Tuesday, June 24, 2014

John 6

First, a thought that have nothing to do with having been reading John.

I don't understand people who believe that most of humanity was created specifically to go to hell. These are some of the same people who condemn creating embryos for use in stem cell research (not saying they're wrong on that point, by the way). But these are the same things, aren't they? And it's just such a depressing way to think about God and humanity. 
And now, on to John.
4 Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near.
It’s a little thing, but I think this line helps make it clear that the Gospels were written after the Apostles began to go after non-Jewish converts. After all, a Jewish convert would know what Passover was without the additional descriptive. It’s only someone coming from outside the Jewish people who would need an explanation, however brief.
7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.”
Okay, I was curious as to how much this was in ‘real’ money. According to the all knowing Google, one denarius was worth about $20 (I have no back up for this, it was a whim googling). So Philip was saying that they had about $4000 worth of bread. To feed 5000 people.
I feel like something is wrong with these numbers, to be frank. Because that seems like a lot of bread. If you’re not expecting to feed these people for a very long time, it seems to me like you could do it with $4000 worth of bread. Bah. We’re going to assume that the all knowing Google has failed me.
*ponders some more*
Okay, if the 5000 counts only the men then there would have been a lot more than just those 5000, adding in women and children. Yet they only mention feeding the 5000 men later on in the chapter. Another instance of only counting the men and implying that they fed everyone else too?
Either way. That’s a lot of people to be fed and – you know, I was going to wonder where Jesus and the Apostles got all that money (because it was rather a lot of money), but really, is Philip saying that they had that much bread? Or is he saying that even if we had 200 denarii worth of bread, we still couldn’t feed all of these people?
Random bread thoughts. I has them.
8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?”
The second. It was clearly the second option. It really has been a while since I read these stories, hasn’t it? Maybe a case of familiarity breeding glossing over? After all, these are the stories we grow up on in Sunday School.
10 Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” 13 Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. 14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
This is one of those instances where (assuming it is meant to recount an historical incident) it either happened the way it’s written (more or less) and there was a miracle or the author lied through his teeth. I can’t think of any other reasonable explanation for that little food feeding that many people.
The other way to take it is that the miracle here is not meant to be taken as a literal event but as a point of theology. I can think of a couple of meanings for this story, but what do you guys think?
15 Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.
How would you forcefully make someone king? Even if you grabbed them and popped a crown on their head, you can’t make them rule, can you? Not for very long or very well, in any case. Still, I can see the point here of rejecting the idea of earthly power and rule.
19 So when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near the boat; and they were afraid. 20 But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they willingly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.
Again an instance where I wonder about the stories and miracles that didn't make the cut that Jesus walking on water in the middle of a fierce storm is met with a shrug once they recognize him.
28 Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”
29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”
I would suspect that this is one of the verses used to support a faith alone argument of Christianity. 
30 Therefore they said to Him, “What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
Now in verse 26 Jesus says that they follow him not because they've seen the signs but because they ate of the bread and were filled. But isn't the bread a sign?
35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Direct claim of divinity or a statement of divine purpose? Depending on the theology some people believe that our souls pre-exist our bodies, so why couldn't Jesus have been speaking along the lines of a soul coming down from heaven to do God's work/will but not being divine in and of himself?
41 The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” 42 And they said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?"
Not hard to believe. After all, whether you think that Jesus was claiming divinity or just divine mandate, this is still a local boy suddenly claiming to be someone huge and important. A little incredulity is to be expected.
43 Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father. 47 Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.
Undoubtedly a more direct claim of divinity. If everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Jesus and the prophets are taught by God then Jesus must, in some respect, be God. Or at least claiming such.
48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”
52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?”
53 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”
These are some the verses that are understood so very differently in Protestant circles versus Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Lutheranism (at least the high church variety), Anglicanism, etc.

On the one hand, liturgical churches tend to be the ones who take these verses literally. It's a part of the doctrine of transubstantiation/consubstantiation. The bread and wine during the liturgy literally becomes the flesh and blood of Jesus (well, in a mystically literal sort of way - there are claims that some has been tested and found to be real blood and flesh but I have extreme doubts about such things) and then depending on your theology either remains flesh and blood until consumed or reverts to bread and wine when the spirit leaves.

