Theological rants
of a liberal Christian

The Miracle Free Gospel

Monday, April 21, 2014 in Book Reviews | 0 comments

The Miracle Free Gospel

by Gerhard Jason Geick

★★★★

Scholars have long speculated about the existence of an early, miracle-free version of the Gospel of John. It wasn’t until recently that a Palestinian discovery proved this speculation to be true. The miracles of Jesus were added to the text of the Gospel of John around 130 CE. What you’ll read in Geick’s book is the original Gospel, translated from Aramaic into English.

In this early rendition of Jesus’ life, everything remotely fantabulous no longer exists. No shocking miracles, no birth stories, no resurrection body. The real Jesus is so grey that one wonders how he could have possibly affected history the way he did. Jesus is merely a next-door-neighbor type, friendly, a little crude, quite powerless but likeable. He dies because rumors of miracles got out of hand.

It’s a parody, of course, or perhaps a wild guess. Why, Gerhard? Why did you do this to my Jesus? Disturbed, I read past the end of the book into the bonus material, where I found excerpts from prior books. Geick likes to call himself a Hopeful Theist, by which he implies that he rejects history’s various attempts to describe God, yet hopes there is more to life than meaningless grief. This is the Jesus he identifies with … one who tried to teach folks but wound up crucified for no good reason.

A cute read, but it probably reveals more about the author than the subject. Read it with a grain of salt to get to know Jason, because it’s a long way from anything any Jesus scholar I know would confirm! :)

© 2014, Kindle Edition

ISBN: unknown

Purchase at: http://themiraclefreegospel.weebly.com/

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Genesis 2:7, Easter and the New Eden

Sunday, April 20, 2014 in Bible Commentary | 0 comments

Genesis 2:7, Easter and the New Eden

[T]he Lord God . . . breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

//If my message from Thursday, about the promise of peace on earth with the birth of our Messiah, seemed out of place for Easter week, let me bring it all together. In fact, let me bring the whole Bible together. Compare the beginning of the Bible with the end; the first age beginning with Adam with the new age inaugurated by the arrival of the Messiah. This comes from the Gospel of John:

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”  And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” –John 20:19-21

John opens and closes his gospel with Genesis, a new world. Here, his double emphasis on the gift of peace implies the age of the Messiah. Christ has returned as promised! His age-old greeting, “peace” or “shalom,” was a wish of well-being, but between believers it came to mean the deeper, worldwide peace that God would grant in the age to come. In Ezekiel’s famous dry-bones vision, a picture of the coming general resurrection, God says to the army he revives, I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.

The age of peace has begun. Are we living the Kingdom?

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John 19:32-33, Good Friday and the River of Life

Friday, April 18, 2014 in Bible Commentary | 0 comments

John 19:32-33, Good Friday and the River of Life

The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other.  But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.  Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.

//While John’s Gospel has Jesus dying a day or two before Good Friday, today still seems like the most appropriate day to commemorate the death of Christ. Today’s verse has become very special to me in the last year. Here is what I wrote about this verse in my book about John’s Gospel:

Did blood and water really flow from Jesus’ side? Current medical study verifies the possibility. A substance that appears like water could flow from the pericardial sac around the heart. John insists that this really happened! He may have been so startled that it became, for him, another sign.

As with the son of perdition, it’s fascinating to note the “piercing” theme’s progression through the scriptures.  Psalm 22:16 tells of the wicked piercing “my” hands and feet. Zechariah 12:10 draws upon this verse, betraying its origin with its awkward first-person wording: “[T]hey shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and mourn for him” (emphasis added). Next, Revelation claims that every eye shall see Jesus when he returns, including “they also who pierced him.” There is, you will note, no reason yet to imagine that anything besides the hands and feet were pierced. But when John tells the story, he changes the piercing from the hands and feet to Jesus’ side! According to Bible scholar Raymond E. Brown, no other source within a hundred years of Jesus’ death mentions the wound in his side! Only John writes of this, and he swears it’s true. I cannot think of a single explanation for this reinterpretation except to say that the pierced side must have truly happened, and the flow of blood and water made an unforgettable impact.

This sign has become so real to me that I took the image as the title of my latest book: The River of Life. From the side of Jesus a river began to flow that day, which continues even into our age. This short little book (only about 80 pages) has found a different publisher, and hopefully will be available soon.

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Luke 2:13-14, No Peace On Earth?

Thursday, April 17, 2014 in Bible Commentary | 0 comments

Luke 2:13-14, No Peace On Earth?

