Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Real Problem of Fake News

We often hear praise for having an open mind, but what if your mind is so open that common sense completely falls out?
I cannot believe this happened to me… AGAIN!
I allowed my buddy Jerry to talk me into going to a little hole-in-the-wall taco stand for lunch. The place has like four tables. The last time we went there, a couple weeks before the election, we were discussing the news. I said something like, ‘Trump is claiming the election is rigged. I wonder whether he’ll stick to that claim if he wins?’
Before Jerry could say anything, a rabid Trump supporter came over to the table and began telling me how Awesome Trump was, how He was going to Make America Great Again (It was almost as if she spoke in capital letters). I asked her whether the recent news of Trump’s disgusting remarks about grabbing women had changed her opinion somewhat, and she reacted like I’d accused Trump of being an illegal alien. That recording was fake! It was just a Hillary plot to discredit her savior Trump, etc. At this point, Jerry and I both pointed out to her that we had no horse in this race – that we were completely apolitical, neutral, don’t care who wins, that we wouldn’t be voting for either candidate.
“Not voting is the same as voting for Hillary,” she said. I don’t follow the math there – maybe it’s connected to how a Hillary win would prove voter fraud but a Trump win would prove he was on the side of the angels. We finally got ourselves disentangled from her – fortunately, most people get their tacos to go at that place, and hers were getting cold.
I swore I’d never go back. Today, Jerry insisted we go - he loves the food and the low prices. What could go wrong? The election is over, I now have a better understanding of the acoustics in the place. I went.
So Jerry brought up a mutual friend who is very bright but seems to have a blind spot where it comes to ‘secret knowledge’, conspiracy theories, etc. I said my problem with conspiracy theories was what they all have in common – the teller of the story claims to have acquired some insider knowledge that the majority of us don’t have. How come he has it and the rest of us don't?
“Like that fake pizza parlor story,” I said.
“What’s that?”
“Oh, you know, that story about what’s-her-name,” (I purposely didn’t say Hillary, even though I was speaking quietly, just in case the ONLY OTHER person in the café was a Trump supporter) "supposedly running a sex-ring out of the basement of a pizza parlor in Baltimore.”
“Yeah. Totally fake story. But a guy believed it, went in and shot up the place. The FBI got involved, proved the story came from the computer of a high-level Trump supporter, who admitted he made it up.”
You'll notice I accidentally used the word "Trump" out loud. Before I could finish, I was interrupted by the ONLY OTHER patron in the place… you guessed it: Trump supporter. “Excuse me, I couldn’t help overhearing. Do you mind if I join your conversation?”
“Actually, I do mind…”
“That story was true! Just because you read something in the New York Times that says otherwise doesn’t make it not true! Stop being a sheeple! Hillary is running a pedophile sex ring in Washington, and they’re trying to cover it up!”
- To Jerry: “I am never. eating. here. again. I don’t care how good their carne asada is.” –To the fat woman in the leopard print stretch pants: “You are NOT welcome in this conversation. I was talking with my friend here, NOT you. Please leave us alone.” Not that she was inclined to, but her tacos arrived.
Jerry, of course, finds all this hilarious.
Here’s why I find this serious enough to write about. In a conversation between Jesus and Pilate, Jesus said ‘Everyone who is on the side of Truth listens to me.’ Pilate sarcastically replied, “What is truth?”
2000 years ago, there was already a tendency to question the Truth – to at least doubt, to raise doubts as to whether absolute truth was even knowable.
Jesus foretold that the Good News of the Kingdom would be preached in all the inhabited earth right before the end. (Matthew 24:14) Satan will do anything to obscure it. Since he doesn’t have much of an imagination, he’s using the same old tool – obfuscate the truth.
In the 1960s you could tell someone, for example, that when we die we return to dust, we become nothing, we exist only in God’s memory… there is no “soul” that flies off to somewhere else. To prove it, you simply cracked open your Bible (or theirs) to Ezekiel 18:4, Ecclesiastes 9:10, and John 11:11. 
They then had to choose between two, and ONLY TWO options: either change their beliefs to harmonize with the Bible, or live the rest of their life knowing their beliefs didn’t match what the Bible plainly said. The Bible was considered the final authority. There even used to be a bumper sticker that read, 
“The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it.” 
I loved talking to people who had that bumper sticker.
Today, though, for more and more people, the Bible doesn’t settle anything. Show them a scripture that directly contradicts their beliefs, and they are just as likely to reply, ‘Yes, but Jung said,’ or, ‘modern science has proven,’ or, ‘my preacher says’ or, ‘I think…’
So someone can make up a completely false ‘news’ story about a sex ring operating out of a basement of a pizza parlor (the place has no basement, btw), and ten million people believe it. Two weeks later, after  multiple respected national news agencies reported that the guy admitted to the FBI that he made the whole thing up, do all ten million people admit to themselves that they were duped? No. Some do. But there are still a few million or so who stick to the made-up story.
Jesus only said the preaching of the Good News would be completed before the end comes. He didn’t say – but it makes sense – that the preaching of the Good News also has another deadline: It needs to be completed before humanity completely loses its ability to tell the difference between Truth and lies.
Feel free to leave a comment.

