Bible Haters and their Humanistic Love Paradox

We are living in an age that is unusual for its hatred for the Bible and Christianity.  The apologists for hating biblical faith make two major claims among others.  One is that the Bible is full of violence and vengeance and should be rejected.  The other is that the Bible is intolerant and fosters hatred and the rejection of alternative lifestyles.  It fosters homophobia, transphobia, bi-sexual phobia, and more.  How much hate for the Bible is due to its teaching on marriage and sexuality, especially in the New Testament since polygamy was allowed in the Hebrew Bible.  Strict monogamy is a New Testament teaching.  In summary, the biblical haters profess to hate all violence, all non-acceptance, and hence Biblical and historic Western morality. 

The answer to the Bible faith haters is not difficult to find or express.  As I noted in past writings, the British atheist historian Tom Holland chides the anti-Christians by noting that the whole idea of compassionate human rights is only known in societies influenced by the Bible.  Search the rest of the world and you will not find it.  A few years back I read two very large volumes; a history of India and a history of China.  The carnage and the slaughter recounted in these histories were the way of the world.  Holland hopes that human rights will be maintained without biblical faith, but he has no grounds to believe this.  The late Quaker philosopher spoke of the West as a cut flower civilization and that by rejecting the roots, the flower of human civilization will die. 

When one deals with ancient Israel, fairness means that one must compare Israel to the other peoples of the ancient world.  This comparison is reflected in a book by the late Harvard professor G. Ernest Wright, The Old Testament Against its Environment.  Very recently the late Reuven Hammer wrote The Torah Revolution which updates the same themes.  My esteemed professor of dear memory, the renowned Samuel Schultz of Wheaton, a Harvard graduate, wrote that in the Hebrew Scriptures, God’s offer of mercy always precedes judgment.  In the case of Canaan, there were over 400 years of mercy and patience.  You will never find such ideas in other cultures.  The demonic control of the whole culture in Canaan is a key to understanding.  The Torah actually enjoins Israel to not seek to conquer other nations outside their borders.  God cares about the nations and seeks that Israel is a light to the nations (Deut. 4).  This is astonishing.  Only a terrible lack of historical sense and proportion despises the Hebrew Bible.  When we get to the Psalms and prophets, the hope for the salvation of the nations, universal redemption, and world peace, astonishes us.  Isaiah 2 is a case in point, world peace, and no more war. The nations come to the light of God (Isaiah 60).  Other cultures sought the slaughter of the nations, to build empires and a system of domination.   Enslaving the conquered was the way of the world.  When one reads the 13 attributes of God in Exodus 34 and the idea of God being first of all, merciful, compassionate, and forgiving, one is amazed that this is spoken though God does bring hard judgments on evil. 

However, the pages of the New Covenant Scriptures do go beyond the Hebrew Bible. Yes, one can find great moral foundations like “Love your neighbor as yourself,” in the Hebrew Bible. But the neighbor was a fellow Israelite.  Helping your enemy’s ox (a fellow Israelite) does move us toward the ideal.  Loving the stranger in your midst and God’s repeated concern voiced by the prophets for the widow, the orphan, and the stranger is also a powerful testimony.  They are to be treated with love and justice.  But again, the New Covenant goes beyond this.  

The sermon on the Mount reveals a higher level of ethics than ever before revealed.  It says we are to love our enemies in the very context of Roman occupation and oppression.  In the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25 ff., Yeshua includes the enemy in the very meaning of the concept of neighbor. The despised enemy, the Samarian, proves to be a neighbor.  For the Samarian, the Jew was the enemy.  The love of the enemy is not only commanded as in the Sermon but the enemy is raised to neighbor status.  Wow!   (Scholars call this progressive revelation- we see best from the fullness of New Covenant revelation).  The writings of the epistles enjoin to love our persecutors, to endure without bitterness, to forgive, with patience and willingness to suffer.  We are not to avenge.  Yes, God so loved the whole world, all humanity, that He gave his Son to die for us. Does any other religion come close to teaching such a thing?  Passivism has been an understandable conclusion from reading the New Testament.  Though I now disagree, in my young adult years, I read Mennonite literature and was convinced.  The Anabaptist peace Churches that came out of the Reformation are a testimony to the level of love and forgiveness promoted in the New Testament. 

In the Bible, all humans are created in God’s image.  This is the absolute foundation of anti-racism and prejudice that drove the abolitionists.  Without biblical faith, slavery would still be with us.  Reading the books of the great scholar, Rodney Stark, shows the amazing effect of Biblical faith.  The Roman Empire was conquered by biblical faith because of how Christians lived. They adopted the babies given up for death, nursed the sick in the plagues when friends and relatives fled, and lived in such love that paganism was overcome.  Overcoming slavery as well as the effect of biblical faith. 

The Bible is love with standards.  The standards for marriage, sexuality, and treatment of the poor all are weaved together.  The Bible warns of Hell but councils us to get a broken heart for sinners so fewer will be lost.  Moral choice is serious and has eternal consequences.   One of the main reasons for the hatred is the Bible’s teaching on human sexuality.  Our sexuality is one of the greatest gifts from God and yet fraught with danger.  The Bible, in love, for the best fulfillment of human beings and the prosperity of the whole society, enjoins us to order our sex lives such that sexual expression is to be only in an exclusive relationship of marriage between a man and a woman.  When a society departs from this, it will unloose passion that will lead to terrible abuses. Such teaching is declared by Bible haters as hatred and phobia.  The Bible teaching and the LGBTQ movement’s values are profoundly in opposition.  Bible believers, however, declare their love for LGBTQ people and a desire to see them come into their true destiny and fulfillment.  Our belief that God can and did declare himself on the organization of our human sexuality versus autonomous human choices based on whatever the individual desires, is a foundational reason for Bible hatred.  In our culture, people want their sexual choices and want no one to question their orientations.  If the Bible is true, there is great guilt and suppressed guilty knowledge that can only be solved by the atonement of Yeshua. 

The Bible hater saws off the limb on which he or she sits. Unknowingly he or she supports some values that would never be part of western civilization but for the Bible but then opposes the Bible with these biblical values.  It is the paradox.  One part of the Bible is chosen to reject the Bible, and the part chosen is wrongly interpreted and applied.  What is the basis for the values of the secularist without the Bible but his or her own subjective preferences or the preferences of the fleeting consensus of the contemporary culture?  There is no foundation.  

