Jesus vs Paul – “Salvation Checklist” Response/Critique

A Brief History of Spookery

The above links to a comment at a Cutting Through The Fog post. The commenter points to this link as proof that Paul constantly contradicted Jesus and himself:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1KHcx-VIcBIE_on09iqm1i9vO_-V08MeO/view

Before responding to his other points I think this document needs to be thoroughly examined. Many will likely accept this assertion as true without looking into it. So let’s look closely at what they say the Bible says. In my experience the Bible has held it’s own against such criticism and I figured it’d be worth examining the specifics point by point.

The first lines of this document-

Jesus: The one who repents from sin is “justified.” (Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee. Luke 18:10-14.) Th son who was dead but now repents is “alive again” (born again). (Parable of the Prodigal Son, Luke 15:1-32, viz. v. 24.)

So right out of the gate we must question the reading comprehension of whoever put this list together. Just read Luke 18:10-14. This passage is about humility, not how one is “saved”. Look at how Jesus finishes this illustration: “Because everyone who exalts himself will humiliated, but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14b). Also, it’s clear from the context who he was addressing and why, verse 9 introduces the parable: “He also told this illustration to some who trusted in their own righteousness and who considered others as nothing”. Verse 13 brings the point out with “this man…was proved more righteous”. Of course, you probably should be righteous before God to be in line for salvation, but that’s not what is being emphasized here. Jesus explicitly compares these two characters’ righteousness before God because his audience needed help to stop comparing themselves to others. What does your relative righteousness have to do with my salvation? Logically, none. This is not really a passage to use to begin your understanding of how to attain to salvation.

So we remove that from the list. And move onto the next cited scripture, the familiar “Prodigal Son”. Here the writer says that the son is “alive again” after repenting and coming home. Let’s read verse 24 as they highlight it: “‘For this son of mine was dead but has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they started to enjoy themselves.” The son’s condition before repenting and coming home is compared to his condition after. This passage doesn’t go on about the son’s life going on forever – which really is the goal of salvation, right? No, it goes on about the older son’s jealousy over his father’s exuberant acceptance of the younger son’s return. Again, to understand the point of the illustration we must see who Jesus is speaking to which will give us more indication of the why behind the story:

Now all the tax collectors and the sinners kept gathering around him to hear him. And both the Pharisees and the scribes kept muttering: “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” – Luke 15:1, 2

Jesus then shares two short examples of people rejoicing over something that was lost, a shepherd and a sheep, and a woman and one of her drachmas. Then he goes into the long parable of the “Prodigal son”. From this context how do you understand the goal of Jesus’ words? Is he highlighting an important aspect of salvation? Or is he relating to his people’s religious leaders that they need an attitude adjustment toward those seeking to turn around from their spiritually dead position?

Recognizing that your God and creator wants to help you and returning to him makes sense as a step toward salvation, but this story ends with the father talking to the jealous son so Jesus’ focus is on their attitude not the mechanics of salvation. Again we can remove this passage from where they placed it. But now this box is empty. Ok, let’s check the Paul side and see if our writer applies his words more logically. The first citation:

By this undeserved kindness you have been saved through faith, and this is not of your own doing; rather it is God’s gift. No, it is not a result of works, so that no one should have grounds from boasting. – Ephesians 2:8,9

This passage does at least focus on that subject of ‘being saved’ or salvation. But in summarizing this the writer misses the mark again: “One is not justified nor born again by repentance from sin, but by faith alone.” Really? “by faith alone”? Is that what Paul said? No, he says salvation is “God’s gift” and that it’s “not of your own doing”. God is doing the real saving here, our efforts can’t help us attain the gift that God has so gracefully chosen to bestow.

Upon whom does he chose to bestow this gift? Certainly those how have faith in him, see Hebrews 11:6 “without faith it is impossible to please God well, for whoever approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” God can only reward you with salvation if you have faith in him, seems logical. If you read this whole document you will never find them mention God’s role in our salvation despite references scriptures like this that bring it up. Discussing these spiritual concepts from the Bible without mentioning Jehovah is like discussing atomic structure without mentioning the charge field. The primary action is being taken by who? Again, our writer seems to miss the real point of what’s expressed.

Romans 4:4 is also cited. This verse says “Now to the man who works his pay is not counted as as undeserved kindness but as something owed to him.” Which is pretty straight forward. If you give me something that’s a gift, if I work for you then your owe me. Where is God in that equation? Well, we owe our existence to God, thus we are debtors. Let’s look at the surrounding verses to see why Paul makes this statement.

That being so, what will we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For instance, if Abraham was declared righteous as a result of works, he would have reason to boast, but not with God. For what does the scripture say? “Abraham put faith in Jehovah, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the man who works, his pay is not counted as an undeserved kindness but as something owed to him. On the other hand, to the man who does not work but puts faith in the One who declares the ungodly one righteous, his faith is counted as righteousness. Just as David also speaks of the happiness of the man to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: “Happy are those whose lawless deeds have been pardoned and whose sins have been covered; happy is the man whose sin Jehovah will by no means take into account.” – Romans 4:1-8

So verse 4 is just a quick contrast to highlight Paul’s main idea, that even noteworthy examples of faith were not owed their salvation. No, even for them it was a gift from God and he quotes David’s words from Psalm 32 bring out we can be happy because God isn’t expecting an accounting our transgressions.

But how is it summed up by our writer here? “Any such addition to Paul’s
salvation by faith alone doctrine is the heresy of ‘works salvation.'” Again with the “faith alone” nonsense. If anything should be called “heresy” it should be the use of that extremely misleading phrase. There’s nothing “alone” about faith or salvation. The whole phrase seems to exist to confuse honest-hearted bible-readers. Faith doesn’t save you, God does. Faith is the most basic requirement on our part for God to extend the gift of everlasting life. Real faith will move a person to make changes. Which is the meaning of repentance: “change one’s mind”.  The repentance discussed on the Jesus side of a box is indeed an act of faith. The prodigal son repented and returned home because he had faith that doing so would be an improvement to his situation, (Luke 15:17).

So that means a “deathbed conversion” is possible if the person really changes their mind, but we can be understandably skeptical of their true heart condition since we don’t have further proof of their change of heart – if it’s real, God knows (Jeremiah 11:20). But imagine a sudden recovery and they return to their former conduct. Now perhaps you see why James wrote “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17, 26). Similarly if the prodigal son had only changed his mind about his conduct he’d not have improved his situation, he had to make the effort to return to his father. But as I mentioned before, we don’t know if he continued to make good decisions after returning home. To live a life of faith means in general your actions reflect your faith. But your work in accordance with your faith will never pay God back for what you owe him, thus your salvation is ultimately due to his generosity.

Sheesh! Going in I thought I might address every point, but given how this started I don’t think that’s necessary. But we’ll read the next one:

Jesus: The one who relies upon God’s election to salvation and does not
repent goes home unjustified. (Parable of the Publican and the
Pharisee. Luke 18:10-14.)

Where are they getting their ideas from? “God’s election to salvation”? If the Pharisee prayed giving thanks for his Jewish heritage and lineage to the priestly families that might follow from the text, but the Pharisee’s prayer includes a comparison of himself to sinners and lists deeds he thinks are part of his righteousness. Nothing about “God’s election”. Jesus is highlighting the importance of our attitude and thinking.

Again, they are forcing a passage about humility to shape their thinking on attaining to salvation. Many well-known bible translations use “justified” in the text of Luke 18:14, but a number of them use the phrase “right with God” or “declared righteous”. I quickly found these: Good News Translation (GNT), International Children’s Bible (ICB), The Message (MSG), Disciples’ Literal New Testament (DLNT), Tree of Life Version (TLV), Young’s Literal Translation (YLT).

We can see that this is another comparison of attitudes: “I say to you, this one went-down to his house having been declared-righteous, rather-than that one,” (Luke 10:14a, DLNT). The Contemporary English Version (CEV) translates it “it was the tax collector and not the Pharisee who was pleasing to God.” These translations help us understand that Jesus isn’t expounding upon the details of salvation. He is saying one must be humble to please God, which is certainly part of salvation, but not how you “get saved”.

So another empty square, but words of  Paul do they compare to this?

The one who relies upon God’s election alone for salvation is relying on the right thing. (Rom. 8:33.) God elects you to salvation by means of predestination, and hence without any work on your part. Faith is given to you as part of God’s work in you. (Phil 1:6)

Yikes, none of these concepts hold up to an examination of the bible text. First let’s look at the cited scripture: “Who will file accusation against God’s chosen ones? God is the One who declares them righteous.” Working backward, it is logical that God declares who is righteous, since he is the one who provides the ultimate standard of righteousness and he can read our hearts. We saw above that it helps to be humble if you want to be righteous before God. But in this context Paul compares the judgement of men to the judgement of God. Obviously God’s judgment is more important than men’s.

It’s the phrase “God’s chosen ones” that leads to the wrong conclusion that God does all the choosing, taking away our agency or free will in regard to our own standing before God. But that is that what we’ve found? Jesus’ parable of the two men at prayer is encouragement to make a better choice. Oh but this whole thing is supposed to be Paul vs Jesus, because someone who can’t read thinks they are at odds. OK. What’s Paul say about our free will? Just flip back and read chapters 6 and 7 of Romans.

There we find phrases like “do not let sin continue to rule as king in your mortal bodies” (Rom. 6:12), “if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves you are slaves to the one you obey” (6:16) , and “now present your members as slaves of righteous” (6:19). The words I italicized demonstrate that Paul expects his readers to make a choice and act accordingly. Then in chapter 7, after explaining being freed from the Law and it’s role in identifying sin, he goes on to focus on the importance of continuing to do what you know is right, even though you may often feel like doing something else (Rom. 7:23). Paul’s expressions here shows that he understands how hard it can be, but he exhorts his reader to keep making the choice that they made when they first decided to be a disciple of Jesus. Romans 8:6 “For setting the mind on the flesh means death, but setting the mind on the spirit means life and peace”. The only way to misconstrue Paul’s words into something about predestination is to ignore most of what he is saying.

So what about the next scripture they bring up? Phil 1:6. If you read it and the surrounding verses, there is no specific mention of faith. He seems to connect this work with the “legally establishing of the good news”. So the work is likely the Christian ministry of preaching the kingdom. Which is what Jesus told his followers to do, (Matt 28:19, 20). So we have another misapplied scripture and thus we have no proof that faith is God’s work in us.

If this pattern holds there is no bible-based content in this chart. It’s empty arguments and words that mimic association with the text to confuse or distract from the real content. This list exists so people who want to ignore the Bible as self-contradictory can feel like someone has already done the research so they don’t have to think or examine the text for themselves. But we know that usually means something fishy is afoot.

This should be enough for us to know we better simply read the Bible on our own to see what it says. But we can look more closely at the next couple of sections. This will also provide an opportunity to explore some concepts that come to many people’s minds when they think of the Bible. 

To have eternal life, follow the Ten Commandments, deny yourself (i.e., repent and do works worthy of repentance) and then follow Jesus. If you give up fathers, mothers, and brothers for Jesus, deny yourself, take up your cross, and “follow Me,” you “shall have eternal life.” (Matthew 19:27-29; Matthew 10:37-39; John 12:25-26.)

Is having “eternal life” the same as salvation? I think basically, yes, but I wonder what they’d say. Salvation implies being saved from something, I would assume that we mean Satan’s corrupt world and death, but again I wonder what they’d say. Eternal life seems like the sort of thing that’s only possible once all dangers are eliminated, so they are similar. But rather than dig into that let’s see what these scriptures say about following the Ten Commandments, self-denial, and following Jesus leading to eternal life. Matthew 19:27-29 reads:

Then Peter said in reply: “Look! We have left all things and followed you; what, then will there be for us?” Jesus said to them: “Truly I say to you, in the re-creation, when the Son of man sits down on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will sit on 12 thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit everlasting life.

This makes part of their point, but if they want the Ten Commandments to be mentioned they should have written “Matthew 19:16-29”, and included Jesus’ answer to the wealthy man’s question. On the surface Jesus’ mentioning of these commandments, verse 17-19, seems to support their assertion here, but this disregards two major things. 1) The Mosaic Law was still in effect. It was in effect as long as Jesus was alive and ended with his death.

2) Jesus is speaking to an individual, like with others, he could discern his thinking, see Matt 9:3, 4, Mark 2:6-8. Jesus lovingly showed this man that he was overly attached to his worldly possessions. He opened by directing attention not to himself, but on God, the source of good and deferred to Jehovah’s commandments when the man asked which to follow. Yet, the man felt he still lacked something.

Notice the final command listed by Jesus speaking to this rich man “Love your neighbor as yourself”. First note, this is not one of the “Ten Commandments” so Jesus isn’t just focused on those ten as asserted. Perhaps that 2nd greatest commandment is part of why the man felt lacking. So Jesus gave him a simple command to give away much of his belongings. This relates to the man’s excellent record of following the Law – a series of straight forward commands. But this time he couldn’t bring himself to follow why? The man’s attitude needed adjustment – he was overly attached to his material possessions. Jesus lovingly helped the man confront this fact.

