Fulfillment?

Matthew 5:18 “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished

I love the emphasis in this passage – Jesus seems ‘dead sure’. So sure – even ‘heaven and earth’ would pass away before the Law was finished. Wow. But what needed to be ‘accomplished’?

One could say Jesus is pointing to passages in Torah and Prophets that talk about the messiah. I think in his time – and in ours – many people would of agreed to such a premise for the messiah (proof please?). Rabbi Singer touches on a passage from Ezekiel 37 and what it says about the messiah “In this well known chapter, the prophet clearly teaches that we can recognize the coming of the messiah when: the resurrection of the dead, the building of the final Temple that will stand forever in Jerusalem, the universal knowledge of God and obedience to His Torah, the restoration of the lost tribes (Ephraim or the Kingdom of Israel whom Assyria carried off), and the complete restoration of the Jewish people to their land all take place.” (Outreach Judiasm – the Christian Messiah?)

One can also throw in the establishment of world peace and an end to the need for weapons from Isaiah…there is lot more but these will suffice for now.

Then we have Jesus’ proof’ – the Torah would never be let go of nor pass (which Singer alludes to in Ezekiel). But then why do Christians claim it is ‘finished’? Not all of these things have happened or been accomplished – early Christian communities knew this so well they invent a 2nd coming for the messiah to finish such things (there was no theology for a 2nd coming outside certain Christian sects – Judaism never taught any such idea). It was an admission in Christianity – not all is accomplished – but someday it will be.

So does this mean the Torah is ‘ok’? Does this mean Judaism is already converted to a correct way of thinking? Is Christianity wrong for putting the law ‘down’? I think if Christianity had its way – the law would be pronounced dead. But this never occured and never will…cause along with Jesus I am going to go out on a limb…the law will never pass away. Thank you Judaism for being true!

When God becomes a man…

…Society loses it’s limitations.

I just finished reading parts of a book by a person from Saskatchewan ‘man’ claiming to be ‘the second Christ’. The book is part dan brown meets scientology meets ufo’s meets Christian theology meets bible code meets ashkenazi jew study meets CIA cover-up on a genetic program – meets revelations. Your basic Second coming of Christ theology with a new twist slapped on top for a unique measure. The book is easily the most confusing book I have ever read – and the worst written (amateur night when they let this man publish me thinks).

Anyways, that’s not my point – my point is this is what can (and usually does) happen when we make God into a ‘man’ (just like our neat little selves down here). Then we get a variety of human beings crawling out of the woodworks claiming the exact same thing. God is unique – I get this and always will – and is nothing like us humans. God even states that clearly in Exodus 20: 2- 4:

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before (or besides) Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.”

Now I know this is God speaking to the Israelites – but it reveals a lot about His character. There is not one person like Him and no image we have available on earth can actually represent Him…not even us (although we are admittedly created in God’s image). Doesn’t matter – we are not even like God in ‘image’ (being ‘on earth’ and all). This is a solid commandment and the most meaningful one – for good reason – breach this one and they can all fall like domino’s after it.

You see, this dude in Saskatchewan is not quite alone – he has many members in his category – you know that unique Christian that plays representative to God for all – or is God. Joseph Smith, Charles Taze Russell, Jim Jones, David Koresh, and you can likely name a few others. I have even sparred with people like this on-line – anyone remember the prophet Timothy (claimed to speak directly to Jesus in his blog and in his writings)? Needless to say – these are the same people that see Jesus as God and Man…and we dare to wonder where they garnered the audacity to make some of the claims they do – to godhood?

I am beginning to realize once we remove the mystery from the mysterious God who is wholly seperate in being to us – and we allow Him to be one of us in being – then we are not too far away from calling one of us God again. There are some things that are sacred for very good reasons – this is one of them.

Old to Me – New to You

Just finished MC’ing 2 weddings in 2 weeks – and they were both great successes – and I thoroughly enjoyed myself and the role I was allowed to play as part of the wedding (my first time doing this – and I did it 2 times in back to back weekends).

The second wedding revealed a lot to me – it was my brother (little island blog) getting married and I was asked to co-MC with someone from his wife’s side of the family. I had a chance to really take in all the gifts my family has to share. I watched as my brothers played various creative roles in the wedding weeked – I was quite in awe about how creative my family really is and how nice they are do such things. They must of made my brother’s wedding very meaningful.

I realized why I love my family and how wonderful they truly are. I think I forget how much they have grown over the years and how talented they truly are. At the dance – we danced and had fun. I spoke at the wedding and created a Power point (mini film sort of) about the couple. My younger brother played guitar for the couple to walk in to. My older brother actually did the marriage ceremony. The one who got married sang and played guitar on his wedding night as we all sang along and had fun. I was quite in awe at how we have all grown and have lots to offer. I felt proud of them.

