Yesterday is gone!
Tomorrow will take care of itself!
Today is NOW!
HUGE question. What are you doing right this instant? Yeah, yeah…reading this post! Smarty pants. But, what are your plans for today?
Again, we can state what has happened in the past. What purpose does it serve?
Actually, quite a bit of purpose! More than the mind can settle. LESSONS! Do’s and Don’ts. Where you are is ALL based on your yesterdays! Think about this. Decisions, actions, wants, desires and needs. ALL ended you up where you currently are.
We point fingers too easily in life. Stop! Look within, at yourself! So, they ‘lied’; what had you associated with ‘them’ in the first place? Ever thought of that? Your morals effect and affect life. Look around you, success comes from work done. Yeah, yeah! There are people born into it. BUT, what is the main ingredient? Passion/desire/want and need!
Have you thought (and I bet you have) why people steal? They want! BUT, someone put in the time and effort that another comes to steal. Definition of ‘steal’?
Take (another person’s property) without permission or legal right and without intending to return it.“thieves stole her bicycle”
synonyms: purloin, thieve, take, take for oneself, help oneself to, loot, pilfer, abscond with, run off with, appropriate, abstract, carry off, shoplift;
Move somewhere quietly or surreptitiously.“he stole down to the kitchen”
synonyms: creep, sneak, slink, slip, slither, slide, glide, sidle, slope, edge, move furtively, tiptoe, pussyfoot, pad, prowl
INFORMALa bargain.“for $5 it was a steal”
NORTH AMERICANan act of stealing something.“New York’s biggest art steal”
synonyms: theft, robbery, raid, ram raid, burglary, larceny, thievery, break-in, holdup;
Above, we look at what it truly means. To take something that truly did not belong to us in the first place!
This brings us to an all too familiar place. Who, what, why are you? Deep question! We have looked at ‘chance’ as an explanation, but that was ruled out. Regardless of what your parents did. You are here now! Your decisions brought you to the very place you are now, no?
Many questions arise. IF’s, “Most likely’s”, “Buts”… But what? Most likely, if… you had not been caught? Why were you in the first place? Depth of thought? YOU did not decide to be born! You were not in a line and did not step forward and state “I am next!”
Next to do what? Be born? That would mean that you could think, talk, speak, decide before you were here on Earth! Does not happen that way! Sorry to tell you. Let us look back at a story, His-story…God’s story! Life came to be. For a moment, we focus on evolution. Once upon a time you were a cell, two cells became one…we can continue this and arrive at the theory of ‘life’… to make it simpler:
Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom; and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the company, they went a day’s journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances; and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him.
After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when they saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.” And he said to them, “How is it that you sought me? Did you now know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and grew in favor with God and man.
This is the only story in the gospels about Jesus between his infancy and his public ministry as a man. Some have argued that the story is a legend created by the early church to fill in some of the gaps in their knowledge of Jesus’ life. What shall we say to this claim?
Fact or Fiction?
First of all, we should be aware that in the second and third centuries many legends arose about the boy Jesus and were put into numerous apocryphal gospels—accounts of Jesus which the early church rejected as not having the authority of the four earliest gospels which we have in the New Testament. Two things speak for the wisdom of the church in recognizing the authority of only Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. One is that there are so few stories about Jesus’ childhood in them that it is clear that the writers were not interested in feeding the pious curiosity of the church with legends about Jesus’ childhood. They are content to leave almost 30 years of blank space in Jesus’ life, because their interest was on the heart of the gospel not peripheral matters. The other thing is that the one story which Luke does include there in 2:41–52 is so reserved that it is very unlike most of the legends of Jesus’ childhood. It does not portray him as doing any supernatural deed or speaking in an unduly authoritative way. The story reaches its climax and main point not in a supernatural feat but in the sentence: “I must be about my Father’s business (or in my Father’s house)” (v. 49). Contrast this with some of the legends which grew up later on.
From the Infancy Gospel of Thomas (2nd century):
When this boy Jesus was five years old he was playing at the ford of a brook, and he gathered together into pools the water that flowed by, and made it at once clean, and commanded it by his word alone. But the son of Annas the scribe was standing there with Joseph; and he took a branch of a willow and (with it) dispersed the water which Jesus had gathered together. When Jesus saw what he had done, he was enraged and said to him: “You insolent, godless dunderhead, what harm did the pools and the water do to you? See, now you also shall wither like a tree and shall bear neither leaves nor root nor fruit.” And immediately that lad withered up completely; and Jesus departed and went into Joseph’s house. But the parents of him that was withered took him away, bewailing his youth, and brought him to Joseph and reproached him: “What a child you have who does such things.” After this again he went through the village, and a lad ran and knocked against his shoulder. Jesus was exasperated and said to him: “You shall not go further on your way,” and the child immediately fell down and died. But some, who saw what took place, said: “From where does this child spring, since every word is an accomplished deed?”
Here is one more example from the Arabic Infancy Gospel:
One day, when Jesus was running about and playing with some children, he passed by the workshop of a dyer called Salem. They had in the workshop many cloths which he had to dye. The Lord Jesus went into the dyer’s workshop, took all these cloths, and put them into a cauldron full of indigo. When Salem came and saw that the cloths were spoiled, he began to cry aloud and asked the Lord Jesus, saying: “What have you done to me, son of Mary? You have ruined my reputation in the eyes of all the people of the city; for everyone orders a suitable colour for himself, but you have come and spoiled everything.” And the Lord Jesus replied: “I will change for you the colour of any cloth which you wish to be changed”; and he immediately began to take the cloths out of the cauldron, each of them dyed as the dyer wished, until he had taken them all out. When the Jews saw this miracle and wonder, they praised God.
After such stories, the account in Luke 2:41–52 seems a bit drab—and that is precisely what speaks in favor of its authenticity. It does not appear to be motivated by a desire to overplay Jesus’ uniqueness. The claim to uniqueness is much more subtle and that accords with the way Jesus acted most of the time. In addition the Greek language of the story is almost certainly a translation of the Semitic language of Palestine, which means that it was not created, like many of the legends, in Greek-speaking areas far removed from the land of the eyewitnesses. On the contrary, it is Jewish in content and language and, therefore, probably originated in Palestine; and the most likely source for the story is Mary.
We know from 1:2 that Luke puts a high premium on eyewitness confirmation. We also know from Acts that while Paul was imprisoned for two years in Jerusalem and in Caesarea, his sidekick Luke was probably roaming around Jerusalem interviewing old-timers and collecting information for his gospel. And finally we have seen three times so far in Luke’s gospel that he mentioned people keeping experiences in their hearts, that is, remembering them. In 1:66 he said that all who heard how John the Baptist was born “laid it up in their hearts, saying, ‘What then will this child be?'” In 2:19 after the shepherds had come to Bethlehem, Luke says, “But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.” And then here at the end of our text in 2:51 it says, “And his mother kept all these things in her heart.” Isn’t the most likely reason for mentioning this storing up of memories to give Theophilus and us a clue as to how he, a Gentle foreigner, was able to write as much as he did about Jesus’ childhood?