So how does this relate to our salvation? Well, we are no longer under the Mosaic Law, so that part doesn’t apply in the same way. The Law does help us understand Jehovah’s thinking, likes and dislikes as well as priorities (Hosea 6:6). As for the second point about giving up family and following Jesus, we can relate this rich man’s situation to it in terms of a contrast – he was unwilling to give up something important to him to inherit something greater, everlasting life. So that helps us understand that we may have to give up a lot in order to follow after him. Also if you go back and read the summary provided by the chart they made it seem like you have to give up your family to have eternal life, but what if your whole family follows Jesus? Are you supposed to give them up somehow? Is that logical? Or is perhaps Jesus making a point about priorities?

Now, the part they actually cited comes only after Jesus’ famous words that “it is easier for a camel to get through the eye of an needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God”.* Which is basically saying it’s impossible, so understandably Peter asked “Who really can be saved?” Jesus is speaking to his closest disciples, the apostles, so he knows they’ve given up much to be learn from and follow him, so we must read this with this in mind. When Jesus says “you who have followed me will sit on 12 thrones” keep in mind his primary listeners in the moment. But then he does make a broader statement about “everyone who has left houses or brothers….for the sake of my name”. This is in contrast to the rich man who couldn’t make a large adjustment to improve his relationship with God. Jesus is assuring his followers that their sacrifices are worth it.

The next two passages they cite do express something similar, but their context shows a very different sort of discussion.

Whoever has greater affection for father or mother than for me is not worthy of me; and whoever has greater affection for son or daughter than for me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not accept his torture stake and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his soul will lose it, and whoever loses his soul for my sake will find it.- Matthew 10:37-39

These words come after Jesus explains how following after him may separate family and break up households – that is conflict may arise. (Mt. 10:34-36) Again, an emphasis on spiritual priorities. But this is expressed only after he states the importance of acknowledging Jesus before men, (Mt. 10:32, 33). Which makes sense since Jesus is preparing some of his disciples for a preaching campaign. Just read the start of chapter 10, after verse 5 it’s a long series of instructions and reminders for those doing this work, then at 11:1 they finally are sent out. I say all this to show that this passage is not focused on the idea of “how to attain everlasting life”, this isn’t a discourse about salvation doctrine so it relates only inasmuch as the text allows. The text shows this is preparation for preaching. Given that some may have feared persecution in response to their preaching work Jesus’ words about losing one’s soul (or life) may have been understood literally.

The final cited scripture from John 12 also has very different context. Jesus has recently entered Jerusalem in a unusually public way, John 12:12, 13. Many people are there for the Passover celebration (John 12:1, 20), and Jesus knows that he will soon die (John 12:33). The cited passage, John 12:25, 26, is part of an answer (v23) to a request by some Greeks (v20) to see Jesus (v21).

These last two cited scriptures in the chart express the basic idea highlighted. A person needs prioritize their life less than Jesus and follow after him. Indeed this is part of the Christian course but I take issue with the way they express it. Perhaps they are just being brief, but I don’t think that’s it. Their statements create a false sense of direct correlation. “Deny yourself, follow Jesus” = “You’ll be saved”. Once more, the problem with this sort of over-simplification is that it removes the most important person from the action, Jehovah. God is the one making this possible. It’s not some impersonal cause and effect.

Remember how at Matthew 19, Jesus first asked “Why do you call me ‘good’? One there is who is good.” Who is he talking about? Then at Matthew 10, Jesus says at verse 32, that if we publicly acknowledge Jesus before men, then Jesus will acknowledge us before God. Jesus recognizing us as his follower before God is a big deal! See Revelation 3:5. Finally, John 12:26, the very next thing spoken after what’s cited brings God in: “If anyone would minister to me, let him follow me, and where I am, there my minister will be also. If anyone would minister to me, the Father will honor.” Being honored by God is obviously one of the greatest things the creator can give one of his creations. Indeed, isn’t a large part of existence to bring honor to our maker – by whom we exist in the first place? (Matt 5:16, 1 Cor. 10:31). Most people deny the existence of God and therefore do not recognize his great works or his name and all that it represents. As opposed to Jesus, who often drew attention to our wonderful loving creator (another example John 11:40-42).

Returning to John 12, it makes sense that God choose this occasion to speak from the heaven before a crowd. Yes indeed, at John 12, right after Jesus’ response that we’ve been considering and shortly after the cited section of John, Jehovah God himself spoke, John 12:28-30. Interesting to note that he spoke for the ‘sake of the crowd’, but his words were in regard to glorifying his own name and that he will do something to glorify his name. And this is in response to Jesus’ prophesying about his execution. Without getting too deep into how all this connects it seems obvious that Jesus’ obedience even to death would be a big part of God’s glorification.

So, again by examining the context we can see that the cited scriptures are being used to push certain ideas while ignoring some of the bigger ideas in the text. But how do they say Paul contradicts this?

To have eternal life, say with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe He is resurrected. (Rom. 10:9.) Do not add any work. “Now to him that worketh, the reward is not reckoned as of grace, but as of debt.” (Rom. 4:4.) If salvation depends on keeping the Law, then salvation by faith is made void. “[I]f they that are of the law are heirs, faith is made void…” (Rom.4:14.)

Doesn’t this contradict itself? “Say with your mouth” is an action or “work”, so Paul pairs having faith with speaking about your faith. This chart seems unable to really grasp the meaning of the words cited as evidence, odd…or insidious you tell me.

Now, read Romans 10:9 for yourself: “For if you publicly declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and exercise faith in your heart that God raised him up from the dead, you will be saved.” This scripture presents two things. 1) declare with your mouth and 2) exercise faith in your heart. Taken alone this reveals that it’s not enough to have faith, you must also tell others about your faith. Which is a work. 

In fact didn’t we just see above Jesus saying the same thing? Matthew 10:32 “Everyone, then, who acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father who is in the heavens”. Jesus, as mediator of the new covenant, is the person we need vouching for us before God in order to gain everlasting life. He just said he’ll only do that if we acknowledge him before men. Paul is saying we must have faith and then speak about it. They are in agreement. The cited Romans 10:9 is most certainly part of a discussion of the importance of preaching work:

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your own mouth and in your own heart”; that is, “the word” of faith, which we are preaching. For if you publicly declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and exercise faith in your heart that God raised him up from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation. -Romans 10:8-10

If you keep reading you will see that Paul isn’t saying preaching saves you, he is saying it spreads the message to help others put faith in the truth, helping save them. By continuing in the preaching work a Christian maintains their spiritual focus, strengthens their faith and reinforces their own salvation. Paul’s words at 1 Timothy 4:16 “Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. Persevere in these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.” Paul isn’t saying you save yourself by means of doing the preaching work, he’s highlighting it’s importance. We already know that our works can’t pay the debt we owe, which is what’s expressed at Romans 4, bringing in the last two scriptures cited in the box here, we’ve already discussed Romans 4:4. Romans 4:14 emphasizes the same basic thought, contrasting righteousness through the Law with that of through faith. Paul’s discussion of the Law shows that it helps identify sin so it can be corrected, but it can only be fully corrected by God, and thus we make it possible for God to do this for us when we put faith in him and his primary means for saving us, Jesus. If a person learns these things and puts faith in them, if that faith is real they will understand the importance of spreading the message and obey Jesus’ command to preach (Matt 28:19,20) which, in turn, helps them to endure.

 To summarize Paul, nothing we do can save us, our faith allows God to work in our lives. God working in our lives leads to telling others about our faith. He is writing to a large group of people new to the Christian faith, many who had a Jewish background. This is not comparable to Jesus’s words to one rich man while the Mosaic Law is in effect. Paul is writing after Jesus’ death which ended that covenant. As you can see, I’m still waiting for some thoughtful comparisons within this chart.

A Christian will go to hell if they deny Christ under pressure. (Luke 12:4-9.)

Ah, so here we go. Hell isn’t a biblical concept. Just read Revelation 20:14 where “death and Hades (the Grave)” are “hurled into the lake of fire”. These are abstract concepts- death isn’t a person, it’s a thing that happens to a life. A few sentences later the meaning is explained: “Death will be no more” (Rev. 21:4). This describes the end of death. Fire is a symbol of destruction, not suffering. How long can a person live within an incinerator? Not long. 

There’s another passage that some may think presents this idea of hell, the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus, given at Luke 16:19-31. Jesus describes quite a change for these two men. The rich man says “I am in anguish in this blazing fire”, so does this mean hell is a real biblical teaching? Well, again we must look at the context. Jesus is speaking to the Pharisee’s who are self-righteous. This parable illustrates a dramatic change is coming for people like them. What support is there for taking this parable literally? I don’t see any. Again, a parable is a story meant to make a point. It is the point that is to be taken seriously not the story itself. He spend a lot of time illustrating the sad condition the rich man is in to make sure his target audience, the Pharisees, get it. This point is similar to his words “there are those last who will be first, and there are those first who will be last.” (Luke 13:30)

We can jump to Jeremiah’s prophecy to read how Jehovah feels about burning people: “in order to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, something that I had not commanded and that had never even come into my heart” (Jer. 7:31, also 32:35). So we can see how Jehovah feels about that idea – it’s not his sort of thing.

With this in mind, we can consider some of Jesus’ words which they cite:

4 Moreover, I say to you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body and after this are not able to do anything more. 5 But I will show you whom to fear: Fear the One who after killing has authority to throw into Ge·henʹna. Yes, I tell you, fear this One. 6 Five sparrows sell for two coins of small value, do they not? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Have no fear; you are worth more than many sparrows.
8 “I say to you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. 9 But whoever disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God. – Luke 12:4-9

This passage supports our previous comments about a “public declaration” being an important part of the Christian’s course. It supports what we just read about Jehovah caring for his people so much that he’d never consider burning them in fire, no we are “worth more than many sparrows”. And of course Jesus says we should only fear God. Fear, not as in morbid dread, but astonished awe or reverence. It makes more sense to ‘fear’ our creator more than any human. God is the source of life, and so he is also the source of the standards by which that life lives, so his judgments should be more important to us.

What is Gehenna? If you look it up online, you will find the word surrounded by lots of noise. A lot of it is just talking about how it has been come to be understood and used, but if you ignore that junk you will find that the word has sometimes been translated “rubbish heap” and evidence that it refers to a place just outside the city of Jerusalem in which “unclean” things were burned, and there may have been fire there continually. So, I’m imagining something like tire-fire of the Simpson’s Springfield.

If I were to say to you, “I’m going to hang out in the dumpster fire”. You wouldn’t try to stop me saying “that will hurt a lot and you’ll be in pain during your visit” No, you’d connect a human in a fire with their death, the end of the person. That fact that the fire doesn’t go out emphasizes that the person will not be able to reconstitute and live. This matches the basic idea that most of Judaism does not have the hell doctrine.

That last empty box is compared to 2 Timothy 2:12 & 13. But this last one is so goofball that it contradicts itself without having to even dig into the context.

If we deny Jesus, He will deny us, but in the end God will still accept us because He cannot deny Himself. (Stanley.) Paul says: “if we shall deny him, he also will deny us: if we are faithless, he abideth faithful; for He cannot deny himself.” (2 Tim. 2:12-13.)

Do you see it? “He [God] cannot deny himself” is being used to assert that God will not deny a human. But humans are not God, and God is not a human. Paul made it clear that God is willing to let go of us if we deny him. Doesn’t that match what Jesus said? If God “abideth faithful” wouldn’t he deny himself if he did save someone unfaithful? That how that reads to me. What do you think?

Again, this level of misreading, misrepresenting does not feel like an honest effort but indicates to me an effort to make the Bible seem foolish and full of contradiction. After joining me on this I hope you can see that perhaps it’s not the Bible that is doing the contradicting. 

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*This passage always make me think that Jesus probably had a great sense of humor, but we rarely get to see it. And his jokes probably were always taken too seriously. Like here it seems that Peter took that hyperbole completely at face value and needed reassurance.

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And seeing Paul and Jesus in agreement addresses much of the stuff our initial commenter says.

Thoughts on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Certainly Star Trek Deep Space Nine, as a genre show from the 90’s is better than most things squeezed into the Videodrome. It’s no TNG for me though. Here’s a few big misses from the show from my perspective. (I may update this as I’m currently rewatching it.)

Sisko’s use of the Defiant ends up being contradictory. 1-the ship’s “only flaw” is that it’s overpowered and over-weaponized for it’s size. No science labs, no families. 2-We’re taking it to find the Dominion leaders to convince we’re not a threat. …ummm maybe your diplomatic ploy would be more effective if you weren’t driving up to them in a giant gun? You want to show the Dominion what the Federation is? Well a big part of that is science labs and families.

