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On Tuesday, April 12, 2011, filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici held a news conference in Jerusalem. In it, he claimed that two nails, excavated more than 20 years ago, were the ones hammered into the hands of Jesus at His crucifixion. The nails, which had 'disappeared' soon after the excavations, were recently rediscovered in the labs of Tel Aviv University and are now in his possession. In an interview with Bloomberg News (April 12, 2011), he claimed: 'Do I know 100 percent that these nails were used to crucify Jesus? No, I think we have a very compelling case to say: these are them.

Jacobovici also believes that Caiaphas, the high priest responsible for turning Jesus over to the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, converted to the Judeo-Christian movement that believed Jesus was the messiah, but not God. After Caiaphas’ death, his family wanted the nails buried with him because they thought the nails possessed talismanic powers and would give him divine protection in the afterlife!

The show, “The Nails of the Cross” aired on the History Channel on Wednesday night, April 20, 2011. Did Simcha Jacobovici produce any compelling evidence for these sensational claims?

Who Is Simcha Jacobovici?

First, we need to ask the question, “Who is Simcha Jacobovici?” He is a very colorful movie producer and is famous for his sensationalist television program, The Naked Archaeologist. Having watched the program, I can attest to the fact that he does not appear naked in the show, and it is equally obvious that he is not an archaeologist! He should not be taken seriously, but because of his sensationalistic approach, the news media loves his programming.

In 2007, he released a video and book that alleged that the family tomb of Jesus was found in the East Talpiyot neighborhood of Jerusalem and that the tomb included an ossuary containing the bones of Jesus. This program was a misguided attack on the deity of the Lord Jesus and His bodily resurrection. These allegations have been thoroughly refuted by a number of people.

The Tomb of the House of Caiaphas

Jacobovici’s current “discovery” concerns a burial cave that workmen accidently discovered while making a water park in the Peace Forest in the southern part of Jerusalem during November/December 1990. The burial cave was a simple, single burial chamber with four loculi (called kokhim in Hebrew) typical of the Second Temple period. Three kokhim were on the western wall of the cave (labeled Kokhim I, II, and III) and one was on the southern wall (labeled Kokh IV). There was a central depression that was filled with debris, including broken ossuaries (Greenhut 1991a: 6-12; 1991b: 140-141; 1992a: 63-71; 1992b: 28-36, 76; 1994: 219-222).

Six intact ossuaries (bone boxes used for secondary burial) were found in the burial cave. Two ossuaries (Ossuaries 5 and 6) were found in situ in Kokh IV. The other four ossuaries had been removed from their original positions in Kokhim I-III by the workmen. Six other broken ossuaries and three lids were found scattered throughout the cave (Greenhut 1992a: 67).

Five of the ossuaries had inscriptions on them, with two ossuaries having inscriptions relating to the House of Caiaphas (Reich 1991: 13-21; 1992a: 72-77; 1992b: 38-44, 76; 1994:223-225). Of these two: Ossuary 3 contained the skeletal remains of “five individuals – an adult female, a juvenile, two seven year old children and a newborn” (Zias 1992: 78-79). It is into this ossuary that Jacobovici suggests the bones of the high priest were placed. According to the anthropological report, however, there were no adult male bones in this ossuary. Thus, Jacobovici is incorrect in asserting that the high priest Caiaphas’ bones were placed in this ossuary.

Ossuary 6, a very ornate box, had the name “Joseph bar [son of] Caiaphas” on it twice (Reich 1991: 15-17; 1992a: 72-73, Figs. 5 and 6) and contained the partial skeletal “remains of six individuals, including a male c. 60 years old” (Zias 1992: 78-79). It is this 60-year-old male that some have suggested is the high priest who served in the Temple from AD 18-36 and is mentioned in the New Testament (Matt. 26:3, 57; Luke 3:2; John 11:49; 18:13, 14, 24, 28; Acts 4:6). Reich suggests that the name Caiaphas was a nickname and the inscription would mean “Joseph of the family of Caiaphas” (1991: 16; see also Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 18.35 and 95; LCL 9:31, 69). Scholarly debate continues as to whether the “Joseph bar Caiaphas” on Ossuary 6 was the high priest from the time of Jesus or his grandfather or grandson, as both would also have been named Joseph.

How Long Were the Nails?

At the press conference it was reported that the nails were about three inches long (8 centimeters). Unfortunately, there is no measuring scale next to the nails in the photographs that were released at the press conference (see the Ha’aretz website). Placing a scale next to an object is standard practice in archaeology. Due to the lack of a measuring scale, verification of this measurement is not possible.

Only one archaeological example of a man who was crucified has been found in Jerusalem. In June 1968, a burial cave was found in the Giv’at ha-Mivtar neighborhood of Jerusalem. An ossuary in the cave contained the bones of a man who had a large iron nail still pierced through his calcanei (heel) and into some wood (Tzaferis 1970: 18-32; Haas 1970: 42, 49-59). The nail was 11.5 centimeteers (4 ½ inches) long (Zias and Sekeles 1985: 23).

The nails that are in Jacobovici’s possession are 3 inches or less and, therefore, could not have held a man to a cross beam. The sheer weight of the man would have pulled the nails out of the wood. Thus, the nails in question could not have been used in any crucifixion, much less Jesus’!

Where Were the Nails Found?

The excavator, Zvi Greenhut, describes the two nails from the 1990 excavation in his final archaeological report. Unfortunately, he did not include a photograph of them so scholars are unable to compare the ones found in the Tomb of the House of Caiaphas with the ones that are in Jacobovici’s possession and to verify that they are the same nails. Greenhut reports: “Two iron nails were found in this cave. One was found inside one of the ossuaries and the other in Kokh IV. It is possible that these nails were used to inscribe the ossuaries after the bones had been deposited in them, possibly even after some of the ossuaries were placed inside the kokhim” (1992a: 68). Elsewhere, Greenhut identified Ossuary 1 as the ossuary in which the nail was found (Greenhut 1991:11).

Ossuary 1 is a nondescript bone box with a flat lid with no decorations or inscriptions (Greenhut 1992a: 67). The ossuary contained the “poorly preserved remains of four individuals – two adults and two children” (Zias 1992: 78-79). This ossuary was apparently from one of the kokhim on the western wall of the cave (Greenhut 1992a: 63). It is clear that at least one of the nails was found in an ossuary other than the ones with the name “Caiaphas” on them.

