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When we come to the Easter story in the gospel of Matthew, which was written according to the best estimates of the scholars about 10 to 15 years after Mark, we discover two things immediately. First, Matthew was very dependent on Mark, which he clearly had before him as he wrote. Second, Matthew regarded Mark …
14 May 2015: Resurrection – A Reality or a Pious Dream? Part IV: The Surprise Found in Mark, the Earliest Biblical Narrative of Easter
What did the Christian movement know about the resurrection of Jesus before the first gospel was written in the eighth decade of the Christian era? The answer to that question is “not very much.” As I have noted in the first columns in this series, the only records we have that emerge in the years …
I discovered your Internet talks in the fall of 2011. For the preceding 50 years I gritted my teeth all the way through the Christmas season, feeling angry, frustrated and guilty simultaneously. Suddenly a burden was lifted from my psyche. Through your scholarly talks, I was able to leave old baggage behind. Thank you.
Have you ever considered how many elements had to come together at the right time in the right place with the right people and the right geopolitical chess board for the Christian belief system to be born and to endure?
In one of your talks, you spoke about a religion of guilt and control. Christianity was born under the boot and sword of the Roman Empire. Had the Roman Empire not been created, Pilate would not have been there to judge. The management position of the Pope would not have been created. The Roman roads and networks would not have been available, the Roman soldiers who spread the Christian message would not have been present, etc…was this God’s plan?
After Easter we opened a new unit of columns designed to study exactly what the Bible says about Jesus’ resurrection. We noted that while resurrection is assumed in every verse of the New Testament, the earliest attempts to say what resurrection actually was did not occur until some twenty-four years after the crucifixion. That came …
I have been following your writings in many years, a regular soul-and-mental nourishment for me. Thank you so much.
The recent years have been a growing suffering for me in Hungary where a hypocritical and corrupt party seized the power with the help of nationalistic slogans. A source of my bitterness is also that many of my fellow citizens support the government because of its religious mask. In fact, the Catholic Church in Hungary entered into an obvious alliance with this ruling party.
So, my question is, what is your perception and/or opinion about the relation between power and religion? I know what is happening in Hungary is not the first time it has happened in history. Obviously you have, during your life, been confronted more than once with power-related reactions while representing your ideas about religion and faith.
My real question actually is, can you assume religion or a religious life without any aspect of power? One could think that faith can be free from the special interest and power-struggling of everyday life – in that it relates to God alone. On the other side, it seems “unnatural,” and in fact for me, impossible to live in two so sharply separated worlds, the spiritual and the secular.
Is there any way to integrate these two aspects? Do you know about any religion that has succeeded in that – or, at least, has become exemplary in the implementation of this integration? I would really appreciate it if you would have some time to answer my letter and I wish you all the best and thank you for your active participation in my life.
30 April 2015: Resurrection – Myth or Reality, Part II: The Witness of Paul
The first writer of what later came to be called the New Testament was a well-educated Jew from Tarsus in Asia Minor. His name was Paul, although there is a later tradition that suggested that his original name was Saul and that the change from Saul to Paul was symbolic of the change in his …
My name is Donald Manyimo from Zimbabwe, Africa, and I was truly inspired by your messages I received from your talks and books. I am an aspiring author and I released my first book last week and I want to thank you because you showed me a way to see Christianity in a new light because I was giving up on it as I was discovering many disturbing things about the religion I so love. Thank you very much.
23 April 2015: “Resurrection” A Reality or a Pious Dream? Part I
On Easter Sunday, a couple of weeks ago now, I was in my parish church, St. Peter’s in Morristown, New Jersey. I was not alone. Into that church, at one of its four Easter services, came about 300 % more people than we normally would have on a regular Sunday morning. I have no reason …
For many years, I have been in the process of trying to preserve my Christian heritage on the one hand and on the other conflicted by the many absurdities of Christian mythology. As a stubborn seeker, scientist and psychiatrist, it has been my joy to find my beliefs summarized in your life's work, which I am thoroughly reviewing and studying.
You have given me new hope and it is my mission to use science to provide a grounded base for hope. I find in you a kindred soul which is helping me write the song I will leave behind for my loved ones still in the delusional denial of life's existential anxieties by holding onto myths that they truly don't believe.
I wish you Pacce e Benne, peace and goodness, the ancient traditional Franciscan blessing and I look forward to further discourses with you and meeting you personally.
