The Most Frightening Verse in the Bible (at least for me)

I can still recall a conversation I had many years ago while I was still on the faculty at Westminster Theological Seminary. A recent graduate came back to visit the campus and felt strongly that he needed to let me know, in no uncertain terms, how I had failed him in his preparation for gospel ministry.

He was a pastor now, for several months, and was called by God to “contend for the gospel,” which is sort of code for pursuing debate with fellow pastors, elders, and congregants to make sure the appropriate level of precise theological orthodoxy was being maintained.

My own teaching style and theology were not oriented toward training polemicists. I was more interested in exploring the Bible with my students and encouraging them to let the Lord surprise them through a careful and alert reading of the text–wherever that would lead.

You can see where this was going. My style was the very problem for this student, who took the time to seek me out and let me know. He became quite belligerent–even a tad condescending. I asked him to consider whether the Bible might have a thing or two to say about whether contending and debating without ceasing was the best way to spend one’s life in service to God’s people.

“What about love?” I asked.

“Love!?” he answered, “That’s what the liberals told Machen” [J. Gresham Machen founded Westminster Seminary in 1929 in opposition to liberal influence, and he was quite contentious in doing so, which has served as a model of ministry for many in that tradition.]

That brief exchange has come to mind a lot over the years. To live in a near constant state of theological vigilance, ready to strike down a brother or sister for (perceived) theological failings seemed not only a colossal waste of the one life God has given us, but at odds with what the Bible makes a big deal of.

Which brings me to my most frightening verse –actually two–1 John 4:7-8:

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.

This verse frightens me because when I think of that student it does not take long before I realize that I am looking at myself. I am prone to fall into the same patterns of this young, deeply troubled, student I last saw a dozen or so years ago. Hey, I’m a type A, German, analytical, intellectual guy. Bow before me as I conquer the universe.

This verse is followed by another in v. 12 that drives the point home even further:

No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

I am tempted to insert “but” after the semi-colon, even though there isn’t one in the Greek. Still, I think the same point holds either way: The closest we ever get to seeing God is when we love one another, for that is when God lives in us.

I know the Bible sometimes makes absolute-sounding statements when something less threatening would do. I’m just not sure if this is one of those places. This actually sounds pretty foundational, especially since it’s hardly a minor theme in the New Testament.

Here’s what’s frightening:

What if this is one of those verses we are supposed to take literally?

And what happens if we do not love one another? Then what?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Christians should never disagree or exchange sharp words when needed. But… 1 John, and that conversation years ago, keep hanging around in the back of my head.

What if all that love business is as true and serious as it seems to be?


  • Mike

    The Sheep and the Goats always tied with the Lord’s Prayer for me, but 1 John 4 is certainly a great contender!

  • hopaulius

    I’ve also been chastened by this verse and others like it. (Consider Jesus’s lecture about the speck/beam in the eye.) My conclusion: To the extent that I fail to love, I show that I do not know God. Because I fail to love daily and routinely, I do not know God. (Heck, I know neither myself nor my wife.) Hence my need for grace.

  • Andrew

    To me, the verse is actually quite comforting. Yes I know I don’t live up to that ideal all the time and love everyone, but I surely have seen God most visibly in times of giving and receiving selfless love. That aim, to truly love your fellow living creatures, is to me THE core tenet of Christian living.

  • Kalessin

    It is easier to be wrong about God’s judgement than his love. <– This thought helps me to maintain what I think is an appropriate degree of humility and caution, while sill striving to get the concepts right.

  • Eric Kunkel

    Mistakenly, a Pastor once asked the bride to read John and not I John during the wedding service. John 4:18 –

    So it was not ” … There is no Fear in Love …”

    That was pretty frightening too, or so I was told.


    • BKJ

      At first I was annoyed that I had to look up the reference to get the joke, and then I did it and it was worth it. What an unfortunate coincidence!

    • John I.

