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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Winning Football, Misreading Scripture: New Terminologies and Catchy Phrases

I remember watching an NFL football game one Sunday afternoon many years ago. I scoffed when the player bowed his knee in the end zone then stood up, forefinger pointing towards the heavens. It was his touchdown celebration on that Sunday afternoon complete with a short prayer and public acknowledgment of God.

Immediately, I discerned the admonition by the Spirit. I was admonished because of my own self-righteous arrogance and the notion that God had no interest in a game played on Sunday afternoon. He led me to reflect, ponder and examine what I had scoffed. Some, and I must emphasize some, of what I have come to understand since that Sunday and which I have developed in my faith over the years is reflected in this article. It scoffs at the Sunday game-day quarterback turned Monday morning quarterback as theologian. This is my comment on the article Winning Football, Misreading Scripture, and The Only Child Myth by Sean Palmer on the ploys and perils of words and phrases.

new terminology and catchy phrases

The basic premise of the author in this article, which I encourage you to read, is about the mistaken notions concerning the misreading of scripture and what he calls, The Only Child Myth. This myth, allegedly, is the tendency among American Christians to think of themselves, in the singular sense, as the reason God would tilt the world for them alone. I do not believe he has grossly overstated the matter which I would like to address here shortly. I do believe he seems to be unaware how his view, particularly as a teacher of the saints in Christ, is unwittingly shaped and colored by the influences of culture. Some of those influences which are widely embraced and parroted by the saints in Christ are reflected in the author’s own embrace and use of a terminology which such as; Christianity, community, and non-communally. (note: A discussion of terms such as this would have to include, Trinity, perhaps the single major misunderstanding of the scriptures by the saints.)

These are the terms used by teachers and preachers before those who hear them preach and teach. No, these words do not represent a heresy or a doctrinal problem. I do understand that these represent the struggle of the saints, teachers and preachers included, to proclaim the message of Jesus, the Son of God, and the kingdom of heaven. It is for this same reason I take no offense when I hear the unlearned Sunday’s player talking theology on Monday. Personally, while I do not take offense at the use  of these terms; I have no desire, need or use for these shorthand attempts to represent what is for the saints to read, examine and understand in the scriptures. Nonetheless, while the practice of coining new terminology and catchy phrases may be a good way to memorize and to parrot sound bites, these devices are not a substitute for teaching which can produce understanding in the hearts of the saints.

The author’s first attempt to debunk and clarify the mistaken notion of being special  is taken from the book by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien. (A book which I have not read, but I expect to read this week.) What the authors debunk, according to Sean, is the misunderstanding and application by the saints in Christ of the prophet Jeremiah to certain plans:

'For I know the plans that I have for you,'declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

seems innocuous

Yes, it is true that the plans of which Jeremiah speaks are not about myself; the individual as The Only Child, or of the saints in Christ today. The plans in Jeremiah’s message pertain to Israel and his return from Babylonian captivity. Point well made. Point well taken.
What Sean does not seem to realize that while his own plans for re-imagining church as community may not represent a misreading of scripture they represent, 1) a dismissal of, let alone reading of, scripture together with the significant meaning of its terminology, and 2) a deference to culture for the things he teaches and practices.

The buzz of the past three decades about dropping the term church when referring to the body of believers in favor of the term community seems innocuous enough. The pop message of culture which the church often adapts for its listeners is that that the church is open and welcomes all. Again, this may have the appearance of being praiseworthy and commendable. (Conversely, do not distort my point as a suggestion that the church is to remain closed and unwelcoming to all.) However, the effective result is that the message reflects an abandonment of the significance and meaning of the term church as the called out.

Yes, we understand that even that definition in the first century had no religious connotation. It was used in reference to any civic or political gather of the citizens. They were called out to come and hear or discuss some matter of importance to them. It was the apostles who by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit saw it as a fitting and apt descriptive term to refer to and apply to those in Christ who have been called out from the world. This is not the idea which the term community connotes. It lacks the divine transforming nature of those in its number as well as the knowledge and sanctity of those who come together in praise and worship to the Father; the unique royal priesthood, the children of God.

the message of culture

Here is the blandness and contradiction when the message of the church defers to the message of culture. While the claim of culture is that it purports to foster and nurture diversity in the community its own poster children of same-sex couples represent a rejection and less than friendly response to any message which proclaims and exults the diversity and difference as between a man and a woman in the union of marriage. There seems to be little awareness of how the re-imagining church as community according to culture can/does bring with it these other, more substantive elements of pop culture. Community stands in stark contrast and opposition to the message of the church as the redeemed and the message which she is to proclaim in all cultures and nations of the world.


