Once, when Jesus and his disciples were enjoying themselves at a dinner party, a simple observation was made: “Your disciples don’t fast!” The observation was innocent and simple enough; it was not an accusation, but an honest exclamation of perplexity. Jesus’ response, however, was far from simple.
Within popular piety in America today, it is widely believed that the Bible instructs Christians, either explicitly or implicitly, to give ten percent of their income to their local churches. Pastors teach this in the name of the biblical notion of “tithing”, a term applied to the giving of ten percent of one’s crops and flocks to the Levites. However, the Bible nowhere even remotely suggests that Christians are supposed to give ten percent of their income to the church, or anything.
This study is dedicated to those who have suffered the agony of divorce. Tragically their pain has been compounded by well-meaning Christians who have distorted both the letter and the spirit of Jesus’ teaching concerning divorce and remarriage. For them, may this article bring a measure of healing.
Based on archaeological excavations near the southern wall of the temple, the research of Shmuel Safrai, and a nuance of the Hebrew verb that is one of the equivalents for Greek ekballein (drive out, banish; throw out; throw away, reject; cast out of a place, expel; remove, get rid of; put out), it may be necessary to reinterpret the gospel accounts of Jesus’ “cleansing” of the temple, even suggesting a different location for Jesus’ action.
We Christians sing a hymn that contains these words: “Blessed be the name, blessed be the name, blessed be the name of the Lord.” We also sing choruses that proclaim: “Your name is like honey on my lips”; “His name is exalted far above the earth”; “Praise the name of Jesus, praise the name of Jesus….” However, we may have misunderstood, or partially misunderstood, many biblical expressions that contain the idiom, “the name of.”
In a beautiful statement that probably referred to the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus proclaimed to his disciples, according to Luke, that “many prophets and kings” desired to see and hear what they (his disciples) are seeing and hearing. Matthew preserves the same saying, but in Matthew’s account the doublet is, “prophets and righteous persons.” The wording of Jesus’ saying in these two accounts is so similar that it appears likely that their slight differences reflect literary, or editorial, changes rather than different versions of the saying uttered by Jesus on different occasions. If so, which of these gospel accounts preserves the more original form of Jesus’ saying? Did Jesus say “prophets and kings” or “prophets and righteous persons”?
The most frequent request we receive from readers is: “Have you published a list of Hebraism you assume are embedded in the Greek texts of the gospels?” Hebrew idioms leap out from every page of Jesus’ life story, and I began cataloging them years ago. I discussed a number of them in the Appendix to Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus, for example: “bring out your name bad” (pp. 115-117), “the appearance of his face was altered” (pp. 117-119), “lay these things in your ears” (pp. 119-123), and “he set his face to go” (pp. 123-126).
Among the more creative scriptural interpretations related to the fulfillment of prophecy in our day is one centering on Jeremiah 16:16. According to it, the “hunters” in this verse are the brutal pursuers of the Jewish people, such as the Nazis who systematically murdered millions of Jews. The “fishers,” on the other hand, are the quiet and gentle persons who assist the Jewish people, for instance, the Christians who presently are engaged in rescuing Jews from the republics of the former Soviet Union.
Everyone knows that biblical verses should not be taken out of context, and most people can probably name a few examples of verses that are often abused in this way. I would like to suggest that one of the most commonly quoted verses in popular piety today is abused in this way, and hardly anyone seems to have noticed. The verse to which I refer is Romans 8:28.
Modern readers of the Book of Revelation usually assume that the key to understanding the book lies in discovering a one-to-one correspondence between the figures it presents, and real-life figures. But the correct interpretation of the four horsemen appears only when we consider the four together as a unified symbol of widespread calamity.
As a small boy growing up in Alabama I had a deep love of God and a real hunger to know him better. By the age of eight I had read the entire Bible. But, like most people, I often struggled to understand what the Scriptures were saying. Many verses didn’t seem to make sense.
The King James Version translates Genesis 29:17 as follows: “Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured.” The New International Version has, “Leah had weak eyes,” while the New American Bible reads, “Leah had lovely eyes.” What did the Hebrew original mean to say?
The apostle Paul asserted in Romans 11:1 that God had not rejected his people. Speaking metaphorically, he went on to compare the people of Israel to a cultivated olive tree. Because of unbelief, some, but not all, of the tree’s branches had been broken off, and a wild olive branch had been grafted to the stock. Paul emphasized, however, that grafting the original branches back to the stock of the cultivated tree would be a much simpler task than grafting a wild olive to it.