Posts Tagged ‘Trinity’

THE ARIAN HERESY

 

In a recent edition of a Christian blog, actually my favorite, one post lamented the result of a poll taken of Evangelicals. When questioned about some key theological issues, the respondents indicated that they showed a distressingly shallow understanding of the Bible and the God whom it presents to mankind.

This apparent revelation comes as no surprise to me. For decades our collective understanding of Scripture has moved toward the superficial. In fact, the author of the post claimed that a majority of Evangelicals have gone off the reservation into actual heresy.

That’s no news to me either. Or to many of my peers. One only has to witness the number of television preachers with huge audiences who attempt rather successfully to peddle prosperity, self-improvement and positive-thinking messages to their gullible followers to gain a graphic understanding of wholesale misdirection of the true Christian message that is taking place.

After reciting some generalities, the author of the post zeroed in on what he thought was the most egregious of the Scriptural violations: the Arian Heresy, which seems to be enjoying a revival of sorts. A full seventy-eight percent of Evangelical Christians, the author claimed, subscribe to that particular heresy. He went on to define the heresy itself. According to him, the Arian Heresy asserts that Jesus was a created Being.

I wish to take exception to both the author’s definition of the Arian heresy and his claim that it is heretic. In addition, I would ask the author to go back and research more thoroughly what the heresy actually consisted of. To the readers of this blog, I present below my own take on it.

The Alexandrian priest Arius (256-336) became involved in a very heated controversy over the deity of Jesus Christ, particularly during the debates at the Council of Nicaea, convened by the emperor Constantine in 325 A.D. Arius did indeed claim that Jesus was a created Being, but that wasn’t the real issue. Jesus, identifying Himself in His message to the Laodicean Church, Revelation 3:14, claimed to have been created:

“And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God:”

The actual heresy was what Arius inferred from that fact, which was that Jesus, having been created, was less than God. Arius violated common sense – Jesus’ origin as the Son of God in no way diminishes His status as God. The two issues aren’t even connected. Arius should have understood that just by perceiving from history the numerous examples of children who have surpassed their parents in greatness. The time factor simply doesn’t have anything to do with personal attributes. Given the Holy Father’s ability to do anything He wishes, it’s not a stretch to understand that He certainly possesses the wherewithal to create a Being equal to Himself.

Moreover, time itself didn’t begin until the Creation.

The Arian position was rejected as heresy at the Council of Nicaea, which initiated the ill-advised concept, intrinsic to the Nicean Creed and more overtly in the Athanasian Creed, that the three Members of the Trinity co-existed from all eternity. These creeds asserted further that none within the Holy Trinity were created, in effect throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It should be noted that at that time those attending the council of Nicea were fed up with the constant bickering over these issues and were motivated to shut the lid the debate once and for all. In my opinion, they behaved rashly and quite inaccurately. It should also be noted that the creeds are extra-biblical; as such they don’t necessarily enjoy the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture in the original autographs.

The author of the blog’s misidentification of the Arian Heresy is but one facet of the post-Nicean Church’s transformation of a natural and intuitive understanding of God into a complex, confusing and self-contradictory view of God. Count me in as one of the seventy-eight percent of evangelicals who participate in the heresy as defined by the author.

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THE FULFILLMENT OF HANNAH’S VOW

The Fulfillment of Hannah’s Vow

The two books of Samuel in the Bible were written over a thousand years before Jesus Christ was born, when Israel was still a young nation. The book of First Samuel opens with a story regarding Hannah, a woman of Israel from the tribe of Ephraim, married to a man named Elkanah.

Hannah wanted to have a son very badly, but she wasn’t able to have one. Yet she remained faithful to God, and every year she went with her husband up to a city in Israel called Shiloh to make their yearly worship and sacrifice. Year after year she did this, hoping to have a son by the next year. Finally, one year while she was praying, she broke down and wept in the sight of the priest for her lack of a son. In her misery, Hannah prayed to God, making a promise to Him if He would show His kindness toward her by giving her a son. Her vow went like this:

O Lord, of hosts, if you will look on the affliction of your handmaid, and remember me, and not forget me, but will give to your handmaid a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life.”

