(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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Created in ‘his’ likeness …

God created all of us in ‘his’ likeness. If we remove the sexism, assuming there is only one God, then God is both male and female. For simplification I’ll keep calling God ‘he’ ..

If God created all of us in his likeness, then some part of him is black, white, yellow, red and gay. Gay people use a rainbow flag .. I think that’s appropriate, because gay people are found in every culture in the world. Some cultures accept them and appreciate the difference, others condemn them and expect to see them in hell .. because people who ‘judge/condemn’ are breaking God’s commandments, so why do they think they will be going to heaven? Heck no, walk a mile in my shoes before you decide whether my beliefs are worse than yours .. at least I’m accepting of the differences, and I don’t see demons in every cupboard, or under every bed. Or in bed, for that matter .. and no, I am not gay.

Here’s a question for the genetics buffs .. why are there more people born homosexual or lesbian these days, or are they simply not pretending, or hiding, as much anymore? Is the devil suddenly in charge of human procreation that this would be happening? I don’t think so – so why has God decided that we need more of these people that are both male and female in their bodies .. without the external signs, because people are born hermaphrodites too? And while you dip frantically into the bible and start quoting Sodom and Gomorrah at me, better look in the mirror and thank God you were not born one of the hidden ‘under classes’, where persecution is a way of life and where you can’t feel you can be yourself in case someone finds out and hurts you. And yes, that is still happening all around the world.

I think perhaps the lesson humanity is being given is one of tolerance and kindness, of seeing past differences to the commonalities, the importance things, like ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ and ‘love one another’. That ‘love’ is not physical, but spiritual, unconditional love, that God gives to ALL of his creations .. or they would not continue to exist.

Jesus was not specific in condemning gay people, regardless of the attempts by people to define fornication as homosexual and lesbian behaviour. Perhaps, being the ‘son of God’ he could see past the small and unimportant issues, look into the loving hearts of every individual .. no matter which way they expressed their true natures? After all, as I have just written .. God created all things, God is in all things, and all things return to God .. even the judgmental people.

BE of a loving heart ….

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

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

Judas, my hero!

Morning all,

I went through my blog looking for mentions of Judas. I’m amazed that I haven’t mentioned him at all, because he is one of the puzzles of the story of Jesus, and so many people see him as a true villain. I even know a lady whose husband believes he is the reincarnation of Judas and has gone into a deep depression because of what he was supposed to have ‘done’ .. without, of course, ever reading the story in a decent translation of the Bible and thinking through the concepts .. so he is punishing himself for nothing, and even if he ‘is’ the reincarnation of Judas, I doubt the man would come into a new life so covered in guilt and shame, for the good his act brought to all of us means he does not deserve any.

So, what actually happened? Let me quote the gospels:

In Matthew the name of Judas Iscariot doesn’t appear until 10:4 where it is quoted as “the one who betrayed him”. In 26:14-15 we learn that Judas went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him 30 pieces of silver. 26:16 And from that moment on he (Judas) began to look for an opportunity to betray him (Jesus).

Jesus, of course, was in on the plot – at the passover meal he said 26:21 “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me”. 26:23 “The one who dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” Was Jesus looking at Judas when Judas answered “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Jesus replied, “You had said so.” ..

And so the questions start .. Did Jesus know exactly who was going to betray him, because every person ‘dipped their fingers’ into the ‘bowl’ of shared food, which was the custom of the people at the time? And what did he mean when he said, to Judas, “You had said so”. Judas had said what at that stage? Has something been edited out here in the far past, because that little sentence doesn’t seem to make sense in the context it is in?

Then Jesus broke bread and shared it and the wine with all his disciples, so if he did know Judas was about to betray him, was he angry about it, or simply accepting? Had Jesus forgiven Judas before the process even began, since that was Jesus’ nature?

And then all his disciples betrayed him, not just Judas – 26:31 “You will all become deserters because of me this night ..”. How did they desert – He asked them to stay awake while he prayed, and when he returned they were all asleep, twice. 26:40 & 43. When he needed their help, even in his quiet prayer, they were not there. And then there was specifically Peter ..

But back to Judas – 26:47 “While he was still speaking, Judas … arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people”.

