Tag Archives: Did You Know?

The Non-Hebrew Writer of the Old Testament

Did You Know?

If you ask people—even Christians who read their Bible every day—to identify the biblical writers, they would probably all agree that the Bible (at least the Old Testament) was written by Israelites (which, today, is used synonymously with the word “Jew”).  Most Bible scholars will point out that Luke was probably a Gentile, but the near-unanimous opinion of all is that the Old Testament was written exclusively by Israelites.

Not so fast.

While that’s true for the most part, there is one chapter that wasn’t written by an Israelite at all.  And it is an inspired message from God.

To make it even more interesting, in many ancient copies of the book, this chapter is not written in Hebrew, but in the Chaldee language—the language of Babylon.

The author? King Nebuchadnezzar.  The chapter? Daniel chapter 4.

So, if someone ever asks you about the writers of the Bible, don’t forget to add that formerly heathen king who learned his lesson by being sent out to pasture (literally) by God.

Did you know?

-Bradley S. Cobb

Faith Comes by What?!?

Did You Know?

When Paul works his way backwards from salvation to God in Romans 10, he says those “who call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (verse 13).  He then asks rhetorical questions, “How can they call on Him in Whom they have not believed?  How can they believe in Him of Whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they be sent?” (verses 14-15).  He points out that preaching alone didn’t save people, then quotes Isaiah, saying “Who has believed our report?” (verse 16).  That word “report” is important to remember.

We all know the next verse: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

But did you know that this isn’t actually what the verse is supposed to say?  The word “report” in verse 16 is a noun.  It is a message, something delivered to people.  The word “hearing” in verse 17—in the original—is the EXACT SAME WORD.  That’s right, it is supposed to be a noun, not a verb.  Not only that, but there’s another word in the Greek that isn’t in most English translations—the word that means “the.”  Literally, this verse reads:

“So then the faith comes by (our) report, and (our) report (comes) from the declaration of God.”

Romans 10:17, instead of being designed to show a step in the plan of salvation, is stressing the origin of the message that saves: the faith (see Jude 3) comes from the message we preach, and that message comes from God.

(Note: the Modern Literal Version, and Young’s Literal Translation both make this point clear in their translations)

-Bradley S. Cobb

Peter’s “Love” Problem

Did You Know?

After Peter denied Jesus three times, he ran away and wept bitterly.  However, after Jesus’ resurrection Peter proclaimed his “love” for Jesus three times—and then got sad!  Why is that?  The Greek helps us to understand this conundrum much better.

When Jesus and Peter are walking together, in the last chapter of John, Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me more than these?”  Jesus uses the word agape, which is a sacrificial love, a willing love, a higher love.  Peter answers back, “Lord, you know I love you.”  The problem is that Peter doesn’t use the same word that Jesus does.  Peter uses the word phileo (where we get “Phil-adelphia), which means like, or friendship, or warm affection.  In essence, Jesus says, “Peter do you love me,” and Peter’s response is, “Lord, you know I’m your friend.”

Jesus again asks the same question, using the same word as before, and Peter’s response is the same—still not willing to use the word agape to express his level of commitment to Jesus.

But the third time’s the charm, so to speak.  The third time Jesus asks the question, He says, “Do you like [phileo] me?”  Jesus uses Peter’s own word, and asks if Peter’s commitment is even that strong.  And the inspired Scripture tells us, “Peter was sorrowful, because [Jesus] said the third time, ‘Do you phileo me?’” (John 21:17).  Twice Jesus asks “Do you love me?” and the final time, He basically asks Peter, “Are you really even my friend?”  No wonder Peter was sad.

-Bradley S. Cobb

Poor vs. REALLY Poor

Did You Know?

We all remember the time when Jesus stood with His disciples, watching people come and go, and putting money into the collection box for the temple.  Then along came this poor widow, who put in two mites—a very small sum.  The Bible even calls her a poor widow (Luke 21:2).  But just how poor was she?

Luke calls her poor, the original word meaning “needy.”  She didn’t have enough to make ends meet, and was in need of assistance.  That was before she gave her two mites (which equate to 1/64th of a day’s wages—in other words, less than two dollars in today’s money).  But after she gave that money to the Lord, Jesus uses a different word for poor (Luke 21:3).  The word Jesus used means “reduced to begging,” or “completely destitute.”

In other words, when she came to the temple, she was poor.  When she left, she was really poor—completely destitute and broke.  And Luke makes that distinction for us.  Did you know?

-Bradley S. Cobb

The Evil Jonathan and His Righteous Ancestor

Did You Know?

Most of us are at least somewhat familiar with Jonathan, the son of Saul, who was the bosom friend of David.  Jonathan comes across in the biblical narrative as a true friend, selfless, loyal, devoted to God and to righteousness.  However, there is another man named Jonathan in the Bible—one who is nothing like the friend of David.

In Judges 17-18, a man named Micah (not the prophet) had built an idol, and acquired the services of a Levite to serve as his personal priest (even though this Levite was not a descendant of Aaron).  This Levite claimed to speak to Micah on behalf of God, and in worship, apparently used an idol that Micah had built.  The Levite was treated very well for his services.

Later on, some men from the tribe of Dan came and stole the idol, and convinced the priest that it would be far better for him if he was priest of an entire tribe instead of just Micah’s house.  So, this false priest gladly went after the power and possessions that came with this new opportunity.  The problem is, he was violating God’s law by presuming to act as priest when he wasn’t of the right lineage, and condemning himself by being associated with idol worship.