The advance of civilization, despite the backsliding and horrors of history, is rooted in the Bible.  The advance of the values we most treasure, even the best of human rights is rooted in the Bible.  Hospitals care for the poor and the fight against prejudice all came about due to Bible believers.  That the Universal Declaration of Human rights, whose primary authority was a godly Christian, Charles Habib Malek, should give us pause.  It is an amazing document that is inspired by Biblical values. 


Thoughts Given to a Friend on Israel and the Palestinians 

Here are thoughts to help with your article.

1.  It is very important to not conflate the three very different situations in Israel within the Green Line (an armistice line- never a defined border) and Gaza and the West Bank.  Anti-Israel people, BDS, always conflate them, and I wonder if it is not intentional. I will explain.

2.  It is crucial to note that the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance has a definition of anti-Semitism.  It may not always be overt, but emphasizing Israel’s errors far out of proportion, much worse in occupation or oppression and persecution shows an anti-Semitic bent.  Why more Israel than Turkey, Iran, China, North Korea, Venezuela, etc. The big crime regimes are death with so much less than Israel. It is amazing.

Now for the specifics

1.  After the 48 War, the world did not resettle refugees as was normal.  They could have settled in the West Bank or other Muslim nations but were kept in camps.  This had never happened before. Israel settled an equal number of refugees from Arab and Muslim countries.  So this became a big cause but it was purposely set up to fight Israel.

2.  After the 67 war, there was dialogue with Jordan and Palestinians about autonomy or Jordan being responsible for the Palestinian areas.  It never went anywhere  It was a big and complicated time.  The 73 war did not change matters.  The 67 armistice line became known as the Green Line.

3.  After the Oslo accords, Clinton and Arafat, and Abbas tried for a 2 state solution.  Barak offered most of the West Bank except for the major Israel settlement blocks, or 95% with land swaps.  E. Jerusalem would be the capital.  Arafat walked away and stared at the intifada violent uprising.  Clinton said to Arafat, “You made me a failure.”  It began to appear to Israelis that they were being played by the Palestinians who had no intention to make peace.  Barack let the last labor government and labor never recovered.

4  Though Israel elected the conservative Likud, their leader the famous Ariel Sharon, the war hero of the 73 war and a founding military leader since 1948 became the Prime Minister  He concluded that Israel needed to separate from the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank.  With the support of Abbas, (Arafat had died) he released Gaza to independence.  His view was that it this worked, he would do the same thing with the West Bank. However, instead of peace, Hamas overthrew the Palestinian Authority and then armed for attacking Israel.  They even destroyed the agricultural greenhouses that Israel gave them.  The settlements near Gaza were taken down and Israelis lost homes and agriculture. But they did it.  Sharon died, and his plan seemed doomed due to violent rejection.  Sharon left Likkud when he withdrew and formed the Kadima Party to support the withdrawal.

5.  When Olmert succeeded the unconscious Sharon, He entered new negotiations.  He was even more generous than Barak. He gave more land, E. Jerusalem would be the capital of the new state.  Again, Abbas walked away.  For Israel, this would be the end of the matter.  For the majority of Israelis, the Palestinians proved they did not want peace but were playing the world so they could destroy Israel.

Where do we go from here?   Apartheid.  BDS

Apartheid was defined as a legal system that does not give full rights and citizenship to people of a particular ethnic or racial minority status   So let’s apply this to Israel

1.  Israeli Arabs are citizens of Israel.  They have full rights.  They can go to universities, be appointed to various roles, and have and do serve on Supreme Court.  For the 20% Israel Arabs, there is no apartheid.  There is a disparity of state spending since governments favor the groups keeping them in power. Only now has an Arab party joined the government and large amounts are being spent in the Arab town.  To speak about apartheid in Israel for Israel-Palestinian Arabs is absurd.

2  Gaza has been released.  They could declare independence and be a state  They won’t do so because they want to conquer all of Israel.  They can be part of Egypt.  But there’s no apartheid. There is a military blockade that would end the Hamas Party leaders would end their war against Israel.

3.  The West Bank (Judea-Samaria)  Usually those who claim apartheid and foster BDS are referring to the West Bank.  The West Bank is a disputed territory.  But it is not a state so it can’t be.  Are the Palestinians treated differently? Yes, they have their own government but are stateless. Israel’s settlements have citizens who are Israel citizens. They vote for the Knesset.

Palestinians vote for the Palestinian Legislature which has been suspended by Abbas to keep Hamas at bay.  So they do not have citizenship in a nation-state. That is the center. They are relatively free but not always treated well.  No one really knows what do to.  Should the Palestinian areas be linked to Jordan for Statehood but semi-autonomy so Jordan’s government will not be overthrown?  Jordan’s population is majority Palestinian but Jordan fears that more will overturn the government.  Israel does not want to give them full citizenship but fears the loss of a Jewish-controlled state which is the whole purpose of Israel’s existence. Some have argued it could be done, but then the refugees?  Barak and Olmert envisioned the refugees returning to the West Bank but not over the Green Line.  So that leaves us with a mess.  The nation has embraced the status quo.  Someday it is hoped that the Palestinians will come to their senses and make real peace. But until then we are left with the status quo.  Apartheid isn’t. But there is nothing in the Bible requiring all people to be in a nation-state, a modern invention.  There is Puerto Rico!

I hope this helps.

God Bless,

Dan Juster

The Pre-Tribulation Rapture as Solution: Essay 4

John Nelson Darby invented a hyper-grace theology (to be addressed in another essay). In this theology, the earthly salvation of Israel was based on the Law and the Gospel of the Kingdom whereas the Church was based on the Gospel of the grace of God (two different gospels)  The promises to Israel are for earthly salvation, that is a particular destiny on this earth, a Kingdom order of the Millennial Age.   The Church has a heavenly destiny and is a heavenly people.  The Gospel of the Kingdom is the announcement of the Kingdom coming on the earth, that it is near, and Israel can embrace it leading to the Millennial Age.  However, Israel rejected this offer, and the Kingdom was postponed.  This postponement leads to an unforeseen dispensation, the Church Age, where the Gospel of the Grace of God is preached, not the Gospel of the Kingdom.  This is the Gospel of salvation where heaven is offered to all who believe in Jesus as Savior.  Jew and Gentile who are thus saved are part of the Church, a heavenly people, with a heavenly destiny and salvation.  They are a third race. The Law has to do with Israel and its earthly promise and salvation. One can read about some of these distinctions in the little classic, Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth by C. I. Schofield. However, the more comprehensive presentation is in Louis Sperry Chafer’s Systematic Theology.   I remember reading this in High School and just believed it because I believed my teachers at Word of Life Camps and Conferences in New York.  It was not until my college years that this great edifice showed itself to be a house of cards.  I did not realize how bizarre these binary categories were in the light of understanding the Bible in context, and also in understanding church historical interpretations.  No one in Church History before Darby thought in such terms. 

