csberry: (Default)
Over the past couple of weeks, I've been letting what I've read in the bible sink in. The following in an unordered list of thoughts and questions that have been dominant during/after the Bible in 90 Days project. To be honest, I've been delaying my posting these thoughts because each time I think about it, I feel...um...unqualified...er...lacking in serious thought and knowledge(?)...uncertain about how to best articulate what it is I do and don't know. Anyways, the following is my best effort on this Saturday morning. ;) These are my feelings at this time. I don't mind explaining my thoughts more, but I have no interest in debating these issues because these are my opinions and I'm not claiming I fully understand God's will.

* Above all else, faith in God is key. The whole Bible is filled with discussions, stories, and advice that pinpoint faith and the number one resource humans need to utilize in their day to day life.

* Sin and God's Reaction to It - In the Old Testament, sin wasn't just violating the 10 Commandments, there were TONS of rules that the Israelites were to follow. It was an impossible task, really. The rites for forgiveness were just as complicated as the instructions on holy behavior. Then comes Jesus! He simplified the rules mankind was to follow and poured His grace upon us. Jesus died to forgive our sins, if we accept him as that sacrifice.

When going through the OT, I was relieved about God's forgiveness of David's multitude of sins. I was relieved that my sinful foibles can be overcome by staying faithful to God. But, I guess I've got to blame Paul, for my relief decreasing when I came upon the letters at the end of the NT. Paul wrote about believers becoming new people and that the new person they became wouldn't sin and could avoid temptation. While I feel that I have found an increased supply of patience and flexibility when working in conflict situation with others, there are sins I've done for years that I find no easier to spurn than in the past. There are times where I feel like a bipolar Christian; I bounce between feeling unworthy and sinful to feeling joyous for being forgiven.

* Sexual Immorality/Homosexuality - I am no more or less content with my understanding of what exactly is God's view on this now as I was before. Homosexuality isn't enough of a sin to be included in the 10 Commandments. It shows in the excessively long list of regulations and sins detailed in Leviticus, etc...but then Jesus essentially sweeps some/most/all of those non-10 Commandments under the rug. There is no seeming documentation of Jesus talking about homosexuality. Then come the letters from Paul and others. While Jesus didn't talk about sexual immorality much, Paul seems to bring it up all of the time.

I have known and love many gay and lesbian friends. I know they didn't chose their sexual orientation and can't just pray away the gay (as a few of them from charismatic/Pentecostal/fundamentalist Christian childhoods tried to do as youth). If I had the time to pursue this area of study, I'm curious about what particularly provoked Paul to discuss this issue so much. Was the Hellenization of the Holy Land so fixated on sexual promiscuity and homosexual acts by heterosexuals that Paul felt a need to address it? Was Paul/God speaking out against all homosexual acts or heterosexuals partaking in homosexual acts? When there was a small human population, it is logical to be against homosexuality (considering God stated the purpose of creating humans was for them to "be fruitful and multiply). But as population increases, having a small percentage of humans naturally inclined to homosexuality seems like a way of nature tempering the birthrate of our species to a more sustainable rate.

Anyways, my reading the bible DID NOT make me dislike my gay friends. I still love them all and hope that they can find churches that will accept, embrace, and pray with them without homosexuality being considered a "disqualifying" sin. We all sin, God sees sin equally, so don't ban the gays from church if you let in those that swear, abuse their wives/children, drink to excess, leer at cheerleaders having car washes, or work on the Sabbath come to church.

* I wish I could learn more about Q source. I am intrigued by the evidence of a Q and would love to delve into this exploration more. On the other side of the coin, I'm not as interested in the Apocrypha and other books that were removed from the bible as I thought I might be.

* What happened with the Israelites between the Old and New Testament? I knew there was a Intertestamental period gap, but I didn't realize how frustrated I was going to be after getting acclimated to OT Judaism and then having to greatly alter my understanding of ritual and structure when I came to the Pharisees, Sadducees, rabbis, and synagogues that showed up in the NT.

