MAP: Where Christians are Persecuted in the World
Credit: Carto Mission and Open Doors.




“I AM” – the God of Exodus 3:14

“I AM” – the God of Exodus 3:14

by Stephen E. Schlarb

Scientists in the 1990s proved mathematically (by quantum mathematics and string theory) that space-time is not the ultimate description of reality. These are not necessarily religious people, some are atheists. They have no comments on religious matters.

Einstein proved in the early 1900s that space and time are a connected continuum — spacetime. There can be no space (with all the material objects moving, combining and breaking up) without time.  But what caused or created this spacetime universe is beyond both space and time. It is a timeless mode of Being that is the “ground” of all material existence in the universe..
No one can prove the existence of a God. But what can be, and has been proven is that if there is a God, there can only be one kind of God — a timeless God who does not change — an “I AM” kind of God.
All the other gods of ancient mythologies are gods in the Sun (RA in ancient Egypt) and in other natural phenomena — rivers, mountains, lightening, animals, etc.  High Hinduism believes the ultimate One or Source or “GOD” is in all natural phenomena, including fire.  But science has shown that there is no god contained in the natural phenomena themselves.
1 Kings 19:11-12. (NASB)

“And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing.

We are aware that the scholars say that Exodus 3:14 can be “I am who I am” or “I will be who I will be”.
That’s because the grammar can be interpreted either way — or both ways. It means “I AM WHO I WILL BE” — a simultaneously existing and unchanging God.
This verse actually represents the most sophisticated interpretation of God in all of history. It is indeed the only kind of God who could exist.
The origins of this verse are traditionally attributed to Moses or his assistants (c. 1400 BC); or by scholars to the Yahwist author (c. 950 BC); or to the Elohist author in the northern kingdom (c. 750 BC before it was destroyed in 722 BC).
Now Heraclitus developed the early theory of the Logos in Greece about 500 BC; Plato and Aristotle, of course, are much later. Buddha in India is thought to have lived around 500 BC. Confucius in China was about the same time frame.  These are some of the greatest  thinkers in history. But none of them came up with as sophisticated a concept of a God as did the author of Exodus 3:14. Yet this author precedes all these famed ancient sages.  All concepts of God have been eliminated, except the Exodus 3:14 God. 
Either this ancient Hebrew (c. 750-1400 BC) is a unique genius, or it is actually real revelation from the one true God.


Was Jesus a Yahad (or Essene)?

Was Jesus a Yahad or Essene?

by Stephen E. Schlarb

There is a difference of opinion on the Qumran community being Essene or Yahad. Either way, this article makes the argument that Jesus had specialized training at Qumran, before entering into his public ministry.

John the Baptist refers to Jesus as the ‘Lamb of God’ (John 1:36). John apparently recognized Jesus and knew of his mission right from the start. Could they both have known each other as adults at Qumran?
Jesus had learned some specialized teachings as an adult, beyond carpentry, and at a place unknown to his critics in Galilee:
In Matthew 13:54-56
He came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?  Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”

Jesus stated:

“there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.”  Mk. 4:22, Mat. 10:26, Luke 8:17.
The Pharisees and Sadducees did not hide their teachings. The Yahad hid their teachings, confined them to the initiates, and taught that their wisdom should not be shared with common people and sinners.

Jesus revealed his teachings to sinners and outcasts. Jesus could have been a Yahad who rebelled at keeping the spiritual truth away from the most needy people.
It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mk. 2:17.

The Yahad Charter in column 11 (3,14) Dead Sea Scrolls: “By His (God’s) righteousness is my transgression blotted out. Through His exceeding goodness shall He atone for all my sins.”

If Jesus learned this with the Yahad, he may have realized that someone had to fulfill this role for the salvation of not only his people, but for all people. Otherwise the religious practices themselves were futile.

Jesus’ first 3 Beatitudes (Mat. 5:3-5) –
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

5 Blessed are the gentle (or humble), for they shall inherit the earth.

In the Qumran Scrolls (part of the Dead Sea Scrolls), there is Thanksgiving Hymn 33 which contains the following:

“Blessing to the humble, troubled of spirit, and those who mourn.”

In 1QM (14,7) there is the term, “needy in spirit” or “poor in spirit”. This is interpreted by experts in Hebrew as meaning “needy of God”, regardless of how much money a person has.

