Zephaniah – PB

Zephaniah lived about 2600 years ago. He might have been a great Zephaniahgrandson of King Hezekiah. If so, then Zephaniah would have been a cousin of King Josiah, during whose reign he prophesied.

Zephaniah was a prophet to Judah (the southern part of the Jewish homeland, which includes Jerusalem), during the year before its destruction by the Babylonians in 586 BC. Zephaniah was stern and austere, much like the prophet Amos.

He announces the doom of idol worshipers, greedy people, treacherous merchants, faithless prophets, and some of the surrounding nations. The message of Zephaniah was a strong affirmation of the first commandment:

Thou shalt have no other gods before me (Ex 20:3).

The Book of Zephaniah deals mainly with the Day of Judgment.  He also predicted Nineveh, the capitol of Assyria, would become a deserted ruin (which it is, today, despite the fact that it was in Zephaniah’s time the capital of the Assyrian Empire).

Zephaniah’s ministry followed Isaiah’s ministry by about 75 years.

Zephaniah means “The Lord has hidden away.” His book is the ninth book of the Minor Prophets.

Zechariah – PB

Zechariah was a prophet from 520 B.C. to 518 B.C. in Jerusalem.  During that era, Zechariahmany Jews were returning from the Babylonian Captivity to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple, which had been destroyed by the Babylonians.

Zechariah, the son of Iddo, was instrumental in inspiring his fellow Jews to rebuild the Temple (see Ezra 6:14).

Zechariah began prophesying during the same year as the prophet Haggai, in about 520 B.C. Zechariah’s prophecies came from visions that showed God’s power, God’s judgment of sin, the importance of spiritual strength, and the promise of things to come, including the promise of the Messiah.

Zechariah’s prophecies often looked far into the future, a future in which the Jews would again be exiled from their homeland and scattered throughout the world.

His prophecies said that Jews would be persecuted worldwide, that Jerusalem would become a battleground of nations, and that Jerusalem would become the religious center of the world.

Today, we can see with our own eyes that Zechariah’s prophecies accurately described the worldwide dispersion of Jews that has taken place during the past 1900 years, as well as the fact that Jerusalem has become a focal point of the international community (the United States and Europe, and the United Nations) and a religious focal point among Jews, Christians and Moslems.

Zechariah, means “Yah has remembered.”  The Bible’s book of Zechariah is the 11th book of the twelve minor prophets.

Xenophon – PB

XenophonThe Greek historian, essayist, and military expert Xenophon (ca. 430-ca. 355 BC) was the most popular of the Greek historians. He facilitated the change from the Thucydidean tradition of history to rhetoric.

The son of Gryllus of the Athenian deme of Erchia Xenophon was of aristocratic background and means. He studied under Socrates. Married to Philesia, he had two sons, both of whom were educated in Sparta.

In 401, despite a warning from Socrates and consultation with the oracle at Delphi, he became involved in the expedition of Cyrus against Artaxerxes at the invitation of Proxenus of Thebes.

Xenophon was initially unaware of Cyrus’s true purpose, which was to gain the crown of Persia. After Cyrus was killed at the battle of Cunaxa in Babylonia, his troops dispersed; Clearchus and other Greek commanders were treacherously murdered by the Persian satrap Tissaphernes, and Xenophon was elected general.

Titus Flavis Josephus – PB

Joseph was born in Jerusalem in 37 CE as the son of Matthias, a man from Titus Flavius Josephuspriestly descent, and a mother who claimed royal blood. Stated differently, he was born as a Sadducee and an aristocrat (the two main sects in Jesus’ time were the Sadducees and the Pharisees, both are bad.  The Apostle Paul had been a Pharisee before he met Jesus).  Joseph must have been a real know-it-all because he excelled in all his studies and at the age of 16 he decided to find out for himself what philosophy was best, that of the Sadducees, that of the Essenes, or that of the Pharisees. 

He was also fluent in Aramaic (I believe that is what Jesus spoke), Hebrew, and Greek.  Although he studied all three systems, he wasn’t content and for three years he lived in the desert with a hermit named Bannus.  Returning to Jerusalem at the age of 19 he chose to become a Pharisee.

The writings of Josephus are considered important secular historical documents that could shed light on the origins of Christianity.  His works include material about individuals, groups, customs, and geographical places.  Some of these, such as the city of Seron, aren’t referenced in the surviving texts of any other ancient authority.  His writings provide a significant extra-Biblical account of the post-Exilic period of the Maccabees, the Hasmonean dynasty, and the rise of Herod the Great, Agrippa I, Agrippa II, John the Baptist, James the brother of Jesus, and a disputed reference to Jesus (for more see Josephus on Jesus).  He is an important source of studies of immediate post-Temple Judaism and the context of early Christianity.

