Saturday, November 29, 2014

Are we in the End Times?

Are we in the End Times? I dunno'. Sooner or later this world is coming to an end. It might be in the next five minutes or in the next five million years. For each of us the world comes to an end in about 80 years or so. It is then that we get to play the game that the girl wanted her brother to play in that "Addams Family" movie: Is there a God? Since it is a game that sooner or later we all get to play, whether we want to play it or not, it might be a good idea to figure out how to play it ahead of time, just in case there is a God. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Survey: 77% of Israeli Arabs prefer Israeli rule to Palestinian

From this article:

"...77% [of Israeli Arabs] prefer to live under Israeli rule rather than Palestinian, according to a recent poll by the Statnet research institute....

Of the percentage of Arabs who prefer to live under Israeli rule: 70% were Druse, 57% Christian, and 49% Muslim. And those that preferred to live under the Palestinian Authority: 2% were Druse, 5% Christian, and 18% Muslim."

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Isn't Israel already a Jewish Nation-State?

I thought that Israel would have already had some sort of language in its founding documents making clear the Jewish nature of the state of Israel.  And according to Dr. Mohammed Wattad, yes it does.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Experimenter Bias and Shocking Videos

A couple of posts ago I linked to a couple of videos of a reporter waving an ISIS flag at Berkeley campus.  I thought it was, and still think it is, an interesting experiment.  But what strikes me as perhaps the biggest flaw in the experiment is possible bias on the part of the experimenter. He is a reporter who probably is trying to make a name for himself. The best way to do this is by filming very interesting videos. And one way to do this is to film what appear to be results opposite of what we would normally expect. Thus, showing video of people not reacting to his waving an ISIS flag would be the result he would want to attain. And this could be easily achieved. Even if 95% of the people who walked by stopped to express negative comments about his actions, all he has to do is edit them out and show only the 5% who did not react. I'm not saying that this is what he actually did. It could be exactly what he claims happened - no negative reactions whatsoever. The problem is, since he would have a motive to make an interesting video, unless we know him to be a person of high ethical character, we should be careful about the conclusions he wants us to draw about his experiment.

What we do know is that some people at Berkeley tweeted negative reactions to the ISIS flag-waving.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Negative Reaction to Pro-Palestinian Demonstration on Campus

A friend of mine suggested that people didn't react negatively to the pro-ISIS demonstrator, because they figured he was joking.  Meanwhile, he suggested that there are negative reactions to pro-Palestinian demonstrations on campuses.  I found one that seems to prove his second point.  There is at least one negative reaction to this Pro-Palestinian Demonstration at the U. of Michigan.

Reaction to ISIS Flag vs. Reaction to Israel's Flag

Interesting Experiment.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Difficulty in Arresting Jesus

Jesus arrives in Jerusalem for the Passover, but he has come early, the first day of the week, and Passover won't begin until Thursday or Friday evening. As it gets closer to Passover, the crowds of Jewish people coming to celebrate will grow. And the danger that Jesus could cause a major uproar or rebellion by publicly claiming to be the Messiah will grow, also. So if one wants to get rid of Jesus, the sooner the better. 
But there is a problem. Just as with modern cities, where the closer to town vacationers want to stay the more expensive the lodgings, so was it also the case in Jerusalem. So most visitors would stay in the outlying towns at night and come to the city during the day. Jesus and his disciples, along with the crowd of Galilean Jews, did likewise, with many of them staying in Bethany, about two miles away. 
Thus, from morning to evening Jesus will be surrounded by a large group of Galilean Jews with whom he is very popular. And the more he teaches and heals people, the more his popularity will grow with Judean Jews and even native Jerusalemites. To try to arrest him during the day is just asking for trouble. And at night, he is staying two miles from the city, much too risky for the Temple guards to pull off a secret night arrest successfully. 
Another opiton would just be to inform the Romans that Jesus is a dangerous insurgent who must be done away with. But this might bring the same result - a large, bloody riot. 
At this point the ruling class in Jerusalem, the priests, have to hope that somehow they will find a way to isolate Jesus from the crowd.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Jesus' Public Proclamation that He is the Messiah

