Many people have heard of the four total lunar eclipses of 2014-2015 that supposedly will usher in the Lord’s return. This idea was popularized by John Hagee’s 2013 book, Four Blood Moons: Something is About to Change. However, this idea was not original with Hagee, for he borrowed heavily from Mark Biltz, who originated discussion of this topic in 2008. Biltz recently published his book on the subject, Blood Moons: Decoding the Imminent Heavenly Signs. Since Biltz, not Hagee, is the primary source for this idea, it is appropriate that we investigate what Biltz has written. I have previously written on the subject of “blood moons.”
Unfortunately, Biltz’s book was not yet published when I wrote those earlier critiques. The publication of his book now permits further analysis of Biltz’s ideas. Besides being wrong about the supposed tetrads of “blood moon,” this book reveals many other questionable things about the teachings of Mark Biltz.
Biltz endorses a number of extra biblical topics that are questionable at best. For instance, he agrees with the so-called gospel in the stars (pp. 40-44), something that I have previously shown to be poorly founded. A Further Examination of the Gospel in the Stars On p. 145 Biltz endorsed numerology, the extra biblical teaching that numbers in Scripture have special meanings. Recently I have classified both of these beliefs as a modern form of Christian Gnosticism, because they make use of special hidden knowledge that supposedly brings about a higher spiritual existence (Colossians 2:8). I also included in this form of Gnosticism the infatuation that some Christians have for Bible prophecy and the ensuing never-ending quest of each new predicted return of the Lord Jesus. Biltz’s teaching on the four lunar eclipses of 2014-2015 certainly falls within this category, since it sets up for many people the certain expectation of the Lord’s return by autumn 2015.
Biltz’s book teaches other aspects of this neo-Gnosticism. Much of his second chapter (pp. 15-46) is about supposed hidden meanings in Hebrew letters in the Old Testament. On p. 16 Biltz wrote
“Proverbs 25:2 tells us, ‘It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.’ God chose to hide His messages in the ancient Hebrew alphabet. You will find that the written Hebrew language like the decoder ring to understanding what God is hiding.”
Less there be any doubt as to what Biltz is teaching, he discussed alleged pictographs in the Hebrew word for signs in Genesis 1:14 (p. 20). He concluded that with,
“This is the same Hebrew word used in Genesis 1:14 when God declares He created the sun and moon for signs. This word is also the very same Hebrew word for the word letter. In other words, the Hebrew letters are to be signs!”
Related to this, on p. 17, Biltz totally mishandles Zephaniah 3:9, where God declares that He will “turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD…” Biltz claims that this was fulfilled by the resurgence in the use of Hebrew in the twentieth century. One would be hard pressed to find a single commentary that endorses that view.
On p. 26, Biltz wrote,
“What you will receive by reading this book are absolutely critical keys to unlocking the secrets of the Bible that have bene hidden from the masses for a very long time.”
This is a variation on the Bible code, which I also classed as a form of modern Gnosticism. It also is a clear appeal to secret, hidden knowledge that Biltz is eager to share with uninitiated people. This is in contradiction to the clarity of Scripture. There is deep meaning in many biblical passages, but it is superficial to posit that those deep meanings are revealed by some sort of secret code.
Misrepresentations of Biblical Passages
Biltz frequently badly handles biblical passages. For instance, on p. 35 Biltz quoted Genesis 7:11-12 in that the Flood commenced on the seventeenth day of the second month when the fountains of the great deep were broken up and the windows of heaven were opened and that it rained for forty days and forty nights. He followed that passage with this statement:
“The second month is Cheshvan, similar to our late October-early November time frame. So it was the seventeenth day of this month that the rain started. When you count forward forty days, you come to Kislev 27. The rains stops and a beautiful rainbow appears. And on the biblical calendar, Kislev 27 is right in the middle of Chanukah!”
This displays a common misconception about the Flood – that it lasted 40 days and nights. Actually, the Flood was about a year (Genesis 8:6-14). In the Flood account, the rainbow is not mentioned until after the Flood, with the Noahic Covenant (Genesis 9:12-17). This was long after the 40 days and nights of rain. Such ignorance of the Flood narrative on the part of a supposed Bible teacher is appalling.
There are other examples of Biltz mishandling Scripture. On p. 34, Biltz quoted Matthew 24:24 about false prophets performing great signs and wonders and posed the question of how we can determine whether a prophet is false or not. He wrote,
“Many people think they can determine if a prophet is a true one or not by whether what he prophesies takes place. That is not totally accurate. God may be testing you to see if you know the litmus test. You can find it in Deuteronomy 13.”
This confuses the matter, because there are two biblical tests for a prophet. Deuteronomy 13 warns against a supposed prophet that wants people to worship gods other than the true God. Even if that prophet were to produce great signs and wonders, if he counsels following other gods, then he is a false prophet. However, the test of Deuteronomy 18:20-22 applies to a prophet who claims to represent the true God. If a prophecy made by a prophet claiming to represent the true God fails to come to pass, then we can be assured that he is a false prophet. Since Biltz claims to represent the LORD, the Deuteronomy 13 test does not apply. However, effectively setting dates for the LORD’s return amounts to a prediction that we can test. According to Deuteronomy 18:2-22, if and when this prediction fails to come to pass, we can be assured that Biltz is a false prophet. Even more troubling is that this deflection of the prophet test is a common practice of many cults.
