Archive for category Christianity

Farewell Queen Elizabeth 11


When a person dies, most of us remember the last time we saw that person. For some of us, those memories may relate to past loved ones, families, parents, or friends.

Over recent weeks many people have mourned the death of Queen Elizabeth 11 and since many have written tributes and messages of condolences, I thought I too should write some brief reflections.

In this post I would like to reflect upon my earliest memories of the Monarch and conclude with a brief perspective on her faith.

In the 1980’s (when I was a boy), my parents took me to London. This was a memorable event and seeing that city for the first time was a monumental experience.

I grew up in the north of England and the Lake District was my favourite place on earth. But still, the thought of going to London took my breath away.

It was a warm day when we arrived in England’s capital. I gazed up at Big Ben in awe and wonder. All around me were red telephone boxes and London taxis. ‘The Queen lives near here‘ I thought.

My parents bought me a souvenir. This was a small Britain’s Deetail Queens Guard metal figure. Afterward they took me to the area of Buckingham Palace. These are memories I cherish very deeply.

Back in those days my parents loved the Royal Family and whenever the Queen appeared on television we all sat around and watched. In our home there was never any challenge of those who were in authority, we accepted rules and that was that. But growing up in the north of England was tough and life was difficult. Many working class people hated the lifestyles of the rich and as a youngster I was horrified to learn that a certain group of protesters had thrown eggs toward the Queen during one of her visits to Manchester. Why would they do that I thought?

Times were changing I suppose. But change does not always bring stability and stableness does not always bring change. Life became tougher and the north became a difficult place to live. But for me, Queen Elizabeth 11 remained an enormous presence and gave our nation a sense of hope, identity and continuity.

I will remember Elizabeth 11 with fondness as the only Queen who will ever reign in my lifetime. All of us have been affected in some way by this extraordinary person and all of us will be effected by the Queens absence. As the saying goes you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

When I learned of the passing of Elizabeth 11 on 8th September 2022, I felt chocked. I didn’t believe it. But when I realized it was true, I sat in silence and cried. Perhaps you also felt this way?

On Friday September 9, 2022, I attended an evensong service at Manchester Cathedral and read some of the tributes people had written. There for my first time “God save our gracious King” was sung.

On Monday September 19, the world watched the moderate and appropriate funeral. I too greatly admired the 7 sacred hymns that were performed. Commenting, Rod Benson had this to say:

The removal of the crown, orb and sceptre to be returned to the high alter at the Queen’s committal was full of appropriate symbolism reminding the world that all human authority is on loan from the King of Kings himself and that he is the one who rightly holds all the instruments of power; conferring them for a finite time onto one of his servants before taking them back at the end of their life to pass onto their successor.”

It should be noted that over more recent years the Queen had become more vocal about her faith. Did you know Elizabeth 11 was Patron of the Bible Society?

This is perhaps reflected in the choice of a particular hymn sung at her funeral. It was based upon Psalm 121: 1, “I will lift up mine eyes to the hills” a favourite Scripture of Mary Jones who’s story inspired the founding of the Bible Society in 1804.

I believe the Queen will leave behind an enormous legacy to this country. We will never see the likes of her reign again. Like many people, I am very thankful for the commitment, loyalty and uprightness with which the Queen lived out a life of service.

But no matter who we are, rich or poor, blind or lame, weak or strong, all our lives will come to an end. What happens then? For those who live for this life only, life is but a fleeting moment. But those who live for Jesus Christ live for an eternal destiny in glory.

As a Christian I believe all those who are in the faith are brothers and sisters in Christ. There is no inequality in Him. All my life my late mother Joyce, would sing the words of the famous hymn, “I will cling to the Old Rugged Cross, and exchange it some day, for a crown.” It is an eternal truth that in heaven there will be no kings or queens, no rich or poor, no hatred or division, we will all be made equal and we will all wear a crown.

