Part One — Transcript

Copyright © 2003 LLT Productions

  (Introductory dramatization: Discovery of Aztec Sun Stone)
Hal Holbrook

History is a gift of knowledge handed down to us by generations past. This knowledge is far more than a collection of facts arranged in chronological order. It's a source of enlightenment, it helps us understand ourselves and our place our purpose in our world and in the universe around us.

The progress of research in history, archaeology, ancient languages, and anthropology has yielded information that has been hidden for many centuries. This provides us with important new insights into the meaning of our lives.

It's natural to start a story at the beginning. But in the case of our own story, that's more easily said than done. How can we discover the origins of our own experiences? Where, or when, was our beginning?

The ancient Babylonians left us one of the oldest myths about human origins. It's an epic creation poem that was written sometime during the second millennium BC. 1 It's called the "Enuma Elish," which, translated, means, "When on High:"

Announcer "When on high the heaven had not been named,
Firm ground below had not been called by name,
Naught but primordial Apsu, their begetter,
(And) Mummu-Tiamat, she who bore them all,
Their waters commingling as a single body;"  2
Hal Holbrook

According to the experts, the ancient Babylonians believed that Apsu represents sweet water and Tiamat salt water. At the beginning of creation the two had not yet been separated. Mingled together as they were, they possessed within them the seeds of life. They brought forth generations of gods who, in the course of time, created man.  3

The Navajo and Pueblo Indians of North America share a traditional view of several separate creations. The Aztecs of old Mexico had a similar belief. 4

The god Quetzalcoatl invented people, molding them from ash. A great flood came and all the people became fish.

The creator tried again, but there was a complete eclipse of the sun and, in the darkness, all the people were killed and eaten by jaguars.

A rain of volcanic fire and ash destroyed the third creation.

The fourth attempt was foiled when the world was ravaged by a violent hurricane and people turned into apes. 5

The earth as we know it is the result of the fifth creation, and is doomed to ultimate destruction by earthquake and famine. Not a very reassuring picture, is it? And yet this world view was very real to the Aztecs.

This is all depicted in the famous Sun Stone –perhaps the single most important artifact from the Aztec civilization. 6 Created in the fifteenth century, it weighs in at over 25 tons – very substantial evidence of their view of beginnings. It's all there, carved in stone – but does it accurately portray our beginnings?

Best-selling Swiss writer Erich von Däniken has sixteen books to his credit. Nothing else he has written has had the phenomenal impact of his 1968 book, Chariots of the Gods?, in which he proposed a novel view of human development here on earth:

Announcer

"Dim, as yet undefinable ages ago an unknown spaceship discovered our planet. The crew of the spaceship soon found out that the earth had all the prerequisites for intelligent life to develop. Obviously the 'man' of those times was no homo sapiens but something rather different. The spacemen artificially fertilized some female members of this species, put them into a deep sleep, so the ancients say, and departed. Thousands of years later the space travelers returned.… They repeated their breeding experiment several times until finally they produced a creature intelligent enough to have the rules of society imparted to it." 7

Hal Holbrook

The Bible and the Koran are the basis for the traditional Judeo-Christian and Islamic teachings about our beginnings. Both point to a Creator from outside the bounds of space and time. They picture an all-powerful Being who is above and beyond the natural laws that govern our physical universe. They teach that this Creator-God exercised His supernatural power and created everything according to His divine purpose. The Bible includes this summary reference to the Creation:

Announcer

"By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast." Psalm 33:6, 9.

Hal Holbrook

The Koran, holy book of Islam, shares the basic biblical view of Creation this way:

Announcer

"Lo! your Lord is Allah Who created the heavens and the earth in six days, then mounted He the throne. He covereth the night with the day, which is in haste to follow it, and hath made the sun and the moon and the stars subservient by His command. His verily is all creation and commandment. Blessed be Allah, the Lord of the Worlds!" 8 The Koran, chapter 7, verse 54, Pickthal translation.

Chapter Two: The Evolution Explanation

Hal Holbrook

By the early 1800s some scientists were proposing new theories regarding the origin of life on earth--theories that conflicted with traditional Creationism.

In December of 1831 the H.M.S. Beagle set sail from England on a five-year, round-the-world voyage. Aboard this survey ship, as an unpaid naturalist, was 22-year-old Charles Darwin. 9 Darwin’s observations and conclusions would revolutionize the conventional view of origins.

