Sunday, January 20, 2013


Islām—The Way to God by Submission
[Artwork—Arabic characters]
“IN THE name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.” This sentence translates the Arabic text, above, from the Qurʼān. It continues: “Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds: The Beneficent, the Merciful: Owner of the Day of Judgement. Thee (alone) we worship; Thee (alone) we ask for help. Show us the straight path: The path of those whom Thou hast favoured; Not (the path) of those who earn Thine anger nor of those who go astray.”—The Qurʼān, surah 1:1-7, MMP.

 These words form Al-Fātiḥah (“The Opening”), the first chapter, or surah, of the Muslim holy book, the Holy Qurʼān, or Koran. Since more than 1 in 6 of the world’s population is Muslim and devout Muslims repeat these verses more than once in each of their five daily prayers, these must be among the most recited words on earth.

 According to one source, there are over 900 million Muslims in the world, making Islām second only to the Roman Catholic Church in numbers. It is perhaps the fastest growing major religion in the world, with an expanding Muslim movement in Africa and the Western world.

 The name Islām is significant to a Muslim, for it means “submission,” “surrender,” or “commitment” to Allāh, and according to one historian, “it expresses the innermost attitude of those who have hearkened to the preaching of Mohammed.” “Muslim” means ‘one who makes or does Islām.’

 Muslims believe that their faith is the culmination of the revelations given to the faithful Hebrews and Christians of old. However, their teachings diverge from the Bible on some points, even though they cite both the Hebrew and the Greek Scriptures in the Qurʼān. (See box, page 285.) To understand the Muslim faith better, we need to know how, where, and when this religion started.

 Muḥammad’s Calling...
 Muḥammad was born in Mecca (Arabic, Makkah), Saudi Arabia, about 570 C.E. His father, ʽAbd Allāh, died before Muḥammad’s birth. His mother, Āminah, died when he was about six years old. At that time the Arabs practiced a form of worship of Allāh that was centered in the Mecca valley, at the sacred site of the Kaʽbah, a simple cubelike building where a black meteorite was revered. According to Islāmic tradition, “the Kaʽbah was originally built by Adam according to a celestial prototype and after the Deluge rebuilt by Abraham and Ishmael.” (History of the Arabs, by Philip K. Hitti) It became a sanctuary for 360 idols, one for each day of the lunar year.

 As Muḥammad grew up, he questioned the religious practices of his day. John Noss, in his book Man’s Religions, states: “[Muḥammad] was disturbed by incessant quarreling in the avowed interests of religion and honor among the Quraysh chiefs [Muḥammad belonged to that tribe]. Stronger still was his dissatisfaction with the primitive survivals in Arabian religion, the idolatrous polytheism and animism, the immorality at religious convocations and fairs, the drinking, gambling, and dancing that were fashionable, and the burial alive of unwanted infant daughters practiced not only in Mecca but throughout Arabia.”—Surah 6:137.

 Muḥammad’s call to be a prophet took place when he was about 40 years of age. He had the custom of going alone to a nearby mountain cave, called Ghār Ḥirāʼ, for meditation, and he claimed that it was on one of these occasions that he received the call to be a prophet. Muslim tradition relates that while he was there, an angel, later identified as Gabriel, commanded him to recite in the name of Allāh. Muḥammad failed to respond, so the angel ‘caught him forcefully and pressed him so hard that he could not bear it anymore.’ Then the angel repeated the command. Again, Muḥammad failed to react, so the angel ‘choked him’ again. This occurred three times before Muḥammad started to recite what came to be viewed as the first of a series of revelations that constitute the Qurʼān. Another tradition relates that divine inspiration was revealed to Muḥammad like the ringing of a bell.—The Book of Revelation from Ṣaḥīḥ Al-Bukhārī.

Revelation of the Qurʼān
What is said to have been the first revelation received by Muḥammad? Islāmic authorities generally agree that it was the first five verses of surah 96, entitled Al-‘Alaq, “The Clot [of Blood],” which reads:
“In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
Read: In the name of thy Lord who created.
Created man from a clot.
Read: And thy Lord is the Most Bounteous,
Who taught by the pen,
Taught man that which he knew not.”—MMP.

 According to the Arabic source The Book of Revelation, Muḥammad answered, “I do not know how to read.” Therefore, he had to memorize the revelations so that he could repeat and recite them. The Arabs were skilled in the use of memory, and Muḥammad was no exception. How long did it take for him to receive the complete message of the Qurʼān? It is generally believed that the revelations came during a period of some 20 to 23 years, from about 610 C.E. to his death in 632 C.E.

 Muslim sources explain that upon receiving each revelation, Muḥammad immediately recited it to those who happened to be near. These in turn committed the revelation to memory and by recitation kept it alive. Since the manufacture of paper was unknown to the Arabs, Muḥammad had the revelations written down by scribes on the primitive materials then available, such as shoulder blades of camels, palm leaves, wood, and parchment. However, it was not until after the prophet’s death that the Qurʼān took its present form, under the guidance of Muḥammad’s successors and companions. This was during the rule of the first three caliphs, or Muslim leaders.

 Translator Muhammad Pickthall writes: “All the surahs of the Qurʼan had been recorded in writing before the Prophet’s death, and many Muslims had committed the whole Qurʼan to memory. But the written surahs were dispersed among the people; and when, in a battle . . . a large number of those who knew the whole Qurʼan by heart were killed, a collection of the whole Qurʼan was made and put in writing.”

 Islāmic life is governed by three authorities—the Qurʼān, the Ḥadīth, and the Sharīʽah. Muslims believe that the Qurʼān in Arabic is the purest form of the revelation, since, they say, it was the language used by God in speaking through Gabriel. Surah 43:3 states: “We have made it a Qur-ān in Arabic, that ye may be able to understand (and learn wisdom).” (AYA) Thus, any translation is viewed as only a dilution that involves a loss of purity. In fact, some Islāmic scholars refuse to translate the Qurʼān. Their viewpoint is that “to translate is always to betray,” and therefore, “Muslims have always deprecated and at times prohibited any attempt to render it in another language,” states Dr. J. A. Williams, lecturer on Islāmic history.

Islāmic Expansion...
 Muḥammad founded his new faith against great odds. The people of Mecca, even of his own tribe, rejected him. After 13 years of persecution and hatred, he moved his center of activity north to Yathrib, which then became known as al-Madīnah (Medina), the city of the prophet. This emigration, or the hijrah, in 622 C.E. marked a significant point in Islāmic history, and the date was later adopted as the starting point for the Islāmic calendar.

