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Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Alpha Course Challenge

Aaron Parsons is associated with Heaton Baptist Church in Newcastle upon Tyne , England.

He is a Group Leader in the Alpha Course there.

He kindly agreed to answer some questions about Christianity.

1 Acts 17:26 ‘From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live’; Does God really determine when you were born and where you will live? Aren’t those the results of free will choices of you and your parents?

It certainly wasn’t me who decided where I would be born! As Paul was talking to the Epicureans he was illustrating that things were not down to chance but by design. Of course Paul is talking of Nations rather than individuals, so it could be argued that God deigns when a nation rises and when a nation falls and which specific area should be occupied by each nation.

I’m quite comfortable for God to decide when and where I live in order that I would seek Him and find Him (v28).

Do you want to find God?

2 Romans 11:7-8 ‘The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened , as it is written ‘God gave them a sluggish spirit , eyes that would not see, and ears that would not hear.’ Why does God harden people, and give them eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear? Why did God give them a sluggish spirit?

Bearing in mind the context of Romans 9:29 (The unbelief of the Israelites) God made them impervious to spiritual truth as a righteous judgement.

Are you spiritually blind? What would you like to be?

3 Mark 4:11 ‘To you has been given the secret of the Kingdom of God, but for those outside , everything comes in parables, in order that they may look, but not perceive, and may listen but not understand, so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.’ Why did Jesus teach in parables so that people would not understand and be forgiven?

Related to the previous question. The only reason people were on the outside was because they wanted to be. If they had been receptive to the message they would understand (Rev3v20). Do you really want to understand?

4 As is known we are all sinners. Psalm 5 makes clear that God hates sinners, and we are all sinners. Verse 5 - The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. 6 You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the LORD abhors.

Why does God hate all who do wrong, and also tell us that we all do wrong?

God does not take pleasure in evil and the wicked can not dwell with Him. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so God abhors Sin. Through Jesus we have the (real) hope that our sinfulness can be forgiven as God has lavished His love upon us and provided atonement for our self centred actions (John 3v16). Romans 7+8 also help answer this question. Do you think of yourself as a sinner who needs atoning for? Would you want it if you did?

5. Romans 9:15 For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ 16 It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy....18Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.. Why does it not depend on man's desire whose God chooses to harden? How does God choose whose heart he hardens? Does he choose people whose hearts are hardened, and then harden their hearts?

Good question. I struggled to answer this one. I believe Romans 9 to the end will help answer the question. God’s choices are not controlled by man. But Paul makes it clear (v30-32) that the basis for rejection is unbelief.

Do you really want to believe?

6. Gen 20:6 'And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her.' Abimelech clearly was interested in Sarah for sexual/marital/relationship reasons. If god held him back, it was against Abimelech's desires. Why does God prevent some people from sinning, while allowing others to sin? Should he not either prevent all sin, or leave it up to our free will to sin or not? If God can prevent Abimelech from sinning, why did he not prevent Adam and Eve from sinning?

I agree that it was Abimelech’s desire to sleep etc with Sarah, however this was on the misconception that she was unmarried. Once he knew the truth, it becomes apparent that he would not have wanted to sleep with her, so God saved him from making an unwitting error that would have had dire consequences. I would imagine Abimelech to be relieved.

Adam and Eve sinned willingly, knowing they were going against God’s desire.

If I knew why some people were held back from sinning and others not I would be God myself. Perhaps it is to do with desire? Maybe you should ask Him.

7. Why did God the Son, while on the cross, say ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do? Had God the Son forgotten that He Himself had the power to forgive sins?

The condition for forgiveness is repentance. Maybe Jesus is calling for them to repent so that God will forgive them. Forgiveness is for everyone, but it has a condition: repentance (1John 1v9). To me it displays amazing love that he would call for forgiveness on those who were crucifying him. I’m pretty certain that if someone were torturing me and about to kill me I wouldn’t be pleading for forgiveness on their behalf. Have you ever thought that Jesus is pleading for you too? Do you want Him to be?

8. Luke 11:49 ‘Therefore also the Wisdom of God said ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute, so that this generation may be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you it will be charged against this generation.’