* Early Church politics - especially surrounding Paul. I became very intrigued by how Paul's letters dominate the NT after the Gospels and Acts. Here comes this persecutor of Christians, he has a dramatic convergence, and then becomes the most prolific and adamant disciple for Christ. How many original Van Halen fans took a liking to Sammy Hagar? How many original Star Wars fans love the second trilogy? How did the 11 apostles feel about Paul's convergence, his starring role spreading the word of Jesus, and his confidence in documenting religious instruction...despite not being a follower of Jesus before the resurrection? Were Peter and Paul frenemies (friend-enemies) or just those that took sides with Peter or Paul?
csberry: (bigmclargehuge)
Sit down, fasten your seatbelts, and ingest that brown acid for John's prophesy. The menagerie of creatures and cast of characters combine with imagery you might expect from a Terry Gilliam movie along with the symbolic battle of good and evil previously seen from the OT prophets. If you ever have a Trivial Pursuit question about numbers in Revelation; if it's not the obvious choice of 666, the number HAS to be 7. Goodness, gracious, everything somehow seems to involve a 7 somewhere.
csberry: (bigmclargehuge)
James - This book is written by Jesus's (half) brother/cousin, James (I'll leave the debates about whether Mary had children after Jesus or if Joseph was a widower that brought children into his marriage with Mary for someone else). In this book, James emphasizes Jesus's Sermon on the Mount teachings. There is A LOT of time spent discussing rich vs poor. He also goes into how faith without good works is fruitless, but that one who has faith will be moved to do good works.

1 & 2 Peter - 1 Peter has him discussing that suffering adds to one's faith in God. All of us are to submit to others, no matter if they abuse that submission or not. For if they don't abuse, you are being blessed; and if they do abuse your submission, this is your chance to suffer and grow in faith. Peter states that Christians need to submit, be humble, and try to live a clean life so all are ready when the Lord comes again. 2 Peter supposedly was written shortly before Peter's death. In the book, he reminds Christians to live a good, holy life while they wait for the return of Jesus. Yes, he says, Jesus will come again. Just because Jesus didn't return shortly after the resurrection doesn't mean he won't come again - "with the Lord one day is like 1,000 years, and 1,000 years like one day."

1-3 John - These books share the same symbolic flourishes as was found in the Gospel of John, however the arguments in these letters are a bit jumbled and disorganized. 1 & 2 John focus a great deal on Jesus being the Messiah. He tells how God is Love and those that abide in God and Jesus will have no reason to fear. John talks about the seriousness of sin and makes an attempt to fight the heresy of dualism (Spirit = good, matter = evil). He also uses the term "antichrist" for the first time. In these books, however, John uses that term to identify the people who deny and refuse the truth about Jesus and not necessarily the figure from the End Times. 3 John (as well as 2 John) are quite short. This third letter discusses a different topic than the first two. In this final letter, John commends those that welcome and support those traveling to spread the word of Jesus.

Jude - Jude is reported to be Jesus' (half) brother/cousin (again, I'll skip the debate on whether Jesus had siblings and if Mary birthed them). In this very short letter, Jude admonishes those claiming that because Jesus cleansed us of our sins we are allowed to sin. Jude cites numerous examples from the OT and non-canonical Jewish sources of God punishing those that sin.

Now, all I have left is to read Revelation tomorrow. Once that book is read, I will have reached a goal I've had for decades. While I freely admit that reading and listening to the Bible in 90 days doesn't make me a Bible scholar, there is a breadth of knowledge that I have now that will fuel my Bible studies for a long time to come.
csberry: (pumaman)
The author of Hebrews is unknown. The letter/essay argues from a Jewish perspective the superiority of Jesus to Mosaic law and how he fulfilled the prophecies from the OT. As one might expect from that last sentence, there is a ton of quotes from the OT used to structure the argument of why God created Mosaic law and how He then sent Jesus to earth to create a new covenant that utilized the symbolism and purpose of the old law in order to create a new way for God's forgiveness of our sins. The book closes with warnings and basic instructions on how followers of Jesus should live their life.
csberry: (bigmclargehuge)
Ephesians - Christ brought humans from death in sin into eternal life. Both Jews and Gentiles are united under God's covenant through Jesus. Once a person accepts Jesus as their savior, they become a new person and get rid of their old sinful ways and lives a better, more holy life. Paul tells us to put on our armor as to help us navigate the earthly world with its temptations. He also discusses intrafamily relations telling all in the family to spend their time providing for the others. Each member submits to another for the betterment and love of all.