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The Founders send out a bunch of their young and then ignore the results. The fact that Odo is so attached to the Bajorans and the Federation means nothing to their conquest. Even after linking with him, they don’t seem to notice that his experience with these groups is generally positive. I guess as the bad guy’s that can’t put two key ideas next to each other. Their whole motivation for creating the Dominion is explained as a reaction to everyone fearing and hating them. So Odo’s devotion to the ideals of the Federation and Bajor should really make them wonder if they are right about all solids.

~

Waltz is a memorable episode. Dukat and Sisko stuck in a cave together while Dukat loses it trying to get some sliver of positive recognition from Sisko. The ending Ben says this thing about things often being shades of grey but then you spend some time with a man like Dukat and you get to see some real evil. OK, but really he’s a broken and insane person at this point. His evil is just a side-effect. Ben, you heard him addressing people who weren’t there, by name. Don’t act like he’s in control of his faculties.

This is a nice springboard into a discussion of madness vs evil, but that’s not what the episode presented. It presented madness and then told us it was evil. The worst part is, we don’t really know where Dukat could have taken his thoughts if it wasn’t for Sisko’s pushing the conversation. It was only after Ben’s suggestion that he should have killed more Bajorans that Dukat gets carried away with the idea. Recall, at the start of the episode we see he’s still venerable from the death of his daughter, still sensitive, unable to easily speak of her death, he’s still recovering, so putting such ideas into his head was wholly irresponsible, unbecoming of a Starfleet Officer.

Update-1/4/2021

Remember in the pilot when the Wormhole aliens keep bringing Sisko back to the moment his wife died. The big realization is that “But you exist here”, meaning that he keeps himself at that moment in time but continuing to think about it and feel all the things he felt in that moment. “I exist here”, he has to admit.

Fast forward to season 7, everybody is enjoying Vic’s, but not The Sisko, and why? Because it’s not historically accurate. He argues that it’s a fantasy he can’t enjoy because in real 1962 Las Vegas clubs black people weren’t allowed. His reaction surprised me for two reasons. 1) It’s the exact opposite of Uhura’s reaction to Lincoln’s usage of the word “negress”. She is completely confused by the idea that someone could be racist- that’s how removed from their racist past humans are depicted in the Original Series.

2) Given what the prophets said, when we see ‘the Sisko’ focusing again on only a painful memory whenever the Vic program was brought up, as he was indeed miffed by all the attention Vic’s got, we can assert that he existed only in the painfully racist past. But this time it’s a past that wasn’t his – he had no personal experience with 1960’s Las Vegas. So why was his reaction so strong? (Are you going to tell me that he was always a prophet and at the end of the series he joins the prophets and exists outside of time and so he was connected to the past because, like those writer’s flashbacks, it was his experience? So why focus on this one short period of time and place – really 60’s US again? Why not experience Africa before European colonialization? Or jump ahead centuries ahead to during the original series and see how integrated humanity is? Or even further into the future! Why is he playing victim when literally the whole of the Federation is over this sort of discrimination?

Keeping the “past alive” in this way is actively holding him back. He needed help to appreciate what the holodeck program was, “how it should have been”. Anyway, this makes me wonder how much other media is encouraging people to constantly look back and focus on the pain of the past. They may even do it with a overt message of looking to a better future, like Star Trek. Given how far Star Trek went to depict racism as a thing completely in the past I was surprised how this particular aspect was written.

Not to mention there was a real slave in the story: Vic. In the earlier episode with Nog living in the Vegas program Vic finally discovers what it means to just live his life. Sure it’s a program, but it’s real to him. We see his realization that he actually can’t just run indefinitely, and the idea hurts. Vic is introduced as a hologram who knows what he is and is good with people. They always just refer to Vic as “special”, but it seems more accurate to call him sentient and self-aware. Meaning he’s an enslaved AI. If THAT had been Sisko’s gripe about all the Vic nonsense that would have been cool, that would have felt like Star Trek.

“Wayback Machine” Tampering?

I was reading this article from 2009 about the usage and definition of “Pandemic” https://academic.oup.com/jid/article/200/7/1018/903237. It’s pretty interesting and seems pretty well balanced. At the the end they seem* to support the notion of honing the usage of the word, to include basically all the ideas you’d expect the word to express including a high fatality rate.

However, I’m writing this short post for a different reason. 

In the third paragraph under ‘Conclusions’ the first sentence:

When epizootic circulation of a highly pathogenic avian H5N1 virus led, in 2003, to occasional human “spillover” cases associated with 60% fatality [21], the WHO developed a pandemic preparedness plan stipulating, in reference to influenza, that a pandemic agent must be infectious, must be new, must spread easily, and must cause serious illness [26].

Here they assert that WHO required a pandemic have the feature of “must cause serious illness”. Since this is different from how the term is used now (it’s 11/30/2020), I wanted to check that WHO source and see how exactly this word has changed.

[26]: http://www.who.int/csr/disease/avian_influenza/avian_faqs/en/ Unfortunately this is link is now dead. Sure it’s 2020, and this was written in August 2009, so that makes sense. At least they could read it in 2009! That’s what the web archive is for, eh?

http://web.archive.org/web/20201127180806/http://www.who.int/influenza/human_animal_interface/avian_faqs/en/

Someone tried to archive it this year and for some reason archived the empty page. OK, so let’s go further back and find the actual page. Right? They were able to read it in 2009 so let’s jump back to the beginning:

http://web.archive.org/web/20111010051928/http://www.who.int:80/influenza/human_animal_interface/avian_faqs/en/

Oh… so the furtherest we can go back is 2011. Just two years after this JID article was written. But… there’s nothing there. ALL of the archived versions of this page are blank. Does that make any sense? It doesn’t make any sense to me. How many blank pages have you bothered to save? Were you wanting to show someone a blank page to prove a point?

I even tried changing the language. /fr/ for French, /es/ for Spanish, and /ar/ for Arabic. Also just blank archived pages. 

Anyway, I just thought that was extremely weird and wanted to draw attention to it. Has anyone else seen something similar?*

~

We can keep talking about WHO and it’s use of “pandemic” if you like. This page from 2010, is still on the Wayback Machine but it’s also still on WHO’s website, so I guess it’s still “relevant” to them: https://www.who.int/csr/disease/swineflu/frequently_asked_questions/pandemic/en/

For both seasonal and pandemic influenza, the total number of people who get severely ill can vary. However, the impact or severity tends to be higher in pandemics in part because of the much larger number of people in the population who lack pre-existing immunity to the new virus. When a large portion of the population is infected, even if the proportion of those infected that go on to develop severe disease is small, the total number of severe cases can be quite large.

I think it’s easy to see how most people will read this and see how as support for the current Covid-19 nonsense as a “pandemic”, but that’s just the squishy language doing it’s job. Notice the phrases: “can vary”, “tends to”, “quite large”. And the last sentence is just silly. Logically it makes sense that if more people are infected then the number of severe cases will be higher. But this sentence uses that logic to support that idea that a small proportion of severe cases is still a big deal, worthy of being a pandemic. Though if you remove the ambiguity from the first part of the paragraph we can see that this likely wouldn’t be the case.

The final sentence of the next paragraph there also helps us see that Corona isn’t a big deal, compared to H1N1. “But as was seen with the current H1N1 pandemic, pandemics can have unusual epidemiological patterns and large outbreaks can occur in the summer months.” We did not have a spike in the Summer 2020. The allegedly biggest spike came in the fall when they reintroduced “lockdown”. So further proof this is just seasonal flu being way overblown. If you’re wondering why I say that then here: http://mileswmathis.com/covid.pdf 

On the way out, from the JID article:

Severity- Although disease severity has not been a conventional pandemic criterion [25], the term pandemic has been applied to severe or fatal diseases (eg, the Black Death, HIV/AIDS, and SARS) much more commonly than it has been applied to mild diseases. Diseases of low or moderate severity, such as AHC in 1981, and cyclic global recurrences of scabies (an infestation, not an infection), also have been called pandemic when they exhibit explosive (AHC) or widespread and recurrent (scabies) geographic spread.

*I suppose this is a bit geared toward getting us ready for the usage to refer to the spread and not the severity of the actual disease. 

Have you heard the phrase “PCR test pandemic”? Well that’s how our current ‘reality’ is described here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KF3zO5evS4U and since the initial upload was deleted I feel I must give a second link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o98UoxP53T0. If either of those are now broken search “Dr. Reiner Fuellmich Crimes against humanity”.

*UPDATE 9/30/21

I found another deletion from the Wayback Machine. This Op-Ed contains an admission of CIA involvement in the NYT : https://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/22/opinion/22precede.html

I often share this link and I would use the web archive to read the full text since the NYT puts this behind a paywall. There are now no instances of this being archived but I know for a fact it was.

So this problem is obviously only to get worse.

“Thy Kingdom Come”

These words are famously spoken by Jesus when he is teaching his followers how to pray. Many, like myself, were taught to repeat these words as a form of prayer. Which is hilariously nonsensical considering that just before giving this model for prayer Jesus said “When praying, do not say the same things over and over again…” (Matt 6:7). So this must mean that Jesus wasn’t giving us words to say in prayer but concepts. Given how badly the scriptures are applied in that case we can’t imagine that those teaching this practice have a strong grasp about other concepts, such as what exactly is this kingdom Jesus said to pray for? According to the bible, what is God’s Kingdom?

First, let’s see this famous verse, Matt 6:9, 10 “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. Let your Kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also on earth.” Clearly, this is addressed to God and he is being petitioned for his kingdom to come. Jesus’ outline for prayer or ‘model prayer’ is asking for God’s will to be take place where? In heaven but also where? On earth.

This harmonizes with this passage toward the end of Revelation:

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea is no more. I also saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God and prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. With that I heard a loud voice from the throne say: “Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his people. And God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:1-4

This again shows that this kingdom is something on earth. Inhabitants of what place have tears in their eyes? Who are in need of relief from mourning, outcry, pain and death? Isn’t this what we currently have on earth? So this passage must be describing relief for earthling mankind from our current woes. It solidifies that promise by also highlighting that these things are part of those “former things” which will pass away, making way for the “new earth”.

The earlier part says that a New Jerusalem comes “down out of heaven from God”. Jerusalem was the seat of power for the ancient kingdom of Israel. This “New Jerusalem” is a symbolic depiction that shows us that the seat of power will be heaven-based. This ties into what Jesus told Pilate “My kingdom is no part of this world” (John 18:36) And it also helps us understand Jesus reaction to crowds wanting to make him king. John 6:15 “Then Jesus, knowing that they were about to come and seize him to make him king, withdrew again to the mountain all alone.” His kingship wasn’t to be given to him by humans. He knew it was to be given by God and so he waiting on him to give it.

Continuing on that last statement we can turn to Daniel and we find this event being described:

I kept watching in the visions of the night, and look! with the clouds of the heavens, someone like a son of man was coming;
and he gained access to the Ancient of Days, and they brought him up close before that One.
And to him there were given rulership, honor, and a kingdom, that the peoples, nations, and language groups should all serve him.
His rulership is an everlasting rulership that will not pass away, and his kingdom will not be destroyed.
-Daniel 7:13, 14

Jesus often referred to himself as ‘son of man” (Matthew 20:28, Mark 14:21, Luke 19:10). This perhaps was to help his followers connect him to this “someone like a son of man” to whom is “given rulership, honor, and a kingdom…”.

Daniel is an interesting book to read in regards to this question of what is God’s Kingdom because it contains two visions about it. Daniel chapter 2 tell us of a dream given to Nebuchadnezzar of a large image with a gold head, silver arms and chest, copper abdomen and thighs, iron legs and then feet of clay mixed with iron (Daniel 2:32, 33). Daniel relates that the head of gold represents King Nebuchadnezzar himself (Dan 37, 38). He then makes it clear than this image shows a succession of world powers, verse 2:39 “But after you another kingdom will rise, inferior to you; then another kingdom, a third one, of copper, that will rule over the whole earth.” So from this we know that when the stone crushes the image and becomes a mountain (Dan 2:34) this pictures divine intervention on earth. Daniel 2:44 makes this act even more clear: “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom”. If it’s replacing those previous world powers then it follows that this is describing a world government established by Jehovah himself.

Back to Daniel chapter 7 we have a similar set of clues. The first part of the chapter describes Daniel’s vision of four great beasts Daniel 7:2-8. Then someone helps him understand the meaning at verse 17 “These huge beasts, four in number, are four kings who will stand up from the earth.” So later when “the holy ones of the Supreme One” take “away his [the final king] rulership, in order to annihilate him” (Dan 7:25, 26) we know we are talking about kingdoms or governments on earth. Thus, when verse 27 says “and the kingdom and the rulership and the grandeur of the kingdoms under all the heavens were given to the people who are the holy ones of the Supreme One” we know that this means governing the earth.

