(ESV) Gal 2:16 “we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”
The above quote is to remind us of a central point made in the Bible that Gentile Christians, “us”, should use while discussing Law in the Gospels.
How, When, and Why the Gospels Were Written
Again we need to discuss how, when, and why these 4 books were written.
First, the why. While the Apostles were alive there was no reason to write record the events of Jesus life. The spoken narrative was enough to pass the stories to the next generation. Even that had dangers, I you ever play the game of rumor, where a line of 10 or more people whisper something the first person says successively down the line and the last person reports what he or she said, the mere transfer of the stories can get garbled. The Disciples realized as they died, some of the stories would be lost or garbled. Gigi and I, realizing we would not be around forever, started a book of memories several years ago. I need to work on it more, but realize I will not remember some of the incidents that Gigi will consider important.
As we discussed earlier they were probably written some time after some of Paul’s letters. Biblical Scholars put the dates around 70s or 80s. Why should we care? We need to put the writing in the proper context so we know from other history at the time what these early Christians faced.
Mathew, Mark, and Luke are considered by scholars as “synoptic gospels”. Obviously there were not copyright laws because similar, often identical texts can be found in all three books. We won’t go in much detail but Adam Hamilton has provided a handy chart that illustrates the relationships. Mark seems to be the primary source that Mathew and Mark use.
However, and where scholars are concerned there always seems to be a however, there is the feeling that, because of various ways the stories are quoted, there were four sources of the material. They refer to these sources as M, Q, Mark, and L. Below is a chart that shows the way information was distributed.
To some, these findings cast doubt on the life and teachings of Jesus. Some will say that the Gospels are fiction because of the differing accounts. Some may say the stories are “inspired by God” and will be answered with “If they are inspired, why didn’t they get it right by now?” I liken the books, regardless of how many contributing authors, to observers or reporters who are writing the events as they see them. The message of Jesus still comes through, loud and clear!
The Perplexing, Puzzling, and Profound John
Reading the synoptic Gospels then reading John you will immediately recognize that they are very different. Clement of Alexandra explained John this way. “John, perceiving that the external facts had been made plain in the gospel, being urged by his friends and inspired by the Spirit, composed a spiritual gospel.” In fact I would suggest that in addition to you reading something from the Old Testament, the synoptic Gospel to get the full effect. Adam Hamilton explains the differences this way. “If I’m looking for answers to questions of when, what, and how, I look to Matthew, Mark, and Luke. If I’m interested in answers to questions of who and why, I turn to John.“
To illustrate the difference, I looked up the institution of the Last Supper. The Synoptics agree that it was instituted on what would be Jesus’s last Passover. With little difference the Synoptics described it this way.
(ESV) Matt 26:26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
When I looked at John, I found that he didn’t say anything about the institution of the Last Supper, which was unnecessary, but instead:
(ESV) John 13:4 He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean.
This is certainly a different aspect of Jesus, but helps understand The Who and why.
Which Books Made It into the New Testament and Why
BEFORE THE NEW TESTAMENT
As discussed earlier, the letters of Paul were the first documents written that found there way into the Bible. Even though purposes of the letters were to encourage young Christian Churches and clarify his teaching, it is likely that the letters were copied and shared in the Christian Community. Prior to those times, members had the eye witnesses to tell them about Jesus. Paul was always clear when he was stating his own opinion versus words coming from Jesus. For Example:
(ESV) 1Cor 7:10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.
12 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her.
THE EMERGENCE OF THE GOSPELS AS SCRIPTURE
In Adam Hamilton’s discussion of the emergence of the Gospels, give us an estimate time-line of documents.
|Late 1st Century||The Didache||Writings of Matthew or Sources that |
|Papias of Hieropolis, mentions their use.|
He also tells us that Mark was Peter’s
interpreter and that his quotation’s of
Jesus came from Peter.
|2nd Century||First Book |
|Marcion included the|
Gospel of Luke and
ten of Paul’s letters
(he did not include
the pastoral Epistles,
1 and 2 Timothy, or Titus
|170 AD||Diatessaron||By Tatian, a student of Justin Martyr, |
a teacher living in Rome.