 Eventually, Muḥammad achieved dominance when Mecca surrendered to him in January of 630 C.E. (8 A.H.) and he became its ruler. With the reins of secular and religious control in his hands, he was able to clean out the idolatrous images from the Kaʽbah and establish it as the focal point for pilgrimages to Mecca that continue down to this day.—See pages 289, 303.

 Within a few decades of Muḥammad’s death in 632 C.E., Islām had spread as far as Afghanistan and even to Tunisia in North Africa. By the early eighth century, the faith of the Qurʼān had penetrated into Spain and was at the French border. As Professor Ninian Smart stated in his book Background to the Long Search: “Looked at from a human point of view, the achievement of an Arabian prophet living in the sixth and seventh centuries after Christ is staggering. Humanly, it was from him that a new civilisation flowed. But of course for the Muslim the work was divine and the achievement that of Allah.

”Muḥammad’s Death Leads to Division...
 The prophet’s death provoked a crisis. He died without any male progeny and without a clearly designated successor. As Philip Hitti states: “The caliphate [office of caliph] is therefore the oldest problem Islam had to face. It is still a living issue. . . . In the words of Muslim historian al-Shahrastāni [1086-1153]: ‘Never was there an Islamic issue which brought about more bloodshed than the caliphate (imāmah).’” How was the problem solved back there in 632 C.E.? “Abu-Bakr . . . was designated (June 8, 632) Muḥammad’s successor by some form of election in which those leaders present at the capital, al-Madīnah, took part.”—History of the Arabs.

 The successor to the prophet would be a ruler, a khalīfah, or caliph. However, the question of the true successors to Muḥammad became a cause for divisions in the ranks of Islām. The Sunnī Muslims accept the principle of elective office rather than blood descent from the prophet. Therefore they believe that the first three caliphs, Abū Bakr (Muḥammad’s father-in-law), ʽUmar (the prophet’s adviser), and ʽUthmān (the prophet’s son-in-law), were the legitimate successors to Muḥammad.

 That claim is contested by the Shīʽite Muslims, who say that the true leadership comes through the prophet’s blood line and through his cousin and son-in-law, ʽAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib, the first imām (leader and successor), who married Muḥammad’s favorite daughter, Fāṭimah. Their marriage produced Muḥammad’s grandsons Ḥasan and Ḥusayn. The Shīʽites also claim “that from the beginning Allah and His Prophet had clearly designated ʽAli as the only legitimate successor but that the first three caliphs had cheated him out of his rightful office.” (History of the Arabs) Of course, the Sunnī Muslims view that differently.

 What happened to ʽAlī? During his rule as the fourth caliph (656-661 C.E.), a struggle over leadership arose between him and the governor of Syria, Muʽāwiyah. They joined battle, and then to spare further Muslim bloodshed, they threw their dispute open to arbitration. ʽAlī’s acceptance of arbitration weakened his case and alienated many of his followers, including the Khawārij (Seceders), who became his deadly foes. In the year 661 C.E., ʽAlī was murdered with a poisoned sabre by a Khārijī zealot. The two groups (the Sunnī and the Shīʽah) were at loggerheads. The Sunnī branch of Islām then chose a leader from the Umayyads, wealthy Meccan chiefs, who were outside of the prophet’s family.

 For the Shīʽah, ʽAlī’s firstborn, Ḥasan, the prophet’s grandson, was the true successor. However, he resigned and was murdered. His brother Ḥusayn became the new imām, but he too was killed, by Umayyad troops on October 10, 680 C.E. His death or martyrdom, as the Shīʽah view it, has had a significant effect on the Shīʽat ʽAlī, the party of ʽAlī, down to this day. They believe that ʽAlī was the true successor to Muḥammad and the first “imām [leader] divinely protected against error and sin.” ʽAlī and his successors were considered by the Shīʽah to be infallible teachers with “the divine gift of impeccability.” The largest segment of the Shīʽah believe that there have been only 12 true imāms, and the last of these, Muḥammad al-Muntaẓar, disappeared (878 C.E.) “in the cave of the great mosque at Sāmarra without leaving offspring.” Thus “he became ‘the hidden (mustatir)’ or ‘the expected (muntaẓar) imām.’ . . . In due time he will appear as the Mahdi (divinely guided one) to restore true Islam, conquer the whole world and usher in a short millennium before the end of all things.”—History of the Arabs.

 Every year, the Shīʽah commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Ḥusayn. They have processions in which some cut themselves with knives and swords and otherwise inflict suffering on themselves. In more modern times, Shīʽite Muslims have received much publicity because of their zeal for Islāmic causes. However, they represent only about 20 percent of the world’s Muslims, the majority being Sunnī Muslims. But now, let us turn to some of the teachings of Islām and note how the Islāmic faith affects the daily conduct of Muslims.
God Is Supreme, Not Jesus

 The three major monotheistic religions of the world are Judaism, Christianity, and Islām. But by the time Muḥammad appeared toward the beginning of the seventh century C.E., the first two religions, as far as he was concerned, had wandered from the path of truth. In fact, according to some Islāmic commentators, the Qurʼān implies rejection of Jews and of Christians in stating: “Not (the path) of those who earn Thine anger nor of those who go astray.” (Surah 1:7, MMP) Why is that?

 A Qurʼānic commentary states: “The People of the Book went wrong: The Jews in breaking their Covenant, and slandering Mary and Jesus . . . and the Christians in raising Jesus the Apostle to equality with God” by means of the Trinity doctrine.—Surah 4:153-176, AYA.

 The principal teaching of Islām, for utter simplicity, is what is known as the shahādah, or confession of faith, which every Muslim knows by heart: “La ilāh illa Allāh; Muḥammad rasūl Allāh” (No god but Allah; Muḥammad is the messenger of Allah). This agrees with the Qurʼānic expression, “Your God is One God; there is no God save Him, the Beneficent, the Merciful.” (Surah 2:163, MMP) This thought was stated 2,000 years earlier with the ancient call to Israel: “Listen, O Israel: Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.” (Deuteronomy 6:4) Jesus repeated this foremost command, which is recorded at Mark 12:29, about 600 years before Muḥammad, and nowhere did Jesus claim to be God or to be equal to Him.—Mark 13:32; John 14:28; 1 Corinthians 15:28.