The Timeline of Jacobovici’s Nails

Anthropologist Joe Zias, formerly the curator of the Israel Antiquities Authority anthropology collection from 1972 to 1997 and one of the excavators of the House of Caiaphas Burial Cave, has stated definitively that the two nails that Jacobovici is showing did not come from the Caiaphas tomb.

Dr. Nicu Haas, professor of anatomy at the Hebrew University Hadassah Medical Center, had the two nails that Jacobovici is showing in his laboratory collection prior to 1975 when he was in a tragic accident that left him in a coma for 13 years. Prior to his death in 1987, the hospital requested that the Israel Antiquities Authority remove all the anthropological material belonging to the State of Israel from Haas’ laboratory. Zias was the one who removed all the bones and the two collections of iron nails. One of those collections contained the two nails that Jacobovici is claiming came from the Tomb of Caiaphas.

Due to pressure from the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Zias was forced to transfer the two collections of nails to the medical lab at Tel Aviv University sometime in the 1990s. The two nails presented by Jacobovici as allegedly coming from the House of Caiaphas Tomb, which was excavated in 1990, were known to have existed in the Haas collection as early as 1975. How these two nails came into Haas' possession is not known. It is clear, however, that the nails Jacobovici is showing did not come from the House of Caiaphas Tomb.

What Were the Nails Used For?

Dr. Levi Rahmani (1994), an expert on Jewish ossuaries, has suggested two possible uses for nails found in tombs. The first use is fixing the lid of an ossuary to the bone box. Rahmani cites one example in which there were still traces of iron in the hole (1961: 102, no. 9). The second use is “scratching the name of the deceased on an ossuary” (1961: 100).

The excavator, Greenhut, states that the two nails found in the House of Caiaphas Tomb were used for scratching “the inscriptions on the ossuaries in the cave after the bones had been collected and placed in them and even after some of the ossuaries had been placed in their loculi. This is evident from the fact that some of the inscriptions were written perpendicularly, from the bottom to the top of the ossuary” (Greenhut 1992b: 36).

It is highly probable that the nail found in Kokh IV was used for scratching the two inscriptions on Ossuary 6 that referred to Caiaphas, but it is important to note that this nail was not found inside the ossuary of Caiaphas and thus was not used as a talisman as Jacobovici claimed.

According to the Mishnah, nails from a crucified person have healing powers. Tractate Shabbath 6:10 included nails among the items that could be carried on Shabbat. “Men may go out with a locust’s egg or a jackal’s tooth or with a nail of [the gallow of] one that was crucified, as a means of healing. So R. Meir. But the Sages say: Even on ordinary days this is forbidden as following in the ways of the Amorites [heathen superstition].”

What Is Simcha Trying to Do?

I cannot presume to know Jacobovici’s heart or what his motives were for producing this “documentary.” But as has been clearly demonstrated in this article, the two nails Jacobovici is showing and claiming came from the Tomb of the House of Caiaphas did not come from this burial cave because those two nails were already in a known collection prior to 1990. So whatever ideas Jacobovici has about Caiaphas feeling remorseful or even converting to the Messianic Movement is irrelevant to the discussion.

After watching “The Nails of the Cross” on the History Channel, I could find no compelling evidence that the two nails Jacobovici was showing came from the Tomb of the House of Caiaphas and were not used to crucify the Lord Jesus!

The news media, on the other hand, is always looking for something sensational to report during the Easter season as a quick glance at their track record will clearly demonstrate. In 1996, the BBC aired an Easter special that claimed that ossuaries from a burial cave in an East Talpiyot neighborhood had the names of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus on them and concluded that the ossuaries belonged to the “holy family.” In 2001 and 2002, right before Passover, Rabbi Wolpe from Los Angeles said that there was no archaeological evidence for the Exodus from Egypt. In 2003, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code was released. Three years later, in 2006, there was a double whammy with the released of two books: The Gospel of Judas and The Jesus Dynasty. In 2007, the “Naked Archaeologist” released his so-called The Jesus Family Tomb, which was a follow-up on the 1996 BBC Easter special. In 2008, the movie Bloodline alleged there was archaeological “proof” for The Da Vinci Code.

Ho-hum, here we go again. The media should be ashamed of itself for promoting such nonsensical pseudo-archaeology. If they must circulate sensational stories, at least they owe it to their readers and viewers to investigate the claim by interviewing scholars in the field who can set the record straight.

Conclusion of the Matter

The Israel Antiquities Authority released this statement regarding the nails that Jacobovici claimed were from Caiaphas’ tomb: “There is no doubt that the talented director Simcha Jacobovici created an interesting film with a real archaeological find at its centre, but the interpretation presented in it has no basis in archaeological findings or research.”

I think Dr. Gabriel Barkay, the leading scholar on the archaeology of Jerusalem and a professor at Bar-Ilan University, sums it up best. He states: “There is no proof whatsoever that those nails came from the cave of Caiaphas. There is no proof that the nails are connected to any bones or any bone residue attached to the nails and no proof from textual data that Caiaphas had the nails for the crucifixion with him after the crucifixion took place and after Jesus was taken down from the cross.”

Case closed – end of discussion!

Passion Week Archaeology from SourceFlix.com on Vimeo.

Bibliography

Danby, Herbert

1985 The Mishnah. Oxford: Oxford University.

Flusser, David

1991 ... To Bury Caiaphas, Not to Praise Him. Jerusalem Perspective 4/4-5: 23-28.

1992 Caiaphas in the New Testament. ‘Atiqot 21: 81-87.

Greenhut, Zvi

1991a Discovery of the Caiaphas Family Tomb. Jerusalem Perspective 4/4-5: 6-12.

1991b Jerusalem, East Talpiyot (Ya’ar Hashalom). Excavations and Surveys in Israel 1991. 10: 140-141.

1992a The ‘Caiaphas’ Tomb in North Talpiyot, Jerusalem. ‘Atiqot 21: 63-71.

1992b Discovered in Jerusalem: Burial Cave of the Caiaphas Family. Biblical Archaeology Review 18/5: 28-36, 76.

1994 The Caiaphas Tomb in North Talpiyot, Jerusalem. Pp. 219-222 in Ancient Jerusalem Revealed. Edited by H. Geva. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society.

Haas, N.

1970 Anthropological Observations on the Skeletal Remains from Giv’at ha-Mivtar. Israel Exploration Journal 20/1-2: 38-59.

Josephus

1981 Antiquities of the Jews. Books 18-19. Vol. 9. Trans. by L. H. Feldman. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University. Loeb Classical Library 433.