You know, I just struck another puzzle. Judas had to kiss Jesus (26:49) to show the ‘crowd’ which man they should arrest. If Jesus was that famous for being a troublemaker, you would have thought at least one of them, other than Judas, knew which man Jesus was. And a kiss is a common practice among the men of their culture .. so how did it become a sign of betrayal? They still do this in modern times .. are they constantly saying they will all betray each other these days?

And lastly .. why did Jesus say “Friend, do what you have to do here” (26:50) to Judas, knowing what was about to happen? Did he still think of Judas as his friend? I don’t think he was being sarcastic.

Let’s go next to Mark:

Judas’ betrayal of Jesus is obviously a very important part of Mark’s gospel, given that he’s mentioned only three times? The first is the same as Matthew 3:19 “Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him”. 14:10-11 is the same story as Matthew, but briefer – “Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him”.

Now Theologians believe Mark is the earliest written gospel, on which the other gospels have been based, so someone had fun expanding the story in Matthew, and pretty much copying a lot of what was in Mark in doing so. But let’s move to the last time Judas is written of here. Aha .. back to the kissing again –

14:43-44 “Immediately, while he was speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard’.” Which he did, and they did ..

I wonder if the writer of Matthew wondered, as I have, why some ‘thugs’ from the scribes would be there – since he left it out of his story? And why don’t we have a more complete story of this event in Jewish history, since the ‘scribes’ were there? Perhaps the priests didn’t want it written down .. then why send scribes? Or did they make the story vanish afterwards?

And then all of Jesus’ followers deserted him and fled (14:50), more betrayal?

Luke:

The writer of Luke is actually kinder than the last two writers .. he blames Satan, but we first meet Judas much the same way –

6:16 ” … and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor”.

22:3 “Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve ..” and he went and saw the chief priests and officers of the temple police, and they also offered him ‘money’. (Neither Mark nor Luke specify what sort of money).

22:47 we are back to the kissing, only in this story he didn’t appear to actually do it – “He approached Jesus to kiss him’, then 22:48 “but Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?'”

And then we go to John:

Suddenly we have drama “6:70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.” The author then says 6:71 “He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him”.

And it gets worse .. suddenly Judas is not just a devil, a betrayer but also a thief 12:6 “he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it”.

Ok, from now on I have to decide whether Jesus and the other 11 disciples were all idiots or blind .. they could not tell that Judas was stealing and take the purse away from him ‘before’ he betrayed Jesus? That would have to include the author of John, if it was written by John. And yet if you go by Jesus’ actions in the other gospels, Jesus still treated Judas as a disciple and a friend. But back to John ..

13:2 “The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him”. Yes, we know.

Remembering that this book was written long after Mark .. let’s clear up the confusion about the ‘bowl’. 13:26 “Jesus answered (who would betray him), “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bred when I have dipped it into the dish”. So when he dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot.

And here’s another bit to the puzzle – 13:27 “After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him (Judas). (So Satan was controlling Judas, it was not Judas’ actually doing anything?) Jesus said to him, “do quickly what you are going to do.”

We can then interpret that as saying that Jesus knew exactly what Judas was going to do, and gave him permission to do it. My next question has to be –

Where was the betrayal? Jesus knew what was going to happen, he talked about it among his followers, the person was selected, either by God or the devil .. but for something so vitally important to humanity itself, I think it was God doing the choosing, why would Satan do something to betray itself? Jesus certainly seemed to think it was God in his ‘your will not mine’ statements (Matt 26:39, Mark 14:36, Luke 22:42). How could Judas be the betrayer, when he was acting for God?

BTW, in 18:3 Judas is now leading a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came with lanterns and torches and weapons. In this case we have no ‘kiss’, Jesus gives himself up into their hands, after the soldiers argue with him? The author didn’t know about the kissing?

And then we have the last puzzle of this story of Judas. How did he die?

It seems there are two stories to the death of Judas. The first is in Matthew 27:3-10 where he repented of what he had done and returned the 30 silver coins to the priests, and went and hanged himself. The priests used the coins to buy the potter’s field as a place to bury foreigners.

Story two is found in Acts, not the gospels. It seems Judas bought a field for himself with the 30 silver coins but instead of enjoying it he ‘fell headlong, burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out’ (Acts 1:18). And the field became known as the Field of Blood.

Where does that leave us?

Through the Grace of God, and the courageous acts of two men, we are Christian today, with all that it means for us .. those of us who are, of course. Can you see Judas as courageous? I can. Jesus certainly was.

