Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests (John 18)

John chapter 18 tells the story of Jesus's betrayal, capture, and some of what followed. Did Judas identify Jesus with a kiss? I would say yes, he did, but John failed to mention that detail. So Jesus does identify himself, and as soon as he says, "I am he," the soldiers fall over, perhaps implying some sort of power to Jesus's voice. Peter draws a sword and strikes a servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. It's neen suggested that this indicates Peter went for the easiest target and hit him while he was walking away. Jesus rebukes Peter, and the soldiers take Jesus away.

Was Jesus taken to Caiaphas or Annas first? There is something tricky going on here because of the nature of the relationship between these two priests. It's actually known somehow historically that Annas was the high priest, but Rome wasn't happy with him for some reason, so they forced the Jews to choose a new high priest, who was Caiaphas. However, a lot of the Jews still thought of Annas as the high priest, and he still had some authority. (This also explains the oddity in verse 19 of Annas being called the high priest: there were sort of two. See Luke 3:2) So when the gospels say Jesus was taken to the high priest without specification, it could be either man. Matthew does indeed specify Caiaphas, but none of the gospels besides John's mentions stopping by Annas at all; as John was the one Apostle who followed Jesus closely that night, it makes sense that John would have more details. What is a more interesting discrepancy is the fact that only one gospel mentions visiting Herod, and it's not John.

There are a lot of oddities to Jesus's trial that are actually illegal. Trials can't be at night; the accused cannot be made to testify against himself; in a capital trial, two witnesses are needed; and just as a cherry on top from the other gospels, the high priest is not allowed to tear his clothes. To whom did Peter deny knowing Jesus? Yeah, there's no real way to get around this one; the gospels are very mixed up on the details of this aspect of the story, and I have no idea why.

Did Jesus have secret teachings? I think it's fairly straightforward to reconcile these verses. While Jesus explained the parables to his disciples, the parables themselves were not secret, and while Jesus kept his full identity a secret at the beginning of his ministry, he eventually went very public about it. As for the transfiguration, yesn that was secret, but there were no teachings involved. In short, everything Jesus had to say about himself he eventually said in public, and even in front of the Pharisees.

When (on what day) was Jesus crucified? This is an easy one, if you know Jewish custom. As I mentioned in another post, Passover is seven days long. What I didn't mention, but probably should have, is that there is a feast on both the first and second night. So the Passover meal talked about in John is the second one. The SAB makes note of the fact that Jesus here has a fairly detailed conversation with Pilate, although Matthew says Jesus said virtually nothing. It is interesting, and I wonder why it's not simply marked as a contradiction, since it's arguably so. Oh, it is, and I somehow missed it. Well, I don't have an answer anyway. Pilate asks Jesus, "What is truth?" which, as the SAB notes, is a good question, but it's probably noted for its irony, because Jesus said, "I am the truth..." Pilate offers to set free a prisoner, as is apparently the custom on Passover. He thinks the crowd will choose Jesus, but they choose Barabbas. ("Barabbas" is Aramaic for "son of the father" which some people have suggested may be meaningful. )

Monday, July 24, 2023

Ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 17)

John chapter 17 has Jesus closing his speech with a prayer. There is a lot of stuff marked as absurd in this chapter that, as is so often the case, I don't understand. I answered how many gods there are in John chapter ten. Verse 12 has Jesus say that Judas is a fulfillment of scripture, and the Christian consensus seems to be that he's referring to Psalm 41:9-10
Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me. But thou, O LORD, be merciful unto me, and raise me up, that I may requite them.
In verse 21, Jesus prays that all that believe in him should be one, which the SAB makes fun of, and there certainly is basis for it, but I think it may be a bit overblown. Yes, there are probably thousands of Christian denominations in the world today, but that doesn't necessarily mean such radical division as some might think. A lot of denominations are different like flavors of ice cream; just because I'm a Baptist and that guy over there is a Lutheran doesn't mean we don't basically agree on most things; denominations are largely about what sort of worship style you like, and how you feel about church hierarchies, rather than being about essential doctrines of the faith. I mean, sometimes I'm struck by how much I have in common theologically with a Muslim, much less someone simply of a different denomination. I have brothers in Christ who are Orthodox, Catholic, Presbyterian, Anglican, Methodist, Lutheran, etc. and I don't see them as essentially different from me. Yes, there are conflicts between Christians and even conflicts between churches, but in the end, most of us recognize that Christians are Christians, and if we're called to show God's love for the world, that certainly includes other Christians.

