Posts Tagged ‘New Testament’


There is little written in the so-called Canonical gospels of John the Baptist’s (in the Aquarian, the Harbinger) parents. A few passages in the Gospel of Luke speaking of an elderly barren couple, even though Zacharias is part of the temple guild, and as such enters the Holy of Holies.

There is much revealed if you will on how the early years went down, The Magian Kings warning, the flight into Egypt of the Marian family (for a good exploration of thoughts on this I refer you to Anne Rice’s Christ Our Lord Out of Egypt).  But this work in a few scant verses shows the madness of Herod in wanting to hold onto his political power grip, for Herod rules at the grace of his Roman Oppressors (owners may be more appropriate) and his family has a long history of playing all sides of a conflict to continue to hold onto temporal power.

The birth chapters within the Aquarian Gospel truly reveal the battle for temporal versus universal power, and holistic wholeness. It begins to show how Karma shapes your own life, and that eventually actions through the Law of Cause and Effect will catch up.

  1. And other guards were sent to Zacharias, father of the harbinger, while he was serving in the Holy Place, to say, The King demands that you shall tell where is your son.
    12.But Zacharias did not know, and he replied, I am a minister of God, a servant in the Holy Place; how could I know where they have taken him?
    13. And when the guards returned and told the King what Zacharias said, he was enraged and said,
    14. My guards, go back and tell that wily priest that he is in my hands; that if he does not tell the truth, does not reveal the hiding place of John, his son, then he shall die.
    15. The guards went back and told the priest just what the king had said.
    16. And Zacharias said, I can but give my life for truth; and if the king does shed my blood the Lord will save my soul.
    17. The guards again returned and told the king what Zacharias said.
    18. Now, Zacharias stood before the alter in the Holy Place engaged in prayer.
    19. A guard approached and with a dagger thrust him through; he fell and died before the curtain of the sanctuary of the Lord.
    20. And when the hour of salutation came, for Zacharias daily blessed the priests, he did not come.
    21. And after waiting long the priests went to the Holy Place and found the body of the dead.
    22. And there was grief, deep grief, in all the land.
    23. Now Herod sat upon his throne; he did not seem to move; his courtiers came; the king was dead. His sons reigned in his stead.

Aquarian Gospel 6:11-23

Think about it, Herod was so scared of losing his false power, that he led a genocide of male children. That for the hearer of this legend should flash back to the story of Moses, and breaking of bondage slavery in Egypt through the actions of Pharaoh.

This is the madness that consumed and drove Herod, do we witness this in ourselves? Others? Our world? What can we do to heal it?

It leads to a shattering of declared religious belief to wield power, think of the world today, the Religious Right, ISIS, the list goes on and on of terror agents, fundamentalists that attach to a religion to exert control, but truly are not within the golden cord of love, rather like Herod are penning the story of their own demise through their own actions.

For Herod’s assasins break the Holy Law of Love, and Zacharias is murdered. Now remember for the closest modern example I can relate, is the assassination of Blessed Oscar Romero in Latin America when he was killed while blessing the Host at Mass.

In the Holy of Holies their was such control theory instead of Love Spirit in place, that there was fear of the priest dropping dead, and anyone retrieving the body dying for not being worthy. So basically a rope was tied around the priest to be able to pull the body out if this happened, and this relates to Levitical and Deuteronomical dress of the priests with bells, etc on their robes so you could tell if this happened.

The assassin broke the religious control, Herod placed himself as more powerful than the all love that everything exists in and that exists in everything (Panentheism via Rev. Matthew Fox’s Creation Spirituality if you will). So already the drive for power and control over others shows as it has through history, that religion is not the cause, but the guise these actors choose.

But Herod does not escape the murder (sin if you want, karma more appropriate)…for the stress, hate, fear and anxiety of this chase of a babe born in a cave…his body gives out, and his son takes over the thrown. Think about that, such atrocities to hold power, and then in the end, cause and effect on his system he loses his power.

Where is the drive for control consuming out divinity and driving an early transition from this human experience?

How can we move from a Herod existence?

What will you change to release your Herod?


You've gotta have faith?

You’ve gotta have faith? (Photo credit: Roger Smith)

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Introduction

For at least 6,000 years the stories found within the Hebrew Bible, commonly referred to as the Old Testament in many Christian Circles, has been a piece or the texts shaping the faith of those who worship within an Abrahamic faith community. The basic texts found within the Protestant Old Testament that this introductory text lends to is 39. Elmer’s A Journey through the Old Testament is a basic text that opens up a student’s eyes and mind to beginning to understand these foundational texts.

Written 23 years ago, it shows a little dating but also reveals the bias of the author. These are topics that will be touched on as a summary is made, the text itself is interpreted within light of itself and in the conclusion he question is asked and hopefully answered with the affirmative why it is useful to explore this text as part of one’s educational enterprise.

