Wine? Juice? Water? Wheat bread? What should be served at Communion?

GORDON'S QUESTION:Why do some Christians use (unfermented) grape juice or leavened bread in Communion since what was on the table at the Last Supper was almost certainly unleavened bread and fermented wine?THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:The Bible records that on the night of Jesus' arrest he blessed and distributed bread saying "take; this is my body,"  and shared a cup saying "this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many." He concluded with "do this in remembrance of … [Read More...]

Is capitalism biblical?

JOHN'S QUESTION:It has always been my understanding from Proverbs (condemning the "sluggard"), and Paul's instruction that missionaries earn their keep and not be a burden, that the Bible encouraged hard work and a responsibility to give of our blessings to the poor -- personal responsibility vs. government responsibility. The trend toward government socialism seems to discourage that. Is capitalism biblical?THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:In America, it's springtime for socialism. A … [Read More...]

A big one: Is New Testament history reliable?

NORMAN'S QUESTION:How can we get people informed about the results of academic biblical scholarship, work that completely undermines the ordinary popular conception of Christianity and faith? Why are Christians not interested in the truth?THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:"What is truth?", Pilate asked Jesus. Or did he? America's "Jesus Seminar" claimed the Roman tyrant never spoke those famous words and, for that matter, much else in the New Testament never happened either. Norman worries … [Read More...]

Was one of the New Testament apostles a woman?

CLAUDE'S QUESTION:How did you come to the conclusion that Junia / Junias in Romans 16:7 is an apostle?THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:Paul's weighty New Testament letter to the Romans concludes with chapter 16's greetings to various friends. Verse 7 applies the exalted label of "apostle" to Andronicus alongside someone named either "Junias" or "Junia." Was that name, and thus the apostle, male or female?  What did the "apostle" title mean? And what does this tell us about gender roles in … [Read More...]

What does Islam teach about violence?

DAVID'S QUESTION:Why don't mainstream Muslims acknowledge that the Quran orders them to do just what ISIS does?MIKE'S QUESTION:Does the Quran tell Muslims to kill anyone who doesn't become a Muslim?THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:David's full question -- posted before the latest slaughter aimed at Christians in Pakistan, children included, and the bombings in Belgium -- asks why Quran passages "explicitly order the killing of non-Muslims." Mike, posting after those atrocities, … [Read More...]

What do we know about the Jewish leader who buried Jesus?

JACK'S QUESTION:What do we know about Joseph of Arimathea? Have scholars learned anything more about him than what is said in the Gospels?THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:The man who buried Jesus is a timely topic for Christians' Holy Week. The quick response is that lots of stuff about Joseph of Arimathea is floating around out there. But much of it was written long centuries after the fact and is best regarded as folklore that tells us about British national pride rather than the actual … [Read More...]

Did later Christians change what Jesus’ earliest followers believed about him?

NORMAN'S QUESTION:Why do an overwhelming number of Christians believe (or say they believe) things about Jesus that were not believed by his earliest followers in Jerusalem, led by his brother James?THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:This important question results from the previous Q and A item, which summarized central teaching about Jesus Christ that has united most Christians since it was finalized by 5th Century ecumenical councils. It holds that the one true God exists in a Trinity of … [Read More...]

How are Orthodox Christians organized, and why?

DAVID ASKS:Most of us in the U.S. are aware of Orthodox Christians but don't really understand their organization. Can you expand on their split around the world?THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS:Our previous Q and A about Islam's founding Sunni - Shi'a split mentioned divisions within Orthodox Christianity. Orthodoxy, which means "correct teaching," sees itself as preserving Christianity's earliest and most authentic form. This faith is in the spotlight what with 1) history's first meeting … [Read More...]

Sunni vs. Shi’a Muslims: What? Why? Where? How many?

JIM ASKS:Muslims in the U.S.: Sunni or Shi'a?And a second reader asks about the two groups' numbers and over-all relationship on the international level.THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS:This two-sided split underlies the increasingly dangerous Mideast rivalry between a rising Shi'a axis under revolutionary Iran and a bloc led by Saudi Arabia with its strict Sunni regime. A 2012 Pew Research survey asked people in Sunni lands "do you personally consider Shi'as to be Muslims or not?" … [Read More...]

Bible puzzler: Did John write the Gospel of John?

PATRICIA'S QUESTION:Who do you think authored the Fourth Gospel?THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:This follows up on our December 10 item about whether the apostle John wrote the Bible's Book of Revelation. The Religion Guy will report what some experts say, not what a mere journalist thinks. The full question from seminary graduate Patricia shows she's familiar with this debate. Bottom line, there's no simple answer.The headline sounds like a conundrum. But remember the Gospel text … [Read More...]