Conclusion

It may be a source of amusement (or a challenge to proclaim Jesus) for some saints to hear the Sunday football game quarterback-turned Monday morning theologian. That quarterback’s explanation and acknowledgement of God for getting him the game victory as though God were constantly tilting the world for the individual is neither a distortion of scripture nor a problem. Nonetheless, what the author of the article dismisses as a misreading by the saints in Christ of the message of prophet Jeremiah because it reflects a reasoning whereby God is seen as working marvels for the individual as though he/she were God's only child. Yet, this reading of the passage has more validity than the practice of the church to adapt of  terminologies and practices of culture as a kind of re-image makeover for the church. The truth is that what may be a growing practice in the church to chasten the saints for mis-applying the message of Jeremiah is found more and more with Jesus’ own words or the words of Paul. The words of Jesus and Paul are often dismissed as not applying to the saints in Christ today. It is hoped that even the least discerning of disciples would see it, if nothing else, than at least as something for them to be aware of it, understand it and not be troubled by it as the latest attempt to makeover what God has made.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Bible: So Misunderstood It's a Sin

First, I have thoroughly read this article. Second, I have, as recently as December 31, 2014 completed a cover-to-cover reading of the Bible. It is not my first reading. Kurt Eichenwald, the author of the above named article, states the purpose behind the article. He claims,
Newsweek’s exploration here of the Bible’s history and meaning is not intended to advance a particular theology or debate the existence of God. Rather, it is designed to shine a light on a book that has been abused by people who claim to revere it but don’t read it, in the process creating misery for others.

Then, after a dredging of the dregs on modern Bible criticism he concludes, 

So why study the Bible at all? Since it’s loaded with contradictions and translation errors and wasn’t written by witnesses and includes words added by unknown scribes to inject Church orthodoxy, should it just be abandoned?

No. This examination is not an attack on the Bible or Christianity. Instead, Christians seeking greater understanding of their religion should view it as an attempt to save the Bible from the ignorance, hatred and bias that has been heaped upon it. If Christians truly want to treat the New Testament as the foundation of the religion, they have to know it.


There is nothing in the content of the article by Kurt Eichenwald which is new to me, to the saints in Christ in general or to those other theologians and their contributions to the study of the biblical text which he purports to lay out but whose contributions are not a part of the bias of this article.
What is my purpose for this brief comment? It is neither to bash Eichenwald nor to refute every point in his article. Rather, my aim is to address just one point as an example which may serve to enlighten those saints in Christ who are impressed or shocked by the content of this article by Eichenwald.
There is one thing which Eichenwald does right. He begins with the matter of the scriptures themselves. I believe there is a consistent telltale characteristic when a message is being parroted. This telltale characteristic is evident in his opening volley that no one, not television preachers, evangelical politicians, the pope, Kurt Eichenwald or I (gt) who has read the Bible. Yes. I understand this is for dramatic emphasis by casting a dismissive shot at the authenticity of the Bible as he states:
At best, we’ve all read a bad translation—a translation of translations of translations of hand-copied copies of copies of copies of copies, and on and on, hundreds of times.


Eichenwald attempts to discredit and dismiss the authenticity of the Bible on three different levels: 1) bad translations, 2) bad translations of translations, and 3) the Greek koine language.
Eichenwald may be aware about koine Greek, but if so he reveals a markedly, significant ignorance about koine Greek. Years ago the very same language of the Bible manuscripts which stumped Bible scholars for many years was finally cleared up when it was discovered that the Bible was not written in classical Greek but it was written in koine; the common language of ordinary Greek people. Yet, Eichenwald states “not all of the amateur copyists spoke the language or were even fully literate,” and _ did not understand the words?
Then, after stating that the ancient manuscripts parchments crumbled and primitive ink faded away he cheerily touts the discoveries in the last 100 years of manuscripts which date back centuries. These are the same koine manuscripts which are the sources of those translations but in what would seem to be an even greater cause for Eichenwald to cheer for is to inform us of Erhman’s flip dismissal of these manuscripts.
“There are more variations among our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament,” says Dr. Bart D. Ehrman, a groundbreaking biblical scholar and professor at the University of North Carolina who has written many books on the New Testament.

