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The Language of Prayer

December 26, 2017 Leave a comment

I have discovered through my web browsing sessions on the internet that Muslims pray in Arabic and many non-Arab Muslims do not even know what they are praying. This seems very similar to what has been going on with Roman Catholics in the past. They go to a Latin Mass and unless they have studied and learned to understand Latin, they really do not know what is being said during the service. (A lot of Masses nowadays are in the language spoken by the people and not Latin.) I have attended Divine Liturgy in a Greek Orthodox church before and heard half of the Liturgy in Greek and the rest in English. There needs to be some common sense here. I will talk about that now.

In the Koran, it says:

O men, you are the ones that have need of God; He is the All-sufficient, the All-laudable. (Koran 35:15, Arberry)

God is All-sufficient. He does not need us. He does not need our prayers. God already knows what we need before we ask Him. Jesus said:

Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. (Matthew 6:8, NKJV)

Prayer is really for our own spiritual benefit, not for God.

St. Paul said:

So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air… For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding. (I Corinthians 14:9,14,15, NKJV)

If the religious leaders who are responsible for shepherding me require me to pray in a language that I do not understand, they are having me do something that is not spiritually beneficial to me. If I pray in Latin and do not understand Latin, I am uttering words into the air and “my understanding is unfruitful.” Whenever one prays liturgically, one must unite his heart to his mouth. This is a spiritual discipline. I cannot do that if I pray in a language that I do not understand. Therefore, “I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding.”

King David prayed in Hebrew. Jesus and His disciples prayed in Aramaic. First century Christians converted from among the Gentiles prayed in Greek and Latin. Muhammad prayed in Arabic and not Greek because he understood Arabic. He accepted the teachings from the New Testament that I have just cited. (Koran 29:46) To my Muslim readers I say, if you believe that it is all right to pray without understanding what you have prayed, then you are disobeying the Koran. (Koran 4:136,137)

So, pray in a language that you understand. That is better for you.

God desires ease for you, and desires not hardship for you. (Koran 2:185, Arberry)

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Why Pray?

December 24, 2017 Leave a comment

God does not need us, but we need Him. God created us to be loved by Him. He created us for Himself. He created us to glorify Him. Prayer is one of the activities that we need to engage in. Prayer, however, is for our own spiritual benefit and not for God who needs nothing at all from us. I am going to discourse on the reasons and purposes for prayer in this blog post.

In the Psalms, it says:

I will take no bullocks out of thine house, nor he-goats out of thy flocks. For all the wild beasts of the thicket are Mine, the cattle on the mountains, and oxen. I know all the birds of the sky; and the beauty of the field is Mine. If I should be hungry, I will not tell thee: for the world is Mine, and the fullness of it. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? (Psalm 49:9-13; Psalm 50:9-13, Hebrew)

Animal sacrifices were part of ancient Jewish worship. This passage from the Psalms in effect says that God does not need those sacrifices. God does not need worship from anyone. The Koran, in several places, says that God is All-Sufficient.

As for the unbeliever, God is All-sufficient nor needs any being. (Koran 3:97, Arberry)

Whosoever struggles, struggles only to his own gain; surely God is All-sufficient nor needs any being. (Koran 29:6, Arberry)

Indeed, We gave Lokman wisdom: ‘Give thanks to God. Whosoever gives thanks gives thanks only for his own soul’s good, and whosoever is ungrateful — surely God is All-sufficient, All-laudable.’ (Koran 31:12, Arberry)

To God belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth; surely God — He is the All-sufficient, the All-laudable. (Koran 31:26, Arberry)

O men, you are the ones that have need of God; He is the All-sufficient, the All-laudable. (Koran 35:15, Arberry)

God is the All-sufficient; you are the needy ones. (Koran 47:38, Arberry)

Although God does not need us, He still loves us. He created us to be loved by Him. He never created anything to be hated.

For Thou lovest all the things that are, and abhorrest nothing which Thou hast made: for never wouldest Thou have made any thing, if Thou hadst hated it. (Wisdom 11:24, KJV)

God created everything for Himself. (Colossians 1:16) God established everything for His glory. He created us to glorify Him.

The Lord hath not given power to the saints to declare all His marvellous works, which the Almighty Lord firmly settled, that whatsoever is might be established for His glory. (Sirach 42:17, KJV)

Even all who are called by My name: for I have prepared him for My glory, and I have formed him, and have made him. (Isaiah 43:7, LXX)

The chief goal for which we should strive in all of our actions is to glorify God.

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (I Corinthians 10:31, NKJV)

One of the purposes for prayer, therefore, is to glorify God.

In the 49th Psalm, it says:

The sacrifice of praise will glorify Me: and that is the way wherein I will shew to him the salvation of God. (Psalm 49:23, LXX; Psalm 50:23, Hebrew)

Sincere worship glorifies God. Jesus said:

By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. (John 15:8, NKJV. See also Philippians 1:11.)

Fruit, in the Bible, is offspring (Psalm 126:3, LXX; Psalm 127:3, Hebrew) and new converts (John 4:34-38).  Fruit is also the qualities that God produces in us as we continue to cooperate with Him in our salvation.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22,23, NKJV)

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Romans 8:14, NKJV)

Fruit is good works. (II Corinthians 9:10; Colossians 1:10) So, one of the purposes of prayer is to become people who glorify God by manifesting in our lives those qualities enumerated in Galatians 5:22,23. Another purpose of prayer is to obtain from God mercy to help those who do not know God or who go through life ignoring Him to come to Him in repentance. Of course, one should pray for one’s children to inherit the Kingdom of God on the Day of Judgment, that is, obtain a home in Jannah. Another reason to pray is to obtain assistance from God in doing good works.

New converts, godly children, and good works glorify God. So, does worship. In the Bible, worship is called fruit, too.

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. (Hebrews 13:15, NKJV)

As we go through life we are often tempted to do and say things that we should not do or say. One of the goals to be achieved in prayer is to obtain victory over temptation.

Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Matthew 26:41, NKJV)

The Koran says:

Recite that which hath been inspired in thee of the Scripture, and establish worship. Lo! worship preserveth from lewdness and iniquity, but verily remembrance of Allah is more important. And Allah knoweth what ye do. (Koran 29:45, Pickthall)

The Koran says the same thing that Jesus said but in different words.

St. Paul gives us another purpose for prayer in his First Epistle to Timothy.

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. (I Timothy 2:1,2, NKJV)

The lack of peace in a region of the world might caused by a lack of prayer by its inhabitants. The Koran says:

God will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. (Koran 13:11)

So, in order to obtain peace, we should pray for everyone. That is what St. Paul was saying.

Another reason to pray is to obtain mercy from God and help in time of need.

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16, NKJV)

St. James, Jesus’ stepbrother, said:

Yet you do not have because you do not ask. (James 4:2, NKJV)

People do not have what they need because they never ask God. God already knows what we need before we ask Him. Jesus said:

Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. (Matthew 6:8, NKJV)

So, although God already knows what we need, He still requires us to ask Him to meet our needs. Prayer is really for our own spiritual benefit.

The Koran says:

So be patient over what they say and exalt [Allah] with praise of your Lord before the rising of the sun and before its setting; and during periods of the night [exalt Him] and at the ends of the day, that you may be satisfied. (Koran 20:130, Sahih International)

We all have spiritual needs. Prayer is a means of meeting those spiritual needs. Jesus said:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. (Matthew 5:6, NKJV)

If you want to achieve a high level of sanctity, pray for righteousness. Pray that God will continually change you into that kind of person that He wants you to become. Finally, another reason for prayer is to remember God. King David said:

I remembered Thy name, O Lord, in the night, and kept Thy law. (Psalm 118:55, LXX; Psalm 119:55, Hebrew)

The Koran says:

Surely I am Allah, there is no god but I, therefore serve Me and keep up prayer for My remembrance. (Koran 20:14, Shakir)

Whenever we go through life ignoring our omnipresent Creator, that is not good. Praying at regular intervals helps us to remember God — the One for whom we were created.

To summarize, we were created for God to glorify Him and to be loved by Him. God does not need our prayers. He is All-Sufficient. He already knows what we need before we ask. If we do not have what we need, it is because we have not asked Him for it. He still requires us to ask. We need to pray so that we become the kind of people God wants us to be and manifest in our lives those qualities listed by St. Paul in Galatians 5:22,23. We need to pray for the conversion of those who do not walk with God in their daily lives. We need to pray so that we will live a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. We need to pray for the salvation of our children, relatives, and friends. We need to pray in order to obtain victory over temptations. We need to pray so that we remember God. We need to pray because the sacrifice of praise glorifies God. That is why we are here — to glorify Him.

 

Times for Prayer

December 17, 2017 Leave a comment

There exists some differences of opinion among those who have read and studied the Koran concerning set times for prayer. Some say that the Koran does not prescribe any set times for prayer at all. Others, like the Sunnis for instance, say the number of set times for prayer in the Koran are five. Others say that there are only three times appointed for prayer in the Islamic holy book. Some Koranists hold to that view. I think that the number of times appointed for prayer during a day are eight. I have an Orthodox Christian bias toward that number because that is the number of the offices for prayer in our Church. Actually, if one were to count one’s personal prayers along with those offices of prayers, the number would be eleven. I am going to present my view based on my understanding of the Koran and the Bible.

According to Orthodox Church tradition, the liturgical day begins at sunset and goes to the next sunset. The basis for initiating the liturgical day at sunset is found in the Bible in the Book of Genesis.

And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night, and there was evening and there was morning, the first day. (Genesis 1:5, LXX)

The evening is mentioned first and the morning is mentioned next indicating that the day begins at sunset and not at sunrise. The Koran, which of course confirms the Bible, teaches the same thing. In Surah 25, it says:

And He it is Who hath appointed night and day in succession, for him who desireth to remember, or desireth thankfulness. (Koran 25:62, Pickthall)

The night precedes the day. Sunset to sunset is the daily cycle, not sunrise to sunrise. In the 17th Surah, it says:

Perform the prayer at the sinking of the sun to the darkening of the night and the recital of dawn; surely the recital of dawn is witnessed. (Koran 17:78, Arberry)

I am aware that some interpret this verse to mean from the decline of the sun from its meridian, that is, from noon, to the darkening of the night and the recitation of the Koran at dawn. That is how the translators of the Sahih International version interpreted it.

