Why Akathleptos?

Why Akathleptos? Because it means Uncontainable. God is infinite. Hence, the whole universe cannot contain Him. The term also refers to the incomprehensibility of God. No man can know everything about God. We can know Him personally but not exhaustively, not even in Heaven.

Why Patmos? Because the church is increasingly marginalized and exiled from the culture.

Why Pen-Names? So the focus is on the words and not who wrote them. We prefer to let what we say stand on its own merit. There is precedent in church history for this - i.e., the elusive identity of Ambrosiaster who wrote in the 4th century A.D.

“Truth is so obscured nowadays, and lies so well established, that unless we love the truth we shall never recognize it." Blaise Pascal

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Not Everyone Is Perceptive

When the star of Bethlehem appeared announcing the birth of Jesus, only the magi apparently were perceptive enough to recognize what it meant.

Jesus said the most momentous event in the future will be His return. Though preceded by signs that believers will recognize (1 Thess 5:4), most of the world will be caught unaware as from a thief in the night. Though they experience the same signs, they will be scoffing (2 Pet 3:3-4).

Scripture is clear that solar and lunar eclipses can be a primary sign (the "darkened" sun and "blood" moon) of impending judgment. From a posting here on Biblical Archeology web site entitled "How Lunar and Solar Eclipses Shed Light on Biblical Events" ....

In the closing days of his life, Herod the Great was presented with a crisis called the golden eagle incident. Herod had placed a golden eagle over the entrance to the Temple. Although he professed that it was an offering dedicated to the Lord, it was regarded as a desecration of the Temple by two rabbis, Matthias and Judas, who provoked a group of more than 40 individuals into pulling down the eagle. Herod’s soldiers captured and executed many of the participants; Matthias and Judas were burned alive. After relating this sordid incident, Josephus comments that the night after Matthias and Judas were executed by burning, there was an eclipse of the moon (Antiquities 17.6.2-4/17.149-167). 

This is the only reference to a lunar eclipse in all the writings of Josephus. Perhaps a modern historian would not have mentioned it, judging that an astronomical event like an eclipse is independent of the activities of man, unless it preceded some important occasion such as a battle and so influenced a decision such as whether or not to go to war. In the ancient world, however, an eclipse was regarded as an omen or portent whenever it happened. For Josephus, the eclipse in the night after Herod put to death the two protesters was a sign of displeasure from God. This is shown by the fact that Josephus describes, immediately after the mention of the eclipse, Herod’s physical suffering, a suffering from which he could find no relief until his death at some time between the eclipse and Passover. In the Antiquities passage, the eclipse and Herod’s torment signified the same thing: God’s solemn judgment on Herod after he put to death individuals more righteous than himself.

Another famous eclipse, this time of the sun, may have played a part in the account of Jonah and the Ninevites. The time of Jonah’s preaching in Nineveh can only be estimated very generally from the Bible. Second Kings 14:25 says that Jeroboam II, king of Israel, restored the northern and eastern borders of Israel according to the word of the Lord spoken by the prophet Jonah, son of Amittai. Jeroboam II began a coregency with his father Jehoash in 793/92 BC and reigned alone from 782/81 to late summer or early fall of 753 (Thiele 1983: 116; McFall 1991: 45; Young 2005: 245). Assuming that Jonah’s prophecy of restoration came early in the reign of Jeroboam, Jonah’s ministry would have been in the first half of the eighth century BC, i.e. from about 793 to 750 BC. During this time the Assyrian Eponym Canon records an eclipse of the sun that occurred in the eponym of Bur-Sagale, in the month of Simanu. Modern astronomical calculations date this eclipse to June 15, 763 BC, and show it was a total eclipse as it passed near Nineveh. For historians, the importance of this eclipse is that it provided an absolute date that allowed assigning BC years to the yearly eponyms of the Assyrian Eponym Canon (AEC). The accuracy of the AEC dates was later confirmed when new inscriptions were found, and also when compared to the data derived from Ptolemy’s Canon for the century for which the Canon overlaps with the AEC, 747 to 648 BC (Thiele 1983: 71).

Could the Bur-Sagale eclipse be part of the reason why Jonah, when he finally got to Nineveh, found a city that was serious about repentance? This has been suggested by various writers, and if true it would suggest that Jonah’s trip to Nineveh took place during the reign of Ashur-Dan III, who reigned from 773 to 755 BC.......

