(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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The password to my mind

Every so often I forget the password to one of the many sites I write on on the internet, and no matter how I search my password book, I cannot find it – and so I am forced to examine myself to create a new password, a new key to the inner voice of Me that is expressed in the various pages of my blogs.

Since I ceased to write on this site more than a year ago the inner me has been tested by fire, and while its still feeling a little singed at the edges, I don’t think I .. or perhaps I did, to some degree .. have the whole phoenix experience, to emerge remade, or was it simply remodeled.

I drift.  I wish I could say it was in a sea of calm, but mostly it is in a sea of confusion, of tested compassion and patience, of wishing and wishful thinking, and wondering where God is in all these adventures.  I drift, as though in a row boat with no oars, sail or rudder, gently, quietly, after all of the rapids .. Do I need a holiday, or is that nearly over?  Is the slowly rising head of boredom a spur to send me down old paths when I thought I was guided to new?  When will the drifting cease, and the fountain of words return, that tell stories and shares thoughts without the struggle of ‘what to say’?  A blank page feels like a closed door right now.

Many years ago I met a nun who’s every greeting began with ‘and where is God in your life today’ .. I am sorry I lost track of her, she moved to Canada (from Australia) to study the ‘Spirituality of St Ignatius’, and left me rather floundering with my own. In the many years since that event, I’ve gone through angry and out the other side.  I’ve gone through broken and been the re-maker.  I’ve gone through a strong desire to change completely, and tried other paths, just to find myself come full-circle, back to where my heart truly is, at the feet of God, wondering ‘what next’ in this crazy adventure I have made of my life.  I … have … made … not God, because, while God is the core of my being, it (or he) is not the chooser of my path.

People say that God has a plan for every person, then stand bewildered when the plan includes them dying young, or in some horrible way, or withering into nothingness bound down by pain and sorrow, and those who are left behind stare at the place God was supposed to be and find it empty, and themselves empty, because God did not keep the promises we think it (he) made .. or worse, we are told that God made the promises, just before we (they) destroy ourselves, because the path has been too hard, or was it that we thought we were simply not good enough?

No, I am not suffering from depression.  Where is the bit I just wrote about being bored?  Boredom and I are not good companions.  I have no patience with bulldust, most particularly my own.  🙂

When I decided to reanimate this blog I took my favourite bible (I have 13 versions of the Christian bible, all different, or is it 14 now) and opened it up to find a password, and then when I didn’t like what I read, I went to one of my favourite passages .. and because I think I have been boring enough, let me copy it here.  You’ll recognise it –

  1. If I speak in the tongues of mortals or of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
  2. If I have the prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
  3. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
  4. Love is patient, love is kind; love is not envious, or boastful, or arrogant
  5. or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
  6. it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.
  7. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
  8. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to the end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.
  9. For we know only in part and we prophesy only in part,
  10. but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.
  11. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.
  12. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we shall see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
  13. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

I have looked into the glass darkly and only seen myself.  I have touched the darkness with both hands and found only God.  I have been a Spiritual Warrior who desperately wanted to put down her sword .. but no, it is still in my hand.  The Sword and the Words are the same being, according to Revelation.  Are we at the time when we will reveal ourselves truly, or should we just lay down our hearts and say “Dear God help us.  We are lost again”.

The Christians speak of the second coming as an age of miracles when we will be rescued from our own folly.  But why should God rescue us again, when we have ignored, denied, denigrated, destroyed and worse, and been hypocrites in ‘his’ name?  And continue these behaviors without regard for others.  We try to externalize the anti-Christ, when perhaps, we should look within ourselves?  The real mystery is why God continues to love all its (his) creations, and I do mean all of them, even after a millennia of bad behaviour.

So I shall lay down my sword and pick up a pen, or at least type on my keyboard, since my writing is pretty awful most of the time.  You’ll be seeing me.

Love & Peace

God, my way

I had a man come to the door a few weeks ago, clutching some white paper, neatly folded.  I opened the door cheerfully and he told me he was from a local town, specifically a church in a local town.  Being me, I love discussing theology, belief, the bible and people’s opinions about all of it, and we stood on the doorstep and talked for about 15 minutes, before he left me his ‘questions and answers’ sheet to fill in .. two of them, of the twelve that the members of his church give to newcomers to help them learn about God and the Bible.   When we had done all twelve we get a free bible (it’s very pretty, he said).  Pretty?  Ok, I can add another to my collection.  Lovely!

