Per Fidem Intrepidus means "Fearless Through Faith". My courage isn't my own, it comes from the Holy Spirit, it's my faith in God and my personal savior Christ Jesus that calms my fears and allows me to move forward in this fallen world. Personally I'm afraid of a lot of stuff, but having the faith that Jesus adopted me as his little, sin filled, brother keeps me going.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Was Bible Prophesy Usurped By An Atheist?

Not too long ago I was involved in a discussion of bible prophesy, mostly involving Daniel's prophesies, I don't remember the entire conversation but I do remember clearly one phrase that came up, and that same phrase has come up several other times in similar conversations, and for some reason I agreed with it every time: "Rome was never conquered by another power."

Why I agreed with that I will never know, because I know better. 

Stick with me for a few minutes and let me put this into perspective. To start with, I am a history nut, all kinds of history. I love little more than heading up into the mountains and poking around the remains of mines, ghost towns, and abandoned railroads. While I was serving in the USAF I had the opportunity to visit some incredible historical locations which is what probably spurred my delight in history: Trier Germany, Zaragoza Spain, Venice, Rome, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bahraine, Korea... Oddly it was Incirlik Turkey that gave me more of a sense of the depth of human history than any other place I've been. As a grouchy old NCO once told me "Throughout all of history anyone that could gather 4 buddies with swords and clubs eventually came to Turkey and conquered something." 

Turkey was a huge societal and political hub in the history of Rome after king Attalus III actually gave Asia (the name of what now is mostly Turkey) to Rome in his will. I often wonder how many times did the Roman legions march back and forth through Turkey to settle disputes in the east, and then the west? The emperor Aurelian alone marched back and forth through Turkey at least 4 times between wars in Gaul (France) and border incursions in Syria, and he only ruled the empire for five years.

And now the news: the Roman empire did not fall in 476 AD. I know you were taught this in school but I put forth that the Roman Empire lasted much longer than most Americans will ever realize. And unlike the History Channel, my historical assertions are 100% Alien Free.

We are told that Rome fell in 476 AD only because Edward Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire said that's when it fell. We're told that the Roman empire ended when the the city of Rome fell to barbarians in 476 AD. However when the barbarian Odoastor conquered the city of Rome, the seat of Roman government had been moved to another location over 275 years previous, leaving Odoastor to rule over a very, very old slum. We're told that the western empire split away from the eastern empire in the 5th century, so does that mean that we're to ignore the fact that the western empire was reunited with the eastern empire in the 6th century? (Isn't it odd that they never teach the fact that Justinian reunited the empire in our public schools)

Look at it this way - if Philadelphia burned to the ground would that be the end of the United States? After all, over 200 years ago Philadelphia was the capitol of the United States. Of course it wouldn't be end of the United States, the capitol moved centuries ago. But that's exactly what Edward Gibbons wants us to believe about Rome. The problem with the Gibbons view of history is that even though Gibbons was a good writer and researcher, he was a lousy historian. A good historian first and foremost keeps his personal views and 'modern sensibilities' out of history. Being devout evangelical atheist Gibbon was incapable of doing this. In his rabid hate of Christianity Gibbons blamed Christianity for the fall of the Roman empire in some of the most absurd manner:
The clergy successfully preached the doctrines of patience and pusillanimity; the active virtues of society were discouraged; and the last remains of military spirit were buried in the cloister: a large portion of public and private wealth was consecrated to the specious demands of charity and devotion; and the soldiers' pay was lavished on the useless multitudes of both sexes who could only plead the merits of abstinence and chastity. (History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 39)
In the same chapter Gibbon pinpointed the start of the fall of the empire to the conversion of Constantine to Christianity. The true fall of Rome had many reasons, and Christianity was definitely one of them, but not in the way that Gibbon so deliciously desired. In the end the fall of Rome was brought about by a cannon ball fired by an Islamic army.

Yes, there was internal strife due to Christianity, gnosticism being the first big fight and not the least of which being the 8th century fight over icons, but in the end the Roman empire did not fall in 476 AD, in fact it soldiered on for another 977 years. For a few reasons, one of the largest being the anti Christian sentiment of Edward Gibbon and his contemporaries, the Roman Empire after 476 AD was renamed the Byzantine Empire, and probably because of this anti Christian bigotry this incredibly important portion of history disappeared from the educational curricula of the western world.

In reality the Byzantine Empire was never called the Byzantine Empire, not by anyone on earth until over 300 years past its end. In 333 the Roman emperor Constantine moved the capitol of the empire from Revenna Italy (not Rome) to a small Greek city in western Turkey and named it New Rome, which eventually was renamed Constantinople in his honor. The citizens of the empire called themselves Roman up to the very end and beyond. (There are still people on this Earth that call themselves Romans, they live in Romania, or "Land of the Romans").

