Through the Bible: Luke 1:7-23

The next section of Tatian’s Diatessaron comes from Luke 1:7-23. I am going to spare you having to read it in the 120-year-old translation of Reverend Hogg (translator acknowledgment), and put it in more modern English here.

In the days of Herod the king there was a priest whose name was Zacharias, of the family of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous before God, walking in all his commands and in the uprightness of God without reproach. They had no son, for Elizabeth was barren, and they had both advanced in age.
   While he was discharging the duties of priest in the order of his service before God, according to the custom of the priesthood, it was his turn to burn incense. He entered the temple of the Lord, and the whole gathering of the people were praying outside at the time of incense.

There was a table of incense in front of the entrance to the Holy of Holies in the temple (Ex. 30:6). The priests were to burn incense before the Lord every morning and evening upon that table (Ex. 30:7-8). The incense was to be of an exact mixture (Ex. 30:9,34-38).

A lot of people think Zacharias … Let’s explain his name real quick.

This translation of the Diatessaron uses “Zacharias” because the original was written in Greek. The Gospel of Luke, from which this section is pulled, was also in Greek, but a lot of our English Bibles prefer to use names closer to how they sound in Hebrew, so most will use “Zachariah.”

Ok, a lot of people think Zacharias was doing the cleansing of the incense table which is done every year on the Day of Atonement. Rumor has it that the Levites tied a rope around the ankle of the priest when he entered the temple with blood each year on that day. I have never confirmed that rumor, but I don’t doubt it is true. It is irrelevant, however, because this was a morning or evening standard burning of the incense. It was not the Day of Atonement, and he was not bringing blood into the temple. Zacharias was just lighting the incense.

I say “just,” but the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges says that burning incense in the temple was “the loftiest and most coveted of priestly functions.” It gives a description of the process as well (right column). The part of that description that is important for Luke’s story here is that “The people waited outside in the Court of Israel praying in deep silence.” As it turned out, they would have to wait extra long that day.

The Angel of the Lord appeared to Zacharias, standing at the right of the altar of incense. Zacharias was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be agitated, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. You shall have joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice at his birth. He shall be great before the Lord and shall not drink wine nor strong drink. He shall be filled with the Holy Spirit while he is in his mother’s womb. He shall turn back many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He shall go before him in the spirit and in the power of Elijah the prophet to turn back the heart of the fathers to the sons and those that do not obey to the knowledge of the righteous, to prepare a perfect people for the Lord.”

What an awesome event! If Zacharias felt privileged to be chosen by lot to bring the incense before the Lord, how much more to be greeted by the Angel of the Lord. Breathtaking! Majestic! Glorious!

Let me take a quick pause from expressing awe at this event to tell you a small tidbit about translating from ancient Greek. The translation we are using for the Diatessaron is from an Arabic translation of Tatian’s original Greek, but from what I am seeing from Rev. Hogg’s translation, my small tidbit must apply to tranlating ancient Arabic, too. It certainly applies in translating the New Testament.

Ancient Greek did not have punctuation, and it was written in all capital letters. Worse, it sometimes did not have spaces between the words! Without punctuation, Greek writers had to separate their sentences with conjunctions like “and,” “but,” “or,” “therefore,” etc. If you get a chance, look up Ephesians 1:3-13. It is all one sentence in Greek. I just glanced at the English Standard Version, and it breaks up that passage into only two sentences.

Modern English has punctuation, so as I copy the text from Rev. Hogg’s translation (linked in the first paragraph), I am reducing the size of the sentences, replacing the ands and buts with commas and periods unless they are necessary for meaning.

Ok, back to the glorious appearance of the Angel of the Lord in the temple next to the altar of incense.

Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this, since I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years?”

No, Zacharias, no! Bad idea! You should “know this” because there is an angel of the Lord standing in the temple of the Lord. He appeared out of nowhere. We Christians know, because Paul told us, that Satan can appear as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), but come on, Zacharias! You are standing in the temple of God; how likely is it that this being who just appeared in front of you is a counterfeit?

The angel didn’t appreciate his question, either.

The angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands before God. I was sent to speak to you, and give you tidings of this. From now on, you shall be speechless. You shall not be able to speak until the day in which this shall come to pass because you did not trust this my word, which will be accomplished in its time.

The mistakes written about in the Bible are there to teach us. It is a good thing to believe a messenger of God when you can be sure it is God speaking through him. Don’t toy with it. Embrace it.