      John 4:18
      New International Version (NIV)
      18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

  • Beau Quilter

    Unfortunately, because the gospel of John, more than any other gospel repeatedly names “the Jews” as those who reject Jesus and call for his death, and because of verses like John 8:44, in which Jesus calls the Pharisees the children of the devil (Christians over the years have often considered all rabbinical Jews as the religious descendants of the Pharisees), this same gospel that expounds on love became the polemic tool for centuries of Jewish persecution by Christians.

  • frank

    Unfortunately, a problem is that some folks define “love” as correcting what they perceive to be theological failings in others.

    • John Shakespeare

      Isn’t that right, then?

    • Karen

      Precisely. I don’t know how many times I have heard and seen contentious, agitated speech and actions justified because “It would not be loving if I didn’t tell them the truth! To tell them the truth is the most loving thing I could do! Otherwise they will burn in hell.” Its scary when hatefulness can come to be the Christian definition of love.

      • Doug

        Helping someone deepen their relationship with Christ by sharing knowledge and understanding = love.
        Beating someone up with your words to prove your superior intellect love.
        It’s all about motivation and balance.

  • Hallvard N. Jorgensen

    I have been thinking about these verses too, lately. I think they are both very, hm, sobering and very interesting. John is a real theologian, I find, who really condenses the gospel into what really matters (i. e. being forgiven through the atonement of Jesus, loving each other just as God is love, keeping Jesus’ commandments and message, confessing that Jesus is the Christ in the flesh).

  • mike h

    One issue that I’ve come across regarding these verses, and others like them. They get applied only to “our own.” Yeah, I can love my sisters and brothers. But, those outside? You know, the cousins that no one talks about? Maybe not so much. I really don’t think that the writer of the Gospel nor the John the Elder necessarily had those distinctions in mind.

  • Sam Ochstein

    Professor Enns, thank you for this post. I cut my teeth in ministry by teaching an apologetics and theology class for two years in a large church, before eventually becoming a senior pastor. Back then I was much like your student. I had grand visions of becoming a doctrinal apologist of sorts–the doctrine police, ready and willing to pounce on anyone who was the slightest bit off (in my opinion, of course!). I shudder now to think of the kind of person I was back then, and indeed, the kind of person I was becoming. Praise the Lord He rescued me from that path! Certainly constructive theological dialogue and debate is important. In my own teaching, preaching, and writing ministry I am often trying to raise (pesky) questions that the biblical text warrants and surprises us with. But even for those with whom I disagree, love must be preimminent over everything else. (And I hope they return the favor in kind!) Of course, I don’t do this perfectly and I have a long way to go! But as the Apostle Paul said, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Col 3:12-14).

    • Karen

      Sam, what helped you to change course? For me, it was a personal life crisis during college and beyond that shook me out of my self-assured Pharisaical approach. I find it almost impossible to help fundamentalists see things differently. It often seems like a crisis is necessary. But, I would be interested to hear how you managed to get off that crusade track.

      • Sam Ochstein

        Karen, thanks for sharing a bit of your own journey. I don’t know that I can point to one specific or significant moment that began the process of changing me. One of the biggest crises in my life, the pre-mature death of my father at age 44, had already happened before this point in my life, so that wasn’t it. I’d like to think it was simply a process of allowing God to change my heart and attitude as I immersed myself in Scripture and prayer and interacted with others. If I had to point to one thing though, it would probably be when I became a senior pastor and began working up close and personal with people and their messiness and brokenness and the complexities of life, and then realizing that I too, am messy and broken and that life is complicated and complex and there are not simple answers! It changed my perspective. And I began to pray (and still pray) a simple, but powerful prayer, “Lord, help me to see people the way you see them.” That, along with camping out in Jesus’ kingdom manifestos known as the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain, have impacted me and continue to impact me profoundly.

        • Matt Thornton

          Sam –

          Thanks for this powerful insight into your growth, and for loving the people and situations around you enough to let them change and refine you.

          Best wishes on your continuing journey!


