How can I find out more about the people in the Bible?

The Bible leaves out a lot of personal details. Peter was married but did he have any kids? The Bible doesn’t tell us. Were any of the other apostles married? Did they have families? God’s Word is mostly silent on these things. How can we find out more about the lives of the people in the Bible?

The Bible is silent on many personal details because it’s purpose is not historical or biographical but theological. Any details provided are incidental to the truth being communicated. Biographical details always serve the purpose of teaching greater theological truths. God is not interested in satisfying our curiosity about the home life of the Biblical characters. He is communicating that which is necessary for people to come to salvation and for Christian’s to live lives pleasing to Him.

Unfortunately historical details about the people of the Bible are almost impossible to find. Some particulars can be found in the writings of the early church Fathers. Some of these men lived in the first hundred years after the apostles and a couple were personally acquainted with the apostles themselves.

Ancient church historians, like Eusebius, provide additional details about the lives of the apostles. The Works of Josephus provide a generally reliable historical perspective of events in Israel around the time of the beginning of the church. Some church traditions probably give truthful accounts of what happened to the apostles. The best resource is Foxe’s Book of Martyrs which tells of the death of the apostles and other ancient Christians.

Care needs to be taken when looking for more information about the people in the Bible. The things passed down through history and tradition are not necessarily accurate. Because a book talks about the apostles or Biblical people does not mean the book is accurate. Hold loosely to any extra-Biblical facts about Biblical characters.

Be especially suspicious of the books known as the gnostic gospels. Some of them claim to be first hand accounts of the early life of Jesus but they are, at best, questionable sources of information. They were written several generations after Jesus and have the definite agenda of promoting the false teaching of gnosticism.

Be careful of modern “scholarly” books offering to give new information about Jesus or the disciples. Many modern books that talk about Bible history are written by people who have already decided the Bible is not true. The goal of many of these books is not to search out the truth, but to convince the reader of the author’s opinion. Whether they be written by popular fiction authors or by degreed professors, be careful to not confuse propaganda with truth.

In the end, we only have one source that is certain and accurate about Jesus and His followers. That source is the Bible. The biographical details of the people in the Bible are interesting but not vital to rightly understanding the truth of God’s word. Learn more of the history, traditions and culture of Bible times and people that you may better understand the great truths taught in Scriptures.

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Why is Jesus called the only begotten Son of God?

This article is a follow up to the recent article regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses. A reader submitted a comment defending the Jehovah’s Witnesses as Christians. I did not approve the comment but want to respond to an objection raised in the comment. Before doing so I want to interject some comments about commenting on this blog.

I filter every comment. I will only approve comments which further legitimate discussion about the topic at hand. Comments which ignore the substance of the article, which raise questions already addressed in other posts or which regurgitate the long standing assertions with little regard to the Bible are going to be rejected. Comments which ask vaild questions or raise pertinent points that are profitable for discussion will be approved. This is not a debate blog. This is not a forum for everyone to spout their opinions- Mark Zuckerberg invented a place for that. This blog is an intentional teaching and evangelizing tool that answers questions about the Bible and Biblical Christianity. I am unapologetically the supreme dictator of the comment section and will only approve comments which in my sole discretion I consider as furthering worthwhile conversation.

I did not approve the comment about Jehovah’s Witnesses but do want to respond to one statement. The commenter said, “Jehovah’s Witnesses . . . do not deny the words of God Who does not tell lies and declares Jesus to be His only begotten son.” If Jesus is eternally God and equal with the Father in essence, nature and power then why does the Bible call him the Son of God? Why is Jesus presented as begotten of God if He has always existed as God?

The title of Son of God is used of Jesus in reference to His incarnation. In other words, Jesus was the Son of God in His birth as a human by the working of God. Jesus is the begotten of God because the supernatural power of God worked through miraculous means for His birth. Mary gave birth to a baby boy by the working of God without the usual biological means of becoming pregnant. Jesus is the only begotten because He is the only One born of woman without a human father.

