Biblical Exposition

adam_and_eveThis is a question that has puzzled people from the beginning. If God is good and all powerful why didn’t he stop Adam and Eve from sinning? Fair question. Of course we all know that he took the risk of giving us free will so that we could choose to love him.

I don’t want my kids to be born with a red button on their forehead that I push every time I want to hear them say, “I love you Daddy!” I want them to choose to say it from their own free will. No one wants a robot son or daughter – God included. 

But even knowing God created us with a free will, wasn’t there something he could have done to keep Man from sinning? Why did he allow this evil deed that brought alienation and death into the world? My friend Jimmy Akin did some pondering after reading a paragraph in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. He wrote,

Today something leapt out that deals with the problem of evil, even though it wasn’t in the section on the problem of evil. It deals with the question of why God allowed original sin to take place.

Here’s what it says:

CCC 412  But why did God not prevent the first man from sinning? St. Leo the Great responds, “Christ’s inexpressible grace gave us blessings better than those the demon’s envy had taken away.” and St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “There is nothing to prevent human nature’s being raised up to something greater, even after sin; God permits evil in order to draw forth some greater good. Thus St. Paul says, ‘Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more’; and the Exsultet sings, ‘O happy fault,. . . which gained for us so great a Redeemer!’”

communion-of-saints_sThe answers provided by Leo the Great, Aquinas, Paul, and the Exsultet [at Easter] all converge on the idea that God allowed man to fall into sin because he knew he could bring about a greater good by doing so.

This does not necessarily mean a greater good for every individual (e.g., people who commit mortal sin and decide to stay there may not end up with a greater benefit in the long run, although this is itself arguable), but it does mean that there will be greater net good in general.

Thinking of Jimmy’s words reminded me of another paragraph in the Catechism which has caused quite a stir at times. It deals with the divinization of us humans. Had we not sinned, God would presumably not had to become Man. But when God became Man, though his humanity he drew us up into himself and made it possible for us to be sharers in his nature, to share in the very life of the Trinity!

CCC 460  The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature”: “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.” “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.”

This is not some strange kind of Mormon theology or New Age nonsense. It is the essence of our salvation. We are not just saved from our sins, but we are drawn right up into the very nature of God by the incarnation and redemption acquired through Jesus Christ.

St. Peter reminds us in 2 Peter 1:4, “He has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.”

If you are not dancing yet, re-read the above and then start dancing and sharing this joyous news with everyone!!

{ 0 comments }

Did the Wise Men Meet the Shepherds?

by Steve Ray on December 17, 2018

With upon us, I thought I would post my article this Christmas season with bits of interesting information and details about Christmas, the Gospels and Epiphany. Join us in Bethlehem for Christmas this year from December 26-January 4 or any of six times in 2015. Visit www.SteveGoes.com.

Did the Wise Men Meet the Shepherds?

 A king was born. He was born unlike most kings. There was no pomp and circumstance; there were no midwives or court attendants. There was only the bleating of sheep and the buzzing of flies. Giving birth in a cave-turned-stable was not like giving birth in a royal palace.

When a king is born proclamations ring out across the land. But no one knew about this exceptional birth. So angels felt the need to sing out. They burst from the heavens in glorious harmony declaring the royal birth to a group of shepherds sleeping on the ground protecting their sheep. The darkness of night was rent with brilliant light encompassing the terrified shepherds. The lead angel announced “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

The king’s arrival had been foretold from of old. He was the long awaited savior of the world. But why were shepherds the first to discover his birth? Possibly because this king was also the anticipated Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. So, let me ask: who are the first to learn of a lamb’s birth in the middle of the night? Shepherds of course!

But the story recounted by Luke the physician is not the only account of the miraculous birth. Another account was written by an ex-tax collector named Matthew who informs us that the Jewish shepherds were not the only ones to discover this royal birth. Gentile magi—astronomers from the East—were also informed, but not by angelic choirs. They anticipated this historical event through astronomical observations and consultation with the Jewish scriptures.

It was an unusual star that led them to the infant Jewish king. They traveled at great risk for many for months, arriving from lands historically hostile to Israel. How amazing! The magi brought gifts and fell on their faces before a helpless child in an enemy land. It is often assumed there were only three magi because three gifts were presented (frankincense, gold and myrrh), but the number of distant travelers or the size of their entourage is unknown.

King Herod was in Jerusalem enjoying his palatial pleasures when the wise men arrived looking for the new king. Herod was worried. No one could help the magi. The star led them the last four miles to Bethlehem where they found the Child and fell prostrate. They presented gifts appropriate to royalty.

 Luke and Matthew were not alone in writing accounts of the Christ. An old man named John, chosen by Jesus while still a young fisherman, wrote a personal account of his three years with the king. And Mark, who was Peter’s “secretary” recorded Peter’s recollections of his years with Jesus. Four witnesses wrote four accounts called the Gospels. They recount the one historical event from four different perspectives, just as in a courtroom four witnesses might testify about one case with four differing yet truthful accounts. Each Gospel writer had his own material, audience, emphasis and style.

