Researching Titus 1: 5 and filming on Crete

Kaloi Limenes, Crete © 2016 Simon Peter Sutherland

Kaloi Limenes, Crete © 2016 Simon Peter Sutherland

I have recently returned to England from my visit to the Greek island of Crete.

Travelling thousands of miles across Biblical landscape is always insightful and my primary goal on Crete was to seek out the historic locations written about in Acts 27 and Paul’s letter to Titus.

My desire was to gain a more historic understanding of Titus 3: 5

for this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are wanting”.

2000 years ago Paul gave commission to Titus to appoint elders in every city on Crete. My aim in visiting Crete was to discover those ancient cities and gain an historic understanding of the work Titus did on Crete. Along the way standing face to face with the ancient law code of Gortyna, the mysteries of the Phaistos disc, ancient Minoan culture, and in some cases frustration at the sheer amount of unexcavated sites, leading to a general lack of information.

Kaloi Limenes 'Fair Havens' Crete © 2016 Simon Peter Sutherland

Kaloi Limenes ‘Fair Havens’ Crete © 2016 Simon Peter Sutherland

However, travelling over 100 miles across the island, visiting the ancient cities of Heraklion, Gortyna, Lasea and the spectacular mountains to port of ‘Kalio Limenes’ (fair havens) proved insightful to the Biblical narrative yet left many unanswered questions.

Part of the reason for this is that much of the history of ancient Crete has little connection to the New Testament era. Ancient cities such as Knossos have connections but they were long gone by the 1st century AD. But Gortyna and Kalio Limenes are key locations.

 

The Church of St. Titus, Gortyna © 2016 Simon Peter Sutherland

The Church of St. Titus, Gortyna © 2016 Simon Peter Sutherland

On Crete I filmed around 5 hours worth of footage for a documentary on the subject, battling with strong winds. I hope to complete that task in the distant future but in the meantime, I will continue in researching Paul and Titus’ work on Crete.

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“Kos and the Gospel according to St.Luke” now on YouTube

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“Risen” movie review

This week I went to see “Risen” at a cinema.

I am not an overt cinema goer, but I’m always interested in Biblical movies. For me, seeing visual depictions of the Bible on screen is often exciting and inspiring.

Recent so-called ‘Biblically inspired’ releases such as “Noah” and “Exodus: Gods and Kings” have not even made it into my collection, but “Risen” certainly will. After all, the Bible contains the greatest stories ever written and the Biblical landscapes always look fantastic on film when the Bible is portrayed in a proper way.

For those who may not know, “Risen” is a new fictional movie inspired by the events surrounding the historic death and ‘resurrection of Christ’. It features a character named “Clavius” who is a Roman official, tired from battle, and summoned by Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem to break the legs of the newly crucified Jesus and dispose of His body. By the time Clavius arrives at Golgotha, the crucified Jesus is already dead and Clavius instructs a Roman solder to thrust the spear in His side. The body of Jesus is taken by Nicodemus, as Scriptures tell, and a Roman seal is put upon His tomb and under the watch of Roman guards.

When rumours surface of a resurrection, Clavius is sent to take care of the situation and find His body and settle the matter before Caesar arrives in Jerusalem.

When the ‘body of Jesus’ cannot be found the investigation begins but things do not work out as both Pilate and Clavius had planned. What follows is a Biblically respectful film and one that, on the whole, is consistent with what the Gospels record.

Joseph Fiennes, who plays Clavius is a great actor of modern times. His portrayal of Martin Luther in the 2003 film “Luther” was excellent and fresh. Likewise, his portrayal of Clavius was also well played.

In my opinion, “Risen” is a good film, Biblically consistent and respectful. The film had a positive and distinct absence of mere entertainment based dramatics and over acting, and seemed to deliver a film based upon dialogue and confronting personalities within the narrative of the greatest story ever told. Clavius is human, the disciples are fun. Pilate is concerned and Mary Magdalene is “free”.

For me, I felt the overall direction of the film was not heavy, the sets were excellent and the costumes fitting. The soundtrack was appropriate and occasionally the script contained a sense of the type of things New Testament people might have said in everyday life.

In my opinion, “Risen” remained respectful to Scripture and the centrality of the resurrection story. It was careful to not over interpret the narrative. I enjoyed watching the whole film. I wasn’t overly impressed by some of the accents or the portrayal of Jesus, but I suspect the film makers chose to present Jesus in a more ‘regular’ sense than many other films, however, he maintained a distinct middle Eastern appeal.