Included the 4 Gospels
|End of 2nd|
|The Shepherd of Hermas, |
Letter of Barnabas.
|These were books circulated|
and used around end of 2nd
I will probably add to the above table, and will definitely discuss in more detail later. I have, in addition to Alan Hamilton’s book, read the links provided. I found discussion of Marcion to be particularly interesting because he, like many Christians, had a problem with the depiction of the Old Testament God, and the one Jesus presented.
There were a number of New Testaments authorized by Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Athanasius. If want details I refer you to Alan Hamilton’s book. In 397, a council in Carthage, Africa, finally adopted a New Testament which declared “Besides the canonical Scriptures, nothing shall be read in church under the name of divine Scriptures”.
Adam Hamilton has listed what he believe is the criteria for acceptance in the New Testament: Usefulness, Consistency, Association, and Acceptance.
Where these sections of Hamilton’s books were difficult for me to get through, his presentation gave me a better understanding of their authenticity. I also encourages me to challenge interpretations that do not comply with what I believe about Jesus.
Theopneustos or Plenary Inspiration
Theopneustos is a word originated by Paul that means “God-breathed” and often translated as “inspired”. With reference to the Bible, it is used to describe the situation where a writer puts the word to print or uses it and God breaths a meaning by which the reader or hearer is inspired. In the New Testament the writers wrote accounts of Jesus life but the readers must use their own experience, knowledge, and intellect to draw inspiration.
“Inspiration awakens us to new possibilities by allowing us to transcend our ordinary experiences and limitations. Inspiration propels a person from apathy to possibility, and transforms the way we perceive our own capabilities.” Scott Barry Kuafmen, “Why Inspiration Matters”
The history of the church seems to emphasize this view.
The actual wording of Article V of the Methodist Articles of Religion (based upon Article VI of the Anglican Church’s Thirty-Nine Articles) reads, “The Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.” The Evangelical United Brethren Church noted, “We believe the Holy Bible, Old and New Testaments, reveals the Word of God so far as it is necessary for our salvation. It is to be received through the Holy Spirit as the true rule and guide for faith and practice. Whatever is not revealed in or established by the Holy Scriptures is not to be made an article of faith nor is it to be taught as essential to salvation.” Both were accepted when the two churches merged to form the United Methodist Church in 1968.
During the period of Enlightenment, as a defense to scholars who were challenging every thing, many sects, still in existence today adopted the view that every word in the Bible was the direct word of God. This is known as verbal, plenary inspiration. Adam Hamilton, and I, believe this constitutes a “house of cards” because if anything is found to be wrong, the whole house comes down.
I recognize that there are better sources of information and explanations. Why do I write these letters? In the hopes that I can inspire you to pursue these subjects further. And because
I love you
Several chapters of Adam Hamilton’s book, 16-18, discuss these issues and if you wish we can discuss these more fully. The point of these chapters, where important, is that, where we as Christians can hear the word of God from the Bible and as stated above, “The Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.” we are required to use the life and words of Jesus to be the final arbiters as to whether what we are reading is the Word of God.
I try to remember to quote the prayer from Ps 19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,O LORD, my rock and my redeemer to help me when I write these letters but still are aware that my fallibility resides and I prefer to be challenged.
It seems, if we follow Hamilton’s book, we can’t get away from a discussion of verbal, plenary inspiration and theopneustos discussed above. But we do need to consider it while reading the creation story. The table below shows a timeline of the verbal, plenary account of the creation vs sciences best guess.
|Years Ago||Scientific||Verbal, Plenary|
|4.57 Billion||Earth Formed|
|500 Million||Multi-Cell Life-Forms|
|2 Million||prehuman hominids|
|200 Thousand||anatomically modern humans|
In discussing the creation, understand that science has some evidence to back up their estimates including the theory of evolution. The Creationist claim the authority for their position. What we have to remember is the purpose of the Bible. It is not a record of science but a theological explanation of the Creation. My view is that God could do it that way if he wanted! Modern science, on the other hand, is built upon a scientific method that starts with a question and follows with observation and reflection, leading to a hypothesis that is then tested, disproven, clarified, or substantiated.
