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The Marvelous Story of Esther, Absent From Early Canons of Scripture

The teaching in church this week centered on the inspiring story of Esther. In a nutshell when Xerxes was king of Persia the Queen was named Vashti. And in a moment of defiance Vashti refused the command of the King. After consulting with his advisers the king decided on a process to find a new Queen, and the beautiful Queen he chose was Esther. Esther had been warned of by her kinsmen Mordecai to not advise the King that she was a Jew because of animosity towards the Jews. As it turned out an Agagite named Haman conspired to get rid of all the Jews and in a thrilling story of bravery and courage Esther is instrumental in ridding the Jews of this direct attack, in elevating her kinsmen Mordecai and in providing for the welfare of all the Jews under Xerxes.  It is an amazing story of bravery, and deliverance.

As much as I love the story of Esther however I must report that there is considerable evidence that Esther, whether true or not, was not a book of the Old Testament according to at least some writings of the day.

Look at this quotation from you Eusebius’ church history:

Melito to his brother Onesimus, greeting! Since you have often, in your zeal for the Word, expressed a wish to have extracts made from the Law and the Prophets concerning the Saviour, and concerning our entire Faith, and have also desired to have an accurate statement of the ancient books, as regards their number and their order, I have endeavored to perform the task, knowing your zeal for the faith, and your desire to gain information in regard to the Word, and knowing that you, in your yearning after God, esteem these things above all else, struggling to attain eternal salvation. Accordingly when I went to the East and reached the place where these things were preached and done, I learned accurately the books of the Old Testament, and I send them to you as written below. These are their names: Of Moses five, Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy; Joshua the son of Nun, Judges, Ruth, four of Kingdoms, 1 two of Chronicles, the Psalms of David, Solomon’s Proverbs or Wisdom, 2 Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Job; of the Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, 3 the Twelve [minor prophets] in one book, Daniel, Ezekiel, Esdras. 4 From which also I have made the extracts, dividing them into six books.[i]

Notice in the above listing that the book of Esther is missing.

With that  again I have to say that it pains me to have to present this because to me the story of Esther has always been a thrilling and inspiring story. But, besides being our Savior, the Lord Jesus was also the greatest prophet ever and he said this about reading the Scriptures:

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, (Joh 5:39 ESV)

While the story of Esther is certainly one of the Jewish people being saved at the time it holds the distinction of being one of two books (the other being Song of Solomon) that do not mention God.  It does not include any of the genealogy of the bloodline of our Savior. While Esther is a story of deliverance it doesn’t testify of jesus.   And as noted above it was left out of at least some of the early Christian centuries’ canons of Scripture.  Also throughout the centuries it has not been accepted universally.  Look at this quote from a website called patheos.com:

John Calvin did not include the book in his biblical commentaries and only referenced it once in the Institutes(see 4.12.17). Though he included it in his Bible, Martin Luther was highly ambivalent about it. “I am so great an enemy to . . . Esther, that I wish [it] had not come to us at all, for [it has] too many heathen unnaturalities,” he said in Table Talk 24. And in one exchange with Erasmus he said it “deserves. . . to be regarded as noncanonical.”[ii]

What this suggests is significant in a number of ways:

  1. the Canon of Scripture might not be as divinely inspired as some would have us believe.
  2. The statements of belief of many Christian churches today includes the statement that the 66 books included in the modern Christian Bible are divinely inspired, and the word of God. This is a relatively recent doctrine and not something that has consistently been believed throughout the ages.

I have said elsewhere in places on this website that many churches teach that they are the first century church living in the 21st century. But this is clearly not the case. There were at least some of the earliest church fathers who did not hold that Esther and some of the other books in the Bible were divinely inspired by God. And hundreds of years ago in the forming of the Reformation the founding reformers also challenged some of the books that current statements of belief propound to be true. In other words, churches in Melito’s time, in Luther’s time, in Calvin’s time would not have made the statement that the 66 books of the Bible are all divinely inspired pieces of the word of God.

It is vitally important to me to remember that the true word of God is not a book as much as it is the person of Jesus Christ. And it is helpful in recognizing that much of the disagreement among churches centers around a dogma that God authored the 66 books and the arguments that promote divisions weaken when we acknowledge that that statement of belief is a modern invention and not one held by the reformers nor the early Christians.

