Sketching HIStory #9

Gen 3 – Broken Relationship

Before we delve into Genesis 3:6-15, I invite you to watch the video below and get a basic definition of SIN.

Now, let us see mankind’s first act of SIN.

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When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. [Gen 3:6]

Biblically speaking, temptation is not sin, but it does lead you to a trap that ‘plunge people into ruin and destruction’ (1 Timothy 6:9). Let’s recap. The serpent had told Eve that God had lied about the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He then enticed her to focus on the fruit; especially on how by eating it, she would be exactly like God. Now, the Bible doesn’t say this, but I surmised that after the serpent pointed her toward the tree with a curious Adam not far behind, slinked away. That left Eve to get a lot closer to the tree, than she had ever been. I’m almost sure she was feeling a sense that she had never experienced before – apprehension. That feeling is built into all of us when God created us in His image. What triggered that feeling is our…

Conscience

But the serpent’s wiles had a slight advantage over Eve’s conscience. Do you recall what Eve said to the serpent? Eve believed that if she even touched the forbidden fruit, she would die. This was, of course, erroneous. But imagine, if you will, Eve hesitatingly approach the tree, then she saw that the fruit looked quite delectable. She reaches out, then hesitates again, remembering that if she touches it, she dies. Then she remembers what the serpent said. With one finger, she gingerly touches the fruit and nothing happens. She’s now convinced. She pulls the fruit off the tree and took a bite. Adam saw that Eve was enjoying the fruit. She beckoned for him to join her and he took a bite.

Why didn’t the conscience take control of their action? One other aspect of being in the image of God is our free will. And both Adam and Eve chose to ignore their consciences or more directly chose not to believe God and ate the fruit.

For every action taken, there are circumstances.

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Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. [vs 7]

There is nothing like the gut-feeling pain of realizing you have done something really wrong. Adam and Eve knew they committed the fatal deed and the innocent feelings that they had was replaced by a sense of foreboding. That same guilt feeling made them look at each other closely and they realized each other’s nakedness. They both did not like it. To alleviate their shame, they tried to hide behind some sewn fig leaves to hide their private parts. But this experience of foreboding does not end there.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” [vs 8-11]

When I first read these verses, I had that nagging question of why would God ask Adam, ‘where was he?’ or ‘did he eat from the forbidden tree?’. If He is all-seeing and all-knowing, then how was it that He didn’t know? Of course, God knew. So, why would He confront Adam with those questions? Let me put this question in another way. Why not would a forgiving God ask such questions if not to give opportunity for Adam to clear his conscience of guilt? I truly believe that God would have forgiven Adam and Eve at that time… if they confessed rightly. And when I say rightly, I mean speaking the simple truth.

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The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” [vs 12]

It is said that confession is good for the soul. I have experienced it myself. Whenever I confessed my wrong doings, it always feel like a heavy weight was lifted off my chest. Imagine what our world would be like if Adam just confessed, but he didn’t! Instead, he took the route of what we call the ‘blame game’. He blamed Eve for his action, but that is not all. He also blamed God for putting Eve with him. Here is a thought for everyone. When you are angry with life, do you eventually blame God? If truth be told, is that really fair?

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Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” [vs 13]

Eve was right to say of what the serpent did. However, this is no excuse. She can not claim that ‘the devil made me do it’.

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So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” [vs 14-15]

Did you notice that God did not ask the serpent what he did? I will not get into it much except to say, that God’s standard of justice to us is a lot more lenient than what those spiritual creatures get in their rebellion. There is no trial, but judgement… and no hope of pardon.

Now, I hope you understand why I aesthetically chose the Komodo Dragon to represent the Serpent of Eden. My original idea was to use the Velociraptor as the serpent but I changed my mind mainly because… well, it could have been way too much Jurasic World… if you know what I mean. Anyway, I wish I could have presented an animation of this scene.

By the way, this depiction of the serpent’s fate is not an actual representation of snakes having no limbs. What Genesis 3:14 describe may be more figurative on the fall of an angel who once was an anointed cherub on the holy mount of God but was expelled; then cast to the earth [Ezekiel 28:12-19].

But here is the clincher in God’s curse on the serpent. Hidden in the devil’s fate is a sliver of prophetic hope for us which we will cover in my next post.