Establish prayer at the decline of the sun [from its meridian] until the darkness of the night and [also] the Qur’an of dawn. Indeed, the recitation of dawn is ever witnessed. (Koran 17:78, Sahih International)

The 17th Surah and the 25th Surah are Meccan surahs. The 25th Surah chronologically preceded the 17th Surah. If Koran 17:78 were abrogating Koran 25:62 and teaching that the liturgical day begins at noon, it would not be similar to Koran 25:62 which teaches that the day goes from night to night, or rather from sunset to sunset. Abrogations are either better than or similar to the abrogated verses. (Koran 2:106) Also, if Koran 17:78 were teaching that the liturgical day begins at noon, then the Koran would no longer be confirming the Bible. (Koran 5:48) So, I disagree with Sahih International’s interpretation.

Muhammad accepted the Scriptures of Orthodox Christians. (Koran 29:46) He told His followers to believe them. (Koran 4:136) The Psalms are part of those Scriptures that Jews and Christians have accepted as divinely inspired revelations from God. In the 118th Psalm in the Septuagint (Psalm 119 in the Hebrew), it says:

Seven times in a day have I praised Thee because of the judgments of Thy righteousness. (Psalm 118:164, LXX; Psalm 119:164, Hebrew)

From this verse, the Orthodox Church has established the existence of seven of the eight canonical hours of the Church. According to tradition, an eighth hour was established during the times of the apostles. It was based on Christ’s commandment to watch and pray at night. (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 13:32-42; Luke 22:39-46) Christ prayed His high priestly prayer at this time. (John 17) This additional canonical hour is called the Midnight Office or Nocturnes.

The practice of having eight appointed times for prayer is supported by these verses in the Koran.

Allah desires to explain to you, and to guide you into the ways of those before you, and to turn to you (mercifully), and Allah is Knowing, Wise. (Koran 4:26, Shakir)

And verily We have sent down for you revelations that make plain, and the example of those who passed away before you. An admonition unto those who ward off (evil). (Koran 24:34, Pickthall)

The Koran does not teach that three of these offices of prayer have been discarded. It teaches just the opposite. By affirming the importance of believing in and accepting the Bible (Koran 4:136,137; 150-152; 29:46), it states by implication that there are eight offices of prayer and not merely three or five. The Jews had seven (Psalm 118:164, LXX) and the Christians had eight. God guided the first generation followers of Muhammad “into the ways of those before” them. (Koran 4:26)

The first hour of prayer is at sunset. It is called Vespers by Christians and Maghrib by the Muslims. The evening prayer is mentioned in the Psalms and in the Koran.

Evening, and morning, and at noon I will declare and make known my wants: and He shall hear my voice. (Psalm 54:17, LXX; Psalm 55:17, Hebrew)

Let my prayer be set forth before Thee as incense; the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice. (Psalm 140:2, LXX; Psalm 141:2, Hebrew)

And perform the prayer at the two ends of the day and nigh of the night; surely the good deeds will drive away the evil deeds. That is a remembrance unto the mindful. (Koran 11:114, Arberry)

Perform the prayer at the sinking of the sun to the darkening of the night and the recital of dawn; surely the recital of dawn is witnessed. (Koran 17:78, Arberry)

The two ends of the day  in Koran 11:114 are dusk and dawn. “Nigh of the night” refers to the Ninth Hour or Asr.

The next appointed time of prayer is at bedtime. Support for the existence of this office of prayer is found in the Psalms and in the Koran.

Be ye angry, and sin not; feel compunction upon your beds for what ye say in your hearts. Pause. (Psalm 4:4, LXX)

The saints shall rejoice in glory; and shall exult on their beds. The high praises of God shall be in their throat, and two-edged swords in their hands. (Psalm 149:5,6, LXX)

So be thou patient under what they say, and proclaim thy Lord’s praise before the rising of the sun, and before its setting, and proclaim thy Lord’s praise in the watches of the night, and at the ends of the day; haply thou wilt be well-pleasing. (Koran 20:130, Arberry)

O ye who believe! Let your slaves, and those of you who have not come to puberty, ask leave of you at three times (before they come into your presence): Before the prayer of dawn, and when ye lay aside your raiment for the heat of noon, and after the prayer of night. Three times of privacy for you. It is no sin for them or for you at other times, when some of you go round attendant upon others (if they come into your presence without leave). Thus Allah maketh clear the revelations for you. Allah is Knower, Wise. (Koran 24:58, Pickthall)

Koran 20:130 says to “proclaim” our Lord’s “praise in the watches of the night.” Since Compline is the bedtime prayer in the Psalms (Psalm 4:4; 149:5,6), one of the prayers prayed in the watches of the night is Compline. It is called Isha by the Muslims. “The prayer of the night” in Koran 24:58 is probably a reference to Compline or Isha.

In the 39th Surah, it says:

Is one who is devoutly obedient during periods of the night, prostrating and standing [in prayer], fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Lord, [like one who does not]? Say, “Are those who know equal to those who do not know?” Only they will remember [who are] people of understanding. (Koran 39:9, Sahih International)

Here, we see that the devoutly obedient pray during periods of the night. There are at least three periods since the word is plural and not dual in the Arabic. Vespers (Maghrib), Compline (Isha), and Nocturnes (Tahajjud) are the three periods of prayer in this verse. There is no fourth period of prayer because Muhammad received no new revelations and was not an innovator among the messengers. (Koran 41:43; 46:9)

In the 50th Surah, it says:

Therefor (O Muhammad) bear with what they say, and hymn the praise of thy Lord before the rising and before the setting of the sun. And in the night-time hymn His praise, and after the (prescribed) prostrations. (Koran 50:39,40, Pickthall)

“In the night-time hymn His praise,” says this verse. So, there is prayer at night-time — Isha or Compline. The words, “after the (prescribed) prostrations,” is a mistranslation. Literally, it says, “after the prostration.” The word translated “prostrations” in this verse is singular in the Arabic. Since Muhammad is a good example (Koran 33:21), glorifying God at night is something we should do, too. The commandment given to Muhammad also applies to those who seek to follow his example.

In the 76th Surah, it says:

And remember the Name of thy Lord at dawn and in the evening and part of the night; bow down before Him and magnify Him through the long night. (Koran 76:25,26, Arberry)

Remembering God “part of the night” is referring to Compline (Isha).

The Midnight Office, also called Nocturnes, is derived from Christ’s commandment to His disciples to watch and pray. (See Matthew 26:41; Mark 14:38; Luke 22:40.) This time of prayer is kept in remembrance of Christ who prayed in the middle of the night before being captured by the Jews. In the Koran, it says:

The patient, the true, the obedient, those who spend [in the way of Allah], and those who seek forgiveness before dawn. (Koran 3:17, Sahih International)

This verse is describing some of the characteristics of someone who will inhabit Paradise in the afterlife. (See Koran 3:15,16.) Since the first generation Muslims obeyed the messengers of God and Jesus is one of the messengers, they most likely prayed the “Our Father” during their prayers. (See Matthew 6:9-13; Koran 2:285; 4:171.)

Praying before dawn is one of the characteristics of someone who will inhabit Paradise. Nocturnes or Tahajjud occurs before dawn.

In the 17th Surah, it says:

And some part of the night awake for it, a largess for thee. It may be that thy Lord will raise thee to a praised estate. (Koran 17:79, Pickthall)

Praying in the middle of the night after “awaking for it” is another reference to Nocturnes or Tahajjud.

In Koran 20:130, it says to “proclaim thy Lord’s praise in the watches of the night.” The word translated “watches” in this verse is plural and not dual in the Arabic. Therefore, at least three watches are indicated here: Vespers (Maghrib), Compline (Isha), and Nocturnes (Tahajjud). Muhammad received no new revelations and was not an innovator among God’s messengers. (Koran 41:43; 46:9) Therefore, only three times of prayer are indicated here.

In the 25th Surah, the servants of God are described as those “who spend the night before their Lord, prostrate and standing.” (Koran 25:63,64)

In the 50th Surah, it says:

Therefor (O Muhammad) bear with what they say, and hymn the praise of thy Lord before the rising and before the setting of the sun. And in the night-time hymn His praise, and after the (prescribed) prostrations. (Koran 50:39,40, Pickthall)

Hymning the praise of God “before the rising of the sun” is a reference to Nocturnes (Tahajjud).

I have already mentioned Koran 39:9 as indicating the existence of three times of prayer at night: Vespers (Maghrib), Compline (Isha), and Nocturnes (Tahajjud). Further evidence for the existence of the Midnight Office in the Koran can be found in the 51st Surah.

And in the hours before dawn they would ask forgiveness. (Koran 51:18, Sahih International)

Also in the 52nd Surah, there is evidence for this practice.

And proclaim the praise of thy Lord in the night, and at the declining of the stars. (Koran 52:49, Arberry)

In the 73rd Surah, it says:

Lo! thy Lord knoweth how thou keepest vigil sometimes nearly two-thirds of the night, or (sometimes) half or a third thereof, as do a party of those with thee.

Later, in this same verse, it says:

And seek forgiveness of Allah. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (Koran 73:20, Pickthall)

The “Our Father” was most likely prayed in obedience to Jesus’ commandment in the Gospels. This was one of the prayers prayed during the Midnight Office (Tahajjud) by the first generation followers of Muhammad. Vigils are a practice of Orthodox Christians, too. Nocturnes and Matins are prayed together before the Divine Liturgy at Pascha.

In Koran 76:26 it says, “Bow down before Him and magnify Him through the long night.” (Arberry)

In the 118th Psalm of the Septuagint, it says:

At midnight I arose, to give thanks to Thee for the judgments of Thy righteousness. (Psalm 118:62, LXX; Psalm 119:62, Hebrew)

So then, one of the Old Testament Messengers of God, King David, prayed at midnight, too.

