(4) Wisdom as a strange woman …

Continuing on our theme of “Folly to be wise ..”.

Wisdom is spoken of highly in the Bible, something to be sort after, something to be treasured.  A gift that will bring a person wealth and prosperity, but if ignored, or treated unkindly, or unjustly, could also turn on the person and cause them great harm.  Is it folly to seek wisdom knowing that it is fickle and untrustworthy?  And why describe it as a woman?  Was that the patriarchal view of the women in the centuries over which the instructions in the Book of Proverbs was collected?  Or could there be a more interesting challenge?  Was Wisdom a being that interacted with the living, much as the angels do today?  People experience God’s grace today, through miracles of many sorts, through visions and prophecy.  Could Wisdom have been one of the messengers that humans were meant to trust, and in falling, then become a being people were warned against?  Could the description in Chapter 9 of the wise woman and the foolish one, so very much alike, be a subtle way of reminding people not to trust someone who offers you treasures from unknown sources? (Proverbs 9:2 compared with 9:17)

If we did a direct comparison between the first section and the second section of the chapter we can clearly see the differences between the wise woman and the the woman given many names ‘strange’ or ‘loose’.  She is described as a prostitute, loud and ignorant, but her words are the same as the woman who would be wise .. so why do we differentiate between the two?  How does this confusing, and often threatening, speech teach us wisdom?  The motto of this Book is “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline”.  How do we apply it here?

Wisdom seems to have two different messages.  To the wise she offers food and wine she has mixed herself, to the simple she offers illicit pleasures.  My first thought was what had she mixed in the wine?  She still believes the wise are immature and require her guidance or need to be led.  What measuring stick do we use to review Wisdom’s character?  Do we find it in the New Testament in James 3:13-18?

Proverbs 9:1

1  Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn her seven pillars.

Why does Wisdom specify seven pillars in her house?  The number seven means ‘complete’ – God took six days to create the world and on the seventh day he rested.  Does that relate to what is written?  There does not seem to be a clear answer, so let us begin by reviewing them through James 3:13-18?

James 1:13-18

13 Who is wise and understanding among you?  Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.
14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth.
15 Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish.
16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.
17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full   of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.
18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

Given Wisdom’s behaviour in Proverbs 1:24-28 I do not think we can describe ‘her’ as pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits or partiality (given she only calls to the simple(-minded)) or hypocrisy .

Another writer (1) says that the seven pillars of ‘wisdom’s solid foundation’ (of her house) are found in Proverbs 8:12-14

12 I, wisdom, live with prudence, and I attain knowledge and discretion.
13 The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.  Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.
14 I have good advice and sound wisdom; I have insight, I have strength.

I enjoyed that webpage for the show of confusion that the Wisdom literature creates.  To start with, it was not the best translation, but after the writer says that Wisdom lives in a house with a woman called Prudence I had to keep reading.  I read it four times just to make sure I was not mistaken.  I do not think the writer realised exactly how the words would be taken, but it is a good example of how we see what we want to see in the Bible – myself included.  And to stretch the point, another writer on the internet decided that Wisdom and Prudence were married to each other .. only many churches are not happy with same sex marriages, and certainly not during the centuries when the ‘wisdom’ was gathered, so perhaps we will discount that one.

And this lady (2) gives us another version.  She writes: “I’ve always wondered what the seven pillars of wisdom were. After studying the seven-fold anointing spoken of in Isaiah 11:2, I concluded that the seven pillars of wisdom must be the seven aspects of the Holy Spirit of the Lord. Isaiah 11:2 says, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord“.  But there are only six, so I guess it is disqualified.

Wikipedia (3) gives us a slightly different set, calling them the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord .. which they define as ‘wonder’.

Where does that get us?  We agree that no one is sure what the seven pillars of Wisdom’s house are.  The notes in my NOAB (4) state “9:1 Seven pillars may allude simply to the pillars of Wisdom’s house or may suggest the pillars on which the earth was founded”.  (Job 9:6, 26:11, Ps 74:3)  (Can we read that as the commentator appearing to believe that Wisdom was a living person?)  And everyone appears to agree that we should fear the Lord, apart from me.

And then there is the possibility that the building of the house refers to when Wisdom says she helped create the world, an ‘understanding’ which was anticipated in the Babylonian Talmud (6) where the Talmud explains the purpose of Adam’s creation on the even of the sabbath “that he might straightway go in to the banquet. The matter may be compared to a kind of flesh and blood who built palaces and furnished them, prepared a banquet, and thereafter brought in guests”.

We shall move on …

Proverbs 2 – 18

2  She has slaughtered her animals, she has mixed her wine, she has also set her table.
3  She has sent out her servant-girls, she calls from the highest places in the town,
4  “You that are simple, turn in here!”

Were the servant girls Wisdom’s procurers?  In modern times we see them in the streets outside restaurants, cafes, bars and brothels.  The verse continues ..

To those without sense she says
5  “Come and drink of the wine I have mixed.
6  Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight”.

Why address this to only ‘those without sense’?  Wouldn’t the wise also like to join a feast?  I wonder if the ancients had hallucinogenic drinks that provided ‘insight’, or certainly visions of some kind?  The seers at Delphi would sit over volcanic fumes and then the priests would interpret their ‘prophecies’.  Mixing wine with spices was not unusual, but what was mixed into it  that required a person to ‘grow up’ (something we say to immature people even today) and ‘live, and walk in the way of insight’ (while smoking the peyote smoked by the Amerindians to get advice from their gods? Or modern people getting stoned for fun? (7))

And then did someone so severely doubt her that they said so at which point a comment like this might sound wise.  Was she trying to tell them to “fear the Lord” and they scoffed at her ..

