Biblical Exposition

The Cross & the Crucifix: Letter to a Fundamentalist

by Steve Ray on December 21, 2014

The Cross & the Crucifix

(From a letter Steve wrote to a Evangelical Protestant who asked about the Catholic Crucifix)


Dear Evangelical Friend:

You display a bare cross in your home; we display the cross and the crucifix. What is the difference and why? The cross is an upright post with a crossbeam in the shape of a “T”. A crucifix is the same, but it has Christ’s body (corpus) attached to the cross.

As an Evangelical Protestant I rejected the crucifix, as you do—Christ was no longer on the cross; he had ascended into heaven. So why do I now tremble in love and awe at the site of a crucifix? Let’s examine the history and issues surrounding the two.

I will provide a brief overview of the Cross and the Crucifix, the origin, the history, and the differing perspectives of Catholic and Protestant. It will try to catch the historical flow and include the pertinent points. The outline is as follows:


1. The Three Main Protestant Objections to the Crucifix
2. Images and Gods in the Old Testament
3. Images and Images of Christ in the New Testament
4. The Cross in the First Centuries
5. The Crucifix Enters the Picture
6. The “Reformation” and Iconoclasm
7. Modern Anti-Catholics and the Crucifix
8. Ecumenical Considerations

To read the whole article, click here. To read Steve’s other articles, click here. For Steve’s talk “The Pain of the Crucifixion,“ click here.

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When I take my groups to Corinth in Greece, I love taking them off the beaten track to see the Erastus Stone.

One of our pilgrims made a video of my talk I gave here this year. Hope you enjoy it.

 Robin DySard was the videographer. The video is only 8 minutes. To see the mention of Erastus, read Romans 16:23.

My same talk there last year, though a bit different, can be seen here.

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Did the Wise Men Meet the Shepherds?

by Steve Ray on December 1, 2014

With upon us, I thought I would post my article this Christmas season with bits of interesting information and details about Christmas, the Gospels and Epiphany. Join us in Bethlehem for Christmas this year from December 26-January 4 or any of six times in 2015. Visit www.SteveGoes.com.

Did the Wise Men Meet the Shepherds?

 A king was born. He was born unlike most kings. There was no pomp and circumstance; there were no midwives or court attendants. There was only the bleating of sheep and the buzzing of flies. Giving birth in a cave-turned-stable was not like giving birth in a royal palace. 

 When a king is born proclamations ring out across the land. But no one knew about this exceptional birth. So angels felt the need to sing out. They burst from the heavens in glorious harmony declaring the royal birth to a group of shepherds sleeping on the ground protecting their sheep. The darkness of night was rent with brilliant light encompassing the terrified shepherds. The lead angel announced “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

 The king’s arrival had been foretold from of old. He was the long awaited savior of the world. But why were shepherds the first to discover his birth? Possibly because this king was also the anticipated Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. So, let me ask: who are the first to learn of a lamb’s birth in the middle of the night? Shepherds of course! 

 But the story recounted by Luke the physician is not the only account of the miraculous birth. Another account was written by an ex-tax collector named Matthew who informs us that the Jewish shepherds were not the only ones to discover this royal birth. Gentile magi—astronomers from the East—were also informed, but not by angelic choirs. They anticipated this historical event through astronomical observations and consultation with the Jewish scriptures.

It was an unusual star that led them to the infant Jewish king. They traveled at great risk for many for months, arriving from lands historically hostile to Israel. How amazing! The magi brought gifts and fell on their faces before a helpless child in an enemy land. It is often assumed there were only three magi because three gifts were presented (frankincense, gold and myrrh), but the number of distant travelers or the size of their entourage is unknown.

 King Herod was in Jerusalem enjoying his palatial pleasures when the wise men arrived looking for the new king. Herod was worried. No one could help the magi. The star led them the last four miles to Bethlehem where they found the Child and fell prostrate. They presented gifts appropriate to royalty.

 Luke and Matthew were not alone in writing accounts of the Christ. An old man named John, chosen by Jesus while still a young fisherman, wrote a personal account of his three years with the king. And Mark, who was Peter’s “secretary” recorded Peter’s recollections of his years with Jesus. Four witnesses wrote four accounts called the Gospels. They recount the one historical event from four different perspectives, just as in a courtroom four witnesses might testify about one case with four differing yet truthful accounts. Each Gospel writer had his own material, audience, emphasis and style.