The practice of praying Matins (Fajr) is found in the Psalms. (Psalm 54:17, LXX; Psalm 55:17, Hebrew; Psalm 62:1, LXX; Psalm 63:1, Hebrew; Psalm 87:13, LXX; Psalm 88:13, Hebrew)

Evening, and morning, and at noon I will declare and make known my wants: and He shall hear my voice. (Psalm 54:17, LXX; Psalm 55:17, Hebrew)

O God, my God, I cry to Thee early; my soul has thirsted for Thee: how often has my flesh longed after Thee, in a barren and trackless and dry land! (Psalm 62:1, LXX; Psalm 63:1, Hebrew)

But I cried to Thee, O Lord; and in the morning shall my prayer prevent Thee. (Psalm 87:13, LXX; Psalm 88:13, Hebrew)

Psalms 62 and 87 of the Septuagint are two of the Psalms prayed during Matins by Orthodox Christians.

King David, who was one of God’s messengers, prayed in the morning. The Koran says that God guided the followers of Muhammad into the ways of those before them. (Koran 4:26) Therefore, first generation Muslims prayed the prayers of Matins (Fajr).

In Koran 11:114, it says “perform the prayer at the two ends of the day.” The two ends of the day are dusk and dawn. Matins is prayed at dawn. In Koran 20:130, it says to “proclaim thy Lord’s praise in the watches of the night, and at the ends of the day.” The word, translated “ends” is plural and not dual in number. Therefore, three ends or more are implied. The three ends are dawn, noon, and dusk. Notice the night prayers are mentioned before the day prayers. The liturgical day according to the Koran begins at sunset, not at dawn. In Koran 24:58, the prayer of dawn is mentioned — another reference to Fajr or Matins. In Koran 30, it says:

So glory be to Allah when ye enter the night and when ye enter the morning. (Koran 30:17, Pickthall)

Entering the night is referring to Vespers (Maghrib). Entering the morning is referring to Matins (Fajr).

In Koran 48, it says:

That ye (mankind) may believe in Allah and His messenger, and may honour Him, and may revere Him, and may glorify Him at early dawn and at the close of day. (Koran 48:9, Pickthall)

Glorifying God at early dawn is the office of Matins (Fajr). Glorifying Him at the close of the day is Vespers (Maghrib).

In the 52nd Surah, it says:

And proclaim the praise of thy Lord in the night, and at the declining of the stars. (Koran 52:49, Arberry)

Proclaiming God’s praise “at the declining of the stars” is a reference to Matins (Fajr).

In the 76th Surah, it says:

And remember the Name of thy Lord at dawn and in the evening. (Koran 76:25, Arberry)

Remembering the Name of God at dawn refers to praying Matins (Fajr). Remembering the Name of God in the evening refers to Vespers (Maghrib).

The First Hour of Prayer is in the Psalms.

In the morning Thou shalt hear my voice: in the morning will I wait upon Thee, and will look up. (Psalm 5:3, LXX)

This is a very short series of prayers which come immediately after Matins. Psalm 5 is one of the three Psalms prayed during the First Hour in the Orthodox Church. The other two are Psalms 89 and 100 of the Septuagint. (Psalms 90 and 101 in the Hebrew)

One of the seven appointed times of prayer kept by the Jews and also by Christians is the Third Hour. In the Book of Acts, one can see that Jesus’ apostles and disciples kept this time of prayer.

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey. And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers… When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place… For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. (Acts 1:12-14; 2:1,15, NKJV)

The first generation followers of Muhammad most probably kept this time of prayer, too. (Koran 4:26; 24:34)

The Sixth Hour (Dhuhr) is mentioned in Psalm 54:17 in the Septuagint. (Psalm 55:17, Hebrew) King David prayed at this time.

It was the practice of St. Peter to pray at this time, too.

The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. (Acts 10:9, NKJV)

In the Koran, it says:

Be guardians of your prayers, and of the midmost prayer, and stand up with devotion to Allah. (Koran 2:238, Pickthall)

The “midmost prayer” is probably a reference to the Sixth Hour (Dhuhr). However, many Islamic scholars think that this is a reference to the Ninth Hour (Asr).

I have already mentioned Koran 20:130 as teaching to pray at Matins, the Sixth Hour, and Vespers. It says:

Proclaim thy Lord’s praise in the watches of the night, and at the ends of the day. (Koran 20:130, Arberry)

The “ends of the day” is plural, not dual in the Arabic. The three ends of the day are dawn, noon, and dusk. King David prayed at those three ends of the day. (Psalm 54:17, LXX; 55:17, Hebrew)

The apostles and the Jews kept the Ninth Hour of prayer. The Muslims call it Asr.

Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. (Acts 3:1, NKJV)

There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!”… So Cornelius said, “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing. (Acts 10:1-3,30, NKJV)

The Koran says that we should follow the example of Jesus’ apostles. (Koran 4:26; 24:34)

In Koran 11:114, it says to “perform the prayer at the two ends of the day and nigh of the night.” “Nigh of the night” is referring to the Ninth Hour or Asr.

In Koran 20:130, we are commanded to proclaim God’s praise before the setting of the sun. This is a reference to the Ninth Hour or Asr.

In the 30th Surah, it says:

Unto Him be praise in the heavens and the earth! — and at the sun’s decline and in the noonday. (Koran 30:18, Pickthall)

Praising God at the sun’s decline is a reference to the Ninth Hour (Asr). Praising God in the noonday is, of course, the Sixth Hour (Dhuhr).

So, this is my view on the subject of the times for prayer in the Koran. I believe that the Koran confirms the Bible. It does not contradict it.

And that We have revealed to thee of the Book is the truth, confirming what is before it; God is aware of and sees His servants. (Koran 35:31, Arberry)

It, therefore, teaches us to observe the eight canonical hours of prayer. Doing this can be difficult for most people. Among us Orthodox, monks are usually the only ones who do all the prayers. We should not lose heart and fall into despair if we are unable to pray eight times a day. Jesus said:

Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32, NKJV)

Despite all of our efforts to do well and try to obey God, we must always remember that we will never be good enough.

If Allah were to take mankind to task for their wrong-doing, he would not leave hereon a living creature, but He reprieveth them to an appointed term, and when their term cometh they cannot put (it) off an hour nor (yet) advance (it). (Koran 16:61, Pickthall)

It is in the end only by God’s mercy that we will ever obtain Paradise (Jannah). God is the most merciful of those who show mercy.

He said: Have no fear this day! May Allah forgive you, and He is the Most Merciful of those who show mercy. (Koran 12:92, Pickthall)

So, we should do our best and hope for God’s mercy. Anyone who gets to Paradise is there, not because he earned his way there. He is there because of God’s mercy. Salvation is a paradox. We cannot earn it, but we must still work for it!

The Fourteen Epistles of St. Paul and the Koran

December 3, 2017 3 comments

So do you believe in part of the Scripture and disbelieve in part? Then what is the recompense for those who do that among you except disgrace in worldly life; and on the Day of Resurrection they will be sent back to the severest of punishment. And Allah is not unaware of what you do. (Koran 2:85, Sahih International)

I have watched Youtube videos where Muslim clerics speak disparagingly of St. Paul and they reject his fourteen epistles as rubbish. I have decided to do a blog post on the subject of St. Paul’s epistles and look at the historical evidence for their inclusion into the Christian canon of Holy Scripture.

First of all, let us look at this verse from the Koran.

And argue not with the People of the Scripture unless it be in (a way) that is better, save with such of them as do wrong; and say: We believe in that which hath been revealed unto us and revealed unto you; our God and your God is One, and unto Him we surrender. (Koran 29:46, Pickthall)

The Koran is here saying that the first generation Muslims and Muhammad believed in both the Koran (“that which hath been revealed unto us”) and the Bible (that which hath been “revealed unto you.”)

So, if Muhammad and his followers believed in the Bible, did they accept the fourteen epistles of St. Paul. Muhammad was born in 569 or 570. He died in 632. If Christians living before 569 accepted those fourteen epistles of St. Paul as Holy Scripture, then Muhammad did, too.

The fourteen epistles of St. Paul are: Romans, I Corinthians, II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I Thessalonians, II Thessalonians, I Timothy, II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and Hebrews.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem wrote some lectures that were to be used with catechumens. A catechumen is someone who is seeking to enter into full communion with the Church. St. Cyril (318-386 A.D.) lived in the fourth century.

Then of the New Testament there are the four Gospels only, for the rest have false titles and are mischievous. The Manichæans also wrote a Gospel according to Thomas, which being tinctured with the fragrance of the evangelic title corrupts the souls of the simple sort. Receive also the Acts of the Twelve Apostles; and in addition to these the seven Catholic Epistles of James, Peter, John, and Jude; and as a seal upon them all, and the last work of the disciples, the fourteen Epistles of Paul. But let all the rest be put aside in a secondary rank. And whatever books are not read in Churches, these read not even by yourself, as you have heard me say. Thus much of these subjects. (Catechetical Lectures, Lecture IV, by St. Cyril of Jerusalem, 318-386, vol. 7, pp. 27,28, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Hendrickson Publisher, Inc., Peabody, Massachusetts)

St. Cyril listed all of the New Testament books with the exception of the Book of Revelation. The Church in the East was slow to adopt Revelation into the canon. It was, however, being used as part of the canon before Muhammad was born. That would be the subject of another blog.

St. Athanasius the Great (298-373), was Archbishop of Alexandria. He also lived in the fourth century. He wrote:

Again it is not tedious to speak of the [books] of the New Testament. These are, the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Afterwards, the Acts of the Apostles and Epistles (called Catholic), seven, viz. of James, one; of Peter, two; of John, three; after these, one of Jude. In addition, there are fourteen Epistles of Paul, written in this order. The first, to the Romans; then two to the Corinthians; after these, to the Galatians; next, to the Ephesians; then to the Philippians; then to the Colossians; after these, two to the Thessalonians, and that to the Hebrews; and again, two to Timothy; one to Titus; and lastly, that to Philemon. And besides, the Revelation of John. (Letter XXXIX, by St. Athanasius the Great, 298-373, vol. 4, p. 552, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Hendrickson Publisher, Inc., Peabody, Massachusetts Hendrickson Publisher, Inc., Peabody, Massachusetts)

In this letter written by him, he lists all of the books in the New Testament that Christians have today in their Bibles.

The next excerpt is from a letter written by St. Jerome (345-420). He lived in the fourth century in Italy. In this letter he lists the books of the New Testament.

