Who was Jesus’ biological father? How did His mother Mary die? When? Where?

Q. Who was Jesus’ biological father? How did His mother Mary die? When? Where?

Christians believe that Jesus had no biological father. Rather, his mother Mary conceived him while she was still a virgin. This was a miracle, and so it is unclear how it actually happened. Even the angel who spoke to Mary about it described it in a figurative poetic parallel: “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” So this is a mystery of the faith that Christians believe and accept by faith.

As for the later life of Mary, the mother of Jesus, please see this post.


Can a pastor whose wife does not support his calling divorce her and remarry?

Q. Is it right for a pastor to leave his unsupportive wife for another woman?

I do not see anything in Scripture that would endorse a pastor divorcing his wife because she did not support his calling.

If a man feels a calling to become a pastor and his wife does not support that, then he needs to wait until the two of them agree before he becomes a pastor. He can pray and talk things out with her, and hope and trust that if his calling is genuine, God will lead his wife to support it. God may very well be using the wife’s concerns to get the man to address important and necessary issues in his life. Once those issues are addressed, his wife may come to support his calling enthusiastically.

If a man has already become a pastor, and his wife does not support that, God may be using her concerns similarly to get him to address issues in his life or in his ministry. Pastors need to listen to all the ways in which God may be speaking to them.

Even if a pastor’s wife did not support him because she had turned away from the Lord, then as a good shepherd, he should leave the 99 sheep and go after the one that had gone astray. That is, he should set aside his pastoral duties for a time and give all of his attention to his wife’s spiritual condition. If she chooses definitively to leave his ministry and their marriage, then Scripture would say that he is “not bound in such circumstances.” He can let her leave, and conceivably he could remarry. But this should only happen after he has made every genuine effort to win her back to the Lord and to himself and their ministry.

But unfortunately, as you say, all too often pastors fail to hear how God is speaking to them, and they fail to give attention to the most important sheep in their flock. A wife may be unsupportive of a pastor’s ministry because he is not properly balancing work and family life. He may be neglecting his responsibilities and obligations to his family. In that case, the wife is not the problem. The pastor needs to hear what God is saying to him through her protests.

May God lead all married pastors to honor their marriages as the foundations of their ministries.

Are there still prophets today, and if so, do true prophets have to be correct?

Q. I just read an article on Politico.com about contemporary prophets who are predicting that Donald Trump will become president again by the spring of this year, 2021, several years before he could actually be re-elected. 1. I know that Paul speaks of prophecy as a gift, but I don’t understand the need for prophets since the death of Christ. Wasn’t “the Word made flesh” so that we don’t need prophets? Didn’t God reveal all that we need to know? 2. I know that Old Testament prophets sometimes made prophetic statements about rulers but I thought that, for the most part, their prophecies focused on God’s people and their relationship with Him. It seems somewhat ungodly to think that God would be prophetically involved in micro-politics in our country. 3. Are there any instances in the OT of prophets being incorrect? If not, is it possible that Scripture only records their hits and omits their strikeouts? If not, then should we conclude that any modern-day prophet who strikes out is not really a prophet? If so, is there any modern-day prophet who is batting 1.000? (Or, to continue the metaphor, do you get a couple of swings and misses – and maybe foul balls – but aren’t out until you reach a certain number of misses?)

Let me respond to your first, third, and second questions in that order.

As for your first question, I personally believe that the gift of prophecy remains active in the church today. I do not believe that any prophecies since the New Testament was completed have added anything to the revelation in Scripture, but I do believe that God still speaks through spiritually gifted and sensitive people to bring inspired messages to groups of believers that need guidance, challenge, and encouragement. So in one sense, yes, through the incarnation of the Word of God in Jesus, and the completion of the written word of God in the Scriptures, God has given us everything we need for life and godliness. In another sense, there is still a need for groups of believers to hear what God is saying to them about specific situations they are facing, and it is the ongoing role of prophets to speak that word.

But this immediately raises the question of how we can know whether such contemporary prophets are truly speaking from God, instead of from themselves, likely under various influences. This relates to your third question. Wouldn’t a genuine prophet get things right, at least a credible amount of the time? And prophets generally hold themselves to this standard. The article you cited quoted one person who had predicted that Donald Trump would win the 2020 presidential election as saying, on the day that Joe Biden was declared the winner, “I take full responsibility for being wrong. There was no excuse for it. I think it doesn’t make me a false prophet, but it does actually create a credibility gap.” Others quoted in the article go further. One self-described prophet said, of those who are still insisting in February 2021 that Trump will soon return as president, “This has opened the door to outright delusion. … I’ll say we’ve earned the world’s mockery for our foolishness.” So yes, we should expect that any genuine prophet would have a strong track record for accuracy and truth. The Bible itself specifies this same standard: “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously.” I think we could still have much respect, however, for a prophet who got something wrong but then admitted that promptly and humbly.

