by Epiphany Bible Students

SIMON SAYS:  Tomb’s inscription backs up tradition: JERUSALEM - A barely legible clue - the name ‘Simon’ carved in Greek letters - beckoned from high up on the weather-beaten facade of an ancient burial monument.

“Their curiosity piqued, two Jerusalem scholars uncovered six previously invisible lines of inscription: a Gospel verse - Luke 2:25.

“Archaeological finds confirming biblical narrative or referring to figures from the Bible are rare, and this is believed to be the first discovery of a New Testament verse carved onto an ancient Holy Land shrine, said Emile Puech, and inscriptions expert who deciphered the writing.

“A few Old Testament phrases have been found on monuments, and a passage from Paul’s Letter to the Romans (3:13) is laid into a floor mosaic in the ancient Roman city of Caesarea.

“Jim Strange, a New Testament scholar from the University of South Florida, said that the ancients apparently believed that chiseling Scripture into monuments debase sacred words.  The widespread use of Bible verses on shrines began only about 1000 in Europe, said Strange, who was not connected with the discovery.

“The inscription declares that the 60-foot-high monument is the tomb of Simon, a devout Jew who the Bible says cradled the infant Jesus and recognized him as the Messiah.

“It’s unlikely that Simon is buried there; the monument is one of several built for Jerusalem’s aristocracy at the time of Jesus.

“The inscription does back up what until now were scant references to a Byzantine-era belief that three biblical figures - Simon, Zacharias and James, the brother of Jesus - shared the same tomb.

“This year an inscription referring to Zacharias, who was John the Baptist’s father, was found on the same facade.  Puech and Joe Zias, a physical anthropologist, continued to study the monument.  Applying a ‘squeeze’ - a simple 19th century technique of spreading a kind of papier mache over a surface - they uncovered the Simon inscription.  Now, they hope to complete the three by finding writing referring to James.

“The Simon and Zacharias inscriptions were carved about the fourth century, a time when Byzantine Christians were searching the Holy Land for sacred sites linked to the Bible, said Puech.

“The monument is in the Kidron Valley, between Jerusalem’s walled Old City and the Mount of Olives.

“The Bible says that James was thrown off the Jewish Temple, bludgeoned to death in the Kidron Valley below and buried nearby.  The historian Josephus refers to a Temple priest named Zacharias being slain by zealots in the Temple and thrown into the valley.  There is no word on Simon’s death.

“The Zacharias and Simon inscriptions were chiseled into what is known today as Absalom’s Tomb, one of three big funerary monuments built in the Kidron Valley for the city’s rich.”                                                                     (The Associated Press, November 21, 2003)

“ANTI-SEMITIC TEXT BOOKS IN NEW YORK SCHOOLS:  Textbooks used in New York City’s Islamic schools contain ‘passages that are blatantly anti-Semitic’ and repeat ‘old canards’ about Jews, the New York Daily News reports after a three-month-long investigation.

“The report notes that a textbook written for children in grades 3 through 6, entitled What Islam is All About, says that Jews and Christians ‘lead such decadent and immoral lives that lying, alcohol, nudity, pornography, racism, foul language, premarital sex, homosexuality, and everything else are accepted in their society, churches, and synagogues.’

“According to the paper, the book has sold over 40,000 copies and is said to be in use in more than half the city’s Muslim schools.

“Another textbook, Mercy to Mankind, which is used by 5th and 6th graders, states that the Jews ‘killed their own prophets’ and sought to deceive Muslims by altering the text of the Bible, the newspaper says.

“New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg strongly condemned the use of the textbooks, saying, ‘Personally, I find it disgraceful; any textbook that tries to take away other people’s rights or condemn other people because of their beliefs, I think is inappropriate and undemocratic.’

“New York City has 15 private Islamic schools registered with the state, with approximately 3,000 to 4,000 students enrolled.”