The faith of the early Christians as well as the reformers like Luther and Calvin was not based on the doctrine that the 66 books of the modern Christian bible are the word of God, and neither should ours be.

 

[i] The Face of the Early Fathers, William a Jurgens, volume 1, p.81. This is a quote by St. Melito of Sardes which is a fragment in Eusebius, history of the church, book 4, chapter 26. The estimated date of this citation is 170 AD.

[ii] http://www.patheos.com/blogs/joeljmiller/2013/06/youre-reading-the-wrong-book-of-esther/

August 20th, 2018 Posted by | Koine (Biblical) Greek | no comments

The Genesis Code Gives an Explanation of How the Days in Genesis Correspond to The Big Bang Theory

The Genesis Code[i] is a Christian movie that tackles the question of how the “days” in Genesis chapter one could possible reconcile with the millions of years that scientists teach that it took to get the earth to where it is today.

This is spoiler on the movie so if you want to see it first now is the time to stop reading.

It is obviously a problem calculating what a day is just from Genesis chapter one because our days are based on the time it takes the earth to spin one time as it revolves around the sun and the sun isn’t in the sky on at least the first “day” of Genesis chapter one.

Basically, the explanation is that God’s vantage point and ours are different.  What God sees as a day and what we see are radically different the further back in time we go and the closer we get to the moment of creation.

A scientific principle stated in the movie that is important to understanding these concepts is that as an object moves closer to the speed of light time moves more slowly.  This comes from Einstein’s theory of relativity.  This is called “time dilation”.

Google “time dilation” to understand more or look at the Wikipedia entry which says in part:

“An accurate clock at rest with respect to one observer may be measured to tick at a different rate when compared to a second observer’s own equally accurate clocks. This effect arises neither from technical aspects of the clocks nor from the fact that signals need time to propagate, but from the nature of spacetime itself.”

The point is that that when we think about the days of creation they can’t be the same as what we call a day today because as I said earlier the earth wasn’t in orbit around the sun in the beginning.  And it wasn’t moving at the stable speeds we know today.  Everything was moving at incredible speeds.  Our perception of that time then is radically different than of today.

Another important scientific concept that the movie discusses is the concept of a “singularity.”  A singularity is a place where gravity is infinite compared to our gravity here on earth.  This place is often called a “black hole.” What creates a black hole is the implosion of a star. For example, in the movie, they talk of a star whose mass is a couple million times more than our sun who implodes upon itself to the point where the star becomes a little dot like a grain of sand.  However small this dot is, it has the mass of that star that imploded so its gravity is so powerful that even light is absorbed by its gravity. Anything approaching this singularity speeds up to the point where it starts traveling near the speed of light.

A person in a spaceship going near that black hole could start traveling so fast that their perception of speed would be different than the station that they embarked from.  In theory, a person then leaving that space station, let’s say, and traveling near the speed of light would “slow down” and not age as fast as the people at the station they came from.  The person in the ship would have a different vantage point than a person on the station.

If station personnel on the station could see into the ship as it was traveling at these incredibly accelerating speeds towards the singularity, the crew would appear to be moving slower and slower as the ship accelerated.  These station personnel would literally see how time was moving slower for these people in the ship.

And, here’s the kicker, this ship that was on a simple one-hour mission would come back to find out that that thousands of years had passed for the people on the station.

That’s time dilation. Increased gravity slows the passage of time. If the scientific model is correct, i.e., there was a big bang, then this miniscule point of creation that exploded had to have been a place of unimaginable gravity with this corresponding time frame that would be nothing like what we experience time as today.

Complicating this is that the stretching of space itself also affects the rate at which time is experienced.  Space, science teaches us, expands and contracts.

The point the movie makes is that the days talked about in Genesis chapter 1 are from God’s vantage point while science’s time calculations are from man’s perspective today. So we see God’s actions through a time dilated window and have to understand that his time is moving different than ours today.

Genesis is seen through God’s frame of reference or “clock”.    God’s clock isn’t based on the sun.  As it says in Genesis, God’s calculation of time is based on light. Here is the one of the keys to understanding the movie’s explanation of how science and Genesis chapter can reconcile: this light upon which God’s clock is based is not the light of our sun, it didn’t even exist on day one, but rather the light of Genesis one is something called cosmic background radiation or CBR.  Scientists say that the presence of CBR confirms the big bang theory: it is that significant and that related to the topic at hand.  CBR fills all space today as it did at the moment of creation or the big bang.