These ideas match Revelation 20, where a small group of humans are given authority, indeed they are said to serve with and under Jesus:

And I saw thrones, and those who sat on them were given authority to judge.
Yes, I saw the souls of those executed for the witness they gave about Jesus and for speaking about God, and those who had not worshipped the wild beast or its image and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand.
And they came to life and ruled as kings with the Christ for 1,000 years.
…they will be priests of God and of the Christ, and they will rule as kings with him for the 1,000 years.
-Revelation 20:4, 6b

So we get to learn a little about the structure of God’s Kingdom. This special group of people who were “executed for the witness they gave about Jesus and for speaking about God” are logically humans, and they’ve been given a position of power to “rule as kings with Christ”.

No doubt such a kingdom would function lovingly toward it’s subjects. Jehovah gives authority to Jesus and in turn Jesus gives a measure of authority to some humans. Jesus lived as a man having stayed perfectly faithful in a world separated from God, and those ruling under him will have lived as imperfect humans who maintained their integrity. (Hebrews 2:17, 18)

My main focus is to show how the theme of the Kingdom is throughout the Bible and it’s very clear that it is not just in heaven, but is indeed something that will be on the earth. We could call it “God’s Government”, I suppose, since ‘Kingdom’ may sound old-fashioned to your ear, but the function is the same. Let’s end with a few more scriptures that demonstrate this:

“Just a little while longer and the wicked will be no more;
you will look at where they were, and they will not be there.
But the meek will possess the earth,
and they will find exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.

the righteous will possess the earth and they will live forever on it”
-Psalm 37:10, 11, 29

No more will there be an infant from that place who lives but a few days,
Nor an old man who fails to live out his days.
For anyone who dies at a hundred will be considered a mere boy,
And the sinner will be cursed even though he is a hundred years of age.
They will build houses and live in them,
And they will plant vineyards and eat their fruitage.
They will not build for someone else to inhabit,
Nor will they plant for others to eat.
For the days of my people will be like the days of a tree,
And the work of their hands my chosen ones will enjoy to the full.
They will not toil for nothing,
Nor will they bear children for distress,
Because they are the offspring of those blessed by Jehovah, and their descendants with them.
-Isaiah 65:20-23

“They will sit, each one under his vine and under his fig tree,
And no one will make them afraid,
For the mouth of Jehovah of armies has spoken.”
-Micah 4:4

“I will raise up one shepherd over them, my servant David, and he will feed them.
He himself will feed them and become their shepherd.
And I, Jehovah, will become their God,
and my servant David a chieftain among them.
I myself, Jehovah, have spoken.
And I will make a covenant of peace with them,
and I will rid the land of vicious wild beasts,
so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the forests.
I will make them and the area around my hill a blessing,
and I will cause the rain to fall at the proper time.
Blessings will pour down like the rains.”
-Ezekiel 35:23-26

The next time you hear someone say something like “my vote is for Jesus” ask them if they support God’s Government.

Videodrome: Watch What You Watch

[NOTE: This is more or less an analysis of the film Videodrome, and thus there are some spoilers.]

The battle for the mind of North America will be fought in the video arena — the videodrome. – Prof. Brian O’Blivion

This film is impressive for a number of reasons. In 1983 David Cronenberg showcases a world with a sort of “interactive television” and thus we see a world with many attributes similar to today now that the internet is such a regular part of our lives.

Many have usernames, especially “Youtube personalities” and the like, which are certainly “names designed to cause the cathode ray tube to resonate.” The cathode ray was simply the technology behind the screen at the time, now we have flat screens but the function is the same. 

In the film, we are shown some sort of poorhouse, but these destitute ones are not in line for food. They are in line for a chance to watch some television. A chance to participate in the video arena. It is made readily available to everyone no matter their financial state, apparently their society thinks it’s that important – as important as food. In my state of California, government programs will provide anyone with “food stamps” a free cell phone, complete with data. A touchscreen for all. Facebook is preinstalled. They are practically begging: Please don’t starve yourself of a taste, nor from participating fully in the infosphere, we’ll take the bill. Be engaged in our social media, its on us.

Those are the two main literal “predictions” within the film. The final point of most relevance lies in the quote above. In that moment this is what is said:

The battle for the mind of North America will be fought in the video arena: the Videodrome. The television screen is the retina of the mind’s eye. Therefore, the television screen is part of the physical structure of the brain. Therefore, whatever appears on the television screen emerges as raw experience for those who watch it. Therefore, television is reality, and reality is less than television.

If this wasn’t sold a science fiction horror film I’d say that’s a very spooky expression. But I’ve always felt like Cronenberg has been a little more honest in his work. That is, it feels the work of an artist more than the average Hollywood movie. Perhaps someone can look into his background and connections later, but I don’t want to get into it here. This film has something interesting to say and it’s worth looking at how it is said.

This quote is a tell. Or at least functions as one. The spooks that run things would love for their word to be the beginning and end of our reality. Whatever suits their purpose and profit. They make up some tragic occurrence and immediately they put it into our brains and therefore it is our truth like it or not. They want us to ignore the reality around us as “less than” their programming.

This isn’t anything new. We know OSS and then the CIA/NRO have been happy to shape our reality with their stories, and well before them. Even Citizen Kane showcased this information game. I think that’s part of why that film has been so highly regarded. At one point Kane wants his lady-friend to be an opera star so badly that he simply puts this fake fact into his newpapers to make it true, ah, but in this case he fails. No amount of good press can make up for her lack of presence and voice. This gives those in ‘the know’ a perspective of struggle. “Oh, it’s so hard to be the reality-shapers.” And they are validated by the screen. While the rest of the audience thinks “see, they can’t lie to me that easily” and then they get all worked up over an election or a shooting. So again, the screen validates them. Citizen Kane manages to play to both sides, certainly an achievement. (Even it’s title humbles the absurdly wealthy Kane, calling him a mere “citizen”, when clearly the super rich are not like the rest of the citizenry.) 

Videodrome is much more literal about the unseen aspects of this process, about how these planted stories take root in our minds and begin to take over. It shows a man’s mind being controlled by the media he consumed, to the point that it even effects his physical body. How we are swayed depends on whose media we consume. There is also a layer of beware-who-you-trust to give you something to watch. Max trusted Harlan but Harlan proved to be against him.

Brian speaks to us only through a recorded video tape, when he points to his head he is directing our attention a head on the television screen:

I believe that the growth in my head, this head, this one right here… I think that it is not really a tumour, not an uncontrolled, undirected little bubbling part of flesh, but that it is, in fact, a new organ, a new part of the brain. I think that massive doses of Videodrome signal will ultimately create a new outgrowth of the human brain, which will produce and control hallucination to the point that it will change human reality. After all, there is nothing real outside our perception of reality, is there? – Brian O’Blivion

The “first victim” of Videodrome tells us that the new growth caused by the signal isn’t “really a tumour”. It is not a really a “new growth of tissue that possesses no physiological function and arises from uncontrolled…cellular proliferation”, no, rather it IS controlled and it IS directed. Meaning that someone is producing and controlling those hallucinations. Meaning they have the power to shape reality.

The new organ is also weaponized. Max’s gun is part of him. And it creates tumors in it’s victim, growths that do not belong. It is later shown that the gun replaces his hand. He cannot put it down. He has become the weapon. The media you consume can utterly and completely take you over and you will serve it’s purpose. You will be the video word made flesh.

~

So what does this mean to us? Well, for readers of Miles Mathis we can plainly see that those who don’t question the mainstream media or it’s controlled opposition are living a directed hallucination, their bodies by means of their minds have been successfully hijacked. As we de-spin and un-wind the information we receive we become better at seeing the physical untouched reality that lies cannot touch. But this enrages those who want all heed the video word. So the battle for our mind will continue, for a time. Individually we work to root it out completely. That’s what happens at the end.

At the end, Max is told: “You’ll use the weapons they’ve given you to destroy them.” He shoots himself in the head with his hand that is now a gun. Is this the only way to remove the Videodrome from yourself? It does picture nicely the fact that the Internet, the greatest expression of the Videodrome, the Video Word that is free for all to consume constantly, is also the only place to go to get information that can help you to unlearn the lies. Which is the reality pictured by shooting yourself in the head with Videodrome’s weapons – you use their technology to find the truth. And then the lies are destroyed by the truth never to return. 

It isn’t a tragic ending when we destroys the Videodrome within himself. The movie ends because he – and we – are finally free of the video word and now our minds can enter our real bodies, and regain the real life that was lost when we gave it to Videodrome. 

~~

In my personal thinking I’ve come to use the word “Videodrome” to mean “anything on TV, online, or printed that serves to undermine the truth”. Especially that which specifically seeks to push human actions and/or present itself as fact. Unfortunately, in this highly functioning authoritarian state basically everything has some of the taint of the insidious Videodrome signal. Sometimes it’s a heavy deep signal, like the ‘news’ or a movie like Antebellum. Sometimes it’s a less dangerous signal, like the older Star Treks or a movie like Videodrome.

Temple Rebuilt and Damascus destroyed before “the End”?

This is simply a response to this this forum post:

“Isaiah 17 prophecizes the destruction of Damascus, an event which hasn’t happened yet. I muse a major Arab war is something that could shift the paradigm enough in Israel for the current political/power struggles to shift, and the temple to be rebuilt. On the temple, refer to: Daniel 9:27 and Daniel 12:11. Daniel here says that the Antichrist puts a stop to sacrifices (and sets up the abomination of desolation on a wing of the temple) in the middle of the 70th week, or last seven years before Christ returns (1290 days before Christ returns, to be exact). This obviously means that sacrifices commenced sometime before this and implies that there is a Temple already constructed to go along with the altar. Jesus confirms this is Matthew 24:15-16. Revelation 11:1-3 also mentions a “temple of God” in place through the end times. And 2 Thessalonians 2:4 speaks of the Antichrist taking his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.

The fall of Damascus and the temple being rebuilt are the next events that must be fulfilled in Bible prophecy before the end times can begin. But after they are fulfilled, how long it actually takes until the end times begin I don’t believe is stated. My guess is quickly, but I could be wrong.”

Since many might feel this way I wanted to publicly speak to each point mentioned. I highly recommend reading my previous post about Israel in the Last Days. Indeed, I wrote that as part of my response to this and other comments. If you’ve read the previous essay then you can perhaps infer what this rebuilt Temple really is. Like Israel it is not a literal thing in the last days, but rather a spiritual reality. If you aren’t fully convinced of this fact or unwilling to accept that there is strong reason for us to think in this way, it may be hard to move on with what else I have to bring out.

There is plenty of evidence in that previous essay, but I will remark on the scriptures brought up above. However, those familiar with the bible may have noted that in my discussion of Physical Israel I limited myself to citing only the Hebrew part of the scriptures. Since the post I’m responding to here references some Greek scriptures I want to open with some important words from Paul that support my previous essay and will help us continue to unlock these prophecies:

For not all who descend from Israel are really “Israel”. – Romans 9:6b

Do you see what I mean? When we consider the primary fulfillment of prophecies of the last days we must keep this in mind. “Israel” is a placeholder for the new covenant group who have God’s favor. Whatever group that is in the last days, this is who these prophecies must refer to.

Daniel 9:27– If we go back to verse 24 we can get a feel for this context of what is being prophesied. 24 gives us a time period of 70 weeks in which, among other things, something will occur to “bring in everlasting righteousness”. The word “everlasting” may remind you of the later covenant to be brought about by the “prophet like Moses”. The covenant that “will not be like” the one made with Jewish bloodlines.

The next verse, 25, confirms this thinking by bringing up the Messiah, who is certainly the greater Moses, who will establish the everlasting covenant that won’t be broken.

Now, this part of Daniel happened later in his life, see 24:1 “first year of Darius”. Jerusalem has been gutted for decades. But Daniel knew from Jeremiah’s prophecy that after 70 years Jerusalem would be restored. So when we read about “from the issuing of the word to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem” we know we are talking events to take place in relation to that reconstruction. This event is covered in another bible book, see Nehemiah 2:5,9. Daniel 9:25 is prophesying about when to expect to see the Messiah relative to that event.

Then in v26 we are also given some information about things that occur after the Messiah is “cut off”. This event is linked to allowing a “leader who is coming” to “destroy the holy place”. Who is deciding upon these “desolations”? Since this is ‘God’s Word the Bible’ it makes sense to first assume it’s his decision. OK, so why “desolations” for the city and the holy place? What would motivate such a decision? Perhaps this is to be part of the judgement upon literal Israel for rejecting their Messiah. That connects with what’s being described, so let’s assume that’s what is meant for now.

The first part of Daniel 9:27 mentions the final week for ‘keeping the covenant in force’ would seem to refer the time given to natural Israel for having the first opportunity to come into the Christian congregation, Matt 10:6, Acts 2:14; 13:46. This coincides with what we see in Daniel, namely that after 69 weeks from the “issuing of the word” Messiah would appear, v25, and then sometime after that he would be “cut off”. Verse 27 says halfway through the final week “sacrifice and offering” will cease. This is most likely when Jesus was executed.

