Tuesday, September 26, 2017
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Tag: Biblical Exegesis

An Interlude:  Revelation Meets Harvey and Irma

So many disagreements among Christians result from different assumptions about how to interpret the Bible. . . . When we read God’s Word as literal words straight from the mouth of God for all times and places, we get many things wrong. In the ancient Middle East, it was natural for Israelites to connect natural disasters with God’s judgment for sin.

Prophetic Witness before the Seventh Trumpet — Revelation 11:3-19

“As the seventh angel blows his trumpet,. . . voices in heaven announce the divine takeover of the kingdom of this world. John does not mean that this is happening in his first-century time, or in our time today, but it is happening in his vision. It portrays God’s spiritual protection even through death and God’s vindication of faithful witness.”

Revelation 10:1–11:2 — An Interlude before the End

“As we read Revelation, we must remind ourselves that John is seeing a vision, and the objects and events are not physically real. Bruce Metzger puts it this way in Breaking the Code: ‘The descriptions are not descriptions of real occurrences. The intention is to fix the reader’s thought, not upon the symbol, but upon the idea that the symbolic language is designed to convey.’”

Revelation 9:1-21 —The Woes of Trumpets Five and Six

"If an emperor like Augustus Caesar is deified, all people must worship him and his value system. . . . By John’s use of comparable imagery to portray allegiance to God and the slaughtered Lamb, he sets before his churches a choice. Whom do you worship? An emperor who controls by the sword, or the slaughtered Lamb standing before the throne of God?"

The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation

Overall, Rohr’s take on the Trinity is extremely helpful and his writing is clear and easy to follow. This book would be an easy read for Christians who have limited exposure to theological academic writing. In many ways the book reads much more like a devotional text than a scholarly work, which I found quite refreshing!

Revelation 8:1-13—Silence before the Trumpets

“Think of the pause just before the majestic ending of Handel’s ‘Hallelujah Chorus.’ Notice that Revelation 8:1-13 begins with just such a dramatic pause... Imagine yourself standing in silence after this heavenly song was read aloud or chanted at your church in Asia Minor. "

Every Nation, Tribe, People, and Language— Revelation 7:9-17

“In 7:9-17 the scene shifts from earth to heaven. Here, the church that has been militantly, though non-violently, confronting evil on earth is now pictured after the battle is over. John sees a multitude of people so great no one can count them. All Israelite categories are gone; this crowd is actually from “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (7:9).”

A New Use for a Seal—Revelation 7:1-8

“The same signet ring seal with which God sealed up the scroll of human history is now stamped on the foreheads of God’s followers. The purpose here is to protect them, in life or death, from “the great ordeal” (7:14) which is to come. Here John draws from Ezekiel 9:4, where those who had lamented the evil around them are sealed to protect them from judgment.”

Horses, Martyrs, and Meteors—Revelation 6:1-17

"Church members in western Asia Minor did not need a university education to understand this cycle of conquest, war, famine, and death. In the ancient world where Rome ruled, it was always happening somewhere. These four broken seals revealed horrors they understood."

Broken Seals: Getting our Bearings in Revelation 6–11

"The actions of both seals and trumpets take place on the earth but with occasional glimpses of heavenly worship. The majestic songs in 11:15-18 sound like the final triumph of God and the Lamb. Except it’s not the end. The apocalypse goes on for another eleven chapters!"

Saving Women from the Church: How Jesus Mends a Divide

Many more situations are addressed through two stories illustrating a hurtful issue women face in church. Each of these scenarios is followed by an elaborate semi-fictitious version of a gospel story depicting how Jesus treated the suffering woman.

The Scroll, the Lion, and the Lamb—Revelation 5

What follows next is pure worship. Imagine Handel’s “Messiah,” sung first by the four living creatures and the 24 elders, then by thousands upon thousands of angels, then by “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea”! But instead of the Hallelujah Chorus, this is a “new song .."

An Open Door in the Sky: Revelation 4:1–5:4

"It is one thing to have Jesus visit you and walk among your earthly churches in Asia Minor in the Roman Empire. It is quite another to peek through an open door and look into heaven itself!”

Conflict and Crisis in Asia Minor—Revelation 2 and 3

"The churches in Sardis and Laodicea, by yielding to the materialism around them, represent commercial accommodation; while some in the churches at Pergamum and Thyatira practice eating foods sacrificed to idols or tolerate those who do, reflecting their adaptation to Roman civil religion."

How Cities Influence Churches—Revelation 2:1-3:22

“We’ll especially pay attention to the allusions John makes to the distinctive character of each of the cities where the churches were located. More important for John’s purposes, however, is the character of the churches themselves amidst the dangers that surround them from pagan influence, as well as from what John perceives as false teaching from rival religious groups.”

Jesus among the Seven Lampstands—Revelation 2-3

We can make one more observation: each church will hear not only its own message but will learn about the problems and promises of the other six as well. Since no church can thus hide its failings (or strengths), none can lord it over the others. If they take John’s vision seriously, they will instead be in a position to support each other.

John and His Vision of the Risen Jesus—Revelation 1:9-20

At first, Christians had been considered a sect within Judaism, but by late first century it was clear that they were becoming a separate religion, which included many non-Jews as well. Things got worse during the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian (81-96 CE).

Structure and Symbol in Revelation

If we take symbols literally, we miss the point. Jesus appears awkward with a two-edged sword coming out of his mouth (1:16), but it merely symbolizes his word of judgment. On the other hand, if we interpret these symbols to make sense in our world today, we’ll get it wrong, since the intended audience knew nothing of our culture and time.

Starry Skies in the Ancient Near East

Like shamans in some cultures today, John had the gift of ASC—‘altered states of consciousness.’ While ‘in the spirit,’ he could journey to the sky or perceive spiritual reality in the otherwise invisible air. These ecstatic experiences sometimes produced grammatical errors in his Greek, but they also provided readers with colorful word-pictures and glowing poetry that nevertheless needed to be interpreted within the context of first-century symbols and metaphors.”

Is the New Testament Apocalyptic?

“Even though Revelation is the only apocalypse in the New Testament, every other book presupposes an apocalyptic worldview. Beyond the natural, ordinary world that we live in and perceive with our senses, there exists an unseen reality: the one God has a host of good angels who are doing battle with Satan and his demonic followers.

An Apocalyptic Worldview

“The title, ‘Revelation,” is translated from the Greek word, ‘apocalypse.’ It refers to something previously hidden that is now being revealed. ‘Apocalypse’ is a distinct literary genre which uses symbolic language and imagery and is usually written under an assumed name. But dragons and beasts and other symbols reveal little to modern readers, so [lessons in this series] will provide a social context for interpretation.”

Revelation—Whom Will You Worship?

“This may be the most misunderstood book in our entire canon. Some Christians ignore it entirely because of its bizarre imagery, while others pore over it attempting to unlock a chronological key to the future. [In this series], we will challenge some current end-time predictions and schemes based in part on Revelation, as well as seek to understand its genre, its cultural context, and what it might say to Christians in the 21st century.”

An Introduction to Womanist Biblical Interpretation

Although Junior’s book offers a basic introduction to womanist biblical interpretation, it is extensive in the amount of material it covers. One aspect of the author’s intent is to show how feminist biblical interpretation relates to African American women’s interpretation.