(By Michael Freund, The Jerusalem Post, April 3, 2003)

“FIRST ISRAELI U.N. RESOLUTION OFFERED:  For the first time in its history, Israel has introduced a resolution before the United Nations General Assembly.  A main component of the decision to do so is to test whether the body will accept anything originating in Israel.  The resolution calls for the protection of Israeli children victimized by Palestinian terror.  A similar resolution on behalf of Palestinian children had been offered by Egypt, but has not come up for a vote.  According to the Associated Press, which quoted Aryeh Mekel, Israel’s deputy U.N. Ambassador, the test of the U.N.’s willingness to deal fairly with the regional conflict will be whether it passes both resolutions, merges the two, or drops the Israeli version altogether.”

(The Media Line, November 4, 2003)

“AL-QA’IDA WEBSITE TELLS MUSLIMS TO LEAVE D.C., L.A., N.Y.:  The Middle East Research Institute has discovered and translated a warning posted on an Al-Qa’ida website exhorting Muslims to ‘immediately leave Washington, D.C., New York, and Los Angeles.’

“The message continues, ‘We are a serious warning.  The next few days will prove to you the truth of this warning.  To the oppressive rulers of America we say, ‘Expect our terms following the first strike of Allah’s believing solders.’  The latter phrase is a quote from the Qu’ran.”                                                                           (The Media Line, November 5, 2003)

“LAST IRAQI JEWS:  Six elderly Jews from Iraq, among the last remaining Jews in the country, have been brought to Israel on a direct flight from Baghdad in a joint project by Israel’s Jewish Agency and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

“Among the six was a 99-year-old woman and her 70-year-old daughter, a blind 90-year-old former Baghdad resident, and another 70-year-old woman who was the last Jewish resident of the southern Iraqi city of Basra.”                                                    (World Jewry, August 2003)

BOOK REVIEWYasir Arafat: A Political Biography, Barry and Judith Rubin, Oxford Press, 2003, 354 pages.

“For more than four decades, since he founded Fatah in 1959 and then the Palestinian Liberation Organization in 1964, Yasir Arafat has enjoyed the flattering glare of the international spotlight.  Mr. Arafat is one of the inventors of modern terrorism and continues to instigate it to this day.  Despite this, a multitude of admirers and apologists in the West have been taken in by the pose of moderation, at least until recently.  As a result, he has visited nearly every royal palace and presidential residence in Europe and was a guest of honor at the White House several times.  He has even won the Nobel Peace Prize.

“How did this happen?  As [the Rubins] show in their admirable, impressively documented book he is one of the great con men of modern politics.  Even those who know what a slippery character Mr. Arafat is may be surprised to learn from the Rubins account just how deceitful he can be.

“He claims to have been born in Jerusalem, for instance, but was in fact born in Cairo.  He has told of single-handedly stopping an Israeli tank column in the 1948 war, though the evidence places him in Egypt at the time.  Some of his falsehoods have been utterly fantastic such as that there was never a Jewish temple in Jerusalem.  As for political tactics, the Rubins remind us that Mr. Arafat is often astute, positioning himself between competing Islamic, Marxist, and nationalist Palestinian groupings.  Even today, though the Western media talks of a ‘new Palestinian prime minister,’ Chairman Arafat retains control of almost all the key elements of power in Palestinian politics.

“The Rubins, along with documenting his corruption and misrule, make clear how much Palestinians and Israelis alike have suffered from his refusal to entertain a two-state solution.”