7  Whoever corrects a scoffer wins abuse; whoever rebukes the wicked gets hurt.
8  A scoffer who is rebuked will only hate you; the wise, when rebuked, will love you.
9  Give instruction to the wise, and they will become wiser still; teach the righteous and they will gain in learning.
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
11 For by me your days will be multiplied, and years will be added to your life.
12 If you are wise, you are wise for yourself; if you scoff, you alone will bear it.

Is this a promise she thought she could make – to multiply the days and years of someone’s life literally, or do we take it as an allegory, that Wisdom will help a person live longer?  Did she think she could do this herself, or that the Lord would do this for anyone she directed to him?

And then the theme changes completely, and we are advised that this next woman is a fool, called Dame Folly in the NIB, and yet her behaviour is much the same as the wise woman ..

13 The foolish woman is loud; she is ignorant and knows nothing.
14 She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the high places of the town,
15 calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way,
16 “You who are simple, turn in here!” And to those without sense she says,
17 “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant”.

Perhaps she was being more honest than Wisdom? She offered the foolish ‘stolen water’ and secret bread, which in the end would kill them (v. 18). My NOAB (5) comments that the ‘stolen water’ is probably a euphemism for illicit sex, with a reference to Proverbs 5:15-21. The comment about those ‘who are going straight on their way’ might suggest that the lady wants to lead them off the straight/right path and into iniquity, if not death?

18 But they do not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.

Who else would have her guests in Sheol, a name given to hell, than a fallen angel?

Strangely, but not unexpectedly, here is a perfect example of where the commentators choose to ignore what they cannot explain.  The NOAB (8) completely ignores verses 11-16 and the brief comment in the NIB (9) is “9:13-18  The chapter and the book’s first major section now conclude.  Dame Folly is an explicit contrast to Wisdom in v 16, even to the point of making an identical invitation (v. 4 = v. 16).  But this passage also sums up virtually every theme expressed in Proverbs 1-9 by means of its repetition of key words.  In particular, Dame Folly masterfully integrates the portrait of Folly as a seduction to bogus good, in contrast to the genuine good of Wisdom.”

Only Wisdom is definitely not genuinely good.

A few last thoughts – were the sayings gathered together in these chapters of Proverbs because the lady was writing her autobiography, and/or someone later thought them wise?  To some degree this whole section reminds me of God in Job professing the wonder of being God while punishing the innocent.  Either that or someone, in the far future, is going to find a book like Anne Rice’s “Interview with a Vampire” and think its actually history. If someone came to me offering me sweet words and sweet wine, I would be wondering what they wanted. Does that make me wise or the fool? When a couple came from a Christian Sect offering me “God their way”, I tested their waters through their writings briefly and then they ran away. Don’t question someone too deeply or they might get very uncomfortable. Is that what wasn’t done here, the words were accepted, confusion and all, by Irenaeus and his cohort, much as they accepted Job, because it appears they are wise .. but on close reading you find the snake still in the garden whispering “bite the apple, Eve”.

(Yes, I know it wasn’t an apple, but when I was a child I was taught that it was by a number of ministers of various Christian churches, different denominations. You have to wonder who trained them!)

Thank you for reading …

(1)  Wisdom creates confusion http://www.bridgetothebible.com/Bible%20Lists/7%20Pillars%20of%20Wisdom.htm
(2)  Seven Pillars of Wisdom – http://www.charismamag.com/spirit/devotionals/around-the-word-in-365-days/?aid=2939
(3)  Seven gifts of the Holy Spirit – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_gifts_of_the_Holy_Spirit
(4) The New Oxford Annotated Bible, 4th Edition, New Revised, Standard Version, with the Apocrypha. MD Coogan, Editor, Oxford University Press, 2010, page 907
(5) ibid page 903
(6) The New Interpreter’s Bible, A Commentary in Twelve Volumes, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1997, Proverbs 9, page 101
(7) Hallucinogenics in Ancient Israel – http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-history-archaeology/israeli-town-yavneh-had-thriving-drug-culture-3000-years-ago-003159
(8) The New Oxford Annotated Bible, 4th Edition, New Revised, Standard Version, with the Apocrypha. MD Coogan, Editor, Oxford University Press, 2010, Proverbs, page 907
(9) The New Interpreter’s Bible, A Commentary in Twelve Volumes, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1997, Proverbs 9, page 103

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(2) The dark side of Wisdom

The original title of this blog was “Wisdom as a bitch”.  For those who have just dropped in, my premise is to examine Wisdom in Proverbs as female, wise and loving in the way that Jesus described his ‘Father’, not Joseph but God.  The chapters I am use specifically define wisdom as female.  Proverbs 1:20-33, 8:1-36 and 9:1-18.

Sticking with the theme from ‘Folly to be Wise’ .. our first example of folly is in deciding that this is an appropriate example of the behaviour of a loving God, or even a creation of God (discussed more in the next article “The nature of Wisdom”); the God who Jesus tried so hard to convince us was watching over us and loving us unconditionally (1 Corinthians 1:1-13).  Paraphrasing … ‘Love one another as I have loved you’ (John 13:34, 15:12).  If Wisdom is the example, it is no wonder living people do not get along with each other.

