The “Lost Books” Of The Bible:Lesson Three   The Apocrypha Of The Old Testament  

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

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Introduction

In our previous lessons, we have noticed that the Bible was created through a six-step process which was Providentially overseen by God.

The Canon of the Old Testament was a natural development flowing from the people of God recognizing a writing as coming from God through a Divinely confirmed Prophet or Apostle.

“Five foundational questions lie at the very heart of the discovery process: Was the book written by a prophet of God? The basic question was whether a book was prophetic. Propheticity determined canonicity. A prophet was one who declared what God had disclosed. Thus, only the prophetic writings were canonic. Anything not written by a prophet of God was not part of the Word of God. The characteristic words “And the word of the Lord came to the prophet,” or “The Lord said unto,” or “God spoke” so fill the Old Testament that they have become proverbial. If substantiated these claims of inspiration are so clear that it was hardly necessary to discuss whether some books were divine in origin. In most cases it was simply a matter of establishing the authorship of the book. If it was written by a recognized apostle or prophet, its place in the canon was secured….Was the writer confirmed by acts of God? A miracle is an act of God to confirm the word of God given through a prophet of God to the people of God. It is the sign to substantiate his sermon; the miracle to confirm his message…Does the message tell the truth about God? Only immediate contemporaries had access to the supernatural confirmation of the prophet’s message. Other believers in distant places and subsequent times had to depend on other tests. One such test was the authenticity of a book. That is, does the book tell the truth about God and his world as known from previous revelations?…Did it come with the power of God? Another test for canonicity is a book’s power to edify and equip believers. This requires the power of God…Was it accepted by the people of God? A prophet of God was confirmed by an act of God (miracle) and was recognized as a spokesman by the people who received the message. Thus, the seal of canonicity depended on whether the book was accepted by the people.” (Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia Of Christian Apologetics, 81-83 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books) Continue reading The “Lost Books” Of The Bible:Lesson Three   The Apocrypha Of The Old Testament  

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The “Lost Books” Of The Bible:Lesson Two   The “Missing Books” Of The Old Testament

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

Upon Completion, Please Return Answered Questions To:

Mark Tabata (Facebook).

The Tabatas

608 Dawahare Drive

Hazard KY

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606-216-1757 (Text or Call)

hazardhomecoc@gmail.com

Introduction

In this lesson, we will be continuing our study of the alleged “lost books of the Bible.”

Throughout the Old Testament, there are many passages which mention books which are not found in the Bible.

A partial list would include the following:

The Book Of The Wars Of Yahweh (Numbers 21:14)

The Book Of Jasher (Joshua 10:12-13)

The Acts Of Solomon (I Kings 11:41)

The Acts Of Samuel The Seer (I Chronicles 29:29)

The Acts Of Gad The Seer (I Chronicles 29:29)

The Acts Of Nathan The Prophet (I Chronicles 29:29)

History Of Nathan The Prophet (II Chronicles 9:29)

Visions Of Iddo The Seer (II Chronicles 9:29

The Acts Of Jehu Son Of Hannai (II Chronicles 20:34)

Acts Of The Seers (II Chronicles 33:19)

Midrash Of The Prophet Iddo (II Chronicles 13:22)

The Chronicles Of The Kings Of The Medes And Persians (Esther 10:2)

Paul’s Letter To The Laodiceans (Colossians 4:16)

What are we to make of this?

Are there books which should be in the Bible, but which aren’t?

That is certainly the claim made by many people.

Let’s carefully study these matters.   Continue reading The “Lost Books” Of The Bible:Lesson Two   The “Missing Books” Of The Old Testament

Did Jesus Christ Really Live? What Ancient Non-Christian Historians Tell Us

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)  

Introduction

Today, the claims of skeptics in our world are numerous regarding the authenticity of the Bible. From the claims of the “Jesus Seminar” to the raving fictions of “The Da Vinci Code,” people all over America are being told that the Bible is just a book of mythology and nonsense.

What is more, Christians are often viewed as being irrational and illogical bumpkins who proclaim a way of life that is ineffective and “out-of-touch” with the times.

We especially see how these allegations have affected the young people of our country. Timothy Paul Jones points out:

Only 9 percent of middle-aged adults and 14 percent of adults in their early thirties identify themselves as atheists or agnostics. Yet, when it comes to the people who have grown up in the shadow of such claims about Jesus-persons presently in their late teens and early twenties-nearly 20 percent openly refer to themselves as atheists or agnostics. Put another way, one out of every five college-aged students has rejected not merely Jesus but the very possibility of knowing God at all. (Timothy Paul Jones, Conspiracies And The Cross: How To Intelligently Counter The Ten Most Popular Theories That Attack The Gospel Of Jesus, 4; Lake Mary, Florida; FrontLine: A Strang Company).  

In past articles, I have defended the basic propositions of Christian Apologetics, including: (1) The Existence Of God. (2) The Inspiration Of The Bible. (3) The Deity Of Jesus Christ.

Under these categories, attention has been given to such matters as the historical nature of the New Testament documents, the role of archaeology in confirming the biblical narrative, the amazing way that science confirms creationism and refutes the general theory of macroevolution, etc.

In this article, I wish to carefully examine another intriguing field of apologetics, i.e., what ancient non-Christian historians tell us about Jesus Christ.

Today, we are being told by college professors and by mass media that Jesus Christ was just a myth, a story that was just rehashed from pre-existing religious beliefs (see our previous article Do The New Testament Scriptures Borrow From Ancient Pagan Religions? ).

As such, it is often claimed that Jesus Christ never even really existed!  

Well, how about it?

Is Christ just a figment of someone’s imagination?

Or was He a real Person?

Let’s examine four different historical sources to find out.  

Special Note Regarding The New Testament Scriptures  

Let it be pointed out that this study is going to focus on extra-biblical evidences. Make no mistake about it: the basic source information for Jesus Christ is from the New Testament Scriptures. Many people do not realize that these books are historical in nature (cf. Luke 1:1-4; 2:1-4; John 20:30-31; Acts 1:1-3; 10:39-43; I Corinthians 15:1-8; I John 1:1-3; II Peter 1:16; etc).

In previous articles, I have defended the genuineness and credibility of the New Testament Scriptures.

As such, they are able to stand upon their own weight of evidence. This study is designed to investigate primarily what non-Christian sources have said about Jesus Christ. That there is value in such a study is evident from the fact that Luke himself researched several documents and testimonies regarding Jesus Christ (Luke 1:1-2).  

The Extra-biblical Documents From The First Century A.D.  

As we approach this study, we must realize that not many documents (outside of the manuscripts of the New Testament) are available from the first century A.D. As such, consider the words of the scholar E.M. Blaiklock:

It is a somber fact that practically everything written during the lifetime of Christ has perished. Parts of one unimportant historical work survive from the years of His ministry or their vicinity. The badly written history of Rome by Velleius Paterculus, a retired army officer of Tiberius turned amateur historian, was published in A.D. 30. The procuratorial records of Palestine were much less likely to be preserved. Two-thirds of Pilate’s name has recently been in an inscription at Caesarea along with a reference in one word to a shrine of Tiberius-an oddly brief authentication of the procurator and his preoccupations…The same remark is almost true of the surviving literature of the fifties and sixties of the first century, when the first three gospels, and most of the letters of the New Testament were being written. Bookends set a foot apart on this desk where I write would enclose the works from those significant years. (E.M. Blaiklock, Jesus Christ: Man Or Myth? A Contemporary Examination Of Ancient Evidence, 12-13; Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers)  

Therefore, it should not surprise us if we do not read of many examples of Jesus in the surviving documents we DO have. We would also expect that Jesus would not be mentioned in great detail by these documents.

Why?

For the simple reason that the pagans viewed Jesus Christ as an insignificant and iterant preacher. There were far more pressing concerns in the minds of the Roman government-issues of politics, of war, of famine, of social order. To be frank, Jesus would not be much of a concern to them.  

For these reasons, I believe it is quite significant that we have so much surviving extra-biblical references to Jesus Christ from ancient non-Christian historians. Indeed, as will notice, there are several references to Jesus Christ by these historians which demonstrates that the basic portrayal of Him in the Gospels were credible and authentic.

Simply stated, the idea that Jesus Christ did not exist is ludicrous.

Let’s study.

