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Jethro, Amenhotep, Iraq, the Catacombs, and the KJV.

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Question #1: 

Dr. Luginbill, In gen. 25:1-2 Midian was born to Abraham and Keturah. Is this where the Midianites came from? Now if Jethro was the priest of the Midianites was he the very first priest in the Bible? If so how did he become the first priest and was he a gentile or a Hebrew?

Yours in Christ.

Response #1: 

Although scripture does not detail it, it does appear that Midian, the son of Abraham through Keturah, is indeed the eponymous ancestor of the Midianites (cf. Gen.36:35). Moses, of course, lived long after Abraham, and we know when Abraham returned from smiting the kings who had defeated the armies of Sodom and Gomorrah that he was met by Melchizedek, "priest of the Most High God" (Gen.14:18). Melchizedek is the first priest mentioned by that title in the Bible, and Jethro is the third person to be given that title. In between we have Potiphera, Joseph's father in law (Gen.41:45, etc.). Now it is clear that Joseph's father in law was not a believer but rather a pagan priest of the Egyptians' religion, while on the other hand Melchizedek is most definitely a priest of the true God. What Jethro was originally is not as clear. He is as you point out described as "priest of Midian", but we have no way of knowing what Midian's religion was at this point. Later on, as with all the other descendants of Abraham and of Isaac too (through Esau), we know of a certainty that the One true God was not what they worshiped. This is most likely true of Midian as well, for a generation later Midian was involved in the plot to destroy Israel with Balaam's help (Num.22:4 etc.). From the example of Melchizedek we can postulate that God, who never leaves Himself without a witness, had other true priests around the world, especially in the time before the sons of Aaron were specially called out by God to be priests (Ex.28:1ff.).

It is possible, possibly even likely, that there were other individuals in other nations who through a special desire to know the true God and draw near to Him were also called out to be part of this special, non-ancestral priesthood. For we know from the discussion in Hebrews that any such priest would require a divine call and appointment (Heb.5:4). Whether Jethro received such a divine call and was a priest of the One true God or whether he was a priest of the Midianite religion of that time we can't say from scripture. Whatever Midianite religion might have been at that time, it may still have retained some of the faith of Abraham, but of course still within Moses' lifetime, Midian was as mentioned above opposing Israel in a most ungodly way. We can say that from the scriptural account Jethro was an honorable man who gave Moses some extremely good advice (cf. Ex.18:13ff.). Moreover, the occasion given by scripture for Jethro's visit to his son-in-law after the Exodus is that he had "heard of everything God had done for Moses and his people Israel, and how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt" (Ex.18:1). Later in verse ten, Jethro praises the Lord, and in verse eleven says "now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods" (cf. Ex.18:19-23). So it seems from this evidence that the best solution is to consider Jethro a traditional priest of the Midianite religion who learns about the Lord from Moses, and who believes in the Lord after learning about the events of the Exodus. This would not make him a priest of God, but it would make him a fellow believer with whom we shall spend all eternity in the presence of the One we love.

In our Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Dr. Luginbill,

The list about Iraq below is from a Marine Mom I know. My nephew is in the Marines and has already served one tour in Iraq and will probably be serving a 2nd soon. Please keep him and all our military and families in your prayers.

I am writing because I was wondering if you can confirm the facts below about Iraq or point me to the direction so that I can confirm them for myself? I've gone to my Bible and have read about Mesopotamia, the Euphrates, and the Tigris. I believe these facts about Iraq to be true, but was wondering if you'd comment on them.

Thank you so much for the good work you do.

