Weekly Q&A: What is the Bible?

The term Bible comes from the Greek ta biblia, which means “the scrolls.” The name conveys the Bible contains a collection of scrolls, books. As such, it is a library of books written over hundreds of years. But before we can understand how the Bible came to us, we need to answer, “Whose Bible are we referring to?”

The Judeo-Christian traditions preserves five Bibles used by different Jewish and Christian groups. The Jewish Bible, the Tanak (which stands for Torah, Prophets, and Writings), parallels the Christian Old Testament. It contains the same books, but in a different order. The Samaritans use their Pentateuch known as the Samaritan Pentateuch. It contains the Five Books of Moses but has differences from Jewish Bible-Old Testament versions of the books. The Samaritan Pentateuch preserves interpretations which reflect Samaritan ideological and theological ideas.

The Catholic Bible comprises the Old Testament, New Testament, and the Apocrypha. These are books written by Jews from the fourth/third century B.C. to the first century A.D. Catholics view these books as deuterocanonical, meaning they are useful for study and instruction, but they do not carry the same authority of the Old and New Testaments.

The Orthodox Bible is like the Catholic Bible except for some differences within the collection of apocryphal works. But within the Orthodox Church, each community—Greek, Slavonic, Georgian, Armenian, Syriac, and Coptic—uses a Bible with slight variations, beyond language. Most of us are familiar with the Protestant Bible, which emerged from the Protestant Reformation. The Protestant Bible consists of the Old and New Testaments.

A survey of the different Bibles used within Judeo-Christian traditions helps us to define what is the Bible. The Bible is a unique fixed, closed collection of ancient literature, written over hundreds of years, comprised of different genres—narrative, poetry, prophecy, wisdom sayings, letters, and apocalypses—collected as divine revelation for the community of faith as a rule of faith and practice. This definition holds for any of the Bibles within the Judeo-Christian tradition.

The Bible serves as the Canon for the community of faith. The word “canon” originally meant a “straight bar” and came to mean “standard” or “rule.” Applied to literary collections, Canon means a collection of works which are the standard. Within a community of faith, the Canon serves as the rule of faith and practice.

The establishment of a Canon of sacred literature forms the final step in a process of transmission. There was an initial event, utterance, teaching, psalm, which were transmitted orally or written snippets. The writers of the biblical books collected these, organized them, and composed their book—the book of Isaiah, the Gospel of Luke. Scribes copied and transmitted these manuscripts of books, sometimes for hundreds of years.

Communities then began to form collections of these books, such as the Five Books of Moses. These collections circulated prior to the bringing together of all the books. Finally, the community brought the entire collection of books together, which then circulated within the community, until eventually the community treated that collection of books as closed or fixed. The Bible now serves as the Canon for the community of faith.

Marc Turnage is President/CEO of Biblical Expeditions. He is an authority on ancient Judaism and Christian origins. He has published widely for both academic and popular audiences. His most recent book, Windows into the Bible, was named by Outreach Magazine as one of its top 100 Christian living resources. Marc is a widely sought-after speaker and a gifted teacher. He has been guiding groups to the lands of the Bible—Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Italy—for over twenty years.

Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

Read more

Widespread Anti-Semitic Defamation Attempts to Erase Judaism’s Holiest Place

By Arlene Bridges Samuels 

The Temple Mount is Judaism’s holiest site. Jerusalem is the ancient and modern Jewish capital, and Israel is the ancestral Jewish homeland. These are verifiable and substantiated facts of history!

Yet Itamar Ben-Gvir’s visit to the Temple Mount last week proves once again that the deepest dogma of anti-Semitism since the Holocaust is against the foundation of Judaism itself. While Ben-Gvir is an extremely divisive and controversial figure, this does not erase the fact that the Temple Mount is still the holiest site for the Jewish people. 

Anti-Semitic attacks wrapped in lies can be likened to another version of an improvised explosive device (IED), as evidenced by how condemnation of Ben-Gvir’s visit to the Temple Mount detonated across the world. Last week, Ben-Gvir—newly appointed as Israel’s National Security Minister—decided to do the unthinkable: he, a Jew, walked up to Judaism’s holiest site. The Temple Mount is permanently inscribed in Jewish biblical history, secular history, and archaeological discoveries. Its walls were built around the summit of Mount Moriah. 

Biblically, this is where Abraham offered his son Isaac as a sacrifice. In Genesis 22:1-2, we read: “Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.’”

Nevertheless, Ben-Gvir’s visit triggered a worldwide uproar. His decision to visit the Temple Mount was met by worries from Israelis who feared a Third Palestinian Intifada (uprising). It was not an unfounded fear. Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount in 2000 set off an Intifada (uprising) by PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. 

During this Second Intifada, from 2000 to 2005, Palestinian Muslims murdered more than a thousand Israeli civilians on the streets, on buses, and in restaurants. It wasn’t until months later that the Palestinian Authority Communications Minister, Imad Faluji, acknowledged that the uprising after Sharon’s visit had been part of Arafat’s plan to trigger more violence. By then it was far too late. The lies hardened into a counterfeit version of history and still circulate around the globe to this day. 

