Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Did Jesus Question His Mission?

Anonymous asks: I have heard at one time Jesus questioned His mission. Is that correct?

Hello, Anonymous. Some people, I am sure, believe that. Frankly, I do not know where in the Bible they come up with that idea.

At the age of 12, Jesus knew He needed to be about His Father's business. In John 12 Jesus makes it very clear He knew exactly what His mission was (click here, see especially verse 27). And in the Garden at Gethsemane, Jesus knew His mission so well, He asked the Father if there might not be another way (click here).

The Lord knew the prophecies regarding His death and the purpose of His death (for example, see here, here, and here).

So, again, I do not understand why anyone comes up with those kinds of ideas. They certainly don't get it from the Scriptures. Nor do they get it from Church teaching, for example, see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 612  through 617.

Hope this helps.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Didn't John the Baptist Know Jesus?

Anonymous asked: When John the Baptist meets Jesus to baptize him, Jn 1:29, he states and it certainly sounds like he does not know him. But they were related, were they not? John's mother, Elizabeth, is one of the first to acknowledge Mary as "the mother of my Lord", Luke 1:36,43. It seems like Mary and Elizabeth would have seen each other later with their boys. And wouldn't Elizabeth have told her son, John, about his relative, Jesus, and the circumstances of his birth?

I believe John knew his cousin, Jesus. But I don't think it surprising that John didn't recognize the office Jesus was about to enter into.  And even though Elizabeth and Mary surely conversed often about the circumstances of both pregnancies, and most likely talked about the angelic visitations and such in front of the children, it appears even Jesus' kinfolk didn't know who Jesus was in His role as the eternal Son of God, Messiah, Redeemer, Lamb of God. For example, see John 7:1-10 , Mark 3:20-21, and Mark 6:1-6, especially verse 4.

Furthermore, Scripture says fairly often that Jesus' words were 'hidden' from even His disciples (for example, see the Emmaus Road event in Luke 24:13-31; Luke 9:44-46; Luke 18:31-34.

And so, for these reasons it does not surprise me His mission was also hidden from people -- even His family -- until the time set by the Father.

Good question. Hope my answer helps.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Holy Spirit manifestations, and Prophecy

Jeff asked a couple of more questions in his earlier post:   
Something I have always wondered- how did Holy Spirit manifest Himself in OT?  I know there are places where it says, "the spirit of the Lord came upon him", as for Samson, and even for David where "the spirit of the Lord was with him".  In this passage, the Holy Spirit left Saul, implying He was with him all the time until that point?

Typically, the Holy Spirit manifested Himself through prophecy (either a word of knowledge, or a 'forthtelling [see next question]), or in displays of strength through an individual (as in the case of Samson). For example, see: Genesis 41; Exodus 31; Numbers 24 (Note, Balaam was not an Israelite, AND turned out to be an enemy of Israel. Nonetheless, God's Spirit had him prophesy); 1 Samuel 10; 2 Chronicles 24.  There are other examples, but I think these will make the point. Actually, the Holy Spirit's role in the Old Testament is no different than His role in the New. For example, Acts 2Acts 4; Acts 10;  Romans 8; 1 Corinthians 12 and 14.

3.  What does it mean when the Bible talks about people prophesying? 

 As we see in the Scripture examples in the last question, Biblical prophecy takes two primary forms -- foretelling (e.g. telling what will happen in the future), and forthtelling (e.g. making proclamations about God, holiness, sin, etc.). Technically, when a pastor gives a homily under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, he is 'forthtelling.' St. Peter, when he made his proclamation to the crowd in Jerusalem (Acts 2) was 'forthtelling.'  St. John, in his Revelation, was 'foretelling.'

Hope that helps.  Thanks for asking.


Friday, March 25, 2011

Evil Spirit from the Lord

Jeff asked: What is the "evil spirit from the Lord" that tormented Saul so many times?  1 Sam 16:14ff  "Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him...when the evil spirit from God comes upon you".  How can there be anything evil from God?  It specifically says multiple times, "an evil spirit from the Lord", "an evil spirit from God came forcefully upon Saul" 18:10. 

Let's look at a couple of other passages, and then I will answer your question: 

1 Kings 22:1-23 (especially verses 19-23)
And in addition:
Proverbs 1:24-32

I invite you to now refer to the words about Pharaoh in Exodus 3:19 in which God tells Moses He knows the King of Egypt will not let the people go "except under compulsion."  And so we then find that God "hardens"Pharaoh's heart in subsequent chapters (e.g. 4:21; 7:3 and elsewhere).

