current, religion

ISIS and the Growth of Early Islam

early_islam

Day after day we are bombarded with terrible accounts of “Christian genocide” in Iraq, a term that virulent Christian skeptic Richard Dawkins felt appropriate to describe the systematic beheading of Christian children in Iraq by ISIS, or the Islamic State.

Christian homes are being marked with the Arabic letter ن (nun) for Nazarene, reminiscent of the Jewish Star of David in the early days of Nazism in Germany. Thousands are fleeing, dying, or being left for dead by having food and water sources cut off from them.

The question may people are asking is, why? What terrible organization would commit such atrocities that even Al-Qaeda would distance themselves from it? To understand why, we must roll the clock back on Islam to the very beginning when the religion was rapidly expanding.

The early (and phenomenal) growth of Islam went hand-in-hand with military and economic conquest. The Muslim expansion, or Fatah (opening), of the Middle East occurred for roughly one hundred years. During this time, Islam spread as far west as the Iberian Peninsula, as far south as modern–day Yemen, as far east as modern–day Pakistan, and as far north as modern–day France from one location in Mecca.

Anyone interested in the exponential growth of early Islam need look no further than to ISIS.

Much ink has been spilled on exactly how Islam experience such incredible growth. The general consensus is that Muhammad’s earliest followers, influenced by his teaching, spread the religion by sword.

Consequently, the Fatah paints a violent picture of Islam’s beginnings. Some Muslim apologists fearing such an image maintain that the Fatah was a spiritual conquest in an attempt to downplay Islam’s violent birth. They argue that the Fatah was done through extremely persuasive Islamic missions work; however, this is highly improbable.

Not only does archeological evidence suggest otherwise, but the Qur’ān itself seems to imply a combination of Islamic missions work and military conquest; “Slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them. If they repent and take to prayer and render the alms levy, allow them to go their way. Allah is forgiving and merciful (Sūra At-Tawbah 9:5).”

When an invading force entered a non-Muslim land, individuals had three choices: convert to Islam, pay a tax (jizya), or die. Fast-forward to today and this is the very same thing that is happening to Christians in Iraq by the Islamic State.

Whether or not Islam is a religion that promotes violence has been hotly debated ever since its beginnings. One thing is clear, however; Islam may easily and readily be used by evil men as justification for violence. We are seeing just that with the Islamic State, men reenacting the Fatah. Anyone interested in the exponential growth of early Islam need look no further than to ISIS.

The question remains – how long and how far will these men go? Better question – when will we wake up to the needs of our brothers and sisters in peril?

Follow the Vicar of Baghdad for an on-the-ground perspective of Christians in Iraq. Follow Open Doors for updates on the worldwide persecuted church.

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“I Share Your Faith”: Glenn Beck at Liberty University

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Last month, evangelical mega-college Liberty University made a splash in the news by inviting, yet again, Glenn Beck to speak at its final convocation.

The reasons that Liberty’s president, Dr Jerry Falwell Jr., gave for Mr Beck’s invitation to the university are hardly objectionable, especially considering the university’s history with American conservatism. Dr Falwell introduced Mr Beck as a “patriot, one of America’s leading multimedia personalities” whose radio and television programs have “ordained him as an iconic figure in American culture.”

With this introduction, any conservative-leaning institution could have such a speaker. But there’s one crucial aspect that Dr Falwell left out – Mr Beck’s faith. As a Mormon, or Latter-day Saint (LDS), Glenn Beck is at stark odds with much of what is taught at Liberty.

Luckily, Mr Beck did not neglect to touch on his faith.

“I share your faith,” Mr Beck claimed in his speech-turned-sermon. “I am from a different denomination. And a denomination, quite honestly, that I’m sure can make many people at Liberty uncomfortable. I’m a Mormon. But I share your faith in the atonement of the savior Jesus Christ.”

A Latter-day Saint, speaking at an evangelical university, stated that not only is the Mormon faith simply a denomination of Christianity, but that he shares in the same “faith in the atonement of the savior Jesus Christ.”

And with one sweeping statement, the problem of inviting a Mormon to speak at an evangelical university was made painfully apparent.

