Joseph of Arimathea

Joseph Arimathea 1

Q. Who was Joseph of Arimathea and why did they gave him Jesus’ body?

A. Joseph of Arimathea (a city of the Jews, meaning “a lion dead to the LORD”) appeared in all four gospels:
Mt 27:57-60 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away.
• Mk 15:43, 45-46 Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. … And ascertaining this from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.
• Lk 23:50-53 And a man named Joseph, who was a member of the Council, a good and righteous man (he had not consented to their plan and action), a man from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who was waiting for the kingdom of God; this man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. And he took it down and wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever lain.
• Jn 19:38-40 After these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission. So he came and took away His body. Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.

We know a few facts about him:
• He was rich;
• He was a member of the Council, the Sanhedrin;
• He became a disciple of Jesus, a secret one for fear of the Jews; this is like some members of the Communist Party in China becoming Christians in secret;
• He was a good and righteous man;
• He had not consented to the Sanhedrin’s plans to crucify Jesus; presumably neither did Nicodemus;
• He gathered up courage to go to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body;
• He and Nicodemus prepared Jesus’ body for burial; likely they knew each other already;
• They buried Jesus in Joseph’s own new tomb hewed out in the rock.

Pilate gave him Jesus’ body because:
• He asked for it, also
• Possibly assuming that he was handing Jesus’ body to Jewish authorities, as Joseph was a Council member.

You can be a secret disciple, but it’s better to be a courageous one and stand up for Him.

Are you Smarter than a First Grader? (4)

1st grader 5

My wife joined the reunion of her high school classmates, and they gave her the following problem:
1111 = 0 | 5555 = 0 | 2222 = 0 | 8193 = 3 | 7662 = 2
8096 = 5 | 9313 = 1 | 4398 = 3 | 0000 = 4 | 9475 = 1
6666 = 4 | 9038 = 4 | 7172 = 0 | 3148 = 2 | 2889 = 5
1964 = ?

They did not say what grade this is, but supposedly it can be solved by a first grader. And unlike the previous two problems which require logic and deduction, this one is really simple, so simple that we who are so complicated often overlook the solution since it is so obvious. What does 1964 equal to? Can you guess?

The answer is 2! Why? Need a hint? Don’t try to see if there is a secret code hidden in those 15 four-digit numbers. I was stumped when I tried to discern any relationship between them, or between the digits that made them up. In vain did I try to sum the digits in each number, or do all sorts of mental gymnastics to “massage” the data! There is no need for any of that. Mt 11:25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. (also Lk 10:21) We who consider ourselves wise are too intelligent for our own good, and the simplicity of things just eludes us.

Still clueless? What shape do little children like, that parents feel safe about? “o”! Count how many “o”s there are in each of the numbers and you’ll get your answer! Now do you see? I have two degrees, with distinction, but I hadn’t got a clue! Humbling isn’t it? Reminds me of Jas 4:6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (also 1 Pet 5:5).

Mt 18:3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. (also Mk 10:15; Lk 18:17) Hope we all have the simple faith of children totally dependent on their parents.

Are you Smarter than a First Grader? (3)

1st grader 2

Q. AB – CD = EF; EF + GH = PPP. A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, and P are unique digits different from each other. What’s A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, and P?

A. For sure you can’t solve 9 unknowns with only 2 equations with algebra alone. But you can use logic and trial and error. One method is as follows:

1. First, the sum of any two 2-digit numbers can never be greater than or equal to 200. Hence P must be less than 2. It cannot be 0 because otherwise E, F, G, and H must all be 0, which is not allowed by the problem definition. Therefore P must be 1.
2. Secondly, since EF + GH = 111, therefore F + H must = 11, carrying 1 to E + G and E + G must = 10, thus making it 11.
3. E + G =10 possibilities include 8+2, 7+3, 6+4, 4+6, 3+7, 2+8. It cannot be 9+1 or 1+9, as 1 = P already. Nor can it be 5+5, as each alphabet can be used only once.
4. F + H = 11 possibilities include 9+2, 8+3, 7+4, 6+5, 5+6, 4+7, 3+8, 2+9.
5. Since each digit appears only once, each EG combination would preclude those FH combinations in which the EG digits are already used e.g. for E+G as 8+2 precludes the four F+H combinations of 9+2, 8+3, 3+8 and 2+9.
6. As there are six EG and eight FH combinations, four of which are precluded by each set of EG digits, there is a total of 6 X (8-4) = 24 possibilities, which are listed as follows:
a. 87 + 24 = 111, 86 + 25 = 111, 85 + 26 = 111, 84 + 27 = 111;
b. 79 + 32 = 111, 76 + 35 = 111, 75 + 36 = 111, 72 + 39 = 111;
c. 69 + 42 = 111, 68 + 43 = 111, 63 + 48 = 111, 62 + 49 = 111;
d. 49 + 62 = 111, 48 + 63 = 111, 43 + 68 = 111, 42 + 69 = 111;
e. 39 + 72 = 111, 36 + 75 = 111, 35 + 76 = 111, 32 + 79 = 111;
f. 27 + 84 = 111, 26 + 85 = 111, 25 + 86 = 111, 24 + 87 = 111.
7. Thirdly AB – CD = EF. Since A to H and P are all digits between 0 to 9, A must be > C and A > E as negative numbers are not allowed.
8. For each of the EF + GH = 111 listed in 6a to 6f, only the digits not already used by E, F, G, and H can be assigned to A, B, C and D to fit AB – CD = EF. For example, in 6a for 87 + 24 = 111, only 9, 6, 5, 3 and 0 remain to be used. In this particular case, only 93 – 06 would satisfy AB – CD = 87.
9. One can go through all the 24 possibilities in 6a to 6f, and by trial and error find out all the solutions that would fit each equation. Note that not all possibilities have a valid solution. For example, for 6f, while there is a solution for 27 + 84 = 111 (90 – 63 = 27), no combination of 9, 6, 5, 3 and 0 would satisfy AB – CD = 24 such that 24 + 87 = 111. Thus there are multiple solutions for AB + CD = EF, EF + GH = PPP. Perhaps you can write an algorithm to test all combinations.

Now, given the problem’s complexity, do you expect the average first grader to solve it? Or has the zealous examiner gone way overboard? Even though most people are not into mathematics and few would read this post, I wrote it not only because I enjoy mental challenges, but because there are similarities between this and bible study. As I said before, sometimes you need good detective skills to interpret the Bible properly.

First there is observation, noting all the details and the relationship between them. Some people just notice the prima facie evidence and jump right to conclusion. That would not do. Then there is interpretation. Some interpretations are possible until precluded by other observations not yet taken into account. You need to consider all biblical evidence and accept only the solution(s) that harmonize everything, because God does not make mistakes. Finally, sometimes you just have to accept the fact that there are no solutions this side of heaven, because God had chosen not to reveal everything to us. The mysteries belong to God. So come to the Bible with a keen but humble mind, ready to apply everything you learn and you will have a marvelous time learning from the Word.

Are You Smarter than a First Grader? (2)

1st grader 1

My brother sent me two math exam questions, supposedly grade 1. Let’s see if you are smarter than a first grader.

(Q1) ABCD X 9 = DCBA. Each of the 4 alphabets A, B, C, and D represents a different digit. What’s A, B, C and D?
(Q2) AB – CD = EF, EF + GH = PPP. Each of the 9 alphabets represents a different digit. What are A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H and P?

As far as I can remember, algebra wasn’t taught until high school. But that was over half a century ago. Maybe today’s kids are much smarter. But for Q1, there are 4 unknowns and only one equation. For Q2, there are 9 unknowns and only 2 equations. You need as many equations as the number of unknowns, so how do you solve the problem algebraically? Algebra won’t work in this instance. But a little logic might.

In Q1, the reasoning could be as follows:
* Each of A, B, C, D could be any unique number between 0 to 9.
* For a 4 digit number ABCD to be multiplied by 9 and still remain to be 4 digits, A can only be 1. It cannot be >1 as then the product would be 5 digits, not 4. A cannot be 0 either as then BCD X 9 could not produce a 4-digit number ending in 0.
* So for now we have 1BCD X 9 = DCB1. But the only multiple of 9 that produces a number ending in 1 is 9 i.e. 81. Therefore D = 9.
* Now we have 1BC9 X 9 = 9CB1, and B, C, could be 0, or a number between 2 to 8.
* But if B is any number between 2 to 8, when multiplied by 9 it would carry over from “hundreds” to “thousands”, which is not permissible by the previous steps. Hence B can only be 0.
* Now we have 10C9 X 9 = 9C01, with C being a number between 2 to 8.
* By trial and error, the only number that fits is 1089 X 9 = 9801. Therefore C = 8.