I should say that whether or not this is true (on the one hand, if Jesus is God this is not outside of his abilities and on the other, kind of cannibalism? but it's a complicated topic and I'm trying not to stay up to all hours so we'll just leave it at this) at least liturgical churches have a great respect for Communion that I have found to be lacking in churches without a liturgy. I keep thinking of my parents' old church, where 'communion' was the most important thing in the church, something that brought everyone together, was Biblical, etc. etc. but only took place once a month unless it got bumped from the schedule for something more important.
Like a singing missionary group. 
Or a video.

You can't see it, but I'm making a face. The lack of respect for communion is one of those things that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Wait, no, here.

Once more, Blanche is me.

Anyway. And then Jesus loses some disciples because implied cannibalism. One of the arguments for the literal reading of the above verses is that if Jesus was speaking in metaphor why didn't he explain it to the disciples as they were leaving? He had, we suppose, a chance to correct this misunderstanding but he let it sit.
65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”
I'm not into the idea of pre-destination, after all, what's the point of free will in a set up like that? But I imagine that this verse is one that is used to support that kind of theology. 

70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” 71 He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.
And then we have Judas. Things don't turn out well for Judas, in the end.  
He turns into a vampire.
Wait...wait...no, sorry. That's just a really bad movie. 
It still doesn't turn out well for Judas.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

John 5

And we're back!

Again, sorry for the delay.

Life. It is not always conducive to the things we want to do.

Also, crap, it is 12:30 in the morning. Again.

I should offer that that last post, when I said I was going to bed? Turns out I was wrong. The book came out at 12:30 that morning. So when I checked Hawkeye, out of habit, there it was. And what is any good addict to do but start reading? I finished at about 1 am yesterday morning.

I am sleep deprived and super caffeinated. Clearly I make bad life choices on occasion.

This is what adult hood looks like.

Knowing something is a bad idea and doing it anyway. Because you can.

Possibly I am not the best adult. :D

Right. Actual content of post!

Chapter 5 opens with another well known story, that of the paralytic at the pool.

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years.

I should say that I find the details of this man's case slightly odd. We don't know how old he is, but we know that he is at least 38 - since he could have had the infirmity since childhood. The average life expectancy for a man in that time was about (I believe) the late thirties, early forties. So this man is either at the twilight of his life or he has greatly exceeded expectations in spite of his infirmity. 

This implies, to me at least, that he had people to help take care of him. Family or friends, someone. He did not live alone in this condition his entire life.
  When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”
The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.”

And yet here he is, so close to the possibility of healing but alone. With no one to help him into the pool. How did this happen? How did it come to pass that someone who was obviously assisted and looked after for a large portion of his life comes to be so close to healing and abandoned?

If he is extremely old, perhaps he outlived everyone? Or perhaps he was a bad person and he drove away any family that would have been there to help him?

Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.
And that day was the Sabbath. 

Here is another miracle, whether by Jesus' power or God's (with Jesus relaying the message?) Only this one seems to be with purpose different from the first two discussed in John.

I'm not entirely certain why Jesus decided to turn the water into wine, except perhaps that his mother asked him and maybe he was just having a good time at the wedding or the groom was a friend of him. 

The officers son who was healed was done due to the faith of the father, I believe. 

But this man, the paralytic, so far as we can see, makes no plea nor declaration of faith prior to Jesus declaring him healed. Certainly the man desired healing or he wouldn't be at the pool, but Jesus seems to decide to heal him almost at random.

Though if we follow the tack that Jesus has extra knowledge (things we should not know through ordinary means) then the choice of this man could have been extremely deliberate. If you are going to attract the attention of the powers that be, without seeming to *want* to attract their attention, how better than to heal a man who will immediately run to the temple after his healing?

We assume, from the fact that this man went to the temple after being healed that he is either a very religious man from the start or that he went there, perhaps to be declared clean? We're not given the exact nature of his illness, but perhaps it was something that also made him ritually impure and therefore unable to take part in the worship at the temple?

14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” 15 The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.