POLITICAL GAIN > THEOLOGICAL CLARITY

As you could imagine, the blogosphere has exploded over this speech (of which, admittedly, I am now adding a few more powder grains). Some have sharply criticized Liberty while others have jumped to her defense. Many have discussed the most glaring issue of inviting a Mormon to speak (or, rather, preach) at an evangelical university, but few have identified this event as one more step in a continuing development of Liberty bending her theological identity to accommodate for political gain.

The problem isn’t that Glenn Beck spoke at Liberty; the problem is that Liberty has, intentionally or not, made concessions to allow for Glenn Beck to speak. And this is not the first time.

“Beck is best known for his message, not his medium,” Dr Falwell clarified. That message, of course, is patriotic conservatism. Again, a conservative political pundit speaking at a conservative university is nothing to be surprised about. The issue comes when one considers that Mr Beck is not simply a conservative, but a conservative Mormon, and Liberty is not just a conservative university, but a conservative evangelical university.

And the one who bent their identity to allow for the other’s company wasn’t the conservative Mormon, but the conservative evangelical.

I say this not as an apathetic observer, but as someone with a Liberty degree hanging on his wall. I don’t hate Mormons, neither am I angry with Liberty, but I am concerned that Liberty is exhibiting a continual pattern of blurring important theological lines in exchange for a temporary political alliance.

The one who bent their identity wasn’t the conservative Mormon, but the conservative evangelical.

To demonstrate what I mean, consider that this is not the first time Liberty has invited Mr Beck to speak, nor is it the first time they have invited a Mormon. Previously, Mr Beck spoke at the 2010 commencement when he received an honorary doctorate from the university. During the height of the last presidential campaign, Liberty invited Mitt Romney, also a notable Latter-day Saint, to speak at the 2012 commencement.

It struck me as very strange when Mr Beck was first announced as the 2010 commencement speaker. When I first applied to Liberty I was required to fill out a theological questionnaire that was very unfriendly to LDS theology. Most notably, I was expected not to hold the following beliefs:

  • Exaltation (The LDS doctrine that a man can become a god)
  • Satan and Jesus are spirit brothers
  • Satan was born, not created
  • Ancient American tribes are equated with the lost tribes of Israel
  • Book of Mormon is true revelation from God

If I held any one of these beliefs, which are all uniquely Mormon, then I would be denied admission to the university.

Yet, here was Mr Beck speaking in front of many students who testified that Mormonism is untrue through Liberty’s own questionnaire. Not only this, but Mr Beck later received an honorary doctorate from a university that would have otherwise denied him entrance due to his beliefs.

I decided that there must have been some type of mistake. How could anyone receive a doctorate from Liberty University who believes that the Book of Mormon is an inspired work from God? Surely, they would have violated the theological questionnaire that I had signed.

For Liberty, political gain seems more important than theological clarity.

That day, I went to the seminary’s website and retrieved the questionnaire I had filled out just one year earlier.  Much to my surprise, there was an updated version.  However, the new version was different from the first – they had removed many of the unfriendly LDS theological statements. Essentially, they softened their stance on LDS theology, so far as this questionnaire was concerned.

My initial reaction was disappointment. Shouldn’t an evangelical university with a seminary not be more concerned with theology than any other topic? The reason seemed obvious to me – although they disagree with Mormon theology, Liberty University valued mutual ideologies with a Mormon and wanted to honor him with the highest degree the university can confer.

For Liberty, political gain seems more important than theological clarity and distinction. Or, at least, that’s the message that they are sending to the world. Unfortunately, it seems that Liberty has latched on to a policy that mutually agreed upon social values trump theological truths.

 WHAT HAS SALT LAKE TO DO WITH LYNCHBURG?

I must say, though, that I’m not entirely against every aspect of Mr Beck’s speech. He spoke about liberty, specifically religious liberty, which is wonderful because it is such a wonderful gift! Anytime a Mormon and evangelical can publicly support religious liberty, we should celebrate. But the same could be said of a Muslim and evangelical, a Buddhist and evangelical, a Scientologist and evangelical.