  • Alise

    This verse is scary because it opens up a lot more of who might be “in.” And yet, when you love those who might otherwise be “out,” this verse is an amazing comfort. Thank you for these words.

  • Patrick Lafferty

    Thank God that it is literal, that the textual variants do nothing to obscure its meaning, that higher-criticism has no quarrel with it (I think), and it is applicable in every culture, every tongue, every time

  • David

    Whenever I think about tearing down someone, or laying into an opinion I know is representative of all that is wrong, I remember that in the heavenly court, they already have a guy who does that. And as “Ha Satan” isn’t a job I want, I try to back away.

  • Don Johnson

    This is one of those verses that confronts us with an “even if you are correct, you are wrong if your motivation or action is wrong” verses. Per 1 Cor 13, if we do not speak in love, we are to be quiet.

  • Bev Mitchell

    Power trips vs. love trips

    power destroys – love creates
    power enslaves – love gives freedom
    power brings darkness – love brings light
    power engenders fear – love engenders hope
    power coerces – love persuades
    power controls – love co-operates
    power closes – love opens
    power hoards – love shares
    power spreads falsehood – love reveals truth
    power brings sadness – love brings joy
    power is ultimately ineffective – love is ultimately effective
    power is Satan’s way – love is God’s way
    power is well understood – love is poorly understood
    power is in a hurry – love is patient
    power is prideful – love is humble
    power is heavy – love is light
    power is discordant – love is harmonious
    power screeches – love whispers
    power kills – love resurrects.

  • Myron Penner (“B” non”A”)

    hi peter. agree absolutely w/ your post! check out the discussion of “apologetic violence” in ch. 5 of The End of Apologetics (forthcoming):

    • Joe

      I am eager to read your book when it is released. It looks to be quite timely. This topic reminds me of Chesterton’s perceptive claim that ‘Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.’ The majority view throughout the Church’s history has bypassed the radical perspective of the Kingdom where mercy replaces violence and power is renounced as a means to ameans to an end. Scripture has been turned into something contrary to its nature, and becomes an implement of control and a false sense of security. It is more difficult to live out the Jesus-kinds of life because it reqires humility. But it is far simpler and more rewarding because there is less fixation on miniscule doctrinal controversies and on trying to judge specific ways in which other people are in greater error than we are. Christianity will not be seen in all of its true glory until it fully rejects all claims to power or ANY use of violence. Biblical interpretation must also do this so that the world never sees that we justify violence. Until that happens, thw world has every right to assume that we don’t offer a genuinely new way. We just hide behind our hypocricy. n en

      • Myron Penner (“B” non”A”)

        hi joe. thx for your note. i agree. i would only add that it is difficult to live out life like Jesus not only b/c it requires humility, but that it requires that we refrain from trying to be in control (which, of course, requires humility).

  • Lise

    “Why are there so few in the court of a perfect Saint? Because every time you are near Him, you have to leave pieces of your ego with the hatcheck girl – who won’t give them back. Ouch… The heart is the thousand-stringed instrument that can only be tuned with Love.” Hafiz

  • Paul

    I’m afraid that if some form of universalism isn’t true, if there is a literal Hell of eternal conscience torment, then the vast majority of those who consider themselves devout Christians are in for the surprise of their lifetime.

    • Some Dude

      Agreed. As a matter of fact, this type of “brother bashing” was a huge part of what got me doubting the veracity of the Christian faith. I figured, “If I can’t find a demonstration of love even close to what I see commanded in passages like 1 John 4:7-8 and 1 Corinthians 13:1-7, perhaps the whole thing is a sham?” Of course, that’s an unnecessary leap, for I have found that kind of Christian love; I just didn’t find it in a traditional, Calvinistic church setting; I actually found it in an “organic” church setting, where neither money or doctrinal precision was an issue; but love for Jesus and each other was. I really believe that God used this type of church setting as one of several means to keep me from apostatizing.

      Some Dude.

  • arty

    Dostoevskii made this argument quite a lot. His favorite gospel: John.

