February 8, 2020

Fiery catalysts, rather than flavoring or preservative, is what Jesus calls his disciples to be in this Sunday’s Gospel. Fiery tempers go unhinged often when Western Christians are presented with challenge to the status quos they enjoy. Change is the last thing many of us ever want to do. We prefer a Jesus who attends to our complacency and does not challenge us—just look at many Catholics and Evangelicals in relation to the Trump presidency. And when the real Jesus… Read more

February 7, 2020

Missing from one Gospel, but included in another, traditions about Jesus differ widely between “Matthew,” “Mark,” “Luke,” and “John.” Missing stories!—why do some Gospels include a saying or doing of Jesus but others do not? Last week, we went over various difficulties experienced by Bible readers expecting the Gospels to be fact-precise like well-researched 21st century biographies. Our Gospels grew incrementally. This happened as followers of Jesus used his sayings and acts in new contexts. They drew parallels with Israelite… Read more

January 31, 2020

“PICARD,” the latest Star Trek offering, is great, but it offers us an opportunity to look at our own expectations. I really like “STAR TREK: PICARD.” It’s good!—if you are going to give me old, give it to me old, but also give me the old new. Whatever you do, please don’t reheat frozen dinners from 20 years ago, my friends. I am a demanding customer when it comes to entertainment choices. To me, nothing at the movies or streaming, nothing… Read more

January 30, 2020

Difficulties abound for Western Bible readers expecting of the Gospels the kind of fact-precise, historically accurate material found in contemporary biographies. Difficulties ahead for fundamentalists reading this! Biblical peoples—whether inspired authors or the characters they wrote about—lacked our historical interests. They didn’t obsess over the line dividing fact and fiction, historical exactitude, detailed precision and accuracy. Their interests were theological. As we have seen, if they could extrapolate from Jesus and arrive at wisdom that was of “the Spirit of… Read more

January 25, 2020

Conversion of Paul is January 25—but how did he “convert” when he remained Israelite all his days? Conversion, as it applies to Paul, is one of many things about which there exists much spurious familiarity. We celebrate “the Conversion of Paul” every January 25, but perhaps we should think of it as the feast day celebrating the Metanoia of Paul, or maybe, the Commissioning of Paul. Conversion is about changing groups, especially religious groups. From what group did Paul, the Israelite,… Read more

January 23, 2020

Sayings of Jesus, originally pithy zingers, grew over time into much larger Gospel passages as traditions evolved. Sayings of the historical Jesus or sayings of the earliest followers of Jesus attributing them to Jesus? The Gospels are full of supposed Jesus quotes, but scholars find it difficult to make sure these sayings’ origins! For a couple of posts, here and here, we have been looking at the difficulties scholars have in distinguishing sayings of the historical Jesus from later things… Read more

January 21, 2020

Sacrilege should never happen, but sometimes it does, and it can even be the occasion for self-discovery. Sacrilege comes in many shapes and sizes. The Universal Catechism (CCC 2120) defines sacrilege here— Sacrilege consists in profaning or treating unworthily the sacraments and other liturgical actions, as well as persons, things, or places consecrated to God. Sacrilege is a grave sin especially when committed against the Eucharist, for in this sacrament the true Body of Christ is made substantially present for us…. Read more

January 20, 2020

Gospels, whether canonical or not, present difficulties to scholars wishing to learn about the historical Jesus. Gospels, like inspiration and incarnation, are a messy business! Last time, we compared traditions about Jesus’ sayings and doings, and their variations in the canonical Gospels. Our New Testament has four canonical Gospels—“Mark,” “Matthew,” “Luke,” and “John.” But in the first centuries after Jesus’ ministry, many more gospels were produced by the early Jesus groups than just those four. We count at least twenty-eight… Read more

January 18, 2020

Changing deeds and words of Jesus is not something recent in Christian history—from New Testament times this has always occurred. “Changing things! They want to change everything,” the Trad screamed. “Those liberal heretics are always changing things!” I don’t know about you, but I have a number of brothers and sisters, like the one above, incensed with the idea of change. Hated change is all around them. The world we live in knows rapid change. In fact, it has always… Read more

January 14, 2020

Baptism, when it comes to Jesus’ own, was both revelation and discovery of his identity. Baptism and Jesus, the subject of last Sunday’s Gospel from our Common Lectionary. Did John really baptize the historical Jesus? And how would we know for sure? When it comes to historical research, high probability equals moral certainty. Historical scholars have developed and use various criteria for determining what materials in the Gospels conform to the historical situation of Jesus. These would be features of… Read more

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