blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore..." This passage refers to a time of trouble, when it would be a blessing not to have children to worry about or provide for. Barrenness was considered a curse in that day, so this statement would have gotten attention. And must refer to pregnancies that resulted in a live birth, or else there would be no child to worry about in this time of trouble.
John 1:12-13 - "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name; who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." If we are only begotten according to Armstrong's theory, we do not have the right to become children. We have a possibility if all goes well, but not a right.
John 8:41 - "We were not born of fornication; we have one Father - God." This verse technically would still make sense if it were interpreted "begotten," but that is clearly not the implication in context.
John 9:2 - "who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Blindness does not directly have anything to do with how someone was sired. True, something likely went wrong with the man's eyes during his gestation, but this was not known until birth anyway in that day. Nor does the context indicate this was what anyone meant.
John 16:21 - "but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish..." Clearly indicates delivery, not gestation.
John 18:37 - "for this cause I was born." Yes, Jesus technically was conceived for the same cause, but gestation alone would not achieve the cause.
Acts 7:8 - "Abraham begot Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day." Though interpreted "begot," no one can circumcise a fetus. Birth is clearly insinuated. In this verse being sired and the act of birth are both in mind. It must refer to the complete process.
Acts 22:3 - "born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city..." Paul technically could have been conceived in Tarsus, but the language here indicates he is contrasting his birthplace with the city in which he was raised.
Romans 9:11 - "for the children not yet being born..." Yes, this passage does refer to unborn fetuses as children but gennao clearly is in reference to the act of birth. If they had yet to be sired, there would be no children, no fetuses, no nothing of which to write.

Even the United Church of God uses the term "unfortunate" to describe the belief that "beget" can only mean "conceived," not "born."

Gennao has different connotations when it describes men's and women's roles in producing children, but the word did not have two different definitions, according to UCG's 2002 study paper on Born Again. This study paper clearly tries to play both sides - appealing to those who realize HWA's theory was flawed while trying to calm the anxiety of Armstrong loyalists who feared UCG was changing doctrine. While the paper loudly shouted it wasn't changing anything, it also whispered the conclusion that gennao cannot be dissected into stages of the reproductive process - it refers to the completed process. So, they aren't changing anything; they're just changing everything.
"Gennao relates to the completed process in both cases and the definitions bear this out," according to the paper (UCG, page 10).
John Ritenbaugh, founder of the Church of the Great God, also agrees that the weight of scripture heavily indicates gennao means "born", not "begotten", even in contexts far removed from the John 3 controversy.

John 3
Since Ritenbaugh brought it up, we probably should turn to John 3. It's really the whole point of the discussion anyway.

(JOHN 3: 1-4) 1 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with Him." 3 Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." 4 Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?"

In spite of what I JUST quoted, about what UCG wrote concerning gennao, the 2002 study paper criticizes those who translate the word's John 3:3 occurrence as born, "Probably because the term born again is so deeply entrenched in mainstream Christianity." (UCG, page 10). Wait, I thought we couldn't parse the process? So I repeat, they play both sides.

Ritenbaugh sides with the Bible translators that "born again" is the correct translation for John 3. Ritenbaugh indicates that birth, not conception, is how other passages should be properly translated in English as well. The term is most correctly translated "born again," not "begotten again," especially when combined with anothen, as it is in both John 3 and in Titus 3:5.

We need not parse words. Let's ask the audience what they understood. Ritenbaugh points out that Nicodemus gleaned "birth," not "begotten" from the conversation.
"This is why Nicodemus responds by saying in verse 4, 'How . . . can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born [also in the passive voice]?' He does not say, 'How can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be begotten?'"
-John Ritenbaugh, Born Again or Begotten? (Part One), CGG.org
Not to put too fine a point on it, but if this is to be rendered 'begotten again,' then it isn't the mother one would re-enter, but rather the father.

Ironically, HWA too believed that "born again" was the correct translation here, because according to his view it spoke of a future time when believers would be given spirit bodies. But the grammar doesn't support that idea. The word is correctly translated "cannot," combining the Greek dunamis (to have the ability, permission or power to do something) with ou (which indicates the absolute negative of the previous word). It is in the present indicative tense. It is not future-looking. To reiterate, Armstrong's "born again in the distant future" claim is not supportable by the Greek here. The Greek does not support the future, but the present. Nicodemus' present, to be precise.

Then we add anothen, the word that follows gennao. Zodhiates explains that anothen can mean "again," "anew" or "from above." It is derived from ano, which means "upward."

Not surprisingly, UCG favors the rendering "from above." Either way, they conclude Jesus appears to be focused on the divine source of the child, not on a literal delivery. (UCG, p 12).

We're actually fine with UCG's rendering. It makes sense, especially when you consider gennao is a variation of the Greek word genos, which has overtones related to country, generation or national stock. In fact, it's far more descriptive - our new identity, our heritage, our nationality comes from above, from God. But the fact that UCG gets anothen right doesn't change the fact that we are talking about a birth that takes place now, not the far future.

Additionally, they admit that John 3 and other verses use gennao metaphorically "to refer to the divine origin of our new life in Christ. This new beginning is also referred to as a 'new creation' in 2 Corinthians 5:17, but is not a new birth in a bodily sense." (UCG, p 11). Ok, well, what if mainstream Christians agree that this new birth is not bodily?

HWA or Peter: Who do You Believe?
Need further evidence that HWA tried to cram his belief into the Bible wherever he could? Let's turn to the book of 1 Peter. Written to a troubled, scattered church, this book is intended to remind Christians that their present sufferings are nothing compared to their heritage in Christ. In 1 Peter 1:23, the author reminds believers that they have been born again of incorruptible seed. The word used here is anagennao. Adding ana to gennao indicates repetition of gennao.

Just a few verses later, the author continues the metaphor he began in verse 23:

(1 PETER 2: 1-3) 1 Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy and evil speaking, 2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

This passage gives us a word picture of infants newly born, eagerly seeking milk to sustain and grow them. If indeed, they have tasted that the Lord is good - if, in fact, they have been born again, been fathered from above, however you would like to translate it.

No matter how you word it, the timing is now.

HWA explains away this passage by claiming Peter refers to the gestation process having started within us with the incorruptible spirit of God. Peter shows that the God has imparted the presence of eternal life within us, Armstrong claims, not that we are already born again. Quite a feat of linguistic acrobatics!

Further, HWA would have us believe Peter chose to use a newborn instead of a fetus in his comparison simply because it would be awkward to compare it to a physical embryo or fetus.
"He is not saying we are already born babes in God's Kingdom - but as - or like newborn human babes,"
-Herbert Armstrong, Just What Do you mean Born Again, p 27).
But this is not merely a preferential translation of Peter on Armstrong's part, it's a complete rewrite. This isn't a simple reading from the Bible. Armstrong is changing the Bible to put information into it. As if to say, "It doesn't matter what Peter did say. This is what Peter should have said."

Then he goes on to remind us that Peter's example is an analogy, which he notes Webster's Dictionary explains as a comparison between two things, "consisting in the resemblance not of the things themselves, but of two or more attributes, circumstances or effects."

Oh wait. You mean that an analogy is only a comparison? It doesn't mean the two things being compared are literal counterparts? So HWA would have us believe Peter's scriptural passage is just an analogy, while HWA's preferred explanation is factual? Peter's scriptural example is deemed an analogy, to be taken figuratively, because it's awkward jutxaposted with Armstrong's extra-biblical description of reality? What's wrong with this picture?

The only thing that's awkward here is Armstrong's interpretation, according to Ritenbaugh's analysis.
"The apostle makes quite clear in 1 Peter 2:1-2 that he considers those he is writing to as already born, rather than unborn and within a womb. Only a child already born would feed on milk, or Peter's metaphor would be totally wrong."
-John Ritenbaugh, Born Again or Begotten? (Part Three), CGG.org
Hebrews 5:12-14 and 1 Corinthians 3:1-2 both chide brethren for still needing milk when they should have been able to handle solid food, spiritually speaking. As a mother, I can assure you that the "solid food" stage comes after, not before, a child is born.

We have seen that Herbert Armstrong had no leg to stand on and no good reason for his insistence on "begotten" over "born." We have shown that the UCG and CGG splinters both understand this. Not only that, but we have established that Nicodemus understood matters in this way as well. In fact, in order for John 3: 4 to be translated as "begotten," Nicodemus would have to ask Jesus how a man can re-enter his father to be begotten again. We have amply demonstrated that it was in fact Herbert Armstrong who was practicing preferential reinterpretation of the Bible, while pointing the finger at Bible translators and accusing them of bias.

Why is this so? Why do so many of Armstrong's doctrines absolutely depend upon rewriting the Bible? A little snip here. A little edit there. How many people have to be wrong for Armstrongism to be right? Nicodemus is wrong. Peter is wrong. John is wrong. Bible translators are wrong. Bible commentators are wrong. You and I are wrong. Who are you going to believe, Armstrong or your lyin' eyes?

After exploring the word gennao, we have to conclude the only reason Armstrong would read "gestation" into scripture is because of misunderstandings about who Jesus was and what He did. We will consider those next time.




************
It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11
************

Friday, February 20, 2015

"Born Again" and the Kingdom of God

Maybe you've seen this one, or maybe it's only popular among overscheduled mothers:

A woman is stuck in traffic on her way home from work. She'll be lucky to get dinner on the table before bedtime at this rate. She leaves her husband a frantic voicemail, asking him to put some spaghetti on the stove for dinner. She comes home to find this:



So what on earth does this have to do with the Kingdom of God? We're glad you asked!

Today we'll continue examining Herbert W Armstrong's teachings on "born again." In our first post on this topic, we looked at HWA's reproduction analogy, sometimes called the "fetal analogy" in today's Churches of God. Today, we'll learn from the poor guy in our example who took literally words his wife meant to be understood figuratively. Let's make sure we aren't showing a similar lack of discernment in spiritual matters.