Earl Aagaard

Their idea was that God had created specifically for each environment, the animals and plants that fit into it. Well if that was true, then one oceanic island ought to resemble another oceanic island and what Darwin found was that the oceanic islands didn't look anything alike. The species that were on the oceanic islands were similar to the nearest continent, not to other oceanic islands.

Hal Holbrook

Darwin's most significant discoveries took place in the Galapagos Islands, more than 1,000 kilometers, about 600 miles, off the west coast of Ecuador, Darwin discovered animal species that were unique to that archipelago. He also noted distinct variations between similar animals on different islands.

Earl Aagaard

He came back one day, having picked up a tortoise shell from the island that he had been visiting, and the fellow who lived there and was staying at the main population center said "Oh, you've been to....” and named the island he'd been to. And he was floored and said "How do you know where I've been?” And he said, "Because that tortoise came from the island.” And Darwin said, "How do you know that?” And he said "Because each island has a specially shaped tortoise and I can recognize them.” And that just blew his socks off.

Hal Holbrook

Darwin's observations ultimately led to the development of his theory of natural selection and the publication, in 1859, of his book, On the Origin of Species. The first edition was sold out the first day, and five subsequent editions, with revisions, were to follow. Often referred to as "the book that shook the world,” it helped pioneer modern scientific thought about our origins.

Earl Aagaard

Today science is defined, at the beginning, as a materialistic process.  And that's a tribute to Darwinism, I mean that's what he brought to us was that we had escaped essentially from God. 

Hal Holbrook

Using Darwin's theories of evolution as a starting point, scientists and philosophers have developed their own answers to questions about beginnings. Today there are many variations on Darwin's theme.  Among evolutionary scientists, the Big Bang theory has been widely accepted as a beginning point for the story of our universe as we know it.

This theory suggests that all the matter that now exists in the universe is derived from a tightly compressed, incredibly hot mass of subatomic particles that exploded something like 10 or 15 billion years ago. That tremendous blast of creative energy set the universe in motion and eventually gave birth to galaxies and stars and planets . . . and ultimately to every form of life and matter within the universe.

George Murphy

The way scientists today talk about this, the Big Bang really is the whole universe and that it is really space itself which is expanding and creating new space in the course of time. If we think of ourselves in a way as kind of being able to look at the universe from some extra dimension, it perhaps would appear as a tremendous explosion starting out from a single point.

Hal Holbrook

The theory of evolution teaches that life on earth has evolved over vast periods of time, with simple, single-celled forms developing into complex organisms purely by blind chance, through a process of trial and error. It was this process that Charles Darwin called 'natural selection'.

Earl Aagaard

He said essentially that there were four steps. He said, first of all, variations exist. No two individuals in a population, are ever exactly alike. Secondly, that every population overproduces. More young come into existence in one year than can possibly live until the next year. So that leads to the struggle for existence, the competition and then survival of the ones that are the fittest. The fittest are simply those that have variations that give them an advantage. And the last thing was that the variations are inherited, so that the ones that live reproduce and their offspring are more likely to have these fit variations.

Hal Holbrook

Are we the unplanned and accidental result of evolution through natural selection? Or are we the handiwork of a Supreme Being, the Allah of the Koran and the God of the Bible? Do we owe our existence to the Aztec or Babylonian gods—or to some alien creatures from outer space? What is the truth about our origin?

Today the theory of evolution is presented to school children and promoted in the media as if it were proven fact. The truth of the matter is, however, the theory of evolution is just that – a theory. Its scientific foundations are actually kind of shaky. Molecular biologist and author Michael Denton gives us this insight into Charles Darwin and his theory:

Announcer

"The popular conception of a triumphant Darwin increasingly confident after 1859 in his views of evolution is a travesty. On the contrary, by the time the last edition of the Origin was published in 1872, he had become plagued with self-doubt and frustrated by his inability to meet the many objections which had been leveled at his theory.” Michael Denton in Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. 10

Hal Holbrook

Darwin's theory of natural selection could not be thoroughly tested in his day due to the limitations of the scientific equipment available at that time. Today's scientists are able to study the complicated systems within even the simplest single-cell organisms.