The New Testament I will briefly deal with. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the Lord’s team of four, the true cherubim or store of knowledge. With them the whole body is full of eyes, they glitter as sparks (Ezekiel 1:7), they run and return like lightning, (Ezekiel 1:14) their feet are straight feet (Ezekiel 1:7), and lifted up, their backs also are winged, ready to fly in all directions. They hold together each by each and are interwoven one with another (Ezekiel 1:11): like wheels within wheels they roll along (Ezekiel 1:16) and go wherever the breath of the Holy Spirit wafts them. (Ezekiel 1:20) The apostle Paul writes to seven churches (for the eighth epistle — that to the Hebrews — is not generally counted in with the others). He instructs Timothy and Titus; he intercedes with Philemon for his runaway slave. Of him I think it better to say nothing than to write inadequately. The Acts of the Apostles seem to relate a mere unvarnished narrative descriptive of the infancy of the newly born church; but when once we realize that their author is Luke the physician whose praise is in the gospel, we shall see that all his words are medicine for the sick soul. The apostles James, Peter, John, and Jude, have published seven epistles at once spiritual and to the point, short and long, short that is in words but lengthy in substance so that there are few indeed who do not find themselves in the dark when they read them. The apocalypse of John has as many mysteries as words. In saying this I have said less than the book deserves. All praise of it is inadequate; manifold meanings lie hidden in its every word. (Letter LIII, by St. Jerome, 345-420, vol. 6, pp. 101-102, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Hendrickson Publisher, Inc., Peabody, Massachusetts)

The seven churches to which St. Paul wrote are: Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, and Thessalonica. He wrote one epistle to his own people, the Hebrews. He left his name off because of the Judaizers. The Jews did not like what St. Paul said about certain commandments in the Law no longer being in effect. If he had put his name on it, fewer people would have read it. This epistle was originally written in Hebrew and later translated into Greek. There is ancient testimony that this is true. (A subject for another blog.)

At the Council of Carthage that met in 419 A.D., there is this canon.

Item, that besides the Canonical Scriptures nothing be read in church under the name of divine Scripture.

But the Canonical Scriptures are as follows:

Genesis.
Exodus.
Leviticus.
Numbers.
Deuteronomy.
Joshua the Son of Nun.
The Judges.
Ruth.
The Kings, iv. books.
The Chronicles, ij. books.
Job.
The Psalter.
The Five books of Solomon.
The Twelve Books of the Prophets.
Isaiah.
Jeremiah.
Ezechiel.
Daniel.
Tobit.
Judith.
Esther.
Ezra, ij. books.
Macchabees, ij. books.

The New Testament.
The Gospels, iv. books.
The Acts of the Apostles, j. book.
The Epistles of Paul, xiv.
The Epistles of Peter, the Apostle, ij.
The Epistles of John the Apostle, iij.
The Epistles of James the Apostle, j.
The Epistle of Jude the Apostle, j.
The Revelation of John, j. book.

Let this be sent to our brother and fellow bishop, Boniface, and to the other bishops of those parts, that they may confirm this canon, for these are the things which we have received from our fathers to be read in church. (Canon XXIV, Council of Carthage, 419 A.D., vol. 14, pp. 453-454, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Hendrickson Publisher, Inc., Peabody, Massachusetts)

All of the books of the New Testament were mentioned in this conciliar canon.

Now, I want to go further back in time to the second century. I want to demonstrate that a particular passage of New Testament Scripture was being used by Christians back then. First, let us look at this passage from Tertullian’s writings. Tertullian was born in 145 and died in 220.

On this principle, too, the sufferings of Christ will be found not to warrant faith in Him. For He suffered nothing who did not truly suffer; and a phantom could not truly suffer. God’s entire work, therefore, is subverted. Christ’s death, wherein lies the whole weight and fruit of the Christian name, is denied although the apostle asserts it so expressly as undoubtedly real, making it the very foundation of the gospel, of our salvation and of his own preaching. “I have delivered unto you before all things,” says he, “how that Christ died for our sins, and that he was buried, and that He rose again the third day.” (I Corinthians 15:3,4) Besides, if His flesh is denied, how is His death to be asserted; for death is the proper suffering of the flesh, which returns through death back to the earth out of which it was taken, according to the law of its Maker? Now, if His death be denied, because of the denial of His flesh, there will be no certainty of His resurrection. For He rose not, for the very same reason that He died not, even because He possessed not the reality of the flesh, to which as death accrues, so does resurrection likewise. Similarly, if Christ’s resurrection be nullified, ours also is destroyed. If Christ’s resurrection be not realized, neither shall that be for which Christ came. For just as they, who said that there is no resurrection of the dead, are refuted by the apostle from the resurrection of Christ, so, if the resurrection of Christ falls to the ground, the resurrection of the dead is also swept away. And so our faith is vain, and vain also is the preaching of the apostles. (Five Books Against Marcion, Book III, chapter 8, by Tertullian, 145-220, vol. 3, p. 328, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Hendrickson Publisher, Inc., Peabody, Massachusetts)

Notice that Tertullian quoted from St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians. He quoted I Corinthians 15:3,4. That says that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again the third day.

Let us look at the writings of a Sub-apostolic Church Father — St. Irenaeus of Lyons (120-202). The Sub-apostolic Church Fathers were people who knew someone who had personally known one of the Twelve Apostles or St. Paul.

He was likewise preached by Paul: “For I delivered,” he says, “unto you first of all, that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3,4) It is plain, then, that Paul knew no other Christ besides Him alone, who both suffered, and was buried, and rose gain, who was also born, and whom he speaks of as man. For after remarking, “But if Christ be preached, that He rose from the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:12), he continues, rendering the reason of His incarnation, “For since by man came death, by man [came] also the resurrection of the dead.” And everywhere, when [referring to] the passion of our Lord, and to His human nature, and His subjection to death, he employs the name of Christ, as in that passage: “Destroy not him with your meat for whom Christ died.” (Romans 14:15) And again: “But now, in Christ, you who sometimes were far off are made near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13) And again: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs upon a tree.” (Galatians 3:13; Deuteronomy 21:23) And again: “And through your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died” (1 Corinthians 8:11); indicating that the impassible Christ did not descend upon Jesus, but that He Himself, because He was Jesus Christ, suffered for us; He, who lay in the tomb, and rose again, who descended and ascended, — the Son of God having been made the Son of man, as the very name itself does declare. For in the name of Christ is implied, He that anoints, He that is anointed, and the unction itself with which He is anointed. And it is the Father who anoints, but the Son who is anointed by the Spirit, who is the unction, as the Word declares by Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me” (Isaiah 61:1), — pointing out both the anointing Father, the anointed Son, and the unction, which is the Spirit. (Against Heresies, Book III, chapter 18, by St. Irenaeus of Lyons, 120-202, vol. 1, p. 446, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Hendrickson Publisher, Inc., Peabody, Massachusetts)

St. Irenaeus of Lyons quoted from I Corinthians 15:3,4, too. He also quoted from a couple of other verses in this same epistle and he quoted from Romans, Ephesians, and Galatians.

Here is I Corinthians 15:3-8:

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. (I Corinthians 15:3-8, NKJV)

There are Islamic religious leaders who are rejecting “that which has been revealed” to Christians, namely, the fourteen epistles of St. Paul. They are teaching that Jesus did not die. They say that He ascended into Heaven and will come back one day and die and be resurrected. That is not what I Corinthians 15:3,4 says. I have provided excerpts from two second century documents that show that the second century Christians believed that passage of Scripture and it had not been “corrupted.”

In the Koran, it says:

O ye who believe! Believe in Allah and His messenger and the Scripture which He hath revealed unto His messenger, and the Scripture which He revealed aforetime. Whoso disbelieveth in Allah and His angels and His Scriptures and His messengers and the Last Day, he verily hath wandered far astray. Lo! those who believe, then disbelieve and then (again) believe, then disbelieve, and then increase in disbelief, Allah will never pardon them, nor will He guide them unto a way. (Koran 4:136,137, Pickthall)

The Scripture which God “hath revealed unto His messenger” is the Koran. The Scripture which God “hath revealed aforetime” is the Bible. The Koran says to believe in God, Muhammad, the Koran, and the Bible. Then, it says “Whoso disbelieveth in Allah and His angels and His Scriptures and His messengers and the Last Day, he verily hath wandered far astray.” If you do not believe in God, God’s angels, God’s Scriptures (the Koran and the Bible), God’s messengers (notice the plural), and the Last Day (that is, the resurrection from the dead and the Last Judgment), then you have “wandered far astray.” In verse 137 it is saying that if someone believes in God, His angels, His messengers, the Koran, the Bible, and the Last Day, and then disbelieves in them, and then believes in them again, and then disbelieves in God, His angels, His messengers, the Koran, the Bible, and the Last Day, and then increases in disbelief, God “will never pardon them, nor will He guide them unto a way.”

So, now back to I Corinthians 15:3-8. If you do not believe that Jesus died for your sins, was buried, and arose from the dead on the third day and you increase in disbelief,  God will never pardon you and He will never guide you unto a way. This is what Koran 4:136,137 is teaching. Koran 29:46 says that Muhammad accepted the Scriptures used by Christians in the seventh century. Christians were using all of the books they now have in the New Testament as Holy Scripture before the birth of Muhammad. I Corinthians 15:3,4 has not been “corrupted.” Therefore, those verses must be believed by anyone who wants to obey the Koran.

Now, let us look at this passage from the 18th Surah.

Those whose effort goeth astray in the life of the world, and yet they reckon that they do good work. Those are they who disbelieve in the revelations of their Lord and in the meeting with Him. Therefor their works are vain, and on the Day of Resurrection We assign no weight to them. That is their reward: hell, because they disbelieved, and made a jest of Our revelations and Our messengers. Lo! those who believe and do good works, theirs are the Gardens of Paradise for welcome, Wherein they will abide, with no desire to be removed from thence. (Koran 18:105-109, Pickthall; 18:104-108 in other translations)

If someone is going astray because they do not believe the Bible (Koran 4:136), their works are vain and God will assign no weight to them. Their reward will be hell, because they did not believe God’s revelations (the Bible and the Koran) and made fun of God’s revelations (the Bible and the Koran) and God’s messengers (Notice the plural).

So, now, what about these verses from the Koran?

