We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How Old Was Jesus? - Mark 2:5 (xxvi)

Lion of St. Mark, Piazza San Marco, Venice
This posting is the 26th in a series (originally written in 1998) looking at the Gospel of Mark from the perspective of a historian. The first posting in this series is (here).

When Jesus heals the paralytic in Mark 2:1-12, he addresses the man as, "My Son" (TEV). If Jesus was only 30 or so, as Luke 3:23 claims, why would he have addressed this man as "son"? (The Jerusalem Bible translates this verse even more strikingly as "my child"). In a patriarchal society, this address puts the healed man in a relationship of being a generation younger than Jesus. Jesus was claiming to be old enough to be the man's father. Now, it's true that life spans were much shorter, something around 30 years, and it's barely possible that the paralytic was a very young man, a youth of 13-15. Jesus, being 30, could (barely) have been old enough to be his father. It's also possible that Jesus was older than 30. Crosson in Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (pp. 21-23) points out that Jesus could have been born at any time during the reign of Herod (37-4 BCE) and died at any point while Pontius Pilate was Prefect of Judea (26-36 CE). The general opinion that Jesus was born close to 4 BCE, that is at the end of Herod's reign, is an educated guess. Now, if we speculate that Jesus was born about 10 BCE and that his ministry took place towards the end of Pilate's time, say around 35 CE, then Jesus was about 45 years old at the time of his ministry. Even if we accept the date of 30 CE for Jesus' death, the one most often given by scholars, Jesus would still have been about 40 at the time of his ministry. In this case, it makes much more sense for him to address the paralytic as "son". At 45 Jesus would have been nearly a grandfather figure anyway. All of this is sheer and pure speculation. Note, however, that it fits the general parameters of Crossan's "educated guess" just as well as a somewhat later birth and an earlier death does.

To those who would argue that we can't even know if Jesus said these words or this event happened, I would agree. But, the author of Mark saw no problem in having Jesus address the paralytic as "son," and he must have had some notion of Jesus' age. It's very unlikely that the author himself had any idea of how old the paralytic was, which means that he had Jesus calling a man of indeterminate age "son". The notion of a young Jesus calling another man of unknown age "son" in a patriarchal social context seems unpersuasive and questionable.

Monday, January 30, 2012

It Coulda Happened Just This Way - Mark 2:1-12 (xxv)

Lion of St. Mark, Piazza San Marco, Venice
This posting is the 25th in a series (originally written in 1998) looking at the Gospel of Mark from the perspective of a historian. The first posting in this series is (here).

There's no way of knowing if the event recorded in Mark 2:1-12 actually happened as Mark reports it. It's not likely, historically, that it did, not in just this way. Mark's account, on the other hand, feels very much like the real world that Jesus lived in. My own guess is that the passage is historical to the extent that Jesus did openly and intentionally challenge the over class. They did believe him to be blasphemous, but they didn't voice that opinion too loudly at first. And most certainly the point of tension came over Jesus' incredibly different manner of dealing with the poor and the sick. Modern-day Jesus scholars point out that in the context of first century Palestinian Judaism, Jesus' whole approach was a challenge to religiously-based political authority. The over class held its power, partly, on the premise that they were in God's favor. This, of course, is always the ideological position of those holding power. They deserve their power...because God loves them more...or because they're better at getting votes...or they lead a better past life.

The four men cutting into Jesus' roof is a good story, and it may have its roots in a particular event. There's no way for a historian to know. But, I think we can reasonably accept as historically accurate the larger contents of the story. Frankly, this is another one of those points where the whole interplay of forces and personalities "feels" historical. It wouldn't surprise me at all if the whole thing happened something like Mark's account has it happening.

2012 comment: Another consideration in the story's favor is that if it was clearly memorable, and it is memorable stories that are retold often and take on something of a life of their own. Skeptical historians, I would add, need to explain their skepticism. The fact that it is improbable doesn't mean that four guys didn't cut a hole in the roof of Jesus' home in order to get a friend healed. Historians constantly deal in improbable events. An additional "hint" that maybe something like this really did happen is the detail about the house in question being Jesus' house. The portrait of Jesus elsewhere in the gospels is that of an itinerant, homeless preacher. The fact that the story contains a detail that ran against commonly accepted views of the day speaks in its favor.  If it was "just made up" it highly unlikely that it would contain such a detail.  Lacking corroborating data, there is no way to be sure this event actually took place as Mark describes it, but we also lack the evidence needed to reject it out of hand.

In sum, this story provides an accurate historical portrait of Jesus and may recount an actual historical event.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Taking Stock of Mark (xxiv)

Lion of St. Mark, Piazza San Marco, Venice
This posting is the 24th in a series (originally written in 1998) looking at the Gospel of Mark from the perspective of a historian. The first posting in this series is (here).  What I'd like to do in this one is to take stock of the argument that I developed in the original set of studies on Mark so that we don't lose sight of that argument.

For some 16 years, I devoted considerable amounts of my time as a church-based research historian in Thailand to interviewing local church folks about the histories of their churches.  Eventually, I was struck by what I read in the Gospel of Mark, which sounded very similar to the kind of data—stories—that local church folks told me.  Working on intuition more than anything else, I developed the argument that I'm revisiting now, 14 years later, in this series of postings.

The argument is that the author of the Gospel of Mark talked with (interviewed) those who remembered Jesus or others who knew those who knew Jesus.  He collected their stories, and the Gospel of Mark is the result of those interviews.  I don't think that the author treated the data in the ways modern biographers do.  It appears that the author conflated events and arranged the stories in a way that reflected the actual person of Christ rather than the actual sequence in which they happened.  The author may have also assigned dialogue to the actors that was true to what Jesus and others said without them actually having said those words in that particular context.  That is to say, the author was not a modern biographer.  That being said, it seems evident that "Mark" shared a common goal with modern biographers, namely to present a faithful representation true to the subject—as faithful and true, that is, as possible.  The Gospel of Mark is an ancient work of historiography, written at a time when people believed in dreams and witnessed miracles.  It is grounded in and reflects actual events that took place on given days in real places between real people.  To be clear, again, I am not claiming that all of the events in the gospel happened in the way they are presented in it.  I am saying that something like Mark's stories did happen.