Therefore, in view of how few are the gospel narratives of the child Jesus, and how much more reserved they are than the apocryphal legends, and how great Luke’s concern is to trace things out carefully and confirm it with eyewitnesses, and how Jewish the setting and language is, and how easily available Mary probably was, it seems to me that the claim that this story in Luke 2:41–52 is legendary is wrong and probably stems from an unwillingness to own up to the main point of the story, namely, that Jesus is uniquely the Son of God.
Jesus as a Boy in the Temple
Now let’s read through the narrative making some comments as we go to see if we can hit on the main point and any lessons there are for our lives. Verse 41: “Now his parents went up to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover.” Here Luke stresses again how devout and law-abiding Jesus’ parents were. We saw in 2:22, 23, 24, and 39 how Mary and Joseph did all that the Mosaic law required. By stressing this, Luke tries to help Theophilus accept the fact that, although Jesus was killed by Jewish teachers, it was not really because he was outside the Jewish faith. Jesus’ parents, and now we will see Jesus himself, were devoted to the law of Moses. They loved it, studied it, obeyed it. Luke will show very soon (in chapter 4) the real reason why he, a devout Jew, could be rejected and killed by his own people.
Verse 42: “And when he was 12 years old they went up according to the custom.” The fact that this incident happened when Jesus was 12 is probably significant. The 12th year was the final year of preparation for a lad before he entered full participation in the religious life of the synagogue. Up until that time his parents, especially his father, were teaching him the commandments of the law, but at the end of the 12th year the child goes through a ceremony by which he formally takes on the yoke of the law and becomes a bar mitzvah or “son of the commandment.” This was the year Jesus chose to stay behind in the temple. Perhaps, at this crucial turning point in every Jewish boy’s life, Jesus wanted to demonstrate subtly for those who had eyes to see that he would be more than an ordinary Jewish bar mitzvah; his insight into the commandment was more profound than ordinary men, and his relation to God was unique. Both of these will be evident in a moment.
Verses 43, 44: “And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the company they went a day’s journey.” That’s like driving from Minneapolis to Chicago and realizing you left your child and having to drive back again. Only it’s worse: they were probably walking. Two things stand out here, and they seem inconsistent. First, there is Jesus’ apparent disregard for his parents’ time and feelings. Second, there is implicit faith Mary and Joseph have in their 12 year old son. If he had been an irresponsible child, his parents would never have gone a whole day without knowing his whereabouts. They trusted him and knew he had good judgment. This suggests that Jesus’ motive in staying behind was not carelessness or disrespect. Evidently he intentionally let them go in order to demonstrate something more forcefully.
Verses 43–46: “They sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances; and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem seeking him. After three days they found him in the temple.” There is no way to know whether this means three days since leaving Jerusalem (one out, one back, and one in search), or whether it means three days searching in Jerusalem. It’s hard to imagine three days searching in Jerusalem because, probably, Jesus and his parents would have gone to the same place to spend the night. How Mary and Joseph and Jesus feel about this search comes out later in verses 48 and 49.
Verses 46, 47: “They found him in the temple sitting among the teachers listening to them and asking them questions; and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” This sentence sets my mind to thinking about all sorts of things I’d love to talk about for hours. One is the relationship between teachers and students and the role of listening, querying, and answering. Another is the mystery of how the divine and human natures unite in the one person, Jesus. If he is God, how can he increase in wisdom, as verse 52 says he does? Finally, this sentence sparks in my mind a scene 18 years later when perhaps some of these very same teachers would gnash their teeth at this boy’s wisdom and want to kill him. Let me make just a few observations about each of these three topics.
Love for the Law
First, Theophilus should understand that Jesus knew and loved the law from an early age, and that in the very city where he was lynched 20 years later, he was approved at the age of 12. Or perhaps he wasn’t approved. You can be astonished at something you don’t like. Maybe the teachers of the law did not care for the implications of Jesus’ answers; but then a 12 year old is no threat. They can pat him on the head and say, “Smart kid,” and return to their hair splitting and their hypocrisy.
There’s an analogy of that in our experience. A young lad gets saved, say at camp, and he returns to his unbelieving home and tells dad about Jesus. The dad smiles condescendingly as if to say that’s nice for kids. But then the boy grows into a man and is aflame with the Spirit and the issues sharpen and the different destinies come into focus, and the dad can’t be indifferent any more. And the crisis comes: conversion or alienation. “He who is not with me is against me” (Matthew 12:30).
Fully God and Fully Man
Second, our text has important implications for understanding the divinity of Christ. It helps us understand what Paul meant when he said, “Though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:6, 7). One of the things Christ emptied himself of was omniscience. He said concerning the time of his return (Matthew 24:36), “Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven nor the Son, but the Father only.” Similarly, here in our text Jesus is not just playing games with the scribes. His questions aim to gain insight, for verse 52 says, “He increased in wisdom.”
But it is not easy to imagine how Christ can be God and not be omniscient. Evidently the incarnate Christ was able somehow to bracket or limit the actual exercise of his divine powers so that he had the personality of God (basically, the motives and will of God), but the powers of knowing all and the infinite strength of God he somehow restrained. They were his potentially, and thus he was God; but he surrendered their use absolutely, and so he was man.
Therefore the child standing before us here in the temple is not so different that he can’t serve as an example for us and our children.
Increasing in Knowledge and Understanding
This brings us to the third topic triggered by verses 46 and 47: I think we can learn something here from the way Jesus related with these teachers. There are four things to see:
1) he sought out teachers and sat in their midst;
2) he listened;
3) he asked questions; and
4) he gave answers.
I infer from this that if the Son of God sought out teachers, listened, asked questions, and gave answers about the things of God, therefore so ought his people to seek understanding, especially those preparing for the ministry.
If I learned one thing from my six years of theological education and six years of teaching at Bethel, it is that most people are not eager to understand more about God than they already understand. I would say less than a tenth of all the students I ever taught were hungry to see how reality fits together and eager to drink at history’s great wells of wisdom. This is bad enough in our churches and colleges, but the tragedy reaches its crescendo when we see it so prevalent in our divinity schools where the pastor-teachers are being trained. How little zeal there is to tackle the glorious revelation of God in the Bible and understand it from cover to cover—how it all fits together into a grand unity!
Richard Baxter, the 17th century English pastor who wrote the great classic The Reformed Pastor, said (p. 68):
Take heed to yourselves that you want not the qualifications necessary to your work. He must not be himself a babe in knowledge, that will teach men all those mysterious things which must be known in order to salvation. O what qualifications are necessary for a man who hath such a charge upon him as we have! How many difficulties in divinity to be solved! And these too about the fundamental principles of religion! How many obscure texts of scripture to be expounded!
I feel tremendously challenged by the example of Jesus and the admonition of Baxter to strive for increased wisdom and understanding of Scripture. And I urge all of you, especially those in or on their way to seminary: find yourself a wise teacher who loves the whole counsel of God, listen to him, ask him questions, and keep asking until it all begins to fit together, and have him ask you questions, and give him your answers. If Jesus did it, we should do it.
“I Must Be in My Father’s House”
And when they (his parents) saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold your father and I have been looking for you anxiously (literally: in pain).” And he said to them: “Why is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house (or about his business).” And they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them.
