Bible Facts Part VII

Continued from Part VI

196.

Carbost, Isle of Skye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Psalm 23

Psalm 23 is arguably the most beautiful in its genre, reproduced here from the 1611 King James Version of the Holy Bible. This famous and time honoured Davidic psalm has provided comfort in times of trouble and distress for countless millions of people across the world, and over many generations. Minds young and old soak up its words after just a few recitals.

197.

The City of David, featuring the Dome of the Rock. Image credit: Avraham Graicer.

David and all the Israelites marched to Jerusalem (that is, Jebus). The Jebusites who lived there said to David, ‘You will not get in here.’ Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion – which is the City of David.

David had said, ‘Whoever leads the attack on the Jebusites will become commander-in-chief.’ Joab son of Zeruiah went up first, and so he received the command.

David then took up residence in the fortress, and so it was called the City of David. He built up the city around it, from the terraces to the surrounding wall, while Joab restored the rest of the city.  And David became more and more powerful, because the Lord Almighty was with him.

1 Chronicles 11:4-9

In this passage from the Old Testament, we learn that Jerusalem was not always known by that name. Prior to David’s forces capturing of the city, it was known as Jebus and inhabited by a tribe known as the Jebusites (see also Exodus 3:8). Once David and his army took the city, it became known thereafter as Jerusalem, the City of David.

198.

Hear, my children, the instruction of a father,
And give attention to know understanding;
 For I give you good doctrine:
Do not forsake my law.
 When I was my father’s son,
Tender and the only one in the sight of my mother,
 He also taught me, and said to me:
“Let your heart retain my words;
Keep my commands, and live.
Get wisdom! Get understanding!
Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.
Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you;
Love her, and she will keep you.
Wisdom is the principal thing;
Therefore get wisdom.
And in all your getting, get understanding.
Exalt her, and she will promote you;
She will bring you honor, when you embrace her.
She will place on your head an ornament of grace;
A crown of glory she will deliver to you.”

Hear, my son, and receive my sayings,
And the years of your life will be many.

Proverbs 4:1-10

The Bible encourages us to seek righteous wisdom. King Solomon himself likens it to a “crown of glory”. God gave us big brains to learn the things that will improve our lives and the lives of others. All of God’s enemies despise true wisdom.

199.

A quiet country road near my home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Jotham heard about this, he climbed to the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted,

“Listen to me, citizens of Shechem!
    Listen to me if you want God to listen to you!
Once upon a time the trees decided to choose a king.
    First they said to the olive tree,
    ‘Be our king!’
 But the olive tree refused, saying,
‘Should I quit producing the olive oil
    that blesses both God and people,
    just to wave back and forth over the trees?’

“Then they said to the fig tree,
    ‘You be our king!’
But the fig tree also refused, saying,
‘Should I quit producing my sweet fruit
    just to wave back and forth over the trees?’

 “Then they said to the grapevine,
    ‘You be our king!’
 But the grapevine also refused, saying,
‘Should I quit producing the wine
    that cheers both God and people,
    just to wave back and forth over the trees?’

 “Then all the trees finally turned to the thornbush and said,
    ‘Come, you be our king!’
 And the thornbush replied to the trees,
‘If you truly want to make me your king,
    come and take shelter in my shade.
If not, let fire come out from me
    and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’”

Judges 9:7-15

Chapter 9 of the Book of Judges is noteworthy in a number of respects. First, it presents a parable in the Old Testament; a style of writing that is far more common in the New Testament. The trees convene to consider who will be king among them. The Olive, vine and fig trees all produce fruit, oil or wine in their season, unlike the thornbush, which yields little of sustenance. The reader will note that the thornbush invites the other trees to lie in its shade; something that would cause them to die. All in all, the parable teaches the folly of choosing a king without consulting the Lord.

In Judges 9:22 we learn that the usurper, Abimelech, ruled as king in Schechem (the first capital of the northern kingdom of Israel) for three years before being deposed. Saul was therefore not the first king in Israel, as is commonly believed. Indeed, the Hebrews actively sought a monarch ever since the time of Gideon.

200.

Now the glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. The sight of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel.

Exodus 24:16-17

Throughout the Old and New Testaments, the Lord is commonly described as a consuming fire, such as when He appeared to the emancipated Hebrew nation atop Mount Sinai in the Second Book of Moses. Fire is a useful analogy in describing the Spirit of God. It is ‘living.’ Its heat and light bring us comfort. It is transformative. But when ignored, abused or disrespected, it can wreak destruction on all and sundry. It sorts the wheat from the chaff, reducing everything to its essence. It can never be quenched.

201.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 14:27

Peace of mind is perhaps the most valuable thing you can gain in this life. When you place your trust in Jesus Christ, a peace that surpasses all things resides in you, like a cool breeze on a hot, summer day.

202.

Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.
 He changes times and seasons;
he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
  and knowledge to the discerning.
He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him.

Daniel 2:20-22

It has been said that the survival of humanity depends on how well we understand nature. That is only half true;. it also depends crucially on how well we understand Scripture. Keep reading Scripture and pray that the Lord will give us wisdom and understanding.

203.

There are six things that the Lord hates,
  seven that are an abomination to him:
 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
 a heart that devises wicked plans,
  feet that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers.

                                                                         Proverbs 6:16-19
The God of the Bible condemns all acts of terrorism.
204.
My soul magnifies the Lord,
 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.
 And His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.
 He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.
 He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever.”
                                                                  Luke 1:46-55
This beautiful passage from the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel, is sometimes called The Magnificat. Here, Mary, a sinner, acknowledges her need of a Saviour, just like every one else. And yet the child that she would bring forth from her womb would be that Saviour. Mary reveals God’s plan for the world. The Lord will be the Great Leveller of History; He will lay low the mighty, scatter the arrogant, and send the rich away empty.
Praise be to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ!

 

205.

“Gideon thanks God for the miracle of the dew” by Marten van Heemskerck (1550). Image credit: Wiki Commons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Judges 21:25

One of the most compelling reasons to trust the Bible is that it tells a historical narrative (names, places etc), warts and all, irrespective of how we react to it. That said, the last three chapters of the Book of Judges (19 through 21) are out of kilter with the rest of the text in that it must have occurred very early in the history of Israel. The evidence for this comes from the name of the High Priest (necessarily a Levite) at the time; Phinehas, who was the grandson of Aaron, the elder brother of Moses (see Judges 20:28).

These last chapters of Judges recount a horrific story of gang rape, murder, lawlessness and internecine conflict between the tribe of Benjamin and the other tribes of Israel. Above all, it shows what happens when a God fearing society without a righteous king can sink to the depths of depravity with disastrous consequences. The dreadful story these chapters relate has ramifications for all societies that turn their back on the living God.

206.

Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Image credit: Wiki Commons.

 

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:9

We live in uncertain times and many people are understandably anxious about what the future may bring. The internet is full of false prophets setting dates for the return of Christ, the Rapture, the Tribulation and a lot more nonsense besides. They lure gullible people and make them even more anxious. In doing these wicked things, they do more harm than good. Avoid them at all costs!

St. Peter, an apostle of Jesus, provided the correct perspective on how we ought to see God’s sovereign plan unfolding. The Lord wants as large a family as possible and is willing to wait as long as possible to realise it. There are more people alive today than have ever existed in history, so we can begin to see why He would wait.

 

So don’t be anxious, God’s always in control.

Just keep on keeping on!

207.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

Encouraging words for uncertain times.

208.

It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them.  He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.  When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.

So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.

The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.  Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. ‘Quick, get up!’ he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.

Then the angel said to him, ‘Put on your clothes and sandals.’ And Peter did so. ‘Wrap your cloak round you and follow me,’ the angel told him.  Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision.  They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.

Acts 12:1-10

Don’t tell me God doesn’t have a sense of humour!

In this passage from the Book of Acts, Peter is miraculously rescued from prison by an angel of the Lord, who tells him to put on his clothes, sandals and cloak before making his get away! It’s a funny little detail. One’s natural reaction would be to get out at all costs. In such a perilous situation, the last thing on your mind would be your clothes, but the Lord is a cool cookie; He’s got style. First things first. Talk about gracefulness!

Our God is awesome is He not?

209.

Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.

1 Timothy 4:15-16

Jesus warned his followers not to follow those who change their doctrines to suit the time and the culture in which they live. We need to be mindful of what deceit actually is. It’s subtle, seemingly progressive and has the outward appearance of being innocuous. But its effects are absolutely lethal.

Doctrines don’t evolve. That’s the most effective trick used by the Adversary in these times. And he holds many under his spell.

Trust what the Bible says and stay true to the doctrines it teaches. Afterall, the truth is timeless.

210.

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.”  And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them.  But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.  And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Acts 3:1-10

Anyone who reads the Gospel accounts with a completely open mind will quickly come to the conclusion that they’re true. They pass all the tests even the hardest sceptic would ask with flying colours. The writers literally couldn’t have made them up!

The Book of Acts provides very powerful evidence of this great truth. Think about it: why would a group of men and women risk their very lives in the aftermath of Jesus’ death and resurrection if it was all just an elaborate hoax? Why did they not cower behind closed doors or go back to their normal way of life but instead risk life and limb, preaching boldly in public places and healing the sick and the infirmed? The only explanation that makes any sense is this; what they witnessed really happened. The Author of Life became a human being and lived among us.

211.

Then He went out from there and came to His own country, and His disciples followed Him.  And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him.

But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them.  And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.

Mark 6:1-6

In this passage from Scripture, we learn that Jesus was rejected by his own people from his own town. It further says that he couldn’t perform the great miracles he had already done elsewhere in Israel. But it was not so much that he couldn’t display his power so much as he wouldn’t. Jesus chose not to engage in miraculous acts there except for a few healings of sick people. Our Lord simply refused to shower miraculous deeds on a place that had rejected his message. It was exactly as the Prophet Isaiah wrote seven centuries before:

Make the heart of this people dull,
And their ears heavy,
And shut their eyes;
Lest they see with their eyes,
And hear with their ears,
And understand with their heart,
And return and be healed.”

Isaiah 6:10

Unbelief is the great barrier that prevents God working in our lives. Remove that barrier and a transformation can begin!

To be continued…………………………

De Fideli.

 

 

Tales from the Golden Age: A Short Commentary on Walter Scott Houston’s “Deep Sky Wonders” Part II

A Distillation of observing notes from the late Walter Scott Houston(1912–93)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 8: August (continued)

Summer lies hot and tranquil on the land. The gigantic storms of winter and the turbulent atmosphere that accompanies them are only memories now. At this time of year the seeing is steady all night.

West of the Meridian in late evening lie the great star fields dancing with the brilliance of Sagittarius, Scorpius and Scutum. The eastern sky, however, is a virtual desert of bright stars. The Great Square of Pegasus has little to offer the naked eye observer, and Equuleus is likewise dim. On nights when a bright Moon floods the heavens with its golden light, the eastern sky appears almost devoid of stars. Near the meridian, however, in the small constellation of Delphinus the Dolphin.

pp 187

I can almost imagine Scotty setiing up at sunset, his charts in one hand, his tobacco pipe in the other, pensive, waiting for the curtain of darkness to draw on the landscape. August is a very special time in my own seasonal viewing, as it represents the end of a long period of summer twilight, when the sky never becomes truly dark. Running from late May to the end of July, year in, year out, the arrival of true darkness in early August is an event to be celebrated!

As Scotty mentions, the summer months generally bring the best seeing in the year, and that’s true across many areas of Europe too, despite the encroach of biting insects; Scotty had the mosquito, here it is the midge fly. Despite its diminutive size, Delphinus offers a fair amount of deep sky real estate for the enthusiastic star gazer and Scotty does a sterling job highlighting them for his readership.

Scotty says that he developed a “fondness” for Delphinus because of its richness in variable stars, which he enthusiastically monitored in the early days of his work for the AAVSO. On page 188 he points out that the constellation is home to a number of very fetching double stars that are accessible with binoculars or a small telescope. Arguably the most celebrated is Gamma Delphini, which marks the northeastern corner of the Dolphin. Through my 80mm f/5 achromatic telescope it is easily resolved at 50x showing a lovely golden primary and pale yellow secondary separated by about 12″ of dark sky.  Scotty says they’ve hardly moved since the system was first surveyed in 1830 by Wilhelm Struve.

Houston also mentions the much more challenging binary system; Beta Delphini ( magnitudes 4.0 and 4.9)  the secondary of which exhibits an apastron of 0.6″ and periastron of 0.2.” This system was first discovered by S.W Burnham in August 1873 using his 6 inch Clark refractor. Scotty informs us that Burnham was lucky enough to examine the stars near their maximum separation. Then on page 189 he delivers another invaluable account of his own efforts to resolve this pair using his old Newtonian;

In 1950 I examined the star with my newly completed 10 inch reflector. Then the separation was near a maximum of 0.6″ with the companion due north of the primary. My first attempts to split the pair failed because the companion was lost in the diffraction spike caused by the telescope’s secondary mirror holder. Success came only after rotating the tube 45 degrees in its cradle to shift the position of the spike.

pp 189.

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Author’s note: I have spent the past few years carefully studying the properties of Newtonian reflectors in regard to their ability to split double stars. My findings showed that they were excellent instruments in pursuing this high resolution work, which has been traditionally associated with equatorially mounted classical refractors, and more recently in the promotion of very expensive apochromatic refractors. My own instrument of choice in the divination of difficult double stars, including sub arc second pairs is a 20.4cm f/6 Dobsonian (affectionately called ‘Octavius’) with a 22 per cent central obstruction. This work has instilled in me a deep respect for these telescopes that I am eager to share with my peers across the world. I give thanks both to Scotty and to Stephen James O’ Meara for including this material from his old Sky & Telescope columns and this book, respectively.

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Octavius; the author’s tried and trusted 8″ f/6 Newtonian on its ‘pushto’ mount.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Delphinus is also home to a number of rather lacklustre deep space objects. A challenge for larger apertures is provided with the tiny, compact globular cluster NGC 7006 (magnitude10.5), found by panning some 3.5 degrees east of Gamma Delphini. In my 8 inch telescope, NGC 7006 remains unresolved at 200x; more like a fuzzy snowball than anything else. Indeed, Scotty maintains that it remains unresolved in all but the largest instruments, and I would tend to agree. The reason is the enormous distance of this globular; now estimated to be about 140,000 light years (Scotty quotes 110,000 light years).

In the last couple of pages, Houston  discusses a few other objects of note in Delphinus, including the globular cluster, NGC 6934, the planetary nebula, NGC 6905, and the galaxy, NGC 6956. What is noteworthy is that Scotty weaves the experiences of other observers into his narrative, including Barbara Wilson, Philip Harrington, as well as celebrated authorities from yesteryear, such as the Reverend T.W. Webb (see pages 190 through 191).

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Chapter 9: September

Scotty begins this month’s adventures in the oft overlooked constellation of Lacerta, the Lizard. Sandwiched between the larger constellations of Cynus to its west and Pegasus to its east, Lacerta is one of the ‘new’ constellations introduced by Johannes Hevelius in 1687. Scotty suggests we shouldn’t overlook Lacerta owing to the fact that since 1910, three novae have blazed forth from within its borders, so who knows when the next one will come.  First up, Scotty draws our attention a very picturesque open cluster of stars for binoculars or small telescopes; NGC 7243. You’ll find this cluster a little over 2.5 degrees west of Lacerta’s brightest luminary, Alpha Lacertae. Here’s how Scotty describes this cluster:

The cluster stands out especially well from the stellar background when I stop down my 4 inch Clark refractor down to 1.8 inches. According to Revue de constellations by R. Sagot and Jean Texereau, NGC 7243 in a 4 inch at about 50x is a rich traingular cluster of many stars between 9th and 11 th magnitude. The number of stars increases from about 15 in a 2 inch to 60 in an 8 inch. I found no define shape in a 12 inch recently, but counted at least 80 stars within a 1/3 of a degree area. Look for a wide double at the luster’s center, particularly if you have a 6 inch or larger telescope.

pp 197.

The surprisingly rich open cluster, NGC 7243, in Lacerta.

 

 

Author’s note: This cluster is indeed a fine sight in 15 x 70 binoculars or a small telescope. My 80mm f/5 telescope reveals about 30 members at 50x, but nearly double that in my 8 inch reflector. Larger telescopes show more, growing to well over 100 in a 12 inch instrument, though the precise number also depends on the magnifications employed. Best to experiment with NGC 7243 to see what’s what.

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4 degrees directly south of NGC 7243 is NGC 7209, described on the bottom of page 197 and 198.

At midnorthern latitudes, the grand constellation of Cygnus rises high in the sky for exploration during September. On pages 200 to 210, Twinky covers much of its rich cache of deep sky treasures. After providing some interesting background on the constellation, Scotty launches into a wonderful discussion on the North American Nebula (NGC 7000), an enormous emission nebula located about three degrees east of the bright summer star, Deneb.

The huge and sprawling North American Nebula ( NGC 7000); a visble and infrared presentation. Image credit: Wiki Commons.

 

 

From my location, the skies are just dark enough to enable me to see the brightest parts of this emission nebula without the aid of a nebular filter. With a 32mm Plossl eyepiece delivering the large true field possible with a 1.25″ ocular, my 80mmf/5 achromatic delivers a wonderful field some 4 degrees wide at 13x. Scotty points out that NGC 7000 is an object celebrated more in modern times than in the past (see page 202). He attributes this to the rather restricted fields of the best telescopes of yesteryear, which tended to have very long focal lengths and the relative paucity of good, wide angle eyepieces. Indeed, in the darkest skies that Britain can offer, you can indeed make out the North American Nebula with the naked eye. Indeed, I last observed NGC 7000 in August of 2016 during a trip to the remote island of Skye, off the northwest coast of Scotland.

From here, Scotty moves on to M39, a nice open cluster for binoculars or small telescopes right up at the northern end of the constellation. To see it, centre your telescope on 4th magnitude, Rho Cygni, and move a little under 3 degrees further north, where it will appear in your low power telescopic field. Covering an area about half a degree wide, my tiny 3.1 glass at 13x reveals about twenty members, scattered haphazardly across the field. Scotty says he noticed a dark streak running about 5 dgrees east southeastward  from M39. A dark dust lane? What do you think?

Messier 39 in northern Cygnus; a nice binocular and/or small telescope object.Image credit:Wiki Commons.

In discussing dark lanes and nebulosity, Scotty mentions something very curious at the top of page 203:

The detection of dark nebulosity depends on many factors. I lean toward using long focus instruments because my experience has shown that they tend to scatter less light and provide a higher contrast image than do rich field telescopes. I have had some dramatic views of dark objects with my old 10 inch f/8.5 Newtonian reflector and the 12 inch f/17 Porter turret telescope in Springfield, Vermont.

pp 203.

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Author’s note: If you actually read through the book, you’ll notice that Scotty also makes the same claims for the images served up by his 4″ f/15 Clark refractor.The common denominator, so far as I can see, is the long native focal length of both his aforementioned  reflecting telescope and the classical achromat. Cassegrain and compound (catadioptric) telescopes don’t really count, as the primary mirrors are quite fast (typically  f/2 to f/4). The latter’s high net f ratio relies on the magnifying effects of the secondary mirrors.

What do you think?

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Pages 204 through 208 covers the weird and wonderful Veil Nebula in Cygus, an ancient supernova remnant which occured 15,000 years ago. Scotty describes it thus:

…..a broken bubble of luminous gas some 2 degrees in diameter. Although ignored by generations of telescope users, in the past 30 years the veil has progressed from a difficult test object to a reasonable target for anything from binoculars to the largest amateur telescopes. It is an excellent nebula for trainig the eye, perhaps the most important observing ” accessory,” to help us get the most out of the telescope we are using.

pp 205

Scotty informs us that the brightest parts of the nebula were discovered by Sir William Herschel back in 1784 during one of his sweeps using his homemade 18.25 inch speculum.  The Veil is partitioned into two distinct regions, east and west, with the former (NGC 6992) being slightly more easy to see. The eastern Veil (NGC 6992 & 6995) is found about 2.7 degrees northeast of the star 52 Cygni (an excellent colour constrast double for small telescopes). The western segment (NGC 6960) can be detected snaking its way past 52 Cygni. Getting to the spot in the sky where the Veil is located is the easy part but seeing it is quite a different matter! You’ll need very dark and transparent skies to have the best chance of seeing it with a backyard ‘scope without a nebular filter.

On page 206 Scotty raises the very interesting observation that it was hardly mentioned by the great amateur astronomers of the 19th century, even though their telescopes were certainly capable of detecting it.

Your chances of seeing the Veil nebula increase dramatically as the aperture of your telescope increases, but you can get very good results using an 8 or 10 inch telescope and a OIII filter. To see the individual strands with the structure a medium power should be selected (80x or 100x works well). Filters can work with smaller telescopes too, provided the magnification is not pushed too high. Below is a sketch I made a few years back of the eastern Veil using my 80mm f/5 achromat at 20x,with a 1.25″ OIII filter attached.

NGC 6992/95 as sketched with a 80mm f/5 refractor, x 20 & OIII filter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Though he doesn’t mention them much, Houston describes his 5 inch binoculars on page 208. Earlier in the text, he does say that they were hobbled together from two Apogee 5 inch x 20 richfield refractors:

My Japanese 5 inch binoculars, though very heavy, originally had only a shaky tripod. I remounted them on a 3 inch pipe held in concrete down to the bedrock that is Connecticut. A well greased flange allows motion in azimuth while the altitude motion is provided by the binoculars’ built in trunions. Though makeshift, the mounting is granite steady and turns smoothly.

pp 208

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Author’s note: This is ‘vintage’ Scotty; making do with simple, no frills setups to maximise the time spent observing! Inspirational or what!

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On pages 208 through 210, Scotty shifts gear and dicusses the curious case of NGC 6811, a small open cluster located just under 3 degrees northwest of the challenging double star, Delta Cygni. Though his own notes recorded it as rather lacklustre; he received a curious letter from an amateur based in Denmark;

Several years ago I received a letter from Tommy Christensen, who lived in Odensa, Denmark, and observes with a 3.5 inch refractor. Along with a description of M33 and the Veil Nebula was a brief note about the open star cluster NGC 6811 in Cygnus. He called it one of the most beautiful clusters he had seen and mentioned a ‘ dark band about 5’ thick running through the middle of the cluster, not completely without stars, but nevertheless conspicuously dark.”

pp 209.

Scotty solicited comments from his army of fans, deliberately keeping his question about NGC 6811 vague.  Some of the responses he got were hilarious (you can read them for yourself on page 209), but quite a few folk did notice such a dark lane.

His conclusion was right on the money though:

This is a beautiful, albeit minor example of how people see things differently. Everyone was looking at the same cluster, but because of experience, conviction, or psychological factors, each saw it in a different way.

pp 209

The remainder of this chapter covering the September sky is devoted to Aquila, the celestial Eagle. On page 213, Scotty mentions our very own Rob Moseley (who kindly chimed in to this website a while back confirming the prowess of the Orion/Skywatcher 180 Maksutov in regard to its ability to resolve double stars) who wrote Scotty concerning the planetary nebula, NGC 6804;

One of the great pleasures of deep sky observing is the individuality that certain objects acquire in the eyepiece. I’m always delighted to learn that someone sees an object in a new perspective. One such example is Robert Moseley of Coventry, England, who tracked down NGC 6804 while testing a new 10 inch f/6 reflector. His best view was at 120x. He writes,” It gives the impression of a highly condensed but partially resolved cluster. It is a faintish oval nebulosity with a 12th magnitude star near its northeastern edge. With averted vision at least one other star could be seen superimposed upon it.” Moseley questioned the 13th magnitude I had given for NGC 6804 in an earlier column. Published magnitudes for planetary nebulae cause many disagreements, and I believe it is best to slightly mistrust all of them and to record your own magnitude estimates with your notes.

pp 213.

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Author’s note: Well done Rob! A fine addition to a fine book!

I like Scotty’s attitude to estimating magnitudes. What’s all the fuss about?

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Chapter 10: October

October is a most auspicious month for amateur astronomers. The summer haze and humidity have given way to cooler days and crisp, clear skies at night. darkness comes earlier, dewing of the telescope’s optics is generally less of a problem, and the sky is not do jammed with star clouds that confusion rules.

The Milky Way stretches from east to west across the northern star patterns, but here we are looking in the direction approximately away from the center of the galaxy. Star swarms marking the galaxy’s plane are thinner, and it is easy to star hop and make finder searches for objects embedded within them. Some of the most beautiful sights for small telescopes are in and around this corner of the Milky Way.

pp 217

October is indeed a wonderful month to be out of doors. The leaves of decidous trees shut down their chlorophyll factories, revealing the aureal tints of their secondary pigments. Nights are pleasantly long and temperatures remain mild for the most part. The great Square of Pegasus and Andromeda, the Chained Lady, loom large nearly overhead, ripe for exploration with binoculars and telescopes. And it is here that Scotty begins his adventures.

Beginning with the Square of Pegasus itself, Scotty asks a simple question requiring nothing from his readers except their naked eyes. How many stars can you count within the confines of the Square?

If you can see 13 you are reaching magnitude six.

pp 218

On the next page he follows this up with another question. How many deep sky objects are visible in Pegasus? The answer to this question depends on how acute your vision is but also on the size of the telescope you observe with. And it is here that Scotty reflects on the growth of telescopic aperture in comparison to earlier times:

Telescopes of 17 inch aperture are now off the shelf items of modest cost. There are a dozen or more amateur groups in the United States that either now have or are completing instruments with apertures of 24 inches or more. Such light gathering power brings within reach of the backyard observer virtually every deep sky object in the NGC and IC compilations. Thus the Great Square of Pegasus alone contains more than 100 suitable objects.

pp 219

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Author’s note: Scotty is referring here to the Dobsonian Revolution that swept the amateur world by storm in the last quarter of the 20th century. The Newtonian reigns supreme! As I explained in my book, Choosing and Using a Dobsonian Telescope, this was a true revolution and the only one that has occurred in amateur astronomy in living memory. And it’s gone from strength to strength; now amateurs are using fast 30 inch + behemoths for very reasonable cash investments, and which breakdown into convenient packages that can fit in an average sized car.

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The first deep sky object visited is 12th magnitude NGC 7479, found by panning just shy of 3 degrees due south of Alpha Pegasi, which marks the southwestern (Scotty mistakenly quotes southeastern pp 219) corner of the square;

The magnificent barred spiral galaxy, NGC 7479 in Pegasus. Image credit: ESA/NASA

If your eye is properly dark adapted, the galaxy should be visible in even a 3 inch telescope, but a 6 inch is better. A cloth over your head and the eyepiece gives you good protection from stray light. I have seen it easily with my 4 inch Clark refractor, but with small an instrument it is not possible to see any detail. On the otherhand the 12 inch f/17 Porter turret telescope at Stellafane in Springfield, Vermont, offers a more interesting view. At 300x the central bar is obvious and there is a hint of a spiral arm at one end.

pp 219/20

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Author’s note: My 8 inch reflector at 60x can make out the galaxy’s bright core, but the spiral arms do not yield at any power. Caldwell 44 needs a big gun to do it justice!

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Time and time again, Scotty affirms that high f ratio ‘scopes appear to do better than those of low f ratio, but is careful not to jump to any firm conclusions;

A 12 inch f/5 reflector set up near the Porter telescope did not offer as good a view of NGC 7479 even though I thought the mirror was good.It may have something to do with the longer focal length of the Porter telescope, or a better eyepiece. The importance of fine quality eyepieces has been overlooked by many amateurs…..Objects once considered only within reach of large amateur instruments are being seen in smaller telescopes equipped with fine eyepieces.

pp 220

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Author’s note: This is a can of worms! Don’t go there Scotty!

Longer focal length mirrors have less geometrical aberrations than their shorter focal length counterparts. That’s why we have coma correctors, for example! The former also hold their collimation better. That’s one of the principal reasons why I have called for the introduction of a mass market 8 or 10 inch f/7 Newtonian. Eyepiece quality is important too, as Houston points out. But we live in wonderful times nowadays. Eyepieces of higher quality than arguably the best in Scotty’s day are now available at very reasonable prices.

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On pages 222 through 226, Scotty sojourns to two celebrated globular clusters adorning the autumn sky; Messier 15 in Pegasus and Messier 2 down in Aquarius.

Messier 15 as imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope. Image credit: Wiki Commons.

M 15 is easy to find about 4 degrees northwest of Epsilon Pegasi. At magnitude 6.3 it’s just within the visual range, provided you have keen eyesight and observe under a dark, country sky. The finder view is very distinctive, as the globular sits a mere half a Moon diameter due west of the magnitude 6.1 star. It pays to study the field at low power. Both objects are of the 6th magnitude but that of the globular is integrated, while that of the star is a point source. This is a good place to learn the difference between the two concepts.

The view of M15 is impressive with anything from binoculars to the largest telescope. telescopes of 4 inch aperture and lesswill not resolve the core of M15. My 4 inch Clark refractor at 40x shows M15 as a slightly oval disk, more luminous in the center, with edges just beginning to break up into individual stars. Increasing the magnification enhances the view, and at 200x stars at the center of the cluster star to be resolved.

pp 223.

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Author’s note: M15 is a beautiful object at 150x in my 8 inch f/6 reflector. If you have a telescope of 12 inches or larger, M15 presents an extra challenge for you. Located in the northeast corner of the cluster is the 14th magnitude planetary nebula, Pease 1 (mentioned by Scotty on page 224). This was the first planetary to be found within a globular cluster. It was discovered in 1928 by Dr. Francis Gladheim using the 100 inch Hooker reflector atop Mount Wilson.

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Moving to the northern edge of Aquarius, the Water Bearer. You can track this magnitude 6.6 globular a little over 4 degrees north of Beta Aquarii. My 130mm f/5 reflector at 100x shows it be noticeably elliptical and more condensed than M 15 but still a fine sight nonetheless. Scotty writes some interesting notes on M2:

The famous variable starobserver and comet discoverer Leslie Peltier finds M2 a more difficult object for the unaided eye than M33, the large spiral galaxy in Triangulum. In the clear dark skies over the Yucatan peninsula in Central America I could view M33 directly, but M2 required averated vision before it could be glimpsed directly. But I have seen M2 often with the naked eye in Kansas, Missouri, Arizona, and even from the bayous of Louisiana. Binoculars give enough detail to keep the amateur interested, while the view I once had with the Wesleyan University’s 20 inch Clark refractor was spellbinding.

pp 225

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Author’s note: I would agree with Scotty that you’ll need a good 12 inch (see page 226) or larger telescope and high magnification to fully resolve this globular cluster

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As a child  I would stand outside on autumn evenings and fantasize about constellations. I would watch as the horse archer Sagittarius shot a golden arrow at Scutum( Sobieski’s Shield). The arrow would strike the top of the shiled, tearing a great hole in it, and the fragments would fall back together as the arrow shaped open cluster M1.  The arrow would then soar upward into the star clouds, where it would hang poised for another  target in the Milky Way or perhaps another galaxy or even some imaginary other universe.

pp 226

With beguiling prose like this, Scotty would set his readers reeling for crystal clear skies. This is how he introduces his next object, the globular cluster, M71 in the peitite constellation of Sagitta, the Celestial Arrow, easily found immediately north of Aquila. Scotty says he first spied this 8th magnitude cluster with his 40x spyglass of 1 inch aperture. You can pick M71 fairly easily as it lies about midway between the third magnitude luminaries, Delta and Gamma Sagittae.

My 130mm f/5 reflector at 123x shows up a suprising number of stars (about two dozen) in this globular in a pretty stellar hinterland. Indeed, one can be fooled into thinking M71 is a dense open cluster rather than a bona fide globular. Scotty provides us with these notes;

My old 10 inch f/8.6 reflector, which, with its 0.75 inch thick plate glass mirror, was essentially a forerunner of today’s Dobsonians, gave a magnificent view of M71 at 100x. Stars were visible across the entire disk, and the object looked decidely like  an open clusterThe 20 inch Clark at Wesleyan University’s Van Vleck Observatory in Connecticut shows something  more globular.

pp 228

On pages 230 though 232 Houston discusses the celebrated Helix Nebula (NGC 7293) in Aquarius. In his discourse, Scotty includes the descriptions provided by dozens of observers using all manner of telescopic aids and is well worth a read.

On page 234, Twinky discloses a wonderful snippet of American astronomical history:

After the U.S. Civil War, however, Americans went on an observatory building binge. Funding for many installions came from state legislatures, since the astronomers provided time signals to their local areas. Almost every observatory from that era had a transit instrument for determining time. In return for their service, the lawmakers funded a large telescope to keep the astronomers happy. When I was at the University of Wisconsin in the 1930s, Wasburn Observatory still had the big brass fittings on the control board that routed time signals to commercial customers…. Most American observatories did not have special programs to search for deep sky objects.

pp 234

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Author’s note: As explained in my book, Choosing and Using a Refracting Telescope, the largest equatorially mounted telescope in the United States in 1830 was a 5 inch Dollond refractor. Henry Fitz  is reputed to have made about half of all the telescopes sold in America between 1840 and 1855. Soon other makers of renown were establishing themselves, including  Alvan Clark & Sons and John Brashear, who improved and continued this telescope making legacy for the next 80 years or so. The great classical refractors, erected in their ‘cathedrals’ dedicated to the heavens, were symbolic of the new scientific confidence that the United States would enjoy well into the 20th century.

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The final pages of this month’s chapter (236 through 238) discuss a number of deep sky objects south of Fomalhaut, many of which were discovered by Sir John Herschel from his observing station at the Cape of Good Hope, South Arica.

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Chapter 11: November

We’re now approaching the end of the observer’s year but that certainly doesn’t mean there will be any let up in the convoy of celestial treasures to be enjoyed. In many ways, Scotty leaves the best until last, exploring as he does the bountiful constellations of Cassiopeia, and Andromeda riding high in November skies, as well as venturing to more southerly destinations in Pisces and Sculptor.

Scotty gets us off to a flying start by exploring a number of beautiful open clusters in Cassiopeia, the Celestial Queen, including NGC 457, NGC 436 and the visually striking NGC 7789.