The Qumran scrolls are dated from approximately 250 B.C. to about 65 A.D. They are in Hebrew and Aramaic, and were solely in the possession of Jews. The references to “poor in spirit” were phrases already known to Jews who had access to this teaching.

Jesus could have left the Yahad group and determined to bring the higher spiritual teachings to outcast and rejected people. Eventually this would lead to the inclusion of not only outcast Jews, but all people (Mat. 15:21-28).

Jesus saw himself as the agent – the Son of Man in Daniel 7:13 – and referred to himself as such many times:
Mark 2:10, 2:28; 8:31, 8:38; 9:9, 9:12, 9:31; 10:33, 10:45; 13:26; 14:21, 14:41, 14:62.

Jesus may have had a ‘Messiah complex’ – he may have seen his role as the sacrificial Lamb of God for all the people. Or, Jesus really is the sacrificial Lamb of God.



Longer is later? Not Necessarily.

Longer is later? Not Necessarily.

by Stephen E. Schlarb

A favorite assumption of many Bible scholars is that when there are two or more versions of a particular New Testament text, the shorter version is closer to the unaltered event, while the longer version contains later interpretations and additions.

One glaring case of this is in the Beatitudes delivered by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:3-12 (or on the level place in Luke 6:20-23). Specifically, we will examine the first Beatitude,
“Blessed are the poor
in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat. 5:3) and
Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20).

The usual modern scholarship gives the nod to Luke for writing the Beatitudes in their more primitive, therefore more original content – i.e., without spiritual interpretation which is considered a later add-on. Matthew is interpreted to have added the “in spirit” to the “poor”, and to have added Beatitudes beyond the supposedly original four given in Luke. (Refer to The Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary on the Bible, 1971, page 682).

Why could it not be reasoned that Matthew was a witness to this sermon of Jesus, and that he accurately recorded what Jesus said? Luke came many years later (with Paul’s mission to Jerusalem) to interview people with 1st, 2nd, or 3rd-hand recollections.
Matthew (Levi) wrote careful reports to the authorities on his tax collections. It is reasonable to conclude that Matthew recorded Jesus’ teachings accurately and even meticulously in writing at the time Jesus delivered them.

Later, in Matthew 9:9, Jesus calls to Matthew to “Follow me”, and Matthew immediately gets up and follows him. This indicates that Matthew had previously heard and was familiar with Jesus’ teachings.

In the Qumran Scrolls (part of the Dead Sea Scrolls), there is Thanksgiving Hymn 33 which contains the following:
“Blessing to the humble, troubled of spirit, and those who mourn.”

In 1QM (14,7) there is the term, “needy in spirit” or “poor in spirit”. This is interpreted by experts in Hebrew as meaning “needy of God”, regardless of how much money a person has.

The Qumran scrolls are dated from approximately 250 B.C. to about 65 A.D. They are in Hebrew and Aramaic, and were solely in the possession of Jews. The references to “poor in spirit” were phrases already known to Jews, such as Jesus, and were obviously not invented by some Christian author of Matthew.

Considering all facets of this matter, it is reasonable to conclude that Matthew recorded Jesus’ statements accurately.


Word of God and words of men

Word of God and Words of men      by Stephen E. Schlarb 

All Bible quotes NASB.
The Bible is comprised of both the Word of God and the words of men. This is exemplified in Jeremiah 1:1-2a:
“The words of Jeremiahto whom the word of the Lord came

If there is a perfect God (incorruptible), it must be immutable, for the perfect cannot change to some other state of being that would obviously be not perfect anymore. Any revelations from such a perfect God would, by definition, be perfect themselves – guided by the Holy Spirit. If such a perfect God reveals himself to people, then the effectiveness of the communication is dependent on the perfect revelation of that God as well as on the imperfect reception, comprehension, and expression of the person receiving that revelation.

Stated in the PC(USA) 1967 Confession, Section I.C.2. The Bible: 

“The one sufficient revelation of God is Jesus Christ, the Word of God incarnate, to whom the Holy Spirit bears unique and authoritative witness through the Holy Scriptures, which are received and obeyed as the word of God written.”Later there is this statement:
“The Bible is to be interpreted in the light of its witness to God’s work of reconciliation in Christ. The Scriptures, given under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, are nevertheless the words of men, conditioned by the language, thought forms, and literary fashions of the places and times at which they were written. They reflect views of life, history, and the cosmos which were then current.”