So, what are these weeks? Some translations say “seventy sets of seven” or “seventy sevens”so this is a lot of time. 70 x 7 = 490 days, now that’s just a year and half and it clearly took a lot longer than that for Jesus to appear. What if these days were considered years? Why suggest that? Well, Ezekiel 4:6 and Numbers 14:34 both contain this phrase “a day for a year” giving this logical jump a scriptural basis. Now let’s see how it shakes down: A widely accepted year for the death of Jesus is 33 ce. If this is halfway through the final week of years then this places Cornelius’ baptism in late 36ce. Also, it is widely accepted that Jesus’ ministry was 3 1/2 years long. Hey, that’s half a week of years! So if he started his ministry in late 29ce, when was the city rebuilding completed and when was this “issuing of the word to restore” it? We only have to count backwards and see if the dates make sense. Doing so puts Jerusalem rebuilt at 406 BCE and the issuing at 455 BCE. Nehemiah 2:1 mentions who sent him and gave him with official letters to finish building the city- King Artaxerxes, who ruled from 465-424 BCE. So that lines up well enough for my purposes here.

So, this final week of years starts with Jesus’ ministry, includes the first few years of the early Christian congregation, ending three and half years after Jesus’ death. For this week Jesus keeps “the covenant in force for the many”, why? Well the many seem to be Abraham’s offspring, which the Samaritans also are, Acts 8:14-17. This week must end at the baptism of Cornelius, an event that showed that the new covenant was open to all people, Acts 10:45. Unlike the Ethiopian eunuch in chapter 8, this ‘foreigner’ was given the same holy spirit bestowed to the apostles. Demonstrating that the new covenant had fully opened to people of all nations.

.

There’s a lot more to say about this, but I think this is enough for now. This part of Daniel chapter 9 gives a timeline for the Messiah’s coming and going. Thus, Daniel 9:27 isn’t about an “antichrist”. But this is sufficient to lead us to see that. The Temple sacrifices stop because with the death of the Messiah at the behest of the Jewish Leaders the covenant is done and the Temple sacrifices are no longer acceptable form of worship. It is the time of the new covenant.

Matthew 24:15-16 – Jesus refers to this part of Daniel here, in his long answer to the question of “signs of his presence and of the conclusion of the system of things”. To understand his answer we must understand what is meant by these terms.

First, “his presence”. Later in Matthew 24 he specifically compares his presence to a lightning brightening the entire sky, v27. So it will be discernible worldwide. Then he compares his presence to the days of Noah, v37. Interesting that Christ’s presence marks the period of time before the large destructive act, comparable to the Flood, (Luke 17:26, 27) we’ll see more of that later. This description of his presence is also paralleled at Daniel 12:1, where Michael (Jesus) stands up or arises to his position of power, but then the earth will have great distress, which is described at Matthew 24:5-12.

This sequence of events is also paralleled at Revelation 6, this is the chapter that describes the four horsemen. The first rider, is on a white horse, representing purity or holiness. He is ‘given a crown’, representing authority bestowed upon him by a greater source, (Daniel 7:13,14). So this is Jesus, and his presence begins when he first exercises his authority to act as God’s judge, starting in heaven. The rest of the riders are symbols for the distress coming to the earth. A later portion of Revelation explains the conquest of Jesus and why his presence brings such distress to the earth.

And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels battled with the dragon, and the dragon and its angels battled but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them any longer in heaven. So down the great dragon was hurled, the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth; he was hurled down to the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him. – Revelation 12:7-9

Jesus’ conquest at first is a heavenly one. And given one that of the first things he does is push the Resister and Opposer out of heaven, it makes sense that his presence brings such distress to the earth:

On this account be glad, you heavens and you who reside in them! Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing that he has a short period of time. – Revelation 12:12

Now we know more of what is meant by Christ’s presence and why it brings the earth so many problems. But of course this distress will not go on indefinitely. It is compared to the time before the Flood, so it will end with righteous ones delivered through some act of divine intervention. This brings us to the “conclusion of the system of things”. Sometimes translated “the end of the world”, or “the consummation of the age”.

So what marks the “age” or era that is to come to an end? Arguably it’s this age of man being alienated from God. His plan is to set up a system which will unify humans under “the tent of God”, Revelation 21:3, in which “he will reside with them, and they will be his people. And God himself will be with them”. Certainly current society cannot be described this way. At the moment our world is filled with competing governments/rulerships, which do not even work to serve their general public. Perhaps this sounds like Daniel 2:43 to you? It does to me! How is the modern world like iron and clay? Well, the rulers aren’t even truthful about anything they do – how much more divided could we get? Daniel 2:44 describes the earth’s governments replaced by God’s Kingdom. (I could also mention that our time is marked by Satan’s control, 1 John 5:19, John 12:31; 16:11. Which may be more important ultimately, but I’m trying to be brief.)

Much of what Jesus says at Matthew 24, and in the parallel accounts, is pertinent when we look for signs that tell us “our deliverance is near”(Luke 21:28). However, when Jesus first said this he was speaking to the apostles and the Mosaic law was still in force. Remember the Jewish bloodlines were still being given first opportunity to respond to him, Matthew 10:5, 6. So those alive during this time were about to experience the end of that Jewish “system of things”, the older covenant marked by the divinely approved temple worship, using the Levitcal priesthood, and Jerusalem being a place of special divine favor. So Jesus’ answer likely included some useful specific instruction for them in their immediate lives. This is how I understand Matthew 24:15, 16.

The fact that he mentioned Daniel 9:27 here supports this since, as we’ve seen, the part of Daniel he mentions is specifically about the Messiah’s ending the covenant by means of his being ‘cut off’. Jesus is providing a few more details to help his faithful disciples escape the coming judgement and destruction of Jerusalem – which occurred at 70ce. The one causing desolation is the Roman army, as often happens God used a world power to carry out his judgments (we’ll see more of this below). The specific instructions to flee to the mountains “of Judea” also support this reading of Matthew 24:15-20.

As Jesus was speaking we can see that he wraps this back around to the later greater fulfillment when he mentions “great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again”, v21. Which of course has more to do with the great time of distress marked by his presence, but that is the main idea of this whole section so that makes sense. It is a common thing to see prophecy written this way. Greater fulfillment mixed with initial.

Daniel 12:11 – This is a prophecy focused on the Last Days. Daniel 11:40 sets up the remaining part of the book to take place “In the time of the end”. But if that is the case then this is describing the activity of the participants of the new covenant. Daniel didn’t have those specific details, so he describes a vision in a way that he can understand, using the shadows of things to come (Col. 2:17). In relation to this it’s worth quoting Hebrew 10:1:

“For since the Law has a shadow of the good things to come, but not the very substance of the things, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered year after year, make those who approach perfect.”

So what is the constant feature or continual sacrifice mentioned in Daniel 12:11? What aspect of the new covenant is also meant to be continual? Christians are encouraged to “pray unceasingly” (1 Thess. 5:17), but that isn’t particularly public, in fact it’s private enough to do silently in your head, so this isn’t really something that can be stopped on the whole, but what activity is public enough to put a stop for a time?

The last thing Jesus commanded is followers to was to “Go…make disciples of people of all nations” (Mat 28:19). How are disciples made? Romans 10:14 makes it clear: preaching. This is the primary outward activity of the Christian congregation. Then, Hebrews 13:15 takes us all the way: “let us always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that make public declaration to his name.”

The last thing to note is that this a temporary cessation of the preaching work. Daniel 12:11 ends with giving us the time limit of “1,290 days”. This has nothing to do with the 70 weeks from Daniel 9. I think I explained those weeks well enough above. It is of course easier to look back on history and see how a prophecy was carried out, but it is another matter to explain or interpret one that may have happened much more recently, is happening or is soon to occur. I think it is enough for now to note that this number merely shows that the continual sacrifice would most certainly pick back up. If that feels like a push, let’s compare this to Revelation 11, but first let’s set the stage since that’s another cited scripture:

Revelation 11:1-3 – Here is another vision with a temple, “the holy city” is also mentioned. But certainly this is a vision of the end times, so this must not be read literally. Rather, than consider this in terms of physical Israel and a literal Temple we know this is about the greater covenant which doesn’t have those features. We are working under the premise of “not all who descend from Israel are really ‘Israel'”, from Romans 9:6. Another time Paul called it “the Israel of God”, see Galatians 6:16.

I’m not going to try to explain Revelation 11 or Daniel 11&12 in full here, my goal is mainly refute the idea that this refers to a physical Israel or Temple, as that notion merely makes it harder to understand what is really being expressed.

If you continue reading Revelation 11:1-12, you will see that these two witnesses in sackcloth are “killed”, v7, but later they are brought back to life, v11. This is what I compare Daniel 12:11, 12 to. Early into the last days, the preaching stops but resumes after some time.

We must consider that Revelation 11:3 brings up the 1290 days again. This time death is not mentioned but rather the two witnesses “prophesy…dressed in sackcloth”. Sackcloth garments are often worn in bible times as a sign of grieving or mourning, (Ge 37:24; 1 Sam 3:31) which is the usual response to death, so it relates on that level. It was also associated with times of crisis, 2 Kings 19:1, Isaiah 15:3; 22:12). If Christian activities are put on hold, certainly that is a crisis for them, relative to their fervent preaching work they are now dead. Both passages bring out that it is temporary.

2 Thessalonians 2:4 – This scripture also mentions the temple of god, but in what context? Is this about the end times? Seeing as how Christ’s presence is mentioned perhaps it is… But notice how it is mentioned, many translations use the word ‘concerning’ with an expression of this sort: “However, brothers, concerning  the presence of our Lord Jesus and our being gathered…”. This notes a change of topic, from whatever he had been talking about shifting to something new, specifically something that they had likely been asking about. Something they want (to know more about) so much so that some are taking advantage of this and thus correction was needed: “we ask you not to be quickly shaken from your reason…” and “Let no one lead you astray: (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).

Verse 3 goes on to say that it, Christ’s Presence, will not occur until after “the apostasy comes first”. As well as after the revealing of someone referred to as “the man of lawlessness” and “son of destruction”. Is he referring to a specific individual? I don’t think so. Verse 7 says the “mystery of this lawlessness is already at work” then verse 9 mentions that “the lawless one’s presence is by the operation of Satan”. So this seems to be a figurative term to describe those under Satan’s influence. 

It is important that this ‘son of destruction’ is ‘exalting himself’ to God’s place is mentioned as already occurring even at the time of this being written, (2 Thess. 2:7). Even as the first century Christians preached empowered with miracles the new Christian congregation it is was being attacked by Satan, so in this passage Paul is helping his readers not to be shaken by anyone saying that Christ is back or his presence has begun. Again, he says it will happen only after “the apostasy comes first”. This is in line with Jesus’ illustration of the wheat and the weeds.

Read Matthew 13:24-30, 36-40. Notice that Jesus is the sower of the fine seed and Satan is the sower of the weeds. They aren’t separated until the “conclusion of a system of things” so that’s likely during Christ’s Presence. But the timing of the sowing is shortly after Jesus sows his fine seed, some night before any of the seed has sprouted Satan comes to sow his, this pictures what is mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. Namely that Satan was already at work to undermine the new covenant group. This coincides with Paul saying that “God lets a deluding influence mislead many” (v11) – which is a logic occurrence if one allows the ‘weeds’ to grow with the ‘wheat’.

That brings to an end the discussion the scriptures cites as evidence of the temple restored in the times of the end. Even if you disagree, I hope you can agree that there is solid reason for viewing these and the rest of the prophecies concerning the end times as involving a spiritual “Israel” and not the literal bloodlines or locations.

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The original comment also asserts that Damascus must be destroyed before the end comes. Citing Isaiah 17, so these must be the words he is referring to.

A pronouncement against Damascus:
“Look! Damascus will cease to be a city,
And it will become a heap of ruins.
The cities of A·roʹer will be abandoned;
They will become places for flocks to lie down
With no one to make them afraid.
Fortified cities will disappear from Eʹphra·im,
And the kingdom from Damascus;
And those remaining of Syria
Will be like the glory of the Israelites,” declares Jehovah of armies. -Isaiah 17:1-3

However, if you examine the context of these words there is no reference to the last days. In fact the context here is a series of pronouncements against Babylon (Is 13, 14), Moab (Is 15, 16), and Egypt (Is 19). Why aren’t we expecting these pronouncements to be fulfilled? Because they already have been carried out. Isaiah wrote this about 730 BCE. What happened after that? Well, in 539 BCE Babylon was conquered by Darius the Mede, Cyrus, (Daniel 5:30-6:1) after that it was never was a power. Moab faced much of its judgment in 582 BCE when Babylon conquered them and sometime after ceased to be a nation or people. Egypt, in fulfillment of these words, was invaded by Assyria 671 BCE, then in 525 BCE the Persia Empire took control, after this a series of rebellions fulfills Isaiah 19:2. 333 BCE Alexander the Great places a garrison there. Jump to 30 BCE and it’s made a Roman province. So we can see the Egypt was no longer the world power it was once was in the ancient world. (I just grabbed these dates from Wikipedia.)  Given that all this happened so long ago, isn’t it logical that given the Damascus pronouncement’s placement in the middle of this that we expect a similar fulfillment from history?