Since many readers from the Churches of God might be wary of those who has "left the fold" to join the ranks of "deceived Christianity," we are referencing commentary from John Ritenbaugh, founder and pastor of Church of the Great God, to narrate this series. Ritenbaugh is a COG minister who has written an extensive series, "Born Again or Begotten," which challenges Armstrong's teachings on "born again." For more background on Ritenbaugh, please see part one of this series.

See the Kingdom

Herbert Armstrong equated being "born again" with being transformed into a spirit body when the Kingdom of God is fully ushered in on earth at Jesus' second coming (Just What Do You Mean Born Again, p. 17). Humans are undeniably composed of matter, not spirit. And flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, according to 1 Corinthians 15:50, he noted. Therefore he concluded that we cannot be born again until we receive spirit bodies at Jesus' return.

Armstrong linked these two concepts - transformation of our bodies and the Kingdom - using Jesus' conversation with the Pharisee Nicodemus recorded in John 3. He taught that the Kingdom of God is solely something to be literally seen, according to verse 3. Armstrong explained his belief that verses 5 and 6 meant that one who was literally flesh and blood could not enter the Kingdom, and that Christians will remain physically human until the return of Christ.
"The Church is composed of human, flesh-and-blood children of God. And, flesh and blood cannot see, cannot enter into, cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is made up of spirit -composed children of God. The Spirit-begotten human in the Church is in the process of being born of God, but he has not yet entered into the Kingdom. He has not yet been born again. He is in the gestation state toward spirit-birth, but not yet born of the spirit."
-Herbert Armstrong, Just What Do You Mean Born Again, pp 22-23
Ritenbaugh, however, disagrees that "seeing" the Kingdom is solely a literal, visual observation. The Greek word used here is eido, which can also mean "to perceive with the mind" or "understand," according to Spiros Zodhiates' Complete Word Study of the New Testament. For way of illustration, Ritenbaugh explains in Born Again or Begotten, Part 1, the apostle Paul made a total change when he "saw" or perceived that he was a hardened sinner. He was not physically observing his arm or leg, rather, he understood his behavior.

(As a side note, we are not aware of any word the Bible uses to describe Paul's moment of enlightenment - this self-perception is implied because of his complete reversal in behavior. We assume Ritenbaugh includes this explanation in case anyone is unfamiliar with the figurative use of the word "see.")

Regardless, the Bible indicates the Kingdom is something a person can enter before Jesus' return, Ritenbaugh concludes.  It is at the same time a present and future reality. Jesus tells us in John 18:36 that His Kingdom is not of this world, but He also warns in Mark 1:15 that time is fulfilled and the Kingdom is at hand. It would seem one can enter the Kingdom at once when God's most basic requirement is fulfilled - being born again (in this life). (Ritenbaugh, Born Again or Begotten, part one).

Armstrong also frequently made the point that this world belonged to Satan the Devil - he is its god. He made heavy use of such verses as II Corinthians 4: 4, Matthew 4: 9 and John 14: 30 to make his case.

This point is granted. No one argues that Satan has an overwhelming degree of influence and even control in the world, as we see it presently. This much is clear. However, this is not the whole story. There exist some who are in this world but are not of it. Verses such as John 14: 17, Romans 12: 2, Galatians 4: 26 and many others make the clear case that these are separate and distinct. The point we make is that there are two kingdoms here on this earth. One from above and one from below. One in bondage and one free. One dead and one alive. One from Satan and one from God. The one from God exists here as a witness to the one from Satan, that those who accept the witness can be set free from their bondage and be born again, now, into the Kingdom of God.

(JOHN 17:9-21) 9 I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. 10 And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. 12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. 20 I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.

Another point: if there is no Kingdom now, the ambassador analogy HWA rehearsed so frequently makes no sense, Ritenbaugh notes. We cannot currently be ambassadors for a kingdom that doesn't exist. Nor can we be ambassadors for a kingdom that we are not part of. Therefore, verses like Ephesians 1:3-5, 7, 11, 13 and 14 must indicate that the Kingdom must exist in some form today, and that Christians are born again upon receiving the Holy Spirit.

(EPHESIANS 1:11-14) 11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

In other words, we have obtained an inheritance of salvation in Christ. Now. The proof of that inheritance, that salvation, is the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.

We know right now some of you are thinking, what's the big deal?  You are saying the same thing as us. We both believe we have the Holy Spirit as a down-payment on our salvation.

No, that's not what we're saying at all. The Holy Spirit is not merely a down payment, leaving us to wonder if the balance will be paid off in the future or - even worse  - making us responsible for paying the balance ourselves. No. It is a receipt, a proof of purchase, a guarantee.

As the story goes, there once was a wealthy man who went house shopping. He found a house that he liked and told the Realtor that he intended to buy but could not take possession of the house now. He indicated that he wanted the Realtor to hold the house for him until he returned. The Realtor replied that the down payment to hold the house was $100,000. The wealthy man wrote the Realtor a check for one billion dollars and went on his way.

Now, do you suppose that the wealthy man will not return to take possession of the house, having left a down payment far in excess of the full cost of the house? Of course he will. It is guaranteed. Is Christ's sacrifice worth much more than one billion dollars?

God will make good on His investment. Those whom God has regenerated and given the Holy Spirit will increasingly demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit, through the process known as sanctification. This is not law by our effort, this is grace by God's effort. When we see a "professing" Christian who doesn't show this fruit consistently over time, we must wonder whether they really have been regenerated, whether the Holy Spirit truly lives in him, or whether they have been "playing church" all this time. Not whether they have been "trying hard enough."

HWA, however, prefers to embrace the "trying hard enough" model, warning his followers that they will be a spiritual abortion if they aren't good enough (Just What Do You Mean, Born Again, p. 45).
He brushed past Ephesians 1, instead turning to 1 Corinthians 15:50, which describes the current state as heirs to the Kingdom, not inheritors. This focus on our tenuous status with God, all dependent upon our righteousness quotient, seems like another of HWA's thinly veiled attempts to control his followers. The problem is, an heir does not indicate a fetal state.

Consider Abraham's discussion with God in Genesis 15 - Abraham was troubled that he had no heir, and that a servant would inherit his wealth when he died. He lamented that he did not have a child. An heir can be, and usually is, one who is alive. It is the state of the one who possesses the estate - not the heir himself - that determines whether one is an heir or an inheritor.

Colossians 1:13 tells us that Christians have already been delivered "from the power of darkness and conveyed (us) into the Kingdom of the Son of His love." We can't be conveyed into a Kingdom that does not yet exist. We are told over and over again, in Luke 17:20-21, Acts 2:29-36 and Revelation 1:5, to name a few, that Jesus already reigns from His throne. We simply lack the eyes to see and the ears to hear.

Jesus already considered Himself to be king in John 18:37. He didn't tell Pilate that He would be a king if He qualified for the throne by making it through the next eight hours without sinning. He didn't tell Pilate that He would be a King when He returned a few millennia later. He told him, "You say rightly that I am a king."

So when Jesus told the scribe in Mark 12:28-34 he was not far from the Kingdom of God, he meant the man was not far from being converted and entering the Kingdom of God (Born Again or Begotten, Part 1). Though this Kingdom is not fully established on earth yet, "Scripture proves it is a present, earthly reality having earth-bound, flesh-and-blood citizens who are, in the Bible's terms, 'spiritually minded' or 'in the spirit'," he explains.
"Currently, the Kingdom of God is made up of those who are part of it, recognize and submit to the rule of the Father and Son," Ritenbaugh says. "A person becomes part of it by being born again, and those who are born again become sons of God."
-John Ritenbaugh, Born Again or Begotten, Part 1.
Ritenbaugh sees obedience to the Old Covenant law by our own efforts (ie. "submitting to the rules")  - mainly the Sabbath, holy days, tithing, and foods laws - as the natural outcome of being born again. We disagree. We believe the key is faith in Jesus Christ and the natural outcome of that is the Holy Spirit in you, guiding you to acts of charity and virtue rather than law. It is by faith from first to last (Romans 1: 17). We would reword his phrase as such:

"Currently, the Kingdom of God is made up of those who are part of it, who have faith in the victory of Jesus Christ on the cross and surrender their lives to the leadership of the Holy Spirit..."

Even if we reword, the essence is that we are born again into the kingdom now. And in this essential point we are in total agreement.

Still skeptical? Consider the what Jesus Himself said about the Kingdom in the parables of the growing seed, the parable of the mustard seed and the parable of the leaven:

(MARK 4: 26-29) 26 And He said, "The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, 27 and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. 28 For the earth yields crops by itself. First the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come."

(MARK 4: 30-32) 30 Then He said, 'to what shall we liken the Kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? 31 It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on the earth; 32 but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade.'

(MATTHEW 13: 33) Another parable He spoke to them: 'The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.'

In all three parables, the kingdom was something that came quietly, secretly and hidden. It grew to be something large, spectacular and dramatic, but it didn't start that way. Incidentally, we will see this concept again when we look at John 3:8.

Armstrong, like the Pharisees, was confused by Jesus' teachings about the Kingdom because he was looking for a spectacular, visible establishment of Jesus' Kingdom. Such a fulfillment will come in the future. Jesus will bring His kingdom to the earth in dramatic fashion in the future. That is when it will exist here in full. But that does not in any way prevent it from existing right here right now. It exists here in part right now, today, within each of His own. Scripture, including the teachings of the King Himself, clearly indicate this reality. If God is in you, if you are one with Him by faith, if Jesus Christ is your Lord, and you are His Temple and even a member of the very body of Christ, then His Kingdom has come to you. Abide in it. The misinterpretation only comes in via Armstrong's singular focus on future prophecy. He was so intently pointed at the future millennium that he failed to see it in the present.

