Archive for category Christianity
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.
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.
Thursday 12th November 2015 saw the 400th anniversary of 17th century Puritan Theologian, hymn writer and minister Richard Baxter.
Richard Baxter was born on 12th November 1615 and died 8th December 1691. He is famed for being minister at Kidderminster. He was a towering figure in the nonconformist movement. He lived through the English Civil war.
He was a great Christian man and a true witness to the life of Christ. He wrote many books, which are still published even to this day and his work “the Saints everlasting rest” is one of my favoured works in all of Christianity.
Baxter interpreted Scripture that Christ died for ‘all mankind’ in the sense of Christ dying for sins, not only for the elect. The substitutionary atonement of Christ was available for all men in Adam, no one was excluded. The atonement was available for all who believe in Jesus Christ and that no man was excluded from believing in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.
Baxter’s Theological position on the universal offering of salvation was not favoured by the majority Calvinists of his day and he ran into conflict with John Owen, the author of ‘the death of death in the death of Christ’. Owen believed that the sacrifice of Christ granted nothing for the none-elect and the doctrine of ‘double predestination’ was a logical conclusion to the doctrines of predestination, election and reprobation.
Baxter believed the doctrine of ‘limited atonement’ in the 5 point Calvinist sense, was inconsistent with the Bible and I agree with Baxter that Christ is available as Saviour for all mankind and I believe the Scriptures affirm this explicitly.
If I had only four books to choose from, my first would obviously be the King James Bible, then the Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, the third would be the Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and my final would be “Saints everlasting rest” by Richard Baxter. My reason for these choices is that the Bible is the absolute measuring line and rule of faith and practice for any Christian: the ‘Imitation of Christ’ helps me with humility and devotion: The ‘Foxe’s Book of Martyrs’ offers remembrance of our own Christian history, showing us where we have come from proceeding the Apostolic era to the Reformation and the ‘Saints everlasting rest” shows me quite clearly where Christians are going.
When I read ‘Saints everlasting rest’ I look forward to heaven.
I am truly thankful to men like Richard Baxter who stood up for Biblical truth and fell out of favour with many for doing so and I am thankful to God for His outpouring of love upon His people, showing us time and time again the treasures and glorious future He has stored up for those who love Him.
Tonight being November 5th I attended a bonfire.
For those not familiar with English traditions; Bonfire Night is a tradition in Britain and cultural event where people gather around a large fire, eat toffee apples and treacle toffee and enjoy a display of fireworks.
Tonight I participated in this tradition at an even on the outskirts of Manchester. Walking toward the area I looked down over the bridge and the fire was lit and the people were all gathered around. Walking toward them and the fire, I looked around at everybody. People smiling, talking, drinking, eating.
When I arrived at the fire I felt myself moving toward the heat. I stood looking at the fire and I thought about the Christian martyrs from the earliest days of the Church to the Protestant Reformation. Suddenly my youngest son asked me ‘dad, is that what the fire was like when the burned George Marsh’. ‘Yes’ I replied, ‘and John Bradford’ Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer and Tyndall. And people flocked to see them burn. To some it was entertainment, others watched in terror, some with Religious zeal, others believing they were doing the will of God via the Pope.
In ancient times the execution of a man could be local entertainment. In the 16th century people sold religious items and even prayers during executions. Even in the 19th century, an execution could prove commercial. One such example can be found in the history associated with Beaumaris Gaol in Wales. Here, people often rented out highly elevated rooms and put on entertainment when a convicted man was to be put to death. It shows that man is not good, his depravity can be switched around based upon the mainstream culture of the times.
Many people back in ancient times would not consider it immoral to watch an execution and even to make a bit of money off the event. Today, it is difficult to believe that any person could do such things and yet when it is all said and done, people and their outlooks are all too often the result of culture and influence.
Today in some circles, the word ‘martyr’ has merely took on another form. It communicates ‘death cults’. But in the ancient Christian history, the meaning of the word martyr has a whole different connotation. The early Christian and Reformation martyrs did not want to die, they were merely willing to die rather than deny what they believed to be true. There is a difference.
