AARON When Moses was called to lead the Exodus he objected that he was "slow of speech and slow of tongue." As a result Aaron was appointed to be Moses' spokesman (Exodus 4:10-16), and this was to cause a huge amount of trouble. The Lord had said "The whole earth is mine, but you shall be to me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:5, see the royal priesthood of 1 Peter 2:5, 9). Just as having a line of hereditary kings was a poor substitute for looking to the Messiah Son of God (1 Samuel 8:1-7), so a hereditary line of priests (Exodus 28:1) proved to be a disaster for the Jewish nation. Almost immediately Aaron led them into idolatry (Exodus 32:1-6). Only Moses' prayer for his brother saved him from the wrath of God (Deuteronomy 9:19). In spite of that Aaron tried to reject Moses' leadership (Numbers 12:1-9). Already the Old Testament prophets had questioned the usefulness of the Aaronic priesthood (Isaiah 1:11-17, Jeremiah 1:18, 2:26, 5:31, 8:31, 6:20, 23:11). That does not deny that some priests worked faithfully in an imperfect system. But Jesus eventually predicted the destruction of the temple in AD 70, and the final termination of its priesthood (Matthew 24:1-3, as explained in Hebrews 8:13-9:11).

ABBA In a formal prayer we say "Our Father in heaven" (Our heavenly Father), but Paul encourages us to use the intimate family term for father (Aramaic abba, daddy, papa). "God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father! So you are no longer a slave but a child" (Galatians 4:6) Mark was an eye-witness in the Garden of Gethsemane (from where he fled naked, Mark 14:51), and he must have heard Jesus addressing the Father in this way. "Going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said,'Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want" (Mark 14:35-36) Paul explains that when the Spirit has worked in us we come into the very family life of Jesus and his eternal Father. "You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, 'Abba! Father! it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with the Messiah" (Romans 8:15-17).

ABEL The common saying "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church" is not found in the Bible. But Jesus viewed Abel as the first martyr, and explained that the blood of the martyrs eventually comes back upon the persecutors. "So that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation" (Matthew 23:35-36). Similarly Jesus' death on the cross had terrible consequences for those who had him killed. "His blood be on us and on our children" (Matthew 27:25, see Acts 2:23, 3:14-15). But unlike the martyrs, the power of his "sprinkled blood speaks a better word than the blood of Abel" (Hebrews 12:24). This explains how Paul, who had caused the death of Stephen and other Christians, could be forgiven. Some think it was the fact that Abel brought "the firstlings of his flock" as a sacrifice that distinguished him from CAIN who had "brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground" (Genesis 4:2-5). But it seems that it was Abel's faith that counted, not the sacrifice. "By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain's" (Hebrews 11:4).

ABELARD, Peter (ABAILARD, 1079-1142) is mostly remembered for his love affair with Heloise (1118) by whom he had a son. He wanted to marry her, but she was sent to a convent and her father had him castrated. But he was first a brilliant theologian and greatly appreciated as a teacher by hundreds of students. He rejected the doctrine of ORIGINAL SIN and ANSELM's model in terms of a SUBSTITUTION to satisfy the justice of God. He was and is still accused of creating a model of the ATONEMENT in which Jesus' death on the cross was merely an example to inspire us to sacrifice. But he was, and still is, misrepresented and attacked for his views. His book on the oneness of the Trinity, which might have cleared his name, was burnt. I like to think he might have approved the model offered on this website. Genuine love cares for the freedom of the loved one, and the Messiah's death was to free us. By dying he defeated death, immediately freed those imprisoned in SHEOL. He then poured out the Spirit to empower churches in every place to free people for the perfect love of heaven. Abelard certainly taught that God does not need to be placated or his justice satisfied before he can love and forgive us.

ABIDING The old English word for a house was an abode. So abiding means 'being at home with.' Jesus used that as a metaphor for himself as the Vine indwelling a branch, and we as branches making our home in him. The well known evening hymn begins "Abide with me, fast falls the eventide," and it gives the reason "I need thy presence every passing hour." But the parable of the Vine makes clear that he does not abide with us unless we are at home with him. Abiding is a two way mutual indwelling (John 15:1-5). We feel at home with a family when we can visit, share our news, hear their news, and best of all feel free to eat with them. Which suggests that the Messiah feels at home with us when we visit and share our news with him. And when we feel at home at his family table he is then able to share his news, and discuss his plans, with us. This is why at the last supper Jesus said "I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing. I have called you friends because I have made known to you everything I have heard from my Father" (John 15:15). A servant may live in a room of the house without ever being family. But any time we can accept his invitation to shift from being servants to family, and immediately he makes his home with us (John 14:23).

ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION This was "the desolating sacrilege standing in the holy place" (Matthew 24:15-16, quoting Daniel 11:31, 12:11). About 168 BC during the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164 BC) the Jerusalem temple was desecrated and an altar to Zeus was erected on the site of the altar of burnt offering. But here Jesus used the prophecy of Daniel to refer to what would happen in his generation (Matthew 24:34). The Roman general Titus came in from the north and first took the Roman army barracks (see Acts 22:24) around the Tower of Antonia.. Then they occupied the high ground of the temple mount, where they terminated the temple services and erected a heathen idol (the abomination of the "desolating sacrilege, Mark 13:14.) The Jews rushed down into the old city of David a quarter of a mile to the south, where there was hand to hand fighting till they were starved out and overrun in AD 70. But the Christians had heeded Jesus' warning "When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies . . . then those in Judea must flee to the mountains" (Luke 21:20) and they escaped the terrible two year siege. Many students of prophecy think that Jesus' prophecy is still to be fulfilled as if there are recurring patterns in how God deals with Jerusalem.

ABORTION Murder is always wrong, but not all killing is murder. In one model any killing of animal life including insects is forbidden (see JAINISM). Albert SCHWEITZER would not allow the destruction of a termite nest for the building of his hospital in Africa. But, unless we are vegetarian, we accept the fact that animal life has to die for us to eat. And, except in a model of total PACIFISM, we do not call it murder when a police officer has to use a gun in self-defense. In the discussion of abortion the key issue is whether we decide to call the killing of a fertilized fetus the murder of a human being. In one model the moment of conception creates a human being, and any method of killing that person at any stage is murder. In the opposite model a woman has the right to decide what happens to her baby before it is born and thereby becomes a human being. The model used in this website rejects the extremes of these two positions. There is a qualitative difference between a woman who takes an overnight pill to prevent a pregnancy occurring and a woman in the ninth month who wants her baby aborted. We commend the use of an overnight pill in the case of rape or "date rape" where a woman was pressured into sex. God himself arranges for about one third of fertilized ova to be discarded in the first two months in what we call a miscarriage. In an ectopic pregnancy, and some other life-threatening situations, doctors have to remove a fetus to save the mother. We do not call that murder. On the other hand we view the aborting of a baby in the last two months as murder. We admit that leaves an undefined grey area in between.

ABRAHAM is viewed as the father of the Arab children of Ishmael, the Jewish children of Israel, and also of any others who follow "the example of the faith that our ancestor Abraham had before he was circumcised" (Romans 4:12). Which simply means that faith is no more complicated than the faith Abraham had when he set out on his pilgrimage. He did not know that the Son of God would take birth among us, or how he would die as a sacrifice for the sin of the world, or how he would be raised from the dead and bring out from sheol (the abode of the dead) those who had died before his crucifixion. Abrahamic faith is not a set of doctrinal beliefs but a direction of looking. He looked in the right direction, listened to what God would say, and all else would follow. Understanding the complicated theology of how exactly the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit will work to perfect us for heaven is not a prerequisite for faith. But it enriches us immensely.

ABSOLUTE The ultimate goal of many forms of Hinduism is merging with Absolute Reality (some call it God). For a contrast between alternative goals of life see God of Many Names (chapters 2 & 3). As opposed to THEISM where God is the Creator, and we can know and love him, the Absolute is viewed as the impersonal reality (see MONISM) behind all the maya (deceptive illusions) of this world.

ABSOLUTION, Authority In some DENOMINATIONS when a priest was ordained by the laying on of hands a Bishop would say "Receive the Holy Spirit for the office and work of a Priest in the Church of God" (Anglican Book of Common Prayer). At its worst, this was regarded as a tactile imparting of grace to forgive, and there was even the suggestion that those who were not ordained in the proper APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION did not have this authority. At its best "receive the Holy Spirit" is a prayer that those ordained might be open to the work of the Holy Spirit in every aspect of their ministry, including assuring people of their forgiveness. People who are in trouble and come to a minister need to sense that he or she can help them find freedom from guilt and experience new life in the Spirit. If a person senses this authority of the Spirit, he or she is changed by the absolution. Merely going through the motions of confessing to a priest does not seem to produce any visible change of life. On the other hand men and women whose lives are evidently filled with the Holy Spirit are sought after by others who seek heart absolution.

ABSOLUTION from God We need to distinguish some quite different meanings of this term. Absolution can mean either a declaring that sin is forgiven, or a person's receiving of that declaration.. It was already clear in the Old Testament that God's love includes "forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin" (Exodus 34:7; 130:4). But forgiveness from God that does not mean there are no earthly consequences for sin. David received personal absolution for his sin through the prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 12:13-14), but there were terrible consequences in his family. The Psalm writer received personal absolution from God when he said "you forgave the guilt of my sin" (Psalm 32:5; 103:3). God also gave absolution to the Jewish people (Psalm 85:2) as a nation. Through the prophets God announced a new covenant with the Jewish people in which he promised "I will forgive their sin, and remember their sin no more" (Jeremiah 31:34). Jesus gave absolution to a paralytic, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven" (Matthew 9:2). And he explained that "people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven" (Matthew 12:31). This suggests that the only exception is when people call evil good, hate better than love, misery better than joy, refusal to forgive better than reconciliation (as in the Lord's Prayer, Matthew 6:12).

ABSOLUTION, Priestly Based on the assurances of ABSOLUTION from God in the Old Testament, it has always been the task of ministers to declare the forgiveness of sins. The problem is when DENOMINATIONS make rules for this. Roman Catholics are told that only a priest in the APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION has the authority to give absolution

ABSTAIN Our faith is in "God who provides us with everything for our enjoyment" (1 Timothy 6:17), but we abstain from some things for personal health reasons. Those restored through AA are advised to abstain from alcohol. We also abstain from serving pork to a Muslim, or beef to a Hindu. Which is why Paul claimed his Christian freedom but he explained that "to the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews" (1 Corinthians 9:1, 20). But he also warns us against those "whose consciences are seared with a hot iron. They forbid marriage and demand abstinence from foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving" (1 Timothy 4:-23). To enable kosher Jewish believers to cope with sharing meals with their Greek brothers and sisters the first council made a temporary rule of abstaining from three particularly upsetting practices (Acts 15:19-20). The KJV translated "Abstain from every appearance of evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:22) which made some Christians avoid any expression of love for others (as is now required by legalistic school boards). The better translation is "Abstain from every form (trace) of evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:22), which makes us get at the heart of what is good and what is clearly evil.

ACCESS People wonder how and why God would bother with any one of the billions of human beings in our world. This is not a technical question. My bank can be accessed immediately by hundreds of customers every minute. If computer engineers can design such a system, we can't imagine God finding it difficult to respond to those who love him. People of all nations now have instant access to the vast resources of the Internet. But in contrast to the impersonality of the Internet, there is nothing impersonal about Trinitarian prayer (see MEDITATION). We are involved in a conversation. "Through him both of us (Jews and Gentiles) have access in one spirit to the Father" (Ephesians 2:18), which is why the spirit has been called The Go-Between God (John V. Taylor). And the access is through the Son. "In whom we have access to God in boldness, and confidence through faith in him" (Ephesians 3:12). " And our access is bold and confident because the Messiah Son of God has invited us "to become children of God" (John 1:12).