What Eichenwald decries as dishonesty and a butchery of word translation is what is arguably debated among translators and linguists as dynamic equivalence. It is a means by which translators intend to provide for the reader, not the literal meaning of the word which would be obscure and lost to the reader, but rather a familiar word which carries the same or approximate meaning in the language of the reader. Of course, there is context which is always vital in the reading of any document. This understanding is absent from Kurt Eichenwald’s explanations even when he cites the manner of koine Greek in these manuscripts as it was written in one continuous, unbroken line without spacing or punctuation. Eichenwald purports to challenge Christians to “attempt to save the Bible from the ignorance, hatred and bias [and] . . . to know it.” This seems disingenuous because he would have readers believe that his article is just simply a presentation of the Bible as a very human work with its “flaws, the contradictions, and the theological disagreements.”
Those words may resonate with some people. Those who have read at least the first three chapters of the Bible may recognize the father of biblical criticism as none other than Satan. It was well before the account of what God had spoken had been written. All three parties present, namely, Satan and Adam and Eve knew what God had said. Yet, the Genesis account records of the serpent that,
he said to the woman, "Indeed , has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?"
Thus, a portend of what would become the lofty preoccupation of “modern Bible criticism.” This is the preoccupation of Kurt Eichenwald' parroting with this copy of a copy of a copy of a very familiar set of notions on alleged contradictions and translation differences of no substantive significance  in the Bible.
x

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Matthew 24 & I Timothy 2: Power and salvation in Rome and Artemis

power and salvation

This article is about two different factors which affect the saints in Christ, particularly as these factors are seemingly outside of their control. Two instances for our learning in which these factors appear are Matthew 24 and I Timothy 2. They appear in the two different geographic areas of Jerusalem and Ephesus. These factors are 1) a power, and 2) the salvation of the saints. These scripture passages do not name the power to which the Holy Spirit alludes, but the passages do give instruction for the enlightenment of the saints concerning their salvation as they were affected by those powers. How the Holy Spirit spoke to us through these passages speaks is for our understanding and enlightenment concerning other areas not the least of which includes the teaching and preaching of the gospel of Jesus by the saints who are the royal priesthood of believers.


The purpose for the focus on these passages is that the saints in Christ might gain an understanding and appreciation for the awareness of New Testament speakers and writers of the historical context.


Specifically, it is about how history and context are assumed and acknowledged in some passages of scripture, but they are ignored in other passages.


If you are like me it probably grates on your ears when you hear history and context; especially when the two appear together in the same sentence. It is not that either of these represent a problem. Rather, it is that too often the mere mention of the terms of history and context are given as the default answer and explanation for passages and concepts which we struggle to understand much less teach. Those writers, and speakers such as Jesus, were aware of the power under which they lived, struggled, and in the case of Jesus, would be put to death. Those writers and speakers understood that what was paramount was the salvation, that is, the preservation of the saints, not at all costs, but such as would bring glory to God.


an unnamed power/salvation made certain


God makes no apology for the reality of the world in which the saints reside. Although God was the ultimate mediator between Israel and the world powers which rose to prominence his warnings with respect to those powers was about how God could and would unleash them as his instruments of punishment on Israel should they ever fall away from the commandments of the Lord their God. He instructed and warned the saints at various times about those world powers. The saints were to be wise and aware in their response towards the actions of those powers if they were to preserve and save their lives. God does not always refer to those powers by name as he did in the numerous visions which Daniel received from God. It would be careless for the saints to gloss over or dismiss the relevance of a passage in the first or twenty first century on the basis of a shallow, yes shallow claim, namely, because a specific power is not named. Just as bad as dismissing a passage is the false notion of a so-called conservative interpretation which purports to just follow the word without taking into consideration the factors of a power and salvation of the saints in the historical context of the scripture.


Matthew 24: the power of Rome in Jerusalem


For example, Jesus never revealed by name the governing power to which he alludes in his prophecy in Matthew 24 in that historical context. Jesus expected that the disciples would look, understand and discern that when that unnamed power brought on the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem it would be in accordance with the judgment which he had foretold in their presence. The disciples had received instruction and insight from Jesus 40 years prior to the destruction of the temple. Generally, we assume and acknowledge the history and the context of Matthew 24. How is it that history and context seem impersonal enough and easier so as to attain a general understanding and acceptance at a discussion level while an unnamed power receives less than a similar understanding and acceptance?


Those disciples who listened and remembered knew what they were to do;  emerged, their salvation made certain because of the words of Jesus. Those who either did not listen, forgot, or dismissed the instruction from the Lord; perished. Those who might have foolishly and arrogantly reassured themselves that “God will save us;” perished. This false reassurance had abounded in Israel in the days leading up to their final captivity; first by Assyria and later by Babylon. Even as all the signs of which the prophets had forewarned them about were being made manifest they mistakenly believed and expected deliverance and salvation from those powers from God.


When Jesus revealed to the disciples who marveled at the enormous and beautiful temple that not one stone would be left unturned they were astonished. This was not history. It was the future. Certainly, the Jews could draw on the scripture and their collective memory of their Babylonian captivity and the destruction of the temple at that time. However, for the most part they could not connect or see a need to draw the connection between those past things in their history with world powers and the future destruction by an unnamed power which Jesus spoke to them. It was prophecy. Jesus opened a window for them to reveal to the disciples in much the same as God had done for Daniel as to what was to happen, not centuries later, but during their lifetime:


Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.


