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Transliteration: Because in some languages, you’re illiterate.

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No offense, but if you can’t read their alphabet, you are illiterate. So here’s a quick fix. By now you’ve likely learned the bible wasn’t originally written in English. (Although good luck informing certain King James Only folks of this. Most of ’em know better, but there are some holdouts who still think God speaks in King James English.)The bible was written in three dead languages, languages nobody speaks anymore. The present-day versions of these languages are not the same. Languages evolve. Modern Hebrew uses western word order (subject-verb-object, “I go home”), and ancient Hebrew uses middle eastern word order (verb-subject-object “Go I home”). Plus the vocabulary’s way bigger, what with all the loanwords from Yiddish, English, German, Russian, and Arabic. Plus the pronunciation’s different, much like the differences between American English and British English. Modern Greek follows new grammatical rules. Neo-Aramaic speakers love to point out Jesus spoke Aramaic like them, bu…

Grace. (It really is amazing.)

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If you don’t understand what grace is—and many don’t—you likely aren’t practicing it.GRACEgreɪsnoun. God’s generous, forgiving, kind, favorable attitude towards his people.2. A prayer of thanksgiving.[Gracious 'greɪ.ʃəsadjective.]Years ago I was in a kids’ Sunday school class when the head pastor visited and the kids were encouraged to ask him anything. Bad idea. We spent way too much time discussing the existence of space aliens. The pastor’s view: They’re not real, and all UFO sightings are probably devils messing with people. He was one of those dark Christians who think devils are just everywhere.Dark Christianity is likely why this pastor punted this question: One of the kids asked him what “grace” is.Someone had previously told her we Christians are saved by grace. Ep 2.8 So she understandably wanted to know what this “grace” substance was. She wanted to get it and be saved. Her assumption—same as that of way too many Christians—is it’s some sort of heavenly pixie dust.Pasto…

Historical Jesus. (Who ain’t all that historical.)

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So here’s a little transcript of a discussion I once had with a skeptic. Slightly abridged.HE. “Jesus never said that.”ME. “Sure he did. In Mark 16.52 he clearly states….”HE. “No, that’s what the bible says he said. I’m talking about what he actually said. Not what some Roman Christian, centuries later, claims he said.”Where’d he get the idea the gospels aren’t historical?—that the Jesus we Christians believe in, is just ancient Christian fanfiction? This, true believers, is what we call the Historical Jesus hypothesis.When he wasn’t staying in the White House, Thomas Jefferson used to spend his evenings at home in Virginia with four bibles (two copies each, so he could get the text from either side of the page), scissors and paste, splicing together a private book he called The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. Nowadays we call it “the Jefferson Bible.” In Jefferson’s version of the story, Jesus does no miracles (except one or two, which Jefferson left in because he liked the les…

Pray!

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Prayer is talking with God. No more; no less; that’s all.Yeah, you’d be surprised how many people, including us Christians, think I’m oversimplifying and it’s way more complicated than that. Prayer, they claim, is a profound mystical and spiritual undertaking which must only be done thoughtfully, seriously, soberly, and ritually. Only then will it work.Their claim is all crap. It’s awfully popular crap, and some people are so used to the idea you’re never gonna change their minds about it. So long that they’re legitimately talking with God, I figure it won’t hurt ’em to believe it. But their ideas might get in your way of talking with him, and let’s not have that.Anyway here’s the ritual they like to go with. If you’re doing it too, you can cut it out.1. “THE RIGHT SPIRIT.” By which they don’t mean a literal spirit, but a mindset. A mood. It’s what I call the “prayer mood.” It’s an attitude of “Have mercy on me, oh Lord; I suffer.” But mix a few more sanctimonious things in there:GRAT…

Epiphany: When Jesus was revealed to the world.

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The holiday which grew into Christmas.Epiphany (in some churches it’s called Theophany) falls on 6 January. Well, unless your church still follows the Julian calendar, in which case it’s gonna wind up on 19 January. It comes right after the last day of Christmas. In fact Christmas is celebrated on 25 December because of Epiphany.See, Epiphany celebrates how Jesus was revealed to the world. True, the Christmas stories figure that was with the angels and sheep-herders, and maybe with the magi. But technically he was revealed at the beginning of his ministry, at his baptism, where John the baptist identified him as God’s son.John 1.29-34 KWL29 The next day John saw Jesus coming to him.He said, “Look: God’s ram, taking up the world’s sin! 30 This is the one I spoke of!‘The one coming after me has got in front of me’—because he’s first over me. Jn 1.1531 And I hadn’t seen him! But I came baptizing in water so he’d be revealed to Israel.”32 John testified, saying this: “I’ve seen the Spirit…