The beautiful and exceedingly rich open cluster, NGC 7789, in Cassiopeia. Image credit: Hew Holooks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No treatise on deep sky observing could fail to ignore NGC 7789, found about halfway between Rho and Sigma Cassiopeiae. Discovered by Caroline Herschel back in 1783, my 130mm f/5 reflector frames the cluster beautifully at 85x, revealing at least three score stars spalshed across an area roughly one quarter the size of the full Moon, and the 8 inch pulls in more than 100 at moderate powers! Scotty doesn’t hold back describing the splendour of this rich galactic cluster 6,000 light years away from the solar system;

NGC 7789 is one of those rare objects that is impressive in any size instrument. With a 4 inch rich field telescope the cluster appears  as a soft glow nearly 0.5 degrees across and speckled with tiny, often elusive, individual stars. the 12 inch f/17 Porter turret telescope at Stellafane picks up more than 100 stars. Through a 16 inch aperture the view is spectacular, and the whole field is scattered with diamond dust. And a 22 inch Dobsonian reflector in the clear skies of california gave a most impressive view with countless sparkling points filling an entire 60x field. I particularly like the drawing made by [Admiral W.H] Smyth with a 6 inch refractor.

pp 243

Another object of note in these pages is M 52. To find this 7th magnitude cluster, consider an imaginary line running from Shedir to Caph. Now extend this line about the same distance again until your finder picks up a roughly kidney shaped foggy patch of light a little less than half the size of the full Moon in diameter.

M52 ; a fine open cluster for small telescopes in Cassiopeia. Image credit: Wiki Commons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November is a great month for observing the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), easily found with the naked eye from a fairly dark site a few degrees about Mirach (Beta Andromedae).  Large binoculars can often provide the best views of this enormous spiral galaxy on our doorstep but I am also very pleased with the view served up by my 80mm f/5 refractor coupled to a 32mm Plossl delivering 13x. It shows a very bright nucleus which gradually fades on either side. Just how far one can trace the spiral arms of M31 depends on a number of factors, not least of which is telescopic aperture, visual acuity, sky darkness and transparency. Most backyard ‘scopes can trace them to maybe 3 degrees from end to end, but Scotty informs his readers on page 246 that George P. Bond, employing the 15 inch refractor at Harvard College Observatory was able to follow the spiral arms out to 4 degrees as far back as 1847. Yet, in 1953, Robert Jonckheere, using ordinary 50mm binoculars measured their visble length to be 5.17 angular degrees!  Scotty recommends moving the nucleus out of the field to have the best chance of tracing these spiral arms. Indeed, he claims that after using 15 x 75 binoculars, he was able to measure a length of 5 degrees from end to end!

The great Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda seen here with its bright satellite galaxies, M32 left and M110 ( below to the right of centre). Image credit: Torben Hansen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The two bright satellite galaxies attend M31, both of which are easily discerned in my 80mm refractor at the lowest power. M32 lies closer to the core of M31, whilst M110 is located further away ‘below’ the disc of M31. Scotty also reminds his readers that two other companion galaxies can be ferreted out some 7 degrees north of M31; NGC 147 and NGC 185. NGC 147 (actually located over the border in Cassiopeia)., which shines with an integrated magnitude of 9.5 can be found just under 2 angular degrees west of Omicron Cassiopeiae. The other galaxy, NGC 185, is slightly brighter, owing to its smaller, more compact size. It lies just one degree east of NGC 147. Both are well framed in my 8 inch reflector at 30x.

Scotty then moves down to Pisces, to visit the grand face on spiral galaxy, M 74. This magnitude 9.2 gem is easily located in my 80mm refractor by centering the 3rd magnitude Eta Piscium in a low power field. The galaxy is then seen as a ‘fuzzy star’ about 1.3 degrees off to the east and slightly to the north of Eta. You need a larger telescope to make out the spiral nature of this galaxy though. My 8 inch at 150x shows a number of faint stars splashed around its periphery and with good transparency, you’ll be able to make out something of its spiral nature but not a great deal. In general, it’s best to use the largest telescope available to engage in this kind of work.

After discussing some less well known faint fuzzies in Pisces, Scotty finally moves into Sculptor, featuring some of the observations of Ron Morales, Barbara Wilson and Steve Coe.

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Chapter 12: December

The stuff dreams are made of; the Pleiades Cluster in Taurus, with its associated nebulosity. Image credit; Wiki Commons.

December brings winter, and with it many cold but often clear nights. On such evenings, when the stars sparkle like diamonds, there is no sight as spectacular as M45, the Pleiades. Currently, this open star cluster rides high in the eastern sky at the end of astronomical twilight. It is delightful in any instrument, from the naked eye to the largest amateur instrument, although I find large binoculars give the most impressive view. Almost every culture, past and present, mentions in its folklore the dazzling stars in this nearby culture. They have enhanced the imaginations of gifted poet and commoner alike as far as we can remember. They are the starry seven of Keats, the fireflies tangled in a silver braid of Tennyson, the fire god’s flame of the old Hindus, and the ceremonial razor of old Japan. No other celestial configuration appears so often on the pages of the poet.

pp 261.

There can be few sights that move the human spirit more deeply than the sight of the Seven Sisters rising serenely in a dark country sky. The cruelty of winter frost temporarily abates, as the mind soars. Why is the night sky so beautiful? Why were the stars made? Different people have different answers to these questions but to me they plainly attest to a Creator who delights in fashioning beautiful things, and was gracious enough to place them in the firmament so that we might know something of His awesome power. Rich or poor, young or old, the Pleiades is for everyone.

Not surprisngly, Scotty has a lot to say about this magnificent star cluster. How many stars can you see within its confines? Most have no trouble making out six members. With a little practice, a seventh can be made out, but the keenest eyes report more, many more.

Depending on light pollution and sky conditions , most persons can see between four and six naked eye Pleiads.Traditionally, the average eye can see six stars here, the exceptional eye seven, and 10 bear names or Flamsteed numbers. However, during the 1800s the noted British amateurs Richard Carrington and William Denning both counted 14 stars. The late dean of visual observers, Leslie Peltier, told me he could always see 12 to 14 stars on any good moonless night.

pp 263.

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Author’s note: Having average eyesight, I can usually only count 6 members, but have certainly glimpsed a seventh but only in the darkest skies that Scotland can offer. If you have a good, blackened telescope tube (without its lenses) lying about, try peering through it to minimise the amount of peripheral light entering your eye. Can you see any more? Indeed, in perusing the work of the Victorian populariser of astronomy, Sir Robert Ball, I recall him stating that one could see stars during broad daylight if one were to observe from the bottom of a deep well. Alas, I can’t confirm this! 19th century skies were considerably darker than those we typically enjoy today, helping to explain why these observers of old saw so many more Pleiads than we generally can.

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On page 263 through 265, Houston discusses the nebulosity enveloping M45, itself a good sign that the cluster is relatively young ( of the order of a few tens of millions of years most likely). The area of sky around  the star Merope is usually the place where most amateurs report such nebulosity. Technically this is a reflection nebula, where the star light is insufficiently energetic to ionize the gas but enough to allow it to get scattered off innumerable dust grains within the cluster. It was first reported by the German amateur astronomer, Wilhelm Tempel, back in 1859 using a 4 inch Steinheil refractor whilst working in Italy. Scotty points out that seeing this nebulosity depends strongly on the conditions of the sky through which we observe;

From Tucson my 4 inch showed it readily. In Connecticut, a 10 inch reflector failed but in Vermont a 5 inch Moonwatch Apogee telescope succeeded. At the August convention of the Astronomical League in Tennessee, I was surprised to find several observers who had seen the Merope Nebula more than once. It was readily visible in a 6 inch reflector made by Fred Lossing of Ottawa. Once its position southwest of the star Merope was pointed out, others saw the dim glow too. In the 16 inch, the nebula seemed much more obvious, and averted vision was not required.

pp 263.

The Crab Nebula (M1) in Taurus. Image credit: Wiki Commons.

Of course, the Pleiades is grand star cluster within the larger constellation of Taurus, the Bull, and on page 265 Scotty discusses a few other gems that are visible within the constellation using the naked eye, binoculars or a modest telescope. The Hyades is a sight to behold with the naked eye or through low power binoculars or even opera glasses. Then there is the Crab Nebula (M1), which is best found by centering the star Zeta Tauri in the low power field of view of your telescope and then panning 1 degree to the northeast. The Crab is rather disappointing telescopically as it certainly does not resemble the images seen in long exposure photographs, and increasing aperture doesn’t greatly transform the view. Scotty agrees:

The Crab can be seen in 2 inch finders. Small telescopes reveal only a shapeless 8th magnitude blur variously sketched as oval, rectangular, or more often something in between.

pp 268

After discussing a few deep sky objects in Cetus, Scotty throws caution to the wind and encourages sky gazers to return to the easy objects that delighted us in our youth:

As many of us know, the telescope is a wondrous invention, and the heavens contain all manner of marvels that can still astound the imaginative mind, no matter what the smog density may be. Some of the better sights await us in the December evening sky. The Northern Cross is erect in the Northwest; Albireo has already set. Pegasus is now a great diamond shape sloping slowly to the west, as Orion mounts closer to the meridian. This is no time for routine or difficult objects; it is better that we sweep again the old favorites of our youth; the sights that enthralled us with our first homemade reflector.

pp 276

By now, old Twinky was already thinking about the great sights that he would revisit in the new year; the Great Nebula in Orion, Barnard’s Loop, the magnificent Double Cluster; and so it begins again!

Dr. Neil English’s new book, Tales from the Golden Age of Astronomy will be published in the Spring of 2018.

 

De Fideli.

Bible Facts Part VI

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continued from Part V

188.

Now the king and Haman came to drink wine with Esther the queen. And the king said to Esther on the second day also as they drank their wine at the banquet, “What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to half of the kingdom it shall be done.” Then Queen Esther replied, “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me as my petition, and my people as my request; for we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed and to be annihilated. Now if we had only been sold as slaves, men and women, I would have remained silent, for the trouble would not be commensurate with the annoyance to the king.”Then King Ahasuerus asked Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, who would presume to do thus?

Esther 7:1-5

Are there coincidences in life, or is it all providential?

The Book of Esther is set during the Jewish exile, around 470 BC, when the Persian Empire was ruled by King Xerxes I (identified as Ahasuerus in some translations). In this engaging book, which reads almost like a Cinderella story, we learn of the rise of an orphan Jewish girl; Esther. Though born of lowly status, she rose to become Xerxes’ Queen, by virtue of her great beauty; both inner and outer. With the sole exception of Song of Songs, this Biblical text is the only one in which God is not explicitly mentioned, but it is nonetheless clear that a much greater, providential power than Xerxes is at work behind the scenes; in every scene, in fact.

Esther’s uncle and guardian, Mordecai, uncovers an evil plot by Xerxes’ Prime Minister, Haman, to put all Jews to death across the Empire and to confiscate all their property. Remarkably, this started out as a personal grudge Haman held against Mordecai because of his refusal to bow down to him. When he learned that Mordecai was a Jew, Haman wanted to wipe all Jews from the face of the earth.

Thanks to Mordecai’s cool head and Esther’s gracefulness, Haman’s plot was undone and the Jews were spared annihilation, thereby honouring the Abrahamic promise and securing the line to Jesus of Nazareth.

The inspired Book of Esther has implications for all generations under the sun. Every one of life’s circumstances is ordered to the divine purpose. God leaves nothing to chance! There are no coincidences; only providence.

St. Paul, writing over 500 years later, puts it splendidly:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

                                                                Romans 8:28

The Jews celebrate their deliverance from extermination in the Feast of Purim, to this very day.

189.

The Sermon on the Mount by Carl Bloch c. 1877. Image credit: Wiki Commons.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.  If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: love each other.

John 15:9-17

Jesus knew that he would suffer a humiliating death in the hands of the authorities.He looked death right in the face. Yet in this passage from St. John’s Gospel, we see Jesus’ incredible mindset just hours before his deliverance; he spoke of having joy and how his disciples must be filled with joy even when calamity was about to fall on them. He spoke of what it means to express true love; for God first and then one’s neighbour. He stressed that true love, grounded in the Spirit, always bears fruit.

190.

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

John 21:25

                                   The Miracles of Jesus: a Closer Look.

a) Power over Nature.

Marriage at Cana, by Carl Bloch ( 1870).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(1) Jesus turns water into wine:

The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, “They have no more wine.”

“Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”

But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

 Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” When the jars had been filled,  he said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions. When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!” This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

John 2:1-11

(2) Jesus calms a storm:

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side.’  Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.  A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’

Mark 4:35-41

(3) Jesus walks on water:

Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there.  But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary.

Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear.

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”

And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me! “

And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”

Matthew 14:22-33

b) Power to heal and alleviate suffering.

(1) Jesus heals ten lepers.

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’ When he saw them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.  He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?  Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?’  Then he said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.’

Luke 17:11-19

(2)  Jesus cures a cripple.

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk. And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.

John 5:1-9

(3) A woman with a chronic illness is healed.

Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.”

 Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction.  And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My clothes?”

But His disciples said to Him, “You see the multitude thronging You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’ And He looked around to see her who had done this thing.  But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth.  And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.”

Mark 5:25-34

c) Power over demonic forces:

1) Jesus exorcises a Gerasene Demoniac:

They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs.  When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, ‘What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!’ For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.

 Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’

‘Legion,’ he replied, because many demons had gone into him.  And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission.  When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

 When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.

The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, Return home and tell how much God has done for you.’ So the man went away and told all over the town how much Jesus had done for him.

Luke 8:26-39

2) Jesus heals a demon possessed man in the synagogue

And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice, saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God.  And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not. And they were all amazed, and spake among themselves, saying, What a word is this! for with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out.  And the fame of him went out into every place of the country round about.

Luke 4:33-37

c) A man pleads with Jesus to restore his son’s mind to him.

When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. ‘Lord, have mercy on my son,’ he said. ‘He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water.  I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.’

‘You unbelieving and perverse generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.’  Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.

 Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, ‘Why couldn’t we drive it out?’

 He replied, ‘Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’

Matthew 17:14-21

d) Power to know all people:

  1. Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well:

…..and around noon as he approached the village of Sychar, he came to Jacob’s Well, located on the parcel of ground Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jesus was tired from the long walk in the hot sun and sat wearily beside the well.

Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus asked her for a drink.  He was alone at the time as his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food. The woman was surprised that a Jew would ask a “despised Samaritan” for anything—usually they wouldn’t even speak to them!—and she remarked about this to Jesus.

 He replied, “If you only knew what a wonderful gift God has for you, and who I am, you would ask me for some living water!”

 “But you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this is a very deep well! Where would you get this living water? And besides, are you greater than our ancestor Jacob? How can you offer better water than this which he and his sons and cattle enjoyed?”

Jesus replied that people soon became thirsty again after drinking this water. “But the water I give them,” he said, “becomes a perpetual spring within them, watering them forever with eternal life.”

“Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me some of that water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again and won’t have to make this long trip out here every day.”

 “Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her.

 “But I’m not married,” the woman replied.

“All too true!” Jesus said. “For you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet.  But say, tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?”

 Jesus replied, “The time is coming, ma’am, when we will no longer be concerned about whether to worship the Father here or in Jerusalem. For it’s not where we worship that counts, but how we worship—is our worship spiritual and real? Do we have the Holy Spirit’s help? For God is Spirit, and we must have his help to worship as we should. The Father wants this kind of worship from us. But you Samaritans know so little about him, worshiping blindly, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes to the world through the Jews.”

The woman said, “Well, at least I know that the Messiah will come—the one they call Christ—and when he does, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus told her, “I am the Messiah!”

Just then his disciples arrived. They were surprised to find him talking to a woman, but none of them asked him why, or what they had been discussing.

Then the woman left her waterpot beside the well and went back to the village and told everyone, “Come and meet a man who told me everything I ever did! Can this be the Messiah?”  So the people came streaming from the village to see him.

 Meanwhile, the disciples were urging Jesus to eat.  “No,” he said, “I have some food you don’t know about.”

“Who brought it to him?” the disciples asked each other.

Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God who sent me, and from finishing his work. Do you think the work of harvesting will not begin until the summer ends four months from now? Look around you! Vast fields of human souls are ripening all around us, and are ready now for reaping. The reapers will be paid good wages and will be gathering eternal souls into the granaries of heaven! What joys await the sower and the reaper, both together!  For it is true that one sows and someone else reaps. I sent you to reap where you didn’t sow; others did the work, and you received the harvest.”

 Many from the Samaritan village believed he was the Messiah because of the woman’s report: “He told me everything I ever did!”  When they came out to see him at the well, they begged him to stay at their village; and he did, for two days, long enough for many of them to believe in him after hearing him. Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe because we have heard him ourselves, not just because of what you told us. He is indeed the Savior of the world.”

John 4:5-42

2) Jesus perceives the wicked thoughts of the religious scribes:

Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,  “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’, or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’?  But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

Mark 2:6-12

3) Jesus foresees the death of Lazarus:

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.  It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.  Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”  The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.  But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”  After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.”  The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died,  and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

John 11:1-16

e) Power to raise the dead.

  1. Jesus restores the life of a widow’s son:

Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd.  And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her.  When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”  Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother.

Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.”  And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region.

Luke 7:11-17

2. Jesus raises a dead girl:

While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. ‘Your daughter is dead,’ they said. ‘Why bother the teacher anymore?’

Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’

He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, ‘Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.’  But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha koum!’ (which means ‘Little girl, I say to you, get up!’). Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Mark 5:35-43

3. Jesus raises Lazarus:

When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days.  Bethany was only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem, and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss. When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”

Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”

 “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”

 “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” Then she returned to Mary. She called Mary aside from the mourners and told her, “The Teacher is here and wants to see you.”  So Mary immediately went to him.

Jesus had stayed outside the village, at the place where Martha met him. When the people who were at the house consoling Mary saw her leave so hastily, they assumed she was going to Lazarus’s grave to weep. So they followed her there.  When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

 When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled.  “Where have you put him?” he asked them.

They told him, “Lord, come and see.” Then Jesus wept. The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”

Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance.  “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.

But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.”

Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me.  You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!”  And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”

John 11:17-44

f) Power to foresee future events.

  1. Jesus predicts the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem:

The carrying away of the Menorah from the Jewish temple after its destruction by Roman forces under the command of General Titus Flavius Vespasianus in 70AD.

Then as He went out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!”

And Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”

Mark 13:1-2

2. Jesus predicts his death and resurrection:

Now they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed. And as they followed they were afraid. Then He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them the things that would happen to Him:  “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles;  and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.”

Mark 10:32-34

3. Jesus predicts his betrayal and abandonment by his disciples.

Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’ When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. You will all fall away,’ Jesus told them, ‘for it is written:

‘“I will strike the shepherd,
    and the sheep will be scattered.”

But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.’

Peter declared, ‘Even if all fall away, I will not.’

 ‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘today – yes, tonight – before the cock crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.’

Mark 14:25-30

4. Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead:

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared.  They found the stone rolled away from the tomb,  but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee,  that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again. Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.  Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.  But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.  But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

Luke 24:1-12

191.

I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul shall make its boast in the Lord;
The humble shall hear of it and be glad.
 Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.

I sought the Lord, and He heard me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces were not ashamed.
This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him,
And saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him,
And delivers them.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints!
There is no want to those who fear Him.
The young lions lack and suffer hunger;
But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.

 Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Who is the man who desires life,
And loves many days, that he may see good?
 Keep your tongue from evil,
And your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their cry.
The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears,
And delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart,
And saves such as have a contrite spirit.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
He guards all his bones;
Not one of them is broken.Evil shall slay the wicked,
And those who hate the righteous shall be condemned.

The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.

Psalm 34

Sometimes the most beautiful prayers are offered up in times of great distress. At this time, David was somewhat of a fugitive, on the run from Saul and his marksmen, feigning madness in the land of the Philistines (see 1 Samuel 21).  And yet, instead of cursing his Creator, David exalts His righteousness and sure judgements over all people who walk the face of the earth, and for all ages. It is a foreshadowing of the good news of the Gospel message delivered some nine centuries later by David’s descendant; the Lord Jesus Christ.

192.

My large print, slimline edition of the NLT Bible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.

Joshua 1:8

We are most fortunate today to have a rich variety of Bible translations. I believe this is no accident. Afterall, if we only had one version it would quickly become an object of worship and that’s not how we ought to treat it. That’s one of the reasons why I endorse many Bible translations; ‘word for word’, ‘thought for thought’, and even paraphrases. But as we get older, our eyes begin to let us down and it becomes harder to read our Bibles with very small font sizes. For this reason, I gravitate towards large print editions which are easy to read, even without glasses. That way, they grow old with you! Large print editions can be cumbersome, of course, especially if you like to read some words of Scripture while not at home. But nowadays you can combine larger fonts in very convenient sizes, such as the new large print, slimline editions now being sold by various booksellers. I think they’re really neat!

There are also some really excellent digital/online Bible resources, See here for one example. And we can get kindle versions too. But for many folk, reading from a screen is not the most convenient or comfortable way to access the Bible. And let’s face it, can we wholeheartedy rely on the accessibility of online systems indefinitely?  I don’t know. For these reasons, I prefer to read in the traditional way. Call me old fashioned, but I think everyone should have a regular, real life Bible in their homes.

193.

John of Patmos watches the descent of New Jerusalem from God in a 14th century tapestry. Image credit: Kevin Berlin.

In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s house
 will be the highest of all—
 the most important place on earth.
It will be raised above the other hills,
 and people from all over the world will stream there to worship.
People from many nations will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
 to the house of Jacob’s God.
There he will teach us his ways,
 and we will walk in his paths.”
For the Lord’s teaching will go out from Zion;
 his word will go out from Jerusalem.
 The Lord will mediate between peoples
 and will settle disputes between strong nations far away.
They will hammer their swords into plowshares
 and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will no longer fight against nation,
 nor train for war anymore.
Everyone will live in peace and prosperity,
 enjoying their own grapevines and fig trees,
 for there will be nothing to fear.
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies
 has made this promise!
Though the nations around us follow their idols,
 we will follow the Lord our God forever and ever.

Micah 4:1-5

In this passage from the Old Testament, the Prophet Micah provides us with a vision of the future reign of Christ on Earth. Zion is greater than Israel. And even though the Jews were the Lord’s ‘chosen people,’  this passage makes it clear that He is the God of every people, gathering all nations to Himself.

194.

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio. Image credit: Wiki Commons.

Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”

So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

John 20:24-29

The incredulity of Thomas, the disciple of Jesus, has resonated throughout history as a kind of icon of the sceptical mind. Despite having witnessed a string of miracles by Jesus throughout his three and a half year ministry, he still would not believe that his Master had risen bodily from the dead. Only after seeing Jesus in the flesh and examining his wounds was he willing to submit his will to Christ.

Today, despite a barrage of baseless attacks from ‘glorified ignoramuses’ the world over, the truth of the reality of Christ is better now than it has ever been!

How much more will the Lord reward us for keeping the faith and continuing to walk in His statutes even though we have never seen Him in the flesh?

Rejoice!

Christ lived among men, died a horrific death in order to redeem your soul, and was raised to life by His Father.

Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Isaiah 45:23).

195.

For thus says the Lord:
“To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths,
And choose what pleases Me,
And hold fast My covenant,
Even to them I will give in My house
And within My walls a place and a name
Better than that of sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
That shall not be cut off.

                                                                 Isaiah 56:4-5

Here, the Lord addresses the LGBT community.

“Your rainbow is not My rainbow,” He declares, “but keep My statutes and you will have a place of honour in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

 

Continued in Part VII

 

Bible Facts Part V

Continued from Part IV

151.

The hills near my home.

The hills near my home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I lift up my eyes to the hills.From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1-2

It’s a well known fact that most atheists live in cities. Here, far from the glories of nature, there is less of God’s creation to contemplate and more temptation from sin. As a result, many city dwellers fall away from the faith. But God created the universe through Jesus by the power of his word. The magnificence of nature is but a mirror of God’s unsearchable beauty and love for his creation. Being close to nature brings you closer to him.

152.

The Virgin in Prayer, by Sassoferrato, c. 1650. Image credit: Wiki Commons

The Virgin in Prayer, by Sassoferrato, c. 1650. Image credit: Wiki Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!”  But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

Luke 11:27-28

The Bible teaches that although Mary, the mother of Jesus, is ‘blessed’ among women, she is not to be worshipped. Nor is she an intercessor between God and man. Jesus himself corrected the woman in the crowd, who cultivated this erroneous theology. Christ alone is sufficient. Those who pray to Mary are practicing idolatry.

153.

Romeo and Juliet parting on the balcony in Act III. A painting by Ford Madox Brown ( 1867). Image credit: Wiki Commons.

Romeo and Juliet parting on the balcony in Act III. A painting by Ford Madox Brown ( 1867). Image credit: Wiki Commons.

Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes within thy locks: thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead.

Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them.

Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks.

Thy neck is like the tower of David builded for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men.

Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies.

Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense.

Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.

Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, with me from Lebanon: look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, from the lions’ dens, from the mountains of the leopards.

Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck.

How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices! Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon.

A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.

Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard,

Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices:

A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon.

Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits.

Song of Solomon 4.

Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs) is God’s erotic poetry. Historically, it depicts the amorous dealings and eventual wedding of King Solomon to a shepherdess. Often avoided by Bible teachers, owing to its strong sexual imagery, it reminds us that the Lord, who invented sex, wishes bethrothed couples to enjoy each other’s bodies throughout married life. The woman’s body is portrayed as an ‘inclosed garden’, signifying exclusivity, and its ‘fruits’ are to be enjoyed by the man. Allegorically, just as human life finds its highest fulfillment in the love expressed between a man and a woman, so spiritual life finds its grandest articulation in the love of God for his people.

This is spicy stuff!

Small wonder the Jewish rabbis prohibited their pupils from studying the text until they had reached the age of 30!

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Beware the wolf

Beware the wolf

And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

Mark 16:17

Christians are called to ferret out deceptions, great and small. One of these pertains to the so called ‘speaking in tongues.’ In the early days of the Church, the apostles and other believers were sometimes given the gift to speak in languages that were not their own for the express purpose of spreading the gospel to the cosmopolitan peoples of the Roman Empire. Nowadays, there is no need to speak in tongues, as the contemporary evangelist has many excellent tools at his/her disposal in order to effectively spread Christ’s message to the world. Those who continue this practice are either deluding themselves or are deceivers. Yeshua didn’t talk gibberish and neither should his followers.

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Lucifer.

Lucifer. Image credit: www. turnbacktogod.com

But the Lord is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.

Jeremiah 10:10-11

Many New Age and Eastern religions are based in some way on evolutionary ideology; that we are slowly ‘evolving’ towards a higher state of consciousness or that the ‘godhead’ is continually evolving towards some ‘omega point’. The Bible rubbishes all such notions however, as the Prophet Jeremiah makes clear above.  Humans are made in “God’s [unchanging; see Malachi 3:6] image and likeness”, not his evolving image and likeness.Anyone seeking to exalt himself in such a way will receive the full weight of the Lord’s wrath.

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The Lord spoke to Moses from a burning bush that was not consumed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

Exodus 3:14

When the Lord spoke to his servant, Moses, from a burning bush, atop Mount Horeb, He revealed one of His names: I AM.

Jesus also laid claim to this unique title:

I Am the Bread of Life

John 6:35

I AM the Light of the World.

John 8:12

I AM the Door of the Sheep.

John 10:7

I AM the Good Shepherd.

John 10:11

I AM the Ressurrection, and the Life.

John 11:25

I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

John 14:6

I AM the True Vine

John 15: 1

Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

John 8:57-58

All of these statements made by Jesus were accompanied by specific miracles, providing rock solid evidence that he was indeed the Word Made Flesh, the God Man.

Sweet Jesus!

Hallelujah!

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Afghan men at prayer. Image credit: Wiki Commons.

‘The multitude of your sacrifices – what are they to me?’ says the Lord.‘I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals;I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.

When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you,this trampling of my courts?Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me.

New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations –I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being.

They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening.Your hands are full of blood! Wash and make yourselves clean.

Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice.Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.

Isaiah 1:11-17

The God of the Bible hates religion!

Religious folk murdered his only begotten Son.

Don’t be religious. Love and honour your Creator and do good to your fellow man. That’s it.

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David and Goliath by Osmar Schindler ( c. 1888). Image credit: Wiki Commons.

But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.

1 Samuel 16:7

Fourteen generations separated Abraham from David. What did the Lord see in David that no one else could? The Bible teaches us that even the Prophet Samuel considered most of Jesse’s older sons before realising that it was David that found favour with God. Samuel judged by the outward appearance but the Lord always looks on the heart. Unlike King Saul, who put his own will ahead of God’s, David’s heart always put God’s will first and was quick to obey his commandments.

We must all strive to be people after God’s own heart.

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                                         Some Favourite Sayings of David

Concerning Hope:

I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart:
wait, I say, on the Lord.

Psalm 27:13-14.

Concerning Our Fallen Nature:

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Psalm 51:5

Concerning Prayer:

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10

Concerning Prophecy:

Even my close friend, someone I trusted,
one who shared my bread, has turned against me.

Psalm 41:9

False witnesses rose up; they laid to my charge things that I knew not.

Psalm 35:11

Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty.

Psalm 27:12

Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.

Psalm 22:16-18

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?

Psalm 22:1

All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. “He trusts in the Lord,” they say, “let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”

Psalm 22:7-8

He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.

Psalm 34: 20

The Lord says to my lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’

Psalm 110:1

You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,

Psalm 8:6

Concerning Humility & Repentance:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

Psalm 51:1-3

Concerning Wisdom:

The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.

Psalm 19:7-10

Concerning God’s Unmeasurable Grace:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Psalm 23.

Concerning Unbelief:

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”

Psalm 14:1

Concerning the Fate of Nations that Reject God:

The wicked shall return to Sheol, all the nations that forget God.

Psalm 9:17

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Tree of Jesse from the Gospel of St. Matthew, showing the patrilineage of Christ. Image credit: Wiki Commons.

Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli,  the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai,  the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda,  the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri,  the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er,  the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi,  the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim,  the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David,  the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon,  the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah,  the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,  the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah,  the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan,  the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

Luke 3:23-38

Near the beginning of Luke’s Gospel (and also Matthew 1), we are told that Jesus of Nazareth was descended from King David. More on Biblical genealogies here.

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The Angel Gabriel’s annunciation to the Virgin Mary. A painting by Murillo (c.1665). Image credit: Wiki Commons.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,  who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

Micah 5:2

The consensus opinion among Biblical scholars suggests that Jesus was likely born in September, 4 BC, before the death of Herod the Great. Both Isaiah and Micah, living in the 8th century BC (so after David, who reigned Israel and Judah between 1010 and 970 BC. See 2 Samuel 5:4/5), prophesied key features of the Messiah’s birth. Isaiah informs us that he would be born of a virgin and that he would be called ‘Immanuel’, which means, “God with us”. Micah explains that he would be born in Bethlehem, the home town of King David.

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Adoration of the Magi by Giotto di Bondone. Image credit: Wiki Commons.

Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.

Jeremiah 23:5-6

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

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Jewish Elder blowing the Shofar. A photo by Kluger Zoltan (1947).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever.

to him who alone does great wonders,
His love endures forever.
who by his understanding made the heavens,
His love endures forever.
who spread out the earth upon the waters,
His love endures forever.
who made the great lights—
His love endures forever.
 the sun to govern the day,
His love endures forever.

the moon and stars to govern the night;
His love endures forever.

 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt
His love endures forever.
and brought Israel out from among them
His love endures forever.
with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;
His love endures forever.

to him who divided the Red Sea asunder
His love endures forever.
 and brought Israel through the midst of it,
His love endures forever.
 but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea;
His love endures forever.

to him who led his people through the wilderness;
His love endures forever.

 to him who struck down great kings,
His love endures forever.
and killed mighty kings—
His love endures forever.
Sihon king of the Amorites
His love endures forever.
and Og king of Bashan—
His love endures forever.
 and gave their land as an inheritance,
His love endures forever.
 an inheritance to his servant Israel.
His love endures forever.

He remembered us in our low estate
His love endures forever.
 and freed us from our enemies.
His love endures forever.
He gives food to every creature.
His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures forever.

                                                             Psalm 136

Psalm 136 is a poem/prayer of the ancient Hebrews, depicting a supernatural, epic story, and probably passed down in their oral traditions for many centuries before it was committed to writing. Its imagery is almost entirely based on the first five books of the Bible: the Pentateuch. The ancient Hebrews certainly did not understand their God fully, but nonetheless they recognised his awesome power and compassion for his people, as well as his wider creation.

Many seek to know the ‘Mind of God,’ with some even claiming that the deity they worship is completely understandable. And yet, clearly, the God of the Bible has not revealed everything about himself. There are many things concerning his personality that are shrouded in mystery.

I like that idea. It appeals to me. To my way of thinking, a deity that is totally knowable, or totally predictable, would almost certainly be false.

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My coffee stained, large print, NIV 2011 Bible. Much used and much loved!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have heard that some went out from us without our authorisation and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said.

Acts 15:24

I know I’ve touched on this before but please bear with me.

Bible bigots really get on my wick!

Allow me to explain. There is a small number of individuals (some with too much influence, however) who continue to bash some or all modern translations of the Bible in favour of another, usually the 1611 Authorized King James Version. They claim that certain translations are ‘satanic,’ ‘new age’ or something even more ridiculous. It causes untold confusion, frustration and unnecessary divisions in the Body of Christ.

Brothers and sisters; stop this madness! Different translations are a blessing not a curse. Some are ‘word for word’, others are ‘thought for thought’, and still others are paraphrases. They all convey the Word of God. They were compiled with vigorous consultation by godly men and women with zeal to bring the wonderful message of the Bible to people who would otherwise be completely lost.

What is it that you hate so much about the march of the spoken word?

Do you not think that when you preach/teach/discuss the Bible you largely paraphrase anyway?

Can you not see the utter hypocricy of your arguments?

I would suggest to you that this indignation for modern translations is not of God at all. People should be free to choose the translation that suits them best; and more than one is always better than any one!