After speaking to God, Eli the Priest blessed her, and she trusted God and was no longer sad when she returned home with her husband.

“And the Lord remembered Hannah. And she bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying Because I have asked him of the Lord. And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her along with sacrifices to the Lord. And they brought the child to the priest Eli. And Hannah said, O my lord, as your soul lives, I am the woman who stood by you here earlier, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed; and the Lord has answered my prayer which I asked of Him. Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord.

And he worshiped the Lord there.”

Hannah did as she had promised God: she left her son Samuel with Eli the priest to live with him and learn the deep things about God from him. Then Hannah prayed again, this time to thank God for His kindness toward her:

“And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoices in the Lord, my horn is exalted in the Lord; my mouth is enlarged over my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation. There is none holy like the Lord; for there is none beside you, neither is there any rock like our God. Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength. They who were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they who were hungry no longer hungered; so that the barren has born seven; and she who has many children has become feeble. The Lord kills and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and brings up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and lifts up. He raises the poor out of the dust, and lifts up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory; for the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and he has set the world upon them. He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail. The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven He shall thunder upon them. The Lord shall judge the ends of the earth; and He shall give strength to his king, and exalt the horn of His anointed.

“And Elkanah went to Ramah to his house. And the child did minister to the Lord before Eli, the priest.’

Samuel was raised among the priests, where he learned much about God. Then God used him in a mighty way. He became a great prophet, one of the greatest in Israel.

The words that Hannah spoke in thanksgiving to God for His gift of Samuel are significant beyond her time: ‘The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength.’ The message: God humbles the proud and lifts up the humble.

Hannah was a prophet herself. She foretold in the Old Testament another woman’s prayer, far into the future, in the New Testament. This other woman’s name was Mary. Hannah’s words are echoed in Mary’s ‘Magnificat’ in Chapter 1 of Luke’s Gospel, which she spoke after learning that she was to give birth to our Lord Jesus Christ:

“’And Mary said, My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden, for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty has done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He has filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he has sent empty away. He has helped his servant, Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed forever.’

We can glean something from this. The Old Testament is very important in that it introduces to us the things about God that He describes more fully in the New Testament. Just about everything that Jesus said and did when He came in the flesh was done before in the Old Testament by people of faith who were willing to be directed by the Holy Spirit. The same is true of those who were the closest to Him, like Mary.

We also can learn something else from this. God is our maker, and He loves each of us with a very great passion. But He doesn’t like it when we puff ourselves up as important, or when we get upset with ourselves because we don’t always win. He made us how He wanted to make us. Perhaps we should think less about how God should make us as perfect as possible and more about how we can be used by God and for His purpose the best that we can with what He has given to us to use.

THE MIGDAL EDAR STORY

 

During one Christmas season our pastor gave his Church a special treat. He began reading the familiar Christmas story from Luke 2:7:

“And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

Pastor looked up at us and said, “How sad that man couldn’t find a more appropriate place for the Son of God to be born. Plan B it was, then,” which echoed our own thoughts. But then, smiling, he continued at Luke 2:8:

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said to them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you: You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

As our pastor recited this oft-told story, I formed my own familiar mental imagery: a large grassy field with flocks of sheep mixed with cattle, and the barn where Mary, Joseph and Jesus dwelt surrounded by the usual barnyard animals: cows, donkeys and, yes, perhaps a sheep or two. My mind drifted into a contemplation of the poverty surrounding Jesus’ birth. Of course the setting was appropriate, given the humble character of Jesus’ sojourn in the flesh. But being born in a manger certainly couldn’t have been plan A for Joseph’s family.

But then our pastor embellished on the story. It wasn’t well known, he said, that the region near Bethlehem where Jesus was born was a rather special place. He quoted another familiar passage, the prophecy in Micah 5:2 foretelling of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem:

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”

Pastor didn’t stop there. He went on to read another passage out of Micah, verse 4:8, which is much less well-known:

“And you O watchtower of the flock [Migdal Edar], the strong hold of the daughter of Zion, unto you shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem.