I also wondered – did my family know any this about me? I can dance fairly well. I public speak with the best of them. I am very humorous and inviting. I can work with technological things and compose a nice piece of art-work (like a Power Point). I like to sing – you play guitar and I just might join in. I wonder if this was the picture they had of me – or was it new to them? Who knows – but I do know I seen new sides to them and was very proud of them!

The ‘Good News’ Synopsis…

All this talk about the terms of what ‘hell’ means in the NT (and sheol from the Tanakh) have given me a ‘epiphany’ (an insight into what is further at the heart of the ‘gospel’).

I think we lack a great definition of the terms of that time period and ideas like ‘sheol’ have helped to enlighten me on how an idea like the resurrection fits into the whole ‘eternal life’ thing. Usually I am presented with the idea of just believe and I will ‘live forever’ – but with little to no background on what ‘hell’ is or how ‘resurrection’ fits into this whole premise. This is when the epiphany happened.

The ‘good news’ is eternal life – that life can be furthered than just this current life we have. We all die (once) – and then we go to ‘sheol’ – which means the ‘abode of the dead’. This is a type of death hangout so to speak – and Jesus is mentioned to have gone down to sheol. The parable of Lazarus and the rich man is all about this place – where Abraham is ‘hanging out’. Jesus mentions ‘Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’ are still living. This is sheol – the waiting room for the dead unto eternal life. (It’s imagery more or less – no one knows how such a place functions or looks)

It is from ‘Sheol’ where people are ‘resurrected’ into eternal life. They died and now they have been the gift of ‘resurrection’ – which essentially is having an abudance of life. The good news is resurrection – that we can live lives worthy of such a ‘gift’. This is true hope for the faithful and for the faithless. This is what Jesus was getting at with his teachings – this was at the heart of the ideas presented – so much so – he is the prime example of the idea.

Jesus teaches and lives amongst the people. He is crucifed and pronounced dead. 3 days later he resurrects – alive again? Paul mentions this as a kind of ‘first fruits’ or ‘proof’ of the idea of ‘eternal life’. Jesus was the classic example this idea is ‘real’.

That’s great news when you think about it. All people can recieve such a gift and all they have to do is give back to their human counterparts as part of society (ie: love their neighbor as themselves). I include the love God idea also (since there is a moral idea there also) – but I can understand how one can be quite turned off by religion and still be very moral. The good news is simple…if we desire to live – we will live like we do – and eventually we will receive that as a ‘gift’.

Synopsis on Terms for Hell in NT

Just because it seems like it contradicts Christ’s nature doesn’t seem like all that solid of a reason to throw hell out” (Doug)

I think ‘hell’ is a condition we can get into – just not a place where we burn eternally. Jesus’ teachings are basically the frame to view these through – to make a better understanding of what the term is meaning (depending on the passage being cited).

For example, hades or sheol (same translation) are used quite a few times – and they basically mean ‘the place/abode of the dead’.

In all appearances but one, “δης”/hades has little if any relation to afterlife rewards or punishments” (Wikipedia – Hades in the Bible)

That alone should speak volumnes – 1 of 11 instances of hades has an afterlife – and the one occurence is a ‘parable’ (story).

Gehenna is another term used but here is it’s original meaning “”Gehenna” is the Christian rendering of “Ge Hinnom,” literally “Valley of Hinnom,” known in the Old Testament as Gai Ben-Hinnom, literally the “Valley of the son of Hinnom”, and in the Talmud as Gehinnam (גהנם) or Gehinnom.

In the Hebrew Bible, Gai Ben-Hinnom does not refer to hell but rather to a real valley in Jerusalem (Joshua 15:8, Joshua 18:16, 2nd Kings 23:10, 2 Chronicles 28:3, 2nd Chronicles 33:6,Nehemiah 11:30, Jeremiah 7:31~32, Jeremiah 19:2, Jeremiah 19:6, Jeremiah 32:35). Garbage from the walled city was burned there.” (Wikipedia – Gehenna)

Does this mean people are going to Gehenna – where the garbage was consumed and burned (and basically waste was incinerated)…no – because that is a real place – and no one was seen in there that died and went on (if we want to be literalists). But it seems like a comparison to me being used by Jesus – like your life could become that (waste).

Tartarus is used once (in Peter apparently) in the Bible – and it is comparable to the term ‘abyss’ (according to Wikipedia). However, it’s based on a Roman/Greek god also – a mythical legend about this god helped define that word (is it really that trustworthy?).