I believe science discovers the rules, God makes them. A young man in Hamilton’s congregation observed, “Any craftsman can build a chair, but how many can design a chair that builds itself and improves over time?”
Were Adam and Eve Real People
Scientist believe that hominem (creatures that looked more like us than apes) appeared about 200,000 years ago and have found hominid fossils from that time period. But homo sapiens that created musical instruments, and tools didn’t appear until 45,000 – 35000 years ago. One way of explaining the next step, to speak, reason at a higher level, and understand that there was temptation and evil was when God “breathed life” into them. With that, they assumed God-like characteristics as they were being created in His image. So the conclusion is that Adam (man of the earth) and Eve (life giver) represent the first couple(s) who reached that point.
Were There Dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark?
Is the God of the Old Testament the Same as Jesus Taught?
The greatest challenge I faced while reading the Bible is the characterization of God in the Old. Testament and that taught by Jesus. I was interested that Marcion who collected and produced the first “New Testament” in the 2nd Century had the same problem. He held that the God of the Old Testament was somehow a lesser god and Jesus revealed a superior God, one of love and compassion. The folks of verbal, plenary inspiration believers have a real problem with this dichotomy.
Realizing just what capital punishment as given by God reveals an unforgiving and jealous God.
- Sacrificing to a god other than Yahweh (Exodus 22:20)
- Persistent rebelliousness on the part of a child (Deuteronomy 21:18–21)
- A child who hits or curses his or her parents (Exodus 21:15 and 17)
- Working on the Sabbath (Exodus 35:2)1
- Sexual intimacy when one partner is married to someone else (Leviticus 20:10)
- Premarital sexual intercourse (Deuteronomy 22:13–21)
- Male homosexual sexual intimacy (Leviticus 20:13)
- AND more …
This sounds more like Islam than Christianity.
Hamilton asks us to consider another alternative. The writers of the Old Testament were concerned more with God’s guidance of the Israelites and celebrating their victories. That God was on their side when they fought. Joshua, David at all were military leaders.
This was a hard chapter for me to get through. Hamilton tells us that, as we consider this subject, there is two extremes we should consider. One is that God superintends everything that happens in this world, every leaf that falls to the ground to earthquakes that kill 100,000 people in Haiti. He points out that the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, tends to support this view because there are so many instances where the Jews are “punished” for their disobedience of his will. Then the other extreme, what Hamilton calls “God the absentee landlord” model of providence (others call it deism) where God creates the universe and the rules then steps back and lets it operate. Both, in my opinion, leave out Job who God allowed the “accuser” test Job to see if he would remain loyal to God after all sorts of disasters were visited on him. I have tended toward deism, mainly because so much tragedy can be classified as consequences.
But the good news is that Jesus, His life, His Words, His Cruxifixction, and his Resurrection give us the lesson that in the end, He, and thus we, will prevail. And particularly, that Gigi, even through her suffering is with Jesus.
Can We Trust the Gospel Accounts of Jesus?
Was there really a man Named Jesus?
The first issue that must be resolved is whether there was actually a person as described by the Gospels named Jesus. There is no mention of him in many histories of the time. The only evidence that there was a Jesus comes from documents that were created 50 or more years after his death. It is interesting that the first of these documents were written by Paul, who never saw Jesus in his earthly form. Those who argue against the existence of Jesus will point out the inconsistencies of the recollections of the Gospels when describing events they witnessed, but that they testified to His existence must be considered as evidence that He did exist. Certainly, it can not be proven that Jesus existed, but neither can it be proven that he did not. The fact that so many were put to death because of their belief in Jesus tend to add credence to the fact, that not only did He exist, but He added something for which they were willing to die.