The people were standing, waiting for Zacharias, and they were perplexed at his delaying in the temple. When Zacharias went out, he was not able to speak to them, so they knew that he had seen a vision in the temple. He made signs to them and continued dumb. When the days of his service were completed, he departed to his dwelling.

That’s it for today. For what happened to Zacharias next, see the next post.

See previous post.

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Through the Bible: John 1:1

As pointed out a few days ago, this “through the Bible” session is going to begin with Tatian’s Diatessaron, a harmony of the four Gospels put together around the year 160. This will let us go through all the Gospels at once and cover the parables and stories of Jesus just once rather than three times. (Matthew, Mark, and Luke share a lot of the same parables and stories.)

The Diatessaron appropriately begins with John 1:1-5. While John was the last Gospel written, the existence of the Word of God separate from God the Father precedes any reference to his birth on earth.

In future posts, you might find it easier to follow my commentary by opening the Diatessaron with the link in the first paragraph. It will open in a new window. In this post, I am focusing on just John 1:1, so you won’t need to keep referring anywhere.

Translating John 1:1

First, let’s get the translation of John 1:1 right. In my first Greek class, I learned that the Greek of John 1:1 literally says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word.” Modern versions translate the last phrase as “the Word was God” because of an advanced Greek grammar rule. That rule says that in a phrase like the one we are addressing, the noun with “the” is the subject and the noun without “the” is being used as an adjective.

Of course, reading “the Word is God” does not make it sound like “God” is an adjective, so my Greek teacher suggested “the Word has the character and nature of God” as a better translation.

As it turns out, a lot of Greek scholars agree! I found a web site that discusses John 1:1 the way my Greek teacher did. He writes, “… the fact that the word ‘God’ is used first in the sentence actually shows some emphasis that this Logos (Word) was in fact God in its nature.” Cory Keating, the author of that web page, then lists a group of Greek scholars who agree (under “Consulting with Other Well Respected Greek Scholars and Grammarians”).

I am not a Greek scholar, but I do speak English pretty well. Rather than odd constructs like “the Word has the character and nature of God” or “the word was in fact God in its nature,” I suggest the English word that is actually “God” used as and adjective: divine. “The Word is Divine.”

No matter how we translate it, in verse 1, John is trying to teach us about the relationship between the Father and Son. In doing so, he tells us that the Son, in the beginning was the Word. In Greek he uses the word Logos. This, in my opinion makes him the first to describe “Logos theology.”

Logos Theology History

As I describe Logos theology, try to think of the Greek word Logos, not the plural of the English word logo. I am going to help you by continuing to italicize the word.

Logos theology is out of favor with Protestants and Catholics, but for the most awful of reasons. Historian Nathaniel Hill explains the rejection of Logos theology in these words:

This is known as ‘subordinationism’, since although it recognizes the divinity and unity of all three Persons it regards the Father as the source of the Trinity and therefore as greater than the other two members. It would not be until the 4th and 5th centuries, with the work of Augustine, that this legacy of Logos theology would finally be laid to rest.(Hill, 2003, bold & italics mine).

This quote brings up “subordinationism,” a term even more abhorred than Logos theology! Hill is commenting on a teaching by Tertullian, a Christian lawyer in Carthage who was a prolific writer around the turn of the third century. He also says of Tertullian, “Tertullian still lives in the thought world of Justin and his followers” (ibid., location 683).

Justin and his followers would include Tatian, Theophilus, and Irenaeus. Tatian we have looked at, and he created a gnostic sect of his own later, so we can ignore him, but not the others. Justin was a noted defender of the Christian faith around 150. Theophilus was the bishop of Antioch during the last half of the second century. Irenaeus would be the most important of them all! He grew up in the church at Smyrna under Polycarp, who, according to Eusebius’ Church History, was instructed by apostles.

In my opinion, it takes a lot of audacity to suggest that a theology held by all the major Christian writers from Justin Martyr to Tertullian, from AD 150 to 210, needed to be “laid to rest” by Augustine, especially when it is so solidly supported by John 1:1.

