Archive for the ‘Four Gospels’ Category

That Ole’ Lefty Bible

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011 by JEL

We here at What He Said headquarters have long scratched our head at religious folks and their conservative views. It’s part of the reason why we created the book in the first place. Do conservative Christians ever actually read the Bible, and the Four Gospels in particular? Those messages about helping the needy and the poor? Funny how Jesus never says the poor should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. Sandalstraps?

Christianity Today published an interesting analysis of the 2007 Baylor Religion Survey which asked a whole range of folks about their Bible reading and views on a variety of topics. The survey found that people who read the Bible the most tend to be more conservative, BUT BUT BUT the more these same folks read it, especially on their own, the more liberal their views become. That pesky Jesus!

Why does this happen? One possible explanation is that readers tend to have expectations of a text prior to reading it. Given the Bible’s prominence in our society, it’s little wonder that many people think they know what’s in it before they open it up. But once they start reading it on their own, they are bound to be surprised by something, and this surprising new content is then integrated and grafted on to the familiar. Beliefs do change with the addition of new information.

Ten Things Everyone Should Learn

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011 by JEL

Kathy from Canyonwalker Connections is sharing some insights she’s learned from 10 years of working on the front lines of a very important issue. Take a gander (and bring your notebook):

A Clear Separation

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011 by JEL

With What He Said, we redesigned the Four Gospels to make them easier to read and explore. We saw the low readership numbers of the Bible then looked the Bible itself and saw a clear usability problem. All that tiny text burying Jesus’ message is really hard to read.

I realize I’m off on a tangent to my original purpose which is to talk about the separation of church and state that our founding fathers did such a nice job to establish. Believe what you want, but there’s a wall there. Government stays out of religion, and religion stays out of government. Perhaps you’d think that the designers of a religious book would want that message force-fed to the masses. Not so. Why? Well, Dan Brimrose does a nice job of explaining:

Unfortunately for [the religious right] the very first Amendment of the Constitution is nothing but clear that there should be a separation of Church and State. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

They shout that it does not say separation of Church and State. Who cares? The intent is obvious and the result is the same.

The Supreme Court has often used the words of our third President Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, to help them interpret and enable others to understand the intent of the very first Amendment. Contained in an 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association from Jefferson were the following words, “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”

Less than ten years after the ratification of the Constitution in the treaty of Tripoli which was initiated by President George Washington, signed by President Adams and unanimously ratified by the Senate were the words,”As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion …”

Faith is a personal matter. We’d love you to buy our book, but the last thing we’d want is any government body making you.

Paul Farmer

Friday, September 16th, 2011 by JEL

In my opinion, Paul Farmer is a person actually following the teachings of Christ. Doctor, instructor, and co-founder of Partners in Health, he has worked tirelessly around the world to provide medical care to the “poorest of the poor.” He has spent a great deal of time in Haiti, and while you may think that’s old news now, here’s what he has to say about Haiti after the earthquake:

Watch the full episode. See more Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

Something Beyond Mammon

Monday, September 12th, 2011 by JEL

Did you know there are Christians in China? Lots of them? It’s true: serious estimates put the number at roughly 60 million and growing rapidly. As this BBC article covers, more people go to church on Sunday in China than in all of Europe. While the Party promotes atheism, it says it will “protect and respect religion until such time as religion itself will disappear.”

So what’s the draw? I found these two quotes to be illustrative:

“We have 50 young professionals in this church. Everyone is so busy working, you don’t have time socialising, and even if you are socialising, you are putting on a fake face. But in church people feel warm, they feel welcome… they feel people really love them so they really want to join the community, a lot of people come for this.”

and

“The worship of Mammon… has become many people’s life purpose. I think it is very natural that many other people will not be satisfied… will seek some meaning for their lives so that when Christianity falls into their lives, they will seize it very tightly.”

Maybe the “New, New, New Testament?”