1. The garden of Eden was in Iraq.

2. Mesopotamia, which is now Iraq, was the cradle of civilization!

3. Noah built the ark in Iraq.

4. The Tower of Babel was in Iraq.

5. Abraham was from Ur, which is in Southern Iraq!

6. Isaac's wife Rebekah is from Nahor, which is in Iraq!

7. Jacob met Rachel in Iraq.

8. Jonah preached in Nineveh - which is in Iraq.

9. Assyria, which is in Iraq, conquered the ten tribes of Israel.

10. Amos cried out in Iraq!

11. Babylon, which is in Iraq, destroyed Jerusalem.

12. Daniel was in the lion's den in Iraq!

13. The three Hebrew children were in the fire in Iraq (Jesus had been in Iraq ! also as the fourth person in the fiery furnace!)

14. Belshazzar, the King of Babylon saw the "writing on the wall" in Iraq.

15. Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, carried the Jews captive into Iraq.

16. Ezekiel preached in Iraq.

17. The wise men were from Iraq.

18. Peter preached in Iraq.

19. The "Empire of Man" described in Revelation is called Babylon, which was a city in Iraq!

20. And you have probably seen this one. Israel is the nation most often mentioned in the Bible. But do you know which nation is second? It is Iraq! However, that is not the name that is used in the Bible. The names used in the Bible are ! Babylon, Land of Shinar, and Mesopotamia. The word Mesopotamia means between the two rivers, more exactly between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The name Iraq, means country with deep roots. Indeed Iraq is a country with deep roots and is a very significant country in the Bible. No other nation, except Israel, has more history and prophecy associated it than Iraq.

Response #2: 

I do keep our troops in my prayers and think about the Marines often (though I doubt if many or possibly any I knew when I was in the Corps are still in uniform).

As to the list, most of it is true, geographically speaking. Of course, there was no such thing as "Iraq" until the nineteenth century. So, for example, Nineveh, which is in Kurdistan, is only Iraqi because of the British mandate. In terms of historical geography, "Iraq" represents a series of regions and peoples nearly as diverse as "Europe", populated by a wide variety of peoples (some of which no longer exist) and dominated an even wider variety of foreign powers (the Seleucids, the Romans, and the Parthians, to name a few). As to the list with which I otherwise generally agree (given the caveat above), I would also take issue with the following:

#1: No one knows for certain where the garden of Eden was, but the best solution and the one which I believe scripture most strongly suggests is that it was at Jerusalem, which was and will again be of high enough elevation for the headwaters of the rivers mentioned in Genesis chapter 2 to flow therefrom (cf. Is.2:2). In any case, it seems fairly certain that it was not in low-lying Iraq.

#10: There is no evidence that Amos ever left Judah and Israel.

#18: Peter never went to Babylon (far from being a metropolis, it was virtually uninhabited in his day). In 1st Peter 5:13, Peter says "she who is Babylon greets you", but he is talking about the local church ("she") in Rome. Rome is described as "Babylon" because, like Babylon, Rome of the past (and revived Rome of the future) exemplifies the satanic desire to dominate the world, establishing in the process a monolithic religion of devil worship that will wipe true faith from the earth (cf. Rev.14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2-21), a scenario highly reminiscent of the tower of Babel attack on faith (see Part 5 of the Satanic Rebellion series, section III.2 "Satan's postdiluvian attack on human freedom (the Tower of Babel: Genesis 11:1-9)").

But it is a good list in the sense that it reminds us of how important this land so central to the history of the Bible has become to our political focus today, and that is surely an indication of how close we are coming to the end.

Thanks so much for your encouraging words!

In our Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

I am corresponding with someone who insists the "amen" we say at the end of our prayers is invoking the Egyptian God Amon-Ra, or Amen-Ra, as it is sometimes spelled. He says the real Amen, in Hebrew, is spelled amien, not amen. I've looked at Strongs and our BibleWorks, and they both say it is "amen" and comes from the Hebrew, meaning "truly" or "let it be true" or "definitely." He thinks it is a crying shame that Christians are invoking a false god at the end of their prayers. Is there any truth to this? Also, was El ever the name of a Caananite god?

Thanks and God bless you.

