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29 April 2010: The Origins of the New Testament, Part XXI: Introducing the Gospel of Matthew

The second gospel to be written is called Matthew. It made its debut into the world a decade or so after Mark, which would date it in the 82-85 CE range. Matthew’s gospel was heavily dependent on Mark; indeed he incorporated about 90% of Mark into his text with many of these quotations being verbatim. …

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Q & A:

Max Rippetoe from Dallas, Texas, writes:

I have a question about the timing of the writing of the epistles and gospels, most of them being done between 50-100 CE. The Temple was destroyed in 70, but this major event doesn't seem to appear in the writings. As important as this event must have been, why is it not mentioned?

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22 April 2010: Rabbi Jack Daniel Spiro

Earlier this spring I returned to Richmond, Virginia, the place where I had served as rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, located in the heart of that city, until I was elected bishop in Newark in 1976. There is something deep within me that has, and probably always will, bind me to that church and …

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Q & A:

Sally and Jon from The Washington Post, write:

 

Is the news media being fair to the pope? Is the media biased against the Catholic Church or its hierarchy? How would you advise the pope?

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15 April 2010: The Origins of the New Testament, Part XX: Seeing the Crucifixion as Related Liturgically to the Passover

The first narrative of Jesus’ crucifixion to be written achieved its shape and form in Mark’s gospel, specifically in 14:17-15:47. Prior to this, all the Christians had in writing was one line from Paul: “Jesus died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.” Not a single narrative detail was given by Paul. Perhaps there …

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Q & A:

Runningwolf213, via the Internet, writes:

It seems to me that the gospels get more "incredible" as they progress because the powers-that-be realized they had to make the story more exotic in order to gain more power and "convince" more people to accept Jesus and therefore, them, as the sole arbiter of their souls which turned them into their sycophants. Of course, the powers were the most educated people and the masses weren't, so they were more vulnerable to superstition. It's amazing that this has carried on into the 21st century, but what is even more amazing is how much of the rest of the world is beginning to respect these beliefs. Americans are tending to believe in it more.

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8 April 2010: The Origins of the New Testament, Part XIX: How the Synagogue Shaped the Gospel of Mark

Has it ever occurred to you that Mark, the first gospel to be written, was in fact a Jewish book created in the synagogue and organized according to the liturgical pattern of synagogue worship? Such an idea sounds very strange to modern Christian people for it carries our imaginations far beyond the boundaries inside which …

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Q & A:

Richard from Albuquerque, New Mexico, writes:

I read with great enthusiasm, Eternal Life: A New Vision. It moved me deeply and I found that our lives have some similarities. My mother passed on when I was nine and my father when I was thirteen. I sang in a church choir for over five years and I became a confirmed Episcopalian. I wasn't much into sports. I attended church regularly and found security and warmth in the sermons and the hymns that came my way. However, as I grew, I became, as you so well state, a member of the Church Alumni Association. I have read the Bible in its entirety as well as anyone without training can. I came away disheartened and confused. Our paths then went different ways. You pursued a good education while I took mundane, repetitive jobs that consisted of doing mostly what one was told and little thinking. It was through your lectures and later book on The Sins of the Scripture that I began to think and reason. I am now a very avid reader on things about Science, Religion, History and Human Secularism. Currently, I am into Alex Fillipenko's outstanding course on "Understanding the Universe." Why I waited until I had one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel to start learning, I will never know. Some say it's better late than never. I strongly believe in evolution and I do have that wonderful feeling of being one with the universe. I do hope you have more books forthcoming. Perhaps with the help of your wife and others you might attempt some children's books. They are much more impressionable at their young ages. Thank you for your honest, open thought and keep your weekly newsletters coming.

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1 April 2010: The Origins of the New Testament, Part XVIII: Mark, The First Gospel

The original gospel, the one we know as Mark, was written, I believe, after the fall of Jerusalem and its subsequent destruction by the Roman army under the command of a general named Titus, in 70 CE. It was the climax of a war that began in Galilee in 66 and would finally culminate in …

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Q & A:

John from Llansadwm, Wales, UK, writes:

There is a great deal in the liturgy that cannot be taken literally. How can someone recite the words with a good conscience?