The last statement—that they did not understand Jesus—is Luke’s way of saying to us the reader: “There’s more here than meets the eye. This is the point, don’t miss it” (cf. Luke 18:34). They were searching and searching and finally they turn him up at the temple. Where did they search? In the playground, the local swimming hole, in the shops, at the bakery? Jesus answers: You shouldn’t have had to seek at all. For you know, don’t you, that there is laid on me an inner necessity to be in my Father’s house (or about his business—either translation is possible)?
The main point of the whole passage probably lies in the contrast between “your father” and “my father.” Mary says, “Your father and I have been searching for you.” Jesus answers, “You should have known I would be at the house of my Father.” In other words, Jesus has chosen this crucial stage in his life, on he brink of manhood, to tell his parents in an unforgettable way that he now knows who his real Father is and what it will mean for his mission. It will mean, as Simeon said in Luke 2:35, “a sword will pierce through your own soul also, Mary.” The time will come when Jesus will be killed at Jerusalem, and after three days rise from the dead, and that will be a great pain to Mary. And is not this three-day vigil of Mary and Joseph a foreshadowing of that experience? She said, “Your father and I have been seeking you in pain.”
So it seems to me that the main teaching of the passage is that Jesus now recognizes his unique sonship to God, and that his mission will require of him a devotion to God’s purposes so great that it takes precedence over the closest family ties. He must follow his calling, even if it brings pain and misunderstanding. In this way Luke sets the stage for the adult ministry of the Son of God. And to that we’ll turn in chapter 3, about 18 years later.
We took this brief aside to show that even The Son of God prior to being of “age” did not feature in any major way in The Word. Yes! It will come as a passing surprise that Jesus was raised in Egypt! Draw any similarities/ring any bells? He was taken to Egypt. Isrealites were delivered from Egypt! God does have an amazing sense of humor!
The flight into Egypt is a story recounted in the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 2:13–23) and in New Testament apocrypha. Soon after the visit by the Magi, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream telling him to flee to Egyptwith Mary and the infant Jesus since King Herod would seek the child to kill Him.
The flight into Egypt is a story recounted in the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 2:13–23) and in New Testament apocrypha. Soon after the visit by the Magi, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream telling him to flee to Egyptwith Mary and the infant Jesus since King Herod would seek the child to kill Him.
We will stay focused on where, why and what we are. Technology? What is technology? Simply, the ‘discovery’ of something that has existed for always!
Has the sun not always existed? Now, we utilize its power! But, it has always been right where it has always been! Did someone discover the ‘technology’ we utilize l, or is it based on what already has existed?
Funny enough, I think of “wireless” services Air has always been, we simply realized how to transmit through it! If someone described in my childhood what exists now, I would have been flabbergasted/speechless. I would have lived in disbelief! Anything is possible! Anything now we dip our toes in places that have existed, but we were too scared to go.
The seen comes from the unseen!
“While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18
This is undeniable fact! Staying strictly Science based, while there not always be Neutrons, Electrons, Protons? In Science, yes!
In actual always? All things will come to an end.
“Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.” 1 Corinthians 15:24
When The End Comes
Someone once said, “All good things must come to an end.” That is true, but the fact is, all things must come to an end on this earth — good or bad. As far as mankind, it has been revealed in God’s word, “it is appointed for men to die once” (Heb. 9:27). And for the creation itself, God’s word tells us, “the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Pet. 3:10). Nothing on this earth will survive in its current state, for even our lowly body will be transformed on the day of Christ’s return. As Paul said: “the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15:52).
But some now deny the reality of an end such as God’s word describes! Some deny there will ever be an end — of any kind! Some who begin with a denial of God suppose that this world on which we live and the universe in which it exists will continue forever or, at worst, continually degrade for billions and billions of years until some supernova or other catastrophic universal event will change things. To many, though, no thought is given to their end or, if any consideration of the end is given at all, it is short and shallow and pushed aside for the consideration of the ‘here and now’ more often than not. Most people would rather think about only today and not think about their future and what is to inevitably come. It’s as if the vast majority thinks, “If I don’t talk about it, it isn’t real.” But denying reality does not change reality! Try denying the reality of gravity and then jump off of a 10-story building; you might deny it for about 95 feet, but you will come face to face with reality soon afterwards.
Instead of denying reality [the eventual end of all things], let’s consider Jeremiah 14:11-16 and how it describes a time when God’s people denied reality up until the very end, and let us learn the lessons they did not learn — and for which they paid dearly. And let’s boil it down to one, simple question: When the end comes, will you be prepared? We need to know some things right now — before that day comes, because when the end comes:
It Will Be Too Late. (vv. 11, 12) In the context, Israel was the one being chastised by God, even as they neared the punishment He had promised [captivity]. Though God had warned them time and time again, the people continued in their evil ways and followed after the gods of the surrounding nations. Sadly, because they had rejected Him and His warnings so many times (cf. 2 Chron. 36:15, 16), it was too late for anyone to now intervene on their behalf. What a sad statement! To whom would they go now that it was too late to seek God’s help and favor — the surrounding nations? They would be of no help. The fact was, their end was sealed.
When this was written, it was too late for these people to do anything about their punishment; it was certain that they were going to captivity. Our eternal destination is not yet certain, so let us heed the words spoken by God to His people before that day: “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” (Isa. 55:6). They had had opportunities to seek the Lord before that day, but they passed by those opportunities; don’t let that be us! Let us heed the words of the apostle Paul: “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). When the end comes, it will be too late to seek God; NOW is the time!
God also said He would not hear their cry when they fasted (v. 12). The implication of the fasting was that the people now had penitent hearts. But, alas, God said it was too late! The lesson we must certainly learn from this is that the time of repentance is NOW, for when the end comes, it will be too late to suddenly feel sorry for having transgressed the will of God! Then, we will be judged for the deeds done in the body (2 Cor. 5:10), not for the utter terror and remorse we will feel in our hearts as we then stand before the God we once denied. Right now is the time for repentance, for as the psalmist said, “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit” (Psa. 34:18). Blessed is the one who now realizes his spiritual destitution and who mourns his pitiful condition (Matt. 5:3, 4). Then it will be too late to repent; NOW is the time!
God also said that He would not accept their offerings (v. 12). Now, think about that; here is something that God had commanded, yet now He said He would no longer accept it from them — especially at this point. These people had a long history of failing to offer the required sacrifices, offering the required sacrifices without any real meaning, and dishonoring God by what they did give. The audacity of the people was demonstrated in that they went so far as to offer their children as sacrifices to their idols and on the same day come to the house of God to give the pretense of worship and faithfulness (Ezek. 23:37-39). Is it any wonder God would refuse their sacrifices — especially now that it was done only as a last resort?
Surely we can see the lesson for us in this passage: worship Him NOW and worship Him as He has instructed us. Many today refuse to worship the Lord, or refuse to worship Him as He prescribed, but I am confident that all will willingly acknowledge Him as Lord when the end comes — but it will then be too late! Let us now acknowledge Him as Lord in humble submission by obeying His words; then — and only then — can we call Him our Savior (Heb. 5:9). Rejecting Christ as the means of our salvation is just as repulsive in the sight of God as those of old who offered sacrifices with wicked intent. Let us not forget the words of the writer of Hebrews, who warned of the terrifying surety of punishment for those who have “trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace” (Heb. 10:29). The sacrifice we must offer is self (Rom. 12:1) and it must be done NOW! When the end comes, it will be too late to try to offer something to God in service and worship. NOW is the time!
