Genesis 3:15, The Seed of a Woman

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

//This is a rather fascinating verse to me. First, it speaks of the seed of the serpent, whom later Jews came to associate with Satan. In other words, Satan’s children. Let’s read this verse again in the NIV translation:

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.

So Satan’s children, slithering around on the ground, will be crushed underfoot by the seed of Eve. Yet every Jew at this time understood that life comes from the male, not the woman. A woman provides only a womb to grow the seed of a male. How can it be possible, then, that the seed of a woman will crush the seed of Satan?

Answer: according to Christian thinking, the One who crushes the seed of Satan is Jesus, who had no human father. Since Jesus was born of a virgin woman, Mary (Jesus’ mother) provided the “seed.”

Prophecy fulfilled?

Acts 1:12, A Sabbath Day’s Walk

Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey.

//The book of Acts tells us that the allowable distance an observant Jew could walk on the Sabbath without violating the law was about the distance from Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives. That’s about 3,000 feet, or 2,000 cubits. This distance is derived from Joshua 3:4, which is the distance specified between the people and the Ark of the Covenant as they travelled to the promised land:

Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore.

Now let’s talk about the Essenes, an ultra-strict community of Jews who held rigid purity laws. In their scrolls, they insisted that the community latrines must be a distance of 2,000 cubits away*. This leads to an interesting conclusion: It appears that it was illegal for the Essenes to empty their bowels on a Saturday! The latrines would be further away than they could legally walk on the Sabbath. See the research of Robert Feather in the New Dawn Magazine, 12/23/2010.

* Different texts record different distances, from 1000 to 3000 cubits, and one archaeological discovery seems to locate a latrine area only 1640 feet from the Qumran site. So, take this post with a grain of salt!

John 3:6, Born of the Female Holy Spirit

That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

//I’ve written before about the feminine aspects and qualities of God throughout scripture, and of the correspondence between Wisdom (Greek: Sophia, a feminine name) and the Holy Spirit. But C. D. Baker points out something interesting in his wonderful book, Becoming the Son:

Today’s words were written in Greek. The Greek word for the Spirit is Pneuma, a genderless word. Today’s verse quotes the Gospel of John, and in that gospel, Jesus is closely associated with the Spirit, so in my own book about this gospel, I refer to the Spirit in the same gender as Jesus. A male.

Baker points out the error in this thinking, by referring to the Aramaic word for the Spirit that Jesus himself would have used: Rauch, the native Aramaic word, is grammatically feminine. Jesus would have naturally spoken of the Spirit as a she … we are born of her.

1 Chronicles 22:14, Solomon’s Temple Walls

Now, behold, in my trouble I have prepared for the house of the LORD an hundred thousand talents of gold, and a thousand thousand talents of silver; and of brass and iron without weight; for it is in abundance: timber also and stone have I prepared; and thou mayest add thereto.

//I had a little fun with my calculator today. This verse tells us that Solomon’s temple was comprised of roughly 7.5 million pounds of gold, and 75 million pounds of silver (depending upon how you measure the weight of a talent). That would be 75,000 cubic feet of gold and 750,000 cubic feet of silver.

The temple itself was 90 x 30 feet. Let’s give it a height of 30 feet as well, resulting in a volume of about 81,000 cubic feet. That means we couldn’t possibly house all of this gold and silver inside the temple; it must have been used to overlay the walls.

Including both the silver and gold, that would make the walls over 100 feet thick with precious metals.

No wonder it took seven years for 153,300 people to build it! (1 Kings 5-6)

Judges 20:16, The Left-Handed Advantage

Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men lefthanded; every one could sling stones at an hairbreadth, and not miss.

Ever wonder why left-handed pitchers are proliferant in Major League Baseball? Turns out it has nothing to do with them being hard to hit. It’s because they have an unfair advantage.

The Bible tells us so. Right-handers were given swords to fight with, but left-handers, presumably because of their special skill, were selected to throw rocks with a sling.

Deuteronomy 25:9, Your Brotherly Duty

Then shall his brother’s wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother’s house.

//Suppose you have a brother who marries a woman, but then dies before he can father a child. According to Old Testament law, it then becomes your responsibility to take his widow as your wife, to “perform the duty of a husband’s brother unto her.”