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter (John 16)

John chapter 16 and Jesus is still talking. He talks about the upcoming persecution of Christians, which of course in the first several centuries of Christianity was a major thing. Actually, Christians are persecuted up until this day, although American Christians tend to have a twisted idea of what persecution means. (People got angry at me because I wouldn't bake a cake for a same-sex wedding! I'm so persecuted!)

Anyway, I already answered the question of whether the Apostles asked where Jesus was going in chapter 13. I answered the question of who sent the Holy Ghost in chapter 14. I answered who the lord of the earth is in chapter 12. I answered whether Jesus told his disciples everything in chapter 15.

Apparently, although the Apostles aren't asking where Jesus is going, they are still confused. Jesus senses their confusion and tells them that while they will be sad at first, their sadness will turn to joy; he takes a metaphor of a woman in childbirth, who has to go through pain on the way to joy. I addressed the issue of blank check prayers in chapter 14.

Jesus says that while he has talked a lot in metaphor, he is going to speak plainly; the Apostles essentially thank him and say that they understand, and know that Jesus knows everything. Did Jesus know everything? It's an interesting question, because Jesus is supposedly God, and God is supposedly omniscient, but was Jesus? Interestingly, the answer is no, but there is definitely some need for clarification. First, the verse from Mark 13 is Jesus admitting that there is something he doesn't know, although it's not explained why. It's important to note that while Jesus is admitting not knowing when the end of the world will be, that certainly doesn't mean he'll never know. It's assumed by most Christians that there was some limit imposed on Jesus's omniscience while he was on earth for some reason, but he was omniscient once he ascended, if not immediately after his resurrection. So two of the verses in the yes section are people saying that Jesus knew everything, but they may have been wrong. The third one was written by Paul after Jesus's ascension. In the no section, the fact that Jesus asked a question doesn't mean he didn't already know the answer (I touched on this in addressing God's omniscience in Genesis three), and the fact that he "marvelled" doesn't mean he was surprised, so while Jesus was not omniscient, it doesn't mean he didn't know these things.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

He that loveth another hath fulfilled the law (John 15)

John chapter 15 opens with Jesus's "I am the vine" speech. This is a very popular one among Christians, at least in my experience. He uses the metaphor of being a vine and believers being branches, and if they stay connected, they will bear fruit. Jesus also talks about branches that are not connected being removed and burned up, which the SAB chooses to take much more literally than I think it was intended; it's a metaphor. Jesus also repeats what he said before about prayers being answered, which I addressed in the last chapter. Jesus commands his disciples to love each other, which the SAB makes an insightful comment on: if Jesus is saying love everyone, this is great, but so many people take it to mean only love Christians who are like you, which is sad indeed.

Did Jesus tell his disciples everything? Yeah, on the face of it, with these verses coming in this order, it sounds like a contradiction. I think the likely resolution is that when Jesus says here in chapter 15 that he told them "all things that I have heard of my Father" he means that he's told them everything they need to know at this time; I mean, it doesn't actually say "everything". I think there are things that they are only going to fully understand after Jesus is resurrected.

In verse 23, Jesus says, "He that hateth me hateth my Father also." The SAB rightly interprets this to mean if you hate Jesus, you therefore hate God, and calls it intolerant, noting that Luther used this verse as an excuse for antisemitism. I think this is unfortunate, and it's not meant to be that way. I don't think Jesus is saying you can't love God without loving Jesus, but rather that those who fully understand who Jesus was and hate him for it are hating God. Yeah, it's a fine line, but I nonetheless feel it's important.

I already addressed who sent the Holy Ghost in the last chapter.

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven (John 14)

John chapter 14 continues Jesus's parting message to the Apostles. He talks a lot about Heaven and the Holy Ghost. Speaking of Heaven, When was heaven created? The verses on this page are talking about different things. "In the beginning" and "when the earth was created" are the same time. As I'm pretty sure I mentioned in Genesis somewhere, the Jews believed in three "heavens": the atmosphere, outer space, and the dwelling place of God (in 2Corinthians 12:2 Paul talks about being "caught up to the third heaven"). Now here in John 14, Jesus is not talking about creating Heaven, but essentially preparing it for guests in some way. Theologically, up until now, nobody has been in Heaven but God and his angels.