Yet, the prophecy of Jesus bore the certain knowledge that there would be some, not all,  who would not survive the events of those days because they failed to listen, understand and remember. They were unwilling or unable to understand and accept that the power in the prophetic message of Jesus was Rome. Subsequently, they perished.


I Timothy 2: the power of Artemis in Ephesus


A second example is found in the I Timothy 2 passage which involves the ministry of Paul in Asia.


Yahweh was to the Jews in Jerusalem and all Judea what Artemis was to the Gentiles in Ephesus and all Asia.


This reality is attested to by Demetrius in Acts 19 whose testimony was preserved for the saints by the Holy Spirit. Yet, Paul, like Jesus, never named that power in Ephesus. The saints  were expected to look, understand and discern what Paul’s instructions meant and how they were to respond to those instructions under the shadow, not of the temple of God in Jerusalem, but of the temple of Artemis; the power in Ephesus. It is quite plausible and likely that some of our brothers and sisters who had come to faith in Jesus had emerged from the cult of Artemis. They knew and had lived under the power of Artemis. In Ephesus, the female dominant cult of Artemis held sway and its hold over women: Artemis was the savior of women in childbirth.


Women in Ephesus and throughout Asia had, like Eve, been deceived by Artemis. They had believed Artemis was their savior. But Paul boldly asserts and affronts that message of Artemis when he declares of our sisters in Christ that:


she will be saved through her childbearing, if they continue in faith, love, and sanctification with sobriety.


The mistaken assumption by which some teachers and preachers of the word in the body of believers impose the additional qualifier of childbearing to salvation in Jesus borders on appalling and apostasy. Yet, those same teachers and preachers remain as oblivious as those who in Jerusalem who perished. They do not listen, they have forgotten, or they reason that their message of salvation, not just for women, but for men, too, has been made more sure and better secured than what the Holy Spirit who indwells them revealed through his servants, the apostles.


Women in the cult of Artemis were not saved through childbearing anymore than our sisters in Christ are saved through childbearing. Women in the cult of Artemis were saved by Artemis. Women in Christ were saved through childbearing without regard or reliance on Artemis. This is Paul’s confident assertion that the salvation of our sisters was through their continued walk in faith, love and sanctification with sobriety, _ without Artemis. The fact that they bore children without the aid or reliance on Artemis not only silenced the adversary (typically, Satan by name, but in Ephesus his name was Artemis) but it shut up the insults of the adversary that women who departed from Artemis were gossips and busybodies. (I Timothy 5:15)


How is it possible that despite the mention of women’s costly apparel, (perhaps former priestesses in the temple of Artemis) women teaching and women bearing children under the shadow of the temple of Artemis the saints remain adamantly oblivious to power of Artemis whom the Holy Spirit saw fit to introduce to us in Acts 19? Those who wonder blithely why Paul did not mention Artemis by name and therefore feel justified to reject the unnamed power of Artemis in their understanding of I Timothy and Paul’s letters must also wonder and reject the unnamed power of Rome which carried out the destruction of Jerusalem in which those who did not heed the message of Jesus perished.


just like old times


The understanding which some saints claim concerning, for instance, the I Timothy 2 passage is akin to another fatal forgetfulness and misunderstanding by some of our first century brethren. It does not seem likely, given the admonition of Jesus prophecy to the disciples in Matthew 24, that there were some disciples who probably concluded before the destruction of the Jerusalem temple that everything would return back to life as usual; just like old times _ as long as they remained faithful.


They were determined to the end, in their disdain for the power of Rome, to disregard Rome in no less the same manner as the saints disregard Artemis, today. After all, the call by Jesus was for the discerning saints to be faithful, right? Isn’t that enough? Those who escaped death during the destruction of the temple thought they could resume life as a Jew and be neither the wiser nor be filled with the Holy Spirit for what God had just granted them. But, Jesus expected the saints to consider, to discern, to understand and to act accordingly with respect to the power of Rome which would soon come down hard on them.  Those who thought to seek safe refuge in the city, Jesus alerted them, would seal their fate because they failed to heed his words.


There is a staunch explanation which exalts men as leaders which is not even a matter in discussion in I Timothy. It is bad enough to mistakenly equate teaching and preaching with leadership, but it is even worse to glibly ascribe spirituality to a man simply, not even because he is a man, but because he is a leader and must therefore be spiritual. It escapes our notice that if those who were to wait on tables (Acts 6) were to be full of wisdom and the Holy Spirit how much more so those who lead the people of God. It is another mistaken notion to equate spirituality with being full of the Holy Spirit. The explanation purports (faithfully and lovingly, if not biblically, the saints are reassured) to put and keep women in their place because of their gender as ordained by God. The thought behind this rank and file order is derived from Paul’s reference to the Genesis creation account. This egregious explanation pins Eve’s sin in the garden on those sisters in Christ who have been, like their brothers, redeemed and washed by the blood sacrifice of Jesus.


