Are Family Lines Like Relay Races?

ARE FAMILY LINES LIKE RELAY RACES?

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

 This shall be written for the generation to come: and the people which shall be created shall praise the Lord.   (Psalm 102:18)

RelayRace-Starting.little-girl

A relay race requires a team united in their efforts to reach a destination within a certain timeframe. Each relay runner runs part of the race’s total distance.  Besides running, relay races may involve cross-country skiing, swimming, ice skating, or even race-car driving.  A relay race is a team sport – if the team doesn’t work well together, the unsurprising result is a failure to win.

Planning and preparation—including division of labor decisions and logistical support– are important for successfully competing in a relay race. Who will lead off?  Who will run the next “leg”? Who runs the “last leg” of the race? Transferring the baton can “make or break” a success.   Dropping the baton can ruin everything.

RelayRace-passing-baton

Biogenetically speaking, our family lines are like relay races, except the “race” is much slower. Thankfully, our parents transferred the baton of life to us; we do the same to our children.  They must do the same for our grandchildren, and so on.  But what if our parents had “dropped” the baton, procreatively, when we needed them most—so they we would be conceived and born?

No one can “start” any “leg” of the multi-generational race unless and until God Himself procreatively makes that person. That requires literally thousands of years of God’s providential work—the details of which we never learn in this lifetime.  Yet God kindly chose to make each of us the exact individual each one of us is.  There is just one you.  That is how personal God is, as our Creator. Beyond that His Son has provided redemption for our sin.  That’s enough to glorify God and enjoy Him forever!

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What a start in life we each have, physically:  planned by God, procreatively constructed—microscopically—in the womb, by God’s own artistic embroidery-like needlework (Psalm 139:15).  And that’s just our physical life!

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Now imagine how God gives each of us a unique personality—a thinking mind, our emotions, our ability to make choices—all of those singularly human traits that pertain to being created in God’s image.  And even before our physical bodies were formed, by the miraculous union of sperm and egg, the spiritual redemption that we each so desperately need (as Adam’s descendants) is already provided for, by Christ’s finished death and resurrection—as a gift which we receive simply by believing His good news about it.  What an amazing start!

But, as members of a specific family, we are members of a team that must all run.  So having a wonderful start is no place to quit.  It is our duty to run with endurance, our assigned “leg” of the race, as we blend our part of the race with that of our family “teammates”.  That includes focusing on Christ Himself—Who is our ultimate goal (Hebrews 12:1-2), pacing our race with endurance (that He provides), refusing to be distracted (by the world), and doing our best to help the next runner(s) to get off to a good start.

RelayRace-ScottishKilts-fromGoogleImages

How well have you appreciated those who “ran” before you, and who (biogenetically) passed a baton that became a necessary part of who—in God’s providence—you are today?   What work did God do to make sure that your father was born the boy he was?  What details of human history made it possible for your mother to be procreatively created as the girl she was?  What about your mother’s parents—what work did God do, in history, to make them who they were?  Why and how did they meet?  What about your paternal grandparents, have you thanked God for their lives?  What family history can you pass on to the next generation, and the next, so they can know what to thank God for?

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Does all of this stretch your mind?  — it should, but the next question is how can you honor God with your own family history? Can you think of something specific you can do, this week, about this?

><> JJSJ     profjjsj@aol.com

Sitric ‘Silkbeard’, Family Fireworks, and Viking Age Ireland

Sitric ‘Silkbeard’, Family Fireworks, and Viking Age IrelandWhen Blood Kin, In-Laws, and Outlaws Read Like a ‘Who’s Who in the Royal  Zoo’ of Queen Gormlaith

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.   (James 3:16)

Viking-reenactors.approaching-battle.png

If a Viking ruled over Ireland’s busy port of Dublin, for more than 40 years, one might expect that Viking had good connections – political networks and family dynasty links. True enough, but those royal connections also came with a lot of family conflict baggage!   This mix of family politics, applied to Viking-style conflict resolution processes, is repeatedly illustrated in the family life and political career of Dublin’s Viking ruler Sitric “Silkbeard” (a/k/a “Silkenbeard”) Olafsson.(1)  

Of course, Vikings in Ireland are known by both their Irish and their Norse names, and variants abound when spelling those names —  so Sitric’s name appears in variants including  Sigtrygg, Sigtryg, Sigtryggr, Sihtric, and Sitrick.  Sitric was not an uncommon Viking name, but history only knows one Viking nicknamed “Silkbeard” (or “Silkenbeard”), so that is how he will often be identified here.

Silkbeard had political connections, as well as family ties, directly, both by his birth and by his marriages, as well as indirectly, because his blood kin and in-laws themselves were very interconnected with the geopolitical networks of Ireland Viking Age, both inside and outside of Ireland.

This short study will show that Silkbeard’s family ties, which overlap with his political networks, help to explain just how interconnected personal relationships were in Viking Ireland, especially during Silkbeard’s unusually long career, as well as during the times immediately before and after that illustrious career.