Once Darby had separated Israel and the Church in purpose and destiny, he taught that Israel and the Church had to be kept separate.  Jews who come to faith are part of the Church and its destiny, part of the third race.  They are not a part of the earthly Jewish people and their earthly salvation and promise.  To make sure that that separation was complete, Darby taught that Israel was now placed on a preservation shelf awaiting that time when God would again take them off the shelf and make them his primary instrument for his working in the world.  Then the remnant of Israel (Rev. 7) would again proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom.  This separation is crucial so as to not confuse law and grace and God’s distinct purposes for both;   to not confuse the dispensation of the Church Age with the dispensations having to do with Israel; the Mosaic dispensation prevailing until Pentecost, the tribulation period and finally the Millennial Age where the Church rules as a heavenly Bride and Israel as an earthly people. 

The Pre-tribulation rapture seemed the perfect solution to keep a strong separation between Israel and the Church.  If the Church is taken off the earth, raptured, taken to heaven before the Tribulation, then after this, Israel can be God’s instrument on earth.  The distinctions are maintained.  The messiness of a joined purpose with Israel and the Church working together is overcome.  The seven-year tribulation period is all about Israel and the nations, not about the Church.  The Church is gone.  She celebrates the Marriage Supper of the Lamb while God’s judgments are poured out on the earth and Israel experiences the Great Tribulation. Wherever Darby got this idea, the Irvingite prophetess, his own creative mind, or a demonic spirit, it was an amazing and novel answer to a non-problem which Darby thought up.  

The Pre-tribulation rapture thus became a lynchpin of classic Dispensational thought. 

The Origins of J. N. Darby’s Dispensational 

Essay 2, Overcoming Dispensational Fundamentalism

Those who have written about John Nelson Darby and his new and novel Dispensational Theology System, have presented us with an amazing and fascinating account.  

Darby was an Anglican Priest in Ireland who was disillusioned with the Anglican Church.  He had a special problem when those he won to Jesus, while a young priest, were required to pledge loyalty to the English King as a condition of their acceptance into the Church.  Darby wanted to see a zealous church of true believers, hence his quest.  He left the Anglican Church and founded the Plymouth Brethren.  He eventually led his followers into the views that became the Closed Brethren as opposed to the Open Brethren.  The distinctions are not important to this essay. 

As Darby reevaluated his theology and the 39 Articles of the Anglican Church (a great statement in my view), he came to disagreements on key issues, both in biblical theology and ecclesiology.  The central theme was to distinguish between law and grace in a new way.  Darby attributed the deadness of the Anglican churches to confusing law and grace.  In Darby’s view, this confusion led to many being part of the churches as a point of legal righteousness to be accepted before God.  Darby developed a view of radical grace.  In this view, the only requirement for salvation is embracing the grace of God in the sacrifice and resurrection of Yeshua for salvation.  One believes and receives salvation by grace and is saved.  No repentance is required since that would be a good work.  Salvation is by grace and not works defined in a new and unusual way. This led to a new bifurcation between salvation and dedication.  Salvation was so radical a free gift that no change and no dedication were required.  One could continue to live in sin and still be saved, otherwise, salvation would not be by grace.  I was brought up with this separation. After salvation at our camp, in the last 3 days of the week, we were exhorted to dedicate our lives.  We were told that gratitude should lead us to this. We would live a better and fuller life. Many of us did so dedicate our lives.  This was a break from the Reformation view that God’s grace led to transformation, that grace and dedication came together. How would this produce a new zealous Church?  Once people understood that being in church was not required, the Church would be constituted of the volunteer dedicated and the others would leave.  It did not work out that way, for carnal Christians populate Dispensational Churches as much as any others. 

This separation led Darby to search out and find new distinctions.  Since law and grace were so opposed, Darby saw the Mosaic Covenant material as a works righteousness covenant whereby the people of Israel were bound to fail.  The Law pertained to Israel, not to the Church.  The life of Yeshua/Jesus Himself was a perfect life lived under the Law. The Sermon on the Mount itself was not incumbent on believers.  It was the Law raised to its highest and impossible level.  It was itself part of the Dispensation of Law.  Now under grace, the dedicated believer was to follow the teaching of the Epistles since only after Pentecost was the teaching fitting to the New Covenant of Grace presented.   However, we could not expect such a high level of attainment since the two nature battle described in Romans 7 would always be our condition. Luther had his ambivalence to the Law but classical Lutheranism was somewhat more balanced and did not go as far as Darby.  The negativity to the Law and to law is striking in Darbyite theologians. 

Since Israel had to do with the Law and the Church had to do with Grace, the two were to be kept separate.  All human beings were part of one of three categories, Jews, Gentiles or Christians, a third race.  Israel is an earthly people with the Law and earthly salvation to be attained in the Millennium.  The Church was a heavenly people with heavenly salvation. 

This also led Darby to claim that the Gospel of the Kingdom was not the same as the Gospel of Grace.  The Gospel of the Kingdom was the message of Jesus for Israel.  It was the offer of the literal Millennial Kingdom to Israel.  When Israel rejected Jesus, the Kingdom was postponed.  Now the Church preaches the Gospel of the Grace of God which is a different Gospel. (This is not the view of non-Darbyites which see only one Gospel)

Darby then sees distinct periods or dispensations, pre-fall, the post-fall to the flood and the pre-Abrahamic, the Mosaic Dispensation of Law, the New Covenant Dispensation of Grace, the tribulation period, and the Millennium.  All are very exactly defined. The Millennium is a Law dispensation. 

One more crucial teaching was foundational to the system.  It was the pre-tribulation rapture of the saints. Darby saw this as a key. If the Church is taken off the earth before the tribulation, then the Gospel of the Kingdom can then be offered to Israel by the Jewish tribulation believers.  The pre-tribulation rapture keeps Israel and the Church distinct.  It was a key answer for separation.  Israel is on the shelf so to speak until the tribulation.  Yes, she in part returns to the Land of Israel and fulfills prophecy but this is preparation.  Israel as a real instrument of God takes place during the tribulation.  This is why Messianic Jews were not seen as significant in Israel’s ultimate destiny. 