 Regarding God’s uniqueness, the Qurʼān states: “So believe in God and His apostles. Say not ‘Trinity’: desist: it will be better for you: for God is One God.” (Surah 4:171, AYA) However, we should note that true Christianity does not teach a Trinity. That is a doctrine of pagan origin introduced by apostates of Christendom after the death of Christ and the apostles.—See Chapter 11.
Soul, Resurrection, Paradise, and Hellfire.

 Islām teaches that man has a soul that goes on to a hereafter. The Qurʼān states: “Allah receiveth (men’s) souls at the time of their death, and that (soul) which dieth not (yet) in its sleep. He keepeth that (soul) for which He hath ordained death.” (Surah 39:42, MMP) At the same time, surah 75 is entirely devoted to “Qiyāmat, or the Resurrection” (AYA), or “The Rising of the Dead” (MMP). In part it says: “I do call to witness the Resurrection Day . . . Does man think that We cannot assemble his bones? . . . He questions: ‘When is the Day of Resurrection?’ . . . Has not He [Allāh] the power to give life to the dead?”—Surah 75:1, 3, 6, 40, AYA.

 According to the Qurʼān, the soul can have different destinies, which can be either a heavenly garden of paradise or the punishment of a burning hell. As the Qurʼān states: “They ask: When is the Day of Judgement? (It is) the day when they will be tormented at the Fire, (and it will be said unto them): Taste your torment (which ye inflicted).” (Surah 51:12-14, MMP) “For them [the sinners] is torment in the life of the world, and verily the doom of the Hereafter is more painful, and they have no defender from Allah.” (Surah 13:34, MMP) The question is asked: “And what will explain to thee what this is? (It is) a Fire blazing fiercely!” (Surah 101:10, 11, AYA) This dire fate is described in detail: “Lo! Those who disbelieve Our revelations, We shall expose them to the Fire. As often as their skins are consumed We shall exchange them for fresh skins that they may taste the torment. Lo! Allah is ever Mighty, Wise.” (Surah 4:56, MMP) A further description states: “Lo! hell lurketh in ambush . . . They will abide therein for ages. Therein taste they neither coolness nor (any) drink save boiling water and a paralysing cold.”—Surah 78:21, 23-25, MMP.

 Muslims believe that a dead person’s soul goes to the Barzakh, or “Partition,” “the place or state in which people will be after death and before Judgment.” (Surah 23:99, 100, AYA, footnote) The soul is conscious there experiencing what is termed the “Chastisement of the Tomb” if the person had been wicked, or enjoying happiness if he had been faithful. But the faithful ones must also experience some torment because of their few sins while alive. On the judgment day, each faces his eternal destiny, which ends that intermediate state.

 In contrast, the righteous are promised heavenly gardens of paradise: “And as for those who believe and do good works, We shall make them enter Gardens underneath which rivers flow to dwell therein for ever.” (Surah 4:57, MMP) “On that day the dwellers of Paradise shall think of nothing but their bliss. Together with their wives, they shall recline in shady groves upon soft couches.” (Surah 36:55, 56, NJD) “Before this We wrote in the Psalms, after the Message (given to Moses): ‘My servants, the righteous, shall inherit the earth.’” The footnote to this surah refers the reader to Psalm 25:13 and 37:11, 29, as well as to the words of Jesus at Matthew 5:5. (Surah 21:105, AYA) The reference to wives now makes us turn to another question.
Monogamy or Polygamy?

 Is polygamy the rule among Muslims? While the Qurʼān permits polygamy, many Muslims have only one wife. Because of the numerous widows that were left after costly battles, the Qurʼān made room for polygamy: “And if ye fear that ye will not deal fairly by the orphans, marry of the women, who seem good to you, two or three or four; and if ye fear that ye cannot do justice (to so many) then one (only) or (the captives) that your right hands possess.” (Surah 4:3, MMP) A biography of Muḥammad by Ibn-Hishām mentions that Muḥammad married a wealthy widow, Khadījah, 15 years his senior. After her death he married many women. When he died he left nine widows.

 Another form of marriage in Islām is called mutʽah. It is defined as “a special contract concluded between a man and a woman through offer and acceptance of marriage for a limited period and with a specified dowry like the contract for permanent marriage.” (Islamuna, by Muṣṭafā al-Rāfiʽī) The Sunnīs call it a marriage for pleasure, and the Shīʽah, a marriage to be terminated in a specific period. States the same source: “The children [of such marriages] are legitimate and have the same rights as the children of a permanent marriage.” Apparently this form of temporary marriage was practiced in Muḥammad’s day, and he allowed it. Sunnīs insist that it was prohibited later, while the Imāmīs, the largest Shīʽite group, believe that it is still in effect. In fact, many practice it, especially when a man is absent from his wife for a long period of time.
Islām and Daily Life

 Islām involves five pillars, or principal obligations, and six basic beliefs. (See boxes, pages 296, 303.) One of the obligations is that the devout Muslim turn to Mecca five times a day in prayer (ṣalāt). On the Muslim sabbath (Friday), the men flock to the mosque for prayer when they hear the haunting call of the muezzin from the minaret of the mosque. Nowadays many mosques play a recording rather than have a live voice give the call.

 The mosque (Arabic, masjid) is the Muslim place of worship, described by King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia as “the cornerstone for the call to God.” He defined the mosque as “a place of prayer, study, legal and judicial activities, consultation, preaching, guidance, education and preparation. . . . The mosque is the heart of Muslim society.” These places of worship are now found all over the world. One of the most famous in history is the Mezquita (Mosque) of Córdoba, Spain, which for centuries was the largest in the world. Its central portion is now occupied by a Catholic cathedral.

Conflict With and Within Christendom...
 Beginning in the seventh century, Islām spread westward into North Africa, eastward to Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh, and down to Indonesia. As it did so, it entered into conflict with a militant Catholic Church, which organized Crusades to recover the Holy Land from the Muslims. In 1492 Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain completed the Catholic reconquest of Spain. Muslims and Jews had to convert or be expelled from Spain. The mutual tolerance that had existed under Muslim rule in Spain later evaporated under the influence of the Catholic Inquisition. However, Islām survived and in the 20th century has experienced resurgence and great growth.

 While Islām was expanding, the Catholic Church was going through its own turmoil, trying to keep unity in its ranks. But two powerful influences were about to burst on the scene, and they would shatter even further the monolithic image of that church. They were the printing press and the Bible in the language of the people.

Judgement Day

A specific “day,” or period, when particular groups, nations, or mankind in general are called to account by God. It may be a time when those already judged to be deserving of death are executed, or the judgment may afford opportunity for some to be delivered, even to everlasting life. Jesus Christ and his apostles pointed to a future “Judgment Day” involving not only the living but also those who had died in the past.—Mt 10:15; 11:21-24; 12:41, 42; 2Ti 4:1, 2.

