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June 5, 2017, 12:42 PM

Oldest copy of NT book found in Egypt!

Mummy Mask May Reveal Oldest Known Gospel

by Owen Jarus, Live Science Contributor | January 18, 2015 04:21am ET

 

Mummy Mask May Reveal Oldest Known Gospel

This mummy mask was one of the masks that the researchers took apart to reveal ancient papyri. This mummy mask is similar to the one that contained the first century gospel fragment. Original Image

A text that may be the oldest copy of a gospel known to exist — a fragment of the Gospel of Mark that was written during the first century, before the year 90 — is set to be published.

At present, the oldest surviving copies of the gospel texts date to the second century (the years 101 to 200).

This first-century gospel fragment was written on a sheet of papyrus that was later reused to create a mask that was worn by a mummy. Although the mummies of Egyptian pharaohs wore masks made of gold, ordinary people had to settle for masks made out of papyrus (or linen), paint and glue. Given how expensive papyrus was, people often had to reuse sheets that already had writing on them. 

In recent years scientists have developed a technique that allows the glue of mummy masks to be undone without harming the ink on the paper. The text on the sheets can then be read.

The first-century gospel is one of hundreds of new texts that a team of about three-dozen scientists and scholars is working to uncover, and analyze, by using this technique of ungluing the masks, said Craig Evans, a professor of New Testament studies at Acadia Divinity College in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

"We're recovering ancient documents from the first, second and third centuries. Not just Christian documents, not just biblical documents, but classical Greek texts, business papers, various mundane papers, personal letters," Evans told Live Science. The documents include philosophical texts and copies of stories by the Greek poet Homer. [See Images of Early Christian Inscriptions and Artifacts]

The business and personal letters sometimes have dates on them, he said. When the glue was dissolved, the researchers dated the first-century gospel in part by analyzing the other documents found in the same mask.

One drawback to the process is that the mummy mask is destroyed, and so scholars in the field are debating whether that particular method should be used to reveal the texts they contain.

But Evans emphasized that the masks that are being destroyed to reveal the new texts are not high quality ones that would be displayed in a museum. Some are not masks at all but are simply pieces of cartonnage.

Evans told Live Science, "We're not talking about the destruction of any museum-quality piece."

The technique is bringing many new texts to light, Evans noted. "From a single mask, it's not strange to recover a couple dozen or even more" new texts, he told Live Science. "We're going to end up with many hundreds of papyri when the work is done, if not thousands."

Debate

Scholars who work on the project have to sign a nondisclosure agreement that limits what they can say publicly. There are several reasons for this agreement. One is that some of the owners of these masks simply do not want to be made known, Evans said. "The scholars who are working on this project have to honor the request of the museums, universities, private owners, so forth."

The owners of the mummy masks retain ownership of the papyrus sheets after the glue on them is dissolved.

Evans said that the only reason he can talk about the first-century gospel before it is published is because a member of the team leaked some of the information in 2012. Evans was careful to say that he is not telling Live Science anything about the first-century gospel that hasn't already been leaked online.

Soon after the 2012 leak, speculation surrounded the methods that the scholars used to figure out the gospel's age.

Evans says that the text was dated through a combination of carbon-14 dating, studying the handwriting on the fragment and studying the other documents found along with the gospel. These considerations led the researchers to conclude that the fragment was written before the year 90. With the nondisclosure agreement in place, Evans said that he can't say much more about the text's date until the papyrus is published.

Destruction of mummy masks

The process that is used to obtain the papyri, which involves the destruction of the mummy masks, has also generated debate. For instance, archaeologist Paul Barford, who writes about collecting and heritage issues, has written a scathing blog post criticizing the work on the gospel.

Roberta Mazza, a lecturer in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Manchester, has blogged her concerns about the text as has Brice Jones, a doctoral candidate in religion at Concordia University.

When the texts are published the debate is likely to move beyond the blogosphere and into mainstream media and scholarly journals.

Biblical clues

Although the first-century gospel fragment is small, the text will provide clues as to whether the Gospel of Mark changed over time, Evans said.

His own research is focused on analyzing the mummy mask texts, to try to determine how long people held onto them before disposing or reusing them. This can yield valuable information about how biblical texts were copied over time.

"We have every reason to believe that the original writings and their earliest copies would have been in circulation for a hundred years in most cases — in some cases much longer, even 200 years," he said.

