The Trinity in the Bible

Although the doctrine of the Trinity is not taught explicitly in scripture, it is the many verses which illustrate the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, acting as one, which bring Christians back, time and time again, to the question. Consider, for instance, this introduction to the first letter to the Thessalonians; the intertwining of references to God the Father, to the Lord Jesus Christ, and to the Holy Spirit, for a people who daily recited, “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Being Christian scripture, it is not something Christians can lightly ignore.

Paul, Silas and Timothy,

To the church of the Thessalonians in GOD THE FATHER and the LORD JESUS CHRIST:

Grace and peace to you.

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our GOD AND FATHER your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our LORD JESUS CHRIST.

For we know, brothers and sisters loved by GOD, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the HOLY SPIRIT and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the LORD, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the HOLY SPIRIT. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The LORD’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in GOD has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to GOD from idols to serve the living and true GOD, and to wait for his SON from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—JESUS, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

Land and biblical theology

An excerpt from Jesus and the Land by Gary M. Burge

“Walter Brueggemann is correct when he suggests that land might be the central theme of biblical faith. “Biblical faith is the pursuit of historical belonging that includes a sense of destiny derived from such belonging.” And if this is so, he continues, land might be a way of “organizing biblical theology.” Brueggemann invites us to think carefully about (biblical) Israel’s experience with land along three trajectories: land promised, land possessed, and land lost. And in each of these categories we can discover the magnificent opportunities found in God’s grace and covenant, Israel’s historical struggles to possess this land in righteousness – to become the sort of people God intends – and the judgment that falls on Israel in the exile when all is lost.”

Moral Foundation Theory and the Bible

Moral foundations theory is a social psychological theory intended to explain variation in human moral reasoning. It was first proposed by the psychologists Jonathan Haidt and Jesse Graham. In more recent times it has been used to explain the differences between progressive, conservative, and libertarian views based on the different relative weights each group gives to the different moral foundations. Below I have selected verses from the Bible that correspond to each of the 6 moral foundations.

Care vs harm

Proverbs 12:10 – The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.

Genesis 50:20 – You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Fairness vs cheating

Leviticus 19:15 – Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favouritism to the great, but judge your neighbour fairly.

Genesis 31:7 – yet your father has cheated me by changing my wages ten times. However, God has not allowed him to harm me.

Loyalty vs betrayal

1 Kings 12:20 – When all the Israelites heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. Only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the house of David.

Proverbs 11:13 – A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.

Authority vs disrespect

Leviticus 19:3 – Each of you must respect your mother and father, and you must observe my Sabbaths. I am the Lord your God.

1 Timothy 6:2 – Those who have believing masters should not show them disrespect just because they are fellow believers.

Purity vs degradation

Titus 1:15 – To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.

Isaiah 64:6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

Liberty vs oppression

Galatians 5:1 – It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Deuteronomy 26:7 – Then we cried out to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, toil, and oppression

Sola scriptura and Solo scriptura

solo scriptura .jpgIt seems I’m not as much of a theological miscreant as I thought. I’ve been dropping in on discussions on the difference between sola scriptura and solo scriptura and, while being initially inclined to interpret the latter as a Star Wars meme, my subsequent understanding is that solo scriptura is pig latin for more modern distortions of the old Reformation slogan, sola scriptura.
In essence, while both sola scriptura and solo scriptura place scripture in a veto position above tradition, the latter refers to approaches that go way beyond what the Protestant Reformers intended, denying any need for any reference to tradition when interpreting scripture. I found the summary of Jeremy Myers of some help, especially his explanation that solo scriptura is “the idea that we can learn all matters about faith and practice using the Bible alone, plus nothing else. If a group or person studies the Bible, and they think they have found some truth, doctrine, or practice in Scripture, then they should believe or practice this idea, whether or not it was ever believed or practiced previously in the history of the church.”
Now, I may come up with novel interpretations and practices from my reading of the Bible at times, but it’s rarely without at least consulting the wider church tradition and seeking to follow it in substance if not in style. And, as should be obvious to any long term reader of mine, I see context as essential for correct interpretation of any text. I am highly suspicious of any interpretation of a bible passage that ignores the wider cultural and literary context, and ancient tradition can give us important clues for that context.
Indeed, if anything I go further and often triangulate between the major Christian traditions – Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant – emphasizing what they hold in common beyond all the petty and not so petty divisions. Tradition is far from valueless even though it’s not without its faults. I suppose that places me as a definite advocate of sola scriptura over solo scriptura for all my eclecticism. Innovate, yes. But ignore the past, no.