Is it really moral to charge one generation of Jews with the blood of somebody killed 2,000 years before any of them were born? Why did Jesus say that this generation will be held responsible for the killing of prophets and also ask His Father to forgive them because they knew not what they did?

It is morally sound if they approve of the actions of that their forefathers did. Outwardly the Jews appeared to honour the prophets, but by rejecting Jesus, the one the prophets were announcing, they showed the truth in their hearts. They lived in opposition to the teachings of the prophets, just as their forefathers had done.

Why did they not know what they were doing? Because they rejected Jesus. This brings us back to answers given above.

Why are you rejecting Jesus? What is the real issue?

9. 2 Samuel 12 Nathan says to David ‘Now the LORD has put away your sin, you shall not die.’ Despite taking away David’s sin, verse 15 says ‘The LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David’;’, and the child dies. Why did the LORD strike down an innocent child, even though David’s sin had been taken away?

There is always a consequence (good or bad) to our actions. Be it us who bears them or someone else. We don’t know what happened to the child (heaven is indicated in v23) but maybe death to eternal life was the best thing that could have happened to him.

David was released from the Levitical laws requiring the death penalty for adultery and murder (Lev20v10 +24v17). So he was spared and forgiven, but there are still consequences.

Do you really want forgiveness?

10 2 Samuel 6:6 ‘When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen shook it. The anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him there because he reached out his hand to the ark, and he died there beside the ark of God.’ Uzzah had done no more than steady the ark of the covenant because it was being shaken by the oxen carrying it. Is this really such a sin that he had to be killed on the spot?

I’m not one to judge the severity of sin. That’s God’s job. Uzzah violated clear instructions from God in handling the ark (Ex 25v12, Num 4v5-6v15 etc) and this was a serious reminder that God’s decrees are not to be messed with. 1Chron15v13-15
clearly says the ark should have been on shoulders rather than on a cart (2Sam 6v3). The consequence? The oxen stumbled and the ark slipped, Uzzah died. God is not to be messed with.

Are you messing with God?

11 Does God pass by on the other side when disaster threatens humanity, or is Psalm 89 true? Psalm 89 8 O LORD God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O LORD , and your faithfulness surrounds you. 9 You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them. The Bible is untrue , isn't it?

I refer you to Jesus calming the storm in the new testament. A clear prophecy that Jesus is God. It is also claimed that it could refer to God calming the waters in creation. I don’t think it is referring to human tragedy.

The bible is given to us by God. It is true. Do you want it to be true or would you be happier if it were not?

12. The resurrected Jesus (in the days before the Ascension) would not have been killed by the tsunami, or indeed anything else. How did God arrange a physical being to be able to walk the Earth invulnerable to natural disasters and any other form of suffering? Could, for example, Thomas have made a free will decision to stab Jesus in the side when he was invited to examine the wound? Why would this hypothetical evil free will decision of Thomas not have led to any suffering, when we are told that suffering is the inevitable result of evil free will decsions, and not even God can prevent the suffering caused by evil free will decisions? Surely God can very, very easily arrange things so that evil free will decisions do not lead to any suffering whatsoever. If Christian doctrine is true, he has done so once before, so he clearly can do so again.

I don’t know how God could arrange for a physical being to be impervious to harm: if I could do that I would be God. You may have noticed that I am not God! I agree with you that God could easily arrange things so that evil free will decisions wouldn’t cause suffering, however, what sort of world would that be? A world where our actions have no consequence? A world where we have no significance? God has given us the capability to cause harm and that means we have responsibility. (God charged Adam to care for all the Animals in the Garden of Eden - a clear indication that He has responsibilities to give us). We have a choice. That gives us significance. God thinks you are significant. Do you think He is?

13. Exodus 32:14 'And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people' What does the Hebrew word 'nacham' - to repent - mean? What evil had the Lord thought to do unto his people?

The word can mean to repent/relent/change one’s mind. I don’t know what God had in mind - it doesn’t really say; I guess allowing the sort of destruction that we read in Deuteronomy 30. However, it is not as though it is inevitable that the destruction would come upon them if they themselves repented. See Jeremiah 18v7-10.