Viking-reenactors.Oban-Scotland

FAMILY FEUDS: DIVORCE COURT BATTLES, WRIT LARGE?

To specifically illustrate Silkbeard’s interconnectedness with notable players in his world, consider how his career was traumatically challenged when his own mother (Gormlaith ingen Murchada, whose name in Old Norse is Kormloð  –  since the Old Norse use K for both “G” and “K” consonants) urged him to war against her ex-husband (Brian Boru), who was Silkbeard’s former stepfather.

Besides her son Silkbeard, Gormlaith incited others, especially her brother Máel Mórda, plus 3 other warriors whom she appeared willing to marry (if Brian was defeated), to go to war against her ex, Brian Boru. How did ex-queen Gormlaith become so heavily involved in plotting a military coup against her royal ex?

But Silkbeard’s mother, Gormlaith, was not new to politics in Viking Age Ireland.

Firstly, Gormlaith’s father was Murchad mac Finn, king of Leinster (in southern Ireland); her brother Máel Mórda (a/k/a Máel Mordha) mac Murchada, became the successor king when their father (Murchad) died.

Secondly, it is important to notice that Gormlaith’s brother Máel Mórda fought against Brian Boru (Gormlaith’s ex-husband, so Máel’s ex-brother-in-law) at the Battle of Clontarf in AD1014, where many brave warriors breathed their last. (2)

Thirdly, as wife of Dublin-York’s king Olaf Cuaran (a/k/a Kváran(3)) Sitricsson, she mothered Silkbeard (who later became king).

Fourthly, as wife of Munster’s king Brian Boru, she mothered Donnchad (who later became king of Munster).

And, fifthly, it seems that her third and last marriage was to Meath’s king Máel Sechlainn mac Domnall(4) (who once defeated Olaf Cuaran in AD980), — and  who once fought on December 30th of AD999 with Brian Boru, and later against him in AD1002, and  against him again in AD1014), for whom Gormlaith mothered Conchobar (who appears to have died during AD1030).  This part of Gormlaith’s life is less documented (i.e., the evidence for this third marriage is not as sound and thorough as the historical evidence of Gormlaith’s first and second marriages), yet that is to be expected (or at least it is not unforeseeable) because her political relevance apparently faded soon after the Battle of Clontarf.

VikingLongboat-moored.NorthernLights

BRIAN BORU FLIPS THE FAMILY DYNASTY SEESAW

Silkbeard’s mother, years after becoming a widow (when Silkbeard’s father died in AD981) married Brian Boru, who had previously fathered children.

One of Brian Boru’s preëxisting children, in AD1000, was a daughter named Sláine ingen Briain (i.e., Brian’s-dottir), whom Silkbeard (Gormlaith’s son) then married.

In other words, Gormlaith’s marriage to Brian Boru (who was already the father of Sláine), when combined with Silkbeard marrying Sláine (both occurred shortly after the Battle of Glenmama, though Gormlaith’s marriage to Brian preceded Silkbeard’s marriage to Brian’s daughter), meant that Silkbeard was then married to his own mother’s stepdaughter —  in order to doubly tie the dynastic family of Brian Boru to that of Gormlaith and her son (by Olaf Cuaran) Sitric “Silkbeard”.

As a result, Olaf Sitricsson, the son of Silkbeard (and thus part of the Olafsson family dynasty, which apparently descends from the original Norse-Danish Viking dynasty – called by the Irish Uí Ímair (“descendants of Ivar”) —  that established Dublin, led by Ivar, Halfdan, and others) and Sláine (and thus part of Brian Boru’s family dynasty)  —  could claim Gormlaith as both his paternal grandmother and as his maternal step-grandmother.(5)

This double marriage alliance was no romantic accident or lucky coincidence. Rather, this double marriage alliance was a strategic reaction to the outcome of the Battle of Glenmama, where all 4 belligerent parties had a tie to Gormlaith.

Viking-boat-at-sea

BATTLE OF GLENMAMA,  December 30th A.D. 999

Before considering who fought against whom at the Battle of Clontarf (in April of AD1014), it is helpful to notice who fought whom during the earlier Battle of Glenmama (on Little Christmas Eve, AD999).  The Glenmama (Irish: Ghleann Máma) battle climaxed a rebellion in Leinster (southern Ireland).

Four Irish kingdoms were involved at Glenmama’s showdown:

(1) Kingdom of Leinster, headed by King Máel Mórda (Gormlaith’s brother);

(2) Kingdom of Munster, headed by King Brian Boru (who became Gormlaith’s 2nd husband);

(3) Kingdom of Meath, headed by “High King” Máel Sechnaill II mac Domnall (a/k/a “King Malachy”, who appears to have been, at some point, Gormlaith’s husband,  —  most likely her 3rd husband, soon after the Battle of Clontarf, although some say they were a pair before Gormlaith married Brian  —  perhaps both suggestions are true); and

(4) Kingdom of Dublin, headed by Norse-Viking King Sitric “Silkbeard” (Gormlaith’s son by Olaf Cuaran, Gormlaith’s 1st husband).