ACCOUNTS We assume that people keep accounts of what they owe. Better make the payments on our credit cards or there is hell to pay. And the government makes sure we pay taxes on everything we enjoy. That is why people assume God must be like that. But the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit do not work by that kind of religion. Love does not keep accounts. But love also allows a choice to finally reject the light and love of God (John 3:19-21). With our children we assign consequences, but they are not to exclude children from our family. In every good game scores are kept and there are penalties and fouls, but they add to the fun. Our faults are not carried forward in a ledger. In the Bible God does keep track of the behavior of nations. "Whenever (again and again) the Son of Man comes . . . the nations will be gathered before him" (Matthew 25:31-32), and severe wrath can ensue (Advent Comings of the Lord among the Nations). But the long history of NATIONS suggests that they are chastened but not excluded from the family of God's people.

ACCUSER There is a world of difference between bringing forth evidence that may indicate the need for correction and accusing to create guilt. Instead of being based on evidence, malicious gossip is always designed to smear others. Evidence says "I see your essay is taken verbatim from a web site. How can I help you do what is needed to complete this course?" Accusation says disdainfully "You are so lazy and dishonest that you steal other people's ideas." Accusation is always evidence that Satan is doing his guilt business. That is why Paul says "Never accept an accusation against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses" (1 Timothy 5:19). Nor did Paul accept accusation against himself. Having admitted the plain fact that his flesh (see INSTINCTS) makes it impossible for him to the good that he wants (Romans 7:18-19), Paul takes his stand against Satanic accusation. "There is therefore now condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). Which is why we join with the song of heaven "The accuser of our comrades has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night" (Revelation 12:10

ADAM AND EVE There had been various species of hominids for two or three million years, but in the Bible the first true humans are distinguished from other animals by being created "in the image of God" (Genesis 1:26-27). At least this means that they were moral beings and could know and converse with God. Something went badly wrong when the second Person of the Trinity wanted to go for a walk with Adam and Eve, and "they hid themselves from the presence of Yahweh" (the LORD God, Genesis 3:8). As a result humans without faith are characterized by hiding from God, blaming each other (Genesis 3:12), forcing women to be subservient (Genesis 3:16), finding their work unsatisfying (Genesis 3:17-19), and hating like Cain the first murderer (Genesis 4:8). In the New Testament this condition is more fully described as being "filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious towards parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless" (Romans 1:29-31). The perfect love of our original image of God cannot be recovered by trying to tame our flesh (natural instincts) but only by setting our mind on the spirit of God (Romans 7:14-8:6).

ADLER, Alfred (1870-1937) Having graduated as a physician at the University of Vienna Medical School (1895), Adler became a disciple of Sigmund FREUD (1856-1939). He broke with his teacher (1911) and with eight friends formed a school of "individual psychology." He served as a military doctor during the 1914-18 war. He then founded the first child guidance clinic (1919) which soon mushroomed to 30 such clinics in Austria. At the age of 56 he became a visiting professor at Columbia University in New York (1926), but he continued working every summer in Vienna till his clinics were closed by the Austrian Fascist government (1934). So he moved his family to the United States (1935). His main difference from Freud was that, instead of the "pleasure principle" (libido), Adler taught that the struggle to gain power was the basic human driving force. Children are in a power struggle with parents, men and women strive for dominance in a relationship, and every human institution is a power struggle. He explained that the reason for this is that all humans try to compensate for an inferiority complex. The way out of this struggle is to channel one's desire for power into positive directions. In the New Testament Paul's explanation was that humans are in bondage to the FLESH (their natural instincts modified by their early upbringing), but they can be changed by focusing on the Holy Spirit (Romans 7:14-8:6).

ADOPTED As opposed to being orphans, God wants us to be family. And a deep sense of family is a great anti-depressant. What if our family are a pain in the neck, reject us, embarrass us, never listen, disapprove, treat us to stony silence? Christmas is about God wanting us to be family. "You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is that very Spirit bearing with our spirit that we are children of God." And people who feel loved and secure in God's family soon learn to include others in family.

ADOPTIONISM The Adoptionist form of MONARCHIANISM was set out by Theodotus (the Cobbler, when he came to Rome about 200 AD). He argued that Jesus was a man who became the MESSIAHwhen the Holy Spirit came upon him at his baptism. Artemon taught in Rome (c.235) that Jesus was only a man but he far exceeded the Old Testament prophets and John the Baptist.

ADULTERY The word is connected with adulteration. It is a mixing of what should not be mixed. In the adulteration of food, water, and the atmosphere we have ways of detecting what is going wrong. The message of God's love can be adulterated by false teaching. In marriage adulteration occurs when the sexual intimacy that belongs to a marriage is shared with another. For a woman this was defined as having intercourse with a man who was not her husband. But in patriarchal societies a man could have additional wives, concubines, other women, and adultery was limited to having sex with the wife of another man of the same tribe. Under the influence of Jesus' teaching our modern concept of mutuality in marriage was pictured by Paul as a tenfold reciprocity of love in a monogamous marriage (1 Corinthians 7:1-16). Whatever could spoil that is an adulteration. The good news is that the Holy Spirit can "cleanse the thoughts of our hearts" (from the communion prayer) long before physical adultery takes place.

ADVAITA The most common philosophical model adopted in higher Hinduism (as opposed to various forms of polytheism and idolatry) is a form of MONISM called Advaita (non-dualism). The aim of life is to escape the miserable round of REINCARNATION by merging with the ABSOLUTE  (see Religion: Origins and Ideas, chapter 9). Various methods are offered to attain this (see BHAKTI, TM, YOGA)

ADVENT Jesus warned his disciples that he would destroy the temple and city of Jerusalem during their lifetime. This was the coming (Greek parousia, meaning coming to be with) that was expected by the first Christians (as in the Epistles : Romans 9:28, 16:20, 1 Corinthians 1:7-8, 3:13, 4:5, 7:26, 29, 31, Philippians 2:16, 4:5, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, 2:19, 3:13, 5:2-3, 23, 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 8, 1 Timothy 6:14, 2 Timothy 1:18, 3:1, 4:1, Titus 2:13, Hebrews 9:28, 10:37, 12:25-27, James 5:7-8, 1 Peter 4:7, 13, 17, 5:10, 2 Peter 1:16, 3:3, 1 John 2:18, 28, Jude 17-23). There is not one of these advent texts that suggests the apostles were writing about a coming two thousand years later. And in fact that coming occured in AD 70 when the Son of God came to terminate the Jerusalem religious establishment (Matthew 21:40-41, 23:35-36, 24:1-2, 29-30, 34, see Isaiah 13:1, 6-13). The first evidence of churches keeping the Advent season (4 Sundays before Christmas) was at the end of the sixth century. By then the idea had arisen that the Son of God's first coming was when he was born in Bethlehem and his second coming was awaited some time in the future. The Bible tells us of his many comings in the Old Testament period, and his interventions have occured again and again in world history (see COMING).

ADVOCATE The translation "Advocate" (in NRSV John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7) is very unhelpful. The Greek term in each case is parakletos (paraklete) which meant one called alongside (klytos meaning called, para meaning by the side of). It could refer to help in a law court, a mediator in a quarrel, or someone called in to help in any other way. The VULGATE Latin translation correctly translated paraklytos as advocatus (called to the side of). But as time went on the legal counsel meaning of advocate (French avocat, barrister, attorney) began to predominate. The King James version avoided this by using the term "Comforter" but this again has changed its meaning. The NIV tried "Counselor" which for most people now suggests a financial counselor or the slang term "shrink" (see LANGUAGE GAMES). There is no English word that captures the work of the Holy Spirit as the one who comes alongside to give wisdom, insight, inspiration, gifts for ministry, empowering, healing, comforting, and much else.

AFFECTION One of the striking things about his Gospel is that John can write about himself as "the one whom Jesus loved." He is "the beloved disciple" (John 13:23,19:26, 20:2, 21:7). Like God, Christians are to love everyone, even if they are enemies (Matthew 5:44). But then there is a special love for others members of the Christian family. "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another" (John 13:34, 15:12). And in his Epistle John adds the fact that this kind of love is evidence of faith and the new birth (1 John 3:14, 4:7). It includes a willingness to "Welcome one another, just as the Messiah has welcomed you" (Romans 14:7), which means that we love although we are conscious of the faults of others, just as they are conscious of our failings. Paul said "Love one another with mutual affection; outdoing one another in showing honor" (Romans 12:10). And he wanted this expressed by a hug of peace (Romans 16:16, see KISS). Although we have this affection for all members of our faith family, we also need a deep relationship with one or two special friends. Jesus invited Peter, James, and John to be with him at the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1), and to pray with him (Matthew 26:37). This special affection for a few does not deny our love for the community. And that circle of love in turn acts as a pilot project for creating love in the whole world.

AFFLICTION We know how Paul suffered in his task of planting churches from Jerusalem to Rome (Romans 15:19, 2 Corinthians 6:4-6, 11:24-28). But we wonder how he can say "I am completing what is lacking in the Messiah's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church" (Colossians 1:24). How can anything be lacking in the suffering of the Son of God, and how could anyone complete it? One answer is that parents and lovers, church workers and good Samaritans, all get hurt in their loving. When that happens we can curse, assign guilt, reject, retaliate, give up on our loving. But just as the Messiah was willing to keep absorbing vicious hatred till his last breath on the cross (see ATONEMENT) we can choose by "the sharing of his sufferings" (Philippians 3:10) to engage in building his church (Matthew 16:18). When they counted that cost "many of his disciples turned back" (John 6:66). But when we have settled that it is OK to get hurt in loving, then our suffering and affliction is transformed into joy. "Even if I am being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and offering (leitourgia, liturgy) of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you, and in the same way you also must be glad and rejoice with me" (Philippians 2:17-18). What was lacking in the Messiah's crucifixion was those like Paul who proclaimed it at great cost.

AFGHANISTAN King Zahir Shah reigned for 40 years over this nation of 16 million people. He was making good progress towards a constitutional monarchy, and there were modern judicial, medical, and educational institutions. In 1973 he was deposed in a coup. The same fateful year a beautiful church building for the many expatriates in Kabul was bulldozed to the ground. Since then half the population has been killed or had to leave as refugees. One in four women have been widowed. Orphan children roam the streets. Thousands are maimed by land mines. But nothing could capture the trauma of nearly thirty years of unbelievable horrors. Tribal war lords attempted to control the republic (1973-79). In December 1979 eighty-five thousand Russian troops invaded and had to withdraw ten years later. Again tribal war lords destroyed Kabul as they fought to control it. In 1996 the TALIBAN took over for five years and forced women to stay at home. After the September 11, 2001 attack on New York, Americans bombed the Taliban in support of the Northern Alliance. Kabul was freed on November 13, 2001, and the city is still protected by peace keepers. On April 18, 2002 Mohammed Zahir Shah arrived back as a private citizen.


AIDS Identified and named (1981-82), AIDS is mostly a venereal disease contracted by sexual intercourse (see SYPHILIS), but it is also caused by sharing infected needles, and by transfusion with tainted blood. It can also be transmitted to babies by their mothers during pregnancy. Three million people have already died of AIDS world-wide (2003), and another forty or fifty million who are HIV positive will die in the next few years unless a cure is found. The disease is bad enough but huge social changes are caused in the next generation when a third of the population is wiped out.

AKKADIAN When NIMROD took over the SUMERIAN cities he and his successors (see SARGONof Agade) gradually imposed their Hamitic (see HAM) language called Akkadian which included the ASSYRIAN and BABYLONIAN languages of Mesopotamia. These were written in the Sumerian wedge shaped CUNEIFORM, of which thousands of clay tablets have been found.

ALEXANDRIA In addition to its university and library, Alexandria was home to a very large Jewish community with many synagogues (there was one of these in Jerusalem, Acts 6:9). Some Jews of Alexandria were present on the Day of Pentecost, so a church may have formed there, though it is not mentioned in the New Testament. About 250 BC Jewish scholars produced the SEPTUAGINT (Latin septuagint usually written as LXX in Roman numbers) in Alexandria. This was a translation of the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of Jews all over the Roman Empire who could not read Hebrew. Many of them attended the Jewish SYNAGOGUE in their city. As a result Paul found it easy to explain the faith to them from the Septuagint translation (Acts 13:4, 14, 43, 14:1, 17:1-4, 10-11, 17, 18:4, 24-26, 19:8-10). In Alexandria there were also followers of John the Baptist, and one of these named Apollos came to EPHESUS where he was introduced to a Trinitarian faith (Acts 18:24-28).