 For example, each author deals with the genealogy and birth of Jesus in very different and fascinating ways. Each account is true, non-contradictory, and essential to understand the whole story. Matthew was a Jew writing to Jews. He adeptly demonstrated that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah and King with royal pedigree through the lineage of King David to Abraham the patriarch of Israel and the father of the Jewish nation. 

 Mark, on the other hand, penned Peter’s gospel from Rome and presents Jesus to the Romans as a servant with no genealogy. A key verse in Mark summarizes the whole Gospel, “For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45). A servant’s genealogy is irrelevant. Mark’s gospel begins with Jesus working. King and servant: no polar opposites could be more extreme.

 Luke, probably a Greek and the only non-Jewish author in the Bible, writes in part to fellow gentiles portraying Jesus as the ideal of humanity with a genealogy going back to the first man Adam. Jesus Christ is revealed as the perfect Man to a Hellenistic audience steeped in Greek philosophy and struggling for human perfection and meaning in the aftermath of their failed “glory days”. 

 Lastly, John reveals a very different beginning or “genealogy.” He fleshes out the full mystery of the eternal king starting with the words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:1, 14). Jesus has no beginning—he is the beginning. John doesn’t write to an exclusive ethnic group; rather, he writes for the whole world and proclaims that Jesus is divine—by his very nature, God. And as God he is eternal and therefore has no genealogy. No science fiction has ever reached such heights. Truth is stranger than fiction?God has become Man. As St. Augustine said, “[Jesus was] the Revealer of His Father, Creator of His mother; Son of God from His Father without a mother, the Son of Man through his mother without a father.”

 So the four gospels present Jesus Christ as both king and servant, as both God and man. Matthew and Luke tell the story of his birth, Mark and John do not. The four gospels differ in other aspects as well. But such differing stories with such carefully selected details do not imply contradiction. Rather, it gives them diversity, beauty, and depth. Like a diamond, the many facets must be viewed and appreciated to glimpse the elegance of the whole. 

 It seems that Matthew may be telling the nativity story from Joseph’s perspective whereas Luke tells Mary’s story. Matthew alone records the angel’s appearance to Joseph four times, whereas in Luke only Mary is visited by an angel. In Matthew Mary’s virginity and honor are defended, something done by a loyal and loving husband. Though no words of Joseph are recorded in Matthew it does tell us his thoughts and his quick submission and obedience to the will of God. Mary’s submission and obedience to God is not mentioned in Matthew, but is clearly recorded in Luke where it is her words and thoughts that are expressed.

 One could easily conclude that Luke spent a considerable time with Mary, interviewing her about the miraculous birth and surrounding events. He relays many details that Mary had “treasured and pondered in her heart”, things only Mary would have known. It is Luke who records the words of the angel, Mary’s response, and the glorious Magnificat. He even begins the story with an account of Elizabeth, Mary’s relative. And whereas the genealogy provided by Matthew relates to Joseph’s ancestry, some have considered the genealogy recorded in Luke to be Mary’s family tree.

 But despite the variety of information provided, these texts inspired by the Holy Spirit of God himself clearly proclaim the birth of Christ as a miraculous watershed event in human history. He is the Son of Man and Son of God miraculously born of a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit in a cave-stable in Bethlehem and cared for by his legal, adoptive father Joseph. 

 But we still haven’t answered the question: did the wise men meet the shepherds? The tyrant King Herod died in 4 b.c. and he was alive at both the birth of Jesus and the arrival of the magi, so the magi’s visit had to take place after the birth of Jesus and before the flight to Egypt since Herod died before the return of the Holy Family. 

 Since “the East” probably meant modern day Iraq or Iran, the journey up the fertile crescent and down through modern day Syria and Israel would have taken a long time. They must have calculated the time of birth pretty accurately, arriving shortly after the birth but before the Holy Family fled to Egypt. So, the time frame certainly allowed for them to meet the shepherds. If I had been one of the wise men, I hope I’d have been wise enough to cross one more field to find the shepherds and get the full story—which is exactly what the Gospels have provided for us.

 The truth of the Gospel account is not compromised because the Evangelists report the Lord’s words and deeds in different order. Nor is it hurt because they report His words, not literally but in a variety of ways, while retaining the same meaning. As St. Augustine says: “It is quite probable that each Evangelist felt duty-bound to narrate his particular account in the order which God suggested to his memory. At least this would seem to hold true for those items in which order of treatment would not affect the authority or truth of the Gospel. After all, the Holy Spirit distributes His gifts to each as He chooses (The Historicity of the Gospels [Sancta Mater Ecclesia], April 21, 1964, Instruction of the Pontifical Biblical Commission)

Come with us to see all this for yourself in the Holy Land. We have six pilgrimages to Israel planned in 2014.

