Posts Tagged ‘Jerusalem’


The Epistle of Hebrews is a bit of a mystery. The author is unknown; it has flecks of Pauline influence, but is not of Paul. Many have thought it comes from the school of Pauline Christianity, perhaps Priscilla or Aquila, Or Barnabas or Timothy or Luke or someone else. The challenge being that there is rabbit trails that lead to one thought, then norms of writing that disqualify. It is someone who was born into and raised in Judaism, but knows the classic Greek rhetorical styles.  Neither the Roman Catholic Church or John Calvin or Martin Luther could confirm an authorship. It is this enigma that sits as the cover letter to the General Epistles. If the Pauline Epistles were filling the void of the Major Prophets in the Christian Testament, then the General Epistles would be akin to the Minor Prophets.

What can be agreed upon, as the term Hebrews is used, and that the language is very much rooted in Judaic practice that it is a letter to Jewish converts to the way. As its writing falls into the latter half of the 1st Century it is possible it was written after the synagogue expulsion. Some suspect it was sent to Jerusalem, which puts it firmly in the teaching gatherings of James, younger brother of Jesus of Nazareth, and Bishop of Jerusalem.

Xaviant Haze (2018) in Ancient Aliens in the Bible uses the first chapter of Hebrews as a text to prove his theorem that Jesus was born of an alien-human mix. It comes out of the theory that angels in the Hebrew Bible, and Christian Testament, were ancient alien astronauts visiting our world:

After all, he was born king of the angels (Hebrews 1). An obvious link between Jesus and the Old Testament are the bright lights, metallic clouds, and fiery colours that raged in the skies on the day before he died. (p. 169).

As I have contemplated this journey through the Epistles of the Christian Testament it has been about my own thoughts and reflections, a bit of context, and pushing others to engage the texts in different ways. It is part of my recovery to give me something to care about, and to do. In my teaching I have always brought out different perspectives, how much different than to bring forth Hebrews through the lens of Ancient Alien Theology? I think it bears reflecting on, and thinking a bit outside the norm of events.

After putting forth that Jesus of Nazareth is the King of Angels in chapter 1, the writer continues into the concept of Salvation (2:1-11). The idea being that Jesus had to surrender his throne in the heavens, come down and live amongst humanity. Relying a bit on Ancient Alien theory as supposed by Haze (2018) it is about a humanity that was crafted through genetic experiments in the times of the Hebrew Bible. The Adams and Eves were genetic alterations to existing species on the planet, incurred gene splicing (almost like the augments in Star Trek, think Khan Noonien Singh). Then the women were so beautiful that many from the ships mated with them producing the Nephilim, which were giants, and a cover up was needed before the home planet discovered this awryness, hence the flood. The rainbow in the sky post flood was about salvation, the promise not to wreak havoc again of mass destruction on the world. As the hearers of the words of Hebrews would be reminded of their ancient stories as a source of encouragement:

12 saying,

“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
¬†¬†¬†¬†in the midst of the¬†congregation I will sing your praise.‚ÄĚ

13 And again,

‚ÄúI will put my trust in him.‚ÄĚ

And again,

‚ÄúBehold, I and the children¬†God has given me.‚ÄĚ

14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

-Hebrews 2:12-18 (English Standard Version)

 

The angels (aliens) constantly came to aid the descendants of Abraham, through the matriarchal lines of Sarah and Hagar. Ensuring a journey, worship, survival, growth and discovery for their children. Many postulate the images of the Hebrew Bible ala Jacob’s ladder is describing entering and exiting a UFO. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah a use of a nuclear device upon the earth as the description is of the havoc wrecked by such a bomb going off, including Lot’s wife turning to salt, where an alternative translation of the word would be dissolving.  These are a few points; it comes from a place of ponderment on why angels would need to eat? Sleep? Essentially engage in human like activities. The theory growing that is because they are simply travellers from the stars that the ancients used language they could grasp to explain. It also explains a bit of the violence seen by Angels (the wall coming down in Joshua for one).

One has to wonder if the mystery that surrounds Hebrews authorship is due to it being of this kind of text. Yes it is written to a certain population, in time and space, but is it also written to preserve a separate understanding of events. A breadcrumb of a trail to a deeper creation mystery? Does it disqualify God as parent/creator if aliens were involved in the process? Could the concept of life long slavery from a devil be a different allegory of an ongoing cosmic-interstellar conflict? Or is it the allegory of the struggle for those that have used technologies and blessings for nefarious gain within Imperial culture?

The epistle (letter) of Hebrews is assumed to be to Jewish converts to the gatherings in Jerusalem under the guidance of Jesus’ brother James. It is a treatise, not a letter in the traditional sense that begins to outline how Jesus brings together many pieces of the Hebrew Bible story. Angels to Moses to Priestly castes to salvation to a deeper cosmology that I have decided to take a contrary non-orthodox exploration of. It is through the lens of Ancient Alien Theology that we will continue the journey over the remaining chapters, and engage a conversation to see what pops up.