I think all Christians and none Christians should go and see “Risen” and for believers, I would like to say this; please don’t be put off by the recent past releases of “Noah” and “Exodus: Gods and Kings”. Forget about them, “Risen” is not in the same league. And although “Risen” may not be one of the greatest Biblical movies ever made, it is still ten thousand times better than “Noah” movie and “Exodus: Gods and Kings” combined. And the sooner Hollywood learns from this and realizes that the Bible contains the greatest stories and narratives ever written, the sooner Hollywood can stop wasting its time producing mock Biblical films and the more Christians can cease from wasting their money on going to see them.

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“Kos and the Gospel according to St.Luke” trailer 2

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“Transgender Jesus play”staged @ St. Chrysostom’s C of E

Cultural secularists in 21st century Britain have implemented radical changes upon the people of this nation.

More often than not, certain political and social reforms reflect the views of ‘the powers that be’ rather than the traditions and beliefs of the people of Britain.

More often than not we find that anyone who publicly speaks against certain winds of change and presents views that differ to the cultural mainstream are labelled “uneducated” fanatical” “fundamentalist” being victims of ‘ad hominen’ attacks, branded with the hot irons of the powers that be and the penetrating growth of media mind seeds.

The contradiction must be that ‘freedom of speech’ appears to have more flexibility in Britain with those who agree with cultural secularism than those who don’t.

Shamefully, the people of 21st century Britain are seeing more and more of this prejudice directed toward them. People are being emotionally blackmailed into keeping their opinions and beliefs silent, lest they cause offence. Even many within the state Church are falling into these deceptive political snares. Many ‘Anglican Churches’ are failing to reflect the beliefs and traditions of the Christian community or the Bible on the whole, presenting a more politically correct form of Christianity rather than an authentic position.

Many’ ‘Anglican’ churches fail to represent authentic Christianity in favor of religious and cultural liberalism. This decline has been forming for many years and we regularly hear ‘Anglican’ Bishops presenting positions and beliefs contrary to authentic Christianity.

St. Chrysostom's Church, Manchester © 2016 Simon Peter SutherlandThis certainly the case with one of the current affronts to the Christian faith. On Sunday 14th February 2016, St Chrysostom’s church in Manchester, presented a play featuring a “transgender Jesus”. This play is called “The Gospel according to Jesus, Queen of heaven”.

Despite the fact that this play is “blasphemous” and inconsistent with Christianity and “repugnant” to the Word of God and the 39 articles and Cannon Law, St Chrysostom’s had decided to re-interpret the cannon, and stage the play.

However, I’m not going to overstate the play and insult them, that’s just what they want. On the contrary, it is they who are attacking Jesus Christ and they would not do this with ‘Mohammad’. Thus, they pick on Christians knowing they can get away with it in this life. Yet insults to the Christian faith are nothing new and fallen Churches are nothing new. People have been insulting Jesus since He first came to earth and they will do so until He returns to judge them. Likewise, St Chrysostom’s Church is ‘liberal, inclusive and anglo-catholic’ so I don’t expect anything else from them however, St.Chrysostom’s claims to represent the Christian church and are part of the Anglican communion and the Parish of Manchester and have clearly broken the clear meaning of article C1X of Canon law (Constitutions and Canons Ecclesiastical) and its laws on plays being “consonant with sound doctrine”. A penalty for failing to observe canon law is the “removal from such office or membership as afore said” (Constitutions and Cannons Ecclesiastical 1X)

I am convinced this is but a glimpse into what is coming in the future. It is clear that somewhere behind the scenes, the ‘Anglican’ communion is being either forced or persuaded to bow her religious and political knees. But “there’s an East wind coming all the same”. The question is, what’s the bigger agenda?

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Kos and the Gospel according to St.Luke trailer

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Jesus the “Son of David” and heir to the throne of Israel

Bible lands © 2015 Simon Peter SutherlandTherefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign, Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7: 14

The virgin birth of Jesus Christ has been controversial topic for centuries. In the 2nd century, a Greek philosopher and a critique of Christianity named Celsus, claimed that Jesus was the son of a Roman soldier named Pantera. This claim has sparked debate that Mary was the victim of a rape and that Jesus was the product of that. But the story has very little historic backbone to it.

In 1952, a Bible translation called the Revised Standard Version was published. This translation rendered “a virgin” of Isaiah 7: 14 as “young woman”.

The translation appeared to be in direct contrast to the KJV and caused considerable controversy in its day and gave zest to the King James only movement. One of the arguments presented by critics of the RSV was that the rendering of ‘a virgin’ could be traced back to the oldest translation of the Old Testament known to exist. This translation is the Septuagint (LXX) and is a Greek translation of the Old Testament dating to the 3rd century BC.

likewise, we know the early Church believed Isaiah 7: 14 meant ‘a virgin’ since the ancient Apostles creed, puts the miracle of the Virgin birth this way:

  • “Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the Virgin Mary.”