Before commenting further on the function of Migdal Edar, pastor took us back to Genesis 35:19-21:

“And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave to this day. And Israel journeyed, and spread his tent beyond the tower of Edar.”

Pastor put his Bible aside and looked at his congregation as if he had something momentous to tell us. And well he did. Finding his voice, he said that the region where Jesus was born was under the watchtower of the flock, a special lookout of the shepherds there because of the importance of that particular place. It was, he said with emotion, the place where lambs were born and raised for the Passover sacrifice. The manger of Jesus’ birth was, in fact, the birthing place for these special lambs, so maybe while it didn’t represent plan A for Joseph, it certainly did for God.

Pastor topped off that shocking disclosure by saying that, according to the Passover account in Exodus 12, the lambs had to be perfect in every way. When birthed, they tended to struggle some, putting themselves at risk to injury. There was a procedure in place to prevent this: upon their birth, these lambs were wrapped in swaddling clothes.

I was so enthusiastic about this revelation that I attempted to share it with other Christians, some of whom were rather cynical about it. It seemed that if this were to be true, they already would have known about it. Faced with that negativity, I pursued the topic on my own on the Internet, where I found a wealth of commentary regarding it, all of which was positive and some of which furnished excellent justification for accepting it as truth. I recommend the interested reader to do the same, simply by Googling “Migdal Edar”, or, alternatively, “Migdal Eder”.

RESTORATION OF THE LAND

 

When God gave his everlasting covenant of land to Abraham, as first described in Genesis 15:18 and later reaffirmed to Isaac and still later to Jacob, it amounted to the only land grant that ever came from God Himself. But the promise extended beyond mere land: the land was to be filled with the riches of life. Much later, when God appeared to Moses out of the burning bush, He spoke again about that land, as described in Exodus 3:7 and 8:

“And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; and I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a large and good land, to a land flowing with milk and honey; to the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites and the Jebusites.”

After the Fifteenth Roman Legion under the command of General Titus destroyed the Jewish temple in 70 A.D., much of the land fell into disuse. Moreover, there came an extended period of drought that transformed many of the lush regions into barren wastelands.

That was the environment that greeted the first modern settlers out of the Zionist movement of the nineteenth century as they trickled back into their old homeland. They formed kibbutzim, farming communities wherein they struggled to restore small areas back to life, hoping for the restoration of the land that God Himself promised them in Joel 3:18:

“And it shall come to pass, in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord, and shall water the valley of Shittim.”

That promise of Joel’s is not yet fulfilled in every detail. But it has been realized to an amazing extent. God Himself had a big hand in the land’s restoration, for when the Israelites came back to the land, the centuries-long drought came to an end. After 1800 years, from the first century to the twentieth, it began to rain again. The heaviest rainfall to date came in 1948, when Israel was restored as a nation, and in 1967, when Israel reclaimed Jerusalem. Adding to the rainfall, the Israelis have created a vast irrigation system, restoring much of what once was wasteland into extremely productive farms. The country now is a major exporter of food and flowers to Europe, and is considered a world leader in the production of milk. Its cows produce more milk per year than cows in America and Europe.

Recognizing the promise of Ezekiel 36:4-8, the settlers began to plant trees with a fervor.

“Therefore, you mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord God, Thus says the Lord God to the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys, to the desolate wastes, and to the cities that are forsaken, which became a prey and derision to the residue of the nations that are round about; therefore, thus says the Lord God: Surely in the fire of my jealousy have I spoken against the residue of the nations, and against all Edom, who have appointed my land into their possession with the joy of all their heart, with despiteful minds, to cast it out for a prey. Prophecy, therefore, concerning the land of Israel, and say to the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I have spoken in my jealousy and in my fury, because you have borne the shame of the nations; therefore, thus says the Lord god: I have lifted up my hand. Surely the nations that are about you, they shall bear their shame.

“But you, O mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of Israel, for they are soon to come home.”

