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Answering E-mail Print E-mail

Written by Rick Wade

Three Days in the Tomb

One aspect of our ministry at Probe is answering questions sent via e-mail. In this article I'm going to address a few questions people have asked.

The first question I'll address has to do with the day of Jesus' death. Someone wrote and asked, "Was Jesus crucified on Thursday or Friday? How do we account for the three days [in the tomb]?"

It will be quite impossible to deal adequately with this question in such limited space. But let's see what we can do.{1}

The Friday view of the crucifixion has been held the longest in the church. John 19:31 says that Jesus' body was taken down from the cross on "the day of preparation" to avoid having it there on the Sabbath. If this refers to the weekly Sabbath, then the day of preparation--and hence, that of Jesus' death--was on Friday. Luke 23:54-56 says the women witnessed his burial on the day of preparation, and then went home and rested on the Sabbath. On the first day of the week, Sunday, they found the tomb empty (Luke 24:1ff).

Jesus' reference to Jonah poses the greatest problem for this understanding. In Matthew 12:40 we read, "As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." Because of this verse, some have held a second view of the crucifixion, that Jesus was crucified on Wednesday. He then arose on Saturday afternoon, and first appeared to his disciples on Sunday.{2} This allows a full three days and nights in the tomb. But Sunday has from the beginning been regarded as the day Jesus rose from the dead, and this would be the fourth day from Wednesday rather than the third. In addition, it's been established that the Jews counted any part of a day as a whole day, so a full seventy-two hours in the tomb isn't required (cf. Gen. 42:17,18; I Kings 20:29, II Chron. 10:5,12; Esther 4:16, 5:1). "After three days" and "on the third day" are equivalent as Matthew 27:63-64 shows clearly.{3}

A third view is that Jesus died on Thursday and rose on Sunday, which allows for three nights and part of three days in the tomb. Thus, the Last Supper was on Wednesday evening, and Jesus - the Passover Lamb--was crucified on Thursday. Friday was the first day of Unleavened Bread, a day of no work, and so is thought to be "the Sabbath of the Passover."{4} So Jesus was buried on Thursday to avoid profaning this "Sabbath."

In response, New Testament scholar Harold Hoehner notes that there is no precedent for thinking of Friday as a special Sabbath. "The day of preparation for the Passover" in John 19:31 needn't refer to the day before Passover; it could refer to Passover itself.{5} John 19:31,42, which speaks of the day of preparation and the Sabbath, seems naturally to refer to Friday and Saturday.{6} In this writer's view, then, the Friday view still seems to be the correct one.

The Nephilim

Who were the Nephilim in Genesis chapter 6? That is a question raised fairly often. The Nephilim are mentioned in Genesis 6 and again in Numbers 13. The passage in Genesis 6 is especially intriguing because of its account of the "sons of God" going in to the "daughters of men." Someone wrote to ask whether the Nephilim "were simply human or the off-spring of angels (demons) mating with human women."

Let's begin with the passage itself. Genesis 6: 1-4 reads:

When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the LORD said, "My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years." The Nephilim were on the earth in those days--and also afterward--when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.

In considering the identity of the Nephilim, one must also answer two other questions: the identity of the "sons of God" and the "daughters of men," and the significance of the passage relative to that which precedes it and that which follows (its context). "In most cases," says John Sailhamer, "the interpretations [of this passage] have arisen out of the viewpoint that these verses introduce the story of the Flood."{7} Some commentators, however, think otherwise.

First, who are these "sons" and "daughters"? One view holds that the "sons" were kings and the "daughters" were lower class women who made up the harems of such kings.{8} The "sons" were guilty of polygamy in taking more than one wife from among the "daughters of men." This was at least part of the reason God brought judgment. This view has real possibilities, for it provides a bridge between the genealogies of Cain and Seth in chapters 4 and 5, and it serves as an explanation of the judgment to follow. A weakness of this view is that "while both within the OT and in other Near Eastern texts individual kings were called God's son, there is no evidence that groups of kings were so styled."{9}

Another view is that these "sons of God" were angels or demons who united with human women, and so corrupted the race that God had to bring judgment. It seems highly unlikely that this is the correct interpretation. First, Jesus said that angels don't marry, and in Genesis 6:2 the word for "married" means just that, and not fornication. If good angels don't marry, why would God grant sexual powers to demons? Second, if demons were taking advantage of human women, why was mankind judged? The Interpreter's Bible Commentary offers this view, but relegates the story to myth. If we aren't prepared to think of Genesis as being mythological, we need to look for another option.

