The Rock of the Church

Matthew 16.13-20

‘On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Sheol will not prevail against it.’

One of the sharpest divisions between Catholics and Protestants is the office of ‘the pope’, the bishop of Rome as the global leader of the church in succession to the apostle Simon Peter. The primary biblical source for this belief is the conversation found in Matthew 16.13-20, in which Jesus gives Simon the nickname ‘Peter’ and identifies him as ‘the rock’ of the church. Or doesn’t, according to Protestants.

‘He Cast Out Many Demons’

The Origins of Satan, Fallen Angels, and Demons

There is a popular story within Christianity on where ‘the devil’ and his ‘demons’ came from, what I call the ‘Lucifer myth’. In this pop theology account, God created the angels in the very beginning, before he created the earth or its inhabitants. The best and greatest of all these angels was a cherub named Lucifer. One day, for whatever the reason, Lucifer became corrupt and led a full third of the angels in rebellion against God; Lucifer wanted to take his place! Instead, Lucifer and his angels were thrown out of heaven. The fallen angels became demons, and Lucifer was renamed ‘Satan’, and they gained the ability to possess humans against their will.

This myth is found all across Christian theology for centuries. Almost none of it is found in the Bible.

When the Revelation Was Written

A Short-Standing Debate

The last century has seen the growth of a view among Christians that the Book of Revelation was written before the year AD 70. They believe the majority of the prophecies in the book are about the events leading to AD 70, and it can’t very well be that John predicted events after they happened. A fringe group among this crowd of Christians actually believes the entire Revelation — indeed, they believe all biblical prophecy — concludes with AD 70 and the destruction of Jerusalem. Using a handful of points, these groups of Christians believe the Revelation was written around AD 66-68.

In AD 70, Rome overpowered Jerusalem after a four-year war and destroyed its temple. AD 70 is the year of importance in this debate because it is the focal point of Jesus’ apocalyptic prophecy in Mark 13 (parallels in Matt 24, Luke 21), and the Revelation seems to overlap with Jesus’ prophecy.

Was the Revelation written before AD 70 and so predicted Jerusalem’s fall, or was the book written after AD 70 and Jerusalem’s fall informs the background of the book’s contents?


The Dragon of the Sea

On that day Yahweh with his cruel and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will kill the dragon that is in the sea.

Before the universe existed there was ocean. The ancient Israelites did not believe in a creation from nothing, per se, but creation from water. There was a primordial sea, chaotic and empty, which was the closest concept to ‘nothingness’ they had. From this endless sea, the first gods came to be. But there was a problem: the sea was the primeval deity, terrible and powerful. So the gods killed the sea that birthed them.

The Death of Judah Iscariot

Matthew 27.3-10 & Acts 1.15-20

Judah was a dreadful, walking example of impiety in this world.

How did Judah Iscariot die? He got so obscenely fat he couldn’t even see, and eventually his disease-ridden body exuded feces and worms to such an extent he died, and even a hundred years later the location of his unfortunate fate reeked of death.

A Son Is Born for Us

Isaiah 9.6-7

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onwards and forevermore. The zeal of Yahweh of Armies will do this.

Isaiah 9.6-7 is traditionally interpreted by Christians as a prophecy about Jesus, quoted in sermons every Christmas. It follows on the heels of Isaiah 7.14, which is applied to Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. As with Isaiah 7.14, however, the original context prevents this view.

Overview: The Book of Isaiah

The First Major Prophet

If the Book of Ezekiel was fairly straightforward, and Jeremiah was a tangled web, then Isaiah is the most confusing of the three to work through.

Where the Book of Jeremiah had a handful of later additions, the Book of Isaiah is a composite text coming from at least four different authors, across a span of about three or four centuries. We call the three main contributors to the book Proto-Isaiah, Deutero-Isaiah, and Trito-Isaiah. Somewhat similar to the Psalms, the Book of Isaiah is the result of a core collection of prophecies, with later prophecies added on in stages with careful intent.