Some Deny The Reality of the End. (vv. 13, 14) All the time God’s real prophets warned of the pending end and concurrent punishment, the people of God protested, the prophets denied it, and the priests disparaged any idea that God would actually punish them. But, again, denial is not reality! The psalmist tells us, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psa. 14:1), but does his denial mean God really doesn’t exist? Of course not! To the fool, God does not exist simply because he says so, and that is why he is a fool! The fact is, those who deny God’s existence do so because they do not want to accept the consequences: a necessary implication that obedience to His will is expected! On the day, when all stand before the judgment throne, none will then deny Him, but then it will be too late! Though God did not leave Himself without witness (Acts 14:17), some will deny He exists, and certainly deny any claim He makes to have all authority over us. Many men will deny the obvious, proclaiming themselves wise [“Are you dumb enough to believe in God?”] and beyond such “simple-mindedness,” yet His attributes are clearly seen! The problem is not in the clarity, but in the willingness to see! Again, the root cause of this denial is that they might do what they want to do and have a clear conscience to engage in what are truly called Godless acts.
Some deny the fact of the end because they ultimately seek to deny what comes with the end: judgment. God’s own people were not immune from the false idea that God would not punish, but fell prey to the deceptive words of false prophets, who told them, “Is not the Lord among us? No harm can come upon us” (Mic. 3:11). They had gotten so used to the longsuffering and mercy of God that they came to believe, “The Lord will not do good, nor will He do evil” (Zeph. 1:12). But to those false prophets who said, “It is not He. Neither will evil come upon us, nor shall we see sword or famine,” God promised, “Thus shall it be done to them” (Jer. 5:12, 13). When the end came for them, those denials must have seemed very foolish!
Today, I must sadly report that some of our own brethren are working hard at denying the reality of an end that includes punishment. It was not so long ago that we rightly chastised and ridiculed those who taught the idea of the so-called “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” in saying God would not punish the wicked for an eternity. But now we have men such as Ed Fudge, the late Homer Hailey, and F. LaGard Smith proclaiming this doctrine! [I will gladly furnish quotes from their writings to those who ask.] Oh, how far we have fallen! It seems we now have men who have followed the path of the false prophets and worthless priests of Israel’s day, proclaiming, “Peace! Peace!” When there is no peace. Friends and brethren, do not be fooled; when our Lord spoke of the coming punishment of the wicked (Matt. 25:46; John 5:28, 29), He was not deceived or mistaken!
In The End, God’s Word Proven True. (vv. 15, 16) In the context of this rebuke, God plainly tells us that the false prophets who said, “‘Sword and famine shall not be in this land’ — ‘By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed!” What they had spoken was “a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart” (v. 14), and for that they would be punished! Though the people, the priests, and the prophets all denied the coming end, it came — just as God said it would! Like all the times before when warnings were given and punishment was promised, God’s word was proven true by its fulfillment.
The apostle Peter warned against the false prophets who would come (2 Pet. 2:1-3; 4-10), and “exploit you with deceptive words” (v. 2) and who would “bring on themselves swift destruction” (v. 1). Peter comforted the minds of the faithful in reminding them that God had not in times past overlooked the evil deeds of men and even angels, and with that confidence, reminded the faithful that the Lord knew how to “reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment” (v. 9). Just as with the false prophets of old, God will punish the deceivers for their deception! Though they deny it, their punishment will come and theirs is most certain! Whenever we hear men today proclaiming the love of God would not allow a man to suffer punishment [and certainly not an eternal punishment], you can be sure that he will likely be on the receiving end of the very thing he denies will come, just as the false prophets of old.
The sad part of this rebuke is that God had to deal not only with the deceivers, but also with the deceived (v. 16). It is sad because the deceived receive no less a rebuke for having believed [willingly] the deception of the false prophets! The false prophets spoke deception, but they merely spoke what the people wanted to hear! For their willingness to hear deceptive words, the deceived would also be punished! Let us heed this warning every so seriously, for there are many deceivers gone out into the world who proclaim to be speakers of truth. Do not let us think that we are beyond the same fate, for if deceivers exist, there will be those who are deceived. Don’t let it be us! The very possibility is found in the words of the apostle Paul, who warned, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit” and, “Let no one cheat you of your reward” (Col. 2:8, 18). If we are ignorant of truth, how can we know whether or not we are being deceived? It will be a sad day when we stand before God, having been led astray but believing we followed truth!
This sad occasion in the history of God’s people is given for us an admonition to follow after the true path of righteousness and not be led away by the deceivers who promise peace and comfort when, in reality, we face the wrath of God. When we have men preaching salvation by mere confession of Jesus as the Christ, we are in danger of this certain punishment, for that is not the whole counsel of God! Yes, we must confess Jesus as the Christ, but we must also repent of our sins and turn to God (Acts 26:20). We must also be baptized into Christ for the remission of our sins and live faithfully until our last day (Acts 2:38; Heb. 10:34-39). What have you done? Will you be ready when the end comes?
Again, we are right back where we started! Why is life? We tackled this from a scientific standpoint. Are there other standpoints from which to tackle this question?
Why Is Life So Hard?
“Why?” When life is hard, is there a way to have peace?
How do we explain what we see in this world? Terrorist attacks, sex slavery, racism, world hunger?
Subconsciously, we probably ask ourselves questions like these quite often. But consciously we rarely do. We’re so busy living our lives we rarely stop and wonder WHY?
But then something happens to wake us up. Our parents get divorced. The girl down the street gets abducted. A relative gets cancer. That wakes us up for awhile. But then we can often sink back into the denial. That is, until another tragedy hits, another incongruence. Then we’re likely to think, Something isn’t right here. Something is really, really wrong. This isn’t how life’s supposed to be!
So, WHY do bad things happen?
Why isn’t this world a better place?
There is an answer to the WHY question, found in the Bible. But it’s not an answer that most people like to hear: the world is the way it is because it’s the world that we, in a sense, have asked for.
What or who could make this world different than the way it is? What or who could guarantee that life is pain-free, for everyone, all the time?
God could. God could accomplish that. But he doesn’t. At least not right now. And we’re angry with him as a result. We say, “God can’t be all-powerful and all-loving. If he were, this world wouldn’t be the way it is!”
We say this hoping that God will then change his position on the matter. Our hope is that putting a guilt trip on him will make him change the way he’s doing things.
But he doesn’t seem to budge. WHY doesn’t he?
God doesn’t budge — he doesn’t change things right now — because he’s giving us what we asked for: a world where we get to treat him as though he is absent and unnecessary.
Remember the story of Adam and Eve? They ate the “forbidden fruit.” That fruit was the idea that they could ignore what God said or gave them, and strike out on life apart from God. For Adam and Eve sort of hoped that they could become like God, without God.
They consumed the notion that there was something more valuable in existence than God himself, something more valuable than having a personal relationship with God. And this world system — with all of its faults — came as a result of the choice they made.