Earlier history from 1967 describes an unfortunate yet well-meant decision by Moshe Dayan, a respected Israeli general and statesman. (The Israel Defense Forces miraculously changed history and united east and west Jerusalem and recovered their biblical heartland: Judea and Samaria.) In an act of tolerance and religious freedom, General Dayan opened a door after Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War. He allowed the Jordanian Foundation, the Waqf, to remain as the administrator of the Temple Mount. Jordan had ruled over the Temple Mount, east Jerusalem, and the Western Wall (Kotel) for 20 years since Israel’s independence on May 14, 1948. The Jordanians excluded Jews from their holiest site, the Temple Mount, as well as the Western Wall.

Fifty-six years have passed, and the Waqf’s grip remains tight and has produced a mountain of historical forgetfulness teamed with propaganda. Slight improvements have taken place at the site. Nevertheless, atop the 32 acres, which can accommodate more than 400,000 worshippers, Jews are limited in their visitation days, and hours, and they can enter only through the Mughrabi Gate adjacent to the Kotel. Christians are also penalized. Scripture enlightens us that Jesus, our Jewish Messiah, frequented the Temple Mount.

The current media reports about Ben-Gvir’s visit rely on sensationalism, not historic facts. The media parrots the Palestinians’ erroneous narrative of history. Astonishingly, the United Nations declared an emergency meeting last Thursday in protest. Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations rightly commented, “There is absolutely no reason that this emergency session should be held. To hold it on a non-event is truly absurd.” He then asked, “Why are we holding an emergency session for something as simple as a Jew walking to the holiest site in Judaism?”

Indeed! Since 1967, the Jordanian Waqf still governs the Temple Mount with countless uncalled-for actions. Their policies eventually mutated into a United Nations General Assembly vote a few years ago in a Resolution—129 to 11, and 31 abstentions—to refer to Judaism’s holiest site only by its Arabic names: Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) and al-Buraq, the Western Wall. What a travesty!

In Hebrew, the Temple Mount is called Har Habayit, the site of the First Temple, which was built in 957 B.C. and destroyed in 587/586 B.C. The Second Temple was completed around 516 B.C. and destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. Jesus visited and worshipped in the Second Temple throughout His life. As mentioned previously, the current location of the Temple Mount was originally known as Mount Moriah, which marks Abraham’s profound moment of obedience when God asked him to sacrifice his son. Antiquity verifies these facts in contrast to the more recent Dome of the Rock (A.D. 691) and the al-Aqsa mosque (A.D. 705). In fact, both Jewish Temples predate Islam’s incursion by 1,700 years! 

The facts were not always distorted. In 1924, an Islamic guidebook written by the Supreme Muslim Council recognized the Temple Mount’s Jewishness. “Its identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute. This, too, is the spot, according to the universal belief, on which ‘David built there an altar unto the LORD and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings’” (2 Samuel 24:25). Almost 100 years later, the massive amounts of propaganda have attempted to erase these facts. 

As part of our discussion, let us acknowledge Islam’s foremost sacred place, Mecca, and its second most holy site, Medina, both of which are in Saudi Arabia. A pilgrimage, the Hajj, takes place in Mecca annually—where upwards of 2.5 million Muslims circle and pray around the Kaaba, a cube-shaped structure, the holiest shrine in Islam. All Muslims are required to visit Mecca at least once in their lifetime if financially and physically feasible. 

Muslim pilgrims walk a path they believe to have been taken by the Prophet Muhammad 1,400 years ago and spend five days performing rituals said to bring them closer to God. Hajj occurs in the last month (Dhul-Hijjah) of the Islamic calendar. In 2023 it takes place June 27–July 1 on Islam’s lunar calendar. Non-Muslims are not allowed at the Hajj. Saudi government bans non-Muslims from Mecca itself. 

Do world leaders ever condemn Saudi Arabia over such restrictions at the Hajj? Does the global mainstream media ever report negatively on these matters? Are Muslims ever condemned for holding to their religious traditions? 

The United States, Jordan, and nations in Europe and beyond quickly lined up against Israel minutes after Ben-Gvir walked back down to the Western Wall Plaza. The Crown Prince of United Arab Emirates accused Ben-Gvir of “storming the al-Aqsa mosque.” Yet however controversial or provocative the National Security Minister is deemed to be, Ben-Gvir went to the Temple Mount at 7 a.m.—a prescribed hour for Jews. In fact, as CBN News recently reported: “Ben-Gvir consulted with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before his visit, and also met with Israeli police and internal security officials. His time on the Temple Mount lasted about 15 minutes and ended without incident.”

This truth must be strongly restated because of the barrage of attacks against it. As I said at the beginning of this article, these truths are substantiated facts of history and cannot be disputed: The Temple Mount is Judaism’s holiest site. Jerusalem is both the ancient and modern Jewish capital, and Israel is the ancestral Jewish homeland. And even so, Israel remains dedicated to sharing its most sacred site with the three monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Proverbs 12:22 tells us that “Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who act faithfully are His delight.”