The gospel of Luke calls Adam the son of God. Jesus is far greater than Adam but this comparison is helpful in understanding why Jesus is called the Son of God. Adam was the son of God in the sense that he came into existence without parents because God created him. Similarly, Jesus became a man because of the direct working of God. Jesus was born fully human, while remaining fully Divine, because of the supernatural working of God in Mary’s body.

Jesus is not the Son of God because at some point in eternity past God the Father brought the Son into existence. Jesus is the Son of God becaus He came into the world, becoming human through the miraculous working of the Father and the Spirit.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
John 3:16

What is the Battle of Armageddon?

Despite the fascination Armageddon holds for many people it is only mentioned by this name once in the Bible, Revelation 16:16. “And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.” The book of Joel calls this same pace “the valley of decision” (Joel 3:14) because it is where God begins His final judgment on living humanity for their continual rebellion against Him.

The Battle of Armageddon is the great final battle between rebellious humanity and Jesus. The stage is set for the Battle of Armageddon by the rebellion of rulers in the antichrists empire who gather together in war against the him. The armies of the antchrist and the armies of the rebel kings end up Palestine. The Bible specifically says God orchestrated world events to draw all these forces together in the valley of Megiddo as the place where He would execute His judgment upon them. As these two great armies (probably the majority of the fighting forces in the world) face off, Jesus descends from Heaven to the Mt. of Olives. The armies of the world turn against Jesus, allying themselves together in their great hatred for Jesus. The armies of mankind meet the armies of God in battle at the valley of Megiddo.

The Battle of Armageddon does not appear to be a protracted war. It is the end a brief war between the antichrist and other nations of the world. The slaughter during the battle will be great but all one sided. The armies of rebellious mankind will be completely destroyed. Jesus will send a flesh eating plague on the armies attacking him. Those not killed by the plague will be confused by the Lord and will begin to fight and kill their own comrades. The antichrist and the false prophet will be captured and thrown into the Lake of Fire. The remaining enemy combatants will be killed by the word of Jesus ending the battle of Armageddon and establishing Jesus’ worldwide kingdom.

Though it comes at the end of a world war, the Battle of Armageddon is a not a great world war in which the armies of men gather together against one another and wreak havoc upon the earth. This battle of Armageddon is the final act of rebellion by men who have completely reject Jesus as God and Savior. The men in this battle will be given over to their rebellion against God and even the sight of Jesus returning to earth in His glory accompanied by a massive army of saints will not sway their hearts to believe.

Why do the gospels have different accounts of Jesus’ life?

Some skeptical about the truth of the Bible claim the four gospels are filled with contradictions. These apparent contradictions are offered as proof the Bible is unreliable. The four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, each present an account of the life of Jesus. If all four gospels are true accounts why do they offer differing versions of the same events in Jesus life. Examples of these differences can be found in the number of demoniacs healed in Gederah- Mark and Luke say there was 1 but Matthew says there were 2; the order of events at the crucifixion; the people Jesus stood before in His trial- John says Annas and Caiaphas, the other gospels just say Caiaphas. The gospels offer a wide selection of these kinds of differences. Why do the gospels at times present events in different ways?

To answer this question several things need to be remembered. The gospels are not biographies. This does not mean the gospels are fictional accounts, but the purpose of the writing of the gospels was not tell the life story of Jesus. The gospels are presentations of doctrinal truths about Jesus. The events contained in the gospels are not given for biographical but theological purposes. The gospel are not laid out in a precise chronological fashion. Though all four gospels move from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry to His death, none of them attempt to present an exact timeline of the events in Jesus’ ministry. This is why the gospels present the events in different orders. The miracles, teachings and significant events are arranged in thematic fashion which seeks to drive home a particular doctrinal point without entirely disregarding the broad chronology of Jesus’ life.