Are you afraid of the evil God might do to you?

14. Isaiah 45:7 ‘I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD , do all these things.’ Is it true that it is the LORD who creates disaster.

Yes, as a sign of judgement. I believe God can bring disaster to us. The plagues of Egypt clearly testify to this. Not necessarily all disaster though, human beings are quite capable of creating their own. The good news is that we can be ultimately redeemed from these disasters . After all, God can bring us prosperity too. Do you want the ultimate prosperity God can bring you?

15. From Revelation 2, where John sees Jesus ‘These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze’;.I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.’ Why would the Son of God say such things, about people who were in Christian churches? Did Christians really fall away so quickly?

Yes, some Christians did. And still do. I refer you to the parable of the Sower (Matthew 13 1-9) . In my own life I have met those who profess to follow Jesus yet fall away.

Again the good news is that even they, if they repent of their ways, will not suffer in this way.

Also, as it is a vision of heaven, we don’t know when it took place. It could be in the future, but I don’t think that matters as both conclusions are fine.

What will Jesus repay you with for your deeds?

16. Matthew 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Why did some of the disciples doubt, even after they had seen the resurrected Jesus? (The Greek does not actually have the word ‘some’, but only has ‘distazo’ , which means ‘they doubted, not just ‘some doubted’)

I guess you’d have to ask them why they doubted. I wasn’t there. I’ll ask them when I get to heaven. The flip side is to ask you whether you sometimes wonder if Jesus was resurrected even though you haven’t seen Him.

Occasional doubt is a normal part of the Christian experience and should be seen as such. Doubts are healthy as they prompt us to continually seek more of God. Doubts show that you have a faith to doubt. Do you want a faith?

17. Matthew 27:54 ‘When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, ‘Surely he was the Son of God!’ Why did the centurion say that Jesus was the Son of God?

It is a proclamation of the deity of Jesus, or at least of the gods acting to vindicate Him. I don’t think it’s clear whether the Centurion made a fully Christian confession or whether he was merely acknowledging that Jesus must be one especially favoured by the gods. In view of the ridicule voiced by the Jews it seems likely that it was the former.
Are you ridiculing Jesus or will you acknowledge Him as the son of God?

18. John 19:26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son,’
and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. One of the disciples was there, as well as the centurion. Why did the centurion think that a crucified criminal was the Son of God, while the disciple , who had been with Jesus for 3 years and had been given the secret of the Kingdom of God in Mark 4 was still so unbelieving that he did still not believe Jesus prophecy that he would rise from the dead? (Luke 24:11 ‘But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.)

In the context of Mark 4 the secret seems to be that the kingdom of God had drawn near in the coming of Jesus Christ. The disciples understood what that meant, (that God’s kingdom was attainable) but it is clear that they did not understand what Jesus meant when he predicted his resurrection. (Luke 18v31-34). The full revelation did not come to them until Luke 24 45-47

It is important to remember that the disciples were human and as such were subject to human emotion. These were people who had invested three years of their lives in the hope that Jesus would deliver the nation of Israel from the hands of the Roman occupying forces. Like so many false Messiah’s before him, Jesus was dead. Imagine the disappointment they must have felt.

Anyway, sooner rather than later it became apparent that Jesus wasn’t just another false Messiah and that He was risen. He was the real Messiah. He had been resurrected. The lives of the disciples are testament to that.

I think the most amazing thing is that Jesus knew he was to be resurrected and predicted it on at least three occasions. The better news is what that means for us.
Would you like to be resurrected?

One small thing…Jesus was no criminal.

19. Luke 24:49 ‘I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’ This clearly happened on the day of the resurrection (verse 13 ‘Now that same day’;’ , verse 33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem’;.. verse 36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them’;’ Yet they do not stay in the city, but go to Galilee and resume fishing. Why did they disobey the resurrected Jesus, and then go back to their old trade, as though nothing special had happened? Why were the disciples not at once transformed by seeing the resurrected Jesus? (Just as the centurion and the thief on the cross believed in Jesus even before the resurrection)

As far as I can tell they were told to stay in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit and Luke records in Acts that they did just that. I wasn’t able to find a contradiction to that.