For example, each author deals with the genealogy and birth of Jesus in very different and fascinating ways. Each account is true, non-contradictory, and essential to understand the whole story. Matthew was a Jew writing to Jews. He adeptly demonstrated that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah and King with royal pedigree through the lineage of King David to Abraham the patriarch of Israel and the father of the Jewish nation.

Mark, on the other hand, penned Peter’s gospel from Rome and presents Jesus to the Romans as a servant with no genealogy. A key verse in Mark summarizes the whole Gospel, “For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45). A servant’s genealogy is irrelevant. Mark’s gospel begins with Jesus working. King and servant: no polar opposites could be more extreme.

 Luke, probably a Greek and the only non-Jewish author in the Bible, writes in part to fellow gentiles portraying Jesus as the ideal of humanity with a genealogy going back to the first man Adam. Jesus Christ is revealed as the perfect Man to a Hellenistic audience steeped in Greek philosophy and struggling for human perfection and meaning in the aftermath of their failed “glory days”.

Lastly, John reveals a very different beginning or “genealogy.” He fleshes out the full mystery of the eternal king starting with the words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:1, 14). Jesus has no beginning—he is the beginning. John doesn’t write to an exclusive ethnic group; rather, he writes for the whole world and proclaims that Jesus is divine—by his very nature, God. And as God he is eternal and therefore has no genealogy. No science fiction has ever reached such heights. Truth is stranger than fiction?God has become Man. As St. Augustine said, “[Jesus was] the Revealer of His Father, Creator of His mother; Son of God from His Father without a mother, the Son of Man through his mother without a father.”

So the four gospels present Jesus Christ as both king and servant, as both God and man. Matthew and Luke tell the story of his birth, Mark and John do not. The four gospels differ in other aspects as well. But such differing stories with such carefully selected details do not imply contradiction. Rather, it gives them diversity, beauty, and depth. Like a diamond, the many facets must be viewed and appreciated to glimpse the elegance of the whole.

It seems that Matthew may be telling the nativity story from Joseph’s perspective whereas Luke tells Mary’s story. Matthew alone records the angel’s appearance to Joseph four times, whereas in Luke only Mary is visited by an angel. In Matthew Mary’s virginity and honor are defended, something done by a loyal and loving husband. Though no words of Joseph are recorded in Matthew it does tell us his thoughts and his quick submission and obedience to the will of God. Mary’s submission and obedience to God is not mentioned in Matthew, but is clearly recorded in Luke where it is her words and thoughts that are expressed.

One could easily conclude that Luke spent a considerable time with Mary, interviewing her about the miraculous birth and surrounding events. He relays many details that Mary had “treasured and pondered in her heart”, things only Mary would have known. It is Luke who records the words of the angel, Mary’s response, and the glorious Magnificat. He even begins the story with an account of Elizabeth, Mary’s relative. And whereas the genealogy provided by Matthew relates to Joseph’s ancestry, some have considered the genealogy recorded in Luke to be Mary’s family tree.

But despite the variety of information provided, these texts inspired by the Holy Spirit of God himself clearly proclaim the birth of Christ as a miraculous watershed event in human history. He is the Son of Man and Son of God miraculously born of a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit in a cave-stable in Bethlehem and cared for by his legal, adoptive father Joseph.

 But we still haven’t answered the question: did the wise men meet the shepherds? The tyrant King Herod died in 4 b.c. and he was alive at both the birth of Jesus and the arrival of the magi, so the magi’s visit had to take place after the birth of Jesus and before the flight to Egypt since Herod died before the return of the Holy Family.

Since “the East” probably meant modern day Iraq or Iran, the journey up the fertile crescent and down through modern day Syria and Israel would have taken a long time. They must have calculated the time of birth pretty accurately, arriving shortly after the birth but before the Holy Family fled to Egypt. So, the time frame certainly allowed for them to meet the shepherds. If I had been one of the wise men, I hope I’d have been wise enough to cross one more field to find the shepherds and get the full story—which is exactly what the Gospels have provided for us.

The truth of the Gospel account is not compromised because the Evangelists report the Lord’s words and deeds in different order. Nor is it hurt because they report His words, not literally but in a variety of ways, while retaining the same meaning. As St. Augustine says: “It is quite probable that each Evangelist felt duty-bound to narrate his particular account in the order which God suggested to his memory. At least this would seem to hold true for those items in which order of treatment would not affect the authority or truth of the Gospel. After all, the Holy Spirit distributes His gifts to each as He chooses (The Historicity of the Gospels [Sancta Mater Ecclesia], April 21, 1964, Instruction of the Pontifical Biblical Commission)

Come with us to see all this for yourself in the Holy Land. We still have seats open in September and December. Other four are already sold out. 

{ 0 comments }

How Large is the New Jerusalem mentioned in Revelation

by Steve Ray on November 29, 2018

Revelation 21:10-27 describes the New Jerusalem at the end of time. It is exquisite and the writer of Revelation struggles with words to describe it’s glory and magnitude.

