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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Bible Studies

:: How to Have the Eternal Security of the Salvation
:: Marriage and the Authority of the Early Christian Authors
:: The Bible and the Abortion - When? Why?
:: The Bible is a Reliable Book!

Bible Crosswords

:: Fowls That Shall Not be Eaten - Answers

Bible Quizzes

:: Abraham, the Patriarch 1

Bible Crosswords - Fowls That Shall Not be Eaten


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Bible Crosswords Answers - Fowls That Shall Not be Eaten

Horizontal: 1. heron, 3. pelican, 5. lapwing, 8. bat, 9. ossifrage, 11. hawk, kite. Vertical: 2. ospray, 4. stork, 6. swan, 7. eagle, 8. owl, 10. cormorant, 12. raven.

How to Have the Eternal Security of the Salvation

Many Christians, and sometimes it seems to be the majority of them, do not have complete certainty about their salvation. Or, although believing that they were saved, they doubt that their salvation can be eternal. How to have assurance of the eternal security of salvation?

In the book of Isaiah, chapter 38, verses 18 and 19, in the 'Song of Hezekiah" one can read the following words:

"For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day (...)"
Also in the book of Psalms, chapter 88 and verse 11, we read similar words,
"Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in the abyss?"
And, even more clearly, in Psalm 6, verse 5:
"For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?"
Such words make us understand that God's praise is something totally absent in the realm of the dead, also known as "hell", "hades" (Greek), and "Sheol" (Hebrew). This is the place where the dead go to get retained until that day in which all humans, those who have already undergone this land, will attend the presence of God to be judged and to receive the sentence that will decide on his eternal destiny, as it is written in the book of Revelation, chapter 20, verses 11:12: "And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works".

Therefore, there is no one in hell to praise God. It's like a spiritual desert. A true believer could not be cast into hell, because not even that place could extinguish in his spirit the feeling of praise and worship to God, which is what distinguishes the saved disciples from those who are neither one thing nor the other. Every true believer worships God in his heart, for "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." (John 4:24) and "For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." (Phil. 3:3). In Matthew, chapter 23, verse 33, Jesus warns the Pharisees: "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" However, we know that those who follow Jesus Christ did not go to hell because they were saved from this fate, as is seen in Romans 8:1-2: "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." It is clear, then, that those who are in Christ are free from all condemnation, including that condemnation which doomed humans in general to a season in hell.


Jesus, when he was about to ascend to heaven, bidding farewell to his followers, charge them with the task of spreading the good news: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:" (Mt 28:19). We know that not only the twelve chosen apostles accompanied Jesus on his travels to preach the kingdom of God. The term "disciples" referred to a large number of people who followed him, including those who abandoned him when he preached about the participation in one body by eating from his flesh and drinking from his blood (Mt 6:53-58; 60 , 66). This is why Jesus said, as it is written in the book of Mark, chapter 9, verse 1: "And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power." It is obvious that Jesus was referring to the fact that not all of those who accompanied him in his journeys were true disciples, but that they who were so should not actually die, and therefore should not go to hell. This becomes clear in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, where one sees the beggar in paradise, while the rich suffered from the flames and the heat of the infernal region (Lk 16:20-31). Lazarus, obviously a saved one, was in a place somewhere near the place where the rich was, but totally different in its conditions and separated from that by an unbridgeable chasm.


Therefore the disciples, the true Christians, do not go to hell. And, also, in hell there is no praise to God. Joining, accordingly, these two assumptions, we can build a classic syllogism, as follows:


Major premise: In hell there is nothing like praise to God;

Minor premise: A true believer praises God in his spirit;
Conclusion: If you praise God in your spirit, you are a true believer and cannot go to hell, ie, not having salvation.

So, what we should do to make ourselves assured of our own salvation is to meditate over ourselves and simply observe that we worship God in spirit and in truth, that the praise to God dwells in our hearts. We follow the advice that Paul has written in 2 Corinthians 13:5: "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" And in Romans 8:1 "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Notice the words in those two verses: "Jesus Christ is in you" and "those who are in Christ Jesus." It's the same thing: Christ be in us and us being in him. And what comes to us as a consequence to the law of the Spirit of life (in Christ Jesus)? Praise! In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1, verse 15, announcing the birth of John the Baptist, the angel that appeared to Zechariah, told him, among other things: "For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb." And Jesus himself said: "Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist:" (Matthew 11:11 a). Also, the angel said  to Zechariah: "And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth." (Luke 1:14). The man who has the spirit of God in himself brings pleasure, joy and delight to those who are receptives to the gospel. Later, in chapter 2 of the same book, we read that Mary went to visit the mother of John: "And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:. And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy." (Lk 1:41-44). The fruit of the Spirit is praise! Only saved believers or those who are intended to salvation praise / worship God in Spirit and in truth. For these, there is no condemnation.