The problem is that in the RSV, the text of Isaiah can be read to deny the virgin birth, however, Luke’s gospel according to the RSV may not appear to deny the virgin birth, since the claims are quite clear by exposition.

However, for many people today, the virgin birth is about as real as Rudolf pulling Santa’s sleigh, yet these views are nothing new. In fact, when we read the New Testament, we see Joseph and Mary wrestling a little with it too.

In Matthew 1: 20 we read that Joseph “thought about these things” and then had a dream. Clearly he was troubled by the situation and was logical, he must have thought Mary had been unfaithful to him and Matthew recorded that he planned to divorce her quietly (Matthew 1: 19). Likewise Mary’s response to the angel who told her she would give birth to a son was likewise logical and reasonable “how can this be, since I do not know a man” (Luke 1: 34. NKJV). The angel told Mary the miraculous conception would be of “the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1: 35. NKJV). Mary’s question was reasonable and shows that people can reason and ask questions concerning God and faith.

A question I often asked myself when I was a child was; why did the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel go to Joseph? And why do the genealogies of Matthew and Luke differ? Many years later, I learned there is a very distinct reason for the two genealogies. Matthew’s genealogy differs to Luke’s genealogy for very distinct reasons:

Matthew’s genealogy proceeds forwards from Abraham to Joseph. While Luke’s genealogy moves backwards from Jesus to Adam. Matthew’s genealogy represents the legitimate, legal, royal line unto Jesus’ legal father, as in stepfather, while the genealogy of Jesus recorded for us by Luke represents Mary’s lineage.

Matthew’s genealogy represents the legitimate, legal, royal line unto Jesus’ legal father, as in stepfather. The genealogy of Jesus recorded for us by Luke through Mary’s lineage. This connects all the way back to Adam, as needs must to connect Christ as direct decent from Adam that He in the likeness of flesh, might take upon Himself the sins of the world.

Research shows that King Jeconiah is mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy and thus reveals a very distinct reason for the virgin birth.

In Jeremiah 22: 30 the prophet wrote;

  • Thus says the Lord; Write this man down as childless, A man who shall prosper in his days; for none of his descendants shall prosper, Sitting on the throne of David, And ruling anymore in Judah.

This is the reason why a virgin birth had to happen, because if Jesus had been the actual biological son of Joseph, then Jesus would have been part of this curse and thus could not be King of Israel.

If not for this curse, then Joseph, Jesus’ stepfather would have been the legitimate King of Israel. This is why the Angel referred to Joseph as “Joseph, thou son of David” Matthew 1: 20. The Angel did not refer to Joseph as ‘the’ Son of David, but ‘son of David’. Seventeen verses in the New Testament name Jesus as the Son of David and Matthew recorded that when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a Donkey, the people hailed “Hosanna to the Son of David” (Matthew 20: 9) Jesus the King was clearly next in line for the throne and Paul also affirmed this claim in Romans 1: 3, 2 Timothy 2: 8.

This curse written by the prophet Jeremiah did not come upon Mary or her descendants because she was not a descendant in the lineage of Jeconiah.

The people of ancient Jerusalem and the Babylonian Kings (the wise men) knew these things and this is why they asked:

  • “Where is He who is born King of the Jews”. Matthew 2: 2
Jesus Christ crucified

Jesus Christ crucified from a 19th century engraving © 2013/15 Simon Peter Sutherland

The claim to the throne of Jesus as the true King of Israel was known not only by the Jewish people, but by Greeks and by Romans. The Gospels record that the claim of Jesus as King was written by Pontius Pilate and placed upon Jesus’ cross.

  • Matthew 27: 37 “This is Jesus the King of the Jews”
  • Mark 15: 26 “The King of the Jews”
  • Luke 23: 38 “This is the King of the Jews”
  • John 19: 19 “Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews”

The claim of Jesus as King was written in “Greek, Latin and Hebrew” and in John 18: 34 Jesus questions Pilate on whether or not the claim that He Himself was King came from Pilate or from other people. “Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?”

That question should be asked by all of us; do we say things about Jesus because others tell us these things or do they come from ourselves? It must be a fact that since Christianity has impacted this world so strongly that every human being must at some point ask the question of who Jesus Christ truly was and is. If He was truly the Son of God, which I believe He was, then He is the most important person who has ever lived or ever will live. And if He wasn’t the Son of God then who was He and how strong a case can be assembled to make each and every individual wage eternity upon their answer?

I believe that Jesus was who He said He was and that is why I hold Him and His commands in such high royal esteem. I believe He is the only way to God and His miracles, healing’s and resurrection stand as firm proofs of that.

The question is; when He returns, will He take the throne in a literal sense?

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