Battle-Glenmama-AD999.verbal-summary

Brian Boru has thus defeated Gormlaith’s brother (Máel Mórda), and Gormlaith’s son (Sitric “Silkbeard”), at Glenmama.  Two politically coërced marriage alliances soon follow: (1) Gormlaith marries Brian Boru; and (2) Gormlaith’s son Silkbeard marries Sláine, one of Brian’s daughters.

Now to consider the later controversy — about 14 years later — when Gormlaith has been prodding her son (Silkbeard) to help lead a war against her ex-husband (Brian Boru), Silkbeard’s former stepfather.

Unsurprisingly, the rejected ex-queen/now-divorcée, Gormlaith sought revenge against Brian Boru.  This hostile alienation led, in short time, to what history calls the Battle of Clontarf, a major event in Irish history, on Good Friday of AD1014.  Geographically, Clontarf is a coastland on Dublin Bay’s north side (see map below, on page 8).

Gormlaith was determined to support a worthy challenger who could (and would) defeat her ex-husband, Brian Boru.   But who would that be?

Actually the “who” was not just one warrior! The Viking Age histories (especially the Icelandic sagas) indicate that Gormlaith “diversified” the risks involved, i.e., she chose not to put all of her matrimonial “eggs” in one basket.

Gormlaith instructed her son Silkbeard to tell Sigurd “the Stout” Hlodvirsson (earl of Orkney, grandson of Thorfinn Skull-splitter Einarsson) that she would marry Sigurd Hlodvirsson if Brian Boru (her ex) was defeated, plus Gormlaith would use her political power/influence to establish Sigurd as High King in Ireland.

However, Gormlaith likewise instructed her son Silkbeard to similarly tell Bróðir (a/k/a Bróðir of Man, i.e., a warrior from the Isle of Man) that she would marry Bróðir if Brian Boru (her ex) was defeated, plus Gormlaith would use her political power/influence to establish Bróðir as High King in Ireland. (Ironically, Óspak, the brother of Bróðir, refused to fight Brian, choosing rather to fight for him – and thus Óspak’s men fought for Brian Boru while Bróðir’s men fought against Brian.)

Unsurprisingly, Gormlaith instructed her son Silkbeard to avoid telling the Orcadian earl Sigurd what she was promising Bróðir; likewise, she told Silkbeard to keep secret from the Manx warrior Bróðir what she was promising Sigurd!

Ireland-kingdoms-as-of-AD1014.Clontarf

BATTLE OF CLONTARF, April 23rd A.D. 1014

Several Irish kingdoms, plus many mercenary “neighbors”, clashed at Clontarf:

(1) Kingdom of Leinster, headed by King Máel Mórda (Gormlaith’s brother);

(2) Kingdom of Munster, headed by King Brian Boru (who was Gormlaith’s 2nd husband, but now divorced from her) and militarily led by his son Murchad (born of Brian’s 1st wife Mór, daughter of a king of Connacht), with help from Brian’s son Tadc (born of Brian’s 2nd wife Echrad), and from Brian’s grandson Turlough (only 15) and grandson Tadc (son of Murchad);

(3) Kingdom of Meath, headed by “High King” Máel Sechnaill II (of the Irish Uí Néill family dynasty, who apparently became Gormlaith’s 3rd husband, after the battle — it appears that his forces “showed up”, but did not seriously engage in the early fighting, until it was clear that the defenders were winning; only then did the Meath men join the fight, chase down and slaughter the fleeing Manxmen and Orcadian attackers, and soon afterwards claim victory);

(4) Kingdom of Dublin, headed by Norse-Viking King Sitric “Silkbeard” (Gormlaith’s son by her 1st husband; Silkbeard was aided by his brother Dubgall Olafsson);

(5) Earldom of Orkney, headed by Sigurd “the Stout” Hlodvirsson (whom Gormlaith promised to marry, and to help establish as Irish high king, if Brian was defeated)

(6) Isle of Man mercenaries (linked to Sigurd the Stout), represented by Bróðir (whom Gormlaith also promised to marry, and to help establish as Irish high king, if Brian was defeated); and others, of course.

But what happened to those who fought at Clontarf, on Good Friday of AD1014?

Clontarf-Battle-AD1014-map.HistoryIreland-image

Battle of Clontarf, A.D.1014 [image credit: Sean Duffy, History Ireland, 22(2):30-31 (2014)]

Estimates of casualties suggest many thousands fought: maybe 13,000 to 14,000 men total, with Brian’s coalition forces comprising perhaps 7000 or 8000 of that number.

Of those myriads of warriors, most died in battle.  Most died on or near the battlefield, or drowned in tidewaters while trying to flee to their Viking ships, or died from their battle wounds. Records suggest that the attacking allies lost 80% to 90% of their numbers, the defenders lost ¼ to ½ of their numbers  —  its bloodiness is somewhat comparable to the bloodshed at Antietam in America’s Civil War, although that Western Maryland battle exceeded 23,000 casualties in one day, whereas the Battle of Clontarf suffered somewhat close to half that number.