What Should Philemon Do?

How did such a personal letter become Scripture? We know some of Paul’s letters could be lost (1 Corinthians 5:9 refers to one). Perhaps the original readers enjoyed the humor and a chance to see another side of Paul. If the Onesimus mentioned in Colossians 4:9 as Paul’s faithful co-worker is the same person, that indicates Philemon did what Paul requested. Perhaps it is only a coincidence that the bishop of Ephesus at the end of the first century, mentioned by the church father Ignatius, was named Onesimus.

Letter to Philemon: Another Side of Paul

"This letter is so full of puns, innuendos, double entendres, and other persuasive techniques that even Philemon must have scratched his head for a while. Clearly, Paul wants something from Philemon and is laying it on pretty thick to get him to do it—but what is it?"

Encountering God in Tyrannical Texts: Reflections on Paul, Women, and the...

Gench describes each text in its own chapter, then places it in its literary, cultural, and political contexts. For example, the first five texts are all prescriptive, a man or men telling women what not to do, which indicates that women must have already been doing it.

Conclusion: The ongoing challenge of biblical interpretation

We need church leaders and pastors who learn Hebrew and Greek well enough to use available resources and then help laypersons better understand how translation works across time and cultures. Instead, I fear many churchgoing Christians who sincerely care about the Bible read it 'on the flat,' as if the writings were written in our native language and reflect contemporary assumptions."

“Strenuous Tolerance”:  Can we get along when we don’t agree?

According to Romans 14:1–15:6, what really matters ethically is how we treat other people and how consistent we are in living by our own consciences without condemning others who differ from us. The challenge—especially in matters relating to sexuality—is deciding which actions are intrinsically hurtful to others and which are not.

The Bigger Picture:  Sin as a Moving Target

“So how do we relate to more conservative friends, relatives, or fellow church members who complain that the church ‘is not calling sin sin anymore’? After our Bible study in the local Mennonite church, I spoke with a friend who is part of that congregation and understands the resistance of some people to accept same-sex marriage. ‘In their lifetime,’ she said, ‘these older people have had to make so many adjustments and changes in the church. This is just one more change that seems too hard to make.’ I appreciated her compassion and understanding, but for those to whom scripture matters, both conservatives and revisionists must do their biblical homework as well.”

Lady Midrash: Poems Reclaiming the Voices of Biblical Women

I am so thankful for the honor given to these biblical women by these poems. This collection, spoken through the voices of women in both testaments, puts flesh and energy into what have too often become stale stories from our early Sunday School days—if we heard them there at all.

“Inheriting the Kingdom of God”—1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 1 Timothy 1:9-10, and...

Many Christians still read these three texts as a handy, short-cut way to condemn all persons with any same-sex orientation or who are in committed, same-gender relationships. In light of these cultural and literary contexts, it is inappropriate to translate either malakoi or arsenokoitai as 'homosexuals.'

Inflammatory Words in Romans 1:24-27

“Although today we tend to see sexual attraction as something deep within the individual, these ancient writers used fire imagery to show that ‘sexual passion is a force which invades the lover from the outside’ (Fredrickson, p. 211). Thus Paul uses ekkaiō in the passive voice—‘to be inflamed.’ This is illustrated by the god Eros shooting his burning arrows into the hearts of hapless lovers. Fire is also insubstantial and fleeting. Thus the lover is never satisfied with sexual consummation, but keeps seeking more and more exotic experiences (p. 212), like drinking salty water that only makes one thirstier.”

What Is Natural and Unnatural Sex in Romans 1:24-27?

"Besides the analogy of food to explain using persons of either gender as sexual objects, Greco-Romans also compared sexual use to household management. Wives were part of the property of a man’s household, as were his slaves, and he could 'use' them as he wished.

The Love and Sex Lives of Ancient Greeks and Romans

“In the Roman Empire, marriage was for procreation. Unless enslaved, males would marry in order to produce offspring, preferably sons, to whom they would pass on their lineage and wealth. Parents arranged marriages for reasons of social class and economics—usually a virgin adolescent girl paired with a sexually experienced man about ten years older.

Romans 1:24-27 and Pornography: “God gave them up…”

"I was stunned to realize that this is what Paul is talking about in Romans 1:24-27! A constant exposure to sexual images of pleasure, power, and domination lead to a search for new highs. Normal sexual relationships no longer satisfy, so people experiment with ever more exotic and abusive acts.

The Historical and Literary Setting for Romans 1:24-27

"We cannot do justice to this passage until we understand its purpose in Paul’s lengthy theological letter to the Roman Christians—which is actually composed as a speech to be delivered publicly and passionately. Why did Paul write this speech to believers living in a city he had never visited? It’s a long story, which will take up the rest of this lesson."

Sodom’s Sin: What Does the Bible Actually Say?

"And so, dear reader, that concludes our analysis of all Old Testament references used against LGBTQ people today. Slim pickings, indeed. Not a word about women’s sexuality. And three references (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; and Genesis 19:1-11) emphasizing how horrible it would be for any free male to lose honor by being raped or forced to take the woman’s passive role in this highly patriarchal ancient culture."

Levitical Laws:  “Thou shalt not”. . . But why not?

As Christians today debate LGBTQ issues, they weight these elements in different ways. Conservative believers rely more on Scripture and tradition, while progressives stress experience. (And too often reason flies out the window!)

Hebrews (Wisdom Commentary Series; Volume 54)

In successfully engaging a more difficult text, this commentary demonstrates a powerful and persuasive methodology that will undoubtedly excite readers about the delightful insights that future volumes are certain to provide.

A Challenge for LGBTQ Biblical Progressives

"Revisionist biblical scholars have examined the texts that refer negatively to non-heterosexual sexual behavior (Lev 18:22; 20:13; Gen 19; Judg 19; Rom 1:26-27; 1 Cor 6:9; 1 Tim 1:10; Jude 7). Though interpretations vary in the details, these scholars conclude such texts say nothing about sexual orientation or love-based, consensual same-gender sexual relations and certainly nothing about gay marriage.

Does the Bible Teach Biological Complementarity?

“For many Christians [who voice opinions about same-sex sexual expression], these disapproving biblical verses imply the case is closed. But why does scripture (or God) disapprove? Or as James Brownson puts it in Bible, Gender, Sexuality, (mentioned in Lesson 8), what is the ‘moral logic’ behind this disapproval?”

Sliding Down the Slippery Slope—or Climbing Upward?

"But this complementarian position can only be held if the Bible is read 'on the flat,' as if it were written for contemporary people and contained no scientific or historical errors. In Lesson 5 on 'gender disputes in Bible translation,' I referred to the book co-written by Wayne Grudem and Vern Poythress called The Gender-Neutral Bible Controversy: Muting the Masculinity of God’s Words. A light bulb went on for me at that point. These authors really believe God is masculine and, further, that the male leadership and patriarchy pervading the biblical texts is not simply a reflection of these ancient cultures but is part of God’s plan for humankind."