(JOHN 3: 3) Jesus answered and said to him, 'most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God'.

Next time, we will consider what Armstrong had to say about the Greek word gennao - the definition of which he largely hung his doctrine. Spoiler alert: Ritenbaugh and the United Church of God agree with us that HWA was mistaken.



************
It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11
***********

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Looking at Born Again, Again

There's an old cliche that tells us "a picture is worth a thousand words." If so, a good analogy must be worth at least 500.  Using literary device is a great way to boil down complex concepts into something even a child can understand.

But sometimes analogies and metaphors - even Biblical ones - are stretched farther than the author ever intended. When this happens, we can jump to conclusions that are illogical and unbiblical. For example, consider Malachi 4:2, which foretells the Sun of Righteousness rising to heal the world. This paints a beautiful word picture of Jesus returning to heal our sick planet. It makes sense - Jesus was called the Light of the World. He illuminates our path, just like the physical sun. He brings life, just as the sun supports plant and animal life.  So far, so good.

But the sun is not totally harmless. Scientists have a hard time studying it in depth because the heat would burn any equipment that got near it to a crisp. We can't look directly at the sun even during an total eclipse, let alone on a clear afternoon. Therefore, we can also conclude it's best to avoid studying Jesus' life and teachings too closely. Too much exposure can be deadly.

When we carry comparisons like this too far - or fill in gaps where Biblical writers left off - we can come to conclusions that clearly contradict scripture. Elevating conclusions like this to the level of doctrine puts us on dangerous footing.

Many people believed God was calling them into the Worldwide Church of God after hearing Herbert W Armstrong explain his "reproduction analogy" as a blueprint for Christian salvation back in the 1960s and 1970s. This teaching, which some Churches of God now call the "fetal analogy," placed high value on the human family. There's no doubt many found this inspiring since, like today, they lived in a society that marginalized traditional values and the nuclear family.

Last fall, I spent several weeks discussing Herbert Armstrong, his claims, his teachings and his legacy in the modern COGs. Perhaps HWA was an influential figure in your life. Or maybe you are too young to have had any real connection to the man, who died in 1986. If so, HWA still matters, because his teachings are the foundation for most of today's Churches of God. And a church's doctrines on salvation are, arguably, its most important doctrines. Because if we do not attain salvation, then we have missed the mark for eternity. If HWA really was God's apostle, and his teachings on salvation were divinely, directly revealed to him, as he claimed, then that works out great for you who remain in the COG splinters that still hold to his doctrines. But if they weren't divinely revealed to him, well, not so much.

I want to tell you up front that this series will include several posts examining different sections of Armstrong's booklet, Just What Do You Mean Born Again. Even though I might not address a specific argument in part 1, it'll probably come up later. And since I am addressing HWA's work, from which today's COGs get their teachings, it's possible I've missed a point or two put forth by one of today's splinters. If, in the end, you think I missed something vital, please send me a message at marthacog@gmail.com.

I know you're likely to be suspicious of whatever this former COG-er who was lured into "so-called" Christianity has to say about "born again." That's why I will allow one of your own to narrate much of this series. Most of the objections to HWA's teachings on "Born Again" that I will include in this series come from John Ritenbaugh, founder and pastor of the Church of the Great God. Ritenbaugh was baptized into the Radio Church of God (which later became WCG) in 1959; he was ordained a deacon in 1965, an elder in 1966, a preaching elder in 1969 and a pastor in 1982. He resigned from the Worldwide Church of God in January 1992 because he disagreed with its doctrinal changes. Several WCG members who also disagreed with the church's direction asked him to pastor them, and so the Church of the Great God was born in North Carolina. As far as the COGs go, his credentials are impeccable. And yet he disagrees with HWA's teachings on "born again." But before I get too far ahead of myself, I probably should detail those teachings.

The Reproduction (Fetal) Analogy

Herbert W Armstrong taught that human reproduction was an exact type of divine reproduction (Herbert Armstrong, "A New Truth About Abortion," Plain Truth, Personal, September 1985). Just as humans reproduce to create other humans, God is using the process of salvation to reproduce Himself to populate a family of divine beings, HWA claimed.

In his analogy, after repentance, faith and baptism:
"God's Spirit entering and dwelling in one compares to the physical sperm impregnating the ovum - the imparting of eternal spirit life, later to produce - to bring forth - a spirit person! A fertilized ovum - an embryo - is not yet a born human person. Life from the father has been imparted to it - he has begotten it, but neither embryo nor fetus is YET a born person."
(Just What Do You Mean Born Again, p. 17)
Armstrong claimed that, just like a fetus in the womb, Spirit-begotten humans also go through a gestation period preparing them for a literal birth into the God family at the return of Jesus Christ (Just What Do You Mean, p. 18). During this time, God views them as His children in the same way physical parents speak of a conceived, yet unborn child who will soon be a part of their family.

God created this spiritual gestation period for training and overcoming sin, so that we can safely be trusted with vast divine power in the Kingdom of God, according to Armstrong (Just What Do You Mean, p 44). Those who attain an appropriate amount of spiritual developing and growing, or acquire "the spiritual character-image of God" will be transformed into a divine being (Just What Do You Mean Born Again, p. 22-23).

Keep in mind that in his treatise on the reason for life, The Incredible Human Potential, Herbert Armstrong explained the reason why God is making more Gods is because only God is sinless and only God can be trusted. Armstrong was clear that this is precisely the reason why the angels cannot inherit creation. We discuss this at length in our post Armstrong the Merciful. Focus on that for a moment. God is incapable of sin. So you and I are here to learn to overcome sin ... in order to become a being that cannot sin.

"Such perfect spiritual and holy character cannot be created by fiat. It must be developed, and that requires time and experience." (The Incredible Human Potential, p. 70).

The COGs typically deny teaching that God expects us to achieve sinless moral and spiritual perfection in this life. But the analogy that almost all of them embrace - except for rogues like Ritenbaugh - says it all. If to be literally born again to the Kingdom into God's "spiritual-character image," one must assume we must fully grow into that image during our human lifetime. Is God's "spiritual-character image" imperfect? Hardly. So it's not a stretch to assume that spiritual and moral "birth defects" will not be welcome. And, despite years of asking, I can't find a single COG elder who can tell me what my righteousness quotient must be in order to "make it."

Besides, Herbert Armstrong all but confirms this assumption when he writes that those people who do not continue to grow will become like an abortion (Just What Do You Mean Born Again, p. 45). Ah, what a beautiful picture of salvation HWA's reproduction analogy paints! We are all spiritual fetuses, growing and advancing toward our births. You can almost see the pastel paint on the spiritual nursery walls; the fresh scent of baby powder wafting through the room. Until WHAM! God decides you haven't grown enough, matured enough, in short - you aren't good enough. And then He aborts you.

Sadly, many former WCG members, inside and outside the COGs retain this basic view of God. They are unable to believe that God could love them unconditionally. They cower, just waiting to be ripped from the womb because they still sin. This is hardly the abundant life, the picture of love, joy and peace that the New Testament discusses. Many even recognize the COGs' doctrinal errors but remain just the same, because they believe they will end in miscarriage if they leave "The Church" - "the Mother of Us All."

The Mother of Us All 
Like HWA, several of today's Churches of God still teach that Galatians 4:26 proves "the Church" is "the mother of us all." Like a human mother, the Church feeds and protects the unborn Christian, Armstrong said (Just What Do You Mean Born Again, p. 19). This aspect of the "reproduction analogy" tries to connect the church with the Jerusalem above, often by way of 1 Corinthians 2:13, which discusses Christians being baptized into one body.

Some splinters reject this teaching in one booklet while affirming it in unrelated Bible study guides. I understand - it was easier to sell this doctrine in the 1970s, when WCG had a corner on the COG market. Today, most would be hard pressed to describe the splintered COGs as "one body."

Or maybe the problem is that HWA's teaching just doesn't make sense, says John Ritenbaugh, our COG narrator. Ritenbaugh discusses the problems with HWA's teachings on "born again" in his series, "Born Again or Begotten?" (Part 2, and Part 4 here). The context of Galatians 4:26 indicates the mother in question has already given birth to many children - the members of the church - Ritenbaugh points out. Additionally, none of the apostles ever equate the church with the Jerusalem above. Instead, Paul describes Jerusalem figuratively as a homeland from which Christians spring - the place where their Father is, the place from which they are governed, from which their blessings come, and from where their rights and interests are promoted.
"There is no scriptural way that this verse can be made to say that the church is our mother and we are fetuses in its womb. Besides being unscriptural, it is illogical," Ritenbaugh writes in Part 3 of his series. "Are not the members of the church also simultaneously the children of God? How then, can the children be the mother? Can a child be carried in its own womb and then deliver itself?"
Creation's Labor Pains
Armstrong turns to Romans 8:19-23, especially to support his theory of a future literal spiritual birth. He especially focused on verse 22, which describes creation as groaning with labor pains.
 "Although this is not referring directly to our being born again, it is a direct comparison to the birth of a child being delivered from its mother's womb (Just What Do You Mean, p 21). 
While verse 22 obviously discusses labor pains, Armstrong errs in reading his analogy into the rest of the passage. He asserts that the word "delivered" in verse 21 refers to a birth (ibid, p. 20). In reality, the Greek word Paul uses is eleutheroo, which means "to set free. (Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words,  p. 157). This passage conveys that creation will be set free from bondage, not free from a womb. Eleutheroo is also rendered "set free" in other passages, like John 8:23 ("the truth shall make you free") and 8:36 ("if the Son makes you free"), Romans 6:18 ("and having been set free from sin") and Galatians 5:1("in the liberty by which Christ has made us free). With all time HWA spent studying Greek resources to allegedly learn the true meaning of gennao, you'd think he would have noticed neither it, nor titko, the word used to discuss Mary's delivery of Jesus, was used in the passage. Other passages using titko include Matthew 1:21-25 (another account of Jesus' birth), John 16:21 ("a woman, when she is in labor"), Galatians 4:27 ("Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor:), Hebrews 6:7 (and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated), Hebrews 11:11 ("and she bore a child when she was past the age") and James 1:15 ("when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin"). The two words don't even share a common Greek root.