How did Darby ever come up with the pre-tribulation rapture?  Some say it was from an Irvingite prophetess from 1830.  There is some evidence, but it is not strong.  Did he see it in vague statements from Church Fathers?  Or was it a eureka moment of insight?  Despite the effort of Dispensationalists, this was a new doctrine and not something we can find established anywhere in Church history for 1800 years before Darby.  Almost no scholars not indoctrinated in Dispensational Schools can find it. No text in context teachers it.  The texts are stretched so as to find this doctrine. Yet, this doctrine swept North America in the early 20th century.  Why?  

Dispensationalism produced one amazing writer, C. I. Schofield, whose annotated Bible was amazingly well presented and persuasive.  In the 19th Century, another view of the last days swept the American Church, Post Millennial optimism.  This was also a break from the consensus of Church history.  It taught that the Church would conquer and civilize the world without the return of Jesus until after the Millennium.   Jonathan Blanchard, the founder of Wheaton, and the great revivalist Charles Finney saw the progress of Christianity whereby it would take over the world.  They saw progress everywhere.  World War I killed the optimism and Dispensationalism perfectly fit the pessimism of the time.  Only a faithful few would remain for the rapture.  Trying to reform society was bogus.  We need to get people into the lifeboat, so the social gospel and the social implications of the Gospel were rejected.  The unity of the Church was affirmed by the early Church Fathers, passionately defended by Augustine and then the hope of the Reformation for one true Reformed Church.  John 17:21 unity was the ideal.  The Reformers tried for unity and failed.  But for Dispensationalism, unity could be dangerous and lead to the apostate anti-Christ church. Already they saw the mainline denominations embracing Darwin and the higher criticism of the Bible.  Opting out of culture formation was the orientation since dealing with the larger culture was waste of time and energy. 

It would be 30 years after World War I, after World War II, that a push back against this system in Evangelicalism would begin.  Calvinist Evangelicals (Reformed, Presbyterian) never bought into any of it, but they were much smaller than the Dispensational Fundamentalists and Dispensationalists.   We will expand on this in future essays. 

Bishop Solomon Alexander, Essay One

Overcoming Fundamentalist Dispensationalism Series

Essay one

In January 1842 an amazing event occurred, the arrival of a Jewish Anglican who was appointed the Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem.  He established Christ Church near the Jaffa gate.  The Church was to receive Jews who, it was believed, would soon return to the Land and accept Jesus, leading to the eventual conversion of the Jewish nation to faith in Yeshua/Jesus and His return. Christ Church, Jaffa Gate, still exists today. 

Wikipedia summarizes:

In 1841 the British and Prussian Governments as well as the Church of England and the Evangelical Church in Prussia entered into a unique agreement – the establishment of a Protestant Bishopric in Jerusalem. Alexander was proposed as the first Protestant bishop. He was appointed bishop of the United Church of England and Ireland in Jerusalem, and was ordained a bishop on 7 December 1841 at Lambeth Palace. He arrived in Jerusalem in January 1842.

How did this happen?  What was the theology behind this event?  Why would Lutherans and Anglicans come together for this?  Scandinavians were also involved.  

The theology behind his event was the product of a long history.  It was a growing consensus at the time of Michael Solomon Alexander’s appointment.  This was a pre-Darbyite Dispensational theology.  The theological history goes back to some of the Puritans and then was fostered by Lutheran Pietists in Germany and Scandinavia and then the Moravian Movement under Ludwig Von Zinzendorf.  The theology looked for the completion of four tasks before the return of Yeshua.  These were the pursuit of the unity of the Church (John 17:21), the revival of true Christianity, the completion of the command to preach the Gospel through world missions (

Matt. 24:14, 15) and finally making Israel Jealous (Romans 11:11,12).  This would lead to the second coming of Jesus. 

Kaiser (Emperor) Frederick William IV was influenced by Lutheran Pietism. He asked his spiritual advisor if there was anything they could do to hasten the day of the return of Jesus.  He was told about the four tasks, unity, revival, world missions, and making Israel jealous.  Frederick thus embraced a program to accomplish this.  He sent emissaries to England with a plan for unity and for the Jewish people to come to faith in Israel in growing numbers leading to the fulfillment of Roman 11:15, the life from that dead that Israel’s full acceptance would bring about.  This also was based on Matthew 23:39 where we read that the Jewish leadership in Israel/Jerusalem would call upon Yeshua with the words, “Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.”  

To pursue the unity of the prayer of Jesus in John 17:21, Frederick’s emissaries presented a plan whereby the Lutherans would take a secondary position to the Anglicans.  This humility would be a key to the unity of the effort. Unity and the salvation of Israel would be pursued together.  The plan was approved by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Queen, and the Parliament.  

This theology was known as restorationism, believing in the restoration of Israel but also a restoration for the Church to unity and revival.  This was a climax of a 250 year of theological development. 

What happened?  A new theology grew up, Dispensationalism, that saw the pursuit of the unity of the Church as a danger.  It also taught that God’s primary working with and through Israel would only take place after the Church was raptured or taken off the earth.  Then there would be a seven-year tribulation at the end of which Israel would call upon Jesus and He would return.  Dispensational Jewish missions were established to see Jews saved, but those Jews would be part of the Church and would not be part of the corporate salvation of Israel.   There were two peoples of God, two salvations, a heavenly destiny for the one people, the Church and an earthly one for the Jews.  The destinies were different and not intertwined. So the Church would not be on earth to affect the salvation of Israel.  Indeed, Jews who came to Jesus were said to be part of the 3rd race and no longer part of Israel’s destiny nor would they affect Israel’s corporate salvation.  As part of the Church, they would be taken out as well, so no Jewish believers movement before the rapture would be a key to Israel’s salvation either.  New Jewish missions that followed this theology sought to see Jews saved and part of the Church but it would be wrong for them to live and identify as Jews (or to go back under the Law).  Jewish missions were for the sake of saving Jews just as missions to any nation were for the purpose of seeing individuals saved from that nation. 

