Biblical Exposition

“How big was baby Jesus in Mary’s womb when Mary visited Elizabeth?” That is the question I asked myself while visiting the Church of the Visitation in Israel. What I learned was quite revolutionary and amazing. This is one of the best pro-life arguments from Scripture and one I’ve not heard discussed before.

It also says a lot about who Jesus was and the “stranger than fiction” event taking place in space and time in the womb of young girl about 15 years old.

Pictures sometimes show Mary very pregnant — better get to Bethlehem fast! But in reality that is not the case. In scientific terms Jesus was just a blastocyst, a few hundred miniature cells no bigger than a millimeter (0.039 inch).

At the Visitation, Jesus was a “blastcyst” like on the top right

How big was Jesus? Read this article I just wrote and step back in time to the first days of Jesus’ life taking on a human body even though you could have barely seen him with the human eye at the time.

Here is an excerpt from my new article “How Big Was Jesus at the Visitation?”

 “When Mary arrived for the Visitation, as we Catholics refer to the her visit, she was not “showing” yet. Isn’t if funny how we see pictures of a very pregnant Mary as though the baby was ready for Bethlehem. But in reality Jesus—100% God and 100% human — was so small he was practically invisible. 

 Though this blastocyst attached to Mary’s uterus had not seen the light of day He had created with his soon-to-develop eyes, nor breathed fresh air He had created with His still-to-develop lungs, yet He was very alive and very human. The cells were replicating at a rapid rate and they were already developing distinct bodily features. It contained the DNA—the genetic code of Mary.

 The microscopic cells were not just extraneous tissue in the mother’s body—something to be discarded, a disease or something. It was human life with a soul. From conception Every baby shares in the image of God and true humanity with inestimable value long before it takes it’s first breath—right from conception. 

 These replicating cells in Mary’s body were truly human life, God himself taking on human flesh. St. John tells us, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt (literally, “pitched his tent” of flesh) among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” John 1:14).

 One thing many people do not think about—what was Jesus’ size and the stage of development in the womb when Mary arrived at the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth? And, how did Elizabeth and the unborn baby John the Baptist react upon pregnant Mary’s arrival?” …

 Continue reading the full article, click HERE.

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Do Catholics Worship “Graven Images”?

by Steve Ray on July 12, 2016

Question sent to John Martignoni from www.BibleChristianSociety.com. The answer is John Martignoni’s. Check out his new audio series to the left and his excellent website.

I’m Catholic, but I do not understand nor have answers to why we use statues and blessed images in the Catholic church as opposed to God’s commandment in Exodus 20.

I’m not against this practice, i just want to understand why, and as well, know how to convince non-Catholics, because the only explanation I’ve gotten so far and can still remember is “there were statues on the ark of the covenant”. I knew nothing about “why” when a friend (Catholic) asked me to constructively explain why and not defensively.

I patiently await your reply. Thank you for your time, and God bless. 

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        Let’s begin by looking very closely at the prohibition in Exodus 20 regarding the making of “graven images” and see if it actually says what many Protestants think it says.  Exodus 20:2-5, “I am the Lord your God…You shall have no other gods before Me.  You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God…”

       This whole passage from Exodus 20 is all about the fact that there is one God we should worship.  It begins with, “I am the Lord your God,” and ends with “I the Lord your God am (a jealous God).”  The operative word is “I.”  One.  There is one God that the Israelites are to worship.  Furthermore, the words that seem, to Protestants, to prohibit the making of a graven image or of any likeness of anything in heaven or on earth are proceeded by: “You shall have no other gods before Me,” and they are followed by: “…you shall not bow down to them or serve them.” 

Which means, given the context, this is not an absolute prohibition upon the Israelites against the making of graven images or any likeness of things in heaven or on earth, rather they are being prohibited from making such images and then turning around and worshipping them.

        In Romans 1:22-28, we see Paul telling the Romans about men who, “Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles.  Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity…because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshippedand served the creature rather than the Creator…And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct.”

       Does Paul tell the Romans that God gave these men up in the lusts of their hearts simply because they made graven images or images of things in heaven or on earth?  No!  He gave them up in the lusts of their hearts because they viewed these images as gods and they worshippedthe images they had made.  They forsook worship of the one true God for the worship of idols. 

        So the prohibition against graven images in Exodus 20 is not an absolute prohibition against making graven images or images of things in heaven or on earth, it is a prohibition against worshipping them as gods.  And we know this is true from the Bible itself!

       In Numbers, 21:8-9, God commandsMoses to make a graven image: “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.’  So Moses made a bronze serpent, and set it on a pole; and if a serpent bit any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.” 