It also seems illogical for HWA to allude to Romans 8:23 to support his reproduction analogy. The context indicates these sons anticipate a future redemption of their bodies (Vine's, p. 14). Wait, no one told you that many of us "so-called Christians" believe in a literal resurrection, too? Woops! What a convenient oversight! Anyway, it's more likely that Paul meant that Christians internally groan with frustrations of this human life and look forward to future glorification, not that they are also experience "labor pains." Applied in this case, Armstrong's theory would result in fetuses - the embryonic Christians - delivering themselves from their own wombs.

In my next post on this topic, Ritenbaugh and I will explore HWA's teachings on "born again" with regards to the Kingdom of God.


************
It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11
************

Friday, February 6, 2015

Lying For God v8 PartI pp17-23

Today we bring you installment #3 of Kerry Wynne's comprehensive study "Lying For God" version 8, Part I. Reproduced here by permission.

This section is about exploring theories on why there are discrepancies between the lunar and solar calendars. It focuses on calendars used in extreme antiquity and points out an apparent global shift in the understanding of the length of the year, all around the same time.

Again, I want to make it clear that I am posting this because it is thought-provoking, not because I absolutely agree with every word and endorse the study in its entirety.

Today's installment actually skips over a very small section immediately after the point where the previous article left off, and will include material from pages 17-23.

-------

THEORY: WHY ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS
ABANDONED THE LUNAR CALENDAR
King Hezekiah And The Sundial

Why did world civilizations abandon their lunar calendars for fixed calendars? The solar year does not exactly total up to any exact number of days. The story you are about to hear is as strange as anything you have ever heard, but the historical and astronomical evidence for its truth is as remarkable as the story is bizarre.
As the contributor cited by Adventist Today’s Hanson explained, Genesis 1:14-16 spells out the concept that God gave the sun and moon to be the markers of time for the human race. God specifically mentioned that these markers were designed for keeping track of sacred days. This concept is especially clear in the New International Version. We will start where the contributor quoted by Hanson left off:

Genesis 1:14-16 (NIV) - 14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.

It was a disruption of world lunar calendars by a series of catastrophic events that took place somewhat before the building of the second temple in 586 BC (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Temple) that made the use of the lunar calendar impractical for world civilizations, including Israel. The disruption of these world lunar calendars, as mentioned elsewhere, strongly correlated through a study of the calendar, historical, and astronomical records of the major world civilizations of the age. Furthermore, there is a remarkable correlation between the records of these disruptive world events with the biblical record of the turning back of the sundial by 10 degrees as a sign requested by King Hezekiah. This event is recorded in both Isaiah 38:8 and II Kings 20. Historian, Edwin Thiele, places the reign of King Hezekiah between 715 and 786 BCE. See:

Also, in Joshua 10 we have the story of how God prevented the sun from going down until a battle was won. Both events took place after the lunar-based Sabbath was given to Israel from high atop the Mountain of the Moon – Mt. Sinai. Ancient civilizations used the lunar calendar until the disruptive events that seem to have taken place between 600 and 800 BCE.

As we review Velikovsky’s research, you will recognize that these dates lend credibility to his theory that it was a major astronomical event that altered the length of the lunar month. Prior to these strange events, the lunar calendars of world civilizations had 12 months of 30 days each which added up to a solar year that was about 360 days. After the miracle of the sun dial retreating 10 degrees, the solar year mysteriously grew from about 360 days to about 365.25 days, and world civilizations were forced to add extra days to their lunar calendars to get them to sync with the expanded length of the solar year. These disruptive events recorded in the histories of ancient civilizations included crazy weather patterns, earth-quakes, and other catastrophes. This is true of the calendars and histories of the Mayans in South America, the Chinese, and the civilizations of the Middle East. It is no stretch of the imagination to see the reality of the biblical teaching that the Earth is “growing old like a garment.” Today, scientists believe they have proof that the magnetic field of the Earth has reversed polarity several times in the past, and some scientists, including Albert Einstein, have believed that a major disruptive event caused the continents of the world to drift many thousands of miles within the space of less than one or two days. To dismiss Velikovsky’s astronomical explanation as the explanation for the world abandonment of the lunar calendar tends to diminish the reality of two biblical miracles. The miracles of a lengthened day and the sun dial going backwards ten degrees would have to have natural consequences. For more information on Einstein and the Polar Shift Hypothesis, follow this link:

It is critically important to understand the reality of this part of ancient calendar and astronomical history. Therefore, we quote at length from a position paper posted by the Sabbath-keeping Bethel Church of God of Eugene, Oregon:
With respect to the calendar, the book of Genesis implies a 360-day year at the time of the Flood (Dictionary of the Bible, by James Hastings, s.v. “Time”). Comparing Genesis 7:11, 24 with Genesis 8:4 we see months of thirty days-a five-month period with 150 days. Checking Deuteronomy 34:8 with Numbers 20:29 we see a thirty-day month during the time of Moses-at about 1500 BC. According to Immanuel Velikovsky in his work, Worlds in Collision, we find the following information: The old Babylonian year consisted of 360 days-twelve months of thirty days each. Scholars knew this even before the cuneiform script was understood. The Assyrian year contained 360 days; a decade was made up of 3,600 days. Assyrian documents reveal a thirty-day month from new moon to new moon. Anciently, the Persian year also had 360 days of twelve months containing thirty days each. The Egyptian year was 360 days in length. Later, it was changed to 365 days. The Book of Sothis states the added five days were introduced at a later time. The Eber Papyrus lists a year of twelve months with thirty days each. During the Eighteenth Dynasty the new moon festival was observed at periods of thirty days. After the fall of the Middle Kingdom, the Hyksos introduced a solar year of 360 days according to a gloss on a manuscript of Timaeus. The Mayan year originally consisted of 360 days, but five days were later added, as well as another day every fourth year. In South America, in ancient times, the year consisted of 360 days with twelve months. The same was true in China – 360 days with twelve months. When five days were added to the Chinese year they included another one-quarter day. Plutarch wrote that when Rome was first founded during the time of Romulus, the Roman year was 360 days. Various Latin authors record the month as being thirty days in length. What this means is that there is ample historical evidence to demonstrate that before the introduction of a 365¼ day year the length of the year was 360 days. The ancient texts of India during the Veda period state the year was 360 days in comments found throughout the Brahmanas. Nowhere is intercalation mentioned. Nor is an extra five or six days associated with a solar year. The Hindu year was made up of twelve months of thirty days each. With their astronomical skills it is astonishing why the Brahmans failed to realize that 360 days was 5¼ days short. All the historical computations found in Hindu history used a 360-day year with months of thirty days each. What is quite apparent is that throughout the world we find a calendar of 360 days that was later changed at about the seventh century BC when five days were added to the year (Velikovsky, 124, 331-341). Did God change the seasons as Daniel stated? (Dan. 2:21).
About the seventh or eighth centuries BC five additional days were added to the length of the year. From about this time the Hindu year, for example, was lengthened to 365¼ days even though the original length of the year was still used. From the fifteenth century down to the eighth century BC, the length of the year was consistently the same due to the orbit of the Earth and revolutions of the moon. It was the same thirty-day month, and the length of the year itself did not vary more than a few hours. What happened to change this? Some sort of catastrophe occurred that altered both the orbit and axis of the Earth and moon as well as the length of the year. Repeated disturbances changed the orbit of the Earth from 360 days to 365 and ¼ days in length and the length of the month from thirty days to 29½ days (Velikovsky, 338, 332, 342).
What is required to bring about the kind of changes that took place in the eighth century BC? For one thing the axis of the Earth must be altered from the perpendicular into a tilt. This would affect the seasons. The 23½ degree tilt of the axis is now responsible for the seasons-spring following winter and fall following summer because the axis is tilted either toward or away from the sun. A perpendicular axis prevents seasonal changes, which appears to be the case from the opening chapters of Genesis. Fossil remains prove that at one time the climate was the same worldwide. Should there be another change in the axis the seasons would be more intense and their order would be altered. The orbits of both the Earth and moon must be modified in order to change the times. According to Velikovsky, there is a vast amount of information available from peoples all over the globe to demonstrate what took place in the eighth century BC. During a century of disturbances, which involved two catastrophes, the moon receded into an orbit of 29¼ days as an average and has remained so ever since. Also, the Earth orbit was changed so that 5¼ days were added. Written traditions by many of the ancient peoples recount the disorder of the seasons and connect it directly with the motion of the planets (Velikovsky, 345, 120-121).
What took place in the middle of the eighth century BC, is that the calendar [that was] previously accurate became unusable. Lunar and solar movements changed repeatedly from 747 to 687 BC, and calendar adjustments had to be made, Velikovsky tells us. Adjustments were soon outdated and had to be readjusted. Clay tables found at the royal library in Nineveh record astronomical observations made prior to the time our present system was established. One tablet places the vernal equinox as the sixth of Nisan, and another places it at the fifteenth. This difference cannot be explained by modern scholars. These Assyrian astronomers were very accurate and precise in their work and would not have erred by a period of nine days. The astronomical tablets at Nineveh reveal three systems of planets. Single planets were closely observed and tracked in three dissimilar schedules. The movements of the moon itself were found to have two different systems. The last one to be observed corresponds to our present solar order. In one of the systems observed, the solstitial and equinoctial locations on the ecliptic are found six degrees too far to the east. Tablet 272 records that the distances from one new moon to another on the Chaldean ecliptic average three degrees, fourteen minutes too great. Thus, during a lunar month the moon traveled farther in relationship to the fixed stars than the present order shows. The astronomical tables at Nineveh reveal that the world order repeatedly changed during a single century. Included in these tables is the fact that the apparent path of the sun, as it traversed the heavens, led Babylonian astronomers to differentiate three orbits for the sun (Velikovsky, 349-350).
For information on Velikovsky, follow this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immanuel_Velikovsky