Can we trust …
10/26/2020 – 10/28/2020
I hope you and your friends had a great Thanksgiving break!
Unless you are a member of the verbal, plenary inspiration believers, and if you are let’s discuss it further, you probably have read the Gospels with a mind open to the fact that they were either writing from there own observations or from their studies. You already have accepted the fact that witnesses to an event may see it differently or attach different meanings to the outcome.
The author has a list of points that he feels are compelling:
- Paul, an early persecutor of Christians, was converted and became Christians’ first century champion,
- Paul suffered and ultimately died for his beliefs,
- Paul writes to the Corinthians that the risen Jesus has appeared to “more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time”,
- Luke, in Acts, reports that within weeks of the Resurrection, Christians were proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah even though they were threatened with death by the authorities,
- Ten of the original disciples were put to death for their beliefs.
- Jesus was capable of doing what no other human could do, like cure the ill and bring the dead back to life.
My rational is different, but to me as compelling:
- When I was born, I was what was called a “blue baby” which meant my heart was unable to deliver enough oxygen to the rest of my body. I was given 6 hours to live. When my mother checked out of the hospital after 6 several days, the doctor gave me 6 days. Then 6 weeks. Finally, after 6 months she changed doctors.
- I was baptized at Canterbury Methodist Church in Mountain Brook, Alabama. Many of your ancestors are buried in the Cemetery where the church used to be. I don’t remember, but was told that I was very impressed by an evangelist that visited there. So impressed that when I entered school I used his first name, Felix, as my own instead of my given name, Loren.
- When I was 6, I was accepted as the youngest person to sing in a First Methodist, Birmingham Choir.
- When I was 16, I auditioned and was accepted into the First Methodist Church Senior Choir, one notable for being the best in Birmingham having performed at Carnegie Hall, New York.
- At 17, I applied and qualified for the Air Force Academy. There were 100 applicants for 2 open positions. I placed 11th. At the medical examination the doctor commented that if I made it through the rigorous first two weeks of training I would probably be Okay.
- It turned out the examinations qualified me for Aviation Cadet Training so I spent the next several years there learning to pilot two prop driven planes and one jet powered.
- The first real negative event came when I decided to commit all my time to improve my class standing instead of my normal activities including church. As a result of the strain, I developed a duodenal ulcer which washed me out of the program.
- I returned to Birmingham, disappointed, but resumed my activities at First Methodist. While there and with the help of friends I regained some of my confidence. But the main event was meeting Gigi.
- Our adventures in our happily married life are better covered in the history, but in a way, the most compelling.
- The birth of Angela. The mechanism of birth, while detailed by scientist, does not explain where the soul originates. The love that babies usually attract.
- The birth of Kelly, so different, but so like her sister.
- If Florida, we learned of Angela’s scoliosis. Shortly after I decided to leave my employer. I was offered a job in Atlanta and took it. We later learned that the foremost doctor treating scoliosis was at Scottish Rite Hospital in Atlanta.
- The birth of Caitlyn.
- Kelly was on assignment in Taiwan. An earthquake, destroying a number of buildings and causing cracks in the hotel building where she was staying, she was not injured.
- The birth and adoption of Dani.
Thru out my life, I have had numerous additional experiences that indicate that God was in control. Certainly my mother was to a great degree responsible because of her belief. Probably the most devastating thing in my life has been the loss of Gigi. But, so far I’m hanging in there. God apparently has something else for me to do.
Did Jesus Really Say That?
Did you ever hear someone say something like “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse”? Or “he snores louder than a freight train”? Or the like? These are called Hyperboles which are intentionally over-the-top exaggerations designed to make a point. Jesus used these in his messages a lot. Some examples are
- (ESV) Matt 19:24 “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
- (ESV) Matt 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
- (ESV) Matt 19:9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
And yes, Jesus said these things. But you must examine these statements in the context of the loving Jesus. Remember His conversation with the woman by the well.
