Saturday, February 13, 2016

Genesis 6-10: Old Testament Survey

Genesis 6-10: The story of Noah, the Flood, and His Descendants

 

We left off last time with the introduction of Noah and his family, and now we will go over one of the best known stories of the Bible, the story of Noah, the great flood and the ark. Te chapter begins with a passage about the “sons of God”  marrying with the daughters of man, and God is obviously displeased, and decides  that He cannot abide with flesh forever, and at that point reaches the decision that the lifespan of man  should be reduced to 120 years or so.   Reference is made to “the Nephilim” which has been the source of much speculation by scholars and theologians. Some have said they may be the progeny of men and angels, while others say they were merely an ethnic group which is obviously  much taller and larger than others.  We do not know for sure. The only Biblical references are here in genesis 6 and later in the Book of Numbers, chapter 13, and neither of the passages can definitely tell us who or what they really were.  A brief explanation of this can be found in this video, and again, the Church has no official teaching on who they were.


What is crystal clear is that God is running out of patience with a world population that is Godless and unruly. Cas the NRSV puts it (Gen 6:5) “The Lord Saw that the Wickedness of humankind was great in the earth and that every inclination of their hearts was only evil, continually.”

What an indictment.

 

Verse 6: “And the Lord was sorry that He had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved Him to His heart.”

Those of us who are parents know how it stings to the core of our being when our children walk in direct disobedience to us and to God, of who are ungrateful, , so we can get some inkling of God’s grief.

Thus God was ready to abandon the project of life on earth that He had created...but for one righteous man and his family. Enter Noah, the one man whose heart was right, and who pleased God. 

Thus God spoke to Noah and disclosed his decision to start over on planet earth.  He instructed Noah that he was to build an ark which would accommodate  ,Noah, his wife, , his three sons Shem Japheth and Ham, and their wives, as well as two or more  of each kind of animal, one of each gender, as well as insects and different types of food, for supplies, and for planting of seeds after the flood. God also gave Noah very specific instructions on how he was to build the ark, the types of materials to be used, the measurements  and the design.  This may have been a test of his obedience.  It is also a foreshadowing of the Ark of the Covenant which we will read about when we get to Exodus.

Chapter 7: in Chapter 7, God repeated His instructions to Noah about the animals he if to bring, with different instructions about clean and unclean animals and repeats his decision to blot out every living thing on earth not in the ark, and announces  that it will rain for 40 days and 40 nights

 

And so it came to pass. The waters burst out from the earth, and fell from the sky, and the earth began its cleansing, as the waters washed over the earth for 150 days.

 

Chapter 8:  After 150 days, the winds began to blow and the waters subsided. The fountains of the earth stopped , as did the rains. As the waters subsided, Noah sent out a dove   to get some idea as to whether they would soon be able to settle on the earth. Finding no place it returned. 7 days later he sent the dove out again, and this time it returned with an olive leaf, so Noah knew that they would not have to wait much longer,. Seven days later, Noah sent the dove out again, and this time the dove had returned, and then he knew the ordeal would soon be over.

 

The Ark had settles in the region of Ararat, which is on the border of modern Armenia and Turkey, and God commanded Noah to leave the Ark, and  set the animals free according to their kind, so that life on earth could begin anew. Noah offered burnt offerings on an altar he had made, and then in Chapter 9  God affirmed that he would never again destroy the whole earth as he had done by a flood, and declared that when He sees a bow in the sky, He will remember His covenant.

They don;’t call it original sin for nothing. It did not take very long for mayhem to begin again.  Noah planted vineyards, and one night got very, very drunk and passed out naked.  His son Ham showed utter disrespect for his father by first not doing anything about his father’s embarrassing situation, and then publicizing it to his brothers Shem and Japheth, who were horrified and then with their backs turned so they would not look upon Noah’s nakedness, covered him up.  When Noah learned about it the next day, he pronounced a curse on Ham, who was the father of Canaan, which would become the father of the nations that occupied the Holy land which was called Canaan. Once again we see the importance of the genealogies, as in Chapter 10 it explains  the nations that descended from Shem , Japheth and Ham.   Noah’s curse was that Canaan would be cursed and would be the slave to his brothers.

So Chapter 10, lists the nations that descended from the three sons of Noah.  Some of the names of the nations that descended from the sons of Shem Ham and Japheth  are recognizable, others are not, so I am providing this chart to illustrate who is descended from whom.

As for Ham , the punishment did  not come as a lightning bolt form the sky.  The Bible tells us that his son Cush became the father of-among others, a man named Nimrod who became very powerful indeed. Nimrod was said to be a mighty  hunter and a great ruler who built Babel Which we shall read more about in the next instalment) , and Nineveh (which will also figure prominently later) , and other places which stretched all over Mesopotamia and Assyria.   He was also the father of Egypt, and Put (Libya)  and the Philistines ( a perpetual thorn in Israel’s side.  Canaan , the son who was to bear the brunt of the curse, became the father of Sidon, Heth, the Jebusites, Hivites  and others we shall hear more about later. Ham’s descendants would also establish such cities as Sodom and Gomorrah.

It is Shem’s line that will be the one that is most significant, as  anyone who reads the first chapter of Mathew would recognize: Shem became the father of Arpachshad, who became the father of Shelah, who became the father of Eber, who became the father of Peleg, who became the ancestor of Abraham, Jacob, and  Judah... the ancestor of Jesus
 
Previous Post: Genesis 4-5
Next Post:  Genesis 11

Friday, February 12, 2016

Genesis 4-5 : Old testament Survey

Genesis 4: The First Sibling Rivalry

 

And so, as per genesis 3, Eve was to know the pain of Childbirth. She first bore a son named Cain, who was followed by another son, known as Abel  CAin and  Abel grew up, and Cain became a tiller of the soil, while Abel plied his trade as a shepherd.

The time came where they were to sacrifice to the God of heir father, and this is where the trouble began.  Cain showed up with some vegetables from his crop to offer.   While Abel brought the first born of his flock.  God accepted Abel’s sacrifice , but not Cain’s.

Why would that be, considering both men sacrificed from the fruits of their labours? what kind of God would do that kind of thing?

The first possible answer to that question can be prefaced by the old cliché: “The devil’s in the details”

So let’s look at how the story is framed:

Genesis 4 3: (Jerusalem Bible) “Time passed and Cain brought some of the produce of the soil as an offering for Yahweh, while Abel for his part brought the first born of his flock and some of the fat as well. Yahweh looked with favour on Abel and his offering. But he did not look with favour on Cain and his offfering and Cain was very angry and downcast.  Yahweh asked Cain, ‘why are you so angry and downcast? If you are well disposed ought you not lift up your head? But if you are ill disposed, is not sin at the door like a crouching beast hungering for you, which you must master?’”

The implication here is that Abel obediently presented the first born of his flock AND a little something extra, which would indicate he was giving out f a genuinely grateful heart that sought after God, while Cain appears to be giving grudgingly out of a sense of obligation. There is no indication  that the sacrifice he brought  was the first fruits of his harvest.   Weight is given to this interpretation because it seems that God was gently admonishing him, and encouraging him to look at his heart and his attitude.

 

The other angle here, and I give less weight to it, is that Abel’s sacrifice was a blood offering, as if he knew that it required a blood sacrifice to atone for his sins.  The reason I give that less eight, is that it had not yet been revealed at that point that blood sacrifice was required.  that comes later as we will see.   If this is the case, then Cain’s sacrifice would not have been acceptable because it was not a blood sacrifice. As we shall see later when sacrifices are dealt with in more detail, Cain would have been expected to sell some of his produce and use the money to buy an animal for sacrifice.

 

This brings us to the point where we need to explain the concept of “Progressive Revelation” which is what the Bible is.  God progressively reveals himself to and through the Jewish people whom He chose for Himself for that purpose.  It should also be explained that  we are not to look upon the Jews as better or worse than any other people , but rather as the people through whom God chose to reveal Himself.  Some of the actions we shall read about as we move along in this survey would certainly indicate they were no less sinners than anyone else. Had God chosen any other people, The Chinese, the Afghans or whoever, the story would have been similar as the hearts of all men are sinful. Who can know it?

Sadly for Cain,  he chose poorly. he did not heed God’s admonishment, and instead resented his brother Abel and slew him by luring him out to the open country and killing him. 

