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20 February 2014: Part XIV Matthew – The Sermon on the Mount: Sinai Revisited

Matthew is portraying Jesus as the New Moses who went to the top of a new mountain to deliver a new interpretation of the Torah. He is not a reporter for a local newspaper covering an event that actually happened. Matthew is quite specific in his gospel that Jesus is not delivering a new Torah! …

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20 February 2014: Part XIV Matthew – The Sermon on the Mount: Sinai Revisited

Matthew is portraying Jesus as the New Moses who went to the top of a new mountain to deliver a new interpretation of the Torah. He is not a reporter for a local newspaper covering an event that actually happened. Matthew is quite specific in his gospel that Jesus is not delivering a new Torah! …

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Q & A:

Please excuse my English. It is Google’s machine translation. I just wanted to thank you for your book A New Christianity for a New World. It seemed great and I fully agree with you on everything. To know that one is not alone in the way of understanding the change that must occur in Christianity is very rewarding. To those I can I am talking about your book and believe me its message is spreading, as also your articles translated into Spanish. It would be interesting and almost necessary that your website becomes available for translation into Spanish. Is there a possibility of that?

 

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13 February 2014: A Life Fulfilled – EMB

It was a very unusual memorial service. It was not held in a church, a synagogue or a temple, but in the Avery Fisher Hall of the Lincoln Center in New York City. That vast and beautiful symphony space will seat 2783 people and except for the boxes in the top tier, it was filled. …

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Q & A:

God is defined as an Almighty being. An Almighty being does not require atonement (for “sins”). Therefore if God requires atonement as the Bible says, he is imperfect and not Almighty. Does this make sense? In other words, philosophically, the need for atonement indicates a lack of something, which detracts from the perfection which God should have. I would appreciate your thoughts.

 

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6 February 2014: Part XIII Matthew: “A Prophet like unto Moses” – Introducing the Sermon on the Mount

It should not be surprising that a Jewish scribe in the first century, which is what the author of the gospel we call Matthew was, would make constant references to Moses, the founder of the Jewish faith tradition. Moses dominated official Judaism and was in every way its creator and guide. The Torah by which …

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Q & A:

I have often wondered why Jesus was supposed to have never married. A celibate tradition was nowhere to be found in the Hebrew religion except with the Essenes. As I understand the Jewish laws and duties in the first century, a father’s responsibility was to secure a wife for his teenage son. Yet Joseph did not (apparently). Why didn’t he? There could be several answers. The most obvious is that there was no father around at the proper time. If this was the case, why did Jesus not find a wife for himself or at the very least ask his mother find one? We must remember that this period is over ten years before his ministry. The other possibilities were that he was not inclined to marry, or he was gay and left the family so as not to be pressured. Another was that he was known in his neighborhood as illegitimate, that is, a bastard, and no decent woman would have him. In which case if he had wanted to marry, he could have gone somewhere where he was not known to find a wife. The logic of this exercise is that Jesus did not want a woman in his life and preferred the company of men; this is until he met Mary of Magdala whom he clearly liked or loved.

 

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30 January 2014: Part XII Matthew: Matthew Introduces John the Baptist-The New Elijah

Matthew has thus far mined the Hebrew Scriptures for texts that will advance his thesis that Jesus has fulfilled the Jewish messianic expectations. In the opening genealogy, he has made Jesus “the son of Abraham,” the son and heir of King David and portrayed him as one who with his people survived the Babylonian exile. …

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Q & A:

Portland, Victoria, Australia, a small tourist town 400 kilometers west of Melbourne, has a branch of every denomination of tribal religion and one can imagine, one by one, they get to broadcast a Sunday sermon on the Sunday morning religious program which is encased in a jukebox of favorite hymns. Despite our multi-cultural country, a December sermon equated the Chaldeans to the Muslim community and stated they were all destined for hell. Babylon was described as still existing in southern Iraq and getting ready to overrun the earth. My knowledge of Habakkuk is restricted to the Chorus that comes from chapter 3, verse 17. I have not seen any comments from you about the Minor Prophets, in particular Habakkuk but I would like you to - if you run out of questions, all of which I enjoy reading. I am looking forward to a hymnal that uses the favorite tunes with some progressive lyrics. Good health and congratulations on the way your contributions are being elaborated on while you are still with us.

