Category Archives: words

“Thanks” for the “Hand”; a look into Hebrew thankfulness

Recently as I was reading my Bible, I was struck at how many times the word “thanks” is used.  In the Psalms, I Chronicles, and New Testament, just so much.  “Give thanks for He is good.”  “Give thanks for His mercy endures forever.”  “In all things, give thanks…”  “It is good to give thanks to the LORD.”

Not sure if you do this too, but sometimes I take a step back, and just wonder, “where did we get to using this word?”  For example, where did “OK” come from?  Did our ancestors say “OK” five generations back, or did it come about recently like trendy words like “rad”, “dude”, or “psychedellic”!  So I went to http://www.etymonline.com to check out the linguistic history of our gratitudinous word “thanks”.  It’s nothing too impressive, but earliest accounts show that it was a way of showing gratitude by wishing them “good thoughts, gratitude”.  Early Danish “takke” or early German “danken” were a modern form of the root word “thankoz”, which simply meant “good thoughts, gratitude”.

As you know the Biblical culture of the Hebrews is gone.  Jew’s stopped speaking Hebrew a long time ago, and it wasn’t til recently, shortly after Israel was re-instated as a country that Hebrew became an official language of a state (people have spoken Hebrew through the ages, it is true, but we are not absolutely certain how the Hebrews of 2,000BC spoke).  Today we have word associations that are embedded into our culture.  For example, Trump = money, 50cent = Rap, CD = music, iPod = portable music.  Whenever a slow rock ballad with cathartic overtones is played at a concert, people pull out their lighters.  When we want to express elation to a performance or an exquisitely delivered speech, we clap.

My goal in all of this?  I wanted to explore the idea of what was going through an Israelites head when he gave “thanks” to God.  It’s almost synonymous with praise; almost every time there is an exhortation to praise, there is an exhortation to thanks.  This is where we get into the ideology of thanks in the Hebrew mind.  The word used for “hand”, (H30217) יד yad, is the root for the word “thanks” (H3034) ידה yada.

I’m not going to pretend I know all the answers or that mine are definitive.  But after looking at all the occasions in which this word yada appears it’s interesting to note that there is a connection between “hands” and “thanks”.  When the word yada is used in terms of thankfulness, it is sometimes insinuated that your hands are raised (we extend our hands horizontally to each other, but we extend our hands heavenward in thanks to God).  One thing is certain, the word for thanks, is definitely a word also used to describe other motions of the hand, “to throw down” or “to cast out”.

What does this all mean?  Not sure to be honest.  We definitely cannot substitute one word in for the other, for one is derived from the other.  For example we can’t subsitute “hand” for “thankfulness”; “By Gods [thankfulness] he delivered Israel out of the Philistines land.”  No, but one thing I think it does do, is beautifully intensify worship.  We have an urge to lift our hands during worship.  We have a lot of unexplained instincts, but this one drives to the core of our spiritual being.  It may be that lifting our hands in thanks to God, may be as natural as a hug for an old friend, or a kiss between lovers.  We just know what to do!  When we thank another human being, we shake hands, grasp their shoulder, extend a hand in their direction; but when our thankfulness is turned towards God, our hands go up in worshipful thanks!!  O give Him thanks for He is good! “O give thanks to the Lord, for you are good O Most High.” – Psalm 92:1

A Sacrifice that Commands Attention

Morris and Wendy Johnson work with Wycliffe Bible Translators in the US now (they used to work abroad), and from time to time I get an email from them about their whereabouts, their work or a story.  On Easter they sent out a wonderful Easter story!  It embodies how vital effectual translation is.

Linguists and Translators (which the Johnsons are) don’t just deal with words, but ideas, for ideas are communicated, seen, and felt through words.  But say you come to a culture in Paupau New Guinea who has never heard of Jesus Christ, never heard of Christianity, doesn’t even have a reference point of sacrificing things for their wrong-doings, how do you begin to communicate ideas like that to them.  This wonderful Easter story shows that struggle, and the surprising response of the people.

——————————–

A Sacrifice that Commands Attention

Adapted by Borghy Holm from an excerpt from In Search of the Source by Neil Anderson with Hyatt Moore (Chapter 16: Broken Bodies).