Don’t be a bigot. Jesus hates bigots.

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Wee Bible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

Psalm 1:2

Some people have gone to extraordinary lengths to create very unusual Bibles.

The largest Bible ever produced was made by the American, Louis Waynai back in 1930. Opened up, it spanned a whopping 98 inches (nearly 2.5 metres) across. When closed it was 43.5 inches thick. It took Waynai over 8700 hours to put it together and weighed an incredible 1904 pounds!

The smallest Bible ever made was created by a team of Israeli technologists in 2014. Constructed from silicon wafer, it measures just 4.7mm on a side, with each Hebrew character just 0.18 microns in width. This ‘nanobible’ contains all 27 books of the New Testament.

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Religious Pluralism: a banner of lies. Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Religions_4x5.png

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols.

Isaiah 42:8

Time and time again, the God of the Bible makes it abundantly clear that there is no one or thing in heaven or on earth that can even remotely approach his glory. Nor will he tolerate the worshipping of the pantheon of false gods conjured by the human mind. Many ‘self professing’ Christians are really syncretists, embracing the political move for religious pluralism and/or functional humanism (the religion that says man is god) in post modern society.

Don’t be deceived!

The unchanging and ever living God is not influenced by the passage of time or the changing of public opinion.

We need to see God as he really is, how he sees things, and not as we would like him to be.

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Elgol, southwest Isle of Skye, Scotland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Praise ye the Lord.

Praise ye the Lord from the heavens:
praise him in the heights.
 Praise ye him, all his angels:
praise ye him, all his hosts.
Praise ye him, sun and moon:
praise him, all ye stars of light.
Praise him, ye heavens of heavens,
and ye waters that be above the heavens.
Let them praise the name of the Lord:
for he commanded, and they were created.
He hath also stablished them for ever and ever:
he hath made a decree which shall not pass.

Praise the Lord from the earth,
ye dragons, and all deeps:
fire, and hail; snow, and vapour;
stormy wind fulfilling his word:
 mountains, and all hills;
fruitful trees, and all cedars:
 beasts, and all cattle;
creeping things, and flying fowl:
 kings of the earth, and all people;
princes, and all judges of the earth:
both young men, and maidens;
old men, and children:
let them praise the name of the Lord:
for his name alone is excellent;
his glory is above the earth and heaven.
He also exalteth the horn of his people,
the praise of all his saints;
even of the children of Israel,
a people near unto him.

Praise ye the Lord.

                                                                  Psalm 148

A psalm of the ancient Hebrews, extolling the God of all creation.

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Joy, Tacuinum Sanitatis Casanatensis (14th century). Image credit: Wiki Commons.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

Philippians 4:8

Although the world we live in has many problems, the Lord has given us much that we can rejoice in. St. Paul, writing to the Philippians, encourages us to cast our mind on true and beautiful things, to remain optimistic, to seek the good in everything and everyone and to be of cheerful disposition. Chase away your doom and gloom with a smile!

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The Beatitudes Sermon, by James Tissot (c. 1890). Image credit: Wiki Commons.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Matthew 5:5

The Beatitudes, recounted in the 5th chapter of Matthew’s gospel, present some of the most inspiring and beautiful words uttered from the mouth of Jesus. Blessed are the meek.

But what does it mean to be meek?

Humble?

Gentle?

Or is there more to it?

Searching the Scriptures, we find that meekness is mentioned in a few other places:

Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.

Numbers 12:3

Consider also the words of King David:

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.

For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found.

But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity.

Psalm 37:10-12

 

Meekness does not mean weakness; it is God’s panacea for the scourge of pride, which visits all people.

Meekness does not seek affirmation in the world. When we want to ‘blow our own trumpet’, as it were, God wishes us to ‘stick a proverbial sock in it’, to hold our tongues in check, and to walk on quietly. When evil is done to you, meekness entrusts all responses to the Sovereign Lord, who weighs every injustice fairly.

Meekness is the seeking of God’s Kingdom first; his will over and before yours.

Meekness is steadfastness. In the midst of calamity, the Lord teaches those who believe in him not to fret, for his promises are true.

Meekness is infectious; it cultivates meekness in others.

Meekness is an essential ingredient of repentance and, ultimately, salvation itself.

The Prophet Zephaniah writes:

Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger.

Zephaniah 2:3

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Joshua passing the River Jordan with the Ark of the Covenant by Benjamin West, 1800. Image credit: Wiki Commons.

Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half was its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. And he overlaid it with pure gold inside and outside, and made a moulding of gold around it. And he cast for it four rings of gold for its four feet, two rings on its one side and two rings on its other side. And he made poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with gold and put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark.

Exodus 37:1-9

The ark was a holy chest that God instructed the Israelites to build and dates to about 1500 BC. The lid was called the mercy seat, and on top were placed two angelic beings called cherubim, with their wings outstretched, and facing each other with their heads cast downward. It represented the throne of God and contained the tablets upon which the ten commandments were written with the Lord’s very own finger (see Exodus 31:18; 34:1,28). Located behind the veil of the Holy of Holies inside the Tabernacle, the ark was a symbol of God’s throne and rule. The Lord even spoke from within it:

There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.

Exodus 25:22

The ark served as a war palladium and could only be carried by members of the tribe of Levi. This was a special honour bequeathed by Moses, because of their unwavering service in carrying out the instructions of the Lord (see Exodus 32:29). The ark played a prominent role in the capture of Jericho (see Joshua 6 & 7). And when the ark was temporarily captured by the Philistines (see 1 Samuel 4 &5) it quickly became a curse to them. When the Temple was completed, the ark was deposited in the sanctuary (1 Kings 8:6-9). At the appointed time, the High Priest would sprinkle blood upon the mercy seat so that God’s judgement would fall upon an innocent substitute. This foreshadowed the sacrificial blood of Christ, the Lamb of God, who took away the sins of the world.

After the Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians the ark was probably removed or destroyed. Since the ark symbolised God’s desire to dwell in the heart of his people, it is not especially surprising that its disappearance coincided with their rebellion and exile into Babylon. Since this time, the ark of the Covenant has never been recovered. There is no shortage of speculation about what happened to it, but no one is sure. Perhaps the most reliable answer is that the prophet Jeremiah hid the ark in a cave atop Mount Nebo before the Babylonians captured Jerusalem. Curiously, an account in 2 Maccabees (Catholic Bible) supports this hypothesis:

It was also in the writing that the prophet, having received an oracle, ordered that the tent and the ark should follow with him, and that he went out to the mountain where Moses had gone up and had seen the inheritance of God. And Jeremiah came and found a cave, and he brought there the tent and the ark and the altar of incense, and he sealed up the entrance. Some of those who followed him came up to mark the way, but could not find it. When Jeremiah learned of it, he rebuked them and declared: “The place shall be unknown until God gathers his people together again and shows his mercy. And then the Lord will disclose these things, and the glory of the Lord and the cloud will appear, as they were shown in the case of Moses, and as Solomon asked that the place should be specially consecrated.”

2 Maccabees 2:4-8

 

In many ways, the ark represented the old covenant that was done away with when Christ died on the cross of Calvary. The prophet Jeremiah writes:

Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding. In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land,” declares the Lord, “people will no longer say, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord.’ It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made. At that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the Lord, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honour the name of the Lord. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts.

Jeremiah 3:15-17

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The Last Judgement by Michelangelo ( 1541). Image credit: Wiki Commons.

Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

Matthew 24:30-31

As Bible believing Christians, we ought to pay very close attention to the words of Jesus, for his utterances are completely trustworthy, unlike all the man made doctrines that are slowly poisoning the hearts and minds of his people. Jesus points out that at his second coming, all nations shall mourn when they see him on the clouds with his angels. But why will they mourn? Surely an epochal event of this nature ought to be joyous? For some it surely will, but for many others it will fill them with absolute dread! The simplest interpretation of this passage is that most will not be ready, but rather will be caught off guard. Will you be ready? Will you be caught off guard?

The prophet Isaiah writes:

Lead out those who have eyes but are blind,
who have ears but are deaf.
All the nations gather together
and the peoples assemble.
Which of their gods foretold this
and proclaimed to us the former things?
Let them bring in their witnesses to prove they were right,
so that others may hear and say, “It is true.”

                                                                                             Isaiah 43:8-9

172.

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives for ever.

                                                                                                                    1 John 2:15-17

Christians are called to live full, active and purpose filled lives. St. John informs us that much of what humans do is not of God at all but is instead grounded in the world. A lot, (perhaps the majority?) of what is beamed onto our TVs is tainted with graphic images and sentiments that are born of the flesh and have therefore no capacity to stimulate growth in the Spirit. We are called to protect our children from the barrage of media that does not respect the Lord of all creation. That said, are we to refrain from watching television or using the internet?  Not at all! These wonderful forms of technology can also be a cause for good. Keeping up with the local, national and international news is a useful activity, as we are called to remain watchful. We can use our discernment to select programmes, either online or on television, that are useful, educational and entertaining. The same is true of the various forms of social media. Old fashioned activities, such as reading, are also to be encouraged. In the end though, if we find that we are spending countless hours glued to a TV or computer screen, maybe the purposes that God has intended for us are not being fulfilled.  When the various media consume us and eat away large chunks of our free time, they can easily enslave us. That is the time to regain control and to rethink how we use these technologies for the furtherment of the Kingdom of God.

173.

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Hebrews 12:14

Peace forms the bedrock upon which growth in the Spirit occurs. Because the Lord is sovereign over all things, he gives his peace to all who trust in him. Doubtless the world will continue to have interpersonal conflicts and wars until Jesus returns and establishes true and everlasting peace. In the meantime, we are called to cultivate peace in our hearts and in our minds and to actively seek peace in our relationships with others, however much we disagree with each other. Jesus referred to peacemakers as ‘blessed’ (Matthew 5:9) and called us to be ministers of peace and reconcillation.

Concerning our Creator the psalmist declares :

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God”

Psalm 46:10

174.

It is possible to give away and become richer! It is also possible to hold on too tightly and lose everything. Yes, the liberal man shall be rich! By watering others, he waters himself.

Proverbs 11:24-25

Tell those who are rich not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which will soon be gone, but their pride and trust should be in the living God who always richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and should give happily to those in need, always being ready to share with others whatever God has given them.  By doing this they will be storing up real treasure for themselves in heaven—it is the only safe investment for eternity! And they will be living a fruitful Christian life down here as well.

1 Timothy 6:17-19

You’ve no doubt heard that it’s better to give than to receive. These ideas have their origin in the Bible. Yes, thousands of years before charities came into existence, the living word of God was right on the money!

Not too shabby!

175.

“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord,
  “and my servant whom I have chosen,
that you may know and believe me
 and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
 nor shall there be any after me.
 I, I am the Lord,
 and besides me there is no saviour.
 I declared and saved and proclaimed,
 when there was no strange god among you;
  and you are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and I am God.”

                                                                                                             Isaiah 43:10-12

Whichever way you slice it, besides the God of the Bible, we have a hopeless end.

But with the God of the Bible, we have endless hope!

176.

My youngest son, Doug, showing off his freshly caught rainbow trout.

Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth,
Before the difficult days come,
And the years draw near when you say,
“I have no pleasure in them”:
While the sun and the light,
The moon and the stars,
Are not darkened,
And the clouds do not return after the rain;

                                                                                  Ecclesiastes 12:1-2

It’s always better to be early than late. That way you don’t miss a trick. While the Lord will acknowledge any genuine act of repentance, even as death approaches in old age, there is a lot to be said about cultivating a robust faith while we are young and healthy. God wants us to be early to the table, as it were, and not leave everything until the last minute. Youth and vigour are wonderful blessings but they are meaningless unless they are centred in eternity. Solomon, who knew quite a few things about life’s pleasures, advises us that it’s always best to search God when we have the energy to do so, so that we learn and set patterns that will ultimately help us later in life. Come as you are, but if at all possible, please come early, declares the Sovereign Lord!

177.

Safe to bathe.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

Romans 8:28-29

Once we give our lives to Christ are we always saved? Can one lose one’s salvation? The Bible appears to suggest that some can, and indeed, do, backslide.  Consider the character of Demas, whom Paul states was a loyal co-worker in Christ:

 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.

Philemon 23-24

Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings.

Colossians 4:14

 

And yet, just a couple of years later, St. Paul informs us that Demas fell away:

Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica.

2 Timothy 4:9-10

Calvanism teaches that God has already chosen those he will save and that Christ died only for the sins of the ‘elect’. It follows, according to this doctrine, that he also foreknew those who would foresake him. This is a dangerous position however, as it implies that God makes us an accessory to sin, which is patently nonsense, as God is not the author of confusion.

A balanced reading of the Scriptures suggests something entirely different: God saves those who respond to his calling. In other words, the Lord has made salvation freely available to all but doesn’t automatically make it happen, for that would make him unrighteous.  No, that choice is entirely up to us.

I like to think of salvation as a process; a daily ritual of renewing a kind of ‘marriage vow,’ with the Lord, rather than a singular event in itself. I ask my Heavenly Father to forgive me for the sins I have committed in the past, and in the present, as well as the failings I will undoubtedly make in the future, for we all fall woefully short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

178.

Men at work. Image credit: Paul Keheler.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Come, let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces
but he will heal us;
he has injured us
but he will bind up our wounds.
After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will restore us,
that we may live in his presence.
Let us acknowledge the Lord;
let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises,
he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains,
like the spring rains that water the earth.’

Hosea 6:1-3

The God of the Bible is the bruiser of egos. He always tears down before he builds up. He inflicts wounds on the ungodly but is only too willing to heal and restore if we humble ourselves. Less is always more in the Kingdom of God.

179.

The Greek word atheoi, literally ‘those who are without God’, which appears in Ephesians 2:12 as recorded on a 3rd century papyrus.

And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Matthew 24:10-13

Without a shadow of a doubt, we live in an age of mass deception, scoffers, God haters and deniers, false doctrines and teachers; wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing hellbent on scattering the flock, but it pays to remember that Jesus himself warned us about these times. He foreknew these times.

This is precisely the time to hold the line, not to shirk responsibility, to keep on trusting in his promise.

 St. Paul, writing to the early church in Corinth encourages us thus:

 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

1 Corinthians 16:13

180.

Jesus appears on the shore of Lake Tiberias by James Tissot. Image credit: Wiki Commons.

Remember the former things of old:
for I am God, and there is none else;
I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning,
and from ancient times the things that are not yet done,
saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

Isaiah 46:9-10

Carl Sagan once remarked that if he had a chance to travel back in time, the first place he’d visit would be the Great Library of Alexandria, to immerse himself in the lost scientific knowledge of the ancient world. For me, it would undoubtedly be a trip to the shores of the Sea of Galilee, during the closing years of the principate of Tiberius Caesar (14 AD to 37AD), in search of a miracle worker named, Jeshua.

181.

The Lord spoke to Job from the whirlwind.

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said,

Who is this that darkeneth counsel
by words without knowledge?
Gird up now thy loins like a man;
for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.

 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?
declare, if thou hast understanding.
 Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest?
or who hath stretched the line upon it?
Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened?
or who laid the corner stone thereof;
when the morning stars sang together,
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth,
as if it had issued out of the womb?
When I made the cloud the garment thereof,
and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it,
 and brake up for it my decreed place,
and set bars and doors,
and said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further:
and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?

Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days;
and caused the dayspring to know his place;
that it might take hold of the ends of the earth,
that the wicked might be shaken out of it?
It is turned as clay to the seal; and they stand as a garment.
And from the wicked their light is withholden,
and the high arm shall be broken.
Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea?
or hast thou walked in the search of the depth?
Have the gates of death been opened unto thee?
or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?
 Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth?
declare if thou knowest it all.

Where is the way where light dwelleth?
and as for darkness, where is the place thereof,
 that thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof,
and that thou shouldest know the paths to the house thereof?
Knowest thou it, because thou wast then born?
or because the number of thy days is great?
Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?
or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail,
 which I have reserved against the time of trouble,
against the day of battle and war?
By what way is the light parted,
which scattereth the east wind upon the earth?
Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters,
or a way for the lightning of thunder;
 to cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is;
on the wilderness, wherein there is no man;
to satisfy the desolate and waste ground;
and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth?
 Hath the rain a father?
or who hath begotten the drops of dew?
Out of whose womb came the ice?
and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it?
The waters are hid as with a stone,
and the face of the deep is frozen.

Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades,
or loose the bands of Orion?
Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season?
or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?
Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven?
canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?
 Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds,
that abundance of waters may cover thee?
Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go,
and say unto thee, Here we are?
 Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts?
or who hath given understanding to the heart?
 Who can number the clouds in wisdom?
or who can stay the bottles of heaven,
 when the dust groweth into hardness,
and the clods cleave fast together?
 Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion?
or fill the appetite of the young lions,
when they couch in their dens,
and abide in the covert to lie in wait?
Who provideth for the raven his food?
when his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat.

Job 38.

The beautiful and arresting words of the Lord, when he spoke to his servant, Job. Some people feel they have a right to question, demand from, or even threaten God. Here we get a true sense of perspective.

What is all of human knowledge, the achievements of our kind, compared with our Creator?

It amounts to nothing; less than nothing!

If we took just a moment to contemplate the Lord’s infinite perfections, we would more clearly see that he has a right to our love, and more clearly understand the utter folly of rebelling against him, as well as our need of his mercy and salvation.

182.

An interesting patch of the Hubble Deep Field Image. Credit: Wiki Commons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,

and the heavens are the work of your hands.

They will perish, but you will remain;

 they will all wear out like a garment.

You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,

but you are the same, and your years have no end.

Psalm 102:25-27

Any true science is never in conflict with divine revelation and thus can never constitute a threat to the Christian faith. As the Psalmist declares, the Bible anticipated the universal law of decay: the second law of thermodynamics; millennia before it was formally couched in scientific terms. The Universe, if left to its own devices, is destined to run down and die in a cold, dark heat death.

St. Paul, writing to the early church in Rome, tells us that everything we observe; every creature that lives, is in a state of bondage, where pain, suffering and eventually death ensues.

 

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

Romans 8:22

Yet in the midst of these travails, we can still experience real hope, love and peace. For we have a great High Priest in Jesus, the Lord, who lives forever. He has promised to intervene well before this ‘fatal destiny’ manifests itself, rolling up the existing cosmos like a scroll (Isaiah 34:4) and creating new heavens and a new Earth, a place where nature does not “groan.” A place for those who love and honour him (Revelation 21:1).

Praise the Lord!

183.

St. Seraphim of Sarov sharing his meal with a bear. Image credit: Wiki Commons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire;
He rages against all wise judgment.

Proverbs 18:1

The Bible is full of the most wonderful wisdom. While we certainly ought to avoid media that dishonours the Lord, we should remain engaged with people and not give up on them. The Lord wants us to build bridges not burn them.

184.

“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Thus says the Lord,

Who gives the sun for a light by day,

The ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night,

Who disturbs the sea,

And its waves roar

(The Lord of hosts is His name):

“If those ordinances depart

From before Me, says the Lord,

Then the seed of Israel shall also cease

From being a nation before Me forever.”

Thus says the Lord:

“If heaven above can be measured,

And the foundations of the earth searched out beneath,

I will also cast off all the seed of Israel

For all that they have done, says the Lord.

 

Jeremiah 31:31-37

Is the Lord’s business with Israel over?  The words of Scripture provide us with a clear and unambiguous answer; no!

As the Prophet Jeremiah writes, the Lord made a new covenant with the house of Israel which was fulfilled by the coming of the Messiah; Jesus of Nazareth. What is more, this covenant is legally binding until the Lord wraps up history, when Jesus comes again to judge the nations. As Jeremiah explains, no sooner would God abandon that promise than change the physical laws that govern heaven and earth!

Will the Jews be treated any differently to Gentiles? Yes and no. St. Paul tells us that Jews who live under the law of Moses will be judged by the same law. Gentiles are to be judged by a different set of criteria based on the same moral law. As believers, this judgement pertains to rewards. In the scheme of things though, the outcome is probably the same. For example; if some Gentiles are taken out, so are some Jews!

The Prophet Amos writes:

Thus says the Lord:

“As a shepherd takes from the mouth of a lion

Two legs or a piece of an ear,

So shall the children of Israel be taken out

Who dwell in Samaria—

In the corner of a bed and on the edge of a couch!

Amos 3:12

 

St. Paul, writing to the church in Rome elaborates:

As He says also in Hosea:

“I will call them My people, who were not My people,

And her beloved, who was not beloved.”

“And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them,

‘You are not My people,’

There they shall be called sons of the living God.”

Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel:

“Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea,

The remnant will be saved.

For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness,

Because the Lord will make a short work upon the earth.”

Romans 9:25-28

Furthermore, St. Paul makes it clear that Israel is not to be understood in the strict political sense of the word, that is, the nation state located in the Middle East, but instead the biblical Israel consists of the ‘branches, of which the Jews are but one,’ sustained by the ‘root’, that is, the Living God; as well as those other branches ‘grafted in,’ which represent believing Gentiles:

 

You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.

Romans 11:19-21

In this way, and as the Scriptures say,  all ‘Israel’ will be saved;

And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

“The Deliverer will come out of Zion,

And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;

Romans 11:29

Thus, to assert that the Jews will be treated any differently to the Gentiles is unbiblical. The truth is, there are godly and ungodly people among all nations. And since God does not show partiality (Romans 2:11), this is entirely in keeping with his character. The Jews are our brothers and sisters, no more and no less.

There is also a message here for Christians who have ‘Zionist’ agendas. Before his ascension, Jesus held this exchange with his disciples:

Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.

Acts 1:6-7

Two points to note here:

  • The apostles had no idea that Jesus was about to disappear for two thousand years, for they had not yet received the Spirit of truth.
  • Jesus reminds them that these matters have been placed in the Father’s “authority.” What’s gonna happen will happen, and no one really knows!

185.

Political map of the world. Image credit: Wiki Commons.

 As it is written:

‘There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.’

                                                                         Romans 3:10-12

It is estimated that about one billion people living on Earth today have never heard of Christ, let alone the gospels. And what of the countless millions who lived before Christ? Is it possible that they will avoid judgement?

Although the Bible does not have a specific passage that can address these questions, some passages in Romans, St. Paul’s masterpiece, provide good answers.

In the mind’s eye, one might imagine an individual (beyond the age of accountability as it pertains to Matthew 18:14) who either was, or is, morally perfect but who never heard of Christ. Would such a person end up in heaven? Yes! But here’s the rub: such a person has never existed!

Romans 3:10-12 tells us that no one is righteous in and of themselves. Every man (with the sole exception of Jesus), woman and child who lives or has ever lived has fallen short. There are no exceptions. They have all broken the moral law.

In Chapter 1, St. Paul tells us that all people have a knowledge of God the Father but have rejected Him:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.

Romans 1:18-19

Accordingly, they will be judged by their deeds and thoughts.

For those who have heard of Christ, St. Paul tells us how to attain righteousness in God’s eyes:

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too,  since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

                                                                                                                 Romans 3:21-31

St. Paul also tells us that we must constantly strive to bring the gospel to as many people as possible. This is a noble cause, for their eternal destiny is at stake. You might have heard it said that such and such a person has a ‘quiet faith,’ and that the same person would never have the ‘brass neck’ to share it with anyone else. But this is precisely the kind of mindset the Lord told us not to have!

And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.

Mark 3:10

St. Paul brings all of this into sharp focus in Romans Chapter 10:

for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!

Romans 10:13-15

186.

A Swiss commemorative medal issued in 1979, showing Einstein’s vacuum field equations with zero cosmological constant. Image credit: Wiki Commons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath,

Hebrews 6:17

Some folk are uncomfortable with God’s refusal to bend or compromise His statutes. But that’s rather like saying “I don’t like gravity” or “I don’t like electricity.” If you disrespect the law of gravity you’ll get hurt. If you stick your finger in a light socket, you’ll suffer the consequences. Or saying you don’t believe in trucks won’t remove the possibility that one could run you over. You see, we don’t really dislike the law of gravity, or the conservation of momentum, or those principles that govern electromagnetism. We respect them and cultivate a healthy fear for them, allowing them to work for our good. The same ought to apply with our relationship with our Creator.

187.

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,  to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

Galatians 4:4-7

Galatians chapter 4 presents arguably some of the most important lines of Scripture in the entire Bible. In accepting Christ as our saviour, we will be made fellow sons & daughters of the living God, and heirs to the Divine Creation!

What an amazing revelation!

Praise the Lord!

Continued in Part VI

 

A Modern Commentary on W.F. Denning’s “Telescopic Work for Starlight Evenings” [1891] Part II

Octavius; the authors 8" f/6 Newtonian Reflector

Octavius; the author’s 8″ f/6 Newtonian Reflector.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continued from Part I

 

Chapter IX Mars

Covering pages 155-166

Mars is the fourth planet in order of distance from the Sun. He revolves in an orbit outside that of the Earth, and is the smallest of the superior planets. His brilliancy is sometimes considerable when he occupies a position near to the Earth, and he emits an intense red light, which renders his appearance all the more striking. Ordinarily his lustre does not equal that of Jupiter, though when favourably placed he becomes a worthy rival of that orb. In 1719 he shone so brightly and with such a fiery aspect as to cause a panic. The superstitious notions and belief in astrological influences prevailing at that time no doubt gave rise to the popular apprehension that the ruddy star was an omen of disaster, and thus it was regarded with feelings of terror. Fortunately the light of science has long since removed such ideas from amongst us, and celestial objects, in all their various forms, are contemplated without misgiving. They are rather welcomed as affording the means of advancing our knowledge of God’s wonderful works as displayed in the heavens.

pp 155

In line with previous chapters, Mr. Denning summarises the main physical data associated with the Red Planet, which is essentially modern. Mars can vary enormously in its apparent size, from 4″ when it is near conjunction with the Sun, and swelling to over 30 seconds of arc at opposition. It has been known since the time of Galileo that Mars can present with a prominent gibbous phase. When it is furthest from the earth, Denning reminds us that it is only large, observatory class telescopes can make out any significant details on the Mars, but as it approaches opposition it can become a ‘magnificent object’ worthy of telescopic scrutiny. He advises that meaningful observations conducted by amateurs should really only be done in the weeks leading up to and following opposition.

Denning is clearly aware that the Martian atmosphere is very rarefied in comparison to our own world and thus its surface features are relatively easy to delineate in a modest telescope. The discussion then develops with a mention of some seminal historic observations conducted by his astronomical forebears, most notable of which are Fontana, Cassini and Huygens, who came up with pretty astonishing measures of the rotation period of the planet (now called a sol), which demonstrated that a Martian day was only a little longer than the Earth.

Denning mentions the intense white patches seen at the planet’s poles but still cautions to call them “polar snows.” A drawing of the planet as it appeared to Denning on the evening of April 13 1836 appears on page 157 using his 10-inch Newtonian, power 252x.

On page 158 of the text, Mr. Denning describes the long tradition of Martian map-making, that is, aerography, conducted by many of his diligent predecessors, including the work of Maraldi, Herschel, Schroter, Madler, Schmidt and Dawes, whose named adorned the earliest martian maps available to amateur astronomers. Darker regions were almost invariably associated with ‘seas,’ and the brighter sections, ‘continents,’ indicating that these early telescopists were keen to impress a sense of the familiar to the planetary images they studied with their instruments.

By the time he was penning the words of this text (c1890), Denning humorously quips that the naming of new Martian features had been reduced to the level of farce:

A few years ago, when christening celestial formations was more in fashion than it is now, a man simply had to use a telescope for an evening or two on Mars or the Moon, and spice the relation of his seeings with something in the way of novelty, when his name would be pretty certainly attached to an object and hung in the heavens for all time! A writer in the ‘Astronomical Register’ for January 1879 humorously suggested that “the matter should be put into the hands of an advertizing agent” and “made the means of raising a revenue for astronomical purposes.” Some men would not object to pay handsomely for the distinction of having their names applied to the seas and continents of Mars or to the craters of the Moon.

pp 158-9

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Author’s note: How ironic!  Denning was almost prophetic about the “cash for names” culture that would grow up in modern times. No need for the learned astronomer; one can now purchase one’s own star. My eldest son had a star named after him – a well meaning gift from a friend – though he wasn’t too impressed when he saw it through a telescope!

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On pages 159 through 160, Mr. Denning discusses the ‘recent’ discovery of the two diminutive satellites of Mars discovered by Professor Asaph Hall using the 25.8 inch Washington refractor in 1877. These eluded the eye of both Sir William Herschel, who undoubtedly used large enough instruments to detect them, as well as the astronomers who used the great 72-inch Leviathan of Parsonstown. Denning doesn’t provide any real explanations for this anomaly but may well have been attributed to the fact that the great refractor was mounted on a state-of-the-art, clock-driven equatorial mount, which helped to stabilise the images of the planet from moment to moment and was most ably suited to studying images for prolonged periods.

Denning also discusses the interesting phenomenon of the Martian “canals” [Denning’s emphasis] as observed by G.V. Schiaparelli beginning in the winter of 1881, together with their evolution into ‘duple’ structures by the summer of 1890.  Curiously, while Denning does mention a few other individuals who saw the canals, he himself does not emphatically admit seeing such structures (see page 160). Perhaps the most illuminating confirmation of the Martian canals comes from Denning’s compatriot, the lawyer and amateur planetary observer, A. Stanley Williams of Brighton, who recorded no less than 43 such structures, seven of which were clearly double, and all using only a 6.5 inch Calver reflector using powers between 320 and 430, though magnifications below 300 were deemed useless.

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Author’s note: That Williams was able to employ powers of and in excess of 50x per inch of aperture using his 6.5 inch Calver bears some testimony to the underlying quality of its optics; a point well borne out by my discussions with a few contemporary observers ( see a commentary on a 10-inch instrument about three fifths the way down Part I for an example) who have restored such instruments to functional use.

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Having said all that, Denning does provide his recommendations concerning the size of telescope that will provide fine, high magnification details of the Red Planet under favourable conditions;

Rather a high power must be employed – certainly more than 200; and if the telescope  has an aperture of at least 8 inches, the observer will be sure to discern a considerable extent of detail.

pp 162-3

Denning divides Martian surface phenomena into a number of categories:

  1. Seas; which he defines as dark areas, some of which can be picked up with apertures as small as 1.5 inches. He mentions the excellent work of Charles Grover, who started his career with very small instruments (see page 160).
  2.  Lighter areas that surround the ‘seas’ which can extend for hundreds of miles.
  3. Irregular streaks, condensations and veins, which, to some degree or other may appear linear. He does suggest however that on a night of good seeing, these linear structures resolve into ‘spots’ (page 161).
  4.  Atmospheric features owing to Mars’ thin but still appreciable sea of air, some of which can be traced right the way to the limbs of the planet.

Denning presents still more invaluable information concerning measures of the rotation period of the Red Planet as estimated by a dozen or so astronomers dating from the mid-17th century. Although all of these estimates are very accurate, it is curious that Sir William Herschel got closest to the modern accepted value as early as 1784, a full century before Denning penned this work. He includes his own value of 24 hours, 37 minutes and 22.34 seconds reduced from data collated from 15 years of observations made from his home in Bristol[see footnote on page 162]!

The remainder of this interesting chapter covers some historical sightings of the satellites of Mars- Deimos and Phobos. Denning notes that no sooner had Asaph Hall discovered them with the 25.8 inch Washington Refractor that a suite of other sightings were reported using much smaller instruments; some as diminutive as 7.3 inches! This seems all the more incredulous considering that at greatest elongation from the planet, Phobos and Deimos shine feebly at magnitudes +11.5 and +13.5, and are separated from the Martian limb by a mere 12″ and 32″, respectively.

Finally, Denning mentions some notable historic occultations of Mars on page 166.

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Author’s note: The 165km-wide Martian crater, Denning, located  at 17.7° south latitude and 326.6° west longitude in the Sinus Sabaeus quadrangle, has been named in honour of the great British observer;

Denning Crater, Mars.

High resolution image of Denning Crater, Mars.

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Chapter X The Planetoids

Covering pages 167-169

In this very short chapter, Mr. Denning describes the state of affairs of asteroid discoveries made up until that time and their location, orbiting some 2-4 times further out from the Sun than the Earth, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. He recounts the elucidation of Ceres by Piazzi in 1801 and a few of the brighter asteroid discoveries in the decades that followed. Denning discloses that at the time of writing (c.1890), some 300 planetoids had been discovered at a rate of about six per annum, though many more were yet to be discovered. The largest and brightest of these are visible in common, backyard telescopes but they are not the most exciting objects to observe owing to their diminutive size. Denning wisely suggests that on-going searches for asteroids be conducted by properly equipped observatory-class instruments.

On page168 Denning makes this interesting remark:

A real variation of light has been assumed to occur, but this is not fully proved.

pp 168

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Author’s note:  Denning alludes to the possibility that the asteroids vary in brightness. Today we know that asteroids rotate and thus display different surfaces to the sunlit side facing the Earth. These surfaces will often have differing albedos, thereby explaining the variation in brightness. Today, though astronomers estimate that millions of asteroids exist, only 60 or so have sizes larger than about 60 kilometres and about 750,000 have sizes of the order of 1 kilometre. Most of the asteroids uncovered during Denning’s lifetime were between magnitude 10 and 12. Asteroids are thought to represent the left over debris from the formation of the solar system, some 4.6 billion years ago.

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Chapter XI Jupiter

Covering pages 170-194

Of all the planets, Jupiter is the most interesting for study by the amateur. It is true that Saturn forms an exquisite object, and that his wonderful ring-system is well calculated  to incite admiration as a feature unique in the solar system. But when the two planets come to be repeatedly observed, and the charm of first impressions has worn away, the observer must admit that Jupiter, with his broad disk and constantly changing markings, affords the materials for prolonged study and sustained interest. With Saturn the case is different.His features are apparently quiescent; usually there are no definite spots upon the belts and rings. There is a sameness in the telescopic views; and this ultimately leads to a feeling of monotony, which causes the object to be neglected in favour of another where active changes are in visible progress.

pp 170

William Denning was arguably the most experienced observer in the world at the height of his astronomical career. Having clocked up thousands of hours conducting naked eye observations of meteors, scanning the sky for comets (of which he was the discoverer of five such bodies), and providing regular and highly detailed views of the planets, his opinions were well sought after by the best professional astronomers of the day. In regard to planets, it was arguably the giant world, Jupiter, that captivated his imagination most strongly, and for reasons he makes clear in the opening paragraph of the chapter quoted above. It is therefore no small wonder that he dedicated 24 pages to its study.