Israel now boasts two hundred million trees. Thousands of acres are devoted to date palms, the ancient source of honey production from bees. Each tree is highly productive, yielding over three hundred pounds of dates per year. Over ten thousand tons of dates are exported each year.

Scripture links the fig tree to the nation of Israel. In His Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24), Jesus tells His followers to watch for the budding of the fig tree as a sign that the end of the age is very close. Many Christians consider the budding of the fig tree as a metaphor for either the reestablishment of Israel as a nation in 1948 or the retaking of Jerusalem in 1967. But there is a natural element as well to Jesus’ assertion: fig production in modern Israel amounts to five thousand tons – not a huge amount, but not insignificant, either, and growing.

Orchards of olive trees occupy eighty thousand acres in Israel. Olives and olive oil are major export items.

In Ezekiel 36:29, 30, 34 and 35, God promises to make the land productive again:

“I will also save you from all your uncleanness, and I will call for the grain, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you. . . And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fortified, and are inhabited.”

As of 2013, Israel grew 95% of its own food and exported $2.4 billion in food to other countries.

Now there’s talk of oil. Surely there’s incentive here, with all of Israel’s modern riches, for Russia to come into the land to take a spoil, as foretold in Ezekiel 38. Nevertheless, as noted by evangelist David Reagan, the burning bush from which God spoke to Moses was itself prophetic of the indestructibility of the Jewish people in the face of the flames of hatred and violence against them.

ISRAEL’S CAPTIVITIES AND DISPERSIONS

 

Moses foretold in Deuteronomy 28 two separate instances where Israel would be removed from her land as punishment for willful, prolonged disobedience to God’s commandments, particularly for turning away from Abraham’s God to the false gods of other nations. The first instance is highlighted in two parts: Deuteronomy 28:32-34 and Deuteronomy 28:36.

According to Deuteronomy 28:32-34,

“Your sons and your daughters shall be given unto another people, and your eyes shall look, and fail with longing for them all the day long: and there shall be no might in your hand. The fruit of your land, and all your labors, shall a nation which you know not eat up; and you shall be only oppressed and crushed always: so that you shall be mad for the sight of your eyes which you shall see.”

Quoting next from Deuteronomy 28:36,

“The Lord shall bring you, and your king which you shall set over yourselves, to a nation which neither you nor your fathers have known; and there shall you serve other gods, wood and stone.”

The second instance, which is highlighted in Deuteronomy 28:64-67, is more severe and lengthy, wherein the Jews are to be scattered among all the nations of the earth:

“And the Lord shall scatter you among all people, from the one end of the earth, even to the other; and there you shall serve other gods, which neither you nor your fathers have known, even wood and stone. And among these nations shall you find no ease, neither shall the sole of your foot have rest: but the Lord shall give you there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind: and your life shall hang in doubt before you; and you shall fear day and night, and shall have none assurance of your life: in the morning you shall say, Would God it were evening! And at evening you shall say, Would God it were morning! For the fear of your heart wherewith you shall fear, and for the sight of your eyes which you shall see.”

The prophecies do not end here. In Deuteronomy Chapter 30, God shows His mercy toward Israel with the promise that they will not remain scattered among the nations. Instead, they eventually will be regathered and returned to their land.

The first instance of Israel’s removal from her land is in two parts because following the reign of Solomon around 950 B.C., Israel broke up into two separate kingdoms (1 Kings 12) wherein Israel (later known as Samaria) consisted of the northern ten tribes and Judah consisted of southern two tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Each of these kingdoms suffered defeat at separate times. The northern kingdom of Samaria was overthrown by the Assyrians under Shalmaneser around 730 B.C. (2 Kings 17 and 18). A few years later Shalmaneser’s son Sennacherib attempted to besiege Judah also (2 Kings 18-20) but his troops were wiped out by an odd natural catastrophe; Sennacherib’s attempt simply didn’t conform to the Lord’s timing. Judah would still be subject to the reign of good kings among the bad who would remain somewhat loyal to Abraham’s God. The kingdom of Judah was later taken captive by Nebudchadnezzar around 605 B.C., a little more than a hundred years after the fall of Samaria. The Books of 1 and 2 Kings are replete with the sordid details of this first falling away from God of Samaria and Judah following the reigns of David and his son Solomon.