Love & Peace
Ama

When is Wrath not Wrath?

Just this morning a friend and I, were discussing various biblical topics, and got onto the Wrath of God and what it actually is? I pulled out the dictionary, given my very questioning turn of mind, and found –

Wrath –

1. Forceful, often vindictive anger.
2. a. Punishment or vengeance as a manifestation of anger.
b. Divine retribution for sin.
1. angry, violent, or stern indignation
2. divine vengeance or retribution
3. Archaic a fit of anger or an act resulting from anger

So I shared those definitions with her .. and she grumbled ‘Ama, don’t be so literal!’ .. but how can I not be? If the Bible is our only authority on God, how can we not take it literally? Here I will add my usual grumble .. it’s supposed to be without error, addition or editing .. not true, of course, but .. let’s just take it literally for a while.

Ok, so the definition seems pretty clear to me. Wrath means unbridled and destructive anger. And then something on that Free Dictionary page reminded me that Wrath, or wroth, is a deadly sin. Oh heck? Does that mean God sins? Either that or ‘he’s’ a hypocrite, saying one thing and doing another? Neither fits well with the NT God who teaches ‘Love one another as I have loved you’, but we know the OT one can get mighty angry.

So I went into Strong’s Concordance hunting wrath. There’s plenty in the OT .. and quite a few in the NT .. but then I noticed, book by book, that some of the Strong’s wraths are now translated mostly as ‘anger’ .. so let’s eliminate them. And, just for the sake of argument, let’s also eliminate what other people said of what either Jesus or God said, which left us with the four gospels. Now I’m doing that because our true source of what God is comes to us through Jesus Christ. The rest is other people’s interpretations. And what is in the gospels .. two comments about John the Baptist, in Matthew and Luke, which, while not contradicting each other, do define a group of Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 3:7) as only a crowd of people (Luke 3:7), so whom do we believe there? I would have thought that Luke would delight in naming those converts to John’s God? But I am getting off topic, or not really, given John’s temper. 🙂

Where was I? Oh yes, Luke 21:23 “Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people …”. My question had to be ‘which people’? In the passage Jesus is talking directly to his followers of their lives after his death. And the time of wrath will see ‘Jerusalem surrounded by armies and destroyed’. And given Jerusalem’s history, I think that time has past, or is history going to repeat itself? I wonder if He thought He was thinking about 2000 years in the future, or simply looking around Him knowing the society as He did? We can only speculate.

John 3:36 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath”. What did the Son actually say “love one another as I have loved you” and “obey the laws” .. and along came Paul, and various others, and shot it all down. Who do you want to believe? Personally, since He’s God’s son, I’d go with Jesus, but the Christian church now follows Paul .. so is God’s wrath going to land on Paul’s followers .. and they are Paul’s followers since they are ignoring Jesus words, unless it suits them to do otherwise.

And that’s all the wrath I can pin down in the NT. Oh yes, I did find one thing though .. can’t help being fascinated and taking notes .. 🙂

Paul in Romans 12:19 “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’.”

Then in Romans 13:4 we have “It is for the servant of God (those who act for the authorities) to execute wrath on the wrongdoer.”

I am a bit confused. 🙂 First we are not allowed to act in wrath, and then we are supposed to .. or is wrath and vengeance two different things? Technically yes, since the first is the anger and second is the act, but we are not supposed to act in anger, so does a person seek vengeance in cold blood instead? But wait ..

Attributed to Paul, but generally agreed not actually written by him:

Ephesians 4:31 “Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” And it continues in Ephesians 5:1 “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Lovely words, very un-Paul-like.

So who is this God of the NT, whose Son spoke only once about Wrath, perhaps referring to the murder of the first born sons of Egypt .. since it reminds me of that? Jesus Christ spoke of love, not hatred, of peace and not war .. and the smiting had stopped. Unless I am mistaken no one has died by God’s hand since Jesus came into the world, and even before that.

Do we have to fear God’s wrath since Jesus came? Well, if you live in Revelation you do, but if you see it as it is, a commentary on Christian persecution in the time of Nero, I don’t think so .. but that is only my opinion. I side with Jesus in the fact that God loves all of His Children, and a loving person might correct his children, but he doesn’t let wrath guide his hand.

Love & Peace
Ama