Response #3: 

The simple answer to #1 is "no"; to #2 is "not really". The Hebrew root אמן, from which comes "Amen", means to rely upon or to trust or to believe. It is a fairly well-attested Semitic root, found in Assyrian, Ethiopian, Sabean, etc. The name Amenhotep appears to mean something like "Amun is pleased", with "Amun" being another member of the Egyptian pantheon (whose name apparently means something like "hidden"). So there doesn't seem to be any relation whatsoever beyond an accidentally identical English spelling (and that sort of thing happens all the time with all sorts of languages). As ancient Egyptian is not truly a Semitic language (although there is some discussion about this since it has a lot of Semitic words and roots), this statement would seem to be an example of fanciful etymology (a favorite sport in antiquity and one that seems to be coming back into style).

As to "El", this is another well-attested Semitic root, and apparently does indeed occur in Ugaritic (which one could call a form of "Canaanite"), but apparently as a generic term for "God" rather than as the proper name of a particular "God". In any case, since it is found in the Babylonian languages, its clear that it is not original to Canaan.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

Thanks for your help. I figured it was something like this. But one question more: was the Hebrew "amen" originally spelled "amien" as this guy insists? I have never heard of that, and can't find it in any of our books.

Response #4:

You're right about the spelling. In Hebrew, the word is the root aleph/mem/nun with a short 'a' and long 'e' in-between the consonants respectively – Hebrew doesn't have diphthongs so this "original" spelling your correspondent insists on is essentially impossible.

Question #5: 

Not to belabor the point, but this guy wrote this back to me.

"The Egyptians, including the Alexandrians, had been worshiping, or been acquainted with, the head of the Egyptian pantheon, Amen-Ra, the great Sun-deity for more then 1,000 years, B.C.E. Before this deity became known as Amen-Ra, he was only known as Amen among the Thebans. This substitution of "Amen" for "Amien" was greatly facilitated by the fact that the Egyptian deity was spelt in Egyptian hieroglyphic language with only three letters AMN, just as we find a similar paucity of vowels in the Scriptural Hebrew, which prior to its vowel-pointing by the Massoretes, also only spelt its AMEIN as AMN. However, with the vowel pointing by the Massoretes the Scriptural word has been preserved for us as: "AMEIN" On the other hand, the Egyptian deity AMN is rendered in various sources as AMEN, or AMUN, or as AMON. However, the most reliable Egyptologists and archaeologists, such as Sir E.A. Wallis Budge, Dr. A.B. Cook, Prof A. Wiedemann, Sir W.M.F. Petrie and A.W. Shoter, as well as some authoritative dictionaries, all render the name of this Egyptian diety as AMEN. Originally this AMEN was the Theban " hidden god who is in heaven," "the hidden one, probably meaning hidden sun." Funk and Wagnall, Standard College Dictionary, describes it, "AMEN": " In Egyptian mythology, the god of life and procreation...later identified with the Sun-god as the supreme being deity, and called 'Amen-Ra'. " James Bonwick, Egyptian Belief and Modern Thought repeatedly and frankly calls the Sun-deity by his correct name AMEN. He states on pp 123-125 " Amen...is in a sense, the chief deity of Egypt--supreme deity."

I don't know if you have heard of anything like this, and I presume you are no expert on Egyptian hieroglyphics, but I would appreciate an opinion from you on this.

Response #5: 

I don't see how most of this response even addresses anything I said in my prior e-mails. My point is that there is no apparent relation between the Hebrew word and the Egyptian word. And, in any case, there is certainly no functional relationship. It's clear from the use of the word and its many cognates in scripture that it always has to do with believing/trusting, and never has even a hint of any relationship to any pagan deity -- and this goes back to the days of Abraham:  "Abraham believed (אמן) in the Lord" (Gen.15:6). The use of the root with the same basic meaning in the Babylonian civilization which preceded the Egyptian one rules out any possibility of the linguistic influence claimed. One can't reasonably claim that Shakespeare influenced Sophocles because one finds similarities between them.