Thursday, September 8th, 2011 by JEL

Did you know there was a new New Testament? One that was personally commissioned by Jesus and the original authors of the New Testament? Sounds pretty special, right? Ken Maley is the “scribe” taking dictation for the message as Jesus wants it to be presented today. Is it a radical re-write? Apparently not, according to this press release.

The teaching of Jesus presented here is in no way something new. It was the core teaching in the early Church up until the fourth century when money and power overrode tradition, and to this day it is the teaching of many Eastern Churches, which never lost Jesus’ real Message.

Those very close to Jesus knew this teaching and later taught it. Christianity went underground in many places because Jesus’ core teaching — that we are God (John 10, 34) — continued to be illegal for a long time after Jesus was killed for preaching it, and so had to be kept secret except among members of the Communities.

[...]

“It cannot be stressed enough that Jesus does not want a new Church, or a new sect to come from his Message here! He simply wants his core Message to be taught and believed in all his Churches! His teaching here may well radically change Christianity today everywhere except in those places, mainly in the East, were his core Message was never lost, but it must be seen as a return to that Message and not a changing of it!”

If you’re curious, check out this page at Barnes & Noble and you’ll discover that there are actually several New New Testaments. Who knew? If you want to zero in on Maley’s version, it might be best to go right to his website. The testimonial quotes are real doozies.

John 14:6

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011 by JEL

We’ve taken a brief break after finishing Mark a couple of weeks ago, so we haven’t yet gotten to going through John (let alone Luke) line by line. But in my previous readings, I’ve always been troubled by 14:6, where Jesus answers Thomas’s question “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.”

I’m not the only one troubled. Carl Gregg has written a well-thought-out piece on his journey with John 14:6. He speaks of his “critical phase” where he wondered:

“Does this verse mean that Jesus is the only way to heaven? If so, what does that claim mean for all the faithful Hindus, Muslims, and Jews I have met, who are also good, funny, competent, kind, and smart human beings?”

Read Gregg’s story and see where he has arrived today.

Kristin Wins!

Friday, May 27th, 2011 by JEL

Some of you may know Kristin Chenoweth from Glee, others from her amazing voice and starring roles on Broadway. Me? I first encountered her as the character Annabeth Schott on The West Wing. I had no idea she could even sing. Anyway, she’s going to have to make room on her mantle (slide over, Tony and Emmy) for a new award: best quote on Christianity.

“I think it’s important to remember that Christianity was based in love and tolerance and forgiveness and acceptance. I don’t want Christianity to be a negative word anymore. I want people to understand that there is a group of Christians out there who want to be more open and understanding and tolerant and loving of all kinds of people, even the people that don’t believe in God at all. I guess that’s one of my purposes in this life is to make sure people know that Jesus would have taught the same thing and did teach the same thing. If he were alive today, where would he be hanging out? He wouldn’t be hanging out at Neiman Marcus. He probably wouldn’t even be at church. He would be downtown feeding the poor and helping the sick. That’s what it’s about.”

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend, everyone.

Reading the Gospels: Mark, Chapters 13-16

Friday, May 13th, 2011 by JEL

Chapter 13 begins with an innocent comment by the disciples at how awesome the temple building is. Jesus tells them there won’t be a stone left. They head over to the Mount of Olives across from the temple, and the disciples ask for the sign when all the terrible things will happen.

Jesus tells them that many will come in His name trying to lead others astray. Nation will rise against nation, and earthquakes and famine will abound. But that’s just the beginning. He tells them that they will be delivered up to councils and beaten in synagogues. Families will rise up against each other and “cause them to be put to death.” But watch out when the “abomination of desolation” occurs, spoken of by the prophet Daniel. Then people should flee to the mountains (without going back to get their cloaks or anything from their houses).

That’s when the real oppression will hit. And after that, the sun and moon will go dark, and the stars will fall from the sky. That’s when they “will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.”