Summary

When one first picks up an overview or introduction text to the Hebrew Bible, a reader normally braces themselves for an onslaught of dates, dead people, and possibly dry archaeological dig sites. What Elmer managed to accomplish within his text’s format is more of a DC Comics retro 1980’s “Who’s Who” feel. This was accomplished by framing the material around the key characters of the stories.

Within the character driven synopsis Elmer has structured a verse by verse commentary for the key characters he highlights. Hidden within these commentaries are simple yet effective gems with his:

  1. Synopsis:
  • Ie: cycle of Judges

(Elmer, p.143)

  1. Perspective sections (highlight what the author believes are the main thrust of the text):

Ie: Servant type of Holy Spirit

  • Both are sent
  • Both come bearing gifts
  • Both come teaching about the Son
  • Both come to woo and convince

(Elmer, p. 83)

  1.  Outlines
  • ie: Leviticus (p.123) that lays out a rhythm of :

Access- the way to God (1:1-7:38)

Association – walk with God (8:1-23:44)

Apostasy – the warning from God (24:1-27:34)

These are easy to access and understand for the reader regardless of their familiarity with the subject matter. The order or rhythm for the work is that of how they first appear within the context of the story of the Hebrew Bible.

The text itself has two main points:

  1. That for a student to fully understand the New Testament they must read the Old Testament through their Post-Christ lens. This is illustrated through his rendition of Lucifer as a story of rebellion.
  2. That the hardest lesson of faith to learn is waiting on God.

The work itself appears designed to aid a subject based study methodology that one would craft around a certain character to learn from. This learning is textual and character driven to be able to come to one’s own conclusions about the works that make up the Hebrew Bible.

Interpretation

            At first blush with the innovative way the stories were presented one may assume that Elmer is“wolf” in sheep’s clothing. That is he is letting innovation lead the reader into a false sense of security before hitting them over the head with a rather outdated contextual message, as was the flavour of theological writings in the televangelist driven 1980’s. That is not the case, what is found is a profound character study that can challenge the reader into seeing the sometimes familiar story through new eyes.

For instance he shows a correlation through history of the church, and a story from the Testament by quoting Matthew Henry “all God’s people are praying people” (Elmer, p. 40) as a lead into the Abraham story on the eve of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. This thought is clearly continued with Abraham’s conversation with God around the destruction of the two cities as prayer (Ibid, p.60). For prayer is the communication of our relationship with God, and as such can be open, flowing yet the great question is raised as Abraham debates God over how many righteous people are needed to assuage destruction why did he stop at 10? Did he think that if Lot’s family was counted that would be enough? Did he believe there was 10 people in the cities he was unrelated to that were after God’s heart? Or as the petitions drove on, and Abraham remembered the inhospitality of the cities did he have a Jonah/Ninevah moment and just no longer want to wrestle with God over their salvation?

Hard questions rose within the readers’ mind that may not traditionally come up within a Western Church where 90% of the time these texts are abused and used to show the “abomination” of homosexuality, which has nothing to do with the story. The inhospitality circled around security, gang rape, offering up of daughters, essentially drawing that the only care in life is for one’s own power not for the needs of the other.

Yet again, as we journey through the Torah, Elmer avoids the easy explanations and go to chapters within Leviticus to discuss the most atrocious of sins. Where most interpreters in the Western Christianity go to chapter 19’s sex laws, Elmer rests on a little know child sacrifice to Molech in 20:1-5 as the true apostasy before the Lord.

This has set a good rhythm within Genesis for the relationship of the people with God. Yet Elmer has a tendency of needing to tie these stories directly into teachings of the Christian Testament. Yes the early church grew out of Judaism, and was eventually kicked out of the synagogues and Temple yet does it always need to be read through the lens of the other. He stipulates this by correlating the Joseph story of Genesis with Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.” (New International Version). Paul was writing to Roman believers with this line, as a classically trained Pharisee, from an upper class family background and a citizen of the Empire. Joseph was sold by his jealous brothers into slavery in Egypt and rose to prominence within Egypt through his spiritual gifts from God. So yes it is possible in certain instances to read the Christian Testament into the Hebrew Bible, but one should always ensure the teachings align and that they are not just trying to make a puzzle piece fit an empty hole.

The last statement within Genesis was used in the summary section around the comparison of the servant and The Holy Spirit. This comparison at first reads seems unique and practical, but it does not hold water when one thinks of what the Holy Spirit does within the life of a believer and community. Yes the servant accomplishes these four fold ministries, but these are also just the beginning of the work of the Spirit. This is an example of attempting to over read the Christian Testament into the Hebrew Bible.

Another is seen as Elmer stating that the Angel of the Lord in the Hebrew Bible is Jesus pre-incarnation (p. 143). This is not a strong statement, as it eliminates the Host of Heaven from work, but it also discredits the writing of John 1 about the Word becoming flesh, and the work in Genesis 1 being used to create, and the teaching of angels (messengers) being lower than Jesus in Hebrews. It appears with this that Elmer found a writing crux and kept going with it.