ALEXANDRIA, Early bishops Eusebius counted John Mark as "being the first that was sent to Egypt, proclaimed the gospel there, which he had writen" (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 1:16). Then he added that "Nero (emperor 54-68 AD) was now in the eighth year of his reign (62 AD) when Annianus succeeded the apostle and evangelist Mark in the administration of the church in Alexandria" (Ecc. Hist 2.24.). "It was in the first year of Trajan (emperor 98-117) that Cerdon succeded Avilius in the church of Alexandria, afer the latter had governed it thirteen years. He was the third that held the episcopate there since Annianus" (Ecc. History, 3.21). They were succeeded by Primus and Alexander as the fourth and fifth bishops (Ecc. Hist. 4.1)

ALLEN, Roland Christian mission would only be effective "if the first Christians converted by our labours understood clearly that they could by themselves, without any further assistance from us, not only convert their neighbours, but establish churches" (Introduction to the 1927 edition of Roland Allen, The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church : and the Causes which Hinder it, Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 1973, p.1). Roland Allen was an Anglican (Episcopalian) priest in China (1895-1903) and he concluded that, instead of the present system of sending people away for seminary training, Chinese churches should immediately choose and have their own Bishops. "If the church is to be indigenous it must spring up in the soil from the very first seeds planted" (p.2). The spontaneous expansion of the church is "the unexhorted and unorganized activity of individual members of the Church explaining to others the Gospel which they have found for themselves" (p.7).

ALI When MUHAMMAD died in 632 Ali, who was the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, thought he should have succeeded him. But Abu Bakar, the wise and respected friend of Muhammad was chosen as first Caliph (see CALIPHATE). The second Caliph was Omar, and the third was Othman, who was corrupt and dissolute, and he was stabbed to death (656). Ali had taken refuge in Kufah (see IRAQ, Kufah), and the elders of Medina proclaimed him as fourth Caliph (656-660). Meanwhile the general Muawiya had established his power in Syria. In the confused battles that ensued Ali was killed by a poisoned sword (660) and Muawiya became the fifth Caliph (661-680) and so began the DAMASCUS CALIPHATE. The people of Kufah, who had supported Ali, invited Hussayn the second son of Ali to come from Mecca, and they promised to support him as Caliph. But when Hussayn made the journey (over 1000 miles, 1600 km) with his family the Syrians were ready for him, and he was killed at the Battle of KARBALA (October 10, 680). Shiites (see SHI'AS AND SUNNIS) are those who support the genealogical line of Ali as the rightful heirs to the Caliphate. Every year after thirteen centuries they make a pilgrimage on foot to Karbala to mourn the death of Hussayn. This was forbidden by SADDAM HUSSEIN, but again made possible (April 2003) by the American victory. Christians should be grateful that Jesus had no genealogical heirs.

ALIENS A concern for immigrants is an important strand of Old Testament teaching. "You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt" (Exodus 22:21). The Messiah longs for "foreigners who join themselves to the Lord" to be "joyful in my house of prayer . . . for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations" (Isaiah 56:6-7). And it was the failure to permit this that was a main reason for his decision to destroy the Jerusalem temple and locate temples of the Holy Spirit in every nation (Matthew 21:13, 41-43). But our attitude to aliens is still a key question in our day. Jesus commended nations with "I was a stranger and you welcomed me, " and when the other nations wondered why they were judged, Jesus said "I was a stranger and you did not welcome me" (Matthew 25:32, 35, 43). But welcoming does not mean adopting their idolatrous practices (see SOLOMON). For church congregations it is important to see how we can welcome those who "will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 8:11).

ALLAH The creed of Islam is that "there is no God but Allah and MUHAMMAD is his prophet." This model of Monotheism is UNITARIANas opposed to our TRINITARIAN  model of three Persons in the oneness of God. This means that ISLAMaccepts Jesus as a prophet, but rejects the idea that he could in any way be the SON OF GOD. Another major difference is that Allah is merciful and forgives sins, but he only loves those who submit to him and live by the  QUR'AN.  Unbelievers will be tortured and burn in eternal HELL. In total contrast, our Christian good news is that God loves us so much that he longs for our freedom. Except among the SUFIS, what Paul rejected as LEGALISM in the Epistle to the Galatians is an essential part of MUSLIM faith and culture.

ALMSGIVING In the Old Testament tithing of one's income was prescribed to be set aside for the priests in the temple (Numbers 18:21-24) and for the POOR, WIDOWS, refugees, and others in need (Deuteronomy 26:12-14, see Malachi 3:8-10). Jesus said "Whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you" (Matthew 6:2-4). Paul said "Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:6-7). He also recommended that the giving should be regular and proportionate. "On the first day of every week, each of you is to put aside and save whatever extra you earn, so that collections need not be taken when I come" (1 Corinthians 16:2).

ALPHABET The pictographic script of the SUMERIANS developed into CUNEIFORM , but it was inconveniently based on word signs (as in Chinese). The first alphabetical writing (letters representing individual sounds) appeared among the CANAANITES about 1850 BC. It is tempting to imagine it was invented by ABRAHAM (c. 1952-1777) to solve the problem of writing the several different languages he had to use. That alphabet was used for Hebrew (see Aleph, Beth, Gimel, Daleth in Psalm 119) and Arabic (see ARABS). The ARAMEANS (Syrians of Damascus) adopted a form of this script to write ARAMAIC, and it was adapted for the later SYRIAC language. The Greek Alphabet (alpha, beta, gamma, delta) was borrowed from the Phoenicians (Tyre and Sidon), who had also learned it from their cousins to the south. And the same alphabet was used to write Latin, and then English, with minor adaptations in German. Compared with pictographic scripts, an alphabet is easy for internet communication. Sanskrit was the language of the Aryans (see INDO-EUROPEAN) and the Hindu VEDAS were sung in that language. They were later written down in an alphabetic script (perhaps borrowed from early Hebrew or Arabic). As a result the languages of India are now in a complicated variety of alphabetical scripts. The ideal would have been a common alphabet for the whole world.

AL QUAIDA Members of this organization hijacked and flew passenger planes into the Manhattan towers and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. They have a long history rooted in the WAHHABI sect of Saudi Arabia. And their ideas are based on those of Omar the second Caliph (634-44). He ordered the collection and collation of the QUR'AN, and decreed that the Arabian peninsula must be kept for Arabian Muslims only and all Jews and Christians were to be expelled. This explains why fundamentalists in ISLAM long to reestablish that original CALIPHATE when Arabs were united in a single state and a pure Islamic society. They also look back to the magnificent Islamic civilization of the BAGHDAD caliphate. What infuriated Osama bin Laden was that an American army is still stationed in Arabia to protect the oil fields from another attack by Iraq. He was rejected by the royal family and expelled, but he was able to arm and train the Al Quaida in Afghanistan (with the permission and protection of the TALIBAN) as a highly disciplined force who were willing to die for the Anti-American cause. When the Americans used massive bombing raids to support the Northern Alliance war lords, the Al Quaida bases in Afghanistan were flushed out. Osama bin Laden needed kidney dialysis to keep him alive, and he may have died from liver failure or an American bomb, but his movement lives on with the massive financial support of Arab charities.

ALTAIC LANGUAGES The Altai is a mountain range astride the border of Mongolia China, and Russia. The Altaic languages include Mongolian, Turkik, Finno-Ugric, Estonian, perhaps Korean. The HUNS, AVARS, MAGYARS and MONGOLS seem to have spoken similar agglutinative dialects. In that case they could all belong to what the Table of Nations called the SHEMITES (Genesis 10:22). If that proved to be the case the SUMERIANS would have been a first wave of Altaic invaders who came down the INDUS VALLEY from Tibet and Mongolia to occupy Mesopotamia.

ALTAR Other animals grab their own food, but the most ancient of human institutions was the communal meal, and it was soon given a religious meaning.. When an animal was killed (sacrificed) the fat and entrails were burnt on an altar and the smoke symbolized prayer and worship ascending to God. Wherever Abraham stopped on his journeys "he built an altar to the Lord and invoked the name of the Lord" (Genesis 12:8, 13:4, 18). The essential part of a temple in any ancient culture was the altar of sacrifice (See Religion: Origins & Ideas 1-2). In India a Brahmin priesthood emerged, as it did among other nations. In Israel the hereditary Aaronic priesthood was responsible for the rituals of sacrifice at the national altar (see Leviticus 1-9) . But the Old Testament prophets described the corruption of the sacrificial system (see 1 Samuel 2:12-17-17, Isaiah 1:11-13, Jeremiah 11:13, Joel 1:13, Malachi 1:7-10, 2:13). The Epistle to the Hebrews explains how animal sacrifices would soon be terminated (Hebrews 9:11-26), as happened when the temple was destroyed in AD 70. The term altar is commonly used for the communion table which symbolizes the Christian family gathering, but the sacrifice is not "with the blood of goats and calves" (Hebrews 8:14). By faith we share in the body and blood of the Messiah (John 6:53), and offer ourselves as a living sacrifice in gratitude for his mercies (Romans 12:1).

ALTAR in Heaven There are seven references to an altar in heaven (Revelation 6:9, 8:3, 5, 9:13, 11:1, 14:18, 16:7). But we wonder what an altar is for if the ANIMAL SACRIFICE of the ancient world has been terminated? I view the Book of Revelation as John's symbolic visions of what was happening right then in heaven as the churches faced the ominous events leading up to AD 66 and the destruction of the temple. That is why "We have an altar from which those who officiate in the tent have no right to eat" (Hebrews 13:10). Already in the period before the end of the temple in AD 70 ( Hebrews 8:13), the focus of Christian worship had shifted from looking to Aaronic priests (see AARON) and ANIMAL SACRIFICE to picturing by faith the worship of heaven around the LAMB who was sacrificed. I can't imagine a communion service without the imagery of the heavenly realities. The old Anglican Book of Common Prayer got it right. "Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious Name; evermore praising thee and saying; Holy, Holy Holy, Lord God of hosts, heaven and earth are full of thy glory. Glory be to thee, O Lord Most High."

ALTRUISM The opposite of egoism is the practice of unselfish conduct for the welfare of others. Most religions expect this in their followers. Until recently the good that others needed was often defined as salvation in the eternal sense. Buddhists taught nirvana; Hindus preached moksha (freedom from the weary round of transmigration); Muslims offered heaven as opposed to burning in hell; And in the early days of Christian mission the good was forgiveness and eternal life. Missionaries were motivated to save souls from eternal damnation. But in Judaism and the Christian church the giving of alms to the poor had always been prescribed. One of the five pillars of Islam was zakat and care for the needy. In the early nineteenth century Christian missions began running hospitals, leprosy asylums and schools. The Ramakrishna Mission and Mahatma Gandhi began to weaken the Hindu doctrines of karma and the caste system. More recently secular agencies (the United Nations, Oxfam, the Peace Corps) have begun stressing the need for development, which is now defined as the EMPOWERMENT of people to solve their own problems. The best fruits of Christian altruism have appeared where oppressed people have experienced the empowering of the Holy Spirit, and astonishing social change has resulted.

ALZHEIMER was a German neurologist (1864-1915) who gave the name to a well-known condition characterized by progressive memory loss. There is a huge amount of intensive scientific investigation of a variety of possible pre-conditions. My impression from anecdotal evidence is that one of these possible causes is a sense that the person has nothing left to do in life. "If you don't use it, you lose it." It is important to remind ourselves that, although we all suffer memory loss as we get older, God has a continuing purpose and a function for us in his church. "There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit, and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good" (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). This means that sharing in a church congregation not only gives the person, and his or her family, support for the distressing condition, but right up to the end of life can offer the sense that we have a gift to offer, a service to perform, and a variety of important activities to engage in.