Phillipians - Paul encourages the reader to pursue a life of devotion to all things holy and pure and lovely.

Colossians - Salvation is through Jesus, who has always existed, and not through ceremonies, philosophy, or hidden wisdom. He then reiterates some of his lifestyle instructions found in Ephesians.

1 & 2 Thessalonians - In 1 Thess, Paul talks about living a holy life and that the Day of the Lord will come "like a thief in the night," so all shouldn't procrastinate shedding their earthly ways, but do so now because Jesus might return at any time. Then in 2 Thess, Paul dials back the immediacy of the Day of the Lord a bit and tells those that stopped working because they thought Jesus was on the verge of returning to go back to work. Everyone should go about their life...as a better person than they were before. Paul mentions in 2 Thess that the Day of the Lord wouldn't come until there was a "man of lawlessness" that would claim to be God or above God. The lawless one would come to power and, after that, Jesus would return and destroy him.

1 & 2 Timothy - 1 Timothy is focused on the administration of the church. Paul discusses what traits to look for with elders and deacons. It is here that Paul lost me a bit with how he tells the women in the church to be silent and to let the men be the teachers. After all of the praise Paul has given to women in other letters, this passage was definitely a disappointment for me to read. 2 Timothy finds Paul in jail again and feeling as if this letter was likely one of his last to send. He tells Timothy to be strong in faith, that the whole world is filled with challenges to faith and the word of God. He states that all scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, rebuking, or correcting for training in righteousness.

Titus - Paul warned Titus about how lazy and corrupt the people of Crete were. He advised Titus on how different age/sex groups in the church should dedicate themselves. He also stated that sound teaching of the true word of God was the best defense against those that attempt to deceive or derail the faithfulness of those in the church.

Philemon - This tiny little letter accompanied Onesimus when he returned to his master, Philemon. Onesimus ran away to Rome, found Paul, and was converted to Christianity. Paul sends Onesimus back to Philemon, telling him to accept Onesimus as a brother - to love and forgive him. It is implied that Paul would like for Philemon to free Onesimus from slavery.
csberry: (pumaman)
Paul defends his role in Jesus's ministry again and goes into a discussion about salvation through faith and not works. The letter discusses the transition Jesus brought from Israel's adherence to the laws passed along by Moses and faith by any ethnic group to the teachings of Jesus and God's promise to all of mankind.
csberry: (pumaman)
1 Corinthians has Paul voicing his concern about the divisions and sexual immorality he's heard about the group in Corinth. Paul sought to snuff divisions individuals were making on which apostle or disciple of Jesus's they followed. He told them that he didn't baptize anyone in his name, but in Jesus's name. He also discussed how the church needs to be a support group for those within it. Rebuke and forgive those sinning amongst them and yet cast out those that can't overcome their evil.

