Showing posts with label #ChristAlmighty. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #ChristAlmighty. Show all posts

The word became flesh.

by K.W. Leslie, 14 November 2023

John 1.14-18.

Historically we Christians have had the darnedest time translating and explaining this passage. While it’s written in really simple Greek, it’s deep. It’s profound. It tells us the word of the LORD, the Son of the Father, God of God, God from the Father’s womb (usually translated “bosom” like the KJV, because human fathers don’t have wombs, and any language which gives God feminine qualities tends to creep out certain preachers), the one-who-comes-after-me who’s really the one-who-came-before-me, grace and truth personified, the visible image of the invisible God Cl 1.15became flesh.

Flesh. Meat. Blood and bone and muscle and tissue and nerves and fluids. An animal. Yet God.

People still find this idea alarming. Even blasphemous. I keep coming across pagans who insist God cannot be mortal. God can’t bleed. God can’t die. God can’t suffer from the same limitations as humans; he’s gotta be mightier, if not almighty, or he’s not really God. Or no longer God; he got banished from heaven like Thor from Asgard in his first movie, and lost his powers till he gets ’em back with good karma. (Wait, didn’t Satan get banished from heaven? Meh; nevermind.)

It’s why heresies keep cropping up to claim Jesus isn’t really flesh. He only appeared to be human, but peel off his human mask (eww) and you’ll find a God under it. He only looked like meat and bone, but he’s really an immortal spirit. He only looked real and physical, but he’s really a mass hallucination which confused the whole world, or at least his parents, siblings, those 12 guys who kept following him around, the Romans who killed him, and the senators who put him in a tomb. He only looked like a man, but was a superman, demigod, alien, hybrid, or new superior species. You know, the usual new-agey bulls--t.

But nope, he’s human. Fully, permanently human. And God.

John 1.14-18 KWL
14 The word becomes flesh and encamps with us,
and we get a good look at his significance—
significance like we’d see in the only begotten son of a father,
full of grace and truth.
15 John witnesses about the word,
and has called out, saying,
“This is the one of whom I say,
The one coming after me has got in front of me,’
because he’s before me.”
16 For all of us receive things out of the word’s fullness.
Grace after grace:
17 The Law, which Moses gave;
grace and truth, which Christ Jesus comes to be.
18 Nobody’s ever seen God.
The only Son, God who’s in the Father’s womb
this one explains God.

Once we accept the light.

by K.W. Leslie, 13 November 2023

John 1.9-13.

The apostle John described Jesus as the light of life, and says in 1.9 that he’s coming into the world. Not everybody accepts him—even his own people, the Israelis, don’t—but in today’s passage he states those who do accept him, Israelis included, become God’s children.

John 1.9-13 KWL
9 The actual light, who lights up every person,
is coming into the world.
10 He’s in the world, and the world comes to be through him,
and the world doesn’t know him.
11 He comes to his own people,
and his own people don’t accept him.
12 Whichever of them do accept him,
he gives to them, to those who believe in his name,
the power to become God’s children.
13 These people aren’t children by blood,
nor by carnal desire, nor by a man’s desire,
but are begotten by God.

Which was a mind-blowing idea for Pharisees of the first century, who figured they already were God’s children. They figured God had made them his children by befriending Abraham, rescuing Israel from Egypt, giving them his Law, shepherding them through history… Israelis still think they’re God’s children just because they defied the odds and established the state of Israel 75 years ago.

But nope; John states it here pretty clearly. Everybody has the potential to become God’s children; Jews and gentiles alike. But only those who trust the light—trust Jesus, in case you forgot who this “light” metaphor represents—are granted the power to truly become God’s children.

Because we’re not automatically his children just because we’re human. That’s a common idea which plenty of pagans will insist upon: God’s the creator and we’re the creation, so God’s our father and we’re his daughters and sons. Automatically. We automatically have a relationship with him; we’ll automatically go to heaven because of it. Even if we spend our entire lives wanting nothing to do with him, refusing to believe in him, worshiping any and every other god there is, inventing our own gods for fun and profit, even deliberately defying him and being as evil as we can just to show off our autonomy. Pagans might make an exception for truly evil people… but then again they might not, because they believe so very strongly that God’ll save everybody, regardless.

Nope. God wants to save everybody, 1Ti 2.4 but like John the apostle said, it’s whichever of us who do accept the light—again Jesus.

And lemme reiterate: Light, in this passage, means Jesus. Yes, elsewhere in the bible light means other things. Like truth and wisdom. And yes, Jesus is truth, Jn 14.6 and Jesus is wisdom. 1Co 1.24 But don’t mix the metaphors. In accepting the light, we accept Jesus.

Yes, we oughta accept truth and wisdom too, ’cause there are way too many brain-dead Christians out there who believe all the dirty lies and stupid beliefs their favorite preachers and pundits tell them, and won’t even practice basic discernment because they think they’re saved by orthodoxy, not God’s grace. They think they’re saved by trusting all the proper beliefs about Jesus, instead of trusting Jesus. They think all that other stuff is the light because they’ve mixed their metaphors. And y’notice, in so doing, they stop trusting Jesus, and trust their own wisdom, and made-up “truths,” instead. You can tell by their fruits; they get bad because they lose sight of whom they’re meant to be following. That’d be Jesus.

Not for nothing does John point out Jesus’s own people didn’t accept him. Because they figured they had truth and wisdom already; because they figured they were God’s children already. Christians today tend to get the very same attitude. We think, like first-century Judeans, we have the light; we know so much, and we said the sinner’s prayer and were baptized, and we’ve memorized tons of bible verses and Christian pop songs, and “once saved always saved.” We trust all that crap—’cause without Jesus, it’s all crap. We leave the Sermon on the Mount undone, because we trust that crap instead of Jesus.

Pretty dark stuff.


by K.W. Leslie, 07 November 2023

John 1.4-9.

I brought up the apostle John’s use of “word” in John 1, and of course the other metaphor he uses a whole bunch in this passage is light.

John 1.4-9 KWL
4 What came to be through the word, is life.
Life’s the light of humanity.
5 Light shines in darkness,
and darkness can’t get hold of it.
6 A person came who’d been sent by God;
his name is John.
7 This person came as a witness,
so he might witness about the light,
so through him, everyone might believe.
8 This person isn’t the light,
but he came so he might witness about the light.
9 The actual light, who lights up every person,
is coming into the world.

The word of God—i.e. the second person of the trinity, whom we know as Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ—created life in verse 4, and John immediately started calling this life “light.” Then said Jesus is the actual light coming into the world in verse 9. As Jesus himself claimed later in this gospel, twice: “I’m the light of the world.” Jn 8.12, 9.5 He comes to give us life. Abundant life in this age; eternal life in the next.

Now lemme remind you the bible is not a series of codes for clever Christians to crack. “Light” is a metaphor for life in this passage. It doesn’t mean life in every passage. When other writers of the bible refer to light, they mean other things. Even when the apostle John refers to light in his first letter, and says God is light, 1Jn 1.5 he’s not using this metaphor anymore. He’s using a different one; in that passage light means truth. And yet various Christians will insist the “truth” of 1 John isn’t simply a metaphor; it’s a definition of the secret bible codeword φῶς/fos, “light”—and so is “life,” so let’s blend the two concepts together to create some freakish gnostic chimera and claim it’s bible knowledge. And turn the light into darkness.


by K.W. Leslie, 06 November 2023

John 1.1-5.

