Cain and Abel – PB

Cain and Abel

Cain, the eldest son of Adam and Eve, was born after they were banished from the Garden of Eden.  He was a farmer, a tiller of the soil.  Abel was a shepherd. Cain and his brother Abel brought offerings before God.

God accepted the offering of Abel, but rejected Cain’s. This rejection made Cain jealous and angry so he killed his brother for which he was subjected to a double curse by God: The ground would no longer yield to him which was his wealth, and he was condemned to be a fugitive and a vagabond for the rest of his life.

God put a mark on Cain so that no one would come upon him and kill him.  Cain settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.  He established a city and named it after his son Enoch (Gen 4:1-17).

In the New Testament, Abel is called righteous (Matt 23:35) and is named by Jesus as a just and innocent man who suffers and is killed (Lk 11:51).  Abel’s sacrifice is judged greater than Cain’s because of his faith and this faith speaks beyond the grave (Heb 11:4).  Cain is seen as the opponent of Abel (Heb 11:4) as a symbol for an evil way of living (Jude 11) and as someone whose works were wicked (1 Jn 3:12).

The famous saying, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is said by Cain when the Lord asked him “Where is your brother Abel?” (Gen 4:9).

The story of Cain and Abel is found in Genesis 4.

Aristotle – PB

Aristotle

Aristotle was born in 384 B.C. in a small town called Stagira.  His parents died when he was still young, and he was raised as an orphan.  Though little is known about Aristotle’s early years, the occupation of his father, Nicomachus, did have a significant influence on his development.

Nicomachus was a physician, and this probably accounted for Aristotle’s especially strong interest in biology, a science that had long been considered inferior to other disciplines.

At the age of eighteen, Aristotle entered Plato‘s Academy and soon became the undisputed top student.  He spent about twenty years there.  Though Aristotle criticized many of Plato’s theories, he was always careful to acknowledge his debt to his former master and stress the common ground that they shared.

As much as he did depart from Plato’s thought, the teacher’s presence always bore some mark on the student’s work.  When Plato died in 347 B.C., Aristotle left Athens and spent some years traveling, taking part in various intellectual circles at Assos and Lesbos.

At Lesbos he began conducting his biological research, while his prior work had been concerned primarily with metaphysics and politics, in the form of responses to or even expositions of Plato’s ideas.

In 343 B.C. he was asked to tutor Philip’s son, the future Alexander the Great.  He spent three years with Alexander teaching primarily the standard subjects, such as rhetoric and poetry.  He also encouraged Alexander’s ambitions to conquer Persia, reinforcing the belief that non-Greeks were barbarians.

Aristotle’s xenophobic beliefs would never soften, and as Alexander’s attitude toward the Persians changed, tension increased between the two men.  Soon after Philip’s death in 336 B.C., Aristotle returned to Athens, where he founded the Lyceum.

It was here that he undertook his most important work, and many of his surviving writings were based on lectures prepared for the school.  Much of his work has not been dated precisely, and he was constantly revising much of it.

Moreover, we know little about his life apart from this work, and hence this biography is organized around the works themselves.  His greatest achievement is generally considered to be the syllogism, which helped to launch the field of logic – a field that Aristotle essentially created single-handedly.

Logic was the fundamental tool that made all understanding and learning possible, for it helped one to recognize when proof was necessary and how to evaluate such proof.  After logic, Aristotle’s contributions to biology are among his most significant. He identified 495 different animal species and classified them shrewdly.

The care he showed in his collection of data, along with the insight he provided into his research, afforded his work great longevity.  In contrast to his work in the natural sciences, his biological achievements would remain unsurpassed for centuries. 

He also wrote major works on Ethics, Politics, Poetics, and Rhetoric.  With the exception of Aristotle’s Rhetoric, all of these works continue to be studied in colleges today, not only for historical reasons but as the groundwork of its field. The definition of tragedy provided in the Poetics remains fundamentally relevant to literary criticism, while the Ethics and Politics provide appropriate starting points for moral and political philosophy.

Aristotle died in 322 B.C.; having contributed more to Western knowledge than any other individual ever had before or has had since.

Aristotle is not mentioned in the Bible, but he was there because as noted above, he was Alexander the Great’s tutor and he was quite involved in the events that involved Babylon and the Persian Empire. 

Archangel Michael – PB

Archangel Michael

In Hebrew, Michael means “who is like God.” Michael is mentioned three times in the Book of Daniel.  Daniel explains a vision he had of the glory of God:

But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia (Dan 10:13).

But I will shew thee that which is noted in the scripture of truth: and there is none that holdeth with me in these things, but Michael your prince (Dan 10:21).