The bottom line is that modern-day followers of Christ can trust this gospel.  (I could hardly care less about the judgments of secular historians).  It actually does link us to the historical person of Jesus via the faith of the earliest church in him as the messiah, the one they believed sent by God to redeem Israel.  We have to decide for ourselves whether we put our faith in Jesus of Nazareth as God with us and how we do that, and for those who decide that they do put their faith in God in Christ Mark is an important link to the actual person of Jesus and the faith of the earliest church.

The Gospel of Mark is a faith document that takes empirical realities into account.  The author did not spin these stories out of thin air.  They are based on the memories of those who knew Christ first hand or knew those who did know him first hand.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

It Is NOT a Dumb Idea

NASA's Proposed Moon Base
As part of his campaign in Florida, presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has expressed his enthusiastic support for a moon base. (See Politico.Com's commentary here). The space industry is important in Florida, and so the state has a natural constituency for the idea of putting a colony on the moon. In other quarters, however, Newt has reaped little but derision for the proposal. One of his opponents, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) responded to the idea saying that he didn't think it was a good one but that he'd like to send "some politicians up there." Chuckle, chuckle. The pundits are having a field day with the whole thing, too.

But, hold on a minute. Is it really such a dumb idea? No, I don't think so—not at all. Over the last 50 years, one of the things we've learned is that the exploration of space benefits those of us here on Earth in a variety of ways, beginning with a host of inventions and new technologies. It is good for "pure research," which benefits us all. Nobody today laughs at the fact that we've cooperated with other nations in building the International Space Station (ISS), an proposal that once was seen as a crackpot idea and waste of money. Apart from the technologies and research that a moon base would require, there is the possibility of new sources of minerals. Colonizing the moon, furthermore, is a first step to eventually putting a human colony on Mars and thus getting life from our planet onto at least one other as an insurance policy against a major meteor strike on Earth in the future.  In fact, NASA currently has plans for establishing a moon base, although those plans are "under review" apparently.

Yes, the idea will continue to be ridiculed and clucked over as terribly wasteful and hopelessly idealistic—and silly.  It is none of those things.  It is, in fact, a logical next step in our progression from Sputnik to the Stars.  "Back in the day," the idea that humans could make a flying machine was widely ridiculed and some scientists even argued that it was impossible for us to do so.  A century later, we chuckle, chuckle at the way "they" used to think "back then."  In a hundred years, no doubt, a resident of the lunar city of Armstrong Base will pause for a similar chuckle, chuckle over the election of 2012 and the way we laughed at Newt.

Friday, January 27, 2012


If the church is not a place where we not only learn something about what it means to be human but also a place where seeds of a fuller humanity are planted in us and watered, to grow, then all our hymns and prayers and preachments are vanity.

Frederick Buechner
Source: Now and Then

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Trees Are People Too

The Senator
The Orlando Sentinel  posted a news item (here) on January 17th reporting the burning of one of the world's oldest trees, a cyprus called the Senator, which was severely burned under what at first seemed to be suspicious circumstances.  The Senator was estimated to be about 3,500 years old, making it not only one of the oldest trees in the world but also one of the world's oldest living beings.  It was 118 ft. (36 m.) tall and about 18 feet  (5.5 m.) in diameter.  For more details about the Senator and the fire see this news posting at the Mail Online (here).

After the fire, the tree now stands only 20-25 feet tall, but it isn't clear to me that the fire has actually killed the Senator although some of the language in the news postings suggests that it is dead.  While living in Thailand, I once witnessed the death of a grand old tree, surely more than 100 years old, at the hands of an over-zealous administrator who wanted its spot on the planet for something else (which was never built).  It's sad to see these tries die.  They connect us to the past, a living past.  It is incredible to think that something could live as long as the Senator did.

The death of the Senator, I suppose, also reminds us of our own mortality.  Even if medical science will eventually be able to extend our life spans into the hundreds of years, which now seems not only possible but likely—even so, we but delay an end that in one way or another must come.  The hope for eternal life promised by most religions doesn't change the fact that what we are now is no more than a passing moment and we must die.  It's what we do with the years we're given that matters.  And, for us at least, the Senator did a very good thing simply by being one of the Earth's oldest living beings.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Anger in America

It was a moment not to be taken lightly when presidential candidate Newt Gingrich angrily turned on the moderator of the last Republican debate before the South Carolina primary for bringing up an interview with Newt's ex-wife.  Newt was at his best—at once professorial, accusatory, self-righteous, vibrating with palpable emotion, and pandering to a cheering, equally angry audience.  Newt the giant slayer faced down the evil dragon of the left-wing, elitist media.  This was high political theatre, which mirrored a reality of our nation in 2012: there are a lot of angry people in America today and not just on the Right.

The sources of anger are many, and to a degree they reflect hard economic times.  In the political arena, there seem to be two major currents of anger and angst.  The tea party movement represents the right wing of our anger, and the occupy movement the left wing, although they are not mutually exclusive and both express the deep-seated feeling that things are not right with America.  At the heart of the occupy movement is the fact that income disparity is growing and has become a serious social ill.  We have a system where the rich are really, really raking in the dough while more and more families are falling into the dark well of poverty.  The tea party movement is a reaction to another fact, namely the "browning of America."  The social commentators love to  point out that we are rapidly becoming a majority of minorities and that soon enough white Americans will be but one more minority in a nation that used to be theirs.  Economic disparity and rapid social change create anger.

As a member of a gloriously "brown" family, my sympathies do not lie with the tea party nor do I share their fears.  That being said, we should all be painfully aware of the fact that anger and fear are not just emotions.  They are spiritual states as well, ones that have a profound impact on behavior and well-being—mostly a negative impact.  Angry people do angry things.  They cannot listen.  They find it impossible to compromise.  They provoke angry responses.  Demagogues pander to their fears in order to gain power.  Their anger thus poisons the political landscape in a way that makes it all but impossible to address the root causes of anger.  Their anger creates dangers that don't exist and enemies where there are none.