I’ve written previously about when God became human. Now let’s look at God before he became human. Beginning with the beginning of the Gospel of John.

John 1.1-5 KWL
1 In the beginning is the word.
The word’s with God,
and the word is God.
2 This word is in the beginning with God.
3 Everything comes to be through the word,
and not one thing, nothing, comes to be without him.
4 What came to be though the word, is life.
Life’s the light of humanity.
5 Light shines in darkness,
and darkness can’t get hold of it.

“The word” which the author of John wrote of, exists at the beginning of creation. Is with God. Is God. And is the means by which everything is created.

And round 7BC, this word became a human we know as Jesus of Nazareth. Christians recognize him as the Christ.

Why’d the author of John (and for convenience we’ll just assume he’s John bar Zebedee; he probably is) use “word” to describe the pre-incarnate Jesus? You realize this passage is the reason so many Christians are hugely fascinated by the word “word” (and its Greek equivalent λόγος/lóyos, which they mistransliterate logos and pronounce all sorts of ways; and sometimes its Aramaic equivalent ܡܐܡܪܐ/memrá), and have written endless things about the Word of God. Some of it is extremely profound and useful… and some of it is sour horsepiss. I grew up hearing a lot of both.

This John passage tends to get translated in past tense. The KJV famously renders it, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Which is fine; the beginning of time and creation of the cosmos did happen in our past. But most of this passage was written in the aorist tense, a verb tense which is neither past, present, nor future. It has no time connected to it. You have to figure its time from other verbs in the passage, or from context. Well, there is a verb in this passage with a time-based tense; the present-tense ἦν/in from καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος/ke Theós in o lóyos, “and the word is God.” He is God, present tense. God at creation, and never stopped being God.

Okay, now to the concept of λόγος/lóyos. It literally means “word.” Why’d John use it?

For centuries, Christians presumed lóyos comes from ancient Greek philosophy. Blame ancient gentile Christians. As non-Jews, they had no idea what Pharisees taught about the lóyos of God—or as the Aramaic-speaking Pharisees called it in Jesus’s day, the memrá of God. They usually figured whatever the Pharisees taught was wrong, hypocritical, and heresy, so they ignored it altogether.

Instead they interpreted bible through the lens of their own culture. Which was wrong then, and is wrong now. Yet Christians still do it. But that’s a whole other rant; let’s get back to criticizing ancient Christian gentiles.

Ancient Greek philosophers had written a whole bunch of navel-gazing gibberish about the word lóyos. ’Cause they were exploring the nature of truth: What is it, how do we find it, how do we prove it, how do we recognize logical fallacies, and what’s the deal with words which can mean more than one thing? For that matter, what’s a “word” anyway? Is it just a label for a thing, or is it a substantial thing on its own? Maybe that’s why God can create things by merely saying a word. Ge 1.3 And so on.

Follow the Greek philosophers’ intellectual rabbit trails, and you’ll go all sorts of weird, gnostic directions. Which is exactly what gentile Christians did.

Now let’s practice some actual logic. John wasn’t a gentile; he was a Galilean Jew who grew up attending, and getting the equivalent of a middle-school education in, Pharisee synagogues. So let’s look at that culture: What’d Pharisees teach about what a memrá is and means?

Turns out Pharisees had a lot of interesting ideas attached to it.

Jesus’s genealogy, in 𝘔𝘢𝘵𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘸.

by K.W. Leslie, 05 December 2022

Matthew 1.1-17.

Christ Jesus has two different genealogies. I dealt with it elsewhere, so if the contradiction (or “difficulty,” as Christians prefer to call biblical contradictions) makes you anxious, go read that piece. Today I just want to look at the genealogy in Matthew, ’cause the author of that gospel decided to begin with it, ’cause he considered it important. And away we go.

Matthew 1.1 KWL
The book of genesis of King Jesus, son of David, son of Abraham.

Other translations are gonna have “Christ Jesus” or “Messiah Jesus.” Mostly because they’re going for literalness; the Greek word is Χριστοῦ/Hristú, “Christ,” which itself is a translation of מָשׁיִחַ/Mašíakh, “Messiah.” But a literal translation isn’t always the best one.

Culturally, to first-century Israelis, Hristós doesn’t merely mean “an anointed guy.” It means king. It’s a title of the king of Israel—who was, if everything had gone as it shoulda, anointed by the LORD to rule his people, same as Samuel ben Elkanah had anointed Saul ben Kish and David ben Jesse. We Christians claim Jesus was anointed by God, same as those guys, to rule Israel. And the world. So Christ isn’t merely Jesus’s last name, nor does it signify he’s a religious guru. It means he’s our king. Our only king; human kings are usurpers and false Christs, and every last one of them has got to go. Even the nice ones. Especially the ones who claim they’ve come in Christ’s name.

Pharisees had readied first-century Israelis with tales of a Messiah who’d conquer the world. If the prophecies about him meant what the Pharisees claimed—and the Pharisees weren’t wrong, were they—this’d be the guy who finally threw out the hated Roman occupiers, established Israel’s independence, then went forth to conquer a ton of territory and establish a new Israeli Empire. One even better than the Roman Empire, ’cause now it wouldn’t be run by dirty gentiles. Now gentiles would be the second-class citizens in their new Empire. Semite supremacy!

Yeah, there was a lot of nationalism and racism wrapped up in Pharisee ideas about Messiah. Unfortunately that’s still true in popular interpretations about Jesus’s second coming. But I digress. Distorted perspectives aside, “King” is still the best interpretation of Hristú.

And though Jesus is a literal descendant of both David, the third king of Israel, and Abraham ben Terah, the ancestor of the Arabs, Edomites, and Israelis, the more important thing is Jesus is the fulfillment of their relationships with the LORD. Without Abraham’s faith in the LORD these people-groups wouldn’t even exist, much less be monotheists who pursued a living God instead of ridiculous pagan myths. Without David’s loyalty to God, the LORD wouldn’t have responded with any promise to make one of his descendants the greatest king ever. There’s a lot of theological baggage in Matthew’s simple verse.

There’s a fair amount of baggage in the rest of the genealogy too.

Warnings when persecution comes.

by K.W. Leslie, 18 September 2022

Mk 13.9, Mt 24.9-13, Lk 21.12-19.

In his Olivet Discourse, Jesus warned his students what’d happen before, as he predicted, the Romans destroyed the temple in the great tribulation in the year 70.

But fearful Christians insist this passage isn’t at all about ancient Jerusalem, but our future: A seven-year worldwide tribulation. Darbyists manipulate the Olivet Discourse to defend their beliefs, and people believe ’em because they don’t know first-century history, don’t know their bibles, and aren’t depending on the Holy Spirit to help them defeat fear, paranoia, peacelessness, and the lack of basic discernment in interpreting scripture.

Today’s passage especially triggers their fears, because here Jesus speaks of the active persecution of Christians. Which, when Jesus taught this discourse in 33, was coming soon. Really, really soon. Probably before the year was out, Peter and John would cure some guy on the temple steps, Ac 3.1-10 and the Sadducee head priests would arrest and try ’em before the Judean senate for it. Ac 4.1-22 Things would only escalate from there.