 

Cain thought , like many of us, that he was too “small potatoes” for God to really pay attention to him, but God called him out and asked him (verse 9) “Where is your brother Abel” to which he replied as i he didn’t know “Am I my brother’s keeper?” . Then God put the facts of the case in very strong language  (verse 10) “What Have you done?” Yahweh asked. “Listen to the sound of your brother’s blood , crying out to me from the ground that has opened up its mouth to receive your brother’s blood at your hands”..... tthen sentence was pronounced immediately “ When you till the ground it shall no longer yield you any of its produce. You shall be a fugitive, and a wanderer over the earth” .
Cain saw he had a tough road to hie ahead of him. He would live out the rest of his days as a beggar, a scavenger and a fugitive.  He pleaded for some mercy, and found it. He told God that his life would be in danger, and God put a ark on him, we do not know what it was, that would prevent whoever might come across him from striking him down.  He then went and settled, we are told, in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

At some point in his life, Cain had married, and had established a town which he named after his firstborn , and possibly only, son, Enoch.  The rest of the chapter goes into the genealogy of Cain’s line until the time of Noah. 
Many people get lost in the Old testament and give up because of the confusing genealogies, but I would urge  people to read them as they are an important part of the progressive revelation  of God, which all builds up to the coming of Christ in the New testament, and can help establish that  Jesus was very real, as we can actually trace his ancestors all the way back to Adam.
Cain’s descendants are listed in verses 17-24, and you can read about them for yourself.  8 generations down we come to a man named Tubal-Cain who is said to have discovered metallurgy, and he is worthy of mention, because his sister, Naamah is also mentioned. Though the Bible does not make the claim, some Jewish rabbinical and theological sources have said they believe Naamah may have been the wife of Noah, and Noah’s wife, whoever she may have actually been, was a redeemed woman as she was one of the survivors of the flood.  Why would this be an important detail?  It would indicate that even the line of Cain could receive redemption by God’s mercy.

The chapter closes with Adam “knowing” Eve once more and eve giving birth to a third son, whom hey named Seth.  and we learn that Seth lived into adulthood, and his line continued with a son named Enosh.

Genesis 5 is one long genealogy  which picks up at Enosh, and then introduces all of what were to be Jesus direct paternal ancestors down to Noah and his sons  It gives the name of the son of note, and the age at which that son was born, and how many years thereafter the man lived in each case, except that of Enoch, of whom it was said “walked with God” and became the father of Methuselah whose claim to fame is being the oldest man who ever lived (969 years). Enoch’s case is special, since it was said, again that he walked with God, then he vanished, because God took him.  A foreshadowing of the prophet Elijah, perhaps?  The chapter ends with Noah reaching the age of 500 years, and then fathering Shem, Japheth and Ham.

Previous post: Genesis 3
Next Post: Genesis 6-10

Genesis 3: Old Testament Survey

Genesis 3: The Fall & original Sin

This is a survey of the books of the Old Testament. I will not be doing a chapter and verse, line by line analysis, but rather a general survey with the goal of introducing these books ad what they are all about to Catholics (and anyone else) who have not yet undertaken to read them for themselves, as many Catholics have told me is the case with them The goal is to demonstrate how the Old Testament is relevant to the New testament, and to the teachings of the Church itself. Above all, I hope to  pique interest and encourage people to read the Old Testament for themselves, and be able to understand it in iys proper context. Today, we look at Genesis 3.   To look at others in this series, there will be links to each one in the sidebar


Genesis Chapter 3 sets the stage for the rest of the Bible.  Adam and Eve have the perfect life in the garden of Eden. No work, all peace and pleasure, and total freedom... Except in one matter, they were told they could eat of any tree in the Garden except the Tree of knowledge of Good and Evil.

So along comes a character who is introduced as “The Serpent”.  We do not know if he was actually a snake in the sense we know them today, but he was apparently a very beautiful and subtle creature. What we do know is that the Serpent was a manifestation, of and possibly indwelling of the evil one himself, Satan. 

He approached Eve, and suggested that she try the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. When eve protested, and told her that they had ben told that they would die if hey ate of the fruit of that tree, the serpent came back and told her that she surely would not die, and that besides, God did no want them to eat of it because it would them just like Him, all knowing, in fact a god!.

 

So Eve was convinced and took a bite of the fruit, and then encouraged Adam to give it a try since it tasted so good. 

So what’s the point in all this?  Satan is working today with us, from a very old playbook.   When it comes to our being enticed to sin, is the temptation often packaged and sold to us as God being something of a tyrant and holding back from us something we would REALLY enjoy?

It also shows us how the devil mixes a little truth into every lie.  The fruit probably DID look appealing and no doubt tasted great when they first ate it. No doubt Adam was convinced because Eve was standing there before Him very much alive, so he discounted God’s admonishment that eating it would cause him to die.
But like in our time when we are tempted into sin, w convince ourselves that it’s not really THAT bad or dangerous, and what’s wrong with a little fun every now and then? And then when we do , quite often there is no immediate consequence. And voila! like lobsters we fall into the trap.

Let’s see how that all worked out for Adam & Eve. Shortly thereafter , they realized they were naked and covered themselves up, whereas they had hitherto gone about naked without any shame.  And then, worst of all, they fell out of fellowship with God.
The Bible has it that God is walking through he garden, and calls out to Adam asking where he is.  Adam knew he had disobeyed and thereby broken fellowship and hid.   Is that not what we do when we know we’ve done wrong, hiding from whomever we had harmed? Don’t we even try to delude ourselves we can hide from God too?

When the moment if reckoning came, when God confronted them on their sin, Eve blamed the serpent, and Adam tried to pass the buck to Eve.   We see this behaviour in our children, and also practice it ourselves to an extent.

And so, sentence was passed.  Death (The wages of sin is death) .  They were not slain on the spot, but learned that indeed, they would eventually die.  “From the dust you came, to the dust you shall return”. Henceforth mankind would eventually die, and moreover, they were now unfit to live in such a Holy place, and were expelled from Eden, where they would henceforth earn their sustenance through toil, while Eve would know the pain of childbirth.  this is the penalty for original sin, which would then be passed down through the generations .  And it is because of this that we need a redeemer. .
A guard was placed around Eden so that no one could ever enter there without the permission of God. The couple were provided with clothing made by God Himself, and thus Adam and Eve became the first of a long line of exiled children.

Previous Post: Genesis 1-2
Next Post: Genesis 4-5

Mexico: Still the Most Dangerous Place to be a Priest

It’s almost as if President Plutarco Calles never really went away. Mexico is still , today, the most dangerous place in the world to be a Catholic Priest. Though Calles himself, author of a massive crackdown on Roman Catholicism in Mexico in the 1920’s, and his Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) are nothing more than bad memories, the drug lords of Mexico are not targeting priests for daring to speak out against their atrocities.

It is into this environment that the most senior priest of all, Pope Francis will walk into shortly, in order to confront the human rights abuses of the drug lords, and the cult of Santa Muerte.  Latin America may be one of the most Catholic regions in the world, yet it is also by far, the most violent region on earth, in large part due to the drug trade, and of course the political violence that has plagued the region since it was first settled by Europeans. and also the poverty which comes from the political corruption that permeated nearly all governments there with the possible exceptions of Costa Rica, Belize and Chile.

 

Catholic clergy has long been caught in the crossfire. From the time of Presidents Obregon and Calles in Mexico whose persecution of Catholicism eventually led to the War of the Cristeros, (Immortalized in the movie "For Greater Glory" ) to the military juntas of the seventies and eighties such as the Somoza regime in Nicaragua and the monsters who ruled El Salvador who murdered Oscar Romero, The church has always stood in the way by speaking out against abuses of human rights.   Today it is the drug lords who are challenging the church for the souls of the people.

It is time we in the west became more aware of what is happening to our brothers and sisters in Christ in this region of the world,  and take steps to bring it to an end.

 

It always comes down to “What can we do about it?”

Here are some things all of us can do to help.

 

1) First and foremost pray.  Prayer, especially the Rosary is the strongest weapon we have.  We need to start with the premise that ALL of the evil in the world is spiritual in origin,  Paul said that we fight not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities.  So the war is essentially spiritual in nature, between Christ and antichrist, and plays itself out in the physical realm in which we live.

2) While taking care of the spiritual angle in this war, we must also tackle the realities of the physical battlefield where all this is playing out in our lives.  There would be no drug trade if there was not a lucrative market for the drugs themselves.  Much of that market is in the western world and plays itself out in our streets, and in our homes, so this battle, and the plight of Latin America is our problem as much as theirs. We are all in it together.  One reason why drugs are so rampant in our society is because of the emptiness of secular consumerism.  God, who used to be paramount in the lives of most individuals, and was considered carefully by our political and business institutions, has been pushed aside.  Drugs are the result of spiritual emptiness, and how it renders life meaningless.  The manifestation of Satan’s empty promises, as it were.   This is why the New Evangelization is so important. We need to call fallen away Catholics back to the Church, so they can be reunited with Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, and the full power of the Holy Spirit.  If we can do that, and make the Church a place of healing again, we can beat the drug lords and put them out of business.  The same things can be used to stop human trafficking.  Hearts and minds must be changed. 

 

3) You may think I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.... goes a line in a famous song, but there is truth in that. allow me to go back in history a bit.  England was an unholy mess in the 18th and early 19h centuries. It was by no means the prim and proper society that we are led by many to believe it was.  Alcoholism was rampant... poverty, slavery, child labour.  Reading the works of Charles Dickens gives one some insights into what life was for most of the people. It is also brought to life in the engravings of artist William Hogarth.