To a layman, the above two statements could lead to confusion.  “…the Holy Scriptures, which are received and obeyed as the word of God written.”  But then: “The Scriptures, given under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, are nevertheless the words of men….”  That may be clear to a seminarian (tongue-in-cheek).  But practical experience in many conversations with various elders and laypeople, as well as listening to the variety of views throughout PC(USA) on the Internet, indicates that there is a wide spectrum of interpretation in our denomination between those two statements.  If “the Holy Spirit bears… authoritative witness through the Holy Scriptures”,  then how can this witness be “the words of men” conditioned by the limitations of time, place, and subjective views of life, etc.?  Would not the Holy Spirit’s powerful guidance overcome the cultural limitations of the human receiver? Apparently not.

Beneath the official statements by PC(USA) leaders, in the general membership there is a muddle of conflicting opinions on the veracity of the most relevant texts to the Christian faith. One example I encountered in a church Bible was in regard to whether faith in Christ was necessary to have salvation and a relationship with the Father. There are numerous verses to support this, as well as the older Confessions of the faith, e.g. Heidelberg and Westminster. I quoted 1 John 2:23:
“Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.”

One Ruling Elder replied, “that’s just the words of men”. Another Elder said, “it’s hard to transpose the primitive meanings of that time to our time”.  Another Elder said, “Everyone goes to heaven, no matter what they believe”. A lay member of the group added, “Christianity is just for this life”. After that meeting, I asked another respected Ruling Elder about it. He replied, “We don’t know what God’s plan is for all people.” And yet other Elders have said in studies and private conversations, “there are many ways to God.”


On the internet, in various forums, PC(USA) Elders have propounded everything from traditional faith to universalism to atheism. This situation is well-known among PC(USA) members, and it has caused consternation among many general congregation members, some Elders, but especially non-ordained lay members who contribute their time and money to support church activities. Many lay members, including elderly people I know, read and trust basic Christian scriptures to shore up their wounded faith, in order to help them get through illnesses, economic problems, loss of loved ones.

Ultimately, a clever scholar can disparage so much of scripture, that there is little left on which to build a church.
How can a Christian discern when the Bible speaks with the imperfect or even erroneous “words of men”, versus when it speaks accurately with the “word of God”?  A layman’s attempt to show the differences is presented below, by giving concrete examples.


Examples of “words of men” – murder, slavery, & oppression:

In Joshua Chapter 6, there is the destruction of Jericho and the annihilation of every person therein. Killing every man, woman and child in Jericho, and in other tribal conflicts, was the common practice of tribal societies, so as to eliminate the unpleasant prospect of the enemy’s children growing up and then threatening the conquering tribe’s grown-up kids 20 years later. Mass murder is not likely to be the pure revelation of the God of Jesus Christ.

On another occasion, in Joshua 9, the inhabitants of Gibeon used guile to escape annihilation. It turns out that the Gibeonites were useful as hewers of wood and drawers of water for the Israelites. Thus, it was apparently not God’s Word that all people in the area be killed.


Numbers 15:32-36: The killing of a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath.
Verse 35: Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.”


If that policy is the immutable Word of God, then when was the last time you murdered someone for working on the Sabbath? (Does the NFL ring a bell?) Do you believe that Jesus – the Son of God who died for your sins – wants you to murder people?
Ephesians 6:5, 6.  “Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.” 

Do you believe that Christ approves of owning slaves?


Likewise, the subordination of women is given in 1 Corinthians 14:34, 35:
“The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says.  If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.”And this gem from

1 Timothy 2:11-15:
“A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet….”

The modern experience of women handling major responsibilities in authoritative positions in the private and public sectors would make a 1st century apostle rewrite some letters. And Jesus himself confronted the prejudice against women by example in the Gospel of John 4: 7 – 42. He spoke his message to a Samaritan woman. In those days, a Samaritan woman was looked down on by Jewish society, and a Jewish rabbi, like Jesus, was not supposed to talk to a woman alone anyway. Jesus delivered to the woman his famous “living water” message. Jesus also told her of worshiping the Father in “spirit and truth”, and not in Jerusalem. He also revealed to her that He was the Messiah, the Christ. These were the most serious spiritual messages that Jesus entrusted to a foreign woman, scorned by men of that time.

She conveyed her experience with Jesus to the men of her village.
“From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman.”  John 4:39.