Because when you legitimately follow Jesus—even in a country which considers itself predominantly Christian, even in a country full of Christian nationalists who want to make it officially Christian—you’re gonna get pushback. Just as Jesus himself did, from Pharisees who thought he was heretic. Who’d have him killed five days later.

It’s only common sense to expect Jesus’s active followers to be treated like our Lord, so that part doesn’t take the Holy Spirit to foretell. What does are the details Jesus included in his warnings about persecution. Christianity was gonna advance despite persecution. It always has, despite the careful plans of persecutors.

Mark 13.9 KWL
9 “Look out for yourselves.
People will hand you over to senates
and you’ll be flogged in synagogues.
You’ll stand before leaders and kings because of me,
to testify of me to them.”
Matthew 24.9-13 KWL
9 “Then they’ll hand you over to tribulation and kill you.
You’ll be hated people to every ethnic group because of my name.
10 Then many will be tripped up,
will betray one another, will hate one another.
11 Many fake prophets will be raised up,
and will lead many astray.
12 Because of the exponential spread of lawlessness,
the love of many will grow cold.
13 One who perseveres to the end—
this person will be saved.”
Luke 21.12-19 KWL
12 “Before all these things happen,
they’ll throw their hands on you;
they’ll hunt you down,
handing you over to synagogues and prisons,
dragging you away to kings and leaders because of my name.
13 It’ll turn you into witnesses,
14 so determine in your hearts to not prepare a defense:
15 I’ll give you a mouth and wisdom
which every one of your adversaries
will be unable to withstand or dispute.
16 You’ll also be betrayed by parents, siblings,
relatives and friends,
and they’ll put some of you to death.
17 You’ll be hated by everyone because of my name.
18 But if every hair on your head isn’t destroyed,
19 save your souls by your endurance!”

Nation will rise up against nation.

by K.W. Leslie, 28 August 2022

Mk 13.8, Mt 24.7-8, Lk 21.10-11.

You notice the title of this piece is “Nation will rise up against nation,” yet when I translate the gospel passages which usually get interpreted that way, you’ll notice I render ἔθνος/éthnos as “ethnic group.” Because that’s what an éthnos is.

Mark 13.8 KWL
“For ethnic group will be pitted against ethnic group,
and kingdom against kingdom.
Quakes will happen various places.
Scarcity will happen.
These are first birth pangs.”
Matthew 24.7-8 KWL
7 “For ethnic group will be pitted against ethnic group,
and kingdom against kingdom.
Quakes and scarcity will happen various places.
8 All these are first birth pangs.”
Luke 21.10-11 KWL
10 Then Jesus told them,
“Ethnic group will be pitted against ethnic group,
and kingdom against kingdom.
11 Both great quakes and scarcity in various places,
and plagues will happen.
Both terrifying events
and signs from heaven will happen.”

Éthnos tends to be translated “nation” because for the longest time, people presumed a nation was a country consisting of a homogenous people-group. Ancient Israel consisted only of the descendants of Israel ben Isaac, and ancient Edom of the descendants of Esau ben Isaac, and Moab of the descendants of Moab ben Lot, and so forth. They all had the same ethnic background and race.

Racists especially liked this theory. Even though it’s not wholly true. The LORD let people immigrate, y’know, and become Israeli. Like Ruth the Moabite, or Uriah the Hittite. Like Moses’s Cushite wife. Nu 12.1 (This isn’t the same woman as Zipporah the Midianite, Ex 2.21 even though many Jews insist she is; this is someone from Cush, which is south of Egypt.) Like any of the various Hebrews and Canaanites with whom Israelis intermarried till Ezra ben Seraiah cracked down on the practice in the fifth century BC. Every culture has had intermarriage with neighboring countries and foreigners—and sometimes it was a scandal, and sometimes not. Pretending it never happened, of course implies it’s scandalous.

But racists still think of nation as meaning the very same thing as ethnic group. So whenever they talk about “this nation,” their nation, that’s what they believe it oughta be: A country which only consists of people like them. They wanna purge the country of other races—or at least make ’em second-class citizens. It’s not natural, they insist, for a country to be made up of, or led by, multiple races.

“Watch out. Don’t be misled.”

by K.W. Leslie, 14 August 2022

Mk 13.3-6, Mt 24.3-5, Lk 21.7-8.

Nope, not talking about Christian nationalism today. Although good gracious, it surely feels like American Christianity has been utterly misled by power-hungry Sadducees who don’t know the Holy Spirit, and don’t know how to do anything with bible other than misquote and mangle it. But I suspect it mostly feels this way because of the company I keep.

Anyway, enough ranting about that. Today’s passage isn’t about our present-day drama anyway. The Olivet Discourse is almost entirely about the first century, and very little touches upon the second coming. Primarily it’s about what that generation of Christians would experience within four decades of Jesus saying this.

It began during Holy Week in the year 33, when Jesus was in temple and people commented on how nicely the fourth temple’s construction was coming along. Jesus’s reply was there “won’t be stone upon stone which won’t be pulled down.” Lk 21.6 KWL

Which stunned Jesus’s hearers. This isn’t at all part of the popular first-century Pharisee teachings about the End Times. In most of the rabbis’ timelines, Messiah came to Jerusalem, worshiped God at temple, then turn round and conquer the world. (Most Darbyists have pretty much duplicated the general Pharisee scenario—but swapped out Messiah for the Beast, who they claim will pettily desecrate a still-has-yet-to-be-built sixth temple instead of worshiping there. Where’s this warped idea come from? Well, we’ll get to that.)

Okay. So pulling the temple down is a big, big deal. It’s as if someone blew up the world trade center of a Mammonist country. You wanna cut the heart out of every devout Judean, no matter their denomination? This’d be how.

Understandably Jesus’s students wanted to know where on earth this falls within the End Times timeline. ’Cause they unthinkingly expected things to play out the way Pharisees taught. Since Messiah himself says it’s not gonna be the way, okay; how does it work? Luke makes it sound like they questioned Jesus right there, but Mark and Matthew say it was on Olivet Hill east of the temple. Mark also says only four of ’em asked, while the other eight were… I dunno, off playing soccer or something.

Mark 13.3-6 KWL
3 While sitting himself at Olivet Hill opposite the temple,
Simon Peter, James, John, and Andrew
are asking Jesus privately,
4 “Tell us when these things will be.
What’s the sign when all these things should end?”
5 Jesus begins to tell them,
“Watch out lest someone mislead you all:
6 Many will come in my name saying, ‘I’m Messiah,’
and will mislead many.”
Matthew 24.3-5 KWL
3 While sitting himself upon Olivet Hill,
the students came to Jesus on their own,
saying, “Tell us when these things will be.
What’s the sign of your second coming,
and the end of this age?
4 In reply, Jesus tells them,
“Watch out lest someone mislead you all:
5 Many will come in my name saying, ‘I’m Messiah,’
and will mislead many.”
Luke 21.7-8 KWL
7 They inquired of Jesus, saying, “Teacher,
so when will these things be?
What’s the sign when all these things should happen?”
8 Jesus says,
“Watch out. Don’t be misled:
People will come in my name saying, ‘I’m Messiah,’
and ‘The time has come.’
You ought not follow them.”