Jewish Literature Regarding Jesus Christ  

Josephus  

Josephus was a Jewish historian who was born in A.D. 37. He made three references to Jesus that are especially noteworthy. First, he wrote of John the Baptist, saying that John:

“…had a great influence over the people, and that they seemed ready to do anything that he should advise.” (Josephus, 382)  

In another reference, Josephus makes reference to the death of James. He writes:

And now Caesar, upon hearing of the death of Festus, sent Albinus into Judea as procurator; but the king deprived Joseph of the high priesthood, and bestowed the succession to that dignify on the son of Ananus, who was also himself called Ananus. Now the report goes, that this elder Ananus proved a most fortunate man; for he had five sons, who had all performed the office of a hgh priest to God, and he had himself enjoyed that dignify a long time formerly, which had never happened to any other of our high priests; but this younger Ananus, who, as we have told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, who were very rigid in judging offenders, above all the rest of the Jews, as we have already observed; when, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition he thought he had now a proper opportunity (to exercise his authority). Festus was not dead, and Albinud was but upon the road; so he assembled the Sanhedrin of the judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others (or some of his companions); and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers fo the law, he delivered them to be stoned…(Whiston, Josephus Complete Works, 423).  

Finally, Josephus makes a very important reference to Jesus Himself. Parts of this passage are often disputed, but the overall fact is that Josephus makes specific reference to Jesus Christ. He writes:

Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonders, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with please. He drew many after him both of the Jews and the gentiles. He was the Christ. When Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things about him, and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day. (Antiquities 18:63-64)  

Some question the genuineness of this text. However, in its’ defense, consider these words:

This passage has been rejected by some scholars as an interpolation on the grounds that it does not sound like an unbelieving Jew such as Josephus. It is also said to be out of place in the context, for here Josephus was discussing seditions. In defense of the passage it may be said that it appears in every copy of Josephus that has come down to us and was quoted twice by Eusebius as early as 315 A.D. In a North Slavic manuscript of Josephus there is the description of a tumult made on account of Jesus and the statement reads, “At that time a man appeared, if he can be called a man. His nature and his body were human, but his appearance was more than human. He performed miracles through some invisible power. Some said of him that he was our first Law giver, Moses, risen from the dead, and making himself known by many healings and magic works; others that that he was sent by God. I, personally in view of his whole life, should not call him a messenger of God.” (F.W. Mattox, The Eternal Kingdom: A History Of The Church, 32-33; Delight, Arkansas; Gospel Light Publishing Company)   

Overall, Josephus is very clear that Jesus was a real figure of history. He also mentions the disciples of Christ, the miracles and teaching of Christ, etc, the brother of Christ, John the Baptist, etc. All of this goes to corroborate the basic historical facts of Christianity.

Jewish Talmuds  

The Jewish Talmuds consist of 63 books. They contain many features of history and tradition for the Jewish people, and began to be written during the first century A.D. Especially interesting are their references to Jesus Christ. Notice one in particular:

On the eve of Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, “He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Any one who can say anything in his favour, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.” But since nothing was brought forward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of the Passover! (Babylonian Talmud)  

Several things are important about this passage. Consider the words of Ralph Muncaster:

This passage is important in that it was written by Jews that not only denied Jesus, but were actively proselytizing against Christians. Courts of law have long maintained that some of the most powerful testimony is corroborative testimony from hostile witnesses (in this case Jews testifying about Jesus). What can be deduced from the Talmud’s words is (1) that Jesus existed, (2) that Jesus was crucified (“hanged”) on the eve of Passover; (3) that He performed miracles (the Jews referred to this as sorcery); (4) that he led many people away from legalistic Jewish teaching (as indicated in the New Testament-Matthew 15:3-9); (5) that the Jewish leaders were plotting to kill Jesus. In summary, the evidence of Jesus written in the Talmud, by the very Jews who despised him, is strong testimony of his existence and acts. It is very significant that it is in total agreement with the account of Jesus in the New Testament, including references to miracles, to the crucifixion, and to other details. (Ralph Muncaster, Examine The Evidence: Exploring The Case For Christianity, 210; Eugene, Oregon; Harvest House Publishers)  

Pagan Historians

Tacitus

One Roman historian by the name of Tacitus provides testimony regarding the historical Jesus. He records:  

Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures of 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 Pilate, 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 center and become popular. (Tacitus-Annals, 15.44)  

Skeptics usually object to this statement of Tacitus, claiming that he must have been simply repeating the common rumors of his day. However, we must remember that Tacitus was a qualified and objective historian. Josh McDowell has well answered this objection:

First, he makes his statement about the death of Christ as a historical fact, not as something someone else said was true.
Second, as mentioned in the previous chapter, both Justin and Tertullian challenged their readers to go read for themselves the official secular documents substantiating certain details of Jesus’ life. Third, being a Roman senator, Tacitus certainly must have had access to the best records available in the Roman Empire at the time. Fourth, in Annals 4.10, where Tacitus refutes a particular rumor, he says that he has reported from “the most numerous and trustworthy authorities.” In 4.57 he says, “I have followed the majority of historians.” Fifth, Tacitus is careful to record conflicts in his sources. In 15.38 he speaks of conflicting versions as to the source of the great fire of Rome. Sixth, Tacitus does not quote his sources uncritically. In Annals 4.57 he questions the majority report of the historians. In 15.53 he considers Pliny’s statement absurd, and in 13.20 he notes Fabius Rusticus’ bias. B. Walker comments that Tacitus “was a persistent skeptic towards popular rumor, even when a rumor coincided with his own prejudices” and cites Annals 2.68 as an example. Seventh, Tacitus hedges his opinion when others do not. Eighth, Tacitus distinguishes between rumor and fact by using expressions such as, “Some have put it on record”; or “As the general account goes.” He also uses terms such as “It is said” and “They say” when he does not want to vouch for a statement’s reliability. Maurice Goguel, former Professor of Theology in the University of Paris, notes that the absence of words such as “it is said” in Annals 15.44 (the passage about Christ) should cause us to believe that Tacitus’ source was a document. He states: “One fact is certain, and that is, Tacitus knew of a document, which was neither Jewish nor Christian, which connected Christianity with the Christ crucified by Pontius Pilate. Finally, even if Tacitus had made no independent statement at all about the person of Christ, he still records the fact that men and women living thirty years after Jesus was crucified were willing to die for their belief that Jesus had lived just thirty years earlier. (Josh McDowell, He Walked Among Us: Evidence For The Historical Jesus, 50-51; Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers)  

Tacitus provides compelling evidence regarding the basic historical facts of Christianity.  

Pliny The Younger  

Another piece of evidence we have comes from the pen of Pliny the Younger. Describing the Christians, he writes:

They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to do any wicked deeds, 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 partake of food-but food of an ordinary and innocent kind. (Letters, 10:96)  

Notice the parallels to the New Testament.

First, the Christians gathered together (Hebrews 10:24-25) on a certain day (the Lord’s Day-the first day of the week-Acts 20:7; I Corinthians 16:1-2; Revelation 1:10).

They sang hymns of worship (acapella music as authorized by the New Testament-Colossians 3:16-17; Ephesians 5:18-19; Hebrews 2:12; 13:15; Romans 15:9) to Christ “as to a god” (I John 5:7; John 1:1-5, 14; Colossians 2:9; Titus 2:12-14).

They exhorted each other to live the Christian life (Acts 2:46-47; I Timothy 4:16; II Timothy 4:1-5).

They partook of food (the Lord’s Supper-Acts 20:7; I Corinthians 10:16; also the “love feast” of Jude 12).  

Acts Of Pontius Pilate  

There was an official Roman document in the first century known as the “Acts” of Pontius Pilate.

Justin Martyr and other Christian apologists encourage their readers and listeners to turn to this document as evidence of their claims regarding Jesus Christ.

Skeptics usually claim that we cannot rely on this document since we do not have it today. Some even maintain that it never existed!

However, it was obviously in existence in the first three centuries A.D. for several Christians encouraged skeptics to look to it as further evidence for their religion.

As Josh McDowell points out:

Justin’s statement is a bold one if in fact no record existed. Can you imagine a respected scholar writing the President of the United States a letter, which he knows will be carefully scrutinized, and building his case on official federal documents which do not exist? (McDowell, ibid. 24)  

Further, it is obviously not misquoted by the early Christians for they would have had their case demolished if they had been guilty of mishandling it! With these things in mind, consider two of these references which are relevant here. On two occasions, Justin Martyr quotes the Acts of Pontius Pilate to this effect:

That he (Jesus-M.T.) performed these miracles you may easily satisfy yourself from the “Acts” of Pontius Pilate. (Justin Martyr, First Apology, 35.7-9)  

In another reference, he points out:

And the expression, “They pierced my hands and my feet,” was used in reference to the nails of the cross which were fixed in his hands and feet. And after he was crucified, they cast lots upon his vesture, and they that crucified him parted in among them. And that these things did happen you can ascertain from the “Acts” of Pontius Pilate (First Apology, 35).  