Denning’s renderings of Jove were referenced in every authoritative work on the planet over the past century. For serious work on Jupiter, Denning used his 10-inch silver-on-glass reflector, the drawings from which were widely disseminated in the popular publications of the day. These and other archives show that he employed the same instrument to continue his Jupiter studies for a full decade after he penned his magnum opus.

Denning’s interest in Jupiter appeared to be mostly scientific in nature. As we have seen with the other planets, he spent long hours making estimates of the rotation of these bodies, Jupiter included. But in making such observations, he picked up many fine details of this complex and rapidly changing world, the characteristics of which have been confirmed to exist in the modern age.

After describing the various belts and zones that can be seen though a good telescope, Denning, as usual, never fails to acknowledge the outstanding work of his forebears in establishing many of the basic facts often taken for granted by his contemporaries [and his descendants too]. On page 172, he mentions that the earliest detection of distinct belts girdling the planet was made by “Zucchi” as early as 1630. Undoubtedly, Denning was referring to the Italian Jesuit priest and astronomer, Niccolo Zucchi(1586-1670), who made many important contributions to the science of optics, even proposing that concave mirrors could replace lenses to focus light as early as 1616 (these and other topics are discussed at much greater length in the author’s up and coming book, Tales from the Golden Age of Astronomy).

It was astronomers such as Robert Hooke and G.D. Cassini, using the long focus non-achromatic refractor, who were amongst the first to see definite spots on the planet, allowing them to make good estimates of Jupiter’s rotation period. Denning informs us that it was Cassini who first noted that spots located at different Jovian latitudes appeared to rotate at different degrees of celerity; the higher the latitude the slower the rate of rotation. Cassini measured this discrepancy to about 6 minutes, while Sir William Herschel, observing a century later, whittled it down to nearer 5 minutes.

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Author’s note: the phenomenon of differential rotation, that is, when different parts of a body rotate at different rates, is indicative of the non-solid makeup of the body under study and can readily be observed by amateur telescopes on the Sun, Jupiter and Saturn. Differential rotation is the reason why Jupiter observers acknowledge different systems of longitude on the planet: System I, which defines the longitude of the equatorial region, rotates at a rate of 9 h 50min and 30.003 seconds, while System II longitude, covering the higher latitudes (both north and south), has a period of 9h 55 min and 40.6 seconds.

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Beginning at the bottom of page 173 and continuing through to 175, Denning engages in a fascinating discussion on arguably Jupiter’s most interesting phenomenon; the Great Red Spot. He describes how this enormous elliptical shaped feature has changed dramatically in size and colour intensity over the years (as evidenced by many of his own superlative drawings of the Jovian disk). During the late 19th century, the spot was enormous;

From measures at Chicago, in the years 1879 to 1884, Prof. Hough found that the mean dimensions of the spot to be:- Length 11″.75, breadth 3″.71. these figures represent a real length of 25,900 miles and a diameter of 8200 miles. The latitude of the spot was 6″.97S

pp 174

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Author’s note: What invaluable information we have here! How else might we obtain such knowledge?  The Great Red Spot has been shrinking throughout the 20th century. During NASA’s Voyager spacecraft flybys in 1979, it had a major axis of 14,500 miles and a Hubble Space Telescope measure made in 1995, showed it to be only 13,020 miles across. Finally in 2009, it had shrink still further to just 11,130 miles. My own telescopic observations over the years have also confirmed that it is both decreasing in size as well as rapidly losing its elliptical shape, and is more circular than it has been in living memory. No one knows precisely why this is the case, but since we do know it is a massive storm system, it must lose energy as it ages and thus, we may be witnessing its slow demise. Is the Giant Planet in the process of losing its most iconic telescopic feature? Will it be visible to future generations? I wonder!

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Mr. Denning, like many of his contemporaries, used the Great Red Spot (GRS) to obtain estimates of the rotation period of Jupiter. On page 175 however, he does present some intriguing data which show significant changes in the GRS rotation rate.

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Author’s note: It is not at all clear whether Denning was altogether aware of the possibility that the GRS itself was not fixed in longitude, but in fact slowly drifts over time. The interested reader should consult the later work of Bertrand M. Peek, who, in his book, The Planet Jupiter; An Observer’s Handbook(1958) provides some excellent graphical data showing just how much the GRS has drifted in longitude over time (1851-1935) on page 153 of the text.

Because atmospheric features such as the GRS are not fixed in longitude, they cannot ultimately be relied upon to arrive at the best rotation period measures for the planet. Today planetary scientists have abandoned all such approaches, relying instead upon the rotation of the Jovian magnetosphere as the most reliable method of deriving the planet’s rotation period. This so-called System III method, presents a rotation period of 9h 55 min.

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After discussing the usual Jovian features such as spots, barges, belts and zones, Denning returns to the GRS and speculates on why, over the years, its colour intensity varied so much with the passing of the years. On page 179, he offers a fascinating, and, as far as this author is aware, unique explanation of his own:

My own opinion of the spot is that it represents an opening in the atmosphere of Jupiter, through which , in 1872-82, we saw the dense red vapours of his lower strata, if not his actual surface itself. Its lighter tint in recent years is probably due to the filling-in of the cavity by the encroachment of durable clouds in the vicinity.

pp 179

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Author’s note: Denning was incorrect about claiming to see the ‘surface’ of the planet. But his explanation of why the GRS varied in colour intensity is very imaginative and is at least scientifically plausible. In other literary sources we learn that Denning believed the spot to sink and soar periodically in the Jovian atmosphere, causing it to fade and intensify over time.  This idea has fallen out of favour with planetary scientists today however. Instead they propose that the brick red colour of the spot is due to the complex interactions of  cyano compounds with sunlight. Other researchers have implicated sulphur- and phosphorus-rich molecules upwelled from deep within the Jovian atmosphere.

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On page 178, he provides a plate of Jupiter drawings made by some of the finest British observers of Jupiter including Dawes, Huggins, Joseph Gledhill, as well as one presented by Denning himself. Curiously, the drawings show considerable detail that are broadly comparable between observers. Historically speaking, Dawes was in possession of a fine 7.5 inch Clark refractor at the time the drawing was recorded, Huggins employed a slightly larger 8.25 inch Clark object glass, and Gledhill probably used a similarly sized equatorial refractor to conduct his sketches(dated to 1870 and 1872).

Denning devotes the next few pages to discussions concerning other bright and dark equatorial spots and peculiar changes to the belt system of the planet as described by a variety of historically significant observers. This is followed by some general advice to the would-be student of the Giant planet:

Drawings of Jupiter obtained under the highest powers that may be employed with advantage, and with a cautious regard to faithful delineation, will probably throw much light on the phenomena occurring in the planet’s atmosphere. And it is most desirable  to pursue the various markings year after year with unflagging perseverance; for it is only by such means that we can hope to unravel the extraordinary problem which their visible behaviour offers for solution. Too much stress cannot possibly be laid on the necessity of the observers being as precise as possible in their records. The times when an object comes to the central meridian should invariably be noted; for this affords a clue to its longitude, and a means of determining its velocity. Its position N. and S. of the equator, should be either measured or estimated; and alterations in tone, figure or tint described, with a view to ascertain its real character.

pp 183

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Author’s note: a modern 8-10-inch reflector will show a wealth of detail on Jupiter, quite comparable to the drawings recorded on page 178 of Denning’s tome. Some of the finest contemporary renditions of Jupiter can be seen in the work of Dr. Paul Abel, an astronomer by profession, but also a keen amateur planetary observer, who uses an equatorially mounted 8-inch f/6 Newtonian to conduct all his superlative planetary drawings.

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In the remainder of this fascinating chapter, Mr. Denning extols the virtues of observing the many fascinating satellite phenomena associated with Jupiter. A table presented on page 188 gives some of the basic physical data of the Galilean satellites (abbreviated I to IV in order of distance from the planet). Their measured angular diameters (ranging from 0.91 to 1.49″) agree well with modern figures. What is more, they were all large enough for Denning to record them as discernible disks with his 10-inch With-Browning reflector, even when they are located to one side of the planet or the other.

Denning states that Sir William Herschel was amongst the first to observe differences in albedo in the Galilean satellites, particularly in observations carried out between 1794 and 1796. Denning attributes these differences to real surface features:

Spots exist on the surfaces of these objects, and probably occasion many of the differences observed.

pp 189

On page 193, Denning provides still more historical details of observers who recorded distinct markings on the Galilean satellites:

Spots have been seen on the satellites both in transit and while shining on the dark sky. This particularly refers to III and IV. II has never given indications of such markings on its bright uniformly clear surface. Dawes, Lassell and Secchi frequently observed  and drew spots. Secchi described III as similar in aspect to the mottled disk of Mars as seen in a small telescope; his drawings  exhibit no analogy, however, to those of Dawes of the same object. III. has been remarked as a curious shape, as if dark spots obliterated  part of the limbs. Sat I. was observed in transit on Sept. 8, 1890 by Barnard and Burnham, and it appeared to be double, being divided by a bright interval or belt. They used a 12-inch refractor, powers 500 and 700, and the seeing was very fine.

pp 193

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Author’s note: In retrospect, it is not at all surprising that surface details on satellite II were not forthcoming, owing to its diminutive size (0.91″) and its smooth ice-covered surface. Denning also notes the observations of E.E. Barnard and S.W. Burnham who were able to use powers of 500 and 700x on a 12-inch Clark refractor, providing further evidence of their optical prowess in sharp contradistinction to the prognostications of the ‘forum culture’ of the post-modern amateur, who has been blinded by his/her committment to materialism.

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Chapter XII Saturn

Covering pages 195-214

The globe of Saturn is surrounded by a system of highly reflective rings, giving to the planet a character of form which finds no parallel among the other orbs f our solar system. His peculiar construction is well calculated to be attractive in the highest degree to all those who take delight in viewing the wonders of the heavens. Saturn is justly considered one of the most charming pictures which the telescope unfolds. A person who for the first time beholds the planet, encircled in his rings and surrounded by his moons, can hardly subdue an exclamation of surprise and wonder at a spectacle as unique as it is magnificent. Even older observers, who again and again return to the contemplation of this remarkable orb, confess they do so unwearyingly, because they find no parallel elsewhere; the beautifully curving outline of the symmetrical image always retains its interest, and refreshes them with thoughts of the Divine Architect who framed it! The luminous system of rings attending this planet not only gratifies the eye but gives rise to entertaining speculations as to its origin, character, and purposes with regard to the globe of Saturn. Why, it has to be asked, was this planet alone endowed with so novel an appendage? And what particular design does it fulfil in the economy of Saturn? It cannot be regarded as simply an ornament in the firmament, but must subserve important ends, though these may not yet have been revealed to the eye of our understanding.

pp 195-6

In these opening lines of chapter 12, Mr. Denning lays bare the palpable sense of fascination with Saturn and its glorious ring system as revealed by the power of the telescope. The great telescopic observer had a very highly developed spiritual awareness of the created order of things made by the God of the Bible (he clearly identified himself as Christian). Denning clearly felt the Solar System was designed purposefully, to reflect the glory of its creator as well as to delight and stimulate the mind of man. And though Saturn’s rings may not have an obvious ‘purpose’ in maintaining the planet, they most certainly reveal something of the ‘Divine Architect’ who manifested them.

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Author’s note: The Solar System does indeed show remarkable evidence of design, such that of all the planetary systems characterised by astronomers to date, none is quite like our own. Advances in knowledge are revealing a remarkable sequence of events that shaped the formation of our planetary system in anticipation of the emergence of humankind. Though some men of science still vainly persist in entertaining the notion that there is nothing special about our predicament in space and time, there is no escaping the conclusion that we exist on this planet for a reason.

Denning was not aware that other planets exhibit ring systems albeit, very faint ones, including Jupiter and Uranus, which were not discovered until well into the age of robotic space exploration.

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One the great joys of reading older authors of astronomy is that they can provide brand-new insights and factual information that has been lost in the mists of time. As commented on previously, Denning was very meticulous in his presentation of historical information as introductory material for his chapters on visual observing. One gains the strong impression that he felt it right and honourable to note, albeit briefly, the achievements of those observers who came before him, and to include the comments of his contemporaries, even if they did not accord with his own.

For example, we all know that G.V. Cassini discovered the famous division in the ring system that bears his name. But can anyone inform me of the conditions under which he made these observations?

No?

I guessed not. Neither could I, incidentally, until this evening, that is.

You see, on page 198, we learn that the Cassini Division was discovered in twilight! And Denning tells us that he gets this information from Dr. Smith’s Optics (1738), who recounted the story thus:

In the year 1676, after Saturn had emerged from the Sun’s rays Sig. Cassini saw him in the morning twilight with a darkish belt upon his globe, parallel to the long axis of his ring as usual. But what was most remarkable, the broad side of the ring was bisected right round by a dark elliptical line, dividing it, as it were, into two rings, of which the inner ring appeared brighter than the other one, with nearly the like difference in brightness as between that of silver polished and unpolished- which, though never observed before, was seen many times after with tubes of 34 and 20 feet, and more evidently in twilight or moonlight than in a darker sky.

pp 198.

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Author’s note: Although this is ‘secondary source’ material, of course, it is nonetheless thrilling to ‘discover’ a historical morsel like this popping up in the pages of Denning’s tome. This author spends a considerable amount of time each year observing in twilight conditions, and enjoys finding things in twilight. He can also vouch that lunar and planetary images can look magnificent in twilight. Incidentally, as already mentioned, Denning was a keen observer by day and by night. Indeed, if the date of the Jupiter drawing made by Denning, and reproduced below, is correct, modern computer programs can show us that he must have observed it in a bright sky!

Denning's sketch of Jupiter dated February 13, 1888 showing the unusually large GRS and bright cloud within its confines. Source: http://www.phenomena.org.uk/page105/page131/page131.html

Denning’s sketch of Jupiter dated February 13, 1888 showing the unusually large GRS and bright cloud within its confines.
Source: http://www.phenomena.org.uk/page105/page131/page131.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But to what extent, if anything, is Cassini’s assertion that his celebrated Division can be seen better in twilight? Is there any science to back that up?

Nescio.

It’d be cool to follow this up though,don’t you think, with experiments and the like.

Those ancient duffers eh, saving us from the dreaded brain rot, keeping the old grey matter ticking over!

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A Great Old Telescope: Dr. Jim Stephens, based in Mississippi, USA, kindly sent me a link to an antique With-Browning reflecting telescope, owned by Robert A. Garfinkle FRAS. The instrument, a 8-inch f/7.5 silver-on-glass speculum, was originally owned by Edmund Neison (1851-1938), who passed it on to Thomas Gwyn Elger (1838-97), who passed it on to Walter Goodacre (1856-1938), who passed it on to Hugh Percy Wilkins (1896-1960) before being acquired by Garfinkle. These individuals were highly accomplished and highly respected lunar observers in their day. This instrument would have been very similar to that employed by Denning in his surveys of the sky. The reader will note the mirror was re-silvered and tested at Kitt Peak, where its accuracy was estimated to be about 1/25 wave; not bad at all for an antique Newtonian and a testimony to the kind of quality available to those Newtonian users of old.

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Denning, as a world class authority on the planet Saturn, discusses many curious phenomena recorded by observers, both historical and contemporary. For example, on page 200 Denning states that only two relaible determinations of the planet’s rotation period had been made; the first by Sir William Herschel dating to 1793, who provided a value of 10 hours and 16 minutes, and another almost a century later by Professor Asaph Hall, who estimated Saturn’s day length to be 10 hours 14 minutes. Denning informs us that both observers had estimated these timings by following the progress of bright and dark spots in the upper atmosphere of the planet. Curiously, he also notes that Hershel made an earlier estimate of 10 hours 32 minutes and 15 seconds.

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 Author’s note: The modern accepted value for the length of a Saturnian day is 10 hours, 39 minutes and 22 seconds, which is especially close to Herschel’s measure. It never ceases to amaze this author how astonishingly close this celebrated astronomer from antiquity did using equipment most modern observers would turn their nose up at.

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On pages 201 through 205, Denning launches into a most fascinating discussion on Saturn’s rings, reminding of facts that are all too often forgotten, such as the greater brightness of the inner ring (with the Cassini division proving the cut off) in comparison with the outer. On page 201, he states that the angular width of the Cassini division is 0.4″ which translates to a real width of 1700 miles. He brings to our attention the remarkable fact that very small telescopes are able to see this division, such as a report by Charles Grover, who observed it clearly with a 2 inch refractor (see a note towards the bottom of page 209 for reference).

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Author’s note: The actual width of the Cassini division is depenedent upon where it is measured in respect of the planet. At its widest extent, it is about 0.75″ but is significantly narrower as it is measured along an imaginary line running through its central meridian. That said, Denning was clearly aware that on an extended object at least, angular resolution was considerably better than that attributed to double star measurement. The Dawes Limit for a 2 inch aperture, for example, being 4.57/2 = 2.29″.

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Two splendid drawings of Saturn accompany the text; one made by the distinguished Belgian observer F. Terby (page 203) and another on page 201, by Denning himself (with his 10 inch reflector, power 252 diameters). Both reveal great skill in their execution, showing not only the celebrated Cassini division but also the Crepe ring and the Encke division in the outer ring. Extensive banding on the globe is also recorded in both drawings.

On page 204, in a section entitled Discordant Observations, Denning brings our attention to the dangers of attributing too much to telescopes of very small aperture:

It is curious that the details of Saturn have occasioned more dissension amongst observers than those of any other planet. This may have partly arisen from the great distance of Saturn, the comparitive feebleness of his light, and complexity of his structure. The planet is usually better defined than either Mars or Jupiter; but with tolerably high powers on small instruments the image is faint, and features so diluted that the impressions received cannot always be depended on, especially when the air is unsteady. A fluttering condition of the object is sufficient in itself to cause deception.

pp 204.

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Author’s note: As Denning reminds us; small telescopes run out of light quickly and, as a result, many details that can readily be seen in larger aperture instruments will prove much more elusive in smaller telescopes.Beware of observers who produce seemingly wondrous details on planets in small aperture telescopes under unfavourable and/or low altitude conditions!

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Denning provides an excellent overview of the Saturn’s magnificent satellite system, at least, as was then known. Small telescopes can show several quite well; Titan, Tethys, Rhea, Iapetus and Dione, can be seen well in a 4 inch refractor. Enceladus, Denning informs us, can be seen with moderate aperture, but background stars are often  mistaken for it.  When the rings are presented edge on, good opportunities are afforded to observe satellite eclipses and can be observed with telescopes of modest aperture. On page 205, he reproduces a very nice sketch recorded by a one Mr. Capron who observed Titan in transit across the face of the planet on the evening of December 10, 1877, using a 8.25 inch reflector, power 144 diameters.

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A Curious Endnote: Mr. Denning did not discuss the physical nature of Saturn’s ring system. In particular, whether they were solid structures or made up of many smaller, composite particles. This interesting question was addressed by the great Scottish physicist, James Clerk Maxwell in a most brilliant essay published in 1859. In this paper, Maxwell showed conclusively that were Saturn’s rings solid, they would be rapidly torn apart by Saturn’s tidal forces.

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Chapter XIII: Uranus and Neptune

Covering pages 215 to 226.

By the time Denning penned his marvellous tome in amateur astronomy (1891), the discovery of Uranus was over a century in the past, but as one will see from the opening pages of this chapter, it stimulated a great deal of discussion among observers and whether or not it was misidentified by many astronomers before the time of Herschel. As you’d expect, Denning does a good job recounting the details of Herschel’s gradual realisation that he had discovered a whole new world beyond the orbit of Saturn, but also some curious details of how it was repeatedly missed by earlier observers:

Flamsteed observed it on six occasions beyween 1690 and 1715, while Le Monnier saw it on 12 nights in the years from 1750 to 1771, and it seems to have been pure carelessnesson the part of the latter which prevented him from anticipating Herschel in one of the gretest discoveries of modern times.

pp 216

Though it was doubtless seen visually throughout antiquity owing to its faint visibility ( magnitude 6) to the naked eye, details concerning its visual apperance had to await access to telescopes of significantly larger aperture. Coupled with a small mean angular size of 3.6″ and comparitive faintness, many seasoned observers of the 19th century found it difficult to see any surface markings on the planet, with many, including William Lassell, working with a 2 foot speculum in Malta (1862), reporting either a bland disk or, at best, faint banding.  Further observations conducted with some of the large refractors at Nice (30 inch), France (1889), and the 23 inch equatorial refractor (1883) at Princeton, USA, seemed to affirm the presence of equatorial banding on the planet but what is particularly revealing is the lack of any accurate determination of the planet’s rotation period, with estimates of anything between 10 and 14 hours. That such uncertainty persisted concerning the latter provides solid evidence that the markings on Uranus were of an extremley faint nature and required quite powerful telescopes and considerable patience to discern. Denning himself alludes to the difficulty of observing such banding:

With my 10 inch reflector I have suspected the existence of the belts, but under high powers the image is too feeble to exhibit delicate forms of this character.

pp 219.

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Author’s note: The modern accepted value for Uranus’ rotation period is 17 hours 14 minutes. This author has never observed banding with a fine 5 inch f/12 achromatic reffractor, and has (possibly) glimpsed one or two of them in a modern 8 inch Newtonian, though consensus opinion gravitates toward a 12 inch as about the minimum aperture needed to see these features with any certainty.

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It will be made clear to the reader that the knowledge that Uranus was strongly tilted on its axis was not at all apparent at the end of the 19th century when Denning penned his tome, though he does mention some wildly discordant results obtained by the French observers, M. Perotin, working with the great Nice refractor, and the brothers Henry at the Paris Observatory. The former noted only a small (10 degree) tilt of the planet relative to the common plain of the orbits of its satellites, whilst the latter found the value to be 41 degrees!

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Author’s note: These data only serve to compound the singular difficulty of observing Uranus, even with large, observatory class telescopes. No consensus could be made regarding its tilt (really 97 degrees) owing to the difficulty in observing this small and faint planet far from the warming rays of the Sun. Denning notes that the motions of the then four known satellites of Uranus showed that they orbited retrogradely (see page 221), but a little note of clarification is needed here: the planet itself, like Venus, orbits in a retrograde sense (as defined from the north pole of the Sun), but its satellites have orbits that are prograde with respect to Uranus itself. In the aftermath of some cataclysmic event in its early history, Uranus was set ”rolling its way,’ as it were, around the Sun; in sharp contradistinction to all the inner worlds of the solar system, which spin like tops as they move in their orbits.

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Mr. Denning dedicates the remainder of the chapter to Neptune, which, as one can imagine, is presented as even more mysterious than Uranus. After providing an excellent overview of the historical details of the discovery of the planet (involving Messrs Le Verrier, Adams and Galle), Denning does offer us a fascinating account of how the planet was seen hald a century before them (1795) by Lalande:

It was found that the planet was previously observed by Lalande on May 8 and 10 1795, but its true character escaped detection.This astronomer had observed a star of the same  star in the exact place noted on the former evening, he rejected the first observation as inaccurate and adopted the second, marking it doubtful. Had Lalande exercised discretion , and confided in his work, he would hardly have allowed the matter to rest here. A subsequent observation would have at once exhibited the cause of the discrepancy, and the mathematical triumph of Le Verrier and Adams, half a century later, would have been forstalled.

pp 223

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Author’s note: Hindsight is a wonderful thing, is it not!

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Denning informs us that the telescopic sight of Neptune is far from inspiring.

Our knowledge of this distant orb is extremely limited, owing to his apparently diminutive size and feebleness. No markings have ever been sighted on his miniature disk, and we can expect nothing until one of the large telescopes is employed in the work. No doubt this planet exhibits the same belted appearance as that of Uranus, and there is every probability that he possesses a numerous retinue of satellites. In dealing with an object like this small instruments are useless; they will display the disk, and enable us to identify the object and determine its position if necessary, but beyond this their powers are restricted by want of light.

pp 223

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Author’s note: Denning’s surmising concerning this distant planet has been proven to be well founded. Owing to its tiny size (2.7″ at opposition) it is never much to write home about and is indeed a rather lacklustre telescopic sight.  Yet it does exhibit belts (and spots)  like that of Uranus. Indeed planetary scientists group these worlds together as ‘icy giants’ of the solar system, and even show up in a number of extrasolar planetary systems thus far characterised by astronomers.

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On page 223, Denning does mention William Lassell’s idea that Neptune may have a very faint ring system but is sceptical as to its veracity in light of the limited observations made with large telescopes at the time of writing of his book. Lassell did however discover Neptune’s largest satellite, Triton, just 17 days after the planet itself was discovered. With a maximum elongation only 18″ from Neptune, this 14th magnitude would have been most difficult to pinpoint, and is thus a testimony of the skills employed by its discoverer.

On page 224, Denning presents a very curious paragraph exploring the possibility of trans Neptunian planets! He mentions, in particular, the theoretical work of a one Professor Forbes, who wrote a memoir in 1880 “tending to prove that two such planets exist.”

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Author’s note: There is nothing new under the Sun! Astronomers have long entertained the idea that more worlds lie beyond our ken than we can ‘see’ with the telescopes we devise. Such discoveries continue apace in the 21st century.

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Chapter XIV

Comets and Comet Seeking

Covering pages 227 through 259.

Supersitious ideas with regard to comets as the harbingers of disaster have long since been discarded  for more rational opinions. They are no longer looked upon with as ill omened presages of evil, or as:

“From Saturninus sent,

to fright the nations with a dire portent.”

Many refernces are to be found  among old writings to the supposed evil influence of those bodies, and the dread which their appearance formerely incited in the popular mind.Shakespeare makes an allusion to the common belief;

“Hung be the heveans with black, yield day to night!

Comets, importing chnace of time and states,

Brandish your crystal tresses in the sky;”

and in relation to the habit of connecting historical events with their apparition, he further says;

When beggars die, there are no comets seen;

The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.”

But happily, the notions prevalent in former times have been superseded by the more enlightened views naturally resulting from the acquirement and diffusion of knowledge; so that comets , though still surrounded by a good deal of mystery, are now regarded with considerable interest, and welcomed, not only as objects devoid of malevolent character, but as furnishing many useful materials for study. Mere superstitions have been set aside as an impediment to real progress, and more intelligent age has recognized the necessity only with facts and explaining them according to the laws of nature; for it is on facts, and their just interpretation that all true searches after knowledge must lie. Comets are properely regarded as bodies which, though far from being thoroughly understood in all the details of their physical structure and bahaviour, have yet a wonderful history, and one which, cold it be clearly elucidated, would unfold some new and marvellous facts.

pp  227/8

William Denning was not only a world class planetary observer; he was also the discoverer of four comets viz, 1881V, 1890VI, 1892 II and 1894 I, and with the exception of the comet discoveries Holmes and E Hind, the only bodies of such kind unveiled since the time of Caroline Herschel (discussed in another chapter of the book). Denning indpendently found Comet 1891 I, less than 24 hours after it was first seen by the great American  astronomer, E.E. Barnard. To find a comet takes a great deal of committment, of course, invariably requiring many hundreds or thousands of hours of sweeping the skies at dusk and dawn in the hope that a new icy interloper would find its way into the field of view of his telescope. Indeed, Denning’s tally of comet discoveries was not rivalled until much later into the 20th century, when the most remarkable George Alcock, added to Britain’s prestige for finding these curious celestial interlopers.

In this chapter, we gain a unique glimpse of the state of scientific knowledge regarding comets in the late 19th century, as well as the methods which were employed in their detection. Almost immediately, we gain the unmistakable impression that Denning found observing comets to be a partcularly exciting passtime, and his enthusiasm proves infectious;

Whilst its grand appearance in the firmament arrests the notice of all classes alike, and is the subject of much curious speculation amongst the uninformed, its merits, apart from other considerations, the most assiduous observation on account of the singular features it displays and the striking variations  they undergo. Indeed, the visible deportment of a comet during its rapid career near perihelion is so extraordinary as to form a problem, the solution of which continues to defy the most ingenious theories. The remarkable changes in progress, the quickness and apparent irregularity of their development, are the immediate result of a combination of forces, the operations of which  can neither be defined or foreseen. Jets and flame and wreaths of vapour start from the brilliant nucleus; while streaming away from the latter, in a direction opposite to the Sun, is a fan shaped tail, often traceable over a large span of the heavens and commingling its extreme fainter limits with the star dust in the background.

pp 228

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Author’s note: Denning was all too aware of the unpredictability of comets, having observed them with great enthusiasm from his home in Bristol. Indeed, of all celestial objects viewed by amateurs it arguably the comet which has the greatest ability to inspire or disappoint, even in the 21st century. And despite great strides in understanding comet morphology, astronomers can hardly ever reliably predict what kind of spectacle they will put on as they near the warming rays of the Sun. It was perhaps this unpredictability that so attracted Denning to these marvellous objects.

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Because of their rather elusive nature, at least at the end of the 19th century, discovering a comet was a sure way to come to the notoriety of one’s astronomical peers. Cash prizes and (more commonly) medals were issued by the astronomical societies of the world for the man who would find a new comet. Indeed, a caricature of Mr. Denning was published in the April 9 1892 issue of Punch Magazine in honour of the discovery of his third comet (1892 II), which he stumbled across on the evening of Friday, March 18 1892. His discovery was also featured in The Times.

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William F. Denning of Comet fame; a cartoon published in Punch Magazine Vol 102 April 9 1892. Image credit: Wiki Commons.

Denning informs us (bottom of page 228) that some 300 comets had their orbits worked out at the time (1891), and a further 500 had been observed and deduces from this that they must be extremely plentiful. He then provides a general description of how a typical comet evolves as it moves closer to the Sun;

Usually the telescope gives us the earliest intimation that one of these bodies is approaching us.It is first seen as a small round nebulosity, with probably  a central condensation  or stellar nucleus of the 10th or 11th magnitude. The whole object expands as its distance grows less, and it assumes an elongated form preparatory to the formation of a tail. The latter varies greatly in different instances; it may either be a narrow ray, as shown in the soutern comet of January 1887, or  fan shaped extension like that of the great comet of 1774. Barnard’s Comet of December 1886 exhibited a duple tail. Occasionally a fine comet bursts upon us suddenly, like that of of 1843 or 1861.The former was sufficiently bright to be discovered  when only 4 degrees from the Sun, and the latter presented itself quite unexpectedly as a magnificent object in the strong twilight of a June sky.

pp 229.

Although all the scientific facts were not in Denning’s possession, he does mention something of the physical nature of comets:

Comets are not compact or coherent  masses of matter; they more likely represent vast groups of planetary atoms, more or less loosely dispersed and sometimes forming streams. The effect of sunlight upon such assemblages  will be that the whole mass becomes illuminated  according to density, and that no phase will be apparent insomuch as the light is able to penetrate through its entirety.

pp 230

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Author’s note: Denning’s assertion that comets are loose assemblages of matter proved to be correct! Cometary bodies are well described as ‘dirty snow balls’ with average densities about 50 per cent that of water, and which typically contain water ice, dust, and an enrichment of simple organic molecules including hydrogen cyanide, methanol and formaldehyde.

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On page 230 Denning provides us with details of how a  comet’s orbit may be computed. If three trustworthy observations of the comet’s position have been made, it is possible to distinquish between the conic sections represented by the parabola, ellipse and hyperbola. Only comets that follow elliptical orbits, he informs us, are periodic.

Thereafter Mr. Denning launches into a fascinating general discussion on a great many comets dating back to the 16th century. On page 231 he mentions that it is his belief that Sir William Herschel may have mistakenly identified some comets as nebulae, as they were subsequetly shown not to exist in the locations he noted for them. The chapter is generously illustrated with drawings of famous comets, many of which were seen and drawn by Denning himself.

Comet seeking has more to do with the quality of the observer than the equipment he/ she employs. Afterall, as he reminds us, “Messier discovered all his comets using a small 2 foot telescope of 2 1/2 inches aperture magnifying 5 times and a field of 4 degrees.” On page 252 he gives more specific recommendations on the kind of instrument suited to comet sweeping:

Opinions are divided as to the most suitable aperture and power for this work. Any telescope from 4 to 10 inches may be employed in it. A low power (30 to 50) and a large  field(50 to 90′)  eyepiece are imperative; and the instrument, to be really effective, should be mounted to facilitate sweeping either in a vertical or horizontal direction. A reflector on an altazimuth stand is a most convenient form for vertical sweeps. The defining capacity of the telescope need not necessarily be perfect to be thoroughly serviceable, the purpose being to distinguish faint nebulous bodies, and not details of form. Far more will depend upon the observer’s aptitude and persistency than upon his instrumental means, which ought to be regarded as a mere adjunct to his powers and not a controlling influence in success, for the latter lies in himself. Very large instruments are not often used, because of their necessarily restricted fields. Moreover, small instruments, apart from its advantage in this respect, is worked with greater flexibility and expedition.

pp 252/3

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Author’s note: Comet seeking by amateurs has greatly declined in recent years owing to the establishment of automated surveys using large, observatory class telescopes, but it is still true that the majority of successful comet hunters in the last few decades employ moderate (generally less than 16 inches) aperture telescopes, capable of fairly wide fields of view, and low powers. A good example is the telescopes used and owned by the Canadian amateur astronomer and discoverer of 22 comets, David H. Levy.