And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah’s messenger — they slew Him not nor crucified Him, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew Him not for certain. (Koran 4:157, Pickthall)

(And remember) when Allah said: O Jesus! Lo! I am gathering Thee and causing Thee to ascend unto Me, and am cleansing Thee of those who disbelieve and am setting those who follow Thee above those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then unto Me ye will (all) return, and I shall judge between you as to that wherein ye used to differ. (Koran 3:55, Pickthall)

I spake unto them only that which Thou commandedst Me, (saying): Worship Allah, My Lord and your Lord. I was a witness of them while I dwelt among them, and when Thou tookest Me Thou wast the Watcher over them. Thou art Witness over all things. (Koran 5:117, Pickthall)

The Koran claims to confirm the Bible.

And unto thee have We revealed the Scripture with the truth, confirming whatever Scripture was before it, and a watcher over it. (Koran 5:48, Pickthall)

It does not contradict it. Maybe those English translations of those passages from the Koran are mistranslations. Maybe the Islamic religious leaders are misinterpreting them. (See Matthew 17:9; 28:7. See also Matthew 27:27-38; Luke 23:46; John 10:17,18; 19:30,33.)

You do not have to take my word for it that Koran 3:55 and 5:117 have been mistranslated and misinterpreted. Just go to this page and see for yourself: http://corpus.quran.com/qurandictionary.jsp?q=wfy#(5:117:20). Look at how the Arabic verb, tawaffā, is most frequently translated in the Koran. It is a form V verb that occurs 24 times. The active participle of this verb occurs only once in the Koran — in Koran 3:55. Look at the other 23 places in the Koran and see how this verb is most frequently translated.

The religion known as Islam today has morphed into a one prophet, Bibleless religion. This is totally unkoranic. Islamic religious leaders quote the Koran. They hardly ever quote one of the Old Testament prophets. They hardly ever quote from the New Testament. The Koran is two-thirds the size of the New Testament. The Old Testament is much larger than the Koran. The Koran teaches that rejecting God’s revelations is a serious sin. (Koran 7:36; 18:104-108)

The fourteen epistles of St. Paul are part of God’s Scriptures. They were accepted as Holy Scripture before the birth of Muhammad. Muhammad accepted the Scriptures Christians used in the seventh century. (Koran 29:46) Those who reject St. Paul’s fourteen epistles are disobeying the Koran and are not on the straight path for which they pray in the Fatihah. I have already said enough about the fate of those who disbelieve.

Say: The Truth hath come, and falsehood showeth not its face and will not return. (Quran 34:49, Pickthall)

 

 

The Death Penalty in the Torah and Koran 5:32

November 26, 2017 Leave a comment

In this blog post I am going to talk about the exception phrase in Koran 5:32. Koran 5:32 says:

For that cause We decreed for the Children of Israel that whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. Our messengers came unto them of old with clear proofs (of Allah’s Sovereignty), but afterwards lo! many of them became prodigals in the earth. (Koran 5:32, Pickthall)

The exception phrase is “for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth.” In order to properly talk about the exceptions which allow the taking of life, it is necessary to look at the Torah because this prohibition against taking human life was given to the Children of Israel. So, I am going to provide here the reasons for administering the death penalty found in the Torah. I will also provide a short explanation regarding why I think each of these death penalties has been abrogated.

Before beginning this discourse on the death penalty, I want to point out the plain and simple fact that everyone dies someday. This is just a plain and simple fact.

For we shall surely die, and be as water poured upon the earth, which shall not be gathered up. (II Samuel 14:14, LXX)

And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment. (Hebrew 9:27, NKJV)

Every soul will taste of death. Then unto Us ye will be returned. (Koran 29:57, Pickthall)

The only thing that the death penalty really does when it is administered is shorten someone’s life. The person who is put to death has, therefore, less time to repent and reform himself before dying. So, that person might go straight to hell.

The first reason for administering the death penalty is for manslaughter, that is, murder. In Genesis, it says:

For your blood of your lives will I require at the hand of all wild beasts, and I will require the life of man at the hand of his brother man. He that sheds man’s blood, instead of that blood shall his own be shed, for in the image of God I made man. (Genesis 9:5,6, LXX)

God instituted a death penalty for murder after the Flood, but there are no specific instructions regarding how it would be implemented. It just says that God requires the life of a man who sheds the blood of another man. In Exodus and Leviticus, it says that a murderer should be put to death.

And if any man smite another and he die, let him be certainly put to death. (Exodus 21:12, LXX)

And if any one lie in wait for his neighbour to slay him by craft, and he go for refuge, thou shalt take him from Mine altar to put him to death. (Exodus 21:14, LXX)

And whosoever shall smite a man and he die, let him die the death. (Leviticus 24:17, LXX)

Whosoever shall smite a man, and he shall die, let him die the death. (Leviticus 24:21, LXX)

More specific instructions regarding the implementation of the death penalty are found in the Book of Numbers.

And if he should smite him with an iron instrument, and the man should die, he is a murderer; let the murderer by all means be put to death. And if he should smite him with a stone thrown from his hand, whereby a man may die, and he thus die, he is a murderer; let the murderer by all means be put to death. And if he should smite him with an instrument of wood from his hand, whereby he may die, and he thus die, he is a murderer; let the murderer by all means be put to death. The avenger of blood himself shall slay the murderer: whensoever he shall meet him he shall slay him. And if he should thrust him through enmity, or cast any thing upon him from an ambuscade, and the man should die, or if he have smitten him with his hand through anger, and the man should die, let the man that smote him be put to death by all means, he is a murderer: let the murderer by all means be put to death: the avenger of blood shall slay the murderer when he meets him. (Numbers 35:16-21, LXX)

Whoever kills a man, thou shalt slay the murderer on the testimony of witnesses; and one witness shall not testify against a soul that he should die. And ye shall not accept ransoms for life from a murderer who is worthy of death, for he shall be surely put to death. Ye shall not accept a ransom to excuse his fleeing to the city of refuge, so that he should again dwell in the land, until the death of the high priest. So shall ye not pollute with murder the land in which ye dwell; for this blood pollutes the land, and the land shall not be purged from the blood shed upon it, but by the blood of him that shed it. (Number 35:30-33, LXX)

Basically, the avenger of blood puts the murderer to death after at least two people have testified that they saw him commit the murder.

Toward the end of the Book of Deuteronomy, it says:

Vengeance is Mine, and recompense; their foot shall slip in due time; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things to come hasten upon them. (Deuteronomy 32:35, NKJV)

Vengeance belongs to God.

St. Paul quoted from this verse in his Epistle to the Romans.

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:19, NKJV)

He also said in the same epistle:

Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. (Romans 12:17, NKJV)

So, the practice of avenging the death of someone has been abrogated by these New Testament verses. A relative of a murder victim is forbidden to execute the murderer.

In another place in the same Epistle, it says:

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. (Romans 13:1-4, NKJV)

I would like to call attention to the words, “for he does not bear the sword in vain.” Why would a ruler have a sword in executing judgment? It was used for putting people to death.

Not all governments in the world have a death penalty. In those countries where there is a death penalty for certain crimes, we are supposed to let the ruling authorities carry out the execution. We, as private citizens, are forbidden to do that ourselves. If there is no death penalty for murder in a particular country, we are still forbidden to execute the murderer.

In the case of unborn children, the Torah requires the death penalty to be administered if the child died during the late stages of pregnancy.

And if two men strive and smite a woman with child, and her child be born imperfectly formed, he shall be forced to pay a penalty: as the woman’s husband may lay upon him, he shall pay with a valuation. But if it be perfectly formed, he shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. (Exodus 21:22-25, LXX)

The “eye for an eye” law was abrogated by Jesus.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” (Matthew 5:38,39, NKJV)

We are not to “repay evil for evil” nor are we permitted to “avenge ourselves.” (Romans 12:17,19) We must allow the government authorities to administer justice. (Romans 13:1-4) If they fail to do that, then God will avenge the death of the murdered child. “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Someone might escape the judgment of man, but he will never escape the judgment of God.

The death penalty was supposed to be administered to those who offered up their children as human sacrifices.

Thou shalt also say to the children of Israel, If there shall be any of the children of Israel, or of those who have become proselytes in Israel, who shall give of his seed to Moloch, let him be surely put to death; the nation upon the land shall stone him with stones. And I will set My face against that man, and will cut him off from his people, because he has given of his seed to Moloch, to defile My sanctuary, and profane the name of them that are consecrated to Me. And if the natives of the land should in anywise overlook that man in giving of his seed to Moloch, so as not to put him to death; then will I set My face against that man and his family, and I will destroy him, and all who have been of one mind with him, so that he should go a whoring to the princes, from their people. (Leviticus 20:2-5, LXX)

This practice was not only murder, but it was also idolatry. God did not require human sacrifices. The pagans believed that their gods required them.

The only human sacrifice acceptable to God is the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. He died in order to destroy death by His death and He bore away our sins. It was a self-sacrifice. (John 10:17,18)

This Old Testament law has been abrogated. For the commission of murder, the government authorities are supposed to administer justice. (Romans 13:1-4) For the practice of idolatry, no death penalty is to be administered. The Christian practice regarding those who claim to be Christians but practice idolatry is to disfellowship them.

I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner — not even to eat with such a person. (I Corinthians 5:9-11, NKJV)

A priest would stop serving communion to such a person. If they want to leave the Church, we are supposed to simply let them leave.

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. (I John 2:19, NKJV)

There is another law against the practice of idolatry and apostasy in the Torah. It is in  Exodus and Deuteronomy.

He that sacrifices to any gods but to the Lord alone, shall be destroyed by death. (Exodus 22:20, LXX)

And if there should be found in any one of thy cities, which the Lord thy God gives thee, a man or a woman who shall do that which is evil before the Lord thy God, so as to transgress His covenant, and they should go and serve other gods, and worship them, the sun, or the moon, or any of the host of heaven, which He commanded thee not to do, and it be told thee, and thou shalt have enquired diligently, and, behold, the thing really took place, this abomination has been done in Israel; then shalt thou bring out that man, or that woman, and ye shall stone them with stones, and they shall die. He shall die on the testimony of two or three witnesses; a man who is put to death shall not be put to death for one witness. And the hand of the witnesses shall be upon him among the first to put him to death, and the hand of the people at the last; so shalt thou remove the evil one from among yourselves. (Deuteronomy 17:2-7, LXX)

The Christian practice is to disfellowship that person (I Corinthians 5:9-11) and allow that person to leave the Church on his own accord (I John 2:19). The death penalty for idolatry and apostasy has been abrogated.

