"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

It's Thursday, But Sunday's Coming!

All followers of Jesus believe that Christ died and rose from the grave. This is foundational to the Christian faith. The Scriptures declare that God delivers those with this faith (Romans 3:25), and without it, no one has hope of pleasing God (Hebrews 11:6).

However, more than a few people believe Christ died and rose from the dead without knowing when and why He died.

Knowledge about the details of Christ's death and resurrection immeasurably strengthen one's conviction and assurance that Christianity is not one of many possible valid religions, but is the body of truth once delivered by God to us (Jude 1:3).

Jesus Christ died on Thursday, not Friday.

If this is the first time you've heard that Jesus died on a Thursday, it might sound strange to your ears, particularly when powerful songs, great messages, and vivid memories revolve around Good Friday. However, if you allow yourself to be influenced by Scripture only (sola Scriptura), you will find that the Thursday death of the Messiah becomes a powerful demonstration of God's infinite ability to orchestrate His Story as the centerpiece of history.

Jesus died at 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon, on Thursday, the 14th of Aviv, 30 A.D at the age of 33, at that very time God appointed for the Messiah to die.  "I have come to fulfill the Law and the prophets" (Matthew 5:17), Jesus said.

Jesus did just as He said He would do--He fulfilled the Law. There is no other day, no other time, no other way Jesus could have died and there is no other day, no other time, no other way Jesus could have risen from the dead for the Law of God to be fulfilled.

For all those reading this post who have been duped by religious leaders into believing that sins are swept away by our promises to God or our performance for God, what I am about to write can help you see that those religionists who are stuck on man-oriented religious performance have no idea that true, biblical Christianity sets sinners free to trust Christ's performance.

The truth of what is written in this post will thoroughly erase any belief that God's mercy, love and grace is determined by our ability to adequately perform. Take a moment and determine to "Grow in grace and the knowledge of Christ" and read slowly and carefully through this post. You will not regret it.

Jesus dying on Thursday and rising on the following Sunday is thoroughly supported by the Scriptures and is not a new proposition among evangelicals. Nearly one hundred and fifty years ago the scholarly Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. 27 (1870), pp. 401–429 published an article entitled The Crucifixion on Thursday – Not Friday by J.K. Aldrich. Greek and New Testament scholar Professor Brooke Westcott of Great Britain, author of the classic work An Introduction to the Study of the Gospels (Cambridge: 1881), pp. 343–349, adamantly maintained that Christ's crucifixion was on Thursday, not Friday.  In 1974 Christianity Today published The Day He Died, by Dr. Roger Rusk, Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Tennessee. In this short article, Dr. Rusk shows through his computer-enhanced lunar calculations that Jesus died on Thursday, the 14th of Abib, 30 A.D.

The Way the Jews Measured Time

There are three basic things you need to understand about the way the Jews kept time in Jesus day before you can know why Jesus died when He did.

First, the Jewish months revolved around eyeballing the moon during its phases of brightness in the sky. When a 'new moon' occurred (see chart), the priests would blow their horns and declare that a new 'month' had begun. Aviv was the first month of the new year for the Jews (see Leviticus 23:5), occuring in the spring as God woke nature from her winter slumber. Aviv corresponds to March/April on our calendar. Jesus died on the 14th day of Aviv, 30 A.D. at 3:00 in the afternoon which would correspond to April 6, 30 A.D. on our western calendar.

Second, the Jews in Jesus day did not call the days of their week Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc... as we do. They called them "the first day of the week, the second day of the week, etc..." The seventh day of the week was a Sabbath and is known to us in the western world as 'Saturday.' The 'first day of the week is what we call Sunday. Of course, Jesus rose on "the first day of the week" (John 20:1).

Finally, a new day began for the Jews at 6:00 p.m. in the evening. In the western world, we have six hours of night before 12:00 midnight and those six hours are the last six hours of our day. At midnight, a new day begins.

But this is not so in Jesus' Jewish world. The hours from 6:00 p.m. to 12:00 midnight were the first six hours of a NEW DAY. So, Jesus died at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, the 14th of Aviv, just three hours before the sixth day of the week (Friday), the 15th of Aviv, began. In the Bible, at 6:00 pm a new day begins. So if the Jews ate a "Passover Meal" after sunset (6:00 pm), the meal would be eaten in the first hours of a new 24-hour day, not the last hours of a 24-hour day.

The Passover lamb was killed on the 14th of Aviv every year (Passover), but the Passover Meal was only eaten that night in the first few hours of the 15th of Aviv, the beginning of the week-long celebration called the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

The Reason Jesus Died on Thursday (the 14th of Aviv) in AD 30.

After Moses led the Jews out of their Egyptian bondage fifteen hundred years before Christ was born, God "appointed" seven Holy Days (holidays) for the Jews to keep throughout the year. These Holy Days, called High Sabbaths, were national celebrations of God's faithfulness and mercy to His people. God was very specific in His Law (Leviticus 23) as to when and how these Holy Days were to be celebrated.

The first three Holy Days occurred in the spring, during the month of Aviv, all within one week of each other. The first holiday was Passover. According to Exodus 12:1, the Passover lamb was to be chosen on the 10th of Aviv and slain on the 14th of Aviv. After the Passover lamb had been chosen on the 10th of Aviv, the people would inspect the lamb to make sure there were no spots or blemishes. The lamb could not have any broken bones or be defective in any way. Four days after the lamb was chosen, the lamb was slain.

At 3:00 p.m. on the 14th of Aviv, the lamb would be killed in preparation for the Passover meal. The 14th of Aviv was therefore called "the day of Preparation for Passover" in Scripture (John 19:14) .  The Jews would also use the day of Preparation (the 14th of Aviv) to sweep away any leaven in their houses in preparation for The Feast of Unleavened Bread.

As already stated, the Feast of Unleavened Bread began on the next day, the15th of Aviv, the same day the Passover Meal was eaten, and lasted for seven days. During this week long festival, the Jews were forbidden to consume bread with leaven.  As the week of Unleavened Bread began during the early hours of the 15th of Aviv (from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. at night), the Jewish Passover meal would be eaten. The lamb that had been killed three hours earlier (at 3:00 p.m. on the 14th of Aviv) was roasted and eaten at the Passover meal after sunset. The lamb would be eaten along with the unleavened bread that had been prepared during daylight of Aviv 14. Leaven in Scripture is a picture of sin or evil. After the Passover lamb died and had been taken into the Jewish houses, sin and evil disappeared.

The Passover lamb always died on Aviv 14, and leaven was always swept away from the homes on Aviv 14. Again, this day of Aviv 14 was called the day of Preparation for Passover. The actual Feast of Passover was eaten after sunset, in the early hours of Aviv 15, the first day of Unleavened Bread. Remember, the Jewish day BEGINS at 6:00 p.m. so though the Passover meal was eaten between 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. of what we in the western world would consider the SAME day (Passover, Aviv 14),  the Jews considered that time the NEXT DAY, Aviv 15.

The first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Aviv 15) was considered a High Sabbath for the Jews. This High Sabbath was not a regular Sabbath (Saturday), but a special annual Sabbath.

That means Friday, Aviv 15, AD 30, was a High Sabbath and Saturday, Aviv 16, AD 30 was a regular Sabbath.  The resurrection of Christ occurred on Sunday morning (Aviv 17) after two Sabbaths, back to back, had been observed by the Jews.

This is precisely what the New Testament teaches. The gospel writer Matthew describes the time when the disciples came to the empty tomb of Christ on Sunday morning by writing, After the Sabbath(s), at dawn on the first day of the week...” (Matthew 28:1a).  The Greek word translated Sabbath in this text is “Shabbaton” (plural) not “Shabbat” (singular). Any English translation that does not use "Sabbaths" is mistranslating the Greek text. The crucifixion week had the High Sabbath on Friday plus the weekly Sabbath and Saturday.