And when movements and politicians build their base on anger, they are doing exactly that thing that Jesus warned us not to do.  They are building their house on sand (Matthew 7:24-27), and as Jesus said, "The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!" (7:27).  Whether it be the tea party folks or the occupiers, if they cannot move beyond their anger to something positive and creative, their movements are doomed to failure, a failure that could have ugly ramifications for the whole nation.  Angry people habitually destroy the very things that matter most to them because anger, even if originally justified, always and rapidly turns destructive if not transformed into something positive.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

First Challenge - Mark 2:1-12 (xxiii)

Lion of St. Mark, Piazza San Marco, Venice
This posting is the 23rd in a series (originally written in 1998) looking at the Gospel of Mark from the perspective of a historian. The first posting in this series is (here).

This passage, Mark 2:1-12, contains the delightful story of the four friends who carried a paralytic to Jesus to be healed and had to break into the house through the roof. We should note here something modern day preachers never mention, namely that in Mark it was Jesus' own home they broke into. That puts an interesting twist on things. The story, more largely, highlights Jesus' deep compassion for human suffering. The commentaries point out that his compassion was focused primarily on spiritual rather than physical suffering, hence Jesus at first forgives the man's sins and only secondarily heals him physically.

One of the central themes of the Gospels concerning Jesus is the fact that he came into deep, eventually fatal tension with the over class. According to Mark, Jesus went out of his way to provoke that tension, as we can see in this story of Jesus' first confrontation with members of that class. In full view of these powerful individuals, Jesus makes statements that they couldn't possibly have judged other than blasphemous. Even so, they keep quiet, maybe because they were guests in Jesus' own home or maybe they feared speaking up in front of the crowd. So, Jesus doesn't leave well enough alone but brings the confrontation out into the open and criticizes the teachers of the Law in public and to their faces. Not only that, but he almost seems to heal the paralytic physically out of spite. It's as if he felt he had to do it or lose face. One could even accuse him of showing off.

Why would Jesus do this? Mark's Jesus is clearly a perceptive individual. He must have known the consequences of challenging the over class in this way. Was he betting he could ride this particular tiger? Did he think he had the crowd on his side and so could challenge power with impunity? That's hardly likely. Historians point out that there were plenty of messiahs running around in those years and that violent death was their common lot. Jesus was nobody's fool and only a fool would have thought he could get away with what Jesus was doing. Maybe Jesus was so overcome with compassion for the paralytic that he spoke without thinking. But, why would he then compound the mistake with an open critic of the teachers of the Law? On the face of it, Jesus knew exactly what he was doing and calculated that the possible advantages of challenging authority outweighed the risks involved.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Ideal Christian Life Re-examined - Mark 2:1 (xxii)

Lion of St. Mark, Piazza San Marco, Venice
This posting is the 22nd in a series (originally written in 1998) looking at the Gospel of Mark from the perspective of a historian. The first posting in this series is (here).

The idea that Jesus may have owned a home (see posting 21) and used it as a base for conducting his ministry is striking. It gives us an entirely different model for living the Christian life from that of Luke and Matthew, where Jesus is a classic wandering itinerant teacher and healer. The Jesus of Mark is a model much more reasonable and obtainable for the overwhelming majority of Christians who lead lives according to the ways of their society. The idea that Jesus had a home could also put the manner in which his earliest disciples just walked off to follow him in perspective (Mark 1:14-20). He called them to be his companions when he was on the road, not to leave their homes and families permanently.

New Testament historians point out that the early church included a class of wandering evangelists who dedicated their whole lives to their task. They were homeless. And their form of Christian ministry, as reflected in Matthew and Luke, became an important model for other Christians. There was, evidently, a certain amount of tension between the itinerants and the rest of the earlier church because the itinerants took themselves to be the "true followers' of Jesus. I'd like to offer the possibility that the author of Mark stood outside the itinerant tradition and used sources that reflected something more closely akin to the actual way in which Jesus worked. This is speculation. Only two things commend it: first, Mark points to it. Second, it's the way evangelists in Thailand conducted themselves, in conditions in the 19th century not entirely unlike those in which Jesus lived.

A couple of further thoughts. If Jesus had a house, he had to have an income of some sort for upkeep. Undoubtedly it was a small house and probably didn't cost much to maintain. (Utilities were really, really cheap in 1st century Galilee). Still, Jesus had to be involved in the everyday economic and social life of a neighborhood and a community. So, where did his income come from? It's also worth reflecting that a home-owning Jesus was more fully incarnate in his world than the no hole, no nest, and no home Jesus (Luke 9:58). It's fun to play with the idea that Jesus the Christ, the Fully God Second Person of the Trinity, owned a home. Finally, Mark changes our view of what it means to live a Christ-like life. If Jesus was a home owner, we are more (not less) challenged to live the Christian life within the every day structures of society. And living such a life can be an ideal Christian life, such as it can never be if we accept the homeless Jesus as our ideal.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Miracle Comes Through Us

The miracle of God comes not only from above; it also comes through us; it is also dwelling in us. It has been given to every person, and it lies in every soul as something divine, and it waits. Calling, it waits for the hour when the soul shall open itself, having found its God and its home. When this is so, the soul will not keep its wealth to itself, but will let it flow out into the world. Wherever love proceeds from us and becomes truth, the time is fulfilled.

Eberhard Arnold
Source: When the Time Was Fulfilled

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Jesus At Home - Mark 2:1 & 3:20 (xxi)

Lion of St. Mark, Piazza San Marco, Venice
This posting is the 21st in a series (originally written in 1998) looking at the Gospel of Mark from the perspective of a historian. The first posting in this series is (here).

The general image of Jesus is that he was a wandering, homeless itinerant who, unlike foxes and birds, had no place of his own to stay. Mark 2:1 appears to contradict that image, depending on which translation you read. Today's English Version (TEV) reads, "A few days later Jesus went back to Capernaum, and the news spread that he was at home." The New International Version's (NIV) translation agrees: "A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home." The New English Bible (NEB) and New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) also agree, but other translations are less clear. The Jerusalem Bible (JB) states, "When he returned to Capernaum some time later, word went around that he was back..." Still, apparently the majority of translators do agree that Jesus returned to his home in Capernaum after he'd been out teaching and healing for an indeterminate period of time. A second passing reference to Jesus' home in Mark seems to confirm this picture, although there the various translations are in less agreement. TEV still refers to Jesus' home, but the NIV says only that Jesus "entered a house." JB, interestingly enough, translates the Greek here as "home" and the American Standard Version (ASV) notes "home" as a variant reading for "house". Still, all of the major translations agree, either in 2:1 or 3:20, that Jesus had a home. Mark, furthermore, doesn't contain that famous statement by Jesus that foxes have holes and birds have nests but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest (Matthew 8:20, Luke 9:58).