I presume you mean John 21, where Jesus appears to the disciples on lake Galilee.
I am not convinced that verse 36 says it is the same day. Conversations/ debates can go on for weeks. I remember when I was younger that my brother and I had an argument that continued for days, even though we obviously took time out to sleep etc.

It is possible that Jesus appeared to the eleven in Jerusalem, then later in Galilee when they had gone home after the Passover, and then once again in Jerusalem upon their return in preparation for the feast of Pentecost.

I believe a case could also be made that because Jesus was telling them to begin preaching his name, it is reasonable to assume that he meant them not to do that anywhere but in Jerusalem until the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Also, since when did the disciples obey Jesus fully? I know Jesus has told me certain things, but I sometimes don’t do them either.

The gospel writers clearly are trying to emphasise different themes in their texts. As was customary at the time, they may have changed the order of events to suit their purpose (i.e. John orders events in groups of seven rather than in chronological order. Nowhere does he claim that his account is chronological) That does not mean that those events did not happen.

Have you ever asked God for the Holy Spirit?

20 Why does Paul say that Jesus became a life-giving spirit after the resurrection?

John 3v6 talks of flesh (sin?) giving birth to flesh but the Spirit giving birth to spirit. If we are to inherit a “spiritual body”, it needs to be given to us by a “spiritual being”.
Through Adam we receive death and through Christ, life.

Jesus takes a perishable, dishonourable, weak body (characterised by sin) and make it an imperishable, glorious, powerful body. From the surrounding analogies (Sun, moon, stars) it is obvious that “Spiritual body” means a physical body with the aforementioned characteristics.

Do you want a spiritual body?

21 Why did the Corinthians want to know what a resurrected body was like, when they must have heard the Gospel stories so many times, where Jesus says he had flesh and bones?

It is not unreasonable to expect the Corinthians to ask this question. After all, they never met Jesus “in the flesh” and to request more details about the resurrection body is understandable. Maybe their question was more related to asking what OUR resurrected bodies will look like, rather than Christ’s. Do you want a resurrected body?

22 Why does Paul say that ‘...flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God’, when trying to persuade people that Jesus had flesh and bones? Why not simply use one of the Gospel stories?

The “flesh and blood” refers to perishable, weak, corrupt human beings, not to Jesus.

He didn’t use one of the gospel stories because it is not exclusively about Jesus. It is about you and me also. We can not inherit the kingdom of God of our own accord. The perishable must be clothed with the imperishable. Would you like to be clothed with the imperishable?

23 Why does Paul say in 1 Corinthians 15:37-38 ‘When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.’ Was the body planted into the ground the body that came out of the ground, or did Paul consider that God had given Jesus a new body - as different from his old body as a seed is different from the plant?

Plant organisms, though organised similarly in their own order, are different; the seed sown is related the new plant that sprouts but the new sprout has a different and genuinely new body that God has given it.

In the case of the resurrection of the dead God will take a perishable, dishonourable “natural body” (characterised by sin) and in the resurrection make it an imperishable, glorious, powerful body. It will be a physical body organised in a similar way to the present natural body, but radically different enough to live eternally with God. There is continuity, but there is also change.

Would you like to live eternally with God?

24 Will resurrected people, like Jesus, still carry the wounds they had when they died?

Interesting question. I have no idea. Could be pretty gruesome if that were the case.

One thing is for sure though, I would much rather carry my scars to heaven than to hell.

Where would you like to carry your scars to?

25 Numbers 31:17-18 ‘ Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.’ Why were the virgins spared?

Because they were innocent of the indecencies at Peor (luring the Israelites away from God). Would you like to be spared?

26 1 Samuel 15:2-3 ‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.' " Why did the LORD Almighty order infants to be killed for what the Amalekites had done 400 years earlier to Israel?

The rejection of Israel by the Amalekites was ultimately a rejection of God. Judgement is severe, it’s not pretty, there will come a time when all of us are judged also. If they had repented, then they would have escaped this judgement (see 2 Chron 7v14). It is clear that the amalekite nation had not repented of the earlier transgressions. Unfair? Maybe. Unjust? No.