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch14 – part 2

THE OPPOSITION – JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

Jesus continued to teach for another hour, and then he and the disciples left the temple by way of the south gate. Because many of the crowd followed him out, they were not harassed by any of the religious leaders nor temple guards. They followed the columned corridor to the south-west corner of the Temple Mount; went down a short flight of stairs unto a vaulted portico. As they emerged, Cornelius was again treated to a panoramic view of Jerusalem. They stood at the top of a wide avenue of marble steps built to accommodate the incomings and outgoings of large crowds. The marble steps descended about forty feet down to the base of the Temple mount. He went over to the balustrade to get a better view. The first thing that caught his eye was a huge coliseum like structure which was directly below him. Unlike the Great Coliseum in Rome which was round, this one was elongated and was not as high. He estimated that this arena can sit about five thousand spectators. Chariot races are probably the most watched spectacles.

To the left of the arena were the high walls of the City of David. To the right across a deep ditch rose hundreds of dirty white squared buildings of the lower city. His eyes could clearly see the evidence of over population and squalid living conditions. About the same level of where he is standing beyond the lower city are the rich ornately decorated buildings of the upper city. One in particular that stood out was a large Greco-Roman Amphitheater.

Cornelius then followed the others down the wide marble steps to the bottom where they found a busy and noisy market place. Taking advantage of the busy market place, Jesus and his small groups of followers snuck away from the larger crowd that followed him down from the temple.

When they found a reasonably deserted alley, Cornelius went up to Jesus and said, “Lord, I have to go to the Praetorium and report to my superiors.”

“That is alright,” Jesus said. “We will be going to Bethany, to the home of a friend. You may find us at the temple courts in the morrow.”

After receiving directions from Judas Iscariot who knew the city well, he, Jacob, Trax and Cestus worked their way up-hill through the busy narrow streets of the lower city, always keeping the massive western wall of the Temple Mount on their right. The route they took brought them eventually to the low retainer wall of the upper city. They headed towards one of the six gates where there was a long line of people waiting to be questioned by Roman guards. Brandishing his cohort’s insignia and rank that was hidden under his robe, they were able to pass through the gate without being questioned or searched. Again the distinction between the upper city and the lower city was obvious. From dirty smelly narrow streets, they were now walking on clean wide flag-stone streets. The avenue that they were on was mostly lined with merchant shops. Richly robed patrons haggled with merchants over exotic materials from the east, intricately woven rugs from Persia, jewelry, aromatic perfumes and other trinkets. Jacob elatedly found a merchant selling scroll manuscripts of Greek poets and philosophers that the trader have bragged were elaborately copied by the scribes of the Great Library of Alexandria.

After pulling away a much disappointed Jacob from the shop, they eventually reached a tall wall structure with multiple arches. Bolted on one of the arches was a carved sign that read ‘TYROPOEON’ in Greek. As they were walking under one of the arches, Jacob told them that the Tyropoeon^ was originally a deep rugged ravine that in ancient times separated Mount Moriah from Mount Zion. This was one of depressed valleys that were filled in during the time of Solomon. The structure that they were walking under is actually the Zion Bridge that span from the western wall of the Temple Mount to the shiny palaces on Mount Zion. Cornelius also saw that the bridge separated the relatively new buildings of the upper city from what was before them, the old city, original site of Salem. The old city was built on a rolling plain. The streets were narrow and not always going on a straight line. A few times, they found the street that they were walking on stopped abruptly where they would either climb or descend a steep set of rough steps. Eventually, they finally came out onto an open plaza across of which rose the Fortress Antonia.