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Link Available: Questions I Answered on Catholic Answers Live

November 28, 2014

Topic: St. Paul Teaches Us to Run the Race on Catholic Answers Live  Questions I answered on Catholic Answers Live tonight. You can access the link to listen on-line or to download as a podcast – as soon as the links are available. Listen here. 1. St. Paul speaks rather strongly regarding women’s participation in [...]

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Pastor Bob “Preaches the Word” (Discussing A Sermon on Baptism)

November 27, 2014

Pastor Bob Preaches From The Word By Steve Ray Josh left Sunday services full of excitement, anxious to discuss Pastor Bob’s sermon with his sister Jennifer who had recently converted to the Catholic Church. The pastor had explained how salvation was by “faith alone” and not by rituals and works. He was anxious to discuss [...]

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Did Solomon’s Mother Bathsheba Demonstrate Mary is NOT a Good Intercessor?

November 9, 2014

I put up a post a few days ago with a video of my talk in Ephesus about Mary being Queen of Heaven and an Intercessor for the people of God’s kingdom. Someone wrote to object saying, It is interesting Steve, as to what you left out in your reference to 1 Kings 2:19 , Solomon’s Mother [...]

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Holy Father – is he Holy?

November 8, 2014

A young man stood up at my conference in the Philippines a while ago and parroted (yelled out) the Fundamentalist mantra: “The Pope is a sinner like everyone else; why do you call him ‘HOLY Father’?” I leaned into the microphone and said to the young man in front of 2,000 people, “You should really [...]

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Were the Bereans “Bible Alone”?

November 1, 2014

Since we are in Thessalonki today, just a few miles from Berea I thought I’d share my argument which turns the PROTESTant idea of “sola Scriptura” on its head. You know, many Protestents appeal to the Bereans as proof of their false doctrine. Regarding the Bereans, it just ain’t so. St. Paul traveled through Thessaloniki [...]

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My Updated Article on Infant Baptism

October 29, 2014

Even among Evangelical Protestants there is much debate about Infant Baptism. My old Baptist tradition rejected it as a Catholic tradition of men. Dr. Francis Schaeffer, my favorite Evangelical Presbyterian theologian wrote a booklet entitled Infant Baptism in favor of the practice – my wife Janet was raised Presbyterian and baptized as an infant. It [...]

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A One-Hour Jaunt through the Rosary Sites

October 21, 2014

I recently did a one-hour radio show with Dina Maria Hale, host of KBVM in Portland Oregon. The title was “Mysteries of the Rosary: Then & Now.” We wanted to give everyone an idea of what the places were like at the time of Mary and Jesus, and what they are like today. We also [...]

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Chair of Moses, Chair of Peter

October 14, 2014

              St. Cyprian of Carthage (beheaded 257 AD) one hundred and fifty years before the New Testament writings were collected into one book called “The Bible”: “The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ He says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my [...]

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Response to a Southern Baptist

October 7, 2014

I received an e-mail from a Southern Baptist and decided to take a few minutes to respond. Thought others might be edifited by it so I have posted it here without using his name. His email is contained in regular text and MY RESPONSE IS IN CAPITAL LETTERS. **************************************************** HELLO FRIEND: I WILL ANSWER BRIEFLY [...]

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Mary, Ark of the New Covenant

September 23, 2014

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

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Marriage in Heaven? Will We Know and Love Our Spouses in Heaven?

September 4, 2014

My dad died almost two years ago. Mom misses Dad and was discouraged about Mark 12:25 which her paraphrased Living Bible improperly rendered “will no be married” in heaven. I wrote the following to comfort my Mom. Giving talks in Steubenville Ohio and stayed up until 2:00 AM doing a bit of work on this. [...]

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Where Does the Bible Say We Should Pray to Dead Saints?

September 4, 2014

Are saints who have physically died “dead saints” or are they alive with God? A friend named Leonard Alt got tired of being hammered by anti-Catholic Fundamentalists on this issue so he decided to write this article. I thought you might enjoy it too, so here it goes… Leonard writes: I wrote this note after [...]

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Are You Born Again?

August 18, 2014

Here is a short segment of one of my talks at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Hope you enjoy it. During the talk I mention Logos Bible Software which you can test drive at www.Verbum.com/Steve  How does one get born again? Catholics are born again the “Bible way”! Doing a Bible Study on what “water and [...]

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