Rahmani, Levi

1961 Jewish Rock-Cut Tombs in Jerusalem. ‘Atiqot 3: 93-120.

1994 A Catalogue of Jewish Ossuaries in the Collections of the State of Israel. Jerusalem: Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

1986 Some Remarks on R. Hachlili’s and A. Killebrew’s “Jewish Funerary Customs.” Palestine Exploration Quarterly 118: 96-100.

Reich, Ronny

1991 Ossuary Inscriptions from the Caiaphas Tomb. Jerusalem Perspective 4/4-5: 13-21.

1992a Ossuary Inscriptions from the ‘Caiaphas’ Tomb. ‘Atiqot 21: 72-77.

1992b Caiaphas Name Inscribed on Bone Boxes. Biblical Archaeology Review 18/5: 38-44, 76.

1994 Ossuary Inscriptions of the Caiaphas Family from Jerusalem. Pp. 223-225 in Ancient Jerusalem Revealed. Edited by H. Geva. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society.

Tzaferis, V.

1970 Jewish Tombs at and near Giv’at ha-Mivtar, Jerusalem. Israel Exploration Journal 20/1-2: 18-32.

Zias, Joseph

1992 Human Skeletal Remains from the ‘Caiaphas’ Tomb. ‘Atiqot 21: 78-80.

Zias, Joseph; and Sekeles, Eliezer

1985 The Crucified Man from Giv’at ha-Mivtar: A Reappraisal. Israel Exploration Journal 35/1: 22-27.

A moving video on archaeology related to the Passion Week, by Joel Kramer of Sourceflix (Off site link).

On Tuesday, April 12, 2011, a news conference was held in Jerusalem by filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici. In it, he claimed that two nails that were excavated more than 20 years ago were hammered into the hands of Jesus at His crucifixion. They had 'disappeared' soon after the excavations but were recently rediscovered in the labs of Tel Aviv University and are now in his possession. In an interview with Bloomberg News (April 12, 2011), he claimed: 'Do I know 100 percent that these nails were used to crucify Jesus? No, I think we have a very compelling case to say: these are them.' 

Jacobovici also believes that Caiaphas, the high priest responsible for turning Jesus over to the Roman governor of Judea, Pontus Pilate, converted to the Judeo-Christian movement that believed Jesus was the messiah, but not God. After he died, the family of Caiaphas wanted the nails buried with him because they thought the nails possessed talismanic powers and would give him divine protection in the afterlife!

Is there any evidence for these sensational claims by Simcha Jacobovici?

Who is Simcha Jacobovici?

Jacobovici is a very colorful movie producer. He is famous for his sensationalist television program, the “Naked Archaeologist.” Having watched the program, I can attest to the fact that he does not appear naked in the show, and it is equally obvious that he is not an archaeologist! He has been labeled by archaeologists working in Israel as a con man, charlatan, scam artist, publicity hound, and even worse. He should not be taken seriously, but because of his sensationalistic approach, the news media loves his programming.

In 2007 he released a video and book that alleged the family tomb of Jesus was found in the East Talpiyot neighborhood of Jerusalem and it included an ossuary with the bones of Jesus. This program was a misguided attack on the deity of the Lord Jesus and His bodily resurrection. It has, however, been thoroughly refuted by a number of people. See: The So-Called Jesus Family Tomb Rediscovered in Jerusalem 

The Tomb of the House of Caiaphas

Jacobovici’s current “discovery” concerns a burial cave that workmen accidently discovered while making a water park in the Peace Forest in the southern part of Jerusalem during November / December 1990. It was a simple, single burial chamber with four loculi (called kokhim in Hebrew) typical of the Second Temple period. Three kokhim were on the western wall of the cave (labeled Kokhim I, II, and III) and one was on the southern wall (labeled Kokhim IV). There was a central depression that was filled with debris, including broken ossuaries (Greenhut 1991: 6-12; 1992a: 63-71; 1992b: 28-36, 76).

There were six intact ossuaries (bone boxes used for secondary burial) found in the burial cave. Two (Ossuaries 5 and 6) were found in situ in Kokhim IV. The other four had been removed from their original positions in Kokhim I-III by the workmen. Six other broken ossuaries and three lids were found scattered throughout the cave (Greenhut 1992a: 67).

Five of the ossuaries had inscriptions on them, with two ossuaries having inscriptions relating to the House of Caiaphas (Reich 1991: 13-21; 1992a: 72-77; 1992b: 38-44, 76). Of these two: Ossuary 3 contained the skeletal remains of “five individuals – an adult female, a juvenile, two seven year old children and a newborn” (Zias 1992: 78-79). It is into this ossuary that Jacobovici suggests the bones of the high priest were placed. According to the anthropological report, however, there were no adult male bones in this ossuary.

Ossuary 6, a very ornate box, had the name “Joseph bar (son of) Caiaphas” on it twice (Reich 1991: 15-17; 1992: 72-73, Fig. 5 and 6) and contained the partial skeletal “remains of six individuals, including a male c. 60 years old” (Zias 1992: 78-79). It is this 60-year-old male that some have suggested is the high priest who served in the Temple from AD 18-36 and is mentioned in the New Testament (Matt. 26:3, 57; Luke 3:2; John 11:49; 18:13, 14, 24, 28; Acts 4:6). Reich suggests that the name Caiaphas was a nickname and the inscription would mean, “Joseph of the family of Caiaphas” (1991: 16; see also Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 18.35 and 95; LCL 9:31, 69). There is still a scholarly debate as to whether the “Joseph bar Caiaphas” in Ossuary 6 is the high priest from the time of Jesus, or it belonged to his grandfather or grandson, as both would also have the name Joseph.

How Long Were the Nails?

At the press conference it was reported that the nails were about three inches long (8 centimeters). Unfortunately the pictures of the nails that were released at the press conference (see the Ha’aretz website) do not have a measuring scale next to them in order to verify this measurement. Scales next to objects is standard practice by archaeologists.

There is only one archaeological example of a crucified man that has been found in Jerusalem. In June 1968 a burial cave was found in the Giv’at ha-Mivtar neighborhood of Jerusalem. In it was found an ossuary that contained the bones of a crucified man with a large iron nail still pierced through his calcanei (heel) and into some wood (Tzaferis 1970: 18-32; Haas 1970: 42, 49-59). The nail measured 11.5 cm (4 ½ inches) long (Zias and Sekeles 1985: 23).

The nails that are in Jacobovici’s possession are 3 inches or less and could not hold a crucified man to a cross beam. The sheer weight of the man would pull the nails right out of the wood. Thus these nails could not have been used in any crucifixion, much less Jesus’!