Earl Aagaard

Many people think of single cells as being less complex than multi cellular organisms. Darwin thought so and he thought that the first organism was a cell. Darwin can be excused for thinking so because the equipment to look inside the cell and see what was going on just didn't exist then. Now that we have it, we look inside the cell and we find enormous complexity. Amoebas move like we move. They don't have muscles; they have microfilaments. We digest our food; we do respiration, but so does the amoebae. They are much smaller than we are. They don't have but one cell but they do all of the things we do and they are just as complex.

Chapter Three: Beyond Chance

Hal Holbrook

The complexity of even the simplest life forms is one of the reasons why many scientists are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the evolutionary explanation, with its reliance upon pure, unguided chance. 

There's good reason for scientists to question the power of chance. Take a look at this simple demonstration, and you'll see what I mean. Now here are three blocks numbered 1, 2, 3.

There are six possible combinations of these three numbers.

I'll put the blocks into this box, and shake it up. Now, if I were to take out the blocks one at a time, what are my chances of taking them out in numerical order?  Well, I can expect to draw out the numbers 1, 2, and 3, in that order, on an average of once in every six attempts.

Here are two more blocks, numbered 4 and 5. I'll add them to the three others in the box. Now there are 120 possible combinations. The law of averages tells me that I can expect to pull out blocks numbered 1,2,3,4,5 in that order on the average of once in every 120 tries.

Now look, here are blocks numbered 6 through 10. I'll put them in the box with the others. My chance of picking out all ten blocks in numerical order is less than one in three-and-one- half million.

Let me put that in perspective. If I put myself on a schedule and worked at this game night and day, pulling out all ten blocks one at a time every 15 seconds, I could expect to win this game on the average of about once every 18 months.

What if I doubled my quantity of sequentially numbered blocks to twenty?  How long should I expect to work at this game to get all twenty out of the box in order? Now let's suppose that I could play at blinding speed and get all twenty blocks out in just one second, then do it again the next second, and every second thereafter.

Now the law of averages says I can expect to get the 20 blocks out of the box in order at the rate of once every 77 billion years.

This little numbers game is nothing compared to the intricate complexity of even the simplest bits of matter. Physiologist and author Pierre Lecomte du Noüy in his book Human Destiny estimated the chance of forming a two-thousand- atom protein molecule as something like one in 10 to the three hundred and twenty-first power. 11

There is really no good way to express that number. It's incomprehensible. Find yourself a large sheet of paper and write 10 followed by 320 zeros.  Listen to what Lecomte du Noüy says:

Announcer

"Events which…need an infinitely longer time than the estimated duration of the earth in order to have one chance, on the average, to manifest themselves can, it would seem, be considered as impossible in the human sense." 12
Pierre Lecomte du Nouy in Human Destiny.

Hal Holbrook

This chunk of coal is about 70% carbon by volume. Carbon is essential to all life, and is the fourth most common element in the universe. Yet this very ordinary element, absolutely basic to all organic life, is extremely complex. In order for it to be produced naturally, three helium nuclei must combine to form a single carbon nucleus.

George Murphy

"But, we have found that the conditions needed for that to happen are really very precise. In other words, if the balance of forces in the atomic nucleus were very slightly different, that reaction would not be able to take place in order to form enough carbon to be of any significance."

The man who discovered this, the way in which this reaction takes place to form carbon and who found the conditions that were necessary for it to take place, was Fred Hoyle, who was one of the great astrophysicists and cosmologists of the century. Hoyle was very skeptical about religion at the time, at least. He was an atheist.

Announcer

"Some supercalculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly minuscule.... A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.” 13

Chapter Four: Intelligent Designer

Hal Holbrook

It seems that evolution through a long series of random, unguided mutations, is a practical impossibility. This fact casts a cloud of doubt over the entire evolutionary scenario. Scientists are now looking for shortcuts, miraculous jumps out of the realm of chance. Many are frankly awed by their discoveries, finding more and more clear evidence of intelligent design in nature.

Intelligent design, of course, requires a Designer. And the clearest portrayal of a designer and his work is found here in the Bible. The Creation account itself records a systematic progression of creative acts culminating in the creation of man. The Hebrew prophet Jeremiah emphasizes this intelligent design when he writes about the Creator:

Announcer

"He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion.” Jeremiah 10:12.

Hal Holbrook

Biblical Creation theology does not attempt to provide a scientific description of God's creative acts. Instead, it suggests the meaning, the purpose, the goal, of Creation.