2 Corinthians was a bit awkward to me. It seemed particularly personal in Paul's defense of his ministry, how he conducts himself, and the negative things he's heard others say about him.
csberry: (bigmclargehuge)
Paul's Epistle to the Romans is a hefty letter/essay about salvation. He addresses the questions surrounding the status of Jews and Gentiles in God's plan. Did Gentiles need to convert to Judaism (become circumcised, follow dietary restrictions) or was Jesus bringing a new church into the world? The book is so much more than a letter. There is an intellectual debate Paul has with an imagined antagonist at several points that reminded me a bit of the Solomon wisdom literature from the OT.
csberry: (pumaman)
The Book of Acts is basically Luke Part 2 and covers 30 years of events: from Jesus's resurrection, through Pentacost, through the conversion of Saul to Paul, and up to just before Paul faced trial in Rome. The letters that occupy much of the remainder of the New Testament rely on Acts to provide historical context to the situations mentioned in the various letters. If you read Acts and you don't know Paul's conversion forwards and backwards, you were obviously not paying attention. That story is told once as part of the "story" of the Book of Acts and then Paul likes to use that experience in speeches quoted in this book. While some may say that the main character in the four Gospels was Jesus and in Acts the main characters are Peter and Paul, I think there is more consistency between the Gospels and Acts. Sure, the reader follows Peter and Paul a good bit in the book, but it is actually the emergence and presence of the Holy Spirit as the continuing force for God on Earth that I think is more accurately the main character of Acts.
csberry: (Default)
After the redundancy of Luke, I was really worried about being able to remain focused when going through the fourth Gospel. However, John's writing style differs a good deal from the other Gospel authors. Matthew seemed utmost concerned with presenting Jesus's life and words in juxtaposition with quotes and prophesies from the Old Testament. Mark's approach dropped some of Matthew's OT quoting and jumped right into the ministry of Jesus. Luke then added more stories and, IMO, did more to show Jesus and his disciples in a more humanizing way.

John, however, seemed to me less concerned about historical accuracy and more interested in reinforcing what he felt was the important teachings of Jesus. John was the last of the four Gospels written and John wrote it near the end of his life (some time in his 80's, I think). Where the other Gospels are keen on chronological details of what Jesus did when, John frequently just said: "And one day, Jesus...". I'll just blame the ESV translation I listened to, but I think the key phrase for the Book of John is "Truly, Truly." It seemed that nearly every quote of Jesus starts off with "Truly, truly, I tell you..."
csberry: (Default)
I knew that there would be redundancy when going through the four Gospels. Still, going through the Gospels back-to-back in just a few days and Luke's historian approach of making a comprehensive account of Jesus's life and teachings made Luke seem all the more redundant to me. On the other side of the coin, when I did come across stories in Luke that weren't shared in Matthew and Mark, they stuck out all the more for me. Of the first three Gospels, I like Luke's writing style the best.
csberry: (pumaman)
Where Matthew started with Jesus's genealogy and spent his Gospel recounting out Jesus's life and words fulfilled Old Testament prophesy, Mark's version is more action-packed. Mark skipped all of those "begats" and jumped right into a quick intro of John the Baptist and Jesus's baptism. Then BOOM! Jesus's ministry then kicks into gear. In this Gospel there were a lot of times that Jesus told people he healed or ministered to that he wanted them to keep what he did a secret. There also seemed to be more questioning of Jesus about who he was - Was he a prophet? Was he Elijah? Was he the Messiah?
csberry: (pumaman)
Having the New Testament start with Matthew now makes perfect sense to me. Of the four Gospels, Matthew does the most to point out quotes from the Old Testament and how Jesus satisfied many prophesies. Previously, while reading Matthew, these OT quotes didn't have much of an impact. Now that I've actually read those quotes in context, when I came upon them in Matthew, the poignancy (and sometimes lack of poignancy, IMO) jumped out to me where previously I was unaffected.
csberry: (DonnaOMG)
The Old Testament talks about a new king coming from the house of David and/or a descendant of David. Matthew starts his gospel listing the genealogical lineage from Adam through David to Joseph.

HOWEVER, since God put Jesus in Mary's womb with no involvement from Joseph, can Jesus actually claim to be a descendant of King David? If we are strictly following the male biological lineage, Jesus is as much of a great-great-etc-grandson of David as Moses is a child of the Egyptian pharaohs.

But maybe Matthew is following the wrong path. I wonder what Mary's lineage is. Could she possibly be a descendant of David's and the justification for Jesus's connection to David that was previously unknown because of patriarchy?
csberry: (bigmclargehuge)
Huzzah! I finished the Old Testament today! Here are the last books of the OT:

Micah - Most of the other prophets stated that God was going to punish Judah/Israel because of unfaithfulness, immorality, and general sin. I found it interesting that Micah also mentions crimes against the poor as a reason for God's wraith. There are lots of passages here that could be in reference to Jesus, too.