A careful reading of Josephus’ writings and years of excavation allowed Ehud Netzer, an archaeologist from Hebrew University, to discover that location of Herod’s Tomb after a search of 35 years.  It was above aqueducts and pools at a flattened desert site halfway up the hill to the Herodium, 12 kilometers south of Jerusalem, as described in Josephus’s writings.  Josephus is not mentioned in the Bible, but he had a lot to say about people, places, and events of the Bible.

 

Socrates – PB

Socrates (469-399 B.C.) was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. SocratesCredited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon and the plays of his contemporary Aristophanes.

Many would claim that Plato’s dialogues are the most comprehensive accounts of Socrates to survive from antiquity.  Plato’s “The Apology” is an account of the speech Socrates makes at the trial in which he is charged with not recognizing the gods recognized by the state, inventing new deities, and corrupting the youth of Athens.  

Socrates’ speech, however, is by no means an “apology” in our modern understanding of the word.  The name of the dialogue derives from the Greek “apologia,” which translates as a defense, or a speech made in defense.  Thus, in “The Apology,” Socrates attempts to defend himself and his conduct, certainly not to apologize for it.

For the most part, Socrates speaks in a very plain, conversational manner.  He explains that he has no experience with the law courts and that he will instead speak in the manner to which he is accustomed: with honesty and directness.

He explains that his behavior stems from a prophecy by the oracle at Delphi which claimed that he was the wisest of all men.  Recognizing his ignorance in most worldly affairs, Socrates concluded that he must be wiser than other men only in that he knows that he knows nothing.

In order to spread this peculiar wisdom, Socrates explains that he considered it his duty to question supposed “wise” men and to expose their false wisdom as ignorance.  These activities earned him much admiration amongst the youth of Athens, but much hatred and anger from the people he embarrassed.  He cites their contempt as the reason for his being put on trial.

Socrates then proceeds to interrogate Meletus, the man primarily responsible for bringing Socrates before the jury.  This is the only instance in “The Apology” of the elenchus, or cross-examination, which is so central to most Platonic dialogues.  

His conversation with Meletus, however, is a poor example of this method, as it seems more directed toward embarrassing Meletus than toward arriving at the truth.  In a famous passage, Socrates likens himself to a gadfly stinging the lazy horse which is the Athenian state.  Without him, Socrates claims, the state is liable to drift into a deep sleep, but through his influence, irritating as it may be to some, it can be wakened into productive and virtuous action.

Socrates is found guilty by a narrow margin and is asked to propose a penalty.  Socrates jokingly suggests that if he were to get what he deserves, he should be honored with a great meal for being of such service to the state.  On a more serious note, he rejects prison and exile, offering perhaps instead to pay a fine.  

When the jury rejects his suggestion and sentences him to death, Socrates stoically accepts the verdict with the observation that no one but the gods know what happens after death and so it would be foolish to fear what one does not know.  He also warns the jurymen who voted against him that in silencing their critic rather than listening to him, they have harmed themselves much more than they have harmed him.

Socrates isn’t mentioned in the Bible, but he was Plato‘s instructor who was Aristotle‘s instructor who was Alexander the Great‘s tutor who conquered the Persian Empire.

Satan/Lucifer – PB

The name, Lucifer, means “day star,” or “son of the morning.” But his Lucifername was changed to Satan when he was kicked out of heaven. Lucifer was a magnificent being, but pride overtook his heart, and sin cost him everything.

Lucifer is one of three archangels mentioned in Scripture, the other two are Michael and Gabriel. He was created by God just as all angels were, but his role was different from the other angelic hosts. Lucifer was referred to as the “covering angel.” Just as the cherubim covered the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant, Lucifer was established by God to be the angel of worship, one whose ministry surrounded the heart of heaven. Lucifer was created to dwell eternally in the throne room of heaven, in the very presence of God.

Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mount of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire (Eze 28:14).

Lucifer had been an amazing being to behold:

Thou has been in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire,  the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: The workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created (Eze 28:13).

To dwell in the awesome presence of a perfect and holy God Lucifer had to be perfect. There was nothing ordinary or plain about his appearance.  Adorned with gold and precious stones, he truly fit the name, “Son of the Morning.”  He was a step above the other angels, not only in appearance but also in intellect.  Lucifer’s wisdom far exceeded that of other angelic beings.  He understood the ways of God. 