Okay. The most obvious sign the Olivet Discourse is about the first century, and neither our present nor the time before a future great tribulation, is right here in Jesus’s first warning of the discourse. “Don’t be misled; people are gonna come in my name and claim they’re Messiah.”

The Satan Versus Satan Story.

by K.W. Leslie, 24 July 2022

Mark 3.23-26, Matthew 12.24-30, Luke 11.17-18.

Jesus was in the habit of ignoring Pharisee customs. In part because they aren’t biblical and therefore aren’t necessary (and aren’t sin when you break ’em). In part because too many Pharisees pointed to their customs as proof they were devout… and hoped the customs distracted people from the fact they were breaking the Law just as much as any gentile. It was all hypocrisy—the one thing which really pisses Jesus off.

Pharisees who legitimately tried to follow God, easily recognized Jesus is from God. Pharisees who were only interested in looking devout had the darnedest time trying to prove Jesus isn’t from God: It’s kinda impossible to make such a case when Jesus so obviously has God’s power to cure the sick and throw evil spirits out of people. When Pharisees tried to cure people and do exorcisms, they had such a low success rate, lots of Jews turned to witch doctors instead. In comparison, Jesus looks like he put hardly any effort into it. Sometimes he had to pray real hard, or lay hands on someone more than once, or had to give up because people were so faithless. But most of the time he’d say, “You’re cured,” and they were; or “Get out,” and the critters would scream and flee. He had the Holy Spirit without limit, Jn 3.34 and this almightiness showed.

So Pharisees had nothing. But it looks like the Galilean Pharisees decided to pick the brains of Judean Pharisees, who came up with the explanation, “He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils.” Mk 3.22 I explained the backstory of “Beelzebub,” properly Baal Zevúl, in another article. It’s pretty much a euphemism for Satan. Like many a cessationist nowadays, these Judeans claimed Jesus did his thing through the power of the devil. ’Cause God would never work through such people.

In response, Jesus told this parable.

Mark 3.23-26 KWL
23 Jesus, summoning them,
is telling them in parables,
“How can Satan throw out Satan?
24 When a kingdom is divided against itself,
that kingdom can’t stand.
25 When a house is divided against itself,
that house can’t stand.
26 And if Satan rises up against itself and is divided,
it can’t stand. Instead it’s the End.”

The Lost Sheep Story.

by K.W. Leslie, 17 July 2022

Matthew 18.12-14.

Since I was already discussing parables where Jesus compares his followers to sheep, and portrays himself as the good shepherd, I figured I’d do the Lost Sheep Story. I kinda did already, but I bunched Luke’s version together with the Lost Coin Story, and focused on God seeking and saving the lost. Matthew’s version is a bit different, ’cause it has a different punchline.

Jesus begins this parable with a question which is typically translated like the KJV’s, “What think ye?” Except the verb is singular and third-person, not plural and second-person: Ye is not the subject, but the Greek word τί/ti is. It can be translated “what” or “who,” so that’s what I went with. He’s not really asking for his audience’s thoughts; he wants to see who among them has the sense to realize what he means. If Jesus were only fishing for consensus, his parables wouldn’t mean anything. He’s got a point to them—now see if you can spot it.

Even if he already totally spells out his own point. Hey, sometimes the crowd is just that dense—as you’ll see in a moment.

Matthew 18.12-14 KWL
12 “Who among you thinks?
When a hundred sheep belong to a certain person,
and one of them might wander off,
won’t the person leave the 99 on the hills,
and go to seek the wanderer?
13 When he happens to find it,
amen, I promise you, he rejoices over it—
more so than the 99 who hadn’t wandered.
14 Likewise it’s not the will
laid out by your heavenly Father
that one of these little ones be destroyed.”

In Jesus’s day, people didn’t keep their wealth in money, which was harder to come by; but in land and livestock. So how wealthy does that make a person with 100 sheep? Well… not poor. Certainly not rich. Think of an individual lamb like 100 dollars. That’d make his flock worth 10,000 dollars. It’s a decent pile, but it’s not disposable income: You can’t just trade all your sheep for luxuries and comforts. You need to keep those sheep, and keep ’em well-fed and in good health so they’ll make more sheep, and produce good milk and good wool, and you can sell that… if you’re patient and work hard.

And with only 100 sheep, you can’t really afford to lose a lamb or two. A rich person could lose a lamb here and there easily. This guy was gonna have to go look for it himself.

The Good Shepherd Story.

by K.W. Leslie, 10 July 2022

John 10.11-21.

In the previous bit, Jesus says he’s the sheepfold gate. In this bit, Jesus says he’s the good shepherd.

These passages don’t confuse a lot of people, because most of us have plenty enough brainpower to keep up with the idea of Jesus switching metaphors. “I’m the gate; you don’t go in around me. And I’m the shepherd—a good shepherd, who defends his sheep, unlike people who only start up a church for the power and money and fame, and the instant things get serious or rough, they bail on their church in Seattle, Washington and move to Scottsdale, Arizona, and con another flock into following them.”

…Okay yeah, I’m sounding a tad specific there, like I have a particular guy in mind. Maybe I do. But you could swap in any two cities in the United States—or the planet—and you’ll probably find a bad shepherd fleeing from town to town, hoping to evade accountability so he can get away with yet more evil. There have been bad shepherds throughout history. The people of Jesus’s day no doubt knew a few; maybe some rabbi who stole all his synagogue’s money, or one who slept around, or one who touched the children. Human nature doesn’t change, and ravenous wolves still try to feast on the faithful. So these things still happen.

But Jesus is the good shepherd. Kinda like the LORD is in Psalm 23… and since Jesus is the LORD, it’s totally okay to apply that psalm to him. But let’s deal with today’s passage first.

John 10.11-21 KWL
11 “I’m the good shepherd.
The good shepherd puts down his soul for the sheep.
12 The hireling, being no shepherd—
who isn’t the sheep’s own shepherd
he sees the wolf coming,
and he abandons the sheep and flees.
The wolf snatches and scatters them.
13 Because he’s a hireling!
He doesn’t care about anything about the sheep.
14 “I’m the good shepherd.
I know who’s mine,
and who’s mine know me.
15 Just as the Father knows me,
and I know the Father.
16 I have other sheep,
which aren’t from this sheepfold.
It’s necessary for me to lead them as well:
They’ll hear my voice,
and they’ll become one flock, one shepherd.
17 “This is why the Father loves me:
I put down my soul,
so I can pick it up again.
18 No one takes it away from me;
instead I put it down by myself.
I have the power to put it down,
and I have the power to pick it up again.
I receive this command from my Father.”
19 Again, there became a split among the Judeans
about these words.
20 Many were saying about him, “He has a demon,”
and “He’s raving mad; do you hear him?”
21 Others were saying, “These sayings aren’t demonic;
a demon isn’t able to open blind eyes!”

Jesus says a lot of profound things here, and of course the Judeans’ response was to either say, “Well of course he’s the good shepherd,” or if you’re a bit more closed-minded, “Oh he’s just babbling complete nonsense. Who does he think he is, God or something?”

As you might remember, parables tend to go right over the heads of the closed-minded—not necessarily because they can’t follow what Jesus means by them, but because they have no faith in Jesus. They might totally agree with the metaphor of Jesus’s followers being sheep—but they’re gonna dismiss and ignore the rest. It’s childish rubbish, meant for weak-minded sheeple.

