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Jesus critiques the Pharisees’ loopholes.

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Mark 7.6-13 • Matthew 15.3-9 • Luke 11.37-41. So I mentioned when Jesus was accused of not washing his hands, we’re not talking about the kind of washing we do before we leave the bathroom. This was a ritual thing: Stick your arms in a barrel of water, lift them as if to pray (but prayer is optional), then go on your way… with wet hands. It was a Pharisee custom, loosely based on the ritual washing in temple. Had little to do with actual washing; it was barely hygienic. Not commanded in the scriptures either, so Jesus didn’t bother with it. His students likewise. And when Jesus was challenged about it, he responded by challenging the Pharisees right back. Mark 7.6-8 KWL 6 Jesus told the Pharisees and scribes , “Just as Isaiah prophesied about you hypocrites— like he wrote, ‘This people revere me with lip -service . Their hearts keep far away from me. 7 They worship me meaninglessly, teaching human decrees as if they’re my teachings’ Is 29.13 8 —you dismiss God

Ghosts: The human spirit.

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And of course some of the mythology about ’em. Technically “ghost“ means the very same thing as “spirit.” It’s why “Holy Spirit” and “Holy Ghost” refer to the very same person. But over the last century English-speakers have grown to think of “ghosts” as the spirits of the dead. Humans usually. Sometimes animals. Whereas “spirit” can refer to an incorporeal being of any sort. But it wasn’t so long ago the words were fully interchangeable—as y’might notice in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The “ghosts” of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come, were not dead humans; the ghost of Jacob Marley was, though. So. Since everybody nowadays equates “ghost” with dead humans, in this article so do I. Humans are part spirit. In our makeup, we have a spirit; a non-material, incorporeal part of ourselves. When we die, the soul ceases to exist, but this spirit continues on. When we get resurrected, it goes back into our new body, and we once again become a livin

A definition of Christianism.

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I frequently use the term Christianism on TXAB to describe people who practice the trappings of Christianity, but don’t follow Christ Jesus all that much. I didn’t coin the word; I got it from conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan. I first saw it in a piece he wrote for Time Magazine in 2006. I adopted it immediately. His article is now behind Time’s paywall. So I decided to post the whole of it here.

“Biblical principles” and extrapolating new commands.

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In my early 20s I went to a conference presented by youth pastor turned lifestyle guru Bill Gothard. (He didn’t present ’em in person; we watched videos.) Bill Gothard. Wikipedia His organization, the Institute in Basic Life Principles (formerly Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, formerly Campus Teams) goes round the United States to teach young people “basic biblical principles” which would keep them on the straight and narrow. Gothard ran it till 2014, when he stepped down ’cause of molestation accusations. Since the statute of limitations means he’s not getting prosecuted, it looks like he’s quietly slipping back into ministry as the scandal fades from everyone’s memory. Gothard is hugely popular among Fundamentalists, who promoted him ’cause his teachings are right in line with conservative Christian culture. He doesn’t just teach people to memorize bible verses, pray, and go to church. He claims the bible says we should obey our parents no matter what, women should o

Jesus didn’t wash his hands before eating. Eww.

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Mark 7.1-5 • Matthew 15.1-2 • Luke 11.37-38. Sad to say, your average Christian knows little to nothing about what’s in the Law, the commands the L ORD handed down to Moses and the Hebrews in the desert. If they’re on a bible-reading plan, they skim the commands in Exodus through Deuteronomy ’cause they’re looking for the stories. The rest, they consider as effective a sleep aid as melatonin. This is bad enough considering God still expects us to follow certain relevant commands. But when it comes to studying Jesus, these Christians don‘t know the difference between an actual, God-mandated command… and Pharisee tradition. So when Jesus butts heads with Pharisees ’cause he violated something, Christians regularly and wrongly assume Jesus was violating God’s commands. In other words sinning . Which he never, ever did, no matter how much he was tempted. He 4.15 But weirdly, we imagine it was okay for Jesus to violate the Law, ’cause he was only violating the commands he

The bible “in the original Latin”: The Vulgate.

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Every so often, when I tell people I study the bible in the original languages (not that I go round bragging I can read the original languages; it’s just they ask me how I do bible study, so I tell them) they comment, “Ah, in the original Latin.” Nope, not Latin. I can stumble through Latin, but the bible’s written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. The very few Latin words in there, were transliterated into the Greek alphabet. Most accept the correction. A few foolhardy few—you know the sort who’ve always gotta be right? —actually try to stand their ground. “But didn’t Jesus speak Latin? He did in The Passion of the Christ . ” Yeah, that movie’s not as historically accurate as you think. The fact a white gentile plays Jesus —no matter how good a job he did—should usually tip you off. Latin was the language of the western Roman Empire—and Greek the language of the eastern. Which includes Israel. Which includes Jesus and his apostles. When Christianity was legalized in the 300s,

When Jesus loses students.

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John 6.59-71. So Jesus gave this big ol’ lesson on being the living bread who wants to save us —and expects our response to be a deep commitment. You gotta eat the living bread. And no, this doesn’t mean holy communion; this means really being one with Jesus. Really following him. Tough teaching for a classroom of people who only wanted Jesus to overthrow the Romans for them, then give ’em free bread. Tough teaching for Christians nowadays, who only wanna live worry-free lives, then go to heaven and live in mansions. God did all the work of saving us, so they figure he can do all the work of everything else in Christendom. These folks don’t wanna actually do anything for God; they want cheap grace and passive Christianism. There’s not much difference between our motives. But there is a big difference in our responses: The Galileans left. Whereas Christians nowadays will say yes and amen, and pretend we’re all for the idea… then go out and demonstrate by our lifest

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 lik

Grace. (It really is amazing.)

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GRACE greɪs noun . God’s generous, forgiving, kind, favorable attitude towards his people. 2. A prayer of thanksgiving. [Gracious 'greɪ.ʃəs adjective .] 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. Pastor’s response: “We can’t define grace. It’s a myster

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

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 sanctimonio