Such a correlation of Jonah’s ministry with the Bur-Sagale eclipse and other events in Assyrian history is speculative. In contrast, the usefulness of astronomy in determining the chronology of two important New Testament events is now on a firm footing. The first of these is the date of Herod’s death, for which the lunar eclipse on the night after the burning of Matthias and Judas plays a decisive role. For many years the prevailing opinion was that the eclipse mentioned by Josephus was the one that modern astronomical calculations date to the 13th of March, 4 BC. However, in 1880, F. Riess stated that Herod did not die in 4 BC, “but soon after the eclipse in 1 BC, because the other data, namely the numerous events that took place between the eclipse and the Passover, could not be squeezed into the four weeks available in 4 B.C.” (Filmer 1966: 284). There were only 29 days between the eclipse of March 13, 4 BC and Passover that year, insufficient for the many activities that Josephus relates happened during that time, whereas there were an adequate 89 days between the eclipse of January 10, 1 BC and Passover that year. In addition only about one-fourth of the moon was fully eclipsed in 4 BC, whereas in 1 BC the eclipse was total. W.E. Filmer, writing in 1966, also corrected the notion that Herod died in 4 BC by showing that this date arose because historians did not realize that Herod’s sons back-dated their reigns to 4 BC. Herod had assigned them to various posts at that time, although they did not begin their independent reigns until 1 BC when Herod died. Filmer’s ideas were accepted in Jack Finegan’s Handbook of Biblical Chronology (1998: 298-301), and have been expanded and defended by Andrew Steinmann (2009; 2011: 219-54). Steinmann also discusses new research on the Quirinius Census (Luke 2:1,2) that agrees with the 1 BC date for Herod’s death. These more recent studies are consistent with the writings of the majority of early Church Fathers, who dated Jesus’ birth, which necessarily was before the death of Herod, to sometime in either late 3 BC or early 2 BC. The many considerations that support Herod’s death occurring in early 1 BC are therefore in agreement with the dates of lunar eclipses and dates for the start of Passover in the years 5 to 1 BC., as calculated by modern astronomical methods.

Astronomy again comes into play in the discussion of the year in which the Messiah was put to death and rose victorious from the grave. The four Gospels relate that the Crucifixion took place on the “Day of Preparation” for the Sabbath, i.e. on a Friday. It was also the 14th of Nisan according to the official Jewish calendar in use in the first century AD. Astronomical calculations allow only two years in the range from AD 26 to AD 36 in which Nisan 14, the first day of Passover, was a Friday. The years are AD 30 and AD 33. The first of these has been advocated by several writers who maintained that the 15th year of Tiberius cited in Luke 3:1 for the start of Jesus’ ministry refers to the 15th year of an assumed coregency between Augustus and Tiberius that began sometime between AD 11 and AD 13, rather than starting the 15 years at the death of Augustus in AD 14. However, all extant coins and inscriptions date the reign of Tiberius as beginning in AD 14. The age of Jesus when He began His ministry, “about 30” (Luke 3:23), is also more consistent with the Crucifixion in AD 33 than in AD 30, as are events related to Roman policy and the actions of Pilate. A full discussion of the issues involved is found in Andrew Steinmann’s From Abraham to Paul, page 219 n. 329 and pages 257 to 289. Jack Finegan, who previously advocated AD 30 for the Crucifixion and Resurrection, now advocates AD 33 (1998: 340, 368). In these considerations, astronomy narrowed down the possible years to two choices. Other criteria were then employed to decide between the two choices, criteria that rule quite definitely against AD 30 in favor of AD 33. The death of Christ therefore was on Nisan 14 (Friday, April 3), and His Resurrection on Sunday, April 5, AD 33.

In 1872, J.R. Hind published a paper in the British scientific journal Nature in which he noted that the “moon was eclipsed on the generally received date of the Crucifixion, AD 33, April 3.” Bible scholars paid little or no attention to this observation, because the best astronomical calculations available at the time showed that the eclipse would not have been visible from Jerusalem. In the 20th century, however, there was a major advance in the accuracy of historical astronomical calculations, due largely to studies of the change of the earth’s rate of rotation over the centuries. Using ancient astronomical observations from Babylon and China, the rate of slowing of the earth’s rotation is now known precisely enough so that the timing of events such as the rising of the moon or the sun as viewed from any point on earth and at any time in the last 2000 years can be known within about three minutes (Humphreys 2011: 90). 