  • Keith Tyson

    Thanks Pete. I needed this today.

  • Chuck

    I left the Reformed Baptist for this very reason. Calvinist sometimes eat their own. The hope is that they will grow up and truly contend for the faith, not for the extremist view of fatalism that they now embrace. You will find many a young man frothing at the mouth while spouting Calvinistic doctrine. Just pray and let them go. The Spirit will lead them into all truth. If they are subborn, God will deal with that as well. He already has. Stagnant growth, phariseeism and lack of real Holy Spirit revival are all judgements brought on those churches.

    • Some Dude

      Well said Chuck. I remember watching our little Calvinistic Baptist church shrink; and you know why? Because the pulpit ministry was heavy-handed, the “counseling” was a spiritual version of corporate micromanaging, and the church discipline was all-too frequent. In retrospect, it was like the Bible was used as a spiritual “anvil” that people were laid upon in order to beat them into conformity to it versus trusting the Spirit to do it in his time.

      • rvs

        I am reminded of a particularly apt quote by John Wesley: “There may be right opinion of God without either love or one right temper toward Him. Satan is a proof of this.” Thanks, Peter, for the wisdom in this post.

    • Keith

      I am a calvinist that is in seminary. It seems like there is every kind of sinner here. Fortunately, we have a few professors that are very pastoral to the future pastors. My most frequent prayer for myself is for humility, love, and a sound “self-applied” theology. I have learned that I am, not only according to Reformed Theology, but in REALITY in need of more grace than anyone I will ever minister to. Not just when I was a “wretch” before conversion, but now. I know people say stuff like this, repeating ad nauseum puritanism. But, the Lord has been showing me my pride and lack of love. I am so excited that I can simply ask and receive these traits and all the fruit of the Spirit. Some people think that theology is the source of this arrogance and run away from doctrine to an emotional pietism. But this is akin to saying that the Law is bad because it is weakened by the flesh. The answer is to apply sound theology to yourself CONSTANTLY. This is not done by your own power and insight, but by faith in the continuing work of Christ through the Spirit in His word. Just ask the Lord to sanctify your mind and body and reform your heart to the heart of Jesus. When you see the heart of Jesus in His word, you will be amazed and drawn to become like Him, and to ask for more from our generous Father. If you are a calvinist and struggle with correcting everyone, receive the gentle correction of our great Savior. It is so sweet to be disciplined by His love.

      • rvs

        Hi–I have a philosophical question (also, I really appreciated your paragraph here): would you go so far as to say that you were a zombie before conversion? How dead is dead prior to conversion (I’m thinking of Ephesians 2: 1-5, for example)?

  • AJG

    Mine was always Matthew 7:21-23.

    “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

  • Jim

    The spiritual judicial system is also very scary. If John’s gospel is accurate (and if same author as 1 John), it’s a bureaucracy. The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son (John 5.22) and you go next door to Jesus’ room where the logo states For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world (John 12.47). Love everyone and don’t judge people? Where’s the fun in that? I think the graduate was on to something.

  • Grant H

    So, the Christian God is ‘Love’. ‘Love’ therefore would appear to be an ultimately male attribute, since this three-person’d God who is ‘Love’ has no revealed female in it. It has a Father, a Son, and his Ghost; no plainly affirmed Mother, Daughter, or Sister. It has the Son’s apotheosised phallus, but no exalted womb. Perhaps this lacuna in the Christian God explains why Christian ‘Love’ can get so lost and lopsided.

    • Andrew

      Actually, “Holy Spirit” in Aramaic is in the feminine, and some ancient translations of Jewish Gospels from the 2nd century read Jesus as saying “My Mother the Holy Spirit”

      • Grant H

        Well, given subsequent history, you can see why that didn’t make it into the canon!

        Yet even in canonical Koine, the dove (περιστερά) that manifests the (grammatically neuter) Spirit at the baptism of Jesus is feminine.