Lucian  

Lucian (early second century Greek writer who often attacked the Christians)-

The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day-the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account…You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws. All this they take quite on faith, with the result that they despise all worldly goods alike, regarding them merely as common property. (Death Of Pelegrine, 11-13)  

Again, notice that the basic historical facts of Christianity are understood and accepted. Jesus Christ was a Person of history.  

Phlegon.

Norman Geisler tells us a great deal about this piece of evidence:

 Phlegon (b. ca. 80) was a freed slave of Emperor Hadrian. None of Phlegon’s writings are extant, but he is mentioned several times by later writers. He spoke of Christ’s death and resurrection his nonextant Chronicles, saying, “Jesus, while alive, was of no assistance to himself, but that he arose after death and exhibited the marks of his punishment, and showed how his hands had been pierced by nails” (cited in Origen, 4:455; cf. Habermas, 210; Anderson, 19). Phlegon also mentioned “the eclipse in the time of Tiberius Caesar, in whose reign Jesus appears to have been crucified, and the great earthquake which then took place” (Origen, 14). Julius Africanus confirms the same quotations (Julius Africanus, 18). Habermas summarizes from the Phlegon references that Jesus predicted the future, that there was an eclipse at the time of the crucifixion, and that it occurred during the reign of Tiberius. After his resurrection, Jesus appeared and showed his wounds, especially the nail marks from the crucifixion. (Habermas, 211). (Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia Of Christian Apologetics, 384; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)  

Hadrian, Suetonius, Lucian of Samosata, and Mara Bar-Serapion also make reference to Jesus Christ in the time-frame of the first century A.D.  

Of Special Interest: The Darkening Of The Earth When Christ Died  

The Bible account describes a great darkness which covered the whole earth when Jesus Christ died on Calvary (Matthew 27:45). Please notice the following pagan citations which further corroborate this great biblical event.  

Thallus, who wrote around A.D. 52, and was quoted by a Christian apologist named Juilius Africanus in about 221 A.D, makes this comment: 

On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun. 

Another pagan historian, named Dionysius the Areopagite, discusses this darkness. Commentator Gill comments:
Dionysius the Areopagite, then an Heathen, saw it in Egypt; and said

“either the, divine being suffers, or suffers with him that suffers, or the frame of the world is dissolving.  

The Mayans and the Aztec civilizations also contain written references to the terrible darkness and horrible earthquakes which transpired when Christ died on the Cross. Don Mariano Fernandez de Echevarria y Veytia wrote a two volume work entitled Historia Antigua de Mexico. He chronicles:

These natives indicate another singular event in their histories with great exactness, which later served them as a fixed era for their chronological calculations. They say that 166 years after the correction of their calendar, at the beginning of the year that was indicated with the hieroglyph of the House in the number ten, being a full moon, the sun was eclipsed at midday, the solar body being totally covered, such that the earth became darkened so much that the stars appeared and it seemed like night, and at the same time an earthquake was felt as horrible as they had ever experienced, because the stones crashing against one another were broken into pieces, and the earth opened up in many parts…Following these calculations, and adjusted to the comparison of the tables, this event should be placed in the year 4066 of the world, which was indicated with this character as can be seen in the tables, and precisely 166 after the adjustment of the calendar; and because of the circumstances surrounding this eclipse and earthquake, it was impossible for it to be any other than that which was observed at the death of Jesus Christ our Lord, having suffered it in the thirty-third year of his age, and so it seems that the incarnation of the Word should be placed in the year 4034 of the world, which the Indians indicated with the same hieroglyph of the House in the number 4, and I have noted it that way in the tables, and with this calculation following the chronological order they observed, counting the years from one memorable event to another with the assignment of the hieroglyph of the year in which they fell, I have been able to coordinate it perfectly with our years in the year 1519, in which Cortez landed at Veracruz, as will be seen in the discourse of this history. ( Donald W. Hemingway and W. David Hemingway, The Bearded White God Of Ancient America: The Legend Of Quetzalcoatl, 50-51; Cedar Fort, Inc.)

Conclusion

What have we learned from this study of non-Christian historical evidence regarding Jesus Christ?

First of all, that we should not surprised if there isn’t a great deal said about Him since so little has survived from the first century and since most government officials and historians would not bother mentioning him since He was not in their purview of concerning issues.

Secondly, that the sheer magnitude of historical references outside the Bible to Christ are absolutely amazing.

Third, the non-Christian historians confirm the essential elements of the New Testament Scriptures.

Finally, we have no reason whatsoever to deny the historical Jesus. In the words of one man:

Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea around B.C. 7-4. He was a Jew, born to Joseph and Mary, both Jews and descendants of King David. Though Mary was His mother, Joseph was not presumed to be Jesus’ father. He was born during a time of great unrest in Palestine as the Jews were unhappy with the Roman occupation of their land, and believed their ancient writings predicted that the appearance of a savior to deliver their people form Roman control was imminent. As a child, Jesus was briefly taken to Egypt, but eventually returned to Nazareth where He grew up with His brother, James. When Jesus was an adult, He began a new religious movement around the same time as a man named John the Baptist, so called because he preached baptism. His teachings attracted many followers but he eventually earned the wrath of Herod who imprisoned him and had him put to death. Jesus’ ministry attracted many people from numerous nationalities and ethnic groups. He preached a religion of brotherhood, and earned a reputation of being wise and virtuous. He claimed to embody God on earth, and instructed His followers to live after His laws, and those that followed Him believed they would have eternal life. He exhibited the power to perform miracles: healing various ailments, and defying the laws of nature. His teachings angered Jewish authorities, however, who charged Him with sorcery and false teachings. Shortly before the Passover festival of A.D. 33, Jesus was sentenced to death by the Roman procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate. He was executed by crucifixion, and at the time of His death, an unexplained darkness fell over the land. Shortly after His burial, His body disappeared from the tomb. People soon began to report that they had encountered Jesus alive again. Very soon after these events, Jesus’ disciples began a new religious movement based on the one Jesus had started. They asserted that Jesus was the “Christ” (the Jewish Messiah), risen from the dead to prove He was one with God, and that those who followed Him would live forever in heaven. This religion, called “Christianity” after it’s founder, continues today. ( Scott Robinson, History Confirms Christianity: The Story Of Jesus As Told By Non-Christian Writers, 37-38, emphasis added; Fort Worth, TX; Star Bible Publications)

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to this world to suffer and die for the sins of mankind (John 3:16; II Corinthians 5:14-21). He died for us, was buried, and rose again on the third day (I Corinthians 15:1-8).

He invites all men and women everywhere to come to Him in simple faith, repentance, and baptism (Acts 2:37-38).

This begins the Christian life, where a person must remain faithful to death to receive the crown of life (Revelation 2:10; I John 1:9).  

Friend, if you have not obeyed that Gospel plan of salvation, why not do it today? The church of Christ stands ready to assist you!  

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.  

Evidences Of Giants From Around The World

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

Several passages of Scripture bear witness to the existence of giants, and how many of these beings once enslaved mankind.

For example:

Genesis 6:1-4-1 Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them,

2 that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.

3 And the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”

4 There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.

Numbers 13:28-Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there.

Numbers 13:32-33-32 And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature.

33 There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” Continue reading Evidences Of Giants From Around The World

The Tell-El Amarna Tablets And The Hebrews 

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist) 

The Book of Joshua chronicles the invasion of the land of Canaan by the Hebrews. The Canaanites at the time were composed of several different nations and lands, nearly all of whom hated the Hebrews and their God.  

The Bible teaches that the Lord commanded the Hebrews to “utterly destroy” the Canaanites (Deuteronomy 7:1-2; 20:16-17). As we learn from other passages of Scripture (such as Jeremiah 25:9, 12) this basically meant to drive the people out of the land. The Bible tells us, indeed, that this is exactly what happened. The Hebrews (led by Joshua) “utterly destroyed” the Canaanites and repopulated the land (cf. Joshua 10). The Canaanites (or at least, a great many of them) fled to other countries and lands.  

However, we are told by critics of the Bible that this invasion of Canaan was a complete lie. It never happened!

Instead, the writers of the Bible wanted to make up this account to try and convince the Jewish people that they had a Divine claim on the land.

As such, the Hebrews never really conquered the Canaanites.  

When I study with skeptics of the Bible who make claims such as this, I ask them if they have ever heard of the Tell-El Amarna Tablets.  

What are those, you ask?  

Well, these are the 15th century records of the Canaanites which document the Hebrew invasion of their land.  

Oh, I am not surprised if you have not heard of them before now.

The truth is, there are many in the “scholarly community” who want the facts of the Amarna Tablets “kept quiet,” so to speak.

If people knew of the existence of these incredible documents, they would soon discover another powerful evidence that the Bible is historically accurate.  

