Friday, September 30, 2022

What Did God Get Out Of It?

What did God get out of it? What was Jesus' motivation for sacrificing himself on a cross?

you had a child with a terminal disease, and you found out that they could be cured through a procedure that would transfer their disease to you, would you do it? I am the Father of 2 children and I would undergo the procedure and die for either one of them.

What would I have gained by doing so? I would have gained my child's life.

This is what God did on a cosmic scale through Jesus's sacrifice. It's interesting that the few times Jesus commented in the gospels on the "mechanics" of his sacrifice, he characterized it as a "ransom" -- 'no, don't take them, take me instead. "

On his cross as Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, in effect, absorbed the terminal disease Christians call 'sin' into himself, thereby destroying the power of death and evil. This cures all of God's children and ransoms us away from our captor. All that is necessary on our part, as it would be if I was saving my child, is for us to be willing to undergo the procedure, to allow the ransom to be applied to us.

So what did God get out of all this? He got his children back.





Saturday, June 5, 2021

Taking Your Medicine

Grace is like medicine. Sin is an inheritable, terminal disease that we all suffer from. Even the Law depicts sin as something that contaminates you and makes you "unclean." God is more than eager to give you this medicine but he won't force you. You have to take the medicine according to the instructions he gives you.
If you do that you are cured.  But how do you know? You know you are cured because the Doctor said you would be once you finished the medicine.  And of course, if you have a relapse what you do is go back to the Doctor and take the medicine he prescribes again. Of course, if you keep having relapses over and over you may be passing by some contaminated place or running around with some sick people. You'll need to quit that if you don't want to keep relapsing.

The tough part of the cure, the horrible, awful part is that it entails you swapping your blood with someone who doesn't have the disease. And while doing that cures you, it kills the healthy blood donor. That person who doesn't have the disease, that person who volunteers his life is Jesus of Nazareth.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

I'm Back


Hi!  I'm back after a very long absence. I wish I could tell you it was due to a long period of meditation in the desert, but it was more mundane than that -- illness at the end of 2018 and laziness in getting back on the horse afterwards. But here I am now bursting with ideas. 

Also for the foreseeable future the ERV (Easy to Read Version) will be my Bible because it's such amazingly good translation. Really, really good. I'll still have the NET and other translations nearby in case I need something more precise, but you you'll mostly see the ERV where I quote scripture.

After all this time I don't really expect any of my old readers to remain (Prove me wrong!) so I will probably  have to build up a new reader base. But like I say I have a lot of ideas.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

A Hospital, Not a Court

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"As many times as you sin, repent for your sin; do not become discouraged. And if you sin a second time, repent a second time. Do not be completely deprived of the hope for the proposed goods through indolence. And if you are in the depths of old age and you sin, enter into the church and repent, because the church is a hospital, not a court of justice."

John Chrysostom (349 - 407 CE)

Homilies on Repentance and Almsgiving 3.4.19

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Where Did the Devil Get the Name 'Lucifer'?

"How art thou fallen... O Lucifer"
Image: Public Domain

The devil has a lot of names in the Bible. Where did he get the name 'Lucifer' especially since it doesn't appear anywhere in most modern Bible translations? A Quora question.

Q: Who was the true Lucifer and why he was related to the devil if he don’t even appear in the Bible?

A: What a great question! The answer is really in two-parts.

First, we need to recognize that there isn't really any origin story for the Devil in the Bible. There is no place where the scriptures plainly say, "This is the story of the Devil." He's just there -- even in the Garden of Eden if we equate "the serpent" with him.

So, humans being the way we are, people all the way back to the 1st and 2nd centuries BCE searched the Hebrew scriptures for clues to his origin. One place they found that sounded like what they assumed the devil's origin would sound like ("Glorious, supernatural being? Check! Not created evil but became evil through pride? Check!") was in the Old Testament prophetic Book of Isaiah chapter 14, verses 12-32.

