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Showing posts with the label #Bible

“I don’t care what the bible says.”

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Lemme start by saying I do so care what the authors of the bible have written. Particularly about what Jesus teaches. But y’notice the title of this article is in quotes… because I’m referring to when other people don’t care about the bible. Because sometimes they don’t. Back when I was 7 or 8 years old or so, my Sunday school class was doing some activity, and one of the other kids was interacting badly. Picking fights or swearing or some other less-than-Christian behavior, and our Sunday school teacher decided to correct him by quoting bible at him. “You know, Joonas, you ought not do that, because the bible says…” “I don’t care what the bible says,” announced little Joonas. And the rest of us backed away before the lightning struck him down. Except it didn’t, because we follow Jesus, not Zeus. But the teacher was likewise taken aback: How, how could he not care what the bible says? Everybody cares. Or should. Now yeah, when you’re a kid, especially when you’re sh

The guy who tried to delete the Old Testament.

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I’ve touched upon Marcion briefly before. Thought I’d discuss him in more detail today. Marcion (Greek Μαρκίων / Markíon , though English-speakers keep pronouncing his name 'mɑr.ʃ(i.)ən ) was born round the year 85 in Sinope, Pontus, a city south of the Black Sea which is today’s Sinop, Turkey. Back then Pontus was a Roman province, and Marcion’s dad was the bishop of its Christian church. Marcion himself was a shipbuilder and sailor, and we don’t know much about his Christian life till he got into his fifties. At that point, in the late 130s, we hear of him trying to join the church of Rome, and offering them a big donation of 50,000 denarii. (Roughly $120,000 American.) And of course they take it; you can help a lot of needy people with that money! But within five years, they booted him from their church and gave him back his money, ’cause they concluded he was a dangerous heretic. He insisted Jesus only appeared to be human; he wasn’t really. Theologians call this doc

Which bible translation’s the best?

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HE. “So lemme ask: Which version of the bible do you use? Which one’s the best?” ME. “None of ’em. Learn Hebrew and Greek.” As soon as someone finds out I know the bible’s original languages, that’s nearly always the question they ask me. Sometimes because they earnestly wanna know, and figure I’m more an expert than they are. Sometimes because they already have a favorite, and want some affirmation. Sometimes because they already think their favorite is best, so they’re testing me. Well, this question has a long answer. It’s the rest of this article! But I found when you being with the long answer, their eyes roll back in their heads; they don’t wanna deal with the complexities of bible translations. They only wanted a quick ’n dirty answer. Tell ’em the best bible version, so they can go get that version and use it forevermore. Or judge you. Whatever. So I start with my joke answer: “None. Learn original languages.” Sometimes, but rarely, they realize I’m kidding. The

Do you know your bible quotes?

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Generally if you’re gonna call yourself biblically literate, you oughta at least know these quotes from the bible. Probably already do; you just didn’t realize they were from the bible. ALL HAVE SINNED AND FALL SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD. Or “come short” in the KJV . Comes from Romans 3.23 ; means nobody measures up to God’s standard of perfection, but God graciously forgives us and grants eternal life. Ro 6.23 ALL THINGS TO ALL PEOPLE. Or “all men” ( KJV ): Paul’s claim he adapted his circumstances so he can find common ground with everyone, and share Christ with them. 1Co 9.22 Y’know, “when in Rome.” Certain Christians are quick to point out Paul didn’t compromise his beliefs or behavior in so doing. ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD. In context, “to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.” Ro 8.28 Various Christians pull it out of context and claim everything always turns out for the best. I remind ’em to read Ecclesiastes sometime.

The bible, in chronological order. (More or less.)

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Some of TXAB ’s readers intend to read the bible in a month —or in four weeks, anyway—and have expressed curiosity about reading the bible in chronological order. It’s not enough that the creation of the cosmos comes first in Genesis , and the beginning of New Earth last in Revelation : They want everything sorted out by date. Okay, fine. But I will point out this order is debatable. ’Cause of course it is. Since when aren’t Christians gonna debate about who came first, Job or Abraham? (It’s Abraham. Job’s an Edomite; Edom/Esau is Abraham’s grandson.) Or which letter did Paul write first 1 Thessalonians or Galatians ? (My money’s on Galatians .) Other chronological-order lists are gonna have a slightly different order, although Genesis is usually first and Revelation last. Here, for your convenience, is the bible in chronological order. Not always the order it was written , but the order of the events which took place in the books. Print it out and check ’em off as you

Read the bible in a month. Yes, seriously. A month.