This is problematic for me. Verse 14 seems to be saying that the man's illness, his infirmity, was caused by his sin. But this doesn't bear out in real life at all. Plenty of truly terrible people are walking around this earth without having to bear the physical wounds of their sins. And good, innocent people suffer illness and bad fortune in life all the time. 

If sin = physical illness, shouldn't we see some real life correlation? Or is this just a kind of wishful thinking, that a persons villainy should be evident in their body, an easy way to tell.

16 For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.”

I...can entirely see the Jewish priests and others being upset at the Law being broken, but I have a hard time imagining that *this* is the reason they sought to kill Jesus. Far more likely the rebellion that he was fomenting, with the turning over of the money changers' tables and such was the problem. Rome was not exactly known for their kind and loving method of enforcing the peace. 

Though the next verse says that they were extra incensed because Jesus here claimed that God was his father, I'm not seeing it. Perhaps there is something in the original wording used that makes it clear he was referring to God and not to an actual human father? 

18 Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.

It does not, either, follow that claiming God as his father would make Jesus equal with God. This was a time of gods and demi-gods after all. Certainly the Jewish people had become monotheistic over time, but they were surrounded by polytheistic cultures. Someone claiming to be a son of god (or God) was hardly an unknown quantity. There remains, also, the fact that many people throughout the Bible are referred to as the 'son' of God. These men were not claiming divinity, or at least they were never treated as such. 

 19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. 20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.

Why, if the Son is equally as divine and a part of the Godhead, does the Father need to show him anything? I would never argue that Jesus, incarnate, has access to the divine omniscience, but it remains that if he was truly equal in substance and being with the Father then he would know what the Father knows. And if you are a part of an omniscient being, can you actually set aside your own power? Once Jesus (assuming divinity and incarnation) became a man, did he cease to be God in some way? He limited himself in ways that God certainly never is.

21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. 22 For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, 23 that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.

Does any of this read to anyone else like a father passing on a mantle or a responsibility to their son?  If the Son is part of God which is the Father (as the unbegotten, uncreated 'part' of God) how are these jobs differentiated? How does the Trinity keep one part of itself out of the judging, etc.?

 26 For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, 27 and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.

Again, if the Trinity is equal, how can one part grant the other part life or power? It seems that there is a very fine line between Triunity and being three separate entities. If one, the Father, has the ultimate control over what the other two are capable of doing, then they cannot be equal in any sense.

28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. 

Does this not sound as though works are important in the deciding of the destination of a persons soul? That there are things that one can do, laws that one can follow, that enable you to enter heaven?

  30 I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.

If Jesus is God, it would seem from verse like this that he is a lesser one, wouldn't it? That he cannot claim the equal power of his other thirds? That the Father is a superior being in some way? 

37 And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. 

While it is true that none have seen God's form (I would question that He even had one, being a transcendent being) several people in the Old Testament are reported to have spoken to God in person, as it were. 

   38 But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. 39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

Again, prophecy. I am not a big fan of prophecy in general, to be perfectly honest. Prophecies are things that are never clear prior to an event, but seem to become clear when big events happen. We've seen this happen with the 9/11 attacks. People were suddenly shouting at anyone who would listen that the attacks had been predicated by Nostradamus and every other prophetic medium since time immemorial. 

You can see almost anything in prophecy if you're willing to believe in it.

I would also point out that they searched the scriptures because the scriptures were given to them as a guide to God's good graces and eternal life. We know that some prophecies referenced in the New Testament as pointing to Christ have been fulfilled by force, as it were. The New Testament authors wrote pieces of the gospels to match Old Testament prophecy of the messiah in order to make Christ the messiah.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Fangirling is hard work but at least it's distracting

I apologise for the delay in posts of actual content.

We had to put one of our dogs down on Saturday so that kind of killed the mood for thinking about anything except for why pets can't be immortal.

I am a grown woman. I have had to put multiple pets down due to illness and old age. I have had pets just not wake up one day because of old age. I have had...well the rooster wasn't really a pet but I liked him...animals eaten by other animals.

I still don't see why they can't just be freaking immortal so I don't have to do this.