The Sheepfold Gate Story.

by K.W. Leslie, 03 July 2022

John 10.1-10.

A lot of reference materials claim Jesus only shares parables in the synoptic gospels, and that there are no parables in the gospel of John. Seriously, a lot of them. I grew up hearing it all my life. And it turns out it’s rubbish, because John straight-up states,

John 10.6 KJV
This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.

It’s not a mistranslation either. True, John didn’t use the word παραβολή/paravolí, the word from which we literally get our word “parable.” He used παροιμίαν/parimían, which literally means “nearly like it.” But that’s what a parable is: It’s an analogy. A comparison. Something which is nearly like something else, so you can slip people some wisdom in a memorable format.

Other bibles have rendered parimían as “figure of speech” (ESV, NASB, NIV, NRSV) or “illustration” (NKJV, NLT). But again: Parables are figures of speech and illustrations. This is a parable. I suspect the translators were hesitant to use “parable” because it’s so widely believed and taught that John contains no parables. I still call rubbish. This is obviously a parable, and you gotta go through some weird logical gymnastics in order to claim it’s not.

It comes up in John 10, right after Jesus cured a blind man in John 9—whereupon the local Pharisees put the newly-cured guy on trial for heresy and excommunicate him. Jesus calls ’em blind. That’s a figure of speech; this next bit is a parable.

John 10.1-10 KWL
1 “Amen amen! I promise you,
one who won’t enter through the sheepfold gate,
but goes over it some other way:
That one is a thief, a looter.
2 One who enters through the gate is the sheep’s shepherd.
3 The gatekeeper opens up for this shepherd.
The sheep hear the shepherd’s voice.
He calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out.
4 Whenever the shepherd drives out his own sheep,
they go in front of him, and the sheep follow him,
because they’ve known his voice.
5 The sheep won’t follow a stranger,
but will flee from him:
They’ve not known the stranger’s voice.”
6 Jesus tells them this parable,
and they don’t know what he’s telling them,
7 so again Jesus says, “Amen amen! I promise you,
I’m the sheepfold gate.
8 Everybody who goes over me is a thief and looter.
But the sheep don’t heed them.
9 I’m the gate. When anyone goes through me, they’ll be saved.
They’ll enter and exit, and they’ll find pasture.
10 A thief won’t come in—
unless it’s to steal, murder, and destroy.
I come so they might have life,
and might have superabundance.”

So. At the end of chapter 9 he was speaking of blindness; now he speaks of sheep? But it’s not a total non-sequitur. Blind or not, people oughta be able to identify their master by voice. The sheep don’t need to identify their shepherd by sight: They can hear. And strangers aren’t gonna sound right.

And yeah, Jesus is also the shepherd, and a good shepherd. But that’s actually another analogy, in the next few verses. We’ll get to it; it’s another of the parables in John. Yep, there are a few of ’em. I’ll get to them all. Meanwhile, in today’s passage, Jesus is the sheepfold gate.

The Persistent Widow Story.

by K.W. Leslie, 19 June 2022

Luke 18.1-8.

Last time I wrote about parables, I brought up the Midnight Friend Story. Well… same gospel, same idea, but whole different story. Comes in chapter 18 instead of 11. It’s also called the Unjust Judge, the Importunate Widow, the Persistent Woman, and the Unjust Judge and the Widow. All depends on which of them you wanna emphasize, but since the widow is meant to be our role model, I think the story oughta be named for her.

Luke 18.1-8 KWL
1 Jesus is speaking parabolically to his students
on the necessity of them always praying
and not becoming discouraged,
2 saying, “There’s some judge in some city
with no respect for God, no regard for people.
3 There’s a widow in that city;
she’s coming to him, saying,
‘Prosecute my opponent for me!’
4 For a time, he doesn’t want to.
Afterward, he said to himself,
‘Though I don’t respect God, nor have regard for the people,
5 because this widow keeps bugging me,
I’ll prosecute her opponent for her.
In the end, she may come give me a black eye!’ ”
6 The Master says, “Listen to what this unjust judge says.
7 Might God not prosecute on behalf of his elect,
who cry out to him day and night,
and have patience with them?
8 I tell you he will prosecute for them, quickly.
But at the Son of Man’s coming,
will he then find any faith on the earth?”

Some notes about my translation. The term the widow is using is ἐκδίκησόν με/ekdíkisón me, which the KJV translates “Avenge me.” That’s perhaps too literal of a translation. Ekdikéo means to carry out a punishment, and the word isn’t particular about whether it’s a judge sentencing a criminal, a vigilante murdering a criminal, or someone with a grudge taking out petty revenge upon a neighbor. Since Jesus is talking about a judge, he is talking about some level of due process.

Problem is, Jesus isn’t talking about a righteous judge. In his culture there were two kinds of judges:

  • Jewish judges followed and interpreted the Law, the commands the LORD handed down in the 15th century BC.
  • Roman judges followed and interpreted the laws decreed by the senate and people of Rome.

So when Jesus describes this judge as caring neither about God nor people, he describes a person who ignores the standards for both Jewish and Roman judges. He doesn’t base his rulings on law and legal precedent; he follows his conscience. He’s what we’d call an “activist judge”—the kind of judge people love when he shares their politics, ’cause he’ll rule their way, no matter what the law says! But they soon discover a lawless judge creates a lot of instability in society, no matter how moral these judges might imagine they are.

The long ending of 𝘔𝘢𝘳𝘬.

by K.W. Leslie, 02 May 2022
Mark 16.9-20 KWL
9 [Rising at dawn on the first of the week,
Jesus first appears to Mary the Magdalene,
out of whom he had thrown seven demons.
10 Leaving, this woman reports
to the others who were continuing with Jesus,
to those mourning and weeping,
11 and they’re hearing that Jesus lives—
and was seen by Mary!—and don’t believe it.
12 After this, as two of them are walking,
Jesus is revealed in another form, going with them,
13 and leaving, they report to the rest.
The rest don’t believe them either.
14 Later, as the Eleven are reclining at table,
Jesus appears, and rants against
their unbelief and hard-heartedness,
for people had seen him risen up,
and they don’t believe it.
15 [Jesus told them, “Go into the world
and proclaim the gospel everywhere to every creature.
16 Those who believe and are baptized will be saved.
Those who don’t believe will be judged.
17 [“Miracles will accompany the believers:
In my name, people will throw out demons.
People will speak in tongues.
18 People will pick up snakes in their hands,
and if anyone drinks poison, it won’t injure them.
People will lay hands on the sick,
and they will be well.”
19 [So after Master Jesus’s speech to them,
he’s raptured into heaven and sits at God’s right.
20 Leaving, these apostles proclaim everywhere
about the Master they work with and his message,
confirming it through the accompanying signs. Amen.]

This passage—often found in brackets in our bibles—is called the Long Ending of Mark. I already wrote about the Short Ending. Mark wrote neither of these endings. Some eager Christian, unsatisfied with the abrupt way Mark ended—or unhappy with the brevity of the Short Ending—tacked it onto Mark in the 300s or 400s. Speaking as someone who’s translated all of Mark, I can definitely say he doesn’t write like Mark.