Where Were the Nails Found?

The excavator, Zvi Greenhut, describes the two nails from the 1990 excavation in his final archaeological report. Unfortunately he does not include a photograph of them so scholars can compare the ones found in the Tomb of the House of Caiaphas with the ones that are in Jacobovici’s possession and to verify that they are the same nails. Greenhut reports: “Two iron nails were found in this cave. One was found inside one of the ossuaries and the other in Kokh IV. It is possible that these nails were used to inscribe the ossuaries after the bones had been deposited in them, possibly even after some of the ossuaries were placed inside the kokhim” (1992a: 68). Elsewhere, Greenhut identified which ossuary the nail was found in: Ossuary 1 (Greenhut 1991:11).

Ossuary 1 is a nondescript bone box with a flat lid and no decorations or inscriptions on it (Greenhut 1992a: 67). It contained the “poorly preserved remains of four individuals – two adults and two children” (Zias 1992: 78-79). This ossuary was apparently from one of the kokhim on the western wall of the cave (Greenhut 1992a: 63). It is clear that at least one of the nails was found in an ossuary other than the one with the bones of “Caiaphas.”

The physical anthropologist from Tel Aviv University, whose control the nails were under, has repeatedly told the news media that the origin of the nails that Jacobovici is showing is unknown and they have nothing whatsoever to do with crucifixion. Dr. Joe Zias, under whose curatorship those nails were under when he worked at the Israel Antiquities Authority, said the nails that Jacobovici is showing did not come from the Caiaphas tomb.

What Were the Nails Used For?

Dr. Levi Rahmani (1994), an expert on Jewish ossuaries, has suggested two possible uses for nails that were found in tombs. The first use is for fixing the lid of an ossuary to the bone box. Rahmani cites one example where there were still traces of iron in the hole (1961: 102, no. 9). The second use is for “scratching the name of the deceased on an ossuary” (1961: 100).

The excavator states that these two nails were used for scratching “the inscriptions on the ossuaries in the cave after the bones had been collected and placed in them and even after some of the ossuaries had been placed in their loculi. This is evident from the fact that some of the inscriptions were written perpendicularly, from the bottom to the top of the ossuary” (Greenhut 1992b: 36).

It is highly probable that the nail found in Kokhim IV was used for scratching the names of Caiaphas on Ossuary 6, but it is important to note that it was not found inside the ossuary of Caiaphas and thus not a talisman with divine power to protect Caiaphas in the afterlife as Jacobovici would like to claim.

Nails from a crucified person have healing powers according to the Mishnah. Tractate Shabbath 6:10 describes some of the things that can be carried on Shabbat, including nails. “Men may go out with a locust’s egg or a jackal’s tooth or with a nail of [the gallow of] one that was crucified, as a means of healing. So R. Meir. But the Sages say: Even on ordinary days this is forbidden as following in the ways of the Amorites (heathen superstition).”

What is Simcha Trying to Do?

Although it is difficult to tell what Jacobovici is trying to do, it seems he is trying to exonerate Caiaphas and absolve him of all responsibility of the death of Jesus. This might be Jacobovici’s way of improving the Jewish-Christian dialog concerning the responsibility of the death of Jesus.

The news media, on the other hand, is always looking for something sensational to report during the Easter season. A quick glance at their track record will clearly demonstrate this. In 1996 the BBC had an Easter Special that claimed that ossuaries from a burial cave in an East Talpiyot neighborhood had the names of Joseph, Mary and Jesus on them and this was the “holy family.” In 2001 and 2002, Rabbi Wolpe from Los Angeles said right before Passover that there was no archaeological evidence for the Exodus from Egypt. In 2003, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code was released. In 2006, a double whammy was released: Gospel of Judas and Jesus Dynasty. In 2007, the “Naked Archaeologist” released his so-called “Jesus Family Tomb.” This was a follow-up on the 1996 BBC Easter special. In 2008, the movie “Bloodline“ was released that allegedly had the archaeological “proof” for the Da Vinci Code.

Ho hum, here we go again. The media should be ashamed of itself for promoting such nonsensical pseudo-archaeology. If they must circulate sensational stories, at least they owe it to their readers to investigate the claim by interviewing scholars in the field.

Conclusion of the Matter

It will be interesting to see how Jacobovici tries to “rehabilitate” Caiaphas. For a good background study on the life, personality, and activities of Caiaphas and the Sadducees, sees the two articles by Professor David Flusser (1991; 1992).

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) released this statement: “There is no doubt that the talented director Simcha Jacobovici created an interesting film with a real archaeological find at it’s centre, but the interpretation presented in it has no basis in archaeological findings or research.”

I think Dr. Gabriel Barkay, the leading scholar on the archaeology of Jerusalem and a professor at Bar-Ilan University, sums it up best. He states: “There is no proof whatsoever that those nails came from the cave of Caiaphas. There is no proof that the nails are connected to any bones or any bone residue attached to the nails and no proof from textual data that Caiaphas had the nails for the crucifixion with him after the crucifixion took place and after Jesus was taken down from the cross.”

I will be watching the “documentary” on the History Channel entitled “The Nails of the Cross” on April 20 after which I will give a full report. But if Simcha is consistent with some of his segments of “Naked Archaeologist” that are long on sensationalism and unsubstantiated claims, and short on credible substance, the viewer will be very disappointed with this video. He will present no evidence for his sensationalistic claims.

Bibliography

Danby, Herbert

1985 The Mishnah. Oxford: Oxford University.

Flusser, David

1991  … To Bury Caiaphas, Not to Praise Him. Jerusalem Perspective 4/4-5: 23-28.

1992 Caiaphas in the New Testament. ‘Atiqot 21: 81-87.

Greenhut, Zvi

1991  Discovery of the Caiaphas Family Tomb. Jerusalem Perspective 4/4-5: 6-12.

1992a The ‘Caiaphas’ Tomb in North Talpiyot, Jerusalem. ‘Atiqot 21: 63-71.

1992b Discovered in Jerusalem: Burial Cave of the Caiaphas Family. Biblical Archaeology Review 18/5: 28-36, 76.

Hass, N.

1970 Anthropological Observations on the Skeletal Remains from Giv’at ha-Mivtar. Israel Exploration Journal 20/1-2: 38-59.

Josephus

1981 Antiquities of the Jews. Books 18-19. Vol. 9. Trans. by L. H. Feldman. Cambridge, MA: Harvard university. Loeb Classical Library 433.

