55. Credibility Compromised

“Our world is so exceedingly rich
in delusions
that a truth is priceless.”
— Carl Gustav Jung

 

In 1979, reporters from the BBC interviewed a man named Pierre Plantard. Mr. Plantard represented himself as a direct descendant of the union between Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ – the alleged Merovingian bloodline. He claimed to be a 33rd Degree Mason and the current Secretary General of the Priory of Sion, a mysterious organization that purportedly had a connection to the Order of the Knights Templar, their ancient ceremonies, and the lost treasures of the Jewish Temple, which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.

Plantard also claimed to have found a document called “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.” The original, official paper was presented to the Russian czar in 1903 and used by Adolf Hitler to fuel his fanatical prejudice against Jews. All copies of the document were reportedly burned at some point. But Plantard insisted that the papers in his possession were authentic.  As well as the claim that a future king of the dynastic roots of King David – a direct descendant of Seth, the third son of Adam – will one day be the pope of an international church and preside over a world government.

 Unfortunately for Pierre Plantard, the British government eventually arrested him. And in 1993, he admitted in court that he was a con artist who created the Priory of Sion organization, named it after Mt. Sion near Annemasse, France, and asked a talented co-conspirator to create a forgery of the Protocols!

So how can we know who to believe and what to believe? Well, given the rusty state of my personal armor, I have to say, “I don’t know.” But I can tell you what the gospel writers recorded about Jesus. And since He and several of the ancient prophets foretold the events leading up to His death and resurrection, I’m going to go with the Savior rather than leading scholars who apparently disagree with Him.

As we have seen, all four of the gospel writers gave a sequence of events, which Matthew and Mark claimed that Jesus foretold as “birth pains,” which would precede a moment when He would send angels to gather “His elect.” Those eventualities included deceivers speaking in His name, rumors of war, bloodshed, earthquakes, pestilence and famine, followed by devastation and the deaths of untold numbers of people on planet Earth.

Let’s look again at the testimonies of Jesus’ contemporaries Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Each of these writers had a different slant on telling the story. That’s to be expected … it’s just what humans do. They tell about something they witnessed or heard from their own perspective, and, in the case of the gospels, their own unique writing style. And sometimes the information can seem contradictory.

But, in Matthew 24: 15-16, Mark 13:14, and Luke 21:20, there is a similar change in tone as they tell about what Jesus foretold next, after listing all the disastrous things that believers had to look forward to. Both Matthew and Mark say specifically, “When you see … the abomination that causes desolation …” They were both closer to Jesus, the actual source. Luke was a doctor and a journalist who not only carefully researched information about life of Jesus, he also traveled with Paul and kept journals for him as well. Luke says this: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, you will know its desolation is near.”

Matthew gives a specific name for the strange phrase, “the abomination that causes desolation.” He adds: “spoken of through the prophet Daniel – let the reader understand.”

Students of prophecy will immediately know where to look in the book of Daniel to trace this clue. The term is mentioned three distinct times: in Daniel 9:27, 11:31, and 12:11.

Now, since I’m trying hard not to speculate here, I’m simply going to look at the first instance where “the abomination that causes desolation” occurs, in Daniel 9:27…

“He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven’ [that’s seven years in sixth century Hebrew-speak]. In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple, he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”

Dozens of commentaries have been written on the book of Daniel, and specifically this verse. Each author is quick – or painfully s-l-o-w – to give their nuance of what it all means. I don’t have any letters behind my name, and I don’t consider myself qualified to tell you what it all means. So let’s just extract the details that we can plainly see in the verses, and pose some logical questions.

First, Daniel says that this “abomination” – whatever that means – will be set up on a wing of the temple (according to the New International Bible translation). Matthew says it will be seen standing in the holy place. Mark says it will be standing where it doesn’t belong. And Luke adds that armies will surround Jerusalem at the time this is taking place. (All of this is fascinating, because Jerusalem was ransacked and the second temple was destroyed in 70 A.D.  It has not yet been rebuilt.)

Second, all three writers agree about the action to be taken when this happens: “Let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains!” Then each writer explains — in his own unique style — the chaos and carnage that follows. It is described by Matthew as “great distress unequaled from the beginning of the world, and never to be equaled again.”

But we are not left without hope. Matthew continues the time line to tell us what to expect next.

“No one knows the day or the hour,
not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,
but only the Father.”

(Matthew 24:36)

A RUST REMOVER …

Using BibleGateway.com, compare various Bible versions alongside the New International Version (including 1984, 2011, and 2016) to view the similarities and differences that scholars, editors, and publishers have arrived at when translating or paraphrasing, using the original manuscripts. Resolve to pray and make up your own mind about what Jesus meant and what believers need to be watching for.