And yet, Christians worked-and prayed- and things such as slavery,  child labour and rampant alcoholism were overcome to an extent.

4) I mentioned Dickens and Hogarth, and Wilberforce (even though not by name) and they give us some indications of some ways we can win hearts and minds.  Dickens’  books stirred the nation into consciousness of the evils the lower classes were having to live with. Hogarth brought to light other ills in society, and Wilberforce, a one time atheist who had a conversion, worked tirelessly  and with great unpopularity to end slavery.  At this point, our society looks very much like “Jolly Olde Englande” of old.  An increasingly coarsening and Godless culture.  One reason this is so, is because we have allowed ourselves, as Christians to be pushed out of the popular culture.   What if we started writing great literature again? and producing meaningful art? And entering politics in order to reclaim that realm? And the media?  Were not most of the great composers of the renaissance motivated by their faith?
We have allowed ourselves to be pushed off into our own little worlds where we produce Christian books, Christian music and Christian journalism, which is b and large not read  by the culture at large.
What we need to do is to be able to write great novels where our message gets out and hearts are changed, because hey are read by the population at large.  Tolkien , Chesterton and Lewis were able to do this in heir time, and we need to do so in our time.  What good does it do if no one is reading or listening?
The culture has indeed been coarsened, and it is now time to refine it again, It has been done before, and it can be done today. One step at a time, but relentlessly and continuously, at every level.

5)  Purism is a big part of the problem.  We have withdrawn from much in the culture because to get involved in politics, the media, or reaching out in the culture means that we just move ahead incrementally, and take some water in our wine, and reclaim the culture the same way it was taken away from us, an inch at a time.

If we can take some of these steps, we can help our brothers and sisters and their priests  to get the message out in their country, as we will have helped weaken their oppressors by cleaning up the mess we have allowed to be created in our own back yard. Stop he drugs, stop he unethical business practices (ie dealing with companies that engage in unethical labour practices) and to help the poor and oppressed get a hand up to make it on their own in a society that will find itself increasingly unable to stop them .

Law enforcement on our side other border will have to play a role, but their effectiveness is also influenced by the  direction of he culture and the body politic.  So it really comes down to the New Evangelization.

We need to know what Jesus taught, and to walk he talk.  That is how we can best help. In other words, authenticity.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Genesis 1-2: Old testament Survey

This is a survey of the books of the Old Testament. I will not be doing a chapter and verse, line by line analysis, but rather a general survey with the goal of introducing these books ad what they are all about to Catholics (and anyone else) who have not yet undertaken to read them for themselves, as many Catholics have told me is the case with them The goal is to demonstrate how the Old Testament is relevant to the New testament, and to the teachings of the Church itself. Above all, I hope to  pique interest and encourage people to read the Old Testament for themselves, and be able to understand it in iys proper context. Today, we look at Genesis 1-2.   To look at others in this series, there will be links to each one in the sidebar .

Genesis 1-2.  In The Beginning.....


The First Chapter in the Book of Genesis, which is generally attributed to Moses deals with  the story of creation.  Two versions are presented.  They are both consistent with one another, although told quite differently.  Also in the first chapter we are introduced to the Trinity. Yes, God reveals that the Godhead is a Trinity, right there in Genesis 1:Verse 2:"...and the SPIRIT of God was moving over the face of the waters" (RSV) & "...God's SPIRIT hovered over the water" (Jerusalem Bible)  26 :”Let US make humankind in OUR image, according to OUR likeness” (NRSV), which right there implies that God had a human person as part of His nature.

 

The first story of creation itself, whether one chooses to accept it as a literal chronological account of a series of events whereby it happened over a 7 day period of 24 hour days, or whether it was allegorically referring to what God did in his position outside of time, does not matter as much as the clear presentation that A) God created the earth, and all that is in it, the heavens themselves, as well as man and beast, and B) gave man dominion over he earth, and all that is in it and C) expected that He would have a persona relationship with man, in which He would be acknowledged as Father and Lord, and all worship and glory would go to Him, and that His creation and its resources  were to be something for man to enjoy and for which he was to provide responsible stewardship.

 

The second account of creation found in Chapter 2 centers more on the creation of man, and the role God intended for him in His creation.  Adam, the first man (The word Adam in Hebrew means “Man”) was placed in a garden created, planted and nurtured by God within certain boundaries, and He tests man’s willingness to be subservient to Him, and walk in His way, bu planting one tree, the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil, and tells man that he is free to do anything, except to eat the fruit of that one tree.  and then he charges Adam with the task of naming all the animals.  So the second account again hits at God’s ultimate sovereignty, and the limits and boundaries he sets for man, His greatest creation, and man’s dominion over creation and stewardship of it.  The structure He intends in hierarchical, with freedom of will.  God also creates a companion for man. A complementary being who is to be his partner and helpmate in life, who is taken from his own flesh and bone, which sets the stage for God’s plan for marriage,and its indissolubility that is where a couple become one as in bone and flesh, because of a work f God.  Verse 24 reasd: “ Therefore a Man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and they are become one flesh.” (NRSV). And they lived happily ever after.... for a while anyway....

Next Post: Genesis 3

Pope to Confront Mexicans over Santa Muerte Cult

The latest instalment of the James Bond franchise “Spectre” opens up in Mexico City amidst the chaos of the revelry of the festival of Santa Muerte in Mexico City.  This massive and riotous celebration of this death cult is something most people outside of Central America had never heard of before Bond brought it to the big screen in all its debauchery.
 

 

It seems Pope Francis  is going to try to do something about it in his upcoming visit to Mexico. Santa Muerte became an unofficial “folk saint” (NOT recognized by the church in the 1830’s when Spanish images of the Grim reaper were adapted, and Santa Muerte became a craze among many Mexicans, who prayed to her for intercession and favours,   The Church reacted and stamped it out quickly, destroying chaplets dedicated to her, as well as festivals.  Santa Muerte surfaced again in the 1940’s with a vengeance and has since become one of the fastest growing cults in the Americas.

 

in 2001, a woman named Enriqueta Romero brought her Santa Muerte statue to an Altar in the Tepito neighbourhood of Mexico City and since then people have been coming daily to pray to her.   Romero says she remains a devout Catholic.  (Catholic Online) .

 

A quote from Sra. Romero will provide some insights into what can happen when a heresy takes on a life of its own:
"On one hand I have God, and on the other I have Death. And when I die, God will tell the skinny one to take Dona Queta away. How great that the pope is coming. Glory be to God. How great that he is coming to give us many blessings." (Catholic Online)

 

Sra. Romero appears to be in for a big surprise. While  Pope Francis may be coming to give blessings, he is expected  call out and condemn the devotion to the false “saint” whose very essence stands foursquare in opposition to everything the Church teaches in it’s pro-life worldview, not to mention scriptures many warnings about participating in necromancy  (Communication with the dead).

 

Here is another article which goes into some more detail as to the extent that this false “saint”’s tentacles have penetrated into Mexican society.  Some parents have had their children baptised by a priestess of Santa Muerte right after their Catholic baptism.  Others pray to her for forgiveness, after believing they have been  punished by injuries by her for their sins.  Her appeal transcends all demographics in Mexican society, and is spreading throughout Central and South America  rapidly.  Enriqueta Vargas, who erected a 72’ Fiberglass statue and temple to this abomination in 2007 has also officiated over baptisms and weddings.  (some disturbing images of this statue and some of the worship around it can be found here)

 

Most Mexicans who participate in this cultish false worship (an estimated 12 million people, making it the fastest growing cult in the Americas)  also remain(in their minds) devout Catholics.  In fact one man asked Sra. Vargas whether he could Worship both the “Our Lady of Guadalupe” Icon and that of Santa Muerte, and she told him that was fine.  The Vatican has declared Santa Muerte to be blasphemous. 

 

Santa Muerte is also reportedly very popular among the drug cartels currently ravaging Mexico.

 

Among other things, part of Pope Francis’ trip to Mexico will involve confronting Mexicans about the worship of this macabre figure who  has been the target of 4 condemnations by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi in recent years.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Who is Maria Divine Mercy?

(Originally published in March 2013)

Maria Divine Mercy is an Irishwoman who claims to be a prophetess who receives visions from Jesus and Mary pertaining to the future particularly the end times.

Why am I telling you this? She has quite a following (17 689 on Facebook, and who knows how many read her blog) and is, I believe leading many astray with her "prophecies" which she claims to receive from Jesus and Mary. Reading these very disturbing pieces smells of Satan: there is always a wee bit of truth mixed in with every lie, but enough of a hook to make it all sound credible.

Jimmy Akin published
"9 things you need to know about Maria Divine Mercy
", that make it clear that she is a false prophet.