(By Tom Gross, Wall Street Journal, August 21, 2003)

“ARAFAT: ROAD MAP IS DEAD:  Yasser Arafat has declared that the Road Map for peace is dead.  He told CNN on September 2 that ‘The Road Map is dead but only because of Israeli military aggression in recent weeks.’  The Palestinian leader complained that because of the attention being paid to Iraq and because of the impending presidential election, the United States has not paid enough attention to the Road Map process.  His remarks came on the same day that Israel Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said it was a mistake not to have expelled Arafat two years ago.  Mofaz told Army Radio that Arafat ‘needs to disappear from the stage of history.’  Mofaz has come under sharp criticism by the opposition Labor Party for his remarks, and Israel Radio reported on September 3rd that the American Administration has asked for a ‘clarification’ of those remarks.”                                       (The Media Line, September 3, 2003)

“PRAYER FOCUS:  The Road Map cannot succeed.  It will not fail because of the actions of Arafat or Abbas.  It will not fail because of the actions of the Israelis.  It will ultimately fail because it is in opposition to God’s Word.  Pray that God’s plan for the land and peoples of Israel will be fulfilled in its entirety.  God called for the land to be given as an everlasting inheritance to the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  But, He also called for justice and mercy for the foreigner living in the midst of His people, Israel.  Only when the peoples of Israel line up with God’s plan will they know His blessing.”

(Bridges For Peace comment, September 3, 2003)

“LEGAL KILLINGS:  Harvard law professor Alan M. Dershowitz says there is ‘absolutely no doubt’ that Israel’s policy of targeted killings of senior Hamas terrorists is legal under international law.  In an opinion piece in last week’s Toronto Globe and Mail, Dershowitz wrote, ‘Hamas has declared war against Israel.  All of its leaders are combatants, whether they wear military uniforms, suits, or religious garb.’

“‘Under any reasonable standard,’ he concluded, ‘Israeli policy with regard to the targeted assassinations of ‘ticking bomb terrorists’ does not deserve the kind of condemnation it is receiving.

“‘Any democracy facing threats to its civilian population comparable to those faced by Israel would respond in much the same way Israel is now responding to the terrorism being conducted by Hamas and other terrorist groups,’ he said.”

(The Jerusalem Post, October 3, 2003)

“ARAFAT SEIZED U.S. $750 MILLION OF PA BUDGET:  The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Yasser Arafat has seized U.S. $750 million from the PA budget, much of which is financed by Western donors.  The IMF concluded that Arafat took the U.S. $750 million from the PA budget and placed the funds in a bank account under his sole control.  Arafat was found to have embezzled the funds from 1995 until 2000.

“The assertion came in wake of the first IMF investigation of PA finances and the role of Arafat.  The IMF said Arafat, chairman of the PA, invested most of the missing PA funds in 69 companies that he directly controls.

“IMF officials acknowledged the investigation and its findings regarding Arafat at the summit by the financial institute held in the United Arab Emirates city of Dubai.  The IMF and World Bank summit stressed the need for transparency in government.”

(Bridges For Peace, October 7, 2003)

“THE NOT-SO-NOBLE-NOBEL:  Kaare Kristiansen, a former member of the Nobel Prize Committee, has appealed to his former colleagues to ‘publicly deplore’ their decision in 1994 to grant the Nobel Peace Prize to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.

“Kirstiansen, a former Norwegian minister who served as president of his country’s parliament, sent a letter this past weekend to the Norwegian Nobel Committee denouncing the PA leader for undermining any prospects of Middle East peace.  And calling on committee members to distance themselves publicly from the 1994 award.

“‘Arafat is not a peace-loving pacifist but a warmonger and a butcher, an ill-fortune both for his own people and for his neighbors,’ Kristiansen wrote.

Hence, he said ‘out of consideration for political decency and for its own reputation,’ the committee should ‘find a way to distance itself from its award of 1994.’”

(The International Jerusalem Post, September 26, 2003)

“LET JEWS LIVE ON HOMELANDS:  The term Judenrein means an area cleansed of Jews.  In the past, this German [Nazi] concept was applied throughout Europe.  Now we hear American and other liberals saying that Jewish communities on the biblical land of Judea and Samaria, the cradle of the Jewish nation, must be emptied of all their inhabitants, so that even in a Jewish homeland there can be Judenrein areas.  The expulsion of the Jews from Europe, which reached its height during World War II, was a manifestly barbaric and inhumane act.  But there, at least, the Jews were unwelcome guests, having lived in that area for merely a thousand years or so.  However, to drive out the Jewish community of Hebron, where the matriarchs and patriarchs of the Jewish people are buried and King David first ruled 3,000 years ago, is unthinkable.