This duty isn’t to satisfy her needs. It’s to help her bear a child, which will be in the name of your brother, so that his name will survive.

If you refuse to give her a child, then this is your punishment: She can call the elders of the city together, rip the shoe from your foot, and publicly spit in your face. From that point forward, your own family will be called The House of the Unsandaled.

Leviticus 11:20, An Easy Law To Keep

All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you.

//This verse is talking about which animals may be eaten and which may not. Most translations don’t read “fowl”, they read “flying insects.” The law says don’t eat anything that flies and walks on all fours.

This is quite an easy law to keep because there is no such creature! Birds have two legs, insects have six or eight. I can think of a few legendary beasts with four legs that fly, but nothing real.

Can we rename the law for simplicity? Do not eat imaginary animals.

Deuteronomy 25:19, Don’t Forget To Forget!

Therefore it shall come about when the LORD your God has given you rest from all your surrounding enemies, in the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you must not forget.

//What do you think about this curious verse? God promises victory over Israel’s enemy, Amalek, and says when the victory is achieved, Israel should blot out all memory of them.

So what do they do? They write it down in their chronicles, and it becomes part of the Bible, preserving a permanent record of those whom they were to forget.

Genesis 38:28, Zarah Wins by a Hand … but Loses!

And it came to pass, when she travailed, that the one put out his hand: and the midwife took and bound upon his hand a scarlet thread, saying, This came out first.

//Here’s a curious and obscure Bible story for you. Remember Tamar, who pretended to be a prostitute so that she could be impregnated by Judah, her father in law? Tamar wound up birthing twins in this odd story.

In Bible days, the firstborn was awarded special status and privileges. The first twin to break into the world, then, would be quite fortunate. So, imagine the struggle going on inside Tamar’s womb to cross the finish line first.

During the birth, the first twin (Zarah) stuck his hand out of the womb and Tamar’s midwife tied a scarlet thread around it to indicate the firstborn. But then the other twin (Pharez), determined to be first, fought his way to the forefront and came out first. The midwife was astonished, and Zarah was stripped of the “firstborn” title, which was given to Pharez.

Acts 16:31, The Missing Words In Our Creeds

And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

//Would you say a creed is a statement of belief, or is it a guiding principle? Today’s verse is considered worthwhile instruction, a sort of creed in its own, but what exactly are we supposed to believe?

The creedal wars were bloody in the first few centuries as our church fathers bickered over the words that best describe what we must believe. All creeds focused on who Jesus was, rather than the message he delivered. While love (or compassion) was the focus of Jesus’ teachings, its absence in the creeds made bitter theological wars possible, since not one creed stressed what Jesus taught. It remains so today.

Quoted below is the Nicene Creed, the foundation of most of today’s creedal statements.


We believe in one God,

the Father, the Almighty,

maker of heaven and earth,

of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,

the only Son of God,

eternally begotten of the Father,

God from God, Light from Light,

true God from true God,

begotten, not made,

of one Being with the Father.

Through him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation

he came down from heaven:

by the power of the Holy Spirit

he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,

and was made man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;

he suffered death and was buried.

On the third day he rose again

in accordance with the Scriptures;

he ascended into heaven

and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,

and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.

He has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

We look for the resurrection of the dead,

and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Matthew 2:11, The Nazarene from Bethlehem

And when [the magi] were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him.

//There are two different birth stories of Jesus in our Bible. One comes from the gospel of Matthew (see above), and the other comes from Luke. Here is Luke’s story:

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Both stories account for Jesus’ roots in both Galilee (Nazareth) and in Judea (Bethlehem). In Matthew, Jesus’ family resides in Bethlehem, and Jesus is born there in Joseph’s home. From there, Jesus’ family flees to Egypt, and later moves to Nazareth:

And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene. –Matthew 2:23

But in Luke’s story, Jesus’ family resides in Nazareth, and inadvertently delivers the child Jesus while visiting Bethlehem. Then they return to Nazareth. So in one story, Jesus lives in Nazareth and goes to Bethlehem; in the other, he lives in Bethlehem and goes to Nazareth?

So, here’s the question: Is Jesus the Nazarene from Bethlehem, or the Bethlehemite from Nazareth?

