Historical Documentation for Jesus (Part 2)

Historical Documentation for Jesus (Part 2)

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

In the first part of this series (CLICK HERE to read part 1), we looked at the writings of Josephus and Tacitus, who both attested to the existence of Jesus and His followers. In this article, we will look at three other authors: Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, and Lucian. At the end of this article, we will summarize our findings from these ancient authors!

Pliny the Younger

The third ancient writer we will review is Pliny the Younger. He was a magistrate in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) during the reign of the Emperor Trajan, who ruled from 98-117 AD. He was a contemporary of Tacitus. In 110/111 AD, Pliny wrote a letter to Trajan asking him how he should handle accusations and trials against Christians. Letters 97-98 reveal this exchange.

“From Pliny the Younger to Trajan the Emperor: ‘It is my invariable rule, Sir, to refer to you in all matters where I feel doubtful; for who is more capable of removing my scruples or informing my ignorance? Having never been present at any trials concerning those who profess Christianity I am unacquainted not only with the nature of their crimes, or the measure of their punishment, but how far it is proper to enter into an examination concerning them. Whether, therefore, any difference is usually made with respect to ages, or no distinction is to be observed between the young and adult; whether repentance entitles them to a pardon; or if a man has been once a Christian, it avails nothing to desist from his error; whether the very profession of Christianity, unattended with any criminal act, or only the crimes themselves inherent in the profession are punishable; on all these points I am in great doubt…”


“In the meanwhile, the method I have observed towards those who have been brought before me as Christians is this: I asked them whether they were Christians; if they admitted it, I repeated the question twice, and threatened them with punishment; if they persisted, I ordered them to be at once punished…There were others also brought before me possessed with the same infatuation, but, being Roman citizens, I directed them to be sent to Rome…”

“But this crime spreading (as is usually the case) while it was actually under prosecution, several instances of the same nature occurred. An anonymous information was laid before me containing a charge against several persons, who upon examination denied they were Christians, or had ever been so. They repeated after me an invocation to the gods, and offered religious rites with wine and incense before your statue (which for that purpose I had ordered to be brought, together with those of the gods), and even reviled [cursing] the name of Christ: whereas there is no forcing, it is said, those who are really Christians into any of these compliances: I thought it proper, therefore, to discharge them…”

“Some among those who were accused by a witness in person at first confessed themselves Christians, but immediately after denied it; the rest owned indeed that they had been of that number formerly, but had now (some above three, others more, and a few above twenty years ago) renounced that error. They all worshipped your statue and the images of the gods, uttering imprecations at the same time against the name of Christ…”

“They affirmed the whole of their guilt, or their error, was, that they met on a stated (fixed) day before it was light, and addressed a form of prayer to Christ, as to a divinity, binding themselves by a solemn oath, not for the purposes of any wicked design, but never to commit any fraud, theft, or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble, to eat in common a harmless meal. From this custom, however, they desisted after the publication of my edict, by which, according to your commands, I forbade the meeting of any assemblies. After receiving this account, I judged it so much the more necessary to endeavor to extort the real truth, by putting two female slaves to the torture, who were said to officiate in their religious rites; but all I could discover was evidence of an absurd and extravagant superstition…”

“I deemed it expedient, therefore, to adjourn all further proceedings, in other to consult you. For it appears to be a matter highly deserving your consideration, more especially as great numbers must be involved in the danger of these prosecutions, which have already extended, and are still likely to extend, to persons of all ranks and ages, and even of both sexes. In fact, this contagious superstition is not confined to the cities only, but has spread its infection among the neighbouring villages and country. Nevertheless, it still seems possible to restrain its progress. The temples, at least, which were once almost deserted, begin now to be frequented; and the sacred rites, after a long intermission, are again revived; while there is a general demand for the victims, which till lately found very few purchasers. From all this it is easy to conjecture what numbers might be reclaimed if a general pardon were granted to those who shall repent of their error…”

Trajan’s reply to Pliny: “You have adopted the right course, my dearest Secundus, in investigating the charges against Christians who were brought before you. It is not possible to lay down any general rule for all such cases. Do not go out of your way to look for them. If indeed they should be brought before you, and the crime is proved, they must be punished; with the restriction, however, that where the party denies he is a Christian, and shall make it evident that he is not, but invoking our gods, let him (notwithstanding any former suspicion) be pardoned upon his repentance. Anonymous information ought not to be received in any sort of prosecution. It is introducing a dangerous precedent, and is quite foreign to the spirit of our age.”

In the exchange, Trajan congratulates Pliny on his handling of the situation. He informed Pliny not to purposefully track down those who are Christians, but only prosecute those who were reported to belong to that group. Anonymous accusations were not allowed, but specific accusations were investigated. Those brought forth upon such charges were asked that they honor images of the emperor and the Roman gods or be punished.