There is no record that the Hebrews ever had to add extra days to their calendar before 600 to 700 BCE. In fact there is no record of any ancient contemporary civilization adding extra days to its lunar calendar before these strange astronomical events happened. The Sabbatarian writers from the Bethel Church of God also conclude from their research that there may have been some convulsive global activities during the Great Flood and/or the Exodus that may have contributed to solar system events that created minor disparities between the lunar and solar calendars even before the major disruptive events that occurred later. Here is another interesting observation the authors credit to Velikovsky:
Velikovsky is not the only one who contends that the original new year in the Bible fell on the tenth day of the seventh month, the same day as the Day of Atonement. See Leviticus 25:9. It was later transferred to the first of Tishri — the first day of the seventh month. If this is true, on the Jewish calendar as well as the Babylonian calendar, there is an equinoctial displacement of nine days. When scholars examine the Assyrian astronomical records, they regard them as enigmatic mistakes. Yet, what needs to be asked is how could these astronomers who were responsible for the earlier records be so careless as to uphold a 360-day year, an error that in only six years would lead to a whole month’s divergence? Certainly these astronomers of the royal observatories would not have announced to the king wrong dates when anyone can observe when the moon is new. Furthermore, their records on the clay tablets required mathematical calculation. What should be obvious is that during the reign of Assurbanipal, the movements of the planets, the precession of the equinoxes, and recurring return of the eclipses had been recorded and recalculated. As changes in the heavens took place, new tablets were placed in the royal archives along with the older records (Velikovsky, 350).The Greek philosopher Thales is credited with discovering how many days were in a year. From his time (640-546 BC) the Greeks knew the year consisted of 365 days. Since he was born in the seventh century BC, is it possible he learned the new length of the year? It was about this time that the year was firmly fixed at its present length. A contemporary of Thales was Solon. He is credited with discovering that the length of the lunar month was less than thirty days. Yet, for the purpose of computation, as well as respect for the earlier length, the 360-day year was maintained for some period of time (Velikovsky, 338). If the year was 365 days then as it is now, it is odd that the discovery of the 365-day year should have occurred as late as the seventh century BC. There were many more much older kingdoms which certainly would have discovered this earlier. Why would the calculation of the length of a year, which is a reasonably simple matter to understand, be discovered by Thales, while the calculation of the eclipses, which is quite difficult to forecast, had been discovered centuries before? The same conclusion can be reached regarding Solon’s discovery of the length of the lunar month because we can see that an adjustment of a new calendar system was taking place! (Velikovsky, 356-357). In Peru, the king issued orders that astronomical observations be made. The result was a calendar change in the length of the year from 360 days to 365¼. The same was true with the Toltecs. Their history records how the sages and astrologers were gathered together in order to recalculate the length of the year which had been recognized as inaccurate. The Talmud relates how King Hezekiah made a calendar change. He is said to have intercalated the calendar in order to delay the Passover. While this conclusion may be erroneous, it is recognized that the Passover was held the second month for ritual reasons. See 2 Chronicles 30. Whatever changes became fixed at that time is not known, but it is apparent calendar computation had become difficult (Velikovsky, 352). Even the Romans made corrections in their calendar near the end of the eighth or beginning of the seventh century BC. Numa, the second king of Rome and a contemporary of King Hezekiah, made corrections in the inequality of the calendar which required further corrections later (ibid, 356).
The same writers cite the following additional support for the observation that calendar adjustments were taking place on a global basis after these disruptive global events:
What can be seen in all this is that in the years following 687 BC there were calendar reforms taking place all over the Earth. The calendar was in a state of chaos between 747 – 687 BC, the length of both the month and the year constantly changing. We have our present calendar today because the new order has not been altered (Velikovsky, 358-359).
Note that Velikovsky’s research does not appear to mention that the week may have had its position altered again much later by Constantine as suggested by Hanson. It is widely believed that Judaism officially divorced the Sabbath from the lunar calendar connection around 700 AD by a committee of powerful Jewish rabbis in a dispersed community of Jews that had remained in Babylon since the days of the Babylonian Captivity. The article on Karaite Judaism in Wikipedia gives this explanation of what happened. Anan Ben David (CE 715-795 or 811?) arose as a major proponent of the Karaite sect when the Jews from another sect began teaching doctrines that were highly offensive to him:
Isma‘’il al-‘Ukbari believed he was the prophet Elijah, and hated ‘Anan; and Mishawayh al-‘Ukbari, who was a disciple of Isma‘’il al-‘Ukbari and the founder of the Mishawites, taught his followers to use a purely solar calendar of 364 days and 30 day months, insisted that all the Holy Days and fast days should always occur on fixed days in the week, rather than on fixed days of the months, and said that Shabbat should be kept from sunrise on Saturday to sunrise on Sunday. Such beliefs were anathema to Ananites and Karaites and their practitioners were excoriated by the Karaites.

The Karaite View Of The Sabbath

Karaite Judaism is interesting to the Sabbath-Sunday question primarily because of its knowledgeable position that calendar issues and other factors make it impossible to know which day of our current week is the “real” seventh day. The history of the Hebrew calendars is complicated indeed. For example, Steve Rudd, an apologetics researcher with Bible.CA and the author of the article, “Solved: Divided Kingdom Chronology,” explains that the Kingdom of Judah began its new year with the month of September-October, whereas Israel’s new year began with the month of April. Also adding to the confusion, during much of the history of the Hebrews, they used a lunar calendar for feast days and a “business” calendar for the solar year of approximately 365 days in length. The fact that the Hebrews used different calendars of different kinds may partially explain why the Karaites have no problem with keeping the weekly Sabbath on an arbitrarily chosen seventh day themselves. It is less clear why they had, and still have, no interest in keeping the weekly Sabbath according to the lunar calendar. Instead, they were focused on the importance of observing Jewish feasts and holy days according to the lunar calendar. They seem to have fought against Judaism’s change to a fixed calendar on that basis only. Documentation of their fight to maintain the use of the lunar calendar is very clear in regard to the events that took place within Judaism during the late 700’s.

Despite the seemingly formidable evidence, lunar Sabbatarian, John D. Keyser, has found in support of the lunar Sabbath concept, the fact that the Karaite Jews have no interest in keeping the weekly Sabbath according to it may represent the single most powerful indirect evidence against the idea that Israel ever kept the Sabbath according to the phases of the Moon. There are possible explanations for this paradox, however, including the fact that the primary focus of Karaite Judaism has not been on the lunar calendar but rather on the principle that the Torah, which came directly from God, is to be the Jew’s only guide to Faith—that the Talmud and Mishnah, books of Jewish tradition, are not inspired as mainstream, Rabbinical Judaism, claims.

When it comes to the role played by their predecessor groups— the dissident sects that sprang up at some time after the building of the second temple– the issues that drove them are less clear. They sprang up to oppose mainstream, rabbinical Judaism on a variety of issues that almost certainly included disputes over the Jewish calendar. The Babylonian Captivity began in 597 BCE, and by this time the Assyrians and Babylonians had adopted fixed calendars. It would have been natural for both the Assyrians and the Babylonians to try to impose their national calendars on all of their citizens, including their Jewish subjects. It is possible, and even likely, that these dissident sects that later evolved into the Karaites may have opposed a possible change from observance of the Sabbath according to the lunar calendar to observing it according to the fixed calendar of their captors. However, we have only indirect evidence that this is likely so in that a variety of historical sources indicate that (1) The Jews kept the Sabbath according to the lunar calendar before the building of the second temple. (2) Excerpts from The Dead Sea Scrolls documents the fact that some Jewish sects were keeping the lunar Sabbath at the time of Christ. (3) The writings of the early fathers of the Christian church document the fact that some Christians and Jews kept the lunar Sabbath for hundreds of years after the death of Christ. (See Appendix XI, excerpts from John D. Keyser’s paper, “From Sabbath to Saturday.”)

The Karaite position on the observance of the weekly Sabbath might suggest that today’s lunar Sabbatarians cannot find any real support for their unique beliefs from Karaite Judaism. Instead, an examination of the facts pulls the rug out from under the foundation of Sabbatarian doctrine– the untenable concept that the current seventh day of our week is an exact seven-day interval of the seventh day of Creation.
The predecessors of the Karaites were called by various names:
Karaism has been around since God gave his laws to the Jewish people. At first those who followed YHWH's laws were merely called "Righteous" and it was only in the 9th century CE that they came to be called Karaites. The question of why God's followers are today called Karaites is really a question of the origin of the other sects. At first there was no reason to label the righteous as a separate sect because there was only the one sect which consisted of the whole Jewish people. Throughout history a variety of sects appeared and it was only to distinguish the righteous from these other groups which caused them in different periods to take on such names as Sadducees, Boethusians, Ananites, and Karaites. 