“The United States is dotted with towns named for biblical cities in Israel: Hebron, Shilo, Bethlehem.  But according to the terminology of many in the U.S. press, the Israeli Shilo, the original one, is a ‘settlement,’ and consequently must be cleansed of Jews.

“If someone decided to expel Jews, from Shiloh, Ohio, Hebron, Nebraska, USA Today might be among the first to come out against what it would likely term racism.  Why then does it support the expulsion of Jews from the original Shilo, the Jewish one?  Why are Jews living in their own homeland considered ‘an obstacle to peace?’

“Why is it the only place in the world where Jews cannot live, according to liberals, the very place where the Jewish faith was born, where it developed monotheism, where the Judeo-Christian civilization took shape; and where the Jewish people returned after 2,000 years of exile?

“It is not the presence of Jews in the settlements that is a provocation to Palestinians; it is the presence of Jews anywhere in Israel on either side of the Green Line, the 1949 armistice line.

“So, if you support the expulsion of Jews from Europe, America or anywhere else, you’re racist.  But if you advocate the expulsion of Jews from the heart of their homeland, you’re a liberal.

“Liberals demand to drive Jews off their own land to create a Judenrein area, in the land of the Jews, of all places, is the height of hypocrisy by those who claim to be fair-minded advocates of justice in the world.”                      (By Israel Harel, Haaretz, September 22, 2003)

“FROM A DISTANCE: Death has no glory:  In the book of Genesis, God tells Abraham: ‘And through you will all the nations of the earth be blessed.’

“I’ve often wondered about that blessing we Jews are supposed to bring the world.  After six months of having the world heap the vilest slander on my people and my country; after going through Holocaust Remembrance Day, and then Remembrance Day for the fallen soldiers, I don’t think, if it was up to me, that heaping blessings on the world, particularly on my Semitic neighbors, would be high on my list of ‘must do’s’ right now.

However, since the Jewish people’s fate isn’t something you get to vote on, I recognize that I, and my fellow Jews, will have little say about this blessing thing either.  And so, willy-nilly; we are going to bring blessings to the world.

“And I’ve finally figured out how.  It was last week, as I was watching the official memorial service at the Western Wall for Israel’s fallen soldiers.  And in that holy place, Israel’s top general, its chief of staff, got up to speak.  What do you think he spoke about, this general and army man?  If he were any other nationality or religion, and this were any country but Israel, we wouldn’t even have to ask: The glory of our fallen heroes.  Their bravery and sacrifice on the battlefield.  The greatness of our victories.

“But not Chief of General Staff Shaul Mofaz.  He spoke about remembering the birth of a child.  The first picture taken in kindergarten.  The first baby tooth that falls.  The bar-mitzvah pictures.  The graduation from high school.  The mother’s kiss on the cheek of the new recruit.  He spoke about the incalculable loss to each fallen soldier’s family, his parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, girlfriend, wife, children.  About the preciousness of life, and the horror of death.

“The Jewish people indeed have a blessing to bring to the world, especially to our Semitic cousins.  If only they would stop shouting and crying and threatening long enough to listen, how different their lives would be!  And we would give it to them freely, generously - this, our hard-earned knowledge, the knowledge of the Jews.  And it is simply this: that death has no glory.  And life can never be replaced.

“There is no honor, no holiness in bombs and guns and knives and mortars in wounded flesh, and blood-soaked streets.  In dead children and broken-hearted mothers.  And that peace is a value to be cherished above glorious victories.