I just talked about the disciples asking where Jesus was going in the previous chapter. The SAB marks Jesus's claim to be the only way to Heaven as intolerant, and while I suppose it may be, if it's the truth, it's the truth. Now of course there are Christians who believe in universal salvation, and they would say everyone gets to Heaven because Jesus died for the sin of the world, which is certainly possible, but seems unlikely given other things Jesus says. Jesus says, "if you have seen me you have seen the Father," prompting the SAB to ask, "Can God be seen?" (which I answered in John chapter one) and "Is Jesus God?" (which I answered in another post in John one).

Jesus says, "whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do." This the SAB calls, "The greatest lie ever told." Now I understand why someone would think that, because on the straightforward fully literal sense, it's not true. Once again, I don't think it's saying what the SAB thinks it's saying. The phrase "in my name" doesn't mean, "If you tack the name Jesus onto the end of any prayer, your wish will be magically granted." Rather, as I've discussed before, a person's "name" is like their reputation, and in Jesus's case--and here in this verse--it means the essence of who Jesus is. The point here, and I know skeptics are going to call it a cop-out, is that if you ask for something that aligns with God's will, you will see your prayer answered.

Will Jesus's second coming be visible to all? I don't think this is really a contradiction. Once again, this is a matter of taking "no more" to be a more absolute statement than Jesus is meaning it to be. I think it suffices to say that nobody living at the time Jesus spoke those words would see Jesus again on earth after his ascension. Who sent the Holy Ghost? Again, not a contradiction; both Jesus and the Father sent him.

Is Jesus peaceful? I'm sure I covered this somewhere in one of the other gospels, but yes, these verses can be confusing. Let me clear up a handful that don't really belong here. The Matthew 26 and Luke 22 passages are not about peace or war, but are simply about self-defense; in the Luke passage, Jesus suggests the Apostles should arm themselves, because they will likely find themselves in danger after Jesus is gone, and in Matthew, Jesus is just telling Peter to let things unfold as peacefully as possible rather than starting a fight he can't win. As for the rest, the peace that Jesus brought to earth was peace between man and God by taking away the sin of the world. However people who accept this peace will often find themselves in struggle against those who do not accept it. And of course, in the Revelation passage, there is a literal war, with Jesus as the commander-in-chief of one side.

"Is Jesus God?" and "Who is the Lord of the earth?" are questions I answered in John chapter one and John chapter 12 respectively.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings (John 13)

John chapter 13 opens with Jesus washing the Apostles' feet. This is a very touching scene, because this task would usually be done by a servant, so Jesus, now apparently on the day before his death, shows himself to be a servant of his disciples, which is generally a radical reversal of tradition. The SAB marks this as absurd, along with a few other things in the chapter, but I'm not sure why this one. If it's supposedly absurd for Jesus to do such a menial task, then it's right on target and gets the point. If it's absurd that Jesus strips down before doing it, I don't see why; he probably wanted to keep his clothes clean. Anyway, when he gets to Peter, they have an exchange of words in which Peter refuses to have his feet washed, Jesus tells him that it's necessary, Peter says Jesus should wash his hands and face, and Jesus says after bathing only feet need to be washed. I have heard a lot of Christians look for deeper meaning in this exchange, but I think Jesus is just plain talking about dirt; if you take a bath in the river and then walk back to the house, really only your feet are going to be dirty. (Okay, there is a touch of deeper meaning that John explains in verse 11, the implication that Judas is not clean because he was planning to betray Jesus.) Jesus puts his clothes back on and talks to the Apostles about what he did, explaining that as he acted like a servant to them, so they should act as servants to the other believers in the future. There are actually churches who take this literally and practice feet washing. I believe the Pope actually washes the feet of twelve people just before Easter every year; recently there was a story about Pope Francis choosing to wash the feet of twelve Muslim refugees as a gesture of interfaith goodwill and a heart for refugees. I'm not a Catholic, but I really like Pope Francis.