As foretold by the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 25:12, the captivity of Judah lasted for seventy years until 535 B.C. Samaria didn’t fare so well, as the people of the northern kingdom who remained behind after Assyria relocated a large group of Israelites, as noted in 2 Kings 17:6, were forced to intermarry, thus diluting and confusing their Hebrew bloodline. It was for that reason that, at the time of Jesus, the Jews looked down upon the Samaritans, having little to do with them. Most interestingly, the tribe of Judah was not subjected to this forced intermarriage, thus preserving the bloodline to Jesus.

Another interesting side issue is the nature of the blast that killed 185,000 of Sennacherib’s troops during his attempt to besiege Jerusalem. At the time of the blast the sun moved about ten degrees, indicating a planetwide catastrophe so enormous as to alter the rotation of the earth. Immanuel Velikovsky (Worlds in Collision, 1950 and Earth in Upheaval, 1955) and others have surmised that the cause of this disaster was a near collision of the earth with a planet-sized mass, probably Mars. He thought that it was this same event that evoked Homer’s Iliad (possibly an eyewitness account rather than myth) and reinforced the gentile practice of associating planets with gods. Recently-acquired data regarding the devastation of Mars, as well as the discovery in the Antarctic continent of meteorite ALH84001 that originated in Mars, the juvenile Argon-36 in the Martian atmosphere, and the synchronous kinematic features between Earth and Mars tend to support this hypothesis.

Two important events accompanied the end of the first captivity of the Israelites. The first of these was the proclamation of Cyrus, king of Persia around 535 B.C. under which a number of Israelites under Ezra were permitted to return to Jerusalem for the purpose of rebuilding the temple there. This event is recorded in the Book of Ezra.

Another interesting side point is that the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 44:28, 45:1) over 150 years earlier had called Cyrus by name as God’s servant in association with the rebuilding of the temple.

The second event associated with the end of the Israelites’ captivity was the decree by the Persian King Artaxerxes Longimanus allowing the Israelites under Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city itself. This decree was issued in 445 B.C. and is the same decree predicted by the Prophet Daniel (Daniel 9:25) that was to initiate the countdown to the coming of Messiah after 69 weeks of (prophetic) years. Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem 173,880 days later, 69 weeks from the decree to the very day.

The second instance of the removal of Israel from her land occurred was also foretold by Jesus in Matthew 24:2 and occurred in 70 A.D., about 37 years after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. The destruction was led by the Roman General Titus, but was accomplished with the use of soldiers recruited locally, which were presumably of Arab stock. The event indeed left not one stone upon another because of the soldiers’ furious scramble for the gold within, melted by the burning of the temple and which spilled into the cracks between the stones.

This time the dispersion of the Jews, called the Great Diaspora, was worldwide. But it, too, ended as foretold by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 36 and 37) as well as Moses (Deuteronomy 30) some eighteen centuries later with the creation of the state of Israel on May 15, 1948. This date also was foretold by both Hosea and Ezekiel, as was detailed in Volume 2, Chapter 5 of this book, entitled Ezekiel’s Prophecy of Israel’s Return.

SQUANTO – A THANKSGIVING STORY

 

When the Pilgrims left Holland aboard the Mayflower, heading toward the Atlantic coast of America in search of religious freedom, they embarked on a sea voyage marked by danger, misfortune, disappointment and a continuous struggle for survival. Forced to leave sister ship Speedwell behind with its much-needed provisions and burdened with the Speedwell’s passengers in addition to their own, they faced alone the North Atlantic, famous for its awful winter weather and mountainous seas. By the time they reached their destination of Plymouth, situated on the northwest edge of Cape Cod south of Boston in what is now the State of Massachusetts, they were already enfeebled by the rigors of the voyage and short of life-sustaining provisions. The date of their arrival was November 21, 1620 – the middle of a harsh, frigid Northeast winter.