Join us at CBN Israel in praying for truth to prevail when it comes to Israel:

  • Pray for the Christian community to increasingly share truths about Israel. 
  • Pray for Ben-Givr and all in Netanyahu’s government to act and speak wisely.
  • Pray that Palestinians will not explode into a Third Intifada. 
  • Pray that God’s “will be done on earth as it is in heaven” and for the peace of Jerusalem. 

Arlene Bridges Samuels
pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After she served nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her as Outreach Director part-time for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel, a guest columnist at All Israel News, and has frequently traveled to Israel since 1990. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited and is a volunteer on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on Facebook.

Read more

Hot Meals for the Elderly

Imagine going to bed hungry every night, or missing meals so you can afford medication. For one quarter of Israel’s elderly population, food insecurity is a sad reality. And malnutrition can lead to added health problems and make existing financial and life struggles worse.

In fact, many who live in elderly care facilities are isolated, without family to help, and often need physical assistance and emotional support. Some are immigrants or Holocaust survivors. Those in low-income senior residence centers often live on a government stipend of just $600 a month—making it hard to survive with dignity.

But fortunately, friends like you were there. Generous donors enabled CBN Israel to partner with a local organization that rescues surplus prepared food from hotels, corporate cafeterias, and IDF military bases. It is then refrigerated overnight at distribution hubs and delivered the next day to at-risk seniors in housing facilities, or through senior day centers.

Working together, they have helped provide hot, nutritious meals to hundreds of vulnerable seniors, four days a week throughout the year. For those with nowhere to turn, this vital aid alleviated their fears—and let them know they aren’t forgotten.

And your gift to CBN Israel can let others in crisis situations know they aren’t forgotten, including refugees, single mothers, terror victims, and more. As the needs become greater during these colder months, your support can supply groceries, housing, financial help, and other essentials to those who are struggling.

Will you join us today in helping others?


Read more

Weekly Devotional: The Fruit of the Spirit

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV).

We have a problem: The world we live in does not produce the fruit of the Spirit, and too often we fall into the trap of allowing it to inhibit their growth in us. While our world talks about love, in actuality it shows very little true love.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Watch the news, look on social media, or just take a walk down the street. Our world is filled with the anti-fruit of the Spirit. Instead of love, we express hate or indifference; instead of joy, misery and despair. Violence and restlessness are predominant over peace. We struggle to show patience to others or ourselves. And so on and so forth.

Two important things we should note about the fruit of the Spirit. First, they don’t grow naturally. If we do not nurture them in our lives, they will not grow. If we do not obey God’s commands and the Spirit’s leading, we will not produce them. We have to choose to grow them and manifest them in our lives. They do not happen naturally, and our world does not foster or encourage their growth. Second, the fruit of the Spirit pertain primarily to our relationships with others. We don’t manifest gentleness with God; we show it to those around us. If we are truly walking by the Spirit, we should produce these fruits in our relationships with family, friends, strangers, and even our enemies.

Our world may not naturally produce the fruit of the Spirit but does recognize them whenever they genuinely see and experience them. The world may not encourage their growth, even in us, but does respond to their sweet taste. Take a look at your life today. Where can you choose to allow the fruit of the Spirit to grow in you and your relationships?


Father, lead us in Your ways, so that Your fruit will grow in us. Help us to choose to walk in obedience to You. Amen.

Read more

Weekly Q&A: What does the term “Torah” mean?

The word “Torah” comes from the Hebrew root meaning “to shoot an arrow in a straight direction.” The noun torah as it appears within the Old Testament means “instruction.”

By the end of the Old Testament period, the Judeans began to collect writings they deemed authoritative and inspired. The first collection were five books, which tradition ascribed to Moses—the Five Books of Moses, also called the Pentateuch. Because these were seen as God’s instruction and authoritative, they received the name “Torah,” Instruction. Although not everything in the Five Books of Moses were instructional, for example there are narrative stories, ancient Judaism came to see everything as God’s instruction to His people.

The Jewish Scriptures were collected into three groups of writings by the first century—Moses, Prophets, and Psalms. This threefold division fits the organization of the Jewish Canon today—Torah, Prophets, and Writings. The “Torah” can refer either to the first five books, or it can refer to the entire collection of the Jewish Canon.

Many Christians have gained a negative sense of the Torah because in Greek the word is translated as nomos, law. The juxtaposition of “law and grace,” “faith and works” within Protestantism has left many Christians to think of the Torah negatively. Yet, within the New Testament—in the words of Jesus, Paul, and James—the Torah is connected to life, as it is within Judaism. In fact, it would be more accurate to gain a sense for what the New Testament writers, like Paul, meant if we translated nomos as “instruction” instead of “law.”

Because the Torah was written and transmitted through manuscripts, some Jewish groups felt it improper to write down their interpretation and commentary on the Torah. Thus, Pharisaic Judaism spoke of two “Torahs”—the Written Torah, which refers to the Old Testament, Jewish Canon, and the Oral Torah. The Oral Torah refers to the oral teachings, interpretation, and commentary which built up around the Torah but came from the Sages of Israel.

The Oral Torah was not seen as contrary to the Written Torah; rather, it was complementary. The Oral Torah sought to make the instruction of the Torah plain, relevant, and understandable within the contemporary situation of the Sage and his disciples. It is no different than what pastors do on any given Sunday when they seek to provide contemporary relevance and instruction from ancient texts to their congregation.