The gospels are not histories. The authors are not interested in detailing a precise historical formulation of Jesus. Generally a historian would seek to arrange things in a very orderly and sequential fashion and to include as many details as possible. The gospel writers are presenting the message of salvation to their readers. Historical details are the means of communicating rich gospel truths. The records of Jesus’ travels from place to place are not a description of the way of life of first century Palestinians, but the evidence that Jesus is the Son of God who came to bring salvation. Critiquing the gospels for their failure to be biographies or histories is to misunderstand the goals of the authors.

All other considerations aside, the reality is none of the supposed contradictions are actually contradictory. Some portions of the gospel may require more effort to correlate together, but in all cases no account excludes the information contained in another account. They offer additional details to the record. When Mark says there was a demon possessed man living in the tombs, he does not exclude the existence of another. The purposes of the narrower account is served with the discussion of the deliverance of the one man. The details of the gospels simply do not contradict one another. The gospels are complementary accounts that present the wonderful truth that Jesus God made flesh, the promised Messiah, who died and was raised to life for the salvation of men.

In what way is Jesus begotten of God?

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” At Christmas we remember the birth of Jesus. Jesus’ birth is of universal importance because Jesus is God who set aside His Divine prerogatives, clothed Himself in humanity and suffered the punishment of man’s sin so men can be saved. John 3:16 famously describes Jesus as the “only begotten Son.” That Jesus is begotten of God may seem to be at odds with the Biblical doctrine that Jesus is the eternal God. If Jesus is the eternally existent God, in what way is He begotten of God?

Psalm 2:7 presents a powerful promise of the coming Messiah. God comforts His servant David with the promises He will establish His own Son as King of Jerusalem who will reign over all the earth. The Messianic promise of God is certified by the Divine decree, “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee.” In the New Testament Paul declares that Jesus is the Son decreed by God in Psalm 2. The begottenness of Jesus is the eternal decree of God to establish God the Son as the Messiah of Israel who would reign as King over the entire earth.

John 1:14 connects the incarnation- God the Son’s taking to Himself humanity- with His being begotten. Jesus is begotten of God in His birth into the world. Jesus was not conceived by natural means but by the power of God uniquely working to generate a child. Jesus’ begottenness is the working of God to miraculously create a body for the Son within Mary’s womb. His begottenness is in the working of God to send the Son of God, the seed of woman, into humanity to become the Savior of man.

God the Son is the eternally existent God who created all things. He is fully God and equal with the Father in existence, eternality, infinity, majesty, power and glory. The begottenness of Jesus does not imply the least inferiority. The begottenness of Jesus does not imply a point in eternity in which the Father existed alone without the Son or the Spirit. Jesus is described as begotten because of the Divine decree that the Son would take upon Himself humanity. Through His humanity Jesus would become the Savior of those who trust Him and He would be the conquering King that would rule all the earth. Jesus is begotten in His human personage and in His Messianic work. God the Son did not spring into existence on Christmas day (or nine months before His birth). God the Son has no source nor origination. The Son of God is fully God, the second person of the Trinity, who shares entirely in the identical, eternal essence and existence of the Triune Godhead.

Why did Jesus do miracles?

The ministry of Jesus was filled with many miracles. The New Testament gospels record 37 distinct miracles performed by Jesus. His first miracle was turning water into wine and the ones that followed included healing incurable disease, raising the dead, driving out demons, walking on water and feeding thousands from a small meal. Besides the miracles detailed in the Bible, John’s gospel states “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book.” (John 20:30) We don’t know how many miracles Jesus performed, but we do know He did many in almost every place He went.

Some have speculated that Jesus did miracles to show God’s love for mankind and His desire to heal men. Some have speculated that Jesus did miracles as an example of good works for His disciples to follow. Such conclusions have a ring of truth, but they fail to consider the most important source of information. The Bible does not leave us to wonder why Jesus did miracles. Scriptures states in clear terms the exact reason for Jesus’ miraculous deeds.