A third view is that the "sons of God" were descendents of godly Seth, while the "daughters of men" were descendents of ungodly Cain. Although "sons of God" is used in the Old Testament to refer to angels (see Job 1:6, 2:1 in the NASB), godly men are also called "sons" as in Psalm 73:15 and Hosea 1:10.

This view provides a bridge between chapters 4-5 and chapter 6. Chapter 4 lists some offspring of Cain, chapter 5 those of Seth, and chapter 6 brings them together. According to this view, says commentator Victor Hamilton, "The sin is a forbidden union, a yoking of what God intended to keep apart, the intermarriage of believer with unbeliever."{10}

Jesus said in Matt. 24:38, "For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark." Seth's godly descendents had shifted their focus from God to the things of the flesh and were simply carrying on with their lives, but not in accordance with God's will. That the primary focus of God's wrath is against the union, rather than the offspring of it, is the fact that God's displeasure is announced after mentioning the marriage unions but before mentioning the offspring.

So, then, who were the Nephilim? The Holman Bible Dictionary says the word "probably derived from the root 'to fall' and meaning either 'the fallen ones' or else 'ones who fall [violently] upon others.'"{11} Hamilton translates it "those who were made to fall, those who were cast down." If this is correct, then the Nephilim are certainly not to be identified with the "heroes of old, men of renown" in verse 4.{12} Old Testament commentators Keil and Delitzsch believe Martin Luther had it correct when he said these men were tyrants. "They were called Nephilim," they say, "because they fell upon the people and oppressed them."{13}

Were they the offspring of the "sons of God" and "daughters of men"? Apparently not, for the verse says they "were on the earth in those days--and also afterward"; in other words, they were contemporaries of the "sons" and "daughters."

It's hard to be dogmatic about the interpretation of Genesis 6:1-4. But my vote goes with this last view.

Is Jesus the Final Messenger from God?

The next question has to do with Jesus as the final "messenger" from God. A letter e-mailed to us reads in part: I assume you believe the Old Testament to be part of the inspired word of God, and therefore believe Moses, and Abraham before him, were part of this "progress of revelation." Were there others, perhaps Krishna, Zoroaster, or Buddha, who spread God's instructions to others at different places and times?

The writer continues:

Is it possible that God has sent other messengers since Jesus, to accommodate His instructions, perhaps Muhammad (as Muslims believe) or Baha'ullah (as Baha'is believe)? If you do not believe these two men were messengers from God, do you believe we are due for another messenger, so God can accommodate his instructions to the moral and spiritual standards of the people of our time? In general, how can we determine which messengers are part of God's progressive revelation and which are not?

According to Scripture, Jesus was the full revelation of God to us (Heb. 1:1-2). Not only did he teach us about God, but also His work of securing our redemption was the culmination of God's plan. He was the focus of God's message. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament point to Him. As two sorrowful disciples of Jesus made their way home after His death, He appeared to them, and "beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, [Jesus] explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures" (Luke 24:27). The New Testament clearly is focused on Jesus as well. If Jesus was the focus of God's message, anyone who legitimately spoke for God after Jesus was simply clarifying and expanding on His message.

In another e-mail, the same writer said: "I am struck by the great similarities of the world's religions. It seems to me that certain central themes run through them all . . . for example, Love for God and your fellow man." In response, I quoted Steve Turner's tongue-in-cheek declaration of religious pluralists: "We believe that all religions are basically the same . . . They all believe in love and goodness. They only differ on matters of creation, sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation."{14}

Those are some major differences, aren't they? So all religions believe in God. Which God? There are polytheists, Trinitarian theists, oneness theists, pantheists, panentheists, . . . Which view of God is true? What about salvation? Are we to become one with the cosmos, or find forgiveness through faith in Jesus alone? Are we to discover our own essential divinity, or recognize that we are finite, contingent beings who were made to serve the one true God who is "Wholly Other"? According to Jesus, there is only one God and only one way to Him.

It's clear, then, that no other "messenger" such as Krishna or Buddha, who doesn't preach Jesus and salvation through him alone, could be from God.

Flames

Along with e-mails asking questions and occasionally giving us pats on the back, there are those that take issue with something we've said.

One general kind of criticism is that we don't know what we're talking about. Here's an excerpt from an e-mail to Ray Bohlin:

I was highly disturbed by the content of this page. Your delusions and misinterpretation of facts is highly disconcerting. . . . This page is ripe with Christian propaganda and follows a thoroughly unscholarly approach in developing its argument. I only hope that millions of innocent people are not blinded by your lies, and that scientific research will continue to restore the truth that has been so corrupted by the archaic concept that is Christianity.