That’s a fair bit of logical and arithmetical thinking. Do we expect that from a first grader, a six-year old? And if you think that’s hard, try Q2. Any math teacher out there who can offer some help?

Should Women Preach? (2 of 2)

women preacher 3

(Continued from yesterday)

Yesterday we looked at the context and observed the text of 1 Tim 2:12, today we continue with its interpretation. The traditional view held by the Church for nearly 2,000 years is that women should not be elders or pastors, and by extension preachers. This is based on a literal interpretation of passages like 1 Tim 2:11-14 and 1 Co 11:3-10, and the fact that there are no women elders in the Bible.

Looking at the W5 observations, we can interpret 1 Tim 2:12 as follows: Paul does not allow a woman to teach formally/publicly in church, or exercise authority over a man. Furthermore, his restriction applies to all churches across time and culture, since the rationale goes beyond culture.

Some try to soften Paul’s prohibition by claiming that he was only addressing a local problem in Ephesus in his days, since Timothy was pastoring in Ephesus (1 Tim 1:3) at that time. But this does not fit the context and is not valid.

Now, since preaching involves teaching God’s truth and exhorting God’s people to apply it, not permitting women to teach implies that Paul does not allow women preachers either.

Let me elaborate. There are only two offices in the Church – elders (overseers or bishops or pastors) and deacons. Elders, overseers, bishops, pastors all point to the same people. “Elder” speaks to their mature spiritual experiences and understanding; “overseer” or “bishop” speaks to the character of the work undertaken, that of overseeing, or ruling, or leading. Pastors are shepherds who address the caring aspect of the overseers’ work. These are equivalent terms for the same people. Their qualifications are given in 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Deacons, on the other hand, are servants who assist the work of elders. Their qualifications are given in 1 Tim 3:8-13.

If you compare the qualifications and work of elders versus deacons, the big difference is that elders:
teach (1 Tim 3:2 able to teach; Titus 1: 9 holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.) and
rule (1 Tim 3:5 take care of the church of God; 1 Tim 5:17 The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.)
Deacons are not required to teach, and they do not rule.

So, when Paul does not allow a woman to teach and exercise authority (rule) over a man, he is specifically forbidding women to be elders and pastors. That is not to say sisters are not competent. Competency has nothing to do with it. Many sisters are more competent than many brothers. It is simply God’s sovereign choice to appoint male leadership in both the home and the church. Just as He chose the Levites to serve Him as priests in the OT, no other tribe can claim the priesthood even though they may be just as competent.

Women can teach:
• Other women or children Titus 2:3-4 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,
• Privately Acts 18:26 and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.
but not men in public assemblies.

But doesn’t the Bible teach that men and women are equal:
Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Yes, but in what sense? In the sense that we are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:26), heirs according to promise (Gal 3:29). That’s our position in Christ. The egalitarian view tries to apply this equality in our standing before Christ to our roles in Church, which is a misapplication as the Bible clearly distinguishes between the role of men versus women. All are Abraham’s descendants, but not all are priests, for example.

What about the mediating view? Wasn’t Barak not up to the task and Deborah stepped in:
Judg 4:8-9 Then Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” She said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the honor shall not be yours on the journey that you are about to take, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman.” Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh.
Yes, but Deborah was a judge, not an elder. She did not teach, and ruled in the sense of settling disputes, not managing a congregation. Besides, that was the exception, not the rule. God’s purpose will be accomplished one way or another. If men are unwilling or unavailable for the task, God can and have used women to achieve His will. But that doesn’t change His choice of male headship. We may not like it, but it’s His choice, not ours.

In short I subscribe to the traditional view. Situations happen in which women step into men’s roles, but that’s not God’s design.

Should Women Preach? (1 of 2)

women preacher 1

Q. Our cell group was studying the issue of women preachers in 1 Tim. There is much disagreement as there are different opinions which is very confusing. Some say sisters shouldn’t preach and submit to the plain teaching of the Bible, which is also given in 1 Co. Scripture’s demands are not subject to cultural background, except the issue of head covering which was mentioned only in the church at Corinth. Others say the only situation where sisters can preach is when the brothers of the church are not up to the task. What is your view on this?