Yet, for some reason, Liberty has allowed Mr Beck to take it a step further. By allowing Mr Beck to say what he said, Liberty has communicated to the world that they believe the LDS Church and evangelicals are not merely allies in religious liberty, they are two stripes of faith in the same vein of Christianity. Here, then, is where the issue lies. Not that Liberty sees itself allying with Mormonism politically, nor for championing religious liberty, but for blurring the lines between Joseph Smith and the Apostle Paul.

Let me put it another way. In tear soaked eyes, Mr Beck recounted that he prayed to the Lord that he would pour over his “word” and challenged Liberty’s students to do the same. In a world where politics is valued over theology, so long as that “word” is from the God of Judeo-Christian morality, then it doesn’t really matter what that “word” precisely entails. We can include Christians of every stripe, Jews, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and even (to a very limited extent) Muslims in the arena of pouring over God’s “word.”

Nonetheless, in a world where theology is valued over politics, we cannot seriously respond to Mr Beck’s challenge for Liberty’s students to pour over the “word” knowing full well that Mr Beck’s definition of the “word” goes beyond the Bible and into the realm of unique LDS works such as Doctrine & CovenantsPearl of Great Price, and Book of Mormon.

If Liberty invites Mormons to speak on religious liberty, would they extend that same invitation to Jehovah’s Witnesses or Muslims?

Do you suppose Liberty would invite a Jehovah’s Witness to speak at convocation? A Muslim at commencement, even if they were running for president on a conservative platform? Perhaps a Christian Scientist during chapel? These all seem highly unlikely. So, here’s the question – why this exception?

What has Salt Lake to do with Lynchburg? Political similarities: sure. Religious liberty issues: yes. Interfaith dialogue: absolutely. Preaching to evangelical students about matters with deep, theological meaning: no.

If a Jehovah’s Witness challenged Liberty’s students to study the Bible, would we agree knowing that the official New World Translation of the Watchtower Society intentionally strips Jesus of his divinity? If a Christian Scientist implored Liberty’s students to study the scriptures, would we agree if we knew she included the writings of Mary Baker Eddy in her idea of “scriptures”?

So why, when a Mormon implores the students of Liberty to read the “scriptures,” are we not shocked to realize that he includes Pearl of Great PriceDoctrine & Covenants, and Book of Mormon, whose collective teachings alone count for many of the differences between Christianity and Mormonism – differences that Mr Beck himself identified as “uncomfortable”?

There is no difference between Glenn Beck challenging Liberty’s students to read the “scriptures” as there would be if a 3rd century Gnostic were to do the same. Both Mr Beck and the Gnostic seem like Christians, but they cherish different scripture that teach a different gospel.

And this here is my concern – the gospel.

Each time Liberty bends her theological identity to accommodate social conservatism, I believe she is leaning further away from theological clarity in the public eye. Sure, Liberty gains a louder voice in American conservatism, but the university also gives credence to the Mormon couplet “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may become.” True, Liberty may pull more sway with the political right, but the university also nods to the Book of Mormon’s idea that salvation comes only “after all we can do.”

Liberty University is doing these things – unintentionally, I’m sure – whether her leaders know it or not and whether they like it or not. If a university claims to train champions for Christ, then it needs to do so. Part of what it means to champion Christ is to champion his gospel, something that is difficult to find within the pages of the Book of Mormon.

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Noah: Yet Another Review

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Everyone else is doing it, so why not chime in? Here’s my pros and cons from just seeing Noah.

PROS

It was raw, bloody, violent, and not something you would want to decorate your nursery with – just like it should be. Noah’s story is not a bedtime tale, it’s a campfire sermon. Themes of humanity’s fallenness, God’s judgement, and covenantal mercy are key. Sometimes, we lose that message while painting smiley giraffes next to a plump, happy Noah in the kid’s room.

Noah told his family the creation narrative over campfire, just like the oral tradition of Genesis was passed down from generation to generation. Not only this, but the cinematography was great. It showed God creating the universe in the exact order that science and the Bible tell us. But, was that scene showing a literal six day creation or a figurative six day creation? The movie leaves that up to you to decide.

Noah isn’t a good guy. He sees the wickedness of man and in that wickedness sees himself. God didn’t choose Noah because the man was righteous. God didn’t choose Noah because he saw potential in him. God chose Noah despite his sinfulness, which is something the movie picked up on well.

