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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"First and the Last" (Isa. 44:6 / Rev. 1:17)

"First and Last"

Another interesting example of the "title confusion trick" frequently used by anti-Watchtower trinitarians is the use of "First and Last" at Is. 44:6 and Rev. 1:17.

(Actually you might prefer to call this a "description-confusion trick" since Jehovah calls himself Protos kai ego meta tauta - "First and I [am] hereafter" - Septuagint, Is. 44:6; whereas Jesus calls himself ho protos kai ho eskatos - "The First and the last" - somewhat similar descriptions but  much different wording or title.  (Is. 48:12 is sometimes used , but it says in the Septuagint that he is: protos, kai ego eimi eis ton aiona - "first, and I am into the ages.")

Is. 44:6 - "Thus saith Jehovah, ... I am the first and I am the last; and besides me there is no God .... (:8)  Is there a God besides me? ... I know not any." - ASV.

Rev. 1:17 - "... And he laid his right hand upon me, saying, Fear not; I am the first and the last, (:18) and the Living one; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades." - ASV.

The trinitarian "proof" goes like this: "since only one can be first (and last), and since Jehovah is `first' (and `last') and Jesus  is also `first' (and `last'), then they must both be the same one!"  Therefore, they say, Jesus must be Jehovah!

The answer is, of course, that there can be many who are "first and last."  We must discover, from context, in what sense they are "first and last."

For example, in the Biblical understanding of the meaning of the term "first and last" (or "only"), Adam was "the first and last" human created from the dust of the earth.  But calling him "the first and the last" would certainly not mean he is Jehovah, and it does not mean he is Jesus (although any devious Bible student could find such "evidence" at 1 Cor. 15:45)!

We could certainly call Jesus "The first and the last" because he was the first and last (only) direct creation by Jehovah himself.  The rest of creation from  Jehovah came through Jesus.  But, instead of speculating on the many ways Jesus could be considered the "first and the last" (only), we need to examine the use of "first and last" in context to discover in what sense it probably was intended originally!

Examining Is. 44:6, 8, we see that "first and last" refers to Jehovah being the only person who is the Most High God: "I am the first, and I am the last; and besides me there is no God ... I know not any." - compare Is. 43:10.

Now if we examine Rev. 1:17, 18, we can see in what sense "the first and last" (only) is intended there.  Context shows that it is not (as it could have been) in the sense of the only direct creation by the Father, Jehovah, and it is certainly not in the sense of the only true God (John 17:1, 3), but it clearly refers to the resurrection (the dying and then living again) of Jesus!

Notice that the entire context refers to death and living again: Rev. 1:17:

"I am the first and the last, (:18) and the living one; and I was [or `became'] dead, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death ..." - compare Rev. 2:8 (the only other place Jesus calls himself "the first and the last").
Jehovah, the Father, uses the expression at Rev. 22:13 - and makes no reference to dying and living again, apparently intending it as he did at Is. 44:6 - "I am the only God."

So in what sense is Jesus the first and last (only) resurrected person?  Just as  he was the first and last (only) of Jehovah's direct creations (and all other things were created through Jesus), so Jesus was also the first and last (only one) of those resurrected to eternal life who was resurrected directly by the Father (Jehovah) Himself (and all others are to be resurrected through Jesus who now has "the keys of death") - see John 6:39, 40; Acts 3:26; Acts 13:30, 33, 38.

For more, see:

TC - Title Confusion Trick (Examining the Trinity) 

Exposing the False Reasoning Behind Trinity 'Proof'- Texts (Examining the Trinity)

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Charles T. Russell and "Pyramid Chronology"

Pyramid Chronology

Opposers of Jehovah's Witnesses occasionally cite Charles T. Russell's interest in "Pyramid Chronology" as another one of their attempts to discredit the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. In order to address this subject properly, a brief look at the history of the subject and the broad general perception at that time would be beneficial. 