Knowing nothing of the hunting and farming techniques that enabled the natives of this new land to survive, and constructing shelters inadequate to the task of staving off the constant, biting cold, they quickly began to fall sick and die of exposure, compounded by their near-starvation. Yet throughout this ordeal they remained faithful and warm-hearted to their Christian God.

The death rate from scurvy and pneumonia climbed from one to two, and then to three every day. By the middle of the next spring, thirteen of eighteen wives had died; only three families survived without suffering a dead member. Nearly half of their number had died. Yet their faith and love of God failed to be shaken. Nevertheless, as they welcomed the return of Spring, they also knew that they remained on the very edge of survival, a dark understanding thrust into their cold and hungry faces by their inability to obtain food from this strange new land. They prayed fervently to God for His aid.

Unknown to them, God had set in motion their rescue fifteen years before.

Another person had arrived near their colony just six months before the Pilgrims had arrived. He was a Native American named Tisquantum, or Squanto for short. He was a member of the Patuxet tribe, known for its savage, deadly hatred of whites for the abuses the tribe had suffered at the hands of earlier Englishmen who had come to fish these shores. Fifteen years had passed since Squanto had last seen his relatives. He was taken from them in 1605 when he had been abducted and carried off to Europe.

Accounts differ as to what happened to Squanto after his arrival in Europe. One story has him arriving in England, learning the language, and returning to New England, only to be abducted again and carried back off to Europe, this time to Malaga, Spain. There he was bought at a slave auction by kindly monks, who taught him their language and about their Christian God. Later, he went by ship to London, where he was able to obtain passage a second time to New England. Another story has him first being carried off to Malaga and being taken in directly by the monks. Several years thereafter, he managed to get to London, from where he sailed back to New England.

Whatever the version, Squanto arrived back in New England after a lengthy absence just before the arrival of the Pilgrims and equipped with a love of God and a fluent understanding of the English language.

When he came back to his Patuxet home, he was devastated to see that the village no longer existed. It had been wiped out four years earlier by a vicious disease that had claimed the lives of everyone in the village. But he had come back with a friend, an Algonquin chief from Maine. Samoset, ever the wanderer, had a fondness for travel and was given to hitching rides on the ships of Englishmen whom he’d befriended.

Squanto lived alone with his grief for a time, but when the Europeans arrived, Samoset decided to visit them. It was mid-March, and Samoset saw how bad their lot was. Walking into the poverty-stricken village, his first word to them was “Welcome!” His next words were “Have you any beer?” The Pilgrims gaped open-mouthed in astonishment over his command of their language.

The next week he dragged Squanto back with him in an attempt to get him out of his funk. Perhaps at that point he may have recalled the Spanish monks’ words of comfort to him over the pain and abuses he had suffered at the hands of Europeans. As he had questioned the motive of a God who would have let him be kidnapped, they had reassured him that God loved him and knew all the trials Squanto had been subjected to. They promised that if Squanto trusted in Him, God would use his suffering in ways beyond his imagination.

Like the Biblical Joseph, who had emerged from his own undeserved suffering to become through the Hand of God the second most powerful man in Egypt that he might save those who had wrongfully mistreated him, Squanto saw an opportunity in the Pilgrims’ squalor. Adopting them as his own family, he set about to teach them how to survive in America.

Under Squanto’s tutelage, the Pilgrims emerged from want to abundance. That fall they held a feast in thanksgiving to God for blessing them, including the valuable things that Squanto taught them as the living answer to their prayers. They invited the local tribes to join them, and the Native Americans joined in with the transplanted Europeans in praising God for His benevolent love.

PERPETUA

 

I’d often wondered where the unusual and strikingly noble name of Perpetua originated. There is a promontory on the Oregon Coast that first brought the name to my attention. The only other time I’ve seen it is in John Foxe’s Christian Martyrs of the World. I’d very much like to think that it was this Perpetua, born around 181 A.D. and who lived in Carthage in the Roman province of Africa, who inspired the name of that beautiful Oregon cape.

