Sunday, March 24, 2013

Jesus Christ Truly Rose From The Dead

March 17, 2013

The Historicity of the Resurrection of Christ

By Mark Musser

The crucifixion of Jesus Christ (33 A.D.) is the most attested historical fact of the ancient world. In addition to the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, it is also widely attested by Greco-Roman and Jewish writers. Closely related, history also confirms that the tomb of Jesus Christ on that first Easter morning was indeed empty. Every vested party knew where Jesus was buried after he died. Yet on Easter, the tomb was found empty, and nobody has ever been recovered.

In fact, the gospel of Matthew showcases that there was a still a heated debate going on between certain Jewish leaders and the Christians in the apostolic church over whether or not the disciples had stolen the body (Matthew 28:1-15). As such, both sides knew full well that the tomb was empty. More surprising, both sides also knew of the presence of Roman guards.

With a plethora of similar historical details connected to the empty tomb, Greco-Roman historian Michael Grant concedes, "The historian cannot justifiably deny the empty tomb ... if we apply the same sort of criteria that we would apply to any other ancient sources, then the evidence is firm and plausible enough to necessitate the conclusion that the tomb was indeed found empty."

Once the reality of the empty tomb sinks in, this stubborn fact substantially narrows down the historical possibilities of what transpired on Easter morning. Outside the resurrection itself of Jesus Christ, only a handful of other historical scenarios have been propagated in its place -- all of which can be routinely dismissed through a quick process of elimination.

One of the most popular answers to explain the empty tomb over the centuries is that the disciples stole Jesus's body during the night. The biggest problem with this supposition is it cannot explain the later behavior of the disciples, who became stalwart apostolic pillars in the church founded upon the preaching of the resurrection of Christ. The apostles lived very difficult lives. Many of them were martyred. If they had stolen the body of Christ, they would have known that Jesus was not raised from the dead. They thus would not have spent the rest of their lives sacrificing themselves for a lie.

Others have tried to implausibly advocate that the women who first visited the tomb Easter morning went to the wrong one. The very fact that the gospels admit that women were the first ones to visit the empty tomb gives historical authenticity to the entire account. In such a male-dominated world, no one in his right mind would ever want to acknowledge that women were the first to notice the tomb was empty -- especially when a new religion was essentially founded upon such an embarrassing fact.

Some have tried to suggest that Jesus's death was staged, or that it was a hoax. This is impossible for the simple reason that no one could have survived the cross. Jesus was beaten to a pulp and whipped out of his mind before he was crucified. Once he was nailed to the cross, his fate was sealed.

Others have tried to say that the resurrection appearances of Jesus to his disciples were hallucinations. Hallucinations, however, are individual occurrences by definition. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Paul wrote that whole groups of people, along with hundreds of eyewitnesses, saw the resurrected Lord. In 1 Corinthians 15, the apostle Paul tells his followers in Corinth that more than 500 witnesses saw the resurrected Christ at one time, most of whom were still alive at the time of Paul's writing (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).

Still others have tried to venture the idea the resurrection accounts were based on fictitious folklore. However, such legends typically require 200-300 years in order to be established -- which is precisely what did happen with all of the fanciful apocryphal gospels that have helped spur the modern interest in The Da Vinci Code. In great contrast, the apostles were preaching the resurrection of Christ from the very outset, and even some of the most radical skeptical scholars of the German Protestant Enlightenment, like Ferdinand Christian Bauer (1792-1860), admitted that Galatians, Romans, and the Corinthian epistles were penned by the apostle Paul -- who emphasized the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Bauer believed that much of the New Testament was written much later by pseudo-authors.

However, one of the most eminent ancient church historians of all time, English scholar J.B. Lightfoot (1829-1889), established very early dates for two important church fathers -- Clement and Ignatius -- both of whom quoted or alluded to most of the New Testament around the turn of the 1st century. Sir William Ramsay (1851-1939) then established the surprising accuracy of the book of Acts, stating that Luke was one of the greatest historians of the ancient world. In 1976, John A.T. Robinson (1919-1983) demolished the entire edifice of Protestant Germany's skepticism by writing a book called Redating the New Testament. Robinson placed the entire New Testament back to the 1st century because it everywhere presumes that the Jerusalem Temple was still standing. Since the Romans destroyed the temple in 70 A.D., the New Testament must have been written before that time.