“How could villagers in a Papua New Guinean rain forest grasp what it meant to “flog” someone? As our Folopa translation team was gathered one day, we became mired in a passage in Mark 10 where Jesus predicted what was about to happen to Him.

“…the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him, and kill him. Three days later he will rise” (Mark 10:33-34, NIV).

We were stuck, I didn’t have a word for “flog.” What do you call it,” I asked, “if someone hits another, say an enemy, with something like a rope?”

That drew a blank. Apparently hitting someone with a rope was nothing that sounded familiar to them. But it was about to happen to Jesus and it was part of the passage, so I cast about for other ways to describe it.  My eyes fell on a piece of rattan vine left over from tying the thatch on the roof. It was lying on the old woodstove. The vine was about three feet long and as thick as my little finger. I picked it up, and instructed the men to imagine the vine was a piece of rope and the woodstove was the back of Jesus. Then with all my might I started beating the iron stovetop.

Immediately Owarap Ali – his eyes wild and his nostril flaring – shouted out: “That’s not hitting with a rope, that’s fokoso sirapo!”  He was indignant, staring up at me from his place on the floor.

Fokoso sirapo.  I wrote the words down. “Tell me more about it,” I said. But when I looked up, they were all just staring at me. It was as if it had taken them right back to the old days of revenge and bloodshed.  “Wait a minute,” someone said. “Do you mean they did that to Jesus?  But here it just said they were going to do it. Did they really do it to Him?”

Quiet fell on the room as I answered, “Yes.” Finally Eleke Whi Ali said, “We used to do that. But we only did it to our enemies, and then just before we were going to kill them.”  Yes,” I said, “that is coming, too.”

They hung their heads. In the corners, the large shell earrings of the old men swung back and forth in stunned sadness. The memory offokoso sirapo “floggings” was too fresh in their minds. They were seeing a deeper vision of the awful cruelty – the enormity of it all- than I had ever understood. And that this would happen to Jesus…someone they had grown to respect and like.  He was a Man who would put little children on His lap, who would reach out and heal those in need. These men knew what torturing and flogging were all about . That this Jesus would come to suffer like this was too much to take in.

We had to stop work for the morning. They couldn’t go on.”

——————————–

There are thousands of languages like this, that are largely unwritten and no one is doing work in.  Wycliffe needs your help should you chose to give it.

An Assassin goes Berserk!

French is silly, and so are drugs….

As most people do on a snowy evening in Chicago, I sat down on my semi-plush couch and opened a book I haven’t peered into for weeks!  It’s one of my favorites, and I do enjoy its contents very much.  Its called “A Certain ‘Je ne Sais Quoi'”, by Chloe Rhodes.  Its not a book of poetic compilations, its not full of prose, nor is it a lengthy novel, or a history lesson teacher.  It’s simply….words!  Of course just not words, because I’m typing away just making words, but rather, the history of words.  Moreover, the history of words we use everyday, that have found its origin in different languages.  English for one, loves to draw upon French words….or should I say the more beaujois class of English speakers love to remember such anti-phonetic words.  I hate the language, frankly.  You don’t pronounce 75% of the letters in any given word!  “Jors des….something….HA Google found it.  “Hors d’oeuvres”  Or as we say in English “or-durves”.

Two words I found fascinating tonight in this book.  One word from Arabic origin, and the other from Old Norse, a very old language not spoken today, but once spoken in Scandinavia.  The one from Arab origin “assassin” and the other “berserk”.  The word assassin you know, but berserk not so much, perhaps you’ve heard it with a “z” instead of an “s”.  Like this perhaps, “That five year old, once he ate the whole dozen of those sugar cookies, he just went ‘berzerk!'”  It means to go crazy, to be frantic, or even violent.

History anyone?

A brief history of “Assassin”: The Hashashin, was an Islamic militant sect founded in the ninth century when Yemeni Shiite Hasan-I Sabbah led them in their mission to to overthrow the Sunni Muslims by killing off their leaders.  The name Hasashin means “hashish eaters”.  They were users of early marijuana.   The first English usage of assassin, the anglicized translation of Hashashin, came about in 1603.