On p. 95, Biltz badly handles the chronology and details of the incident with the golden calf in the wilderness. He wrote,
“In Exodus 32, we read that after Aaron made the golden calf, Moses went up to the mount and fasted for forty days. Historically, he came down on Yom Kippur with the good news that atonement had been made and God wanted to tabernacle among them.”
First of all, there is no mention of Moses spending 40 days on the mountain in Exodus 32, nor is there any mention of a fast in Exodus 32. Moses had spent 40 days on the mountain, but it is mentioned earlier, at the end of Exodus 24. It is clear from the Exodus 24-32 narrative that Aaron made the golden calf near the end of the 40 days when Moses was on the mountain (Exodus 32:1). Nor does the text of Exodus 32 reveal that Moses brought “the good news that atonement had been made and God wanted to tabernacle among them.” Nothing could be further from the truth, or at the very least, Biltz left out some critical details. Before Moses came down off the mountain, God told him of the evil deeds of the people and that He would destroy them (Exodus 32:7-10). Moses interceded for the people, and God relented (Genesis 32:11-14). When Moses came down off the mountain, he heard and saw what had occurred, and in his anger broke the stone tables (Exodus 32:15-19). There was even nudity involved, probably related to pagan practices current at that time (Exodus 32:25). Moses burned the calf, ground it up, cast it upon water that he made the people drink (Exodus 32:20). Moses then commanded the Levites to slay 3,000 men in the camp (Exodus 32:26-28). Only after Moses commanded the people to consecrate themselves (Exodus 32:29) and he interceded once more (Exodus 32:30-32) did God instruct Moses to continue leading the people in their journey to the Promised Land (Exodus 32:34), but even then, the people’s punishment continued for a while (Exodus 32:35). Since Exodus 32 closes with God’s continued punishment of the people for their wickedness, it is hardly correct to state that “atonement had been made” – when atonement is made, there is no place for continued punishment.
Biltz has confused Exodus 32 with a second trip that Moses made up Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:2). It is Exodus 34:28 that records that Moses spent 40 days and 40 nights on the mountain and that he neither ate nor drank during this time. It was at this time that God renewed His covenant (Exodus 34:5-27) and rewrote on stone tablets. Upon Moses’ return from the mountain, there is no more mention of punishment, so in that sense there had been atonement at this time. However, none of these events is found in Exodus 32.
In discussing the incident during Paul’s first missionary journey where in Lystra the people of the city thought that Paul and Barnabas were gods (Acts 14:6-18), Biltz wrote that Lystra was in Galatia (p. 92). Acts 14:6 states that Lystra and Derbe were in Lycaonia. On his second missionary journey, Paul passed through Phrygia and Galatia (Acts 16:6), but no mention is made of either Lycaonia or Lystra. The borders of Galatia changed over time (though it is unlikely that they changed between the first and second missionary journeys), and the overall boundary of Galatia is uncertain. However, one cannot conclude from either the biblical text or from other historical documents that Lystra was in Galatia. Ordinarily, this would be a very minor detail, but Biltz uses this questionable fact to make a significant (albeit, incorrect) point. On p. 93, Biltz claims that the people of Galatia were pagan, practiced astrology, and hence used a pagan calendar, not the Hebrew calendar. Actually, most of the Roman world at this time used the Julian (solar) calendar that went into effect in 46 BC, so it’s not clear why the Apostle Paul would have singled out the Galatians for this, if that were the issue. Biltz then quoted from Galatians 4:8-11 to argue that the wrong practice that the Apostle Paul was addressing in these verses was the Galatian church’s abandonment of the Hebrew calendar and a return to the pagan solar calendar that they had used prior to their salvation. Biltz placed the quotation of Galatians 4:10, “Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years” in italics to emphasize its significance in this argument. Biltz followed his quote of Galatians 4:8-11 with this:
“I’m sure Paul was wondering why in the world they would leave the biblical calendar and go back to the pagan one! All the terms Paul is using here describe the pagan calendar. We know this because in other passages when Paul refers to the biblical calendar, he doesn’t use the word months, but new moon and refers not to days but holydays and sabbath days.”
Biltz went on to quote a portion of Colossians 2:16-18:
“Let no man therefore judge you… in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come’ the body is of Christ.” (italics in the original)
Biltz went on,
“Wow! Do you catch this? The Colossians were the Galatians’ next-door neighbors and yet the Colossians kept the holy days. Paul was saying to them not to let the backslidden Galatians judge them, because they are doing exactly the right thing.”
Probably every reference Bible or commentaries on the books of Galatians or Colossians connect Galatians 4:10 and Colossians 2:16, but in an entirely different way than Biltz does. His claim that the issue in the Galatian church was a return to paganism misses the problem of the Judaizers in the Galatian church. This context is well-established in chapter four (verses 19-31), but also in chapters 2, 3, and 5. The problem in the Galatian church was not a return to paganism, but a detour into observing the Law. And the context of Colossians 2:16-18 indicates that the attempts of the Judaizers was a problem in Colosse as well, though probably not as great as in the Galatian church. The second chapter of Colossians is about the bodily incarnation of the Godhead in Jesus Christ (verse 9). It contains warnings not to be led away by false teachers (verses 4, 8, and 18). It speaks of the circumcision of Christ made without hands (verses 11-13). This is not literal circumcision, which is the physical emblem of the Law. Colossians 2:15 contains the word “therefore,” so it is important that we see what proceeded it to judge the context. Biltz omitted Colossians 2:14, which states,
“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.”