Logos Theology Explanation and Defense

Basically, the Logos doctrine teaches that before the beginning God, in some mysterious way we cannot understand, begat a Son, his Word. This Son was not created, he was literally the Word/Reason/Wisdom of God generated from out of himself. Athenagoras, another apologist from the era that supposedly needed to be corrected by Augustine 250 years later, explained the Logos this way:

We acknowledge … a Son of God. Don’t let anyone think it ridiculous that God should have a Son. … The Son of God is the Logos of the Father … He is the first product of the Father, not as though he was being brought into existence, for from the beginning God, who is the eternal Mind, had the Logos in himself. (A Plea for the Christians 10)

Simply put, if you asked Christians about the Trinity in the second century, Christians would tell you that God has a Son. It was as simple as that, except that they would add that the Son was not created, but that he came out of the Father and was of the same essence, and thus the same divinity, as the Father. You can see dozens of quotes from before the time of Augustine on my Trinity quotes page, and even more in my book, Decoding Nicea.

I hope you have caught that I do not think Augustine corrected anything. The idea that God generated a divine Son before the creation is both biblical and was universally believed in the second century. In 325, almost a century before Augustine, Logos theology was agreed to by all the churches of the Roman empire at the Council of Nicea. For some reason, modern historians don’t seem to recognize Logos theology in the Nicene Creed, in its most basic form, reads, “We believe in one God, the Father … and in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God … and in the Holy Spirit.”

Some verses that agree with the “subordinationist” Logos theology of the second-century Christians—besides John 1:1-3 which directly teaches it—include:

  • John 1:18: “No man has seen God at any time. The only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has explained him.”
  • John 17:3: [Jesus praying] “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
  • 1 Corinthians 8:6: “For us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”
  • Colossians 1:15: “[He] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”

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References:

Hill, Jonathan (2003-08-22). History of Christian Thought (Kindle Locations 686-688). Lion Books. Kindle Edition.

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Introduction to Tatian’s Diatessaron

Today I am working from the introduction page to Tatian’s Diatessaron. As I said yesterday, it is a harmony of the Gospels written around the year 160. If you follow the link, Point 20 talks about the translation of the Diatessaron. I will get back to the translation after this short history.

Tatian was a disciple of Justin, who is more commonly known as Justin Martyr. Justin wrote a number of works. His most famous is probably his First Apology. It has a description of a baptism and a Sunday morning church service. Both are the earliest descriptions knownand were written around AD 150. (If you start with the baptism link, which goes to chapter 60, and use the next button until you get to chapter 67, The Weekly Worship of the Christians, you will get an excellent short introduction to second century Christianity.)

He also wrote a book called Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew. I would regard the Dialogue with Trypho as the closest a Christian can come to walking the Emmaus road with Jesus and the two disciples (Luke 24:13-35).

Tatian was a Syrian. He had delved deeply into Greek philosophy when he met Justin in Rome. It would be easy to encounter Justin because he went around in the robes of a philosopher (par. 5 of link). Justin introduced him to Christ.

Being strongly opposed to the wild ways of the Greeks, Tatian was extremely ascetic. Eventually this would lead him into heresy. The gnostics influenced him, and he developed his own sect with rules so strict that they were known as Encratites. “Encraty” refers to the control of one’s desires. You can read more about him in the introduction to his works at CCEL.org.

Interestingly enough, Tertullian would become influenced by Tatian’s writings. Tertullian was the first of the early Christian Latin authors. He lived in Carthage, and he wrote numerous treatises, several of them complaints about loose living in the churches. He, too, advocated rigorous discipline, and he eventually joined the Montanist movement. Montanus was a prophet from the last half of the second century. His prophecies were rejected by the churches, and he started his own movement, teaching that the Holy Spirit had put new rules on the church now that it was more mature. These rules included forbidding remarriage for everyone, even widows. They also prevented people who committed major sins, like murder, adultery, or lapsing from persecution from being readmitted to the church even if they repented. Tertullian.org has a short introduction to Tertullian and a brief description of the Montanists.

My second shot at “Through the Bible” is going to begin with Tatian’s harmony of the Gospels, so I thought it would be both good and interesting to know something about him. The page I mentioned in the first paragraph lets us know that what we have today is not exactly what Tatian wrote in the second century. There have been additions over the centuries to add in things Tatian left out. What we have to work with is certainly close enough for a run through the Gospels in preparation for Acts afterward. We’ll begin our stroll through the Bible with the next post.

Or see previous post.

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Through the Bible … Revived

Years ago I started a “Through the Bible” series of posts. For some crazy reason, I decided to start this two days before I started radiation in preparation for a bone marrow transplant. Somehow, I managed to get about halfway through the Bible over the next six months before I just couldn’t do it anymore.

This time, I am going to do it slower. The general goal is one chapter per day, but at the start it will be impossible to define one chapter. When someone asks me where to start in the Bible, I direct them first to Luke and Acts. Acts is the continuation of Luke by the same author, so the two books make one long history from the birth of Jesus to the end of Paul’s life. With the story of Jesus and his church understood, it becomes much easier to understand the letters of the New Testament.