What parent there is in this world that is not predisposed to get rid of any condemnation of the son who, despite committing numerous and big mistakes, he acknowledges that truly loves and appreciates him? How much more our heavenly father is not willing to forgive us and redeem us of the consequences of our sins and transgressions, we who worship him and praise him for what he is and for his great works. This is the reason why God had considered David a man after his heart (1 Samuel 13:14). The name of David is forever associated with the praise and worship emanating from the Psalms, written mostly by his own hand. No man of God committed more errors than he, while at the same time being so honored and preserved by God. This is due to the fact that, even with the greatest transgressions committed, David's heart was always elevated toward God to reveal him to mankind and extol his supreme qualities. David had, no doubt, the heart of a worshiper. Such men are sought by God, and because of these he sent his son to this earth, to rescue them from eternal damnation, saving them from hell and from the lake of fire.


Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power! (Psalm 150:1)

The Bible and the Abortion - When? Why?

Christians are not, in general, supportive of abortion as a means of birth control, or of any other use of it. Some Christians believe that, at most, it would be acceptable in those situations in which the common sense has already made feasible the demand, i.e., when the mother's life is at evident risk and in cases of rape, especially those commited with violence. The question is, under these circumstances, at what stage of pregnancy an abortion could be performed without a crime against human life being committed? It seems that the Bible does have an answer to this important question.

In order to begin, it is necessary to distinguish between the two cases. As for the case of the mother's life that is at risk, of course, what we have here is the question of which life to preserve - that of the mother or that of the fetus? It is a complicated legal issue that cannot be clarified so quickly. But let us remember Benjamin, the biblical patriarch who, when born, had caused the death of his mother, Rachel. Should he have been aborted, for the mother to survive? The second issue, the rape, is more favorable to the fetus, because, from the moment in which he may have been formed as a human being, he has as much rights to life as any other human being has, regardless of who is or what has committed its male parent. The Bible itself says it all: "The soul who sins shall die: the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father nor the father bear the iniquity of the son, the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of wicked shall be upon him." (Ezekiel 18:20)


As for the question of the life of the fetus, wether it is a full human life or not, the answer can only be given by the creator of life itself, the one that has set the limits and stages for its development. What distinguishes the human life of that of the animals is that the former was made in the image and likeness of its creator.


In the book of Exodus, chapter 21, verses 22 through 25, it is written: 

"If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt 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." 
This is the translation which is in the Bible text we have today, made from the Masoretic text, which was established (in the Hebrew language) several centuries after Christ.

The vast majority of Bible readers does not know that the Old Testament used by early Christians was a Greek version of the hebraic scriptures which had been made for over two hundred years before Christ, called the "Septuagint." There is controversy over whether, at this time, all the books were already translated, but the Pentateuch (the first five books, written by Moses) certainly was, and it was widely used. That version of the Septuagint was not exactly equal to the Masoretic formatted text accomplished several centuries later, but it is, in fact, a version that was widely used by early Christians.


In the previously mentioned biblical text which addresses the question of an abortion by violence, the Septuagint version reads: 

"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)
In this text, more informative than that in the Masoretic version, we find the answer to the question introduced: If the fetus expelled is not yet "perfectly formed" then it is considered that the father had suffered a somewhat small loss, because children are "inheritance of parents", and thus he deserves a corresponding monetary compensation. However, if the child is formed, he is a human being already discernible and, therefore, has the image and likeness of God; then, to take his life by mischief corresponds to a murder, as well as harming one of their organs is an offense that deserves to be punished with the same intensity in the culprit. The Greek word that is translated as "perfectly formed" is, in the Greek Septuagint, "exeikonismenon", a form of the verb "exeikonizo" which means, according to "The Analytical Lexicon to the Septuagint", which can be found in Google Books*, literally "to be fully shaped or formed (in the image of God)."

Concerning the manner as how to determine at what stage of pregnancy the fetus presents, already, the fully formal characteristic of a human being (perfectly formed), this is an issue which could be made clear with some help from biology. To those who guide themselves by the word of God this will clear up when an abortion could be practiced, if there is an absolute necessity of it, i.e., in cases of life-threatening for the mother and unwanted pregnancies due to rape.


The Septuagint deserves greatly to be studied and disseminated, for it adds data and meaning to the study of the Bible that we are already accustomed to read.



* The Analytical Lexicon to the Septuagint

Marriage and the Authority of the Early Christian Authors



What is the real extent unto which the earliest Christian writers, the so-called "church fathers", must deserve our unrestricted approval? Must we accept, without hesitation, all that they wrote and recommended to the churches which they ran and to which they sent their epistles? I'm not referring, here, to the writers of the New Testament, but to those who came soon after, as Irenaeus and Tertullian.