Marc Turnage is President/CEO of Biblical Expeditions. He is an authority on ancient Judaism and Christian origins. He has published widely for both academic and popular audiences. His most recent book, Windows into the Bible, was named by Outreach Magazine as one of its top 100 Christian living resources. Marc is a widely sought-after speaker and a gifted teacher. He has been guiding groups to the lands of the Bible—Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Italy—for over twenty years.

Facebook: @witbuniversity
Podcast: Windows into the Bible Podcast

Read more

A New Year’s Resolution Suggestion for the UN: Book Archaeology Tours to Israel

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

Before fireworks saturated the skies across the world, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) rang in 2023 on December 30 with another irrational resolution against Israel. This time, it requested that the International Court of Justice investigate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israeli “annexation,” and the “legal status of the occupation.” By December 1, 2022, the UNGA had already passed 15 resolutions defaming Israel and only 13 for the rest of the world combined. The Assembly barely noticed the nightmarish policies of Iran, North Korea, and Syria against their citizens. 

The UNGA’s misguided resolutions do not escape the watchful eyes of the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus. Our Heavenly Father is the ultimate authority who deeded Israel to the Jews and chose them for His redemptive purposes to make the land bloom, transcribe His words into Scripture, and visit Earth as Immanuel—God with us. 

Israel’s abundant archaeological discoveries in 2022 surpass any UNGA resolutions and repeatedly authenticate the Bible. Noted as the most popular book in world history, the Bible has sold nearly 4 billion copies in the past 50 years. Biblical archaeology commenced in the 19th century and now adds up in a storehouse of celebration in its own kind of fireworks, with facts that connect modern Israel to Scripture’s ancient pages. 

The 2022 archaeological achievements have become too numerous to list, but I am highlighting some of my favorites heading into 2023. It promises to be another good year, with modern technology helping to reveal the authenticity of the facts on and under the ground. 

For example, by using a sophisticated geomagnetic dating method, an exciting new dating tool can reconstruct a magnetic field. In 2022, it verified the destruction of the First Temple and the city of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian army in 586 B.C. You may read about it in 2 Kings 25:2. The magnetic field instrument is enhancing scientific data about Egyptian, Aramean, Assyrian, and Babylonian military campaigns against Israel and Judah. To date, research has led Tel Aviv and Hebrew University professors—plus 20 researchers from other countries—to verify 21 layers of destruction in 17 excavation sites. Their report is published in the National Academy of Sciences (USA). 

One of my favorite discoveries is further evidence of King Hezekiah’s reign. Hezekiah is no stranger to biblical (and now scientific) history. His name is mentioned 128 times in Scripture. In 2022, Israeli archaeologists, after years of research, deciphered inscriptions on stone tablets previously found in Jerusalem with more evidence about eighth-century B.C. King Hezekiah. In November 2019, the day before I attended Israel’s Christian Media Summit, I waded through Hezekiah’s Tunnel, a 1,750-foot marvel of ancient construction. Splashing through it, mostly ankle deep, I was newly astonished by Hezekiah’s decision to bring water from one side of Jerusalem to the other in order to protect this vital resource. I touched a tunnel wall marker in wonder at the exact middle engineered by workers’ construction—which had begun at opposite ends! 

One mention is found in 2 Chronicles 32:30 (NIV): “It was Hezekiah who blocked the upper outlet of the Gihon spring and channeled the water down to the west side of the City of David.” Ze’ev Elkin, Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage, observed, “Before our very eyes, these new finds become the biblical verses themselves and speak in their voice.” In their research, archeologists Gershon Galil and Eli Shukron concluded in 2022 that a piece of limestone dug up in 2007 has a partial inscription that Galil deciphers as “Hezekiah made pools in Jerusalem.” Further, he believes that this rock was part of a monument, which were virtually unknown in ancient Israel. Yet now there is evidence of them. 

With so much concern today about the dangers of the Islamic Republic of Iran, it is inspiring to revisit their earliest history—in ancient Persia. Last year, scholars announced success in unlocking a linguistic mystery where they can now explore a Persian language called Linear Elamite from 4,000 years ago. The 40-cuneiform system—the earliest known writing system—was all found in Iran. Cyrus the Great conquered the Elamites, making that region part of his Persian empire. 

Queen Esther, beloved by both Christians and Jews, lived in Susa, the Elamite capital. In this historic reality, Queen Esther lobbied her king (by the way, setting an example for today’s Christians) and saved her people, as part of God’s plan to reinvigorate the Jewish ancestral homeland in 1948. Elam is mentioned in Genesis and Isaiah, and in Daniel 8:2, the prophet wrote: “In my vision I saw myself in the citadel of Susa in the province of Elam.” Acts 2:7-9 mentions Elamites on the day of Pentecost (Shavuot) when the Holy Spirit fell on the gathering in Jerusalem. “Utterly amazed, they asked: ‘Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes, and Elamites…’” 

Another of my favorite discoveries is Shiloh in Israel’s biblical heartland (Judea and Samaria). The site includes a number of amazing finds led by archaeologist Scott Stripling. Among his extensive credentials, he is Director of Excavations for the Associates for Biblical Research at ancient Shiloh. A Christian, his staff is comprised of additional distinguished experts both Jewish and Christian. 