This explanation borders on apostasy, not unlike Israel’s apostasy under the reign of their kings, when the sacrifice of Jesus for the salvation of women must be enhanced with childbearing. The view of these teachers and preachers is as mistaken and ignorant as those saints who scrounged for reassurance in the familiar, “God can do anything” even as Rome unleashed her judgment of Jerusalem according to the decree of God. It is a view not unlike that of believing that everything would return to normal after the destruction of the temple; a notion which reverts to the garden to make certain the salvation of women by imposing on them Eve’s sin in the garden and the condition of childbearing. It is a impression about male dominance not unlike the female dominance in the cult of Artemis; just good ol’ boys, just like old times. Yes, Paul clearly and undoubtedly makes a reference to the Genesis creation, but any explanation about that reference which is oblivious to and rejects the unnamed power of Artemis is as flawed as to reject the unnamed power of Rome in the destruction of Jerusalem.


conclusion


The settings of history and context are reflected in the scriptures. It is within these settings in which the Holy Spirit brought out and presented various factors concerning the powers which affected the salvation of the saints in Christ. They, like us, were to understand and be enlightened by these things. The result of the saints who persevered and overcame either the power of Rome in the destruction of the temple or the power of the cult of Artemis, was that the priesthood of believers not only remained faithful, but they continued faithfully in the teaching and preaching of the gospel of Jesus.

This is a call and support for those brothers and sisters in the royal priesthood of believers who are not only not against Jesus but who are with him in the teaching and preaching is to listen, understand and heed the words of Jesus for the salvation of those who know not Jesus as Lord and Savior. Just as Jesus warned about the false messengers in the day of visitation on Rome telling the saints to go there or come here to preserve their lives, beware of messengers who clothe themselves with an assumed spirituality merely because they are men and they happen to lead. peace in Jesus.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Fourth Avenue Church of Christ: A commendation with exhortation

It was about five years ago that I was led by the Holy Spirit, rather unexpectedly, to an understanding concerning the royal priesthood of believers. Prior to that time I could and did, at best, maybe parrot some vagaries and at worse, teach ignorantly what I did not understand. This term, royal priesthood, which God used, not of the as-yet nonexistent Aaronic priesthood at that time, but of Israel is taken up by Peter to refer, not to men, not to women, but to the saints in Christ.


The time of that understanding was not a place of comfort where the Holy Spirit led me back then, but I understood and accepted this truth; He does not lead us where we would like to go. Although I am not going to go into the details of the results of that study and examination and will refer those interested to my article, Artemis and the Royal Priesthood of Believers, I do want to make some brief comments concerning the decision of the Fourth Avenue church of Christ to bring a woman intern preacher on their staff. Here is the video.


I do commend the saints for their decision even if it does make me uncomfortable. Certainly, the reason for my discomfort is not to be taken as a reason as to why the decision or practice are wrong or a departure from the authority of the scriptures. My discomfort is not unlike that of five years ago or that discomfort, to seriously understate it, of thirty seven years ago when I came to be crucified with Christ. My discomfort has nothing to do with Lauren King or any of my sisters preaching. Knowledge and understanding may preclude discomfort, but its presence in the heart of the believer is not the true indicator, the heart being more deceitful than all, of the believer’s commitment to God and his word. I understand the video is not intended to convey the details of the decision or Lauren King’s preaching talents, I do believe the glimpses are purposeful and intended to capture and convey the message of the church for the saints in Christ who see this video. Here are a couple of reasons for my discomfort and they do not concern Ms King, but rather the leadership as represented by Patrick Mead and Nancy Baughman.


  1. Patrick Mead’s pop view which pins Paul against Jesus with Jesus emerging triumphant is the stuff expected from the unlearned and nonbelievers; not from a teacher of Israel.
  2. I could be mistaken about what I infer from Nancy Baughman’s words that “sometimes we don’t walk that out very comfortably,” but here’s what makes me uncomfortable what I hear from these leaders. No, this is not a condemnation, but it is a call for something more than for the benefit of the saints and the glory of the Father.