[ ^ Tyropoeon Valley – (i.e., “Valley of the Cheese mongers”), the name given by Josephus the historian to the valley or rugged ravine which in ancient times separated Mount Moriah from Mount Zion. This valley, now filled up with a vast accumulation of rubbish, and almost a plain, was spanned by bridges, the most noted of which was Zion Bridge, which was probably the ordinary means of communication between the royal palace on Zion and the temple. A fragment of the arch (q.v.) of this bridge (called “Robinson’s Arch”), where it projects from the sanctuary wall, was discovered by Robinson in 1839. This arch was destroyed by the Romans when Jerusalem was taken.
The western wall of the temple area rose up from the bottom of this valley to the height of 84 feet, where it was on a level with the area, and above this, and as a continuance of it, the wall of Solomon’s cloister rose to the height of about 50 feet, “so that this section of the wall would originally present to view a stupendous mass of masonry scarcely to be surpassed by any mural masonry in the world.” ]

Cornelius can appreciate the strategic placement of the fortress which was up against the north part of the city walls. If this city is to come under siege, it can only be here at the north wall. The east, south and west walls are very much protected by inaccessible terrain for large armies and siege machines. Connecting battlements from the north wall to the fortress make it easy for the defenders to quickly take their positions. The fortress itself was a large rectangular keep where the walls and battlements rose just slightly higher than the massive walls of the Temple Mount. But what were even higher were the four large towers built into the four corners of the keep.

They crossed the plaza, and then climbed two sets of wide steps to the top landing. There were two main gates which were on another landing a few more steps up. Before they approached the main gate, Cornelius paused and said to Jacob and Trax, “I am afraid that when we enter there, decorum requires that you both again must give the appearance of being my slaves.”

Jacob was again amused while Trax pouted his disappointment, because as a slave he could not freely explore the whole fortress which he so desired.

Cestus laughed out loud and clapped Trax on the shoulder. “You need not fret, lad. You can accompany me.” Trax beamed with delight.
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The story continues on in my next post.

If you are interested in reading the entire ebook, you can find my ebook in Amazon.com for only $1.99. Just click the link below.

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Thank you

Johann Q

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch14 – part 1

THE OPPOSITION – JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

As soon as Jesus revealed himself and started to teach, many quickly recognized him and they flocked to listen to him. Cornelius and the disciples struggled to keep the excited crowd from overwhelming him. It was a good thirty minutes before the priests realized what was happening. It was not long until Cornelius and the other disciples noted a delegate of priests and scribes making their way through the crowd towards them. They paused at the edge of the crowd and listened to what Jesus had to teach for another twenty minutes.

“Teacher,” called out one of the scribes somewhat disdainfully. “Tell us by what authority do you do these things, or who gave you this authority?”

“I shall also ask you a question, and you tell me what your answer is. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?”

The delegation started whispering among themselves. Cornelius almost laughed out loud. He knew that they were caught in their own trap. If they answered, ‘from heaven’ then Jesus could ask them, ‘why did you not believe him?’ But if they say, ‘from men’, then all the people around them who believe that John was a prophet could raise up against them and even stone them.

Then the same scribe who was not so smug anymore, answered him, “We do not know!”

Then Jesus said, “So, neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Some in the crowd started to laugh but quieted down as some of the scribes scowled at them. So, Jesus addressed the crowd with a parable about a rich man who planted a vineyard and rented it out to a group of vine-growers. This rich man then went off on a long journey leaving the tenants a long time thinking that they were the sole owners. When the rich man returned he sent his servants to the tenants to receive some of the produce of the vineyard that was due him. The tenants refused and beaten the servant and sent him away empty handed. They did the same thing to every servant he sent. Finally the rich man decided to send his own beloved son in the hopes that they may respect him. When the tenants heard that he was sending his son they reasoned among themselves that if they killed the heir then the inheritance would be theirs. So, when the son arrived they killed him.

Then Jesus looked at the scribes and the priests and loudly asked, “What, therefore, will the owner of the vineyard do to them?”

Some of the scribes started to nervously look around. Someone from the crowd boldly called out and said, “He will rightly destroy the vine-growers!”

Jesus looked at the delegation again and said, “What then is this that is written, ‘the stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner stone?’ Everyone who falls on that stone will the broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.” [Matthew 21:42-44 NASB]

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The story continues on in my next post.

If you are interested in reading the entire ebook, you can find my ebook in Amazon.com for only $1.99. Just click the link below.

If you want to support my writing, you can donate by clicking below…

DONATE TO MY PAYPAL

Thank you

Johann Q

Sketching HIStory #7

Gen 2 – The Close RelationshipSketching-HIStory-2-w

Let us open our Bibles and read Genesis 2:4-22 or click on Bible Gateway links below.