The Church’s Mission to the Jews, CMJ, in England, represented the theology that led to the appointment of Bishop Alexander.  This theology had become an amazing consensus of British theology including many in several denominations.   It taught that Israel would return to the Land, the Church would affect her salvation and Jesus would return.   What an amazing time this was.   However, the new Dispensational theology gained more and more adherents.  The old view of Bishop Alexander and his supporters was supported side by side with more and more supporting the Dispensational view.  Jewish missions more and more embraced the dispensational view in the 20th century.  However, it was not until after World War I, that Dispensationalism swept churches and Bible schools in America.  From there it came to dominate world missions. Why that happened, including the keys in the psychology and social psychology of the time is an amazing story for another time.  Dallas Seminary was established as its theological center (1924).  American Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism became mostly Dispensational.  The Pentecostal denominations mostly embraced it. The older view largely died out with some exceptions.  Yet, in my view the older view was true.  The points where the new Dispensationalism replaced it, it was largely in error and even deception.  We were very close to great breakthroughs in 1842, but the classical restoration view was derailed.  Then in the mid 20th century, the older view was believed again in growing numbers.  This return to the older view has grown and grown until it now vies with Dispensationalism. I for one am in this battle and hope we win this battle. I believe we ae winning.  The derailment was a ploy of Satan to divert the Church from its destiny.  Sadly, the wrong view is very rooted in Israel today but not in most of the Messianic Jewish world outside of Israel.  

In summary, classical Jewish missions envisioned seeing more and more Jewish people saved leading to Israel’s confession of Yeshua, leading to the second coming.  Dispensational Jewish missions were seeking to see individual Jews saved, so they could be part the church, go to heaven if they died, or be raptured out before the tribulation.   Jewish missions were disconnected from corporate Israel turning to Yeshua and his second coming.  This was a huge change and a sad derailment. 

Taking over the Land

CONFUSED ABOUT ISRAEL POLITICS AND THE ISSUE OF TAKING OVER THE REST OF THE LAND IN ISRAEL? Well, it is a very confusing issue with deep political divides. Here are a few points to put it into perspective. 

1. Right-wing religious national parties would probably take over the land come hell or high water, no matter what the nations think. However, they are not in this government, and when they were in previous governments they could not implement their vision. One sees that the radical right-wing religious seek to establish settlements that were not approved by the State of Israel. Sometimes this brings big violent clashes between the settlers and the police/army who have to dismantle these outposts again and again Sometimes the government will legalize them post facto. The attitude of these people is that if the government of Israel will not take the Land, we have a biblical mandate to do so that transcends the government. Note how they interpret the Bible as applying today. 

2. The larger right-wing parties would like to take the whole Land but they bow to U. S. and international pressure to do so. This includes Yamina and included Likud when they were in power. Generally, they simply preserve the status quo with the Palestinians on the West Bank (Judea-Samaria)

3. The centrists want to preserve Israel and its majority of Jewish voters. They would like to see a two-state solution but do not see it as feasible now because of the situation of the Palestinians and the power of the radical Muslim Hamas group. 

4. The left, represented by Labor and even more radically by Meritz, want a two-state solution, does not want to foster the status quo and wants to go all out for it. 

The Israel public however is just as complex as the parties and includes the ultra-Orthodox who are anti-Zionist. Unlike the nationalist Orthodox, they see the state of Israel as an aberration that should not exist before the Messiah comes. Their biblical interpretation is the opposite of the first political group. 

Most Israelis are right of center, and most are secular but moving toward keeping more traditions. They moved right after the Palestinians rejected Prime Minister Olmert’s peace offer which was beyond generous and more than any government could offer now. However, they are not in favor of illegal Jewish settlements on the West Bank. Jewish settlements and new towns should be legal. 

One thing, not enough discussed is how Israel has allowed multiple Palestinian settlements in Area C which is under their control in the Oslo accords, whereas A and B are fully under the Palestinians. Why does Israel allow this? Because Europeans like the facts on the ground for a future Palestinian state. They see area C as fully Palestinian. Israel has been foolish to allow such illegal buildings. I often pass such settlements as I drive past French Hill toward the highway that goes down to the Dead Sea. 

I think one of the biggest issues is that the Israel Government simply is too wimpish to enforce the Law. This is not to say that settlements should not be approved or that Palestinians should not have more housing. They really do need it and have been treated poorly. But Israel really should enforce the Law always. There is a great need for permits for housing for both Jews and Palestinians. However about a lawless society. 

Where do Messianic Jews stand?  All over the map on these issues, but more would be on the right.  However, there are Messianic Jews who support all the positions except anti-Zionism of some of the Ultra-Orthodox. 

Godly Children, Emotional Maturity, and Screen Time  

Members of the Tikkun America Apostolic Team asked me to write an article on this subject after I expressed my deep concern on how children were being raised in our western societies (I include Israel in this).  

When Patty founded our full-time school for children (Ets Chayim School) in 1980, the motto was “Raising Children who are Mighty in Spirit.”  We did not mean by this that the school would raise the children instead of their parents, but that the school would be a support for the parents in this goal.  What could be a better goal of education? Watchman Nee, the great Chinese Christian soul wrote, that a spiritual person is one that is in such a degree of unity with God that he or she hears the voice of the Spirit in their inner spirit with accuracy and easily obeys.  This voice comes through when Scripture is understood, and the Spirit empowers to obey.  Fellowship with the Father and Yeshua and sensitivity to the Spirit is the center of life.  From this center, we are led into studies and maturity in understanding the content of the Bible and its teaching.  From this, a young person begins in teen years to develop a biblical worldview.  This provides a basis for a critical evaluation of literature, art, science, philosophies, politics, and the larger popular culture.  This education continues after high school and after and into college and beyond for those who go into higher education.  

There are many helpful involvements to this end.  Some of the most important is prayer times and reading the Bible with children including teaching them to hear the voice of the Spirit subsequent to their being born again and being filled with the Spirit. Yes, they can prophesy.  The goal is a deeply trusting relationship with Yeshua from the youngest ages.  One element that is key to this quest is training children to love to read good books, indeed creating a reading culture. This begins with parents reading to their children.  Laura Bush, the wife of President George W. Bush, was a great proponent of such reading.  Reading trains the brain, expands both imagination and reasoning ability.  When this is rooted in the family, it is part of bonding and growth with parents.  

There are many other activities that help greatly in developing a fuller personality. 