AMAZING GRACE John Newton (1725-1807) was forced to go to sea as a young man, and he served as a slave trader till he was suddenly converted at the age of 23 (10 March 1748). He came under the influence of George Whitefield (1714-1770), through whom he adopted CALVINISM as an explanation of the GRACE of God. He studied Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Syriac, and was ordained as an Anglican minister by the Bishop of Lincoln in 1764. In 1780 he became Rector of St. Mary Woolnoth, in London, and he served there for 27 years. Several of Newton's hymns are still sung today including Dear Shepherd of your People, Glorious things of Thee are spoken, How Sweet the name of Jesus Sounds, May the Grace of Christ our Saviour. His best loved hymn "Amazing grace" (1790) looks back to his wretched evil life before his conversion by the amazing grace of God. It has been translated into many languages all over the world, including Cree, Inuktituk, Mohawk, and Ojibway, in Canada. It is usually sung to the tune New Britain, and the bagpipe version of this became a pop music best seller.

AMBASSADOR Each country has ambassadors to represent its interests in other countries. Both among Jews and Christians the word Messiah (Greek Christos) means an anointed king, and Paul viewed himself as a representative of the Kingdom of Heaven. "We are ambassadors for the Messiah, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of the Messiah, be reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20). This world's ambassadors are sent to promote good relationships with their own government. They might on occasion have to warn of the dangers of war, and declare it if all else fails. But most of their work is gently trying to establish good relations with those who might be upset, miffed, estranged, disappointed, ill at ease. And in one sense every person in every nation of this world needs this kind of reconciling work. Which is why God is continually looking for those who are willing to serve in this way. And none are refused the honor of an ambassador's appointment.


AMERICAN Democracy As opposed toMONARCHY and AUTOCRACY, democracy is based on the will of the people informed by the freedom of the press and free elections. Democracy requires that we accept some laws which we may not agree with. And in a DEMOCRACY with a large majority of one religion it is easy to restrict expressions of the Christian faith. In many countries Christians are persecuted by minor officials. How do Christians exercise their freedom in such a system? Prayer is a freedom that can never be taken away. We have direct access to God to express our frustrations, and look to him for VINDICATION. Christians can refuse to fight in a war, and they are also free to assemble to express their passive resistance. We can thank God that in the United States genuine freedom of religion is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"). There are necessary checks and balances. But a President can make decisions in the overriding national interest, especially in times of war or extreme danger (see AMERICAN Empire).

AMERICAN EMPIRE A major change in the psychology of the American people took place as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 (see our review of Peter GOODSPEED, National Post, January 26, 2003). From only a fitful interest in what goes on in other countries, America has now accepted a nationalistic "manifest destiny." The Pax Americana, like the Pax Romana of ROME, intends to use overwhelming power to impose the rule of law among all people. Critics had better understand that Americans are no longer ashamed to be in that role. There is a new pride and determination. Americans are tired of using the indirect pressures of "soft power." They have lost patience with interminable discussions by people intent on feathering their own nest. Under the Pax Romana Christians could be thrown to the lions, but even then Paul could say "Those authorities that exist have been instituted by God" (Romans 13:1). But empires only last till the Messiah decides they need to be toppled, as with the Roman empire, and every succeeding attempt at world domination (e.g. NAZISM, COMMUNISM in our day). But right now the Pax Americana is a fact and we can thank God that under its constitution freedom of religion and of the press is guaranteed (see AMERICAN RELIGION), and slowly being encouraged among all nations.

AMERICAN RELIGION The Pilgrim Fathers braved the Atlantic on the Mayflower to find a place (1620) where they could practice their Puritan form of religion. At first each American state supported one denomination, and others might be restricted. But the First Amendment to the 1789 Constitution settled that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." This has permitted hundreds of Christian DENOMINATIONSto flourish, and then every other form of religion such as JUDAISM, ISLAM and BUDDHISM. What was illegal was any interference with the religion or freedom of others. America is still a "Nation under God" but that could be defined in many ways. In God of Many Names we show how God allows people the choice of different models of religion, but only one of these is based on God's love for us, and our freedom to love and be loved.

AMPHIPOLIS Paul was again and again expelled or had to leave cities where he had begun to plant churches. During his second overseas missionary journey Paul and Silas were forced to leave Philippi (Acts 16:38-40). . Luke was left there to strengthen the new church. But he recorded that "After Paul and Silas had passed through Amphipolis and Appolonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews " (Acts 17:1). That suggests a stopping place after a 20 mile (32 km) walk where there was an inn to bed down for the night. Because there was no synagogue there Paul did not stay to plant a church, but this was probably done by a member of his team during the third journey through Macedonia (Acts 20:3-4).

ANABAPTISTS Thomas Munzer (c.1490-1525) met Martin LUTHER during his studies in Leipzig (1519), and became a Protestant preacher in Zwickau the next year. He was expelled for his teaching about freedom in the Holy Spirit. He moved to Bohemia and then to Alstedt where he fell out with Luther, who had him expelled from there. He then linked up with the Peasants Revolt (1524-26) till he was defeated at the battle of Frankenhousen, and executed for treason. He was part of a wider grouping of Anabaptists (requiring rebaptism as a sign of faith), but only some of these shared his radical, ANTINOMIAN and revolutionary ideas. The later MENNONITES for example view themselves as in the Anabaptist tradition, and they practice believers' baptism (see BAPTISM, Infant), but they adopted a model of total PACIFISM, as opposed to the violence of Thomas Munzer and the Zwickau prophets.

ANARCHISM Marxists and Anarchists both agree that the rule of law, judges, and a police force must be ended. And the first step is a revolution to end them. The theory was that eventually individuals would freely give according their ability and receive according to their need. Under MARXISM the destruction of capitalist authorities in the revolution must be followed by a period called the dictatorship of the proletariat. During that time human greed and capitalist ideas are eradicated. Meanwhile other nations must be encouraged, and forced if necessary, to overthrow capitalism by violent means. Anarchists believe that a thoroughgoing violent revolution will immediately remove the very concept of property and ownership. Without them no police or law courts are needed.

ANARCHY The Greek word archy (see MONARCHY) means beginning, origin, first cause, ruler, authority. Anarchy means the end of the rule of law. But for ordinary citizens the total absence of an effective police force is the worst of situations to endure. Anarchy only means that crooks and thugs can take over control to kill, rob, and enslave at will. That is why people prefer a measure of imperfection in the way justice is administered to life at the mercy of armed gangs. Better a dictator with some faults who maintains order than living under total confusion. But how does that relate to anarchy among nations? (see WAR, Unjust).

ANGEL The Greek word angelos means a messenger, and God has all sorts of messages he wants delivered. Sometimes there is bad news of inevitable consequences. I love bringing evangelium which is good news. But the news Gabriel had to bring was going to be very disturbing. "You will conceive in your womb" which simply meant "you are going to get pregnant before marriage." Mary knew the facts of life, so the angel had to answer some physiological questions. "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" But Gabriel assured her this was no big problem for the Holy Spirit. (Luke 1:31-32). So Mary believed a key item of the Nicene Creed. "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life." So she said "let it be," and nine months later to this day the baby was born. When we say "Here I am, do what you have in mind for me" it might mean waiting several months to see the outcome.

ANGELIC INTERVENTIONS The Messiah has messengers (Greek angeloi, ANGELS) to deliver messages, as in the case of Gabriel's message to Mary (Luke 1:26-38). But he also has a host of servants (Hebrews 1:14) to undertake special tasks behind the scenes (see LORD OF HOSTS). As the psalm writer said, "Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, obedient to his spoken word. Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers (servants) that do his will" (Psalm 103:19-21). As an example of angelic intervention there is the account of how Peter "bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers" awaiting execution the next day. "Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying 'Get up quickly.' And the chains fell off his wrists." Then "after they had passed the first and second guard, they came before the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord and went outside and walked along a lane when suddenly the angel left him"(Acts 12:3-10, see a similar case in 5:19). The laws of science set out for us the way our world normally runs very predictably. But on occasion the Son of God chooses to intervene in his Kingdom. Chains fall off and iron gates yield. Similarly when faced with certain death many have experienced angelic intervention to protect them.

ANGER For an original Buddhist anger is always wrong. The ideal is to be passionless. But parents should be angry if their children overturn the wheelchair of an old lady, and use it to ride up and down the street. And God's wrath is an expression of anger (see WRATH). The Messiah was certainly angry when he cleared the temple which had become a den of thieves (Matthew 21:12-13, see Luke 14:21). But Jesus also spoke against murderous anger, and the anger that writes a person off as worthless (Aramaic "Raca"). Better be reconciled before coming to offer a gift to God (Matthew 5:22-26). We all have experiences that make us angry. Paul explains that the anger should not be allowed take root and fester overnight. "Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil" (Ephesians 4:26-27). The art is to recognize that our flesh has the normal instincts of territory and self-protection (see INSTINCTS), but the Holy Spirit can transmute our anger into love and prayer for those who upset us.

ANGLICAN When Henry VIII of England (king, 1509-1547) had his marriage to Catherine of Aragon of Spain dissolved, and married Anne Boleyn, Pope Clement VII excommunicated him (July 11, 1533). As a result Henry VIII became the head of the Church of England. In 1549 the First Prayer Book of Edward VI was printed, then a second in 1552. The Elizabethan Book of Common Prayer was issued in 1559 and finalized in 1662. As a result of the American War of Independence (1775-83) the Anglican denomination in America became the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States, which is independent from the British monarchy. Its members are called Episcopalians. Gradually the world-wide Anglican Communion developed with independent Anglican denominations with their own Archbishops in many parts of the world. The Archbishop of Canterbury has no legal authority over them, but he has an important uniting influence as he presides over the Anglican bishops from many countries that gather in the Lambeth Conferences which began in 1867.

ANGLICAN PRIESTS The New Testament is quite clear that all Christians are priests. Similarly all Christian are singers, but only some are "ordained" to be soloists. In theory all of us could, when the situation demanded (e.g. in a prison camp), preside at a communion service (Eucharist). But in the context of Anglican church discipline the language game for the word "priest" includes the idea that only a priest ordained in an Anglican denomination is authorized to conduct an Anglican communion service. This avoids the hazard of all sorts of unsuitable persons creating confusion by conducting communion services. But having accepted that simple rule of church discipline for ourselves, Anglicans in no way deny the right of other denominations to make rules for this purpose, and evidently God blesses members of each denominational form of life in their own way.

ANGLICAN THEOLOGY Some denominations are committed to the gathering of true believers. This requires elaborate statements of faith and tight rules for membership. Anglicans and Episcopalians accept the fact that weeds and wheat will grow together (Matthew 13:24-30). The net will gather in both good and bad fish, and it is the Lord who will eventually do the separation (Matthew 13:47-50). The Anglican doctrinal statement is found in the Apostles and Nicene CREEDS. Because Anglicans have a mixed model of the church, their theologians reflect a very wide range of opinions. Clarity is arrived at by allowing these to disagree with one another, and ordinary Christians can compare their conclusions with the Gospels and the letters of Paul, Peter, and John. BAPTISM is an enrolment to begin learning and babies are baptized with a view to being taught by the Holy Spirit from their earliest days. More and more children are welcomed to communion, and learn to understand what it means later (see Go, Make Learners). The old Book of Common Prayer used to be read exactly word for word by the priest, but modern prayer books allow creative variety and the participation of ordinary members of the congregation. A congregation will keep a list of those currently enrolled, but membership is defined as exercising one or more functions in the church as a body in that city (1 Corinthians 12:4-27).

ANIMALS There is a powerful story of Balaam riding his donkey. Twice the ass turned aside to protect his master from mortal danger, and Balaam beat it to make it go on. When there was no way to turn aside, the donkey lay down under Balaam. The man was furious and he beat the animal mercilessly. Then the LORD enabled the donkey to express its feelings of injustice. "What have I done to you, that you have struck me three times . . . Am I not your donkey, which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I been in the habit of treating you this way" (Numbers 22:23-30). Anybody who cares about pets, horses, and farm animals knows that they have strong feelings and a sense of fairness and injustice. Which is why Solomon observed that "The righteous know the needs of their animals, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel" (Proverbs 12:10). That can be seen to some extent when an abused cross dog finds a home where it is treated properly. As Paul explained, "The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God" (Romans 8:19). Like humans, animals all have to die, and death is not a disaster in itself. It is the suffering before death that we fear. So Paul goes on to describe a cosmic change when. "The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the children of God" (Romans 8:21).