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

//This heavenly chorus is celebrating the birth of Jesus, the Messiah, which was to inaugurate a new age. An age of worldwide peace.

Somehow, we’ve lost sight of this. More common, today, is to hear in church that God promises no peace on earth until Jesus comes again. Wars and rumors of wars will continue until that glorious day, and there is nothing we can do about it.

But some extremists carry things even further. They actively preach against all who would strive for peace, thinking this is playing right into Satan’s hands. Peacemakers are thought not to be Christlike, but Antichrists! Peace, world preservation, social programs, life improvements through scientific discovery, all these things are satanic, not godly! What a turn of events! Consider this bizarre quotation by Eli Reece, in How Far Can a Premillennialist Pastor Cooperate with Social Service Programs:

Sociology, or social service as generally emphasized is, in its final outworking, a black winged angel of the pit. … Satan would have a reformed world, a beautiful world, a moral world, a world of great achievements. … He would have a universal brotherhood of man, he would eliminate by scientific method every human ill, and expel by human effort every unkindness; he would make all men good by law, education and social uplift; he would have a world without war. … But a premillennialist cannot cooperate with the plans of modern social service for these contemplate many years of gradual improvement through education as its main avenue for cooperation rather than the second coming of Christ.

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Book review: Announcing the Scientific Discovery of God

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 in Book Reviews | 0 comments

Book review: Announcing the Scientific Discovery of God

by Eric Demaree

★★★

Can God’s existence be proven by logic? Demaree takes a shot at it, by providing a reasonable argument for the existence of a being who dispensed to us a moral law. Demaree calls this being “God” and assumes him to be our creator. He then takes a leap of logic:

“It is highly probable that the Biblical God is the God who wrote objective morality into our mind. Objective moral principles and the Biblical commandments written into our mind are similar, if not identical.”

From this foundation–that we have proven God exists, and is the God of the Bible–Demaree begins his discussion. But this argument is not convincing to anyone who is not already persuaded. For example, the issue of gay rights easily defeats his argument. Got no religion to taint your opinion? Then you typically have no moral problem with gays. Thus, any universal morality that exists today accepts gay relationships. Yet the “Biblical God,” in Leviticus, holds a different moral standard:  “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death.” I bring up this example not because Demaree shares any opinion about gay rights in his book (he doesn’t)  but because this simple example disproves Demaree’s argument that objective moral principles agree with Biblical commandments. If there is a moral law inside us, it contradicts the Bible, so if a moral law does prove the existence of God, it simultaneously excludes the “Biblical God” as a candidate. Oops.

Unfortunately, the “scientific discovery” process promised by the book’s title ends after a few pages of this flawed argument. Demaree then turns a bit preachy and remains that way to the end. I scanned the rest, but could not get interested after the topic of the title was left behind. All in all it’s not a bad book, actually quite inspirational in places, as Demaree focuses on God’s attributes of love and mercy, but it just wasn’t what I was expecting to read.

Published by Eric Demaree, © 2014, Kindle Edition

ISBN: none

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Leviticus 23:6, The First Passover, Part II of II

Tuesday, April 15, 2014 in Bible Commentary | 0 comments

Leviticus 23:6, The First Passover, Part II of II

And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread.

//Yesterday, I presented a passage from the book of Jubilees that seems to tie the arrival of Abraham and Isaac to the place of Isaac’s sacrifice on the day of the Passover. That same passage continues:

And Abraham went to his young men and they got up and went to Beer-sheba together. And Abraham dwelt by the Well of the Oath. And he named it “the feast of the Lord” according to the seven days during which he went and returned in pace. And thus is it ordained and written in the heavenly tablets concerning Israel and his seed to observe this festival seven days with festal joy.

The only seven-day festival in the first month is, of course, the Passover week, known as the feast of unleavened bread. See today’s verse.

The author of Jubilees seems to be saying that Abraham’s journey was seven days: three to get to the altar, one day (the Sabbath) without travel, and three to return. This seven days relates to the seven days of Passover. Did the first Passover occur several hundred years before we think?

Have a great Passover this year!

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Genesis 22:4, The First Passover, Part I of II

Monday, April 14, 2014 in Bible Commentary | 0 comments

Genesis 22:4, The First Passover, Part I of II

Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.

//Question: The first Passover happened as the children of Israel escaped from Egypt, right?

Maybe. Maybe not. The patriarchs Abraham and Isaac predate the exodus. Recall that Jesus is our final Passover lamb, and that Isaac, nearly sacrificed by his father Abraham, is considered a typology of Jesus. A foreshadow of what was to come.