Their story is the story of all of us, isn’t it? Who hasn’t said — if not audibly at least in their hearts — God, I think I can do this without you. I’ll just go this one alone. But thanks for the offer.
We’ve all tried to make life work without God.
Why do we do that? Probably because we’ve all bought the notion that there’s something more valuable, more important, than God. For different people it’s different things, but the mindset is the same: God isn’t what’s most important in life. In fact, I’d just as soon do it without him altogether.
What is God’s response to that?
He allows it. Many people experience the painful results of others’ or their own choices that run contrary to God’s ways…murder, sexual abuse, greed, lying/fraud, slander, adultery, kidnapping, etc.
All of these can be explained by people who have refused to give God access and influence over their lives. They are going about their lives as they see fit, and they and others suffer.
What’s God view on all of this?
He’s not smug. In fact, God could rightly be viewed as leaning forward, compassionate, hoping we will turn to him so that he can bring real life to us.
Jesus said, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”1 But not all are willing to go to him. Jesus commented on this when he said: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”2
Again, Jesus brings the issue back to our relationship with him. “I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”3
But what about when life is unfair, when bad things happen to us?
What about those horrible circumstances that hit us in life, caused by someone other than ourselves? When we are feeling victimized, it’s useful to realize that God himself endured horrendous treatment from others. God more than understands what you are going through.
There is nothing in life that could be more painful than what Jesus endured on our behalf, when he was deserted by his friends, ridiculed by those who would not believe in him, beaten and tortured before his crucifixion, then nailed to a cross, in shameful public display, dying of slow suffocation.
He created us, yet allowed humanity the freedom to do this, to fulfill Scripture and to set us free from our sin. This was no surprise to Jesus. He was aware of what was coming, foreknowing all the details, all the pain, all the humiliation.
“And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and deliver him to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”4
Imagine knowing something that awful was going to happen to you. Jesus understands emotional and psychological anguish. The night that Jesus knew they would arrest him, he went to pray, but took some friends with him.
“And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here and watch [keep awake] with me. And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will but as thou wills.”5
Though Jesus confided in his three friends, they didn’t understand the depth of his torment, and when Jesus returned from prayer he found them asleep. Jesus understands what it’s like going through pain and extreme sadness alone.
Here it is summarized, as John describes in his gospel: “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.”6 “For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”7
There is no question that there is pain and intense suffering in this world.
Some of it is explained by selfish, hateful actions on the part of others. Some of it defies an explanation in this life. But God offers us himself. God gives us the knowledge that he has endured also, and is aware of our pain and needs. Jesus said to his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”8
There is ample reason to be afraid, troubled, but God can give us his peace, which is greater than the problem before us. He is after all, God, the Creator. The one who has always existed. The one who created a universe on the backstroke.
Yet even in his power, he’s also the one who knows us intimately, even the smallest, insignificant details. And if we will trust him with our lives, relying on him, though we encounter difficulties, he will hold us securely.
Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”9 He went through our ultimate threat — death — and overcame it. He can take us through the difficult circumstances of this life, and then bring us into eternal life, if we will trust him.
We can either go through this life with God or without him.
Jesus prayed, “O righteous Father, although the world has not known you, yet I have known you; and these have known that you sent me; and I have made your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and I in them.”10
You might find yourself asking, “Why is life so hard?” Without God, humanity is easily drawn into hatred, racism, sexual abuse, murdering each other.
Footnotes: (1) Matthew 11:28 (2) Matthew 23:37 (3) John 8:12 (4) Matthew 20:17-19 (5) Matthew 26:37-39 (6) John 1:10-12 (7) John 3:17,16 (8) John 14:27 (9) John 16:33 (10) John 17:25,26
History of technology
A highly compressed account of the history of technology such as this one must adopt a rigorous methodological pattern if it is to do justice to the subject without grossly distorting it one way or another. The plan followed in the present article is primarily chronological, tracing the development of technology through phases that succeed each other in time. Obviously, the division between phases is to a large extent arbitrary. One factor in the weighting has been the enormous acceleration of Western technological development in recent centuries; Eastern technology is considered in this article in the main only as it relates to the development of modern technology.
Within each chronological phase a standard method has been adopted for surveying the technological experience and innovations. This begins with a brief review of the general social conditions of the period under discussion, and then goes on to consider the dominant materials and sources of power of the period, and their application to food production, manufacturing industry, building construction, transport and communications, military technology, and medical technology. In a final section the sociocultural consequences of technological change in the period are examined. This framework is modified according to the particular requirements of every period— discussions of new materials, for instance, occupy a substantial place in the accounts of earlier phases when new metals were being introduced but are comparatively unimportant in descriptions of some of the later phases—but the general pattern is retained throughout. One key factor that does not fit easily into this pattern is that of the development of tools. It has seemed most convenient to relate these to the study of materials, rather than to any particular application, but it has not been possible to be completely consistent in this treatment. Further discussion of specific areas of technological development is provided in a variety of other articles: for example, seeelectronics; exploration; information processing.
Essentially, techniques are methods of creating new tools and products of tools, and the capacity for constructing such artifacts is a determining characteristic of humanlike species. Other species make artifacts: bees build elaborate hives to deposit their honey, birds make nests, and beavers build dams. But these attributes are the result of patterns of instinctive behaviour and cannot be varied to suit rapidly changing circumstances. Humanity, in contrast with other species, does not possess highly developed instinctive reactions but does have the capacity to think systematically and creatively about techniques. Humans can thus innovate and consciously modify the environment in a way no other species has achieved. An ape may on occasion use a stick to beat bananas from a tree, but a man can fashion the stick into a cutting tool and remove a whole bunch of bananas. Somewhere in the transition between the two, the hominid, the first manlike species, emerges. By virtue of his nature as a toolmaker, man is therefore a technologist from the beginning, and the history of technology encompasses the whole evolution of humankind.
In using rational faculties to devise techniques and modify the environment, humankind has attacked problems other than those of survival and the production of wealth with which the term technology is usually associated today. The technique of language, for example, involves the manipulation of sounds and symbols in a meaningful way, and similarly the techniques of artistic and ritual creativity represent other aspects of the technological incentive. This article does not deal with these cultural and religious techniques, but it is valuable to establish their relationship at the outset because the history of technology reveals a profound interaction between the incentives and opportunities of technological innovationon the one hand and the sociocultural conditions of the human group within which they occur on the other.
Social involvement in technological advances
An awareness of this interaction is important in surveying the development of technology through successive civilizations. To simplify the relationship as much as possible, there are three points at which there must be some social involvement in technological innovation: social need, social resources, and a sympathetic social ethos. In default of any of these factors it is unlikely that a technological innovation will be widely adopted or be successful.
The sense of social need must be strongly felt, or people will not be prepared to devote resources to a technological innovation. The thing needed may be a more efficient cutting tool, a more powerful lifting device, a laboursaving machine, or a means of utilizing new fuels or a new source of energy. Or, because military needs have always provided a stimulus to technological innovation, it may take the form of a requirement for better weapons. In modern societies, needs have been generated by advertising. Whatever the source of social need, it is essential that enough people be conscious of it to provide a market for an artifact or commodity that can meet the need.