Past Times of Judgment. At various times in the past Jehovah called peoples and nations to account for their actions and executed his judgments by bringing destruction. Such executional judgments were not arbitrary demonstrations of brute force or overwhelming power. In some instances the Hebrew word translated “judgment” (mish·pat′) is also rendered “justice” and “what is right.” (Ezr 7:10; Ge 18:25) The Bible emphasizes that Jehovah “is a lover of righteousness and justice,” so his executional judgments involve both of those qualities.—Ps 33:5.

Sometimes the executional judgments came as a result of the wicked conduct of people in their daily lives. Sodom and Gomorrah are an example of this. Jehovah inspected the cities and determined that the sin of the inhabitants was very heavy; he decided to bring the cities to ruin. (Ge 18:20, 21; 19:14) Later Jude wrote that those cities underwent “the judicial punishment [Gr., di′ken; “judgment,” Da; “justice,” Yg; “retributive justice,” ED] of everlasting fire.” (Jude 7) So those cities experienced a “day” of judgment.

Jehovah conducted a legal case against ancient Babylon, the longtime enemy of God and his people. Because of being unnecessarily cruel to the Jews, not intending to release them after the 70-year exile, and crediting Marduk with the victory over God’s people, Babylon was in line for an executional judgment. (Jer 51:36; Isa 14:3-6, 17; Da 5:1-4) That came to Babylon in 539 B.C.E. when it was overthrown by the Medes and Persians. Because the judgment to be executed was Jehovah’s, such a period could be referred to as “the day of Jehovah.”—Isa 13:1, 6, 9.

Similarly, Jeremiah prophesied that God would “put himself in judgment” with Edom, among others. (Jer 25:17-31) Hence the nation that had shown hatred for Jehovah and his people experienced destructive judgment in “the day of Jehovah.”—Ob 1, 15, 16.

When Judah and Jerusalem became unfaithful and merited God’s disapproval, he promised to “execute in the midst of [her] judicial decisions.” (Eze 5:8) In 607 B.C.E. “the day of Jehovah’s fury” came with an execution of his destructive judgment. (Eze 7:19) However, another “day,” or time, of judgment on Jerusalem was foretold. Joel prophesied an outpouring of spirit before “the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah.” (Joe 2:28-31) Under inspiration Peter, on the day of Pentecost 33 C.E., explained that they were then experiencing a fulfillment of that prophecy. (Ac 2:16-20) The destructive “day of Jehovah” came in 70 C.E. when the Roman armies executed divine judgment upon the Jews. As Jesus foretold, those were “days for meting out justice.”—Lu 21:22; see DESTRUCTION.

Future Times of Executional Judgment. Aside from Hebrew Scripture prophecies, the Bible definitely mentions a number of future judgment days that are executional. Revelation points to the time when “Babylon the Great” will be completely burned with fire. This judicial punishment is due to her fornication with the nations and her being drunk with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. (Re 17:1-6; 18:8, 20; 19:1, 2)

Mentioning another executional judgment, Peter drew upon what occurred in Noah’s day and foretold a “day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men.” (2Pe 3:7) Revelation speaks of such a destruction as being executed by “The Word of God,” who will strike the nations with a long sword. (Re 19:11-16; compare Jude 14, 15.) Also, in the first century the Devil already had judgment passed on him, and the demons he leads knew that they would be put into the abyss, as will Satan. (1Ti 3:6; Lu 8:31; Re 20:1-3) Thus it follows that the judgment awaiting them is simply the execution of a judgment that has already been decided upon.—Jude 6; 2Pe 2:4; 1Co 6:3.

May or May Not Be Condemnatory. Most of the occurrences of “judgment” (Gr., kri′sis and kri′ma) in the Christian Greek Scriptures clearly carry the force of condemnatory, or adverse, judgment. In John 5:24, 29 “judgment” is set in contrast with “life” and “everlasting life,” plainly implying a condemnatory judgment that means utter loss of life—death. (2Pe 2:9; 3:7; Joh 3:18, 19) However, not all adverse judgment leads inevitably to destruction. Illustrating this are Paul’s remarks at 1 Corinthians 11:27-32 about celebrating the Lord’s Evening Meal. If a person did not discern properly what he was doing, he could eat or drink “judgment against himself.” Then Paul adds: “When we are judged, we are disciplined by Jehovah, that we may not become condemned with the world.” Thus one might receive adverse judgment but because of repenting not be destroyed forever.

Furthermore, the possibility of a judgment that is not condemnatory is apparent from 2 Corinthians 5:10. About those manifest before the judgment seat it says: “Each one [will] get his award . . . according to the things he has practiced, whether it is good or vile.” The judging mentioned in Revelation 20:13 evidently results in a favorable outcome for many. Of the dead judged, those receiving an adverse judgment are hurled into “the lake of fire.” The rest, though, come through the judgment, being “found written in the book of life.”—Re 20:15.

Judgment Day of Personal Accountability. Pre-Christian Hebrews were acquainted with the idea that God would hold them personally accountable for their conduct. (Ec 11:9; 12:14) The Christian Greek Scriptures explain that there will be a specific future period, or “day,” when mankind, both the living and those who died in the past, will individually be judged.—2Ti 4:1, 2.

Identity of the judges. In the Hebrew Scriptures Jehovah is identified as “the Judge of all the earth.” (Ge 18:25) Similarly, in the Christian Greek Scriptures he is called “the Judge of all.” (Heb 12:23) He has, though, deputized his Son to do judging for him. (Joh 5:22) The Bible speaks of Jesus as “appointed,” “decreed,” and “destined” to do judging. (Ac 10:42; 17:31; 2Ti 4:1) That Jesus is thus authorized by God resolves any seeming contradiction between the text that says that individuals will “stand before the judgment seat of God” and the verse that says they will “be made manifest before the judgment seat of the Christ.”—Ro 14:10; 2Co 5:10.

Jesus also told his apostles that when he would sit down on his throne in the “re-creation,” they would “sit upon twelve thrones” to do judging. (Mt 19:28; Lu 22:28-30) Paul indicated that Christians who had been “called to be holy ones” will judge the world. (1Co 1:2; 6:2) Also, the apostle John saw in vision the time when some received “power of judging.” (Re 20:4) In view of the above texts, this evidently includes the apostles and the other holy ones. Such a conclusion is borne out by the remainder of the verse, which speaks of those who rule with Christ for the Millennium. These then will be royal judges with Jesus.

