Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Preaching For Truth...Or Emotional Impact?

The goal of preaching is to simply give the meaning of the text and then apply the truth of the text to those who are listening. However, today preaching is more about moving emotions then providing a truthful exposition of the text! Today I was listening to a sermon that provides a great example of this.

The sermon was preached at North Side Baptist Church in Abilene, TX. The name of the sermon is The Seven Cross Utterances #1.

You can find the sermon at this link: Crown of Thorns

Early on in the sermon the pastor begins to talk about the suffering Jesus endured before he was placed on the cross. The pastor said the following,

"And they took those crucifixion thorns, poisonous thorns, thorns that would make your body react like it would if your were bitten by a rattlesnake. Poison it put in your system that would make you swell. In fact historians say and the book of Isaiah chapter 52 tells us that when they put the crown of thorns on him he head swelled until he no longer looked like a human."

Now that may move the emotions but here is the real issue, is it true?

Let's look at the claim:

1. The thorns were poisonous:

The International Bible Encyclopedia tells us the follwoing:


thornz (akdnthinos stephanos):

Three of the four evangelists mention the crown of thorns, wherewith the rude Roman soldiers derided the captive Christ (Matthew 27:29; Mark 15:17; John 19:2). All speak of the akanthine (Acanthus) crown, but there is no certainty about the peculiar plant, from the branches of which this crown of cruel mockery was plaited. The rabbinical books. mention no less than twenty-two words in the Bible signifying thorny plants, and the word akantha in the New Testament Greek is a generic and not a specific term. And this word or its adjective is used in the three Gospels, quoted above. It is therefore impossible definitely to determine what was the exact plant or tree, whose thorny branches were selected for this purpose. Tobler (Denkbl., 113, 179) inclines to the Spina Christi, as did Hasselquist. Its botanical name is Zizyphus Spina Christi, It is very common in the East. Its spines are small and sharp, its branches soft, round and pliable, and the leaves look like ivy, with a dark, shiny green color, making them therefore very adaptable to the purpose of the soldiers. Others have designated the Paliurus aculeatus or the Lycium horridum. Both Geikie (Life of Christ, 549) and Farrar (Life of Christ, note 625) point to the Nubk (Zizyphus lotus). Says the latter, "The Nubk struck me, as it has all travelers in Palestine, as being most suitable both for mockery and pain, since its leaves are bright and its thorns singularly strong. But though the Nubk is very common on the shores of Galilee, I saw none of it near Jerusalem." The settlement of the question is manifestly impossible.

They do not mention the thorns being poisonous.

The pastor provided no source to verify his claim.

There is not scripture at all to support the claim.

Easton's Bible Dictionary tells us this:

Our Lord was crowned with a, in mockery by the Romans (Matthew 27:29). The object of Pilate's guard in doing this was probably to insult, and not specially to inflict pain. There is nothing to show that the shrub thus used was, as has been supposed, the spina Christi, which could have been easily woven into a wreath. It was probably the thorny nabk, which grew abundantly round about Jerusalem, and whose flexible, pliant, and round branches could easily be platted into the form of a crown.

So where is the proof of the claim? Was the pastor more concerned with stirring emotions than giving truth?

2. The effects of the posion: Even if the thorns were poisonous the bible does not record it's effects.

3. The book of Isaiah: The pastor makes the amazing claim that the book of Isaiah chapter 52 reports that the crown of thorns made the head of Jesus swell until he no longer looked like a human. Wow, what a claim. Is it true? Here is the passage in Isaiah 52:

13 Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. 14 As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: 15 So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.

The text does not say anything about a crown of thorns! It does not say his head would swell so he did not look like a human!

That may move emotions but it is not true!

Listen to the sermon yourself and tell me what you think.

Let us strive to be more concerned with truth then moving emotions!
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> posted by Trevor Hammack at


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