The Torah requires that people who spread idolatry be put to death.

And if there arise within thee a prophet, or one who dreams a dream, and he gives thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass which he spoke to thee, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which ye know not; ye shall not hearken to the words of that prophet, or the dreamer of that dream, because the Lord thy God tries you, to know whether ye love your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall follow the Lord your God, and fear Him, and ye shall hear His voice, and attach yourselves to Him. And that prophet or that dreamer of a dream, shall die; for he has spoken to make thee err from the Lord thy God who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, who redeemed thee from bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the Lord thy God commanded thee to walk in: so shalt thou abolish the evil from among you. And if thy brother by thy father or mother, or thy son, or daughter, or thy wife in thy bosom, or friend who is equal to thine own soul, entreat thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, of the gods of the nations that are round about you, who are near thee or at a distance from thee, from one end of the earth to the other; thou shalt not consent to him, neither shalt thou hearken to him; and thine eye shall not spare him, thou shalt feel no regret for him, neither shalt thou at all protect him: thou shalt surely report concerning him, and thy hands shall be upon him among the first to slay him, and the hands of all the people at the last. And they shall stone him with stones, and he shall die, because he sought to draw thee away from the Lord thy God who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. (Deuteronomy 13:1-10, LXX)

The Christian practice is to disfellowship that person who is spreading idolatry and to allow him to leave the Church on his own accord. (I Corinthians 5:9-11; I John 2:19) The death penalty for this sin has been abolished by New Testament teachings.

The Torah says that blasphemers are supposed to be put to death.

And the son of the Israelitish woman named THE NAME and cursed; and they brought him to Moses: and his mother’s name was Salomith, daughter of Dabri of the tribe of Dan. And they put him in ward, to judge him by the command of the Lord. And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Bring forth him that cursed outside the camp, and all who heard shall lay their hands upon his head, and all the congregation shall stone him. And speak to the sons of Israel, and thou shalt say to them, Whosoever shall curse God shall bear his sin. And he that names the name of the Lord, let him die the death: let all the congregation of Israel stone him with stones; whether he be a stranger or a native, let him die for naming the name of the Lord. (Leviticus 24:11-16, LXX)

In the New Testament, Jesus said that the only sin that will never be forgiven is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Someone can be forgiven for blaspheming Christ, however.

Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matthew 12:31,32, NKJV)

I do not want to take up the subject of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit in this blog post. I will say this much about the subject though. I prefer to stick with the teachings of the Church Fathers regarding this subject.

Some of the Christians in Colossae may have been committing this sin. St. Paul told them to put blasphemy out of their mouths.

But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. (Colossians 3:8, NKJV)

Nowhere in his Epistle to the Colossians does St. Paul command the Christians to put to death blasphemers. He just simply tells the people who do that to stop blaspheming.

St. Paul tells us to follow his example.

Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. (I Corinthians 11:1, NKJV)

Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. (Philippians 3:17, NKJV)

In his First Epistle to Timothy, we can see how St. Paul dealt with blasphemers.

Of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. (I Timothy 1:20, NKJV)

The punishment for blasphemers is to deliver them to Satan. I think that this means to stop serving Communion to them. The New Testament does not have a death penalty for blasphemy. So, the Old Testament law requiring blasphemers to be put to death has been abrogated.

In the Torah, fornicators were supposed to be put to death.

And if the daughter of a priest should be profaned to go a whoring, she profanes the name of her father: she shall be burnt with fire. (Leviticus 21:9, LXX)

And if any one should take a wife, and dwell with her, and hate her, and attach to her reproachful words, and bring against her an evil name, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her I found not her tokens of virginity: then the father and the mother of the damsel shall take and bring out the damsel’s tokens of virginity to the elders of the city to the gate. And the father of the damsel shall say to the elders, I gave this my daughter to this man for a wife; and now he has hated her, and attaches reproachful words to her, saying, I have not found tokens of virginity with thy daughter; and these are the tokens of my daughter’s virginity. And they shall unfold the garment before the elders of the city. And the elders of that city shall take that man, and shall chastise him, and shall fine him a hundred shekels, and shall give them to the father of the damsel, because he has brought forth an evil name against a virgin of Israel; and she shall be his wife: he shall never be able to put her away. But if this report be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel; then shall they bring out the damsel to the doors of her father’s house, and shall stone her with stones, and she shall die; because she has wrought folly among the children of Israel, to defile the house of her father by whoring: so thou shalt remove the evil one from among you. (Deuteronomy 22:13-21, LXX)

And if there be a young damsel espoused to a man, and a man should have found her in the city and have lain with her; ye shall bring them both out to the gate of their city, and they shall be stoned with stones, and they shall die; the damsel, because she cried not in the city; and the man, because he humbled his neighbour’s spouse: so shalt thou remove the evil one from yourselves. (Deuteronomy 22:22-24, LXX)

The Torah does not require that a man who fornicates be put to death unless he fornicates with a woman who is engaged to marry another man.

The Christian practice is to disfellowship the fornicators. (I Corinthians 5:9-11) There is no death penalty for fornication in the New Testament. The requirement to put fornicators to death has been abrogated by New Testament teaching.

Furthermore, Christians are forbidden to pass judgment on such people, but we are still supposed to disfellowship other Christians who fornicate.

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. (Matthew 7:1,2, NKJV)

Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6:37, NKJV)

In Leviticus and Deuteronomy, it says that adulterers should be put to death.

And thou shalt not lie with thy neighbour’s wife, to defile thyself with her… For whosoever shall do any of these abominations, the souls that do them shall be destroyed from among their people. (Leviticus 18:20,29, LXX)

Whatever man shall commit adultery with the wife of a man, or whoever shall commit adultery with the wife of his neighbour, let them die the death, the adulterer and the adulteress. (Leviticus 20:10, LXX)

And if a man be found lying with a woman married to a man, ye shall kill them both, the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou remove the wicked one out of Israel. (Deuteronomy 22:22, LXX)

The Christian practice is to abstain from passing judgment on such people, but to disfellowship them. (Matthew 7:1,2; Luke 6:37; I Corinthians 5:9-11) In the Gospel according to St. John, there is a story about an adulteress being brought to Jesus.

Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:2-12, NKJV)

Jesus told the Jews, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” Since no one is without sin, no one is qualified to stone an adulteress or an adulterer. Jesus, who never sinned (I Peter 2:22,23), did not even throw a stone at her. In verse 12 of this passage, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” This means that we should follow Jesus’ example and not stone to death people who have committed adultery. Of course, we should follow His example in other respects as well. The Old Testament laws requiring that adulterers and adulteresses be put to death have been abrogated by New Testament teachings.

A Christian, however, is required to divorce his wife if she has committed adultery. Many of the Church Fathers taught this. In the Gospel according to St. Matthew, the exception allowing divorce is for adultery.

But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery. (Matthew 5:32, NKJV)

And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery. (Matthew 19:9, NKJV)

The Church Fathers often quoted this verse from the Septuagint version of Proverbs as a proof text for requiring Christian men to divorce their wives for committing adultery.

He that puts away a good wife, puts away a good thing, and he that keeps an adulteress is foolish and ungodly. (Proverbs 18:23, LXX)

They also cited this verse from the New Testament as justification for divorcing an adulterous wife.

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! (I Corinthians 6:15, NKJV)

Someone who retains an adulteress as his wife is foolish and ungodly. A Christian man is not supposed to be sexually joined to a harlot because his body is a member of Christ. If his wife is having sex outside of their marriage, then remaining married to her is the moral equivalent of taking a member of Christ and making it a member of a harlot.

St. Paul wrote:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28, NKJV)

Since Christian men and Christian women are “one in Christ Jesus,” the principles for initiating a divorce apply to both men and women. A Christian woman should divorce her husband if he has committed adultery.

Divorce is, therefore, another consequence for committing adultery according to the New Testament.

In the Torah, raping another man’s fiancée was punishable by death.

But if a man find in the field a damsel that is betrothed, and he should force her and lie with her, ye shall slay the man that lay with her only. And the damsel has not committed a sin worthy of death; as if a man should rise up against his neighbour, and slay him, so is this thing; because he found her in the field; the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to help her. (Deuteronomy 22:25-27, LXX)

In the New Testament, such people are supposed to be disfellowshipped. The Christian community is not supposed to inflict the death penalty on those who commit this crime. The government authorities are responsible for administering justice. (I Corinthians 5:9-11; Romans 13:1-4) If the rapist escapes the judgment of man, he will not escape the judgment of God. (Romans 12:19)

Incest was punishable by death in the Torah.

No man shall draw nigh to any of his near kindred to uncover their nakedness; I am the Lord. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father, or the nakedness of thy mother, for she is thy mother; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father’s wife; it is thy father’s nakedness. The nakedness of thy sister by thy father or by thy mother, born at home or abroad, their nakedness thou shalt not uncover. The nakedness of thy son’s daughter, or thy daughter’s daughter, their nakedness thou shalt not uncover; because it is thy nakedness. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of the daughter of thy father’s wife; she is thy sister by the same father: thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father’s sister, for she is near akin to thy father. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother’s sister, for she is near akin to thy mother. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father’s brother, and thou shalt not go in to his wife; for she is thy relation. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy daughter-in-law, for she is thy son’s wife, thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother’s wife: it is thy brother’s nakedness. The nakedness of a woman and her daughter shalt thou not uncover; her son’s daughter, and her daughter’s daughter, shalt thou not take, to uncover their nakedness, for they are thy kinswomen: it is impiety. Thou shalt not take a wife in addition to her sister, as a rival, to uncover her nakedness in opposition to her, while she is yet living… For whosoever shall do any of these abominations, the souls that do them shall be destroyed from among their people. (Leviticus 18:6-18,29, LXX)

And if any one should lie with his father’s wife, he has uncovered his father’s nakedness: let them both die the death, they are guilty. And if any one should lie with his daughter-in-law, let them both be put to death; for they have wrought impiety, they are guilty. (Leviticus 20:11,12, LXX)

Whosoever shall take a woman and her mother, it is iniquity: they shall burn him and them with fire; so there shall not be iniquity among you. (Leviticus 20:14, LXX)

Whosoever shall take his sister by his father or by his mother, and shall see her nakedness, and she see his nakedness, it is a reproach: they shall be destroyed before the children of their family; he has uncovered his sister’s nakedness, they shall bear their sin. (Leviticus 20:17, LXX)

Whosoever shall lie with his near kinswoman, has uncovered the nakedness of one near akin to him: they shall die childless. Whoever shall take his brother’s wife, it is uncleanness; he has uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall die childless. (Leviticus 20:20,21, LXX)

The Christian practice is to disfellowship the person who has committed incest (I Corinthians 5:9-11) and deliver that person to Satan, that is, stop serving Communion to him or her.