In 1981, a British scientist who had learned of the improvements in astronomical accuracy thought it might be interesting to revisit calculations for the eclipse of AD 33. Colin Humphreys, who was teaching at Oxford at the time, asked Oxford astrophysicist Graem Waddington to determine whether the lunar eclipse would have been visible at Jerusalem, and if so, at what time it would have been observed. Very fittingly, their findings were published in the same scientific journal that had published Hind’s study 111 years earlier (Humphreys and Waddington 1983). The results were as follows. Moonrise in Jerusalem on the evening of Friday, April 3 AD 33 was at about 6:20 p.m., right after sunset. The part of the moon that appeared first was in the full shadow (the umbra) of the earth. After several minutes, the remainder of the moon was seen; this lower part was in the partial shadow of the earth (the penumbra). The eclipse lasted until about 7:11 p.m., at which time the moon was restored to its usual brightness and coloration.

.... This then is the problem for the skeptic. The lunar eclipse, especially with the unusual darkening that only occurs in those places on the globe that observe it at sunset, did not happen at an arbitrary time, even an arbitrary time in the earthly ministry of the Son of God. It happened on the day that Christianity has always maintained was the most important day in the history of the world since Creation: the day on which the Lamb of God died for the sins of mankind. The Resurrection, two days later, was God’s sign that Jesus was who He claimed to be, the Messiah whose suffering and death were for our sake (Is 53:5,6,8,10,11,12), after which He would rise from the dead (Is 53:10,11; Ps 16:10,11). 

Jewish rabbis have historically taught that a lunar eclipse indicates judgment upon the nation of Israel, and a solar eclipse warns of judgment upon the Gentile nations. The lunar eclipse that began at 3 in the afternoon (when the moon we still below the horizon in Jerusalem) on Friday, Apr 3rd, 33 AD (the day of the crucifixion) and rose and was a "blood moon" that evening portended disaster for Israel. (You can confirm for yourself that a lunar eclipse occurred Apr 3, 33 A.D. over Jerusalem starting at 3: 00 PM and rising above the horizon in the evening after 6:00 P.M., using Stellarium - open source astronomy software.) Jesus confirmed the coming judgment before his death when He warned the residents of Jerusalem to weep "not for him" but for themselves. Undoubtedly the vast majority of people in Jerusalem ignored both Him and the lunar eclipse as nothing of catastrophic significance happened for almost 4 decades. Then cataclysmic judgment fell in the form of the Roman legions of Titus.

When nothing apparently happened after the tetrad of 4 blood moons on Jewish high holy days of Passover and Sukhot (Tabernacles) in 2014-2015, most (including many believers) scoffed. But they forget that almost 40 years transpired after the death of Christ before terrible judgment finally fell on Jerusalem.

The fourth-century church fathers Eusebius and Epiphanius of Salamis record that before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 the Jerusalem Christians fled to Pella in the region of the Decapolis across the Jordan River.

"The people of the Church in Jerusalem were commanded by an oracle given by revelation before the war to those in the city who were worthy of it to depart and dwell in one of the cities of Perea which they called Pella. To it those who believed on Christ traveled from Jerusalem, so that when holy men had altogether deserted the royal capital of the Jews and the whole land of Judaea…"
— Eusebius, Church History 3, 5, 3

"This heresy of the Nazoraeans exists in Beroea in the neighbourhood of Coele Syria and the Decapolis in the region of Pella and in Basanitis in the so-called Kokaba (Chochabe in Hebrew). From there it took its beginning after the exodus from Jerusalem when all the disciples went to live in Pella because Christ had told them to leave Jerusalem and to go away since it would undergo a siege. Because of this advice they lived in Perea after having moved to that place, as I said."
— Epiphanius, Panarion 29,7,7-8

In our learned age, most people now regard a total solar eclipse as merely an interesting astronomical phenomenon, and many view it as a celebration time for "eclipse" parties. But when two total solar eclipses crisscross the United States 7 years apart and paint a giant "X" near the geographical center of the nation, the perceptive ones see something else: a divine warning. And if nothing happens immediately after the second eclipse in April 2024, many ... including more than a few believers ... will surely scoff.

In contrast to the many scoffers though, the relative few perceptive ones will heed the divine warning.

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