Tag Archives: jesus

Valerie Tarico: Ancient Sumerian Origins of the Easter Story

Let’s start with the first part of the myth. Inanna and Jesus both travel to a big city, where they are arrested by soldiers, put on trial, convicted, sentenced to death, stripped of their clothes, tortured, hung up on a stake, and die. And then, after 3 days, they are resurrected from the dead. Now there are, to be sure, a number of significant differences between the stories. For one thing, one story is about a goddess and the other is about a divine man. But this is a specific pattern, a mythic template. When you are dealing with the question of whether these things actually happened, you have to deal with the fact that there is a mythic template here. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there wasn’t a real person, Jesus, who was crucified, but rather that, if there was, the story about it is structured and embellished in accordance with a pattern that was very ancient and widespread.

Valerie Tarico: Ancient Sumerian Origins of the Easter Story

interview with author of “misquoting jesus”

Bart Ehrman is the US author of the bestselling book “Misquoting Jesus” (In the UK “Whose word is it?”).  He calls into question the authority of the New Testament as scribal changes over time have changed the documents. 

So can we trust the scripture? Bible scholar Peter Williams believes in the reliability of the New Testament and that Bart’s prognosis is far too pessimistic.

Media Player

‘Jesus was born in June’, astronomers claim – Telegraph

Using the St Matthew’s Gospel as a reference point, Mr Reneke pinpointed the planetary conjunction, which appeared in the constellation of Leo, to the exact date of June 17 in the year 2BC.
The astronomy lecturer, who is also news editor of Sky and Space magazine, said: “We have software that can recreate exactly the night sky as it was at any point in the last several thousand years.
“We used it to go back to the time when Jesus was born, according to the Bible.
“Venus and Jupiter became very close in the the year 2BC and they would have appeared to be one bright beacon of light.
“We are not saying this was definitely the Christmas star – but it is the strongest explanation for it of any I have seen so far.
“There’s no other explanation that so closely matches the facts we have from the time.
“This could well have been what the three wise men interpreted as a sign. They could easily have mistaken it for one bright star.

‘Jesus was born in June’, astronomers claim – Telegraph

is this true: “all these things will be given to you”

recently i had reason to go back and examine the teachings of jesus in the book of matthew, chapter six:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.

Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’

For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

many christians accept this without much thought, and yet also basically ignore it, except as a mild emotional uplift when hard times come.

the basics are: “i am worried. i feel like i should not worry, because god is in control, therefore, i shall now feel better.”

but is the above quoted passage actually true?

is there evidence that god actually provides clothing food and water to those who seek his kingdom?

is it safe to assume that those who do not have such things are, then, not seeking god’s kingdom?

Obama: Bad News For the New Atheists and Other Fundamentalists

The Obama presidency is great news for almost everyone. It’s bad news for some odd ideological bedfellows: the Religious Right and the so-called New Atheists.

Into the all or nothing culture wars, and the all or nothing wars between the so-called New Atheists and religion the election of President elect Obama reintroduces nuance. President elect Obama’s ability to believe in Jesus, yet question, is going to rescue American religion in general and Christianity in particular, from the extremes.

There is no way to understand President elect Obama’s victory as anything less than the start of not just a monumental political change but a spiritual revolution as well.

Frank Schaeffer: President Obama: Bad News For the New Atheists and Other Fundamentalists

what is justice?

at what point do we say we, or any being, has acted “justly” ?

there is lots of chatter on this board — and particularly when my new favorite pet subject (hell’s lack of existence) comes up — about god’s justice.

but what do we mean by that?

at what point is justice fulfilled?

when i was a child (i remember this story clearly, though i was only abotu four), i thought a fishbowl full of candy at a store was inviting me to take one, free.

my mother did not see me take the candy, and when we were on the way out of the store and she asked where i got it, she made me go back in, apologize, she paid for it, AND i had to spit it out.

what was the point of my mother’s exercise?

punishment?

i submit it was restoration and learning.

were her actions just?

now when god acts in response to our selfness, what are his goals?

where does god’s love (and god IS love, don’t forget) come into play?

love is the core of god’s being — all his other attributes must stem from that core.

god’s justice must be loving.

god’s mercy must be loving.

even god’s hatred must be loving. indeed jesus taught us to love our enemies. was that just pretty words, or did he mean it?

so, then, with all this in mind:

what is justice?

is there some cosmic scale that must be fulfilled for each and every infraction, each and ever wrong?

did god find himself conscious in an existence where he simply can not cope unless such a system is perfectly in balance, and thus had to create a universe that allowed that balance to be maintained?

is that the point of justice?

to keep track of wrongs, and punish them so that the balance can be OK?

isn’t, like my mom’s actions, the point of god’s justice restoration, reconciliation?