 Bill K. Underwood is a freelance columnist and author of several books. They are available in ebook and paperback at can help support this site by purchasing a book.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

You Must Know about TXA Before Your Next Operation

A new study out of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston shows that use of effective anti-bleeding drugs during surgery is up. That's good. But it is not up enough. 

Dr. Henry Huang says:

“There is a growing body of literature to support the use of antifibrinolytics to decrease perioperative blood loss, so the hope was that utilization rate would come up, and it did so in our study. But nearly 30% of centers have still decided not to use antifibrinolytics despite the increasing evidence.
Antifibrinolytics are drugs such as TXA (tranexamic acid) that promote clotting.

A huge study of TXA in 2012 called CRASH-2 looked at 20,000 patients (half given TXA, half a placebo). It proved beyond all doubt that doctors' most common fear about TXA - that it would cause patients to throw a dangerous clot - were absolutely groundless. (Remember that term - CRASH-2. Ask your doctor if he is familiar with the CRASH-2 study.)

30% of surgical teams not using TXA, or something similar, is a concern. What has inhibited the adoption of what is essentially a miracle drug?

Of the centers that did not use antifibrinolytics, two factors were predominantly cited: 1., surgeon preference, and 2., concerns about side effects.

Since CRASH-2 proved beyond doubt that the side effects were minimal, what's the remaining hold up? "Surgeon preference."


Take a card, write "TXA" on it in large letters, and keep it in your wallet. If you need surgery, pull it out. If your surgeon has a "preference" for blood transfusion instead of preventing blood loss, perhaps you should "prefer" another surgeon.

Please feel free to leave a comment. I've written quite a bit about blood medicine. To link to my other columns on this subject, click here.

Bill K. Underwood is the author of several novels and one non-fiction self-help book, all available at can help support this site by purchasing a book.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

How did Moses feed 3 million people?

Here's a logistical problem for you: 

There's a meme that goes around from time to time about how Moses could have planned to take care of roughly three million people who left Egypt in one night. The meme makes some interesting points but gets some of the math wrong.

First, they had to be fed.

According to a quartermaster of the Army during the Civil war, men carried an eight day supply of food that weighed 24 pounds…three pounds per day. On that basis, Moses would have needed a minimum of 4,500 tons of food each day. How much food is that?

According to rail car manufacturer GATX, a typical freight car has a capacity of 143 tons. To transport 4,500 tons would require a train 32 cars long.

Every day. 

Since their food wasn't pemmican or k-rations or MREs they would also have needed firewood to cook the food.  This would take a minimum of 8,000 tons of wood - another 56 freight cars, just for one day.

One more not-so-minor detail: water.

GATX has a product called the TankTrain System.  According to their website,

“A string of interconnected tank cars with flexible hoses, the TankTrain System can quickly load and unload large volumes of liquid. At a rate of 3,000 gallons per minute, that's 1 1/2 hours to load a 5-car string. A 90-car train can load in less than five hours.”  

That works out to a capacity of 900,000 gallons.  To provide enough water for two gallons per person, about six million gallons per day - which would be the bare minimum for drinking and bathing - would have required seven 90-car trains! 

Six million gallons - that's the daily output of The Water Department of Iowa City, Iowa. And they have only 62,000 customers.

But wait: The Israelites would have needed far more than that…they must have had millions of thirsty animals traveling with them. Figure three times as much water at the very least. That is not the kind of flow of water you get from a spigot, or even from a fire hydrant. That is the equivalent of a good-sized trout-fishing stream, such as the Frying Pan river in Colorado.

What about getting across the Red Sea in one night?

Let’s assume that people standing, ready to march, can be spaced 3 feet apart. If the red sea only opened to a narrow path, so that they had to walk two abreast, the line would have been about 850 miles long. At 3 miles an hour, with no stumbling or any confusion at all, it would have required nearly 12 days and nights for all to pass through.
To pass through in less than 8 hours we need to multiply our files… if they walked 100 abreast, spaced at 3 feet horizontally and vertically, a 300 foot opening would have allowed them all to pass a given point in about 6 hours; seems sufficient, but it’s not. They weren’t simply passing a point, they all had to cross several miles of the seabed of the gulf of Suez, along with their animals.  The book Insight on the Scriptures says:
‘The channel may have been a kilometer or more in width. Though in fairly close marching formation, such a group, along with what wagons they had, their baggage, and their cattle, even when rather closely ranked, would occupy an area of perhaps 3 square miles or more. It appears, therefore, that the sea-opening allowed the Israelites to cross on a fairly wide front. If there was about a 1 mile front, then the depth of the Israelite column would probably be about 3 miles or more. If it was about a 1.5 mile front, the depth might be about 2 miles or more. It would take such a column several hours to get into the seabed and travel across it. While they did not go in panic, but maintained their battle formation, they would no doubt move with considerable haste.’
To put that in perspective, look at this picture of the parade when a sports team won their championship. The turn-out was estimated to have been nearly a million, a small portion of which is shown here.