God (or the Creator) spoke to Noah in dreams and visions. Sometimes people read the Bible and see that God spoke to people. This is a huge sticking point to them – did he audibly speak to them? I liked the director’s explanation: dreams, very vivid dreams. Daniel had “night visions” when God talked to him, could Noah have had a similar experience?

The director gives us a great explanation for why Noah got wasted on wine. The answer is simple – he could no longer handle the immense stressors of witnessing humanity’s judgment and extremely strained family relations. It makes sense that he took to the bottle, so to speak, because the pressure became too much. Was it right? Of course not. But, then again, Noah wasn’t perfect, and neither are we.

CONS

Noah, apparently, took the judgment theme a little too far. Parts of the movie were reminiscent of The Shining – a crazy dad bent on murdering his family. I highly doubt that Noah believed all of humanity (to include he and his family) were going to experience judgement. This add-on to the story is, I believe, a result of the overly-environmentalist Noah that so many others have complained about in reviews. All humans are bad, so all humans must go. Leave earth to itself. Never mind that we were created in the Creator’s image and likeness…

Two words: rock people. Yes, yes, that’s the director’s attempt at tying in the Nephilim, but by doing so he opened up a huge theological can of worms. Can fallen angels be redeemed? According to this movie, the answer is yes. (Also, apparently, rock people are great ship builders?)

As far as I know, Noah’s grandpa wasn’t called Methuselah the Grey. What was with his magical powers? And his obsession with berries? Just because there wasn’t much written about the guy doesn’t mean you should go all Lord of the Rings with his character. A wise old sage would have sufficed.

Finally, and most importantly, the movie completely bypasses the covenant God made with Noah after the Flood, which, by the way, was the pinnacle of the story. The movie ends with Noah’s birthright being passed on to his offspring and the rainbow of God’s promise to never judge the earth by flooding again. Missing something? Yes, the covenant renewal with the altar and sacrifice. Kind of a big deal, since it points forward to Jesus.

Because of this, it was hard for me to see Jesus in the Noah movie, which is not a good thing. The biblical story of Noah points forward to Jesus – judgment, sacrifice, and redemption. Without sacrifice, there isn’t any redemption.

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BREAKING: Camels Disprove God’s Existence; Bible Is False

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Too busy to read? Check out the podcast.

If you’re like me, I’m sure you woke up this morning to a barrage of news articles claiming that the discovery of domesticated camel bones have definitively disproved the Bible.

Alarming? Yes. True? Mmmm not exactly.

Unfortunately, the article titles are a bit misleading because they draw conclusions that the researchers, Lidar Sapir-Hen and Erez Ben-Yosef, do not draw. It is a bit frightening to see how irresponsibly the various media outlets have spun Sapir-Hen and Ben-Yosef’s research. Here is just a gleaming of some popular outlets and their article titles.

“Major discrepancy in the Bible” Huffington Post

major discrepancy in the Bible would being finding Jesus’ remains, not a camel’s.

“‘Direct Proof’ Bible Was Written Centuries After Events Described” International Business Times

This one is especially alarming since it’s author, Zoe Mintz, puts ‘direct proof’ in quotations without actually quoting the words ‘direct proof’ anywhere in her article. This quote turns out to be from the American Friends of Tel Aviv University, a self-described “worldly and intellectually sophisticated group” dedicated to and associated with the university, but not directly a part of the research(ers) nor the university – a fact that even the Christian Post seems to have missed.

“Camel archaeology contradicts the Bible”The Times of Israel

The camel archeology contradicts the Bible? Really? The whole thing – contradicted. Maybe the Times of Israel should have gone with a little more realistic title, such as…

“Camel discovery may prove Biblical stories false” News 3 Las Vegas

Ah, a refreshingly honest title among all the sensation. At least this title contains the qualifier may. It may prove Bible stories false. However, the title still makes an extraordinary claim that Bible stories are false based on the research. Can we assume, at least from the claim of this title, that a ‘camel discovery’ proves Jesus never resurrected? If so, there’s a baby in some bathwater that needs to be thrown out.