Queen Elizabeth 11 believed that Jesus Christ has made all things new and when He returns the dead will rise again, “those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of damnation.” (John 5: 29)

Speaking about her faith, in 2011, the Queen said this, “God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general, important though they are, but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.

I believe those words are thoughtful, and to be cherished.

As we remember the Queen, please do not forget her faith. Because we all have evil within us and power in the wrong hands can be lethal. We all have the Queens faith to thank for her many years of service and strength. In this world we need peacemakers who are willing to give their lives in the service of others. Let us not forget that as God loves us, He gave us so great a gift, Christ Jesus King of Kings, and without Him we have no hope.

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Biblical ‘curse tablet’ found on Mount Ebal

Biblical Archaeologists have uncovered an ancient tablet containing what could be the earliest known example of the Hebrew name name of God, Yahweh.

The Tablet was found on Mount Ebal mentioned in Deuteronomy 11: 26, 29.

The ‘curse tablet’ is an extraordinary discovery because it was found on a site believed to be the altar of Joshua. If proven beyond doubt it could be the most significant Biblical find since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1946/47.

The use of Hebrew would also predate the Dead Sea Scrolls by 1,350 years. Meaning the ancient Israelites had a much more advanced knowledge of Hebrew than modern scholars have thought.

If true the ‘curse tablet’ could prove the Books of Moses were written earlier than modern scholars have claimed. I say this because in recent years many modern sceptics have sought to challenge the claim that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch. The use of Hebrew, they say, is too advanced. Yet Jesus said “If you had believed Moses, you would be Me: because he wrote about Me.” (John 5: 46). Clearly Jesus believed Moses was the author of the Torah.

I believe people today have to live with one of the biggest problems in history, they have lost confidence in the Bible. Secularists and revisionist modernisers have sought to drive away peoples trust in the Bible. But God is forever drawing them back.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is yet to be discovered by many people and for believers, telling people the truth about Christ is a little like doing archaeology, we must remove centuries of layers to uncover the truth.

The ‘curse tablet’ is great news in a world hell bent on destroying itself. If proven to be true, it is an excellent discovery. But don’t take my word for it. Look it up, see for yourselves! Have faith and be assured the Bible is true from cover to cover. Go tell someone about Jesus Christ today.

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Apostle Paul and the Island of Hippocrates

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The Sudarium of John 20: 7

One of the two Scripture readings from the Book of Common Prayer for today (Easter Day) is John 20: 1-10. In this passage John gave his account of the first day of the week where Mary Magdalene saw how the stone had been rolled away from the tomb of Christ and she ran to Simon Peter and the disciple Jesus loved to tell them “They have taken away the Lord from out of the sepulchre“.

In the passage from the BCP it is not difficult to hear Tyndale’s unmistakeable 16th century translation work. And if we look back centuries earlier, we can read Wycliffe’s 14th century translation, yet with a difference.

In verse 7 of the same passage, the 1388 Wycliffe translation makes reference to an English translation of a Latin word. This six letter word is “sudary” from the Latin Vulgate’s “Sudarium”.

The Sudarium is believed to be a bloodstained piece of cloth that was wrapped around the head of Christ after His death. Many learned people who believe the Shroud of Turin is the actual burial cloth of Christ also believe the Sudarium is a match.

The Wycliffe translation puts it this way;

And in one day of the week, Mary Magdalele came early to the grave when it was yet dark. And she saw the stone moved away from the grave. Therefore she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to another disciple whom Jesus loved, and says to them, They have taken the Lord from the grave, and we wit not where they have laid Him! Therefore Peter went out and the ilk other disciple, and they came to the grave. And they twain ran together, and the ilk other disciple ran before Peter and came first to the grave. And when he stooped, he saw the sheets lying. Netheless, he entered not. Therefore Simon Peter came suing him, and he entered into the grave and he saw the sheets laid, and the sudary that was on His head, not laid with the sheets, but by itself lapped into a place. Therefore then, the ilk disciple that came first to the grave, entered and saw, and believed. For they knew not yet the Scripture that it behoved Him to rise again from death. Therefore the disciples went eftsoon to themselves.”