This may not be apparent to us today but here is how the ancient church father Origen (185-254 CE) explained it:

It is most clearly proved by these words that he who formerly was Lucifer and who “arose in the morning” has fallen from heaven. For if, as some suppose, he was a being of darkness, why is he said to have formerly been Lucifer or lightbearer? Or how could he “rise in the morning” who had in him no light at all?… So he was light once … when “his glory was turned into dust.” (On First Principles 1.5)

(NOTE: Isaiah actually wrote this prophetic poem to make fun of the King of Babylon, not to explain where Satan came from).

The first line of this passage is the important one for answering your question. In Hebrew this line begins אֵ֛יךְ נָפַ֥לְתָּ מִשָּׁמַ֖יִם הֵילֵ֣ל בֶּן־שָׁ֑חַר Ek Napalta misamayim helel ben sahar (sorry no diacritical marks), literally "How you are fallen from the sky helel, son of dawn." The Hebrew word helel means "shining one." Most scholars believe that this word helel refers to the morning star -- Venus.

The 2nd part of the answer is very brief. The early Christians didn't preach or (for the most part) write in Hebrew, but in Greek. In the Septuagint -- the popular Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures -- helel is translated by the word Eosphoros, meaning "Dawn-carrier." Somehow though that never caught on.

However when the church at Rome asked St. Jerome (347-420 CE) to revise the Old Latin translation, he translated helel as "Lucifer," which means pretty much the same thing as Eosphoros: "light-carrier."

Jerome's translation, the Vulgate, became the official translation of the church. So under the influence of the Vulgate and the widespread idea that Isaiah 14 told the story of where the devil came from, Lucifer became a name for Satan during the middle ages. And influenced by all that, when British translators set out to create an English version of the Bible (i.e., the King James Version) they took over the by now traditional name "Lucifer" in Isaiah 14.12: "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!”

Most modern Bibles translate helel as “shining one,” “Day Star,” “star of the morning” or something else more accurate.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Why Is the Bible Written?

An ancient scribe writing an ancient book
I had a comic book Bible when I was a kid and got a lot out of it, so I thought it was a worthwhile Quora question. 

Q: Why is the Bible written rather than drawn?

A: I kind of wish the biblical authors had added a few illustrations. Instead of his intricate description of his vision of God's throne with its wheels within wheels, it would be easier for me to grasp it with my impressionistic picture-book mind if Ezekiel just said, “And it looked like this,” and drew a picture. We know he could have done it too since a little later in his book he draws a picture of Jerusalem on a clay brick. 

 But the Bible for the most part is didactic literature, which doesn't lend itself well to artistic representation. Euclid may add diagrams to his works on geometry but one doesn't find Seneca or Marcus Aurelius drawing pictures to teach principles of Stoicism. Similarly, it is difficult to imagine the art St. Paul would need to create to accurately convey to the Ephesians that, “By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” One would need a comic strip or graphic novel, I would think — a large one to convey even one of Paul's shorter epistles.

 It's also worth noting that most of the tales of Jesus and the Hebrew scriptures got their start as oral traditions. Think of an old man or woman at the campfire at night surrounded by a dozen villagers as they recite the rhythmic creation story or Ruth’s gripping tale. Or an apostle telling well-rehearsed stories of Jesus of Nazareth to a new crop of disciples in a Greek lecture hall. These would have been most naturally preserved later on in written form.

 That's not to say there couldn’t have been artistic representations among the Israelites. They were certainly capable of it. The historical books of the Bible preserve descriptions of large statues of cherubim (composite human-animal creatures depicted throughout the middle east) in the Jerusalem temple along with richly embroidered tapestries of plants and more cherubim. Seal impressions showing animals and decorations have been found by archaeologists. But as in other cultures, such as Assyria, Babylon, Rome, and Greece most devotional and mythological art, as well as some legal texts (e.g., Hammurabi’s code), were done as large public statues, reliefs, paintings, and mosaics where whatever messages they were intended to convey could reach a large audience. Books back then had a more limited reach.

 That’s as far as we know right now, of course. As with all of history, a discovery could be made tomorrow that upends everything.