Rahmani, Levi

1961 Jewish Rock-Cut Tombs in Jerusalem. ‘Atiqot 3: 93-120.

1994 A Catalogue of Jewish Ossuaries in the Collections of the State of Israel. Jerusalem: Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

Reich, Ronny

1991 Ossuary Inscriptions from the Caiaphas Tomb. Jerusalem Perspective 4/4-5: 13-21.

1992a  Ossuary Inscriptions from the ‘Caiaphas’ Tomb. ‘Atiqot 21: 72-77.

1992b Caiaphas Name Inscribed on Bone Boxes. Biblical Archaeology Review 18/5: 38-44, 76.

Tzaferis, V.

1970 Jewish Tombs at and near Giv’at ha-Mivtar, Jerusalem. Israel Exploration Journal 20/1-2: 18-32.

Zias, Joseph

1992 Human Skeletal Remains from the ‘Caiaphas’ Tomb. ‘Atiqot 21: 78-80.

Zias, Joseph; and Sekeles, Eliezer

1985 The Crucified Man from Giv’at ha-Mivtar: A Reappraisal. Israel Exploration Journal 35/1: 22-27.

Recently, a pastor in Florida burned a copy of the Koran (also spelled Quran). His stated reason was 'to make an awareness of the radical element of Islam.' Unfortunately his actions led to tragic consequences. Riots ensued in Afghanistan because of what some termed 'blasphemy against the Koran' and this violence led to deadly results.

At many Bible colleges and seminaries today, students are told to understand the book of Genesis as typical ancient Near Eastern (ANE) literature, sharing many features in common with them. Representative of scholars teaching this view is John H. Walton of Wheaton College. He proposes that, following a pattern scholars detect in ANE literature, Genesis 1 presents a cosmology that bypasses entirely the creation of the initial raw materials of the universe. Instead, it, regards them as preexistent, with their origin never addressed.

In recent days, my mind has been preoccupied with the plight of Western society, and specifically, the state of the Church at large in America. Several events have initiated this preoccupation and now converge to instigate this writing of this article. Within a period of just ten days, I had the following four experiences: 

“Men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” 1 Chronicles 12:32 (NIV)

1. An extensive phone conversation with a close and eminently frustrated Christian brother leaves me with a sense of unrest and profound concern. "I expect the world to not understand why I want to live a holy life," this friend summarizes, "but when I speak in this manner to many people in the church, they look at me like I'm nuts. Worse than that, members of the church can live in open rebellion against God's laws with no consequences." The puzzled response which this friend often receives in conversation is not followed by some form of disagreement which rises to the surface and initiates a debate. Rather, it is often followed by an empty-headed silence that strongly communicates that the church-going recipient does not even understand what my friend is talking about.

2. Another long-time Christian brother, who stands in a place of leadership, recently echoed much of the same sentiment, summarized thus: "Many people around me in my church just don't seem to get it. They don't want to make any discerning judgments, they don't want to confront problems, and they mutter superficial, spiritual platitudes at the first sign of conflict. When I speak up and present even a mild challenge, the response is usually empty and silent. I am so frustrated with my church."

3. An intimate pastor friend gathers together a group of teenagers for a Bible study. The topic is dinosaurs and the Bible. The pastor shows them basic evidence that is consistent with the creation account in Genesis, demonstrating there is a problem with the evolutionary, long age framework that has been drummed into their heads since kindergarten. It is not an in-depth presentation by any means. The kids are almost completely unresponsive. Their reaction is characterized by a seeming inability to even grasp what the pastor is taking about. In the middle of the presentation, my friend has to scuttle his teaching agenda, subsequently dumbing it down to an almost embarrassing level of simplicity, far below that which teenagers should be able to cognitively process. "I perceive their minds are simply mush," he soberly states, "the boys' brains are saturated with video game stimuli and the girls are worried about texting their friends and talking about the next social activity. This is frightening."

4. An elder sister in the Lord, a treasured friend and a lifetime Christian, laments: "I have been a member of my church for decades. Never has the influence of liberal secularism been stronger. No one is interested in studying doctrine, nor do they want to be challenged to think differently about the world, to have their minds conformed to the teachings of Scripture. When I make challenging statements in Bible study, I am met with either sarcasm or silence. A woman recently told me of an intense three year Bible study she went through. She claimed it was great. When I asked her how it changed her life, she stated with a puzzled look: 'It didn't.' I was stunned. I sat down with the interim pastor and got 2-3 hours of wishy-washy theology, superficial clichés and evasive answers about the state of the Church. I simply don't know what to do."

I daresay there are thousands of similar stories all across the landscape of American Christendom. These recent experiences are symptomatic of a widespread and virulent crisis in the Church. Perhaps you have had similar experiences in your own congregation. Testimonials and polling data indicate that there is a systemic crisis in the American Church, leading us to inquire: How on earth did we arrive at this moment?

The Intellectual Apocalypse

Just prior to these four experiences, I attended a motivating lecture at Westminster Theological Seminary given by Dr. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The talk was entitled, On the Other Side of Complexity: Christian Conviction in the Late Modern Age.1 It was a profoundly important and providential precursor to these recent interactions with my fellow brethren. What follows are my own thoughts, not Dr. Mohler's. But he provided me with an excellent springboard and framework from and within which to write this article.

Dr. Mohler articulately outlined the intellectual upheaval that has taken place in Western civilization during the last three centuries. Naturally, Dr. Mohler points to the provocateurs par excellence of this upheaval: Marx, Darwin, Nietzsche and Freud. These men, in the words of David Breese, "rule the world from the grave." To this cavalry, additional apocalyptic horsemen were added. Western civilization, having already been trampled under the hooves of the so-called Enlightenment, also has had to grapple with the skepticism of David Hume, the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, the existentialism of Soren Kierkegaard, the higher criticism of Julius Wellhausen, et al. The list goes on and on.

During this period of upheaval, Western academia moved in 3 basic stages, from (1), believing in God's existence as a basic presupposition, to (2), believing that it was possible that God did not exist, to (3), God was no longer an intellectual possibility. Western academics stand largely at stage 3, with Western European society fundamentally joining their ranks. God is not a consideration in the basic thought of most citizens of Western Europe.

In America, the academics have been at stage 3 for quite some time as well, having committed their heart, soul and mind to the secular priesthood long ago. The American populace appears to be between stages 1 and 2 in its public affirmations, with polls showing that most American citizens claim to believe in God or claim to be Christians. Detailed analysis betrays the sobering truth, however.