She had predicted that Pope Benedict XVI would be forced to resign, and that the conclave would pick the false prophet to succeed him. Since the conclave she has posted-without saying his name- that Pope Francis is the false prophet spoken of in Revelation.

Look at this, and compare it to what we know about Francis:

Maria Divine mercy writes:


There is to be a particular insult, which will be inflicted upon My Holy Name, in an effort to desecrate Me, during Holy Week. This wicked gesture, during Holy Week, will be seen by those who keep their eyes open and this will be one of the signs by which you will know that the imposter, who sits on the throne in My Church on earth, does not come from Me.
My followers, you must know that the prophecies given to the world – warning of the time when the power, within My Church, will be seized by those who are loyal to the beast – are upon you. The time is now.
Remember that those who proudly display the badge of humility are guilty of pride. Pride is a sin.
Those who say that My Church must renew its image, update My Church’s doctrine and who say that, by modernising it, that this will be accepted by more people, then know this.
Those of you who say that you follow My Teachings, but who want laws changed to condone acts, which are sinful in My Eyes, get out of My Church now. You are not Mine. You have turned your backs on Me and are not worthy to enter My House. Yet, this is what will happen. You and all those of you who demand changes, which are embraced by the secular world, will be satisfied, for the false prophet will entice you into his favour and you will applaud every moment of his short lived reign. But, it will not be I, Jesus Christ, Who you will follow. You will be following a false doctrine, not of God.
So many will embrace the reign of the false prophet and push Me to one side with joy in their hearts. Then when the errors of his ways become apparent, My poor sacred servants will have nowhere to turn. Their sorrow will turn to fear and their fear will turn to despair. They won’t know who to trust, but they must understand this. My Body, My Church, may be scourged and desecrated but My Spirit can never be touched, for It can never die.
To those of you who reject My Word now and the Truth you are being given, as a special Gift from Heaven, I bless you. I will continue to pour My graces over you until you come back to Me. I will never give up until I can save your sorry souls.
So she claims that Pope Francis is an imposter. I stand in awe of her great wisdom which trumps that of 115 Cardinals. Not. It would take an airtight and vast conspiracy to pull something like that off, and the odds are a mathematical impossibility that even a dozen, let alone 77 could be in on such a conspiracy.
When has Pope Francis ever suggested that he intends to modernize church teaching, and update doctrine? Even if he had ever said such a thing, here's a little newsflash- he does not have the authority to change any church doctrine in the slightest.

Here is what Pope Francis has said on matters of church doctrine especially pertaining to morality:  Sounds pretty orthodox to me.
talk about Judgment : Who is she to say that Pope Francis isn't genuinely humble?  As to charges found elsewhere in her "prophecies" such as him exalting himself above Jesus I have not heard a Pope before stress the primacy of Jesus and His death on the cross as emphatically  as Francis has.  What i am seeing is not false humility, but a genuine imitation of Christ.   Pope John Paul could easily be accused of the same thing Read up on his life and eschewing of  the trappings and creature comforts of the world as documented  by Jonathan Kwitny in "Man of the Century" and George Weigel in "Witness to Hope" .
All of Maria divine mercy's "prophecies are flawed to one degree or another. Not one of them is a true hit. There is just enough vaguery to make them believable to many.

Well, the litmus test comes this month. she has predicted the following for Holy Week. Note the wiggle room she left herself:

There is to be a particular insult, which will be inflicted upon My Holy Name, in an effort to desecrate Me, during Holy Week. This wicked gesture, during Holy Week, will be seen by those who keep their eyes open and this will be one of the signs by which you will know that the imposter, who sits on the throne in My Church on earth, does not come from Me.

She does not tell us what this 'insult' will be. so when nothing happens she can wiggle out  by incorporating into her next prophecy where it will be revealed in greater detail.

There is one simple thing to remember that should be enough to protect you from falling for false prophets: Jesus Christ Himself said "The gates of hell shall not prevail against My church" .
And if a pope ever tried something resembling an abomination of desolation, don't you think that even in a church that has been infiltrated, that SOMEONE would call him out on it?
The test of a prophet is that they must be 100% right 100% of the time. What i see here  is someone whose track record is not much better than the astrology column in your daily newspaper... and probably has the same source, the father of lies.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Mary Undoer of Knots: A Testimonial

 
 
 
 
Do you believe that prayer can change things?  I do.  On the Eve of the Solemnity of Mary, I went to confession and told Fr.  about a sin that I had committed several months before, whose consequences were still reverberating and  had me on the edge of financial and emotional ruin, and he absolved me as I had long ago repented and taken steps to change the situation, but these steps had yet to bear fruit, and time was running out, fast. I was headed for the wall at terminal velocity.  He gave me my penance, and that was to pray to “Mary Undoer of Knots” . I did the Novena over the next 9 days, and the changes began instantaneously.  The first night (I prayed the first day of the Novena the minute i got home) I felt peace for the first time in months, it then progressed to hope, and then, ultimately to a huge surprise.  15 days after I began the Novena (which i started over on day 10)  I received exactly the amount of money i needed  to pay back my arrears and to carry me through to when my regular stream of income would resume. Not a penny more, not a penny less.

Just as important, perhaps more so than the fact that Mary indeed undid the knots in my life, was the fact that for the first time I really understood Mary and her role, and she became a new mother to me.  It was, and continues to be an incredible experience,  So much so that I had to share it with whoever may be in need of Mary’s intercessory power. 

She is the Queen Mother, after all ,and has the ear of the King Himself.   Don’t believe me?  Look at the Books of  the KIngs. In the Davidic line of Kings of Judah, the Queen Mother is ALWAYS mentioned when a new King is introduced. It was an actual office.  In Fact, (see I Kings 15:9-14) King Asa  removed Maacah, his grandmother, from the office for having made an abominable image to Ashtoreth. (One must assume that Asa’s mother had died before he became king, and this his father’s mother remained in office, but I digress.)  Jesus is the culmination of the line of David, so in the Davidic tradition , Mary is the Queen Mother, and she will always intercede for ANY one of her children who seeks her aid.  Yes, pray directly to Jesus, but also to Mary, You could never have a better or stronger advocate.

 Here are two links to some pages where you can read about Mary in her role as Undoer of Knots and how to say the Novena itself.  This is nothing new, as St Irenaeus who lived in the 2nd century used it. It is becoming better known again, as it is one of Pope Francis favourites.

I hope that by sharing this, someone else might be helped by the intercession of Our Blessed Mother!
These links will open up new windows.
 
 

Meet the Popes: #266: Francis 2013- Currently reigning

 

When white smoke emerged from the Vatican chimney on March 13th 2013, speculation immediately began about which of the 20 or so Papabile would step out onto the loggia presently.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio was on almost nobody's radar  but when he stepped out and waved, he was endeared to almost everybody.
 

 Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born on December 17th 1936, in Buenos Aires , Argentina.  He is the first Pope to come from the New World.  he is also the first Pope of the Order of the Society off Jesus, colloquially known as the Jesuits.

He ascended to the Papacy on March  2013, after the conclave subsequent to the resignation of his predecessor Benedict XVI, and immediately rocked the world as he put his imprimatur on the office he holds, and thus, the Universal Church in general.

As he has been Pope for three years, much of his story remains unwritten as of yet. Nevertheless, even if it is a short Papacy,  the “Francis effect” will be felt for many years to come.

Pope Francis has been labelled by many as a liberal, and by others, mainly of a Traditionalist bent, as a heretic, or even an Antipope, some questioning the legitimacy of his reign, but if one examines things objectively  he has not made a single change in Church teaching, though he has clearly endeavoured to change the approach the Church takes, so that the Church and secular society will  be ina better position to dialogue.

 

One of his first and most controversial acts as Pope was the foot washing on Maundy Thursday, where he went to a youth detention center and  washed the feet of 12 young people, two of whom were girls, and two of whom were Muslim.  This is the first time a pope had washed the feet of any but men, although he had been known to include women while Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

That being said he has re-iterated the Church’s traditional stands on abortion, homosexual acts, marriage, contraception, the nature of the priesthood and other issues.  He has also been very vocal on the matter of the death penalty in keeping with the views of John Paul II.  What he has changed is the way the church expresses itself on these issues.
He has been accused of being soft on abortion and contraception, but what was actually said was that the Church must not limit itself exclusively to these issues, but rather go back to some of the things the church had long been involved with , such as calling for good environmental stewardship, solicitude for the poor, infirm and suffering, and mercy and forgiveness.

He has been busy on the diplomatic front as well, helping to broker the rapprochement between the United States and Cuba, and also engaging in dialogue with the leadership of other faiths.
If one takes the position that the Church must engage with the world in order to evangelize, then Francis emphasis  on a pastoral approach with a heavy dose of Divine Mercy may well be just what is needed for our times, and “the New Evangelization” which seeks to reach out to both fallen away Catholics, and to a lost world.  In a world where the art of dialogue, which involves bot speaking and listening with a view to understanding, rather than to reply.  By creating an environment where a sinner can come to find answers, while feeling welcomed and unjudged, but where the church does nit compromise on age-old teachings, we reach a point where  reason and faith can meet, and hearts can be won.