So, not only are graven images not forbidden to be made, but God Himself commands the making of one!  And, this graven image is used, by God, in a religious context, to heal those who had been bitten by serpents after they had grumbled against God.  And, in the New Testament, this graven image is even seen as an Old Testament type of Christ: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life,” (John 3:14-15).  The graven image of the serpent had a religious purpose!

       Imagine that, a graven image, commanded by God to be made; used by God in the physical healing of the Israelites; and seen by the Word of God as a symbol for the spiritual healing of all people by Jesus Christ!  I don’t understand how any Protestant who is in any way familiar with Scripture could read Exodus 20 as an absolute prohibition against the making of graven or any other type of image.

       So, was the making of this graven image a bad thing?  Obviously not.  However, what happened to that same bronze serpent several hundred years later?  2 Kings 18:4 tells us that King Hezekiah destroyed the bronze serpent.  Why?  Because the people at that time had begun worshipping it as a god.  So, as a graven image, there was no problem with it.  As a graven image that the people were bowing down to and serving, there was a big problem.  The scriptural principle we can take away from this is that graven images, or images of things in heaven or on earth are not, in and of themselves, bad things – even if they are used for religious purposes.  It is when they are worshipped as gods that there is a problem.

       That graven images are not necessarily a problem is confirmed by other passages of Scripture.  There are a number of other places in Scripture where God commands the making of graven images, and it is always within a religious context.  In Exodus 25:18-19, God commands the making of the two cherubim of gold that are on either side of the mercy seat that sits atop the Ark of the Covenant. 

Think about that.  God commands graven images to be placed on top of the Ark of the Covenant – the holiest religious artifact in all of Israel!  There are graven images of flowers on the lampstands of the Tent of Meeting (Numbers 8:4).  Then, when it came to the building of the Temple of Solomon, God commanded the making of all sorts of graven images for use in the Temple.  We see this in 1 Kings 6:18, 23, 27-29, 32, 35; 7:18, 20, 25, 29, 36.  Graven images in the Temple of Solomon!  In the vision of Ezekiel given to him by God, there is a temple and in the temple are graven images (Ezek 41:17-20).

       Also, in the New Testament, there is a passage in Galatians that is very interesting in regard to this topic.  Galatains 3:1, “O foolish Galatians!  Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?  The Galatians had seen an image of Christ crucified.  They had seen a crucifix!  Now, was it a live representation of Christ crucified, or was it a carved image – a graven image – of Christ crucified?  We can’t really be sure, but one thing is for sure, they were looking at an imageof Christ on the cross – a crucifix. 

       Finally, you find graven images and images of things in heaven and on earth all in and through most Protestant homes and churches.  You find them in the children’s books that have drawings of Jesus and of angels and of man and beast.  Not to mention the drawings of the Holy Spirit as a dove.  You find them in the nativity scenes that many Protestant churches and homes have.  I’ve heard of Protestants who wear pins in the shape of a dove to represent the Holy Spirit.  And what about the pictures they have of family members and friends at home and the office?  I mean, all of those things, if you take an absolutist view of Exodus 20:4, are under the ban.  They are all prohibited. 

       “Wait a minute,” someone might say, “we don’t worship those images and don’t use them in our worship ceremonies like Catholics do.”  In other words, when they are called on it, most Protestants, if not all, will agree that the making of graven images, of images of things in heaven and on earth, are not prohibited by Exodus 20:4.  It is when they are worshipped as gods that there is a problem.  Which is exactly what I have been saying here. 

       Folks, Catholics do not worship any of the statues or paintings or crucifixes or any other such images that are in our churches.  “But,” someone may protest, “I have seen Catholics kiss their statues and kneel before them.” 

So?  I have seen Protestants kiss pictures of their wife and children – does that mean they worship them?  I kneel before my bed to say my prayers every morning – does that mean I worship my bed?  I have seen Protestants kneel before Bibles to pray – does that mean they worship a book made of paper and ink?  Not at all.  If anyone who calls himself Catholic actually worships a statue, then he really is not Catholic and has absolutely no understanding of Catholic teaching and practice. 

       All of which is to say, that the Protestant argument regarding Catholics violating the Commandment by making images of things in heaven and on earth, is null and void.  It makes no scriptural sense.  It makes no logical sense.  It makes no common sense.  It is a false accusation against Catholics that people who call themselves “children of God” should be ashamed to make.

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In this Bible study on the first 17 chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, Steve Ray opens the Scriptures and shows how the Early Church of the New Testament is the same as the Catholic Church of today. This well-documented study introduces you to many key people and places, struggles and strifes in the work of the Holy Spirit in the Early Church.

Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, and Volume 4 are also available individually.

NEW! Volume 4:

In this Bible study, Steve Ray offers an exhaustive examination of chapters 13 through 17 of the Acts of the Apostles. A continuation of Luke’s Gospel, this is the only book of the New Testament which continues the story of Jesus into the Early Church.