While many people claim to believe in God and attend church on a regular basis, their cognitive orientation is predominantly secular. That is, though they often profess to be at stage 1, most churchgoers largely accept many of the premises of stage 3 academic unbelief. Though they profess to believe in God, they think, and often live, like those who don't. This is an enormous problem for American Christendom, and the problem can be attributed to the secularization of the culture at large by the intellectual worldview claims of academia.

Accommodation and Withdrawal

With this enormous intellectual flood came the relatively tepid response of the organized Church, Dr. Mohler accurately notes. The pressure to accommodate this "modernity" (and post-modernity) has been a staggering challenge, one which the organized Church has largely failed to properly deal with. Dr. Mohler succinctly pointed out that the Church, by and large, has futilely attempted to accommodate these intellectual movements, effectively trying to "save" Christianity from itself. Instead of doing the heavy lifting involved with navigating through the complexities of modern thought,2 our seminary and church leaders have most often chosen a generally naïve simplicity that either ignores modernity or accommodates it. His survey of these momentous failures is rather sobering.

The most prominent example is the emergence of 19th century Protestant liberalism, rooted in the destructive exertions of the German theologians of that era. Convinced that Christianity had to update itself in the face of modernism and its intellectual claims, men like Friedrich Schleiermacher, Adolf von Harnack, and Harry Emerson Fosdick vigorously pleaded with the Church to revise its historical stance on orthodoxy in response to modern sensibilities. Jettison the cognitive claims of orthodoxy, they taught, and you can rescue Christianity from the "facts" of modern science and regain intellectual and cultural respectability.

We now know, and could have easily predicted, that this resuscitation of Christianity by Protestant liberalism was a dismal failure. The pews have been emptied. In his book, Christianity and Liberalism, J. Gresham Machen challenged the liberals in the 1920's that their religion was no longer Christianity. He was dead on. Protestant liberalism today has careened to the far left, characterized by economic Marxism, open ordination of homosexuals and even formally inviting Islam and other religions into their fold. If it was not so tragic, it would be laughable.

As a result of this liberalism, many folks who wanted to remain true to some semblance of orthodoxy, fled. Today, many of their grandchildren sit in the pews of the now pervasive non-denominational churches, what we might broadly call evangelicalism. Here, we find a core, orthodox Christianity. Typically, evangelicals will affirm the basics: Scripture, God, and the deity of Christ, faith in Christ, the resurrection, and the return of Jesus. These basic affirmations sometimes lead to genuine conversion and a general desire to be engaged in church life. However, these churches will often consider anything beyond the basics to be "non-essential," unwilling to make strong assertions beyond this small core of beliefs. Disagreement amongst pastors concerning the so-called "non-essentials" often results in a retreat into a desire for "unity" instead of wrestling through the theological discussion, admitting and correcting error, and affirming the interconnection of all doctrine. And this is where the problem begins.

First, the relative simplicity of affirming only the basics avoids grappling with the totality of interdependence in biblical doctrine. Core assertion in evangelicalism does not come close to mirroring biblical assertion. In fact, it falls far short. Christianity is not just a "personal relationship" with God given through Christ and a mandate to live a morally upright life. It is something far greater than that and it makes far greater claims. It is a total and complete worldview about every aspect of reality in which God has redeemed all creation in the death and resurrection of his Son. It asserts that judgment is coming and men must repent because God is just and holy. It asserts that Christ is the only answer to the plight of the world. It requires that the triune God of biblical revelation be glorified in every endeavor and in every sphere of reality.

The Bible makes authoritative claims of God's lordship over all things: theology, philosophy, ethics, morality, biology, anthropology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, psychology, military, sociology, law, politics, economics, and history: EVERYTHING. No separation from any sphere, no core doctrinal assertion leaving everything else open, no emendation to the plain teachings of the biblical text.

Second, the apocalyptic horsemen of militant unbelief have made sweeping, dogmatic claims about ultimate reality: claims completely antithetical to what God has declared in His infallible Word. The Bible's teachings demonstrate that Marx, Freud, Kant, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Hume, and Darwin were all wrong. Dreadfully, woefully, utterly wrong. Instead, evangelicalism has responded only with the core basics, leaving churchgoers completely ill-equipped to refute these intellectual claims. Polls clearly show that the minds of many who sit in the pews are filled with intellectual confusion. The data indicates that most folks sitting in the pews are not only confused about what it really means to be a serious disciple of Christ, but that they think like secularists and accept many of secularism's erroneous premises and assertions about the world.

Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis has characterized this problem well, paraphrased thus: "The unbelieving evolutionists make ultimate truth claims about the history of the universe, life, death, and all of reality, while our evangelical churches respond by meekly and wimpily saying: 'Believe in Jesus.'" This tepid response reveals a naïve simplicity that fails to engage in the complexities of the modern age, refute the incoherence of unbelieving worldviews, and assert the ubiquitous claims of biblical revelation.

The evangelical movement has failed to realize that the essentials do not constitute a Christian worldview. The culture is making worldview claims everywhere we turn while our churches are retreating behind the castle walls of core doctrine. This is woefully insufficient. Evangelical churches can no longer afford to stand on only the basics. Core doctrinal assertion may have worked in generations past, when the West was relatively Christianized, but it will not suffice in today's post-modern climate. Evangelicalism's claims must be expanded, akin to the great confessions of ages past. Our churches must begin teaching and preaching the whole counsel of God, and assertively standing on the totality of the doctrines therein. Evangelicals must know what their Bibles proclaim before they can effectively engage the complexities of the unbelieving world. And that means the leaders of the Church must inculcate their flock with a full orbed Christian worldview. To be effective in this modern morass of moral nihilism and intellectual chaos, the stance must broaden.

Even though evangelical churches formally hold to core doctrines, those doctrines do not find their way into public preaching often enough. As a result, many false converts sit far too comfortably in the pews. In my view, the overall situation is rather grim. In many churches, music is completely overemphasized. I have seen actual footage of worship services where the musicians play secular music on Sunday morning. Doctrinal teaching and serious discipleship are often not emphasized at all. Apologetics is a mysterious term. Communion is an occasional aberration. Sin and wrath are nary heard. Elders and formal church discipline are considered passé. Excommunication for living in open rebellion is often considered abhorrent. God is often portrayed as a "friend" to unbelievers. Untrained individuals often fill prominent leadership roles, sometimes even becoming pastors. Expository preaching has become a thing of the past. Topical sermons often stretch the contextual meaning of the texts beyond limits, sometimes distorting the meaning completely. Entertainment is often the order of the day.

