Who owns the Temple Mount?

I try not to comment too much on religions that are not my own, but some of the recent conflict involving the Temple Mount in Jerusalem has caught my attention, especially this article: “Has the Temple Mount Become A Hamas ‘City-State’?”. It made me ponder the question: who owns the Temple Mount?

First off, I’m not a pre/post/whatever-millennialist, so my view of the return of the Christ has nothing to do with the physical nation of Israel’s presence in the Holy Land, nor with the rebuilding of the Temple. I know there are many purported Christians who are bent on seeing a new physical temple being constructed to facilitate what they see as actions requisite for the return of the Christ. I think this explains considerably why the United States and Great Britain put so much effort into the modern nation of Israel. Zionist Jews and millennialists seek a restoration of the temple because they believe Jews is still the chosen people of God based on the land promise to Abraham:

In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaim, And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites. (Genesis 15:18-21, KJV)

But we know from both prophesy on the Old Testament and writings of fulfillment in the new that the old covenant, and its laws, have been done away with:

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. 

Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. (Jeremiah 31:31-36, KJV)

And:

Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. (Galatians 3:16-18, KJV)

However, we know from Peter that:

“the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:10-12, KJV)

So with that in mind, that the return of the Christ is the beginning of a swift judgement and the end of this physical world as we know it, thus the emphasis on the Temple Mount changes from an imperative for standing up a new earthly kingdom to being a site of great historic and religious significance. Christ served as the final and perfect sacrifice. He is a high priest under the order of Melchizedek (Genesis 14:17-24, Hebrews 7:11-26). There is no need for a new temple.

Regardless, whoever controls the Temple Mount should respect the fact that the site is held in high esteem by all of the Abrahamic religions. Its a shared heritage. It is a place where the God of Heaven has been worshipped for thousands of years, whether it was by Jews in the time of Solomon, or by Jewish Christians during the early days of the church, who “daily in the temple, and in every house, …ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” (Acts 5:42, ASV).

Though they could not enter the temple proper, there was a Court of the Gentiles on the Temple Mount. I suppose, the same argument could be made by the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf as to why they limit access to in the vicinity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque (and the Temple Mount). I can see the argument both ways, and though I don’t  practice either religion, I can respect their stance on this holy and historical location.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t solve the problem that both the Jews and the Muslims want each other off the Temple Mount. Were it not for the current Israel/ Palestine issue, one would wonder if the site might be more accessible? I don’t know if that conflict will ever reach a peaceful resolution, but one can hope that maybe someday in the future, the site where the Temple once stood will be open for reverent and retrospectful visitation.

So back to the original question. Who owns the Temple Mount? I am confident that it is not any group of men who’ve staked claims on it. The Temple Mount, like all of creation, belongs to God. It is only through His graciousness that we are allotted any of it. I am confident, through His Providence, that whoever He wants there, will be there. Does possession equal Godliness? No, possession just means that the occupier acting as an agent for a particular purpose of God. All belongs to God to be used as He purposes.

Healthy Marriage Month

I’m a little late in seeing this but Governor Robert Bentley proclaimed February as Healthy Marriage Month:

“WHEREAS, marriage is not just another lifestyle choice, but the foundation of healthy families and a healthy future for America; and

WHEREAS, marriage, in every known human society, creates new families, binds men and women together in a network of affection, mutual aid and mutual obligation; marriage commits parents to their children and connects children to a wider network of welcoming kin; and

WHEREAS, marriage is the outward, visible sign of a man and a woman’s desire to create a lasting love and forge a tie so strong that a child’s heart can rely upon it; and

WHEREAS, mounting scientific evidence confirms that children raised outside of marriage are more likely to commit crime, fail at school and on the job, to abuse drugs, to lapse into physical and mental illness, to become teen parents, to suffer material deprivation, and perhaps saddest of all, to become the victims of child abuse; and

WHEREAS, marriage, as an institution, deserves our special respect and concern because healthy marriages create a way for children to enjoy the full emotional, moral and financial protection of both parents; and

WHEREAS, it is important to recognize the special place of marriage in American society and in American hearts; and

WHEREAS, marriage should be honored as the extraordinary vow that ordinary people make and guide their lives by every day:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Robert Bentley, Governor of the State of Alabama, do hereby proclaim the month of February 2013, as

Healthy Marriage Month”

I raise my glass of sweet tea and offer Governor Bentley a hearty hear, hear.

