Whose dating system?

Thanksgivings on Special Occasions - Fifth in a series

Many feel Christ will return soon. So many signs point to that.

The realization that time is short lessens the importance of theological debate. The time is ended for quibbling over small differences that do not affect salvation. We turn now to the central concern: Are you saved? Do you know Christ as your personal Savior? Has he claimed you as his own? Are you walking with him?

But as we wait on the Lord, we will briefly look at a question that is not critical to the celebration of Easter, but holds interest for those who enjoy knowing about church history.

The early Christians disputed over when to celebrate Easter. A Bible verse caused the commotion: And you shall observe this event (the Passover) as an ordinance for you and your children forever. (Ex 12:24) Forever is forever, so the Quartodeciman faction sought to honor this command by keeping the celebration of the Lord’s resurrection on the same date as the Jewish Passover. Others associated it with the newly established day of worship, Sunday. You can read more about this schism here, and here, that an early church father Irenaeus entreated Pope Victor in about 190 not to excommunicate the Quartodeciman churches of Asia Minor. The controversy was finally adjudicated at the Council of Nicea (though some churches today continue to honor the Jewish dating system in their commemorations).

In 325 AD, only a year after the Eastern and Western Roman Empires had been united under Constantine, bishops from east and west met in Nicea for the first universal council of the church, primarily to settle the Arian controversy that had arisen.

Constantine was the first Roman emperor to permit and to profess Christianity. Throughout his life he attributed his success to his conversion to the Christian faith. Some ancient documents that share the Nicean Council’s proceedings still exist, helping us to gain an acquaintance with Constantine. In the following excerpt, we see his enthusiasm over the successful Council:

Greetings, my beloved brothers! We have received a complete blessing from Divine Providence, namely, we have been relieved from all error and been united in a common confession of one and the same faith. The devil will no longer have any power against us, since all the schemes he in his hatred had devised for our destruction, have been entirely overthrown from their foundations. At the command of God, the splendor of truth has dissolved all the poisons so deadly to unity: dissensions, schisms, commotions, and the like. We all now worship the One by name, and continue to believe that he is the One God. In order to accomplish all of this, at God’s summoning I assembled a large number of bishops at the city of Nicaea, and I joined them in investigating the truth, though I am only one of you, who rejoices exceedingly in being your fellow-servant. All points which seemed ambiguous or could possibly lead to dissension have been discussed and accurately examined. May the Divine Majesty forgive the unfortunately huge number of the blasphemies which some were shamelessly uttering against the mighty Savior, our life and hope, as they declared and confessed things contrary to the divinely inspired Scriptures. (ref)

The Council of Nicea in 325 also established when Easter would be celebrated. Constantine wrote to the churches:

At the council we also considered the issue of our holiest day, Easter, and it was determined by common consent that everyone, everywhere should celebrate it on one and the same day. For what can be more appropriate, or what more solemn, than that this feast from which we have received the hope of immortality, should be kept by all without variation, using the same order and a clear arrangement? (ref)

Unity among the faithful was important to Constantine because he had witnessed the divisions caused by the Donatist controversy and he wanted his empire to be secure from divisions. Also, of course, Scripture encourages Christians to be as one (Ps 133:1; Eph 4:3-6).

Thus, Easter came to be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox which was approximated to be March 21 by the Council. (It was several decades before the Alexandrine computations stabilized into their final form, and several centuries beyond that before they became normative.)

It’s somewhat astounding to think of an entire empire and all Christendom joining as one to celebrate Easter. I look for less allowance for this holiday in days to come, just as we have seen the erasure of Good Friday from the American calendar.

This blog series is about the special days in the Christian calendar celebrated by many protestants, however, Anglicans and other denominations today have more than the ones covered in these posts. The calendar dates of holy days leading to Easter are calculated, of course, by the Council of Nicea, and these are the ones we will look at next. Easter itself is not a Thanksgiving on a Special Occasion since those holy days are not observed on Sunday, as Easter always is.

Remembering God as Creator

Remembrance and its opposite - Seventh in a series

God is the only Creator.

Though we speak of people having creative skills, or of creating various things, did they not merely discover or manipulate what is at hand? When inventors join bits and pieces together in a new way, are they creating? This is manufacturing or devising, but a creator fashions elements whose substance is not made of things already made.

When God created the world and all that is in it, he employed the medium of his Word. This is a mystery. Somehow, the Word of God has creative agency to give life; to bring into being that which never before existed. (Jhn 1:3; Ps 33:6; Heb 11:3)

God's Word is speech; it is communication or narration; and it is the seed of the sower (Mark 4:14), the bread by which man lives (Luke 4:4), the glad tidings to publish abroad (Acts 13:49), the sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:17), the means by which we are saved (Jas 1:18), the power that upholds the world (2 Pet 3:7), and the name of God's son (Rev 19:13).