Jesus died on Thursday, AD 30, the day of Passover Preparation Day, Thursday, Aviv 14. The next day, the First Day of Unleavened Bread (Friday)  was Aviv 15 and a special High Sabbath for the Jews. The next day, Aviv 16 (Saturday) was the regular Sabbath for the Jews. It was not uncommon for the Jews to have TWO Sabbaths back to back during Passover, an event that occurred at least once a decade, and this is precisely what happened during crucifixion week as stated in Scripture.

In further fulfillment of Scripture, Jesus died at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, Aviv 14, at the very time the national Passover lamb was being sacrificed in the temple.  When the Jews counted days, they measured any portion of a day or night and considered it an entire day or night. Jesus was in the grave for 3 days and 3 nights. He was placed in the tomb on Thursday (Aviv 14), remained in the tomb all night/day Friday (Aviv 15; notice the night time comes BEFORE the day time in a Jewish day), all night/day on Saturday (Aviv 16), and into the nighttime hours (6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. of Sunday, (Aviv 17).

Jesus rose from the grave sometime between the sunset following Saturday (Aviv 16) and sunrise of the first day of the week (Mark 16:9), which was Sunday (Aviv 17) for the Scripture says it was still night.  The time Jesus spent in the grave fulfills the prophecy Jesus said about His own death and resurrection:
"For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:40).

The Anti-Type Fulfills the Type

Follow Jesus as He enters Jerusalem in the spring of 30 A.D. He entered the city on Sunday, Aviv 10, the day we call Palm Sunday. The procession for the national Passover lamb of Israel had just taken place. The lamb had been led into the city from the east and was taken to the Temple to be the public sacrifice for the nation of Israel, an event that would occur four days later (Aviv 14). The lamb was met by crowds of people waving palm branches and joyously singing Psalm 118.

Jesus made His final entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey, following the national Passover lamb (Matthew 21:1-11). The Jews, many of whom had either known of Jesus or personally witnessed His great miracles, placed their palm branches in front of Him and shouted to Him passages from Psalm 118: "Hosanna to the Son of David!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Hosanna in the highest!’”

Just as the Jews began to cleanse their homes of leaven in preparation for Passover, so Jesus went to His Father's house and cleansed the Temple of evil (Matthew 21:12-13). From Aviv 10 to Aviv 14 the national Passover lamb was in full public view at the Temple so the Jews could ensure the lamb was perfect and without defect. During those same four days, Jesus was inspected and interrogated by the chief priests, elders, Pharisees, and Sadducees. He left them bumfuzzled because "they could find no fault with His character (see Matthew 21:23-27). Even the Roman governor of Jerusalem (Pilate) and Herod, the governor of Galilee could "find no fault with Him."

Jesus ate the Passover meal the night BEFORE He was crucified (early hours of Aviv 14, between 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.). The Jews would NOT eat their Passover until 24 hours later, but Jesus instituted a New Covenant - with no lamb eaten - giving bread and wine and saying, "This is my body, and this is my blood, which is shed for you." He was the Lamb of God. It was His death that mattered. The Law of God in the Old Covenant was about to be fulfilled by the Lamb of God.  Within a few hours, the Anti-Type (the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world) would fulfill the type (the Passover lamb of Israel). The agreement between God and man changed at Calvary with the institution of the New Covenant. God had Himself a new people (from every tribe, race and nation), a new Temple (the lives of believers in His Son), a new priesthood (men and women, slave and free, Gentile and Jew), and a New Command ("love one another as I have loved you"). The Law pictured that "the just live by faith," but the Lamb made that picture a reality. Faith in Christ's performance for sinners is the only thing that makes a sinner right with God.

Jesus was placed on the cross at "the third hour" (9:00 a.m.) on Aviv 14 (Mark 15:25), less than twelve hours after He shared the New Covenant meal in the Upper Room with His disciples. So it was that the national Passover lamb was bound to the Temple's altar at the very same hour.   As Jesus hung on the cross, darkness came over the land (Luke 23:44-46) from about "the sixth to the ninth hour" (from noon to 3:00 p.m.). At 3:00 p.m. on Aviv 14, 30 A.D., Jesus died. At that very same time, the national Passover lamb in the Temple was slain by the High Priest. The Passover lamb was sacrificed in the Temple on Aviv 14 "between the evenings" (3:00 p.m.), just as Jesus, the Lamb of God, was sacrificed for the world "between the evenings." As the High Priest brought the knife down on the national Passover lamb, he cried “It is finished!”  Just outside the city gate, at that very hour, Jesus cried on the cross, "It Is Finished!" and He died.

Remember, it was forbidden by the Law of God for any of the bones of the Passover lamb to be broken (see Exodus 12:46).  At the crucifixion, soldiers came by to break the legs of the two criminals crucified along with Jesus, but they discovered Jesus was already dead. The reason for breaking the criminal's legs was to ensure that they would die before sunset and the Passover meal and the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Aviv 15). It took Jesus only six hours to die. I am reminded that He said, "No one takes my life. I lay it down of my own accord" (John 10:18).

Jesus rose three days later, early on "the first day of the week" (Sunday).  His Resurrection Day was the same day that the Jews "waved the sheaf of firstfruits" in the Temple during the Feast God appointed in the Law, a Feast called "The Feast of the Waving of the Sheaf of First Fruits." Jesus rose on this day, and the fulfillment of the Law in rising as our "first fruits" of resurrection is quite instructive (listen to last year's Easter message).

Application

Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law. Everything in the Old Testament was about Him. When He walked with the two men on the road to Emmaus, He "began with Moses and all the prophets and explained to them all those things concerning Himself" (Luke 24:27)

God appointed the seven Holy Days for Israel (Leviticus 23) nearly a millennium and a half before Jesus ever walked the streets of Jerusalem! What are the odds that Jesus enters Jerusalem on the 10th of Aviv, dies on the 14th of Aviv, is in the tomb during the days of Unleavened Bread, and rises on the "morrow after the Sabbath" (Sunday, the 17th of Aviv) on the very day the Jews celebrated the Feast of the Sheaf of Firstfruits? I could go on and explain to you the Anti-type fulfillment of the last four Jewish feasts (Pentecost, Feast of Trumpets, Feast Day of Atonement and Feast of Tabernacles), but that is another post. I think you see the beauty of Christ in the Passover.

Next time somebody mocks Christianity and tells you it is a religion of myths and fairy tales, why don't you take a little time to show them that His Story is history itself. Jesus was born on Tabernacles, died at Passover, rose from the dead on the Feast of Firstfruits, came to indwell us on Pentecost and will come again at the Feast of Trumpets?  It would be wise for all people to see the Holy One in the Holy Days of the Old Testament and how Jesus Christ is the utter fulfillment of the Law.

Finally, when somebody asks you how your sins are swept away, refuse to point that person to any promise of man, any commitment promised by man, or any pledge of religious fidelity by man! Point the questioner to the Man who accomplished for us what we cannot accomplish for ourselves.

This is the faith once delivered to the saints, and it is worth believing. It sets you free from trusting in your performance to one hundred percent trusting His performance for you.

The Shortsighted Thinking of "Peace for Our Time"

When England's Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (1869-1940) made peace with Adolph Hitler at the 1938 Munich Pact, he triumphantly declared "There is peace for our time."

Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler has gone down in history as one of the worst decisions of the modern age. 6,000,000 Jews eventually lost their lives through the Holocaust. Chamberlain may have secured peace for his time, but the long-term consequences were horrific.