Secession and the Christian

With the caveat that I endeavor to keep political commentary far from this blog, I want to digress for a moment to address a political issue from a perspective of faith.

The issue at hand is the right of a state to secede from the United States of America. Currently, there are petitions on the White House website for nearly every state, individually, to secede from the United States (Here is the petition for sweet home Alabama).

I’m not going to get into the historic facts of attempts to secede that have occurred in the past, but I will quote the Declaration of Independence, and the particular phrase that gives everyone cause for the argument of leaving the Union:

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

A particular quandary with the current petition approach is this line from the Declaration:

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.

If the signers of this current wave of petitions believe the current President a reincarnate of King George III, why would they expect a different outcome than the one received by their colonial forebears? We know the course of action that was taken when petitioning failed. There is a theory that history is cyclical.

Are we at that point in this Nation? It is not for me to say.  As a Christian I am compelled to obey the laws of the land, and to render unto Caesar what is his. I think the following passage from the letter written to the Romans sums it up pretty well:

9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. 10 In love of the brethren be tenderly affectioned one to another; in honor preferring one another; 11 in diligence not slothful; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing stedfastly in prayer; 13 communicating to the necessities of the saints; given to hospitality.

14 Bless them that persecute you; bless, and curse not. 15 Rejoice with them that rejoice; weep with them that weep. 16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Set not your mind on high things, but condescend to things that are lowly. Be not wise in your own conceits. 17 Render to no man evil for evil. Take thought for things honorable in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men.19 Avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place unto the wrath [of God]: for it is written, Vengeance belongeth unto me; I will recompense, saith the Lord. 20 But if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him to drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head. 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9-21)

And while we don’t have a king in the United States, but an elected President, the words of Peter are still applicable:

13 Be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether to the king, as supreme; 14 or unto governors, as sent by him for vengeance on evil-doers and for praise to them that do well. 15 For so is the will of God, that by well-doing ye should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:16 as free, and not using your freedom for a cloak of wickedness, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. (1 Peter 2:13-17)

 Thus the command to honor the king is applicable to the President, whether we agree with his policies or not. Likewise, we are citizens and not servants, but this command is still applicable:

22Servants, obey in all things them that are your masters according to the flesh; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing the Lord: 23 whatsoever ye do, work heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men; 24 knowing that from the Lord ye shall receive the recompense of the inheritance: ye serve the Lord Christ. 25 For he that doeth wrong shall receive again for the wrong that he hath done: and there is no respect of persons. (Colossians 3:22-25)

So what is my point in all this? Petitioning the White House for the right to secede is futile. It flags one as a dissenter and could be construed as treasonous. Does one really wish to potentially mark himself as an enemy of the state? I’ll not travel down that path myself. I’ll heed the sage advice of Joshua:

14 Now therefore fear Jehovah, and serve him in sincerity and in truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River, and in Egypt; and serve ye Jehovah. 15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve Jehovah, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve Jehovah. (Joshua 24:14-15)

It reminds me of the first verse of a song by Albert E. Brumley, This World is Not My Home:

This world is not my home I’m just a passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

 In closing, in looking toward eternity, the grievances of this world really don’t matter that much. For perspective, we must remember the words of the Preacher:

13 [This is] the end of the matter; all hath been heard: fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole [duty] of man. 14 For God will bring every work into judgment, with every hidden thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14) 

A look back on the 400th anniversary year of the King James Bible

A look back on the 400th anniversary year of the King James Bible:
By Gordon Campbell

The celebrations of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible were in one respect a surprise. As the Archbishop of Canterbury commented at the end of the year, the KJB had not been treated “simply as a possession of religious believers,” much less as a “preserve of the Church,” but rather as part of a wider cultural legacy throughout the English-speaking world. This did not reflect, in the Archbishop’s tolerant view, a diminution of the Bible’s standing as a sacred text, but rather extended its significance beyond the spiritual to the cultural sphere.

No one would mount the same argument for modern translations. Bibles such as the New Revised Standard Version, the English Standard Version, and the New International Version are associated with religious believers, sometimes of a particular religious persuasion, and seem not to be of particular interest beyond the world of the churches.

The origins of this distinction lie in the Bible as Literature movement, which first emerged at Harvard with the publication of the lectures of John Hays Gardiner as The Bible as English Literature (1906). Gardiner argued that the King James Bible is literature, whereas the Revised Version is a sacred text. This did not mean that he treated the KJB as a secular text. Gardiner explains that he has “assumed the fact of inspiration, but without attempting to define it or to distinguish between religious and literary inspiration.” The consequence of this conflation is that literary study of the Bible should be ‘reverent in tone’.