These handwritten ordinances were the Law. Furthermore, notice the ellipses marks in Biltz’s quotation of Colossians 2:16-18. What Biltz omitted was the words, “…in meat, or in drink, or…” Including those omitted words gives a very different meaning to Colossians 2:16 than Biltz claimed, in that it clearly is referring to observance of the Law. Hence, Biltz is completely wrong in saying that this verse commends the Colossians for observing the Hebrew calendar. Rather, the Apostle Paul was warning them not to be judged by the Judaizers and hence fall into the trap of observing the Law. By his omissions of key verses and phrases, Biltz has distorted the true meaning of these passages, and thus exhibits the traits of a false teacher.
In his criticism of replacement theology, Biltz mangled two other passages. On pp. 126-127 Biltz wrote,
“After the Jews were scattered and Gentile leaders began to take over the congregations, Yeshua had said that His disciples were not to be like the Gentiles, who lord over the flock: ‘Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you; but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all’ (Mark 10:42-44).” (italics in the original)
What is the context of these three verses? In verses 32-34, Jesus told his disciples about His upcoming crucifixion and resurrection. After this, James and John asked if they could sit on either side of Jesus in His glory (verses 35-37). Jesus responded by asking them if they were willing to drink of the same cup and partake of the same baptism that He was, to which they responded that they were (verses 38-39a). Jesus confirmed that they would, but that who was to sit at His side was not His to give (verses 39b-40). Verse 41 records that upon hearing this, the other ten disciples became wroth with James and John. Jesus’ words in verses 42-44 are in direct response to this controversy. Jesus was emphasizing that we must have a servant’s heart, that we are not to seek our own glory. The reason that Jesus mentioned the Gentiles lording their authority probably was in reference to the fact that at that time the Jews were under Roman authority which they resented very much. Thus, in context this passage is not a prophetic utterance about the Gentile dominance of the church in a few decades. Biltz continued (p. 127),
“The problem was that most Gentile leaders had little to no foundation in the Torah to build on. One Greek pastor would not even allow the apostle John, or other Jews, in the Church. He even kicked out any Gentile who would allow Jews in. Most people read right over the verses that tell us this. John wrote:
“I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence, among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds, which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words; and not content with that, neither doth he himself receive the brethren [other jews] and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church (3 John 9-10)
“There it is! Even during John’s time, the Gentiles were taking over the synagogues and kicking all the Jews out.”
Third John provides few details as to what Diotrephes was doing beyond his rejection of the Apostle John’s authority. There is no foundation for thinking that the brethren mentioned here exclusively were Jewish. It is presumptuous for Biltz to assert that they were.
Another place where Biltz mishandled Scripture in his refutation of replacement theology is on pp. 101-103. He quoted from I Corinthians 13:12 that now we see through a glass darkly but then we shall see face to face. Biltz connected this to Ezekiel 20:33-35 that uses the same terminology, “face to face.” Biltz related this to the veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place in the Temple where once per year, on Yom Kippur, the High Priest approached God face to face. Then he referenced Romans 11:25-29 that Israel is partially blinded to the gospel, upon which Biltz concluded,
“So Jew and Christians both are partially blinded – the Jews concerning the Messiah, and the Christians concerning the relevance of the Torah.”
This is reading a tremendous amount into these passages that is not warranted. Part of the problem here is that Biltz is using the term veil entirely in the modern sense. We tend to think of a veil as being a shear curtain though which some light passes and hence one can partially see through. Thus, we often think of a veil as partially obscuring our view. That was not the purpose of the veil in the Temple. It was to exclude access to the Holy of Holies, so it was extremely thick. Even the word curtain fails to grasp the thickness of this barrier.
Traditions of Men
Biltz followed his comments about supposed enmity between Jews and Gentiles in the church during the apostolic age with his description of anti-Semitism in the church throughout history. No one can doubt that some very strong, negative attitudes toward Jews eventually developed in the church. For instance, Martin Luther wrote some very bad things about Jews that virtually no one within the church today feels compelled to defend. However, Biltz maligned early church fathers by repeating some unsavory things that they supposedly wrote without first checking them out. On p. 128, Biltz quoted from Justin Martyr and Irenaeus and gave a brief summation that Tertullian supposedly wrote. One easily can find these statements with a quick internet search. However, if one reads in context what all three of these gentlemen actually wrote, one gets a very different understanding of their words. Space does not permit full discussion here, but a slightly longer internet search suffices to find the full quotes.
However, Biltz’s definition of anti-Semitism goes far beyond this. In several places in his book, he ties anti-Semitism directly to replacement theology and, for that matter, any doubts about Jewish traditions. For instance, on p. 94 Biltz wrote:
“Many people are anti-Semites and want to do away with everything Jewish. You can hear it and feel it in their words and tone. They immediately reject anything the Jews say, declaring it to be ‘rabbinic’ or the ‘traditions of men.’ Then they turn right around and follow their own manmade traditions.”
Jewish traditions are helpful, and they often may be true, but they hardly ought to be put on the same level with scriptural authority. Biltz often presented information from Jewish traditions without any attribution, making it difficult for many readers to realize that the information was extra biblical. For instance, on p. 67 Biltz states that on the Feast of Trumpets the shofar is blown 100 times. However, this practice of blowing the shofar 100 times is not proscribed in the Bible but rather is a tradition. It is not even the universal tradition, as several variations in the number of shofar blasts exist, though no one would get that from reading Biltz.