Many have wondered where Chamberlain came up with the phrase "Peace for our time

At best, it was a hollow boast, at worst, it was an intentional attempt to postpone conflict by attaching it to the future. "Let our children fight fascism, but not us."

Chamberlain's boast is similar to a statement made by King Hezekiah of Judah(739 BC - 687 BC) over 2,000 years earlier.

The prophet Isaiah had told Hezekiah that problems were on the horizon for the nation of Judah:
5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord Almighty: 6 The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord. 7 And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon. (Isaiah 39:5-7)
Read again the awful things that Isaiah says are coming on the next generation of Jews.
1. All the nation's treasures will be 'carried off to Babylon.'
2. Nothing will be left in Judah.
3. The king's own children will be 'taken away' to Babylon.
4. The king's sons will become Eunuchs.
5. The Jews will serve the king of Babylon as slaves.
Now listen to Hezekiah's response to Isaiah's words:
8 “The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my lifetime.” (Isaiah 39:8)
Chamberlain, Hezekiah, and ... we who live in the United States of America in 2019.

We all think alike.
We don't mind that the national debt is over 22 trillion dollars and at some point, the government will collapse under the strain of debt.
We don't mind that credit card debt hits a record 4 trillion dollars and people will one day be unable to pay back what they owe, plunging the economy into a depression worse than the 1930s.
We don't mind that the infrastructure of our country has fallen apart and it will be impossible to repair the outdated grids, bridges, dams, and power plants when the system collapses.
We don't mind that cries for expanding socialism in the US guarantees a collapse of the capitalistic business economy that built the United States.
We don't mind...

Because "There's peace for our time."

I Use Sonix to Transcribe Audio Recorded Sermons

I've been a pastor and public speaker for over 35 years.

All those jokes about pastors working one day a week are familiar to me. I laugh at them too, but if you've been a pastor for any length of time, you know that those jokes aren't even close to the truth.

Optically, pastors are seen once a week by most people.

Practically, pastors work every day of the week.

The hurting and the dying are in the numerical minority, but they make up the majority of the workload for pastors between those times the pastor is working on fresh, relevant sermon series, or preparing for the next committee and staff meeting, or other duties associated with pastoring.

Only pastors of large churches with a large staff who help with funerals, counseling, planning, and other pastoral responsibilities have had the time to write for the purpose of publishing books.

That is, until now.

Sonix is a service I use to transcribe my sermons. It's propriety artificial intelligence algorithm takes any uploaded audio (or video) file of my public speaking and transcribes them with a 98% accuracy for words and a greater than 95% accuracy on sentence and paragraph structure.

Transcribing sermons to turn them into published books is now super easy.

Of course, there will still have to be the editing of a Sonix transcript, but the time required to get 8 pages of a typed manuscript is reduced by 98% (two minutes to get a Sonix transcript compared to two hours of human typing). It's amazing to see such a swift and accurately typed manuscript of your spoken words.

Let me show you how it works.

Create your own Sonix account.

Then choose an audio file you wish to upload.

Our church uploads both audio files (podcast) and video files (Vimeo) to the Internet.

Your church may do neither, but you can still use Sonix if you simply have an MP3 or MP4 recording of your sermon on your computer.

Let me give you an example of the product.

I downloaded the MP4 Video file of my February 3, 2019, to my computer, a message entitled "A Mind that Thinks "Never Finishing, Alway Completed" from our Vimeo account (if your sound booth takes a digital recording of your sermon, ask them to send you a copy of the digital file).

Then I uploaded my MP4 file to my account at Sonix.

I hit the "Transcribe" button in my account, and within two minutes, Sonix sends me an email saying my transcription file is ready.

Read below the first page of an eight-page transcript of my February 3, 2019, sermon from the Face of Grace series.  Sonix transcribed in two minutes and gave to me in Word format.  I've done nothing to the Sonix transcript below. It's raw, no edits.

You can watch the beginning of my February 3 sermon here to test the accuracy of the transcript from Sonix.

Wade Burleson A Mind That Thinks Never Seeking; Always Pursued - Feb. 3.mp4 
I don't know how many of you like to travel but I've been around the United States and have had the privilege of going to other countries. I have to say to you though I have never seen more beautiful landscape than western Oklahoma. This week I drove about two and a half hours to sentinel for the funeral of Tom Martin's mother Mae and I took the back roads. I came back through Fairview and oh my word. I think living in western Oklahoma we get used to it but if you ever take a moment just to look around in our first service this morning a woman from Fairview Dorothy she's in her 80s. She told me that legend says that a person climbed the glass mountains looked around and said My what a fair view. And right down there in the valley, a city called Fairview was started. I won't ask a question how many of you in this auditorium have at one time or another lived in Fairview Oklahoma. Lift your hand anybody. 
OK, I see about a dozen of you. Well in the second service this morning a couple from Fairview was present Garen and IVA Martins. They've been coming to a manual for about 19 years almost 20. And when you get up on Sunday morning and get dressed and come to corporate worship I know it's a great deal of sacrifice sometimes to come to get the kids ready and and to come to Emmanuel but these folks along with others drive from Fairview every single Sunday 35 miles Garen wrote me an email several months ago and he gave me permission to read a portion of it to you as I said he and his wife even began attending in 1999 and they joined Emmanuel in November of 2000 and in his email he said Pastor I came across my personal journal from December 2000 and one where I wrote these words a new me has emerged one who understands grace and God's acceptance of me without my works I was always incapable of meeting the expectations that I and others placed on me to seal my salvation.
 But since attending Emmanuel I've learned that because I was chosen by God to be his it's his grace and nothing that I do which gives me my security in him. Oh sure. I want to obey Jesus and work in his kingdom but that doesn't affect my salvation or God's favor of me my obedience and service helps others to know him and helps me to avoid the pitfalls of sin. I have learned since coming to Emmanuel that my security is in God's grace for me and that has given me a peace and a contentment that I have never experienced before.

As you can tell, editing will be required. A few commas are needed, the email from Garen Martens needs to be put in "quotations" to set it off, and there may need to be paragraph adjustments, as well as a few words corrected. In my Habakkuk series, Sonix hears the word Habakkuk and will sometimes use "quarterback" or "have her back" etc., so I have to edit it.

But the time saved having artificial intelligence transcribe my sermons is enormous.

It costs me about $5.00 to get 8 pages of a transcript (plus the annual subscription to Sonix).

But compared to the time it would take for me to transcribe, or as is the case during the first 20 years of ministry, to have a super competent secretary (Barbara Ebert) spend countless hours faithfully typing my sermons - unfortunately, getting carpal tunnel in her hands through constant typing - Sonix gives us all an advantage that only modern technology can afford.

Not everybody has a professional editor mother (Mary Burleson) like I do, who is currently editing the transcripts from Sonix that could become a book (Lord willing) called The Face of Grace, but I believe that you could edit your Sonix transcripts yourself, getting them ready for publication.

I did tons of research for months to find the best way to transcribe sermons, and I can truthfully say that Sonix has knocked it out of the park.

It's heads and shoulders above all other companies in terms of accuracy, ease, and price.

If you wish to sign up for Sonix, go here! You'll be helping me write The Face of Grace if you sign up through this link because I get 100 free minutes of free transcription (about 3 Sunday morning sermons) for each new account through this link (a savings to me of about $15.00 in subscription fees). Thank you.

Right now, we are on chapter 6 of The Face of Grace.

I wish you the best in your publishing efforts!

The Light of a New Day at Southwestern Seminary

Last week, a graduating college senior from our church asked me which seminary he should attend.