Crossing the Jordan 40 years later would have required a similarly gargantuan operation.

Another problem: Camping space.  At Little Big Horn, 10,000 Sioux made a camp that took up a little over half of one square mile.  At that rate, the three million in the Israelite encampment would have spread out over nearly 150 square miles! But estimates of camp size have been made by many commentators, are unreliable, and vary widely. My wife and I live in a humble 720 square foot two-bedroom home that is sufficient for us, but would be crowded by one more person, at least by today’s standards. Imagine a small three-bedroom home of 1000 square feet with ten people in it. But even if we use that figure – 100 square feet per person – three million people would take up over 55 square miles! If you cram people into half that space, not forgetting space for pathways, animals, and the tabernacle, they could - possibly - have fit into a square mobile city approximately six miles by six miles.

And they moved camp 40 times during the next 40 years.

Moses had been raised in the upper echelons of Egyptian society. His education was the best available at that time. He would have been familiar with the logistical problems of organizing large numbers of people. We can assume, for example, that he grew up listening to discussions of the problems of getting 10,000 employees to show up for work on a pyramid, quarry or field each day, provide them all with tools, a noon meal and enough water to prevent heatstroke. But did his training prepare him for the task of moving an entire nation? 

Absolutely not! Quite the opposite, in fact. All his training would have told him that such a task was physically impossible. This is why Paul said, "By faith he left Egypt." (Hebrews 11:27)

Now, if you believe the Bible, do you think God has any problem taking care of all your needs?

Feel free to leave a comment.
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 Bill K. Underwood is a freelance columnist and author of several books, including three novels - The Minotaur Medallion, Unbroken, and the best-selling Resurrection Day. All are available at You can help support this site by purchasing a book.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The problem with Christmas, Easter, and the Cross

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  Bill K. Underwood is the author of several novels and one non-fiction self-help book, all available at You can help support this site by clicking on the link.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

2,800-year-old papyrus confirms organized kingdom at Jerusalem

The Israel Antiquities Authority has revealed the earliest known extra-biblical reference to Jerusalem in Hebrew writing on a papyrus document confiscated from thieves by Israeli authorities.

The 2,800-year-old papyrus was found following an international enforcement operation by the IAA against antiquities robbers operating in the Judean Desert. Where the robbers found the papyrus cannot be stated with certainty, but it seems to have been found in a cave by the Hever Stream in the desert.

The papyrus is rare not only for the ancient Hebrew writing and the name of Jerusalem, but for existing at all. The arid desert certainly has conditions appropriate to preserve organic material over centuries, but ancient documentation that survived thousands of years remains rare. Only two other papyri dated to the First Temple era have been found, one of which had been erased.

The papyrus was revealed at the IAA’s Innovations in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Region conference.

Archaeologists are usually wary of publicizing finds not made through formal excavation due to the uncertainty of their origin. In this case, the researchers are confident that the find is authentic.

Carbon-14 analysis suggests the papyrus is between 2,500 and 2,800 years old. The Hebrew lettering is typical of the seventh century B.C.E. (699 B.C.E. – 600 B.C.E.) Though the writing itself could have been forged, the archaeologists believe it too is authentic.

Two lines of ancient Hebrew script were preserved on the papyrus, the IAA says.

Most of the letters are clearly legible, say Prof. Shmuel Ahituv of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Dr. Eitan Klein, deputy director of the IAA’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery and Amir Ganor of the IAA, who believe the text says:

“From the king’s maidservant, from Naʽarat, jars of wine, to Jerusalem.”

In other words, says the IAA, the papyrus is an original shipping document from the time of the First Temple, describing the shipment of jars of wine from storehouses in Na’arat to Jerusalem.

Naʽarat would likely be the Naʽarat mentioned in the description of the border between Ephraim and Benjamin in Joshua 16:7: “And it went down from Janohah to Ataroth, and to Naʽarat, and came to Jericho, and went out at Jordan.” However, 1 Chronicles 4:5, 6 also indicates it could be a woman’s name.

Ahituv notes that the papyrus isn’t just the earliest extra-biblical source to mention Jerusalem in Hebrew writing – “to date no other documents written on papyrus dating to the First Temple period have been discovered in Israel, except one from Wadi Murabbaʽat.

“Also outstanding in the document is the unusual status of a woman in the administration of the Kingdom of Judah in the seventh century B.C.E.”

Ahituv adds that the document reinforces that the city’s original name was “Yerushalem,” not “Yerushalayim”, a later spelling that might represent a compromise with non-Jews, linking the name with either a pagan deity or the idea of 'two hills'. 