Church fathers on the Apocrypha

While there is unanimous agreement between the Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant traditions on the canonical status of the twenty seven books of the New Testament and the Hebrew core of the Old Testament, there is nevertheless some disagreement regarding the status of other books commonly known as apocryphal or deuterocanonical.
Personally I take the more critical view and do not attribute canonical status to them. Maybe you take a similar view or maybe you differ. Either way, I thought I’d draw attention to a number of the church fathers who took a similarly critical view, quoting them at length, and ending with the most ancient:

Jerome (347 – 420)

In his Prefaces to the Books of the Vulgate Version of the Old Testament, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs, Jerome says, “As, then, the Church reads Judith, Tobit, and the books of Maccabees, but does not admit them among the canonical Scriptures, so let it read these two volumes for the edification of the people, not to give authority to doctrines of the Church.”

Athanasius (300-375)

In his thirty ninth Letter, Athanasius spelt out in detail which books he considered scriptural and which books he considered apocryphal. He wrote, “In proceeding to make mention of these things, I shall adopt, to commend my undertaking, the pattern of Luke the Evangelist, saying on my own account: ‘Forasmuch as some have taken in hand,’ to reduce into order for themselves the books termed apocryphal, and to mix them up with the divinely inspired Scripture, concerning which we have been fully persuaded, as they who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word, delivered to the fathers; it seemed good to me also, having been urged thereto by true brethren, and having learned from the beginning, to set before you the books included in the Canon, and handed down, and accredited as Divine; to the end that any one who has fallen into error may condemn those who have led him astray; and that he who has continued stedfast in purity may again rejoice, having these things brought to his remembrance.
There are, then, of the Old Testament, twenty-two books in number; for, as I have heard, it is handed down that this is the number of the letters among the Hebrews; their respective order and names being as follows. The first is Genesis, then Exodus, next Leviticus, after that Numbers, and then Deuteronomy. Following these there is Joshua, the son of Nun, then Judges, then Ruth. And again, after these four books of Kings, the first and second being reckoned as one book, and so likewise the third and fourth as one book. And again, the first and second of the Chronicles are reckoned as one book. Again Ezra, the first and second are similarly one book. After these there is the book of Psalms, then the Proverbs, next Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. Job follows, then the Prophets, the twelve being reckoned as one book. Then Isaiah, one book, then Jeremiah with Baruch, Lamentations, and the epistle, one book; afterwards, Ezekiel and Daniel, each one book. Thus far constitutes the Old Testament.
Again it is not tedious to speak of the [books] of the New Testament. These are, the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Afterwards, the Acts of the Apostles and Epistles (called Catholic), seven, viz. of James, one; of Peter, two; of John, three; after these, one of Jude. In addition, there are fourteen Epistles of Paul, written in this order. The first, to the Romans; then two to the Corinthians; after these, to the Galatians; next, to the Ephesians; then to the Philippians; then to the Colossians; after these, two to the Thessalonians, and that to the Hebrews; and again, two to Timothy; one to Titus; and lastly, that to Philemon. And besides, the Revelation of John. ” (Festal Letter 39:4-5)
These are fountains of salvation, that they who thirst may be satisfied with the living words they contain. In these alone is proclaimed the doctrine of godliness. Let no man add to these, neither let him take ought from these. For concerning these the Lord put to shame the Sadducees, and said, ‘You err, not knowing the Scriptures.’ And He reproved the Jews, saying, ‘Search the Scriptures, for these are they that testify of me.
But for greater exactness I add this also, writing of necessity; that there are other books besides these not indeed included in the Canon, but appointed by the Fathers to be read by those who newly join us, and who wish for instruction in the word of godliness. The Wisdom of Solomon, and the Wisdom of Sirach, and Esther, and Judith, and Tobit, and that which is called the Teaching of the Apostles, and the Shepherd. But the former, my brethren, are included in the Canon, the latter being [merely] read; nor is there in any place a mention of apocryphal writings. But they are an invention of heretics, who write them when they choose, bestowing upon them their approbation, and assigning to them a date, that so, using them as ancient writings, they may find occasion to lead astray the simple.