Social resources are similarly an indispensable prerequisite to a successful innovation. Many inventions have foundered because the social resources vital for their realization—the capital, materials, and skilled personnel—were not available. The notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci are full of ideas for helicopters, submarines, and airplanes, but few of these reached even the model stage because resources of one sort or another were lacking. The resource of capital involves the existence of surplus productivity and an organization capable of directing the available wealth into channels in which the inventor can use it. The resource of materials involves the availability of appropriate metallurgical, ceramic, plastic, or textile substances that can perform whatever functions a new inventionrequires of them. The resource of skilled personnel implies the presence of technicians capable of constructing new artifacts and devising novel processes. A society, in short, has to be well primed with suitable resources in order to sustain technological innovation.
A sympathetic social ethos implies an environment receptive to new ideas, one in which the dominant social groups are prepared to consider innovation seriously. Such receptivity may be limited to specific fields of innovation—for example, improvements in weapons or in navigational techniques—or it may take the form of a more generalized attitude of inquiry, as was the case among the industrial middle classes in Britain during the 18th century, who were willing to cultivate new ideas and inventors, the breeders of such ideas. Whatever the psychological basis of inventive genius, there can be no doubt that the existence of socially important groups willing to encourage inventors and to use their ideas has been a crucial factor in the history of technology.
Social conditions are thus of the utmost importance in the development of new techniques, some of which will be considered below in more detail. It is worthwhile, however, to register another explanatory note. This concerns the rationality of technology. It has already been observed that technology involves the application of reason to techniques, and in the 20th century it came to be regarded as almost axiomatic that technology is a rational activity stemming from the traditions of modern science. Nevertheless, it should be observed that technology, in the sense in which the term is being used here, is much older than science, and also that techniques have tended to ossify over centuries of practice or to become diverted into such para-rational exercises as alchemy. Some techniques became so complex, often depending upon processes of chemical change that were not understood even when they were widely practiced, that technology sometimes became itself a “mystery” or cult into which an apprentice had to be initiated like a priest into holy orders, and in which it was more important to copy an ancient formula than to innovate. The modern philosophy of progress cannot be read back into the history of technology; for most of its long existence technology has been virtually stagnant, mysterious, and even irrational. It is not fanciful to see some lingering fragments of this powerful technological tradition in the modern world, and there is more than an element of irrationality in the contemporary dilemma of a highly technological society contemplating the likelihood that it will use its sophisticated techniques in order to accomplish its own destruction. It is thus necessary to beware of overfacile identification of technology with the “progressive” forces in contemporary civilization.
On the other hand it is impossible to deny that there is a progressive element in technology, as it is clear from the most elementary survey that the acquisition of techniques is a cumulative matter, in which each generation inherits a stock of techniques on which it can build if it chooses and if social conditions permit. Over a long period of time the history of technology inevitably highlights the moments of innovation that show this cumulative quality as some societies advance, stage by stage, from comparatively primitive to more sophisticated techniques. But although this development has occurred and is still going on, it is not intrinsic to the nature of technology that such a process of accumulation should occur, and it has certainly not been an inevitable development. The fact that many societies have remained stagnant for long periods of time, even at quite developed stages of technological evolution, and that some have actually regressed and lost the accumulated techniques passed on to them, demonstrates the ambiguous nature of technology and the critical importance of its relationship with other social factors.
Modes of technological transmission
Another aspect of the cumulative character of technology that will require further investigation is the manner of transmission of technological innovations. This is an elusive problem, and it is necessary to accept the phenomenon of simultaneous or parallel invention in cases in which there is insufficient evidence to show the transmission of ideas in one direction or another. The mechanics of their transmission have been enormously improved in recent centuries by the printing press and other means of communication and also by the increased facility with which travelers visit the sources of innovation and carry ideas back to their own homes. Traditionally, however, the major mode of transmission has been the movement of artifacts and craftsmen. Trade in artifacts has ensured their widespread distribution and encouraged imitation. Even more important, the migration of craftsmen—whether the itinerant metalworkers of early civilizations or the German rocket engineers whose expert knowledge was acquired by both the Soviet Union and the United States after World War II—has promoted the spread of new technologies.
The evidence for such processes of technological transmission is a reminder that the material for the study of the history of technology comes from a variety of sources. Much of it relies, like any historical examination, on documentary matter, although this is sparse for the early civilizations because of the general lack of interest in technology on the part of scribes and chroniclers. For these societies, therefore, and for the many millennia of earlier unrecorded history in which slow but substantial technological advances were made, it is necessary to rely heavily upon archaeological evidence. Even in connection with the recent past, the historical understanding of the processes of rapid industrialization can be made deeper and more vivid by the study of “industrial archaeology.” Much valuable material of this nature has been accumulated in museums, and even more remains in the place of its use for the observation of the field worker. The historian of technology must be prepared to use all these sources, and to call upon the skills of the archaeologist, the engineer, the architect, and other specialists as appropriate.
Technology In The Ancient World
The beginnings—Stone Age technology (to c. 3000 BCE)
The identification of the history of technology with the history of humanlike species does not help in fixing a precise point for its origin, because the estimates of prehistorians and anthropologists concerning the emergence of human species vary so widely. Animals occasionally use natural tools such as sticks or stones, and the creatures that became human doubtless did the same for hundreds of millennia before the first giant step of fashioning their own tools. Even then it was an interminable time before they put such toolmaking on a regular basis, and still more aeons passed as they arrived at the successive stages of standardizing their simple stone choppers and pounders and of manufacturing them—that is, providing sites and assigning specialists to the work. A degree of specialization in toolmaking was achieved by the time of the Neanderthals (70,000 BCE); more-advanced tools, requiring assemblage of head and haft, were produced by Cro-Magnons (perhaps as early as 35,000 BCE); while the application of mechanical principles was achieved by pottery-making Neolithic (New Stone Age; 6000 BCE) and Metal Age peoples (about 3000 BCE).
The Neolithic Revolution
The material that gives its name and a technological unity to these periods of prehistory is stone. Though it may be assumed that primitive humans used other materials such as wood, bone, fur, leaves, and grasses before they mastered the use of stone, apart from bone antlers, presumably used as picks in flint mines and elsewhere, and other fragments of bone implements, none of these has survived. The stone tools of early humans, on the other hand, have survived in surprising abundance, and over the many millennia of prehistory important advances in technique were made in the use of stone. Stones became tools only when they were shaped deliberately for specific purposes, and, for this to be done efficiently, suitable hard and fine-grained stones had to be found and means devised for shaping them and particularly for putting a cutting edge on them. Flint became a very popular stone for this purpose, although fine sandstones and certain volcanic rocks were also widely used. There is much Paleolithic evidence of skill in flaking and polishing stones to make scraping and cutting tools. These early tools were held in the hand, but gradually ways of protecting the hand from sharp edges on the stone, at first by wrapping one end in fur or grass or setting it in a wooden handle, were devised. Much later the technique of fixing the stone head to a haft converted these hand tools into more versatile tools and weapons.