The Bible and Same-Sex Relationships: Some Resources

"My concern in this series of lessons is this: how do we discuss this issue with people who hold a traditional view and see that view as more biblically-based than ours? Can we adequately interact with the so-called “clobber-texts” used to condemn same-sex sexual expression (i.e., Genesis 19:1-11; Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13; Romans 1: 24-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10)? How do we respond to traditional views of the creation of male and female in Genesis 1 and 2 and to Jesus’s references to heterosexual marriage? Or do we just ignore these texts and assume that no real dialogue is possible?"

Can You Read the Signs? Principles of Interpretation

“Biblical texts come alive through archeological discoveries, as well as sociology and anthropology, which help modern people understand the different traditions and habits of ancient peoples. For example, male honor was more important than female honor. Read the stories of attempted rape at Sodom in Genesis 19:1-11 and the actual rape of the Levite’s concubine in Judges 19. In each case, men offered their women to the rapists while preserving the honor of the men within the house.”

A New View of Mary and Martha

Hanson raises important questions about the traditional reading. She points out that we read into it things that aren’t actually there. For example, we assume that Jesus and twelve other tired, hungry men showed up on Mary and Martha’s doorstep unannounced. Any decent host would be alarmed. But the passage doesn’t state that any other disciples were present.

Different Interpretations—Different Missions

“It is small wonder that Christians assuming different biblical hermeneutics often talk past each other. As one who deeply loves and respects the Bible, I will not try to protect it. It may be God-breathed, but it is also a human product with perspectives limited by time and culture. “

Gender Disputes in Bible Translation

The translation was called Today’s New International Version of the Bible (TNIV), an updated edition of the New International Version (NIV), a favorite of conservative Christians. And many of them were not happy with the new edition. Why the unhappiness? Because the TNIV was the first NIV updating to use gender-inclusive people language.

Problems with Biblical Inerrancy

As someone who has loved the Bible since childhood and has devoted her life and career to better understanding it, I find this view of strict verbal inspiration incomprehensible. I suppose it can be held in the mind as theory, but not in practice.

A Brief History of Biblical Inspiration

Through worship and study, the written word became divine revelation... By the time some of them returned to Jerusalem from exile (permitted by the Persian ruler, Cyrus, beginning in 539 BCE), they had a collection of writings that became guides for their priests, prophets, and all the people of Yahweh (see Nehemiah 8:1-12)."

Is the Bible Divinely Inspired?

"Is the Bible divinely inspired and thus authoritative? Discussions on inspiration often start by quoting 2 Timothy 3:16 from the New Testament. The NRSV reads, 'All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.' This is the usual translation, but it is not the only one. A footnote in the NRSV includes this alternative: 'Every scripture inspired by God is also…' The difference is significant."

Biblical Interpretation: Can We Get It Right?

"This new series of lessons in Reta’s Reflections will not be a book study, as earlier studies have been. Rather, it will deal with the broader issue of hermeneutics, the science of interpretation as it relates to how we understand our Scriptures. The question of how we interpret authoritative texts becomes acute when current social, economic, or political issues divide believers who look to these texts for answers."

American Jezebel: The Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson, the Woman who...

As an evangelical feminist, I found fascinating the details of the religious controversies in which [Hutchinson] participated. Are believers “elect” from the beginning of time? Can we know whether we are one of the elect—or whether someone else is? Does sanctification (the outward appearance of grace) prove we are saved, or are outward appearances simply “works,” not evidence of a heart that is right with God?

The Perils of God’s Mercy—Jonah 4:1-11

“The story of Jonah teaches us that God cares about those we perceive as our worst enemies. Jonah’s dilemma was the opposite of Job’s. Job’s agonizing question to God was, ‘How can God let bad things happen to good people?’ Jonah asks how God can allow good things to happen to bad people. Both of these books challenge other scriptures that promise blessings for those who obey God’s laws and curses on those who don’t. In both cases God responds with open-ended questions with which we must wrestle.”

Changing God’s Mind—Jonah 3:1-10

“Having disobeyed once to dire consequences, Jonah figures he has no choice; so off he trots, eastward over the desert until he arrives in Nineveh, capital of the Assyrian Empire (now in Iraq). In 3:3 we see both contrast and repetition: instead of a raging sea, Jonah finds a huge urban center. The city is so large it takes three days to walk across it, paralleling the three days Jonah had spent inside the fish (1:17).”

Going down to Sheol: Jonah 2:1-10

“But now, rescued by the fish, Jonah ‘gets religion.’ Sort of. He’s grateful to be saved from ‘the belly of Sheol’ after all. But he blames God for ‘casting him into the deep’ (v 3)—when it’s his own fault for fleeing from God’s presence and then requesting to be thrown into the sea.

Away from God’s Presence—Jonah 1:1-17

“Although we find no women in this story thus far, the Hebrew word for ship is feminine and has a will of her own: she threatens to break apart (v 4). Jonah goes down into ‘her hold’ as into a womb, and falls asleep. (The actual Hebrew term is ‘the innermost parts of the ship.’) Later, he ends up in the fish’s 'belly' (v 17), which comes from the same Hebrew root as 'womb.' Jonah is both protected and entrapped by these female images.”

Salty Wives, Spirited Mothers, and Savvy Widows: Capable Women of...

In addition to Spencer’s literary prowess and clever wordplays (why didn’t I think of an “ambushed Moses”?), his feminist intuitions are so spot-on we might call him an honorary female! His command of scholarly feminist literature is also remarkable—way beyond mine.

The Lost Sutras of Jesus: Unlocking the Ancient Wisdom of the...

A fascinating glimpse of this far Eastern Christianity... divided into three sections: the historical story of the recovery of the Jesus Sutras, excerpts from the Sutras themselves, and, finally, reflections on the Jesus Sutras for today.

Immersion in the World of “Our Mother Saint Paul”

Central to all of Paul’s writings is his not only holding to the practical daily tasks of keeping a congregation faithful to Christ, but also seeing at the same time the cosmic and apocalyptic features that accompany the lives of such a community. Gentiles as well as Jews make up this new gathering of the believers in Jesus Christ, who lived with his people but was risen as a cosmic figure.

Bible Women: All Their Words and Why They Matter

One has the impression in reading Bible Women that the words of women are overwhelmingly (but not always) positive in their courage, spirit of enterprise, and profound spiritual insight. Bible Women brings into focus how often the words of women change the course of events.

Postscript: The Reception of John’s Gospel

“The biblical canon—the list of books that comprise the Bible as we know it today— was not fixed until the mid or late 4th century. Long before that, however, churches developed lists of texts appropriate for reading in their assemblies. The Synoptic Gospels were a shoo-in from the beginning, since Jesus was the central authority figure for Christians. But some, especially Jewish Christians, questioned John’s Gospel because it portrayed Jesus as more divine and less human than did the Synoptics.”

Back to the Well: Women’s Encounters with Jesus in the Gospels

Dr. Gench’s studies are accessible for lay readers, with in-depth analysis for pastors and teachers. She provides context and explanations of pertinent aspects of the Greek, and illuminates specific cultural and ritual elements that impact how one would view the text.

The Rehabilitation of Peter—John 21:15-25

What does the author intend by using two different words for ‘love’ in John 21:15-17? ‘Agape’ is the all-encompassing love from God that enables disciples to be kind and accepting toward everyone, whether or not they are lovable. ‘Philos’ is the warm affection friends have for each other.