Alternatively, why we can put animals out of their suffering but it's immoral to allow terminally ill people the choice.

Additionally, I hope deeply that animals are exempt from the zombie apocalypse. Because if not, there's a small army buried in the back of the property and I am screwed.

And now I am going to go get a couple of hours (or maybe an hour, I keep typing) sleep before I attempt to read an 850 page novel in one day.

Because reasons, that's why.

Regular posting will resume after I have collapsed from this feat of insanity and woken up again two days from now.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Library Mid-2014

Heather mentioned that she wanted to see pics of the library so, after a neatening up, here they are.

First, a shelfie.

Heather insists that the person isn't supposed to be in the pic, but I disagree. So there I am, next to one of my favorite shelves.

You'll notice that a hard copy of Skin Game (the newest book in the Dresden Feels Files series) is missing. This is because I'm waiting for my drug book drug dealer to ship a special copy of it to me. But we're holding off to see if she has something else super special for my collection. :D So I'm pretending to be patient.

Can you see the patience in my face? Yeah.

I thought I'd try two pics for the Wall of Books to give people a better chance to see what's actually on the shelves.

And part two.

Manga...manga everywhere! Also the books under the tv are destined for Goodwill. There's some dvd's in there too. I'm purging the dvd collection. This involves watching a lot of really bad movies.

DVDs I am keeping. Mine. ALL MINE.

A mix of DVDs I will keep and ones I haven't watched yet. So many movies.

Also, 'alphabetical' is a loose term when applied here. I group things how I want them. Like all the Lord of the Rings movies are with The Hobbit movies. Because reasons. Yes, I do own at least two copies of all of the LotR movies. Again, reasons.

COMICS! so many comics...and a little Darth Vader.

Manga in the corner by the bed. Always a hard shelf to get a pic of.


Movies! Again, 'alphabetical'. All the MCU movies are together over here because Marvel Cinematic Universe. Otherwise they're all spread out and that's annoying. I know. I'm a special soul.

Bet you can't guess what these are!

Most of the 'Star-' fandoms represented right here. Also the good parts of Supernatural. Though the season finale this year gave me hope.

Torchwood. Let me tell you about Torchwood one day. When you have time to listen to me cursing the writers for Children of Earth. And some X-Men stuff. Which I mostly just watch for the Erik/Charles of it all. And Wolverine. Everyone loves Wolverine.

And the last of the shelves! Manga and the three video games I own! But look at that empty space there at the end of the shelf! I could buy more books!

Bonus: The books I am currently reading. It doesn't show up well on Hawkeye's screen thanks to the glare, but I'm reading 'Death By Black Hole' by Neil deGrasse Tyson. And a prize of your choice to anyone who can correctly guess what movie I'm watching. >:D
Also, to anyone who came here for serious posts and such, sorry! Yesterday was my birthday (I am an old, old woman now) and today I spent cleaning and enjoying my last vacation day. I promise to return to posts about the Gospel of John tomorrow, and to answer the comments I have. But I am tired tonight.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

John 4

First things first, nothing to do with John or the Bible in general, but did you all know that there's a show called 'Paranormal Home Inspection'? Where people have ghost hunters come and check out their house because they think it's haunted. They also bring along an actual home inspector who manages to explain all the weird goings on with perfectly rational explanations.

But do the people go, 'Oh, yeah, silly me!'

No. No, they do not.

They believe the people who tell them their house was built on a Native American burial ground or that they might be being abducted by aliens.

'Why do these toys keep winding up in the middle of the floor?!?!'

'You've got two kids and a cat.'


*home inspector hangs his head in disgust and wanders off to find rational people*
Seriously, he laughs, like he can't believe he's getting paid for this insanity.

I despair of humanity.



Moving on.

John really does contain a lot of the stories that people know even if they haven't been to church in years.

In chapter four we start out with the story of Jesus and the woman at the well.

So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.
Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.

From what I remember, it was even more than 'Jews have no dealings with Samaritans' but that were, prior to the Babylonian exile, Jewish tribes themselves. That they were the remnants that were left behind and when the others returned their culture and religion had drifted so far apart that they became two people. 

