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Apostle Andrew

Andrew was one of Jesus’ first disciples. Unlike his brother Simon Peter, the readers of the Bible know so little of him. He became an apostle in Matthew 10 and remained as one of the Twelve even after the Lord’s death. It was said that he wrote the apocryphal text of the Acts of Andrew, and preached in the cities of Kiev and Novgorod. He was later crucified on an X-shaped cross or ‘saltire’ in the Greek city of Patras.

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Andrew and his older brother Simon Peter were born in Bethsaida (John 1:44). Both men worked as fishermen, and Jesus called them as his disciples just as they had cast their net into the sea (Matthew 4:18; Mark 1:16). John 1:40 offered a different version of Andrew’s calling as a disciple when he wrote that Andrew first found and followed Jesus. John also wrote that it was Andrew himself who led his brother Simon to Jesus.

andrew_apostle
“Andrew the Apostle”

Andrew’s name appeared on the list of disciples on all Synoptic Gospels (Matt. 10:2; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14). He was also present during one of Jesus’ most important sermons on the Mount of Olives about the signs of the end of age (Mark 13:3). It was Andrew who brought the boy with five loaves of bread and two fish to Jesus during the feeding of the five thousand (John 6:8). All twelve disciples were present during the Last Supper, but unlike the others, Andrew would only be mentioned once again in the Book of Acts (1:13).

Andrew’s Life After Jesus

Church historians filled in the gaps of Andrew’s life after the death of Jesus. Eusebius of Caesarea wrote that he went to preach in Scythia and that he later wrote the book of Acts of Andrew. He travelled further north and preached in the cities of Kiev and Novgorod. He also preached in Thrace, and later travelled south to Achaea in Greece where he was crucified on an X-shaped cross. His relics remained at the Saint Andrew of Patras Cathedral in Achaea. He is honored as the patron saint of Scotland, Russia, Ukraine, Cyprus, and Romania.

His feast day is held on the 30th of November. This day is also celebrated by Scotland as its National Day, and by Romania as the official Saint Andrew’s Day.

References:
Picture By Artus WolffortWeb Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork, Public Domain, Link
Coogan, Michael David., ed. The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Books of the Bible. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Douglas, J. D., and Earle E. Cairns, eds. The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub., 1978.
Eusebius of Caesarea. Eusebius of Caesarea. Accessed November 16, 2016. http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/03d/0265-0339,_Eusebius_Caesariensis,_Church_History,_EN.pdf.
MacRory, Joseph. “St. Andrew.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 16 Nov. 2016 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01471a.htm>.
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Thanksgiving Offering (Mosaic Law)

In a world that is full of tragedy and uncertainties, what is there to be thankful for?

For the Pilgrims who sailed from England to the New World aboard the ship Mayflower, there was a lot to be grateful for when they first landed in New England nearly four-hundred years ago. They were thankful for their safe landing on the shores of America after a dangerous voyage across the Atlantic. It was then followed by their survival from the harsh winter in their new homeland with the help of a Native American named Squanto and an allied tribe. When November 1621 arrived, those who survived celebrated the “First Thanksgiving” for God’s providence and benevolence with new friends.

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But the act of thanksgiving (or its offering and celebration) can also be traced back to the ancient Israelites right after their exodus from Egypt when they first started to craft laws and introduced punishments and rewards for their people. These were not ordinary laws as they were given by God through Moses. These laws also included something unique to the Hebrew culture called the todah or the thanksgiving offering. The todah (or specifically korban todah) means thanksgiving offering, but it can also be an act of confession, sacrifice, and even praise to God in some Biblical passages. Verses related to the act of todah or thanksgiving offering can be found from the book of Leviticus to the book of Jonah, but it was first mentioned in Leviticus 7:12-15.

thanksgiving
“The Embarkation of the Pilgrims (1857) by American painter Robert Walter Weir “

12 If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the thanksgiving sacrifice unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of fine flour well mixed with oil. 13 With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving he shall bring his offering with loaves of leavened bread. 14 And from it he shall offer one loaf from each offering, as a gift to the Lord. It shall belong to the priest who throws the blood of the peace offerings. 15 And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten on the day of his offering. He shall not leave any of it until the morning. -Leviticus 7:12-15

For the Hebrew sages, Psalm 107 offered a glimpse of some events that deserved the thanksgiving offering which included:

* The safe arrival of a person who went on a dangerous journey across a desert.
* The safe arrival of a person’s journey across the sea.
* The freedom of those who were captured or imprisoned.
* The deliverance of those who rebelled but were later remorseful.