Lucifer had wisdom, beauty, ability, perfection, and yet he wanted more; he wanted to be worshiped like God. But God does not share His glory, nor does He permit another to receive worship.  So when Lucifer made his move he was removed from the presence of God.  Cast out of heaven like a bolt of lightning.  He was stripped of his beauty, his position, and his rights to heaven.  Satan’s constant attempt ever since has been to oppose the mighty plan of God.  He even attempted to tempt Jesus to sin and worship Him and to do that you have to be extremely arrogant, pompous,  and downright stupid.

Isaiah 14 reveals the fall of Lucifer from the heights of heaven, which resulted in his status as the creature that he is today: 

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:

I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.

Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.

They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms;

That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners?

All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in glory, everyone in his own house.

But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch, and as the raiment of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcass trodden under feet.

Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed thy land, and slain thy people: the seed of evildoers shall never be renowned.

Prepare slaughter for his children for the iniquity of their fathers; that they do not rise, nor possess the land, nor fill the face of the world with cities.

For I will rise up against them, saith the LORD of hosts, and cut off from Babylon the name, and remnant, and son, and nephew, saith the LORD.

I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water: and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the LORD of hosts.

The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand:

That I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains tread him under foot: then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders.

This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations.

For the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? And his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?

Lucifer’s name, “son of the morning,” was given to a far more deserving individual, the Son of God.  Jesus Christ is called the ‘Bright and Morning Star’ (Rev 22:16). Today, Jesus is seated at the right hand of God, dwelling in the presence of the Almighty. Christ’s words hold true, even in the account of Satan:

And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted (Matt 23:12).

The following scriptures are exactly what Satan did that got him banished from heaven and will spend eternity in the lake of fire:

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.  If any man love he world, the love of the Father is not in him.

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the yes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever (1 Jn 2:15-17).

Some say that you can’t lose your salvation once you have it, I beg to differ, Satan lost his.  This is what Paul, or whoever the author of Hebrews says:

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted fo the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,

And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,

If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

That means you can’t place yourself above Jesus, exalt yourself, and expect to live in heaven.  As Jesus said directly above in Matthew 23:12.

Samuel – PB

Samuel was the son of Elkanah and Hannah.  He grew up under Eli,
Samuelwho was the priest at Shiloh. Samuel served a variety of roles in Israel: he was a prophet, the last Judge, and a military leader.  He was widely recognized throughout the country (1 Sam 3:20).  His home was in Ramah, where he headed groups of prophets.

At this time in Israel’s history, about 3000 years ago, the nation was ruled by judges who settled disputes, not kings.  But the people demanded to have a king like other nations.  Samuel was opposed to having a king rule over Israel because he interpreted that as an act of apostasy and a rejection of the kingship of God and he warned them that they would regret such a request.  But God told Samuel anoint Saul, son of Kish, as king and so the people got what they wanted (1 Sam 8:6-22).

In time, the relationship between Saul and Samuel deteriorated and Saul took over certain functions that had belonged to a priest, not a king.  Saul’s worst mistake he ever made is he disobeyed God after the battle with Amalekites.

And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel and the LORD anointed thee king over Israel?

And the LORD sent thee on a journey and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites and fight against them until they be consumed.

Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the LORD, but didst fly upon the spoil and didst evil in the sight of the LORD?

And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and have gone the way which the LORD sent me and have brought Agag the king of Amalek and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.

But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, and chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal.

And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of rams.

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.  Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king (1 Sam 15:17-23).

God didn’t reject Saul’s kingship due to his actions, his disobedience, but the reason why Saul disobeyed, which is his selfishness and evil heart.

But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as a man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart (1 Sam 16:7)
.

God had Samuel anoint young David to be the next king (1 Sam 16:12-13).

King Saul grew jealous of David so he fled to flee from Saul and was given refuge by Samuel in his home in Ramah.  David eventually succeeded Saul as king, but Samuel didn’t live long enough to see that.

The story of Samuel is found in the book of 1 Samuel, chapters 1-25.

Samson – PB

Samson (means “Little Sun”), a member of the tribe of Dan, was the 13th SamsonJudge of Israel. He judged Israel for 20 years.  Samson’s mother received a visit from an angel (Jud 13:3-7) who told her she would give birth to an unusual son, a Nazirite, and not to cut his hair.  Samson had great strength, he killed a lion with his bare hands (Jud 14:5-7) and later killed 1,000 Philistines with a jawbone of a donkey (Jud 15:14-16).  He had romantic encounters with 3 Philistine women.