What do we learn?

– We learn that Christians lived in early second century Asia Minor (about 110/111 AD).

– We learn that large numbers of people were influenced by Christianity in both city and country areas. Pliny said that the pagan Temples were nearly empty before the accusations started; after they were initiated the temples were visited again. This also testifies to the length of time that Christianity was in the area. It was not an overnight phenomenon.

– Accusations were made of people from all walks of society and of all ages. This also attests to Christianity’s prevalence and appeal to all people.

– There was a difference between a real Christian, who refused to worship the image of the emperor and make sacrifices, and those who confessed the name of Jesus in public but denied Him in private.

– Christians met on a specific day every week; this would have been the Sabbath (Friday sunset to Saturday sunset). I have discussed this in other works (see Prevalence of the Sabbath in the Early Roman Empire, Appendix B, CLICK HERE to read this booklet).

– Christians directed prayers to Christ.

– They received the name Christian from this Christ.

– They met before sunrise (in context this was to avoid being captured or reported as a believer).

– They were committed to live morally upright: “binding themselves by a solemn oath, not for the purposes of any wicked design, but never to commit any fraud, theft, or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up”

– Their assemblies were forbidden by the magistrate.

– Females officiated at Christian services. This detail testifies to the active role of women in the early church.

– Their beliefs were called an “extravagant superstition.”

Pliny’s account provides more information about the early disciples rather than Jesus. However, Jesus is mentioned as the focus of their religious practice. The fact that they prayed to Christ likely reflects their view of Jesus’ divinity. This would have contributed to the separation of synagogue and early disciples.

Suetonius
Suetonius was a Roman historian who lived in the early second century. His writings include one possible reference to Christians and another certain reference.

Speaking of the Emperor Claudius, he wrote that: “He banished from Rome all the Jews, who were continually making disturbances at the instigation of one Chrestus” (Life of Claudius, 25.4).

The Latin word translated as Chrestus is Chresto. It can be used in a generic or specific sense. Chresto simply means “good.” This quote does corroborate with Acts 18:2. It is entirely possible and very likely that disputes about Jesus caused conflict among Jewish people in Rome. The book of Acts records many conflicts between Jewish people and early Christians. Does that mean Suetonius is referring to Jesus’ followers? Some scholars affirm this quote is a reference to Jesus while others are not so sure. It is entirely possible that Suetonius meant to write “Christus” instead of “Chresto”, but we cannot be totally certain.

Suetonius also described the suffering of Christians under Nero, but in a much briefer account than Tacitus. “He likewise inflicted punishments on the Christians*, a sort of people who held a new and impious superstition” (Life of Nero, 16.2). *Latin word is Christiani.

Suetonius does not add much more to the discussion of this topic than what we have already learned.

Lucian
Lucian was a satirist who lived from 115-200 AD. He wrote a work called “the Passing of Peregrinus.” Peregrinus was a former Christian who later became a cynic and revolutionary. He died in 165 AD. As we look at the quote from Lucian, we must keep in mind that he is a satirist, so he mocks Christians and other groups. However, we can still glean some important information from his quotes.   

“It was then that he learned the wondrous lore of the Christians*, by associating with their priests and scribes in Palestine. And – how else could it be? In a trice he made them all look like children; for he was a prophet, cult-leader, head of the synagogue, and everything, all by himself. He interpreted and explained some of their books and even composed many, and they revered him as a god, made use of him as a lawgiver, and set him down as a protector, next after that other, to be sure, whom they still worship, the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult into the world” (Passing of Peregrinus, 11).

*The Greek word used for Christian is Christianon.

“Then at length Proteus was apprehended for this and thrown into prison, which itself gave him no little reputation as an asset for his future career and the charlatanism and notoriety-seeking that he was enamoured of. Well, when he had been imprisoned, the Christians, regarding the incident as a calamity, left nothing undone in the effort to rescue him…” (ibid, 12).

“Indeed, people came even from the cities in Asia, sent by the Christians at their common expense, to succor and defend and encourage the hero (Peregrinus). They show incredible speed whenever any such public action is taken; for in no time they lavish their all. So it was then in the case of Peregrinus; much money came to him from them by reason of his imprisonment, and he procured not a little revenue from it. The poor wretches have convinced themselves first and foremost, that they are going to be immortal and live for all time, in consequence of which they despise death and even willingly give themselves into custody, most of them. Furthermore, their first lawgiver persuaded them that they are all brothers of one another after they have transgressed once for all by denying the Greek gods and by worshiping that crucified sophist himself and living under his laws” (ibid, 13).

What do we learn?

– Those who followed Christ were called Christians.

– They had religious leaders in Judea (called Palestine at that time).

– Christ was thought of as a prophet and worshipped.