So, what these passages teach me is that while God is a God of love, mercy and patience, His patience has its limits. No wonder the writer to Hebrews reminds us (quoting from Psalm 95:7-11) in Hebrews 3:7-11 -- 'Don't mess with God.' (my words, of course). 

Or Elijah challenges the people to "Choose God or another god" (1 Kings 18:21). Or Joshua commanded: "Choose whom you will serve" (Joshua 24:15).

The same message is repeated often in both old and new testaments -- God is not mocked. And therein lies the warning for us. Though He loves us, died for us, pleads for us to return to Him, there comes a point when we harden ourselves to the point that our conscience is 'seared over" like with a branding iron (1 Timothy 4:1-2), and then God permits an evil spirit (I believe a demon spirit. Demons are simply fallen angels. Scripture calls them also 'spirits') -- God permits an evil spirit to torment us.

I also believe the hoped-for result is that the person recognizes he is headed the wrong way and repents.  For example, see St. Paul's comment in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5, especially verse 5.
Now turn to 2 Corinthians 2:3-11, where Paul refers to the incident in 1 Corinthians 5.

And so, Saul had rejected God repeatedly. And so God sent an evil spirit to torment him. For what point?  To repent, I believe.  Likewise, God sent the evil spirit into the mouths of the false prophets who sat in Ahab's court. Ahab was a terribly wicked king who oft refused to repent and was responsible for the deaths of many of God's servants. For what purpose?  To repent (why else would Micaiah have told Ahab what God had done, but to get the king to fall on his knees and repent?)

The situation in Job is a little different because God uses Satan to prove for all humanity to read that it is possible for a man or woman to dig in their heels and, regardless of how much hell the devil throws at us, we can still stand for God.  His famous words -- "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him" (Job 13:15) has been the rallying cry of untold thousands of martyrs through the centuries. 

God will use evil to accomplish good.

The passages in Proverbs is like the other ones I cited, for they remind us, there comes a time for each person that God says, "Enough!" And then disaster starts to fall.

Is that person still able to repent and return to the Father?  Of course. The only time that becomes impossible is when the person is dead. Then there is no further recourse or hope.

But, the point is, God doesn't want anyone to get that far. Note His words in Ezekiel 18:31-32 and 33:11, and Wisdom 1:13.

Whew. Lots of scripture. I hope I was clear enough in answering your question. If not, what may I clarify?



Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Did Mary have other children besides Jesus?

Linda from Washington asked: Did Mary have other children besides Jesus? 

Thanks for the question, Linda. The Catholic Church (and the Orthodox Church) teaches that Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus, but the Bible speaks of Jesus' brothers and sisters. What's up?

I could answer in a paragraph or two, but you probably want a more in depth answer. I did some internet research and found this article (click HERE) which goes into quite a bit of detail about the answer.

Many of the Biblical passages I would have cited in my abbreviated response are included in the linked article.There are other examples in Scripture, too. But the article covers the subject quite nicely.

I hope this helps.


Monday, March 21, 2011

The Assumption of Mary

Jim from Washington asked: On what does the Catholic Church base its belief in the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, since there is nothing in the Scriptures (that I could find) to support this miracle?

Jim is essentially correct. There is nothing in Scripture that says Mary was taken up into heaven -- although that in and of itself is not evidence that the whole thing was made up. As you can read in this link, there is plenty of historical data about, for example, the apostles, that appears in secular records, but not in Scripture. Which really should not surprise anyone. The New Testament was not intended to be an exhaustive account of the early Church -- which is why St. John said what he did in John 21:25, and why St. Luke spent only 28 relatively short chapters to detail the events that transpired during the several decades of the early Church's growth and missionary journeys.

Certainly there are examples in Scripture that can be likened to the assumption of Mary. Enoch "walked with God, and he was not, for God took him" (Genesis 5:24). Elijah was "taken up" to heaven in the fiery chariot (2 Kings 2:11). And there are numerous NT (and OT) passages that many Christians (Evangelicals, especially) believe prove the "Rapture" of the Church -- the glorious hope that takes place during the Second Advent when both the dead in Christ and those who "remain alive" will be "caught up" to heaven to be forever with the Lord (See for example 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; 1 Corinthians 15:50-58).