The fine quality of the judging that will take place on Judgment Day is assured, for Jehovah’s “judgments are true and righteous.” (Re 19:1, 2) The kind of judging that he authorizes is also righteous and true. (Joh 5:30; 8:16; Re 1:1; 2:23) There will be no perverting of justice or hiding of the facts.

Resurrection is involved. When using the expression “Judgment Day,” Jesus brought into the picture a resurrection of the dead. He mentioned that a city might reject the apostles and their message, and said: “It will be more endurable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on Judgment Day than for that city.” (Mt 10:15) This projected the matter into the future and naturally suggested that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah would then be alive by means of resurrection. (Compare Mt 11:21-24; Lu 10:13-15.) Even clearer are Jesus’ statements that the “men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment” and “the queen of the south will be raised up in the judgment.” (Mt 12:41, 42; Lu 11:31, 32) The Biblical statements about Jesus’ judging “the living and the dead” can be viewed in the light of the fact that resurrection is involved in Judgment Day.—Ac 10:42; 2Ti 4:1.

A final indication that many being examined on Judgment Day will be resurrected ones is the information in Revelation 20:12, 13. Individuals are seen “standing before the throne.” The dead are mentioned and so is the fact that death and Hades gave up those dead in them. Such ones are judged.

Time for Judgment Day. In John 12:48 Christ linked the judging of persons with “the last day.” Revelation 11:17, 18 locates a judging of the dead as occurring after God takes his great power and begins ruling in a special way as king. Additional light on the matter comes from the sequence of events recorded in Revelation chapters 19 and 20. There one reads of a war in which the “King of kings” kills “the kings of the earth and their armies.” (Earlier in Revelation [16:14] this is called “the war of the great day of God the Almighty.”) Next Satan is bound for a thousand years. During that thousand years royal judges serve with Christ. In the same context, resurrection and the judging of the dead are mentioned. This, then, is an indication of the time when Judgment Day comes. And it is not impossible from a Scriptural standpoint for a thousand-year period to be viewed as a “day,” for such an equation is stated in the Bible.—2Pe 3:8; Ps 90:4.

Basis for judgment. In describing what will take place on earth during the time of judgment, Revelation 20:12 says that the resurrected dead will then be “judged out of those things written in the scrolls according to their deeds.” Those resurrected will not be judged on the basis of the works done in their former life, because the rule at Romans 6:7 says: “He who has died has been acquitted from his sin.”
However, Jesus said that unwillingness to take note of his powerful works and repent or unresponsiveness to God’s message would make it hard for some to endure Judgment Day.—Mt 10:14, 15; 11:21-24.

Two Hats are better them one you say?

A god of the Philistines. The existence of cities called “Beth-dagon” (likely named after the god Dagon) in the territories of Judah and Asher suggests that the worship of this deity was well established in Canaan at the time of Israel’s conquest of the Promised Land. (Jos 15:41; 19:27) It is believed that the Philistines adopted Dagon worship from the Canaanites.

There is no agreement as to the derivation of the name Dagon. Some scholars associate it with the Hebrew word dagh (fish), while others favor linking the name with the Hebrew word da·ghan′ (grain). At 1 Samuel 5:4 it is stated concerning the fallen Dagon, “Only the fish part [literally, “Only Dagon”] had been left upon him,” his head and the palms of his hands having been cut off. The Hebrew word literally meaning “Dagon” in this text has been variously rendered “body” (NIV, TEV), “Dagon’s body” (NE), and “Dagon himself” (Ro) by some translators, while others have translated it as “fish portion” (Le), “fish-stump” (Da), “fishy part” (Yg), or “fish part” (NW).

Dagon at times figures in the Biblical narratives. By bracing himself against the two middle supporting pillars, Samson caused the collapse of a house at Gaza used for Dagon worship, killing the Philistines who had assembled there. (Jg 16:21-30) At the house of Dagon in Ashdod, the Philistines deposited the sacred ark of Jehovah as a war trophy. Twice the image of Dagon fell on its face before the Ark. The second time the idol itself was broken.

Perhaps in order not to defile the place where the pieces of their god had lain, the priests and others entering the temple of Dagon at Ashdod were careful not to tread upon the threshold. (1Sa 5:2-5) By experiencing the painful effects of piles and the ruining of their land by jerboas, the Philistines came to recognize that the hand of the God of Israel had been hard against them and their god Dagon. (1Sa 5:6, 7; 6:5)

 When King Saul was discovered among the slain at Gilboa, the Philistines cut off his head. After informing the houses of their idols as well as the people back home, they fastened Saul’s skull to the house of Dagon.—1Sa 31:8-10; 1Ch 10:8-10.
It may be that the Philistines carried idols of their god Dagon into battle.—2Sa 5:21.
So the hat on the popes head, this is a familiar shape and also several other factors on walls at the Vatican help put Dagon in a much closer light, interesting is it not?

The Greatest Name

The Greatest Name
MILLIONS of men and women have lived on this earth and died. In most cases their names have died with them, and their remembrance has been forgotten. But some great names, such as Avicenna, Edison, Pasteur, Beethoven, Gandhi, and Newton, live on. These names are connected with the achievements, discoveries, and inventions of the people who bore them.

However, there is a name greater than any other name—the greatest name. To this name are attached all the wonders of the past and present in the entire universe. Mankind’s hope for a long and happy life is related to it. Many have wished to know this name. They searched for it and asked about it, but they did not find it. To them it remained a mystery. In fact, no man can discover that name unless the Owner of the name reveals it. Happily, God has done just that. As a result, those who believe in him, in his books, and in his messengers can know about him. He revealed His name to Adam, then to Abraham, to Moses, and to His other faithful servants of old.

The Koran tells of someone “who was deeply versed in the Scriptures.” (27:40) A commentary book, Tafsīr Jalālayn, says in explaining this verse: “Asaf the son of Barkhiyā was a righteous man. He knew God’s greatest name, and whenever he called on it, he was answered.” This reminds us of a Bible writer, Asaf (Asaph), who wrote Psalm 83:18. This verse says: “That people may know that you, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.”

