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It was a brutal murder of nine people in an AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The victims, including their pastor, who was also a member of the South Carolina State Senate, were gunned down by a racist killer who wrapped himself in the symbols and rhetoric of the Confederacy. This was not America’s first …
I have followed with great interest your series of articles on the Gospel according to Matthew, in which you set out your understanding and interpretation of the metaphors and biblical references within this gospel. I find your arguments entirely convincing.
As I understand what you are saying, your understanding is that this story was originally written to be read by people who were familiar with the Jewish Bible, and who could as a consequence understand Matthew’s references and his symbols. Our later “traditional” and “literalized” interpretations of the gospels have, in contrast, provided us with a very simple, story, but one that is no longer literally believable. Matthew’s narrative, however, sets out a clear objective within a simple story line. It was therefore, easy to respond to a non-believer’s question with a clear answer in a few brief sentences.
In contrast, the new way of reading the gospels appears to demand that the reader bring much thoughtfulness and insight to the task. There does not seem any longer to be an explanation which can be summed up with any brevity or which lends itself to such powerful images as the traditional story.
My question then is this: Is it still possible to tell this new story with the simplicity and boldness of the traditional gospel reading or should we approach this task differently and, if so, how might this be? Or am I missing some point?
“Ideas Have Consequences.” That was the title of a book that I was required to read early in my theological education. It was not a profound book, but its title was memorable. We speak today about how certain decisions often produce what we call “unintended consequences.” The world of politics is filled with illustrations of …
I wondered if you would be kind enough to comment on the related abuse both of women and of children. One person, defending this behavior, quoted the Bible in justification for his abusive action. In a very informed article in the New York Times, Dr. Dyson touched on the religious aspect of abuse. I would like to hear your response.
2 July 2015: An Open Letter to My Readers
This week, my column takes the form of a letter to my readers. It is an unusual format, but it speaks to the unusual occurrences in our nation this past week. I hope you will read it. I hope you will respond to it. JSS Dear Friends, I am just back from a lecture tour …
25 June 2015: Resurrection: A Reality or a Pious Dream, Part IX Luke: Physical, Non-Physical or Both?
Today, I want to focus on the ambiguity found in the conflicting aspects of Luke’s two resurrection stories in more detail and in more depth. It will help us to see why Luke had to develop a brand new dimension to his story of the resurrection. We noted last week that this author, more than …
I find a lot of difficulties in understanding the Bible. Abraham was, as you know, a Babylonian from Ur, what we would call a town, and was devolved by the Elohim Jehovah God to a tribal leader or a herder. Now, as you probably also know, this Elohim Jehovah God favored shepherds as we saw in the favoritism of Abel over Cain. Tribes could become racist and exclude all or, as we saw in the "Promised Land," where genocide was used to eliminate all but the “chosen people.” So the Elohim Jehovah God had a racist policy, which still exists today in the Apartheid policies of the Israeli Government.
Jesus on the other hand influenced Paul and others to adopt a non-racist policy and lived in Galilee where Jews and others who were racially "impure" lived.
The First World War was an example of different countries worshiping Jehovah and demanding them to kill their enemies. Woodrow Wilson used racist policies with his League of Nations to bring about the conflict. The Jehovah-inspired United Nations continues today.
This Jehovah, with his necessarily egoistic methods, demanded the worship of one God (as if there could be one God, there is one tree, one grain of sand, one human, one star?) and the necessity for racism - the Christ arrived - has passed.
18 June 2015: Resurrection: A Reality or a Pious Dream, Part VIII: Luke – Mystery Recedes – Literalism Grows
When we come to Luke, the third gospel writer and, counting Paul, the fourth biblical witness to the meaning of Easter, we discover a dramatic shift in the language of resurrection. That language is now much more literal and much more physical. Jesus has clearly been restored, not just to life, but to the physical …
11 June 2015: Resurrection: A Reality or A Pious Dream, Part VII: Matthew Interprets and Expands Mark
Matthew is the first gospel writer to narrate an appearance of the risen Christ to anyone. This aspect of the developing Christian story does not begin until the middle years of the ninth decade, which means that appearance stories connected with the risen Christ are written only some 55 years after the crucifixion. Is it …
Do you believe in the Prophesies of the Old Testament? Do you believe in prophecies in general? Do you believe in the Second Coming of Christ? Without prophecy, Jesus of Nazareth isn’t Christ but is a philosopher who believes in poverty, generosity, humility, forgiveness and nonviolence. He definitely isn’t the violent, racist and egocentric Jehovah. He definitely isn’t the leader or the instigator of the Apocalypse. Why is it so important to you to preserve the concept of “Christian” while the substance has evaporated from it?
4 June 2015: Resurrection: A Reality or A Pious Dream? Part VI: Matthew’s Story of the Galilean Appearances
Mark’s messenger of the resurrection, described in that gospel as “a young man in a white robe,” had promised a future appearance of the raised Christ to the disciples. It would not, however, occur in Judea or in the environs of Jerusalem. The messenger’s words were quite specific: “He is going before you to Galilee; …
28 May 2015: The Graduation Season 2015
It is the graduation season. On university and college campuses around the world people gather in a highly-ritualized pageant to mark a point of transition in many areas of human endeavor. Professors and administrators, bedecked in the colorful robes that mark their status and wearing academic hoods that reveal their own university’s colors, process in …
Recently, I have had contact with people who are worried about something called “Sheltie and the Cycle of 7,” from the book of Daniel. I have looked this up on the Internet, but find no credible source of information. Since I trust your scholarship and approach to scripture, could you help me understand this issue? I enjoy reading your work and find that it helps me with what I have felt for many years.
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?
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