        Glimpses of the feminine aspect of God, sidelined down the centuries, and silenced …

        All the longing for the divine feminine has been suppressed or focused instead on Mary, making a virtual goddess of the Galilean girl. Yet all along the feminine is there in the Godhead itself. Unlikely to be a popular sermon topic…

        Wisdom is justified of all her children.

  • Grant H

    ὅτι ὁ Θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν (1 John 4:8)
    Might the equation of the masculine Theos with the feminine Agape reveal the Godhead’s feminine aspect?
    A scrap of eisegetical fancy, easily dismissed … and yet, perhaps it reveals why the angry young men of the faith have trouble with God’s Love – deep down it implies that God is also a Girl.

    • Joe

      When I mention ‘Jesus’ to my two year old daughter, she wants to know whether or not I’m talking about ‘big’ Jesus or ‘little’ Jesus, then she asks, ‘girl’ Jesus or ‘boy’ Jesus?

  • Jon Hughes

    I think I recall reading Thomas Talbot, who made the point that 1 John 4:8 (“God is love”) is not referenced at all in Calvin’s Institutes; and yet this is not merely an attribute but God’s very essence!

    Gerald Bray, a Reformed theologian, has, however, just brought out a systematic theology by that very title.

  • Carolyn Custis James

    Unfortunately, this isn’t a theoretical choice between whether to be polemical or loving. It touches down in real relationships with real people who are hard(!) to love. More importantly, it exposes the up hill challenge of being Gods image bearer & how reflecting the truth about him violates our natural instincts. Right before reading your post, I received an email that put this on the line for me. Your words couldn’t have been more timely. Thanks Pete.

  • Julie Coleman

    I’m thankful this morning for the grace of God, which guarantees my salvation no matter whether I am obedient or not. The relationship is secure. In our quest for godliness, we need to be careful not to think that we can somehow earn God’s approval or stay on his good side. Yes, loving others is key because it is in doing so that we show God in us to the world. But I squirm a bit when people start making any adherence to a rule a prerequisite to a continuing relationship with him. It has always been and will always be about grace.

    • Grant H

      Julie, 1 John 4 might make you squirm then:

      “20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” (NASB)

      It would seem that to be in “a continuing relationship with God” involves an emphatic rule, rather starkly expressed: If one doesn’t love one’s “brother” then any claim to relationship with God is a lie. According to 1 John, this exercise of love isn’t just a desirable extra to try for during some post-justification “quest for godliness”. It’s not just “key”; it’s a commandment – a should, an ought – and obedience to it is an essential complement of belief in Christ (3:23).

      This is part of what Peter Enns finds so “frightening”, I think.

      Frightening, indeed. If I don’t love people, I don’t know God. My internalised relation to a set of “correct” doctrines – and zeal in contending for same – counts for nothing with God if love for others is not first and foremost in my life.

      And so, realising I simply can’t/won’t/don’t love most people as I should (despite having let go and let God, wept and fasted, wept and prayed…), I concur with 1 John that I do not know God – I don’t obey his command; I am sinning. For a moment I take heart, because at least I am not lying (1:8-10) and thus I hope for forgiveness and “purification from unrighteousness”. But, even thus forgiven, I’m soon back in the wrong again because I’m still not loving as I should be. And just to drive the point home, 1 John says “Anyone who does not love remains in death” (3:14). Forgiven, yet still in death? 1 John also advises that “The one who does what is right is righteous…The one who does what is sinful is of the devil” (3:7b-8). So now, not only am I still in death, I’m of the devil as well – death AND the devil! Fear and trembling ensues … and 1 John has something to say about that too, confirming that one who fears is not made perfect in love, since perfect love drives out fear (4:18). Gah! Doubly, triply guilty!

      Grace to the rescue? Grace, grace, grace … mere mantra that restarts the carousel I just fell off …

      • Julie Coleman

        Grace… a mere mantra? Seriously? Now THAT is a scary statement.