A brief history of “Berserk”: Also in the ninth century, the Vikings used this word to describe their ferocious warriors, who wore bearskins instead of armor.  They would eat mushrooms yielding a hallucinogenic state, so they would go into battle in a furious frenzied way.  They were called “Berserkers”.  This word first appeard in English much later, in the 1822.

Perhaps its the violence of late found in Egypt that made these two words jump off the page.  Perhaps its my admiration for movies like Bourne Identity, where the role of assassin is made to look like the most exciting and adventurous career one could embark on (but I’m not so easily tricked).  Much to my disappointment, this history lesson teaches me that Jason Bourne was likely a user too.  Sad, I know.

The thing thats curious to me, is their usage of drugs.  They were both users of mind-altering chemistry.  The Arabs with their Mary Jane, and the Vikings with their shrooms, those two peoples combined would have been worse than the terrible Turks.


Da Vinci Code vs Early Manuscripts: pt 3 NOBODY chose the gospels!

Almost done with the book

As my time of reading and digesting Dr. Hill’s book “Who Chose the Gospels?”, I’m beginning to lament the last words of the book.  I will be done then, and truth be told I’ve sneak-peaked the end and technically not “done”.  The early history of the church and those who safe-guarded the canon of the gospels is largely not precisely known.  From shadows, and and glimpses, from short little insights into the culture and insight into the situation, we can gather for the most part what was going on.  Like, ok we know Irenaeus was debating Marcion on X, Y, and Z issues, and Justin Martyr wrote Trypho on issues A, B, and C, but what would have been REALLY helpful is if they answered direct questions like “Where did you get your Gospels from?”  Its totally doable, but its like one of those IQ questions where it asks you, “If Susie is older than Mary, and the person standing next to Beth, is 2 years older than the person to their left, and John is their father, how old would he be?”  Its not quite like that, you get my point.

Our man John

As I could not take the suspense I read ahead to the end of the book to read in his conclusion to find out exactly “Who chose the gospels?”  His answer was a bit surprising, but almost as obvious as it was surprising.  First, I want to add that we can trace the origin of the gospels, in its guided composition (not authorship we know who wrote them, we want to know why four, and by what criteria they used).  We can trace it thinly back to the apostle John.  When it comes down to 80-150 AD, hard scientific evidence comes more sparse.  In fact what we have is an early church “tradition” that says John is the one who chose four, and called them the four first (I haven’t read that chapter yet….specifics to come).  From him, it just got passed down to those after him, to church fathers, and eventually to those who defended the gospels, that these four are the four are the ones that the apostles authored, and can be trusted.

But if we had a group of early church fathers in front of us including John, and we asked them, “Why did you chose the four gospels?”

Nobody chose the gospels

The surprising thing about Dr. Hills conclusion was that, in answer to that question… nobody.  He says, it would be like if we asked ourselves “Why did you chose your parents”?  Well you didn’t, they chose you.

“The key realization which best explains our inability to find an ultimate ‘chooser’, which best explains why the church didn’t take the easy way out with some kind of singular Gospel and why it never cobbled together a set of criteria to apply to all the Gospel candidates, is that the church essentially did not believe it had a choice in the matter!”

– Dr. C. E. Hill, p. 231

In addition he says,

“When speaking of the church’s part in the process they instead use words like “receive”, recognize”, “confess”, “acknowledge”….just like the faith itself, which had been “received from the apostles and transmitted to its children” so the Gospels were “handed down” to the church by the same apostles.”

– Dr. C. E. Hill, p. 232

So there we have it.  No one person, comittee, council, or prophet created the criteria for the four Gospels.  We don’t know the significance of four, why God providentially chose the number four.  We don’t know why God chose that point in time to insert Jesus Christ into, historically speaking.  We don’t know when He is coming, like he said he was, but we do know it is good.  It is very good.