  1. Team sports is a wonderful experience where the members bond together in the joy of sports.  I believe this waS very important in our children’s development.
  2. Great vacations that are meaningful are very helpful.  Hiking and learning about nature is part of the program.  
  3. Family day trips are great bonding and teaching times as well. Some trips teach about history.  From the Mid Atlantic to North East, history lessons are everywhere. 
  4. Developing musical ability is a great gain. Playing in an orchestra develops team friendship and the joy of experiencing great beauty. 
  5. Teaching the appreciation of beauty, both in nature and art, is important. Doing artwork together is great fun.  

And I can go on and on and you can no doubt add to this list. 

Many parents are thwarted in their goals.  They have been blindsided by the internet and the ever-present screen that captures the attention of their children.  I had placed the theme of this article on my to-do list, but before I got to it, I read an article in the Jerusalem Post, Nov. 26, 2021.  One of my favorite JPost writers, Amotz Asa El, decried the whole phenomenon and recommended a book by a noted author, Micah Goodman, Broken Attention, How to Heal a World Fracture by Technology. Sadly, the book is now only in Hebrew, but I expect an English version.  Much of what he said is not new but is documented by leading psychologists.  It is worth quoting Goldman, but I note first that other studies by mainstream psychologists have documented a decrease in some important cognitive abilities, including the ability to give long term attention to reading and sustained presentations of content, and the ability to engage in logical debate and the weighing of evidence.  People with a new short attention span can only engage with sound bites of material.  I am not speaking of everyone, but that this is a tendency that affects many.  You can imagine how bad this is for spiritual life which requires serious and meditative Bible reading and quiet listening to the Spirit. God-focused living does not seem to fit into the limitations of the attention span of the screen-produced brain/mind. It also leads to a decrease in the ability to experience friendship intimacy which is based on face-to-face communication. 

I quote Goodman (who is confirmed by so many others including some of the social media founders), He asserts that the “Cyber era’s social media, gadgetry, and habits (are) clinically addictive, politically ruinous, and socially destructive.”   These are “fixtures of an unplanned revolution that begs moral correction.”  

Asa El continues, “To understand the addictiveness one need only look at today’s teenagers, kids, and even toddlers to understand that we face an evolutionary crisis.  People spend hours and hours gazing at plastic screens instead of interacting with each other.  Worse, even when they do face each other, people often let the smartphone interrupt the conversation.  It is but one symptom of a global plague.”  

“Mankind has unknowingly fallen prey to corporate interests that turned human attention into a commodity,” according to Goodman.  “Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Google, Amazon, and the rest of the digital era’s social media, search engines, and marketing behemoths mine our attention and sell it to business interests while exacting from us an exorbitant social and psychological price.”  He goes on to note that what at first was seen as an answer to loneliness by connecting people, that rejoined old friends, became an engine of alienation.  

There is a “sharp rise in social network users’ sense of loneliness, sadness, and fear. . . Digital interactions are for the mind what candy is for the body; it feels like food, but it isn’t nutritious, and in fact, is poisonous.”  

“Technology sterilizes communication.  Content is transmitted, but energy is not.  ‘The more people are technologically connected the more they feel psychologically lonely.”  Many will note the correlation of screen addiction with suicide rates.

Games on the screen are also included in the destruction.  Again, it contributes to decreasing a broader level of brain functioning and replaces the kind of comradery gained in in-person sports and team sports.  Thumbs replace the functioning of the whole body.  Winning and losing with thumbs brings a satisfaction but of a different kind.  Some hold that it feeds a predator instinct.  

Goodman also noted how bad it has been for politics where serious discourse has been replaced by slogans and soundbites, but this is not the concern of this article.  

I have raised the alarm before, but I frequently see parents who think it is beyond them. Breaking the addiction will elicit a response of anger even if the parents explain.  Parents want to avoid the anger.  It is like removing a drug.  Requiring activities that rebuild broader brain and soul functioning is the challenge that follows, but until the young person reaches majority age, it is crucial to have the conversation and enforce standards.  Strict limiting of screen time will be necessary and in some cases as with alcoholics, none at all can be allowed.  Maybe phone calls and replace social media.  For younger children, some counsel to avoid screen time totally except for stories that parents oversee and games played with parents.  For example, Monopoly can be played on an Ipad.  

The answer is to screen addition is to create a culture of personal interaction, prayer, Bible, reading, great books, missionary stories, miracle stories, other great books, great art, great music, great movies, personal face-to-face friendships for children, and more.  The home should be mostly a screen-free zone when there are times set for personal interaction, art, and reading.  Screen time can be good for writing, homework, and yes, research for older young people. Yes, serious research articles are available!  So there is good via the internet.  However, when we have family interaction time, all devices need to be put aside. 

It is my goal in our network to see the leaders of congregations give leadership to families on these issues and for the leader’s family to be an example.  Here is the conclusion of Asa El.  He joins this conclusion to the Feast of Chanukah. 

“Beyond that struggle lurked an even deeper confrontation one that pitted Judea’s quest for national assertion, religious freedom, and personal sovereignty against idolatry’s scorn for introspection, morality, justice, and truth.”

“There, in a nutshell, are also the elements of the digital era’s threat, whose defeat will require the same conviction, courage, and resolve that the Maccabees displayed 2,188 years ago, and our candles will salute Sunday tonight.”

Dear reader, did you note that he nails it that screen attachment is idolatry that replaces personal love attachment?  Asa El’s article is entitled, “Hanukkah and the New Idolatry.” Whenever something is valued or given attachment outside of God’s order of valuation, it is idolatry.  Screen attachment is idolatry.  People find way too much meaning in it and invest way too much time and energy in it. No wonder it leads to deadness in spiritual things and to greater depression and suicide. Human beings were not created for this false type of habit-fulfillment, no more than pornography or drugs.  I hope a movement grows up to shut off the screen. Even now some secular leaders who developed social media are ahead of us and are removing devices for their children!  Let’s develop a godly and deeper counter-culture.   

The Right of First Refusal 

Reading the New Covenant Scriptures in the light of the Hebrew Bible gives us a clear understanding of the priority of to whom we should first proclaim the Good News.  

