Handel’s—and Jennens’s—“Messiah”

I think most of us have her of George Frideric Handel , but prior to reading this I had no knowledge of Charles Jennens. – Mike

BreakPoint Daily

Handel’s—and Jennens’s—“Messiah”

Apologetics Through Art

As one wag put it, “In the orchestra world, George Frideric Handel’s Messiah is every bit an annual Christmas tradition as eggnog and overworked shopping mall Santas.”

Handel’s magnum opus is one of the supreme wonders of human genius, especially if you keep in mind that the genius on display isn’t only Handel’s.

We’re so used to calling the work “Handel’s Messiah” that we fail to notice that he only wrote the music. And as good as the music is, what’s being said, or in this case, sung, is every bit as inspired and inspiring.

The text, or “libretto,” as it is properly called, was written by Charles Jennens. Chances are you’ve never heard of him. You’re not alone. Even in his lifetime Jennens was “utterly unknown” to most of his contemporaries.

But obviously not to Handel, who, in a letter to Jennens, referred to their collaboration as “your Messiah.” As the director of the Handel House said a few years ago, “Without Jennens there would be no Messiah.”

That being the case, it’s worth knowing more about Jennens. He was an English landowner and patron of the arts. He wasn’t only a patron: He collaborated with Handel on other works such as “Saul,” “Israel in Egypt,” and “Belshazzar.” As with “Messiah,” his contributions were anonymous.

As these titles suggest, Jennens’s specialty was librettos based on biblical subjects. This was the direct result of his devout Christian faith. And that brings me back to “Messiah.” Jennens was concerned with the emergence of Deism within the Church of England. Deism rejected the idea of God’s intervention in human affairs and, with it, the inspiration of Scripture.

His response to the threat was what he called a “scripture collection” that demonstrated that the Scriptures had predicted the coming of the Messiah, which he desired Handel to set to music. Unlike his other “scripture collections,” every word in the Messiah’s libretto is taken directly from Scripture. As Albert Mohler wrote a few years ago, “Jennens understood the Bible to reveal a comprehensive and unitary story of God’s salvation of his people.”

But, Jennens knew that it would take more than a pamphlet to combat Deism. He had to appeal to people’s emotions and imaginations, as well as their intellect. In other words, he needed art.

Thankfully, he knew just the right man to undertake the challenge. In July 1741, he wrote a friend saying “Handel says he will do nothing next winter, but I hope I shall persuade him to set another Scripture collection I have made for him . . . I hope he will lay out his whole genius and skill upon it, that the composition may excel all his former compositions, as the subject excels every other subject. The subject is Messiah.”

A month later, Handel began work on the music and finished it in only twenty-four days. At the end of the manuscript, he wrote the initials “SDG,” Soli Deo Gloria, “To God alone be (the) Glory.”

Since its first performance in Dublin in 1742, Jennens’ exercise in what can accurately be called Scriptural apologetics has become the most beloved choral work in history. No one knows how many times it has been performed. Counting the recordings alone is exhausting.

And every time we listen, we are told “For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” And that, as Mohler reminds us, was what Jennens wanted us to understand: God has spoken.



For the Mouth of the Lord Hath Spoken It

Albert Mohler | AlbertMohler.com | December 10, 2010

The Messiah: The Texts Behind Handel’s Masterpiece

Douglas Connelly | IVP Books | July 2014




This is from a young person who likes and follows my blog posts. She had a different take on the Concentration Camp at Auschwitz, “Do I Take Selfies”? In the world we live in today where everything is about me I found her article interesting. -Mike

Following my previous article called Quick trip to Salt Mine Wieliczka in Poland here is another of my Polish trip. After our salt mine tours me and my family headed to nearby town Oswiecim. The German name for Oswiecim is Auschwitz and I hope that’s ringing some bells now. Even though from my experience many non-Europeans are not very familiar with this horrid part of our history. Now I’m gonna bring you on our tour over Auschwitz concentration camp and the dilemma that’s been bothering me ever since I visited.