However. Even though Mark didn’t write it, it’s still valid, inspired scripture. Still bible. No, not because of the King James Only folks; they have their own reasons for insisting it’s still bible, namely bibliolatry. Nope; it’s bible because it was in the ancient Christians’ copies of Mark when they determined Mark is bible. It’s bible because it’s confirmed by what Jesus’s apostles did in Acts and afterward. It’s bible because it’s true.

Those who insist it’s not bible, are usually Christians who insist it’s not true. And like the KJV Only folks, they have their own ulterior motives.

Simon the Cyrenian, the man who carried Jesus’s cross.

by K.W. Leslie, 14 April 2022

Mark 15.21, Matthew 27.32, Luke 23.26.

Enroute to Golgotha, leading Jesus to the place they’d crucify him, the Romans decided he was inadequate to carry his crossbeam.

Movies and art, following St. Francis’s lists of the stations of the cross, depict Jesus falling over a bunch of times. The gospels don’t, but who knows?—maybe he did. He had been up all night and flogged half to death. Between sleep deprivation and blood loss, carrying a hundred-pound crossbeam would’ve been too much for anyone. (No, not the 300-pound full cross we see in paintings, such as the El Greco painting in my “Stations of the Cross” image. Even healthy convicts would’ve found that unmanageable.)

The Roman senate made it legal for soldiers to draft conquered peoples—basically anyone in the Roman Empire who lacked citizenship—into temporary service. Jesus referred to this law when he taught us to go the extra mile. Mt 5.41 So the Romans grabbed an able-bodied passerby to carry Jesus’s crossbeam. And since he later became Christian and his sons became bishops, the writers of the gospels mentioned him by name: Simon the Cyrenian (or “of Cyrene”).

Mark 15.21 KWL
The Romans draft a passerby,
a certain Simon the Cyrenian who’s coming from the fields,
the father of Alexander and Rufus,
so he’d carry Jesus’s crossbeam.
Matthew 27.32 KWL
Coming out, the Romans find a Cyrenian person named Simon.
This man, they compel
to take up Jesus’s crossbeam.
Luke 23.26 KWL
While the Romans lead Jesus away,
taking hold of Simon, a certain Cyrenian coming from the fields,
they lay the crossbeam upon him
to carry behind Jesus.

Jesus given a robe and crowned with thorns.

by K.W. Leslie, 13 April 2022

Mark 15.16-20, Matthew 27.27-31, Luke 23.11, John 19.2-3, 5-6.

People became Roman soldiers for all sorts of reasons. Some because the Roman army was a path to Roman citizenship. Some as punishment: It was either military service, or slavery and prison. Some for the adventure, or to get rich, or because they couldn’t imagine any other job options. Some because how else are you gonna get to crucify barbarians?

So it’s safe to figure the soldiers under Pontius Pilatus weren’t there to make friends with Judeans. On the contrary: Over time they likely grew more and more tired of Judeans. Especially those Judeans who were bigoted against gentiles, or were outraged over the Roman occupation. The Romans gave ’em legitimate reasons for not liking them: Soldiers tended to abuse their power so they could steal and extort. Lk 3.14 And bullies look for any excuse to justify themselves, so they were happy to return the hostility.

Given the opportunity to abuse a Judean and have some evil fun at his expense, the soldiers took advantage of it. That’s why they beat the crap out of Jesus. Crucifying him wasn’t enough for them: First they had to play a little game they called “the king’s game.”

Mark 15.16-20 KWL
16 The soldiers lead Jesus inside the courtyard,
which is the Prætorium.
They summon the whole unit.
17 They dress Jesus in “purple,”
and place a braided garland on him—of thorny acacia.
18 They begin to salute Jesus: “Hail, king of Judeans!”
19 They strike Jesus’s head with a staff,
and spit on him,
and bending the knee, they’re “worshiping” him.
20 While they mock Jesus, they strip the “purple” off him,
dress him in his own robe,
and send him away to crucify him.
Matthew 27.27-31 KWL
27 The leader’s soldiers then, taking Jesus into the Prætorium,
called the whole unit to him.
28 Undressing Jesus,
they drape him in a crimson coat.
29 Weaving a garland of thorny acacia,
they put it on Jesus’s head,
and a reed in his right hand.
Kneeling before him, they ridicule him,
saying, “Hail, king of Judeans!”
30 Spitting on him, they take the reed
and strike Jesus on the head.
31 While they mock Jesus, they take the coat off him,
dress him in his own clothes,
and lead him away to crucifixion.
Luke 23.11 KWL
Considering Jesus worthless,
Herod with his soldiers mockingly dressing him in campy clothing,
send him back to Pilate.
John 19.2-3 KWL
2 The soldiers, braiding a crown of thorny acacia,
force it on Jesus’s head.
They put a “purple” robe on him.
3 They’re coming to Jesus and saying, “Hail, king of Judeans!”
—as they give him punches.

Jesus confuses Pontius Pilate.

by K.W. Leslie, 12 April 2022

Mark 15.1-5, Matthew 27.1-2, 11-14, Luke 23.1-4, John 18.28-38.

So I already wrote about Pontius Pilate, the ἡγεμών/igemón, “ruler” of Judea when Jesus was killed—the Roman military governor, or præfectus, “prefect.” After the Judean senate held their perfectly legal trial and sentenced Jesus to death, according to the Law they were to take Jesus outside the city, throw him off a cliff, then throw stones down on his body. But because of the Roman occupation they weren’t allowed to execute anyone. The Romans had to kill Jesus for them.

But first the Judean leaders needed to convince Pontius it was in Rome’s best interests to execute Jesus. The prefect wasn’t just gonna execute anybody the Judean senate recommended. Especially over stuff the Romans didn’t consider capital crimes, like blasphemy against a god the Romans didn’t respect. So what’d the Judeans have on Jesus?

Simple: He declared himself Messiah. Did it right in front of everybody.

Mark 14.61-64 KJV
61 But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? 62 And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. 63 Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses? 64 Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death.

Messiah (i.e. Christ) means “the anointed,” and since you only anointed kings, it straight-up means king. Jesus publicly declared himself Israel’s king. That, the Romans would consider treason: The king of Judea was Caesar Tiberius Divi Augusti, princeps (“first citizen”) of Rome. Caesar would have a vested interest in putting any antikings to death. So that was the charge the senate brought with them, and Jesus, to the Roman prefect.

The senators hauled Jesus to Antonia, a fort Herod 1 had built next to the temple (and named for his patron, Marcus Antonius) so soldiers could watch the Judeans worship… just in case any riots broke out. There, they presented their unrecognized true king to Pontius.

Mark 15.1 KWL
Next, in the morning, the head priests,
consulting with the elders, scribes, and the whole senate,
carry and deliver the bound Jesus
to Pontius Pilatus.
Matthew 27.1-2 KWL
1 As it became morning, all the head priests and people’s elders
gathered in council regarding Jesus,
and how they’d put him to death./dd>
2 Binding him, they led Jesus away
and handed him off to Pontius Pilatus, the leader.
Luke 23.1-2 KWL
1 Getting up, the crowd leads him to Pontius Pilatus.
2 They begin to accuse Jesus,
saying, “We find this man twisting our nation,
preventing taxes to be given to Caesar,
calling himself ‘Christ’—which means king.”

In all the gospels, Pontius questioned Jesus… and came away unconvinced this man was any threat to Rome whatsoever. In Luke and John, he didn’t even believe Jesus was guilty of anything. But the Judean senate wanted Jesus dead, and got plenty of the locals to say so too. In the end, Pontius pragmatically gave ’em what they wanted.