The Jewish book of Jubilees provides some details about this event that we don’t have in our Bibles:

And it came to pass in the seventh week, in its first year, in the first month, in that jubilee, on the twelfth of that month, that words came in heaven concerning Abraham that he was faithful in everything which was told him and he loved the Lord and was faithful in all affliction. And Prince Mastema came and he said before God, “Behold, Abraham loves Isaac, his son. And he is more pleased with him that everything. Tell him to offer him as a burnt offering upon the altar.”

If Abraham left early morning on the twelfth for a three-day journey, he arrives at the place of sacrifice on a special day:

In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’S passover. –Leviticus 23:5

The author of Jubilees seems to be saying that Abraham placed Isaac on the altar immediately after his arrival. That means the sacrifice of Isaac (or the substitutionary ram) occurred on what would become Passover day. Coincidence? Tune in tomorrow for the rest of the story.

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Book Excerpt: Revelation: The Way It Happened

Sunday, April 13, 2014 in Book Excerpt | 0 comments

Book Excerpt: Revelation: The Way It Happened

“Do you understand that Jesus is the Christ?” Samuel pressed on. “The Messiah must be born into the royal lineage of our greatest warrior, King David, and he must redeem our people with the sword, but most Jews refuse to consider Jesus the one. Because although the blood of King David surges through the veins of our Lord Jesus, he came first as a lamb, silent before his accusers.”

“Who were his accusers?”

“The Romans and the Jewish council of elders, the Sanhedrin. They sentenced him to die on a cross because he threatened to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days.”

“I would not have been a lamb, Father! I would have been a true Messiah! I would have fought with my sword and spilled the blood of all my enemies. This Jesus cannot really be the Messiah,” Matthew spat.

“Listen, my son. He’s both a lion and a lamb. Like a lamb to the slaughter, Jesus shed his own blood for us through meekness and humility, in atonement for our sin.”

Matthew resisted the impulse to stick out his tongue in disgust. Fortunately, he knew better than to disrespect his father.

“But now he returns to finish his work,” Samuel continued, unperturbed. “He will take vengeance on all his enemies. My son, we will soon behold the true Messiah in all his glory! Jesus, from his throne in heaven, will show himself to be alive again! This time, for ever and ever!”

–Revelation: The Way It Happened, 2010, pp. 19-20, by Lee Harmon

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1 Corinthians 7:28-29, the Danger of Celibacy

Saturday, April 12, 2014 in Bible Commentary | 0 comments

1 Corinthians 7:28-29, the Danger of Celibacy

But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this. What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short.

//Today’s words are written by Paul, encouraging the Corinthians to abstain from marriage. Why? Because the return of Christ is just around the corner. The time is too short to bother with things like marriage.

Paul guessed wrong about this, but he’s not the only one. His instruction reminds me of a group we’ve all heard of: the Shakers.

The Shakers were founded in the 18th century as the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing (USBCSA). Their belief that the Kingdom of God was at hand led to a self-defeating doctrine: celibacy. Procreation was unnecessary, as the time was short, so the Shakers used celibacy as a central part of their efforts to separate from the sinful world around them. Shakers were not only messianists; they were communitarians.

But would enough conversions be possible to keep the group alive? How do you keep from dying out as a group without procreating? One answer: adoption. This worked well until orphanages were established, and the states began to limit adoption by religious groups. Today, adoption into the Shakers is no longer possible.

As the result, the Shaker population in America has dwindled (to my knowledge) down to three members: Sister June Carpenter, Brother Arnold Hadd, and Sister Frances Carr. Jesus better come back quickly, or there will be no one left to welcome him.

Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? –Luke 18:8

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Revelation 22:10, Is Jesus Coming Back?

Friday, April 11, 2014 in Bible Commentary | 0 comments

Revelation 22:10, Is Jesus Coming Back?

And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.

//I’m sometimes asked what it would take to convince me that Revelation’s prophecies still reside in our future. Am I not impressed by the signs of the times, which seem to keep piling up?

The answer is, I must play the odds. Given that Revelation repeatedly promises everything “quickly,” and that the events of the first century so closely match the events promised in Revelation, what are the odds that that book’s author–be it Jesus, a deluded self-appointed prophet, or someone in between–was talking about it all happening a couple thousand years in the future?

Revelation was addressed personally to seven churches in Asia Minor which no longer exist. It was written to encourage them to stand true in a tribulation that, according to Revelation’s author, he was already sharing with them. If I’m to believe it will all happen again in our future, I’ll probably need to see Jesus return on the clouds.

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