Greek version: “As for the place, the Greek poet Hesiod asserts that a bronze anvil falling from heaven would fall 9 days before it reached the Earth. The anvil would take nine more days to fall from Earth to Tartarus. In The Iliad (c. 700), Zeus asserts that Tartarus is “as far beneath Hades as heaven is high above the earth.” As a place so far from the sun and so deep in the earth, Tartarus is hemmed in by three layers of night. It is a dank and wretched pit engulfed in murky gloom. It is one of the primordial objects that sprung from Chaos (along with Gaia (Earth) and Eros (Love)).” (Wikipedia – Tartarus)

Roman version: “In Roman mythology, Tartarus is the place where sinners are sent. Virgil describes it in the Aeneid as a gigantic place, surrounded by the flaming river Phlegethon and triple walls to prevent sinners from escaping from it. It is guarded by a hydra with fifty black gaping jaws, which sits at a screeching gate protected by columns of solid adamantine, a substance akin to diamond – so hard that nothing will cut through it. Inside, there is a castle with wide walls, and a tall iron turret. Tisiphone, one of the Erinyes who represents revenge, stands guard sleepless at the top of this turret lashing a whip. There is a pit inside which is said to extend down into the earth twice as far as the distance from the lands of the living to Olympus. At the bottom of this pit lie the Titans, the twin sons of Aloeus and many other sinners” (Wiki – Tartarus)

It does help one realize that this term (and maybe many more about hell) found it’s actual meaning in Greek and Roman mythology and those views about an ‘underworld’ (even lower than the world of hades or place of the dead). The Tanakh never uses this term nor Gehenna as reference to a place called hell – infact – even hell is not in the Tanakh – only sheol is (place of the dead).

Also, what term is correct – there are so damn many if we take them all literally…hades/sheol, gehenna, tartarus, abyss, lake of fire, etc. The meaning changes and changes and they do not add up all consistently as we are made to believe. For example – tartarus (an underworld) is a level below hades (abode for the dead). The lake of fire (sulfur) swallows up gehenna apparently (or hades).

The one parable that used hades (the rich man and lazarus) is actually based on the ideas of sheol/hades (place of the dead – waiting to be judged) and the underworld (tartarus or maybe even gehenna) – revealing a complete picture of how some people viewed the afterlife for the ‘righteous’ and the ‘wicked’. None of these sources are found in the Tanakh but can be found in 2nd century Jewish pseduapigrapha books – which means they were ‘outsider’ views.

In the end, what the hell is hell? Should we believe Greek/Roman mythology on the subject – which is how hell is defined as we know it. Should we believe it is just an abode of the dead – where they wait to be judged? Is it a word being used to describe one’s outcome in life?

For me, it’s just to weird to believe a literal hell exists – now God has it – but Zeus had it just prior. It makes sense to say ’sheol’ may exist – a place we go until we ‘resurrect’ and be judged – maybe? But I also lean towards the idea one can make choices that inflict hell on others and upon themselves – their lives become waste like gehenna.

If Hell is Real then…

I think everyone should be very much in ‘fear’ – since the prospect of burning alive for some ‘eternal’ amount of time can only generate such a response (it’s very normal to have this response to such dire consequences). But what does this say about God?

One thing is for sure – God is into intimidation if ‘hell’ is real. The idea is if you won’t follow out of love or common sense – then God will get ya another way – through fear…and not that normal ‘run of the mill’ fear – no something much bigger from a much bigger source (an unknown source at that). This unknown aspect of God can only make one leave some room for this ‘fear’ (can’t be too sure so I better cross all my t’s and dot all my i’s type things).

That’s why ‘hell’ as an idea – as is used in most churches (a literal place) – just has to be wrong. It promotes a fear based faith versus a loving version of that same faith – and one cannot help but keep the fear part and mingle it with the love part – making a contradiction about God.

How can one be pre-supposed to love God and not fear Him? Hell as an ultimate punishment leaves little room for question marks when you think about it – so even questioning falls on the taboo side of things. What if your beliefs are wrong – then what? Then you are dealing with ‘fear’ and no longer ‘love’…meaning your bottom line with God is basically ‘fear’…and is this healthy?

Finding the Fear in Christianity…

So I have been having some very eye-opening discussions with some fellow Christians and it got me to thinking about one small thing – do people follow God because they are ‘scared of Him’?

We do a lot a talk about grace/mercy and forgiveness and how we should ‘ not live in fear’ of God – but I wonder if this is actually the case. In my discussions, and in many in the past, with quite orthodox Christians I notice a type of ‘hidden’ fear that is not talked about very much…fear to challenge your own personal faith (asking questions).