In 1859, an "eminently respectable Nottinghamshire Victorian" (Moffett quote) and respected London publisher, John Taylor, published his book, The Great Pyramid: Why Was It Built? And Who Built It?.

Taylor was also an earnest student of mathematics who had spent many long hours examining and analyzing the most accurate and detailed measurements then available for the Great Pyramid: Howard Vyse's survey in 3 volumes - Operations Carried On At The Pyramids Of Giza.

Taylor's eight-volume work claimed the Great Pyramid had been built through the inspiration of the God of the Bible. The various measurements of that pyramid were, he said, God-inspired messages to His people.

Then Dr. Charles Piazzi Smyth took over. He was

"a fellow of the Royal Society, Britain's august high command of the sciences, [and] his father, Admiral William Henry Smyth, had been one before him. At the time the younger Smyth encountered Taylor's theories, he was both professor of astronomy at Edinburgh University and Astronomer Royal of Scotland." - Moffett.

Inspired by Taylor's studies, Smyth launched into a fresh analysis of Howard Vyse's figures. His calculations and conclusions startled the world: not only was Taylor correct, he declared, but there were many new revelations to be found!

From 1864 until 1890 (at least) Piazzi Smyth was the greatest authority on the revelations of the Great Pyramid measurements. This respected scientist sincerely believed and taught, among other things, that the various measurements in and on the Pyramid were put there through inspiration from God by its Hebrew builders to encourage and inform God's modern people.

Many later studies by others came up with slightly different measurements and different interpretations, but Piazzi Smyth's were certainly the most impressive from the standpoint of scholastic authority, scientific sincerity, and world-wide endorsements. "As late as 1932," Moffett tells us, "there were still those ready to take up the cudgel for the Astronomer Royal." Others, however, also became popular in this field.

"The heyday of pyramidology was to dawn in 1924, with the publication of The Great Pyramid: Its Divine Message. This was primarily the work of an English structural engineer named David Davidson." - Moffett.

Many intelligent, knowledgeable people around the world were convinced that the Great Pyramid had been divinely constructed to reveal Biblical truths. True, there was some argument as to which of the many different measurements being reported were the proper measurements. And there were various interpretations as to what each measurement actually represented. And there were a number of stuffy "curmudgeons" who still wouldn't be convinced by what seemed to be overwhelming statistical proof. But "Pyramid Fever" ran high, nevertheless.

And in 1890 the respected Dr. Piazzi Smyth was the Pyramid Chronology expert!

So, when C. T. Russell began examining Dr. Smyth's work and comparing it to his own attempts at chronology based on the Bible alone, it is no wonder he became very excited at what appeared to be an exact proportional match between the lengths of various consecutive measurements in the Pyramid and the lengths of consecutive time periods in his own Bible chronology.
As a result, in 1890, Russell's "Pyramid" calculations and their interpretation by him were forwarded to Piazzi Smyth in England. Smyth heartily endorsed them in his Dec. 21, 1890 letter which was reproduced in Studies in the Scriptures when Russell published his Great Pyramid testimony. - see pp. 311-312, Thy Kingdom Come.

As Russell tells us in that very same work which Piazzi Smyth had reviewed and praised:

"The first work of importance on the subject, proving that the Great Pyramid possessed scientific features, was by Mr. John Taylor, of England, A.D. 1859, since which time the attention of many able minds has been given to the further study of the testimony of this wonderful `Witness;' especially since Prof. Piazzi Smyth, Astronomer Royal for Scotland ... gave to the world the remarkable facts of its construction and measurements, and his conclusions therefrom. To his scholarly and scientific work, `Our Inheritance in the Great Pyramid,' we are mainly indebted for the data made use of in this chapter....

"A few years after Prof. Smyth's return, came the suggestion that the Great Pyramid is Jehovah's`Witness,' and that it is as important a witness to divine truth as to natural science .... The suggestion came from a young Scotsman, Robert Menzies, who, when studying the scientific teachings of the Great Pyramid, discovered that prophetic and chronological teachings co-exist in it.

