Dear Associates, Students and Friends:
This month’s article “The Key to Old Testament History” has important information for you to have a strong grasp of the issues involving the history put forth in the Bible. Unless you are well grounded in Old Testament history, many of its prophecies will make little sense. Similarly as well, some New Testament doctrines will be less clear and less significant unless you know Old Testament history.
While somewhat a companion piece to a previous article that discussed the “axial period” in the 6th century BC, 1 the article this month discusses a different aspect of that axial period that began with the actions and message of Jeremiah the Prophet. This axial period witnessed monumental changes in nations. Several powerful nations ceased to exist and their people either died out or were absorbed within new nations. These changes did not just involve territorial borders, but they also involved a transformation of national character by countries and peoples of the world. God was in charge of the entire process.
On an individual level this axial period saw the rise of personhood, a consciousness of individual identity, which began through this same process begun by Jeremiah. This change involves the development of human consciousness for people to assert their individuality.
Just as there is recognition that drastic historical change occurred in the 6th century BC, there is also recognition among non-religious social historians that an identifiable shift in human consciousness, a major change, occurred in how people think. With the beginning of this axial period people began to think more as individuals and less as members of the group. Individuals progressively changed from identifying and thinking primarily about their group (family, clan, tribe, nation) to identifying and thinking primarily about their self in religious, political, and cultural matters. In other words, people began to think of themselves as individuals rather than as merely part of a group. 2 This tendency grew with the advent of what now is called Western civilization (the Babylonian system), which had its beginning with God’s commission to the prophet Jeremiah.
Before Jeremiah, every action a person performed was done as part of and for the “group.” It was traumatic and usually meant death for anyone to leave their family, their group, their clan, or their tribe. Personal identity was bound up in the group and not in self. The Old Testament is filled with stories of exceptional individuals who, upon God’s order or blessing left the safety of the group to strike out for the unknown. These people were misfits. 3 God’s work through Jeremiah and the beginnings of the Babylonian system (that we live in today) began the trend toward self-acknowledgement, self-identification, and self-expression so powerful in our current Western societies.
The concept of individual freedom of choice, individual responsibility, and individual consequences for actions was new to the humanity of the 6th century BC (although there are extensive examples of it clearly demonstrated all through the Old Testament up to, and increasingly after, Jeremiah’s time). Along with individual responsibility comes freedom. Freedom is problematic with a sinful nature and will at the end time result in mostly free individuals choosing to follow the antichrist.
Be sure to click the “A.S.K. Events” button on the ASK homepage to learn about my upcoming speaking events. The next event will be in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, a western suburb of Milwaukee at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, October 4, 2008 at the Wauwatosa Public Library at 7635 W North Ave (corner of 76th and North Avenue, call 414-471-8484 for directions). Again, I will speak on “The Jerusalem Temples and King David’s Tomb.” If you saw this presentation previously, feel free to come and see it again. Bring friends! I will have time after to go for coffee if any of you would wish to do so to ask questions or just talk.
We have put up a Byte Show presentation of the August 2008 Newsletter and Article of Dr. Martin’s presentation “God: Contradiction and History” at http://askelm.com/doctrine/d080901.htm. Many of you have said you find it useful to listen and follow along as I read the article. These presentations are only available on the internet. I have also recently done presentations of Dr. Martin’s “Salvation and the Biblical Doctrine of Deification” at www.askelm.com/doctrine/d040202.htm.
You may not realize it, but most all of you reading this are part of the most significant “group” on earth today. You are part of the body of Christ. You are “in Christ.” This makes you unique as an individual in the body of Christ and unique as a group because the body of Christ is composed solely of believers with God’s Holy Spirit.
As individuals you have a “glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:21) that others do not have. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free …” (Galatians 5:1). God is developing within you a proper balance, as He desires, between a healthy individual focus and a group focus. This is because you believe the Scriptures and particularly because you believe that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead and imparts His righteousness to you. This requires individual thought and decision-making and it is God who gives you the faith to make correct decisions. God considers you to be a unique child of God, and pliable for the molding of your character. At present, you have a secure down payment of God’s Holy Spirit for your entry into the Kingdom of God at the moment of your resurrection.
Knowing all this, we at ASK consider it a privilege to present to God’s children, our brothers and sisters in Christ, the excellent biblical teaching from Dr. Ernest Martin. Some of the teaching may be new for you, or it may be a reminder for you. We try always to present our teaching in a clear, straightforward manner for your maximum understanding about God, His Son, to open up the Holy Scriptures for you.
We thank all of you who provide financial support for our efforts. You help us fulfill our serious responsibility of teaching the truths of God. We are truly grateful to God for each of you who help us in any and every way. It is our prayer, as the apostle Paul expressed it:
“… asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”
Colossians 1:10–12 (Revised Standard Version)
1 It would be extremely useful if you would read the companion after you read this month’s article. Dr. Martin’s article is “Prophetic Birth of Our Civilization” at http://askelm.com/prophecy/p020701.htm, a 1975 audiotape reprinted as an article in July 2002. DWS
2 Such are the discussions in L. Levy-Bruhl, How Natives Think (Princeton, 1985) 219–222, and his “law of participation”; Karl Jaspers, The Origin and Goal of History (Yale, 1963) 1–21, and his “axial period”; Wolfhart Pannenberg, Anthropology in Theological Perspective (Westminster, 1985) 168, and his “self-understanding after the exile”; and Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1976), and his “breakdown of the bicameral mind.” DWS
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