Somehow the analogies grow into realities upheld by the Logos: In the beginning (Gen 1:1) was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (Jhn 1:1)

Considering the marvel of the created world and its testimony about the Creator, it is no wonder that Satan worked to undermine the first chapter of Genesis by the false concept of evolution. As Christ pointed out, it is possible to nullify the Word of God by man-made traditions (Mark 7:13). But the faithful will remember and acknowledge the Lord as the Creator. (Ps 100:3; Rom 1:20; Ps 8:3-4)

We commemorate God's work of creation by resting on the Sabbath, which was established to be Sunday rather than Saturday, after the Resurrection of Jesus. (Acts 20:7; Jhn 20:1)

The instruction to remember the Sabbath is often noted. (Gen 2:3; Exo 16:23-30; Exo 31:13,14; Lev 19:3; Lev 23:3; Num 15:32; Deut 5:14; Isa 56:4-6; Jer 17:21-24 et al) The idea is not only to rest but to worship and to remember the Lord.

Satan strives to undermine this truth so that few today worship or rest on Sunday, often crediting Jesus for their notion that it is fine to work on Sunday (Jhn 5:17) as though he came to nullify the Ten Commandments. Also, many believe they are obeying the Fourth Commandment by attending or engaging in sports events or other leisure activities and leading their children to do the same.

Nevertheless, the Sabbath was made for man, (Mark 2:27) a profound statement. A day of rest in Christis essential to our emotional and physical health.

The Kishon

The River in the Bible - Fourth in a series

The Kishon was a seasonable river for ancient Israel: it gave at opportune moments, just when needed. What did it give? Assistance in battle and victory.

Pronounced "key SHONE", it is today one of Israel's largest and most important rivers, flowing through the Jezreel Valley and Carmel hills on its way to Haifa Bay. Its name, "bent like a bow" or "tortuous," describes a winding route. In commentaries we read that a portion of it is perennial but some of its path can dry up and then swell very suddenly and dangerously to overflow its banks in early spring, after rain or the melting of snow.

Around the turn of the 12th century BC in the days of the Judges, the Kishon gave help to Israel to reestablish their claim to the Promised Land. Again, in the mid-eighth century BC, it assisted Elijah in his quest to restore the faith of God's people in the Northern Kingdom. Perhaps it helped the people at other times since it was near the Esdraelon, a great battlefield of Israel (ref)

We first read of Kishon as a town of Issachar given to the Levites by Joshua as their portion in serving the people as priests. (Joshua 21:28) The town and river are associated. If we reflect on this, the Kishon reminds us of the importance of — and command to — worship God.

Next we read of the Kishon River in Deborah's prophecy shared with Barak, "And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand." (Jdg 4:7)

The Lord planned to use the river to confound the enemy even though they had 900 iron chariots and Israel had none. Barak agreed to go and fight, but only if Deborah would accompany him. He had lost confidence in his own capacity to hear from the Lord and in God's promise: When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the LORD thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. (Deut 20:1)

At Deborah's word, Barak followed the Lord, pursuing the enemy down the mountain toward the Kishon (Jdg 4:14-16), and Jabin's army could not ford the raging torrent. Deborah saw the triumph and later sang, "The river of Kishon swept them away, that ancient river, the river Kishon. O my soul, thou hast trodden down strength." (Jdg 5:21) Her "thou" was the river, and the Lord.

Deborah's song ended with this prayer: "So let all thine enemies perish, O LORD: but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might." It is then noted, And the land had rest forty years. (Jdg 5:31)

Again, in Elijah's day when he challenged the Israelites to make a decision to serve God (1 Kings 18:21), after defeating the 450 prophets of Baal in a contest that proved God's power, he and the people brought them to the Kishon and Elijah killed them there.

Though it was dried up after three years of drought, as Elijah prophesied, a small cloud on the horizon portended a great rain (1 Ki 18:44, 45). Thus did the Kishon once again wash away corpses to the sea, ridding the land of the enemies who bowed to idols and persecuted the children of God.

Any in Elijah's time who knew God's Word would have recalled Barak's triumph at the Kishon, but if they did not, they could not glorify God as exuberantly as those who did. The faithful are to remember all of God's works over history, and to thank him (Ps 105:1, 2).

The Kishon was a river of God's help to warriors. How greatly we need that help in times of overpowering discouragement and defeat! Let us look to the River for a surge of power from on high — seasonable lifting to replenish grace and mercy in our hearts — all that we need to accomplish his purposes.

Note: For an explanation of how there was water to drench the sacrifice on Mt. Carmel but no water in the Kishon until the rain came, see here.

Attention Readers

Have you visited the Biotech Blog on this website? Find information and resources to help you think about biotech as a Christian.

During the summer of 2017, I explored the topic of kidney donation. Is it right for a society to permit that? To encourage it? What do you think? Read the Live Kidney Donation Series!

Should you sign your driver’s license to be an organ donor? Is cremation OK with God? Do these practices undermine the Christian doctrine of the Resurrection?

Learn more. The conscience cannot function without facts.


Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

Hochosterwitz 01052004 04

Search