Rather, it is correct to say that they were extraordinary men who lived in a time very close to that time in which the apostles, friends of Jesus, wrote; that they faced persecution and even death for the sake of their faith and for the glory of God; that they treated with many issues relevant to the doctrine of the Church and also had fought successfully against the first heresies. We were left by them, undoubtedly, a legacy and an example of great value. Nevertheless, his writings cannot be considered infallible because they are not included in the canon of the New Testament. They should, however, be examined carefully if we must extract from them doctrinal matter which will serve to the purpose of guiding us in our Christian walk.


How the first Christian writers viewed marriage


Next, we will examine the teachings of those great masters on the subject that matters in this research, which deals with the limits of the possibility of divorce to the followers of Jesus Christ, and, consequently, the possibility for them of contracting a new marriage.

Ignatius, who was, along with Clement of Rome, one of the two earliest Christian writers, lived from 30 AD to 107 AD, having been a contemporary of Paul and of the other apostles. There is a tradition in the Church that considers he as being the small child that the Lord placed in the midst of the apostles, in the episode related in the book of Matthew, chapter 18. Ignatius was a disciple of John along with Polycarp, another of the so-called church fathers and to whom he addressed an epistle which, in its fifth chapter, contained the following words:
"If any of you can remain in a state of purity for the honor of him who is Lord also of the flesh, that he remain so without boasting of it. But if he begins to boast is doomed to failure, and if he is going to judge yourself superior to the bishop himself, is already ruined. But it is appropriate for men and women who marry to make their union with the approval of the bishop, and that their marriage may be according to God's will and not according to their own lusts. Let all things be done for the honor of God".
What is the meaning Ignatius wanted to give to his words by saying that marriage should be kept "in accordance with the will of God, and not according to their own lusts", it becomes clear in another of his epistles, the one he addressed to the Church of Philadelphia, which reads, in the fourth chapter, the following words:
"Virgin (Ignatius is heading his words to both sexes), have only Christ before your eyes, and His Father in your prayers, being also illuminated by the Spirit. That I may rejoice in your purity, as was the purity of Elijah or of Joshua, son of Nun, as was that of Melchisedec, that of Elisha, that of Jeremiah, that of John the Baptist. Or as was that of the beloved disciple, and that of Timothy, and that of Titus, and that of Evodius, as well as that of Clement, who departed from this life in perfect chastity. Not that I regret all the other blessed saints because they married, of whom I have spoken. For I pray that, being found worthy by God, I can be found at their feet in the Kingdom, as at the feet of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, as well as at the feet of Isaiah, and the rest of the prophets, and so as at the feet of Peter and Paul and the other apostles, who were married men. Because they entered these marriages not because of desire, but into consideration for the need of propagation of the species".
From these words we can clearly discern what was the opinion of Ignatius about sex in marriage: it should, merely, serve to the purpose of procreation and propagation of the species, in apparent compliance with the ordinance of God in Genesis 1:21: "And God blessed them and said to them: be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves upon the earth". Pleasure was seen as something negative that should not be fetched in any way; at most it would have to be tolerated, because it could not be avoided even in a relationship that was aimed exclusively at the generation of children. We believe, because of the meaning of the words of Ignatius, that sex, being tolerated only for the purpose of having children, it should cease as soon as the woman had conceived, and perhaps completely when the number of children had already reached to a certain limit.

This opinion, shared by many of the so-called church fathers, the first great Christian writers, is totally contrary to the spirit of the Scriptures. In them we see that perfect chastity is a gift of God, which can at best be pursued with zeal, but which is not to be exercised within marriage. Rather, Christian marriage has as its main objective the satisfaction of the carnal desires of those who do not have the gift of self-control in this area, confining that satisfaction within the limits placed by God in marriage, having not in itself any virtue and deserving not any special recommendation. This can be confirmed in the argument of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 7.5-9: "Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn." This kind of teaching leads us to the conclusion that God had not, at all, the aim of assigning a special place to the human family in the Church, nor it was his wish that it should be increased due to the conversions of children influenced by Christian parents. If so, he would have expressly ordered that Christians should marry and generate the greatest number of children possible. Rather, according to the teachings of the New Testament, the natural uncontrolled (or uncontrollable) desire is represented as the only justification for the believer to seek a stable union with someone of the opposite sex, provided that this someone was a brother in faith. This assumption remains far from the point of view which says that the sexual desire is not to be taken into consideration in marriage, but only the generation of sons and the propagation of the species. Thus, the patristic view, contrary to the enjoyment of the pleasure consequent to carnal relations within marriage, can only be seen as emerging from the influence of some sects which existed at that time (Gnosticism, etc.).