BrianBoru-Clontarf.memorial-marker

During the Battle of Clontarf the Manx Viking Bróðir killed Brian Boru, bragging about it immediately:  “Now, let man tell man, that Bróðir felled Brian!”

Fame flees fastly, though: Bróðir himself died later that day, captured then disemboweled, with his intestinal tract literally wrapped around a tree by Wolf the Quarrelsome (no more details are needed!).

Also, Orkney’s earl Sigurd Hlodvirsson was killed by Brian’s son Murchad; soon afterwards Murchad himself (the main leader of Brian’s forces) also died.

Leinster’s king Máel Mórda (Gormlaith’s brother) was also killed that day.

Obviously Gormlaith never had a problem explaining her simultaneous proposals of marriage to Sigurd and to Bróðir —  because both men died then at Clontarf.

In the end, the Dublin Bay defenders (Brian’s army and its coalition forces, including Silkbeard’s army) “won” the battle – even though Brian Boru himself, and his son Murchad, died in the defense, as did Murchad’s son Tadc (i.e., Brian’s grandson). However, the House of Brian (Uí Briain, a/k/a O’Brien) itself was not a dynastic “winner”, as political power shifted back to the Uí Neill (O’Neill) high-kingship, which then was represented by Máel Sechlainn II.

Accordingly, Máel Sechlainn II, king of Meath, who usually had opposed Brian Boru more than he had helped him, survived the Battle of Clontarf –  and so it was Máel Sechlainn II who would take much of what Brian and others had lost.

Donnchad mac Briain (son of Brian Boru and Gormlaith) also survived the Battle of Clontarf. Donnchard returned to Munster, soon ruling there, in lieu of his deceased father. After eliminating a competitor (his half-brother Tadc mac Briain, whose father was Brian and mother was Echrad) in AD1023, Donnchad established his rule as Munster’s king for 40 years afterwards, a feat comparable to the resilience of his half-brother Sitric Silkenbeard.

The other notable survivor (besides Gormlaith herself(6)) was Sitric Silkbeard, who some say fought valiantly, but others say he stayed close to the Dublin fortress walls, as its military defender (to prevent looting, etc.).

Likely, Silkbeard did some of both.

Politically, the strongest survivor of the battle was Máel Sechlainn II, so he “mopped up” much of Brian’s realm, reimposing the Uí Neill (O’Neill) high-kingship dynasty in central Ireland. Under Máel Sechlainn II’s overlordship, therefore, Silkbeard continued to rule Dublin.  In AD1036, after more than 40 years of ruling Dublin, Silkbeard finally retired – abdicating his throne to his nephew Echmarcach.  Silkbeard traveled widely for 6 years, dying in AD1042.

the Rose and Viking Festival in St. Annes Park

Clontarf Battle Viking reenactor (image credit: Irish Times)

So what was the key to Sitric Silkbeard’s longevity as Dublin’s ruler, amidst all the family fireworks and turf-grabbing turmoil in Viking Age Ireland?

One wise habit Silkbeard practiced was the pragmatic virtue of not trying to be “top dog” in rank or power.  If it was tolerable, Silkbeard submitted to an overlord, what the Irish called a “high king” (i.e., a king who also overruled other kings, what continental Europe called an “emperor”).

The result, for Silkbeard, was survival with less-than-complete autonomy for his Viking port-based kingdom of Dublin, an international commerce giant. Meanwhile, others, who stretched for greater lots, often died trying to overreach.  Contentedness (i.e., appreciating what you have, when it is enough) has its rewards (see 1st Timothy 6:6).

Covetousness is a cruel slavemaster, and greed for glory (and/or for other kinds of gain) has ruined many an ambitious men and women.          ><> JJSJ        profjjsj@aol.com 

JJSJ-CliftonMuseum-NST-lecture


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Dr. James J. S. Johnson (JD, ThD, CPEE, CNHG, MSHist, MSGeog) often researches, writes, and speaks on Viking history, serves the Norwegian Society of Texas, and has taught aboard 9 international cruise ships (by which he visited Dublin in AD2002).  A lifelong learner, he may be reached at profjjsj@aol.com .



ENDNOTE  REFERENCES

(1) As surprising as it may be to some, Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin (Ireland), was originally established by King Silkbeard around AD1028  —  it now belongs to the (Anglican Protestant) Church of Ireland.  Silkbeard died in AD1042.

(2) Both Máel Mórda (Gormlaith’s brother, as king of Leinster) and Brian Boru (Gormlaith’s 2nd husband, who divorced her) died during the Battle of Clontarf on Good Friday of AD1014, along with thousands of other Norse and Irish warriors.