"Soon it became apparent that the object of its construction was to provide in it a record of the divine plan of salvation, no less than the record of divine wisdom relating to astronomical, chronological, geometrical, and other important truths." - pp. 319-320, Thy Kingdom Come, Studies in the Scriptures.

Later confirmation for Russell's "pyramid chronology" came from Dr. John Edgar, M.A., B.So., M.B., C.M., F.F.P.S.G., of Glasgow, Scotland, who, with his brother Morton, visited the Great Pyramid in 1909 to critically test Russell's interpretations.

"Their verdict, after a most elaborate investigation, was a thorough endorsement of Pastor Russell's interpretation" - p. 4953 [bound volume], Jan. 1, 1912 WT.

However, it must be noted that it was extremely difficult to determine exactly where to start (or end) many of the measurements in the Great Pyramid, and more and more differing measurements began to be made and promoted as Smyth's theories became more and more popular. It is even claimed that Smyth himself had used two different measurements for one of the passages - WT, p. 3451, Nov. 1, 1904, letters from readers.

Also, as Moffett, in his book debunking the various pyramidology theories, points out:

"if you took enough measurements and chose selectively, it would be possible to prove virtually anything." - p. 38, Secrets of the Pyramids Revealed.

I have no doubt that Taylor, Prof. Piazzi Smyth, and C. T. Russell (and thousands of others) were sincere, religious men who truly believed their interpretations of the Pyramid measurements. They were victims of statistical coincidences and multiple variables: it all honestly appeared to be mathematically precise proof - inescapably certain!

Although convinced of the accuracy of his pyramid chronology interpretations, Russell, nevertheless, considered it as merely corroborating the testimony of the Bible. It was "for a sign and a witness unto the Lord of Hosts." He wrote: "IF this, indeed, prove to be a Bible in stone; IF it be a record of the secret plans of the Great Architect of the universe, displaying his foreknowledge and wisdom; it should and will be in full accord with his written word." - pp. 317, 326, 341, Thy Kingdom Come.

Nevertheless, we must finally conclude, as with some other date interpretations, that Russell was incorrect. This does not make him a False Prophet. He was no more (or less) than what he continually proclaimed himself to be: a mere imperfect man striving (with the aid of God's Spirit) for the truth. That his imperfect flesh did not always allow him perfect accord with the Holy Spirit should come as no surprise. Otherwise we would be treating him as an Inspired Prophet and regarding his every word as "Scripture" (which, as we know, he strongly opposed). Instead, he is merely a brother, a fellow servant.

Related Article:

The Watchtower and the Great Pyramid, then and now (Pastor Russell)

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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Quotes From Scholars Concerning Jesus as Michael the Archangel

From early Christian writings until now there have been many who understood Michael to be the archangel who became Jesus on earth. (For much more on the subject, see the ARCHANGEL category or use the search box above.)

Early Christian scholar Origen writes:

"There are certain creatures, rational and divine, which are called powers [spirit creatures, probably angels]; and of these Christ was the highest and best and is called not only the wisdom of God but also His power." - ANF 10:321-322.

Back in the early 1800's, Bible scholar Joseph Benson stated that the description of Michael as found in the Bible "manifestly points out the Messiah." 
Nineteenth-century Lutheran E. W. Hengstenberg agreed that "Michael is no other than Christ."

Similarly, theologian J. P. Lange, when commenting on Revelation 12:7, wrote: "We take it that Michael . . . is, from the outset, Christ in warlike array against Satan."