A century later, Gardiner’s observations still have force. Christianity has its enemies, but even the most vociferous of the New Atheists has a soft spot for the King James Bible. Richard Dawkins, for example, has said that “not to know the King James Bible is to be, in some small way, barbarian,” and the late Christopher Hitchens chimed in with an affirmation of the timelessness of the KJB, which “resounded in the minds and memories of literate people, as well as of those who acquired it only by listening.”

This secular reverence for a religious text was one of the features of the anniversary year. I gave some sixty lectures in the course of the year, and although the venues included a clutch of cathedrals and a healthy sprinkling of churches of various denominations, they also included golf clubs and gentlemen’s clubs, pensioners’ groups and literary festivals. In the United States, I lectured at a university club in New York, at an Episcopalian church, at the splendid exhibitions mounted by the Green Foundation, and at a few Christian colleges, but I mostly lectured at secular universities. It became clear not only that the KJB maintained its place in a variety of faith communities, but that it also has a respectful following among people who are interested both in its literary qualities, and in its historical and cultural impact.

Large numbers of people have emerged from the anniversary year knowing more about the King James Bible than they knew at the beginning of the year. Thousands have attended lectures, and many more have bought one of the histories of the KJB. My own book on the subject has sold in gratifying numbers, and many people have written to me expressing gratitude for what they have learned (and occasionally offering corrections, now incorporated into the paperback). Perhaps the most startling realisation for many people was that the KJB on their shelves is not the text of 1611, but a modernised text of 1769 which differs in some 16,000 instances from the original. To give but one example, ‘For in this we grone earnestly, desiring’ (1611) is changed in 1769 to ‘For in this we groan, earnestly desiring’ (2 Corinthians 5.2); the repositioning of the comma changes the meaning.

Curiosity about the original text has led to large numbers of sales of the 400th anniversary edition of the KJB published by Oxford University Press. There are signs that this text is being adopted by the scholarly community, as this is the only old-spelling text now on the market. In all, the anniversary year has been a jolly good thing, and I am not alone in having learned a lot from the conversations and debates that emerged in the course of the year.

Gordon Campbell is Professor of Renaissance Studies at University of Leicester. His recent books for OUP include Bible: The Story of the King James Version (2010), The Holy Bible: Quatercentenary Edition (2010), The Grove Encyclopedia of Northern Renaissance Art (3 vols, 2009), John Milton: Life, Work and Thought (2008), Milton and the manuscript of ‘De Doctrina Christiana’ (2007), The Grove Encyclopedia of Classical Art and Architecture (2 vols, 2007), The Grove Encyclopedia of Decorative Arts (2 vols, 2006), Renaissance Art and Architecture (2004), and The Oxford Dictionary of the Renaissance (2003). His next book, to be published by OUP in Spring 2013, will be entitled The English Ornamental Hermit.

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The Logos

Another great article from the archives of Truth Magazine:

The Logos:
By Jerry C. Ray
In the prologue of the gospel according to John, the Logos is presented without definition or introduction. Such was unnecessary since the idea of the Logos was not foreign to the Jewish or Greek mind. The Jews, from the study of the Old Testament and contact with the Greek outline of the Roman Empire, along with the Greeks, were familiar with the term, Logos.

In the evolution of the Philosophies of Greek culture the Logos had come to mean (1) Idea, (2) The Intelligence be hind the Idea, and (3) The Expression of the Idea. In the blind searchings of philosophers for the secret of the riddle of the Universe, i.e., origin, purpose, destiny, the term Logos was used to designate the unknown factor-the great First Cause of all things. To the Jewish mind Logos represented the wisdom and power of God.

And so John took this expression, familiar to Jew and Greek alike, and declared that Jesus Christ was the unknown factor revealed, the wisdom and power of God incarnate.

Let us observe the evolution of the Logos concept among the Greek philosophers.

Heraclitus is credited with being the first philosopher to “search for some unitary principle to explain the diversity of the universe” (Archibald Alexander, “Logos,” ISBE, III, 1912 ) . Heraclitus observed the process of constant change and sought for some primary element from which all others have their rise. He selected fire. He saw mutations as changes  according to law. This law he called “Justice”, “Logos” or “Reason”, and in two passages “God”, but “it is not probable that he attached to it ally definite idea of consciousness” (Ibid.). This was the Greek philosophers’ first feeble gropings for an answer to the riddle of the universe.