Dr. Stripling explained a discovery in May and June 2022 with volunteers from 11 nations and 12 different universities. He observed, “We believe we found piers that formed a door into a gate complex at the northern edge of the biblical city.” He went on to say that Eli the High Priest died at the gate mentioned in 1 Samuel 4:18. Associates for Biblical Research has spent four seasons of excavations unearthing evidence of the Tabernacle. Walking on the grounds of Shiloh where Eli lived and where Samuel’s mother dedicated him to service is an experience I will always treasure. The Tabernacle rested for 369 years in Shiloh with the Ark of the Covenant inside.

It is also exciting when reading about children discovering Israeli artifacts. A few days before Hanukkah 2022, Alon Cohen, Liam Atias, and Rotem Levnat found a rare oil lamp completely intact. The three fourth-grade boys were on a school field trip; they carefully pulled the lamp out of the ground and informed their parents, who contacted the Israel Antiquities Authority. They deservedly received Good Citizen Awards. The trio of Israeli boys could serve as outstanding examples to the United Nations to choose what is right and true regarding Israel.

With these samples and a vast store of on-the-ground facts, it is shameful that many countries in the United Nations—blindsided by hatred—cling to falsehoods rather than facts. The December 30, 2022, resolution reveals once again that facts are not celebrated, whether in years past or new. Reelected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu weighed in on this resolution that he accused of “distorting historical facts,” adding that the Jewish people cannot be “an occupier” in their own land.

As my title suggests, 2023 should find the United Nations participating on archaeological tours in Israel. Maybe Bibi should issue an invitation. 

May we remember Psalm 105:8-11 as God’s guidepost: “He has remembered His covenant forever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations, the covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac. Then He confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, ‘To you I will give the land of Canaan, as the portion of your inheritance.’”

Please join CBN Israel this week in prayer for Israel and the Middle East:

  • Pray that United Nations will cast votes based on facts about Israel. 
  • Pray for added wisdom for PM Netanyahu and his new coalition.
  • Pray for Israeli leaders and a coalition of free nations to make decisions that keep Iran from nuclear capability.
  • Pray for Christians to increase prayers and public advocacy for Israel worldwide.

Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After she served nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her as Outreach Director part-time for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel, a guest columnist at All Israel News, and has frequently traveled to Israel since 1990. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited and is a volunteer on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on Facebook.

Read more

Holocaust Survivor: Sofi’s Story

Sofi was born the day WWII started, and her father was a Red Army naval officer in Latvia. When he went to war, Sofi’s mother was instantly taken prisoner, and the Nazis took the children to Germany. Those that could pass as Germans were raised in German homes.

Tragically, Sofi recalls, “I had dark hair, so I was taken to an orphanage. The Nazis conducted experiments on us…” As the war ended, the Soviet army liberated the orphanage.

Sofi was reunited with her mother, but it took years to find her brother and sister, who had made it to Israel. She and her mother tried four times to join them, and finally immigrated to Israel in 1972. Sofi married, had kids, and enjoyed life. Yet as she got older, things changed.

Her husband became paralyzed, and she cared for him at home for three years—until she became too weak, and he needed to go to a special care facility. She gets lonely living by herself, and has trouble walking—so it is hard to leave her apartment. But who could help her?

Thankfully, friends like you offered a lifeline. Through CBN Israel, donors brought welcome visits and food baskets—plus, a new walker! She exclaimed, “You bring groceries, and you never forget to call me on my birthday… I’m so happy you still remember us. It’s great to know you care!”

And your support of CBN Israel can let other Holocaust survivors like Sofi know they are not forgotten—as well as immigrants, single moms, and lone soldiers in need. So many in the Holy Land are going through difficult times. You can provide groceries, shelter, and financial help to those who are hurting.

Please help us reach out and make a difference!


Read more

Weekly Devotional: How’s Your Light?

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16 NIV).

We live in a world where people like to talk. Our lives are filled with the noise of communication. Our news, sports, and even weather are filled with talking heads that all have something to say. Social media provides a platform for everyone to talk and express themselves. As followers of the Lord, too often we assume that we display our light through what we say, the causes we defend, and even the arguments we have on God’s behalf. 

Light shines. It provides illumination in the darkness. It just does; that’s its nature. It doesn’t have to announce itself or let everyone know what it’s going to do. It shines and is visible to all.

Many of us who grew up in church were told that the way our light would shine was by sharing with our words, but that’s not what Jesus says. He equates letting our light shine with our good works. Thus, it’s not what we say; it’s what we do. Our actions, deeds, and works cause those around us to give glory to our Father in heaven.

As the saying goes, talk is cheap. We live in a world filled with cheap talk, quite often even by those who are followers of the Lord. We complain about the rise of anti-religious attitudes and secularism in our society, and we think that we need to speak out all the louder to stem this growing tide.