– Jesus explained their books and composed many Himself (this is likely a reference to the New Testament and possibly the Old Testament).

– Christ was crucified in Judea (Palestine).

– Christians thought they would receive immortality.

– They were not afraid of death.

– They considered each other brothers.

– They refused to worship Greek gods.

– They lived by Christ’s words.

– They were known for their generosity.

Lucian’s focus is more on the followers of Jesus, but he does reiterate some details we learned from earlier writers such as Josephus and Tacitus.

To conclude this two-part series, let’s put together the total of all these details to see what kind of picture we receive about Jesus and His followers.

“Jesus was considered a wise man who did extraordinary deeds. He was known as a teacher of truth. He was also considered a prophet and worshiped. He won over many Jews and Greeks. He taught out of their books and even composed many Himself. During the reign of Tiberius Caesar, a regional ruler named Pilate heard accusations against Him by the highest Jewish authorities. Due to these accusations, Jesus was crucified. Those who loved him formed a group known as Christians, who were named after him. They still existed during the time Josephus composed his work (93 AD). Some people called Jesus the Christ; he had a brother named James.

The group started in Judea and eventually became established in Rome where it found a significant following. They may have contributed to the expulsion of Jews from Rome during the reign of Claudius. During the reign of Nero, they were blamed for setting fire to the city. They were tortured terribly during that time.

During the reign of the Emperor Trajan (early second century AD), large numbers of Christians dwelt in Asia Minor. There was a difference between a real Christian, who refused to worship the image of the emperor and make sacrifices, and those who only confessed the name of Jesus. Christians met on a specific day every week (Sabbath). They met before sunrise (in context this was to avoid being captured or reported as a believer). Christians directed prayers to Christ and committed their lives to moral principles such as those found in the Ten Commandments. Females officiated at Christian services.

Christians were not afraid of death and believed in immortality. They considered each other brothers (family). They did not worship idols or pagan deities. They lived by Christ’s words and were know for their generosity. There were books composed about Jesus. They were witnessed as an active group in the days of Lucian, who wrote about 165.

These few historical accounts provide us with significant historical information about Jesus and His early followers.

Next week, we will look at Archaeology and the life of Jesus!

To read more about this subject, download our free booklet: How Do We Know Jesus Really Lived? (CLICK HERE to download)

Kelly McDonald, Jr.
BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org


Bibliography
Lucian. The Passing of Peregrinus, 11-13. Translated by A.M. Harmon, vol. 5, Harvard University Press, 1962. pp 11-15.
McDonald Jr., Kelly. Prevalence of the Sabbath in the Early Roman Empire. Bible Sabbath Association. 2020. pp 40-42.
Pliny the Younger. Letters 97, 98. Translated by Melmoth. Revised by Rev. F. C. T. Bosanquet, London: George Bell and Sons, 1905. pp 393-397.
Suetonius. The Life of Claudius, 25.4; The Life of Nero, 16.2. Translated by Alexander Thomson. Revised by T. Forester, London: G. Bell and Sons, LTD, 1911.  pp 318, 347.

Historical Documentation for Jesus (Part 1)

Historical Documentation for Jesus (Part 1)

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

Imagine for a moment that you did not have a Bible to learn about Jesus. How would you know that He ever lived on earth? Would it be possible to prove His existence? In modern times, there has been skepticism about the historical validity of Jesus’ existence.

In this multi-part series, we will review non-Biblical historical sources concerning the existence of Jesus of Nazareth and His earliest followers.

Consider for a moment: millions of people lived in the Middle East during the first century AD. We do not know much if anything about most of them. They lived their lives, died, and became lost to time. Archeologists occasionally dig up some artifact with a name on it from that time, but we rarely learn anything about these people.

Of the people we learn about in ancient records and archaeological finds, many of them either did something famous or infamous or they held some position of importance in a kingdom or empire. Said another way, the people mentioned in history did something significant enough to be remembered by others who lived in that time period.

To ascertain whether Jesus lived on earth, we will begin by examining the historical record to see if He is mentioned and what these records say about Him. Documentation about His followers are also important, as they may contain helpful information.

Josephus
Josephus lived from about 37-100 AD. He belonged to the Jewish priestly lineage and through a series of events came to serve the Romans. He wrote some of the most valuable works on Jewish history in existence, including one called Antiquities of the Jews (likely composed about 93 AD). It provides us with two references to Jesus, which are listed below:

“Now about this time lived Jesus, a wise man. For he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of men who receive truth with pleasure; and drew over to him many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. And When Pilate, at the information of the leading men among us, had him condemned to the cross, those who had loved him at first did not cease to do so. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day” (idem, 18.3).*

*In my quote I have removed the parts of Josephus that are considered later additions to the original text (called interpolations).