 

NIV   GNT   KJV

This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens. Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. [Gen 2:4-6]

In Genesis 2, we press the rewind button and go back in time to just before the plant life appeared. Take note that this passage mentions ‘the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth’. Do you recall that God had placed a water layer in the earth’s stratosphere in Genesis 1? Well, that protective layer was quite effective against the sun’s radiation and actually caused a greenhouse effect which gave our planet a moisture rich environment. Rain was non-existent. God provided a better system to keep the soil saturated. It was because of this environment that the animals were larger and life expectancy was longer. But we’re getting ahead of our story. Again, put this tidbit of Bible trivia at the back of your mind for later use when we get to Genesis 6.

By the way, Genesis 2 like the chapter before was also written in prose and you’ll probably notice that the creative aspects do not jive as well. No… the Bible is not contradicting itself. Genesis 2’s theme is not so much focused on creation but more on the Creator’s personality.

We first see this, in how chapter 2 addresses God as Lord God. Again, we have to look at the original language of Hebrew. God (in chapter 1) is ELOHIM, while Lord God, in chapter 2 & 3, is YAHWEH ELOHIM. Again, I am not a scholar and Sketching HIStory is not meant to provide in-depth scholarly work. All I can say is that the Israelite found it more comfortable in writing and even speaking out ‘Elohim’ more in than ‘Yahweh’. In fact, in most scriptural manuscripts His proper name is always spelled out as YHWH. My understanding is that to name Him so is to relate to Him in so casual of a way that it could be construed as disrespect of One so mighty. So, how why is Chapter 2 using ‘Lord God’? I can only offer a guess that Moses who had a very close relationship with God (to be revealed in Exodus) used His proper name to reveal God’s desire to be intimate with us.

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Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. [vs 7]

In my sketch above, I could not help but be inspired by Michelangelo’s depiction of the creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel. As a Renaissance artist, when he read the passages of Genesis 2, probably in High Latin, he saw the passion in God’s final act of creation and reflected it in his renderings on a ceiling about thirty feet above the Vatican’s famed Sistine Chapel where the papal conclave* is held.

[* The papal conclave is a meeting of the College of Cardinals convened to elect a Bishop of Rome, also known as the pope.]

Seeing the Lord God’s hand reaching out to bring Adam to life like that… well, it never fails to remind me of what my place should always be in His eyes. I just wish that I could have depicted an inspiring drawing rendition of ‘breathing into his nostrils the breath of life’… other than the Lord giving Adam mouth to mouth, of course.

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground – trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. [vs 8-14]

Now, I will not get into the perpetual debate of where the garden of Eden is located. Allow me, instead, to highlight that as soon as Adam was brought to life, our Lord God did not immediately placed him in the wilds of our world. Rather, He placed him in a garden… a very safe place.

I heard it said many times that the rich and lush jungles of the Amazon can be compared to Eden. However, if you watch the Discovery Channel, their cast of expert survivalists would argue the absolute opposite. I myself, though I’ve never been there, know with absolute certainty that I could not get out of there alive. I would probably end up in the belly of an anaconda. By definition, a garden is a planned space, usually outdoors, set aside for the display, cultivation, or enjoyment of plants and other forms of nature. Now, what was described is how a human would plant a garden, but the garden that our Lord God had planted is The Garden of all gardens. It is literally ‘Paradise’. And if I, a sci-fi buff, can offer a conjecture, this garden is outside the purview of both physical space and time. And it was prepared specifically for us.

Now, Eden was not only a place of safety. It was a place of learning and training. Training for what? Remember this?

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may RULE over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” [Gen 1:26]

God intended to train us in this garden, so training requires instruction.

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And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” [Gen 2:15-17]

Many have argued that it was because of this specific commandment is the reason why we are in our present predicament. In my Bible class, I am always asked whether God was right to give us such a command.

Lesson 1 – God never make mistakes.
Lesson 2 – Based on His sovereignty, God can do anything and give any commands He so desires… and the truth of the matter is… we can not do anything about it.

I could never prove to you about the lessons above. I accept it as true mainly because of His Word, the Bible. I have read, believed and applied His precepts to my life as best as I could. And the Lord had showed me… well… MUCH… that convinced me.