So what? It seems to me to be no small matter that Jesus, if the author of Mark is right, wasn't a homeless itinerant preacher. He worked out of a home base. He apparently owned, in fact, a home. In 3:21, Jesus' family heard what was going on in his home, where large crowds had gathered to be healed, and they "set out to take charge of him." Clearly, Jesus wasn't living with his family, and his home was his own. IF this was the case, then Jesus apparently practiced a form of semi-itinerant ministry based out of his own home. More on this in the next installment.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Religion Can Be Dangerous

There is a pastor in Arizona who openly preaches his personal hatred of President Obama.  He claims that his hatred is righteous and uses passages from the Bible to prove it.  You can hear some of his venom from the Youtube clip, below.  It is no wonder that some claim religion is the greatest evil in our world today and no wonder many others are cynical about faith and the Bible.  What is paradoxical, however, is that a man who considers himself "pro-life," is so bent on visiting death on someone who doesn't agree with him.  There is nothing of Christ in this preacher's words, except maybe in the protests they have sparked as even neighboring businessmen challenge his loveless message.

And that is, perhaps, the importance of this kind of false prophet.  He and others like him remind us of what Christian faith is actually all about and what it means to follow Christ, the Prince of Peace.  "Whatever Christian faith is," he affords us the opportunity to say, "this is what it most definitely is not."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

FPC Log: Marks of a High Vitality Church (vii)

The windmills of Lewis County, NY
This is the seventh posting in an ongoing if intermittent series on First Presbyterian Church, Lowville, and the decline of mainline churches, which began (here).

In a research report entitled, "A Decade of Change In American Congregations 2000-2010." author David A. Rozen summarizes the findings of a series of local church surveys conducted from 2000 through 2010.  According to the data, churches with high vitality show the following characteristics:

  • they engage in innovative and contemporary worship;
  • they use a variety of technologies;
  • they actively engage in at least two "signature" mission projects or programs;
  • they have an absence of conflict;
  • they are able to change and innovate; and
  • they place an emphasis on spiritual practices.
By-and-large, the research found that evangelical churches are more likely to display these characteristics than what it calls "oldline" (mainline) churches.  In particular, it notes that oldline churches find it difficult to change and innovate because of dwindling resources and an aging membership, which is less able to adapt itself to changing times.  From all of the statistics contained in the report, one of the graphs that is most troubling is the one entitled, "Figure 29: Most Disconcerting! A Sharp Erosion of Spiritual Vitality."  It shows that the the percentage of congregations "with high spiritual vitality" in the U.S. dropped from 42.8% to 28.4% in just five years, from 2005 to 2010.

The study also reports that  during the years 2000-2010 American congregations showed continued growth in innovative, adaptive worship, rapid adoption of various technologies for church life, an increase in racial-ethnic churches esp. by immigrant groups, and an increase "in the breadth of both member-oriented and mission-oriented programs."   It also found, as we would expect, that there has been a "steep drop" in the financial health of local churches, a continuing high level of conflict, and an aging membership.  The report says in summary that overall there are fewer people attending worship and there is  "decreasing spiritual vitality."

A congregation in decline that seeks reverse its decline, in sum, is very much swimming against the current, which is not to say that churches cannot discover new life.  It is just not easy.  And, of course, high vitality does not in and of itself guarantee that a church will necessarily be able to fully reverse its decline.  Other factors, including geographical location, have to be figured into the equation.

Not every generation has to face such challenges.  Not every generation gets the chance to face them!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Irony of It All

Later this month, the newly formed evangelical-leaning Fellowship of Presbyterians is meeting in Orlando to decide how those who cannot accept the changes in the standards of ordination in PC(USA) are going to respond.  Those changes, of course, have removed the stated requirement that only candidates who are in a traditional ("straight") marriage or are celibate can be ordained in the Presbyterian Church.  It is expected that quite a few Fellowship Presbyterian clergy and churches will leave PC(USA) entirely and form in its place a "new Reformed body."

Why another denomination?  Why not join with one of the other conservative, evangelical Presbyterian bodies of which there are several?  As best as I can tell, one important reason is that the Fellowship includes significant numbers of ruling elders and teaching elders (clergy) who happen to be women.  Those other denominations mostly restrict if not forbid the ordination of women.  In fact, some of them left the Presbyterian Church over the issue of women's rights in the church.  So, Fellowship Presbyterians find that they have to set up their own denomination.  Is that not ironic?

It is ironic that ordained Presbyterian women are leaving our denomination over the question of its standards for ordination, not willing themselves to open ordination to those whose sexual orientation is not their own.  Less than two full generations ago, Presbyterians fought a protracted battle over the ordination of women, and many of those who opposed that change and lost left the denomination, which is what some ordained Fellowship women are doing now .  Women Presbyterians at that time faced the same situation that homosexual Presbyterians face today.  Women Presbyterians today have assumed a nearly full place in the life of our churches because of those who led the fight to make ours an inclusive church that does not practice discrimination against large classes of people whose condition is of no threat to anyone.

The irony?  Women who have been ordained in the PC(USA) are today able to walk away from the denomination because of its changed standards for ordination without regard for what earlier generations of Presbyterian women and men did for them.  That is as it should be.  They should not feel any obligation or debt to a denomination, which after all denied women full participation in our churches for many generations and only relatively recently righted an ancient wrong.  Still, it is a tribute to the denomination we have become that women can today become teaching and ruling elders and then leave it because they cannot accept homosexual ruling and teaching elders.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Holistic Medicine - Mark 1:40-45 (xx)

Lion of St. Mark, Piazza San Marco, Venice
This posting is the twentieth in a series (originally written in 1998) looking at the Gospel of Mark from the perspective of a historian. The first posting in this series is (here).

