Theological rants
of a liberal Christian

Matthew 2:2-28, The Sacraments as Sacrifice

Friday, April 24, 2015 in Bible Commentary | 0 comments

Matthew 2:2-28, The Sacraments as Sacrifice

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

//Yesterday I posed a question: What are we to make of the ritual Jesus implemented, with the bread and wine, if we accept that Jesus himself was opposed to the sacrificial system? Jesus in many ways stood against the Temple system of sacrificial atonement, yet his own death quickly came to be understood as exactly that.

Is there another way to understand the verses above, about Jesus’s flesh and blood? Yes there is, even in the pointed wording that Matthew uses. Bruce Chilton proposes that Jesus was directly comparing his own teaching of communal sharing against the priestly rites of sacrifice for sin. The Temple had its burnt offerings of flesh, and Jesus had his offering of shared bread. The Temple had its blood sacrifices, but Jesus’s equivalent was his wine. Jesus was implying that simple offerings, just a bit of bread and wine shared with one another, was more holy than than the costly sacrifices of the Temple system. The ritual of a communal meal, accepting one another as equals, should replace the old ritual.

Perhaps Jesus was presenting himself as the new High Priest, shockingly replacing the existing priesthood. His followers would not call for blood sacrifices but for sharing and fellowship.

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Matthew 12:17, The Sacrifice for our Sins

Thursday, April 23, 2015 in Bible Commentary | 0 comments

Matthew 12:17, The Sacrifice for our Sins

But you would not have condemned my innocent disciples if you knew the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’

//Why did Jesus have to die on the cross?

It was to save us from our sins, right? He was God’s substitutionary atonement, the sacrificial lamb, who gave his life for us so we could live. After his execution, his followers increasingly taught that Jesus became a human sacrifice. In fact, they began to associate Jesus with both the sacrificed Passover lamb and the “scapegoat” of Yom Kipper, who was driven out into the wilderness carrying the sins of the people.

But what would Jesus say if we asked him the same question? I don’t know. I speculate in my book about John’s Gospel how Jesus felt, but the interesting thing to note is that Jesus himself was seriously opposed to the sacrificial system. We see him protesting Temple activities and we see him proclaiming that sins are forgiven without the necessary sacrifice. Yet to claim that Jesus died “for our sins” means interpreting his death according to the very priestly logic which Jesus rejected.

What are we to make then of the ritual Jesus left us with: eating his sacrificial flesh, drinking his blood? How can we make sense of this ritual if we side with Jesus against substitutionary atonement?

More tomorrow.

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Book review: He Who Wept

Tuesday, April 21, 2015 in Book Reviews | 0 comments

Book review: He Who Wept

by Thom Lemmons

★★★★★

This isn’t a new book–it was given to me by a friend–but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It’s historical fiction, based on the prophet Jeremiah.

The loneliness of the life of God’s prophets rings loud and clear. Seldom were they popular in their own time; certainly Jeremiah wasn’t. These are the men who spoke fearlessly in the name of God, often against kings and crowds.

He Who Wept accurately captures the politics of the day, centering on the little kingdom of Judah, precariously sandwiched between the dynasties of Egypt, Assyria and Babylon. They were a people trying hard to trust in their God … all the while Jeremiah, the “weeping prophet,” was proclaiming doom, that God was going to let Jerusalem be destroyed.

Jeremiah was right, though he often wished he wasn’t. Don’t expect this to be an uplifting story! If you know your Bible, you know that much of it was written in exile after Jerusalem was sacked. That means the flavor of our Bible largely derives from the horrible events predicted by Jeremiah. I very much recommend this book, not only for the entertainment of a good novel but as a reminder of the atmosphere in which Judaism spawned.

Questar Publishers Inc, © 1990, 318 pages

ISBN: 0-945564-33-3

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Ephesians Chapter 6: Is Football in the Bible?

Thursday, April 9, 2015 in Bible Commentary | 0 comments

Ephesians Chapter 6: Is Football in the Bible?

Put on the whole uniform of the Team, that ye may be able to stand against the blitz of oncoming linebackers. Don the hip pads of truth, the shoulder pads of righteousness, the cleats of preparation. Don’t forget the facemask of faith and the helmet of salvation. Then clutch the pigskin with much Spirit, for that is what the Play Book of your Coach in Heaven demands.

//Readers, I want to apologize for the distraction over the last few weeks. Leslie and I have been working furiously on a start-up business that we hope will carry us into retirement, and it’s cut into our blogging time. We’re going to offer a Fantasy Football commissioner service this year!

We also are leaving now for ten days to visit Disney with my grandson, so we’ll be taking a vacation from the blog for a while. I’ll leave you with today’s post, and if you get curious about what we’re taking on, you can find it here:

https://www.dataforceff.com

See you in a week and a half!

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1 Corinthians 2:14-1, The Mind of Christ

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 in Bible Commentary | 0 comments

1 Corinthians 2:14-1, The Mind of Christ

But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

//Read today’s verses carefully. How do you feel about them? Do they give you comfort, knowing that you are one of those who possess the mind of Christ? Or do they sound a bit condescending: “You can’t understand the things I know, because what I have learned was taught to me by the Spirit.”

Questioning another’s understanding is often met with this line of thinking. The reasoning goes, “I feel the Spirit, therefore God approves, therefore I have ‘spiritual understanding,’ which trumps natural thinking no matter how foolish it appears.” By this means, one Christian denomination distances itself from another, claiming the mind of Christ.