So then apparently John skips forward a bit towards the end of the Passover meal (it's easier to tell from context in the other gospels when this happens) and Jesus is talking about his betrayal. He speaks of Psalm 41:9 as prophecy, and the SAB brings up a couple points about the context of that Psalm. Jesus of course hasn't sinned against God the Father, so if the whole psalm is supposed to be prophetic, perhaps verse four speaks about Peter? As for having an "evil disease" people were just saying of Jesus that he was demon possessed, so that could certainly fit.

The SAB makes some allusion to John and Jesus being so close as a possibility once again for Jesus being gay. John is lying against Jesus's chest for a while here, and as I said back in 1Samuel where I was talking about David and Jonathan, it's not uncommon in other cultures for two heterosexual men who are good friends to be affectionate towards each other. I find it funny that America, where we're tolerant enough of homosexuality that we legalized same-sex marriage (as we should--it's not the government's job to say who we can marry or what consenting adults do in their own homes), is so homophobic that we see two men hugging and assume they are gay. Virtually everywhere else, men are affectionate.

When did Satan enter Judas? the SAB asks as Jesus reveals to John who the betrayer is. This is not a contradiction if you can accept that Satan enters into Judas more than once. Satan enters into Judas in Luke 22 when Judas decides to see what he can get for betrayal of Jesus, and enters into Judas again when he actually goes to commit the act. I really wanted to follow up with the discussion from a few posts ago about Jesus supposedly committing suicide. One should note that while the Pharisees wanted to kill Jesus, they didn't want to do it at Passover. Matthew 26:3-5
Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people.
So Jesus knows they don't want to get him during Passover, but in this passage, we see him force the matter: right after talking about being betrayed, he hands food to Judas, saying, "That thou doest, do quickly." Jesus is telling Judas, I know you're going to betray me; do it now. Jesus wants to be betrayed and killed during Passover (which lasts for seven days) for a few reasons. First, he wants to fulfill prophecy and become the ultimate Passover lamb, or as John the Baptist put it in John 1:29, "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." Secondly, and related, Jesus wants to be killed by the Romans, so he will be crucified, as this fulfills scripture again (and his own prophecies about his death), and as the Passover lamb, his bones are not broken (if the Jews killed him, they would have stoned him to death, which certainly would have broken bones)(see also John 19:33). Why does dying during Passover mean that the Romans kill him? John 18:31-32
Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death: That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die.
Some have incorrectly assumed this meant that the Jews weren't allowed to put someone to death under Roman law, but note that they already tried to kill Jesus several times, and did kill Stephen in the Book of Acts. No, what's not lawful is touching a dead body during Passover (see Numbers 6:9). In the end, Jesus is carefully controlling the manner and timing of his death.

The SAB marks verse 35 as absurd, and you have to admit that historically, "love" hasn't been the hallmark of self-professed "Christians." Perhaps it's a sign that they weren't? There certainly are a lot of present-day "Christians" I question.

Did any of the apostles ask Jesus where he was going? Yes, but apparently by chapter 16, they had stopped asking. Did Jesus say before the cock crow or before the cock crows twice? I guess this is a genuine contradiction, but what difference does it really make? I mean the cock has to crow if it's going to crow twice.

Saturday, July 08, 2023

And they brought the colt to Jesus (John 12)

Okay, John chapter twelve opens with Jesus being anointed by Mary. The SAB compares this story with one in the other gospels, but I think if you look at the details, it's two different anointings. In this story, we're told the anointer is Mary, while in the other, it's a nameless woman who is a "sinner" (I think it may be implied that she is a prostitute). In this story, Jesus is at the house of Lazarus, while in the other he is at the house of Simon "the leper" (probably a former leper that Jesus healed). In this story, it's six days before Passover, while in the other, it's two days before. In this story, there's no mention of what sort of vessel Mary had the ointment in, while in the other, they specify an alabaster box.

Is it OK to use perfume? Wow, a lot of the SAB's supposed contradictions are insightful, but this is a reach. The answer is yes, it is okay. The Exodus 30 verse is crystal clear in context that it's talking about a specific perfume; the one described in the previous two verses is specified to be for ceremonial use only, and not personal use. The Proverbs 7 passage is saying that prostitutes use perfume, but doesn't in any way say only prostitutes use it. I don't know entirely what the point of the Isaiah verses is, but they certainly don't say not to use perfume. This really is a non-issue.