A Fish Story:  Mother Jesus Serves Breakfast—John 21:1-14

“By the time everyone arrives, Jesus is making breakfast, just as he did back in John 6 when he fed 5000 people. Like an ordinary housewife, he fries flatbread and cooks some of the fish they had just caught. I can see the disciples standing around awkwardly, unused to helping with women’s work, and not knowing what to say (v 12).”

A “Touching” Group Appearance—John 20:19-31

"Within our current Western worldview, a dead body that becomes alive again cannot be explained by biology or physics. Thus, some Christians see Jesus’s resurrection as less a physical reality and more as a metaphor for new life and new spiritual insight. However, it is quite clear that Jesus’s disciples and the early church were totally convinced that Jesus had been bodily raised from death; some claimed to have seen and touched him! Otherwise, he would have been a failed messiah, and everyone would have gone back to their former lives and hoped for the real one to show up."

A Pivotal Reunion in the Garden—John 20:1-18

“As a feminist reader, I page back through this Gospel looking for people ‘in the know,’ and I find they are mostly women! Mary Magdalene’s knowing in today’s lesson parallels that of other prominent women in this Gospel: Jesus's mother, the Samaritan woman at the well, Martha of Bethany, and Mary of Bethany."

Whispering the Word: Hearing Women’s Stories in the Old Testament

...whether a reader is a seasoned student of the Bible or discovering it for the first time, "Whispering the Word" is exceptionally encouraging when it comes to making sense of difficult narratives featuring women in Hebrew Scriptures. Too much of Bible readership, interpretation, and understanding has been saturated by fallen patriarchal cultures. As a result, the speeches, perspectives, and worldviews of women (as well as narrators who tell their stories) are not something that most Bible readers are trained to perceive.

Jesus’s Burial and the Meaning of the Empty Tomb—John 19:38-20:10

"If they could afford it, Judeans buried their dead in a lengthy process. The first stage happened quickly, however. Between the last breath and sundown, the body was washed and anointed with spices, usually by women, and then laid on a shelf in a tomb cut out of the limestone bedrock around Jerusalem. Rites of mourning would begin at that time and continue for a full year. During that time, the flesh would rot away, leaving only the bones by the end of the year. This decomposition was necessary as a way for the person’s sins to be expiated. "

Crucified, Dead, and Buried—John 19:16b-42

"There was nothing romantic about crucifixion. The victims had been stripped naked, their 10-level pain laced with public humiliation and shame. Many lingered for days, covered in their own excrement. From the onlookers’ mocking point of view, they got what they deserved. After they died, corpses were usually left hanging for birds and other predators to pick their bones clean. Crucifixions were Rome’s most dramatic advertisements to occupied peoples: 'We’re in charge. Don’t mess with us, or you’re next!'”

Jesus, Pilate, and “The Jews”: The Empire Strikes Back—John 18:28–19:16a

"Scene 1 is an honor challenge. The elite Judeans have decided in 11:47-53 that Jesus must die. But stoning him for religious reasons will only turn the common people against them. Rome must view him as a political threat and crucify him for rebellion. Hence the Judeans’ smart alecky retort in John 18:30, indicating that, of course, Jesus is a criminal. Why else would they have brought him to Pilate?"

Jesus’s Trial before Pilate: Not What You Expect—John 18:29-19:16a

"Then add to this complicated political system another category: the Jewish rebels and messiahs who believed God wanted them to violently overthrow the Romans. Such unrest pushed the priestly caste more strongly toward cooperation with the Roman governor and against the peasants, who comprised 90 percent of the population."

Arrest and Trial by Night—John 18:1-27

"Jesus is in control of the situation. He knows 'all that was to happen to him' (v 4). He steps forward and questions first: 'Whom are you looking for?' When they reply, 'Jesus of Nazareth,' he identifies himself. The NRSV quotes Jesus saying, 'I am he,' but the Greek text uses the name we’ve heard many times before in this Gospel—egō eimí—'I AM.' When Jesus says this, all the officers step back and ignobly fall to the ground! (v 6). As they scramble to their feet, the question and the replies are repeated again: 'I told you that I AM!' Taking charge in this way is a matter of honor. Only the inferior are controlled by those above them."

Praying for Myself, Us, and Them—John 17:1-26

"Although the patron-client relationship is used between humanity and God, Jesus is clear that this should not be practiced among believers. The goal of Jesus’s work with his disciples is not to act superior to them (remember the footwashing in John 13?). Instead he asks God to 'protect them…so that they may be one as we are one' (v 11). Later, he asks 'also for those who will believe in me through their [the disciples’] word, that they may all be one' (vv 20-21). The level of intimacy between Jesus and his Father/Mother is to be the pattern for all believers. No more pulling rank over others because of higher social status. That is how 'the world' works."

Living in a Hostile World—John 16:1-33

"The suffering Johannine communities are symbolized by a woman in labor (16:20-22). Earlier we noted how Jesus’s role in John’s Gospel is similar to an idealized Mediterranean woman who is given complete authority over her household and children. This is another example of Jesus’s (and the Spirit’s) understanding of women’s concerns. We can imagine Jesus as an older woman ministering to her daughter who labors to bring forth a child. In this way the Advocate stands with the marginalized community, making the reassuring promise that, in Jesus’s words, 'You have pain now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one can take your joy from you' (16:2-24)."

A Vineyard of Friendship—John 15:1-17

“Agape love, of course, does not have to mean liking another person—it is wanting the best for them as you want the best for yourself. It is taking others on their own terms and accepting them the way they are, understanding that hurtful behavior can come from personal insecurity or even mental illness. It may sometimes mean confrontation and ‘tough love’ that can easily be misinterpreted. Agape love demands a lot of humility. It is not surprising that Jesus called this kind of loving a ‘command’ (v. 17)—something you do rather than something you necessarily feel.”

Because of the Angels? Can Someone Explain First Corinthians 11:10-15?

Throughout 1 Corinthians, Paul was adamant that Jesus-believers must march to a very different drummer than the polytheistic culture around them–BUT he did not want them to do things that would deliberately offend outsiders if it was not part of Jesus’ gospel.

Questions and Misunderstandings—John 14:1-31

"The 'key verse' in this section is verse 6, which many Christians know by heart: 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.' Unfortunately, this is often used as a doctrinal statement meant to exclude non-Christians. 'Unless you believe in Jesus you can’t be saved,' some will say. Instead of 'not letting hearts be troubled' (14:1), this verse has troubled Christian hearts and those from other religions alike.

Loyalty and Betrayal among Beloved Friends—John 13:18-38

“But in this Gospel, Judas’s action is so reprehensible it is as if the devil himself possessed him (vv. 2, 27). As further evidence, Jesus quotes an apt line from Psalm 41:9—‘Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, has lifted the heel against me.’ (See Jn 13:18.) In that Mediterranean culture, to ‘lift the heel’ means showing the sole of one’s foot to another. It is a great insult, a wish to utterly shame another.”

