Sunday, May 15, 2016

More on the deaths of Herod, Ananias and Sapphira.


Recently my friend and brother Jonathan Forgor made a study on the death of Ananias and Sapphira, which is very useful in getting rid of some of the misconceptions on the topic. I won't cover the same material here. The purpose of this post is to provide further evidence to what Br. Jonathan has already written.

Both saints and sinners die and their bodies become food for worms. Sometimes vile sinners die a peaceful death, whereas saints die after several years of painful suffering. The way one dies doesn't prove whether he was a saint or a sinner.

When God has to punish someone for wrongdoing he would do a "new thing" so that his punishment would be manifest to everyone. Do you remember how Korah, Dathan, and Abiram were punished for rebelling against the LORD's servant Moses?
Num 16:29 If these men die as all men die, or if they are visited by the fate of all mankind, then the LORD has not sent me.
Num 16:30 But if the LORD creates "something new", and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up... 
And the LORD did a "new thing", earth opened and swallowed the rebels - Num 16:32.

While Miriam rebelled against Moses she was struck with white leprosy, something that was unheard in Israel (Num 12:10.) [Only Naaman, the Syrian had the same disease - 2Ki 5:27.] The people of Sodom and Gomorrah were punished with fire and brimstone from heaven. (Gen 19:24) I need not to tell you how the evil generation that existed before the flood were punished. We can go on and on, listing out the "new things" God did in punishing wrongdoers.

As stated in Num 16:29, if someone dies a normal death - be it by known diseases or accidents - it is not a punishment from God. If the cause of the death is extraordinary or totally unnatural, it could be from God. (These are all things of the past. None of such punishments or curses exist now.)

The death of Herod

While the book of Acts says that Herod was eaten by worms and died because he was struck down by an angel, if there were any other witnesses (there were hundreds of them) to Herod's death, they could have easily contested the Biblical testimony and said that many do die similar (if not worse) deaths and there is nothing to prove the involvement of an angel. So, there should be something beyond the assertion of a single author to prove that the death of Herod was caused by the wrath of God. This is where historical accounts become vital. (Please remember that Jews were always the detractors of Christian faith and they already have a theory that Herod was killed because of a Roman conspiracy, though they lack specific details.) 
Act 12:20 Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king's chamberlain, they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king's country for food.
Act 12:21 On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them.

Act 12:22 And the people were shouting, "The voice of a god, and not of a man!"

Act 12:23 Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.

Herod's fault was not merely that he didn't give glory to God, he insulted God, by giving an oration to the poor people of Tyre and Sidon, who came to him in peace, seeking food.
Pro 17:5 Whoever mocks the poor insults his Maker; he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished.
If we analytically study the Law of Moses, we can find that its focus was on the poor, orphans, foreigners and widows. Insulting the poor is mocking their creator.

The narrative in Acts 12 gives the impression that Herod dropped dead, but, according to Flavius Josephus, Herod's death happened 5 days later. The Greek word translated as "eaten by worms" is not used anywhere else in the scriptures. It appears to be some kind of incurable abdominal disease where the affected person will writhe in pain and stink to such an extent that he would hate himself. In ancient days such diseases are supposed to be indicators of God's wrath. Antiochus Epiphanes was stricken by such a disease
(2 Macc 9:8-10).

The death of Herod, from Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XIX, Chapter 8, Section 2. (abridged)
Now when (Herod) Agrippa had reigned 3 years over all Judea, he came to the city Cesarea, (Act 12:19)... and there he exhibited shows in honor of Caesar,... On the 2ⁿᵈ day... he put on a garment made of silver (Act 12:21),... and came into the theater early in the morning; at which time the silver of his garment being illuminated by the fresh reflection of the sun's rays upon it, shone out after a surprising manner,... and presently his flatterers cried out,... that he was a god; (Act 12:22 )... Upon this the king did neither rebuke them, nor reject their impious flattery. (Act 12:23) But as he presently afterward looked up, he saw an owl sitting on a certain rope over his head, and immediately understood that this bird was the messenger (ἄγγελος, G32 in Strong's, always translated as 'angel' or 'messenger') of ill tidings, .... and fell into the deepest sorrow. A severe pain arose in his belly, and began in a most violent manner..... his pain was become violent...he was carried into the palace,... And when he had been quite worn out by the pain in his belly for 5 days, he departed this life,...Read the full text here.