Julius Africanus (160-240)

In his letter to Origen, Julius Africanus dismissed the additions to Daniel (also known as the book of Susanna) as a forgery. He wrote, “In your sacred discussion with Agnomon you referred to that prophecy of Daniel which is related of his youth. This at that time, as was meet, I accepted as genuine. Now, however, I cannot understand how it escaped you that this part of the book is spurious. For, in truth, this section, although apart from this it is elegantly written, is plainly a more modern forgery. There are many proofs of this. When Susanna is condemned to die, the prophet is seized by the Spirit, and cries out that the sentence is unjust. Now, in the first place, it is always in some other way that Daniel prophesies— by visions, and dreams, and an angel appearing to him, never by prophetic inspiration. Then, after crying out in this extraordinary fashion, he detects them in a way no less incredible, which not even Philistion the play-writer would have resorted to. For, not satisfied with rebuking them through the Spirit, he placed them apart, and asked them severally where they saw her committing adultery. And when the one said, Under a holm-tree (prinos), he answered that the angel would saw him asunder (prisein ); and in a similar fashion menaced the other who said, Under a mastich-tree (schinos), with being rent asunder (schisthenai ). Now, in Greek, it happens that holm-tree and saw asunder, and rend and mastich-tree sound alike; but in Hebrew they are quite distinct. But all the books of the Old Testament have been translated from Hebrew into Greek.
Moreover, how is it that they who were captives among the Chaldæans, lost and won at play, thrown out unburied on the streets, as was prophesied of the former captivity, their sons torn from them to be eunuchs, and their daughters to be concubines, as had been prophesied; how is it that such could pass sentence of death, and that on the wife of their king Joakim, whom the king of the Babylonians had made partner of his throne? Then if it was not this Joakim, but some other from the common people, whence had a captive such a mansion and spacious garden? But a more fatal objection is, that this section, along with the other two at the end of it, is not contained in the Daniel received among the Jews. And add that, among all the many prophets who had been before, there is no one who has quoted from another word for word. For they had no need to go a-begging for words, since their own were true; but this one, in rebuking one of those men, quotes the words of the Lord: The innocent and righteous shall you not slay. From all this I infer that this section is a later addition. Moreover, the style is different. I have struck the blow; do you give the echo; answer, and instruct me. Salute all my masters. The learned all salute you. With all my heart I pray for your and your circle’s health.

A Perfect Circle lament the new beatitudes of Trump era America

A Perfect Circle are set to release a new album in 2018, their first in 14 years, and this month they’ve unveiled a teaser track entitled, “The Doomed”.

It’s musically and lyrically explosive. As the song progresses, vocalist Maynard James Keenan paints a dark and disturbing picture of a society hell bent on shrugging off responsibility for protecting its most vulnerable members: “The new beatitude: Good luck, you’re on your own.” In a statement, Keenan said of “The Doomed, “In light of this current difficult and polarised social, spiritual and political climate, we artist types need to open our big mouths and share the light a little louder.”