Wisdom as a female prophet

In Proverbs 1:20-23 Wisdom, as a woman, was outside yelling in the streets, demanding attention.  She called everyone ‘simple ones’.
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I shall extend this a little and suggest she meant ‘simple-minded’ in our language, given that she later refers to fools or foolish people.  The dictionary meaning of simple-minded is:  “not very intelligent, or having or showing a lack of good sense or judgement” (1).  Is she calling to fools in hope they will listen to her, or the innocent who will not look past the covering of sweet words and promises?
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Proverbs 1:24-33
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24 Because I have called and you refused;  have stretched out my hand and no one heeded, 
25 And because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof,
26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when panic strikes you,
27 when panic strikes you like a storm, and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.
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Is this Wisdom, wise and kind?  She turns her back on those who do not listen to her.  She laughs and mocks.  Is that what a loving creation of God would do?  Is this what God does to those who believe in him?  And even to those who don’t?  If God loves all of his creations unconditionally, then those who do not believe are loved as much as those who do.  They are all given the opportunity to choose another path – the one that leads back to him.  Whether God loves unconditionally or not is not a discussion for today, but it will become another blog in the future.
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28 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but will not find me.
29 Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
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Humanity chooses not the fear the Lord, but Wisdom is not ‘The Lord’ so her anger at them is on God’s behalf, or is it?  Given that we are supposed to pay attention to ‘her’ (Proverbs 22:17-18, 5:1-6) and give her the same respect as God, where does she place herself in the hierarchy?
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Her behaviour is not God’s behaviour – “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.  For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened”. (Matthew 7:7-8 & Luke 11:9-10)
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30 would have none of my counsel, and despised all my reproof,
31 therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way and be sated with their own devices.
A reference to Genesis 3:6 when Eve and then Adam ate the fruit and they were both expelled from the “Garden”.  Humanity was foolish then, and if they do not listen to ‘her’ they will remain that way.
32 For waywardness kills the simple, and the complacency of fools destroys them;
33 but those who listen to me will be secure and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.
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Having done many years research into the concept of fallen angels, I can perfectly see here the storms and rages of an invisible being acting in the mirror image of her* true nature as Wisdom.

  • Please note that when I say ‘her’ I am doing two things, following the theme of wisdom as a female (all emotion) and also that fallen angels (demons) are also driven by emotion (ego).  I am not classifying the female human race as either all emotion or demons.

The nature of Wisdom is to learn and teach.  This being called ‘Wisdom’ offers so much with one hand, and takes it back with the other.  She is, if you like, in two minds.  The angel of Illumination (2) would swap from teaching Love and Wisdom to teaching Hatred and Confusion.  She would act out her dissatisfaction with those who refuse to follow her – in a way that is exactly opposite a loving God, but more like the behaviour of Jehovah, who is not to be trusted.

The Blessings of Wisdom

Proverbs 8:1-36

13 The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil …
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I could write a whole page on this very short sentence.  To me it has one meaning.  Every commentary I have checked either ignores it, or tries to rewrite it, sometimes in great depth, or explain that it means something it doesn’t say.  They refer to Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, fools despise wisdom and instruction”; and 9:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight”.  But it does not say either of those things.  It says ‘The fear of the Lord .. is hatred of evil’ .. as if this Lord fears that people will “hate evil”?  Who is this Lord?  9:10 makes perfect sense if it is an entity that should be avoided, such as Wisdom and ‘him’self.  (Lord being a male title). The rest of 13 is …  pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.
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14 I have good advice and sound wisdom; I have insight; I have strength.
15 By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just;
16 by me rulers rule, and nobles, all who govern rightly.
17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.
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14 – 17 are all “I am” statements, demonstrating her power.  Like God in Job 38, 39 & 41, some of which appears to be incoherent rantings.  For example, 41:1 “Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook …?” when Job calls God to account for his suffering.
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And then there are these:
Wisdom offers …
18 Riches and honour are with me, enduring wealth and prosperity.
19 My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver.
20 I walk in the way of righteousness, in the paths of justice,
21 endowing with wealth those who love me, and filling their treasuries.
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Matthew 6:19-21
Jesus offers …
19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth; where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal;
20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
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Who is this being called Wisdom?   There is more to follow ….
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Why do we keep punishing Jesus?

Jesus was hung on a cross for humanity’s sins. We know he was crucified because we have proof now, but the ‘why’ of this is up for interpretation. Christian folk have been taught that he was an innocent man tortured to save each of us, condemned for no reason but that he spoke out against the Roman dictatorship over the Jewish people, and the churches dictatorship over its own people. Oh yes, he broke a few tables along the way, but he never broke any ‘heads’, so he was calmer and quieter than some of the rabble who called themselves God’s representatives at the time. His message was one of love, peace and forgiveness – but that got lost along the way when the writer of Revelation turned him into the Vengeful Messiah the Jewish folk were craving .. sorry, the Christian folk were craving, after they converted.