From this we enter into the world of the Judges which is another time of waiting. The people have entered what can only be described as a Tween cycle of existence, where they constantly rebel and fall back into the family through the work of some of the most dysfunctional individuals for their time: (a) Othniel (nepotism); (b) Ehud (left-handed); (c) Barak (coward); (d) Deborah (woman); (e) Gideon (coward); (f) Jephthah (son of a harlot); (g) Samson (adulterer) (Elmer, p.144).

From this emerges the monarchy out of the theocracy with Saul (Elmer, p. 180) that holds the United Kingdom under only two other monarchs: David and his son, Solomon before it is ripped asunder (Ibid, p.181). Unfortunately where Elmer had been challenging norms and could continue to challenge the student’s suppositions and indoctrinations around certain stories when he hits David he falls back into a church rut of vaguest details.

David and Bathsheba hits a wall where he relies on innuendo, abstract language to not really lay out what actually came to play between these two (p.204). Elmer is still leaning on a patriarchal and in some estimation, misogynistic view that Bathsheba was at least partly willing and that it was a fling or affair, while inappropriate nothing more. What is missed is that the power of the throne was abused, not only abused, but a man targeted a woman to exercise their power for sexual gratification. This is a textbook definition within Canadian Law of sexual assault (otherwise known as rape). Where Elmer could have stepped out in courage, he retreated.

Within the Wisdom Literature Elmer holds to a Solomonic authorship stance on Ecclesiastes, Proverbs and Song of Solomon. He relates that is was a younger Solomon who wrote the song, but then in spite of order within the canon postulates Ecclesiastes as the prologue that spurred on the writing of Proverbs (p.217).

Which brings us into the division of the kingdom due to sibling rivalry (which could be a later literary effect to remind the believer of the journey of Cain and Abel) between Rehoboam and Jeroboam and it is through this division that the exiles happen where the Prophets speak to attempt to prevent. The unique highlights being that the Babylonians allowed Jeremiah to continue to live because they thought him an ally (Elmer, p. 261).

Post-exilic works such as Esther which was written to those still in Diaspora who had opted not to return to the Holy Land (Ibid, p. 278). For the work did not name God, yet God is the most prevalent character throughout with the actions of the characters and how Esther rose to prominence within the city for control of the king. It is also another reflective book from the Genesis stories when we think of how Joseph was given into slavery, what happened with Esther was no different, yet God was there working with her.

How does all this matter though to us today? Do we need to be able to see the Christian Testament illuminated within the works of the Hebrew Bible for it to bear relevance?

Conclusion

The answer for the writer of the two above noted questions is yes it does still matter and No we do not for it to still bear relevance. The challenge as was pointed out in the previous section Elmer has a well laid out text, where he pushes boundaries in some places, percolates thoughts in others. The unfortunate part is that where these gems happen, there is by far more times where he holds the party line that does not need to be held with just a bit of deeper digging, and more to the point should not be attempting to insert a Christian understanding upon a Judaic story.

The journey is still worth the price of admission for the questions it does read, but as with all textbooks (or media in general) this should be approached with one’s critical eye fully engaged to enter collegial dialogue with the work.

The last things that need to be remembered which can be seen as key for the believer within the Hebrew Bible. Within these stories that can seem barbaric, bloody, misogynistic, genocidal, hate filled… there is kernels of hope:

  1. We are a people of prayer, and it is within prayer that we can interact fully with God.
  2. God is alive in our lives and all things work towards our calling eventually.

Holding onto these things as one takes their life experience, faith, education and the Holy Spirit to experience the full revelations within for journey today and this text has added to the education peace for understanding.


Introduction

            The Christian Testament, colloquially known as The New Testament can become an enigma for some. There are many contemporary historians, academics, and theologians wrestle with the origins of the collection of 26 writings within this testament. There is a varied understanding of Gospel (from memoir to literal history to political statement to liberation movement to name but a few); epistle (letter, teaching, prophecy) and apocalyptic language. There is debate over whom and why wrote these texts, and why they ended up within the context of the canon when one reflects on the vast amount of texts the early church fathers had to choose from.

Whether one read’s Ehrman, Spong, Borg, Graham, Brueggerman, The Popes, McKnight, Stott, Brown, Crossan, Packer, or Bruce (or a litany of other academics) what becomes evident is needing a foundation to start from. It is this foundation that one finds within the rather proto-orthodox and/or basic fundamental underpinnings of the origins of the 26 writings within the Christian Testament. For the new student/believer, the New Testament of the Holy Bible (coupled with the Old Testament or more correctly the Hebrew Bible).

While one prepares for ministry, it is important to not only gain an understanding of these foundational texts, but also to stay current with the historical development of introduction as science. This short paper will touch on a summary of Louis Berkhof’s Introduction to the New Testament (1915); an interpretation of important pieces of the driving thesis’ of Berkhof’s work and speculation as to why it is framed as it is, finally there will be a conclusion where the writer will bring together the summary and interpretation into the Twenty-First century for how it holds up.