Damascus was the capitol of Syria. Syria’s fall is mentioned in the Bible, at the hands of a Assyrian army, 2 Kings 16:9. This fits in with the pattern above. Many of of these pronouncements involved God’s judgement being carried by Assyrians, Babylonians and the Medo-Persian powers (Isaiah 10:5, 6; 13:17; 44:28, Ezekiel 30:24, Proverbs 21:1). After this invasion, Damascus and Syria were no longer the source of opposition they once were to Israel (1 Chronicles 18:5, 6; 1 Kings 11:25).

I must then assume that the motivation behind expecting this prophecy at Isaiah 17:1-3 to see further fulfillment comes solely from the strong language used to describe the fate of Damascus as ‘ceasing to be a city’ and to ‘become a heap of ruins’. The use of figurative language or hyperbole is not uncommon in biblical prophecy, for example Isaiah 13:8, 12; 14:7, 8; 18:6; 19:5-7. So expecting a completely literal fulfillment doesn’t necessarily follow.

However, we know similar words were used to describe the fate of Babylon and indeed that ancient city is a ruin to this day. So what’s the difference? Quite simply, the frequency and severity of the words against Babylon are much more severe. Compare just those first three verses of Isaiah 17 with all this:

A pronouncement against Babylon that Isaiah the son of Aʹmoz saw in vision:

I will make mortal man scarcer than refined gold, And humans scarcer than the gold of Oʹphir.

And Babylon, the most glorious of kingdoms,
The beauty and the pride of the Chal·deʹans,
Will be like Sodʹom and Go·morʹrah when God overthrew them.
She will never be inhabited,
Nor will she be a place to reside in throughout all generations.
No Arab will pitch his tent there,
And no shepherds will rest their flocks there.
The desert creatures will lie down there;
Their houses will be filled with eagle owls.
The ostriches will reside there,
And wild goats will skip about there.
Howling creatures will cry out in her towers,
And jackals in her luxurious palaces.
Her time is near, and her days will not be prolonged.”

-Isaiah 13:1, 12, 19-22

and

In the day when Jehovah gives you [Israel] rest from your pain and from your turmoil and from the hard slavery imposed on you, you will recite this proverb against the king of Babylon:

“I will rise up against them,” declares Jehovah of armies.
“And I will wipe out from Babylon name and remnant and descendants and posterity,” declares Jehovah.
“And I will make her a possession of porcupines and a region of marshes, and I will sweep her with the broom of annihilation,” declares Jehovah of armies.
Jehovah of armies has sworn:
“Just as I have intended, so it will occur,
And just as I have decided, that is what will come true.

-Isaiah 14:3, 4, 22-24.

And Jeremiah was inspired to say something similar:

The word that Jehovah spoke concerning Babylon, concerning the land of the Chal·deʹans, through Jeremiah the prophet:

Your mother has been put to shame.
She who gave birth to you has been disappointed.
Look! She is the least of the nations,
A waterless wilderness and a desert.
Because of the indignation of Jehovah she will not be inhabited;
She will become utterly desolate.
Anyone passing by Babylon will stare in horror
And whistle because of all her plagues.

How the forge hammer of all the earth has been cut down and broken!
How Babylon has become an object of horror among the nations!

Come against her from distant places.
Open up her granaries.
Pile her up like heaps of grain.
Destroy her completely.
May she have no one left.

Therefore, the desert creatures will dwell with the howling animals,
And in her the ostriches will dwell.
She will never again be inhabited,
Nor will she be a place of residence throughout all generations.”

Jeremiah 50:1, 12, 13, 23, 26, 39

After reading all this it is easy to see why ancient Babylon was made and remains a ruin. Above it was said of Babylon that it would “never again be inhabited” and “Nor will she be a place to reside in throughout all generations.” Her’s was a much more permanent judgment. Whereas the judgment of Damascus is much less pronounced. Based on the city’s tumultuous history I don’t find it a stretch to say that Damascus received her promised judgment in full already.

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This is all to say that if we want to look for “signs of the times” we must be careful how we apply scriptures. First, when the end times and Israel are mentioned together we probably are on the right track when consider an application concerning a spiritual Israel and its role in modern history. Secondly, Jesus gave a nice long list of things to look for that mark his presence, (which precedes the establishing God’s kingdom on earth Daniel 2:44; 12:1), see Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. Paul gave a list of attitudes that dominate during last days at 2 Timothy 3:1-7; 4:3, 4. These seem like the best places to start one’s understanding of what to look for to determine our place in the timeline described by the Bible.

Physical Israel in the “Last Days”

Many Prophecies in the Hebrew scriptures mention Israel and some variation of the phrase “the last days” or “final part of the days”. [See Ezekiel 38:14-16, Hosea 3:4,5, Daniel 10:14]. In 1948 a nation-state was established by people of Jewish descent on approximately the same location, and they called this place “Israel”. Can we expect this physical nation-state to be the instrument by which these prophecies are fulfilled? No, I don’t think so, and here’s why:

From an internal logic standpoint the simplest connection to make is how is this nation doing at upholding the law? The ancient nation was established on observance of the Mosaic Law. Is the modern nation observing the law as written in the Torah? From what I’ve been told there are not sacrifices at the temple or tabernacle. So from the perspective of the Mosaic Law the modern nation is not acting as we’d expect if they wanted to reclaim their old favor with Jehovah. No amount of double-talk and human reasoning can wiggle out of that.

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Beyond this obvious fact we can see from the Law itself that God’s arrangement for true worship was prophesied to undergo a big change. Many times in the Tanakh, God, or more specifically, Jehovah (Psalm 83:18, Isaiah 42:8), lets humans know that he plans on establishing a new covenant:

“Look! The days are coming,” declares Jehovah, “when I will make with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah a new covenant. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their forefathers on the day I took hold of their hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, ‘my covenant that they broke, although I was their true master,’ declares Jehovah.”

— Jeremiah 31:31, 32

One of the features of the “new covenant” is that “it will not be like” the one made with Israel’s forefathers. This passage also tells us that the old covenant was broken; the physical nation didn’t hold up their end of the contact making it null.

This broken covenant is likened to a legal case also at Hosea chapter 4:1. Verse 2 states the evidence and 3-5 then outline the consequences for this breach in contract bringing us to this very important result:

My people will be silenced, because there is no knowledge.
Because you have rejected knowledge,
I will also reject you from serving as my priest;
And because you have forgotten the law of your God,
I myself will forget your sons.

— Hosea 4:6

“I will also reject you from serving as my priest” should be of special note because when the covenant was being enacted that was one of the attributes given that made the nation special: “Now if you will strictly obey my voice and keep my covenant, you will certainly become my special property out of all peoples, for the whole earth belongs to me. You will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Exodus 9:5, 6. Notice that this is conditional. As long as Israel was maintaining their end of the contract they served as priest or mediators between God and man.

Many scriptures highlight Jehovah’s patience and forgiveness, but at Hosea 4:6 he is careful to explain that he will indeed “forget”. That last line is sometimes rendered “I shall forget your sons, even I.” Which emphasizes that even Jehovah, who so often is ready to forgive, has decided to forget this bloodline for their lack of faithfulness to his covenant.

The conditional nature of Israel being God’s special property is repeated throughout the Mosaic Law. Leviticus 26:3, 14, Deuteronomy 11:13, 22, 28; 28:1, 15; 30:15-18. How many more “if, then” statements can you find? So, it really was like a contract and thus the reaction to the breach should not be surprising.

As mentioned, within the Torah itself it is prophesied that this covenant would be broken due to the unfaithfulness of Israel as a whole:

Jehovah now said to Moses: “Look! You are about to die, and this people will begin to commit spiritual prostitution with the foreign gods that are around them in the land to which they are going. They will forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them. At that time my anger will blaze against them, and I will forsake them and hide my face from them until they are devoured. Then after many calamities and distresses have come upon them, they will say, ‘Is it not because our God is not in our midst that these calamities have come upon us?’ But I will keep my face hidden in that day because of all the wickedness that they have done in turning to other gods.

Deuteronomy 31:16-18.

Notice that in this section the passage doesn’t immediately go into a prophesy of restoration based on Israel’s repentance. Rather, Moses is given a song which is to serve as “witness against the people of Israel” (v19). Then in describing the commands related to the song and Moses presenting it to the people we are told again that Israel will break the covenant (v20), and be unfaithful (v29).

The song itself is most of chapter 32 and it’s imagery is not very flattering for Israel.

 5 They are the ones who have acted corruptly. They are not his children, the defect is their own. They are a crooked and twisted generation!

15 When Jeshurun (Israel) grew fat, he kicked out rebelliously.
You have grown fat, you have become stout, you have become bloated.
So he forsook God, who made him, and despised the Rock of his salvation.
16 They incited him to fury with foreign gods;
They were offending him with detestable things.
17 They were sacrificing to demons, not to God, To gods that they had not known,
New ones that came along recently, To gods that your forefathers did not know.
18 You forgot the Rock who fathered you, And you did not remember the God who gave birth to you.
19 When Jehovah saw it, he rejected them because his sons and his daughters offended him.
20 So he said, ‘I will hide my face from them; I will see what will become of them.
For they are a perverse generation, Sons in whom there is no faithfulness.

So in vivid language and in plain words Moses tells us that Israel will indeed fail to uphold their end of the covenant thereby making it ineffective. Good thing that earlier, at Deuteronomy 18:15-18, arrangements are made by means of a prophecy for a “prophet like you [Moses]” to be “raised up”. What makes Moses unique? Let’s see… he spoke with God “face to face” (Deu. 34:10), he was instrumental in God’s deliverance of his people (Ex. 18:8; 32:11-14), and most importantly he mediated the covenant between God and humans (Exodus 20:18-21). So this “prophet like Moses” would probably do all those same things, but most importantly he’d set up the new and everlasting covenant between God and his people.

It’s good that’s the plan, since this breach of the contract on Israel’s part is mentioned many times. Logically something stronger would be needed to replace it. Let’s look at a few more passages that make it clear that the covenant needed replacing.

They continued rejecting his regulations and his covenant that he had made with their forefathers and his reminders that he had given to warn them, and they kept following worthless idols and became worthless themselves, imitating the nations all around them that Jehovah had commanded them not to imitate.

2 Kings 17:15

“Became worthless themselves” is pretty succinct. A few a more: The people of Jerusalem are told they brought bad things upon themselves by “abandoning Jehovah your God” Jeremiah 2:13, 17. Jehovah said to Solomon similar words to those we’re considered above, namely that if “you turn away and forsake my statutes and my commandments” then “I will uproot Israel” and “this house that I have sanctified for my name I will cast out of my sight”, 2 Chronicles 7:19,20.

I can’t imagine needing much more evidence than all that. If one reads these texts in full you will see these themes developed.

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Now is a good time to look more specifically at passages that use the phrase “Lasting Covenant” in relation to “Israel”. That may make it seem like God is establishing this new covenant with the same group. But is that what is indicated?

It follows that this lasting covenant is the one that would come later, by means of the prophet “like Moses”. Recall the first scripture we looked at, Jeremiah 31:31, 32, in which we read that this new covenant will “not be like the covenant made with their forefathers”. So we know there will be major differences.

We’ve established that one of those differences is that this new covenant will not be broken. Jeremiah 32:39-41; 33:19-22 make that point very clearly. Now, the beginning of these passages mention a restoration to the physical places of Israel. This proclamation was to let Israel know that their exile would not be permanent, but he would indeed restore them. That’s certainly the initial fulfillment, but since we’ve established that this covenant with Israel will be broken and replaced we can see that the primary fulfillment of these latter verses are in the new covenant.

Another clue that the current Israel cannot be fulfilling these prophecies is also in here, at Jeremiah 33:17, 21, 26 he mentions David. Reaffirming that a descendant of David would “sit on the throne of the house of Israel” forever. Do we see that sort of government with those sort of credentials?

Ezekiel chapter 16 poetically describes Jehovah’s relationship with Jerusalem. Showing how much he loved and cared for her in establishing her. Then she became unfaithful, worse then the neighboring nations, thus Jehovah punished her. But the final section is yet another restoration prophecy including this:

But I myself will remember the covenant that I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish with you a permanent covenant.

Ezekiel 16:60

Notice the use of the word “establish” (see also Ez. 16:62). The prophecy isn’t to amend or fix the old arrangement. This word is mainly used with the definition “to rise”. So the idea is that something isn’t set up, but will or can be. But again this is slightly redundant since the old covenant was demonstratively not permanent.

Isaiah 2:2-4 and Haggai 4:1-3 both use similar language to describe Israel in the “in the final part of the days”. That phrase indicates that they are describing the end of a certain era. (Which must be a separate time from the permanent arrangement promised for the future when death is no more, as described as Isaiah 25:8 and the later part of Isaiah 65.)