For this trip through the Bible, however, I want to start with Tatian’s Diatessaron. It is a harmony of the four Gospels written around the year 160. I don’t know how long it will take us to go through it, but I’ll cover whatever the Lord will allow me to cover as often as the Lord will let me.


Borg MS of Tatian Diatessaron

Borg Manuscript of Tatian’s Diatessaron, public domain

I really feel like this is the Lord’s idea, and I hope you will be blessed by it.

Tomorrow I will briefly discuss the history of the Diatessaron. I am not going to try to be a historian on the subject. I will simply introduce the text enough so we know what we are reading. If you want something deeper, there is a long introduction by the translator here. I find it fascinating that some of the translation work was done by his wife, who was fully involved in the whole work.

It seemed cool to me that we could read what is both the Scriptures—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John combined in one document—and an early Christian writing because it was compiled by a relatively well-known figure from the second century.

The translation we will be using is from 1895, but it seems easy enough to read. The link in the third paragraph goes to Section 1 of the text.

Next post

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Protestant vs. Roman Catholic vs. Orthodox: How Does a Christian Find a Church?

I put the following comment on an article at Conciliar Post, a very interesting interfaith, multi-author blog. My comment is not fully thought out, but I did not fix it because it is meant to prompt discussion at Conciliar Post and now here. Here’s what I wrote:

“A friend was lamenting the lack of interfaith (i.e., Catholic-Orthodox-Protestant) discussion on Conciliar Post of late, so I will comment for the sake of giving this post a boost and perhaps provoking a little conversation.

“I was raised Catholic, but I quit at age 12 or 13 because it didn’t work. By that, I mean I found no power to serve God in it. I found no relationship with God in it. Confirmation was my final disappointment. I had set my hope on it to provide the power to make me a soldier of God, as promised by the pamphlet I was given. It didn’t happen and I gave up. My mother tried to rescue me by giving me Protestant material, which I devoured. I laid on my back night after night for a month, hoping to expose my heart to God better in that position, and I asked Jesus to come into my heart. When that didn’t work, I gave up on Christianity and got involved in mystical eastern religion, now generally called New Age.

“At 21, God hunted me down. If I told the story, it would not seem nearly as miraculous to you as it seemed to me. I realized Jesus really was the Son of God, and the first time I admitted it, I was transformed. The whole world changed, and I have gotten up every morning wanting to serve Jesus with all my heart for 34 years straight, something over 12,500 days in a row. That happened in a Protestant church, but it didn’t take long to get fed up with Protestant dissension and their preference for tradition over Scripture. It’s humorous because they love tradition as much as Roman Catholics, but at least the Catholics admit and defend their position! Protestants pretend that the Bible is their sole rule of faith and practice, but it takes very little time in their midst to find that this is almost never true.

“So here I am. I completely agree with your post on justification from a Catholic perspective. Most Protestants can’t because Luther and Calvin’s teaching is more important to them than Scripture. They cling tightly to eternal security despite the fact that the entire book of Hebrews was written to refute it!

“Yet I can’t be Roman Catholic because the papal claim to “full, supreme, and universal authority over the church” (Lumen Gentium, 1964, ch. 3, sec. 22) is outrageous, and I could never stop attacking it (book coming in the next few months). The removal of the third of the ten commandments testifies to the Roman Church’s guilty conscience over its use of images. (It is not just the Protestants, but the Orthodox as well who would charge the RCC with changing the ten commandments.)

“Perhaps I have brought up too much, but I am not alone. There are many who, like me, do not want to be called a Protestant, but can find no home in Catholicism of Orthodoxy, either, because of questionable (or objectionable) doctrines that are required of their members. This calls for a discussion of the definition of ‘church.'”

Reference:

Lumen Gentium. “Dogmatic Constitution of the Church.” Solemnly Propagated by His Holiness Pope Paul VI on November 21, 1964. Ch. 3. Sec. 22. Retrieved 5 November, 2016 from http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html. This wording is repeated in the Catholic Catechism. par. 882.

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Growing in Christ in a Maze of Confusion

1. Depart from iniquity
2. Find pure-hearted people
3. Pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with them

Here are two verses that are critically important in this modern era:

“The solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and ‘Let everyone who names the same of Christ depart from iniquity.'” (2 Tim. 2:19, Orthodox Study Bible)

“Flee also youthful lusts, but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Tim. 2:22, OSB)

The reason these verses are critically important today are apparent with a little consideration. With thousands of Protestant denominations claiming to be scripturally accurate, and the Catholics and the Orthodox claiming traditional authority over your faith, many are confused.

