Is God asleep, oblivious to our prayers? Is he a grouch, unwilling to respond to our pleas? In the Friend in Need simile Jesus instructed his disciples that the grounds for confident prayer is the character of their good and trustworthy God.
It is easy to claim new solutions and new approaches to familiar problems. But in the field of New Testament research it is much harder to make these claims stick. Some years ago I wrote an article in which I attempted to correct the prevailing view that Mark was the first of the Gospels. When the article was discussed in a seminar at Cambridge, the objection was raised that there was nothing new in my contentions or approach. Perhaps not. Perhaps I am simply unable to find in the enormous mountain of scholarly contributions to our knowledge of the Synoptic Gospels the special line of solution and methodology to which I found myself driven as early as 1962.
We are now in the middle of Passover week and one frequently hears the question, “And where did you go for the Seder [the special home service on the first night of Passover]?” Answers are varied: “To my family’s home.” “To friends.” “To a hotel in Eilat.”
Toward the end of his Epistle, James exhorts his readers to pray with faith for the healing of the sick. When we read that “the prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects” (James 5:16), we might have expected James to cite the example of Abraham. Genesis 20:17 might have served as the perfect prooftext: “Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abimelech.” …The example of Elijah that was provided by James, however, seems less obvious and more difficult.
Blessing God as one who delights in repentance has rich theological implications. Nevertheless, this blessing runs the risk of inaccuracy by understating God’s reaction to repentance. He not only delights in it but displays peculiar patterns of behavior when under its influence.
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.”
It has been noted that in instances where Mark’s editorial hand restructured his story, Luke has preserved a more primitive form of the account, a form that is independent of Mark’s influence. Gospel scholars need to properly evaluate Mark’s editorial style and acknowledge that frequently a theological agenda influenced his rewriting.
One of the most amazing and unusual experiences we have living in Israel is to see people who are avowed enemies nationally and historically come together in harmony and peace. A number of Israeli organizations bring together Arabs and Jews who have mutual interests (for example, in the area of the arts). Often harboring strong religious and political differences, these people get to know and understand each other on a personal level.
A visitor to Israel last night might have been puzzled by seeing the streets heavy with traffic, especially since it was already one o’clock in the morning. The reason was that last night was the first night of the annual week-long Passover festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt thousands of years ago, and people were returning home after taking part in a Passover Seder (the ceremonial meal on the first night of Passover).
In rabbinic parables God could be portrayed as behaving in a morally ambiguous manner: he might be a cruel slave owner or a heartless judge. In a few Lukan parables, Jesus also portrayed God as behaving scandalously. Often unsettling for modern readers, such portrayals added humorous elements to the plot and heightened the dramatic effect.
At the end of Matthew’s version of the Lord’s Prayer we read, “But deliver us from evil” in the King James Version and Revised Standard Version. A number of more recent English translations differ. The Good News Bible, New Century Bible, New International Version, New Jerusalem Bible and New Revised Standard Version all render Matthew 6:13b as keep us, save us, rescue us, or deliver us “from the evil one.” The difference is significant, and invites our curiosity.