A. The passages you referred to are 1 Tim 2:11-14 and 1 Co 11:3-10. There is much debate on whether women should preach and be ordained as pastors, with three main positions:
1. Traditional view: Women should not be elders or pastors;
2. Egalitarian view: God calls women as well as men to be elders and pastors; women should serve alongside men in all positions as equals;
3. Mediating view: Women serve under male leadership as their extension; they step in as replacement in the absence of men candidates.
Your cell group seemed to be split along views 1 and 3. There are books and dissertations written in support of all three views. All I can give you is my opinion in this brief article.

Actually I wrote on 1 Tim 2:12 before:
But I will approach it from another angle to answer your question specifically.

Let’s look at 1 Tim 2:11-14 below:
A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.
• But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.
• For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.
• And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.

First, the context is 1 Tim 2, which can be divided into two segments:
• 1-8 A call to Prayer, which ends with Paul calling the men in every place to pray (v 8);
• 9-15 Women Instructed
So the context is that of a contrast between the role of men and women.

Second, observation. I will use “W5” to summarize the key findings:
Who. The word “woman” translates the Greek word “gyne“, as in gynaecology. It can mean either:
• a woman (129 X in the KJV) of any age, whether a virgin, married, a widow; or
• a wife (92 X in the KJV), or a betrothed woman.
Some choose the latter meaning for v 12, and interpret the verse to mean Paul disallowing a wife to teach or exercise authority over her husband. This does not fit the context and the former meaning is the proper one.

What. The word “teach” translates the Greek word “didasko“, and in v 12 is used in the absolute sense, to give instruction. It is formal teaching. Paul is not forbidding a woman to teach informally, but formally.

Where. The chapter did not specify the setting explicitly, but it is quite obvious that a church environment is assumed, as Paul was not regulating situations inside the home.

When. Time was not specified, but given a church setting, the timing would be during public gatherings whenever the congregation get together, and not private meetings.

Why. Paul gave two reasons for not allowing a woman to teach:
• Adam was first created, and then Eve;
• Adam was not deceived, but the woman was.
The reasons go all the way back to:
• The order of creation, which specified man’s priority, and
• The Fall. Eve was deceived and Adam went along. She stepped out from man’s headship (leadership) and fell into transgression first.
Since the reasons involved our first parents, they apply to all their descendants and are trans-cultural. They do not apply just to a particular time in history or cultural background, but to all humanity.

(To be continued)

All Fat is the LORD’s?

Lev 3 16 b

Q. Lev 3:16 says all fat is the LORD’s. He does not want to share either (Lev 7:25)? Why does God want all the fat and cholesterol for Himself? Does He like barbecued fat?

A. Your observation is correct, but God is spirit (Jn 4:24) and does not eat the offerings:
Lev 3:16 The priest shall offer them up in smoke on the altar as food, an offering by fire for a soothing aroma; all fat is the LORD’S.
• Lev 7:25 For whoever eats the fat of the animal from which an offering by fire is offered to the LORD, even the person who eats shall be cut off from his people.

I do not think it has anything to do with keeping His people from eat high cholesterol fat for their health either, as there is no hint of that in the text.

To understand why we need to look at the biblical background. The first mention of “fat” in the Bible is in Abel’s sacrifice, which the NT assessed to be better than Cain’s:
Gen 4:4 Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering;
• Heb 11:4 By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, …

Abel offered the fat portions of the firstlings of his flock i.e. his best, and the LORD had regard for him and his offering.

Unlike contemporary western culture which view fat as unhealthy, the ancient Near Eastern culture treated fat as the best or choicest part. This understanding is reinforced when Pharaoh offered Jacob the best or the fat of the land:
Gen 45:18 and take your father and your households and come to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt and you will eat the fat of the land.

So when Lev 3:16 says all fat is the LORD’s, it is in fact saying offer your best to God. And when a person eats the fat, he is taking what is reserved for God for himself. No wonder that person should be cut off from or ostracized by his people. I don’t think God likes barbecued fat in the physical sense; He likes it when His people put Him first as they should.