This leaves modern man faced with the startling conclusion that Jesus Christ may have indeed been raised from the dead. A little more than a century ago, Dr. W.H. Griffith Thomas wrote an outstanding book entitled Christianity is Christ, where he strongly concluded that the resurrection of Jesus was one of the best-attested facts of the ancient world. Much later in the 20th century, Josh McDowell compiled a vast array of Christian evidences that demand a verdict, and Lee Strobel has an excellent Case for Christ. In fact, Strobel persuasively contends that the very historical existence of Christianity cannot be explained apart from the historicity of the resurrection of Christ.

Just because the resurrection of Christ cannot be placed in an experimental scientific test tube does not mean that it is an irrational fairy tale. In 1 Corinthians 15, one of the longest chapters in the New Testament, the apostle Paul strings together a series of arguments for the resurrection of the dead -- everything from the authority of the Old Testament to historical eyewitness accounts to his own apostolic authority and personal life -- and even for the sake of morality itself. Paul even points out that nature itself teaches the resurrection of the dead every year a farmer plants his garden anew (1 Corinthians 15:36).

It was Jewish German scholar Karl Lowith (1897-1973) who acutely observed, "The Christian hope is almost rational, for it rests on faith in an accomplished fact." However, because the apostolic writers depicted the historical events of the gospels as a decisive once-for-all cosmic salvation event, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ invariably offends, contradicts, and upsets "the normal historical consciousness of both ancient and modern times." The Christian faith offended the classical mind because it rendered a onetime historical event with ultimate significance. The Christian faith offends the modern mind because it exempts its own specific history of salvation from the generalized history of multicultural godlessness. Such unforgiveable offences are why the resurrection of Christ will often continue to be ignored and attacked in spite of its historicity.

Mark Musser is a missionary/pastor and a contributing writer for the Cornwall Alliance, a coalition of clergy, theologians, religious leaders, scientists, academics, and policy experts committed to bringing a balanced biblical view of stewardship to the critical issues of environment and development. Mark is also the author of two books, Nazi Oaks: The Green Sacrifice of the Judeo-Christian Worldview in the Holocaust, which has been recently expanded, updated, and republished, and Wrath or Rest: Saints in the Hands of an Angry God, a commentary focusing on the warning passages in the book of Hebrews.

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‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'