Perpetua suffered under the persecution which began in A.D. 200. According to Foxe, this was the fifth of ten persecutions foretold by Jesus in His message to the Church at Smyrna, Revelation 2:8-11:

“And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These things say the first and the last, who was dead, and is alive. I know your works, and tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of them who say they are Jews, and are not, but are of the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which you shall suffer. Behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that you may be tried, and you shall have tribulation ten days; be you faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches: he who overcomes shall not be hurt of the second death.”

The Church at Smyrna was the second of the seven Churches addressed by Jesus in Revelation Chapters 2 and 3. Of these Churches, Smyrna and Philadelphia were the only two for which Jesus had nothing negative to say. It has been broadly recognized as the persecuted Church. According to Foxe and other theologians the ten ‘days’ spoken of by Jesus were ten periods of overt, usually intense persecution. Foxe listed them all in his book, which is considered to be one of the three greatest Christian works outside the Bible ever written. The following is his entry regarding Perpetua:

“During the reign of Severus, the Christians had several years of rest and could worship God without fear of punishment. But after a time, the hatred of the ignorant mob again prevailed, and the old laws were remembered and put in force against them. Fire, sword, wild beasts, and imprisonment were resorted to again, and even the dead bodies of Christians were stolen from their graves and mutilated. Yet the faithful continued to multiply. Tertullian, who lived at this time, said that if the Christians had all gone away from the Roman territories, the empire would have been greatly weakened.

“By now, the persecutions had extended to northern Africa, which was a Roman province, and many were murdered in that area. One of these was Perpetua, a married lady twenty-six years old with a baby at her breast. On being taken before the proconsul Minutius, Perpetua was commanded to sacrifice to the idols. Refusing to do so, she was put in a dark dungeon and deprived of her child, but two of her keepers, Tertius and Pomponius, allowed her out in the fresh air several hours a day, during which time she was allowed to nurse her child.

“Finally the Christians were summoned to appear before the judge and urged to deny their Lord, but all remained firm. When Perpetua’s turn came, her father suddenly appeared, carrying her infant in his arms, and begged her to save her own life for the sake of her child. Even the judge seemed to be moved. ‘Spare the gray hairs of your father,’ he said. ‘Spare your child. Offer sacrifice for the welfare of the emperor.’

“Perpetua answered, ‘I will not sacrifice.’

“’Are you a Christian?’ demanded Hilarianus, the judge.

“’I am a Christian,’ was her answer.

“Perpetua and all the other Christians tried with her that day were ordered killed by wild beasts as a show for the crowd on the next holiday. They entered the place of execution clad in the simplest of robes, Perpetua singing a hymn of triumph. The men were to be torn to pieces by leopards and bears. Perpetua and a young woman named Felicitas were hung up in nets, at first naked, but the crowd demanded that they should be allowed their clothing.

“When they were again returned to the arena, a bull was let loose on them. Felicitas fell, seriously wounded. Perpetua was tossed, her loose robe torn and her hair falling loose, but she hastened to the side of the dying Felicitas and gently raised her from the ground. When the bull refused to attack them again, they were dragged out of the arena, to the disappointment of the crowd, which wanted to see their deaths. Finally brought back in to be killed by gladiators, Perpetua was assigned to a trembling young man who stabbed her weakly several times, not being used to such scenes of violence. When she saw how upset the young man was, Perpetua guided his sword to a vital area and died.”

Additional material on Perpetua can be found on the Internet by Googling “Perpetua”. The Wikipedia entry differs in some minor details from Foxe’s, but also adds some useful information. Perpetua, for example, is identified there as of noble heritage. Felicitas (Felicity), was supposedly her slave. The Catholic Church has canonized her, along with Felicity, as a saint. Her feast day is March 7, the date of her execution.

The perceived nobility of her name has a factual basis in the circumstance of her birth. But her high birth is of little consequence compared to the nobility of her faith and the beautiful manner in which she chose to exercise it. In her nobility, Perpetua reflected that same quality of Jesus’ character.