This was common way back in the second century, when the Gnostic movement latched onto the writings of Paul. (Today’s passage was written by Paul.) Gnostics claimed a deeper knowledge than other Christians, and had the scripture–such as today’s verse–to back it up. If ever there was a dispute over understanding, they could simply claim that their opponents were immature in their spiritual growth. A frustrating stance that works very well, both then and now.

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John 20:9, The Mystery of the Resurrection

Sunday, April 5, 2015 in Bible Commentary | 1 comment

John 20:9, The Mystery of the Resurrection

For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.

//In the spirit of mystery–for the resurrection story is a great mystery, whether we claim to know what happened or not–I present today’s verse. I honestly don’t know what to make of it, I’ve never read a convincing commentary on this verse. Maybe I’m allowed to present a mystery on this day of mystery?

The Apostle John arrived at the tomb, peeked in, saw it was empty, and believed. Then today’s verse comes next in the story, explaining why the apostles didn’t automatically believe Jesus had risen. They didn’t “know the scripture” telling them he would rise again.

But where is this found in scripture? How could they have possibly known from scripture alone? Can anybody help?

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The Cult of Women, Part II of II

Saturday, April 4, 2015 in Bible Commentary | 0 comments

The Cult of Women, Part II of II

Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?

//Did yesterday’s post leave you thinking that women were as common as men among the leaders of the early Jesus movement? It’s hard to say. Yet it’s clear that women did serve in much the same roles as men.

I find the references to Jesus sending out evangelists “two by two” very interesting, because it is likely that many of these were male/female pairs. In today’s verse, Paul is speaking about the standards of the apostles, and mentions how their wives would accompany them on their travels. Cephas, by the way, is the apostle Peter.

But were the women ministering, too? Yes, they were. Paul names five of these male-female teaching teams: Prisca and Aquila, Andronicus and Junia, Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Peter with his wife. See Romans 16:3-15 for this discussion, where Paul indicates that all were “apostles.”

Bishop Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215) explains that they traveled as male-female pairs so that the women could speak to women, while the men spoke to other men.

One scholar counted 32 times that the book of Acts uses the terms “brothers and sisters,” where the phrase is used interchangeably with the word “disciples.”

The Cult of Women? Probably not, regardless of early Christianity’s reputation. Merely a cult of equality.

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Matthew 27:55, The Cult of Women, Part I of II

Friday, April 3, 2015 in Bible Commentary | 0 comments

Matthew 27:55, The Cult of Women, Part I of II

And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him.

//Today’s verse tells how, at Jesus’s crucifixion, it was his female followers who witnessed his death. All of the male disciples had run away. (John’s Gospel tells of the “beloved disciple” standing by, which may have been young John. Perhaps the Roman party felt no threat from a boy.)

It’s interesting to note that Jesus actually had many female followers in his entourage. Luke 8:1-3 tells us of three:

And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him, and certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, and Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.

Finally, the Gospels record that it was a woman (or women) who reported the tomb empty and that Jesus had risen. Many scholars have expressed their amazement that this was recorded in the Gospels; after all, the word of a woman in Jesus’s time did not carry the same weight as a man’s.

Is it any wonder Christianity quickly became known as the “Cult of Women?” More tomorrow.

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Book review: Correcting Jesus: 2000 Years of Changing the Story

Wednesday, April 1, 2015 in Book Reviews | 4 comments

Book review: Correcting Jesus: 2000 Years of Changing the Story

by Brian Griffith

★★★★★

Jesus blew it. He expected too much. A number of his teachings were simply unworkable, and the church found it necessary to rework them over time.

Jesus thought we should treat women as equals, but we corrected that howler in a hurry. He thought maybe God would forgive all those who forgave others, but we quickly realized God isn’t that forgiving. There are many stipulations to His mercy. Jesus suggested we turn the other cheek, but we Americans fixed that one, too. We amassed the biggest military in history, to make sure we never have to play the pacifist like Jesus.

Jesus’s early followers practiced equality, but everybody in our capitalistic country knows what nonsense that is. That man in the gutter, hoping for a handout? He’s there because he’s too lazy to work.

Most of all, we laughed at the way Jesus practiced compassion. Better to throw divorcees, gays, blacks, Muslims, and especially those bleeding heart Liberals under the evangelistic steamroller. We have a conservative agenda to live up to.

This book is a little–no, maybe a lot–more serious than I’m letting on, but it manages to be as entertaining as it is thought-provoking. Highly recommended.

Exterminating Angel Press, © 2009, 326 pages

ISBN: 978-1-935259-02-2

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Mark 6:51, Escalating Worship

Saturday, March 28, 2015 in Bible Commentary | 0 comments

Mark 6:51, Escalating Worship

And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered.

//Mark was the first Gospel written, about 70 CE. Then came Matthew, Luke, and John, probably in that order. When the Gospels are ordered chronologically, it’s much easier to see the evolution of the Gospel story as it grows.

For one thing, his followers are portrayed as more and more worshipful. In Mark, the Twelve are presented as a bit dull, slow to understand, who perhaps never do grasp Jesus’s magnificence.

Today’s verse is an example. Jesus walks on the water, and they’re amazed, unable to grasp what they just saw. The next verse explains that they hardened their hearts, presumably so as not to believe, when Jesus performed the miracle of loaves and fishes.

But now read the same story in Matthew’s Gospel. Suddenly, Peter becomes a quick believer, and asks Jesus to invite him out on the water as well. So Peter walks on water too. Then comes this verse:

And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God. –Matthew 14:32-33

Wow! Never in Mark’s Gospel do the Twelve realize Jesus is the Son of God! Evil spirits do, the Centurion does, but not his disciples. Matthew has completely rewritten an important theme of Mark’s Gospel: that of Jesus’s slow-to-understand followers.

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