Our young people are suffering dreadfully. In effect, their worldview is not Christian, rather it is a "moralistic therapeutic deism" (MTD), a phrase coined by Christian Smith and Melinda Denton.3 Their in-depth research indicates the worldview of teenagers generally consists of the following precepts: (1), A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth. (2), God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions. (3), The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself. (4), God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when God is needed to resolve a problem. He is effectively a divine butler and cosmic therapist. (5), Good people go to heaven when they die.

Where did our young people get this worldview? Obviously, from the cultural messages of the age. I would also suggest that teenagers who attend our churches have come to believe in MTD because of the confusing and wishy-washy messages that emanate from the pulpits and programs pervasively found in evangelicalism.

Christian television and YouTube4 quintessentially exemplify the worst features of evangelicalism. In effect, they are dismal embarrassments, having become a suspect parachurch movement that generally lacks doctrinal accountability and often wanders off into theological silliness. Theological eccentricities such as prosperity preaching, faith healers, "anointed" English, incessant ear-tickling sermons, and "treasure map" eschatology make it very difficult to take seriously. Suffice it to say, in dealing with the modern mind, it is almost completely useless. Most of it is, frankly, a foolish waste of time and resources.5 While God is able to work and convert souls through all sorts of human error and frailty in our churches and on Christian television, this type of Christianity hardly provides the answers to the complexities of the post-modern age and is scarcely what we should be striving for.

Evangelicalism's intellectual retreat into bare core beliefs and superficial engagement is only slightly better than complete separation from the modern world. Dr. Mohler points out that the fundamentalists of the 1920's shook their fists at modernity and continued to preach from the Scriptures. They refused to engage with the grievous errors of Protestant liberalism and the doctrines of modern thought. Perhaps if we just ignore the Documentary Hypothesis and Darwinism, they thought, these bad ideas will just eventually go away. They did not. Their courage and loyalty to sound doctrine can be admired, but their approach was impotent. Their separatist tendencies did very little to transform the thinking of the modern world. We can learn from the fundamentalists that we must not resort to simplistic separatism or superficial engagement. Rather, we must engage with the universal claims of the sovereign and eternal Christ of redemption and judgment.

Other Compromises

Today, Protestant liberalism has been reincarnated in the Emerging Church movement. Rob Bell, Brian McLaren and others feel the need to once again rescue the Faith in the face of post-modern sensibilities. Betraying a breathtaking arrogance couched in false humility, they assert that the Church historic, for twenty centuries, has gotten it all wrong. They peddle a nebulous narrative, clearly believing that cognitive claims are offensive, apparently unaware that their opaque dialogue is itself a cognitive claim. This post-modern agnosticism is self-contradictory and antithetical to teachings of Scripture.6

For the heretical Rob Bell, the doctrine of hell is particularly offensive to the modern mind, and so it must be amended to make God more amenable to present sensibilities. The "love" of God is reduced to shallow human sentimentality, divorced from His justice and holiness. As usual, Jesus is divorced from Paul whenever it is convenient.7 The Emerging Church narrative is slick, hip and cool - ancient Greek sophistry dressed in a new tuxedo. Their ear-tickling doctrines are the same old recycled heresy. Like the seeker-sensitivity movement, it empties the Gospel of its power and conveys the message to sinners that God does not have a problem with their behavior.

Other heroes include the theistic evolutionists, and more specifically, the BioLogos Foundation. N.T. Wright, Peter Enns8 and others repeatedly lecture us that traditional notions of inerrancy are passé. "Science" has proven that the traditional interpretations of early Genesis and its teachings on the origins of the cosmos and man are no longer viable. They argue that God allowed erroneous concepts of cosmology and inaccurate world history into the Bible. We need to accept that there are errors in the text in order for the Church to keep its intellectual respectability. The creation, fall, and flood narratives clearly need revision and reinterpretation, and so does Paul's historical characterization of Adam in Romans 5. So let's amend them and get on with things so the world will accept Jesus. The theistic evolutionists go to great lengths to impugn and distort the Bible, but strangely never seem to impugn the erroneous science, the philosophical naturalism that tyrannizes all modern scientific interpretation, or the Kantian epistemology. In effect, it is the same message of Protestant liberalism: get with the times or the faith will fail. Men must rescue the Church from itself.

This litany of rescue attempts could go on, ad nauseum. I am hopeful that the reader has understood the point. Emendation, partial retreat and separation have characterized the Christian response to modernity, and have been dismal failures.

Serious Solutions

I believe, with Dr. Mohler, that confessional Protestantism can be an enormously helpful guide in articulating a comprehensive Christian worldview. The Westminster and Baptist Confessions, while having some minor differences, make sweeping doctrinal and intellectual claims about the nature of reality. Their purpose is to attempt to reflect, with as much accuracy as possible, what the Scriptures teach about every area of life and reality. Evangelical churches can use these great documents as a guide through the Scriptures, helping them to develop their own confessional statement that encompasses much more than the basics. One does not have to be a Presbyterian or a Baptist to find great agreement and usefulness in these confessions. In addition, the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy can provide an excellent framework as well. These documents can serve as a useful guide for any church leader with orthodox convictions.

While some of the particulars, the true "non-essentials" (such as particular eschatological schema), can be left open for debate, the large measure of a church's confession needs to include vast biblically-based claims about all spheres of reality. No more wishy-washiness on the creation account, or the flood, or the history of Adam and Eve, or inerrancy or the total depravity of man or even the doctrine of hell. Confess and make these cognitive worldview claims, then stand on them. Put them in the fires of doctrinal accountability and then correct any doctrinal errors when God exposes them through the Word and other theologians. Teach them, train people in them and defend the Faith based on them.

Once the Church develops a broad, worldview-encompassing confessional statement, stick with it. Stop following the latest fads within evangelicalism, like the dismally appalling seeker-sensitive model or most of the nonsense on Christian TV and YouTube. All teaching and preaching should be made consistent with that confessional declaration. The doctrines must be preached, taught and proclaimed in all the activities of the Church. Many evangelical churches have a statement of faith, but it is buried somewhere on their website and is rarely heard from the pulpit and in teaching activities. A teaching curriculum must be developed in that context, which includes apologetics, doctrinal teaching, and understanding non-Christian worldviews.