The “other”s

I’ve talked about the other self-proclaimed gospels in my other articles, but I want to quickly touch on them in regards to their indirect support of the Gospels.  No “other” gospel, like the gospel of Mary, or the gospel of Thomas, or any of them actually attempt to denounce the authority of the Gospels, or try to persuade their readers that the authors of the Gospels were not who they claimed to be.  They all respected the club that the Gospels were in; they didn’t mess with the club.  Like some outsiders trying to get in, they tried to make themselves look appealing, by opening their gospels with phrases like “These are the secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke…” (gospel of Thomas begins this way), or “The secret revelatory discourse in which Jesus spoke with Judas Iscariot…” (the gospel of Judas).  None of the four Gospels are like that, they were open and public Gospels.  When they were written, they were not challenged, because they were aligned with the actual set of events, and everyone knew that.  Its very interesting that the outsiders didn’t try to topple the castle and build a totally new one, because they knew this castle was real, had a firm foundation and was here to stay.

More to come

I’m not done yet.  I plan on reporting more as I read it.  Sorry if some of this was not as orderly as it could have been.  I had no thinking space tonight…..desktop cluttered, table full of material and a sowing machine (a friend was making a shirt…pretty cool).  I need a “study”.

DaVinci Code vs Early Manuscripts pt 2: Three ways the church killed heresies!

Words, as some of you know, are my obsession.  To put them eloquently in beautifully composed poetry brings strength to the bone.  The color and flavor words bring into a story can be as integral as the plot itself.  When someone uses choice words in a personal letter, you are in a sense learning more about that author, and his affections toward you (how much does he care for you, is he sympathetic, or instructional), his intentions for the relationship (to end a friendship, or encourage them in a hard time), etc.  So the Bible, the greatest letter on earth, a letter written from God to man, carries on its words the very sentiments, the intentions, the will of God himself.  The incredible thing about this letter, is that he so trusted his followers (those prophets or followers of Christ who listened to the Spirit and wrote what was impressed on them), that he gave finite and mortal human beings the privilege to hear and write down what God wanted to say to humanity (more on spiritual inspiration at the bottom).

For the last month or so, I’ve been going through the book “Who wrote the Gospels?”  by Dr. Hill.  It is a book that seeks to combat mis-conceptions about early Christianity, it seeks to bring light to the process by which we have the Gospels, and seeks to further encourage our believers by empowering us with the knowledge of the history of this great book.

In this article, I want to address probably the most prevalent mis-conception of the Bible we have today.  People may ask, Why just the four gospels?  Why was the church so exclusive? It is a very legitimate question, to which there is a very interesting answer.

True, there were other gospels circulating at the time, but the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were the most prevalent, to the extent at which we can say the church at large did NOT consider the other non-canonical gospels to be inspired by the Spirit of God.  There were some who branched off, and we have testimonies of church leaders who call them heretics, those who believe the canon of scripture was more than four gospels.  One very simple argument is that the number of Greek manuscripts found to this day, by far eclipse in number those manuscripts of non-canonical types (i.e. Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Mary, those not found in the Christian bible today).  (At this point it may seem that I’m trying to say, the group with the big numbers win….that simply is not true.  That is not logical from a spiritual perspective and historical perspective….you must understand, I’m showing you one piece of the pie in supporting the fact that the Gospels were inspired by God, and the non-canonical gospels were not)

The gold rush of Alaska and the rushes that occured in California, serve as a good analogy for me today.  When miners sought to find gold, they were forced to learn by various ways to determine the difference between fools-gold (fake gold, a look-a-like) and the real thing.  The thing is, you will invest much in something you think you will benefit much from.  Same thing goes with the Bible, and Bible study.  You study the Bible because you know its true, and you want to benefit from it more, by studying it.  If you were to chose between a book that had eyewitnesses to testify to the events of that book one generation ago, and a book that had clearly inaccurate sayings (sometimes the non-canonical gospels are quite blatantly contradicting gospel testimonies of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).

Three study tools came onto the scene around 180 AD, showing to which books they invested the science of study.

1) Harmonies – scribes went through the Bible and compiled all four gospels to make a read-through version of the Gospels.  This is called A Harmony of the Gospels. For example, when a story is told, lets say about the birth of Christ, it compiles all accounts of that narrative to make a single voice.  This is helpful if you wanted to get a very detailed feel for how all the narratives combined would be.