I am not exactly heartened to hear the euphemism from Mead that he thinks “the churches of Christ are getting this.” I am reminded of the change of terminology in the matter of weather when the message and the evidence did not match up. It went for “global warming” to “climate change.” I hear something similar in Mead’s new terminology. The standard default explanation in the past from both the pulpit and in the classroom about matters either not understood or taught inadequately has changed from being “a culture thing” to a “history” thing. If we only knew our history and about temporary things we would understand, says Mead. Yes, the study of history is important, but it would appear that the past use of culture as a gloss-over is the new gloss-over of history. I would be really interested to hear Mead’s further elaboration on his understanding of his use of that expression.


Especially grating is Mead's pop-speak about not reading Jesus through Paul, but rather that he reads Paul through Jesus. This reflects a forgetfulness or dismissal of what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit and the work of the Spirit in the apostles:


 "But when He, the Spirit of truthcomes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 "He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.


Paul and all the other apostles did not speak anything but what was given to them by the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit only spoke and disclosed to them as He took from Jesus.

I am not saying the Fourth Avenue leadership did not teach the congregation on these matter, but I am saying that what I hear and see in the video clip is what I have seen and heard in detail, and there is never much by way of detail, in other similar accounts concerning the teaching and preaching ministry of our sisters. So, with such understanding, if it can be called that, the leadership of the congregation often introduces to the congregation their latest decision without much more than we hear from Mead. This manner of informing the saints is often in the form of catchy phrases, sound bites, and negatives as to what the scriptures do not state and rhetorical questions which are often taken by the listeners as a mistaken indication that the questioner must surely understand the matter.

This, too, is what I infer, and possibly mistakenly perhaps, from the brief clip of Nancy Baughman’s words. It is hard enough for the saints to walk where they have not walked before but for them to stumble because they were not prepared is the neglect of those who have take up the responsibility for the burden of teaching them. Speak and disclose the things of the Spirit, not merely by peppering a message with choice, catchy words, but with those which the saints with confidence can themselves affirm through the written testimony of the Holy Spirit. Peace to the saints at Fourth Avenue and those who lead them.

peace to all.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Jesus' Marriage to Mary the Magdalene is Fiction

The main reason for which I reject the notion about Jesus as having been married to Mary Magdalene (Mary of Magda, Mary Migdal, Mary of the Tower) is not because it is offensive or repulsive. Certainly, for others that notion takes on a deliberate tone of mockery towards Jesus and those who have put their trust and faith in him. However, neither the concept nor the reality of the sexual union is offensive, insulting nor repugnant to the same God who created all these things, experiences and relationships for human enjoyment. It is no more offensive than the concept and reality that the same God who is spirit and invisible could and did take on human form.


Two objections emerge against that popular speculative notion. First, the marriage, sex experience as is alleged of Jesus as that of a husband is contrary to the duties of commitment and responsibilities Yahweh honors between a man and a woman in marriage. Second, the purpose for which God took for himself during his brief dwelling among men did not involve settling down with a wife, a home and raising a family only to leave them. Ordinarily, this understanding from the scriptures would suffice for believers, but the task here involves the allegations (if not aspersions) of Simcha Jacobovici.


I am not offended by Simcha Jacobovici’s (The Talpiot Tomb) explanations concerning what I prefer to think may be a genuine interest on his part. Still, the closing line of this article seems to reveal his disregard for the testimony of scripture in favor the another familiar notion that, “we can finally return Jesus to the historical context from which Paul removed him.” What I prefer to do is to respond to three of his interpretations of scripture in the Huffington Post article, Jesus' Marriage to Mary the Magdalene is Fact, not Fiction in which he thinks he has found vital clues to entertain this notion.


Paul’s alleged laxness


The idea that Paul was lax, according to Jacobovici, about Jewish clean foods and the Sabbath is to say Paul was lazy and uncaring about those things. However, this was not the case. Everything Paul wrote to the saints in Christ allows for the possibility, perhaps even the likelihood, that he would eat clean foods in accordance with the law of Moses just as he had done all his life before becoming a disciple of Jesus. The same grace which Paul taught and urged the saints to extend to one another concerning holidays (Romans 14) such as the Sabbath also extended and applied to Paul. He was just as free as anyone else to eat clean foods as to to keep the Sabbath. Where Paul stopped and drew the line for himself and likewise taught others was that they were to stop and refrain from imposing these personal preferences on others or to associate these things as having any value on their salvation on Jesus.


Paul’s alleged advocacy for celibacy


The apostle Paul no more advocated for celibacy (I Corinthians 7) than for the rejection of the observance of the Sabbath by any Jews who as disciples of Jesus desired to their continued observance of the Sabbath. Paul’s stipulations through his teaching to the saints was clear; that they understand such observances with respect to their salvation. Paul made it clear to the Corinthians why it was that he advised them to remain single and not married. He wanted them to know that they would certainly face trials which would bring pressures to bear on their relationships as husband and wife; it was not that he was opposed to marriage. Paul showed his familiarity and unity with Jesus on marriage when he deferred, emphatically, not I, but the Lord, to Jesus on some particulars concerning the marriage. Specifically, he addressed the union of husband and wife where both are believers and where one was a believer and the other a nonbeliever. (I Corinthians 7:10-18) Paul also wrote beautifully and profoundly on the marriage of man and woman in Ephesians 5:22-33 and referenced it to Christ and the church as a great mystery.