Anyway, let us look at the command itself. It had been suggested that the commandment was difficult and designed to tempt mankind to fail.

Let’s tackle the ‘TEMPTING’ part.

Lesson 3 – God does not tempt us to sin. It is not in His character.

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone… [James 1:13]

As to the DIFFICULT aspect of the commandment, consider the wording of the instruction and break it down.

1st part – You are free to EAT from ANY tree in the garden,

2nd part – but you must NOT EAT from ONE specific tree.

Lesson 4 – When the Lord God gives you a task, He always intended that you can accomplish it.

Now, let us talk a little bit about the tree that was forbidden, ‘the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’.

I will cover the WHAT aspect of the tree in my next post when we tackle Genesis 3. Instead, allow me to reply to a common question asked in my Bible classes. Why would a loving God place such a dangerous tree in the garden? (The common assumption, of course, is that if you can die from it then it is dangerous.)

Let me say first, when it comes to WHY questions, I tend to counter it with a WHY NOT.

Why NOT would God put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden? It’s HIS garden, after all. Remember Lesson #2.

If you again recall Lesson #1 – since God never errs, then it is more than likely that the error is in our assumption that the tree is dangerous. In fact, the only part in the assumption that is true is that God is a LOVING GOD. And if our loving God placed that specific tree in the garden with us, then there must be a good reason. We will pause this argument here for now and bring it up again Genesis 3.

Speaking of a Loving God…

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The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him. Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. [vs 18-20a]

It is no stretch of the imagination to think about how beneficial animals are to us. You just have to turn on your TV animal show and categorize how each one were helpful to us. Instead, focus on the image of God bringing the animals to Adam.  Did He do it just to see what names Adam would give them? Imagine, if you will, a father bringing his infant son to the zoo for the very first time. The father would lead him to each critter and explain what they did. The child, fascinated, would ask him question after question and the father would answer him back no matter how ludicrous they were. I believe this is exactly what God did here. This was a bonding moment. Let me also add that there are thousands of animal species identified today. In the beginning, it was probably three times that amount. Now, imagine how much time it would take for Adam to learn about each animal and then give them each a name. That would be a lot of bonding time.

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But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. [vs 20b-25]

Normally, this subject of the creation of Eve would have been dedicated in one or two chapters or even an entire book. There is just so much to cover. Allow me instead to address directly to all the women reading this blog; at the same time, I ask the men to pay close attention.

Men & women were equally created in God’s image but when you look at how God created you… well, in my book, this makes you very very (and a lot more ‘verys’ after it) SPECIAL.

Here is what a Bible commentator said… From Adam’s rib, God built up into a woman. Her formation is described as requiring both time and care on the heavenly artificer’s part. Thus woman is no casual or hasty production of nature, but is the finished result of labour and skill. Finally, she is brought with special honour to the man as the Creator’s last and most perfect work**.

It is no wonder that when Adam awoke from his deep sleep, his eyes fell upon a created being much like himself (yet different in so many ways), demurely walking up to him, that he probably first gulped and then said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”

Okay, ladies, this does not sound exactly like the stuff of romantic novels, but consider…

Adam had long studied the natural world, and while, with their confidence as yet unmarred by human cruelty, they came to his call, grew tame, and joined his company, he found none that answered to his wants, and replied to him with articulate speech. At last, on waking from his trance, he found one standing by him in whom he recognized a second self, and he welcomed her joyfully, and exclaimed, “This at last is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh:” that is, she is man’s counterpart, not merely in feeling and sense – his flesh – but in his solid qualities**.

[** Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers]

So, we come to final part of God’s creative act. Based on this chapter, there is one final piece of truth that I must impart.

In the beginning, we had it MADE, because of our very close relationship with God.

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The stage has been set and in my next post we will cover where it all went wrong.

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch13 – part 6

TO JERUSALEM – JerusalemCG-book-cover-w

The main Temple complex was built on a four foot height base platform about the same height of the platform that the columns were sitting on. This gave Cornelius a chance to see above the crowd’s heads all the way into the complex. The Temple itself, sitting on another raised platform, was flanked by two battlement walls with three watch along both sides. The main entrance of the complex were three arches; two small ones flanking a larger one. His eyes can only see as far as what Jacob explained to be the Court of Israel. Clearly he saw that only the men of Israel were allowed there. However, he can see women in a sectioned part of the Court of Israel which is referred to the Court of Women.