This means that "a scribe making a copy of a script in the third century could actually have at his disposal (the) first-century originals, or first-century copies, as well as second-century copies."

Set to publish

Evans said that the research team will publish the first volume of texts obtained through the mummy masks and cartonnage later this year. It will include the gospel fragment that the researchers believe dates back to the first century. 

The team originally hoped the volume would be published in 2013 or 2014, but the date had to be moved back to 2015. Evans said he is uncertain why the book's publication was delayed, but the team has made use of the extra time to conduct further studies into the first-century gospel. "The benefit of the delay is that when it comes out, there will be additional information about it and other related texts."

Editor's Note: This story was updated to remove an image of a mask that was believed to be destroyed as part of the project. The mask was not actually part of the project and is safely in the collection of the Australian Museum.




April 14, 2017, 1:57 PM

Good Friday?

What’s So Good about Good Friday?

What is Good Friday and why do we call Good Friday “good,” when it is such a dark and bleak event commemorating a day of suffering and death for Jesus?

For Christians, Good Friday is a crucial day of the year because it celebrates what we believe to be the most momentous weekend in the history of the world. Ever since Jesus died and was raised, Christians have proclaimed the cross and resurrection of Jesus to be the decisive turning point for all humanity. Paul considered it to be “of first importance” that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and was raised to life on the third day, all in accordance with what God had promised all along in the Scriptures.

 

On Good Friday, we remember the day Jesus willingly suffered and died by crucifixion as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. It is followed by His resurrection, the wonderful day when He was raised from the dead, proclaiming His victory over sin, death and the grave. It also was a sign pointing to the future resurrection of all who are united to Him by faith.

 

Still, we ask, why call the day of Jesus’ death “Good Friday” instead of “Bad Friday” or something like that? Some Christian traditions do take this approach: in German, for example, the day is called Karfreitag, or “Sorrowful Friday.” In English, in fact, the origin of the term “Good” is debated: some believe it developed from an older name, “God’s Friday.” Regardless of the origin, the name Good Friday is entirely appropriate because the suffering and death of Jesus, as terrible as it was, marked the dramatic culmination of God’s plan to save his people from their sins.

 

In order for the good news of the gospel to have meaning for us, we first have to understand the bad news of our condition as sinful people under condemnation. The good news of deliverance only makes sense once we see how we are enslaved. Another way of saying this is that it is important to understand and distinguish between law and gospel in Scripture. We need the law first to show us how hopeless our condition is; then the gospel of Jesus’ grace comes and brings us relief and salvation.

 

In the same way, Good Friday is “good” because as terrible as that day was, it had to happen for us to receive the joy of Easter. The wrath of God against sin had to be poured out on Jesus, the perfect sacrificial substitute, in order for forgiveness and salvation to be poured out to the nations. Without that awful day of suffering, sorrow, and shed blood at the cross, God could not be both “just and the justifier” of those who trust in Jesus (Romans 3:26). Paradoxically, the day that seemed to be the greatest triumph of evil was actually the deathblow in God’s gloriously good plan to redeem the world from bondage.

 

The cross is where we see the convergence of great suffering and God’s forgiveness. Psalms 85:10 sings of a day when “righteousness and peace” will “kiss each other.” The cross of Jesus is where that occurred, where God’s demands, his righteousness, coincided with his mercy. We receive divine forgiveness, mercy, and peace because Jesus willingly took our divine punishment, the result of God’s righteousness against sin. “For the joy set before him” Jesus endured the cross on Good Friday, knowing it led to his resurrection, our salvation, and the beginning of God’s reign of righteousness and peace.

 

Good Friday marks the day when wrath and mercy met at the cross. That’s why Good Friday is so dark and so Good.




March 4, 2017, 1:00 PM

A Dangerous Book and Movie --- avoid!


This was taken from GotQuestions.org. We typically do not write reviews of books. Our goal is to provide quality, biblically-based answers so that people will be able to evaluate teachers / ministries / books for themselves. However, in recent months, we have been receiving a significant volume of questions about The Shack by William P. Young. As with any book, if you read The Shack, compare what it teaches with Scripture, and reject anything that does not agree with God's Word.

Question: "What is GotQuestions.org's review of The Shack by William P. Young?"

Answer: 
The Shack has become a publishing phenomenon, a bestseller by a first-time author that has rocketed up the sales charts with rumors of an impending movie—not bad for a book that was self-published by the author, William P. Young, and started out being sold out of a garage.