Nahum - Apparently Jonah's work in Nineveh didn't stick (God's Plan or not?) and Nahum was sent a generation later. Like Obadiah spent his book targeting a neighbor with prophesies, this book is spent telling Nineveh what the future holds for them. It isn't a pretty picture. Eventually, he gets back to the fact that Israel isn't immune from God's justice and there will be a price to be paid for the sins of the Jewish people.

Habakkuk - This book is a bit closer to Job in form than to the other prophet books. Habakkuk asked God why sinful people seem to take forever to be punished and why God uses "more sinful" people (such as the Assyrians) to punish the "less sinful" people (such as Judah). God issues his replies that he takes care of all sinners in His own time.

Zephaniah - OK, back to the predictions of destruction and restoration. Zephaniah's prophesies are fierce with punishment but also jubilant about how God will rejoice when His people are reunited and restored.

Haggai - Overlapping the period discussed in Ezra, Haggai was in Jerusalem as the exiles returned. Alas, they busied themselves rebuilding their own homes and yet ignored working on the temple. Haggai passed along a message from God that the people needed to rebuild the temple now. No, it wouldn't look as glorious as it did before its destruction, but God said that it would return to glory. God was taking all of the defiled things in His eyes and making them into blessings.

Zechariah - I've got the feeling that I'll be revisiting this book a little when I am going through the New Testament. There is a good chunk of this book that prophesizes many of the things that Jesus did.

Malachi - This, the last book of the Old Testament, is both a reminder to those living in Jerusalem after returning from exile in Babylon to not be complacent with their relationship with God. I like how the book is formatted in a quick back-and-forth dialogue between God and his wayward people. The people are criticized for their sacrificing of maimed animals instead of the healthy, of not tithing 10%, and of marrying foreigners. Malachi does talk about a messenger that will come that will clear the way for the Lord in the future.
csberry: (bigmclargehuge)
Whew! I've made it to the "minor prophets at the end of the Old Testament! Hopefully, I'll be in the New Testament some time on Thursday.

Joel - Joel starts off with a description of a plague of locusts and then goes into a discussion of the "Day of the Lord" - a time of judgment for the nations but restoration for God's people. Considering the time the book was likely written, I felt myself conflicted on whether the "Day of the Lord" was reaching to foretell of the return of a healthy Israel after the exile or if Joel intended his vision to be further in the future and discussing the Messiah or the end of time. I'll have to give the scholars the benefit of the doubt on this one.

Amos - There was a folksiness to Amos that I liked. The book isn't all that different from other books by prophets. Amos announces God's wraith on several of Israel's neighbors and then what punishment God has set for Israel itself. The end of the book combines visions he has of plagues and of God's justice along with a sprinkling of narrative about reaction to Amos's prophesies. As with Joel and others, Amos discusses a restoration of Israel after the punishment.

Obadiah - If you flip through the Bible, you are likely not going to see Obadiah. The introduction to the book in my Bible is actually longer than the book itself...which is a single chapter. There's an odd twist to what Obadiah has to say here. The bulk of the book discusses Edom (The traditional homeland of Jacob's brother, Esau's, offspring. Thus, these people are a "brother" of Israel.). The book warns Edom that they are not free from God's actions and that Edomites shouldn't gloat on the downfall of Israel/Judah. In the end, Obadiah says, Israel will be restored and they will occupy much of the neighboring territory at that time, so Edom better be nice and await what will happen on the Day of the Lord.

Jonah - Is Jonah historical or just an allegory? In the book, God calls Jonah to go to Nineveh (located in present day northern Iraq, near Mosul) and minister to those people. God told Jonah those people had sinned greatly and he was going to smite them unless they repented. Jonah, daunted by the task decides to go the opposite direction and heads for the Mediterranean Sea. While at sea, God causes a storm. Those on board find out God is after Jonah, so they throw him overboard and Jonah is eaten by a great fish. Jonah prays while inside the fish and is vomited out three days later. Jonah then goes to Nineveh and successfully converts the people there. God decides not to smite them.