The enemies of the Bible certainly do not want THAT to happen!  

So very thorough are these documents, in fact, that they contain over eighty references to the Hebrews!  

Let me share the words of scholar Bill Cooper with you about these incredible documents: 

“To read the critics, you’d think that the records of 15th-century BC Canaan would have nothing to say either about Joshua or his people. They will tell you that that is because Joshua himself did not exist, and his people never conquered the land called Canaan. It was all just a myth cobbled together by the wishful thinking of Jewish ‘editors’ after their return from the Babylonian Exile. And this is not some outdated allegation which has been corrected recently as scholarship has improved over the years. It is being made increasingly even today by some of the major critics and taken up by the media and universities. It is therefore with considerable surprise that we read about Joshua and his people, not just once in some ambiguous, fragmentary inscription of dubious date and interpretation, but plainly and at least 85 times in that 15th-century BC Canaanite archive known as the Tell El Amarna Tablets. The critics don’t like to mention the fact, but Joshua himself is sometimes obliquely referred to in the Tablets. There is one man in particular who is referred to as ‘that Hebrew’; ‘that Hebrew dog’; at least three times as the ‘chief of the Hebrews’; and, it seems, in one inscription he is called ‘Ilimilku,’ which name is the Akkadian cognate of the Hebrew name Elimelech, God is my King. It is a nickname which would have suggested itself to Canaanite observers after it became clear to them that Joshua was not a king, but that he fought under the God of Israel. Though not a name that the Bible specifically gives him, it is one that the Canaanites seem to have known him by, and they accordingly wrote it down in their correspondence -‘Ilimilku!’ 1 The Hebrews themselves are referred to in the Amarna Tablets as slaves –‘runaway dogs’ in some of the Tablets –‘slaves that have become Habiru’ in another -recalling the history of their escape from slavery in Egypt. This again is entirely natural and to be expected. After all, if Rahab, a mere harlot of Jericho, was familiar with this history (Joshua 2: 9-11), why should the much better informed kings of Canaan not have been? A trawl through the Amarna archive reveals the following references to Joshua and his people. It does not include every instance in which the Hebrews or their leader are mentioned, but it does give us a good idea of just how prominently Joshua and his people figured on the Canaanite scene. The incursion of the Hebrews was indeed a major invasion, and its startling impact on the Canaanite kings comes over loud and clear in the urgency of their appeals to the Pharaoh of Egypt to send soldiers to help fight them off. This is evidence for the integrity of the Book of Joshua that is of the very highest quality, and it is astonishing that this information has not been made more available to the public. What has been made available is the somewhat inaccurate notion that a couple of the tablets mention some “Apiru,” a name which, we are asked to believe, may be derived from the Assyrian word habbatu, meaning robber, and that these occurrences must therefore refer to some troublesome bandits that were roaming the area at that time. Nothing could be more distorted and inaccurate. It is a forced and false derivation which misleads the reader. The Canaanite kings were certainly strong enough and well enough organised to see off any such bands of robbers, whom they would have hunted to extinction. It is what they did, and they were very good at it. Canaan could never have become a land flowing with milk and honey had it been a land in which lawless bands of cutthroats carried the day. Neither do bands of robbers capture whole swathes of territories along with their walled and fortified cities which were protected by regiments of disciplined and armed soldiers. No. The term Apiru, which appears throughout the archive, is merely the Akkadian cognate of the word Hebrew (Habiru), Akkadian being the diplomatic language in which most of the tablets are written.” (Bill Cooper, The Authenticity Of The Book Of Joshua, 220-243 (Kindle Edition))

Noting these facts, Cooper then goes on to point out that the Hebrews are mentioned quite often in the Amarna Tablets. He cites several examples: 

““Now he is like the Hebrew, a runaway dog….” EA 67: 17. “The war of the Hebrew hosts against me is most severe….” EA 68: 18. “Through the Hebrews his auxiliary force is strong!…. Let him not gather together all the Hebrews….” EA 71: 21 & 29. “Kill your lord and join the Hebrews…. and all the lands will be joined to the Hebrews…. EA 73: 29 & 33. “They were won over following his message, and they are like Hebrews…. that the entire country be joined to the Hebrews.” EA 74: 29 & 36. “The war, however, of the Hebrews against me is severe…. The Hebrews killed Aduna, the king of Irqata, and so they go on taking territory to themselves.” EA 75: 10 & 27. “He has just gathered together all the Hebrews against Sigata and Ampi, and he himself has taken these two cities.” EA 76: 18. “ … speak to your lord so that he will send you at the head of the archers to drive off the Hebrews…” EA77: 24 & 29. “… all the Hebrews… have turned against me…. If there are no archers, then all lands will be joined to the Hebrews. Listen!” EA 79: 10 & 20. “He said to the men of Gubla, ‘Kill your lord, and be joined to the Hebrews like Ammiya.’” EA 81: 13. “All the Hebrews are on his side…. he is strong.” EA 82: 9. “The Hebrews have taken the entire country!” EA 83: 17. “… the Hebrews have gone to Yapah-Hadda in Beirut so an alliance might be formed…. the lands have been joined to the Hebrews…. lest he gather together all the Hebrews and they seize the city.” EA 85: 41, 73 & 78. “Let an elite force, together with chariots, advance with you, that I may drive the Hebrews from the gate.” EA 87: 21. “But if the king my lord does not give heed to the words of his servant… all the lands of the king as far as Egypt will be joined to the Hebrews.” EA 88: 34. “You yourself have been negligent of your cities, so that the Hebrew dog takes them.” EA 90: 25. “Why have you sat idly by and done nothing, so that the Hebrew dog takes your cities?…. I have just heard that he has gathered together all the Hebrews to attack me!” EA 91: 5 & 24. “They would attack me and I would be unable to get out, and Gubla would be joined to the Hebrews. They have gone to Ibirta, and an agreement has been made with the Hebrews.” EA 104: 49-54. “If this year there are no archers, then all lands will be joined to the Hebrews. Behold, members of the [Hebrew] army have entered Akka….!” EA 111: 21. “I paid 13 shekels of silver and a pair of mantles as the hire of the Hebrews….” EA 112: 46. “… all my towns have been joined to the Hebrews….” EA 116: 38. “There is treachery against me…. all the lands will belong to the Hebrews…. What am I to do? May the king send a garrison and men from Meluhha to guard me. May the city not be joined to the Hebrews!” EA 117: 58 & 94. “Behold… the Hebrews will seize the city!” EA 118: 38. “… the sons of Abdi-Asirta have said to the Hebrews and the men who have joined them…” EA 121: 21. “Should Gubla be joined to the Hebrews….” EA 127: 22. “They have won the lands for the Hebrews….” EA 129: 94. “They are like dogs, and there is no one who wants to serve them. What am I, who live among the Hebrews, to do?” EA 130: 38. “Now Aziru has gathered all the Hebrews….” EA 132: 21. “All the cities that the king put in my charge have been joined to the Hebrews…. a man that will lead the archers of the king to call to account the cities that have been joined to the Hebrews, so you can restore them to my charge….” EA 144: 26 & 30. “The king of Hasura has abandoned his house and has aligned himself with the Hebrews…. He has taken over the land of the king for the Hebrews.” EA 148: 43 & 45. “He has made Amurru an enemy territory, and has turned over all the men in the cities of the king… to the Hebrews.” EA 179: 22. “… when the Hebrew forces waged war against the king…. The Hebrews captured Mahzibtu… then the Hebrews took refuge…. And the Hebrews captured Gilunu…. And the Hebrews captured Magdalu… plundered it, sent it up in flames…. And the Hebrews captured Ustu…. And then the Hebrews raided Hasi… we did battle with the Hebrews…. Then 40 Hebrews went to Amanhatpe… Amanhatpe is an Hebrew…. &c.” EA 185. “… allowed all of the cities of the king, my lord, to go over to the Hebrews in Tahsi and Upu…. I restored from the Hebrews…. I disbanded the Hebrews.” EA 189r 11, 17-18. “They gave his horses and his chariot to the Hebrews….” EA 197: 4. “Lost to the Hebrews from my control are all the cities of the king.” EA 207: 21. “… all the lands are lost to the Hebrews.” EA 215: 15. “And as the warring of the Hebrews in the land is severe…” EA 243: 20. “The two sons of Labayu have indeed given their money to the Hebrews…” EA 246r: 7. “I did not know that my son was consorting with the Hebrews.” EA 254: 34. “So may the king, my lord, save his land from the power of the Hebrews.” EA 271: 16. “… and the entire land of the king, my lord, has deserted to the Hebrews.” EA 272: 17. “… and gone is the land of the king, my lord, by desertion to the Hebrews…. know that the Hebrews wrote to Ayyaluna and to Sarha, and the two sons of Milkilu barely escaped being killed.” EA 273: 14 & 19. “May the king, my lord, save his land from the power of the Hebrews lest it be lost.” EA 274: 13. “… my lord, why do you love the Hebrews, but hate the [city] governors?…. That Hebrew has plundered all the lands of the king.” EA 286: 19 & 56. “… who have given the land of the king to the Hebrews.” EA 287: 31. “I am treated like an Hebrew…. but now the Hebrews have taken the very cities of the king…. ” EA 288: 38 & 41-47. “… when he was giving the land of Sakmu to the Hebrews?” EA 289: 24. “The land of the king deserted to the Hebrews…. the land of the king will desert to the Hebrews.” EA 290: 13 & 24. “… having become my enemy, entered Muhhazu and pledged himself to the Hebrews!” EA 298: 27. “Since the Hebrews are stronger than we…. may the king, my lord, get me away from the Hebrews, lest the Hebrews destroy us.” EA 299: 18, 24 & 26. “As the Hebrews are more powerful than we…” EA 305: 22. “… merchants from Egypt who were struck down in the attack of the Hebrews.” EA 313: 6. “Save me from the powerful enemies, from the hand of the Hebrews….!” EA 318: 11.”. (Bill Cooper, The Authenticity Of The Book Of Joshua, 253-322 (Kindle Edition))