On pp. 94-95, Biltz noted that Exodus 16 made provision for a scapegoat to carry the sins of the people. Biltz accurately describes that the high priest was to cast lots between two goats, one to be sacrificed as a sin offering, and the other to be the scapegoat. However, Biltz mingled in the Jewish tradition of eventually tossing the scapegoat off a cliff in the wilderness. Another mingled element was the attaching of a scarlet thread to a horn of the scapegoat and another scarlet thread to the Temple door. Supposedly, if the scarlet thread on the door turned white, then the people knew that their sins had been forgiven. None of these Jewish traditions are in Scripture, though few readers would know that, because the discussion of this is prefaced with the words, “The passage [Exodus 16] goes on to tell how…”
On p. 125, Biltz stated that the ten spies brought the bad report on the Promised Land on the ninth day of the month of Av. The Bible does not identify the date that this happened, so this must be a Jewish tradition. On p. 126, Biltz wrote that the seventeenth of Tammuz “was the very day the Israelites worshipped the golden calf at the base of Mount Sinai.” Again, the Bible does not identify the date of this event, so the source must be Jewish tradition. As previously mentioned, Biltz places the date of Moses’ return from his second 40-day trip on Mount Sinai as Yom Kippur (p. 95). Tammuz is the fourth month, while Yom Kippur is the tenth day of the seventh month. Thus, according to Biltz, there is a little over 100 days between the worshipping of the golden calf and Moses coming down off Mount Sinai after the second 40-day trip. Allowing for the events of Chapter 33 of Exodus, this time period is reasonable. However, there is no evidence from the biblical account for this time interval or for these dates, so these dates must come from Jewish tradition.
Starting on p. 32, Biltz makes much of Chanukah, as if this were a feast given in the Old Testament. It is not, for it originated from the inter-testament period, and hence is not on par with the biblically mandated Hebrew festivals. Biltz attempted to argue for Chanukah’s significance by noting that it is mentioned in John 10:22 (the Feast of Dedication). However, the mere mention of something in the Bible does not amount to an endorsement. The mention of this merely provides a time reference. Chanukah is not a biblical feast, but rather it is a Jewish tradition.
The Feast of Trumpets
Biltz makes a number of claims about the Feast of Trumpets. For instance, as previously mentioned, he claims that the shofar is blown 100 times on that day, though Jewish traditions give various other numbers of trumpet blasts. On p. 67, Biltz wrote that the hundredth and final blast is called “the last trump.” Therefore, Biltz claims that when the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:51-53, he was talking about the Feast of Trumpets (pp. 67-68). On p. 69, Biltz stated that trump of God mentioned in I Thessalonians 4:16 refers to the Feast of Trumpets. That is, the Apostle Paul revealed that Jesus would return on the Feast of Trumpets. On pp. 70-71, Biltz attempted to further his case by tying together the Feast of Trumpets with the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jerimiah 30:6-7), the trouble on the day of the LORD (Isaiah 13:6-8), the sounding of the trumpet and the alarm on the great day of the LORD (Zephaniah 1:14-16), and the blowing of the trumpet and the sounding of the alarm on the day of the LORD (Joel 2:1-2). However, this is muddled. True, trumpets were blown to signal alarm, such as an attack on a city, but this blowing of trumpets is very different from the blowing of trumpets on Rosh Hashanah. Hence, it is stretch to equate the two.
On p. 80, Biltz wrote:
“Many people ask me about my view of when the rapture, or what I really prefer calling the resurrection of the dead, will take place. To be honest, it doesn’t matter to me, and I don’t waste my time speculating. God isn’t consulting my opinion, and He definitely isn’t taking a vote on when He should return. Too many people waste their time arguing, and they don’t get anything accomplished for the kingdom. But although I have no idea the specific year, I do believe it will happen on the Feast of Trumpets.”
He doesn’t waste his time speculating?! Then what is the point of his book, if not to tell people that the LORD probably will return on the Feast of Trumpets at the time of this tetrad of total lunar eclipses? This statement is disingenuous, and it comes across as an attempt to provide cover if and when Bliltz’ prediction fails to come to pass. On p. 89, Biltz denied setting dates, because he doesn’t know the year, implying of course, that he does know the particular day of a year. A similar statement appears on p. 62.
But this is not all that Biltz says that has happened on the Feast of Tabernacles. On p. 110, he concluded that the Transfiguration took place on the Feast of Tabernacles, because Peter wanted to build three tabernacles. On pp. 113-119, Biltz attempted to prove that Jesus was born during the Feast of Tabernacles. This increasingly has become a common belief in recent years, so it is good to analyze this. The first clue for this conclusion is that according to Luke 2:5, Zacharias, the father-to-be of John the Baptist, was a priest of the course of Abia, or Abijah. Presumably, this Abijah is the same one listed as the eighth course in I Chronicles 24:10 when the courses of priestly service were established with completion of the first Temple. There were 24 courses. According to Jewish tradition, each course served one week twice a year, starting with Passover. During the three high feasts, Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Trumpets and Tabernacles, additional priests were enlisted to assist with the large number of people. Presumably, with extra duty during these festivals, the 24 courses serving two weeks per year would have accounted for a full year, and thus the cycle would begin again the following year. This would have placed the course of Abijah about the time of Pentecost, an idea reinforced by the multitude of people present (Mark 2:10). An angel of the Lord appeared to Zacharias while he was in the Holy Place and told Zacharias that his wife Elizabeth would have a son, though she was very old (Mark 2:11-22). After Zacharias completed his priestly duties, he returned home, whereupon his wife became pregnant (Mark 2:23-25). According to Mark 2:26-38, in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel appeared to her cousin Mary, and he told her that she would have a child as well. Assuming that Mary became pregnant about this time, Jesus would have been born nine months later. Adding the six and nine months, we conclude that Jesus was born approximately fifteen months after Elizabeth became pregnant. Since this was shortly after Pentecost, this would place the birth of Jesus near the time of the Feast of Tabernacles the following year.