The Way Up Is Way Down—John 13:1-17

"Actually, there’s a lot going on under the surface of this special Passover meal, but only Jesus and Judas are aware of it. Judas is part of a devilish plot that Jesus strongly suspects, and he realizes this will be his last meal with 'his own.' It is 'during supper' (v. 2) that he gets up and takes off his outer robe to strip down to the knee-length tunic that characterizes a slave. He ties a towel around his waist, pours water into a washbasin, and starts washing the other men’s feet (13:2-5). This is his last chance to demonstrate the kind of humble caring that members of the family of God need to have for each other."

Gethsemane in a New Setting—John 12:20-50

"Unlike the Synoptics, however, this fourth Gospel does not describe Jesus as pleading for God to rescue him from death. As we saw in Lesson 25 on the 'noble shepherd,' a characteristic of nobility is the voluntary laying down of one’s life for others (John 10:11). In this spirit, Jesus accepts his destiny: 'It is for this reason that I have come to this hour'(12:27)."

Political Street Theater—John 12:9-19

"Does it matter who came up with the parade idea? Probably not, except that John’s Gospel portrays a logical cause-and-effect. Jesus is already popular among the common people in Jerusalem, and his raising of Lazarus is the final sign of his right to be king in Israel (John 12:18). What better time to show him off than to a city crowded with Passover pilgrims!"

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

I acknowledge Aslan as a gifted and passionate writer. He may be a scholar of religions, but he is definitely not a biblical scholar. His thesis creating Jesus as a zealous insurrectionist has overpowered the available evidence and colored his selection and (mis)interpretation of many biblical texts. I see too many flaws and errors to recommend this book.

Mary the Anointer—John 12:1-8

"The name 'Bethany' means 'house of affliction' or 'house of the poor,' which had to be outside of Jerusalem for purity reasons. Brian Capper, an Acts scholar, suggests that Martha, Mary, and Lazarus may have had Essene connections and have sponsored a poorhouse close to their home. Perhaps Jesus originally met these siblings through his concern for the poor. If Mary’s ointment was poured out in the presence of poor people who were more used to smelling bad odors, a 'house filled with the fragrance of the perfume' (John 12:3) would have been a treat. In their presence, Jesus’s statement would have denoted compassion rather than callousness.

A Tomb with a View—John 11:38-57; 12:9-11

"The miracle of raising the dead is the last and greatest of Jesus’s 'signs' in this Gospel. But can it be literally true? In our experience, dead people do not come to life again. And if it did happen, why do the other Gospels omit such a dramatic event?"

A Household of Beloved Disciples—John 11:17-37

"The other unanswered question is how Jesus came to know and love this family. Was he a cousin or other relative? Did the sisters run a hostel for pilgrims coming to worship at Jerusalem, and he stayed with them when he came? Whatever brought them together, it was such a loving, intimate friendship that both sisters felt free to reproach Jesus for not coming sooner. Only these three siblings are known in this Gospel as 'beloved disciples.'"

An (Un)Fortunate Illness? — John 11:1-16

"Leaving Thelma, I knew I would never see her again in this life. I did not expect Jesus to raise her as he had raised Lazarus. If we are older than 8 or 9, we know that dead persons do not come to life again. What then can we learn from a story about a man pulled out of his grave alive after four days? Is it a story of hope? Or is it only a legend conveniently omitted by the Synoptic Gospels?"

God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of...

According to Vines, the reason non-affirming Christians reject homosexuality is that male and female bodies are anatomically complementary (the “plumbing” fits together). But such an issue is never raised anywhere in the Bible. Instead, the Bible makes clear that every human being is made in God’s image...

Feeding Sheep or Eating Them? — John 10:1-21 and Ezekiel 34

"Ezekiel’s description of the false shepherds translates all too well into the 21st century, as large corporations extract resources from powerless people and regions, leaving them worse off than before. 'Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not the shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep.'"

The Noble Shepherd versus the Thieves— John 10:1-18

"Jesus then names himself as the shepherd, the 'good shepherd' who lays down his life for the sheep (10:11-18). How is Jesus 'good'? There are two common Greek words for 'good': kalos and agathos. According to Jerome Neyrey, a New Testament social context scholar, agathos belongs to the realm of ethics and virtue, but kalos to the cultural world of honor and shame. Kalos, used here, is better translated as 'noble' or 'honorable.'"

God and the Rules about Gay Christians

April 22, 2014 Matthew Vines' first book, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships, is being released today. In the book Vines addresses...

Blind Spots and New Vision: Virginia Mollenkott’s The Divine Feminine

If you are grappling with lifelong patriarchal teachings about God and Christianity, pick up this gentle book! It is packed with information that will help. It will enrich your life. It has truly enriched mine. Through these pages, I see that my precious God and Savior not only is reflected in my father, but is also a God who “looks” like my mother —and me!

Sheep Parables and Temple Festivals—John 10:1-42

"This Gospel’s emphasis on the Jewish calendar and its festivals demonstrates the author’s deep roots in the Hebrew Bible and the events that the festivals commemorate. Unlike the Synoptic Gospels where Jesus remains in Galilee until the spring festival of Passover, here Jesus travels to Jerusalem over several years of ministry. He is faithfully Torah-observant as he immerses himself into these events. He becomes water and light; he is the gate that protects the sheep. He will—even more literally—become the Passover lamb."

“What Really Happened?”: Story Becomes History— John 9:1-41

At first, Jesus-believers saw their movement as Jesus had understood himself—as part of a renewal movement within Judaism. But as the decades went by, tensions were increasing. Our Fourth Gospel, probably written in the 90s CE, may be chronicling the fatal split.

Who Is Blind and Who Can See? A One-Act Comedy in...

"In this case, the sign weaves through such a thicket of ironies and misunderstandings that it rivals some of Shakespeare’s comedies. The antagonists work hard to prove that white is black and black is white, making this chapter the most hilarious in the whole New Testament! As you read it, ponder these questions: Who is blind and who can see? Who is a sinner and who is righteous? Who is an insider and who is an outsider? Who knows where Jesus 'comes from,' and who knows nothing?"

Stones of Humiliation for Adulterers—John 7:53-8:11

"Perhaps this delectable story was passed on orally, independent of the four Gospels, but was too juicy not to eventually insert into a canonical document. In any case, it is consistent with Jesus’ other evasion of verbal traps and his respect for women and their equal rights with men."

Living Water and Eternal Light—John 8:12-59

These rituals lie behind Jesus’ proclamation of himself as the Water of Life in John 7:37-39 and the Light of the World in 8:12. As light, Jesus claims not only to replace the law but to physically represent Lady Wisdom herself (see Lesson 2). As living water, his Spirit fulfills Zechariah’s prophecy of cleansing Jerusalem on that great “day of the Lord.”

The Trial before the Trial—John 7:1-52

"The offices of king and priest tended to reinforce each other, often leading to apostasy, economic oppression, and political disaster. Thus arose the prophetic tradition, challenging both priest and king, and often serving as a voice for oppressed people crushed by their elite overlords. Jesus stands in the tradition of the Hebrew prophets who suffered for speaking truth to power. "

Turning Back and Dropping Out—John 6:59-71

There are many Christians I have known or read about who like the Gospel of John. Sometimes what they like is a simplistic interpretation: all you have to do is believe in Jesus and then you’re saved and have eternal life. Put more crassly, it’s “fire insurance” for not going to hell. More thoughtful persons might observe that this Gospel puts less emphasis on morality and righteous behavior than do the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. However, the very fact that interested followers of Jesus are now deserting in droves implies that something more has been called for than mere head belief.