These were some of the many examples in the Bible. Throughout the book of Psalms, the psalmists found many instances worthy of thanksgiving offering that went beyond the occasional ones laid out in Leviticus 7. Today’s world offers an uncertain future, but the practice of todah or thanksgiving offering anchors us in God’s love and reminds us that gratitude can be practiced every day.

References:
Picture By Robert Walter WeirPwHe6-AEvwmbIw at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain, Link
“8426. (todah) — Thanksgiving.” Bible Hub. Accessed November 09, 2016. http://biblehub.com/hebrew/8426.htm.
“History of Thanksgiving.” History.com. 2009. Accessed November 09, 2016. http://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving/history-of-thanksgiving.
Travis, Rabbi Daniel. “Tefilah: Praying With Joy.” Torah.org. Accessed November 09, 2016. http://torah.org/learning/tefilah-korbantodah/.
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Paul, The Letters of

The apostle Paul was the most prolific writer in the Bible with thirteen epistles under his belt. These he wrote within an eighteen-year period while he was on his missionary journeys. The first nine epistles were addressed to various churches in Greece and in Asia Minor. While the last three were pastoral in nature and were addressed to church leaders Titus and Timothy. Paul’s personal letter to a Christian convert named Philemon contained the apostle’s request for his escaped servant to be reinstated in his master’s household.

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The following epistles are listed in the order by which the letters were written (dates are only approximate):

paul_letters_of
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Galatians

Written around AD 49 or in AD 55, this was possibly one of the earliest letters of Paul to have survived into the 21st century. Paul started off with a short greeting to the churches of Galatia and wasted no time in addressing the issue of legalism. Certain teachings reached the people of Galatia. These teachings required them to follow Jewish customs even though Paul had previously taught that they had been redeemed through faith in Jesus Christ and not by following the law. Paul countered these teachings with an assertion that Christ had set them free from the yoke of the Jewish law and they need not take up the burden of following Jewish customs to be redeemed. He also encouraged them to be cautious against false teachers and to let the Holy Spirit guide their lives.

1 Thessalonians

This letter was written by Paul to the church in the Greek city of Thessalonica shortly after its foundation. He opened it with a short greeting to the members of the church and some words of appreciation for their unwavering faith and their good example. He encouraged them to continue living a life that pleased God, continue to love each other, live a quiet life, work hard, and encourage each other. The last few verses of 1 Thessalonians contained Paul’s practical encouragement to the members of the church in Thessalonica.

paul_letters
“Paul the Apostle, by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn c. 1657”

2 Thessalonians

Paul’s second letter showed the depth of his admiration for the faith of the members of the church in Thessalonica and their love for each other. He was aware of the hardships they suffered and in the letter, he encouraged them to trust in God to deliver them from persecution. He also admonished them to test those who claimed that they knew the exact moment of the Lord’s second coming. Paul assured them that Christ would return, but no one really knew when and where it would be. He ended the letter with a request for prayers, an exhortation for them to work hard, and not to waste their time with idleness.

1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians was one of Paul’s longest letters, and he used it to address a variety of subjects, which ranged from church matters to personal issues.

The personal issues included:
* Instructions to refrain from lawsuits against Christians and to reconcile disputes within the church
* Instructions to refrain from sexual sins
* Marriage matters
* Spiritual gifts
* Love as the greatest

Church matters that included:
* The conflicts between members
* Spiritual pride
* The consumption of food previously sacrificed to idols
* Instructions on orderly public worship and how to conduct the Lord’s supper
* Tongues and prophecies
* The resurrection of Christ, those who died, and the body

2 Corinthians

Just like Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, the second letter is also remarkable because of its length. In the first few chapters of this letter, Paul reminded the Corinthians that God is the source of all comfort and encouraged them to rely on Him during moments of weakness and conflicts. Two chapters (8 and 9) were dedicated to the Macedonian churches’ generosity to the Christians in Jerusalem and a personal call for the Corinthians to match their generosity. Paul wrote the last chapters to defend his authority as an apostle of Christ, cautioned the Corinthians against false prophets, and reminded them of his many trials while he served as an apostle. He later added to these with exhortations on how to live harmoniously and to “greet each other with Christian love.”

Romans

Paul’s epistle to the Romans is considered to be his longest and most organized among the letters he wrote to various churches. He was in Corinth when he wrote the letter and was making plans to sail to Rome and see the new converts in the city. In this epistle, Paul poured the full force of his intellect and his rabbinical education in his explanation of God’s relationship to man. The letter to the Romans was a back to basics kind of epistle wherein Paul explained that all have sinned and everyone deserved to be punished for violating God’s laws.

God, however, provided a way for a man to be redeemed from the yoke of the law and the punishment for the sins committed through the death of Jesus Christ. According to Paul, sin’s power was broken when Christ was crucified, and man was no longer bound with the law after his sacrifice. He also assured them that God’s salvation and mercy were available to anyone, whether the person was an Israelite or a Gentile. The last few chapters were peppered with exhortations on how to live properly, as well as a promise to visit them very soon.