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On page 252 through 253, Denning provides the reader with most invaluable data concerning the number of hours he and his astronomical contemporaries worked while comet hunting. He mentions this rather in passing, as the subsection really concerns the suitability of the English climate to the task of seeking comets:

From some statistics printed in the ‘Science Observer,’ Boston, it appears that during the seven months from May to November, 1882, Lewis Swift was comet seeking during 300 hours. I have no English results of the same kind, but my meteoric observations will supply a means of comparison. From June to November, 1887 (six months), I was observing during 217 hours, and for nearly a similar period during the last half of 1877, though in each year work work was only attempted with the Moon absent. My results for 1887 averages 36 hours per month, which is little less than the average derived from the comet seeking records above quoted. It is therefore fair to suppose that as much may be done here as in some regions of the United States.. Mr. W. R. Brooks wrote me in 1889, saying, ” We have much cloudy weather in this part of America. While in other portions of the country clear weather abounds, it is not so in this section, where much of my work has been done. This is a most fertile section; the beautiful lake region of N.Y.; but it is for this reason a cloudy belt. It is far different in Colorado and California. In the latter place, at Lick Observatory, I hear they have 300 clear nights a year; a paradise for the astronomical observer.

pp 251/2

Yet, then as now, the keen telescopist may have to contend with prolonged periods of cloudy weather. In a letter he received from Professor Swift dated July 30, 1889 he says:

“I arrived home, after a few weeks’ visit to the Lick Observatory, on March 1, and have not had half a dozen first class nights since; not in thirty years have I seen such prolonged rainy and cloudy weather.”

pp 252.

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Author’s note: This provides solid evidence of the both the industry of these Victorian observers and the likely frequency of opportunities available to observe. Factoring in the many other nights when Denning was actively observing while the Moon was in the sky, it is not unreasonable to think that the British climate is much more amenable to pursuing our wonderful hobby than is commonly believed.

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On page 255, Denning presents more historical data showing the average annual rate of discovery of cometary bodies from 1782 through to 1889. Prior to 1845, between 1 and 2 comets were discovered per year, but after 1845 it increased several fold, so that by the 1880s it had increased to about 5 per year. This undoubtedly reflects the increasing number of astronomers joining the race to uncover them. In addition, he presents data illustrating at what times of the year these comets were discovered. During the months of July and August, the number of comets discovered peaked but was generally higher in the second half of the year. Denning does not provide an explanation but it seems reasonably clear that the longer periods of twilight during the summer months afford greater opportunities for observers to pick up comets approaching the Sun. In addition, the second half of the year is warmer in the northern hemisphere (where virtually all comets desribed by Denning were discovered) making comet sweeps more pleasurable.

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Author’s note: What invaluable information we have here!

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Chapter XV

Meteors and Meteoric Observations

Covering Pages 260 to 285

No one can contemplate the firmament for long on a clear moonless night without noticing one or more of those luminous objects called shooting stars. They are particularly numerous in the autumnal months, and will sometimes attract special attention either by their frequency of apparition or by their excessive brilliancy in individual cases. For many ages little was known of these bodies, though some of the ancient philosophers appear to have formed correct ideas as to their astronomical nature. Humboldt says Diogenes of Apollonia who probably belonged to the period intermediate between Anaxagoras and Democritus, expressed the opinion that, “together with the visible stars, there are invisible ones which are therefore without names. These sometimes fall upon the Earth and are extinguished, as took place with the star of stone which fell at Aegos Potamoi.” Plutarch, in the “Life of Lysander,” remarks: “Falling stars  are not emanations or rejected portions thrown off from the ethereal fire, which when they come into our atmosphere are extinguished after being kindled; they are, rather, celestial bodies which, having once had an impetus of revolution, fall or are cast down to the Earth, and are precipipitated , not only on inhabited countries, but also, and in greater numbers, beyond these into the great sea, so that they remain concealed.”

In later times however, opinions became less rational. Falling stars were considered to be of a purely terrestrial nature, and originated by exhalations in the upper regions of the air……..Another theory, attributed to Laplace, Arago, and others, was that meteors were ejections from lunar volcanoes. But these explanations were not altogether satisfactory in their application. The truth is, that men had commenced to theorize before they had begun to observe and accumulate facts. They had learned little or nothing as to the numbers, directions, and appearances of meteors, and therefore, possessed no materials on which to found any plausible hypothesis to account for them.

pp 260/1

Denning was the ultimate outdoor man, preferring if at all possible, to be under a starry sky than being huddled up indoors. He was the ultimate observer, being equally adept both with and without a telescope. Indeed, as I have alluded to earlier, he probably spent more observing time with his naked eye than peering through the eyepiece of his permanently stationed reflecting telescope. Denning was an international authority on meteors. Indeed, it was his research in this area of observational astronomey that led to his election as fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. That said, it was the reaction to his ideas (and exacerbated by a midlife illness) concerning these luminous bodies that ultimately led to his withdrawal from public service.

Once again, Mr. Denning opens this chapter with exquisite prose, extolling the knowledge of the ancients who pondered the nature of the ‘shooting stars’ just as solemnly as we do today. Indeed, he reminds us that many ideas that we receive as ‘modern’ or ‘contemporary’ often had their originations in the ruminations of minds that have long since departed this world. What is more, the march of time is no guarantee that ideas become any more developed than they were when they were first conceived of in the backwater of human history. All of human thought is to be likened to the winding course of a meandering river and, more often than not, intellectual brilliance is no safeguard against being dead wrong.

While many observers throughout history were keen to report the brightness and colour of meteors, few had the presence of mind to record the direction and longevity of such events. It is these latter facts, Denning explains, that were of greater importance in elucidating their true nature. He continues to ascribe credit where it was due to a number of  pioneers in this field including Edward Heis (1806–77), who conducted a systematic study of meteors including their trajectories on the celestial sphere. He also acknowledges the work of the German astronomer, Julius Schmidt (1825–1884), based at Bonn and Athens, and contributions from his compatriots, Professor Alexander Herschel (1836–1907), grandson of Sir William Herschel, and Mr. R. P. Greg, who collated and analysed large bodies of observational data to calculate the all important radiant points; loci on the celestial sphere through which meteors were seen to emanate from.

By the 1850s it was becoming clear that meteor showers were strongly associated with comets, but it was the Italian astronomer, G.V. Schiaparelli, who in 1866 definitively associated them with the orbits of comets. Analysing the Perseid meteor shower, Schiaparelli provided incontrovertible evidence that they were associated with the orbit of Comet III 1862. He also showed that the meteor showers of November were also strongly correlated with the orbit of Comet Temple 1861 (page 264). Meteor showers, it became clear, occur when the Earth swept up debris from the tails of comets as it intersected their orbits in space.

Thereafter, Denning engages in a brief but fascinating discussion of meteorites that had fallen to earth without being completely destroyed. On page 266, he lists a number of historical meteorite finds dating back to 1478 BC through to the end of the 19th century. On page 267, he notes that these meteorites fall into a variety of categories: those in which iron was found to constitute their bulk (siderites), those of mixed stone and metallic composition; siderolites; and those entirely composed of rocky material; aerolites.

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Author’s note: While the nomenclature of meteorites has changed in modern times, the basic classification system employed by Denning still stands today. The vast majority are classified as chondrites, and are composed of a variety of silicate minerals and small amounts of organic matter, arranged in roughly spherical particles called chondrules. About 8 per cent are achrondrites, characterised by their more amorphous nature and resemblance to terrestrial igneous rock. The remainder have substantial metal content (stony irons or iron meteorites).

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Through pages 267 through 270, Mr. Denning relates some fascinating firsthand accounts of fireballs, unusually bright, violent, and long lived meteors, including a few of his own description, that occurred throughout the 19th century. Some of these were real monsters. For example, in the table presented on page 268 of his book, he relates that one fireball witnessed by a one G.von Niessl, began to incandesce about 250 miles above the ground and fell to an altitude of 85 miles before disappearing. In so doing, it crossed a whopping 1200 miles of sky!

Denning includes an eyewitness testimony of a meteorite which fell in Mazapil, Mexico, on the evening of November 27 1885 (see page 270).  And in another account, he relates the sonic boom associated with a fireball which streaked across the sky on the evening of November 23 1877 in which “the explosion of a 13 inch bombshell, consisting of 200 lb.of iron, would not have produced a sound of one hundredth part the intensity of the meteor explosion.”   It is clear from these communications that Denning had a very special interest in the human dimension of meteor science; when earth and sky converge to break the monotony of an otherwise ordinary day.

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Author’s note: While I have enjoyed some memorable fireballs over the years, some notable apparitions were entirely missed owing to the ‘call of nature,’ for want of a better expression. Perhaps the most memorable missed opportunity occurred in the early evening of Monday, February 29  2016, when an unusually loud and bright green fireball streaked across the skies of Scotland and northern England, creating quite a media sensation. A telescope had already been set up in my back garden for the purposes of conducting some routine double star observations, when I retired indoors to ‘spend a penny.’ A few minutes later, I heard my mobile phone ping as a few excited friends texted me asking if I had seen the fireball streaking across the sky. “No,” I replied, “I was on the thrown!”

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On page 271 through 272, Mr. Denning describes some extraordinary meteor storms that occurred in history, most notably on November 12 1799, and one in the wee small hours of November 13 1833, when the people of North America counted more than 1000 meteors per minute over the space of two hours! Another storm apparently occurred on November 27, 1872, “when 33,000 meteors were counted by Denza and his assistants at Moncalieri, Italy between the hours of 5h 50m and 10h 30m P.M.

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Author’s note:Such reports have become the stuff of legend in modern times, with all meteor showers in recent years being more of a disappointment than anything else. It’s almost as if some events in the heavens are winding down?! Or maybe we just need a peppering of new comets!

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On page 272 through 273, Denning launches into a fascinating discussion on the subject of telescopic meteors (see the curious drawing by W.R Brooks, reproduced in figure 57.), that is, meteors seen moving across the field of view of the telescopic field:

Observers engaged in seeking for comets or studying variable stars employ low powers and large fields, and during the progress of their work notice a considerable number of small meteors. At some periods these bodies are more plentiful than at others, and appear in such rapid succession that the observer’s attention is distracted from the special work he is pursuing to watch them more narrowly and record their numbers. They range between the 7th and 11th mags. Winnecke in the year 1884 noticed 105 of these objects on thrity two evenings of observation with a 3 inch finder, power 15, and field of 3 degrees. I have also remarked many of these objects when using the comet eyepieces of my 10 inch reflector and find they are apparently more numerous than the ordinary naked eye meteors in the proportion 22 to 1. It would be supposed from the great rapidity with which the latter shoot across the firmament that the smaller telescopic meteors are scarcely distinguishable by their motion, as they dart through the field instantaneously and only be percepitible as lines of light. But this impression is altogether inconsistent with the appearances observed. They possess no such velocity, but usually move with extreme slowness, and not unfrequently the whole of the path is comprised within the same field of view. The eye is enabled to follow them as they leisurely traverse their courses, and to note peciliarities of aspect. Of course, there are considerable differences of speed observed, but as a rule the rate is decidely slow and far less than that shown by naked eye meteors. I believe that telescopic meteors are situated at great heights in the atmosphere, and that their diminutive size and slowness of movement are due to their remoteness.

pp 272/3

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Author’s note: Granted, any reasonbaly experienced observer has seen meteors streak across the field of view of his/her telescope, but who among you would take the time to measure the ratio of naked eye meteors in comparison to those seen at the telescope? Personally, I have never taken the time to even consider such a question, though I concede that the description of the various speeds of telescopic meteors is accurate from my own experiences in the field. Denning offers us a good explanation as to why some appear to move relatively slowly across the field of view; they are located at great altitudes. What remarkable insight! What a wonderful passtime this could become for someone with modest equipment! See here for more ideas on this.

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On pages 274 through 276, Denning provides brief overviews of all the major meteor showers enjoyed in the northern hemisphere throughout the year.  On page 277 we gain a glimpse of the sheer enthusiasm he had for observing such phenomena. Figure 58. shows a curious drawing of the changing apperance of a slow moving meteor as it made its way across the sky during the early evening of December 28 1888. He noted its change in brightness at various intervals as well as its morphology and committed the apparition to memory!

The remaining pages of the chapter describe the details of finding meteor radiants and the question of whether these points are stationary or whether they in fact move. We now understand that meteor radiant points are not stationary but are seen to slowly drift eastward by about a degree per day on average. Denning disputed this apparently and the interested reader may learn more about this interesting subject by examining other bodies of literature. See here for one example.

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Chapter XVI: The Stars

Covering Pages 286 through 323.

The planetary observer has to accept such opportunities as are given him; he must use his telescope at the particular seasons when his objects are well presented. These are limited in number, and months may pass without one of them coming under favourable review. In stellar work no such irregularities can affect the progress of observations. The student of sidereal astronomy has a vast field to explore, and a diversity of objects of infinite extent. They are so various in their lustre, in their grouping, and in their colours, that the observer’s interest is actively retained in his work, and we often find him pursuing it with unflagging diligence through many years. No doubt there would be many others employing their energies in this field of labour but for the uninteresting character of star disks, which are mere points of light, and therefore incapable of displaying any detail. Those who study the Sun, Moon or planets have a large amount of surface configuration  to examine and delineate, and this is ever undergoing real or apparent changes. But this is wholly wanting in the telescopic images of stars, which exhibit a sameness and lack of detail that is not satisfying to the tastes of every observer. True there are some beautiful contrasts of colour and many striking differences in magnitude in double stars; there are also the varying position and distance of binary systems, the curious and mysterious fluctuations in variable stars, and some other peculiarities of stellar phenomena which must, and ever will, attract all the attention that such important and pleasing features deserve. And these, it must be conceded, form adequate compensation for any other shortcomings. The observer who is led to study the stars by comparisons of colour and magnitude or measures of position, will not only find ample materials for a lifelong research, but will meet with many objects affording him special entertainment. And his work, if rightly directed and accurately performed, will certainly add something to our knowledge of a branch in which he will certainly find such delectation.

pp 286/7

As I explained previously, W.F. Denning was arguably the last master of observational astronomy. Many of his contemporaries were already specialists, knowing much about one area of astronomy but having relatively little practical knowledge of other areas. Not only were his contributions to astronomical knowledge confined to the shallows of the solar system, they extended far beyond the empire of the Sun, to include the distant stars and nebulae. Indeed, during his routine comet sweeps he was one of the first to observe Nova Aquilae on June 8, 1918, and just over two years later he discovered Nova Cygni 1920. Further afield, his keen eye uncovered two score new nebulae never before seen. Indeed, if there were anyone who could convey the joyous enthusiasm of observing the stellar heaven, it would be Mr. Denning. It is in this outward bound spirit of exploration that we shall continue to study the knowledge of this extraordinary human being.

In the opening pages of this chapter, Denning sets out the basic route by which the keen amateur might secure knowledge of the starry heaven. Familiarity with the Greek alphabet is, of course, essential to understanding how the stars within the various constellations are presented. In general, the brightest luminary is designated alpha, the second most, beta, and so on. Denning suggests that the basic outlines of the classical constellations be memorised (page 290). While he acknowledges that the star patterms often do not resemble the classical figures very strongly they are useful because they conveniently divide up the celestial sphere, “giving each a distinguishing appellation, so that it might be conveniently referred to.

Interestingly, Denning warns against trying to change this traditional system of parsing the visible night sky:

There are some who object to the method of the Chaldean shepherds because the seies of grotesque figures on our star maps and globes bear no natural analogies. But it would be unwise to attempt an innovation in what has been handed down from the myths of a remote antiquity for;

“Time doth consecrate,

And what is grey with age, becomes religion.”

pp 290.

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Author’s note: How prescient of Denning to raise this issue. This author vividly remembers a telescope forum thread entitled “Unlearning the Constellations,” raising this very issue. What arrogance to think that any such move would yield anything worthwhile! How disrespectful it is to dishonour the traditions of every generation since the dawn of civilization! On whose authority did you write? Your own? Needless to say, the same proposal, like all other historical attempts, fell flat on its face.

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Mr. Denning continues this chapter by discussing the (then) popular activity of double star observing and mensuration, emphasising the use of the filar micrometer as a tool that could be exquisitely mated to the telescope. He then discusses the kinds of instruments that are suitable to such an activity, rightly acknowledging the traditiional role of the classical refractor as highly favoured but also admitting that the reflecting telescope is almost as good:

....it is notable that refracting telescopes have accomplished nearly the whole of the work. But reflectors are little less capable, though their powers seem to have been rarely employed in this field. Mr. Tarrant has lately secured a large number of accurate measures with a 10 inch reflector by Calver, and if care is taken to secure correct adjustment of the mirrors, there is no reason why this form of instrument should not be nearly as effective as its rival. Mr. Tarrant advises those who use reflectors in observing double stars, ” to test the centering of the flat at intervals during the observations, as the slightest shift of the large mirror in its cell will frequently occasion a spurious image which, if it by chance happens to fall where the companion is expected to be seen, will often lead to the conclusion that it has been observed. In addition any wings or the slightest flare around a bright star will generally completely obliterate every trace of the companion, especially if close and of small magnitude, and such defects  will in nine cases out of ten, be found to be be due to defective adjustment. Undoubtedly, for very close unequl pairs the refractor possesses great advantages over a reflector of equal aperture; in the case of close double stars the compenents of which are nearly equal there appears to be little, if any, difference between the two classes of instruments; while for any detail connected with the colour of stars the reflector comes to the fore from its being perfectly achromatic.” These remarks from a practical man will go far to negative the disparaging statements sometiimes made with regard to reflectors and stellar work, and ought to encourage other amateurs possessing these instruments to take up this branch in a systematic way.

pp 290/2

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Author’s note: Having extensively tested classical and contemporary apochromatic refractors, catadioptric and Newtonian telescopes on a suite of double stars, this author reached the following conclusions, which are in complete agreement with the findings of Mr. Denning and Mr. Tarrant:

Apochromatic refractors are no better than a good traditional achromat of decent relative aperture in splitting doubles. This is amply borne out in historical studies; see here and here for examples.

Catadioptrics make excellent, high resolution double star telescopes.

Millimetre for millimetre, refractors are better than Newtonians at resolving the tightest, unequal pairs, but the differences are largely eliminated by employing a Newtonian of slightly larger aperture, provided the prevailing seeing conditions allow.

In general, the optical quality of a telescope is far less important than the prevailing sky conditions, as well as the skills the would be observer brings to the table. This author’s 8 inch f/6 reflector was found to be noticeably superior to a first rate 5″ f/12 at divining close doubles of either unequal or equal magnitudes, the generous gain in aperture completely negating any advantages incurred by using a smaller, unobstructed aperture.

These results fly in the face of self promoted ‘authorities’ who have zealously defended the refractor as the only choice for such work. To continue to do so is downright dishonest and actually completely misleading to those who wish to explore this branch of visual astronomy. See here, here and here for more discussions on this topic. The reader will also be interested in these results obtained using a reflecting telescope with sub f/5 relative aperture.

Denning’s remarks concerning the superior colour fidelity of reflecting telescopes (in this case, the silver on glass variety) are also wholly valid. Despite the wonderful pantheon of adjectives coined to describe the colour of stars in refractors, none enjoy the perfect achromaticity of the reflector.

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Concerning the theoretical separation of members of a binary star system, Denning appeals to the work of the Reverend William Rutter Dawes, who offered his famous formula for splitting doubles of equal brilliance (actually magnitude 6), which asserts that the tightest double star that can be resolved is approximated by 4.56″/ D where D is the aperture in inches. He provides a convenient table of theoretical separations on page 292 for the interested reader.  On page 293, Denning offers the additional findings of the optician, a one Mr. Dallmeyer, who provided this result which agrees well with Dawes’ findings:

“In all calculations I have made, I find that 4.33 divided by the aperture gives the separating power.”

pp 293.

Denning, being intimately familiar with the behaviour of large and small apertures offers this cautionary note:

A large aperture will sometimes fail to reveal a difficult and close comes to a bright star when a smaller aperture will succeed. This is due to the position of the bright diffraction ring, which in a large instrument may overlap the faint companion and obscure it, while in a small one, the ring lies outside and the small star is visible.

pp 293.

While many amateurs continue to erroneously conflate the ability of a telescope to split a given pair with its optical quality, Denning prefers to lean on the wisdom of his learned predecessor:

Dawes concluded that; “tests of separation of double stars are not tests of excellence of figure.”

pp 293.

In a curious footnote provided  at the bottom of page 293, we learn more of measurements made at the telescope regarding the position of the first diffraction ring;

Mr. George Knott, of Cuckfield, mentions that the radius of the first bright diffraction ring of a stellar image, for a 7.3 inch aperture is 1.01″, and for one of 2 inches 3.7″.  Mr. Dawes is quoted as giving 1.25″ for a 7 inch, 1.61″ for a 5.5 inch and 3.57″ for a 2.4 inch. These figures exceed the theoretical values, if the latter are adopted  from Sir G.B. Airy’s “Undulatory Theory of Optics”, where for mean rays we have;

Radius of object glass in inches x radius of bright ring in seconds = 3.7.

pp 293.

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Author’s note: In independent work, this author derived the formula 185/D  where D is expressed in millimetres represented the locus of the first diffraction ring. Converting to millimetres and plugging the numbers above into this equation gives the radius of the first diffraction ring for a 7.3 inch and 2 inch aperture respectively as;

185/185 = 1″ and  185/50 = 3.7″

These figures, which are derived from Airy’s theoretical work, show that they are in perfect (perhaps too perfect?) agreement with Knott’s measurement.

Dawes’ results for the 7, 5.5 and 2.4 inch apertures are, respectively;

185/178 = 1.04″, 185/139.7 = 1.32″, and 185/60= 3.08″ which are indeed lower than those predicted in theory.

The latter values are still quite close to those derived in Airy’s theory, and like any measured value, they may be subject to some systematic error. Given the wiggle room for error, I wonder whether Dawes’ findings are more reliable than those produced by Knott? Alas, we shall never know for sure, but it remains a fascinating topic of discussion nonetheless.

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The next section of the chapter diverges considerably from the previous in discussing the number of stars of varying glory in the firmament. When I was a boy, I learned from various books that about 3,000 are visible to the naked eye from a clear, dark sky, though Denning offers a figure of approximately 5,000 (page 293). Of course, the number will vary according to the kind of sky one encounters as well the keeness of one’s visual system. Denning’s own estimate may also reflect the darker skies he enjoyed, writing as he did in the late Victorian era.

With every increase in magnitude, there is a great increase in number, but there is no fixed power law that might enable us to compute how many more stars there might be as the magnitude is increased. Argelander estimates that each magnitude exhibits a rise of about 300 per cent. Indeed, in data presented on page 294, he provides these figures, collated from a survey between 2 degrees south of the equator all the way to the north pole:

1st: 20

2nd: 65

3rd: 190

4th: 425

5th: 1100

6th: 3200

7th: 13,000

As one can see, the 3 fold increase per magnitude increase is only very approximate, but nonetheless it is a useful result.

Of course, without the unblinking eye of a photometer, a legitimate question arises; how does one estimate stellar magnitudes accurately? Denning discusses this on page 294 through 295, where he presents magnitude estimates made by Sir John Herschel and Struve (he doesn’t mention which one). Interestingly, for the stars between magnitude 4 and 6, the discrepancy amounts to about 0.5 stellar magnitudes, but as the stars become fainter (down to magnitude 14 or so), the discepancies become larger. This is entirely understandable, as fainter stars will be more difficult to estimate.

Intriguingly, Denning was also cognizant of two newly minted photometric surveys conducted at Harvard College and Oxford University Observatories, which showed much better agreement with each other, with 31 per cent of the stars monitored differing by 0.1 magnitude, 71 per cent differing only by 0.25 stellar magnitudes and 95 per cent of all stars surveyed showing no greater than 0.33 stellar magnitude difference. Reading from the summary of that comparitive survey, he notes, “a great step has been accomplished towards an accurate knowledge of the relative lustre of the stars.” pp 295.

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Author’s note: Mr. Denning lived during the rise of astrophysical science, where the eye was rapidly being replaced by instruments that were considerably more sensitive than the human eye. It is unclear as to how he felt about this new era dawning on the world, but he gives me no reason to suppose that he did not embrace it. Afterall, Denning was ostensibly a truth seeker in everything he did.

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On page 295 through 297, Denning describes the visual appearance of the Milky Way, both to the naked eye but also through the telescope. He describes the profusion of stars which vary both in number, grouping, brilliance and variation of hue as the telescope is moved from one field to another. But some regions of the Milky Way are conspicuous by their absence of stars and accordingly he mentions the Coalsack and various dark, cavernous regions running through Scorpius and Sagittarius which offer ” striking contrast to the silvery sheen of surrounding stars.” pp 296. Such regions were marvelled at, and studied to great effect, by his distinguished American contemporary, E.E. Barnard.

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Author’s note: Sweeping the Milky Way on a dark, moonless night with a large telescope remains a great joy for this author. With a modern, low power, wide angle ocular, a field in excess of 2 degrees is possible. I imagine Denning using his favourite comet seeking eyepiece, delivering a power of about 32 diameters in a field fully 1.25 degrees wide (see page 254 for details of his equipment) for the express purpose of exploring the vast reaches of the Milky Way. The activity never ceases to amaze, especially when one contemplates the reality of what the eye presents; our God is an awesome Creator, with an eye for beauty that far exceeds that which can even be dimly grasped by the mind of man. As the ancient psalmist declared:

For the director of music: a psalm of David

The heavens declare the glory of God;

the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Psalm 19:1

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The effects of stellar scintillation are described on pages 297 through 298. He informs us that it was Sir Robert Hooke, who in 1667 provided the explanation for this charming natural phenomenon, which he attributed to “irregular refractions of the light of the stars by differently heated layers in the atmosphere.” Denning also clearly understood why planets, in comparison to stars, do not exhibit much in the way of scintillation;

The planets,” he writes, “are little subject to scintillation as they present disks of sensible size, and thus are enabled to neautralize the efect of atmospheric interferences.”

pp 297

Curiously, he points out that while higher altitude sites, where many observatories were being established, present thinner air which generally increases the steadiness of the images garnered at the telescope, there were, even then, exceptions to this rule:

In February 1888, Dr. Pertner, of the Vienna Academy of Sciences, found “that scintillation of Sirius was actually greater at the top of Sonnblick, 10,000 feet high, than it was by the base of the mountain, and he formed the opinion that scintillation has its origin in the upper strata of the atmosphere and not in the lower as usually assumed.” It would appear from this that lofty situations do not possess all the advantages claimed for them in regard to the employment of large telescopes.

pp 298

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Author’s note: I have first hand experience of this. At a site located 8,500 feet up in the White Mountains of Eastern California, the seeing was often (but not always) more turbulent than it was in my own back yard at sea level!

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A mere ten years before Denning was born, astronomers of the ilk of Bessel, Struve and Henderson had painstakingly obtained the first stellar parallaxes that enabled them to measure the vast distances to the nearby stars. On page 299, he reports on the progress that had been made in his own lifetime, including (revised) estimates for 61 Cygni, but also for alpha Centauri, alpha Crucis and Vega (alpha Lyrae). The parallaxes obtained (just fractions of a second of arc), established their distances with fairly good accuracy. Vega, for example is quoted as having an annual parallax of 0.15″ corresponding to a distance of 22 light years. The modern value places this system a little farther away, at 25 light years. Regardless of the errors still at large in these early data, Denning was fully cognizant of the mind boggling separations between the stars!

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Author’s note: Though we have known the colossal distances between the stars for the best part of two centuries, it never ceases to impress this author how much these facts have a bearing on what one sees and contemplates at the eyepiece. Facts have consequences. Seeing is a time machine; the telescope a wondrous tool that empoyers humanity with the ability to actively see the past, both recent and remote.

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On page 300, Mr. Denning resumes his discussion of individual double and multiple stars. Ever mindful of the experience level of his readership, he provides excellent visual descriptions of the most comely stellar systems that require only modest telescopic aid to fully enjoy. These include, Polaris, Rigel, Antares, Sirius (which he fully admits is exceedingly difficult from anywhere in England owing to its very low altitude). Figure 62. presents what are presumably his own artistic renderings of a suite of favourites including, gamma Leonis, Arietis, Andromedae and Virginis, delta Cygni and Serpentis. All of these systems would have been easy targets for his 10 inch With Browning reflector and indeed can be just as easily savoured by an observer equipped with a small refractor of say three or four inch aperture.

On pages 302 through 305, Denning presents a comprehensive table of double stars of increasing difficulty, starting with sub arc second pairs and extending through to systems that are within easy reach of ordinary binoculars. In this table, their measures are presented together with some notes supplied by the astronomer who conducted these measures. These include contributions from Burnham, Tarrant, Schiaparelli, Leavenworth, Engelmann, Perottin, Struve II and Maw.

The reader will be made aware of several sub arc second measures made by Tarrant, who, as we have previously learned, employed a 10 inch Calver reflector. Tarrant’s tightest system is lambda Cassiopieae (dated 1887.3), the components of which are both magnitude 6.5 and separated by a mere 0.45 seconds of arc!

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Author’s note:  How wonderful and important historical books can be in establishing universal truths in visual astronomy! This author has split several sub arc second pairs with his 8 inch f/6 Newtonian reflector from his backyard.

Iustitia, iustitia, iustitia!

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In a curious note at the bottom of page 301 and carried over to page 306, Denning mentions something of interest:

Certain doubles such as theta Aurigae, delta Cygni and Zeta Herculis are more easily seen in twilight than on a dark sky; and some experienced observers, conscious of this advantage, have observed excellent measures in daylight. Mr. Gedhill says: “such stars as gamma Leonis and gamma Virginis, are best measured before or soon after sunset.”

pp 301/306

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Author’s note: Living in a country where strong twilight exists from May through to late July, and with little else in the sky at the time, I have become especially accustomed to viewing double stars in incomplete darkness and can fully vouch for Denning’s assertion as well as Gedhill’s endorsement. Many an evening have I passed examining the beautiful, calm images of eta 1 and 2 Lyrae, iota Cassopieae, epsilon, kappa, pi and xi Bootis, as well as Alula Borealis & Australis, using small instruments from the comfort of my back garden. Sunset and twilight conditions are indeed excellent times to catch these stellar systems. Indeed, more than half the fun is finding them in a less than dark sky.

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More so than in other chapters, Denning darts about a bit in this, the penultimate chapter of the book, discussing variable stars before returning once again to multiple star systems. Arguably the most interesting is the theta Orionis system; affectionately known as the Trapezium owing to its strong resemblance to this geometric form. The quartet are, of course, visible in all but the smallest instruments but is the reader aware of when the other, fainter components of this fascinating cluster of neonatal stars were first observed? Denning provides us with the answer, and then some;

In 1826 Struve discovered a fifth star, and in 1830 Sir John Herschel found a sixth; these were both situated a little outside the trapezium. All these stars have been seen in a 3 inch telescope. The great 36 inch equatorial at Mount Hamilton has added several others; one was detected by Alvan G. Clark ( the maker of the object glass) and another by Barnard. These were excessively minute and placed within the trapezium. Barnard has glimpsed an extremely minute double star exterior to the trapezium and forming a traingle with the stars A and C……….The fifth and sixth stars have been supposed to be variable, and not without reason; possibly the others are equally likely to change, but this is only conjecture. Sir John Herschel says that to perceive the fifth and sixth stars ” is one of the severest tests that can be applied to a telescope:” yet Burnham saw them both readily in a 6 inch a few minutes before sunrise on Mount Hamilton in September 1879.

pp 319/20

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Author’s note: The 5th and 6th stars of the Trapezium can often prove elusive but are more a test of local seeing conditions than raw visual acuity. I have seen them many times in my career, but perhaps the most memorable was through a beautiful 4 inch f/15 classical achromat in ambient air temperatures of minus 11 Celsius; conditions that I have seldom enjoyed since. That night the air was rock stable, as if I were viewing the cosmos through a finely polished precious stone. Denning mentions the complementary visions of two legendary observers; E. E. Barnard, who had incredibly sensitive eyes capable of picking up objects on the precipice of what is humanly possible, and the eagle eyes of S. W. Burnham, who brought the international double star community to its knees in discovering hundreds of new doubles with a fine 6 inch f/15 Clark refractor where others, using instruments of far grander estate, reported nothing out of the ordinary.

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The variable star and nova enthusiast will find much that is of interest, both scientifically and historically, on pages 309 through 316, with a neat table of the main variable stars being presented on page 311.

On page 315 to 316, Mr. Denning brings up a perennial favourite amongst arm chair astronomers; the curious case of Sirius’ allegedly red colour in antiquity:

Cicero, Seneca, ptolemy and others speak of Sirius as a red star, whereas now it is an intense white; and if we rely on ancient descriptions similar chnages appear to have affected other prominent stars. But the old records cannot be implicitly trusted, owing to errors or transcibers and translators; and Mr. Lynn (‘Observatory’ vol ix p. 104) quotes facts tending to disprove that Sirius was formerly a red star.

pp 315/6.

 

At the bottom of page 316, Denning embarks on a discussion of groupings of stars, what we today call star clusters. He states that the average eye can make out 6 members of the Pleaides and a seventh, though more elusive, “is occasionally remarked.”  Denning claims that in 1877 he “distinctly made out 14 stars in this group.” That’s quite a feat of visual acuity and perhaps an indicator of darker, clearer skies in the late Victorian period than of late. His telescope revealed Tempel’s nebula enveloping Merope, a not so trivial visual target in the early 21st century, even with a moderately sized instrument.

Denning also provides some brief notes on some of the more celebrated star groupings including Praesepe in Cancer, a delightful sight in small telescope, Coma Berenices and a most wonderful description of Chi Persei, known to us today as the Double Cluster (Caldwell 14):

Perceptible to the eye as a patch of hazy material lying between the constellations of Cassiopeia and Persei. In the telescope it calls a double cluster, and is one of the richest and beautiful objects that the sky affords. The tyro who first beholds it is astonished at the marvellous profusion of stars. It can be fairly well seen in a good field glass, but its chief beauties only come out in a telescope, and the larger the aperture the more striking they will appear. It is on groups of this character that the advantage of large instruments is fully realized. The power should be very low, so that the whole of the two clusters may be seen in the field. An eyepiece of 40, field 65′, on my 10 inch reflector, presents this object in its most imposing form.

pp 317/8

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Author’s note: From August right through to early Spring, one of the objects this author visits routinely, even religiously,  on every clear evening when the Moon is out of the sky is the Double Cluster. I simply never tire of beholding the majesty of this stately grouping of stars; corruscating jewels of diamond, sapphire, topaz and ruby, assault the eye, and induces feelings of pure, unadulterated joy. Small wonder it is the stuff of poetry!