Primarily, God's ideal for Christians was (and still is: see Mal 3:6) that them should remain unmarried and building up in the Church to meet all the needs that are normally met, in the first instance, in family life, and, secondarily, in social life . Human beings, in their relationships with others, have as much need of love "agape" which is the Greek word for love in the highest sense, which manifests itself in its purest form, in this world, between parents and children and between spouses, as of love "philia". This is another Greek word used in the New Testament to describe the friendship, the kind of feeling that arises in the most cordial social relations of all kinds: in school, at work, in sports clubs, in religious associations, etc. God's intention for His children is that all forms of aforementioned love were met within the context of the larger family: His Church. Even conjugal love in its most concrete manifestation, that of the sexual relationship ("eros" in Greek terminology), should be practiced only between brothers; the believers should not put themselves unequally yoked with unbelievers, nor make its members the members of a prostitute. This leads us to realize how spurious are certain movements occurring even today in some churches, which give an undeserved "sacred" status to the institution of human family, as if it were "God's purpose" within the Church. Because the human family is, certainly, a purpose of God for all mankind and in all ages. However, in the Church this purpose was supplanted by the family of the sons of God, where the Church is the bride and Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, is also the husband ("For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, Christ to present you as a pure virgin. "2 Cor 11:2).

Therefore, it is from this wrong way of seeing the satisfaction of human need for sexual desire as undesirable and deserving to be avoided, even in the marital relationship, that develops the considerations of the early Christian writers on marriage and its consequences. We can see this trend of thought further developed in the writings of Athenagoras, born 147 years after Ignatius in the 177. C., who, in his "Argument in Favor of the Christians," writes:
"Consequently, having the hope of eternal life, we despise the things of this life, even the pleasures of the soul, each of us recognizing his wife to whom he is married according to the laws given to us, and that only with the purpose of having children. for, as the husbandman throwing the seed in the ground wait for the harvest, not sowing more upon the first seeding, so to us the procreation of children is the measure of our indulgence in desire."
 And also writes:
"For he who deprives himself of his first wife, even though she's dead, is disguised as an adulterer." 
The words "not seeding more upon the first sowing," clearly imply that after a sexual relationship where one believes that the woman had been fertilized, the Christian husband should abstain from new relationships with her and wait for the harvest, ie, the birth of a son. It seems as though we consider that the Bible teaches that a believer might think something like this : "I'm getting married because I must have children," when what is really taught us is that we must say: "I'm getting married because I have not the gift of self-control and do not want to burn with passion".



We see that Athenagoras was going so far as to say that the believer should remain faithful to his spouse even after his death, a thing for which there is no support comming from any teaching in the New or even in the Old Testament. Rather, as the apostle Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 7.39-40: "A wife is bound as long as her husband lives, but if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, provided it is in the Lord. But she is happier if she so abide, in my judgment, and I think also that I have the Spirit of God".

Clement of Alexandria (153-217 BC), who, coming just after Justin and Irenaeus, should be considered one of the founders of Christian literature, also condemned or imposed strict limits on the role of gratification of the desire in marital relations, emphasizing the generation of children as the main reason for the Christian marriage. Having a classical formation, he quotes several Greek and Latin authors in support of his view of the subject: Menander, Sophocles, Socrates, Plato, Epicurus, the Stoics, the Peripatetics... In his "Stromata", book II (On Marriage), Chapter XXIII, he writes, outlining the various opinions of the philosophers of antiquity about the advantages and disadvantages of marriage:
"Plato puts marriage between the more apparent good things, providing the continuity of our race, and passing from hand to hand, like a torch, some perpetuity to the children's children. Democritus repudiates marriage and procreation of children, in consideration for the many annoyances that arise therefrom, and the consequent abstraction of the most necessary things. Epicurus agrees with this view, as well as with those who put the good pleasure in the absence of problems and pain. According to the thought of the Stoics, marriage and childbearing are an indifferent thing, and, according to the Peripatetics, a good".
He, also, adds his own opinion:
"Marriage is the first conjunction of man and woman for the procreation of legitimate children. Thus Menander, the comic poet says:
"For the generation of legitimate children,
I grant thee my daughter. "
"There should not anyone get a wife, neither any woman for that to choose, not always nor in any way, nor inconsiderately. But only one who has certain qualifications, only this, and at the appropriate time, and with the purpose of having children, a wife with all these predicates, and not because from force or compulsion loves her husband who loves her. 
"I pray that ye be not divested of modesty at the same time that you divest from your clothes, because it is never fair to the man to divest himself of continence. For, ah! What is mortal must put on immortality; once the voracious desire, which rushes to licentiousness, having been tame by self-restraint, and made love free of corruption, man must devote himself to eternal chastity. "For in this world, they marry and are given in marriage." But having given an end to the works of the flesh, and having been clothed with immortality, the flesh being purified, we pursue that which is according to the standard of the angels. 
"For the feeling of pleasure is not in any way a necessity, but a companion of certain natural desires - hunger, thirst, cold, sex. Therefore, if it were possible to drink without this feeling, or eat, or bear children, no other need for it could be presented. For pleasure is neither a function nor a state, nor any part of us, but was placed on life as a helper, as salt is used to season food. But when it plays out over and starts to govern the house it generates, first, the lust, which is a propensity and an irrational impulse for what gratifies itself (...) For what is more lust than a voluptuous voracity  and the superfluous abundance of those who abandon themselves to self-indulgence? Diogenes significantly writes in one of his tragedies:
"Those who to the pleasures of effeminate
And dirty lust attach themselves at the heart,
Do not want to strive for nothing. "
"Now, marriage is a relief in the case of those advanced in years, for providing a wife to care for them, and producing children that will sustain them when in extreme old age."
We see, in these excerpts, the interpretation of Clement about what he thinks that is what the New Testament presents to us as the only valid reason for the marriage of Christians: the generation of sons and the propagation of the species; and, secondarily, some concern for the needs of senile age. On the contrary, what we are told in God's word is that we should not worry about any of these things; that our true sons and daughters (and siblings, and parents), would be encountered in the Church, and that our material and more pressing needs would be met by the care of God, as also was an obligation of the Church to take care of its needy, including widows (ie, elderly without children). God exempted the Christians from any concern for the family, replacing it by the Church itself, the divine family of converts. Not that it had been given to believers a command contrary to secular marriage. God knows that most of their children do not have, initially, the gift of relinquishing from carnal relations with the opposite sex.