Two thousand years later how much has changed? There are still people selling holy relics in the churches, only we call them music CDs and meditation tapes these days (or bits of the stone wall, imported direct from Mecca). Money still changes hands to buy redemption .. only now it’s called ‘give to the churches favourite charity’ (itself?). And our behaviour hasn’t improved, even after all this time, and all the sermons (or lectures) delivered from various pulpits. The Ten Commandments are still being ignored by most people, who go ahead and lust, steal and murder whenever it suits them. How many of them do you think care what God or Jesus will actually do to them after they die? Oh no, they’ve already turned their backs on that belief system .. and even if they haven’t .. the good Christians are murdering the commandments day by day.

I don’t really want to debate the commandments today, even though I think we should all put some serious consideration into re-inventing them. It’s not that they aren’t important, it’s that some of them don’t make sense anymore, given what Jesus taught us about God, and then there’s ‘honouring your parents’ which may end in you being abused by one, or both, of them. So let me get back to the point …

I was listening to Christian radio the other day, happily agreeing with what most of the speaker was saying, until something he said made me realise that we are constantly punishing Jesus. When we choose to sin we are deliberately denying everything he did for us by being hung up on that Cross. The teachings of the church, particularly when I was a child, was that each of us is born into sin .. the sins of our ‘fathers’ (does that make our mother’s relieved?) .. which actually means ‘the sins of our parents’. I have to ask why God would create beings that carried this sin for generation to generation (40 in all?) and how we escape it .. how about the 41st generation .. but no, the sin continues onto and into forever, and we can never be free of it, unless we accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour .. (strange how we are lumbered with sin, but not allowed to benefit from the acceptance of our parent’s heartfelt connection back to God. When does the poison stop spreading through humanity’s veins .. and sin is a poison. It does make us ill). So I accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour and therefore I am rescued from sin .. in that moment. Ten minutes later I go outside, covet someone’s car or bus or bike, or wife (heaven forbid because I’m female .. and my husband would object :-)) and I am back to being a sinner again.

So I turn myself around, go back into the church, and if it’s appropriate, confess this sin, say the Hail Mary’s or various other prayers we all use to ask for forgiveness and everything is all right again .. until I go outside and, walking home, ‘borrow’ a lemon from the fruit tree down the road (and the sin is not mitigated by making lemon cake and giving the owner half), without asking the owner first. Whoops, there goes sin number eight. Or worse, I tap the statue of Mother Mary on the knee on the way out the door and thank her for everything she’s helped me with (all those prayers) and there’s sin number two, because all thanks should be to God, or so I am taught. And what about if I have to work a shift or two on Sunday .. do I spent Monday on my knees begging forgiveness, not just for that one day, but because I am a repeat sinner. Is the punishment worse if we consciously sin over and over again?

Dear Jesus, who removed the sins of the world (John 1:29) .. turns out you only gave us the grace to turn around and break the rules again. And if you did remove ‘the sins of the world’ why is it that the Christians think you only did it for them?

There are times that I stand outside the Christian faith looking in and wonder what God will truly do to all those hypocrites, liars, cheats and thieves, and that’s just among the clergy. If they are not good enough Christians, and I am only a lay Theologian, what hope is there for me, if I follow their leadership? The church set themselves up as the role model for humanity .. and yet the law is now chasing various churches for not producing their paedophiles on demand, for covering up thousands of cases of abuse, and convincing the innocent that they would be publicly vilified if they tell anyone that a priest was their abuser. And where is Jesus in all this .. still hung up on the cross, because he really needs to stay there otherwise we have no hope at all.

For all the agony that he suffered for us in those three hours or so he was crucified, we have given him two and half million+ hours more through our own thoughts and actions. When do you think it will be enough, and he can come down off the cross and help us to be the people we can be, through his example .. loving, kind, generous, forgiving, tolerant, peaceful, thoughtful, God filled? Sometime soon I hope.

In a world full of fear and hatred being a God-filled person and trying to ‘lead by example’ can be incredibly difficult, but that is no excuse for not trying. Jesus was a human being just like you and me. He put his life on the line for us, as a living example of what we can achieve, with a little determination, a touch of temper and a strong desire to change the world. He started small. Look at the society God chose to drop him into, and the challenges of no ‘mass communication’, apart from anything else. Word of mouth was the best form of advertising then, and it still is. Leading by example still gathers hearts and souls together. Now we have the internet, and tv and movies, and what do we produce .. more programs to create horror and fear .. just look at the nightly news and their focus on disasters ..

But then, I am getting off the topic again ..

When Jesus saved us he knew we were sinners and that we needed a representative between us and God, and so he put himself there, human fears and all. Can we make ourselves a representative who stands up for what Jesus believes in, although society might ignore us or laugh and make fun? Can we ask him to come down off that cross for each of us now? You see, when Jesus was alive, there was no Christianity, there was only God. Jesus was not Christian, he was not exclusive, or inclusive, he wanted to talk to everyone about his Creator. The Christian church is closing its door on its own reality right now, because it is run by sinners seeking Revelationianic outcomes, rather than the truly loving ones that Jesus taught us about. Because .. when you think about it for a moment .. you will realise that, if Vengeful Messiah ‘came’ now, heaven would be very empty, and most of us would be in hell, suffering with the demons. Where would you be?

Love & Peace
Ama

Jesus is …

… the reason for the season.