This passage contains another powerful image. A man with some kind of ugly, possibly leprous skin disease went to Jesus for healing. The man recognized Jesus' power to help him and asserted as much to Jesus. As Mark has it, Jesus felt pity (TEV, NRSV) or compassion (NIV) for the man, and said that he did want (very much, we feel from Mark's economical prose) to heal the man. And he did. Jesus then went an important step further, one that tells us about his socio-religious context and also shows how aware he was of it himself. Jesus instructed the man to go to the proper authorities and carry out the proper rituals so that he would be ritually purified as well as physically healed. Jesus, thus, didn't just cure the man, but he also liberated him from the oppressive social condition the physical deformity put him in. We need to constantly remember that illness wasn't a matter of being sick. The ill were ill because they'd displeased God. Their illness was, in a sense, karmic, and Jesus released them from that karma. Jesus, in sum, healed the man in three dimensions. Physically. Socially. Spiritually.

2012 comment: Over the years, this passage has become one of my favorite passages in the New Testament.  I was recently asked what passage in the gospels best describes Jesus, and I answered with this story.  It points to Jesus' compassion esp. for the people at the margins of society.  Still more importantly, it points to the effective way in which Jesus exercised that compassion.  It was only in the powerful event of the Resurrection that the disciples saw the full power of the Spirit working in Jesus, but it was in healing events like this one that we see the foreshadowing of the Resurrection.  Before Jesus experienced it himself, he resurrected people like this man from their living deaths thus showing himself to be a deep channel for the work of the Spirit.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Problem of Silence - Mark 1:40-45 (ixx)

Lion of St. Mark, Piazza San Marco, Venice
This posting is the nineteenth in a series (originally written in 1998) looking at the Gospel of Mark from the perspective of a historian. The first posting in this series is (here).

Mark 1:40-45 introduces us to a major puzzle (or headache, as the case may be) in Mark's Gospel. Why did Jesus tell the man he'd healed to keep quiet about the matter? This happens fairly frequently in Mark. Why? One can think up any number of reasons why Jesus might enjoin silence on those who proclaimed his name or praised him for his healing powers, but most of them don't make sense. For example, Jesus told people to keep quiet because he didn't want to get in trouble with the authorities. Trouble is, he kept doing highly provocative things in public venues where he knew his enemies were present. Why, then, would he bother to tell others to keep quiet? Or, again, maybe he thought the time wasn't "right" to be spreading word about himself. But, then, why did he start his ministry by proclaiming that the "right time" had come (Mark 1:15)? In this particular case, it's even more difficult to see why Jesus would tell the man to keep silent. Jesus must have cured skin diseases before this. He already had a reputation as a healer. So, why the silence? Some commentaries suggest that Jesus may have been wanting to avoid further crowds, but that seems so obviously futile that one wonders how a man as insightful as Jesus clearly was could have been so obtuse on this point. The commentators' proposed solution doesn't fit the gospel portrait.

The obvious answer to this puzzle is that this is a literary device. Mark's author progressively unveils a Jesus of power and authority, a man puzzling to others. His question is, "Who is this man?" Having Jesus enjoin silence at various points highlights the theme. The empirical Jesus didn't instruct people to be silent. The Marcan church, however, was going through its own process of discovering Jesus so that this literary device captures an important gospel truth. Jesus' identity wasn't obvious. It had to be discovered. The author's approach on this matter of silence, furthermore, would point to an important historical truth as well. The empirical Jesus was obviously a man, but there was also something about him that pointed beyond the human. The reader, if I'm correct, is then being invited on this gospel search for Jesus. This is all speculation, and certainly a case could be made that Jesus did enjoin silence on some people and spirits. The problem is that this forces his private words (to spirits and individuals) and his provocative public actions into contradiction with each other. Perhaps we have to conclude that we don't know if Jesus told people to keep quiet about him, but whether he did or not, it fits the author's purposes to have him do so and to emphasize the point.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Chronological Break - Mark 1:39-40 (xviii)

Lion of St. Mark, Piazza San Marco, Venice
This posting is the eighteenth in a series (originally written in 1998) looking at the Gospel of Mark from the perspective of a historian. The first posting in this series is (here).

Mark 1:21-38 is a chronological unit. It covers two days in Jesus' life. A Sabbath and the day after. In those two days, Jesus preached in the synagogue, healed a man there, healed Peter's mother-in-law, healed many others, and went off to a lonely place to pray. He stayed in Peter and Andrew's home. Now, if the author would only carry on with such careful chronicling of events, Mark would give us a good biography of Jesus. He doesn't.  In 1:39 Jesus goes off to preach and do exorcisms all over rural Galilee. At some indeterminate point thereafter a man suffering a "dreaded skin disease" (1:40, TEV) comes to see him. We've totally lost the thread of any chronology. This is no minor matter for the biographer of Jesus. On the one hand, it is highly unusual to have so much information about two days in the life of someone who lived 2,000 years ago. On the other hand, there's no way to fit them into a larger, credible sequence of events. And, we have the problem that the author puts things together sequentially by theme. There's no reason in the world why he might not have pasted these events together into two days. Mark provides important gospel data on Jesus. He doesn't have to stick to an empirical sequence of events to do so. We, therefore, can't be at all confident that these events actually happened on two actual days.

2012 comment: When working on a topic, one of the most important things a historian does is to establish a chronology, a timeline. It is vital to writing the history of anything to get the sequence of events correct. The point in this above posting from 1998 is that the author of Mark was not concerned with a proper sequence of events as such but rather with a proper presentation of Jesus as the Christ, the Risen One. The description of a "typical day in the ministry of Jesus," thus, fits right in with the author's purpose as well it should.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Most Pastors Reject Evolution

In a report entitled, "Protestant Pastors’ Views on Creation," LifeWay Research reports its findings on the attitudes of Protestant pastors concerning evolution. LifeWay researchers interviewed over 1,000 pastors across several denominations and found that 64% strongly disagreed with the statement that, "God used evolution to create people." Conversely, some 74% strongly agreed that, "Adam and Eve were literal people."  These figures varied by region of the nation with pastors in the Northeast more likely to agree that the human race is a product of evolution and disagree with the idea that there was a literal Adam and Eve.  Mainline pastors also were more likely to hold a positive view of evolution as were pastors who had a postgraduate education, but in all cases the majority of pastors across all regions, levels of education, and whether evangelical or mainline affirmed anti-evolution beliefs.  For a good summary of the report, see Ed Stetzer's LifeWay blog (here).