Finally, to respond to your second question, I would say that the prophecies that are recorded in the Scriptures, if we may take them as a model, give just as much attention to social and political concerns as to God’s people and their relationship with Him. Prophecy is both “fore-telling” and “forth-telling.” That is, it not only announces what God is going to do, it also speaks truth to power. Some biblical scholars have estimated that there is actually much more forth-telling than fore-telling within biblical prophecy. But there needs to be a standard for that as well. If prophets are to address current social and political realities, as well as situations within the believing community, then they must do so in keeping with the principles that God reveals in the Scriptures. The truth that is spoken to power must be God’s truth. And this was perhaps an even greater concern in the article you cited than the issue of incorrect prophecies that Trump would be re-elected. The article quotes a theologian and pastor who monitors present-day self-described prophets as saying that in return for favorable prophecies about him, “They had direct access to him and ability to influence decisions Trump was making. The real story was in the power, influence and access.” The article quotes others who see the positive prophecies as having been an “attempt to curry favor with a powerful political figure and movement.” If that is actually the case, then they would not have been speaking truth to power. They would have been telling power what it wanted to hear.

If Jesus died on a Friday and rose on a Sunday, how was that the “third day”?

Q. Jesus said, referring to himself, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” But Jesus died on a Friday and rose on a Sunday. How was that the “third day”?

The answer has to do with how people in the biblical culture reckoned time. Today was considered the first day, tomorrow the second day, and the day after tomorrow the third day. The day before yesterday was considered the third day going in the other direction. There is a Hebrew idiom that means “it was not like that in the past” that says literally, “It was not like that yesterday, three days,” meaning, “It was not like that yesterday or the day before yesterday.”

We get one clear indication of this usage in the reply Jesus gave when he was told that Herod wanted to kill him. He said, “I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal. In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day.” This shows clearly that the “third day” is the day after tomorrow.

So the way people reckoned time, Friday would have been the first day, Saturday the second day, and Sunday the third day.

Was it a sin for David to have many wives?

Q. My question is in regards to David’s many wives, was that not considered sin? was it something kings shouldn’t do, a recommendation from the Lord, but not going against God’s command? I understand he had plenty of trouble at home because of all the children from different wives. But when he is called a man after God’s own heart, that makes me think his polygamy is not looked at as a sin.

Your question is similar to the one I answer in this post:

How could God call David a “man after his own heart” when he committed adultery and murder?

In that post, I note that God described David in that way specifically in reference to the way David would regard the kingship, by contrast to the way Saul as king had encroached on priestly powers. I say in that post, “David set an example for all subsequent kings by never acting as if he were a divine king or priest-king.” I think the phrase also references the way David always repented when confronted with his own sin. By contrast, when confronted with his disobedience, Saul did not repent but instead insisted that he really had obeyed.

God specifically confronted David, through the prophet Nathan, about his sins against Bathsheba and Uriah, and so, as I also say in that post,”no divine approval of David’s actions can be found in the earlier description of him as a ‘man after God’s own heart.'”

We may say the same thing about David’s polygamy. The law of Moses said specifically about any future king the Israelites might have, “He must not take many wives.” The term “many” is not defined in terms of a specific number, but it seems that David did have “many” wives. Before he became king over all Israel, he was king over the tribe of Judah in Hebron, and he had six wives at that point. The Bible then tells us that “after he left Hebron” to become king of all Israel, “David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem.”

As you noted, this caused “plenty of trouble at home.” Absalom, the son of the third wife, murdered Amnon, David’s firstborn, the son of his first wife, in revenge for Amnon raping Absalom’s sister Tamar. Absalom later incited a violent rebellion against David and nearly displaced him as king. And even after David chose Solomon to succeed him, another son named Adonijah nearly took over the kingdom instead. Solomon ultimately had Adonijah executed.

This was a culture in which polygamy was accepted, particularly because it was an agricultural society that depended on human labor, and so families simply had to have children. Kings practiced polygamy to be sure that they would have surviving children who could succeed them on the throne. But it must be admitted that royal polygamy went way beyond that need, as kings  married the daughters of other kings to form alliances, and they also had large harems. The law of Moses warned that an Israelite king should not have many wives, “or his heart will be led astray,” and that is exactly what happened to David’s son Solomon. The Bible says that “he had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray.” Specifically, the women he married in order to make alliances with other countries wanted to keep worshiping their own gods, and Solomon built temples for them and even joined them in worshiping those gods. For this God punished him by taking most of the kingdom away from his dynasty.

So there seem to have been many good reasons why the law told kings not to have many wives. David was thus not an exemplary king in that way. And so what I say in the other post also applies to your question: “No divine approval of David’s actions can be found in the earlier description of him as a ‘man after God’s own heart.'”

Did Joseph and Mary stop at the temple to dedicate Jesus on the way to Egypt?

Q. If Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt after the birth of Jesus, how old was he when he was presented at the temple in Jerusalem? Did they stop in Jerusalem first, or did they return after a short time in Egypt?

Joseph and Mary did not actually flee to Egypt until two years after Jesus was born. The Magi told Herod that they had first seen the star that led them to come worship the king of the Jews two years earlier. It was Herod’s attempt to destroy this new king by killing all of the boys in Bethlehem who were two years old or younger that led Joseph and Mary to flee to save Jesus’ life.