In the Hebrew Bible, page after page tells us that God’s heart is for the poor, dispossessed, widow, orphan, disabled, and imprisoned.  We find this clearly in the ministry of Yeshua.  He proclaimed the Gospel of the Kingdom, first of all, to such people who were the most open to the Gospel.  In Luke 4:18, He quotes from Isaiah 61 which already summarized the priority of the pre-New Covenant prophets and looked forward to the coming of Yeshua.  He said, “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor, deliverance to the captives, the recovery of sight to the blind, and to proclaim the acceptable year of our Lord.”  The Isaiah 61 context is generally understood as having the Year of Jubilee in the background.  The intention of the Year of Jubilee was to give a reset to society, a new start for the population.  Debts were canceled and the land was returned to the original families of ownership.  Intergenerational wealth disparity was thus mitigated through land ownership and redistribution. The coming of Yeshua provided and provides a new start for the power of living in and from the Kingdom of God.  It provides a new opportunity and certainty of success for all who embrace it.  The Good News, as Dallas Willard explains, is again the “the invitation to live in and from the Kingdom of God.”  As such, by the power of the Spirit, God provides a good purpose and destiny now and forever for those who enter in through the death and resurrection of Yeshua, and who receive the Holy Spirit as God’s powerful presence within.  

Scholarship has also come to a much better understanding of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 (the plain in Luke 6).  The beatitudes (or those who blessed) are not a prescription of how we are to be blessed.  It is rather an announcement of a great reversal of conditions for the marginalized and mistreated.  Blessed are the poor, those who mourn, the meek, and the persecuted is the announcement that their difficult situation and marginalization is no longer determinative for their lives.  Those who are poor have Kingdom supernatural supply, those who mourn are delivered from mourning.  Mourning no longer dominates them for the comfort of the Kingdom has come.  So also, the meek are no longer trampled upon, but they have God’s power and inherit the earth.  This is very well laid out in Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy and in N. T. Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God. 

When the priority of the Church is according to the model of Yeshua, signs and wonders more readily follow to confirm the Gospel.   The pattern of Yeshua and the Disciples is repeated. As with Yeshua, some with wealth will also be reached as they see the power of the Gospel lifting, healing and restoring.  Yes, the Gospel will reach beyond the poor to the wealthy as it did in the ministry of Paul. 

The Bible presents us with a first right of refusal also for the Jewish people.  Romans 1:16 tells us that the “Gospel is the power of God first to the Jew and also to the Greek.”  The people of the covenants, therefore, have this very special right because they were and are God’s covenant people, who preserved the Covenants, the Scriptures, and have an irrevocable election and calling (Romans 11:29).  Therefore, we see Paul going first to the synagogue, not only because it was the easiest place for him to start in the Mediterranean world, but because of the first right of refusal.  “It was necessary for the Gospel to be spoken to you first (Acts 13:46). This continues throughout Paul’s ministry in Acts and is reaffirmed in Romans 1:16 and Romans 11:13, 14 where Paul charges the Gentiles to embrace their role in making Israel jealous since their reconciliation leads to living from the dead. (11:15)                                            

Was this right of refusal only for that generation?  Did that right end after the destruction of the Temple?  Or is it generation to generation until our day?  Yes, it continues, again since Israel is still chosen and elect and her salvation leads to the Second Coming of Yeshua.  The priority of the Gospel to the Jews must be embraced. 

If the Church had loved the Jewish people and given them their due and if she had given the Gospel first to the poor and downtrodden, the history of recent times would have been very different.  The Church would have more credibility today.  Let us restore credibility by restoring the priority for spreading the Gospel.                     

Messianic Jewish Movement Compared to Gentile Jewish Roots One Law Movement

The Law of Moses.  

MJM:  Is applicable in the New Covenant, but in that application, it is important to distinguish Jewish covenant responsibility and Gentile responsibility.  Jews are responsible as part of their election to maintain Jewish identity and the patterns of life given in Torah in regard to the weekly Sabbath and the annual Feast/Sabbath days of which there are 7.  This also includes avoiding the foods on the forbidden list in Lev. 11.  We distinguish between Jewish-specific Torah and universal Torah which in Rabbinic thought is summarized as the seven laws of Moses. 

GJROLM:  There is one law for the Jew and Gentile.  All are called to keep the same Torah with maybe the exception of circumcision.  Soft one law people say that Gentiles are not required in the same way as Jews but that Gentiles are invited and that it is better and more blessed if they keep them. 

On Biblical passages releasing Gentiles from Covenant responsibility for Jewish specific law. 

MJM:  Acts 15 releases Gentiles from the Jewish specific parts of the Torah, the Sabbath, Feast/Sabbath days, and food laws except for eating blood which goes back to Noah.  This is also clarified in Col. 2 where the seven biblical annual feast/sabbath days are said to be a shadow but the substance is Messiah. “Let no man hold you accountable,” means that you are not accountable to keep these days.  Romans 14, probably written for Gentiles, says that it is up to one’s conscience as to which days to keep, and there is no apostolic rule for such.  Gal. 5, warns against circumcision for Gentiles and notes that the one circumcised is responsible to keep the whole Torah (law).  So, the exhortation is to not do it.  The clear air-tight implication is that the one in Yeshua not circumcised is not responsible for the whole Torah but only the universal standards.  I Cor. 7 also notes that each is to maintain their distinct callings as Jew and Gentile. 

GJROLM:  All the passages noted above are re-interpreted to support one law conclusions.  Acts 15 is just the beginning point for fellowship, but Moses being read in the synagogues is interpreted to mean that all will study Torah and eventually keep it all.  Col. 2 is interpreted to mean that no one is to hold you accountable as to how you keep the sabbath/Feast days but of course, all will keep them.  So also, Romans 14 means that eventually there will be unity to keep these days.  Gal. 5 Is usually ignored. 

On the Legitimacy of Church Traditions 

MJM accepts the legitimacy of Church traditions for the Church, especially Protestant traditions.  As such it accepts the legitimacy of the Church year, the two climactic celebrations of the Church year, Christmas as the celebration of the Incarnation and birth of Yeshua (though there are different views among Messianic Jews as to the date of the birth), and Good Friday/Easter (Resurrection) as the observance of the death of Yeshua and the celebration of his resurrection.  We do not argue that the Christian use of Christmas trees is pagan. We also accept the legitimacy of the Church’s weekly celebration of the first day, Sunday as the day of resurrection.   We accept that God has not enjoined Christians to take Saturday or the 7th day as their Sabbath rest day and accept the Church also seeing Sunday as a day of rest.  We still believe Sabbath continues as a seventh-day celebration for Jews.  Scholars criticize those who say such practices are pagan or rooted in paganism as committing the genetic fallacy.  The meaning of a practice is not some long-ago pagan connection but is defined by the meaning given to it by the community that practices it.  It is recognized, with regard to dating Good Friday and the Resurrection, that the actual dating is very debatable, and we do not pretend to have a final solution. We have no objection to Christians being led by the Spirit to keep the seventh day as their day of rest. 