This Levite’s name was Jonathan.  And though his actions were sinful and self-serving, it gets worse.  Judges 18:30 says “the children of Dan set up for themselves the graven image: and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Moses, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land” (ASV, ESV, NIV, etc.).  This Levite who completely disregarded the law of God was the grandson of the most famous Israelite in history—Moses.

Did you know?

-Bradley S. Cobb

Job Prefigures Revelation?

Did You Know?

It’s well-known that the book of Revelation makes frequent reference to the Old Testament, especially prophetic themes and phrases.  But did you know that it actually makes a thematic reference to the book of Job?

In Job 40-41, God speaks to Job from the whirlwind (a whirlwind is loud enough, but can you imagine a voice speaking to you even louder than the whirlwind?!?).  God explains to Job that He is in charge, and can control things that humans can’t hope to.  As an example, God directs Job’s attention to two well-known creatures: the Behemoth and the Leviathan.  So, in essence, God tells His servant, “These two creatures you can’t control, I can.”

How does this fit in with the book of Revelation?  Simply this:  In the Greek translation of the Old Testament (known as the Septuagint, or abbreviated as LXX), which was the main Bible of the first century, the word “Behemoth” was the Greek word Therion; the word “Leviathan” was the Greek word Drakon.

In Revelation 12-13, we are introduced to two creatures that were causing great difficulty for the Christians: the Beast (as in “mark of the beast”) and the Dragon.  You’ve probably figured out the connection by now, but I’ll say it anyway: the word “Beast” in Revelation is Therion (just like “Behemoth”); the word “Dragon” is Drakon. In the book of Revelation, it’s made pretty clear that the servants of God had no hope of overcoming these creatures—but God tells them, in essence, “These two creatures you can’t control, I can.”

Thus, the book of Job is part of the background to understanding the book of Revelation.  Did you know?

-Bradley S. Cobb

The OTHER “Wee Little Man”

Did You Know?

Sometimes when reading the New Testament, you can get confused about who is being spoken of because of several people having the same name.  For example, two of Jesus’ disciples were named “Judas.”  In order to differentiate them, John called the non-betrayer “Judas…not Iscariot” (John 14:22).  There were two apostles named “Simon,” both of whom were called by surnames—Simon Peter, and Simon the zealot.

The fact that there are three prominent followers of Jesus named “James” necessitated that there be some kind of identifying marker given to distinguish them.  One was called “James, the son of Alphaeus,” one was “James…the son of Zebedee,” and of course there is James, the brother of Jesus.  But he is called “James the less” in Mark 15:40.  (Note: some scholars believe it is speaking of James, the son of Alphaeus, but I believe the evidence better supports the brother of Jesus.  More on that Wednesday, though.)

The word “less” in that verse is the exact same word used to describe Zacchaeus in Luke 19:3—little in stature.

So Mark describes the brother of Jesus as “Little James” or “Short James.” (poor guy)

Did you know?

-Bradley S. Cobb

Lose a Tooth, Gain Your Freedom?!?

Did You Know?

In the Old Testament, God permitted the Israelites to purchase people as slaves (how and why this was done is a topic too large for this short article).  In the New Testament, God permitted slave-owners to retain their slaves.  However, God did give rules for how the master was supposed to treat his slave.  In the New Testament, masters were told to remember that they too had a Master in heaven (thus they were slaves to Jesus), and to treat their slaves accordingly (Colossians 4).

In the Old Testament, God gave instructions regarding the treatment of slaves, some of which are quite interesting.  If the slave was an Israelite, he had to be released—along with his family—at the year of Jubilee.  But did you know that in the Law of Moses, God states that if a master hit his slave, and caused that slave to lose his/her tooth, he had to release them from their slavery?  Exodus 21:27 says so.

I don’t know about you, but if I was a slave to a cruel master, that might not be a bad tradeoff!

-Bradley S. Cobb

The Murder Plot That’s Usually Forgot

(NOTE: I have been asked to write short articles for the church bulletin at our new work.  Each one is a “Did You Know?” article, focusing on little-known facts in the Bible.  We will be posting those here each week–starting today–for your enjoyment.  Also, we are still in the process of house-hunting, and helping to improve the property at Jesse’s parents, which has limited how much posting I’ve been able to do here.  Thanks for sticking with us!)

Did You Know?

He was quite famous, a celebrity in Israel. The people flocked to see him, and because of him, many people believed. But the chief priests wanted him dead. Surely you know who we’re talking about, right?  Well, let me give you one last clue: a week before the cross, even Jesus came to see him!

The man is Lazarus.

In John 12:9-11, the Bible says that the Jews came not only to see Jesus, but to see Lazarus.  His resurrection from the dead was so impressive to them that many of them believed in Jesus as a result of seeing and talking to Lazarus.  Here was undeniable proof of the power of Jesus, and confirmation that He was sent by God with a mission—He could be the Messiah!

This was unacceptable to the chief priests, whose rejection of Jesus had already caused them to contemplate murdering Him (John 11:47-53).  But now they had Lazarus in their sights, ready and willing to put him to death as well.  Their mood certainly didn’t improve when the next day, Jesus enters the city and people spread the word about Lazarus’ resurrection from the dead at Jesus’ hand (John 12:16-17).

The murder plot to kill Lazarus is often lost among the many details of Jesus’ final week, but happen it did!  Did you know?

-Bradley S. Cobb