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20 June 2013: The Birth of Jesus, Conclusions: Part XVI
Luke concludes his birth story with a series of episodes designed to point to the story of the adult Jesus. First, in Luke’s story, the shepherds depart, while Mary “ponders,” then the “Holy Family” goes through the initiation rites of Judaism to root Jesus deeply inside of the faith of his people. He is circumcised, …
My question to you is about a column you wrote about two years ago describing your second visit to China. Did you actually witness everything you talked about or did someone else tell you these things? The reason I’m asking is because I read/saw an article on China last year (I can’t remember the source but I think it might have been Time Magazine to which I subscribe). The article showed this beautiful modern city but there were no folks in it. The writer said the high rises and buildings were only a façade and inside many of them it was an empty shell. Since I have already jumped to conclusions, I’ll be interested in your response.
13 June 2013: The Birth of Jesus, Part XV. The Journey to Bethlehem
The creators of the birth narratives, Matthew and Luke, used two motifs in interpreting the life of Jesus of Nazareth. First, each was historically aware that Jesus hailed from Galilee, indeed from the village of Nazareth. Too often the gospels report that there was debate about his origins for this not to be true. Galilee was the rustic, …
The Episcopal Network for Science, Technology and Faith addresses food, climate change, biodiversity and water as important subjects for discussion, but "where's the beef?" Population explosions at the root of most of the problems humanity faces today. Is that topic too sensitive for thinking religious leaders to discuss publicly or are shrinking markets too horrendous to contemplate?
When writing the opening chapter of my soon-to-be released book, The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic, I felt the need to issue a warning to my readers. This warning needed to go in two quite different directions. There will certainly be those who think of themselves as “traditionally religious people,” who may well …
I’ve read many of your books. The two books that have helped me most understand Jesus have been Liberating the Gospels and Reclaiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World. However, I don’t see a clear explanation of Jesus’ parables, for example, The Prodigal Son. To me these parables reveal a teaching method that’s not highlighted in your writings. Did Jesus tell these parables?
30 May 2013: Part I: The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic
The publication date is June 11, 2013. The books will actually be shipped to bookstores across the nation in the last week of May. The rights to publish this in Italian and Korean have also been sold and these two translations will appear in their two respective countries later in the year. I live now …
I recall your writing that there is a major disconnect between what is being taught in the religious educational academies and the message delivered to the average pew occupier. The point seeming to be that pastors do not want to pass on the more "sensitive" aspects of their training due to the potential upset sensibilities and possible loss of weekly donations from their parishioners - even though these church leaders may very well agree with their formal instruction in these areas. Can you direct me to additional information as to exactly what is taught and believed by these higher learning institutions that is not being conveyed to the normal churchgoer - either somewhere in your writings or possibly those of someone else?
Thanks upon thanks for all you have done and continue to do.
The Third Annual John Shelby Spong Lecture was held at St. Peter’s Church, Morristown, New Jersey, near the end of April. A crowd of people, numbering around 400, according to the ushers’ count, came from near and far to participate in the event. We had members of the faculty and student body from nearby Drew University. We had …
Is there a good Bible study book you would recommend for a group of lay people to use that is not agenda riddled? I am looking for one that looks at the Bible within its cultural and historical background in which each individual book was written and leaves room for an open-ended discussion of the universal ideas that are inspired in those texts.
16 May 2013: Birth of Jesus, Part XIV. The Old Testament Antecedents in Luke’s Story of Jesus’ Birth
In order to understand the birth narratives found in Matthew and Luke, we need to embrace the fact that there is no way these stories were intended to be regarded as remembered history or as narratives that were literally true. That must be stated clearly. This means that there never was a star in the …
Somewhere six to ten years after the Gospel of Matthew was written, another gospel, the one we call Luke, makes its appearance. Both Matthew and Luke had Mark as a common source although Matthew used it more extensively than Luke. Some scholars also believe that Matthew and Luke had a second common source, a collection …
I wish to comment on the situation in Europe (being a resident of Sweden) described in your recent column.
In Russia there is a re-emergence of religious power walking hand in hand with the political power. Heresy laws are being introduced. This is a state where religion was considered "for the masses" not too long ago. Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Hungary (have they forgotten WWII?) In Poland the Catholic Church is gaining political power. So you could say that with increasing uncertainty the religions are regaining their position as "reducers of angst" (angest in Swedish). This is not a positive thing to those of us who see the gospels as literary documents.
I am personally lending our local pastors copies of your books and this is triggering some healthy debate. My goal is to have them carry the theological debate to the pew sitters in our area. With an average of perhaps ten persons in church on a Sunday, they have to do something. I have noticed that I can have a very deep theological discussion with a pastor and they openly admit that they too have problems in believing in the literal scriptures. However, the moment they stand before the congregation, they are back in Sunday School theology mode. It is as if they are programmed to state the standard point of view. For me this creates a huge credibility gap. I fully believe that if they dared to take their own doubts to the altar and be honest about them, pew sitters would feel much more at home.
Having now described the miraculous birth of Jesus in chapter one of his gospel, Matthew turns next to his account of how the birth of Jesus was divinely “rolled out” to bring it to the attention of all the people of the world. His vehicle for this is to tell us a story of magi …
I have a question. I learned that “survival of the fittest” meant that those who fitted, i.e. adapted, best to the circumstances of life would survive, not those who were the most powerful or the strongest. Am I right as your text is more in the last way? I apologize since English is not my mother tongue.
25 April 2013: Making Sense of Violence and Terror in Boston
On Monday, April 15, Patriot’s Day in Boston, Massachusetts, the bomb blasts that occurred near the finish line of the Boston Marathon brought death, mutilation and injury to more than 200 innocent people. By Thursday, the perpetrators of this crime had been identified and the manhunt was on. By Friday, one of the two suspects …
+A message to my readers: After the deadline for the publication of this column the terrorist bombing at the end of the Boston marathon occurred, leaving many of us enraged, saddened and despairing about the levels of violence that apparently engulf the world. It also put the content of this column into a new perspective. …
I read your title Liberating the Gospels some time ago which I found "liberating." I wonder, when all the layers are peeled from the gospels, I'm not sure I fully understand what is left in the Christian story to grasp. When we strip everything away is there an eternal truth left to motivate us? When you deconstruct a story so totally, what remains? Look forward to your words which will, no doubt, be wise.
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