Wow! That's rather harsh. But notice that there are no specific issues mentioned. Here is Ray's response in part:

I . . . noticed that your message was loaded with accusations but no substance or specifics. If you really think we are so full of errors and lies, a few examples might allow us the opportunity to correct them.

The critic wrote back to say he would substantiate his accusations but never did.

Others of us have been accused of not knowing what we're talking about. One writer thought Pat Zukeran's assessment of Buddhism reflected a lack of direct experience with Buddhists. Pat replied,

I come from an island that is 80% Buddhist. My entire family clan has held to Buddhist teachings for hundreds of years. My parents and cousins remain in the Buddhist faith. I grew up under the teachings of the Buddhist temples near my house. I have been a member of the Young Buddhist Association. Therefore, I have many Buddhist friends including my own family members.

That should be enough experience, shouldn't it?

Occasionally we receive e-mails that almost fry our monitors--"flaming," I think it's called. Don Closson received this one:

I read your article about Bishop Spong, and while I don't always agree with him, I'm not an idiot like you who doesn't understand one word of the bishop's writings. You should try living in the 21st century sometime. What an idiot.

This isn't going to look good on Don's resume.

If things aren't looking good for Don, though, what about poor Ray? One writer said, "Hey I read your commentary on apes, 'hominids', and humans and thought it [stinks]." Well, he didn't say "stinks," but I think it would be improper to use his actual word. "Surely you can find something better to do than knock God's evolutionary plan back into the dark ages," he continues. "LOL. Crack me up. . . what a buffoon! You crack me up!"

But wait! It gets worse. Here's an e-mail that begins, "You are a sad man." Another says plainly, "You're sick." One says, "I think that you are a moron." Whoa! What kind of crew do we have here at Probe, anyway?

One final e-mail ought to be noted. Someone was upset about one of our articles on evolution and creation, and concluded his message with this:

All your pseudo-religion promotes is hate and intolerance, preaching your holyier [sic] than thou attitude. So with great contempt I say, if your god is real, may you burn in hell, you evil Christian dinosaur.

Let's see. We preach "hate and intolerance," and the writer consigns us to a long stay in hell?

At Probe we take input seriously . . . when it's presented in a reasonable manner. Maybe a variation of the Golden Rule should be a guide: "Speak unto others as you would have them speak unto you." Do you have a complaint? State it clearly, give specific examples, and keep the tone as amiable as possible. And one of our sick, holier than thou, unscholarly, idiotic buffoons will answer . . . once we figure out what we're talking about.

Notes

1. I have drawn extensively from chapter four of Harold Hoehner's Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977), pp. 65-74, for this discussion.

2. W. Graham Scroggie, A Guide to the Gospels (London, 1948), 569-577; cited in Hoehner, Chronological Aspects, 66-67.

3. Also, there are more occasions in the Gospels where Jesus is said to rise on the third day than after the third day (Matt. 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; 27:64; Luke 9:22; 18:33; 24:7, 21, 46; Acts 10:40; I Cor. 15:4).

4. Hoehner, 68.

5. New Testament scholar Leon Morris notes that there is no evidence that the phrase indicates the day before the Passover; all clear references to the "day of preparation" refer to Friday. See Hoehner, 70.

6. Hoehner, 71.

7. John Sailhamer, "Genesis," in The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), 75.

8. Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 263.

9. Hamilton, 264.

10. Hamilton, 264.

11. Holman Bible Dictionary, "Nephilim."

12. Hamilton, 270.

13. C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsche, Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol. 1: The Pentateuch. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, n.d.), 137.

14. Steve Turner, Nice and Nasty (Marshall and Scott, 1980).

©2001 Probe Ministries

 

See also the entire Probe Answers Our E-Mail section of our website

About the Author

Rick WadeRick Wade served as a Probe research associate for 17 years. He holds a B.A. in communications (radio broadcasting) from Moody Bible Institute, an M.A. in Christian Thought (theology/philosophy of religion) from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and a Master of Humanities (emphasis in philosophy) from the University of Dallas. Rick's interests focus on apologetics, Christianity and culture, and the changing currents in Western thought. Before joining Probe Ministries, Rick worked in the ship repair industry in Norfolk, VA. He can be reached at rwade@pobox.com.

What is Probe?

Probe Ministries is a non-profit ministry whose mission is to assist the church in renewing the minds of believers with a Christian worldview and to equip the church to engage the world for Christ. Probe fulfills this mission through our Mind Games conferences for youth and adults, our 3-minute daily radio program, and our extensive Web site at www.probe.org.

Further information about Probe's materials and ministry may be obtained by contacting us at:

Probe Ministries
2001 W. Plano Parkway, Suite 2000
Plano TX 75075
(972) 941-4565

info@probe.org
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