Have you repented of your transgressions?

27 2 Kings 17:25 ‘When they first lived there, they did not worship the LORD ; so he sent lions among them and they killed some of the people.’ Why did the LORD send lions to kill non-believers?

Judgement. (Lev 26: 21-22)

Would you like to be spared judgement?

28 Chronicles 21:1 ‘Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.’ 2 Samuel 24:1 ‘Again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, "Go and take a census of Israel and Judah." Who incited David to take a census ; the LORD or Satan?

Scripture is clear that the Lord does not let anyone sin (James 1 13-15), it is also clear that man’s - and Satan’s - evil acts are under God’s sovereign control (Ex4v21). So God allowed Satan the freedom to incite David to take the census.

Who would you rather be directing you, God or Satan? It’s a straight choice.

29 Mark 2:25-26 ‘He answered, ‘Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.’ Surely the high priest was Ahimelech, and where can I read that David had companions with him , and that he gave some of the consecrated bread to his companions?

Abimelech and Abiathar are not the only case where both a father and son are referred to as being the High Priest. Around the time of Christ, both Caiaphas (John 18:24) and his father Annas (Acts 4:6). The fact is, they both did serve in that capacity and to name both as "high priest" is in no way a contradiction. There is likewise no reason to consider it to be contradictory in the case of Abiathar and Abimelech. Some English translations omit the phrase "...the high priest...", as it does not appear in some manuscripts.

Nowhere does it say that David had his companions with him at that time but that does not mean he could not have given them some bread later.

The good news is we have a great high priest; Jesus. Do you want him to be your priest?

30 Mark 14:24 ‘It was the third hour when they crucified him’ John 19:14 ‘It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour.’ Jesus is still not crucified at the sixth hour. Both Romans and Jews divided the daylight into 12 hours, and the night into 3 or 4 watches. Why cannot the Gospels give the same time for the crucifixion of Jesus?

It’s amazing that the gospel accounts are so harmonious considering none of the four evangelists had a Rolex, Seiko or Cassio watch!

Yes Romans and Jews divided the days as such, but where do those divisions begin and end? The Jewish time system started the day at 6am (sun-up). Whereas the Roman system started the day at midnight.

The synoptic gospels all use the Jewish system and give the third hour (9 AM) for crucifixion, sixth hour (Noon) start of darkness, and the ninth hour (3 PM) for Jesus’ death.

The reason Matthew, Mark and Luke used the Jewish time system can be easily explained by the fact that while Mark probably wrote from Rome, his source was Peter who used the Jewish time system. It’s widely accepted that Matthew and Luke used both Mark and/or Q as source material, which would explain why they agree with Mark.
John wrote his gospel sometime between 80 and 98AD, most likely in Ephesus, capital of the Roman providence of Asia. They obviously would have used the Roman system and so John would have reflected this in his writing.

When John states that Jesus was handed over to be crucified sometime after the sixth hour he is referencing Roman time, 6 AM. Clearly two and one-half hours from the time Jesus was handed over for crucifixion (after 6 AM), until the actual crucifixion (9 AM) fits the time frame perfectly.

Jesus was crucified for YOU. Regardless of the time. Why aren’t you accepting what is on offer?

31 John 19:6 ‘When Jesus said, ‘I am he,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.’ When the Roman soldiers come to arrest Jesus, why do people fall to the ground when Jesus says ‘I am he?’

They came in the night to arrest a man, but encountered God. I think I might have fallen to the ground too. It is an echo of Exodus 3v14. A claim to be God. The same in 8v12,9v5,10v7+9, 10v11+14,11v25,14v6,15v1+5.
Would you like to meet God?

32 In Mark 6, Jesus sends the disciples out to preach. The disciples do not know Jesus was the Messiah until Mark 8. Did Jesus care if his disciples preached something that saved people?

They must have known something was up with this Jesus character or they wouldn’t have followed Him in the first place. They went out and preached repentance (as John the Baptist had done). Repentance saves people. They knew that even if they didn’t know for sure who Jesus was.

Do you know that you can be saved if you repent? Do you want to be saved?

33 Mark 8:23 ‘He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man's eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, ‘Do you see anything?’ Could God not have cured a blind person without having to spit on his eyes?