 

What we have is a situation where we have returned to the era of the early Church, where a ragtag group of people’s hearts were changed, and they in turn converted a pagan culture through the witness of their lives, being in tune with the teachings of Christ, as transmitted through the Apostles appointed by Him, and then passed on to the people, who through faith saw lives changed.  Today, we live in a postmodern culture which is for all intents and purposes, pagan.  It is a society where authority, especially where morals are concerned are rejected out of hand, and where what passes for reason excludes faith, just like it was in Roman times, so it stands to reason that change will come through the changed lives that result from faith in Jesus Christ, and the application of His teachings, and through the telling of His stories.  In other words, BE like Jesus, the Jesus the Church has transmitted to us since the first Good Friday.  The early Church was Catholic, as all historical documents tell us, and it will be the Catholic Church, the Body of Christ, that can and will transform the world again.

Pope Francis is engaging the world directly. He is appealing to youth, as it will be the youth that will transform the world of the future, It will be interesting to watch the changes that take place as the message sinks in and the fruit ripens.

Next Pope: #265 Benedict XVI (Pope Emeritus)  2005-2013
 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Five Non Negotiables: A Voters Guide for Serious Christians

In the next 12-16 months , Canada and the United States will be facing national elections.  Canada is scheduled to go to the polls on Oct. 19th 2015 (Though that may mot necessarily happen, as fixed election dates do not have to be honoured according to the Constitution)  while Americans hit the polls on November 8th 2016 to elect a New president, Congress, and 1/3 of the Senate, as well as hundreds of statewide and local races.  In the meantime, Primaries are being held across the country to determine who the nominees will be.

Street Called Straight is a Christian  Conservative publication and we make no bones about that, so obviously we want to see the right kinds of people elected to office to stop and even reverse the years of Progressive secularism  which have shredded the social fabric of our countries.
In light of some recent provincial election results in Canada which have elected horrific secular progressives in  Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward island and most recently Alberta,  Now is as good a time as many  to put out a voter's guide  which will help Christians, especially Catholics, make a sound choice on election day.  For Non-Catholic Christians these guidelines are in line with Christian teaching, and it is strongly suggested they be followed, but for Catholics, observing  the Five Non Negotiables featured in the voters guide is NOT optional.  In fact any Catholic who knowingly votes for a Candidate or party that is on the wrong side of any of these issues, is guilty of aiding and abetting  intrinsically evil policies. 

Voter's Guide for Serious Catholics was published by Catholic Answers  based on The teachings of the Church and papal documents from Pope John Paul II

Without even reading the document, It is fair to say that NO Christian who takes the teachings of Christ seriously may vote for any candidate of either the Liberal or New Democratic Parties (not to mention the Communist Party, Marxist-Leninist Party) as these Parties will not permit a pro-life candidate or one who does not support so-called same sex "marriage" to run under their banner, and have required current sitting members who had described themselves as , and even voted pro-life I the past  to support abortion "rights" and same sex "marriage" and other intrinsic evils.
The Green Party will allow pro-life people to run for them, as far as I know, but as a party  built on Malthusianism, a pro-lifer running for them is a contradiction in terms. 
Only the Christian Heritage Party of Canada is 100%  pro-life (Meaning respect the five Non Negotiables)  There are also many members of the Conservative Party who pass this litmus test too, though there are many who do not.
In the United States, No Democrat passes the test, so Christians who want the right kind of change must choose from Candidates in either the Republican Party or the Constitution Party. Americans will vote several times along the way as primaries  will determine who runs. So Examine their statements (from reputable sources) and their voting records.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

What do the destruction of old Poland and today’s USA have in common?

What do the destruction of old Poland and today’s USA  have in common?
 


In 1772, 1791 and 1795,  Russia, Prussia and Austria dismantled and absorbed what had been at one time the dominant power in Eastern Europe: Poland.  To understand how such a great nation could be erased from the map into an enforced absence of 123 years we need to look  at what could have caused them to be wiped out with barely a whimper. And when we study this, we will see some eerie similarities to what is going on in the USA today which could also conceivably erase the USA from the map, something, even 15 years ago would have seemed inconceivable to most people.

Poland rose to great power status with the marriage of Grand Duke Jagiello of Lithuania with “King” Jadwiga of Poland. (She was crowned King when she was brought in from Hungary to take the throne at age 5. The Magnate class who really ran things in Poland could not conceive of having a Queen) . This marriage united the two large but relatively weak kingdoms into one confederation, and made it strong enough to take down the Teutonic knights, and became the leading power in Eastern Europe.

The reason Poland could not maintain this status was because of the feudal system of government that existed. There were the previously mentioned Magnates, who were a dozen or so  moneyed and powerful land owning families who controlled everything that went on in Poland. There were the petty gentry who administered estates and villages and enjoyed some privilege, but were essentially what we would call “middle management”. They did the bidding of the magnates.  Then there were the peasants who worked the land, fought in the front lines in the wars, and were essentially the property of the magnates and their gentry.

Poland elected its kings. It was not universal suffrage, but essentially the choice of the magnates. This would have been survivable if the magnates were patriots who put Poland first, instead of their own petty interests. The trouble was that these families believed that they were Poland.  They would almost always elect a foreigner as King, since none of them wanted one of their own to get an upper hand on the others. The King was essentially powerless, and could only raise armies or do almost anything only if the magnates would back him.  But the real problem was that foreign powers would put the magnates into their pay so as to promote their interests and vote for their candidates for King.  Some of these magnates were taking payments from more than one other foreign power!

Eventually though a middle class, or perhaps better put , a merchant class which grew up in the cities, and some changes began to come, and a parliament, known as the Sejm was instituted.  The trouble was that the members of the Sejm were all petty gentry appointed by the magnates. Nevertheless some of these men came up with spe great ideas that would have helped secure Poland as a functioning country that could properly govern itself.  What prevented any of that from actually happening was something called the “Liberum Veto” . The Liberum Veto was a mechanism that allowed for one member of the Sejm to negate all the work of a particular Sejm, simply by rising and declaring “I object!” .  Thus when Russia, Prussia, France Sweden and Austria caught wind of legislation that would strengthen Poland, they would slip some money to a magnate in their pay, and he would order one of his lieges in the Sejm to rise, and say “I object!”,  thus Poland  became subject to the wishes of whichever foreign power or powers could get the most magnates into their pay.

 

Eventually , Poland was partitioned 3 times in 1771, 1791 and 1795, by Russia, Prussia and Austria with the help of magnates who were in their pay. In the new order, the magnates fared well, but not so much the people who fell under some of the worst tyrannies that  had existed to that point in Europe.

Fast forward to our present day.  We are now hearing of  someone who aspires to the presidency who is part of a “foundation”  that has been accepting funds from foreign powers.  She has enriched herself  to the tune of almost 200 million dollars through this foundation.  It may even be that while she served as secretary of state, that policy changes took place that benefitted some of the interests of these foreign powers, and corporations.

We also see other candidates receiving donations from corporations and unions quite openly and legally. 

Does anyone really believe that these donations have all been made for altruistic reasons?   Do corporations, unions and foreign powers make millions of dollars of donations if they don’t expect something in return?

So we watch helplessly as the United States is rotted out from the inside as the interests of the people are sold out for the wishes of foreigners, corporations, unions and special interest groups.

It is seriously time for some campaign finance Reform.  I suggest  that if we start with the premise that in a free society, election time should be a dialogue between the voters themselves, and those who wish to represent them, then it follows that it is time that all donations from any third parties, ie: corporations, Unions, Special interest lobby groups and the like do not get a say in the process.
Therefore I propose a solution such as has been brought in in the province of Quebec in Canada, which permits only individuals to donate to political parties and candidates, and only up to a maximum of $5400.00.   Third parties may not advertise either.    When we hear of candidates boasting they will raise and spend over 2.5 billion dollars to get elected, it should be obvious that there is a problem .  First, it leaves the Presidency or almost any elected office to the wealthy and those who have wealthy corporate, union or special interest backers, and second, those who seek political office are often laden with political debt that must be paid.

Campaign finance reform is an idea whose time has come as long as it is done in a way that is fair to all.   But we also need to look carefully at who is financing which candidates, and whether there is any connection between how they vote with their donors. Anyone receiving money from foreign donors must be disqualified from holding office.