“Camel Bones Challenge the Bible’s Timeline” Newser

This is the only title I’ve seen that is appropriate to the research. Indeed, domesticated camels not found until 900BCE does challenge the biblical timeline; however, it is not a “major discrepancy” that provides “direct proof”  that “Biblical stories [are] false.” These titles are sensational, which is exactly their authors were going for.

“Historical ERROR in Bible’s Old Testament, REVEALED”Fashion Times

I’ll let this one stand on its own, because of all the CAPS and the fact that the illustrious Fashion Times wrote it.

“Camels and foot-stamping denialists”Patheos

Not a news article, but interesting nonetheless. Here we have a writer complaining about “foot-stamping denialists” (of which I suppose I now am) coming out to say nuh-uh! to Sapir-Hen and Ben-Yosef’s findings. Others include Al Mohler and Ken Ham, who (as of yet) have not actually spoken on the matter as far as I am aware. Could the author of this article be a foot-stamping denialist denier?

“BREAKING: Camels Disprove God’s Existence; Bible Is False”Dear Ephesus

See? Even I can do it.

ALRIGHT, WHAT DOES THE RESEARCH ACTUALLY SAY?

Enough with the sensational titles, what does the research actually say? Does this zooarchaeological find cast doubt on the timeline of the Bible?

First, if you actually read the report, the researchers do not make the claims that many of the media outlets are saying they have. In fact, they only mention the Old Testament once in the entire paper.

In their opening paragraph, Sapir-Hen and Ben-Yosef mention the “Patriarchal narrative” as having lead many researchers to speculate an earlier date for camel domestication. That’s it. The rest of the paper is simply their findings.

Basically, Sapir-Hen and Ben-Yosef have done what all archeologists do – present their findings and allow others to interpret for themselves what that data means. It is clear what many have said, but what is not so clear is why they would attribute a conclusion to these two researchers that they themselves never made.

Nonetheless, the findings do present a challenge to the biblical timeline. Let’s take a look at why.

The Bible starts mentioning camels beginning in Genesis 12. This means that starting from the Age of the Patriarchs (2000-1500 BCE) the Bible claims that camels were domesticated and in use by humans in and around Israel.

However, according to Sapir-Hen and Ben-Yosef’s research, camels were not domesticated in Israel until 900BCE. Herein lies the problem – the Bible claims that camels were domesticated hundreds of years before they actually were.

(Is your faith shaken yet? I’ve already denounced mine…)

So, what are we to make of this? Here are just some points to consider.

POINTS TO CONSIDER

1.) Does this research definitively represent the total area of Israel, from its most sparsely to most highly populated areas? If not, then this research may simply suggest that domesticated camels were not in use at these sites until 900BCE.

To be fair, according to Sapir-Hen and Ben-Yosef’s paper, the study encompassed quite a bit of Israel. In fact, they were confident that it did represent a good portion of Israel’s history. However, perhaps later discoveries will show that camels were not in use in some areas while they were in others at various points in Israel’s history.

2.) The word for camel gamal (גָּמָל) may be a substitute for the oral tradition’s use of a load-bearing animal. Perhaps, according to oral tradition, the load bearing animal was a donkey or mule. When it came time to consolidate and ‘canonize’ the Torah, the scribes (being people of their time) assigned the word camel to the word load-bearing animal. (This is not unlike when we hear a story of a cowboy riding into town on an animal, we automatically assume the animal was a horse.)

Old Testament scholars have long suggested that the Torah was not finished in the form we have it today until well after the events they describe. Even if we accepted Moses as the author of the Torah, we must also remember that he was not present for a major portion of it (Genesis). Oral tradition must play some type of role in its formation, which is something Christians have believed for a long time.

3.) Could Abraham have acquired camels from Egypt and brought them to Israel without them becoming widely used until much later? Most of the articles claim that Abraham (among the other patriarchs) did not have camels in Israel until Egypt introduced them abruptly, perhaps due to trade. Archeological evidence suggests that Egypt did have domesticated camels

This assumes, then, that when Abraham went to Egypt, he did not acquire a single camel. On the contrary, is it possible that Abraham, during his visit to Egypt, acquired Egyptian domesticated camels? I think so, especially since Genesis 12:16 explicitly mentions Abraham’s camels while in Egypt.