At the far end of the men’s courtyard was a line of columns and three doors; two single doors flanking a much larger double doors, which were all open. He could just make out another courtyard in the other side. Jacob pointing said that inner courtyard was called the Court of the Priests. Cornelius could just make out two prominent large objects which dwarf the priests near them. One of them was a giant bronze bowl sitting on twelve bronze oxen. It was called the Sea. Water is said to be piped in to keep it filled to the brim which the priests would use for ritualistic cleansing. The other was the bronze altar where the priests have to climb seven steps to offer the butchered animal for sacrifice; laying the meat pieces on a grill over the fire which is kept alive by the priests through out the year. Because today was also considered the Feast of First Fruits, priests can be seen casting baskets of grain into the fire. Behind the working priests, up twelve marble steps is the temple foyer with its beautifully carved doors inlaid with gold trimmings. The doors were closed for only the High Priest and other high ranking are allowed to see the inside.

Cornelius was experiencing mixed feelings. Since he was a child, this temple was just stories to him and yet every one of those stories told him that this temple represented a promise of closeness to their God; a closeness that was not offered in any of the temples back in Rome. Cornelius then realized that he was standing here, a stone’s throw away, he too desperately wanted to get close to God. But then seeing the many signs along the balustrade in both Greek and Latin that no Gentiles are allowed to go further than the entrance, he felt cheated and even more longing. His eyes began to water but he quickly wiped it away as he felt that there were eyes upon him. Then he noticed that Jesus was looking at him.

John, the brother of James, came to Jesus from the crowd. They all retreated deeper into the columns to talk.

“I spoke to a relative of mine who is a priest. He said that the High Priest and the chief priests were looking for you since yesterday. They gave orders to the temple guards to separate you from the crowd and bring you to them. They now think that you are not in Jerusalem.”

Peter pleaded, “Master, it is as you said. Our religious leaders have plans to do you harm. We must be away from here.”

Jesus listened to all the other disciples’ arguments silently then nodded his ascent. So, they started to walk towards the nearest exit. As Jesus came out of the columns into the sunlight, he paused and looked around at the milling crowd. Cornelius knew that he had a change of heart. To the visible dismay written on Peter’s face, Jesus removes his prayer shawl that hid his face then stood at the top of the steps of Solomon’s Colonnades and started to teach to the crowd.

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The story continues on in my next post.

If you are interested in reading the entire ebook, you can find my ebook in Amazon.com for only $1.99. Just click the link below.

If you want to support my writing, you can donate by clicking below…

DONATE TO MY PAYPAL

Thank you

Johann Q

THE CENTURION’S GOSPEL – Ch13 – part 5

TO JERUSALEM – Temple MountCG-book-cover-w

As Jesus led them northward along the ridge of the Mount of Olives, keeping his eyes on that incredible structure Cornelius recalled many things that he had read but one particular story stood out. The mount that the temple was built on was the very same mount that God tested Abraham’s faith. God commanded Abraham to bring his son, Isaac – the son of promise, to this place and offer him up as a sacrifice. With no hesitation, Abraham brought Isaac here and just as he was about to plunge his knife, the Lord stayed his hand. Isaac’s life was spared and Abraham saw that God had provided a big horn ram with its horns tangled in a thicket as a substitute offering. After God blessed him, he named this mount ‘The Lord Will Provide.’

They followed a track that went through an extensive olive grove. When they emerged they could see that the bottom side of the mount into the whole Kidron Valley was blanketed with thousands of tents. This was the second day of the Festival of the Tabernacles or Booths as it was better known because those who had houses in the city built make shift tents out of palm branches on their roofs and they lived in it for seven days. The reason of which was to commemorate the time when the Israelites lived in tents out in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land.

There were people everywhere feasting and obviously getting drunk. The more pious were bringing their grain offerings through the east gate.

Before they go among the crowd, Jesus, who had covered his face from being recognized said, “The religious leaders would be looking for me. We will enter the Temple on the north side.”