Summary

            Historically the early Twentieth Century in North America was when the Fundamentals movement commenced. It was not as one would view fundamentalists today rather it was many denominations coming together and deciding what the core foundation of faith needed to be to work together on building God’s kingdom here on earth (otherwise noted as the Social Gospel movement). It is out of these early days that one can see Berkhof’s Introduction to the New Testament emerging in 1915.

The writing bears the grandiosity within the faith of the time, it carries the assumption that even a first year student would have a passing understanding of Greek as these words are peppered throughout. There is also the idea of fundamental to it, because Berkhof stipulates that it is not a critical text (which could be divisive at the time), rather it was a chronology of the transmission of the works (p.2).

The text itself is expertly written, even with its higher academic underpinnings the work is readable and clearly puts forward the thesis by relying on what some may say is a lost science today in the world of expertise. Berkhof is taking a generalist viewpoint of the historicity and composition of the 26 texts of the Testament. This historical development is borrowed from the discipline of the early church fathers forward (Berkhof, p. 4) that is a discipline of introduction in which some say the goal is the validity of what truly is the word of God does a disservice to the whole Bible as the inspired Word of God (Ibid p. 4). Berkhof is clear in stating up front that this is not a quest for the historical Jesus or the understanding of debate over validity of the texts, both of these arguments are non-sequitor for Berkhof who is laying out the simplicity of the answers to questions of authorship, composition, history, purpose and how they came into the canon (Ibid, p.4).

While the text is definitely a product of its times, it still holds water when one cracks the proverbial spine and begins the journey of discovery through to fully understand why we still have, rely upon, study and question these 26 texts to build our faith (both individually and communally).

Interpretation

            It is difficult to separate the summary from the interpretation, as noted with it being a text almost 100 years old fresh eyes do need to read it through the lens of the time. As a writer of the time Berkhof relies on reading the Hebrew Bible into the Christian Testament (and one can speculate the reverse as well). But with an understanding of church history one knows the time period and the ideal of fundamentals bridging the divide between liberal and conservative Christianities however by bridging the gap Berkhof did take the less academic path in critical thought with his work.

What is appreciated for a student of theology and critical thought within the Christian Testament is that Berkhof clearly does not intend the reader to approach the Gospels as literal history or direct dictations from God (as a Muslim would approach the Qu’ran) rather he is clear that the Gospels are memoirs (p.20).  The writers are four memoirists of one story (p.14) and taken together one can get a fuller picture of whom the living Christ is and how he was then as well.

As Berkhof continues his text by text introductory journey through the Christian Testament he shows a partiality to the emerging Charismatic movement with his reliance upon the inspiration by and through the Holy Spirit working within the diversity of the writers and their experiences (p.25). Reflective on his usage of reading the Christian Testament into the Hebrew Bible by making the claim that the Holy Spirit was active outside of the church before Christ and within the church after Christ’s (p.26) ascension and the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost upon the believers. The challenge is does one think this is true? Or is it a clearer statement to illuminate that the Holy Spirit was the life breathed into humanity on the Sixth Day so it was more that the Spirit was named and let known at the point of Christ’s ascension? Again however the debate over the Spirit would have been a divisive issue that would not have been wise in the time period he was bringing this together.

Once the bedrock of inspiration was laid the work continues through the text by text review. Berkhof relies heavily on the early church fathers to verify his orthodoxy. Is this a reputable way to build a modern view of God? Partly yes, but it also lends oneself to not understand that God’s revelation is not static and that understanding changes over time. A reader just needs to look at Berkhof’s understanding of the Acts of the Apostles that is pointed out the text lays out the establishment of the early church and their primary organization (p.62). This organization as was revealed throughout the epistles was an organic change over time and not static. The Holy Spirit was at work shaping the believers and their understanding with their contexts. It was these earliest writings of the Christian Testament by Paul that shaped the use of the epistle as a form of conferring divine truth upon the early church (Berkhof, p. 68). Yet even with this statement Berkhof leans towards a static understanding of church life.

Within the reflective work of reading the testaments into each other, Berkhof postulates a mirroring of each area that is quite beneficial to understand the true Judaic roots of the early church and how the early church fathers shaped the Canon to mirror the familiar (Berkhof, p. 70):

Hebrew Bible Christian Testament
Pentateuch Gospels
History Acts
Wisdom Literature Epistles
Prophets (Major/Minor) Revelation

 

The first three are from Berkhof, but to complete the theory one needs to reflect on the purpose of the prophets from the Hebrew Bible. The purpose was to redirect the Children of God back onto God’s path, encourage, and warn of the storms to be weathered to come, but also what will happen out the other side. Which when one takes a read through Revelation through the socio-historic-cultural lens is the same reflection for the seven churches of Asia Minor.

Berkhof also illuminates early what Raymond Brown would confirm in the later 20th century, that the epistles of John show the organic transformation of the early church. First John and the Gospel of John are companion documents that one could actually see the epistle being a commentary. Yet to continue the illumination when one enters Second and Third John all of a sudden this community founded on egalitarianism, charity and equality now has a structure much like the rest of the apostolic church that Paul, James and Peter were functioning within.

