In this column, Ben Witherington answers questions about the Bible and:
Cremation and the Rapture
Differing Genealogies of Jesus
How do Evangelical Christians justify their view that abortion is "murder" when there is nothing in the Bible to indicate human life begins at conception rather that birth? Other Christians see birth (or a midway point) as the starting point of a sentient human.
The psalmist in Psalm 139:13-14 speaks in a personal way of his own life beginning at conception, with God forming him in his mother's womb. Furthermore, God reminds the prophet Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet.." In other words, Jeremiah is a person whom God knew and whom God had plans for well before Jeremiah was born.
Reference the Rapture: If the dead will rise up first, where are they now? I thought the souls and spirits of believers were already with Christ. Also, how does this relate to believers who have been cremated?
Paul says that those who are deceased or presently absent from the body are present with the Lord in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:8). However, Paul clearly believes, as in 1 Corinthians 15, that the final form of the afterlife involves having a resurrection body that is received after the Lord returns. As for the cremated, this is hardly a problem, since the God who made all creation out of nothing can certainly make a new body for a cremated person he raises from the dead.
In Matthew chapter 1 there is a genealogy of Jesus that ends with Joseph the carpenter, and in Luke chapter 3 the same, but all other names are different. Would you please explain why there are these two different genealogies?
These two genealogies differ in various respects, and the traditional answer is that Matthew's genealogy is that of Joseph's family, while Luke's is that of Mary's family. Another possibility would be that we have the paternal and maternal genealogies of either Joseph or Mary. Whatever the case, the focus of the Matthean genealogy is to show that Jesus is a son of David, while the focus of the Lukan genealogy is to show that Jesus is a son of Adam, a son of humanity. The purposes of the two genealogies differ.
There are several passages in the Old and New Testaments that forbid same-sex sexual activities: Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:26-27, and 1 Corinthians 6:9, among other texts. The concept stressed is that, by God's grace, any and all sinful inclinations can be resisted, whether homosexual or heterosexual in nature.