The glowing reviews for The Shack hail it as everything from the new Pilgrim’s Progress (theologian Eugene Peterson, translator of the Bible paraphrase The Message) to "the best novel of 2007" and "one of the rare fiction books that could change your life" (various Amazon.com five-star reviewers). According to the book jacket, Young was raised by missionary parents living among a Stone Age tribe in New Guinea. He wrote the novel for his six children to explain his own journey through pain and misery to "light, love and transformation," according to a profile in USA Today. The "shack" of the story was the ugly place inside him where everything awful was hidden away, a result of his history as a victim of sexual abuse, his own adultery and the ensuing shame and pain, all stuffed deep in his psyche, as Young explained.

This background is important because Young's past appears to greatly color his view of both God and Christianity, resulting in a severely flawed view of both. The story begins with Mackenzie "Mack" Phillips, a father suffering great pain—a "Great Sadness," according to the story—because of the death of his young daughter at the hands of a serial killer. Mack receives a note from "Papa" to meet him at the rundown shack in the woods where police had found evidence of his daughter’s murder six years earlier. Mack, who was raised by a hypocritical, vicious and abusive father who was also a pastor, already understands from previous experience that "Papa" is God. Mack approaches The Shack with rising anger, wanting to lash out at God for allowing his young girl to be killed. Instead of the old man with a long white beard, as Mack expects, he's suddenly embraced by "a large beaming African-American woman" who introduces herself as Papa.

Mack is then introduced to the rest of the Trinity: Jesus, a Middle Eastern man dressed as a laborer, and the Holy Spirit, a woman of "maybe northern Chinese or Nepalese or even Mongolian ethnicity" named Sarayu. The rest of the story is a conversation among the three members of the Trinity and Mack as they work through issues of creation, fall and redemption.

Subtle and not-so-subtle heresies
Young's intentions are good. He wants to introduce readers to a loving God who was willing to sacrifice his own Son to save us from our sins. But all heresies begin with misconstruing the nature of God. From Jehovah's Witnesses to Mormonism to even Islam, they all get it wrong when it comes to understanding the God of Scripture. Young joins their company. Part of the problem arises because his story is confused and inconsistent. He doesn’t set out to mislead, but he himself is misled, either by himself or others.

He wants desperately to show us the God of love as found in Scripture (1 John 4:8), but he ignores the other side, the God of utter holiness (Isaiah 6:1-5) and, ultimately, the final Judge (Revelation 20:11-15). Any presentation of God that shows only one side of His nature is wrong. In an effort to counter a false view of God as only the judging avenger of wrath, we must not go the opposite direction and present Him only as a loving, indulgent parent who never judges sin. Both extremes are false in that they present an incomplete picture of God as He shows Himself to us in Scripture. 

By emphasizing only one part of God’s nature, The Shack actually leads readers astray with regard to God’s attitude towards sin. Papa tells Mack, “I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.”

To be sure, sin often carries within itself its own punishment (Romans 1:27). But sometimes the wicked prosper in this life (Jeremiah 12:1). More importantly, Scripture is full of references to God’s impending wrath against sin and unbelief (John 3:36Romans 1:18Romans 2:5-8Colossians 3:6, and many others.) For The Shack to give the impression that it is not God’s purpose to punish sin is the height of bad theology and irresponsibility.

We anthropomorphize (attribute human qualities to) God the Father at our peril. He is spirit (John 4:24), and when He refers to Himself in anthropomorphic terms, it is always as a father. This is important because any attempt to make God a female inevitably leads to goddess religion and God’s becoming some sort of fertility figure, a worship of the creation instead of the Creator (Romans 1:25). 

And for some reason Papa changes form later in the book to become a gray-haired, pony-tailed male. No, God does not change Himself to accommodate our flawed understanding of Him. He changes us so we can see Him as He truly is (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Papa acknowledges that Jesus is both fully human and fully God, but she adds, 

[H]e has never drawn upon his nature as God to do anything. He has only lived out of his relationship with me, living in the very same manner that I desire to be in relationship with every human being. He is just to do it to the uttermost—the first to absolutely trust my life within him, the first to believe in my love and my appearance without regard for appearance or consequence.

But that’s not what Scripture says. Jesus in fact was before all things and through Him all things were created and hold together (Colossians 1:16-17). The words Papa speaks are a form of the ancient heresy of subordinationism, which puts Jesus in a lower rank within the Trinity. Scripture teaches that all three persons of the Trinity are equal in essence.