Ephesians

The letter to the church in Ephesus was written during one of the lowest points in Paul’s life as it was penned during his imprisonment in Rome. However, it was unique as its intended audience was not only the members of the church in Ephesus but also to churches in other areas in Asia Minor. It was dispatched to Ephesus through his co-worker Tychicus, along with the letters to the Colossians and to Philemon.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was divided into two parts: the first three chapters addressed doctrinal issues while the rest dealt with the practical matters. He opened the epistle with God’s plan to redeem his creation through Jesus Christ and that those who believed in Jesus were made alive in him. From the fourth chapter onward, Paul taught the believers how to live as ‘children of light’ which were practical recommendations on how people should behave toward their spouses, children, employers, and fellow Christians.

Philippians

The short epistle to the church in the Greek city of Philippi was written during Paul’s imprisonment in Rome. Despite his circumstances, the letter brimmed with joy, contentment, and encouragement. It began with Paul’s thanksgiving and prayer, and the next few verses glowed with his confidence in Christ in spite of the uncertainty of his situation and his future. The second chapter contained a commendation of Timothy and Epaphroditus. While the third chapter echoed his earlier teachings against legalism. He ended his letter to the church in Philippi with words of encouragement and an appreciation of the Philippians’ financial gifts to him when he was in need.

Colossians

The letters to the Colossians and to the Ephesians were divided into their doctrinal parts and their practical parts. Just like in the letter to the Ephesians, he opened the letter to the Colossians with thanksgiving and prayer. He then cut immediately to the heart of the matter and addressed the gradual mix of pagan teachings and philosophies with Christian beliefs. Just like in other epistles, he had to address the issue of legalism and reiterated that Christ had died to set them free. He ended the epistle with reminders on how to live properly and how to deal with other people.

Philemon

Written and dispatched at the same time as the epistles of Colossians and Ephesians, Philemon was one of Paul’s personal letters which included those he sent to Titus and Timothy. Paul met and converted a servant named Onesimus to Christianity after he escaped from his master Philemon who was a member of the church in Colosse. Paul sent Onesimus back to his master with a letter asking him to forgive his servant, take him back, and consider him as a brother in Christ.

Titus

Paul’s last letters were mostly personal but no less brilliant than their predecessors. Titus, the recipient of this letter, was one of Paul’s assistants whom he trusted to lead a church in the island of Crete. The letter contained his instructions to Titus on how to properly lead a church and reminded him to promote the right teachings. He encouraged Titus to remind the members of the church to submit to the authorities and to refrain from quarrelling with or slandering each other.

1 Timothy

Timothy was a leader in the church in Ephesus, and Paul’s letter to his young protégé was written before the apostle’s final imprisonment in Rome. Paul knew the pressures the young church leader went through, so the letter was full of instructions on church matters, such as Timothy’s responsibilities to the converts, church leaders, and worship. Paul also repeatedly cautioned Timothy against false teachers in his first letter.

2 Timothy

Paul’s second letter to Timothy contained a sense of urgency. It was obvious from the start that the apostle was suffering in prison. It was penned before his execution in Rome around 66 or 67 AD, which made this letter more poignant. He knew that his end was near, and the letter contained additional teachings to the man he treated as his own son and an urgent request for Timothy to come as quickly as he could. Although Luke was with him, it was at this time in his life that Paul felt the acute sense of being alone. However, he assured the recipient that he did not feel any grudge against his friends who had abandoned him.

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Reference:
Picture By RembrandtNational Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., Public Domain, Link
* Keathley, J. Hampton, III. “4. The Pauline Epistles.” Bible.org. Accessed November 2, 2016. https://bible.org/seriespage/4-pauline-epistles.
** Stamps, Donald C., and J. Wesley. Adams, eds. The Full Life Study Bible: New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1992.
*** Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1996.
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Simon the Zealot, Apostle

The apostle named Simon the Zealot was mentioned only four times in the Bible, and the Synoptic Gospels (the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke) named him as one of the Twelve (Matt. 10:4; Mark 3:18; and John 6:15). Readers find him again in the book of Acts (1:13) after the death of Jesus and his ascension to heaven where Simon and his fellow apostles gathered together to elect a replacement for Judas Iscariot.