16 April 2015: Prejudice: An American Reality and an American Tragedy
It is time that we as a nation stop pretending and face the facts as they are. The evidence is overwhelming. Despite concentrated efforts to perfume intolerance under code words like “states’ rights,” “voter fraud,” “conservative values” and even “religious freedom,” this country is still caught in a web of ancient prejudices. In our public …
The drama of the cross races towards its conclusion. It is a story that runs counter to the cultural expectations. Shaped by the “Servant” figure, drawn from II Isaiah, the image of messiah portrayed in the story of the cross is not that of a powerful winner and a victorious leader, but of one whose …
You frequently mention that the Bible was originally written in Greek and is called the Septuagint. I'm not competent to read anything in Greek and wonder if there is an "un-Bowdlerized" translation into English of the Septuagint's language. I'd like to read it as it existed before all the secretaries and clerks, etc. from King James' enormous, and obviously politically-motivated, "Committee" got their hands on it and decided of what the Canon would consist and also before the Roman Catholic Church's "Censors" made their mark on it. So far, my favorite version of the Bible that I've read is the Jerusalem Bible. I'd appreciate your comments and recommendations.
Once we begin to see the Passion narrative not as history, but as liturgy that was created to interpret the meaning of Jesus, the literal imprisonment that has been imposed on this story begins to break apart. When that happens the account of the cross reads very differently. Those who know no other way to …
I very much appreciate your lectures, books and weekly newsletter. You have greatly helped me to understand and appreciate the scriptures. This being said, I am troubled by the influence of Paul on our understanding of Christianity. Paul, as we know, never met Jesus. His understanding came to him by way of visions after the death of Christ. Many of his teachings seem to stand in direct contrast to what we attribute to the historical Jesus and his original disciples. Much of what Paul allegedly preached then became canonical Christianity. Many examples come to mind. His condemnation of Judaism heightened anti-Semitic prejudices. His teachings regarding women perpetuated their marginalization. His literal understanding of the blood and body, being that of Christ, during the Eucharist is still believed today. Finally, his focus on heaven, atonement and salvation totally diverted us from working to bring God's kingdom to earth as instructed by Jesus. I would appreciate your comments.
26 March 2015: Part XLV Matthew – Judas Iscariot Person or Myth? Part II
There are at least three traitor stories in the Hebrew Scriptures. They were all well known to Jewish readers of those scriptures. They would not, however, have been familiar to those Gentile Christians, who became the majority in the Christian movement by the year 150 CE. Most Christians, through the centuries, therefore, tended to be …
Years ago your book, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, changed the way I think about this man we call our Savior and Lord. I'm a 90 year old homemaker and I can no longer bear to watch the evening news. We are all children of God. Why isn't this present generation being told the gospel truth?
I listened to the Nicene Creed being broadcast in our Lutheran worship service last Sunday-centered on "People of the Second Century" and thought about how the world has changed since that creed was written! How can anyone say "we believe" when we don't even know our own beliefs? I couldn't help but wonder what you'd think of my own version of the Nicene Creed. It might go like this:
I believe in one almighty God, maker of heaven and earth and all that is seen and unseen.
I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who, for our salvation, was born of Mary and Joseph and was truly man, was crucified, died and rose to life and will come again and his kingdom shall have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son and who has spoken through God's person on earth since time began.
I believe in the international Israel of God and look for the resurrection of the living dead and an everlasting life to come. Amen.
As I wrote to you with regard to your essay “Two Popes Made Saints,” dare we hope that by placing Pope John XXIII together with Pope John Paul II in sainthood we can now bring unity to the Catholic world? Don’t you think a revision of the Nicene Creed might help? All people are colored - only the dead are white.
19 March 2015: Part XLIV Matthew: Judas Iscariot – Myth or Reality? Part I
Among the best known characters in the New Testament is the one who is sometimes called “The Anti-Christ.” He is always painted in dark colors, as slinking around corners, shielding his face. It is said of him that “he would do anything for money.” In biblical dramas from Hollywood’s “The King of Kings” to Broadway’s …
Can you explain to me how the Bible (God) sees Suicide? What is your point of view on suicide? I am 20 years old. I am an existential, anxious person who is standing at the gate of Suicide. I experience anxiety, stress, and depression in many ways in my life (especially in regard to my family). There is no love or peace in my family. I try to live according to the heart and will of God revealed by Jesus Christ (love, care, forgiveness, justice etc.) but nothing ever gets better. There is still a problem in my family and in my life. Now, I think about suicide. I so often think that if I die, my family would be in a better situation. Can you help me?
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