Scripture also teaches that there is a hierarchy of authority and submission within the Trinity. Papa tells Mack that authority and submission are a result of sin, and the Trinity is a perfect circle of communion.

"Mackenzie, we have no concept of final authority among us, only unity. We are in a circle of relationship, not a chain of command or 'great chain of being' as your ancestors termed it. What you’re seeing here is relationship without any overlay of power. We don't need power over the other because we are always looking out for the best. Hierarchy would make no sense among us."

But Scripture teaches that authority and submission are inherent to the Godhead and have existed from the beginning. Jesus was sent by the Father (John 6:57), and Jesus says it is his intention to obey the Father's will (Luke 22:42). The Holy Spirit obeys both the Father and the Son (John 14:26John 15:26). These are not the result of sin; they are the very nature of the Godhead in which all three persons are equal in essence but exist within a hierarchy of authority and submission.

The Shack also teaches a form of patripassionism, another ancient heresy that teaches that God the Father suffered on the cross. At one point, Mack notices "scars in [Papa's] wrists, like those he now assumed Jesus also had on his," and later Papa says, "When we three spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human. We also chose to embrace all the limitations that this entailed. Even though we have always been present in this created universe, we now became flesh and blood." 

God the Father and God the Holy Spirit did not speak themselves into human existence; only the Son became human (John 1:14).

A low view of Scripture
The Shack wants to make God accessible to a hurting world, but its author also has a very low view of Scripture; in fact, he mocks anyone who holds that there is such a thing as correct doctrine.

In seminary [Mack] had been taught that God had completely stopped any overt communication with moderns, preferring to have them only listen to and follow sacred Scripture, properly interpreted, of course. God's voice had been reduced to paper, and even that paper had to be moderated and deciphered by the proper authorities and intellects. It seemed that direct communication with God was something exclusively for the ancients and uncivilized, while educated Westerners' access to God was mediated and controlled by the intelligentsia. Nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book. Especially an expensive one bound in leather with gilt edges, or was that guilt edges.

If one is to teach error, it is important to do away with Scripture, either by adding to it (Mormonism), mistranslating it (Jehovah's Witnesses) or simply mocking it (The Shack and some others in the ”emergent church”). But if you are going to claim to teach about God, you must stick to what He has declared to be His revelation about Himself and His will to us. In other words, correct doctrine, a point stressed numerous times in Scripture (1 Timothy 4:162 Timothy 4:3Titus 1:9Titus 2:1). Yes, we are not just to be hearers (and readers) of the Word; we are to live it. But we can't live it unless we know it, believe it, and trust it. Otherwise, the God you present is merely a creation of your own imagination and not the God that everyone must stand before on that final day, either as friend or condemned sinner.

But it’s only fiction
Some defend The Shack by saying it’s only a work of fiction. But if you're going to have God as a character in your fiction, then you must deal with God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture. By using the Trinity as characters, The Shack is clearly indicating that it’s talking about the God of Christianity. But God has said certain things about Himself in Scripture, and much of what’s in this novel contradicts that.

More importantly, why does the author feel the need to change the character of God in this story? In a way, he's saying that the God who reveals Himself to us in the Bible is insufficient. The author needs to "improve" the image to make it more palatable. But God never changes Himself so that we can understand Him better. He changes us so that we can see Him as he truly is. If God changed His nature, He would cease to be God.

If a friend had a cold, abusive father, don't make the God of your story into a warm, loving female to compensate. Show your friend what a true father is like, using the example from Scripture. If your friend is hurting, don't comfort him with soothing lies, such as The Shack's assertion that God does not judge sin. Show him the God of all comfort found in Scripture, the God who was willing to save him from that judgment by sending his Son.




March 3, 2017, 3:08 PM

Disney is corrupted by the culture

From Franklin Graham:

Disney has aired a cartoon with same-sex couples kissing. It has also been announced that their new movie "Beauty and the Beast" will feature a gay character in an attempt to normalize this lifestyle. They’re trying to push the LGBT agenda into the hearts and minds of your children—watch out! Disney has the right to make their cartoons, it’s a free country. But as Christians we also have the right not to support their company. I hope Christians everywhere will say no to Disney. I met Walt Disney when I was a young boy—he was very gracious to me, my father Billy Graham, and my younger brother when we visited. He would be shocked at what has happened to the company that he started.

If you agree, let Disney know how you feel.