Paul VI Audience Hall
Wednesday, 8 February 2012


Dear Brothers and Sisters, Today I would like to reflect with you on the prayer of Jesus when death was imminent, pausing to think about everything St Mark and St Matthew tell us. The two Evangelists record the prayer of the dying Jesus not only in Greek, in which their accounts are written but, because of the importance of these words, also in a mixture of Hebrew and Aramaic. In this way they have passed down not only the content but also the sound that this prayer had on Jesus’ lips: let us really listen to Jesus’ words as they were. At the same time, the Evangelists describe to us the attitude of those present at the crucifixion who did not understand — or did not want to understand — this prayer. St Mark wrote, as we have heard: “when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’”. (15:33-34). In the structure of the account, the prayer, Jesus’ cry, is raised at the end of the three hours of darkness that shrouded all the earth from midday until three o’clock in the afternoon. These three hours of darkness are in turn the continuation of a previous span of time, also of three hours, that began with the crucifixion of Jesus. The Evangelist Mark, in fact, tells us that “it was the third hour, when they crucified him” (15:25). All the times given in the narrative, Jesus’ six hours on the Cross are divided into two parts of equal length. The mockery of various groups which displays their scepticism and confirms their disbelief fits into the first three hours, from nine o’clock in the morning until midday. St Mark writes: “Those who passed by derided him” (15:29); “So also the chief priests mocked him to one another with the scribes” (15:31); “those who were crucified with him also reviled him” (15:32). In the following three hours, from midday until “the ninth hour” [three o’clock in the afternoon], the Evangelist spoke only of the darkness that had come down over the entire earth; only darkness fills the whole scene without any references to people’s movements or words. While Jesus is drawing ever closer to death, there is nothing but darkness that covers “the whole land”. The cosmos also takes part in this event: the darkness envelops people and things, but even at this moment of darkness God is present, he does not abandon them. In the biblical tradition darkness has an ambivalent meaning: it is a sign of the presence and action of evil, but also of a mysterious presence and action of God who can triumph over every shadow. In the Book of Exodus, for example, we read “The Lord said to Moses: “Lo, I am coming to you in a thick cloud” (19:9); and, further: “the people stood afar off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was” (20:21). And in his discourses in Deuteronomy, Moses recounts: “And you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while the mountain burned with fire to the heart of heaven wrapped in darkness, cloud, and gloom” (4:11); you “heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire” (5,23). In the scene of the crucifixion of Jesus the darkness engulfs the earth and the Son of God immerses himself in the shadows of death in order to bring life, with his act of love. Returning to St Mark’s narrative, in the face of the insults of various categories of people, in the face of the pall of darkness that shrouds everything, at the moment when he faces death, Jesus, with the cry of his prayer, shows that with the burden of suffering and death in which there seems to be abandonment, the absence of God, Jesus is utterly certain of the closeness of the Father who approves this supreme act of love, the total gift of himself, although the voice from on high is not heard, as it was on other occasions. In reading the Gospels we realize that in other important passages on his earthly existence Jesus had also seen the explanatory voice of God associated with the signs of the Father’s presence and approval of his journey of love. Thus in the event that follows the Baptism in the Jordan, at the opening of the heavens, the words of the Father had been heard: “Thou art my beloved Son, with thee I am well pleased” (Mk 1:11). Then in the Transfiguration, the sign of the cloud was accompanied with these words: “this is my beloved Son; listen to him” (Mk 9:7). Instead, at the approach of the death of the Crucified One, silence falls, no voice is heard but the Father’s loving gaze is fixed on his Son’s gift of love. However, what is the meaning of Jesus’ prayer, of the cry he addresses to the Father: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”: doubt about his mission, about the Father’s presence? Might there not be in this prayer the knowledge that he had been forsaken? The words that Jesus addresses to the Father are the beginning of Psalm 22[21], in which the Psalmist expresses to God his being torn between feeling forsaken and the certain knowledge of God’s presence in his People’s midst. He, the Psalmist, prays: “O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel” (vv. 3-4). The Psalmist speaks of this “cry” in order to express the full suffering of his prayer to God, seemingly absent: in the moment of anguish his prayer becomes a cry. This also happens in our relationship with the Lord: when we face the most difficult and painful situations, when it seems that God does not hear, we must not be afraid to entrust the whole weight of our overburdened hearts to him, we must not fear to cry out to him in our suffering, we must be convinced that God is close, even if he seems silent. Repeating from the Cross the first words of Psalm 22[21] “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” — “My God my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46); uttering the words of the Psalm, Jesus prays at the moment of his ultimate rejection by men, at the moment of abandonment; yet he prays, with the Psalm, in the awareness of God’s presence, even in that hour when he is feeling the human drama of death. However a question arises within us: how is it possible that such a powerful God does not intervene to save his Son from this terrible trial? It is important to understand that Jesus’ prayer is not the cry of one who meets death with despair, nor is it the cry of one who knows he has been forsaken. At this moment Jesus makes his own the whole of Psalm 22[21], the Psalm of the suffering People of Israel. In this way he takes upon himself not only the sin of his people, but also that of all men and women who are suffering from the oppression of evil and, at the same time, he places all this before God’s own heart, in the certainty that his cry will be heard in the Resurrection: “The cry of extreme anguish is at the same time the certainty of an answer from God, the certainty of salvation — not only for Jesus himself, but for ‘many’” (Jesus of Nazareth, II, pp. 213-214 Ignatius Press, San Francisco 2011). In this prayer of Jesus are contained his extreme trust and his abandonment into God’s hands, even when God seems absent, even when he seems to be silent, complying with a plan incomprehensible to us. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read: “in the redeeming love that always united him to the Father, he assumed us in the state of our waywardness of sin, to the point that he could say in our name from the cross: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (n. 603). His is a suffering in communion with us and for us, which derives from love and already bears within it redemption, the victory of love. The bystanders at the foot of the Cross of Jesus fail to understand, thinking that his cry is a supplication addressed to Elijah. In the scene they seek to assuage his thirst in order to prolong his life and to find out whether Elijah will truly come to his aid, but with a loud cry Jesus’ earthly life comes to an end, as well as their wish. At the supreme moment, Jesus gives vent to his heart’s grief, but at the same time makes clear the meaning of the Father’s presence and his consent to the Father’s plan of salvation of humanity. We too have to face ever anew the “today” of suffering of God’s silence — we express it so often in our prayers — but we also find ourselves facing the “today” of the Resurrection, of the response of God who took upon himself our sufferings, to carry them together with us and to give us the firm hope that they will be overcome (cf. Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi, nn. 35-40). Dear friends, let us lay our daily crosses before God in our prayers, in the certainty that he is present and hears us. Jesus’ cry reminds us that in prayer we must surmount the barriers of our “ego” and our problems and open ourselves to the needs and suffering of others. May the prayer of Jesus dying on the Cross teach us to pray lovingly for our many brothers and sisters who are oppressed by the weight of daily life, who are living through difficult moments, who are in pain, who have no word of comfort; let us place all this before God’s heart, so that they too may feel the love of God who never abandons us. Many thanks.