Yet what is also equally amazing is the fact that the Amarna Tablets make other references to the Hebrews!

Cooper clarifies : 

“But there are added corroborations for the Book of Joshua amongst the Amarna Tablets, and one of them is the specific mention of “men of Judah” –ameluti Ia-u-du! –and “armed men [or warriors] of Judah” –ameluti sabe Ia-u-du. 2 The Canaanite spelling of Ia-u-du is identical to that of Assyrian inscriptions which later speak of Judah, and it is interesting to see the men of Judah and the many cities allotted to Judah set out so precisely in Joshua 15. The tribe of Judah formed a major component of Joshua’s people, and it is interesting to see the Canaanites unwittingly acknowledging that fact. It is also worth noting a complaint made by Abdi-heba, king of Jerusalem, that he is troubled by the men of “Laba,” or Levi in the Hebrew….The Canaanite kings have left their own vociferous testimony to the truth of the Book of Joshua, and it is no exaggeration to say that, had the invasion of Canaan under Joshua not taken place –as the critics claim -then the Amarna archive would never have carried this independent testimony to the fact that the Hebrews –including men of Judah, Levites, Malchielites and Heberites! -successfully invaded and overran Canaan in the late 15th century BC, the very time in which the archive’s contents were written. And we must remember that the archive’s letters were not written and sent by just one of Canaan’s kings, but by many.” (Bill Cooper, The Authenticity Of The Book Of Joshua, 322-346 (Kindle Edition))

Several things need to be noted here.  

First, the Amarna Tablets contain some of the most incredible testimony regarding the trustworthiness of Scripture. The Book of Joshua is not a fictional narrative written by some second century B.C. editor who wanted to feed his people lies and encourage them in the midst of suffering.

Rather, it was the firsthand account of Joshua, the successor of Moses, who (with Divine help) carried out the Lord’s will to ‘drive out’ the Canaanites and give the land to His chosen people.  

When critics of the Bible tell us that the Bible is not historically accurate, it is good to point out the truth to them.

Which truth am I referencing?

Very simply, secular history continually confirms and validates the authenticity of Sacred Writ!  

Second, it is very disheartening to realize that there are so many people who are opposed to the Word of God to such an extent that they would do anything and everything in their power to keep such testimony as this from the hands of the common people. There are, indeed, some individuals who so hate and despise God and His people that they will do everything in their power to try and keep the truth from those who are desperately seeking for answers.

There are, indeed, many such enemies of the Cross of Christ: 

Philippians 3:18-19-18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:

19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.

Third, it is important to keep in mind that despite such efforts of wicked men, God will always providentially arrange for the truth of His Word to be made known. God has promised that the person who seeks Him with the whole heart will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). He declares that He is the Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). How thankful we should be that God has allowed such incredible evidences of His Word to exist, and to be made known to those who are seeking the truth.  

Fourth, there is another fascinating lesson to consider from the Amarna Tablets. We find herein some incredible indirect evidence to the Ten Plagues of Egypt which devastated that country’s economy, infrastructure, and military.  

Speaking of the fall of Jericho in the Amarna Tablets, and how appeals were being sent to Egypt from the Canaanite kings for help against the Hebrews, Cooper writes the following: 

“But does that mean that the city of Jericho –and especially its fall -is not mentioned in the Amarna Tablets by any of the other kings of Canaan? If we believed modern translations and their commentators then we would think not. And yet the fall of Jericho is indeed mentioned, and it appears in the earliest translation of the Tablets into English by Claude Conder, which he published in 1893, just five years or so after the Tablets’ discovery. 1 Conder was eminently qualified to translate the tablets, for apart from his many academic qualifications in the field, he had been speaking on a daily basis for seven years a Syrian dialect which was directly related to the language of the Tablets. On one tablet which he refers to as 102 B, he notes the reading “icalu, ca-ar Irhu zabbatu,” which translates as, “They have prevailed, they have taken the fortress of Jericho (Irhu).” 2 He is cautious enough to state that the sign for Jericho –Irhu –is unusual, and that an alternative reading (if his was wrong) could be “they have been swift to seize.” But “they have taken the fortress of Jericho” is clearly his preferred reading. Making better sense of the passage, it takes due cognizance of the sign irhu –the name of Jericho -which the alternative reading would have to ignore. And after all, the letter is meant to be a factual report conveying military information to the Pharaoh of Egypt, and not an exercise in truisms. Moreover, it fits the rest of what this and certain other Tablets –not to mention the Book of Joshua -say exactly. Needless to say, the tablet has since been ‘retranslated’ with the name of Jericho (irhu) expunged. Subsequent transliterations of the line (nowadays EA 286: 6) have been made to read: i-ka-lu ka-ar-si-ja, where -si-replaces Conder’s Irhu. See, for example, Mercer. 3 Here he transliterates the line as i-ka-lu ka-ar-si-ja (u-sha-a-ru), translating only the final word “u-sha-a-ru” as “They slander me,” and seemingly ignoring the preceding and crucial phrase, i-ka-lu ka-ar-si-ja, in which -si-replaces Conder’s reading of irhu –Jericho. Without translating it, Mercer acknowledges the uncertainty of his own reading by annotating the contentious sign with, “This must be -si-.” 4 In fairness, the mistranslation did not originate with Mercer, who took it from Knudtzon, whose 1908 edition of the tablets (Die El-Amarna Tafeln –it was Knudtzon who inverted the order of the Tablets) became the standard reference on the subject up to the present day, 5 and so the expunging of EA 286’ s reading of “they have taken the fortress of Jericho” is perpetuated with no further questions asked. We may wonder what other readings have been falsified in the Tablets -readings which would have further exonerated the Book of Joshua? The same tablet also notes that the Pharaoh had inexplicably withdrawn all his forces from Canaan that very year, when the Hebrews ceased their wanderings in the desert and entered the Land of Canaan. The loss of a recent Pharaoh and his army under the waters of the Red Sea some forty odd years previously, was, not surprisingly, still fresh in the memory of the present Pharaoh’s more senior ministers, and he had therefore made the strategically wise move of avoiding all confrontation with the Hebrews. Hence the precautionary withdrawal of his forces out of Canaan just as the enormous Hebrew multitude came into Canaan from their wanderings –a withdrawal that was inexplicable to the Canaanites, but perfectly understandable to any who were now employed in trying to preserve Egypt through this present crisis and hopefully restore her to her former power once it was all over. It is why the Pharaoh is so often berated in the Amarna Tablets by the Canaanite kings for his complete inaction and refusal to help.” (Bill Cooper, The Authenticity Of The Book Of Joshua, 375-408 (Kindle Edition))

Thus we find even more confirmation in the Amarna Tablets to the trustworthiness and credibility of the Bible.  

Friends, the Bible is the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17)! Why not start allowing God to be the Lord of your life and directing your paths today (Proverbs 3:5-6; Luke 6:46)?  

The God of Heaven loves you so very much that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to the world to die for your sins on the Cross of Calvary (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). The Gospel is the “Good News” that Jesus Christ died for our sins, was buried, and arose from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).

It includes also the promise that God will forgive those who believe in Jesus Christ (John 8:24), repent of their sins (Luke 13:3), confess Jesus Christ as the Son of God (1 Timothy 6:12), and who are baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38).

He also promises that when we live faithfully to Him, we will receive Heaven as our home one day (Revelation 2:10).