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Chapter XVII Nebulae and Star Clusters

Covering Pages 324 to 346

These objects, though classed together in catalogues, offer some great distinctions which the observer will not be long in recognizing. It was thought at one period that all nebulae were resolvable into stars, and that their nebulous aspect was merely due to the confused light of remote star clusters. But modern telescopes, backed up by the unequivocal testimony of the spectroscope, has shown that nebulous matter really exists in space.The largest instruments cannot resolve it into stars, and it yields a gaseous spectrum.The conjecture has been thrown out that it may be considered as the unformed material of which suns and planets are made.

pp 324

William Denning penned his great treatise on visual astronomy at the crossroads between new and old worlds. Advances in astronomy were revealing a cosmos far grander and more complex than anyone had dared to imagine just a few decades before. Spectroscopy, photography and the rise of giant telescopes provided new ways of reading the book of nature. Yet all the while, Denning kept on doing what he did best; quietly going about his solitary vigils of the heavens, his simple telescope ever ready to carry him to distant worlds. In this, the final chapter of the book, he presents a distillation of what was known about the most distant objects in the heavens, the mysterious nebulae, star clusters and Island Universes and how the ordinary man could engage in a systematic study of these magnificent objects.

Denning opens this interesting chapter by setting forth a summary of the progress made in discovering and classifying the various nebulae; gaseous, elliptical and spiral, as well the various open and globular star clusters characterised at the time of writing. Such was the rate of discovery of new nebulae that D’Arrest considered the real possibility that their number would turn out to be “infinite.” A new edition of Sir John Herschel’s catalogue of deep sky objects had been published by the Royal Astronomical Society in 1888, listing some 7840 items and which collated the works of the great pioneers in this arena of observational astronomy, including the Herschels, Lord Rosse, D’Arrest, Marth, Tempel, Stephan and Swift. The success of these astronomers, Denning points out, was largely due to the employment of larger aperture telescopes that could collect more light to bring fainter and fainter objects into view. What’s more, only with large telescopes could any real structure be delineated within many of these objects. Concerning celebrated targets such as the Whirlpool Galaxy, the Dumbbell, Horsehoe and Crab Nebula, for example, he states:

An instrument of smaller diameter is quite inadequate to deal with them. They can be seen, it is true, and the general shape recognized in the most conspicuous examples, but their details of structure are reserved for the greater capacity of larger apertures.

pp 325

Ever fond of quoting statistics, Mr. Denning informs us that the distribution of nebulae is far from uniform, being highly concentrated toward the constellations of Leo, Coma Berenices and Virgo, but much more sparsely toward Perseus, Taurus and Auriga, for example. Curiously, because of a lack of knowledge concerning the nature and distance of many of the nebulae, some astronomers formed the opinion that they underwent changes in form and even position! Denning himself is inclined to agree in principle:

It is in the highest degree probable that changes occur in the visible appearance of certain nebulae, though the opinion is not perhaps supported by a suffiecient number of instances.

pp 327

Indeed, he presents a series of curious historical accounts of alleged “variable nebulae” phenomena in pages 327 through 330, which the reader may find interesting.

When it comes to nebulae, there appears to be a great range of acuities among astronomers as to what is and is not actually seen. Consider the intriguing story of the Merope Nebula recounted by Denning on page 329 and 330:

On Oct. 19, 1859, Tempel discovered a faint, large nebula attached to the star Merope, one of the Pleaides, and at first mistook it for a diffused comet….An impression soon gained ground that this object was variable; for while Schmidt, Chacornac, Peters, and others saw it with small instruments, it could not be discerned by D’Arrest and Schjellerup with the large refractor at Copenhagen. Swift saw the nebula easily in 1874 with a 4.5 inch refractor, and has observed it with the aperture contracted to 2 inches. Backhouse reobserved it in 1882 with a 4.5 inch refractor. Yet in March 1881 Hough and Burnham sent a paper to the Royal Astronomical Society with an endeavour to prove that the nebula did not exist! They had frequently searched for it during the preceeding winter, but not a vestige of the object could be seen in the 18.5 inch refractor at Chicago, and they regarded the supposed nebula as due to the glow proceeding from Merope and neighbouring stars. But photography has entirely refuted this negative evidence, and has shown, not only Tempel’s nebula, but others involving the stars Maia, Alcyone, and Electra, belonging to this cluster.

pp 329/30

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Author’s note: What a remarkable story! The reader will recall how Mr. Burnham (mentioned previously), arguably the most keen eyed double star observer in history, couldn’t see the Merope Nebula even with such a large telescope! It would indeed appear to be the case that the ability to perceive faint objects is not at all related to the eye’s ability to resolve details. Some folk will be better deep sky observers than others! Perhaps the episode might have been entirely avoided had E.E. Barnard been assigned to the project instead of Burnham!

Different strokes for different folks!

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Pages 334 through 340 contain interesting summaries of the most celebrated deep sky objects visited by amateurs in any age, including the Great Nebula in Orion, the Andromeda Galaxy (nebula in Denning’s day), the Dumbbell, Ring and Crab Nebula. Spiral nebulae such M51 and M91 and what Denning refers to as “elliptical nebulae” including M81 & M82. He also discusses the prominent globular clusters, such as M13 in Hercules, as well as M2, M3, M5, M15 and M80. Denning also mentions the magnificent Omega Centauri, the delight of antipodean skies, which Sir Hohn Herschel referred to as, “beyond all comparison the richest and largest object of the kind in the heavens”. In the final pages of the book, Denning presents a much more extensive list of deep sky objects, together with some brief descriptive notes. He also includes 10 nebulae on page 342, all discovered as a result of his own comet sweeps near the north pole, between 1889 and 1890.

Denning provides us with some details of the techniques he used while sweeping the sky for nebulae. Again he stresses the considerable advantages of decent aperture:

Those who sweep for nebulae must have the means of determining positions, and a small telescope will be inadequate to the work involved. A reflector of at least 10 inches, or a refractor of 8 inches, will be require; and  a still larger instrument is desirable, for to cope successfully with objects of this faint character needs considerable grasp of light. The power employed should be moderate; it must be high enough to reveal a very small nebula, but not so high as to obliterate a large, diffused, and faint nebula………With a low power a very extensive field will be obtained , and a large part of the sky may soon be examined, but it will be done ineffectively. It is better to use  a moderately high power, and thoroughly sweeping a small region. The work is somewhat different to comet sweeping; it must proceed more slowly and requires greater caution, for every field has to be attentitively and steadily scanned. If the telescope is kept in motion, a faint nebula will pass unseen. Some of these objects are so feeble that they are only to be glimpsed by averted vision. When the eye is directed, say to the E. side, a faint momentary glow comes from the west side of the field; but the observer discerns nothing on looking directly on the object.

pp 339/40.

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Author’s note: The reader will note that Denning clearly understood the concept of using averted vision to detect objects on the precipice of invisibility, the oldest unambiguous reference this author has thus far come across, and clear evidence that he was indeed a highly skilled and accomplished deep sky observer. In addition, Denning places a 10 inch reflector (presumably of the silver on glass variety) on par with a 8 inch refractor for deep sky work.

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Denning ends this chapter with an encouraging note to other amateurs:

The discovery of new nebulae offers an inviting field to amateurs. Vast numbers of these objects have escaped previous observation, for though the sky has been swept again and again, its stores have not been nearly exhausted…..The region immediately outlying known objects may also be regarded as prolific ground for new discoveries.

pp 341

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Afterword: The Significance of Denning’s Literary Work for the Contemporary Amateur.

Not for Public Viewing.

If you’ve enjoyed this commentary and wish to read more about these and other historical issues, please consider my up and coming book: Tales from the Golden Age of Astronomy.

Sincerely,

Neil English

De Fideli.

Bible Facts Part IV

Biblia

Biblia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continued from Parts I, II and III

113.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

Philippians 2:5-6

Though he existed in eternity with his father, in becoming human, Jesus often curtailed some of his divine attributes. One of these was his omniscience; knowing everything that there is to know.

The Bible teaches that his knowledge increased as he aged:

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

Luke 2:52

In his exchange with his disciples and the crowds that flocked to him, the Bible informs us that Jesus revealed only what his father had made known to him.  St. John writes:

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

John 15:15

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said that the mustard seed was the smallest of all seeds:

He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.’

Matthew 13: 31-32

This is not absolutely true however; for botanists have long known that some plants, like the orchid for example, has even smaller seeds, more like dust than anything else. That said, the context is important here; he was appealing to the knowledge of Hebrew farmers, who, in their everyday experience, believed the mustard to be the smallest of seeds that could take root in the land.

 

Nor did God the father reveal when his son would return to the earth at the end of the age, victorious, together with his angels.

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Matthew 24:36

It is thus reasonable to think that during Christ’s incarnation, God the Father alone exercised divine omniscience, but this was fully restored to his son after his glorious resurrection from the dead.

St. Paul, writing to the Corinthians, puts all of this in perspective:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

2 Corinthians 2:8

114.

I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naïve people.

Romans 16:17-18

The Bible deals strongly and decisively on the issue of false teachers, who have attempted to infiltrate the Church since its founding days. Teaching the word of God is not something to be taken lightly; it comes with awesome responsibilities;

My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.

James 3:1

Don’t go on their outward appearance or their religious trappings, but listen carefully to what they say. Do they have a sound knowledge of Scripture? Do they teach things that are Biblical or do they merely sound good? We are called to test them by the Holy Spirit:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

1 John 4:1

What are their motivations? Do they go after self-love, self-aggrandisement, materialism, personal happiness? If so, their teachings are not of God.

Do they inspire us to holiness, through a humble and contrite heart? Do you see meekness in them? For these things are of God.

Do you find that in their efforts to help others, they themselves gain in material wealth? If so, they are not of God.

What is their effect on the congregation? Do their followers demonstrate a true understanding of the Gospel, or is it sanitized, watered down, twisted?

What do you do with a person you think is not teaching Biblically?

Don’t seek to drag yourself into the mire by publicly bringing attention to yourself. Take them aside and rebuke them. Show them the error of their ways by quoting Scripture that clearly contradicts what they have been teaching. Above all else, do it with respect and gentleness. You never know; it might be the best thing that ever happened to them!

115.

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:  ‘The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.  So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practise what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

Matthew 23:1-4

It is a very sad state of affairs to admit that there exist folk who love the physicality of the Bible over people. In recent years, some (thankfully a minority) pastors have vented pure hatred for those who have chosen to read and study the modern translations of the Bible over more traditional forms, such as the Authorized King James Version. They like to cite differences in attitudes to gender equality, the replacement of archaic words with modern equivalents, which they (erroneously) claim, change the meaning of the overall verses. They even claim that modern renditions of the Bible are the work of Satan!

This is a very disheartening development; that is neither true nor necessary. Clearly those who make such claims have lost the plot! It is merely another manifestation of the religiosity that Jesus showed open contempt for.

I’m pretty sure the Living God would want to speak to us in our native tongue, in a dialect that we could clearly understand. God, after all, is not an Elizabethan playwright!

In the end, the Kingdom of God should be written on our hearts and not just in a collection of ancient books!

116.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’declares the Lord.‘As the heavens are higher than the earth,so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9

As Sovereign Creator of the Universe, God’s cognitive powers are woefully beyond human comprehension. And yet as creatures made in his image, he has given us the cognitive tools to begin to understand and think like he does.

Not a week goes by where we hear things that tickle our ears like, “scientists begin to know the mind of God” or “scientist claims that there is no need for God.” And yet it is only because of God’s grace that they can think at all!

They ought to remember that no theory ever spoke anything into existence!

The prophet Isaiah continues:

Who can advise the Spirit of the Lord or be his teacher or give him counsel?

Isaiah 40:13

117.

For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.

2 Peter 1:16-18

In our walk with Christ, so far removed as we are in time from when he sojourned through the towns and villages of Israel, it is natural to lose heart every now and then. But we can gain strength from the testimony of Peter, the ‘Rock’, who was eye witness to the glory of our Lord Jesus, so that we can be absolutely certain that he will fulfill everything he promised he would. Amen to that!

118.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

Philippians 3:4-9

St. Paul (formerly Saul of Tarsus) provides another compelling reason to remain strong in the faith. As he explains in his Letter to the Philippians, Paul had everything going for him within the Jewish theocracy but yet relinquished it all after his encounter with the Risen Christ on the road to Damascus. So, he was either mad or divinely inspired, and I don’t think his writings convey the former!

119.

All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.

Philippians 4:22

During his house arrest at Rome, St. Paul informs us that there existed Christians who formed part of Caesar’s domestic staff. The Emperor presiding over Paul’s trial in Rome was Nero(54-68AD). Despite being a despotic persecutor of the earliest Christians, there were followers of Christ even among his ‘inner circle,’ a wonderful testimony to the power of Jesus’ teachings and the rapidity with which they were embraced in Roman society, even in the face of grave danger!

120.

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.

Matthew 11:25

Numerology, the practice of uncovering hidden meaning from numbers, has been going on for millennia. In our time, folk have tried to find hidden Bible codes by assigning numbers to the letters of Scripture. They’ve written best-selling books to fascinated readers around the world and cults (like Kabbalah, for example) have grown up around it. But numerology is just another form of divination, no different from gnosticism in its fundamental forms. The Bible encourages us to avoid such activities:

Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft,

Deuteronomy 18:20

Think about it: Why would God communicate in such a way; making such cryptic knowledge accessible to a privileged few with specialist skills? God’s message of salvation is simple to understand and does not require a PhD in mathematics to unravel! Furthermore, these so-called Bible codes are full of holes. For one thing, when you have a large number of variables and a large sample size (the Bible has 750,000 words), finding ‘hidden’ messages becomes a near certainty. Using the same methodology one can divine one’s own gnostic messages from the Hindu Vedas, the Phone Book or Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

Don’t get caught up in numbers; the Bible has enough prophecy (both fulfilled and yet to be fulfilled) to leave you in no doubt what God’s plan for humanity is.

121.

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labour, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.

Exodus 20:8

The Sovereign Lord asks us to keep the Sabbath holy; just one day in the week where we disconnect from the wider world and concentrate on all the wonderful things our God has done for us.

122.

If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:31-32

Jesus told his followers that the only faith worth having is the one that chooses to believe what is true.

All else is dust and air.

123.

And God said, ‘Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.’ So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind.

Genesis 1:20-21

The Bible clearly teaches that all life was created, purposefully, intact and fully formed, each archtype reproducing after its own kind. Life did not evolve from less to more complex forms and the emerging scientific picture supports this view. The theory of evolution, in contrast, is the “creation theory” for the religion of atheism. The Bible teaches that ‘foolishness’ results from an inability to properly apply knowledge (not necessarily the same as being stupid) and those who accept the evolutionary paradigm are merely expressing foolishness. How about theistic evolution, or evolutionary creationism as it is sometimes referred to? Well, since evolution cannot create anything, and since it is entirely unbiblical, it should be rejected outright by all Christians.

Creation is not unscientific, nor need it violate natural law. Does the assembly of the components of an iPhone, for example, by an intelligent process, break any known laws of nature?

No.

Likewise does the assembly of biological systems.

Do iPhones come into existence via a blind evolutionary process?

No.

Neither do biological systems.

According to the Bible, the choice is clear. We can either believe the Word of our omnipotent and omniscient God, or we can entrust ourselves to the illogically biased, “scientific” explanations of fools. St. Paul writes:

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Romans 1:20

124.

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Matthew 6:6

During his ministry, Jesus frequently (perhaps 60 times) referred to God as his and our heavenly ‘Father’. This is an easily accessible title, which conveys a deep sense of intimacy, but without any overarching association with gender (since God is spirit). Perhaps the most inspiring parable ever told by Jesus pertains to the Prodigal Son, recounted in Luke 15, whose father was neither judgemental or angry when he finally came to his senses and returned to the fold. Instead, his father, acknowledging his younger son’s repentance, became filled with compassion for him, and even celebrated by throwing a party! How great is our God!

125.

I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God.

Psalm 69:3

Waiting on the Lord is an important aspect of being a Christian. It cultivates patience and hope. Even when we see all sorts of disturbing things in the world around us, things that sicken and upset us, we must put our trust in God that he will act when the time is right, not a minute sooner or later. Nor must we sit around idly; we must continue to do our work faithfully, staying positive, helping and encouraging others; focusing on things that are pleasing to God. Amen.

We can confidently look forward to a time where all justice is meted out; all suffering and anguish removed. St. John writes:

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

Revelation 21:4

126.

Jacob wrestles with an Angel of the Lord. A portrait by Gustave Dore (1866).

Jacob wrestles with an Angel of the Lord. A portrait by Gustave Dore (1866).

And he arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of Jabbok. He took them, sent them over the brook, and sent over what he had. Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.” But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” So He said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.” And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.” And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” Just as he crossed over Peniel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip.

Genesis 32:21-31

The most difficult thing of all to tame is a proud human heart.

The Biblical story of Jacob tells us something of this. He was a liar and ruthless manipulator, who had conned his elder brother, Esau, out of receiving his father’s blessing. Escaping his father-in-law, Laban, Jacob faced his embittered brother on the other side of the River Jabbok. Exhausted from his wanderings in the desert, Jacob fell into a deep sleep by the river bank, only to be awakened by an Angel of the Lord who wrestled with him until dawn. In the passage we see how the Lord humbled Jacob’s proud heart and crippled him in the process. In the exchange, Jacob would not relent  until God blessed him. In addition, the Lord also changed his named to ‘Israel’ which literally means, “he who wrestles with God.”

The lesson we can take from this remarkable story is that our journey through life is never meant to be easy. Real spiritual growth can only come through trials, and the experiencing of pain and suffering. And yet our striving is never devoid of God’s presence.

The Prophet Isaiah writes:

 Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant: O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me.

Isaiah 44:21

If we persevere in our ‘wrestling with God’, he will surely bless us! Amen.

127.

And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he passing through the midst of them went his way,

Luke 4:28-30

A careful reading of the Scriptures reveals still more miracles performed by Jesus. In the passage from the Gospel of Luke, we see our Lord being brought to a high place, where an angry mob intended to throw him to his death. Yet he “passed through the midst of them.” Just how could he do this? One explanation is that he created a kind of event horizon which froze time for the mob long enough for him to make his get away. Because Jesus’ time of deliverance had not yet come, no earthly power could do him harm.

129.

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

1 Corinthians 2:9

The human mind has difficulty imagining eternity. The Bible says that our Lord returned to Paradise to prepare a place for us. Isaiah informs us that we will build homes there and grow our own fruit:

They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.

Isaiah 65:21

Best of all, God himself will come and live with us! St. John writes:

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

Revelation 21:3

130.

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.

1 Timothy 4:1

The only God, the Living God, wishes that you concentrate your attention on him and not to get swept up in distractions that are at best useless and at worst harmful (see Ephesian 5:11). The pagan festival of Halloween, which enjoys enormous popularity in secular North America and Europe, effectively celebrates the dead and thus is an abomination to the Lord (see Deuteronomy 18:9-13).

Is Halloween based on godly themes? No. Does Halloween promote peace, freedom and salvation? No. On the contrary, Halloween can often bring to mind feelings of fear, obsession and bondage to the demon-haunted world. For these reasons, Christians should avoid celebrating this unofficial holiday.

131.

Bust of the Roman Emperor, Publius Aelius Hadrianus Augustus ( Hadrian) who ruled between 117 and 138 AD.

Bust of the Emperor, Publius Aelius Hadrianus Augustus (Hadrian), who ruled the Roman World between 117 and 138 AD. Image credit: Wiki Commons.

A prophecy: the word of the Lord concerning Israel.

The Lord, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the human spirit within a person, declares: ‘I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem. On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves. On that day I will strike every horse with panic and its rider with madness,’ declares the Lord. ‘I will keep a watchful eye over Judah, but I will blind all the horses of the nations.

Zechariah 12:1-4

The land of Israel was given to Abraham and his descendants as an everlasting covenant by our heavenly father.  Israel is not to be divided up into separate Israeli and Palestinian states like some Thanksgiving turkey! Indeed, there is no such thing as a Palestinian ’cause’. The name ‘Palestine’ was coined by the Roman Emperor, Hadrian, in the aftermath of the Second Jewish Revolt in 135AD, when he re-named the province Syria Palaestina (and arrogantly insisted the Jews call their holy city, Aelia Capitolina, after Hadrian himself). By that time however, the Jews were in their homeland for over two thousand years.

No individual, nation, or empire will succeed in thwarting God’s sovereign plan for Israel and secular organisations like UNESCO would do well to heed those warnings. It is written:

I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

Genesis 12:3

But that is not to say that Israel ought to treat the foreigner with disrespect. The Prophet Jeremiah writes:

If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave to your ancestors for ever and ever.

Jeremiah 7:5-7

132.

God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah. Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” They have neither knowledge nor understanding they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, “You are gods,sons of the Most High, all of you;nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince. ”Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!

Psalm 82

 

As discussed in Part I, God not only created all life on this planet, but also an angelic realm. Psalm 82 speaks to the minority of these powerful beings who did not do the will of God in their portfolio as part of the ‘divine council’. Though they appear as ‘gods’ among men, their fate will be as the wicked.

Humans will form part of this government (The ‘Elect’) in the New Creation, Hallelujah.

133.

The Earth will not prevail.

The Earth shall not prevail. Image credit: Wiki Commons.

Behold, the Lord will empty the earth and make it desolate, and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants. And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the slave, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the creditor, so with the debtor. The earth shall be utterly empty and utterly plundered; for the Lord has spoken this word.

Isaiah 24:1-3

As beautiful as it is, God will destroy the Earth as the culminating event known as the ‘Day of the Lord’, a time when our creator will intervene in human history for the purpose of judgement. The heavens and all it contains, will share the same fate.

God will then create new heavens and a new Earth. St. John writes:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

Revelation 21:1

134.

The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.

Proverbs 29:15

The Bible provides excellent advice on how to discipline children. It teaches that a parent who does not rebuke a child for wrongdoing does not show proper love for them:

Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

Proverbs 13:24

The Bible supports, among other means, mild corporal punishment of children (e.g. spanking, a proverbial clip round the ear) in order to instill respect for those in authority, and ultimately, respect for God himself. The writer of Hebrews reminds us:

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,  nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

Hebrews 12:5-6

135.

Praying hands by Albrecht Durer. Image credit Wiki Commons.

Praying hands by Albrecht Durer. Image credit Wiki Commons.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

1 Timothy 2:1-5

The Bible encourages us to pray for all people scattered across the face of the Earth, for the Lord desires no one to perish but to live.

136.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Matthew 28:18-20

Jesus, who was given authority over all contingent things from his heavenly father, called his followers to do their part to spread the gospel of salvation to others. This is what is commonly referred to as the Great Commission, although the specific term does not appear in the words of Scripture. We must all do our part, however small, to bring the light of the gospel to the lost, to make disciples of friends and strangers alike, to lead by example and to do so with joy and passion. What could be more important in the scheme of things?

137.

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I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed;

he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.

Genesis 3:15

If there were one verse that sums up the message of the Bible, it is contained in the words of Genesis chapter 3 and verse 15. It refers to the time immediately after the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden. Here Almighty God speaks directly to the serpent who deceived Eve. It speaks of ‘emnity’, a kind of bloody opposition, of the seed of woman to the seed of Satan. In this, the first prophecy of the Bible, we see God’s plan for redeeming humanity. There is one very important anomaly in this tract that begs an explanation. In ancient Hebrew culture, the seed always referred to a man and not a woman. How then could the seed come through a woman? One answer is the virgin birth recounted in the Gospels of the New Testament. The Prophet Isaiah, writing 750 years before Christ explains:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin will conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14

The reference to the serpent bruising his ‘heel’ refers to the attack of Satan on Jesus which led to his arrest and crucifixion. But the passage also tells us that ‘he’, that is, Jesus, will issue Satan a lethal blow by bruising his ‘head’. Satan and his ‘seed’ were defeated once and forever on the cross of Calvary.

St. Paul, writing to the Colossians, puts it splendidly:

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Colossians 2:13-15

What an amazing thing to know! How gracious is our God!

138.

Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel.

2 Chronicles 3:1-2

King Manasseh was arguably Judah’s most wicked monarch. He turned his back on the Sovereign Lord, erected idols in the high places, sacrificed his children to the false god, Baal, and tradition has it that he had Israel’s greatest Prophet, Isaiah, executed by placing him inside the hollow of a tree and having him sawn in half. His father before him, Hezekiah, was among the best kings Judah had ever known. And yet, while evil beset Manasseh nearly all his days, his reign was the longest in Jewish history. Why then did the Lord not act to remove him from the throne?

The answer is that Manasseh repented in his old age and returned to the Lord after his humiliating capture by the Assyrian army and exile to Babylon:

The Lord spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no attention. Therefore the Lord brought upon them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who captured Manasseh with hooks and bound him with chains of bronze and brought him to Babylon. And when he was in distress, he entreated the favour of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.

2 Chronicles 33:10-13.

Even after doing unspeakable evil in the sight of the Lord and all of Israel, God’s enormous capacity to forgive shines through. St. Peter writes:

The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

2 Peter 3:9

The Psalmist declares:

Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth?

Psalm 113:5-6

139.

Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

Acts 16:30-31

Does one have to be baptised in order to be saved?
The Bible makes it clear that although it is a good and noble thing, and something to be encouraged, it is not a necessary requirement for salvation. It is rather like the wearing of a wedding ring. The ring outwardly symbolises a mark of inward change, a life-long commitment to each other.
Can a man or a woman be married and yet not wear a wedding ring?
Yes.

So it is with baptism.

Baptism of the Neophytes by Masaccio c.1425. Image credit: Wiki Commons.

Baptism of the Neophytes by Masaccio c.1425.
Image credit: Wiki Commons.

Our Creator, who has the big heart of a loving father, and who knows each individual before they are born, will not judge you on a legalistic issue such as this.

St. Paul writes:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

140.

How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders!
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.

Daniel 4:3

The Bible tells us that nations rise and fall in accordance with the Lord’s decrees.  No one can thwart his plans:

I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

Job 42:2

Though we may be left confused by the unfolding of world events, we must continue to abide with him, for his ways are not our ways:

The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

Psalm 46:11

141.

Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple (El Greco, Washington). Image Credit: Wiki Commons.

Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple (El Greco, Washington). Image Credit: Wiki Commons.

Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?

Matthew 23:33

Jesus used his tongue to call people names. He knew the wickedness of the Scribes and Pharisees and likened them to ‘serpents’ and ‘vipers’. He called people ‘hypocrites’, ‘devils’ and ‘fools’. He likened Herod to a ‘fox’ and even called Simon Peter ‘Satan.’

Jesus didn’t hold back any punches. He spoke from his heart. Jesus was not (and is not) politically correct and neither should his followers be.

142.

The Battle of Jericho. Image credit: Wiki Commons.

The Battle of Jericho. Image credit: Wiki Commons.

“Do not say in your heart, after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you.  Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

Deuteronomy 9:4-5

A common question atheists raise with Christians pertains to the sometimes wrathful nature of the Old Testament God. Well, for one thing, if one proclaims to be an atheist, one has no basis to judge anything to be wrong or right, because your world view precludes the existence of moral absolutes, which is yet another reason why any such posturing is absurd.

More seriously though, the holy and righteous God of the Bible executed judgement on the surrounding nations because of their wickedness. Their lawless cultures were an abomination in his sight, for they practiced all sorts of deplorable things; homosexuality, idol worship, murder, rape, pillaging, bestiality and child sacrifice, among many other things.

Nor did the Lord carry out or condone these acts based on some flash in the pan decision. He gave the peoples inhabiting the lands of Canaan over four centuries to change their ways. When they did not, he had them removed. We must also remember that, in later centuries, the Lord punished the stiff-necked nation of Israel for turning away from him and following the false gods of the surrounding nations. Only a remnant of the Jewish population were able to return from exile in Babylon.

Some liken the wars of David and Joshua to a kind of jihad. But that is patently not the case. David’s wars were defensive, not expansionist, and Joshua’s campaigns were regional and not imperialist, in sharp contradistinction to jihadist ideologies, which are worldwide in scope and aim to convert all ‘infidels’ at the point of the sword.

143.

The anceient Athenian Acropolis. Image credit: Christophe Meneboeuf

The ancient Athenian Acropolis. Image credit: Christophe Meneboeuf.

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: ‘People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.  For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship – and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands’.

Acts 17:22-24

On his journey throughout the Roman Empire, the Apostle Paul was shocked when he entered the ancient city of Athens to find that it was full of idols. He wryly suggested that an altar dedicated to an unknown deity be identified as the one true God, Creator of the Universe and everything within it.

Though Greek philosophy still forms an indispensable part of modern scientific thinking, including methodological naturalism, it cannot account for its meaning and purpose. Ultimately, science always points to God.

144.

Image credit: www.ocf.berkeley.edu

Image credit: www.ocf.berkeley.edu

understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers,  the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.

1 Timothy 1:9-10 (ESV)

A complete reading of the Bible, taking everything literally and consistently, shows us that any kind of enslavement is immoral. Indeed, those who fought day and night to abolish the slave trade used Biblical principles to overthrow it. Intriguingly, older translations, such as the highly respected 1611 King James Version (KJV), didn’t put it strongly enough though, perhaps since its translators lived at a time where slavery was considered more culturally acceptable. Instead, in the same text taken from 1 Timothy, they chose to use the word ‘menstealers’ (literally “kidnappers”) instead of the more accurate word, ‘enslavers.’ Had they chosen to use the latter word it might have changed the world in ways we could hardly imagine today!

Thank God for modern Biblical scholarship!

Slavery however, has not gone away. It is estimated that some 40 million human beings are enslaved every year, 12 million of whom involve little children. We must continue to work tirelessly to rid the world of this evil practice.

145.

A White Wedding: a painting by Edward Leighton (1853-1922). Image credit: Wiki Commons.

A White Wedding: a painting by Edward Leighton (1853-1922). Image credit: Wiki Commons.

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

Revelation 19:6-8

The Bible makes it very clear that when Jesus returns to Earth, he will gather his people – either alive or dead in Christ – to himself. The Bible uses the easily accessible imagery of a bridegroom(identified as Christ) marrying his bride(the Church).

 Christ is a faithful groom.

What does marriage mean to you?

146.

We the People: The US Constitution is based on Biblical Principles which continue to be eroded by secular thugs.

We the People: The US Constitution is based on Biblical Principles which continue to be eroded by secularists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,who redeems your life from the pit,who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalm 103: 1-5

The Founding Father’s of the United States of America were heavily influenced by Judeo-Christian values. The Constitution of the United States is replete with word for word quotations from the Bible, something that many Americans are completely unaware of owing to their Biblical illiteracy. However, it is only because of God’s grace that America has been so successful in the world, and it is only by adhering to untwisted Biblical principles that it will remain successful.

Remember your Creator!

Happy Thanksgiving!

147.

candle-light

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet,
and a light unto my path.

Psalm 119:105

When I’m cold and in the dark, and cannot find my way, I search the words of Scripture to see what God will say.

148.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue.  Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

Acts 17:10-12

 

The postmodern world argues that all religions have the same validity and that we all worship the same God. This is commonly referred to as religious pluralism. Such ideology has been promulgated to great effect through Hollywood blockbusters such as the Life of PI, and such like. But the reality, brothers and sisters, is that while we are all made in the image and likeness of God, we do not all worship the Creator.

The above passage, taken from the Book of Acts, recounts how Paul’s testimony to the Jewish community at Berea about the resurrected Jesus was openly and enthusiastically received by them, to such an extent that they diligently restudied Old Testament Scripture, only to find that Jesus was all over its pages! Paul made many converts among the Gentiles there too.

Don’t be deceived! The Bible emphatically teaches that there is only one route by which salvation can be assured; Christ Jesus.

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.

Acts 4:12

Unlike Jesus, who was not afraid to rebuke and offend people if he thought it would help them see the light, pluralists are all things to all men, their theology, emasculated, idolatrous. Pick ‘n’ mix, anything goes! But anyone who earnestly studies the Bible with an open mind will quickly find the evidence to allow them to arrive at a knowledge of the truth, just as those ‘noble’ Jews did in Berea all those centuries ago.

149.

The Worship of Mammon: a painting by Evelyn De Morgan ( 1909).

The Worship of Mammon: a painting by Evelyn De Morgan ( 1909). Image credit: Wiki Commons.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2

A Christian must, by necessity, be a nonconformist. One is not to be concerned with status or what is popular in this world. If you look like the world, talk like the world and do those things that make you at ease with the world, there is something wrong with your spiritual journey. The Lord will not deal lightly with a Christian who is worldly.

150.

Jesus and the woman with the alabaster jar. Image credit: uk.pinterest.com

Jesus and the Woman with the Alabaster Jar. Image credit: uk.pinterest.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.

Revelation 20:12

Good works naturally flow from the hearts of those who have faith. Those works need not make one famous or even come to the attention of any one else, but the Lord will never forget even the merest act of kindness.

One of the most moving stories in all of the Gospels recounts the act of a poor widow:

Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box,  and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

Luke 21:1 to 4

Or consider the deed of the infamous and sinful woman with the alabaster jar:

Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.”  But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.  In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”

Matthew 26: 6 to 13

Rest assured brothers and sisters, the gestures of these women will be commended for all of eternity. They poured out their love for the sake of other people. If you are faithful with the little you have, you will be faithful in great things.

To be continued in Part V

De Fideli.

 

Cleaning Newtonian Mirrors.

I’ve noticed that one issue that seems to give folk concern about investing in a good Newtonian pertains to having to clean the optics every now and again. I’ve never really understood this mindset though. Having had my closed-tube 8-inch Newtonian for about 18 months now, and having clocked up a few hundred hours of observations with it, I felt it was time to give the mirrors a cleaning. Here’s how I do it:

The mirrors are removed from the tube.