Anyway, Judas complains that the perfume was worth about a year's worth of wages, and it could have been sold to help the poor. The Bible notes that Judas didn't really care about the poor, but rather was in charge of holding the money bag for the group, and often stole from it for himself. Jesus says an interesting thing here, "the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always." It dounds a bit calloused, and indeed it's sort of strange that Jesus, who often taught about helping the poor, would say it, but keep in mind, Jesus has about a week to live. This is actually a rather unfortunate verse in the Bible that I have actually heard "Christians" quote to justify not helping the poor.

So the next day, Jesus rides into Jerusalem, but the SAB asks, On what did Jesus ride into Jerusalem? This seems like a contradiction, but it's just that the different gospel writers used different words for the same thing. Jesus rode on the colt of an ass. Saying he rode on a colt or an ass essentially means the same thing, and saying that he rode on both is just saying the colt's mother was there; obviously he didn't ride on two things at once. The SAB also questions whether this truly fulfilled the prophecy quoted in verse 15. While he fulfilled that specific verse, the SAB claims, "But this can't be since the person referred to in Zechariah (see verses 10-13) was both a military leader and the king of an earthly kingdom." Let's see those verses:
9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. Be glad and shout, people of Jerusalem, because your king comes to you, humble and riding on a young donkey.
10 And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth.
11 As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.
12 Turn you to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope: even to day do I declare that I will render double unto thee;
13 When I have bent Judah for me, filled the bow with Ephraim, and raised up thy sons, O Zion, against thy sons, O Greece, and made thee as the sword of a mighty man.
I think I don't see the military thing, as verse 10 talks about peace; nonetheless, there is a concept that is pretty consistent in the New Testament of "spiritual warfare" which is to say that there is always a battle going on in the spiritual realm between good and bad (actually, there are elements of this concept in the Old Testament, too). It's also known that it's symbolic that when a military leader rides into a city on a stallion, he's coming for war, but when he rides on a colt, he's coming in peace. As for an earthly kingdom, the book of Revelation says some things similar to this, implying that at Jesus's second coming, he will have a kingdom on earth.

After riding into Jerusalem, Jesus makes a speech. In the speech, he says something about seeds "dying" that the SAB takes issue with. I vaguely recall addressing this somewhere before, but I have no idea where that would have been. Yes, technically seeds don't "die", but they have the appearance of not being alive and need to be buried in the ground to grow (most of them, anyway) so speaking metaphorically, I think this makes sense. In verse 27, Jesus says something that prompts the SAB to ask, Did Jesus ask God to save him from crucifixion? I'd have to say at most, this is another instance of Jesus lying, which is not a contradiction, but it's probably worth examining the other verses where Jesus seems to contradict himself. Yes, Jesus says, "if it be possible, let this cup pass from me," but Jesus knows it's not possible to avoid crucifixion and fulfill God's will, so he follows with, "nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." Although Jesus went willingly to the cross, it's understandable that he wasn't enthusiastic about it. Then something interesting happens; God the Father speaks out of the sky again, like he did at Jesus's baptism.

Jesus, in talking about his crucifixion, mentions that "now shall the prince of this world be cast out." This prompts the SAB to ask Who is the Lord of this world? Interestingly enough, I really covered this at the end of my post on Ruth chapter four, where I said God is the original owner of the earth, but gave it to Adam, who essentially sold it to Satan for a piece of fruit. My link to Revelation five there implies that there is a trust deed that Jesus will redeem from whoever currently owns it, which is likely Satan, since he essentially offered the world to Jesus as a temptation. So the answer is that Satan has it temporarily in his possession, but it ultimately belongs to God.

I answered the question of whether Jesus performed many signs in John chapter three. Does God want some to go to hell? and Who forces non-believers to disbelieve? are both closely related questions and have a lot of proof texts in common. It seems pretty evident that there seems to be contradiction in the first question, but the second one can be very easily dismissed: some people are influenced by Satan to disbelieve, but for many people who disbelieve, God solidifies their disbelief. It's a lot like what was said about the hardening of Pharaoh's heart; if you're stubborn, sometimes God entrenches your stubbornness. And really, for those verses shared by both pages, that's the explanation; but what about the others? Well, the Proverbs verse is just stating a fact: God made all people, both good and bad, and in ways we don't always fully understand, bad people have a purpose, too. The 2Thessalonians verse in a larger context is largely saying all of the things that were said in the above paragraph; Satan deceived them, they preferred the delusion, and so God reinforced it.