The first reference in the history of Israel to more than one sect takes place some 200 years after the close of the Biblical period, in the first century BCE. Various sources tell us of two opposing sects, the Sadducees (Zadokites) and the Pharisees. The Sadducees followed the Torah as it was written while the Pharisees believed in a second "Oral" Torah which they added to the real one. The Second Temple period saw the rise of several more sects among them another group which only followed the written Torah called the Boethusians and a sect which added several books to the Bible called the Essenes (a.k.a. the "Dead Sea Sect").http://www.karaite-korner.org/history.shtml 

The Karaites are first mentioned in written sources in the late eighth century. They themselves claim to be descendants of dissident sects of the First Temple period, and the rabbinical tradition traces them back to opposition trends of the Second Temple period.http://www.myjewishlearning.com/history/Ancient_and_Medieval_History/632-1650/Islamic_World/Karaites.shtml?p=1 

Historians have argued over whether Karaism has a direct connection to anti-Rabbinic sects and views, such as those of the Sadducees, dating back to the end of the Second Temple period (70 CE), or whether Karaism represents a novel emergence of similar views. Karaites have always maintained that, while there are some similarities to the Sadducees, there are also differences, and that the ancestors of the Karaites were another group called Benei á¹¢edeq during the Second Temple period.[4]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karaite_Judaism
Here is the current position statement of the Karaite Corner, a website that articulates the beliefs of Karaite Jews in the U.S., and whose webmaster is Nehemia Gordon, on the calendar problem as it relates to keeping the weekly Sabbath. This subject should be of special interest to Seventh-day Adventists because of William Miller’s connection with Karaite Judaism through his Hebrew teachers. Adventism evolved out of the Millerite Movement. William Miller and Ellen White corresponded with each other. She said that God showed her that William Miller rejected the Sabbath because he had a “mental block” to it, implying that it was a honest but mistaken rejection of the truth on his part. What we know about William Miller's understanding of Karaite Judaism, the lunar calendar, and the arbitrary assignment of the fixed calendar’s 7th day suggests that he rejected Adventism because he knew that even the Jews did not know which day was really the 7th day. Here is the official position of the Karaite Jews on these issues:

Does Shabbath Have to Be on a Saturday?
One of the questions which I am constantly asked by former gentiles making their way into Karaism is whether Shabbath must be on a Saturday. The idea that it must be on Saturday comes from two questionable assumptions: (1) That Saturday is the actual "anniversary" of the day within the seven day week on which Yehowah rested from creating the universe, and (2) That the Shabbath has to be the same day as this anniversary. If either one of these assumptions is incorrect, then Shabbath does not have to be on a Saturday. While there is no outright proof that the first assumption is not correct, there is also no outright proof that it is. Through all the trials and tribulations that humanity has experienced over the past 5,000 years, we have no proof whatsoever that our current Saturday is the actual seven-day "anniversary" of the original Shabbath of Creation. Likewise, the Rabbinical year (5768 as of this writing) is only a guesstimate rather than a cold, hard fact. (More likely than not, the current year is not what the Rabbinical calendar says it is.) To illustrate this point, I borrow a quote from the character Morpheus in the movie The Matrix, who, explaining his post-apocalyptic world, says, "You believe it's the year 1999 when in fact it's closer to 2199. I can't tell you exactly what year it is, because we honestly don't know." As for the second assumption, this too comes from the flawed Rabbinical concept that the essence of the Shabbath is the celebration of the seventh-day "anniversary" of Yehowah's rest-after-creation. In fact, the essence of the Shabbath is not the seventh day, but the rest. As usual, the Rabbis have switched the focus of this crucial holiday away from its humanistic and social justice aspects, and placed it on the symbolic and ritualistic aspects. From a Karaite point of view, we do not celebrate the Shabbath because it is some esoteric and mystical anniversary of an original Shabbath, we celebrate it so that we can rest, so that our dependents can rest, and so that our animals can rest. This is the essence of the Shabbath. Shabbath, and indeed the entire Torah, is about serving Elohim through serving our fellow man. Thus, theoretically speaking, it does not matter what day the Shabbath falls on; it only matters that on every seventh day, the entire society is allowed a day of rest, physical and spiritual rejuvenation, and holiness. Do I therefore recommend that you start celebrating Shabbath on Tuesday, or Wednesday, or Sunday? No, I do not. I personally celebrate the Shabbath on Saturday, and will continue to do so. This is the day that the people of Israel have currently chosen for the Shabbath, and the Shabbath must be a national rather than an individual effort. But let us not harbor the illusion that the day the nation has chosen is the exact same day on which Elohim rested, or that it even needs to be. What is important and central to the idea of the Shabbath is that on every seventh day, all people and animals get a chance to rest. - 

See more at:
http://karaiteinsights.com/article/shabbat.html#sthash.Su6lnlLC.dpuf

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Lying For God v8 PartI pp9-16

Today we bring you installment #2 of Kerry Wynne's comprehensive study "Lying For God" version 8, Part I. Reproduced here by permission.

This section is particularly interesting to me, since it goes over the Lunar Sabbath theory (I've hinted at this idea in recent posts). In a nutshell, the Sabbath was the seventh day but weeks reset with each moon so the Sabbath was not every seven days in absolute succession. The Lunar Sabbath theory was a complete novelty to me upon leaving Armstrongism, as I recall no mention whatsoever about it in all of my years in the system. This study is remarkably fair-minded about the topic, properly addressing scholarly evidence both pro and con, which is refreshing in our time. Agree with the Lunar Sabbath theory or not, I believe you will be challenged by it. Hopefully in a good way.

Again, I want to make it clear that I am posting this because it is thought-provoking, not because I absolutely agree with every word and endorse the study in its entirety.

Today's installment picks up where the previous article left off, and will include material from pages 4-16. It's a lot of pages, but I felt it was better to include all of this since one idea flows throughout.

-------

Adventism And The Lunar Sabbath Issue

We do not take a position for or against the lunar Sabbath theory, but since the idea is creating so much controversy within Adventism at this very moment, we would be irresponsible not to cover this topic for our readers. We will try to show you the arguments pro and con. Our task is made difficult because of the obvious biases of those who write in favor or against the concept. It is our intention as researchers to find truth and to follow it at all costs. The cost to us seems to be that the idea of a lunar Sabbath appears to be so far-fetched that it is almost too much for even our anti-Sabbatarian supports to swallow. At its very best we can only make educated guesses about what happened in ancient times. However, some theories are more respectable than others. Most readers do not know some very unflattering things about the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s extensive knowledge of its credibility and its troublesome implications for Adventism:
  1. William Miller learned about the lunar calendar from the Karaite Jews who were teaching him Hebrew. He applied the lunar calendar to help him solve some biblical time problems. It worked, and he was able to resolve those problems and arrive at the “correct” date Christ would return.
  2. The Advent Movement adopted his prophetic charts, which were based on the lunar calendar, but in doing so they accepted an AD 31 date for the crucifixion—a date which differs from the AD 33 date accepted by most Christian scholars and which is supported better by historical and astronomical data. See Appendix IX for an analysis of the Adventist Sabbath “Paradox.”
  3. The lunar Sabbath issue has been looked at three times by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Each time the committees were disbanded and the records of the committee proceedings destroyed. The most significant lunar Sabbath research paper, submitted to the General Conference back in the 1930’s, has disappeared without a trace. The committee established in 1995 to study the question of the lunar Sabbath was scuttled when, so we are told, three of the delegates, theologians from the Church’s seminary at Andrews University, became convinced that the lunar Sabbath was correct and that the Church should adopt the practice.
  4. Seventh-day Adventists would naturally have a bias against the lunar Sabbath for at least two reasons:
  1. The concept that one day of the week is intrinsically holy is dependent on the idea that such a day represents an exact seven-day multiple of the seventh-day of Creation. If the Jews kept the Sabbath according to a lunar calendar, the Sabbath day would have wandered, rather than having been fixed, making it next to impossible, if not impossible, to keep track of that exact seven-day multiple.
  2. It makes the loaded question of who changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday irrelevant. You can’t “change” a moving target. The lunar Sabbath concept would make it impossible that the papacy could or anyone else could have “changed” it.
  1. William Miller probably new that the position of the Karaite Jews was that a number of factors, including calendar issues, make it impossible to know which day of the current “fixed” week was really the 7th day and that Jews have known for a very long time that they were keeping an arbitrarily chosen 7th day as their Sabbath. The earliest leaders of Adventism might have known that the current 7th day has only one chance in seven of being an exact seven-day multiple of the 7th day of Creation.
SCHOLARLY OBJECTIONS TO THE LUNAR SABBATH THEORY

Nehemia Gordon, a prominent advocate for Karaite Judaism and the webmaster for the Karaite Corner, listed the following objections to the lunar Sabbath theory in a recent podcast. His position is that the Jews never observed the lunar Sabbath. (Later we quote from an entry on the Karaite Corner’s website the current position of Karaite Judaism that Jews have known for a very long time that the day they accept as their 7th day was arbitrarily chosen and may or may not be an exact seven-day multiple of the 7th day of Creation.) Gordon is a former president of a Jewish university, and his opinion is worthy of respect because of his presumed knowledge of the Hebrew language and the history of Judaism:
  1. People who espouse this concept tend to have gotten their idea from skeptical scholars from the past who believe that the Hebrews borrowed the Sabbath idea from the pagan nations around them. The pagan “sabbath” was lunar-based. Currently (2014), even most skeptical scholars have abandoned this theory of the origin of the Sabbath concept.
  2. You can go anywhere in the world and find that the Jews in every country where they are found worship on the same seventh day. Furthermore, this has been true for over 2,000 years. None of these Jews seem to know anything about a wandering Sabbath that was based on the lunar month.
  3. The only scriptural evidence of something Sabbath-related that “moved” was the Sabbatical Year, which had to be adjusted frequently to adjust their year to correlate properly with the seasons.
  4. Although the Jews eventually adopted pagan names for the days of the seven-day week, this fact did not mean that the Jews abandoned a supposed lunar week with Hebrew names for a fixed week with those pagan names. Furthermore, the theory that the wandering Sabbath had to be moved to “fixed” Saturday because the pagan name for the fixed 7th day, Saturday, was related to the word from any language for “sabbath.” Rather, Saturday was named in honor of the pagan god, Saturn.
In addition to these objections of Nehemia Gordon, other biblical scholars report that they have studied the Scriptures and have not found any evidence that God instructed Israel to observe the Sabbath according to the lunar calendar. Researchers report that they find exceptions to the rules of the so-called lunar Sabbath principles that disprove the entire theory. The work of scholars who oppose the lunar Sabbath are widely available on the Internet and appear to us to have some validity.