Without hesitation, I said, "Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Its campus is near where you live. It's heading in the right direction. You'll be a part of a new legacy." 

The college graduate enrolled yesterday. 

Difficult news will be coming out of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary later today. 

When you first hear of the faculty reductions, you may unwittingly assume the wrong things. 

You may assume Southwestern is now in trouble. Nope. Southwestern was in trouble. The present leadership is doing what is necessary to get the seminary stable again financially, academically, and numerically.

Today's dismissals are a recalibration. It's necessary. It's about time. 

When you hear the news, know that those now responsible for leadership at the Seminary (new administration and trustees) are finally making decisions for the good of the institution, the SBC, and the Kingdom at large. 

The situation at Southwestern prior to June 2018 was far worse than anyone could have ever imagined. 

The sinking ship is now being given ballast.

Whatever else may be said about The Baptist Blogger, the one thing that must be said is that he courageously said what others cowardly refused to say during the years stained glass windows blocked the light of day from shining inside the walls of Southwestern.

Give credit where credit is due. 



Indeed, the light of a new day has dawned at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Boys and Their Toys: Understanding the Southern Baptist Convention's Celebrity Leadership Politics

Photo: Courtesy of The Christian Post
People who know me well will tell you that I tend to fight for the underdog and never hesitate to face down the big dog.

My wife knows that this penchant for rescuing the defenseless, resisting the domineering, and restoring the destroyed comes from my childhood.

The memory of having successfully resisted an older boy's attempt to bully me forever engraved and sealed those emotions in my memory wall.

It's one of the reasons I fell out of favor with the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2005.

It might not be too much of an exaggeration to say I was a "Golden Boy" in the early years of my ministry. I pastored a large SBC church at 29, chaired a national SBC committee at the age of 33, and spoke at many local, state, and national SBC meetings, including serving as President of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma through 2004.

But in 2005, I realized that there was a problem in the SBC.

Some will fault me for not seeing the problem earlier. Candidly, I think I did see the problem, but I just thought "liberals" were the only ones who fell into the trap of the "good-old-boy" system of leadership.

In 2005, I realized that my friends, those Bible-believing conservatives who served beside me, were as guilty of fraternization, patronization, and celebritization as the moderates of the 1960s and 1970s.

I fell out of favor for exposing the system.

Indeed, the SBC is a "good old boys" network.


James MacDonald and Ed Stetzer

When James MacDonald petitioned to join the Southern Baptist Convention, his style of leadership did not find a friend in me.

I tried to warn the SBC.

But James quickly became a part of the "good old boys" system.

He began speaking at annual SBC conferences.

He began assuming high-profile leadership roles.

He became an SBC leader immediately.

And here's why.

James MacDonald knew how to play the game.

The Christian Post reported today that James MacDonald gave Southern Baptist leader Ed Stetzer "just under $13,000" in the form of a 1971 VW Beetle.

No big deal, right?

Except for the fact, Southern Baptist Ed Stetzer went on to become a contributing editor for Christianity Today, and according to the Christian Post:
"...arranged a conversation (between MacDonald and CT Deputy Managing Editor Jeremy Weber) that led to the magazine publishing MacDonald’s article defending his lawsuit against her and four other defendants, titled “Why Suing is Sometimes the Biblical Choice.”
I like what I know of Ed. I feel for him in this very public debacle. However, this bizarre situation should be a lesson for us all.

James MacDonald's gift to Ed Stetzer seems to prove that sycophantic celebrity leadership is not limited to one's theological persuasion.

Hat Tip: Dee at Wartburg Watch

A Helpful Tip When You Start Watching the Clock

We're late. We're stressed. We're in a relationship with one who isn't as stressed and isn't paying attention to the clock like we are.

We're waiting.

We're watching the seconds tick off the clock.

We feel our internal engine building combustible steam.

And then we explode.

Far more marriages and relationships are destroyed by clock-watching than most people can fathom. But there's not one person who hasn't experienced the fractures that come from it.

The clock has a way of separating husbands from wives, parents from children, friends from friends.

But maybe it's the way we view the clock that's the problem, not time itself?

God gave His ancient people, the Hebrews, a way to "measure time" (Exodus 12:2).

They "eyeballed" the moon at night.

Every new moon meant a new month. When they spotted the new moon, the Hebrews blew the trumpets and Israel celebrated!

But the concept of time for the Hebrews was also measured by life in the fields.

Since a "lunar" calendar of 12 lunar months is eleven days shorter than a solar year (the earth's orbit around the sun) of 12 solar months. the Hebrew priests would go out into the farmers' fields and feel the ground's temperature, smell the air for pollen freshness, and see the buds (or lack thereof) on the fruit trees and grain stems.

Time touched the senses of the ancients.

Every two or three years the Hebrew priests would "add" another lunar month based upon their feeling that the planting and harvest times had shifted too far from their seasons.

The Hebrews walked with time by sensing and supporting life not by watching and worshipping clocks.

The Hebrews felt time pass.

They felt time's rhythms, sensed its pleasures, experienced it like a heartbeat, measuring time like they gauged another's health; they listened to the heartbeat, they felt the pulse, and they sensed the breathing.

Time to the Hebrews was a living thing. 

But the Romans under Julius Caesar took time and made it mechanical, automated, and - lifeless. 

Western Civilization, including America, followed Rome.

Now, rather than experiencing time with the senses, feeling its rhythm, and viewing the clock as a reflection of one's life, we Americans see the clock as something separate from life, a dictator that demands devotion, with punishment for the person who pays no attention to time.

We've lost our sense of living in the present because we keep looking to the future. 

Here's the helpful tip about clock-watching:

Next time the person you love is late, remember that life is more important than a Roman clock, for time is to be felt, sensed, and experienced like life itself.

If my dedication to a clock is more important than my devotion to life, then maybe the problem is my view of time.

Time should be measured by lives blossoming rather than by clocks ticking. 

As Honey Is Sweet to Taste, So Wisdom to the Soul

Edward's Manuscript on Prov. 24:13
Throughout the Proverbs, King Solomon continually seeks to prepare his son, heir to the throne of Israel, for the moment when power, pleasure, and prestige would be his without measure.

Thus, Solomon continually writes, "My son" or "My son, forget not..." or "My son, eat honey because it is good and sweet to your taste, just as wisdom is sweet to your soul" (Proverbs 24:13).

Solomon is a good father to his son Rehoboam, but he is also a good father to all of us who believe in the God of Israel.

Wisdom is good for the soul.

Jonathan Edwards wrote a book entitled The Pleasantness of Religion based on a message he preached from Proverbs 24:13, where he argues that followers of Jesus (e.g., true religion), above all other men and women, understand what it means to enjoy the pleasures of this life.

Wisdom is good for the soul, and He (Jesus Christ) is our wisdom (I Corinthians 1:30).

Jonathan Edwards argues in his book that following Jesus is the most pleasurable way to live one's life. He basis this philosophy on five principles:
1.  Following Jesus does not remove any pleasures in this life, but rather helps assists a person to understand that pleasures are to be taken in moderation, with discipline, and by the right manner. 
2. Following Jesus actually sweetens all earthly and temporary delights and pleasures.
3.  Jesus sweetens our pleasures because any pleasures without the centrality of Jesus brings more sorrow than pleasure, but all pleasures with Jesus' as our wisdom brings pure and lasting enjoyment. 
4. Following Jesus brings no new internal troubles upon a person, but rather, always brings more of pleasure than of trouble.
5. The follower of Jesus enjoys spiritual pleasures that are much better and sweeter than any temporal pleasure. 
Edwards concludes that the person who follows Jesus has the life that is most suited to experience true delight and pleasantness. 