“The document represents extremely rare evidence of the existence of an organized administration in the Kingdom of Judah,” stated Klein. “It underscores the centrality of Jerusalem as the economic capital of the kingdom in the second half of the seventh century B.C.E. According to the Bible, the kings Menashe, Amon or Josiah ruled in Jerusalem at this time; however, it is not possible to know for certain which of the kings of Jerusalem was the recipient of the shipment of wine.”

Actually, according to biblical chronology, (see my column About Time, part two: Bible history versus secular history) the kings of Judah in the last half of the seventh century were:

  • Josiah                          659-629 B.C.E.
  • Jehoahaz                      628
  • Jehoiakim                    628-618
  • Jehoiachin                   617
  • Zedekiah                     616-607 B.C.E.

 Bill K. Underwood is a freelance columnist and author of several books, including three novels.They are available in paperback or ebook on this page at You can help support this site by purchasing a book.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

UNESCO Tries to Revise Jerusalem's History

Photo By Bantosh, Wikimedia

If UNESCO has their way, they might very well take down the sign shown here. Instead, they seem intent on putting up a plaque that looks something like the following:

"On this site about 1935 B.C.E., Melchizedek, King of Salem, blessed Abraham the Hebrew."
"On this site in 1070 B.C.E., King David the Israelite defeated the Jebusites and established Jerusalem as his capital."
"On this site in 1026 B.C.E. Solomon dedicated the new Jewish temple he'd built.
"On this site in 607 B.C.E. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Jewish temple.
"On this site in 537 B.C.E. Zerrubbabel rebuilt the Jewish temple."
"On this site in 168 B.C.E. Antiochus desecrated the Jewish temple."
"On this site in 165 B.C.E. Judas Maccabaeus rededicated the Jewish temple."
"On this site in 18 B.C.E. Herod the great began rebuilding the Jewish temple."
"On this site in 33 C.E. Jesus foretold the destruction of the Jewish temple."
"On this site in 70 C.E. the Roman army under General Titus destroyed the Jewish temple.
"On this site in 638 C.E. Islamic armies took control of Jerusalem."
"On this site in 691 C.E. Muslim Caliph Abd el-Malik built a shrine called the Dome of the Rock."
" On this site in 820 C.E., Caliph al-Mamun removed the name of Caliph Abd el-Malik from the dedication plate and inserted his own name instead."
"On this site in 1119 the Crusaders took Jerusalem back from the Muslims, and the Knights Templar Identified the Dome of the Rock as the site of the Temple of Solomon and turned it into a Catholic Church.
"On this site in 1187, Muslims retook Jerusalem and re-dedicated the Dome of the Rock to Islam."
"On this site in 1967, during the Six-Day War, Jewish forces took over the Dome of the Rock. A few hours later, General Moshe Dayan ordered the Israeli flag lowered, and he turned over authority of the Temple Mount to the Muslim Religious Trust."
"On this site in 2016, UNESCO decided the Temple Mount has always been a Muslim holy site and has no importance to Jewish history."

Feel free to leave a polite comment. To return to the home page, click here

  Bill K. Underwood is the author of several novels and one non-fiction self-help book, all available at You can help support this site by purchasing a book.

Monday, October 24, 2016

TXA drug found to dramatically reduce surgical complications

A DRUG that prevents ­patients from losing excessive amounts of blood during and after surgery dramatically reduces complications, a global trial led by The Alfred hospital has revealed.

In a study out of Australia, about 40 per cent of patients who have open-heart ­surgery need blood transfusions and emergency surgery to stem the bleeding, putting them at risk of worse outcomes.

But giving them the drug tranexamic acid (TXA) cut those complications nearly in half.

Anaesthetists and surgeons leading the study say the drug can be used safely for everything from heart surgery to hip replacement.

Melbourne researchers are also hopeful it will prove to be an effective “roadside drug” that reduces bleeding in trauma patients while they are being transported to hospital.
Doctors were concerned the drug’s tendency to promote clotting might raise the risk of heart attack or stroke. But Associate Professor Silvana Marasco, a cardiothoracic surgeon at The Alfred and co-author of the study,­ said the findings of the 10-year trial of more than 4000 patients found no evidence to support these fears.

She said excessive bleeding in surgery could reduce the ­patient’s recovery and increase costs to the health system because of blood transfusions and emergency surgery.

“Bleeding during a surgery prolongs it, but it also causes a problem when the patient continues to bleed after you close the chest,” she said.

“If they have ongoing bleeding, you have to give them a blood transfusion, and sometimes the amount of blood they lose can collect around the heart and actually compress the heart and stop it from working ­properly. In that situation, they ­become quite unstable and you are rushing them back to the operating theatre for emergency surgery and we have to reopen them, find where the bleeding is coming from and give them drugs to reduce it.”

Professor Paul Myles, director of anaesthesia and perioperative medicine at The Alfred, said the findings meant almost every heart surgery patient could be treated with TXA.