“The Doomed”

Behold a new Christ
Behold the same old horde
Gather at the altering
New beginning, new word
And the word was death
And the word was without light
The new beatitude:
“Good luck, you’re on your own”

Blessed are the fornicates
May we bend down to be their whores
Blessed are the rich
May we labour, deliver them more
Blessed are the envious
Bless the slothful, the wrathful, the vain
Blessed are the gluttonous
May they feast us to famine and war

What of the pious, the pure of heart, the peaceful?
What of the meek, the mourning, and the merciful?
All doomed
All doomed

Behold a new Christ
Behold the same old horde
Gather at the altering
New beginning, new word
And the word was death
And the word was without light
The new beatitude:
“Good luck…”

What of the pious, the pure of heart, the peaceful?
What of the meek, the mourning, and the merciful?
What of the righteous?
What of the charitable?
What of the truthful, the dutiful, the decent?

Doomed are the poor
Doomed are the peaceful
Doomed are the meek
Doomed are the merciful
For the word is now death
And the word is now without light
The new beatitude:
“Fuck the doomed, you’re on your own”

Why you’re not seeing bible citations

bible-citationSome of you may have noticed I tend not to cite chapter and verse so much any more when quoting from a book of the Bible. There are a few reasons for this apparent sloppiness on my part. Firstly, I am writing for a broad and diverse audience, not all of whom care for exact references. Secondly, for those who do care, I’m trusting they’re probably the types that know their Bibles well enough that they’ve go a fair idea where the quotes come from anyway without my help. Thirdly, we live in an age where anyone can cut and paste or type the text into a search engine or app and find the source and context and intertextual links instantly so I see the old industrial print age practice as increasingly redundant. Let the text be the text without extras I think.

The book of Deer

book of deer - the four evangelists
The Book of Deer

This illustration of the four gospel writers comes from the Book of Deer, the earliest surviving example of Gaelic literature from Scotland. The Book of Deer is an illuminated Christian text, similar to the Book of Kells. It is named after the monastery of Deer and contains portions of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, a portion of an Office for the Visitation of the Sick, the complete text of the Gospel of John and the Apostles’ Creed.

Who is the Old Testament law for?

Woodcut-style-image-of-the-Biblical-Moses-bringing-the-ten-commandments-down-from-the-mountain--Stock-VectorWhen interpreting Old Testament law it’s important to recognise who it’s for. For while some laws were given to humans in general, other laws were given to the Israelites alone. And while some laws were given to the Israelites in general, other laws were given to the Levitical priests alone. And while some laws were given to the priests in general, others were given to the high priest alone. It is important therefore to pay attention to the context as well of the content of laws. Lest we apply laws in situations for which they were never intended.

Behemoth and Leviathan

Behemoth and Leviathan by PutridusCor
I found this image of Behemoth and Leviathan on DeviantArt by a person calling themselves PutridusCor, which seems to be the moniker for a guy named Aidan in Canada.

Behemoth and Leviathan are two enigmatic animals mentioned in the Old Testament book of Job. Some equate Behemoth and Leviathan with a hippopotamus and a crocodile respectively, others have compared them to primeval monsters of pagan mythology. This artist seems to have taken the latter approach.

Is the Quran more like the Old Testament or New Testament?

Reading through the Quran as I was finding the author sounded a lot more like the Old Testament prophets than Jesus or the apostles. So I asked some Muslims if they had shared a similar experience, after reading both the Bible and the Quran.

It prompted a very interesting discussion. My experience was echoed by some Muslims. One affirmed Paul contradicted the Quran and another said the Quran “is very similar in tone to the Old Testament prophetic books because instead of being narrations of events like the New Testament and Old Testament books like the Book of Kings, they are more like ‘direct transmitted’ revelations…like the book of Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah and so forth.”

Many others, however, downplayed the differences between the New Testament, the Old Testament and the Quran, suggesting they reflected differences in context only, not actual content, because “all are revelation from same and only God.” This did, however, leave me curious as to how they square the story of the woman caught in adultery and the story of the crucifixion of Jesus with the Quran, so I have much more to explore.

Overall though, it did affirm my impression that Islam is often closer to Judaism than it is to Christianity.