        1 John needs to be read within the larger context of the New Testament as a whole. “Through one act of righteousness there resulted in justification of life to all men… where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” (Rom 5:18, 20) We can’t out-sin the grace of God. Grace is the good news of the gospel. It’s not about us or what we do.

        If you believe that what you do alters your relationship with God, I have to ask: how much is enough? A little love? More than 50% of my efforts? And how much is enough that I can claim to know God? Where is the line? Remember, we are talking about a completely holy God. Our righteous acts are like filthy rags when compared to his holiness. We are sadly delusional if we think we can ever earn favor with God.

        We will fail. It is inevitable. It’s why Christ died. We cannot do it on our own. When we start thinking it’s up to us, we are moving onto a different path: saved by works.

        • John I.

          We can’t earn forgiveness (“favour” is too general and not the relevant concept), but we can still be required to obey a commandment. To love as Jesus loved, which is his commandment, requires being filled with the Spirit, as he was also. It is then the love of Christ that flows out of us, but though it is the love of Christ still He expects us to do something: to obey.

          Showing love by the power of His indwelling Spirit is not showing filthy rags, nor is it the reason we are saved, nor is it a so-called “righteous act” of merit. Hence to put our obedience and His power in opposition, or separation, or to divorce them is to misunderstand.

        • Grant H

          Thee (channelling Paul and Isaiah):
          “Our righteous acts are like filthy rags when compared to his holiness.”

          Yet, “The one who does what is right is righteous…The one who does what is sinful is of the devil” (1 John 3:7b-8).

          So, Romans seems to say one thing; 1 John another. To 1 John, there is no distinction between partaking of God’s grace and obeying His commandment to exercise Agape, since God = Agape. 1 John does not despair of Agape as “filthy rags”. “The one who is righteous does what is right”. The practice of righteousness (i.e. doing Agape) is a real possibility, not some rhetorical counterpoint for driving home the notion of total depravity.

          As for that much trodden patch of Romans: Yes, compared to God’s holiness, everything looks pretty shabby, even “righteousness”. Nevertheless, one’s love of God and belief in Christ is necessarily realised in love for others, according to 1 John. To him, that’s not negotiable.

          The New Testment is a web of tensions; we are the tiny buzzing things caught in its cords.

  • John

    this scripture and this post really helped answer a very tough question that I’ve been wrestling with spiritually. Thx for posting this.

  • Paul Galloway

    I know of people who spend all their time as heresy hunters and fighting over this or that and they are always angry or upset. It seems to me to not line up with the fruit of the Spirit. On the other hand the bible tells us to speak the truth in love. Love is more than being “nice” – in fact in order to be faithful in our love for others (let alone God and his Word) we have to say or do things that don’t seem very nice. We have seen what a generation of permissive parents have done in the name of love. Ideas shape our lives and behaviours – error is harmful. In faithfulness to God, His word, our brethren, and the lost we need at times to say things that are unpalatable. The bible says that we are to earnestly contend for the faith – a lot of the time we can do that by simply preaching the truth – other times the bible tells us that we are to mark (publicly expose) false teachers. The key I think is to speak the truth in love andto have our speech always be with grace – our goals to edify and restore. Paul said the more I love the less I be loved. We need to pray for God to give us a heart of love and compassion for others and a loyalty and love for the truth. Look around at a generation that has forsaken the truth for the most part and see how it has affected our society – the truth hurts at times and no one likes the unpleasant feeling of being reproved but error is a cancer that slowly spreads and hurts many. Let us love one another and love the truth. David said that he esteemed all of God’s precepts concerning all things to be right and that he hated every false way – and he was a man of love – a man after God’s own heart.

  • Tom Drake-Brockman

    Look at the horrific suffering all around us, especially borne by children who are the most vulnerable. Then look at what Christ did constantly throughout the gospels to relieve this suffering and help ‘the least of these my brothers’. Then you will know that for Christ, love meant COMPASSION.

  • Hristian

    Love sometimes hits the child to get him going in the right way (Proverbs 13:24). We should love as the feeling goes but we should also make sure we are not just a bag of feelings.