Tonight I looked around me and tried not to judge people, but I couldn’t help but reflect upon the sheer ignorance of a society that gathers around fires eating toffee apples and drinking drinks together without any discussion or meaningful understanding of what Bonfire Night means. For too many people, Bonfire Night has nothing whatsoever to do with Guy Fawkes and his failed attempt to undo the Protestant Reformation and return Britain once again to the religious bondages and totality of Roman Catholicism? On the contrary, it is merely a social event and just something people do to have a good time. Yet a sad reflection indeed is that November 5th was once a time of thanksgiving and prayer, where Christians thanked God for the deliverance of the Church and the nation from the bondage of Rome.
Britain has come a long way since the glorious days of the 16th century, and in many ways both England and Britain are founded upon the principles of the Protestant reformation. Many ideals such as democracy, tolerance and human rights are rooted in the principles of the reformation and the people of Britain should never forget that.
It is a true saying ‘remember, remember, the 5th of November’.
In Rome there stands the Arch of Titus. This arch stands on the Via Sacra and was built c 82 AD to commemorate the Roman victory over Jerusalem and the Jewish people.
I had read about the Arch of Titus for many years, and during my visit to Rome it was quite a monumental moment for me to look directly at this treasure of the Biblical era.
The actual arch contains some of the few secular and historical images of the artefacts from the Herodian Temple and the siege of Jerusalem. The arch contains an image of the Menorah which was the very same Menorah that was standing in the Temple in Jerusalem when Jesus was on earth. The Arch also contains excellent representations of the gold Trumpets and the Table of Show bread as written about in the Bible.
It is claimed that the images were once coloured in gold and the background blue.
The inscription on the arch reads like so;
A literal translation into English, would read something like this;
people Roman Titus divine
Vespasian son Augustus
With some emphasis on translation, it could read like this;
(The) Roman Senate and (the) people to (the) Divine Titus Vespasian son (of) Augustus.
On another note, the situation I so often find myself in is at variance with so many modern claims of secular scholarship. I find it hard to respect certain branches of modern critical scholarship when certain claims are made against the Bible, arguing the narratives are not factual history, but merely religious fiction. These claims are at variance with me continuously, especially when I see facts such as the Arch of Titus standing before my very eyes.
The Arch of Titus strengthens the case to claim that the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke were all written well before AD 70, likewise the book of Revelation.
The following verses are affirmed by the Arch of Titus;
Matthew 24: 2
Mark 13: 2
Luke 21: 6
The thing is many modern scholars must claim the Gospels were written after AD 70 and not by eye witnesses or the truth of Biblical prophecy will be clearly seen. The Gospels claim that Jesus, during His incarnation, prophesied the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple around 40 years or more prior to the events themselves. The problem is that many modern critical scholars do not believe in prophecy and therefore approach the texts with that persuasion. Thus, if a person looks at the Biblical narrative through certain spectacles and in denial of the supernatural, that person will only see a natural explanation. Thus, the conclusion will be made that the Gospel narratives were written after the events they prophesied and not by eye witnesses.
As controversial a statement as it may seem these days, there is no actual evidence that the Gospels themselves were written after AD 70. On the contrary, the evidence of the Arch of Titus affirms the New Testament step by step and the Old Testament also.
This claim is not any new argument or contrary to Ecclesiastical history or historical Theology.
Since 2011 I have been producing and presenting a number of Biblical, Historical and Theologically based documentaries. I have been making films for a number of years now and my latest documentary “The Apostle Paul at Rhodes” was filmed in 2014 during my visit to the Greek Island of Rhodes. As part of a possible series and not unlike “The Apostles at Paphos” I visited the ancient sites associated with appropriate texts of Acts of the Apostles
The latest film is based upon a singular reference to Rhodes in Acts 21: 21, and somewhat explores the Apostle Paul and the theme of his mission to the Gentiles. Granted, there is no actual text that states that Paul spent time on Rhodes, but the theme is no less engaging or devoid of interest.
Local tradition on Rhodes claims that he visited Lindos, at a harbour known locally as ‘St Paul’s harbour” or ‘St Paul’s bay’ to tourists. This location is a popular destination and much of the documentary was filmed there.