In the Old Testament the Lord, through Moses' authority as the supreme legislator for the people of Israel, allowed, because of the hardness of the hearts of the Hebrews, them to divorce their wives due to certain reasons. Such permission was contrary to the original will of God, who wished that the marriage bond was never broken, but should remain constant among the participants of the original covenant. It lies within the New Testament a perfect inverted parallel to this fact: the permission to Christians to contract marriage, when one sees clearly, in what is written, that God's will for them was that their relationship with Him must be sufficient to attend all their needs, the physical being superseded by the spiritual. The Christian should become independent of the charges of the flesh, emotionally satisfied with his relationships within the Church, assisted by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which thing will allow a more complete communion with God and with other Christians, this fellowship being greater than that comming from any traditional family ties. But, because of the residual hardness that still remained in the hearts of some converts and that kept them carnal beyond the limits which correspond to the will of God, He allowed them to marry in the same manner as He had allowed the ancient Israelites to divorce, because of the hardness of their hearts and in plain contrast to what was His will.

God has great appreciation for the human family, it is the ideal way He has found so that human beings can satiate their sexual needs and beget children, thus contributing to the propagation of the species. In this sense, the family is a project of God. However, in the Church God does not impose at Christians the subjection to the commandment: "Increase and multiply"; but still remains the sexual desire, which is a kind of attraction that God has created to cause humans to relate and the humanity to fill the whole earth (because He knew that men would not simply obey his command if there were not the motive of attraction between the sexes). Notwithstanding, Christians can not overcome sexual desire without the gift bestowed by the Holy Spirit, and most of them do not even have the will to seek this gift. Therefore, God allows them to marry or remain married, as Paul, the apostle, wrote, and as He also allowed the Israelites to divorce, by the words of Moses. To the infidelity permitted in the Old Testament (because of the hardness of hearts) corresponds an infidelity permitted in the New Testament for the same reason, since the Church was created to be the Bride of Christ, supplanting in this bond the strength of all human relationships .


The limits of divorce and remarriage conditions

Justin Martyr, who lived 110-160 d. C., writing to the Roman senate in his second apology, in the Chapter II presents the case of a married woman, who before being of corrupted habits and practicing many prostitutions, drunkenness and fornications with the servants of the house, and her husband also practicing the same things, ended up converting to Christianity. The husband did not want to join her in this decision, but continued to live in an increasingly lawlessness. The friends of the woman, Christians probably, persuaded her to stay married, hoping that her husband would come to make amends, due to her example and admonitions. However, he went on to act in an increasingly corrupt manner, and his wife, by reason of not wanting to be "a partaker also in his iniquities and impiety" gave him what the Romans called, in the words of Justin, a "bill of divorce," and separated. There is no hint in this story from Justin of a subsequent reconciliation, even more that the motive of the writer, addressing the senate, was to complain about the persecution the husband moved against the ex-wife, accusing her of being a Christian, as well as against her master in Christian doctrine, Ptolemy, who was then punished by Urbicus, mayor of Rome at that time. Justin, also, does not condemn the Christian woman for having divorced from a wicked husband, because of his fornications. This text teaches us a few things:

1) The Church advised that the Christian spouse should remain married, hoping that the wicked and wanton spouse would repent, according to the teaching of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16: "But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?"