GJROLM: They criticize church traditions as pagan and declare that Sunday is based in Sun Worship, Christmas in Mithraicism or other pagan celebrations, and Easter in the feast of the pagan God Ishtar.  They call the Church to forsake these pagan practices.  Christmas trees are condemned as pagan.  The Church should embrace the biblical Feast days. 

Our Call to the Churches 

MJM people ask the Church to embrace the following.  First to declare their embrace of the biblical teaching on the continued election of Israel.  Secondly to embrace that Jews who come to faith in Yeshua are called to identify and live as Jews, as part of their people.  Third, we desire that the Church would teach the whole Bible in context.  This means teaching on the meaning of the Sabbath and Jewish Holy Days including their historical meaning, fulfillment in Yeshua and still to be fulfilled eschatological meaning.  Fourthly we ask the Church to be in alignment with the Messianic Jewish movement in Israel and the Diaspora, to pray for and support Jewish ministry and consider, if they are in or near Jewish population centers, to embrace witness to Jews and Jewish ministry.  We recognize that a Church may be led by the Spirit to seasonal celebrations near the time of the Feasts (for example a Saturday evening) and to join with Messianic Jews to bring out the full meaning of the first four things that we hope the Church embraces.  We are glad when the church is led to create Jewish space for Jewish members including services, home groups, and specific discipleship programs.  We ask the Church to avoid the actual days of Jewish Feast sabbaths for its seasonal celebrations of the Feasts as the time when our families and congregations gather in our own programs.  

GJROLM seeks to see the Church leave its Christian traditions and keep the Jewish Biblical Holy Days including the seventh-day Sabbath and biblical food laws.  There is some dispute on the right dating and GJROLM people vary on whether to keep the rabbinic dating or dating they calculate to be more accurate.  Some embrace Jewish traditions such as wearing prayer shawls.  While fringes are commanded in the Bible, prayer shawls are a Jewish tradition for one way to demonstrate the command.  Again, GJROLM people keep the Torah food laws for clean and unclean foods.  Some buy Torah scrolls and read the Torah in Hebrew in their services. 

Summary: Many times Church leaders have a negative response to GJROLM people and confuse them with Messianic Jews and think this is what the MJM is teaching.  This is very painful to us in the MJM.  There are key papers from the main organizations of the MJM (the mainstream movement organizations) that refute the GJROLM teaching and orientation.  We think GJROLM teaching will cause division and that it erects a new wall of partition. 

Yeshua’s Death, Resurrection, and Pentecost (Shavuot)

The capstone or climax of the life of Yeshua was his death and resurrection.  This death and resurrection led to a public event, an outpouring of the Spirit with parallels to the Sinai event when the Torah was given to Moses.  It is important to understand that all of the New Testament documents and testify to his crucifixion and resurrection after which He revealed himself to the disciples.  These documents present independent testimony to his death and resurrection.  These documents were then brought together afterward and formed the New Covenant Scriptures or the New Testament.  There is Matthew, Mark (that early tradition tells us was based on the preaching of Peter), Luke, John, Paul, the author of Hebrews, James (Jacob), Peter, and Jude.  

The four Gospels present us with an amazing account of his crucifixion and the other New Testament documents agree with the testimony; all given in the first century.  What do the Gospels say about this?  They tell us that Yeshua celebrated Passover with his disciples and instituted the Lord’s Supper in connection to that Passover.  They tell us that he afterward left for the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, was arrested, badly treated by both the Jewish police and then the Roman soldiers.  He was judged guilty by a representation of the Sanhedrin.  Then the Romans agreed to give into the will of the Jewish religious leaders and to have him crucified as a zealot in rebellion against Rome.  We are then told that they died in submission to God and in a spirit of forgiveness. Supernatural signs took place, darkness in mid-day, an earthquake, and the curtain of the Temple was torn in two. Then a rich man, Joseph of Arimathea, received his body for burial.  The Gospels then describe the disillusioned and fearful disciples.  Whenever the rest of the New Testament documents speak about his crucifixion and burial they agree with these accounts.  

Then on the first day of the week, the Feast of First-Fruits, early in the morning, women first discover that He was risen from the dead.  His body was not in the Tomb and did not undergo decomposition.  He then had a supernatural Body.  He appeared to the smaller group of disciples, but I Cor. 15 adds that he appeared to 500 at the same time, most of whom were alive when Paul wrote this amazing chapter, in the 40s A. D., soon after the events. 

The historian of the Roman Empire period, A. Sherwin White, tells us that the events of the New Testament and the story of Yeshua are the best documented or attested of any historical figure from that era, by far more than Julius Caesar.  

The Book of Acts, written by Luke, who professes his desire to provide accurate historical accounts, presents the narrative that Yeshua appeared and taught on the Kingdom off and on for 40 days after his resurrection. He then brought his Disciples up to the Mount of Olives, and after giving them instructions to wait together in Jerusalem until they would receive a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit. From there they would be his witnesses.  In Acts 2 we read of this great outpouring of the Spirit.  When the Spirit was poured out, the larger group of disciples (120) were able to speak in several languages they had never learned and to proclaim the Gospel on the  Temple Mount to the multitude of Jews from other nations who spoke other languages.  They had come up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Shavuot  (Pentecost).   This was an astonishing miracle where Jews from many nations heard the Gospel.  Thousands repented and were immersed in water in the name of Yeshua.  It is likely that many stayed in Jerusalem, and in no time many thousands were now in the house gatherings in Jerusalem overseen by the Disciples (Apostles).

There is no parallel to these accounts in any nation or culture outside of Israel.  It is astonishing. However, how do we weigh the credibility of the New Testament witness?   Already, in the pages of the New Testament, we read that the Apostles went from fear to become bold witnesses after Pentecost.  The earliest post-biblical Church history tells us that all of the 12 died as martyrs for their faith.  John lived to old age and was exiled on the island of Patmos.  The testimony of the early Church Fathers confirms the truth of the martyrdom of the Apostles.  Clement of Rome, Polycarp (who knew John), and Ignatius are three early witnesses.  

In conclusion, we can be confident that the New Testament presents an accurate account of the life, death, and resurrection of Yeshua plus Pentecost and that we can base our lives on the Gospel and the teaching of Yeshua and the Apostles who gave us the New Testament.