Biltz interprets other details to argue his case. On p. 116, he wrote that there was no room at the inn in Bethlehem (Luke 2:6-7), because of the large number of people who had traveled to nearby Jerusalem for the seventh month feasts. Also on this page, Biltz reasoned that the Feast of Trumpets was a time of rejoicing, and pointed out that the shepherd rejoiced (Luke 2:8-20), with even more reason than normal at this time of year. Biltz is even more specific than this, at the very least implying that Jesus was born on Rosh Hashanah. On p. 117, he pointed out that the eighth day of Feast of Trumpets was a solemn assembly (Numbers 29:35). He noted that Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day after his birth (Luke 2:21) in accordance with the requirements of the Law, though Biltz referenced Genesis 17:10 when he ought to have referenced Genesis 17:12 or Leviticus 12:3. Biltz went on to write,
“So on this very special day, Yeshua shed His blood through circumcision confirming the covenant of Abraham.”
If Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day of the Feast of Trumpets, then He was born on Rosh Hashanah. As an aside, it is difficult to ignore the rather trite equation of circumcision with the shedding of Jesus’ blood.
How sound is this conclusion? First, even if the assumptions are correct, then one can at best conclude that Jesus was born close to the seventh month, and possibly during one of the feasts that month. But which feast and which day of which feast? One could argue for the birth on Rosh Hashanah as Biltz does, but others might conclude that Jesus was born on Yom Kippur or some other particular day. There is not enough information in the biblical record to conclude anything, so it is more of a particular person’s opinion of poetic or figurative meaning. Second, there is considerable doubt about the assumptions. While I Chronicles 24 lists the 24 courses of priests, it does not give details of when each course served. According to I Chronicles 27:1-15, military commanders served one month per year. That suggests to some Bible scholars that each course of priests may have served for a month every other year. According to many Jewish traditions, each course of priests served for two weeks each year. However, some traditions say that each course served one week twice per year while other Jewish traditions say that each course served for two consecutive weeks once per year. Obviously, Biltz selected to believe the first option within Jewish tradition, though most people reading his book would know that there are other possibilities. If any other method of priestly rotation were employed, Biltz’s computation of the birth date of Jesus is wrong.
However, there is a more serious problem. Apparently, much of the priestly line was lost with the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians and the subsequent captivity of Judah, for according to the censuses of Ezra 2:36-39 and Nehemiah 7:39-42, only four families of priests returned to Jerusalem, and Abijah’s family was not among them. Either entire courses of priests were exterminated or courses declined to return to the Promised Land with Zerubbabel. Nehemiah 12:1-7 records the division of the priests into 22 families. These appear to be the establishment of new courses among the priests. However, only 22 families are named. If these are courses, we do not know what happened to the other two courses. Perhaps the other two were not named, or perhaps there were no male heirs in two of the lines. Nehemiah 12:12-21 lists the same priestly courses a generation later, though one more course is omitted, possibly because of extinction of that course. Among both of the lists in Nehemiah 12 is the house of Abijah, though obviously, this is not the same Abijah from I Chronicles 24. Furthermore, if these households are listed according to order, this Abijah is not the eighth course. It is likely that the course of Abijah that Luke 2:5 refers to is this Abijah, not the one of I Chronicles 24. If so, then we have no idea when the angel appeared to Zacharias, and this computation of the approximate date of Jesus’ birth is impossible to calculate in this manner.
Parallels and other Muddled Things
Biltz sees various parallels between different passages that are questionable. For instance, on pp. 97-98, he noted supposed parallels between the institution of Yom Kippur in Leviticus 16 and Revelation 8:3-6 to conclude that the events of Revelation must happen on Yom Kippur. On pp. 98-99, Biltz pointed out that Pentecost coincided with the grain harvest, while the autumn feasts coincided with the grape harvest. Biltz then commented that the 3,000 souls were saved when the Holy Spirit came (Acts 2:41), which was at the time of Shavuot, or Pentecost. He then likened it to Jesus’ words in Matthew 13:38-39 in explaining the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:24-30) where Jesus said that the harvest in the parable was the end of the world. Biltz immediately followed that with reference to the angel in Revelation 14:18 using a sickle to harvest ripe grapes, indicating that Revelation 14:18 will be fulfilled during the autumn feasts, when grapes are harvested. This is muddled. In Matthew 13:39 Jesus explicitly identified the harvest of the parable with the end of the world, but Biltz wants to equate that event with the conversion of 3,000 people two millennia ago with the arrival of the Holy Spirit. Nearly everyone understands that both the parable of the sower and the grapes harvested in Revelation 14:18 are metaphors – they are symbolic of the real harvest of people.