Clarke’s Commentary (Adam Clarke)

Jude :9

“Let it be observed that the word archangel is never found in the plural number in the sacred writings. There can be properly only one archangel, one chief or head of all the angelic host. Nor is the word devil, as applied to the great enemy of mankind, ever found in the plural; there can be but one monarch of all fallen spirits. Michael is this archangel, and head of all the angelic orders; the devil, great dragon, or Satan, is head of all the diabolic orders. When these two hosts are opposed to each other they are said to act under these two chiefs, as leaders; hence in Revelation 12:7, it is said: MICHAEL and his angels fought against the DRAGON and his angels.  The word Michael  lakym, seems to be compounded of ym mi, who, k ke, like, and la El, God; he who is like God; hence by this personage, in the Apocalypse, many understand the Lord Jesus.”

The 1599 Geneva Study Bible: Revelation

“12:7 And there was war in heaven: 14 Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

“(14) Christ is the Prince of angels and head of the Church, who bears that iron rod….”
John Gill, A Body of Doctrinal Divinity, Book 7 Chapter 5:

“1b2. Another prophecy in Daniel 12:1-3 respects the second and personal coming of Christ; for he is meant by Michael, who is "as God", as his name signifies, equal to him; the ‘great prince,’ the prince of the kings of the earth, and the head of all principalities and powers.”

John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Daniel 12:1

“Ver. 1.

And at that time shall Michael stand up,.... The Archangel, who has all the angels of heaven under him, and at his command, the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ;”

And even trinitarian Bible scholar W. E. Vine (“recognized as one of the world’s foremost [Bible] Greek scholars”) tells us that this “voice of the archangel” (1 Thess. 4:16) is apparently “the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ”! - p. 64, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia:

The earlier Protestant scholars usually identified Michael with the preincarnate Christ, finding support for their view, not only in the juxtaposition of the “child” and the archangel in Rev. 12, but also in the attributes ascribed to him in Daniel” – vol. 3, p. 2048, Eerdmans Publishing, 1984 printing.
Protestant Reformer John Calvin said regarding "Michael" in its occurrence at Daniel 12:1:

"I embrace the opinion of those who refer this to the person of Christ, because it suits the subject best to represent him as standing forward for the defense of his elect people." - J. Calvin, Commentaries On The Book Of The Prophet Daniel, trans. T. Myers (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979), vol. 2 p. 369.

John Wesley:

Chapter XII

A promise of deliverance, and of a joyful resurrection, ver. 1 - 4. A conference concerning the time of these events, ver. 5 - 7. An answer to Daniel's enquiry, ver. 8 - 13. For the children - The meaning seems to be, as after the death of Antiochus the Jews had some deliverance, so there will be yet a greater deliverance to the people of God, when Michael your prince, the Messiah shall appear for your salvation. A time of trouble - A the siege of Jerusalem, before the final judgment. The phrase at that time, probably includes all the time of Christ, from his first, to his last coming.

Wesley on Daniel 10:21: "Michael - Christ alone is the protector of his church, when all the princes of the earth desert or oppose it."

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758):

Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 2, Ch. 1, “Angels”:

“II. When Lucifer rebelled and set up himself as a head in opposition to God and Christ, and drew away a great number of the angels after him, Christ, the Son of God, manifested himself as an opposite head, and appeared graciously to dissuade and restrain by his grace the elect angels from hearkening to Lucifer’s temptation, so that they were upheld and preserved from eternal destruction at this time of great danger by the free and sovereign distinguishing grace of Christ. Herein Christ was the Saviour of the elect angels, for though he did not save them as he did elect men from the ruin they had already deserved, and were condemned to, and the miserable state they were already in, yet he saved them from eternal destruction they were in great danger of, and otherwise would have fallen into with the other angels. The elect angels joined with him, the glorious Michael, as their captain, while the other angels hearkened to Lucifer and joined with him, and then was that literally true that was fulfilled afterwards figuratively.