The Wycliffe New Testament 1388. The Gospel of John, Chapter XX

Today a Sudarium is in Oviedo, Spain. Opinion differs as to the authenticity, but it is the responsibility of each individual to weigh the evidences and make a decision. But whatever a person decides, the resurrection of Jesus Christ cannot be ignored.

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Visiting Westminster Abbey

In 2019 I visited Westminster Abbey for the very first time. This was of course in our pre ‘Covid-19’ world which can at times seem a little difficult to conceive. It can almost appear a lifetime ago when people wandered around with hardly anybody wearing face masks, or socially distancing themselves.

To go back even further, I remember visiting Big Ben with my parents back in the 1980’s. However, since Lancashire is well north of London, many of my later visits had centralised themselves around the music scene. History had not yet taken it’s prominence with me.

Today, London has changed quite a lot. It is still however, one of those great places where all people can still find something to do. Whether you are a Christian or a history fanatic like me, a saint or a sinner, or someone who just likes to enjoy the moment, few can deny that visiting Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament rarely makes anyone feel out of place. Or at least it shouldn’t do.

Then comes matters of faith, where the soul of a Christian can often feel out of place in this ever changing world, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the one that is to come.” (Hebrews 13: 14) Then comes the material Ecclesiastical buildings known as Churches. They can without doubt help the tent of the soul to feel at home. I certainly did, especially when I reached Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey is a beautiful place that was founded in 960 AD and although the present building dates to the 13th century, it is believed to be dedicated to St Peter.

Standing outside Westminster Abbey can leave a person in awe. While contemplating the many souls and pilgrims who have, for many centuries, been visiting and worshipping here, it is not difficult to reflect upon your own mortality.

It was here where, at the Abbey, where folklore claims the expression “robbing Peter to pay Paul” either originated or at least, took on a new meaning. The story goes that when Westminster was dissolved in 1550, some of the assets were sold to fund the repairs for the old St Pauls.

Curiously enough, St Pauls Cathedral sits 2 miles away from Westminster Abbey who’s architecture differs dramatically. The former has external similarities to St Peter’s Basilica (Vatican), whereas Westminster Abbey is distinctly gothic.

At times the Abbey can have the feeling of looking like a ghost or a spirit from the past. It is alive but not alive, like a soul who has long gone but who’s spirit lives on. I speak course of the building, and not of any humans. The Christian Church however is not a building, but a people. A congregation of human souls who are united in and through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Today however, Christians are not always united. Doctrine divides. One person follows this teacher, another follows that. Yet all claiming to read the same Bible. Strange isn’t it that too many congregations have separated themselves and are all too quick to condemn others for holding opinions that differ to their own. Yet each one reading from the same Bible.

However, it was here, at Westminster Abbey, on Saturday 23rd February 2019 that I decided for certain that I am joining the Church of England and here I will stay. The Anglican communion is far from perfect, but at least here people can agree to disagree.

Since that time I have been drawn to prayer more than ever and the Book of Common Prayer has helped me enormously through the difficult seasons of lockdown.

Today, in September 2020, a person does not need to look very far to see that this world is a mess. England is no better. Such is always the case when nations abandon the principles of their Maker. But I have a hope within me that England and the Church will be great again, even if the Lord judges her before that time. Light After Darkness (Post Tenebras Lux) is written in creation. Of this I am sure.

I am also sure that although great buildings may not actually be the Church, they can certainly help believers congregate together, and hopefully, if right doctrine permits, dwell together in unity and in truth.

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Ancient Kameiros, and the spread of early Christianity on Rhodes

Kameiros © 2019 Simon Peter Sutherland

Kameiros, Rhodes © 2019 Simon Peter Sutherland

Recently I visited the ancient City of Kameiros on the Greek island of Rhodes. This is now an archaeological site.