I have noticed once I go down the path of inconsistencies or illogics in the NT scriptures concerning interpretation of many orthodox mainstays – Christians begin to ‘pull away’ – as if fearful of ‘asking those questions’. They then in turn justify this action by blaming the person asking the question as somehow being ‘UnChristian’ (fortunately for them I am ‘AChristian’). Who, whoa, whoa…I thought the God of perfect love ‘casts out all fears’? I sense those fears.

Apparently asking questions about the nature of God and what it all means is ‘ok’ – as long as you stay in the rigidly designed orthodox lines and behave yourself…going too far can mean expulsion. But I don’t see why that fear is neccesary – not in the path to learn ‘truth’ and more about ‘God’…how can we draw lines in that process? Unless someone wants you to believe they have ‘God figured out’? Then I can see the fear there – if the answers are all there and you deviate from those set answers – well you are being damned in some way for being ‘wrong’. But that sucks…cause the answers are not all there – there is still a personal journey and experience to figure out.

Christians are fearful to ask questions about a God they have figured out. They omit the finer details (like God being figured out already) and let you hear what ‘sounds good’ (not logical – just sounds nice). They are scared of God…they are scared of their higher-ups…they know what is going to happen if you ask ‘those questions’. What was once a nice orderly and loving community will become the same one that ‘judges’ you unto ostracization.

But hey, no one said it was going to be easy to follow the truth.

And they call their actions ‘dung’…poor guys

Still, God doesn’t just want our outward obedience ONLY. He also wants our hearts” (Jason) 

I got shocking news for you my man – from out of the heart proceeds one’s actions (remember that teaching?)…so whatever you see someone doing – you can bet this same idea resonates in their hearts and minds (also seen in Jesus’ teachings on adultery, murder, and lying beginning in the heart). 

This means an atheist can do actions that are meaningful – and when they do – it is in their heart and mind firstly (same as for Christians)….there is no difference in this regards – since everyone has some level of ‘beliefs’ they build from. Now the atheist may not acknowledge God (fact) but this does not mean they do not acknowledge ‘good’. And I am hoping we agree on this – but God ordained what is ‘good’. Now if the atheist follows it – God bless them – and if the Christian does to – God bless them also. This is the same God that makes it rain and sunshine on either group (no respecter of persons). Ideas directly from your Lord and Savior – Jesus the Christ. 

Paul spoke to this idea, calling our his own moral efforts a “heaping pile of dung“.” (Jason) 

I need to see this scripture in more depth and its context – but isn’t it possible Paul is making a comparison point? It’s not that his own actions are ‘dung’ but that in comparison to a good God’s actions – yeah they can look that way. It’s like saying we know a lot – but when we compare our knowing lots to what God knows – we know practically nothing at all (and I’ll be the first to say that). 

He told them that they were “sons of Satan”, and that their converts were “twice the sons of hell” as they were” (Jason) 

I believe this is in John (8:58)? But maybe it is in Mark also – I am not sure. It’s harsh language for some of the leaders of his day – noting their extra rules that actually helped one ignore their religious responsibilities (see Matthew 6 for more on this ‘hypocrisy’). Jesus notes that religious leaders of his day were letting people get away from sincerity in their spirituality – concerning ideas like prayer, fasting, and even giving…it was becoming ‘showy’. Oddly enuff – that has come full circle in Christian movements this day. So can I use the same level of language when referring to some of the Evangelical movements? 

I highly recommend that you read Hebrews, because it explains so many things that you are questioning right now” (Jason) 

Word to the wise – here’s some background on me. I have been affiliated with Christianity for 17 years (in Oct – I wasn’t just converted yesterday), have a Bachelor of Theology from an Alliance college, and continue to read on theology to this day. Asking me to read Hebrews is a nice gesture (and a fair one to ask) – but I am well aware of that letter/book. 

Did you know Hebrews was not written by Paul – no one knows who and when they wrote it? Did you know Hebrews makes a shocking confession about sacrifice – that it cannot be used for ‘intentional sins’ (very Jewish idea actually)? Did you knew Hebrews contains a clear biblical error (or change to a text)? 

Problem is Jason – I follow Jesus (not Hebrews or Paul) – Jesus the messiah himself and I make no bones about taking that position. Which means I use Matthew as a main guide and James the letter as some further explanation. The rest of the NT I also use as a guide – but I am somewhat more skeptical of some of the stuff Paul writes and the later gospels and letters (ie: gospel of John for example). 