The simplistic ideal for a new believer is that the early church was the homogenous utopia, yet as Berkhof expertly pointed out earlier into his work when discussing the writers, they were joined into community through the Holy Spirit yet they were diverse. It was this diversity that created a plethora of understandings and ways to live the faith out even within the earliest days of the movement.  The emergence of the unified church as one note the writings of the epistles becoming more uniform within their discussion of church organization lends itself to the idea of introduction to the development of the Testament.

It is unique though that Hebrews would be placed within the epistles, when it truly reflects itself more as a catechism. This may not have been the language that Berkhof used for it, but the work is an enigma that lays out a strong theological understanding for the faith. It is an enigmatic text because of not understanding who the author truly is. Some lend to Paul, others to perhaps one of the women of Jesus’ community, but all we know for sure is that the identity of this writer is lost to antiquity.

What this introduction has shown though is that one can easily get caught up in the non-essentials of the debate; authorship while knowing is nice it is not the thrust of the work. For it is within the text itself that the divine truth is communicated through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to bring unity in God through the diversity of creation.

It is within this diversity and almost 2000 year history of those that walk with the living Christ that brings us into this reading of an introduction to the Christian Testament. Almost 2000 years on the church is as diverse if not more diverse than it was back in the early days. So why enter into this study?

Conclusion

            Why should one invest the time to read never mind understand or process a work that is almost 100 years old? That is an important question in a world that is go-go-go. Yet we also live in a world where the Holy Bible has never been more widely available, translated into various languages, as well as different versions of those translations with the idea being that each believer should be able to find a text that resonates with them.

That is the theory, yet with the rise of social and mass media the ability for one to process the information coming into one’s sphere of orbit has left generations being probably the most biblically illiterate since pre-Reformation. Which then brings us back to the question that opened this section, why bother? Simply put to give one a foundation of understanding.  Whether or not a reader agrees with the theories postulated, or the reliance upon the early church fathers to prove efficacy what is important is like in the historical time the book was written, a simple fundamental understanding of the transmission of the 26 texts that created the Christian Testament.

This simplicity of understanding could lend itself to becoming a point of healing, as almost 100 years ago there was a divide between the liberal and conservative Christianities that over the 97 years since its publication this divide that was being bridged by the fundamentals has exploded into a full on gulf with lava.

This is shown most clearly within the Anglican Communion that is straining at the seams based around Northern-Southern Hemisphere (or 1/3 to 2/3) world divisions around theological underpinnings of the 66 texts in the Protestant Holy Bible.  Yet it is also a division created because within the midst of debate to the point of schism what is lost is the historical understanding of transmission.

The debate has moved from collegial to scholastic within this divide internationally and within local congregations because it is about proving one side right and one side wrong. There is no willingness to understand the work of the Holy Spirit within the diversity of the church that lived out the calling of The Christ.

That is the key point as to why one should spend time with this historic introduction book. In the midst of chaos, argument, schism and destruction of the Body of Christ (as communicated through the epistles) one is reminded that it is not about the minor facts we debate that tears us about or where we claim baptism. What is it truly about? Christ.

Throughout Berkhof’s Introduction to the New Testament this is what resonates to the reader about not only the texts, but more importantly the living Body of Christ in the world today: the church. We are diverse, we are different, we claim different theories and ideas about who, what, where, when, why and how these texts came to us and the institution of the Christianities came to be. Yet that is not what matters at the heart, the true thesis of the matter is that the Holy Spirit dwells within the church (Berkhof, p. 26).

The Holy Spirit is still the one transmitting the texts to us in spite of our individuality for, like the early church it is our understanding of God, our life experience, and the Holy Spirit itself that comes together with us individually or corporately when we read the text and inspires the divine truth of the Holy Mystery.

This is how the texts were originally transmitted to us; this was the purpose that Berkhof laid out for his introduction. Yes, as an author he wrote splendidly about the authorship, composition, history, etc of each of the texts, but the driving underlying thesis that Berkhof focused on was simple: inspired and transmitted throughout the ages to the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit.

Why read a textbook introduction about almost 2000 year old texts that is almost 100 years old? Simple, it reminds us of the basic truth of the Christianities. We are the Body of Christ thanks to the Holy Spirit descending upon us and into us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reference

Berkhof, Louis. Introduction to the New Testament. Christian Classics Library: Grand      Rapids, MI: 1915.

 

 


HOLE, WILLIAM: The Life of Jesus of Nazareth. ...

HOLE, WILLIAM: The Life of Jesus of Nazareth. Eighty Pictures. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Photo of Bart D. Ehrman taken followi...

English: Photo of Bart D. Ehrman taken following the Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is a perplexing problem for anyone that claims to be following the Living Christ…are we truly following his life & Teachings? Have we entered into the full cosmic story from creation throughout re-birth in Mama Mary through life, miracles, teachings, execution, resurrection and ascenscion?