Biltz’s difficulty with metaphor continues on p. 100 where he ties together the avenging of the blood of the saints in Revelation 19:2 to Jesus’ robe dripped in blood in Revelation 19:13. He further associates the blood with the winepress of Revelation 13:15 to support his contention “…that this event will happened some year on Yom Kippur.” Again, nearly everyone understands that the winepress is metaphorical and hence does not signal that these events must happen at the time of the Hebrew autumn festivals.
On pp. 131-133, Biltz recounts what he thinks is the history of the Hebrew calendar. He credits Hillel II in the fourth century with establishing the Jewish calendar that is observed today, which is a common belief. However, there is some doubt whether the current method of inserting an intercalary month following the Metonic cycle was adopted then or later (insert my reference). Implied in this is the assumption that prior to the adoption of the Metonic cycle, the decision of when to insert an intercalary month was observationally based upon the state of the barely crop. But then Biltz condemns those who do not agree with this or want to use their own barely harvest to determine when the year begins. But the reality is that sometimes the modern method and the method based upon the barely test do not agree. When this happens, how can he say that Hillel timing is God’s timing? Implicit in this is the assumption that the Hebrews originally observed the Metonic cycle, then abandoned that in favor of an observationally based calendar, but then were forced by anti-Semitic Christians to go back to the original that “…God had originally ordained.” This makes no sense.
In Chapter Six, “The Science of the Signs,” Biltz discusses solar and lunar eclipses. On p. 146, he tabulated and described eight eclipses that occurred near Passover and Rosh Hashanah in the years AD 69-71, roughly coinciding with the destruction of the second Temple. Obviously, Biltz sees great significance in these eclipses as signs about the Temple’s destruction. What Biltz left out of his discussion was the visibility of each of these eclipses and hence whether anyone in Jerusalem would have noticed any of them.
The first eclipse, a partial lunar eclipse on October 18, AD 69 was visible in Jerusalem. The second eclipse was a total solar eclipse on March 30, AD 70, visible over small parts of Central America and the Caribbean, so no Jews would have known about this eclipse. The third eclipse was a penumbral lunar eclipse on April 4, AD 70. The start of the eclipse was barely visible in Jerusalem near sunset. However, penumbral eclipses are difficult to detect visually, so it is doubtful that anyone in Jerusalem would have noticed this eclipse. The fourth eclipse was an annular solar eclipse on September 23, AD 70. This eclipse was visible in China and the Pacific Ocean, so it was not visible from Jerusalem. Incidentally, in the text, Biltz had the correct date, but the table entry had the incorrect date of September 21. The fifth eclipse was a penumbral eclipse on October 8, AD 70. Besides being a barely noticeable eclipse, it was visible in western North America, eastern Asia, and Australia, but not Jerusalem. The sixth eclipse was another partial lunar eclipse on March 4, AD 71 that was visible in Jerusalem. The seventh eclipse was a hybrid (total/annular) solar eclipse on March 20, AD 71. The path of totality/annularity was a narrow band across western Africa, Libya, the Mediterranean, the Bosporus, Ukraine, and Russia. The eclipse would have been a partial solar eclipse in Jerusalem, but such a partial eclipse would not have been visible without special equipment that did not exist at that time, so it is unlikely that anyone in Jerusalem knew about it. Finally, the eighth eclipse was another hybrid solar eclipse on September 12, AD 71. This eclipse was visible along narrow band in south Atlantic, so it was not visible in Jerusalem.
Of these eight eclipses, only four would have had any visibility in Jerusalem. The vast majority of readers of Biltz’s book would not know this. The penumbral and partial solar eclipses probably were not noticed by anyone in Jerusalem. The two partial lunar eclipses would not have been impressive. As I have previously pointed out, partial lunar eclipses do not appear red on their own part. When the moon is viewed low in the sky, atmospheric extinction can make the moon appear reddish, and so a partially eclipsed moon low in the sky can appear red, but not because the moon is eclipsed. https://answersingenesis.org/astronomy/moon/lunar-eclipses-biblical-prophecy/ That is, normal atmospheric extinction can make the uneclipsed moon appear red. This is in a book about four total lunar eclipses as signs of the end of the age. To include something remarkable about the eclipses at the time of the Temple’s destruction is grasping at straws.