The Samaritans were the people of the Kingdom of Israel and the Jews were the people of the Kingdom of Judah.

And no one carries on a disagreement like family. 

10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
11 The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? 12 Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

I think it's important to note here that while Jesus is clearly not speaking literally of a water that quenches all thirst for forever, the imagery would have been even more arresting to the woman. 

Personally, I live in Florida and we are surrounded with water and greenness all the time. Sometimes we wish there was a little less water, especially when the streets are flooded. But the Bible was written in an arid land. Some place where you couldn't count on just stopping somewhere and finding drinkable water. Wells were the life of the people, the life of a city. 

Without them life was impossible. 

And water was still a chore to get. We're not talking about a well like this:

A well in ancient times looked more like this:

And they had caps/lids on them to help keep the water clean and cool. Getting water (something you would need to do daily) was not an easy task.

Water was something that you had to have but you had to work for it first.

As an aside, what is believed to be the well in this story is inside of an Orthodox monastery these days.

I also think it interesting to note that this conversation happened at Jacob's well, when Jacob is the wellspring for both the Samaritan people and the Jews. 

My rambling is all sort of circling around this. If someone promised you a pill or a drink that would...mean you never had to do something necessary but difficult again (whatever that would be in your life), you'd jump at the chance, right?

I'm not sure, at this point, that the Samaritan woman got where Jesus was going with this.

It is, I believe, generally understood and accepted that the 'living water' Jesus is speaking of here is the Holy Spirit and with it the grace of God.

15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”
17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.”
Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”
19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”

This is one spot where Jesus displays knowledge that he, logically, should not possess. To know (assuming that this is a historical event and not an allegorical story) that this specific woman has been married and remarried and is now...is she married to the man only it's an invalid marriage or is she living with a man outside of marriage? I'm not really sure. Still, it's not something he should know, not being from around there.

And it impresses her. Being the cynical type I'm not at all sure that that would have been enough for me to start calling someone a prophet, but I wasn't there so. 

Why am I being easier on the Samaritan woman than on poor Nathanael? Well. Jesus knowing the exact number of times this specific woman he just met has been married (or not as the case may be) is different from saying 'I knew you were under a fig tree', especially since Jesus had been talking with someone who knew Nathanael prior to that encounter. There is a simple, logical way for Jesus to have known about Nathanael sitting under a tree. I don't see one for his knowledge of this womans marital history.

The question at the end is actually at the heart of the divide between Samaritans and Jews. The Samaritans held that the mountain was the sacred spot to worship God, the Jews said it was Jerusalem. If Jesus was the prophet that the woman was thinking him to be, he would have an answer to that.

But he doesn't answer it, though one assumes he knew the answer, either as a prophet or as God.

21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.

Knowing that the Samaritans and the Jews were, historically, the same people, I wonder at this. How do the Samaritans not know what they worship when they worship the same God in different ways.

I think that verse 21 is usually seen as a prophecy about the destruction of the Temple after Jesus' time and the eventual removal of the Jewish population from the city under...Hadrian, I believe.
  23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

I wonder at the emphasis on God being spirit in verse 24, given that Christianity is an incarnational faith and John is the most explicit about the Trinity in its writings. 

25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.”
26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

A lot of people look at this and jump because Jesus is claiming here to be the Messiah. But people who've been raised in Christianity are likely to see Christian interpretations in things because the assumption is so deeply rooted. 

We forget that the Messiah, for the Jews and the Samaritans, was not an incarnation of God the way we think of it today. The Messiah they were waiting for as a king, a leader. Someone who would restore their kingdom. 

Jesus claiming Messiah-ship here is important, but not necessarily in the way we've been taught that it is.

Okay, this post is getting long....

We have the Samaritan woman running back to the city (abandoning her water jars) to tell everyone about the guy she just met. The disciples, who were off getting food, come back, don't question why Jesus was talking to whoever he wanted to talk to (wise men) and try to feed him like the friends they are.

Then we have the harvest speech, with Jesus alluding again, possibly, to his crucifixion by:

35 Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! 36 And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. 37 For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.”

Or possibly their own deaths as well? Since most of the Apostles wind up being martyred.  