Engage in the controversies of the day. Stop avoiding abortion, war, politics, homosexuality and the like. If certain people in your congregation support abortion policy, offend them biblically. They need to be offended so they might repent of supporting such evil. Give a biblical and theological exposition about the earthquakes in Japan and Haiti instead of just sending money and people there. Teach your flock how to talk about the problem of evil and God's sovereign goodness. Explain to your congregation why catastrophes like these happen instead of dancing around the subject. Knock off the moralistic therapeutic deism. Discipline open rebellion and divisions. Teach the incoherence of unbelief. Preach expositionally. Stop trying to entertain people. "Earnestly contend for the faith" (Jude 3). Don't just send missionaries overseas - train missionaries for America. America is dying.

Conclusion

The Church is in a major state of crisis. Its people are being swept away in a morass of intellectual and moral confusion. Those of us who have been called into leadership must lead. We can no longer stand back and watch our brethren live and think and perish like the world. We must dramatically change what we are doing in the American Church at large.

Brian McLaren of the Emerging Church movement wrote a book a number of years ago called Everything Must Change. The contents of the book are filled with false doctrine and deceptive narrative. But the title is correct. Everything must change, but not the way Brian McLaren thinks. We must call our churches back to the whole counsel of God: the infallible, inerrant and absolutely authoritative Word of God. The solution to our momentous crisis can only be found in God's revelation, and then obeying its teachings as disciples of Christ in thought, word and deed.

Martin Luther famously said: "Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen." Let us do the same together.

Footnotes:

  1. Dr. Mohler's excellent lecture can be heard on the Westminster website
  2. Unbelieving philosophies of the modern age are insidiously deceptive. For an example of the work required to dismantle their arguments and premises, see: An Army of Straw Men: Responding to Ronald Hendel
  3. For more, see: On “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” as U.S. Teenagers’ Actual, Tacit, De Facto Religious Faith
  4. The nonsense found on Christian TV and YouTube is regularly discussed and biblical critiqued in an entertaining way by Todd Friel and his team at Wretched.
  5. Please, enough of the "treasure map" eschatology already! We know Jesus will return in all His Glory, let's get about the business of discipleship and training our brethren to think like Christians so they can defend the Faith, properly share the Gospel, train their children in righteousness and confidently engage with the intellectual chaos of this age. People are perishing and our brethren are being brainwashed with secularism while Christian "eschatologists" are connecting passages in Revelation to Vladimir Putin and Saddam Hussein.
  6. Cornelius Van Til pointed out all claims of ignorance are antithetical to what God has revealed in creation and in the Scriptures: "Agnosticism is epistemologically self-contradictory on its own assumptions because its claim to make no assertion about ultimate reality rests upon a most comprehensive assertion about ultimate reality."
  7. For a review of Rob Bell's latest heresy, see: Albert Mohler, We Have Seen All This Before: Rob Bell and the (Re)Emergence of Liberal Theology
  8. Enns was rightly dismissed from Westminster Theological Seminary in 2008 for his unorthodox assertions about the doctrine of Scripture. Sadly, Enns had become a fellow at BioLogos, where much of biblical doctrine is being compromised in favor of modern science. Enns recently spoke at Westmont College, and is now, not surprisingly, relegating Paul's characterization of Adam in Romans 5 to the scrapheap of symbolism and allegory. A cursory reading of Enns' blog clearly reveals that science has primacy over God's Word, with comments from Enns such as: "humans share ancestry with other forms of life."

image501Henry B. Smith Jr. is the Director of Development for the ABR, serving in that capacity since October 2004. Born and raised in northwestern New Jersey, he graduated with a BA in Economics from Rutgers University in 1992. With a 13 year sales and management background, he earned an MA in Theology with an emphasis on Apologetics from Trinity Seminary in Indiana, graduating with high honors in 2005. Since 2006, Henry has been enrolled in the MAR program at Westminster Theological Seminary, emphasizing apologetics and biblical languages.

Added 5/14/2012: An interview with Dr. Albert Mohler on Creation.com

Added 4/1/11: I just came across this video and it might be helpful in explaining some of the problems in broader evangelicalism.

At the beginning of this Christmas season (2010), I was going into New York City to do some research at the New York Public Library. As usual, I took public transportation into the city (it's less stressful than driving and you don't have to worry about parking). As we were approaching the Palisades in the bus lane to the Lincoln Tunnel, I saw out the left-hand side of the bus a billboard that caught my attention. It had what looked like a scene from a Christmas card. I thought to myself: 'That's nice; somebody is wishing us a joyous Christmas.' As the bus got closer, I saw the three wise men riding their camels in the starlit night toward an open-sided shelter with a gabled thatched roof next to a couple of palm trees; a donkey was tied to the stall, a bright star overhead, and Mary and Joseph watching over the new-born Baby Jesus. Then I saw the words: 'You KNOW it's a Myth. This Season, Celebrate REASON!' It was signed by the American Atheists and said they were 'Reasonable since 1963.' Their web address was also given.

I often take the spiritual pulse of my congregation and Christian colleagues and friends to help me gain a sense of the spiritual warfare being waged against believers in America. I add to that extensive reading on the sociological movements and philosophical perspectives in American culture and their impact on the Church of Jesus Christ. Trends emerge from these studies and conversations that occasionally encourage me but most often disappoint me. Fundamentally, American Christians are held in the cultural grips of post-modernism, with its openness to spiritual 'things' but its resistance and distrust of anything that smacks of institutionalism. So the openness we see sometimes quickly closes when Jesus is brought into a conversation, since He is seen as part and parcel of the institution called 'church.' Post-moderns are profoundly disappointed in how the institutions around them have let them down and ripped them off: Government, Schools, Parents, and the Church. They have seen and continue to watch played out in front of them how these institutions fail in their self-absorbed greed and lust for power and their patent abandonment of the responsibilities under their charge. Every day they see another husband abandon his wife and children, they see another church leader fall in scandal, they read of a teacher shamelessly abuse their position of trust to feed their own personal lusts and desires. Children growing up in America see decadence all around them; those telling them how to walk the path are compromising and abusing their God-entrusted roles of authority.

Many pastors, writers, and even seminary professors rely on the 'JEDP Documentary Hypothesis' to explain how the book of Genesis was originally written. This concept says that for many centuries the stories were passed down orally, usually with embellishments or deletions, and were not committed to writing until much later than the events they describe. Naturally, this idea doesn't tend to inspire confidence in the literal accuracy of the account. Thus it's favored by theologians of a liberal bent. In contrast, the 'Tablet Theory' suggests that portions of Genesis were originally written on clay tablets by men who personally experienced the events described. The tablets were later compiled by Moses. Since the original writers were said to be eye-witnesses, their accounts should be historically accurate. This article briefly describes the development and implications of these two theories.

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