Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus: Chapters 4 & 5

We are reading through Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus and analysing it in some detail.  We will pick up where we left of with Misquoting Jesus-Chapter 4.

Chapter 4 essentially gives a history of textual criticism.  It highlights some of the major contributors to textual criticism, including Richard Simon, Richard Bentley and Johann J. Wettstein.  Ehrman also gives a survey of the different manuscripts, manuscript families and geographical places from which they came.  Not wanting to get lost in the detailed minutiae of textual criticism, and because Chapter 4 is mostly a discussion of history and not very controversial, we will move on from Chapter 4 to Chapter 5.

In Chapter 5 Ehrman explores different methods that textual critics have applied Continue reading

Book Review: Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking On Water: Reflections On Faith and Art

“There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation.”  So says Madeleine L’Engle in her marvelous book about art and faith.  Why is there nothing secular that cannot be sacred?  Because God created everything.  Evil created nothing.  All that exists either is good, or can be good.  Those things which seem evil are only good things that have been perverted.  Continue reading

The Passover Lamb (Telling the “Big Picture” Story of the Bible #1)

One quality that is unique to the Bible is that it tells one continuous story from beginning to end, even though it is written by many different authors over thousands of years.  In this series of posts we will examine some of the major storylines in the Bible, some of the symbolism used and how authors continue these storylines and use these metaphors to tell one continuous story even though they are living and writing thousands of years apart.

Perhaps it would be good to remind ourselves of the general story of the Bible.  God created all that is.  Adam and Eve live in Paradise, enjoying all of creation and God Himself.  Adam and Eve choose to eat of fruit God had previously forbidden.  There is Noah and the flood.  God makes a covenant with Abraham that his descendants will outnumber the stars in the sky and that all nations will be blessed through his people.  Abraham’s descendants, the people of Israel are eventually enslaved by the Egyptians.  Moses leads the Exodus out of Egypt to the Promised Land.  The nation of Israel is divided into two kingdoms, experiencing different wars and occupations.  Various prophets predict judgment and reward for different nations. Prophets also predict salvation through a Messiah.  God becomes man in Jesus to be the predicted Messiah.  Messiah Jesus lives among humanity for around 30 years, is crucified, buried and resurrected.  The church is born.

This is the general outline of the story of the Bible.  Let’s look now at the specific image of the Passover Lamb that continues throughout the various books of the Bible. 

In the book of Exodus, we are told the story of how Moses lead the people out of captivity in Egypt.  Through Moses, God uses plagues on the Egyptians to try to convince Pharoah to let the Israelites go free.  The last of these plagues is the death of the firstborn.  In order to be spared from this plague, the each Israelite family sacrifices a lamb and puts blood on the frame of their doors.  This night came to be known as Passover–a feast was later implemented in order for the people to remember and celebrate how Death passed over their houses that night.  Part of the celebration and ritual implemented was that a lamb was to be sacrificed every year.  The lamb was to be male and without blemish.

This image of the Passover Lamb is picked up by many of the later authors in both the Old and New Testaments.  Isaiah says of the coming Messiah “…he was lead like a lamb to the slaughter…”  The New Testament authors pick up the image of the Passover Lamb and apply it to Jesus.  In 1st Corinthians, Paul says “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”  Peter says “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of (the) Messiah, a lamb without blemish or defect.”

The image of Jesus as the Passover lamb is magnified when one considers the death of Jesus.  We are told in the Gospels that Jesus is crucified on the night of the Passover.  Consider what this means.  Just as Jesus is being crucified and dying, the priest is in the Temple, sacrificing the Passover lamb.  As the priest moves to slit the throat of the lamb, Jesus utters “Into thy hands I commend my spirit” and as the passover lamb dies, the Passover Lamb dies too.  Just as this happens, the sun goes out and the veil in the Temple is torn from top to bottom.

The Passover Lamb has been sacrificed.  Let us now celebrate how we are no longer bound by Sin and Death.  Let us celebrate how Death has passed over us, thanks to our Messiah Jesus.

Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus Chapter 3

We are reading through Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus and analysing it in some detail.  We will pick up where we left of with Misquoting Jesus–Chapter Three.

Throughout Chapter 3, Bart Ehrman gives us a quick history of the different texts and manuscripts we have of the New Testament, and how these manuscripts have affected translations of the New Testament.  The first fact that we ought to look at is that by Ehrman’s own admission, we have 5700 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament.  Some of these manuscripts are partial manuscripts the size of a credit card, some are collections of more than one book, and a few even contain the whole New Testament.  Continue reading

Artist’s Best: Rich Mullins

“I am so grateful for Rich’s songs.  They teach me how to notice, how to worship, how to write, and most importantly, how to live.”  That is what Chris Rice wrote for the liner notes to “Awesome God:a tribute to Rich Mullins”.  That statement is true of most of Rich’s music, but it is especially true of his best album: “A Liturgy, A Legacy & A Ragamuffin Band”.

“A Liturgy…” is a concept-album.  Now, sometimes concept albums feel forced.  Often, they feel like songs were crammed into a certain format or style in order to fit the concept.  This concept album, though, is quite the opposite.  The first song serves as a sort of call to worship.  Tracks 2-6 together form a liturgy–a tool used for public worship.  First, the Scripture is proclaimed in “52:10”, which is Isaiah 52:10 sung in a way that is reminiscent of a monk chant mixed with beautiful piano and drums.  The rest of the tracks in the liturgy section of the album praise God (“The Color Green”), ask for his help (“Hold Me Jesus”), proclaim Christian belief in a musical version of the Apostle’s Creed (“Creed”), and the liturgy closes with a Communion song (“Peace”).  Tracks 7-12 form the “Legacy” section of the album.  This section focuses on what it means to live out “the Liturgy”, that is, what it means to live as a Christian in the world.

Lyrically, this album is chock-full of beautiful imagery and poetry.  Mullins’ songwriting is at its best here.  Take these lyrics for “The Color Green”, a song that praises God for His creation:  “Be praised for all Your tenderness by these works of Your hands/Suns that rise and rains that fall to bless and bring to life Your land/Look down upon this winter wheat and be glad that You have made/Blue for the sky and the color green that fills Your fields with praise”.  Mullins is witty when appropriate, too.  For example on the song “Hard”, which discusses the fact that living a life full of values is not easy:  “Well I am a good midwestern boy/I give an honest day’s work if I can get it/I don’t cheat on my taxes, I don’t cheat on my girl/I’ve got values that would make the white house jealous”. 

Then we come to what I believe is Rich Mullins’ most well-written song, “Land of my Sojourn”.  It is the last song on the album, and it sort of combines the Liturgy section with the Legacy section, combining the stories of Scripture with imagery and metaphor from our present life, in a statement that the world we live in now is only the Land of our Sojourn when compared to the world we will live in when Creation is restored.  Mullins uses beautiful imagery, metaphor and similes to combine the present world with the stories of Scripture.  “And this road, she is a woman/She was made from a rib cut from the sides of these mountains/Oh these great sleeping Adams who are lonely even here in Paradise/Lonely for somebody to kiss them…”  Each verse ends with the same line:”And I’ll sing my song in the land of my sojourn”.  Through the verses, though, the narrator goes from singing “my song” to “their song” to “His song”.  This is a beautiful way to reflect that as a Christian lives and grows in Christianity, we ought to be moving away from ourselves and toward God.  There are so many details I could give about this song, but I will refrain from simply reprinting the whole lyric here, which I am sure is available elsewhere online if you are interested.

The music perfectly matches the lyric for each song.  The word that best describes the song “52:10” is probably proclamation.  The music and singing is strong and refuses to be ignored, which is exactly what is appropriate for proclaiming the Word.  “Hold Me Jesus” is piano driven and intimate, which is what is needed for a prayer to God for his strength.  The hammered dulcimer, which Mullins is famous for playing, is featured throughout the album.  It combines with the drums perfectly on “Creed” to set a meter and rhythm that is the perfect backdrop for a statement of what one believes.  The rhythm seems to say that these things that I believe are what keep time in my life–they are what keeps me going, steadily and firmly.