I am very pleased to say that the Network premier of ‘The Apostle Paul at Rhodes’ can be viewed tomorrow (UK time) @ 2pm on RevelationTV SKY: 581, FREESAT: 692, FREEVIEW HD: 241 and Saturday 9th May 8pm, Sunday 17th May 11pm, Friday 22nd May 12: 30pm, and Saturday 30th May 6: 30pm.
Alternatively the documentary is available for viewing online at YouTube.
During this time frame known as “Holy Week” in which Christians throughout the world of many denominations move toward Easter. In liturgical denominations, Christians remember Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, where He was hailed as Messiah by His people who laid Palm leaves as He rode into Jerusalem on the back of a Donkey.
As the world looks on, our thoughts are on the Passion and the Resurrection of Christ.
It is with this in mind that my construct of conversation is not one which believes the many claims of our present modern scholarship, particularly those which deny the authenticity of the Bible, its claims and accuracy. Amongst the many criticisms, arguments, and speculative claims modern so-called ‘Biblical scholars’ make, I take a direct road that knows fully that the Bible is the Truth and that Jesus Christ truly died for our sins according to the Scriptures. As far as I am concerned, there is no debate: The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a fact. However, one problem for some people is is that many modern secular scholars deny this, and present minds seeds into the unsuspecting public without really showing them the absolute information which is available.
For some reason, the ‘opinions’ of the academic elite appears to be more important to some people than the Truth itself.
One very important archaeological testament not so often presented by the so-called ‘academic elite’ is what is known as ‘The Nazareth Inscription’ or ‘The Nazareth Decree’. The tablet itself dates to the 1st century and was written in Koine Greek (The language of the New Testament) and was acquired in the 19th century from Nazareth, the home town of Jesus. This inscription is made of marble and contains a Greek edict from a Caesar.
This is a transcript of what it says:
“EDICT OF CAESAR
It is my decision [concerning] graves and tombs—whoever has made them for the religious observances of parents, or children, or household members—that these remain undisturbed forever. But if anyone legally charges that another person has destroyed, or has in any manner extracted those who have been buried, or has moved with wicked intent those who have been buried to other places, committing a crime against them, or has moved sepulcher-sealing stones, against such a person, I order that a judicial tribunal be created, just as [is done] concerning the gods in human religious observances, even more so will it be obligatory to treat with honor those who have been entombed. You are absolutely not to allow anyone to move [those who have been entombed]. But if [someone does], I wish that [violator] to suffer capital punishment under the title of tomb-breaker.”
When this edict is linked up with Matthew 28: 12-13, they match up perfectly.
I greatly admire Christmas and it is at this season of the rolling year that I have a few traditions of my own. One such tradition I have is my reading of ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens.
First published in 1843 after a visit to Manchester, Dickens clearly wrote the book with the aim of reforming the festival that was starting to fade. I think he did a good job of it. His term “humbug” was a masterly description. The problem is, Scrooge was in fact correct, Christmas was a “humbug”. A 19th century definition means ‘fraud’.
In the 21st century, Christmas is in fact a time for paying bills, acquiring heavy debts and a time where people indulge in constant spending, socialising, gluttony and alcoholism in an industrious commercial institution that focuses upon materialism and not the person of Jesus Christ. In that context Scrooge was correct; ‘Christmas sir is a humbug’.
But for me and many Christians, Christmas is not merely a time for gaining material or spending, and I certainly do not drink alcohol or indulge in gluttony. Christmas for me, is a time for remembering the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ and in that, Christmas is with me 365 days a year.
However, despite the fact that a secular Christmas has little to do with Jesus Christ, there is little doubt in my mind that many people today, Religious and none Religious would seek to abolish Christmas, and replace it with something else or nothing. In many ways, secularist culture has done just that, it has abolished the true historical meaning of Christmas.
Likewise, the use of the abbreviation “X” rather than “Christ” can be argued that the secularists have used a historic meaning. The letter “X” is from the Greek “Χριστός” which means Christ. The problem is that the majority of people, especially the secularists or average soul, has little or no knowledge of the Greek language, so “X” to them is just a letter.
Secularism has turned Christmas away from a festival where people celebrate and remember the birth of Jesus and turned it into a time of worldliness and sin and selfish gain. People are celebrating the sins that Jesus came to set us free from.