ANIMAL FARM The parable of a group of pigs ruthlessly taking control of a farm remains one of the classics of world literature in English and many other languages. In it George ORWELL (1903-50) captured the massive deceit and destruction of basic liberties when a country is taken over by a totalitarian regime. Orwell's 1984 (published in 1949) gave a more horrifying description of life under that kind of inhuman control. Like Animal Farm (1945), it is also an extended parable or allegory but the suggested prediction of a date within forty years made it irrelevant, at least for the present, by the end of the Cold War (1989). By way of contrast, Jesus' prediction of the PAROUSIA (which actually occurred in AD 70) remains relevant as a picture of the Son of God's DAY OF THE LORD interventions in country after country throughout the history of the world. But Animal Farm continues to speak to us as an extended parable whenever there is a danger of control by the state or in institutions of any kind.

ANIMAL SACRIFICE Among all ancient religions there was the idea that animal sacrifice was needed as a way for sinful men to approach a holy God. In its simplest form a family or tribe would kill an animal for food, drain away the blood, and burn the fat and entrails on an altar. As the smoke ascended they pictured their praises and prayers ascending to God. Eating together pictured the oneness of the family and the presence of God at their family table. Such a meal could be used to unite two tribes who had been at war. As time went on a hereditary priest class (like the Brahmins of India) were charged with conducting sacrifice in a temple. The problem was that the priests began to suggest that it was their ritual that could force God to give his blessing on the occasions of birth, marriage, and war. And the more sacrifices the better. This was resisted by the prophets in the eighth century B.C. "What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offering of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats" (Isaiah 1:11). Within 200 years there was a revolt of seven major religions against the corruptions of the ancient priestcrafts (see SIXTH CENTURY REVOLT).

ANIMISM Before they were taken over by modern civilization many tribes lived under the power of witch-doctors (shamans) who claimed that their sacrifices and incantations could save their clients from sickness, poverty, and visible and invisible enemies. People still believed in an original benign Father God, but they were more afraid of the immediate danger of the evil forces that terrified them. This way of life is called Animism, which is a better term than the term "primal religion" which suggests that this was the original religion of primitive man. In Religion: Origins and Ideas we show that there is much more evidence for faith in the Creator God (theism) as the original religion of the world. Rather than the upward evolution of religion, the Bible pictures a downward process of degeneration from MONOTHEISM into POLYTHEISM (as in Baal and nature worship) and the use of IDOLS. It also describes how priests begin to imagine that they can force God by their rituals, which is only one step from falling into magic and witch-doctor religion. This degeneration can only be avoided by the Word of God in the language of the people and true prophets and teachers who can make it relevant.

ANNAS Annas (Hebrew khanan-yahu meaning God is gracious) served as High Priest (6-15 AD) as one of the priestly line of HASMONEANS till he was deposed by the Roman governor and succeeded by his son in law CAIAPHAS. Annas was wealthy, and he remained as a highly respected power behind the scenes, (Luke 3:2, John 18:13, 24, Acts 4:6), which explains why Jesus was taken to his house after the arrest for a preliminary trial (John 18:13, 24). He remained a member of the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:6).

ANNIHILATION As opposed to the view that those who refuse faith are tortured in HELL for ever, Conditional Immortality is a model in which God allows humans to choose eternal darkness and final death. "This is the judgment (Greek krisis) that people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light" (John 3:19-20). That divides the world into light lovers (the Son of God has always been the light of the world, John 1:9) and light and love haters (as in C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, 1945). Chapter VIII of Unbounded Love  is titled "HELL : Rejecting Love." The idea that God will punish and torture the wicked for eternity is found in the QUR'AN. In the Bible WRATH is never eternal punishment but rather bad consequences in this world (see GEHENNA). It is the beast and false prophet who are cast "alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulphur, where the beast and false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night for ever" (Revelation 20:10, 14-15). Here the beast and false prophet does not refer to individuals but a government and the religion that supports it (see 19:20) and the term eis tous aionas ton aionon (into the eons of the eons) means a long time, not eternity.. Preachers have "dangled people over the coals" to terrify them into faith, but there is not one verse in the Bible about God taking delight in torturing people for ever (as in DANTE's Inferno).

ANSELM (C.1033-1109) came from Italy, became a monk, was befriended by William the Conqueror of England, and became Archbishop of Canterbury (1089). In his book Cur Deus Homo (Why did God become Man, 1097) he set out a model in which the main purpose of Jesus' coming was to satisfy the justice of God which had been affronted by human sin. This was done in an act of SUBSTITUTION by which the Messiah paid the penalty of our sins instead of us. There are various sub-species of this model to explain how the substitution is credited to our account. Roman Catholics used to think this could only be by baptism and submission to the Pope. Protestants argued justification by faith alone. Many Evangelicals teach that what counts is making the right decision of faith. In the model offered on this site God's justice does not need to be satisfied by the death of the Son before we can be forgiven. We emphasize that what the Son came to do was to free us. By his life and teaching we are freed from the idea that we have to earn our salvation. By his death and resurrection we are freed from sin and from the Old Testament cold storage in SHEOL. He also founded a church which would free people from the religions of fear in every part of the world, and free us by the Holy Spirit for the perfect love of heaven.

ANTICHRIST The word only occurs in John's Epistles. "Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour" (1 John 2:18, 22, 4:3, 2 John 7, see LAST HOUR). The meaning of the word has been confused by attempts to identify the antichrist. In Reformation times they said it was the Pope. Two hundred years ago it was Napoleon. Then Stalin took on the title, closely followed by Hitler, Mussolini, and Chairman Mao of China. More recent candidates have been Saddam Hussain and Yassar Arafat. The word Christ should be translated Messiah (as in Matthew 1:1, 17, 18). And the preposition anti means instead of, or in place of (as in Luke 11:11, "instead of a snake"). So we should translate "some one instead of the Messiah." In AD 66 anti-Messiahs thought they could defeat the Roman legions. And anyone who looks to some human messiah instead of the Messiah Son of God , is also an anti-Messiah. "Those who do not confess that Jesus is the Messiah come in the flesh, any such person is the deceiver and the anti-Messiah" (2 John 7 literal translation). As Jesus predicted such people abounded in the years before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 (Matthew 24:5, 23-26). In our day individuals and nations and denominations are also tempted to turn from the Lord to a human messiah in the face of overwhelming problems.

ANTINOMIAN There is a fine line between Christian FREEDOM and the idea that there is no such thing as right and wrong. Paul had to defend himself from those who accused him of teaching "Let us do evil that good may come" (Romans 3:8). Jesus said about antinomian prophets "Depart from me you who work anomia" (Matthew 7:23, as were the weeds in 13:41, see the same word in 1 John 3:4). And Paul said that we should have no fellowship with anomia (2 Corinthians 6:14). What we are freed from is the idea that laws and rules can make us right (see     JUSTIFICATION, RIGHTEOUSNESS). In that sense we are free from the law (Romans 7:6), but freedom in the Spirit is to make us right by producing beautiful fruit as opposed to the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:16-25). The Nicolaitans of the churches of Asia (Revelation 2:6, 15-16) were probably antinomian, as were many of the Gnostic sects, and some of the early

ANTIOCH The city now called Antakya in Syria is a few miles inland on the River Orontes. To get there from Jerusalem it was a two day walk down to Joppa (modern Jaffa, Yafo) then a five or six day (300 miles, 500 km) sea journey north. Built in 300 BC, it became the third city of the Roman Empire after Rome and Alexandria. As a result of Saul's persecution (before his conversion) Christians moved there and formed a church (Acts 8:4; 11:19-21). Barnabas was sent from the church in Jerusalem, and he brought Paul from Tarsus to help in teaching the large number of new disciples. The city was divided into four quadrants by wide colonnaded avenues east and west and north and south. That means that the disciples (learners, first called Christians, 11:26) must have met in private homes all over the city, where they were taught by prophets and teachers (13:1). When a famine was predicted Barnabas and Paul were sent with aid to help their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem (11:30). Then, accompanied by Mark, they were sent out on the first missionary journey (13:2-4). And they returned there to report back to the church that had sent them out (14:26-28, as in 18:22-23). For the future influence of that church see ANTIOCH, Bishops.

ANTIOCH, Bishops According to EUSEBIUS Simon Peter was the first bishop of Antioch (Ecclesiastical History III :22, 36). Ignatius was the second or third bishop (c.69 - c.107) and he was taken to Rome to be killed by wild beasts in the arena. On the way he wrote seven letters to churches about his imminent martyrdom (J.B.Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, 1885). Paul of Samosata was made Bishop of Antioch (c.260) but he was deposed (268) for teaching a form of Unitarianism. In his model (usually called Dynamic Monarchianism) God is eternally one Person, and his power rested on Jesus. In that sense Jesus hardly differed from the Prophets. That teaching was taken down into Arabia and influenced MUHAMMAD ("There is one God and Muhammad is his prophet). John Chrysostom (c.347-407) was called "golden-mouthed" when he preached (386-98) as Bishop of Antioch before being made Patriarch of Constantinople.

ANTIOCH Church life "And it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians" (Acts 11:26). This is the only definition of a Christian (Christianos, Acts 26:28, 1 Peter 4:16) in the New Testament. It was the name given to people who were baptized in the name of the Trinity (Matthew 28:19-20) to enrol as disciples (learners). They would learn about God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit as was later summed up in the Apostles' Creed.  In the various gatherings of this church there was obviously room for prophets (as set out in 1 Corinthians 14:1-5, 29-33). "One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine over all the world; and this took place during the reign of Claudius (41-54 AD). The disciples determined that according to their ability, each would send relief to the believers living in Judea; this they did, sending it to the elders by Barnabas and Saul" (Acts 11:27-29). Although the prophets and teachers taught in many different locations of the four quadrants of the city, they apparently met together periodically for a conference. "Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the ruler, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' Then after fasting and praying they laid hands on them" (Acts 13:1-4). This resulted in the first overseas missionary journey.

ANTIOCH in Pisidia During the first overseas missionary journey Paul and Barnabas moved a hundred miles (160 km) inland from Perga to Antioch in Pisidia. This was the capital of the Roman Province of Galatia on the main highway across Turkey from Ephesus to Tarsus. . Two thousand Jewish families had previously moved there (Josephus Antiquities 12.3.4). As usual, Paul first visited their Jewish synagogue. Instead of the Jewish name Saul, he now begins using his name as a Roman citizen. But he was recognized as a rabbi trained under the great teacher Gamaliel (see Acts 22:3). So he was asked to preach (Acts 13:13-16). As a result of Paul's sermon " many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, and the next sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they contradicted what was spoken by Paul. Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly saying, 'It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you reject it and judge yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we are now turning to the Gentiles (non-Jewish nations). This infuriated the Jews and they drove Paul and Barnabas out of the city. So they moved to ICONIUM, (Acts 13:44-49).

ANTS  Solomon, at least in his early years, "would speak of animals and birds, and reptiles, and fish (1 Kings 4:33). He noted four creatures that are very weak, but know how to use their skills to build cities (ants), to dig underground fortresses (rock badgers, rabbits, coneys), to swarm vast distances (locusts), and to attach themselves to the walls and ceilings of palaces (lizards). He noted that ants "provide their food in the summer" (Proverbs 30:24-27). As he observed them carefully, he never found a lazy ant (see LAZINESS). So he recommended "Go to the ant, you lazybones; consider its ways, and be wise, without having any chief or officer or ruler, it prepares its food in summer" (Proverbs 6:6-8). We now know that ants engage in typically HOMINID activities such as dairy farming (they raise aphids for their milk), agriculture (they grow fungus gardens), and they practice slavery by forcing others to work for them. But it seems their wisdom is instinctive, built into their genes. And each species continues to do exactly what they have always done over a million years. It is Image of God MAN (Genesis 1:26-27) who is free to to have alternative visions and be unexpectedly creative.