(3) Olaf Cuaran was king of Northumbria/Jórvík (York) 2 or 3 times, plus king of Dublin twice.  Olaf was known as Óláfr Sigtryggsson in Old Norse, and in old Irish Gaelic as Amlaíb mac Sitric or as Amlaíb Cuarán (meaning Olaf “Sandal”). Olaf was a direct descendant of “Ivar the Boneless”, one of the Great Heathen Army heads.  Regarding the Great Heathen Army’s contribution to creation apologetics, see James J. S. Johnson, “Something Fishy about Radiocarbon-Dating Viking Bones”, Creation Research Society Quarterly, 54(3):213-216 (winter 2018).  Olaf’s sister (some say “daughter”; Brian Tompsett says “sister”; maybe ½-sister?), Gytha (a/k/a Gyda), after becoming widowed, married Christian Viking Olaf Tryggvason, himself then a widower; for a few years Olaf Tryggvason lived in both England and Dublin, likely helping Olaf Cuaran, his royal brother-in-law in Dublin.

(4) It also seems that Máel Sechlainn II mac Domnall (a/k/a “Malachy”) previously married Dublin/York’s king Olaf Cuaran’s daughter named Máel Muire ingen Amlaíb (the latter 2 words meaning “Olafsdottir”, i.e., “daughter of Olaf”).  This Máel Muire was half-sister to Dublin’s king Sitric “Silkbeard” Olafsson, as well as sister (or half-sister) to Gytha Olafsdottir (who married Olaf Tryggvason, who later became Christian Viking king of Norway and its possessions).   Assuming that Gormlaith eventually married Máel Sechlainn II, who previously had married Olaf Cuaran’s daughter Máel Muire (who once was Gormlaith’s stepdaughter), that would mean Gormlaith was marrying the ex-husband of her own stepdaughter!

(5) Would Olaf Sitricsson call Gormlaith “Farmor” (meaning “Father’s mother”), or “Mormor” (meaning “Mother’s [step]-mother”), or just “Bestemor” (meaning “grandmother”)?   [AUTHOR’S PERSONAL NOTE:  my son’s sons (i.e., my biogenetic grandchildren)  call me “Farfar”,  Norwegian for “Father’s father”.     ><>  JJSJ  ]

(6) Some sources suggest that Gormlaith married king Máel Sechlainn II (“Malachy”), after her 1st husband Olaf Cuaran died  —  yet before she married Brian Boru.  Other sources strongly disagree, suggesting that Gormlaith was married only to Olaf, then Brian, then a third time to Máel Sechlainn II, king of Meath.

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On Creation Week’s Day 1, How Intensively did God Work?

On Creation Week’s Day 1, How Intensively did God Work?

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”   (Genesis 1:1)

Galaxy.Tarantula-photo

The Bible teaches us that everything and everyone (except God Himself) was made by God, so He is called the “Creator”; that means that God made everything that is (including ourselves) out of nothing, by His command!

That is so powerful that we cannot fully understand that power to create something (or someone) out of nothing. The Bible teaches us that God did His creation work “in the beginning”, staring with the heavens and the earth on Day #1. Although doing this is impossible for us to do, or even to fully understand, it was quite easy for God to do!

RosettaNebula-galaxy.Pinterest

Hebrew philology (i.e., word studies) demonstrate their value in the Bible’s first verse: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”

The subject noun is “God,” translating the Hebrew text’s plural noun Elohîm. The action verb is “created,” translating the Hebrew text’s singular verb bara’.  What a grammar teacher’s conundrum! A plural subject noun with a singular verb!  Yet what better way to foreshadow the Bible’s Trinitarian theology of God’s being? This is clarified later in Scripture, of course, as the Great Commission illustrates, but the doctrine of God’s Tri-unity is actually introduced in Genesis 1:1. The universe’s Maker is plural, yet one

Genesis 1:1 has more to say about God’s first action as Creator—informing us about what God’s action of creating was and what it was not.

Hebrew verbs usually appear in one of these seven basic forms: qal (simple active), niphâl (simple passive), piêl (intensive active), puâl (intensive passive), hiphîl (causative active), hophâl (causative passive), hithpaêl (active and passive combined—i.e., your action directly impacts yourself, like combing your own hair).

Genesis 1:1 uses a singular 3rd person masculine qal verb, bara’ (“He created”).  So what does that tell us about God’s action on Day 1?

From God’s perspective, His action of creating (on Day 1 of Creation Week) was “simple”; it was not “intensive” work!  Astoundingly, God did not work very hard to decree into existence, from nothing, all “the heavens and earth” (i.e., all of the physical matter-energy that now exists)!  Also, notice that God’s work of creating was not merely “causative.” God then acted directly, not merely as a first cause instigator triggering a long series of dominoes.  (Specifically, it was God the Son, i.e., Christ, Who was most directly involved in doing this creation work  — see John 1, Colossians 1, Hebrews 1.)

Furthermore, because the verb bara’ is a perfect verb, the action of creating is reported as completed—finished! That specific work of creation (i.e., creating physical matter-energy into being), that God did on Day 1, needed no further ex nihilo (out-of-nothing) creating.

And that was just the beginning! The next five days involved developmental use of Day 1’s creation, providing us with many more biblical word study opportunities in Genesis.