An example: “The mother of the sons of Zebedee (Matt 27:56) and Salome (Mark 15:40) and the wives of those who had followed him from Gallilee to see the crucified (Luke 23:4-9), And the day was Preparation: The Sabbath was dawning (Luke 23:54)……etc.

2) Synopses – This was a tool similar to that of the Harmonies, except it laid out each Gospels narrative in four separate columns, instead re-written as a novel-like story with Gospel references interwoven in the text.

3) Use of codices – We quickly learn in “papyrology” (the study of texts written on papyrus…gotta be smaaart!) that the church quickly evolved from using scrolls to document the gospels (few scrolls in existence) to using a slight variation of book form, similar to what we use today called codices.  This was because using scrolls in early church services were not as useful, and could not contain four gospels worth of scroll in one set.  Because the Gospels were bigger they were forced to use a larger convention, the codices.  This caught on as the staple way to make ANYTHING gospel related.  Scribes would even make pocket-sized books of the Bible for people to study with.  The larger ones were used in church services, as they would make the fonts bigger, more organized into columns, and had read-aids to assist the reader when he would read in front of the community.

Here’s the thing!  If the early church considered the “other” gospels to be God inspired, you would think they might consider them valuable….valuable enough like gold to invest to learn what they’re about.  The thing is, NONE of the study tools EVER mentioned or included ANY of the other heretical non-canonical gospels.

To give those lonely outsider gospels a little love, scholars do say they were used by Pastors and teachers.  Iraneaus, one of our early church fathers had some things to say about learning the heresies of the day.  He even blamed one communities falling back into pagan ways because their eyes weren’t really open as to what the heretics were teaching, and so they were lulled back into old ways.  So many pastors in that day had “heretical” gospels in their libraries so they were up-to-date on their heresies, BUT they were never in the book form, which was how scribes wrote holy books, like the four gospels.  The heretical gospels were usually written on single sheets of papyrus or in scrolls, almost automatically putting them in the category of unholy.

So from the beginning, the church has practically considered all the non-canonical gospels as NOT God inspired.  Now as to how they discovered and established principles of inspiration, that is entirely a different can of worms, and we’ll get there.  Stay tuned!

What I’m writing about is something that you can go to a museum and touch.  There are old fragments you can see.  We can be scientific about all of this.  The area where this gets spiritual is the gap between God’s mind and the writers pen, as they wrote the Bible.  The doctrine that deals with this issue is called “Inspiration”.  Wayne Grudem in his “Systematic Theology” gives great light on this matter if you want to study this further.  For now I leave with you this amazing verse in 2 Peter, which shows yet another way in which God considers man trustworthy and honors us with the reception of his divine message!  Incredible he would chose us!!!

“…no prophecy of Scripture comes from someones own interpretation.  For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

– 2 Peter 1:20-21

Wow!  What do you think about all of this?

The three most disturbing words on TV.

A most excellent article, truly written with a shepherds heart.  I appreciated this article so much I thought I would share it with you all.  May it be as warning light from a light-house in a cloudy culture of grey.  The original article was found here.

Not long ago, Justin Taylor linked an excerpt from a sermon by John Piper. The clip was about Piper’s fears that certain cultural attachments could cause this whole gospel-centered movement to unravel. Here are a few quotes:

  • “There’s the giving of zeal for truth in biblical doctrine back and forth among young people, and I’m concerned that there are some loose wires dangling between the majesty of God that is sung about in the services that causes people to soar with the kind of emotional euphoria about the greatness of God and the wires of our daily, practical, detailed lives.” (2:08)
  • “They dangle disconnected between big thoughts about God and big appetites for beer.” (2:40)
  • “They dangle disconnected between infinite purity of God and the lure of pornography.” (2:46)
  • “They dangle disconnected between the majesty of Christ and the carelessly attended default weekend movie, no questions asked, it’s just a thing to do.” (2:53)
  • “They dangle disconnected between white-hot, all-satisfying divine holiness and hip-huggers and plunging necklines.” (3:06)

Several friends sent me the clip wondering what I thought. My initial reaction was concern over the collection of issues. There are differing degrees of moral ambiguity between “hip-huggers” and pornography. Other comments could be made regarding movies and beer, but Piper is too wise to simply throw these at us as blanket statements. The modifying phrases, such “big appetites” and “carelessly attended,” should be what catch our attention.

