20 December 2023

Scripture versus modern gossip?

On December 2, 2023, the Wall Street Journal published a column by author Katie Roiphe entitled "In Praise of Girls’ Night". Roiphe wrote, "Sometimes [women] embark on what I can only describe as elaborate gossip projects that extend over more than one meeting. These are particularly mystifying, juicy quandaries within our extended social circles. Gossip in the highest sense of the word (and probably the lowest mixed in there too). I have a feeling that if a man were to wander in for 20 minutes he might think this part of the conversation was "mean" or "brutal," but he would be missing some layers. Beneath the sharp observations, the cutting analyses and the jokes are also compassion, a deep desire to sort things through and a genuine effort to figure out how to live a good life."

I wonder if Scripture was written in this manner!

Consider Genesis 22. Isaac, the son of Abraham and Sarah, when very young, was to be sacrificed by Abraham according to God's command, but Isaac was spared at the last second by the angel of the Lord. If that's not already enough of a soap opera for you, proceed to Genesis 27. Isaac is, by then, old and nearly blind. Before dying, Isaac must bless one of his sons, Esau or Jacob. Since Isaac prefers the elder Esau, Isaac asks for Esau to cook dinner in preparation for the blessing. But, Isaac's wife Rebekah prefers the younger Jacob, so, while Esau is hunting, Rebekah hatches a plan for Jacob to dress in Esau's clothes and add a covering of goat skins to make Jacob seem hairy like Esau, in order to confuse the blind Isaac. Indeed, Isaac blesses Jacob and makes Jacob lord over his brothers, so there is nothing left with which to bless Esau. Esau is understandably upset and Jacob runs off to avoid getting whacked by Esau.

Of course, Katie Roiphe's essay was unrelated to Scripture, but how many times have we wandered into Scripture for 20 minutes and missed some layers? Roiphe's "desire to sort things through" and "live a good life" seem fitting for my Scripture blog. Jacob becomes an important Jewish patriarch; the twelve tribes of Israel are named after his sons, possibly in a mythical sense, but monumentally important just the same. People can act selfishly sometimes, but God's plan can be honored.

13 December 2023

Holy Spirit biblebombs some narratives


In this post, I will point out Bible verses showing how the Holy Spirit, part of the Trinity, keeps "biblebombing" various narratives.  Compare this word to "photobomb", which is when you aim your camera and a person unexpectedly jumps into the background just as you click. So, "biblebombing" occurs when a Bible narrative includes the appearance of someone who plays a role that doesn't immediately seem important, but after reflection, the role turns out to be special. As far as I can tell, I (Gary Gocek) invented this word "biblebomb" on 2023 December 13.

Genesis 1:2 - "the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters." NRSV has a footnote to indicate that "wind" has another translation from the ancient texts, "spirit". This wind is the Holy Spirit, and this verse shows why the Nicene Creed says it proceeds from the Father. I'll get to the Son in a moment.

Luke 1:35 - "The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God." There is that Holy Spirit again. This verse (the conception of Jesus) refers back to the Genesis creation narrative. As a Protestant, I don't see Mary as an intercessor between me and God (Jesus is the only intercessor), but this verse of Luke assigns immense, presumably lifelong importance to Mary. Only a handful of Bible characters get the same level of direct contact with the Holy Spirit - people like Abraham, Moses, Jesus, the Apostles with Paul (see Acts 9:17), and others.

John 1:1 - "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Later in John 1, the Word becomes incarnate as Jesus. I said I would "get to the Son", so there ya go. There is some theological disagreement over whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, or only from the Father, but in my opinion, John 1 as a whole gives a lot of credit to the Word and this explains why the Creed is as it is. The Holy Spirit is inseparable from God and the Word, and is apparently necessary for the completion of these creation tasks, and so the Holy Spirit biblebombs the Holy Trinity itself.

Matthew 14:26 / Mark 6:49  / John 6:19 - these verses describe Jesus walking across the surface of a lake. This is interpreted as a direct fulfillment of a reference to God in Job 9:8, "who alone stretched out the heavens and trampled the waves of the Sea;". This verse in Job refers back to Genesis 1, in which the Spirit swept over the waters. In the New Testament verses, Jesus swept over the waters. It is not theologically correct to equate Jesus with the Spirit, since they are two aspects of the Trinity, but the correlation is obvious.

I invite you to keep thinking about this. It can be hard to understand exactly what the Holy Spirit is or why it is needed, but clearly, God's most miraculous actions utilize the Holy Spirit.

05 December 2023

Radical: A Satire

I have recently been studying the opening books of the Old Testament. The Torah refers to the first five books as we know them today, while the Pentateuch refers specifically to ancient scrolls that served as the basis for the Torah.

In any case, BEGIN SATIRE, I implore readers of other texts to avoid blasphemy! The Pentateuch and beyond describe God's might, the need to be loyal to the one God and to despise other gods and idols, and to obey The Law given by God to Moses. Consider this hypothetical question: What if a person were proven to have committed adultery? The Law (a) prohibits adultery, (b) requires that adulterers be stoned to death, and (c) states that the first stones are to be cast by the verified accusers. If another (hypothetical) person were to advise against carrying out the punishment, such a person would be promoting disorder, regardless of the sinfulness of neighbors. Disobedience by one is not atoned for with disobedience by another! A person advising such chaos, which is akin to spitting into the very eye of Moses, would be a blasphemer of the highest order. How could such blasphemy be justified? Such a person would need to be publicly executed by any available means, the more painful the better. END SATIRE.

Of course, in John 8:1-11, we read that Jesus directs an adulterous woman to depart and sin no more, without having been stoned. We all have our favorite Bible passages, and I have liked this one because it seemed like an ingenious retort by Jesus, "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone," aimed at the scribes (historians and observers) and Pharisees (official, hardline enforcers of the Law given by God to Moses). I had considered that Jesus' statement caught the others by surprise (including the townspeople holding stones).

However, it would NOT have been a surprise to an ancient Jew that neighbors and officials were watching for deviations from The Law. In fairness, The Law's primary objective was order, i.e., to maintain an orderly society, socially and religiously. It is true that The Law was enforced harshly, and women and certain others (slaves, the disabled, etc.) were treated more harshly than Jewish males who traced their ancestry though the twelve tribes. In any case, all were taught to avoid the temptation lurking around every corner. In the Gospel story, "sin" was not just an abstract concept relating to our worthiness of God's love; sin was strictly laid out in Scripture.

When a person wonders about those without sin, again, the is not just an abstract question. The ancients lived a difficult life, and the Hebrews got to where they were through ruthless military conquests. Even if all Scriptural battles do not have independent historical verification, life was hard and dangerous. Have no doubt that the townspeople were not as righteous as The Law demanded. The townspeople were reminded there was always another mob with stones looking for retribution.

In my satire, the person advising the chaos is not necessarily ingenious. The advice would be radical. The society and the woman both need love. One needs to read the New Testament to understand how Christians are Abrahamic and descendants of The Law but have, um, "turned the tables" on The Law.

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