It is unfortunate that Eusebius, the great 3ʳᵈ century church historian, falsified this account by removing the reference to owl in his citation of the above passage in his
Historia Ecclesiastica (Church History), Book II, chapter 10.
It may not be that an angel appeared in the form of an owl. The owl would have appeared as an indication to Herod and the onlookers that Herod was under God's wrath. It is stated that Herod had received a prophecy from a German while he was in Rome that an owl would appear at the time of his death.

The death of Ananias and Sapphira.

Have you ever come across Christians who claim that Ananias and Sapphira were killed by Apostle Peter? I have. They use Acts 5:11 to prove that Peter was the killer!
Act 5:11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.
Though it is not specifically told as to who caused the death of these couple, I think it is safe to assume that their death also was caused by the angel of the Lord.

How do I correlate the deaths of Herod and this couple?

One of the most interesting things about the narratives on the death of Herod and deaths of Ananias and Sapphira is the presence of a Greek word (ἐκψύχω, G1634 in Strong's) that is not used elsewhere in the New Testament.
Act 5:5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost[G1634]:... [KJV]
Act 5:10 Then fell she [Sapphira] down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost
Act 12:23 And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him [Herod], because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost
There are other passages where the expression "gave up the ghost" appears in the King James Version, but none of them use G1634 or any word that is related to it. [See Mat 27:50; Mar 15:37, 39; Luk 23:46 and Joh 19:30 where Jesus' giving up his ghost is mentioned.]

Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament, uses this word in two passages (2Sa 13:20; Eze 21:7), but unfortunately, available translations don't do great service to the understanding of those passages.

Here is Strong's definition of the word:
G1634 ἐκψύχω (ekpsuchō, ek-psoo'-kho)

From G1537 and G5594; to expire: - give (yield) up the ghost.
G1537 is a preposition.
Despite the lengthy definition given by Strong's, G5594 is used only once in the scriptures:
Mat 24:12...because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.
(wax cold - KJV)An examination of the actual Greek words (εκψυξει and εξεψυξε) used in these passages suggests that some kind of freezing had happened to the deceased.
While two men are talking to each other, if one of them drop dead, it could have been thought of as a case of cardiac arrest and there is no reason for the onlookers to be terrified. Please note that the congregation was terrified immediately after Ananias dropped dead (Act 5:5). If they were terrified after both he and his wife dropped dead, within a short span of time, we can understand it.

It appears to me that the cause of their death was something similar to Hypothermia, where the victim's core body temperature drops below below 35°C (95°F). Symptoms include shivering and mental confusion. In the United States nearly 1,500 people die of this disorder, every year. Given that this disorder occurs only in cold regions, it would have been a rude shock for the onlookers to see Ananias freezing to death in the Mediterranean climate of Jerusalem. (I am not a medical doctor. I wrote this from common sense.) I believe the Greek word that is used only in these passages indicates a "new thing", a new way of punishment, freezing unto death in a warm place.
There are mean people who rejoice while someone whom they hate dies of accident or some deadly disease, saying God has punished him/her. If God punishes someone, as we have seen, it will be by means of some "new thing" (Num 16:29, 30). If such punishments were to continue even today, I can assure you that a vast majority of greedy preachers would have died more gruesome deaths than Herod, Ananias and Sapphira, and in order to bring about their deaths by means of "new things", God would have set up a huge R&D lab!

As Br. Jonathan Forgor has rightly stated in his article, the world that we live in is no more under subjection to angels. Jesus is the Lord over all things. There is no more "new things". The only new thing is Christ. He has made everything new.

Jesus Reigns!
In Christ,
Tomsan Kattackal

Please let me know if you find any errors in this post.