Indeed, following Jesus is as sweet to the soul as honey is to one's taste. 

Mankind's Manipulation of Time and the Calendar

The resurrection of Jesus Christ will be celebrated on April 21, 2019, a holiday commonly called Easter.

On that same day, April 21, in the year 753 BC, a man named Romulus founded the city of Rome.

Scholars believe that on the day Romulus founded Rome, he also created a system of timekeeping called the Roman Calendar.

The Greeks in Romulus' day already had a calendar based on the four years between the Olympic Games, a method instituted in 776 BC, the year of the First Olympiad.

The Babylonian people, contemporaries of Romulus, also had their own system of calendering using a 12-month lunar calendar that they'd devised based on their observations of the moon.

Methods for keeping track of time in ancient history varied among the nations.

But of all the calendars in the ancient world, the calendar of Israel beat every other nation's calendar for accuracy, simplicity, reliability, and regularity. 

Israel followed a lunar calendar of 12 thirty day lunar months, with an added 13th month (Second Adar) added periodically during a nineteen-year cycle. God told Moses how to establish this lunar calendar (Exodus 12:1-3).

The God of Israel established this calendar for the purpose of instituting Seven Annual Festivals on specific dates of the lunar year.

This Hebrew lunar calendar became Divine Law.

And Jesus came to FULFILL the Law (Matthew 5:17-20).

Jesus was born during the Festival of Tabernacles when God came to "tabernacle with men" (John 1:14).

Jesus died on the Festival of Passover, the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." Jesus was in the tomb during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, "sweeping away our sins" (Isaiah 43:25) just as all Jewish women swept away the leaven during that week. Jesus rose from the grave on the "the day after the Sabbath," the day called the Feast of Firstfruits (Lev. 23:15).

Jesus exited the tomb the very morning Jewish men were waving a fistful of firstfruits (grain) in the Temple courtyard; He (Jesus) had become "the firstfruits of resurrection," guaranteeing the full harvest of resurrection to come (I Cor. 15:23). Jesus sent His Spirit, the Comforter, to all His followers who had gathered in the Upper Room for the Festival of Pentecost.

Jesus commissioned His disciples to go into all the world proclaiming forgiveness of sins through the (Feast) of Atonement that is found in the sacrificial life and of Jesus Christ (no atonement is in the blood of any bull or goat), and to take the message of sinners being "at-one" with God through the "at-one-moment" of the cross where Jesus died for "every nation, every tribe, every kindred, and every family" (Revelation 7:9).

And Jesus returned in judgment to destroy the Temple of Jerusalem and all vestiges of the Old Covenant during the Festival of Trumpets in AD 70, officially inaugurating a New Covenant and an eternal Kingdom.

Indeed, Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law.

The seasons, the festivals, the harvests, and the years for the nation of Israel flowed with continuity and regularity throughout their history (from. 1500 BC to AD 70).

The priests of Israel would "announce the new moon" by eyeballing the sky, ordering the blowing of trumpets, signaling a "new moon feast" (Colossians 2:16), for a new month in Israel had begun. The word calendar comes from the Latin word calare ("to announce") and lunar ("the moon").

Again, the nation of Israel had by far the most accurate and advanced calendar.

But for some reason, the western world became infatuated with Rome and King Romulus' very poor calendar that he established in 753 BC.  Historians politely call the Calendar of Romulus irregular.

But the way we Americans keep a calendar today is directly tied to Romulus, not Jerusalem. We've had to work for 2000 years to correct the Roman Calendar while mostly ignoring the beautiful, simple, and accurate Hebrew system timekeeping.

In the year Romulus founded Rome (753 BC), King Uzziah reigned in Jerusalem over the southern Kingdom of Judah (Second Chronicles 26), and King Jeroboam II (see Second Kings 13:13) reigned in the city of Samaria (modern-day Nablus, West Bank, Israel) over the northern Kingdom of Israel.

Romulus developed his calendar and founded Rome nearly 200 years after the Kingdom of Israel divided (931 BC) and over five hundred years after Israel left Egypt under the direction of Moses during the Exodus.

The oldest nation, Israel, had an accurate calendar.

Rome did not.

It's not always best to teach a dog new tricks.

Romulus and His Superstitious Calendar

When Romulus founded Rome, he instituted a calendar based on observations of the moon and a person's ability to keep track of months using fingers on both hands.

He called his calendar ab urbe condita (A.U.C.) - Latin for "from the founding of the city."

But unlike the Hebrew calendar, King Romulus devised an annual calendar of only 10 lunar months of thirty days and an additional four days interspersed throughout the year (304 annual days).  Some think Romulus wanted to pattern the year after the gestation of a human baby, but the Romulus' Calendar was two months short of an actual solar year, leading the Roman poet Ovid to proclaim:
"Romulus was better versed in swords than stars." 
Romulus was infatuated with the number X (ten). He repeatedly used that number in the establishment of Rome. He divided the Roman Senate, military, and polis (cities) into units of ten. Many believe Romulus divided things into ten because Roman numerals 1 through 10 are easily replicated on both hands using fingers and palms.


I
II
III
IV
V

XI
XII
XIII
IX
X


The Roman numeral V is represented by one palm held up with fingers outstretched, and the Roman numeral X represents both palms held up with fingers outstretched. 

The ancient Roman New Year began in the spring (March 1) when "new" things were formed. 

The first four months Romulus named after the Roman gods - Mars or Martius (March) for the Roman god of war; Aprilis (April), the ancient Italian form of Aphrodite, "goddess of the open womb or fertile fields." Maius (May), named after a local Italian goddess; and Juno (June) for the Latin "queen of gods." 

Romulus then curiously named the remaining six months of the Roman year after the Latin words for the numbers the months represented:

Quintilus (Latin for "five")
Sextilis (Latin for "six")
September (Latin for "seven")
October (Latin for "eight")
November (Latin for "nine") 
December (Latin for "ten")

Similar to the Hebrews, the pagan Romans used their priests to declare when a new month began.

But, unlike the Hebrews, the pagan Roman priests also announced three different important days of each month. First, the kalends day or the FIRST day of the month was announced when the priests observed a New Moon in the sky (Latin: kalend - "call attention to the moon").

Second, there was ides day. This was the middle portion of the month (March 15th - for example, the Ides of March). Ides represented the day that the month was half over (Latin: ide - "divide in half").

Finally, there was nones day. This was typically the seventh day of the month, the day when most ancient pagans consulted the great Oracles (see the Oracle of Delphi). 

All days of the Roman month were labeled in terms of their association with kalends (the 1st), nones (the 7th day), or ides (the 15th day) of the month. 

But because the actual solar year is 365 days and not 300 days (Romulus), by the time Romulus died, all the seasons were out of whack! 

So the next King of Rome (King Numa) added two additional months (Januarius and Februarius).

But even 12 months of 30 days fell short of a true solar year, so a future Roman King asked the priests of Zeus stationed Rome to insert an extra month periodically and inform the people of their decision.

Guess what?

The priests figured out the calendar could be a very powerful political tool that governed the people.

The priests kept the calendar a secret from the people, giving the priests a tremendous advantage of the "plebes" common people of Rome. For example, if the people they favored in politics served as consul, they added a month to extend the time (even though an additional month was not required). If they didn't like someone in an office, they would shorten the months through their proclamations to make sure their opponent served less time. 

By the time of the last consul of the Roman Republic, Julius Caesar (b. 100 BC - d. 44 BC), time was so messed up by the Roman priests to the gods, that in the year 46 BC Julius Caesar, with the help of his lover Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, and a famous Egyptian astronomer, "corrected” Rome's calendar to reflect the earth's orbit around the sun (solar calendar), not the moon's orbit around the earth (lunar calendar).