APES The cover of Time Magazine (July 23, 2001) is titled "How Apes Became Human." The article tells us that the first ape became human (a hominid) 5.8 million years ago 225 km north east of Addis Abbaba. What made Ardipithecus ramidus kadabba a human (hominid) as opposed to being an ape was discovering that he could usefully stand on two legs. But imagine a Time cover concerning the evolution of the Mercedes (see EVOLUTION) with the title "How wheelbarrows became cars." This would be illustrated by an impressive Time chart of the evolution from a horizontal wheel for grinding maize to a vertical wheel with an axle, to a wheelbarrow, then four wheelbarrows were joined to make a cart, and finally we have the automobiles. This chart may set out a possible sequence, but it in no way explains how the wheel became a Mercedes. And to suggest it happened by chance without the mind of engineers who designed every step of the evolution of cars is plain nonsense. It is true they often hit on an improvement by chance, and there was ruthless survival of the fittest. Genesis Man (Image of God Man, Genesis 1:26-27) is not defined by the fact that he stands upright, but by the fact that he can converse with God. It was that supreme bit of engineering that made us different from the many other apes and hominids that roamed our world for millions of years.

APOCALYPTIC Scholars use this term (Greek apokalupto to uncover) in many ways, but we will use it for texts that express "the conviction that God will intervene to judge at some time in the future" (Editorial Board of the Rhetoric of Religion Antiquity Series, Deo Publishing). In Luke-Acts for example that definition includes Zechariah being told of the coming of John the Baptist (Luke 1:13-17) and the annunciation to Mary (Luke 1:30-33). Jesus spoke of his imminent death and resurrection (Luke 9:22, 44, 18:31-32, 24:19-27) He also announced the help of the Holy Spirit when the disciples would be persecuted (Luke 12:11-12, as for Peter and Stephen in Acts 4:8, 7:55). The coming of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost for a world-wide mission is prophesied (Acts 1:8). The cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum would be judged (Luke 10:13-15, as fulfilled AD 68). Jesus foresaw his own coming in that generation to topple the temple (9:23-27,44, 21:5-6). There are also promises that the Messiah would be "a light for revelation to the Gentiles" (Luke 2:32, 13:28-29, 20:16, as fulfilled in Acts 10:28, 45, 15:19, 28:28). How then does apocalyptic apply to us? Mary's Magnificat remembers the many Old Testament interventions when "from generation to generation" God has "scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones" (Luke 1:51-52). And that gives us the assurance that the Messiah will continue to intervene in VINDICATION and the righting of wrongs (as Zechariah prophesied in Luke 1 :69-71).

APOCRYPHA The Jewish canonical list of Old Testament books was recognized at the Council of Jamnia in AD 90. There were other writings (some originally in Hebrew) which were included in the Septuagint (LXX) Greek translation of the Old Testament. These were included in the translation of the Bible into Latin by Jerome (342-420 AD), who viewed these books as good to read but not to be used to establish Christian doctrine. That opinion was followed by Martin Luther and the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles. The Roman Catholic Council of Trent (1548) declared the following seven books to be canonical, and they are included in Roman Catholic Bibles (e.g. NJB): Tobit, Judith, 1 & 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus (the Wisdom of Jesus ben Sirach or Sirach), Baruch. They also include additions to Esther, Daniel (Susanna, Bel and the Dragon). Other apocryphal books (called pseudepigrapha) were not counted as canonical at the Council of Trent (e.g. 1 & 2 Esdras, The Prayer of Manasseh). Whereas there are hundreds of New Testament quotations and references from the Hebrew canon, there is not one quotation from the Apocryphal books. That is why the Apocrypha is not used to establish any point of doctrine in this website.

APPOLONIA On the Via Ignatia further west from AMPHIPOLIS, there was another stopping place (modern Pollino). As in the case of the previous stop, there was no synagogue for him to visit with, and he moved on the 20 miles (32 km) to Thessalonica. We assume that a church would soon have been planted there by Christians (as was the case with Laodicea and Colossae which were daughter churches from EPHESUS).

APOSTLE The Greek word apostolos means someone who is sent to do a task for the sender. In classical Greek an apostolos could be the leader of an Athenian naval expedition. In the Gospels Jesus' twelve disciples were called apostles when they were sent out on preaching tours. Paul was called an apostle as the leader of a mission team that planted churches all over the Mediterranean (see Romans 15:19). In two lists of the gifts of the Spirit apostles are mentioned first (1 Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 4:11). This is because the spiritual energy and ability to plant new congregations was essential for the growth of the worldwide church. To do his work Paul needed evangelistic, teaching, prophetic, pastoral, administrative, and no doubt other gifts. In that sense we could view him as a five talent person (see Matthew 25:5). Most of us have one or two gifts, but we can also be apostoloi if we are willing to be sent on local or more distant errands as servants of the Messiah.

APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION The fourth of the Tracts for the Times (1933-41) which set out the vision of the OXFORD MOVEMENT (usually dated 1833-45) was John Keble's "Adherence to the Apostolical Succession the safest Course". This meant that the oneness and continuity of the word-wide church was best maintained by ordaining its bishops in an unbroken line that went back to the apostles. A stronger form of the doctrine of the Apostolic Succession assumes that it is the actual laying on of hands by other bishops in the proper succession that imparts the Holy Spirit for the work of being a bishop. Leo XIII (Pope 1878-1903) appointed a commission (1895) to determine if the Anglican ordination of bishops was in the apostolic succession. By his Apostolicae Curea (1896) Anglican ordinations of bishops and priests were declared invalid. This means that the sacraments of the Anglican Communion, including the Episcopal Church of America, cannot be recognized by the Vatican. That excommunication obviously extends to the communion services and marriages of all DENOMINATIONS that refuse to submit to the Bishop of Rome. Baptisms in the name of the Trinity (even performed by a nurse as a patient is dying in hospital) are however acceptable.

AQUARIAN RELIGION Aquarius (Latin for the Water Carrier) was one of the twelve signs of the Zodiac. And people who are committed to finding direction for their lives from the movements of the planets (see ASTROLOGY) are sometimes called Aquarians (a name also connected with WICCAN religion, as in The Aquarian Tabernacle Church of Washington). Thirty years ago William J. Petersen commented that "no other religion gets as much free newspaper and magazine editorial space as does astrology" (Those Curious New Cults, New Canaan, Connecticut: Keats Publishing, 1973, p.17). But astrologers know they would lose their free publicity if they became organized as a religion. The explanatory model of people committed to this way of life begin with the supreme goal of finding health and prosperity in this world. Then, instead of seeking God's guidance by the Holy Spirit they look to astrologers (the priests of the religion) for guidance. The prophet Isaiah described the uselessness of this activity in the face of the Babylonian invasion which would soon send them into exile. "You are wearied with your many consultations; let those who study the heavens stand up and save you, those who gaze at the stars, and at each new moon predict what shall befall you" (Isaiah 47:13).


ARAB GENEALOGIES   Jews originate from Abraham's grandson Jacob. But ARABS are descended from the seven other branches of Abraham's family who are described carefully in the Book of Genesis. The people of Yemen (and Oman?) claim descent from Joktan (10:25-30) who was a brother of Peleg, an ancestor of Abraham (11:16-18). Nahor, the brother of Abraham, was a Sumerian who moved from Ur (near Basra) to north-west Iraq. From there they settled 300 miles south towards Damascus and became the Arameans of Syria (11:27, 24:4-67, 25:20-21, 29:4-31:55, Isaac and Jacob both married Syrian cousins). Lot was Abraham's nephew, who moved to the Jordan valley. After the destruction of Sodom (probably now under the Dead Sea) he fathered the Moabites (east of the Dead Sea), and the Ammonites (present capital Amman, 11:31, 12:4, 13:5-11, 19:1-29). Ishmael was Abraham's first born son, but after the birth of Isaac, he and his mother Hagar were sent away to the east. She was promised that her son would be the father of 12 Arab sheikhs (kings) and become a very great nation. (16:1-15, 17:18-27, 21:9-21, 25:12-18, 37:25-27). Eventually all the Arab tribes were united by marriage and conquest under the bene Ishmael (see Ishmael the Arab). Isaac's son Esau sold his inheritance, but he was the ancestor of the Edomites (25:25-28, 26:34-27:45, 28:8-9, 32:3- 33:16, 36:1-43). The people of south-east Arabia were descended from Keturah, Abraham's second wife (25:1-6, see CONCUBINE).

ARABIA Paul has a tantalizing reference to Arabia, "I went away at once into Arabia" (Galatians 1:17). As a wild guess we wonder if he might have lived in Medina. This was the nearest city with a large Jewish population on the main trade route south into Arabia proper (a nearer possibility might be the oasis of Tema, 500 miles south of Damascus). Obviously there is no proof of this, but we assume that during his stay in Arabia at least one church emerged there. A church is like a body which begins by organic growth from one original fertilized ovum. That means that as soon as there is one Christian believer in a city, it is only a matter of time before a church will be organized in that place. It is certain that by the time of Muhammad (c.570-632) there were Christians having a great influence in that city.

ARABIC When ABRAHAM moved into CANAAN his family (as do many immigrants) began using the language of the CANAANITES. According to the Table of Nations (Genesis 10:6) that language belonged to the linguistic family of CUSH (the Horn of Africa), MIZRAIM (Egypt), and PUT (North Africa). As a result Abraham's two sons ISHMAEL (c.1866-1792) and ISAAC (c.1852- 1672) were brought up speaking Canaanite which is the classical HEBREW of the Bible. Ishmael married an Egyptian woman (Genesis 21:21). As a result his twelve sons, who became the original sheikhs of the Ishmaelites (Genesis 17:18-20, 25:12-17, spoke a HAMITIC language which became Arabic. (For a recreation of the story based on the dating and genealogies of the Bible see Ishmael the Arab). When MUHAMMAD (c.570-632) united the various Arab tribes into one nation, and wrote the QUR'AN in beautiful Arabic, that was adopted as the classical Arabic of all the Arab nations

ARABS Abraham's firstborn son was ISHMAEL (Genesis 16:1-3). But when Isaac was born, Sarah insisted on Ishmael being sent away (Genesis 21:10, 20-21). When ABRAHAM prayed "O that Ishmael might live in your sight," God said  "As for Ishmael, I have heard you; I will bless him and make him fruitful and exceedingly numerous; he shall be the father of twelve princes" (Genesis17:20). The bene Ishmael (the tribe of Ishmael, Genesis 25:7-18) were joined (through marriage and treaties) by others tribes descended from Abraham to become the Arabs. These included the children of Abraham's nephew Lot (Genesis 19:36-38), the eastern tribes descended from Keturah (Genesis 25:1-6), the Edomites descended from Esau (Genesis 36:1-43), and Abraham's Syrian family (Genesis 11:27, 24:22-24, 29:1-6). They all spoke Arabic (the language of Canaan), practiced circumcision as did the Jewish people, and they continued in the faith of Abraham for twenty-four centuries. Arabs were included in the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:11). And during the first five centuries there was huge church growth, including hundreds of bishops, to the east among all Arab people. It was MUHAMMAD (c.570-632) who gave Arabs a strong sense of brotherhood and national identity as bene Ishmael (Children of Ishmael).  There are however millions of MUSLIMS who are not Arab by race in Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, countries to the South of Russia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and now in North America.  In the Middle East and now increasingly in North America and Europe there are millions of Arabs who are Christian.  The biggest grouping of these Christians are the Copts of Egypt.

