Schiffman on Purity As Separation

Schiffman on Purity As Separation

Lawrence Schiffman has posted a series of brief articles on perceptions and mis-perceptions of Jewish purity laws of Second Temple Judaism.  If you want to gain better understanding of Gospel texts dealing with clean and unclean, these posts may give you some insight from a Jewish perspective.

[UPDATE: I also see that Dr. Schiffman has another, earlier, four-part series, also dealing with ritual purity in Second Temple Judaism: Body and Soul, Purity and Impurity.]

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“The biggest thing you can do is just be kind to another human being.”

“The biggest thing you can do is just be kind to another human being.”

The powerful story and images about (then) 18-year-old Keshia Thomas in 1996, who at risk to her own safety protected a white supremacist from a violent crowd:

…in a flash, the crowd went from controlled protestors to an angry mob, hitting the man with sticks and kicking him as he lay on the ground. In that moment, Thomas separated herself from the mob and threw herself on the man to protect him.

Read the entire article here.

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“Platitudes designed to make people feel better with bumper-sticker theology”—Nate Pyle

“Platitudes designed to make people feel better with bumper-sticker theology”—Nate Pyle

This post by Nate Pyle, “Confronting the Lie:  God Will Not Give You More Than You Can Handle“, is so incredibly good.  Please stop what you are doing and go read it right now.  Here’s a snippet:

Not only am I okay asking those [difficult] questions, but I think there is something holy and sacred in being courageous enough to ask them.  Don’t be fooled, those questions are only to be asked by the courageous.  It is easy to spout trite Christian platitudes designed to make people feel better with bumper-sticker theology.  But insipid axioms do little in the face of the actual brokenness of the world.  It is more courageous to ask the hard questions of God and wait for him to answer than it is to find hope on the side of coffee mug.  Asking those questions requires courage because, in the end, it is very likely they will not be answered.

Read the entire post here.

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God, Jesus, Pacifists, Pansies, & A Girl From Pakistan: Thoughts on Mark Driscoll’s Recent Article

God, Jesus, Pacifists, Pansies, & A Girl From Pakistan:  Thoughts on Mark Driscoll’s Recent Article

I dare Mark Driscoll to call this young lady a “pansy”.

Mark Driscoll’s article, “Is God a Pacifist?“, has spurred a lot of online discussion and debate—and rightly so, because his article raises (and glosses-over) several complex and difficult topics.

In my own understanding of Jesus’ teachings, his life, and the practices of the early church, I lean heavily towards pacifism.  However, I know that if my family were threatened with violence, my response could be anything but peaceful or lacking in violence.   Beyond this inner and (thankfully) theoretical struggle of “what would I do?”, my initial thoughts after reading Driscoll’s post  were these (though not in the order I felt them):

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Podcast on the Gospel of Mark

Podcast on the Gospel of Mark

Craig Evan Anderson (Claremont Graduate University) and Matthew Ryan Hauge (Azusa Pacific University) have launched a podcast series about the Gospel of Mark.  I’ve listened to the first episode and thought it was really good.  Here’s a snippet of their thoughts:

This podcast episode addresses the diverse ways in which the canonical Gospels speak about the life of Jesus. Oftentimes, in popular Christian culture we blend the Gospels together, manufacturing a super-gospel that harmonizes the diversity of the four Gospels into a gospel that does not exist. Unfortunately, this popular harmonization functions as a subtle rejection of the Gospels as they are presented in the Bible and silences the unique beauty of the voice of each Gospel.

Go hear to listen and read their summary of episode 1.  They have also produced a series on Kings.

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Hollywood’s “Whitewashing” of the Bible

Hollywood’s “Whitewashing” of the Bible

As Hollywood seems to be expressing a new interest in the Bible (Noah, Son of God, Exodus, et. al.), Jonathan Smith has some thoughts that I resonate with regarding the lack of ethnic diversity and accuracy in casting:

With the abundance of talent in the cast of Exodus, I should be perfectly fine with these actors in their character roles, but I’m not. Whitewashing biblical movies presents the characters of the early Western creation story as a homogenous, Euro-centric bloc instead of acknowledging the diversity of that has existed in our society for thousands of years . . . Would biblical stories be any different or less impactful if the characters were all dark skinned?

You can read the entirety of Jonathan’s post here.

(Title image is from Warner Bros. movie The 10 Commandments)

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Mark Riddle: Thoughts From an Unchurched Pastor

My longtime friend, Mark Riddle, has just written a great post about where he is on the journey towards Jesus and what that means for him regarding church.  Please read the whole thing.  He says some difficult things, but the content and intent is good and honest.  I resonate with much of it.  Here’s an excerpt:

Sorry for making you feel guilty for having a life outside of the church. You were on to something.  It was better that you volunteered at the school, the team or the squad more than the church. I was wrong.  Your commitment to the soccer team may have been more important that my retreat. Your commitment to the band connected you to far more kids who needed you, than in the stuff I led.

—Mark Riddle

Read the entire post at liquidthinking.

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Of Oar Fish, Sea Monsters, Dragons of Chaos, and the Bible

Of Oar Fish, Sea Monsters, Dragons of Chaos, and the Bible

The recent find on October 13th of a dead, 18 foot oarfish off the California coast brought to mind all the books I read as a child about sea monsters. Seeing the pictures of the long, narrow body of the  typically deep sea fish (which can actually grow up to over 50 feet), it is easy to understand why sailers of an earlier time would have thought, on the rare occasion one approached the surface, that it was a giant “sea serpent“.  Coincidentally, the Smithsonian ran a fascinating article just a few days later promoting the release of two new books (here and here) dealing with maps and sea monsters.

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George Athas on Discoveries of Ancient Inscriptions in Israel and the Bible

George Athas on Discoveries of Ancient Inscriptions in Israel and the Bible

One of the scholarly dangers in our field is letting the excitement of an inscriptional find take us down avenues where we want to go, rather than having a more restrained approach. Part of the problem with this is, as many archaeologists and historians have found in recent years, the news media are prone to sensationalizing finds when they bear upon ‘biblical’ times without our coaxing. The result is the dissemination of misinformation. And news certainly travels quickly these days.

Read More At The ASOR Blog
(image courtesy of the Israeli Antiquities Authority)

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Woe To the Pharisees: A Gospel Reading With An Addendum

Woe To the Pharisees: A Gospel Reading With An Addendum

“When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee, noticing that Jesus did not first wash before the meal, was surprised. Then the Lord said to him, ‘Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But give what is inside the dish to those in need, and everything will be clean for you.

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