“Use of TXA can also be safely expanded to prevent bleeding with other kinds of major surgery, such as knee and hip replacements, trauma surgery and spinal surgery — operations where TXA is not much used at present,” he said.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, was funded by the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists and the ­National Health and Medical Research Council. [Read more here…]

Please leave a polite comment.
To read another of my columns on blood medicine, click here.

Bill K. Underwood is the author of several novels and one non-fiction self-help book, all available at You can help support this site by clicking on the link.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Did Jesus die on a cross?

The old expression "The Greeks had a word for it" is very literally true. They have, for example, not one but four different words for "love."

There are two words used in the original Greek bible to describe the implement of Jesus' death. Yet nearly every English bible says that Jesus was killed on a "cross", and the verb form says that he was "crucified."

 The two Greek words in question are stauros (pronounced Stou-ros or stavros) and xylon (pronounced ksee-lon).  Here's what Greek scholars say about those two words: 

Strong’s Greek Dictionary:

4716. Stauros
"A stake or post (as set upright), i.e. (specially), a pole or cross (as an instrument of capital punishment) Appears 28 times in the NT."

The Anchor Bible Dictionary defines "Crucifixion" as:
The act of nailing or binding a living victim or sometimes a dead person to a cross or stake (stauros or skolops) or a tree (xylon)"

The New Catholic Encyclopaedia:
"Crucifixion developed from a method of execution by which the victim was fastened to an upright stake either by impaling him on it or by tying him to it with thongs..."

Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines "Crucifixion" as:
"The method of torture and execution used by the Romans to put Christ to death. At a crucifixion the victim usually was nailed or tied to a wooden stake and left to die..."

Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words:
"Stauros denotes, primarily, an upright pale or stake. On such, malefactors were nailed for execution..."

A Dictionary of the Bible, Dealing With Its Language, Literature And Contents, Including the Biblical Theology, in New Testament usage:
"[Stauros] means properly a stake…"

Hastings' Dictionary Of The Bible states:
"The Greek term rendered 'cross' in the English NT is stauros, which has a wider application than we ordinarily give to 'cross,' being used of a single stake or upright beam as well as of a cross composed of two beams."

The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 1980
"The Greek word for 'cross' (stauros) means primarily an upright stake or beam, and secondarily a stake used as an instrument for punishment and execution. It is used in this latter sense in the New Testament."

The Catholic Encyclopaedia
"The cross originally consisted of a simple vertical pole, sharpened at its upper end."

The Classic Greek Dictionary, Greek-English and English-Greek:
"'stauros': upright pale, stake or pole; in plural, a palisade."

The Companion Bible, Appendix 162:
"In the Greek N.T. two words are used for 'the cross' on which the Lord was put to death: 1. The word stauros; which denotes an upright pale or stake, to which the criminals were nailed for execution. 2. The word xylon, which generally denotes a piece of a dead log of wood, or timber, for fuel or for any other purpose. It is not like dendron, which is used of a living, or green tree, as in Matt.21:8; Rev.7:1, 3; 8:7; 9: 4, &c. As this latter word xylon is used interchangeably with stauros it shows us the meaning of each is exactly the same. The verb stauroo means to drive stakes. Our English word 'cross' is the translation of the Latin crux; but the Greek stauros no more means a crux than the word 'stick' means a 'crutch'. Homer uses the word stauros of an ordinary pole or stake, or a simple piece of timber.[footnote, Iliad xxiv.453. Odyssey xiv.11] And this is the meaning and usage of the word throughout the Greek classics. It never means two pieces of timber placed across one another at any angle, but of always one piece alone. Hence the use of the word xylon (No.2 above) in connection with the manner of our Lord's death and rendered 'tree' in Acts 5:30."

Other scriptural evidence: 

  Is there other evidence within the Bible itself that can help us know how Jesus was killed? As it turns out, there is.
As noted above, at Acts 5:30, Peter declared that Jesus was "hanged upon a tree (xylon)." Acts 10:39 and 13:29 also use the same expression, that Jesus was 'hanged upon a tree.' Most Bibles so translate the phrase. 

 Where else does the Bible use that word xylon

Matthew 26:55 "Did you come out to arrest me with swords and sticks (xylon)?" 

 Luke 23:31 "If they do these things when the tree (xylon) is green, what will they do when it withers?"
Galatians 3:13 (KJV) "Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree (xylon)."
1 Peter 2:24 "He carried our sins up to the tree (xylon)."
Revelation 2:7 "...the tree (xylon) of life in the midst of the garden." 

Of the 20+ occurrences of stauros in the Greek New Testament, most Bibles consistently render the word "cross." But, not so fast: the 70 Jewish scholars who created the Greek translation the Hebrew Old Testament known as the Septuagint, shortly before Jesus' day, also had access to the word stauros. Did they ever use it to describe a "cross"? No.

At Esther 7:9 we find the story of Haman erecting a 50-cubit-tall stauros on which he planned to hang Mordecai, on which he ended up being hoisted himself. Was this stauros a cross? Bibles variously render the implement there as "pillar, tree, gallows." None render it "cross." Why not? If the Septuagint translators rendered the word stauros, why shouldn't English translators render it "cross"? Why the inconsistency? 