So, how large will the New Jerusalem be? Here is a diagram superimposed on a map of the United States.

Many people, especially the Orthodox Jews, discuss the building some day of the new Temple.

Sorry, there will never be a “new Temple” since that new Temple is already being built. It is the Body of Christ, the Church.

The Gospel of John tells us, “The Jews then said to him, “What sign have you to show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he spoke of the temple of his body” (John 2:18–21).

And St. Peter tells us more, “And like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).

Our destiny is marvelous, exciting and for all of eternity. But I wonder, does the size of the New Jerusalem imply there may be fewer people there than the universalists think?

{ 0 comments }

Flint Knives at the Heart of the Gospel

November 14, 2018

Ah, excuse me? What do flint knives have to do with the Gospel? A whole lot! Abraham believed God against all odds and as a reward he was given the special sign of the Covenant with God. And what was that wonderful sign between them? In Genesis 17:10-11 God announces this sign to Abraham: “This […]

Read the full article →

Is ‘Dogma’ an Oppressive Catholic Word? – Steve Ray

November 2, 2018

Is ‘Dogma’ an Oppressive Catholic Word? – Steve Ray “When I was an Evangelical Protestant, I thought dogma was a dirty word. It had bad connotations. It represented unbiblical teaching forced down people’s throats by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. They invented new doctrines not found in the Bible and then called them dogmas […]

Read the full article →

Crap, Castration & Two Creations – Colorful New Testament Wording

October 27, 2018

Since we are in Philippi Greece today, I thought I would post this colorful blog :-) We miss a lot when reading the English Bible. We’re at a great disadvantage. The early Christians read the writings of the apostles in the original language – they understood the words and expressions must better than we do. […]

Read the full article →

Were the Bereans “Bible Alone”?

October 26, 2018

Since we are in Thessaloniki today, just a few miles from Berea (which I have visited a number of times), I thought I’d share my argument which turns the PROTEST-ant idea of “Sola Scriptura” on its head. You know, many Protestants appeal to the Bereans as proof of their false doctrine. Regarding the Bereans, it just ain’t […]

Read the full article →

Why Fundamentalist Protestants are Wrong on Dispensationalism

October 24, 2018

Why Fundamentalist Protestants are Wrong on Dispensationalism and the OT Law  By Steve Ray Dear Jerry: I haven’t heard from you in quite some time and I was thinking that it’s my turn to take you out to lunch since you paid the bill at Zingerman’s last time. Things are going very well for us and I […]

Read the full article →

St. Paul Walks Passed the Brothal

October 23, 2018

Every time I visit Ephesus I show my tour group my favorite things in this ancient city. We are here today with 80 pilgrims. We filmed here for our Paul and Mary DVDs and have brought groups here on numerous occasions. One of my favorite things to show people in Ephesus is the Billboard for […]

Read the full article →

What Does this Wood Carving Mean?

October 18, 2018

When I went to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor Michigan the other day for a visit, I stopped by to pray at the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel. In front of the chapel was this wood carving. I also, like all of you, sat in front of it puzzled. Who are the women; what’s in […]

Read the full article →

Is Faith Alone the Basis for the Final Judgment?

October 17, 2018

Is Faith Alone the Basis for the Final Judgment?  By Steve Ray Dear Jerry: I had no intention of writing you again this soon but after having dinner with your brother the other day and picking up a copy of a booklet you gave him entitled Studies In Contrasts: The Doctrine of Salvation (by Herb Vander […]

Read the full article →

What is Biblical Typology? Show with Steve Ray on EWTN’s “Journey Home”

October 5, 2018
Read the full article →

Peter & the Primacy in the New Testament

September 19, 2018

St. Peter in the New Testament What Do We Know About Him? Peter is the big rugged fisherman who became the humble servant of the servants of God. Jesus chose him from among the Twelve to be the leader and the visible head of the Church. What do we know about Peter from the New […]

Read the full article →

My Thoughts While Waiting In Line for Confession

September 2, 2018

My wife and I went to confession yesterday. The line was pretty long (which was good to see, though I hate lines :-)  As I sat and waited it struck me again that the Church is not just a loose association of like-minded followers of Jesus. It is not just “Jesus and me” as we […]

Read the full article →

Marriage in Heaven? Will We Know and Love Our Spouses in Heaven?

August 20, 2018

I am reposting this because of the huge response two years ago. Thought it would be helpful again for many people who have lost their spouse. My dad died almost eight years ago. Mom misses Dad and was discouraged about Mark 12:25 which her paraphrased Living Bible improperly rendered “will not be married” in heaven. […]

Read the full article →

The Eucharist and the Fathers of the Church: Article by Steve Ray

August 12, 2018

The Eucharist and the Fathers of the Church, by Steve Ray The word “Eucharist” was used early in the Church to describe the Body and Blood of Christ under the forms of bread and wine. Eucharist comes from the Greek word for “thanks” (eucharistia), describing Christ’s actions: “And when he had given thanks, he broke […]

Read the full article →