It got me thinking about the concept of “art facing the church” (how we as Christians respond to the culture of creativity around us). Much of our media consumption could be called “careless” or “mindless,” and the effect it has on our souls is little noticed. It reminded me, too, of the three most disturbing words on television.

Good Art Tells the Truth

As I’ve admitted here before, I grew up kind of a TV junkie, and remain to this day an avid apologist for television. I love TV for its ability to tell a complex, many-layered story, likeLost or Mad Men do, or like The X-Files did when I was a kid. Even formulaic shows likeThe Mentalist, which essentially repeat their premise week after week, are telling a larger story about a man haunted by his wife’s murder, wracked with guilt, and in spite of his charming exterior, seething with vengeance.

To me, the problem with our television viewing, like our movie viewing, has less to do with content than it does with our hearts. In our tribe of evangelicals, the conversations tend to focus on lust and sexuality. But there’s far more than sex happening in our hearts when we watch TV and movies.

Let’s take a fairly friendly show like The Amazing Race. I’m not a huge fan but watched a few episodes several seasons back, and I catch glimpses of it now and then. I remember when it dawned on me that the casting directors on the show are the true geniuses. Like any good story, they give you sympathetic characters, underdogs, and villains. It’s with the villains that we need to examine our hearts. There’s almost always a verbally abusive alpha-male, dominating his poor wife or girlfriend throughout the show. It brings out the bile in us, and we hate him. In fact, this sort of slimy weasel character shows up on a lot of reality television.

Now why would casting directors consistently put people on TV for us to hate? You’d think our tendency would be to change the channel when they were on TV. On the contrary, we love the villains. We love to hate them. Having a villain, an enemy, a monster to watch puts us as the viewer on the judgment seat. We’re empowered to stare down our noses at these villains, and the contempt feels great.

The villain role was so successful in reality TV that it gave birth to this whole second-generation of shows like Rock of Love, I Love New York, and Jersey Shore—houses full of contemptible people doing dehumanizing things for a moment of fame. The phrase, “I’m not here to make friends” has become a mainstay of all reality TV shows, indicating the moment when the villain is revealed, the contempt pours out, and things get ugly.

Why do we watch them? Why do we have “big appetites” for contempt? Because it fans the flames of our self-righteousness. The fall has left our souls without gravity, adrift, looking for any indication they can find of their security. Reality TV’s villains present us with the minimal assurance that, no matter how bad things may be, at least we aren’t eating animal entrails for a chance to date a washed-up rock star.

Other Terrors Lurk

There are other terrors that lurk in primetime slots of our national networks. Few Christians would openly defend viewing a show like Rock of Love, but who doesn’t get teary-eyed watching the final moments of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition? Never mind that it’s a spinoff of a show about radical plastic surgery, EMHE pulls together a whole community to give a deserving family a new, grandiose home. Who could argue with that?

Which brings me to the three most disturbing words on television: “Move that bus.”

Again, there’s no arguing with the warmth and altruistic sentiments of the show. The families who have been profiled always seem to be wonderful people, I don’t impugn them or the show’s creators with secret evil intentions. But a disturbing thing happens in the final moments of the show. After profiling the family’s suffering, after talking about hardship and perseverance, after recruiting an army of volunteers, the family is brought in front of the new home, which is hidden from view by a large touring bus. They count down and call out those three words, and the reaction can only be described as worship. There are tears and shouting while people fall to their knees, hands raised in the air.

Here it is on bold display: the ultimate hope of most Americans. It’s as though a phantom voice is responding to their suffering with the words, Well done, good and faithful servant. Here is your reward: dreamy bedrooms, big-screen TVs, privacy fencing, and wireless internet. We watch. We weep. And we hope for ourselves. It’s yet another gospel alternative, this one packaged as a heart-warming vision of the way life is “supposed to be.”