Later Anaxagoras introduced the idea of a supreme intellectual principle which, while independent of the world, governed it (Ibid.). Anaxagoras was the first to perceive some kind of distinction between mind and matter and to suggest a teleological explanation of the universe (Ibid.).

Plato added to this development by making a distinction between “the world of sense and the world of thought, to the latter of which God belonged” (Ibid.). True reality or absolute being consisted, according to Plato, of the “Ideas” which resided in the Divine Mind.

The Stoics were the first with a systematic exposition .of the Logos. The “Divine Worldpower which contains within itself the conditions and processes of all things” they called Logos, or God.

Philo (a contemporary of Christ) sought to fuse the Jewish and Greek concepts, and hence, seems to waver between the two, presenting the Logos.

“. . . Under two relations: As the reason of God, lying in Him-the divine thought; and as the outspoken word, preceding from Him, and manifest in the world. The former is, in reality, one with God’s hidden being; the latter comprehends all the workings and revelations o f God in the world, affords from itself the ideas and energies by which the world was framed and is upheld, and, filling all things with divine light and life, rules them in wisdom, love, and righteousness. It is the beginning of creation; unoriginated, like God, nor made, like the world, but the eldest son of the eternal Father (the world being the younger); God’s image; the creator of the world; the mediator between God and it; the highest Angel; the second God; the high priest and reconciler” (“Logos”, McClintock and Strong, V, p. 491).

We can see in Philo’s conception much truth and some error, but any attempt to show ”doctrinal dependence upon Philo by John in writing the gospel is absurd. ‘There are too many and too wide divergences between the two concepts. (See McClintock and Strong, V, pp. 491-492 for a good discussion of this).

Among the Jews, the idea of Logos, as found in the Old Testament, involved (1) The Word, as embodying the divine will, is personified in Hebrew poetry. The Word is a healer (Ps. 33:4); a messenger (Ps. 147:15); the agent of the divine decrees (Isa. 55:11). (2) The personified wisdom (Job 2 8 :12, Prov. 8, 9) . (3) The Angel of Jehovah. “The messenger of God who serves as His agent in the world of sense, and is sometimes distinguished from Jehovah and sometimes identical with him (Gen. 15 : 713; 32.24-28; Hos. 12:4-5; Exod.
23:20-21; Mal. 3:1)” (Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, II, pp. 2627).

After the Babylonian captivity the Jewish doctors combined all the revelations and manifestations of God in a conception of one permanent agent of God-the word, or Logos, of Jehovah (Ibid., p. 28).

This brings us to John’s usage of the term, Logos. Marcus Dods has stated this aptly:

“The term Logos appears as early as Heraclitus to denote the principle which maintains order in the world. Among the Stoics the word was similarly used, as the equivalent o f the anima mundi. Marcus Aurelius (4:14-21) uses the spermatikos logos to express the generative principle or creative force in nature. The term was familiar to Greek Philosophy. In Hebrew thought there was fell the need for some term to express God, not in His absolute being, but in His manifestation and active connection with the world. In the O. T. “The Angel of the Lord” and “The Wisdom of God” are used for this purpose. In the Apocryphal books and the Targums “The word of Jehovah” is similarly used. These two streams of thought were combined by Philo, who has a fairly full and explicit doctrine of the Logos as the expression of God or God in expression. The word being thus already in use and aiding thoughtful men in their efforts to conceive God’s connection with the world, John takes it and uses it to denote the Revealer of the incomprehensible and invisible God. Irrespective of all speculations which had gathered around the term, John now proceeds to make known the true nature o f the Logos” (Expositor’s Greek New Testament, 1, pp. 683-684).

John reveals the Logos as:

  1. A person, not just an impersonal force or abstraction (John 1:3, 4, 14a).
  2. Personally distinct from God, but essentially one with God (John 1:1) . 
  3. Deity Incarnate (John 1:1-4, 14a).
  4. The creator of the worlds (John 1:3).
  5. Life and light to the moral world (John 1:4).
  6. The conqueror of darkness (John 1:4-5).
  7. The Savior of the world (John 1:11-13) .
  8. The Revealer of the Father: Jesus declared Him (John 1:18).

Jesus is the Logos of the Greeks. The answer to the riddle of the universe.

Jesus is the Logos of the Jews: The wisdom and power of God unto the salvation of the human family.

Truth Magazine, V:8, pp. 21-23
May 1961
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