Proverbs 14:31, Respect the Poor

Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

//Ever thought about the poor in this way? If you marginalize the poor, you show contempt for God. This same thought is repeated in another proverb:

Whoever mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished. –Proverbs 17:5

It’s possible to read the instructions of Jesus and his great concern for the poor and attempt to spiritualize it all. We turn a concern for the needy into praise for the “poor in spirit.” Rather than help the poor in their need, we insist that what the poor really need is just to hear the gospel–and then, we forget what that gospel is. Jesus described his mission this way:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. –Luke 4:18

Some time, just do a concordance search on the word “poor,” and see if you’re able to ignore all of the references you find.

Galatians 2:2, Pauline and Petrine Christianity

And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain.

//The self-proclaimed “apostle” Paul writes that he learned about the Way of Jesus through revelation. He is emphatic that he not only received instruction from Jesus directly, but that he never shared that instruction with the Christian church in Jerusalem. He implies that it was fourteen years before he ever met with the other apostles in order to make sure that he was not “running the race in vain” over all those years. As the New Living Translation puts it, Paul wrote that he finally “wanted to make sure that we were in agreement, for fear that all my efforts had been wasted and I was running the race for nothing.”

It is therefore no surprise when scholars of early Christianity recognize differences between Paul’s thinking and those writings which appear more Judaic. Paul’s more universalistic Gentile Christianity presumably centered in Antioch, leaving Jerusalem to the Jews (though there is hardly any scholarly consensus on this). This dichotomy is often described as “Pauline” versus “Petrine” Christianity. I allude to this difference between Gentile and Jewish Christianity in my book about John’s Gospel, while also introducing yet a third flavor: the esoteric, spiritual message of the Johannine community.

Can you guess which of the three is my favorite?

Micah 4:4, A New Economic Order

But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree,

And no one shall make them afraid;

For the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.


//When the Israelites escaped from the bondage of Egypt, they set about making a law code which would affirm the value of every life in the congregation. Never again would a life be lived with no hope of anything but slavery. No longer would the land belong only to a few rich folk, who benefited from the labor of others. Among the laws Israel enacted are these new economic principles, taken from marcus Borg’s new book, Convictions:


– Every family was to have its own piece of agricultural land.

– This land could not be bought or sold.

– No interest was to be charged on debts.

– Every seventh year, all debts were to be forgiven.

– Every fiftieth year, any land lost through foreclosure (inability to pay one’s debt) was to be returned to the original owner, without compensation.


The idea was to create a world very different from Egypt; one in which every family had the material basis they needed to survive. It didn’t work. Israel fell under kingship, lands began to be appropriated, and the dream fell apart. But it never died. The prophets continued to promise a day when, under God’s leadership, Israel would accomplish the dream. Today’s verse is an example: One day, the prophet Micah promised, everyone would sit peaceably under their own fig tree, rather than tending the orchard of another.

Are we getting close, yet?

Isaiah 55:3, The Hills Are Alive

Incline your ear, and come to Me.

Hear, and your soul shall live;

And I will make an everlasting covenant with you—

The sure mercies of David.

//The 53rd psalm is some of the most beautiful poetry in the Bible. God calls to all who are thirsty, telling them to come to the waters. Telling we who have no money to come buy and eat, for the wine and milk is without price.

Then comes the verse above begging us to listen. Hear what God has to say and your soul shall live. Soon we learn what it is that we are to listen to:

For you shall go out with joy,

And be led out with peace;

The mountains and the hills

Shall break forth into singing before you,

And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

…and in the midst of this song of joy, the mountains singing to us, is this reminder: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. It would seem that the work of God’s hands, and not our own, is the path to joy.

Matthew 9:11, The Closed Communion

When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

//It would seem that one of the hardest examples for Jesus’ followers to accept was his willingness to eat with anyone. That just simply wasn’t done; you don’t share your table with others below your caste. Not as a Jew in Jesus’ day.

But Paul understood. It disturbed Paul greatly when his fellow Christians struggled with this precept. He soundly criticized Peter for his failure in this matter:

For before that certain came from James, [Peter] did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. –Galatians 2:12

In this example, those who were “of the circumcision” are Jewish Christians, who would not eat with Gentile Christians. So, already, denominational boundaries were being drawn.