In the late 7th century a new religion, Islam, swept out of the Arabian peninsula demanding conversion at sword point. Islam advanced across the Roman Empire leaving in their wake vast lakes of Christian and Jewish blood. One by one the provinces of the empire fell; Palestine, Syria, Egypt, North Africa, Carthage, Spain... The advance of the Muslim forces was only stopped by Charles "The Hammer" Martel as they tried to invade France. The Roman Empire was chopped apart and was starved into death as the food sources of the empire were overrun by the islamic hord. Out of this bloodbath rose the Islamic Ottoman empire who desired Constantinople as their capitol and would stop at nothing to gain such a prize. They even hired Christian troops from client states in now Yugoslavia to help breech the Theodocian walls that protected Constantinople for centuries.

On Easter Sunday, 1 April, 1453 the siege of Constantinople began. The city was surrounded by hundreds of ships on the seaward side, and on the landward side massive cannons known as Dardanell Guns bombarded the walls. Fighting at the walls continued non stop for two months. On May 29 1453 Emperor Constantine XI attended mass then walked out on the city walls for the last time. As the Islamic troops of the Ottoman empire poured through the breeches in the city walls the emperor is said to have cried "The city is fallen and I am still alive." and he tore off his imperial ornamentation until he looked like a common soldier and joined the battle. He was never seen again. The city that Constantine built and made his capitol fell, and Rome was no more.

It was the Ottoman Empire that ruled the middle east for 623 years, from its inception in 1299 until it faded away in 1922, it ruled a phenomenal 2 million square miles which was nearly twice as large as the Roman Empire at its Zenith (1.06 million square miles), however in 1922 the Ottoman empire went out not with a bang but a whimper with the abdication of the last sultan, Sultan Mehmed VI. The three main reasons why the Ottoman empire fell were 1. The empire failed to modernize while the world around them advanced. They were basically out produced and out gunned by most of the planet due to their industrial and scientific stagnation. 2. Ethnic Nationalism - the Ottoman Empire was made up of numerous ethnic group but the "elite" group that received the best treatment was the Sunni Muslims. Groups that were treated poorly (Christians, Greeks, Serbs, Bulgarians, Romanians) all declared their independence and split away whenever they found a chance. 3. Foreign Wars - The Ottoman Empire was swept up in foreign wars with the Austrian and Russian empires. While these wars didn't militarily wound the Sultinate, they were financially draining and economically destroyed the Ottoman Empire.

It was the Ottoman Empire, not the Roman Empire that "was never conquered by another power". Rome was pummeled from all sides, cut to shreds and decidedly destroyed in one final battle. The Ottoman Empire, on the other hand, rotted from within and slowly faded due to its own mismanagement and Islamic favoritism until it eventually gave up and renamed the remainders to what is now modern day Turkey.

Now look at Rome again: in the 8th century BC Greeks settled in Italy and Sicily and came in contact with the Italian tribes. The proto-Romans admired the Greeks and copied everything they could: alphabet, weights and measures, religion, coinage, and architecture. Rome was enamored with Greece and when they took over Greece in 142 BC the Greeks were treated as citizens of the city of Rome, a rare and prized status, and tax free to boot. The greco-roman culture was a fact, and when the capital of the Roman empire moved from Italy to the Greek town of Byzantium, as historian James Romer put it "Rome was going home."

Many people think of the third kingdom of Daniel 2 (the bronze belly and thighs of the statue) to be Greece, and the iron legs to be Rome. But what if we look at it a bit differently and consider the fact that Rome always thought of itself as the children of Greece and this time let's call the third kingdom the Greco-Roman empire, and consider the 4th kingdom the Ottoman empire.
40 Then there will be a fourth kingdom as strong as iron; inasmuch as iron crushes and shatters all things, so, like iron that breaks in pieces, it will crush and break all these in pieces. (Daniel 2:40)
That pretty much sums up the Islamic forces ripping through the 7th and 8th Century crushing and killing anything before it.

Personally I believe that when we talk about Rome in conjunction with biblical prophesy, we are looking too far west. By the habit instilled in us by Gibbon we are looking at Europe, while I believe we should be looking east at Turkey. The bible was written for and about middle east culture, and Rome eventually became an eastern culture and quite proudly so. Britannia (England), Gaul (France), and  Hispania (Spain) were pretty much uncivilized territory to Rome while their eastern provinces were their breadbasket and the origins of their culture. When you think of Rome as Rome + Greece and remember that for almost 1000 years of its 1300 year history the capitol of the Roman Empire was in Turkey, biblical prophesy starts to take on a different light - much of this we'll explore in the very, very near future.

As for Edward Gibbon, a pure atheist such as he must think that the adherents of Islam are just as slovenly and and unworthy as he thinks of Christians, right? 
In the spirit of enthusiasm or vanity, the prophet [Muhammad] rests the truth of his mission on the merit of his book; audaciously challenges both men and angels to imitate the beauties of a single page; and presumes to assert that God alone could dictate this incomparable performance. This argument is most powerfully addressed to a devout Arabian, whose mind is attuned to faith and rapture; whose ear is delighted by the music of sounds; and whose ignorance is incapable of comparing the productions of human genius... If the composition of the Koran exceed the faculties of a man to what superior intelligence should we ascribe the Iliad of Homer, or the Philippics of Demosthenes?  (History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol 5, Chapter 50)
Yeah right.

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