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25 March 2010: The Origins of the New Testament, Part XVII: The Birth of Mark, the First Gospel

It is difficult to study the gospels accurately unless we step outside the Christian Church as we traditionally experience it today. That may sound like a strange statement, but increasingly I believe it is true. The gospels have been read in liturgical worship for two thousand years. They have provided the texts upon which sermons …

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Q & A:

Ann Holtz from Knoxville, Tennessee, writes:

How does Panentheism differ from your vision of God beyond theism?

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18 March 2010: R.I.P. Michael Douglas Goulder 1927-2010

I recently learned of the death of Michael Douglas Goulder, one of the world’s most provocative biblical scholars. He was, however, even more than that to me. The three great spiritual and intellectual mentors in my life were John E. Hines, John A. T. Robinson and Michael Douglas Goulder. Michael was the last of this …

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Q & A:

Andrew Corish from New South Wales, Australia, writes:

I have read everything I have come across from you since the late 80's and am grateful for your insights. I remain a faithful member of the Uniting Church in Sydney. I was speaking with a friend the other day who has left the Uniting Church to join a church that specializes in communicating with dead people. I know his wife lost a son (from a previous marriage) to a drug overdose and it seems to give her comfort. But really so sad. Others seem to base their faith on convincing themselves that they are speaking a special language. I remember a visiting evangelist when I was living in Finland saying that his "tongue" had been translated as being an Ethiopian priestly dialect. Strange that God would choose that rather than, say, French — or, if God really wanted a challenge, Finnish. Am I being too cynical? I have not read anything I can recall by you about such "holy gifts" as communing with the dead and speaking in tongues. Do you have a comment?

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11 March 2010: Common Dreams II, Melbourne, Australia, 2010

Australia is a unique and wondrous country to which I have had the privilege of traveling on nine different occasions and in which I have lectured extensively. It is an overwhelmingly secular country in which religious fundamentalism is vigorous and well endowed, but culturally has a minuscule presence. Its three major Christian bodies are the …

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Q & A:

Dr. Larry L. Ligo, Professor of Art History at Davidson College, writes:

Thank you so much for your clear, informative, exciting, liberating insights into the meaning of Christ for Christians living in the twenty-first century. I first heard of you and your ministry in a Charlotte Observer article when you were lecturing in Charlotte last fall. I missed your presentation but was intrigued by the article and have since read five or six of your books. Thank you.

I also wish to express my condolences to you concerning the recent death of your friend Michael Goulder. I have gained much from your treatment of his work in Liberating the Gospels. I have been trying to find copies of his out-of-print books but have not, as yet, been successful.

Will you be speaking in the North Carolina area in the near future? Do you have a schedule of your upcoming speaking engagements?

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4 March 2010: Theologian in Residence, Coral Gables

It was — for me, at least — a new idea. In the last ten years I have been a wandering teacher, giving over 2000 public lectures in hundreds of venues. The format in which I worked was normally three days at the most and one day at the least. The three-day event would normally …

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Q & A:

John Gamlin from Old Hall, East Bergholt, Colchester, UK, writes:

If we are now beyond theism then I suggest we are also beyond the word "God" — beyond it because:

  1. of the baggage it carries.

  2. to continue to use it is to be constantly misunderstood.

  3. we will continue to drift back into the old language and old images.

So what new name?

  • Life?

  • Energy?

  • Love?

None will do, but we need to look somewhere for a new way to describe the bearer of eternity.

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25 February 2010: The Origins of the New Testament, Part XVI: The Elder Paul — Philemon and Philippians

The process of aging works wonders on the human spirit. Battles once so emotional that they seemed to pit life against death lose their rancor in time, and the differences that once divided people so deeply lose their potency. Age brings both mellowing and perspective. That was surely true of Paul. In this series I …

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Q & A:

Hilda Flint from the U.K. writes:

Would not the apparently regular meetings of the followers of the Way have held the major part of the oral tradition? It seems from the first chapters of Acts that they were certainly not in the synagogue (e.g. Acts 5:13), even if the gospel writers were anxious enough to keep the Jewish tradition firmly under girding the Jesus stories.

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