And the Samaritans are so impressed by what the woman from the well says that they ask Jesus to hang for a while and he does and many of them believed after hearing him speak. 

Then he turns and continues on his way to the Galilee and we get this:

46 So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.”
49 The nobleman said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies!”
50 Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your son lives.” So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way. 51 And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, “Your son lives!”
52 Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives.” And he himself believed, and his whole household.
54 This again is the second sign Jesus did when He had come out of Judea into Galilee.

I think that the emphasis here is on faith without signs. Though obviously the healing of the mans son would be a miracle and a sign, he *believed* that his son was healed based on Jesus saying it rather than on any proof. Jesus didn't come with him and lay hands on his son. He didn't do anything physical, like when he heals the blind man (with the mud and the spit). He said, 'Your son lives' and that was that.

Which is similar (of course) to the creation stories. God says 'be' and everything is. He doesn't have to *do* anything.  

So I can see this as a demonstration of divine power, but on the other hand, assuming that Jesus was a prophet rather than God incarnate, couldn't God have given him knowledge that God had healed the son? Jesus didn't say '*I* have healed your son'.

And now, a picture of one of my cats completely not respecting my attempts to use the Bible as reference material.

Why? Because he's a jerk. A giant, small child devouring jerk of a cat who used to fit in the palm of my hand and can now crush my chest if he tries to sleep on me.

The Bible *was* open to where I was reading, but he flicked his tail so hard he flipped the pages back a couple of chapters.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

John 3

Alright, chapter 3.

1 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”

I know that the Gospels are all read together, but if we're taking John as a separate text, written with reference to the others but on its own, I have to wonder what miracles and signs we're missing that are so impressive. First Nathanael was super impressed by Jesus knowing about him sitting under a fig tree and now, after one wedding where Jesus turned water into wine (something that likely wouldn't have gotten around because who knew? who told?) and running a whole bunch of people out of the Temple, we have someone highly placed in the Jewish hierarchy sneaking out at night to meet Jesus and tell him that he must be from God.

Now, 'from God' does not necessarily mean that the claim of Jesus as being the Word or being God himself are supported or believed by Nicodemus at this point. Prophets were sent from God. Kings and righteous men were sent from God. 

Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

The section above is clearly referring to baptism. Which, I should point out, is not a new concept. While, from my understanding, there is not a concept of rebirth involved in the Jewish mikveh and the cleanliness associated with it, it is not something that should be ignored. 

Jesus came out of the Jewish people. He was raised in an observant household. I know that, while it is different, I always feel *new* and refreshed after getting out of the ocean or the pool. There's something about being completely immersed in water that is relaxing and freeing. Is it a call back to when we lived in the liquid environment of the womb? I don't know. But it's no stretch at all for me to see the emotional and physical connection between being immersed in water and feeling *reborn* in some way or another. 

Then we have his cousin John who was performing baptisms in the Jordan. What was he baptising for? What did his followers think was happening?

I believe it must be a kind of mikveh, a ritual cleansing. A rededication or a dedication to God. John was an apocalyptic preacher. He was preaching the end of the world, the coming of the messiah to bring war and eventual supremacy of the Jewish people over their own lands once again. People who followed him would want to be spiritually prepared, ritually cleansed. 

You see the same thing in revivals here in the US. A preacher rolls in, stirs up the congregation with a lot of very impassioned and fiery rhetoric. Usually it involves the end of the world and 'Where will you be, when the devil comes?!?!?' and all that. And people, caught up in the moment, caught up in fear or passion or whatever the preacher stirs in them, rededicate their lives to Christ. They answer an altar call (a call for people who want Jesus to come into their hearts or words to that general effect) and/or get baptised (or rebaptised in some cases). 

It's hardly something new or unique. The emphasis on it being necessary for salvation is new though, as far as I can tell.

I think this passage might also be used for the Christians who are against infant baptism, though the connection is a bit weak. There's no mention of the believer making a choice or age. Only that there must be two births, one of the body and one of the spirit. 

12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

I'm not really sure how baptism and rebirth is an entirely earthly thing. It seems to me like it is a heavenly thing. Having to do, with, I don't know, the getting into heaven of it all.