The hatred, oppression, and even murder of homosexuals (Lev. 20:13) was in ancient times, and still is now, carried out by many societies with different religions. This hostility and cruelty was not a targeted command from Yahweh for Israelites and later for Christians, but was common in virtually all cultures. This almost universal social rejection is a clear example of general prejudice felt toward people who are different in a fundamental way from the majority. In primitive cultures, a strong visceral feeling was frequently interpreted as having its impetus from whatever gods the people believed existed. But such violent antipathy emanates from within man (Mat. 15:18-19.)

These are just a few examples of what could be reasonably considered the “words of men” in their own time and culture, and not as immutable commands from God.

Jesus himself contradicts at least 7 issues in Torah. Torah is often called the ‘law’; also defined as the ‘teaching’ or ‘instruction’ in the first 5 books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. Torah is also generally applied to the entire Jewish Bible, or the Protestant Old Testament. This is treated by some as the immutable Word of God. Here are the contradictions, or different teachings of Jesus:

1. Dietary laws in Lev. 11, Deut. 14, contradicted by Jesus in Mark 7:18-20, et. al.


2. Divorce law in Deut. 24:1-4, versus Jesus in Mat. 5:31-32 & Mat. 19:3-9.


3. Work on the Sabbath in Exodus 20:10, Deut. 5:14 (“but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work.”)  In Luke 6:1-11, Jesus works to gather grain on a Sabbath, and heals a man with a withered hand on another Sabbath.
4. Stoning the adulteress as per Lev. 20:10, overturned by God’s mercy in Jesus’ actions in John 8:3-11. “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

5. Eye for an eye retaliation law in Exo. 21:24-25, Lev. 17:20, Deut. 19:21, replaced by Jesus in Mat. 5:38-48. Also refer to Luke 6:27-37. 

6. Worship in Jerusalem alone as the one acceptable place: Deut. 12:5, 1 Kgs 8:29,30, 1 Kgs. 11:36, 2 Chron. 6:6. This is contradicted by Jesus’ revolutionary statement to the Samaritan woman in John 4:21-24. By endorsing worship of the Father “in spirit and truth” outside of Jerusalem with its Temple, Jesus is negating the Temple sacrifice regime in Torah.


7. Sheol the end point after death, in Gen. 37:35 and Num. 16:33. In the Torah and the wider Old Testament, physical death resulted in the person becoming a barely-existing “shade” in Sheol, far beneath the earth’s surface. In the O.T. after death, there is no eternal life in heaven, no fellowship with God, nor even the remembrance of God. (Ps. 6:5; 88:3-5; 115:17; Isaiah 38:18). It is the end of a person’s meaningful existence.


Jesus gives a completely different teaching, which is the hope of the Christian, and the ultimate refutation of death:

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Unlike the Torah concepts of impersonal death in Sheol, the relationship with Jesus is personal as well as eternal:
 “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3).Most Christians accept Jesus as the authority in word and deed – “the Word of God incarnate” in the 1967 Confession; “the Word made flesh” in John 1:14. Then we may conclude that the 7 refuted points of Biblical teachings (above) are not the immutable and perfect Word of God.


To those who carelessly misuse the phrase “the words of men” as if it were a license to create their own religion, we say: the Bible cannot be ONLY the subjective “words of men”, or it would have no authority as representing God’s Word and will. The Bible must be the Word of God AND the words of men. The latter will contain truth, but also errors, symbolism, appended teachings to make a point, and sometimes local cultural preferences mixed in with whatever revelation may have been received from God. But God is revealing something valid that wound up accurately in the Bible, or we are all wasting our time.

As Christians in PC(USA) we have acknowledged by actual practice that not everything in the Bible that says it is the “Word of the LORD” or the “Word of God”, is literally so. But we are not wandering lost in an unmarked landscape. Nor are we starting over from scratch. It comes down to this:  The relevant texts on Jesus Christ must be the Holy Spirit’s “unique and authoritative witness”. Our judgment and faith must be based always on the words and example of Jesus – the living Word of God – as received in the Gospels and defended by the testimony and blood of martyrs for 2,000 years. I accept their witness with the Holy Spirit’s.

The author, Stephen E. Schlarb, is a 72-year-old retired man and lay member of Woodhaven Presbyterian Church in Irving, Texas, since July, 2009.
Back then, when I joined PC(USA), the Book of Order had this statement:

G-3.0300 a. “The Church is called to tell the good news of salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ as the only Savior and Lord….”