In ancient times Kameiros was one of the three ancient cities of Rhodes and today has some evidences of the spread of early Christianity on the island. Here the city was built upon three levels. There was a Temple of Athena, a Stoa and an Acropolis. There was even a reservoir.

Here, hundreds of people once lived in terrace type houses. On my visit I greatly admired an area where these ancient houses once stood. Here, archaeologists affirm many early Christians once lived.

This is interesting because the first and only time Rhodes is mentioned in the Bible is in Acts 21: 1 and my documentary explores that passage of Scripture. However, it must be pointed out that before the time of Paul’s visit to Rhodes in the AD 50’s, there is no evidence for Christianity on the island. We can only imagine that Christianity must have spread from either Rhodes town or Lindos, after the Apostles visit.

Here in Kameiros early Christians would have had to live amongst pagan temples and the worship of other gods. However, in 142 AD an earthquake destroyed the city. Today it lies in ruins.

Kameiros, Rhodes © 2019 Simon Peter Sutherland

Kameiros, Rhodes © 2019 Simon Peter Sutherland

Much of ancient Kameiros is yet to be excavated, some of the finds are in the British Museum.  But what I learned from this visit was that Christianity was present on Rhodes very early. This is interesting because clearly someone brought the Gospel to Rhodes in the early days of Christianity. I propose that archaeology and history affirms that Luke in Acts was correct and that he and Paul brought Christianity to Rhodes on Paul’s third missionary journey.

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A 15th century image on St. Paul’s Gate, Rhodes

St. paul's Gate © 2019 Simon Peter Sutherland

Apostle Paul on Rhodes © 2019 Simon Peter Sutherland

While on the Greek island of Rhodes, I revisited the site of Acts 21: 1. This location is Rhodes Town, the site of the Colossus of Rhodes and St. Paul’s Gate. Here Paul and Luke landed in the 50’s AD.

It is quite easy to miss but within the walls surrounding the Gate of St. Paul, there is a 15th century image of the Apostle high up on the wall.

The image itself is faded and undefined. But it represents the familiar image of the Paul we know.

Apostle Paul, Rhodes Town © 2019 Simon Peter Sutherland

St. Paul, Rhodes Town © 2019 Simon Peter Sutherland

This is Paul the elderly and powerful. His left arm is raised. His right arm is carrying a sword. Representing the sword of the Spirit. His head is leaning to the left.

The Gate of St. Paul was constructed during the 15th century and fortifies an area of the harbour known as the Kolona Harbour. The locals of Rhodes town generally accept that this was the precise location where Paul and Luke landed. This location satisfies me as the site of Acts 21: 1.

Once again, as always, it was wonderful to stand in the places written about in the Bible. The message is clear, keep our eyes fixed upon the Apostles’ doctrine (Acts 2: 42).

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Is “rebaptism” by immersion Biblical?

Simon Peter Sutherland @ Lydia's river, Philippi © 2020 Simon Peter Sutherland

Simon Peter Sutherland @ Lydia’s river, Philippi © 2020 Simon Peter Sutherland

 

Over recent times I have been made aware of the ever growing trend of “rebaptism”. For some, “rebaptism” by immersion is baptism, nothing else. Modern ‘rebaptisers’ claim that there is only “one baptism” and the reason they baptise someone for a second time, is because the first baptism was not legitimate at all.

As always with all my beliefs and Christian practices, I claim that I do not believe or affirm anything in the name of Christianity, if it is not in the Bible. But these days almost all Christians claim that. Some ‘Christians’ claim they hold to ‘Scripture alone’, yet their doctrines are so broad, and unorthodox that it is difficult for me to read or hear them with a straight face. Others have so many variant doctrines, that I have absolutely no idea where their beliefs come from? All I know is they do not come from the Bible.

One of these ideas is the growing trend of ‘rebaptism’ by immersion.  An unorthodox practice that is largely associated with ‘Oneness Pentecostals’ and ‘Southern Baptists’ and ‘youth groups’. This ‘baptism’ by definition is a baptism of a person who has been previously baptised, but some denominations or individuals do not accept previous baptisms as valid, because they were done in other churches. The common claim is that the person who has been previously baptised, did not actually fully believe in Jesus when the previous baptism occurred. The proposal is that the person must be “rebaptised” or simply “baptised”.

