Mark, Jesus, the empire, and us
As we engage in reading the Bible, we cannot avoid speaking of kingdoms or empires. Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Romans, Greeks, not to mention the Israelite monarchy itself. Although we may happen to live in democratic countries, not within powerful empires of old, we may still be governed in many ways by some sort of imperial power, for instance that of capitalist economics.
Continue reading “Caesar’s empire? Or God’s?”
“You crushed the heads of Leviathan”
It is axiomatic that the timeless message of Scripture had a special relationship to the challenges of the specific age in which God’s word first entered the world. For much of the Old Testament until the exile, the main religious “competitor” to Yahweh was the pagan deity Baal. Understanding something of Baal is useful background to both events and written material.
Continue reading “Echoes of the Baal Cycle in Scripture”
The parable of the banquet in Luke 14
Discipleship means accepting an ongoing challenge. It means a continuous choice around our priorities. We have to be more guests of Jesus and less self interested and entitled. Prioritisation is required to make good on the invitation made to us. Repetition, familiarity, and the regular pattern of religious life can cause us to forget the urgency of opportunity. The gospel is about a choice, to choose life over death, but we have to keep making this choice, we cannot enter the kingdom of God based on membership in any group.
Continue reading “Carpe Diem”
Ezekiel 38 and 39 form the Gog Oracle: a final dramatic conflict between God and the hordes who dare to disturb His land and people. Much commentary on this exciting passage opines on its application to contemporary geopolitics, a practise that can quickly exchange study of the text for wild speculation.
This article makes seven propositions focused on revisiting the text, genre, and context of the oracle in order to better understand its meaning to an ancient audience. Such a foundation can then serve as a robust framework for evaluating our expectations of future events.
Continue reading “Ezekiel’s Gog Oracle”
Lectures to the title “Archaeology and the Bible” and “Archaeology proves the Bible true” are a staple of Christadelphian Sunday evenings. Most of these talks follow a well established pattern. First it’s explained that “Higher Critics” deny the historicity of the Bible. The speaker then lines up some archaeological artefacts and explains how they rebut the Higher Critics’ claims. Finally the speaker usually concludes the talk by explaining that the archaeological evidence demonstrates the historical reliability of the biblical text – “Archaeology does prove the Bible true” – and therefore the Bible is the Word of God.
Continue reading “How (not) to give an “Archaeology and the Bible” lecture”
Through the parables with a Samaritan helper
Jesus taught extensively in parables, so much so that
“he did not speak to them without a parable”Matt 13:34
According to some commentators, when Jesus speaks in the Synoptic gospels fully one third of the time it is a parable. Do we recognize the power of these teachings? When Jesus taught in parables it was polarizing. People wanted to make him king or kill him. Riots started. Crowds marveled at his teaching and authority (Matt 7:27-28). The parables of Jesus were raw and polarizing. They made a significant impact with people – they were not just nice stories for children. It was Bailey who observed that:
The more familiar a parable, the more it cries out to be rescued from the barnacles that have attached themselves to it over the centuries
There are many reasons why barnacles attach to parables and change the shape of Jesus teaching. Interpretations are layered on past interpretations. Rather than read Jesus teaching, we filter them through our faith traditions preferred understandings. Here’s a few reasons:
Continue reading “Limiting or listening”
How ancient near-eastern cosmology can change the way we read and understand scripture
Have you ever wondered where all the water came from for Noah’s flood? Or how the tower of Babel’s builders expected to reach into heaven? Or how many rungs there would need to be on Jacob’s ladder?
In this infographic we see how the Bible describes humanity’s place in the universe, and how this unexpected revelation helps us to break free of modern preconceptions that limit our understanding of the Bible’s message. Rather than undermining our faith, this peculiar subject helps us develop a credible and robust approach to scripture.
Continue reading “The Bible has a Glass Ceiling”
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”Dickens, Charles “A Tale of Two Cities”
So wrote Charles Dickens about the times of Hezekiah. Or if he didn’t, perhaps he should have.
Hezekiah is a towering figure in the Old Testament. In the kingdom of Judah he stands as a first rank reformer, a charismatic and determined leader who from the moment he took power was passionately focussed on restoring the worship of Israel’s God. His life is a triumph of zeal for God. Yet there is more going on.
Continue reading “The power of reformation”
We were reading Mark 5 recently and my curiosity was stirred by verse 41 where Mark records the healing of Jarius’ daughter. In raising her to life, Jesus:
“He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!”
This expression “Talitha cum” is Aramaic, it is transliterated into Greek. Ie the text is neither Greek or Hebrew, but Greek letters spelling out Aramaic words. This raises several questions. What language did Jesus speak? Why are these expressions in the gospels? What are the implications of these sayings? Continue reading “Jesus spoke Semitic languages not Greek”
…it is they that bear witness about me…
The view amongst the Jewish leaders of the 1st century was that the study of the scriptures earned the student eternal life. This idea was preserved in early Jewish writing – let’s take a look at a couple of examples: Continue reading “Jesus vs. the Bible”