I don’t want to get into historical facts in here as it’s something you’re either familiar with or can easily find out. You can know all about the timeline of the events, the mechanism the reasoning, but nothing compares to the real-life experiences of walking the concentration camp.

I’ve been to the holocaust museum in Washington D.C. at my summer in the states and I shared my experience in Summer in USA – Washington D.C. article. The Auschwitz group I was in reminded me of my American experience. The gasping, the whispering, headshakes and the whole body language of my co-tourists made me sort of angry. Angry at the system that doesn’t provide the information that many people learn them at the spot.

Sounds like I’m full of myself I get that. I get that not everyone is into war documentaries and it’s safer not to talk about the holocaust. I’m sure it’s different when you learn about the holocaust because you have to in school, and different because you want to. It’s hard to talk about or even think about. I get it.


I believe says a lot. More if you think about how the camps were not supposed to serve to systematically murder millions. The beginnings were not “that bad” in the later comparison.

Don’t get me wrong it was still horrendous but when we went from Auschwitz I. to Auschwitz II. the difference was substantial.

First was supposed to hold the targeted group of people in inhuman condition, even offer them some sort of trials. Playing proper society. Make them feel safe, make them hope that their stay is only temporary, pack their belongings to preoccupy their mind form the fact they are never coming back. If that doesn’t sound like the current world situation, I don’t think you’re paying attention.


We went from one block to another. All of them were numbered but not all of them were open for visitors. That was great in case you want to visit after hours to walk the camp on your own. The tour guide told us much more than what we could read from the posters ourselves. Told us what to focus on, the story of the items we were seeing.

Our tour guide was a young lady that had a german accent but it was quite simple to understand her English. I already mentioned it was terribly hot that day and the inside of the camps obviously had no climatization and quickly the smell of the camp melted with the sweat of the thousands of tourists. They did have some fans in the rooms to make the tour manageable.

We moved as a group, took some stops at several talking points where our guide talked us through the facts. Inside of the Auschwitz was much better organized than the outside of the camp. There were some arrows to point the way of the tour, separation ribbons, many explanatory posters and photographs and more.


You stand in front of the showcase with hundreds of shoes collected from the Jewish people who died in the place you stand on and you ‘re thinking how terrible that is. Then you move along the next room and you’re standing in a hall that has showcases full of thousands of shoes on both sides of the room and your breath hitches. You move to the next room where the actual hairs of holocaust victims are stored behind the glass but the smell and the vibe are too strong. In the next room you find baby clothes, next the tons of suitcases and the other one contains glasses, next one the empty cans of chemicals they used to murder millions and you wonder how much more can you handle.

You get out of the block through the hall full of photographs. People that spend horrible but hopefully short days in the camp. Each person had their name, profession, date of capture and date of death written underneath. Some survived days, some months. When you get out of the building you’re standing in front of the death wall. A place where the people stood when they were executed with the bullet in the back of their head. you walk past the block they did horrendous medical experiences on people. You turn around and you’re standing in front of the gas chamber. You enter the room. Plain, empty room that witnessed the death of thousands of people. Around 400 hundred per day until they build up Birkenau to increase the number and efficiency of their murders. I knew it was gonna be bad and I tried to brace myself for it.



Since Auschwitz I. was no longer fulfilling the nazists needs, they build the other camp nearby referred to as Auschwitz II or Birkenau. Part of our tour was also the visit of Birkenau and for this purpose, there were busses prepared. The ride by bus from Auschwitz to Birkenau took like 3 minutes, victims back then had to walk to their execution by foot. In summer. In winter.

Only later on nazists build a railway to bring the next hundreds of Jewish people straight to the gas chamber. Sure they had sort of selection process that was basically just eenie meenie. Left meant immediate death. Right meant death after inhuman torture.

Birkenau was supposed to be part of our paid tour but no one checked our tickets. Not even on the bus, not even at the entrance to the Birkenau. I’m sure you could get in for free.