Perhaps, if we take Jesus more seriously, we should let our light shine by doing good works. People can argue with our words; they cannot argue with our actions aligned with the teachings of Jesus. 

Do our good works cause people around us to give glory to God every day? Do we realize that perhaps the reason our world doesn’t glorify God is because we lack good works, or our light isn’t shining brightly enough? Maybe we should focus more on what our works communicate than our words. So, how’s your light; how’s our light?


Father, may we live our lives today obediently submitted to Your will and commands, so that those around us may see our good works and give glory to You. Amen.

Read more

From Prison in Iran to Freedom in America, She Still Speaks Truth

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

I have followed and written about Iran’s 1979 Islamic takeover until the present-day “Women, Life, Freedom” movement protesting this ruthless regime. Given my long interest in communicating about the dangerous Islamic Republic leadership, God blessed me as only He can. He orchestrated my meeting Iranian Christian Marziyeh (Marzi) Amirizadeh in a doctor’s office waiting room! I then welcomed the privilege of interviewing her.

She breathed life into facts far beyond any broadcasts or commentary could do. Risking their lives in Iran’s oppressive regime, Marziyeh and her close friend Maryam Rostampour covertly shared the Gospel. With undercover deliveries from believers outside Iran, Marzi and Maryam gave away 20,000 Bibles and founded several secret house churches. After four years, they came to the attention of officials who arrested them in 2009.

When the guard booked them, he hung a sign around their necks with their names and charges that read, “Accused of promoting Christianity in Iran.” He then took their pictures, whereupon smiles spread across Marzi and Maryam’s faces. They viewed the accusations as an honor.

They were jailed in Iran’s Evin prison, notorious for its harsh treatment of political prisoners. Its unfettered brutality is feared among Iranians who live in the world’s biggest terror-sponsoring regime. From their beloved homeland, taken over by ayatollahs who want to rule the world by any means, the Islamic Republic regime has conducted terrorist attacks and assassinations in more than 20 nations since 1979.

Marziyeh and Maryam remained imprisoned for 259 days. During their captivity, the Holy Spirit shone through them with officials and prisoners alike into the unimaginable darkness within Evin’s walls before their miraculous release. Marzi’s best-selling books, Captive in Iran and A Love Journey with God, detail the severe hardships—and the miracles—as a significant reminder of wide-ranging persecutions among some 360 million Christians worldwide living under tyranny.

Since immigrating to the United States, Marzi has received her master’s degree in International Affairs from Georgia Tech and ran this year for Georgia’s legislature. Although she did not win the seat, it was a way for her to highlight the privilege of religious freedom in the context of Iran’s threats to the United States. She plans to persist in advocating for Iran’s 85 million people, 70 percent of whom are under 30 years old. During her imprisonment in 2009, she recalls, “I was witness to how many people got arrested and tortured right in front of my eyes. It broke my heart.” With radical clerics running the government, Iranians are understandably afraid. However, “Women, Life, Freedom” protests in the last three months are clearly showing the people’s bravery and their yearning for freedom.

Marzi’s continuing purpose in life is to draw attention to the oppression of Iran’s people. She is troubled about media bias and their refusal to give a platform to Christians like her who have lived under persecution and want to offer facts to correct/embellish the narrative of suffering. 

She “strongly believes” that this protest will go on. It began in September 2022 following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. Under arrest for improperly wearing her head covering (hijab), Amini was beaten to death while in “morality” police custody. Marzi observes, “It’s not just about a piece of cloth. The protesters are not in the streets facing guns and bullets just for that. Our people wonder if the Western nations are going to stand with them for regime change rather than betraying them by making deals.” She suggests that nations recall their ambassadors from Iran and stop negotiations and any financial support that would release billions of dollars “used to suppress and kill more people.” The Biden administration’s temporary decision to keep the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on the Foreign Terrorist Organizations List was welcomed by Iranians.

The “Women, Life, Freedom” movement embodies decades of simmering frustrations especially among the younger population, which has given up on reforms. Marzi articulates that Iranians consider themselves and their country separate from what they view as a criminal regime and believe that they and Iran have been taken hostage by the Islamic Republic. She explained, “Sharia law has ruined their lives, but it’s not that they are turning their back to God. As soon as you are born, there is no option for you. Papers are filled out right away and you became a Muslim.” She added that only the Koran is available in bookstores, and that millions of people never practice Islam.

The Islamic dictatorship’s injustices, tight social and political control, economic hardships, and discrimination against ethnic minorities prevail. Marzi explains, “For many years the regime has deceived people about reforms, saying it just to calm people down.” What’s different now? “This time, people are saying ‘enough is enough’ and say they will fight until the regime collapses.” Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) reports that, since September, more than 500 people have been killed thus far, among them 63 children. The prison population is bloated, with an estimated 18,000 detained and 39 who may face a death sentence. One protester, Majid-Reza Rahnavard, 23, was executed publicly. He was convicted of “waging war against God,” a capital offense. His body hung from a crane in the northeastern city of Mashhad.