At Koran 17:2 we read: “We gave Moses the Scriptures and made them a guide for the Israelites.” In those Scriptures, Moses addresses God, saying: “Suppose I am now come to the sons of Israel and I do say to them, ‘The God of your forefathers has sent me to you,’ and they do say to me, ‘What is his name?’ What shall I say to them?” God answered Moses, saying: “This is what you are to say to the sons of Israel, ‘Jehovah the God of your forefathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name to time indefinite.”—Exodus 3:13, 15.
In ancient times the Israelites knew this great name of God. It was even used as a component of their personal names. So just as one finds today the name Abdullah (Servant of God), the ancient Israelites had the name Obadiah (Servant of Jehovah). The prophet Moses’ mother was named Jochebed, which possibly means “Jehovah Is Glory.” The name John means “Jehovah Has Been Gracious.” The name of the prophet Elijah means “My God Is Jehovah.”

The prophets knew this great name, and they used it with profound respect. It is found more than 7,000 times in the Holy Scriptures. Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, highlighted it in his prayer to God: “I have made your name manifest to the men you gave me . . . I have made your name known to them and will make it known, in order that the love with which you loved me may be in them.” (John 17:6, 26) In his famous commentary on the Koran, Bayḍāwī comments on Koran 2:87, saying that Jesus used to “revive dead persons by God’s greatest name.”
What, then, happened to make that name a mystery? What does that name have to do with the future of each of us?
How Did the Name Become a Mystery?

Some think that “Jehovah” in Hebrew means “Allah” (God). But “Allah” corresponds, in Hebrew, to ʼElo·him′, the plural of majesty of the word ʼeloh′ah (god). A superstition arose among the Jews that prohibited them from pronouncing the divine name, Jehovah. So it became their custom that while reading the Holy Scriptures, whenever they came to the name “Jehovah,” they pronounced ʼAdho·nai′, which means “Lord.” In some places they even altered the original Hebrew text from “Jehovah” to ʼAdho·nai′.
Christendom followed the same course. They replaced the name Jehovah with “God” (“Allah” in Arabic) and with “Lord.” That contributed to the development of the false doctrine of the Trinity, which has no basis in the Holy Scriptures. Because of this, millions mistakenly worship Jesus and the holy spirit and consider them equal to God.

Hence, the leaders both of Judaism and of Christendom share the blame for the widespread ignorance concerning the greatest name. But God prophesied: “I shall certainly sanctify my great name, . . . and the nations will have to know that I am Jehovah.” Yes, he will make his name known among all the nations, because he is not the God of the Jews, or of any other nation; he is the God of all mankind.—Ezekiel 36:23; Genesis 22:18; Psalm 145:21; Malachi 1:11.

The Greatest Name and Our Future
The Holy Scriptures say: “Everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.” (Romans 10:13) Our salvation on the day of judgment will be related to our knowing the name of God. That includes knowing his attributes, works, and purposes as well as living in harmony with his high principles. For example, Abraham knew God’s name and called on that name. As a result, he enjoyed a good relationship with God, showed faith in him, relied on him, and obeyed him. He became God’s friend. Likewise, our knowing God’s name draws us close to him and helps us to develop a personal relationship with him, assuring us of his love.—Genesis 12:8; Psalm 9:10; Proverbs 18:10; John 17:26; James 2:23.

The Holy Scriptures say that Jehovah God “kept paying attention and listening. And a book of remembrance began to be written up before him for those in fear of Jehovah and for those thinking upon his name.” (Malachi 3:16) Why do we have to ‘think upon’ the greatest name? The name Jehovah literally means “He Causes to Become.” This reveals Jehovah as the One who causes himself to become the Fulfiller of promises. He always brings his purposes to realization. He is the almighty God, the only Creator, who has every fine attribute. There is no simple word that can wholly express God’s divine nature. 

But the greatest name, Jehovah, which he has chosen for himself, calls to mind all his attributes, qualities, and purposes. In the Holy Scriptures, God tells us of his purposes toward man. Jehovah God created man to enjoy an everlasting, happy life in Paradise. His will for mankind is that they form one family, united in love and peace. The God of love will fulfill that purpose in the near future. (Matthew 24:3-14, 32-42; 1 John 4:16-21) God explains the reasons for mankind’s suffering and shows that salvation is possible. (Revelation 21:4) At Psalm 37:10, 11, we read: “Just a little while longer, and the wicked one will be no more; and you will certainly give attention to his place, and he will not be. But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.”—See also Koran 21:105.

Yes, God will be known by his great name. The nations will have to know that he is Jehovah. What a wonderful privilege to know the greatest name, to testify to it, and to cleave to it! In that way, in us will be fulfilled God’s joyful purpose: “Because on me he has set his affection, I shall also provide him with escape. I shall protect him because he has come to know my name. He will call upon me, and I shall answer him. . . . With length of days I shall satisfy him, and I shall cause him to see salvation by me.”—Psalm 91:14-16.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Myth or Fact?

Myth or Fact?
The Christian elder Timothy instructed those interested in worshipping the true God not to pay attention to “erratic notions” and “myths.” (1 Timothy 1:3, 4, Byington) Is such caution necessary today? Yes, because wrong ideas about the Bible and its teachings turn people away from true worship. Below are some commonly held ideas about the Bible. Notice the statements from the Bible itself. These can help you to separate myth from fact.
Myth: Bible miracles are impossible.
Fact: Humans have much to learn about God’s creation. No scientist can fully explain gravity, precisely define all the components of an atom, or explain the exact nature of time. “Can you find out the deep things of God, or can you find out to the very limit of the Almighty?” (Job 11:7) Since creation is beyond our complete understanding, capable scientists are becoming increasingly cautious about saying that a certain thing is impossible.
Myth: All religions lead to God.
Fact: “If you remain in my word,” said Jesus, “you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31, 32) If all religions led to God, would their members need to be set free? In fact, Jesus taught that relatively few people are on “the road leading off into life.”—Matthew 7:13, 14.
Myth: All good people go to heaven when they die.
Fact: “The meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace. The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it. Hope in Jehovah and keep his way, and he will exalt you to take possession of the earth.” (Psalm 37:11, 29, 34) Only 144,000 faithful humans go to heaven. Their God-given assignment is to “rule as kings over the earth.”—Revelation 5:9, 10; 14:1, 4.
Myth: The “Old Testament” is no longer useful for Christians.
Fact: “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial.” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) “All the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) The “Old Testament,” the Hebrew Scriptures, is a vital source of spiritual instruction and gives us grounds for faith in the “New Testament,” the Christian Greek Scriptures.
Myth: Much of the book of Genesis, including the account about Adam and Eve, is allegory.
Fact: Jesus’ genealogy right back to Adam was recorded by the Gospel writer Luke. (Luke 3:23-38) If Genesis were myth, then where in the genealogy would the real names end and the so-called legendary ones begin? Jesus, who existed in heaven before coming to earth, believed what was written in Genesis, including the account of Adam and Eve. (Matthew 19:4-6) Thus, to question Genesis is to undermine the credibility of Jesus himself, as well as that of many Bible writers.—1 Chronicles 1:1; 1 Corinthians 15:22; Jude 14

Friday, January 18, 2013

Apostasy revealed do you fit the attribute?