(ESV) John 4:7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
And about the rich man, his warning is that wealth is a temptation hard to resist. But even if difficult, it is possible.
The authors lesson here is “take Jesus’s words very seriously but not always literally. He’s trying to lead you away from things that can harm you.”
“No One Comes to the Father Except Through Me”?
Probably the most troubling of Jesus’s quotation is the above. I have met good and intelligent people who do not claim to be Christian who I hope to be with in heaven. On the other hand there are Christians, or claim to be, that I hope have a “place” far from mine. I cannot believe a loving God would deny a place to unborn babies and people that have not had the opportunity to know Jesus. Hamilton tells us that there are three broad categories of views on this question:
- Pluralism or universalism says that everyone will ultimately go to heaven.
- Exclusivism or particularism says that only those who have personally accepted Christ will go to heaven.
- Christian inclusivism affirms that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the source of salvation. His death was for the sins of the world.
As I said in the first paragraph, I can’t accept the Exclusivism category. To me that is a limit to Jesus’s message that I am not willing to accept. Pluralism is attractive, but if you believe there are truly evil people in the world then Christian inclusivism seems to be the most logical.
Hamilton points out, what I believe, that God is the final adjudicator, and where we should, as believers, live our lives according to Jesus’s teaching, we do not have the authority to make that decision.
A Womans Place
The Roman Catholic Church does not permit women to be priests. In 2013 Pope Frances said, “With reference to the ordination of women, the Church has spoken and says, ‘No.’” This is is also the position of many conservative Protestant churches. This position is taken based on the Old Testament all the way back to Gen (ESV)Gen 2:18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” In the early Christian Church Jesus only chose 12 men to be his disciples. Paul doesn’t help when he declares (ESV) 1Cor:34 ”the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” But he says (ESV) Gal 3:28 ”There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
We need to remember the time when these words were spoken. Jewish tradition at that time based that prejudice largely on the 2nd creation story and the fall from grace. It was Eve that first partook of the hidden fruit.
I guess I am one of those “liberal” Christians who ask “What would the Jesus I know do in this situation?” I believe He would countermand the principle that allowed inequality in His church. I am pleased to be a part of a church that has a woman as Pastor.
Is It Okay to Get a Tattoo?
Seems to me that this might be a silly question. After all, it is answered in the Law.
(ESV) Lev 19:28 You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD.
Maybe we should consider reasons it was written. Remember I am among those that the Bible was written by men who, even though they may have been inspired were influenced by the conditions of their day. At the time it is believed that slaves were branded and the law was intended to prevent Jews from prematurely marking themselves indicating they may be slaves. Another possibility is that pagans had markings to indicate they weren’t believers in the Jewish God.
About the law, Adam Hamilton includes an amusing story about A. J. Jacobs who tried to follow the law. The story has to do with Leviticus 15:19–23. His conclusion was that it is impossible to literally do everything the Law says you must do. Everyone must pick and choose. Then he said, “The important thing is picking and choosing the right things.”
And then, we must consider Acts 15, the Council of Jerusalem where the disciples decided that Christians were no longer under the yoke of Old Testament Law but (ESV) Acts 15:10 “Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
What do I believe? That as long as that practice does not interfere with your devotion to Christ and follow his commandments (ESV) “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.“ getting a tattoo is not a sin.
Personally, I think it detracts from the natural beauty. Adam Hamilton suggests that you consider what the tattoo says to others and I agree.
Forgive me for getting behind with these letters. These last two subjects were difficult because they brought up memories of Gigi. I realized how what a good connection she had with the spirit of Jesus’s teaching. She was well advanced in her understanding than most of our Christian friends. One of our “adopted” grandchildren said that she loved Gigi because she was accepted as she was.