“If only the BBC, and CNN and Sky News would stop interviewing the mothers and uncles of suicide bombers, who speak of holy martyrdom, and sacred deaths, and holy wars; if only their confused reporters would simply sit and listen to Israel’s keening on Remembrance Day, and broadcast that to the world instead, what a blessing they would bring mankind.  What a lesson.                                                                        (Excerpt by Naomi Ragen, May 3, 2003)

“LIBRARY IN EGYPT WITHDRAWS COPY OF ANTI-SEMITIC TRACT:  CAIRO, EGYPT - The Alexandria Library has withdrawn the first Arabic translation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion from an exhibit after U.N. cultural officials questioned the display of the 19th century anti-Semitic tract.

“In a statement yesterday, Ismail Serageldin, the director of the library, denied allegations that the book was displayed next to the Jewish holy book, the Torah.

“‘The book was promptly withdrawn from public display.  But its very inclusion showed bad judgment and insensitivity, and a internal hearing is under way to determine whether further action is to be taken’ read the statement.”                         (Associated Press, December 7, 2003)

Comment:  It is very unusual for the U.N. to do anything in Israel’s favor.



  The turmoil in the Middle East has engaged our attention very closely because we believe that some prophecy is now being fulfilled there; and we shall yet see much more of it.  As instance, Zechariah 14:1-3: “Behold, the day of the Lord cometh [we have been in the “evil day” (Eph. 6:13) since 1914, with the “evil” steadily becoming worse and worse], and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee.  For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.  Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.”

AS IN THE DAY OF BATTLE:  Some outstanding instances where the Lord fought for Israel in former times are (1) when He gave a great victory to David in the Valley of Rephaim in close-by Baalperazim (2 Sam. 5:17-21); (2) when Gideon commanded 300 men, who were used to inflict a miraculous defeat upon the Midianites and Amalakites, who were “in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude - their camels as the sand by the seaside for multitude” (Judges 7:12-23); and (3) with Joshua in Ajalon, where “the Lord discomfited them.” (Josh. 10:8-14)

AJALON:  Of these citations we shall give detailed analysis on only one, mainly because this one, we believe, may find close kinship in the years immediately ahead of us.  Upon the “death of Moses… the Lord spake unto Joshua, saying… there shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life… I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee… be thou strong and very courageous.” (Josh. 1:1-7)  As we come to the narrative in Ajalon, the various units of Canaan had heard of the prowess of Joshua, of the great defeats he had inflicted upon his enemies in various places.  This struck such terror into their hearts that thirty-one kings combined to fight against Joshua; and the battle was joined in the Valley of Ajalon.

Now those kings were sun and moon worshipers, so the Lord caused a heavy cloud to appear - so dark that it was almost night.  This terrorized the enemy, thinking their gods had turned their backs on them, so they turned and fled, at which the Lord “cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died: they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword… And Joshua said… Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon.  And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies.” (Vs. 11-13)

A similar situation exists today in the Middle East: About twenty of those Moslem rulers have banded themselves together to destroy Israel; but the “sure word of prophecy” is there that the Lord will again “fight for them as he did in the day of battle.”  And the promise is sure, “By myself have I sworn saith the Lord… that in blessing I will bless thee [Abraham]… thy seed shall be as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies.” (Gen. 22:15-17)

Perhaps a bit of historical humor may be acceptable here: After America gained its independence, Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first American ambassador to France; and the French leader in France, the English ambassador and Franklin were having lunch together, when it was suggested that a toast be offered by each one of them for the nation he represented.  The Englishman:  Here’s to England, whose sun never sets; the Frenchman: Here’s to France, who like the moon controls the tides and the sea; Franklin: Here’s to the United States of America, who, like Joshua in Ajalon, commanded the sun and the moon to stand still - and they stood still!

As we contemplate the great victory of Joshua in Ajalon, we come to a much better appreciation of his final address to the Jewish people: “This day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.” (Josh. 23:14)  And further from Joshua 23:9,10: “No man hath been able to stand before you unto this day.  One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the Lord your God he it is that fighteth for you, as he has promised you.”  And we may accept the statement literally now, that in our day “the Lord will fight against those nations [now combined against Israel], as when he fought in the day of battle.”