    • Kreine

      Except that the rod is often used a symbol of authority, the “child” in Proverbs is na’ar, referring to a teen male only, and equating striking an individual with love is nearly impossible. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” 1 Jn 4:18

  • eric kunkel

    Back to the thread on the apparent lack of feminism in the Trinity as being a cause for a harsh Christianity. It is hard to chart all the twists and turns that Christendom has taken.

    Partialing out what has come thru intact from the Second Temple Judaism that was the world-view of the time is a grand undertaking . שכינה is certainly feminine. Modern Judaism is matrilineal, although patriarchal elements surely exist in the Jewish Scriptures.

    Even what I said about John writing with a Second Temple backdrop has to be counter-balanced by the Hellenism that already was extant in that very Judaism and of course in the language he used.

    And we have had 2000 yrs of history since, mostly Western Civ. for us. You see this less in Eastern Orthodoxy: Was it just happenstance that of the 5 early Bishoprics, Rome predominated?

    What if Coptic Christianity or the great Church of Antioch became wedded to an Empire like Rome? Our own “Reformation” was a Renaissance/ Reformation of that historical branch of Christianity seems so natural to us. What if our “Mere Christianity” was based on the faith as it suffered and grew in Armenia? I think we would all have many different presuppositions, questions, quandaries, etc., with that background, in that language.


  • Jaren

    god is fake the bible is a book of made up fairy tales

    • Grant H

      But it’s not as entertaining as “a book of made up fairy tales”!

      And, generally, gods do not appear in fairy tales anyway, not even fake made up gods.

  • eric kunkel

    Or maybe Jaren is a fake character in a fairy tale. Or perhaps neither the assertions of the aforementioned Jaren nor the Bible are just “made-up.”

    (Fairy tales take quite an imagination to construct, take Tolkien as an example. But bracket that whole reductionist implication, i.e., “just fairy tales.”, at least for now.)

    Maybe neither Jaren nor the Bible are best described as fake or miscategorized as fairy tales, in the simplistic sense. That seems to survive Occam’s razor best, the most parsimonious probability presenting -


  • Tony

    For me, the most frightening verses in the bible are the ones where god orders us to put people to death for things like working on the sabbath or being disobedient to your parents or being a witch. Those verses are barbaric and frightening, and dumb and pretty much what you’d expect of ignorant, superstitious Bronze Age desert tribesmen – not what you could reasonably expect from an omniscient, omnipotent being.

  • eric kunkel

    I would leave it to Peter to contextualize those. I think the Talmud says something like if more than 1 person were put to death in 70 years it would be too harsh – there were so many checks and balances:
    (Mishnah Makkot 1:10): “A Sanhedrin that puts a man to death once in seven years is called destructive. Rabbi Eliezer ben Azariah says: even once in seventy years. Rabbi Akiba and Rabbi Tarfon say: had we been in the Sanhedrin none would ever have been put to death. Rabban Simeon ben Gamaliel says: they would have multiplied shedders of blood in Israel.”

    So apparently it was kind of like the death penalty in California.

    (Being influenced by the Wizard of Oz, I suppose I have Glenda asking the good witch versus bad witch question in my mind, which again comes up in Wicked.) So we are not in Bronze Age ….

    Imagine the 60s onward if children generally obeyed their parents, here in West – perhaps as they still do in other societies. Think about if people did really stop working for a whole day, turned off their electronics unplugged and maybe rested and prayed. That would be really scary.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    That brief exchange has come to mind a lot over the years. To live in a near constant state of theological vigilance, ready to strike down a brother or sister for (perceived) theological failings seemed not only a colossal waste of the one life God has given us, but at odds with what the Bible makes a big deal of.
    “Near constant state of theological vigilance…” sounds a lot more like classic Communists with their Purity of Ideology. Comrade Pol Pot demonstrates just how far “striking down for perceived Ideological Impurity” can go. How far it HAS gone.

  • Pingback: hefalimp cardijon