2) Despite this, Christian women could divorce in the second century of the Christian era with the consent of the Church. Paul, in the text cited above, speaks of an unbelieving spouse who wished to remain married to a Christian woman, but adds nothing about this spouse being or not being a fornicator. The text of Justin enables us to see that in certain cases, when the behavior of the infidel was decidedly evil and he showed no intention of changing such conduct, the Christian spouse could decide for the separation using the legal instrument of the "bill of divorce". If such a decision was valid for Christian women of that time, it was also valid to Christian men of the time. This knowledge takes us one step further in the understanding of the reasons which first-century Christians considered valid for divorce. Beyond the desire of an unbelieving spouse not to remain married to a Christian, lewdness, too, was reason enough to give a bill of divorce; and we have no right to think that Justin Martyr was not a qualified judge to decide on this matter. If he, like the Church which existed at that time and place did not condemned the decision of this faithfull woman, surely this was an acceptable course of action for the whole Church of that entire period.

3) The reason for the breakup, "not wanting to be a partaker also in his iniquities and impiety," leads us to believe that it could provide a basis for an acceptable separation, a legal divorce not restricted to the condition of the spouse being an unbeliever, and which would maintain its acceptability, also, in the case of the spouse being a Christian.

The Shepherd of Hermas describes the visions of Hermas, and it was a much appreciated book within the early Church. The critics, although not sure about its authorship, are of the opinion that it must have been written in an early period of the Church. It was recognized as Scripture by Irenaeus, which shows that it was already in circulation well before his time. The most likely date for its composition is in the reign of Hadrian (76-138) or on that of Antonius Pius (86-161). This is a very important book for giving us the knowledge of the type of writings instructing the Christians of the second and third centuries.

Under the heading "About Firing a Wife by Reason of Adultery," in the chapter I, Hermas asks the one who speaks to him in a vision:
"I told him, "let me ask you some questions". "Speak," he said. So I told him: "Lord, if someone has a believing wife, and if he realizes that she is in adultery, the man commits sin continuing to live with her? "And he said, "As long as he remains ignorant of her sin, the husband does not commit any transgression in living with her. But if he knows that his wife is transgressing, and if the woman does not repent, but persists in her fornication, and yet the husband continues to live with her, he is also guilty of her crime, and a participant in her adultery. "and I asked him, "What then, sir, the husband should do if his wife continues her vicious practices?" and he spoke these words: "The husband should put her away, and remain alone. But if he says goodbye to his wife and marries another, commits adultery." Then I said, "But what if the repudiated woman repent and want to return; it should not be accepted back by her husband?" He replied : "Certainly. If the husband does not take her back, commits sin; actually, brings a great sin upon himself, for he shall receive back the sinner who repents. But not often. For there is only one opportunity of repentance for the servants of the Lord. For this case, therefore, that the divorced repent, the husband should not take another in marriage, when his wife is divorced. And, on this issue the man and the woman must receive the same treatment"".
In Chapter III, the being which appears in the vision to Hermas, adds:
"And for this reason I tell you that if someone is tempted by the devil, and sins after that great and holy calling in which the Lord has called His people to eternal life, that person has the opportunity to repent, but only once. But if he frequently sins after the call of God, and repent every time he sins, for such a man his repentance is worthless, because he shall live with great difficulty. "
Within these teachings included in the Shepherd of Hermas, we found that:

1) The divorce was not only allowed in the early Church, but even commanded, if the spouse being repudiated had commited fornication continuously.
2) Women have the same right as men in this matter.
3) Clarifying item 3, in the appreciation of of Justin Martyr's teachings: the fornicator  spouse had not, by necessity, any need to be an unbelieving so that divorce could happen.

One can assume that the real reason for which the innocent believer should not contract a new marriage rests on the fact that the sinner might come to repent, and then he should be accepted back. In this case, we must conclude that should the unfaithful believer come back to transgress (which could no longer be forgiven, nor would he then be welcomed back by the innocent spouse), his spouse would be unimpeded from contracting a new marriage.

The Shepherd of Hermas provides the teaching that, after conversion, the Christian had the right to sin and repent, receiving forgiveness of his sin, but this only once. For this reason, the one who asks separation should not remarry, and the text makes it clear that the reason for the requirement for the faithful spouse to remain single was to keep open the door of marriage, if the unfaithful spouse repented and wanted to return. In this case he should be accepted again, and the non-acceptance entailed a great sin for the spouse who did not want to forgive. But the text also made it clear that the opportunity for repentance and reconciliation was given only once, for repentance in a second occasion of sin after conversion was invalid. It is clear, therefore, that an spouse who had been pardoned after expressing regret for his sin, and having been accepted back by his conjuge, and who would sin again, going once more into adultery and fornication, should not be forgiven again. For human forgiveness, in this case, must correspond to the divine forgiveness, which did not allow more than one opportunity to repent (according to the Shepherd of Hermas) after someone accepts the call of God for eternal life, having their sins totally erased. Considering that the reason for the faithful spouse remaining single was the hope of repentance of the other and the consequent granting of forgiveness and acceptance back within marriage, in the case of a forgiven spouse's renewed adultery,  there would be no need for this. Therefore, it would open the possibility for a new marriage, and nothing exists in the Shepherd of Hermas disallowing this conclusion. Even, as we have sawed in our analysis of the teachings of Justin Martyr, the reason for the betrayed spouse not marrying after requesting the separation was the same as that given in the Shepherd of Hermas. This leads us to believe that in the case of someone staying on continued practice of fornication after being forgiven and accepted back one (or more times), nothing stood against the possibility of a new marriage by the faithful spouse. Nothing, except the recommendation of the apostles and teachers of the Church that it was better to widowers (and unmarried) to remain in the state in which they were found, dedicating their lives to the Lord and to the Church.