Of course, this depends on whether or not Egypt had domesticated camels during the time Abraham was in Egypt. Since Egypt was the trade center of the world at that time, it is entirely possible to see how domesticated camels were present in the first millennium BCE Egypt.[1]

AT THE END OF THE DAY…

This is such a great example of how hungry some people are to decry the veracity of the Bible. After all, a good amount of news organizations have heralded this research as a fatal blow to scripture. (Remember, we’re talking about the domestication of camels in Israel. We’re not talking about a Jesus ossuary.)

It is interesting to see how many media outlets rushed to declare the Bible false, seemingly without considering that there might be a logical explanation. I’m not sure they would have done the same for other types of archeological finds.

For example, if an archeologist found a modern human skull in a layer with other fossils dating to the Mesozoic Era, would those same news organizations herald the discovery as a fatal blow to evolution? Probably not, because they would most likely assume there must be a logical reason. Unfortunately, they do not grant the Bible this same type of courtesy.

So, the next time you see a camel and it says “Hump Daaaaay!”, remember this – many people are always looking for excuses to push away from their loving creator, even if it’s sensationally based on scant evidence.

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[1] Sheila Hamilton-Dyer, ‘Domestication of the Camel,’ The Oxford Companion to Archeology, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, ), 215

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Why Ray Comfort’s “Evolution vs. God” Isn’t Actually That Helpful

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Image / Livingwaters.com

Recently, Ray Comfort released a documentary titled “Evolution vs. God: Shaking the Foundations of Faith.” Comfort, an ardent proponent of young earth creationism (YEC), which promotes biblical literalism concerning Genesis 1–3, created the video in hopes of instilling doubt in the minds of the general public about the trustworthiness of evolution.

Presumably, the hope behind such a documentary would seek to bolster the trustworthiness of scripture for evangelism purposes. Having viewed it a few times, there is no doubt in my mind that Comfort is well-intentioned; however, I believe this video is not actually that helpful to the greater Science v. Faith public dialogue.

To be sure, Evolution vs. God will most likely not turn many heads. A quick scan across the internet reveals that it has already become the laughing stock of the non-theist community – a moot point, of course. Yet it is the other audience viewing the video, the Christians, who may well receive a false hope that Comfort’s documentary is an extremely effective tool for the gospel.

Why? Because Evolution vs. God just isn’t really that helpful whether you’re a YEC, intelligent design proponent, theistic evolutionist, or any other flavor of theistic creationism. It is unhelpful because it is poorly executed and falsely advertised as having accomplished something it has not.

GOTCHA JOURNALISM

So what’s the big deal? Why isn’t this video helpful? Two words: gotcha journalism. Unfortunately, Comfort’s video is a classic example of it.

Throughout the entire video, Comfort interviews students and university professors about their belief in evolution. He repeatedly commits that most notorious of philosophical fallacies, appeal to authority, by supposedly stumping evolutionary experts in their own fields of research.

The unspoken message comes across very clear – since studied evolutionists cannot provide observable evidence for evolution, it must be false. However, it should be observed that the authority Comfort appeals to isn’t the best pool to draw from. Throughout the video, he speaks with 26 students (presumably undergraduates) while only speaking with 4 professional academics. Not to offend, but this may not be the best sample of evolutionists to draw conclusions from.

Not only this, but there were many students who weren’t even biology majors. Some were geology, chemistry, bio-chemistry, environment science, and physics majors. Stumping a geology major in evolution does not disprove the theory, just as stumping a criminal justice major in theology doesn’t disprove the existence of God.

(There was just something cringeworthy about watching Comfort question geology and physics majors about evolution, recording their confused reactions, and heralding it as a victory for creationism.)

Furthermore, when questioning his interviewees about evolution, Comfort devotes a substantially smaller amount of attention to professors or academics compared to students.  Obviously, students will not formulate the same calibre of responses that professors or academics will, and Comfort is well aware of this.

All this leads to a documentary full of gotcha journalism. It comes across as tacky, misleading and, frankly, ineffective. So, after watching a documentary laden with gotcha journalism, as Christians we should honestly ask the question, “How is this helpful for Jesus?”

