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3 June 2010: The Origins of the New Testament, Part XXV: Concluding Luke and the Synoptic Gospels

In this final segment on the third gospel we call Luke, I want to summarize and to establish firmly in the minds of my readers the major thesis that I have sought to develop in my comments on the synoptic gospels: Mark, Matthew and Luke. My thesis is that each of these gospels is organized …

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Q & A:

I am interested in your theology of love when speaking about God loving creation, humans loving God, and even loving the neighbor. Understanding that love transcends human emotion, how does love manifest in these areas? If God, as you say, is not a being, how does God love the world, the universe? If God is not an entity, what does it mean to love God? Doesn't one need an object to express love? And if one doesn't know or is interested in the neighbor, whoever that might be, how does one love the neighbor? We religious people throw words around so carelessly, therefore I would appreciate your being as specific as possible.

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27 May 2010: The Origins of the New Testament, Part XXIV: Introducing Luke

By the time the third gospel, the one we call Luke, was written, history had moved to the last years of the 9th decade at the earliest and quite possibly to the early years of the 10th decade. The Christian movement had journeyed beyond its earlier traumas and tensions and was now concerned about making …

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Q & A:

Lilly, via the Internet, writes:

I have a friend who belongs to the Jehovah's Witness Church. In a conversation about Jesus, I told her that nobody knows exactly the day and the year he was born. Then she asked why is our calendar based on his birth if we don't now exactly the year? I have to admit I did not know when and how the decision was made to count the years the way we do. Could you explain? Thank you.

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20 May 2010: Lauren Elizabeth Failla 1985-2010

When I got the telephone call, it was like absorbing a blow to the chest that left my heart pounding and my body breathless, “Can you come right away. Lauren has been killed.” The voice had an urgency that did not allow for further questions. Christine and I went at once. Lauren was Lauren Elizabeth …

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Q & A:

Anne Fox, via the Internet, writes:

I have recently read a lot of your work in my search for a Christianity that makes sense and doesn't involve blind faith ignoring the contradictions of the Bible. Although your books have helped me to finally have the courage to walk away from many of the "traditional" beliefs, without fearing retribution, I find myself searching for the meaning of our existence. I used to find comfort in believing that innocent people who had miserable lives would no longer suffer after death and go on to a new "chapter" in their spiritual existence in some form of life after death which was a positive experience, wherever and whatever that many be. Now I found myself struggling to find meaning in life when so many people suffer. I really want to believe there is something more to us that just the physical cells. What do you think happens to us when our bodies die?

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13 May 2010: Origins of the New Testament, Part XXIII: Matthew and the Liturgical Year of the Synagogue

In one of my earlier columns on the gospel of Mark, I sought to demonstrate that it was the liturgical life of the synagogue that formed the organizing principle in the first gospel to be written. What Mark had done was to provide Jesus stories appropriate to the synagogue celebrations from Rosh Hashanah (the John …

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Q & A:

Taylor Chambers, via the Internet, writes:

I believe there is a human need to worship. Christians believe in the divinity of Christ and can, therefore, worship him. But, if Christ is not divine, was not physically incarnated, did not perform the miracles attributed to him, then what or whom do we worship? Since to Christians, the relationship of Christ to God is so close (the Trinity), does not denying Christ's divinity also deny the reality of God? Personally, I can still enjoy a choral communion in the Episcopal Church, but I am connecting with and worshiping a force and reality that I do not truly understand and upon which I cannot place a name. Does your approach to Christianity supply that name?

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6 May 2010: The Origins of New Testament, Part XXII: The Figure of Moses as the Interpretive Secret in Matthew

Matthew’s gospel has always fascinated me more than the others. It is not the most profound of the gospels, but it does open interpretive eyes for me more widely than the others. The doorway into this perception is found in the process of being able to ask the right questions. Matthew is the “Jewish Gospel,” …

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Q & A:

Muzi Cindi, of the Republic of South Africa, writes:

I got to read your material after a spiritual experience I had in August 2007. A friend gave me your book Jesus for the Non-Religious. I've since read most of your books and read your weekly articles. I thank God for the impact you have had on my life. I was on the verge of abandoning the Christian faith completely when I came across your material. I have since read Lloyd Geering, Don Cupitt and others. I look forward with great anticipation to reading your new book. I would like to share my personal theology with you and hear your response. I believe we are living in heaven today; this is the heaven that 1st century Christians spoke about. If the Apostle Paul would wake up, he would definitely say we are in heaven. The heaven we speak about will be inhabited by future generations. Again, thanks for being all you were created to be in order for us to be all that we were created to be.

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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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