ARAM In the Table of Nations Aram is listed as a Shemitic (not Semitic) language group under SHEM. It belonged to the same linguistic family as ELAM, ASSHUR, ARPACHSHAD, and LUD (Genesis 10:22). The early ARAMEANS occupied an area near the source of the Euphrates in what is now north-west Iraq on the border of eastern TURKEY. As refugees from UR, the family of ABRAHAM settled among them (Genesis 11:32) near the city of Haran (Harran) in the area called Padan Aram (Genesis 25:20, 28:2-7, 31:18, 32:18, 35:9, 26, 46:15). Their proto-Aramean language was a close cousin of the SUMERIAN LANGUAGE that Abraham's family had spoken in Ur. After NIMROD and his successor SARGON of Agade had imposed AKKADIANas the language of Mesopotamia, the early Arameans lost their ancestral language and began speaking Akkadian and then ARAMAIC (similar to the language of the CANAANITES), which developed into ARABICand was recreated for modernHEBREW(all these languages are as closely related as Italian, Spanish, and French).

ARAMAIC The original ARAMEANS spoke a language that belonged to the same SHEMITIC (not Semitic) group as the SUMERIANS. When NIMROD took over the cities of Sumer he brought with him the Hamitic language that became AKKADIAN (BABYLONIAN). According to the Table of Nations that language belonged to the same Hamitic linguistic group as the people of CUSH (the Horn of Africa), MIZRAIM (Egypt), PUT (North Africa) and CANAAN (Genesis 10:6). When their original language was replaced by AKKADIAN, and the ARAMEANS built DAMASCUSas the capital of Syria, they developed the language which eventually became the trade language known as Aramaic. Because Damascus was the focus of trade all over the Middle East, Aramaic was spoken in cities all the way to China (like the Swahili of Zanzibar spoken all over East Africa). Later it was called SYRIAC and it was used as the CHURCH Languageof the east.

ARAMAIC in the Bible The language called ARAMAIC emerged in parallel with CANAANITE and early HEBREW, and their grammar is similar. It was written in the same script as Hebrew. Laban spoke Aramaic when he called "the heap of witness" jegar-sahadutha (Genesis 31:47). Aramaic was used to write a major part of the book of DANIEL (Daniel 2:4-7:28, also Ezra 4:8-6:18, 7:12-26 ). The Aramaic of the Book of Daniel used to be used as an argument for a late date of that book, but the argument was demolished by R.D.Wilson. Aramaic was almost certainly Jesus' mother tongue in Nazareth. He used it when he said talitha koum to raise a dead girl (Mark 5:41), and ephphatha (from the Aramaic ethpetakh, Mark 7:34). He also used his native language on the cross to say Eloi Eloi, lema sabachthani (Mark 15:36, Matthew 27:46 instead of the Hebrew in Psalm 22:1). Mary Magdalene called Jesus rabboni (my Lord in Aramaic). And early Jewish Christians prayed maran atha meaning "Our Lord, come" (1 Corinthians 16:22). The words Golgotha, Cephas, and Akeldama (Acts 1:19) are also Aramaic. SYRIAC was a later name for Aramaic, and it became the language of huge Christian churches in the East. There were versions of the New Testament in that language by 150 AD. The Syriac language is still used in the liturgies of the Syrian churches in Kerala, South India, though more and more the Bible is read in the Malayalam vernacular.

ARAMEANS The early Arameans (proto-Arameans) were listed together with ELAM, ASSHUR, ARPACHSHAD, and LUD in the Table of Nations under the linguistic grouping of SHEM (Genesis 10:32). As a result of the invasion of NIMROD (see also SARGON of Agade 2371-2230 BC) Hamitic AKKADIAN took over as the dominant language of Mesopotamia. The early Arameans lost their ancestral language and began speaking ARAMAIC (closely related to AKKADIAN and the language of the CANAANITES) . That was the language they used when they were later known as the Syrians of Damascus. In the King James Version the Arameans of Damascus were called SYRIANS. Their constant wars with Jewish people are recorded in the historical books of the Bible (2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, see Isaiah 9:12, Jeremiah 35:11). Naaman the leper was a Syrian (Luke 4:27 quoting 2 Kings 5:7). ABRAHAM was a SUMERIAN but he was also called an Aramean (Deuteronomy 26:5) because his family settled as refugees in the territory of ARAM (see Genesis 11:31, 25:20, 28:5, 31:20, 24)

ARCHERY To clarify the distinction between a decision to commit adultery and the act itself Jesus gave us a metaphor from archery. An arrow is aimed by pulling back the bowstring with the right hand and looking along the arrow with one's right eye. "If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away . . . and if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away." (Matthew 5:29-39). Heart sin is when there is a decision to take aim and engage in a wrong act, even though the arrow may actually miss its target. This moves our ethical focus from the externals to the root of the problem. It also gives us time to look to God, and ask for protection from the first step in a wrong direction. "Lord, my heart seems to be set on adulterating my marriage. Please keep me from the first step into disaster."

ARIANISM In the New Testament the eternal Trinitarian oneness of God is taken for granted. But in the fourth century it became the major topic of discussion in the western churches. Arius (c.250-336) was ordained a priest (313 AD) and put in charge of one of the main churches of Alexandria. He taught a modified Unitarianism in that God was eternally one, and the Son of God was begotten to bring our world into existence and function as its Lord. This explained the subordination texts in the Gospels (see especially John 4:34, 5:17-20, 6:37-40). But it denied the Trinitarian oneness of the three Persons as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. After much discussion and mutual excommunicating, the full deity of all three Persons was agreed at the Council of Nicaea (325 AD) and with some additions by representatives of the Eastern and Western churches (451 AD). As the love of God has been more fully understood in our day, it has become clear that God could not be love as one Person alone. In the model called Creative Love Theism all three Persons are directly involved in perfecting us in the oneness of eternal love.

ARISTOTLE (384-322 BC) After the death of Socrates (c.470-399 BC) Plato (427-347 BC) founded his famous Academy. Aristotle one of the young students enrolled there ( 367 BC).. Thirty years later he opened a rival school at the Lyceum under a covered portico (335 BC). Among many scientific works, he also left lecture notes about the nature of "the good" as the pursuit of the mean (published by his son Nichomachus as the Nicomachean Ethics). Plato had argued for "ideas" as the ultimate reality, Aristotle stressed the reality of individual objects. Paul wrote that "In the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom" (1 Corinthians 1:21), and "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit" (Colossians 2:8). So Aristotle and other Greek philosophers (e.g. the Stoics and Epicureans of Athens, Acts 17:18) were viewed with great suspicion in the early church But Aristotle began to impact the mediaeval church through translations of his works into Arabic. He distinguished four senses of the word "cause" and viewed the efficient, formal, and final causes as pointing to God as the unmoved mover. Through Albertus Magnus (c.1200-1280) and other DOMINICANS, especially THOMAS AQUINAS (1225-74), the Aristotelian approach to philosophy and theology became dominant among Roman Catholics.

ARIUS (c.250-c.336) Originating from North Africa (Libya?) Arius studied in Antioch where he may have learned a model in which the Son was God, not by eternal nature but by created grace before the foundation of the world. At the age of 62 (about 312 AD) he was ordained priest and put in charge of one of the principal churches of Alexandria where he was a very popular preacher. By about 319 AD he was teaching that the Father cannot share his divine nature with another. That means the Son cannot be consubstantial with the Father. "The Son has a beginning, but God is without beginning" (in a letter to Eusebius of Nicomedia who supported Arian cause till he died c.342). That means his model was clearly UNITARIAN as opposed to TRINITARIAN. Arius was opposed by ATHANASIUS, and the newly converted Emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicea (325 AD) where Arius was condemned and banished. He was recalled (c.334), but Athanasius refused to welcome him back to communion in Alexandria. Two years later Arius died suddenly in Constantinople.

ARMENIANS (Not to be confused with ARMINIANISM). Their country used to be located between the Caspian and Black Seas, but it has been ravaged and overrun again and again. It was perhaps the first country to become a Christian nation under their king Tiridates III (238-314). The New Testament and then the Old Testament were translated into Armenian from an early SYRIAC version. They were allowed to continue their liturgy (using the ancient classical Armenian language) and practices when they came into communion with the Pope in Rome under the Crusaders. But later a large number of Gregorian Armenians became independent and number over three million in various parts of the world today. They make the sign of the cross, but they use unleavened bread for communion, and instead of Christmas they celebrate the Nativity during the Feast of the Epiphany in January.

ARMINIANISM In 1574 the University of Leyden was established to provide ministers for the Dutch Reformed Church. One of its most famous professors was Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609). As a result of doubting the extreme determinism of the Calvinistic doctrine of Predestination, he was under constant attack. He carefully explained how Divine sovereignty is compatible with human freewill. But he was ruthlessly accused of Pelagianism (see PELAGIANISM) which includes the idea that we can save ourselves by our own good works. Nine years after the death of Arminius his moderate Calvinism was rejected at the Synod of Dort (1618-19). As a result two hundred ministers were dubbed as Arminian heretics and summarily dismissed. John Wesley (1703-91) and his Methodist movement were later attacked as Arminian by strict Calvinists in Scotland and George Whitefield (1714-70) in England. And for the same reason the Creative Love Theism model offered on this site is rejected by those who want to deny human freewill.

ARMISTICE DAY see the Sermon on Armistice Day.

ARPACHSHAD In the Table of Nations Arpachshad is listed under SHEM in the same Shemitic (not Semitic) language group as ELAM, ASSHUR, LUD, and ARAM. The SUMERIAN LANGUAGE remained the classical language of Mesopotamia for 2000 years. It was an agglutinative language like Elamite, possibly Chinese, and Tamil and other Dravidian languages of south India. There is no way Sumerian could have been omitted from the Table of Nations, so on this website we assume that the SUMERIANS were listed under Arpachshad the ancestor of the Arab and Jewish people. ABRAHAM is descended from this line (Genesis 11:1-29, see the importance of GENEALOGY in the ancient world).

ASCENSION The ascension was 40 days after the resurrection (Acts 1:3). The disciples remembered that he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven" (Luke 24:50). Luke further explains that "as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their site (see CLOUDS). Apparently this was not experienced as a sad ending or deprivation. They returned "with great joy" (Luke 24:52-53). It was designed to make clear that Jesus would no longer keep appearing visibly as he had done, and the disciples would need to look to the Holy Spirit for further teaching and instruction (see Acts 1:8-11). If Jesus had not ascended, Christians would keep trying to meet him in a particular place, but now by the Holy Spirit the Messiah's church can be constituted in every city and town throughout the world (see 1 Corinthians 12:6, 12-13, Ephesians 4:4, 15).

ASHKENAZI JEWS In the early Middle Ages the Jews who settled in France and Germany were called Ashkenazim (from Hebrew Ashkenaz, perhaps Phrygia, Genesis 10:3). There they began to speak Yiddish, which was a variant of Middle High German (c.1200-1350). It is written in the Hebrew alphabet and includes many Hebrew religious terms. As they migrated they continued to talk and write in Yiddish. Between 1935 and 1939 half the Ashkenazi Jews of Germany and Austria managed to emigrate. During the holocaust (1941-45) an estimated 6 millions Jews in Europe were exterminated. When the Yiddish speaking Ashkenazi Jews immigrated into Israel, their culture and traditions were at first very different from that of  the SEPHARDIC JEWS, but these differences decreased by the second generation.

ASIA Minor The Apostle John wrote to seven churches in the Roman Province of Asia. These were EPHESUS, SMYRNA, PERGAMUM, THYATIRA, SARDIS, PHILADELPHIA, LAODICEA. Paul's visits to the Province are recorded in Acts 19:10, 22, see 2 Timothy 1:15)

ASLAN In The Chronicles of Narnia C.S.Lewis (see LEWIS) used a lion to picture Jesus as a fierce, lovable friend of children. Aslan prowls into a bewitched kingdom and transforms it through those who serve him in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1951). Aslan captures the paradox of Jesus as the loving friend of ordinary sinners, and the ruthless enemy of those who bring them into bondage by false religions (Matthew 21:12-13, 23:1-36, 24:1-2, 29-30). Unlike LION Taming, Aslan can tame us but he cannot be tamed. In The Magician's Nephew (1955) Aslan also turns out to be the one who sang our world into existence (as in Genesis 1:1-31, Colossians 1:15-17). The imagery of the Son of God as a lion is taken from "the Lord, who roars like a lion" (Hosea 11:10, Amos 3:7-8). And in the last book of the Bible Jesus is described as both
"the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David" and the Lamb (Revelation 5:5-6).