Luke tells us that Joseph and Mary presented Jesus in the temple “when the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses,” which would have been about forty days after he was born. It seems likely that they would have remained in the area of Bethlehem until then, since they were already so near Jerusalem, where the temple was. But after that, they went somewhere else. Matthew tells us that the Magi went into the “house” where the family was staying. So our traditional Christmas manger scene of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus with the shepherds and the wise men is not accurate. The wise men did not come to see Jesus at the same place as the shepherds.

Matthew does not tell us exactly where Joseph and Mary were with Jesus when the Magi came. While the teachers of the law told Herod that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, and the Magi headed there initially, Matthew says that they followed the star to where Jesus actually was. This could even have been back in Nazareth in Galilee. Herod the Great ruled both Judea and Galilee, so Jesus was in danger from him even that far away. That is why an angel warned Joseph in a dream that the family needed to flee.

How could Satan have fallen? And do some fallen angels oppose Satan as well as God?

Q. How, in the perfect environment of heaven and constant presence of God, did Satan fall? Eve was deceived by an already fallen Satan and influenced Adam in the book of Genesis. The fall of Satan is complicated to me as he, like Adam, was created perfect and given free will….his fall is a deep mystery to me.

Related to this, and I believe the answer has something to do with free will, does Satan have perfect control over the fallen angels? I.e., are some of them fallen from God and rebels from Satan, and do their own thing in opposition to both God and Satan?

The fall of Satan is indeed a deep mystery, but I share some thoughts about it in this post: Why did God create Satan? In that post I suggest, as you do, that the explanation for Satan’s fall lies in “the radical nature of the freedom that God has endowed each of His intelligent creatures with.”

As for whether some of the fallen angels are rebellious both to God and to Satan, I think they are all generally opposed to God, but that nevertheless there is much chaos and disorder among their ranks, so that they may often work at cross-purposes. God’s kingdom is one of order and harmony. Satan’s sphere is one of disorder and confusion.

When did Esau “break off the yoke” of Jacob?

Q. Isaac promised his son Esau that even though he had made his younger brother Jacob his “lord,” someday “you will throw his yoke from off your neck.” Did the yoke get broken off from Esau in the later episode when Jacob bowed down to Esau and called him “lord”? Was Esau saved?

As you suggest, I think it would be accurate to say that Jacob’s yoke was broken off Esau when Jacob returned from being away for 20 years and bowed down to Esau and called him “lord.” We may conclude this not just from the events of the narrative in Genesis, but from the very shape of the narrative itself. The episode in which Jacob cheats Esau out of his position as the family leader in their generation and the episode in which Jacob returns and makes restitution are parallel elements in an elaborate arrangement. Here is how I illustrate that in my study guide to Genesis. (You can read the study guide online or download it free at this link.) Note how episodes marked with the same letter balance each other:

A Jacob deceives his father and steals Esau’s blessing

B Jacob flees towards Harran and encounters God at Bethel

C Jacob arrives in Harran

D Laban deceives Jacob

E Jacob’s children are born

D Jacob deceives Laban

C Jacob leaves Harran

B Jacob returns towards Canaan and encounters God again

A Jacob returns Esau’s blessing and they are reconciled

So the narrative in Genesis is put together in such a way as to indicate that when Jacob came back home and returned Esau’s blessing, bowing down to him as his “lord,” that was a fulfillment of the promise that their father Isaac had made to Esau that he would eventually “throw off” the yoke of servitude to Jacob.

I talk more about how Jacob made restitution to Esau in this post.

As for whether Esau was saved, the Bible does not say specifically. I do not believe we should take Paul’s comments in Romans to mean that Esau was not saved. Paul is speaking specifically of which brother the covenant line would continue through, not of individual salvation, when he says that “in order that God’s purpose in election might stand,” Rebekah was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Paul also quotes the statement from Malachi, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated,” but we need to appreciate that the Hebrew language uses the term “hated” in contexts like this to refer to a son or wife who is not favored, by contrast with one who is favored. The meaning is, “I favored Jacob, but I did not favor Esau.”

So, we do not know for sure whether Esau was saved. But we might conclude from the fact that Esau did not attack Jacob when he returned, even though he had said earlier that he was going to kill Jacob, that Esau somehow found the motive and power to forgive, and so perhaps he had experienced God’s forgiveness himself.

Why are the numbers 144,000 and 12,000 in Revelation so mathematical?

Q. In John’s vision in Revelation of the “servants of God” who were sealed, any ideas as to why these numbers (144,000 and 12,000 from each tribe) are so mathematical? That is, apparently the Lord picked these exact numbers to be included here. Just curious. Is there something more?

You are on to something here. Yes, those numbers are mathematical. 12,000 = 3 x 4 x 10 x 10 x 10, and 144,000 = 12 x 12 x 10 x 10 x 10. I discuss the symbolism of such numbers in this post: Are the numbers 3, 4, 7, 10, etc. intentionally symbolic in the book of Revelation?

I also have a separate post on, Who are the 144,000 in the book of Revelation?

In these posts I draw on my Daniel-Revelation study guide, which you can read online or download for free at this link.