SUPPORT FOR THE LUNAR SABBATH THEORY

The best way to see the very best that the lunar Sabbath community has to offer is to study Appendix XI, excerpts from John D. Keyser’s paper entitled, “From Sabbath to Saturday.” Whether his research proves that the lunar Sabbath concept is true or not, he appears to make a respectable case for it. He utilizes resources we have not seen elsewhere. Together with a study of Appendixes IX, X, and XI, our readers should walk away with less reluctance than ever to reject the idea categorically.

Let us evaluate the objections of Nehemia Gordon. First, the issue of whether the Hebrews borrowed the Sabbath concept from the pagans or it came from direct, divine revelation is a serious issue, but it tells us nothing about how the Jews practiced that belief, wherever that belief might have come from. (Hopefully all of us belief the Sabbath concept came directly from God on Mt. Sinai during the Exodus.)

Second, the fact that Jews everywhere have kept the same fixed 7th day for a very long time—perhaps for a couple thousand years—tells us nothing about whether the ancient Hebrews observed the lunar Sabbath prior to the building of the second temple hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. The primary claim of lunar Sabbatarians is that the Jews kept the Sabbath according to the lunar calendar prior to the building of the second temple, although they cite evidence that some of the Jewish sects were observing the lunar Sabbath at the time of Christ and that some Christians and some Jews kept the lunar Sabbath for a few hundred years after the death of Christ. (We will look at the evidence for these additional claims later.)

Third, there is some evidence that Israel kept the Sabbath according to the lunar calendar, and some very tenacious lunar Sabbath researchers have uncovered it. As you will learn later, world civilizations did not have any notion of a fixed calendar until around the time of the building of the second temple. Just as the idea of a lunar calendar with extra days at the end of the month is incomprehensible to us today, so the idea of a fixed calendar would have been unfathomable to the civilizations of the world back then. It appears that in these ancient times the concept of a week existed, but not that of a fixed week. The week was based on the four phases of the moon, which were approximately seven days in length. It would be unreasonable to expect God or any Old Testament writer to specify that the Sabbath had to be kept according to a lunar calendar because there was no other way in existence to keep track of time.

While we will give you more documentation in regard to the extra days of the lunar months later, the only reasonable explanation for the biblical account of the Battle of Jericho involves the use of the lunar calendar. Recall that the Israelites were instructed to march around the city for seven days in a row. It is unlikely that God would have instructed the Hebrews to break the Sabbath, and one of those seven days would have to have been a Sabbath day if Israel had been using a fixed week at that time to determine their Sabbaths. See Appendix X for a full explanation. Please do not skip reading this appendix.

The ancient civilizations contemporary to the time of the Israel’s Exodus from Egypt marked time by lunar months. We also know that their smallest “absolute” unit of time for periods of time less than a solar year was the lunar month. They had no concern for numbers of days within a lunar month. Universal to virtually all ancient societies contemporary with Exodus Era Israel was that the number of days between the lunar months were of no consequence or concern. These civilizations were focused on the absolute reference point represented by the appearance of the new moon. (The reference point was always an absolute, fixed event, but this is not at all the same thing as saying that the time between the reference points were absolutely the same length.)

Furthermore, we know that in between the new moons they kept track of time by seven-day weeks that were correlated to the four phases of the moon. Finally, we know that their focus on the new moon as the absolute reference of time-keeping resulted in a total lack of concern for the number of days between those absolute reference points. This is one more prime example of the danger of studying the Bible without an understanding of the culture and the language which produced the biblical record. It is a very naive biblical scholar who would demand that Moses explain that his time references were lunar at a time when the entire world had no concept of fixed calendars.

Many of the cuneiform writings discuss a day of cessation from work at the end of each phase and suggest that the extra days between the last new moon and the first new moon were spent resting, rather than working. This information, which has been widely available for a very long time to scholars, raises serious questions about the usual Sabbatarian explanation for the existence of the pervasive heathen concept of a seven-day week and a day of rest at the week’s end. Sabbatarians claim that this heathen familiarity with a kind of sabbath principle is due to the retention (with corruption) of the memory of a seven-day fixed week and a Sabbath ordinance that all people were supposed to keep since Creation. Unfortunately there are better explanations for this phenomenon – the universal association between seven-day periods of time and the four phases of the moon. Since there was no Sabbath ordinance in Genesis, other explanations demand to be found.

The Hebrew word for Sabbath is closely related and derived from a word that means “propitiation.” When God ceased His creative work on the 7th day of Creation, He did not ask to be propitiated, and there is nothing in the story of Adam and Eve to suggest that any such propitiation if for no other reason than sin had not entered the world yet. The fact that in these ancient languages the sabbath concept was equated with the need to appease the gods is a major linguistic barrier to the idea the Sabbath originated at Creation.

The work of D. A. Carson and his team of distinguished biblical scholars published From Sabbath to Lord’s Day in 1982. This landmark study of the Sabbath-Sunday Question provided the world with a break-through understanding of the Hebrew linguistics of Genesis 2, Exodus 16, and Exodus 20 that definitively proved that Moses worded his language carefully to make it impossible for his Hebrew readers to see a Sabbath commandment in Genesis 2. Their studies also proved to the point of over-kill that Christians abandoned Sabbath-keeping for biblical reasons and that all the known conspiracy-apostasy theories to explain this abandonment are contrary to facts of history that have been known for nearly 2,000 years.

The lunar connection explains the development of the Heathen concept of a seven day week and a day of rest at the end of the week better than any other theories, since we now know for certain that there was no Sabbath in Genesis.

The Encyclopedia Biblica (The MacMillan Company, 1899, p. 4180) says that the Hebrew word for Sabbath, or sabbathon, conveys the propitiation or appeasement of divine anger:
It is the opinion of [Professor Jastrow] that the idea of propitiation or appeasement of divine anger, and it is . . . the opinion of [Professor Jastrow] that the Hebrew Sabbath (i.e. Creation Sabbath) was originally a Sabbathon – i.e. a day of propitiation and appeasement; marked by atoning rites . . . it was celebratred at intervals of seven days, CORRESPONDING WITH CHANGES IN THE MOON’S PHASES, and was identical in character with the four days in each month, i.e. 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th! (page 4,180). Cited in From Sabbath to Saturday by John D. Keyser.)
The Encyclopedia Biblica also notes that the word translated “rest” in Genesis 2:1-2, indicates that the 7th day of Creation was a day that divided something and has nothing to do with resting. For our immediate purposes, note that the word indicates a division of the month—not days. (We hasten to point out, as discussed elsewhere, that to us it seems to divide the seven days of Creation into two categories —the days that God created and the day that he did not create.) However, since Jastrow is an expert in Ancient Hebrew linguistics, we may find ourselves having to defer to his interpretation – one that represents still another serious argument against a Creation Sabbath from Hebrew linguistics. On page 4,173 we read:
The word, “Sabbath” is a feminine form/word. The ROOT (of Sabbath) has NOTHING to do with resting in the sense of enjoying repose; in transitive forms and applications, it means: “to sever,” “to put an end to”—“to come to an end.” In a transitive sense – “the divider” – indicates the Sabbath as dividing the month. It certainly cannot be translated “The Day of Rest.”
Lunar Sabbath Researcher, John D. Keyser, has studied the “heathen” Sabbath in depth, and he presents numerous examples of it in his remarkable book, From Sabbath to Saturday. These are some examples he discovered:
Assyria
Discovered by Assyriologist, George Smith in 1869 among the cuneiform tablets in the British Museum and summarized here by Hutton Webster:
. . .a curious religious calendar of the Assyrians, in which every month is divided into four weeks, and the seventh days or “Sabbaths,” are marked out as days on which no work should be undertaken.”It appears to be a transcript of a much more ancient Babylonia original, possibly belonging to the age of Hammurabi, which has been made by order of Ashurbanipal and placed in his royal library at Nineveh. The calendar, which is complete for the thirteenth or intercalary month, called Elul II, and for Markheshwan, the eight month of the Babylonia year, takes up thirty days in succession and indicates the deity to which each day is sacred and what sacrifices or precautionary measures are necessary for each day.All the days are styled “favourable,” an expression which must indicate a pious hope not a fact, since the words ud-khul-gal or umu limnu (“the devil day”) are particularly applied to the seventh fourteenth, nineteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-eight days . . . With regard to the reasons which dictate the choice of the seventh, fourteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-eighth days, two views have been entertained. It has been held, in the first place, that the “evil days” were selected as CORRESPONDING TO THE MOON’S SUCCESSIVE CHANGES; hence the seventh day marks the close of the earliest form of the seven-day week, A WEEK BOUND UP WITH THE LUNAR PHASES.(Hutton Webster, Rest Days: a Study in Early Law and Morality, New York: The MacMillan Company. 1916, p. 223-224.)
It seems like the utilization of the lunar calendar appears to have produced some extra rest days between the months:
Assurbanipal in the seventh century promulgated a calendar with a definite scheme of a seven-day week, a regulation of the month by which all men were to rest on days 7, 14, 19, 21,28. The old menology of Nisan made the TWO DAYS OF THE DARK OF THE MOON, 29, 30, rest days, so that each lunar month had 9 rest days, on which neither the sick could be cured nor a man in difficulty consult a prophet, none might travel, and fasting was enforced.

