Friday, September 26, 2008

How To Look 5 Years Younger In 5 Minutes

I think I miss my beard already...

John 10, A Qumranic Connection|Carl's Blogged Bible Study

One small tidbit today...

Over the past few chapters, John has carefully woven the text to clearly demonstrate that John is not JUST a messiah. An anticipated Jewish Messiah in the minds of the Jews in Palestine and those displaced by the diaspora would have been coming to overthrow the oppressive imperialism of Rome. According to John, Jesus was no political figure (Jesus shunned politics!); rather, he was God-become-flesh, sent by himself (so to speak...the father) to redeem mankind from their iniquity.

John, unique from the other synoptic writers(Mathew, Mark, Luke), masterfully accomplishes this task. What is so different about John? What does he do that the others do not? I would say, John's approach is clearly philosophical; if anything it is clearly intellectual.

Without going into a history of the author (the resources are plentiful, just go to any university and search their online library of works) I presume we stop thinking of the gospel of John as inspired scripture (which it is), and think about it as work of literature (which it is), penned by a unique author with a bias, with subjectivity, with background, with a leaning towards certain philosophical ideals.

All too often the Christian assumes that writers of scripture were consumed in a trance and the Holy Spirit guided their pen grasped hand and wrote the words. Not the case. Just look at Paul's work...the Greek is easily recognizable as Pauline in characteristic. Thus said, while scripture IS the inspired word of God, it was written by many different humans, all of whom expressed their personality in the text.

So look at John 10:40-42. This little tidbit is not found in the other synoptics. To me, this screams, "Look at me...John wrote me!"

What is so interesting, is that Jesus stayed for a while with his baptizer, who according to more than a few scholars and historians, may have been a Qumranic member--an Essene (you know, the guys who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls). Whether or not John the Baptist was an Essene makes little difference to me, all I know is that he fits the description of one in his dress, his methodology, and his ideals.

The Essenes were extremely mystical, and extremely philosophical. I suggest picking up a copy of the dead sea scrolls. The Essenes were looking for a Messiah. In fact, splinter groups thought he had come and gone.

Here is my point...could Jesus, and more notably, JOHN the gospel writer, spent time with this group, or at least remnants of the gropu known as the Essenes. This string of verses highly suggests it as a possibility. But cherry picking verses to support a supposition is never a good idea, so consider the overall language of John. Ideas key to John (truth/error, light/dark, living water, predestination, eschatological struggle, the two spirits) are all found in the chapters of the Dead Sea Scrolls, sometimes word for word.

Te whole point of this post is not to point out the similarites between John and Qumran, nor is it it to suggest that the gospel writer plagiarized from a group of dessert mystics. The point is that the gospel writer WAS ifluenced by these people. Maybe he never camped out in the cliffs with them, but he was clearly familiar with their philosophy and used it to communicate the word of God--the life, teachings, and meaning of Christ. God allowed him to use his own personal flavor of communication, and I am sure that many who read his gospel in those early days who were familiar with qumranic ideaology understood the message a lot easier!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Coming Out

Taking a cue from Wes, I must say my perspectives and worldviews have changed drastically the past few years both politically and theologically. I attribute this to inductive thinking and setting aside presuppositions in approaching history/theology.

I have become acutely aware of the dangers of a government that overstretches it's reach; that is, a government that imposes itself in the form of regulations and programs in places a government is not designed for.

The BEST blog post I have read recently that echoes my concerns but in an extremely concise and well-educated manner can be found at Strange Culture. Please, go read it or else this post will make far less sense.

Anyway, I can no longer consider myself Democrat or Republican, for both parties increasingly abuse the authority and over extend the reach of government, and both candidates in this election represent what their parties have become quite well. I guess I don't know where that leaves me...Libertarian, I suppose. I intend on writing more later and developing the ideas in Strange Cultures post a little more.

Blogged Bible Study, John 9

I apologize in advance for the rabbit trail that this post consists of, but that's where my mind went. I want to point out that I approached this text as agenda-less as possible, and as a certain controversial issue is brought up in this post, again, I approach it objectively. In fact, I am undecided on this issue. This isn't a theological stance, it's an observation.

John 9 centers on the miracle performed at the outset, the healing of the blind man. The disciples ask Jesus whose sin, his or his parents', caused his blindness. Jesus naturally replies neither. In fact says this man was created that the work of God might be manifest him in. Vaguely deterministic, but it can be taken as Jesus says, "Crap happens."

But that's not where I am going with this. Jesus, while talking, mixes his spit with the mud to make clay which was applied to the man's eyes. After washing the man's eyes are opened. That was some sweet mud. Here is the formula: DIRT + GOD = Miracle. Where have we seen this before? It sounds strangely familiar, like when Adam was fashioned out of clay and then animated with the breath of God. Again, not only is John demonstrating that Jesus is the God, but that Jesus is connected with the creative process. (cf. Jn. 1:2-3, "in the beginning with God, all things were made through him.")

So here is where I rabbit trailed...

Jesus, the Creator, as evidenced in John 9 and the Creation of Adam (Gen. 2:7) utilizes process in creation. Sure, he could have thought it and Adam would have appeared. He could have thought it and the blind man would have been made well. In my often wrong and humble opinion, Genesis is far more analogous than literal. Is it possible that the creation could have been the work of a process. Obviously, I am alluding to the whole debate in Christian circles that considers evolution a possible creative process of God.

I am undecided on this whole debate, all I am saying is God purposefully makes the miraculous more complex than necessary at times.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Carl's Blogged Bible Study, John 8

Man, to be honest I didn't feel like writing a post today. In fact my last post was last Friday. Thus said, nothing deep today, just a VERY short post of two observations.

John 8:9...Why did the older ones leave first?