Announcer

"Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”  Hebrews 11:3.

George Murphy

I think the most important thing about this verse, as far as our understanding of creation is concerned, is that seeing the universe as creation is a matter of faith rather than of scientific knowledge. That is that we can understand the universe in detail by scientific investigation but we see it as the creation of God because of our personal trust and confidence in God.

Hal Holbrook

Perhaps some of us have been too quick to discard this old Book as an irrelevant collection of useless fables, legends, and tradition. Its value lies far beyond the realm of science. It deals with concepts that cannot be analyzed in a laboratory. It addresses many questions that science cannot answer.

George Murphy

That is, science can talk about how the universe behaves and how things take place within the universe. It can not explain why something exists rather than nothing. That is it can not really explain the fundamental question of existence. 

Hal Holbrook

Could it be that the neglected pages of Scripture actually offer accurate insights into our origins? If so, we are not here by accident. We must see ourselves as a part of a Creator's design. There must be a plan, some real purpose, for our existence.

Announcer

"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”
Genesis 1:26.

Hal Holbrook

The creation story depicts God as having great ambitions, high hopes, for the human race. People were created in the image of their Maker. In their original innocence they had direct communication with God – an intimate, personal, face-to-face relationship with their Creator. After the creation of human beings, the Bible reports that God marked the end of creation with a day of rest – thus establishing the weekly cycle for human life.

Chapter 5: The Architecture of Time

Announcer

"Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.  And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.”
Genesis 2:1-3.

Elliot Dorff

God creates the entire world in six days and then He rests on the Sabbath.  The Sabbath is, though, a creation in and of itself, because, what it does is put the rest of the six days in perspective.

Tamara Eskenazi

What did God create on the seventh day? As a matter of fact, God created nothing on the seventh day. God created no thing.  But instead, God created a context in which everything that has been created in the natural world, the material world, and life itself, can really be appreciated and enjoyed and celebrated.

Roy Gane

By creating the Sabbath, God gave human beings an opportunity to emulate Him, to enter into His rest and thereby to signify their special relationship with Him as their Lord and Creator.

Hal Holbrook

Notice what Pope John Paul II said in his 1998 apostolic letter entitled Dies Domini:

Announcer

"The "Sabbath" has … been interpreted evocatively as a determining element in the kind of "sacred architecture" of time. . .  It recalls that the universe and history belong to God…” 14

Hal Holbrook

John Paul's reference to the sacred architecture of time supports the biblical assertion that the seven-day weekly cycle was designed for us by our Creator.  Thus the week differs from all other units of time.

Let's think about the structure of time. Each of us deals with time independently. We each have a past. We each live in an immediate, progressing present that we sense as moving quickly or slowly depending on our age and other subjective factors. As for the future, it's a mystery…

Your sense of time and mine are different. In order for us to coordinate our activities we must have external reference points.

Most of what we need for timekeeping we get from Creation. The story defines a day as a period of darkness and light, evening and morning. It is caused by the rotation of the earth upon its axis. More precise units of time – hours, minutes, and seconds, are simply fractions of the day. That's easy.

The year is the period required for the earth to orbit the sun. The month, as we know it today, is loosely based on a full cycle of lunar phases, but it has been adjusted to make 12 months equal one year.

The week is a different story altogether. At first glance it is an arbitrary period of time related to no natural phenomenon. The earliest record of the week is found in the literature and archaeology of the ancient Semitic peoples who inhabited south-western Asia prior to 2000 BC. 15 Where did they get the week? Was it imbedded in their past as a result of the Creator's design?

But is the week really an arbitrary, artificial unit of time? Astronomer and anthropologist Anthony F. Aveni suggests an alternative. In his book, The Empires of Time, he reports that some chronobiologists are convinced that the seven-day cycle is designed into our very nature.

Announcer

"The seven-day biorhythm in the human body is one of the recent discoveries of modern chronobiology. It manifests itself in the form of small variations in blood pressure and heartbeat as well as response to infection and even organ transplant: for example, the probability of rejection of certain organs is now known to peak at weekly intervals following an implant." 16

Chapter Six: Point of Contact

Hal Holbrook The widespread acceptance of the seven-day week over thousands of years of history is additional evidence supporting the divine origin of the weekly cycle.  But if the week of Genesis has survived the thousands of years since the original creation week, why has recognition of the Creator not been preserved just as successfully?
Joan Francis

Well, the book of Genesis provides the answer as to the downfall of the human family. In fact, if you read Genesis 6: 5 you'll see that the Bible says that the thoughts of humanity were evil continually. So God decided to clean the world up…send the Flood.