Yes He could. He can also heal you. Do you want to be healed?

34 2 Peter 2: 15-16 They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey - ‘a beast without speech -;who spoke with a man's voice and restrained the prophet's madness. Do you really believe in a talking donkey, as the author of 2 Peter did? And in what verse of the Old Testament does Balaam ever do anything except try to obey the LORD? What wrongdoing does Balaam do in the Old Testament? 2 Numbers 22:18 ‘ But Balaam answered them, "Even if Balak gave me his palace filled with silver and gold, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the LORD my God.’ Why is this ‘madness’, according to 2 Peter 2?

I believe in a God that could talk through a donkey if he so desired. After all, He did speak the Universe into being.

Balaam himself admits his sin in 22v34, so he must have done something, even if it is not recorded. Maybe it refers to his Spiritual blindness at not being able to see the angel before him. Or, perhaps Balaam had wanted to accept the money Balak was offering as a reward for cursing Israel. Or as he is generally regarded as being a pagan divinator, maybe he was admitting his guilt to that (Lev19v26)

Balaam is also recorded as being an advisor in helping the Midianite women turn the Israelites away from the LORD (Num 31) (not sure of the Chronology - it almost certainly happened later, but you never know).

The author of 2Peter (i.e. Peter) in the context of talking about false teachers refers to Balaam. Why? Because Balaam had wanted to accept the money Balak was offering as a reward for cursing Israel. The false teachers must have been guilty of trying to extract money from naive listeners. For a donkey to rebuke the prophet’s madness reflects not only Balaam’s foolishness, but the false teachers as well.
How is God speaking to you? Are you listening?

35 If the serpent in Genesis was Satan in disguise, or even a real serpent possessed by Satan, why did God curse all serpents, just because one serpent was possessed by Satan?

Don’t know - tough break for the serpent though. As I’m not a serpent, it probably won’t affect me too much, so I’m not in a massive hurry to find out the answer.

Why don’t you ask God to show you?

36 Codex Sinaiticus, a 4th century manuscripts, says , in Matthew 27:49, that the spear was thrust into Jesus before he died. Codex Vaticanus (mid 4th century), Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (5th cent), and other manuscripts back that up. Luke 24:12 reads 'But Peter, rising up, ran to the tomb; and stooping down he saw the linen cloths alone, and he returned home marvelling at what had happened'. This was just after Luke writes that the disciples did not believe the women , whose words seemed nonsense to them. This verse is missing from Codex Bezae and some Old Latin manuscripts. The text varies in other manuscripts. Why do you think early Christian scribes would change the stories of the crucifixion and resurrection like that?

I don’t dispute that there are alterations in the text, but these (as far as I can see) do not alter my belief in what happened 2000 years ago. Jesus died, whether a spear was thrust into his side pre or post death is mainly immaterial as if he was not already dead, he certainly would have been afterwards.

He was then resurrected. What Peter did or didn’t immediately do doesn’t matter. If he ran to the tomb it does not contradict any of the other gospels.
Maybe the omission in Matthew can be explained by the use of aorist tense in the greek, (refers only to the reality of an event or action, not to the time when it took place). The Christian Scribes being uncertain of when the act took place adjudged it more prudent to omit the event altogether, or, as is now widely the case, to place the event in the past (as in John).

With regard the omission in Luke (the fact that the verse is found in most early manuscripts of several types of ancient text indicates that it is original), even back then there was obviously some uncertainties in the text and so the translators were just trying to be as faithful to the original text as they could.

I have done my best in answering these questions for you, but even if I hadn’t been able to it would not have mattered. Nothing changes the fact that around 2000 years ago a man called Jesus of Nazareth walked the Earth, died and was risen again. His claims about Himself were that He was God. I can see no other conclusion other than that His claims about Himself were true.

The questions I have given you at the end of each of my answers are not to be pedantic, but I have included them that you might search your heart and find out what your true desire is. I hope above all hopes that you discover that truly you want to find God. You were created for a relationship with Him and He loves you. A relationship with God is what real life is all about.
I’m praying for you,

In Christ, Aaron