Instead of just asking yourself about lust when you watch a film, ask yourself about hope. What’s the hope being proclaimed? What other desires are being stirred? Does it feed your sense of self-righteousness? Does it give you cause for contempt? Or does it give you a call to worship at the feet of the American dream?

Good art tells the truth, and sometimes the truth is ugly. Sometimes people who suffer don’t receive a reward. Sometimes the truth involves sinful people doing sinful things, and in telling a story (even a redemptive story) it’s necessary to talk about that darkness. Sometimes what appears to be good for the heart and the family is actually an idol in disguise. At all points in the spectrum, individual tolerance for media should be constrained by a Scripture-soaked and gospel-informed conscience and by the input and feedback of our community in the church.

Here it is on bold display: the ultimate hope of most Americans. It’s as though a phantom voice is responding to their suffering with the words, Well done, good and faithful servant. Here is your reward: dreamy bedrooms, big-screen TVs, privacy fencing, and wireless internet. We watch. We weep. And we hope for ourselves. It’s yet another gospel alternative, this one packaged as a heart-warming vision of the way life is “supposed to be.”

And I may add, this show may be an echo of what is to come in our heavenly home.  What are some of your reactions?

DaVinci Code vs Early Manuscripts

I have been reading an exceptional book on textual criticism, and found it to be incredibly helpful in being arrows that effectually shoot down ancient and modern heresies.  Dr. C. E. Hill has recently written a book entitled, “Who Chose the Gospels?”  It is a scholarly pursuit to the origin of the gospels.  From Jesus’ mouth to the council of early church-fathers who helped formulate the Bible we have now today, I plan to write as much compelling material from the book to here.  Be looking for such material in the future.

The recent movie “DaVinci Code” posited a number of inaccurate things.  It mystified its audience into thinking that the Gospel of Mary was accurate, and woo-ed his readers into believing that Jesus just might have had relations with Mary Magdalene.  Reasons as to why this is false, and how it is false is to come, but consider an excerpt from the gospel of Mary;

Peter said to Mary, “Sister, we know that the Savior loved you more than other women. Tell us the words of the Savior which you have in mind since you know them; and we do not, nor have we heard of them.”

-Gospel of Mary Magdalene

Mary’s gospel goes on to describe how she does so “enlighten” all the apostles.  But wait, Peter said “Tell us the words of the Savior…since you know them; and we do not, nor have heard of them.”  Before Jesus met Mary, Jesus’ apostles had already been living, listening, and absorbing the teachings of Jesus.

Consider Luke’s first verses in his gospel;

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you…

-Luke 1:1-3

Luke has just countered Mary.  Mary’s gospel said the accounts came from her because the apostles didn’t know them.  Luke said, those who were an “eyewitness” and were co-ministers of the word with Christ (the apostles), were the ones who have compiled the gospels.

What we have here is a core debate of many textual critics.  The science of textual criticism seeks to explain why and how the gospels got into the Bible in the first place, and why gospels like Mary’s (which were written only about 140 yrs or so after Christ died) are considered not a part of your Bible.

If we are to effectually defend the Bible against claims made by people like Dan Brown, and people who have been duped into thinking that these heresies might be anywhere near the truth, we need to know our history of the Bible.  We may be able to bravely ask questions like, What would it be like if the non-traditional gospels were considered word of God?  Would we be compromising theological truths?    God did not just download His word to us via “Microsoft Holy-Word 20,000”, He used men and women through a span of over 2,000 yrs to bring together God’s very word to us.

Stay tuned for more!

Cherishing the freedom of voice

Every day you see stands full of these, and you see people reading them on the trains.  Newspapers!  A great symbol of freedom of speech in this nation.  Before you shoot me down with your technical “pea shooter” criticisms, consider the other side of the spectrum.  This from Payvand News, in Iran;

Developments in the past two weeks confirm that the Iranian government is continuing its relentless crackdown on the media. A journalist was arrested for the second time in a year and courts imposed or upheld jail sentences on two women journalists whose journalist husbands are already in prison.