The Bread that Comes Down from Heaven – John 6:30-58

Jesus continues, pursuing the image of bread coming down from heaven. Just as manna came from heaven, so he has come from above to bring life to the world. This discourse on the bread of life is one of the clearest examples of the “descent of the Word/Sophia,” discussed in Lessons 1 and 2. It is a reminder of incarnation, the Word who descends to human level and lives among us (1:14). It echoes the “turkey theology” of the previous lesson, where a human becomes a wild turkey mother to provide life to chicks which otherwise would die.

I’ve always been taught the inerrancy of Scripture. Paul tells women...

Learn how Christian feminists approach the concept of the "inerrancy of Scripture."

The Word Became Flesh and Lived among Us

"Perhaps one reason I find this analogy meaningful is because I relate to Jesus more as a human and less as a divine figure whose feet rarely touch the ground. Becoming flesh is the point of 'Immanuel—God with us.' Too often Christians see primarily the inaccessible divinity of Jesus, and thus cannot follow him in life. As a result, they miss the point of the downward thrust of Incarnation."

“It’s me. Don’t be afraid!”—John 6:16-29

Alas, the crowd reminds us of Nicodemus (Lesson 7) who always interpreted Jesus’ words on an earthly level and thus missed their true significance. In this case, “works” and “food” have double meanings. The crowd asks, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” no doubt thinking of how they might earn their next meal of bread and fish. Yet all they need to do is put their trust in, and give total loyalty to, the One whom God has sent (6:29).

A Meal (Almost) Fit for a King—John 6:1-15

If John’s Gospel were a stage play, a dramatic scene shift would occur between chapters 5 and 6. Acting as his own lawyer in Jerusalem (5:30-47), Jesus now dons a Red Cross hat as he heals many on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee (6:2). This draws a huge crowd, who, out of need or curiosity, forget to pack a lunch. In 6:3-15, the Great Physician becomes Mother Jesus as he personally distributes food to his dependents. For once in their lives, these peasants eat until they can eat no more. For once, there are leftovers.

Jesus Judges the Judges at His Trial—John 5:30-47

"Susanna’s trial illuminates this second part of Jesus’ defense against the Jewish leaders (John 5:30-47). In the previous lesson (5:19-29), he refutes the charge of being “equal to God” by taking the role of a wife and mother in a patriarchal household. Here he declares 'not guilty!' to the charge that he broke the Sabbath by telling the man he healed in 5:1-18 to pick up his mat and walk. As Jerome Neyrey’s New Cambridge commentary points out, Jesus poses as his own lawyer, marshaling five witnesses to testify on his behalf before the elders who are serving as his judges (5:16).

From Sentence of Death to Androgynous Rebuttal—John 5:17-29

Jacobs-Malina says that “Jesus’ primary role was to create and maintain the household of God on earth.” In this way, he acts most like “the wife of the absent husband” (p 2). If we read John 5:19-29, this is exactly what we see. Using “Son” rather than “wife/mother” to this audience, Jesus insists that he can do nothing on his own except what he sees the Father doing. At the same time, the absent husband/father grants him enormous power, even raising the dead and judging all people.

Creating a Scene in Corinth: A Simulation

"Creating a Scene in Corinth sets up experiences of role-playing as an interactive method for understanding the context and the issues of Paul’s letter to this early group of Jesus followers. It involves us in biblical criticism at the same time as we personally wrestle with God’s word to us in our day. "

Doing Good Can Get You in Trouble!—John 5:1-18

"Scholars differ on how the pool was used, but its reputation of having intermittent healing properties when the water bubbled up suggests it may well have been used by Romans and Jews alike as an Asclepion. The son of the Greek god Apollo was Asclepius, worshiped as a healer and 'savior.' His cult developed healing complexes in many cities of the Empire, such as Corinth and Pergamum. Here in the heart of the Holy City came the desperate sick. Whether through Yahweh or Asclepius, all they wanted was health and wholeness."

Healing in Absentia: Can You Read Signs?—John 4:43-54

The conclusion is distinctly Johannine. After the first sign of water into wine, Jesus’ disciples believe in him (2:11). After the second sign, the little boy’s entire household believes (4:53). Many people witness a miracle but miss what it signifies. “To believe” means understanding what the miracle is pointing toward. Little by little, Jesus gathers believers who can read signs.

Two Books by Eric A. Seibert on Violence in Scripture

For Christians who see the Bible as authoritative, two main steps should be involved in properly interpreting and applying these ancient texts. First, understand what a text meant in its original literary and cultural context. Only then can we wrestle with what it means today.

Man Meets Woman at a Well—John 4:1-42—Part II

But place does not matter, asserts Jesus. God is spirit; we must worship God within our spirits, for God is actively seeking such people to relate to (23-24). This is a bold assertion. “Place of worship” was what separated Samaritans from Jews. For a Jew, only the temple at Jerusalem was sacred. Now Jesus challenges place, just as he had Jewish ritual law at the Cana wedding! (Lesson 4). For a moment she pauses, uncertain. “Well, when Messiah comes, he’ll tell us the truth about everything!”

Submission, Subjection, and Subversion in Household Codes

"... the overarching message of Jesus throughout the New Testament is a call for those in power to give it up or lay it aside for the sake of the powerless or for the greater good of the community. The theme of “little ones” being greatest in God’s kin-dom saturates the Synoptic Gospels. Jesus flees popularity, risks his life to defy rigid structures that oppress “little ones,” and finally endures the shame of crucifixion as a rebel against Roman domination."

Man Meets Woman at a Well—John 4:1-42 (Part I)

The Samaritan woman is neither shepherdess nor virgin, and Jesus is no wife-hunter. We don’t know if the woman ever gave Jesus a drink from the well, but we do know that he reversed gender roles and offered her a drink instead. Once again, the author draws from the Hebrew Bible to portray Jesus not only as a prophet in the tradition of his people, but as the “One from Above” who relives Hebrew history—and then breaks its mold in shocking new ways.

Jesus and Nicodemus—Spiritual Direction or Verbal Sparring? John 3:1-21

"John’s Gospel is also dualistic in terms of belief or unbelief in Jesus as Word-become-flesh (3:17-18). But the physical, created world is never seen as evil. Rather, many aspects of our earthly life point the seeker to spiritual reality. A mother’s experience of the miracle of her child’s birth illustrates the action of Mother Sophia-Spirit giving us birth 'anothen'—from above. We cannot control the wind; likewise we cannot control the Spirit moving among us."

Jesus as Spiritual Director—John 2:23-25

As we shall see in the lessons that follow, irony pervades these accounts. Theologian Nicodemus never understands Jesus. Before long, dialogue vanishes into a monologue by Jesus as his client creeps away under cover of darkness. But the nameless woman is the real theologian, conversing longer with Jesus than anyone else in this Gospel. In the end she introduces this “Messiah” (4:25-26, 29) to her entire village.