During my interview, Marzi reflected on her life growing up, which answers important questions about today’s protests. “Every morning at school, they forced us to stand in line and say, ‘Death to America and death to Israel,’ that Israeli people are our enemies, and they should be eliminated from the face of the world. That is cruel to brainwash little children.” She explained that the radical clerics’ ideology teaches students that the Twelfth Imam will come to conquer the world through an Islamic caliphate and that “you will go to heaven by destroying Israelis and Americans.”

Marzi considers herself fortunate, since one of her father’s relatives married an American woman. When they traveled to Iran, as a child Marzi loved hearing about America. She views it as a miracle and dreamed about one day coming to America. “Finally, God brought me here and I’m so blessed and honored to live in this great country.”

She verified that Iran has the fastest-growing church in the world “coming to Christ. Persecution is helping people to see the truth. “When we were evangelizing in Iran,” Marzi recalls, “we didn’t have even one bad experience. Everyone was so thirsty to find the truth and I could see that God had prepared their hearts even before we talked to them.” She adds that she “strongly believes” that millions of people will come to Christ very soon. She referred to Jeremiah 49:38: “‘I will set my throne in Elam and destroy her king and officials,’ declares the LORD.” Genesis 10:22 shows that the region was named for Elam, son of Shem, son of Noah. The civilization existed for thousands of years, from 3200–539 B.C.

Amid the insults, torture, intimidation, and threats of a death sentence, Marzi experienced timely answers and Bible verses where God brought illumination into her mind and emotions. “It was very difficult, but the Holy Spirit reminded me that I should practice how to love my enemy since Jesus told us to ‘love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’” Once, when an interrogator asked her to give him the name of her pastor, she responded, “Jesus Christ is my pastor.” On another occasion—among frequent abuses—when a prison employee asked why she was incarcerated, Marzi answered, “I’m here just because of my faith. I’m not a criminal.” The response: “You should be executed!” She survived the brutality amid the beauty of having a relationship with Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. “Without the Holy Spirit, it is nothing but a religion.”

When I asked Marzi to articulate her message to Americans, she referred to 1 Corinthians 12:25-26: “God has so composed the body … that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it.” She added, “The church in Iran is suffering for justice and we have a responsibility to stand in solidarity with Iranians who are fighting against the enemy of the church and the world. Our duty is not just reading our Bibles at home, enjoying our freedom, and going to church. For me, faith without action is dead. Everywhere Christians must stand up for freedoms before it’s too late. The Islamic Republic regime is a threat to the whole world. They are spreading agendas into your soul. Do not invite this evil to your home and to your country. Wake up!” 

Getting to know Marzi—and experiencing the authenticity of her courageous faith and her calling—inspired me to appreciate my religious freedom more deeply. I pray you will also be inspired to uphold Iran and other nations that persecute and kill Christians by praying, advocating, and donating to ministries aimed at blessing and rescuing the persecuted.

May we ponder this verse in Joshua 1:9—Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Please join with CBN Israel in prayer this week for Christians in the Middle East:

  • Pray that the worldwide Christian communities who live in freedom will seek ways to advocate for persecuted Christians.
  • Pray for tyrannized Christians to sense comfort and wisdom through the Holy Spirit.
  • Pray for Marziyeh (Marzi) Amirizadeh—for more open doors where she can raise awareness and motivate audiences as advocates for those who are suffering.
  • Pray for millions more Iranians to meet their Savior Jesus.

Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After she served nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her as Outreach Director part-time for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel, a guest columnist at All Israel News, and has frequently traveled to Israel since 1990. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited and is a volunteer on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on Facebook.

Read more

Christmas Songs, Broadway, Philanthropy, and Politics: A Surprising Combination of American Jewish Contributions

By Arlene Bridges Samuels

The song “White Christmas” is deeply embedded in American culture, whether your state is snowy or sunny this time of year. Irving Berlin (1888-1989) wrote “White Christmas” in 1947. He expressed his love and appreciation for America after his Jewish family fled the pogroms (persecutions) in Russia in 1893 and settled in the Lower East Side of New York City. Berlin is considered one of the most prolific songwriters of the 20th century, having amassed some 3,000 songs to his credit.

Jews have immigrated to America since before the American Revolution. Around two-and-a-half-million Jews came here from Central Europe and Russia between 1881 and 1924. My husband Paul’s family was among those escaping persecutions and political upheaval and immigrated by way of Ellis Island.

I have seen firsthand the history and gratitude among Jewish immigrants through my husband’s eyes. Paul is a proud first-generation American, born in 1944. Retired from business ownership and humanitarian aid positions, he is now a published poet and author. As Paul’s parents did when they were children, many Jewish families embarked on risky voyages, arriving in the New World with little more than a suitcase. They stood at ship railings with tears in their eyes when they saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time.

America beckoned them in an era before Israel’s 1948 rebirth as a modern Jewish state. “Shelter me in the shadow of your wings” from Psalm 17:8 was an inspiring phrase among many refugees who described America as the “Golden Land.”

In America, where Irving Berlin deeply valued his opportunities and freedom, the composer’s “White Christmas” is an all-time favorite. Another is his beloved patriotic song “God Bless America,” with its eloquent lyrics asking God to “stand beside her and guide her through the night with the light from above.” And, among his numerous accomplishments on the business side of the music industry, Berlin helped pioneer the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), which protected the rights and royalties of songwriters.