The original frequency of the CBR at the time of the big bang was approximately three trillion cycles per second. Today, CBR wavelength is about three cycles per second.  The passage of time at the time of the big bang occurred at a rate that was trillion times faster than today.

Trying to conceive of time in the beginning of creation makes no sense when we try to use clocks today. It only makes sense if we understand what God’s clock is.

Next the movie gets into how it directly relates this discussion of time dilation in the theory relativity to the verses in chapter 1 of Genesis.  Basically, the premise is to divide the time between the moment of creation and today into six periods.  Period one would be about 8 billion years. Period Two would be about 4 billion years. Period Three would be about 2 billion years. Period Four would be about 1 billion years, and so fourth.  Each period gets progressively smaller because time is moving faster as the universe expands.

Adding up the six periods or “days” would result in about 15,750,000 years.  This corresponds to what some scientists say is the age of the universe.

8,000,000
4,000,000
2,000,000
1,000,000
500,000
250,000
15,750,000

To us it is 15,750,000 years, to the cosmic clock is six periods or “days”.

The movie next goes on to show that what Genesis says happened in each day corresponds to what scientists say happened in each of the time periods or “days” of the cosmic clock.  The pastor in the movie matches the meaning of the words in Genesis to show that it corresponds scientifically.  A scientist explains that the term “big bang” is actually a misnomer as it implies what we think of as an explosion with all of the light that’s generated in something we might see on TV. And the scientist explains that initially the “explosion” was of a ball of plasma that was so dense that initially light could not escape.  However, after a point, the process had slowed down to the point that light could escape, and suddenly, in that first time period, there was light. Ergo, “let there be light.”

The movie gives an explanation that shows that all of the days in Genesis can correspond to what happened in the many periods that scientists have proclaimed as existing in the development of the earth and the universe.

Side note: If this analogy holds, that would mean that we’re in the seventh “day”. That should last about 125,000 years. Wouldn’t it be interesting if that corresponded to some event in God’s plan for man?

The Genesis code is definitely a movie that puts a new slant on unifying science and God’s word.

As far as to why this explanation is not actually in God’s word a lot of the things that have been discussed in this article would only have been known in the last century or two. Besides, Gods word is not written just for the technically savvy person who has an interest in science.  It’s written for all people, and that means children as well as adults.  The explanation in Genesis is what so many people can understand, especially the young and/or less intellectually, scientifically inclined of us.

It just goes to show you that the  “six days” of creation as presented in the book of Genesis  are not as scientifically preposterous as some would lead you to believe.  And to the Christian it offers an explanation that corresponds the creation time table in Genesis to science.  Instead of putting science and faith at loggerheads it offers hope that there is a lot that people of science and people of faith have in common.

The movie didn’t win awards that I know of, so the reason to watch is to be uplifted by seeing a positive resolution to some of life’s hard questions for a lot of us.  But that makes it worth it.  The first part of the movie is a story that shows the problems that some people have believing Genesis, and it is a little slow.  But the explanation at the end really is a fascinating presentation.  I recommend it.

 


[i] The Genesis Code, Directed by C. Thomas Howell, Genesis Productions, CK Pictures, 2010 (available for streaming on Netflix as of the writing of this article)

October 16th, 2013 Posted by | Koine (Biblical) Greek | no comments

Speak Koine (Biblical) Greek 26 – Lord’s Prayer 6

We are working on the Lord’s Prayer, one piece at a time.  We are now on Matthew 6:13.

Play the link below to learn the verse in Greek and to practice.

Lords Prayer 6 Audio (click link to hear audio, opens in new tab)

And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (Matthew 6:13)

Matthew 6:13 in Greek

(“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever” is not in the Critical Text or modern versions so I have not included it here.)

Here is a breakdown of the Greek words and their meanings.
Matthew 6:13 Words:

Matthew 6:13 in Greek Breakdown

Practice makes perfect.  Practice saying the verse, as well as the individual words and meanings.

 

© copyright 2012 Mark W Smith, all rights reserved.

 

 

January 18th, 2012 Posted by | Koine (Biblical) Greek | no comments