Saturday, December 17, 2005

Fresh Air Interview with Bart Ehrman

In case you missed it, there was an interesting interview on NPR the other day about Bart Ehrman's book Misquoting Jesus. I agree with many of his general conclusions about scribal transcriptions and our need to understand the personalities of the gospel writers and their audiences. Interesting though, how he ends up a self-described "agnostic" after his encounter with our human-transcribed scriptures. His underlying problem with belief in Christianity is easy to understand: how can you place stock in scriptures filled with "errors". In the end, you need something you can trust. Has Ehrman missed something? Wondering what you guys think.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Session #1: The Geneaologies


Two themes stood out in my mind after our discussion on the genealogies in Matthew and Luke.

1. God uses the unlikeliest of people to be agents of the kingdom.

The chief agent of God's kingdom being Jesus. I find it helpful recognizing this consistent theme throughout the bible. Particularly, the exodus and exile motif we see in the beginning chapters of Matthew.

One of the things I try to do in understanding these rich and deeper goldmines in the Bible is to relate them to our present day...to the world I inhabit. One of my thoughts came up in our discussion. I was thinking about the passed hip-hop artist/rapper Tupac Shakur as a metaphor for what I am talking about. Tupac was not an agent for the kingdom of God (or was he?) but he did represent the voiceless in American society. He was one of the few rappers and pop culture icons that consistently brought the voices of those in the margins in his rap songs ( e.g. Brenda's gotta baby, Keep ya head up, et al). Given his background and personal history Tupac was an unlikely candidate to represent other people's hopes and aspirations.

2. A part of God's story of redemption is the turning of the tables.

Consistently throughout scripture we see this theme repeated over and over again. In fact, the gospels talk about the "last becoming first". Once we understand that Jesus represents not only God, but also humanity...and in particular, God decides to become a human being in the form of a peasant who is a part of a people who are oppressed and occupied by a colonizing power. I think too often we Western Christians dismiss these historical nuggets as irrelevant to our discussion to Jesus' message of 'good news'. I don't know where this comes from. I have my suspicions: 1. the over-spiritualizing of the historical context of the New Testament 2. that we read the Bible from a place of relative privilege...its hard to identify with a people who are on the edges of barely surviving. We tend to read the Bible through our own culture...which isn't totally a bad thing...in some ways...many ways it is difficult to recognize and escape.

I'll post more thoughts as they arise.

Session #3: The Gospel According to Mary

Those who carry pianos
to the tenth floor wardrobes and coffins
an old man with a bundle of wood limps beyond the horizon
a woman with a hump of nettles
a madwoman pushing a pram
full of vodka bottles
they will all be lifted
like a gull's feather like a dry leaf
like an eggshell a scrap of newspaper

Blessed are those who carry
for they shall be lifted.

-Anna Kamienska, "Those Who Carry"

"He speaks about faith in a way that even a nonbeliever can embrace."

i know this is not exactly on topic, but Bono talking about scripture I found interesting, and somewhat familiar to our discussions on how the reading of the text changes for us.

"I want to build my house on a rock, because even if the waters are not high around the house, I'm going to bring back a storm. I have that in me."



check out this excerpt.

I will be purchasing this issue as soon as possible. This is a man I want playing on my team. The fact that he is not perfect is what makes him so compelling.

Session #2: A Baptism of Fire



For those of you who missed our last session, Eric created an image to help us understand the perspective of the writers of the Gospel (and New Testament). By exploring their position within first century Judaism, we better understand their motives for what they chose to write, to whom they wrote, and why they wrote the way that they did. Paul, Mark and the author of Hebrews, for example, were much more Hellenistic in their approach to writing and in the way they communicated with their audience. Matthew, on the other hand, was closer to what we would consider charismatic. Our analogy was that he was Malcolm X to perhaps John's Martin Luther King Jr. Additionally, recognizing the various sects or theological leanings of the Jews during Christ's ministry helps us interpret the writer's intent and provides some context for Christ's teachings. (I think this will probably become more relevant as we move into the Sermon on the Mount and the Parables.)

The Gospels seem to indicate that John the Baptist expected Christ to bring the fire and brimstone John had been preaching prior to the Baptism. Jesus came with an entirely different message. Instead of dispossessing or expelling sinners, He offered a relationship, based not on a list of criteria to be met or rules to be maintained, but on a more mature and profound level. Consanguinity. Blood relations. Deep intimacy. Forgiveness. Grace. (Eric, I would love some clarification or comment on this point.)

Christ, noteably, falls into the middle of the "amoeba" and appealed in different ways to all of the modes of thought represented. Yeshua was extremely relevant, but at the same time he was redefining everything about how the Scripture represented the Messiah. He "turned the tables" and in many ways seemed to disorient previous concepts of what God's savior for Isreal really looked like. Jesus provided a theological middle ground undermining many previously divisive interpretations of what the Kingdom of God looked like; the result (if accepted) would be unprecedented unity (not to mention truly divine simplicity.) The preparation and opportunity which God provided (and provides) for all peoples to hear and understand the Good News can be traced throughout this "turning of the tables" and ultimately into the growth of a new sect of Judaism that we now embrace as Christianity. The more we pursue the relevance, and significance of Christ's teachings to His own generation, the more bafflingly beautiful God's plan of redemption appears.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

33AD Warehouse 242 Affinity Group

Welcome affinity group members! I hope our discussions will be rich and effusive. Please begin posting your reflections here, and carry over our conversation into our daily lives.

Anthony, please post here the reflections you sent Christy and me last week!