“…as Festus was not dead, and Albinus was still on the road, so he assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, and having accused them as breakers of the law, he delivered them over to be stoned” (ibid, 20.9).

What do we learn from these quotes?

– Jesus was considered a wise man who did surprising deeds, and was known as a teacher of truth.

– He won over many Jews and Greeks.

– A ruler named Pilate heard accusations against Jesus by the highest Jewish authorities.

– Jesus was condemned to be crucified.

– Those who loved him formed a group known as Christians, who were named after him (implying that Jesus was called Christ by them). They still existed during the time Josephus composed his work (later first century AD).

– Jesus had a brother named James.

– Some people called Jesus the Christ.

Tacitus
The next author we will review is the Roman historian Tacitus, who lived from approximately 55-118 AD. The Annals is an historical work he composed that chronicled events from 14 AD through 68 AD. This included the reigns of various Emperors, including Nero.

In book 15, we learn that Nero wanted to build a city named Neronia (named after himself). One problem is that a section of the old city of Rome stood in the way of this plan. Perhaps not surprisingly, part of the old city of Rome burned down.

The Roman people demanded that the source of this crime be revealed. In their minds, someone had to pay the price for this damage. Nero tried offering sacrifices to the Roman gods and even giving gifts to the people, but these actions did not appease them. People still suspected that Nero intentionally burned the city to make room for new project. Somehow Christians were blamed for the disaster and subsequently punished. Tacitus wrote the following:

“But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiation of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order. Consequently, to get rid of the report (that he started the fire), Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred of mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths.  Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed by the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car.  Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man’s cruelty, that they were being destroyed” (idem, 15.44).

What do we learn from this text?

– Christians were a religious sect existing in Rome during the reign of Nero. This was about 64 AD or a little over 30 years from the time Jesus is believed to have died.

– They were hated by the populace for their abominations. (Side note: This is similar language that Tacitus uses of Jewish people; the concept of an abominable religion likely came from the rejection of the Roman pantheon – see The Histories, 5.4-5). Because they are mentioned as a separate class of people, they had distinctive beliefs from pagan Romans (so they could be identified as different).

– They were named Christians after their founder Christus. This is the Latin term for Christ.

– Christus suffered the extreme penalty (crucifixion) during the reign of Emperor Tiberius Caesar.

– When this occurred, Pontius Pilate was the regional ruler in Judea (called procurator by Tacitus, which is a detail we will review in a future article).

– The movement of Christus started in Judea and eventually came to Rome.

– Tacitus mentions that “an immense multitude was convicted” of being a Christian. This means Christianity had spread considerably in Rome and the surrounding areas. The movement could not be considered insignificant nor was it new in the city of Rome. In other words, it existed for some time prior to Nero’s persecution.

– Christians suffered terribly in this persecution.

Next week, we will look at three more historical sources and summarize their collective findings about the life of Jesus! (CLICK HERE to read Part 2 of this series)

To read more about this subject, download our free booklet: How Do We Know Jesus Really Lived? (CLICK HERE to download)

Kelly McDonald, Jr.
BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org


Bibliography
Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews, 18.3, 20.9. Whiston’s Translation revised by Rev. A.R. Shilleto, Vol. 3, London: George Bell and Sons, York Street, 1889. pp 274-275, 405.
Tacitus. Annals, 15.44. Translated by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb, MacMillan and Co., 1894, pp 304-305.

Sabbath Meditation #34 – The Mystery of Lawlessness

Sabbath Meditation #34 – The Mystery of Lawlessness

“For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way” (2 Thess. 2:7).

“Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed” (Exo 23:12).

“Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight” (Psalm 119:35).

“If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight…” (Isa. 58:13).

There are many mysteries discussed in the New Testament. One of them is the mystery of lawlessness. The underlying Greek word translated as lawlessness or iniquity in I Thess. 2:7 is anomias, which means “without God’s law” or “transgression of God’s law”.


Why is lawlessness considered a mystery? The commandments of God, especially the Sabbath, were given by God for our benefit. The commandments are supposed to bring us joy/happiness as we obey them. In particular, the Sabbath is a delight because it gives us freedom from work and other labor. In Exodus 23:12, God promised that we would be refreshed when we rest on the seventh day. In our busy go-go world, who does not need that? There is a special spiritual connection to God available to us on this day (CLICK HERE to read more).

The verses mentioned at the beginning of this article help explain why lawlessness is a mystery. Why would we not want to do them and honor God? Why would we want to miss out on all these blessings? “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he” (Prov. 29:18). In the last meditation, we reviewed thirteen precious promises available to us through the Sabbath (CLICK HERE to read the last month’s meditation).

Jesus said: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10b). With Jesus as our Savior and the indwelling of His Holy Spirit, observance of the Sabbath has an even greater fulfillment than it did in the Old Covenant. We must set aside ourselves to receive it. The Sabbath is a day of life, and it provides spiritual satisfaction for us.