Last Christmas, and many Christmases before that one, I have seen those words on signs outside various churches around many towns. I remember the first time I saw it, I thought how untrue it was. Here was the Xmas rush happening around me, more traffic, more toys, more goods to be enjoyed or ignored or broken and thrown away, and tons of dead trees to make all that xmas wrapping that gets wasted, for the most part? Presents for everyone who could afford them, and if they couldn’t .. hand-outs are hard to come by, though so many good groups of people try to help those who live below the poverty line. Mannon is the reason for the xmas silly season, because we actually have no idea when Jesus was born, we only have speculation.

Easter .. to me Easter is when Jesus is the reason for the season, not the chocolate eggs, and bunnies and bilbies, and chickens, and the ‘buy more’ mentality that so many people seem to suffer from even now. Jesus died for us, and rose again .. three days later …

So here I am sitting in Good Friday and contemplating the curiousity, the question, of how someone can die on a Friday and rise again on Sunday – and there’s supposed to be three days, 72 hours, or so, between the two .. let me count on my fingers, because that’s what I did when I first asked this question – when I was a child – because it hasn’t made sense since then!

Died on Friday .. 24 hours to saturday, 24 hours to sunday, 24 hours to monday .. Umm…. couldn’t the people who created this story count?

A few years ago I looked the subject up on the internet and found many interesting discussions on the Passover over 2000 years ago. Thanks to the wonders of computer technology we now know the date, or the estimated date .. and then have the choice of saying ‘died on friday, rescurrected on monday before dawn’, or ‘died on thursday and resurrected on sunday before dawn’. Most writer’s agreed that he died before 3.00pm whichever day it was .. and so his rising would have been, allowing three days (and nights), around 3.00pm on the sunday .. and yet he was on his feet to greet Mary at the tomb just as the sun rose. So .. that brings the question of Thursday being too soon to make the prophecy fit. How about Wednesday? Died around 3.00pm, Thursday, Friday, up around Saturday 3.00pm .. did he hide until dawn the next day? Given what he was supposed to have gone through, I think I would be hiding too, or just simply resting .. since no one came near him on the Sabbath day we don’t know.

All in all its quite a mystery, wouldn’t you say?

Love & Peace
Ama

Why did God require Sacrifice?

Afternoon all,

This one has always been a puzzle for me. A God, who ‘is’ everything, ‘created’ everything, ‘owns’ everything, is omnipotent, omnipresent, very controlling (OT), or not controlling at all (NT), etc, wants the puny humans to go and kill others of It’s creations and lay them on an altar of ‘stone’ or whatever, or burn them to ashes, to appease Itself. Please make that make sense. God wanted us to murder innocent animals, and innocent people, to keep agreements we have made with It; but not all people, no, sometimes It might stay the hand of one or two .. like Abraham and Isaac .. but what about Jephthah’s daughter (Judges 11:35) .. what was so special about her that she could not be saved by an angel .. or was it that she was simply unworthy of the gift, in her innocence, something so highly treasured by the Israelite society? And then we have Job, who, while he wasn’t murdered, appears to have been a sacrifice to God’s ego? And Jesus, seen as the ultimate sacrifice .. why was that necessary – why, as someone wrote on a webpage I visited today on this subject .. couldn’t God just simply forgive us without Jesus having to die for our sins? And then there’s Cain, who bore the mark of his betrayal forever .. he murdered his brother because God didn’t like his sacrifice of the fruit of the ground (Gen 4:3) .. no, it had to be a blood sacrifice or nothing .. so Cain ‘sacrificed’ his brother .. was he trying to buy back God’s favour in doing so? Human blood, we assume, is more important, or more full of vitality, than animals – since we have dominion over the animals? Is that what ‘god’ wants, the vitality (life force) from the blood .. the energy of creation returned to the creator .. or was it the creator? Why would the creator of all things need the energy of creation from one of its created beings? Again, that makes no sense to me, knowing what I know about metaphysics. But what feeds on the vital energy of humanity, or the terror of innocence animals as they die? It’s not a god in my opinion.

Love & Peace
Ama

Vengeance is Mine!

Let me set the scene: a discussion on another site, with a person (A) who says that the Bible says s/he is justified to seek vengeance against another person (B), by cursing them .. literally using a spell. This person (B) had done the victim (A), and others s/he says, harm, and the curse had changed them (B) into a better, now God fearing, person. What do I believe? When I asked the caster (A) to remove the curse and forgive the person (B), s/he refused .. s/he said it had been God’s will that s/he had done it, and it would be God’s will when the curse came off, if it ever did. I suggested s/he removed it to see if it had been the curse that had forced the person (B) to change, or had the person simply chosen the happier path themselves? S/he (A) also refused to do this. S/he is still angry at the person for what they did to her/him. By her/his own admission s/he is unforgiving.

It got me thinking about the bible, and as usual, comparing the OT with the NT .. and so I dipped into both, via Strong’s Concordance .. and was flabbergasted at the amount of times the word revenge, avenge or vengeance was used by Strong’s, only to find them retranslated, occasionally, in my NOAB into retribution, or switched between avenged and revenged, or verses where it was removed completely and taken back to a better translation. What it showed to me was the mindset of the person who first did the translation of the Bible from the Hebrew and Greek that Strong bases his Concordance upon – Vengeance is mine! or is it? How do we justify vengeance when Jesus words ask us to choose another path?

Dictionary meanings –

Vengeance – Infliction of punishment in return for a wrong committed; retribution.
Idiom: with a vengeance
1. With great violence or force.
2. To an extreme degree.