WHY are Christendom’s first 400 years of history so important? For the same reason that the first few years of a child’s life are important—because they are the formative years when the foundation is laid for the future personality of the individual. What do Christendom’s early centuries reveal?

 Before we answer that question, let us recall a truth that Jesus Christ expressed: “Go in through the narrow gate; because broad and spacious is the road leading off into destruction, and many are the ones going in through it; whereas narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it.” The road of expediency is broad; that of right principles is narrow.—Matthew 7:13, 14.

 At the inception of Christianity, there were two ways available to those espousing that unpopular faith—hold to the uncompromising teachings and principles of Christ and the Scriptures or gravitate toward the wide and easygoing path of compromise with the world of that time. As we will see, the history of the first 400 years shows which path the majority eventually chose.

The subtle influence of Greek philosophy was a key factor in the apostasy that followed the death of the apostles. The Greek immortal soul teaching implied a need for various destinations for the soul—heaven, hellfire, purgatory, paradise, Limbo. By manipulating such teachings, it became easy for a priestly class to keep their flocks submissive and in fear of the Hereafter and to extract gifts and donations from them. Which leads us to another question: How did Christendom’s separate priestly clergy class originate?—John 8:44; 1 says...YOU are from YOUR father the Devil, and YOU wish to do the desires of YOUR father. That one was a man-slayer when he began, and he did not stand fast in the truth, because truth is not in him. When he speaks the lie, he speaks according to his own disposition, because he is a liar and the father of [the lie]

1 Timothy 4:1, 2.also says... However, the inspired utterance says definitely that in later periods of time some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons,  by the hypocrisy of men who speak lies, marked in their conscience as with a branding iron. 

 Another indication of apostasy was the retreat from the general ministry of all Christians, as Jesus and the apostles had taught, to the exclusive priesthood and hierarchy that developed in Christendom. During the first century, after Jesus’ death, his apostles, along with other spiritually qualified Christian elders in Jerusalem, served to counsel and direct the Christian congregation. None exercised superiority over the others.

Among the early congregations that accepted direction from the apostles and elders in Jerusalem was the one in Rome, where Christian truth probably arrived sometime after Pentecost 33 C.E. (Acts 2:10) Like any other Christian congregation of the time, it had elders, who served as a body of overseers without any one of them having the primacy.

 Certainly none of the earliest overseers in the Rome congregation were viewed by their contemporaries as bishops or as a pope, since the monarchical episcopate at Rome had not yet developed. The starting point of the monarchical, or one-man, episcopate is hard to pin down. Evidence indicates that it began to develop in the second century.

The turning point for this new religion in the Roman Empire was 313 C.E., the date of Emperor Constantine’s so-called conversion to “Christianity.” How did this conversion come about? In 306 C.E., Constantine succeeded his father and eventually, with Licinius, became coruler of the Roman Empire. He was influenced by his mother’s devotion to Christianity and his own belief in divine protection. Before he went to fight a battle near Rome at the Milvian Bridge in 312 C.E., he claimed that he was told in a dream to paint the “Christian” monogram—the Greek letters khi and rho, the first two letters of Christ’s name in Greek—on his soldiers’ shields. With this ‘sacred talisman,’ Constantine’s forces defeated his enemy Maxentius.

As a result, the foundation of Christendom was laid. As British broadcaster Malcolm Muggeridge wrote in his book The End of Christendom: “Christendom began with the Emperor Constantine.” However, he also made the perceptive comment: “You might even say that Christ himself abolished Christendom before it began by stating that his kingdom was not of this world—one of the most far reaching and important of all his statements.” And one most widely ignored by Christendom’s religious and political rulers.

With Constantine’s support, Christendom’s religion became the official State religion of Rome. Elaine Pagels, a professor of religion, explains: “Christian bishops, once targets for arrest, torture, and execution, now received tax exemptions, gifts from the imperial treasury, prestige, and even influence at court; their churches gained new wealth, power, and prominence.” They had become friends of the emperor, friends of the Roman world.

Constantine wanted unity in his realm, and in 325 C.E. he called for a council of his bishops at Nicaea, located in the Eastern, Greek-speaking domain of his empire, across the Bosporus from the new city of Constantinople. It is said that anywhere from 250 to 318 bishops attended, only a minority of the total number, and most of those attending were from the Greek-speaking region. 
Even Pope Sylvester I was not present. After fierce debate, out of that unrepresentative council came the Nicene Creed with its heavy bias toward Trinitarian thought. Yet it failed to settle the doctrinal argument. It did not clarify the role of God’s holy spirit in Trinitarian theology. Debate raged for decades, and it required more councils and the authority of different emperors and the use of banishment to achieve eventual conformity. It was a victory for theology and a defeat for those who held to the Scriptures.

Over the centuries, one result of the Trinity teaching has been that the one true God Jehovah has been submerged in the quagmire of Christendom’s God-Christ theology. The next logical consequence of that theology was that if Jesus really was God Incarnate, then Jesus’ mother, Mary, was obviously the “Mother of God.” Over the years, that has led to veneration of Mary in many different forms, this in spite of the total lack of texts that speak of Mary in any role of importance except as the humble biologic mother of Jesus. (Luke 1:26-38, 46-56) Over the centuries the Mother-of-God teaching has been developed and adorned by the Roman Catholic Church, with the result that many Catholics venerate Mary far more fervently than they worship God

Another characteristic of apostasy is that it leads to division and fragmentation. The apostle Paul had prophesied: “I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.” Paul had given clear counsel to the Corinthians when he stated: “Now I exhort you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you should all speak in agreement, and that there should not be divisions among you, but that you may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.” In spite of Paul’s exhortation, apostasy and divisions soon took root.—Acts 20:29, 30; 1 Corinthians 1:10.

A further big test came about when the Western church added the Latin word filioque (“and from the Son”) to the Nicene Creed to indicate that the Holy Spirit proceeded from both the Father and the Son. The end result of this sixth-century emendation was a rift when “in 876 a synod [of bishops] at Constantinople condemned the pope both for his political activities and because he did not correct the heresy of the filioque clause. 