The answer is obvious: Haman, whose body was displayed on a stauros, wasn't hung on a cross. 

The words "cross" and "crucifixion" come from the Latin word crux, not the Greek stauros. Did the bible writers use stauros simply because there was no Greek word to describe a crossed piece of wood? Of course not. Greeks were great with words.

If Jesus was killed on an implement the Romans called a "crux", the Bible writers would have inserted the Latin word crux. There are numerous examples where the Bible writers used Latin names for things that weren't native to Judea: Census, Praetorium, flagellum, etc. Furthermore, Greek had words that translated the idea of crossing. Luke 16:26 says: "Those wishing to cross (diabenai) from here to you are not able." Acts 16:9 says "Cross over (diabas) to Macedonia and help us." If neither of those words worked, a writer could have simply made up a word, using elements of dia and xylon to convey the idea. Just as there are examples of Bible writers using Latin words, there are also numerous examples of Bible writers making up new words as the need arose. For example, the Greeks had no word for humility until Paul attached the idea of "low" to the word for "mind" and came up with tapeinophrosune. 

Does it matter what you believe on this subject, or is it simply an interesting word puzzle? 

Ultimately, whether Jesus was nailed to a stake, a cross, an X, or was hit by a bus, what matters is this:
  1. His death paid the ransom to buy back life for those exercising faith. 
  2. Wearing the instrument of his death around your neck is idolatry, and it's insulting.
Please feel free to leave a comment. For another of my columns on this subject, click here.
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Bill K. Underwood is the author of several novels and one non-fiction self-help book, all available at can help support this page by purchasing a book.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Should Christians celebrate Halloween?

On January 8, 2005, Prince Harry attended a costume party. The then-20-year-old decided to go as a Nazi. While that may seem like a really stupid choice, to him it was simply a humorous costume, perhaps like something from a movie.

I'm not picking on Harry. I'm simply making a point about memory. An elderly Englander would never have done such a thing. Growing up with real live Nazi atrocities - air-raid sirens, buzz bombs, buildings collapsing, food rationing - he would never have considered anything about the Nazis to be amusing.

The chairman of Britain's Holocaust Educational Trust, Greville Janner, commented on Prince Harry’s gaff:
"There are too many people in Britain and elsewhere whose lives have been wrecked by the Nazis, whose families have been murdered by the Nazis, whose sons were killed by the Nazis. It is too close to the war, too close to the Holocaust, and really a senseless way to behave."
Does that mean that after another generation or two have died off that it will be okay for a person to wear a swastika for fun? The fact that there is such a thing as a Holocaust Educational Trust indicates that forgetting is a bad thing.

What does any of this have to do with Halloween?

The term Jack o’lantern first appeared in print in Ireland in 1750. It refers to a story of an un-dead person who, having outwitted the devil, was condemned to wander the earth eternally, using for light an ember of Hell, protected inside a carved turnip. It’s been so long we’ve all forgotten, but it is something to think about it before you send your kiddies out as the Devil’s representatives on Halloween.

Halloween itself stretches back at least 2,000 years. The Celts, who lived in the area that is now Ireland, Britain, and northern France celebrated their new year on November 1. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain (pronounced sa-wane), when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth, even to their own homes, and treats were put out to appease them. Since it was believed these spirits could cause trouble and damage crops, people built huge bonfires as offerings to their god of light, Lug. People gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities.

During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. Apples or hazelnuts, both viewed as products of sacred trees, were used to divine information concerning marriage, sickness, and death. For example, apples with identifying marks were placed in a tub of water. By seizing an apple using only the mouth, a young man or woman was supposed to be able to identify his or her future spouse. Thus "bobbing for apples" was born.

Samhain was also characterized by drunken revelry and a casting aside of inhibitions. Interestingly, The Encyclopedia of Religion describes modern-day Halloween as “a time when adults can also cross cultural boundaries and shed their identities by indulging in an uninhibited evening of frivolity. Thus, the basic Celtic quality of the festival as an evening of annual escape from normal realities and expectations has remained."

In the bible, God condemns fortune-telling (Deuteronomy 18:10), uninhibited revelries (Romans 13:13), and worshiping other gods (Exodus 20:2). He also assures us that the dead cannot harm us (Ecclesiastes 9:5; Psalms 146:4). The druid priests who used these superstitions to control the Celtic people would have been as disgusting to God as Prince Harry was to those who remembered Nazis. 

But it was so long ago, surely God has forgotten what these symbols mean by now...

In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 as All Saints' Day. It is believed that the pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related holiday. The celebration was also called All-hallows Day so the night before it, the night of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween. The church later would make November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor all the dead (rather than just dead saints). It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils.