The difference between those two camps was quite visible. Auschwitz living conditions were horrible but they did have some sort of dignity in the form of walls, stairs or windows.


Even smelled like one. One bed for 8 people. Toilets in the form of a hole in the ground all of the people had to use the facility in 20 minutes 2 times per day. 1000 of them. All at once. They had a bucket to use in case but most of the people were so exhausted they couldn’t move on their own to use the bucket, so the body fluids and waste were all over the place. Those who were too weak or too slow to work the whole day long on a coffee and a liquid soup they got as a breakfast, were simply selected for elimination.

At this time of our tour, the weather changed dramatically. From previously unbearable hot day to a big storm. To see these big ass lightings and hear thunders over the gas chambers was unbelievable.

Suddenly it becomes very dangerous for us to stand in the middle of a plane with so many metallic components. We had to end our tour earlier but it still left a grand impact on myself. It was 3 hours long tour with a 20 minutes break between the two camps.

There is this one thing that’s been bothering me since the entry of the camp. Someone from our tour group asked our tour guide:


And my question is: where are the boundaries? Do you take selfies in a place where millions died?

As a blogger or influencer or whatever your main goal is to promote. To sell. To bring attention to something. You can do it in many different ways but visual aids are mostly the golden choice. If you search Instagrams or twitters hashtags for Oswiecim, Auschwitz or concentration camp there are few patterns that occur. The photograph of a person sitting on a Birkenau railway with a gate in the background. The photo in front of the Auschwitz gate or the photos from the roll-call square.


Aesthetically pleasing? Of course not.

Proof that you travel? That makes the most sense.

You’re into deeper issues? Possibly but do you achieve this statement with selfies?

I personally didn’t even think about taking photos of myself at the camp. To be fair I take a shit a lot of photographs from every random thing I like and my family is super annoyed with it. That’s why they were kind of surprised I didn’t ask them to be my personal photographers in Oswiecim.

Is like, do you need to promote this part of history? Talk about it and remember it sure. But how do you do it?


Do you need to remember the place by looking at yourself in there?

I just felt like I was being super disrespectful by even taking the photos I did and shared here with you.

There were several places where the museum actually asked the visitors not to take photos. Like in the room with the hair of the deceased. And still, many visitors from our group shamelessly took out their phones and took the pictures anyway. Honestly, are you ever gonna forget that image?

I feel like I’m shaming the people that do take selfies in concentration camps and I apologize. I would really like to hear your opinion on this issue in the comments thought.

After 3 hours we were exhausted both physically a mentally. No matter how badly our Auschwitz tour began the result was unforgettable. I believe that everyone should visit places like concentration camp or museum of the holocaust at least once in their lifetime as a reminder of evil humanity is capable of.

BreakPoint: The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy

The Legacy of an Evangelical Milestone

by:  & 

Forty years ago, a group of evangelical leaders and scholars took a clear and unapologetic stand on a fundamental tenet of the faith…

Continued at Source:  The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy 

“Some doubt whether inerrancy makes a practical difference. The difference it makes is this: Without it, authority is inevitably transferred from the Text to the ‘Expert,’ whether it be the critic, the scholar, the pastor, or the individual {You}. For then someone {You} other than the Apostles and Prophets {God’s written word} has to tell you what to believe.” Donald T. Williams; President, International Society of Christian Apologetics  { added }

One Very Good Reason to Study Church History – Tim Challies

A friend of mine recently became a citizen of the United States of America. Until that point, he had been a mere resident, a visitor, a sojourner, a citizen of some other place…

Continued at Source: One Very Good Reason to Study Church History – Tim Challies

Rebuilding a Future, Nehemiah Part 1

 Living as an Outcast


The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace

            Nehemiah 1:1


            As we begin our series on Nehemiah I thought it prudent to give some historical background before delving into the verses.