The prince of the kingdom of Persia is Satan.  In the next chapter Daniel tells us about the “little horn” (Dan 11) which begins prior to the Great Tribulation which is the beginning of the end.  Verse 11:21 is pertains to Satan, but it sure sounds like someone else:

And his estate shall stand up a vile person, to whom they shall not give the honor of the kingdom: but he shall come in peaceably and obtain the kingdom by flatteries (Dan 11:21).

But the time of the “little horn” is nothing to fear if you walk with Jesus, as Michael promises:

And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, everyone that shall be found written in the book (Dan 12:1).

The idea that Michael was the advocate of the Jews became so prevalent that in spite of the rabbinical prohibition against appealing to angels as intermediaries between God and his people, Michael came to occupy a certain place in the Jewish liturgy.

In the book of Revelation Michael leads God’s armies against Satan’s forces, and defeats Satan in heaven.

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

And prevailed not; neither was their place found anymore in heaven.

And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

And I heard a loud voice (this is John talking saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb (Jesus) and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

Therefore rejoice ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them.  Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath because he knoweth that he hath but a short time (Rev 12: 7-12).

In the book of Jude Michael is referred to as an “archangel,” and argues with Satan about where God buried Moses.  What Satan’s interest in Moses’ burial ground is uncertain, but since people have put Moses on a high pedestal, many even place him before Jesus, I can only guess that Satan wanted to put Moses on an even higher pedestal to draw more and more people away from Jesus.  Since Satan lost the war in heaven his only goal is to bring as many people as he can to hell with him.

Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion and speak evil of dignities.

Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebukes thee (Jude 8-9).

Although the three occurrences of Michael in the Book of Daniel 10:13, 10:21 and 12:1 all refer to the same individual, who acts in similar ways in all three cases, the last one is set at the “end times.”

Apostle Paul – PB

Apostle Paul

Paul had been known as Saul before he became a Christian. He was born in Tarsus of Cilicia in Asia Minor.
His family was of the line of Benjamin.  He grew up in Jerusalem and studied Jewish tradition under the elder Gamaliel, becoming a zealous Pharisee.  Paul was at first an active opponent of those that followed Jesus.  He took care of the cloaks of those who threw stones at Stephen (Acts 7:58, 22-20).
 

On his way to Damascus to persecute more believers in Jesus he was stopped by a blinding light: and he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?  And he said, Who art thou, Lord?  And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.  And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?  And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do (Acts 9:4-6). 

Paul then became a servant to Christ.  And his zeal to persecute the early Christians was re-channeled into preaching the Gospel. 

Paul made three missionary journeys around Asia Minor, Macedonia, and Achaia.  He is the author of 13 New Testament letters – Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon.  It is also possible that he might have written Hebrews.  With the exception of Romans, all of Paul’s letters were written to churches or individuals whom he knew personally. 

The focus of Paul’s writings is Jesus, through whom God has affected redemption for all people regardless of ethnic or social background. 

Paul was willing to evangelize about Jesus despite great risk to himself.  He was threatened, beaten, flogged, stoned and imprisoned on various occasions, but he never gave up his preaching of Jesus Christ.  He might have been the most zealous and the hardest working apostle of all time.  He is often considered to be the most important figure in the history of Christianity, beyond Jesus, and one of the greatest religious leaders of all time.

The story of Paul is found in Acts 7:54-9:31 and 13-28. 

Apostle John – PB

Apostle John

 

Statue of apostle John in Cathedral of St. Stanislaus and St. Vladislav in Vilnius

John the Apostle was one of the original 12 apostles. He is the author of this book and four other in the New Testament.

John, his brother James and their father Zebedee were Galilean fisherman. Jesus called John and James to leave their careers as fishermen and to become His apostles. Soon after, John and James became part of an inner circle around Jesus with Peter and sometimes Andrew.

John and his brother James were called the “Sons of thunder” by Jesus (Mk 3:17).

John along with Andrew had been disciples of John the Baptist and became followers of Jesus after He was baptized by John the Baptist.

John was the “beloved disciple” who:

– leaned on Jesus during the Last Supper (John 13:23), – was “known to the high priest (John 18:15), – was entrusted by Jesus with the care of His mother Mary (John 19:26), and – outran Peter to the empty tomb (John 20:2-4).

After the resurrection, John appears as one of the leaders of the early church.

According to Papias, one of John’s disciples, John later went to the city of Ephesus. He was exiled under Emperor Domitian to the island Patmos.

It was there at Patmos he wrote the Book of Revelation, which is the last book of the New Testament.

Under Nerva, John returned to Ephesus, and there composed the Gospel of John, the 4th book of the New Testament, and three Epistles, called John 1, John 2, John 3.

John reportedly died at a very old age and he is the only disciples that was not executed.