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Majestic Medley in the Heavens

 

MAJESTIC   MEDLEY   IN   THE   HEAVENS

Dr. James J.S. Johnson

There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.  There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.   (1st Corinthians 15:40-41)

The cosmos is filled with heavenly bodies that display wonderful variety.

What variety (sun, moon, stars, planets, comets, etc.) is in our universe?  Variety in the heavens actually exists on an enormous scale.

God likes variety—more variety than we can fully appreciate, even if we had multiple lifetimes to investigate His creation!

Moon-phases-NASA-diagram

Here are two proofs:

(1) Scripture shows that variety matches God’s divine nature (i.e., God is simultaneously plural and one, being triune: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit) and how He made mankind in His own image; and

(2) God’s physical non-human creation (including animals, plants, rocks, stars, bacteria, protozoa, etc.) shows that God supernaturally selected and favors variety.

Nature displays differences in details of diverse animals, plants, microörganisms, earth’s geophysical environment, and even the innumerable galaxies of outer space – including each and every star that is out there, regardless of whether any human ever sees it or not! So, how do the heavens show God’s love for variety?

There are at least 100 billion stars in the heavens (that’s 100,000,000,000 different stars!) – that we are of (and maybe there are many more!), yet Psalm 147:4 says that God not only can count exactly how many there are, He has even given a specific name to each of those many stars!

Also, 1st Corinthians 15:40-41 says that God gives a different “glory” to each star – and that should remind us that God gives a unique dignity to each human. In other words, each of us is valuable to God in a way that no one else is – what a wonderful fact! Since God treats each of the stars as unique, with its own name, that proves that God loves variety. In other words, God has demonstrated His love for variety in the many differences (including differences in “glories”) that He has designed into the heavenly bodies, including the uniqueness of the stars and of the planets. As humans we cannot actually count stars, one at a time, and know their individual names – to do so would take trillions of years – and during our earthly lives we cannot live that long.

Galaxy.Tarantula-photo

Although heavenly bodies have individual uniqueness, they simultaneously have interactive relationships with one another on huge scales – for example, our solar system is a working system, within the Milky Way Galaxy (which is a working system), and there even exists groupings of galaxies.

God values variety, so the cosmos is filled with heavenly bodies that display wonderful variety.   God has demonstrated His love for variety in the many differences (including differences in “glories”) that He has artistically designed variety into the heavenly bodies, including the uniqueness of the stars and of the planets.  Consequently, stars, groups of stars, and other heavenly bodies show variety and artistic uniqueness.   (See 1st Corinthians 15:40-41; Psalm 147:4; Job 26:13.)

Cosmos-SpiralGalaxy-space

For more information on this topic you might want to see these online articles:

Henry M. Morris: http://www.icr.org/article/9944

Henry M. Morris: http://www.icr.org/article/2292

Henry M. Morris: http://www.icr.org/article/1342

Henry M. Morris: http://www.icr.org/article/21014

Henry M. Morris: http://www.icr.org/article/20964

JJSJ: http://www.icr.org/article/created-sun-and-moon

JJSJ: http://www.icr.org/article/valuing-gods-variety/

JJSJ: http://www.icr.org/article/grackles-gratitude


 

John 3:16’s Promise, Recalling a Snake?

John 3:16,  Recalling a Snake?

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

John3.14-16-pic

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”   (John 3:14-15)

John 3:14-15 is the foundation for the promise of John 3:16, because the first word [houtôs] in the Greek text of John 3:16, means “like this” (translated “so” in KJV)  — referring back to John 3:14-15, which looks further back to Numbers 21:4-9.

So, how does this provide a “snake connection” to the meaning of John 3:16?

The Bible portrays serpents as sinister and even devilish reptiles, especially the serpent which Satan embodied when he tempted Adam and Even (in the Garden of Eden),  —   so how can serpents (such as the king cobra) demonstrate God’s glory?

Consider the unusual role that serpents have in God’s creation. The first serpent specifically mentioned in the Bible is the one that Satan used, as his mask, for talking with Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden.  Prior to the Garden of Eden event serpents could walk on legs, but afterwards – as part of the curse God imposed as consequences for that terrible event – serpents were limited to crawling on their bellies (Genesis 3).

Did serpents, and other animals, routinely talk to humans in the Garden of Eden, before the Fall? Does the fact that Balaam’s donkey was enabled to talk to Balaam, later in history (after the Jews exited Egypt under Moses’s leadership), an indication that animals were originally able to converse with humans, but now are not?  Scripture does not explicitly tell us the answer, one way or the other.

Meanwhile, serpents – what we call “snakes” cannot now walk on legs, and they are a continuing reminder of what happened in the Garden of Eden (and the seriousness of sin), thousands of years ago.

Apart from that unusual role that one serpent once had, in the Garden of Eden, we see that snakes are reptiles that God created, cold-blooded (“ectothermic”) predators, capable of great subtlety and viciousness.