Page 147 includes a table and discussion of eight eclipses that occurred during the years AD 32-33, the time in which Biltz thinks that Jesus was crucified. These eclipses too fell near Passover and Rosh Hashanah. Let us examine those. The first one was a partial solar eclipse on March 29, AD 32 visible only visible near Antarctica and southern South America. The second eclipse was a total lunar eclipse on April 14, AD 32 that was visible in Jerusalem, as well as the Americas and Australia. The third eclipse was a partial solar eclipse on September 23, AD 32 visible only from northern Siberia. The fourth eclipse was a total lunar eclipse on October 7, AD 32, but only the end of the ending partial phase of the eclipse was visible at sunset in Jerusalem. The fifth eclipse was a total solar eclipse on March 19, AD 33. The eclipse path was in Indian Ocean and hence was not visible in Jerusalem. The sixth eclipse was a partial lunar eclipse on April 3AD 33. Only the end of this eclipse was visible at sunset. The seventh eclipse was an annular solar eclipse on October 12, AD 33. However, this eclipse was visible in Russia, central Asia, and China, not Jerusalem. The eighth eclipse was a partial lunar eclipse on September 27, AD 33, but only the beginning of this eclipse was visible from Jerusalem in the early morning as the moon set and the sun rose. Of these eight eclipses, only three were visible from Jerusalem, the total lunar eclipse and two partial lunar eclipses. Only the beginning of one partial eclipse was visible from Jerusalem, and only the end of the other partial lunar eclipse. Many other authors have made much of the April 3, AD 33 partial lunar eclipse, because they think that this occurred the evening following the day that Jesus died. There is considerable doubt about this, as I have previously discussed. https://answersingenesis.org/jesus-christ/crucifixion/did-the-moon-appear-as-blood-on-the-night-of-the-crucifixion/
The tables on pp. 146-147 are very similar, yet there is a difference that I noticed right away. Both tables list the type of eclipse and the date of each eclipse on the Hebrew calendar. However, the first table (p. 146) also gives the Gregorian date (our modern calendar) for each eclipse, but the second table (p. 147) gives only the Gregorian year. I wondered why there was a difference. Notice in my discussion above that the first fourteen eclipses were in chronological order, but the last two are reversed. I described the eclipses in the order in which they appeared in Biltz’s tables, so the switch of the last two eclipses was entirely Biltz’s. His table on p. 147 identifies the seventh eclipse (annular solar eclipse) as happening on Rosh Hashanah in AD 33, and he listed the final eclipse (a partial lunar eclipse) as happening on Sukkot in AD 33. However, this is not possible, because Sukkot follows Rosh Hashanah by two weeks, but the supposed Sukkot eclipse on September 27 precedes the Rosh Hashanah eclipse on October 12 by two weeks. Hence, the final claimed eclipse on the second table does not correspond to any Hebrew feast. If Bliltz had included Gregorian dates on his second table, this error easily would have been noticed. Did Biltz deliberately omit the Gregorian dates in an attempt to hide this error and hope that no one noticed?
Biltz and others have made much of the tetrads of total lunar eclipses that occurred on Passover and Sukkot in 1492-1493, 1949-1950, and 1967-1968, and the fact that they loosely correspond to the expulsion of Jews from Spain, the establishment of the modern state of Israel, and the conquest of Jerusalem in the Six-Day War. The entire thesis of this book, as well as John Hagee’s book about “blood moons,” is that these tetrads of total lunar eclipses occurring on Passover and Sukkot constitute biblical signs. A major problem with this thesis is that this current tetrad of total lunar eclipses falling on Passover and Sukkot is the ninth since the first century. Five of those tetrads did not correspond with any remarkable events. Why did three of those tetrad constitute a biblical sign, but the other five did not?
On pp. 147-149, Biltz discussed all the tetrads of total lunar eclipses over the past two millennia and through the twenty first century. He reported that there are 63 tetrads. For reasons that I have already explained (https://answersingenesis.org/astronomy/moon/will-lunar-eclipses-cause-four-blood-moons-in-2014-and-2015/), we would expect that approximately one sixth of these to fall on Passover and Sukkot. One sixth of 63 is ten, which is statistically consistent with the number nine, so there is nothing remarkable about the frequency of these events. Biltz tabulated the nine tetrads on p. 149, and he discussed them on pp. 148-149. He suggested some rather obscure events from history in the years AD 843 and AD 1428 that might correspond to the special tetrads at those times, but he did not mention any events corresponding to the AD 162-163, the AD 795-796, and AD 860-861 tetrads of total lunar eclipses that fell on Passover and Sukkot. Biltz is grasping at straws to identify these events, but he is a selective in which ones that he wishes to make significant. This is inconsistent.
Throughout his book, Biltz consistently uses the name Yeshua for Jesus. In a footnote on p. 104, he wrote,
“Jesus is a totally manufactured name. It is a distorted transliteration of the original Greek into Latin, and then into the various evolutions of the English language.”
This is not accurate. Yeshua is an alternate Hebrew version of Joshua, but Joshua itself is an Anglicized version of transliterations of the actual Hebrew name. Yeshua was the common form for this name in later Old Testament books. The Greek transliteration is Iesous, which transliterates into Latin as Iesus, which translates into modern English as Jesus. Translation and transliteration are difficult processes that Biltz has belittled with his attitude. One could easily make the case that we ought to call Jesus “Joshua.”
In the introduction of his book (p. xviii), Biltz said that “…God created the sun and moon and stars for signals on His feast days.” This reads far too much into Genesis 1:14. There are several purposes given for the heavenly bodies in Genesis 1:14, and those purposes are separated by conjunctions. Two of the purposes were to be for signs and to be for seasons. As Biltz eventually pointed out, the Hebrew word for seasons (moed) in this verse is the same word used for the Hebrew festivals, but it is incorrect to demand that the usage in Genesis 1:14 necessarily refers exclusively to the Hebrew festivals. While Moses is credited with composing Genesis, there is every reason to believe that the information of Genesis 1:14 was conveyed to Adam and his descendants. Since the Hebrew festivals were not instituted until long after creation, this meaning would have escaped all people until Mount Sinai. Furthermore, Biltz has conjoined the purpose of being signs with the seasons in a manner that would exclude any other meaning.
Speaking of the Hebrew word moed, on p. 50 Biltz gave “…the definition of moed from Strong’s Concordance.” It is a common misconception that Strong’s Concordance gives definitions of Hebrew words. It does not – one ought to consult a Hebrew lexicon for definitions of Hebrew words. Strong’s Concordance lists the various ways that Hebrew and Greek words are translated into English. While one can get a sense of a word’s meaning from Strong’s Concordance, it does not, in a strict sense, define Hebrew and Greek words.