Hebrew always had vowels. You can't speak any language without vowels. The Masoretes didn't invent them, only a way to represent them on the page. Vowels don't need to be written to be understood. Even today in Israel, only the Bible and pedagogical texts have the vowel points, as Israeli speakers know what to put in where (just as in English we know how to differentiate the pronunciation of the diphthong "ou" in the words "rough", "though", "plough" etc.). Hebrew doesn't have true diphthongs. The so-called "furtive pathach" would be a partial exception to that rule, but I can't see any possibility of a workable Hebrew letter combination in your correspondent's proposed "amien" unless it is "'a-mi-yen", and that 1) would be unattested in Hebrew; and 2) of necessity have to be from a different root than 'AMN. On the names, whenever there is a "waw" or "yodh" preceding a vowel one reads the letter as a consonant - as our four syllable English pronunciation of the name "Jeremiah" and our three syllable English pronunciation of the name "Isaiah" indicate. On the latter, we do have such a diphthong in English, but that is due to conventions of English transliteration. The name in Hebrew is "Ye-SHa-`-Ya-Hu" ("The LORD saves").

Hope this helps,

In our Lord.

Bob L.

Question #6: 

I am speaking with someone who says that there are prayers for the dead etched on the catacomb walls, dating back to late 1st century. I have seen one: "Peter and Paul, pray for Victor." This person says this is proof that purgatory was taught and believed in, from the early church. I said that it is just proof that error could creep into the church, and it isn't biblical, just because it is on the walls of the catacombs. The catacombs aren't the bible. I pointed out that in the Didache, that catechumens were required to fast a day or two, prior to baptism, though that isn't biblical, either. All the catacombs do is show what people did in those days; it doesn't mean that it was biblical.

Anyway, do you know anything about this? I tried googling about it, but got so many hits, most of them Catholic websites that use them as proof of purgatory, that I gave up. And anyway, if purgatory was taught from the beginning of the church, why wasn't it made official church dogma until, what, the 13th or 14th century, though I know Gregory the Great, in the 6th, taught it.

God bless.

Response #6: 

I think that you are absolutely right in your take on this. Anything that is not out of the Bible is by definition non-authoritative in my view and I believe also in yours. Furthermore, just because some of the catacombs might be dated to the 1st century by some people doesn't mean the inscriptions you are talking about are contemporaneous with Peter and Paul (and believe me when I say that accurate dating of such things with that sort of specificity is virtually impossible, especially when there are two possible variables). And, as you say, even if that were the case, well, we have heretics today too, and even within the true Church many whose understanding of the scriptures is far from lucid. Finally, praying for the dead is not the same thing as purgatory (even though they are both unscriptural). I can certainly imagine how even today a person would be very tempted to pray for a departed loved one about whose salvation they were in doubt - and without having any belief in a purgatory. Here is something I have written on purgatory:

      Is there a purgatory according to the Bible?

Your parallel from the apostolic writings is a very good case in point. Therefore we have to build doctrine on what the scriptures tell us, and not on what people are doing, whether today or in the 1st century (or 5th or whenever these inscriptions really date to).

In our Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Dear Bob,

Know first, Bob, that I am greatly pleased by this site, which seems to me to be an excellent Christian source of Biblical information. It is good to have such things for spiritual growth, seeing as we now live in the times when the hearts of most Christians have grown lukewarm (which, I see, gives root to the Apostasy that soon comes). May God bless you, and also your ministry, by the Holy Ghost, so that he might work in you and through you with his awesome power.

Now then, my first question, concerning the King James Version, is this: do you agree with the idea that the KJV Bible is the Bible--that is, a completely accurate translation that corresponds exactly with the original writings, because of God's guiding the translators? I am on the side of the "KJV-Onlyists," but I keep an open mind on such matters, lest I, in ignorance, believe something false. What is your opinion on the matter?

