Cartoons on Evolution and Intelligent Design

Chris mentioned his favorite Doonesbury cartoon in his comment on my last blog entry, and so I thought I’d share it, but alas, it seems not to be working. So here is one of my favorites instead. Read more

Monkeys and Typewriters on the Edge of Evolution

Seth Lloyd suggests that the appropriate analogy to the universe is monkeys typing a computers. Anyone who has ever let their monkey type at their computer will know that they can accomplish things, in a rather unpredictable (and sometimes irreversible) fashion. But let us stick with the traditional analogy. To make the analogy fit in relation to evolution, it is vital that we change a few things. First, the typewriters should only have four keys, corresponding to the four “letters”… Read more

The Force Among Us: Discussion of Star Wars and Religion

On October 7th at 9pm Eastern Time there will be an online “episode”, connected to the documentary The Force Among Us, about religious themes in Star Wars. It should be interesting! Read more

Poverty and Worship

In my Sunday school class yesterday we reached the story of Mary (only identified as such in the John 12) anointing Jesus with a very expensive perfume (one wonders if her taste for perfumes that cost roughly a year’s wage was the reason Mary seems to have still been unmarried). In the Gospel of John this is not, as in Mark, an anointing beforehand for burial, since Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus will provide Jesus with the honorable burial that… Read more

Child Sacrifice In The Bible

There is an interesting irony in the fact that a tradition that apparently once practiced child sacrifice has evolved into one in which (in certain segments, at least) is adamant in protecting the rights even of the not-yet-born. The Bible’s teaching on the unborn is somewhat ambiguous. Exodus 21:22-25 appears to make a distinction between causing a miscarriage (treated as a misdemeanor and punished with a fine) and harm to the mother, although the term of ‘miscarriage’ could refer to… Read more

Teaching the Genesis Creation Stories

There is an interesting entry on the Higgaion blog on the subject of teaching the creation stories in a non-literal fashion. What I generally ask my students is what conclusion the presence of a talking animal in a story in any other book or collection would lead them to conclude about its genre. I then follow up by asking why such common sense considerations are sometimes bracketed out by people reading the Bible. Perhaps I should add a further line… Read more

The Brick Testament

Looking for something to liven up your powerpoints in a course on Biblical literature? Don’t forget to incorporate scenes from The Brick Testament, that well-known retelling of (usually some of the more graphic and thus neglected parts of) the Bible in LEGO. Tomorrow’s class is on holy war, and the site has plenty to offer that is relevant to that theme. Obviously a G-rated version would be great for kids, but that is emphatically not what this site offers. On… Read more

Negative Images of God in the Teaching of Jesus

This post ties in closely to my earlier one on the counter-cultural teachings of Jesus (as well as my more recent one on Jesus’ sense of humor). I am struck by how many images are used for God or God’s kingdom in the Gospels that would have had negative connotations in the original Galilean/Jewish historical and cultural context of that time. I will simply list them (and there may be others I may have missed): leavenmustard (a weed, albeit a… Read more

Stories of Miraculous Births

As I read the Buddha-karita (attributed to Asvaghosha) again in connection with my class on South Asian Civilizations, I cannot help but wonder what it would have been like if our only accounts of the birth of Jesus had been stories from centuries later, such as are found in the apocryphal infancy gospels (e.g. the Infancy Gospel of Thomas). The comparison between such materials in the Christian tradition, and the accounts of the birth of the Buddha (Gautama), would be… Read more

Jesus’ Sense Of Humor

There are extensive studies of subjects such as irony in the Gospels, and scholars regularly make comparisons between the parables and jokes. But are any of them actually funny? That is a question that is harder to answer, since jokes often lose all semblance of funniness when translated into another language or another cultural setting.Nevertheless, there are a few strong candidates for genuinely humorous sayings of Jesus. For instance, although we only have the words recorded, I could imagine Jesus… Read more

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