These are harder questions that one thinks. Recently I picked up Bart D. Ehrman‘s new work, Did Jesus Exist (2012) from my local library. Ehrman lost his faith while becoming the eminent New Testament authority, yet still professes a love of scripture.  This work could be seen as a Christian apologist tomb, but what it is, is an stance against the mythicists that say Jesus of Nazareth never existed (and well worth the read so I encourage anyone to pick up any of Ehrman’s works to understand the histories of the Christianities).

Yet he brings up a unique point, Paul rarely if ever references the whole cosmic story of Jesus. He references the mystical death & resurrection…which leaves the documents that have mostly shaped the western churches (Paul’s letters) lacking the whole image of the word become flesh, that which spoke life and was reflected in Genesis 1’s poetry, the healer of those cast out of community, the renewer of authentic community in the love of God, neighbour and self. The man who walked into the nest of vipers and continued preaching love and the reign of God even up to and including his lynching at the hands of the bourgeoisie of Israel and the Empire.

These are pieces missing in Paul’s Christology and as such leaves a void within our Christianities, that many Progressive churches (liberal, liberation, social gospel, Red Letter, Emergent, Missional) are attempting to recapture by bringing the whole story together and focusing on that it is not just the death and resurrection that bring meaning to the story, but what came before and what came after… the whole Cosmic Saga… that is the beautiful story of Jesus called the Christ.

Historically, he was Jesus of Nazareth or , Yeshua Bar Josephson, a peasant labourer, born out of wedlock (a bastard child), raised in a back water town, looked down upon as the almost lowest of the low in the proletariat…only lower than his class were the sick, lepers and women.

Yet this labourer became a travelling teacher, faith healer, prophet that radically changed the way the world worked for better or worse.

Was he the Christ? That is a matter of faith.

Was he a human being who existed? Yes, that is a fact of history.

The challenge to the church today is whether or not we want our faith shaped by the peasant radical, or the elitist Pharisee?

What is your choice?


What are your thoughts on these 8 points? Is anything missing? Needs to be expanded?


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With more than 500 activists volunteering more than 16,000 hours in 10 countries last year, impacting the lives of more than 50,000 people, we see a global trend becoming the foundation of a world movement. This is the beginning.
Edwin Black: The Texas Sabbath Showdown: The Inside (and Still Blazing) Story
Both Beren and TAPPS were too comfortable in the way it has always been to imagine the way it could be. But both would reluctantly be brought into the new era.
Alaa Al Aswany: Who Will Greet Pope Shenouda?
Yesterday the man stood up to welcome Pope Shenouda III, who walked towards him, upright and sprightly. All the wrinkles were gone from his face, his back was straight, he was free of his aches and pains and his hair had turned quite black again.

It is interesting as we continue the debate within the church around who can and cannot be called by God. It is interesting because we have merged The Academy and the Spiritual. Yet where has it left us in the West?

With a cleric shortage, and a restoration movement underway. Think of what has brought us to this point:

The original Apostles (those who broke the ground) were tradesmen; harlots; unwed mums, sex abuse survivors, tax collectors, fishermen, terrorists, and mass murderers…

Yet as time progressed we became “official” and in becoming official we moved into needing licenses, more than the story and the Holy Spirit…trusting in God that whatever our calling is in our lives God is the one that called us, the community affirms and lifts us up (for it takes a community church to raise up a follower of The Way of Jesus of Nazareth).

Notice that there is no real academic requirements, no need for a bible college degree, or a seminary degree or even as the Reformers of the 15th Century were a “doctor of the church” or in depth theologian. But this is where we went post Constantine as we advanced forward we became more radically structured. Those that did not fit the “orthodoxy” or “orthopraxy” where declared “heretics” and eliminated.

As we moved forward we shaped an educational training program that stipulated one must have this academic acuity; be free of mental illness; be “typically developing”, have a penis, in some instances be of the nation of the national church, be heterosexual, have one wife and children (or when the church was realizing it was losing too much control pre-reformation, divorce their wife and cast their children out into the cold).

Yet as we watch each of the institutional norms has been pushed over, late 1800’s to mid-1900’s if you had a vagina it was realized God could call you to the ministry (note we knew this before Constantine, and it was even recorded in the New Testament). That the Holy Spirit would empower us to do things even greater than what Jesus accomplished.

Those who experience the world without sight or sound have received the call. If you have been divorced it is a-ok. As long as you are homosexual and willing to swear off companionship–sure—or maybe we should say yes…Those with developmental disabilities serving the sacraments and praying…the differently abled coming into fruition in the community…

Amazing how during this reformation we are seeing the academics of the church institution struggling for enrollment and making ends meet, yet at the heart of the matter is that there are many within the institution trusting within the Holy Spirit. This trust is leading to a removal of labels, a realization of what it means to live in a Trinitarian style community based around the Trinitarian Great Commandment of loving God with our everything, loving our neighbour as ourselves. This community created by God, Called by Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit to form itself on what this deep love and justice means.