Two verses make very clear statements on this point. “Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you.” (Acts 2:22) “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles.” (Hebrews 2:3-4)

These verses teach that Jesus did His miracles as testimony and proof that He is who He claimed to be and that the message He preached is true. Jesus’ miracles are God’s testimony that Jesus is His Son, the Messiah and the Savior. Specifically, Jesus miracles are signs to the Jews that He is their Messiah. The miracles were not signs to the Gentiles. In fact, the Bible only mentions a couple of miracles involving Gentiles and both are a rebuke of the unbelief of the Jews. While Jesus’ miracles are acts of great compassion that shew the mercy of God on humanity, those benefits are not the purpose of the miracles. Jesus did miracles as proof that He is God, He is the Messiah and He is the Savior just as He said. His miracles are the Divine stamp of approval on His ministry and His message.

Did Jesus claim to be God?

Many cults and false religions attempt to disprove Christianity’s claim that Jesus is God by declaring that Jesus never claimed to be God. Some religious scholars assert that Jesus never claimed to be God. Is this true? Are Jesus’ words empty of any claim to be Divine? Does the Bible tell us that Jesus believed He was God? The easiest way to answer this is to read any of the four gospels, but especially Mark and John. In those two gospels the claims of Jesus’ deity are repeated over and over again in many different ways. The disciples claimed Jesus is God, the demons who opposed Jesus claimed He is God, some of those Jesus healed claimed He is God and God claimed Jesus is God. Jesus Himself claimed to be God.

Two of the most frequent claims to be God made by Jesus are not well understood by people today because of a misunderstanding of the meaning of the phrases Jesus used. Jesus claimed God is His Father and to be equal with His Father. This is no claim of parentage or familial relationship. This is a theological statement that declares the speaker to be God. When Jesus said to the Jews, “I and my Father are one.” (John 10:30), they began picking up rocks to stone Him to death. Jesus asked them why they wanted to stone Him. The answer given by the Jews show they understood exactly what Jesus was saying. They knew Jesus was claiming to be God and they wanted to stone Him “for blasphemy, and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.” (John 10:33)

Jesus claimed for Himself the name I Am. The name I Am is not a mere statement of one’s current existence, as it is used in Descartes’ famous assertion, “I think, therefore I am.” The name I Am is the key name of God given in the Old Testament. I Am is the name of God given to Moses to tell the Israelites who was leading them out of Egypt. It is the source of the name Jehovah, or Yahweh, found throughout the Old Testament. When Jesus told the Jews, “Before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58), He was claiming to be God. The Jews responded by attempting to stone Jesus. They understood His claim, and because they did not believe Jesus to be God they wanted to put Him to death for blasphemy.

These are just two examples of Jesus’ claims to be God. They are not isolated examples, but could be joined with many other statements in the Bible in which Jesus made explicit claims to be God. Added to these claims are the many times Jesus claimed to do that which only God can do. The person who would consider who Jesus is must confront these claims. He can disregard Jesus’ claims or to accept Jesus as the God He claims to be. One cannot brush Jesus aside a great teacher or a moral example. If Jesus is not God as He claimed, Jesus is not good. He may be a charlatan perpetuating a fraud on millions. He may be a maniac believing the delusions of an addled mind. Jesus claimed to be God. Do you believe Him?

Can you prove the resurrection?

Easter Sunday has just passed and it seems appropriate to take a moment for another consideration of Jesus’ resurrection. The Bible offers a number of facts that are legitimate evidences for the truth of the resurrection. Sufficient evidence exists in God’s Word to convince a reasonable person of the plausibility of Jesus’ resurrection.

The claim of the resurrection begins with an assertion: Jesus was genuinely dead. The Roman soldiers guarding the cross would have never let a victim down unless he was definitively dead. The men who transported Jesus to the tomb and wrapped Him for burial would never have buried Him if they found the least evidence of life. Jesus was dead when He came down from the cross. The third day after His death, Jesus was restored to life by God the Father.