Two fairly grimy mirrors

Two fairly grimey mirrors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First I make sure that all the loose dust and debris has been blown off using an air brush. Next, I run some cold tap water into a sink and add a drop or two of washing up liquid. The water we use here is very soft; indeed we are graced with some of the softest water in the British Isles, which also makes drinking tea especially pleasant! If your local water source is hard, I’d definitely recommend using de-ionised/distilled water.

Starting with the secondary mirror, I dip my fingers into the water and apply some of it onto the mirror surface with my finger tips, gently cleaning it using vertical strokes. Did you know that your finger tips are softer than any man-made cloth and are thus ideal for cleaning delicate surfaces like telescope mirrors?

Finger-tip cleaning of the mirror.

Finger-tip cleaning of the mirror.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, the mirror reflective surface is rinsed under some cold, running tap water.

Rinse the secondary with some cold tap water.

Rinse the secondary with some cold tap water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The procedure is repeated for the primary mirror;

Gentle massaging of the mirror using the finger tips.

Gentle massaging of the mirror using the finger tips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rinsing the primary mirror using cold tap water

Rinsing the primary mirror using cold tap water.

The mirrors are then supported on their sides to allow them to drain excess water, and then left to dry in a warm, kitchen environment. Stubborn water droplets nucleating on the mirrors are removed using some absorbent tissue.

Washed and drying out in the kitchen.

Washed and drying out in the kitchen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, the mirrors are placed back in the telescope tube, making sure not to over-tighten the screws which hold the primary in place inside its cell. All that remains then is to accurately align the optical train, as described previously.

There we are! Not so difficult after all; and all done in about 40 minutes! The soft water doesn’t show up any significant spots after cleaning unlike hard water sources and now the optics are as clean as the day they were produced.

With a busy season of optical testing and planetary observing ahead, I know that my 8-inch will be operating as well as it possibly can. And that’s surely good to know!

Gosh!

I feel a nice, hot cuppa is in order!

De Fideli.

Bible Facts Part III

Biblia

Biblia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continued from Part I & Part II

105. The Lord says to my lord:

“Sit at my right hand

until I make your enemies

a footstool for your feet.”

                                        Psalm 110:1

Possibly written for a coronation, this royal psalm speaks in prophetic terms to the coming of God’s perfect King; the Christ. The verse above is quoted more than any other Old Testament tract by the writers of the New Testament, who identify this King with the Messiah – Jesus.

The psalm also mentions the High Priest, Melchizedek, to whom Abraham bequeathed a tenth of his possessions:

The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

                                           Psalm 110:4

Passages about Melchizadek can be read in Genesis 14:17-20, and, with reference to Jesus, in Hebrews chapters 5 through 7.

The psalm informs us that the Lord has routed his enemies throughout human history and will continue to subdue them until all opposition is crushed:

The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath.

Psalm 110:5

106. An encounter with the Sovereign Lord is enough to strike fear in the heart of the wicked.

It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

                                                                                          Hebrews 10:31

107. Jesus was an excellent judge of character. Indeed, the Bible teaches that he knew all people (John 2:24).

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.

                                                                                                     Luke 16:10

Regal wisdom from the King of Kings!

108.There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

 

The Living God is the Lord of time.

Somehow, from beyond space and time, he created space and time. He is Lord over moment and minute, Lord over hour, day, month and year. It is he who commands the seasons to march; he who maintains the great cycles of nature. He is Sovereign over the dawn and the dusk, the rising and setting of the Sun, Moon and the distant stars. Truly, the Living God made and sustains them all.

St. Peter provides us with a sense of the Lord’s timelessness:

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

                                                                     2 Peter 3:8

Yahshua, God’s only begotten son, also declared his transcendence of time while he was on earth:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

John 8:58

Let us make time for our eternal God, if only to express our gratitude for the fond memories and the fruits of the harvest he has bequeathed each of us by his limitless grace, which surpasses all understanding.

 
109. Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, just as you are progressing spiritually.
3 John 2

The Lord wishes us to enjoy good health and the Bible is full of wholesome advice on how our diet affects our health.

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself in this way. Now God had caused the official to show favour and compassion to Daniel, but the official told Daniel, ‘I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men of your age? The king would then have my head because of you.’ Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, ‘Please test your servants for ten days: give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.’ So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days. At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.
Daniel 1:8-16

The Bible provides valuable advice on healthy eating. In the passage above, Daniel the prophet and his companions looked and felt better by eating a diet rich in vegetables. Modern science shows that vegetables are packed full of vitamins, minerals and powerful antioxidants that can protect against many ailments, such as heart disease, cancer and dementia.

Say to the Israelites: ‘Do not eat any of the fat of cattle, sheep or goats.’
Leviticus 7:23

Animal fat is rich in saturated fatty acids. Eating foods that contain saturated fats raises the level of cholesterol in your blood. High levels of LDL cholesterol in your blood increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Although some foods were considered unclean under the Law of Moses, possibly to protect the Hebrew population from viral and/or microbial diseases, Jesus did away with all this:

Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.
Mark 7:15

In everything we eat and drink, moderation is the operational word:

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.
1 Corinthians 10:23

110.Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’ A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said,’ Peace be with you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’

Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’

Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’

John 20:24-29

Unlike all other works that purport to convey divine revelation, the Bible insists that reasonable faith is a testable faith. We see in the passage above that Jesus invites Thomas to do science, to put his doubts to the test. As believers we need not be afraid of tests. Tests are needed to forge meaningful relationships with each other, and conversely, the Lord tests us to see whether we truly walk the walk and talk the talk. It’s only fair.

Thomas, of course, had his proverbial cake and ate it. We, on the other hand, are separated from the historical Christ by two millennia, and yet we believe though we have not seen. Our faith is based on the things that are made, the love that we express toward each other, and the hope that we have for the things of God that are not yet seen.

Fortunate indeed are those that hold fast to the Christian faith of their ancestors!

111.So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Romans 10:17

The Bible teaches the we can hear from God in a variety of ways:

By reading the word of God, that is, the Bible.
By speaking with fellow believers.
By examining our conscience.
Through dreams and visions.

We must be aware however, that a person who has completely fallen away from the life the Lord has intended for him/her may have a conscience that is so impoverished that it can no longer be relied on. The apostle Paul writes:

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.

1 Timothy 4:1-2

112. Two of the most astonishing miracles that took place in the Old Testament both involved the Sun.In the Book of Joshua, Chapter 10, we read how Joshua, the successor to Moses, and leader of the Israelites, prayed to the Lord in front of his troops to extend the hours of daylight so that they would strike a decisive victory over the Amorites:

On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel:
‘Sun, stand still over Gibeon,
and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.’
So the sun stood still,
and the moon stopped,
till the nation avenged itself on its enemies,
as it is written in the Book of Jashar.
The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!

Joshua 10:12-14

And in the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 38, we read how the Lord caused the shadow cast by the Sun to recede 10 steps along the stairway of Ahaz:

This is the Lord’s sign to you that the Lord will do what he has promised: I will make the shadow cast by the sun go back the ten steps it has gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.’” So the sunlight went back the ten steps it had gone down.

Isaiah 38:7-8

The mind boggles!

Biblical scholars have long debated how these events could have conceivably happened. As believers, we must accept them as an article of faith. Jesus told us as much:

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Matthew 19:26

To be continued……..

De Fideli

Bible Facts Part II

Biblia

Biblia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continued from Part I

80. Two characters from the Bible were ‘taken’ by God; Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11) that is, they did not taste death. While some assume that they were taken to Paradise, the Bible does not make this clear. Jesus did however say:

“And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.”

John 3:13

Regarding Elijah, the prophet Malachi, speaking on behalf of the Sovereign Lord, says:

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:”

Malachi 4:5

Many assume this was a reference to the appearance of John the Baptist before Jesus’ ministry began (see Matthew 11:14 for example), but John himself, when interrogated by the religious leaders of his community, made it clear he was not Elijah:

They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.”

John 1:21

What we can say however is that John had the spirit of Elijah within him and Scripture itself makes this clear:

And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous–to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Luke 1:17

We also see this ‘conferring of the spirit’, if you like, when the prophet Elisha took on the mantle of Elijah after he was taken up:

And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him.

2 Kings 2:15

Thus, what Malachi was referring to must be a future return of Elijah to earth. This becomes more obvious when we read the reference to the “great and dreadful day of the Lord.” In the Bible, this expression is invariably a reference to end times prophecy.

81.”Teach a child to choose the right path, and when he is older, he will remain upon it.”

Proverbs 22:6 (The Living Bible).

The Bible encourages parents to teach their children as much as they can about the Living God. It is a very sad state of affairs that youngsters growing up today have virtually no knowledge of the Bible. They might passively participate in a nominal baptismal service, or some such, but after that they hardly ever enter a church again. Nor do they receive adequate Biblical education in school.  As a result, a generation of children are now growing up who cannot even say the Lord’s Prayer!

What an absolute travesty!

Disgraceful!

Unpardonable!

Good for kids!

Good for kids!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many Bible translations, it must be admitted, are difficult for children to understand, and many of the children’s books that recount the main Bible stories are somewhat lacking in detail. To this end, I read a paraphrased version of the Bible to my sons; The Living Bible, written by the late Kenneth N. Taylor (1917-2005), who produced a wonderful rendition of the entire Bible that is fresh, engaging and easy to understand!

I read them passages; they ask questions and I answer those questions, wherever they lead. And we all learn.

It has proven to be a Godsend in helping me teach Biblical knowledge to my boys (aged 8 and 11) and I heartily recommend it to other concerned parents.

82.But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”

Galatians 1:8

Anyone who faithfully reads the Bible will eventually come across passages that are either difficult to understand, or even hard to agree with! It pays to remember though that God is not human:

God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

Numbers 23:19

God is Spirit, existing in eternity. We, on the other hand, are created flesh and blood and so complete understanding should not be expected in this life. We are not to twist the Bible message to suit or own ends, or ignore tracts that challenge what we believe is ‘right’ in our own eyes.

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
Proverbs 3:5

83. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

Hebrews 9:27

Belief in reincarnation is ancient and widespread, dating back many thousands of years, and is a central tenet within the majority of Indian religious traditions, such as, Jainism, Hinduism and Sikhism. The post-modern New Age religions also, by and large, believe in reincarnation, as do some followers of spiritism. We even hear of people claiming to be the reincarnated Christ!  The Bible however, is very clear, teaching that we get one shot at life, not multiple, so that there can be no doubt that reincarnation is unbiblical and so must be rejected as false.

84. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.

John 17:14

If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.

Matthew 10:14

Jesus taught his followers that though we are in the world, we are not to be conformed to it. Doubtless, the post-modern world has changed beyond all recognition compared with the lives of our forebears. Technology has made our lives more comfortable. But the same technology cannot save us. We must be more tolerant of the views of others, but not necessarily accepting of them. Your thoughts and feelings remain sovereign.

God’s values are unchanging, and so must ours.

85.  After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.

Revelation 7:9

The Bible teaches that a great many people will be delivered to Paradise Hallelujah, from all over the earth and from among every nation.

“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.

Isaiah 1:18

The Bible informs us that many from this sea of humanity will come out of the great tribulation:

Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

I answered, “Sir, you know.”

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Revelation 7:13-14

Jesus told his disciples:

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?

John 14:2

86. Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

Psalm 119:105

How did the Bible ‘evolve’ into the various formats and translations we have today, and are the differences between them materially significant? Some history is useful here.

Prior to the 1200s, there were no chapters and verses in the Bible. Chapters were introduced by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton (1150-1228). Then verses were added in the 16th century by the French theologian, Robert Estienne (1503-1566). The Old Testament has been intact for well over 2,000 years, and thus has been universally accepted by Biblical scholars. The New Testament had a more uncertain history though. Prior to the 4th century, no single, complete manuscript of the New Testament has survived. Many of these were destroyed during the Christian persecutions of the Roman Emperor, Diocletian (244-311), and some of his predecessors. In an effort to preserve their sacred texts, Christians fragmented these manuscripts and hid them in order that they might be preserved for future generations.

Thus, what Biblical scholars reconstructing the New Testament had to rely on was a large number of fragmented texts (of the order of 25,000+ and still accumulating), arising from either the Eastern or Western traditions. The Western traditions (including Rome and Byzantium) accumulated the vast majority of these New Testament fragments and these became known as the Majority Texts. The Eastern fragments, accumulated by the Churches in Syria, Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries, are fewer in number, and have become known as the Minority Texts. The latter are generally older (but not necessarily better), and have fewer words than their western counterparts.

All this has a bearing on the various English translations of the Bible in existence today. The NIV, ESV and NAS, for example, are most strongly influenced by the Minority Texts. Other translations, such as the King James and New King James versions, derive their influence mostly from the Majority Texts. The latter were put together under the aegis of distingushed scholars such as Desiderius Erasmus(1456-1636), from fragment collections known as the Textus Receptus. Erasmus had a tough time reconstructing the Book of Revelation from the New Testament fragments available to him though, and eventually had to lean heavily on the Latin Vulgate text to fill in the gaps, which he then had translated into Greek.

To put the differences between the various translations of the New Testament into perspective, they only vary by about 0.2%. Although none are perfect, there are zero doctrinal differences between any of them! This should allay any fears that by reading one version in preference to another, one is somehow missing out on something. The differences largely amount to expressive style. The NIV presents the finest Hebrew poetry, the NAS employs the best Greek renderings, and the ESV, to my mind, is an excellent blending of both. The much loved 1611 Kings James Version still maintains its popularity owing to the fact that it was used by so many older Christians. Its language is Shakespearean though, so may not be to everyone’s taste.

In summary, diversity is really a good thing! Unity of belief does not necessarily imply unity of expression. Whatever Bible translation you choose, you can be supremely confident that you are reading the inspired, inerrant word of God. I like to read several different translations so as hear God’s word in different ways. I consider this to be an enriching experience more than anything else.

87. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4

The Bible teaches that all true happiness stems from having a good relationship with your Creator. He wants you to be happy!

Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the LORD.

Proverbs 16:20

One of the major reasons why people increasingly experience depression is that they have rejected God in their lives and look to other things that have no lasting value. How many celebrities do you know that have had, or have been treated for depression? It’s sign of the times in our post-modern society.

To some degree, depression manifests itself when we become absorbed in ourselves, and this kind of malady can often be solved when the focus of our thoughts and actions turn from ourselves to Christ and to others.

St. Paul, writing to the Philippians says:

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7

88. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.

Matthew 18:20

The Bible encourages believers to get together, to encourage each other in their faith, and this usually means attending Church. Giving up an hour of your precious time out of a week is not a lot to ask, considering what God has done for you (I mean, he’s done everything right? …apart from the bit you did for yourself). You may not like ‘organised religion’, but in the end, we have a duty to ‘walk with others’ on our journey of faith;

….speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 5:19-20

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

Proverbs 27:17

And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds,  not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10: 24-25

89. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.

1 Thessalonians 5:6

The Bible encourages us to remain spiritually awake, watching events unravel in the world, so that we are not caught off guard.

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.

1 Corinthians 16:13

90. The Book of Acts describes the last recorded words of Christ before he ascended to Paradise:

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Acts 1:8

Thought to have been written by Luke, a physician who accompanied Paul on many of his missionary voyages, and author of the Gospel of Luke, the Book of Acts describes the explosive spread of Jesus’ revolutionary message of salvation for the Jews and the Gentiles (non-Jews) alike. It was at Antioch that his followers first came to be called Christians:

And the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

Acts 11:26

91. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees…

Ezekiel 36:26-27

The Old Testament foreshadows and perfectly complements the New Testament. Here the Lord tells Ezekiel that he no longer needs to feel hopeless because he will provide a means of giving everyone a fresh start, a clean slate. Christ provides that transformative power should we wish to accept it.

92. Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God,  instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.  And God permitting, we will do so.

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit,  who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.  Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.  But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.

Hebrews 6:1-8

Some tracts of the Bible are genuinely puzzling, even troubling, and require much serious thought to achieve clarity. Consider the claims made in Hebrews 6, and particularly verses 4-6, emphasised above. The author was probably referring to the Hebrew diaspora that existed in the latter half of the 1st century AD, who had heard Jesus’ message but were still stumbling over the ‘gravitas’ imposed by the Law of Moses. The author was probably expressing frustration that they were dithering between living under the old Law, with all its legalistic observances, and with no real assurance of salvation, and fully embracing the security of salvation as uniquely provided by faith in Jesus Christ. What the tract seems to be conveying is that enlightenment, that is, knowledge of and adherence to the Law, does not equate with being saved. Think of the religiosity of the Pharisees, who were very careful to obey the Law of Moses but possessed hardened hearts which had stubbornly kept them in their unbelief. It is as impossible for a person to die again as it is to crucify Christ again. The writer is telling us not to return to the immaturity of the shadows of the Law but to stay in the maturity of the light provided by Christ. And it is by this means that salvation is readily assured.

93. He [Solomon] had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray.

1 Kings 11:3

How power corrupts.

Polygamy is mentioned quite a few times in the Old Testament. The first man to take two wives was the godless Lamech (Genesis 4:19), who became a murderer (see Genesis 4:23). And although Abraham only had one wife, Sarah, who gave birth to his legitimate son, Isaac, father of the Jewish nation, he also had an illegitimate son by Hagar, who bore him Ishmael, and who in turn would give rise to the Arab nation. Abraham’s polygamy led directly to the strife between these nations ever since. Another instance of polygamy comes from Esau, who took a number of wives (including the Canaanite woman, Mahalath, to spite his father’s wishes, see Genesis 28:9). Jacob married both Rachel and Leah (see Genesis 29) and as we see in the biblical narratives, this resulted in the division of family resources, the jockeying for power, inheritance, dominance, jealousy, anger and murder etc. Perhaps the most famous example is King Solomon, who had 700 wives and three hundred concubines! This absurd scenario arose because of Solomon’s decision to try to cement political unions with the surrounding nations:- in direct violation of the Lord’s commandment not to intermix with them:

You shall make no covenant with them and show no favour to them. Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons.

Deuteronomy 7:2-3

The Lord warned his people that acquiring multiple wives was nothing more than a greedious perversion:

And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.

Deuteronomy 17:17

Clearly, polygamy was not part of the divine plan for humankind, as it invariably led to division, conflict and disaster. Polygamy was part of the recipe that led to downfall of both David and Solomon (the greatest Kings to arise in Judah) and the wickedness that ensued among their sons, as recounted in 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles.

But let us remember God’s original intention to bring one man and one woman into matrimonial union:

Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’

Matthew 19:4-5

Notice how Jesus mentions ‘wife’ and not ‘wives,’ ‘one flesh’, not several.

The first man, Adam, was given a single woman, Eve, as his companion, not a hareem!

Today, with the widespread acceptance of deviant sexual mores and declining moral values in general, polygamy is now up for discussion and there are calls for its legalisation in many nations. It is only a matter of time when it will be fair game in our sick and depraved postmodern societies, where anything goes. This is the world that we are creating; a world that our children will inherit.

94. Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord; that walketh in his ways. For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee. Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table. Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord. The Lord shall bless thee out of Zion: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life. Yea, thou shalt see thy children’s children, and peace upon Israel.

Psalm 128

Psalms, (of which there are 150 in all) is a greatly loved and sought after book in the Bible. Many New Testament-only Bibles include the Psalms as an accompaniment. Psalms explore the full gamut of the human condition in a uniquely poetic and practical way, uniting the Old and New Testament in Song. Whether you’re happy or sad, young or old, rich or poor, Psalms will speak to you! Originally unnamed, owing to the large and diverse collection of literary material it contains, it was once upon a time known as The Book of Praises.

95. I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.
                                                                             Matthew 10:16

Believers are called to share the faith they have with others, for what value does faith have if it remains hidden, buried deep within you? Become as a bright candle shining in the dark; fill your world with hope and light.

The Apostle Peter writes:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect;

1 Peter 3:15

96. Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed.  But some of them said, ‘By Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.’ Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven. Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: ‘Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebul. Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

Luke 11:14-20

During his exchange with a sceptical audience, our Lord used impeccable reasoning to unveil the foolishness of their accusations. He used reason to demolish their argument. The Bible is full of such narratives.

The Biblical God is a God of reason and probity. In studying the creation for example, the grand edifice of modern physical science has identified the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics to its understanding. This should not be surprising, if indeed God is a rational being. So, in doing good science, we are, in effect, thinking God’s thoughts after him.

Humans are rational because God is rational. When we think rationally, we are thinking biblically. Conversely, when we think or behave irrationally, we are thinking unbiblically. No other system of belief is truly rational, internally consistent and testable like the Bible is. Thus, biblical reasoning is the only basis for rational thought, whether we care to admit that or not.

The Psalmist declares:

For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.

Psalm 36:9

97. If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married.

                                                                            Deuteronomy 24:5

God clearly wants newly married couples to celebrate the love they have for each other! He encourages newly weds to live together and, if at all possible, not to take up jobs that will separate them. The original passage probably referred to the affairs of state only, but we can still see where the modern idea of ‘honeymoon’ might have originated.

98. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.

Psalm 68:5

The Sovereign Lord cares deeply about the welfare of widows and orphans. In Biblical times, a family that was left fatherless was in perilous danger of starving to death. He instructed his people to care for and not to exploit them lest they arouse his fierce anger:

Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.

Exodus 22:22-23

In our world, as in Biblical times, those who are helpless tend to be taken advantage of by those who think they can get away with it. However, nothing escapes God’s notice, and his mighty justice will avenge them:

You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, so that mere earthly mortals will never again strike terror.

Psalm 10:17-18

In his First Letter to Timothy, St. Paul elaborates on this sense of social justice and how it embodies godliness in its most basic form (see 1 Timothy 5:1-16).

99. But let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, says the LORD.

Jeremiah 9:24

The Necessity of Hell

The beauty of Divine justice is that it is perfectly balanced with Divine mercy. A God who turns a blind eye to our wrongdoings can’t be truly just and a God that punishes too harshly is equally unjust. People often ask why a loving God would send someone to hell; but hardly anyone ever asks the converse question. If, as St. Paul rightly points out, that all have sinned (Romans 3:23), then why send anyone to heaven? That’s because God is merciful. But the kind of justice we will receive is predicated upon the nature of spiritual beings themselves. Some passages from Scripture will help us here:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;

Jeremiah 1:5

God’s foreknowledge makes it possible for him to know us before we are born!

Another example of this is seen in a passage from Isaiah:

This is what the Lord says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armour, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut: I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name. For the sake of Jacob my servant, of Israel my chosen, I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honour, though you do not acknowledge me.

Isaiah 45:1-4

Here we see that the Lord knew the name of Cyrus 150 years before he was born and that Cyrus did not know him!

Note however, that foreknowledge does not conflate with the pre-existence of beings foreknown (see note 83 above).  What these tracts do suggest is that spiritual beings exist in eternity and we have a choice where to spend that eternity. That’s why there is a heaven and a hell.

Jesus spoke frequently about the reality of hell; indeed more so than heaven:

And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire.

Matthew 18:8

The Lord has already prepared hell to punish the angelic minority that rebelled against him before the foundation of the Earth:

Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

Matthew 25:41

Jesus tells us from this passage that eternal hellfire awaits those who have the greatest knowledge of God, but irrevocably rejected his authority in spite of that knowledge. This fits well with the evil, angelic creatures who were once in the presence of God but who deliberately rebelled against him, spreading evil throughout the Universe.

However, the Bible also makes it very clear that there are different degrees of punishment:

The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Luke 12:47-8

Because the Lord is a loving God and takes no pleasure in the torture of any spiritual creature, he will dispense an amount of punishment commensurate with the evil they have committed. It follows that some will be punished more than others, and for longer.

Once we have fully repented and have been purged of our sinful nature, we may enter Paradise. But there exists the possibility that no matter how much punishment is inflicted, a doggedly rebellious soul will refuse to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. We simply do not know the depths to which souls might rebel against their creator and for how long. Thus hell is potentially a place of eternal torment for human souls also. It is noble and good to hope for the salvation of all, of course, but we just cannot be certain that this will occur.

The prophet Jeremiah writes:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

Jeremiah 17:9

Seen in this light, the reality of hell burning forever becomes more of a necessity than anything else, to deal with the degrees to which souls might potentially reject the authority of the Living God.

Let us profess the central axiom of our faith:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

                                                                                              John 3:16

Don’t be foolish; choose life!

100. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

Ecclesiastes 3:11

This is one of my personal favourite Bible tracts; so deep but yet so simple. Our Great and Sovereign Lord has created a vast Universe, replete with colour and light, where beauty, order and harmony coexist. Every human being can appreciate beauty only because God has placed that ability deep within our hearts. We are able to sense eternity even though we are at present merely finite, corporeal beings. And yet, nothing that has been created can satisfy us fully, completely and forever. That’s why our rightful destiny is to return to God, who transcends all contingent things.

101. ‘Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not break your oath, but fulfil to the Lord the oaths you have made.”  But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne;  or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black.  All you need to say is simply “Yes,” or “No”; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Matthew 5:33-7

Swearing on the Bible is unbiblical.

102. Jesus taught us that those who are materially comfortable, whose bellies are filled, have already received their reward.

But woe to you who are rich,
For you have received your consolation.
Woe to you who are full,
For you shall hunger.
Woe to you who laugh now,
For you shall mourn and weep.

                                                               Luke 6:24-25

103. What does the Bible claim about itself?

Man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.

Deuteronomy 8:3

Here the Lord tells us that his word is a source of spiritual nourishment. If we don’t know his word, we become spiritually starved.

I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.

Psalm 138:2

Here we learn that the Lord has elevated his word above his very name!

I would invite the reader to think on this a while.

 

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

The word of the Lord discerns the heart of every person he has created.

The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

Isaiah 40:8

The word of the Lord is imperishable!

104. The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.  And he said to him, ‘I will give you all their authority and splendour; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.

                                                                                                    Luke 4:4-6

Know your Enemy

The Bible teaches us that though humans were given permission to subdue all that was in and on the Earth (see Genesis 1:28), Satan made claims that he has power over its political institutions. Satan is clearly interested in the demography of human societies. In 1 Chronicles, we learn that Satan spooked David into making a census of the inhabitants of Israel:

Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.

1 Chronicles 21:1

Created as an angelic being (see note 37, Part I, for more details), Satan has or had access to the throne room of God. We learn from the Bible how he freely came among the heavenly host to request permission to torment Job:

One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan answered the Lord, ‘From roaming throughout the earth, going to and fro on it.’

Job 1:6-7

We also learn that Satan patrols the Earth. This echoes the Apostle Peter’s description of Satan in the New Testament:

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8

We learn from Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28: 12-19, how Satan once held a privileged position as an ‘anointed cherub’ but through the sin of pride, was cast out from among God’s presence, where he fell to Earth. Jesus witnessed his expulsion, which probably occurred before the foundation of the Earth.

“I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”

                                                                                      Luke 10:18

This is also mentioned in the Apocalypse of St. John (see Revelation 9:1).

Further evidence that this occurred before the foundation of the Earth comes from a passage in the Gospel of St. John, where Jesus rebukes the apostle, Peter:

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

                                                                                                                  John 8:44

Satan managed to convince a minority of angels to side with him in rebellion against the authority of God, their creator:

And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

Revelation 12:9

The phrase “ancient serpent,” is a reference to the serpent which tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 3:1-7).

Although Satan is more powerful than many angels, and all humans, those powers are still finite. He is not omnipresent (see the quote from Job 1: 6-7 above) and cannot read human hearts:

Forgive and act; deal with everyone according to all they do, since you [the Lord] know their hearts (for you alone know every human heart),

1 Kings 8:39

Humans can reject the power of Satan (and other demons) however:

 Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

                                                                            James 4:7

 

That said, Satan’s cunning allows him to present himself in dazzling displays. St. Paul writes:

And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.

                                                                                                          2 Corinthians 11:14

St. Paul, writing to the Ephesians, also describes Satan as a ruler of the air:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.

                                                                                             Ephesians 2:1-2

Satan’s goal is to turn as many people away from the truth as possible. Judging by the way in which the post-modern world is developing, he most certainly has a great many souls in the palm of his hands.

The Book of Revelation prophesises that after an escalation in his destructive power at some time in the future, he will be cast into hell for an eternity:

And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

Revelation 20:10

De Fideli

To be continued in Part III……………………….

Bible Facts Part I

Biblia

Biblia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this blog, I’ll be going through interesting facts revealed uniquely in the Bible. Slowly, together, a few points at a time, we will build our knowledge of this supernatural text and explain its value for all people.

 

  1. The Bible consists of 66 books, written by about 40 different authors over a period of about 1,600 years. The number of words contained in the Bible varies according to which version we read. The King James Version, for example, contains about 780,000 words, while many modern versions contain over 800,000 words. The Catholic Bible contains an additional seven books, known as the Apochrypha.
  2. The Bible is divided up into the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament deals with the millennia before Christ and the New Testament covers the mission of Jesus Christ and the spread of his epochal message of salvation to all nations under heaven. God divides up cosmic history, summarised by our modern terms of ‘Before Christ’ (BC) and after Christ –‘Anno Domini’ (the year of our Lord Jesus Christ) (AD).
  3. The Bible reveals the nature, character and power of God as Creator of the Universe and his divine plan for the pinnacle of his creation; human beings.
  4. The Bible was written by man but is inspired by God. 2 Timothy 3:16 says that, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”
  5. The Bible clearly teaches that there is only one God, but is triune in nature; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This may be confusing for other monotheistic religions, such as Islam or Judaism. In Christianity however, God is a Father who forever loves his Son and Spirit in eternity. What’s more, this loving, personal relationship existed before the creation of all contingent things. That love then spilled over when God created all things. Therefore God is love (see 1 John 4:8) and is capable of loving his creatures precisely because he is a Trinity. His Triune nature actually makes love possible! It would be incorrect to think of God as being ‘sometimes the Son, sometimes the Father and other times the Spirit.’ i.e modalism. God is always Father, Son and Spirit, together.
  6. The first book of the Bible, Genesis, teaches that God created the heavens and the earth, and all its living beings, in six days, and rested on the seventh day. Some Christians adhere to six literal days of creation, while others interpret those days as long periods of time. The original Hebrew word for day can be interpreted in a number of ways however, that gives people freedom to choose the timescale of creation.
  7. The Bible contains many inspiring stories about people who came to know something of God’s nature and who walked with him in fellowship. God befriends those who earnestly seek him.
  8. The Bible teaches that God is a jealous being; not the petty jealousy that ruins human relationships, but a righteous jealousy that stems from his sovereign nature. As our Creator and the only God in existence, he wishes that we worship him exclusively, with absolute loyalty, and not to look to material things or vain ideas that have no real or lasting power. God revealed his jealous nature to his prophet, Moses; Deuteronomy 13:4 makes this clear:

It is the Lord your God you must follow; and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him.

  1. The individual books of the Bible are, by and large, chronological. But there are exceptions; the book of Job, for example, probably predates Genesis by six or seven centuries, but actually appears in the Bible before the Psalms of King David, who lived much later.
  2. The Bible is universally regarded, even among secular scholars, as an accurate historical document. Many of its details have been proven true by modern archaeological investigation. For example, an inscription with the name of the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, who presided over the trial of Jesus before his Passion (and recounted in the Gospels of the New Testament), was uncovered at Caesarea Maritima in 1961. It was dated to the reign of the second Roman Emperor, Tiberius, sometime between 26-36 AD.
  3. The Bible has been, by some considerable margin, the best selling book of all time, diligently translated into more than 2,000 languages from the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Koine Greek texts. Over 6 billion copies of the Bible are in circulation, rising year upon year as more people seek the word of God.
  4. The Bible contains about 2,500 prophecies, of which 2,000 have been fulfilled to the letter, with 100 per cent accuracy, and a further 500 or so that have yet to occur or are occurring as we speak. God’s acid test for a true prophet is provided in Deuteronomy 18:20-21, with absolutely no margin for error. One of the most astonishing cases of such prophecy is the arrival of Jesus as Messiah, predicted over 500 years before his birth.
  5. The Bible is the origin of the seven day week, universally adopted by mankind in timekeeping. God intended us to work for a maximum of six days and to rest on the seventh day. And while some political movements in history have attempted to shift this basic seven day system in the workplace, none have succeeded in bettering it.
  6. Throughout history, the Bible has been valued as a great work of literature; a system of education in its own right, with precious moral lessons to teach people with or without faith. It has inspired countless individuals to action and transformed the lives of millions for the better, over many centuries.
  7. A number of recent surveys has shown that only about 10 per cent of self-professing Christians have read the Bible through, in its entirety.
  8.  God’s commandments (recounted in Deuteronomy 5:6-21) given originally to Moses, form the basis of all legal systems in democratic societies.
  9.  The God of the Bible favours small democratic societies over large organised systems. This is made clear in the story of the Tower of Babel (see Genesis 11:1-8), where God dispersed the peoples around the world, preventing them from forming a one world political system, where the potential for human evil would have been greatly amplified. God originally favoured, and fiercely protected, the Hebrews over all other early nations so as to maintain moral purity, until such time as his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, born into the line of King David, instituted a new covenant that reconciles all people to himself.
  10. The Bible teaches that God gave every person free will – itself an expression of pure love – to accept him as sovereign ruler over our lives, or to reject him. Ultimately though, God always gives us over to the desires of our heart. We are free to choose what those desires are: “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” Deuteronomy 30:19
  11. The Bible informs us that humankind originated with a single pair of individuals – Adam and Eve – uniquely made in the image and likeness of God (the Imago Dei), who were immortal and lived in complete fellowship with their Creator. After the Fall – the great rebellion against God’s perfect system – humans lost their immortality and inherited original sin. God shortened our lives so as to limit the amount of evil we could do as individuals. As a result of the Fall, we are all broken creatures in need of redemption. The Bible teaches that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) but God provided a way to redeem us by sending his only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a Roman cross, once for all, to take full punishment for the iniquities of humanity. The prophet Isaiah, writing 700 years before Christ, expressed it clearly. “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5
  12. The Bible teaches us that Christ – the ‘second Adam’ – was both fully God and fully man. He lived a sinless human life, walking, eating, speaking, working, weeping, teaching, breathing the same air in his lungs as we do; but through his death and resurrection, conquered sin forever.
  13. The world teaches that there are many paths to God, but the Bible makes it clear that this is not so: Jesus said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6.
  14. Psalm 12:6 declares: “And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times.
  15. The Bible has a very distinctive moral code. It asks that we not seek to avenge the wrongs committed against us, no matter what the crime; “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” the Lord declares (Deuteronomy 32:35). This is wholly consistent with the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, who further asks us to forgive those who trespass against us and to pray for those who persecute us.
  16. The word of God, as uniquely revealed in the Bible, makes it clear that all humans are part of his created system, and that he has given each of us the capacity to know this to be self evidently true: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20
  17. The Book of James, written around 45 AD, is the oldest book in the New Testament, while the Book of Revelation, written about 80-95 AD, is the youngest book in the New Testament.
  18. Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible – known as the Pentateuch. These form the foundations of the Judeo-Christian faith. Although some modern scholars disagree, St. Paul is reputed to have written 14 of the 27 books of the New Testament.
  19. God does not have a single name, but a multitude, reflecting the many facets of his divine character. Some of these names include ELOHIM, ADONAI, YHWH, JEHOVAH, Jesus, EL ROI and EL-GIBHOR. He also has many titles including, Christ, Everlasting Father, Lord of Hosts, and Prince of Peace.