Babylon

Keyser cites Hutton Webster, a contributor to Rest Days: A Study in Early Law and Morality, pp. 228-229, regarding the fact that the Babylonian “Epic of Creation,” includes a discussion of lunar weeks that end in a Sabbath rest day. Keyser says:
“Finally,” writes Webster, “in the fifth tablet of the Babylonian ‘Epic of Creation,’ a work which in its original form is traced to the close of the third millennium B.C., it is told how the god Marduk, having created and set in order the heavenly bodies, then placed the moon in the sky to make known the days and DIVIDE THE MONTH WITH HER PHASES.” “Although this interesting production, in its present mutilated state,” elicits Webster, “mentions only the seventh and fourteenth days, we are entitled to believe that the original text also referred to the twenty-first and twenty-eighth days of the month.”
Keyser’s research suggests that the seven-day week synchronized to the four phases of the moon was virtually universal in the ancient world that surrounded Israel. He cites the work of Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible (Charles Scribner & Sons, New York, 1892-1902), the article, “On Sabbath: Babylonian,” it appears that the document referenced by Hastings is the same one referenced by Webster above:
Almost all scholars today agree that the primal seven-day calendar, as used among the very ancient Semites (including the Babylonians and Hebrews), was based upon the moon. Furthermore, this unique weekly cycle was observed in tandem with the lunar phases. An example of the early week, based upon the phases of the moon, is described in the Fifth Tablet of the Semitic Story of Creation. Note that the moon is said to “make known the days” and its horns “the seasons,” creating the Sabbath on the 7th and 14th days of the month. Quoting the tablet’s translation, he finds:[The moon] He caused to shine, ruling the night: He set him then as a creature of the Night, to make known the days.Monthly unfailing, He provided him with a tiara.At the beginning of the month then,Appearing in the land,The horns shine forth to make known the seasons.

MORE ABOUT THOSE EXTRA DAYS!

With the ancient lunar-solar calendar, the first sighting of the new moon started the first day of the first week of the new month. The ancients viewed the monthly cycle of the moon as the absolute marker for any period of time less than one solar year, and they cared nothing about the number of days in between the markers represented by the appearance of each new moon. But what about the extra days between the new moon months? They never seem to add up to seven.

If you look back at our example of a lunar month and analyze it, you can’t help being puzzled by the fact that the new moon seems both to end the month and to begin it. The orbit of the moon around the Earth varies by up to several days. Therefore, there are almost always (it seems) these extra days left over at the end of each lunar month. As “moderns” accustomed to a fixed calendar and having never known anything else, our first reaction to the lunar concept of marking time is that these extra days “mess up” the weekly cycle. This perception is the result of normal cultural bias, but one that is dangerous when it comes to translating one language into another. We will explain momentarily that the Hebrews simply discarded these days and either rested or worked on them. Their absolute standard was the appearance of each new moon. The records left by these societies strongly suggest that they simply rested on these extra days. Recall from the previous section that Assurbanipal’s calendar of the 7th century BCE had a total of nine rest days, a few of them represented by the extra days in between the months.

Elsewhere in VERDICT, we cite the work of Benner, a noted Hebrew language scholar. Benner says that the Hebrew language is impossible to translate accurately without an advanced understanding of the culture that produced it. The culture in which the early Israelites and their ancestors found themselves was overwhelmingly enmeshed in the concept of the lunar calendar and the lunar week. The trouble we have comprehending the variable day lunar month is the result of our Western idea, forged into our minds by our fixed calendar cultural experience. Since a fixed calendar has been used by civilizations roughly since the time of the Babylonian and Assyrian empires, the weeks “butt up” against each other consecutively. However, by either method of reckoning time, a week is always seven days.

The fact that the ancients likely rested on these extra days is supported by the obsession they appear to have had on fertility subjects and celebrated with fertility rites. They did not fail to notice that the number of days it takes the moon to go around the Earth is roughly equal to the number of days in a woman’s reproductive cycle. Notice the research of Janet and Stewart Farrar in their book, The Witches’ Goddess (Phoenix Publishing, pp. 24-25, & p. 106):
The modern use of seven day weeks also stems from the ancient lunar calendar. The first of every lunar month was marked as the first day of a new week and a Sabbath was celebrated every seventh day to mark the 4 quarters of the moon. The last week was followed by the days of the dark moon when the goddess was held to be menstruating and so an extended Sabbath was observed until the waxing crescent moon reappeared and the new month began.
The Jewish Encyclopedia addresses the problem of the extra days between the lunar months with this explanation in Volume 10, p. 482, the article, “Week:”
The idea of the week, as a subdivision of the month [was found] . . . in Babylonia, where each lunar month was divided into four parts, CORRESPONDING TO THE FOUR PHASES OF THE MOON. The first week of each month began with the new moon, so that, as the lunar month was one or two days more than four periods of seven days, these additional days were not reckoned at all. Every seventh day (sabbatum) was regarded as an unlucky day. This method of reckoning time spread westward through Syria and Palestine, and WAS ADOPTED BY THE ISRAELITES, probably after they settled in Palestine.
Another well-respected encyclopedia supports this view as well. The New Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia was an English translation of a German encyclopedia that had been published first in 1805, and the American version was released between 1908 and 1914, according to its Wikipedia entry:
“The Israelites . . . made the Sabbath the feasts of a living and holy God. The work of man became symbolic of the work of God, and human rest of divine rest, so that the Sabbaths became preeminently days of rest. Since, moreover, the LUNAR MONTH had 29 or 30 days, the normal lapse of time between Sabbaths was six days, although sometimes seven or eight; and six working days were accordingly assigned to the creation, which was to furnish a prototype for human life. The connection of the Sabbath with lunar phases, however, was [later] discarded by the Israelites . . . .” (The New Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia, pages 135-136.)

WORKING TOWARD A NEW THEORY OF SABBATH ORIGINS

Thanks to advanced studies in Hebrew linguistics we now know that there is no possibility that the Sabbath ordinance was imposed on God’s people until the time of the Exodus. We also know that Heathen societies that predated Exodus Era Israel had a “sabbath” concept based on the four phases of the moon and fertility themes. The next logical step requires the obvious conclusion, and that is that the sabbath of propitiation and fertility associations that was so prevalent in the societies that predated ancient Israel could not have developed as the result of some kind of “dim memory” of the “original Sabbath” in the Garden of Eden. No such thing ever existed! Additionally, some historians see evidence that this lunar-fertility sabbath was part of the Egyptian culture when the Hebrews were their captives.

The next logical step is to conclude that the evidence available to us suggests that when God gave Israel its sabbath system, His thinking was that He would take a useful but purely heathen concept, redeem it, wash it clean of its fertility and superstitious connotations, and present it to Israel in the glorious and holy form in which it came down to them from Mt. Sinai – The Mountain of the Moon. It would appear that while it was washed of its Heathen connotations, its association with the four phases of the Moon was retained. After all, in Genesis, Chapter One, God stated that the sun and moon were given to the human race to determine “sacred times.” The lunar connection with the Sabbath, then, did not need to be cleansed as it reflected His provision for time-keeping for all peoples for all time from the beginning of time. The earliest societies on Earth had retained the memory of the lunar method of time reckoning that God had given to the world in the very beginning. And, this memory was not a “dim” one either. With each appearance of the Moon, all the people on the Earth recognized the existence of God's long-lasting timepiece.

This theory of how the Jewish Sabbath came into existence is in keeping with God’s apparent habit of communicating spiritual truths to Israel through cultural concepts with which they were already familiar. For example, God modeled the Ten Commandments after the formula for the treaties that Israel’s neighbors made with one another. It was the custom of the time to draft these agreements so that a list of required actions by the people of a conquered nation had a ceremonial requirement placed right in the middle. The ceremony that the people were required to enact at regular intervals was designed to help the conquered people to remember the one who had the power to require them to fulfill their obligations, as well as to remember his actual requirements. Consider the fact that Jehovah did not choose to ban slavery for Israel. The practice of slavery was universal at the time. The way the Heathen practiced it created extreme human suffering. God’s regulations for slavery within Israel were just, humane, and designed to give the worker-slave hope for the future at the end of his seven-year indenture. Similarly, He chose to control—not to erase—certain inequalities between the role of men and women in society. The Law of Moses provided, for example, that women could own property, and they enjoyed many protections and privileges while the women of Israel's neighbors were frequently treated as having less value than livestock. Jehovah seems to have chosen to work within the culture of the day whether in regard to the Sabbath, slavery, or women’s rights. Even female slaves had a status of honor and protection unheard of in the Heathen world. In the New Testament, Jesus redeemed the concept of baptism – always a symbol of spiritual renewal – from heathen cultic sources.

It appears to be impossible to divorce the Sabbath from its lunar foundations. Recall once more that Jehovah gave these treaty-like Ten Commandments from the top of the Mountain of the Moon (Sin = Semitic for Moon) which sat on the edge of the Wilderness of the Moon. Furthermore, He thundered these requirements to the Hebrews on the same day as the pagan High Sabbath of the lunar month. The Sabbaths before and after the giving of the 10 Commandments from Mt. Sinai correlated with the designated sabbaths of the lunar month.

Was it just a coincidence that God chose the High Sabbath of the pagan lunar month to present the terms of His treaty with the ceremonial Sabbath requirement placed in the middle with His Hebrew people? It would seem that if we were to humbly attempt to think about the way God would view this question, we would reason that if He were concerned about the linkage between the Holy Sabbath of the Hebrews and the pagan sabbath concept of their neighbors, He would have avoided giving the terms of His treaty to Israel on that day. Because ALL the countries around Israel kept time by the phases of the moon, all sabbaths, whether sacred or pagan, would have been observed on exactly the same day in that part of the world.

The lunar month and the lunar-based seven-day week system was simply the way things worked at that time in the history of the world. Back then the concept of a fixed calendar would likely have been as incomprehensible to them as their lunar calendar is to us. To demand that Moses record the fact that Israel was using a lunar calendar at the time of the Exodus is as unreasonable as demanding that Robert Hemingway explain that in the age he wrote in, there were things called cars that drove on things called roads. He would simply put a car in his story if it was a necessary part of his story-telling, and his readers would already know what a car was.