That year, 46 BC, is called "The Longest Year." It lasted 445 days, not 365. For some, that long year was a boon; for others, it was a bust. For all, it was a year of confusion (

Julian was so angry with the manipulation of Rome's calendar by the priests of the gods in Rome, that he endured the withering criticism of changing the calendar by such drastic measures.

Julius Caesar moved the first of the year to January 1, 46 BC from March 1.

That meant the 12 months of the Julian calendar (December) carried the Latin name for 10 (because it was formerly the 10th month). Likewise, November (Latin for 9), October (Latin for the number 8) and September (Latin for the number 7) are all in positions on the calendar that do not reflect their name. November is actually the 11th month of the year, October is the 10th month, and September is the 9th month). It was just two difficult to change the names of the months!

Except, after Julius Caesar's death, who famously died at the hands of conspirators on the Ides of Month (March 15, the middle of the month, 44 BC) the Roman Senate voted to change the name of the month Quintilus to JULY in honor of Julius.

After Julius adopted son Gaius Octavia Caesar became Rome's first emperor on January 16, 27 BC, who decreed that everyone in the Roman Empire should be taxed, an event that brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem to register for the Roman tax when Jesus was born (Luke 2:1).

After Caesar "Augustus" died in AD 14, the Roman Senate sought to honor him by renaming the month Sexitilus, the month which came now after the renamed month JULY, in honor of Caesar Augusts - thus the month "August."

However, the Julian Calendar had alternating months of 30 and 31 days. That meant Augustus' month was "shorter" than Julian's month, something supporters of Augustus could not bear. So the Roman Senate voted to take a day from February and add it to August. Both Julian's month and Augustus' month now have 31 days.

Why all the manipulation of time?

Politics.

I find it ironic that the name of the High Priest to Zeus who kept the people in the dark about time in ancient Rome was called Pontifex Maximus. The college of priests who ministered in the Temple of Zeus assisted the Supreme Pontiff by "eyeballing the moon" and manipulating time to their political or religious advantage.

When Constantine declared the Roman Empire "Christian" in 314 AD, the Pontifex Maximus and the College of Priests to Zeus didn't just go away.

The Pontifex Maximus became the Pope, and the College of Priests became the College of Cardinals, and many of the pagan customs of ancient Rome were Christianized.

Constantine gathered the Pontifex Maximus, the College of Priests, and local "bishops" in a city called Nicea in the year AD 325 to debate certain Christian "doctrines."

One of the things debated by the new Roman Catholic Church at Nicea was whether or not to "fix" the "date" for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Jesus rose from the grave on the "morrow after the Sabbath (Saturday) during the weeklong lunar festival called Passover (or also known as the week of Unleavened Bread).

That means every year, if Christians wished to be biblically precise, the resurrection of Jesus Christ would be celebrated the SAME WEEK that Jews celebrate Passover. On the Sunday of Passover, Christians would explain how Jesus fulfilled the Hebrew Law, rising from the dead on the day of the Feast of Firstfruits (always the first day of the week after the regular Sabbath during Passover). Jesus fulfilled the Law, guaranteeing the resurrection of His people (the "full harvest") to life eternal (see I Corinthians 15)

But guess what?

The Romans in AD 325 still held a grudge against the Jews.

So the Romans refused to let the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ "float" throughout the lunar year in accord with the Hebrew calendar and determined to "set a fixed date" on the resurrection in association with the solar equinox.

Thus, we have Easter.

By the way, Easter is a blend of the celebration of the Roman god Ishtar and the Christian God Jesus.

The Romans loved to mix their calendar, their politics, and their religion with their ancient pagan customs and rituals.

What I find ironic is that it just so happens this solar year (2019) that the lunar observance of the Hebrew Passover falls on Friday (April 19). That means the official "Roman" declaration of Easter just so happens to match the biblical account of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Every now and then a blind squirrel can find a nut.

On April 21, 2019, just remember to keep it simple.
"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,  and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep" (I Corinthians 15:3-8). 
He is risen indeed!

America's Future Is Best Seen in History's Mirror

At some point in the not-too-near future, America as we know it will collapse.

The loss of liberties has been gradual for over a century, but near the end of this Republic we call the United States, individual liberties shall disappear under the shadow of Caesarism.

Caesarism is by definition "a form of government in which the ruler is an absolute dictator not restricted by a constitution or laws or opposition etc."

In 1957, historian and Americanist Amaury de Riencourt predicted America's eventual downfall as a Republic in his classic work The Coming Caesars. To read Riencourt's sixty-year-old book is like reading today's newspaper.

My friend Tim Price has written a new forward to Riencourt's magnum opus, reformatted the original text, and has issued a new edition of The Coming Caesars.

Every follower of Jesus who identifies as a political conservative in the United States, and for that matter, every follower of Jesus who identifies as a political liberal in the United States should read The Coming Caesars.

Riencourt rightly believed America's Founders modeled the new Republic (America) after Rome's Republic (est. 509 BC). He traced Roman republicanism and Grecian democracy to their respective ends, arguing that any government modeled after Rome or Greece is destined to end in Caesarism.

The major premise of Riencourt's 1957 work is found on page 5.
"Expanding democracy leads unintentionally to imperialism and that imperialism inevitably ends in destroying the republican institutions of earlier days; further, the greater the social equality, the dimmer the prospects of liberty, and that as society becomes more equalitarian, it tends increasingly to concentrate absolute power in the hands of one single man. Caesarism is not a dictatorship, not the result of one man's overriding ambition, not a brutal seizure of power through revolution. It is not based on a specific doctrine or philosophy. It is essentially pragmatic and untheoretical. It is a slow, often century-old, unconscious development that ends in a voluntary surrender of a free people escaping from freedom to one autocratic master."
The Coming Caesars does not promote party politics, be it Republican or Democratic, but successfully indicts Americans in both parties for allowing the power and prestige of the Presidency to rival that of a Roman Caesar. Riencourt writes
"Those who doubt that today an American President might be elected for life should remember that no constitutional amendment, such as was voted after World War II, can stand in the way of public opinion if it truly wishes to elect a Caesar for life." 
Reiecourt traces the rise of Caesarism in Rome and parallels it with the increasing willingness of Americans to follow one man in a national emergency, whether it be economic, military, or social. Riencourt argues that this willingness of the American people to give up individual liberties guaranteed by the Constitution is not political or ideological; it is psychological.

It is easier to "personalize" problems and follow a powerful Caesar-like leader than it is to trust increasingly irrelevant legislative assemblies.

This, Riencourt argues, is historical fact and not political theory.

That's why the future of America is seen in history's mirror. The government of Rome collapsed in 476 AD. They'd moved from a republic to a dictatorship (Julius Caesar), then to Caesarism, and finally to ultimate annihilation as a country. The democracy of Greece followed a similar path to their destruction.

America's collapse as a country of liberty is coming as well. It's a matter of history.

I first wrote about Riencourt's work when a political liberal served as President during 2008-2016. Political conservatives affirmed what I wrote then and political liberals were silent.

I now write (again) about coming Caesarism in America, this time with a political conservative serving as President. More than likely, political liberals will affirm what I write now and political conservatives will remain silent.

That's the proof that Caesarism is already at play in the new Rome (America).

The Republic's demise is coming.

This is why followers of Jesus should understand that our ultimate citizenship "is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20) and not in the United States of America. This is why followers of Jesus should never place allegiance to a politician above reverence to the Creator of all things.  For that matter, any Christian who links a political philosophy or party leader to a representation of Jesus and His commandments is being short-sighted.