During those final days, what do we find? “all the nations”, “many nations”, and “many peoples” are described as seeking God’s guidance. They worship in a unified way and they don’t practice war. This is another major difference between the two covenants. Does this diversity and unity describe any earthly organization today?

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A restoration is also prophesied at Isaiah 61. Verse 8 mentions an “everlasting covenant”. So we are in the right sort of passage for this portion. Also, notice that in verse 2 one of the tasks is to “proclaim the year of Jehovah’s goodwill and the day of vengeance of our God” so the time of “goodwill” hasn’t started quite yet. The day of vengeance is still in the future- only after that will the true good times begin (Psalm 37:10, 11). Also one of the tasks is to “bind the brokenhearted” implying that some are still experiencing such pain. And indeed some are “captives” who also receive comfort.  These captives and brokenhearted ones are grouped also with “prisoners” and “those who mourn”. Verse 3 explains that they will be “given a headdress instead of ashes” and “oil of exultation in stead of mourning”, but most important to our discussion is what verse 4 says they will do. 

They will rebuild the ancient ruins; They will raise up the desolated places of the past, And they will restore the devastated cities, The places that lay desolate for generation after generation. Strangers will stand and shepherd your flocks, And foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers.

Isaiah 61:4, 5

Jehovah will use such ones to restore his arrangement for true worship. And as part of this arrangement even “strangers” and “foreigners” will be given not only a part with responsibility, but will even have leadership roles: “stand and shepherd your flocks”. Who are “strangers”? Often this word is used in connection to people who aren’t sons of Aaron, that is, those not approved for the priesthood. And who are “foreigners”? Well, basically in context, anyone not of Jewish descendant, right? So this prophecy informs us that the new arrangement will utilize all ethnic backgrounds, something beyond the physical Israel. We know this is the later, better covenant because this is part of the “everlasting covenant with them.”

Now, let’s look at Zechariah’s prophecy. Chapter 8 starts with God gathering his people to reside in Jerusalem to be his people. But its good to know that he was writing about 518 BCE, so the Babylonian exile is over and Jerusalem is mostly rebuilt. Verse 18 of this chapter starts a new pronouncement. After giving specific instructions for some spiritual celebrations we pick up the reading:

20 “This is what Jehovah of armies says, ‘It will yet come to pass that peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will come; 21 and the inhabitants of one city will go to those of another and say: “Let us earnestly go to beg for the favor of Jehovah and to seek Jehovah of armies. I am also going.” 22 And many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek Jehovah of armies in Jerusalem and to beg for the favor of Jehovah.’
23 “This is what Jehovah of armies says, ‘In those days ten men out of all the languages of the nations will take hold, yes, they will take firm hold of the robe of a Jew, saying: “We want to go with you, for we have heard that God is with you people.”’”

Zechariah 8:20-23

Again, we have “many peoples” and this time “mighty nations”. A large diverse group is to “seek Jehovah” and the “favor of Jehovah”. It goes on to describe “ten men out of all the…nations” desiring to join God’s people. In the scriptures, the number 10 seems to have the figurative meaning or connotation of representing all of a thing. Which harmonizes with much of what the other passages we’ve looked at that speak of “all the nations” coming to “the house of Jehovah”.

Now notice, these aren’t just casually wanting to go with God’s people, no they are said to “take firm hold” so they are decidedly taking action to join in true worship. So, who are the Jews then? Current literal physical Israel?

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares Jehovah. “I will put my law within them, and in their heart I will write it. And I will become their God, and they will become my people.”

Jeremiah 31:33

This is from the same passage quoted at the beginning, describing the new covenant, that will “not be like” the older one. How does this relate to the “robe of a Jew” from Zechariah? Well, what is logical? That all physical Jews have God’s “law within them”? Does that follow from the evidence? I can’t see how anyone could answer yes. We all know a person’s ethnic heritage has nothing to do with how caring, compassion, honest and spiritually-minded they are.

We’ve seen above the two prophets who described the many nations coming up “to the mountain of the house of Jehovah” that they would “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, Nor will they learn war anymore.” So that pretty much disqualifies the modern Israel from the running. So again I ask, is there an earthy organization that fulfills this?

Review of Blade Runner 2049

This is a review I wrote on Letterboxd shortly after I saw this movie.

I think with all the rebooting of old titles that purposely have no clue what made their namesakes resonate it’s important to look at the details. Most of the recent reboots like Star Trek and Star Wars are pretty obviously heartless fan-films with a franchise superficially applied. At best it’s unbelievably sloppy, but I don’t think so much money could be spent on those productions without a real plan, so then what is the plan? Is gutting these beloved franchises and turning all their concepts upside-down part of the plan? I think it’s pretty obvious that yes, that is the point. This train of thought is another essay, or collection of essays.

Blade Runner 2049 did a lot of things right, and so it’s a good movie to dig into. After peeling it apart one may find it easier to see how other things are often turned upside-down.

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Not the worst filmmaking endeavor. If people think Children of Men is anything worthwhile then such ones would love both Blade Runners, I’d imagine. This continuation of the Blade Runner story is refreshing in an environment of reboots, remakes, and stories that were story-boarded years ago. The story is thin, but only because one is given so much time consider it, which is just fine by me but in this case they have nearly taken all the mystery out of the narrative. By the final part of the film the audience is so fully informed* that it becomes more about how successful the protagonist will be. In making explicit so much, we also see that this film has a unsurprising agenda: to make the first film a thing of legend.

[8/26/2020- *Even that is opposite to what made Blade Runner unique. We never really knew everything, there was always a bit of mystery. The sequel effectively overwrote all of that. The sequel had no mystery by the time we hit the end.]

Indeed this film is saturated with nothing less than devotion and awe for the original. Remember how beautiful all the scenes in the Tyrell building were? Having the Tyrell/Wallace scenes all pretty with yellow light and moody dynamic lighting can be fun, but of course when that happened in the first film it was because the sun was setting or the room had actual gold in it, and therefore the aesthetics were a logical outcome of the world’s happenings – in the new one it was all clearly just there to look pretty without regard to in-world logic or meaning.

Well, you can also answer back that the gold light and sets were there to express the haughtiness of Wallace, who like Tyrell had a bit of a god-complex. This can provide the in-world explanation -that Wallace chose to light their building through empty aquariums in odd places because he knew it would mesmerize, confuse, and impress all who entered. Given that the average educated mind isn’t trained to challenge ridiculousness, this as a decision on Wallace’s part demonstrates how humans of this age are already at the point of bowing to impressive nonsense without thinking deeply first. [2020 – This is doing far too much internal thinking for the film, there is no evidence that Wallace was so motivated. Thus, I go back to my thought that all those pretty shimmering golden lights was just a superficial reference to Blade Runner.]

This film is the among the bleakest dystopias set before me. The cities in this world are unlivable and are a horror all their own. The San Diego branch garbage dump revealing text was a laugh for me, but I really didn’t enjoy being there, having to look upon it for so long. Of course as mentioned I don’t think anyone would enjoy much in this world. Who lives in these cities? There was more hustle and bustle in the first one, the city was lived in. But in this one we have a larger city, see more outside LA, talk to more individuals but never see a real crowd. It’s like some inane joke, they keep building larger and larger structures but for nobody. Again, this film strains logic for me.

The sex is illogical too. I kept waiting for her to properly calibrate that hologram/prostitute interface. Seems like they skipped that part and just went right into physical contact which certainly didn’t look or seem like part of the calibration process to me. Be that as it may, I found the idea depicted exceedingly vile. Certainly such an on-the-nose depiction of someone being used for just their body may rub many the wrong way. You can suggest that Ryan Gosling and the hologram lady were pleased, but the film doesn’t give me that feeling. The Hologram lady arguably was the most satisfied but she’s the least human of the three°! The audience gets nothing more than a tease, which can be said to help us to feel the participants lack of satisfaction, and that’s how I took it. The closer you are to human the less you want a part of this. This is robot sex for robots.

[2020- °This supports my notion that the whole point of this film is to humanize robots while dehumanizing real people.]

Which of course brings us to one of the central story elements, that the possibly of Replicant procreation might help free our protagonist’s people from their servitude. First, if you watched this film you can see plainly that much of the top level people were indeed replicants themselves. So I guess we have a simple allegory for today’s oppression, (much like the daughter hiding in plain sight). Were there any humans at all? Second, the hope this film places before the audience is that the replicants may soon be reproducing and so be happy that they will soon be more self-deterministic. But as a human -something I’m constantly aware of- I was feeling a bit forgotten and left for dead.

A lot of time is spent experiencing this machine world, we even visit the dump and a protein farm, and there’s a fight on the shore waves crashing constantly- after nothing but buildings and desolation that was a refreshing bit of nature. Nature is a nonplayer in every scene but that one. There is no struggle against the elements. Nature isn’t fighting for her turf. We get the overhead view of that giant wall blocking the ocean more than once. So I had it in my head that nature was pretty much nullified and tamed by the constructions of this society. So that ocean shore scene really stood out. Water joined us again at the end when the snow was falling. I took this as subtle reminder that nature is still doing her thing, even if our protagonists hardly notice it. But such subtleties is not what this new Blade Runner is about. The snow is just there for looks. As someone who tries to take the presence of what’s onscreen as meaningful symbols to read, I was let down by the end. Rather than the dour vertical shot looking down on Gosling dying, the audience should have, or I’ll double-down and say _needed_ a POV of his view – which was just a sky with snow falling down. That’s the moment of clarity and beauty that a film full of trash, tubes and tech needed. To remind us to look up and see something of nature. Her beauty uncompromised and that part of her still is untouched by human meddling. Though such an ending would undermine the whole reason they made this movie so I’m not surprised.

My ending clashes with the hope offered by the story: The inevitable replicant uprising, as they learn to procreate. Which is the opposite of hope for humans so I have to assume this is a movie for borg babies, raised on smartphones and the internet. Early on during the film I actually laughed out loud a lot at how much 2049 seemed to be fellating itself and the 1982 film. I felt maybe it could still earn those moments back (since I really do enjoy the first one), but for me it didn’t end up earning them as it just wallowed in its self-destruction for a lost cause.

[2020 -It may not seem like a lost cause now but that’s just the propaganda talking, the replicant borg babies can never win Nature won’t allow it.

Ultimately 2049 fails because it’s message is just the opposite of the first one. In the first Blade Runner we felt for the replicants Decker was hunting because we came to see them as being far more human than expected. They have deep emotional lives and are able to to form connections with people and each other. That’s one of the points of the first film, that they are more human than the human hunting them. But in this sequel we are shown robots who will continue to thrive but how? It seems to me mostly in a physical sense. We are shown that their emotional lives are based on known manufactured lies, so their interpersonal relations are doomed, but somehow we are to assume that these same lies will connect them as a group that can come together and over-throw their creators?

That’s the new basic pattern that I see emerging. The more you think about the newer stuff the less it holds up, but the old stuff still has some interesting concepts and connections to discuss.]

10 Best/Favorite Episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation

My love of science fiction was solidified by being able to watch this show every week night throughout much of middle and high school. This franchise is my favorite science fiction thing, mainly due to its optimistic portrayal of human society. The stories are based on honest sincere characters, all doing their best to work as a team. They have personal goals, but being on a shared assignment they have shared goals. The main one to expand human understanding through exploration. I think everyone could get behind that. Of course the galaxy is a complex place and that can be used to parallel international relations, and the series offers nicely balanced discussions of these problems. And I appreciate that they aren’t always an overly transparent allegory.

I list my favorite stories with short descriptions that also explain my fondness for the episode. I tried to be brief, but may feel compelled to add to this later.

10. Preemptive Strike – Military espionage. This is a wonderful model for the way conflicts develop in Star Trek. Ro Laren is split. She’s never been the best Starfleet officer and that background makes her cover story all the more believable, but then she slowly realizes her allegiance belongs elsewhere. The beauty of this episode is her relationship with Picard. She hates to let him down, and it weighs on her. In the end Picard completely understands her decision, and yet she also understands his position. There is conflict but both sides are right in their way. I wish the model provided by this episode has been a blueprint for the bigger conflicts we got in DS9.

9. The Defector – Diplomacy, with a bit of a mystery. Deepens the conflict with the Romulans.  The Defector being genuine is a nice surprise that shows that some Romulans are not supportive of the main thrust of the Empire’s actions. His false intelligence report shows the lengths the Romulans are willing to go to fully expose a single defector. While also displaying the resourcefulness to use the opportunity to lure the Federation into a trap. On the Enterprise side of things, it’s interesting to see them so uncertain what to believe. I love that their natural response is to trust, but they have to forcibly remind themselves this is just the sort of thing Romulans might to do to abuse their trust. In the end their mistrust is correct, but not for the reason they thought. The earnestness of the defector really makes this work.

