His Sufferings

I have been posting a lot of material on global Christian persecution. Hundreds of millions of people are facing some form of hostility because of their identification with the Messiah. The situation is far from pretty, even dire in several places. They are not mere statistics but real lives, with personal stories of suffering. It is a very uncomfortable thing and I have found we, at least in my context, just do not want to deal with it. Fortunately, for many of us persecution is something happening way out there. So there is an indifference bred in us by comfort and convenience. We often relegate it to the general suffering and injustices that go on in the world daily. Yet being Christians there are important reasons not to ignore it, the greatest in my estimation being Jesus himself. Continue reading “His Sufferings”

The Trial Paradox

One of the distinctive things about the Jesus story is paradox. You often find two things placed together that ordinarily seem contradictory but actually work together in Jesus’ person and mission. Examples are statements like ‘those who want to lead must serve’ or ‘if you lose your life you will gain it.’ Scottish theologian James Stewart called it ‘the startling coalescence of contrarieties.’ Jesus’ story is the climax of the Old Testament narrative and it too is filled with such true paradoxes. Also, outside of the gospel writers, the New Testament authors’ reflections on the Messiah Jesus are littered with such surprisingly agreeable opposites. Now the crucifixion and the resurrection are often the twin foci of these startling contrarieties in Christian preaching and teaching. This is hardly surprising because they are pivotal events the New Testament is itself preoccupied with. When you look at the narrative sequence the climactic events of the gospels, there is another very important and necessary episode recorded in all gospel accounts, which I think deserves more attention than it usually receives. Continue reading “The Trial Paradox”

Types of Writing in the Bible

One of the things I’ve noticed is that most people do not read the Bible correctly because they cannot identify the literary style the text is using. The guys over at The Bible Project, which is turning out to be one of my favourite ministries, have another excellent short video that highlights these literary styles, their importance and how to approach them. Continue reading “Types of Writing in the Bible”

Birthing the Bible

Below is a great overview of how the Bible came into being by co-founder of The Bible Project, Tim Mackie, who is an Old Testament Scholar and all around Bible nerd. It’s a long presentation but truly fascinating. Even a professing Bible nerd like myself learnt quite a lot from the presentation. Please enjoy. Continue reading “Birthing the Bible”

Charity

A while back I did a quick overview of what were the elements of New Testament (NT) liturgy, that is, if you went attended church in the apostolic era, what would happen during the service. The final point I raised was charity. Nowadays when the word charity is used it often refers to some non-governmental organization or used in a derogatory way for undeserved handouts. The use of the word to refer to the virtue of kindness and generosity, which is what I meant by it in early Christian liturgy, is not so common. Of course I could have used those other synonyms and it would have conveyed what I was trying to get across much better but there were other reasons for choosing such an archaic term. Continue reading “Charity”

Baptism in the Bible

When you have attended church for a long time, especially in a culture where Christianity enjoys a lot of influence, a familiar language is developed, in this case Christianese where it is commonly assumed everyone understands what is being said. The problem is with some of these terms, even those that come out of the Bible, have such a storied history in the church and culture the original meaning is sometimes literally lost in translation. One of such words is baptism. Like apostle, angel, evangelist, deacon, Christ, they are all words that have not been translated but rather transliterated, that is, English Bible translators tried to reproduce the sound of the word in the original language in English. Many of these translation decisions were made centuries ago and out of respect for the tradition they have been preserved. The trouble is the further we move away from the Bible times and culture, the meaning of these words become obscured through our own theological and cultural lenses. As I explained in The History of an Idea, we have to go into the past to determine how a word developed its meaning in the present. Continue reading “Baptism in the Bible”