Earth has many kinds of snakes today, from huge snakes like pythons of the Amazon River rainforest, to small “harmless” Rough-earth Snakes that live mostly underground (unless heavy rains flush them out of the topsoil).

The King Cobra (a/k/a “hamadryad” snakes) are the world’s longest venomous snake, meaning that this snake puts out a poisonous toxin (which is squired form openings in its fangs) when it bites a victim.  Humans easily die of cobra bites, unless a counteracting anti-venom remedy is immediately applied.  As the victim succumbs to the venom’s destructiveness the snake swallows the victims, if the victim is small enough for the cobra to swallow it. The venom is mostly a mix of painful neurotoxins that destroy the central nervous system, ruining vision, balance, alertness, and the brain’s control of the ability to breathe – quite a metaphoric picture of how sin ruins, cripples, incapacitates, and can ultimately destroy the life of a human, if a sufficient remedy to the venomous snakebite is not timely applied.

For human sin there is only one remedy, the substitutionary death of the Lord  Jesus Christ, Who died on the cross for our sins (i.e., receiving punishment as our substitute) – if, as, and when a human accepts this wonderful fact he (or she) receives God’s saving grace, the antidote for sin’s consequences.

The Bible’s first prophecy of Jesus, as the sin-defeating Messiah, was given in Genesis 3:15, when God was addressing the serpent in Eden:

“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; He Himself [i.e., Woman’s seed = Jesus] shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel.

This prophecy (called the “Protevangelium”) was fulfilled by Christ when He was crucified, because the Lord Jesus’s substitutionary death on the cross actually defeated the power of both sin and death, as is explained by Paul in 1st Corinthians chapter 15.

Interestingly, the comparison that Jesus Himself used, when explaining eternal life to Nicodemus, referred back to an incident involving snakes:

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world [literally “like this God loved the world”, i.e., like what occurred in the wilderness with the snakebites and the miraculous remedy that God provided, that involved a copper snake on a pole, combined with snake-bit Israelites believing God’s promise of a cure if they looked at the pole], that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:14-16). 

That strange event, which Jesus referred to, is reported in Numbers 21:4-9, which says:

And they [i.e., the Israelites] journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way.  And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.  

And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.

Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.

And Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.

And Moses made a serpent of copper, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of copper, he lived.

In other words, if we think of Jesus Christ dying on the cross (crucified for our sins) as our substitute, as we believe God’s promise (in John 3:16) that we will be graciously cured of our sin’s consequences as a miraculous gift He generously gives us due to Christ being our Savior   –   we too receive God-given life, but not just receiving an extension of our earthly life (cured of earthly snakebites), but rather receiving the forever-permanent gift of eternal life (forgiven all our sins!).

So, when you think of the wonderful promise of John 3:16, remember that John 3:16 refers back to John 3:14-15, which then looks back to the snake incident reported in Numbers 21:4-9.  

So how is the Lord Jesus Christ, when He was on the cross, comparable to the copper snake-on-a-pole that Moses erected (Numbers 21:4-9), as part of God’s solution to the snakebite crisis in the wilderness?   Christ voluntarily and graciously accepted the curse and punishment of our sin, and was nailed to a pole-like cross, as He exchanged our sin for His own righteousness:

For He [God the Father] hath made Him [Christ Jesus] to be sin for us [human sinners], Who knew no sin [i.e., Christ Himself was personally sinless in His humanity]; that we [human sinners] might be made the righteousness of God in Him [i.e., in Christ]. (2nd Corinthians 5:21)

So snakes should remind us of God’s gracious redemption in Christ, to save us humans from the consequences of our sin, and we should be mindful that God first promised this redemption in Genesis 3:15, and it was later explained by the Savior Himself, in John 3:14-15 (which alludes to Numbers 21:4-9).

John3.14-16-alternative-pic

 


 

 

God Stretched Out the Heavens, Like Tent Curtains.

God Stretched Out the Heavens, like Tent Curtains

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

RosettaNebula-galaxy.Pinterest

It is He Who sits upon the circle [i.e., choreographed circuit] of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers;  —  He Who stretches out the heavens as a curtain, and spreads them out as a tent to dwell in.   (Isaiah 40:22)

God spread out the heavens, stretching them out like a curtain. (See, e.g., Job 9:8; Psalm 104:2; Isaiah 40:22 & 42:5 & 45:12.)  The Bible teaches that God made (and organized) the cosmos in an orderly and logical way (including how He organized the cosmos to be ruled by the laws of mathematics), so the created cosmos is neither chaotic nor produced by “accidents” — such as is imagined by the “big bang” myth-makers.  (See Genesis 1:14; Judges 5:20; Psalm 19:6 & 93:1 & 104:19.)