The macabre roots of Halloween may extend back even further. In his book The Worship of the Dead, writer J. Garnier notes that cultures the world over have some sort of festival for the dead at this same time of year, and he makes a connection to the flood of Noah’s day. The bible gives us the date of the flood: “the seventeenth day of the second month.” (Genesis 7:11) The calendar in use back then seems to have started with the first new moon after the fall equinox, so the 17th day of the second month could easily have been around October 31.

Why should we care? The bible tells us that, prior to the Flood, other angels had joined Satan in his rebellion against God (Genesis 6:2-4; Jude 6; 2 Peter 2:4). These came to the earth and married women and had offspring. At the flood, the wives and children all died. The materialized angels undoubtedly dropped their human forms and went back to being spirits to avoid drowning. And, according to J. Garnier, human society has been helping those wicked spirits mourn their loss every Halloween since.

If pleasing God is important to you and you’re planning to celebrate Halloween, you'd better hope God has as short a memory as Prince Harry.

Feel free to leave a polite comment. To read another of my columns on holidays, click here.

 Bill K. Underwood is a freelance columnist and author of several books, all available at can help support this site by purchasing a book.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

God's Jigsaw puzzle

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 Bill K. Underwood is a freelance columnist and author of several books, including three novels - The Minotaur Medallion, Unbroken, and the best-selling Resurrection Day. All are available in either digital or paperback at 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Blood transfusion linked to kidney damage

“Come for a broken heart and we’ll break your kidneys, too,” would seem to be the motto of the medical profession.

A massive study of the records of nearly 2 million patients has proven that blood transfusion causes kidney injury. This is significant because the data study moves it from the realm of the anecdotal (as in, ‘many doctors have noticed what seems to be a connection’) into the realm of hard fact.
Of the 1.7 million patients who underwent angioplasty for a heart problem – generally considered a “non-invasive” procedure – 38,626 were given a blood transfusion. The justification was generally low blood count, “anemia” (hemoglobin below 10) or bleeding. Eight patients were given blood whose records showed neither anemia nor bleeding.

Of the 38,626 who were given blood, a whopping 35%  – 13,520 patients – suffered from AKI, Acute Kidney Injury. Only 8% of the non-transfused patients developed AKI. Fully twice as many patients with AKI (18.4% versus 9.1%) had congestive heart failure within 2 weeks.

“In this retrospective study, we identified an independent association between blood transfusion and AKI in [patients undergoing angioplasty],” the researchers wrote. “This association was significant even among patients with anemia at baseline… suggesting that a restrictive blood transfusion policy needs to be further investigated for its potential to improve [patient] safety.” [Read the raw data here…]

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To read more of my columns about blood medicine, click here.
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 Bill K. Underwood is a freelance columnist and author of several books, available at You can help support this site by purchasing a book.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Archaeological proof Hezekiah really did turn a pagan shrine into a toilet

“And they demolished the pillar of Baal, and demolished the house of Baal, and made it a latrine to this day.” (2Kings 10:27, RSV)

Israeli archeologists have discovered a stone toilet while excavating an ancient city gate at Lachish. The latrine is evidence a biblical king tried to stamp out idol worship there.

The scriptural reference above is to Jehu defiling a Baal temple, not Hezekiah making a latrine in the gate of Lachish. But finding this toilet at Lachish suggests that King Hezekiah seems to have followed the practice of Jehu, deliberately defiling the eighth century B.C.E. shrine at the gate to the ancient city, just as Jehu did to the north.

“A toilet was installed in the [pagan] holy of holies [“. . .the high places of the gates. . .” 2 Kings 23:8] as the ultimate desecration of that place,” the IAA said in a statement. “A stone fashioned in the shape of a chair with a hole in its center was found in the corner of the room.” The authority said it was the first time an archeological find confirmed the practice of installing a toilet to desecrate a pagan worship site. 
Laboratory tests suggest the stone toilet at the Lachish gate was never used, the IAA said, making its placement “symbolic, after which the holy of holies was sealed." It remained sealed until the city was destroyed.

Lachish, about 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem, was conquered by the invading Assyrians under King Sennacherib in the eighth century B.C.E. The city gate was first located “decades ago,” the IAA said, but was only fully exposed in early 2016. “The excavation revealed destruction layers in the wake of the defeat, including arrowheads and sling stones, indicative of the hand-to-hand combat that occurred in the city’s gatehouse."

The discovery is just one more in a long list proving that the Bible is trustworthy. To read another of my columns on the reliability of the Bible, click here.

Bill K. Underwood is the author of several novels and one non-fiction self-help book, all available at You can help support this site by purchasing a book.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Six more kids in India harmed by blood transfusion.

In yet another botched blood transfusion case, six Thalassemia-affected children were taken seriously ill after being transfused with blood at District Headquarters Hospital in Nayagarh district.

Similar incidents have been reported from Burla hospital and Balasore District Headquarters Hospital. Two patients at Burla had been given HIV positive and Hepatitis B positive blood, and a three year girl child had been given Hepatitis C blood.

India has been a mecca of “medical cruises” as American and other patients without adequate medical coverage found they could both vacation in India and have a hip replaced for less than the cost of their insurance deductible at home. But in the past 2 years, over 2,200 patients in India have contracted HIV from blood transfusions.