ASSHUR In the Table of Nations Asshur is listed under SHEM in the same language group as ELAM, ARPACHSHAD, LUD, and ARAM. (Genesis 10:22). This means that the early Proto-Assyrian language was Shemitic (not Semitic). When NIMROD took over cities in Sumer and then went north to build his own great cities in Assyria (Genesis 10:8-12) his Hamitic (see HAM)AKKADIAN language soon became the language of the Assyrians.  Ashhur is mentioned in a prophecy by Balaam (Numbers 24:22, 24). For the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel see under ASSYRIANS.

ASSOS On his way back from planting churches in Macedonia and Achaia (Greece) Paul crossed the northen part of the Aegean Sea to Troas. From there took the twenty miles (32 km) road route south across a promontory to Assos. Meanwhile the other members of his team (Sopater from Beroea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy, Tychicus and Trophimus from Asia, Acts 20:4-6) sailed around Cape Lectum by ship. Then Luke records that "We went ahead to the ship and set sail for Assos, intending to take Paul on board there; for he had made this arrangement, intending to go by land himself. When he met us in Assos we took him on board and went to Mitylene" (Acts 20:13-14). Assos (modern Behramkoy) was an important city, and Aristotle taught there (348-345 BC). In view of its importance we assume that Paul or some of his team planted church in the city.

ASSURANCE Most people wonder whether God will be there for them when they die. And if there is life after death, will God accept them in spite of so much failure, and their less than adequate performance? This is why John ends his first Epistle with the need for assurance. "I write these things to you who believe in he name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life" (1 John 5:13). But the problem is that many already have eternal life, but they are plagued by doubts. That is why an experience of the Holy Spirit working in our life is the best foundation for assurance. "By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit" (1 John 4:13). "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised the Messiah from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwells in you" (Romans 8:11). And once the Holy Spirit has persuaded us of Jesus' resurrection and our own resurrection, then he can lead us into all the other good news and assurance that the Bible can give us every day.

ASSYRIANS When NIMROD took over cities in Sumer, and then went north to build his own great cities in the upper Tigris region of Assyria (Genesis 10:8-12) he laid the foundation for the ruthless Assyrian Empire. Their language was written in the CUNEIFORM developed for the SUMERIAN LANGUAGE. After they gained ascendancy of the Babylonians, they terrorized the Middle East. Tiglath Pileser 1 (c.1115-1077) conquered the ARAMEANS. King Pul of Assyria also known as Tiglath Pileser 3 (745-727 BC) exacted tribute from Menahem King of Israel (2 Kings 15:19-20). Then he came and took over Galilee and carried people captive to Assyria (2 Kings 15:29-30). After some failed alliances, King Shalmaneser 5 (725-722) toppled Samaria at the end of a terrible three year siege, and most of the remaining people of the northern kingdom were taken into exile and located far north among the Medes (2 Kings 17:5-6). That was the beginning of the Jewish dispersion.

ASTROLOGY Many very ancient monuments (e.g. the Pyramids, Stonehenge, Maya temples) were lined up exactly to capture the rising of the sun at special times of the year. Astronomers then learned to calculate the movements of the planets around the sun. Astrology began when stars were grouped in constellations called the twelve signs of the Zodiac (aquarius, virgo, pisces, gemini, libra, etc.). The next step was to study the movements of planets (Mars, Venus, Jupiter, etc.) in and out of these constellations, and assume that these affected our human life on earth. As a result of this theory millions of people read their horoscope every day, wonder what the heavens have in store for them, and in many cases take astrological guidance for their lives. In India astrologers are still consulted in important matters of state, and marriage arrangements. It is obviously impossible to prove that there is no such influence. But the New Testament is quite clear that the Holy Spirit is the one whose task is to give us wisdom and guidance (John 16:13, Acts 16:6-7, Romans 8:14, see OCCULT).

ATHANASIUS At the age of 32 Athanasius (c.296-373) became Bishop of Alexandria (328) but was forced into exile by the powerful supporters of ARIUS. He wrote a series of books (339-359) against ARIANISM (339-359) and in favor of the faith agreed on at the Council of Nicea (325). In explaining his Trinitarian model he said that an eternal Father demands an eternal Son. In human procreation a son comes after his father, but in divine begetting Father and Son are eternal. They share an eternal oneness. How can we worship the Son if he is merely a created being? The model (see TRINITY) defended by Athanasius finally triumphed after his death (at least among European Christians) at the Council of Constantinople (381). Athanasius' powerful defence of the Trinity was mostly an argument about the substance of the three Persons. The Cappadocian Fathers, Basil the Great (c.330-79), Gegory of Nazianzus (339-389), and Gregory of Nyssa (c.330-c.395), were able to fill out the model in terms of a social or family relationship, an eternal dance of love (as offered on this website under Creative Love).  There is no way God as a single Person could ever love (see a UNITARIAN model).

ATHEISM As opposed to a model that pictures our world as a creation (THEISM), an atheist views our world as the product of impersonal chance (see BIG BANG). In that sense atheists are just as much believers as those who believe in God as Creator. In both cases faith is the adoption and living by an explanatory model. The important question is which of these two models best help us to order our lives, give us the values we need to live creatively, and face the certainty of our death. Whereas Christian Theism (see TRINITY) can see LOVE as originating our human ability to love, atheism has to assume that love is the chance product of EVOLUTION (see "The Cake").  The dignity of every human can be explained if God views all of us (rich, poor, handicapped, people of every race and color) as his children. But when atheists care about the well-being of others they need a political model to explain how this can be achieved. This may result in atheistic ideologies such as Nazism, Fascism, Communism, Imperialism, unrestrained Capitalism, and the denial of freedom by dictatorship, and various forms of bureaucratic control. Many adopt ecology and the preservation of the human race as a supreme value. "We have evolved this far, let us make sure it continues." The brilliant scientist, mathematician, and philospher Blaise Pascal (1632-62) suggested a wager. "If I believe in a loving God, I have nothing to lose if I am wrong."

ATHENS During the "Golden Age" of Athenian civilization under Pericles (c.495-429 BC), the great philosophers were Socrates (c.470- 399 BC), Plato (c..428-c.348 BC) and Aristotle (384-322 BC). They were followed by the Sophists (wise persons, psychologists, experts, gurus, counselors) who were more interested in making money from their clients than in the pursuit of truth. As Paul explained in his letter to the Romans, the philosophers should have begun with God as Creator. But when they put God out of their minds Greek civilization took successive steps down into degradation (Romans 1:19-32). By the time Paul arrived in Athens (Acts 17:16-23) the university was still famous, but the city was dingy and full of shabby idols. One of the idols was dedicated "to an unknown god" (a god for agnostics?). He encountered some followers of Epicurus (341­270 BC), who taught that happiness was the one purpose of life, and Stoics (based on Zeno, 490-430 BC) who prescribed the heroic virtue of a gentleman in all circumstances. These are still the two main philosophies of our modern world ("be happy, be good").


ATONEMENT More books have been written about the atonement (at-one-ment) than any other item of Christian theology, and there are several different models used to explain it. All agree that it took place or was made visible when the Messiah was crucified on the first Good Friday. "He is the atoning sacrifice (Greek ilasmos, expiation, propitiation) for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). Theologians have often explained this sacrifice as a payment made in a Roman law court to placate the wrath of the Father. But the model of sacrifice we prefer is not set in a law court but in a family setting. It begins with the love of God. We know as humans that when we love (children, parents, friends, church members) we inevitably get hurt by those we love. When we are hurt in loving, we can stop loving, or make the person pay for the wrong , or make him or her squirm with guilt. God's kind of love not only forgives, but it absorbs the hurt of human rejection. That suggests the sacrifice of the Son on the cross is a visible expression in space time of God's willingness to forgive and absorb sin in his own person (as the prophet saw clearly in Isaiah 53:4-6).

AUGUSTINE of Hippo (354-430 AD) After many struggles with Manichaeism and Neo-Platonism (as described in his Confessions) Augustine was baptized ( under the influence of his mother Monica) in 387, was ordained priest in 391, and became a Bishop in North Africa in 395. For forty years he had a huge influence on Christian theology which continues to the present day. He taught a strong form of the doctrines of original sin and predestination, which influenced Martin Luther, John Calvin and other leaders of the Reformation. When Rome fell to Alaric and the Goths in 410, he wrote the 22 books of The City of God. He is best remembered for his words, "Our hearts are restless till they find their rest in thee." He attacked Pelagius (see PELAGIANISM). We can reject his view that God is above time, change, and impassive to having his mind changed by our prayers. We also deny his model of original sin as infecting the whole of humanity, and the idea that this infection can only be removed by baptism. We regret his low opinion of women and even of marriage.

AUNG SAN The leader in the fight for independence of BURMA from the British was Aung San (1914-47). During the 1939-45 world war he accepted military training from the Japanese, and became leader of the Burma National Army. He defected from the Japanese and joined the negotiations which led to freedom from British control. But he was assassinated by rivals (1947) and never saw the independence of his country (1948). But his daughter Suu Kyi (born 1945) later became the co-founder of the National League for Democracy (NLD see MYANMAR). Though her party won a two thirds majority in the elections of 1990, she was put under house arrest and not allowed to govern. For her courage, and perhaps also to honor her father, she was given the Nobel Peace Prize (1991).


AUTHORITY When Jesus began teaching in the Capernaum synagogue, people "were astounded at his teaching , for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes" (Mark 1:21-22). The scribes were the theologians of the day, and their authority was based on academic qualifications. There is nothing wrong with being well qualified, but ordinary people are not moved until they are "astounded" by God. As the Lord said to the prophet "My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways" (Isaiah 55:8). So when Jesus gave the teaching which is summed up in the Sermon on the Mount, God's thoughts were so different from their tradition, and his ways so appealing, that "the large crowd was listening to him with delight" (Mark 12:37). It is important to be "a workman who has no need to be ashamed rightly explaining the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15), but without the ability to astound people concerning God and his thoughts and ways we will be purveyors of religion as usual. That quality of astonishment, and the authority it gives, can only come by the Spirit. As Paul said, "My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power" (1 Corinthians 1:4)

AUTHORITY, Spiritual Many seek authority to subdue and exploit others for their own pleasure, power, glory. They make people feel small, unappreciated, cut down, fearful, humiliated, discouraged. Paul contrasted "our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for tearing down" (2 Corinthians 10:8; 13:10). This means that genuine spiritual authority builds up the creativity of others.

AUTOCRACY As in Old Testament Israel, most countries and tribes of the world have been ruled by an acclaimed chief or hereditary king or queen.. Autocracy means that this person rules with absolute power (in our day called a dictatorship). People like strong leadership, especially in times of anarchy or war. And a ruler can be loved and trusted if he or she is willing to listen and take advice. "Where there is no guidance a nation falls, but in abundance of counselors there is safety" (Proverbs 11:14, 20:18). "By wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory" (Proverbs 24:6). The greatness of King David was that he listened, and people recognized him as having a shepherd heart.. Jesus said "Among the nations those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not (will not be) so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant" (Mark 10:42-43). As our MESSIAH rules among the nations, in one sense he is autocratic, but he listens to and is influenced by everyone of us as we pray (see GOD, Openness), and he leads his people into freedom with a SHEPHERD heart.

AVARS Nothing much is known of this Mongolian tribe who spoke one of the ALTAIC LANGUAGES. They followed the HUNS, and they preceded the MONGOLS by six hundred years. Like them, they pillaged eastern Europe about 550 AD. Under their Khan Baian they set up an empire that stretched from the Baltic to the Black Sea, and they raided across the Balkans and down into Greece. Eventually CHARLEMAGNE (c.742-814) sent generals to defeat them, and recovered the vast quantities of treasures they had looted. They disappeared from history, leaving their distant cousins who had remained in Mongolia and China.