Nehemiah (“Jehovah comforts”) is a famous cupbearer, who never appears in Scripture outside of this book. As with the books of Ezra and Esther, named after his contemporaries (see Introductions to Ezra and Esther), the book recounts selected events of his leadership and was titled after him. Both the Greek Septuagint (LXX) and the Latin Vulgate named this book “Second Ezra


Author and Date

Though much of this book was clearly drawn from Nehemiah’s personal diaries and written from his first person perspective (1:1–7:5; 12:27–43; 13:4–31), both Jewish and Christian traditions recognize Ezra as the author. This is based on external evidence that Ezra and Nehemiah were originally one book as reflected in the LXX and Vulgate; it is also based on internal evidence such as the recurrent “hand of the LORD” theme which dominates both Ezra and Nehemiah and the author’s role as a priest-scribe. As a scribe, he had access to the royal archives of Persia, which accounts for the myriad of administrative documents found recorded in the two books, especially in the book of Ezra. Very few people would have been allowed access to the royal archives of the Persian Empire, but Ezra proved to be the exception (cf. Ezra 1:2–4; 4:9–22; 5:7–17; 6:3–12).


            {Many others believe differently that the book was in fact written by Nehemiah himself.  Jewish tradition identifies Nehemiah himself as the primary author of this historical book. Much of the book is written from his first-person perspective. Nothing is known about his youth or background; we meet him as an adult serving in the Persian royal court as the personal cupbearer to King Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 1:11–2:1). This prestigious position reveals something of Nehemiah’s upright character. Though he remained in Persia after the exiles had been allowed to go home, he was highly interested in the state of affairs in Judah (his brother Hanani [1:2] had returned there earlier). The book of Nehemiah could be read as a sequel to the book of Ezra, and some scholars believe the two were originally one work. It is possible that Ezra compiled Nehemiah’s original accounts with other material to create the book of Nehemiah. However, most scholars believe the book was written by Nehemiah}

The events in Nehemiah 1 commence late in the year 446 B.C., the 20th year of the Persian king, Artaxerxes (464–423 B.C.). The book follows chronologically from Nehemiah’s first term as governor of Jerusalem ca. 445–433 B.C. (Neh. 1–12) to his second term, possibly beginning ca. 424 B.C. (Neh. 13). Nehemiah was written by Ezra sometime during or after Nehemiah’s second term, but no later than 400 B.C. – See more at: http://www.insight.org/resources/bible/nehemiah.html#sthash.gbiJupff.dpuf


Background and Setting


True to God’s promise of judgment, He brought the Assyrians and Babylonians to deliver His chastisement upon wayward Judah and Israel. In 722 B.C. the Assyrians deported the 10 northern tribes and scattered them all over the then known world (2 Kin. 17). Several centuries later, ca. 605–586 B.C., God used the Babylonians to sack, destroy, and nearly depopulate Jerusalem (2 Kin. 25) because Judah had persisted in her unfaithfulness to the covenant. God chastened His people with 70 years of captivity in Babylon (Jer. 25:11).


During the Jews’ captivity, world empire leadership changed hands from the Babylonians to the Persians (ca. 539 B.C.; Dan. 5), after which Daniel received most of his prophetic revelation (cf.Dan. 6, 9–12). The book of Ezra begins with the decree of Cyrus, a Persian king, to return God’s people to Jerusalem to rebuild God’s house (ca. 539 B.C.), and chronicles the reestablishment of Judah’s national calendar of feasts and sacrifices. Zerubbabel and Joshua led the first return (Ezra 1–6) and rebuilt the temple. Esther gives a glimpse of the Jews left in Persia (ca. 483–473 B.C.) when Haman attempted to eliminate the Jewish race. Ezra 7–10 recounts the second return led by Ezra in 458 B.C. Nehemiah chronicles the third return to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem (ca. 445 B.C.).

At that time in Judah’s history, the Persian Empire dominated the entire Near Eastern world. Its administration of Judah, although done with a loose hand, was mindful of disruptions or any signs of rebellion from its vassals. Rebuilding the walls of conquered cities posed the most glaring threat to the Persian central administration. Only a close confidant of the king himself could be trusted for such an operation. At the most critical juncture in Judah’s revitalization, God raised up Nehemiah to exercise one of the most trusted roles in the empire, the King’s cupbearer and confidant. Life under the Persian king Artaxerxes (ca. 464–423 B.C.) had its advantages for Nehemiah. Much like Joseph, Esther, and Daniel, he had attained a significant role in the palace which then ruled the ancient world, a position from which God could use him to lead the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls in spite of its implications for Persian control of that city.