With the widening mastery of the material world in the Neolithic Period, other substances were brought into service, such as clay for pottery and brick, and increasing competence in handling textile raw materials led to the creation of the first woven fabrics to take the place of animal skins. About the same time, curiosity about the behaviour of metallic oxides in the presence of fire promoted one of the most significant technological innovations of all time and marked the succession from the Stone Age to the Metal Age.
The use of fire was another basic technique mastered at some unknown time in the Old Stone Age. The discovery that fire could be tamed and controlled and the further discovery that a fire could be generated by persistent friction between two dry wooden surfaces were momentous. Fire was the most important contribution of prehistory to power technology, although little power was obtained directly from fire except as defense against wild animals. For the most part, prehistoric communities remained completely dependent upon manpower, but, in making the transition to a more settled pattern of life in the New Stone Age, they began to derive some power from animals that had been domesticated. It also seems likely that by the end of prehistoric times the sail had emerged as a means of harnessing the wind for small boats, beginning a long sequence of developments in marine transport.
The basic tools of prehistoric peoples were determined by the materials at their disposal. But once they had acquired the techniques of working stone, they were resourceful in devising tools and weapons with points and barbs. Thus, the stone-headed spear, the harpoon, and the arrow all came into widespread use. The spearwas given increased impetus by the spear-thrower, a notched pole that gave a sling effect. The bow and arrow were an even more effective combination, the use of which is clearly demonstrated in the earliest “documentary” evidence in the history of technology, the cave paintings of southern France and northern Spain, which depict the bow being used in hunting. The ingenuity of these primitive hunters is also shown in their slings, throwing-sticks (the boomerang of the Australian Aborigines is a remarkable surviving example), blowguns, bird snares, fish and animal traps, and nets. These tools did not evolve uniformly, as each primitive community developed only those instruments that were most suitable for its own specialized purposes, but all were in use by the end of the Stone Age. In addition, the Neolithic Revolution had contributed some important new tools that were not primarily concerned with hunting. These were the first mechanical applications of rotary action in the shape of the potter’s wheel, the bow drill, the pole lathe, and the wheel itself. It is not possible to be sure when these significant devices were invented, but their presence in the early urban civilizations suggests some continuity with the late Neolithic Period. The potter’s wheel, driven by kicks from the operator, and the wheels of early vehicles both gave continuous rotary movement in one direction. The drill and the lathe, on the other hand, were derived from the bow and had the effect of spinning the drill piece or the workpiece first in one direction and then in the other.
Developments in food production brought further refinements in tools. The processes of food production in Paleolithic times were simple, consisting of gathering, hunting, and fishing. If these methods proved inadequate to sustain a community, it moved to better hunting grounds or perished. With the onset of the Neolithic Revolution, new food-producing skills were devised to serve the needs of agriculture and animal husbandry. Digging sticks and the first crude plows, stone sickles, querns that ground grain by friction between two stones and, most complicated of all, irrigation techniques for keeping the ground watered and fertile—all these became well established in the great subtropical river valleys of Egypt and Mesopotamia in the millennia before 3000 BCE.
Prehistoric building techniques also underwent significant developments in the Neolithic Revolution. Nothing is known of the building ability of Paleolithic peoples beyond what can be inferred from a few fragments of stone shelters, but in the New Stone Age some impressive structures were erected, primarily tombs and burial mounds and other religious edifices, but also, toward the end of the period, domestic housing in which sun-dried brick was first used. In northern Europe, where the Neolithic transformation began later than around the eastern Mediterranean and lasted longer, huge stone monuments, of which Stonehenge in England is the outstanding example, still bear eloquenttestimony to the technical skill, not to mention the imagination and mathematical competence, of the later Stone Age societies.
Manufacturing industry had its origin in the New Stone Age, with the application of techniques for grinding corn, baking clay, spinning and weaving textiles, and also, it seems likely, for dyeing, fermenting, and distilling. Some evidence for all these processes can be derived from archaeological findings, and some of them at least were developing into specialized crafts by the time the first urban civilizations appeared. In the same way, the early metalworkers were beginning to acquire the techniques of extracting and working the softer metals, gold, silver, copper, and tin, that were to make their successors a select class of craftsmen. All these incipient fields of specialization, moreover, implied developing trade between different communities and regions, and again the archaeological evidence of the transfer of manufactured products in the later Stone Age is impressive. Flint arrowheads of particular types, for example, can be found widely dispersed over Europe, and the implicationof a common locus of manufacture for each is strong.
Such transmission suggests improving facilities for transport and communication. Paleolithic people presumably depended entirely on their own feet, and this remained the normal mode of transport throughout the Stone Age. Domestication of the ox, the donkey, and the camel undoubtedly brought some help, although difficulties in harnessing the horse long delayed its effective use. The dugout canoeand the birch-bark canoe demonstrated the potential of water transport, and, again, there is some evidence that the sail had already appeared by the end of the New Stone Age.
It is notable that the developments so far described in human prehistory took place over a long period of time, compared with the 5,000 years of recorded history, and that they took place first in very small areas of the Earth’s surface and involved populations minute by modern criteria. The Neolithic Revolution occurred first in those parts of the world with an unusual combination of qualities: a warm climate, encouraging rapid crop growth, and an annual cycle of flooding that naturally regenerated the fertility of the land. On the Eurasian-African landmass such conditions occur only in Egypt, Mesopotamia, northern India, and some of the great river valleys of China. It was there, then, that men and women of the New Stone Age were stimulated to develop and apply new techniques of agriculture, animal husbandry, irrigation, and manufacture, and it was there that their enterprise was rewarded by increasing productivity, which encouraged the growth of population and triggered a succession of sociopolitical changes that converted the settled Neolithic communities into the first civilizations. Elsewhere the stimulus to technological innovation was lacking or was unrewarded, so that those areas had to await the transmission of technical expertise from the more highly favoured areas. Herein is rooted the separation of the great world civilizations, for while the Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations spread their influence westward through the Mediterranean and Europe, those of India and China were limited by geographical barriers to their own hinterlands, which, although vast, were largely isolated from the mainstream of Western technological progress.
The Urban Revolution (c.3000–500 BCE)
The technological change so far described took place very slowly over a long period of time, in response to only the most basic social needs, the search for food and shelter, and with few social resources available for any activity other than the fulfillment of these needs. About 5,000 years ago, however, a momentous cultural transition began to take place in a few well-favoured geographical situations. It generated new needs and resources and was accompanied by a significant increase in technological innovation. It was the beginning of the invention of the city.
Craftsmen and scientists
The accumulated agricultural skill of the New Stone Age had made possible a growth in population, and the larger population in turn created a need for the products of specialized craftsmen in a wide range of commodities. These craftsmen included a number of metalworkers, first those treating metals that could be easily obtained in metallic form and particularly the soft metals, such as gold and copper, which could be fashioned by beating. Then came the discovery of the possibility of extracting certain metals from the ores in which they generally occur. Probably the first such material to be used was the carbonate of copper known as malachite, then already in use as a cosmetic and easily reduced to copper in a strong fire. It is impossible to be precise about the time and place of this discovery, but its consequences were tremendous. It led to the search for other metallic ores, to the development of metallurgy, to the encouragement of trade in order to secure specific metals, and to the further development of specialist skills. It contributed substantially to the emergence of urban societies, as it relied heavily upon trade and manufacturing industries, and thus to the rise of the first civilizations. The Stone Age gave way to the early Metal Age, and a new epoch in the story of humankind had begun.