Verse 13 is one of those that's commonly used to show that no one gets to heaven but through Jesus. After all, how many good, righteous men and woman had died up until this point? We have the prophets, the patriarchs, King David, King Solomon...though what about Elijah? He was 'taken up into heaven' in the Old Testament. So either the Bible cannot be taken literally (shock!) or someone else did get into heaven aside from the Son of Man.

The Moses & snake reference is, of course, meant as a foreshadowing (or a prophetic statement) of the crucifixion. In the desert, Moses formed a serpent out of bronze and placed it up on a pole. Anyone who was bitten by a snake looked at the bronze serpent and was healed.

Keeping in mind that it was God who instructed Moses to do this, it is presumably not a sign of creeping polytheism but an instrument of faith. The people believed that God would heal them and that the serpent was a sign to remind them of this promise.

One could say that likewise, God would save those who looked upon the sign of the crucifixion. But does that make Jesus God? Was the serpent god? 

Verses 16 through 21 are where Lewis' 'liar, lunatic, lord' question comes into play. We have here an example of Jesus seeming to claim directly that he is divine in some way. So you have to look at verses like this and ask if Jesus was lying? Was he running some sort of a scam? Was he trying to build an army on false belief? Or was he a lunatic? Did he really believe that he was divine but was only a man? Or was he lord? Meaning that what he said was true and that he was God incarnate.

Of course there's always another option.

That Jesus didn't say these things at all.

All of Christian faith is predicated on the belief that what is recorded about Jesus in the Bible is true. Certainly there is quibbling about details and how accurate is accurate, etc. but anyone who claims Christianity as a faith believes that essentially the important bits are correct.

But what if they're not?

John is the most explicit Gospel in regards to the divinity of Christ and the Trinity.

John is also the last Gospel of have been written. I think it's generally dated around 90/100 AD which is at least 60 years after the death of Christ. 

The oldest copy found is about 100 years older than that, so around 200 AD.

From what I understand, most Biblical scholars agree that John the Apostle was not the actual author of the text. 

So it's not as if we have a signed copy of the text with a picture of John the Apostle on it, hugging Jesus.

Of course those who believe believe and there's the faith aspect of it. If you believe that Jesus is God then you can also believe that the text was kept from error by divine will. 

It's a matter of choice, in so many ways. 

I don't know how people can be expected to believe unless they have some sort of...experience. 

I have no trouble believing in things I can't prove or necessarily see. I believe in ghosts (though I have seen them, I believed in them before that). I believe in God because things make the most sense with a creator at the center of them. 

I'm just not sure I believe in this specific interpretation of God, if that makes sense.

Monday, June 2, 2014

John 2

I know I'm only two chapters in but I'm finding the Gospel of John kind of odd. I realize that I didn't read it as much as I did the synoptic Gospels, in the past. Those are the ones that really stick in my mind, with at least a short recounting of Jesus' life prior to his ministry. John begins after that point, just sort of dropping into the story with Jesus going to John the Baptist and following from there.

But it also contains some of the stories that are most iconic from Jesus' ministry. The second chapter contains the Wedding at Cana and the Cleansing of the Temple, which I feel like anyone who attended Sunday School as a child remembers, no matter what their faith life may have been like after that point.

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”
Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”
His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”

Two things strike me about this story. Aside from it being the first 'sign' or miracle of Jesus, I mean.

First, there are many groups of Christians who are teetotal. They don't drink at all, condemn it, etc. Which is fine for them. If you don't want to drink, for whatever reason, then by all means do not drink. There is limited health benefit from certain kinds of alcohol (or so I am told) and there are a lot of bad effects of alcohol. But these denominations generally go back to the Bible for their reasoning as to why alcohol is bad. And it's true that the Bible decries drunkenness. Yet here we have an example of Jesus, not only drinking wine, but making sure that there was more of it. And some good stuff too, if the master of ceremonies is to be believed.

We have later (in the timeline) example of Jesus drinking wine with his disciples. I know the argument that the wine at the time was not as strong, etc. etc. but the fact remains that the Bible does not condemn alcohol in and of itself. It condemns excess and drunkenness.