This action was part of the East’s entire rejection of the pope’s claim of universal jurisdiction over the Church.” (Man’s Religions) In the year 1054, the pope’s representative excommunicated the patriarch of Constantinople, who in return put a curse on the pope. That split eventually led to the formation of the Eastern Orthodox Churches—Greek, Russian, Romanian, Polish, Bulgarian, Serbian, and other self-governing churches.

Another movement was also beginning to cause turmoil in the church. In the 12th century, Peter Waldo, from Lyons, France, “engaged some scholars to translate the Bible into the langue d’oc [a regional language] of south France. He studied the translation zealously, and concluded that Christians should live like the apostles—without individual property.” (The Age of Faith, by Will Durant) He started a preaching movement that became known as the Waldenses. 
These rejected the Catholic priesthood, indulgences, purgatory, transubstantiation, and other traditional Catholic practices and beliefs. They spread into other countries. The Council of Toulouse tried to check them in 1229 by banning the possession of Scriptural books. Only books of liturgy were allowed and then only in the dead language of Latin. But more religious division and persecution was yet to come.

 A crusade was mounted against the “heretics,” and the Catholic crusaders massacred 20,000 men, women, and children in Béziers, France. After much bloodshed, peace came in 1229, with the Albigenses defeated. The Council of Narbonne “forbade the possession of any part of the Bible by laymen.” The root of the problem for the Catholic Church was evidently the existence of the Bible in the language of the people.
 The next step that the church took was to establish the Inquisition, a tribunal set up to suppress heresy. Already a spirit of intolerance possessed the people, who were superstitious and all too willing to lynch and murder “heretics.” The conditions in the 13th century lent themselves to the abuse of power by the church. 

However, “heretics condemned by the Church were to be delivered to the ‘secular arm’—the local authorities—and burned to death.” (The Age of Faith) By leaving the actual executions to the secular authorities, the church would ostensibly be free of bloodguilt. The Inquisition started an era of religious persecution that resulted in abuses, false and anonymous denunciations, murder, robbery, torture, and the slow death of thousands who dared to believe differently from the church. Freedom of religious expression was stifled. Was there any hope for people who were seeking the true God? 

 While all of this was happening in Christendom, a lone Arab in the Middle East took a stand against the religious apathy and idolatry of his own people. He started a religious movement in the seventh century that today commands the obedience and submission of nearly one thousand million people. That movement is Islām. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

“This Is My Son”

“This Is My Son”...
EVERYONE has a father. You have a father. And I have a father. When a girl does good things, her father is pleased to tell others: “This is my daughter.” And when a boy does what is right, his father is proud to say: “This is my son.”
Jesus always does what pleases his Father. So his Father feels pleased with him. And do you know what Jesus’ Father did?— He spoke all the way from heaven to tell men: “This is my Son.”

Jesus really loves his Father. He showed this even before he came to the earth. He had a wonderful place in heaven with his Father, Jehovah God. But God had a special work for Jesus to do. To do that work, Jesus had to leave heaven. He had to be born as a baby on earth. Jesus was willing to do this because Jehovah wanted him to do it.
To be born as a baby on earth, Jesus had to have a mother. Do you know who she was?— Her name was Mary.

Jehovah sent his angel Gabriel from heaven to talk to Mary. Gabriel told Mary she was going to have a baby boy. The baby would be named Jesus. And who would the baby’s father be?— The angel said that the baby’s father would be Jehovah God. That is why Jesus would be called the Son of God.
How do you think Mary felt about this?— Did she say, ‘I don’t want to do that’? Did she say, ‘I don’t want to be the mother of Jesus’?—
No, Mary was ready to do what God wanted. She was very willing to listen to God’s angel. It was like listening to God! And Mary wanted to listen to God. She loved God and was glad to do what Jehovah God wanted her to do.

But how could Jehovah cause his Son in heaven to be born as a baby on earth?— Jehovah is the most powerful one anywhere. He can do things no one else can do. So Jehovah took the life of his Son from heaven and put it inside Mary. Jesus began to grow inside of Mary just as other babies grow inside of their mothers. After that Mary married Joseph.
Then the time came for Jesus to be born. He was born in the city of Bethlehem. Mary and her husband Joseph were visiting that city. But Bethlehem was full of people. There was not even a room where Mary and Joseph could stay on the night that Jesus was born. They had to put the baby Jesus in a manger. A manger is a place that holds food for cows and other animals to eat.

Exciting things happened on the night that Jesus was born. Near Bethlehem an angel talked to some shepherds. He told the shepherds what an important person Jesus was. He said to them: ‘Look! I am telling you good news that will make people happy. Today someone was born who will save the people.’ Jesus would do many good things for people who love God.—Luke 2:10, 11.
This was good news! Other angels in heaven began to join together in praising God. They were happy! The shepherds could hear what they said.

Now the shepherds wanted to see Jesus. The angel told them that they could find Jesus in Bethlehem. So they went there. When the shepherds got there to see Jesus, they told Joseph and Mary all the good things they had heard. This made Joseph and Mary very thankful to God. Can you imagine how happy Mary was that she had been willing to be the mother of Jesus?
Later, Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the city of Nazareth. That is where Jesus grew up. When he was grown, he began his great teaching work. This was part of the work Jehovah God wanted his Son to do on earth.

About three years later, Jesus and some of his followers went up on a high mountain. What happened there?— As the others watched, Jesus’ clothes began to shine brightly. Then God’s own voice was heard. Jehovah said about Jesus: “This is my Son, the beloved.” God was pleased with his Son.—Mark 9:2-8.
Jesus always did what was right. He did not pretend to be someone that he really was not. He did not tell people that he was God. The angel Gabriel had told Mary that Jesus would be called the Son of God. Jesus himself said that he is God’s Son. And he did not tell people that he knew more than his Father. He said: “The Father is greater than I am.”—John 14:28.

When Jesus’ Father gave him work to do, Jesus did it. He did not say, ‘Yes, I will do it,’ but then do something else. He loved his Father. So he listened to what his Father said.
We want to please Jehovah too, don’t we?— Then we must show that we really listen to God, as Jesus did. God speaks to us through the Bible. It would not be right to pretend to listen to God, but then believe and do things that are contrary to the Bible, would it?— And remember, we won’t find it hard to please Jehovah if we really love him.

(Other texts showing why we need to know and believe what the Bible really says about Jesus: Matthew 7:21-23, 1 Timothy 2:5, 6 and John 4:25, 26.)