This album makes one a bit sad to realize that Rich Mullins has been gone now for 12-13 years.  We will not be getting any new music from Rich for a while.  As Andrew Peterson puts it in his tribute song to Rich Mullins, “Three Days Before Autumn”: “the angels in Heaven are dancing around to the music that I wanna hear”.  Just think–if Rich Mullins wrote this album while he was still earth-bound, what might he be writing now?  I can’t wait to find out!

What if Lazarus wrote The Gospel of John?

This is the first in a new series of posts, called “What if…”  This series will not be ideas that I necessarily think are true–they are just some fun ‘What if” sorts of possibilities.

What if Lazarus wrote the Gospel of John?  “But wait” you might be thinking, “The name of the book is ‘The Gospel of John’.  It’s the Gospel of John because John wrote it!”  And you’re right–the book has traditionally been known as “The Gospel of John”.  But the titles of the Gospels, as well as the chapter and verse divisions, were not in the original manuscripts.  The titles were only added and passed down later–they were not originally with the books.

What do we know about the authorship of the fourth Gospel simply from reading it?  Throughout the fourth Gospel, the author refers to someone as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23-25, 19:26-27, 20:1-10, 21:1-25).  We learn in John 21:20-25 that it is the Beloved Disciple who wrote the Gospel.  This is the only hint we get at the identity of the author from within the text of the Gospel.

Who is the Beloved Disciple?  Good question!  What if Beloved Disciple is not John, but Lazarus?  How would this fit with the text of the fourth Gospel?

First, we ought to acknowledge that John 11:5 specifically states that Jesus loved Lazarus.  While we know, obviously, that Jesus loves everyone, it is not often that it is specifically stated that Jesus loves an individual.  In fact, this may very well be the only place that specifically states that Jesus loved an individual male.  And that male is Lazarus, who just might be the Beloved Disciple.

We have just come through Holy Week.  One thing the Gospels tell us about this time is that the Twelve Disciples (minus Judas) hid while Jesus was being crucified and buried, because they feared for their lives.  John, however, says that the Beloved Disciple was there at the cross.  In fact, Jesus entrusts his mother, Mary, into the care of the Beloved Disciple, and he takes her into his home for the rest of her life.  But if the other Gospels are correct, the Twelve are hiding, so the Beloved Disciple can’t be John, because John is hiding at the same time that the Beloved Disciple is at the cross.  Perhaps the Beloved Disciple who Jesus entrusts his mother to is Lazarus.

All four of the Gospels record Jesus being anointed by a woman using perfume.  Judas complains that the perfume is too expensive, but Jesus affirms what the woman is doing, saying that she is anointing him for his burial.  The Synoptic Gospels do not identify who the woman is.  The fourth Gospel, though, identifies the woman as Mary and the place as Bethany.  It makes sense for the author to make these identifications since Mary is Lazarus’ sister and Bethany is where they lived.

Many scholars argue that the fourth Gospel was the last to be written, mostly because the content is so theological in nature.  If Lazarus is the author, though, it makes sense that the content would be much more theological than the other Gospels.  Lazarus was resurrected by Jesus, so it makes sense that he would make deeper theological connections with Jesus than any other individual.

Again, it is not a core belief of Christianity that Lazarus is the Beloved Disciple and the author of the fourth Gospel.  My faith would not be shattered if it is somehow proven that Lazarus couldn’t have written it.  It is, however, a fun possibility to think about.

Incidentally, this idea of Lazarus as the Beloved Disciple is by no means an original idea.  I highly recommend Dr. Ben Witherington’s blog, which has a post on this subject.

Easter

“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.  There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.  His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.  The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.  He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.  Come and see the place where he lay…”  Matthew 28:1-6