The first century Christian document The Didache takes the separation of members from nonmembers for granted, indicating that only baptised members may eat together at the same table. Curiously, many denominations still struggle with this issue. The Eucharist grew out of the tradition of sharing bread and wine together at the table (it was originally shared as a whole meal, not a nibble of bread and sip of wine), and many churches, including Protestants, accept only members of their own church at the communion table.

Acts 2:1-4, The Day Christianity Began

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

//You’ve been reading the account of the descent of the Holy Spirit fifty days after Jesus resurrected. It’s fascinating to note that, for whatever reason, this is the event which triggers full evangelism.

The Gospel of Mark tells us that as soon as the Lord Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples went out and preached everywhere. But Luke contradicts this, saying that they did not; rather, they returned to Jerusalem and stayed continually at the temple, praising God. Then, in Acts (which was written by the same author as the gospel of Luke), Pentecost arrives, and something miraculous happens which stirs the disciples into an evangelistic fervor.

What really happened that day? What event could have overshadowed even the resurrection and the ascension, finally prompting believers to begin spreading the gospel? Paul tells of a time when 500 people at once saw the risen Jesus. Is he talking about Pentecost?

Whatever the nature of Jesus’ resurrection, it did not seem to influence anyone very strongly. But when an event of massive proportion occurred (Pentecost), which I admit sounds a lot like a mass hallucination, people were baptized in droves and evangelizing began in earnest. I sure am curious about that day.

Hosea 6:6, Jesus and Animal Sacrifice

For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

//Hosea is among the first writing prophets, back in the 8th or 9th century BC. At a time when animal sacrifice seemed common, Hosea opposed this practice, as seen in this verse. Hosea foresaw a day when mankind and animals would live in harmony:

In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky and the creatures that move along the ground. Bow and sword and battle I will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety. –Hosea 2:18

Isaiah and Jeremiah also opposed animal sacrifice. See Jeremiah 7:21-22 and Isaiah 1:11-13. Jesus quoted Hosea directly in Matthew 9:13, and again in Matthew 12:7:

But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.

In Keith Akers’ book Disciples, he argues that Jesus, too, opposed animal sacrifice. When Jesus drove the animals from the Temple, he was not objecting to fleecing pilgrims as much as sacrificing animals.

Might Jesus have been hoping to introduce the day of peace that the prophets promised?

Leviticus 20:13, Homosexuality and the Bible, Part VIII of VIII

If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them … are to be [stoned].

//Let me wrap up this topic with a nod of approval to the State of Washington. With only this one Old Testament law still in the way of accepting gays as our brethren in Christ, Washington has found a loophole.

They legalized gay marriage and marijuana on the same day.

Mark 9:42, Homosexuality and the Bible, Part VII of VIII

And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.

//Question 5 of 5: Does the vast preponderance of teachings about compassion and acceptance toward the marginalized outweigh the scripture which seems to teach against homosexuality?

In the last four days, we have examined four issues regarding the one (!) reference in the Bible to homosexuality outside an outdated law code. These four issues are: Did Paul really condemn loving same-sex relationships? Does his immediate contradiction soften that condemnation? Should we really assume Paul speaks for Jesus at all, when Paul himself cautioned against reading his words this way? And should Jesus’ complete disinterest in the topic mean anything to us?

Let’s suppose that none of the prior arguments hold water, and that Paul does guess properly about God’s feelings regarding same-sex partners. If we weigh the two anti-homosexual teachings in the Bible against the legion of teachings which encourage acceptance of marginalized groups, which comes out ahead? It’s awfully one-sided, isn’t it?

There are so many verses that display concern, love, and compassion for the marginalized that I couldn’t begin to list them. This isn’t just Jesus’s opinion. This emphasis is throughout the Old Testament as well.

When talking about the marginalized, please remember: gay people are no more able to change their sexual preference than the lame can walk. Their predicament is not a choice. 7,848 suicides per year because of this discrimination is a disturbing statistic.

We never once found Jesus telling the marginalized they were wrong for being lame, or sick, or poor, or a woman, or a Samaritan, or a gentile, or homosexual. Those are strictly Old Testament ideas. Instead, Jesus’ concern was focused on welcoming even folks who are different into society. There was simply nobody Jesus refused, and nobody he seemed more furious with than those who lacked compassion and acceptance.

I believe this is the only example it is safe to follow. I have just one more small comment to make tomorrow.

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