Friday, April 20, 2012

The Bible and Homosexuality

Last week I posted two videos in which Ben Witherington spoke about women in ministry. This week Ben has posted a seven minute video on the topic of sexuality and the Bible. Here is the clip.

I would like to engage my readers in a conversation here about what Witherington has to say in this video. But I also want us to keep this conversation civil and focused on the topic. I know that I have a variety of readers that frequent this blog, including gay Christians, and I would like to hear from them as well as those who are not gay. If I find a comment to be less than charitable I will delete it.

For my own part, I agree with much of Witherington's analysis of the Bible. I don't find the Bible endorsing homosexual acts, I find just the opposite. But my questions are focused more on hermenutics. For instance, I also don't' see the Bible endorsing the abolition of slavery. Again, I see just the opposite. Yet, we have decided that slavery is not a good thing and we try to eradicate it where ever we find it it in spite of the many biblical injunctions that support it. Another example is the topic of women in ministry. The New Testament has several passages that, in my opinion, restrict women from ministering and other activities. Yet many, including myself, now believe that women can and should be ministers.

When looking at the topic of sexuality some interpreters will point to the creation story for support. They argue that heterosexuality is the norm created by God. But I then point out that the command for women to wear a head covering  (1 Cor 11) and not teach or have authority over a man (1 Tim 2) also both appeal to the creation story. Yet, we have concluded that in these cases the created order no longer has jurisdiction. If this is the case what is stopping us from concluding that what the Bible has to say about  homosexuality no longer applies in our modern setting?

There is far more that could be said on this topic and I don't want my readers to think that I am just throwing out a few simplistic arguments. I have read and thought a lot about this issue and realize that there is much more that could be said. But I would like to hear from my readers. Where do you stand on this issue, but more importantly, how did you arrive at your conclusions?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Voice: A new Bible with a new controversy? Hardly

On Tuesday a I provided a link to a USA Today article about a new Bible translation called "The Voice." At the time I noted that, according to the article, the name "Jesus Christ" does not appear nor do "angels" or "apostles." I added a line about how I can hear the conspiracy theorists already.

Tuesday was a busy day for me and I didn't have time to go into more detail about the "voice." And I thought that the USA Today article did a good job of explaining what the translation was doing. For instance, instead of  calling Jesus "Christ" they often call him "anointed one," which is 100% accurate and probably works better than "Christ" since most people don't know that Christos is the Greek word for anointed one.  Angels are called messengers, also very accurate, and apostles are called emissaries, which also works well.

But it appears that some have already assumed that what the translators have done is take Christ out of the Bible. In fact, many of the news outlets have encouraged this by using the headlines "The Voice Bible Takes 'Christ' Out of the Bible." Only later in the article do you discover that Jesus is still in the Bible. What did happen is that the translators wrote this Bible like a screen play so that it would be more accessible to those who don't normally read the Bible.

I played around on the translation's website Hear the Voice. You can search the Voice and compare it to other translations. I admit, this translation will not be for everyone, but no translation ever is. It is targeted at a specific audience, as are most translations. But it may be what helps some people better understand what they are reading. What this is NOT is a deep, dark conspiracy to destroy the Bible and enslave the minds of unsuspecting Christians in preparation for the Antichrist. It is an attempt to do what translators have been doing since the first gospel writers put the Aramaic words of Jesus into Greek. It is an attempt to make the Bible accessible and understandable.

Here are two videos that you may find interesting. The first is the promo-video from the Hear the Voice website. The second is a CNN interview with David Capes a translator on the project. Whatever you think of this translation, please keep in mind that it is not a conspiracy.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Teachings of Jesus the Basis for Capitalism? Another Way NOT to Use the Bible

Wow, all I can say is wow.

I can’t believe this man is using Mark 10:45 in this way.  I realize that this is a short clip and that there is certainly more to it. But the statement made by this gentleman is just plain wrong. He has interpreted Jesus’ lifestyle of being a servant and serving others as business model. No, sir, capitalism is NOT built on the teachings of Jesus.

Here are some other economic models from the Bible he might consider.

Acts 4:32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God's grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. (TNIV)

2 Corinthians 8 And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord's people. 5 And they went beyond our expectations; having given themselves first of all to the Lord, they gave themselves by the will of God also to us. (TNIV)

2 Corinthians 9  Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written: "They have scattered abroad their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever." 10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. (TNIV)

HT: Zack @ The American Jesus

Early Christian Charity

Christian Charity, Thorvaldsen, Louvre
There is a heightened awareness of those around us who are in need and many are extending the gospel in ways other than a salvation message and a prayer. These activities include helping the poor.

I ran across the below video clip yesterday. It features John Dickson who speaks about early Christian charity. He provides an overview from the time of the New Testament up to Constantine.

HT: Tim Henderson

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Modern Samaritans

Picture taken from Der Spiegel
One doesn't have to be familiar with the Bible to know about Samaritans. The phrase "Good Samaritan" has entered into our language and is applied to any number of people who have provided selfless acts in the service of others.

 I suspect, however, that many people have no clue that the idea of the "Good Samaritan" come from one of Jesus's parables. Yet, the name is almost ubiquitous.  From where I am sitting I can see the houses on Samaritan Drive. And through the trees I can see that roof line of Samaritan Hospital. Most of us in town, myself included, give little thought to origin and meaning of these names.