"My Kingdom is not of this world," Jesus said. You can fight for creature comforts in this world, but it's a minor battle in the grand scheme when compared to the Creator's comforts in the world to come.

May your nationalism, patriotism, and politicism for America and her President never outrank your dynamism for the Lord Jesus Christ and His Kingdom.

Lake Nemi, Diana's Temple, and Corrupted Truth

Lake Nemi, Italy 
Nestled in a volcano crater 26 kilometers (16 miles) south of Rome is a beautiful and placid lake called Nemi. Surrounded by a forest of trees, Lake Nemi was known by the ancient Romans as Diana's Mirror. When the moon is full, the shimmering surface of Nemi reflects brightly and beautifully the full moon. Diana, according to the ancient Romans (8th century BC) was the goddess of the Moon, wild beasts, and of the woods.

The Romans believed Diana inhabited the forests around Nemi. They built the sacred Temple of Diana, called Diana Nemorensis, or Diana in Nemi's Woods, on the northern shore of Lake Nemi.

Ruins of that Temple at Lake Nemi can still be seen today, but few people make the trip to see it, and fewer still understand the significance of what they see.

Some of the most fascinating and colorful stories of ancient Rome occur in and around Lake Nemi. That's right, in Lake Nemi. Visiting Lake Nemi should be on your bucket list. If you ever travel to tour Rome, take a day trip to visit Lake Nemi, or better yet, stay at the city you see perched on the top of the hill in the above photo. That city, the modern city of Nemi, is only a quick train ride from Rome. Events that have occurred over the past three millennia around the lake and in the lake are stunning in scope.

Before I show you the importance of Lake Nemi, let me give you some context.

The Roman goddess Diana is the counterpart to the Greek goddess Artemis. I have written about Artemis and how much the Greeks believed in her powers. The Romans revered Diana as the Greeks revered Artemis. The two goddesses are often conflated.
The Roman goddess Diana

The Roman goddess Diana is the counterpart to the Greek goddess Artemis. I have written about Artemis and how much the Greeks believed in her powers. The Romans revered Diana as the Greeks revered Artemis. The two goddesses are often conflated.

If you know your ancient history, you're aware that the Republic of Rome eventually replaced the Grecian Empire as the ancient world's superpower. In 146 BC, Rome defeated the Greeks at the Battle of Corinth and made Greece a Roman province. After the death of the Roman Republic dictator Julius Caesar, Julius Caesar's nephew and adopted son Julius Caesar Octavianus (63 BC-AD 14) became the first officially recognized Emporer of Rome and received the title Augustus.

The Senate of Rome crowned Octavianus Caesar as Augustus (e.g, "Supreme Emperor") of Rome in 27 BC. That event marks the official beginning of the Roman Empire. Caesar Augustus reigned as the first Emperor of Rome until his death in AD 14. The name "Caesar" was Octavianus' adopted surname. Augustus was Caesar's title. Thus, Caesar (the) Augustus is the Roman emperor mentioned in Luke 2 at the birth of Jesus:
"In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of all the inhabited earth... Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the City of David, which is called Bethlehem in order to register along with Mary. While they were there in Bethlehem...she gave birth to her firstborn son, and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger." (Luke 2:1-7)
The reason Jesus grew up speaking Hebrew and Greek and not Hebrew and Latin is that the Roman world in which Jesus lived kept the culture of the Greek Empire (the language, the arts, the religion, etc.). Keeping Greek customs in a Roman-ruled world is called Hellenization. It's no wonder that the Roman goddess Diana and the Greek goddess Artemis are often conflated.

However, the worship of the Roman goddess Diana and the worship of the Greek goddess Artemis had origins that extend to a much earlier time than the days of Jesus and the Apostle Paul.


The Temple of Artemis in Ephesus
For example, The Temple of Artemis (the Greek goddess) was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, It was built in the ancient city of Ephesus (now a city in modern Turkey) in 550 BC by the wealthy King Croesus of Lydia. Croesus was a friend to the Greeks and a worshipper of the Greek god Apollo.

 King Croesus once traveled to Delphi, Greece (just north of Athens) to inquire of the Pythian Oracle at Apollo's Temple. In appreciation for Apollo, King Croesus desired to build a monument to Apollo's twin sister, the goddess Artemis. 

So Croesus built the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus. The famous stories surrounding the ancient Temple of Artemis at Ephesus are abundant. Any understanding of the biblical book of Ephesians requires some grasp of the culture of that city since Paul wrote to encourage followers of Jesu who lived among a people dominated by Artemis worship.

Aventine Hill in Rome today (site of ancient Temple of Diana)
When the Romans heard in the late 6th century that a new Temple had been built to the Greek goddess of the Moon, hunt, and woods (Artemis), they decided they would build a Temple of Diana in Rome. 

So King Servius Tullius of Rome (575-535 BC) ordered that this new Temple of Diana be built on Aventine HillServius also built a wall around the Temple bringing it within the boundaries of the city of Rome. The Romans could never let the Greeks get the upper hand.

This 6th century BC Roman Temple of Diana stood until the barbarians destroyed the city in the 4th century AD and subsequent Roman Christian emperors tore down the pagan temples. Today, if you visit Rome,  there is a short street named the Via del Tempio di Diana which commemorates the site of the ancient Temple of Diana. Part of the Temple's original wall is located within one of the halls of the Apuleius Restaurant (it's worth a lunch visit).

But here is the key point you need to remember:
Before the Temple of Artemis was built by King Croesus in Ephesus (550 BC) and before the Temple of Diana was built by King Servius on Aventine Hill in Rome (est. 545 BC), there existed a Temple of Diana in the sacred grove of trees on the northern shore of Lake Nemi. It was called Diana Nemorensis.
Diana Nemorensis, which means, "Diana in the Woods of Nemi" was a small, secluded, and sacred shrine. It predates the Temples the Romans built, evidenced by the fact "Diana in the Woods of Nemi" refers to a sacred grove of trees. Ancient worship of the gods took place in forests and groves, called a Lucus in Latin.

When in Rome, do as the Romans. Go to Lake Nemi, or otherwise known as Lucus Nemi.

The History of Lake Nemi and Diana Nemorensis

Aeneas Discovering the Sacred Bough
For over eight centuries, from the founding of Rome (753 BC) to the days of Empeoror Caligula, bizarre rituals occurred on the northern shore of Lake Nemi. Romans would make their way to the sacred grove to appeal to Dianna for conquests in combat, harvests in the hunt, and fertility in the fields.

The Roman poet Virgil (b. 70 BC) writes about Aeneas discovering the golden bough in the lucus of Nemi. Aeneas breaks off the golden branch from the sacred tree, giving to him access to, and power over, the underworld (Hades). In a merging of Roman mythology and history, Aeneas' discovery of the sacred tree is the reason for Diana Nemorensis being deemed a sacred place of worship shortly after the founding of Rome (753 BC). 

When King Servius built the Temple of Diana in the city of Rome (est. 545), Romans had already been worshiping Diana in the forests around Lake Nemi for nearly 200 hundred years.

The rituals the Romans performed at Lake Nemi involved fertility rites in the woods, requesting fertility in their fields, animal sacrifices to Diana from hunters who seeking blessings on their hunts, and a host of other religious rituals for the purpose of invoking blessings on the people of Rome.

But of all the rituals involved with worship at the Temple Diana Nemorensis, the most famous of them all involved the King of the Woods (Rex Nemorensis).


A statue of Diana over Lake Nemi today
The King of the Woods served as the High Priest of the Temple of Diana. He was the only male among many females associated with Diana worship at Diana Nemorensis.