Another “Sign”: Housecleaning the Temple—John 2:13-22

“'These are written so you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah…and through believing you may have life in his name.' In other words, all the events are signs pointing in one direction—calling the reader to an unswerving loyalty to and trust in this Son/Sophia who in turn points the way to a true understanding of God."

A Wedding Surprise—John 2:1-11

"Clearly, John’s Gospel shows through symbol and story what Matthew’s Gospel explains in plain language in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Instead of Moses, Yahweh’s Son/Sophia has come down 'in the sight of all the people' to introduce a New Age where human need and enjoyment trump overly-rigid Law (see John 1:17)."

What You Didn’t Learn in Sunday School: Women Who Didn’t Shut...

"Atteberry’s goal is pretty clear: she wants to help those who have been influenced by an ideology based on traditional gender roles to realize not only the problems embedded in its assumptions but also to have some inkling of a way to read the Bible differently.

Always Playing Second Fiddle? John 1:19-34

Throughout this chapter to verse 42, the persons and careers of the Baptist and Jesus are intertwined. John’s role is as witness, to testify to “the Light” (1:6-8). It is powerful, it is essential, but it is unrelentingly secondary. If you are studying this in a group, have different members read the antagonistic dialogue of verses 19-28 as a mini readers’ theater. Note how John forcefully defends his authoritative actions, yet asserts he is only an agent of someone else.

Gender Remixed: Sophia and Word

"What would Greek-speaking Jewish readers have drawn from this opening reflection on logos? [One of the possible interpretations of the meaning] was Wisdom. Hebrew sages of old were part of a movement that emphasized gaining wisdom through close observation of the natural world. See, for example, Proverbs 6:6-11, about observing the behavior of ants in order to live well. But these sages were not inventing wisdom; they were discovering it. For Wisdom was personified as a woman co-creating with God from the very beginning. Read her exquisite poem in Proverbs 8:22-31. Before all of God’s creative acts, 'I was beside him as a master worker, and I was daily his delight…' (v 30)."

Our Mothering Jesus: Studies in John’s Gospel

"I chose this Gospel for our second lesson series because I think it is the most thoroughly feminist writing in our New Testament. Most Christians don’t know that—but all the more reason to get acquainted with this tough, tender, mothering Jesus who befriends women as well as men."

I Corinthians Epilogue—It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over

“'Everything will turn out alright in the end, and if it’s not alright, it isn’t the end.' Such Yogi Berra or Marigold Hotel wisdom applies well to the Apostle Paul’s rocky relationship with his Corinthian churches. 'First' Corinthians wasn’t even the first letter he wrote to them. In 1 Corinthians 5:9-10 Paul refers to an earlier letter which at least some had misunderstood. We can be sure that the letter we have, with its radical vision of sharing honor, wealth, and power equally in the Body of Christ in Corinth, will be resisted by those with the most to lose."

1 Corinthians 16—Can Money Create Unity?—and Other Earthy Details

"Actually, this collection is a big deal for Paul. He devotes two whole chapters in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 and much of Romans 15 to the collection he wants to take “to the saints in Jerusalem.” Paul manipulates his audience as well as any door-to-door salesman or telephone fund-raiser. He encourages his audience to put aside any extra money they make each week so he won’t need to hassle them when he gets there (1 Cor. 16:2). In 2 Corinthians 8:1-7, he tells them how very generous the Philippian and Thessalonian churches in Macedonia have been—they were 'begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry'(!). Then he piles it on by reversing the situation in 9:1-2—how he boasted to the Macedonians, 'saying that the people of Achaia [Corinthians] have been ready since last year!'”

1 Corinthians 15—Puzzles over Jesus’ Resurrection—and Ours (Part B)

In 15:1-11, Paul states his core belief: “that Christ died for our sins,…that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures” (3-4). For proof of Jesus’ resurrection, Paul cites six appearances of the risen Jesus—to Peter, to the twelve disciples, to over 500 people, to James (leader of the Jerusalem church), to “all the apostles,” and last of all, to Paul himself (on the road to Damascus several years later) (5-9). Why didn’t Paul mention the women at the tomb?

1 Corinthians 15—Puzzles over Jesus’ Resurrection (and Ours)

This is the third time I have started to write this lesson. One reason it’s so hard is because neither Paul, nor I, nor anyone who reads this knows very well what we’re talking about. Obviously, Paul had not yet died at the time he was writing this, nor have any of us yet died; and none of us has yet been raised to life as Paul says Jesus has. What we have are intimations from pre-Christian Jewish writings, visions by some mystics, hints from Jesus before his death, witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection, and Paul’s Spirit-inspired (we hope!) logic.

1 Corinthians 14—The Spirit Is in the Details

"In today’s lesson, Paul focuses on two controversial spiritual gifts—prophesying and speaking in tongues. These are the public, vocal charisms that individual speakers are using to glorify themselves rather than building up the whole body in true worship."

The Christmas Story—When Tradition Trumps Text

"Ever since the second century, stories embroidering the canonical accounts of Jesus’ birth have become embedded in our celebrations. Every crèche gets so much wrong. Maybe we should worry less about our culture “taking Christ out of Christmas” and more about accurately reading our texts. I’ll warn you ahead of time—there was no stable, no inn, and no innkeeper."

A Resource for Women’s Gatherings

Theologically and spiritually, the message of the Gospel is that the “spirit of fear” or “spirit of timidity” is not God’s intention for whole human beings; rather, the divine gifts already in our grasp are “power, love, and a sound mind [self-control].”

Classic Christian Feminist Books

Influential classic Christian feminist books, primarily (though not exclusively) from second-wave Christian feminism's early period (1970s through 1980s) Compiled by Nancy A. Hardesty, Professor of...

1 Corinthians 13—Not Just for Weddings!

Self-giving love is the greatest quality to endure to eternity (1 Corinthians13:13). Does God have a Google-like “Cloud” where such unselfish acts are stored, no matter how small? Are acts of self-gratification immediately deleted from the Divine Hard Drive? This seems to be the gist of 1 Corinthians 13.

Contrasting Worldviews in 1 Corinthians 12

Corinthian Christ-believers hearing this chapter would have understood how radical was Paul’s theology over against the hierarchical socio-religious structure of empire. Elites may have rejected Paul’s view, while lower-class persons would be heartened. How do Christ-believers hear Chapter 12 today? As a commonplace and tame description of the church—or as a radical critique of our culture, our religions, and our American empire?

Misunderstanding the “Supper of the Lord”—1 Corinthians 11:17-34

Most “tables of the Lord” today focus primarily on one’s vertical relationship with Jesus. Even our church potlucks—where actual meal-sharing takes place—usually comprise people of similar social status. Today in this post-campaign season, bipartisanship still remains an elusive dream. Huge socio-economic chasms lie between the 1% and the bottom half of the 99%. Perhaps Christians on the political left or right, the well-off or the struggling, should observe Jesus’ practice by eating together. What do you think might happen?

The Apostle Paul’s “Woman Problem”—1 Cor. 11:2-16 (Lesson 10)

1 Corinthian Series, Bible Study Lesson 10 by Reta Haletman Finger We’re hearing a lot about the “war on women” in the U.S. news this past...

Give Up My Position and Salary? No Way!—1 Corinthians 8-10, Part...