If America fails to act to put a stop to foreign influence, or third party special interest funding,  then it may well be that one day political debts may be collected by foreign powers who will sit around a table and divide the United States as they did to Poland 200 plus years ago.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Quote of the Day

"The true opium of the people is a belief in nothingness after death - the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murders we are not going to be judged.” ― Czesław Miłosz

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Breakfast With Jesus




Last Friday, the Gospel was from John 21 , where Peter and the other apostles were out on the water and had been fishing all night and caught nothing. Then a  voice called to them from shore and told them to try and cast the net out the other side of the boat whereupon the nets were filled to near the breaking point, and then Peter recognized Jesus and went ashore.
Jesus was sitting by a charcoal fire he had made and was cooking up some fish for Breakfast.  Jesus then sat down and started sharing the fish with them .He then asked Peter thre times if he loved Him, and when Peter replied affirmatively Jesus told Peter "Feed my sheep".
This is a remarkable story of redemption and restored  friendship, and it was all done over breakfast.
Jesus chose breakfast as the time to restore Peter, since it is the beginning of a new day, and it is also the least formal meal of the day. It was a quiet, friendly time of renewal, and a time when Peter was given his mission.
Since the day I became a Christian, I have had breakfast with Jesus every day . There is no better way to start a day than to rise at the crack of dawn, spend some time in prayer, and then pour out some coffee and  hear from Jesus Himself in the Bible. So fo us too, the morning is a time when we can renew our friendship with Jesus, frsh every day, spend some quiet, informal time with Him, getting to know him through prayer and the Word.
 And more often than not you find that, if you lsiten carefully, he will restore you, and give you your mission for the day, and beyond.
Tomorrow and every day thereafter, why not have breakfast with Jesus?


Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday: Watch the Lamb

Could Jesus Have Possibly Survived the Crucifixion?


Every year, we hear bizarre theories about Jesus having survived the crucifixion. This is known as the "swoon theory" which implies that though severely beaten and bloodied, Jesus had not actually died, but had gone into a state of near death and once he was off the cross and placed in the tomb, recovered and walked out. Journalist Lee Strobel, who was an atheist, set out to prove his wife wrong (she had just become Christian) set out to prove that the Christian faith was false, and interviewed experts in several fields who presented their cases so well that Strobel had no choice but to make a decision for Christ himself. he published his findings and interviews in "the Case for Christ". the interview that follows was taken from his later book "The Case for Easter"


Taken from
THE CASE FOR EASTER
Lee Strobel
H/T hwww.christchurchreformed.com

THE MEDICAL EVIDENCE: WAS JESUS’ DEATH A SHAM AND HIS RESURRECTION A HOAX?
I paused to read the plaque hanging in the waiting room of a doctor’s office: “Let conversation cease. Let laughter flee. This is the place where death delights to help the living.”

Obviously, this was no ordinary physician. I was paying another visit to Dr. Robert J. Stein, one of the world’s foremost forensic pathologists, a flamboyant, husky-voiced medical detective who used to regale me with stories about the unexpected clues he had uncovered while examining corpses. For him, dead men did tell tales—in fact, tales that would often bring justice to the living.

During his lengthy tenure as medical examiner of Cook County, Illinois, Stein performed thousands of autopsies, each time meticulously searching for insights into the circumstances surrounding the victim’s death.

Repeatedly his sharp eye for detail, his encyclopedic knowledge of the human anatomy, and his uncanny investigative intuition helped this medical sleuth reconstruct the victim’s violent demise.

Sometimes innocent people were vindicated as a result of his findings. But more often Stein’s work was the final nail in a defendant’s coffin. Such was the case with John Wayne Gacy, who faced the executioner after Stein helped convict him of thirty-three grisly murders.

That’s how crucial medical evidence can be. It can determine whether a child died of abuse or an accidental fall. It can establish whether a person succumbed to natural causes or was murdered by someone who spiked the person’s coffee with arsenic. It can uphold or dismantle a defendant’s alibi by pinpointing the victim’s time of death, using an ingenious procedure that measures the amount of potassium in the eyes of the deceased.

And yes, even in the case of someone brutally executed on a Roman cross two millennia ago, medical evidence can still make a crucial contribution: it can help determine whether the resurrection of Jesus—the supreme vindication of his claim to deity—was nothing more than an elaborate hoax. With Stein having impressed on me the value of forensic clues, I knew it was time to seek out a medical expert who has thoroughly investigated the historical facts concerning the crucifixion and has managed to separate truth from legend.

RESURRECTION OR RESUSCITATION?

The idea that Jesus never really died on the cross can be found in the Koran, which was written in the seventh century—in fact, Ahmadiya Muslims contend that Jesus actually fled to India. To this day there’s a shrine that supposedly marks his real burial place in Srinagar, Kashmir.

As the nineteenth century dawned, Karl Bahrdt, Karl Venturini, and others tried to explain away the resurrection by suggesting that Jesus only fainted from exhaustion on the cross, or he had been given a drug that made him appear to die, and that he had later been revived by the cool, damp air of the tomb.

Conspiracy theorists bolstered this hypothesis by pointing out that Jesus had been given some liquid on a sponge while on the cross (Mark 15:36) and that Pilate seemed surprised at how quickly Jesus had succumbed (Mark 15:44). Consequently, they said, Jesus’ reappearance wasn’t a miraculous resurrection but merely a fortuitous resuscitation, and his tomb was empty because he continued to live.

While reputable scholars have repudiated this so-called swoon theory, it keeps recurring in popular literature. In 1929 D. H. Lawrence wove this theme into a short story in which he suggested that Jesus had fled to Egypt, where he fell in love with the priestess Isis.

In 1965 Hugh Schonfield’s best-seller The Passover Plot alleged that it was only the unanticipated stabbing of Jesus by the Roman soldier that foiled his complicated scheme to escape the cross alive, even though Schonfield conceded, “We are nowhere claiming . . . that [the book] represents what actually happened.”

The swoon hypothesis popped up again in Donovan Joyce’s 1972 book The Jesus Scroll, which “contains an even more incredible string of improbabilities than Schonfield’s,” according to resurrection expert Gary Habermas.

In 1982, Holy Blood, Holy Grail added the twist that Pontius Pilate had been bribed to allow Jesus to be taken down from the cross before he was dead. Even so, the authors confessed, “We could not—and still cannot—prove the accuracy of our conclusion.”

As recently as 1992, a little-known academic from Australia, Barbara Thiering, caused a stir by reviving the swoon theory. Her book, Jesus and the Riddle of the Dead Sea Scrolls, was introduced with much fanfare by a well respected US publisher and then derisively dismissed by Emory University scholar Luke Timothy Johnson as being “the purest poppycock, the product of fevered imagination rather than careful analysis.”

Today, the swoon theory continues to flourish. I hear it all the time. But what does the evidence really establish?

What actually happened at the Crucifixion? What was Jesus’ cause of death? Is there any possible way he could have survived this ordeal? Those are the kinds of questions that I hoped medical evidence could help resolve.

So I flew to southern California and knocked on the door of a prominent physician who has extensively stud ied the historical, archaeological, and medical data concerning the death of Jesus of Nazareth—although it seems that, due to the mysteriously missing body, no autopsy has ever been performed.

INTERVIEW WITH ALEXANDER METHERELL,
M.D., PH.D.

The plush setting was starkly incongruous with the subject we were discussing. There we were, sitting in the living room of Dr. Metherell’s comfortable California home on a balmy spring evening, warm ocean breezes whispering through the windows, while we were talking about a topic of unimaginable brutality: a beating so barbarous that it shocks the conscience, and a form of capital punishment so depraved that it stands as wretched testimony to man’s inhumanity to man.

I had sought out Metherell because I heard he possessed the medical and scientific credentials to explain the Crucifixion. But I also had another motivation: I had been told he could discuss the topic dispassionately as well as accurately. That was important to me because I wanted the facts to speak for themselves, without the hyperbole or charged language that might otherwise manipulate emotions.

As you would expect from someone with a medical degree (University of Miami in Florida) and a doctorate in engineering (University of Bristol in England), Metherell speaks with scientific precision. He is board certified in diagnosis by the American Board of Radiology and has been a consultant to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health of Bethesda, Maryland.

A former research scientist who has taught at the University of California, Metherell is editor of five scientific books and has written for publications ranging from Aerospace Medicine to Scientific American. His ingenious analysis of muscular contraction has been published in The Physiologist and Biophysics Journal. He even looks the role of a distinguished medical authority: he’s an imposing figure with silver hair and a courteous yet formal demeanor.

I’ll be honest: at times I wondered what was going on inside Dr. Metherell’s head. With scientific reserve, speaking slowly and methodically, he gave no hint of any inner turmoil as he calmly described the chilling details of Jesus’ demise. Whatever was going on underneath, whatever distress it caused him as a Christian to talk about the cruel fate that befell Jesus, he was able to mask with a professionalism born out of decades of laboratory research.

He just gave me the facts—and after all, that was what I was after.

THE TORTURE BEFORE THE CROSS

Initially, I wanted to elicit from Metherell a basic description of the events leading up to Jesus’ death. So after a time of social chat, I put down my iced tea and shifted in my chair to face him squarely. “Could you paint a picture of what happened to Jesus?” I asked.