In the center of the grove of trees on the northern shore of Lake Nemi stood that large, sacred tree that contained the golden branches to the underworld. It was absolutely forbidden for anyone to break off a branch or bough (pronounced bow) of the tree. For once a branch was broken, he who broke it had declared his intention to fight the King of the Woods to death to become the next King of the Woods and the next High Priest of Temple Diana Nemorensis.

Some men wanted that job because of the fertility rituals which they involved themselves in with the priestesses of Diana's Temple and the power it gave them over the underworld.

The King of the Woods (Rex Nemorensis) was mystically married to the goddess Diana. The rituals he partook in at Temple Nemorensis with the priestesses of Diana were sexual, symbolic, and sacred. The King had the power to restrain the underworld and invoke the blessings of the gods.

But the King never died of old age. He would die a violent death, to only be resurrected to new life in the form of another deified King (the one who defeated the previous King) and continue the sacred rites in Diana's Temple.  

19th-century painting of Lake Nemi
The violent death ritual of the King on the northern shore of Lake Nemi is mentioned in ancient literature by Strabo (b. 63 BC), where Strabo calls it "sacred to antique religion."  Strabo adds that the King of the Woods  "holds his reign by strong hands and fleet feet, and dies according to the example he set himself" (Strabo, Geographia V, 3, 12).

It was said by the ancient Romans that worshipers of Diana entering the sacred grove at Nemi would often see the King of the Woods, sword drawn, protecting the boughs of the sacred tree from any interlopers. The King, having himself once crossed the sacred line and broken the golden bough,  was constantly vigilant for the one who would come to break the branch and seek to slay him. Legend says the King of the Woods of Nemi often appeared wild-eyed, frantic, and restless, knowing that by death he entered his position as King, and by death, he would exit it.

The King of the Woods ritual was put to verse by British historian Thomas Macaulay.

The ghastly priest doth reign
The priest who slew the slayer,
And shall himself be slain.

One of Caligula's pleasure boats on Lake Nemi
Even during the time of the Roman Emperor Caligula (12 AD - 41 AD), the ritual slaying of the King of the Woods in the Sacred Grove at Nemi was in effect. Caligula himself sent a slave into the woods to "break the bough" and fight the High Priest of Diana, a battle which Caligula's slave won.

Caligula, a devout worshipper of Diana and her rites of fertility, built two huge massive and luxurious "pleasure barges" for himself on Lake Nemi. They were palaces of sexual rituals with women, even the wives of his soldiers and Rome's politicians. Lake Nemi held a special fondness in the most profane emperor in the history of Rome.

Caligula's barges on Nemi were deliberately sunk after his assassination in 44 BC. For centuries there were rumors of huge structures at the bottom of Lake Nemi. Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, fashioned himself a new Emporer of Rome. Mussolini drained Lake Nemi and had Caligula's barges brought to the surface and the ancient artifacts cleaned and displayed in a museum. During World War II, the museum at Nemi was destroyed, but one of the mosaics that decorated of Caligula's Pleasure Boats eventuallwound up serving as a coffee table in New York City.

When you go to the new and rebuilt Italian museum on the north shore of Lake Nemi, you can read about the history surrounding the lake.


Mussolini and Italian soldiers surveying Caligula's barges in the Museum on Lake Nemi, pre-World War II

The Golden Bough

In the 1890s, half a century before Mussolini found and dug up Caligula's barges at Lake Nemi, Sir James George Frazer, a British anthropologist, wrote his seminal work The Golden Bough: A Study in Comparative Religions.

Sir Frazer based the thesis of his book on the rituals that occurred on the northern shore of Lake Nemi at Diana Nemorensis. Sir Frazer traces the common elements of the worlds religions, including fertility rites, human sacrifice, the dying god, the scapegoat, and many other symbols and practices whose influences have extended to modern day to Lake Nemi. Frazer's thesis is that ancient religions were basic fertility cults that revolved around the worship and periodic sacrifice of a sacred king (the King of the Woods at the Temple of Diana). Frazer believes that mankind evolves from rudimentary animism or belief in magic, to a belief in personified deities of religion, and finally to modern scientific thought.

In other words, to Sir Frazer, the rituals of the Temple of Diana at Lake Nemi are a glimpse into the evolution of man by examining an ancient ritual that endured even into the classical age of western civilization. The barbaric King of the Woods ritual at Lake Nemi and other ancient sacred rituals continued at Lake Nemi long into civilized times (the Roman Empire) because Lake Nemi was especially secluded and especially sacred. The Temple of Diana at Nemi, for the sake of illustration, would be like your great-grandmother's China. Don't touch it. Be careful with it. Don't give it away.

The Romans treated Lake Nemi in the same manner. It was a sacred place for them.

At Lake Nemi, according to Sir Frazer, we see the basis for belief in dying and reviving god (eg., King of the Woods), a solar deity who undergoes a mystic marriage to a goddess of the Earth (the King was married to Diana, queen of the earth's harvest, and the Moon of the skies).  Frazer claims that this legend of rebirth is central to almost all of the world's mythologies.

The Golden Bough scandalized the British public when first published, as it included the Christian story of Jesus and the Resurrection in its comparative study. Christians were furious that the Lamb of God was treated by Frazer as a relic of pagan religion. Frazer called Christianity "merely a perpetuation of primitive myth-ritualism," and he wrote that the New Testament Gospels were "just further myths of the death and resurrection of the king who embodies the god of vegetation." Due to the enormous backlash, Frazer excluded his discussion of Christianity in subsequent volumes.

Sir Frazer and Sir Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton (Kneller Portrait, 1689)
People who study comparative religions all believe that religions around the world share common teachings and beliefs. For example, flood stories are found throughout the world, among all cultures and religions. Death and resurrection, afterlife, and the sacredness of fertility in field and homes are also common themes. 

Either this world is evolving from pagan beliefs in animism, magic, and religion to scientific thought, or as the great Sir Isaac Newton believed, this world is devolving in intellect and moving from true religion to a corruption of the Divine truth.

I take Newton's position.

Many years ago I read Sir Isaac Newton's The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended, and I became convinced that the history of the world's religions is best understood by seeing every religion, both ancient and modern, as a corruption of Divine Revelation. Newton is even clearer in his superb work The Original of Religions, where he shows that a loving Creator gave true religion to His creation in the form of Divine revelation, and all other religions are a corruption of the Divine through a fall into idolatry.

In other words, Greece and Rome corrupted the Divine revelation of God and began to worship the creation. 

Lake Nemi and Revealed Truth


A sacred tree.
A sword to protect it.

The Grove of Nemi
The Garden of Eden.

The Regent (Rex) of the earth (mankind)
Mankind fails and falls into death.

The Death of Rex
The Death of Adam

Through thorns and thistles, the earth gives fruit.
Through mankind's corruption, idolatry flourishes.

The History of Rome
The History of Mankind.

By blood, a new Kingdom shall rise.
By sacrifice, a new way is made

The Temple of Diana and Blood Sacrifice
The Love of God in the Gift of His Son
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever trusts in Him should not perish, but have life everlasting" (John 3:16). 
I could go on and on, but my point is that you must either believe mankind is evolving from pagan beliefs or that mankind is devolving from Divine Revelation into pagan beliefs.

I, like Isaac Newton, hold to the latter belief. And I look forward to seeing Lake Nemi where the former found its birth. 

Until then, I am quite comfortable with the belief that the ancient Greeks and Romans fell into the practice of idolatry because their forefathers had corrupted the Truth of the one true God which was passed down to the nations through the children of Noah. The nations, including Greece and Rome,  eventually fell into the practice of worshiping the creation rather than the Creator.


The Ruins of Diana Nemorenis on the northern shores of Lake Nemi today