Announcer " And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth. And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters. And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered."
Genesis 7:17-19
Joan Francis

In spite of this dramatic demonstration of God's power and his displeasure with people not following His way, mankind soon forgot again. And they started to build idols to themselves instead of worshipping God.

And the whole idea of the weekly cycle, which showed six days of work and a Sabbath was forgotten. And what mankind did was incorporate the weekly cycle into astrological tables instead of remembering the God of Creation.

Hal Holbrook

About 2000 years before Christ there lived in the Chaldean city of Ur a man who is claimed by all three of the world's great monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—as one of their primary founders. In the biblical account, Abram—later renamed Abraham—is a key player in God's plan to win back the hearts of the human family and revive a knowledge of the Creator.

Abraham's religion stood out in sharp contrast to the petty idolatry and trivial superstition of his neighbors. He worshipped the Creator, the transcendent, invisible God whose wisdom and power was demonstrated by the very existence of the world itself. He had a religion of faith, not sight. He had a direct relationship with His Maker.

According to the Old Testament report, the Creator-God revealed the principles of His relationship with the human race in Ten Commandments engraved on stone tablets. These commandments were entrusted to Abraham's descendants, the Israelites, as a blessing to share with all nations of the world.

Announcer

"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work: But the seventh is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it."
Exodus 20:8-11.

Hal Holbrook

This is by far the longest of the ten commandments. It is unique in that it includes the divine credentials, declaring the identity of the lawgiver and establishing His authority, as Creator, to command the worship of His creatures.

Tamara Eskenazi

The commandment to observe the Sabbath shows the intimate relationship between God and creation. It shows that God not only creates, not only works to bring everything that is into being, the physical world, the natural world and all that lives in it. But, it also shows that God maintains intimate relationship with creation and steps back to withhold and take in, as it were, everything that has been created, and celebrates and cherishes that which has been created.

Roy Gane

The Sabbath reveals God's compassion for His creatures. In Exodus 23, verse 12, there's a law regarding the Sabbath and it says, "Six days you shall do your work but on the seventh day you shall rest that your ox and your ass may have rest and the son of your bondmaid and the alien may be refreshed.” So, the Sabbath is a gift for God's creatures. Not only for human beings here but it's also the ox and the ass so that they can have rest from their labor that they do during the rest of the week.

Hal Holbrook

In the fifth book of the Bible, Deuteronomy, we find the ten commandments repeated. This time the meaning of the Sabbath is enriched by linkage to the deliverance of the nation of Israel from slavery in Egypt.

Announcer

"Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee…. And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.”
Deuteronomy 5:12, 15

Roy Gane

We participate in God's redemption, just as the nation of Israel participated in God's redemption, because God has liberated us from something. Now, He liberated the ancient Israelites from Egypt, from Pharaoh the suppressor.  What God does is to liberate us as individuals from the oppressive power of Satan and from the sin that destroys us.

Tamara Eskenazi

Individuals today are in great need of finding a sanctuary in time, which is what the Sabbath is. We are overburdened and driven by the material world and by our own creativity of material things. And the Sabbath becomes the liberation from things. It becomes the liberation from slavery to objects, to technology, to economics, to all the things that make us work frantically toward producing more and more.

Chapter Seven: A Day for All Mankind

Hal Holbrook

Since the seventh-day Sabbath has such rich meaning, and since it is part of the Ten Commandments, why is it not more widely observed today? Good question, especially in view of the widespread recognition that this commandment, along with the rest of the Ten, applies not only to the people of Israel but to the whole human family.

Announcer

"As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in his Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him.”
The Westminster Confession of Faith
. 17

"The Sabbath was binding in Eden, and it has been in force ever since. This fourth commandment begins with the word ‘remember,' showing that the Sabbath already existed when God wrote this law on the tables of stone at Sinai. How can men claim that this one commandment has been done away with when they will admit that the other nine are still binding?”
Weighed and Wanting, D. L. Moody,  The Bible Institute Colportage Association, 1898.