". . .Paul has a big problem with such hierarchical values and practices. His vision of God’s reign on earth is egalitarian with special concern for the poor and hungry. He knows how entrenched such idolatrous thinking becomes the higher one ascends on the socioeconomic ladder. So he uses the example of his own life to show his house churches the cost of switching allegiances from Caesar to Jesus."

Carnivores and Vegetarians—Can We Get Along? (1 Corinthians 8)

"The issue of conscience is not new, at least not in my experience. Were you ever part of a youth group wrestling with what to do about differing convictions regarding use of alcohol, watching certain movies, or any number of “worldly” practices that some think are okay and others reject? We may also remember reverse ego-traps in such conversations, when the “weak” would try to manipulate the “strong” into feeling guilty. This happens politically today when, on the basis of their own religious conscience, some conservative Christians want to deny access to free birth control in health insurance plans for their employees."

Counter-Cultural Advice on Marriage and Family Life—1 Corinthians 7

"After the creation stories of two necessary genders, the biblical record that follows is rife with polygamy, adultery, rape, and prostitution—mostly perpetuated by powerful men in patriarchal cultures. Heroes like Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon seem little concerned to exemplify “biblical marriage.”

Scandalous Sex and Unjust Lawsuits—1 Corinthians 5 & 6

"The report Chloe’s people (1:11) brought to Paul in Ephesus contained shocking news— scandalous enough, perhaps, for a headline in the ancient Roman equivalent of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World. No wonder they’re quarreling!" Paul holds off until he has laid out the theological foundation of his gospel (Lesson 4) and explained how he and Apollos worked together for church unity (Lesson 5). Then he lets loose. “It has been reported to me that there is sexual immorality among you of a kind not found even among pagans!” (5:1). Given what we know about Roman debauchery, this must be over the top!

Is The Bible a Divine Revelation or Human Book—or Both?

. . . taking the humanity of the Bible seriously in no way undercuts it message, nor should it result in fear that the Bible will lose its power or meaning if we recognize that people wrote it in specific times and places with specific points of view. Of course. But, this has been and continues to be the dividing line among contemporary Christians.

We Are Not Competitors!—1 Corinthians 3:5-4:23

Thus, beginning in 1 Cor. 3:5, Paul attacks a problem many Christians will recognize—competition between church leaders and their factions. Apparently, Apollos is Paul’s only significant rival for leadership among the Corinthian churches. His superior eloquence has quite possibly attracted more believers of higher status. Patrons with more wealth and influence are changing the character of the house churches. But Paul never denounces or shames Apollos.

Crazy, Upside-down Wisdom in 1 Corinthians 1:18-3:4

1 Corinthians Series, Bible study lesson 4 by Reta Halteman Finger "I give thanks to God always for you…in every way you have been enriched in...

After the Apostle Paul Left Corinth

During his two or three years in Corinth, Apollos has been a smash hit in the Corinthian Jesus-assemblies. We can guess that the “not many” who are “wise by human standards…powerful…and of noble birth” (1 Cor. 1:26) comprised those believers who were attracted to Apollos’ preaching more than were the laborers and slaves who made up the majority within the Corinthian assemblies.

Getting around the Roman Empire

Paul of Tarsus dominates so much of the New Testament not only because he was a brilliant and passionate church-planter, but because he wrote letters to those assemblies after he moved on—letters deemed important enough to be copied and shared with believers in other cities like Philippi, Rome, or Corinth. “If you give us a copy of your letter, we’ll give you a copy of ours.” Maybe you don’t like Paul, but you have to hand it to him—the guy had vision!

Introduction to the Bible Study Series

For Christian feminists who read this website, no matter how little we know about the Bible, or how much we’ve been hurt by oppressive interpretations of it, or how quaint it seems compared to our world today, we still have some “Bible DNA” in our roots. At some level, we are “People of the Book,” an appellation applied to Christians, Jews, and Muslims, each with scripture they privilege above all others.

The Power of the Word: Scripture and the Rhetoric of Empire

Into this theological ferment, Schüssler Fiorenza inserts her feminist vision of radical democracy. Rather than “patriarchy” or “hierarchy,” what she opposes is “kyriarchy/kyriocentrism.” These terms derive from the Greek kyrios (lord) and describe how empire works—through “domination by the emperor, lord, master, father, husband, elite propertied male.”

Engaging the Bible: Critical Readings from Contemporary Women

The purpose shared by the authors and editors of this volume is to “illustrate how we can better equip ourselves, our churches, and our communities to raise multicultural consciousness and to broaden and enrich the interpretive strategies by which we bring our own struggles and experiences into dialogue with biblical traditions.”

Of Widows and Meals: Communal Meals in the Book of Acts

Practitioners of the Way of Jesus today—meal servers, food preparers, scholars, pastors, Bible students, lay leaders, social activists, and evangelists—will all find much to ponder, and repeatedly to return to, in Of Widows and Meals.

Roman House Churches for Today: A Practical Guide for Small Groups

After opening chapters on house churches, Roman religion, and Roman social relations (these economical treatments are among the finest I have encountered), Finger devotes the bulk of her work to a reading of Romans that combines theological, sociological, and rhetorical analysis.

Wisdom Ways: Introducing Feminist Biblical Interpretation

I wish I had created a reading group to discuss the book, so that we could work together through the reflection exercises and writing prompts at the end of each chapter. Fiorenza calls this creating the circle--making a space to dance together in the "ekklesia of wo/men," her term for the radical democratic assembly of the daughters of God.

Junia: The First Woman Apostle

If Paul himself did not expect women to be silent when it came to church matters, the question is open: is “Junian” a male companion of Andronicus, or the latter’s wife and an apostle in her own right -- who together carry on missionary work similar to that of Prisca and Aquila (Rom. 16:3-5)?

Salvation For The Least: Reading Luke’s Two-Volume Work

The last major theme of Luke's Gospel concerns Jesus' suffering, death, and resurrection. Despite Mel Gibson's violent "Passion" movie, there is no substitutionary atonement in Luke. Rather, Jesus is the good, noble, self-giving, innocent martyr who challenges the powers of evil and is killed by them.

Matthew and Empire: Initial Explorations

This book can be extremely helpful to Christian feminists who care both about properly interpreting the Bible and who oppose all kinds of private and public oppression. There are many parallels between the ancient Roman Empire and the "American Empire" of the 21st century.

Another Blind Spot Exposed

Yet much of the history of the church -- since it became Roman under Constantine -- reflects domination of other peoples and suppression of their religious traditions and beliefs, often at the point of a sword. And today "Christian" America is fueled in part by such triumphalist theology of the Christian religious right.

The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish...

In my words, each tradition must hold its deepest theological convictions firmly and humbly with enormous respect for the other’s perspective. The God of Israel and of the church is One and the same; we need not fear dialogue under the wings of a loving, merciful God, portrayed both in the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Early Christian Families in Context: An Interdisciplinary Dialogue

Early Christian Families in Context is a mine of valuable background for our understanding of the New Testament and early church. Most or all of it should be accessible to interested lay people who truly want to understand the cultural gap between our world and that of our sacred texts -- and to use this knowledge to wisely interpret and apply those texts.

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