Jesus’ alleged marriage to Mary Magdalene


Simcha Jacobovici believes the saints in Christ got it all wrong concerning the real Jesus. According to him our picture of Jesus is one which was altered substantively by the apostle Paul. Jacobovici states:


Had Jesus been celibate, Paul would certainly have invoked him as an example when arguing for celibacy. But he doesn't. Never once does Paul argue that Christians should be celibate, because Jesus was celibate. Not once!


There is not much credence to give to Jacobovici who has little regard for what the scriptures do state, but will just as easily without hesitation refer to those same scriptures for what they do not state such as the celibacy of Jesus. Still, I am more interested in encouraging the saints in Christ than I am troubled about Jacobovici’s unoriginal message. Briefly, there are basically four sources to which he cites to further corroborate his interpretation of the scriptures.


The Attis pre-gospel cultural influence: Paul was from the region of the god Attis which included Paul’s hometown of Tarsus. The self emasculation of Attis is taken by Jacobovici as the source of influence behind Paul’s message of, according to Jacobovici, celibacy. Of course, Paul neither practiced nor did he teach self emasculation, but he went as far as he could by supposedly advocating celibacy. Jacobovici’s view is that Paul’s Jesus looks a lot like Attis is seriously warped, not in terms of any self mutilation, but the alleged parallels of Attis’ love for Cybele and in Jesus towards Mary Magdalene. He states;


Had Jesus been celibate, Paul would certainly have invoked him as an example when arguing for celibacy. But he doesn't. Never once does Paul argue that Christians should be celibate, because Jesus was celibate. Not once!


Were Jacobovici to apply that parallelism he would also see that Jesus taught and demonstrated very graphically self crucifixion, figuratively and literally. This is not an exaggeration. It is not a secret. Paul was quite familiar with crucifixion as taught and demonstrated by Jesus, but neither Paul nor Jesus ever urged the literal, physical self crucifixion of the followers of Jesus. Certainly, if Jacobovici were to ponder in the most superficial manner the crucified Christ he would see that Jesus’ life was one of denial. Yet, he could enjoy and rejoice among the people and to do the will of his Father.


The gospels: When Mary Magdalene went to anoint the body of Jesus (John 20:1) it would have been as was expected from the wife of the deceased. Jacobovici points out no one but the wife of the deceased would clean the private parts of a body. Duly noted.


However, Jacobovici also ignores those times when Jesus did what was not part of a rabbi’s conduct such as when he spoke to women. Mary Magdalene, who purportedly washed the feet of Jesus (Luke 7) crashed several cultural norms by doing so as did the rabbi Jesus by allowing himself to be touched by a sinful woman even if it was to wash his feet.


Jesus honors the sinful woman and declares that what she has done by anointing him as she has done with the costly ointment is for the day of his burial. Furthermore, what she had done would be thereafter forever associated with the preaching of the gospel of the Christ. Mary’s first anointing of Jesus was neither forgotten nor a one time expression of love and devotion by her. She anointed him a second time at Bethany. (John 12)
Furthermore, she, Mary Magdalene, as she is identified by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John was prepared to anoint Jesus yet one more time at his burial, but two things had already happened. One, Jesus had been raised from the dead. Two, Mary had already anointed him at Simon’s house.


The Gnostic gospels: The great 1947 find of the Nag Hammadi manuscripts in Egypt is, according to Jacobovici, the revenge of the Gnostics. All those manuscripts, allegedly, state the same thing, namely, that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. Jacobovici’s words about the Gnostics may be as telling about Jacobovici himself:


Simply put, they were more interested in his passion in bed than in his "Passion" on the cross.


I do not expect Jacobovici to accept what he has known and what he believes has been reversed by the Nag Hammadi manuscripts, namely, that the church rejected the message of the Gnostics for the same reasons which the scriptures, then as today, refute the Gnostic and Jacobovici’s claims.


The Talpiot Tomb: This is the double-prong slight of Jacobovici’s message. His message is not merely to snicker from behind the cover of the Gnostics for his voyeurist notions of Jesus’ passion in bed, but to slam all notions and hope of a resurrection. The Talpiot Tomb discovery 1n 1980 appears to be the tomb cave of the family of Jesus including lime ossuaries of his mother Mary, his brothers, Mary Magalene and others who seem to include Matthew, one of his apostles.