APPEAL In the past few weeks a wave of cold weather and freezing temperatures has hit some parts of Europe, giving rise to great hardship and immense damage, as we know. I would like to express my closeness to the peoples affected by this intense bad weather, while I ask for prayers for the victims and their families. At the same time, I encourage solidarity, so that those affected by these tragic events may be given generous help. * * * I greet all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at today’s Audience, including groups from England, Ireland, Norway and the United States of America. I extend a special welcome to the many students who are here, and I pray that your studies may serve to deepen your knowledge and love of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Whatever darkness you experience in your lives, may you always remain firm in faith, hope and love.
May God bless all of you!

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


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Friday, March 15, 2013

"... when we profess a Christ without the Cross… we aren't disciples of the Lord.”

CWN - March 14, 2013

Celebrating Mass with the cardinals who had elected him, Pope Francis described the essence of the Church’s mission simply: “To walk, to build, to witness.”
The new Pope celebrated the Mass Pro Ecclesia with the cardinal-electors on Thursday afternoon in the Sistine Chapel. In his brief homily, delivered in Italian, he reflected on the three aspects of the Church’s work.
“Our life is a path,” the Pope said. “When we stop walking there is something that isn’t right.”
“To build is to construct the Church,” he continued, adding that the Church is built of “living stones, stones that are anointed by the Holy Spirit.”
Regarding witness, Pope Francis said: “We can walk when we want to, we can build many things, but if we do not witness to Jesus Christ then it doesn't matter. We might become a philanthropic NGO but we wouldn't be the Church, the Bride of the Lord.”
The path of the Church always entails difficulties, the Pope said, and Church leaders should be prepared to embrace them. He explained that “when we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, when we profess a Christ without the Cross… we aren't disciples of the Lord.” The Pontiff warned the cardinals that in this case: “We are worldly. We are bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.”
Pope Francis concluded the first homily of his pontificate by saying: “I wish that all of us, after these grace-filled days, might have the courage, yes, the courage to walk in the Lord's presence with the Cross of the Lord.” He asked for the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God, to assist the prelates in carrying out their duties.
In the Prayers of the Faithful, the cardinals prayed for the new Pope and also for Benedict XVI, “that he may serve the Church while hidden to the world, in a life dedicated to prayer and meditation.”
Additional sources for this story

 Some links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

 •To Walk, to Build, to Witness, Always with the Cross of Christ (VIS)
 •Pope Francis: Mass pro Ecclesia (Vatican Radio)
 •Pope Francis: 1st homily (full text from Vatican Radio)