My second question also concerns the KJV: why was the Apocrypha, which was originally in the KJV, removed? To extend the question, why should the Apocrypha not be considered the Word of God? Now I, being at present a KJV-Onlyist, (though perhaps not permanently,) find that it would be reasonable for the Apocrypha to be considered a part of the Bible, since it was a part of "the" Bible. However, if you could give me a reason to think otherwise, I will reconsider.

My third question: will Elijah the prophet make a second appearance before the end times (John the Baptist being the first Elijah)? I think that this is so, for three reasons: (1) Jesus said, "Elijah surely shall come first;" (2) since Jesus makes two comings, making two "days of Yahweh" (Malachi 4:5-6), it is reasonable to think Elijah will also make two comings; and (3) when John the Baptist came, the day of Yahweh was not "great and dreadful." I would like your opinion on this.

My fourth question: if Elijah will make a second coming, what should be expected of him in comparison to John the Baptist? For example, are passages like "the voice of one crying in the wilderness" to be applied only to Elijah's first coming (John the Baptist) and thus not limiting Elijah to being "in the wilderness," or both comings? And will the second Elijah not be the O.T. Elijah, as with John the Baptist? Such questions run through my mind often.

Finally, my fifth question: in 1 Kings 20:35-43, a prophet is told "in the word of Yahweh" to, as I view it, lie. Now truly God would not tell anybody to sin against himself, so there must be something in the story that I am missing or misunderstanding. Could you give me a suggestion of what might justify this as sinless?

Answer these questions in your own time, and I apologize if I have somewhat overwhelmed you with questions.

Your fellow servant, brother, and companion in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.

Response #7: 

Thank you for your questions and for your encouraging words. I will try to answer your questions as best I can seriatim:

1) KJV: My thoughts on this and other versions can be found in the monograph "Read your Bible". To make a long story short, the KJV is a very good version for a number of reasons - but it is not perfect for a number of reasons as well. For one thing, no version, no translation could ever be perfect. The Romans had a saying: tranlatores tradiutores, "translators are traitors". What this truism expresses is that whenever we translate anything from one language into another, we have to change the sense, even it is only to a minuscule degree, since we are changing languages (and no word or phrase or sentence in one language can possibly be the exact equivalent of something in another, even if it is very close).

Furthermore, when dealing with something as precise and as deep as scripture, the only way to have a chance at a perfect translation is to first have a perfect understanding of what is being translated. No one perfectly understands the entire Bible, and the scholars from Oxford, Cambridge, and London universities, while very good scholars, surely did not. No one claimed at the time that the translation was "perfect" or "inspired", and such a thing as a translation never could be. So while I do like the version, it has its drawbacks, but there could be no possible larger drawback than to make the mistake of assigning perfection to it (or to any version) since that only creates enormous blind spots. If a person really wants to "know exactly what is in the Bible", there is really nothing else for it than to learn Greek and Hebrew well (and that is a decades long task under the best of circumstances), or else continue to read in English and avail oneself of the best Bible teaching available (based on the original languages), keeping an open mind about the versions and, hopefully, making use of more than one. I could go into much more detail here, and am happy to respond further on this point as well, but for now please see above link and the following:

      Who wrote the KJV?

      The NIV and issues of translation.

      Are new Bible translations part of a conspiracy?

      Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations

2) The Apocrypha has never been part of scripture. I am not an expert on its inclusion/exclusion from the KJV, but I can say that, like a bad penny, it keeps cropping up. All I can say to you on this is that just by reading, say, the book of Tobit in comparison to, say, the book of Jonah, the deficiencies of the Apocrypha compared to true scripture are so obvious as to need no further explanation. But for more please see:

      Is there any value in the Apocrypha?