  • Maybe with age comes wisdom...wisdom says, "this is an argument we can't win."
  • Everyone always assumes you can't teach on old dog a new trick...I hear this crap all the time when it comes to the church itself. Relevance, new movement, blah blah blah. Anyway, contrary to popular belief, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, while heavily dogmatic, were not a bunch of guys hung up on making religion intolerable for the masses. It is hard to picture, but the truth is most of them hated Jesus so much because they were so passionate about pursuing God in heaven, they were not looking for him on earth. Maybe, after a lifetime of pious devotion, the older generation were closer to God...heard his voice clearer. They learned their lesson sooner?
  • Who knows...I don't have any resources available right now so it's guess.
My second observation is just to point out the irony. In the beginning of the chapter, Jesus saves a woman from being stoned. His cleverly divine words did the trick. At the end of the chapter, Jesus' cleverly divine words lead to his almost being stoned.

Usually John states that, while the leaders wanted to kill him, they were unable because it wasn't Jesus' time. This time however, John states Jesus had to hide. Despite the fact that it wasn't his time, the leaders ignored their ever deadening consciences and tried to take matters in their own hands. Obviously this process led to the cricifixion. It reminds me of the hardening of Pharaoh's heart in Exodus.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Why Do You or Don't You Believe Jesus Was the Messiah? | Carl's Blogged Bible Study--John 7

"My Friend Ivan..."

The name Ivan is of Slavic/Russian origin. It is a transliteration of the Hebrew name, John. In seminary, John became my favorite book of the Bible as I muddled through the unique and precarious balance of divinity and humanity in the fourth gospel (Check out Thompson's, The Humanity of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel). I've discussed this here and there in recent posts, but in review of this chapter, in short fashion, I want to point out the humanity of the humans in John.

The seventh chapter of John comprises a Jesus the Christ. Keep in mind the Jews had just experienced a short breath of freedom from Greek kings before the Romans subjugated the known world (practically). Without going into a detailed history lesson, the Jews (particularly in Palestine--remember the diaspora) were anxiously anticipating the arrival of a messiah who would free them from Roman rule.

***Let me insert here a suggestion: Michael White's, From Jesus to Christianity. This book unravels the history from the Maccabean Revolt up through Christ. It is my opinion that anyone who calls themselves a Christian should be familiar with the socio-political condition in which Jesus Christ was birthed***

But Jesus was not the only messiah figure floating around at the time. There was Simon (4BC)--a slave of Herod who rebelled, and Athronges (4BC), Judas of Galilee, a Zealot (6AD) just to name a few. Many Jews believe that Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994) was the messiah, despite the fact he himself thought of himself as the one who would prepare the way for the true messiah.

Anyway, read through John 7. Listen to what the multitudes are saying. They all had a strong premonition that a messiah may have been walking among them, but which one was the right one? Davidic lineage, birthplace, and signs and wonders were brought up. Many believed, but most did not. I love reading this chapter. I take pity on the confused people in this chapter. They were trying so hard to decipher the truth!

And I have to ask myself...were I Jew living in Palestine who sat in the temple listening to the teachings of Jesus, weighing the evidence, listinening to the advice of my spiritual leaders and my peers...would I have believed that Jesus was the Messiah?

It is MUCH easier to believe that Jesus is the messiah here in America in 2008 AD than it was to in Judea in 28AD. It is much easier to believe in a figure from the past than the man standing in front of you, especially when others are making the same claims as him.

I do believe that Jesus was the Messiah...but why? I could spout off the historical evidence, the traditions of the Church, liturgy, etc. I could reference the scriptures of the Old Testament. I could regurgitate lectures from my professors. When it comes down to it I cannot absolutely tell anyone why I believe in Christ, I just do. Perhaps it is experiential, but I VERY rarely feel goosebumps; that is, the supernatural doesnot overtake my emotions that often. Like I said I just do, it is just a deep subconscious feeling. I guess it's faith.

If you were in the temple that day, would you have believed? Why do you believe today? Why don't you believe today?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Russia Threatens Poland With a Nuclear Strike

I am shocked and disturbed when I consider what Americans focus their energies on in regards to what may be considered "news worthy." Sure, it is natural to be self centered. It is important to follow the pedantic and baseless speeches made by our presidential nominees. It is important to watch their ridiculous pep rallies conventions. It is important to keep tabs on Miley Cyrus gas prices.

If anyone has followed this blog for a while, they will know I have been wary at times of things going on over in Easter Europe. The fact that Iran and Russia (two nations led by outspokenly anti-American megalomaniacs) are becoming increasingly "buddy-buddy." You could have cut the tension between Bush and Putin at the opening ceremonies of the Olympics with a knife!

So I could not have been more alarmed when I read about the US's latest endeavor: Setting up a defensive missile base on Polish territory. The conservative Polish (one of two nations being stinkers about the European Union), easily obliged the wishes of the US. Upon hearing the news of this new base close to their soil, General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, the Russian armed forces' deputy chief of staff stated:

“Poland, by deploying [the system] is exposing itself to a strike - 100 per cent,” he was quoted as saying, before explaining that Russian military doctrine sanctioned the use of nuclear weapons “against the allies of countries having nuclear weapons if they in some way help them.”

Yeah...who threatens another country action anymore!?!? And we all thought the cold war was over...

A New Blog

The post have not been a flowin' here on My Friend Ivan. It pains me to see my feed stats in decline, but such is life. A weird mix of apathy, a VERY dysfunctional computer, and a new project have kept me away from this site...but now that things are settling down a bit, I'll hopefully be posting more often.

If anyone is interest in my new blog (co hosted with an old college budy), check it out. It's a blog dedicated to fine beer (always in moderation...morality aside, the stuff's expensive). The new blog is Thank Heaven for Beer.