So, if Enoch, Elijah, and all Christians alive at the Second Advent (assuming the Rapture is a viable doctrine) -- then why not the holy mother of our Lord? Considering that God chose -- of all people in Israel -- that young virgin to mother His only begotten Son, I can't imagine why God would not take her  bodily to heaven.

And thus, because of the Scriptural precedence, and because the Church was authorized to promulgate Biblical and theological truth (e.g. Matthew 16:18-19, 1 Tim 3:15), I have no problem accepting Mary's assumption as true.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Catholic Priests and Celibacy

Anonymous asked: Why is it that Catholic priests are required to be celibate, when priests in the OT were not?

Unfortunately, I am not as knowledgeable in Catholic tradition as I am in understanding Scripture, so I can give you an answer, but would be either wrong, or incomplete. I have, however, run a quick internet search (key phrase: why are Catholic priests not allowed to marry?), and found a few sites that might answer your question. I include them below.

A more fundamental point, I think, should be made regarding your question. You cite correctly that Old Testament (Old Covenant) priests were married, and then you ask why New Testament era (New Convenant) priests are not. I think there is some danger in trying to make one-to-one theological correlations between the two covenants.

The Holy Spirit stated in Jeremiah 31:31-34 that a day would come when God would make a new covenant (testament) between Himself and Israel. The New Testament writers made the point over and over that with Jesus, God was instituting that promised new covenant.

For example, when you have time, read the first 10 chapters of Hebrews in one sitting (to get a good handle on the context of the book).  In it, the writer refers often to Jesus as "better" than Moses, the new covenant better than the old. He even makes the case that the Old Covenant religious and ritualistic rules are no longer operable under the new covenant (see Hebrews 7:11-28, with verse 12 specifically).

The Lord Jesus makes a specific comment, about the New Covenant (for example, Luke 22:20) and St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:6.  And then, of course, is the scene in Acts 10 in which God orders St. Peter to break the Old Covenant dietary laws from Deuteronomy and Leviticus and eat 'unclean' animals (Acts 10:9-17).

There are many other examples in the New Testament writings illustrating the New Covenant has replaced the Old, which is why I thought to caution you about comparing the two and trying to equalize them.

Thanks for asking the question.


Genesis 1 and Creation Days

Paul from Canada asked: How do we know the account of creation in Genesis is not to be taken literally? Didn't the early church take it literally?

First, let me say I am not very knowledgeable about Church history. Whatever I do know is based on limited research  -- limited in the sense of how much there actually is to know about our 2,000 years history, and what I felt I needed to know before I made the decision that Jesus was leading me into the Catholic Church.

My expertise is in knowledge of Scripture.

Second, let me also preface my comment about creation and Genesis by saying I accept all of Scripture as literal -- unless the facts of the immediate context, studies in light of related passages, and fundamental truths taught in the entire Bible and interpreted by the Church indicate the passage in question should not be taken literally.

So, back to the question about how do we know the account of creation in Genesis is – or is not – to be taken literally. Didn’t the early church take it literally?

I have included several websites (see below) I found in my quick perusal of the internet to research your question. I searched key phrases: “Genesis 1 Old Earth” “Genesis 1 Young Earth” Genesis 1 Early Church Fathers”  Genesis 1 Ancient Rabbis.” The sites explore both sides of the issue. You might find them of interest, but I will not address their arguments here because that was not your question.

By the way, I also included a site for a Catholic Papal encyclical of Pope Pius XII who wrote, in 1950, that Catholics are not required to believe one side of the Old Earth/Young Earth debate. In other words, Catholics are free to believe what they feel is truth based on a variety of factors.  (See  -- especially paragraphs 35 and following).

Okay, so some of the reasons I believe in the literalness of Genesis one are these:

St. Paul, in his defense before Felix (Acts 26) said to the Jews in the courtroom, “Why is it considered incredible among you if God does raise the dead?” (verse 8).

And so I asked myself many years ago, “Why is it so incredible to me if God created the heavens and the earth in six days?”  After all, God is – well, God. He can do anything He wants, in however long a time He wants to take. He could have done it all in six nanoseconds, had He chosen to do so.