Jonah gets mad that God decided to be merciful to the people of Nineveh and claims he'd rather die now than to continue living. Jonah sets up a shelter east of the city and sits there waiting for God to strike the city after all. That doesn't happen. What does happen is that God caused a tree to grow to shade Jonah (which it does and Jonah is pleased). The next day, God has a worm attack the tree and it withers. Finally, God has a hot wind blow on Jonah all the next day. Jonah is upset that God destroyed the plant and God uses this as a lesson on why he didn't destroy Nineveh. All of that in just a few pages in the Bible. On the action:page ratio, Jonah certainly delivers better than most of the other books.
csberry: (What The Joel)
The basic premise of this book at first seemed just kinda odd. But the more I thought about it, the more puzzled I got about the "real" and non-symbolic part. Hosea was instructed by God to marry a prostitute. He married Gomer and she bore him 3 children. The first was named after a valley that had been the scene of many bloody battles, the second was named No Compassion, Unloved, or Pity/Pitied On (depending on the translation), and the third was named Not My People. Hosea apparently divorces his wife, she is taken as a slave by another man to repay a debt, and then Hosea comes to her rescue and buys her from the man.

All of these actions serve as a symbolic parallel with God's relationship with Israel. The people of Israel were not faithful to God, so they are the promiscuous wife. God separated Himself from His people out of anger for their lack of faith. But God returns after a time and takes His people back into his arms and all is good.

That is an interesting look at the situation, but I kept wondering about Gomer. I'm a bit befuddled about the life that Gomer lived that she was a whore but married a prophet. She then bore children that may or may not have been Hosea's and named her children Jezreel (after the bloody battleground), No Compassion, and Not My People because her husband and God said so. After this, she is divorced from Hosea, becomes a slave, is bought back by Hosea, and is told to cheat on him no longer. The whole story came across to me as if Hosea was some pimp with a heavy sense of righteousness that mentally abused Gomer for her promiscuity despite the fact he knew she was a prostitute when they married: a story that might appear one evening on the Lifetime Channel...or Cinemax. I can understand why feminist scholars would get in a huff over the story in this book.
csberry: (pumaman)
Ah, an Old Testament prophet with a good narrative in his book! Daniel was a nice break from the nearly wall-to-wall prophesies of the past couple of books. Readers get the cool stories of Daniel's first dream interpretation for King Nebuchadnezzar (where the king said he had a bad dream and wanted someone to both tell the king what it was he dreamed AND interpret it), Daniel's friends (whose names are too difficult for me to remember at this time) being saved by God when put in a fiery furnace, Daniel's time in the lion's den, and a vision of the end times.
csberry: (pumaman)
Isaiah had a lot of symbolism in his prophecies, but it was not surreal.

Jeremiah was more like a journalist prophet that recorded visions of how things would be with some use of metaphor (he apparently felt nothing was more painful than a woman in labor/giving birth considering how frequently he used that comparison).

But Ezekiel, man, he seems to have sampled some funky mushrooms on his departure from Jerusalem with the Dali-esque images he documents in his book. A great deal of the book is spent delivering bad news: bad news to the Jews that God was disciplining them and bad news to the neighbors that God was going to smack them down in the future. The last part is kinda uplifting in that it discusses the temple being rebuilt. Alas, Ezekiel is very analytical in his discussion of the temple...more of an architect passing along schematics than a seer that is jubilant from the good news God is sharing with him.
csberry: (Default)
This is a short book with a collection of five poems that discuss the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of its citizens to Babylon. The book both laments the faithlessness of the people of Judah and looks forward to the restoration of Jerusalem and God's people. While passages can be very heavy with imagery of pain and suffering, there is a repeated thread of optimism that all is not lost forever and that the strife the exiles were experiencing would only be temporary.

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Cory Berry

June 2016

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