Several other historical notes are of interest. First, Esther was Artaxerxes’ stepmother and could have easily influenced him to look favorably upon the Jews, especially Nehemiah. Second, Daniel’s prophetic 70 weeks began with the decree to rebuild the city issued by Artaxerxes in 445 B.C. (cf. chaps. 1, 2).

Third, the Elephantine papyri (Egyptian documents), dated to the late 5th century B.C., support the account of Nehemiah by mentioning Sanballat the governor of Samaria (2:19), Jehohanan (6:18; 12:23), and Nehemiah’s being replaced as governor of Jerusalem by Bigvai (ca. 410 B.C; Neh. 10:16). Finally, Nehemiah and Malachi represent the last of the OT canonical writings, both in terms of the time the events occurred (Mal. 1–4; Neh. 13) and the time when they were recorded by Ezra. Thus the next messages from God for Israel do not come until over 400 years of silence had passed, after which the births of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ were announced (Matt. 1; Luke 1, 2).


With the full OT revelation of Israel’s history prior to Christ’s incarnation being completed, the Jews had not yet experienced the fullness of God’s various covenants and promises to them. While there was a Jewish remnant, as promised to Abraham (cf. Gen. 15:5), it does not appear to be even as large as at the time of the Exodus (Num. 1:46). The Jews neither possessed the Land (Gen. 15:7) nor did they rule as a sovereign nation (Gen. 12:2). The Davidic throne was unoccupied (cf. 2 Sam. 7:16), although the High-Priest was of the line of Eleazar and Phinehas (cf. Num. 25:10–13). God’s promise to consummate the New Covenant of redemption awaited the birth, crucifixion, and resurrection of Messiah (cf. Heb. 7–10).


Historical and Theological Themes


Careful attention to the reading of God’s Word in order to perform His will is a constant theme. The spiritual revival came in response to Ezra’s reading of “the Book of the Law of Moses” (8:1). After the reading, Ezra and some of the priests carefully explained its meaning to the people in attendance (8:8). The next day, Ezra met with some of the fathers of the households, the priests, and Levites, “in order to understand the words of the Law” (8:13). The sacrificial system was carried on with careful attention to perform it “as it is written in the Law” (10:34, 36). So deep was their concern to abide by God’s revealed will that they took “a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law … ” (10:29). When the marriage reforms were carried out, they acted in accordance with that which “they read from the Book of Moses” (13:1).


A second major theme, the obedience of Nehemiah, is explicitly referred to throughout the book due to the fact that the book is based on the memoirs or first person accounts of Nehemiah. God worked through the obedience of Nehemiah; however, He also worked through the wrongly-motivated, wicked hearts of His enemies. Nehemiah’s enemies failed, not so much as a result of the success of Nehemiah’s strategies, but because “God had brought their plot to nothing” (4:15). God used the opposition of Judah’s enemies to drive His people to their knees in the same way that He used the favor of Cyrus to return His people to the Land, to fund their building project, and to even protect the reconstruction of Jerusalem’s walls. Not surprisingly, Nehemiah acknowledged the true motive of his strategy to repopulate Jerusalem: “my God put it into my heart” (7:5). It was He who accomplished it.


Another theme in Nehemiah, as in Ezra, is opposition. Judah’s enemies started rumors that God’s people had revolted against Persia. The goal was to intimidate Judah into forestalling reconstruction of the walls. In spite of opposition from without and heartbreaking corruption and dissension from within, Judah completed the walls of Jerusalem in only 52 days (6:15), experienced revival after the reading of the law by Ezra (8:1ff.), and celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles (8:14ff.; ca. 445 B.C.).