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Simon_Zealot
“St. Simon, by Peter Paul Rubens “

Simon received no more than four mentions in the Bible, but the mystery of the identity of this apostle deepened with his epithet or nickname: the Zealot. In some versions of the Bible, Matthew 10:4 and Mark 3:18 (NRSV) both mentioned him as “the Cananaean,” while Luke tagged him as “the Zealot” (the Book of John totally left him out). The word “zealot” came from the Greek word zelotes and according to the historian Josephus, it also translates to the word qanna’ in Hebrew and qan’ana in Aramaic. Why he was nicknamed as “the Zealot” is still being debated. Biblical scholars never really reached an agreement about this.

Perhaps he was involved at some point in his life with the Zealots, a group of nationalistic Jews (sometimes bordered on fanatical) who actively sought independence from Roman rule. They—along with the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Idumeans—actively participated in the Roman-Jewish War of the 1st century. It was unclear whether Simon participated as a fighter for them or that he was simply a religious enthusiast.

According to tradition, Simon the Zealot traveled to Egypt and evangelized to the inhabitants of an unknown region of the Roman province. He later accompanied the Apostle Jude to Persia where he died and became a martyr. While some sources mentioned that he died at Edessa in Upper Mesopotamia (present-day Sanliurfa, Turkey). The Catholics celebrate his feast day every 28th of October.

References:
Picture By Peter Paul Rubens – Museo del Prado, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14822135
Douglas, J. D. The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub., 1974.
Morris, Steven Donald. Unraveling the Family History of Jesus A History Of The Extended Family Of Jesus From 100 Bc Through Ad 100 And The Influence They Had On Him, On The Formation Of Christianity, And On The H. West Bow Pr, 2016.
“St. Simon the Zealot – Saints & Angels – Catholic Online.” Catholic Online. Accessed August 30, 2016. http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=241.
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Jude Thaddeus, Apostle

Unlike the apostles Peter and John, the Apostle Jude was one of Jesus’ most mysterious and lesser-known disciples. He received only a handful of mentions in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), the gospel of John, and the book of Acts. The two Judes (or Judases) completed Jesus’ circle of disciples, but they were distinguished from each other by their surnames with one being Iscariot and the other Thaddeus. His identity became more confusing as some verses mentioned him as the brother of Jesus and James (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3), while another verse identified him as the son of James (Luke 6:16). According to tradition, he was also identified as the son of Clopas and Mary, the Virgin Mary’s cousin.

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It was only in the gospel of John that Jude got a “speaking part” when he asked Jesus why he chose to reveal himself to his disciples and not to the whole world. All his other deeds during Jesus’ short ministry were not recorded in all four gospels. Jude was mentioned once again in the Book of Acts as one of the disciples who remained with the small group of new Christians after Jesus’ death and ascension.

Jude
Saint Jude the Apostle

Jude was credited with writing the brief epistle that bore his name and written between 65 to 80 AD. The epistle—addressed to unknown recipients—dealt with the danger of believing in false teachers and was ended with a call to remain steadfast in the Christian faith. Apart from this epistle, all other information associated with Jude the apostle can be gleaned only from tradition. Such as his mission in the Levant, Mesopotamia, and Cyrenaica (Libya), as well as his return to Jerusalem in 62 AD to help in the election of his brother, St. Simeon, as Bishop of Jerusalem.

It was said that he died as a martyr in Syria along with another apostle, Simon the Zealot, and venerated as patron saint of desperate causes and situations. His feast day is celebrated every 28th of October.

References:
Picture By Anthony van Dyck[1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5266986
“St. Jude Thaddaeus – Saints & Angels – Catholic Online.” Catholic Online. Accessed August 24, 2016. http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=127.
Cruz, Joan Carroll. Relics: What They Are and Why They Matter. Charlotte, NC: Tan Books, 2015
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How old was Ishmael when Abraham sent him away?

Hagar was given to Abram by his wife Sarai to have a child; as they were getting older, and Sarah had yet to conceive. Genesis 16:1 “Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.”

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Hagar and Ishmael in the desert

Ishmael was then born by Hagar unto Abram. Genesis 16:15 “And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son’s name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael.” Abram was 86 years old.

Ishmael was fourteen when Isaac was born by Sarai (now Sarah) – Abram (now Abraham) being 100 years old, Genesis 21:5.

It wasn’t until the feast of Isaac’s weaning that Sarah asked Abraham to send Hagar and Ismael away, Genesis 21: 9-10. Which he did the very next day, Genesis 14. Since there is no exact age known for the weaning of Isaac, Ishmael could have been between 17 and 19 years old when he was sent away with his mother.

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When was Mary Magdalene first mentioned in the Bible?

Mary Magdalene was one of the Bible’s most mysterious characters even though her name was mentioned around twelve times in the canonical gospels (more than some of Jesus’ male disciples). The name “Mary” seemed popular at that time with several Marys mentioned in the canonical books (the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Such as: Continue reading When was Mary Magdalene first mentioned in the Bible?