In the year 1647, the Puritan government in England banned Christmas and regarded it as little more than a snare of “Antichrist” and “Popery”. But today in the 21st century it is difficult to connect Christmas with the Roman Catholic Church or even as a Religious festival. We all know that for many people in the West, particularly in Britain, Christmas has little to do with the Lord Jesus Christ.
But for me as a Christian, the season is very much related to our Lord Jesus. He is everything! And even though we do not know the exact date or year when Jesus was born, we do know that the early Church made the decision to celebrate His birth at this time of year.
Because of a 4th century reference to Christmas in the calendar of 354 AD, we know that early Christians at Rome regarded the Nativity to have taken place on 25th December. However, Christians in the East celebrated the Messiahs birth on January 6th.
Moving forward in history toward the Protestant Reformation, I would think that no accurate case can be established to claim the 16th century Reformers denied Christmas. It is true that governmental 17th century English Puritans banned Christmas, but such was not the case with the 16th century Reformers. The facts remain that 16th century Lutheran, and Church of England Reformers continued to celebrate Christmas: that point is clear from history and the Book of Common Prayer.
Christmas reminds me in many ways of the Jewish season of Hanukkah, recorded by Jewish historian Josephus as “The festival of lights” (Antiquities X11) In this festival the Jewish people commemorate the establishing or rededication of the Holy Temple, and is an eight day holiday which starts on the 25th day of kislev. This can occur from late November to late December. Concluding for many on what we call ‘Christmas eve’.
It is clear to me that the things which Jewish people celebrate in Hanukkah were fulfilled in the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I see that in and through Jesus, Judaism is made whole. Without Him I see little conclusion or fulfilment of the Torah and the Prophets. Not only is Jesus the “Light of the world” and not only has did He fulfil the prophecies but He has rededicated the Temple and purified it in His people. And if one desires to see Jesus in this, a good place to start would be throughout the Gospel of John, where Jesus is at the Feast of dedication during winter (John 10: 22-23) and also the book of Hebrews.
I think Christmas has been hijacked by secular culture and I think that unless peoples hearts and minds are won over to the Truth, there is little that can be done about that. Christmas for secularists merely implies faith, hope and gluttony:
- Faith in “Evolution”.
- Hope in “Science”.
- Indulgence in the flesh.
A person cannot honestly take Christ out of Christmas and continue to celebrate the festival as though He never was who He said He was, it is intellectually dishonest. And as for the mess that the world makes of Christmas, should we really expect anything else? The world would turn every celebration into a hotchpotch of drunkenness and fleshly pursuits, and entertainment. So what more can we expect? It is up to each one of us to be different, because we are different. We are not of this world, if we belong to Christ. Thus, it is up to us to know and understand what we believe and it is up to us to show the people of the world the historic Truth behind the Christmas many know and love.
Many Christians are speaking out for the Truth, but far too many Christians in Britain desperately need to start speaking out!
Visiting ancient Biblical sites in the Mediterranean is always an experience for me and is something I find second to none. Although I like some of the wonders of modernity, I regard our present world as unappealing, noisy and somewhat shallow. Because of that, I prefer history rather than the present
Last month, I travelled to Rome, the ancient and modern city known for being somewhat of an open air museum. Being a history fanatic myself and absolutely intrigued by the Bible, as always I was in inner rapture.
During the afternoon of the first day I visited the ancient area of the Forum leading to a place known as “Mamertinum”or the Mamertine Prison. This ancient prison is within a stones throw of the ancient forum, a Comitium which once felt the feet of the Apostles Peter and Paul and also of Luke and of Aquila and Priscilla.
The Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles were probably written while Luke was in Rome. We also know that Luke was with Paul during his time in prison. This is understood from 2 Timothy 4: 11.
The Mamertine prison, known historically as the “Tullianum”, was probably constructed between 640-616 BC and was likely a cistern. The amazing thing for me was that scripture was written from this damp dark cell.
In 2 Timothy 1: 16 Paul referred to his “chain” this chain now resides at ‘St Paul outside the walls’ which was build on his ancient tomb. Writing from the Mamertine, in 2 Timothy 2: 7-9 Paul wrote: “Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things. Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel: Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound.”