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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Toledoth in Matthew 1:1

The Toledoth in Matthew 1:1, supposedly the only one in the New Testament, seems at first to contradict the thesis of P.J. Wiseman that Toledoth are colophon endings, rather than headings. Though it does conform nicely with his argument that Toledoth refer to "ancestors" not "descendants".But the Gospel of Matthew is, like so many other Bible books, chiastically structured, with the first division coming at 1:17. In other words Matthew 1:1 chiastically connects with 1:17. And, guess what, "generations" is mentioned 4 times in 1:17.
So that is our colophon, whereas 1:1 is just a link (perhaps Wiseman's 'catch-line' theory) to 1:17.
Wiseman must not have recognised 1:17 for what it is. It may open up a whole new field.THE ‘GENERATIONS’ OF JESUS CHRIST

he AMAIC has written extensively about the structure of the Book of Genesis, based on the discovery of Air Commodore P. J. Wiseman, that Genesis comprises eleven clearly discernible divisions stating:
“These are the generations of …”

(Hebrew toledôt, or toledoth, “generations”). See e.g. our “Tracing the Hand of Moses in Genesis” ( These toledoth are actually the patriarchal signatures (Adam, Noah, Terah, Isaac, etc.), written at the end of each respective family history. Thus Moses was the editor only, not author, of Genesis. Though he substantially wrote the Pentateuch (the first five books).
Now Matthew Buckley of Queensland, Australia , who is well familiar with the toledoth theory, has wondered why, then, the toledoth in Matthew’s Gospel (the only apparent toledoth in the New Testament) stands right at the beginning of Matthew (1:1):
“The generations of Jesus the Messiah …”

and not at the end of a section.
That is a very good question, as we have maintained that the toledoth is an ending (a colophon), rather than a beginning (against biblical critics who insist that the toledoth is a heading, or introduction).
Thanks for the question, Matthew. Concerning the answer, we are grateful to the findings of a recent study (to be discussed at a later time) of the structure of Matthew’s Gospel, according to which the first natural division in this Gospel occurs at verse 1:17. And what do we find there? We find that key word, “generations” (Greek geneai, as Matthew’s Gospel is now in Greek). And it occurs there FOUR TIMES. This, then (verse 1:17), must be the real toledoth of this Gospel. Thus the colophon is situated exactly where it should be (according to a right understanding of the toledoth theory), at the end of a natural section. The mention of “generations” in verse 1:1, right at the beginning - that Matthew Buckley had wondered about - is therefore merely a ‘catch-line’ (a common feature in ancient tablets), serving to link the beginning of the text (1:1) to its colophon ending (1:17). See e.g. our (on the “Six Days” of Genesis), where is found the exact same situation, in which the title ‘catch-line’ of Genesis 1:1 is repeated in the ‘catch-line’ of the colophon: “… the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 2:4), with which it forms a literary link.
So, it looks like we may indeed be on the right track with our P. J. Wiseman-inspired toledoth theory.
The Book of Genesis is comprised of a series of family histories (Hebrew tôledôt) of the great patriarchs, from Adam to Joseph.
Genesis therefore is made up of a series of books, or diaries; the first of which covers verses 1:1-2:4 and is called The Book of the Heavens and the Earth; the title being taken from its opening line: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (1:1). The Septuagint in fact tells us that this section of Genesis was a written account, or book (Hebrew sêpher): “God made the written account of the origin of the heavens and the earth”. In other words, God was not creating the universe during those Six Days. He had already done that in the beginning, all at once. That is why Exodus 20:11 and 31:17, when referring to God’s activity during the Six Days, do not once use the Hebrew word for create (bara), but use the far more flexible in meaning, asah. (See ‘The Nature of God’s Creative Act’ above).
What God apparently was doing was writing a book for an already existing Adam and Eve. It was like a day-class with God as Teacher. The Almighty was doing what He would later do on Mount Sinai, in the presence of Moses: making a revelation and writing down on tablets what He wanted to be preserved in perpetuity, engraved in stone.