"The Sabbath was made for MAN; not for the Hebrews, but for all men."
Methodist author E. O. Haven in Pillars of Truth. 18

Hal Holbrook

The Sabbath commandment reveals to us a picture of a Creator who craves a place in the hearts and lives of all His human children. David, the great Israelite king, understood this and instructed his people to spread their knowledge of the Creator-God to rest of the world.  

Announcer

"Declare his glory among the heathen; his marvelous works among all nations…For all the gods of the people are idols: but the LORD made the heavens. Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name…and let men say among the nations, The LORD reigneth.” 
I Chronicles 16:24, 26, 29, 31

Hal Holbrook

The Bible makes it clear that the Creator's desire was to attract the whole human family to true religion, true worship, so that all could share in the good things He intended to do for Israel.

Announcer

"Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.”
Isaiah 56:6, 7

Hal Holbrook

It's not hard to imagine the power of the Sabbath to restore and cement the relationship between the Creator-God and His human children. Their devotion to the Sabbath day, their worship and praise in appreciation for His creative power, would bind them to their God with ties of love and gratitude. If they continued their heartfelt observance of the Sabbath, they could never forget Him.

Announcer

"Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD that sanctify them.”
Ezekiel 20:12.

Chapter Eight: Unholy Sabbath

Hal Holbrook

To those who honored the Sabbath of God the day took on deep personal meaning. The day of rest and worship was an opportunity to know their Creator, who had promised to make them His own holy people. But history records that many of the Israelites didn't take advantage of this opportunity.

Roy Gane

There is evidence in the prophets, for example Isaiah, that the Sabbath was poorly observed and neglected. Nehemiah also refers to that; the people had a problem with this. The reason would be really quite simple; the people lost sight of the Lordship of God.

Announcer

"But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness: they walked not in my statutes, and they despised my judgments…. And my sabbaths they greatly polluted.”
Ezekiel 20:13, 16

Hal Holbrook

The Sabbath, symbol of Israel's unique relationship with God – the very heart of a Creator-oriented worship system – was commonly desecrated.  Finally the prophet Jeremiah announced the result of Israel's apostasy:

Historian

Just imagine the prophet Jeremiah walking up and down the streets of Old Jerusalem. It wasn't a happy message that he bore. He warned the people that their city was to be destroyed, their temple destroyed and that they would be carried away to Babylon, to serve the King of Babylon for seventy years. Nobody listened.

Hal Holbrook

From about the year 605 BC the armies of Nebuchadnezzar, king of the neo-Babylonian empire, repeatedly invaded the Israelite homeland. His army eventually destroyed the capital city of Jerusalem and carried most of the inhabitants into exile. Some of the captives were taken to Babylon, while others were dispersed throughout the empire.

Historian

And now, far from their homeland, far from all that they had held dear, many of the Jews began to realize that they had made a terrible mistake. Many of them began to realize that they must return to the God of their fathers and the worship of their ancestors. Now, many of these Jews, men of great ability, rose to high positions in their foreign lands.

Daniel, for example, became the prime minister of the kingdom of Babylon. And when the Media-Persian Empire took over, he rose to the position of first President of the land. It was Daniel who led Darius the Mede to recognize the God of Heaven.

Announcer

"I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and steadfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end.”
Daniel 6:26.

Chapter Nine: Sabbath around the World

Hal Holbrook

There is evidence to suggest that the religion of the exiled nation became so well-known that it influenced the philosophical and religious movements of the following century. Buddha, Zoroaster, Confucius, and Pythagoras all seem to have adopted elements of the Hebrew religion. For example, although there are no holy days in Buddhism today, evidently sabbath, or Uposatha, was a part of that religion early on.

Announcer

"The Blessed One established the rule for observance of a Sabbath; and he suggested that at the seventh-day meeting any monk whose conscience troubled him should confess his offense before the assembly of brothers." –Sheldon Cheney in Men Who Have Walked With God. 19

Hal Holbrook

Arthur Lloyd, in his book The Creed of Half Japan, states that the "order of monks kept their sabbath days for many centuries..." 20

Even Confucius may well have been reporting about the seventh-day Sabbath in this passage from one of his classical works: "The ancient kings on this culminating day closed their gates, the merchants did not travel and the princes did not inspect their domains." 21

Some knowledge of the weekly Sabbath eventually found its way into numerous cultures.