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles — that a man has his father’s wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (I Corinthians 5:1-5, NKJV)

The example of St. Paul should be followed. (I Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 3:17) There is no death penalty for committing incest in the New Testament. The Old Testament laws requiring that people who commit such acts be put to death have been abrogated by New Testament teachings. The government authorities are responsible for administering justice. (Romans 13:1-4)

A man who engages in homosexual sex with another man was supposed to be put to death according to the Torah.

And thou shalt not lie with a man as with a woman, for it is an abomination… For whosoever shall do any of these abominations, the souls that do them shall be destroyed from among their people. (Leviticus 18:22,29, LXX)

And whoever shall lie with a male as with a woman, they have both wrought abomination; let them die the death, they are guilty. (Leviticus 20:13, LXX)

The Christian practice is to disfellowship the people who engage in homosexual sex. (I Corinthians 5:9-11) There is no death penalty for practicing homosexuals in the New Testament. The Old Testament laws requiring men to be put to death for engaging in homosexual sex have been abrogated.

People who engage in sexual acts with animals were supposed to be put to death according to the Torah.

Every one that lies with a beast ye shall surely put to death. (Exodus 22:19, LXX)

Neither shalt thou lie with any quadruped for copulation, to be polluted with it: neither shall a woman present herself before any quadruped to have connexion with it; for it is an abomination… For whosoever shall do any of these abominations, the souls that do them shall be destroyed from among their people. (Leviticus 18:23,29, LXX)

And whosoever shall lie with a beast, let him die the death; and ye shall kill the beast. And whatever woman shall approach any beast, so as to have connexion with it, ye shall kill the woman and the beast: let them die the death, they are guilty. (Leviticus 20:15,16, LXX)

The New Testament teaching is to disfellowship people who engage in sexual acts with animals. (I Corinthians 5:9-11) There is no commandment in the New Testament to put to death someone who practices bestiality. People who engage in such acts are subject to the government laws of the nation or locality in which they reside. (Romans 13:1-4) The Old Testament laws requiring that such people be put to death have been abrogated.

In the Torah, a man who has sex with a woman who is menstruating was supposed to be put to death. The menstruous woman who had sex with him was supposed to be put to death, too.

And thou shalt not go in to a woman under separation for her uncleanness, to uncover her nakedness… For whosoever shall do any of these abominations, the souls that do them shall be destroyed from among their people. (Leviticus 18:19,29, LXX)

And whatever man shall lie with a woman that is set apart for a flux, and shall uncover her nakedness, he has uncovered her fountain, and she has uncovered the flux of her blood: they shall both be destroyed from among their generation. (Leviticus 20:18, LXX)

About the only way that anyone can find out if someone did this is if they talk about it. The New Testament instructions are to disfellowship the man and the woman. (I Corinthians 5:9-11) There is no death penalty in the New Testament for having sex with a menstruous woman.  Those Old Testament laws have been abrogated by New Testament teachings.

The Torah says that fortune-tellers and sorcerers should be put to death.

Ye shall not save the lives of sorcerers. (Exodus 22:18, LXX)

And as for a man or woman whosoever of them shall have in them a divining spirit, or be an enchanter, let them both die the death: ye shall stone them with stones, they are guilty. (Leviticus 20:27, LXX)

The New Testament practice is to exorcise the divining spirit. (Acts 16:16-18) According to New Testament teaching, Satan has been bound so that his activities are limited. (Matthew 12:29; Revelation 20:2) (I do not want to talk about this subject in this blog post, but I will say this much. The Second Ecumenical Council of the Church in 381 rejected pre-millenial eschatology as a heresy.) There is no New Testament commandment to put someone to death for involvement in the occult. That person might not be allowed to receive Communion from his priest, however.

The Torah required parents to be put to death for giving their children to serve a political leader.

And thou shalt not give of thy seed to serve a ruler; and thou shalt not profane My holy name; I am the Lord… For whosoever shall do any of these abominations, the souls that do them shall be destroyed from among their people. (Leviticus 18:21,29, LXX)

There is no death penalty in the New Testament for doing such a thing. If a political leader took someone’s children away from him or her so that the children could serve him, that would be a matter to be dealt with in civil courts. Christian parents have a responsibility to provide spiritual and religious instruction to their children. (Ephesians 6:4) If they give them away, they cannot do that. I think that Christian parents who do something like this would be under a penance from their priest.

In the Torah, people who abduct others were supposed to be put to death.

Whosoever shall steal one of the children of Israel, and prevail over him and sell him, and he be found with him, let him certainly die. (Exodus 21:17, LXX; 21:16, Hebrew)

The Church, being a spiritual kingdom (John 18:36), does not put to death kidnappers. Such people who are members of the Church might be put under a penance by their priest. The civil authorities are responsible for administering justice for the commission of such crimes.

Whoever smites his father or his mother, let him be certainly put to death. (Exodus 21:15, LXX)

The Church is a spiritual kingdom. (John 18:36) The government authorities deal with a child who does such a thing through the juvenile justice system. It is not the practice of the Church to administer the death penalty to anyone at all.

The Torah requires that children who have reviled their parents be put to death.

He that reviles his father or his mother shall surely die. (Exodus 21:16, LXX; 21:17, Hebrew)

Every man who shall speak evil of his father or of his mother, let him die the death; has he spoken evil of his father or his mother? He shall be guilty. (Leviticus 20:9, LXX)

Revilers are supposed to be disfellowshipped according to New Testament teaching. (I Corinthians 5:9-11)

The Torah requires that children who stubbornly refuse to obey their parents be put to death.

And if any man has a disobedient and contentious son, who hearkens not to the voice of his father and the voice of his mother, and they should correct him, and he should not hearken to them; then shall his father and his mother take hold of him, and bring him forth to the elders of his city, and to the gate of the place: and they shall say to the men of their city, This our son is disobedient and contentious, he hearkens not to our voice, he is a reveler and a drunkard. And the men of his city shall stone him with stones, and he shall die; and thou shalt remove the evil one from yourselves, and the rest shall hear and fear. (Deuteronomy 21:18-21, LXX)

Such children might be put under a penance by their priest, but the Church does not administer the death penalty to anyone since it is a spiritual kingdom. (John 18:36) Unruly children might be placed in a juvenile detention center by the governing authorities. Parents must respect the laws of their nation or locality when administering disciplinary action to their children. (Romans 13:1-4)

The Torah requires that those who disobey a priest or a ruler be put to death.

And the man whosoever shall act in haughtiness, so as not to hearken to the priest who stands to minister in the name of the Lord thy God, or the judge who shall preside in those days, that man shall die, and thou shalt remove the evil one out of Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:12, LXX)

The New Testament requires Christians to obey ecclesiastical and civil authorities. (Hebrews 13:17; Romans 13:1-4) The Church does not administer the death penalty to anyone since it is a spiritual kingdom. (John 18:36) The penalty for disobeying a priest might be a penance. The penalty for disobey the governing authorities is determined by the laws respecting such acts of disobedience.

The Torah required that the owner of a bull that has been known to gore people to death be put to death if he did not restrain the bull and the animal killed someone. Nowadays, this is called negligent homicide.

And if a bull gore a man or woman and they die, the bull shall be stoned with stones, and his flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the bull shall be clear. But if the bull should have been given to goring in former time, and men should have told his owner, and he have not removed him, but he should have slain a man or woman, the bull shall be stoned, and his owner shall die also. And if a ransom should be imposed on him, he shall pay for the ransom of his soul as much as they shall lay upon him. (Exodus 21:28-30, LXX)

Since the Church is a spiritual kingdom and does not administer the death penalty to anyone (John 18:36), the governing authorities would administer justice in such cases. (Romans 13:1-4)

The Torah commands that people who do work on the Sabbath (i.e., Saturday) be put to death.

Six days thou shalt do works, but the seventh day is the Sabbath, a holy rest to the Lord; every one who shall do a work on the seventh day shall be put to death. (Exodus 31:15, LXX)

Six days shalt thou perform works, but on the seventh day shall be rest — a holy sabbath — a rest for the Lord: every one that does work on it, let him die. (Exodus 35:2, LXX)

And the children of Israel were in the wilderness, and they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. And they who found him gathering sticks on the Sabbath day brought him to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel. And they placed him in custody, for they did not determine what they should do to him. And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Let the man be by all means put to death: do ye all the congregation, stone him with stones. And all the congregation brought him forth out of the camp; and all the congregation stoned him with stones outside the camp, as the Lord commanded Moses. (Numbers 15:32-36, LXX)

In the Orthodox Church, Saturday is the Sabbath and Sunday is the Lord’s Day. We are not supposed to observe the Sabbath like the Jews do, that is, abstain from work on that day. Sunday is the day we celebrate Christ’s resurrection from the dead. We are supposed to observe Saturday as a feast and abstain from work on Sunday if possible.

Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. (II Thessalonians 2:15, NKJV)

Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight. (Acts 20:7, NKJV)

On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. (I Corinthians 16:2, NKJV)

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet. (Revelation 1:10, NKJV)

But every Lord’s day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. (The Didache, chapter 14, written sometime between 80 and 120 A.D.)

Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord’s Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ. (Canon 29, Council of Laodicea, 390 A.D.)

St. Paul said that sabbaths are a shadow of things to come.

So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. (Colossians 2:16,17, NKJV)

The Old Testament laws regarding observing the Sabbath have been abrogated by New Testament teaching and Holy Tradition. There is no death penalty for working on Sunday.