When we sin and fall away after becoming a Christian (1 John 1:8), He will forgive us if we repent of that sin and confess it to Him in prayer (1 John 1:9-2:2).  

Why not obey Him today?  

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.  

Job And The Afterlife: The Descent Of Christ Into Hades #1 Ephesians 4:8-10 (Part One)

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist) 

Quotation For Contemplation 

“The most significant interpretational difficulty in this verse is in deciding what “the lower parts of the earth” refers to. The view of the early church fathers and the consensus view through the centuries has been that it refers to a descent of Christ to the underworld (or, Hades). Although a difficult issue, this view appears to have the greatest amount of evidence to support it.” (Clinton E. Arnold, Exegetical Commentary On The New Testament: Ephesians, 6714 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan)

Introduction 

In our studies of Job, we have learned a great deal about the subject of Hades. A brief summary will be helpful: 

The realm of departed spirits in the Old Testament was referred to as Sheol (Hebrew) or Hades (Greek).  

Sheol was a place of consciousness, memory, and various sensations.  

Sheol was divided into (at least) two sections.  

For The Saved: Sheol was a lush garden in which God’s people were reunited after death, and in which they enjoyed sweet fellowship and looked forward to being ransomed from this realm at the end of time by the Messiah.  

For The Unsaved: Sheol was a terrible place of suffering, of which the unsaved experienced pain and sorrow. This sorrow and pain, however, was borne from God’s desire to bring the wicked to repentance.  

Sheol was the world for (most) deceased humans, (some) fallen angels, and (many) of the nephilim.  

It is also clear that not all of humanity went to this realm (at least, not immediately); and that, for reasons unbeknownst to us, some were allowed to leave that realm.  

With these thoughts in mind, we will now turn to one of the most mysterious teachings of the Bible regarding this world of the dead: the teaching of the Scriptures that Jesus descended into Hades.  

There are five primary texts which set forth this teaching (Psalm 68:18; Romans 10:6-7; Ephesians 4:8-10; 1 Peter 3:18-20; 4:6).

As we will notice, however, there are other texts in the Bible which touch upon this theme.  

In the following two lessons, we will carefully examine Paul’s statement to the church of Ephesus (4:8-10).

A study of this passage will also lead to a detailed analysis of Psalm 68:18 and Romans 10:6-7.

These lessons will take the form of several “Questions And Answers” from the text.  
Let’s begin with a study of several different translations of the passage.  

Ephesians 4:8-10 (NKJV)-8 Therefore He says: “WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVITY CAPTIVE, AND GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.”

9 (Now this, “HE ASCENDED”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth?

10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)

Ephesians 4:8-10 (CEV)-8 As the Scriptures say, “When he went up to the highest place, he led away many prisoners and gave gifts to people.”

9 When it says, “he went up,” it means that Christ had been deep in the earth.

10 This also means that the one who went deep into the earth is the same one who went into the highest heaven, so that he would fill the whole universe.

Ephesians 4:8-10 (Young’s Literal Translation)-8 wherefore, he saith, ‘Having gone up on high he led captive captivity, and gave gifts to men,’ —

9 and that, he went up, what is it except that he also went down first to the lower parts of the earth?

10 he who went down is the same also who went up far above all the heavens, that He may fill all things—

Ephesians 4:8-10 (Amplified)-8 Therefore it is said, When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive [He led a train of  N1 vanquished foes] and He bestowed gifts on men. [Psa 68:18]

9 [But He ascended?] Now what can this, He ascended, mean but that He had previously descended from [the heights of] heaven into [the depths], the lower parts of the earth?

10 He Who descended is the [very] same as He Who also has ascended high above all the heavens, that He [His presence] might fill all things (the whole universe, from the lowest to the highest).

Let’s turn to a detailed study of this passage in the form of a series of Questions And Answers.  

QUESTION ONE: What Is The Context Of Paul’s Statement Regarding Christ’s Descent? 

ANSWER: Paul is encouraging the Christians to pursue unity and to remember the spiritual gifts which they have been given.
 
The Book of Ephesians was written by Paul with a very specific purpose and theme: to expound upon the church of Christ. The prevailing phrase throughout the Book is “in Christ,” which was a designation which had reference to the church. Paul is adamant that the purpose for Creation, and for redemption, is the establishment of the church (Ephesians 1:4-7; 9-11; 3:9-11). Indeed, this central theme of God in creating the church was to bridge all the divisions of the universe, including those of Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2:14-16).

Furthermore, the work of the church somehow involves preaching to the principalities and powers (Ephesians 3:9-11), which was Paul’s phrase to have reference to the angels (both those which are faithful to God and those which are opposed to Him).

Evidence of this is found in the fact that the phrases “principalities and powers” were well-known Jewish terms of Paul’s day and age.

As Clinton Arnold has pointed out: 

“While all three texts refer to the angelic hierarchy surrounding God’s throne, the Jews believed the same hierarchy existed in the kingdom of evil. Furthermore, many of these terms were commonly used to refer to various ranks of human leaders in governmental positions of authority. The angelic kingdom was widely believed to be structured in an analogous way to earthly political kingdoms….While “principalities” (archai) and “authorities” (exousiai) seem to be uniquely Jewish expressions for the unseen realm, many of the other words he used were also used by Gentiles to refer to the world of spirits and invisible powers. Words like “powers” (dynameis), “dominions” (kyriotetes), “thrones” (thronoi), “angels” (angeloi), “world rulers” (kosmokratores), “demons” (daimonia), “elemental spirits” (stoicheia) and “rulers” (archontes) were known and used by pagans, as evidenced in their magical and astrological texts.”” (Clinton E. Arnold, The Powers Of Darkness: Principalities & Powers In Paul’s Letters, 90-91 (Kindle Edition); Downers’ Grove, Illinois; InterVarsity Press) 

Speaking specifically of the role that God has assigned to the church as described in Ephesians 3:10 (either in the present age or the age to come) in regard to the principalities and powers, another author has written: 

“The church’s task is articulated here as preaching to the Powers. It is engaged in a kind of spiritual warfare, but it also has a mission that carries the truth of the gospel into the very heart of power and expects some result. Are we then to envisage the conversion of the Powers? What is the church to tell them? Where are “the heavenly places,” and how is the church to have access to Powers there? None of these questions is easily answered.” (Walter Wink, Naming The Powers: The Language Of Power In The New Testament, 1017 (Kindle Edition); Philadelphia, PA; Fortress Books) 

What has brought all of God’s plans for the church to fruition is what Jesus Christ accomplished at Calvary.

This was the essence of God’s preordained plan to bring all things together, whether in Heaven or on Earth (Ephesians 1:9-11).

It is by the Word of the Gospel the Ephesians had been redeemed from sin (Ephesians 1:13-14), and it is by that same Gospel that Christ has ascended far above the highest heaven (Ephesians 4:8-10) and taken His rightful place as the Head of the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him Who fills all in all (Ephesians 1:22-23).  

These mysteries had been hidden from the world at large before Christ came; yet now, through His New Testament revelation (Ephesians 3:1-4), we can have access to that wondrous knowledge and revelation of God.

Because of what God has kept hidden, and now revealed, the world (both the physical world and the spiritual world) can come to fathom and understand the unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8).

It is for these incredible truths that Paul prays the Christians will continue to grow and abound in the knowledge of Christ (Ephesians 1:14-23; 3:14-21), and which leads him to exhort the disciples to walk worthy of Christ (Ephesians 4:1-6). God has equipped His church with everything it will need to carry out its’ purpose of fellowship and preparation for eternity and the sharing of the Gospel message with the lost (Ephesians 6:10-20).  

Describing the fact that God has provided His church with everything which they need, Paul points out that He has given “gifts” to His church: 

Ephesians 4:11-12-11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,

12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,

It is in this context that Paul is going to explain where these gifts came from, and why they are so important to the theme of Christ’s victory at Calvary.  

QUESTION TWO: Why Does Paul Quote Psalm 68:18 In This Context?  

ANSWER: To draw upon a commonly understood Jewish tradition regarding a victorious king presenting gifts to his subjects from the enemies that he had conquered.  

The Apostle Paul is going to join together three important themes.  

First, he has been elaborating on the incredible things that Jesus has done in creating the church. It was in His atoning death, burial, and Resurrection on the third day, and His continual work in the lives of His people, that Jesus carried out this incredible mission (Ephesians 2:10; 5:22-31).  

Second, Paul is going to quote a passage from the Book of Psalms which prophesied the far-reaching implications of what Jesus accomplished at Calvary. Let’s carefully study the passage, and see how it applies to Paul’s point: 

Psalm 68:18-You have ascended on high, You have led captivity captive; You have received gifts among men, Even from the rebellious, That the LORD God might dwell there.