Now, evolution is what they call "settled science," which means that denying its reality is precisely the same as "not believing" in gravity or the "theory" of a heliocentric solar system.  The root cause of the rejection of evolution is, of course, the desire to preserve the "truth" of Genesis 1-2.  In any event, it is discouraging to see such larger numbers of Protestant pastors rejecting evolution—assuming of course that LifeWay's findings accurately represent the views of Protestant pastors.  Without accusing the report of being inaccurate, we might still wonder just a tad since LifeWay Research is an arm of the Southern Baptist Church, a strongly anti-evolutionary denomination.

Regular readers of Rom Phra Khun will have heard much of this from me before, but these statistics are worrisome for a number of reasons.  First, in their rejection of evolution the participants in the study reject the reality of Creation.  God creates the universe and life on Earth by means of evolution.  Evolution is God's plan for Creation.  Second, in rejecting the findings of settled science, the participants only serve to drive a wedge between the faith of the church and contemporary worldviews, the worldviews we must be able to speak to if we want to bring Christ to those who hold them.  In our age, the scientific view of the world is already dominate and will grow only more so.  The same pastors who reject evolution regularly avail themselves of the benefits of medical science, which is built on evolutionary principles.  They ignore the mountains upon mountains upon mountains beyond counting of scientific data confirming evolution, which could not possibly provide the coherent picture of the reality of evolution it does if it were built on a false foundation.  Third, in their zeal to affirm the Bible as the Word of God, these pastors stand always in danger of bibliolatry, the worship of the Bible in place of God.  The great modern form of idolatry is ideology, and bibliolatry is what we might call a "stealth-idolatry," a form of idolatry posing as theology.  The Bible is God's word written, which has been preserved for us from ancient times.  It's inspiration is in the manner in which it cogently tells the Story of God's gracious, holy history with humanity.  It is a story told through the medium of ancient worldviews and values many of which simply do not make sense in 2012, but the Story itself remains powerful.  Indeed, by clinging ideologically to some of those ancient worldviews we only manage to obscure the meaning of the Story for the 21st century and make it harder to tell it to the world today.

I'm shouting down a deep dark well.  I know.  But, from time to time it is important to shout down the well, if only to remember that there are many different paths to faith in Christ.  One need not reject settled science in order to be his follower.  In fact, we can affirm settled science as a repository of clues into the nature of God's plan for humanity and Creation, if only we have the wit and wisdom to read what our forbearers in the faith called, "The Book of Nature."  Amen.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Work of Christmas

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
  To find the lost,
  To heal the broken,
  To feed the hungry,
  To release the prisoner,
  To rebuild the nations,
  To bring peace among people,
  To make music in the heart.

Howard Thurman
Source: The Mood of Christmas

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Sign of the Times

Artist's depiction of the Bigelow Space Station (via Wikipedia)
In a news item entitled,  "Booking a Flight to Space, With Travel Insurance," The New York Times reports that commercial space flights will begin in 2012.  Interested travelers can already book a flight with one of several companies, and they will even be able eventually to get flight insurance.  It's a sign of the times and yet another indication of how much and rapidly the world is changing.  A flight with Virgin Galactic, however, will cost you $200,000 for a sub-orbital flight that includes just five minutes of weightlessness.  Even so, the company has a couple hundred people already signed up.  The article claims that by 2017 near-Earth flights are going to be common and routine—that's just five years from now!

The next step will be a commercial space station, and one company, Bigelow Aerospace, is already working on such a station, construction of which is supposed to begin in 2014 according to Wkipedia (here). According to space.com (here), two Russian aerospace companies are working jointly on another project to put a commercial space station in orbit in 2015 or 2016. Which is to say, that in five years when commercial space flights become common, the companies involved will likely be able to offer customers not only the experience of space flight but actual places to go to as well.  A sign of the times, indeed.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mark Series - A Digression (xvii)

Lion of St. Mark, Piazza San Marco, Venice
This posting is the seventeenth in a series looking at the Gospel of Mark from the perspective of a historian. The first posting in this series is (here).

As regular readers know, I originally wrote this series on Mark back in 1998, and at the time I was more-or-less stumbling alone in the dark trying to make sense of the historicity of the gospel.  I was working as a church historian in Thailand and doing a good deal of oral history interviewing.  I was struck by how similar the  Gospel of Mark was to the kind of data I was collecting, and used these snippets that I am now posting on Rom Phra Khun to try to work out my church historian's instinct about Mark.  I wish I had had access to some of the work now being done on the gospels as historical literature—for example, the video below.

There is a video of a lecture delivered by Dr. Peter Williams in March 2011 as part of "The Lanier Library Lecture Series," that is appearing on various church-based blogs, which discusses some of the evidence for the reliability of the four gospels as historical sources.  William's argument is that the gospels consistently reflect basic elements of Jesus' first century Jewish culture accurately to such a degree that their contents could only have originated with eyewitnesses who were a part of that culture.  It is impossible to believe, he argues, that the gospel writers could have "made up" the stories they recount because the details in them always reflect the real world of the stories' day and age.  It is also impossible to believe that the stories, such as of Jesus' miracles, "grew in the telling" over a period of time because the cultural details in those stories reflect precisely the time of Jesus himself.  It is an entertaining lecture and well-worth the time spent listening to it, if one is interested in the question of the historicity of the gospels in general and Mark in particular.  Here it is:

Monday, January 9, 2012

Another New Posting at Rom Phra Khun Reviews

The twelfth and final installment of my reflections on a recent theological position paper posted by the Fellowship of Presbyterians has just been posted at Rom Phra Khun Reviews.

He Prayed - Mark 1:35-39 (xvi)

Lion of St. Mark, Piazza San Marco, Venice
This posting is the sixteenth in a series (originally written in 1998) looking at the Gospel of Mark from the perspective of a historian. The first posting in this series is (here).