Revenge – tr.v. re•venged, re•veng•ing, re•veng•es
1. To inflict punishment in return for (injury or insult).
2. To seek or take vengeance for (oneself or another person); avenge.
n.
1. The act of taking vengeance for injuries or wrongs; retaliation.
2. Something done in vengeance; a retaliatory measure.
3. A desire for revenge; spite or vindictiveness.
4. An opportunity to retaliate, as by a return sports match after a defeat.

Avenge – tr.v. a•venged, a•veng•ing, a•veng•es
1. To inflict a punishment or penalty in return for; revenge: avenge a murder.
2. To take vengeance on behalf of: avenged their wronged parents.

There is a lot of vengeance (revenge/avenging) going on in the OT, and lots of folk asking God for it, and joyfully naming God ‘vengeful’, and glorying in what God might do to their enemies. Isaiah said there is even a Day of Vengeance (34:8, 61:2, 63:04) (later Luke calls it ‘days’ 21:22 – wasn’t one enough?) Jeremiah calls it a Day of Retribution (46:10), but the meaning is the same. A day when harming others will not anger God? Oh yes, doesn’t Psalms advise us that “the righteous will rejoice when they see vengeance done; they will bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked ..”? But who decides who is wicked?

I guess if we all play ‘follow the leader’ seeking revenge/vengeance is not so surprising, given that Jehovah either did it, or threatened to, on a regular basis. Or, as one lady I know said, this is how the writers wanted believers to see Jehovah, as defending them when they were in strife, but .. what happened when they broke the rules .. the jealous God (Psalm 94:1, Proverbs 6:34) of Vengeance suddenly turned the tables and attacked them … look at Saul and his torment by an ‘evil angel from the Lord’ because he spared the life of one man. Was Moses being banned from the promised Land God’s revenge for disobedience, and then there is Jephthah having to sacrifice his daughter because of his promise to Jehovah, even though Abraham’s hand was stopped when he went to do the same to his son? Even Revelation demands it .. written after Jesus’ teachings – what was ‘John’ thinking? “Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth”? This is the Jesus that taught ‘turn the other cheek’ and ‘love one another’, it’s a puzzle that John ignored him.

But there was a quiet, very quiet, voice of reason within the OT. Leviticus 19:17 “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself ..”. And questions can be raised by Psalm 99:8 .. how a forgiving God can be an ‘avenger of their wrongdoings’? A person who forgives has no reason to seek vengeance; surely a God who forgives would be even less inclined to do so? After all, ‘he’ laid down the rules.

Jesus went up the mountain to speak to the people, to give them a new way of living, a new way of thinking about how they acted in their lives. He called us ‘the Light of the World’ (Matthew 5:14). He said our light should shine for others (5:16), but how can it when our hearts are filled with pain and darkness? 1 Sam 14:24 called casting a curse a ‘rash act’, and it is, for none of us can know the repercussions of our actions. Oh, we might see an immediate effect, and pat ourselves on the back for it, but what about the long term, and what about if we choose to continue to hate instead of loving, to glory in another’s pain, what then?

Jesus taught ‘if you are angry you are liable to judgment’ (Matt 5:22) and he disputed the old teachings of ‘an eye for an eye’ (Matt 5:38), which is what so many use as their excuse to do harm to others – ‘they did it first’ or ‘they hurt someone else’. He said “… do not resist an evil doer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also …” (Matt 5:39), and keeping turning, and walk away. He placed God’s love, and our place in heaven, far above any earthly concerns. He also said ‘be perfect … as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Matt 5:48).

Ok, now I go back to shaking my head in puzzlement. The God of Vengeance is perfect, but we are not allowed to act like him? Which God was Jesus talking about? Oh I know, the one he called out to from the Cross .. EL, not Jehovah.

Jesus taught ‘forgive and keep forgiving’ (Matt 18:22). He did not teach ‘punish first, and then stay angry’. Paul continued the theme with a few add-ins .. Romans 12:19-21 “Beloved, never avenge yourself, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. No, if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

In my opinion Paul needed to work on his ‘forgiving’ attitude, but I do understand what he meant. When you do good to others who would harm you, you can make them very angry. They want you to react from the same pain they are feeling; when you don’t, when you ‘love’ instead of hating .. you show them themselves in a very ugly mirror. If you will hold Love in your heart, instead of pain and fear, you become the Light Jesus wants us all to be, which he says we already are.

The bible is confusing people .. again. Who do we choose to follow when the OT teaches of a vengeful God, and the NT says “don’t be vengeful”, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31), “Love one another as I have loved you” (Luke 13:34), “turn the other cheek”? I suppose it depends on our mood at time .. given that the Bible isn’t consistent as well? But I would rather follow Jesus .. consistently. So Vengeance isn’t mine, and nor do I think it is Jesus’ God’s first thought either. How could ‘He’ have said “love one another as I have loved you” if he was planning on judging us all in the near future (his version anyway) and sending most of us to hell?

But that’s another story.