This is where the reformation is leading us, as an institution struggles there are many that are just opening themselves to the Spirit, and yes, the changes that are happening in the labelless church is a blessing. For we truly only see the beloved of God, the beloved that on the 6th day God called very good and blessed; when he turned us out of paradise clothed us, loved us, gave us creation to build paradise in.

Lets as a people choose to live in this Spirit of inclusion, hope, love, and justice.


English: Cross

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Good Shepherd

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English: Labarum of Constantine I. English: Ve...

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Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

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Recently I read an article in Unity Magazine, that spoke a more accurate way to reflect on the story of Christianity, is not in the singular, but in the plural for we live within a world of Christianities.

We need to reflect on this, the only time we ever had a “unified” faith was when Jesus was actually walking the earth with his first followers, before Good Friday. Once he died, this seed of God sprung up a trunk that the resurrection then caused to bud…but it was not a continuous trunk, for branches emerged as was seen in the New Testament.  At least 13 apostles (named in the NT), but probably some strong women that were mentioned in the Gospels that worked for the money, and were there at the resurrection. So bear minimum post resurrection/ascenscion we are looking at 20 branches upon this family tree.

Then the 300’s role around and there’s a chap named Constantine. This chap was one of the minor warlords who entered into one of the seasonal civil wars that were apt to crop up more than periodically within the Roman Empire, because well heck they could do the Emperor‘s job better. It was during one of these campaigns when Constantine had a vision saying he would conquer under the banner of the cross (the beginning of militant Christianity, and pacifism-a core teaching of Christ, almost lost forever).

Once Constantine ascended the throne he began the process of using Christianity to tighten the grip on his subjects. How? Simple, by moving the Empire’s faith, from pantheistic and divisive, to monotheistic was a brillaint political and tactical move.

What did this mean to the Christian family? The first major pruning of the family tree.  A inside faith genocide, and nights of bloodshed and ostracization for those who did not sign on.

This led to a decision needing to be made, and scholars being forced to councils of ecunemical types called for them to craft creeds and a clear canon for the Bible.

Things went along less bumpy for a while, a “heresy” here or there popping up and an assasination here or there as the church became the empire, and then the empire fell, and the church still wanted to act like it was the empire.

1025 CE The Pope (of the West) and the Patriarch (of the East) have a soap opera level spat and excommunicated each other splitting the church.

Then there was this little thing called the black death that wiped out a 1/3 of the people on the known world. The clerics said it was punishment from God for the sin of the world, yet a 1/3 of the holy men died too…why would God punish them?

The Church built there new Empire by selling get out of hell free cards.

Theologians like Luther, Zwingli, & Calvin balked.

Princes and Earls and Kings noted they could finally seize full power.

A bloody reign of terror and wars unleashed as the bible moved from Latin to the language of the people.

As the Protestant church moved forward more splits would occur as some feel led by the Spirit or personal wealth. Rome has its own stumbles.

In the 1960’s Vatican Council II, the windows of the Roamn Catholic hurch are thrown open for the Spirit to blow through…and they have been trying to hunker it down every since.

The church balances on a precipice…

Conservative…Liberal…Liberation…Social Gospel…Orthodox…Baptist…Neo-Ortodox … Catholic. . . Pentescostal. . .  Missional . . . Anglican. . . Presbyterian. . . United. . . Unitarian. . .Universalist. . . Unity. . .Christian Science. . . Jehovah Witness. . . Mormon. . . Coptic. . . Moravian. . . Brethren. . . Lutheran. . . Emergent. . . Post-Christian. . .

New branches emerge daily… as others slowly burn away…  but wasn’t changed is the trunk…the birth, life, teachings, miracles, death, and new life of Jesus of Nazareth…the trunk is what matters in the gardening journey… yet we get stuck on what our branch believes.


It was interesting to day at work, we held a bible study or as I prefer Faith Exploration, that centered around the letter to the Hebrews in the Christian Testament. Why is this interesting?

Simple, Hebrews is the Enigma letter in the Bible. All we know for sure in authorship is that it is not Paul, but it could be Luke, Apollos, Timothy, Barnabas or Priscilla, or some other unnamed writer. It may be the product of 1, 2 or 3rd Century CE Christianity. As for the community itself, it could be a generic term, it could be dispora Jewish converts, Romans or whatever, and as for their location ditto.

The purpose though could never be clearer or more relevant for the church of today. For you see, it was written to a community that was weary, tired, fed up if you will with religiousity and “Christendom“. Essentially church was burning out the membership over the ability to keep “church” going and not living out the simple Love of God, self and Neighbour that Christ guides us to.

Why had it become a burden? Simple, burdens are created by over legislating, legalism, and attempting to place the Holy Mystery within a box and the writer or preacher of this letter if you prefer decides to remind the community what it actually means to be a follower of the Living Christ. This isn’t about living in slavery, it is about freedom. Remember that the law on the page is not the law of love we are called to live. That the Word, is not the words on the page, but the life of Christ-Jesus of Nazareth that guides us to the Christ within, acknowledgement of the eminent Holy aspect of our character.