Mark 1:35-39 is an incredible passage. It affords a glimpse of the empirical Jesus that two thousands years of Christian piety has increasingly obscured and even denied. One, Jesus had just spent, according to Mark, a long day intensely involved in peoples' sufferings. Jesus believed that he'd also confronted demonic powers. So, the next morning he went off to a lonely (TEV) or solitary (NIV) or deserted (NRSV) place. Mark doesn't say a word about fatigue, but the sense of it is there. Two, this human Jesus prays. It seems significant that Matthew doesn't report this incident at all and that in Luke (4:42-44) Jesus doesn't pray. A Jesus who prays contradicts the view of high christology, which may already have been current in Luke's time. If Jesus was divine why would he pray to the divine? The way Mark's author treats Jesus, as we've noted before, places Jesus in a position clearly subordinate to God and emphasizes Jesus' human qualities. Three, another difference between Mark and Luke is that in Luke 4 the crowd pursues Jesus, but in Mark 1 it's Peter "and his companions" who go looking for him. This seems more plausible historically. They knew Jesus and probably guessed where he'd gone off to. It suggests that the disciples had a somewhat complex role, and that they sometimes acted not only as Jesus' representative to the people but also as spokespersons for the people as well. They also appear somewhat insensitive to Jesus' personal spiritual needs. One has the feeling that they broke in on his prayers. There's even a bit of an accusatory tone here, as if Jesus shouldn't be wasting his time off by himself when there was so much need to be met. You can almost feel the pressure on Jesus, not only from the expectations of the populace but also from those of his friends.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Minor Detail of Some Importance - Mark 1:29-30 (xv)

Lion of St. Mark, Piazza San Marco, Venice
This posting is the fifteenth in a series (originally written in 1998) looking at the Gospel of Mark from the perspective of a historian. The first posting in this series is (here).

Commentators note that Mark has a terse, sparse literary style. The author doesn't give us very much information in his stories. The story of the healing of Peter's mother-in-law is no exception. That's why it's fascinating that the author does give us some historical detail. This healing took place in Peter and Andrew's home, which suggests that the disciples didn't entirely "down tools" and leave everything behind. They, at least, still frequented their homes. Even more interesting is the fact that Jesus' healed Peter's mother-in-law. Nothing in the story requires that little detail, and Mark's healing episodes seldom contain such personal information. Now, if the author had either an oral tradition or an oral history source, this is about as much information as we could expect. Oral history interviews seldom illicit precise details, because people forget much of that "background stuff." They remember (and often disremember) a few salient points that stuck in their memory. This passage "feels" like that same type of thing. Because of the personal details of location and person healed, I'd almost bet this story came from one of the participants or someone who heard the story from a participant. It might be second hand, but I doubt if it would be any more distant from the event than that. It's entirely possible, then, that this event took place in the "real" world of the empirical past and that the author received his information many years later from an oral source close to the event.

2012 Comment: I should probably explain that at the time I wrote these reflections on Mark from a historian's perspective, I was employed by the Church of Christ in Thailand as head of its Office of History and spent some thousands of hours interviewing church folks about their church's history. Most of my work but not all of it was focused on churches in northern Thailand. It was the similarity between what I read in the Gospel of Mark and what I experienced in my work as a historian that led to these postings in the first place.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Ecclesiastical Roots of European Socialism

Here in the U.S. the political Right regularly bashes the Left for being "socialists" threatening to take us in the direction of the European brand of supposedly oppressive state socialism.  Various Republican candidates thus lambast the President for trying to take us down the path of "European socialism."  The so-called Christian Right adds the term godless to oppressive.  In their lexicon, socialism is godless and anti-Christian.

Here's another take on the relationship of European socialism to the church.  Peter Berger, Grace Davie, & Effie Fokas suggest in their book, Religious America, Secular Europe? (Ashgate, 2008), that one key source of European welfare states is in their experience with state churches.  The idea that the state should care for its citizens, that is, comes "naturally" because European governments used to be in the religion business.  They had state churches.  In the past, they associated the state with priest or pastor, church, litrugy, and hierarchy as well as with politicians and government.  For Americans, that is a negative association, but for many Europeans even today it is not.  They don't go to church much in places like Sweden, but they still cherish Sweden's Lutheran heritage.

It's a thought worth pausing over.  The roots of European socialism could well be in the church.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Another Look on the Bright Side of "Big Government"

A FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Task Force
It's not that big government is all that wonderful and perfect, but at the same time it does things that we need to have done—and sometimes actually does them pretty well.  A year's end Washington Post posting entitled, "Some things the government got right in 2011," lists four federal programs that "got it right" in 2011 including FEMA's disaster response efforts, the White House's attempts to cut wasteful spending, the federal government's better response time to Freedom of Information requests, and better Federal hiring practices that have led to a shorter time between posting a position and hiring someone to fill it.

For government to work well for us, it needs sufficient funding and wise management.  The solution for improved government is not knee-jerk spending cuts but rather better oversight.  That's not to say the government can't stand some spending cuts, but they have to be done wisely and with the aim of strengthening the work of government over all.  And that's a prayer.  Amen.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Another New Posting at Rom Phra Khun Reviews

The eleventh installment of my reflections on a recent theological position paper posted by the Fellowship of Presbyterians has just been posted at Rom Phra Khun Reviews.

Post-Advent Thoughts on Preaching Christ at Christmas

In light of the fact that Christmas as we celebrate it today has little to do with Christ (see "Christmas Ambivalence"), one of the tasks of a preacher at Christmas time is to put some distance between Christmas and the birth stories in Matthew & Luke.  Those stories tell a very different tale (see "Putting Christ in Christmas"). Rom Phra Khun readers who would like to pursue this might take a look at a recent posting by the British New Testament scholar, N. T. Wright, entitled, "The most dangerous baby."  Commenting on the story of the angels singing to the shepherds, for example, Wright concludes that, "Suddenly, Luke's scene ceases to be a romantic pastoral idyll, with the rustic shepherds paying homage to the infant King. It becomes a clear statement of two kingdoms destined to compete, kingdoms that offer radically different definitions of what peace and power and glory are all about."

The preacher's unenviable task at Christmas, then, is to separate the Christ of the gospel stories who was destined for the cross from the sweet baby who beneficently blesses our mundane social holiday of good cheer, which drives the economic engine of the nation.  The point is not to preach against Christmas, but to take the opportunity to remind parishioners and Christmas drop-ins that the gospels tell a very different story from the one they think it tells.  Amen.