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Bill K. Underwood is the author of several novels and one non-fiction self-help book, all available at You can help support this site by purchasing a book.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Why Blood is Bad Emergency Medicine

While more and more hospitals are jumping on the bloodless medicine bandwagon, emergency medicine seems to be going the other direction. Paramedics in some locations are beginning to carry blood in their ambulances and helicopters. 

Nearly every medical benefit – or supposed benefit – of transfused blood can now be achieved by some other treatment, at less cost, and with fewer negative effects. So why is blood still being used?

I’m not a doctor. But I’ve written a lot about blood, and in the process I’ve learned a lot about blood medicine. The more I learn, the more appalled I am that doctors continue to consider blood transfusion an effective treatment – for anything. This brief column is intended to summarize what I’ve written previously.

You can read some of my other columns on the subject here: 

 As we discussed in the column Blood Medicine Part Two, it isn’t enough for the hemoglobin inside your red blood cells to absorb oxygen in the lungs. It also must let go of the oxygen when it gets to where it’s needed. Since oxygen is attracted to the iron molecules in hemoglobin, releasing it is easier said than done. One ingredient that plays a key role in the release of oxygen from hemoglobin is a blood chemical called DPG. Lowering of DPG makes oxygen ‘stick’ to the hemoglobin – not good.

Your blood pH must stay between 7.35 and 7.45 - always. A number outside that range will cause your body to stop all other functions until it has corrected its blood pH. Blood pH begins to fall in storage. Donated red blood cells are stored in a solution called ACD – acid-citrate-dextrose. ACD acidifies – lowers the pH of – the blood even more. The lower the pH, the ‘stickier’ the hemoglobin becomes. At 14 days, the pH of stored blood has fallen to 6.9. Since blood pH below 7.35 is considered an urgent problem, why does an emergency room doctor wants to give it to you?  

In one study of patients who received 3 units of blood in emergency operations, the conclusion was:

“In [an] acute situation, when the organism (that’s you) needs restoration of the oxygen releasing capacity within minutes, the resynthesis [of DPG in stored blood] is obviously insufficient.”

Put simply, a transfusion of stored blood is the last thing you want entering your body in an emergency.

Stored blood:
  • Carries antigens unique to the donor that can kill the recipient.
  • Potentially carries Zika, malaria, hepatitis, HIV, Covid and a dozen other diseases.
  • Has a low pH, forcing the patient’s body to work to raise it back above 7.35.
  • Contains a high percentage of dead and dying cells that add to the workload of the patient’s organs.
  • Contains inflexible red blood cells that cause clots.
  • Contains potassium at levels 4 times higher than are considered healthy
  • Contains ammonia at up to 10 times the upper limit of what is considered safe.
  • Contains free hemoglobin that steals oxygen from the patient and adds to the workload of the liver.
  • Is deficient in DPG, lowering the patient’s cellular oxygenation.
  • Is deficient in nitric oxide, lowering capillary dilation, causing reduced cellular oxygenation as well as clots.
  • Contains anti-coagulants - something not needed by an already bleeding patient.
  • Raises blood pressure, straining and destroying fragile clots the body is trying to form at the wound site, increasing bleeding.
  • Suppresses the patient’s immune system for, at best, days; at worst, permanently.  


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 Bill K. Underwood is the author of several novels and one non-fiction self-help book, all available at You can help support this site by purchasing a book.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The workers in the vineyard

Many of Jesus' parables were similar to stories that his listeners, the Jews, were familiar with, but with a twist.
For example, he gave an illustration called "The workers in the vineyard". You can find it in your Bible at Matthew 20:1-14:

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

“But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you."

 Alfred Edersheim's The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah is one of my favorite tools on the details surrounding life in Jesus' day. It is over 100 years old, long out of copyright, so if you persist, you can usually find a free online copy of it, but it keeps moving. Just Google "Edersheim free online". 
Anyway, regarding this parable, here is Edersheim's nugget:
"The Jews already had a parable about a king who had a vineyard, and engaged many laborers to work in it. But the Jewish story went like this: 

"A king hired several workers to spend the day in his vineyard. When the king looked out over the work in the second hour, he noticed one of the workers was distinguished above the rest by his labor and skill. So the king took him by the hand, and walked up and down in the shade with him, chatting until evening. At the end of the day, when the laborers were paid, this one received the same wages as the others, just as if he had worked in the sun the whole day. At this the others murmured, because he who had worked only two hours had received the same as they who had labored the whole day. The king replied: 'Why do you murmur? This man has by his skill earned as much in two hours as you did during the whole day.'

"It will be observed that, with all its similarity of form, the moral of the Jewish parable is in exactly the opposite direction from the teaching of Christ: reward earned by labors, rather than being a gift." 

Feel free to leave a polite comment.
 Bill K. Underwood is the author of several books, all available at You can help support this site by purchasing a book.