The Bible offers several evidences that Jesus was miraculously returned to life.  The guards assigned to watch over Jesus’ tomb told the priests of the angelic visitor, the removal of the stone and the empty tomb. These men were not disciples of Jesus. They were at best unconcerned about Jesus’ claims to be the Messiah. They had no agenda but the protection of their own interests. The priests who instigated the crucifixion believed the Roman soldiers’ testimony, but conspired with them to lie about the actual events. The priests bought off the soldiers and convinced the soldiers to confess to what would ordinarily have been a capital crime, falling asleep while on watch, rather than admit the supernatural events of that day. While not conclusive proof for the resurrection, these facts compel one to consider carefully what did happen that Sunday morning.

Seven weeks after Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples stood in front of large crowds in Jerusalem and announced that Jesus had risen. The disciples indicted the Jews for their part in crucifying the Messiah and then declared God had restored Jesus to life. Of the tens of thousands in Jerusalem who heard this message, including the religious leaders of the nation who had condemned Jesus to death, many would have known the exact location of Jesus’ tomb. If Jesus was still in the grave, any of those who rejected the apostles preaching could have readily shown the disciples and the masses the body of Jesus. No one did. The inability of the skeptics to refute the apostles claims gives strong evidence to the empty tomb and points to the genuineness of the resurrection.

The four gospels and the letter of 1 Corinthians dedicate significant sections to Jesus’ resurrection. The first gospel was written less than 20 years after Jesus’ death. The letter to the Corinthians was written about 25 years after Jesus’ death. Many of those who were eyewitnesses of Jesus death and resurrection were still living. The gospel writers and the apostle Paul mention specific individuals who saw the risen Jesus. Any of these eyewitnesses could testify to having personally seen Jesus alive after His resurrection. Besides the specific ones named Paul cites an additional five hundred Christians who saw Jesus alive after His death. The vast multitude of witnesses give strong evidence, evidence that would be practically incontrovertible in any other case today, to the truth that Jesus died and rose to life again. When one considers the intense persecution these believers faced because of their commitment to Jesus, the possibility of a conspiracy to dupe the world seems very unlikely.

The resurrection is a certain event that can be attested to by strong evidences. One can believe the claims of the Bible about Jesus and know that He is the Savior who died and now lives forever. Because Jesus is alive, those who believe Him will have eternal life.

Who was responsible for Jesus’ death?

The death of Jesus was entirely the plan of God. His death was not at all plan B but the eternal plan of God. Jesus did not come to earth and tried but failed so He had to go to the cross. The cross was always the plan of God. Jesus is the “Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world.” As we think of this question, it is important to recognize that Jesus’ death on the cross was God’s plan.

Even though Jesus’ crucifixion was the eternal plan of God, there were those who nailed Jesus on the cross in disobedience to God. They were not accepting of God’s plan for salvation and striving to live in obedience to God. They were in rebellion against God. God holds those responsible who rebelled against Him and who in their rebellion conspired for Jesus’ destruction.

A huge body of people were directly involved in the conspiracy to kill Jesus. Judas Iscariot jumps to the forefront of the mind because of his betrayal. Judas was hired to betray Jesus by the ruling body of Israel, called the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin tried Jesus and condemned Him, but they had no authority to put Jesus to death. The Jews were under Roman domination and so could not legally execute a prisoner. Only Rome could do that. The Sanhedrin had Jesus taken to the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, who attempted to pass the problem to the Roman governor of the next region over, Herod. Herod just wanted to see a magic trick. When Jesus refused to perform, Herod sent Him back to Pilate. Pilate knew the injustice of the Jews schemes to have Jesus crucified and sought to have Him released. The Jews became very agitated and Pilate finally agreed with their demands. He brought out a basin of water and washed his hands in front of the Jewish leaders telling them he was not responsible for what happened to Jesus.

When Pilate washed his hands and said, “I am innocent of the blood of this just person” the Jews willingly took the responsibility on themselves. They bear the responsibility for Jesus death. The Jews knew the promises of God. They knew the Word of God. They were waiting for their Messiah. They rejected God’s Word and God’s Savior and took on themselves the responsibility for their rebellion which sought Jesus’ crucifixion. When Pilate his hands before the Jews they said, “His blood be on us and on our children.” (Matthew 27:25) The Jews said they would take responsibility for Jesus crucifixion.