BACK TO WHAT MATTERS

In my opinion, Comfort needs to get back to what matters – the gospel. Of course, he presents a version at the end of the documentary, but gets to the gospel only after wading through a thicket of loaded questions and, presumably, highly edited responses. (After all, we cannot know for sure the extent or persuasiveness to which the interviewees answered Comfort’s questions.)

What Comfort is doing through Evolution vs. God is mirroring the same boorish tactics used by New Atheists in order to instill doubt in the minds of Christians. We complain about the ornery antagonism from the likes of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, but when it is done in reverse do we cheer? When Comfort corners an undergraduate geology major about the massive implications and issues surrounding evolution, do we not see the correlation of Harris broad stroking Christians are backwards, unthinking fools?

Comfort does apologetics evangelism an injustice with this documentary while heralding it as having shaken the foundations of faith in evolution. The formula we should engage in does not start with “debunking” evolution. What matters in sharing the gospel isn’t trying to “disprove” evolution outright.  Sharing the gospel is about getting straight to the point – starting at Jesus – and working your way outwards from there.

Watch “Evolution vs. God” here.

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The Egyptian God Jesus // Weird Internet Rumors #2

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If there’s one thing the internet is good for, it’s crazy rumors about Jesus. This series is my humble attempt at dispelling the weirdest internet rumors about Jesus as they come my way.

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Weird Rumor #2

Jesus is simply a copy-cat myth of the much older Egyptian god Horus.

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According to this weird rumor the Egyptian god Horus* was born of a virgin, had twelve disciples, and was crucified and resurrected three days later.  Sound familiar?

It should, because this rumor argues that Jesus is actually Horus 2.0, rebranded and revamped. Jesus is simply the iHorus 4s – nothing really changed.

Consequently, we shouldn’t believe in Jesus because he’s just a redone Egyptian myth that you wouldn’t believe anyway.

WHERE DID IT COME FROM?

This rumor became popular on the internet with the documentary Zeitgeist, written and directed by some folks with a clear axe to grin against Jesus.  It became even more popular thanks to Bill Maher’s “excellent” journalistic integrity of fact-checking the myth prior to its inclusion in the popular 2008 documentary Religulous.

As far as anyone can tell, the rumor comes from a self-proclaimed Egyptologist named Gerald Massey who wrote a work called Ancient Egypt, The Light of the World. In it Massey argues that Christians borrowed heavily from the Horus myth to create the Jesus myth.  He lists over two-hundred alleged parallels between Jesus and Horus, three of which are the virgin birth, twelve disciples, and resurrection three days after his crucifixion.

So, is it true?  Is Jesus simply Horus Round Two? Let’s look at these three claims one at a time.

1. HORUS WAS BORN OF A VIRGIN

Massey claims that Horus, like Jesus, was born of a virgin.

“The story of Jesus in the canonical Gospels follows the totemic and mythical representation. Horus [is] the child of a virgin mother.” [1]

However, according to actual Egyptian mythology, Horus is the son of both the goddess Isis and deceased god Osiris.  Isis was not a virgin when she conceived Horus.

According to some accounts Isis turned into the form of a bird and had relations with her dead husband’s body after Osiris was murdered.[2] Other accounts have Isis collecting Orisis’ body parts, creating a golden…umm…male part, and then resurrecting Osiris to have relations with him in order to become pregnant.[3]

At any rate, the rumor claims that Horus was born of a virgin because Osiris was dead when Isis became pregnant even though she still had relations with Osiris.

But, as we have seen, Horus was not born from a miraculous virgin birth, but was rather the result of necrophilia. Not quite the same as Mary’s conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit.

Actually, not even close.

2. HORUS HAD TWELVE DISCIPLES

Massey claims that Horus, like Jesus, had twelve disciples.

“We claim, then, to show that the typical Twelve, who are called apostles or disciples in later language, originated in twelve characters which had represented twelve stellar powers in the astronomical mythology.” [4]

“The Kamite twelve, as reapers in the harvest-field with Horus in Amenta…Jesus brought the primary soul to the twelve who are his associates in the life on earth.” [5]

To be fair, Horus did indeed have followers, called the heru-shemsu. However, the heru-shemsu had no specific number associated with them.[6] There could have been twelve, there could have been twelve-hundred. We simply don’t know.