Because of the crowd, it took about an hour to get to the north side. When they turned the corner, Cornelius saw the walls of a tall fortress that was adjacent to the Temple Mount; its towers rising even higher than the temple. It was called the Fortress Antonias, so named after Mark Anthony. To the Romans, it was the Praetorium which can garrison a whole cohort*. It was also the official residence of the Governor General when he was in the city.

“Look, sir.” Cestus was pointing at the waving banner on one of the towers. “It is the banner of the Twenty-fifth Praetorian cohort.”

“Yes. The Governor is in residence.”

“Will you report, sir?”

“No. Not just yet.”
The gate on the north side was called the Sheep Gate. During the spring festival of the Passover, hundreds of flocks of sheep are driven to waiting pens outside this gate. Then a chosen group of Levites would separate those sheep that were considered unblemished. They would then drive them through this gate and up through a maze of corridors that led up to the Temple complex. Because this autumn festival is dedicated to grain offerings the pens held few sheep for regular sacrifice. The narrow corridors however were packed with people inching their way up the sloped passage ways. It was another two hours when they finally reached the top.

From the dark corridor, they went through a tall silver plated gate into a high ceiling portico. Cornelius had to squint his eyes against the glare for a few moments. As his eyes adjusted, they emerged unto an open plaza known as the Court of the Gentiles. Though he knew that the plaza was going to be big, he still could not help being awed by the sight. Along the sides of the whole plaza were long corridors with two rows of tall white columns supporting high ceilings. The columns on the north, south and western sides supported two enclosed levels with red brightly tiled roofs. Cornelius surmised that they were mostly used as sleeping chambers and offices by the priests. The columns along the east side supported an open platform. There were visible Temple guards patrolling along the battlements.

Avoiding the majority of the crowd on the plaza floor, they skirted the milling mass of people by moving in between the columns which were not as crowded. They moved along the eastern side until they were across from the front of temple.

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The story continues on in my next post.

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Sketching HIStory #5

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Gen 1 – God Formed Our World

Again, go ahead, open your Bibles and read Genesis 1:6-19 or click on Bible Gateway links below.

NIV     GNT    KJV

[GNT for Catholics]

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Like the Prophet Jeremiah, Albert Einstein (being Jewish himself) had no problem recognizing God’s hand in the creation of the universe. I recall reading somewhere that Einstein commented that when mankind probes the very recesses of space, they will find God staring back at them (something like that). Anyway, as spectacular as the creation of the cosmos was from Genesis 1:1-5, the verses after gave us no indication of how our own planet was developed. At that matter, verses 6-10 started up with our planet already formed and ready for seeding. Also, if we are to take verse 6 just a little bit literal, our entire planet may have been completely covered with water.

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And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.”
So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault
from the water above it.
And it was so.
God called the vault “sky.”
[vs 6-8a]

What is the vault? And what does it mean ‘separate water from water’? Well, a vault is defined as a sloped ceiling like what you find in high domed cathedrals. The vault that God made is, of course, our own ‘sky’. Scientifically speaking, the sky is our planet’s atmosphere and it is made up of several layers. The most outer layer is the Ozone Layer which protects us from the sun’s radiation today. Ozone is a gas, but once upon a time, it was quite different.

God separated the water under the vault… that is the sea… from the water above it… that is the Earth’s stratosphere. God had placed a protective shell of water around our planet. Can you imagine the ‘greenhouse’ long term effect this will have on our planet? For later posts, I ask that you keep this primordial atmospheric condition in mind. For it will explain away a lot of the spectacular phenomenon we will observe until we get to Genesis 6.

And there was evening, and there was morning, the second day. [vs 8b]

Again, this is not an indication that the making of the sky took 24 hours. This part of the narrative is a poetic transition from one creation event to another.

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And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place,
and let dry ground appear.” And it was so.
God called the dry ground “land,” and
the gathered waters he called “seas.”
And God saw that it was good. [vs 9-10]

I think the verses above is quite obvious, God caused the land to be raised above the sea. But if you look at the words closely, in the beginning, our world only had one massive land mass not like the seven continents and thousands of islands we know today. This contiguous land mass is known by scientists as the super-continent, Pangaea or Pangea. Pangea, in early geologic time, incorporated almost all the landmasses on Earth.