As for when exactly, Jesus says He doesn’t know:

“But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Watch, keep alert, and pray; for you don’t know when the time is.”

Chapter 14

It’s now two days before Passover and the chief priests and scribes are trying to figure out how to seize and kill Jesus before the feast (“because there might be a riot of the people.”) Jesus, meanwhile, is in Bethany at Simon the leper’s house. A woman comes in with a jar of extremely expensive, pure nard. She breaks the jar and pours the oil over Jesus’ head. Some watchers grumbled that the oil could have been sold and the proceeds used to help the poor. Jesus replies:

“Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want to, you can do them good; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could. She has anointed my body beforehand for the burying.”

Judas Iscariot slips out and tells the chiefs he will deliver Jesus to them. They’re delighted and promise Judas money as payment.

The disciples, at Jesus’ command, go into the city, meet a man carrying a pitcher of water, follow him into a house and ask the master of the house where the Teacher and his disciples may eat the Passover. The master shows them a large room upstairs with everything furnished and ready. That evening, Jesus arrives for the meal. As they’re calmly eating, Jesus drops the bombshell:

“Most certainly I tell you, one of you will betray me–he who eats with me.”

They all say “Surely not I?” but Jesus just says it would have been better for the betrayer never to have been born. He then blesses some bread, breaks it and hands it to the 12:

“Take, eat. This is my body.”

He then gives them the cup from which to drink:

“This is my blood of the new covenant, with is poured out for many.”

After they sing a hymn, they head out to the Mount of Olives and Jesus tells them:

“All of you will be made to stumble because of me tonight, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ However, after I am raised up, I will go before you into Galilee.”

Peter says he will remain loyal, but Jesus says that before the rooster crows twice, Peter will deny Him three times. He takes Peter, James and John with Him and asks the to keep a lookout while He prays:

“Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Please remove this cup from me. However, not what I desire, but what you desire.”

Jesus finds the disciples who were supposed to be watching, asleep. He wakes them and returns to his prayer. Again, he finds them asleep. The third time he says,

“Sleep on now, and take your rest. It is enough. The hour has come. Behold, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Arise, let us be going. Behold, he who betrays me is at hand.”

Sure enough, Judas appears with a bunch of chief priests, scribes, and elders all carrying swords and clubs. Judas gives the “Judas Kiss” and Jesus is seized and taken to the court of the high priest. Peter follows from a distance and then mixes in with the officers “in the light of the fire.”

The council calls for witnesses against Jesus to put him to death, but all they get is a bunch of false testimonies that contradict each other. The high priest asks Him what he has to say about all this testimony, but Jesus stays quiet. Then the high priest asks him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Jesus answers:

“I am. You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of the sky.”

This makes the high priest go berserk. He tears his clothes and says, “What further need have we of witnesses?” It’s blasphemy they all say and condemn Jesus to death. Some people start spitting on Him and beating Him with their fists.

Peter is down in the courtyard where he is spotted by a maid of the high priest. She recognizes him as one of Jesus’ followers. Peter denies it, the rooster crows. She then points him out to others nearby, “This is one of them.” Again, he denies it. Finally, some others say Peter’s speech shows he is a Galilean and that he is one of them. This time, Peter curses and swears “I don’t know this man of whom you speak.” The rooster crows a second time.

Chapter 15

The next morning, the chief priests bind Jesus and take him to Pontius Pilate. They accuse Him of many things, but when Pilate asks Jesus about the claims, He remains silent. At the feast, Pilate always releases a prisoner to the multitudes. Knowing that jealousy is behind the chief priests’ actions, Pilate asks the crowd, “Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” No, the crowd wants Barabbas (as they were persuaded to do by the priests). When Pilate asks what he should do with Jesus, the throng bellows “Crucify him!” Pilate answers:

“Why, what evil has he done?”