For most people a glass of wine, or even a cocktail, is not a big deal. They're not going to get drunk off of it. Certainly there are some people for whom that one drink is the pebble that starts the avalanche, and obviously those people should not be encouraged to have 'just one'. But I can't see that that has anything to do with a general prohibition on alcohol. 

Second, and someone correct me if I'm wrong, but John never refers to Mary as *Mary*, does he? It's always 'woman'. Which feels so disrespectful to me. But I've heard that the actual word used in these instances translates better as 'madam' or 'ma'am', which is more respectful but still something rather weird to call your mother in this instance. Like I wouldn't ever respond to my mother asking me for something by saying, 'Ma'am, how is this my problem?' 

I'd say 'Yes ma'am', because I was not raised in a barn.

I always feel like this exchange is missing something because it goes from Jesus saying, 'Not my department' to Mary (unnamed though she is) telling the servants to help Jesus get the party rolling.

I feel like we're missing the part where Mary grabs him by the ear and tells him that he is not too big to be taken over her knee.

Then she walks away, smiling, telling the servants to just go be dears and help Jesus out, he's gonna take care of this whole thing.

And how did Mary know he could do something about it anyway? Did he have a habit of turning water into milk as a child? Inquiring minds want to know. 

I mean we have the Infancy Gospels (which aren't canon) that tells us that Jesus performed miracles even as a child. But without those, her assumption that Jesus could take care of this seems kind of strange.

When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. 10 And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!”

I feel like this is supposed to be a message about how Christianity is not the 'inferior' wine. Because the bridegroom is typically a symbol of Jesus (the Bride being the Chuch) and so the good wine would be the New Convenant while the original wine (one assumes it was good wine since it makes no sense otherwise as a historical story) is the Old Covenant and Mosaic Law.  

And then we have the Cleansing of the Temple.

13 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. 15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. 16 And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” 17 Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.”

Okay. So, in the first place, this is not Jesus' first trip to the Temple at Jerusalem. At the very least, he was there once as a child (the story of Jesus getting 'lost' in the Temple). And I'm certain that he was *aware* of this stuff going on. It's not like he went there, was shocked, and overcome with righteous anger.

Righteous anger? Sure, sure. I can see that. But I feel like he went in with it. That this was, not just a cleansing, but a demonstration. A specific, thought out act.  

This also brings up the question of the church stores that some churches have. If Jesus was peeved about these people doing business in the Temple, what would he think of the stores? Selling religious items, of course, Bibles and books and whatnots (and I know that they're there to raise money for the church and operating expenses, don't get me wrong here) but then so were the people in the Temple. You couldn't sacrifice without the proper animal and the Temple only took money that didn't have the Emperor's face on it (since the Emperor was considered a god/demi-god and that doesn't mesh well with monotheism).

19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
20 Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”
21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.

Now it must be remembered that the Gospels were all written well after Jesus' death and resurrection, so there's a lot of stuff that is included in hindsight, as it were. Like this. The whole 'temple of his body' bit. I assume, at the time that this was said, nobody thought he was talking about rising from the dead. 

Who's to say that the disciples didn't take him literally? After all, man turned water into wine. Maybe they believed that he really could put the Temple back together if it got physically destroyed. It's only in retrospect, with Jesus dead that the thoughts turn to a different kind of Messiah-ship. After all, the Jewish people (at least some of them) were expecting a Messiah. A King David kind of Messiah who would give them back the land that God had promised them. A warrior-king-priest. 

Jesus wound up not being exactly who they thought they were looking for.

23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. 24 But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, 25 and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.

I'm going to be honest, I'm not really sure what is trying to be said here. Jesus didn't commit himself to these people who believed in him because...they were people? But so are his disciples. What does 'commit himself' mean in this context? He 'had no need that anyone should testify of man'? But they wouldn't be testifying of *man*, they'd be testifying of him. 

Really. I don't get this part. There're no notes for it in my Bible or on the Biblegateway site. So. 

Thoughts? Guesses? Suppositions?

Dirty limericks?

Probably no dirty limericks. I can't see how they'd apply, really.
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