    28. Unlike the constantly changing values of post-modern human societies, both the Old and New Testaments inform us that God’s nature is unchanging. He can (and did) change his mind, however, but only when his subjects are willing to repent. We see an example of this in the Book of Jeremiah:

    “..and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.”

    Jeremiah 18:8

    His prophet, Malachi, writing in the Old Testament declares:“I the LORD do not change.” Malachi 3:6. The author of Hebrews speaks the same of his only Son:

    “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

    Hebrews 13:8

    God’s nature is like the physical laws he established at the beginning of time, and which continue to govern the Universe; they are fixed and unchanging, anchored if you like, to his character. His Word (logos) upholds all of physical reality. You see, a morally perfect being has no need of change and is thus the faultless arbiter in the ephemeral affairs of humankind.

    29. The Biblical God is not a Universalist. Hearken to the words of Jesus:

    But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven. Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to turn ‘“a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law ..

    Matthew 10:33-35

    30. The God of the Bible is not a monster, who derives pleasure in punishing his subjects. After all, is it not he that gives life and sustains our every breath? The Lord is a righteous God who cannot allow wickedness to prevail. God hates sin. The prophet Ezekiel explains;

    “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord GOD. “Therefore, repent and live.”

    Ezekiel 18:32.

    31. There are many Bible translations available today. Some emphasise the ‘literal’, others the ’emotional’, and still others are paraphrases of the Word. A few are quaint and poetic.

    All are useful, all beneficial.

    Hear the words of King David as he declares God’s glory in the King James Bible (1611) version;

    Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

     Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:

    Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;

     Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;

    Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

    The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.

    He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.

    The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.

    He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.

     He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

    For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.

    As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

    Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.

    For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.

    As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.

     For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.

    But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children;

    To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.

    The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.

     Bless the Lord, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.

    Bless ye the Lord, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure.

    Bless the Lord, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the Lord, O my soul.

    Psalm 103

    32. The Bible teaches that we are saved by grace but rewarded for good works. Grace is God’s unmerited favour. It is his willingness to save us, even when we don’t deserve it. This attitude of loving us first before we love him back is reminiscent of the natural love expressed by young children that have not yet formed a cynical attitude to the world around them.

    Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

    Matthew 18:3

    1 Peter 2:2 says “Like newborn infants, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,..”

    Luke 18:17 says, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

    If you rid yourself of cynicism and humble yourself like a little child, God’s grace will pour into you!

    Furthermore, Jesus warns us not to suppress the natural faith of children;

    “If anyone causes one of these little ones-those who believe in me-to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.”

    Mark 9:42

    33. The Bible calls all people everywhere to pray earnestly to the living God, their heavenly father. Prayer means different things to different people; some ask, some give praise and thanks, others quietly enjoy solitary time in the depths of their being, along with their Creator. Never forget that when you have no where else to go, God is near.

    The Lord declares, “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”

    Jeremiah 33:3

    Jesus taught us this prayer: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

    Matthew 6:9-13

    James 1:5 states: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

    34. The Bible upholds the scientific method; make an observation, form a hypothesis, perform an experiment, derive a conclusion.

    1 Thessalonians 5:21 states: “but test everything; hold fast what is good..”

    Or consider the wisdom in the Book of Job:

    But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
        or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
    or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
        or let the fish in the sea inform you.
    Which of all these does not know
        that the hand of the Lord has done this?
     In his hand is the life of every creature
        and the breath of all mankind.

    Job 12:7-10

    The Bible encourages us to actively seek all truths, whether scientific or theological!

     

    35. The Bible is full of wisdom and practical advice for good living. The more we embrace a Biblical worldview, the more we will learn to appreciate the good gifts God has given to us.

    Consider the words of King Solomon:

    “It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.”

    Ecclesiastes 7:18

    “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” 

    Proverbs 22:6.

    “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much.”

    Proverbs 20:19

    “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.”

    Proverbs 10:4

    “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.”

    Proverbs 16:3

    Kind David declares,”The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” Psalm 14:1

    St. Paul, in his address to the Corinthians says, “Everything is permissible for me,” but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me,” but I will not be mastered by anything.”

    1 Corinthians 6:12

    Or, in his address to Timothy: “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.”

    1 Timothy 5:23

    Consider also, the inspirational wisdom of our saviour, Jesus Christ;

    “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

    Matthew 6:34

     

    “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”

    Mark 8:36

     

    “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

     Matthew 6:19-20.

    “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

    Luke 6:37

    36. Both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible uphold the sanctity of marriage. Marriage was instituted by God and is defined as the sacred union between a man and a woman. Hear the words of Jesus:

    And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’  and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

    Matthew 19:4-6

    37. The Bible teaches that as well as creating all of life on Earth, with humankind having dominion over them, God also created spiritual creatures(Malak in Hebrew) which we most commonly refer to as ‘angels’. There are about 300 references to these creatures in the Bible. Angels are endowed with greater (but finite) intellect and physical power than humans. They have free will. They are all referred to as male, although it is probably more accurate to say that they have no gender. They reside in the presence of God but are dispatched to minister, announce or serve God in various ways. They appear to have various ranks or ‘choirs.’ There is no mention however, of angels being made in the image and likeness of God, or whether they are immortal or not. They were not given dominion over any domain, nor instructed to multiply on and subdue the same. No angel is human and no human can become an angel.  The majority are completely loyal and faithful to God, but a minority rebelled against his authority and are evil.

    Although the number of angels are legion, only five are expressly mentioned in the Bible:

    Gabriel: literally meaning “man of God” (see Daniel 8:16 and Luke 1:19) and carriages messages to God’s people.

    Appollyon (or Abaddon): a ruler of evil spirits and is identified as the ‘Destroyer’ of Revelation 9:11.

    Beelzeubub(Beelzebul); referred to as ‘lord of the flies’ or ‘the ruler of the demons,’ is a false god and is generally known as Satan (see 2 Kings 1:16 and Luke 11:15).

    Satan: the adversary of God and mankind.  He is the fallen angel, the devil, the ‘father of lies,’ who rebelled against God.  He’s mentioned many times in the New Testament, and appeared to Jesus in the Judaean wilderness at the beginning of his earthly ministry (see Matthew 4:10).

    Michael: literally meaning “who is like God”, is a great warrior-prince and general, who fiercely serves the Lord (see Daniel 12:1 and Jude 9).

    Angels can take many physical forms, including that of a human. The writer of Hebrews quips: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2

    38. The Bible tells us that every person is beautifully designed by our heavenly father; each of us precious beyond our wildest understanding!

    Psalm 129:14 declares, “I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvellous are thy works, and that my soul knoweth right well.”

    39. The Bible is arguably the most shoplifted title of all time, according to booksellers. No one knows why exactly; perhaps some are thirsty for the truth, others believe a set of books as important as the Bible ought to be free. Or maybe a good thief knows that they can be effectively sold onto a third party. In any case, bizarre!

    40. The Bible has had some embarrassing misprints in the past. Back in 1631, the Royal Printers in London made a blunder in the Ten Commandments: “Thou Shalt Commit Adultery,” it reads – Oops!

    41. The Bible teaches that there have been scoffers and unbelievers throughout history, and in every nation. They exist today. They’re highly religious, far more so than believers. They call themselves atheists or agnostics (closet atheists). But if atheists believe there is no God, then why are they always so obsessed with denouncing God – a being that they claim doesn’t exist? Why are they so worried about and vexated with Christians? Why do they view things on social media about Christianity just to mock? Why are there atheist/humanist conventions? Why are there atheist churches and humanist societies?

    Atheism is essentially an irrational state of mind that denies the creative power of God in their lives, even though the evidence is all around them, in the things that they see everyday, and the people they meet. It cannot be easy to be an atheist given the overwhelming evidence stacked against their world view.

    The Bible has good answers as to why this is. St. Paul cuts to the core of it in his 1st Letter to the Corinthians:

    “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”

    1 Corinthians 2:14

    “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’ and again, ‘The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”

    1 Corinthians 3:19-20

    How is one to respond to such individuals? With all the due care and attention we thrust on people who are dear to us; with gentleness and understanding; for every encounter with a human being is a spiritual one. Remember, God loves us before we love him back!

    The prophet Jeremiah writes:

    You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”

    Jeremiah 29:13.

    42. The Bible teaches us that love is the most powerful gift humans can give to one another. Not the cheap kind of ‘love’ that is superficially expressed, or given begrudgingly,  in much of our daily lives, but a deep and enduring kind of love that traces its roots to the nature of humankind; creatures divinely made in the image and likeness of God, who is a God of love. He gave us power and dominion over the animals and plants, and told us to multiply and fill the earth. Those qualities were not bequeathed to the angels (see note 37 above). There are angels that hate you because of who you are!

    St. Paul, filled by God’s spirit, expresses the power of love in his First Letter to the Corinthians:

    If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

    Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

    And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

    1 Corinthians 13: 2-8.

    43. Not everything is clear cut from the Bible; not all knowledge is provided us fully. One example is the thorny issue of capital punishment, and whether it should or should not be instituted for the gravest crimes. Of 195 nations surveyed, only 37 maintain the death penalty. In past times, many more nations adopted it, and our Lord himself was condemned to death.

    Historically, we can trace the practice of capital punishment to a passage in Genesis;

    Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.

                                                                                            Genesis 9:6

    Because human beings are made in God’s image, murder was such a heinous affront to both God and man that it had to be assuaged with the blood of the murderer. The passage from Genesis 9:6 suggests that this sense of justice is woven into the very moral fabric of Creation itself. But how do we square this with the message of the New Testament and the revealed life of Christ?

    This is not an easy question to answer. Because of Christ’s gospel of grace is held to have fulfilled the Old Testament law, it is appropriate to question whether the Old Testament’s calling for capital punishment— itself a powerful enforcer of the law— should really be applied in our modern world. And as recipients of God’s grace, are we not all called to extend that grace to others as well? How do we weigh justice with reconciliation? Two additional passages from Scripture, in my opinion, have a particular bearing on these questions;

    “Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

    James 2:13

    “It is mine to avenge; I will repay.”

    Deuteronomy 32:35.

    So, in summary, it’s always best to trust the judgement of God, because his measure of justice and mercy is infinitely greater than ours.

    44. The Bible tells us that having faith is a kind of ‘imputed’ righteousness, like donning a bejeweled garment. Arguably the man who had the greatest and deepest faith in history was Abram (later called Abraham). His was the kind of faith that was as extraordinary as it was unwavering. In the Book of Genesis we see how the Lord rewarded Abram by choosing him as the father of a great nation;

    “He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the sky and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”

    Genesis 15:5-6

    Righteousness was credited to him because of his faith!

    45. The Bible says that some of the ‘elect’ will interrogate angels:

    “Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!”

    1 Corinthians 6:3

    46. Jesus was a socialist. He believed in accumulating spiritual wealth and not material wealth.

    “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

    Matthew 6:19-21

    Concerning material wealth, Jesus said, “ it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

    Matthew 19:24

    One day, a virtuous man who kept all the commandments since he was very young, approached Jesus and asked him what he needed to do to inherit heavenly treasure. Mark’s Gospel tells us:

    Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’  At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

    Mark 10:21-22

    Jesus would have been utterly disgusted with the current brood of ‘prosperity gospel teachers,’ who distort the message of Jesus for their own greedy gain.

    It pays to remember that even a relatively poor person in today’s western society would be considered very rich in the society that Jesus taught and lived in.

    Those who are first in this life will be last in the next.

    47. The word ‘abortion’ does not appear in the Bible, but we can use its wisdom to infer that it is always morally wrong to kill an unborn child. There are ways to avoid abortion altogether; adoption is a good example.

    The Lord gave us this commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” Exodus 20:13.

    The Lord recognises the sovereignty of all people from the moment of their conception.

    While John the Baptist was still in his mother’s womb, he reacted with joy when Mary, herself pregnant with Jesus, came to visit her:

    “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit .”

    Luke 1:41

    And when the Lord called Jeremiah, while he was still a boy, he said of him;

    “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

    Jeremiah 1:5

    We can thus be assured that all humans, including the countless millions of aborted, stillborn and miscarried children, will be raised and given a chance to live in the world to come.

    48. Psalm 90:10 declares:

    “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures;”

    Today, nearly three millennia later, we find that the average human lifespan has not really changed very much, despite all the medical advances our civilization enjoys!

    49. St. Paul believed the greatest threat to the future of the Church would not just come from an outside source, but also from within; from leaders who will teach unsound doctrines:

    “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.”

    Acts 20:28-31

    50. The Tree of Life, which was once situated in the Garden of Eden, is now located in Paradise. The Book of Revelation states:

    “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”

    Revelation 2:7

    51.The Bible encourages each and every one of us to discover our calling and to commit to it with zeal. St. Paul, writing to the Church in Rome says;

    We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach;  if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

    Romans 12:6-8

    52. Luke’s Gospel recounts how the heavenly host react to a single person who sincerely turns from his/her sinful ways. Jesus said:

    “I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

    Luke 15:10

    53. There are no contradictions in the Bible. Of course, various people have claimed to find contradictions but to do so, they have to take verses out of context, and this is never fair game. This amazing consistency is all the more remarkable given that the Bible was written over such a long period of time.

    54. The Bible teaches that God is control of human destiny. All the vainglorious machinations of mankind will come to absolutely nothing. Jesus says:

    “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

    Revelation 22:13

    55. The Bible informs us that there are two types of wisdom; one earthly and imperfect, the other divinely sanctioned and perfect. The Book of James explains:

    Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.  But if you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

    But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

    James 3:13-18

    56.The Bible does not condone deception, but there are cases where telling an untruth is the right thing to do. Consider the wonderful story of Rahab, a young Canaanite prostitute, who lived in the city of Jericho. As recounted in Joshua 2-6, Rahab hid two Israelite spies on her roof, who were being pursued by the King of Jericho’s mercenaries, and deliberately misled them into believing that they had left. In return for her kindness, she asked that her family be spared. After Joshua took the city, he had mercy on Rahab and her family. Although she was a ‘woman of the street’, Rahab feared  the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and she endangered her own life to save Joshua’s men.

    Remarkably, Rahab married Salmon, and their son, Boaz, married Ruth (recounted in the Book of Ruth). Their son in turn, Obed, was the father of Jesse, who was the father of King David, the ancestor of Jesus Christ! (See Matthew 1:5)

    What a remarkable story!

    How gracious the Lord is!

    Rahab’s faith, despite her great many sins, entitled her to be grafted into the genealogy of Jesus Christ!

    57. The God of the Bible is not a fan of those who are lukewarm in their faith;

    “So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.”

    Revelation 3:16

    Being lukewarm is an indicator of an underlying tension, an ‘undecided’ or ‘wavering’ faith that is not built on solid foundations. And without solid foundations, nothing of lasting value can be built up.

    Those who ask in doubt are not likely to succeed:

    “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.”

    James 1:6

    Jesus says:

    “No one lights a lamp, then hides it in a drawer. It’s put on a lamp stand so those entering the room have light to see where they’re going”

    Luke 11:33

    The Psalmist declares:

    “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

    Psalm 27:14

    58. The Biblical texts have been used to derive an ‘article of faith’, or ‘creed’, by followers of Jesus Christ; a distillation, if you like, of the central ideas that unite believers the world over. St. Paul, writing to the Church in Colossae, gets very close though:

    The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,  and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

    Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation – if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.

    Colossians 1:15-23

    59.“I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.”

    Matthew 13: 35

    Jesus was a seed planter and the world’s greatest teacher. He used parables rather than plain speech in conveying deep truths about the meaning of life. But why parables? What power do they have over direct speech in touching base with spiritual riches? The answer lies in their simplicity. Parables cut through cultures, creeds and ages. The wisdom they convey is always and universally valid. The messages they carry would lodge in people’s memories and stir the heart, much in the same way as a seed would stir upon sensing the arrival of spring. No matter how many times we hear them or have them explained, they still have the power to change us, and always for the better, if we let them.

    Jesus told his parables in public, among throngs of people, rich and poor; the powerful and the powerless; men, women and children. He would speak more plainly in private, when his disciples asked him about some details contained within them.

    60. The God, whom Jesus acknowledged as ‘Abba’ or ‘Father’ was clearly the Old Testament God, who is personally involved with his creation, holy and one. In him both justice and love hang together, and thus, his ultimate triumph over evil is readily assured. Through his Spirit, he is the author of all zeal for goodness in humankind. His ears are open to the prayers of his servants, who can speak to him through the contrite meditations of the heart. The prophet Hosea writes:

    But you must return to your God;

    maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.

    Hosea 12:6

     

    Teaching with a great sense of urgency, Jesus declared that the triumph of God’s love was imminent;

    “The time has come,” he said, “the Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news.”

    Mark 1:15

    This ‘imminent’ Kingdom referred to by Jesus would ultimately bring blessings on and rewards to the oppressed. Renewing a relationship with God is a matter of the heart, as well as the springs of action.  It requires a revitalised relationship with our heavenly father and suffering is one of the tests of this relationship, though it cannot destroy the assurance of the ultimate providence of God.

    61. Jesus showed contempt for what we might call ‘religiosity.’ It is simply not enough to point to one’s religious status or observances, for the creator’s demands extend far beyond the outward ‘righteousness’ to which these commonly stand. Where the Law required people not to murder, Jesus, speaking on behalf of his father, goes further, condemning hatred and lust within the heart. We cannot expect God’s forgiveness at the coming judgement unless we are willing to forgive others ourselves. Jesus warns us that to reject his message is to repudiate the Spirit of God himself:

    “And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man [Jesus] will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or the age to come.”

    Matthew 12: 31-32

    62. The four Gospels appearing in the New Testament of the Bible record at least 32 different miracles performed by Jesus of Nazareth in considerable detail. He performed many more however;

    “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

    John 21:25

    Intriguingly, only three appear in all four Gospels: – restoring sight to the blind (various people), feeding the 5,000 from a few barley loaves and fish, and the greatest one of them all – his own resurrection from the dead.

    These miracles were witnessed by hundreds and thousands of people, which greatly helped his message spread throughout Israel and far beyond. St. Paul, who himself witnessed the risen Christ on the road to Damascus (see Acts 9), informs us of over 500 eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ resurrection in the 40 days before his ascension into paradise:

    “….he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas [Peter], and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

    1 Corinthians 15:4-8

    Jesus’ miracles not only showed his deep concern for human suffering but also his power over both the limitations and fury of nature. He walked on water (see John 5:16-21, for example) and calmed storms (see Mark 4:35-41).

    63. The Bible strongly suggests that Jesus had brothers and sisters (see Luke 8:19, Mark 3:31 and Matthew 12:46). The brothers are named; James, Judas, Joseph and Simon (see Matthew 13:55). His sisters are not named, however.

    Roman Catholic tradition teaches that these individuals were not in fact his true brothers and sisters, but were likely cousins or half-brothers and sisters grafted into the Holy Family from a previous relationship Joseph had prior to marrying Mary. This is very difficult to substantiate however, as the context strongly suggests that Jesus grew up in an otherwise normal family environment with blood siblings. For example, consider the story related in Chapter 7 of St. John’s Gospel, where Jesus went to the Feast of Tabernacles:

    “For even his own brothers did not believe in him.”

    John 7:5

    Clearly, St. John mentioned Jesus’ “own brothers” to emphasise the degree to which those who were closest to him were unsure about his identity. Would the tract come across more strongly were it to read:

    For even his own cousins did not believe in him.“?

    Self evidently not!

    The reasons why Catholics persist with the idea that Jesus did not have natural siblings is to exalt Mary, Jesus’ mother, who is indeed “blessed” among women (see Luke 1:42), but the suggestion that she was a “perpetual virgin” has no biblical basis.

    64. The Bible encourages us to participate faithfully and honestly in civic and/or commercial matters.

    “The LORD detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favour with him.

    Proverbs11:1

    Unless it is entirely unconscionable, the Lord requires us to live under the laws of the land in which we abide. For example, Jesus told us to pay our taxes:

    “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

    Mark 12:7

    St. Paul writes:

    “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”

    Romans 13:1

    65. The Bible contains some very subtle and surprising teachings concerning believers and non believers. This may unsettle you. Consider some passages from St. John’s Gospel:

    “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

    John 3:18

    What Jesus is clearly saying here is that whoever is not with him is against him. Furthermore, if you believe you are not judged. Those who do not believe have already been judged!

    Next, please carefully consider John 16:1-15

    ‘All this I have told you so that you will not fall away.  They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.  They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.  I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you,  but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, “Where are you going?”  Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things.  But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.  When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment:  about sin, because people do not believe in me; [emphasis added]  about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer;  and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

    ‘I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.  But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.  He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.  All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.’

     

    Yet again, Jesus is saying that unbelief is a sin!

    It doesn’t matter if you respect him or consider him a great teacher. If you don’t accept his divinity, you will be judged; plain and simple!

    One might of course protest that “that’s a bit harsh!” But as sovereign Lord, creator and upholder of everything seen and unseen, he has every right to demand that you acknowledge him as such!

    What could be fairer?

    66. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”    John 1:1-5

    The Bible’s influence is worldwide. Its supernatural power has influenced every sphere of human activity. Its Scriptural themes have inspired the finest poetry, prose, music, science, mathematics and art the world has ever seen. Its moral fabric has guided the human race through perilous times in the past and will continue to do so in the future. Nor is the Bible’s influence confined to Christians. Significant parts of it are also considered sacred by 14 million Jews and 1.5 billion Muslims. Any attempt to belittle the Bible’s value is a heinous crime against humanity.

    67. The Bible warns us not to seek after false gods, for no other God exists. These take many forms; money, possessions, celebrity, social status, graven images, diviners, channelers, astrologers and other folk who seek or purport to possess mystical knowledge. In the post-modern age, false gods embody more sophisticated packages, such as new age religion, evolutionary pseudoscience, space aliens, and the like. These all, to some degree or other, have demonic elements.The Sovereign Lord declares:

    Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

                                                 Exodus 34:14

    The prophet Jeremiah writes:

    Learn not the way of the nations, nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens because the nations are dismayed at them, for the customs of the peoples are vanity.”

    Jeremiah 10:2

    St. Paul, addressing the Ephesians says:

    “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”                                                                                                                        Ephesians 5:11

    68. The Bible teaches that the family is a divinely ordained unit, the very basis of wider society itself. Husbands and wives share equally in the undeserved favour of life. Both husband and wife, with their complementary roles (1 Peter 3:7), hold the family together. Children are a great blessing from the Lord. The Psalmist declares:“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.  Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.” (Psalm 127:3-4). Children are instructed to respect their parents.“Honour your father and your mother.” (Exodus 20:12). The universal, post-modern breakdown of the family unit is a direct result of falling away from sound Biblical principles. St. Paul makes this clear in his letter to the Romans (see Romans 1:28-31).

    69. The Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments (it’s the same God remember!), firmly opposes same sex unions (Leviticus 18:22, Matthew 19:4-6) and does not recognise transsexual tendencies (Deuteronomy 22:5). From the beginning, the Lord made us male and female; equivalent but different; equal but not the same, where possible, for the purposes of partnering in the creation of new life within marriage (see note 36). Fundamentally, the Bible teaches that these sexual deviations are manifestations of a depraved and narcissistic (falling in love with one’s own ‘kind’ or ‘likeness’) mind or broader society (see Romans 1:28). Post-modern society teaches something altogether different, of course, leaning as it does on its own (but flawed) understanding, but it is God’s sovereign decrees that have ultimate authority in all these matters.

    70.“A cheerful heart is a good medicine.”

    Proverbs 17:22

     

    How true! The Bible is full of good, wholesome humour. We learn that God has a sense of humour just as we do, because we are made in his image and likeness. Laughter is indeed good medicine; studies show that people who have a good laugh, often live longer!

    Consider some of the many humorous proverbs of King Solomon.

    “Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.”

    Proverbs 21:19

     “If a man loudly blesses his neighbour early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse”

    Proverbs 27:14

    “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.”

    Proverbs 11:12

    Solomon’s great father, King David says:

    “The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming.”                                                                                                              Psalm 37:12-13

    And then there’s the amusing allegory of Balaam and his donkey, recounted in Numbers 22.

    Balaam was a pagan prophet who practiced divination and other dark arts, which led Israel into apostasy. Fearing the encroaching Israelites, King Balak of Moab sent for Balaam to curse the invading army. The Lord spoke to Balaam, expressly forbidding him to go to Balak. But the Lord later relented on the condition that Balaam would speak only his words. So Balaam saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab to the residence of Balak. But knowing Balaam’s wicked heart, the Lord’s anger burned against him and he despatched an angel with a drawn sword to bar his way on the road. Although Balaam couldn’t see the angel, his donkey certainly did, and she tried to discontinue the journey by going off the path, crushing Balaam’s foot against the wall and lying down on the ground in an act of defiance. Angered by her behaviour, Balaam used his staff to thrice beat the donkey.

    Then the LORD opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”

    Numbers 22:28

    Bewildered, Numbers 22:38 informs us that Balaam went to King Balak and said to him , “I must speak only what God puts in my mouth,” which just goes to show that God can use anything, even a donkey and a rebellious prophet, to do his will and speak his truth.

    Or what about the wry humour expressed when the wicked King Jehoram of Judah received his good riddance from his ‘adoring’ subjects:

    “Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. He passed away, to no one’s regret, and was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.”

    2 Chronicles 21:20

    Or consider the amusing story of the priggish, self-righteous, ‘holier than thou’ Jonah. After running away from God, then rescued from drowning by spending three days in the belly of a big fish, and then whining that God rescued the 120,000 strong population of Nineveh from destruction, Jonah, ever the drama queen, throws a wobbly about a withering vine because it made him hot and uncomfortable. Then in Jonah 4:9 we read that “he wanted to die”! Indeed everything and everyone in the Book of Jonah—the sailors, the big fish, the sea, the gourd, the hot wind, the devouring worm, and the people of Nineveh, obeyed God. All except Jonah! Still, the Lord showed his true colours by having compassion and mercy on the city and their animals— but Jonah still disdained them. What was the Lord’s response?

    Lighten up man!

    God had to have a sense of humour to not only put up with, but use Jonah for his glory!

    Jesus too had a wicked (excuse the pun) sense of humour, subtle but still unmistakable. For example, when referring to the religiosity of the Pharisees, he remarked:

    “You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”

    Matthew 23:24

    And while explaining the efficacy of prayer he asks his Apostles:

    “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If your son asks for an egg, will you give him a scorpion?”                                                                                                                                                                                                Luke 11:11-12

    The message is clear; take God seriously, not yourself!

    71. Jesus was not the only one to raise people from the dead in the Bible. In the Old Testament, the prophets Elijah and Elisha were given the power to raise individuals from the dead (see 1 Kings 17:17-24 and 2 Kings 4:18-37, respectively, for examples), and in the New Testament, after Jesus’ resurrection into paradise, the apostles Peter (Acts 9:36-43) and Paul (Acts 20:7-12), both filled with the Holy Spirit, brought the dead back to life. That individuals other than Jesus could resurrect the dead should not surprise the reader. Jesus himself says: “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
                                                                                            
    John 14:12

    72.  “Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.” John 18:37.  Because the Lord is truth, the emerging scientific record of nature must necessarily point to the creator God of the Bible. This is indeed proving more and more to be the case. Hallelujah!

    73. “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning–the sixth day.
                                                                                     Genesis1:31

    The Biblical God commands us to keep and care for the Earth; “Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell” Numbers 35:34. God’s edict that we have dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:28) doesn’t mean that we exploit it to the point of destroying it. Sadly, this has happened all too often; we continue to rape the land, denude the forests, strip-mine the hills, gut and burn through the planet’s resources. This is the only place that we have and if we chose to abuse it, it will be a choice we may live to regret.

    74. The Bible teaches us that God created animals. Though we were given dominion over them, God has not relinquished his ownership of them (see Psalm 24:1). They are not the product of happenstance or random natural processes, any more than people are. As well as providing a great service to humanity – for they helped launch a global technological society – animals delight the Sovereign Lord, who watches them run, jump, crawl, swim, climb and fly as they play. In his exchange with Job and his wise friends, who had by then adopted a settled, agrarian way of life, our heavenly father questions their knowledge of wild animals:

    Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth? or canst thou mark when the hinds do calve?

    Canst thou number the months that they fulfil? or knowest thou the time when they bring forth?

    They bow themselves, they bring forth their young ones, they cast out their sorrows.

    Their young ones are in good liking, they grow up with corn; they go forth, and return not unto them.

    Job 39:1-4

    God is emotionally connected to the welfare of animals:

    Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat.

    Job 38:41

    During his earthly ministry, Jesus used animals to help us grasp the extent of God’s concern for us.

    “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.

     But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

     Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.”

    Matthew 10:29-31

    You see, if God cares about the death of a common bird, he certainly cares about the needs of humans. Here, he also provides  insight into God’s attitude toward animals. While it is true that humans are “more valuable” than a common little bird, that is not to say that animals have no material importance to God. He still values the life of that little sparrow enough to be moved by its death.

    Unlike humans, animals completely obey their creator. In the First Book of Kings, we learn that God commanded the ravens to bring food to the prophet Elijah:

    “And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.

    “And the word of the Lord came unto him, saying,

     Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.

    And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.

    So he went and did according unto the word of the Lord: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.

    And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook.”

    1 Kings 17:1-6

    God knows we appreciate animals so much that he wills their presence in the New Creation. The prophet Isaiah declares:

    “And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

     And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den.

    They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”

    Isaiah 11:7-9

    75. Only two books in the Bible do not expressly mention our Creator: Song of Solomon and Esther. The former is a collection of love poems exchanged between a youthful Solomon and his young bride, Shulamite, with the occasional interjection by the chorus of Jerusalem women. The latter is a story of political intrigue, involving a plot to carry out mass genocide in Israel by Haman, and the courageous acts of the beautiful noblewoman, Esther, as well as the wise council of her cousin, Mordecai. Though absent from the text, God’s providence and protection of righteous individuals clearly comes across in the story. Likewise, in Song Of Solomon, love, an attribute of the triune God, is expressed in human terms.

    76. ” I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
                                                                      Jeremiah 31:33

    When you look at a painting, you know there’s a painter.

    When you see a building, you know there’s a builder.

    When you witness the creation, you know there’s a creator.

    We are born with a conscience that helps us to distinguish between right and wrong. As the prophet Jeremiah relates, God has written his laws on the hearts of all people, irrespective of what the world has taught them to believe.

    77.“For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten.
                                                                                      Ecclesiastes 9:5

    What does the Bible say about the dead? The Psalmist declares: “When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.
                                                        Psalm 147:4

    The Bible often refers to death as a kind of “sleep.”This is because the dead will actually be “awakened” (resurrected) at the time of the end, with some, as the Angel Gabriel related to Daniel the prophet, “to everlasting life, others to everlasting contempt.” (Daniel 12:2).

    Jesus too speaks of death in those terms, reminding his followers that the God, whom he serves, is a God of the living and not the dead:

    “And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.   Luke 9:59-60

    He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”

    Mark 12:27

    It is clear that once someone is gone, perished, there is little point in attempting to communicate with them. Indeed, the Lord considers this kind of activity as an act of sorcery or divination (see note 67 above and also Deuteronomy 18:9-14). By all means, cherish the memory of the dead, but accept that they are (for now) asleep, and get on with your own life, as difficult as that might be.

    78. “How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.”                                                                                                           Proverbs16:16.

    The Bible has a lot to say about education. Wisdom is more valuable than any material possession. God expects us to accumulate wisdom and to apply it properly. What is more, the Sovereign Lord declares that all true wisdom can only begin with a knowledge and respect for their creator:

    “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”     

                                                Proverbs 1:7.           

    Christians should never fear or be discouraged by those who consider them “stupid,” “ignorant” or  “bigoted.” The Lord has a mighty plan, and he will repay those who have wronged:

    “It is mine to avenge; I will repay.”

    Deuteronomy 32:35

    79. The Bible teaches that tribulation is to be expected in your walk with God:

    “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”  

     John16:33                                                                                                             
    Jesus said that you must carry your own cross through life: 
    “And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”                                    

    Mark 8:34

    For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”

                                                                                   Luke 9:24
    St. Paul, writing to the church in Rome, says that tribulation cultivates patience, hope and endurance:
    “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope:”

                                           Romans 5:3-4

    We are to expect tribulation, which will escalate in intensity right up until Christ’s second coming:

    “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.”

    Matthew 24:21

    Only after the great tribulation, which will mark the end of the age, will Jesus come with his angels to gather the faithful to himself:

    Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

    Matthew 24:29-30

    There will be no secret or pre-tribulation rapture. The Apostle Peter writes:
    “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you”:
    1 Peter 4:12

     

     

To be continued in part II http://neilenglish.net/bible-facts-part-ii/……..

De Fideli