He fell in love with one of the women, Delilah (Jud 16:4).  The five leaders of the Philistine nation went to Delilah and demanded that she find out from Samson what made him so strong so they could subdue him (Jud 16:5).  She eventually convinced Samson to tell her where his strength came from (he was strong, but not smart, but that’s men for you, we are the brightest when it comes to women), she found out that it came from the length of his hair, it had never been cut.  While he slept, Samson’s hair was cut off and he was captured by the Philistines, who gouged out his eyes and made him grind grain in prison, yet, his hair began to grow back (Jud 16:19-22).

Later, the Philistines stood Samson in the center of a temple during a celebration; his hair had now grown back.  Samson was placed between the two main pillars of the temple.  He asked God to strengthen him one more time:

Oh Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes (Jud 16:28).

Then Samson pushed against the pillars with all his might:

And Samson said; Let me die with the Philistines.  And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people that were therein.  So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life (Jud 16:30).

His brothers brought him back home and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol, where his father Manoah was buried.  The story of Samson is found in the book of Judges, chapters 13-16.

Ruth and Boaz – PB

Back when judges ruled the land, rather than kings, during a famine, a man Ruth and Boaznamed Elimelech and his wife, Naomi, and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, moved from Bethlehem to Moab. After the death of Elimelech his sons married two Moabite women named Orpah and Ruth.  But their husbands died and the two women were childless (Ruth 1:1-6).

Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem without Orpah and Ruth, but Ruth insisted on joining her, saying:

Entreat me not to leave thee or to return from following after thee: for wither thou goest I will go; and where thou lodgest I will lodge; thy people shall be my people and thy God m people shall be my people and thy God my God (Ruth 1:16).

In Bethlehem, Ruth met a man named Boaz (meaning “strength”) who was related to her late father-in-law.  Boaz was a very wealthy man who lived in Bethlehem.  When Naomi returned to Bethlehem with her widowed daughter-in-law Ruth, Ruth went into the fields of Boaz to glean.  Boaz learned that Ruth’s deceased husband was a distant relative of his.

He acted kindly towards her and instructed his farm workers to leave extra sheaves of barley for her to gather.  Ruth had another relative of her late husband who was closer to her than Boaz.  By law, the other relative was obligated to marry Ruth (Duet 25:5-10).  Boaz confronted the other relative with this law and after the relative refused to marry Ruth Boaz agreed to marry her and to buy the estate of her deceased husband (Ruth 4:5).

After they married, Ruth had a son named Obed who became the father of Jesse, who became the father of David so Boaz and Ruth were the great-grandparents of King David. Ruth and Boaz had a son named Obed and he was the father of Jesse, and Jesse was the father of David, so Ruth was the great-grandmother of King David in the blood line of Jesus Christ.

The story of Ruth and Boaz is in the book of Ruth.

Plato – PB

Plato (427-347 B.C.) was Greek philosopher.  In 407 B.C. he became a pupil Platoand friend of Socrates. After living for a time at the Syracuse court, Plato founded (c.387 B.C.) near Athens, the most influential school of the ancient world, the Academy, where he taught until his death.  His most famous pupil there was Aristotle.

Plato’s extant work is in the form of epistles and dialogues, divided according to the probable order of composition.  The early, or Socratic, dialogues, e.g., the Apology, Meno, and Gorgias, present Socrates in conversations that illustrate his major ideas – the unity of virtue and knowledge and of virtue and happiness. They also contain Plato’s moving account of the last days and death of Socrates.

Plato’s goal in dialogues of the middle years, e.g., the Republic, Phaedo, Symposium, and Timaeus, was to show the rational relationship between the soul, the state, and the cosmos.  The later dialogues, e.g., the Laws and Parmenides, contain treatises on law, mathematics, technical philosophic problems, and natural science.

Plato regarded the rational soul as immortal, and he believed in a world soul and a Demiurge, the creator of the physical world.  He argued for the independent reality of Ideas, or Forms, as the immutable archetypes of all temporal phenomena and as the only guarantee of ethical standards and of objective scientific knowledge.

Virtue consists in the harmony of the human soul with the universe of Ideas, which assure order, intelligence, and pattern to a world in constant flux.  Supreme among them is the Idea of the Good, analogous to the sun in the physical world.

Only the philosopher, who understands the harmony of all parts of the universe with the Idea of the Good, is capable of ruling the just state.  In Plato’s various dialogues he touched upon virtually every problem that has occupied subsequent philosophers; his teachings have been among the most influential in the history of Western civilization, and his works are counted among the world’s finest literature.

Plato is not mentioned in the Bible, but he was there because he was Aristotle’s teacher and one of Socrates‘ students.