Rev. xii. ‘When there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was there place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’ ”

William L. Alexander, Doctor of Divinity, stated:

There seems good reason for regarding Michael as the Messiah. Such was the opinion of the best among the ancient Jews.... With this all the Bible representations of Michael agree. He appears as the Great Prince who standeth for Israel (Dan. xii. I), and he is called "the Prince of Israel" (Dan. x. 21)--William L. Alexander, ed., A Cyclopedia Of Biblical Literature, originally edited by John Kitto, 3d ed. (Edinburgh: A & C Black, 1886). vol. 3, p. 158.
"The two passages in the New Testament, in which Michael is mentioned, serve to confirm the result already arrived at. That the Michael referred to in Rev. xii. 7 is no other than the Logos, [the Word - the Son of God] has already been proved in my commentary upon that passage." —Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg, Christology of the Old Testament and a Commentary on the Messianic Predictions, 1836-9, Vol. IV, pp. 304-5 (in the T. & T. Clark publication; p. 269 in the Kregel publication).
Brown's Dictionary of the Bible

on the words 'Michael' and 'Angel' says, that both these words do sometimes refer to Christ; and also affirms that Christ is the Archangel.
Wood's Spiritual Dictionary

teaches nearly, if not exactly, the same on this subject that Brown's does. The former was a Calvinist, the latter a Methodist.

Butterworth, Cruden, and Taylor in their concordances, assert that Michael and Angel are both names of Christ.

Guyse in his Paraphrase on the New Testament, on Rev. xii. 7, acknowledges that many good expositors think that Christ is signified by Michael; and also gives it as his opinion.
Thomas Scott, in his notes on the Bible, says the Angel that appeared to Hagar when she fled from her mistress, one of the three Angels that appeared to Abraham in the plains of Mamre, the Angel that appeared to Moses in the bush, and the Angel that spoke to the Jews at Bochim, was Jesus Christ: and also asserts that Michael the Archangel is Jesus Christ. See Gen. xvi. 9, 10. Chap. xviii throughout. Exod. iii. 2-7. Judg. ii. 1-5, Dan x. 13, 21. Chap. xii. 1, Rev. xii. 7.


Highly respected trinitarian Bible scholar, Dr. E. F. Scott, Emeritus Professor at the Union Theological Seminary, wrote:

"The author of Hebrews ... thinks of [Jesus] as an angel, whom God had exalted above all others, investing him with his own majesty and calling him by the name of Son." - p. 726, An Encyclopedia of Religion, 1945 ed.

And, again, the very trinitarian The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible tells us that at this time the Jewish expectation was that the Christ was

"a pre-existent, heavenly angelic being who, at the end of time, will appear at the side of God as judge of the world [see Acts 7:55-56]." - p. 364, Vol. 3, Abingdon Press, 1962.

"Angel of the Lord [angel of Jehovah] - occurs many times in the Old Testament, where in almost every instance it means a supernatural personage to be distinguished from Jehovah .... Some feel the pre-incarnate Christ is meant." - p. 39, Today's Dictionary of the Bible (trinitarian), Bethany House Publ., 1982

"Angel of the Lord. ... Christ's visible form before the incarnation." - p. 40, Smith's Bible Dictionary (trinitarian), Hendrickson Publ.

"ANGEL OF THE LORD, ... is represented in Scripture as a heavenly being sent by God to deal with men as his personal agent and spokesman [`word'] .... In the NT [which trinitarians agree explains and amplifies the OT] there is no possibility of the angel of the Lord being confused with God. .... mostly when appearing to men he is recognized as a divine being, even though in human form, and is [sometimes] addressed as God" - p. 38, New Bible Dictionary, Tyndale House (trinitarian), 1984 printing.

"The Angel of the LORD.... Traditional [from 2nd century A. D. (at least)] Christian interpretation has held that this `angel' was a preincarnate manifestation of Christ as God's Messenger-Servant. It may be ..., the angel could speak on behalf of (and so be identified with) the One [Jehovah] who sent him." - footnote for Gen. 16:7 in the highly trinitarian The NIV Study Bible by Zondervan Publishing, 1985.

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