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January’s here; you made resolutions, and one of ’em was to read the bible. As you should! It’s gonna make you more familiar with God. Some people unrealistically expect a new, profound God-experience every day, as the Holy Spirit shows ’em stuff, but hopefully you’re more realistic about it. Hopefully you’re realistic about all your resolutions. Not everyone is. So we need to read through through the entire bible, Genesis to maps. (That’s an old Evangelical joke. ’Cause a lot of study bibles include maps in the back. Okay, it’s less amusing once I explain it.) So Christians get on some kind of bible-reading plan to make sure we methodically go through every book, chapter, and verse. ’Cause when we don’t, we wind up reading only the familiar bits, over and over and over again—and miss a lot of the parts we should read. The reason so many Christians misinterpret the New Testament is because they know so very little of its Old Testament context. Every time I quote just a

TXAB’s bible-reading plan.

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Whenever the new year approaches, Christians resolve to read the bible. The entire bible, not just the parts we like best: Genesis to maps, as the old joke goes. (See, when you buy a bible in print, most of them have maps of Israel and the Roman Empire in the back. Yes, explaining the joke makes it less funny. Yes, deliberately making the joke less funny is ironically funny. Yes, this is metahumor. I’ll stop now.) Christians tend to pick up a bible-reading plan of some sort, and most of the time it goes through the scriptures in a year. Which, I insist, is far too long. I prefer you do it in a month. Yes it’s totally possible; the bible’s a big fat inspired book anthology, but it doesn’t take an entire year to read. What book do you take an entire year to read?—unless you chop it into bite-size bits so small you’re spiritually starving. No wonder so many Christians lose track and lose interest. Now if a month seems too extreme for you (especially if you don’t read), y’

On trusting the bible—but first trusting God.

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Whenever Christian apologists write a book on their favorite subject, they either begin by explaining how they know God exists, or why the bible is absolutely trustworthy. It kinda depends on which of the two they consider the higher authority: God, because he inspired the bible; or bible, because it informs us about God. Custom dictates God should come first, so he does come first in most apologetics books. But not all of ’em, ’cause not every apologist hews to custom. And to be blunt, a number of apologists are total bibliolaters, so they insist it’s vital we establish the bible as an absolute before we can even quote it as an authority. Thing is, how do we prove the bible’s absolutely trustworthy? Well, here are the answers one apologist offers. Look how many ancient copies of the bible there are! Way more than other books, or contemporary books. That’s gotta mean something. Lookit all the statements the scriptures say about themselves, or other scriptures. Looki

Passover: When God saved the Hebrews.

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“Why don’t we celebrate Passover?” asked one of my students, when I once taught on the topic. “We do,” I said. “Christians call it Pascha or Pascua or Páques . But in languages with a lot of German words mixed in, we call it Easter. And obviously we do it way different than you see in the bible.” So different, English-speaking people routinely assume Easter and Passover are two entirely different holidays. I can’t argue with this assumption. Christians don’t bother to purge our homes of yeast or leavening. Don’t cook lamb—nor do we practice the modern Jewish custom of not having lamb, ’cause there’s no temple in Jerusalem to ritually sacrifice a lamb in. Don’t put out the seder plate. Don’t tell the Exodus story. Don’t have the kids ask the Four Questions. Don’t hide the afikomen and have the kids search for it—although both holidays have eggs, and we do have the kids look for eggs. Well, some Christians observe Passover as a separate holiday. Some of us even celebrat

The Judean senate.