The book’s detailed insight into the personal thoughts, motives, and disappointments of Nehemiah makes it easy for the reader to primarily identify with him, rather than “the sovereign hand of God” theme and the primary message of His control and intervention into the affairs of His people and their enemies. But the exemplary behavior of the famous cupbearer is eclipsed by God who orchestrated the reconstruction of the walls in spite of much opposition and many setbacks; the “good hand of God” theme carries through the book of Nehemiah (1:10; 2:8, 18).


Interpretive Challenges

First, since much of Nehemiah is explained in relationship to Jerusalem’s gates (cf. Neh. 2, 3, 8,12), one needs to see the map “Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s Day” for an orientation. Second, the reader must recognize that the time line of chapters 1–12 encompassed about one year (445 B.C.), followed by a long gap of time (over 20 years) after Neh. 12 and before Neh. 13. Finally, it must be recognized that Nehemiah actually served two governorships in Jerusalem, the first from 445–433 B.C. (cf. Neh. 5:14; 13:6) and the second beginning possibly in 424 B.C. and extending to no longer than 410 B.C. http://www.gty.org/resources/bible-introductions/MSB16/Nehemiah


How do I apply this?


The book of Nehemiah shows us the kind of significant impact one individual can have on a nation. Nehemiah served in secular offices, using his position to bring back to the Jews order, stability, and proper focus on God.


God uses all manner of people in all manner of places doing all manner of work. Do you feel you must be “in ministry” in order to serve God? Be encouraged; He is not limited by your vocation. In fact, God has placed you where you are for a purpose. Have this attitude about your work: “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17). 

See more at: http://www.insight.org/resources/bible/nehemiah.html#sthash.iECvL5Bp.dpuf


The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah,…. Or his transactions and deeds; for דברי “dibre” signifies things done, as well as words spoken; who Hachaliah his father was is not known; the Arabic version adds, the high priest, without any foundation; though some have thought that Nehemiah was a priest, from a passage in “Therefore whereas we are now purposed to keep the purification of the temple upon the five and twentieth day of the month Chisleu, we thought it necessary to certify you thereof, that ye also might keep it, as the feast of the tabernacles, and of the fire, which was given us when Neemias offered sacrifice, after that he had builded the temple and the altar.’ (2 Maccabees 1:18)and from signing and sealing the covenant at the head of priests, Nehemiah 10:1, but he rather seems to be of the tribe of Judah, see Nehemiah 2:3, and Nehemiah may be the same that went up with Zerubbabel, and returned again, and then became the king’s cupbearer; though some are of another opinion; see Gill on Ezra 2:2,


and it came to pass in the month Chisleu; the ninth month, as the Arabic version; {it would equate to our late Nov into  Dec time frame}


in the twentieth year; not of Nehemiah’s age, for, if he went up with Zerubbabel, he must be many years older; but in the twentieth year of the reign of Artaxerxes, Nehemiah 1:1,


as I was in Shushan the palace; a city in Persia, the royal seat of the kings of it; as Ecbatana was in the summer time, this in the spring, as Cyrus made it, according to XenophonF2; but others sayF3 it was their seat in winter, and this was the season now when Nehemiah was with the king there; for Chisleu was a winter month, answering to part of November and of December;


            It is the final portion on verse one that I wish to spend the rest of our time. Nehemiah was very much an outcast. Although he has a lofty position in the court of King Artaxerxes, he is as a prisoner. He can only do what the King orders and allows. He may be trusted but as we have seen in Ester the Persians probably do not approve of his high post. Finally he is a Jew in a pagan nation much like we all are as Christians in the World today.


            Nehemiah must have been in daily conflict. To live as a Jew was greatly different than that of a Persian. But as we will learn as we progress and unfold scripture God is able to overcome any and all difficulties. No matter where we are in life, a palace or a prison God can and does use men and women for His glory. It matters not in the end, what society calls you; outcast or King. It matters only that God call you as His son.


Until next time may God greatly bless you.


In HIS Service