The inclusion of an ossuary with the inscription of the name of Mary Magdalene in the Talpiot Tomb is Jacobovici’s point of focus. DNA results (see video @ 59:38) of samples taken from skeletal remains in the ossuaries of “Jesus, son of Joseph” and “Mary Magdalene” or “Mary of the Tower” were purportedly conclusive. Specifically, it was determined the two people to whom the DNA belonged were not blood related, at least not the same mother, and must therefore have been husband and wife. Really? This conclusion, we are informed, was reached by lab personnel who were not informed as to the name identities, an implicit relationship or the historical implications. What the audio clip of the supposedly impartial lab worker does not reveal is whether he stated other plausible conclusions involving non marital relations. For example, the presence of our non blood related individuals such as Matthew is just as much a plausible connection with the DNA of Mary Magdalene. There are several other options, but suffice it to say that while they dilute and weaken his efforts to establish a marriage relationship they do nothing to diminish, what I perceive as, his underline efforts to weaken the historic claims concerning Jesus, Messiah, the Son of God.


the gospel of Philip


Jacobovici cites the gospel of Philip and alludes to other sources which present Mary Magdalene not only as the wife of Jesus, but as one who was recognized as a zealous proclaimer of the message of Jesus after his death. In a biblical account (John 19) familiar to Christians when the crucified Jesus calls out to the disciple whom he loved to care for his mother. Generally, it is understood that the disciple was John, the writer of the gospel account, and the mother was Jesus’ own mother. Jacobovici takes this account by John, the writer of the gospel, to be Mary Magdalene and the disciple to be Jesus’ own son by Mary Magdalene. What is the problem here? Why would Jesus need to tell the mother to behold her own son? Why would he tell the son care for his own mother? The effect of Jacobovici’s explanation is that Jesus’ words to the mother and son about the obvious mutual care between mother and son are are absurd, but necessary in Jacobovici’s scheme to create his portrait of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.


I am not bothered by these allegations and I do not believe there is a need to reply to those allegations, specifically. What I do see is what Jacobovici overlooks and which I believe is significant because it speaks to how peoples mistaken beliefs and notions take a life of their own. The apostle John made us aware of such an instance which involved him personally and that what Jesus said about John to Peter went on to be complete misconstrued. This is the passage in John 21:21-23.


So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, "Lord, and what about this man?" 22 Jesus said to him, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!" 23 Therefore this saying went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?"


The writer tells us in the same context that there were many more things which Jesus did other than what was written by John:


And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.


So, this is just as plausible about numerous other sayings of Jesus and the apostles which went out among the brethren and which were misunderstood, ignored or construed by them in ways which of their own making and had nothing to do with anything which was said by Jesus or the apostles.


Consider these passages


Jesus replied, "Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. Luke 9:58


Then Peter said to Him, "Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us? Matthew 19:27


A crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, "Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You." 33 Answering them, He said, "Who are My mother and My brothers?" 34 Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He said, "Behold My mother and My brothers! 35 "For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother." Mark 3:31-35


Therefore Jesus said, "Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. John 12:7


Does it sound like Jesus, unlike the foxes and birds, had a house for himself or much less a wife?
Why would the disciples have left everything even while Jesus took a wife for himself and fathered a son?
When Jesus’ own mother and brothers came to take him home because they thought he had lost his mind his reply revealed an other-world view than the earthly view of the entanglement of human relations of any kind.


conclusion


The allegations by Simcha Jacobovici of a secret marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene are nothing knew. Aside of his interests to promote his international bestseller book, Jacobovici’s ulterior motives are hardly secret. He purports an interest to “return Jesus to the historic context from which Paul removed him” while blithely, and perhaps with a snicker, has the skeletal remains of Jesus examined for DNA. He has one objective, as inferred and articulated by lab technician from the DNA test results, (see The Talpiot Tomb video) that two DNA samples could only belong to “ husband and wife.” This is extremely quaint.


Mary Magdalene did attain a unique distinction and honor. She is the only woman named more time than the apostles, anointed Jesus on two different occasions and was prepared to anoint him a third time. It was when she arrived at the tomb of Jesus only to learn that he was risen that received the honor of being not only among the first to see the resurrected Jesus, but to be the first person, a woman, who proclaim that Jesus was risen.

Jesus repeatedly stated his work, that is, his mission was to do the will of the Father. The concept or notion of Jesus being is to be rejected, not because marriage and sex are an offense or insult to God, but because these are the things which preoccupy men and women. Jesus came to fulfill an purpose involving all mankind, not his fulfilling, albeit normal desires and pleasures, but certainly not within the scope of his mission. peace to all