“Why’s this guy not defending himself?”

Getting convicted of treason back then meant execution. (Still often does.) For non-Romans like Jesus, execution meant crucifixion, one of the most painful, disgusting ways to die humans have ever invented. So the fact Jesus didn’t fight his charges, and said nothing, made Pontius wonder what on earth was going on here. Everybody else he ever interrogated would either fight the charges or justify them. Not simply accept crucifixion as their inevitable lot.

Yet in the synoptic gospels, Jesus responded to his charges with two words and nothing more: Σὺ λέγεις/su légheis, “[If] you say so.”

Mark 15.2 KWL
Pilatus interrogated Jesus: “You’re the king of Judea?”
In reply Jesus told him, If you say so.”
Matthew 27.11 KWL
Jesus was stood before the leader,
and the leader interrogated him, saying, “You’re the king of Judea?”
Jesus was saying, If you say so.”
Luke 23.3 KWL
Pilatus questioned Jesus, saying, “You’re the king of Judea?”
In reply Jesus told him, If you say so.”

Some interpreters like to turn Jesus’s words into more of an affirmative declaration; more like “You said it, buddy!” Others figure it was more contrary: In one of these verses The Message goes with, “Your words, not mine.” Lk 23.3 MSG In John’s telling of the trial, Jesus’s response sorta sounds more like the “Your words, not mine” idea—because his response was more of a “I am a king, but not the sort you’re thinking of.”

Yep, John tells a very different version of events. Jesus interacts with Pontius way more. I’ll start at the beginning.

John 18.28-38 KWL
28 So the senators bring Jesus
from Joseph bar Caiaphas to the prætorium.
It’s morning. They don’t enter the prætorium,
lest they be defiled instead of eating Passover.
29 So Pontius Pilatus comes outside to them,
and says, “You bring me a certain accusation against this person.”
30 In reply they tell him, “We’d never hand him over to you
unless he were an evildoer.”
31 Pilatus tells them, “Take him yourself. Judge him by your Law.”
The Judeans tell him, “We’re not allowed to kill anyone.”
32 Thus Jesus’s word could be fulfilled—
which he said to signify which kind of death he was about to die.
33 Pilate enters the prætorium again, calls Jesus,
and tells him, “You’re the king of Judea?”
34 Jesus replies, “You say this on your own?
Or do others tell you about me?”
35 Pilate replies, “Am I Judean?
Your ethnic group and head priests turn you over to me.
What do you do?”
36 Jesus replies, “My kingdom’s not from this world.
If my kingdom’s from this world, my servants should fight
lest I be turned over to the Judeans.
My kingdom doesn’t yet exist now.”
37 So Pilate tells him, “Therefore you’re not a king.”
Jesus replies this: “I am a king.
I had been born into it. I came into the world into it.
Thus I might testify to truth.
All who are of the truth, hear my voice.”
38 Pilate tells him, “What’s ‘truth’?”
That said, Pilate goes out again to the Judeans
and tells them, “I find nothing in him of cause.”

Note in John, Jesus didn’t just answer Pontius with “If you say so,” but a statement of exactly what he means by “kingdom.” Clearly he’s not talking about a political government, but a moral one. We follow King Jesus, not because we’ll get into serious legal trouble if we don’t, not because (as dark Christians gleefully claim) we’ll go to hell when we don’t. We follow Jesus ’cause he’s truth. Jn 14.6 ’Cause we love the Father and want access to him. And we can’t get to the Father any other way than via Jesus.

Yeah, such a kingdom would totally overturn the Roman Empire. And within the next three centuries, that’s exactly what it did. But Caesar had nothing political to fear from such a kingdom. Which is why Pontius didn’t see anything wrong with it.

Not that Pontius necessarily understood Jesus. “What’s truth?” exposes this fact. Pontius had no time for abstract philosophy: He just wanted to know whether Jesus was worth crucifying. Would Caesar want this guy dead or not? Once Pontius had his mind made up—“So you’re not a king” Jn 18.37 —he didn’t really care what else Jesus had to say. “What’s truth” is a very important question, but notice Pontius didn’t stick around to get Jesus’s answer. Phooey on truth; he didn’t come to Judea to get an education from some obscure Galilean rabbi about epistemology. (He came there to get rich, if anything.) So in John, Pontius isn’t confused; just unconvinced Jesus is worth killing.

In Luke he likewise made up his mind right away.

Luke 23.4 KWL
Pilate tells the head priests and the crowd,
“I find nothing of cause in this person.”

Whereas in the other gospels, Jesus said nothing, and Pontius couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t fight harder to avoid a gory death on the cross.

Mark 15.3-5 KWL
3 The head priests are accusing Jesus of many things.
4 Pilate is questioning Jesus again,
saying, “You answer nothing! Look at all they accuse you of!”
5 Jesus no longer answers anything.
So Pilate is amazed.
Matthew 27.12-14 KWL
12 Jesus answers nothing
in the accusation against him by the head priests and elders.
13 Then Pilate tells Jesus, “Don’t you hear
how much they testify against you?”
14 Jesus doesn’t answer him for even one word.
So the leader was greatly amazed.

It was just strange enough for Pontius’s B.S. detector to go off: “Doesn’t seem to wanna die, but isn’t fighting it. What’s going on here? Why’s he acting this way? Why isn’t he fighting the charges? What, does he wanna get crucified?… Nah; he can’t; that’s nuts.”

Justice wouldn’t be done today.

For Jesus, the suffering came from the fact he knew he wasn’t gonna get justice that day.

It was sunrise when the senate brought him to Pontius. It was noon when he was finally led out to be crucified. Six hours of waiting. In between, getting mocked and flogged. He knew the end was coming, but the wheels of bureaucracy were turning mighty slow that morning.

But he knew Pontius believed him innocent. Knew Pontius recognized him as no threat to Rome. Knew regardless, Pontius would be of no help. The proper purpose of government is to establish justice, but corrupt governments and parties everywhere, presume it’s to seize and hold power. Pontius was just this kind of corrupt. He figured he was only in Judea to make sure Rome (and he) got their money. He’d kill anyone who got in Rome’s way. Jesus might be innocent, but if Pontius didn’t kill Jesus, he might spark a war and lose his job—which he desired more than justice. So much for justice.

The fact Pontius had Jesus executed regardless, with full knowledge he was executing someone he considered innocent—his whole hand-washing demonstration Mt 27.24 was all for show and we know it—makes Pontius just as guilty of Jesus’s death as the senate. Any antisemite who wants to blame the Jews alone for Jesus’s death is an idiot. Pontius, a gentile, could easily have saved him… and didn’t care enough to make any more than a token effort.

So this was how Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilatus: Knowing he’d get no proper hearing, no justice, because the powerful didn’t care. Nobody did. He had no advocate. He was alone.

It’s all the more reason Jesus takes the position of our advocate before his Father. 1Jn 2.1 It’s why he sent the Holy Spirit to help us when we’re not sure how to defend ourselves. Mk 13.11 He’s not gonna abandon us. He never promised us we’d never suffer; on the contrary, we will. Jn 16.33 But he’ll be with us through the suffering, providing us all the help and comfort he never got when he suffered.