On p. 49, Biltz omitted an important part of Daniel 7:25. He wrote,
“No wonder that in Daniel’s vision he saw the Antichrist speaking against God and trying to ‘change times’ (Daniel 7:25). This is referring to God’s appointed times.”
Biltz omitted the words, “and laws,” so that what he wrote ought to have read, “No wonder that in Daniel’s vision he saw the Antichrist speaking against God and trying to ‘change times and laws.’” This gives a very different meaning to this passage, and undermines Biltz’s conclusion that this verse is referring to changing God’s appointed times, or calendar.
On p. 55, Biltz claimed that in the Bible, sheaves represent people, offering Genesis 37:7 and Psalm 126:6 as evidence. The sheaves in Joseph’s dream in Genesis 37 obviously refer to particular people, as evidenced by members of Joseph’s family understanding that. However, it is not at all clear that the sheaves of Psalm 126:6 refers to people – the sheaves here could be literal sheaves or metaphorically could refer to prosperity. Though the word sheave is not in the parable of the tares (Matthew 13:24-30), Jesus described sheaves in the parable, and they represent people (Matthew 13:36-43). However, sheaves in Ruth 2:15 clearly are literal sheaves, so Biltz’s statement that in the Bible sheaves represent people is false.
The notion that four total lunar eclipses in 2014 and 2015 will usher in the Lord’s return rapidly has accumulated a following in recent years. Mark Biltz is entirely responsible for putting forth this “blood moon” hypothesis. However, as I have shown here and elsewhere, there are serious problems with this idea. Much of it amounts to a sort of Rorschach test, for one can see in it what one wants to see.
For instance, on p. 167 Biltz wrote that Comet Shoemaker-Levy IX collided with Jupiter on the weekend of the ninth of the Jewish month of Av in the summer of 1994. According to Jewish tradition, it was on this date on which, both Temples were destroyed. Also according to Jewish tradition, 1994 was a Sabbath year. Biltz finds great significance in this, stating that now the Sabbath year “…has become of year of judgment instead of a year of blessing for those who do not obey.” Two years prior, the comet had passed very close to Jupiter, shredding the comet into pieces. Twenty-one pieces slammed into Jupiter. Biltz wrote,
“Seven times three is twenty-one, so I felt that God was saying that the next three shemittahs [Sabbath years] would be times of judgement.”
What happened during the next two Sabbath years? According to Biltz, on September 17, 2001 the Dow-Jones Industrial Average saw its biggest drop ever at 7%, and on September 28, 2008 the Dow dropped 7% again. He noted that both dates were the day before Rosh Hashanah. Biltz suggested that the next Sabbath year (2015) could produce an economic collapse. Obviously, with the final total lunar eclipse of the tetrad on Sukkot that year, this nicely ties together with all the rest that Biltz had predicted. But, really? Twenty-one pieces of Comet Shoemaker-Levy IX told him that? It is possible to interpret almost anything in this sort of way. This is what I mean by this being a Rorschach test.
And some of his facts are not even right. In terms of points, the drop in the Dow (685) on September 17, 2001 was the third highest, not the highest. The drop in the Dow on September 29, 2008 was the highest ever at 778. However, these declines in the Dow occurred when the Dow was at very high levels. A more meaningful comparison of stock market declines would be in the percentage drop. The all-time record for that was October 19, 1987 when the Dow plunged more than 22%. Anyone who sold stocks at the end of that day lost far more money than someone who sold on either of the bad days in 2001 or 2008. In percentage terms, the September 17, 2001 drop is only seventeenth on the list of greatest declines. Furthermore, prior to the invention of the telescope, no one would have been aware of any comet collision with Jupiter. It is doubtful that Biltz even witnessed the 1994 comet collision with Jupiter. His lack of knowledge of eclipses and their visibility makes one wonder if Biltz has ever actually watched an eclipse. It is one thing to look these things up on the internet, but it is a very different matter to experience an eclipse to get the feel of what people in the past would have experienced. Only then can one appreciate what true signs in the sky might be.
Of much greater concern is something that Biltz wrote in his first chapter entitled, “My Story.” On p. 11, he explained how after years of hard work in church, he was burned out:
“When our pastor decided to retire, I helped vote in the next pastor, and then I decided it was time for a break. While I was not wresting with my faith, I was just totally tapped out. Since I had a hard time not being involved, I thought it was best if I didn’t go to church anywhere for an entire year. I wanted to focus on our boys. Vicki continued leading worship, and our boys tagged along, but I took a much-needed break.”
It is one thing to retire from serious involvement and leadership in a church. There are good reasons for this. But there is no good reason to withdraw from the fellowship and encouragement in meeting with other believers in corporate worship. Corporate worship is God’s plan for our spiritual growth. I find Biltz’s attitude here troubling.
Will Mark Biltz’s prediction come to pass? He clearly has expressed his belief that the Lord will return on Rosh Hashanah. He claims that he is not setting dates, because he does not know the precise year, but it is very clear from his teachings that he is convinced it will be in 2015. Of course, he can pad that by saying that the Lord could return a year or two after 2015, but probably on Rosh Hashanah in an ensuing year. Of course, if the Lord does not return by 2017 or so, Biltz’s prediction will be a bust, so time will tell. If I turn out to be wrong about this, I am willing to admit that I was wrong. The question is, will Biltz and his followers be willing to admit if they turn out to be wrong?
Philosophy (G5385) Love of wisdom: used either of zeal for or skill in any art or science, any branch of knowledge.