Love & Peace
Ama

Dancing with the Word

Good afternoon all,

I was going to write about the concept of vengeance in the bible, OT & NT, but got distracted by a blog from Heather “Move from this Mountain” and then dropped in on Stephen’s Space where he has taken all my questions in my second post in September 2011 and answered them for me. That’s lovely. 🙂 Thank you. Given the busy-ness of the beginning of January, when he did that, if he told me .. I have forgotten, sorry .. so it was lovely finding it today. I tried to comment on his site, about one or more things he had written, but the comment box won’t work for me .. nor is the link at the bottom of his message active .. it goes to a blank page .. so Stephen, I am hoping you see this .. I wonder what happened, and if you can fix it?

So .. let me answer here:

Question #1: What are God’s books?

Stephen said: Note/Fact: Then God’s books would be God’s word or what God said, when God said it, where God said it, who God said it to, and how God said the word. I am going to show two places in the bible one from the (OT) Old Testament and one from the (NT) New Testament where the bible states that it is ”the word of God“

1 Samuel 9:26-27 (OT) (AKJV)
26And they arose early: and it came to pass about the spring of the day, that Samuel called Saul to the top of the house, saying, Up, that I may send thee away. And Saul arose, and they went out both of them, he and Samuel, abroad.
27And as they were going down to the end of the city, Samuel said to Saul, Bid the servant pass on before us, (and he passed on), but stand thou still a while, that I may shew thee the word of God.

Me: I go to my NOAB and look up the translations. This is what I have for 1 Samuel 9:27 “As they were going down to the outskirts of the town, Samuel said to Saul, “Tell the boy to go on before us, and when he has passed on, stop here yourself for a while, that I may make known to you the word of God.

Make known .. he didn’t pull out his copy of the book. In the next verse (10:1) Samuel took a vial of oil and poured it on Saul’s head, and kissed him and said “The Lord has anointed you ruler over his people, Israel” and Samuel told Saul of various signs that would prove this to be true. There is no comment about writing it down, and given the time period, it was probably unlikely to have been written down, but joined the oral tradition.

Well, in my opinion, Samuel definitely showed Saul God’s word, or said them anyway .. but this is not the ‘bible’ stating itself to be the Word of God.

***

1 Thessalonians 2:12-14 (actually 2:12-13)

Stephen’s translation: (NT) (AKJV)

12That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. 13For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.

Note/Fact: There were forty-five exact matches to the phrase ”the word of God” and as stated above it is the word of truth.

Me: NOAB 12 ” .. urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. 13 We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.”

I am not doubting there are 45 matches to the phrase “the word of God” but which one of them actually mentions a book – or the bible in its entirety, given that the Thessalonians were written a Letter by Paul hundreds of years before the Bible was put together. Add in, as Stephen says, that we now have the Dead Sea Scrolls to ‘add’ to what we know of as the books of God.

Question #2: What about the Torah, or the Quran?

Stephen: If they are the truth then “YES” they are the word of God, but if they are only part truth then “NO”.

Me: Fair enough, I agree. Only .. the Torah is the original five books of the Christian Bible .. I must admit I haven’t done a comparison of the modern Torah with our modern ‘first five books’ of the Bible, but Theologians acknowledge Christianity’s reliance on them for our foundations.

If they are only part true .. and what happens each time we find some mistake in our bible .. and it becomes ‘only part true’ .. do we turn a blind eye and pretend we didn’t find it .. which leads to ‘contradictions in the bible’ but we’ll get back to that later.

Question #3: But why, if their foundations remain the same?

Stephen quoted: Zechariah 12 (OT) (AKJV) Hebrews 1:9-11 (NT) (AKJV)
NOTE/FACT: The Lord laid the foundation of the earth, so I know who laid the foundation of the earth. That is who I believe. The same Lord that laid the foundations of the earth also spoke to Israel ( God’s people.) Their foundations can be considered the same if they are the truth and if they are the word of the Lord God.

Again I agree, but why do you doubt they are? “If” .. see my answer to question 2.

Question #4: Stephen has written a very good answer – which shows we all interpret words differently. The Mystery of God’s books, for me, is why there are so many things that contradict themselves within it, and yet people still consider it the ultimate and only ‘Word of God’.

Stephen said: The exact phrase or question (the mysteries of God) is found only one time in the (AKJV) of the bible, as stated above. The word mysteries was found five times. Based on I Corinthians 4:5 The Lord (God) when he comes will bring to light (make known) the hidden things of darkness, (the mysteries) then we will have praise of God. And according to Matthew 13:11 the answer to the disciples was that it was given to them to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, (God’s Kingdom).

Note/Fact: Then the answer is that God will reveal the mysteries to those who do not know, or to those to whom the mysteries have not been revealed when the Lord comes. The hidden things of darkness and the counsels of the hearts will also be made manifest (known),and then every man will have praise of God.

Lovely! Thank you Stephen.

Question #5: Who actually wrote them? Why people continue to think God wrote them when we have proof that people did?

Stephen said:
Genesis 1:3 God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

Me: It’s a great pity he didn’t invent pen and ink, or carving in stone, at that time. Given He is God, we could have had computers. 🙂

Stephen: The author (Moses) that wrote Genesis is the person that wrote this down, and I can not find any place where God wrote this book or any book in the bible. This does not change the truth that the words recorded here were spoken by God. Men chosen by God were the means by which we receive the word from God.

Me: This is one of the reasons why I like you. 🙂 You can admit there’s a problem. I’ll add to it. We don’t know that Moses existed, because there are no records of him at all, while we have other records of the time period he lived in. If he did exist, and led the Israelites out of Egypt, and Pharaoh, who chased them, died in the sea .. why do we have his mummy in the British(??) museum? He should have been washed far away by the return of the sea. Perhaps the sea gave him back?