I realize there are differences between what Paul is asserting and what James, Peter, and John in the Jerusalem Council assert (see Acts 15 for more on that) – and Galatians 2 also shows they had differences. Now I wonder who is giving the best story of Jesus – actual disciples that walked and talked with him on earth or Paul – who never met Jesus nor really had much time for the people that followed Jesus (the Jerusalem council). Paul, in his letters, is actually seen demonizing these same disciples or people of that movement in Jerusalem – and maybe he has some things accurate – but some things he just got wrong. 

Galatians is a great work to study – an actual letter of Paul (that is verifiably his I mean). Ever read that letter in fullness – front to end? You’d be amazed at how many Tanakh passages he uses (4 I believe) out of historical context and changes what they mean to suit his purpose for this community. Basically, Paul is making the Tanakh scriptures say whatever he ‘wants’ them to – not what they actually say…and this is a very common problem in the NT. 

So when it comes to scriptural study and context – I can readily admit when I see the problems and not ‘gloss’ over them because of some perception about the ‘word of God’ making me live in ‘fear’ (which you mention we are called not to live in). 

There is great freedom in being able to say “I have been wrong about these things my entire life!” The more we learn, the more we realize we don’t know.” (Jason) 

I can admit when I am wrong – like about the virgin birth for example – I thought this was true for many years (maybe my whole life) – but it ain’t true and is based on some very loose wording in Greek – not Hebrew. I am ok with being wrong scripturally – it happens – I am very human and limited in what I know. However, I will not live in denial either about what God allows me to learn and come to ‘light’. My faith is in God – not man or some religious institution and it’s precepts…I wonder these days if people can divide the 2?

***A comment to a blog on ‘Beggar’s and Bread’ post – ‘Why Love Your Enemies?’ 

There’s a Sickness in Christianity…

Just watched ‘Constantine’s Sword’ by James Carroll and I must admit – the history lesson is an eye-opener to say the least.

I think within Christianity we do not completely understand where our anti-Jewish sentiments both come from and how they impacted history…namely in Europe. It is sad to know that with Constantine era (325 Ad and on) that Christianity becomes a religion that kind of bullies it ways through history with the help of state/religion co-mingling for some 1400 years after 325 AD…which had dreadful reprecussions for one group focused on in the NT…the Jewish people.

Christianity does not speak higly of Judaism – even from as early as the gospels and early church leaders – language colored in what can only be seen as denigrating towards Jewish people, their culture, and their faith. This story continues into the middle ages (with the crusades), then in the Reformation Period (Catholics and Protestants alike), and finally into what became the Shoah under Nazi Germany – which really was a culmination of this rheotric which finds it’s history in Christian roots.

Christianity needs to recognize this sickness is within them – and up to them to ‘stop’. This rhetoric has made it hard for one people group on this planet – the Jewish faithful. In the crusades we see the slaughter of villages of Jewish people along the Rhineland in Germany. During the Protestant Reformation the introduction of ghetto’s and the stripping fo the rights of Jews happens (under Catholic rule and Luther’s own wording – this lasted for some 300 years this persecution). By the time Hitler arrives on the scene (or Mussolini in Italy) the commonplace mentality (started within Christian roots) of the denigration of the Jewish people is such a familiar history that what Hitler starts really was already happening for some 1000 years in Europe already…Hitler was just so recent we take a little more careful note of him.

However, this same mentality still exists within Christianity that spawned such hatred in the past. Jewish faith is still denigrated (2nd tier), the Law is condemnatory (according to Paul), Christianity believes to have usurped the Jewish lineage/tradition (ie: connection to God), and guess who killed Jesus? It’s really sick when you think about it. It’s also really backwards and filled with deceptions.

Jesus followed Judaism people – light should go on about now. Jesus never saw the usurping of the Jewish faith as something ‘normal’…nor the law as something ‘bad’. Jesus makes no claim to any Christian usurption of the Jewish tradition – Paul barely does this. The stories in the gospel do point to the Jewish people killing Jesus (fact) – yet the story could not be any less true to actual history (Romans had him killed). Fact is, Christian scripture has very little ‘good’ to say about Judaism – from the gospels to Paul…and this is where the heart of this problem lies…in interpretation and historical context.

If I was looking at the facts and remarking on Jesus’ statements in the gospels about ‘persecution’ – or John’s revelation about the ‘end of times’ and the world gathering to ‘Jerusalem’ for war…I think maybe this is about Judaism and their struggle…not Christians. In fact, Christianity has done nothing but fan the flame of hatred in the 2000 year history…persecuting the Jewish faithful for being Jewish…and this all based on interpretation of some books written in history (now called ‘the word of God’). Maybe Christianity needs to admit they got this all wrong!