wonderful podcast: mclaren interviewed about hell

this interview with brian mclaren fits in SO much with how i’ve come to view hell:

So, but one of the questions I could raise that might be helpful for you and other people thinking about this, is to say, what is the problem with sin? What’s so bad about sin? Now, I can just imagine some people quoting—See, McLaren doesn’t think sin is a problem. I take sin really, seriously. But here’s the problem, If I were to make this sort of analogy or parable. When I had little children, if one of my little children—Let’s say my son Brett, was beating up on his little brother, Trevor. Now, Trevor is bigger. But back then—What was the problem? Was the problem that I don’t want my younger son to get hurt and I don’t want my older son to be a bully. I want my older son to be a good person. I want my younger son to be a good person. I want them to have a great relationship. Then the problem of sin is what it does to my family and what it does to my boys, you know. That’s the problem with sin.

But what we’ve created is, the problem of sin is that I am so angry at my son Brett for beating up his younger brother, I’m going to kill him. So now the problem we’ve got to solve is how to keep me from killing my son.

learn more

i highly recommend taking a half hour and listening to it.

really, do it.

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plankeye, followup

there’s been some contention as to my post on “plankeye”

i will concede that we are indeed to “make judgement” — even about people and what they are up to.

but the context of the verse you pulled out shows the difference between what jesus was referring to in john 7 and what he is teaching about in the sermon on the mount:

14 About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. 15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” 16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. 18 The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory, but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. 19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” 20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” 21 Jesus answered them, “I did one deed, and you all marvel at it. 22 Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

both of these passages speak to not judging —- and both infer that in order to make wise decisions about how to treat people one needs to be in a place of humility before god, and seeking the true good of the other person.

the original thought behind the plankeye post was a friend pointing out how those who claim to follow christ’s teachings are often those who are most guilty of being judgmental — and unfairly judgmental at that, often with yucky results in the life of those being judged.

i was obviously, in my first post on this topic, not saying that one is never to decide whether something is right or wrong.

clearly to follow christ is to believe there IS a right.

but judging and condemning people is the wrong way to go about getting them to change their behavior, while encouraging and asking is the right way.

in fact, to do so is to make a right judgement: to “hold back” on force-feeding your “pearls” of “rightness” to those who are not able to digest them, and instead love and encourage and simply ask them to consider a better way.

so, i stand by my statement:

judging IS the plank in our eye.

and i’ll say it again using a different word, by way of expounding:

condemning IS the plank in our eye.

romans 14:13:

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.

condemnation and judging puts a HUGE stumbling block in the way of those who would otherwise be attracted to the kingdom.

we who claim to live in the kingdom behave in unattractive ways, in ways that make people feel rejected, not loved, and so they turn and attack us.

just like jesus says they will in the passage i quoted above.

but if we simply ask people, without condemnation, they are more apt to find our message acceptable.

“good” news

news is always in the eye of the beholder.

when a bible sits there, holding information about the gospel, the gospel that it contains information about lays dormant.

perhaps in some sense we can say that’s the actual gospel, but it is a useless one.

the news jesus taught only begins to be useful when someone learns of it and starts to put it into practice.

when someone sets their life on a path of discipleship to him, with the goal of becoming like him.

when a person does this, the actual gospel is manifest.

the “fake gospel” most people have accepted or rejected differs depending upon which “side” of church it has come from.

the evangelical right’s gospel has been more or less: “if you die today, do you know you will go to heaven?”

it has been primarily concerned about the afterlife, and talks about “heaven” as a goal.

this is something jesus never did.

now, there is much talk of discipleship in these groups, but not the kind of discipleship that jesus would recognize.

rather, they are after head knowledge. they wish to ensure their students “believe the right things” about big words like sanctification, justification and atonement.

they are in the business of “sin management” — making sure people don’t “do wrong”, so that they can “get into heaven”.

the left side, the mainline churches and more liberal denominations, have turned the gospel into a social action message. that if we all work together, we cure society’s ills by taking care of the poor better.

personal growth is all but ignored in favor of being part of the team that “cares”. little attention is paid to how individuals actually do things, as efforts are focused around building institutions that make lots of noise about doing good.

they are in the business of “society management”.

the gospel jesus taught was: “come, follow me, for the kingdom of heaven is available today.”

he taught us to live well — to live in such a manor that we obtain peace with god and with each other.

the side effects of that kind of living is salvation and a better society.

they are not goals in and of themselves.

to fully expound on this would require 400 pages, so i’ll leave off there.

hopefully some of what i have in mind has been communicated.

test everything, hold fast to what is good

i have been asked to post on my practice of exposing this board to beliefs or lines of thinking that i myself do not hold to.

this thread is meant to be an answer to that request.