Getting back to our story, Jesus was traveling with a crowd of Galilean Jews south to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. They had just passed through Jericho, where a blind man has called Jesus the "son of David," most likely suggesting that he considered Jesus to be the Messiah, who was to be a descendant of King David. Jesus seems to accept this designation, for the first time publicly acknowledging that he also considers himself to be the Messiah.
It is about another 15 miles to Jerusalem, or roughly an 8 hour hike. When they get close to the city, Jesus sends someone to get a donkey, which he then sits on to ride into Jerusalem. We are told in the New Testament accounts that this is to fulfill a prophecy in Zechariah 9:9. 
" Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on an ass,
on a colt the foal of an ass."
I suspect that most Jews would have been familiar with that prophecy and would have understood that Jesus was now making a public proclamation that he was the Messiah, the rightful king of Israel. The crowd that is with him threw down their garments and leafy branches on the road and cried out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming! Hosanna in the highest!” 
Any Jews watching from Jerusalem would realize the serious Messianic implication of Jesus triumphal entry. But what about the Romans? I suspect that a man riding a donkey into the city wouldn't have meant much to them. And there was no show of military force. So if this triumphal entry had caught their attention, they might have just shrugged it off as some silly Jewish show of honor to one of their religious men. 
However, if the priests, the men in charge of the Temple and responsible for civic order in the city, saw Jesus' entry, I think they would have been very alarmed. Who was this man and why was he seemingly claiming to be the Messiah? And what were they to do about it?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The first person to call Jesus "the Messiah" in the general public?

Jesus lived in Galilee, which was a region in northern Israel. To get to Jerusalem and celebrate the Passover he would need to travel south into what was known as Judea. The typical route would take people through the town of Jericho. It was here that a blind man is sitting by the road and hears that Jesus is passing by. He cries out to him, "Son of David, have pity on me!" The crowd that is travelling with Jesus tells the man to be quiet. Why? I think the reason is that the blind man has used the term "son of David." The Messiah was supposed to be descended from the line of King David, and was often called "the son of David." So for someone to call Jesus this meant that they were saying that he was the Messiah, the rightful king of Israel. The problem is that calling someone the Messiah in public is to invite trouble from the Roman rulers, who would see this as a challenge to their authority. But the blind man doesn't care what the crowd says. He just calls out louder, "Son of David, have pity on me!" 
What's interesting is what happens next. Jesus stops and tells them to bring the blind man to him, which they do. He then asks the man what he can do for him, and the blind man asks him to restore his sight, which Jesus does. The healed man rejoices and follows Jesus, along with the rest of the crowd.
It is important to notice that this is the first time that Jesus has made any sort of public acknowledgment that he is the Messiah. He did it in private with his disciples. But not in public. We are not told whether the crowd already believed he was the Messiah, or whether they were surprised by Jesus' acknowledgement. But either way, the fact that Jesus thinks he is the Messiah is now "out." And it is significant that it took a blind man to see it.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Why Jesus wanted his Messiahship kept a secret.

Whatever the reason why people didn't think Jesus could be the Messiah, after Peter says that he is the Messiah, the first thing Jesus tells his disciples is not to tell anyone else that he is the Messiah. I suspect there were a couple of reasons for this. The first reason was that people would then gather to him in the hope that he would start a rebellion to drive the Romans out of Israel. And that was not what Jesus was about. In fact, from this point on Jesus repeatedly tells his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem, where the priests will hand him over to the Romans, who will execute him. Whatever his goal was as the Messiah, it was not a political/military goal. He was not trying to free his fellow Jewish people from Roman rule. He was trying to free them and all of us from something else - sin.
I think the second reason Jesus didn't want people saying that he was the Messiah is that it would have made him an instant target for the Roman rulers. He knew that eventually they would kill him, but he wanted it done on his terms, at a certain place and time - in Jerusalem, at Passover.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Why didn't people consider Jesus to be the Messiah during his lifetime?

I've been thinking about why people didn't consider Jesus to be the Messiah during his lifetime on Earth. He had preached that the kingdom of God was at hand. He had performed miracles, healing the blind, deaf, dumb and lame. He had even raised a couple of people from the dead. He had fed thousands of people with a few fish and a couple loaves of bread. But apparently nobody was thinking that he might be the Messiah. Instead, we get this: 
"Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesare′a Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Eli′jah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (Matthew 16:13-14)
It seems that people were associating the idea of who the Messiah would be with a political/military leader. Someone who would kick out the Romans and re-establish the kingdom of Israel and the throne of David. Apparently that's why Jesus was so excited when he asks his disciples who they think he is and Peter replies,
“You are the Christ [Greek for "the Messiah"], the Son of the living God.”
I think most commentators interpret Peter's reply theologically - that Peter was saying that there was something supernatural or divine about Jesus. I'm beginning to think that's a mistake. It was common for Jews to refer to the king of Israel as "the son of God," meaning figurative, not real sonship. I suspect that is all that Peter meant, too. So I think that what got Jesus excited was that even though he had expressed no political views or made any military actions, Peter had somehow been able to see that Jesus was the king of Israel. Apparently it took something supernatural for that to happen. Thus Jesus responds,
“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. "