“Then said Jesus unto them, ‘I will ask you one thing; is it lawful on the Sabbath days to do good, or do to evil? To save life, or to destroy it?’” (Luke 6:9)

For those of us who have “tasted and seen that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8) on Sabbath, the attitude of lawlessness will always be a mystery. It certainly is to the God who gave it.

Selah.

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org

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Dispute in a Grainfield: The Responses of Jesus in their First Century Context

Dispute in a Grainfield: The Responses of Jesus in their First Century Context

By R. Herbert

“Although all of the four Gospels record the teachings of Jesus, the Gospel of Matthew is unique in giving us insight into the way Jesus often taught. Because Matthew appears to have been written (probably first in Hebrew) for a primarily Jewish audience, it includes many details that would have been readily understandable to his 1st Century Jewish readers, though we may not notice or easily grasp them today. An important example is found in Matthew’s story of Jesus’ argument with the Pharisees over the matter of his disciples “harvesting” grain on the Sabbath day. The account is found in Matthew 12:

“At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, ‘Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath’” (Matthew 12:1-2).

The Mosaic law specifically provided for individuals to pluck grain as they walked through a field (Deuteronomy 23:25), so for the Pharisees the problem with the disciples’ actions was not taking the grain, but taking it on the Sabbath. Jesus responded to this accusation by giving a number of examples showing why the disciples were not breaking the Sabbath…”

(this article is an excerpt from the Nov-Dec 2016 edition of the Sabbath Sentinel)

To read the rest of this article, which starts on page 7, click this link: https://biblesabbath.org/media/Nov-Dec_2016_WEB.pdf

Post-Flood Archaeological Evidence of the Seven-Day Week

Post-Flood Archaeological Evidence of the Seven-Day Week

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

In the very beginning of Genesis, God established the seven-day weekly cycle. He worked the first six days, fashioning and forming the face of the earth. On the seventh day He rested and thus established the Sabbath as a memorial of Creation. This continuous seven-day cycle was understood in the early days of mankind. Archaeological evidence supports that humanity was aware of it even after the flood!

In Genesis chapters 6 through 8, we learn about the world-wide flood that happened in the days of Noah. He was instructed to take his family along with some of all animals, including seven pairs of clean animals and two pairs of unclean animals, onto an Ark or large boat. God gave him the instructions to construct this boat so that it would house them all. Noah also understood the concept of the original seven-day week. This is evident in the flood story.

We have some examples below: “For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights…And it came to pass after the seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth” (Genesis 7:4, 10, KJV).

“6 and it came to pass at the end of the forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made: and he sent forth a raven, and it went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth. 8 and he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground; 9 but the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him to the ark; for the waters were on the face of the whole earth; and brought her in unto him in the ark 10 And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark; 11 and the dove came in to him at eventide; and, lo, in her mouth an olive-leaf plucked off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth. 12 And he stayed yet other seven days, and sent forth the dove; and she returned not again unto him any more” (Gen 8:6-12, KJV).

After the flood, there were only three families that started the process of repopulating the earth: the three sons of Noah (Shem, Ham, and Japheth) and their wives. The first immediate generations of these three families would have also been familiar with the seven-day cycle.

The Biblical account informs us that people were scattered from a central location in the Middle East (Genesis chapter 11; other cultures have similar stories about this event as well). This means that they started traveling in other directions and developed their own language. Moreover, they developed stories about Creation and the flood. Many ancient cultures had some form of a flood story. These were deviations from the original one that occurred in the days of Noah.

There is archaeological evidence that the immediate post-world flood knew something of the seven-day cycle. We will look at two findings that discuss the seven-day weekly cycle in a manner similar to the account of Noah and the flood. They both date to a time not long after the flood (between 2100-1900 BC).

The first account comes from Sumer, which was an ancient civilization between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers in Iraq. In their account, the flood lasted seven days and nights.

“All the windstorms, exceedingly powerful, attacked as one, At the same time, the flood sweeps over the cult-centers. After, for seven days (and) seven nights, The flood had swept over the land…” (Pritchard, p 44).

The next ancient reference comes from the Epic of Gilgamesh, which is the oldest recorded epic in history. It tells the story of a man named Gilgamesh. He was on a quest to find Utnapishtim, who survived the great flood by boarding a ship. Gilgamesh wanted to learn the key to eternal life.