Tertullian (145-220 AD), as Solomon, was a Christian writer to whom the Church owes much recognition for his writings, but who, in the latter part of his existence, does not stood firm in the doctrine of the scriptures. He accepted, around 199 BC, the teachings of the Montanists. Jerome ascribes this event to his disagreements with the Roman clergy, which may have influenced the question, and a certain tendency of Tertullian to accept the mystical notions and ascetic principles of Montanism. However, the authority of Tertullian on the very important points of Christian doctrine was not practically affected by this lapse. His most famous writings, such as the Against Marcion, can be read by the most dogmatic believers without any feeling of doctrinal displeasure, not even his position as the intellectual precursor of both Jerome and Augustine may be underestimated.

Tertullian is the most complete example of the attitude and beliefs of the early Christian writers regarding divorce, by summarizing in his person, in his two distinct periods, paradoxically, the two basic views of those masters. It can be said that there were two Tertullians, one of them, that of the first period, staunch supporter of the tenets of Scripture, and the other, that of a later period, having his mind somewhat contaminated by the influence of Montanism. Despite having accepted the teachings of the Montanists in the end of his life, it were not those teachings which had dictated his last opinions about divorce and remarriage. All that one can say is that, maybe, they have contributed to confound his brilliant mind in his late interpretation of  the biblical teachings on this issue.

At first Tertullian maintained that which was, perhaps, the first correct interpretation of Jesus' teaching about divorce and remarriage in church history: that if anyone should leave their spouse with the express purpose of marrying someone else, he would be committing adultery by lying with someone without their marriage having been legally dissolved (legally, that is, in accordance with the standards of the Bible), and having been separated from his spouse for no other reason than that of contracting remarriage. Such teaching clearly demonstrates that the opposite was considered acceptable, ie, the remarriage of someone whose marriage had been dissolved in a legal biblical manner, according to the norms contained in the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 19:9: "I say unto you, whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marries a divorced woman commits adultery."

These are the words of Tertullian, that he wrote in the treatise Against Marcion:
"(...) I maintain, therefore, that there was a condition on the ban that he did of divorce, the assumption being that a man sends his wife away with the express purpose of marrying another. His words are: "any that sends away his wife and marry another, committeth adultery" - "to send away," this means, for the very reason that it should not be used to dismiss a woman: for the purpose of obtaining a new wife. For he who marries a woman who was illegally sent away like that is so an adulterer as who that marries a not divorced woman. The marriage which is not legally dissolved is permanent; to get married, while the marriage has not been annulled is to commit adultery. Since, then, that this ban on divorce was conditional, God not absolutely forbids it, and what He does not forbids absolutely, that He even allows in some situations, when there is an absence of the cause for which he gave his ban. Truly, His teaching is not contrary to that of Moses, whose precepts defends partially, if not confirms".

The Bible is a Reliable Book!

Who doesn't yet knows that wonderful book, the Bible? If someone has not yet had the privilege of having it in his hands and read its inspired words, he, at least, have seen it or heard about it. Would you like to know it better? Keep reading and find some answers to your questions about that which is, undoubtedly, the most important of the books.

Many people has claimed that the Bible is not a reliable book to know about the will and the person of God because it was "written by men." However, the Bible is a book that presents itself as having been written ultimately by God who, maintaining the authorship, for this purpose used the service of men whom he inspired and guided by putting in their minds the very words he wished them to write: "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). It is composed of 66 books, written in various literary styles (poetry, history, prophecy, historical romance, songs, laws, etc…) by over 40 different authors, among them the statesman Moses, the farmer Job, the herdsman Amos, the physician Luke and the King David. It was written in many and distant places as, for example, a desert, a prison, a palace...

Does the Bible inspired by God has been changed by men in the course of time? Many people are asking this question, and some even say that the true Bible exists no more. However, if we assume that God himself wrote this book to reveal his will to men, we must ask ourselves: Does he will allow it to be adulterated? Would he have not enough power to prevent any significant change in his word? Moreover, it is possible to establish, conclusively, the fact that no other document of ancient history was so well preserved as the Bible. Among the Jews, the people of the inspired (by God) men who wrote the Old Testament in its entirety and almost all of the New Testament, there have existed always a group of men called "scribes" who were in charge of copying, preserving and transmiting to the future generations the books of the Bible with fidelity, paying great attention to every letter, syllable and word.