The chapter winds up with Jesus saying stuff about belief and judgment, with there being a side note about there being members of the Sanhedrin who believed, but were silent. I answered the question about whether Jesus judges people or not in John chapter five.

Tuesday, July 04, 2023

Neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead (John 11)

John chapter eleven is pretty much the turning point of John's gospel. Jesus does another miracle, and it's the biggest one, and after this it's just a countdown to Jesus's crucifixion.

Lazarus is sick, very sick, and his sisters, Martha and Mary, send a message to Jesus, knowing that Jesus is a healer. The Bible gives a side note that Mary is the one who anointed Jesus's feet, which is a scene we're going to see later in John's gospel. The SAB gives links to other anointing stories in the gospels, but I personally don't believe they are all the same story, because the details are off just enough. I'll save that for the actual story, though. The SAB links to an article discussing the possibility that Jesus was gay. I'm sure most Christians would dismiss the idea out of hand, but I myself have often wondered what Jesus's sexual orientation was. I don't believe Jesus ever actually had sex, but he was human, and the Bible says in Hebrews 4:15
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.
So I feel like Jesus was not asexual, just celibate.

The SAB puts a footnote on verse 15, but in the footnote, it quotes verse four; I'm not sure if this is an error, because these two verses are definitely related matter. Jesus says Lazarus is not going to die, which I'm surprised the SAB doesn't mark as Jesus lying, because I feel that you can't skirt it here; Jesus lied about Lazarus. Jesus waits two days to go to Lazarus, apparently so that Lazarus will be very dead. When he finally sets out with his disciples, he informs them that Lazarus is dead.

The question of "Must everyone die?" was talked about most recently in John chapter eight. It's actually very interesting that Martha talks about "the resurrection at the last day" because it shows that while Old Testament Jews didn't have much of an idea of an afterlife, there is some theology about it that's more sophisticated in the first century. However, Jesus tells her he's here to grant something else.

John 11:35 is the shortest verse in the Bible, but a profound one; "Jesus wept." Jesus is not weeping for Lazarus, clearly, because he knows that situation is going to be cleared up in a moment. Jesus is weeping in commiseration with his friends who are in pain, because he feels their pain. Jesus feels for people, and isn't afraid to show his emotions. I feel that this is another way that people should strive to be like Jesus.

Jesus tells them to roll away the stone from the cave where Lazarus's body lay, and proceeds to pray. Should Christians pray in public? This is a good question, as Jesus does seem to say no to this practice in Matthew six. Yet here in our story, not only does Jesus pray publicly, but arguably for the purpose of showing off, which seems to be the point of the Matthew passage. I think the very specific point Jesus was making in Matthew was that there are people who pray in public because they want people to see how religious they are, when prayer should be about making a personal connection with God. I don't think what Jesus says in Matthew is intended to be a command so much as a guideline: prayer is not for showing off. While here in our passage, as I said, you could argue Jesus is showing off, it's not to make himself look better, but to reinforce the faith of the people in his audience. So, should Christians pray in public? Only if their motives are selfless in doing so.

Jesus calls Lazarus from the grave, and he comes out. Was Jesus the first to rise from the dead? The SAB is right that there were certainly people who came back from the dead before Jesus. The issue here is that the way in which Jesus rose from the dead was different. All of these people who came back from the dead listed on the page (except Samuel, who was just a spirit) were essentially revived; that is, they came back to being the live person that they were before. Jesus was resurrected, which, while the dictionary makes no particular distinction, is different in the Bible. Jesus came back, but not the same; he was in a glorified body which allowed him to be both physical and spiritual at the same time. Supposedly, this is what will happen to every believer in Jesus after they die, which is why 1Corinthians 15:20 talks about Jesus that way; Jesus's resurrection is the proof of more resurrection to come.

So the chapter ends with the Pharisees hearing about Jesus's miracle, and they are upset because they're worried that Jesus will become too popular and the Romans will have to put down a rebellion, ruining the way things are in Palestine. The high priest, Caiaphas, says not to worry, because they can see to it that Jesus dies to save everyone else, and apparently, while what he meant was that they would get Jesus out of the way, the Bible tells us that unknowingly he is being prophetic. Indeed, Jesus dies to save not just the nation, but the world. The Pharisees hatch a plot to have Jesus killed.