Additionally, the heru-shemsu go wholly unnoticed in Massey’s work. He doesn’t even acknowledge them, which only betrays his ignorance of Egyptian mythology.

In the end, Horus didn’t have twelve disciples, but he did have an unspecified amount of followers. Again, as with the virgin birth, there is hardly a correlation to be made.

3. HORUS WAS RESURRECTED THREE DAYS AFTER HIS DEATH

Massey claims that Horus, like Jesus, resurrected three days after his death.

“These were followed in the eschatology by the god who rose again from Amenta as Horus in spirit; as the Bennu-Osiris, or as Ra the holy spirit. Jesus is likewise portrayed as the Lord of resurrections. He is said to have risen on the third day…” [7]

There’s only one problem with this – Horus never died according to actual Egyptian mythology. And, as is obvious, it’s a little difficult to be resurrected if you were never dead to begin with.

At this point the rumor, based on Massey’s work, seems to confuse Horus for his father Osiris when it comes to the resurrection link to Jesus.

According to the myth, Osiris ruled over Egypt with his wife Isis. Set, the brother of Osiris, murdered the king of Egypt and took the throne for himself.[8] Isis then sought out her revenge on Set by reassembling Osiris’s body, having relations with him, and giving birth to Horus who eventually defeated Set. (Even then, some variations of the myth have Osiris returning in the form of a dangerous animal to kill Set himself [9]).

Thus, according to the myth, Horus is the “resurrected” Osiris.

It should be obvious that any link between the physical resurrection of Jesus to the “resurrection” of Horus or Osiris (or reincarnation into an animal) is severely wanting. There simply isn’t a link to be made.

Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected in the same body as the same person and being. Osiris was murdered, became the object of necrophilia from his wife, and Horus was born as a result. There is a huge difference between the two.

So, to sum it up, here’s a quick reference chart of why the Horus-Jesus rumor just doesn’t make the cut.

Jesus

Horus

Was born of a literal virgin

Was born of necrophilia

Had 12 disciples

Had followers, number unknown

Was literally resurrected from death

Was the “resurrection” of Osiris

HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND?

So, how should we respond when we hear this rumor? Colossians 2:8 gives us great advice in matters like this (emphasis added).

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”

When it’s all said and done, the Horus-Jesus rumor is a great example of the empty deceit that Paul is talking about in this verse. It’s both empty, since it doesn’t have a logical leg to stand on, and deceitful, because it’s designed to rob people from God’s loving call to Jesus.

Personally, I remember reading about this rumor many years ago and rejoicing because it gave me an excuse not to believe. But it’s just that – an excuse, not the truth.

If we come across someone who believes this rumor, we should present evidence to the contrary in gentleness and respect. Then, we should pray that they would meet the real Jesus who really lived, died, and resurrected to defeat the enemy, sin, and death in order to restore our broken relationship with our loving God.

For more information on the subject check out some of these other great articles and posts from Please Convince Me.comGot Questions.com, and CARM.com

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Part I: JESUS VS. YEHOSUA

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* There are variations of this rumor that substitute Osiris (or other gods) for Horus. For the sake of this post the author assumes the rumor is based on Gerald Massey’s work Ancient Egypt, The Light of the World.
[1] Gerald Massey, Ancient Egypt: The Light of the World (London: T.Fisher Unwin, 1907), 600.
[2] E. A. Wallis Budge, Legends of the Egyptian Gods, (New York: Dover, 1994), 105.
[3] Ian Shaw, The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 616-617.
[4] Gerald Massey, Ancient Egypt: The Light of the World (London: T.Fisher Unwin, 1907), 598.
[5] Ibid., 495, 598.
[6] Margaret Bunson, Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, 3rd ed. (New York: Infobase Publishing, 2012), 139.
[7] Gerald Massey, Ancient Egypt: The Light of the World (London: T.Fisher Unwin, 1907), 645.
[8] Geraldine Pinch, Egyptian Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Goddesses, and Traditions of Ancient Egypt (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 78.
[9] Ibid.

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