In the story, there are three references to the seven-day cycle. In the first reference, the flood subsided on the seventh day. In the second reference, Utnapishtim released a dove on the seventh day (just like in the story of Noah). In the third reference, Utnapishtim asked Gilgamesh to stay awake for seven days. On Tablet 11, we read the following:

“Six days and [six] nights Blows the flood wind, as the south-storm sweeps the land. When the seventh day arrived, The flood (-carrying) south-storm subsided in the battle… On Mount Nisir the ship came to a halt.  Mount Nisir held the ship fast, Allowing no motion. One day, a second day, Mount Nisir held the ship fast, Allowing no motion. A third day, a fourth day, Mount Nisir held the ship fast, Allowing no motion. A fifth, and a sixth (day), Mount Nisir held the ship fast, Allowing no motion. When the seventh day arrived, I sent forth and set free a dove…The dove went forth, but came back; Since no resting-place for it was visible, she turned round. Then I sent forth and set free a swallow. The swallow went forth, but came back; Since no resting-place for it was visible, she turned round. Then I sent forth and set free a raven. The raven went forth and, seeing that the waters had diminished, He eats, circles, caws, and turns not round. Then I let out (all) to the four winds And offered a sacrifice….That the life which thou sleekest thou mayest find? Up, lie not down to sleep For six days and seven nights.”…Up, bake for him wafers, put (them) at his head, And mark on the wall the days he sleeps.” She baked for him wafers, put (them) at his head, and marked on the wall the days he slept. His first wafer is dried out, the second is gone bad, the third is soggy; the crust of the fourth has turned  while the fifth has a moldy cast, the sixth (still) is fresh-colored; the seventh—just as he touched him the man awoke” (ibid, pp 94-95).

These two ancient findings illustrate how the seven-day week at one time had universal exposure after the global flood. They are located in a region many historians call “the cradle of civilization.” It was among the first places that the descendants of Ham, Shem, and Japheth settled. Indeed, all humans would have been near each other for a time immediately after the flood. They were all closely related! The uses of the seven-day cycle in these flood stories mirrors the Genesis account (Gen. 7:4,10; 8:10-12).

One major difference is that the Sumerian and Babylonian accounts never connected the seventh day to the deities of their culture. But remember that they also did not worship the God of the Bible. They were polytheists who worshipped multiple gods.

But even in their amended stories about the flood, they bear witness to Biblical truth and the God-established weekly cycle.  

At some point after the flood, ancient cultures tried to establish their own weekly cycles. Some of them were tied to the heavenly bodies. However, they failed to supplant the seven-day weekly cycle. In past articles, we reviewed failed attempts to change the seven-day cycle (click here to read more about this subject).

Kelly McDonald

BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org

CALVIN’S AMAZING COMMENTARY— ACTS 20:7 AND I COR 16:2

CALVIN’S AMAZING COMMENTARY— ACTS 20:7 AND I COR 16:2

By Philip Derstine

“Older commentaries on Acts 20:7 exhibit a general consensus that the meeting described here was the first clear-cut example of Sunday worship in church history. W. J. Conybeare and J. S. Howson state: “This is a passage of the utmost importance, as showing that the observance of Sunday was customary.”

One would expect that a fantastic assertion such as this would warrant more than a footnote in a 1000 page book on the life and epistles of Paul. Another example: Charles John Ellicott, commenting on Acts 20:7, says “This, and the counsel given in I Cor. 16:2 are distinct proofs that the Church had already begun to observe the weekly festival of the Resurrection in place of, or where the disciples were Jews, in addition to, the weekly Sabbath.”

Ellicott believes that Paul remained at Troas for seven days in order to “keep the Lord’s day,” even though it is admitted the term Lord’s Day had not yet come into vogue. Here, according to most theologians, is the precedent-setting, earliest case of the transference of the sanctity of the Sabbath to the first day of the week. Thankfully many modern scholars have exposed the presumptions inherent in such views…”

(this article is an excerpt from the March-April 2016 edition of the Sabbath Sentinel)

To read the rest of this article, which starts on page 7, click this link: https://biblesabbath.org/media/TSS_March_2016.pdf

Sabbath Meditation #33 – 13 Sabbath Promises

Sabbath Meditation #33 – 13 Sabbath Promises
by Kelly McDonald, Jr.

There are many promises given to us in the Bible concerning the Sabbath. Each of them is precious and gives us comfort from the world around us. Despite the world’s best efforts to diminish, despise, and demean our Sabbath observance, these promises remind us that God is with us and will bestow His favor and blessing on our lives. In this meditation, we will review some of these promises (verses found at the end of this article).

Genesis 2:1-3 – All of humanity is promised that the seventh day is blessed and made holy by God.

Ex. 23:12 – We are promised to be refreshed when we observe the Sabbath.

Ex. 31:13 – We have a promise that the Sabbath allows us to know that the Lord sanctifies us. It’s a reminder that He sets us apart from the rest of the world.

Lev. 26:2-13 – We will be blessed in every part of our lives for obedience to the Sabbath.

Isaiah 56:1-2 – We will have blessed happiness in our lives when we keep the Sabbath (this is not a happiness that the world can provide).