Many secular astronomers tell us that the universe is “receding” from us, i.e., moving away from Earth, as if the cosmos itself was (and is) “expanding”, growing larger in volume, every day!  There are many problems with that speculative notion, most of which are beyond the scope of this philological study.  However, to understand the underlying controversy, consider this quick quote from creation astrophysicist Jake Hebert, which helps to set the stage for examining this cosmological question:

“Light from distant galaxies contains clues that most astronomers interpret to mean that the galaxies are receding away from us. Furthermore, most astronomers interpret this to mean, not that the galaxies are moving through space away from us, but that space itself is expanding, carrying these galaxies ‘along for the ride.’  But what about creation astronomers?  What do they think? Some have suggested that the numerous references to “stretching out” the heavens in Scripture (Job 9:8, Psalm 104:2, Isaiah 40:22, 42:5, and 45:12) refer to this ongoing expansion of space itself —  as if the universe is continuing to expand, every moment, consistent with the idea of a ‘big bang’ explosion eons ago, long before any scientific observations were possible.”  [Quoting Jake Hebert, with James J. S. Johnson, “God Spread out the Heavens, Stretching them out like a Curtain”, ICR-DC Universe Room, TS-A-2/Q-3 (AD2018-08-16).]

Galaxy.Tarantula-photo

However, this appeal to Scripture – to promote Big bang “expanding universe” notions — is not only a “stretch”, it is flat-out wrong, because the usual Hebrew word for “stretch” (naṭaḥ) does not denote elasticity (much less ongoing/unlimited elasticity!), as one would expect if these verses were referring to some kind of ongoing and unlimited “stretching out” of space itself, as Big Bang advocates imagine. Rather, these passages are simply referring to God’s initial structuring of the stars, in their respective (and choreographed) circuit arrangements.

In fact, the qualifying phrase “like a [tent] curtain” really refutes the idea of unlimited elasticity, because when Old Testament Hebrews constructed a tent (as Bedouin Arabs frequently do, to this day), they arranged the structural positioning of the tent curtains, upon the rod-assembly scaffolding – but the curtains did not stretch and stretch and stretch forever! Rather, once the curtain is positioned into the desired structure it is maintained by the pole-assembly scaffolding.

Furthermore, the same Hebrew verb (naṭaḥ) used for “stretching out” the heavens [in the 1st paragraph above] is repeatedly used of Moses “stretching out” his arm to hold his staff up in the air (e.g., Exodus 7:19; 8:5; 8:6; 8:16; 9:22; 9:23; etc.), such as when Moses did so at the miraculous parting of the Red Sea. That word “stretched” did not mean that Moses’ arm (or hand, in some contexts) got longer and longer and longer, like a huge anaconda or an unbreakable rubber-band! Rather, Moses repositioned (i.e., unfolded) his arm so that it was fully stretched out from his torso.

Galaxy-w-stars.greenish-tone

In short, when God “stretched out the heavens” He was positioning the stars (and their respective galaxy formations) into the structural arrangement that He intended for them – and it takes God’s continuing maintenance for those stars to “stay in place” due to the otherwise-disintegrating influence of cosmic entropy (see Colossians 1:17).   In fact, if God did not maintain the structure of the universe (and its innumerable parts, in their choreographed circuits), the universe’s order would disintegrate due to unrestrained entropy ( Colossians 1:17).

Solar-System.heliocentric


 

The Genesis Flood was not merely regional; it covered the entire world.

The Genesis Flood was not merely regional; it covered the entire world. 

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered.  Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.   (Genesis 7:19-20)

The apostle Peter predicted (in 2nd Peter 2:5 & 3:6) that some people would intentionally ignore the historic fact of the worldwide Flood, because that Flood was a haunting reminder that God punishes sin, especially when His forgiveness is rejected.  Before that the Lord Jesus Himself clearly taught that the Genesis Flood destroyed all of the earth, with Noah’s family being the only humans to survive (Matthew 24:39). Jesus also said that Genesis was authoritative (John 5:44-49), and the Genesis record itself (e.g., in Genesis 7:19-20) chronicles how the floodwaters rose and eventually covered the entire earth, so that even the highest mountains were covered by at least 15 cubits (which is about 24 feet).  Also, using the rainbow as a covenant, God promised to never again send a flood like the one Noah and family survived (Genesis 9:11), yet many regional floods have come and gone since then.

GenesisFlood-Ark-afloat

There are 2 other major evidences that the Genesis Flood was global, not just regional: (1) Flood mega-sequences in sedimentary rock layers, documented by Dr. Tim Clarey, cover multiple continents, not just regions of the world; (2) historical memories of the Flood, such as global flood legends and Chinese pictographs, only makes sense if the Flood was worldwide, since Flood memories are transmitted in the lore of many different peoples (e.g., Chinese, Polynesian islands, Alaskan natives, Mayas, Africans, Greeks, etc.) who are separated by language and geography.

It was more than catastrophic; it was a global cataclysm.  For more analysis of this important fact of Earth’s well-documented Flood history, consider these short articles:

HMM: http://www.icr.org/article/2120

HMM: http://www.icr.org/article/days-noah

HMM: http://www.icr.org/article/lasting-noahic-covenant

JDM: http://www.icr.org/article/providential-wind/

JDM: http://www.icr.org/article/vital-doctrine-global-flood