      Issues of Canonicity

3) & 4) It so happens that the current series on which I am working, Coming Tribulation, has much to say about Elijah's return and the nature of his coming ministry. Yes, it really is Elijah, and, yes, there is a very deliberate parallelism of his ministry with that of John the baptist. Please see:

      Coming Tribulation part 3A: "The Two Witnesses"

5) You have an interesting question here. On 1st Kings 20:35-43, we can say for certain that obeying God is never a sin. Clearly, this prophet was carrying out God's will in his prophecy - but we don't actually have here a command from God to lie. In the KJV (and other versions, mind you), the phrase "in the word of the Lord" seems to be part of the narrator's description, but in the Hebrew it is very clearly part of what the prophet says, "By the Word of the Lord, strike me!" For the sake of argument, we may assume that the prophet was carrying out strict instructions (though I am not convinced of that ); if so, it is certainly within God's prerogative to make use of deception against the evil in the cause of good - there is nothing unrighteous in that when God is the author and director. Then too it is also true that God very frequently makes use of evil agents to carry out His will - working everything out together for good. From our limited human perspective this may seem odd, but God's understanding and wisdom cannot be limited or encompassed by human logic. I like to think of it this way, that there will great glory for the Lord on the day when everything is revealed and it becomes clear that all his enemies could ever do was really what He had decreed in the first place - and that He was able to work all this out for good without compromising the free will of any moral creature! For more on this particular point please see:

      Is it ever justifiable to lie?

      Part two - is it ever justifiable to lie?

      The Old Prophet who lied.

In the One who died that we might live, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill

Question #8: 

I pray in the spirit every morning, and receive scriptures from the Lord. Lately Ex. 2:20 has always come up in my spirit. What really is this scripture saying and how could it be pertaining to me? Because I am the Lords Daughter?

Response #8: 

Dear Friend,

Beyond the message in the verse that seems clear enough here, namely, of the importance of hospitality especially in cases where one has received a definite benefit from the one being entertained (as Jethro and his daughters clearly had), I'm not sure what personal application this might have to you. Strictly speaking, scripture "means what it means", even though the business of trying to extract all of the meaning from every verse in all of scripture is the occupation of a lifetime (at least). Of course while the Word of God is the truth for everyone, everyone's spiritual and personal situation is unique, so that the Lord may use one verse or principle to "get something through" to me on one day and a different verse or principle to "get something through" to you on another. Ultimately, we all desire to learn, accept, and apply the whole truth of the entire Word of God (and that, of course, is a life-long process). In such cases I find that the Lord is ever gracious in His response to our prayers. My advice would be to "keep knocking", and if He means for you to take any special application from this verse, He will without a doubt answer that prayer of faith.

In our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #9: 

I noticed a lot of the scriptures that I'm getting have to do with a "Him". Like (Ex.2:20;Matt.25:6; and Ruth 4:7). Can you agree with me that I get some kind of Revelation as to why these same scriptures keep coming up when I pray in the spirit? I also noticed that psalms 112 comes up very often, and I know that is talking about men of valor (like David-I think it's referring to).

Response #9: 

I believe Psalm 112 is applicable to all believers – all who "fear the Lord and take great delight in His commandments". I don't see any particular nexus of connection between this passage and the others you mention; you can probably also guess that the third person object form, "him", is one of the most common words in the Bible.

I do believe that God does work through particular scriptures we know, but it is also true that any such provision of a particular passage to a believer by whatever means can only be a supplement to the process of spiritual growth through the study of the Bible generally. In other words, no single passage has all the answers, and it is only by understanding scripture in the context of the entire Bible as a whole that we come to the mature understanding of the knowledge of God and His truth that He would have us all to achieve.

So my advice would be not to worry too much about this, but to dedicate your efforts to spiritual growth through Bible study and application of the truth to your life – the essence of the Christian walk to which we have all been called. In so doing, all questions of importance are eventually answered or, at the very least, God brings us thereby to the point of optimal service to Him and to His Son – the very thing we desire and for which we strive.

In the One in whom all the treasuries of knowledge and wisdom are hidden and revealed, Him who is the truth, our Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.


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