The Pater Noster Church, Jerusalem

The Unfinished Reconstruction of the Eleona Church (foreground)
in front of the Pater Noster Church (facade at back partially hidden by a palm tree);
the cave is under the platform in the foreground

      ·         The Traditional Location of Jesus’ Endtimes Teaching on the Mt. of Olives 
                 (the “Olivet Discourse,” Matt. 24-25, Mark 13, Luke 21)
·         Site of the Byzantine Eleona Church (the “Olive Grove” Church, also known 
           as the Church of the Disciples)
·         Site of a Crusader-era chapel associated with Jesus’ teaching of the Lord’s Prayer
·         Currently the location of the Pater Noster Church commemorating Jesus’ teaching 
           of the Lord’s Prayer as well as the partly rebuilt Eleona Church.

Biblical events remembered here:
(1) Jesus’ Endtimes Teaching (the “Olivet Discourse,” Matt. 24-25),
(2) Jesus’ Teaching of the Lord’s Prayer

The Chapel of the Ascension, Jerusalem


The Chapel of the Ascension and Surrounding Courtyard
  • The Traditional Site of Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven
  • Site of the Byzantine Imbomon Church (Church “On the Hill”)
  • Current location of the Crusader-period Chapel of the Ascension

Biblical events remembered here:  
(1) The ascension of Jesus into heaven forty days after his crucifixion and resurrection;
(2) The return of Jesus with his people at his second coming.

Possible historical site of:  
(1) The Jewish fire signal used to announce the sighting of the new moon,
(2) The burning of the red heifer to produce the ashes used for cleansing from the impurity of contact with the dead,
(3) The burning of the sin offerings offered up on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). 

The Angel of the Lord: A List of Verses


One of the most important contributions of the early Jewish-Christian community to our understanding of Jesus is the connection they made between Jesus and the Angel (or Messenger) of the Lord.*  This mysterious being appears in several places in the Hebrew Bible.  He has the appearance of a man, yet speaks and acts like God.  This identification was an important early step in the development of the idea of the Trinity:  that the Angel of the Lord, the pre-incarnate Word of God, is God himself, yet is distinct from the Father. 

What did Paul mean in his rebuke of Peter in Galatians 2:11-14? (Q&A)

Q:  I’m almost finished reading your Jewish Roots of Christianity book. I’ve appreciated learning so much history that I never knew, but it makes me sad to think that people who have called themselves by the name of Christ have acted so horrendously… It helps me to understand a little better the anti-Semitism that we saw (and were SHOCKED by) in Ukraine.

I’m meditating on the thought that you bring forth in the book that Messianic Jews still need to follow the law… What do you do then with Paul’s remarks in Galatians 2:11-14, where Paul calls Peter on the carpet for reverting back to following the laws when the circumcision party shows up in Antioch? Paul certainly talks here, and in other places, like he is not following the dietary laws at least…

Infant Baptism? (Q&A)

Q:  [In response to our teaching, “The Washing of Water with the Word”:]  I'm going to get into trouble here, but here goes anyway....please notice that the verse you mention says that the Messiah does the cleansing by the washing of water with the word.  We don't do it.  Therefore it is a gift, just like our name from our parents.  So there is no need for someone to wait until they are "ready" for baptism.  It is a gift that we cannot by our own power or will do anything to be "ready" to receive.  Moral of my story is --get your kids baptized and don't wait another day.  –Stephanie K.

A:  Thanks for your enthusiasm in defending infant baptism--a long-held and widely practiced tradition of the Church.  But this tradition ignores a key component of the original idea of baptism:  that receiving the word of God—being “cleansed...by his word” (Eph. 5:26)—requires being able to understand that word.  Traditional churches themselves admit to the inadequacy of infant baptism by their practice of confirmation, a rite mentioned nowhere in the Bible.  Having teenagers confirm or accept their baptisms is a recognition that infant baptism is incomplete without the conscious and believing participation of the one being baptized.  And that's exactly the point.  Baptism is the outward, public response to an inner faith:  the sign of a conscious repentance of sin and a decision to follow Jesus.  This decision brings an inner cleansing (Acts 15:9), while baptism completes the process with an outer washing:  “the outward sign of an inward grace,” as Augustine of Hippo put it.  There is just no other way to make sense of the Biblical description of this rite as a "baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins," unless there is an actual repentance on the part of the person being baptized (Mark 1:4, Luke 3:3, Acts 13:24, 19:4).  This requires a conscious appeal to God (1 Pet. 3:21) by faith (Col. 2:12).  Infants are completely incapable of doing these things.

The Meaning of Psalm 23


“A psalm of David.  The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing” (Psa. 23:1).

The original historical context of Psalm 23 is the ancient Kingdom of Israel, in which sheep were a major part of the economy.  We’re talking about huge flocks of sheep running into the thousands in some cases.  King David, probably the most famous king of Israel, worked as a shepherd when he was a boy, just as many other boys did at the time.  This Psalm, which is associated with his name, likely reflects his own experience as a shepherd as he reflects on God as the shepherd of his own life. 

The sheep-grazing areas in Israel are mostly dry, rocky, semi-desert areas, where the sheep are often taken far away from the agricultural land near town, especially in the spring and summer.  This is an area of steep and dangerous cliffs and canyons.  Even a sure-footed sheep or goat is in real danger of falling to its death. In fact, I’ve seen a couple of them nearly fall myself out in this area.

The Non-Trinitarian Views of Eric Chang (Q&A)

Q:  I have just finished studying your book 'The Jewish Roots of Christianity', which I found very readable, and being a Bible student of some 40+ years I found some of the content (surprisingly) most enlightening--things I have wondered about for a long time regarding Paul's writing.

As I was reading your book I did wonder if you have ever come across and read the books of Eric Chang, 'The One True God' and 'The Only Perfect Man.'  If you haven't I think you will find them extremely interesting, they are freely available as downloadable pdf's at this link:

http://www.christiandiscipleschurch.org/content/only-true-god

As a serious student of the truth I would very much appreciate your views of the content covered in this material, considering your extensive and knowledgeable background and area of expertise.  If you have a little time to examine it, you may find it interesting yourself. (They are also available on Amazon books if you prefer physical books, as I do.  I have nothing to do with their church by the way).

I hope you have time to respond, looking forward to hearing from you.

With kind regards  --Phil

A:  Thanks for the positive feedback about our Jewish Roots of Christianity book.  I’ve glanced briefly through Eric Chang’s  The Only True God at your request.  It’s nice to see him struggling honestly with the challenges of Christian monotheism in a way that the original sources invite.  However, to strengthen his credibility, he needs to wrestle more with early Christian sources from the pre-Augustinian era.  The views of Trinitarians have not always been monolithic, and many of these early voices have important insights to add to the conversation.  To put it another way:  not everyone who claims to be a Trinitarian agrees about what that means.