You’ll be amazed as you learn how the Holy Spirit carefully guided and directed the Apostles and their appointed successors. You will also discover how these first followers of Jesus heroically witnessed to the Gospel message, even to the point of shedding their own blood.

 

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Am I Sick? Naw, I Don’t Think So, Just Feeding the Turkey Vultures

July 8, 2016

The lady at the pet store told me I was a sick individual. I didn’t think so, but then again I am biased and think I’m OK – and my wife tends to agree with me. The whole thing started because of a small hobby of mine. When I was a little boy my dad bought […]

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Flint Knives at the Heart of the Gospel

June 26, 2016

Ah, excuse me? What do flint knives have to do with the Gospel? A whole lot! Abraham believed God against all odds and as a reward he was given the special sign of the Covenant with God. And what was that wonderful sign between them? In Genesis 17:10-11 God announces this sign to Abraham: “This […]

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Did St. Paul Pray for the Dead? Yes!

June 22, 2016

Since we are in Rome today and touring Ancient Rome, especially the Roman Forum and the Mammertine Prison where St. Paul wrote 2 Timothy shortly after his martyrdom. While in that prison he wrote to Timothy and says a prayer for the dead. It seems apparent that St. Paul DOES pray for the dead. Here […]

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Jesus Was A Jew – So What is That To You?

June 20, 2016

 Jesus was a Jew. This fact may escape the casual reader of the New Testament, but it is crucial to understanding Jesus and the book written about him—the Bible. Unhappily, in 21st century America we are far removed from the land of Israel and the ancient culture and religion of Jesus and his Jewish ancestors.  […]

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Multiplication of Loaves a Miracle or Just a Lesson in Sharing?

June 12, 2016

I will be on Catholic Answers Live Monday at 6:00 PM Eastern. We will discuss the Miracles of Jesus with an emphasis on the Multiplication of Loaves and Fish. When confronted with this at Mass a while ago I wrote a letter to the priest which became an article in Catholic Answers Magazine. Article HERE.  In […]

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Mary, Ark of the New Covenant & the Visitation to Elizabeth

May 31, 2016

Read my article about Mary, typology and reading the Bible with the Fathers of the Church and the Visitation. It was published in Catholic Answers Magazine. Click on the image or HERE for the whole article.

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Did Jesus Ever Run?

May 17, 2016

I posted this awhile ago, but thought it fun to post again. Though my running days are over (Doctors have told me I ran to much and my knees are shot), I still do a lot of fast walking and even have a bike in Jerusalem. But it is good to remember the days I […]

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Mary and the Other Body of Christ; How Many People were in the Upper Room and Why?

May 12, 2016

The room was pretty full. It was warm but a gentle breeze was blowing—that would change. There was fear in the room. The Roman army was a thing to be feared, they had just crucified Jesus and it was a dangerous thing to associates of an executed criminal. They were also anxious about the promise. […]

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Did Jesus Ascend into Heaven from Mount of Olives (Acts 1:12) or from Bethany (Luke 24:50)?

May 10, 2016

One of our past pilgrims wrote with an apparent contradiction in the Bible and what I had said in Israel. The wording in the two verses below is what caused the confusion. Acts 1:12  “[After the Ascension] they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away.” Luke […]

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Interesting Pictures of Mary – Can You Figure them Out?

May 3, 2016

Question 1 Do you understand why this is a picture of Mary? (Hint: Catechism paragraph no. 724.) Question 2 Is Moses kneeling to worship the bush? Question 3 Why is the picture to the left a “statue of Mary” (Hint: Heb 9:4)? Question 4 What is in the womb of Mary? (Hint: Jn. 6:48-50; Jn. […]

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Jesus Said His Mother Had Other Sons! Really?

April 29, 2016

I was confronted with an interesting argument against Mary’s perpetual virginity. The man argued that the Bible itself proves that Mary had other children. He claimed that Jesus expressly states in no uncertain terms that his mother had other sons. He said it must have been overlooked by the Catholic Church. To read my whole response, […]

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Did John the Baptist Doubt that Jesus was the Messiah?

April 23, 2016

I get asked this question a lot and thought others would find my answer helpful. Not that I claim to have discovered this myself but reading and gleaning has brought me to this conclusion. In Luke 7:19-28, John the Baptist was in prison and sent two of his disciples to Galilee to ask Jesus a […]

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How Large is the New Jerusalem mentioned in Revelation

April 14, 2016

Revelation 21:10-27 describes the New Jerusalem at the end of time. It is exquisite and the writer of Revelation struggles with words to describe it’s glory and magnitude.  So, how large will the New Jerusalem be? Here is a diagram superimposed on a map of the United States. Many people, especially the Orthodox Jews, discuss […]

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