The passage in Psalms has reference to an ancient custom among the Hebrews (and other nations).

When a king went out to fight some horrific battle and was victorious, he would capture the enemy soldiers and parade them behind him. Having his soldiers “loot” the enemy, the king would then lead the train back to his homeland. There, his citizens would be gathered together and would welcome him with shouts of adoration and glory. The king would then take the gifts he had taken from his enemies and shower them upon his faithful subjects.  

“As Paul quotes the passage, there is one noteworthy divergence from the Hebrew and Septuagint texts. Where they read “Thou hast received gifts among men,” he quotes the form “He … gave gifts unto men.” This reading is also attested in Jewish antiquity; it found its way into the Syriac version of the Old Testament (the Peshitta) and into the Targum or Aramaic paraphrase of the Psalter. The original picture is of a victorious king ascending the mountain of the Lord in triumphal procession, attended by a long train of captives, receiving tribute from his new subjects (according to the one reading) and bestowing largesse upon the crowds which line his processional route (according to the other reading). For Paul’s present purpose the reading which speaks of the conqueror as giving gifts is more appropriate than that which speaks of him as receiving them; but if this secondary reading had not been available to him the first would not have been unsuitable; the ascended Christ may well be pictured as receiving from His Father the gifts which he proceeds to bestow among men.” (The New F.F. Bruce, A New Presentation Of His Classic The Epistle To The Ephesians Verse-By-Verse Exposition-An Open Your Bible Project, 1346-1363 (Kindle Edition); Claverton Down, Bath BA2 6DT, UK; Creative Communications Ltd,) 

The differences between the quote in Psalm 68:18 and Paul’s quote of this passage is readily explained by the fact that Paul is quoting from a non-Hebrew translation of Psalms:

“A much more serious attempt to solve the dilemma takes its starting point from a variant form of the Old Testament textual tradition. The Syriac Peshitta rendering of Psalm 68: 18 is ‘you have given gifts’, and although there is difference of scholarly opinion as to its value as evidence, it may reflect a textual tradition different from that represented by the MT and the LXX. 1059 Furthermore, the paraphrase of Psalm 68: 18 in the Aramaic Targum is remarkable, for like the Peshitta it reads ‘you gave’ rather than ‘you received’ (as in the MT). It is unlikely that the New Testament wording of the passage has influenced the Targum, and although the Targum on the Psalms is late, it reflects a tradition and text form that are much earlier. 1060 M. Wilcox has cautiously concluded that the author of Ephesians ‘was here quoting either from, or in the light of, an Old Testament textual tradition resembling that of the Targum, but disagreeing with the tradition preserved in the LXX and MT at this point’.” (Peter T. O’Brien, The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Epistle To The Ephesians, 289-290 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company) 

“First, there were other forms of the text current in Paul’s day that read “you/ he gave gifts” instead of “you received gifts.” One is the Aramaic Targum of Psalm 68: 18, which reads, “You ascended to the firmament, O prophet Moses, you took captives, you taught the words of the law, you gave them as gifts to the sons of man.” 17 Although it is doubtful that Paul is depending on the entire Targum paraphrase of this psalm (see the “In Depth” section for analysis), the Targum does represent an alternative form of the text, namely, “he gave gifts,” that Paul may have been familiar with when he was writing Ephesians. The Aramaic was not the only form of the Psalms text that spoke of the giving of gifts. The Syriac translation of the Psalms also agrees with the text form of Ephesians: “You ascended on high; and you led captivity captive; and you gave gifts to the sons of men.” 18 This is a far less interpretive translation than the Targum and, apart from the Septuagint, is one of the oldest translations of the OT. It is likely that this text form of Psalm 68 existed in the first century before Ephesians was written and was thus not influenced by Eph 4: 8.19 In addition to this, most manuscripts in the Sahidic and Bohairic dialects of Coptic also have “he gave.” Furthermore, one Old Latin manuscript contains the same third person singular reading.” (Clinton E. Arnold, Exegetical Commentary On The New Testament: Ephesians, 6674 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan)

Paul is going to tie this in with what Jesus has accomplished. By virtue of the fact that Jesus descended into Sheol, He was able to take power from the captives there and shower it upon the church which He would build.  

Third, because of what Jesus has accomplished, He has given these gifts to His people. What are they? In the context of Ephesians 4, these gifts are specifically the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (Ephesians 4:11). 

QUESTION THREE: Who Is “He” Who Ascended?  
ANSWER: Jesus Christ 

There is a great deal of discussion about the original intent of Psalm 68. Messianic prophecy often is drawn from types and shadows. Chuck Missler has explained it well:

“In our culture, we tend to think of prophecy as a prediction with a future fulfillment. That’s what we think of as prophecy. That’s the Greek mindset, however. The Hebrew model is a little different. Hebrew prophecies about the future are based on patterns. As we study the Hebrew literature, we continually see patterns of the Messiah profiled in Israel….The Book of Ruth certainly has a historical application. The story describes a series of events that actually took place during the times of the Judges. We need to understand the historical period during which these events took place….We will also discover that Ruth has some prophetic applications. There are mystical revelations that might surprise us if we missed them at first glance. In Hebrew hermeneutics, the rabbis have what they call the remez –the hint of something deeper. We run across what appear to be small rabbit holes, but they open the door to another world of perspective.” (Dr. Chuck Missler, The Romance Od Redemption, 76-89 (Kindle Edition); Coeur d’Alene, ID; Koinonia House)

As such, the original context of Psalm 68 had reference to some battle in which God was victorious over His enemies.

Some have suggested it was perhaps in reference to how David defeated some terrible king with the help of the Lord, or to how Moses himself ascended up to the top of Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments.

The Jews have quite an interesting amount of traditions regarding this particular Psalm:

“The “therefore” clearly indicates that this parenthesis is related somehow to the giving of gifts. But what is that relationship? The problems begin with the citation of Psalm 68:18 itself, “You ascended the high mount, leading captives in your train and receiving gifts from people.” Psalm 68 is, according to the notes in the Oxford Annotated Bible, “the most difficult of the psalms to interpret.” The cited fragment, however, seems clearly to refer to God’s ascending to his throne in the temple and to a celebration of God’s victory over God’s enemies. The people, “even those who rebel against the LORD God’s abiding there” (as Ps. 68:18 continues), are forced to bring tribute to God. The victory may be a reference to some historical triumph during the time of David or to an anticipated eschatological triumph….Calvin knew of certain Jewish interpretations of this psalm that took it to refer not to God but to David, but he had less sympathy for those interpretations of Psalm 68 than he did for the reading of the psalm in Ephesians….There was evidently a tradition of interpretation that transferred to the son of David (whether to the current king or to the messianic king) attributes ascribed to God in the enthronement psalms. It was a small step from that transfer to understanding David to be the one who “ascended” in this psalm, going up “the high mountain” of Zion, in the aftermath of his triumph over his enemies to establish Jerusalem as a place for the throne of God, bringing the ark of God to Jerusalem. Psalm 68 does seem to invite liturgical celebration at the temple (see vs. 24–27), and worship at the temple would surely connect with the earlier image of the church as “a holy temple,” a “dwelling place for God” (Eph. 2:21, 22). There was, however, another tradition of interpreting this psalm that transferred what was said of God to Moses. In this tradition Moses is the one who ascended the high mount, and the mount is Sinai.23 That was evidently the view of a number of ancient Jewish interpreters, in part because the passage was read at the Jewish festival of Pentecost, celebrating the gift of the law. It found its way into the Targum on Psalm 68 (an Aramaic translation or paraphrase that was read in synagogue worship). The Targum not only identified Moses as the one who “ascended,” it also paraphrased “received gifts” as “you have learned the words of the Tora, you gave them as gifts to the sons of men.”24”. (Allen Verhey & Joseph S. Harvard, Ephesians: Belief-A Theological Commentary On The Bible, 159-160 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press) 

Whether the Psalm originally referred to Moses or David, there were definitely Messianic overtones to it.  