This was illustrated in the first chapter by the reflections on the fact that God created the angels not to subdue us, but to aid us, as such we are higher than the angels. That God called Christ (as with us) Son/Daughter…and as such we inherit the kingdom. This is not an inheritance that comes with death, but a successor being put in place and being guided by the former holder of the reign. This is the promise of Christ, if we release ourselves from the self-imposed burdens of what “we believe Church to be” and live out what we are called to be…then there is true freedom, transformational love that releases the indivdiual and communal soul to create the new world.

Read for yourself Hebrews 1 (Holman Christian Standard Bible):

Hebrews 1

The Nature of the Son

 1 Long ago God spoke (A) to the fathers by the prophets (B) at different times and in different ways. (C) 2 In these last days, (D) He has spoken to us by [His] Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things and through whom He made the universe. (E) [a] 3 He is the radiance [b] of His glory, the exact expression [c] of His nature, and He sustains all things by His powerful word. After making purification for sins, [d] He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. (F) [e] 4 So He became higher in rank than the angels, just as the name He inherited is superior to theirs. (G)

The Son Superior to Angels

 5 For to which of the angels did He ever say, You are My Son; today I have become Your Father, [f] (H) or again, I will be His Father, and He will be My Son ? (I) (J) 6 When He again brings His firstborn into the world, (K) [g] He says, And all God’s angels must worship Him. (L) (M) 7And about the angels He says:

    He makes His angels winds, [h]

    and His servants [i] a fiery flame; (N) (O)

    8but about the Son:

    Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,

    and the scepter of Your kingdom is a scepter of justice. (P)

    9You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness;

    this is why God, Your God, has anointed You,

    rather than Your companions, [j] (Q) with the oil of joy. (R)

    10And:

    In the beginning, Lord, You established the earth,

    and the heavens are the works of Your hands; (S)

    11they will perish, but You remain.

    They will all wear out like clothing; (T)

    12 You will roll them up like a cloak, [k]

    and they will be changed like a robe.

    But You are the same,

    and Your years will never end. (U) (V)

    13Now to which of the angels has He ever said:

    Sit at My right hand

    until I make Your enemies Your footstool ? (W) [l] (X)

    14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve those who are going to inherit salvation? (Y)

Footnotes:

  1. Hebrews 1:2 Lit ages
  2. Hebrews 1:3 Or reflection
  3. Hebrews 1:3 Or representation, or copy, or reproduction
  4. Hebrews 1:3 Other mss read for our sins by Himself
  5. Hebrews 1:3 Or He sat down on high at the right hand of the Majesty
  6. Hebrews 1:5 Or have begotten You
  7. Hebrews 1:6 Or And again, when He brings His firstborn into the world
  8. Hebrews 1:7 Or spirits
  9. Hebrews 1:7 Or ministers
  10. Hebrews 1:9 Or associates
  11. Hebrews 1:12 Other mss omit like a cloak
  12. Hebrews 1:13 Or enemies a footstool for Your feet
Cross references:

  1. Hebrews 1:1 : Jn 9:29; Heb 2:2-3;
  2. Hebrews 1:1 : Ac 2:30; 3:21;
  3. Hebrews 1:1 : Num 12:6; 8; Jl 2:28;
  4. Hebrews 1:2 : 2Pt 3:3; Jude 18;
  5. Hebrews 1:2 : Ps 2:8; Jn 1:3;
  6. Hebrews 1:3 : Mk 16:19; Col 1:17;
  7. Hebrews 1:4 : Eph 1:21; Php 2:9;
  8. Hebrews 1:5 : Ps 2:7;
  9. Hebrews 1:5 : 2Sm 7:14; Ps 2:7; Ac 13:33;
  10. Hebrews 1:5 : 2 Sm 7:14; 1 Ch 17:13;
  11. Hebrews 1:6 : Rm 8:29; Heb 10:5;
  12. Hebrews 1:6 : Dt 32:43; Ps 97:7;
  13. Hebrews 1:6 : Dt 32:43; Ps 97:7;
  14. Hebrews 1:7 : Ps 104:4;
  15. Hebrews 1:7 : Ps 104:4;
  16. Hebrews 1:8 : Ps 45:6-7;
  17. Hebrews 1:9 : Ps 45:6-7;
  18. Hebrews 1:9 : Is 61:1;, 3; Php 2:9;
  19. Hebrews 1:10 : Ps 102:25;
  20. Hebrews 1:11 : Is 34:4;
  21. Hebrews 1:12 : Ps 102:26-27; Heb 13:8;
  22. Hebrews 1:12 : Ps 102:25-27;
  23. Hebrews 1:13 : Jos 10:24; Ps 110:1; Heb 10:13;
  24. Hebrews 1:13 : Ps 110:1;
  25. Hebrews 1:14 : Ps 103:20; Mt 18:10; Heb 5:9;