 

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23 January 2014: The Wedding of Charles and Robert

It was January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, sometimes called “Old Christmas” in some parts of the Eastern Orthodox tradition. The church was still decorated with its hanging greens and beautiful poinsettias. After all this was the twelfth day of Christmas. About thirty people gathered with me on that day to attend a wedding …

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Q & A:

I was wondering how you would respond to the work done by N. T. Wright on the resurrection; from what I have read, you have argued that there is no notion of a bodily resurrection in the earliest traditions of the church (the Gospel of Mark and Pauline work), but this belief gradually emerged and is reflected in later traditions (e.g. the Johannine corpus). From what Wright says, the belief in a physical resurrection was not alien to the belief system of the second Temple period and so could plausibly stem from the earliest traditions. So I am just wondering what your counter argument is to Wright.

 

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16 January 2014: Part XI Matthew: Proof Texting the Birth Narratives

Matthew never allows us to forget that he is a learned scribe in charge of a synagogue made up of Jewish people who are the followers of Jesus. He is writing at a time in history when a battle is being waged for the soul of Judaism. The issues were clear in his mind. Will …

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Q & A:

I stumbled upon your website via YouTube, where several of your lectures and interviews are shown. How I got there, who knows? let's call it providence. I'm part of the church alumni as you put it. But listening to your thoughts, I started to ask myself, if you take away the literal crucifixion, which I was taught as a little Catholic boy, and thereby take away what I always understood was the divinity of Christ, can you still say that Christianity is a religion or has it become a humanistic philosophy? Can it be both?

 

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9 January 2014: A Political Q and A

From time to time I receive a letter which requires an answer that is too long for the question and answer format of this column, so I have to use it as the column itself. Such is the case this week, so I will interrupt my Matthew series for a week to respond to this …

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Q & A:

I have always had trouble saying the Nicene Creed. It sticks in my throat. I know several others who have the same experience with it. When you were in Amarillo in June, you gave an explanation of it and how you relate to it. I believe others might find it helpful so would you mind repeating it?

 

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1 January 2014: The Passing of Greatness

On December 9, 2013, 65,000 people braved strong rains to gather in the Olympic Soccer Field in South Africa to pay tribute to a man named Nelson Mandela. They were joined by over one hundred heads of state from around the world, the largest number ever to attend a funeral service for a king, a …

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Q & A:

I was brought up Pentecostal. Of course, my church believes in "speaking in tongues." Of course, I hear that an interpreter must be present. Please tell me your thoughts on your "interpretation" of what the "holy spirit" means to you. My thoughts of the holy spirit means the spirit of humanity and anything that takes away that "holy" spirit of life, no matter what that life is to me is considered not "god-infused."

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25 December 2013: Part X Matthew: The Story of the Magi and Their Gifts

The wise men from Matthew’s birth story have been deeply attached to our Christmas celebration, stretching all the way back to the time that Matthew introduced them in the middle years of the ninth decade of the Common Era. They are instantly recognized mounted on their camels and appearing in our Christmas cards, our decorated store …

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Q & A:

I admitted the loss of my fundamentalist beliefs about a year ago. I was 26. I had no idea at the time that I was a fundamentalist. I thought fundamentalists picketed gay funerals, believed in a young, flat earth and “spoke in tongues.” I told myself that my beliefs (that Jesus somehow bodily became undead, that his body was not the product of natural biology, or that he rocketed into space after he was finished here) were somehow less silly. I hope they were less harmful to others.

Through my journey of doubt, I came upon some of your video lectures online. I also read several of your books and very much enjoyed them.

I am writing to you with two questions. First, although I was enraptured by your willingness to question what I thought were the basic tenets of Christianity, I was frustrated by your insistence on continuing to use the word “God.” I understand that your definition of God is very different from many people’s, but you have also expressed a certain eagerness to rid Christianity of meaningless clichés. Why is God not also a cliché?

Second, whatever disagreements we may have over the nature of God (and I suspect that even if they may be very great, you care very little), our plan of action is the same. Living fully, loving wastefully and being all that we can be seem to me to be a very, very good way to exist in the world today. I am at a loss, however, as to how to interact with others still caught in the trap that I have only just escaped from into exile. My parents and most of my friends still believe those things I cannot. Arguing with them seems an unloving, selfish and destructive thing, yet perhaps because I am young, I strain at the traces to do just that. It is deeply saddening to watch them waste their own lives in fear and confusion and to be separated from them by this divide. Is there no way to engage conservative fundamentalists in a non-destructive, life-giving manner?

 

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