In the Hebrew language, the name of each day shows its relationship to the Sabbath. The first day is called e-khad- be-shab-bath, "One accompanying, or along with, the Sabbath;" each succeeding day proceeds toward the Sabbath until the sixth day, which is called "eve of the Holy Sabbath." Day seven, then, is "Sabbath."

In more than 100 ancient and modern languages the seventh day of the weekly cycle was named "Sabbath” or its equivalent.

So it seems that in their exile at least some of the Jews succeeded where their nation had failed during times of peace and prosperity. They spread the knowledge of God and His law among other nations. But what would happen when these captives return to their homeland? Would they maintain the worship of the true God? Or would they revert to the practices of previous generations? We find an answer in the story of Nehemiah.

Chapter Ten: Reform

Historian

He describes himself as cupbearer of the king. To us, that sounds like a menial profession but in those days when empires and kings changed on the basis of who poisoned whom, it shows that he was one of the most trusted men in the whole Kingdom. Nehemiah did not return to Jerusalem when the others went. He stayed behind in the performance of his official duties.

But when one came telling the state of affairs, this news so saddened Nehemiah that he says he actually sat down and wept. In fact, he finally decided that he must, if possible, go to Jerusalem himself to see what he could do to help.

Hal Holbrook

Nehemiah was a capable and energetic leader. He successfully directed the reconstruction in the city of Jerusalem, but he didn't stop there. He was a zealous reformer with a burden for restoring the spiritual life of his people. Because he saw Sabbath breaking as a reason for the years of captivity, he was particularly devoted to preserving the sanctity of the holy day.

Historian

He discovered that the people were buying and selling on the Sabbath day. "Well,” he said, "we can't do this sort of thing. This is the reason why we were sent into captivity.” And when the merchants still continued to come, he ordered the gates barred on the Sabbath day. When they still continued to come and camp outside the gates of the city, he threatened to have them arrested.

Hal Holbrook

A priest named Ezra assisted Nehemiah in his work. He exerted a strong influence on the spiritual life of the Jews of his day. Ezra taught the people God's laws and led a spiritual revival and reformation based on the inspired scriptures. The people joined together in a solemn oath to obey the commandments that God had given through Moses. They promised not to desecrate the Sabbath by entering into commerce on that day. 22 They observed the holy day so carefully and consistently that Sabbath keeping became a distinctive characteristic of their nation.

During the period between the end of the Bible's Old Testament record and the beginning of the story of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, there was almost continual upheaval in the Middle East. The armies of Alexander the Great overran the Persian Empire. Within a short time Alexander himself died, and his empire broke up into rival factions.

Palestine, along with Syria, eventually came under the rule of the Seleucid dynasty. King Antiochus IV is notable especially because of his opposition to the religion of the Jews. His troops took over the temple in Jerusalem and set up a system of pagan worship in its courts. Josephus, the famous chronicler of Jewish history, tells us that Antiochus tried to stamp out all visible evidence of the Jew's spiritual identity. 23

Historian

A son of the Antiochan line was Antiochus Epiphanes. Epiphanes means "shining one.” But in the far flung corners of his empire where men felt it was safe, they called him Antiochus Epimanes, meaning "the mad man.”

Antiochus decided that not only would he plunder the captured nations but he would bring them around to the Greek culture and the Greek religion. So he sent emissaries to Jerusalem declaring, "They must tear down the altar of Jehovah; they must give up the worship of the Sabbath.”

Well, many of the Jews felt that this was expedient or desirable to do, but there were about a thousand who decided they would not give up the worship of their ancestral God. So they gathered themselves together, fled to the wilderness and there they found a cave that could accommodate their numbers, about a thousand.

Unfortunately, the soldiers of the king discovered their hideaway. They sent in emissaries to say, "You must obey the king, after all, he is the king of the land. You must give over your ancestral forms of worship and you'll be named one of the king's friends and everyone knows the king can do great things for those whom he considers his friends.”

But the Jews would not listen. They would not give up the religion of their fathers. So, the soldiers piled brush, scrub, wood in the entrance of the cave. It was on the Sabbath day that they did this because they realized the Jews would not fight on the Sabbath day.

And so, they set the mass aflame, and all perished – men, women and children – rather than give up the worship of Jehovah or desecrate His Sabbath day. 24

Hal Holbrook

The martyrdom of those Jewish patriots in the days of Antiochus IV is a great testimony to power of their beliefs. Their God and His Sabbath meant more to them than life itself. Their sacrifice was a victory of faith.