By fairly general consent, civilization consists of a large society with a common culture, settled communities, and sophisticated institutions, all of which presuppose a mastery of elementary literacy and numeration. Mastery of the civilized arts was a minority pursuit in the early civilizations, in all probability the carefully guarded possession of a priestly caste. The very existence of these skills, however, even in the hands of a small minority of the population, is significant because they made available a facility for recording and transmitting information that greatly enlarged the scope for innovation and speculative thought.
Hitherto, technology had existed without the benefit of science, but, by the time of the first Sumerian astronomers, who plotted the motion of the heavenly bodies with remarkable accuracy and based calculations about the calendar and irrigation systems upon their observations, the possibility of a creative relationship between science and technology had appeared. The first fruits of this relationship appeared in greatly improved abilities to measure land, weigh, and keep time, all practical techniques, essential to any complex society, and inconceivable without literacy and the beginnings of scientific observation. With the emergence of these skills in the 3rd millennium BCE, the first civilizations arose in the valleys of the Nile and of the Tigris-Euphrates.
The fact that the era of the early civilizations coincides with the technological classification of the Copper and Bronze ages is a clue to the technological basis of these societies. The softness of copper, gold, and silver made it inevitable that they should be the first to be worked, but archaeologists now seem to agree that there was no true “Copper Age,” except perhaps for a short period at the beginning of Egyptian civilization, because the very softness of that metal limited its utility for everything except decoration or coinage. Attention was thus given early to means of hardening copper to make satisfactory tools and weapons. The reduction of mixed metallic ores probably led to the discovery of alloying, whereby copper was fused with other metals to make bronze. Several bronzes were made, including some containing lead, antimony, and arsenic, but by far the most popular and widespread was that of copper and tin in proportions of about 10 to one. This was a hard yellowish metal that could be melted and cast into the shape required. The bronzesmiths took over from the coppersmiths and goldsmiths the technique of heating the metal in a crucible over a strong fire and casting it into simple clay or stone molds to make axheads or spearheads or other solid shapes. For the crafting of hollow vessels or sculpture, they devised the so-called cire perdue technique, in which the shape to be molded is formed in wax and set in clay, the wax then being melted and drained out to leave a cavity into which the molten metal is poured.
Bronze became the most important material of the early civilizations, and elaborate arrangements were made to ensure a continuous supply of it. Metals were scarce in the alluvial river valleys where civilization developed and therefore had to be imported. This need led to complicated trading relationships and mining operations at great distances from the homeland. Tin presented a particularly severe problem, as it was in short supply throughout the Middle East. The Bronze Age civilizations were compelled to search far beyond their own frontiers for sources of the metal, and in the process knowledge of the civilized arts was gradually transmitted westward along the developing Mediterranean trade routes.
In most aspects other than the use of metals, the transition from the technology of the New Stone Age to that of early civilizations was fairly gradual, although there was a general increase in competence as specialized skills became more clearly defined, and in techniques of building there were enormous increases in the scale of enterprises. There were no great innovations in power technology, but important improvements were made in the construction of furnaces and kilns in response to the requirements of the metalworkers and potters and of new artisans such as glassworkers. Also, the sailing ship assumed a definitive shape, progressing from a vessel with a small sail rigged in its bows and suitable only for sailing before the prevailing wind up the Nile River, into the substantial oceangoing ship of the later Egyptian dynasties, with a large rectangular sail rigged amidships. Egyptian and Phoenician ships of this type could sail before the wind and across the wind, but for making headway into the wind they had to resort to manpower. Nevertheless, they accomplished remarkable feats of navigation, sailing the length of the Mediterranean and even passing through the Pillars of Hercules into the Atlantic.
Techniques of food production also showed many improvements over Neolithic methods, including one outstanding innovation in the shape of systematic irrigation. The civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia depended heavily upon the two great river systems, the Nile and the Tigris-Euphrates, which both watered the ground with their annual floods and rejuvenated it with the rich alluvium they deposited. The Nile flooded with regularity each summer, and the civilizations building in its valley early learned the technique of basin irrigation, ponding back the floodwater for as long as possible after the river had receded, so that enriched soil could bring forth a harvest before the floods of the following season. In the Tigris-Euphrates valley the irrigation problem was more complex, because the floods were less predictable, more fierce, and came earlier than those of the northward-flowing Nile. They also carried more alluvium, which tended to choke irrigation channels. The task of the Sumerian irrigation engineers was that of channeling water from the rivers during the summer months, impounding it, and distributing it to the fields in small installments. The Sumerian system eventually broke down because it led to an accumulation of salt in the soil, with a consequent loss of fertility. Both systems, however, depended on a high degree of social control, requiring skill in measuring and marking out the land and an intricate legal code to ensure justice in the distribution of precious water. Both systems, moreover, depended on intricate engineering in building dikes and embankments, canals and aqueducts (with lengthy stretches underground to prevent loss by evaporation), and the use of water-raising devices such as the shadoof, a balanced beam with a counterweight on one end and a bucket to lift the water on the other.
Manufacturing industry in the early civilizations concentrated on such products as pottery, wines, oils, and cosmetics, which had begun to circulate along the incipient trade routes before the introduction of metals; these became the commodities traded for the metals. In pottery, the potter’s wheel became widely used for spinning the clay into the desired shape, but the older technique of building pots by hand from rolls of clay remained in use for some purposes. In the production of wines and oils various forms of press were developed, while the development of cooking, brewing, and preservatives justified the assertion that the science of chemistry began in the kitchen. Cosmetics too were an offshoot of culinary art.
Pack animals were still the primary means of land transport, the wheeled vehicle developing slowly to meet the divergent needs of agriculture, trade, and war. In the latter category, the chariot appeared as a weapon, even though its use was limited by the continuing difficulty of harnessing a horse. Military technology brought the development of metal plates for armour.
In building technology the major developments concerned the scale of operations rather than any particular innovation. The late Stone Age communities of Mesopotamia had already built extensively in sun-dried brick. Their successors continued the technique but extended its scale to construct the massive square temples called ziggurats. These had a core and facing of bricks, the facing walls sloping slightly inward and broken by regular pilasters built into the brickwork, the whole structure ascending in two or three stages to a temple on the summit. Sumerians were also the first to build columns with brick made from local clay, which also provided the writing material for the scribes.
In Egypt, clay was scarce but good building stone was plentiful, and builders used it in constructing the pyramids and temples that remain today as outstanding monuments of Egyptian civilization. Stones were pulled on rollers and raised up the successive stages of the structure by ramps and by balanced levers adapted from the water-raising shadoof. The stones were shaped by skilled masons, and they were placed in position under the careful supervision of priest-architects who were clearly competent mathematicians and astronomers, as is evident from the precise astronomical alignments. It seems certain that the heavy labour of construction fell upon armies of slaves, which helps to explain both the achievements and limitations of early civilizations. Slaves were usually one of the fruits of military conquest, which presupposes a period of successful territorial expansion, although their status as a subject race could be perpetuated