“Verse 6 is very fascinating when one studies the individual words, though none of the regular translations seem to recognize this. The word for “solitary” is the same word translated “darling” in Psalm 22:20 and Psalm 35:17. In the Greek Septuagint, “darling” is rendered by monogenes , meaning literally “only begotten.” The Hebrew for “families” is translated many different ways, most often “home,” and frequently “temple” or “palace.” The word for “setteth” is really “sets down” or “sits down.” Putting all this together, the first part of verse 6 might read: “God sets down His only begotten in His own home (or heavenly temple).” Following our previous inference that verse 1 refers ultimately to Christ’s resurrection, this ties in beautifully with such Scriptures as Ephesians 1:20: “[God] raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.” Then the last part of verse 6 anticipates verse 18 (see below). When Christ rose from the dead, His Spirit returning from Sheol (or Hades), “He bringeth out those which are bound (that is, those who had died in faith, but had to remain in Hades until Christ became the sacrifice for their sins) into freedom.” The word for “chains” is actually “freedom” or “prosperity,” as many translations render it. In contrast, the ones who died still in rebellion against God must be left in the prison “a dry land” (literally, “parched land”; compare Luke 16:24).” (Henry M. Morris with Henry M. Morris III, Treasures In The Psalms:1240-1252 (Kindle Edition); Green Forest, AR; Master Books) 

In Ephesians 4, Paul makes specific reference of this passage to Christ. &nbsp

“He” Who ascended is “Christ” (Ephesians 4:7, 15).  

QUESTION FOUR: Where Did Christ “Ascend?”  
ANSWER: Into Heaven

The text is very clear that Paul ascended to the highest Heaven.

The Jews conceived of Heaven in at three different ways.

There was the heavens in which the birds fly (Genesis 1:20), that is, our atmosphere.

Second, there is the starry heavens (Psalm 19:1-5; 108:4).

Finally, there is the “third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:1-4).

This is the very dwelling place of God, where Jesus ascended forty days after His resurrection (Acts 1:9-11). In Scripture, this place is also referred to as the “heaven of heavens” (1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 2:6; 6:18; Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 68:33).  

QUESTION FIVE: Where Did Christ “Descend?” 

ANSWER: Christ Descended To The Realm Of Hades

Now, Paul is going to make the application that Christ not only ascended to the highest Heaven, but that He also descended to the “lower parts of the earth.”

What does this phrase mean?

Through the years, there have been three interpretations offered.  

First, some have suggested that the phrase “the lowest parts” of the earth refer simply to Earth itself. So, the idea is proposed that this passage is simply saying that Christ came to the Earth from Heaven and lived among humanity. This is certainly true, of course (Philippians 2:5-8; John 1:1, 14; 2 Corinthians 8:9), but as we shall see, this is not the meaning of the expression.  

Second, it has been suggested that this has reference very simply to His body being put in the grave at the time of His death. Again, this is certainly true (1 Corinthians 15:1-8), yet we will see that this is not the meaning of the phrase.  

The third interpretation which has been offered regarding this passage is that Paul is teaching that Jesus descended into Hades, the realm of the dead.

When we go back and study carefully, we see that this is the most obvious explanation.  
How do we know this?  

The Bible was not written in English.

Instead, God gave His Word through the languages of Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. By going back and studying the original languages of the Bible, we are able to better understand what the God of creation would have us to know.  

What we find is that, among the Jews of the first century (and long before),the phrase “lower parts of the earth” had specific reference to Hades.  

The first example of this evidence is seen in that the specific phrase “lower parts of the Earth” was used throughout the Greek translation of the Old Testament to refer to Sheol.  

“To say Christ descended to the “lower parts of the earth” seems to us different than saying that he descended to the earth. The language (katōtera merē tēs gēs) resembles the language that the Septuagint used to refer to Sheol, to the “underworld,” the realm of the dead.25 The Messiah descended into the realm of the dead by his death. He “was buried” (as the ancient confession in 1 Cor. 15:3–4 put it). He had descended “into the abyss” of death (Rom. 10:7). That is the presupposition for his resurrection from the dead and for his exaltation, his ascent, to his place at God’s right hand, far above the powers, including the power of death. The Messiah was dead. He was in the realm of the dead. And he took even our captivity to death captive. Even the power of death can no longer hold us captive or separate us from God (cf. 1 Cor. 15:24–26; Ps. 68:20). All those held captive by death find their release, their liberation, in this Jewish Messiah (Eph. 2:4–6).” (Allen Verhey & Joseph S. Harvard, Ephesians: Belief-A Theological Commentary On The Bible, 161-162 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press)

In the footnoted reference mentioned in the aforementioned section (footnote 25), we have the following: 

“See, e.g., Gen. 44:29; Pss. 63:9 (LXX 62:10); 139:15 (LXX 138:15); etc. See Buchsel, TDNT 3:641 n. 10.” (Allen Verhey & Joseph S. Harvard, Ephesians: Belief-A Theological Commentary On The Bible, 177 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press)

Second, the non-canonical writings of both the Jews and the Christians for centuries before and after the time of Christ used this phrase in the same way, e.g., to refer to Sheol.  

“The superlative adjective (), however, does appear a handful of times in the LXX, and its usage there does provide some helpful perspective for this passage. On three of the seven occasions of its use in the LXX, the genitive expression “of the earth” () modifies it. For instance, Ps 63: 9 [62: 10] reads, “those who seek my life … will go down to the depths of the earth ()” (see also Ps 139: 15 [138: 15]; Odes 12: 13 [= Prayer of Mannaseh 1: 13]). In none of these passages can the genitive be taken in apposition to “the lowest parts” as in views (1) and (3), “the lower parts, that is, the earth”; it can be viewed only as possessive or partitive, “the lower parts of the earth. The only place in Jewish literature where the comparative adjective () does appear is in the Greek Apocalypse of Ezra, a document that may be a Christian composition incorporating earlier Jewish apocalyptic traditions. In this document, Ezra asks God to see “the lower parts of Tartarus” (, 4: 5). 28 A retinue of angels then leads Ezra into lower and lower parts of the Abyss. There is no sign that this document has been influenced by the words of Ephesians. The document suggests that the language of “lower parts” would be readily understood in Jewish circles familiar with an apocalyptic worldview as referring to Hades, Tartarus, or the Abyss….The “lower parts of the earth” makes the most sense in its first-century religious context if it is interpreted as an expression for the underworld or Hades.” (Clinton E. Arnold, Exegetical Commentary On The New Testament: Ephesians, 6714-6739 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan) 

So, Paul is telling us very clearly (in language used by both the Hebrew and Greek Old Testament, as well as the Jewish and Christian terminology of his day and age) that Christ, at some point, personally descended into Sheol.  

QUESTION SIX: When Did Christ “Descend” Into Hades?  

ANSWER: Between His Death And Resurrection 

There are many facts which show us that it was during the time of His death on Calvary and His resurrection from the dead that Jesus descended into Sheol.  

First, Jesus Himself declared that when He died, He would go to Hades. While on the cross, He spoke to one of the thieves who was being crucified with Him and who had shown true faith and repentance. Jesus told him:

Luke 23:43-And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

Second, Hades is the realm of departed spirits, so of course, Christ went to Hades when He died.  

Third, in his Epistle to the Romans, Paul makes the point that Jesus descended into the deepest parts of Hades when He died:

Romans 10:6-7 (CEV)-6 But people whose faith makes them acceptable to God will never ask, “Who will go up to heaven to bring Christ down?”

7 Neither will they ask, “Who will go down into the world of the dead to raise him to life?”

Paul specifically ties together the time of Christ’s descent into the world of the dead with the timeframe of Christ’s death and resurrection (Romans 10:9-10).  

Jesus, at the time of His death and up to the time of His resurrection three days later, descended in the spirit to Sheol, the realm of the dead.  

Conclusion 

From our study, we have learned the following: 

In Ephesians 4, while describing how the eternal purpose of God in the church has been brought to fruition by what Christ accomplished at Calvary, the Apostle Paul clearly teaches that Jesus descended into Hades.  

Paul is clear that this descent of Christ to the lowest depths of Hades took place between the time of His death and resurrection three days later.  

The quotation of Paul from Psalms (68:18) shows that this Messianic prophecy had been fulfilled in what Christ accomplished in His descent into Hades and His ascension to Heaven; and that as a result of this, He had taken “captivity captive” and brought gifts to His church.  

Study Questions 

 In Ephesians 4:8-10, Paul quotes Psalm 68:18 as saying that Christ “gave” gifts. Yet Psalm 68:18 actually reads that the Messiah “received” gifts. Why the different renderings? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What are the three possible interpretations of the phrase “the lower parts of the earth?” ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What is the meaning of the phrase, “the lower parts of the earth,” and how may we be certain of this? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What are the translations of the following Greek words?  

Archai: _______________________________

Exousiai: _____________________________

Dynameis: ____________________________

Kyriotetes: _____________________________

Thronoi: _______________________________

Angeloi: _______________________________

Kosmokratores: _________________________

Daimonia: _____________________________

Stoicheia: _____________________________

Archonetes: ____________________________

5. Which Scripture from the pen of Paul teaches that the church is somehow involved in preaching to angels? __________________________

For Prayer Partners: 

1. Consider the statement of Paul in Ephesians 4:8-10. Who did Christ preach to in Hades? What message did He preach?