Same Sex Relationships
Gigi mentions in a family book we are writing, that the most interesting boys in her class in highschool were thought to be homosexuals. One, Frank Skelton, was a talented artist with whom Gigi remained friends for many years. At first I was uncomfortable with the relationship, but with Gigi’s attitude I also regarded him as a friend.
Adam Hamilton spends a chapter gives us logical reasons that the old testament and new testament laws were the result of the treatment during that period of same-sex relationships. “It wasn’t natural so it was bad.” His position today, even though it conflicts with the stated beliefs of the church, is that the loving same-sex relationships should be honored rather than punished.
Originally I objected to changing the definition of the word marriage which was “a union between a man and a woman”. The reason for changing it is that many corporations and governments give benefits to spouses of married couples in their employ and deny benefits to partners in a same-sex union. “Marriage” is just a word. Fairness dictates changing the definition of the word.
I must confess that I have avoided the book of Revelations all my adult life. Even though my mother and her prayer group, which I attended, seemed to almost live by the prophesies in that book and actively looked for the second coming of Jesus, I finally dismissed it with a quote from someone that “I had enough to do being a Christian without being concerned with the end of the world”. I still feel that way to a great extent, but, since it takes a chapter in “Making Sense of the Bible” and I committed to discussing the book with you, I read that chapter. And it helped!
What It Is
- It is a letter from John to the churches in what is now central Turkey.
- It can be considered prophesy because John is telling the churches of outcomes they face because of some issues they face:.
- Ephesus had lost its first love—its spiritual passion—
- Smyrna and Philadelphia faced Jewish persecution,
- Pergamom was a pagan city housing a Temple to massive alter to Zeus,
- Thyatira, a woman who was a false teacher, taught that people could eat food sacrificed to pagan gods,
- Sardis, the people’s faith was empty,
- Laodicea had become lukewarm in its faith,
- John’s warnings were apocalyptic. This kind of writing communicates through visions and images that are powerful and evocative.
There are four views that are used in the interpretation of Revelation:
- futurist view
- events of the last days before and just after Christ returns.
- historicist sees Revelation as John foretelling the future,
- Decline of Rome and spread of Christianity,
- Rise of Islam,
- Protestant Reformation,
- preterist view.
- The past,
- most of the events described pertaining to the people who lived in John’s time,
- Idealist view,
- describes the perpetual struggle between good and evil,
- the perpetual challenges of living for God in a pagan culture,
- the hope God offers to all who are persecuted for remaining faithful.
- Every age and generation can find itself somewhere in the book.
The futurist view was very popular up until the 20th century and is still held by some Christian sects, along with a number of radio and TV evangelists. The historicist, believing that it is prophesy up to now, I believe may be escapism, he can’t accept the other views but is comfortable with his. Adam Hamilton seems to be most comfortable with the preterist view and the idealist view.
Now that I read Revelation I take the preterist view, but with the realization that elements of the idealist view are applicable.
What do I take away from this chapter?
It is best said by Hamilton, “It is not aimed at telling us when the end will happen. It is aimed at telling us that in the end, none of these gods will be left standing, and that Christians are called to give our hearts and our allegiance only to one God, who is worthy of our praise.
Looking forward to Christmas, having you here, and reaching the end of the book, I am going to repeat the headings of Adam Hamilton last chapter. Again, I hope you will read the book. I’m sure you won’t remember all the points he makes, but in the end, I believe you will be more comfortable with your Christianity.
How To Read the Bible
Questions you should ask
- See Yourself in the scripture.
- DISCOVER THE SITUATION IN WHICH THE SCRIPTURE WAS WRITTEN
- THREE QUESTIONS TO ASK
- What does this passage teach me about humanity?
- About myself?
- About God?
- Praying the scripture
- Memorizing the scripture
- Study the scripture with others
- Bring the scripture into your life situation
- Imagine what might have been
When looking at the list, it appears that it might take a significant time out of your schedule. I find that reserving 15 minutes a day works. But most of the time my interest is peaked and I end up spending more.