Ancient Mesopotamian Cylinder Seals

Gen. 3.15 Cylinder Seal?

Above I have posted a seal impression from the British Museum which seems to be no longer accessible. The pixel count of the above image is much less than the original displayed content. If I am correct on my take of the scene, it refers to the judicial promise/curse of Gen.3.15. Notice the woman picking the fruit while the kingly Messiah tramples the serpent leading humanity to victory.

I contend this biblical promise is referenced in Gen. 4.1 when Eve mistakenly thought she gave birth to the Messiah. Also, I contend Gen. 3.15 is the redemptive origin of the blood sacrifice, the eternal covenant fulfilled by Christ who had His heal pierced by the deadly viper at the crucifixion. The symbolism of blood sacrifice also frames the story of Cain and Abel. It seems that Cain had a first-born animal he was unwilling to sacrifice and brought fruits of the ground instead.

Also, it seems the chaos of God’s original creation brought on by dark forces (Gen. 1.2) was not chargeable since no overt command was broken. Gen. 3.15 provides the judicial sentence upon the serpent since the human couple had died to God (Jn. 5.24, 1 Jn. 3.14, Eph. 2.1, Col.2.13, et al). In Jn. 8.44 Jesus tells us that the devil was a murderer and liar from the beginning giving the rationale for the judicial sentence in Gen. 3.15.

Here is a story from Aramco World featuring The Morgan Library & Museum holder of the world’s largest collection of ancient cylinder seals. The article is very fascinating as is the video which can be found by clicking the “video tab” in the top register.

https://www.aramcoworld.com/Articles/July-2021/Mesopotamia-s-Art-of-the-Seal

What Should We Make of Unanswered Prayers? — Southern Equip

Need encouragement to pray? John Calvin once said that “Nothing is better adapted to excite us to prayer than a full conviction that we shall be heard.” That’s why Jesus said things like: Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For…

What Should We Make of Unanswered Prayers? — Southern Equip

Top Ten Discoveries Related to Abraham — Bible Archaeology Report

Abraham was the first and greatest of the Hebrew patriarchs; his story unfolds over 15 chapters in the book of Genesis (from Gen. 11:26-Gen. 25:8).  The Lord called him out of his own country to a new land and promised to bless the earth through him (Gen. 12:1-3). In our next top ten list, we’ll […]

Top Ten Discoveries Related to Abraham — Bible Archaeology Report

J. I. Packer on John Owen

If you read nothing else, read J. I. Packer’s introduction to John Owen’s work: The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. If a person is struggling in their walk with Christ, the contents of Packer’s essay will save this person much time to find the glorious truth of Christ’s power. As a testimonial, I spent too many years wandering in the wilderness not clear on the nature of the gospel. Perhaps, the best remedy is to read and study the whole bible, prayerfully and consistently. The Spirit will teach His saints the truth from its pages.

The issue at hand is whether Christ merely died for all and that man chooses Him verses that Christ, in magnificent power, brings the sinner to Himself. Packer also gives some guidelines on how to read Owen. It is a relatively long essay, by today’s standard, but profitable as it is long. Packer uses no extraneous words.

I have written contra Owen in a post about understanding what exactly a covenant is. I stand by what I wrote. One can be in agreement in parts with other Christians since no Christian is infallible.

Accuracy in a Complex World

Admittedly, I copied this paragraph from another site’s post who added nothing else except its attribution. The paragraph notes the complexities in ancient 2nd Temple Israel. Our own world is likewise complex. Let us not think earlier times and lives were somehow simply cut and dried and that the bible is elementary; it is not. Yet, accuracy can be achieved despite the complexity and is able to instruct us to the degree that we understand it. Though basic truths lie at the surface and are able to save us through the Spirit’s workings; A fuller and richer understanding awaits those who seek to know God and His dealings in life. This takes effort and rewards its seekers with a sharper focus on what is really important. Salvation is by grace and free which is effortless; but as a baby is born not by itself, yet, in order to grow up it needs directed effort.

The Hebrew and Christian bible is rooted in history attested by texts and other archeological data. This fact is incontrovertible despite the attacks of evil. The bible speaks to our situation to the degree we understand it accurately. It is God’s preserved word. Though this world is evil, He will rule in the midst of His enemies one way or another (Ps. 110.2). The following quote is by George Rawlinson:

The political condition of Palestine at the time to which the New Testament narrative properly belongs, was one curiously complicated and anomalous; it underwent frequent changes, but retained through all of them certain peculiarities, which made the position of the country unique among the dependencies of Rome. Not having been conquered in the ordinary way, but having passed under the Roman dominion with the consent and by the assistance of a large party among the inhabitants, it was allowed to maintain for a while a species of semi-independence, not unlike that of various native states in India which are really British dependencies. A mixture, and to some extent an alternation, of Roman with native power resulted from this arrangement, and a consequent complication in the political status, which must have made it very difficult to be thoroughly understood by any one who was not a native and a contemporary. The chief representative of the Roman power in the East—the President of Syria, the local governor, whether a Herod or a Roman Procurator, and the High Priest, had each and all certain rights and a certain authority in the country. A double system of taxation, a double administration of justice, and even in some degree a double military command, were the natural consequence; while Jewish and Roman customs, Jewish and Roman words, were simultaneously in use, and a condition of things existed full of harsh contrasts, strange mixtures, and abrupt transitions. Within the space of fifty years Palestine was a single united kingdom under a native ruler, a set of principalities under native ethnarchs and tetrarchs, a country in part containing such principalities, in part reduced to the condition of a Roman province, a kingdom reunited once more under a native sovereign, and a country reduced wholly under Rome and governed by procurators dependent on the president of Syria, but still subject in certain respects to the Jewish monarch of a neighboring territory. These facts we know from Josephus and other writers, who, though less accurate, on the whole confirm his statements; they render the civil history of Judaea during the period one very difficult to master and remember; the frequent changes, supervening upon the original complication, are a fertile source of confusion, and seem to have bewildered even the sagacious and painstaking Tacitus. The New Testament narrative, however, falls into no error in treating of the period; it marks, incidentally and without effort or pretension, the various changes in the civil government—the sole kingdom of Herod the Great,—the partition of his dominions among his sons,—the reduction of Judaea to the condition of a Roman province, while Galilee, Ituraea, and Trachonitis continued under native princes,—the restoration of the old kingdom of Palestine in the person of Agrippa the First, and the final reduction of the whole under Roman rule, and reestablishment of Procurators as the civil heads, while a species of ecclesiastical superintendence was exercised by Agrippa the Second. Again, the New Testament narrative exhibits in the most remarkable way the mixture in the government—the occasional power of the president of Syria, as shown in Cyrenius’s “taxing”; the ordinary division of authority between the High Priest and the Procurator; the existence of two separate taxation—the civil and the ecclesiastical, the “census” and the “didrachm;” of two tribunals, two modes of capital punishment, two military forces, two methods of marking time; at every turn it shows, even in such little measures as verbal expressions, the coexistence of Jewish with Roman ideas and practices in the country—a coexistence which (it must be remembered) came to an end within forty years of our Lord’s crucifixion.

Separating the Wheat From the Chaff

Labeling people with generalist classifications often leads to pigeonholing them wrongly. For instance, Jesus was thought to be closely aligned with the Pharisees early in His ministry. He held Pharisaical positions such as the resurrection from the dead and acceptance of the Prophets and Writings along with the Pentateuch. The other major 2nd Temple Jewish Sect, the Sadducees, believed only in earthly life and its consequences without any kind of afterlife.

Jesus, however, had to differentiate Himself from the Pharisees as a group since they were not correct in all of the beliefs or practices. When the disciples informed Him that the Pharisees were offended in a particular point of His teaching about defilement, He called them blind guides and that the twelve should have no dealings with them (Mt. 15. 1-13). Later, in Mt. 23 Jesus condemned their hypocrisy. Yet, after the ascension, when Jesus chose someone to be an instrument to proclaim His name to the Gentiles, kings, and the people of Israel (Acts 9. 15), He chose Saul (Paul) the Pharisee and transformed him. Later, Paul did not see any contradiction in being a Pharisee and a Christian (Acts 23.6). Paul took the good out of the bad and still clung to the basic doctrinal positions of resurrection and belief of all of the scriptures.

May we today not lump together disparate people and label folks because they espouse certain things that generally heretical groups believe when those positions are correct. The chaff will retain some wheat just as the wheat will retain some chaff.

The Mechanisms of Establishing the Old Testament Text

Peter J. Gentry has an article dealing with how and why the present shape of the Old Testament exists. The article is fairly comprehensive and technical but very readable for any layperson familiar with the bible. One does not need to analyze all his technical charts he presents, from himself or others, to fully grasp the points he is making. He writes in a very straightforward manner. I believe the article has great explanatory power and have benefitted from it probably more than any other work on this topic either in writing or speech. He says just enough in 20 pages along with about 7 pages of footnotes.

https://equip.sbts.edu/publications/chaos-theory-and-the-text-of-the-old-testament/

The Accurate Transmission of the New Testament

Timothy N. Mitchell explains some of the issues of how the authorial text was preserved. This is a great read. I have been following his own blog for the last several years and am very sympathetic to his thesis in this article. Enjoy!

https://equip.sbts.edu/publications/where-inspiration-is-found-putting-the-new-testament-autographs-in-context/

A Valuable Resource in Finding the Subtextual Reading of the Bible

These studies are at the college-level and are short. Often, they take ten minutes to read if one is generally familiar with the bible and its concepts. Some articles may take fifteen, or, twenty minutes with adjacent searches of terms.

https://www.etzion.org.il/en/tanakh/studies-tanakh/literary-readings-tanakh/introduction-i-subtextual-reading-biblical

A Refined View of the Concept of “Covenant”

While I may not agree with all of the following description in this Jewish site, it does help to explain the idea of the “covenant” which is rooted in ancient biblical thought and continues with the establishment of The New Covenant. A particular disagreement involves labeling the 66 books of the bible into old and new testaments, which I agree with, since they refer to the redemptive order. While the Jewish Temples existed they were symbolic of the grace that would appear when One in the order of Melchizedek would minister in the greater temple in heaven.

https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/berit