Top Ten Presbyterian Stories of 2011

In case you are interested, The Presbyterian Outlook website has posted an article entitled, "TOP 10 Presbyterian stories from 2011." As was to be expected, the top story of the year was PC(USA)'s change in ordination standards, which no longer mandate traditional marriage or celibacy as standards for ordination to the called ministries of the denomination.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Healing Touch - Mark 1:29-31 (xiv)

Lion of St. Mark, Piazza San Marco, Venice
This posting is the fourteenth in a series (originally written in 1998) looking at the Gospel of Mark from the perspective of a historian. The first posting in this series is (here).

According to Mark 1:29-31, Peter's mother-in-law was ill with a fever. Jesus and the disciples visited her home. Jesus took her by the hand and she was healed. The image created by this episode is a striking one that points to Jesus' power of healing. The story itself doesn't explicitly claim a miracle, and we could imagine a situation in which a person with the aches and pains of a low grade fever could have taken to bed and, then, found healing comfort and strength in Jesus' presence and felt better. We could also argue that Mark seems to constantly compress events into shorter-than-life time frames. Maybe Jesus actually took time to tend to her fever and in the process she got better. Beyond such speculations, the author's point seems obvious but also important. Jesus had a power for healing. His touch was healing. We glimpse here the profound impression Jesus made on those around him. We sense, as well, his compassion for others.

We should also remember the spiritual implications of his healing. Jewish ideology held that the ill were deservedly so. They'd done something to displease God. For Jesus to heal people then wasn't only a matter of bringing physical comfort to them, as important as that was. He was also reconciling God to people who believed they were living under divine judgment and punishment. In a world hardened to human suffering and divine wrath, Jesus of Nazareth must have been an incredible person, indeed.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

God's Holy & Amazing Messenger - Mark 1:21-28 (xiii)

Lion of St. Mark, Piazza San Marco, Venice
This posting is the thirteenth in a series (originally written in 1998) looking at the Gospel of Mark from the perspective of a historian. The first posting in this series is (here).

This passage makes two declarations about Jesus, one human and one demonic. Jesus' human auditors were amazed by him. First because of the authoritative manner in which he taught. Second, because of his authority over evil spirits. The human view of Jesus contains no hint that Jesus was anything other than a highly unusual individual, a teacher and exorcist of notable authority. It's an evil spirit that recognizes in Jesus something greater. Most versions have the demon declaring that Jesus is the "Holy One of God," but the Today's English Version (TEV) translates the Greek as "God's holy messenger." The TEV makes explicit what's implied in the other translations, namely that Jesus is of God, but subordinate to God. Jesus is "set apart" (holy). Mark, again, associates Jesus with God but doesn't state he's divine. Jesus is under the power of God and, if the TEV is a proper translation of the Greek, a prophetic figure.

It seems significant that Mark puts the declaration of Jesus' "semi-divinity" or divine associations in the mouth of a non-temporal, spirit-world being. Things about Jesus were apparent to the spirit-world that weren't evident in the human world. (This seems even more clearly expressed in Mark 1:34). In a sense, Mark here acknowledges that the gospel Jesus isn't the same as the historical Jesus. The historical Jesus was a man of authority and skill. The gospel Jesus is a man and more than a man. The author of Mark may not have had the words and concepts to express that "more-ness", but already just a generation after Jesus he was groping towards an understanding of Jesus that would ultimately make of Jesus the Second Person of the Trinity. I'd emphasize, however, that the Gospel of Mark isn't Trinitarian. Jesus, here, is fully human. He isn't fully God. The fact that Mark seems to make a distinction between human and extra-human perceptions of Jesus is hopeful from a historian's point of view. It suggests that the author probably was at least somewhat sensitive to the distinction between theological and non-theological interpretations of Jesus. He might be less likely to mask the human Jesus with a divine overlay.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Another New Posting at Rom Phra Khun Reviews

The tenth installment of my reflections on a recent theological position paper posted by the Fellowship of Presbyterians has just been posted at Rom Phra Khun Reviews.

Further Speculation on Mark's Sources (xii)

Lion of St. Mark, Piazza San Marco, Venice
This posting is the twelfth in a series (originally written in 1998) looking at the Gospel of Mark from the perspective of a historian. The first posting in this series is (here).

From a historian's perspective, the issue of Mark's sources requires constant attention. It's a serious frustration to the historical study of Jesus that the Gospels' evidential base is so obscure. It seems possible to me, however, that Mark's author does give us a hint as to his sources. From the time Jesus called his first four disciples (Mark 1:14-20), the author constantly reminds his readers of the presence of the disciples. They were, as the author tells it, Jesus' constant companions. Is the author of Mark reminding his readers of his "ultimate" source? Can we assume that the author believed his sources were derived from the disciples? That's possible. It at least presents us with the possibility that this gospel rests on fairly solid evidential ground and included sources close to the actual events of Jesus' life and ministry. It's even possible that if a historian had had these same sources she could have written a credible biography of Jesus. That's pure speculation, but it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility either.

My own sense is that the author of Mark had good sources for his purposes, which was to tell the gospel truth about Jesus. We should constantly remind ourselves that gospel truth doesn't necessarily contradict historical truth. It just doesn't pay attention to historical issues. In other words, there lurks in the gospel truth about Jesus data for the historian, data obscured by gospel conventions and concerns but valid data none the less. That data, finally, comes from eye witnesses, though not directly or "purely" so.

2012 Comment: I've referred in these additional comments to Richard Bauckham's book, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony.  I suspect that Bauckham would reply to my 1998 commentary above by saying that the historical data only seems to be "obscured by gospel conventions and concerns" because we moderns are ignorant of how history was written in the first century.  The mention of the disciples is important because in that day it meant that the disciples and other contemporaries of Jesus were the sources for the gospels.  That is the way ancient historians and biographers handled citations, footnotes if you will.  Bauckham also contends that the historical data used by the gospel writers does indeed come directly from the eyewitnesses, although sometimes through the memories of people the eyewitnesses told their stories to.  The point is that according to Bauckham when we read the gospels we are reading an ancient form of historical literature complete with proper citations—we just don't recognize the conventions, that's all.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

I would like to take this opportunity to wish the readers of Rom Phra Khun a blessed 2012.
Peace, Joy, & Hope be with you & yours in the coming year.  Amen.