He cleared his throat. “It began after the Last Supper,” he said. “Jesus went with his disciples to the Mount of Olives—specifically, to the Garden of Gethsemane. And there, if you remember, he prayed all night. Now, during that process he was anticipating the coming events of the next day. Since he knew the amount of suffering he was going to have to endure, he was quite naturally experiencing a great deal of psychological stress.”

I raised my hand to stop him. “Whoa—here’s where skeptics have a field day,” I told him. “The gospels tell us he began to sweat blood at this point. Now, c’mon, isn’t that just a product of some overactive imaginations?

Doesn’t that call into question the accuracy of the gospel writers?”

Unfazed, Metherell shook his head. “Not at all,” he replied. “This is a known medical condition called hematidrosis. It’s not very common, but it is associated with a high degree of psychological stress.

“What happens is that severe anxiety causes the release of chemicals that break down the capillaries in the sweat glands. As a result, there’s a small amount of bleeding into these glands, and the sweat comes out tinged with blood.

We’re not talking about a lot of blood; it’s just a very, very small amount.”

Though a bit chastened, I pressed on. “Did this have any other effect on the body?”

“What this did was set up the skin to be extremely fragile so that when Jesus was flogged by the Roman soldier the next day, his skin would be very, very sensitive.”

Well, I thought, here we go. I braced myself for the grim images I knew were about to flood my mind. I had seen plenty of dead bodies as a journalist—casualties of car accidents, fires, and crime syndicate retribution—but there was something especially unnerving in hearing about someone being intentionally brutalized by executioners determined to extract maximum suffering.

“Tell me,” I said, “what was the flogging like?”

Metherell’s eyes never left me. “Roman floggings were known to be terribly brutal. They usually consisted of thirty-nine lashes but frequently were a lot more than that, depending on the mood of the soldier applying the blows.

“The soldier would use a whip of braided leather thongs with metal balls woven into them. When the whip would strike the flesh, these balls would cause deep bruises or contusions, which would break open with further blows. And the whip had pieces of sharp bone as well, which would cut the flesh severely.

“The back would be so shredded that part of the spine was sometimes exposed by the deep, deep cuts. The whipping would have gone all the way from the shoulders down to the back, the buttocks, and the back of the legs. It was just terrible.”

Metherell paused. “Go on,” I said.

“One physician who has studied Roman beatings said, ‘As the flogging continued, the lacerations would tear into the underlying skeletal muscles and produce quivering ribbons of bleeding flesh.’ A third-century historian by the name of Eusebius described a flogging by saying, ‘The sufferer’s veins were laid bare, and the very muscles, sinews, and bowels of the victim were open to exposure.’

“We know that many people would die from this kind of beating even before they could be crucified. At the least, the victim would experience tremendous pain and go into hypovolemic shock.”

Metherell had thrown in a medical term I didn’t know. “What does hypovolemic shock mean?” I asked. “Hypo means ‘low,’ vol refers to volume, and emic means ‘blood,’ so hypovolemic shock means the person is suffering the effects of losing a large amount of blood,” the doctor explained. “This does four things. First, the heart races to try to pump blood that isn’t there; second, the blood pressure drops, causing fainting or collapse; third, the kidneys stop producing urine to maintain what volume is left; and fourth, the person becomes very thirsty as the body craves fluids to replace the lost blood volume.”

“Do you see evidence of this in the gospel accounts?”

“Yes, most definitely,” he replied. “Jesus was in hypovolemic shock as he staggered up the road to the execution site at Calvary, carrying the horizontal beam of the cross. Finally Jesus collapsed, and the Roman soldier ordered Simon to carry the cross for him. Later we read that Jesus said, ‘I thirst,’ at which point a sip of vinegar was offered to him.

“Because of the terrible effects of this beating, there’s no question that Jesus was already in serious to critical condition even before the nails were driven through his hands and feet.”

THE AGONY OF THE CROSS

As distasteful as the description of the flogging was, I knew that even more repugnant testimony was yet to come. That’s because historians are unanimous that Jesus survived the beating that day and went on to the cross— which is where the real issue lies.

These days, when condemned criminals are strapped down and injected with poisons or secured to a wooden chair and subjected to a surge of electricity, the circumstances are highly controlled. Death comes quickly and predictably. Medical examiners carefully certify the victim’s passing. From close proximity witnesses scrutinize everything from beginning to end.

But how certain was death by this crude, slow, and rather inexact form of execution called crucifixion? In fact, most people aren’t sure how the cross kills its victims. And without a trained medical examiner to officially attest that Jesus had died, might he have escaped the experience brutalized and bleeding but nevertheless alive?

I began to unpack these issues. “What happened when he arrived at the site of the crucifixion?” I asked.

“He would have been laid down, and his hands would have been nailed in the outstretched position to the horizontal beam. This crossbar was called the patibulum, and at this stage it was separate from the vertical beam, which was permanently set in the ground.”

I was having difficulty visualizing this; I needed more details. “Nailed with what?” I asked. “Nailed where?”

“The Romans used spikes that were five to seven inches long and tapered to a sharp point. They were driven through the wrists,” Metherell said, pointing about an inch or so below his left palm.

“Hold it,” I interrupted. “I thought the nails pierced his palms. That’s what all the paintings show. In fact, it’s become a standard symbol representing the crucifixion.”

“Through the wrists,” Metherell repeated. “This was a solid position that would lock the hand; if the nails had been driven through the palms, his weight would have caused the skin to tear and he would have fallen off the cross. So the nails went through the wrists, although this was considered part of the hand in the language of the day.

“And it’s important to understand that the nail would go through the place where the median nerve runs. This is the largest nerve going out to the hand, and it would be crushed by the nail that was being pounded in.”

Since I have only a rudimentary knowledge of the human anatomy, I wasn’t sure what this meant. “What sort of pain would that have produced?” I asked.

“Let me put it this way,” he replied. “Do you know the kind of pain you feel when you bang your elbow and hit your funny bone? That’s actually another nerve, called the ulna nerve. It’s extremely painful when you accidentally hit it.

“Well, picture taking a pair of pliers and squeezing and crushing that nerve,” he said, emphasizing the word squeezing as he twisted an imaginary pair of pliers. “That effect would be similar to what Jesus experienced.”

I winced at the image and squirmed in my chair.

“The pain was absolutely unbearable,” he continued.

“In fact, it was literally beyond words to describe; they had to invent a new word: excruciating. Literally, excruciating means ‘out of the cross.’ Think of that: they needed to create a new word because there was nothing in the language that could describe the intense anguish caused during the crucifixion.

“At this point Jesus was hoisted as the crossbar was attached to the vertical stake, and then nails were driven through Jesus’ feet. Again, the nerves in his feet would have been crushed, and there would have been a similar type of pain.”

Crushed and severed nerves were certainly bad enough, but I needed to know about the effect that hanging from the cross would have had on Jesus. “What stresses would this have put on his body?”

Metherell answered, “First of all, his arms would have immediately been stretched, probably about six inches in length, and both shoulders would have become dislocated—you can determine this with simple mathematical equations. “This fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy in Psalm 22, which foretold the crucifixion hundreds of years before it took place and says, ‘My bones are out of joint.’”

THE CAUSE OF DEATH

Metherell had made his point—graphically—about the pain endured as the crucifixion process began. But I needed to get to what finally claims the life of a crucifixion victim, because that’s the pivotal issue in determining whether death can be faked or eluded. So I put the cause-of-death question directly to Metherell.

“Once a person is hanging in the vertical position,” he replied, “crucifixion is essentially an agonizingly slow death by asphyxiation.

“The reason is that the stresses on the muscles and diaphragm put the chest into the inhaled position; basically, in order to exhale, the individual must push up on his feet so the tension on the muscles would be eased for a moment. In doing so, the nail would tear through the foot, eventually locking up against the tarsal bones.

“After managing to exhale, the person would then be able to relax down and take another breath in. Again he’d have to push himself up to exhale, scraping his bloodied back against the coarse wood of the cross. This would go on and on until complete exhaustion would take over, and the person wouldn’t be able to push up and breathe anymore.

“As the person slows down his breathing, he goes into what is called respiratory acidosis—the carbon dioxide in the blood is dissolved as carbonic acid, causing the acidity of the blood to increase. This eventually leads to an irregular heartbeat. In fact, with his heart beating erratically, Jesus would have known that he was at the moment of death, which is when he was able to say, ‘Lord, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ And then he died of cardiac arrest.”

It was the clearest explanation I had ever heard of death by crucifixion—but Metherell wasn’t done.

“Even before he died—and this is important too—the hypovolemic shock would have caused a sustained rapid heart rate that would have contributed to heart failure, resulting in the collection of fluid in the membrane around the heart, called a pericardial effusion, as well as around the lungs, which is called a pleural effusion.”