8. Who Watches the Watchers – Diplomacy and interpersonal relations with a heavy theme of understanding our own limitations, integrity. A research station on a pre-warp civilization gets screwy and the Enterprise must salvage things without completely violating the Prime Directive. It doesn’t go well, given that at one point they think Picard is a god. He is determined to undo what damage has been done and even takes an arrow to prove a point. I like lengthy discussions of how to handle this delicate situation.

I recall this one having a really nice bit of score as well.

7. Clues – A mystery with an unusual sort of diplomatic ending. This episode really showcases the kind of drama and subtle conflict that characterizes Star Trek. The crew trusts each other enough to see that something is up. Only by letting many small seemingly insignificant happenstances matter enough to add up to a full blown mystery to we get to the point of seeing that Data isn’t quite right. Those moments when Data seems to be going against the crew are intense. He’s usually our stalwart, so it’s very uncomfortable and disconcerting – even terrifying- to have him against us! It’s such a relief to find that it’s just a promise to a rather xenophobic species.

6. Thine Own Self – An exploration of personal integrity and taking the right risk. The subplot about Troi taking the commander’s exam is a nice window into how people can still be challenged in the “utopian” world of the Federation. It shows how different people have different skills and we need them all to work together and explore the galaxy. Competition and strife are not a requirement.

Data’s story encapsulates what humanity has become. Rather being quick to judge, he is quick to help. He is open-minded and his natural curiosity keeps him exploring many options. Even as others instruct him otherwise, he can’t help but see the world the way he always has. He is objective, looking for logical cause and effect, and is motivated by his care for those around him. That’s really the heart of this episode. Data is naturally selfless and even while the town opposes him he keeps making every effort to help them.

At the end when the young girl is questioned about Data by the Enterprise crew and says that Data was her friend too, I am always moved. It’s sad that from her perspective Data is dead, but it works out well that Data can be beamed up and repaired. But Data is our friend and we can’t help but want this extraordinary man to be friends with everyone.

5. Measure of a Man – A What-is-Life episode that shows we have much to discover just looking inward. I love getting to so formally discuss the nature of Data and his sentience and rights therein. Riker’s defense feels very real, that he did his best. I always get the impression that he’s going to win! Maddox calling Data “he” at the end is a beautiful touch that shows that all involved parties learned to appreciate Data all the more.

4. Reunion – A Diplomacy episode, also a personal relationships episode. Relations with the Klingons continue to complicate. Picard is working hard to arbitrate over the succession of power in the Empire. Meanwhile the personal cost Worf’s previous decision is going up. Knowing that Worf is honorable pushes K’Ehleyr to keep investigating the Duras’ family role in the Kitomer Massacre.  This leads to real tragedy and further complicates relations.

3. Inner Light – A personal relationships episode, and a discovery/understanding episode. Even though the audience understands what is happening to Picard as he lives this life we are given a chance to get attached to his new family and the fate of this new planet. Which perfectly reflects his experience. Picard discovers just how much he values family and a simple life. I believe this experience greatly changed Picard. Another touching detail: at the end he clutches the flute close to his heart.

2. The Offspring – Similar themes to Measure of a Man, looking inward for discovery and understanding, but much more personal. Data’s building a another android is endlessly charming. His defining it as “procreation” leads to a surprise for the whole crew, and the Captain’s reaction is quite natural as he’s immediately aware of the ramifications of Data’s work. Once Lal chooses an appearance it’s a ton of fun to watch her learn the basics. We can imagine that Data’s first days were similar. Once Admiral Haftel arrives of course the mood changes, but not as much as when Lal’s life is in danger! Hearing the once antagonistic Admiral describe how Data worked to save Lal is perfectly moving. Getting this information from him solidifies that connection we’ve all had with Lal, and with Lal’s fate sealed everyone is sad to see her leave, but we can be excited for the possibilities introduced.

1. Darmok – An episode of understanding and diplomacy, while also a discovery mission. This is what Trek’s all about. The crew has an unusual not-quite first contact mission before them and Picard is taken from them. So we get to see how Riker and the rest of the crew operate without him and we get to see Picard on his own. We see his first response to to refuse a fight, yet there’s a willingness to trust and that is the key.

Riker, like everyone and anyone left in the dark, cut off from communication about the situation he is in, tries to take control and therefore lashes out in relative acts of violence. His actions even hinder Picard at a crucial moment. This of course leads to tragedy as all lashing out in ignorance tends to. Again we have a complex interesting story without in-fighting or pettiness, everyone is doing the best they can with the information available to them. That’s the Star Trek that has me call myself a fan.

But the team is still able to overcome all this. Especially Picard, who is able to read the Tamarian’s captain’s actions and come to an understanding. Understanding, that is the theme of this episode. And to me understanding is an underlying motivation behind the spirit of exploration. We explore to increase our understanding.

Of course why not a list a few as “runner-ups” in no particular order:

  • Q Who
  • Lower Decks
  • The First Duty
  • Data’s Day
  • Disaster
  • Unification
  • Face of the Enemy
  • Frame of Mind
  • Ensigns of Command
  • Déjà Q
  • The Price
  • Identity Crisis
  • The Nth Degree
  • The Quality of Life
  • Lessons
  • Booby Trap
  • Galaxy’s Child
  • Suspicions
  • First Contact
  • Silicon Avatar

What is a “Science Fiction” film?

What makes this genre uniquely stand apart? Is it just extra-terrestrial locations or space travel? I think it’s pretty easy to see that those would define the genre in a very superficial way. What does the film think it’s about? (Yes, a reference to Daniel Framption’s Filmosophy) What does it make you think about? The answers to these questions in the most general sense are the themes of a film. So to discuss what science fiction is I will prefer to focus on the themes commonly explored by the genre.

Themes are basically what movies are about in a general sense. Rather than examining the specific details of each film’s world, characters, or story, an examination of theme allows us to compare films very quickly without dipping into spoilers. For example both Contact and Arrival are depictions of encounters with aliens that involve much decoding, with a large part of that “decoding” being thanks to the emotional state of the main character. Blade Runner and Terminator explore outcomes of our own AI creations getting beyond our control. The Running Man and Death Race 2000 are about dystopian societies defined by their devotion to the reality of their media. Easy enough.

But we want to generalize the whole genre of Science-Fiction. Can we? From a mainly literary standpoint Wikipedia summarizes with a couple quotes: According to American writer and professor of biochemistry Isaac Asimov, “Science fiction can be defined as that branch of literature which deals with the reaction of human beings to changes in science and technology.”[5] American science-fiction author and engineer Robert A. Heinlein wrote that “A handy short definition of almost all science fiction might read: realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the nature and significance of the scientific method.”[6] (emphasis mine). Both of these definitions highlight the genre’s tendency to describe human changes or futures imagined around our understanding of science and technology. This is easy enough to utilize for film.

After that, this section on Wiki then descends into pretend/non-definitions given by editors, writers and modern academics. The whole point of a definition is to provide boundaries to a discussion so that it makes sense (i.e. about something). The last sentence of the section is useless and adds nothing to our discussion: “Author and editor Damon Knight summed up the difficulty [in defining science-fiction], saying “science fiction is what we point to when we say it.”[9] Right before that we are challenged “American science fiction author and editor Lester del Rey wrote, “Even the devoted aficionado or fan—has a hard time trying to explain what science fiction is,” and the lack of a “full satisfactory definition” is because “there are no easily delineated limits to science fiction.”[8] Really? Speaking as a “fan” or devoted aficionado I have no trouble explaining what science fiction is. Perhaps it’s my math and physics education? Asimov and Heinlein not only wrote in the genre, but they also had science backgrounds. Some may scoff and jab “well you’re talking about hard sci-fi”. That’s fine if it makes you more comfortable think of it that way. But I don’t think being rigorous with definitions is hard. Let’s use their simple and clear definitions to delineate limits.

First, then, let’s go down another level: What is science? Science is the knowledge and the methods by which we acquire further knowledge. Secondly, what is technology? Technology is the tool that either assists our methods or is what we create from current understanding to assist us in other actions. We can see how the human desire to explore is motivated equally by the additions to both of these. We explore to grow our understanding, and we then create something that allows us to explore more, then we push that technology to it’s limit, which creates an new “necessity” – putting us in an cycle of invention and exploration.

It’s interesting to note that technology isn’t always a physical tool, from the Wikipedia article on the subject: “Technology can be the knowledge of techniques, processes, and the like or it can be embedded in machines”. So certain types of knowledge are technology. I’m familiar with this usage. I recall something as simple as making lists or labeling things a certain way being referred to as “technology”. Another example, to help remember your 9 column on the multiplication table: simply put your hands out, then count the number you wish to multiply by 9 and drop that finger. The number left the lowered finger is the tens digit and the remaining number of fingers to the right of it is the one’s digit. I suppose then “reverse psychology” could be considered a technology. These are all bits of knowledge that when applied function as tools. Science is the knowledge considered in the abstract, but technology is what we get when we utilize that knowledge. Said another way, science is concerned only with the knowing of a thing, but technology is the application of that knowledge – it is where the actual effects then come from.

Recall that Asimov said that sci-fi “deals with the reaction of human beings to changes in science and technology.” Given how closely science and technology are related – and that those measurable reactions are results of the effects of applied knowledge, we can say simplify that to: Science Fiction is the genre which explores the effects of technology on humanity.

Now that we have a rather simple looking definition let’s see how it applies to some well-known films.

Some are very obvious: Blade Runner, Frankenstein, Westworld, The Terminator, THX 1138, Zardoz, Sorry to Bother You, and The Matrix all deal with man’s creations biting him back. Notice with THX 1138, Zardoz and Sorry to Bother You that we have different levels of embedded technology but still have a story that explores possible effects of social technology. We can throw in A Clockwork Orange, Equilibrium and Brazil. Interesting to note that we have surpassed some aspects of these film-worlds in terms of technology, so the hubris comes from the application. In this way the dystopian sci-fi sub genre is well-established and detectable.

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Timecrimes, Primer, The Fly and Lucy all feature relatively small pockets of people effected by a new technology. A film’s focus determines its themes, so by focusing on those effected or involved with the technology we can say that our definition holds.

Then we have the idea that our advancements get us closer to extra-terrestrials, Alien, Starship Troopers, Event Horizon, Solaris, and Star Trek: First Contact all stem from the idea that we’ll encounter aliens once we’re sufficiently advanced. This brings us to the first possible challenge to this definition. What if the film features alien contact with modern/current levels of embedded technology?

Arrival, Contact, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind deal with current humanity first getting in touch with alien life. In these cases the aliens just come to earth unprompted by humans. The beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey that’s exactly what happens, as well as Close Encounters, Predator, E.T. and Virus. In 2001 after the initial contact, the monolith is moved and it’s later detection does depend on sufficient advances in technology. But there are a large number of alien encounters that feature the aliens doing all the traveling requiring no technology by humanity. Does this break my definition? I don’t think it does, since it is not necessarily implied that the technology is a result of human tinkering or ingenuity. It is no small feat to traverse the great distances in space and that achievement would effect everyone involved. Alien contact is completely dependent on technology. Of course that aspect of such encounters within a film-world are far overshadowed by the much more society-altering alien contact.

Now, to possibly rock the boat: Star Wars has many tropes or accoutrement common to science fiction but the themes are not anything like we’ve been considering here. The robots, aliens, and spaceships are nothing new, in fact, they are old and commonplace. The presence of advanced technology is not examined by the story, because the technology is not advanced to that world. One could argue that the Death Star is new, but the Empire is already in control before it arrives and the potential to examine an even more dystopian galactic society stops with the films climax. Vader even points out that the Force is more important than the technology. As is now common knowledge the story is modeled after the hero’s journey which comes to us from mythology adventure stories, so that is the primary theme of the story.

A similar example: The 5th Element. Again we have a movie that looks high-tech to us, but all the characters are used to flying cars and space-travel. Everything is new to Leeloo so her reactions don’t count for the world, and while she is a main character the film doesn’t focus on presenting the world to the audience from her perspective. Though this is an unknown they are working against it is no presented as something to explore.

I’d like to rewatch Earth Girls Are Easy to see how it shakes down. It’s like ET, but we don’t really see the same sort of reaction from society, the romance is the main focus. The ship repairs aren’t some big story element, nor does the world react much to the presence of here-to-fore unknown alien life. Rather we see the human-like aliens blending in just being slightly off, and thanks to those only slight differences a bond is formed. The climax has our main character leaving with the aliens, so that perhaps is our defining moment to consider. She is not motivated by a desire to explore the unknown but by the emotional bond formed with the alien. How is that different from Contact or Arrival? Simple: In those last two the whole world is involved, so the movie most certainly focuses on the effects of alien contact with humanity. But didn’t I say that the main characters determine the story and therefore themes of a film? I did.

See? Even with hard and fast definitions there’s still plenty to discuss and debate. I think such a debate is much more interesting than just throwing our hands up and declaring everything is relative, ambiguous, or just a system of possibly contradicting dualities.

I argue that genre should come out of a work’s themes, which come from the character actions and story of a film. A useful definition for the genre of Science Fiction is that it consistently explores the effects of technology on people.