For those who do know that the "Good Samaritan" is a character in one of Jesus' parables, many would be surprised to learn that the Samaritans are not some group in the past. The Samaritans still exist and they represent a religious community that is older than Christianity. If you drive out of Jerusalem and head north you will eventually come to Mount Gerizim, the ancient and modern home to the Samaritans. This is where they have live and worshiped for more than 2500 years.

In the spring of 1998 Lori and were part of a group privileged to visit  Mount Gerizim and to observe the Samaritan Passover. We were introduced to the Samaritan High Priest, toured their small museum and visited the ruins on Gerizim. It was a unique religious and cultural opportunity.

The highlight of the day was being able to witness the slaughter of the lambs. Fifty men, each dressed in white coveralls, entered a fenced off area pock marked with deep, narrow pits. Each man had with him a lamb and a long knife. As they stood there the high priest chanted a number of prayers in their language. After the space of about thirty minutes the 50 men all caught the throats of the lambs at once. They then took some of the blood and wiped it on one another and then took some home in a container. Finally, they skewered the lamb on long poles and placed it in the pit, fleece and all, where there was already a fire burning. The lamb would cook slowly all night and would be retrieved for the meal the next day. 

The Samaritans are a people who keep to themselves. So much so that there is a high-rate of birth defects among them. But over the past few decades they have been opening up to the outside world. In the German Magazine Der Spiegel there is an article about the Samaritans and the work that has been done there to excavate the remains of their temple.  That is another thing few modern Bible readers known is that the Samaritans had their own temple at one time, which was destroyed by the Jewish Hasmonean John Hyrcanus in 128 BCE. It is a small wonder that Jews and Samaritans didn't get along in Jesus day. 

If you know nothing about the modern Samaritans this article is a good place to start.

Update: Be sure to read Jim Davila's critique of some of the statements made in the article.

(HT: Charles @ BibleX)

Here is a brief video of the ceremony that I found on youtube. 

The Bible Around the NET

There is always an interesting if not odd story about the Bible someplace on the internet. Here are some links to a few things that caught my attention.

The Jewish Daily Forward asks what Christians should call the "Old Testament." Understandably, many Jews object the designation of "old" for their scriptures.

A new English translation of the Bible is called "The Voice." What makes it unusual is that it doesn't contain the names/terms "Jesus Christ," "apostle," or "angel." I can hear the conspiracy theorists now. See Brian Leport's plea that no one invent a non-existent conspiracy.

Speaking of conspiracy theories, the Vatican plans to put much of its library online in digital format. Dan Brown better hurry up and write another book before everyone realizes that the Vatican really isn't hiding anything.

Finally, while the Vatican is going high-tech, some are going in the other direction. A group of volunteers are chalking the entire New Testament on a sidewalk.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Green Bible Collection

No, I am  not writing about the environmentally friendly Green Bible. What I am referring to is the massive collection of artifacts, manuscripts and Bibles owned by Steve Green, owner of the Hobby Lobby stores in the USA. Over the last 4 years Steve and Carroll Green have been buying these pieces with their collection now totaling some 50,000! You may remember that I posted on a new fragment of Romans that was discovered among the pieces collected the fragment of Mark's Gospel that Dan Wallace dates as first century is also thought to be from this collection.

Green has been generous with the collection. Much of it is being stored and cared for at Baylor University while some pieces have been touring the country. Currently, there is a display at the Vatican. You can read more about the collection at Exploring Passages.

Over at Evangelical Text Criticism, Tommy Wasserman has alerted us that Fox News has a slide show of some of the pieces. You can view the slide show here.

The Shadow of Jesus

There has been a Jesus sighting in New Orleans. Apparently his shadow was seen on the column in a Catholic school. Oh, and his mother might be there too. Here is what USA Today had to say.

The shadowy image is projected on the lower half of a sanctuary pillar, with the clear symmetry of a face, a thin beard, and something complicated going on above the forehead.

In Christianity's solemn week marking the trial and execution of Jesus, people converging on the National Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor interpret the shadow as an image of Jesus bearing a crown of thorns.

The Ursuline nuns have been forced to keep the shrine open far past its usual hours, which they are delighted to do, said Sister Carla Dolce, the head of the small community of five Ursuline nuns. Some visitors come with cameras, hoping for a picture. But most sit or kneel quietly, praying or engaging in whispered analysis of the image on the pillar.
The visage at Ursuline seems to be a naturally occurring shadow cast by an ornate chandelier above the sanctuary. But, asked Kim Thompson, who had come to see it, why had no one seemed to report it before? And why this, of all weeks?
"It's got me believing," she said.

In fact, there are two shadows on two pillars. On one, the man's face. On the other, some see an image of the Virgin Mary, although that takes a more imaginative leap.
Many pilgrims came already knowing part of the back story, confirmed by Dolce: two weeks ago, an Ursuline student in prayer at the shrine had asked for a sign, and shortly thereafter saw the shadow she had never before noticed.

Now all of this is very exciting since no one has any idea what Jesus looked like. We have no descriptions of him nor any pictures from the first century. Yet, people continue to see Jesus and recognize him right away. I guess I am just not that attune to when Jesus shows up somewhere.