Saturday, July 01, 2023

He was led as a sheep to the slaughter (John 10)

John chapter ten is more speeches by Jesus which, as I said sometime earlier, is a lot of John's gospel.

The SAB misinterprets verse eight; I don't think that Jesus is saying everyone everyone that came before him was a thief and a liar, but rather those that claimed to be the Messiah. I think it is mentioned in passing in the other gospels that there were actually a lot of people in that era who were claiming to be the Messiah. Who was the greatest prophet? There is something ironic about the Deuteronomy verse given here, and that's that it was written by Moses, the same guy who wrote Numbers 12:3 (Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.) Generally, when there's a verse like that in the Bible, it means up until the time of this writing, it didn't happen, but this was written while Moses was still alive! Anyway, it doesn't say Moses was the greatest prophet, it just says there was never another like him which, in the sense that it notes, is true. So the issue is really between John the Baptist and Jesus. I think there is an understanding that Jesus is sort of in a class of his own, and furthermore, note what Luke 7:28 say as a whole: "...he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he [John the Baptist]." This verse seems to be saying that there is something special about Christians, and technically, John wasn't a Christian. Nonetheless, after all that babbling on, I feel the need to point out that none of the verses listed for Jesus talk specifically about Jesus as a prophet, leading me to say, the definitive answer here is John the Baptist was the greatest prophet.

Who is the greatest person? This is not a contradiction, because each of these verses is really saying something different. The verse about Solomon is saying that he's the wisest person who ever lived. As I just said above, the verses about John the Baptist are saying he's the greatest prophet who ever lived. The verses about "everyone in the kingdom of heaven" are just a comparison of greatness to John the Baptist. The verse about being humble is saying that the more humble you are, the greater you will be in the kingdom of heaven. And really, who was more humble than Jesus? As Philippians 2:6-8 says of Jesus,
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
The SAB says verse 16 is a false prophecy. Jesus talks about there being "other sheep I have, which are not of this fold" and that "there shall be one fold, and one shepherd." I think the SAB is thinking this means something other than what I understand it to be. Up until this point, Jesus has been almost exclusively preaching to Jews; the Jews are "this fold", and the "other sheep" are the gentiles. Jesus is saying the Gospel is going to spread outside of Palestine, and there will be one Christianity. (If the SAB is nitpicking about the multitude of Christian denominations, I don't think there will be any after the second coming.)

Jesus talks about laying down his life in verses 17 and 18, prompting the SAB to ask if Jesus committed suicide. This is an interesting question that I don't think a lot of people ponder enough. I mean, Jesus actually says, "No man taketh [my life] from me, but I lay it down of myself." This does sound like suicide. I would say yes, Jesus did effectively commit suicide because he was in complete control of the timing and manner of his death. I expect I will have a lot to say about this when I get there.

Is it possible to fall from grace? Boy this is a doozy of a question, and the standard answer sounds like a cop-out, but I'm going to give it, because it's Biblical. It's one of those things like predestination vs. free will, where it's complicated and sort of metaphysical. Yes, here in verse 28 and in various other parts of the Bible, it sounds like a believer can't fall from grace, while in others it seems to be talking about that very thing. The key is actually in the Bible in 1John 2:19:
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
In other words, if you "fell from grace" it indicates that you were never there in the first place. Using Jesus's terminology from our chapter, nobody can pluck Jesus's sheep from his hand, so if someone appears to have been turned away from Jesus, that just proves that they were never his sheep.

I already answered the question of whether Jesus is God in John chapter one, but the real interesting question here is How many gods are there? which the SAB brings up because Jesus quotes Psalm 82, which has a lot of suggestive language. I think I already answered this question a long time ago, but I'll give it another go. There is a very important sense that is given by the Bible--and is echoed by modern theologians--that anything you choose to worship becomes your god. In that sense, there are certainly many gods; people worship money, power, sex, beauty, food, nature, guns, drugs, and the list goes on. Most other religions' gods are just embodiment of these concepts. When the Bible says there is one God, it's stressing that there is one God that is a true God, while all other "gods" are lesser to the point of meaninglessness. So yes, the Bible admits the existence of other gods, but with a caveat.