As the question comes forward, have we just fallen silent to being able to connect with our alien brethren?

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James continues to write and lead the gathering of the Way in unique political-religious times in Jerusalem.  Rome is plotting the retaliation, but this small gathering of followers of Jesus of Nazareth exists within the synagogue system with Zealots; Essene (okay they are a bit more secluded by themselves, but you get my point); Pharisees; Sadducee; and other sects within the Judaic tent.

Yet through things like the opening teachings around testing of belief, show the tension within the early movement, and the established religion (much like with any new movement trying to prove its wings). Think about it. This is a movement of Messiahship that was not what was expected. Jesus of Nazareth had been 1 of hundreds of active “Messiahs” at the time of his crucifixion. Choosing his Way, could very easily be seen as a kind of heresy, and more to the point may create some tensions within family units already struggling under occupation and then the new reality in Jerusalem with Rome held at bay.

Interesting enough though, in chapter one, James calls forth the most ancient of tales from the Hebrew Bible, can you see it within these words:

Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when you meet trials of various kinds,3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

9 Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass[c] he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

12¬†Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive¬†the crown of life,¬†which God has promised to those who love him.¬†13¬†Let no one say when he is tempted, ‚ÄúI am being tempted by God,‚ÄĚ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.¬†14¬†But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.¬†15¬†Then desire¬†when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and¬†sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.[d] 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

-James 1:2-18 (English Standard Version)

What images or story archetypes are emerging with these words?

No it is not from the Torah (Pentateuch); rather it is from the Wisdom writings. Think of the ancient theatre of Job. Seen as God’s most beloved, he becomes the target of a cosmic wager between the angel tasked with testing- Lucifer- and God. It becomes then Job’s friends that try to convince him to walk away.

Why would James write to bring this story to mind for his gathering?

Testing will happen. There will be those seeing the loss of relationship, or work or material goods and try to convince you to walk away, but like Job you need to see deeper. The cool part about calling forth this story to the hearer though, is that it also has a point where Job rages against God, and God responds.

Think of the solace in that? You can feel disconnected from source, yet easily fight back in. Denial works in releasing that which keeps the Holy Spirit locked away inside you. Step into the light.

That is, know that testing happens in life, as it refines beliefs. It is challenges, and relationships that allow us to grow, understand ourselves, each other and our world.For the biggest challenge in life is stepping into the new day, knowing that you do not know or control the outcome…

but that is okay.

 

 


Historians place the writing of the Epistle of James between 62-69 CE.  What does this context matter for the writing of the brother of Jesus? The leader of the Jerusalem gathering of The Way? As with some of the epistles the writing and circulation pre-dates the actual Canonical Gospels (the four chosen to be in the Christian Testament- Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).

It falls into a time of revolution in Jerusalem. Who knew? There was a rise up and eviction of Romans from the city as Judea asserted their control for a scant time (70 CE Rome came back hard and fast, the fall was equivalent to Babylon’s invasion, and was written about in the Gospel of Mark for the fall of Jerusalem). It was a shift from Roman Citizen supremacy. Where those who were not citizens, who were among the conquered were seen as little more than cattle, though given the “local” leadership (the inter-mitten corruption of control to keep the masses passive). Since the movement would be expelled around 85 CE, one has to note it was not happy endings during this time. I mean, let’s be real here, the Empire Religious controlled leaders executed Jesus of Nazareth. Now with the revolution, what could be expected?

The stage was set for this little brother to try and keep the message alive. Moving beyond the letter of law to what it truly means to have a living faith. One that is meant to transform the world. The writing also shows someone that had not meant to be apart of a new religious creation, but rather a continuation for the beginning words of his letter he writes to the diaspora:

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,

To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:

Greetings.

-Epistle of James 1:1 (New International Version)

It is a letter written at a time of revolution. That is change. A time when something new could be birthed, status quo maintained or something completely different.

Hmmm…The life of James’ brother showed the completely different at another point in his journey:

Jesus’ transfiguration.

(as told in the Gospels Matthew 17:1‚Äď8, Mark 9:2‚Äď8, Luke 9:28‚Äď36)

For the change in Jesus is what each person undergoes when they come into resonance with the Holy breath within them. This is what James’ discovered and changed his own being from “stop brother” to… Greetings.

Enter into the greetings of your transfigured life…

 


St Luke the Physician

St Luke the Physician (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)

Quite the catchy title eh? It is a biblical account by the Physician Luke in Acts 16, just on  the heals of the Jerusalem council that stipulated new converts to The Way did not need to adhere to the Mosaic Law or Covenants (ala circumcision).

Then we hit this passage in Acts:

Acts 16

New International Version (NIV)

Timothy Joins Paul and Silas

16 Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. 2 The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 3 Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.