This trend of ‘rebaptism’ is absolute none sense! The facts remain that there is not a single reference in the entire New Testament for anyone to be ‘rebaptised’ or baptised more than once in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thus the answer to the rhetorical title: “Is “rebaptism” by immersion Biblical?” the answer is a direct no. ‘Rebaptism’ simply denies Colossians 2: 12 and the power of God to raise a person up from being dead in sin unto new life, regardless of where that person was spiritually when the baptism occurred.

The harsh and real truth is, baptism by immersion is irrevocable. If someone is foolish enough to get baptised, and yet that person did not truly believe, then that person should take responsibility for their unbelief and actions and seek God for forgiveness. A minister should not allow his congregation to move beyond the realm of Scripture and orthodoxy because a false convert or persons in his congregation have previously made a foolish mistake of being baptised while they have an evil heart of unbelief.

Likewise, a person who goes into a new church and is pressured into being ‘rebaptised’ because the minister or teacher has convinced them they are not really saved, should search the entire Bible first. All people who experience this pressure should ask their pastors why there are no rebaptisms or repeated baptisms, or two baptisms in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the Bible.

Likewise people should ask why there are no denominational rebaptisms in the Bible? Is a single baptism in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit insufficient?

Likewise, the idea of rebaptising false converts is also destroyed by the Bible. In Acts 8 when the sorcerer was baptised, and after ward tried to purchase the Holy Spirit with money, Peter told that person “your money perish with you” (Acts 8: 20). Peter told the man to repent and seek God for forgiveness, in the hope that God may forgive him (Acts 8: 22). Peter did not mention anything about a rebaptism and neither did Luke the author of the Book of Acts.

What is clear is that the modern unorthodox revisionist and emotionally charged practice of ‘rebaptism’ by full immersion in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is nothing less than fiction.

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Recent discoveries in the Mamertine Prison, Rome

Mamertine Prison Rome. By Simon Peter Sutherland © 2014

Mamertine Prison, Rome © 2018 Simon Peter Sutherland

“In 2017 I revisited the Mamertine prison, and forum, Rome and explored a number of new discoveries made at the Mamertine the previous year. I believe Paul wrote 2 Timothy from that prison. I also think it possible that 2 Peter and Acts of the Apostles was written from here.

The Mamerine Prison is one of my favorite Biblical places in the world. I have visited the proposed cell of St. Paul at Philippi, I have visited St. Paul’s Grotto, Rabat, Malta, but the Mamertine has won me. It is or was, a cold, damp, dark and dingy place, and such is what I love about it. It is highly primitive. Ancient. Biblical!

In the Basilica of St. Paul outside the walls, Rome, there is an ancient ‘chain’ reputed to have been used to bind St. Paul during his time in Rome. The chain was found in the ancient tomb of St. Paul over which the Basilica was built. When I visited the basilica in 2014, I noticed in 2 Timothy 1: 16 Paul referred to his “chain”. This in the Greek and the English is in the singular. For me, it perfectly matched the description given by Paul. It also fit perfectly with the type of chain that would have been used to bind Paul at the Mamertine.

Having read through an excellent series of books entitled “The Book of Acts in its first century setting” Volume 3, Paul in Roman Custody by Brian Rapske, it is explicitly clear that the Apostolic era was a time of great suffering. Here at the Mamertine, Paul suffered greatly and wrote to Timothy about his departure being at hand (2 Timothy 4: 6). He had stood trial before Casear, probably at the Curia and Eusebius in Ecclesiastical history 2: 22, informs us it was on Paul’s second visit to Rome that he was martyred under Nero.