Jesus’s pre-trial trial.

by K.W. Leslie, 08 April 2022
John 18.12-14 KWL
12 The mob, the chief, and Judean police
then arrest Jesus and bind him.
13 They first bring Jesus to Annas,
for he’s the father-in-law of Joseph bar Caiaphas,
who’s head priest that year.
14 Bar Caiaphas is the one who recommended to the Judeans
for one person to die, rather than all the people.
John 18.19-24 KWL
19 The head priest then asks Jesus about his students,
and about his instruction.
20 Jesus answers him, “I’ve freely spoken to the world.
I always teach in synagogue and in temple,
where all the Judeans come together.
I never spoke in private.
21 Why do you ask me this?
Ask those who’ve listened to what I speak to them.
Look, they’ve known what I say.”
22 Once he says this, one of the police standing by
gives Jesus a slap, saying, “This you answer the head priest?”
23 Jesus answers him, “If I speak evil, testify about the evil.
If good, why beat me?”
24 So Annas sends Jesus away,
having bound him for Bar Caiaphas the head priest.

In the synoptic gospels, right after Jesus’s arrest, the Judean police and their posse took Jesus to the head priest’s house. But in John they didn’t. John’s the only gospel where they took a little side trip first… to the former head priest’s house. That’d be Khánan bar Seth, whom historical records call Ananus, and whom the KJV calls Annas. John relates it’s in the courtyard of Annas’s house where Simon Peter denounced Jesus.

Backstory time. Ever since the time of the Maccabees, the head priests had also been the kings of Judea. (Or, using the title Israelis had used for their kings, the Messiah. Yep, that title.) Their dynasty ended with Herod 1, who overthrew his father-in-law Antigonus Mattathias in 37BC, and took the throne. Herod became king, but because he was Edomite not Aaronite, he couldn’t be head priest; only descendants of Aaron could be head priest, y’know. Lv 6.22 But Herod claimed the right to appoint the head priest—and did. In fact he appointed a bunch of head priests. He kept firing them when they wouldn’t do as he wished.

And once the Romans took Judea from the Herods, they did the same thing. Annas became the 11th appointed head priest since Herod took over. (He’s actually the ninth guy to hold the job. Some of the previous head priests had non-consecutive terms.) Annas was appointed by the Syrian legate Publius Sulpicius Quirinius in the year 6, and stayed in office till the year 15. He’s a descendant of King John Hyrcanus, so while he was still in the royal family, he wasn’t a contender for the throne.

Bible commentators aren’t always aware that Herod and the Romans kept swapping out head priests, and assume Annas was the hereditary head priest, like all the head priests before Herod’s time. So they aren’t so surprised when Annas’s five sons, son-in-law, and grandson become the head priest after him: Isn’t it supposed to be a hereditary job? And yeah, originally it was… but now it wasn’t, and hadn’t been for decades, and the fact Annas managed to keep his family in power for nearly sixty years is pretty darned impressive.

Annas’s successors include:

  • Eleazar, his son (16-17CE)
  • Joseph bar Caiaphas, his son-in-law (18-36)
  • Jonathan, his son (36-37)
  • Theophilus, his son (37-41)
  • Matthias, his son (43)
  • Jonathan again (44)
  • Annas 2, his son (63)
  • Mattathias, his grandson (65-66)

He wasn’t the only guy with a political dynasty though. Four sons and a grandson of Boethus, another descendant of Aaron, were also head priest. Including Joazar bar Boethus, Annas’s direct predecessor.

Jesus prays at Gethsemane.

by K.W. Leslie, 05 April 2022
Mark 14.32-41 KWL
32 Jesus and his students came to a field
which was named Gat Semaním/“oil press.”
Jesus tells his students, “Sit in this spot while I can pray.”
33 Jesus takes with him Simon Peter, James, and John.
He begins to be surprised—and greatly troubled.
34 Jesus tells them, “My soul is deathly sad.
Stay here, and stay awake.”
35 Going a little ahead, Jesus is falling to the ground,
and is praying that, if it’s possible, can this hour pass him by?
36 Jesus was saying, Abba! Father! Almighty you!
Take this cup away from me!
But not what I want. What you want.”
37 Jesus returns and finds his students sleeping,
and tells Peter, “Simon, you sleep? You can’t stay awake one hour?
38 Stay awake and pray!—lest you might come to temptation.
A truly eager spirit—and weak flesh.”
39 Jesus goes away to pray again,
praying the same words.
40 Returning again, Jesus finds his students sleeping,
for their eyes are very heavy.
They had not known what to answer him.
41 Jesus returns a third time and tells his students,
“You sleep now and rest. It’s enough.
The hour comes—look!
The Son of Man is handed over to sinful hands.”

The first of St. Francis’s stations of the cross was when Jesus was given his cross. (Duh.) But Jesus’s suffering began earlier that day, so St. John Paul’s list also began earlier—with Gethsemane, the olive garden on Mt. Olivet, where Jesus prayed he might not go through the crucifixion.

It comes up in the synoptic gospels. It’s not in John, whose author had to do things his own way:

John 18.1 KWL
When he said this, Jesus with his students went over the Kidron ravine,
where there was a garden. He and his students entered it.

John Paul recognized this is the beginning of Jesus’s passion, not when he was sentened to death later that night. ’Cause that’s what the gospels depict: He went into the garden to pray, and suddenly he was blindsided with emotion. It freaked him out a little. He wanted to pray; he wanted his kids to pray for him. But as people do when they’re up past their bedtime praying (and not just kids; don’t just blame this on their spiritual immaturity), they fell asleep on him. Three times.

Still, Jesus was really agitated, and John Paul recognized it’s this psychological trauma that marks where Jesus’s passion began. Not just when he was taken away to die.

A gospels synopsis.

by K.W. Leslie, 04 February 2022

Our word “synopsis” usually means a brief summary or overview, but when we get into biblical studies a synopsis is a comparison of two different parts of the bible which overlap. Like Psalms 14 and 53. Or David and the census in 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21. Or the story of Ahab and Micaiah in 1 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 18. Or Hezekiah and the sundial in 1 Kings 20 and Isaiah 38.

Or, naturally, to compare the gospels.

Christians have been comparing ’em ever since they were first written. Sometimes to see if we can fit them all together, like Tatian of Assyria did with his Diatessaron, or A.T. Robertson’s Harmony of the Gospels. Thing is, when you combine then into one narrative, you gotta remove parts of the other gospels—and change their order, their structure, and various things which their authors deliberately put in there. You also lose a bit of the three-dimensional picture of Jesus they provide.

It’s why I prefer a gospel synopsis: We compare the stories, but don’t remove anything. We look at what each of ’em have, and compare. We deal with the difficulties they might produce. But we get a better, fuller picture of Jesus. That’s the point.

Obviously in my posts on Christ Jesus, I’ve been comparing similar texts. It’s sort of my own gospel synopsis. You can follow it if you want, but today I’m actually providing someone else’s. Basically it’s the table of contents from bible scholar Kurt Aland’s Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum (called Synopsis of the Four Gospels in the English edition). His synopsis compares the texts line by line from his Greek New Testament, 26th edition (the current edition is the 28th), or from the RSV in the English edition. But if you prefer another translation, the links below will take you to Bible Gateway, where you can read ’em in any translation they have. Sound good?