Two Approaches to Genesis 1

Regarding the meaning of the ‘Six Days’ (Gk. Hexaëmeron), debate has tended to divide commentators into two camps, namely:
  1. Those who favour the view that the world was created during six real, 24-hour days. This is often referred to as the literalist approach, because the Hebrew word for ‘day’ (yom) is taken in its literal meaning of a 24-hour day;
  2. Those who favour an allegorical interpretation, e.g. the ‘theistic’ evolutionists, who might argue, for instance, that the ‘Six Days’ could refer allegorically to geological periods of millions of years. Or some other such non-literal interpretation.
There is no doubt that by far the majority of the Fathers favoured the so-called literalist interpretation of the Hexaëmeron. We can name here such luminaries as Sts. Basil, Jerome, Chrysostom, Ephrem. (The Syro-Arabic, Jewish and Persian commentators also definitely favoured the view that God created the world during Six Days).
But not all the Fathers of the Church accepted this interpretation. The famous Alexandrian School, which included of course St. Clement, and the erudite Origen, preferred a more allegorical approach - which, however, needs to be distinguished from that of the ‘theistic’evolutionists. Origen ridiculed the notion of a creation that lasted during six days. And even the proponents of this approach have to concede that there are significant problems with it, for example:
  • How could there be “evenings” and “mornings” on the first three days if the sun was not created until the fourth day?
  • Why would Almighty God need to cease from His work because of the turning of the world on its axis?
  • Etc.
Not to mention the metaphysical difficulty discussed above of how God’s creative act could have had temporal duration; directly in conflict, it seems, with the quotation from Sirach 18:1. Omnia simul, God created all things at once!
The fact that the so-called literalist approach has not been fully able to deal with all the contingencies of the Genesis text - despite the weight behind it of so many Church Fathers (amongst whom, it should be noted, there was nevertheless great variety of interpretation) - could lead us to conclude that in this case there may be need to, as Pope Leo XIII said, go “beyond” the Fathers [in Providentissimus Deus, 1893, II, C, d. Emphasis added]:
"But [the expositor of the Bible] must not on that account [i.e., of duty to “follow the footsteps” of the Fathers “with all reverence”, # c.] consider that it is forbidden, when just cause exists, to push inquiry and exposition beyond what the Fathers have done; provided he carefully observes the rule so wisely laid down by St. Augustine - not to depart from the literal and obvious sense, except only where reason makes it untenable or necessity requires [De. Gen ad Litt., viii, 7, 13]; a rule to which it is more necessary to adhere strictly in these times, when the thirst for novelty and unrestrained freedom of thought make the danger of error most real and proximate".
Turning now from the literalist to the allegorical approach, we can say that well-known from ‘creationist’ literature are the problems encountered by the ‘theistic’ evolutionists and others. As said above, the Hebrew word yom is clearly pointing to a 24-hour day, which fact Genesis 1 reinforces by adding “evenings” and “mornings”. But the evolutionist approach cannot come to grips with - account for - any of this.

The Solution

Certainly there is merit in some of the things that both sides have put forward. But, insofar as they have generally insisted that Genesis 1 is about the duration of God’s work of creation, they have all been barking up the wrong tree. The Bible and the Church’s omnia simul tells us that there was no duration because God is outside time.
As St. Augustine rightly perceived, Genesis is a revelation, by the Creator to the creature, of His works of creation already completed.
Sts. Thomas and Albert the Great thought that Augustine’s view here was the best of all interpretations of the text. Apparently, therefore, God was the direct author of Genesis 1, and it was He who “finished” (Genesis 2:1) writing the series of tablets - not “finished” the creation of the universe, as is often thought - just as later He “finished” (Exodus 31:18) the “two tablets” that He gave to Moses on Mount Sinai.
One usually finds that the proponents of the literalist interpretation of Genesis 1 are not all that literal. And the problem is their general ignorance of the Hebrew language. They get right the meaning of the Hebrew word, yom, as a 24-hour day. But, because they cannot cope with the precise meaning of the other important Hebrew words used in the text, they come up with the theory that God was creating the universe over six such days.