But the crowd will not be turned, so Pilate hands over Jesus. Soldiers flog Him, dress Him in purple, and put a crown of thorns on His head. “Hail, King of the Jews!” This sarcasm is followed by spitting and beating. They then remove the purple clothes, and put His old clothes back on Him.

They take Him to Golgotha (“the place of a skull”) to be crucified. They offer him wine mixed with myrrh, but Jesus declines to drink. In the third hour, they crucified Him along with two others, a robber on His left and another on His right. While on the cross, Jesus is subjected to more mockery from passersby:

“Ha! You who would destroy the temple, and build it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!”

By the sixth hour, darkness had come and stayed until the ninth hour. At that ninth hour, Jesus cries out in a loud voice:

“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? [My god, my God, why have you forsaken me?]“

Somebody fills a sponge with vinegar and puts it on a reed for Jesus to drink. Jesus cries out once more and dies. Immediately the veil of the temple is torn in two from top to bottom. The centurion standing opposite Jesus’ cross said:

“Truly this man was the Son of God!”

A number of women watched from a distance, including Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Joses. Evening comes and Joseph of Arimathaea boldly goes to Pilate and asks for Jesus’ body. Pilate agrees and has the centurion grant the body to Joseph. Joseph wraps the body in a linen cloth and places it in a stone tomb. He rolls a large rock against the door of the tomb while two Marys watch.

Chapter 16

Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James and Salome, buy some spices with which to anoint Jesus’ body. They wonder how they will move the rock in front of the tomb, but find it has already been rolled away. Heading inside, they see a young man dressed in a white robe. He says that Jesus has risen and to tell his disciples that Jesus will be in Galilee. They flee and are too afraid to tell anyone anything.

Jesus then appears to Mary Magdalene and she finally tells those who had been with Him, but they don’t believer her. Jesus then reveals Himself “in another form” to two others who again tell the group. They still don’t believe. Finally, he reveals Himself to the remaining 11 disciples and rebukes them for their “unbelief and hardness of heart.” He tells them:

“Go into all the world, and preach the Good News to the whole creation.”

He says some other stuff too, like those who believe will be able to cast out demons, speak with new languages, be able to drink “any deadly thing” and be fine. After He finishes speaking, Jesus is received up into heaven and sits down at the right hand of God. The disciples disperse and preach everywhere.

Note: We’ll take a little time off before we tackle Luke. I’ll let you know when to start.

Reading the Gospels: Mark, Chapters 9-12

Friday, May 6th, 2011 by JEL

Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up into the mountains and His appearance is immediately transformed. His clothes become glistening white, and Elijah and Moses appear out of nowhere to chat with Him. If that weren’t enough, a cloud sidles over and a voice booms out:

“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”

When the voice stops, Elijah and Moses have vanished. They return to the multitudes and a man brings his son who is suffering from a spirit that causes convulsions, foaming at the mouth, teeth-grinding, and general wasting away. The man had previously asked the disciples to cast out the spirits, but they couldn’t do it. Jesus, in apparent disgust, says:

“Unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to me.”

After finding out that the boy has had the spirit “from childhood” and telling the father that “all things are possible to him who believes,” Jesus commands the spirit to depart from the boy and never come back. It does, and the boy collapses. Everyone thinks he’s dead, but Jesus takes him by the hand, and the boy gets up.

They leave that town and pass through Galilee. He tells His disciples:

“The Son of Man is being handed over to the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he is killed, on the third day he will rise again.”

The next stop is Capernaum where Jesus asks his disciples what they have been arguing about. Not a peep is uttered, because the truth is they were arguing who was the greatest among them. Jesus, of course, deciphers this immediately and utters:

“If any man wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all.”

The disciples ask Jesus about a man, not a follower, who has been casting out demons in His name. Jesus answers:

“Don’t forbid him, for there is no one who will do a mighty work in my name, and be able quickly to speak evil of me. For whoever is not against us is on our side.”