Whole families are being raided in their homes and being sent to jail for printing their voice.  Do you cherish your freedom of voice here in America.  Do you exercise it?  You can in many ways.  I leave you with “honest” Abe;

Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in our bosoms.  Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere.

– Abraham Lincoln, Sept. 11, 1858

The most mis-used and mis-understood passage in Christendom today!

We were at a meeting at our church and someone was sick.  Very sick, and so we took 10 minutes to pray for her.  In the midst of our prayers for her someone prayed, “And we thank you God that you hear us, because when two or three gathered in your midst, you are here.”  In my head I was cringing.  But in a breath I was able to push it out of my head and get back to praying for her.

I believe Matthew 18:19 is the most mis-used and mis-understood in our churches today.  “When two or three are gathered in my name, I am among you” is a phrase most mis-used to the fault of poor hermeneutics.

When people use scripture in a way that is out of context for which the scripture was written, my theological teeth start grinding.  At that moment I’m in a conflict; do I stand up as “that man” and clarify “ladies and gentlemen, we are mis-using this scripture here and now, behold, the proper way to actuate what this passage was intended for”, or do I just sit back, and let the community do what they’re doing.  So far I haven’t felt the dire need to stand up and perform the previous (mostly because it would be a wee bit awkward), because not too much is in jeopardy in the moment.

It is my heart-cry for the people of God to learn to read scripture and interpret it rightly, and we do a great job at it, mostly.  The age of post-modernism and relativity has already made a dangerous mark on the science of hermeneutics (the study of interpreation of the Bible) in the church today.  Relativism has influenced some among us to adopt the attitude of “well thats what the scripture says for you, but not for me” and thus opening themselves to the vulnerability of heresy.  And so it is my goal to take this widely misunderstood passage and put some boundaries of interpretation on it (I’m not saying the way we mis-use this passage is heresy though).

I don’t even need to give the passage an introduction, as to what it says, Matthew 18:19, so here it is,

“Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

When Jesus said, “anything thing they ask” he wasn’t talking about something that usually comes up in church prayer meetings, illnesses, financial problems, marital issuess, etc. But I do need to clarify what the context is surrounding this text.  The context is instruction by Christ in how to confront a brother who has offended you,

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” v. 15

I want to point out two things in this passage, and it is 1) confrontation and 2) the need for accountability or witnesses.

“But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” vv. 16-17

As you read it, you can tell there are two things being explained.  The necessity to attempt to reconcile bad air with a brother who has offended you.  If he is hard-headed and won’t listen to you, bring more people so they can witness things, and perhaps be of help.  Ones own rebelliousness is better self-illuminated by the more varied wisdom and advice coming from multiple people, rather than just one.   If he has indeed have such a hard-heart that he doesn’t listen to the church’s admonishing for him to repent, he is in a sense to be considered the lowest of the low to the church (which is a reflection on how God sees people who’s hearts are hardened).  Here we begin to realize how the passage we misuse is used in this context.  Note the emphasis is having witnesses around you, and accountability for the offender.  Consider the passage we misuse in this new context,

“…if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” v. 19

The fact that God says “I am among them” gives two things to this passage. 1) God is there and listening to the whole thing and if two or three ask things of God, God will honor it, and 2) He is the ultimate witness.  He witnesses all things, nothing goes by Him unseen.

The spirit in which this passage is usually used in church now-a-days, is one in which we are encouraging others that God is in our presence because two or three are gathered, or in the sentiment that God is there in power, not just in presence.  But God is among us all the time is what the scripture teaches.  God is among us, because He will not leave us nor will he forsake us, we are His sons and daughters in whom he delights.  So it is true when we say He is in our midst, but we mis-use that passage when we say He is here BECAUSE two or three gathered.  If we want to be totally scriptural about this, God is with us as a witness for help when confrontation is on the agenda, and is the ultimate accountability when seeking resolution with a brother.

I write this out of love for my kingdom brothers and sisters, not out of frustration.  It is my desire that together we become EXCELLENT at taking apart scripture and digesting it properly!  Right theology dictates right living!  Happy scripture reading my family!