Later, Berlin wrote a Broadway production based on his song, “Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning.” After opening on Broadway on July 4, 1942, then filmed in Hollywood, the show toured across America, as well as army bases near battle lines in Europe and the South Pacific. Due to his patriotism and expert planning, Berlin raised over $6 million for the Army Emergency Relief Fund. President Harry S. Truman awarded Irving Berlin the Army’s Medal of Merit in 1945 for “Extraordinary service as creator and producer of the musical revue, This Is the Army.”

However, the famous creator was not the only Jewish composer to pen Christmas songs. Some of the most-played favorites were written decades ago by 11 Jewish lyricists and composers. Among them was Johnny Marks, who in 1939 wrote “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” which is much loved by children. You may not have eaten chestnuts, yet the musical notes of “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” by Mel Torme in 1945 “helped to make the season bright.” 

“Winter Wonderland” was composed by non-Jew Richard B. Smith and his Jewish friend Felix Bernard. Smith wrote it as a poem in 1934 while in a sanitorium for tuberculosis, then showed it to his friend Felix, who wrote the music and promoted it into fame. It was first recorded the same year by Richard Himber and his Ritz-Carlton Orchestra.

Song, dance, fine arts, theater, and musical instruments are woven into the ancient and present-day fabric of the Jewish community. King David, beloved by both Jews and Christians, not only filled the psalms with songs, but he danced, too! The Book of Psalms provides sacred evidence of the musical importance and contributions of both ancient and contemporary Jews.

In today’s American Jewish community, some of my favorites are Bob Dylan, Barbara Streisand, Neil Diamond, Billy Joel, and Carole King, along with other entertainers like Jerry Seinfeld and Harrison Ford, one of my favorite actors. Jewish worship music is my top listening choice, as performed by Paul Wilbur, Marty Goetz, Lamb’s Joel Chernoff, and Aaron Shust. Their musical renditions radiate with joy and inspiration.

Turning from Jewish musical giftings to philanthropy, fame, and organizations, Jewish contributions have benefited the United States in outsized ways despite their small population, which today numbers slightly over 7 million. Albert Einstein, Elie Wiesel, Stephen Spielberg, and Elizabeth Taylor are recognized, iconic names.

In the philanthropy genre, wealthy Jewish donors are known for their generosity. Yet another sector is also generous as pointed out by Bar Nassim, a postdoctoral fellow in modern Jewish studies at Brandeis University. Sixty percent of Jewish households earning less than $50,000 a year donate, compared with 46 percent of non-Jewish households in that income bracket,” he notes on The Conversation website. He also points out that, via both private and public donations, Jews represent more than 7,000 foundations. We Christians would do well to follow their examples to increase our giving.

Jewish generosity, whether secular or religious, is underpinned by Scripture. Our call is the same: to give to our churches and charities with compassion toward those less fortunate. These Scriptures enshrine tithes and offerings:

“Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice” (Psalm 112:5).

“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:16).

“Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount” (Luke 19:8).

Beyond Christmas songs written from Jewish hearts and Jewish philanthropy that has strengthened our country, another entity originated in the United States. It grows more significant amid Jew hatred here at home, toward Israel, and worldwide. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was founded in 1953 by the Jewish Zionist Isaiah Leo (Si) Kenen. AIPAC is the foremost organization designed to encourage and persuade the U.S. government to enact specific policies that create a strong, enduring, and mutually beneficial relationship with our ally Israel.

From its beginning, AIPAC has found that aiming to educate both Democrats and Republicans in Congress—and by bringing together every race, religion, and background as activists—results in strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship. AIPAC is historically a Jewish organization; however, they have welcomed pro-Israel Christian, Black, and Hispanic members who are effective advocates with their members of Congress to vote on Israel’s security aid and related legislation, a two-way street of benefits.

AIPAC has led the way to advocate in a bipartisan manner with Congress on security aid to Israel, where around 75 percent of it is spent here in the U.S. at factories whose employees are manufacturing military hardware as tools for Israel to oppose aggressive terror. The flawed 2015 Iran deal, the U.S. administration’s current effort to revive that misguided deal, and Israel’s security aid remain AIPAC’s most consequential issues to oppose terror by promoting facts and common sense in Congress.

As we lift our voices in the sacred music of the season and the popular Christmas songs penned by talented Jewish songwriters, let us make sure to give thanks and increase our friendships with Jewish Americans.

Join CBN Israel this week in prayer for both the Jewish and Christian communities:

  • Pray for the safety of the Jewish community in Israel as they observe Hanukkah as well as Arab Christians in the Holy Land as they celebrate Christmas.
  • Pray also for the American Jewish community in their Hanukkah celebrations.
  • Pray for vast populations in our world who are suffering and for extra compassion from both Jews and Christians to ease their circumstances.
  • Pray that the reality of Jesus’ birth in Israel will convey God’s unconditional love toward us and with increased awareness of a world that needs His Light in the darkness.

Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After she served nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her as Outreach Director part-time for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel, a guest columnist at All Israel News, and has frequently traveled to Israel since 1990. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited and is a volunteer on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on Facebook.

Read more