According to the testimony of the New Testament writers they actually saw, heard and/or confirmed what they wrote: "For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty" (2 Peter 1:16); "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:1-3); "Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus" (Luke 1:1-3); "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how 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 of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. after that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time" (1 Cor 15:3-8). The New Testament writers wrote to be read by the people who had knowledge of the facts they are describing, people who had lived with them, and some of them were opponents who would gladly dispute any statement which was considered not to be true.

As for the New Testament, it was written in Greek language a few years after the death of Jesus Christ. The original manuscripts, which obviously does not exist anymore, were immediately after its creation copied countless times, and these copies circulated among the many churches that had arisen. Currently, there exist more than 5,300 of these ancient manuscripts, some of which date back to about seventeen hundred years ago, which thing bestows on the New Testament the honorable title of "the more confirmed document of ancient history". Comparing, the prestigious classic "The Iliad" of Homer, comes soon after in number of old copies preserved, with 643 surviving manuscripts, the oldest of which dates only to seven hundred years ago. And no one doubts its authenticity. Scholars of ancient texts, comparing the different versions of the New Testament, agree that virtually every verse is now in the exact manner that it was first written for about two thousand years ago, while about Shakespeare's text, which is a little over two hundred years old, there are serious doubts concerning the authenticity of a hundred passages. Moreover, several famous writers and historians of antiquity have attested to the authenticity of the New Testament, among them Tacitus (roman historian who wrote major works on the history of the Roman Empire; 56-120), Josephus (jewish general who led the revolt of the Jews against the Romans and then wrote a history of those events; 37-100) and Eusebius (christian bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, a church historian and a leading early Christian exegete; circa 270-340). Archaeologists has also taken it upon themselves to confirm the statements contained in this holy book. After the beginning of the excavations in Palestine greatly increased the respect of archaeologists for the Bible. Also, the literature on the Bible is, by far, the most extensive on this planet on any subject and keeps growing.

No other book has been so persecuted and negatively examined as the Bible. Many have tried to destroy and forbid it, or discredit it, criticizing harshly its text. Among its fiercest enemies there were emperors, popes, rulers and scholars of the highest carat, which used all their power and ability against this book without, however, manage to finish it or discredit it.

There's no doubt! The Bible, the very God's word, despite its antiquity deserves our complete trust and consideration.

Diaspora

There are no longer the afternoons and evenings
In which there were laughter and conversations,
In which the people gathered, with simplicity, to sing
And praise to the One who had kept them together.

Finally, each one sought his own interests,
Wandering hearts and minds,
They stumbled and fell.

They fell to rise no more?

Me Genoito!*

Somewhere the story resumes,
But an enemy probes the hearts.

(Watch and pray, because the enemy is crafty
And does not want your goodness)

*In Greek idiom signifies “That this does not happen!" Paul used this expression frequently.

Hope

I hope, sometimes, that you're near to me,
That you would answer me. But, ah!
Why I do not listen to your voice?
Why, Lord, this impenetrable silence,
My words crashing into a high wall,
And I do not have the sureness that you listen to me?

I know that you are a just God, that you are One,
And everything you have created perfect.
Could there be something that you could not accomplish?
Some insurmountable obstacle?
A wall too high, a stone too heavy?
Or, some overly complicated situation
That you would not make it simple and resolved?

Who will enter into your holy temple, Lord?
Who shall dwell with the flames?
In the large congregation there is joy and delight,
In the communion of your anointed ones.
Outside there is darkness, gnashing of teeth, crying.
Oh God, open this door to me!
Do not refuse me your Holy Spirit.
For my thoughts have their own life.
Lord, how my thoughts frighten me!
Like a herd of buffaloes who one cannot stop
They advance against my conscience, surround me,
And just for seen them approaching I became sick,
And I lose my hope.

Forgive me, oh God!
Because I have abandoned my Eden.
It was not in a single occasion,
That I ate at the forbidden tree.
(Such knowledge separates us from you).
And now, oh Lord, how to return?
I cannot go back, and not even I know how to go forward.
Blind, I can only walk led by your hand.

That would be good then, oh God, if, suddenly,
You should ease the burden of my affliction,
You should send me unexpected relief.
It would be like waking up from the dense darkness of a nightmare,
It would be as it was for Peter when,
Released from prison and the sure death, an angel led him,
Sleepy, through the prison’s doors that were opened
Without someone touching them.
Soon, he could feel the cool night’s breeze on his face,
And then, instantly, life invaded his senses.

I know, Lord, that you're the only key to my deliverance.
You alone can break the heavy chains
And undo the bad consequences of my mistakes,
Because you has observed every minute of my struggle -
You has nourished the offender in his prison.

Suddenly, a light flashed upon Peter,
When everything around him was submersed on darkness,
And he walked in the alley under the cover of night,
And greatly cheered the hearts of the disciples.