On entry down the stairs to the upper level of the complex, I saw ancient Frescos. These can be found on the walls and show Christians depicted with the arms and hands held out. Over recent years Archaeologists have uncovered evidence that have connections to St Peter as early as 7th century. The evidence also suggesting the Mamertine was used as a Church by the 8th century.
The claim that St Peter was in Rome goes all the way back to the 1st century from his probable coded use of the word “Babylon” for Rome in 1 Peter 5: 13, 2 Peter 5: 13, and his crucifixion linked to John 21: 18 where Jesus foretold him of his future suffering. The claim of his crucifixion in Rome comes from the 1st or 2nd century “Acts of Peter” which we know was in circulation in the 2nd century. The “Acts of Peter” claims that Peter was crucified upside down in Rome at his own request. This claim is also affirmed by Clement between AD 80-98 in his letter to the Corinthians (chapter 5). An event which probably took place near where St Peter’s Basilica now stands around AD 64 during the reign of Emperor Nero.
There was a time when condemned prisoners were held in this cell before execution. We know for certain that 2 Timothy was written from the Mamertine and it is possible that Philippians was also written here too. If Peter was in fact executed in Rome then he most certainly was held in the Mamertine, as a strong tradition affirms. If that be true which I think it is, 2 Peter may also have been written in this dungeon.
Other Biblical texts possibly written from the Mamertine or nearby, include Philemon, Ephesians, Colossians and possibly Galatians. It is one of the most outstanding thoughts and realities of life that the Truth of the Gospel is that suffering produces great things. Persecution never destroys the Church, on the contrary it enhances it. It is truly amazing to think that such a light as Scripture itself could come from such a dark damp cell. That such a light could truly shine from such a dark place.
I love this little prison.
A lot of people in Britain today when they think of Christianity, either think of it in the present or alongside the likes of Archbishops and Popish type figures. Pompous priests and high Anglican services and so forth.
So often, the events of the present, dictate and define our understanding of words and people’s beliefs. Such, I think, could not be further from the Truth.
Britain as it stands today, may well be a Christian Country in the context of some official ethics and as in a form of Christianised culture, but in reality and belief, it is far from real Christianity.
But the question which looms in my mind is this: was Christianity ever intended to be a denominational establishment, where members of a so-called Christian state, were members of the Church. This type of political institution I think, reduces the Gospel of Christ and the foundations of the Apostolic doctrine to comply with geopolitical power of ‘Christendom’ rather than members of the worldwide community of Christians. Most of all, it denies the Truth of Scripture.
In Britain today however, the media and so forth likes to over state Henry V111 and his so-called tyrannical reign: yet Britain’s foundation of the Gospel pre-dates the commonly overstated emphasis of the so-called Church of England as founded by him and likewise continues throughout history through Christians who separated from the Church of England and founded various denominations. Many of these people are labelled extreme or ‘fundamentalists’ and thus are programmed in peoples minds even before they attempt to understand them. The fact remains that Christianity has her measuring line; the Bible, by which the Church is to be judged not visa versa.
In fact, even though the Church of England is given official credit today in Britain, it is not merely Henry V111’s establishment that is the foundation. For the Church of England pre-dates Henry V111 and can be quite easily connected to the early primitive Church, the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic eras leading to the influence of Rome and Henry V111’s separation.
In fact, a long and well established tradition connects Britain directly to the Apostles themselves.
In Romans 16: 10, St Paul wrote of a certain Aristobulus. He was believed the brother of Barnabus and of Cypriot decent and one of the seventy Disciples who witnessed the Resurrection of Jesus. He may even have travelled with St Paul? Aristobulus is believed to have taken the command of Christ in ‘the Great Commission’ to “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16: 15) to Spain and concluding his missionary journey in Roman Britain.
We have plenty of evidence of Christianity being practised and believed in Roman Britain in the 1st century, so it is logical to say that someone from Israel must have brought it here.
Considering this view is not the mere claim of some ancient myth or folklore type legend, it is supported by reliable sources, I think God has a special place for Britain and He will not let her go. Even if He has to bring the country down to its knees that the Church and the people might return to Him, He will do so.