With a small child in his lap, he begins his speech:

“Whoever will cause one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him if he was thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around his neck. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off…”

Chapter 10

This chapter starts out with the Parisees asking Jesus if it is lawful for a man to divorce his wife. When Jesus asks them what Moses commanded, they say that Moses allowed divorce. Jesus answers:

“For your hardness of heart, he wrote you this commandment.”

Later, the disciples ask Him the same question. Jesus answers:

“Whoever divorces his wife, and marries another, commits adultery against her. If a woman herself divorces her husband, and marries another, she commits adultery.”

[We hear a lot from religious folks about gay marriage; I wonder why we don't hear more from them about straight divorce?]

Jesus then takes a bunch of kids in his arms and blesses them. Someone approaches and asks what he may do to inherit eternal life. Jesus recites the commandments, and the man says he has observed all the commandments from childhood.

“One thing you lack. Go, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me, taking up the cross.”

The man’s face falls, because he has a lot of possessions. Jesus looks on and says to his disciples,

“How difficult it is for those who have riches to enter into the Kingdom of God!”

Jesus and the disciples head to Jerusalem. Along the way He tells them them:

“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem. The Son of Man will be delivered to the chief of priests and the scribes. They will condemn him to death, and will deliver him to the Gentiles. They will mock him, spit on him, scourge him, and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”

James and John walk up to Jesus and ask that they be allowed to sit at Jesus’ side, one on His left and one on His right. This gets the other 10 disciples into a tizzy. Jesus has to calm them all down with:

“Whoever of you wants to become first among you, shall be bondservant of all. For the Son of Man also came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom from many.”

They come into Jericho. Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, starts shouting at Jesus to have mercy on him. People in the crowd try to hush him up, but Jesus calls to him and asks what Bartimaeus what He can do for him. The beggar asks that he may see again. Jesus restores his sight, and Bartmaeus follows.

Chapter 11

As the group approaches Jerusalem, Jesus sends two disciples into a village to get a donkey that’s tied up there. They bring the donkey back, cover it with their clothes, and Jesus hops on. Others spread tree branches on the road. In the evening, Jesus enters into the temple in Jerusalem, takes a look around, and then takes his disciples to Bethany for the night. On their return to Jerusalem the next day and Jesus is hungry. He looks for figs on a tree, but since it’s not the right season for figs, finds none. Jesus puts a curse on the tree.

They enter into the temple again and Jesus throws out all the merchants and money changers:

“Isn’t it written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations?’ But you have made it a den of robbers!”

The chief priests and scribes hear all this and seek out a way to destroy Him. They ask Jesus by what authority does He do things. Jesus says He’ll tell them if they first answer the question:

“The baptism of John–was it from heaven, or from men?

The priests huddle up. If they say “from heaven,” then Jesus will say “then why don’t you believe me?” If they say “from men” the crowd will go nuts because they believe John to be a prophet. So they cop out with a “We don’t know.” So Jesus says:

“Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Chapter 13

This chapter begins with a parable and then continues on with some Pharisees trying to trap Jesus with words. They ask Him if it’s lawful to pay taxes to Caesar to which Jesus replies:

“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

They continue with the somewhat silly scenario of the wife of seven brother the question of whose wife will she be in the resurrection. Jesus says that when people rise, they are not married, but “are like angels in heaven.” Which is all besides the point. God, Jesus says,

“…is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”

They then ask Him which commandment is greatest. Jesus says the first (love the Lord your God with all your heart) and the second (love your neighbor as yourself) are the greatest.

The chapter ends with people coming up and throwing money into the treasury. Some rich people “cast in much.” A poor widow comes up and tosses in two small brass coins. Jesus remarks:

“Most certainly I tell you, this poor widow gave more than all those who are giving into the treasury, for they gave out of their abundance, but she, out of her poverty, gave all that she had to live on.”

Next Week: Mark, Chapters 13-16 (the last chapters)