The death penalty in the Torah was inflicted upon people who committed murder. Killing an unborn child during the late stage of pregnancy, offering up one’s children as a human sacrifice to a pagan god, and negligent homicide were classified as murder. The other reasons for administering the death penalty to someone are called by the Koran “corruption in the earth.” They include such things as idolatry, apostasy, spreading idolatry, blasphemy, fornication, adultery, raping another man’s fiancée, incest, homosexual sex between men, bestiality, sex with a woman who is menstruating, fortune-telling, sorcery, giving one’s children to serve a political leader, abducting someone, striking one’s parent, reviling one’s parent, disobeying one’s parent, disobeying a priest or a political leader, and working on the Sabbath. The death penalty has been abrogated by New Testament teaching and Holy Tradition for all of these sins and crimes. The Church is a spiritual kingdom. (John 18:36) Christians are required to obey the governing authorities (Romans 13:1-4) and the ecclesiastical authorities (Hebrews 13:17) The death penalty might be administered by the governing authorities for violating local or national laws.

 

Theocracy or Freedom of Conscience?

November 25, 2017 2 comments

I remember back when I was in school the history teacher explaining to us why we have separation of Church and State. People came to this continent because they experienced religious persecution in Great Britain. The Church of England was the official state religion and those who disagreed with the doctrine and church polity of that Church were mistreated. The Puritans who came to this continent were Congregational Calvinists. They settled in New England. Then, there were the Anabaptists, the Presbyterians, and the Roman Catholics. Some people who came to this country were Deists. People wanted to be free to exercise their choice in what to believe and which religion to practice. Some people want to set up some kind of theocracy in this country, but I believe that this would be contrary to the teaching of both the Bible and the Koran.

I would not like it if some particular Protestant sect or denomination became the official religion of our country and I had to join a Protestant church. I would not like it if I were forced to become a Roman Catholic. I would abhor the thought of having to become an atheist or join some cult. So, freedom of religion is a good thing in my opinion.

Every man seems to himself righteous; but the Lord directs the hearts. (Proverbs 21:2, LXX)

There is a tendency in all of us to think that we are right and everyone else is wrong. I used to be a fundamentalist Protestant Christian. I thought that I was right and the Roman Catholics and everyone else who interpreted the Bible differently from the way I did was wrong. If my fundamentalist Protestant religion were the official religion of this country, I probably would never have converted to Orthodox Christianity.

Whenever one religion dominates a nation, other religions are squashed and no one has access to other ideas. So, if the official religion of that country is in error, then everyone in that country is forced to adopt unquestionably that religion’s errors.

One of the great things about the internet is that people can exchange ideas and be exposed to other views. Of course, there is such a thing as truth. There are not many truths. There is only one truth. I am not advocating relativism. I am advocating freedom of conscience and freedom to exchange ideas. In a theocracy, such a possibility does not exist.

I do not believe that Jesus intended for us to establish a theocracy after He ascended into Heaven. Before His crucifixion, He told Pilate:

My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here. (John 18:36, NKJV)

His kingdom is a spiritual kingdom. The Church is His kingdom. Although He has all authority in Heaven and on Earth (Matthew 28:18), He still wants us to “render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s.” (Matthew 22:17-21) This is one of His commandments. He told His apostles to teach those whom they baptized all of His commandments. (Matthew 28:19,20)

St. Paul said:

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. (Romans 13:1-4, NKJV)

The authorities which exist in our world whether they be bad or good are “appointed by God.” So, we are supposed to obey them unless, of course, they want us to engage in some grave sin, such as, idolatry. Ancient Christians obeyed the Roman government, but they did not worship the Roman pagan gods.

The problems that a Christian may encounter under a bad government are for his sanctification. “The testing of your faith produces patience.” (James 1:3, NKJV)

In the Koran, it says:

God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in their hearts. (Koran 13:11)

There is no commandment in the Koran to establish an Islamic state. The Koran is a book that warns people not to sin and promises a blissful existence in the afterlife to those who believe in God and strive to keep His commandments

It is not a book that teaches salvation by works. No one is good enough. (Koran 16:61) Therefore, it is only by God’s mercy that anyone is ever saved from the Fire in the end. (Koran 12:92)

There is no commandment in the Koran to establish a religious government for the Muslim community. This is quite different from the Bible which mentions bishops and deacons as being officers in the Church. [The Koran requires us to believe the Bible and obey its teachings. (Koran 2:285; 4:136,137) Maybe the Muslims should have bishops and deacons.]

Muhammad was not supposed to compel people to adopt his religion.

We are best aware of what they say, and thou (O Muhammad) art in no wise a compeller over them. But warn by the Qur’an him who feareth My threat. (Koran 50:45, Pickthall)

Even when the Muslims were fighting the polytheists, if one of them sought safety among them, he was not required to convert to monotheism. He only was required to hear the word of God. Then, he could go to a place of safety. (Koran 9:6)

Muhammad did not promote polytheism, but he still allowed people to make their own choices regarding religious matters. If they became part of the Muslim community, they were subject to the laws of that community.

The Koran says that God has made several different nations and tribes in the world.

O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware. (Koran 49:13, Pickthall)

A diversity of political governments exists in the world. This, according to the Koran, is part of God’s grand design. The notion that there should be one theocratic state that governs the whole world in this present age is contrary to the teaching of the Koran.

Just as the Bible teaches that “there is no authority except from God” (Roman 13:1), the Koran likewise teaches the same thing but in different words.

Allah bestoweth His Sovereignty on whom He will. (Koran 2:247, Pickthall)

Say: O Allah! Owner of Sovereignty! Thou givest sovereignty unto whom Thou wilt, and Thou withdrawest sovereignty from whom Thou wilt. Thou exaltest whom Thou wilt, and Thou abasest whom Thou wilt. In Thy hand is the good. Lo! Thou art Able to do all things. (Koran 3:26, Pickthall)

O my Lord! Thou hast given me (something) of sovereignty and hast taught me (something) of the interpretation of events – Creator of the heavens and the earth! Thou art my Protecting Guardian in the world and the Hereafter. Make me to die submissive (unto Thee), and join me to the righteous. (Koran 12:101, Pickthall)

He said, “My Lord, forgive me and grant me a kingdom such as will not belong to anyone after me. Indeed, You are the Bestower.” (Koran 38:35, Sahih International)

The Koran teaches that we should obey the existing authorities.

O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the messenger and those of you who are in authority; and if ye have a dispute concerning any matter, refer it to Allah and the messenger if ye are (in truth) believers in Allah and the Last Day. That is better and more seemly in the end. (Koran 4:59, Pickthall)

And if any tidings, whether of safety or fear, come unto them, they noise it abroad, whereas if they had referred it to the messenger and to such of them as are in authority, those among them who are able to think out the matter would have known it. If it had not been for the grace of Allah upon you and His mercy ye would have followed Satan, save a few (of you). (Koran 4:83, Pickthall)

Muhammad is dead. So, all that one has is God, the Bible, the Koran, and those who are in authority when trying to resolve a dispute between individuals. The Bible and the Koran were what was used in the seventh century among the first generation Muslims. (Koran 2:285; 4:136,137) In a secular state, one must obey the ones that God has given sovereignty, that is, the existing government authorities.

Although there are many earthly governments in the world and all are there because God, in His own invisible and providential way, has “appointed” them, the Kingdom of God still exists among them. It is a kingdom which is “not of this world.”

Knowest thou not that it is Allah unto Whom belongeth the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth; and ye have not, beside Allah, any guardian or helper? (Koran 2:107, Pickthall)

Unto Allah belongeth the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth. Allah is Able to do all things. (Koran 3:189, Pickthall)

Unto Allah belongeth the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth and whatsoever is therein, and He is Able to do all things. (Koran 5:120, Pickthall)

And unto Allah belongeth the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth, and unto Allah is the journeying. (Koran 24:42, Pickthall)

Then praise be to Allah, Lord of the heavens and Lord of the earth, the Lord of the Worlds. (Koran 45:36, Pickthall)

The Muslim Ummah like the Church is supposed to be a spiritual nation among nations. I do not think that it was ever intended to be theocratic state during this present age. When Christ returns at the end of this age, there will be a theocracy which will last forever. (Isaiah 9:7; Daniel 2:44; Revelation 22:3-5)

Like the Bible, the Koran also has its evangelism verses.

Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance. (Koran 16:125, Yusuf Ali)

Who speaks better than one who invites human beings to God, acts righteously and says, “I am a Muslim.” (Koran 41:33, Muhammad Sarwar)

One caveat I need to mention. The religion presented in the Sunnah is not the same religion found in the Koran. There are false hadiths in the Sunnah which encourage Muslims to force people to convert to their version of Islam, sanction pedophilia, sanction female genital mutilation, instruct people to kill homosexuals, and make apostasy and adultery crimes punishable by death. None of these teachings are found in the Koran. Unfortunately, there are people in this world who have adopted these barbaric practices as part of their religion.

Koranic Islam is not the same as Islam based on all of those false hadiths attributed to Muhammad. The Koran is much more benign than the Sunnah.

In conclusion, the Koran and the Bible recognize that existing government authorities are in place because it is God’s will for them to exist. God bestows sovereignty on whom He will. (Koran 2:247) There is no authority except from God. (Romans 13:1) God’s kingdom is “not of this world” (John 18:36). Unto God belongs the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth and whatsoever is therein. (Koran 5:120) God’s kingdom is a spiritual kingdom and there is no compulsion to submit to God’s sovereignty.

There is no compulsion in religion. Certainly, right has become clearly distinct from wrong. Whoever rejects the devil and believes in God has firmly taken hold of a strong handle that never breaks. God is All-hearing and knowing. (Koran 2:256, Muhammad Sarwar)

Be Thankful

November 22, 2017 Leave a comment

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. I think that we all need to be thankful for what we have and for whatever circumstances we may be living in. After all, that is God’s will for us — to be thankful.

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (I Thessalonians 5:18, NKJV)

In the Koran, it says:

If you count God’s blessing, you will never number it. (Koran 14:34, Arberry)

There is a video by some Contemporary Islamic Music artists that I think is quite appropriate for the occasion.

 

 

I like this video. It reminds me about how I need to thank God in every circumstance whether it be bad or good. So, let’s be thankful.

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