Nonetheless, the solid foundation of God stands. It has not disappeared. You have a simple charge from him. God knows his own, but you … you depart from iniquity.

Secondly, with whom should you be fellowshipping? Since the first century it has been true that you should pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. They exist. Find those. You will probably never find the answer to your prophecy and end-time questions with them. You may never find a church that satisfies you in this era, though I hope you do. You can, however, grow in righteousness, faith, love, and peace with people who have pure hearts.

Depart from iniquity.
Find pure hearts.
Pursue holiness with them (cf. Heb. 12:14).

Posted in Evangelicals, Holiness, Modern Doctrines, Protestants, Roman Catholic & Orthodox, Teachings that must not be lost | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The New Covenant at a Glance

I was asked: “What exactly is the New Covenant, and where is it described in the Bible.”

Great question.

The short answer is that the New Covenant is mentioned and described in Jeremiah 31:31-34. That passage is quoted in Hebrews 8:8-11.

If you want a passage that gets right to the point in explaining the New Covenant and the difference between it and the Old Covenant, that passage can be found in Acts 2:14-38. If you want a description of the power of the New Covenant, read Acts 2:39 through the end of chapter 4.

Paul explains the difference between the Old and New Covenants in 2 Corinthians 3 as well as in Galatians 4.

The biggest difference between the Old and New Covenants? Perhaps the most important difference is that everyone who enters the New Covenant receives the Spirit of God, as Peter explains in Acts 2:14-38, quoting Joel 2:28-32. Under the Old Covenant, the Holy Spirit was not promised, and only great people like Daniel, David, and others like them received the Holy Spirit.

There are other differences, too. We have the promise of resurrection was never given under the Old Covenant. We have this promise because Jesus rose from the dead. We get complete forgiveness for our past, good and bad, because in baptism God regards us as having died and risen again in Jesus. We really are risen again, or reborn, because he gives us the Spirit and we thus possess the life of God inside of us.

Great promises! Better, they are offered free in Jesus so that all of us can be made together into a holy people, zealous for good works (Titus 2:11-14), and so that we can fulfill the righteous requirement of the Law by living our lives by the Spirit (Rom. 8:1-14).

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Early Christianity in a Nutshell

I’ve been looking for a way to describe the Christianity I see in the early church fathers for many years. In the midst of a discussion with a friend, this outline came to me.

1. The Gospel: They preached total surrender to Jesus as King. Their Gospel centralized on bodily resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus proved he was King, and our resurrection to eternal life is the reward promised to those who obey him.

2. Baptism: Baptism is the entrance rite into the church. Before the baptism, the convert renounces the devil and all his pomp. He renounces the world. He is then baptized, his sins are washed away, and he is thus buried and born again.

3. Laying on of hands: This was done right after baptism by the elders as they prayed for the Spirit to come upon the new convert. They didn’t necessarily expect any manifestation.

4. Extensive catechizing (basic instruction) in the teachings of Scripture.

5. Faith and works: They understood that baptism and being born again required only faith and repentance because there is no more that a slave to sin can offer. After baptism and the laying on of hands converts are both pure and empowered. At that point they can, and must, offer to God obedience and good works.

6. Most teaching centered on continuing in the faith and obeying God. The warning passages in the NT were much more heavily utilized than they are today.

Two other points should be emphasized. One, the Eucharist was a big deal to them and was eaten at least every week. It was never a cracker and a thimble of grape juice, but a meal, or at least part of a meal. Two, the church was seen as the reservoir of salvation. In it, people were saved. Outside of it there was no salvation.

It’s hard to bring that last point into the modern era. We don’t have the one church that existed in the second century. It was a big deal to the early church, however, and the Scriptures, too, emphasize the unity of the church and the fact that the church and the church alone is the pillar of truth.

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Decoding Nicea Interview!

I am excited to announce that I am going to be interviewed on the Seminary Dropout podcast. Shane Blackshear has interviewed such notable Christians an N.T. Wright and Max Lucado. I will be interviewed this Wednesday, August 10. You don’t have to listen to it live (and you may not be able to). Simply go to the link above to listen to it after the interview. It’s in reference to my book, Decoding Nicea, and I am very excited.