Stephen: Note/Fact: The exact quote = ”Let there be light” God said this and it is the part considered the Word of God. God did not write this down, but the fact that the light that still exists today is evidence that there is light. This action is proof that a miracle took place, or an action that no man can duplicate.

Can man duplicate making Light? The first spark .. I agree, I also believe that only God did that. Now we have electricity and splitting the atom.

Question #6: What are the contradictions within them?

Stephen: This is very controversial, so you can say that it has contradictions and therefore you can’t believe that it is the word of God or you can declare that it is the word of truth from God and believe all that it contains about God and what God said. ( AKJV ) The other versions and other religions contradict or omits parts of this version of the bible. I find this version the most accurate translation available.

Me: Start with this – http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/by_book.html I know its a site by skeptics but its not the only one, and they don’t just have a go at Christianity.

To me, because God is perfect, if this book was written by God, without the interference of humanity, it would have no contradictions. There would be no confusion. We would not need to edit, nor re-translate (just look at the difference between the various bibles available today, and your belief in your bible as the best translation, and mine being so different .. bought by me at Theology College as the best translation available to date), nor argue over bits and pieces of it, and have people invent things and adapt it .. which has been proved over the centuries. It seems to me that a person who declares their particular version of the bible as perfect, which I am sure mine isn’t, is covering their eyes with their hands and refusing to accept what has been proved to be fact. A book that contradicts your bible, or omits parts, might be because what was translated in yours was wrong to start with.

Question #7: What are the messages?

Stephen: The bible is a spiritual message to God’s people, a message from God, and the message is a message of Salvation, Comfort, Spiritual Guidance, Protection, Courage, Peace, Spiritual Strength, Warning, and Forgiveness.
Psalms 19:7 The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.

Me: You list all the uplifting parts of the bible. How about people going to hell for one transgression, whether they try to be good Christians or not; Saul being tormented by an angel sent by ‘God’; Moses being banned from the promise land because he didn’t do exactly what he was told .. I can list much more. God help all of us – how many of us do exactly what the bible tells us to do .. have you taken your son up a mountain to sacrifice him to Jehovah yet? What would you do if God demanded it of you today? What would your son do? And what about the treatment God allowed of Job and his family? There’s one that’s hard to explain. But I’ve written about that just recently on my blog.

Question #8: Is Revelation a reality, or a well constructed slap at Nero for his treatment of the Christians during the persecutions?

Stephen: Note/Fact: Revelation is without a doubt a reality: Chapter #1 verse #1 God gave the Revelation of Jesus Christ to show his servants the things that must come to pass, and he also sent the Revelation by his angel to his servant John.

Me: I guess we’ll find out at end times, in the meantime .. 666 is the Gematric number (the sum total of the numbers of the letters of its name) for Nero, not the devil. The devil’s number is 616. Since the bible lists the devil as 666 .. there’s been a error somewhere.

Question #9: When did Christianity step outside the Jewish Laws, including diet and the Ten Commandments?

Stephen quoted from Romans, 1 Corinthians, and Galatians .. but left it to question 10 before partly quoting the words I would use to answer this question. He was quoting Paul, not Jesus. Given a choice of whose words to follow, which person will ‘save’ us?

Stephen said: Note/Fact: The Christian is not under the law, but under grace. The Christian should not sin, because they are not under the law. The Jewish law was to make a sacrifice for sin, but the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for all sin has been made. The Christian should keep the commandments of God.

I agree about most of the commandments … I’ve also blogged about that. Paul made it easy for the Christians, slipping them out of the laws, by only keeping the bits that suited him. Jesus said:

Matthew 5:17-19 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great int he kingdom of heaven”.

In question 10 even you agree that heaven and earth have not passed away yet. Was Jesus lying, or did Paul simply change the rules for himself?

Question #10: Has heaven and earth passed away, and what does it mean for Revelation?

Stephen: The answer to question ten is NO and there is no effect on Revelation.
Note/Fact: Only God (he that sat upon the throne) can make all things new. Heaven and earth shall pass away, and Satan is cast into the lake of fire, and there will be a new heaven and a new earth, but God’s word shall not pass away.

I agree the old will be replaced by the new, sometime in the future. I have research this question again because I have forgotten what it is about?

Question # 11 What is the war in heaven, and is it real?

After quoting various bits of Revelation Stephen said:

Note/Fact: The war in heaven was to cast Satan and his angels out, and the events are as real as the word of God. As above the word is true and faithful.

Me: .. so below “.. we wish it was”. Blind faith will not help us at the ‘accounting’. “I did what you said” will not save us when what we did turns out to be another man’s reinterpretation of the “Word”. Just look at situations like Waco.

The war in heaven is continuous, and manifests among the people (as above, so below), through real wars and personal battles within ourselves, with our families and friends, with entities we cannot see or touch, but they can touch us, and those who are criminally insane. We should stand steadfast within the faith of God, but not with blinkers on. If following the bible to the letter is the only way into heaven, we are all damned.

More questions? Oh yes .. I have questions. I have lots of questions. LOL

Thank you Stephen. I am sorry if I have not seemed kind, but I do appreciate very much that you took the time to answer my questions.

Love & Peace
Ama