Now to the untrained eye it looks as it Paul totally just went against the message he was to give to the new church members. Yet there is a deeper question to be asked here. Timothy’s¬†mother¬†was Jewish, his father was not. This was a patriarchal society where non-Jews really had no truck with Jewish custom, in fact the¬†circumcision¬†was a sign against the Emperor because it placed allegiance to an authority higher. ¬†So Timothy was¬†uncircumcised. ¬†But did Paul just arbitrarily force Timothy to be¬†circumcised¬†to come on this trip, or perhaps within the new found family freedom in Christ, with a household of believers, Timothy saw a way to embrace his heritage and requested such act?

This is the deeper questions we must ask about the living texts. Why? Simple, otherwise we may miss something simply because of the way the historian or writer recorded it. Timothy was getting the opportunity to experience the heritage of half his family (the Matrilenial line) that he had never had the opportunity to experience growing up possibly. As such, then it would make sense he would want full inclusion.

So is the text as simple, black and white we are doing this because it is what the culture I am going to wants done (as a recent sermon proposed it in church)? No. It can very much be read as a story of a young man finally free from the oppressive practices of his society and being able to make a choice of his own volition of what would be his path to God.


The story of Nehemiah, found in the Hebrew Bible, after the work of Ezra (the one who re-established the priestly role in Jerusalem post-Babylonian Exile) is a story of reconstruction, and illustrations of leadership. It is a short 13 chapters and it would be unfair to say that the principles I am to write about are found only in certain chapters, they go throughout the short book.

See Nehemiah had established a life for himself in Babylon, he was cup bearer to a king. Yet he was still open to the work of the Holy within his life, and got a call from God (first leadership principle: be open to hearing, not just talking, to God) and it was this call that weighed on him so the king inquired and supported his decision to lead the return to Jerusalem and rebuilidng of the wall (Principle 2: Confirmation and support of call by others).

Principle 3 is illustrated in most project management texts today, but Nehemiah did it by horseback. First he rode through the shattered city (micro level of the project), then he move up higher to be able to see the whole city in ruins (Macro level) to inform his plan. So being able to see an issue/project on all levels, or being able to remove yourself from a situation to the higher plain.

But I have skipped ahead for there are two imporant principles within #2 to be teased out.

2.1 Spiritual companionship with The Holy Mystery. Or some would say prayer, but that is living in a constant reflective relationship with the Holy.

2.2 Removing barriers to forward movement (as seen when the king provided letters of passage). What are the challenges you will face? Who in your network can aid in their removal?

Principle 4 is delegation. That is Nehemiah broke the project down into zones and assigned each zone to a mixed group of individuals who could accomplish that priority. That is delegation and with that in the system those individuals not only given the responsibility to complete a task, but empowered with the proper authority to do it.

Principle 5 is pragmaticism. We may want to come up with flowery theological answers, but sometimes you just need to work in shifts so half can be armed and half can work. When there was stumbling blocks, the simplest solution was the easiest one to follow to remove it to lay the ground work for success.

Principle 6 speaks to fairness, or as the prophets say justice (some translations righteousness) that is doing what is right, as we see in ensuring all are cared for. (chapters 5-7)

Principle 7 is seen brightly in chapter 6, but it illustrates that a good leader needs to have their thumb on the information pulse of a community (or for today media and new media) and be able to respond in truth, and transparency.

Principle 8 is living the Core. Nehemiah had Ezra in brin the people the Law, a renewal of the core of loving God and celebrating this.

These are 8 principles my inductive reading of Nehemiah revealed to me. What have you seen?


Each of the Canonical Gospels, and many of the Pseudopigrapha, contain the kick off to Holy Week as the “Triumphal Entry”, on the liturgical calendar it is Palm Sunday (yes with the advent of Passion Sunday we are loosing an important piece of our spiritual lives).¬† So what is this celebration of Palms?

It is the recognizing of the poor/disenfranchised celebrating the coming of the Christ to Jerusalem at the holiest time of year. The time of year when the Empire was the most concerned about an uprising (70 active rebellion “Messiahs” in one place with rebels would make one a bit jumpy).¬† So on the other side of the town, the religious and political leaders, merchants and upper classes were celebrating another entry–the legions of Caesar coming into the city ready to put down any trouble by razing the city, and ensuring those in power would maintain power, inspite of their professed belief in God.

So what is there to rethink, fairly straight forward? Yes and no. For we can internalize this story, like in Eastern philosophy there is yin-yang; or Karmaic Balance, so to do we see the mystery balance within this story of Jesus‘ life. A teaching of the interior thought as we draw close to the Holy Mystery (Jerusalem at Passover). There are two entries (entities) within us: Worldly Oppressor (Caesor/Pilate/Herrod/Sanhedrin) or Spiritual Freedom (Jesus and the Palms).¬† This is our true eternal choice, which entry are we going to welcome into our Jerusalem within and allow to guide us? The ravaging destruction of the Holy through the Merchant’s entry or the thriving growth of transformed life and community (salvation) through the Palms?