Isaiah 56:7 – We are promised that we will be brought to the Lord’s holy mountain, be joyful in the Lord’s house of prayer, and our spiritual sacrifices will be accepted if we obey the Sabbath.

Isaiah 58:13-14 – We are promised that we will find delight in the Lord, ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed on the heritage of Jacob if we obey the Sabbath.

Isaiah 66:22-23 – We have a future promise that all of humanity will keep the Sabbath in the New Heavens and New Earth.

Jeremiah 17:19-27 – God promised to spare Jerusalem from destruction if they would keep the Sabbath.

Ezekiel 46:1-4, 12 – In the Millennial reign of Christ, there will be a Temple built. The gates of the inner court of this Temple will be open every Sabbath.

Mark 2:27-28 – Jesus told us that He is Lord of the Sabbath, which is a promise of His Lordship over time itself. It is a promise for every Christian.

Mark 3:1-4, Luke 6:1-9, Luke 13:10-16, Luke 14:1-5, John 5:9-18 – Jesus taught us that the Sabbath is a day of healing and life.

Hebrews 4:4-11 – The promise of entering God’s rest.

What other Sabbath promises can you find in the Bible?

Selah.

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org

Sabbath promise verses:

Genesis 2:1-3 – 2 Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. 2 And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

Exodus 23:12 – 12 Six days you shall do your work, and on the seventh day you shall rest, that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female servant and the stranger may be refreshed.

Exodus 31:13 – 13 “Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you.

Leviticus 26:2-13 – 2 You shall keep My Sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary: I am the Lord. 3 ‘If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them, 4 then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. 5 Your threshing shall last till the time of vintage, and the vintage shall last till the time of sowing; you shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely. 6 I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none will make you afraid; I will rid the land of evil beasts, and the sword will not go through your land. 7 You will chase your enemies, and they shall fall by the sword before you. 8 Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight; your enemies shall fall by the sword before you. 9 ‘For I will look on you favorably and make you fruitful, multiply you and confirm My covenant with you. 10 You shall eat the old harvest, and clear out the old because of the new. 11 I will set My tabernacle among you, and My soul shall not abhor you. 12 I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people. 13 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves; I have broken the bands of your yoke and made you walk upright.

Isaiah 56:1-2 – Thus says the Lord: “Keep justice, and do righteousness, For My salvation is about to come, And My righteousness to be revealed. 2 Blessed is the man who does this, And the son of man who lays hold on it; Who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, And keeps his hand from doing any evil.”

Isaiah 56:7 – 7 Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices Will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

Isaiah 58:13-14 – 13 “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, From doing your pleasure on My holy day, And call the Sabbath a delight, The holy day of the Lord honorable, And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, Nor finding your own pleasure, Nor speaking your own words, 14 Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Isaiah 66:22-23 – 22 “For as the new heavens and the new earth Which I will make shall remain before Me,” says the Lord, “So shall your descendants and your name remain. 23 And it shall come to pass That from one New Moon to another, And from one Sabbath to another, All flesh shall come to worship before Me,” says the Lord.

Jeremiah 17:19-27 – 19 Thus the Lord said to me: “Go and stand in the gate of the children of the people, by which the kings of Judah come in and by which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem; 20 and say to them, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, you kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who enter by these gates. 21 Thus says the Lord: “Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the Sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem; 22 nor carry a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath day, nor do any work, but hallow the Sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers. 23 But they did not obey nor incline their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear nor receive instruction. 24 “And it shall be, if you heed Me carefully,” says the Lord, “to bring no burden through the gates of this city on the Sabbath day, but hallow the Sabbath day, to do no work in it, 25 then shall enter the gates of this city kings and princes sitting on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their princes, accompanied by the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and this city shall remain forever. 26 And they shall come from the cities of Judah and from the places around Jerusalem, from the land of Benjamin and from the lowland, from the mountains and from the South, bringing burnt offerings and sacrifices, grain offerings and incense, bringing sacrifices of praise to the house of the Lord. 27 “But if you will not heed Me to hallow the Sabbath day, such as not carrying a burden when entering the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.” ’ ”

Ezekiel 46:1-4 – ‘Thus says the Lord God: “The gateway of the inner court that faces toward the east shall be shut the six working days; but on the Sabbath it shall be opened, and on the day of the New Moon it shall be opened. 2 The prince shall enter by way of the vestibule of the gateway from the outside, and stand by the gatepost. The priests shall prepare his burnt offering and his peace offerings. He shall worship at the threshold of the gate. Then he shall go out, but the gate shall not be shut until evening. 3 Likewise the people of the land shall worship at the entrance to this gateway before the Lord on the Sabbaths and the New Moons. 4 The burnt offering that the prince offers to the Lord on the Sabbath day shall be six lambs without blemish, and a ram without blemish;

Ezekiel 46:12 – 12 “Now when the prince makes a voluntary burnt offering or voluntary peace offering to the Lord, the gate that faces toward the east shall then be opened for him; and he shall prepare his burnt offering and his peace offerings as he did on the Sabbath day. Then he shall go out, and after he goes out the gate shall be shut.