Now, let me say, that this concept of Pangea was proposed by a German scientist* in the early 20th century. It is interesting to note that this concept was FIRST introduced in a book written thousands of years ago.

[* Alfred Wegener, the originator of the scientific theory of continental drift, in his 1912 publication, ‘The Origin of Continents’]

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Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation:
seed-bearing plants and trees on the land
that bear fruit with seed in it,
according to their various kinds.” And it was so.
The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed
according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit
with seed in it according to their kinds.
And God saw that it was good.
And there was evening, and there was morning, the third day.
[vs 11-13]

According to a Bible commentator, these verses refer to the second creative act. I think I’ll let you read the rest of the commentary.

The first creative act was the calling of matter into existence, which, by the operation of mechanical and chemical laws, imposed upon it by the Creator, was arranged and digested into a cosmos, that is, an orderly and harmonious whole. These laws are now and ever in perpetual activity, but no secondary or derived agency can either add one atom to the world-mass or diminish aught from it. The second creative act was the introduction of life, first vegetable, and then animal; and for this nothing less than an Almighty power would suffice.

Vegetation, therefore, did not reach its perfection until the sixth day, when animals were created which needed these seeds and fruits for their food. But so far from there being anything in the creative record to require us to believe that the development of vegetation was not gradual, it is absolutely described as being so; and with that first streak of green God gave also the law of vegetation, and under His fostering hand all in due time came to pass which that first bestowal of vegetable life contained.

It is the constant rule of Holy Scripture to include in a narrative the ultimate as well as the immediate results of an act; and moreover, in the record of these creative days we are told what on each day was new, while the continuance of all that preceded is understood.

[Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers]

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And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky
to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs
to mark sacred times, and days and years
and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.”
And it was so. [vs 14]

God made two great lights…
the greater light to govern the day
and the lesser light to govern the night.
He also made the stars.
God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth,
to govern the day and the night,
and to separate light from darkness.
And God saw that it was good.
And there was evening, and there was morning – the fourth day. [vs 15-19]

I feel that I have to reiterate to you that in these passages, God had not literally created the sun, moon and most especially the stars at that particular time period. We already read in verses 1-5, that the stars including our very own sun, our planet and moon were in the process of development. But doubt in the Bible have a tendency of naggingly creep into our minds. I should know, I had those same doubts, at first. But then, I was prompted to look at the literature a little bit closely.

As a rule, when it came to Scriptures, I have been trained to apply the inductive method of reading the Bible as a discipline. Part of that training was to look at the passage to see what it really ‘said’ before I can figure out what it ‘meant’. Keeping in mind that this part of Genesis was meant to be read as part poetry and part prose, I focused on the language style. Let us look at the first part of verse 14, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky”. Whenever, I read this verse out loud, my theater skills kick in. Always, at the words of ‘lights in the vault of the sky’, I instinctly look up. In other words, in a none-poetic way, this could almost be read this way, ‘let the sun, moon and stars be seen upon the sky from where you stand’. Perspective is the key! So, if I was to show God’s intention, I would paraphrase verses 14-19, this way.

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Behold! Look up in the sky! In the beginning, I have set there two great lights to separate the day from the night. The sun is the greater light and will light up your day. The moon which is a lesser light so that you would not stumble in the dark. To help the moon, you will also see in the night sky a blanket of stars laid out from horizon to horizon. Now, from these lights, you will mark your days, years and seasons some of which will become sacred for those who believe. You will read in them signs that will influence your agriculture, navigation, and yes, even your history.

Now, I probably did not do it justice with my paraphrase, but I hope you would look at the Bible in the same inductive method that I used and apply it to the rest of Genesis and the whole Bible.

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Having read how God formed our world, I think it best we have the right attitude toward our Creator, so far. The Prophet Isaiah said it best in his book.

Isaiah 40:26
Lift up your eyes on high: Who created all these? He leads forth the starry host by number; He calls each one by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.

In my next post, we complete the Genesis 1 narrative with God bringing life into our world.

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Note: The Crimson Thread points to a connection between Old Testament passages to Jesus Christ.