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How Did God Pass the Time for 14 Billion Years?

If scientists are correct, and I think they are, then it took between 12 and 14 billion years for humans to appear in this universe. If Christians are correct, and I think they are, then God made the universe, and he made it—or at least the earth portion of it—for man.

If man was the purpose, or a purpose, for the creation, then what was God doing during the 14 billion years between the Big Bang and the evolution of man? Was he just hanging out? It seems like even God would be bored waiting around for humans for that long.

Science has an answer for that.

The Scientific Explanation for the Activity of God for the last 14 Billion Years

I have a scientific explanation for what God was doing for the last 14 billion years. For the scientifically faint of heart, the short explanation is that it wasn’t 14 billion years to God. He’s outside of time. It could have seemed like a second, or he could have enjoyed a week’s worth of time, or a month, or the whole 14 billion years.

The long answer, for those that want to have some fun with me, goes like this.

You’ve heard of the Theory of Relativity? You’ve probably heard a lot about time and the speed of light, but I don’t know how many of you have focused on the term “relativity.” Einstein’s argument, among others, is that time is relative. Relative to what? Time is relative to speed. The only constant in the universe is the speed of light. Time is not constant. The speed of light is constant.

The guiding principle of relativity is that the speed of light is the same for everyone. You cannot run away from light.

Light will catch you, and it will catch you just as fast whether you stand still or fly away from it on solar winds. You can’t speed it up, either. As a planet we may be rushing toward another galaxy at up to 40% of the speed of light. Nonetheless, the light from that galaxy is going to approach us at 186,000 miles per second. If that galaxy is two million light years away from us (in which case it’s the Andromeda Galaxy, the only one that close to us), it’s light will take two million years to reach us whether we race towards Andromeda or away from it.

The speed of light does not change. Instead, time changes.

Here’s an illustration of how that works.

Let’s say there’s this guy in the utter darkness of the void between galaxies. He is in darkness, but a beam of light is approaching him through the emptiness, or almost emptiness, of space.

It turns out this guy is Superman. You know because you found Albus Dumbledore’s magic binoculars, and you can see him out there between galaxies so sharply that you can read the symbol on his chest. Superman, as you know, can fly so fast that he can turn back time as long as he is flying in a circle around a planet. I am unable to explain the science behind this phenomenon.

I can explain the phenomenon of the light catching Superman. He flees the approaching light because as a false savior, he is terrified of the light. He flies away from the light at one mile per year less than the speed of light. Please notice that I said one mile per year, not one mile per hour.

Let’s say the light is a million miles away. As an observer, you see the light chasing Superman at 186,000 miles per second. You also see Superman flying away at 185,999.99999997 miles per second. Because the light is traveling at only one mile per year faster that Superman, it takes a million years to catch him. That’s your perspective.

For Superman, the light is approaching at 186,000 miles per second. That doesn’t change when he tries to run away. From his perspective, the light catches him in just over five seconds.

One million years or five seconds. Which is it?

It’s both. That’s the point of the theory of relativity. The speed of light is constant, but time is not. Your speed, relative to the speed of light, affects your perspective of time. For you, that light took a million years to catch Superman. For him, it took five seconds.

And yes, that means you aged a million years and Superman aged five seconds. Einstein didn’t make that up. He discovered it. Big difference. This relativity, whether we understand it or not, whether we like it or not, and whether we believe it not, happens. Just like gravity is real, so the relativity of time is real.

If we take what I and pretty much all Christians believe as a given, then God controls all this. He’s invisible and he fills the universe, so he doesn’t “move,” not at any speed; however, he has control over the whole process. He’s the creator, he can be above and around it, and he can see any part of it, or he can see it all at once.

That’s why the predestination vs. free will argument is way beyond what we can understand. In Isaiah 46:10, the Holy Spirit tells us that God declares the end from the beginning. That’s because he can see the end and the beginning. Why can he prophesy what’s going to happen? It’s not only because he can control it from before it happened if he wants to, but it is also because he can see that it happened from afterward. He can do both, right now.

I didn’t mean to address predestination vs. free will. It just came up. So let me get back to the point.

The point is that God wasn’t bored for 14 billion years. He could see it all from the perspective of any moment he wanted to. He could slow things down and enjoy watching and experiencing what was happening, or he could make it no longer than a flash of lightning—from his perspective. God could experience it all at once, the expanding of the cosmos to the coalescing of the galaxies to the formation of the earth to the rise of human civilization, none of it incurring any “passing of time” from his perspective.

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