This is borne out later in the Bible. After Jesus death, burial, resurrection and return to heaven, the apostles of Jesus began to preach to the Jews. The apostles preached of salvation, forgiveness and judgment. They preached to the nation the judgment for their rejection and execution of Jesus God’s Messiah. In Acts 5 the apostles were called up on charges before the Sanhedrin, the same group that a few months earlier had condemned Jesus to death. As they stood before the rulers of Israel Peter declared to the of “Jesus, whom ye slew and hung on a tree.” Peter and the apostles, under the direction of the Holy Spirit repeatedly declared it was the Jews who were responsible for Jesus death.

Even though it was Pontius Pilate who gave permission for Jesus death and it was the Roman soldiers who did the scourging, who took Jesus to Golgotha, who drove the nails through His flesh and hung him up on the cross, the responsibility falls on those Jews and their leaders who rejected Jesus. Jesus came to His own people. He was a Jew, a descendant of King David. Jesus came to bring salvation. The salvation He brought was not the salvation the Jews were wanting. They wanted deliverance from Rome and Jesus was bringing deliverance from sin. The Jews of that generation rejected their Messiah and their’s is the responsibility for refusing their promised Savior.

Were the same people at Jesus triumphal entry and at his judgment?

Palm Sunday is the Sunday set aside by many church calendars the week before Easter to remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. A few days before His crucifixion Jesus road into the city on the back of a donkey. As usual He was surrounded by a large crowd of followers. On this day the crowd was immense. Jerusalem was filling with hundreds of thousands of Jews from all around the Roman Empire coming to the city to celebrate the feast of Passover. Many of these Jews had heard of the miracles Jesus had done throughout Palestine. On top of that, word of Jesus’ recent raising Lazarus from the dead had spread throughout the city. As Jesus road into Jerusalem the immense crowds began to shout their praise to Him. “Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.” (Mark 11:9-10).

A few days later Jesus was betrayed by Judas, taken captive by the Jewish leaders, condemned as guilty of blasphemy and presented to Pontius Pilate for official execution. Pilate was reluctant to condemn Jesus to death, so he sent Jesus to Herod and upon Jesus’ return Pilate had Him scourged. When those things did not satisfy the Jews demands, Pilate attempted to force the Jews into choosing to have Jesus released by offering them a choice between Jesus and a vicious criminal named Barabbas. The Jews rejected all Pilate’s pleas. In the end a large crowd was standing in front of Pilate shouting, “Crucify him.”

One obvious difference between the two crowds is the presence of Jesus’ disciples and closest followers. In the triumphal entry Jesus’ disciples were present and taking the lead in shouting praise to Jesus. On the day of Jesus’ crucifixion, the disciples were nowhere to be found. The twelve closest to Jesus and possibly others of those most faithful to Him fled when Jesus was arrested. The crowd in the Praetorium was led and incited by the chief priests and other Jewish leaders. The leaders of the two crowds were very different and Jesus’ closest disciples did not stand before PIlate’s judgment hall.

If the same people were in both crowds is very hard to say. One would speculate at least some of the Pharisees and more curious would have been in both crowds, but the Bible doesn’t say this. The crowd in front of Pilate was much smaller than the tens of thousands who shouted praise to Jesus a few days earlier. Jerusalem at that time was filled with several hundred thousand people so it is not necessary for the same people to be in both crowds. However, there is no reason to absolutely say they were two different groups.

The shouts of praise to Jesus when He rode into the city on a donkey were not praises for Him as God’s Son the Savior from sin. The shouts were praises for Jesus as a conquering king coming to usher in a golden age for the Jewish people. The crowd was crying out for a king to drive out the Roman invaders and reestablish Israel as an autonomous nation. Jesus had no intention of overthrowing Rome. His purpose was to die for the sin of His people. Jesus’ purpose was rejected by the majority of Jews who heard and saw Him. They rejected His claim to be God. Even if they were not in the crowd shouting for His crucifixion most would have agreed with the demand that one they considered a blasphemer be put to death.