Weeks passed before I had time to sit down and really peruse those little booklets.  We are very busy with renovations at the moment, and everything else had been on the backburner.  When I did sit down, after promising I would when he came to ‘collect’ my answers to the leaflets the last time, I treated them like anything else biblically based – study ‘critically’ (that does not mean judgmental, it means a ‘close review’), check all the quotes, and then corrected a couple .. amazing how small corrections might change a meaning or two.  Then I realised how I was supposed to answer them – copy the text out of the bible, word by word, onto the indicated spaces on the form .. they even gave me one space for each word.  Umm.. that’s not really my way, and I had told the man I was a theologian and would write my thoughts, which he was happy to receive .. so I did.

He arrived for the first lot of answers, we had a brief chat, he left, leaving another pair of readings and questions to answer .. love it.  Great fun! 

Next visit I handed over the next set of answers, and he handed me over to his wife.  The ‘women take care of the women’ in their church.  Ok, no problem, she had written some comments to my first lot of answers, so I commented on her answers (because she wanted to have a ‘discussion’) and presented them with the second lot of answers.  Lovely!  

I could say here ‘after that it was all downhill’?  The first Bible Study had been on ‘Evidence for the Existence of God’.  The second ‘the origin of Evil’.  The third was ‘the Good News’ (who is Jesus etc), the fourth on ‘nations in prophecy’, which really had nothing much except criticisms of various countries around the world, and their leaders, and a world history review .. which was very interesting.  Plus there was a DVD to watch, which wouldn’t work on my TV, so I found the program on YouTube and watched it there.  The concepts ‘reached’ (not stretched) so far, some fell over .. but .. everyone is entitled to their beliefs, whether they agree with mine or not.  So I answered their questions and added comments of my own, and then looked at the next two booklets.  In the meantime the lady had come back to get three and four …

The next day, Sunday, I checked my letterbox and found a letter, neatly written.  In it it said that they were very sorry that their bible study booklets were raising so many questions and doubts in me.  I stood there thinking ‘what doubts’ .. or what ‘new’ doubts and questions had their booklets raised?  None that I could see.  No, instead I had been doing what I usually do .. asking for answers to the tough questions.  I know from a conversation that I had with that lady, the second time she came to the house, that they didn’t ask tough questions, just focused on the ‘good’ stuff .. the good stuff?  That meant they ignored the things they didn’t want to think about, like the story of Job, and other things I have mentioned on this site before.   It puzzles me that people choose to ignore the nasty side of ‘god’, and yet focus on the Messiah of Retribution that Revelation describes is coming to collect all the good Christians, and send the rest of the heathens to hell.  Do they ever stop and wonder which side they will be placed on, when he turns up?  Or if it will actually be Jesus, who taught only love and peace .. this guy with a flaming sword, or a sword in his mouth, and his horde of angels bent on destruction?

Booklet five is ‘Signs of Christ’s second Coming’, and the sixth is ‘the Second Coming of Christ’.  I shall review them too, and write my comments, though the people are no longer interested in the answers.  I regret not getting the other six, perhaps I should have played the game, but it would have been a game, and not truth, if I had answered in the way they expected me to.  There is a huge difference between being a ‘believer’ and being a ‘theologian’, though I know plenty of theologians, including me, who continue to believe in Jesus Christ, as both man and God.  I have my reasons, though they are not based in the infallibility of the bible, which has proved to be full of contradictions.  A friend even asked me about the unicorns mentioned in her KJV just the other day.

I am not you, but you have as much right as I do to find God in your own way.  I will not abandon you when you ask the tough questions, when you tell me where I am going wrong with my thoughts, when you yell and rant .. this has all happened to me.  Oh no, I wasn’t doing the yelling, I was on the receiving end .. from someone a long time ago.  I am going to hell, according to them, because I don’t believe ‘their way’.  Well, I believe that God, being omnipotent, is large enough to encompass all our beliefs and be ‘God for all people’, not just ‘God, my way’.

What do you believe?

 

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

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

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