Mark 2:27-28 – 27 And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. 28 Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”

Mark 3:1-4 – 3 And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. 2 So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might [accuse Him. 3 And He said to the man who had the withered hand, “Step forward.” 4 Then He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they kept silent.

Luke 6:1-9 – 1 Now it happened on the second Sabbath after the first that He went through the grainfields. And His disciples plucked the heads of grain and ate them, rubbing them in their hands. 2 And some of the Pharisees said to them, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” 3 But Jesus answering them said, “Have you not even read this, what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: 4 how he went into the house of God, took and ate the showbread, and also gave some to those with him, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat?” 5 And He said to them, “The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” 6 Now it happened on another Sabbath, also, that He entered the synagogue and taught. And a man was there whose right hand was withered. 7 So the scribes and Pharisees watched Him closely, whether He would heal on the Sabbath, that they might find an accusation against Him. 8 But He knew their thoughts, and said to the man who had the withered hand, “Arise and stand here.” And he arose and stood. 9 Then Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy?”

Luke 13:10-16 – 10 Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up. 12 But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” 13 And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. 14 But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 The Lord then answered him and said, “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? 16 So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?”

Luke 14:1-5 – 1 Now it happened, as He went into the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath, that they watched Him closely. 2 And behold, there was a certain man before Him who had dropsy. 3 And Jesus, answering, spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” 4 But they kept silent. And He took him and healed him, and let him go. 5 Then He answered them, saying, “Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?”

John 5:9-18 – 9 And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath. 10 The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.” 11 He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’ ” 12 Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” 15 The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16 For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” 18 Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.

Hebrews 4:4-11 – 4 For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; 5 and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.” 6 Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, 7 again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.” 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. 11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.

Which Law?

Which Law?

By D.J. Wellington

“A lawyer inquired of Yahshua, Teacher, “which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “You shall love YAHWEH your Elohim with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets’” (Matthew 22:36-40).

These were not new words. They were straight from words previously spoke. “You shall love YAHWEH your Elohim with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” Deuteronomy 6:5; and “…but you shall love your neighbor as yourself, I am YAHWEH,” Leviticus 19:18. But Yahshua added something to them; do you see it? It is a very, very important phrase that most ministers seem to bypass: “On these two commandments depend [hang] the whole law and the prophets! What does that mean?…”“

(this article is an excerpt from the Sept-Oct 2017edition of the Sabbath Sentinel)To read the rest of this article, which starts on page 8, click this link: https://biblesabbath.org/media/Sept-Oct_2017.pdf

Did the Ten Commandments Exist Before Mount Sinai?

Did the Ten Commandments Exist Before Mount Sinai?
By Kelly McDonald, Jr.



Many Christians believe that the Ten Commandments were solely given to the Israelites when God formed a covenant with them on Mount Sinai. However, all Ten Commandments can be found in the Bible before the covenant on Mount Sinai was formed. We have some examples below (this is not an all inclusive list). These verses either display that the commandments existed because God mentioned it or that people were aware of their existence.

No other gods before Him: Gen. 31:30-32, Gen. 35:2-4, Ex. 6:7, 10:7, 12:12

No graven images/idols (and by extension no other gods): Gen. 31:19, 31:34-35, 35:2-4

Do not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain (this literally means to bear or take up His name in vain): Gen. 4:26, 13:4, Ex. 3:15 (there were those who did not call on/take up His name in vain)

Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy: Genesis 2:1-3, 8:10-12, Ex. chapter 16

Honor your mother and father: Gen. 26:34-35, 35:21-22, 49:4-5

Do not commit murder: Gen. 4:8-10, 9:5-6, 27:41, 37:19-26, Ex. 1:16, 2:14

Do not commit adultery: Gen. 12:9-20, 19:1-38, 20:1-14, 39:1-12

Do not steal: Gen. 27:15, 30:33, 31:19,30, 44:8

Do not bear false witness (said another way, do not lie): Gen. 4:9-11, 12:9-20, 20:1-5, 27:1-29, 31:7,41, 37:31-35, 39:13-20

Do not covet: Genesis 3:6, Gen. 31:19

These verses make it abundantly clear that the Ten Commandments existed before Mount Sinai and the Old Covenant. Apparently God made these precepts clear to mankind. After all, the world was destroyed by the flood because of sin and violence that people carried out against their fellow humans.

Keep looking for more posts like this one!

God bless!

Kelly McDonald, Jr.
BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org