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The Judean senate. Something Americans need to be reminded of, from time to time: Ancient Israel was never a democracy. Originally it was a patriarchy , run by the male heads of the Hebrew families: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and their descendants. That is, till the Egyptians took over and enslaved ’em. Then the L ORD rescued Israel’s descendants from Egypt. So Israel became a theocracy , where God and his commands ruled Israel… with Moses and the judges serving as the L ORD ’s deputies. Of course, since the judges weren’t proper kings, Israelis fell back on patriarchy, ruled as they pleased, didn’t obey God, and triggered the cycle time and again. Read Judges . It’s a mess. Then monarchy , the rule of kings. The people wanted the stability of human kings (such as it is), so the L ORD gave ’em kings. In theory these kings were to function the same as judges, with the L ORD really in charge. In practice they ruled as they pleased, same as the patriarchs. Then forei

Read the bible over Lent.

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So it’s Lent. And during this time, some of us Christians either do a little fasting or other forms of self-deprivation, and spend some time meditate about what Jesus suffered on our behalf; contemplate nothing, but fast anyway ’cause it’s tradition; or contemplate nothing, fast nothing, feel smug because our religious customs don’t obligate us to do a thing, and mock those who do. Hopefully you’ve chosen the first thing. And if you’re gonna meditate on something, why not read the bible? The whole bible? ’Cause you can. You can actually read it, in its entirety, within a month. So there’s certainly no reason it can’t be done with 10 extra days. You can easily take the time you’d ordinarily spend watching reality TV shows, and read the scriptures. And have time left over. Easy-peasy. Even if you don’t plan to give up anything for Lent, (’cause you’re American and self-deprivation isn’t your thing), you can still carve out a bit of time each day to read some bible, a

Bible “difficulties”: The passages which won’t do as we want.

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Whenever you hear Christians refer to “bible difficulties,” you’d think we meant scriptures which’re hard to translate, hard to interpret, hard to understand, or hard to follow. Often we do. Certainly I do. But why do Christians consider these scriptures difficult? Three reasons. We believe the bible contains no errors —but these passages appear to be in error, or appear to contradict other scriptures. Like Jesus’s two different genealogies. We have certain beliefs, doctrines, traditions, or assumptions—and these passages appear to violate them. Like Christians who don’t wash feet, Jn 13.14 or Christian men who don’t kiss one another hello. Ro 16.16 We don’t wanna say these passages don’t apply anymore… but honestly, we don’t wanna follow ’em either. These passages actually are obscure, and Christians throughout history (and Jews too) have found ’em hard to interpret. The most common reason would be the first one: Discrepancies. Scriptures which appear to contradict

Our error-free, perfect bible?

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INERRANCY ɪn'ɛr.ən.si noun. Belief the bible contains no errors of any kind. [Inerrantist ɪn'ɛr.ən.tɪst noun .] We Christians put a lot of trust in the scriptures. We trust their authors to steer us right when it comes to God, to Christ Jesus, to salvation, to eternal life. We use them as confirmation the stuff God tells us personally, the stuff he reveals to Christians as we follow him, is valid. We’re basing an awful lot of our beliefs on the bible. It had better be up to the task. I believe it is. As far as God and Jesus and salvation is concerned, the bible’s infallible : It’s an accurate, trustworthy, truthful description of the stuff we need to know to connect with God, and corrects us when we go astray. That’s why God inspired it, why Christians kept it, and why we read it. 2Ti 3.16 Inerrantists claim this isn’t good enough. They insist the bible has no errors. At all. Period. In order for the bible to be truly authoritative, inerrantists figure it

Prophets in the bible: Read their books!

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THE PROPHETS ðə 'prɑf.əts noun, plural. Biblical writings by and about God’s Spirit-inspired messengers. 2. [ In Christian bibles and book order ] Books in the Old Testament primarily consisting of prophecies. Usually Isaiah through Malachi . 3. [ In Jewish bibles and book order ] The second major grouping of the Hebrew scriptures: Books written between 1000 and 400 BC ; Joshua through Malachi . Sometimes I refer to “the Prophets,” and I admit this can be confusing to Christians who grew up Jewish. To Jews, “the Prophets” are the middle part of their bible— Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and the 12 minor prophets. But to Christians, “the Prophets” are the books with prophets’ names on them, specifically written by them, specifically full of their prophecies. Isaiah, Jeremiah (and Jeremiah’s book Lamentations ), Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi . Some