in the interest of keeping it clear for those who won’t read more than a few sentences, i’ll make my main point up top, and flesh it out below:

the verses i have in mind, mostly are:

“…test everything; hold fast what is good.” (1 thes 5)

“…always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”. (1 peter 3)

“Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” (1 cor 3)

my main point is this: all that is truth is god’s truth, and we are instructed in scripture to seek it out and claim it as our own.

all too often, christians take an anti-intellectual attitude. we tend to discourage critical , questioning, or creative thinking. we do this, i think, in a misguided attempt at “guarding the truth” — but the end result is that the truth is actually supressed, or more likely, never actually encountered.

many of us who grew up in christian homes, and almost all of us who grew up in western society, have heard some version of the gospel all our lives. it is impossible to get through life without encountering a version or other of it. the problem with this is that fimiliarity breeds contempt: as people have become accustomed to what they have heard is “the gospel”, and rejected or accepted that gospel, they then go through their lives thinking they have done just that: accepted or rejected the gospel.

in fact, i submit that they have done no such thing.

as paul makes clear, if it is not the actual gospel, it is really no gospel at all.

and the pop-culture version of the gospel is not the actual gospel that jesus preached.

i’ll make that point again, because i believe it is vitally important: the story that most people in western culture have accepted or rejected is not the gospel, but something else — something crippled and distorted.

i am not questioning the “salvation” of millions of people who hold some christian faith now or in times past (romans makes clear that god judges all people based on what they know and what they do with what they know — i believe we can trust the father in heaven to do the right thing with each and every human soul). rather, i am talking about something else: living life with jesus as mentor, for the good of those around us and to the glory of the father.

jesus asked no less than for people to abandon all they held dear, turn their lives in a new direction, and pursue love and justice.

thousands crowded around him because he taught with an authority they had never encountered on a subject they had heard all their lives: the message of god’s love.

the message he preached was that the kingdom of god was available in a way it never had been before, and that anyone and everyone would do so may enter into it.

some rejoiced at this, some balked.

a few turned very bitter, and eventually killed him for it — because his message was threatening the status quo, where they were comfortabely in power.

but he proved that he was who he claimed to be — the perfect revelation of the father — by not staying dead, and he turned the world on its ear by sending his students out to teach others what they had learned about how to live life: by loving people.

as a couple of generations passed, and it became clear that the story of this incredible news should be preserved in writing, some of these students set out to do just hat — and others set out to write to the groups of people who had started meeting together to encourage each other in this new faith.

a few of those letters of encouragement were saved, and eventually gathered together as part of the scripture.

the three verses i qutoed above are from some of those letters.

in it, we have clues from some of the earliest believes — some of jesus’ first stuents — about how to live this life he instructed us in living.

so little of jesus message had to do with holding to this or that theory about theology, or subscribing to any one system of belief.

rather, jesus message was about doing. about loving your neighbor, and about taking care of the poor, and about taking care of the single most important thing god ever created: the people around you.

and all of the letters to the early churches were geared towards encouraging people to that effort, and against allowing the ideas of the culture to invade and infect that pure message.

they were encouraged to try out the ideas that came along, and compare them to what they knew to be true, and to allow the spirit of the one true god to help them discern.

they were instructed to be thinkers: to be ready to give answers about this faith to questioners.

they were reminded that even when they think they know that they still don’t know what god knows.

in light of all of this, as society changes it is still our duty as people who are trying to be students of jesus the christ to test all things.

to truly think through issues and not simply cling to the thinking we have always held, but to constantly evaluate our heads and our hearts and the ideas we find around us so that we can grow in our faith.

i post ideas that some may dissagree with (and i may disagree with) to further this effort.

i believe that we as christians must think critically about the ideas that the world around us holds, so that we may meet those ideas head on: embracing what is true, rejecting what is false, and always doing so with the help of the spirit of god.

i believe that too few of us bother doing that, because we have grown up in a culture that discourages it, and that it is one of my duties to encourage right behaviour.

some of the ideas i present are not in line with scripture. some are.

we who are jesus’ disciples are under instruction to test them all, and to cling to those that are.

ignoring these ideas won’t make them go away, though. the world around us, the one we are called to be in, holds these ideas, and if we are to be the salt and light in this world, we are obligated to reach them in a gentle, understanding way.

i believe that by thinking through tough issues, and by evaluating more sides that we might be comfortable with, we can grow as a body of beleivers — we can gain a higher understanding of the truth.

i trust the holy spirit in the believer’s life to help them discern that which is false from that which is true.

it must be evident that “truth” is a funny sort of thing, since many of us here claim to have it, yet disagree on so very many things.

so let us approach ideas humbly, and with open minds, as we are instructed to. let us reason together. let us think critically and creatively about this faith.

“test everything; hold fast what is good.”