BENJAMIN DISRAELI:  We believe emphasis will be added to the foregoing if we consider this Jew, and what one authority says about him: “Statesman and novelist, twice British prime minister (1868; 1874-1880), was one of the most extraordinary figures to reach the pinnacle of British politics.  He was of Italian Jewish descent.  As a result of his father’s quarrel with the synagogue, he was baptized as a Christian, but for which curious accident his career could not have taken the form it did.  After some failures in his pursuit of political opportunity he was returned to Parliament (1837) as a conservative member for Maidstone in Kent.  In 1848 he acquired a claim to the leadership of the opposition in the House of Commons after being elected to Parliament as a member for the County of Buckinghamshire in 1847.  He served as chancellor of exchequer for a period in 1852 and again in 1858.  Disraeli became prime minister in 1868, but when the autumn election was won by Liberals, he resigned.  His second period as prime minister was 1874-1880.  In 1876 he accepted a peerage, taking the title of Earl of Beaconsfield.”

BERLIN CONGRESS OF NATIONS:  The foregoing is given about Disraeli because he was the first Jew ever to become prime minister of England; and he was a prominent figure at the Berlin Congress which was held June 13 - July 13, 1878.  That Congress was attended by all the major European powers, and it replaced the Treaty of San Stefano of March 3, 1878 at the conclusion of the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-78.  At that time England was the greatest empire on earth.  London was the financial center of the world; and English ships controlled the sea.  And Disraeli used that tremendous power to force acceptance of his move to gain favor for the Jews in Palestine.  That was the beginning of various efforts to promote the Jews to where they are today.  At that Berlin meeting Disraeli secured certain rights for aliens in Palestine that were not previously tolerated - the principal benefactors of that decision being the Jews.  It is of interest here to note that the date 1878 is exactly 1845 years after the crucifixion of Jesus, previous to which they had enjoyed great favor from the Lord for 1845 years - from the death of Jacob.  This “double” is mentioned in Isa. 40:1-3; Jer. 16:18; Zech. 9:12; and the word means an exact duplicate, as if we should fold a piece of paper in the middle, the lower half would be exactly the same size as the upper part.

ZECHARIAH 8:23:  At that time in 1878 we believe the following prophecy was fulfilled: “In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men out of all the tongues of the nations shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.”  The “ten men” of the text are the various nations of Europe.  While it is true that there are many more than ten governments in Europe, yet there are only ten-language nations (aside from the Jewish): (1) The Scandinavian (Norway, Sweden, etc.); (2) The Anglo-Saxon (England, Scotland, etc.); (3) The Teutonic (Germany, Austria, etc.); (4) The Gallic (France, Belgium, etc.); (5) The Hispanic (Spain and Portugal); (6) The Latin (Italy); (7) The Greek (Greece); (8) The Turkish (Turkey); (9) The Slavic (Russia, Poland, etc.); and (10) The Magyars (Hungarian).

The words of Disraeli are most pertinent here: “Had it not been for the Jews of Palestine the good tidings of our Lord would have been unknown forever to the northern and western races.  The first preachers of the gospel were Jews, no others; the historians of the Gospel were Jews, no others.  No human being has ever been permitted to write under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit except the Jew.”  Truly, Disraeli was a man of destiny; one among the greatest Jews in all history!

Thus, the situation in the Middle East today is indeed an engaging “prospect.”  We conclude this feature about the Jews with Jeremiah 30:7: “That day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.” “Jacob’s trouble” will be the climax - the grand finale - of that trouble over there - when those Arab countries make a combined attack upon Israel, and God will then “fight for them as he did in the day of battle.” (Zech. 14:3)  As That Servant has said: “How true the statement that those who have cursed, or injured, Israel have brought injury to themselves!  As we scan the whole field of the world, we find that every nation, which has dealt harshly with Israel, has received chastisement or blight.  On the contrary, Great Britain and the United States, nations which have blessed the Jew, have in turn received great blessings.” (Reprint 5323, October 1, 1913)