The Old Testament, supported by the evidence of history, language, and culture, establishes the Sabbath as a sacred memorial to the creative and redemptive work of God. It declares the Sabbath to be a sign of the intimate relationship between the Creator and those who worship Him – a day of rest and worship that can bind the hearts of human beings to the heart of their Creator.

When early Christians inherited the Sabbath, the teachings of Jesus Christ and His disciples served to emphasize and enrich its meaning, magnifying its importance. Today, for many Jews and Christians alike, it is still a central point of spiritual life and worship.  To this day it remains a defining element in the sacred architecture of time.



Footnotes

"Lahmu and Lahamu." Encyclopædia Britannica from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium service. <http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?tocid=9046847>[Accessed April 13, 2005]. View source

<http://csun.edu/~hcfll004/enuma.html>[Accessed April 13, 2005]. View source

<http://ancienttexts.org/library/mesopotamian/enuma.html>[Accessed April 13, 2005]. View source

John Pohl, "Aztecs: A New Perspective,”History Today, 1 Jan. 2002. Accessed at HighBeam Research <www.highbeam.com>[Accessed April 13, 2005] View source; Richard Cavendish (editor), Mythology: An Illustrated Encyclopedia (New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1980), p. 242 View source; "Navajo." Encyclopædia Britannica from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service. <http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9055069> [Accessed November 22, 2005]. View source

Cavendish, Mythology,p. 242 View source; Dale Palfrey, "Mysteries of the Fifth Sun," El Ojo del Lago, Jan. 1993, revised by author. View source

"Aztec calendar." Encyclopædia Britannica from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service. <http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?tocId=9011558> [Accessed April 14, 2005] View source; <http://brownpride.com/histoWhisto.asp?a=aztecs/sunstonehistory> [Accessed April 14, 2005]. View source

Erich Von Daniken, Chariots of the Gods? (New York:Bantam Books, Inc., 1971), pp. 51, 52. View source

Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall (translator), The Meaning of The Glorious Koran (New York: A Mentor Book, published by Penguin Books, USA), p. 126. View source

“Darwin, Charles Robert,” Microsoft® Encarta® 97 Encyclopedia, ©1993-1996, Microsoft Corporation. View source

10 Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (Bethesda, Maryland: Adler & Adler, 1986), p. 69. View source

11 Lecomte du Noüy, Human Destiny (New York, 1947), p. 35; quoted in Owen Gingerich, “Dare a Scientist Believe in Design?”, John Marks Templeton (editor), Evidence of Purpose, (New York: Continuum, 1994), p. 26. View source

13 Fred Holye, “The Universe: Past and Present Reflections,” pp. 8-12 in Engineering and Science (November 1981), esp. p. 12; quoted in Owen Gingerich, “Dare a Scientist Believe in Design?”, John Marks Templeton (editor), Evidence of Purpose, (New York: Continuum, 1994), pp. 24, 25. View source

14 Apostolic Letter, Dies Domini, of Pope John Paul II. <http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_letters/documents/hf_p-ii_apl_05071998_dies-domini_en.html>[Accessed April 14, 2005]. View source

15 E. J. Bickerman, Chronology of theAncient World (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1968), p. 58. View source

16 Anthony F. Aveni, Empires of Time: Calendars,Clocks, and Cultures (New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1989), p. 100. View source

17 Westminster Confession of Faith, Chap. XXI, par. VII. <http://www.reformed.org/documents/westminster_conf_of_faith.html#chap21> [Accessed November 23, 2005]. View source

18 E. O. Haven , Pillars of Truth (New York : Carlton & Porter, 1866), p. 88. View source

19 Sheldon Cheney,Men Who Have Walked With God (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1956), p. 69. View source

20 Arthur Lloyd, The Creed of Half Japan (New York: E. P. Dutton & Company, 1912), p. 16. View source

21 Thomas M'Clatchie, A Translation of the Confucian Classic of Change (Shanghai: 1826), p. 118; quoted in Benjamin George Wilkinson, Truth Triumphant (Mountain View: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1944), p. 341.  View source

22 Nehemiah 10:29-31.   View source

23 Flavius Josephus, The Works of Josephus, translated by William I. Whiston (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1991), p. 324.  View source

24 Ibid., p. 325.  View source