His work of creation is called a ‘miracle’ because He took nothing and made something from it. Miracles, by their very definition, suspend the natural order of physics, gravity, biology, etc., created by God. Thus, it was possible for Jesus to walk on water. It was possible for Him to appear out of what seemed ‘thin air’ to His disciples in the upper room. God’s miracles made it possible for Mary to conceive without human agency, for Elijah to be swept away into heaven by fiery chariots, for iron axe head to float (2 Kings 6:6), for 5,000 to be fed with only a few fish and some bread. And on and on.

Most important, of course, God’s prerogative to suspend His laws, natural and otherwise, resulted in the miracle of Christ’s resurrection, after Jesus had been dead three days.

And so, with regard to some of the scientific arguments that dismiss Genesis 1 as either myth or allegory, I thought (for example), why is it not possible for the light of distant stars to suddenly appear in the Creation sky, when we know light travels at 186,000 miles/second and it would (normally) take millions of years for the light of some of those stars to reach earth? The sudden appearance of starlight would easily fall under the category of a miracle – a temporary suspension of the laws of physics.

I had other thoughts – more theological, actually – about Genesis 1. St. Paul makes the case several times about our sin nature derived from ‘one man.’ And he often compares Adam to Jesus. See Romans 5:12-19 and 1 Corinthians 15:45-49, for example. If Adam were not a real, historical person, Paul’s argument falls apart. Further, Jesus’ genealogy in Luke traces back to Adam (to prove all of humanity – Jew and non-Jew – are saved by the blood of Christ). If Adam was not a real person, then we would only have Matthew’s genealogy, from which argument might be made only Jews are saved by Christ.

If Adam were not a real, historical person, then what did St. Paul mean when he made his comments to the Athenians (Acts 17:26):[A]nd he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth . . . ? Or what did he mean when he wrote to Timothy, “For it was Adam who first was created, and then Eve” if Adam (and Eve) were not individual, historical people? (1 Timothy 2:12-15).

And then I thought, if Genesis 1 is allegorical (as some have said to me), then what criteria do we use to decide when anything in Scripture is allegorical or historical?

Again, I thought, science cannot answer everything because miracles do not play by scientific rules. That’s why, again, we call them miracles when God suspends what science can see, hear, feel, touch, taste and extrapolate.

I don’t want to beat the proverbial dead horse, but I have heard pastors and I have read commentaries that scoff at the idea of miracles, saying they are simply allegories of greater truths. So the Red Sea didn’t really part, manna didn’t fall each day from heaven to feed the Israelites, and Christ actually got the food to feed the 5,000 from the people sitting on the grass, who were keeping their food for themselves and didn’t want to share until Jesus encouraged them to do so.

Some have even questioned the resurrection of Jesus.

And so, I reject attempts to take what is so often the plain sense of Scripture, and spiritualize it to mean something else. Which leads me to make this comment now:

I am grateful to God that He led me into the safety of the Catholic Church. It is safe here because God Himself gave the mandate to the Church to be the final arbiter of truth regarding Biblical morals and doctrine. When I face a question about what any particular scripture means, I might have what I consider a great idea. But I have been known -- many times I have been known -- to be wrong. The Church is not. And so I can safely defer to its authority.

As I said earlier, in cases such as this (Genesis 1) since the Church does not take an official position, Catholics are free to decide what they will believe -- so long as that belief does not contradict Church teaching elsewhere.

I don’t know if this answers your question, Paul. If not, I hope it at least gives you some food for thought.

Thanks for taking the time to ask.


Young earth
Old earth:

Other sites:

Friday, March 18, 2011

Why this blog

Over the years I have spoken to many people who have questions about the Bible. I certainly don't know all the answers, but I've studied the Scriptures for nearly 40 years, and so I have probably asked questions similar to the ones you might have . . . and for the most part, I have found answers that satisfy me.

They might also satisfy you.

So, here is your opportunity to ask away. As busy as I am, I might not be able to respond very quickly to your questions, so please be patient. I will answer everyone.

Here's how to work this:

In the COMMENTS section below type the question you would like me to answer. Depending on how many questions come across in the comments section, I will answer them as quickly as I can in their own separate blog post. You can comment anonymously, or with your name. Your choice.

Or, email me at and I will post your question on this site. Let me know in the email if you want to be anonymous on this site.

Again, please be patient with me. I am quite busy with a multiple set of proverbial irons in the fire.

So, ask away.