“Why is that significant?”

“Because of what happened when the Roman soldier came around and, being fairly certain that Jesus was dead, confirmed it by thrusting a spear into his right side. It was probably his right side; that’s not certain, but from the description it was probably the right side, between the ribs.

“The spear apparently went through the right lung and into the heart, so when the spear was pulled out, some fluid—the pericardial effusion and the pleural effusion—came out. This would have the appearance of a clear fluid, like water, followed by a large volume of blood, as the eyewitness John described in his gospel.”

John probably had no idea why he saw both blood and a clear fluid come out—certainly that’s not what an untrained person like him would have anticipated. Yet John’s description is consistent with what modern medicine would expect to have happened. At first this would seem to give credibility to John being an eyewitness; however, there seemed to be one big flaw in all this.

I pulled out my Bible and flipped to John 19:34. “Wait a minute, Doc,” I protested. “When you carefully read what John said, he saw ‘blood and water’ come out; he intentionally put the words in that order. But according to you, the clear fluid would have come out first. So there’s a significant discrepancy here.”

Metherell smiled slightly. “I’m not a Greek scholar,” he replied, “but according to people who are, the order of words in ancient Greek was determined not necessarily by sequence but by prominence. This means that since there was a lot more blood than water, it would have made sense for John to mention the blood first.”

I conceded the point but made a mental note to confirm it myself later. “At this juncture,” I said, “what would Jesus’ condition have been?”

Metherell’s gaze locked with mine. He replied with authority, “There was absolutely no doubt that Jesus was dead.”

ANSWERING THE SKEPTICS

Dr. Metherell’s assertion seemed well supported by the evidence. But there were still some details I wanted to address—as well as at least one soft spot in his account that could very well undermine the credibility of the biblical account.

“The gospels say the soldiers broke the legs of the two criminals being crucified with Jesus,” I said. “Why would they have done that?”

“If they wanted to speed up death—and with the Sabbath and Passover coming, the Jewish leaders certainly wanted to get this over before sundown—the Romans would use the steel shaft of a short Roman spear to shatter the victim’s lower leg bones. This would prevent him from pushing up with his legs so he could breathe, and death by asphyxiation would result in a matter of minutes.

“Of course, we’re told in the New Testament that Jesus’ legs were not broken, because the soldiers had already determined that he was dead, and they just used the spear to confirm it. This fulfilled another Old Testament prophecy about the Messiah, which is that his bones would remain unbroken.”

Again I jumped in. “Some people have tried to cast doubt on the gospel accounts by attacking the crucifixion story,” I said. “For instance, an article in the Harvard Theological Review concluded many years ago that there was ‘astonishing little evidence that the feet of a crucified person were ever pierced by nails.’ Instead, the article said, the victim’s hands and feet were tied to the cross by ropes.

Won’t you concede that this raises credibility problems with the New Testament account?”

Dr. Metherell moved forward until he was sitting on the edge of his chair. “No,” he said, “because archaeology has now established that the use of nails was historical—although I’ll certainly concede that ropes were indeed sometimes used.”

“What’s the evidence?”

“In 1968 archaeologists in Jerusalem found the remains of about three dozen Jews who had died during the uprising against Rome around AD 70. One victim, whose name was apparently Yohanan, had been crucified. And sure enough, they found a seven-inch nail still driven into his feet, with small pieces of olive wood from the cross still attached. This was excellent archaeological confirmation of a key detail in the gospels’ description of the Crucifixion.”

Touché, I thought. “But one other point of dispute concerns the expertise of the Romans to determine whether Jesus was dead,” I pointed out. “These people were very primitive in terms of their understanding of medicine and anatomy and so forth—how do we know they weren’t just mistaken when they declared that Jesus was no longer living?”

“I’ll grant you that these soldiers didn’t go to medical school. But remember that they were experts in killing people—that was their job, and they did it very well. They knew without a doubt when a person was dead, and really it’s not so terribly difficult to figure out.

“Besides, if a prisoner somehow escaped, the responsible soldiers would be put to death themselves, so they had a huge incentive to make absolutely sure that each and every victim was dead when he was removed from the cross.”

THE FINAL ARGUMENT

Appealing to history and medicine, to archaeology and even Roman military rules, Metherell had closed every loophole: Jesus could not have come down from the cross alive. But still, I pushed him further. “Is there any possible way—any possible way—that Jesus could have survived this?”

Metherell shook his head and pointed his finger at me for emphasis. “Absolutely not,” he said. “Remember that he was already in hypovolemic shock from the massive blood loss even before the crucifixion started. He couldn’t possibly have faked his death, because you can’t fake the inability to breathe for long. Besides, the spear thrust into his heart would have settled the issue once and for all. And the Romans weren’t about to risk their own death by allowing him to walk away alive.”

“So,” I said, “when someone suggests to you that Jesus merely swooned on the cross—”

“I tell them it’s impossible. It’s a fanciful theory without any possible basis in fact.”

Yet I wasn’t quite ready to let go of the issue. At the risk of frustrating the doctor, I said, “Let’s speculate that the impossible happened and that Jesus somehow managed to survive the crucifixion. Let’s say he was able to escape from his linen wrappings, roll the huge rock away from the mouth of his tomb, and get past the Roman soldiers who were standing guard. Medically speaking, what condition would he have been in after he tracked down his disciples?”

Metherell was reluctant to play that game. “Again,” he stressed, becoming a bit more animated, “there’s just no way he could have survived the cross.

“But if he had, how could he walk around after nails had been driven through his feet? How could he have appeared on the road to Emmaus just a short time later, strolling for long distances? How could he have used his arms after they were stretched and pulled from their joints?

Remember, he also had massive wounds on his back and a spear wound to his chest.”

Then he paused. Something clicked in his mind, and now he was ready to make a closing point that would drive a final stake through the heart of the swoon theory once and for all. It was an argument that nobody has been able to refute ever since it was first advanced by German theologian David Strauss in 1835.

“Listen,” Metherell said, “a person in that kind of pathetic condition would never have inspired his disciples to go out and proclaim that he’s the Lord of life who had triumphed over the grave.

“Do you see what I’m saying? After suffering that horrible abuse, with all the catastrophic blood loss and trauma, he would have looked so pitiful that the disciples would never have hailed him as a victorious conqueror of death; they would have felt sorry for him and tried to nurse him back to health.

“So it’s preposterous to think that if he had appeared to them in that awful state, his followers would have been prompted to start a worldwide movement based on the hope that someday they too would have a resurrection body like his. There’s just no way.”

A QUESTION FOR THE HEART

Convincingly, masterfully, Metherell had established his case beyond a reasonable doubt. He had done it by focusing exclusively on the “how” question: How was Jesus executed in a way that absolutely ensured his death? But as we ended, I sensed that something was missing. I had tapped into his knowledge, but I hadn’t touched his heart.

So as we stood to shake hands, I felt compelled to ask the “why” question that begged to be posed.

“Alex, before I go, let me ask your opinion about something—not your medical opinion, not your scientific evaluation, just something from your heart.”

I felt him let down his guard a bit. “Yes,” he said, “I’ll try.”

“Jesus intentionally walked into the arms of his betrayer, he didn’t resist arrest, he didn’t defend himself at his trial—it was clear that he was willingly subjecting himself to what you’ve described as a humiliating and agonizing form of torture. And I’d like to know why. What could possibly have motivated a person to agree to endure this sort of punishment?”

Alexander Metherell—the man this time, not the doctor—searched for the right words.

“Frankly, I don’t think a typical person could have done it,” he finally replied. “But Jesus knew what was coming, and he was willing to go through it, because this was the only way he could redeem us—by serving as our substitute and paying the death penalty that we deserve because of our rebellion against God. That was his whole mission in coming to earth.”

Having said that, I could still sense that Metherell’s relentlessly rational, logical, and organized mind was continuing to crunch down my question to its most basic,
nonreducible answer.

“So when you ask what motivated him,” he concluded, “well . . . I suppose the answer can be summed up in one word—and that would be love.”

As I drove away that night, it was this answer that played over and over in my mind. All in all, my interview with Metherell had been thoroughly helpful. He had persuasively established that Jesus could not have survived the ordeal of the cross, a form of cruelty so vile that the Romans exempted their own citizens from it, except for cases of high treason.

Metherell’s conclusions were consistent with the findings of other physicians who have carefully studied the issue. Among them is Dr. William D. Edwards, whose 1986 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded, “Clearly, the weight of the historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound to his side was inflicted.... Accordingly, interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge.”

Those who seek to explain away the resurrection of Jesus by claiming that he somehow escaped the clutches of death at Golgotha need to offer a more plausible theory that fits the facts.

And then they too must end up pondering the haunting question that all of us need to consider: What could possibly have motivated Jesus to willingly allow himself to be degraded and brutalized the way that he did?