Implementing Principles under pressure – 1 John

The faithful are left with no choice but to love the unlovable

1 John is written at a particularly troubling time for a section of the faithful community. 1 John 2:18 says

“Children, it is the last hour, and just as you heard that the antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. We know from this that it is the last hour.”

What does this mean the last hour? It does not refer to the shadow of AD70, that event had gone. Clearly it is not the return of Jesus since we are now 1930 odd years on from this epistle. What does it mean? Simply – and more concerningly – it means John’s readers face an existential threat. Continue reading “Implementing Principles under pressure – 1 John”

Choose your own adventure

Responding to the short ending of the Gospel of Mark

What next? This is the challenge, the opportunity and the requirement. What next.

When I was young. To my children of course this means sometime in the late 1800s and to others richer in years the phrase is nonsense since I clearly am still young (I like this opinion more). When I was young, there was a brief period in which ‘choose your own adventure books’ become popular. These books made the reader the hero of the story and offered them choices on which their success of failure would depend. E.g. when confronted by the three-headed fish monster should they fight? (turn to page 5), run away? (turn to page 74) or jump back in the pond? (turn to page 134). The reader was invited to work their way through different paths to save the day, get the treasure or whatever. The experience, and the story line, depended on logical choices and occasionally chance. The objective was reader engagement as you essentially became the story.

The gospel of Mark has a very peculiar feature. Like Schubert’s 8th symphony it a masterpiece, but one missing a fairly normal, fairly important bit. The end. Or so it appears. Continue reading “Choose your own adventure”

Which Old Testament?

On the central importance of the Septuagint

Timothy’s scriptures

from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God 2 Timothy 3:15-16 KJV

Paul commends the spiritual heritage of Timothy, noting his childhood education provided him a solid grounding in Scripture. Occasionally we might be prompted to ask – what Scripture? It is self-evidence to most Protestants today that Paul is referring to the Hebrew bible, or Old Testament (OT) reflected in the Protestant canon. However, this is making assumptions, quite a few assumptions but we will explore only one – which text was scripture? Continue reading “Which Old Testament?”

Help my unbelief

Christ is the bridge between our needs and our capacity

In Mark 9 we read about the healing of the epileptic boy (there are parallel accounts in Matt 17 and Luke 9). This record powerfully demonstrates not only the importance of faith for a disciple but more – the willingness of the Lord to bridge the gap when our own resources are inadequate. Continue reading “Help my unbelief”

Ten lepers and one man saved

Just shuffle. Ideally together.

As believers, we have received the miracle of life, healing from death. How will we respond? Will we show gratitude? Will we turn to learn more from the master and make him our teacher? Will we demonstrate he is our Lord and superior? Or will we not think, not let him affect our lives and maintain an external unthinking compliance which minimizes the power of the gospel? Continue reading “Ten lepers and one man saved”

Triumphant prisoners

We are captives of Christ and should see our lives through this lens

Do reversals, failures and inconsistencies disqualify us as disciples? No. On the contrary they are consistent with the challenges associated with discipleship, they are part and parcel of the life of a believer. Rather than denigrate those who lives are seemingly full of reversals, or question God’s work with us due the burden of our own lives, we need to contextualise these experiences as normal for the faithful. Continue reading “Triumphant prisoners”

Solomon – opportunity lost

It was a little too good to be true.

Solomon followed David as the third recognised king of united Israel. He was anointed king in difficult circumstances with David seemingly bed ridden and ineffectual. Adonijah launched a soft coup based on his primogeniture but Solomon, with the aid of his mother and Nathan the prophet secured David’s approval to take the crown as recorded in 1 Kings 1. Continue reading “Solomon – opportunity lost”

How tall was Goliath and why it matters

How the giant of Gath grew in the telling

Goliath. The giant champion of the Philistines is a well known figure in western culture. The image of David taking on Goliath is a common metaphor for unlikely victories by underdogs. In addition to having entered into popular culture, the incident remains a regular staple of bible lessons for all ages. One aspect of the passage provides a simple example of the value of textual criticism. Continue reading “How tall was Goliath and why it matters”

Culture and the Widow of Zaraphath

A small example demonstrating the interaction of culture and text

Historical and cultural context matter in matters both big and small when it comes to reading and understanding the bible.

As the bible student Alan Hayward observed “Bible verses only make sense if you study them in their context, that is, their setting. You need to read the verses on either side of the verse in question. As I have pointed out on several occasions, you also need to make allowance for Hebrew idiom.1 Continue reading “Culture and the Widow of Zaraphath”