At the Mamertine when Paul was held there about 60 AD and later, the 2016 excavations revealed that the cell did not have an upper floor like we see today. The upper floor is only about 500 years old and was constructed into the building when it was used as a Church. The original cells were more in the format of a cave rather than a fixed upper and lower level structure. Visitors for many years have believed that Paul was lowered into the lower dungeon via the circled hole in the upper cell floor. But the 2016 excavations revealed that the entrance to the lower cell area came from the upper roof, not the upper floor. When Paul was incarcerated here before his execution, he would have been lowered into the lower dungeon from the upper roof.

This practice often left prisoners physically damaged. Sometimes the broke a leg or an arm. We do not know of the level of damage Paul suffered here, but we know that his time at the jail, within the cell, would have been to face death. Once prisoners were put in here, it was to await execution.

The excavations revealed areas not seen by the public for centuries. These areas were around the main cell, and raised somewhat. If Peter was ever held here, he would have been held in the upper cells until his trial, and when condemned, dropped into the lower cell from the upper roof to await his death.

As I previously mentioned, it is also possible that 2 Peter was written in this cell. Although some modern scholars claim that Peter never wrote 2 Peter, I disagree entirely. While in Rome I attempted to view the letter from the perspective of the ancient city. Upon my return to England I researched the letter internally and found hints of ancient Rome in the text. One of which involved the great fire of Rome, of whom Nero, by tradition, is believed to have blamed the Christians. If Peter was in Rome at the time, he too would have been accused of either arson or inciting it. This could reveal insight into his references to “fire” in 2 Peter 3: 7, 12. He may well have been using the ‘fire’ reference to provoke believers to remember that a coming judgment will bring about the destruction of the world, by “fire”. There can be little doubt from this perspective that the great fire of Rome, would have been the fresh and current hot topic of the city. If Peter was being held in the Mamertine while the great fire was fresh in the minds of the Roman people, it is not difficult to see why he used this reference to remind people of the coming greater judgment at the end of the world. This would place the composition date toward the summer/autumn of 64 AD, because the fire took place in July of that year.”

Excerpt from upcoming book by Simon Peter Sutherland
© 2018 Simon Peter Sutherland

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Revisiting Kos

Harbour Stoa at Kos Agora © 2017 Simon Peter Sutherland

The ancient remains of the Harbour Stoa at Kos town © 2017 Simon Peter Sutherland

On my last visit to the Greek island of Kos I largely explored the island from the perspective of St. Luke, and the impression the Island of Hippocrates might of had on him as a physician. I made a film about it which you can be viewed here

Recently I revisited the island and explored it from the perspective of St. Paul and his mission as recorded in Acts 21: 1. I also took the refreshing perspective of early Church history and how Paul’s visit impacted the island during the early centuries of Christianity.

As always, it was refreshing to me to walk once again in the Apostles footsteps because I regretfully wrestle so deeply with many claims of so many modern ‘Churches’ that a swim in the ancient waters brings me back home. There is nothing quite like washing off the filth of half-truths and misconceptions with a dip in the ocean of Scripture followed with a drink of historic Christianity at the local cafe of consistency.

Kos town and the ancient city of Kefalos are two of those places. My prime locations are the ancient Agora and harbour Stoa of Kos town and Ayios Stefanos near Kefalos. The latter for its ecclesiastical archaeology and the former for its Biblical locations and insights.

Ancient Agora Kos town © 2017 Simon Peter Sutherland

Ancient Agora of Kos town © 2017 Simon Peter Sutherland

We can be certain that Paul and Luke visited the ancient Agora of Kos and although the majority of it now lies in ruins, the discoveries of archaeology provide some very insightful things concerning the cults and cultures the Apostle faced when he and Luke visited the area.

On first entry to the town Paul and Luke would have entered into the Agora (marketplace) from the harbour stoa, from here they would have met with the influence of the ancient Greek gods of Aphrodite and Dionysos.

It is true that these ancient sites are just historic ruins, but when a believer is walking through them with presence of the Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus Christ and a Bible, they are anything but ruins.

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